Thursday, September 27, 2012

Interview: Pokémon TCG Fall Battle Roads 2012: Rockford, IL

The following is an interview with Ricky Berliant, winner of a recent Pokémon TCG Battle Road tournament in Rockford, IL.

Ricky Berliant
Me: Hi, I’m Steven Reich, here at Top Cut Comics in Rockford, IL, at one of the Pokémon Trading Card Game Fall Battle Roads 2012. I’m here with Ricky Berliant, who is the winner of the Masters Division at today’s Battle Road tournament. Ricky, you had a Darkrai EX/Hydreigon deck, so for people who aren’t familiar, what is the basic strategy with that?

Ricky: The basic strategy is you use Hydreigon’s Ability called “Dark Trance” to move around [dark] energies (including blend), while you have Darkrai’s Ability, “Dark Cloak”, which gives Pokémon with dark energy attached to them free retreat.

Me: It’s a very popular deck, but one thing you put in there is the Sigilyph card [Dragons Exalted 52], and it’s got the “Safeguard” Ability. What does that do, and how did you end up using it in your deck?

Ricky: Safeguard is an Ability where no EX Pokémon can attack Sigilyph*. It’s useless against decks like Empoleon and Garchomp/Altaria, but he comes in handy against decks like Rayquaza, Zekeels, and so on.

Me: You went undefeated today, but is there any one game that stands out in your mind?

Ricky: One game that really stood out to me was round two. He was playing Zekrom/Eels/Mewtwo, and he was ahead by four prizes. He kept knocking out my basics using his Thunderus.

Me: How’d you end up turning that around?

Ricky: Well, I played an N [to reduce his hand size]. I also noticed he had used up all four of his Catchers already, and I felt pretty safe from there, but it still was a long road for me.

Me: All right, well thank you very much Ricky, this has been Steven Reich from Top Cut Comics in Rockford, IL, at one of the Pokémon Trading Card Game Fall Battle Roads 2012.

*Editor’s note: Giratina EX is notable exception in that its “Shred” attack ignores Abilities and other effects on the defending Pokémon.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pokemon TCG Fall Battle Roads 2012: Madison, WI-Kyurem EX/Registeel EX

Here's an interview form a recent Pokemon TCG Fall Battle Road tournament:

In the interview, we discuss the player's Kyurem EX/Registeel Ex/Klingklang deck, and his experience using it in the tournament.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Learning Japanese: A Trainer's Journey

The following is an interview with Jason Simon, a player I met at Worlds 2012. He wanted to share his experience learning Japanese as a result of being a Pokemon fan, which eventually led him on a trip to Japan.

What area are you from?
I am from Los Angeles, California, USA.

How did you get into Pokemon? 
I got into Pokémon around the time that Ruby and Sapphire were released in the United States. Pokémon Ruby Version was my first game for the Game Boy Advance.

What was it about Pokemon that got you interested in learning Japanese? 
Many aspects of the franchise inspired me to learn Japanese. At the forefront, however, would have to be the fact that the games are released there much sooner than they are released here. When I would visit a variety of news sites, I would see information on games that had just come out in Japan. Since I knew that I would not understand anything going on in the games, I decided that it would probably be best to learn Japanese so I could import the games. At the time, taking on a whole new language seemed like a better option than waiting for six months, so I went with learning the language.

How did you go about learning the language? 
First, I went to Costco and bought the Japanese version of the Rosetta Stone software to get myself into the mindset of the language. Realizing that relying on only Rosetta Stone was probably a bad idea (the program does not do a good job of teaching oral proficiency, something that is very important to me), I decided to take a few private lessons. A combination of taking private lessons, using Rosetta Stone, and immersing myself in the language by watching most of my news in Japanese helped me become fairly fluent in the language.

