Sunday, August 30, 2015

Pokémon World Championships 2015: Masters TCG Winner

Jacob Van Wagner
The following is an interview with Jacob Van Wagner, winner of the TCG Masters division in this year’s Pokémon World Championships. Jacob used a deck that combines Blastoise with Archie’s Ace in the Hole.

Where are you from, and how did you get into playing the Pokémon TCG?
I’m from Happy Valley, Oregon. I got into the game when my little brother discovered a league close to our house. I was reluctant to go but once I went the first time (now six years ago), I was hooked immediately.

What made you choose to use this deck for Worlds?
I had tested the deck a bit prior to the event and wasn’t comfortable with the chance of dead hands, however my good friend and teammate Travis Nunlist thought that after the results of US nationals, this deck would be a solid play for worlds. I was still somewhat reluctant but decided I’d have more fun with this deck than anything else, and ended up playing the same list as him for day one.

This idea has been floating around for a while, but most players decided it wasn’t reliable enough. What changes did you make to the deck to improve your chances?
We (my testing team and I) wanted to focus primarily on consistency and just add in a couple of things for the matchups we expected. We were expecting a larger amount of night march so we included the copy of Wailord and Articuno. The day one list also included a copy of Bunnelby, which was helpful in getting back Superior Energy Retrievals, Computer Search, etc.. It also had the potential to deck someone out if their deck ever got done to just a few cards, but that situation never occurred.

What were some of the other Pokémon in your deck, and what were they used for?
The deck included Keldeo EX, Wailord EX, Articuno ROS, and Mewtwo EX as attackers, two copies of Exeggcute for their Propogation Ability, and two copies of Jirachi EX and Shaymin EX for added consistency. Wailord EX and Articuno were included as techs against Night March and Raichu variants. Wailord has a lot of hit points and can hit for 120 damage, which will knock out all of the Pokémon in both of those decks. Articuno’s Ancient Trait allows you to take two prize cards when you knock out a Pokémon, and flipping a single heads lets it deal sixty damage, which knocks out most attackers in Night March and knocks out Zubat/Pikachu in Raichu variants. Mewtwo EX is primarily helpful vs decks that also utilize Pokémon with large energy costs, such as other Keldeo EX, primal Groudon EX, and Mewtwo EX.

If you couldn’t get Blastoise out on the first turn, what did you wind up doing? Did you generally have to concede those games?
If I knew I wasn’t going to get Blastoise out that turn, I’d try to just get at least the water down on a Keldeo so I could start powering it up manually, and either try to prepare my hand for the Archie’s Ace in the Hole the next turn, or play a different supporter such as N or Professor Juniper. If neither was an option then I can’t imagine I’d win that game.

In the second game of the finals, you had to go through a lot to get Blastoise out on your first turn. What was your thought process?
I wanted to leave myself with more options to discard conservatively if I drew weird combinations of cards, such as Ultra Ball and Superior Energy Retrieval. After not hitting the Archies off of my first draw with Shaymin’s Set Up, I realized I just had to hope for some good luck and see an Ultra Ball or the Computer Search, as either of those would give me the options I needed.

Do you think a variant of this using Primal Kyogre could work in XY-On, or does the deck lose too much in the rotation?
I think the deck really thrives on the "unlimited" damage cap with Blastoise and Keldeo EX. It doesn’t seem to me like it’d have as much strength in XY-on.

What about Expanded? Do you think this deck will see play there?
I do think it has potential in Expanded. It would basically have the same weakness as it does now, the need to go first so you can get your combo off before your opponent has the chance to mess it up for you.

How does it feel to be a world champion?
It feels amazing. I’m honored that I’ve gotten to represent my country at the highest level and earn the title.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

New music for the week of 8/24/2015 + new poll

Three more new tracks this week. Two from the Hoopa movie:

-The Curtain Rises on the Legendary Battle
-Countdown to Restoration

And one more:

-Verdanturf Town

This is a piano rendition of the song by Jonathan Aldrich. You can check it out here:

I also added a poll asking a question prompted by a recent interview-as it turns out, not only was "Wonderland" apparently supposed to be used in the second Pokemon Movie (judging from the information I was given, I assume it was designed as the intro song to the short), it was originally supposed to be performed by Dream Street rather than Angela Via. As such, I've created a poll with the three options to find out which you think you'd have liked best:

-"Wonderland" performed by Dream Street
-"Wonderland" performed by Angela Via
-"Comin' to the Rescue" performed by O-Town

Happy listening!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Friday, August 21, 2015

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

New music for the week of 8/17/2015

Another three tracks hit the station this week. Two from movie 18:

-Let's Head to Desert Tower!
-We'll Fight Too!

