I remember the exact moment I knew my 2014 World Championship Qualifier tournament experience was over. I was playing against the infamous HAT deck, and when he flipped that final Artifact Sanctum to seal the deal I couldn't help but wonder if I'd made the correct deck choice for the event. I brought what I considered - and still consider - to be the best build of Lightsworns.

To my surprise, Lightsworns have way too many inherent paradoxes that make piloting the strategy successfully a virtual impossibility. Without a doubt, I should've taken my Spirits with me, and after I dropped from the main tournament I was waiting for an opportunity to semi-redeem myself.

Enter: Voltage Games
For those of you that haven't heard, my friends Jeff Jones and Alex Vansant have started up their own card shop in Detroit. Their store goes by the name of Voltage Games, and right after the WCQ they posted an event on Facebook that offered a Blood Mefist card as the main prize. Additionally, Top 8 would receive lots of store credit, so it seemed that there was lots of incentive to attend. Before I jump into the actual tournament report, let's take a look at my build:

DECKID=100654To give you a quick rundown of how the deck operates, it's divided into four main parts. The most important quarter is the Spirit engine, and by using Aratama to gain free card advantage and Nikitama to push out Rank 4's you've got the benefit of constantly threatening your opponent. Yaksha bounces away anything you need it to, whether it be Royal Decree - one of the two floodgates that actually hurts this strategy - or even stuff like Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare and Black Horn of Heaven before you Xyz Summon. Not only are the Spirits just super awesome by themselves, a skilled duelist with Spirit experience can pull of some combo chains that opponents simply won't be prepared for.

Next up is two thirds of the HAT engine: the four Traptrix monsters and six Hands. These are fairly self-explanatory, but note how many mind games the Hands help us accomplish. You can set Aratama and bluff a hand, ensuring a huge swing in momentum on your following turn. I've mentioned it in previous articles, but successfully setting and resolving an Aratama is almost an auto-win. I honestly struggle to remember times when I've had a set Aratama go through and I didn't achieve victory.

The last piece to the puzzle is our four one-ofs. Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning is an easy win condition, and we can search it out from our deck with Lavalval Chain. I think the most famous Spirit combo that players seem to remember is how you can stack Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning and immediately draw it with Nikitama. It's a brutally effective way to end games way sooner than the other player expects. Then there's Thunder King Rai-Oh, one of my favorite cards ever. Poor Thunder King's Limited, but we'll put that one copy to use. All of the previous engines can't really put monsters on board with more than 1600 ATK, so Thunder King's a perfect complement to what the previous parts are missing.

Evilswarm Thunderbird fills a similar role, being basically a 1950 ATK beater that just never dies. Blackwing - Zephyros the Elite was my 41st card because I wanted to test it out but there really isn't anything I wanted to drop. I wanted to use a Doomcaliber Knight as well, but I was hesitant to purchase an Ultra Rare copy before I entered the tournament, just in case I ended up winning store credit. The same logic led me to run only two Dimensional Prison. Jeff's store had Ultra Rares in stock, but I didn't want to buy a card only to win credit that I could've spent on said card. Additionally, I already was going overboard with a 41 count deck, and didn't really have any space for the third Dimensional Prison.

The Tournament
The event wasn't scheduled to start until 2 o'clock in the afternoon, with registration kicking off at 12. My girlfriend and I picked up two of our friends and headed down there, arriving somewhere around 1. I noticed that several competitors were walking around trying to scope out what everyone else was playing, so I decided to do some test games with Lightsworns to throw off the competition. I kind of have a principle against testing my event deck at the event itself, but even if you don't I'd highly suggest not using your actual strategy in plain sight.

You never know, your Round 9 bubble match might just get a heads-up on what you're playing, and that wouldn't be good, would it?

Anyway, 2:30 rolled around, and Round 1 was finally posted on the big screen. I sat down, greeted my opponent, and started what would hopefully be my journey to winning a Blood Mefist.

Round 1: Lightsworns
I lost the die roll and my opponent opted to go first. I figured he was playing HAT or Geargia, but he used back-to-back Solar Recharges, milling multiple Eclipse Wyverns. I was surprised - to say the least - because one of the reasons I decided to not play Lightsworn was because they struggle to win going first. Most of the time you're opening with one or two completely unusable cards, meaning the other three have to be really, really good. If we're being honest, math is just not on the Lightsworn player's side. Anyway, I had a fairly strong opening but my opponent's main decked Royal Decree pretty much ensured game. My deck's only real outs Game 1 to Decree are Yaksha and Ice Hand, neither of which I had.

