Exodia The Forbidden One is one of the most powerful card combinations in all of Yu-Gi-Oh! because assembling all five pieces in your hand automatically wins you the game, but pulling off such a feat isn’t so easy at a competitive tournament. That’s why the crowd went wild last weekend at the Yu-Gi-Oh! Championship Series (YCS) Indianapolis 2023 when player Jeffrey Leonard pulled it off not once but twice on a streamed feature match.
Leonard started the tournament with an impressive 3-0 record piloting his Exodia Dracoslayer FTK (First Turn Kill) deck. Exodia is, of course, beloved by Yu-Gi-Oh! fans because it’s how Yugi Moto won his first duel against Seto Kaiba in the first episode of the Yu-Gi-Oh! Anime (“Exodia, OBLITERATE!”), but it’s considered one of the worst FTK decks in the competitive scene. Essentially, you either win the coin flip to go first and pop off with an extended combo that lets you summon Exodia in one turn, hoping and praying that your opponent doesn’t have a way to counter it, or you lose. This YCS was a major tournament with almost 2000 duelists competing, so Leonard winning three matches in a row with Exodia got him noticed and put on camera for the fourth round of the tournament.
The match was a best of three contest, so Leonard would have to pull off his Exodia combo twice to take the win. He was paired against veteran player and former Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG champion Justin Singh, who was piloting the Tier-1 Tearlament deck, so he had his work cut out for him. The first game saw Leonard get off to a rocky start, with Singh attempting to interrupt his combo early on, but Leonard was still able to string together the necessary pieces to summon Exodia, causing the crowd to erupt with applause and cheers.
Leonard is a friendly, familiar face in the Yu-Gi-Oh! community. He’s a 55 year-old player from Florida who got into the game so he could play with his son, Jason, and he earned a bit of a reputation for making great tournament runs with Mystic Mine Burn. Talking to Yu-Gi-Oh! YouTuber Cimo after the tournament, Leonard explained that when the Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel ban list made his favorite deck unplayable, he feared the same would happen in the TCG, so he sought out a new deck with FTK potential and, with some help from his son, he eventually landed on Exodia.
In the second game of Leonard’s feature match, Singh went first and got off to such a strong start that Leonard simply conceded the game on his first turn, allowing him to go first in the final game.
Things didn’t look good at first in the third game, with Leonard only playing down a few cards and passing the turn to Singh. However, Singh didn’t have any plays to make, save for setting one card facedown and passing the turn to Leonard. Screams and clapping could be heard off-screen, as the crowd knew this meant Leonard had another chance to summon the big guy. Leonard drew what he needed to get his combo going, allowing him to repeatedly use the effect of Blue Dragon Summoner to search out Exodia pieces from his deck. The crowd began chanting, “Jeffrey! Jeffrey! Jeffrey!”
With four pieces in-hand, the crowd switched to, “One more piece! One more piece!” until Leonard executed the last move of his combo and added the fifth and final piece of Exodia to his hand, winning the match in spectacular style. The audience went nuts, and Leonard was grinning ear-to-ear. Even his opponent couldn’t help but laugh and smile as he shook Leonard’s hand at the end of the match.
“This deck is not for winning tournaments. It’s basically to have fun and summon Exodia, and it can definitely do that,” Leonard told Cimo.
The news of Leonard’s unlikely Exodia win spread like wildfire across social media, with Yu-Gi-Oh! fans celebrating the sheer awesomeness of what he pulled off.
“JEFF TAKES EXODIA TO REMAIN UNDEFEATED TO 4-0 AT THE YU-GI-OH CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES TODAY! When Justin set 1 passed and the crowd exploded it was wild,” @House_of_Champs posted on X.
@galzoTCG said, “Jeff Leonard winning a YCS feature match with Exodia is not what I had on my bingo card this week! F***ing genius man, unbelievable moment in time.”
“Jeff Leonard winning this feature match with Pendulum Exodia is now the greatest Yugioh stream moment of all time,” declared @skyhawksings.
Unfortunately, Leonard’s win streak ended soon after, and by the end of the tournament he wound up placing 591st out of 1,957 players. Canadian player Steven Santoli ended up winning the YCS with his Rescue-ACE deck.
The last time Exodia made a big splash on the competitive scene was over a decade ago when Jarel Winston piloted an Exodia Stall deck to a Top 8 finish at the 2012 Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championships.
Leonard’s unlikely win with Exodia is a reminder that even though the game has been around since 1999, and there’s a lot at stake at big tournaments like these, there’s still plenty of fun to be had with the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG.