Surprise! I like Yugioh now!

So this week was going to be the Sunwell Plateau raid report, but unfortunately I need more time to give that the attention and love it deserves. It is, after all, the premier raid of the expansion.

So instead I'll tell you about one of my most recent loves (or, perhaps the right word is "rediscovery") - Yugioh.

Our story starts sometime between 12 and 18 months ago, when my brother-in-law convinced me to try Yugioh. He gave me my first decks - a blue-eyes white dragon deck, a fluffal deck, and a cyber dragon deck.

I couldn't explain why at the time, but I really enjoyed it. At the time, however, I was focussed on phase one of TBC, my hands were full with the Lost Marbles (later Marbles Reloaded) and whilst I knew I wanted to build a deck, I couldn't justify spending all that money on an occasional hobby. Especially when big dragon GW is hiding just around the corner waiting with an industrial vaccum to suck all the money out of my wallet.

So I would occasionally play with my brother-in-law and enjoy the taste. Then, my guild's holy paladin, Desso, suggested that I try Konami's Master Duel. I hope to go more in depth with a proper dated review later, but suffice to say it was everything I wanted from an online Yugioh TCG experience. What was initially a casual habit became a genuine hobby in that moment.

I built decks, I learned more about the game, and a strange thing happened. Unlike Magic where I bought a few decks on magic the gathering online (before Arena was a thing, or it was just getting started, or whatever) my enthusiasm for the game stayed consistent.

From there, down the rabbit hole I went. I bought paper TCG cards, I found more time to play with my brother-in-law. I watched more videos, discovering creators like GoldenNova, MBT, DistantCoder and TSX1. I played more master duel.

and then, in the new year, after someone in a Yugioh discord mentioned they were going to locals, Yugioh's version of the now-defunct Friday Night Magic, I checked the events calendar for my local game store. Two local events on the Friday and the Sunday!

I had to go. My generous wife let me have both days. I knew I wasn't going to win, but it was about seeing what the local community was like and getting some experience playing proper paper yugioh outside of the kitchen table.

So I was going, but what to play? Having no idea what I was in for, I figured the best idea would not be some hideous combo deck with a tangled web of interactions - so no Ojamas. Recently, my Prank Kids deck had a whole bunch of key cards banned, so in the bin it went. Which left me with the simplest and most straightforward deck to play.

This is a revision of sorts of "Blue-Eyes White Dragon". The aim of this deck is to summon a bunch of big monsters and beat your opponent to death with them. It's not perfect and has more holes than a bucket after Phil Swift gets ahold of it, but I know how to play it and the gameplan is straightforward.

I spent the week grinding out games on Master Duel. And by grinding out games, I mean losing. A lot. It was clear I was there to relearn how the game was played in paper, and not do a lot of the winning.

So five-thirty rolls around. I work close to where the event's being held, and I saunter over. First I make a stop at another game store (that is unfortunately closed now) and pick their shelves clean of staples to put together a side deck, including a particularly awkward moment where I sit outside on my phone going through their website.

They spot me instantly, and to my surprise, everyone's really nice. Everyone introduces themselves and talks about their own experiences. I'm not shocked to find out that most players have picked the game up again after trying Master Duel and rediscovering their love for the game. Some went to the most recent Yugioh Championship Series in Sydney - and they're very willing to share their experiences.

But when that six o'clock bell tolls, it's fight time.

Friday Night Round 1 - vs. Predaplant Branded ("Predabranded")

A few housekeeping things. Paper Yugioh, like Magic, is played in rounds. Each round is a best of three matches (or, sometimes, games.) For the second and third game, you have access to your sideboard, so you can add cards that help against the deck you're playing.

Decks in Yugioh are normally labelled by their archetypes - this is an informal term which is used to describe a bunch of cards with similar naming conventions. In this case, Predaplants, a series of monsters, spells and traps that summon plants and plant-based accessories - and Branded, a versatile bundle of cards that can fusion summon big dragons with various effects.

In game one, my opponent does what Predabranded does, and chained together a million different nickel and dime spell and monster effects. A series of big, nasty predaplant monsters made their way out of the extra deck, along Mirrorjade the Iceblade Dragon, and the game ended shortly after that.

For game two, it looked much the same - until my opponent tried to resolve a card effect targeting one of my summoned Blue-Eyes White Dragons, only for me to resolve a copy of "The Ultimate Creature of Destruction", which is easily one of the best cards in the deck.

