It Might Not Be Good But At Least It Will Be Pretty

Jay’s 3rd Place 2012 US Nationals Report

cedarpoint.comAs I’m sitting here writing this right after Nationals I really don’t know what to say. This past weekend has been just a rollercoaster of emotions and wild rides. I finished 3rd at the United States National Championships in a field of 1,005. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t a little bittersweet. I really wanted the title and I didn’t get it. I would also be lying if I said the paid trip to Hawaii didn’t help to ease the pain.

Most players consider “big wins” as US National Top 4’s and Worlds Top 4’s. This was my 3rd “big win” and something that I personally take a lot of pride in. I also really wish I could take the credit for it, but the truth is I really can’t. My brother deserves most of the credit because I wouldn’t be anything if it wasn’t for him.

So thank you Tim for giving me somebody to throw ideas around with and helping me get ready for Nationals. I’ll even over look the fact that you didn’t care enough to call or text me to find out how I was doing until Saturday night.

I also have so many amazing friends and I couldn’t have done it without them. There is such a long list of people and I’ll certainly try and hit on a few of them throughout this article, but I know I can never thank you all enough. A very short list would be my brother, Sam Liggett, Gino Lombardi, Alex Frezza, and Con Le. If it wasn’t for these 5 people I wouldn’t be sitting where I am today.

To start off, I need to say a few things and make a few corrections.

pokemon-paradijs.comFirst I want to sincerely apologize to Jeremy Jallen and Ashon Haswell. Both of my Top 16 and Top 8 matches were back and forth and down to the wire. After both matches I certainly over celebrated and I’m sure I came across as a total jerk. I truly apologize for this and I always strive to be a great guy and a great player and in that order. This was certainly not how I acted at the time and once again I sincerely apologize.

Next, in the deck profile I did with Crim I made two errors. First I said, “I played the 3rd Mewtwo because many of the Colorado players were playing 3.” This simply was not the case as many of them are my friends and I was not directly teching for them. I was trying to say was I didn’t realize how popular the deck was people in New Jersey, Colorado and other players were playing the deck as well as people in the open gaming room I had never seen before. I felt since different people in different areas were playing the deck it might be more popular than I realized.

The second thing was I said I won my Top 64 match because my opponent didn’t realize that I played 3 Mewtwo EX. This simply was not true as I had played Zach Bivens in Swiss and we were both well aware of the fact that we each played 3 Mewtwo EX. I actually only won game 2 because Zach had prized his 3rd Mewtwo EX. This was really a case of me just not thinking when I spoke.

I know these corrections may seem minor to you, but it’s very important to me to set the record straight. A lot of these people are my friends and I don’t want them to think I’m giving bad information. Going along with these Nationals is such a long tournament details and matches sometimes run together or get mixed up. If I’ve made a mistake anywhere in this article let me know.

The Article

pokemon-paradijs.comHaving Worlds in Hawaii also creates a very interesting dilemma as far as article writing goes. Only a handful of players are making the long (and expensive) trip to Hawaii to either compete in the World Championships or do their best to grind in. For the rest though, this season has drawn to a close with the end of US Nationals and they already have their eyes set on next season.

What this means is some people want to hear about what did well at Nationals and what the best play is for the Grinders and Worlds. The other group wants to hear about the BLW-on format and what decks are going to be big and what cards they should stockpile to get an early edge heading into next season. I feel it’s very important for me personally to be very focused on this format and preparing for Hawaii.

I know other writers though have their eyes set on next season already and have their articles more geared toward that. I feel this should really offer the readers a good balance between the two topics. All of this being said though, while I want to remain focused on this format I also want to make it so people looking forward to BLW-on can get good information out of the article as well.

I plan on talking about in-game decisions in this article and other strategies like that which will carry over to next season. I also think this article is considerably longer than what I normally write because I really want to talk about how I arrived at my deck choice, give a good tournament report and also look at the Grinders/Worlds.

pokemon-paradijs.comTournament reports that read as “It was close…I won” don’t give a lot of information. My plan is to hopefully go more in depth in some game and also talk about some interesting plays and deck choices that my opponents made. Of course some matches are a bit “fuzzier” than other, but I’m going to do my best.

All I ask is please understand the dilemma that we face as writers. If you’re looking for really good BLW-on articles, some writers are going to cover that while other are going to bring you good articles on getting ready for Grinders/Worlds.

Getting back to the article though I really wasn’t lying when I said I had no idea what to play for Nationals. In fact this entire format really left me at a loss and I think it really showed in my last few articles, which I didn’t consider up to par with my normal high standard.

I had played in 3 Battle Roads and won all 3 with different Darkrai variants: Straight Darkrai, Darkrai/Tonardus, and Darkrai/Terrakion. All 3 of these Battle Roads were smaller (I think the largest was 22 people) and I didn’t consider them accurate representations of a National metagame.

I actually ruled out straight Darkrai relatively early since I felt it was just so hard to beat anything with Terrakion in it. Especially if you went second and they were able to get that turn 1 Energy drop under a Terrakion.

While I didn’t limit myself only to Darkrai variants, there was simply so much support for the deck I was pretty sure it was the direction I was going to end up going. This left me with what I considered 2 viable deck choices for Nationals: Darkrai/Tornadus and Darkrai/Terrakion.

I want to start out by sharing my Darkrai/Terrakion list.

Pokémon – 11

4 Smeargle UD
3 Darknessrai-EX
2 Terrakion NVI
1 Mewtwo-EX
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 39

4 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 Professor Juniper
3 N
4 Random Receiver

 

4 Junk Arm
4 Dark Patch
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Eviolite
3 Dual Ball
2 Energy Switch
1 Switch
1 Super Rod
1 Energy Search
1 Potion

 

2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 11

7 Darkness [Basic]
4 Fighting

pokemon-paradijs.comIt was honestly Colin’s huge article on Darkrai that originally turned me on to this deck. I really disagreed with some of his card choice like the 3 Super Scoop Up, but I really liked a majority of the list and really agreed with a lot of his thinking. I built it and tested it for about a week before feeling good enough to take the list to a Battle Roads. The tournament itself was weird because there weren’t really very many good Darkrai decks there, but in both Top 4 and the Finals I played against ZPST and Eelektrik/Terrakion, so pretty ironically it turned out to be a good play.

In testing the first week the deck ran pretty well and only had a couple of issues with drawing dead. That Battle Roads however I got a couple of pretty bad hands that worked themselves out. I also got lucky both times and it was in favorable matchups where my opponents also got a slower start. Had my opponent gotten faster setups I could have been in real trouble.

This was the main deck I tested leading up to Nationals for several weeks after this Battle Roads. I kept making little changes to the deck in attempts to make it more consistent, but every few games I just kept getting that horrid hand. About a week before Nationals I realized I couldn’t go into that long of a tournament with a deck that would give me a “you lose” hand 1 in 5-6 games even if it played beautifully the rest of the games.

With a week before Nationals I knew I had to find a new deck and I had no idea what to do which is something I found very ironic since I had just told everybody in my last article it was so important to have their deck choice narrowed down. Coming around the second time I knew consistency had to be a major focus in my deck choice. This ultimately brought me to what I considered to be the best and most well rounded deck in the format Darkrai/Tornadus.

I figured it was fast, consistent, and had some pretty even matchups across the board. I hadn’t tested the matchup, but my friends told me Terrakion/Eelektrik was a tough one. I figured even if it was though my speed would give me a close to 50-50 match up against the deck. Anyone who saw me in the open gaming room on Thursday probably saw me testing this.

Pokémon – 11

4 Smeargle UD
3 Darknessrai-EX
2 Tornadus-EX DEX
1 Mewtwo-EX
1 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 36

3 Professor Juniper
3 Professor Oak’s New Theory
3 N
3 Random Receiver

 

4 Junk Arm
4 Dark Patch
3 Ultra Ball
3 Pokémon Catcher
2 Switch
2 PlusPower
2 Eviolite
1 Dark Claw
1 Max Potion

 

2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

9 Darkness [Basic]
4 Double Colorless

pokemon-paradijs.comI really wasn’t messing with any of you or trying to mislead you when I said in my last article I thought Darkrai/Tornadus was the most well rounded play for the tournament. The list I posted was my speed/consistency version of the deck and this list was basically taking the same concept but adding in a bit of techs.

The only really big issue I had with this deck is I cut down to 2 Bridge and I couldn’t believe how much it dropped the likely hood of hitting turn 1 Tornadus EX. I’m not entirely sure why it affected it so dramatically, but had I played this deck in the tournament I would have had a 3rd Bridge.

