Magic in the Room – Sam’s 3rd Place US Nationals Report with Gothitelle/Accelgor

sableye anime close up
Long time no see!

Hey guys! It’s been a while since my last article. After piloting Darkrai/Sableye through Tennessee States, I stayed at 395 Championship Points for about two months. I felt comfortable with where I was after States, but the more and more time that passed, the more and more worried I became that I might not qualify.

I missed Regionals for the first time since 2007 to go to my Senior Prom, and while I don’t regret that choice at all, I still wish that I could have competed. Anyway, during the second weekend of Spring Battle Roads, I managed to snag the last five points that I needed to qualify for Worlds with the exact same Darkrai list that I played for States.

Right after that Battle Road, I graduated high school and then went straight to camp. I worked as a camp counselor again this summer, so I had little to no time to playtest. I only came home on Saturdays, and I had to do laundry, get my haircut, feed my cat, etc. Thankfully, I felt much less pressure to perform well at Nationals this year after clutching the invite, but I still wanted to do my best. Nationals only comes around once a year, and everyone wants to become the National Champion.

Deciding what deck to play for an event is never an easy decision for me to make. I won’t play a deck if I don’t feel comfortable with, even if it is “the play.” Going into Nationals, I felt like there were five decks that I could play and possibly do well with: Blastiose, Darkrai, Plasma, Gothitelle, and Klinklang. I tested nonstop from when I got to Indianapolis on Tuesday night through Thursday at midnight.

I didn’t like Blastiose because I felt like you either run hot or you don’t, and there’s nothing more you can do about it. I didn’t like Plasma because I could not find a Supporter combination that I liked. I don’t like Skyla in Basic decks, and Colress is a dead card turns one and two more often than not. I like Random Receivers, but they just didn’t seem to fit well in Plasma in my opinion. I love Darkrai, but I love the BLW–PLS version of Darkrai. I felt like my States list was too outdated, and I couldn’t find a list that I liked that included Absol, Mr. Mime, or a second Keldeo, so I benched Darkrai for this event.

After reading Colin Moll’s latest article on Celadon City Gym about Klinklang, I was convinced that it was the best choice for Nationals, but it just does not fit my style at all. His list was fantastic, but Klinklang and I just don’t share a positive relationship. (Just as a side note, has some of the best articles you can find online these days, and Brit and Colin are both very well accomplished players. I highly recommend this site.)

gothitelle vs
The de facto choice.

So, since I had somehow found fault in every single other viable deck for Nationals, I eventually settled on Gothitelle. I did not feel that it was the perfect choice, but I felt like I would win or lose on my own terms. Playing Gothitelle made me feel like I was “in the driver’s seat.” Once the deck is locked in, your opponent can only hope that you miss an attack or make a misplay. If you can hold on for the first few turns, usually you can be in control for the rest of the game. I also felt very confident with my list.

I played many games with the deck in the days leading up to the event, and I asked some very good players for advice on my list, (Aaron Curry, Jay Hornung) but in the end I settled on the exact same list that I had arrived in Indianapolis with. Without further adieu, here is my 3rd Place Gothitelle/Accelgor list:

Pokémon – 20

4 Gothita EPO 43

1 Gothorita EPO 45

3 Gothitelle EPO 47

2 Dusknoir BCR

1 Dusclops BCR

2 Duskull BCR

3 Shelmet NVI

2 Accelgor DEX

2 Mew-EX

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

4 Skyla


4 Level Ball

3 Pokémon Communication

2 Ultra Ball

4 Rare Candy

3 Float Stone

2 Pokémon Catcher

1 Super Rod

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Dowsing Machine


3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

Looking back on it, this was a Nationals of many firsts for me. This was the first Nationals that I have played two different Stage 2s in since 2009, it was the first Nationals that I have ever played as little as four energy, it was my first time playing Dowsing Machine in any event, and it was the first Nationals that I have played a “lock” deck in since Palkia Lock back in 2010. Let me take a minute to explain why I chose to play this combination of sixty cards.

4-1-3 Gothitelle
Gotta maximize your chances of one sticking to the board.

I maxed out Gothitas for a few reasons. First off, you really want a few Gothitas to stick (AKA not get Knocked Out) so that Gothitelle can actually hit the board. I also like to start with Gothita because that means that I won’t have to retreat to get the lock started by turn two.

I played one Gothorita for a few reasons as well. With five Stage 2s and four Juniper, often times I would run out of Rare Candy. In a perfect world, I would be able to Rare Candy into three Gothitelle and one Dusknoir, but that just doesn’t happen. I would hope to Rare Candy into one Gothitelle turn two, but after that it would be okay to set up a little bit slower. Gothorita and Dusclops both helped me to set up mid to late game, and could both be searched out with Level Ball.

I decided to run only three Gothitelle. I assumed that at least one Gothita would either get Knocked Out turn one or prized, so I probably wouldn’t get four Gothitelle into play anyway without using Super Rod. Also, while it is very crucial to get as many Basics into play turns one and two as possible, it is much easier to draw into the evolutions with Tropical Beach, Ultra Ball, Communication, and Supporters during turns two, three, and beyond. I wanted to see Gothita in my opening hand, but I didn’t necessarily want to see Gothitelle hanging out in my first seven cards.