It blanked his effect, his combo line stopped and I stole game two - though not after some wrestling with a predaplant boss monster anyway.

Game three lasted all of a minute and a half before time in the round was called. Unlike Magic, when time is called in a game of Yugioh, the game stops. No "play five turns", no nothing. Pencils down. I summoned a Blue-Eyes Chaos Max Dragon, my opponent didn't draw the handtrap for the win when time is called, and so it was a draw.

Not losing my first round was pretty euphoric. I was expecting not to win a single match. This was, as it turns out the high watermark of the night. At least in terms of on-board results.

Friday Night Round 2 - vs. Bystial Tenyi Swordsoul

Predabranded isn't presently that much of a force in the meta, but Bystials certainly are, and Tenyi Swordsoul isn't in the grave yet.

I know a lot about Tenyi Swordsoul from my time in Master Duel. But knowing what it's weak to and being able to stop it from executing its gameplan are two separate things.

In game one, I draw the exact perfect set of cards to stop his combo line. I use Ash Blossom and Joyous Spring to negate his copy of Swordsoul Emergence, and I have the Infinite Impermanence to negate his on-field Swordsoul of Mo Ye. From there, Blue-Eyes White Dragons appear and the game quickly ends.

In game two my opponent accomplishes what they were threatening to do in game one. Longyuan, Mo Ye and Taia all resolve, turning into Baronne, Chixiao and some other hideously powerful Synchro monster and from there, it's all over, red rover.

Game three I can't precisely remember what happened. My notes say I made a bunch of small play mistakes, including using my Ultimate Fusion to destroy my opponent's copy of Bystial Druiswurm, which allowed him to get my Blue-Eyes Tyrant Dragon off the field almost for free.

Friday Night Round 3 - vs. Tri-Brigade Melffy Spright

I'd love to explain to you how this deck works, or how I played. Unfortunately, all I can really tell you was that my opponent (a polite, soft-spoken gent) built a huge fortress of a board with multiple bounce effects at quick effect speed (instant speed, for those who play M:TG) and I couldn't get close in either game.

So that was Friday night. What was strange was that I wasn't disheartened. Anyone coming back or learning a new game for the first time has a mountain to climb. But instead of being intimidated, I was more excited for Saturday. Apparently I enjoy the game so much, it didn't matter.

So whilst I was taking care of my little one, I pulled out my deck and made some adjustments to the main and side. It was a little bit like shuffling the deckchairs on the titanic, but I felt slightly better about what I had included versus what I had omitted.

So off to Saturday locals I went. It was a special event with five rounds instead of three, but the core concept was the same.

Saturday Round 1 - vs. Crystal Beast

Crystal Beast is an interesting archetype that works by moving monsters from monster zones to spell and trap zones when destroyed or tributed. Then they ramp up to a big monster in Rainbow Dragon, which runs you over.

Game one my opponent appeared to brick on his first turn, but he did have a copy of Necrovalley, which is big trouble for a deck like Blue-Eyes, which has a number of graveyard-focused combo lines.

I tried to resolve a number of lines which weren't possible under Necrovalley, (which my opponent was very gracious not to hassle me about when I made the mistakes) but with no monsters on board and no way to get anything onto the board, I scooped once my opponent showed up with the aforementioned Rainbow Dragon.

Game two I sided in Nibiru, the Primal Being - which is intended to bust up strategies which summon a large number of monsters - and managed to resolve it, stunting my opponent's combo. Unfortunately, just as I was about to stabilize and maybe take the game, he resolved two copies of Super Polymerization, which took the monsters I had scrambled to get out, and the game ended shortly after that.

Saturday Round 2 - vs. Branded Despia

Branded Despia is the standard version of Branded. Plenty of other archetypes can fit the Branded Cards and engine, but Despia plays the nicest with it. A lot of the artwork on Despia cards reminds me of the Jester from Darkest Dungeon, but when you consider that one of the main cards in Branded Despia is literally called "Aluber the Jester of Despia", that might not be a coincidence.

This round I played against a small child. He had lost his first round and so was pretty despondent. The bad news got worse, however - Branded Despia is not friendly to new players, and has a reasonable skill ceiling. There's lots of little interactions which can trip even experienced players up.

