“Out of the Darkness, I’m Back in Action!” JPN Gallade’s Top 128 U.S. Nationals Report

I bet some of you might not remember me, but my name is Karol Nowak, more iconically known as JPN Gallade here on SixPrizes, PokéGym, and PokéBeach. I’m aware that it has been a very, very, VERY long while since I last wrote a report here, and that report was my Cities report from last year.

Now I’m in the Masters division, and boy, this year in Pokémon has been very interesting. Before I get to the main bulk of the report, it is time to look back this year in all of the tournaments that have led me up to the National Championships.


pokemon-paradijs.comIn September 2011, I entered the Masters division. Knowing how challenging the Masters division is (especially because here in Illinois we have some of the best players showing up to our tournaments), I really didn’t expect to do very well at first, but as the season progressed, it turned out I wasn’t doing so bad. During the first week in Battle Roads, I was running Tyram with no Ninetales, and later on, ZPST.

During Fall BRs, I had I pretty good season, with my worst tournament ending with a 3-3 record. Otherwise, in the rest of the BRs, I did pretty well, ending up with winning records. In two of the BRs, I bubbled, all because I got stupidly down paired on the last round, which really ticked me off as I didn’t gain any Championship Points yet.

November 2011 rolls by, and I take part in the Great Lakes Regionals tournament in Fort Wayne, Indiana, once again playing ZPST. I end up 6-2 in Swiss (one of my wins was a close game against Drew Holton) and make the top cut. I survive through top cut, and then I face Dustin Zimmerman in top 8, the undeafeted champion at the moment in the tournament. I thought I was going to lose at first, but I stayed calm, and I end up beating him to proceed into the top 4.

Upon that, it is here my Regionals run came to a close. I lost to Mike McElwain and his Donphan Prime/Zoroark BLW/Tornadus EPO/Zekrom BLW deck, a deck that I could tell was meant to counter both Primetime and ZPST. I lot of you might know about my games in top 4 as The Top Cut filmed them and posted them on YouTube, and as a lot of you saw, I made a ton of misplays.

It may be shocking that I did so many of them, but I’m going to tell you what really made me misplay so much: tremendous stress. Being a first year Master, I wasn’t used to dealing with the high amount of stress in a top 4 match at a giant tournament like Regionals, where there were 4 judges watching my games.

pokemon-paradijs.comIf you all really wanted to see some well-played games in my top cut matches that got me up to this point, you should’ve been there when I faced Dustin Zimmerman. I won’t get into much details about those games, but believe me, those games are worth watching compared to my top 4 games (too bad The Top Cut didn’t film them though). What I was glad about top 4, however, was that I finally got some Championship Points (6 to be exact), as well as good fame across the entire nation.

Cities pass by, and I didn’t actually play them until the Chicago Marathon started, which started on the last week of December. During my entire Cities run, I ran EelZone. At first, it only used Zekrom, but eventually, I incorporated Thundurus EPO into the deck for better results. On the first day of the Marathon, I took top 8 with the deck, where I ended up losing to Josh Wittenkeller (The JWittz) in top 8 to the mirror match only because he went first Game 1. From there, I had some decent Cities.

Once again, however, the unlucky bubble curse happened again in the Kenosha, WI, Cities. I bubbled that day only because one of my two opponents who beat me round 1 lost the last round, preventing me from top cutting at 4-2. Overall, I thought I did well though, and I obtained 3 more Championship Points.

States roll by, and I decided to play CMT, because it offers the same speed like ZPST. In Indiana States, I took 39th place with the deck, earning me 1 Championship Point. Illinois States happen shortly afterward, but I didn’t do so well to get points. With that, I decided to change decks, realizing that in the Midwest area, Zekeels dominated the metagame at the time.

As a result, I wanted to play Zekeels. I playtested it, did well in local tournaments with it, and thus decided to use it for the Midwest Spring Regionals in Wisconsin. Sadly, at Spring Regionals, I didn’t do so well to get the points once again.

With Regionals passed, it is time to get to Spring Battle Roads. It is here that my preparation for Nationals began.

Preparation for Nationals

"Darkrai begins to take shape!"Bulbapedia

Since I didn’t do so well with Zekeels, and a lot of CMT decks top cutted in WI Regionals, I thought, “Why not. Let’s go back to CMT and give it a go.” I play tested with it once again at my local league, and I decided to play it for Spring BRs. Day 1 and 2 I did somewhat well with it, but on both days, Darkrai variants dominated the field. My only wins to the Darkrai decks were only because my opponents had bad starts with them, which really didn’t prove much.

With Darkrai dominating the scene, I figured that I should join the Darkrai gang. I built a Darkrai EX/Tornadus EX/Mewtwo EX deck, the deck that has been winning the most Spring Battle Roads, and brought it to the Oconomowac, WI, Spring Battle Road. It was there I had my first major tournament win as a Master, notably defeating two very prominent players in top cut: Mike Lesky in top 4 and Yoshi Tate in top 2.