2-1-2 Dusknoir

I think that this may be one of the biggest differences between my list and others. Many players played Musharna or other techs and a 1-0-1 or 2-0-1 Dusknoir line. In my opinion, Dusknoir is crucial to the strategy of the deck. If you can’t lock your opponent, they are going to have a much better shot at surprising you when you take a Knock Out. I am a huge fan of this thick Dusknoir line, and while you really only need to set up one Dusknoir per game, I think that Dusknoir deserves these extra spots.

I already mentioned how beneficial I feel that Gothorita and Dusclops were, but Dusclops also gave me a slight advantage in the mirror match. I almost cut it before the event, and I am very glad that I didn’t.

Dusknoir is in the deck for its “Sinister Hand” Ability. Normally, eventually your opponent’s active Pokémon would get Knocked Out by “Deck and Cover,” but with Dusknoir, you can move the damage from their active Pokémon to their benched Pokémon. This way, their active Pokémon remains paralyzed as long as you are attacking. Once you have enough damage on their side of the field, you can use Sinister Hand to take all 6 Prize cards at once.

3-2 Accelgor

shelmet-noble-victories-nvi-11 (1)
They said I could become anything, so I became a ninja.

I really wanted to run a 3-3 Accelgor line. You need three Shelmet for a number of reasons. One may get prized or Knocked Out early and you would still have a 2-2 line left, but the extra Shelmet also gives you options late game. You can attack with Accelgor if you have a Shelmet on your bench so that you can evolve again next turn.

Accelgor is not the main attacker, but without it you can’t attack, so it might as well be. For two C energy (AKA a Double Colorless), “Deck and Cover” does fifty damage and the defending Pokémon is now Poisoned and Paralyzed, but you shuffle Accelgor and all cards attached to it into your deck.

You typically let Accelgor sit on your bench and attack with “Deck and Cover” via Mew-EX, but many times attacking with Accelgor can be very fruitful. I like to attack Keldeo-EX with Accelgor to take advantage of the extra damage because of weakness.

2 Mew-EX

Would I have liked to have had three? Yes, but playing with two worked out just fine. This is your main attacker. Bench Mew-EX, attach a Double Colorless Energy, retreat Gothitelle, attack with “Deck and Cover,” rinse and repeat. Mew-EX is a really cool card, and while I wish that many more decks had formed around it, I am glad that I finally got to play it in an event. Versatile is just one of the coolest abilities around.

4/4/4 Juniper/N/Skyla

I really like this Supporter line.

Juniper is just good. If you hate the hand that you have or just really need to get cards, this girl does it the best. With Super Rod, Dowsing Machine, and Pokémon Communication, I rarely felt like I was crippling myself late game by playing a Juniper. Juniper is also great for thinning your deck late game once you have set up all that you need and are only fishing for more Mew-EX and Double Colorless Energy.

There is not a single deck that I have not played four N in since it came out. The comeback potential of this card is unmatched, and “shuffle up and draw six” is often exactly what I want early game. On top of being a great Supporter late game, playing an N right after your opponent uses Tropical Beach can be a fantastic play. I really love N in this deck especially because you are always guaranteed to get six cards if you spread out your opponent’s damage and don’t take prizes until you need to.

Skyla is a fantastic card in any Stage 2 deck, and with Tropical Beach and all of the one of’s and two of’s in this deck, it just becomes that much stronger. Skyla for Tropical Beach was my go to turn one play, and Skyla for Rare Candy or an Ultra Ball for Gothitelle was my go to turn two play. Being able to grab Float Stone, Pokémon Catcher, or Dowsing Machine late game was amazing as well.

3 Tropical Beach
You NEED 3. Two won’t fly.

Would I play this deck if I only had two Tropical Beach? No. Some decks can get by with two Tropical Beach or other substitutes, but I don’t think that this deck can. You need to be drawing cards with Tropical Beach starting turn one, and throughout the game if you ever miss an attack, you will need to use Tropical Beach to get your hand size back up.

I would usually use Tropical Beach for the first four or five turns, and then once or twice more late game. It needs to stay in play basically the entire game for me to feel safe about the board situation.

4/3/2 Level Ball/Pokémon Communication/Ultra Ball

This is another part of my list that I felt incredibly good about. I always seem to want to play more search cards than most other players, and this is the line that I liked for this deck.

Surviving the first couple of turns of every game was very important. Usually, if you make it past the first few turns, you can win the long game. Because of this, I maxed out on Level Ball. You could grab all of your Basics early and then use Tropical Beach to draw into your evolutions. My thought process was that if I could just get as many basics into play early as possible, then I could draw into the evolutions later and be fine. This strategy worked wonders.

While decks used to run between twenty and thirty Pokémon, these days it is usually more like ten to fifteen, so Pokémon Communication has not seen much play. With a whopping twenty Pokémon, Communication was a very strong card. I almost always had Pokémon in my hand that I was okay with shuffling back in, and you can grab Basics or Evolutions with this card. I felt very good about running three copies.

