Hello everyone at SixPrizes! My name is Kyle Sabelhaus and I’ve been playing the Pokémon TCG competitively with my brother, Ryan, for about 10 years now. It’s great to finally write for SixPrizes and this little introduction article is hopefully the first of many.
For anyone unfamiliar with my family’s accolades on the competitive scene, my brother placed 2nd at US Nationals in 2013 and has won 3 Regional Championships in the last few years. I myself have won 7 State Championships and a Regional Championship, with several top cuts at Nationals and Worlds.
I figured I’d make my start on SixPrizes with a summation report of last weekend, where I attended the North Carolina State Championships.
Coming into this weekend I felt that Ryan and I had a strong grasp on the metagame for the Carolinas. After Ryan placed 3rd at the Virginia State Championships with Aromatisse/Genesect while I took the weekend off, we went back to the drawing board in preparation for the upcoming event in Tennessee. With my mind set on playing an unusual deck that weekend my options were either Kingdra/Greninja or Flygon/Dusknoir/Accelgor.
Both decks have their place in the format, and the surprise factor at an event where almost nobody had testing against anything like them was sure to be advantageous. I decided to go with Flygon and Ryan went Kingdra, ending the second weekend with a 3-3 drop and 2nd place respectively. My losses that weekend were to a very fast Blastoise in Henry Prior, a straight Palkia-EX deck (just my luck!), and to up and coming Jewell Catlett on a coin flip, so I didn’t feel like Flygon was a bad choice, but my matchups certainly could have gone better. I had a lot to think about heading into the last weekend of State Championships!
Finally, the day had arrived. It was Friday night and the gang (Ryan Sabelhaus, Tyler Morris, Casey Miller, and myself) was preparing for the trip to North Carolina in the morning. After a disappointing record in Tennessee I decided to take a good hard look at the metagame for the upcoming event. Let’s look at a break down for all the deck options and where I stood with them:
- Garbodor had been almost non-existent, with my only personal encounter coming through Jewell the week before.
- I had also noticed in the first weekend of States that Blastoise had taken over, winning multiple Championships with ease.
- Plasma was another deck on my radar, as I knew both the speed Lugia variant, TDK, and possible Palkia techs were beginning to rise in popularity.
- Aromatisse/Klinklang had also made its splash earlier that week with a victory in Texas, and Ryan had success with Aromatisse/Genesect week one.
- Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant seemed to be a clear majority of the field, however it was rare to see this deck seal the deal and win.
- Virizion/Genesect has always been a strong contender, and this seemed to be what Ryan and Tyler were focusing the majority of their testing in the final week.
Now on this list you may see some great (and viable) decks missing, but these were the main focus of my testing coming into North Carolina. With these parameters in place, I had my heart set on these possible decks:
- Blastoise – Unmatched power, and with some luck any tournament can be overwhelmed.
- Trevenant/Accelgor – Strong lock deck rising in popularity (with the addition of Sigilyph LTR). Avoid a fast Yveltal start going first or a Virizion and you’re in the clear.
- Gothitelle/Accelgor – Same concept as Trevenant, except you sacrifice a bit of consistency to virtually seal up the Yveltal matchup (no Dark Weakness!).
- Emboar/Delphox – Incredibly consistent for a setup deck and has that the 1HKO force necessary to dominate.
That night I tested mainly with Gothitelle/Accelgor and found that the list was as near perfect as it gets. I also got a game or so in with Emboar and it ran very smoothly. After a long day I was ready to call it a night, so I packed up and headed home, ready to start our next day bright and early.
It was finally here; the day every Pokémon player looks forward to! We made the 2-hour drive into North Carolina and got settled in, chatting it up with fellow players and friends.
On the car trip there I decided to change Gothitelle/Accelgor into Trevenant/Accelgor/Sigilyph/Snorlax, which I figured could tilt the Yveltal matchup in my favor (which was the entire reason for playing Gothitelle over Trevenant in the first place!). I wrote out my list, but for some reason I couldn’t get myself to stand up and turn it in to the judges.
Something just didn’t feel right, and Ryan could tell. He just looked over at me, handed me another decklist, and said, “Play Emboar.” It was odd for him to say that when both he and Tyler were playing Virizion/Genesect (a matchup clear in my favor), but he has an uncanny read on the metagame that couldn’t be ignored. Deep down I felt like Emboar was a strong play, but it didn’t bring a surprise factor that I craved. Oh well! I wrote out my list and anxiously awaited the opening pairings.
