Saturday, December 31, 2016

Interview: London International Championship 2016 Seniors VGC Runner-Up

Murray McKenzie
The following is an interview with Murray McKenzie, runner-up in the Seniors Division of the VGC competition at the recent Pokémon International Championship in London, England.

Where are you from, and how did you get into Pokémon?
I'm a player from Fife, Scotland, however most of the tournaments I go to are in Glasgow. My first Pokémon game was Pokémon White, which I got for my ninth birthday. I started getting into competitive play just after 2014 Worlds, but I only considered myself a good player after 2015 Worlds, where I made a successful rain team.

What was the team you used for this event? 
-Tapu Koko
-Tapu Bulu

Full team information is available at

This tournament was likely to feature a wider-than-normal set of Pokémon due to the games being fairly new. How did that affect which Pokémon you chose?
To be honest, I only really thought about a few Pokémon whilst building this team, namely “Koko-Raichu”, “Maro-Dos” and I think Gastrodon. There was a light foundation of a metagame brewing on Showdown, so I based it off of that.

What worked well for the team in the tournament?
The most important change I made to the team was definitely passing the Life Orb from Nihilego to Koko and making Nihilego hold the Focus Sash-a change I made two days before the event. I have no idea how I would've dealt with rain if not for that Sash, as it came in handy so many games. Honourable mention goes to Electric Seed/Acrobatics Celesteela and Mudsdale. The Seed helped Celesteela to be extremely bulky in both sides and Acrobatics was nice as it let me hit things which resisted Heavy Slam, it even two-hit ko'd a Pelipper! Assault Vest Mudsdale (I didn't think any others would be running it and I didn't see any prior) was also extremely nice due to it having an extraordinary attack stat and a great Ability for a Vest user. I designed it to survive both a Marowak Flare Blitz or an Energy Ball from a +1 Life Orb Xurkitree-pretty much some of the most powerful attacks you'll see on either side.

What didn't work so well, and what kind of changes might you make to this team if you used it again?
To be honest, I think the team was as good as you could get with these six Pokémon; however I do want to use other teams for the Regionals in Sheffield and Liverpool. This team is utter rubbish in best-of-one though, so I wouldn't try it there. All of my losses (except one round in Swiss I lost 2-0 and the final match against Jan) were in the first game. This team is great for adapting to situations once you know certain things like is the Pelipper Sash or Scarf? To be honest, I should've paid closer attention to IVs and made sure my Mudsdale was faster than my Wishiwashi as those two and Tapu Bulu's speed IVs were unknown.

What did you think of this new level of event?
Initially, I was quite wary of this new structure, namely the opportunities for Americans, Japanese and the like to get CP which would've gone to Europeans. Also, the fact that the tournament was two weeks after the release scared me. However, whilst I still believe that they should've made it Europe exclusive, I had a blast and this is much better to me than having three smaller Nationals. The event was very well run, but they needed to be more transparent. All of us in the top eight expected (due to things on the Pokémon website and prior events) to play on Sunday, have a lunch break and have the finals be streamed. To our surprise (and crushing our dreams of being on stream) none of these things happened. So yeah, they should've just clarified the first and last ones and had a lunch break after I think round four of Swiss.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Poké Press Digest Podcast: Episode 2-London International Challenge TCG/Ralph Schuckett

In this episode, we have two segments. First (0:49-11:04), I interview Michael Pramawat, the winner of the Masters Division of the TCG competition at the recent International Championship in London, England. We talk about his deck, his time in London, and what he thinks of the upcoming Sun and Moon cards.

The second segment (11:10-43:15) is an archival interview with Ralph Schuckett, a musician who composed the scores for the dubs of the first three Pokémon movies. You’ll find out how he got started in music, as well as some behind-the-scenes details of those films.

Here's a transcript of the first segment:

Steven: Hi, I’m Steven Reich here at the Poke Press Studios in Madison, Wisconsin. I’m on the phone with Michael Pramawat, who is the winner in the Masters division of the recent Pokemon International Championship that was held in London, England. And Michael, we just have a few questions. First off, where are you from and how did you get into Pokemon, both the franchise and then to competitive TCG play?

Michael: Well, I live in Seattle, Washington now and I’m originally from the East coast, in Virginia. And I got started with the Red and Blue games from way back. And from there, I just kind of got into the trading card game because some of my friends had the cards. We didn’t even know there was a game with it. Then they got a theme deck, read the rules, and just started playing from there.

Steven: What would you say was the first major TCG tournament you went into?