And one new remix:

-Decisions (Battle! VS Champion Cynthia)

You can check out a video of this one here:

Happy listening!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Songwriter Interview: Pam Sheyne

Pam Sheyne
The following is an interview with Pam Sheyne (pronounced “Shane”), co-writer of “Wonderland”, “The Extra Mile” and “One” from Pokémon 2000.

Where are you from, and how did you get into writing music?
I was born in Auckland, New Zealand and relocated to the UK when I was seventeen years old. I started out singing and playing guitar in a hotel band in London then eventually moved into doing session work and touring. I toured as a backup singer for the Pet Shop Boys in 1991 which was an amazing experience but a real cross roads for me as I didn’t want to continue being on the road. In 1992 I decided to concentrate on writing songs full-time and got my first publishing deal. (My husband Nigel Rush was my first publisher which is how we met). I wanted to be an artist but I started having success with songwriting first and realised that it was more suited to me. I am most definitely at home being in the studio writing and producing.

What were some things you worked on before Pokémon 2000? 
I love collaborating and particularly enjoy working with a producer and artist in the room. In the mid-90’s I teamed up with Eliot Kennedy (Spice Girls/Bryan Adams/Take That) and we co-wrote/produced for Rebbie Jackson (Michael’s big sister). She came to London to work with us after we recorded “Yours Faithfully” for her in LA. My first big success in the UK was with an artist called Billie Piper and a song called “She Wants You” which went to No. 3 in the charts and from there I went on to work with a bunch of acts like Louise who was in girl band Eternal, Norwegian girl duo M2M and Haley Westenra from my home country New Zealand. I started doing more regular writing trips to LA, New York, Nashville and Stockholm to broaden my network and eventually moved to LA in 2008.

How did you get involved with writing songs for the movie?
It was on a writing trip to LA that I had a meeting with Darren Higman at Atlantic Records for the first time. Darren mentioned he was looking for songs for the upcoming movie soundtrack and he asked me if I wanted to write something for it. When I went back to London I called writer/producer Matt Rowe as we had been working together on a few projects. Darren sent us the visuals to write for one spot in the movie.

What was your experience with Pokémon prior to this?
I had never watched Pokémon before and had only seen the huge impact it had on kids and how popular it was all over the world. 

What was the writing process like?
Matt and I wrote “Wonderland” and “One” specifically for the film and soundtrack. I remember us sitting in the studio with a blank page and watching the film without music for the first time with these cute little characters all falling down these tunnels and thinking, “I love working to picture, this is going to be a blast!”

How did “The Extra Mile” get written?
“The Extra Mile” was written with Tina Arena and Andrew Frampton originally for the Sydney Olympic Games as Tina was asked to sing a song at the opening ceremony. She didn't end up singing the song at the games but Laura recorded it for her Italian and Spanish albums and then it additionally made the Pokémon Soundtrack album.

Were the songs intended to be used in the movie, or just inspired by it?
“Wonderland” was written for a specific scene in the movie and “One” was just written for the soundtrack.  “Wonderland” was not used in the film itself however because there were publishing clearance issues.

Two of the songs (“Wonderland” and “One”) have Spanish versions. Were you involved in either of those?
My husband and I flew to New York to produce the vocal with Angela Via at the Sony Studios (it was actually originally intended for Dream Street, but was changed at the last minute). We then flew down to LA to produce the Spanish version with the translator Jorge Piloto, and then flew back to New York to mix full length versions of English and Spanish versions. Vocals for “One” were produced by David Foster-he added to Matt’s production and produced the Spanish vocals (translated by Claudia Brandt) with Denisse Lara at 143 Studios near LA.

Was an Italian version of “The Extra Mile” ever considered? Also, what was recording that song like?
There was talk about doing an Italian version but they wanted it to be only English language songs on the record for some reason. Nigel, Ben Robbins and I flew to Milan to produce Laura Pausini’s vocals. It was such a pleasure to work with her and she was very detail-oriented and such a trooper- we spent hours getting the pronunciation right. The mix was done at RG Jones in Wimbledon in the UK.

What else have you written?
I co-wrote “Genie in a Bottle” for Christina Aguilera, “He Loves You Not” for Dream, “Irresistible” for Jessica Simpson, “When It Happens To You” for Corinne Bailey Rae, “You Get Me” for Seal, “Old Blue Jeans” for Miley Cyrus (as Hannah Montana) and “For Love Alone” for Cece Winans. Others include songs by Demi Lovato, the Backstreet Boys, and Lindsay Lohan.