Pokémon – 15
Trainers – 34
Energy – 11
This list was built to be very consistent and give me a fighting chance against basically every deck in the metagame in North Carolina. Garbodor was again almost non-existent like we expected, and made the call for no Tool Scrapper worth it.
Round 1 vs. Lee Lackey with Aromatise/Klinklang
I knew this deck had just won Texas States and I was… kind of expecting it, but certainly not so early! Lee is a PokéDad who knows his way around the game and I was ready to give him a great series.
I lose the opening coin flip and he decides to play first. I see Klink and a Spritzee and get to take a sigh of relief. He proceeds to play a Prism on the Klink and pass his turn. My opening few turns looked pretty pathetic in all honesty; I was just attaching to a Rayquaza and using Tropical Beach, as my hand consisted of the dreaded mix of Junipers and Superior Energy Retrievals.
Lee was close to capitalizing on my slow start with an eminent Triple Laser from Registeel-EX on the way, but during his busy turn he realized he evolved his Klink into Klang and left the Prism stranded on Klang now! That next turn I got a Delphox into play and played out my hand, also acquiring Emboar and the Energies for a knockout, and Lee conceded a few turns later.
Game 2 was more of the same to say the least. I had a fast start without Tropical Beach and Lee was forced to use an early Colress for 3. He dead-drew the rest of the match and I sealed the game when an Escape Rope required his Klink with 3 Special Energy to come active.
Always fun playing you though, Lee!
Round 2 vs. ??? with Plasma/Palkia
Oh boy! This is going to be fun. Palkia-EX is my worst enemy as an Emboar player. When there are 2 Deoxys out and 1 Muscle Band on Palkia-EX, my Rayquaza-EX is getting Knocked Out in 1 attack and they hide behind a Snorlax. We’ll see how this goes!
I go first and get a strong start, with a Fennekin, Tepig, and Rayquaza on the board with a Tropical Beach. My opponent gets a classic Plasma start, with Thundurus using Raiden Knuckle onto a Palkia-EX. From this point my field erupted, with a Delphox, Emboar, and fully loaded Rayquaza ready to go. To top it all off I got heads on the Pokémon Catcher and Knocked Out the Palkia-EX!
He recovered when a Frozen City was able to stick for a few turns, but my start ended up being too much and I took Game 1.
Game 2 was cutthroat. For every Tropical Beach there was a Frozen City to counter. Every Dragon Burst was followed by a 1HKO Strafe. In the end I was able to play a Tropical Beach and load up a Delphox for a final knockout. I wish I remembered more of the details, but it was an excellent series!
Round 3 vs. Tyler Morris with Virizion/Genesect/Roserade
Tyler is a great friend and it’s unfortunate that we had to play so early in the tournament. I have a clear advantage in the matchup, but if anyone could pull out the upset it would be Tyler. He’s played more games with Virizion/Genesect than anyone I know and has made some remarkable comebacks.
We start with me going first and getting my classic setup of Tepig and Fennekin on the bench, along with retreating to Reshiram and using Tropical Beach. Tyler’s turn was pretty simple with just an attachment to the benched Virizion and a Sigilyph active, and I believe he also countered the Tropical Beach with a Skyarrow Bridge. I played an N and he revealed an awful hand, but from this point I was able to get multiple Tepig and a Delphox. The game ended a few turns later after a failed Squeeze attempt from Roserade (which may have lead to a neck and neck finish!).
Tyler chose to go first in the next game and attached to Virizion and passed. I started with Reshiram and had an explosive opening, filling my bench and using Tropical Beach. This game was much faster than the early game, as I hit a Pokémon Catcher and Knocked Out a Genesect that just got Emerald Slashed onto the turn before. Tyler was a good sport during the match and we shared some laughs like always.
Round 4 vs. Andrea Ricci with Blastoise
Andrea is an up and coming player from the Virginia area where she plays with Worlds qualifier Johnny Rabus. We have played a few times in the past, the most recent being at Virginia Regionals where I won against her Blastoise with Virizion/Genesect. She would also be playing Blastoise this time.
She wins the roll and starts with Squirtle and Voltorb, Skylas for a Tropical Beach, and uses the Beach. My hand wasn’t the best, but with her playing the Tropical Beach I was able to drop enough cards to refill my hand to 7 and see a foreseeable setup in the next turn. We both were setup by turn 3 and the battle of Black Kyurem-EX vs. Rayquaza-EX had began.