When I defeated Yoshi’s Mew Prime/Accelgor DEX/Vileplume UD deck, I really began to realize what a good deck Darkrai was. Compared to CMT, Darkrai can snipe away on the Vileplume when it has the chance to attack to the point of KOing it, and that’s what won me Game 2 in the tournament. I got well-adjusted with Darkrai at that point, so I play test with my Darkrai/Tornadus deck a little further and decide that this is going to be my deck for nationals.

While Darkrai/Tornadus/Mewtwo was proving to be a good deck, I began noticing how Zekeels was beginning to take a rise against the deck (the way how the deck plays out, it can drop Terrakion KOs on Darkrai at the least expected, and all of the lightning Pokémon in the deck counter Tornadus), so I had some Terrakion NVI and Fighting Energies at hand just in case.


pokemon-paradijs.comDad and I leave from home at 11:00 A.M. Chicago Time. We take a four hour drive (technically 5 because of the time zone change in losing an hour), and arrive at the Convention Center 4:30 PM Indiana time to successfully preregister for the tournament. We end up in the Yellow Flight, a.k.a., the hard flight (there are lots of good players in it, namely Ness, Dustin Z, Pooka, Drew H, and Ross C to name a few).

Afterward, I decide to go and play test for a little while. I meet up with a very nice guy named Calvin, who comes from the state of Colorado. He is running Zekeels/Terrakion, which I find perfect since I need practice against the deck. At the same time, he admits that it is also perfect for him because his deck needs practice against Darkrai decks.

We play a total of 4 games, where I alternate the deck around between Terrakion NVI and Tornadus EX. I only won 1 of the 4 games we played, although one of my losses was only because I whiffed on a Catcher out of a draw Supporter to potentially take the last 3 Prizes with Darkrai in the end.

It was at that moment that I realized that Terrakion was going to be the better play. I remember looking around the open gaming area and saw a ton of Zekeels/Terrakion decks as well, further making me realize that Tornadus wasn’t such a safe play for the tournament. I end up switching the deck around to make room for Terrakion.

pokemon-paradijs.comI then face a best 2 out of 3 game with Luke Selig, a prominent Illinois player who is only in his second year playing in the Master’s division. He is also running Zekeels/Terrakion, and we play some very good games. He wins Game 3 in the end, and we wish each other good luck and part.

I then run into Alejandro Luna, a very good Pokémon player from the Chicago Pokémon League. He is running Eelzone, and we play a very close game. He won in the end because I misplayed in not Night Spearing a Magnemite to win on prizes later on.

After all the last-minute play testing, I decide to head to the Hyatt, the hotel Dad and I are staying at for the next few days, and chill for a bit. I highly recommend you stay at the Hyatt the next time you go to Indianapolis for Nationals. The hotel is extremely fancy, very-well organized, and has a fantastic restaurant on the 21st, highest floor known as The Eagle’s Nest. They have delicious food to eat for dinner, and it offers a very scenic view of the entire city. The restaurant slowly rotates around so that you can stay seated and see all of the city, which was pretty cool.

Later that night, I noticed how I was getting bad draws and had to continuously discard cards with Ultra Ball, so I figured I had to go for some major consistency. I switch out the Ultra Balls in my deck and replace them with Dual Balls, and I cut out out a Mewtwo EX to make room for a 3rd Random Receiver. I really didn’t use Mewtwo that much, which is what made me decide to make the cut. In the end, these cuts ended up being the right decision, as I was able to get better consistency. Finally, I work out in the fitness room, shower up, and go to sleep.


hobbystoreshockwave.comDad and I wake up at 7:00 AM, eat up, and go to the tournament area just in time for the player’s meeting. I take my respective seat, and from there, I just listen to the announcements and chat with neighbors.

Notably sitting directly in front of me is Karl Kitchen, number 1 Pokémon Player from Utah, frequent Worlds competitor, and top 4 U.S. Nationals 2009. Sitting three tables down to my right is Justin Sanchez, last year’s U.S. National Champion. We engage in some pleasant conversations about previous tournament experiences.

We also hear that there are a total of 1,005 Masters this year, more than last year. Finally, we are dismissed, and we wish each other good luck and wait until the pairings finally go up. From there, we take our seats and the tournament begins.

Going back, to reiterate, the deck I’m using is Darkrai EX and Terrakion NVI with a single Mewtwo tech (a.k.a. I deck I like to call Dark Heroes). I will not post the decklist, but it was basically your standard Darkrai/Terrakion deck.

