2nd Place US National Championship Report!

Hello everyone! My name is Ryan Sabelhaus and I normally don’t write tournament reports, but seeing as this is a special occasion and I have gotten many requests, I decided to let everyone know about my 2nd place Nationals experience! I had considered writing this report for SixPrizes with the blessings of Adam Capriola, but I would love to help out my friends in The Top Cut in any way that I can. Making some money writing articles is always good, but I’m just writing this report for fun and to give The Top Cut viewers something else to get everyone excited for the World Championships on August 10th and 11th and just about the game itself!

The day before Nationals had come around, I found myself play testing with my Blastoise/Keldeo deck that I was planning on playing in the main event. The other option that I had been working with was a Plasma basics deck that had a good mirror match. While testing some practice games with my Blastoise deck, I could never seem to hit the turn 2 Blastoise that was required to contend with most decks in the format. I would have given anything to even hit a turn 4 Blastoise with how badly I seemed to be drawing!

After realizing that I couldn’t play the deck I was confident in, the next batter on deck was my Plasma variant built for the mirror. Dan Richard was the player that I felt most confident testing with, being as he is my best friend and also has great advice when it comes to building decks. His Plasma deck was eerily similar to my deck list, but had a peculiar card called “Life Dew” as the Ace Spec card. He had been talking to me for weeks about how good it seemed in testing to even out prizes, to which I agreed and felt like it was a great addition to an already fast deck.

A little twist on Plasma!

A little twist on Plasma!

The National Championships were just about to begin, and I still hadn’t completed my deck list that I was planning on playing all weekend! After convincing the group of Kyle Sabelhaus, Michael Diaz, Dan Richard, Dave Richard, Curran Hill, Spencer Whitehurst, and Bobby Malec to add in another attacker at the last second before registration, I was confident in the 60 card deck I had chosen!

Round 1+2 (Byes)

After winning the Philadelphia Regional Championships, I was given 2 byes and chose to walk around with my good friend Jose Marrero. We walked around and talked about our deck choices, watched matches to see what the “named” players were playing, and made hilarious jokes with other players that had byes like Mike Newman and Harrison Leven (mostly pertaining to the ever famous “How was your first round?” or “You lose the round?”).


Round 3 (Plasma)


I sit down to my first round and I am very nervous. Sitting out for 2 rounds really doesn’t help to calm down the nerves, but I knew that I was well prepared for this tournament. While shuffling, I notice my opponent is also playing Plasma, which is exactly what I wanted to see! My opponent is going first and he starts off with a Kyurem to my Deoxys EX. He begins to setup and starts to spread damage early on my board.

I search through my deck on my first turn to realize that 3 Catcher are prized so I know that I’m going need knock outs on whatever he has active. I am behind in prizes from his early attacks, but am able to knock out his only attacker with my Absol that had Life Dew attached to it. After 2 of his Kyurems are dealt with, he just can’t seem to get enough energy on board to keep up with my field.


Round 4 (Plasma)

I know this opponent very well from some online tournament experiences that we shared. His name is Dylan Dreyer and I know that I’m going to be in for a good mirror match! I lose the opening flip again and he starts with a Kyurem to my Deoxys EX (seems familiar…). Dylan gets a Turn 1 Frost Spear and sets up way too quickly for my slow setup. He is dropping a constant Blizzard Burn from that turn on and my Life Dew was nowhere to be found to stop him drawing prizes every turn. I finally manage to N him to a low number of cards and begin to mount a setup that involved attacking with many Deoxys EX (seeing that he had used many of his Prism Energy). Time was called and he had a lead on prizes but I was able to tie on prizes during turn 3. We were both at 1 prize, but Dylan was able to draw an energy that he needed to attack for game off of his N to 1. VERY good game!


Round 5 (Blastoise)

My opponent this round was another player that I had seen before this tournament and his name is Garrett Williamson. We sit down and begin to talk and joke around, which is my favorite part of playing in these tournaments! Playing against friends and players that love to have fun and joke around are what make Pokemon so fun. We flip to see who leads off and I’m going first! 😀 Garrett flips over Squirtle and I flip over Thundurus EX. He asks if i have the donk and i make a joke that my deck would NEVER allow me to donk anyone! I attach an energy to Thundurus EX, play a Deoxys EX down, and N. At this point, I tell him that my deck is going to give me ONE more Deoxys EX, and also a card with a blue plasma border to make me think I have a Hypnotoxic Laser, but it will be something else.

