Sunday, September 22, 2013

News: Glory Maelstrom Fighter Places First in World Championship 2013 Chicago Regional Qualifier, Greece and Belgium Dominated by Dragons and Paladins

Last weekend the Chicago regional qualifier came to a surprising conclusion, with Eric Hernandez taking the regional title using his aggressive Glory Maelstrom deck, and Daniel Janas' Dragonic Kaiser Vermillion "THE BLOOD" coming in second. "THE BLOOD" has been no stranger to professional play throughout this tournament season, appearing in three of the four other world qualifiers to have taken place so far, but Maelstrom is a deck with relatively low representation in English play. This was out of an attendance of 332 persons, approximately 50 more than in the previous year. In other parts of the globe the qualifier results have been similarly varied. Belgium's qualifier for the European championship saw 81 persons in attendance, and ended with Almeida Stewart's Dragonic Overlord the End in first and Soudant Dominique's "THE BLOOD" in second, both familiar stories to western players. In Greece the qualifier had a turnout of 65 cardfighters, with Avis Samaras' Garmore-Ezel Gold Paladin deck in first and Illias Joannis' Spectral Duke Dragon in second.

Following his shot at the Toronto title, reigning world champion Brandon Smith attended the Chicago regional, bringing previous regional champion Brandon Bastianelli with him, and we were able to meet the two of them in the preregistration line. In contrast to the stable format of the Challenge Cup, which saw the majority of professional cardfighters adopting DOTE and other popular decks, the 2013 World Championship has proved unpredictable with diverse top 8s from each regional and a very diminished presence of Kagerou and Royal Paladin across the world. Smith and Bastianelli were no exception to this trend, with the world champion having drawn much attention in recent weeks for running a Great Nature deck.

"I'm running the deck I promised to last year." Bastianelli was proud to bring Great Daiyusha to Chicago. He had been preparing for this day since BT04's release last December, and while he explained that Great Daiyusha did not really suit his preferred control-based play style, it was a card that he was dedicated to out of a strong bond. "It's one of those units that I don't really like what it does with its skill, but love as a card."

When Smith was asked about his thoughts on The End in this tournament, in light of the deckbuild having dominated competitive play for the last seven months, he explained that he was no longer as concerned with it. "I'm not really worried about DOTE. I think my Majesty beatstick's better." He laughed. Smith had a thorough history with the Majesty Lord deck during the Challenge Cup, but found its sacrificial play style awkward and eventually moved on to exploring other options prior to Worlds. "Our goal today is 0 DOTEs in the top 8!"

He almost got his wish. The top 8 of the tournament had only a single The End deck present, with the top 4 coming down to Glory Maelstrom, "THE BLOOD" and two Gold Paladin decks. There was an overwhelming sense of evolution running through the tournament that day. Like Soul Saver Dragon before it, The End has become a cliché in pro play, its strategies have been memorized and the build is now known inside and out by anyone trying to contend for the world title. And so the game is changing.

Smith made it through all eight elimination rounds 7-1 that day, which put him in the top 12, but he was cut from the top 8 without a chance to participate in the tournament finals because of his tiebreakers. By contrast Bastianelli was eliminated 0-2, regretting the results but admitting that he had not done his best in maintaing focus. Where their paths will go in the rest of this season is unknown, but Bastianelli has his mind set on the future, toward BT12: Binding Force of the Black Rings and the coming of Link Joker for 2014.

Currently the favorite for the North American national championship title is Toronto regional champion Sebastien LeBon, a Nova Grappler cardfighter known for his Illuminal Dragon deck. On-site viewers at other regionals have contested the relative skill of the finalists, with LeBon's strongest contenders at this time being Johnathan Luu and Daniel Sirois from Atlanta, and Robert Ewell from LeBon's own top 4 back in Toronto. With six regionals still remaining in North America, and the Hawaii and Washington qualifiers to finish this weekend, the question of who will be representing the continent in the World Championship is still open.