Hello SixPrizes, Alex Hill here. I have just returned from US Nationals and wanted to share my tournament experience with you all. Seeing as I haven’t written an article since before Fall Regionals, and it is now the end of the 2013-2014 season, I would like to share a rundown of how my season came together.
- The Beginning: Fall Regionals
- Down the Stretch: City Championships and Winter Regionals
- Rounding the Corner: State Championships
- The End in Sight: Spring Regionals
- Into the Home Stretch: Approaching Nationals
- The Final Sprint: National Championships
- Onto the Postseason: Conclusion and Worlds
Picking up where I left off last time, I went into Fall Regionals desperately trying to make Plasma work. However, try as I may, I could not get the deck to beat Darkrai-EX/Garbodor LTR, which was just coming off a win at the Klaczynski Open, for the life of me. What did beat Darkrai/Garbodor?
Virizion-EX/Mewtwo-EX. This new deck had been piloted by my good friend Alex Gardner and a couple of his teammates to some good success at the first Regional Championship of the fall in California, making it something my teammates and I wanted to try.
My teammates and I began testing the deck, but I was dismayed at its poor Blastoise matchup; the deck I thought was likely the top choice in the format.
The night before Fort Wayne Regional Championships, I decided to jump ship and play Blastoise BCR/Black Kyurem-EX PLS/Keldeo-EX. My tournament run was progressing well, and I had a chance to make day 2 – until I faced Kevin Baxter’s Virizion/Genesect/Deoxys deck in round 9. In one pivotal turn, he dropped a Grass Energy, Team Plasma Badge, 2 Deoxys-EX, and a Pokémon Catcher to Emerald Slash my only Blastoise and seal the game.
I did manage to pick up 15 Championship Points from a top 64 finish, but I was certainly disappointed. My teammate, JW Kriewall, stuck with our Virizion/Mewtwo list, piloting it to a 1st place finish at the Fort Wayne Regional.
In contrast to my discouraging Fall Regional Championships run, I started off City Championships with a quick win using a Lugia-EX-focused Plasma deck. The concept started out as a counter to the popular Empoleon deck that had just won 2 Regional Championships in France, but it quickly started to shine in other matchups as well. The ability to draw 3 Prizes in one turn is too good.
I put the deck aside in favor of a Darkrai/Garbodor deck for two City Championships, resulting in lackluster finishes, but picked it up again for a trip down to Indiana. There, I was able to pilot my Lugia deck to two 2nd place finishes, in South Bend, Indiana and Grand Rapids, Michigan, losing both finals matches to Ross Cawthon’s Blastoise/Black Kyurem deck.
A few weeks later, my teammates and I played the deck again in another City Championship, where I unfortunately ended up 4-2, missing top cut at 9th place. Teammates Chris Derocher and JW Kriewall finished 3rd and 1st respectively with the same list, so I knew it was still a solid deck.
With that, we made another trip down to Indiana to try to finish out our City Championships best finish limits. Chris Derocher ended up winning both Cities that weekend with the list, while JW and I finished 3rd and 2nd on the second day. That weekend was also monumental because Pokémon Catcher made its way into the list.
Here’s a sample list from one of these weekends:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 35
Energy – 14
The next weekend, we took the same deck to St. Louis Regionals. I had another discouraging 5-3-1 finish, but Chris Derocher was able to make it to top 8, capping off a total of 175 Championship Points in two weekends. The success of my friends told me my decks were good enough, I just was hitting some bad luck.
State Championships were next and once again, I was working hard on Plasma. It was no secret that this was my favorite deck, but I still couldn’t perfect it. With Palkia-EX and Snorlax PLS, the deck would often beat Blastoise, but the Yveltal-EX matchup was definitely subpar. The night prior to Indiana States, my teammates and I were testing when our good friend Sean Foisy came up with his Blastoise deck that included Pokémon Catcher.
I hadn’t been testing any lists that used Catcher, so I was very intrigued, especially when it handily beat Plasma.
