Climbing the Pyramid

1st Place 2014 Pennsylvania State Championship Report

Hello SixPrizes! My name is Sydney Morisoli and this is my Pennsylvania State Championship report. Many of you may know me as that young Junior girl who has played competitively since age 5. As a Junior, I had a number of successes, including 2011 US Nationals Finalist at age 8 and top cut at Worlds the past three years.

However, over that whole time, I have never won the championship in my home state of Pennsylvania. I have got lots of 2nds, but never the win. I was sure that this year was going to be different. I aged up to Seniors and got off to a good start taking 2nd place at Philadelphia Regionals. I hoped that meant good things could happen in chasing down my first PA States win.

In addition to my decklist and tournament report, I thought it might be helpful to other players to share how I prepare for big events. I had some real pressure going into Pennsylvania States because it would be my last big event before United States Nationals (my dad and I won’t be attending any Spring Regionals). This meant I needed to finish 2nd or better to have a shot at getting my Worlds invite without having to rely on a strong Nats performance or the Last Chance Qualifier.

Learning to Compete by Climbing the UCLA Pyramid

I see many players worry only about decklists from event to event. I think players also need to spend time on developing their competitive mindset and approach to tournaments. I am very fortunate to live in one of the very competitive areas that offer lots of tournaments and is loaded with Pokémon talent at all age levels.

We have a number of top-level Masters that also spend time mentoring younger players (Ben Sauk, Jimmy O’Brien, Frank Diaz, Dylan Bryan, Dylan Dreyer, and many others have contributed to my learning). I also have a secret that I will share that has helped me for the past few years.

I try to follow the principles from Coach John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” that he used to help guide the UCLA basketball team to competitive greatness by winning ten NCAA National Championships. My dad went to UCLA and we watched a movie about Coach Wooden and his methods and I thought they could help me too. The idea of the Pyramid is that we climb to “Competitive Greatness” at the very top of the Pyramid by mastering all of the blocks underneath it. You start at the bottom row and work your way up.

coach john wooden pyramid of

It’s pretty easy to see how each block can relate to competitive Pokémon. The corners of the Pyramid are made of “Industriousness” (hard work) and “Enthusiasm.” Coach would say that to move up, you need to connect the corner blocks with the people in your competitive life through “Friendship,” “Loyalty,” and “Cooperation.”

As a Junior, I spent a lot of time working on that first row and getting feedback from my dad and teammates from my League (Go Team WreckFace!). Now as a new Senior, I am really working on “Self-Control” (I get a little carried away with being social at tournaments) and I sometimes fail at “Initiative” (I’m not always as prepared as I could be!). As Brit Pybas wrote in his recent article, how you deal with loss is really important, but I think making sure you don’t overly celebrate every win during the day is just as key. So maintaining “Poise” is pretty big too.

All of this helps me reduce the pressure of preparing for big events and keep me focused during the event. Coach Wooden never talked about winning or losing with his players. He focused on the fundamentals in the Pyramid, time management, and paying attention to game details – a player’s first lesson at UCLA was how to properly tie their shoes! His definition of success is the “self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

To sum it up, be well prepared and take comfort in simply doing your best.

Deck Choices for States

Thanks for the inspiration, Dean!

In selecting a deck to test for a tournament, I study the metagame to identify decks with good matchups and that avoid auto-losses. I read articles on sites like SixPrizes and HeyTrainer, and I like to watch videos on The Top Cut and On The Bubble.

After playing in Delaware and Maryland States, I felt I had a pretty good sense of the metagame. In Week 1 at Delaware, I played Darkrai/Yveltal/Bouffalant. It was a strong choice that took me to Top 8. But I was stopped by a creative deck played by the winner that day, Jeremy Gibson, who streamed Palkia-EX with Suicune PLB that I didn’t have a response for.

In Week 2, at Maryland, I played a pretty techy Japanese Ho-Oh-EX deck that ran Yveltal-EX, Suicune PLB, Landorus-EX, Virizion-EX, and Palkia-EX. It was a strong deck, but I whiffed cut after a dead-draw loss and a loss due to a prized Palkia that I needed for a Blastoise matchup. My dad was the head judge for Maryland States, so I got to stay and watch Masters play all the way to the end.