I draw my hand after we both laugh and sure enough… I draw exactly what I had joked about… The game goes on and Garrett seems to be struggling to draw well. He is stuck on many occasions with hands that are impossible to Juniper away, but all he has are Junipers. After discarding 3 Rare Candy, 3 Superior Energy Retrievals, and 2 regular Energy Retrievals, I knock out the second Blastoise of the match, which is his only Blastoise on the board and killed his energy acceleration. One more Blizzard Burn ended the match the next turn!


Round 6 (Mewtwo/Deoxys/Badge)


I sit down to face my opponent, a very prominent name in the Pokemon community in Carlos Pero. He seems to have a very creative deck from what I discerned from shuffling. We draw our opening hands and Carlos is going first to start the game off. He opens with a Bouffalant to my Kyurem, and IMMEDIATELY drops a Ghetsis on my poor innocent hand. After shuffling half of my 6 card hand back in the deck, I attach to Kyurem and draw into a Hypnotoxic Laser off of my supporter to help take down this tough buffalo. Carlos then drops ANOTHER Ghetsis on my new hand that I got last turn, hitting half of my 4 card hand.

Thankfully I had another supporter to try and draw back into some of my Trainers and I’m able to knock out his Mewtwo EX in two turns with Blizzard Burn and Virbank/Hypnotoxic Laser. This begins the Mewtwo/Deoxys War that basically involves all Psychic Pokémon knocking out each other in quick succession and I’m able to come out on top in the end.


Round 7 (Klinklang)

I realize i get the honor of sitting next to The Top Cut’s very own Kyle Sucevich this round and make jokes with him that this was my first tournament ever and I was very nervous. He jokes back and says I’m very lucky to have 2 byes in my first tournament ever! My opponent this round was friendly but seemed to be uneasy for some reason. I get to go first this round and I flip over a Kyurem to his “Pull Out” Durant. I have a very good hand this round and get an Energy/Colress Machine/Hypnotoxic Laser to attempt the donk with an N to 6 for each of us.

I miss on the Virbank City gym for the donk but draw into another Deoxys EX to put pressure on his Durant to be knocked out from poison if he doesn’t draw another basic and retreat. He gets out 2 Klinks and retreats the Durant to save it from poison. I am able to knock out a Klink with Frost Spear and damage the other Klink. After turn 4, 3 Klinks and a Klang are in his discard pile, which is too much pressure on his deck to come back from.


Day 1 of the National Championships end and I am surely going to make top cut from my good resistance and Byes from Regional Championships. I am feeling good and get to relax with friends for the rest of the day. It seems like everyone I knew was doing very well and no one had been eliminated from a shot at making top cut!

Round 8 (Plasma)

I see the pairings and find that I’m paired up against one of my best buds in Pokemon, Curran Hill. Curran is a great player and we are both playing an exact 60 card mirror match, but we both go into this match knowing that I am going to scoop to allow me and him to both make it into top 128. Curran would do the same thing for me in a heartbeat so i didn’t even have to think about it. We decide to play the match out and it turns out that I didn’t need to scoop either way because Curran murdered everything I ever dreamed about with how badly he beat me! XD I start off VERY slow and he gets a turn 1 Frost Spear with a Hypnotoxic Laser on my lone Deoxys EX. I make a comeback after finally drawing a Supporter but he is in control of the board by then.


Round 9 (Blastoise)


I get to sit next to a good friend named Jayson Harry this round and we joke about how completely quiet the table is during this fateful last round of Swiss that decides a guaranteed spot into top cut. I am playing against a great player from California named Kenny Britton. I have heard of Kenny and know that this match is going to be close. Kenny gets to go first as we flip over his Keldeo EX to my Thundurus EX. He gets down 2 Squirtle and Tropical Beaches for cards this turn, which immediately tells me this is going to be a long match.