Also, for day 1, if you people don’t remember seeing me, I was wearing a white Zekrom T-Shirt (it had an oval with a yellow and black pattern behind the Zekrom) with short, baggy pants. My deck was using these really cool Ingo and Emnent sleeves from Japan (the ones you see pictured). With that, it is time for the moment you all have finally waited for: my matches in Nationals.

Round 1: Rodel F. (Zekeels)

I start with Darkrai to his Tornadus EX and Tynamo. Not a lot happens in the early turns of the game. I’m mostly attaching Energies to Darkrai, and I ended up playing down a Terrakion to safely use Professor Juniper. Not much happens with him either, but it turns out that he runs Zekrom-EX in his deck, which made me aware that I had to Knock it Out since it could potentially be troublesome with it’s high HP later on.

I eventually get the Darkrai set up and play down a Pokémon Catcher on his Tynamo to Knock it Out and damage the Zekrom-EX. He then sets up his Zekrom-EX very quickly and Catchers one of my Terrakions to Knock it Out with Strong Volt. I play down the Dual Ball and end up getting double tails. Desperate to get the Knock Out on Zekrom to take a prize lead, I play down a Professor Oak’s New Theory and get a Shaymin UL, which allowed to move Energies around to another Terrakion and Knock Out his Zekrom-EX.

From there, he begins to attack with his Tornadus EX and goes after the weaker Pokémon on my bench (those being Smeargle and Shaymin). Luckily, I manage to get Darkrai out once again and damage the Tornadus until it has 10 HP left on it (mainly with the help of PlusPowers, as it had and Eviolite attached).

I play down an N, and we both get bad hands. Luckily, I’m able to pull through sooner, while he doesn’t. That’s because I eventually top deck a Professor Juniper, and I play it right away. I get the card I need to win the game: a Pokémon Catcher. I Catcher a benched Eelektrik. I then “Night Spear” to KO both the Eelektrik and the benched Tornadus EX with 10 HP to take 3 Prizes and win. Good game Rodel!


Starting after this round, I began listening to music from my iPod in between rounds. Why did I do this? I’ve noticed that in the past, I was getting a little to excited or nervous as a tournament progressed. By listening to my favorite music, I was able to calm myself down and keep cool.

As an advice to do well in a big tournament like Nationals, do something that will relax your mind between rounds. It doesn’t have to be listening to music; it can also include playing your Nintendo 3DS and so many other things. By doing such things, you will ease your mind so that you will feel ready just like how you entered round 1. Staying calm and not getting too excited or nervous is a major factor in getting very far into a big tournament.

Now, back to the matches.

Round 2: Carver Waming (Zekeels)

pokemon-paradijs.comCarver is a Pokémon player from Illinois. He took second place in Illinois States two years ago, and he is still a good player. I’ve seen him before, as he has been showing up to some of the City Championships in my area. It also seems like that for the third time in a row, I end up going against someone from my own state during the main event in Nationals. Either way, I could tell I was going to be in for an interesting game. He also had a funny looking mat that he made himself depicting Spongebob with a heavenly face (the face comes from one of the newer episodes of the series).

Both of our starts are kind of iffy. I start with Terrakion (not an ideal start for my deck) to his Zekrom. I attach the Eviolite and the Fighting Energy to Terrakion and play down a Professor Oak’s New Theory, draw some cards, and pass. He start is worse than mine; he only benches a Tynamo and passes. I go and manage to attach a Dark Energy to Terrakion. Afterward, I Catcher the benched Tynamo and KO it with Terrakion. He then plays down another Tynamo to which I once again KO it a turn later.

I eventually take 3 Prizes, all thanks to my starting Terrakion. Sadly from there, my draw isn’t exactly the best, as I can’t nab Junk Arms to reuse certain items like more Pokémon Catchers, but I do get Darkrai out. At this point in the match, he starts to hit away with his Mewtwo EX on my Darkrai. Once again, I’m still not lucky with the draw, and the Darkrai goes down by his Tornadus EX.

I then play down a Shaymin to move energy around to a fresh Terrakion, and it is here that time is called. I’m turn 0, and I play down an N. I finally get a Junk Arm out of the 3 card N and use it to grab a Pokémon Catcher to KO his Mewtwo to take 2 Prize cards, leaving me at only 1 Prize card left, while he only has 4. He goes and KOs my Terrakion, but then I draw a Random Recevier and nab a Professor Juniper in order to obtain a Pokémon Catcher to KO his benched Zekrom using another Terrakion I had out and take the last prize. Good game Carver!


Lunch Break! Dad and I leave to eat at our hotel. We both have some pretty spicy spaghetti and manage to get back to the tournament right on time for round 3.

Round 3: Breton Brander (7th Place Finisher) (Darkrai/Mewtwo)

I end up going against another very nice Colorado guy, and as you read, he later ended up making top 8 in nationals that weekend.