I ultimately decided against the deck for a few different reasons, first off it just seemed so vanilla. It was fast and consistent, but there really wasn’t anything special about it. The deck also had a lot of trouble pushing over large attackers late in the game. Actually last minute testing made me realize how often I was using Mewtwo EX to try and keep things in a 2HKO range where otherwise would have been unable to do with the deck.

Lastly, like I said, I just wasn’t hitting Turn 1 Tornadus EX enough, which was originally the ultimate reason for me to play the deck. If I couldn’t get this deck to be faster than other Darkrai variants than there was really no good reason for me to play the deck. This is where I found myself at 7 PM on Thursday with no deck to play and not even a clue of what I should play.

Darkrai/Mewtwo EX

Pokémon – 11

3 Darknessrai-EX
3 Mewtwo-EX
3 Smeargle UD
2 Shaymin UL

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper
4 N

1 Professor Oak’s New Theory

3 Random Receiver

 

4 Junk Arm
4 Dark Patch
3 Eviolite
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Ultra Ball
2 PlusPower
2 Switch
1 Dual Ball
1 Max Potion

 

1 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

9 Darkness [Basic]
4 Double Colorless

Once people had a general breakdown of the Pokémon lineup, namely the 3 Mewtwo EX, the rest of the list really just kind of fell into place, also everybody could watch the Top 4 video and get a good idea of the list. This is why I really didn’t consider the list “Top Secret” and volunteered to do the deck breakdown with The Top Cut.

I thought it would be a good chance to advertise for SixPrizes and show what we offer and at the same time I think they are doing such an amazing thing by promoting this game. I’ll drop the link for the video below, but basically I talk about the deck and why I made certain card choices I did.

Instead of reiterating a lot of the video I thought I would give a quick history of the deck. I have a very small group of people that I talk about decks with. Sam Liggett is one of them and Sam and I have talked about decks all year. We really don’t build decks together from the ground up, rather we help each other fine tune decks. I personally believe having somebody to bounce ideas off of is far more important than having someone hand you deck lists.

I was basically set within a few cards on my Zekrom/Eelektrik deck before Wisconsin States. Sam went over it with me and talked me out of Terrakion and talked me into play a more consistent list which is something that I think ultimately helped me win that day.

Sam had sent me a rough copy of the list earlier in the week and told me that it was something his friends in New Jersey were working on and asked me what I thought about it because it was something he was considering to play. The concept seemed so stupidly obvious I couldn’t believe that it hadn’t come out before. I made a few of my own changes and quickly built the deck.

I played a match with it against Darkrai/Tornadus (my current frontrunner) and some bad luck lost me game 1, some good luck won me game 2, and I just flat out lost game 3. It wasn’t just the outcome of the game that bothered me, rather how the deck played as well that I didn’t like. This was honestly the only match I played with the deck before Indy and I pretty quickly threw it aside in favor of working on my Darkrai/Tornadus and Darkrai/Terrakion lists.

I later find out that the original creation of the deck was that of the Diaz brothers and 6P member NJ_Bob. The idea is something that they have been working on and tweaking for the past couple of months. I always find it really interesting to hear the history of decks especially ones that I end up playing. I just really want to make it clear that I made a few of my own changes to the deck, but the idea is completely all theirs and I had nothing to do with it.

A quick note that I would like to make is that I really did live by what I wrote in my last article. I truly feel it’s just so important to make any deck you play your own in some way or another. I played a list that differed from the one Sam had showed me earlier in the week. Going along with this, Breton Brander ended up Top 8’ing Nationals with a list different than mine.

Over the weekend I became aware of some of the choices that Brett made and I’m fully convinced I wouldn’t have done as well with his list. Just as I’m convinced that he would not have done as well with mine. This is mainly due to differences in play style as well as what we feel comfortable with. This is why direct net decking without a strong grasp on the deck ultimately fails.

Indy Bound

pokemon-paradijs.comMy friend works nights, so our brilliant plan was to leave at 11 PM Wednesday night and drive out all night then get there early Thursday morning. My friend drove and I got to sleep the whole time, so I chipped in a bit more for gas (quite possibly the best $20 or so dollars I’ve ever spent). Of course nothing ever goes as planned so we actually didn’t end up leaving till about 12:30 AM. About 1 AM we realize that neither one of us has GPS on us so we use my friends phone for directions.

About 2 AM we realize our short cut is not much of a short cut and our 8 hour trip is looking more like 9 and half. At 2:45 AM I realize that I, for some reason, can’t fall asleep and at the next gas station I buy some sleeping pills. I had never tried them before, but I really need sleep and figured over the counter stuff couldn’t be too bad.

At 3:15 AM I realized that these sleeping pills don’t work and I’m still wide awake. I eventually manage to catch some light sleep and we stop for breakfast at 7 AM still 3-4 hours outside of Indy. The rest of the drive is pretty uneventful and I do manage to catch a few more hours of sleep.

Once we get to Indy I head down to the convention center and check it out and eventually meet up with the people I’m staying with. I drag all of my stuff to hotel room grab something quick to eat for lunch and head back down to start testing. I play a half dozen or so games with Darkrai/Tornadus and don’t hit Turn 1 Tornadus in any of them. My win percentage isn’t half bad though and I think it was somewhere around 70% (for who I was testing with this wasn’t bad).

pokemon-paradijs.comHowever, I realized if I wasn’t hitting the Turn 1 Tornadus then I really had no reason to play this deck over another Darkrai variant. Straight Darkrai was too vulnerable to Terrakion and Terrakion/Darkrai was too inconsistent. So I came full circle back to Darkrai/Mewtwo.

A few things had changed when I heard the Colorado players were all playing the deck as well as a few other player in the gaming room. This made me feel like the deck was less secret and made me feel better about using it.

Everybody has their own set of morals that they feel comfortable with doing. Personally if somebody shows me a list and goes “can you help me fine tune it” I don’t want to take the idea and show up to the next tournament with it. I of course told Sam it looked really good on paper and I was going to consider playing it. I left the convention center and some friends and I went and ate at Noodles and Company before heading back to the hotel.

When we got back to the hotel room I switched my Darkrai/Tornadus back over to Darkrai/Mewtwo and Eli and I played a few games. I won the 3 games we played, but they were all really close. I went back down to the convention center at around 10 PM just to see what was going on. I ended up playing a few more games with my friends from New England. I ended up winning those few as well, but they were all super close and I got some lucky breaks.

At about 2 AM I realize I have nothing else to play and decide to just bite the bullet and play it. Despite feeling like I was just getting lucky in my wins the deck was still winning and I just had to hope that my luck would last a bit longer.

It Might Not Be Good But At Least It Will Be Pretty

pokemon-paradijs.comI get down to the convention center early and find Kettler who I pay $16 to upgrade my Mewtwo EX to FA one so I had 3 for the day. The title was a joke that I was actually going to put as my Facebook status, since most of my deck was Full Art. I forgot my phone in the hotel room though and when I went back for lunch I was actually 3-0 so I decided I better hold off.

I’m going to do my best to make this tournament write up as informative and accurate as possible. However, this was a long weekend and some of the details are fuzzy. If you feel I’ve misrepresented any game or that you can add more detail then by all means please let me know. I’ve also done my best to track down the names of the people I played, but I didn’t get all of them. If anyone could help me feel these in I would really appreciate it as it is something I would really like to know personally.

I also included a bit of detail on my weekend outside of the main tournament. I know it’s not really UG material, but I always find reports with extra detail more interesting to read.

Round 1: Bye

I got a round 1 bye for winning States and the bye counts as perfect resistance. Basically what this means is that I can top at 6-3 regardless of which rounds I lose in. I only saw 1 person have a round 1 bye and miss top cut and a considerable more make it in when they might not have.

I think the round 1 bye is fair, but I do feel the 2 round bye from Regionals should only be reserved for the winner. Going 4-3 to top cut US Nationals seems pretty crazy and being able to go like 2-2 in other countries with smaller Nationals is just insane.

1-0

Round 2 vs. Jacob Wagner with Darkrai EX/Terrakion NVI

thecollegeathleteblog.blogspot.comI started behind this game and he got a quick and early prize lead on me. Playing from behind against this deck can be very difficult since once they get the first Darkrai powered up they have free attachments for the Terrakion. So what the game degenerates into is them with an active Darkrai putting pressure on you and a benched Terrakion ready for the response KO.

He also benched Mewtwo EX which simply made the situation worse. He takes the first two prizes thanks to his faster set up. I bring up Mewtwo EX and hit his Darkrai EX and he responds by retreating and KOing me with his Mewtwo EX (2-6 his lead).

At this point I realize that I’ve most likely lost and need to go for the Hail Mary. He has Terrakion on the bench which means that I can’t win this game with Darkrai so I use Shaymin to put all of my Energy on my 2nd Mewtwo EX and N him to 2 cards and me to 6. I KO his Mewtwo EX with mine narrowing the prize gap slightly (2-4). He doesn’t draw much and basically passes to me the next two turns are me taking down a Smeargle and Catcher KOing a Terrakion to tie the game up at 2-2.

blacksportsonline.comDuring these turns I know I’m basically going for broke so I keep dropping Energy under the Mewtwo EX. I think at this point I’m up to 7 or 8 Energy total under the Mewtwo EX. Once he’s forced to bring up Darkrai EX I’m actually able to 1HKO it for game.

2-0

Afterward I found out that he played 2 Mewtwo EX and 1 Super Rod so I dodged a bullet by him not being able to draw into that second Mewtwo EX and Shaymin/Energy Switch/Junk Arm.

I also want to point out how I was behind this whole game and to be perfectly honest I didn’t even think I was going to win it. Despite that though I remained calm, played smart, and was consistently looking for a way back into this game. Once my opportunity came I took it even though it was a Hail Mary it paid off in the end.

These come-from-behind wins happened the entire weekend and I saw them again and again. It’s just so important to remain focused and stay calm regardless of the situation. Don’t get overconfident if you’re winning (my opponent didn’t) and don’t give up when you’re losing.

Round 3 vs. Zekrom/Eelektrik

pokemon-paradijs.comI would say her variation of the deck was actually pretty standard and played Terrakion. Her start was rather fast, but the fact that she couldn’t really get any Lightning Energy in the discard pile made the start of the game very slow for her. My normal strategy in this matchup is to avoid taking prizes for as long as possible and simply let the board damage add up. This took me out of range of Terrakion and allowed me to set up double KO on Eelektrik.

If I was able to place the 30 damage from Night Spear on Eelektrik twice then I could Catcher a second Eelektrik and KO both. This play was extremely good if it was preceded by an N. My plan really went off unanswered as she wasn’t really able to draw much over the course of the game, but the prize count was still really close.

The lack of Energy in her discard pile helped a lot plus the fact that she never could get a Terrakion at the right time was the big deciding factor.

3-0

Round 4 vs. Zach Bivens with Zekrom/Eelektrik

When I saw the pairs I quickly recognized Zach as a player in the Top 10 in rankings in NA heading into this event. This didn’t really change how I did anything, but I knew I definitely wasn’t in for an easy match. Zach lays down 1 Basic and when I win the coin flip I start running situations where I could possibly donk him. He flips over Zekrom though and these thoughts are very short lived. I went for a first turn Portrait and Zach reveals his hand of double Tynamo and N, which I gladly accepted.

pokemon-paradijs.comNote: Its seems that most Zekrom/Eelektrik players would hold the Tynamos in the opening hand if they also opened with a high HP basic. They of course ran the risk of getting N used on them, but it protected their Tynamos from first turn knock outs.

The game quickly degenerated down into a Mewtwo war which I couldn’t believe and gladly accepted. I assumed Zach played 2 Mewtwo EX and assumed I only played 1 or 2. In this situation I would end up winning out on the Mewtwo exchanges, my heart dropped a bit when I saw that he actually played 3. I got very fortunate and got the first Mewtwo EX KO off which left me on the winning side of the exchange. However, this game was extremely close and I caught a few lucky breaks.

Note: Zach also played a heavy Max Potion count in his deck which I believed to be 2. I saw all sorts of counts in Zekrom/Eelektrik decks ranging from 0-3 in the end I would say 2-3 was the standard. Zekrom/Eelektrik decks just have such an easy time manipulating energy Max Potion might as well read “you opponent didn’t attack last turn.”

Note: Zach also played 1 Raikou-EX which really caught me off guard in the game. It allowed Zach to get a cheap KO off and since he discarded his Energy, Mewtwo EX wasn’t really a threat to him. This was also a prime example of where Max Potion shined as it made it extremely hard for me to 2HKO anything.

4-0

Round 5 vs. Celebi/Mewtwo/Terrakion

pokemon-paradijs.comI believe he skipped Tornadus completely because I didn’t remember seeing it in our match at all. He might have also just played a tech one, but he certainly didn’t put a lot of emphasis on it. I did notice he played a full 3 copies of Mewtwo EX which I not really quite sure if this was the standard play or not for the weekend. I played against 2 CMT decks and 1 of them played 2 and the other played 3.

My strategy against CMT is to really avoid taking prizes and always try to set up the double knock outs. The 60 HP Celebi are always a huge factor in this matchup to take into consideration because either I have a very easy time setting up the double KO’s or they have to waste Eviolites on Celebis. Either way it really is a win-win trade off for the Darkrai player.

However, unlike Eelektrik players, it can be much harder to tell if they have access to Terrakion. Most CMT decks play higher counts of Energy Search and Energy Retrieval than Eelektrik players. They also drop the entire combo from the hand so either having or not having Energy in the discard pile doesn’t come into play.

I’ll be honest and say this game is a little fuzzy, but if I remember right I got an early Darkrai EX and scored a KO and he sent up Mewtwo EX and hit my Darkrai EX. I responded with my Mewtwo EX and at this point the game became very simplified. I remember I was down to 2 prizes and he goes “well I don’t have much choice with this hand” and pushes up his Mewtwo EX and KO’s mine bring the game down to 2-2.

At this point he really didn’t have much choice and had to just gamble that I either didn’t play 3 Mewtwo EX or simply didn’t have access to it. I was a little worried because I didn’t have it in my hand, but I did have a Juniper and I drew it off of that. At that point I send up my 3rd Mewtwo EX and grab the last 2 prizes.

5-0

End of Day 1

pokemon-paradijs.com

At this point I was actually pretty happy that my horrid deck choice had actually panned out. Despite being 5-0 though I really wanted to play test some more with the deck as I didn’t feel comfortable with any of my matchups.

Note: During an event I normally don’t like to play games outside of the tournament itself. I feel like it takes me out of the tournament “state of mind” I like to be in. When I play fun games I play my best, but winning and losing doesn’t come into play as much. I don’t think it can either; if you’re jerk or get upset every time you lose nobody is going to want to play test with you. Tournaments on the other hand I take far more seriously and I am “there to win.” I feel distinguishing and not intertwining these two mindsets is very important.

Needless to say though I got caught up in the National excitement and went out to dinner with some friends instead. We ate at a very nice and slightly expensive Italian restaurant. It was slightly different than I was used to as all of the options on the menu were intended to be shared. So nobody had their own order and instead we opted to order plates of pasta, bread, and salads to share between our group and it was delicious.

We got back to the hotel around 9 or so and decided to go swimming down in the pool and I bet up with Chris Fulop and Jimmy O’Brien along with some of the other guys and girls in their hotel room. We end up in the pool, then to the hot tub, and finally back in the pool with a ton of good memories along the way. It really is little things like this that I remember the most about Nationals.

pokemon-paradijs.comNote: Embassy Suites is really where everybody stays at and it just opens up so many more social opportunities to see and hangout with people than other hotels do. I know it is a bit more expensive than staying farther out, but if you’re already paying the higher rate to stay in city I would stay at Embassy Suites.

I finally get to bed about midnight or so which I considered to be a pretty good time considering it was Nationals.

Day 2

Heading into day 2 I knew that with the round 1 bye and perfect tiebreakers I essentially needed to go 1-3 to top cut. I remembered back to Spring Regionals where I started off 3-0 and than dropped 3 straight games to fall to 3-3 and got eliminated from my shot at Top Cut.

It sounds stupid looking back, but I was legitimately worried about going 1-3 with the deck. I felt like many of my wins I opened with trash and simply was lucky and played out of it.

Note: Never assume you’re a shoe-in for Top Cut, or that your tie breakers are good. Taking every tournament 1 game and 1 opponent at a time, never think about the games ahead of you or the ones behind you, good or bad. Plus a little bit of fear is really good because it keeps you smart and alert.

Round 6 vs. Darkrai

pokemon-paradijs.comMy opening hand was exceptionally good and better than anything I had seen on day 1. I didn’t have turn 1 Darkrai in hand, but I certainly had some good outs to getting it. The one major thing that scared me was that I had an N in my opening hand as well. I knew if I went second this could be a major issue if my opponent had Smeargle. I proceed to lose the opening coin flip and I smile a bit on the inside when my opponent flips over Smeargle.

What transpired next was literally my worst fear, my opponent played his own Supporter netting himself a solid set up and then used N to get rid of my amazing opening. I proceed to draw a dead hand that comprised itself of either 3 or 4 Energy and other unplayable cards. I tried to hide how bad my hand was, but there is only so much you can do when your turn comprises of “Attach energy to Darkrai”…”Pass.”

I top deck a Mewtwo EX and attach the 3rd energy to my lone Darkrai EX which he had thankfully left alone either because he was content to pick off my other Basics (I think it was Smeargle and Shaymin where he never had a Supporter for Smeargle). I didn’t bench the Mewtwo EX because I didn’t think he had enough Energy to KO me with Mewtwo/Shaymin.

I figured that by benching Mewtwo EX a turn early I would only be allowing it to take 30 or opening myself up to Catcher plays since I didn’t have the Dark energy to free retreat. He has the Shaymin/Mewtwo EX/DCE play and I get benched that turn. I peak at the top card of my deck and it’s a Juniper…

Note: I fully admit I counted wrong and made a bad play by not benching the Mewtwo EX. The thing to take away from this though is if I had and topped the Juniper next turn I would have had the KO on both his Mewtwo EX and his Darkrai EX with my Mewtwo EX baring I got a DCE. This format is so back and forth with so many big top deck able to swing matchups it’s so important to remember that a game isn’t over till the match slipped is signed.

Don’t get cocky if you’re ahead or give up if you’re behind. I know this sounds like common sense, but I see it happen all of the time and especially in the younger age groups. This is really something that parents should talk to their kids about.

5-1

Round 7 vs. Zekrom/Eelektrik (Oregon Fall Regional Champion)

pokemon-paradijs.com

Once again the start of this match was me trying to figure out whether or not he played Terrakion. About half way through the game I became rather confident that he didn’t play it. Overall though I don’t think that this really affected the game or really would have changed any of my decisions.

I believe that he gets out slightly faster than I do and takes the first few prizes which really puts me on the defensive. I know in the middle of the game we exchange Mewtwo EX until were at 2-2 on Prizes, but this is when the game get weird. I know at some point one of us missed on the Mewtwo EX KO. I remember it being my turn and I need a Catcher to win.

I check both of our discard piles and I know he didn’t play a Catcher and I played 2 and 2 Junk Arms so I figured we each had 3 outs to it. I play Juniper and I miss the Catcher/Junk Arm so I retreat the Mewtwo EX and bring up Smeargle and use Portrait hitting an N to put us both at 2 cards. I hit a Juniper off the 2 card hand for N and pass. He Portraits my Juniper and misses the Catcher and ends up passing.

I play the Juniper for 7 and miss on the Catcher. I use Portrait and hit an N putting us both back down to 2 cards. I retreat for my other Smeargle and use Portrait again on his 2 card hand and I see Energy and a Catcher. I look over the board again for another 30 seconds or so, but there is absolutely nothing I can do and I offer him the handshake.

5-2

pokemon-paradijs.comAt this point I was pretty down because I felt like my worst fears were coming alive and this tournament was slipping away from me. Losing 2 games in a row is pretty demoralizing for anybody and the half hour or so between rounds seemed like an eternity. I guess I just did my best to put it out of my mind though and focus on what was in front of me.

Round 8 Curtis Hill with Zekrom/Eelektrik

I honestly don’t remember if he played Terrakion or not because I know I didn’t know during most of the game, but I believe he did tell me afterward. The game really went pretty picture perfect for me as I got an early Darkrai EX and he never really got anything set up at all.

The last few turns of the game were me just using Night Spear and him not hitting a Supporter for 4 or 5 turns. He finally hit a PONT really late in the game, but I had a huge prize lead at this point.

6-2

I actually got to talk to him a lot over the weekend and I knew him from last year plus he posts a lot on both SixPrizes and HeyTrainer. I was really happy to pick up the win, but he just got horrid luck. Thankfully he was really cool and laid back about the whole thing.

Round 9 vs. CMT

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He starts lone Celebi and I open I believe double Smeargle and a Mewtwo EX going first. He smiles and says letme know when you have it. I know I got a decent shot at it and when I see a PONT off my first Portrait I know I have to go for it.

After 2 Portraits and a Juniper later I don’t get it and have to pass with a solid board. This is where the game gets interesting because I believe he gets the first Mewtwo EX KO and the first 2 prizes since I put a DCE on my first one going for the Celebi KO.

At this point I promote Smeargle and use N putting me at 6 and him at 2 cards. I follow up with a Portrait and see his absolutely dead hand. Than I respond with a KO on his Mewtwo EX with my 2nd Mewtwo EX tying us up at 4-4. This is when the game really starts just going down hill for him as he proceeds to draw nothing for the next 5-6 turns as I run through him with a large Mewtwo EX.

The guy was super cool and actually came back from 2-2 to 6-2, and I wished him good luck on tiebreakers as we signed the match slip.

Note: I believe he only played 2 Mewtwo EX and than a pretty standard CMT list focusing on consistency and easily getting Terrakion. His draws were pretty bad so I didn’t get to see the full list or if he ran any cool little techs.

7-2

I realize that I got some pretty lucky breaks, but I do finish up at 7-2 and securing the Top 128 spot for sure. They post standings and I go in at 14th in the yellow pod and they tell us to be back in about 45 minutes. This really doesn’t give us a ton of time to really go and do anything, but it’s about 1 in the afternoon and everybody is hungry. We proceed to run down to the food court and quickly get something to eat.

I head back early and make it a good 15 minutes or so before the round starts. At this point I find out that they are mixing the 2 pods in the brackets so the yellow pod plays all blue mod members and vice versa. I don’t know if this is how they always do it, but I was happy as the yellow pod was supposedly the harder pod. Although I had a lot of friends in the blue pod that were really good and I didn’t want to play against.

Top 128 vs. Straight Darkrai EX (Nevada State Champion)

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comI believe he goes first in this game and misses the turn 1 Darkrai, but hits it on his second turn. The game get interesting because I’m dead drawing at the start when he has all of these Supporters and then he starts dead drawing and I start getting all of the Supporters. The turning point comes when I make a very dangerous gamble and hold the second Darkrai EX in hand trying to make my board position look weaker than it really is, plus I couldn’t afford to let it take damage.

He makes a critical mistake where he retreats his damaged Darkrai EX with a 160 on for a fresh one to KO mine. This allows me to drop my Darkrai EX and 3 Dark Patch and I followed it up with an N to put me at 6 and him at 2. I then hit for 90 than put 10 more damage on the bench one. Setting up the double Knock Out on the following turn, he realizes my plan and switches them back.

On the following turn I Junk Arm away my Supporters for a Catcher to switch the Dakrai’s back. I take the double knock outs shorting my 4 prize deficit to tie the game back at 2-2. I draw my four prizes and could not believe my luck as I didn’t draw any Supporters and rather draw into just about every good Trainer I could want instead.

The next few turns are him drawing dead while I try and seal the win. He plays a Max Potion or two to keep the game going, but he still can’t seem to hit a Supporter and I win eventually.

1-0

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Game 2

He goes first this game 2 and misses the turn 1 Darkrai EX again. I don’t remember all of the details of this game, but I remember it coming down to him needing a Shaymin to win. He used Super Rod to put it back in the deck so we both know that it’s in there.

He plays PONT looking for it and misses on both Shaymin and a way to get them. This was also the game where he prized both of his Smeargle which really caused some issues for him in the mid and late game.

2-0

Note: I know Tom Dolezal only played 2 Smeargle and it seems as if this guy only played 2 as well. I’m not fully sure why they only play 2 as I think it would be your preferred starter in most games and give you the greatest shot at a turn 1 Darkrai. I’m assuming it might have something to do with the decks low Basic count and Smeargle’s low 70 HP (funny how 70 HP is now considered low).

I feel it might also have something to do with 2 Smeargle is all you really need and the extra copies are more for opening with them than actually needing them. I haven’t tested really any deck with only 2 Smeargle so I really can’t comment on how it plays. My personal play style tells me I probably wouldn’t like it, but a lot of really good players only played 2 Smeargle this weekend.

8-2

Top 64 vs. Zach Bivens with Zekrom/Eelektrik

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Playing in Swiss really changed this match up for both of us and I’m not really sure who got more out of it. We both knew that the other player played 3 Mewtwo EX, which I felt like was the big secret. He had a pretty good idea of how my deck worked, while I felt pretty confident he didn’t play Terrakion. I also severely underestimated Raikou-EX and our Swiss game just showed me how great of an attacker he is.

