"Player Spotlights"- Getting to know the top 16 NA Masters of 2014

16.5.2014 wrote: Jose Marrero in category Trading Card Game

Hello 60cards readers! Jose Marrero again, and I am back with another article. This time it's no ordinary article talking about decks or strategies. This next article will be all about the top 16 Masters in North America. I will be asking them a few questions to answer so you guys can get to know them a little better and see how they got to where they are. I will start from top to bottom as shown on the rankings. Unfortunately the #6 and #12 ranked players did not want to participate. So I grabbed the #17 and #18 ranked players to take their spots. With that being said let's get right into it.

First up we have the one and only Ryan Sabelhaus. Currently ranked #1 in North America. Ryan is one of the best and funniest players I know. He used to live in Florida but now resides in South Carolina with his brother Kyle.

                         1. Ryan Sabelhaus 

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thank you! I'm really glad that I got my invite again this year and can't wait to see everybody at Worlds. Well I actually didn't get to attend many events this season but I made the most out of the tournaments that I went to. I really buckled down and tested out tons of matchups with friends, along with talking deck choices with good friends like Dustin Zimmerman, Tyler Morris, and you too, Jose! I never went into a tournament wondering what to play. I knew exactly what I was going to play, how every matchup went, and how to deal with each and every situation I came up against. The main bulk of my points came from my Florida Regionals win (150 cp), two 2nd's and a third at States (250 cp), and 4 City wins from the GA marathon (200 cp).

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

Well, I started off playing the game in Base Set and I've been playing for about 10 years with my brother, Kyle. We've played the game for most of the decade and I learned most of my habits from him. When we started off playing, I used to just copy my brother's deck card-for-card and I would win the tournaments in Seniors pretty easily with his great lists. My brother actually moved away to Maryland a couple of years ago and i learned everything by myself and got a good grasp on the mechanics of the game. I started to win a lot of the tournaments around here and I'd like to think I've established a pretty good name for myself with my consistent results.

You took 2nd at the 2013 US National Championships. What are your expectations for this year?

The wounds still fresh, man. I got so close to winning the National Championship last year and that's what I'm going for again this year. That's the dream! I would be extremely content with just making it into top cut again this year at Nationals, but it's always good to have high expectations of yourself.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I actually love the current state of the game. I don't feel likes its very boring or one-sided for many decks. Stage 2's are starting to flourish again, along with many new and fun cards from this new set. Nationals is going to be really fun and interesting to play in. I can't wait!


Is there anything else you would like to say?

I guess I'd just want to thank everybody in this community for being such a great family to me. The best days in my memory have been with my friends at Pokemon tournaments and I look forward to every single minute I get to spend with you guys. I hope everyone is testing for Nationals and I can't wait to see everybody there! Good luck everybody.

-Ryan <3


Next up we have myself (Jose Marrero) currently ranked #2 in North America. I’m a well known player from Orlando Florida.

                         2. Jose Marrero

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Well I’ve had a stellar season so far if I may say. Here are some of my accomplishments where I gained the most points.

2nd FL Regionals 135 cp
top 8 TX Regionals 75 cp
9th GA Regionals 45 cp
2nd FL States 90 cp
4x City wins 200 cp

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I started playing competitively back during the 2010 era when LuxChomp was big. I had been playing Yu-gi-oh at the time. Then one day out of nowhere I somehow thought about Pokemon and then wondered how the card game was doing. So I searched up some cards and that's when I first saw Uxie LV X and I fell in love with the LV. X art works. So I immediately looked for any leagues around or close to my area and I saw that there was one at Sci Fi City on Saturdays. So I made plans to go and from there I met some of my closest friends to this day (Cory Goff and Brad Curcio). Ultimately I decided to quit Yu-gi-oh and pursue my Pokemon career.

That year I played in my very first Regional Championships in which I managed to make top 16. After that I didn’t really have any other tournament break outs until Nationals that same year. It also being my first Nationals I managed to get a top 64 finish where I was taken out by Eric Nance who went on to make it to the finals. In my 2011 year I managed to grab another good finish at my home town Regionals in which I got top 32. Following that I got my first trophy/medal by getting top 4 at GA States. I played Nationals that year as well but ended 6-3 bubble losing my last round to miss cut. But funny enough my last round opponent was none other than one of my best buds, Justin Sanchez who went on to become the 2011 National Champion. My 2012 year is where I started getting more and more competitive going to a lot more tournaments. With another top 16 at Regionals a top 16 at AL States and a top 8 at GA States. This is the year where I also won my first City Championship. But yet again I end up 6-3 losing my last round of Nationals to miss cut.