He starts with his Smeargle to my Smeargle. He manages to grab a Darkrai and another Smeargle out of Dual Ball flips. He uses his Smeargles on the first turn in order to draw into a Junk Arm so that he can discard his supporters to prevent me from “Portraiting” him next turn, but he fails to obtain that needed card and passes.

I go and don’t do a lot other than load up Energy to Dakrai and pass. He goes and does basically the same thing, energizing his Darkrai. The turn after that, however, I’m able to pull out a fully loaded Darkrai turn 2 and KO Smeargles for the next two turns.

He gets out his Darkrai and damages my own Darkrai, and then a turn later, he is able to pull out a Mewtwo and a Shaymin. He plays down the Shaymin to move a lot of energies onto his Mewtwo and KOs my Darkrai.

Luckily, I had a Terrakion sitting on my bench, so I pull it out. I play down a PONT and a get a needed Fighting Energy and Pokémon Catcher to KO his benched Darkrai EX in order to maintain the prize lead. He retaliates with his Mewtwo once again to KO my Terrakion.

I now have to go for the Knock Out on his Mewtwo to win. I pull out Smeargle and play down Dual Ball. I get only one head, so I search for my Mewtwo and play it down. I Super Scoop Up my active Smeargle to pull up the other Smeargle so that I can be sure to draw into the Shaymin if I don’t get anything out of my own draw Supporters. I play down Professor Juniper and nab the Shaymin. YES! I move all the Energy to my Mewtwo with “Celebration Wind” and KO his Mewtwo to take the last 2 Prizes and win the match. Great game Breton!


Round 4: Jason Annichiarico (CMT/Terrakion)

pokemon-paradijs.comSo I’m sitting all the way up in Table 3 in this round. Holy cow! I later found out that my opponent is a prominent New Jersey Pokémon player. Seems like I’m going against more good Pokémon players!

I start Terrakion to his Terrakion and I manage to bench a Darkrai on the first turn and pass. He goes and manages to set up a small, decent bench with Celebi, Smeargle, and Terrakion. I damage around with my Darkrai early in the match on his Celebi and Terrakion. On his next turn, he drops down another anti-Darkrai card he uses (aside from Terrakion): A Potion. He uses it to remove all the damage off his Celebi so that it wouldn’t be KOd the turn after.

He also benches down another Terrakion, and from there, I damage away on the two Terrakions. I manage to get an Eviolited Terrakion of his down to 10 HP, and then the turn after that, I play a draw supporter, but I whiff on the Catcher needed to KO both Terrakions, so instead, I end up KOing one of the Terrakions and a Celebi. Luckily for me, he doesn’t get the needed PlusPower to KO my Darkrai, so I’m able to get another KO. He then brings out his Tornadus EX and finally KOs my Darkrai.

Now the match has gotten rough. Earlier into the game, I played a Juniper and had to risk 2-of my Darkrais in the discard. With the third Darkrai now KO’d, this is going to be a problem. I only have my Terrakions to attack, and in order to obtain the last 3 Prizes, I have to be able to have a Pokémon Catcher in my hand every turn so that I can KO the weaker Pokémon his bench, so this was a misplay that made the game much harder for me at this point.

On the plus side, this plan does come into action. I’m able to Pokémon Catcher around his Tornadus EX and KO a Shaymin UL. He then damages my energized Terrakion with his Tornadus EX once again. At this point, I need to hit a Super Scoop Up and a Shaymin to prolong the game a little longer. I manage to hit just those two cards off of a Juniper, where I then move all the Energy to my undamaged Terrakion. I’m also able to get heads on the Super Scoop Up to scoop up the damaged Terrakion and promote the fully loaded, undamaged Terrakion. I also obtain a Pokémon Catcher to use it on a benched Celebi of his and Land Crush it for the KO.

Now at this point, we are both down to 1 Prize card left on each side of the field. He plays down an N, and we both draw only 1 card. I can win if I get another Pokémon Catcher or a draw Supporter to give me the Catcher in order to take the last prize, but I don’t get any of that, and thus he wins. Fantastic game Jason!


Round 5: Amanda T. (Mirror Match: Darkrai/Terrakion/Mewtwo)

pokemon-paradijs.comShe starts with Smeargle to my Smeargle. She manages to play down a Terrakion and a Darkrai and passes. I go and manage to get out a Darkrai and a Terrakion. Shortly after, I’m able to set up Darkrai and KO her Terrakion, along with damaging her Mewtwo and Darkrai in the process.

One interesting thing about her deck compared to other Darkrai/Terrakion decks is that instead of Eviolite, she ran Exp. Share, which she used in order to preserve her Energy in the field. It helped especially in powering up her Mewtwo faster to the point of being able to KO my Darkrai using it.

