This was the last shot for today’s aspiring hopefuls, and it boiled down to two final competitors. After being crushed in the finals of the first Last Chance Regional earlier today, Russell Melia was back in the finals to take another shot. But the polite, friendly duelist was up against local hustler Dan Connell. Who was slightly less polite.
Dan Connell traveled here from nearby Huttonville, and at age 18 describes himself as a “gas jockey.” He’s also got one of the most tricked-out trade binders here this weekend and is, for lack of a better term, loud. I can describe him that way because I’m sure he’d take it as a compliment.
Connell won the roll and opened with a set back row card, losing it to Mystical Space Typhoon — it was Book of Moon. Melia activated Destiny Draw, tossed Destiny Hero — Disk Commander, drew two cards, and summoned Elemental Hero Stratos to search out Destiny Hero — Fear Monger. Stratos attacked for 1800 damage and Melia ended. It looked good.
Connell special summoned Cyber Dragon, attacked over Stratos, and set another spell or trap. Melia activated Brain Control to target his opponent’s Cyber Dragon and Connell needed some time to think: “Do I want you to take it, is what I’m thinking . . .” He mused for a while, before making his decision: “Twenty-one both ways.” He flipped Ring of Destruction to destroy his Cyber Dragon before Melia’s Brain Control resolved. It left Melia to summon Destiny Hero — Fear Monger, who attacked directly. Connell’s boisterous confidence was going to be cut short if he didn’t have an answer.
He did. He special summoned another Cyber Dragon, tributed for Raiza, and bounced Fear Monger back to Melia’s deck. Raiza attacked for 2400, and play was to Melia once Connell set another spell or trap.
Melia special summoned Cyber Dragon, followed up with Snipe Hunter and discarded for its effect with priority: it was a mistake, and Connell punished him for it by flipping Torrential Tribute on the chain. Loud or not, it was a great play, and Connell is nobody’s fool. Melia passed, Connell set a monster, and Melia set a card to each zone. Connell activated Soul Exchange, tributed for Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch, and forced Melia to discard Morphing Jar. It left Melia with just one back row card: nothing in his hand. “Yours,” announced Connell. Melia flipped Call of the Haunted to bring back Disk Commander in Connell’s end phase, and was suddenly back in the game!
He drew for his turn, moved to main phase 1, and special summoned a Malicious from his deck by removing the one from his graveyard. He then tributed his Disk Commander for Destiny Hero — Dasher and tributed his Malicious to give Dasher an ATK boost. The second Malicious was removed from Melia’s graveyard, and he brought out another.
“That’s mental,” remarked Connell.
“Yeah. It’s numbers and systems, you know?”
“Man . . . Avarice?”
Connell had called it correctly, and Melia dropped Avarice to shuffle back five monsters — the exact number he had in his graveyard other than the Disk Commander, who he wanted to keep there. Melia drew into Metamorphosis, tributed his last Malicious for Ryu Senshi and then attacked with Dasher to destroy Thestalos. It was 2400 to 2200 with Connell still leading, and Senshi attacked into Connell’s set Gravekeeper’s Spy. Another Spy came out of Connell’s deck, Melia set a spell or trap, and play was to his opponent.
A Spy was tributed for Raiza the Storm Monarch, and Dasher was spun back to the top of Melia’s deck. Raiza then attacked over Ryu Senshi, wiping out two monsters in a single turn and sticking Melia with a dead draw. Connell set a back row card and ended, his confidence justified at this point.
Melia brought out Cyber Dragon, tributed for Dasher, and ran over Spy, turning his Dasher to defense. Raiza smashed the Dasher on the turn that followed and Connell considered his next move carefully, setting his last in-hand card. Melia topdecked Snatch Steal, took control of Raiza, and attacked, but Connell flipped Scapegoat! Not to be outdone by his own Snatch Steal, Melia flipped Ring of Destruction to destroy Raiza and force a draw! He wasn’t going to be able to win, but he wasn’t going to let Connell have the victory either!
Three games still remained. Both duelists set to smoke-screening.
“Clean Slate, huh?” remarked Melia.
“Yeah, it’s very difficult. I don’t like doing this ‘clean slate’ stuff.” Melia knew it, and his mentioning of the forced tie was likely a calculated move.