After setting up a Kyurem on my bench with Raiden Knuckle from Thundurus EX, I feel prepared to exchange some prizes in the near future. We exchange Blizzard Burn/Laser/Virbank with Black Ballistas to knock each other out and keep the prizes around even. After knocking out a Kyurem using a Keldeo EX with 6 energy, I promote my Deoxys EX and know that I must get very lucky.

I have a Colress Machine, Plasma Energy, Prism Energy, and Colress in hand with about 11 cards in deck. I attach to my Deoxys EX and use the Colress, knowing that the only way I can win is to draw into ONLY the Colress Machine and not the Plasma Energy. I see the first card and it’s a Colress Machine, slowly fanning through my 8 card hand to see no Plasma Energy to finish the game!


I am very excited to know that I have made top cut for the 2nd straight year at U.S. Nationals! I feel great and know that I would be ecstatic if I could make it past top 64, which was my highest placing at Nationals so far. I check the placings after Swiss and see that I am the #12 seed in the blue pod and would be facing a State Champion named Jorge Feliciano in a Plasma mirror match.

Top 128 (Plasma) – Jorge Feliciano

We start to shuffle and I realize that Jorge is a very kind player that was always talking and singing through the games. We were having a lot of fun and I even remember him asking me if I wanted him to stop singing or talking, to which I responded, “Well, if you stop talking and singing, then I’m just going to look weird talking and singing by myself so I NEED you to keep singing with me.”

During game 1 of this match, Jorge went first and played a very large bench. This would end up allowing his deck to fall prey to Absol raining down multiple knockouts in a row. After knocking out the Pokémon with Energy, I was able to remain ahead and take my last couple prizes.

Game 2 goes very differently with Jorge changing game plans to a very limited bench size to slow down my “nightmare” Pokémon. This game ends up reverting to a Deoxys EX war that I initiated after noticing he had discarded 2 Plasma Energy early. I was able to knock out a Deoxys EX to go down to 2 prizes, followed by a Pokémon Catcher/Laser/Helix Force on a damaged Deoxys EX on his bench for the game.

Top 64 (Darkrai) – Dustin Zimmerman


I feel like Dustin is one of my closest friends in Pokémon, even though we never actually talk that much. I love talking to this guy and couldn’t have asked for a more fun person to play against!

I am able to go first in this match and just barely miss the turn 1 donk on his Sableye with my Thundurus EX. I was able to knock out a Darkrai EX 2 turns later with a Raiden Knuckle/Blizzard Burn combination but allowed the Darkrai EX to be knocked out from Poison damage to avoid his Exp. Shares. After knocking out a Keldeo EX with a Blizzard Burn, the game was finished off with a Frost Spear/Hypnotoxic Laser on his damaged Absol and the damaged Sableye.

Game 2 went much more in Dustin’s favor as he set up extremely fast and overpowered my EX Pokemon with multiple Darkrai EX. Exp. Share was an excellent card in this game and allowed him to keep Night Spears coming at my board.

Time is coming very close and I know that I have to take a quick prize lead to assure a win. I flip over a Thundurus EX and he flips over a Sableye. I am able to get a turn 2 knock out on his Sableye with a Kyurem, while time is being called. He finishes his turn and has set up an assured Night Spear next turn. I play down a Colress to draw 7, and draw into an Energy and a Hypnotoxic Laser to go up 3 prizes on the Darkrai EX I had Catchered up. Dustin is too far down on prizes and I am able to take the game on time in my closest match of the entire tournament.

Top 32 (Plasma) – Dan Richard

Deoxys EX Plasma

Wow. I have to play against my best friend. In an exact 60 card mirror. In top 32 of Nationals. We both sit down and know that neither of us is going to come out of the match as a “winner.” One of us will have to knock the other one out of the tournament that we both fought so hard to make it through.

Game 1 starts off with Dan going first and he EXPLODES out of the gate to take a huge lead. In order to have such a strong lead, Dan drew into hands that forced him to waste all of his Switch cards. After a late game N down to 3, I am able to stall with Pokémon Catchers and Hypnotoxic Lasers to damage his Deoxys EX. Eventually I am able to score very easy knock outs on 2 of his Deoxys EX and take a very unexpected lead in this series after seeing Dan’s start.

