Interview w/ Team What Am I Even Why Am I | Spring Fest 2023 Premium Top 8 Team | #BushiroadSpringFest2023

Hi amigos, today I have the opportunity to interview one of the Top 8 teams for the Bushiroad Spring Fest 2023 Premium event in Toronto, Canada! They are Ryan, Elijah, and Bujinfidel! Let’s dive into it!


Team Name: What Am I Even Why Am I
Teammate 1’s name: Ryan Le – Low In Sodium – HZ9M
Teammate 2’s name: Elijah Wade – Zaee –BECP
Teammate 3’s name: Bujinfidel – BQVX

Jaime: First off, congratulations to team What Am I Even Why Am I for achieving Top 8 at the Bushiroad Spring Fest 2023 Premium event in Toronto, Canada! Today I wanted to do an interview with you amigos about your overall experience and even get to know you a little bit for the readers.

Tell us a little about yourselves. Where are you from? Are you from any specific Vanguard teams/communities? Any other events that you and/or team have done well? Etc.

Ryan: Kitchener, ON. I basically started the community in Kitchener back in 2012. And have been playing ever since then with the community I helped shape together with friends. I know quite a few people in the Greater Toronto Area as well and chat with them every so often when I’m in the area. I’ve topped a few times in past Spring Fests and at an ARG while I was down in Katy, Texas (V-BT02 meta). I love playing high-roll decks since it’s a kill-fast-or-die-trying kind of thing. I can preserve some brain cells throughout larger events and get food or chat in between rounds with friends.

Elijah: Kitchener, ON. Part of Axis Vanguard as you know. I also have been involved in communities for Vanguard both here and in Windsor, ON as well as many online communities. Another event that I’ve done well at was my Undefeated Windsor ARG win you interviewed me at a few years ago with Thavas. Other than that I had a few bubbles at BCS Toronto since it’s very competitive and I haven’t played much during Covid due to work. Instead, I used that time to help deck build and playtest to pass my findings on stuff like last format’s Ripples or the Fenrir builds from 2020.

Bujinfidel: Waterloo ON, I mostly play in those locals. I used to occasionally go to tournaments/casual play for a couple shops in TO since I have friends who played there. But nowadays it’s mostly online or during visits when I play Vanguard with out-of-town friends. I don’t have many other notable results besides winning locals once or twice since I tend to take Nubatama to big events regardless of the viability at the time. That only worked out once during the GBT14 meta when I went X-1 but didn’t make it. So this is my first time actually in top 8.

Jaime: It’s admirable that you guys were able to adapt more during Covid due to Canada’s restrictions. During your preparation, what are some things that you mainly focused on? Certain matchups, deck builds, strategies, etc.

Ryan: So, originally I was going to be a flex spot for either standard or premium because I was fine playing either way. School had me super busy, so there was not a lot of time for me to do any real testing and practice. I ended up testing for standard with what little time I had and got slapped into premium the night before due to some issues with availability for some of our teammates. I planned to take Vanquisher into this since I believed it was viable and also being a deck I was most comfortable playing with. However, Zaee (Elijah) suggested I bring Steam Maidens instead since it was really strong and relatively intuitive to play/learn with. I hadn’t played Steam Maiden before but with what little prep I did and all these last-minute changes for me, I thought “Sure, why not? I can probably learn this on the fly despite never playing the deck before.” and proceeded to hail mary this BSF.

Elijah: So I actually constructed most of this list during the Ripples/MFD/Erads meta and just somewhat adapted it to still work into this ridedown meta. I kind of figured that Vanquisher would have had a bigger presence than it did. I feel that players were just too spooked after the Stunverse hit-to-one. It requires much more skill to pilot well opted to play other things instead. It was actually a toss up for me to play this or Thavas but as I didn’t have too much time to test beforehand and my longtime Aqua Force experience told me I’d need to intimately understand this meta to do well. I felt that NLK was the better choice. Ironically since I ended up playing no meta decks though outside of maybe Thavas i think I would have been okay taking it. Outside of the one tech I run for Narukami, my deck list is pretty run-of-the-mill for current NLK lists. In terms of what I tested against, it was mostly Narukami, Highlander, and a bit of Thavas. I have experience playing Gear Chronicle overall so I was leaning on that to test that matchup less.

Bujinfidel: I actually thought our regionals was going to be in April and was only corrected a week before so I just did as much testing against Bermuda, Gear Chronicle, and Narukami as people were available for during that time. I was fairly familiar with Shirayuki since it’s a deck I play a bit more often than some of the others I was considering, so I just made sure to get comfortable with my lines of play and learn which problem cards to target in decks I might see. 

Deck Lists

Ryan Le – Low In Sodium – HZ9M
Elijah Wade – Zaee –BECP
Bujinfidel – BQVX

Jaime: Awesome, let’s dive into your deck lists. With these builds, what were your Winning Images for most of your games? Like did you have a setup, game state, or strategy that you focused on?

