It’s Sunday, June 16: Round one of the Top 32 my opponent sits down..his name was Wesley Robinson and he drove eighteen (?!) hours from Colorado with his team to play at Origins, and he decided to bring Aerialbots to the Open elimination rounds. I decided to bring Three Wide Optimus, like most of the rest of the team. I believe he wins the roll and makes me go first. I flip my Flamewarand send in my Hotrod into the guy I must attack with Brave, Fireflight. The next few turns go by and he was able to put about nine Damage on Optimus Prime through direct damage and Pierce attacks. Two turns later he combines to shoot and kill Optimus Prime and I simply look and say “ok let’s go to game two”, and present Nemesis Prime from my sideboard to transform my deck into Two Tall Primes (Optimus Prime: Battlefield Legend, Nemesis Prime).... and that’s where the story truly begins...
I’m working on Wednesday morning and my phone goes off and it’s none other than my friend / teammate Scott Landis sent me a message and says you need to read the Organized Play Announcement...I tried to comprehend everything I was reading: Two events leading to an Invitational../Sideboards..Cash prizes, in-store support..and just so much more...
My mind began to realize how much the game had just changed on a random Wednesday: it became clear that when I decided to start the VectorSigma YouTube to put competitive content out there for those who wanted it to watch, it was the best choice I could have made. Vectorsigma.info was created to give the game a competitive slant that maybe had not even truly existed yet: a game with true organized play. We took the game as seriously as we possibly could at every turn. Scott Landis and his math with charts, Mark Kinney and his creative genius of deck building (more on this later), and the molding I’ve always been capable of in deck tuning. We had three players that were putting in the maximum amount of effort from the moment Mark and I had joined the team after Pax Unplugged. This OP Announcement was everything we needed to make that effort worthwhile, and for a moment it gave us a sigh of relief...then it kicked in, every sideboard theory I could imagine had begun to circumvent in my head. Which brings us to the deck I played in top Thirty-two elimination rounds.
Three Wide Optimus had been a deck I had been working on since I went undefeated with Aerialbots at a local event in March. Every time I was able to test games with it I would, and every time it was tweaked here and there. It had gotten to a point where I told Mark I felt good enough about this deck to play it and win and an upcoming event. He then came to my house for some testing/ recording.
We spent the night playing a ton of Three Wide and made some very key cuts to the deck. The first was a staple in just about every Optimus deck: Leap into Battle. Leap was great in early version because you needed to get to 11 attack to kill certain characters. However, with the addition of Hotrod who is a Ranged Character, we gained two new Battle Cards: Armed Hovercraft from Wave One (Editor’s Note: which probably should have been in the Wave One version of the deck with Starter Optimus Prime) and Marksmanship from RotC.
With the addition of even more direct damage to the deck, getting to 11 Attack in one swing was no longer as important. Insert Heavy Handed. Heavy Handed did two things for the deck, the first being obvious giving Hotrod + two attack and Pierce 4 when attacking down to lower cost characters. It also gave us Pierce 4 with Optimus when needed and more game against the “mirror,” and slightly more game (in game one) against Aerialbots. So after this addition we also decided we wouldn’t be required to attack with Optimus in Bot mode nearly as much, if he had an Ion Blaster on him, which made for some very strong turns. You were able to get splash damage on a character and then to be able to finish off a character and stay in Truck mode, which was a big difference against aggro decks with that one extra in-born defense. Leaving Optimus in Truck mode with an Ion Blaster gives him 4 defense, and then adding in Flamewar’s Tough 1 makes it very tough (pun intended) to damage Optimus. This simple switch seemed to make the Aggro matchups extremely favorable but at the time of testing (before sideboards announced) Aerialbots would still be a massive problem.
However my motto for Wave Two has been simple: “pick what you want to lose to.” I was prepared to just give up the Aerialbot matchup and right out of nowhere Sideboards are announced and I immediately knew... Three Wide Optimus would be the deck I would play at Origins because I knew that transforming into Two Tall Primes would be exactly what I needed to be able to defeat Aerialbots. The extra single large attacker and reduction in the number of characters giving them less time to flip all their characters made the matchup “abysmal” to “favorable” with the character switch, the extra Battle Card inclusions would only add icing to the cake.
Team Vector Sigma’s plan was simple: Keep the deck hidden until we absolutely needed it. Day one of Origins was my toughest day of the weekend as I didn’t know what I wanted to play. I wrote out a registration slip with Cars, even though I had very little experience with it. About 25 minutes before the event. Mark told me if I wasn’t comfortable with it then I should just switch to another deck. All through our testing I was the one to play Sentinels a ton and often i was winning with the deck, so I made the audible to Sentinels 20 mins before the first Preliminary event on Thursday morning. I was immediately punished for it in round 1. I lost all three games I played with Mathew Brower, who played Insecticons so well we both missed a mistake in game two (Matt went on to the Top Eight in this Preliminary event, and the Top Four of the Open itself with the same deck).
The next round I played against my teammate Adam Bixler who was on Double Grimlock, and he proceeds to crush me. There I was day one 0-2 and starting to question myself and my abilities. Two rounds later I was 1-3 and I dropped from the event because I could no longer be in the room. I was frustrated with my choice. I second guessed myself and I paid the price for it, and I threw away my first shot at getting qualified for the Open.I wasn’t happy about it.
We had a great night after that, we went to dinner with some Patrons and their friends (Eric, Cameron, Kent , Adam and Jason). It was a great few hours and then we went back to the hotel to meet up with the Godfather who soon would be arriving. I was happy for my teammates Mark and Palmer who made top 8 on day one, but once we left dinner, I looked at Mark and said “I don’t care about the metagame today, I don’t care that I lost, tomorrow I’m playing Aerialbots because that is the deck I’m best with.”
When Scott arrived, I told him he’s playing Aerialbots as well because that was the deck, he was best with in this meta. Overall we were afraid people had discovered the same things we had about Aerialbots and how for games Two and Three after sideboard it would be much more difficult to combine.
To keep the story short my plan to play the deck I felt best playing was the right choice: I went 5-0-1 on Friday and won three mirror matches, two of them in time. I always felt ahead in the mirror because I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to win those games as fast as possible. The problem is that the games were still all very slow and time was called a ton of matches, my first four rounds in this case, but in the end I had completed the first goal of the weekend: get to Sunday. Not only did I qualify, but Scott, Bixler, and Cameron had all made it as well. It was a great Friday for Team Vectorsigma.info as all five core team members were Qualified, as well as two of our patrons in only two events!
After a long day of going to time playing blue mirror matches, I decided I wanted to play something more aggressive. I went with the deck I was going to play on day 1, the Cars list Mark made the Top Eight with on Thursday. The Vector Sigma Cars list was quite different than most lists I saw others running throughout the weekend, as we relied on Bumblebee Trusted Lieutenant to draw us our cards and therefore were a more action heavy deck. To make another long story short (Editor’s Note: Too Late, Clue reference)I played against all different types of decks that day and went 4-2. Since both of my opponents who beat me finished in the Top Four of the standings, and a player I beat was 6th, my opponents match win percentage were insane. I ended up being the only player at 4-2 to make the Top Eight, with my qualification slot passing down to the next unqualified player for Sunday.
So, making the Top Eight back to back days made me feel pretty good about our decks for the weekend: Mark made Top Eight with two different decks along with me. At dinner that night we had realized that 5 different Vector Sigma lists across eight different players had made Top Eights that weekend (our lists are generally 4-5 cards off of “accepted metagame decks” out there):
Vector Sigma Sentinels had made two Top Eights from Patrons
Vector Sigma Cars played by Mark and I
Vector Sigma Insecticons Played by Mark, Palmer, Alex, and Nick.
Vector Sigma Aerialbots played by Scott and I
Vector Sigma Double Grim played by Bixler.
We had shown up to Origins with 5 decks in the chamber and they all had done well. But the scariest thing was we knew our best deck hadn’t even hit the tables yet.
I hadn’t played at this level of competition since GenCon 2012 for a World of Warcraft Darkmoon Faire (Editor’s Note: the equivalent of a Magic the Gathering: Grand Prix for that game, similar to this Open). I am not sure if my teammates knew it, but I was incredibly nervous, anxious, and whatever ever else could be felt. I knew our deck was good I knew we had put in the work…..
So here we are again Top Thirty-Two: I just lost game one vs Aerialbots and it was time to prove that the idea to switch to Two Tall was correct. I take the play I board in eight cards (?!): Three Photon Bombs. Two Energon Axe, Two Brainstorm, and 1 Disruptive Entrance. A large portion of our sideboard was committed to this matchup to ensure we could win games two and three, as we felt the main deck would be favored in any other matchup already.
Game Two starts and I flip Optimus Prime and attack, reveal a Photon Bomb, and play it with Optimus ability. Turn two I flip Optimus back, get back Photon Bomb and play it again. I just dealt twenty plus damage before attacking on turn two! I proceed to play an Energon Axe on Nemisis and kill off Skydive (although Photon Bomb times two was pretty much already game over): Two Aerialbots down, eight damage on Optimus, four on Nemesis, and he only had one character flipped. He pours on 5 more damage to Optimus who survive the wheel turn to attack again. He takes out another plane combiner piece and leaves my opponent with 5 total health remaining.
I draw a Brainstormon my next turn to play One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall to kill Silverbolt and then Heavy Handed to kill Air Raid. I take game two with still twenty minutes on the clock.
Game Three was much of the same except I drew two Photon Bombs, which meant I was able to play it THREE times (?!) for a total of 26 damage to him and 10 damage to myself (Optimus died before the third one was played). The game was over once again well before my opponent had realized. Our plan had worked: sacrifice Game One to a bad matchup to all but guarantee wins in games two and three (Editor’s Note: you sacrifice Game One by not playing things like Bomb main deck, does not mean the first game is unwinnable but for the sake of time, you need to understand WHEN the game is lost so you can concede with enough time on the clock to ensure games two and three can be completed, in your favor). I had done it, I had qualified for the Energon Invitational at Pax Unplugged!
The next two rounds are very bitter sweet for me. In the Top 16 I played against fellow Vector Sigma member Jon Palmer. He was on Insecticons, and I was able to take the match 2-0 quite easily (Editor’s Note: Remember the original concept for “All Hail Optimus” overall was to have a very simply Insecticon matchup from Wave One). I was in the Top Eight, for a box of Siege: War for Cybertron (I) and excitement all around...
Then it happens again, I get paired against fellow Vector Sigma member Adam Bixler. We played the mirror match and I won 2-0... I was upset I was forced to take out two of my own teammates, players who I respect, who helped the team get to that point. I was the last member of Vector Sigma in the event. Mark Kinney knew I was upset but he also knew something more important, I had to get my head back in the game and he forced me to do so.
This round needs some context. Scott had lost in Top 16 to Brian from WreckNRule (Edtior’s Note: 7.5%) and Brian was playing a deck we had known very little about, so when Scott lost I pulled him aside and asked everything I needed to know to be able to beat Brian. This is just one key about having a team, learning from each other throughout events to be able to adapt on the fly. Scott Landis is a card player I’ve respected for the better half of 15 years now and when he gives me advice in crunch time, I have nothing else to do but respect that advice. That is exactly what I did.
Brian played an incredible match against me, and we went three games that came down to the wire. Security Checkpoint won me game 1. An incredible Supercharge off the top won him Game Two, and Game Three was even closer. Brian played amazing in the Open and played a deck not many had known existed, nothing but props to him for that idea and all the effort he had put into the deck it was a pleasure to play you in Top 4, and I look forward to playing again locally.
Mark after the game had ended literally pulled me out of my chair and made Scott de-sideboard for me. Mark did Mark things and made me laugh and kept me focused I was waiting for who I would play in the finals either it would be Mathew Brower ( of Nanomachines on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCTnZbXZ4nxs83x1pceQM-Q ) or Steffon Pickney (sdotakuma on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/akuma1921): Insecticons or another Three Wide Optimus mirror match. I knew what both matches had to offer. I knew either player would have deserved to be playing in the finals as I stood and waited.
About seven months ago a guy I had never seen before walked into the shop and I played him in the event, I don’t even remember who won. What I remember is I could tell he was there to stay; he would be a face I would see often... well over the next few months we would see each other quite often sharing Top Four and Top Two slots, splitting store credit prizes and Packs etc. In the end, the way this year had gone... it didn’t shock me one bit that in the Finals I would be sitting across from Steffon. He’s a player that finds a way to win. He got rattled a bit for a few days prior but in the end never gave up, and he earned his spot in the spot in the elimination Top 32 in the last qualifier.
Here we were again in the finals sharing a laugh. For me it was incredible, Two players from the same scene sitting in the finals of the first Open. We represented the South Jersey/ Eastern PA scene quite well that day (let’s not forget Brian in Top Four as well). Here we were about to play to be called the first Open Champion. I knew going in this match was honestly a coin flip and it started with the die roll. The match also comes down to direct damage drawn and which cards you flipped with Optimus Prime: Battlefield Legend when attacking. I played a ton of games against the mirror and I knew there was no certainty in the match.
I can’t remember every sequence in the games but I can remember two specific choices I made. First, I left my Optimus vulnerable in game one, knowingly forcing Steffon to hit two direct damage abilities in a row. Well, that happened obviously...
In game two, I decided to deal four Pierce damage through a The Bigger They Are.. hit, rather than destroying an armor with Smelt and then lost to Security Checkpoint. Twice, I made a bad call on an in-game state and both calls set me up for failure. I played well all weekend, but those choices left me extending my hand and congratulating Steffon on his win. Once I knew the game was over, I wanted to be sure to be the first person to do so. He earned every bit of that win and I can only look forward to playing him again. I’ll say it again as if I hadn’t said it enough, Congratulations to the Champ Steffon Pinckney!
Now time for the finale of it all: The Thank You’s; the Shout Outs; the “whatever else you want to call them.” First will be to my wife, she was the only reason I was able to go to Origins. She stayed home all weekend and took care of our two kids while I was out playing a game and goofing off..and for that I thank her.
Next to some friends have always supported me, Ziggy, Bryan, and my Papa bear Will. Those three gentlemen have been in my tcg career for well over a decade and while not having them next to me this weekend was odd, they were still cheering me on from home.
Next is none other than the Godfather, Scott Landis. I’ve known Scott now for what feels like forever. We have travelled all over the country to play cards together. He made me into the card player I am today, pushing me first to improve in the World of Warcraft TCG, and now in Transformers. I am proud to call myself his team member. and even more proud to call myself his friend.
Lastly to Mark Kinney... Mark and I met at Pax Unplugged, and it’s one of those special connections where you meet someone and you know almost immediately there is something special there. Since last December Mark and I have talked probably every day about transformers, movies, life, you name it. He is the one person that pushed me to start the YouTube channel for VectorSigma.info. He was the reason I sat in the finals and had a shot at winning. Endless days of VS videos, testing sessions: whether I drove two hours to him, or he drove to me. We were always committed to one thing, and that was getting better and finding everything we could find about this game.
I may not have won that event, but I know I made the team proud because once again if it weren’t for them, I never would have been able to have a chance to compete and succeed at this level. again Can’t say it enough: Thank You to Mark and Scott for believing in me, and helping me every step of the way.
A few shout outs to Palmer and Bixler, I hated having to play you guys and I wouldn’t have been upset in anyway had I lost to either of you. Your support all weekend was incredible and Bixler your words after the event truly embraced teamwork, and I am glad to call you a teammate.
Also, a shout out to the Patrons that supported us all weekend it was incredible to have those of you who weren’t there cheering us all on. For the Patrons that we’re there it was a pleasure to meet you all and I look forward to getting to know you even better then I already have.
It was an incredible weekend for me as a player and teammate. Two Top 8s in the Preliminary events and second in the Open I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better weekend than I had. I was glad to be a part of Origins weekend, thankful for WotC and Pastimes for running it. I had great conversation with many of my opponents, and with John and Ken from WotC. I’m very much looking forward to Gencon, now more than ever, because if there is one final thing to take from my Open experience that I’m upset about... it’s that I did not win the sweet Trophy Steffon received for winning! I’ll need to get back to the finals to try and get one for myself! Congrats again to all players who qualified for the Energon Invitational! And one last time Congrats to the champion Steffon Pinckney!
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“Till All Are One!”
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