Saturday, July 30, 2016

Pokémon TCG Steam Siege Prerelease: Madison, WI

Glen Ausse
The following is an interview with Glen Ausse, who participated (along with his son) at a recent Pokémon TCG Steam Siege Prerelease in Madison, WI.

Where are you from?

We’re from the Madison area.

How did you and your son get into Pokémon?

My son was introduced to Pokémon cards while attending camp last summer. A number of the kids were bringing the cards to camp and trading them and playing a simplified version of the game. He was really interested in the colorful cards and the social aspect of the game. That meant of course that he needed some cards for him to join in the fun, so we bought him a few tins to start off his collection.

After camp ended, my son wanted to continue playing so I located a local game store, where we quickly learned that they were not really using the Pokémon TCG rules at camp (for example, they didn’t use any Energy cards and just used any attack their Pokémon had). So we decided we needed to learn the rules so he could continue playing. That’s where I started to get more involved-I needed to learn the game myself so I could teach it to him and help him with questions and develop his skills. He learned quickly and his grasp of the strategy of the game often catches me by surprise. This year he even started a Pokémon Club at his elementary school (2nd graders) and I have gone in a few times to help teach the club members.

What’s it been like trying to learn about Pokémon as a parent?

I am a long-time gamer (RPG, strategy/war games, board games), so it wasn’t as hard for me to learn as it might be for others. I also have a few friends that play or have played Magic, so I was aware of the concepts of collectible card games but had never played them myself. We started by getting a couple of theme decks and a few card lots on eBay. We found a number of helpful videos on how to play on YouTube to get the basics down and eventually began attending Pokémon casual play events at local game stores. After we became comfortable with the basic rules we started attending the league events and that has become a weekly thing for us. That league play has helped us pick up some of the finer details and strategies for playing, deck building and trading.

The prerelease you attended was for the Steam Siege set-what are a few cards from that set you found interesting?

The stand out cards for me in Steam Siege are the new trainer cards Pokémon Ranger, Special Charge and Ninja Boy. Pokémon Ranger is useful because it allows players to bypass the effects of many popular “shut down” attacks like those seen on Jolteon, Seismitoad and Giratina EX. Special Charge will likely become a mainstay for decks (such as Night March) that rely on Special Energy Cards, allowing them to recover two of them from the discard pile. Finally, Ninja Boy is sure to create some surprises and interesting strategies with its ability to switch out the active Pokémon with another from your deck.

I also like the rereleased Yveltal, the new Yveltal BREAK and the full art Professor Sycamore cards. My son is looking forward to trying some strategies with the new dual-type Pokémon like Volcanion EX.

This is the second set using the new prerelease format. What are your thoughts so far?

I think the addition of the Evolution pack has really added to the playability and consistency of prerelease decks. Both my son and I were able to easily include ten useful Trainer cards to our decks with the new format. Before the addition of the Evolution pack we were lucky to find one or two useful Trainer cards. Without Trainers it was hard to employ any kind of strategy and it came down to basically the luck of the draw. The new format is much more fun to play.

One thing I have noticed is that if you are lucky enough to pull an EX card in a prerelease (like I was this time) it can really give your deck a power advantage. Maybe they could include one random EX in each prerelease package and place a limit of one EX in prelease deck builds to even that out.

Any general suggestions for other parents?

Get in there and learn to play, it is much more fun to play with your kids than just to watch them play. Start off with a couple of premade theme decks in a causal play environment. There are some good “how to play” videos on YouTube. The Pokémon TCG Online application is also a great place to learn the game.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Unboxing the "Mailing out My Voice" single from Japan

The CD single for "Mailing out My Voice", the ending theme to the latest Pokemon movie in Japan, came in this week. Let's take a look and see what comes with it:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Interviews from Pokemon US Nationals 2016

During the recent Pokemon US Nationals in Columbus, OH, I had a chance to interview a few of the top players. First, we interviewed Wayland, winner of the Seniors division of the 2016 US Nationals Pokken Tournament competition. Find out why he uses Blaziken, and what his strategy was in the finals:


Steven: Hi, I’m Steven Reich, here at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio at the Pokémon US Nationals 2016. I’m here with Wayland, who is the winner in the Seniors division of the Pokkén Tournament event that they had here. So Wayland, first of all, where are you from?

Wayland: I am from Douglasville, Georgia.

Steven: So, you came all the way up here. And Pokkén has only been around a while, but you were involved in Pokémon before that. How did you get introduced to the Pokémon franchise?

Wayland: When I was younger, my little brother handed me a Game Boy. Once he finished his game, he was like, “Here, go play this.” It ended up being Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance. And ever since that, I love Pokémon.

Steven: You said the first video game-you’ve been playing video games since you were 3, and the first one you played was actually the Mario Baseball game on the Game Cube. So, you’ve been into video games for a very long time. So, you were pretty much interested in Pokkén pretty much right when it was announced. What was your reaction to the announcement of the game?

Wayland: Okay so, when they announced it in Japan for the first time, when they were showing the game play of it, I was surprised. I was like, “Is it coming to the US?” I was super excited, and it was really nice.