Ryan: To be honest, Zaee and Intex just grabbed the topping list for Steam Maiden this past Worlds and threw it together (minus the promos since the guy I was borrowing the deck from didn’t have any copies on hand). I just threw in a V- Steam Breath Dragon in order to fish for Engilsa or any Grade 3 fodder for striding, or binding later in the game. Learning the deck while playing was a lot of fun since I had zero experience with steam maidens and as Zaee told me earlier, it basically played itself. So I had a relatively nice time playing the deck while learning the multi attack combos that no one had taught me prior with Shlishma and her shenanigans. The Gear Cat and Entarahna is kind of absurd with the amount of advantage you can generate while going through any point in the game. Being able to call an additional body behind the same column and potentially adding a Steam Maiden to hand for one CB and deck thinning is nuts.

Elijah: Well looking at my list I’m sure everyone knows what my strategy and winning image are immediately but I’ll talk about it some before getting to what people really want to talk about. As you can see at a glance, this is an NLK Turbo list and my ideal game plan is to get to one of many potential 1 CB combo setups where I can NLK -> Baro -> Forfax / NLK-> NLK -> Baro / NLK ->NLK -> Baro -> Forfax etc. I took out the Rhodias for the ride down as I feel in this meta I’m stronger as the aggressor most of the time and instead opted to run Spade Jacks which are the main techs everyone immediately focuses on. The Spade Jacks give me outs to bad matchups, typically most forms of interaction by giving me ways to still continue my combos even after disrupted – or even deny the ability to altogether vs some clans. 

Bujinfidel: It’s a little hard to specify since I feel like Shirayuki is very context heavy when it comes to decision making and everyone probably has their own thoughts on how to approach it,  but I did my best to conserve/sculpt hand size to where I can reride consistently and take advantage of the negative power stacks every turn. Some matches felt better to pace myself and some I wanted to be a bit more aggressive early, but sometimes I also had to work with a slow start, so I just tried to keep flexible. You never know exactly how your opponent will choose to let certain things hit or not while they still have leeway with their damage either, so predicting that can influence how you set up or re-order attacks. Since I ran Crits over Dart Spider I also needed to be very careful about how I prioritize my counterblast. But thankfully that didn’t seem to be an issue.

Jaime: Great, can you elaborate more on why you came to those choices/ratios for your lists? Feel free to break it down by Grades or groups of cards, whichever makes more sense for your decks.

Ryan: Aside from the really random Steam Breath Dragon and the extra G-Era Melem instead of Lacina-Bel, the list is pretty much identical. Unfortunately, I don’t have the knowledge to go in-depth with these ratios and the reasoning behind it since I had never touched the deck before prior to this.

Elijah: My overall ratios are pretty standard outside of not running any Number of Terror but it’s a pretty finicky balancing act. Also, I got my Covetous Succubus’ at the event, so I didn’t have the time to find the exact golden ratios and just went mostly off of feeling. Surprisingly 1 Baro never really felt like an issue, I always had access to it whenever it was needed. Everything else felt good though I certainly could feel the strain on my hand size running Covetous over Numbers. That said, my 6 forms of CC to start my attack combos made it extremely easy to do the 1 CB combos required in the deck. I feel in the future when I don’t need Spade Jacks for interactions, taking them out for some Numbers is an easy choice. Stride wise I actually strode everything in my G-Zone today, which any long term NLK pilot can tell you, is quite rare. Since I had a number of games where I was forced to misride, I strode both Freiheit and Gharvans, though the latter continues to typically feel useless unfortunately. Striding Forfax and Bleder is fairly common however and Gilles did actually feel good the one time I went into him even if I still did lose. G-guardians were perfect. I got off two 20 soul Niljahbis guards for negging 2 units of crits, one of which was even preceded with my new SP Agrat to SC2 to get to 20 soul as well! Usually I’d say G-Zone largely doesn’t matter outside of Forfax/Bleder/Niljahbis/Saint-Germain but I had to really utilize my entire extra deck for this event.

Bujinfidel: Grade 3 wise it’s straightforward, 1 of Tamamo sticks out, it was mostly for fun, but you can use it for stride fodder and keep putting it back into deck for an attack the opponent can’t predict so it comes up once in a while. Sometimes the extra 10k will be live if needed due to the abundance of fiends in the deck too. The 2s are pretty standard. I lean heavier into plays with them for control matchups. I had some problems going back and forth with my Grade 1 lineup so it’s definitely not strict. I ended up going with all 10k guard options over Forktail because I was feeling a bit limited by its 5k and didn’t lack soul charge. Benijishi is totally optional but I think making it tempting for the opponent to take your Vanguard swing was useful, and at 4-5 damage it’s another attack in general. It doesn’t work against every type of sentinel though so it’s not a priority. I do like stands in Yuki but the crit effects and more threatening Vanguard swing are quite nice as well. Defensive 5ks are pretty harsh to deal with in this deck by comparison. Running the one 5k heal runs the same risk at a much lower frequency, but I could take or leave this as well. It did help out a few times though. G zone wise as long as you have enough Izushi/Viktor/Aizen it’s pretty open to debate imo. I’d changed this around pretty last minute.