Game 2 seems to be even worse for Dan as he has an even WORSE hand than the dead hands he had drawn late in game 1. He is forced to just pass after a turn 1 Hypnotoxic Laser and I am able to finish off his board after a couple turns of attacking. I hated to see that happen and would have loved to at least go to a game 3, but Dan knew someone had to lose and knew that there was nothing he could have done with the hands he was dealt.

Top 16 (Garbodor/Mewtwo/Landorus) – David Shoyket


I had seen what my opponent was playing during my last round and saw his Garbodor out while he finished off on of the last Blastoise deck in top cut. I had actually tested this matchup pretty well and knew exactly how to approach it, especially since there was no Cobalion EX in this deck! My opponent seemed to have a very good grasp on the Plasma matchup, but I don’t think he was quite ready for my Plasma build.

Game 1 begins with my opponent filling his bench with 3 Mewtwo EX! This was along with a Garbodor and 2 Landorus EX, which was basically giving Absol a large dose of steroids. I decided to soften up a Landorus EX and Mewtwo EX at the same time with Frost Spears to allow my Absol to sweep both EX in 2 turn succession. All that was left to end the game was a final knock out on a Mewtwo EX with my Deoxys EX.

Game 2 involved a completely different strategy from my opponent. He decided to attack with Mewtwo EX at first and was hit with a Helix Force from my Deoxys EX. He responds by attacking with another Mewtwo EX to even up prizes. I decide to catcher up a Landorus EX and Frost Spear to with my Kyurem to get some big damage on an EX. He then attaches ANOTHER Double Colorless Energy to his Mewtwo and switches back to hit me for 120 damage. I Blizzard Burn his Mewtwo EX to put it at 160 damage, while there is also 110 damage on his benched Landorus EX.

He attaches a THIRD DCE to attempt and knock out a clean Deoxys EX but misses and has to knock out my poor Kyurem that already had 120 damage on him. A Juniper on my next turn allows me to draw into a Catcher to finish off the game with a 4-prize Frost Spear on the damaged Landorus EX and damaged Mewtwo EX!

Top 8 (Darkrai) – Omar Reyhan

Darkrai EX

My opponent is very nice and was beyond happy to get through a very tough series against one of my friends, Aaron Curry. To beat Aaron, it was obvious that Omar knew exactly what he was doing in Pokémon and would make this a great series!

Game 1 starts with Omar going first and he seems to know exactly how to approach this matchup. The one thing that Omar didn’t account for in this game was just how many of each attackers I was playing. I begin to damage his board with early damage as he sets up Darkrai EXs and an Absol. A knock out on a Darkrai EX has the game appear to be completely in my favor, but Omar drops a double Dark Patch, Energy Switch, Dark Claw, Hypnotoxic Laser to get a knockout from out of NOWHERE. He is able to finish off the last couple of prizes after I attempt to recover, which now means I need to win my next 2 games to prolong my greatest tournament finish in a big event.


Game 2 is looking better as I start Thundurus EX to his Keldeo EX. I put early pressure on with my Life Dewed Thundurus EX and Raiden Knuckle to power up multiple Kyurems on the bench. After exchanging Kyurems, Absols, and Darkrais, Omar N’s me down to 2 cards in hopes that he can finish the game with 2 more Night Spears. I am able to draw into a Colress, which allowed me to draw the Pokémon Catcher/Hypnotoxic Laser on a damaged benched Keldeo EX for game 2.

Game 3 is bordering right around when time should be called and we were both very nervous. Omar begins to play Trainer card after Trainer card, attaching energy to a Sableye, and Hypnotoxic Laser to my active Kyurem. I am getting worried, but then something strange happened. He didn’t play a Supporter… He just Junk Hunted! I look down to my hand and laugh as I only have 2 N in my hand, but I’m able to lower my hand enough to Bicycle into a Juniper. Frost Spear from my Kyurem puts damage on his benched Darkrai EX.

Omar doesn’t draw into a Supporter and just attaches another Energy and Lasers again to put me to sleep. I flip tails on sleep, but am able to Switch/Retreat/Pokémon Catcher/Hypnotoxic Laser on the only Darkrai EX he had on board. His field was only a Sableye and 2 Keldeo EX after this. An attempted Pokémon Catcher to stall from Omar was basically the game as I retreated back up my Kyurem to leave him with only 2 Keldeo EX. 2 more draws from his deck was all that it took until the game was over. Such a great series!

I just now realize that I had made it to Top 4 of a tournament that had over 900 people participating! We were given a day to rest and I was so thankful that I was done playing cards for that day. I had been though some very long series and needed some time to relax for such a serious match the next day. I played “The Resistance” with some good friends and everyone kept telling me I needed to test my matchup for tomorrow in Top 4.

I heard from my friends exactly what my opponent was playing and I am excited to hear that I dodged a Gothitelle mirror match that was happening in the other bracket, and was going to play for a spot in finals against Robert Seley’s Keldeo/Kyurem/Deoxys deck. I get a good night’s rest and get carried into the convention center on my friend’s shoulders while they blasted the “Rocky” theme song. It was a little awkward but I couldn’t help but laugh at how excited all of my friends were for me!

Top 4 (Keldeo/Kyurem/Deoxys) – Robert Seley


After a day to rest, Robert and I were both moderately awake and couldn’t be happier that the pressure of a paid trip to Vancouver was behind us. We both knew that we would have our trips and hotels paid for during the World Championships in August, so we tried to enjoy the games as much as possible.

Game 1 begins with me setting up my Kyurem and being able to get knock outs on his Kyurem before he was able to get down Exp. Shares. From talking about this matchup and realizing what I needed to do, the most important thing was definitely to make sure and get knockouts through Hypnotoxic Laser to wipe off all of his Energy. The game went downhill for Robert when he drew into a bad hand and was forced to Colress for 2 in an attempt to set up. For some reason, neither of us could draw basic Pokémon and it ended up hurting his start. He was put way too far behind and I was able to knock out a Kyurem with my own to force a Deoxys EX war that my deck was much more prepared for.

Game 2 opens up with him flipping Keldeo EX to my Deoxys EX. Robert looks very sad with his hand and plays down just a Virbank City Gym and a Hypnotoxic Laser before passing. I look down at my hand and actually begin to laugh out loud. My hand has 3 N, a prism energy, a laser, and Professor Juniper. I am forced to go very aggressive and just Juniper away 3 of my Supporters in order to overwhelm his slow start. After knocking out a Kyurem that he was slowly trying to build up with my Absol, my Kyurem was able to knock out a Deoxys EX, an Absol, and a damaged Keldeo EX to take the series!

Nationals Finals (Gothitelle/Accelgor/Dusknoir) – Edmund Kuras


I had already realized that I would have to play a Gothitelle/Accelgor deck in the finals because of the mirror match that had happened in top 4. This matchup is the worst that I could have gotten and I knew that I didn’t have a very strong chance of winning unless Edmund drew badly. I was so excited to make it to Nationals Finals that I didn’t even realize how bad of a matchup I was going to face in front of a huge audience.

The match was going to be projected on a very large screen above our heads and live commentary was being done to the audience! In order for the commentators to talk to the audience about public knowledge (like what was in our hands), Edmund and I were given voice canceling headphones to block out the speakers. Small microphones were also put on our shirt collars so that Edmund and I could communicate with each other.

The question that I seemed to get asked more than anything would be if the headphones were annoying or distracting. They did work pretty well to block out the commentators, but sometimes the noise would play through our opponent’s microphone to allow us to hear small bits of conversations. I know nothing actually helped me from the commentators words, aside from knowing that apparently people didn’t even know what side of the United States I lived on! XD
After announcing our names to the crowd and getting everything situated, the U.S. Nationals Finals were set to begin!

The opening coin flip went up in the air with my opponent calling tails, to which a metallic blue heads was visible after it landed. I could tell these games were going to have an electric feeling to them as the crowd cheered very loudly to just me going first! Edmund started with 2 basics so I already knew I wasn’t going to get a donk in game 1. He flips over a Mew EX with a benched Gothita to my Thundurus EX. I managed to get down 2 Deoxys EX and used an N to draw into the 3rd Deoxys EX and Catcher to gain an early knock out on his Gothita. I was feeling so good at that point, up until Edmund got N’d into 2 more Gothita, a Shelmet, and a Tropical Beach.


