Welcome to Know the Meta’s first interview, with none other than Joshua Graham! We’re very pleased to be able to talk to such a prolific player about the competitive scene, upcoming sets, and the state of the game. With seven premiere event tops and one YCS win, Joshua Graham has had continued tournament success throughout the years. A list of his credentials will be provided at the end of the interview for those that are interested. If you haven’t heard, Joshua is currently working on a new project called ‘CardSharpProDueling’, where he hopes to deliver high quality competitive content. Be sure to give his Facebook page a like and definitely subscribe to his YouTube channel when you get the chance. Anyways, without further ado, enjoy the interview.
Joshua Graham, 7 Premiere Event Tops and 1 Premiere Event Win
Know the Meta: Hi Josh, thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. I’d like to start off with the basics: how did you start playing YuGiOh?
Joshua: Well thank you for taking the time to have me. I started playing YuGiOh like many others, with the TV show. I quit the game several times, exploring Duel Masters, Beyblades and pretty much any fad at the time I came back in during the very beginning of TroopDupe (before Card Trooper + Machine Duplication actually was popularized) format and was hooked ever since.
Know the Meta: What kind of preparation do you do before attending an event? How extensive are these preparations?
Joshua: My playtesting ritual is pretty much the same from event to event. I make sure I know my deck inside and out and I know how to approach the common matchups inside and out, as well as explore any idea I'm presented with that has potential...You never want to ignore something that could have been great because the idea came from an unlikely source.
Know the Meta: That's great advice. Before you playtest, where do you look for deck ideas?
Joshua: Well, I often build around a goal in mind. If my deck has a viable series of plays – like abusing Wind-Up Rabbit + Wind-Up Factory to grind out the game and search power plays, I want to build around it and see how viable the concept is. Sometimes deck ideas just aren't viable – like Blackwings in 2014 when pretty much everything just outpaces them, but failure is just a step in the process of success.
Know the Meta: How do you choose what deck to bring with you to an event?
Joshua: I always make my deck choice based off of what I consider to be the most powerful deck at the time. If I find that the metagame doesn't give me a very solid answer on what “the best deck” is – then I try and innovate until I find something better. Formats like this one where my options are setting monsters, summoning Bear, bricking with Spellbooks or losing to Abyss Dweller are where the real deck builders will shine.
Know the Meta: What is your favorite deck of all time?
Joshua: This might come as a surprise to many people but Mermail has taken a place in my heart. Although I've never been successful with the deck, the Mermail decks I make have been successful and one day I wish to win a YCS with the archetype (or well, get to Top 16, then draft my way to a victory).
Know the Meta: That's been a popular deck for members of our site as well. Why do you enjoy playing Mermails so much?
Joshua: It is very hard for the deck to run out of options and the deck explodes like nothing. It's very easy to play control as well as play aggressive. It really depends on the situation at hand which makes your decisions and reads very important.
Know the Meta: If you could change one thing about the game, what would it be?
Joshua: This was an old idea from a duelist named “Starwind” from before the game even had Synchros, but release a Swift Scarecrow that you can send from your Extra Deck to the Graveyard once per duel and you will see a 100% decline of generate fragile OTK decks such as Karakuri.
What are your thoughts on the way Konami has been handling its recent competitive events. Do you think limiting North American YCS Top 16s to draft will be healthy for YuGiOh?
It allows for the better YuGiOh players to consistently do well at YCS events. No longer will you hear about someone so close to winning a YCS only to lose to Evilswarm Ophion + five backrows.
Know the Meta: What are your thoughts on these past two formats? Are you a fan of the infamous Dragon Rulers?
Joshua: I loved Dragon Rulers because it allowed for the more experienced players to win a much larger percentage of the time. That should be the aim.
Know the Meta: Do you have any hopes for the upcoming format?
Joshua: I do. I really think the game is about to get better and better from this point on.
Know the Meta: Well I'm certainly looking forward to a better game. Speaking of the future, have you prepared any decks for January?
Joshua: Yeah I have but you'll have to wait and see. ;)
Know the Meta: Ha, well I'm sure everyone here is looking forward to your innovations. Regardless of what deck you're playing, what type of impact do you expect Legacy of the Valiant to have on the metagame?
Joshua: Evilswarm Exciton Knight will completely change Yu-Gi-Oh. Thankfully it's a healthy change that allows you to come back from incredibly powerful openers. Number 101 also balances out a lot of overpowered monsters as well. Good things are to come.
Know the Meta: I want to end this interview off with a little controversy Patrick Hoban is often cited for pioneering the idea that there is always a perfect play. Do you agree with this statement or are you a member of the school of thought that believes playstyles are what drives moves in this game?
Joshua: Well I don't agree with this statement, simply because I subscribe to a different philosophy about YuGiOh. As David Sirlin, professional Street Fighter player and student of gaming history said in his book “Playing to Win” (Playing with Fire) that Turn-based games are often about sneaking in what effectively amounts to two moves (two attacks) in one move. I find that Yu-Gi-Oh games are won more with pressing your advantage than with actually “making the perfect play” and that the key to winning is in your setup rather than your execution. To find out what I mean, check out my YouTube channel. My website will also explain this theory more so be sure to check out that very soon.
Well, that’s all the time we have for now. Please go check out Joshua’s YouTube channel and his Facebook channel where he’ll be updating the community with high quality competitive content. Thanks so much for reading. If there’s someone you’d like to see interviewed on our site, please feel free to drop their name down in the comments section below. Happy New Year!
For those you interested in Josh's credentials: YCS Toronto 2012 Win, Top 8 of YCS Toronto, Top 16 of YCS Rhode Island 2011 with Tour Guide Plants and SJC Toronto 2008 with Gladiator Beasts, Top 32 of YCS Guadalajara and Top 32 of YCS San Mateo 2013 with Dragon Rulers and Top 64 of NAWCQ 2011