Unfortunately when I'm playing a gorilla brain deck with very simple combo lines and you're playing a deck revolving around layering fusion summons, the games end quickly. To his credit he summoned multiple destruction-immune Branded Dragons in game one - it was just that my Blue-Eyes Tyrant Dragon was bigger and kept setting Infinite Impermanence to lock him up.

I can't remember much of game two, only that it was extremely one-sided. Fortunately, my determination to be gentle (which is pretty easy when you're playing a slow brick of a thing like Blue-Eyes meant that my opponent didn't totally tilt out.

My first round win! Unfortunately I don't count it, as it was against a youngster learning a very difficult deck. I would've been very impressed with my opponent, and pretty mad at myself, if I'd lost.

Unfortunately that set me up as a 1-1 player and Yugioh events do swiss pairings - meaning I was going to be paired up against someone playing something nasty, for sure.

Saturday Round 3 - vs. Bystial Tenyi Swordsoul

Request granted!

My opponent was the same opponent as Friday night. Which is fine, because he's patient, polite and a very effective communicator. My knowledge of the deck meant he was able to work through his combo lines efficiently too.

Which was good, because he beat me twice with nearly identical lines in two games. Longyuan, Mo Ye, synchro, synchro - even being able to play through skill drain thanks to Longyuan's effect activating from hand, not field.

The games were over so quickly I was able to have lunch. Maybe it wasn't all downside.

Saturday Round 4 - vs. Bystial Branded Despia

My opponent was at his first locals, just like me (sort of). We both talked of shared experiences playing master duel. He had made a wise (and meta) choice in playing Bystial Branded Despia. Unlike my opponent in round 2, he wasn't a child, and was very clear on the interactions in the deck thanks to reps online.

I haven't talked in any great detail about the Bystials, but they're an ever-present metagame threat, and they're very good. They can special summon themselves at quick effect speed by banishing light or dark monsters in either player's graveyard, and have an effect when they end in the graveyard themselves.

Until friday night, I hadn't seen these cards, as they're not in master duel. They're very good against blue-eyes, particularly when I put a white stone of ancients in the graveyard and hope it resolves.

Game one my opponent followed the combo line to the letter - resolving Albion to fusion summon Lubellion to fusion summon Mirrorjade and adding a Masquerade through Branded in Red. Game ended shortly afterward.

Game two, I got in the grind with Blue-Eyes and kept the pressure on with Blue-Eyes Jet Dragon (easily the best card in the deck) and was able to squeak over the top before the consistency of my opponent's deck eventually ran me over.

Game three ended at time after about sixty seconds, but was an absolute rollercoaster. I tried the draglubion / numeron dragon one turn kill, only to get my doors blown off by Super Polymerization. Fortunately, my opponent got bogged down trying to resolve his spells, and the game went to time whilst he was digging through his extra deck. Another thirty seconds and the game would've ended. As it stood, the round was a draw.

Saturday Round 5 - vs. Hero

My opponent was playing another outside strategy in hero. Not elemental hero, or evil hero, or destiny hero - all of them rolled into one. I knew the deck had an OTK strategy packed in there, so I was pretty nervous.

Game one I managed to build a board of Blue-Eyes White Dragons and back it up with a skill drain. As soon as I saw the first elemental hero stratos resolve I turned it over, and my opponent's gameplan ground to a shuddering halt.

He added two destiny hero fusion monsters to the board thanks to fusion destiny and frantically dug for answers using Destiny HERO - Celestial. Unfortunately nothing he found gave him the muscle to deal with my board and I slowly gained the upper hand before 100-0ing him in one turn.

Game two I built another board of dragons - this time I took a risk and emptied my hand, leaving my opponent with one draw step to find the answer. He extended the hand - we found out later that fusion destiny, that would've won him the game and deleted my board, required a second draw step.

So that was my first trip to locals. I had great time learning different decks. Unfortunately I didn't get to see the latest hotness in Ishizu Tearlament, now I know what I'm up against, I've been practicing comboes and metaslave decks on Master Duel.

At some point I want to go into more detail about this, but I really enjoy Yugioh as a game. And the community here in Canberra appears to be healing. I hope to enjoy many more locals over the course of this year, and maybe even go to a YCS.


But you live in my neck of the woods, and you like Yugioh, I need you to know there is a community here. It's small, but it's thriving. If you considered buying into paper yugioh but vetoed the idea because there's no-one to play against, you are not alone.

and I hope to see you at locals soon.

Catch you next time,

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