Saturday, March 23, 2013

Interview: World Champion Brandon Smith

Thursday morning we at Cardfight Pro were able to sit down with the reigning Cardfight!! Vanguard world champion Brandon Smith for an interview. Since his crowning in December 2012, Smith has become a noted celebrity in the greater community of Cardfight!!, opening his doors to the press and riding the wave of publicity that followed his seizing of the first international title. However, his skill is more than what's seen on camera. Played against in person, Smith is the genuine article; after a string of victories in casual matches, Smith temporarily traded decks with our editor and played a flawless game, turning the editor's personal build against him after only brief observation of how it played. This ability to pick up and play any deck has been recognized as one of Smith's greatest strengths.

Smith's store, Collectible Investments in Berkley, MI, is one of the busiest we have ever seen. In addition to selling the Cardfight!! Vanguard Trading Card Game and other TCG properties, the store does double duty as a seller of collectables and curios, with Beatles memorabilia and rotary dial telephones stacked high along the shelves. The merchandise moves in and out--what you see in the store one night is likely not there the next. While most local shops see a regular turnout of six to eight people a week, on tournament night at Collectible Investments as many as twenty-five or thirty people will be crammed into the tables of the long, corridor-like card shop. Collectible Investments serves as the epicenter of eastern Michigan's professional scene, and a gathering ground of strong cardfighters, who are currently preparing for their regional tournament in April.

CFP: Up to now we've heard the story of you becoming the world champion, the road to the championship and how the match with Henry Suharto went. The story not yet told is the story coming home. How has that impacted you, coming back to your store and your hometown, and has your life changed any by becoming world champion?

Smith: It's been a lot of fun. [Being in] Japan, the tournament was a lot of fun, but being back home was good. I got a celebration when I got back, had this tournament and whatnot. I've gotten a lot of offers for nationals I got sponsored by CoreTCG, I also got a lot of opportunities to create games, so it's a lot of different things that have been offered. I got a lot of congratulations from all around the world. I'd like to thank everybody for being supportive. It's been great.

CFP: Now that we're headed into the Stand Up Challenge Cup--you've already qualified for regionals--in this new crossride format, Dragonic Overlord The End and Majesty Lord Blaster are expect to do very well, but how are you going to face this [next] championship?

Smith: I haven't quite decided yet. I have an arsenal of decks. I still have my Spectral Duke Dragon deck and it's very formidable against this format. I also have The End and MLB as well to playtest against, so I don't wanna say what I think will happen at the Stand Up Cup finals or championship. The End is very formidable as an opponent, very hard to beat, hard to deal with and if you don't play against it correctly you can lose easily. But even though those two are getting the limelight, the glory, I think that the Shadow Paladin guy [Phantom Blaster Overlord] could step up and cause some unsuspected damage to the tournament scene.

CFP: There's been a lot of talk about a restricted list like Japan currently has, with certain decks being restricted, what do you think of this idea?

Smith: [It's] like you said earlier, about everyone having a deck in their backpack, but then the decks that hit the table were MLB and DOTE. (While setting up for the interview, I had commented offhandedly about the qualifier tournament Collectible Investments had held on Sunday night. Everyone in Smith's store had two decks--their regular deck, and their "tournament" deck that was either Majesty Lord Blaster or Dragonic Overlord The End.) So I'm in favor of the restriction list. Unfortunately it does hurt [Oracle Think Tank] and they're not seeing as much play in America, so it does seem like--and a lot of people said [this]--they didn't get justly hit. I'm in favor of Bushiroad and their restriction list, especially if the tournament scene ends up like Japan. When I was in Japan I played about twelve matches against Japanese-only decks and even though they were at like set 10--it had just come out that weekend--everyone played Majesty Lord Blaster and DOTE. So it just seems like Bushiroad did themselves a favor and what's best for the game by making the restricted list, especially targeting MLB and DOTE. Unfortunately MLB is really consistent and the fact that it can pull itself out with just the one [and] Wingal Brave, overall I'm in favor of the restrictions.

CFP: In Japan right now we have the break ride format going on that's predicted to make crossrides irrelevant. Of course, we don't have those yet in the English format so you haven't had the chance to playtest [yet], but what's your view?

Smith: Theoretically I think they're good, but I think that a lot of players are overhyping them. Yes they're devastating, but you also have to have them in the correct order. So if you're playing the Kagerou ride break [Dauntless Drive Dragon], if you ride DOTE--or however it plays out if we get a restriction list--then it may not be as good, because you'll just sit there with ride break grade 3s later. Or if you play the Gold Paladin version [Gancelot], if you choose to play like Duke or Ezel, [and] you ride those first then they're just rearguards. So it all depends on how it plays out, I think they have really great potential and that's why they were introduced to the game, but I don't think they're as strong as people give them credit to be.

The Challenge Cup regional tournaments will start up on April 12th and last through April 28th, with twenty-seven regionals spread out across the continent deciding who will go on to the finals in Orlando, Florida, to be held this June. As the previous year's titleholder, Smith is among the favorites for the North American title, but the competition even at the regional level will be fierce and Michigan is one of the most difficult states to qualify in. With many cardfighters eager to either champion or defeat the crossride decks of this format, 2013 is promising to be an unpredictable year.