Azul Besares – A Man on a Quest

AZUL: Not Just a Board Game but also a Man on a Quest to Nationals and to Take Down Meta Potion!

My current standings against the Meta Potion Team:

Brian "Big Buck" Burckley (2-3):
- Victory in Swiss Rounds @ FFTCG Nationals 2017
- Defeat in Swiss Rounds @ California Petit Cup
- Victory in Grand Finals @ California Petit Cup
- Defeat in Swiss Rounds @ Seattle Crystal Cup
- Defeat in Grand Finals @ Seattle Crystal Cup

Kyle McGinty (1-1):
- Defeat in Swiss Rounds @ Top Deck Keep LQ
- Victory in Quarterfinals @ Top Deck Keep LQ

Matt "Draw It When You Need It" Okimoto (1-0):
- Victory in Quarterfinals @ Seattle Crystal Cup

Thomas Nguyen (0-2):
- Defeat in Wolves Den @ SoCal Crystal Cup
- Defeat in Finals @ San Diego Comic Con 16-man Sealed tournament

Dan Nguyen (0-1):
- Defeat in Swiss Rounds @ CGC Local Tournament

Matthew Rice (0-0): Soon TM.

Josh Gardner (0-0): Soon TM.

Andy Carmona (0-0): Soon TM.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet and compete against the members of Metapotion in a variety of different events (as I listed above).

I first met Brian at the 2017 FFTCG Nationals and only knew him as a team member for Card Game Coliseum. He was on Mono Lightning while I was on Wind/Water and I was able to beat him. Our next encounter would have us clashing at the final round of Swiss for the California Petit Cup with the winner being the sole undefeated. He was on Fire/Ice while I was on Mono Lightning with him getting the best of me this time around. Not shortly after we would meet again in the Grand Finals as seed #1 and seed #2 but with me being crowned as the California Petit Cup Champion. Fast forward to the Seattle Crystal Cup our paths would cross again in the third round of Swiss. I took Scions to this event while he brought Ice/Earth and he was able to take me down. And again, we would meet in the Grand Finals in the biggest rematch in the West Coast! I was looking to repeat my victory in the Finals but due to my painstaking misplay, all for the YouTube world to see, a would've 2-0 victory changed to a 1-2 loss to the "Big Buck." I'm looking forward to continuing our fated rivalry at this year’s Nationals!

As for the rest of the Meta Potion crew, our encounters have been few and far between. I got my first one on one encounter with Kyle at the Top Deck Keep LQ during the 5th round of Swiss. I was playing Turbo Discard against his Mono Water. To be honest, I was nervous playing against him for the first time. So nervous that I would misplay on my second turn attacking with my 5k haste/first strike Squall thinking I could get past his Relm but there was a Schrodinger there, so he just responded by animating it with Relm and blocking Squalls attack like nothing. So embarrassing! Of course, I would go on to lose this match. I was able to make the Top 8 cut but would have to go against Kyle again in the Quarterfinals. I like to learn from my mistakes and along with the absurd luck of Turbo Discard I was able to make quick work of one of the co-founders of MP.

Matt is pretty much the face of FFTCG on the West Coast and surprisingly I have only been able to face him in an official capacity at the Seattle Crystal Cup Quarterfinals. It was quite poetic that the person that was gate-keeping my invite to nationals was him and thought to myself "Well if I can't get past Matt here, I'm still not ready Nationals." Like I mentioned before, I was on Scions here and Matt was on his famous Ice/Earth deck. If you haven't played against him yet, there is a reason why he's one of the best. We did have a turning point in the match where he verbalized the possibilities of the upcoming turns and considered my odds for an upcoming attack from his Nidhogg: roughly a 1/30 chance of ex-bursting my only out to it, who wouldn't want to bet against those odds? Well, an attack was declared and the 1/30 chance Exburst’ed Titan fiasco was born targeting my dulled Thancred to break his Nidhogg. Matt's motto of "Draw it when you need it" ironically came through for me this time around. He couldn’t recover, and we ended up going to time. The 6 damage I dealt to him was enough for me to move onto the Semis.

My Quest to Nationals 2018:

SoCal Crystal Cup (Day 1): 18th Place - Mono Ice
Top Deck Keep LQ: Top 4 - Turbo Discard
Game Kastle LQ: Top 8 - Ice/Water Vikings
Galaxy Games LQ: Top 4 - Scions
Seattle Crystal Cup: Runner Up - Scions (Invite obtained!)