After watching my friend Dean Nezam win with a Virizion/Genesect/Drifblim deck, I felt it was a top choice against my competition for PA since I expected to play against the same decks he did. So VirGen with the balloons became my first deck choice to test for Week 3.

Deck Testing

Once I pick a deck, I like to find a successful Japanese list to use as a starting point for testing. I find that helps me think afresh about a deck since their lists are often very different and techy. This is something I started after Esa’s “Eye on Japan” articles which Henry Prior now does here on SixPrizes. I like to test a lot and change things in the deck that work better for me. I usually test on PlayTCG with Skype and then like to test against my Master friends the night before an event.

For PA, Dad and I went to the event hotel on Friday night to meet up with the Masters gang from NJ, VA, and MD. I got in about six hours of solid testing with Dylan Dreyer, Nicholena Moon, Andrew Mahone, and Jimmy Pendarvis, and Dylan Bryan came from NJ.

Here is the decklist from Japan that I started testing the week before the event:

Pokémon – 14

3 Virizion-EX
3 Genesect-EX
3 Drifloon PLB
2 Drifblim PLB
1 Drifblim DRX
1 Mr. Mime PLF
1 Kyurem DRV

Trainers – 31

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

1 Skyla

2 Colress
2 Bianca
1 Shadow Triad


3 Ultra Ball

2 Colress Machine

2 Energy Switch

2 Muscle Band
2 Super Rod
1 Tool Scrapper
1 Silver Bangle
1 Town Map
1 G Booster


2 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 15

9 G

4 Plasma
2 Double Colorless

After testing with everyone, here are some of the changes I made:

  • Basic Attacker: Kyurem DRV or Tropius PLB was used in the Japanese lists I looked at. I decided to use Tropius in the deck because Energy Press with a Muscle Band can be pretty strong. Also if you don’t have a Supporter, you can Ultra Ball for Tropius and use Return to help you get set up.
  • Balloons: The Masters who recently won with VirGen ran a 2-2 line, but I heard they split the Drifblim to 1 Derail and 1 Shadow Steal. I chose to go all-in on Derail for fear of having 1 Prized. This ended up being good decision for me.
  • Switching/Retreating Cards: I decided I wanted four switching/retreating cards. The Japanese list only ran 2 Skyarrow Bridge. I decided to mix it up with 2 Switch, 1 Escape Rope, and 1 Skyarrow Bridge.
  • “Luxury Cards” (Town Map, Colress Machine, Mr. Mime PLF): I dropped these to improve consistency. I added a 4th Ultra Ball, 3rd Energy Switch, 2nd Shadow Triad, and 2 more Skylas.

After my changes from playtesting, here is the deck I actually used:

Pokémon – 11

3 Genesect-EX
3 Virizion-EX
2 Drifloon PLB
2 Drifblim PLB
1 Tropius PLB

Trainers – 36

4 Professor Juniper

4 N

3 Skyla
2 Colress
2 Shadow Triad


4 Ultra Ball
3 Energy Switch

3 Muscle Band

2 Switch
1 Escape Rope
2 Tool Scrapper
2 Enhanced Hammer

1 Professor’s Letter

1 Super Rod

1 G Booster


1 Skyarrow Bridge

Energy – 13

9 G
4 Plasma

Game Day: PA State Championship

I had to get up early because my dad was head judge for Masters so we had to arrive at 7:30 AM. I was really tired because I had stayed up late testing the night before. But I was also excited to play because I felt my testing went well. I was also nervous going into the tournament though, because I was worried that I would see a lot of RayBoar, but I ended up not seeing any.

Round 1 vs. Lucas M. with Fairy Basics/Aromatisse

Lucas went first, starting with a Xerneas. I started out with 2 Virizion-EX. He attached to Xerneas, got out a Spritzee, and passed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get a Supporter for about five turns so I just attacked with Emerald Slash for a while constantly attaching to my Benched Tropius and another Virizion-EX.