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The next two games went much more smoothly. I let my opponent go first in the second game, and he simply passed to me. I dominated him with Light-Imprisoning Mirror and he did what Lightsworns do best and that's brick super hard. In the final game he set four (!) and ended his turn. I Normal Summoned Fossil Dyna, poked for 1200, and set three backrow. I figured he'd End Phase Royal Decree me, but it turned out most of his sets were bluffs. I had the Book of Moon to stop an Eclipse Wyvern from killing Dyna, and then a Solemn Warning for his Lyla, Lightsworn Sorceress. I essentially just kept poking with Fossil Dyna, Aratama, and Nikitama for the win.

Record: 1 - 0

Round 2: Hunder Family
At this point I pretty much consider the Hunder strategy a joke. To me, they all just seem like inferior Spirits. You can stop all of their Double Summon tricks with effect negation, while the Spirit Summoning tricks are more resilient. Additionally, the Hunder deck can't Special Summon and search with Thunder Sea Horse on the same turn. It just seems silly that there are avid fans of this strategy when Spirits are so much better, but who am I to judge?

Anyway, I lost the die roll again and my opponent started off with a Thunder Seahorse for two Mahunder. He then set a face-down monster with one backrow. I Normal Summoned Traptrix Myrmeleo, grabbed a Bottomless, and attacked into a Mahunder. I thought that it was maybe supposed to be a bluff or something, but if it was it wasn't executed very well. I was pretty much in control of this game the entire time, only using Traptrix Myrmeleo, Traptrix Dionaea, and Number 101: Silent Honor ARK to win the game.

My opponent went first in the second game, discarding a Thunder Dragon to search another. He did that a second time, loading to Thunder Dragons to his graveyard and telegraphing a Soul Charge. I've never really seen that kind of thing before, but it's a neat idea. However like the first game, this one was in my favor the entire time. There was one point where he made Constellar Omega and I had a Fiendish Chain and Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare face-down. I immediately Fiendish Chained, hoping to draw out its effect and hit it with Nightmare. My opponent just let it go through, which I guess was the right play on his part, but it actually really cost him. I 101'd the Omega and when he Soul Charged for Constellar Pleiades I had the Nightmare to take the match. If my opponent would've fallen for my original attempt then I might've actually lost that one; always a strange feeling.

Record: 2 - 0

Round 3: Atlantean Mermail
Three rounds in I found myself pitted against John Brennan, one of the friends I drove to the tournament with. Swell. We'd tested this exact matchup only a few days prior, and I won the majority of our matches. I hoped that this match would end with a similar result, but it was all up in the air. John won the die roll and started with a strong string of plays involving Genex Undine, Mermail Abysspike, and Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls. I think overall I played almost perfectly, but in the end John just had the outs to everything I could throw at him.

I went first in the Game 2 for two reasons. Atlantean Mermails are a combo deck, so they want to see as many cards as possible. Forcing John to go first meant he'd be one card behind from the get-go. Secondly, even if he did open up with some combo pieces he wouldn't want to waste his Atlantean Marksman or Atlantean Heavy Infantry on a blank field. I took control early with two draws off of Fairy Cheer Girl, and it came to a point where I had a face-down Fiendish Chain, a Fairy Cheer Girl with no materials, and a face-down Fire Hand. John used Abyss-sphere in my Main Phase 2, netting him a Mermail Abysslinde into a Mermail Abysspike. Pike discarded a Water monster, and I responded with Fiendish Chain to prevent any Genex Undine shenanigans from happening.

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On his turn John tributed the Abysspike for Majesty's Fiend. I was about to scoop at that point, but John attacked over the Fairy Cheer Girl instead of the Fire Hand; it was clearly a misplay because that left one half of a Rank 4 on my side of the field. Sure enough, next turn I flipped up the Fire Hand, Normal Summoned a Nikitama, and Xyz Summoned Cairngorgon, Antiluminescent Knight to attack over Majesty's Fiend for 50 points of damage. Oddly enough, I've only brought out Cairngorgon three times in the history of forever, and all three times it was to run over Majesty's Fiend.

