I'd gone to a National Qualifier just six weeks before the NAWCQ, and made 20th with Traptrix Hand Artifacts (HAT). It looked just like some of my favorite Magic decks on paper, and I was giddy to try it out for Regionals. After Ned Salkovitch and Brandon Wigley gave me a shell a couple days before, I tweaked the build, hit the Regional, topped, and decided I would fine-tune it during the following weeks to compete in the WCQ.
I decided to play in the Qualifier because a handful of friends were going and I really liked the idea of the HAT deck. I knew that Geargia and Dragons would be the most-played strategies, and I really just made my deck an anti-meta build to beat those two match-ups. I looked into Mike Albanese's Top 16 list from YCS Philadelphia. I felt like his list was the best at the time, but just looking at it, there was one thing that bothered me to no end: I didn't like the idea of Artifact Beagalltach. It seemed like a waste of space. Geargia plays so many traps that I never wanted to waste an Artifact Ignition on one of my own cards. In fact, I didn't even like the best-case scenario of activating Artifact Ignition on a Beagalltach, setting Artifact Moralltach, and then Special Summoning both. In fact, most of the time I'd rather have a Rank 4 XYZ than a Rank 5.
Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare was already gaining popularity and that was just one of the cards that could stop this vulnerable strategy, while D.D. Crow, Breakthrough Skill, Debunk and Maxx "C" were reaching Side Deck staple status heading into the WCQ weekend. On top of those problems, you have a high likelihood of drawing Morraltach and Beagalltach when you're playing a combined five copies, and they're just bricks that sit in your hand. Your opponent's so afraid of Artifact Sanctum they'll rarely activate a blind Mystical Space Typhoon, so it's abysmal when you draw the Artifact Monsters. My ideas and theories worked through most of the tournament, but I knew that my deck still needed a lot of fixing.
I feel that the competitive landscape didn't change that much between the Regionals I played in and the WCQ itself. Sylvans and Lightsworn were added to the gauntlet, but their strategies were similar enough to Mythic Rulers that all three match-ups were similar for my deck. I'd call Dragons, Sylvans, and Lightsworns the "Giant Monster Decks." The only other "real" strategy in the format I felt I needed to prepare for was Geargia, which is the complete opposite of the Giant Monster Decks and much more similar to HAT; it's more of a reactive strategy.
I thought that there would be more Giant Monster decks than reactive control decks at the WCQ, since there's just a larger variety of them, so my main deck was aligned more for those match-ups. Those decks can gain a lot of momentum early on, especially if they go first, and that sets a reactive deck like mine behind. HAT has a lot of 1-for-1's, and a lot of the answers are universal, but many of them are also linear in the sense that they largely deal only with monsters on the field. Most of the answers are situational, like Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare and Compulsory Evacuation Device; that makes correct use of your traps very important. Most of your answers deal with a range of opposing threats, but saving your Bottomless Trap Hole, Solemn Warning, or Torrential Tribute to stop Soul Charge is probably the most important situation where this concept applies. Saving your Black Horn of Heaven for Divine Dragon Knight Felgrand or Stardust Dragon, instead of using it on something else that you could just Torrential Tribute or Moralltach away, is another example of how careful decision-making can help you beat two of the biggest threats to the HAT strategy.
I'm surrounded by powerful Duelists in Atlanta and in the weeks leading up to the WCQ, I was always asking them for their advice. I'd run most of my ideas by them and just listen to their opinions. We would explain back and forth why we did or didn't agree with each other on a card choice, a metagame read, or any logistic of the deck or format. In fact, the six weeks before the WCQ, that was how most of my preparation was done; it's no different than how I approach my Magic tournaments. I don't actually spend much time playing games to test match-ups; I feel that just displays how variance can play out unless you create a reasonable sample size (in my opinion, that's 100+ games). That's just not efficient enough – it wasn't going to be good enough for the sheer amount of work that I felt needed to be done.
