Let’s Talk About Worlds! Part II: The Main Event (Featuring Ryan Sabelhaus)

Welcome to Part II of my Worlds article where today I will try to help you guys prepare for the Main Event in Canada this year. Going into my tenth Worlds Main Event I can tell you guys the excitement never vanishes from this extraordinary occasion. Everyone lucky enough to hold an invite to the event this year is undoubtedly hard at work right about now trying to find “the deck.” Some years it comes easier than others, and this time around it’s no easy task.

This article will focus on the two decks I believe will give you guys the best run at a World Championship, Plasma and Blastoise. Once again, I’ll be going through every matchup available for both decks so you guys can determine for yourselves which deck will be the one you choose come August 10th.

Table of Contents

  1. Plasma
    1. Vs. Gothitelle
      1. An Aside on Kyurem/Keldeo
    2. Vs. Darkrai
    3. Vs. Blastoise
    4. Vs. Mirror
  2. Blastoise
    1. Vs. Gothitelle
    2. Vs. Darkrai
    3. Vs. Mirror
  3. Conclusion


I’d like to start things off with an interview before I jump into my analysis of Plasma. I was fortunate enough to exchange dialogue with another one of my close friends for this article, Ryan Sabelhaus. The Sabelhaus brothers are an incredible duo and seeing them both make runs at Nationals definitely felt good to watch. Here’s the conversation I had with Ryan where he gives his opinion on Plasma as a deck choice for Worlds this year. Enjoy!

Do you feel that Plasma was the best play for this year’s Nationals looking back at the event?

I really feel like the Plasma list that our group played at Nationals was the best choice at the time. It had such good matchups against every deck besides Gothitelle/Accelgor, so I always felt confident when I didn’t see any Gothitas!

Going into Worlds, what factors add to/detract from Plasma’s playability for the Main Event?

The growing number of Gothitelle/Accelgor is going to make it hard to feel confident in Plasma. Being 3 out of the top 8 decks remaining in U.S. Nationals just shows how strong that deck can be if it makes top cut.

Do you feel that Gothitelle is the deck’s only bad matchup? If so, do you think this deck would offer a safe ride to the top cut?

Gothitelle is definitely a bad matchup, but still isn’t even an auto-loss to a strong start from Plasma. I did manage to take one of the games in the finals and Edmund definitely had the hot hand during that tournament when it came to drawing cards at the right time! The deck should be a strong contender and would not be a bad play for the main event at all in my eyes.

The Darkrai vs. Plasma matchup seems to be one of the most disputed matchups in the game. Who do you think has the advantage here? Did you play against any during your Nationals run?

I actually played against 2 Darkrai matches in the tournaments. The first was in top 64 against Dustin Zimmerman, who is a very close friend of mine! The match was by far the closest of my entire tournament and went into a Game 3, and even went all the way down to the infamous “turn 3” of time being called. I managed to take a Prize lead after drawing well and took the match on time.

The other match was in top 8 against Omar Reyhan and was also another close match that went to a Game 3. The matchup is definitely close, but I believe that the Plasma list I was using had a solid matchup against Darkrai. Overall, I think that Plasma has a good chance of overpowering Darkrai builds, but with well-timed Enhanced Hammers, Darkrai can swing the matchup and take the “W.”

What’s your opinion of Kyurem/Deoxys? It’s growing in popularity now and seems to be the preference of all the Plasma players who are too afraid to play Plasma in a field of Gothitelle.

I actually like the deck! I’ve played it many times in some online tournaments and the deck has pretty solid matchups all around. The deck can fall apart to Kyurems being Knocked Out through poison though (making their Exp. Shares not work in preserving Energy). This was my exact strategy going into my top 4 match and seemed to work pretty effectively there, along with my top 64 match against Dustin Zimmerman who also played Exp. Shares in his Darkrai build!

So, now that Plasma doesn’t seem like your favorite choice, what’s cooking for Worlds in the Sabel-house?

My kitchen’s been pretty busy lately with just about every deck that could be thought of. I’m still pretty undecided on a deck choice, but some top contenders for me right now are Plasma, Gothitelle, and Darkrai. I could never disrespect the “Dew” by not having my National’s build as one of my top choices!

Thanks a lot for the interview Ryan, see you in Vancouver!