As for my 2013 and by far one of my best years. With only having 1 City win under my belt. I somehow went on to win 4 more City Championships that year. After this I went on to finally get a big finish at Regionals getting a 2nd place finish at GA Regionals where I also earned my first Worlds invite. Upon doing this I attended Nationals and made it all the way to top 16 with my Plasma/Lugia deck where I was stopped by Sean Foisey’s Goth/Gor deck. I did go to Worlds in Vancouver and I ended 4-4 but overall I had one of the best weekends of my life. For my 2014 year and counting. I had won yet another 4 City Championships. I then managed to get a few other good Regional finishes by getting top 8 at TX Regionals following a 2nd at FL Regionals. I also made my first State Championship finals where i took another 2nd place finish. Upon doing this I received my 2nd Worlds Invite and I hope to see everyone in Washington DC!

You placed in the top 16 at the 2013 US National Championships. What are your expectations for this year?

I’m hoping to get another top 16 or better finish. But who knows this Nationals format is going to be completely different since last year so I'm just going to just play as I go and just make the best of it. I’ve been testing heavily with a few things so hopefully i can grab another good finish.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I feel the current state of the game is fine. I actually like it. The catcher nerfing and no attacking on the first turn. Both these things make the game better and more healthy. I’m not sure what Flashfire is going to bring but we have a few months to come up with something new and unique. So hopefully with this new set it keeps the format going.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and gave me ideas and tips to become a better player. I specifically want to thank some of my best buds (David and Daniel Lopez, Cory Goff, Brad Curcio) and especially Harrison Leven for taking me to most my events and making me able to hunt my invite once again.


Next up we have Jeremy Joseph Jallen who is currently ranked #3 in North America. Jeremy is a well known player from Arizona.

                 

                  3. Jeremy Joseph Jallen

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Well coming off a top 32 at Worlds I knew I had a little breathing room with the 60 CP given out. Knowing that, I wanted to definitely try and reach that 500 CP goal no matter what. I ended up going 1st, 2nd, 2nd, and 3rd at Cities. I eventually capped out my season with an amazing run at Regionals and States getting Top 8, 2nd, 3rd, and 1st leading me to 624 CP. It was pretty sweet.

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

Well I started playing 6 ½ years ago after playing various card games. I basically fell in love with the Pokémon, not for the actual game but for the people I have met through it. Ever since then I’ve had moderate success in this game, I’ve done well at Worlds and Nationals. It has been a pretty good 6 ½ years. I also helped start On The Bubble with some good people that I’ve had the privilege to enjoy their friendship.

You placed in the top 16 at the 2013 US National Championships. What are your expectations for this year?

It’s kind of been this hurdle that I can’t really overcome. A lot of people see Top 16 at Nationals as this huge accomplishment but having ended up there two years in a row I am craving to get past that mark. The only thing that is certain is that I will play Jay Hornung sometime in top haha.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I actually really enjoy this format right now. I haven’t tested much of the new set yet but it seems there are so many viable decks in the format that anything has a chance of being great. Only time will tell though.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Well the only reason I have done well at all this season is thanks to the people that have helped me test, housed me for tournaments, and given me lists to play for different tournaments. There are too many of you guys to name but you know who you are.


Ranked #4 in North America is Kevin Baxter, a well known player from Ohio.

      

                        4. Kevin Baxter

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thank you! After best finish limits, my 622 points are from: 4x LC wins, 1x LC 2nd, 1x LC Top 4, 3x CC wins, 1x CC 2nd, 1x Regional 2nd (Sturbridge, Mass), 1x Regional Top 8 (Madison, WI), 2x SPT Top 4 (Ohio, Ontario). Counting all tournaments, I earned roughly 200 points with Lugia/Snorlax, 300 points with Rayboar, and had some success with Zoroark, Virizion/Genesect, Big Basics/Garbodor, and Flygon/Dusknoir.

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I started playing around the time Next Destinies was released (a little over 2 years ago). I spent a few months learning the game from new friends at league, watching youtube videos from The Top Cut, and reading forums like HeyTrainer. I decided to take the 2012-2013 season seriously and performed fairly well for my first year. I earned 170 points from CC’s, 70 points from BR’s, 2 Regional Top 16’s, a States Top 16, went 6-3 at Nats, and got Top 16 in the Last Chance tournament. After all that, however, I finished at 390/400 points and was very disappointed with myself because there were multiple times that winning one more game could have given me an invite. I went to worlds in Vancouver anyway and had a really great vacation (even though I lost round 1 of the grinder to sleep flips). Watching all the great players there made me incredibly motivated to try harder this year and I was determined to get an invite even when they announced the 500 point requirement. Needless to say, I’m very relieved to have my invite before Nats this year.