Did learning Japanese enhance your appreciation for Pokemon? If so, how?
Learning Japanese greatly enhanced my appreciation for Pokemon. It also brought me closer to the franchise as a whole. After becoming proficient in Japanese, I began to import the new video games from Japan before they hit the shelves in America. Once I started importing, I began to pick up many of the Japanese Pokemon names, which, due to my knowledge of Japanese, made sense. Aside from the games, my knowledge of Japanese also made me more attentive to all of the merchandise that they release in Japan. Soon after I became proficient in Japanese, I began to investigate these products and contact Japanese-speaking wholesalers who sell these products to retailers overseas. Since I was able to communicate with them, I managed to set up accounts and began to purchase many Japanese Pokemon items. Today, I still deal with these Japanese-speaking wholesalers and sell Japanese Pokemon merchandise online. The online communities that I buy and sell on made me more aware of events such as Worlds. Worlds 2012 was my second year spectating at the event, and one of my favorite aspects of the event is speaking Japanese with all of the people who come over from Japan!

How did you end up going to Japan? What did you see that was Pokemon-related while you were there? 
My dad used to take many trips to Hong Kong, so he promised me that if I managed to fluently speak Japanese, he would take me to Japan on the way to his business trip in Hong Kong. I managed to meet his expectations, so he took me on the trip. In terms of Pokemon-related things in Japan, they are everywhere. In fact, the train I got on from the airport to the Tokyo railway station was decorated with decals promoting the Arceus movie (I went to Japan in summer 2009). Furthermore, I went to three Pokémon Centers while in Japan—Tokyo, Yokohama, and Osaka. Pretty much everywhere I went, there was something Pokémon-related.

What would you tell other people who might be interested in learning Japanese? 
If you want to take Japanese, be prepared for a big time commitment and a lot of work. For me to speak fluently (not perfectly, but fluently to the point where I could easily get around), it took around 3 years, from the moment I bought the Rosetta Stone disk to the instant I touched down at Narita International Airport. The language has many intricacies, which makes it easier than English at times, but most of the time much harder. I think that learning Japanese should be something that a hardcore Pokémon fan should consider; it truly opens up a whole new side to the fandom that you do not even know exists.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Geek.Kon 2012: Exteme Multitasking: Tournament Edition

Here's another interview from Geek.Kon 2012:

In this interview, we discuss the attendee's participation in a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament and a Pokemon Black and White Tournament. Did I mention that the tournaments overlapped each other?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Geek.Kon 2012: Eric Stuart Interview

Here's an interview from last weekend's Geek.Kon where I to talk to Eric Stuart, one of the voice actors for the first eight seasons of the Pokemon TV show:

In the interview we discuss how he got into voice acting, what it's like to sing as a character, and some of his more recent musical works.

You can see Eric's web site here.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Preview: Geek.Kon 2012

I recently got a chance to talk to Katie Hatheway, one of the staff members from this year's Geek.Kon convention near Madison, WI about this weekend's event:

How did Geek.Kon get started?

Geek.Kon started when a few members of MACS [Madison Area Costuming Society], a few anime enthusiasts, and a few tabletop gamers talked to a group of UW-Madison students and collectively agreed that it would be awesome to have a multi-genre convention right in town. Six years later, we've moved to a larger venue, and we're still going strong!

Eric Stuart (voice of Brock for seasons 1-8) is a guest at this year's convention. What will he be doing there?

Eric's doing some pretty neat stuff for us! You can catch him Friday night opening our rock concert, at Q&A panels and signings throughout the weekend, and performing again Sunday afternoon.

There's also a Pokemon video game tournament. When will that be?

That's a Pokemon Black/White tournament, and that's Saturday evening at 6pm. If you're not interested in competitive play, we'll also have a portable meetup area that will be open all weekend.

What are some of the other things going on at the convention?

We have a great tabletop gaming room this year-there will be representatives from Total Party Kill Games as well as Rio Grande, there to answer questions and show you how to play. We also have a Masked Ball Friday night with live music, a costume contest and trivia challenge, and a special screening with a shadowcast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Where can people find more information about the convention?

Go to for general information, as well as access to our community forum. We also have a Facebook page,