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The Next Step in Competitive Play

Discussion in 'The Doctor's Clinic' started by KoL, Feb 18, 2012.

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  1. KoL

    KoL Expert FPS Player
    Staff Member Moderator

    Originally intended as a front-page Clinic article, I've decided to cut this article down a little and turn it into a follow-up of sorts for this article here since the Basics topic only covers the most rudimentary competitive knowledge, and many players have asked me for further advice on more advanced team-building strategies as well as help with learning how to predict opponents. Hopefully this article will be able to help you in both regards.
     
  2. KoL

    KoL Expert FPS Player
    Staff Member Moderator

    Re: A slightly more advanced guide

    Further Strategies for Team Building

    - Many people will tell you that you don't want certain type weaknesses running through your team, for instance having a team where four of the six are weak to Ice. While this does hold some truth, there's a lot more to this area than just that. See, while avoiding certain type weaknesses is all fine and dandy, avoiding weakness to certain specific Pokemon is a lot more important overall. In higher levels of competitive play, certain Pokemon will appear very often, and you'll want to have a way to deal with each and every one of these specific threats. As an example, I'll use Starmie. Having a team with a Water-type weakness running through it will be very vulnerable to Starmie, but simply throwing in a bunch of Pokemon that resist Water isn't guaranteed to stop the thing since it also learns Thunderbolt, Ice Beam and Psychic. One thing I noticed during Gen IV on 'Charms was that most teams here had no reliable way to deal with Scizor or Heatran, despite having no obvious type weaknesses running throughout any of them. It certainly made winning matches a whole lot easier around here...see my point now? Make sure you know which Pokemon are the most dangerous and most commonly used, and make sure you have a strategy to defeat all of them if you plan to have a half-decent winning record.

    - Using your favourites is fine, but don't overdo it. While I do tend to focus on using my personal favourites in battle (or at least some of them) since we all have our preferences, you have to be able to give realistic assessment when making a team, if you're planning to win at all anyway. I mean, sure, Spinda may be your favourite Pokemon of all time, but in competitive matches this thing is beyond useless, and not worth using at all. Instead, the best idea is to pick about 3 or 4 of your (faster, stronger, better) favourites, and fill the rest of the team with Pokemon that compliment those favourites. For example, if three of your favourites share a weakness to Ice, a Pokemon like Vaporeon could fit in very well. If your four Pokemon each lack a solid method for dealing with Haxorus sweeps, perhaps Skarmory could join the team to take care of that? Sure, some of the Pokemon that end up finding their way into your team in this manner may not be your favourite ones to use, but they'll drastically improve your performance and who knows? You might find your newcomers end up becoming some of your favourites too over time.

    - When looking at Pokemon natures, there's a few fairly simple rules to follow. All fast sweepers, Choice Scarf users, or Pokemon focusing on boosting their Speed stat in some way should all have a speed-boosting nature, such as Timid for special attackers, Jolly for physical attackers, and either Hasty or Naïve for mixed attackers. The only time an attacker can get away with not having a speed-boosting nature is if it has a priority attack of some sort (Lucario ExtremeSpeed, Conkeldurr Mach Punch, Scizor Bullet Punch etc.) that carries significant power or if it's rather slow anyway and the moveset it carries lacks a speed-boosting move of any sort (Machamp, Metagross etc.) If in doubt as to which group your sweeper fits, play it safe and give it a speed-boosting nature. At the very least, you'll have a chance to speed-tie other Pokemon of the same species if you run a speed-boosting nature, or outright beat them if they're using a nature that doesn't boost Speed. As for more defensive Pokemon, focus on boosting the defensive stat you want to focus more on boosting, while decreasing the offensive stat you won't be using. This means Impish for physical walls like Skarmory and Hippowdon who want to drop their already-useless Sp.Attack and Calm for special walls like Blissey, who can get away with losing 10% of her dreadful Attack stat since she will never use it anyway. Many people make the mistake of simply using a nature that boosts the Pokemon's highest stat, which in the case of fast sweepers is an easy way to lose.

    - Try not to tie yourself down to movesets you see on the internet. While some of them may be very standard, and the best you're likely to find, they all suffer from one universal weakness: you're not the only one who has read them. This can make standard sets all too predictable in practice when playing a smart opponent – certainly an undesirable effect, but don't let that put you off using them or at least working them in with your own personal preferences. Similarly to how the team building works, with a balance of your more powerful favourites and stuff that just works well, try to use movesets that combine the standard stuff with a small, personal twist of your own innovation, if you can. Whether it be a slightly different EV spread to the norm, a change of hold item or having one move different to what's recommended online, this one change can catch an opponent sorely off-guard and earn you a victory, or even turn out to work better than the original set recommended. Of course, these little changes won't work all the time and can backfire, but you never know until you try – you might discover something interesting.

    - Not every team requires a strict balance in offense and defense. Stall teams focus primarily on defensive strategy to very slowly wear down the opposition while trying to reduce or heal off their own damage as much as possible. Other teams utilize mostly sweepers to swiftly destroy the opposition, relying on good prediction and stallbreaking methods to achieve this. As long as a team is equipped to deal with obvious common threats, it doesn't matter how much it focuses on offense, defense or a balance between the two.

