Hello Yu-Gi-Oh! community! I'm Mackenzie King Franklin, the first TCGplayer YGO Series Champion. Most of you don't know me, since the highlight of my Yu-Gi-Oh! career up until now was making Day 2 at YCS Las Vegas playing Raccoons last Spring, and getting knocked out in my Feature Match. Let me tell you a little bit about myself and my Yu-Gi-Oh! history.
I started playing Yu-Gi-Oh! competitively with my friends in High School in Omaha, Nebraska. I topped a lot of Regionals in the surrounding areas, mostly using Blackwings, but didn't really travel to any big events. However, during that time I was able to go to Japan and experience the awesome Yu-Gi-Oh! players, culture, and merchandise that they have there while I was living with a Japanese family. I really wanted to go back to Japan, so I took an educational opportunity and moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico to pursue a degree in Elementary Education. I was considering giving up Yu-Gi-Oh, but ended up making a lot of good friends playing it, so I stuck with the game.
In 2012 I went for my dream: I took a year off from school and moved to Japan, working and going to school while still keeping my favorite hobby alive. I competed in the 2012 Tokai (East Sea) Championship Series while I was living there and made Top 32 of the tournament using a Miracle Hero deck. The level of competition in Japan was fierce; it's a completely different feel from playing in America. Every person was a threat and played very systematically, by the book. It wasn't strange to get 2-0'd by a Junior High Schooler; even the younger competitors make the right plays by rote.
When I returned to America I really wanted to get back into Yu-Gi-Oh! and take competition seriously, so I began traveling to all the YCS's I could. However, once the 2014 school year began college got more intense, and my student teaching prevented me from going to big tournament. During the summer, when I was visiting my family in Nebraska, I won the TCGplayer State Championship and got enough points to get into the $10,000 Championship as well as earn two byes, so I decided that if I would go to one big event for the year it would be that one. I was still extremely busy with school, so I didn't have a lot of time to practice. The only prep I got with my deck before going to the event were two locals at Noble Collectibles and a Thursday night practice session with my friend Matt Reese the week of the tournament.
I left by plane with my good friend Jim Cella on Friday night, after I spent a day in the classroom teaching. We got into Indianapolis around 11:30 pm Friday night and took a cab to our hotel just outside of downtown Indianapolis, where we met our friends Julian Romero and David Daniel – two Magic players that were competing in the TCGplayer $50,000 Championship for Magic. We ordered some late night pizza, played a couple games of cards, then passed out since we had to be up early the next morning to get to the convention center.
The next morning we got to the Indianapolis Convention Center and were looking for the Yu-Gi-Oh! section. I was really surprised that a tournament with an amazing prize structure had so little of a turn-out. Jim and I signed up for the tournament, him with 20 MaxPoints and me with 60, getting first and second round byes. We waited for the player meeting to begin. Before we get into the tournament itself, let's talk about my deck and why I decided to play it.
DECKID= 101291I based my choices heavily on the outcome of the last couple events, specifically YCS Dallas, and I looked at Sehabi Kheireddine's build of Shaddolls with mained Artifact Igntions and Artifact Beagalltachs. I really liked his deck because it didn't lose to Vanity' Emptiness, ever, and had great access to the Rank 5 toolbox. Kheireddine didn't run Artifact Durendal, but it was a major MVP for me, stopping opponents' most powerful spells and traps. Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn was important too, dealing with anything thanks to its removal effect.
I really liked running a heavier Artifact engine over a minimalist lineup of nothing but Artifact Sanctums and Artifact Moralltachs, because it lets you make more plays in the early game if you draw a hand with an Artifact monster or two. The only change I made to the Main Deck was dropping Solemn Warning and Compulsory Evacuation Device for two copies of Call Of The Haunted. The card's so simple but so powerful: it has many applications, like bringing back gigantic boss monsters which my opponent had to get over once already; responding to an opponent's play by bringing back Artifact Moralltach or Artifact Beagalltach; or getting a Shadoll effect by bringing back Armageddon Knight or El Shadoll Construct.
