John Kettler NAIC Finalist Report, Part Two

(Continued from part one)

-Table of Contents-
1. Pre-Tournament Choices
2. Link to List Analysis
3. Tournament Report, Rounds 1-9
4.1 Tournament Report, Rounds 10-12
4.2 Tournament Report, Rounds 13-15
5. Tournament Report, Top Cu6
6. Further Thoughts on Decidueye’s Future
7. Conclusion and Gratitude Section

4.2 Tournament Report, Rounds 13-15

Round 13: VS Mega Rayquaza

Game one: I draw an insane early setup and blow the game out.

Game two: Reno draws an equally strong early set up to my weak opening. However, I appear to have a window open to mount a comeback! I Shaymin EX, draw into the pieces I need for Vileplume, play those pieces to set up the Vileplume, N Reno, and my hope for a comeback is looking pretty good. He then starts playing his turn, but then we’re alerted to one tiny problem…

I couldn’t put the Vileplume in play because he had Sudowoodo’s Road Block active.

Photo credit: Doug Morisoli

At this point, the judges pause the game and confer on the best ruling. They eventually decide on a prize penalty against me, and since all Reno had left was a single prize, he won the game. This was the right call, and while Reno consoled me a bit by reminding me we both forgot about it, I still felt pretty bad because I’ve been playing for forever and should have caught it. Nevertheless, I felt a little better knowing that he was the overwhelming favorite to win that game anyways, and immediately did my best to relax and play the third game to the best of my ability.

Game three: Chilling out and not letting the previous game error paid off big-time, as this match turned out to be a repeat of game one. While he had significantly more outs and put up a good fight, he had too many low-HP Pokémon targets, which led to me winning on the +3 turns. (9-1-3)

Phew! This was definitely not how I hoped or saw my day two going, but I was finally up to 30 match points, meaning all I needed were two points for top 16 or four points for top eight.

Round 14: VS Decidueye/Ninetales (Igor Costa)

Game One: I’m honestly not sure how I won this one, since he got out an impressive two Decidueye to my garbage with him going first. However, I find that in these situations I benefit greatly by targeting down the low-hanging fruit: Shaymin EXs, any little Basics I happen to Knock Out, etc. I do this while eventually setting up two Decidueye of my own and a Vileplume, taking advantage of the improbability of him knowing about my Olympia. Generally putting the Vileplume in play in mirror matches is a tricky proposition, but when you miss Float Stone, Olympia actually becomes a valuable asset, permitting much more imposing lock-oriented boards. That’s exactly what happened here and so thanks to Olympia and Vileplume I came back and won.

Game Two: Again Igor goes first with two Decidueye turn one, but this time I don’t have much of a prayer of staying in this game.

Game Three: These two games took nearly all of the 50 minutes, so just like my series vs Juan Pablo Salas, I spend the last few moments assuring the tie, and from then on just goofing off with inconsequential plays. (9-1-4)

Round 15: VS Drampa/Garbodor (Benjamin Behrens)

Game One: I have three Grass Energy prized, but get out a fast Vileplume and never look back. I also do it with relatively few Items, meaning he never had much of a chance to wiggle back out, especially since his and Tord’s list runs zero Olympia or Hex Maniac – cards I didn’t know were missing until only after the games!

Game Two: I start even stronger this game, being able to get turn one Vileplume “and” Decidueye, but Benjamin is able to play around it a lot more than last time. He actually Knocks Out my Vileplume and gets a turn of Items, making a comeback. Fortunately I keep Garbotoxin from being a factor thanks to Field Blower, and get Vileplume back into play. Ben hits a very helpful Acid Spray to attempt to prevent me from KO’ing him, but I also have an Olympia to Switch out of it. So in so many words, I had what I needed, and closed out the match. (10-1-4)

5. The Top Eight

Top Eight: VS Greninja (Alex Krekeler)

Game One: I get destroyed. Thanks to a slow start and him being able to Talonflame BREAK me for both search and insane Damage, I didn’t even have a chance to make a comeback.

Game Two: Again a get a very slow Vileplume, but this time it’s balanced out by the sheer number of attackers and Feather Arrows I get into play. I don’t think I got out Vileplume until turn four or five, but by then the matchup was playing out a lot more “normally” in my mind.