Connell opened the second game and set a card to each zone. Melia activated Destiny Draw, discarded Dasher, and played Mystical Space Typhoon: his target, Scapegoat, was chained, an expert bluff by Connell. But Melia continued unfettered, summoning Elemental Hero Stratos to pull Malicious from his deck. He was reading Connell’s set monster as Gravekeeper’s Spy.
He rammed Stratos into it, and he was right. Spy flipped and Connell couldn’t get another — his field was full! Melia set a card to his back row and, when Connell tributed next turn for Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch, it was negated by Pulling the Rug. Connell ended, Melia summoned Snipe Hunter and discarded Malicious to destroy one Sheep Token. He brought out another Malicious and cleared the remaining three.
Confiscation fell from Melia’s hand to force the discard of Raiza. He special summoned Cyber Dragon and attacked, but lost the Dragon to Ring of Destruction. He set a monster and ended, now clearly outpaced on the field.
Spirit Reaper was Melia’s next summon, and he attacked with Stratos to destroy Connell’s set Sangan, which in turn got Connell Treeborn Frog. Snipe Hunter, Spirit Reaper, and Malicious then attacked consecutively, forcing Connell to discard Thestalos the Firestorm Monarch.
Connell drew: “That is not useful!” he shouted at his freshly-drawn card. He set another monster and a spell or trap and passed. Melia discarded for Snipe Hunter to blow away Connell’s set monster, the Frog, then turned two monsters to defense position and attacked for game. Connell’s set card was Bottomless Trap Hole, which, indeed, was not useful.
The match moved into game 3, but the only victory belonged to Melia.
“You know I’m doing this for my teammate,” mentioned Melia, trying to create conversation.
Connell felt compelled to state his own motivation. “Yeah? I’m doing this for me, buddy. Well, more accurately, I’m doing this for the mat.” Two very different attitudes were at war in this match.
Connell set Trap Dustshoot, a monster, and then ended. When Melia drew, Connell flipped Dustshoot, but revealed Melia’s no-monster hand! Melia activated Nobleman of Crossout, removed Connell’s set Gravekeeper’s Spy from play and ended. Connell set a spell or trap, set a monster, and passed. Connell activated Heavy Storm, destroyed his opponent’s Widespread Ruin, and searched his deck for Elemental Hero Stratos with Reinforcement of the Army. Stratos came down, searched for Malicious, and Malicious was then discarded for Destiny Draw in a familiar cycle of events.
Stratos attacked into the other set monster — another Spy, and Melia set two cards to his back row. Connell set two as well and passed back, leaving Melia to activate Confiscation on the next turn: of Cyber Dragon and Mobius he discarded the Dragon, secure in the fact that he had Pulling the Rug set. He removed Malicious, brought out another, and ended, still unable to get rid of the Spy.
Connell passed back, Melia activated Brain Control, and Connell chained Book of Moon to turn Spy face down and keep his defensive powerhouse on his side of the field. Melia ended, Connell set a monster, Melia passed, and Connell used Brain Control to grab Stratos and tribute him for Thestalos. Pulling the Rug destroyed him! Premature Burial brought back Stratos for Melia, and he tributed his Malicious for Cyber Dragon. The Dragon ran over the set Spy that had been giving him so much trouble, and Stratos attacked directly. He finished by tributing Cyber Dragon for Metamorphosis to bring out Dark Balter the Terrible and then special summoned Malicious. He was deeply entrenched on the field.
“Let’s go with Snatch Steal!” Connell hollered as he drew.
He stared at his card with a brief look of derision. “That is not a Snatch Steal . . .” His flamboyant confidence was falling apart. He set a spell or trap, passed, and Melia wailed on him. Next turn Connell set Widespread Ruin and, while it let him destroy Balter when Melia tried to attack again, it didn’t stop Stratos. Melia ended, Connell passed, and another Metamorphosis brought out Ryu Senshi.
It was over! Senshi attacked directly and Connell went down. Russell Melia comes back from his loss in the day’s first Last Chance Regional to come back and win the fourth.
“Am I really going to Nats?” Melia was a bit stunned.
“You sure are,” replied Connell smoothly, suddenly very friendly in tone. “. . . Can I have your mat?”
Nice try, Dan Connell. Nice try.