Ultra Ball is a card that I usually play four of in every deck. In Darkrai, you can discard Energy for Dark Patch, in Eelektrik, you can discard Energy for Dynamotor, in Blastiose you can discard Energy and get it back with Energy Retrieval, but in this deck there was no go to “discard fodder.” Because of this, I liked Ultra Ball significantly less in this deck than I normally do, so I lowered the count to two. Overall, I liked this amount. Late game I could discard the second Duskull or Tool Scrapper, and early game I could always Skyla for Ultra Ball to get out Gothitelle and then draw a few more cards off of Tropical Beach.

All in all, I was quite satisfied with this search engine. I think that it worked very well, and I set up very efficiently in most games.

4 Rare Candy
This card is sweet.

I would never play less. You want to set up Gothitelle as soon as possible, and Dusknoir should soon follow. Playing four Rare Candy maximizes your chances at getting that turn two Magic Room, and it helps you to continue to set up more Gothitelle throughout the game. Some games I even came close to running out of Rare Candy because of untimely Junipers and Ultra Balls.

3 Float Stone

This is another card that I would love to have played more of. Three is as low as I would go. You need to stick a Float Stone on Gothitelle in order to retreat and attack every turn, and sometimes you need to stick multiple Float Stones on multiple Gothitelle. Sometimes Float Stone became a Dowsing Machine target; it is essential for the deck to function.

A cool little trick is if you have Float Stone in your hand and you need to Juniper, you can always attach it to a Mew-EX and then get it back later after using “Deck and Cover.”

2 Pokémon Catcher

Catcher was probably my primary Dowsing Machine target. After setting up a Gothitelle, you can Catcher up heavy Retreat Cost Pokémon to stall while you are setting up behind Magic Room. Almost every game against Plasma I would Catcher up a Deoxys-EX to buy some time and then start swinging for double damage with Mew-EX. Catcher was a very crucial card, and I would love to have played three, but I was able to get by with running just two.

1 Dowsing Machine

I had never played Dowsing Machine in a deck before, but I fell in love with it in this deck. There are just so many uses for it, especially with all of the 1-of’s and 2-of’s. It can be a third Catcher, a fourth Float Stone, a fifth Rare Candy, a fourth Tropical Beach, a second Super Rod, or even a fifth N. Playing Dowsing Machine allows you to play the “minimum counts” on all of the Items that you need.

I can definitely see the arguments for why Computer Search would be good, (better chances at a turn two Gothitelle, Skyla for a Double Colorless, etc.) but there is no doubt in my mind that Dowsing Machine is the superior choice.

1 Super Rod
I don’t like it, but it’s necessary.

Personally, I hate Super Rod. I like to play as many cards that help me to set up early game as possible, and if I card doesn’t do that, then I usually end up cutting it. However, you have to play Super Rod in this deck. With all of the early game pressure that your opponent puts on you, and with prizing crucial Pokémon being an issue, Super Rod definitely deserves the one spot.

I think that I probably used Super Rod effectively all but one or two games at Nationals. It also allows you to discard both Dusknoir or a Mew-EX and a Gothitelle without having to worry too much about how it will affect you late game.

1 Tool Scrapper

Lastly we have the one Tool Scrapper. This is another card that usually does not make the cut for my decks for the same reason as Super Rod. It doesn’t help your setup, and often times is a dead card. However, if I had run into a Garbodor deck at Nationals and not had Tool Scrapper, I would have taken a hard loss, and I was not okay with that.

Also, some Plasma lists run Keldeo-EX with Float Stone, and if they manage to stick their Float Stones before I setup Gothitelle, it could be a rather difficult game. Tool Scrapper really helped out in that situation.

In addition to all of this, Tool Scrapper can be super effective in the mirror match if you manage to use it when your opponent doesn’t have Gothitelle active.

4 Double Colorless Energy

When I first heard of this deck, I was wary of it only running four Energy. I thought that for sure you would miss attacks with only four Energy in the deck. Honestly though, it was not nearly as hard to keep drawing and attaching Double Colorless Energies as I thought it would be. It becomes easier and easier as the game goes on and your deck becomes thinner and thinner.

As crucial as drawing into Double Colorless Energy is, I would never recommend playing less than four, but if you end up discarding one or prizing one, it is certainly not the end of the world. I’ve won games with just one Double Colorless Energy in deck before.

So there is my list and why I played the cards that I played. If I could go back, I would not change a single card. I honestly think that I had the best possible list for the deck. I didn’t play Musharna, Ghetsis, Colress, or Electrode. It’s not that those are bad cards, I just think that a thicker Dusknoir line and maxed out N, Juniper, and Skyla was the best route to go with.

On to the report!

Round 1 Bye

I was happy that I didn’t have to play the first round because of my performance at Tennessee States, but sitting out the first game did not help my nerves at all. I was more anxious than most other players heading into round two.


Round 2 VS Jewell Catlett with Plasma

She starts strong Knocking Out Gothitas left and right. I believe she Knocked Out three Gothita before I got up a Gothitelle and began to get setup. Eventually I got setup and locked her in. I was feeling very confident and was pretty sure that I was going to win, but I missed an attack one turn. I played a Pokémon Catcher on her Deoxys-EX and used Tropical Beach knowing that she couldn’t retreat seeing as she didn’t play Double Colorless. I was “safe” to use Tropical Beach for one turn.

Her turn begins and she plays a Float Stone on her Deoxys. I remind her of Magic Room, and then I look down and realize that I had used Tropical Beach with my Accelgor active. I forgot to retreat to Gothitelle. I cannot believe my mistake, and I’m sure that I’m going to lose at this point.

Luckily, she can only manage to do 80 damage to my Accelgor, and I get the lock going again the next turn and sweep her the rest of the game.


After that huge misplay, I was pretty shaken up. I couldn’t believe I didn’t lose that game, and I knew that I couldn’t afford to screw up like that twice during the event. Luckily, after getting that first game out of the way, my nerves calmed down quite a bit.

Round 3 VS Tom Dolezal with Plasma

Tom has a reputation of always doing well at Nationals, and I had never played against him before, so I was pretty nervous. I go first and get some basics into play, and he Knocks Out my Mew-EX on his first turn with Deoxys-EX. He goes on to take 4 Prizes in the first three turns while I struggle to get setup.

Finally I manage to set up everything that I need, and I start swinging. He benches a Keldeo-EX at one point, and I play a Pokémon Catcher on it and keep on rolling. Once I get enough damage on board, I use “Sinister Hand” to take all 6 Prizes. This was a very scary game.


Round 4 VS Justin Young with Rayquaza/Eelektrik

rayquaza ex dragons exalted
My Gothita stood no chance.

Justin beat me at Nationals back in 2011. He is a highly underrated player that does consistently well but rarely goes deep into cut of big events. I’m waiting to see his breakthrough performance soon. He was running a Rayquaza/Eelektrik deck with Keldeo-EX, Float Stone, Switch, Tropical Beach, and Bicycle. It was a very interesting list, and seemed to work very well. He was 6-0 at one point.

Anyway, our game was weird. Neither of us had strong starts, but during my second turn he had a Rayquaza EX with one Energy staring down my lone Gothita. My only Supporter was Skyla, so I had to get a Level Ball for another Gothita rather than Tropical Beach; I didn’t want to get benched. He explodes turn three, and I’m still struggling.

In the end, I think that he beat me 4-0 in Prizes. I never got the lock up, and I’m pretty sure that I would have lost this game regardless of what I was playing against, but Justin played the match perfectly.


Round 5 VS Kyurem/Deoxys-EX

My opponent starts strong, but not outrageously so. He takes a prize or two before I setup and sweep for the rest of the game.


Round 6

I feel really bad for this, but I cannot remember this match to save my life. I’m fairly certain that it was against a Plasma deck and I know that I won, but I can’t recall the details. Sorry.


Round 7 VS Christian Ortiz with Blastiose

He had some trouble getting Blastoise out.

Basically, the Blastoise VS Gothitelle matchup is usually decided by who can set up their Stage 2 first. I had never met Chris before, but I knew that he was a good player and he had won New York’s State Championship. He doesn’t draw a Basic Pokémon until about the seventh time setting up, so I have a huge hand and a full bench, but no Supporter in hand.

He goes first and plays an N. We both play N and use Tropical Beach back and forth for a couple of turns; each of us are digging for our Stage 2 and Rare Candy. I hit Gothitelle before he gets out Blastiose, but the game is not over there. He manually attaches four Energy to a Keldeo and puts some pressure on me to begin attacking as well. He Knocks Out one Gothitelle, but I have another ready to go. After I Knock Out his big Keldeo, the game is pretty much over. I sweep him from there on out.


Round 8 VS Isaiah Rufus with Plasma

Isaiah is a young Master’s division player from Maryland. He tells me that his only loss was to a Gothitelle/Accelgor deck early on in the event, and he has not teched for the matchup at all. His start is strong, but not spectacular and I setup and sweep him. There is really nothing too exciting about this match.


Round 9 VS Kyle Succevich with Plasma

This is the only round of the tournament that I felt less pressure in seeing as I was going to make top cut regardless at this point, but I still wanted to win. I had played against Kyle before, but never in a tournament. I have a pretty poor start without a Supporter, and his start is mediocre. He has an N in his hand but doesn’t want to play it and put me in the game.

Once he has taken two or 3 Prizes, I draw a Juniper and try to get back in the game. He tries to slow me down with N’s and tries to target my Basics, but eventually I get set up and Super Rod back in the Pokémon that I need. I lock him in and win 2-0 on Prizes right before time is called.


So I finish 8-1 for the second year in a row at Nationals and feel pretty good about it. I was third seed in the blue flight, and I felt very good about my deck in the “best two out of three” format. However, I think of Nationals in two parts. You have to make it through Swiss, and then top cut is like a completely different tournament. Your record in Swiss becomes irrelevant once top cut begins. If you lose two out of three games, you’re done. It doesn’t matter if you went 9-0 in Swiss, you had better not drop two games.

Top 128 VS Spencer Whitehurst with Plasma

Spencer is one of the most pleasant Pokémon players that I have ever met. He has a great personality and is very friendly. People like Spencer really boost my opinion of the Pokémon community as a whole. Anyway, he’s from South Carolina and has been playing quite a few years. His Plasma deck was very standard; I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Keldeo-EX did not make an appearance this match.

Game 1
Can you feel the magic?

I think that he takes a Prize or two on Gothitas, but I soon stabilize and once I set up and get the lock in, he scoops about ten minutes later.


Game 2

Spencer goes first, and I open lone Gothita. I’m fairly certain that he’s going to donk me, so I mentally begin preparing for game three. However, he has no Supporter. He just attaches a Plasma Energy to his active Deoxys-EX and passes.