Another friend, Christopher Schemanske, unfortunately only had enough Tropical Beach for 4 people to play the deck, so he, JW Kriewall, his younger brother, and I played the Blastoise, while Chris Derocher stuck with Plasma. Once again, my big tournament woes continued as I went 4-3 with a list 2 cards off of what Christopher ended up getting 2nd place with.
Going into the second week of State Championships, I was sitting at around 230 Championship Points and having no clue what to play. I stumbled across the idea of Trevenant XY/Accelgor DEX and started toying around with it. I got some great advice from Brit Pybas on the list, especially the addition of 2 Psychic Energy and 2 Silver Mirror to essentially auto-win the Plasma matchup.
Due to a busy week of schoolwork, JW and I were only able to test around 4 games with it at our League night, but we really liked what we saw.
The problem was that we only had four Trevenant, and if JW Kriewall, Chris Derocher, and I were all going to play it, we’d need twelve. Fortunately, on the morning of the tournament, we were able to scrounge up enough Trevenant to play the deck, however, we only had 5 Tropical Beach to use. Instead of playing different lists, we decided to forgo the 2nd copy and only play one a piece, and substitute a Colress for the 2nd Tropical Beach.
I ended up winning Ontario Provincials that weekend, my first big win which also put me in the hunt for an invitation to the World Championships.
Here’s the list we used in Ontario:
Pokémon – 18
Trainers – 36
Energy – 6
The next weekend was Michigan States, and I unfortunately had to accept that Trevenant would be a poor play back home. I knew that players from both Illinois and Indiana would be coming, and both of those State Championships had featured Fairy and Genesect-EX decks, both of which played Virizion-EX. I reverted back to Blastoise/Black Kyurem, but changed to an Electrode PLF line instead of the Jirachi-EX I had played at Indiana’s State Championships.
Unfortunately, my big event woes had returned, and I went 5-1-1, bubbling at 9th place. A devastating result, but one that netted 30 Championship Points nonetheless.
Blastoise/Black Kyurem was still my frontrunner for Wisconsin Regionals 3 weeks later, but a resurgence of Yveltal/Garbodor made me reconsider that stance. I ended up playing Yveltal/Garbodor myself, and had my worst showing of the year at 4-4.
I was sitting at 387 Championship Points going into my penultimate chance to earn CP, Ontario’s Regional Championships. Christopher Schemanske and I began to test what we thought was the most consistent deck in the format: Virizion/Genesect/Roserade. We knew that Canadian players favored Blastoise/Black Kyurem, especially since they had easy access to Tropical Beach with the ability to play French copies.
Sigilyph LTR was a great tech inclusion both because absorbing a Black Ballista when you needed to set up was good, and because acting as an early sponge in the mirror was invaluable.
I started out 4-0, but went 1-2-1 to end the tournament and miss top 8 cut. Christopher Schemanske and Chris Derocher both made top cut, at top 4 and top 8 respectively with the same/similar lists. Heading towards Nationals though, this top 16 finish put me in a good spot to finalize the invite.
Nationals had finally arrived. I knew a top 64 finish would put me over the 500 Point barrier and I would qualify for the World Championships. Christopher had earned his invite at Ontario Regionals, so it was up to me, Chris, and JW to finish ours out at National Championships. Christopher and I tested extensively on PTCGO in the months leading up to Nats, trying out every standard and rogue deck we could think of.
We knew we didn’t want to play an Yveltal variant due to the number of mirror matches it seemed we’d see, but at the same time knew that our choice would have to beat Yveltal variants – a tall order.
Two nights before Nationals, the deck of choice was Landorus-EX/Raichu XY/Dusknoir BCR, similar to the deck that Andrew Wamboldt would eventually take to top 64 in the main event. However, our testing partner, Sean Foisy, thought the deck wasn’t good enough. He dismantled it in 4 straight games with Yveltal/Garbodor, a matchup we had perceived to be among the deck’s best.