We entered the final game and John made me go first. I kept the gas pedal down the entire time, hitting a Soul Charge with Bottomless Trap Hole, an Abyssgaios with Void Trap Hole, and his Tidal, Dragon Ruler of Waterfalls with Debunk. There really wasn't anything he could do, and the long, bloody match became another win. I wished him the best of luck, hoping that he'd make it to Top 8. At the same time I was feeling pretty good about continuing my undefeated record, and prepared myself mentally for the next round.

Record: 3 - 0

Round 4: Karakuri OTK
I was feeling extremely confident at this point. The top tables were filled with good match-ups, and I'd avoided playing the dreaded Madolche match-up so far. That's honestly the only real threat to this deck, just because Madolche generates too many threats for Spirits to deal with. Anyway, I actually won this die roll and started my turn off with an awesome hand! I had Aratama, Solemn Warning, Traptrix Myrmeleo, Black Horn of Heaven, and Fiendish Chain. I drew a card, shuffled my hand, and promptly realized that I just gave my opponent a free win since I was going first.

My girlfriend described my facial expression as a mix between wanting to quit the match right there and wanting to throw myself off a cliff.

I started off Game 2 with Ice Hand, Fiendish Chain, Breakthrough Skill, Nikitama, and Solemn Warning. I set Ice Hand and all three traps. He Special Summoned Solar Wind Jammer, Normal Summoned a Level 3 Tuner, and made Karakuri Steel Shogun mdl 00X "Bureido". I promptly used Solemn Warning. He Special Summoned a second Solar Wind Jammer, used Iron Call to bring back the Level 3 Tuner, and a second Bureido. I attempted to Fiendish Chain, to which he responded with Mystical Space Typhoon, forcing me to use the Breakthrough Skill. He then, of course, had the De-Synchro, which allowed him to ironically Re-Synchro for Bureido to bring out his second copy of Karakuri Strategist mdl 248 "Nishipachi" and draw a card from Bureido. He attacked over the Ice Hand and passed to me.

I drew Void Trap Hole. I set Nikitama and Void Trap Hole, passing back to my opponent. He Normal Summoned Karakuri Merchant mdl 177 "Inashichi" to search for something irrelevant. Naturia Beast came down next, and I took it out with Void Trap Hole. He sat there for a minute and then activated Soul Charge, targeting Naturia Beast, Strategist, and Solar Wind Jammer. I scooped up my cards, not wanting to watch my opponent play with himself.

What a great match!

Record: 3 - 1

Round 5: Mythic Rulers
I sat down at Table 1 and realized that I was paired against the only undefeated player left. I'd figured he was playing Lightsworns, but a first turn Dragon Shrine, Gold Sarcophagus, and Soul Charge revealed that he was piloting Mythic Rulers. About halfway through the duel I mentioned that I was actually 3 -1, not 4 - 0, and he kindly told me that he'd just give me the win so that we'd both make it into Top 8. I was super relieved, but my opponent said the only condition was that I had to remember that he gave me the win if it becomes relevant later on. At the time I didn't know what that meant, but eventually I figured it out.

Anyway, we ended up playing a match for fun, without any Side Decking and with a variety of silly plays. I learned a lot about him as a duelist in that match, and that's what he was trying to do to me, too. We both played with max rarity cards, barring his Super Rare Stardust Dragon that he borrowed from a friend, and we both definitely knew our decks inside and out. He said I was the only person that actually took effort to play against, and I took that as a huge compliment. We had an extremely laid back, awesome match, and we both prayed to not have to face each other until the finals!

Record: 4 - 1

Top 8: Evilswarm
Making Top 8 was great. It ensured I was - at the very least - getting 50 dollars store credit. Still, I wanted that prize card, and knew I had to push through three more rounds to earn it. I knew my opponent was playing Evilswarm, but he not only didn't know what I was playing he also thought I was unaware of his deck. Fine by me. I won the die roll, and Traptrix Myrmeleo got me a free Bottomless Trap Hole. I set a few traps and passed to him. He used Reinforcement of the Army to grab Evilswarm Castor, then Normal Summoned two of them. I tried to Bottomless the second copy, but Infestation Pandemic prevented it from leaving the field. Evilswarm Ophion came down next, grabbing another Infestation Pandemic.

