Hey there duelists! Today I wanted to talk about my experience in Rimini, Italy at the World Championship. The days leading into the tournament and the actual event itself felt unbelievably prestigious, and the competition was just as fierce as I expected; the skill level was impressive, with players drawn from all over the globe. The time I spent in Italy outside the convention hall was the most fun I've had in years. Meeting professionals from each region of the world showed me that there were players who approached the game from the same angles as I do, while being more skilled than myself. It was clear that they'd committed a similar amount of their lives to Yu-Gi-Oh! as I have to the handful of games that I play. It was nice being in that environment, and the experience made me want to qualify again every year!

The overwhelming amount of support that I had thrown at me while I was there showed me the true reach of the Worlds spotlight, both on me and the rest of the competitors. The food was the best I've had in Europe and the nightlife was full of culture. The chills of adrenaline ran down my spine as every hour brought me closer to the morning of the tournament. I'm sure that if you watched the live stream you guys are familiar with how amazing Rimini was, so I'm going to talk a bit about my preparation for the World Championship, my experience during the tournament, and how I'm going to interpret my results from the last month.

Predicting The Worlds Metagame
I talked about my predictions for the World Championship metagame in my previous article, and my expectations were almost met. I knew that Infernities were going to be the best and perhaps most represented strategy, but overestimated the presence of Sylvans. I was confident that Infernities would have a presence, but Geargia was much more popular than I expected despite the time I spent considering a Traptrix/Hands/Geargia variant – a strategy I was thinking about from the beginning.

I felt Infernity was the most powerful deck available and that a Traptrix/Hands/Geargia strategy (THG) would offer the best opportunities to incorporate powerful Side Deck cards that could cripple an Infernity player. Those were the two most important factors determining what I wanted to play, and how I expected most of the field to look. I felt it was a little risky to run something with a handful of reactive cards when I wasn't certain what the metagame would actually look like. I wasn't excited about any of the Fire Hand and Ice Hand strategies I came up with, so I moved my focus to the runner-up and just started practicing with Infernities.

Let me make one message clear: this is the most difficult deck I've ever played. I talked to Infernity masters Mike Albanese and Sehabi Kheireddine, making sure I knew all the intricacies of the combos and card selections. I spent over a hundred hours with my notepad open, keeping track of what cards contributed to which part of each combo as I played against myself on my floor. I used my camera to take pictures of field set-ups to discover different options that could change what my final board position looked like.

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It was so easy to mess up a combo if you couldn't see where you'd wind up twelve to fifteen plays later, even on YOUR FIRST TURN. I felt like I needed much more time than I actually had if I were to master the deck. Infernity's incredibly powerful but it takes dedication, focus, and a deep understanding of every card the strategy runs to achieve an optimal performance. After weeks of practicing my combos and Tuning my Side Deck, I hopped on the plane with Deon Akridge who was running THG, and we were on our way to Rimini, Italy.

Arriving In Italy
When we got to Italy on Thursday, I finally got to test with Sehabi and was assured I knew how to play the deck optimally, which I'd felt I wasn't going to be able to do in time for the tournament. I believe that most people who think they're piloting Infernities perfectly are usually Mistaken. Sehabi and I spent the whole day syncing our thoughts and covering each other's tracks confirming that we were using every card slot efficiently. Deon was just trying to tune his deck to beatInfernities, giving us a solid gauntlet to test against.

Deon jammed about twenty games against Sehabi, and Infernity won less than five of those games. It was important learning how to play around every hand trap that exists and having the momentum in the opponent's favor. Learning all of these concepts made me feel even better about playing the deck and I was honestly set on Infernity by the time I went to sleep Thursday night. Whenever I prepare for any tournament, I always have a tough time deciding which deck I want to play, but for the North American WCQ and the World Championship my choice was locked in.

There were a couple of reasons we thought Infernity was the most powerful deck. The strategy has so many two and three card combos that can generate so much card advantage and swing tempo to such a degree that you can put your opponent out of contention before they even see their first Draw Phase. If your combos aren't interrupted by a Maxx "C" or D.D. Crow, you'll get free wins regardless of your opponent's skill level. That made me excited to play this deck, especially in a tournament with so few rounds. I knew I was going to be playing the best players in the world and just wanted to have the highest chance possible to steal a couple of rounds and make Top 8.

Infernity doesn't interact with your opponent unless they're going second. In the games where youare going second you don't even need more than one turn of set-up before the game's decided by whether or not your opponent can interrupt your combo. Infernities were consistent, powerful, and untouched by the special Worlds-only F&L List, so we felt confident in our choice. We talked about many builds that included traps and a grind game backup plan, but we ultimately decided on a combo heavy build. This was the 70-card list I played at the World Championship:

DECKID=100959Infernities ended up carrying me to 13th place after the Swiss Rounds; I ended up losing the last round playing for Top 8 against Artifact Traptrix. It was what I expected to lose to, as it just had too many cards focused on stopping Infernity. My opponent had Effect Veiler and D.D. Crow in his Main Deck which won him Game 1 against me and demonstrated that he was prepared for the match-up. We ended up going to a third game where I lost in end of match procedures, but I wasn't too bothered by that as I knew it was an unfavorable match-up for me anyways.

Throughout the match there were just too many situations where I had to play around cards that slowed my deck down. There were times where I played around Traptrix Trap Hole Nightmare by not XYZ Summoning only to fall to his Needle Ceiling. I didn't feel the match-up was unbeatable; in fact, I felt the matchup was favorable after Side Decking. He had so many Traps that I felt a Trap Stun followed by an activation of Evilswarm Exciton Knight would swing the game in my favor, but I only assembled that combo one time over the course of that match.