A few turns later while he has 4 Prizes, he used N. I got an amazing hand, using Energy Switches to get a fully powered Genesect-EX with a G Booster on my turn. I Red Signaled his Aromatisse and Enhanced Hammered a Rainbow Energy off of his Yveltal-EX. Then I attacked with Megalo Cannon to KO the Aromatisse, putting 20 damage on Yveltal-EX. He had to pass on his next turn.

He had 1 Prize left, so I N’d him to one card. He was unable to get anything from the N, so I G Boostered my way to victory in the next two turns.


Round 2 vs. Owen G. with Plasma (Yeti)

This was a pretty quick game. I got a turn 2 Drifblim and fully powered Genesect-EX with G Booster on turn 3. On turn 2, I Red Signaled his Deoxys-EX and used Derail with a Muscle Band for the knockout. On my next two turns I attacked with G Booster to KO two Lugia-EXs for the win.


Round 3 vs. Aidan R. with VirGen (no balloons)

I went first, getting an Energy on Virizion-EX and benching a Genesect-EX. He used Colress for four and passed. I Emerald Slashed his Active Palkia-EX, getting Energy on my Genesect and KOing the Palkia-EX. He passed. I Red Signaled his Virizion-EX and G Boostered to KO. He had to pass again. I Red Signaled another Virizion-EX to take my last 2 Prizes.


Round 4 vs. Lex D. with Darkrai/Yveltal

You may know Lex from winning the Klaczynski Open. We decided to ID this round, knowing that all 3-0-2 players would make top cut. But just to know how this round would have gone, we played out the game. I ended up with a slow start, while he was getting a very quick setup. He was down to 1 Prize while I still had four left. I used N and he didn’t get anything off of it. I ended up using G Booster to take my last 4 Prizes.


Round 5 vs. Alec M. with Aromatisse/Big Basics

I planned to ID again, but we decided not to play a fun game because we didn’t want to hold people up.


I sorted my deck while we waited for standings. I ended up 2nd seed going into top cut, knowing that I would be playing against my friend and leaguemate Jack K. and that he was playing Darkrai/Yveltal, similar to my Week 1 deck.

Top 8 vs. Jack K. with Darkrai/Yveltal

ash fist pump nervous

Game 1

I couldn’t get set up, so I lost this game pretty quickly. I needed to put the loss behind me and focus one game at a time.

Game 2

I got an Energy on Virizion-EX; he used Colress for 4 and couldn’t get anything. I started attacking with a focus on removing all of his Energy off the board by KOing his Yveltal-EX and Bouffalant for the win.

Game 3

I went second this game. He powered up an Yveltal and played Professor Juniper. I attached to Virizion-EX and benched two Genesect-EX. He used N (which actually got me out of a bad hand). He attached Muscle Band and used Yveltal’s attack Oblivion Wing for 50, attaching a D Energy from the discard to an Yveltal.

I Enhanced Hammered a Double Colorless Energy off Yveltal-EX and attached another Grass to Virizion-EX, attached a Muscle Band, and used Emerald Slash to power up a Genesect-EX. He benched a Bouffalant and used Oblivion Wing onto the Yveltal-EX again. I Emerald Slashed onto a different Genesect-EX, Knocking Out the Yveltal.

He brought up the Yveltal-EX and attached a Double Colorless Energy to Bouffalant, used N, and Knocked Out my Active Virizion-EX. I topdecked a G Booster, Tool Scrappered the Muscle Band off of Bouffalant, and used N. I Knocked Out his Yveltal-EX with G Booster. The next turn he used Junk Hunt for a Dark Patch and a Pokémon Catcher. I played N and retreated to my other Genesect-EX, attached a Muscle Band to it and Red Signaled the Bouffalant. I used Megalo Cannon for the knockout doing 20 damage to the Yveltal-EX on the Bench.

I now had 2 Prizes left and all I needed is to G Booster his Active Yveltal-EX for the win. He played N and I drew a Plasma Energy and a Professor Juniper. Unfortunately, he Tool Scrappered my G Booster. Luckily, I topdecked a Shadow Triad! I got my G Booster back and attached a Plasma Energy to my Genesect that already had 2 G Energy on it and used G Booster for the win! Close game against a good friend.