Game 1

Since I was feeling confident Zach didn’t run Terrakion I went aggressive with Darkrai EX early in the game trying to cut off his Eels. Once again Max Potion made it impossible for me to ever get the double knockout on Eels, but I felt like that at least I was getting them to play them. The early Darkrai EX and Zach’s slower start meant that I was up 2 prizes really quickly. Once I was up a few prizes the Mewtwo EX exchanges started and Zach didn’t have the prizes to keep up.

1-0

Game 2

Zach went first this game and my set up was much slower than in the first game. I just was simply not able to gain any ground on him nor deny him resources. I remember the Mewtwo EX exchanges started really early and there was nothing I could do about it. With Eels in play it was too easy for him to spam Energy onto the board.

If I didn’t answer Mewtwo EX with Mewtwo EX then even my Darkrai would be within 1HKO range if he had Shaymin. My only chance was to keep with the exchanges and hopefully win the game off of a late game N. This sadly didn’t work and late game I have Mewtwo EX active and all he needs his 3rd Mewtwo EX to win and the prizes are all tied up at 1-1.

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He plays the Ultra Ball and looks through his deck smiles a bit and grabs Eelektross. I was shocked thinking I might have miscounted his Mewtwo EX because I was positive that he played 3. Sure enough he had 2 in his discard pile and than I started to wonder if he had an issue with his deck list and got stuck playing 2.

Then I look over at his last prize and I think to myself no way did I just get this lucky. He brings up Eelektross and hits me, but on my next turn I have a Shaymin to throw all of the energy under Mewtwo EX and 1HKO the Eelektross. He flips over his last Prize card revealing the Mewtwo EX that would have won him the game.

2-0

Zach was an amazing sport about it though and I realize how unbelievably lucky I just got. Sure I was up a game, but the matchup really is 50-50 and my tournament run could have ended in a game 3 if things went down just a bit different.

Note: The synergy between Raikou-EX and Max Potion is simply amazing. It is nearly impossible for any deck not running Terrakion to 1HKO the Raikou-EX. Also since you’re losing the Energy for the attack anyway, then you’re really not losing much of an investment. In many cases you’re trading a Max Potion for a Prize, while leaving your opponent feeling like they just wasted their last turn.

9-2

Top 32 vs. Zekrom/Eelektrik

pokemon-paradijs.comNote: Before this weekend it was really just a given that all Eelektriks decks were paired with Terrakion. At Nationals this year I quickly realized that this was simply not true. Whenever I sat down across from an Eelektrik deck the first thing that I had to do was determine whether or not they played Terrakion. You can never be 100% sure they don’t play Terrakion, but there are a few things to watch for.

The first would be if they play DCE they normally don’t play Terrakion. Normally it is just too difficult to work with the 3 different Energy types (Lightning, Fighting, and DCE) in a tight lineup. The second and to a lesser degree would be if the deck seems to teched out. Things like 2 Raikou-EX, 3 Mewtwo EX, 3-4 Smeargle can all be indications (but not certainties) that they don’t play Terrakion.

At this point I was really feeling pressure as I desperately wanted to make day 3. My little brother already had his day 3 in Seniors playing Kingdra LA/Machamp SF in 2010 playing the same list I went 5-4 in Masters that year with. It absolutely amazes me how he can pick up a list and excel with it and I can’t get a hand to save my life. My opponent on the other hand was extremely laid back and probably in the best mood of anybody in the Top 32.

Game 1

My opponent goes first and leads with Smeargle and a Tynamo on the bench I believe. He plays Pokégear 3.0 to grab a Pokémon Collector. My first thought was “oh wow old school Eelektrik deck this shouldn’t be too bad.” He grabs 2 more Tynamo and a Mewtwo EX which he benches all 3 and follows it up with a Portrait on my N. My train of thought quickly changed from “this shouldn’t be too bad” to “I forgot how good the Collector/Portrait combo was.”

pokemon-paradijs.comIn the following turns my opponent discards the top half of ERL and this combined with a few other things make me feel pretty safe that he doesn’t play Terrakion. This allows me to force Darkrai EX early and snag a few easy prizes and 2 Mewtwo exchanges later I pick up my last prize barely staying a head in this prize race.

1-0

Game 2

This game was very short but had a lot of action in it since he started the Mewtwo exchanges himself and early. We trade Mewtwo EX very early in the game with me grabbing the first 2 prizes. He promotes his 3rd Mewtwo EX or 2nd (he might have used Super Rod to put it back in) to KO my 2nd and tie the game up at 2-2.

I double checked earlier in the game and I know my 3rd Mewtwo EX is in the deck and I believe I hit the Ultra Ball for it off of a Juniper. My opponent goes “Damn you play 3?” and offers me the handshake.

My opponent was a really great guy and while ERL might not be the most common tech he really did force me to really watch how I played all match.

Note: I think many people think Pokémon Collector is simply too slow and outdated to be viable. While I understand how fast this format really is the consistency of being able to grab 3 Basics (in a format where double Tynamo is essential) is absolutely huge. Being able to follow a Collector up with a Portrait also helps to take the edge off that it is a Support as well. While I feel more impartial to Dual Ball due to the speed of the format I feel the Collector version is certainly still worth a look.

I couldn’t stop smiling and all I could do was think to myself “I did it” I made Day 3 and Top 16 at the largest Pokémon Tournament in history. My friends congratulated me and I did a quick interview with Pooka before we headed back to the motel.

Day 3

I go back to the hotel room and get a call for a get together with some of the Colorado players and head up literally one floor above our room. It was a decent size group probably 15 or so and we just hangout and those of us who are 21 have a drink or two together. It really reminded me why I enjoy these events so much and how much I loved the people. I was playing for a lot of money in the morning, but right now none of that mattered.

Eventually the HeyTrainer dinner finishes up and they all decide to come back to the hotel room too, so we have another 15-20 people file into this hotel room. Hotel security decided to pay us a couple of visits over the course of the night and reminded us to keep down, but all in all I thought we were pretty tame.

The other eventful thing of the evening were that Frank Diaz was there and when he found out I was playing his deck he walked me through a couple matchups I hadn’t really tested like Accelgor.

Top 16 vs. Jeremy Jallen with Zekrom/Eelektrik

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comThe first game played out pretty normally as I went for an early Darkrai wondering if he played Terrakion. I saw a DCE pretty early so I was fairly confident that he didn’t, but you can never be completely sure. In the midgame we traded Mewtwos and it wasn’t long before we were in the end game. I don’t remember all of the details I just know that the game came down to the wire where he needed a Shaymin to win and he whiffed on it with a ton of outs.

1-0

At this point I was feel pretty confident that he doesn’t play Terrakion and I 2-0ed the last 2 Zekrom/Eelektrik decks I had played against. I did my best to keep in mind that in at least 2 of those games I had caught some pretty lucky breaks.

Game 2

The details in this game are also pretty fuzzy, I just remembered that Jeremy went first and was always 1 step ahead of me. I did my best to hang with him and keep playing for a small glimmer of hope of winning it. In the end though there is nothing I can do and Jeremy takes the game.

At this point the confidence I had after game 1 kind of disappears and I once again have my back against a wall. Before the match started Jeremy told me it’s going to come down to a close game 3… and he was right. Heading into this game 3 I’ll be honest and say I didn’t realize how much time has passed. I don’t think I’ve gone to time all year and usually games don’t go more than 20 minutes or so.

1-1

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Game 3

I think both Jeremy and I realize that this game isn’t going to get finished, but time was called almost immediately. It might have even been on his first turn of the game. Either way I believe that he was turn 0 which was a huge advantage to me. To my disappointment Jeremy opened with Zekrom BLW and decided to completely forego Tynamo knowing it’s an easy KO for me. Instead he opts to simply put all of his efforts on Zekrom.

He knows I can’t easily KO anything else on his board and Catcher would win him the game. I believe that my board is Mewtwo EX, Smeargle, Smeargle, Darkrai, while his is Smeargle, Zekrom, and then another Zekrom. I believe I get a PONT and a Juniper off and I don’t hit anything very note worthy. My Mewtwo EX has a basic Dark Energy under it, but I hold the DCE knowing that if he Catchers it he can KO it with his own Mewtwo EX.

It’s sudden death and next Prize wins, but I know Jeremy has nothing in his hand. He draws and goes “that’s a pretty good top deck” and attaches DCE to Zekrom before using Juniper for 7. My heart sinks as he draws his 7 cards knowing I lose to a Catcher. I breath a huge sigh of relief when I realize that he doesn’t have it. He makes a great read and uses Shaymin to pull the DCE off Zekrom and put it on the other Zekrom bring it out of range of Mewtwo EX.

This leaves the 1 Zekrom with 2 Lightning active and the other bench one with a DCE. He uses Outrage against my Darkrai EX before ending. I draw… get nothing, but attach the DCE to Mewtwo EX knowing I would have won right there had he not made that great Shaymin play. I pass and he plays Sage’s Training for 5 and I once again know that my tournament run has probably come to an end.

pokemon-paradijs.comHe whiffs again and I am almost in disbelief because at this point he is probably half way through his deck and he still hasn’t hit a single Catcher. He uses Outrage again and I know that if I don’t draw something I probably lose right here as the odds of him missing again are so low.

I draw and I believe the literal words out of my mouth are “Oh my God” and I kiss the Juniper I just drew. I play PlusPower and now I’m in the situation where if I draw the Catcher I can KO his Smeargle with Mewtwo EX. I play Ultra Ball to lower my deck count by 1 and smile as I see the game winning Junk Arm in the top 7. I grab some useless Basic and shuffle before handing my deck to Jeremy.

He shuffles and asks if he can riffle (first person to actually ask… guys don’t just grab the other dude’s deck and riffle) and I say yes knowing what these 7 cards mean. He hands me the deck back and I look at him getting ready to play the Juniper. I wait a second and ask for a Judge shuffle. Jeremy looks at me and laughs saying “what you don’t trust me,” I laugh and say no it’s just that after this Juniper somebody is going to really upset. I just didn’t want hard feelings because you either did or didn’t shuffle me into it and I point to the judge and go I don’t even know who this guy is.

We all get a laugh out of it and I finally play the Juniper for 7. It was the 3rd or 4th card, but I hit the game winning Junk Arm. There was that moment of silence, but Jeremy is literally one of the best sports and quickly shakes my hand and wishes me luck.

Note: I don’t know what else to say other than I love Jeremy Jallen he’s a great guy and I have a ton of respect for him as a player. Heading into this tournament I thought Pokémon Collector was just too slow for any non Vileplume deck. However, Jeremy has really gotten me to think outside of the box and revaluate my thinking on this. I’m not quite ready to say whether I think Pokémon Collector or Dual Ball is the play, but this is something I’m certainly going to test in a few different decks heading into Worlds.

Top 8 vs. Ashon Haswell

I really wish that I had written this matchup right after Nationals because it was literally one of the best series of games I’ve ever played and now my memory is a bit fuzzy on it. All 3 of the games were down to the wire and very back and forth and neither one of us knew which one of us was going to win.

Game 1

pokemon-paradijs.comI literally open with the best hand I had gotten the entire weekend and to top it all off I went first as well. I had double Smeargle and Darkrai on the field with Skyarrow Bridge and Professor Juniper in my hand. I believe I only had 1 Dark Energy in my opening hand so I would need a good hand and Portrait to pull off the turn 1 Darkrai, but the opportunity for it was definitely there.

This was the part where things started to go wrong though as I missed both the Turn 1 and Turn 2 Darkrai. He didn’t open as broke as I did, but his hand certainly wasn’t bad. He got double Eelektriks into play very quickly (I think either turn 2 or turn 3) and had Lightning Energy in the discard pile to work with. He got up early on prizes and I just couldn’t keep up.

I was making trade offs with him, but I always felt like I was playing from behind and getting slightly worse ends of the trade offs. I believe I did get the first Mewtwo EX KO off, but he had the Super Rod to immediately throw it back in his deck. This also meant less because he was 2 prizes ahead so I knew at this point I wouldn’t be able to trade Mewtwo EX with him. The game stays close prize wise, but he ends up winning the game 0-2 at the end.

The big thing about this game is I found out that he played 2 Raikou-EX and 3 Max Potion. I figured that if he played 2 Raikou-EX that he probably only played 2 Mewtwo EX as well. The 3 Max Potion is really just a good number to know in general since it makes it a lot easier to count their outs later in the game.

Note: I feel one of my greatest strengths as a player is that I play really well under pressure and really well with my back against a wall. There is just such a huge price difference between Top 8 and Top 4; it’s literally like $3,500 dollars. I don’t care who you are, losing game 1 in a series with so much on the line really gets inside your head.

It was pretty demoralizing for me to get the best hand that I had gotten all weekend plus go first and yet still end up losing the game. There was a moment just for a second, but the thought went through my head “I don’t know if I can beat this guy.” I did my best to quickly put it out of my hand to focus on what I had to do.

0-1

Game 2

pokemon-paradijs.comMy opening hand is less impressive than the first game and I believe I’m once again content on getting the turn 3 Darkrai. His hand isn’t as strong this game though and the game really feels like the rolls have been reversed. I take the early lead with my Darkrai EX KOing Eels trying to limit his Energy acceleration. I start feeling his Max Potions though as I can never get a double Eel KO set up.

Going for the Eels turns out to be the right play though as I feel it caught up with him later in the game. He’s able to keep up with the prize exchanges, but I feel like this time around I’m getting the better end and he’s the one scrambling to keep up. Once again the game comes down close, but I’m on the winning end of it 0-2 on prizes.

1-1

At this point I think we were both very aware that the timing in the round was coming to a close, but neither one of us was really sure how much was left. I estimated sub 15 minutes and no more than 20 minutes, but those are very large numbers to work with.

Game 3

He goes first opening lone Tynamo to my Smeargle, but he quickly gets a Zekrom on the bench. I believe that he gets an energy under the Zekrom and a second Tynamo on the bench. I don’t remember my exact opening hand, but I got the best opening of the entire weekend. I hit Turn 1 Darkrai EX for the first time all weekend in the most important game of the tournament.

The only real problem that I had was that he had that Zekrom opening and I didn’t have a Pokémon Catcher. This means that I hit him for 90 damage and he uses Outrage to hit me for 90 (I hit the Eviolite as well). I don’t have much choice though and do the 90-30. He uses Max Potion on the bench Tynamo and uses Outrage for 90. At this point his slow start was matching up pretty well to my broke start.

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I begin to power up a second Darkrai EX on the bench and KO the active Zekrom. The first Darkrai EX takes a second prize and then he KO’s it putting us tied at 4-4 on prizes. I bring up my second Darkrai EX and take a third prize 3-4 my lead. He comes up and hits my Darkrai EX for 100 with Zekrom’s Bolt Strike. I believe this was the point time was called at with me being Turn 0.

My Turn 0 I bench double Mewtwo EX and use Shaymin to set up the Energy right. I KO the Zekrom with Mewtwo EX going up 2-4 on prizes and making it so he can’t answer my Mewtwo EX with his Mewtwo EX. His Turn 1, I don’t know what he does, but I don’t believe that he gets a Knock Out. My Turn 2 at this point I miss the KO and game on his bench Mewtwo EX by one card.

If he KO’s me next turn with his Mewtwo EX it would tie the prizes at 2-2 and I would need the DCE in my deck to get the return KO with my bench Mewtwo EX (1 Dark on it). I was holding Juniper and my deck had 6 cards left, I believe, so I knew I could get the DCE.

Then I start running scenarios of what if used N and then I would only have 3 cards to hit DCE or Juniper. I then look at my hand again and see the Catcher, I try and come up with any possible scenario where he could take 3 prizes in 1 turn and I just don’t see it.

I play the Catcher on a Tynamo and KO it with Mewtwo EX so now the prize count is 1-3. He looks over his board and thinks for a good 30 seconds as I just sit their nervously trying to think of any out I missed. He offers me the handshake and says good game.

Note: Sitting here writing this up the Catcher play seems so obvious, but it’s very different in the situation. I was so focused on KOing the Mewtwo EX that I almost missed a really obvious play. Its just a prime example of how tunnel vision can come into play in big games.

I honestly couldn’t believe that I had hit my 2 best hands of the weekend in the match that had everything online. I had so many little things go my way to get this win, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. I was just really fortunate to be on the receiving end of it when it mattered in this match.

At this point I’m not really sure I was fully aware of what was happening and it surely hadn’t sunk in yet. I start choking up and literally fight back tears. I ran over and hugged my friends, but the excitement quickly disappeared and was replaced by almost disbelief.

I call my mom and manage to get the words out “I did it, I top 4’d, I got the paid trip.” All of this was very short lived though as it wasn’t long before they called Top 4. I was happy with how far I’d come, but I wanted the title.

Top 4 vs. Kevin Nance Zekrom/Eelektrik

Here is the link to the video The Top Cut took of the match

The video is obviously going to be able to go into much better detail than anything I’d ever be able to write up. Both Kevin and I knew what each other was playing heading into the matchup. Since we each knew about the others 3 Mewtwo EX this took away a lot of the surprise factor that we both had in other matchups. I felt like I had the faster deck, but in both games 1 and 2 I was playing from behind. The first game I try and lock him with a late game N, but he draws out of it. In the second game I do the same thing, but it works this time.

pokemon-paradijs.comAs for the third game it wasn’t really an actual game since we both knew time was about to be called we both played very differently. I purposely opened with Shaymin because I had a good chance to hit the Juniper off the Random Receiver. In this case I would most likely have to bench the Shaymin anyway so I had something to retreat to.

I felt by opening Shaymin and benching the Darkrai I had the greatest chance of hitting turn 1 or turn 2 Darkrai. I never thought about him trying to pick them off with Raikou-EX because normally this is a bad idea to ignore the real “threats.”

As for the decision that ultimately decided the game I’ve had 3 weeks to sit here and analyze and reanalyze the decision I made. I want to post something I posted on Facebook discussing a few weeks ago since I feel my memory of it was better than. This comment in particular was directed at Kyle Sucevich.

“I was trying to do the math in my head on the fly so it wasn’t perfect, but I had 3 outs to the DCE and 2 Junk Arm, 2 Ultra Ball, and 2 Mewtwo EX so 6 outs to the Mewtwo EX. I had put the odds at hitting both sub 15% approximately. As Kyle said the 2 Junk Arm and the 2 Catcher left in the deck would have been outs to get me back into the situation I was. Though I figured even if this was the case I would have needed to hit the out and than hit it again on the following turn to KO the Smeargle.

pokemon-paradijs.comThis meant a combination of the 2 in the 6 card hand (unlikely) or 1 and a Supporter (reasonably likely to hit the Supporter) followed by hitting one of the 3 remaining out (reasonably low). If I played it safe however I still had the slim chance of hitting DCE, and than a combination of Catcher, Mewtwo, Junk Arm (exceptionally low), but it was still a chance. Taking the gamble I put the odds at 70% I would lose the game outright and then 15% I would win the game and the last 15% I could create the situation I was creating making the safe play (lower my odds over all to hit the win on the following turn.

To be honest I couldn’t remember if he played a Supporter the turn before or not…but I wasn’t going to ask since they couldn’t tell me and I didn’t want Kevin to realize I didn’t know. Taking the safe route I saw Kevin’s only real out as Shaymin and if he whiffed my odds of winning were considerably high…My percentages may be off slightly or considerably but I was trying to make this call with a huge amount of players watching and 3 Judges staring me down (they didn’t rush me by any means but you know they won’t let you sit there all day either).

I really appreciate your honesty though Kyle your one of the few people who really understands what its like trying to make a call like that at that level. Though I honestly don’t know what you would have done and could see you go either way on it.”

Regardless of how the decision turned out I don’t have any choice, but to pick myself up and move on. Worlds is only a few weeks away and I really need to focus on that.

My Aftermath

Some friends and I went out to eat afterward to celebrate and I had some of the best pasta I’ve ever had. Afterward I went back to the convention center and talked with Kevin and his brother Erik and congratulated Kevin on 2nd place. I stay around and talk a bit and say my goodbyes and before I know were on the long road back home. Once again we get lost and a 7 hour drive turns into 9, but we make it back in one piece.

Why I Did Well

pokemon-paradijs.com1. Normally picking up a deck a few days before a major tournament is an absolutely horrible idea, but I did have a few things going for me. First off I had a lot of experience with different Darkrai variants in general. As I talked about earlier in the article I used Battle Roads to try and get a feel for 3 different variations of Darkrai in a competitive environment. This meant I had a really good grasp on the pros and cons of different variations and how they flowed.

Going along with this I knew how these different variations of Darkrai matched up against this format. Both of these things allowed me to pick up a completely new variation of Darkrai and very quickly learn about it strengths and weakness as well as how to play it against the meta.

2. The meta people thought Nationals was going to and what it turned out to be were 2 very different things. I got rather lucky from the standpoint that the deck I chose mashed up pretty evenly with this unknown meta. This isn’t always the case though, normally you can have a pretty good idea what the meta is going to be, but you can never be 100% sure.

3. I actually had a good deal of experience with this unknown meta. I played Zekrom/Eelektrik all throughout States and Regionals. I felt very familiar with the deck which really allowed me to get inside the heads of my opponents that I was playing against. Since this allowed me to know many of the strengths and weaknesses of the deck despite not even testing the matchup pre-Nationals.

The other big match up I had over the weekend had been Darkrai mirror. While I never actually tested mirror much with my new deck, all the experience I had testing Darkrai mirror certainly played a key role.

4. Lastly I caught some lucky breaks along the way. Anybody who does well in a big tournament and says luck had nothing to do with it is either a liar or an idiot and quite possibly both. Now while I feel this game does have an amount of luck in it, I feel there is less luck in the game than players actually realize. While I did catch a few lucky breaks along the way I did everything possible to put myself in a position to do well.

What Could I Do Better?

This is really me personally, but I’m always looking for ways to improve and get better. If I just say that every bad performance I have is due to bad luck and every good performance I have is due to skill then I’m gaining nothing as player.

1. Playtesting

This is by far the number 1 thing I need to get better at. I’ll be bluntly honest and say that outside of few fun games at leagues with a fun deck I haven’t played at all since Nationals. This is due to a few reasons first off I’m taking 2 summer classes. The first is a condensed summer long Spanish class and the second is a condensed 4 week long history class and the homework/test load for both is heavy.

Second of all I hate playing online with a passion because it doesn’t feel like an actual game to me. Going along with this I don’t live at home and my brother is just as busy as I am. This makes it difficult for me to find a time to get back when we’re both free to play. These may all be very valid excuses they don’t change the fact that I haven’t been play testing enough.

2. Misplays

I’ve discussed this a lot in the past, but this format just has so many little decisions that must be made its near impossible to play 100% perfectly. I know I made a few minor misplays here and there over the weekend and I always to strive to cut down on those. At least I’m able to recognize them when I make them and I feel like that is the most important thing when trying to cut down on them.

Nationals Aftermath

I feel pretty confident in making the statement that the United States National Championship is the largest and most competitive Nationals in the world. This has always led to the U.S. Nationals having an impact at Worlds in some degree. Sometimes this is very subtle and other times not so much. For example in 2007 when Speed Spread debuted at U.S. Nationals and then went on to win Worlds. So I would quickly like to discuss a few decks that made some surprising showings at U.S. Nationals and how I feel it will impact the format at Worlds.

Klinklang EX

pokemon-paradijs.comI took a little bit of heat from Klinklang EX Underground article both from UG staff and members (you know who you are). I think a lot of people thought that it wasn’t relevant and that I should have just written about Darkrai. As much as I really want to sit here and say I told you so, even I’m sitting here in disbelief that it actually won. The reason I wrote the article is I didn’t want UG to get so focused on Darkrai that we forgot about the rest of the format.

The idea of the article was “here is a good deck you might run into it at Nationals,” so here’s some different variations and how to play/play against it. I thought Klingklang was a good deck and had potential in top cut, but I honestly didn’t think it would make it past Top 32. In the end John Roberts II proved me wrong and ended up winning the whole event. His list was a little different than the one I talked about, but here are some notable aspects of it.

  • At least 3 Eviolite
  • Kyogre EX
  • No Mewtwo EX

I really don’t see this deck making a huge splash at Worlds for a few different reasons. First off I think a lot of people both in the US and outside of the US are going to chalk the decks win up to a fluke. Second off I feel the Worlds format is going to be highly questionable for this type of deck. I’m sure Vileplume is going to be represented in some form or another.

On the other hand I’m pretty sure John will probably play the deck, since you would have to have a lot of faith in something else to give up on the deck you won the largest Pokémon tournament in history with.

pokemon-paradijs.com

Zekrom/Eelektrik

This was by far in my opinion the sleeper deck of the tournament. I was in absolute amazement how so many people in different groups came to the realization that the deck was just better without Terrakion. The deck is also very hard to tech against and is super consistent if you have the right list. I’m also a big fan of just how much variation the deck can have and still be successful. I played against vastly different versions in my run through the top cut and despite being different they all were very good and successful.

Another thing that I really liked about the deck is how it is always going to have that surprise factor and keep your opponent guessing. Until the game is over your opponent might have no idea if you run Terrakion or not, how many Mewtwo EX you play, or other key cards like Max Potion and Raikou-EX.

This level of misdirection and uncertainty is something you normally don’t find in a Tier 1 deck like this. Over the course of the weekend I got the chance to play against some very good players and some very good lists and here are some key notes.

  • Half played Collector and the other half played Dual Ball
  • Half played 2 Mewtwo EX the other half played 3
  • Max Potion counts varied from 1-3
  • Eelektross DEX was played in probably 2/3 of them.

I think that after Nationals everybody is going to have to go back over how they build and play this deck. I think this will probably be one of the most popular choices for the Grinder due to both its consistency and aggressiveness. I think it will also be very popular in Worlds, but to a lesser degree than it will be seen in the Grinders.

I think the big thing to note is that a lot of people will play this deck without Terrakion just because it’s faster and more consistent. While I feel the non Terrakion version is better overall this does leave the door open perhaps for somebody playing Terrakion to catch a few people off guard if there not expecting it.

Mew Prime/Accelgor DEX/Chandelure NVI/Vileplume UD

pokemon-paradijs.comThis was another big sleeper deck as far as Nationals went even though the deck really wasn’t a secret. We had seen Accelgor played in different way and Kettler even talked about it a bit in one of his Underground Articles. I first became aware of this variation of the deck when I saw Yoshi Tate playing it on The Top Cut stream live at a Battle Roads. I’m not sure to what degree this impacted people’s decision in play the deck or defining their final lists, but I do believe this is another example of media impact on the game.

The idea behind the deck is that you use Mew Prime to Lost Zone Accelgor and then you burn through your entire deck so you only have 2 cards left being Mew Prime and DCE. You use Mew Prime to copy Accelgors attack shuffling the Mew Prime and DCE back into your deck and you promote Chandelure. The opponent is Paralyzed so they really can’t do anything and on your following turn you use Chandelure to spread damage.

This makes it possible to set up favorable knockouts and if you do it right you can stop your opponent from ever attacking again. The deck also plays Darkrai EX so you can free retreat the Chandelure back to Mew Prime then simply rinse and repeat. The 2 support Pokémon in the deck are Musharna NXD so that once your deck is just 2 cards you can always grab both (1 to draw and 1 with the power). The other is obviously Vileplume which stops your opponent from playing Trainers.

pokemon-paradijs.comJohn Kettler made Top 16 at US Nationals with the deck and I can’t wait to read his report. I feel like any list I give or write up about the deck I could do would pale in comparison to his. I also got a glimpse at his list, so I’m sure any list I posted would barrow heavily from his and I don’t want to steal his thunder.

To be bluntly honest I haven’t even played a game with this deck. I was aware of the deck pre-Nationals due to Yoshi and The Top Cut. I just considered the deck too combo based since you have to get into play 4 different Pokémon and 2 of which are Stage 2s so I never really put much stock in it. Since it is quite possible to lock your opponent out of ever attacking again though you just need to get this set up before they take 6 Prizes. The deck obliviously has a ton of potential and another note is Harrison Leven was undefeated with the deck till Top 16.

As for how this deck will impact Worlds my off the collar response is it will see play and take a few top cut spots, but it won’t be dominate. This is due to the fact that the deck has lost a lot of its surprise factor. I think everybody going to Worlds (myself included) is going to build the deck and really test it as well as test against it.

On the opposite side of this with a lot more information about the deck coming out this gives players and supporters of the deck a great chance to really see some other variations of the deck and how other people played it. I think this will result in far better and stronger variations of the deck at Worlds than we saw at Nationals.

What’s the Play for the Grinders?

pokemon-paradijs.comI just checked on the official website and it once again looks like the format for the Grinders is going to be the best 2 of 3 single elimination. This drastically changes what decks I consider viable for the Grinders. If I was preparing for the Grinders I would personally rule out any sort of deck that plays Vileplume.

It’s one thing to play a Vileplume based deck in a normal tournament where you only have to survive a few rounds of Top Cut (such as Battle Roads or Cities). It’s quite another to take it into a tournament where the entire format is best 2 out of 3 with a 60 minute time limit.

My personal belief is if you’re going to spend all of this time and money to travel to Hawaii and compete in the Grinders if you lose fine, but don’t let it be to time. I push this a lot, but if you’re planning on playing a Vileplume based deck at the Grinders ALL of your testing games should be timed. It’s very important to not only be able to play fast with the deck, but also be able to accurately gage time in a match. Playing with time in testing will help you get better at both aspects.

As for what I consider to be a strong play for the Grinders I would have to say Zekrom/Eelektrik. The deck is really straight forward which makes it great to pick up last minute. At the same time though the deck offers a player’s a lot of different options in the form of a wide array of attackers. The deck runs pretty 50-50 against the meta in my opinion and can also play 3 pretty good games in 60 minutes.

I copied this list from The Top Cut which Kyle basically took from what he saw in the video. From playing against Kevin I can say this list is extremely close to what he played.

Pokémon – 16

3 Tynamo NVI 38

1 Tynamo DEX 45
3 Eelektrik NVI
1 Eelektross DEX
3 Mewtwo-EX
1 Raikou-EX
1 Zekrom BLW
1 Shaymin UL
2 Smeargle UD

Trainers – 32

4 Professor Juniper
4 Professor Oak’s New Theory

3 N

1 Random Receiver

 

4 Junk Arm
3 Pokémon Catcher
3 Dual Ball
2 Level Ball
2 Max Potion
2 PlusPower
2 Switch
1 Super Rod

 

1 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 12

8 Lightning
4 Double Colorless

The deck has a lot of variation that can be done to it and as always I stress make the deck your own. Some notable things that can be tweaked with is the counts on Mewtwo EX, Raikou-EX, Max Potion, Random Receiver, Balls vs. Collector, Skyarrow Bridge. I’m sure many other little things as well. I haven’t actually started my Worlds testing yet, but I’m sure this is going to be one of the first decks that I build.

What’s The Play For Worlds?

pokemon-paradijs.comWhen preparing for Worlds I try really hard to not back myself in a corner or get dead set on 1 to early. Usually this late in the season (especially from vast Nationals testing) I have a lot of experience with a wide array of decks. This makes switching choices a few days before the event or even last minute much more realistic. My first 2 decks to look at are of course going to be the deck that I did well with as well as the deck I lost to.

I also plan on testing basically every different deck that made Top 16 including Accelgor, Straight Darkrai, and Dylan Bryans unusual Vileplume based decks. Normally Vileplume doesn’t fit my play style, but like I said I’m not going to back myself into a corner when I’m still a few weeks out.

I also quickly realized during States that CMT really didn’t fit my play style either, but Chris Murray’s CMT with high Smeargle count does intrigue me a bit so it’s something I’ll probably play around with as well.

The best advice I can give people preparing for the main event is narrow down your deck choice by the time you get out there to just a couple different decks. At the same time though feel good about a few different decks and lists. There always seems to be some sort of last minute wave that hits the meta so if all of sudden your deck of choice becomes a bad call it’s important that you have something to fall back on.

A Prime example of this would be in 2004 when Chris Fulop came to Worlds ready to play Shiftry. He found out that all of the Japanese players were playing Team Magma based decks focused around Team Magmas all of sudden his Fighting weak Shifty deck became a bad play. He made the last minute switch to Blaziken a deck he had been playing all season and wound up finishing 2nd that year. This story has always been in the back of my mind each year as I’m preparing for Worlds.

Conclusion

I know this article was very Nationals focused as well as Worlds prep focused. I am honestly very excited for the new format and what I’m hoping to be a very diverse format at the same time. My article for next month will probably have a short Worlds recap and then I want to get a good jump on BW on. As for Worlds I’m getting into Kona on Wednesday August 7th and leaving on the following Friday.

I’m taking summer classes and working so looking forward to 9 days in Hawaii is really keeping me going right now. We plan on seeing Kona and then were heading over to Maui for a few days after the tournament. I’m hoping to get a lot of testing done and have my deck choice decided on before Worlds. Hopefully this means I’ll get to see everybody on the beach instead of the open gaming room, but I’m sure I’ll be in both places at some point. I’ll see everybody in a few weeks.

As one last thing I also want to say thank you to the readers of SixPrizes. I simply can’t believe how many of you came up to me at Nationals and wished me luck all along the way. It’s really amazing how 1 or 2 kind words can really change your outlook on things.


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