I thought Ryan gave some solid insight, and although his opinion differs from mine regarding Plasma’s Darkrai matchup, I think there is some merit to some of the things he said regarding the matchup itself.

Now for the meat of the article. I’ll talk about all the matchups for both Plasma and Blastoise in the following sections, as well as some background as to how Life Dew Plasma came about.

Vs. Gothitelle

I’d like to start the discussion of the relationship between the two decks by giving you guys some insight into how I prepared for Nationals.

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We knew Gothitelle was formidable.

The week leading up to Nationals I stayed with Dave Richard and his brother Dan at their home in Michigan. After days of testing and theory we concluded that Gothitelle had the most upside and the fewest auto-losses. By this I mean that after discussing and testing the deck, we realized that in the event that the deck set up, there would hardly be any way to beat it with the format in the state it was for Nationals.

After much consideration however, we decided to focus on beating Blastoise and Plasma because those were the two decks we believed would be most popular even if it meant taking a bad matchup to Gothitelle, a deck we thought would see very little play, if any.

We tested Plasma with double Keldeo at first, but the advantage Keldeo provided simply wasn’t sufficient, and the deck would even lose to Gothitelle after just one Tool Scrapper. Plasma simply didn’t contain the cards necessary to consistently prevent Gothitelle’s lock, and I believe the case remains the same today.

After conceding that we would take the bad matchup to Gothitelle our work was cut out for us. Most of the deck was already constructed from testing with my brother, Frank, back home. Using the skeleton from our Plasma list, which we believed already had a good Blastoise matchup because of the speed provided by Bicycle, all we needed to do then was add techs to beat Plasma (the mirror match). Coincidentally, the techs we wound up adding also made the Garbodor, Eels, and Klinklang matchups seemingly favorable for us as well.

We decided on a second Absol after realizing that no matter how good the player, Plasma had to fill their bench to keep up in the mirror, and having a two Energy attacker with an awkward amount of HP could usually prove to be the difference maker. With our last spaces in the list we decided to try one Lugia and one DCE to give the deck a Prize swing which we believed would make Blastoise more favorable as well as hand us the mirror and Darkrai.

It tested well and we would have played it but on the last day of testing, a Skype call with Curran Hill convinced everyone that Life Dew was a more efficient way of swinging a Prize, and with Absol having the potential to deal huge damage for such little Energy, Life Dew seemed to end the game every time it was used successfully. Forcing the eighth Prize prompted a second Thundurus to keep sufficient Energy on the table in the event of a long game.

Blend GRPD was another great addition that made Absol and Deoxys all the more accessible which strengthened our mirror and Blastoise matches. The deck met all the criteria we had set for it and we were confident in our choice. Curran, Dan, Dave, Ryan, Kyle, Austin Cook, Spencer Whitehurst, and I were the only people playing the same 60, and 7 of the 8-of us made cut; so what does this mean for Plasma in Vancouver?

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Our matchups are good… except for Goth.

As far as matchups are concerned, this Plasma build has a lot of the bases covered, taking good matchups against Garbodor, Eels, Klinklang, Blastoise, the mirror, and just under 50/50 with a good Darkrai, but I’ll go into those matchups later.

The one glaring difficulty I talked about before is its Gothitelle matchup. This is an almost unwinnable matchup, especially if the Gothitelle player has any luck whatsoever. If we call the matchup 70-30 in favor of Gothitelle, does this make Life Dew Plasma unplayable for Worlds? I think not.

Because of the nature of the tournament, Worlds rewards players for playing consistent decks. The small top cut means that if you can navigate the 7-8 rounds of Swiss, you’ll only have to play 4-5 rounds of single elimination assuming you go all the way. This means that even if the deck takes one horrible matchup, you’ll still have a great shot at making the cut, and even then, you might not see that matchup until the final four, and at that point, does it even really matter if you lose?

Some would call this play the riskiest because of its auto-loss potential, but I’d argue it’s one of the safest bets if you’re trying to make cut and see the final table.

An Aside on Kyurem/Keldeo

Double Keldeo is a trick almost every deck is employing now if they’re looking to have a chance against Gothitelle. The issue I take with playing double Keldeo in a run of the mill Plasma is that it severely damages consistency and doesn’t even provide an airtight counter to Gothitelle.