Upon this, I know I have to retaliate with my Mewtwo, so I place it down on my bench. I use Smeargle’s “Portrait,” but she doesn’t have a draw Supporter in her hand; she also has a Pokémon Catcher at hand too, so I have to get the Shaymin out. I play down a PONT from my hand, but I whiff on the Shaymin, and I have to sadly let my Mewtwo go down on the following turn.

From there, I use my Darkrai to hit away on the Mewtwo and snipe her benched Darkrai. Eventually, I finally KO the Mewtwo. She pulls out her Darkrai and Pokémon Catchers my benched Terrakion and does 110 to it because it had a Dark Claw attached. The Terrakion, however, has a Dark Energy attached to it, and so I’m able to retreat it thanks to Darkrai’s Dark Cloak ability. I pull out my Darkrai once again, and I KO her Dark Clawed Darkrai, followed by some damage on another Darkrai of hers.

pokemon-paradijs.comNow I have 1 Prize card left, and I’m concerned if she’ll play down the N to reduce my hand to nothing. This also concerns me because I have a Pokémon Catcher in my hand, ready to the win the game. Luckily for her, she doesn’t have the N at hand, so I’m totally safe. Plus, out of the 2 Prizes I just drew, my hand has no N nor another draw Supporter, so her “Portrait” does nothing for her as well. She just damages my Darkrai a bit further and passes.

Upon that, I play down my Pokémon Catcher to bring out her Smeargle and KO it with Darkrai to take the last prize and win the game. Good game Amanda!


And with that, Day 1 of Nationals is over. Dad and I decide to go back to the hotel and rest up for a bit. We go to the mall for dinner and I play some DDR there for a workout. We go back to the Hyatt, workout even more at the fitness room, and rest up for the night.


Dad and I once again wake up around 7:00 and eat breakfast shortly afterward. We grab our stuff and are back in the tournament area at 8:30. We go to our respective seats for round 6 and wait until it is 9:50, when the tournament is set to start again. Once again, I’m wearing my white Zekrom t-shirt with the same short, baggy pants. Without further ado, it’s back into action for the Nationals fun!

Round 6: Andrew Spoelstra (CMT/Terrakion)

pokemon-paradijs.comI’m against another nice New Jersey Pokémon player, and it looks like he is running the same deck Jason used from round 4 (the two also know each other). However, one big difference between Andrew’s and Jason’s CMT lists’ is that Andrew’s version didn’t run Potion.

I start with Terrakion to his Celebi. I attach a Dark Energy to it and play down a PONT. I get a Dual Ball out of it and use it. I get only 1 head, so I search out for the Smeargle. I then use Super Scoop Up in an attempt to get Terrakion out of the active slot, but I get tails, so I Junk Arm for the the Dual Ball. This time, I get two heads, so I grab out two Darkrais. I then use Dark Patch to get a Darkness Energy card onto one of my Darkrais and pass. He goes and grabs a Terrakion and another Celebi.

I’m able to get a Darkrai fully loaded turn 2 and play a Pokémon Catcher on his Terrakion. I Night Spear it and a Celebi from there. He doesn’t do much the turn after, so I just go ahead and KO both the Terrakion and the Celebi for 2 Prize cards.

Once again, he still doesn’t do much, only this time, he benches a Tornadus EPO. I continue to hit away on another Terrakion and Celebi to take 2 more prizes. He then pulls out Tornadus EPO to the active slot and passes. I go and do 90 to it and pass.

Originally, he had been getting very unlucky with Dual Ball flips, but this time, it changed. He finally gets lucky with them and sets up a bench. He catches up from there. Going into my next turn, I successfully use Super Scoop Up on my damaged Darkrai and pull out a fresh one and KO his Tornadus EPO, along with a 30 snipe to his Celebi. He then gets out a Terrakion with Revive and Junk Arms for the PlusPower to KO my Eviolited, full HP Darkrai EX.

Luckily for me, I have another Darkrai on the bench. I play down a Professor Juniper and obtain a needed Junk Arm to grab a Dark Patch in order to power up my other Darkrai to pull it out and “Night Spear” the damaged Celebi on the bench for the KO to take the final prize. Good game Andrew!


This win made me happy in that the match somewhat made up for my loss against that very deck back in round 4.

Round 7: Stephen McGaffney (Darkrai/Tornadus)

pokemon-paradijs.comI’m all the way back to up to the top tables again, sitting at around table 7.

For once, I start with Mewtwo to his Smeargle. I play a Dual Ball and get two heads, so I go ahead and grab two Smeargle… only to find that out that both of them are prized. Not only that, but as I searched my deck, I also noticed that my Shaymin is prized. Boy, this is not good at all, and now I’m thinking this match might not be going anywhere. I end up grabbing a Darkrai and a Terrakion out of the Dual Ball instead.