I go off on my first two turns, and I do play down Tropical Beach. This gives him a chance to draw cards and possibly get back in the game, but I limit my bench so that his Absol cannot Knock Out my active Gothitelle in one hit. I lock him in and win about ten minutes later.

2-0, 9-1

Top 64 VS Zak Krekeler with Plasma

Zak is a very experienced player from Missouri. I have played against him for years, and quite a few times this season. Our games are always close. His Plasma deck was a bit different, featuring Tornadus-EX PLF, Lugia EX, and two Keldeo-EX with three Double Colorless Energy. This makes the match much more scary knowing that he can drop a Keldeo-EX and a Double Colorless and break the lock at any point during the game. I also can’t play a Pokémon Catcher on a Deoxys-EX and bank on it being stuck active for two turns.

Game 1

He quickly begins putting pressure on me, but I am able to setup everything I need once he has taken 4 Prizes. He drops a Keldeo-EX and breaks the lock for a turn, but then I play a Pokémon Catcher on it and lock it active. I didn’t know if he ran two, but the second one never hit the board. He kept digging for it with Junipers and such, but couldn’t get it. Thank you, Magic Room for shutting down his Ultra Balls. Eventually I get enough damage on board to sweep with Sinister Hand for game.


Game 2

If I remember correctly, he takes a turn one Knock Out on a Gothita, and continues to take knock outs turn after turn. I finally manage to set up, but he gets both Keldeo-EX out this game. I Knock Out one of them, and lock the second one.

There is one point during the game where I absolutely need a Float Stone, and two are in my discard pile as well as Dowsing Machine. I have enough damage on board to use Sinister Hand and Knock Out a Kyurem for 1 Prize, so I do that. I had 4 Prizes left, and one was the Float Stone. I drew the Float Stone.

After this, I attack every turn and sweep him for the rest of the game. If I had not gotten the Float Stone that turn though, I am fairly certain that I would have lost and we would have gone to game three. Good games, Zak.

2-0, 10-1

Top 32 VS Mark Garcia with Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus EX

I had heard of Mark before and knew that he was a very good player. He is always pretty high up there in rankings, and I believe he won a State Championship this season. Most really good players that I have not met before live on the West Coast; Mark is from California. They have a very strong player base from what I understand. His deck was what I considered to be outdated. It was Darkrai EX/Mewtwo EX/Tornadus-EX DEX/Keldeo-EX/Absol/Sableye with a heavy focus on Mewtwo. It was much stronger than I had expected.

Game 1

tornadus ex dark explorers dex
This guys is still around.

He goes first, and I open lone Gothita once again. He opens Tornadus EX and plays a Juniper discarding three Dark Patch, an N, and a Skyla digging for the Double Colorless and the Stadium for the turn one win. He misses the turn one Knock Out, but he does start very strong.

I struggle to set up, and he stacks two Mewtwo with about five Energy each. He also has a Keldeo-EX with a D Energy and Darkrai in play, so he can easily break out of the lock. He Knocks Out too many Gothitelle too quickly, and I scoop.


Game 2

My start is shaky this game as well, and he begins stacking both Mewtwo with energy again. He takes a huge lead of two to six on Prizes before I play a Pokémon Catcher on his Keldeo and lock it until the end of the game. I get enough damage on board and use Sinister Hand to take all 6 Prizes.


Game 3

I open with two Gothita to his Mewtwo. He attaches a Double Colorless and swings for a turn one Knock Out on a Gothita. I get a bunch of Basics in play via Level Ball and then use Tropical Beach. I kept looking for an opening to drop Mew, attach a Double Colorless, and X Ball to bench him, but he sees the play as well and doesn’t give me the opening.

Somehow I manage to set up even with him Knocking Out Gothitelle left and right. I Knock Out one of his big Mewtwo and then lock his Keldeo-EX when he has 1 Prize card left. I think that he only played one Keldeo. If he had played two, I am almost certain that I would have lost this series. I get enough damage on his board and then “Sinister Hand” and “Deck and Cover” for game.

2-1, 11-1

This was one of the most intense series that I have ever played. Mark is a really good player, and I thought for sure I was done after the first game. Darkrai/Mewtwo was a very strong play, and I look forward to seeing how Mark places at Worlds in August.

Top 16 VS Jeremy Jallen with Gothitelle/Accelgor

Jeremy is a pretty well known player as well. He has competed in Worlds and this was his second year in a row to reach the top 16 of Nationals! This is a ridiculously impressive accomplishment. He had just bested Frank Diaz in a best-of-three series last round in the mirror match, so he must know how to play it. I had only played three games total against the mirror before, and I felt very unprepared.

Game 1

mew first
Mew to the rescue!

He sets up the first Gothitelle with a Float Stone and I just stare at my hand blankly. I had lots of good Item cards including Dowsing Machine and two Rare Candy, and I was going to have to play Juniper. I couldn’t use the Items, and I wasn’t going to be able to utilize Tropical Beach with a full hand. I play the Juniper and hope for the best. I get off an attack with Mew-EX and his Gothitelle gets Knocked Out going back into his turn.

After this, I have a turn of Items to try to gain the upper hand. The game goes back and forth; I could never tell who had the upper hand until I locked his Accelgor active when I had both a Gothitelle and a Dusknoir in play. He scoops soon after.


Game 2

I don’t remember who got the first Gothitelle set up, but he definitely was in control of the game early. There was one turn where he plays an N digging for a Double Colorless and misses it. He had 5 Prizes left, and one Double Colorless prized. He does exactly what I did in my top 64 match and uses Sinister Hand to take a Knock Out and draws the Double Colorless as his prize. If he had missed the attack, I would have been in a good position, but he stays in control for a few more turns.

When he does miss an attack, I swing on a Gothitelle with Mew-EX for 110 plus poison, and his Gothitelle gets Knocked Out going back into his turn. After this, the game swings back into my favor, and I lock him for the rest of the game. Jeremy was really sleepy through this entire match.

2-0, 12-1

After playing that series, I still didn’t understand how to play the Gothitelle mirror match, nor did I have any idea how I had just won either of those games. It is without a doubt one of the most complex mirror matches that I have ever played.

Top 8 VS Sean Foisy with Gothitelle/Accelgor

I had never heard of Sean before. Right before the match a few of my friends told me that he used to play a lot, but lately has been judging events instead. After the match, I realized that he is one of the best players that I have ever played against, and I have played against some pretty good players. He was not the best shuffler, but he saw some plays that I didn’t see until a turn or two later. His understanding of the game, or at least the Gothitelle mirror match, was exceptional.

Game 1


I go first, get some Basics in play, and use Tropical Beach for five. He proceeds to play a Ghetsis on his first turn, shuffling in five of my seven cards. I couldn’t believe this had just happened; I would have had a turn two Gothitelle, and who plays Ghetsis? It was a very effective play.

He sets up the first Gothitelle, but I set up right behind him via my Stage 1s. We both have full setups, but he stuck some Float Stones before I set up Gothitelle, and I hadn’t managed to do that. He attacks first, and right after he attacks for the first time, I realize that I lose the game. He is completely set up, and he has me locked in.

Even if he missed an attack, which was highly unlikely knowing the deck, I was not going to be able to retreat my active Gothitelle and keep attacks going without Float Stone.

So, after realizing this, I scoop five minutes into the game when we each had 6 Prizes left. I really didn’t like scooping that early, but he was going to 6-0 me, so ending the game early was the right call in my opinion.


Game 2

I set up the first Gothitelle, but he responds with a quick Deck and Cover off his Mew-EX. I setup a second Gothitelle before the first one gets Knocked Out from poison, and stay in control of the game. He tries to contend with my strong start, but eventually I lock an Accelgor active and he scoops.

With four games of the Gothitelle mirror match under my belt, I still don’t understand the match. I’ve just been sort of playing everything by ear. Game three is where this all changes.


Game 3

This game is one of the most interesting, intense games that I have ever played. Usually I can get a feel for whether or not I am going to win or lose a game. I kept going back and forth this game between “Yes, I’m moving on to top four!” and “This sucks, my run is over,” but I just kept playing. He goes first and sets up the first Gothitelle. I respond with an attack from Mew-EX.

Once his Gothitelle becomes Knocked Out from poison, I run into an interesting situation. He had to discard one of his Double Colorless Energy early, and he has two more on his board. I play a Pokémon Catcher on his Duskull, Rare Candy into Gothitelle, and start to set up behind it. He can’t attach Float Stone to retreat, and he only has one Double Colorless left in his deck of forty or more cards.

I’m feeling really confident at this point, and I keep setting up behind Gothitelle while his Duskull is stuck active. I was one turn away from playing a Pokémon Catcher on his Accelgor and locking him for game when he finally draws his last Double Colorless. He retreats Duskull, sends up Accelgor, and uses Deck and Cover.

Now, not only is his Double Colorless back in his deck, but he doesn’t have out any evolutions, so there is nothing that I can lock active. If I attack any of his Pokémon, they will get Knocked Out before coming back to my turn. My heart just sank.

He Knocks Out my Gothitelle and sets up his own when he gets to use Items for a turn. I struggle to stay in the game. He is definitely in control. I set up another Gothitelle via Gothorita, and he takes a Knock Out. This is a very crucial point in the game. His field is full of Basics and a Gothitelle with a Float Stone. I have no Pokémon Catcher left, and my Dowsing Machine is discarded as well. He has 1 Prize card left, I have three.

If he sends up any Pokémon but Gothitelle, he is going to win the series because I can’t lock him. For some reason, he sends up Gothitelle. I can’t believe it, and I attack him twice with Mew-EX before using Sinister Hand for game.

2-1, 13-1

This was one of the best series of my career, and I was really pumped to be heading into the top four. I felt like I finally understood the Gothitelle mirror match, and Plasma is a very favorable matchup. I was really feeling like I could win Nationals. I couldn’t sleep that night; I was way too excited and nervous for top four in the morning.

Top 4 VS Edmund Kuras with Gothitelle/Accelgor

I knew who Edmund was before this event. I knew that he was a good player from California that doesn’t playtest, always performs well at Nationals, and he loves the Mavericks basketball team. I felt really confident in my ability to play the mirror match, so I was feeling really good about this series.