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The rest of the game was all about me grinding through his cards one by one. Eventually it came down to me using Torrential Tribute, him countering with Wiretap, and me flipping over a Wiretap of my own. A turn or two later I had a Number 101: Silent Honor ARK with two materials and a Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare face-down. He topped the Rescue Rabbit and made Evilswarm Bahamut. I figured it was over at that point because he could just attack over 101, but he detached for Bahamut to target 101. I believe I audibly said "oh, well in that case…" and revealed the Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare for game. He blamed me being lucky, but in reality he could've probably won that if he played it right. At the very least it would've bought him a few turns.

The second game was largely uneventful. By his second turn he had Evilswarm Ophion, four face-downs, and a Vanity's Emptiness. I Normal Summoned Nikitama, then Yaksha to bounce the Ophion, then Xyz Summoned Number 101: Silent Honor ARK. My only face-down was Wiretap, which stopped his Fiendish Chain. After that it was all downhill for him, and I rode my own Evilswarm Thunderbird that he couldn't get rid of to victory.

Top 4: Lightsworns
I knew going into this that my opponent was playing Lightsworns. Considering I Side Deck eight to nine cards for this matchup I figured I had it in the bag. My opponent was a very nice guy but I wasn't going to go easy on him. He won the die roll and… went first? Seriously. Why haven't Lightsworn players figured out that going second is better? I guess in his case it was pretty darn good though because he used Solar Recharge into Solar Recharge into Charge of the Light Brigade into Soul Charge. I almost just gave up right there but I was able to whittle through his cards and play through his attack-stops to win the game.

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Game two he not-so-surprisingly went first, this time opening with Solar Recharge into Solar Recharge into Charge of the Light Brigade. I mean, I guess if I opened as good as this guy did I'd go first with Lightsworns too, but I'm incapable of getting that lucky. Anyway, just like last time I managed to push through his cards and lock him out of the game with Light-Imprisoning Mirror.

I'd like to mention that his friend who was spectating kept heckling me, which was really annoying. There was a moment when I flipped Light-Imprisoning Mirror before my opponent activated any cards (because Light Mirror negates activations, not effects) and his friend laughed at me for being bad. Then there was another time when I set a Breakthrough Skill and told my opponent it was a bluff. I do many things like this during matches to mess with my opponent, and his friend flipped out and starting claiming I was bad for "letting him know it was a bluff." When my opponent played right into the Breakthrough Skill his friend then freaked out because I'm "not allowed to just lie to him like that!"

How fickle.

The Finals: Mythic Ruler
Lo and behold, my Round 5 opponent and I were the final duelists standing. First place was getting a Blood Mefist, and second was getting 200 credit… Or at least that's what would've happened, except my opponent had other plans! You see, Voltage Games was buying Blood Mefist for 220 cash. This meant that whoever won could technically sell it right back to them for 220. My opponent suggested that we simply have whoever loses give the other person 100 credit, and whoever wins gives the loser 110 cash. That way each of us would end up with a decent chunk of change in both cash and credit. Originally I wasn't a fan of the idea, because I really wanted the prize card, but then I remembered that I made Top 8 because of him in the first place, so I agreed.

Regardless, we did play a last match for fun, this time with siding. It was long and drawn out, but amazing nonetheless. Game 1 he opened Dragon Shrine and Soul Charge, making an impressive field. I ended up fighting back until he topped a clutch Burial from a Different Dimension to deal the final damage! Game 2 was all mine; I had multiple Dark Trap Hole' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Deep Dark Trap Hole">Deep Dark Trap Holes and Debunks to take him out. The last game didn't start out very well for me. He opened with Dragon Shrine, Trade-In, and Gold Sarcophagus, ending with a field with two Mecha Phantom Beast Dracossacks, two Tokens, and a Card Trooper. I almost fought through it, but he had the second Dragon Shrine to win the match!

Even though I'd technically lost the final match I wasn't exactly feeling bad about it. Both of us had walked in there and paid our 20 bucks and left with ten times our entry. Don't worry, afterwards I did end up buying an Ultra Rare Doomcaliber Knight and an Ultra Rare Dimensional Prison. Will I find room for them? Maybe. At the end of the day I had an awesome time, and was really happy to support my friends' store. I think Spirits could still be good moving forward because they can wreck El Shaddoll Midrash, but only time will tell.

If you have any questions or comments feel free to ask them below!

-Doug Zeeff