I eventually have a Darkrai set up and I begin hitting away on his Tornadus EX that he managed to attack with non-stop. It is during this point in the match that he gets very lucky with Super Scoop Up flips on his Tornadus EX when it was ready to be KO’d (one instance being when it was only 10 HP from Knock Out, and boy, you don’t how upsetting it was when that Super Scoop Up worked). At the same time for him, he goes after my Darkrai without the Eviolite, and I get lucky with my Super Scoops Up in preventing him from taking a prize early on.

Also early in the match, we both have sluggish starts. As I suffer from having both of my Smeargles prized, he suffers from having sluggish draws despite playing draw supporters every turn. He eventually breaks out from his Tornadus attacking spree and starts to use Darkrai to attack. I have Terrakions benched just in case of a KO, as well as another Darkrai ready to attack. He does get the KO on one of my Darkrais, and so I prompt the other Darkrai and KO his. I also KO his Tornadus EX a little later into the match.

Time is then called. A little before the time announcement, he misplays in playing down a Professor Juniper, putting him on the very verge of getting decked out. Once the turn one on time goes to him, he decks out, as he has an N prized and a PONT that will draw out the remaining of his deck, thus showing that he has no way to get out of this grizzly situation. I also have the prize lead in the end too, and so I win. Good game Stephen!


Round 8: Zachary Bowers (CMT/Terrakion)

pokemon-paradijs.comHe starts with a Celebi active and a Mewtwo benched, while I start with Darkrai. He doesn’t do much on his first turn. He just benches a Terrakion with a Fighting Energy and an Eviolite attached and passes. I have no Supporters in my hand, and it’s like that for the next several turns. All I can do in the early turns is just attach energy to Darkrai.

His start is just as sluggish, and he ends up having to move the Energy onto his Mewtwo with Shaymin’s help just to get the attacking started. At that moment, I get the final energy onto Darkrai and begin “Night Spearing” the Mewtwo to pull off a 2HKO.

His draws are still very bad. He is unable to use “Retaliate” from his Terrakion, so he leaves it on the bench. The turn after that, that’s when the game changed for my favor: I top deck a Juniper and end up playing it. This ended up being very risky as I had to lose 3-of my Junk Arms in the process, but I had to keep the lead at all costs, so the Juniper had to be played. I get the Pokémon Catcher out of it and use it on his Terrakion and hit away on it and the Celebi until they are both KOd.

His draw is still bad, so he scoops, giving me the win. It didn’t really matter anyway. I was already setting up a Mewtwo on the bench, and I had the Darkness Energy ready to KO another Mewtwo he had out or the last 2 Prizes. Sorry you had to have such a rough game, but it was still a good game Zachary!


At this point, I’m now in the top cut, so it doesn’t matter if I win or lose next round. I felt pretty happy about that.

Round 9: Chad Miller (Missouri State Champion) (Zekeels/Terrakion)

Yep, you heard that. I faced the Missouri State Champion on the final round of Swiss. This was also my first match in the entire tournament (aside from Thursday) that I was finally going to face a Zekeels with Terrakion.

He starts with a lone Tynamo to my Darkrai, but he manages to pull out a Smeargle, a Zekrom, and another Tynamo. I go and play down a Terrakion and a Smeargle out of a Dual Ball. The early game mostly consisted of us simply setting up. His start is faster than mine, however, as he is able to get out two Eelektriks in one turn. I’m able to use Terrakion in the early game to KO his Eelektriks, followed by a Zekrom.

After both of my Terrakions go down, I begin to attack with Darkrai and pull off another KO. He then manages to get out a Terrakion and sets it up (along with the needed PlusPower) the same turn to KO my Darkrai in return.

Time is then called in the end, and I pull out Smeargle in hopes of him having a PONT in his hand so that I can get a Dark Energy for another Darkrai, but he has Juniper instead, and thus I deck out. It didn’t really matter either way though. I could tell that he had the right cards in the end to pull off the last KO to take the final prize and win. Oh well, good game Chad!


The Swiss rounds are finally over, so all I can do is just linger around until standings are posted. During this time, The Play! Pokémon staff says that there will be deck checks and everyone must come back at 1:50 PM for top cut, but by the time all of the rounds are done, it was already 1:30, so I figured that they must extend the lunch break to a later time, which ended up happening as it turned out.

The standings from each flight finally come up, and it turns out that I ended up in the 27th seed in the yellow flight. I felt really happy about being that high in standings. I would’ve been up there around the top 10 in Swiss, however, if I won my last round against Chad Miller, who ended up in the 4th seed in the yellow flight. When both flights were merged, I ended up at the 54th seed, which was still considered to be pretty high. Other players from Illinois who made top 128 cut include Vincent Blasko, Isaac Soto, Jimmy Ballard, Toby Nelson, and Nik Nikodem.