I'll spend countless hours just staring at my deck list, envisioning how every possible combination of cards will look in my opening hand and how they interact with each other as the game plays out. Pairing this intuition with how I see metagames evolve is how I generally come up with all my card choices for my decks, which is how I ended up with this:DECKID= 100612The NAWCQ Finalist, Deon Akridge, was considering a Giant Monster Deck (Sylvans?), and was interested in playing HAT. He approached me for my list the Saturday once week before the tournament. I didn't mind giving it to him as I felt he was a good player who would have some good insight. He lives some distance from me so he ended up doing the same thing as I did as far as just talking about our decks. We would just discuss whatever ideas we came up with that day, while syncing each other's brains with what we thought was definite.
I disagreed with so many opinions that I'd been given; I was running most of my deck off of what I believed was right, and Deon made me feel confident about it. Every time he'd bring up something that he thought our deck was weak against, I made sure our tracks were covered; he was very objective. We kept on with that process until he ended up playing about 58 of the same 70 cards I was running, but at the end of the day, the fact we avoided Beagalltach gave us a bit of a higher win percentage than the other HAT variants. I played a few games against the gauntlet the couple days before I got on the plane, met up with Deon when I got there, and we took a cab to the site to finalize our ideas and register for the tournament.Before The Main Event – Friday
Being a professional gamer requires an intricate understanding of perspective. Applying another player's point of view to the game that you're playing and trying to win that way is a skill that will separate consistent performers from the rest of the pack. It's how you can come to the conclusion of which traps to play around, whether or not your opponent has telegraphed Maxx "C", and whether or not they could be running Mystical Space Typhoon. This concept is the main reason I was attracted to HAT. Magic has taught me a lot about playing around cards that your opponent might have, and I felt doing it in Yu-Gi-Oh! was very similar. I just felt good in my skin about the HAT strategy ever since I heard that Heavy Storm was Forbidden. Being able to play twelve traps let me feel I could have genuine control over the game, so long as my opponent didn't gain too much momentum.
To win games where my opponent did start with a powerful field presence, I had Fire Hand and Ice Hand. These cards are unbelievably powerful. They're outs to almost any situation. Even if you don't ram them into your opponent's monsters, setting them is just as effective. The Hands gain you tempo if your opponent doesn't remove them from the field, and you eventually destroy their cards with the Hands or try to make Xyz to handle any situations they can't deal with on their own. Pairing them with Traptrix Myrmeleo, which gets you another reactive answer as a free +1 of card economy, allows for tempo swings that can tilt games in your favor. Traptrix Dionaea paired with Myrmeleo is one of the most momentum-shifting plays in the deck, since the Traptrix can't be eliminated by Bottomless Trap Hole or Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare, and they clear your opponent's backrow to help you Summon Xyz.
Pot of Duality and Upstart Goblin were important in this deck, and I can't believe Deon didn't play Upstart Goblin. As I've mentioned, a lot of the cards in the deck are linear; playing Upstart and Duality keeps your hand from clogging with all cards that only handle certain situations. Any hand with any combination of just Mystical Space Typhoon, Artifact Moralltach, Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare, Black Horn of Heaven, Wiretap, Pot of Dichotomy, Soul Charge, and other situational cards like them, can leave you totally unable to play Yu-Gi-Oh. That said, the nature of the deck affords you a little extra equity in games where open with a lot of those cards, because your opponent still has to play around some of your traps. The HAT play style mirrored many decisions I make when playing Magic, and I felt really comfortable playing it. Sometimes I even thought Geargia may have been a more consistent deck, but I was confident in my conclusions about the format and was eager to put my preparation to the test.Day 1 Of The WCQ – Saturday
I won the die roll and led off with Traptrix Myrmeleo. I already had Traptrix Dionaea in hand, which is a good way to start things against an aggressive "fair" deck that largely makes individual +1's and 1-for-1 exchanges. I immediately played Artifact Sanctum to Moralltach my opponent's Yamato, and never actually ended up Summoning the Dionaea. This match was as easy as I expected, and I quickly won the first match of many that I needed for a seat in Day 2.
1-0Round 2: A Young Gentleman with Geargia
Game 2 was a different story. My opponent led off with a set monster and some traps. I felt good about my Turn 1 Dark Hole only to reveal that he'd set Geargiano to draw out removal. I had a Sanctum, MST, and Black Horn. I put a Morraltach into play immediately and started attacking through his monsters – something Geargia never really wants to waste their Dimensional Prisons or Fiendish Chains on. I kept the game's tempo in my favor by keeping a Morraltach in play at all times, and my opponent eventually drew Dark Trap Hole' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Deep Dark Trap Hole">Deep Dark Trap Holes, which he'd sided in against me. They were probably for Artifact Moralltach and Artifact Beagalltach, so they weren't the greatest against my build. I eventually kept up and stayed ahead, tilting a relatively boring Geargia match-up into my favor.
#####CARDID= 10886#####Round 3: Andrew Do with Evilswarm
I don't remember much about this match except that all three games were very grindy. In Game 3 I Solemn Warning'd a Thunderbird early, and had a timely Wiretap for my opponent's Wiretap, which allowed me to push through a key trap card. Andrew was a talented duelist and didn't make any Mistakes that I could see. I felt like I was behind more than I should have been in all three games, and needed luck to be on my side to win Game 3.
3-0Round 4: Daniel Mahar with Sylvans
Game 2 I opened with a very powerful hand, but Daniel still made me fight for it. There was a point where I was holding onto my Traptrix Dionaea and tried to keep punching him with Hands, to get him low enough to where I could win by Summoning Dionaea. He eventually ended up having a timely Vanity's Emptiness to keep him in the game longer than he would've lasted otherwise. If I thought Sylvans were running Emptiness – which at the end of the weekend I heard the majority of Sylvan players did – I would have played differently. Unfortunately my opponent threw this game away when he allowed me to resolve Artifact Morraltach's effect, which I used to destroy the Felgrand over a Sylvan Hermitree. He then tried to chain its effect, which he can't do since Moralltach doesn't target at activation (you pick a card to destroy at resolution, at which point nothing else can be added to the chain in response). That made it pretty easy to deal with Hermitree, and my opponent started us off for Game 3.
Game 3 started with me having no Maxx "C" in hand, four and a half minutes left on the clock, and my opponent with the same exact field as Game 1. I thought my match was probably over, but I set my Torrential Tribute, Artifact Moralltach, Artifact Sanctum, and Mystical Space Typhoon. My opponent drew his card and played Mount Sylvania. I chained Artifact Sanctum which he allowed to resolve. When my Moralltach came into play I activated its effect. Learning his lesson from the previous game, he chained Felgrand's effect targeting itself, and then the other Felgrand, chaining its effect to target it as well. I then chained Torrential Tribute allowing me to destroy his entire field. From there I worked to keep monsters in play and never allowed him to get to my Life Points. I eventually won in a matter of turns.
4-0Round 5: Jim Boyce with Geargia
#####CARDID= 16058#####Round 6: David Arzate-Ochoa Jr. with Geargia
I believe he ended up drawing Breakthrough Skills against me ,which is a powerful answer to Artifact Moralltach, itself an integral part of your plan when you're up against Geargia. Moralltach's 2100 ATK keeps you in the game and helps you put pressure on Geargiarmor, but I remember I never felt like I was ahead in this match. He wound up having a clutch Book of Moon that ended up putting me down in two games.
5-1Round 7: Ian Mauer with Spirit Control
He ripped a Traptrix Dionaea, used it to bring back Myrmeleo, and I stopped them both with Torrential Tribut. On Turn 1 of time, I drew Breakthrough Skill and set it. On Turn 2, he played another Dionaea; I stopped its effect with Breakthrough; and he hit me for 1700 damage, putting me to 1700 Life Points. All I have to do was draw a Hand: there were only six cards left in my deck at this point and one or two of them were Hands. My Turn 3, I drew Black Horn of Heaven. Just as I'm about to extend my hand and concede, I decided to Set my Horn and say go.