    - Finally, entry hazards are awesome and you should always have at least Stealth Rock on your team, if not both Stealth Rock and Spikes.
     
  3. KoL

    KoL Expert FPS Player
    Staff Member Moderator

    Re: A slightly more advanced guide

    Predicting the Opponent

    Having a good team isn't enough to win. You know what they say: it's not the team that wins, it's the player. You yourself need to know what to do to beat other players, because the team isn't going to do it all for you unless your team is far, far superior in design to your opponent's...in which case you're probably a better player than they are anyway. Predicting the opponent's moves and reacting accordingly is the key to winning the game, and while prediction may seem rather daunting and difficult to learn for the inexperienced, it's actually a lot easier than it seems at a glance – here's the key to playing the guessing games.

    Best way to demonstrate this is to use an example. Imagine you have a Sceptile, and I have out a Swampert against you. Now, to the untrained eye this seems like a rather nasty situation for me to be in...and in a way it sort-of is. The obvious thing to do would be to use a Grass-type attack to kill my Swampert here, but we need to look more closely at the situation.

    Instead of simply rushing in with that Grass-type attack, look at the situation from my perspective; I have my Swampert out facing your Sceptile. I'm slower than you and 4x weak to your STAB attack. Odds are, I'm not going to leave Swampert in to die to your Sceptile, so I'll probably switch out and bring in something resistant to Grass. 'Course, if you actually went and used that Grass attack on me now, it's probably rendered rather ineffective on whatever's just come in, and odds are Sceptile is now at a heavy disadvantage against whatever just switched in on it when Swampert left the scene – not good for you.

    The point I'm trying to make is that in order to predict an opponent, you need to put yourself briefly in their shoes when deciding what move to make. Simply throwing out super-effective attacks at whatever's in at the moment is an easy way to get murdered by anyone with half a competitive brain in their head. Going back to the above example, say for instance I switch in my Scizor when I switch Swampert out from your Grass-type attack. He takes only 25% damage from Grass-type moves, so he'll be able to switch in pretty easily and take little damage in the process. His Bullet Punch can OHKO Sceptile, and it also lets him go first, so now Sceptile's the one at risk of being KO'd. You switch Sceptile out, I predict you'd do that and use Swords Dance, and now your entire team has been murdered by my Scizor. We've just gone from me being at a horrible disadvantage with my Swampert out against your Sceptile, to me winning the entire game because you attempted to use a Grass-type attack on my Swampert. Granted this is a hypothetical example, but it's also an extremely realistic situation in a competitive match, and one that could very well happen to you if you play in a predictable manner.

    What you want to do to predict an opponent is put yourself in their shoes, and think about what you'd do if you were in their situation. If you had Swampert out against their Sceptile, would you switch Swampert out? I daresay you most likely would, which means they're likely to do that too. So if they're going to switch out, using a Grass-type move won't be effective – heck, in the example given using that Grass-type attack costs you the match. Say for instance your Sceptile has Hidden Power Fire. Swampert's still in, he's probably switching out, so use Hidden Power Fire instead. Now, Swampert may resist Hidden Power Fire, but he's switching out anyway so he's not the target – the target is the Pokemon that'll be coming out in his place. If it's Scizor, then Scizor's as good as dead – he's 4x weak to Fire, so he's going to get KO'd and you'll have not only prevented the aforementioned defeat in the previous example from occuring, but you've also taken out an extremely powerful force on my team and maintained your advantage.

    Of course, it isn't as simple as all that. You may or may not have noticed I used words like “probably” and “likely” a fair bit when talking about what Swampert would do, and it wasn't without reason. After all, what if Swampert doesn't switch out? As insane as it may seem, I might decide to try and use my Ice Beam to take out Sceptile, even though I'm slower and guaranteed to die to your STAB attack. However, I might be aware that you expect me to switch out, and that you'll use a move that isn't a Grass-type attack to try and knock out whoever I switch in. Swampert wouldn't be KO'd by such a move (Hidden Power Fire especially) but my Ice Beam would do massive damage to Sceptile if Swampert stayed in and survived Sceptile's move, and Sceptile certainly won't be switching out from Swampert anytime soon. In this scenario, using your Grass-type attack would actually be effective, since by going for the kill and leaving Swampert in, I've left myself open to attack and a Grass-type move would completely destroy my Swampert with no retaliation. At this point, we know that nothing is guaranteed – neither player can be certain what move the opponent will make, but when thinking about what move to choose, you need to be thinking about what your opponent is likely to do in the situation they are in, not just thinking about KO'ing whatever they have sent out.

    This is probably a bit much to digest, so I'll try to summarize it now. When predicting you need to put yourself in your opponent's position in your mind. Think about what you'd do if your roles were reversed, if you were using your opponent's Pokemon at this point and they had yours, and what you'd do if you were them. That is the key to predicting moves, and where it all starts. After that, you start to enter the “I knew that you knew that I knew” part of it, which is where things start to get more complicated. At this point, there's no easy instructions to give since anything can unfold at this point, but through practice and experience, you'll be able to learn how to win the war of wit and cunning. It's just a matter of actually using that wit and cunning to try and predict your opponent's moves to begin with, since many novice players don't do it and simply throw out whatever's super-effective against the Pokemon they're up against. At least you know not to just do that now.
     
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