The huge moment of this match was during this game when Edmund had a completely dead hand and there was no Tropical Beach out. He only had a 1 card hand and was in a very vulnerable position to lose the “Lock.” Without a second for me to breathe, he topdecked a Professor Juniper with a 40 card deck to put him right back on top! As soon as I heard the crowd’s expression to the one card he drew, I knew I was in trouble. The “Lock” was soon established and I had already realized I had lost because there were 3 Deoxys EX that could be used as stalling techniques for Edmund that I would need to manually retreat. Game 1 ended with multiple Deck & Covers from his Mew EX and Accelgors.

Game 2 went a little differently as I decided to go with Pooka’s most infamous strategy for beating Gothitelle/Accelgor. I started with a Thundurus EX and was able to Colress Machine twice to it in order to begin attacking with a turn 2 Thunderous Noise. After taking early knock outs on 1 of his Accelgor, Edmund couldn’t seem to get out a Rare Candy/Gothitelle and was forced to use Tropical Beach. I decided to get the crowd more into the game and made a huge emphasis on playing down my Life Dew tool on my Thundurus EX, to which the crowd began to cheer very loud! I couldn’t help but wave my hands to tell the crowd to get louder for this epic game!

Thundurus EX Plasma
A Pokémon Catcher and another Thunderous Noise finished off a second Accelgor to take out all of his attackers. Edmund searched through his deck to find his Super Rod and found out that it was prized. Without any Accelgor in his deck, he couldn’t attack with anything and knew he needed to scoop up this game to save time for game 3. The crowd went completely nuts after seeing that his Super Rod was prized and I was in the zone from being a game away from being the U.S. National Champion!

Before game 3 was started, Edmund and I started to hear a very loud chant coming from the audience while we were shuffling. Even through the “noise-cancelling” headphones, I could still hear everyone chanting “DUSKULL, PASS! DUSKULL, PASS!” and knew that it had been my group that started the chant! My brother Kyle had made a joke that in one of these games, Edmund would probably just have to start a Duskull and not have any Supporters or basics, which would allow me a very good opportunity to knock out his only Pokémon and win the game to become National Champion!

Unfortunately, this situation never actually happened because he started with 2 or more basics for a third straight game! I tried to put on as much pressure as possible and made a decision to bench a Deoxys EX so that I would be able to knock out his Gothitelle in one shot from Kyurem’s Blizzard Burn. I realized that the only way to bench would be if I had a Float Stone, or could Colress Machine to it so that the Deoxys EX couldn’t be a way for Edmund to stall by Catchering it up. I bench the Deoxys EX with a Float Stone attached and felt like it was a good play at the time. What I didn’t know, is that Edmund had a Pokemon Catcher AND a Tool Scrapper to allow him to trap my Deoxys EX active.

After using Tropical Beach for a couple of turns to allow himself to setup, Edmund had the game wrapped up within about 8 turns or so. I had realized that I was probably not going to win after my Deoxys had become trapped active, but was still excited that I had made it this far! During the closing turns of the game, I honestly was excited to tell Edmund congratulations and just couldn’t wait for us both to be applauded for a great Nationals Finals series!

After seeing the last attack of the game coming up next turn, I extended my hand to congratulate Edmund and looked out to the audience with a huge smile on my face. I didn’t win the National Championships, but I was really happy for Edmund and was clapping as loud as I could before walking over to give him a hug. I was immediately mauled by ALL of my friends at once and we were barely able to fit everyone into the picture that was taken!


This tournament is definitely going to be one of those tournaments that I will never be able to forget! For anyone that read the report, I hope that it was as entertaining to you as it was for me to experience! I love the entire Pokemon community way too much for you all to not be considered family to me and I can’t wait to see everyone in Vancouver for the World Championships!

4 responses to “2nd Place US National Championship Report!”

  1. Zach Elliott

    Congrats Ryan! I wish you the best of luck at Worlds and look forward to getting stomped by you guys at the Georgia Marathon next season!


    i thought kyle played plasma at nats not klinklang @_@.

    1. KIRTHUS

      oh nevermind reread and i see he sat BESIDE him not across from him 😛

  3. Skyler Knopp

    What a fun read! Thank you for taking the time to write it all out. Thank you for sharing your wonderful experience (: