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.

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