Michael: The first major tournament I attended was the Super Trainer Showdown. This is back when Wizards or the Coast had the license for the trading card game. It was basically the equivalent of a-I think the closest equivalent now would be a Regionals, in terms of level, but in terms of like prestige, it was basically like a Nationals.

Steven: Yeah, the Super Trainer Showdown, that was sort of the initial big events they had, before Wizards ran their single Worlds, they had the Super Trainer Showdown, which there was an east coast and a west coast event each year for a couple years. And they would have qualifying events and bring people out there. Organized play was very different back then than it is now.

So moving on from there, for this particular tournament in London, you decided to play a Yveltal-Garbodor deck, which was very popular. Actually, based on some analysis I’ve heard, it was a little over 20% of the Masters metagame at the event. What made you choose that deck for this tournament?

Michael: Well I haven’t played too much since the World Championships, so I wanted play a deck that I knew I could run. I didn’t want to play anything that maybe you needed to know all the matchups in and out, like you would for Greninja. And I wasn’t a fan of Rainbow Road. And Volcanion seemed a little clunky at times. And I had seen the recent success of Yveltal-Garbodor, so I decided to go with that deck.

Steven: Do you think that that kind of reasoning partially explained why so many folks used it at this tournament?

Michael: Yeah, I think so. It’s one of those that it’s pretty easy to pick up but has a lot of intricate plays, which is why you see such a large disparity between people who are very good at using it and people who are just kind of picking it up. There’s a very big difference in results that they get.

Steven: So you’d say it’s like maybe a decently easy to learn but difficult to master type of deck?

Michael: Yeah, yeah. It’s definitely one of those. You have to have very good fundamentals of the game in order to properly pilot the deck.

Steven: And even though it’s a very common deck, obviously there is some wiggle room. Your particular decklist does have a little bit of a twist on it. Can you sort of explain that?

Michael: Yeah, so typically what people had been using was the deck list that when I took first place at the Regionals at Florida and Fort Wayne, I believe. And those lists had things like Delinquent in it. But it had a running trend of running Trainers’ Mail. And people had been talking about, “How many Trainers’ Mail do you run? Do you run 2? 3?” Some people are going down as low as 1. And for me, once you go down to the realm of 2 Trainers’ Mail and below, the consistency boost that you get becomes so miniscule that I’d rather just have options with things like Escape Rope, Team Flare Grunt, Delinquent, Pokemon Center Lady, things like that.

Steven: So you went that route. You sort of went without it. Do you think that maybe helped you out in the tournament, and helped you eventually win it? If so, how?

Michael: Yeah, it definitely helped me win. Because the cards I put in instead of Trainers’ Mail was cards that let me have advantages in certain matchups. For example, Escape Rope was very good versus Greninja. If they put down a Bursting Balloon, you can get around it with Escape Rope. Delinquent was one of the MVPs of the deck. You only play 2 Parallel City, and sometimes your opponent will play down Parallel City in a direction that’s not favorable to you. So, you’re going to want to use Delinquent to replace their Parallel City so you can lay down your own in the direction that would be more favorable to you. So, there’s a lot of tricky plays that you can do. And it ended up being really good. I like the list a lot.

Steven: Anything you think you should have played differently in this tournament, or going forward you might play differently?

Michael: I definitely think that Yveltal, if it didn’t already have a target on its back, it definitely does have one now. So you really have to into consideration, can you deal with Zebstrika, which is a deck that got played, and fortunately for me, got 9th place. Which, made sure it was not in the top 8 for me to have to contend with. It can be a tricky matchup because Zebstrika can one-shot your Yveltal EX even if you have a Fighting Fury Belt. So, people who want to play Yveltal going forward are going to need to take that into consideration.

Steven: Yeah, that was definitely one of the surprises that came out. Didn’t quite make it into the top cut for the top 8, but definitely one of the surprises that we saw, and something I think players should keep an eye out for in the future to see if more people pick that up.

Now of course, one last thing about last weekend’s event. You did spend a couple extra days there. What did you check out in the city?

Michael: Went sightseeing around the city. I went to see Big Ben. I went on the London Eye. I saw the Abbey. And I also just went and see what kind of food London had to offer. There’s a very high Indian population in London, so I went and got some Indian food, and a bunch of places. The food was good. I liked it.

Steven: Yeah, it’s definitely a good food city. And hopefully we’ll have some more chances with that with the upcoming International Championships. We don’t know exactly when or where those will be. But I’m hoping to go to at least one of the ones outside of North America myself. Do you think you’ll be able to have a chance to go to some other ones besides the North America one?

