I had the pleasure of traveling to Philadelphia this past weekend with some great friends. Among those present in our small hatchback was none other than Mr. Ryan Sabelhaus. Ever since last summer when I moved to Greenville, South Carolina, I have become great friends with the Sabelhaus brothers. I have learned more from them about this game than I even knew there was to know.
Out of anyone I could have met down here, I could not ask for better friends and mentors. Both of them are perpetually successful in this game, and it has definitely shown with last weekend in Philly. If you haven’t heard, Ryan was the Philadelphia Regional Champion, after a grueling two-day dual-format tournament. I sat down with Ryan and got his impressions of the tournament, format, and life in general.
Let’s start off with an introduction. I’m pretty sure everyone knows who you are already, but tell us a little bit about yourself.
Hey everyone! My name is Ryan Sabelhaus. I’m a senior in college, going for my dual degree in pre-med and psychology. When I’m not playing Pokémon, I like to play basketball and video games with friends.
What are some of your favorite games?
My favorite game is definitely Madden, but I can’t talk about my favorite games without mentioning Super Smash Bros. It’s kind of ironic that my best character on Smash Bros. is Pikachu!
It looks like you just can’t get away from Pokémon. Have you ever considered playing Smash Bros. or another game competitively?
When I was younger, I tried to play Smash competitively, but just never got into the community as much as I did with Pokémon. I always felt more at home playing Pokémon competitively.
It’s good to know that we’re your first choice! Who would you say are your favorite people in the Pokémon community?
I have to give a shout out to all the Florida players that I grew up playing with. I got my start in the game in Florida and all the people there are like family to me. I’ve met a lot more people in South Carolina and have too many friends to mention.
You’re known as one of the most fun and entertaining players at tournaments. I know that’s how I met you. How do you always manage to create such a lighthearted atmosphere at such competitive events?
These tournaments are all about seeing friends and family that you may only get to see a few times a year. Having a good time with friends and staying relaxed always helps me to do better at tournaments anyway.
Looks like you must have been very relaxed last weekend then. I sort of heard you did decently. You went undefeated with 9 ties. How did you do it?
Well, you were close! You got the 9 right, but you need to switch the order around. I went 9-0-0, not 0-0-9.
Oh, yeah, that’s right! I must have been thinking of someone else. How did it feel to go undefeated throughout day 1? I think you’re the first person to go 9-0 at a Regional with ties in the format.
Relieved. I had no clue what to do for Expanded and really needed the help from those points for day 2.
How were you able to pull off not only going undefeated, but doing so without any ties?
The first thing that comes to mind is that I was able to win almost all of my Game 1’s. After that, I knew that I could afford to scoop a Game 2 early if I needed to, so that I could start off Game 3 going first with plenty of time to play it out.
Knowing when to scoop a game early is a huge skill that can mean the difference between a win and a tie. Were there any particular rounds where it was hard to follow this strategy?
Haha, no, actually I think I got lucky enough to win all of my Game 1’s. That made it easier to get wins rather than tie at all.
So were you able to dodge your bad matchups throughout day 1?
Yes, for the most part. I guess the only two matchups that caught me by surprise were a Flareon/Raichu deck in the first round and a Donphan/Raichu deck in the seventh round. Both of those were very hard for my Yveltal/Garbodor because they were able to add Raichu into their lists. I didn’t expect to see many people playing Raichu.
Along the same lines, what decks did you like to play against the most? Anything that you were glad to see when your opponent flipped over their Basic?
I liked playing against Virizion/Genesect, because as long as they didn’t have Raichu and I was able to abuse my Hypnotoxic Lasers, it was an easy matchup.
Metagaming correctly and a solid performance day 1 put you in a ridiculous position for day 2. You nearly had enough points for top 8 before day 2 Swiss even began. How did this affect your mindset going into day 2?
I felt like I was able to choose a more consistent deck, Virizion/Genesect, as I only needed one more win to make top 8. This let me pick a deck that I felt had good matchups against what did well the day before. It also wasn’t as important to worry about facing auto-losses as long as they didn’t make the top 8 as well.
It turns out that your predictions for the metagame were correct again. Yveltal decks were very popular going into the top 32, and you came equipped with your own army of Raichus in Virizion/Genesect. Did anyone show up with something unexpected?
Yes, but there was actually only one that I didn’t expect to see. Dylan Bryan played Donphan/Accelgor, which handed me my first loss of the tournament.
In any game that involves variance, there are other factors to consider other than just playing the game sometimes. Is that why you’re superstitious when it comes to playing?
I feel like it helps me win! Ever since I started doing my rituals before each tournament and each game, I’ve had a lot of success.
What are some of these rituals?
I wear my “Yeah Buddy!” shirt that my brother got me to each big tournament. I also set up my dice and coins in specific ways before each match. If I make it to day 2-of a major event, I wear the same outfit. There are plenty more, but those are the main ones.
I guess it works, right? Is there anything you do in your spare time at big events like these?
Mostly just hanging out with all my friends. Lately, the biggest craze for Pokémon players has been to play The Resistance.
I’ve played with you quite a few times. Care to share any of your secrets for success in The Resistance?
Well, it’s not much of a secret…I’m Merlin. Whenever you’re in a game with me, just picture me wearing a wizard hat.
That must be why I always lose; I’m never Merlin.
Don’t worry. I’ve got plenty of extra wizard hats if you want to give it a try.
Whenever we’ve played, the games have gotten pretty loud. Have you ever been kicked out of any place for being too loud during a game?
I don’t know about almost getting kicked out, but we’ve been told to quiet down at plenty of restaurants.
Well, hopefully they would have at least given you a take-out box. So what is your favorite restaurant?
PF Chang’s, hands down. That place is BANGIN’.
Aside from cards and video games, you mentioned you like to play sports. Do you have any favorite teams or players?
I don’t really have a favorite team, but I have favorite players. Desean Jackson is my favorite football player.
Well, it was nice getting to know you a little more. Care for a lightning round?
Let’s do it!
Xbox or Playstation?
Brownie or Blondie?
Marry one, date one, slap one: Jason Klaczynski, Sami Sekkoum, Dean Nezam. Go.
Oh geez…I guess I would marry Dean, because he would be a faithful, lifelong companion. And I guess I would date Jason because he has his own apartment and he eats healthy like me. So then I would slap Sami because he beat me at mini golf this year.
If Pokémon were real, who would be your starter and why?
Dratini, because Dragonite has a warm spot in my heart ever since Florida Regionals last year, and flying around would be pretty sweet!
Is there anything else about your trip that you would like to share before we wrap this up?
I’d like to give a shout out to Dylan Dreyer, who made a bet with me that I couldn’t win Philadelphia, and if I did I would be allowed to sign his face for a picture with Doug Morisoli. Time to pay up, Dylan! It should be up on Facebook next time we see each other. ;)
Everyone be sure to keep an eye out for that! Thanks Ryan, for letting me drive all the way to your house and offering your time for this interview! I’m sure I’ll be back soon.
Thank you everyone for reading! I hope you all enjoyed getting to know one of the best players in the game, even if only a little bit. I look forward to providing more content for you guys soon, so please let me know what you thought about it on the forums!