Call was also great because it was chainable, so if my opponent ever tried to get rid of it I could just chain it and get a draw, a search, spot removal or whatever else I needed. Call worked really well with Artifact Durendal too, letting break even off of its negation effect by chaining Call. Alex Marasco, a good friend from Nebraska who played me in the Shaddoll mirror match for hours when the deck first came out in the summer, convinced me to use Call after his experience playing it in his tournament scene in the Midwest. Artifact Durendal was my usual go-to Xyz monster as it could stop any major effects, and since the majority of my spells and traps were chainable I could always break even with its ability.
Effect Veiler, Raigeki, Mind Control, Breakthrough Skill, and Trap Stun were the most important cards in my Side Deck. Veiler and Trap Stun were very important for the Burning Abyss match up, as Veiler would stop any Monarch play or a Tour Guide From The Underworld, cutting off the continuous cycle of searching. Trap Stun would stop any of their traps including face-up Vanity's Emptiness, sometimes resulting in my opponent having to get around their own Emptiness on their turn.
I played Raigeki in the mirror match, or brought it in against any deck that I could see using Majesty's Fiend or Vanity's Fiend, as my strategy suffered heavily from those cards. Breakthrough Skill also came in on for those match-ups as well as any deck that used Artifacts, as it was reusable negation. Mind Control was important because it was an auto-win if you drew it in the Shaddoll mirror match; taking a set Shaddoll Beast or a Shaddoll Falco simply wins you the game. The advantage becomes too real.
Here's how the tournament itself went, round by round!
Round 1 and 2: Byes
I went to Steak-and-Shake and enjoyed my small break before the tournament. I 2-0'd a Peanut Butter Milkshake and a Nacho Cheeseburger with parmesan fries.
Round 3: Cody Burns
Cody was a Burning Abyss player that I'd play again in Top 4. I was feeling very confident with this match-up as he was playing Supply Squad, which was my favorite card to see: it made my Double Cyclones live all the time.
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Game 1 was back and forth, but Game 2 was decided by Maxx "C" when I dropped it after I established a board and he was trying to push back. This match was really important because I would use the knowledge of Cody's play style and deck specifics when we squared off again in the Top 4.
Round 4: Scott Sheahan
Another Burning Abyss player. A big trend in this tournament was losing to terrible hands, for everyone. All players had the potential to brick and when they did, they lost. This match was a great example.
Well, it's a good thing I had those byes early on.
Round 5: Shijing Yang
Terrifying, Shijing's deck was a Shadoll build constructed to destroy the mirror match, filled with Caius the Shadow Monarchs, Chaos Sorcerers, Vanity's Fiends, and Gorz The Emissary of Darkness. Even with a Round 1 game loss on his end because of marked or damaged sleeves, his hands seemed to be perfect at countering my plays. I did not want to play this deck again during the tournament.
Round 6: Corey Brogan
Round 7: Benjamin Ott
Benjamin was playing Yang Zing Hands maining Shadow Imprisoning Mirrors. I learned this early on as he flipped two on me in Game 1, locking me out of any of my effects with a hand full of Shaddoll monsters and just one Artifact Ignition to take out a Mirror.
When I Side Decked for this match I didn't see him putting in Majesty's Fiends or Vanity's Fiends, so I didn't put in Raigeki or the two Breakthrough Skills. As a result, an early Vanity's against another lovely hand of all monsters proved to be an uphill battle. Unfortunately, I ran out of answers to the Fiends using my Dragons and lost Game 2.
Round 8: Eden Salins
Round 9: Clifton Land
I lost this match against Lightsworn Shaddolls, but it was very important because this build was very close to that of my Top 16 match – they both sided Royal Decrees. I won Game 1 going first and completely blew out the duel with an Artifact Sanctum, Summoning Artifact Moralltach and stopping Clifton from making any early plays.