Jaime: Thanks for going more in-depth! During your games, which decks/clans did you face? How were your personal records?

Ryan: I went 3-3 that day: Vanquisher W, Gredora L, Big Belly W, Rising Greedon W, Highlander L, and lost again to the same Gredora player in top 8. The games I lost to were pretty expected in all honesty. The Highlander loss was from a turn 2 offensive OT while sitting on Claseena and rode back down generating a ton of advantage.

Elijah: Rising Greedon L, Overlord L, Gredora W, Thavas W, Freezeray Deletors L, and then the Overlord L again in top 8 from Round 2. I had a pretty miserable day lol 2-3 in swiss, 2-4 overall. Though I narrowly lost to the Overlord player the first time I played him. Worth mentioning both our Round 2 and 5 opponents made top 4 at this event though

Bujinfidel: Chaos breaker W, Highlander W, Nightrose L, Eradicators W, Steam Maiden L, Highlander W. X-2 with it ending up a pretty decent mix of decks.

Jaime: Definitely a lot of variety! Was there a game you would like to highlight? Like your toughest matchup, best game, break or deal moments, etc.

Ryan: While learning the deck throughout the day, I learned the hard way just how difficult the Megacolony matchup is. Gredora just shuts down all avenues of multi-attacking Steam Maidens had and just stalled out while Gredora farmed for advantage to block my Ragnoclock and Grogrock turns.

Elijah: I can elaborate on my swiss round losses the most to explain the rollercoaster of a day I had. Round 2 both the Overlord player and I misrode. It was a back-and-forth game. I ended up having to eat a Defeat Flare during my NLK turn which ended that push. But he wasn’t able to push back so when it was my turn again, I had 4 cards left in deck, 2 in hand one which needed to be a fodder to stride the other was a D crit. So I wasn’t able to Bledermaus even though I still had a Ketzer in soul. I instead opted to just stride Gilles and pray since I knew his hand and that all he had was a little bit of shield value. He was able to guard me to a 1 to pass. I had 1 crit in a 4 card deck. Turns out the crit was the last card. Great game though.

Round 5 my opponent was a really good guy from NY, very familiar with NLK so he sat on Freezeray to make it pretty much impossible for me to realistically push damage. I still tried to make a turn work; unfortunately, I was at 14 in deck size so I had to neg a little to do the Spade Jack combo but he still loved seeing it. I attempted my push and he guarded it pretty easily then rode Ydoga strode Cosmic Dawn and did the Given combo. GGs man

Bujinfidel: They were all pretty nerve-racking. The hardest was Steam Maidens. In the time I had to practice, I found that I could beat the deck, but it was definitely still an uphill battle that I lost more often than I won. My opponent got a turn 1 offensive overtrigger and great starting hand so that was really difficult to deal with the rest of the game. It didn’t end up panning out despite trying my best. I’m not sure if I could’ve played my last turn better while still being in a position to win on the following one, but from what I remember maybe it’s good to not always get too obsessed with guarding efficiency. My other loss was quite close and intense too. I think my favourite game actually ended up being Chaos because it forced me to play really differently. I’m glad to say everyone was quite friendly though so overall I enjoyed myself and appreciated the matches despite my anxiety going into it.

Jaime: Wow, thanks for elaborating those intense games! During your games, what is something that you appreciate about your decks from the preparation you’ve done? The strategy of it, consistency, power, plays, etc.

Ryan: It plays itself in all honesty. As someone who’s never played the deck before, I was shocked by how consistent and powerful the deck was with little to no experience playing it. The Gear Cat engine in tandem with the Shlishma top end is incredibly strong for how little you need to know while playing the deck. Not to mention Engilsa participating in the slew of ride-down meta as well. Being able to deny the opponent from striding while still reaping the benefits of riding (getting Force I) and “striding” with Time-Leaper Dragon is extremely strong as well.

Elijah: Well bad matchups and misrides in the first two rounds aside, I really got to flex its power in rounds 3-5. Specifically in 3. The Gredora player used G Gredora to lock my left column which was empty so I had to play the entire game with 3 RG circles, re-riding VG every turn and unable to utilize Baro or Assassin thanks to G4 Gredora while also losing CB to his on-stride effect. The deck’s consistency to create threatening boards on 1 CB were extremely threatening. The real mvp of the day was Dragform. In both rounds 3 and 4 I had two consecutive Hope on Damp turns to win thanks to his ability to tutor them, pressuring my opponents into scenarios that were just impossible to guard. In round 5 when I did the Spade Jack combo it was the only feasible way I’d be able to do 2 NLK attacks into Freezeray. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough but the deck worked as I had hoped.

