Untold Stories of US Nationals

When you look at a big tournament, the main things you want to know are who won and what decks did well. Who doesn’t want to know that? However, amidst the madness of a field with over 1000 players, a lot of things get overlooked and forgotten. Let’s visit some of the things that happened over the weekend that you might not have heard about.

Harrison Leven – Undefeated to Top 16

Harrison made it to Day 3 undefeated.

Perhaps the biggest injustice of the tournament’s coverage is that barely anyone noticed this amazing feat. Florida’s own Harrison Leven managed to go 9-0 in the Swiss rounds for the Blue Pod, and then his undefeated streak continued all the way to the Top 16. If you’re keeping track, that means he went 12-0; he didn’t lose a match in two days! Eventually he took his first loss of the tournament to Breton Brander, the player who also eliminated Jason Klaczynski. Unfortunately, it was only a matter of time before Harrison’s Mew/Accelgor/Chandelure deck fell victim to the 60 minute best 2/3 structure, but it was an incredible run.

Only once in the history of the game has there been an undefeated US National Champion in the Masters division, and that was Martin Moreno’s magical 14-0 run in 2006. Just like the ’72 Dolphins, Martin can pop open the champagne bottle knowing that his record is safe for another year. One has to wonder if we’ll ever see an undefeated champion again.

Oscar Morales – Undefeated Without Pokémon Catcher

Who needs Pokémon Catcher?

As Oscar Morales turned in his decklist at the beginning of the tournament, he was informed that he had an illegal list. Unfortunately, he had listed only 57 cards. What were the three missing ones? Pokémon Catcher. So, poor Oscar had to go through the entire tournament without perhaps the most important Item in the game. Most people would have just given up and cursed their bad luck.

However, he decided to play it out. You know what happened? Oscar Morales didn’t lose a game in the Swiss rounds, going 9-0 in the Yellow Pod. Somehow he managed to pilot his Darkrai/Terrakion deck to nine straight victories without a single Pokémon Catcher. In fact, he even won his Top 128 match! Finally he was stopped by Chris Murray, who ended up making the Top 4. Still, what a remarkable achievement for this California player. Just think what might have been if he did have those Catchers… To read about the story from his end, check out his report.

Carlos Maldonado – Entei Roars

Carlos went on a hot streak with the big dog.

Entering US Nationals, nobody considered Entei EX a real threat. If you compare it to other EX’s, it just looks underwhelming. At most, it does 90 damage, which isn’t very powerful compared to attackers nowadays. However, one player found a way to make it work. Even though he is a veteran of the game, Carlos Maldonado traditionally struggled at US Nationals. This time around, though, things were different.

Carlos blazed through the competition, starting off 8-0 until falling to a Darkrai deck in the last round. With the use of healing cards like Potion, Moomoo Milk, and Max Potion, the strategy of the deck was to make sure Entei EX stayed alive for a long time. While it may not make sense at first, just imagine how difficult it is for a Darkrai EX to KO Entei if it has a Eviolite attached. After a couple Potions, the 70 damage from Night Spear basically disappears. Using Grand Flame, you can power up another Entei, allowing you to retreat and use Max Potion to fully heal a heavily damaged one. After his hot start, Carlos eventually burned out in the Top 128, but he made it far with perhaps the most underrated deck in the format. If you want to read his report, he posted it here.

Flower Power – Vileplume’s Success

It was allergy season in Indy.

Even though there were no decks featuring Vileplume in the Top 8, its presence was felt at the tournament. When you think about it, most decks nowadays have about 30 Trainers. If you can shut those down, that’s half of your opponent’s deck removed from play, making Vileplume a very strong choice. Going into the event, Vanilluxe was receiving a lot of hype, but that was about it for Trainer lock decks. What else was there?

Well, it turns out that a lot of people figured out ways to use Vileplume. In addition to Vanilluxe, other Trainer lock variants featured Meganium (similar to Klinklang), Mismagius/Darkrai/Terrakion, and Mew/Accelgor/Chandelure. In fact, the two undefeated players in the Blue Pod going into the last round of Swiss were both using Mew/Accelgor/Chandelure! In the Top 16, there were three players left using Vileplume decks. Harrison Leven and John Kettler both were using the Mew/Accelgor/Chandelure deck, and Dylan Bryan was using the Mismagius/Darkrai/Terrakion variant. As luck would have it, all of them happened to lose in this round, and they all seemed to have a common theme…

60 Minutes – Time Problems

Is it enough time?

More often than not, the high profile matches were decided by time. For the Vileplume players, time being called in the third game was their reason for losing. In a huge tournament like US Nationals, you would hope that the games would be played out completely and not be decided by an arbitrary point when time is called. Although time limits are a necessary part of tournaments, it seemed that 60 minutes just weren’t enough. In every portion of the top cut rounds, there was at least one match that wasn’t finished when time was called, including the finals. While this can make for exciting moments, does the National Championship really deserve to be decided by a Klinklang knocking out a Smeargle for the first prize of the game?

For a while now, players have been lobbying for 75 minutes for top cut matches, and this year’s US Nationals showed just why. So many important matches with huge prizes on the line were decided by incomplete games. In fact, the last two US Nationals and last year’s Worlds all came down to a Game 3 Sudden Death scenario where the first prize wins. Hopefully the guys at Play! Pokémon recognize this and provide more time for these prestigious matches. Right now slower decks are at a major disadvantage just based on how much time is allowed in the rounds.


If there’s anything important that happened at US Nationals, feel free to bring it up! With so many players, it’s tough to remember everything that happened. Even though the winners are recognized, the other stories from events should never be forgotten. Now it’s time for another chapter of history to be written at Worlds 2012.

-Pooka

25 responses to “Untold Stories of US Nationals”

  1. Guy

    Great article, the time factor was such a big deal. 7/8 top 16 games went to time, and in a tournament of this magnitude players should have that extra 15 minutes to decide a winner. I think nats was run really well, and we can hope for some changes in time in the future.

    1. Frank Hamilton

      This. So much this.

  2. Nate Blevins

    TIL we dont need catcher to have a good deck

  3. Jason Klaczynski

    Pokemon needs 90 minute 2/3. Period.

    1. Hunter

      Come on down to North Carolina. Our tournament organizer is nice enough as to give us 90 minute top cut. But still 30 swiss

      1. grantm1999

        What?!? Lucky you, on our side of NC we only get 60 min top cuts.

        1. Dark Mousy

          Where do you play in NC? Im living here and wanting to get back into the game.

          1. grantm1999

            Cary/Raleigh area, we have a league in Morrisville. Hunter lives in Greensboro, their PTO gives them 90 minute top cuts. *Grant goes and sulks in corner*

    2. Jimmy O'Brien

      While I appreciate the concern that they don’t want top cut going into all hours of the night, even an extra 5 minutes would improve things. At 5 minutes per round, we’re only talking 20 minutes if all games go to time each day. On the flip side, going from 90 to 85 saves us 20 minutes. I could even appreciate if at a certain point in the cut the time jumped, for example to move from 70 minutes in 128, 64, 32, to 90 in 16, 8, 4, and the finals. I think it delegitimizes events to have them decided on time like they so frequently are.

      1. airhawk06

        While I certainly agree that time should be increased, I absolutely disagree with the “delegitimizes” idea. Everyone knows what the time is going into an event. It is simply part of the decision parameters.

        For something to “delegitimize” a game, I personally believe it needs to be non-uniform. The time limits are uniform.

    3. Edmund_Nelson

      Time is a factor in all lines of play, proper use of the clock is a very important skill to master, especially wasting time on the clock via shuffling properly never shortcuting and constantly playing cards. or by trying to speed up the game and take 30 second turns

    4. guest

      90 minutes overpowers vileplume and creates an unbalanced format.

  4. Taskis

    My friend Calvin lost in top 64 based on time. Time was called before they had completed set up, so they went into sudden death. As par the rules, a coin was supposed to be flipped to decide the starting player. They didn’t flip a coin, instead the opponent got to choose who went first. He ended up starting terrakion(Vs. Calvin’s thunderous), switching it out of active, playing down his whole hand, and N’ing calvin down to one for game(Eels mirror). 60+3 is just too good.

    1. Hunter

      My friend William make it to top 64 in seniors with the truth and demolished a zekeels game 1, game 2 he lost and game 3 was called to time, his opponent took a couple cheap prizes, and he got vileplume reuniclus set up turn 2 and lost!

      1. Three00Jews

        This has nothing to do with what Taskis is talking about. Taskis is actually talking about an unfortunate clause in the rulings which allows N to be game-stopping in time. Your friend just happened to lose a game.

    2. coolestman22

      Well, technically the loser of Games one and two get to decide who goes first. That WAS the rules, things get a bit different in cut.

      1. Three00Jews

        You flip if time is called while shuffling/set up is taking place for Game 3, I believe (IIRC), and, the judge let the winner of Game 2 (my friend’s opponent) choose.

        1. coolestman22

          Well then. If that’s the rule, it’s the judge’s responsibility to know that.

    3. Theman

      While I feel bad for your friend it is his responsibility to know these rules as well.

  5. carlos maldonado

    I hope articles like this become the norm for big events. It’s really nice to hear some of the unsung, but very entertaining stories of everyone else.

    1. Pooka311

      Now I feel bad for not mentioning you! Maybe I’ll add that in.

  6. Hunkyross

    Love this! Only downside is i wanted it longer!!

    Cheers dude, thoroughly enjoyable read :)

  7. Layton Layton

    one of the big untold stories on the weekend was the guy who won canadian nats without junk arms

  8. Kaiwen

    I think Pooka should talk about the masters division player who made top 128 at US nationals with a Quad Scyther deck. The guy was posting twitter updates on how his deck was going all throughout his run. I personally would like to hear more of this mysterious Quad Scyther deck.

  9. Justin

    As much as I appreciate articles about strategy, this article is by far the most interesting Pokemon TCG article I’ve seen in a long time.