King of Games – Interview with Joel Pearson

Joel blog image 3Joel Pearson, dancer by day and king of games by night  placing 2nd in the Yu-Gi-Oh Championship last year, I caught up with him on all things Yu-Gi-Oh.

How did you become involved in playing Yu-Gi-Oh?

I was about 10 years old when the first Yu-gi-oh decks came out, I bought them then and played the game very casually with friends until summer 2011, then I took it more seriously and started to compete. I enjoyed the anime and card games were a big part of my family’s culture.

When did Yu-Gi-Oh start to become a serious hobby?

In summer 2011 my friend and I approached a local tournament we saw advertised at the local card shop. I got beaten pretty easily and wanted to improve. This was the first time I had heard of there being a META game. With the introduction of the September 2011 banlist and Judgment Dragon coming to 3, I decided to try out Lightsworn as my first attempt at a competitive deck.

How often do you play Yu-Gi-Oh?

I play Yu-gi-oh every Saturday in local competition. My local is pretty competitive as 5 people from our local alone were in the top 32 of Nationals 2012 including 3rd Place Seb Tym.

What do your friends and family think of your hobby?

Well I am training to work as a professional dancer and many people think it is cool or interesting that I have a ‘nerdy’ hobby. I think that my achievement at Nationals 2012 helped validate my interest and passion for the game with my family having a: ‘At least you’re good at it’ attitude.

Joel blog image 4How long did it take to build your current deck?

I currently use Mermail/Atlanteans. I liked the Billy Brake build but had some very important fixes for the deck from its debut. I have been playing the Mermail deck in a variety of builds since it was released but constantly rework it. It took a long time to learn what to side in and out and the Meta changes a lot with the banning of windup zenmaity and release of Evilswarm just around the corner. So I change cards in it weekly to test the deck for nationals.

Any tips to other players for building their decks?

Looking at other builds is a great way to get ideas for your deck. Always build it with cards that work for your own play style though. If you see a tech card in a YCS winning deck profile, make sure to watch video’s to hear how that player felt about their tech card and how they used it. Sometimes they say that it was terrible and they always sided it out but they won, despite their bad tech card.

What tournaments have you placed in?

I came 2nd in the 2012 National Championships. I got 7-3 in San Jose Regional when I was out in America, this would qualify me for America’s nationals 2013 but I didn’t fill out the form since I won’t be able to attend their nationals. At locals I also recently achieved my first 3 win win-streak where I won three weekly local tournaments in a row all with different builds of Mermail. In my third week I played an odd tech 5 cards, 1 Summoned Skull, 1 Eradicator Epidemic Virus, 1 Deck Devastation Virus and 2 Mind Crush.

Joel blog image 2How do you prepare before a major tournament?

I prepare for big events months in advance. I chose my deck for nationals 2012, 4 months before and this time I chose my Mermail deck 6 months before nationals 2013 which is in just 1 month! I learn how all the decks I expect to face work, what to negate and what to not worry about, as well as how consistently they draw a hand that I should fear. I then find what side card hurts that deck the most that I can use and I use it.

How did you feel when you came 2nd at the Yu-Gi-Oh UK championships?

It was amazing. I only went to the event with my friend I mentioned earlier, the two of us only really played against each other for years before we started competitive play. I just went for the fun of my first big event with what I felt was the strongest deck at the time – Dino Rabbit. I give lot of credit to the deck and everyone who helped me to perfect the build and test it. I did get lucky but I also played very well.

 What was the best move you played at the Yu-Gi-Oh Championship nationals?

My best move at nationals was: Top16 I think vs Dino Rabbit mirror match – Jamie Walkinshaw. It was game 3, I had been beating him down with a zenmaines to just 400 lifepoints. He then managed to go through a massive tourguide-leviair –rabbit play and if he attacked my zenmaines 3 times I would have no life points left. He attacked it, instead of keeping it alive I let it die. He attacked me directly and I drop Gorz from my hand! His only card was torrential tribute set facedown. I attacked into his leviair in my turn for game!

Have you ever felt so defeated after a game you’ve wanted to stop playing?

Not recently. After nationals I felt a lot of pressure to do well, so if I didn’t win/top local events I felt bad. It also was annoying that no one cared or was surprised when I won a local event since it was expected of me. This did make me want to quit since I felt like I achieved everything in the game I wanted. However, I got over this expectation and just got used to those facts. I have finally managed to get back into a point in the game where I find it fun and fulfilling to win again and have a ridiculous deck to play with.

Joel blog image 5In the TV series Yugi had a special connection with the card Dark Magician; do you have a special card that is close to your heart?

I think the four Djinn XYZ monsters will always be my favourite back when you could make 2-4 of them in a single turn in windup. The fact no-one expected them as plays and didn’t fully understand the mechanics of those cards meant I won so much with them just by my opponent making play mistakes. For example, people would try to dark hole me not knowing that if maestroke was on the field that the Djinns detach from themselves, not from maestroke to stay alive and that I can use temtempo in the damage step.

Is your dream to be a duel master, or do you have another dream outside of duelling?

Well my true dream is to spend the next few years as a dancer in dance companies and later developing to being the choreographer or artistic director of my own dance company. However I can also see myself opening up a hobby store and running tournaments if my career in dance doesn’t kick off. I just want to travel the world doing what I love, dance or Yu-gi-oh.

What advice would you give new players to the game?

It depends how much money that new player has or is willing to invest. The better the deck they invest in, the more prizes they win to pay for the deck. Research, research, research. Watch videos and let experienced players show you rulings and how certain cards work. You need an in depth knowledge of game mechanics to truly understand and succeed in the game and there are plenty of articles on game mechanics, cart text reading, resolving chains etc, READ THEM! Practice! I played at least 3000 games maybe more between September 2011 and Nationals 2013. Also let more experienced players look at your deck and help you with your build. It happens all the time when a very strong player suggests removing a card, the owner of the deck then defends that card and doesn’t want to accept the advice. At least try out what that player says and rework your deck until you are topping every week. Play a good deck too which you can get cheaply such as Agents, Darkworld, Wind-up. Learn the combos. Learn how other decks work too. Eventually you will be a strong player who has people ask for your advice!

Joel blog image 1Many conventions have their own TCG (Trading Card Game) sections, how would you like to see TCG grow within the community and the UK?

If we ever got holographic simulators like in the Anime it would be obviously awesome! I think this would attract a huge community. Realistically, I just want to see more people starting up and starting to play competitively and less people quitting because they lose all the time. The top players need to work with the less experienced players to help them get good at the game too. Otherwise eventually the community will just shrink because no one wants to play a game you always lose OR always win (or at least ALWAYS winning will get hollow after a while)!

Are you a fan of the Yu-Gi-Oh TV series (GX, 5D etc.) or any of the abridged series?

Yes, not so much the abridged but I really enjoy watching the anime.

What character do you most associate yourself with in the Yu-Gi-Oh series?

Joey Wheeler? I think I am lucky and don’t have a huge amount of respect or acknowledgement from top YCS circuit players. So I guess that kind of fits. He also got 2nd place at battle kingdom in the first series. The only anime deck I have ever played though is Leon’s Morphtronic deck.

Have you ever cosplayed as a Yu-gi-oh character whilst duelling?

Not really. I think many opponents would just laugh and jeer as the competitive player base is mostly ‘normal’ people who are terrified of their friends knowing they play Yu-gi-oh and being branded as a nerd. I think there is a culture for cosplaying which may include competing with each other, and there is a culture for competing and that they are two separate worlds.

Duelling on motorcycles…what are your thoughts? Ever considered it?

Haha, I prefer high-tech visors that augment reality to duel in 3D to be honest. I really hope this actually gets invented as it would be so cool and would make people begin to play decks with cards that looked awesome rather than just the top tier decks.