Bujinfidel: I guess I just find Mura really fun to play in general and I try to keep in mind that I play these events for that reason. It was still a strategic pick since it’s a pretty threatening rogue deck right now though. People keep confirming it’s just really difficult to deal with all the negative power even when they win and the amount of options Izushiotome gives keeps things feeling fresh. The mind games that come from Murakumo’s ‘if the attack doesn’t hit’ clauses are pretty interesting as well.

Jaime: After the tournament, did y’all take some time to reflect? Anything that you learned from your experiences?

Ryan: I basically got no sleep, drove through the aftermath of a really bad winter storm, and didn’t eat for the entirety of the day. I can confidently say that it’s not really a surprise why Steam Maidens is one of the strongest decks in the current meta and unless you’re bringing a deck specifically to counter it, you’ll have an extremely hard time playing into it. Topping was pretty fun though as I learned on the fly, since the adrenaline kept me on my toes while learning the intricacies of this deck against matchups I wasn’t familiar with.

Elijah: I should have gone seat A lol. Outside of that, the matchups were very unfavorable for me. Amazingly even topping was a shock to me, as I felt like I didn’t do that well but sometimes in teams making it easier to be carried is a talent too I guess. I did have a clutch win in Round 3 though, which we needed to continue our tournament and that was into Gredora at least so there is that.

Bujinfidel: I always feel like I have a lot to learn since I’m usually more casual. There were a few times people asked me why I did something a certain way. And it feels like my mind is trying to go so fast in the moment that I can sometimes miss a few options. But I guess that kind of thing is improved by more practice and knowledge of other decks. Maybe I’ll be a bit more ambitious from now on though.

Jaime: Awesome! Would you like to do any shout-outs to people that you know and/or have helped you along your journeys?

Ryan: Shoutout to Zaee (Elijah) and Intex for convincing me to play Steam Maidens and congrats to the top 3 teams at BSF Toronto! Thanks to all the friends I lugged out of Kitchener-Waterloo for waiting while our team accidentally went into top cut.

Elijah: I’d like to give a special shoutout to Notoriousette and Jia for the idea of the Spade Jack techs. Even if the matchup never came up in testing, it made previously an extremely onesided matchup much more manageable. The one time I was able to do the combo was during my Round 5. My opponent was super hyped after seeing it (though it couldn’t save me vs Freezeray). I’d also like to thank Intex for sitting through so many games of NLK. Noto again and Dravoth for bouncing ideas off of and finally my team for carrying me while I faced nothing but anti-meta and struggled.

Bujinfidel: Thank you Koditsa and Barrel for practicing the meta matchups with me. Intex for sitting through the brunt of my deckbuilding thoughts and last-minute practice/cards. Everyone who told me to chill out including my team of course.

Jaime: That’s all great stuff! I’m sure your friends are happy and excited for your accomplishment! Just one more question and we’ll be done amigos.

While preparing for your decks, did you use/see any social media to help you solidify your build? Such as blogs, YouTube videos/channels, Facebook, Reddit, etc. 

Ryan: Thank you based @DaveVecht for the deck list and I bow down to the hours upon hours of playtesting you did to arrive at the list you won with it at 2022 Worlds.

Elijah: So my build is mostly the standard NLK I guess with some techs added in. So Noto (@TheRealNotoChan) and Nico (@nicofernandoGP) of course heavily influenced it. Other than that, in the past I used to be pretty current with what Hongwai (@hongwai1769) would be testing at the time, but this build was mostly discussed and made in Proofcord back during Ripple format actually.

Bujinfidel: I didn’t really think to since It’s something I already play. I probably would’ve if it had been new or with something I haven’t touched in a while.

Jaime: Awesome! Thank you for sharing that as well, very much appreciated. Thanks again for joining me in this interview! I wish you the best and hope to see more from y’all in the metagame! Till next time amigos!

Key Takeaway

Adapt As You Go

It was cool to see each player adapt to their matchups. Ryan was learning more of the combos with the Steam Maiden deck since it was an unfortunate last-minute change on him. Elijah had a lot of anti-meta matchups and dealt with Freezeray. Lastly, Bujinfidel has a Shirayuki deck that requires adapting each matchup while trying to take advantage of its negative stacking skill.

Regardless, they as a team were able to adapt and win enough through the rounds to get into top 8. It’s imperative to adapt where you can. Regardless if you did enough preparation or are faced with an unexpected scenario.

Focus on one game at a time and do your best!

Commander Jaime’s Social Media/Links/Etc:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: