Welcome to The Top Cut’s first annual US Nationals Fantasy Draft! In this competition, all of the members of The Top Cut participated in a draft to pick five players they think will perform the best at this year’s US National Championship. For each successful player, that person’s team will gain points. Whoever scores the least amount of points will be declared the loser of the contest, and he will have to do something embarrassing as a result. Here’s how the points break down based on how a player finishes at the event.
|Top 128||Top 64||Top 32||Top 16||Top 8||Top 4||Finals||Champion|
|10 points||15 points||20 points||25 points||35 points||40 points||45 points||50 points|
If a player goes undefeated, a bonus 10 points will be awarded in addition to the final placing. Although first place is worth a ton of points, a big reward should be in place for picking the winner in an event with over a thousand players! Maybe the numbers aren’t perfect, but we’ll find out in our first run.
What is the best strategy for this kind of competition? Obviously you want to gain as many points as possible, but what is the best method for doing so? Some would argue that picking players with byes from States and Regionals is the best way to go. Not only do they get free wins, but also their resistance gets boosted from the byes; this means that they will never miss cut as long as they have the minimum number of wins required. (A 6-3 with 2 byes will always make it ahead of a 6-3 with no byes.) Others would say you should pick players with a proven history at the event. A player like Tom Dolezal, who always seems to find himself in the Top 8, is a good example of that. Then again, our last two National Champions came out of nowhere to win the event. Maybe it’s best to pick someone looking for a breakout performance? It’s anyone’s guess.
For the draft itself, it was a standard snake draft. If you’ve ever played fantasy football, odds are you’ve done this before. Basically the participants choose a player in an order from 1-5, and then the order is backwards for the next round. While the person with the first pick gets to choose arguably the best player, the person in last is the first to get two picks. By doing this, the order of drafting is less impactful and gives everyone a fair chance. For our draft, the order was as follows.
1) Pram: “Pram’s Stackers”
2) Ben: “The Great White Cakes”
3) Crimz: “Team Crimmilicious”
4) Drew: “The Nature Boys”
5) Pooka: “Primetime Pookas”
Let’s take a look at all of the teams in-depth to get a look at this year’s fierce competition.
1st Round (1st overall): Jay Hornung (1 bye)
2nd Round (10th overall): Ty Smith (2 byes)
3rd Round (11th overall): Michael Pramawat
4th Round (20th overall): Dylan Bryan (2 byes)
5th Round (21st overall): Andrew Krekeler (2 byes)
With the first pick, Pram went with the player arguably on the hottest streak of his career, Jay Hornung. Last season Jay was able to take third at both US Nationals and Worlds, having one of the best years in the history of the Pokémon TCG. Throughout the season, he also has earned enough points to get an invite even though he already had one from a Top 4 Worlds finish. In addition, he has a bye, giving him an advantage in the Swiss rounds. Hard to fault this pick.
Next up, Pram’s Stackers drafted one of the game’s rising stars, Ty Smith. Earlier in the season Ty was able to win the Houston Regional Championships, earning himself two byes and enough Championship Points to coast through the rest of the season. In his two years in the Pokémon TCG, he’s qualified for the World Championships both times, which is an impressive feat. As long as he stays away from the hot sauce, Ty seems poised to make a run at this year’s Nationals.
In a bold move, Michael Pramawat then proceeded to pick himself! While he’s had a fairly lackluster season, Pram always seems to make the cut at US Nationals. The question begs to be asked, though. Was he worth a third round pick? With lots of players with byes on the board, he opted to go with himself. Nobody can say Pram doesn’t have confidence in himself. He’ll only have himself to blame if the pick doesn’t pan out.
Next up we have a player who quietly is becoming one of the most consistent finishers in the game, Dylan Bryan. While he may not be a household name yet, this guy is the real deal. Last year he made Top 16 at both Worlds and US Nationals. In fact, he was one turn away from advancing to the Top 8 at Nationals, but the dreaded time limit held him back. Of course, with two byes, he’s a favorite to make another deep run this year.
Finally, the last pick for Pram’s Stackers is the winner of the largest Regional Championship in the history of the Pokémon TCG, Andrew Krekeler. On that fateful weekend, Andrew came out on top in a field of 390 players! Although he had a lot of success in the younger divisions, this was Andrew’s first big win in Masters. Will he be able to produce similar results at Nationals? We’ll have to see.
Overall, Pram’s Stackers has a solid lineup with a good mix of players. Any of these guys are capable of winning it all. Every player – besides himself – has at least one bye. Without a doubt, Pram put a lot of pressure on himself to perform this year. We’ll see how he handles it. Next up we’ll analyze Ben’s team.
1st Round (2nd overall): Jason Klaczynski
2nd Round (9th overall): Kyle Sucevich
3rd Round (12th overall): Mike Newman (2 byes)
4th Round (19th overall): Frank Diaz
5th Round (22nd overall): Benjamin Potter
I guess you can’t go wrong picking the game’s most successful player. With his first pick, Ben chose two-time World Champion Jason Klaczynski. Sure, Jason has had a very bumpy season, but he has been very focused. You can’t ever count out the guy who’s won more big events than anyone else. Unlike Jay, though, Jason does not have any byes. Does this make him a riskier pick? While the legendary player has not had any notable success at US Nationals, last year he did make it to a Top 32 finish.
In the second round, The Great White Cakes picked up The Top Cut’s own Kyle “Pooka” Sucevich, rounding out a pretty impressive first few picks. Nobody has had more success at US Nationals than Kyle. Over the course of his career, he has finished 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 3rd, Top 8, and Top 32. Nobody else has even made the Finals twice, and only a handful have made it to the Top 4 multiple times. However, last year Pooka had his worst outing ever, dropping after a pitiful 3-4 start. Like Jason, he also has no byes. Has his luck run out, or does he have another run left in him?
After two established players, Ben decided to change it up with an up and coming guy, Mike Newman. Going into the season, Mike probably wasn’t in many conversations about top players in the game. His tournament results speak volumes, though. After winning a State Championship with Rayquaza/Eelektrik, he followed it up with a Regional Championship win as well, making him one of two players to do so this season. No doubt about it, this guy is on a winning streak.
Frank Diaz is up next on the list. What can you say about the older Diaz brother? He has lots of solid finishes at big tournaments, including a Top 4 at Worlds. With some deep runs at US Nationals as well, it’s hard to find a reason to pick against Frank. Let’s not forget that he went undefeated in Swiss in 2011. If he can do that again, he’ll earn The Great White Cakes an extra 10 points.
Taking after Pram, Ben decided to put stock in himself for his last pick. Sure, he doesn’t have any notable placements at US Nationals, but The Great White Hope has made the cut at the event for the past two years. In fact, he has never lost a game during his first 5 rounds during this event – a perfect 15-0. Is it wrong to pick yourself in a fantasy draft? We shall see.
The Great White Cakes certainly have star power. Between Jason and Kyle alone, there are enough major tournament results for an entire team. On top of that, he’s added some solid players that have tons of potential. If there’s a knock against this squad, it’s that only one player has byes. Instead of going with that strategy, Ben decided to go with players he knows to be very talented. For a contrast in strategy, let’s look at our next team.
1st Round (3rd overall): Ross Cawthon (2 byes)
2nd Round (8th overall): Ryan Sabelhaus (2 byes)
3rd Round (13th overall): Dylan Lefavour (2 byes)
4th Round (18th overall): Brent Siebenkittel (2 byes)
5th Round (23rd overall): Adam V (2 byes)
When it comes to consistency, look no further than Ross Cawthon. Dating back to 2002 (that’s Wizards of the Coast days), Ross has qualified for every single World Championship – 11 in a row. Like Mike Newman, he won both Regionals and States this year, an incredible feat to add to his already long list of accomplishments. When it comes to innovation, Ross is the king. Nobody has made more successful rogue decks than this guy, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him come up with another one for US Nationals. However, he seems to be a “hit or miss” player. Either he’ll make a deep run or won’t do very well. Which one will it be this year?
Ryan Sabelhaus isn’t as well known as some of the others in this draft, but his tournament results are just as impressive as anyone else’s. For the past two years, he has won a Regional Championship and qualified for Worlds. Truly he is one of the game’s most underrated players, and he’s a sure bet to place well at this year’s National Championship. Plus, his brother Kyle is a great player as well. You can bet he’ll be prepared for this tournament. Crimz put a lot of faith into Ryan with a second round pick, and we’ll see if it pays off.
Speaking of underrated players, Dylan Lefavour fits the bill. Even though lots of people downplay accomplishments in younger divisions, it’s worth noting that Dylan is the 2008 Senior World Champion! To follow that up, in 2011 he made Top 4 at US Nationals and Top 8 at Worlds in Masters. Oh, and don’t forget a Top 4 finish at our first Top Cut Invitational! This year he won a Regional Championship, adding onto his already impressive résumé. Somehow his name doesn’t seem to come up very often when people talk about the game’s best players, but it should; this pick was a steal for Team Crimmilicious.
Brent Siebenkittel is a veteran with lots of big tournament experience under his belt. While we haven’t heard from him a whole lot in the past few seasons, he came back with a big Regional Championship win this season. For this multiple time Worlds competitor, two byes can be a deadly thing. Look for him to make a splash at this year’s Nationals, too. The guy knows how to play.
For his final pick, Crimz went out on a limb and chose another veteran, Adam V. While he isn’t a household name, Adam has had tons of success at tournaments during his career. In fact, he is a two-time Regional Champion, and he made the Finals at another one this year to go along with those wins. Adam also has a proven track record at US Nationals, with several Top 16 finishes under his belt. Was it a surprise pick? Yes. Did it make sense? You bet.
You’ll notice a theme with Team Crimmilicious – all of them have two byes. Crimz made his strategy very obvious; he feels like picking the players with byes is his best bet. Is he playing it too safe, though? Normally players with byes do not end up winning the tournament. Perhaps he’s hoping that a lot of Top 128 and Top 64 finishes will add up to a victory. On to the next team!
1st Round (4th overall): Tom Dolezal
2nd Round (7th overall): John Roberts II
3rd Round (14th overall): Mike Diaz (1 bye)
4th Round (17th overall): Dustin Zimmerman
5th Round (24rd overall): Gino Lombardi (2 byes)
Tom Dolezal might be the most impressive player in Pokémon TCG history, but it’s not because of his incredible tournament results. Every year it seems like Tom just disappears from the face of the earth, only to emerge at US Nationals with a big performance. How does he do it? In his career, he’s managed to finish 2nd, 3rd, and Top 8 three times, along with some other top cuts along the way. Considering the friendship between Drew and Tom, this pick was a no-brainer.
For pick number 2, The Nature Boys went with our reigning US National Champion, JR2. In his rookie season, John Roberts II came out of nowhere to win the largest tournament in Pokémon TCG history with his Klinklang deck. Not bad for your first time! After that, John earned his second invitation to the World Championships this season, proving that his win was no fluke. He’s an incredible player that understands the game inside and out. Like any champion, he will be eager to defend his title. Whether it’s with Klinklang or something else, expect last year’s winner to make some noise again.
While The Great White Cakes picked up Frank Diaz, The Nature Boys went with the younger Diaz brother, Mike. Like his brother did in 2010, Mike was able to qualify through the LCQ at last year’s World Championships and follow it up with a Top 4 finish. Hey, not bad for your first year in Masters, right? This year he won a State Championship, earning himself a 1 round bye for US Nationals. Clearly the kid has skills, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if he made a deep run at this year’s tournament.
Over the past few years, Dustin Zimmerman certainly has made a name for himself. After winning two State Championships last year, he solidified himself as one of the game’s young stars. Even though this year has been a little quiet for him compared to past seasons, he did earn an invitation to the World Championships once again. Dustin has a solid track record at US Nationals, too. Last year he had an early exit to Andrew Mondak in the Top 128, but he’s certainly a threat to win the whole tournament.
For his final pick, Drew had to swallow his pride when he picked the 2008 US National Champion, Gino Lombardi. After losing to Gino in the finals of that tournament, he now welcomes the champ to The Nature Boys. Back in 2008, Gino had probably the best season the game has ever seen. After winning US Nationals (an incredible feat in itself), he took 3rd place at Worlds. If it weren’t for some legendary plays from Jason Klaczynski, we would have seen him become both National and World Champion in the same year. Say what you want about him, but the guy comes to play at big events. He loves the spotlight, and it might be time for the former champion to make another run at the title.
The Nature Boys have a solid mix of experience, youth, and, well, byes. Overall, they seem to be the most balanced team. With two National Champions and a runner-up on the roster, there’s no denying the potential for these guys. Drew certainly put together a formidable team. Will the lack of byes hurt, though? That’s the million dollar question for this draft. Here’s our final team.
1st Round (5th overall): Harrison Leven (2 byes)
2nd Round (6th overall): Jando Luna (2 byes)
3rd Round (15th overall): Ray Cipoletti (2 byes)
4th Round (16th overall): Chris Nguyen (1 bye)
5th Round (25th overall): Chris Bianchi
For the first pick, Pooka went with a guy that’s been on the run of a lifetime, Harrison Leven. In the past year, it’s tough to argue that anyone else has been more impressive. At last year’s US Nationals, Harrison went 9-0 through the Swiss rounds until he finally lost in Top 16 due to the time limit. Then he went on to take second at Worlds, where a prized Shaymin was all that stood between him and the title of World Champion. Like Jay, he earned enough points for an invite even though he already had one. Harrison seems to be one of the game’s brightest stars right now.
Speaking of bright stars, Jando Luna was the next player to join the Primetime Pookas. In his second year of competitive play, Jando finished 2nd in the largest Regional Championship in the US, earning himself two byes at Nationals. Throughout the season, he has been nothing short of impressive. The guy has great in-game skills, and he knows how to adapt to the metagame. Truly this guy is a star in the making. Expect to see him do well for years to come.
New players seem to be having more success than ever. Ray Cipoletti is no exception there. In his first two years, Ray has managed to qualify for Worlds both times. After winning a Regional Championship this season, he also earned himself two byes at the big event. About halfway through the season, he had already earned 400 Championship Points! The player from the New England area has shown a ton of potential, and he certainly understands how to play.
Keeping with this trend, Pooka went with another new player for the next pick, Chris Nguyen. Like Ray, Chris has earned invitations to Worlds in his first two years of playing. With a great attitude and great mind for the game, he has all the right attributes to be a major contender at this year’s National Championship. With a bye from a State Championship, he’ll have a head start to making top cut as well. California is one of the toughest places in the nation to win consistently, but Chris makes it look easy.
For the final pick in The Top Cut’s 2013 US Nationals Fantasy Draft, the Primetime Pookas selected a player who has been on a tear lately, Chris Bianchi. Heading into Battle Roads, Chris needed to win six of them to get an invite to Worlds. Playing in a tough area like Florida, this task seemed impossible. But week after week, he kept winning. Six Victory Cups later, Bianchi managed to complete one of the greatest runs in the history of the game and punched his ticket to Vancouver. How can you not pick a guy with this much momentum? Even though he has yet to make top cut at US Nationals, it feels like this is his year. Sure, it’s a risky pick, but sometimes you have to gamble to win.
The Primetime Pookas certainly have embraced the influx of new players to the Pokémon TCG. Will their inexperience backfire, or will their drive and determination push them to great success? The fate of this team might ride on Chris Bianchi. If he can have a big run, it could push this team over the top.
Well, there you have it. The Top Cut’s first fantasy draft is in the books! Unfortunately, lots of great players weren’t taken, but only 25 spots were available. Maybe next time we’ll expand the draft to include more rounds, but we’ll see how this turns out. We’re all even more excited for the tournament now; that’s for sure!
Whose team do you like the most? Who messed up big time? Leave your feedback down in the comments! We want to know what you have to say. Also, we need to decide what embarrassing thing the loser has to do. If you have suggestions for that, let us know. Thanks for reading!