Top 4 vs. Alec M. with Aromatisse/Big Basics

ash fist strength confidence

Knowing that my invite’s fate was in the hands of this match, I was very nervous sitting down to the table. I just finished a tough Top 8 match, and I needed to relax and focus. In these stressful must-win situations is where I find comfort and confidence in my training with Wooden’s UCLA Pyramid. I am not thinking about my decklist. It is well tested. I am thinking about “Poise.” I am thinking about “Intentness.” For extra luck, I put out my Joan of Arc prayer card.

Game 1

I go second and attach a G Energy to Virizion-EX for my turn. The only Supporters in my hand are two Shadow Triads so all I can do is pass. Eventually, after a series of using Emerald Slashes to power another Virizion-EX and a Genesect-EX, I topdeck a Juniper. I get a G Booster to Knock Out his Xerneas-EX with 3 Y Energy.

He used Pokémon Catcher on my Tropius and put it to sleep since I didn’t have a G Energy on it. He attacked with Break Through leaving me with 10 HP left, putting 30 on my Virizion-EX. If he can Break Through again, he can take his last 2 Prizes. I wasn’t able to get my Tropius out of being the Active Spot to bring up Genesect-EX for the win, so I lose Game 1. I need my prayer card to kick in.

Game 2

I chose to go first, attached to Virizion-EX, benched a Genesect-EX and passed. He doesn’t have a Supporter so all he can do is pass. I Emerald Slashed for a couple turns, powering up two Genesect-EX. He isn’t able to get anything out in this game, so I just attack with Megalo Cannon and G Booster until I bench him by KOing all his Pokémon in play.

Game 3

I go second, and knowing that I have a terrible hand, it looked very unlikely that I would come close to winning this game. But he played N and gave me new life. On my turn, I get a Grass on Virizion-EX, Ultra Ball for Genesect-EX, Enhanced Hammer a Rainbow Energy off of his Yveltal-EX, Skyla for Professor Juniper, and pass. I am left with 2 cards in hand: the Professor Juniper and a G Energy.

He played Ultra Ball, getting rid of two N, to get a Spritzee. He played Shauna for five and attached a Y Energy to his active Xerneas-EX, and passes. I attach the Grass to Virizion-EX, and Professor Juniper. I get another Genesect-EX onto my Bench, attach a Muscle Band to Virizion-EX, and use Emerald Slash, powering up a Genesect-EX.

He uses another Shauna for 5, evolves into Aromatisse, puts down Fairy Garden, attaches Rainbow Energy to Yveltal-EX, and uses Evil Ball for 100. I Skyla for a Colress, Red Signal the Aromatisse, retreat, Enhanced Hammer the Rainbow Energy, and Megalo Cannon the Aromatisse for the knockout, putting 20 on the Yveltal-EX. After that he uses Shauna and passes. I Megalo Cannon and Xerneas-EX for the knockout. He benched another Spritzee and used N which puts me at three cards.

The only good card I got from the N was a Plasma Energy, to bring up the Spritzee and Megalo Cannon it for the knockout. Now I have 2 Prizes left, and all I need to do is be able to get my G Booster. He uses N again to put me at two cards in hand. On my turn, I topdeck a Professor Juniper, and I got the G Booster for the win!

ash wins yes excited fist

This win means I pretty much get my Worlds invite! I am so happy that I jump up and let out a shout! I am an emotional wreck from the joy of knowing I will be competing in Worlds again this year. A lot of my friends clapped and cheered.

But that was only one part of the mission today. I can’t be distracted. My remaining goal is to win my very first PA State Championship! I know that I have to stay focused. Maintain “Poise” and “Self-Control.” Stay in “Condition” by saving my energy and having some water and a snack between matches.

Top 2 vs. Henry R.-C. with VirGen Balloons (Mirror Match)

Game 1

Henry is a tough competitor. We played similar decks, and this is a matchup I tested a lot. He won the flip and chose to go first, used N, and gave me a terrible hand. The only Supporter I had was a Shadow Triad, so I lost pretty quickly, being unable to get out anything.

Game 2

I went first and attached to Virizion-EX and used Ultra Ball to get a Genesect-EX. He does the same, and plays a Professor Juniper. On my turn, I was able to Emerald Slash to power up a Genesect-EX. He was also able to Emerald Slash on his turn but I noticed he didn’t play a Supporter. So instead of N, I play Professor Juniper and get good stuff.