I picked up a draw against a Worm player and my other loss came from a trap-heavy Gadget deck. My wins came easily in unexciting matches against Geargia and Infernity. Sehabi ended up avenging me in the final match of the tournament, proving he was clearly the best Infernity player in the World. With that in mind there are many subjective ways to look at your results from any tournament and I wanted to use a couple of concepts from our preparation for the World Championship to demonstrate how you should interpret them.

The first concept I want to point out is the fact that when Sehabi won the tournament, his victory instantly legitimized all of my efforts. We'd pooled all of our information together to the point that we were effectively playing the same game in our matches. We ran a few different cards between our builds, but we had a similar approach to the format and that was the basis of our game plan. We started by agreeing with the theory that Infernity was powerful because of its proactive strategy: your combos don't interact with your opponent and they have to try to stop you from going off, giving you the momentum and putting you in the driver's seat. We didn't want to give anyone a chance to outplay us, so we were just performing our combos while opponents had to hope to get lucky enough to stop us.

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We'd focused our Side Decks for the mirror match and the Geargia match-up, which ended up being the two strategies that mattered most in the tournament, confirming our metgame read. It's important to have a partner or team that compliments your own strengths and weaknesses and communicates with you, or the rest of the team constructively. I can say that Sehabi and Deon's character and chemistry were collectively essential to our success at the World Championship.

Worlds had a format and a unique metagame designed specifically for that one tournament. I can't say that I care much about the results in the sense of moving on to future events, because there is no tournament that will replicate the play environment we competed in. I can say that I feel accomplished discovering that Infernity was the best deck for the tournament, and satisfied that our theories led us to that conclusion. We knew that Soul Charge was the best card in that format and Infernity abused it more efficiently than any other deck could.

There are several cards in Infernities that should probably be Forbidden: if a deck makes me feel that way, that sort of feeling will always grab my attention and is usually a good incentive to play a particular strategy. Infernity Launcher should probably be gone, while Stygian Street Patrol, Lavalval Chain, and Soul Charge should all be Limited before the deck's removed from competition entirely. Infernity's a powerful and consistent strategy, while its only drawback is its vulnerability to Side Decked silver bullets.

I expect the entire shape of competition to change when we get the announcement of our new Forbidden & Limited List in a couple of weeks. Shaddolls and Satellarknights are riding the hype-train and they seem to be a force to be reckoned with. El Shaddoll Construct and Stellarknight Delteros will be flooding tables in the next couple of months and the new F&L list will throw new decks into the mix as well, making it difficult to come to a conclusion on which deck has the best chance of winning a tournament.

So Where Do We Go From Here?
There are multiple starting points to choose from when you're deciding which to play for a new format. The first is identifying cards that are independently powerful on their own. Soul Charge has been the most popular card in this sense over the last couple months, but the next issue when you choose that starting point is determining which deck can abuse that card most efficiently. Soul Charge has defined the format since it was released, but there's no shortage of cards that could take its place when the format changes on October 1st.

Once you figure out which is the best deck to play in the immediate run, there's inevitably a sort of hierarchical leveling process: the next best deck to play will be whatever beats the one on top. Those two strategies will generally go on to define competitive metagames, creating an opportunity for any deck to enter the fray and try to triumph over the current pair of best decks. YCS Toronto will show us how powerful Shaddolls and Satellarknights really are while the F&L list will follow shortly after and whittle down the ranks.

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The emphasis on the popularity of each deck is important to be aware of, to help determine how much of your Side Deck you'll need to dedicate to various match-ups that will exist in a given tournament. That popularity will shift from event to event as competition continues, but once you get familiar with which Side Decked cards are effective against the top strategies you can easily weigh each Side Deck slot to determine which cards to use, and how many.

Approaching the upcomingformat before the new F&L List is actually announced, I feel Shaddolls is probably the deck with the target on its head. The most important fact standing out to me is that Shaddolls rely on the graveyard. I feel Macro Cosmos and Dimensional Fissure should have been Semi-Limited before they needed to be Limited, and I hope we're allowed to play with more than one copy of each by October 1st. Those are the first floodgates that come to mind, but if you can keep a Shaddoll player away from their graveyard while removing their Fusion Monsters from the field, it should be an easy game for you. Shaddoll Fusion seems to be the most powerful card in the deck since its requirement to allow you to Fusion Summon with Materials from your Main Deck is so easy to meet.

One trend that typically follows the release of new, immediately successful deck themes is the unnecessary departure of current top decks. Mermails always disappear off the competitive radar when there's a new deck thrown in the mix, though the power level of Mermails is still above the average. I like trying to find decks that are functionally the opposite of the most played strategies, so that you don't get accidentally hated out by linear Side Deck cards. If Shaddolls do become the deck to beat, I'd try to play a strategy that doesn't rely on the graveyard at all. It doesn't hurt to avoid Dark monsters too, so you don't fall prey to Shadow-Imprisoning Mirror.

With that said, I'm going to throw in a bonus Shaddoll list that I've been testing my strategies against. Wouldn't hurt to let me know what you think in the comments below!

DECKID=100960Yu-Gi-Oh's a very exciting game for me right now. I just booked my flights to YCS Dallas and YCS Anaheim today and I plan on making it to another YCS before the end of 2014. I appreciate you guys hearing about my experience at Worlds and I enjoy sharing the strategies and concepts I go through every time I prepare for a tournament.

All the feedback and support I've received from the community has been overwhelming and uplifting and I can't wait to throw another piece out for you guys soon! Don't forget to share in the comments below what deck you guys think is the best for emerging competitive metagames!

-Korey McDuffie