Game Three: I get a fast Vileplume this time, and between Feather Arrows and brute force I choke any options there may’ve been. Eventually I kill the last Greninja, and advance to the semi-finals.

Top Four: VS Decidueye/Ninetales (Igor Costa)

Photo credit: Doug Morisoli .

Game one: Much to the audience’s displeasure, I prized two Oddish. However, not having Vileplume is only a nuisance in the mirror – not a deal-breaker. I quickly figure this out, but have no idea when I’ll draw into them, so I just focus on my Decidueyes.

This game deals out somewhat like our swiss games, but not nearly as explosively for Igor as he’s unable to get out more than a single Decidueye. Meanwhile my brute force strategy works fairly well, and forces him into an awkward spot where he plays super-conservatively to protect his Decidueye. It’s at this point where I feel he began suffering fancy play syndrome: A condition where you make a misplay due to being focused on the flashier, more attractive play rather than the simpler, but duller choice. As you can see in the video, he’s forced to bench an Espeon EX, which I immediately dis-incentivize him from promoting by Feather Arrowing. He commits to the Miraculous Shine for a single prize, which at least in hindsight did nothing to slow down my momentum, and only gave me easy prizes without using a Lysandre. This continues later when he left a Shaymin EX up after N’ing me to two, despite a Decidueye GX making a much safer wall. At any rate, his N to two does nothing and I KO the Shaymin for game.

Game two: Now, here’s my chance to overthink a little! As we discussed, you have to be careful about when evolving to Vileplume in the mirror match. However, I think I definitely worried myself too much about this, and so I chose not to Evolve or even maintain Vileplume when I could have. I make a lot of other strong plays like forcing Igor’s field to stay clogged with useless things like Vulpix, but for the first time in our two series, his Choice Bands actually overwhelmed me. I don’t think this is any more apparent than on the last turn of the game, when Igor attached Double to Tapu Koko, attaches Choice Band, and then Lysandre/Feather Arrows/deals 100 for game.

Game three: In what was certainly an anticlimactic finish to a great rivalry that popped up over the course of the day, Igor dead-draws in game three, not even having Energy to attack with Koko. Meanwhile, I get out a decisive early setup with a lock to boot, and win from there.

Wow, finals of the NAIC! I get some food, choose to rest as well as I can, and from there plan to do my best in the finals. Since I had already played against Tord’s list, I didn’t feel the need to test further. While this was probably correct, my games against Tord would deal out much differently than the ones against Benjamin…

Finals: VS Drampa/Garbodor (Tord Reklev)

Like my other streamed matches, I think the games speak for themselves. I’ve seen this match at least twice and have nothing in game two I feel is worth expanding on, but let’s dive into that first game a bit, perhaps explaining what I consider to be suspect moves of mine:

Discarding the N: Early game I choose to discard an N for a Shaymin Set Up, risking dead draw. That is exactly what happened, but I’m convinced it was a worthwhile risk due to how many Energy I would have lost otherwise. Keep in mind I also had a fourth of all my Energy prized, so the risk was definitely worth not having to play the game without Energy.

Endgame of Game one: Actually, nobody’s mentioned to me a lick of this, but in hindsight I could have read deeper into his not using a GX Attack. At the very end of the game, Tord opts to just hit me for 20 as opposed to Big Wheel GX. This should have been my clue that he had Lysandre in hand for game, yet for some reason I thought he just wanted to save his GX attack until he really needed it (remember that Tord can use Tapu Cure GX to heal and prevent a comeback). Ultimately, though, the Lysandre was the immediate out to win, and so it would’ve been superior for me to N his two card hand. I almost certainly would’ve lost still, but I’m always looking for ways to improve, and so I think reading GX Attacks will definitely be relevant moving forward.

Game Two I….just didn’t hit what I needed, and he pretty much always had the right outs. That’s the heart of consistency.