You recently spent some time in Europe teaching music composition. What was that like?
I was asked to mentor at a songwriting retreat with and for my friend Martin Sutton (The Songwriting Academy which is based in London) at the end of May this year. Martin has been doing this for a few years now and on this occasion we were four mentors and 32 songwriters. We didn’t teach composition as such but did masterclasses on the craft of songwriting and lent our experience on the business side of it. It was a week-long camp in co-writing sessions with the songwriters each day and because we were all staying in the same place we also got to socialise and hang out so it was a lot of fun. I have also been mentoring a lot of artists from South Africa and some have travelled to LA to work with me over the past couple of years. I am looking at doing more of this in the future as I enjoy working with young artists and teaching them some tricks in writing songs. Watch this space!

Where can folks find your web site, and do you have any social media that you post on?
My website is, and I’m also on Facebook and Twitter.

Special thanks go to Pam’s husband Nigel Rush for helping verify information for this article.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

New music for the week of 8/10/2015

Three new songs this week. Two from the Hoopa movie:

-It's Still Early
-Hoopa's Also a Part of the Family

And one more track:

-Mt. Coronet

This is a jazz rendition of the song from Diamond/Pearl/Platinum. You can check it out here:

Happy listening!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

New Pokemon TCG Ancient Origins interview following tomorrow's Top 25

At a recent Pokemon TCG Ancient Origins Prerelease, I had a chance to interview a player about a couple of cards in the set. We discussed the cards mechanically, as well as artistically. That interview will debut following tomorrow's Top 25 Countdown, which starts at 4pm Eastern/3pm Central.

If you like, you can also get it here:

Or, if you want the audio-only experience:

Cards discussed:

-Mega Tyranitar EX
-Gyarados (Prerelease Promo)


Steven: Hi, I’m Steven Reich, here at Pegasus Games in Madison, WI, at one of the Pokémon Trading Card Game Ancient Origins Prereleases. I’m here with Joel Henry, who is one of the participants in the Masters Division of today’s prerelease tournament. And Joel, we’ve picked out a couple cards, this is what we usually do, and we’re going to talk about them.

So, the first one you’ve picked out is Mega Tyranitar EX. Obviously, it will evolve from the regular Tyranitar EX. It’s got one of those Ancient Traits. What does it do, and what else do you like about the card?

Joel: The Ancient Trait is a [Theta] Double, so it allows you to put two Pokémon tools on it. Which, definitely will be a big help. And, the attack, Destroyer King, it does 60 more damage for each damage counter on your opponents active Pokémon. So, I think that can be a huge advantage just to knock out Pokémon, just one after the other.

Steven: Yeah, I could see this potentially working as sort of a sweeper in some sort of a spread deck, potentially. The main thing it has going against it though, is its attack requires four energy there. What kind of strategies do you think people might use if they want to use this card in a deck to sort of get that much energy in there?

Joel: The Double Colorless Energies would help it out a lot.

Steven: Yeah. Mega Turbo is also potentially useful here. But, only time will tell. The next card he’s picked out is the Gardevoir from this set. We’ve seen Mega Gardevoir before, but this is a regular old Gardevoir. It’s got a couple different things on it. What do you like about it?

Joel: I like the ability, which is Bright Heal. So, once you’re in your turn, you can heal 20 damage to it. Also, the attack, Telekinesis, which does 50 damage to one of your opponent’s Pokémon. It’s 3 Colorless. So, I think that can be a huge advantage. For example, if you have a Fairy/Psychic deck, or something, you can easily stack it up and attack with it.

Steven: Yeah, it potentially is splashable in some cases, as well. But, with 3 Colorless Energy cost. Of course, Bright Heal, that will stack if you have multiple ones out. So, that’s something to watch out for. Alright, the next, and last, card we’ve picked out is Gyarados. It also has Theta Double. This is actually the prerelease promo, if you’re going to one of these prerelease tournaments. So, it’s not too hard to find. You really like the art, don’t you?

Joel: Yeah, definitely.

Steven: What do you like about it? What qualities to it really stand out?

Joel: It looks hand-drawn. So, I really like that about it. It’s also got like a little fisherman in the corner, trying to catch it. So, it adds a little humor to it.

Steven: They definitely put some effort in there. It may see some play. The full retaliation lets you do damage based on how many damage counters are on your Magikarp in play. Which, is a pretty risky play. So, it may not see too much tournament play. But, the art is absolutely stellar on this one. Definitely, at least, a good choice for the prerelease promo, if you ask me. Alright, well, thank you very much, Joel. This has been Steven Reich from Pegasus Games in Madison, WI, at the Pokémon Trading Card Game Ancient Origins Prerelease.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

New music for the week of 8/3/2015

As the recent unboxing may have suggested, this week we get our first music from the eighteenth Pokemon movie:

-Super Hoopa Appears
-Legendary Pokemon

Happy listening!

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Unboxing the Pokemon Movie 18 Score

The score to the latest Pokemon movie may not come with a poster or a Tretta chip, but there are still some neat things to look at.