Because they have to merge the flights during lunch break, I do not know who will be my top 128 opponent yet. I organize my deck ready for deck checks… only to find out that they decided not to do so. Wow, really dumb. I then have to sit down alone and pile shuffle my deck several times because of being fooled.

Dad and I finally go for lunch at 2:00 and eat a quick Subway and hurry back. While lunch break technically started at 1:45 P.M, it was still too short; in fact, it was much shorter than day 1’s too. There was only about 45 minutes to each lunch. Really, really, really dumb if you ask me.

Luckily, I make it on time for top 128 cut. I take my seat and find out my opponent is Toby Natale. We engage in a good conversation, and I learn that it is also his first year in Masters as well. He took top 16 in last year’s Nationals as a Senior, so I could tell I was going to be facing another good player. He is also from the state of New Jersey, and knows my previous two New Jersey opponents. What a connection! We then shuffle up, set up, and begin the top cut matches.

Top 128: Toby Natale (Zekeels/Terrakion)

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comHe starts and manages to get a rather decent set up and passes. As for me, I have Darkrai active. I play down Dual Ball and search my deck… only to find that both of my Terrakions are prized. Great, another Prize card mishap. I have to grab two Smeargles out of the Dual Ball instead. I also know that right now, the only Pokémon that will be getting me far into this match is Darkrai, and I have to start attacking with it very early in order to get the advantage.

The only thing I end up doing is KOing an Eel he eventually managed to pull out, but he ends up nabbing the Terrakion and gets a needed PlusPower out of a draw supporter and KOs my Darkrai.

From there, with both of my Terrakions still prized, I can’t do much. Later in the match, I manage to get out another Darkrai and pull off a KO on two Pokémon of his with “Night Spear”, which is when I finally got one of my Terrakions out of my Prize cards. As for him, he is able to set up a Mewtwo and hits away from there.

I have no way to counterattack the Mewtwo. I could have been able to do so with my Mewtwo, but I discarded my Shaymin thanks to using Smeargle’s “Portrait” when he only had a Juniper in his hand earlier in the match. Yet, it really didn’t matter either. He had the Pokémon Catcher in his hand to KO one of my bench Pokémon to take the last prize and win in the end.



Game 2

I start the game this time with my Darkrai. I play down Dual Ball and get two heads, so I grab out 2 Smeargle in hopes of getting a good set up to potentially get an early Darkrai to take the speed advantage. Sadly, this does not happen. He goes and grabs out 2 Tynamos and a Zekrom and passes. I do set up my Darkrai and pull off the KO on one of his Tynamos, but then he is able to pull out an Eelektrik, Terrakion, and a PlusPower and KOs my Darkrai, which had an Eviolite on it.

Despite one Darkrai going down, I’m able to charge up another one and hit away on the Terrakion and a benched Eelektrik, but then he gets another Fighting Energy onto it and gets yet another needed PlusPower and KOs my Darkrai with “Land Crush”.

Now I have to counter back with my Terrakion to keep up (yes, both of my Terrakions aren’t prized. Thank goodness!), but I whiff the needed Shaymin out of a Professor Juniper, so I have to proceed with another Darkrai of mine to KO both the Terrakion and a benched Eelektrik for 2 Prizes.

He then pulls out a Tornadus EX, plays a Pokémon Catcher on one of my Smeargle, nabs yet another PlusPower, and KOs the Smeargle using “Blow Through”. I’m able to go for a Revenge KO thanks to a Pokémon Catcher of mine to take yet another prize, but in the end, he had another Pokémon Catcher in his hand, and so he Knocks Out another Smeargle to take the final prize. Awesome games Toby!

0-2 (7-3 Overall)

elementswithin.wordpress.comAnd so, my Nationals run ends. I end up in 90th place overall. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t go beyond top 128, but that didn’t matter. I wish Toby good luck and sit with my Illinois friends from league. A lot of the Illinois players lost in top 128 too, those players being Vincent Blasko, Toby Nelson, Isaac Soto, and Nik Nikodem. Only Jimmy Ballard is able to make it through top 128, but he ends up losing in top 32 to Dallen Fell.

A lot of my opponents in Swiss and top cut ended up doing very well too. Zachary Bowers and Stephen McGaffney both make it to top 128, only to end up losing there. Jason Annichiarico and Chad Miller make it all the way to top 64. Toby Natale makes it all the way to top 16 but loses to Carl Scheu IV, and as all of you already know, Breton Brander manages to make it all the way to the top 8 and earns himself an invite to Worlds (he notably defeated Ness in top 32 and Harrison Leven in top 16 before losing to Kevin Nance in top 8).

That night, with nationals over, Dad and I eat dinner at The Eagle’s Nest restaurant in the Hyatt. We then go back down and workout at the fitness room for a little bit. Finally, we go to our room and sleep.