What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

Considering that I have 2 byes for Nats, I’ll be a little embarrassed if I don’t make Day 2, so that’s my main goal. I already am happy with this year, so any better than that will just be a bonus. As for Worlds, I know that everyone there will be a very skilled competitor, so I’m not going in with any expectations. I’ll prepare as much as I can and try to do well, but my main concern will be having a fun weekend.


How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I think the game is probably in the healthiest state since I’ve been playing (which admittedly is not that long). There are plenty of viable decks right now and there is even some room for innovation. I think several of the cards from Flashfire could make an impact on the metagame for Nats and some interesting decks could emerge. I’ve been having more fun playing games in our current format than I did during some of the stretches last year.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I would like to thank Chris Fulop for helping me with most of my testing this year, discussing lists, and making deck choices for certain tournaments. Also, the friends I've been traveling with for making tournament weekends awesome!


Ranked #5 in North America is the one and only Israel Sosa, a well known player from California.

 

             5. Israel Sosa

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

I managed to win 3 Regionals, place top 16 at 2 States (Arizona, Nevada), top 4 at 3 Cities, and top 4 at 4 LCs.

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I started 5 years ago when Stormfront had just came out. As a birthday present I took my brother to a tournament and we became hooked after that. For the first two years I didn’t play at all. The third year I only participated in one tournament where I made my first top cut. I ended up losing in the top 8 to the 2013 US National Champion, Edmund Kuras. The following year I again did not participate that much because of other side hobbies and work. Last year was my first year where I competed competitively. But I only grabbed 74 points for the whole year. I unfortunately bubbled at about 10 different tournaments throughout the year.

You have had a phenomenal year so far winning 3 Regional Championships. What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

For Nationals I'm just hoping for a good run. I have been play testing a lot for this part of the year and hopefully I can make a good run at my first Nationals. I’ll be satisfied with a top 32 finish. As for Worlds, I have no expectations, I'm just happy enough to finally compete with some of greatest players in the world. I’ll be happy with whatever I finish.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

As of right now I really like it, there's going be a lot of creative ideas that's gonna pop up in these next couple of months. The way cards have been coming up, I feel is making the game more balanced. But still needs a lot more work to make it a healthy format.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Best of luck to everyone and let's make this year one to remember.


Currently ranked #7 in North America is Brit Pybas, a well known player from Missouri.

               7. Brit Pybas

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

I’ve believed for a long-time that Blastoise was BDIF and I basically played the deck all year starting at Fall Regionals all the way through State Championships. My list changed maybe less than 10 cards throughout the whole season, but I think it goes to show, that playing what you know best is always the optimal strategy. I won 3 Cities, a States and a States top 4 with the deck along with a few other smaller placings that I can’t recall.

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I have been playing since 2009 but didn’t start the competitive grind until 2011 because of high school athletics and so forth. I’ve earned an invite four years in a row now and have a Nationals top 64 and top 32 behind that. I’ve been into Pokemon since I was seven years old and can’t really imagine ever losing interest.


What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

I would love to make top 8 at one or both of them, but perhaps those are unrealistic expectations. I think that making day 2 (whatever that ends up being) is my current goal for Nationals and I think that’s pretty realistic, but we’ll just have to play the cards we’re dealt. Worlds is a different story and I’ve been unable to post any satisfactory results there. If I could make top 32 or better, that would be wonderful and again fairly realistic.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I think it’s pretty good. Flashfire seems to open the game up to a lot of interesting and new concepts and I think we’ll see a few new decks and variants pop up at the first tier. I think that the turn rules and card nerfs have been very satisfactory and the only thing that really needs to be revised is the 50+3 setting, but perhaps it’s a necessary evil.


Is there anything else you would like to say?


Lob City 2k14


Currently ranked #8 in North America is Brandon Smiley, a well known player from Texas.

                  8. Brandon Smiley

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

A lot of luck! I started the season off with a huge win at the Texas Regional Championships, and followed that up with a few solid showings at the Texas Marathon.
Along with a Top 8 at the St. Charles Regionals and a 2nd place at Oklahoma States, I managed to earn 600 CP. (585, +15 from an LC that will probably never go in)

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

Sure! I started playing back in 2008 with the release of Diamond & Pearl, and started to take the game seriously in 2012. This is my second year in masters, but I'd say my biggest accomplishment's were in my final year of seniors, where I took 3rd at the U.S National Championships and made Top 16 at the World Championships.

