Hey DGz, my name is Vincent Bellafiore and I just placed 1st at ARG Richmond 2016. If you haven't heard of me before, I don't blame you at all; I haven't accomplished anything in this game before this moment. Even though I've been playing this game casually on and off since Magic Ruler format and entered my first tournament in Crimson Crisis format, I haven't played in many premier events at all so I haven't really had the opportunity to prove myself yet, and the few that I did enter, I didn't do well and grew discouraged. Despite relatively poor tournament performance, I genuinely had and still have a love of this game, either driven by pure nostalgia or I am still one of the few people that have fun in it. Because of this, I registered to become a Konami judge as soon as I turned 16 in 2011, judging my first regional tournament about two years later. After getting my feet wet in the judging experience, I decided to apply for YCS Charleston 2015 and gradually became a more relevant member of the judge community, with the most recent event being NA WCQ 2016 (I was also accepted to judge at WC 2016, but unfortunately was not able to make the travel at the last minute). In addition to all of these events, I was contacted by Jim McMahan who asked me if I could judge this ARG Richmond, as I have judged for ARG events in the past as well. I told him that I would likely have to work that weekend and that unfortunately he shouldn't expect me to be available. Little did I expect that about a week before the event my manager would surprise me with a weekend off, as he knew that I wanted to go to an event and decided that the shifts could be covered. Because it was such late notice, however, I decided not to tell Jim that I would be able to judge so that I didn't mess up any hotel or event budget and decided to just have a relaxing weekend by playing the event and seeing friends to get my mind off of regular responsibilities.
In the days building up to the tournament, I had decided to play a Burning Abyss deck that I have been regularly updating and testing with that I also felt very confident in. However, I had noticed that there weren’t any Burning Abyss decks that have topped the past two or three major tournaments and I grew concerned about my deck choice. After consulting with numerous friends, I received the same answer from the majority of them: Burning Abyss sucks against the current meta. Feeling discouraged as I grew to agree with that answer as I continued testing online, I decided that my next best option was ABC so I looked up the YCS Anaheim lists to get a good start on a basic build for the tournament. After finding Elvis Vu’s list, and seeing that his friends/teammates used essentially the same deck, I figured I’d start out with a list that has proven itself in such high numbers for a YCS. To be completely honest, as soon as I first saw Elvis’ list, I hated it. 44 cards couldn’t possibly be correct, I thought to myself as I wondered how a deck with 44 cards could’ve performed so well over such a long tournament. As someone who cares considerably about deck building theory, I tried my hardest to bring it down to 40 cards, but after a day or two of testing different versions of the deck I concluded that I wanted every card in the list and honestly did not know how I could reduce it to 40 and still have access to the cards I wanted. After reaching this realization, I simply gave up; I couldn’t figure out which cards to take out so I decided to simply hope that 44 was somehow a good number to work with in the deck. The main deck was the same apart from cutting one Instant Fusion for a third Twin Twisters. The extra deck was the same and the side deck was fairly different, but as far as my thought process went I just figured that I would copy Elvis and hope for the best. I tested the new version I decided on for a very short amount of time, and decided that I would just “wing the event,” not stress myself out about it, not test too much, and just have fun. Funnily enough, my friend that I traveled with, Nic Colella (congratulations on your 3rd place finish in the same tournament!) nearly convinced me to not go the day before because he’d rather go to the gym and not spend money for the weekend. If he decided to stay home, I wasn’t going to go because I didn’t want to drive two and a half hours on my own. Luckily, I managed to convince him to go at the last minute, mostly because our friend Nishaad Lorengo offered his VCU apartment/dorm for us to stay in.
Fast-forward to the morning of the event, and I’m signing up and give Jim my debit card to pay for entry with. All was good until he said “Yeah I don’t know, you’re card isn’t working.” Strange, but it’s fine; I’ll just go withdraw from an ATM. After going through the regular withdrawal process I see a screen that nearly gave me a heart attack: Insufficient Funds. I call PNC thinking that someone might have used my debit card without my permission, only to have the last five transactions being four $0.50 fees and the fifth being the coffee and sandwich I bought that same morning. Here I am freaking out and calling my dad immediately for help, as I had no idea why my balance on that card was about $150 only days before. With no PNC ATM anywhere nearby me to use to withdraw from my savings, I ask the first friend I see for help, Brandon Rainey. After explaining my situation to him, he extremely generously let me borrow the entry fee for the event. Still very concerned about how I’d handle the rest of the weekend with about $30 to my name, I grab my entry sleeves and prepare for the start of the event.
Now after that long wall of text, it’s time for the tournament part of the report. Unfortunately, most of the actual games were a blur so I am not able to offer as much info as you all may expect from these but I will do my best.
Round 1: Yang Zing Metalfoes
Game 1: This was a pretty straightforward game. I go first and open as well as ABCs can, and set up my board with considerable disruption in the form of ABC-Buster Dragon and Dimensional Barrier. He cannot make a board while facing this and I continue to banish his cards and attack for game.
Game 2: I go second but he either bricked or just misplayed and made a suboptimal play that was an easy board to break the following turn, letting me win.
Round 2: Paleozoics
Game 1: I sit down and realize that I’m playing against Jose, a guy from one of the locals I attend. I definitely needed this friendly atmosphere to calm my nerves. I wish I could remember this game, but all I know is that I won after he reduced my life points considerably, so it was a strong back and forth of resources.
Game 2: I go second but if I recall correctly, he bricked and I take the game there.
Round 3: Metalfoes
Game 1: Right after playing a friend, I get to play another one. Except this time, it’s Brandon Rainey, the same guy from locals that paid for my entry. I don’t recall if I went first and bricked or if he went first this game, but I definitely lost.
Game 2: I open well after going first and he cannot break the board I make.
Game 3: He goes first as I look at my opening hand. Gameciel, 3 Typhoon, and A-Assault Core. Nice. I Typhoon his plays, leaving him with almost nothing as he passes. I draw Maxx “C” for turn. SICK. Summon A and attack for 1900, setting my last Typhoon and hoping for the best. He draws the missing piece required for a play, I activate Maxx “C”, but it wasn’t enough as he kills me that turn. I’m not gonna lie, this loss really tilted me for a while but I’d rather lose to a friend that someone I don’t know.
Round 4: Yang Zing
Game 1: I go first and open an unbreakable board and swiftly win after seeing some Yang Zing cards.
Game 2: Assuming that this was Yang Zing Metalfoes, I side for them but quickly realized that it was pure Yang Zings. He makes a suboptimal board and I push through it next turn.
Round 5: Metalfoes
Game 1: Easily one of the nicest people I had the pleasure of playing against throughout the weekend. I think I went first on this one, but it was solid back and forth of resources resulting in my win.
Game 2: Despite my game with Brandon earlier, this was actually the closest game of the weekend. With him going first and setting up well, I worry that I cannot break the board but I just keep using more resources and eventually whittle him down. This was a very long back and forth of resources that lasted for many turns, and honestly either one of us could win at any point. In the end, he misplays in my eyes as he fuses with three of his monsters for the 3000 ATK Metalfoe, which I saw no point in doing. This allowed me to gain more resources than him as he didn’t use that extra Metalfoe monster that he fused with to give him another card like a Fullmetalfoes Fusion. I end up taking the game from there. He goes on to say it was the best game he’s had in a long time and cannot be mad about losing to me, leaving me feeling very happy and relaxed after such a nice opponent.
Round 6: HEROes
Game 1: I go first and open very well; he tries to compete but ultimately cannot beat my board.
Game 2: He goes first but I break his board and we end up in another classic back and forth resulting in me leaving him at 200 LP but he comes back and beats me.
Game 3: Another straightforward game with me opening up well with ABC and Dimensional Barrier. He summons Goblindbergh, summoning Summoner Monk. He asks repeatedly if I have a response, which was odd, and I say no. He then activates Twin Twisters discarding Shadow Mist and destroying my Union Hangar and Dimensional Barrier, which I chain and call Xyz. He didn’t take kindly to this and got angry with me saying that it didn’t make sense that I held the Barrier for so long, but realistically there was no reason to preemptively activate it at all so his anger was unfounded. He scoops at that point.
Round 7: Paleozoics
Game 1: I sit down and recognize his face, so I ask, “I’ve played against you before haven’t I?” He says no, but that I’ve played everyone on his team before at regionals and he’s always watching the games nearby. He’s a friendly guy that I’m sure to see again, but I go first and open better than he can.
Game 2: I don’t recall if he said he bricked or if I just powered through everything, but I win this game.
Round 8: Frog Metalfoes
Game 1: Right before the pairings go up, I use the bathroom where I see a guy from a VA local that I sometimes visit who goes by the interesting nickname of Froggy. He asked if I won and I said yes, to which he responded “nice, we are probably playing next.” Once I leave the bathroom, Nic who was with me at the time asked if I knew what he was playing and to my surprise he says it was Frog Metalfoes. Froggy seems to be known lately for his melding of two seemingly unrelated decks, with the previous one being Burning Abyss Trains, so although I’m surprised he did this well with the deck, it didn’t shock me much that he tried it. As I check the pairings, it turns out that I do play him. Game 1 begins with him bricking very badly, where I swiftly win.
Game 2: He surprises me by opening with an amazing board of what I think may have been Toadally Awesome, Kirin and a potential Alkahest. There is no way for me to break that board so I lose.
Game 3: I open well and he cannot break my board.
At this point I am extremely proud of myself for having topped my first relevant tournament, finishing in 5th place after swiss. At this point I remember that I still have no money and ask my friend to drive me to a PNC ATM to withdraw from my savings, but it was a 20 minute drive. Learning of my problem, my friend Robbie Stargel does an extremely generous deed and lends me $100 for the weekend, telling me to pay him back on Monday. Very grateful and relieved, I am excited for day 2 to begin.
Top 16: Patrick James, Blue-Eyes
Game 1: I’ve played against Patrick once before at YCS Origins, defeating his Burning Abyss deck with my Pendulums after a very close game. He mentions how he’s looking forward to a rematch with me and after some friendly chatter we begin. I go first and immediately feel like my top cut experience is at an end as I open a hand that I didn’t think could compete with Blue-Eyes. I manage to end with a Union Hangar, Abyss Dweller with Norden as a material, ABC-Buster Dragon with no cards in hand, and a Solemn Strike. Patrick activates Cards of Consonance discarding White Stone of Legend, and I chain Dweller. He comments that all he needed was a Blue-Eyes but he bricks and scoops.
Game 2: Instead of going first like I thought he would, he tells me to go second, saying that I have too much Blue-Eyes hate going second in my side deck. Again, I feel that it is over for me. I activate Hangar, summon C, equip B, and pass with just that. I activate Maxx “C” at the draw phase. He makes a board of Dragon Spirit of White and Blue-Eyes Spirit Dragon after clearing my board and giving me a good amount of cards, and during my standby phase he activates Spirit Dragon and summons Azure Eyes. I summon ABC and a Gear Gigant with Rhapsody of Berserk equipped to it, attack, set a backrow, and pass. He scoops and says that he unfortunately drew too many of the stones this match.
Top 8: Matthew Zegilla, Metalfoes
Game 1, 2 and 3: Matt is a nice guy and we have a relaxed top cut game. I wish I could remember this match better but I unfortunately didn’t take any notes on it and it’s kind of a blur so I don’t remember how it went. He does go first, and we go to game 3, but it ends with my win.
Top 4: Dan Cunningham, Metalfoes
Game 1, 2, and 3: I’m happy to see that a good friend of mine made it to top 4 as well and we agree that we will both play our best and have no hard feelings against each other. It was definitely a blessing to have my first streamed game ever being one with a relaxing atmosphere and casual chatter. I don’t have anything to add to this match, but everything can be seen on the stream or videos that were taken of the stream on YouTube.
Finals: Joel Brito, Metalfoes
Games 1-5: Disappointed that the one to get up from the feature match table was my friend Nic, who a lot of people were hoping would play me in the finals, I sat down to play against a player I had a friendly conversation with earlier to pass the time. Everything in this match could be seen on stream or on YouTube. The only things that I would like to mention are the misplays conducted by me and the rule issues. At one point I accidently use Diamond Dire Wolf on itself instead of my already used Castel, but I quickly comment that I already committed to it and I win anyway. Another time I activate Brilliant Fusion and he chains Dimensional Barrier calling Fusions. I take that moment to look at my hand and I see a convoluted play that allows me to win that turn. Unfortunately, once I already committed to it, I stupidly realized that I forgot that he called Fusions and that I needed my Instant Fusion to win. If I didn’t win both of those games I’d be very frustrated with myself. I don’t remember any other misplays but there were some that I was accused of making that I still do not believe were misplays. The primary example of this was in Game 5 when I preemptively activated ABC to summon and also activated Dimensional Barrier calling Pendulums. Joel played 2 Kaijus, 1 Lava Golem, and a Winged Dragon of Ra – Sphere Mode, along with 3 System Downs and a Dark Hole. I didn’t want to risk either of those against me in the final game so I take the necessary precautions. Now, in hindsight, the Dimensional Barrier was incorrect. However, a previous Metalfoes opponent had Denko Sekka written in the side deck and I erroneously thought that it was Joel’s list that I looked at so I activated it so that I didn’t get locked down and just auto lose to a tribute monster and Denko. Now for the rules issues. The first one that was caught was that my opponent summoned a Metalfoes off of Rescue Rabbit but forgot to destroy it, and then he activated a Metalfoes effect twice in the same turn. I honestly didn't notice. With the room absolutely FREEZING and getting colder as the match went on, and feeling nervous as well despite looking (supposedly) composed, I just wanted to speed the game along as quickly as possible and just assumed my opponent would know his deck. On a similar note, at one point I was approached by Trevor, who was in charge of the stream, who asked me if I had banished 10 off of desires after a portion of the turn had passed. I nearly had a heart attack as I said I was pretty sure I did. "Can you prove it to me?" I counted off the banished cards one by one, with my heart rate increasing as each card passes. Thank god, there were 10. If I had lost out on like $800 because I just forgot to move one extra card to the side I'd have been pissed. Of course, this still results in my win.
If you made it this far, I’m genuinely impressed. This is my first tournament report so I apologize if it was a little long, but I wanted to include as much info as I could while still making it a relatively interesting read. I am extremely happy to have not only won the ARG, but also having won the first relevant event that I have ever topped, an accomplishment not many in this game can say. I won a great trophy, a fantastic gold champion ring, the play mat, an invitation to the event in Orlando with a 2 round bye, and of course the $1500. It was an extremely surreal ending to a fantastic weekend. I have to shoutout Tournament City Games in Frederick, MD as well. Without their support, I wouldn't have won.
Great friends who lent me both money and cards
A good number of my friends performing well
My debit card problem
Not being able to have the fabled Frederick, MD final match