I really didn’t do much that day. I showed up at around 11:00 A.M. since I didn’t have to wake up early for top 16. I stay around and watch the top 4 matches in masters. Once the top 4 matches were finished, Dad and I decide to leave and hit the road back home. We leave Indianapolis at around 1:00 and arrive back in Illinois at around 5:15 P.M. Chicago Time. Man, what an awesome time at Nationals this year!


  • Making top cut in the largest Pokémon tournament in history!
  • The tournament being extremely well-organized
  • The staff being fantastic
  • Awesome matches in Swiss
  • Staying at the Hyatt
  • Skywalks (you gotta’ love them!)
  • Meeting old faces, as well as new ones
  • Meeting Adam from SixPrizes again
  • Making the right move in switching out Tornadus EX for Terrakion (improved my Zekeels matchup so much)
  • Smeargle (no wonder you’re still amazing)
  • Professor Juniper (helped me in so many games)
  • Pokémon Catcher (helped me in so many games)
  • John Roberts II for winning with Klinklang EX
  • Kevin Nance for taking 2nd with Zekeels with no Terrakion
  • Jay Hornung and Chris Murray for taking top 4
  • Carl Scheu IV and Breton Brander for taking top 8
  • Toby Natale and John Kettler for taking top 16
  • Zachary Mirman for taking top 32
  • Jimmy Ballard for taking top 32
  • Vincent, Toby, Isaac, Nik, and I for representing top 128 cut in the masters division for Illinois
  • Jacob H. for representing top 64 cut in the Senior division for Illinois
  • Xander P. and Wesley H. for representing top 32 cut in the junior division for Illinois


  • Not getting ANY reward for top 128 cut: no Championship Points, no boosters (really P!P? really?)
  • Opponents playing Zekeels/Terrakion always getting the PlusPower when they needed it
  • Lunch Break being quite short Day 2 (Pokémon, you seriously need to extend lunch break a little longer next year)
  • Not meeting a lot of new PokéBeach/SixPrizes/PokéGym users compared to my previous years in Nationals
  • Stephen Matz for taking 68th place in the blue flight (I feel your pain man)
  • Sarah M. for bubbling in the junior division (I feel your pain too)


pokemon-paradijs.comOverall, I really enjoyed Nationals this year. I had a great time and definitely didn’t regret it. Also, now that I took top cut in the largest Pokémon tournament in history, and if you look back at my achievements this year so far, could you say I had an overall good year as a first year Master? I’ll leave that all up to you. For me, I think I had a pretty decent season.

As for Worlds? Well, I have some good news. It looks like I’ll be going to Worlds at this rate to play in Grinders. I’m already trying to figure what will be the right play, and I can tell you that consistency is absolutely key in surviving this daunting tournament, so I know I’m looking for that kind of deck.

Unfortunately, there won’t be any Illinois masters playing in Worlds this year, but in the lower age groups, we will have a good amount of players representing Illinois at worlds. Xander P, Wesley H, Joey R, and Sarah M will represent Illinois in the junior division, while Ben M. and another Senior (appears as c_c on the rankings; look it up) will represent Illinois in the Senior division.

If I lose in Grinders, I won’t mind. I already have a vacation-esque plan for Hawaii already, so it is all right. See you all there, and best of luck to anyone who is participating in Worlds-Grinders!

Reader Interactions

10 replies

  1. Oliver Barnett

    Nice report man, very relatable due to it being my first year in masters (taking Top 16 at UK nationals at the end) a tip I can give you is play a deck with MAX consistency. Do it and I assure you that you will go far :)

    • Karol Nowak  → Oliver

      Thanks! Like I said at the end of my report, the deck I’m looking for is something of good consistency, but I’ll take your advice too. =)

        • Karol Nowak  → Papa_Mash

          Interesting, didn’t know that. Thanks for the info! He appears to be an excellent player too. The last time I checked, he was on page 1 of the rankings (by CP). I’m glad that Illinois is getting even more good players. =)

  2. bowser

    Good run!! I liked DMT to win it all, but JRII just perfected Klinklang to the max. Your article was a little long, but informative overall. Thanks

    • Karol Nowak  → bowser

      Thanks man! Yeah, I didn’t even expect to win nationals anyway. I’m sure that there were going to be decks in top cut that could easily counter my deck (John Roberts II being a very good example).

  3. Calvin Nordberg

    Hey man, this is Calvin. Great article! And great job at Nats! It was a priviledge to play test with you. Hope to see you next year man! :)

    • Karol Nowak  → Calvin

      Thanks Calvin! It was awesome play testing against you too! Definitely can’t wait to see you next year! =D

      By the way, do you actually know Breton Brander? I’m just asking because he’s from Colorado too, and in my case, I know most people from my state, but not everyone.

      • Calvin Nordberg  → Karol

        I dont know him too much on a personal level. but I know who he is and I know hes been in the game for a long time now, and he’s one of our best

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