Game 1

I win the coin flip, so I’m going first. I setup the first Gothitelle and take control of the game. The game never really swings to his favor; I was running really hot. He scoops once he realizes that I have him locked in.


Game 2
How many does he play?

This game is a bit different. He sets up the first Gothitelle, so I set mine up more slowly via Gothorita. After he Knocks Out this Gothitelle, I can’t get another into play. I can’t play my Super Rod or any of my Rare Candy, so I just start dropping Junipers trying to draw into my Double Colorless Energy.

I keep a field full of Basic Pokémon so that he can’t lock any one Pokémon active for the entire game. At one point, I am forced to evolve into Dusknoir to have a shot at winning. I evolve via Dusclops, and take my fourth Prize card. He plays a Pokémon Catcher on my Dusknoir, and I know that he probably wins at this point.

I discarded one Double Colorless, and I have one attached to an Accelgor. I start digging and draw into my last two Double Colorless Energies. I attach them, retreat Dusknoir, and swing with Accelgor. He is down two Pokémon Catcher and a Computer Search at this point, so I’m feeling like I have a solid shot at winning the second game.

Then he plays a third Pokémon Catcher and my heart sinks. My Dusknoir is stuck active for the rest of the game, and I would deck out soon, so I scoop.


Game 3

I go first and set up the first Gothitelle, but I can’t get it active. He then plays a Rare Candy into his Gothitelle and gets the Item lock in play first. I realize while searching my deck that I prized all three Float Stone. Oh goodness. Things are not looking good.

During one turn, I play an N and Edmund gets four cards. I also Knock Out his Gothitelle in the same turn. He draws, plays Ultra Ball, Rare Candy, Gothitelle, and Juniper. I couldn’t believe it. He hit a beautiful four cards. That N was my window, and it closed very quickly. He sets up a third Gothitelle during his next turn, and just keeps rolling.

I try to contend by keeping only Basic Pokémon in play, but it’s fruitless. Edmund sweeps me for the rest of the game.

1-2, 13-2

After this game I was devastated. I was so confident with the Gothitelle mirror match, I won the first game, and playing against Plasma in the finals would have been a very easy matchup. I felt like I was inches away from winning a National Championship, and I had let the opportunity slip away. I had a really great run though, and looking back on it, I did do pretty well. At the time though, the loss in top four was heartbreaking.

Edmund went on to win the US National Championship with Gothitelle/Accelgor. Congratulations, Edmund! He is a really cool guy, and he really deserved the title.

Edmund’s List

After playing against Edmund, I would like to point out some differences in our lists. Here is what I imagine Edmund’s list looked like after playing three full games against him:

Pokémon – 19

4 Gothita EPO 43

1 Gothorita BCR

4 Gothitelle EPO 47

1 Duskull BCR

1 Dusknoir BCR

3 Shelmet NVI

2 Accelgor DEX

3 Mew-EX

Trainers – 37

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Skyla

2 Colress


4 Rare Candy

3 Ultra Ball

3 Level Ball

2 Pokémon Communication

3 Pokémon Catcher

3 Float Stone

1 Super Rod

1 Tool Scrapper

1 Computer Search


3 Tropical Beach

Energy – 4

4 Double Colorless

Guessing the best I can, the differences between my list and Edmunds look like this: -1 Dusknoir, -1 Dusclops, -1 Duskull, -1 Level Ball, -1 Skyla, -1 Dowsing Machine, -1 Pokémon Communication, +1 Pokémon Catcher, +1 Gothitelle, +1 Ultra Ball, +1 Computer Search, +2 Colress, +1 Mew-EX.

Basically, Edmund played a list that focuses more on the turn two Gothitelle than the late game. With another copy of Gothitelle, Ultra Ball, and Computer Search over Dowsing Machine, Edmund had better chances of setting up Gothitelle early than I did. However, my list focuses more on Dusknoir. I’ll reiterate that I think that Dusknoir is a critical part of the strategy, and I would choose running a heavier Dusknoir line over the extra Pokémon Catcher, Mew-EX, and one more supporter.

I would like to point out that none of the Gothitelle decks that I saw during top cut ran Musharna. Ideally, Musharna guarantees you an attack every turn if you get your deck down to two cards (Mew-EX and Double Colorless), but in my opinion, you should have won by that point anyway. I feel like there are many better options than Musharna for those two to three slots.


foot ash
So close… yet so far.

In conclusion, I was very disappointed that I didn’t win a National Championship. I was so close, and I really felt like it could have been my year. Looking back on it though, I am content with my performance. Many players consider top four finishes at US Nationals and Worlds as “big wins,” so I finally got my first big win. If you top four US Nationals or Worlds enough times, you make a name for yourself.

I was very happy with my deck choice, and if I could go back and change my list, I wouldn’t change a single card. I very well may play the exact same list for Worlds. Now that Nationals is over, I am becoming more and more excited about Worlds in Vancouver! I can’t wait to see everyone there and enjoy all that Vancouver has to offer. If you see me at Worlds, feel free to introduce yourself. I love meeting new people.

Special Thanks

I would like to take a moment to thank a few people who have helped me out this season. Brit Pybas and Jay Hornung have been great help with their advice all season. I’d like to thank Doug Morisoli for convincing me to play Gothitelle, and Aaron Curry for his deck advice before Nationals two years straight. I’d like to thank Clay Mitchell for everything he has done for me for the past six years, and all of the other players from Memphis, especially Squeaky Marking.

I am also very thankful for the great group of friends that I have formed through playing Pokémon. Michael Bergerac, Curran Hill, Michael Diaz, Justin Bokhari, Dean Nezam, and Andrew Krekeler to name a few. I would also like to publicly apologize to Michael Diaz for telling the whole world about Darkrai/Mewtwo last year.

Thank you all for reading!


Reader Interactions

27 replies

  1. Orrin Wilson

    this was quite a fun read and your list was very interesting compared to any goth list I have ever seen. congrats on t4!

  2. Michael Schaefer

    Reading that I wasn’t the only person to get sacked out by Edmund on a huge candy drop somehow makes me feel slightly better. Thanks for the read.

  3. Jake Piner

    Hey man, I was your round 6 opponent. Congrats on 3rd!

  4. Stephen miller

    Congrats on the top 4! I know you sort of covered this but how did you choose between computer search or dowsing machine? I am thinking of running a similar deck to Gothitelle and I am torn between the two Ace Specs. What made you choose Dowsing Machine over Computer search?

    • Squeaky Marking  → Stephen

      Like he said he only plays 2 catcher so to make sure you have multiple of cards you can dowsing machine for it. Also being able to dowsing machine for a supporter or candy is good too,

    • Sam Liggett  → Stephen

      Thanks man! There are just so many one ofs and two ofs that Dowsing Machine was really helping me to manage my resources late game better than Computer Search would. Computer Search would be a great play, but Dowsing Machine just gives you such a stronger late game.

  5. Nathaniel Kaplan

    Thanks for the great read and congrats on Top 4! I’ve been curious about the top Gothitelle lists for a while; I’m glad I get to see them here (although I’m not going to Worlds, this is more out of curiosity).

    I never read that Klinklang article; but wow, that’s pretty funny. It’s the same list that I was testing leading up to Nationals with a one card difference o_O

  6. Andrew

    Good job Sam. This is one of the best tournament reports I’ve read.

    Kicking myself for not seeing how good a play Gothitelle would be for the tournament.

  7. killerpotatoe

    congrats man!

    quick note, in the top 4 it says that you lost the first game.

  8. Ziggmiceter

    Nice article, but did you really have to release Edmund’s list? Did you get any OK from him? I just think it’s a unethical if you didn’t get his consent to release his list, even if it was off.

    • Jak Stewart-Armstead  → Ziggmiceter

      If he was releasing the actual list, sure.

      But I don’t think there is a problem guessing at the list after he played against it. There’s no obligation to keep secrets in that situation.

    • Sam Liggett  → Ziggmiceter

      This is not his list card for card, this is just what I imagine his list looked like after playing against him. I didn’t ask him for his list and then publicly post it; it’s all speculation. Posting what I believed his list to look like was more for comparison’s sake than anything else; I would not post his list just to post it.

  9. kazambolt

    I’m a bit disappointed that you called Sean out for his “bad shuffling” and failed to mention that the judges rushed him into the misplay. He was happy to change the way he has shuffled for his whole career after it was pointed out and none of the judges wanted to shuffle instead. But good job anyways, Sean said you were a good player and that you had a great series of games.

    • Sam Liggett  → kazambolt

      Calling him out was certainly not my intention. I was honestly trying to convey that I was very impressed with him as a player and that he was one of the best players that I have ever had the honor of playing against.

  10. John

    usually I hate reading tournament reports as it turns into one person just bragging about themself or complaining about how they missed their mark. Your report provides great introspection and explanation, enough to where I read the whole article word for word (something one rarely does anymore). Congraduations on getting top 4 at the World’s largest tournament and I look forward to seeing more from you (articles and games) in the future. +1

    • Sam Liggett  → John

      Thank you! I tried to explain my decisions and learn from my games. I am glad that you enjoyed the article!

  11. Spencer Whitehurst

    Thanks for mentioning me sam! I couldn’t tell you how many times I spoke highly of you every time someone asked how my round in 128 went. I may have lost but if anyone was gonna lock me to oblivion I’m glad it was someone as cool as you. You are one of the nicest dudes in pokemon. had a great match in 128 even though it was pretty one sided. You forgot to mention that you almost scooped game 1 but you drew a juniper at the last second ;D congrats on 3rd though man great run.

    • Sam Liggett  → Spencer

      Wow, thanks Spencer! Yeah dude, I feel the same way about you. That Juniper play did happen, I had forgotten about that. I certainly did have some lucky breaks.

  12. abudoggie

    Sam… this is Sydney’s dad.. thanks for the mention. Although, I must confess I think our conversation was less about deck choice as it was encouraging you to believe in yourself and taking a risk with a deck that you felt could do well. We both enjoyed meeting you. Syd certainly enjoyed testing with you Wednesday afternoon. I think it helped you both make some decisions. Congrats on such a strong finish at the most competitive event in the world! Well done! We look forward to reconnecting in Vancouver.

    • Sam Liggett  → abudoggie

      Thank you, Mr. Morisoli! Whatever our conversation was about, it definitely helped me to decide on playing Gothitelle. Thank you for the advice and for lunch. I look forward to seeing both you and Sydney in Vancouver as well!

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