Michael: I hope I can get to one. I’m not sure where exactly they’re going to be outside of North America, but I’ve been hearing Australia. So, we’ll see. It’s definitely easier for me to go to an English-speaking country than somewhere else. But even if it’s not in an English-speaking country, I think I’d strongly consider going anyways.

Steven: Yeah, definitely something that’s on my to-do list; very excited about the possible opportunity. Alright, well, you did very well at that tournament and we’re looking forward a little bit here. So, the next logical thing is that we are coming very close to the Sun and Moon generation of TCG. Of course, the games came out back in November. The first set doesn’t come out for a couple months. What are your thoughts on what we’ve seen so far of the Sun and Moon TCG?

Michael: The set looks pretty fun. It’s definitely a breath of fresh air. But because they’ll put in the new mechanic of Pokemon GX. They’re kind of like exes back-the original exes where they could have been stage ones, stage twos, basics. It’s all over the place. And it’s just whatever the Pokemon happens to be. And the cool thing about these cards is they have a once per game attack, which is really cool. And depending on how you use that, it can come out with some pretty cool strategies. I haven’t delved too deep into the Sun and Moon strategy, but I think it looks very promising.

Steven: Yeah, it definitely has some different dynamics than what we’ve seen in the 5th and 6th generation, which are relatively similar to each other. This is definitely a bit of a turn here. So, we’ll have to see what happens. Alright, well, thank you very much, Michael. This has been Steven Reich from the Poke Press Studios in Madison, Wisconsin on the phone with Michael, the winner in the Masters division of the TCG competition at the recent London Pokemon International Championship.

Transcript by

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Tour: Pokemon International Championship Europe 2016

Want to know what was at the Pokemon International Championship 2016 in London, England? We go on a tour to find out:

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Poké Press Digest Podcast: Episode 1-Pokémon 2000 Music/My Life in Gaming

In order to provide audio content in a form more suitable for longer listening sessions, I've decided to repackage some of my interviews in podcast form. Each episode will include at least one new (or recently released) interview, though it won't necessarily have every interview we produce. As such, I've decided to call this the "Poké Press Digest Podcast".

In this initial episode, we have two segments. In the first (0:57-44:48), Anne from Pikapi Podcast joins in to discuss the Japanese and English ending themes of the second Pokémon movie. We go over production details, analyze the songs, and then determine which one we like better.

For the second segment (44:55-59:37), I interview Try from the "My Life in Gaming" YouTube channel. Their channel covers retro video games, with a focus on how to get optimal picture and sound quality from original hardware. We discuss the origins of the channel, and their upcoming Game Boy episode.

Finally, after the outro (1:00:02), stick around to hear Anne and I discuss some of the other songs from the Pokémon 2000 soundtrack.


Segment 1:
Pikapi Podcast
Mark Chait Interview
First Movie Music Discussion

Segment 2:
My Life in Gaming YouTube Channel
RetroRGB Site

Here's a transcript of the "My Life in Gaming" segment:

Steven: Hi, I'm Steven Reich from the Poké Press studios in Madison, Wisconsin. I'm on the phone with Try from the "My Life in Gaming" YouTube channel, and Try your channel focuses a lot on various technical aspects of video games in terms of getting them to appear correctly and stuff like that, but you've also covered specific games and you also have done some kind of interesting "How to Beat" videos-how did a channel like that-how did that get started?

Try: Well, Coury and I have known each other online for a long time. I'm one of the founding members of a website called "The Backloggery"  that's, and it's a game collection tracking site, sort of with a focus on tracking which games you've beat, which games you left unfinished, and we just met through there and sort of just hit it off because we're both video editors.

We met with a bunch of other Backloggery people at MAGFest which is a convention, a gaming convention near Washington, DC and at some point Coury was like, "You know, we should make a YouTube channel together you know. There's not a lot of YouTubers out there that I think have like a professional background in video editing", so we thought we would be interesting.

The first thing we did was those "How to Beat" videos, sort of inspired by the old VHS tapes that would tell you how to beat Mega Man 2 or Ninja Gaiden or something like that, but we did it with modern games, and I think that was never intended to be the focus of the channel but we thought it would be an easy thing to do to get started, and it was kinda light and funny-not at all the kind of content we intended to create long-term, but it was I think a good starting choice because it did get us some attention early on and we kinda used that as a launching point to get into the the other types of videos that we wanted to make.