Steven: Yeah, it’s something different. We haven’t had a true Pokémon fighting game, and of course, now we do. So, the character you play is most of the time, in Pokkén, is Blaziken. What attracts you to that character? Why do you play as that for the most part?

Wayland: When I first played Sapphire, my starter Pokémon was Torchic. So, my favorite Pokémon is Blaziken. Well, it kind of grew on me. And when Pokkén came out, I remember my friend calling me at 3 o’clock saying there was an early access event. And I was like, “Is Blaziken on it?” And he was like, “I don’t know, man.” I’m like, “Come on!”

Steven: I could see the connection there. Absolutely. I’m sure a lot of the folks at home had maybe a similar experience with Smash Bros. or Pokkén, about whatever their first starter was, they want to be able to play with that in some of the side games. Alright. Well, let’s tell the folks at home about the finals then. You were paired against a guy. He used, over the course of it, two different Pokémon. He used some Lucario and also some Shadow Mewtwo. Let’s start with Blaziken vs. Lucario. What’s the things to watch out for in that type of match?

Wayland: If you’re going to win, for Blaziken, you’re going to have to use a lot of Flare Blitz to cut him off, because he has a lot of counter moves. You can counter break him. Lucarios love to counter. Another thing is you don’t have to really stay spaced, because really can’t space you out if you put him towards a wall. Once he’s in a wall, he’s kind of in a bad position. And when you have Burst against his Burst, you technically have a huge advantage.

Steven: And what about Shadow Mewtwo, the other character he used? What are the things to watch for there, and how did you react to it?

Wayland: When he switched to Shadow Mewtwo, I really wasn’t fazed. Most people would be fazed, but Shadow Mewtwo-people switch to Shadow Mewtwo when they want power. But his health is super low, so it takes only a few hits to take him out. And I have some counter piercers, some good moves. Everyone says since he goes to Burst faster and I go to Burst faster, it’s like, I better Burst pretty fast. I’m like, I have my Burst and it gives me a speed boost, so I’m already good.

Steven: Yeah. Speed, obviously, in any fighting game is extremely important. So, in Pokkén, you also get something called a Support Pokémon. I noticed you-I think you always chose Cresselia, which is a little bit of a healer. Is there a particular reason for that, other than, obviously, the healing? How do you decide when exactly to use that? Because you don’t necessarily want to use it right away when the meter fills up.

Wayland: Cresselia is only used once per turn, she summons fast, she gives a large health bonus, a large synergy bonus, and a large-it takes away negative status on you. So, my moves hurt myself. I hurt myself when I do my moves. When I hurt myself, it doesn’t take away my full bar, it takes away my green bar. So my darker shade of green is still there. That’s the health I can recover. So, when Cresselia is charged and I’ve used enough of her, and I have my Burst-if I know when I used her, my Burst will come out, I’ll just say I can use Cresselia, get my Burst and get all of that HP back that I already wasted.

Steven: There’s definitely a management aspect there that you have to keep any eye on, and think very quickly. That’s quite impressive. It sounds like Cresselia is a very interesting Assist Pokémon to use in this game. One more thing about Pokkén. For a while, we didn’t think there was going to be any DLC beyond the initial release. But it seems that recently there’s been some rumblings in Japan. Why don’t you tell us about that and what you’re hoping for.

Wayland: Japan’s official Pokkén tournament, they announced there’s going to be a new character on July 20th on the arcade version. But, we don’t know if it’s coming to America. Everyone’s hoping it would be Darkrai or another Legendary or Empoleon. But I feel like it’s going to be a different type of Pokémon. Because we have a fire type—I’m thinking it’s going to be a water type, because we don’t have any water types.

Steven: Well, we’ve got Suicune, but that’s about it. So, we don’t have any conventional bipedal ones. So maybe if they want to fill that void. Of course, I know some folks are still wishing there was a playable Hawlucha, ever since Pikachu Libre.

Wayland: Hawlucha, Hitmonchan. And I think that’s it.

Steven: So, we’ll have to see what happens. Hopefully, whatever does get revealed later this month does come to the console version. Alright. Well, thank you very much, Wayland. This has been Steven Reich from the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio at the Pokémon US Nationals 2016.

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Second, we got a chance to interview Brady Bourgeois, winner of the TCG event in the Seniors Division. Brady used a Giratina/Seismitoad deck, with a few tweaks for this event:


Steven: I’m here with Brady Bourgeois, who is the winner of the TCG Seniors division at this year’s tournament. And Brady, we just have a few questions. First of all, where are you from?

Brady: I’m from St. Louis, Missouri.

Steven: So yep, we get people from all over the country. And what was the deck that you decided to play for this tournament?

Brady: Giratina-Seismitoad.

Steven: And what made you choose that particular deck for this tournament? Were you expecting a certain metagame? What went into the strategic choice there?

Brady: I knew there was going to be a lot of Night March and Vespiquen bees and Vespiquen. So, I decided that Giratina-Seismitoad would have amazing matchups against those. And it also had a good matchup for Mega Rayquaza, because of Giratina’s ability blocking Mega attacks. And it also had a good matchup against Mega Manectric. So, I knew it had good matchups most of the way around. It had a bad matchup to Greninja, which people thought was going to come. I thought I was going to hit a few Greninjas today, and might lose a few matches, and might get kicked out of the tournament.

Steven: Well, you certainly didn’t in the last couple rounds on your way to the championship, so that was pretty fortunate. Were there any fine tuning adjustments? Any specific cards you balanced out of the deck? Any adjustments you made there for this specific tournament?

Brady: I got rid of Hex Maniac and all the Super Scoop Ups and AZ and Garbodor, a two-one Garbodor line to block Abilities to further beat down Night March because of Mew, so that they can’t use Mew anymore, and I also have a better matchup against Greninja.

Steven: Yeah, being able to shut off abilities is obviously very important. Now obviously, your Giratina has one, but unless you’re playing against a Mega, you don’t have to worry about that too much. Alright, so you had your deck, you had your strategy there. Let’s go to the finals. You were on-stream for those, as well as the top 4, if people want to take a look at that. But let’s focus on the finals. You were pairing up against a deck that was playing Mega Manectric against Jolteon EX. So obviously, Giratina has a good matchup against that, just Jolteon EX is something to watch out for, isn’t it?

Brady: Yeah. You have to keep pressure on really early. And you have to use your Giratina to make sure that it can’t attach Double Colorless Energies so their Jolteon doesn’t get setup really fast. And you also try to use Crushing Hammers and Team Flare Grunt and other Items that discard energy to get rid of all of the energy on Jolteon until you can Lysandre it up twice and knock it out.

Steven: Yeah. Jolteon, because it had the attack that makes it temporarily invulnerable from Basics, is obviously a big problem. But, you work very effectively around that. Although, you did have some help in the finals. First of all, you hit heads very heads very consistently on the Crushing Hammers that you played to get rid of the Energy on your opponent’s side of the field. Even though earlier in the day, you had a streak in the top 4 where it just wasn’t coming for you. What’s it like with that card when you going from both the positive and the negative, how does that make you feel?

Brady: Well, when you hit a ton of tails, it just gets really annoying because your opponent gets a very big window to get back in the game in Energy. So, they might get a big attack off and knock out one of your main attackers, and it’s just annoying. It’s not fun. But when you get heads a ton of times, it helps you very in the long-run. Your opponent runs out of energy slowly. And, you’re also preventing them from attacking you.

Steven: Alright so, if folks have watched the finals stream, if folks at home have done that, then what they might have noticed is that during the finals match, there were a couple things that kind of got through for a little bit that shouldn’t have happened. Mainly on your opponent’s side. But, the first one happened, I think in game 1. He played a Rough Seas in order to get some damage off one of his Pokémon, even though you had used Giratina’s attack and he couldn’t play Stadiums. That was rewound fairly quickly. But, in the second game, there was a more major error. Your opponent actually had Parallel City out. And he had it pointed to him so that he could only have 3 on his Bench. And all of a sudden, he put more on, including a Shaymin. So, how did that all resolve out, and when did you realize that he had made a mistake?

Brady: I didn’t really notice it at first, because I usually have Parallel City pointed at me, because that’s the only Stadium I play in my decks. So, I’m used to having about 3 Pokémon on my Bench. And I didn’t notice it at the time, because it didn’t really matter. Actually, before they caught it, I was thinking about playing my own Parallel City in my favor to lock out his Parallel City. But, you can’t do that, actually now that I think about it. But, he got a major penalty, but it was only one Prize Card and it didn’t really affect the rest of the game. And they effectively just took the Shaymin, the cards he got from the Shaymin, and put them back on the top of the deck after showing me. It didn’t really affect the game too much, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Steven: It would be nice, obviously, if they had caught that a little bit sooner, before he had progressed and they could have at least gotten a warning instead of you getting a Prize for that. But, stuff like that does happen. And people can get a little nervous and move forward a little too quickly sometimes and that can happen. Alright. Well, of course, next month is Worlds in San Francisco. And there’s kind of a big question mark over this one because we have another set, Steam Siege, that comes out very early in August. And they’ve changed the legality rule so that it will be legal for Worlds. Do you have any opinion on that? Or, are you going to be planning anything out based on what happens with that set?

Brady: Not too much. I know I’m probably going to switch my deck from Giratina-Seismitoad to YZG or something else. But the reason why I don’t want to play Seismitoad anymore is because I think Night March is going to have a falling out with the new card that shuffles all Pokémon from both discard piles into the decks. So, Night March will not be played as much, which is one of my best matchups. So, I’m thinking about whether or not I want to play Giratina-Seismitoad or another deck.

Steven: Yeah, that’s the big question mark with Steam Siege. There’s a card coming out as a promo in Japan called Karen that is sort of a less broad Lysandre’s Trump Card, because it only shuffles Pokémon in. But, we’re not 100% sure if that’s going to come out in Steam Siege or somewhere separately, or it could even be a while. So, that’s the big question mark and we’ll know a lot more in a couple weeks. Alright. Well, thank you very much, Brady. This has been Steven Reich from the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio at the Pokémon US Nationals 2016.

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