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Game 2 he flipped a Royal Decree on me after he went first and it kept my trap-heavy hand from stopping his aggressive pushes. Game 3 was very close, but ended with a nasty Soul Charge play by Clifton, creating not only a strong field but a strong graveyard and deck set-up. He ended that turn with a Lavaval Chain that had stacked a Black Luster Soldier - Envoy of the Beginning; a perfect graveyard for a Dark Armed Dragon; a set Shaddoll Hedgehog; and a Stardust Spark Dragon. I lost that match, but the knowledge that this build could be siding Royal Decree was worth it in my mind.
Round 10: Michael Giowacki
Michael came into the round late so he got a Game 1 loss, but he let me go first Game 2. I started with a hand of Double Cyclone, two Artifact Moralltachs, and two Shadoll Falco. Well... Good thing he got that game loss, right? I set Moralltach and Double Cyclone. Turns out that Michael was playing Burning Abyss, so he activated Supply Squad – thank goodness – and Summoned Mathematician. That yarded Graff, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss which brought out Cir, Malebranch of the Burning Abyss. At that point I activated Double Cyclone to chain to Cir's effect to destroy itself, destroying Supply Squad and Moralltach, so his Cir left the field and my Moralltach destroyed his Mathematician without a draw. He set three and passed, searching Tour Guide from the Underworld in the End Phase.
On my turn I drew an Artifact Sanctum, my saving grace, and looked at my hand... lots of backrow cards, so I Summoned Falco, knowing I had a Rank 5 play to back up this attempt to Black Rose Dragon the field. Michael didn't respond to the Summon, so I Synchro Summoned Black Rose and destroyed all his sets: three Vanity's Emptiness! (All secret rare.) I didn't know what to think... I quickly took the game from there, since he had no protection from my Artifact assault.
Round: 11: Junior Dorcin
A Satellarknight player. My friend that came with me, Jim Cella, was playing Satellarknights this tournament as well, so I had had a lot of practice against the deck and knew I had a massive advantage against it with so much backrow hate.
Top 16 Match: Parker Roberson
This game was decided by Mind Control and a correct read on a set Royal Decree. Parker was playing Shaddoll Lightsworn, and I won the die roll and stopped him from making plays, much like the previous round I played against a similar deck.
I'd sided into Effect Veilers and Breakthrough Skills to stop game-ending pushes with Dark Armed Dragon or possible Fiends, as well as De-Fusion, Compulsory Evacuation Device, and Mind Control. When it came to siding cards out for the Shaddoll mirror match I'd always take out the same cards: two Artifact Beagalltachs, one Artifact Sanctum, one Artifact Moralltach, and three Artifact Ignition. I left the Double Cyclones in because it was a response to an opponent's Vanity's Emptiness. If I ended up drawing an Artifact Moralltach I could always use it with that too.
Game 2 Parker went first and OTK'd me with a lengthy play resulting in a Dark Armed Dragon clearing my board of monsters, as he didn't want to risk hitting any Artifact cards. Game 3 I started with a set Artifact Sanctum and a Vanity's Emptiness. It seemed that Parker had a poor hand, as he set a single backrow and attempted to Summon Raiden, Hand of the Lightsworn but lost it to my Artifact Sanctum. My earlier game led me to believe that Royal Decree was coming in from the Side Deck, so I Summoned Armageddon Knight to send Shaddoll Dragon to the graveyard, which proved my theory true. I attacked with both my monsters and passed.
Parker drew and activated Puppet Plant, stealing my Armageddon Knight, which seemed to be the best play for him because he Tribute set using my Knight as Tribute. So, a Shaddoll Beast. I drew Mind Control. Game over.