My overarching quest to Nationals 2018 had me go through two Crystal Cups and three Local Qualifiers before obtaining my invite. My journey started with the SoCal Crystal cup where I finished Day 1 with a 4-2 record on a Mid-Range Mono Ice deck but end up ranking #18, just bubbling out from moving on with the Top 16 to Day 2. If you're still following with me, here's an exclusive story that I've never mentioned to anyone. During my second round of Swiss, my opponent was a newer player to the game and verbalized his concession to me after a fairly defining board state. I shook his hand, but I told him that we should play it out and I told him a play he could do to get him back into the game. The game ended up going to time as I wasn't drawing into my ideal cards. I totally forgot about the Double Loss rule when there was no definitive winner, so I regrettably just passed on my turns. When I went for the match slip, I marked myself off as the winner 6-3, but the judge told me "No, it's a double loss." All thoughts of regret came rushing to my head, "How did I let this happen? Why didn't I just let him concede first, sign the slip first, and then play it out after? I should've just told the judge of our situation." But no, I didn't and I just let it go. My overconfidence took the best of me here. It was a great lesson for me in morality and humility. My opponent and I talked a bit afterwards about what a double loss entailed. That was that and I wished him luck for the rest of the tournament.

The following Local Qualifiers proved fruitful for me in gaining experience but I was still unable to obtain that winning invitation to nationals. For the first local qualifier in Southern California, I wanted to know what the Turbo Discard deck was all about, so I decided to run the deck at Top Deck. I thought it would be a helpful learning experience to play the deck that has so decisively split the community on whether such a deck can be healthy for the longevity of the game. After playing with the deck for the event, I concluded that the deck disgusted me to no end, so I decided to retired the immediately afterwards. With the next Local Qualifier at Game Kastle in Northern California, I chose to run Ice/Water Viking to pay a sort of homage for the San Diego brethren I played against (Jeremiah and David) – which I aptly named "SD Vikings." During this event, I lost to Bryan Lue's Scion deck in the Quarterfinals – who was the eventual winner of that local qualifier. During that event, I was thoroughly impressed with how Bryan ran the deck. His skill with the deck would inspire me to run a similar Scion’s list at the next northern California local qualifier event at Galaxy Games. At this event, I was finally able to beat a great rival in Nghia Tran as I was always on the short end of the stick in our matches. I believe I was 0-3 in official matches against him at this point, so it was a great relief to me that I was finally able to overcome him during the quarter finals. Unfortunately, I was once again pitted against Bryan Lue but this time in the Semi Finals. He was running Scions again. Bryan ended up gatekeeping me from advancing to the finals. At this point, I thought to myself that the student wasn't ready yet to beat the master. Unfortunately this ended my chase for the national invite through this season’s local qualifier events.

As for the Seattle Crystal Cup, I went through the SoCal Gauntlet of players consisting of all strong competitors: Virgil, Matt, and Nathan, eventually losing in the final round against Brian in cringe worthy fashion. Although the loss in the Finals against Brian was painful, I was able to get over it quickly because I finally earned my invite to Nationals 2018. It also helped that Brian was the one that took the tournament down: “It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!” After Seattle, a group of us ate out together, drank some drinks, and hung out at the hotel lobby taking about cards and anime until we were ready to catch our flights the next morning. It was an amazing time getting to share this experience as if we were just one big happy FFTCG family.

Going into the 2018 FFTCG Nationals, I wish I had more time to prepare and play the game. Reading a past Meta Potion by Kyle where he discussed the need to balance between playing and life, I could relate in which I can only provide so much time to playing, deck building, theory crafting, and all that. My Seattle Crystal Cup preparation all but included 4 hours of play-testing on OCTGN with Ronald Magpantay that Wednesday night. Thursday I would fly into Seattle to meet and hang with friends. Friday was a full day of PAX West festivities and getting to see Richard Brady and Gregory Cole at work in the Square Enix booth. And then of course Saturday was the tournament where I was able to make top 16. Sunday I was able to make it all the way to the finals. If you wanted to know what a high level competitive player does before a big tournament, this is not something you’d probably not want to emulate. Maybe?!?

With all of that being said, I’ll continue to be star struck whenever I play against the Matts and Kyles of the FFTCG world. I’ll also continue to feel like the underdog playing the Davids and Brians across the table even though I’m becoming a beast player myself. Nationals 2018 is coming at the end of this week! I better be ready to face the likes of the Chocobros, RVA (East Coast Brethren) Returners, Joe, Max, Jordan, and everyone else in and out of the limelight. And of course my #1 targets, Meta Potion.

Have a great day/week/weekend! May your discards be few and your draws be legendary!

- Azul Besares


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