Steven: Yeah, as i mentioned before one of the big things your channel focuses on is video quality-a lot of RGB-related topics and things like that. How did that all get started?

Try: Well, really that's in a lot of ways that's kind of the origin of the channel because part of why we decided to make a YouTube channel was because we had been looking at this website [called] Hazard-City. It's run by this guy in Germany that has so much information on video scalers and stuff and the Framemeister, which is this Japanese upscaling box that, you know you can plug RGB from your retro consoles into it, and it's just perfect crisp pixels and it's amazing and we're looking at this and thinking, "Wow, does this really do what it looks like it's doing? I'm not quite sure I believe it." And, you know Coury finally bought one, he showed me some pictures and I'm like, "Okay I believe it." You know, it's this three-hundred-dollar box, and it's a lot of money, but you think about it that's like the price of a modern console, [and] if retro gaming is important to you, then you know it's not that bad of an investment if you really think about it.

Between that and some capture cards that we bought, we're like, "Wow, we've got this like awesome setup for capturing real consoles in such high quality-we should put this to good use," but we did not anticipate really making videos about video quality-we just wanted to have really good quality captures for other videos that we would be making. It's called "My Life in Gaming" in part because we wanted to tell stories about games and maybe some personal connections that you might have to those games-not just us, but we always want to interview people, like for example when we did a Myst episode, we interviewed the creator of Myst. You know, we want to have other people's voices in our videos if possible, but then we wanted to make this video about the Framemeister because it introduced us to the this whole world of high-quality capture and it just took off, and we're like, "Well you know, we could do a whole series about this and all the stuff that took us so long to figure out we could like make this great resource for other people to discover this.", because I think a lot of people didn't know-I mean we didn't know until just four years ago that this kind of stuff is even possible, so it's just kind of our way of sharing that information, and it was never intended to be the main thing but it kind of has become that.

Steven: So you have actually, in the RGB series you have a couple levels-100 is sort of the basics, 200 is system-specific, 300 is sort of niche topics, so you're going to be having a new 200-level video, hopefully within the next few weeks about the Game Boy, which is kind of interesting in part because it's a portable console, so it's not something you would normally think would make a great topic necessarily, but as it turns out you've come across a lot of things and this is probably gonna be your longest video yet. So, how did this get started?

Try: Yeah, it's almost twice as long-I'm looking at my timeline right now, which is about maybe 20 or so percent edited, and it's a an hour and three minutes-it's more than twice as long as our longest video, otherwise. Yeah, it's absolutely insane.

Originally, early on in the series, I was like, "Oh, I wanna do a video about how to play Game Boy games on your TV, and how to get the best quality doing that.", because you know obviously the options people think of are Super Game Boy on Super Nintendo and the Game Boy Player on GameCube, but there's a lot of nuance there. Then Bob from's the guy that runs Retro RGB-he's been a huge supporter of ours and he's got a great website and also does a great YouTube channel called the "Retro[RGB] Weekly Roundup" and he was like, "You know, I need some space and I know you're going to do a Game Boy episode." I think this is around this time last year, actually. He just sent me this big box full of Game Boy stuff. We're talking backlit-modded Game Boy and Game Boy Pocket, front-lit modded Game Boy Color, original Game Boy Advance with the brighter backlit SP screen put in it, clock-modded Super Game Boy, just all kinds of stuff that I never even would have really thought of looking into because I had this on-TV focus.

I was like, "Well, you know I guess we could just do kind of like an all-encompassing video, but I'm just going to talk about the handheld stuff like really, really briefly.", but then, you know I just start writing the episode now I'm like I got to the point where I'm like I don't see what I can cut out without being as comprehensive as I want to be and it just it's ended up being this big thing. There's been fleeting thoughts like, "Maybe we can separate Game Boy and Game Boy Advance into their own episodes, or maybe we can do portables and on-TV and in separate episodes or something.", but it's like there'd be so much overlap between them because there's just so much shared between platforms within the Game Boy series and you kind of have to understand how Game Boy Color works to understand how Game Boy Player works and how Game Boy Color backwards compatibility works on Game Boy Advance and how Super Game Boy has special palettes that are not recreated on any other official hardware, and so it's it's like, "Let's just include it all in this one massive episode that I'm completely insane for even tackling."