Top 8 Match: Michael White
You can read the full Feature Match for this round here. Game 1 I dominated using Artifact Durendal and Artifact Ignition, countering my opponent's Vanity's Emptiness and Soul Charge with them to gain a lot of card advantage, and getting to set free Artifact Moralltachs. I sided the same way this round as I did in the previous. Game 2 went into time late game and it was a constant struggle where I was trying to recover from The Monarchs Storm Forth. It was the last turn in time and I'd already played through two of them: he used the final one to press for enough damage to take the game. Drawing a Moralltach on my last turn didn't help either.
Mind Control played the most important role in Game 3, as the duel came to a point where Michael flip summoned Shaddoll Falco and targeted his Shaddoll Squamata in his graveyard. I looked at my Mind Control and my face down Vanity's Emptiness and allowed it to happen, thinking that he was going to Tribute his Shaddoll Falco for a Vanity's Fiend and I could capitalize on it. After he Tributed the Falco, my prediction came true.
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On my turn I was trying to calculate the most damage I could do and opted not to use Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning to drop him to 100 Life Points, because if he had a Puppet Plant there was no way I was going to recover. Instead, I used Mind Control to take his face-down Shaddoll Squamata, and chained my double cyclone on his face-down and my mind control just in case he had a chainable trap set like Compulsory Evacuation Device or Book of Moon.
It turned out to be a Vanity's Emptiness, which left the field clear for my push with a Mathematician and a Castel, the Skyblaster Musketeer. During my Main Phase 2 I used Castel's effect on itself just in case Michael was holding Shaddoll Fusion, and ended the turn confident with my plays. It turned out my opponent did have the puppet plant in hand, but the number of monsters on my field prevented him from pushing for enough damage to recover.
Top 4 Match: Cody Burns
Excellent, my first opponent was back for more in the Semi-Finals. I won the die roll and started off looking at my opening hand: Shaddoll Falco, Shaddoll Dragon, Armageddon Knight, Artifact Moralltach, and Artifact Begalltach. Well. It looked like I had to get something with a Shaddoll Beast, so I Summoned my Knight, sent off Shaddoll Squamata, and then sent the Beast, which happened to get me my only way out: Artifact Sanctum. As seen in the Feature Match, that let me turn the extra Artifacts into Artifact Durendal for its negation ability. Unfortunately, a Raiza the Storm Monarch put me in a bad position, and I was held at bay until I could draw one of my outs – I needed Artifact Ignition or Double Cyclone. I eventually drew into what I needed after a few turns of stalling, then dropped Black Luster Soldier – Envoy of the Beginning for game.
When siding for the Burning Abyss matchup I keep a lot of my Artifact pieces in, but expecting to go second I sided out one Artifact Ignition, one Sinister Shadow Games, one Call of the Haunted, an Artifact Begalltach, a Vanity's Emptiness, Super Polymerization, Armageddon Knight, and a Double Cyclone. In their place I brought in two copies of Trap Stun, two Effect Veilers, two Maxx "C", one Malevolent Catastrophe, and one Breakthrough Skill.
Game 2 started with my opponent setting three backrows. I figured he must've bricked. Juice. This game went pretty fast as Cody didn't get a monster but Cir, Malebranche of the Burning Abyss. He ended up flipping two copies of Ceasefire on me that game, a good tech choice I thought, but there were still twenty minutes left in the round so they seemed to be of little threat since we weren't going into time.
Finals Match: Desmond Johnson
Here we go! In this match I drew a hand with Artifact Moralltach and Artifact Begalltach, again… But! I also had Double Cyclone, Shaddoll Falco, and Sinister Shadow Games, making my seemingly awful hand extremely playable and deadly, with Level 7 Synchro plays and Rank 5 Xyz options. After responding to Desmond's push with my Artifact cards I cleared his "plus machine," Shadoll Falco, with Michael, the Arch-Lightsworn, and protected my field from a push the next turn by making Artifact Durendal, ready to stop any Soul Charge or Shaddoll Fusion play. When Desmond activated Pot of Duality the next turn I knew it was over as he revealed cards that Michael could easily banish. Negating the effect of Allure of Darkness sealed the deal as he couldn't use his Shaddoll Fusion under Pot Of Duality's effect.