Both of us played non-EX attackers (she Black Kyurem BCR and I Rayquaza LTR) and tried to incorporate them into the Prize count. We also both play Pokémon Catchers and I remember a specific flip where I got heads and Knocked Out a Black Kyurem-EX with a regular Rayquaza’s Shred. This tilted the Prize count in my favor and with Delphox to refresh my hand I was able to avoid the late N from doing any serious damage, winning that turn.
Game 2 Andrea has another turn 3 Blastoise, but in the early game I was able to Knock Out her Voltorb. This lead to some inconsistent draws for her and I played the Prize count well with regular Rayquaza and Delphox to avoid any change in the Prize swap. In the end a Rayquaza-EX Dragon Burst sealed the series. Great games, Andrea!
Round 5 vs. Nestor Luna with Plasma/Palkia
I didn’t want to see this deck in the middle of the event! Nestor runs a variant mainly focused on Palkia and hiding behind Snorlax.
He starts off going first, Colress Machines to a Palkia along with a Double Colorless Energy attachment and passes after using a Supporter. I had a relatively strong start, placing both Fennekin and Tepig on the bench and using Tropical Beach. Nestor gets a Strafe knockout next turn and I can already feel the pressure. I was able to get a Delphox turn 2, and that lead to an explosive draw into an Emboar and enough Energy to setup a Rayquaza and get heads on Pokémon Catcher (sound familiar?) to Knock Out Palkia-EX. Nestor wasn’t able to recover in time and I stole a quick first game.
Game 2 Nestor donked me on the 2nd or 3rd turn; my hand must have been pretty bad. I think my brain purposely forgot this moment.
Game 3 was… interesting. Nestor’s opening hand was awful and he only had a Palkia-EX in play. I had a Rayquaza-EX and Tepig, leading to a turn 2 Emboar and Juniper, where I only needed to hit 2 R Energy to win the game! That didn’t happen.
In fact, he drew out of his struggling hand and I found myself on the defensive. Pokémon Catcher was 0% for me this game for me, and I ended up attacking into multiple Snorlax. The Prize count was unfavorable the entire match, yet somehow I made it to a point where all I needed was Dowsing Machine for a chance to win. I had 2 Prizes left, and used Mystical Fire to actually hit the Dowsing Machine!
I would have used it for the Escape Rope and a guaranteed win, but Nestor smartly dropped a Snorlax on the bench. This Dowsing Machine instead had to be used on a Pokémon Catcher and the outcome was left to a flip…
Tails. Oh well. Great series Nestor!
Round 6 vs. John Orgel with Aromatisse/Klinklang
John! John is a great friend and I knew exactly what he was playing by this point. We start it off and he is going first. He attached to Cobalion and used his Tropical Beach with Klink on the bench. I had a rough start, but at least his Tropical Beach was in play. I had another hand with Juniper and 2 Superior Energy Retrieval so I took my time and used the Beach.
After a few turns he gets the classic setup for his deck with Aromatisse, Klinklang, and an attacking Cobalion-EX into my Rayquaza-EX for 100. That turn I Juniper and lose the Superior Energy Retrievals, but my setup was complete; Delphox Knocks Out the Cobalion-EX and all the Energy on board. The game ended a few turns later.
Game 2 was basically the same as the first, except I had a faster setup. He conceded after a few more turns. Rough matchup, but it was great seeing you John!
Round 7 vs. Jason Joyce with Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant
We’re both in top cut if we intentionally drew so we did. I watched some matches with the guys and laid out my deck in preparation for top cut with Ryan and Tyler.
All right! It always feels great making top cut. The Top 8 matchups would break down like this:
- #1 Jason Joyce (Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant) vs. #8 Nestor Luna (Plasma/Palkia)
- #2 Ryan Sabelhaus (Virizion/Genesect/Roserade) vs. #7 Taylor Pagani (Suicune/Terrakion/Raichu/Garbodor)
- #3 Tyler Morris (Virizion/Genesect/Roserade) vs. #6 Ryan Fukawa (Plasma)
- #4 Myself (Emboar/Rayquaza) vs. #5 Martin Payne (Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant)
We took a short break and then got ready to play!
Top 8 vs. Martin Payne with Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant
This was my first time playing against Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant the entire tournament. I really like my matchup as usually my fast and consistent setup means I streamline knockouts while they struggle to keep up. Hopefully that’s how it goes!