What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

I expect to do well at one of the events, but hopefully both! I'm going to be testing my heart out over the two months to make sure I'm prepared for Nationals. I've had strong performances throughout the entire season, and I'd love to finish it off just as strong.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I think it's actually not too bad; there are a lot of playable decks, and we've constantly seen the top players do well over and over again. The new format feels a little bit strange, but I think when I get used to it I'm going to enjoy it quite a bit.


Is there anything else you would like to say?

I hope to see anyone who is reading this at Nationals and Worlds, and if you see me come say hi!


Next up we have Ricky Gao, who’s ranked #9 in North America. He is a well known player from British Columbia Canada.

                     9. Ricky Gao

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thank you! I was able to earn a lot of my points by sticking with one deck (Blastoise) and playing it for the majority of the season. Doing so allowed me to figure out all its match-ups and how to play it correctly. Being comfortable with the deck you are playing ensures that you will be able to play it well without taking a lot of time which is crucial in 50 minute best of 3 tournaments such as States and Regionals. My points from this season are broken down as follows:


League Challenges = 87 (5 1sts, 1 2nd)
Cities = 160 (1st, 1st, top 4, top 4)
States = 150 (top 4, top 4)
Regionals = 180 (top 8, top 4)
Total: 567 CP

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

My first experience with the Trading Card Game was getting a Machamp Starter Deck at my local 7-11 when the game was first released back in 1998, but I didn’t start playing competitively until the release of HGSS: Triumphant late in 2010. I had a pretty poor first year never making top cut at any tournament. In my second year, things finally started to click and I was able to top cut and win tournaments, going as far as taking second at a State Championships! Living in British Columbia, Canada, there are usually never enough tournaments for me to play into getting a World’s invite. Locally, there are only 2-3 city championships I can travel to within BC. However, this year I was able to attend a cities marathon in Ontario thanks to Matthew Koo who let me stay at his place for the duration of the marathon.

What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

Nationals: As some people may know, Canadian Nationals this year has moved from Toronto Ontario to Kitchener Ontario which is not decision I am very fond of. I felt that the old venue was perfect for travelers coming from other parts of the country since there was a shuttle that takes you to the hotel where the event is held. However, I have never been to Kitchener so hopefully it is better to be expected. As for the tournament itself I am very excited! I have only been to Nationals once and did very poorly (3-4 with a bye). This year will be my chance to avenge my poor performance while also getting to catch up with some friends who I don’t get to see very often.


Worlds: I expect Worlds to be a great experience! This will be my first time playing in Worlds (I attended the LCQ in both 2012 and 2013) and it’s been one of my goals ever since I started playing this game. When I first heard that Worlds will be held in Washington DC I was not overly ecstatic about the location but as time goes by, it has grown on me. I am definitely looking forward at doing some sightseeing during my trip there.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I think the current state of the game is fine albeit a bit limited. For the past couple of years it has just been the same few basic EXs wailing on each other until someone wins. I don’t really find any of the main archetypes particularly fun to play and prefer playing old format decks at leagues with friends. The new set should play some new life into the format with Pyroar and Charizard although I’m not fond of either deck.

Is there anything else you would like to say?


Thank you Jose for the interview and I hope to see everyone at Nationals and Worlds!

Our #10 ranked North America player is Trevore Read. He is also a well known player from British Columbia Canada.

           10. Trevore Read

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thanks and also Congrats on your invite as well. I grabbed 320 points this season with Plasma decks and managed to take 1st at two cities early on in the LTR format. I capitalized on the fact that people where assuming that Plasma was a dead archetype with the catcher nerf and first turn rule. Nobody ran any techs, and the Blastoise heavy meta ran low beach counts, resulting in easy sweeps with Plasma Lugia and the Yeti. I pulled another second place with the Yeti a few weeks later.

Fast forwarding to the X and Y format, I got second place at back to back States with Plasma. I counted on no Trevenant and high counts of Blastoise, Rayboar and Darkrai decks. That ended up being the case both weeks and teched Palkia and Lasers which put in tons of work. My testing partner Chase Moloney also got 1st and 4th at the same two States with the same list. The rest of my points came from two top 8 Regional finishes with Blastoise in the Fall and Winter, and a second at another city with Virizion/Genesect.

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I have been playing competitively in the game for the last 3 years. This is the first year that I have really gone for my invite though. In the last three years I have gotten:

1st Alberta Provs 2012
Top 8 BC Provs 2012
Top 16 BC Regionals 2012
1st Oregon Regionals 2013
Top 8 BC Provs 2013
Top 32 Canadian Nationals 2013
Top 8 BC Regionals 2014
Top 8 Oregon Regionals 2014
2nd BC Provs 2014
2nd Washington States 2014

What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

I always have a lot of fun at Nationals so I plan to try and not stress out too much about it and just have fun and use it as a testing ground for Worlds. I'm super excited about Worlds this year since this is my first invite. I went to Worlds in Vancouver for the grinder and even though I didn't make it in, it was the most fun I had ever had at an event. It's just such a great experience being able to meet all the people that you aren't normally able to see, and play against people from all over the world.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I really like the current state of the game. There is a lot more board, damage, and resource management since the catcher nerf. As for the next set I feel like there are going to be a lot of cool deck options that come out of it and I'm excited to start testing. I'm also very interested to see how many people run Pyroar when the Nationals season gets underway.


Is there anything else you would like to say?

I'm looking forward to meeting everyone at Worlds. Also a huge shout out to Chase Moloney for getting his invite and for pushing me to be better and to go for the invite this year.

Ranked #11 in North America is the one and only Dustin Zimmerman, a well known player from Indiana.

                        11. Dustin Zimmerman (Right)


Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thank you! Surprisingly, I didn’t win much of anything (a few League Challenges and a single City Championship). However, I did consistently perform well at every large event. I earned Championships at the six State and Regional tournaments I attended. Including a T2, T4, and T8. Somehow it all added up to my current total of 555! I feel very accomplished knowing that despite my automatic invite from last year’s World Championships, I can still perform well enough to earn another.


For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?


I’ve been playing this game competitively since around the release of EX: Emerald in August of 2005. Since then I’ve made some of the best friends in my entire life, and have been lucky enough to perform well at a number of events both large and small. In fact, I’ve actually made finals at States or Regionals every season since 2007-08 (very sorry for the humble brag, I try to remain modest). I plan on playing this game until I literally do not possess the capability for whatever reason. It’s a very important and enjoyable part of my life.

You placed in the top 64 at the 2013 US National Championships as well as placing in the top 4 at the 2013 World Championships. What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

This year at Nationals and Worlds I of course intend on performing well. I always try and play a deck that’s a bit unorthodox. I’m not “anti-meta” or any nonsense like that, I just like to tweak a common deck in a certain unique way to gain an advantage. Even if it’s literally just a few copies of one card. For instance at Nationals last year I played Darkrai EX with Exp. Share, then of course at the World Championships I played Darkrai EX/Garbodor aka Hovertoxin (probably the coolest deck I’ve ever piloted). So we’ll see what happens! For the record, I have nothing in mind yet.


How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I actually very much enjoy the current state of the game. There is a very strong pool of decks, all of which have unique matchups against one another. No one deck will always win everything, and that’s perfect. It’s a complex game of rock-paper-scissors, and that’s exactly how it should be. Remember 2008, when any viable deck absolutely had to either BE Gallade/Gardevoir or BEAT it? No thanks. Also, the decision to make Pokemon Catcher become a flip and no attacking on the first turn of the game are AMAZING changes that allow a significant amount of variation. Very well done, Pokemon. Flashfire also added a great deal of variance to the current state of the game. And I’m not just talking about Pyroar. Cards like Lysandre and Pal Pad are essential to the health and growth of a trading card game. I can’t wait to see what comes of them.


Is there anything else you would like to say?


Well, I’d like to give a obligatory shout-out to Team Hovercats, the ugliest and rowdiest bunch of friends I have. I would also like all of you to be on the look out for an article I’ll be writing for SixPrizes later this month! Thanks for the interview, I’ll see you all in Indianapolis and hopefully Washington D.C.!


Next up we have the one and only Dylan Bryan who’s ranked #13 in North America. He is a well known player from New Jersey.

                           13. Dylan Bryan

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thank you! I earned so many points by consistently performing well in events this season. I was able to achieve consistent results thanks to input from my friends, playtesting, deck choice, and of course a little bit of luck.

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I started playing the Pokémon TCG when I was 6 years old, but I ended up quitting around Neo Genesis. I started playing again when I was in High School around when Diamond and Pearl came out and the game was as exciting as I remembered it. I started playing competitively my second year and haven’t really looked back since.

Tournament wise I started to gain recognition when I made Top 16 at Nationals, Top 8 at Nationals, and three Top 16s at Worlds in the past 3 years. I would rather play a unique deck or put my own spin on an archetype, rather than perfecting the archetype everyone else is playing. I enjoy sharing my ideas by writing for SixPrizes Underground and playing games whenever I have time during College!

You placed top 8 at the 2013 US National Championships as well as placing top 16 at the 2013 World Championships. What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

I always go into large events like Regionals, Nationals, and Worlds with the expectation that I’m going to succeed. I know that if I playtest, pick the right deck, and play it well, I’ll perform well in most events. However, there is always some variance since it’s a card game. This means that the best player doesn't necessarily win the event. I plan to prepare to the best of my ability and hope that this year I’ll have the luck I need to finally get a big win.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

Players always seem to complain about the format, but if the good players are rising to the top in most events then I believe the format is fine. However, I believe the tournament structure itself could use some changes. There can never be a perfect system, but I’m sure there is a better solution than playing best of 3 matches with an insufficient time limit. Overall though I find both the game and the community enjoyable, which is the reason I play!

Is there anything else you would like to say?

Outside of Pokemon I'm an Engineering student at Rutgers University. In my spare time I enjoy playing Intramural Sports, Hearthstone, and hanging out with my friends. If you ever see me at a tournament feel free to say hello!

Now we have Justin Sanchez the #14 ranked North American player. He is a well known player from Miami Florida and a good friend of mine.

                    14. Justin Sanchez

.

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thank you very much. Honestly, I would say that the 190 points I earned from City Championships was the key factor to getting an invite this year. Darkrai/garbodor was not only a strong deck, but it required a decent amount of thought and if you played it correctly it almost always won a 30 minute game vs anything not playing Virizion Ex. Finding a deck that you know is good and sticking with it is key to being successful.


For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

Well, my name definitely started being known after I won the 2011 US National Championships. Since then I have simply performed well on a consistent enough basis to be remembered. I have been in the top 4 of a Regionals every year for the past four years, getting my first second place this year in Texas. I currently write for 60cards, and hold down two jobs in my hometown of Miami, FL.


You are the 2011 US National Champion. What are your expectations for Nationals this year?

As per every year, Nationals will be an extremely difficult tournament to conquer. A nice combination of skill and luck could easily put you at the top of your nation.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

I'm not sure how the new set will affect things, but the game has taken a nice turn this season. While it still isn't as healthy as it can be, I feel it is better than every year after 2010.

Is there anything else you would like to say?


I want to wish all of you good luck at your National Championships! Remember that you can only control so much, so be as ready as you can be!

Next up we have Nicholas Bailey our #15 ranked North American player. He is a well known player from Ohio.

                        15. Nicholas Bailey

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Earning 500+ points has been quite the adventure. I started off with a disappointing placing at the first Regionals I could attend in the fall. However from there my season really started to take off. I started off by winning and placing at a few LCs. From there I started a nice run through cities by playing Blastoise for all but two of them. I ended up with three cities wins and a top four. I was able to keep up with some good fortune and finished in the top 8 at St. Louis Regionals. As I waited for States to start up I continued to place at a few more LCs to buff up my best finish limits for LCs. However I hit a streak of bad luck during States and my best performance was only a top 16 out of three States. To say the least, I was disappointed with my finishes after a great start to the season. However I knew that my season was far from over coming into Spring Regionals.

I did a lot of testing during the small break between States and Spring Regionals. I was determined to place well. I started off with a top 16 at New England Regionals, followed by a top 8 at Wisconsin and Ontario Regionals to ultimately finish off my invite. My finishes throughout all my tournaments to reach 534 points ended up being…

4x 1st LC (60)
2x 2nd LC (24)
3x 1st Cities (150)
1x Top 4 Cities (30)
3x Top 8 Regionals (225)
1x Top 16 Regionals (45


For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

To say the least I do not have a ton of history in this game. This is my third season playing with it being my only second real competitive year. Last year I started to really hit my stride at Spring Regionals with at top 16 at Wisconsin. That was followed by a good amount of Spring Battle Road performances and ultimately finished off with a top 32 at Nationals last year. I made the decision about half way through last year that I wanted to start playing this game more seriously. I was starting to make a lot of great friends and I was finding success at tournaments. So with that I started to travel further and further for tournaments. Which I ended up finding out is actually one of the best parts of playing Pokemon. Getting to see all kinds of different places is so very amazing.

I have met so many different types of people as well! It is crazy how two years ago I was a shy and quiet person. Now if you see me at a tournament I am one of the most talkative players there is! I probably have annoyed a few of my opponents! Sorry! However beyond that I just really starting to build up some accomplishments. This season as you can tell has been quite a breakout season for me!