With that, we were back to the drawing board. We tested tirelessly all day Thursday in our hotel’s dining area, trying out every deck from Thundurus-EX/Deoxys-EX/Kyurem PLF to Emboar LTR/Rayquaza-EX. Sean was favoring the same deck that he had played at Wisconsin’s Regional, Speed Lugia-EX. He piloted the deck to a 6-2 record, losing a decisive final round to our good friend Nick Bailey. Sean thought it was the best deck in the format, but had yet to convince any of us of that fact by the time we had to go register at 5 PM that night.
We got back to our hotel and began testing again. I knew that Sean was a good player, and considering he was able to play into the top 8 at Nationals last year, I figured he might know what he was talking about.
With that in mind, I started testing Speed Lugia for myself. The deck ended up surprising me with its speed and consistency. With the remarkable results being put up by my teammates, and the power I was seeing in the deck, I was convinced – Speed Lugia-EX was my deck for Nationals. We ended up having around 10 players from Michigan using the deck, 2 in Seniors, and the rest in Masters.
Since the deck list was already posted on Pokémon.com, and considering the resurgence of Pyroar makes the deck quite a bit weaker, I have decided to post the list along with this article:
Pokémon – 11
Trainers – 36
Energy – 13
The deck is certainly a bit different from your average Plasma variant, but don’t write it off as crazy just yet.
The 3rd Thundurus was an addition to help deal with Yveltal. 100 damage with Muscle Band, while under Garbodor LTR lock, was an easy way to get two-shot knockouts while also charging up something on the Bench. The Supporter count is really funky, but it gave us the best chance of drawing the cards we wanted at the right time. The single copy of Random Receiver helped to give us another out to a Supporter without increasing the count of N or Colress to 4, so we didn’t draw them as often in the late or early games, respectively.
4 Roller Skates has been a controversial choice, both in our deck and in the Pyroar deck that Michael Pramawat took to 2nd place. Some players think that it doesn’t take skill and that it’s too luck based, but those players aren’t looking at the card with the right viewpoint.
Sure, you can flip 4/4 tails in a game, but over the course of 18-27 games at Nationals, you’ll flip roughly 50/50. In this way, you spend 1 card to draw 1.5, a great way to have access to the cards you need in a quick fashion.
So, on to the morning of Nationals. I really felt good about my deck choice. I had faith in my trusty Plasma Pokémon to get me to the promised land.
Round 1 – Bye
I was fortunate enough to win this bye at the Provincial Championships, so I spent the first round playing some old format games with JW Kriewall. I knew this bye would boost my resistance significantly, and I wanted to make sure I put myself in a position to take advantage of the added boost to my chances of making day 2.
This round, I was paired against Yveltal/Garbodor, one of my favorite matchups. 2 Startling Megaphone means that these games can often be won in a quick two-turn time period, and the 3 Pokémon Catcher come in handy as well. I don’t remember a lot about this match, but I did lose the first game – my first one of the tournament. This scared me a lot, but I was able to bounce back and win the next two in the series. I recall he drew semi-poorly in the 3rd game, which you can’t afford to do when I am able to start piling up damage and energy with Thundurus.
Round 3 – Kian Amini (Yveltal-EX/Darkrai-EX)
My opponent had 2 earned byes, so I knew I was already facing another quality opponent. However, I quickly discovered that his Yveltal list played no Garbodor LTR, nor Raichu XY, a huge disadvantage for him in this particular matchup.
I used this to my advantage and took one-shots on his Yveltal-EXs with Thundurus-EX and followed that up with Lugia knockouts. Game 1 was fairly straightforward. Game 2 was a bit more difficult as he used Bouffalant DRX to take control of the Prize trade. By using Hypnotoxic Laser and Gold Breaker, he ensured that my Pokémon would be knocked out going back into his turn. This game was rather ugly, but I was able to get enough Energy on my Lugia-EXs, and hit a big Pokémon Catcher late in the game to seal a 2-0 victory.
Round 4 – Stephen Shotwell (Empoleon DEX)
As soon as my opponent flipped over his Basics, I was elated. I knew from Cities that Empoleon was a great matchup for Plasma variants, especially now, since Muscle Band helps your math be even better.
Game 1 was great, featuring 3 Lugia-EX knockouts in 3 consecutive turns, a surefire way to win the game. The second game, however, was a bit different. I took 2 knockouts with Thundurus-EX, while also charging up 2 different Lugia-EX. I was able to use Pokémon Catcher to keep Dusknoir off of the board, so he never knocked out a Lugia-EX, resulting in me sweeping with one in the later stages of the game.
I sat down across from Ross wanting revenge. Being able to beat one of the best players in the world and end up at 5-0-0 would be a huge confidence boost.
Having started out 4-0 at 2013’s Nationals before suffering a downwards spiral to 4-3, I was eager to not repeat history.
Game 1 was one of the weirdest games I would play all tournament. He starts with a Mr. Mime PLF, leaving me with absolutely no idea what he’s playing. I got a fast start, and I believe I took out his Mr. Mime with a Lugia-EX on turn 2. A couple of turns later, I knocked out a Landorus-EX with a Lugia-EX to go down to 1 Prize, but that Lugia-EX was knocked out from Poison going into Ross’ turn.
Or so I thought. His Benched Spiritomb LTR prevents me from playing my ACE SPEC, and I subsequently lose that game.
Game 2 was very long. He gets a Landorus-EX start this time, and it takes me 3 turns to knock it out. He smartly plays to get me down to 1 Prize again, but I draw out of it this time. As time winds down, I hit a crucial Catcher flip to take out a Benched Pokémon and steal the second game. There is only enough time for 4 turns in Game 3, so we call it a draw.
Virizion/Genesect is my deck’s best matchup by far, so I was happy to play this game. Mason did play 1 or 2 Enhanced Hammer that really slowed me down, but I still liked my chances. I know this series went to 3 games, but I don’t remember if I lost game 1 or 2. Either way, I remember coming out of the gates hot in game 3 and charging up 2 different Lugia-EX to ensure I could take the game down. Mason also had a deck list error, and had to replace his Shadow Triad with basic Energy. Between this and some timely Startling Megaphone usage on my part, I was able to eliminate the G Booster threat in all 3 games and take a solid win.
Round 7 – Chris Derocher (Speed Lugia-EX)
When I saw this pairing, I almost got physically sick. I was paired up against one of my best friends for this round playing a 60-card mirror match.
We were both fighting for our invites and since he didn’t have any byes and was paired up, we couldn’t afford to take the mutually beneficial tie. If it was any consolation, the winner of this game would likely be assured making day 2. However, the loser would have to win out the rest of day 1.
Game 1 was rather funky. He took the first 3 Prizes, while I set up my board with some early Thundurus-EX Raiden Knuckles. I ended up hitting 3/3 Pokémon Catcher heads and took the game with a big Plasma Gale KO at the end. Game 2 was more of the same, while I didn’t hit as many Pokémon Catcher heads, his board position wasn’t as good as mine. This mirror matchup comes down to a lot of timely Surprising Megaphone uses and Pokémon Catcher heads, but it also has a lot to do with conserving resources and drawing well off of Ns.
I was running some numbers with Christopher Schemanske before this round and we figured that 6-1-2 would be safe, especially with the good resistance from having a bye and the start that I had. So I went into this match planning to try to get an intentional draw (ID). However, my opponent was 7-0-0 and was already guaranteed cut. He didn’t want to ID of course, wanting to play for a win, meaning I would not be getting a tie this round.
Game 1 was just decent; I hit some timely Startling Megaphones and was able to charge up my Lugia-EXs and get 3-Prize knockouts twice. Very standard game. In game 2, I hit the turbo boost for sure. I started Thundurus-EX to his Jirachi-EX. He draws and does some typical stuff, probably attached to a Benched Yveltal-EX. For my turn, I played down 2 Deoxys-EX and an Energy, dropped a Professor Juniper and found my other 2 Deoxys-EX with some combination of Computer Search and Plasma Ball. I also hit the Muscle Band for the T1 KO and 2 Prizes. He was unable to KO my Thundurus-EX, so I responded with a KO on his Yveltal-EX. From there, I slowly worked up a Lugia and hit a Pokémon Catcher heads/Startling Megaphone at some point in the game to clinch it.
And there it was! 21 points was guaranteed to make top 64, so I was had earned my invite! I was even in a good position to potentially move on in the tournament, although I was already satisfied with what I had accomplished.
Round 9 – Michael Pramawat (Pyroar FLF)
I knew before the round that this is what I would be facing. Pramawat and Tristan Macek were playing next to me. I had hoped that they would ID so I could ID with whoever I was paired against to guarantee them cut and get myself another point, alas, I knew there was no way I was going to win this game, especially not against a good player.
Both games went basically the same. I started out trying to get a quick Lugia-EX KO, but failed. He got the T2 Pyroar each game. I tried to deck him out through Thundurus-EX’s Thunderous Noise. Since Pramawat was playing 3 Blacksmith, this strategy was all but worthless, but I had no other option. The Blacksmith didn’t even come into play though, as I went down in Prizes early and ended up with less cards in my deck than he had. I had no way to deck him so I played out each game until I knew I couldn’t glean any more information from his deck and then I scooped.
This was certainly an expected loss, and it did nothing to put a damper on my spirits. On top of getting my invite, Sean Foisy would also be joining me for day 2 with the same exact list, as well as Alex Schemanske in Seniors! Chris Derocher unfortunately only got 1 win in the last 2 games, losing a second straight 60 card mirror match to our friend Matt Valassis. This still put him at 476 CP and gave him the opportunity to get top 32 at the Championship Point Challenge to secure the invite. We celebrated with a dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings and then went to bed decently early so we could make the 8 AM start time for day 2.
Going into this match, I knew that 3 wins would give me enough points to make it into the Top 16 cut. However, I knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially when I saw who my opponent was. Darrell made it to the finals at Nationals in 2009, losing to Kyle Sucevich. I didn’t think he had played much recently, but I knew he was a good player nonetheless.
I lost game 1. It wasn’t a memorable game, really. As I recall, he started by attacking with an Absol, and the 50 damage from my Thundurus-EX wasn’t cutting it. Game 2 went a lot better. I got a quick start, and I think he might have even been dead drawing.
Game 3 was a crazy game where he got a fast start. I used a Thundurus-EX to power up a Lugia-EX but I had to settle for 2 Prizes due to his Garbodor LTR. He was able to charge up a Yveltal-EX with 5 Energy and take out my Lugia-EX to go down to 2 Prizes after taking out my Thundurus-EX with the typical Y Cyclone, Muscle Band and Hypnotoxic Laser/ Virbank City Gym combo. After he takes out my Lugia-EX, I have one pivotal turn. If I am able to Professor Juniper into my 2 remaining Deoxys, one of 2 Megaphone, and one of 2-3 Muscle Band, I’ll take out his Yveltal-EX and probably win the game. If not, he most likely has sufficient Energy to win the game.
Round 11 – Oscar Morales (Pyroar FLF)
Ugh. Another Pyroar. I told Oscar partway through our first game that I wasn’t going to be able to win, and that I would use this game to joke around instead. He was a good enough player, so I knew there was nothing I would be able to do to get a cheap win. Game 1 was very worthless to play out, I didn’t hit anything. I was almost able to steal game 2 though. I took out a Litleo on turn 2 and then the Mewtwo-EX he started with on turn 3 to go down to 1 Prize, but when the only thing on his board became a Pyroar with 4 Energy, I scooped. There was nothing I could have done about that match.
