We were live in Tokyo for the Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship 2023 this month, witnessing some of the best Yu-Gi-Oh! decks in the world do battle before the crowning of a new Yu-Gi-Oh! World Champion. And honestly, it couldn’t have gone to a more likable guy. Paulie Aronson, an unstoppable force of positive energy and dueling prowess, is returning to the U.S.A as its first champion. Fortunately, we managed to speak to him for ten minutes before heading home.
For context, let me tell you a bit about Paulie. He’s been playing the Yu-Gi-Oh! TCG since 2006, with his first experiences in the game just playing with friends at his local TCG store and watching the anime series. All these years later and he’s no stranger to the competitive scene, with some top finishes and a couple of YCS wins already under his belt before the weekend’s Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship. Still, this is different. Now he’s the world champ.
The press gang first got the chance to speak to Paulie a little earlier in the weekend, just after he made the top eight. Here’s where we all, and I mean all, were instantly won over by the guy. Before he could even talk about his games, decks, and combos, he just gushed about having a great time and how many new friends he’d made. I don’t know how many competitive events you’ve been to, but those taking part aren’t usually primarily concerned with making acquaintances and joking around.
Paulie is not just your stereotype tunnel-vision player with nothing to say unless discussing the mind-boggling mega. Talking duels is something I love to do, especially considering this duelist’s piloting of the Dragon Link archetype, but speaking with the new champion is just a joy in itself. He truly loves this card game and has all the time in the world for his fellow duelists. And surprisingly, the press, too.
Even if I hadn’t thought it then, the grand final would prove the American’s skill and sweetness in a two-round game followed by potentially the best winner’s speech I’ve ever heard. So taken aback by the moment and his final round dominance, Paulie once again said how much he had enjoyed his first trip to Tokyo, how many new friends he was leaving with, and how much he owed to those that supported him back home. However, this time, he wasn’t speaking into my dictaphone, but a crowd full of thousands of Yu-Gi-Oh! fans.
Shortly after the closing ceremony, we got another chance to sit with Paulie, now as the Yu-Gi-Oh! World Champion for 2023. Once again, he was the same energetic and upbeat guy we’d met the day before, but this time with a palpable feeling of relief. The hands we watched shake from the top-down camera on stage were still. His first Worlds win was in the bag and clearly meant the world to him.
“It’s awesome,” he told us, taking a second to gather his thoughts. “I put so much time into practicing for this event. I never expected I could win. I hoped I would win. But I didn’t think it would happen.
“As soon as I qualified for Worlds, I’ve been practicing. My birthday was two days after the qualifying rounds in North America, and my friends were saying, ‘What do you want to do for your birthday?’ I said, ‘I can’t, I’ve got to practice, I can’t go anywhere’
“I mean, I could have, but the point is, I spent every day practicing. Now, I’m really excited and grateful and happy and all those things.”
I asked Paulie how it felt to come to Japan as a fan of the anime and leave as the new King of Games, thanks to his incredible Dragon Link deck and strategies.
“Coming to Asia for the first time, I had so much fun. I made so many new friends just from the other competitors. This week we had such a good time together.
“And then today, seeing the ceremony, I literally started crying watching them play the music on the stage. It was awesome, especially knowing I was a part of this.”
Finally, for all you wannabe Yu-Gi-Oh! World Champions out there, we got a bit of advice from the man himself. “Always stay focused in between rounds. Always eat and drink as much as you can in-between rounds and sleep.
“That’s the really important thing that people overlook a lot. I’m not just saying that. If I don’t get a good sleep for an event, I play badly. It really matters for events. So yeah, take care of yourselves and do your best.”
I don’t think we can find a better sentiment to close on our profile of 2023’s Yu-Gi-Oh! World Champion, Paulie Aronson. For full details on how the final round went down, check out our coverage of the Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship final. Or, if you’re a fan of the digital formats, check out our sister site’s results for the Yu-Gi-Oh! Master Duel World Championship final and Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Links World Championship final.