Yes, it can save you the matchup, but what happens after the first Tool Scrapper? This is especially the case if you have no Scramble Switch and therefore cannot efficiently get 4 Energy onto a Keldeo. While it seems like a good idea if you really hate Gothitelle, keep in mind that it might not even solve your problems and you might need to find an alternative.

If you’re trying to find a way to counter Gothitelle in your Plasma for Worlds, it seems to me that the only way to do so effectively is by playing the straight Water version of the deck. Usually this type of list entails 4 Deoxys, 4 Kyurem, and 2-3 Keldeo. Exp. Share helps keep Water on the board, and if you’re fortunate enough to get them down before the Item lock hits, you might have an easy time powering up that first Keldeo with 4 Energy.

This list doesn’t sacrifice the Gothitelle matchup, but you can bet some if its other matchups fall by the wayside. It’s up to you as to which matchups you want to be prepared for if Plasma is the deck you choose for the main event.

Vs. Darkrai

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Lugia can help the Prize swing, but Darkrai has the slight edge.

The debate as to which deck between Plasma and Darkrai has the better side of the matchup is a topic I see disputed time and time again. As someone who’s played both decks extensively, objectively, I’d have to say that Darkrai has a favorable matchup here, but not by much.

Cards like Life Dew and Lugia definitely help Plasma in this matchup. The reason the Prize swing is so important in this matchup is that Plasma has the advantage early game and Darkrai usually relies on setting up multiple KOs in the late game. By scoring a KO with Lugia you accelerate the game considerably which will likely take a turn or two away from Darkrai’s attacks which Darkrai relies upon so heavily.

While Life Dew is admittedly less effective in this matchup, the Prize swing still changes the game noticeably. Because Darkrai’s knock outs are usually very predictable, due simply to the straightforward nature of Night Spear, dropping a Life Dew onto a Pokémon being targeted by Darkrai can really ruin prize math for the Darkrai player.

While all of these things contribute to Plasma’s end of the matchup, I still take issue with saying the matchup is favorable for the deck. At the end of the day, the stream of Enhanced Hammers with Dowsing Machine and Junk Hunt are usually enough to put Plasma on its back, and the fact that every EX in Plasma has 170 HP makes it all too easy for Darkrai to turn a 4 Prize play.

Again, I’d just like to say that many people would swear by either end of this matchup, but what I will interject is that I’d be willing to bet a lot of testing is skewed by subpar Darkrai players and lists. If you do decide on Plasma, you can be sure that the Darkrai players you’ll encounter in the Main Event will come prepared for this matchup, so be aware this matchup might be more than you bargained for.

Vs. Blastoise

Blend GRPD helps make Deoxys a potent attacking option against Keldeos.

This is one of my favorite matchups to discuss because I feel that all the aspects unique to Life Dew Plasma make this matchup favorable for Plasma. Double Absol, Blend GRPD, Life Dew, and Bicycle are all cards a Blastoise player hates to see hit the table in this matchup, and this Plasma’s got it all.

From incredible early game potential through Bike to additional late game Helix Force support in GRPD Blend, there is almost no way for Plasma to let an opening through which to lose a game, let alone a best of three set.

As if all of that weren’t enough, Life Dew extending the game to 8 Prizes makes it very difficult for Blastoise to produce enough energy to finish the game. Additionally, with all the non-EX attackers this deck plays, I’ll call this matchup 60-40 in favor of Plasma. Talking in-game strategy, you can effectively rule out Keldeo as a threat due to the high likelihood of a Helix Force, although you might want to soften it up with a Kyurem in the event that they only put 3 energy onto it for an Absol KO.

Black Kyurem EX can sometimes cause an issue, but again, after one Frost Spear, you should be able to set up 2 EX’s to be KO’d via Blizzard Burn, Helix Force, or Mind Jack. The attacks are too affordable and put out too much damage for me to say honestly that Blastoise can deal with the attackers Plasma can stream so efficiently, especially with the extra breathing room Life Dew provides.

Blastoise can sometimes give the deck trouble, but mostly due to the fact that Plasma is very susceptible to late game N in this matchup because of its speed. While you do have a lot of outs for a Helix Force, they’re sometimes hard to find late game, and Keldeo has the potential to come through with 6 Energy and really cause some issues. While this is a possibility, I don’t believe it’s likely, but this is the reason this matchup is 60-40 and not 65-35

Vs. Mirror

When two Plasmas play against each other, the one thing you’ll find in this mirror you won’t find in any other is variation. With Blastoise, Gothitelle, and even Darkrai for the most part, the Pokémon are all the same and it’s just a matter of which Pokémon hit the table with Energy first.

In this mirror, however, you never know what to expect. Aside from the occasional Kyurem/Keldeo build, some techs you might see in the mirror include Snorlax, Tornadus EX, Keldeo, and Lugia EX. On top of those techs, you can never really guess your how many Thundurus or Kyurem they play, or if they even play Absol at all. Apart from some dead giveaways in the Energy lineup, there is almost no way to foreshadow how many of each card is played, so you need to prepare as though they’ll have as many Pokémon as they’ll need, within reason.

As much as I’d love to say this matchup is a heavily skill-based one due to all the variables, I couldn’t do so comfortably. I will say however, that a list with all the tricks of Life Dew Plasma should have an advantage over the others plainly because it was designed to do so, and in testing, does so.

The fact of the matter is that the player who goes first has a huge advantage assuming similar high level lists. What seems to happen often in practice, is that the players who falls behind early on seems to have a much stronger late game due to conserved resources and high impact N’s.

Do I recommend falling behind in the mirror early on? Absolutely not. What I do recommend, however, is keeping in mind that mirror matches are almost always about resource management, and in the event you pull ahead early, make sure you have the means by which to finish the game out strong. This means burning cards that will be dead after an opposing N and holding cards like Catcher and Colress Machine so you don’t fizzle out at the end of the game.


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Wartortle should probably be in the mix.

Blastoise is my next favorite pick for Worlds this year because of its unparalleled lack of downside. Blastoise is the only deck that takes no auto-losses or unfavorable lopsided matchups. The strongest appeal for this being the best choice for the main event is that Gothitelle and Darkrai are going to see huge popularity spikes after the events of US Nationals, and most likely the Grinder itself.

I’ll talk about both of these matchups soon, but first I’d like to talk about some specifics of the list I think are essential, and will assume are included in the deck when discussing its matchups. Wartortle before Nationals was not a strong choice for this deck, but now that Gothitelle has proven to be as strong a contender as the other decks of the big four, it’s almost impossible not to include at least one Wartortle in your list.

The other card I believe is essential to the decks functionality is Exeggcute. This little guy makes your Ultra Balls far more efficient, as well as allows you to play a high Superior Energy Retrieval count making the deck more potent in the late game.

Vs. Gothitelle

I’ve already discussed this matchup in my previous article, and because it’s a 50/50 matchup, there won’t be very much more to include so I’ll be keeping this one brief.

Assuming the Blastoise list is a standard one, including at least three copies of Keldeo and either two or three L Energy, I think this matchup could go either way, possibly depending on the opening flip. Having to play Black Kyurem EX takes away some of Keldeo’s thunder in the matchup because it means you can’t afford the space for a fourth Keldeo usually, and your Water count is hindered by the inclusion of Lightings.

In light of all of this, however, with at least 10 Water, you can reliably get a T4 Keldeo with 4 Water on it, assuming you’re under Item lock. While it’s still a 50/50 matchup, the reason I like Blastoise’s odds here is because I believe its objective is easier to achieve than that of Gothitelle, and I believe it has a good chance of winning even in the event it struggles to set up, which is something Gothitelle struggles with.

Like I mentioned in my previous article, techs are what make or break this matchup. While Gothitelle could potentially play additional Catchers to aid the matchup, they sacrifice consistency for those spots and risk missing setting up all together. Playing more Water in Blastoise, however, is good in multiple matchups and usually won’t infringe on consistency because Blastoise decks generally have more room to play with than do Gothitelle decks.

Vs. Darkrai

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Black Kyurem is too good at wiping out their Energy.

This matchup is why Blastoise could be the deck to take the Main Event this year. The biggest issue with being comfortable selecting Darkrai for either the Grinder or Worlds is the possibility of hitting a Blastoise on the way up the ranks.

Black Kyurem’s Black Ballista virtually nullifies, on average, 2 turns of precious Energy attachments against Darkrai in just one attack. Darkrai decks have always relied on being able to get two attacks out of each Darkrai making the Energy investment a good one. With the addition of Superior Energy Retrieval to the deck’s repertoire, Blastoise can reliably throw down 4 Energies turn after turn, obliterating Darkrai’s chances of sticking Energy to the table.

On top of the havoc Black Ballista can cause, Black Kyurem’s 180 HP count make it very difficult for Darkrai to set up a double KO which is how it wins most of its games. Keldeo can draw easy Prizes on the support Pokémon for only 3 Energy without risking being KO’d back. Again, the efficient removal of Energy Blastoise can accomplish in this matchup make it hard for Darkrai to gain any ground past turn 3 or 4.

Additionally, with all the Darkrai decks teching out for Gothitelle by playing 3 Keldeo or what have you, they focus less on the cards that will help them against Blastoise like Dark Claw, Sableyes, etc.

The way the format has changed to include a high number of anti-Gothitelle Darkrais might just be the perfect storm Blastoise needs to steal the Main Event. Before Nationals I’d have called this matchup 60-40, but with the Gothitelle diversion, this matchup is most likely 65-35. I would not count on winning this matchup on the Darkrai side of the table.

Vs. Mirror

Some matchups are fun to write about because of the intricacies and variables involved with the games, but the Blastoise mirror is not one of them. Having played Blastoise pretty expansively, and having seen my fair share of mirrors, I can tell you that this matchup is 50/50 no matter how you look at it (assuming Black Kyurem builds for both players).

I think most people who’ve played this matchup will agree there’s almost no strategy involved in games between these two decks. The only word of advice I will offer is that sometimes, if you’re falling very far behind and you see yourself losing the EX exchange, look for a KO on Blastoise and maybe things will turn your way. Other than that, the entire game comes down to late game N’s and who can draw into their outs faster.

Even in trying to tech for this matchup, cards like Black Kyurem BCR and Kecleon PLF still really don’t do the trick. I’ve heard a lot of people talk about potentially playing both, but in testing I saw that neither was particularly useful and the spot is usually better served preparing for a different matchup. This one is a very low skill matchup with almost no variables.


So, just to recap, here are the two decks I talked about playing for the Main Event, and their percentages against the rest of the format, as I perceive them.

Plasma vs. Blastoise: 60/40
Plasma vs. Darkrai: 45/55
Plasma vs. Gothitelle: 35/65
Plasma vs. Mirror: 50/50

Blastoise vs. Darkrai: 65/35
Blastoise vs. Gothitelle: 50/50
Blastoise vs. Plasma: 40/60
Blastoise vs. Mirror: 50/50

Looking at all the matchups for these two decks once again we see a very tight race: 205 for Blastoise and 190 for Plasma. Again, it’s almost impossible to tell which deck will perform better for you at Worlds this year based on just the numbers, so you’ll just have to do the testing yourselves.

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I hope you’re now prepared for the challenges ahead!

What I aimed to do in the article is give you all the information you’ll need to know going into each matchup as well as some insight as to which decks you prefer to test first. You’ll notice that for this article I didn’t include a section about why the other two decks would be poor choices for this tournament, like I did in Part I.

The reason for this is because the Grinder is much more restrictive in which decks you can play because you literally have to win every round – there’s no in-between. At Worlds, whichever deck you find yourself winning with should be the deck you bring to Vancouver, there’s no way around that.

If you feel that Gothitelle or Darkrai seem to be trashing everything in testing, I cannot say that these decks are bad choices for the format for Worlds because winning games is never a bad strategy. I hope you guys understand what I mean about the exclusivity there is in deck choice at the Grinder that isn’t reciprocated for the Main Event.

I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to read both of these articles, I really appreciate it. Whether you’re playing Worlds itself or the Grinder, I hope that these matchup analyses have been adequate in helping you decide for yourself what deck you want to play. I try to make the focus of each of my articles helping you guys make decisions for yourselves rather than making them for you, and I couldn’t think of a better way of doing so than a two part article laying everything out for you guys. Give me all the feedback you’d like, I’d love to hear it.

Good luck in Vancouver everybody!


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