And now the pressure was on. I could still make top 16 with 3 straight wins, but I had used up all of my margin for error.
At this point, my memory of games starts to get rather blurry. I know that we each won a game. I dead drew each of the first 2 games, but was bailed out by my opponent’s similarly bad hand that happened to also have an N. I would have been able to attack and he wouldn’t have, so it made sense that he would drop the N.
Surprisingly, the 3rd game ends up going to time. He starts to mount a comeback late, but it’s too little too late. I got the 2nd to last turn of time with two ways to take my final Prize and win. The first is a Pokémon Catcher on his Garbodor, which I end up flipping tails on. Rats.
The second is to get all 4 Deoxys-EX, a Muscle Band, and a Megaphone in order to KO his Darkrai-EX. I had 2 Deoxys, Muscle Band and a Professor Juniper. I end up hitting a Deoxys-EX, Megaphone and Plasma Ball and celebrate a bit. I drop the Team Plasma Ball and am dismayed to find that my single remaining Prize is the 4th Deoxys-EX. Ugh. I retreat to give him no possible out to take his final 4 Prizes and we end at at tie.
I was surprisingly okay with my situation at this point. I knew I couldn’t make top 16 anymore, but I still had the chance to make top 32 and improve on my result from last year. Unfortunately, Sean Foisy had lost all 3 of his games on day 2 as well, so there was no way we could be getting a paid trip, and he’d not be obtaining an invite.
This was just what I needed to get my spirits up. A great matchup would give me a good shot to get into position to make top 32. Game 1 went exactly as expected. Thundurus-EX did some damage, Lugia-EX took 3 Prizes. Charge up another Lugia-EX when the first one goes down, hit one of 3 Pokémon Catchers, take 3 more Prizes.
Game 2 was going great as well – until I ended up playing myself down to 1 Prize. He N’d me, but I was able to draw into a Professor Juniper. I flipped a couple of Roller Skates, both resulting in heads. I drew into 2 Pokémon Catcher, and either one would give me the win on a Benched Pikachu. Both tails. Of course. I lost the game rather quickly after that.
Game 3 was pretty bad, I dead drew and had to attack 3 times with a Deoxys-EX to take 2 Prizes off of a Virizion-EX. I couldn’t keep up with the amount of Energy on his board, or the 2 Enhanced Hammer that he ran and I lost unceremoniously.
Round 14 – Sean Foisy (Speed Lugia-EX)
What a perfect way to end my Nats run. Another 60-card mirror match against another good friend. This game was a lot more laid back than any of my other games, especially since Sean and I knew we weren’t playing for anything. He wins the flip, but elects to go second, just because he can.
I start Deoxys-EX, but he knocks that out on his first turn with a Lugia-EX. Typical Sean. That game was basically over then and there as I could never respond well to his Lugia without all 4 of my Deoxys-EX.
Game 2 was a lot better… until I realized that I had Prized 2 Deoxys-EX. I still stayed in the game, but I was at a severe disadvantage. I don’t even think I took both of my Deoxys-EX off of my 3 Prizes and lost after that.
Even though my Nationals performance may be considered lackluster, I still earned a shot to play in Worlds and beat my 2013 placement of 59th by 5 spots. I had a blast playing a unique deck, and hanging out with my best friends of course.
On Sunday, I got to celebrate with my teammate Chris Derocher as he piloted Yveltal/Garbodor to a nailbiting top 32 finish in the Championship Point Challenge to also earn his invite to Worlds! JW Kriewall just narrowly missed out on the top 4 placement he needed, ending the season at 497 CP.
And with that, my Nationals experience came to a close. It was a great way to cap off a memorable season. Thank you all for reading this and thank you to everyone who has supported me this year. I hope to see you all in Washington, DC! Feel free to say hi if you see me around at Worlds or at any other tournament next year.