I use Professor’s Letter to get two Grass, attach a Muscle Band to my Genesect-EX, attach Energy, and Megalo Cannon to Knock Out his Virizion-EX for 2 Prizes. He brings up a Drifblim and attaches to a Benched Virizion-EX and passes. I Red Signal up the Genesect-EX, knowing it is a bigger threat. To be able to KO his Genesect-EX, I play a Tool Scrapper to remove the Muscle Band on my Genesect-EX and replace it with G Booster!

After the KO, he brings up the Drifblim again. He gets a Juniper, but by that time I had pretty much already won knowing that I had an Energy Switch and a Plasma so I could Red Signal the Virizion-EX and G Booster it for my last 2 Prizes.

Game 3

He went first and attached a Grass to a Virizion-EX, benched two Genesect-EX, and played Juniper for his turn. I also attach to my Virizion-EX and use a Juniper, benching a Drifloon and a Genesect-EX. Next, Henry played N to get rid of my amazing hand but I still draw into a pretty decent hand. He used Emerald Slash with a Muscle Band attached so I took 70 damage.

Knowing that my Virizion-EX would die next turn to his Genesect-EX that was able to Megalo Cannon, I retreated to my other fresh Virizion-EX. I attached a Grass and a Muscle Band to it and played Juniper. Luckily, I got the Energy Switch. So I was able to Emerald Slash to power up my Benched Genesect-EX.

He used Red Signal to Knock Out my benched damaged Virizion-EX with Megalo Cannon. I play Skyla on my turn to get G Booster. I find it was prized! This put me at a disadvantage. I need to regroup. Dig deep. I look around and there are lots of Masters gathered around our match. The pressure is on. I decide to Emerald Slash again for 70 attaching the two Grass to a fresh Genesect-EX.

He isn’t able to use a G Booster this turn, so he retreats to Virizion-EX and also uses Emerald Slash onto a new Genesect-EX. I am able to use Red Signal to Knock Out the Benched Genesect-EX he just powered. I look at my 2 Prizes hoping for the G Booster but didn’t get it. He uses his G Booster to Knock Out my Genesect-EX.

I Tool Scrapper his G Booster and a Muscle Band. Then I Red Signal up the Virizion-EX so I can Knock it Out and deny his Energy acceleration. I play N and attach a Muscle Band to my Genesect-EX. I KO the Virizion-EX and got the G Booster off of my Prize cards. After getting the G Booster, I realized that since I had attached the Muscle Band, I couldn’t attach the G Booster!

He uses Skyla, and realizes something he really needs is prized. His G Booster has been played, so I don’t know what he was digging for. On my turn, I topdecked another Tool Scrapper to get rid of my Muscle Band and attach my G Booster for the win.

sydney 2014 pa states winning compilation photo

I found out from Henry afterward that it was his last Ultra Ball that was prized. He would have played it to get a Shaymin-EX for the win. But today, luck was on my side and I finally win my home state championship! The Masters that were gathered around knew how important this win was for me and they let out a big cheer which felt great!

I may be a new Senior, but I feel right at home. I started this season with a 2nd at Philly Regionals and now finish the last States with a 1st right here in Pennsylvania. I won’t be playing in Spring Regionals, so I look forward to seeing everyone in Indianapolis in July!


  • All my opponents for fun and fair games.
  • My PTO Dorian for a really smooth event.
  • John Wooden for helping me perform at my best when my best was required!
  • Pretty much securing my Worlds invite! (I just need 5 more League Challenge points.)
  • Lex D’Andrea, Dylan Dreyer and Alex Croxton for testing on Skype during the week.
  • The VA/MD Masters for the testing marathon session Friday night.
  • My WreckFace teammates for all the support and encouragement during the day.
  • Special thanks to local Master Nicholena Moon. There aren’t many girls that play competitively. It was nice to meet you this year and have someone local to look up to and test with like my long-time friend Samantha Bittinger does when I visit my grandma in Ohio.


  • I had to wake up really early because my dad was a Masters judge.
  • I forgot to print out my decklist the night before, so I was rushing around to get ready in the morning.

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