My opponent, playing on Turn 4, drew, Summoned a Spirit, and made Maestroke the Symphony Djinn. After I Black Horned it, he swears that he saw me reveal a Mirror Force off of Pot of Duailty earlier in the game. I flip over the last five cards of my deck to show him there was no way he saw a Mirror Force in my deck, and with that he realized he'd lose on Life Points in time.
6-1Round 8: Paul Yung with Chain Burn
I drew a lot of timely Mystical Space Typhoons and Wiretaps, but I was very lucky to 2-0 this guy. He was the kind of competitor that had clearly played Chain Burn since before he could walk, but was a competitive duelist and lost Game 2 with me having just100 life left. In addition to that, I drew the only Wiretap I could draw to counter his topdecked Ceasefire during the very Draw Phase where I defeated him.
7-1Round 9: Jorge Jimenez with Geargia
7-2Day 2 Of The WCQ - Sunday
#####CARDID= 16093#####Round 11: Chris LeBlanc with Geargia
Game 1 was as grindy as the Geargia match gets without Geargiarmor involved. LeBlanc controlled my monsters while his only monsters were Geargiaccelarators and Geargiano. I eventually broke through to his Life Points and we entered Game 2 with thirteen minutes on the clock.
I had to make decisions based on a good chance that we'd be going to time, so I took out my Upstart Goblins; I usually never take them out against Geargia, because I always want outs to Geargiarmor, and the Upstarts help me get to those cards more consistently. I also ended up taking out Soul Charge because even if I played it and I was winning, the fact that it makes you skip your Battle Phase could have created situations where it would be detrimental to me winning the match.
I ended up almost winning Game 2, but we ended up going to time where he was up on me on Life Points. It frustrated me because I thought there was a good chance I wouldn't make the Top 64, but I ended up making about 50th place.
Back against the wall, I had just topped the North American WCQ after all the work I put in. When I found out Deon had topped as well I was just filled with this adrenaline rush. I couldn't wait to play Top 64.
8-2-1Top 64: Patrick James with Sylvans
This is where my Side Deck really mattered: I was in the top cut against the deck I'd prepared for. I boarded in my two Dark Trap Hole' rel="https://yugioh.tcgplayer.com/db/WP-CH.asp?CN=Deep Dark Trap Hole">Deep Dark Trap Holes; my third Maxx "C"; two Breakthrough Skills; and Soul Drain. Wiretap's generally dead against Sylvans, while you never use Pot of Dichotomy, Call Of The Haunted, or Soul Charge because your Monsters don't die until you do. I like taking out Pot of Duality more than I like flipping out Upstart Goblin. I ended up winning a long Game 2 and barely got ahead in Life Points in Game 3 to close a very intense match.Top 32: Ankit Shah with Geargia
#####CARDID= 12750#####Top 8: Jovah Tolbert with FAT
If I were to join a tournament tomorrow, I would expect a lot more HAT decks. It took so much of the spotlight at the WCQ that I expect it to see a big spike in popularity. I wouldn't make many changes to this build except a couple cards in the Side Deck.
I played no Lightsworn decks throughout the entire tournament, so maybe The Transmigration Prophecy can come out, but the deck was very well tuned with hundreds of hours behind its development. Wiretap's very powerful in the mirror as well as Dimensional Prison; I'd look into cutting something to make room for them. Like I said before, every card depends on what the metagame looks like when you're playing a deck like this.
I took this tournament as seriously as I'd take a Magic tournament, and it felt so good to watch it all pay off. I'll be taking the time between now and Worlds to prepare just like I did before. I'll probably have to do some actual jamming of games since they created a new Forbidden and Limited List strictly for Worlds, but I'm excited for the challenge ahead. You guys will hear from me again before Worlds right here on TCGplayer, and it doesn't hurt to post what you would play at Worlds below!
For all those that congratulated me and cheered me on, it meant a lot. It was an unreal feeling and every bit of support I ever get in any of my tournaments makes my effort feel glorified.