At this point, everyone knew everyone's Main Deck and Side Deck well, so I knew I was going to be facing Desmond's Majesty's Fiends, The Monarchs Storm Forth, Wiretap, and Breakthrough Skills. The best choices to side were the same ones as before. Expecting to go first I sided the same way I usually did: I sided into Effect Veilers and Breakthrough Skills to stop the Fiends, and De-Fusion, Compulsory Evacuation Device, and Mind Control. When it came to siding cards out against the Shaddoll Mirror Match I would always take out the same cards: two Artifact Beagalltach, one Artifact Sanctum, one Artifact Moralltach, and three Artifact Ignitions. I left the Double Cyclones in because it gave me a response to Vanity's Emptiness, or a play if I ended up drawing Artifact Moralltach.
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However, Desmond let me go first this game! That was unexpected. I drew my opening hand and saw Artifact Moraltach and Shaddoll Beast as my first two cards and I was thinking, "At least there's a Game 3." But then I drew Shaddoll Fusion and Sinister Shadow Games and was like, "Oh, yeah, that's why this deck is the best." I sifted through a lot of my deck and put up a Shaddoll Beast in defense mode. Unfortunately, I didn't catch this during the game, but Desmond made an illegal move by mistake, using The Monarchs Stormforth to Tribute set a Beast rather than perform a Tribute Summon. I was expecting a Majesty's Fiend, but it was just a Beast, thank goodness.
I was extremely happy that he used Stormforth that early in the game, as I only had a maximum of two more to worry about. I ended up drawing my one Shaddoll Squamata the turn before so the best play looked like just swinging into the Beast with it and removing Beast from the field, for now. I hit in for some damage and then passed. I was reading another Wiretap or Vanity's Emptiness, as Desmond had yet to activate the card sitting in his backrow, so I summoned a Mathematician to send Shaddoll Dragon to the grave: sure enough, it blew away his Wiretap. I flipped my own Vanity's Emptiness reading a Shaddoll Falco. I attacked. Boom: Shaddoll Falco. I love how strong Mathematician is, conveniently getting over every card that a Shaddoll player can normal set. After Desmond kept setting Shaddoll Hedgehogs I felt the game was over. It seemed he was thinning his deck trying to get another Stormforth. After he extended the handshake it turned out I was right: he revealed three copies of Majesty's Fiend.
I was extremely happy with the performance of my deck throughout the tournament, as I felt it could make the most out of its brick hands. If I would change anything it would be over in my Side Deck, taking out Thunder King Rai-Oh, the two Maxx "C", and one Malevolent Catastrophe.
Thunder King and Malevolent Catastrophe were only really good against the Satellarknight matchup, but I felt my deck killed that already and having to wait to take out my opponents' spells and traps, waiting for an attack, was pretty inconvenient at times. Trap Stun seemed to work a lot better as I could use it whenever I needed. Maxx "C" added to the problem, not stopping a sequence of plays but usually netting a single card and stunning a play instead. I wanted to stop plays completely.
The four cards I wanted to put in were actually my biggest problems of the weekend, two The Monarchs Stormforth and two Majesty's Fiend. With so many Artifact cards in my deck I would always have a way to make use of those cards and if they were drawn in combination, well, you know how that goes.
When it comes to next format rolling around and the release of The New Challengers in the interim, I think the Shaddoll deck will still be the strategy to beat, especially this version, since Artifacts have an inherently good matchup against Pendulum Monsters with all of the spell and trap destruction.
Overall, the TCGplayer YGO Series $10k Championship was one of the hardest tournaments I've ever played in, but definitely had the prize support to entice any duelist. I'm really grateful to have participated in such an event and I'm eager to participate in next year's. I had a great time with my friends and made some new ones, which is one of my favorite parts of this game: all these people with one common interest, all playing Yu-Gi-Oh.