What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

I can’t say that I have any huge expectations going into Nationals and Worlds this year. I am just going to keep my cool and be happy with whatever happens. I can only hope to have a repeat or do even better than I did last year with top 32 at Nationals. I would be happy with even just top cutting Nationals. Considering I think that with the best of 3 format that it really shows who the great players are when a tournament reaches top cut. Having best of 3 takes out the factor of winning by having your opponent dead draw one game. It forces you to have to win another game. I think that best of 3 requires a lot of skill with time management as well.

Some of the best players I have played this year knew when to scoop up a game and when not to. I know I struggled with it at the first Regionals causing me to tie more than I wanted to during Swiss. Beyond that however Worlds is a whole other beast. I know I am a little scared and nervous it being my 1st Worlds. I don’t even know what to expect. I didn’t even expect to make it this year! So. As stated, whatever happens is fine with me. I am going to give my all and make sure to do a proper amount of testing with my testing group. If I could finish positive and maybe even top cut, I know it would just be icing on the cake with what I have already accomplished this season!


How do you feel about the current state of the game?

The current state of the game I think is very healthy. There is a variety of meta decks that have seen success. I find that a lot of this format is completely matchup based and a lot hinders on what you hit throughout a tournament. I am sure that sounds vague, but I can attest to it being true. Sometimes when you hit near auto-wins, it feels like you are cloud nine. However I have had it happen to me where all I feel like is that I keep getting bad matchups. The nice thing however is that there is certain cards that can be teched in most decks to help with bad matchups. With every deck I have played this season, I have felt like I have a chance to beat any of the current meta decks. I haven’t felt at a loss against anything to say the least. (Okay. Maybe playing RayBoar against Trevenant is a pretty loss cause. But that is beside the point!) However beyond that I really enjoy this format. I am certainly looking forward to getting some new Flashfire cards and begin my testing for Nationals and Worlds.

I am really hoping that a deck based around Charizard can prove to be good. The idea of megas is a really cool concept. It is just sad that they have not seen any real success as of yet. However I can’t really say if Charizard is going to be good. I haven’t had any time yet to proxy up some decks and start testing. I know that with the two month break until Nationals that I will be trying a lot of different ideas!


Is there anything else you would like to say?


That is about all I have to say right now. If you see me at Nationals or Worlds, don’t be afraid to come up to me and ask how I am doing! I am always looking to make new friends and meet new people. I promise that while I may be quite talkative, I am still a great guy! I am always open to having a nice conversation or even just to say hello. However be careful if you ask me about how my day is going, you might miss your next round! (Remember, I am quite the talker!)

Next up we have Paul Johnston who is currently ranked #16 in North America. He is a well known player from Washington.

                  16. Paul Johnston

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thank you! It definitely hasn't been easy because the PNW is a hard region to compete in with so many great players that I have to face against. I earned my points from three 1st place finishes and one 2nd place finish at Cities, two top 16 finishes at Fall Regionals (at both Vancouver, BC and Pleasanton, CA), winning Oregon State Championships, and a top 4 finish at Surrey, BC Provincials along with a few League Challenges.

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I have been involved in the game since it basically started. I joined a Pokemon league after purchasing my first theme deck and packs at a Wizards Of The Coast store. I have been playing competitively as long as I can remember. I've competed in several World Championships. I have also won several State Championships as both a senior and master's player, and won Oregon Regionals in 2008 with Gardevoir/Gallade/Furret. I went undefeated in that Regionals tournament and rated at #2 overall in the nation prior to Nationals. For those who are curious, Colin Moll was #1 after his undefeated Regionals finish as well and a top 4 finish that year at Nationals with Torterra.

What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

Obviously, I am expecting to win both Nationals and Worlds. It would be great to be the first person to accomplish that task, especially in the same year but we all know it won't be easy or maybe even possible. But, seriously, who doesn't hope they win those events? In the end, I will be happy with at least a top 8 finish at Nationals for a paid trip to Worlds. And at Worlds, I would be happy with a top 4 finish. I normally don't perform well at those tournaments for some reason but I hope that's different this season based on my performance so far.


How do you feel about the current state of the game?