All in all an incredible run. Even though I didn’t get that juicy title, I’m still very happy with my performance, and am EXTREMELY eager to take names at the World Championship next month!
6. Reflections

So there you have it: runner-up in the game’s biggest tournament of all time…WOW! I mostly felt like I played my best in the finals, and with limited exception capitalized on my good fortune as much as possible all weekend. That said, there are a few things both before the finals match and throughout the whole weekend I might have done differently. Regardless whether any of these changes would’ve made a difference, they at least would have been optimal things to do…

#1: Memorize Tord’s list by heart. I pretty much knew what to expect because A) I played against Tord’s teammate Benjamin beforehand; and B) saw Tord’s list posted on However, I could’ve spent a good 15 minutes just staring at the list, even if I knew it already. I also might’ve been able to take this to the next level by writing down Tord’s entire list in my notes when the game started and then cross off cards as he played them. But the rules seem unclear on if that’s even allowed. From General Event Rules Part 8, “Note Taking”:

“Players are allowed to take written notes during a game in respect to actions that have happened during the game…”

This clearly permits notes related to prizes, but I’m not sure it permits you to info dump your opponent’s entire list at the start of a game. Unlike crying happy faces, which are only nominal violations of the rules and otherwise totally compliant with Spirit of the Game, writing an opponent’s entire list is simply uncharted territory. I plan to pose this question to the Professor Forum soon, but I’m thinking you can’t unless there is some action that reveals your opponent’s list to you.

#2: Do a better job scoping out the nearest eating locations. I’ve been to Indy so many times I take it for granted, but I shouldn’t have found out from my friend Alex Fields about the great coffee shop across the street; rather, I should’ve known it was there from the start so I’d be more efficient in managing my time between rounds.

Interested in sponsoring me, Bee’s? 😉

#3: For goodness sake, don’t forget about Road Block Sudowoodo.

6. Further Thoughts on Decidueye’s Future

Several months ago, I made a forecast about Decidueye’s future in my St. Louis tournament report. You can read it here::: , but my main predictions between that post and a later one were as follows:
-That Decidueye would be king for a long time and devastate the format (check)
-That there would be something to come along and balance out Decidueye (check, although those decks in turn warped the format before GRI came out)
-That Decidueye would stay good for the rest of the season (almost check…it largely survived GRI but let’s see if it survives Burning Shadows!)

So now let’s get a bit deeper and consider Decidueye both for Worlds and beyond!


-Surprise surprise, but I think Decidueye is still a good play. I’ve dealt with Mega Mewtwo and Garbodor as very tough matchups these past few months, yet I consider Gardevoir GX to be a much easier hurdle to overcome. Given that Gardevoir GX should put up an incredible showing vs the vast majority of the format, I have high hopes for my beloved ghost owl.


-The lists you’ve been seeing for Decidueye/Ninetales will become this deck’s future in Standard. It may not be the explosive Forest build you’re so fond of, but it will remain a respectable option.
-In Expanded, something will come along to make Vileplume/Forest so broken Play! Pokémon will just go ahead and ban it. Outside of that, there’s a slightly less likely yet still possible situation in which Play! Pokémon bans some card integral to Yveltal, making life for Decidueye much easier.

  1. Conclusion and Gratitude Section

    After surviving a long, grueling tournament, I’ve needed more time to think about this section than just about any other. While every International or Worlds winner might scoff at this, a top four at a massive event like this is really the one thing I’ve always wanted since I started playing competitively. It’s no exaggeration to say this: My runner-up finish at the North American International Championship fulfilled a longtime playing dream of mine.I’m nowhere near finished, though, because there is a Worlds title I’m ready to claim…

    “I’m only getting started!”

    So let’s hit it up – as comprehensive a gratitude section as I can think of! Despite the lofty talk I was getting into earlier, I’ll try to keep this limited to this specific event:

    –Alex Fields and Chase Moloney for being excellent roommates, support, and hype men
    –“Team Rowlet” for helping me out Sunday
    –Tord Reklev and Benjamin Behrens for being an exceptionally chill pair of opponents, especially prior to the grand finale. Double props to Tord for doing the interview with me last week!
    –Kevin Cranberry Murphy for being there with that clutch Lugia EX. I still owe you the autograph you requested, lol.
    –Really all of my opponents, in particular Reno for being such a good sport. Can’t say I dealt with a single unpleasant incident.
    –My friends at HT, especially those of you who kept the HT dinner alive when I couldn’t carry through with it
    –…Apparently I have fans. That feels and still sounds really weird, especially after having been such a nonfactor for the past few years. That’s honestly really cool though, and the fact I’ve got so many people watching my games and following results gives me an incredible amount of incentive not only to play my best, but to be the best “me” I can.
    –Matt Shepherd, for naming the deck “VD.” Because “Deciduplume” or “Deciplume” sound lame.

‘Til next time,


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