He wins the opening flip and decides to go first. Martin opens strong with an Ultra Ball (discarding D Energies), a Dark Patch, a Double Colorless on the active Bouffalant, and a Juniper! He uses a Hypnotoxic Laser after a few more Pokémon hit the bench and finally ends his turn. Oh boy… I need a big turn.
I start and luckily I’m able to lay a few Pokémon on my bench including 2 Tepig and a Fennekin, and I finish with the use of Tropical Beach. Martin couldn’t get aggressive early since my Reshiram acted as a wall and he didn’t want to Gold Breaker with Bouffalant. He continued the Dark Patches and started to build a threatening benched Yveltal.
A few turns in I was able to drop down Emboar and Delphox, and the engine really started going. I had to use Rayquaza-EX for a knockout on a non-Pokémon-EX, but Martin’s only play to stay in the Prize race was to bring up a 6-Energy Yveltal-EX and Hypnotoxic Laser to Knock Out my Rayquaza-EX. I quickly responded with another Rayquaza-EX and a Superior Energy Retrieval, which left his field decimated. I won shortly after.
Game 2 Martin started just as explosive as the first. However, this game I also had a monster opening and was able to hit a Pokémon Catcher on a Darkrai-EX and knockout it out with a Rayquaza-EX by the 3rd turn. Everything looked great until I used my Professor’s Letter and realized I prized a lot of R Energy. When the game hit the final stretch, I had used my Dowsing Machine and all 4 Superior Energy Retrieval.
I had a Rayquaza-EX active with a L Energy and no damage against his Sableye. Martin had a Darkrai-EX on the bench and I only needed 2 Prizes, and I had 1 Pokémon Catcher remaining. With 6 cards left in my deck (Fire, Fire, Fire, Lightning, Supporter, and Beach) I used the Pokémon Catcher… heads! Awesome! I then played out the rest of my hand and used Mystical Fire to draw out the rest of my deck, dropped 3 R Energy on Rayquaza-EX and Knocked Out Darkrai-EX for my last Prizes. Great series!
Onto top 4!
- #1 Jason Joyce (Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant) vs. #4 Myself (Emboar/Rayquaza)
- #2 Ryan Sabelhaus (Virizion/Genesect/Roserade) vs. #5 Ryan Fukawa (Plasma)
Top 4 vs. Jason Joyce with Yveltal/Darkrai/Bouffalant
Jason had tested this matchup and knew he was in for some trouble. We joked about it as we shuffled up and got ready to start. I lost the opening flip and watched Jason start just as fast as Martin in Top 8; he discarded some D Energy and got the Dark Patch to use them, and then Junipered for even more cards to play out. I was going to have to get a strong base structure down to keep up, and it looked like my hand was going to cooperate!
I played down multiple Tepig and Fennekin, retreated to a Reshiram and used Tropical Beach to end my turn. Jason was able to keep up the pace with a threatening bench, but it looked like my Reshiram was going to buy me the extra turn I needed to set up. I played down Delphox, which lead to Emboar, which lead to a monster setup. An early heads on Pokémon Catcher to take down a Darkrai-EX with 2 Energy put Jason on the defensive. In the end he couldn’t keep up with the speed and damage output and we moved on to Game 2.
Game 2 was all me from the start. Jason started Bouffalant, attached a Double Colorless and passed the turn. I got the typical setup and awaited his response. He still had no Supporter and just attacked. I explode on the scene with Rare Candy + Delphox and Rare Candy + Emboar, retreat to Rayquaza-EX and knockout the Bouffalant. Jason just has a Bouffalant and a Keldeo-EX and the game was over. Sorry for the quick series but it was great playing you bud!
Awesome! Let’s see whom I play in finals…
- #2 Ryan Sabelhaus (Virizion/Genesect) vs. #4 Kyle Sabelhaus (Emboar/Rayquaza)
Finals vs. Ryan Sabelhaus with Virizion/Genesect/Roserade
My finals opponent looked really familiar, but I couldn’t remember how I knew him. Oh wait – that’s my brother! We agreed that this match wasn’t worth playing out and I was the North Carolina State Champion.
We finished just before 11 PM and got a short celebration in with all our friends before we headed home. A special thanks to all the judges and staff for the event, especially David Griggs.
I’d like to thank you for reading this report and hopefully it is just the beginning of something great to come with SixPrizes. Please keep your eyes open for more content from my brother and myself. Thanks players!
– Kyle Sabelhaus