We had hoped it would release [on] Black Friday-probably not going to happen, but I am keeping that mindset that I'm going to release it on Black Friday-it keeps me motivated, it keeps that glimmer of hope that I could have it done by then. If I don't keep that, then I'm just gonna make terrible progress between now and Thanksgiving, but yeah it's intense but it's-I know it's gonna be big because you know people are interested to know more about Game Boy.

Steven: Definitely, and especially of course, Pokémon fans. Anything in particular you wanted to sort of share that might be specific to the Pokémon games?

Try: Well, certainly for Super Game Boy it's pretty cool because the way it works is it can draw sort of hidden areas in the screen to have entirely separate color palettes. Normally, you can only assign four colors to a Game Boy game in a Super Game Boy but a Super Game Boy enhanced game like Pokémon Red/Blue and of course gen[eration] two, they can, well, in the battle screen they can basically draw a box around each Pokémon and they can be the correct color they aren't bound by the four-color limitation because those areas of the screen where those Pokémon exist can have their own color palette. So that's pretty exciting.

On the N64 end we are covering the Wide-Boy 64 which was a development tool and a press tool for getting Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance screenshots through an N64-nothing particularly special regarding Pokémon there, but we are going to look a little bit-just a little bit-into the emulation through Pokemon Stadium and Pokémon Stadium 2, which is kind of interesting because even though it's emulation, you do get the benefit of the Super Game Boy enhancements there. But, you can use flash carts-this isn't something we're really going to be able to show directly-but people have experimented with editing rom headers to trick the Pokémon Stadium games into loading non-Pokémon games. They basically fool [Stadium] into thinking that it's Pokémon Blue or something like that. I understand that they kind of crash like when they try to save and stuff like that, so it's not really a reliable method, but it but it is kind of interesting.

Steven: Especially if you could use the double and triple-speed options that you can unlock in at least the original Pokémon Stadium to play those games at hyper speed-that might actually be kind of interesting.

Try: Yeah, well with this overclocked Game Boy that I'm borrowing it's got this dial where you can literally overclock it or underclock it. It's kind of wonky I wouldn't really trust it to be honest. I was told that it's actually kind of intended more for people who want to do something with like the Game Boy sound chip for music or something like that, but there's a dial on it that you can turn and you could play the game at hyper speed, though I think it would be pretty likely to crash from what I've experimented with.

Steven: Alright, well we certainly look forward to that Game Boy episode in the near future. In the meantime, what are some of your other plans going forward for the channel? Additional systems, additional topics, what are you looking into?

Try: Well, you know it's hard to believe we've gone all year without making a new Sega episode and Saturn and Dreamcast are both pretty high priorities. Dreamcast in particular is very popularly requested, so we want to get back to Sega. We want to do PlayStation 2, we want to do Wii, we basically want to do every system that is realistically possible-original Xbox and other RGB topics we want to talk about SCART switchers, we want to talk about all kinds of things. And outside of RGB I mean, you know we always want to take a break and get to our-just get to our game-focused episodes. They're the kind of our reprieve from our more technical episodes because they do take less work, and you know they're not as popular but they're sometimes just what we want to do, and we're never gonna run out of ideas. We talk about it all the time, like I just literally cannot imagine I could ever run out of ideas-it's just there's so many things that we just want to talk about. We've got this list of topics from when we started the channel and we haven't done but maybe fifteen percent of them because you know we just keep getting sidetracked by the newest idea we have and there's just so much wanna talk about-technical and otherwise.

Steven: Yeah, it never really ends with this, and of course you know in this era of the Internet we've actually had opportunities to learn more as some of the developers and hardware folks have sort of come out of the woodwork, so there's always going to be more-I think you're right about that.

Try: Yeah, I mean it's so funny you can come up with new things to talk about for retro stuff, and it's-I think a lot of people don't think about that. They think just what's old is set and done with, but there's so much to it and so much the people still are doing in that world in terms of new developments to modify the hardware and get new results.

Steven: But in the meantime, how can folks find your YouTube channel, and you have any other social media?

Try: Well, we've got of course YouTube is just We've also got a @MyLifeInGaming Twitter and then we've got our individual personal accounts-mine is @tryumph4ks inspired by the the fish in the Wind Waker they called the Triforce the "triumph forks", and Coury's just @couryc. We've also got [a] Patreon account-just and that has gone a long ways to supporting the channel. We've also got Facebook but I don't know anything about that-I don't follow Facebook, but Coury pays attention to it.

Steven: Alright, well thank you very much, Try. This has been Steven Reich talking to Try of the "My Life in Gaming" channel about his upcoming Game Boy-related episode.