I’m going to start this off by talking about myself a little bit. My name’s John Pedro, and I live in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. I’ve been playing card games almost my entire life from Yu-Gi-Oh to Magic the Gathering, and now Cardfight!! Vanguard. I’m the Assistant Manager at an As Seen On TV store, I have a girlfriend of three years, and the best friends anyone could ever ask for. I’ve really never done anything huge in other games. I attended a couple Yu-Gi-Oh National Championships, but never climbed as high as I would’ve hoped.
How I got into Cardfight!! Vanguard is kind of a story all in its own. I had a friend that lived in Toronto at the time; he’d always listen to me complain about how much I hated Yu-Gi-Oh! but could never stop playing it. He told me about a new game that he’d been playing, and it just debuted in North America: Cardfight!! Vanguard. I frowned at the idea of a new game: how could I ever leave a game I’d been playing for years? For something new? No way. But after being sacked out at a Regionals in London, I started to research this foreign game. I had mixed feelings about the trigger system, but then I stumbled across Spike Brothers. A demonic football team?… AWESOME! I asked my friend from Toronto about this particular archetype and he told me as much as he could. With a quick swipe from my debit card, I sent him money for a Spike Brother deck. This was a year and a half ago.
Fast forward to now, and it’s been over a year since I started using that particular clan and I’ve never used anything else. September 1st arrived, and brought with it the Vanguard Toronto Qualifiers. The winners proceed to the North American National Championships, and to get there it was only 6 Rounds of competition then a cut to the Top 8, and single elimination.
I didn’t know how to feel about that tournament structure heading into it, but knowing what my deck could do I wasn’t too worried. Lines were long, people were excited, the smell of Cardfight!! Vanguard filled the small tournament hall. Everyonewas split into groups, and you played people within your group until there was no one else to play, then other groups merged together. One after another I picked them off. Kagero decks, OTT, Narukami, Royal Paladin, Gold Paladin… My only loss during these Rounds was to Nova Grapplers, one of the longest games I’ve ever played in my Vanguard career. Top 8 I played against Granblue, and in Top 4 my opponent ran Angel Feathers. I couldn’t believe it: I was going to the first ever Cardfight!! Vanguard Nationals! After my Top 4 match I walked into the hallway to catch my breath.
Immediately I heard a scream coming from the end of the hallway. “DID YOU WIN?” I looked up to see my old friend Brandon Smith: we played Yu-Gi-Oh together. A loud “YES” was all I said. We began to charge towards each other like we were running through a meadow of flowers and we jumped at each other with open arms. We were the first ever qualifiers for Cardfight! Vanguard’s National Championship, to be held in California. After several deep breaths we walked back into the room to finish what we came here to do.
Even though the qualifiers had been chosen, a Champion had not. We sat on the stage and I prepared for what was supposed to be the hardest match-up of my life. A draw of my five cards, a mulligan of five, a draw of no Grade 1’s, and the game was over. That’s correct folks:Mecha Trainer was my vanguard for more than half the game. Staring in the face of Spectral Duke Dragon, I finally rode my Medical Manager! But… it was too late.
A champion was declared. Brandon Smith was the winner of the Toronto Qualifier, while John Pedro was the Runner-Up!That was the verdict, but the game wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot. Not until Nationals was over. For two months we prepared. Two very long months. Going in, we knew the competition would be fierce. It was true that me and Brandon had the most time to prepare for our battle. A new Champion was proclaimed as well, Brandon Bastianelli,team-mate of Brandon Smith. (And also the Royal Paladin player I beat in Round 4. ) The three of us grew close pretty quickly. Friendships were built strong because of this wonderful game. Play testing session after play testing session we fought each other in the most epic cardfight battles. Next thing we know, Nationals was the day after tomorrow!
The National Championship
The flight was excruciating for me, as it was my first time flying, ever. After several hours of wondering if I’d survive the flight, we landed in a Narnia of places, gorgeous beyond recognition. Not a cloud in the sky, I started to think that the plane had crashed and I’d gone to heaven. The hotel was wonderful; I felt like a celebrity. All sixteen players met for a dinner on the Saturday night, and accompanying us were the CEO and Vice CEO of Bushiroad USA; two of the voice actors from the English anime; and one of the artists who’d illustrated some of the most famous cards!I had the honor of sitting with Carol-Anne Day, the voice of Misaki from the show, which was one of the most memorable moments of my life. After a couple signatures, a group photo, the best food I’ve ever eaten, some voice recordings with Misaki and Ren, and a chat with some of the competitors, I headed back to my room. A shower, change of sleeves and a quick prayer, and I went to sleep.
Tournament Morning. After grabbing breakfast with my newfound team-mates, we walked the long road to the venue. Walking in we felt like champions. All eyes were on us, people congratulating us and rooting us on. It felt amazing. After writing our deck lists and getting ourselves mentally prepared, we got our pairings for Round 1. I sat down in front of Andrew Fredella, the Golden Paladin player who won the Atlanta Qualifier. The first 4 Rounds were best 2 out of 3, followed by a cut to Top 4. Game1 was over fast. He was off the ride chain, while I was riding on Dudley Emperor all the way to victory. Game2, my opponent was on the ride chain and Duke arm wrestled with the Emperor, but sadly the game went to Duke. Round 3, a quick check of cards in his damage (5), a 21k attack from my Vanguard, and a 2 trigger to pass guard was declared. First check, HEAL Trigger. Power to Vanguard. I silently hoped, “Lady Luck, please be smiling down on me. ” Second Check, DRAW Trigger! Lady Luck was smilin’!
Round 2. Narukami. I don’t remember my opponent’s name, but he won his Seattle Qualifier. Game 1 got Dudley Emperor doing what he does best. Game 2, I grade locked on Mecha Trainer. Yes, Mecha Trainer. No Grade 1 was drawn for me. Onto Game 3, an exact repeat of Game 2. My record was now 1-1. Being Grade locked on 0 for two games straight really hurt, but my dream of topping wasn’t over yet.
Round 3. Golden Paladins Ezel. I don’t remember my opponent’s name, but he was a member of TKR’s team. Game 1 he was Grade locked at 1 or 2 and my Emperor did his job. Game 2 I was Grade locked at Mecha Trainer. Game 3, he went first, drew… and passed. My turn. I drew… . and passed. He drew and rode a Grade 1; his next turn a Grade 2; the turn after that a Grade 3. What happened to me? Well Mecha Trainer wanted to take the victory all for himself. Yes, I was Grade locked at 0, AGAIN. A handshake and a sad sigh was given by both of us. We could not have a decent game.
Round 4. Kagero. He left. Yay! Mecha Trainer can finally take his victory for himself! Did not need to ride anyone else!
The tournament was over for me, and my final record was 2-2. Brandon Bastianelli’s record? 2-2. Brandon Smith’s record… wait, he’s still playing! That’s right, Brandon proceeded to go and win the entire tournament. Going to Game 3 only once, he steamrolled the competition. Our newly found team takes one home for North America, and Brandon now goes off to Japan to hopefully secure his undefeated streak and take home the championship!
Where does that leave our Cardfighters now? Still training to be the best. That’s correct: even though it’s an entire year till the next Nationals, we know other Cardfighters are out there training to be able to sit with the Top 16 players of North America in the next Championship. What do I have to say to all of those out there striving to be the best?
I’ll see you next year.