As of right now, I don't mind the current state of the game. I think that it has been pretty healthy for the most part. There are a wide variety of viable deck choices that anyone can pick from and do well with. It just boils down to the metagame and the matchups you particularly face at that tournament. That will decide how well you might do without considering the luck factors of the game. However, I do wish that Pokemon will fix the tie system and do it based upon prize count. It just sucks that there isn't enough time to finish 3 complete games in 50 minutes. I have noticed in the last few rounds at States and Winter and Spring Regionals that both players may make a deal/agreement before the match or game 3 starts that whoever is ahead in prizes should take the match. Because if both players get a tie, they will both be out of the running to make top 8 so it's better that at least one of the players might have a chance of making top 8 than neither of them. Those are my thoughts.


Is there anything else you would like to say?


I would like to thank my PNW friends, Team X-Files and anyone else out there that has helped me with testing and sharing ideas with. They have been supportive throughout this entire season after nearly getting my invite last year. I missed my invite last year by losing game 3 of my top 16 match at the Nationals Last Chance Tournament due to drawing no supporters. I couldn't have done it without them!


Last but not least, we have one of the bonus players, Brandon Cantu. He is the #17 ranked player in North America and he is a player from Texas.

                           17. Brandon Cantu (Left)

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

Thank you. I earned my invite with a variety of decks. To start off the season I played a Ho-oh variant to earn my first CPs and won me a cities. The deck wasn't tier 1 I believe and it was very hard to play which led to me shifting to a Virizion/Genesect/Garbodor. I won 2 cities straight with the deck but it was so boring to me that I had to quit playing it. I finished up with 4 city wins and looked forward to St. Louis Regionals. I didn't do so great there playing an odd deck. I played Gothitelle/Accelgor/Flareon and had a 5-2-2 record barely making top 64. States was up next and before the format even released I felt Blastoise was going to be one of the best decks in the format with the release of Professor's Letter.

I managed to place 1st and 2nd at States as well as 10th at Regionals with the deck earning almost half my invite. I did poorly at Texas States and ended up dropping after 2 ties. This was a huge mistake as this was my 2nd States. I had 490 points by the end of my 3rd States and I could have acquired the final 10 if I had continued through Texas States and made top 32. It forced me to travel to Kansas. Earning an invite requires quite a bit of traveling, time, and devotion.

For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I am not a not so very well known player from San Antonio, Texas. I have been playing the game 2 years now, starting at the beginning of last season. I didn't play much last season but learned quite a bit. This is really my first competitive season.

What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

As this will be my first Nationals and Worlds I really do not know what to expect. I just want to go to have fun and challenge myself against the best players in the world. I'm a least hoping to make top 128 at Nationals.

How do you feel about the current state of the game?

With the new set release I feel the game got much healthier with the release of Druddigon really hurting those Rain Dance decks. I felt they did need a counter as they can hurt a lot of creative strategies. I really like the way the current format is looking and of course I do think Pyroar is way overhyped.

Is there anything else you would like to say?


Never drop from a tournament. Just finish it out and have fun.

For the final and last bonus player is one of my good friends from Hollywood Florida, Daniel Altavilla. He is the #18 ranked player in North America.

                 18. Daniel Altavilla

Congratulations on your invite to Worlds! How did you earn so many points?

I earned my points through a top 8 Regionals finish, a Regionals win, a top 16 and top 12 at States, 1/2/2/2 at Cities, and 4/6 LC best finishes. It was a long journey!


For those who may not know you, can you tell us a bit about your history in the game?

I've been playing this game for ten years, 7 of them as a junior/senior. I've received multiple high finishes in my younger years, such as top 8ing Nationals as a senior and 2 top 16's as a junior. But my only Masters achievement besides my Regionals win was my Nationals top 64 the year I aged up.

What are your expectations for Nationals and Worlds this year?

Nationals is going be filled with creative ideas and awesome decks. Many of the same decks will appear, and the one with the best techs and the luckiest matchups will clinch the win. As for Worlds it depends on if Furious Fist comes out and is legal to use. It can be a tournament much like Nationals, except with more of an understanding of the metagame, or it can be in complete shambles.


How do you feel about the current state of the game?

The game is very healthy now. I really enjoy the variety of decks and the fact that they can still do well. Yeah, the luck factor is annoying at times, but altogether the game is very fun.

Is there anything else you would like to say?

I just want everybody to remember that the hardest stretch is ahead. But the most important part of this game is to have fun, and that's all that should truly matter. Good luck to Harrison Leven, Daniel Lopez, and Kyle Sabelhaus in pulling out those invites at Nationals!

Well there you have it guys. The top 16 NA Masters with a few bonus players. I hope this article helped you get to know these great players a little more. Keep a look out for more articles to come. I hope you enjoyed. :)

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