Hello, my name is Naasir Jusab and I took 1st place at the offline regionals in Montreal. I started playing TCGs in November 2022 with Digimon. I had results at locals with Xross Heart but then a sudden banlist targeted at Xross left me bitter. So with the release of OP1 I started playing One Piece TCG.
In OP1, I played Zoro/Luffy and had good results in our locals. I participated in my first big event at Treasure cup Niagara. I brought Luffy to the tournament and lost in the second round in the mirror match. I got tilted after this loss and ended up losing many more matches after that. Coming into this tournament a lot of people expected me to do well and I expected that from myself as well. I was very unhappy with my performance and once I got home, I started practicing for OP2 right away.
Having played OP2 since early February, I had enough time to try all the different decks and pick one to bring at the offline regional. The leader I decided to go with for the tournament was Zoro.
Having tested all the decks, I found Zoro to be the most consistent deck in terms of results and if you happen to brick early then you can rely on the best card in the format in 9 cost Whitebeard to close out games. Zoro’s consistency comes from the fact that it has double searchers. Not only are these searchers adding cards to your hand, but they are also bodies on your board which can attack your opponent with little investment because of your leader ability. Zoro is also a really good leader whether you’re going first or second. I don’t think it has any really bad matchups. Certainly, there are difficult matchups like Whitebeard but it’s not impossible by any means and I felt that a lot of bad red players moved to Whitebeard. You have to show some level of creativity when playing against Whitebeard and this will allow you to win against them.
A lot of people misinterpret Zoro as an aggressive rush leader, but I believe that it is best played as a midrange deck. All my matches at the regionals were won because I was winning on the board. When you have plenty of characters on the board and the opponent only has their leader, there is only so much they can clear. This is where the leader’s ability shines and overwhelms your opponent.
The general strategy of Zoro is to go wide on board. Take life it’s okay to go down to 2/3 lives. If you’re going first swing with all your characters, the turn before you drop Whitebeard. Now they have to clear your board and you’re dropping Whitebeard on them the following turn.
I want to start off by giving a special thanks to the guys from TeamSeafoodKing (https://twitter.com/TeamSeafoodKing)
The list above, which is the list I used at the regional, is taken from TeamSeafoodKing’s content. Having tested different variations of the deck I felt this was the best choice.
My friend Nickolas Tsagatakis got 9th at the TopCut online regionals with a similar list.
Nick’s list was good, but with the increasing popularity of Whitebeard I felt the choices made by TeamSeafoodKing were correct. These choices include an additional radical and jet pistol. Sunny being cut to 3 may seem weird to most Zoro players but the card is not good into whitebeard. You want to see your big bodies such as Robin and Zoro which in turn also act as pseudo-blockers. This buys you time until you can drop 9 cost Whitebeard to close out the game. If you want more details about the decklist I would suggest checking out TeamSeafoodKing. I will talk about matchups below.
Your mulligan strategy is basically the same in any matchup besides Whitebeard. You want to see any searcher such as Nami or Dadan.
Additionally, I put a lot of emphasis on Robin going first, it’s a really strong card on curve. It’s prob not going to survive but if it does, then it’s a free 5k swing with no don investment.
I also like keeping hands where I have early plays and a Whitebeard. Any game where you see Whitebeard is usually a win so it’s okay if you don’t see all your searchers, but you have plays for the early game. Rely on Whitebeard to win those games.
Against Whitebeard leader, I mulligan for my Robins, Zoros and Gordons. Robin + Gordon is really strong to take care of their vanillas. Zoro is a free swing every turn forcing your opponent to deal with it. With your Dadan’s try to get more Gordon’s otherwise a 2k counter is also good. With Nami, try to find Zoro’s if you don’t already have one otherwise a 2k or radical beam is good too.
Ash’s match vs Kinemon that was on stream in the Tokyo 2nd preliminary CS helped me understand how the matchup should be played. I had a feeling that Kinemon and Whitebeard would be the two most popular leaders, so I had to make sure that I knew how to play against those decks. If you’re having trouble with Kinemon I would suggest watching Ash’s match at the following link.
The Kinemon matchup boils down to their early game opening. If your opponent starts Raizou turn 1. As the Zoro player, you should be dancing with joy. If however, they open with Okiku. You can either go sideways with your characters or keep them standing. Depending on your hand both strategies are valid. I like to go sideways if I have Whitebeard in my hand. Staying healthy on life count and dropping Whitebeard is usually enough to win the game. Kinemon has a really hard time dealing with Whitebeard.
Alternatively, you can keep playing your searchers and ignore the Okiku. Deal with it when you can, most of the time you’ll be doing this because you don’t have the perfect answer to Okiku and I’d rather not slow down my development by jet pistoling it.
Additionally, Kinemon usually loses if they are losing on board, so if you have good trades into their characters then you should perform those battles. However, it’s important to calculate how much of your board can they clear on their turn and whether this damage would have been better going face rather than clearing the board. You need to make sure you have enough damage to close out the game so you can’t gas yourself out by endlessly clearing the board. The longer the game is stretched out the favorable it is for Kinemon.
The best tip I can give while piloting Zoro into any matchup is to think about your opponent’s power turns. For example, Kinemon’s power turns are turn 1 Okiku going second or turn 4 Oden. You should deploy your threats around those power turns. If you know your opponent is going into their Oden turn. That is the perfect time to swing with your characters. Drop your Makinos and Zoros, swing with all your characters. Maximize damage by swinging for as many magic numbers as possible. This makes your opponent reluctant to play their Oden. Additionally, they have too many targets to clear such as Makino, Zoro, Sunny, Robin, etc.
I pulled off this sequence in my semi-finals match against Doflamingo. For the first few turns, I kept taking damage and developing bodies. The commentators found it strange that I went down to 2 lives, but I felt comfortable because I had a radical beam in my hand. Once, I had a satisfactory board I started swinging with all my characters. This puts a lot of pressure on my opponent, and it takes pressure away from my life. On my opponent’s turn it’s difficult for him to know what to clear exactly, there are too many good targets.
The next matchup I was very worried about was the mirror match. In my locals, I would win against every color. My only losses during a month of playing were in the mirror match. This had me thinking a lot about what I could do to outplay my opponent. Zoro is such a strong deck that I felt I was losing to less skilled Zoro players in the mirror. This is where Natsume’s matches at the Osaka championship enlightened me.
In the Zoro mirror, it is important to go first. Dropping Whitebeard on curve is too strong and if your opponent doesn’t see theirs then you win the game. Additionally, it is okay to go down to 3 lives. I see many Zoro players defending their lives as much as they can and in the long run, they are losing out on damage that can help them close the game out. Try to collect as many 2k counters as you can off your searchers. If you have a lot of them in hand, feel free to play them as they are bodies on your board.
In the matchup you try your best to control your opponent’s board use your Vistas and Robins and clear as many bodies as you can. They can have more life than you but if their board is empty, they’re not going to be winning the game. Once you feel you’re losing on board, it’s time to just go swing face and try to win. Your opponent might have seen more removals, so you’ll run out of gas if you keep fighting for board thus, try to setup lethal.
You can find my finals match which was a mirror match here:
A lot of people asked me about the Whitebeard matchup. I played two Whitebeards Day 1 and a BO3 on day 2. The matchup is definitely not easy. Having 0 blockers makes is so that the Whitebeard keeps swinging at your life. Thus, it’s important to see your pseudo-blockers. These cards are Robin, Zoro, Makino.
It is important to go first in the match as Whitebeard on curve makes it easier to defend life and deal damage. In the mid-game, with your searchers try to collect as many 2k counters. Additionally, have a robin setup and try to do 6ks with robin, Zoro and your leader. If you have a 1 drop, then boost them up with Makinos. This will make your opponent’s turn difficult as they have to clear these bodies otherwise, they are taking 4 6ks every turn. I feel Gordon is huge in this matchup as well. I try to use my Otamas and Gordons aggressively to clear the board. Eventually, your opponent will run out of rush characters which allows you to pressure their lives.
The Law matchup is either the easiest or the hardest. If they open godly then it’s hard to get through all those blockers and you need to stall the game until you can drop Whitebeard. Pressure your opponent with your Robins and Zoros. Law usually wins on board after the first shambles so try to delay their shambles as much as possible. Use your removals to eliminate valuable bodies. It’s hard for them to clear the board as well as develop their own units. Take as much life as possible. You can go down to 2 lives and do well against Law. It’s hard to keep up with card advantage against them so taking lives is the only way to keep up with their hand. Their valuable units are 5 cost Law, any blockers, Zoro and Vista. It is important to clear Vista early game either with Robin or your own Vista as they can get a lot of value out of them by combing with leader ability. If the Law player pops off and sets up a wall of blockers at a healthy life total, then rely on your 9-cost Whitebeard to close the game.
Both of these matchups are super free. Go wide on your board and swing for magic numbers. There isn’t much to say for it other than that. If they clear your characters, refill your board up and do it all over again. It’s very hard for these leaders to win against you. The only way you lose is if they are aggressive and swinging at your leader. If they try to race you, make sure you’re calculating how much potential damage you’re taking every turn and what you need to stay alive.
Ivankov can be fairly difficult if they’re going first. Remember the power turns mentioned above. Keep your Zoros for the turn before they drop Ivankov. Thus, you want to go wide with your board and pop off on the turn before they are going to drop Ivankov. It makes it awkward for them to clear the board and they have no choice but to drop their Ivankov. Try to deal with their Luffy once it’s tapped as it’s their only win condition in most scenarios. If you feel the Luffy doesn’t pose a threat, then keep swinging life as other bodies aren’t worth swinging over. Keep your Gordon’s for when Luffy is tapped so all your little bodies can swing over it.
Tournament Matches Day 1
Round 1 Law O
Round 2 Kinemon O
Round 3 Kinemon X
Round 4 Ivankov O
Round 5 Ivankov O
Round 6 Whitebeard O
Round 7 Whitebeard O
Round 8 Luffy O
Round 9 Zoro O
Day 1 was honestly not as bad as I thought it would be. I was very dominant in all my matches, even the round 3 match vs Kinemon. The only reason I lost was because I had miscounted dons and didn’t keep one up for radical beam. If this was me at Treasure Cup, I probably would have tilted again and spiralled. Thankfully, my friends were there for me and told me to keep pushing forward. I kept playing the rest of my matches as if I was undefeated. I was really happy with my play following that Round 3 match. I wish I had them recorded because I felt it was the best I had ever played. None of the matches felt remotely close, I was pretty dominant against most people. At this point, I was very happy with my Day 1 performance. It showed that I had improved as a player mechanically and mentally since treasure cup.
Tournament Matches Day 2 BO3
Round 1 Smoker O O
Round 2 Whitebeard O O
Round 3 Doflamingo O O
Round 4 Zoro O O
When I saw that Smoker was my first round, I got super happy. I thought to myself this was going to be the easiest serial Luffy. The game started and my hand was not very strong so I mulliganed. This time around my hand was even weaker. Since I was a higher seed, I had decided to go second to put the smoker off his curve. My turn 1 play was Brook. I was getting nervous because it was the only playable card I had in hand. The rest of my hand was Otamas and Makinos. I feel that I had no business winning game 1. My opponent had two impact waves in hand and saw a third one of trigger in life.I only had 1 or 2 characters on board the whole time. I feel like he might have made mistakes somewhere which allowed me to rush him down and close the game.
Game 2, my opponent decided to go second. This time I had a stronger hand, but my opponent kept countering early. This left him with a very weak hand size, so I kept clearing board and went for lethal at some point. That’s how I received my serial luffy.
Funnily enough, what is said to be Zoro’s best matchup was my toughest series of the day.
Game 1, I was a higher seed, so I decided to go first. I had a good hand with Robins, Gordons and Zoros. This helped me pressure life and control the board and I was able to close out the game with 9 cost Whitebeard.
Game 2, my opponent decided to go first, I mulliganed for the usual targets which are Gordons, Zoros, Robins and at least 1 Whitebeard. This game my Nami bottom decked two of my Whitebeards which had me stressing a bit. However, I was able to establish a few 1 cost units which were able to pop off because of Makino. I believe the board overwhelmed my opponent and it became very difficult for them to rush life because they were taking too much damage every turn.
Game 1, this was my first time on stream, and it made me super nervous. The nerves got to me while I was seated under the stream camera. I was thinking to myself, “Can the viewers see my hand?”, “Will the viewers judge my play?”, “Will they think I am undeserving of being a top 4 regionalist player?”. All of these thoughts were racing in my head while two judges were seated at our table and my opponent was sitting across from me. I was overwhelmed by the pressure. My opponent was a higher seed, so he decided to go first. I was so nervous I drew two cards by accident. The judge saw that and gave me a stern warning. Another warning would result in a game loss. Then, the same turn I played a Sunny and passed. As soon as I passed, I asked myself, why did I play this sunny? It was going to get bottom decked by my opponent’s 1 cost Doflamingo. I started to think that my friends and the viewers on twitch are going to think I am so bad at the game. So, on my following turn, I took a second to calm myself down. I told myself that I couldn’t correct the mistakes I had made so far but I could try to play perfectly from here on out and win the game. I believe that from turn 3, I had not made any mistakes and I even got my opponent to concede the match.
Game 2, my confidence was high, and I was comfortable playing on stream. I played as if I was at my local and won the match with relative ease. My opponent couldn’t get much going with their leader ability. I kept clearing the board and eventually when I saw his hand size decreasing, I went for game.
This was a match that I would have dreaded if I hadn’t studied the mirror match. I had a clear game plan, control the opponent’s board as much as you can and if you’re losing control of the board then calculate how much damage you can inflict in order to setup lethal.
Game 1, I went first, I saw everything I needed. In this matchup, searchers are very important. I was constantly searching, establishing bodies but also adding 2k counters to my hand. I saw more searchers than my opponent and Whitebeard. I felt that he didn’t have much of a chance, but he almost countered out of a 15k swing, the game turned out to be very close.
Game 2, my opponent put me in second, but I kept my game plan in mind. My opponent saw Whitebeard but hadn’t inflicted much damage to my life. So, I was able to close out the game before the Whitebeard could do much work. I believe this series was my best series of the day and I am happy with the way I played. I believe all my turns were optimal and I am glad that it was recorded on stream.
Here are the matches for those who want to watch:
I want to finish off by thanking all of these people:
1. Big thanks to Carta for building the scene, it is hands down my favourite local in Montreal.
2. Thanks to Alexander Saint-Louis and George Folden for putting together the awesome event that was the offline regionals, I hope our city gets to host plenty more.
3. Thanks to all my friends who helped me prepare for this event and everyone in our Montreal group chat that cheered me on during the games that were livestreamed, you guys believed in me and pushed me, so I appreciate all of you
4. A big thanks to everyone at my locals, I believe we have a really strong scene so thank you for the games leading up to the event, im excited to see who else qualifies for nationals, I want to see us all at worlds!