Published on September 14th, 2015 | by MangoSol38
Sol’s Soliloquy on Consistency
What’s good Nugget Bridge? If you’ve watched the Madison Regionals and US Nationals streams you might recognize me as the Indian dude with the red snapback.
“Why does it say ‘Hi?'”
“IT DOESN’T SAY ‘HI’ YOU NINCOMPOOP- IT’S THE ABBREVIATION FOR HAWAII.” *
Er-hem. Anyway, I’m MangoSol on simulators and Manoj Sunny, a 19 year old Finance/Accounting student, in real life. Today in class we will be going over two things: 1) A team report on my squad that got 3rd at Madison Regionals and 11th at Nationals 2) How to be a consistent player in the multitude of events you play throughout the season or even throughout the years in your excruciatingly long career. I’ll tie in my team that I used this year with other teams I have used in the past years to draw out similarities and differences to showcase what tangible efforts you can make to be a good player CONSISTENTLY. So grab some coffee, sit tight, and happy reading!
You probably looked at this team and thought “Okay, standard Pokemon, I totally get how this works and probably will skip over anything not named Talonflame, Terrakion, and maybe Milotic,” which is totally fine, since everything here is something you’ve undoubtedly encountered on a simulator or Battle Spot. But for analysis’ sake, I’ll go over some stuff and try hashing out some points or insights you haven’t already thought about or might find interesting.
Kangaskhan (F) @ Kangaskhanite
EVs: 200 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 52 Spe
Alright, Mega-Kangaskhan. The Queen of VGC. The big momma of all children. The harbinger of OHKOs. The reason you give your pathetic Rotom enough EVs to survive a double-edge only to get slammed by a critical hit. Mega-Kangaskhan has been the most CONSISTENT Mega Pokemon since its release. The results in various tournaments across the world are testament to her sheer power. In 2014, Mega-Mawile served as a check to the beast on many teams, but with the advent of Landorus-Therian severely mitigated its usage and utility. The top players in any tournament so far in this year NEEDED to have a counter, check, and another check to avoid being steam-rolled by it. Oops, I’m already saying things you know. Point is, Mega-Kangaskhan can be added to any team and have results if played right.
The moves are pretty standard. “Mango, you used Return last year- why did you switch to Double-Edge?” I traded Kangaskhan over, lost all his happiness points, and didn’t know how to train for happiness in the game. Whatever. It knocks out things so I can’t complain. Recoil hardly matters when everything on my opponent’s team is knocked out or severely crippled. Sucker Punch is a Kang classic and helped put some opponents in checkmate even though they were faster but damaged.
Fake Out. Alright, there’s been quite some arguments over whether to use Fake Out or not on Kangaskhan. In my humble opinion, YOU NEED TO. You’re literally wasting 25% of Kangaskhan’s potential by NOT running Fake Out. Running Protect, Ice beam, Earthquake, or whatever you think is “anti-meta” is absolutely diminishing the value of a Mega Kangaskhan. “But Mango, everyone predicts Kangaskhan to have Fake Out? They can double Protect out of it too?” Yeah, and everyone predicts Landorus-T to have Earthquake- do people run HP Grass to be “anti-meta?” There are a TON of Pokemon that don’t have Protect. Choice locked Pokemon, 95% of Thundurus, bulky set-up Pokemon, etc; Some people ran Protect on Kangaskhan early in the season for a surprise factor- some of which worked. But in a Bo3 format, even that luxury is gone. Also, if your team has set up moves like Tailwind and Substitute, then more power to you. Big momma can literally knock out so many Pokemon using just Fake Out and Sucker Punch. It’s ridiculous how powerful it is, and not running priority when you can is problematic.
I ran Hammer Arm on my 2014 Kangaskhan because Low Kick was not available at the time. I also didn’t learn until a few days before Nationals that Low Kick was released and punched holes in heavy things like Ferrothorn the same way Hammer Arm did. Whelp. Hammer Arm is still a viable option if you’re running Trick Room (or want a check), but if not, by all means use Low Kick. Hammer Arm having 90 accuracy was a nightmare- do yourself a favor and go with the 100 accuracy same base power move. Power Up Punch is also a great set in this metagame that seemed to have plateaued in usage this past Nationals with everyone opting for bulky Kangaskhans. Running Jolly and getting up some +2s can really landslide games, so look into that option as well.
The EV spread? I have no idea what it does. I had one goal in mind- dish out as much damage as you can while taking as many hits as you can. So max attack Adamant, obviously. As for the HP, Def, and Speed? I honestly don’t think it lives anything specific. Arbitrary speed to creep on other bulky Kangaskhans. Back in 2012, Flash wrote one of the most brilliant articles I have ever read on Pokemon- take a look at it; you’ll benefit even though the metagame is different. “Never think about raw calculations between 100% HP Pokémon because you won’t be in that situation frequently.” I always giggle to myself whenever someone asks me “What EV spread should I put on this?” “What should I make this live?” In my opinion and experience, when the cookie crumbles, the only stat that truly matters in terms of EVs is speed. That is the only thing you need to specifically focus on. As for the other stats, if there are certain Pokemon that are always hit by certain moves from certain Pokemon, by all means EV for it. In no way am I saying don’t bother with EV spreads. If you feel more prepared making them, go for it. Personally, I usually follow the “dump random amounts into stats to maximize bulkiness” strategy. It has never let me down yet. But like I said, don’t fret optimizing your Cresselia’s HP to make a +2 Signal Beam from Life Orb Raichu a 5HKO in sand.
Tl;dr? Optimize speed above all. Be practical and optimize EVs to just be generally tanky. Raw calculations are never the same as when you’re in the heat of battle and have millions of different snags affecting your HP.
Talonflame @ Life Orb
Ability: Gale Wings
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spd
The bird is the word. This Pokemon is absolutely brilliant and the metagame is silly to not acknowledge this poor bird. True, 2015 has not been kind to Talonflame with the release of Landorus and Thundurus, but Talonflame still serves as an EXCELLENT tech Pokemon. If brought in at the right time, against the right Pokemon, using Talonflame is as simple as tapping the “win” button on your DS. Brave Bird and Flare Blitz hit so hard KOing things weak to it as well as frail neutral types. A combination of Kangaskhans Fake Out/Sucker Punch and Brave Bird sometimes flat out KOd middle-tier bulky Pokemon. Like I said earlier, use priority when you can. The key is to hit hard and fast. I find that the longer I’m in a battle, the higher the likelihood of me losing. My goal in making teams is to end things quickly and efficiently with the core Pokemon as well as the tech Pokemon. Back to Talonflame, LO Brave Bird demolishes Amoongus and Gardevoir cores. Some really defensive Amoongus are EVd to tank it, but so far I’ve been lucky with the Amoongus I’ve run across in tournaments and have been able to one-shot them with Brave Bird. Also a great Breloom check and Venusaur counter.
The last two moves are always a toss up. Will O Wisp is viable as is Tailwind, but I hate sacrificing my beloved bird for a few measly turns of speed, especially when I’m running strong priority moves. Quick Guard stopped jokes like Liepard, Thundurus’ T-wave (Caution: They may Thunderbolt you), and opposing Fake Outs. It was also a nice surprise factor, in Regionals Swiss. But mentioned above, don’t fear using Pokemon that aren’t heavily used. If you have CONSISTENT results with it, then it is totally viable and is everyone’s loss for not using it. Take advantage of that. Never be peer pressured into using Pokemon you aren’t comfortable with. That is the #1 consistency killer that I will talk about later. Don’t fear standing out, but at the same time, don’t make an effort to stand out by using weird things that work once every 7 games. At the end of the day people remember that you topcut regionals. They remember that you made day 2 at nationals. They remember that you got an invite to worlds. What they don’t remember is that you ran Barbaracle with Rock Polish or a Probopass with Magnet Rise and won only 4 games out of 9.
Hit hard and hit fast. 252/252. LO.
Fear the Brave Bird.
Terrakion @ Focus Sash
Ability: Justified Shiny: Yes
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
“Mango, what do you think the top 5 Pokemon are in VGC ’15?”
“X, Y, Z, Q, TERRAKION.” -An actual quote.
Again, like Talonflame, Terrakion usage wasn’t as high as it was supposed to be. But unlike Talonflame, Terrakion still had a fairly high usage, which I’m glad for. This bull has some of the best stats a sweeper could ask for. A base 108 speed and 129 attack puts it in a weird tier shared by few others. But typing. Man oh man, that typing. Brings tears to my eye every time. Fighting/Rock is simply an offensive powerhouse, especially in this metagame. And the movepool? Tears are still streaming down my face. Even the ability is pretty good! Close Combat just OHKOs every normal type. Linoone? Bye. Snorlax? Goodnight. Lickilicky? See ya. Definitely takes care of the Pokemon defining this meta (wink)! The defense drop from CC didn’t matter because of the Focus Sash, so it was nice knowing I can take out a threat or at least damage one very handily before exiting the stage. Quick Guard was a nice tech move that blew up opposing Kangaskhans when they tried Fake Outing and also stopped TR setters reliant on Fake Out. Quick Guard is just a wonderful move and I didn’t want to settle on just using one Pokemon with it. Oftentimes I was in situations where I lead Talonflame and Terrakion against priority users (Whimsicott/Hariyama) and had the option of using Quick Guard from either Pokemon and blowing up whatever I wanted to.
There’s one word every VGC player shudders when he hears it. A word that brings flashbacks of pain, misery, and defeat. A word that symbolizes everything hax stands for. And that word is… Brightpowder! Wait no, wrong season. What I meant was Rock Slide. The ability to hit both targets and inflict a 30% chance of a flinch is absolutely amazing/abhorrent (depending on which side of the field you’re on). Add that to a Pokemon that gets STAB off of it, has a killer speed stat, and is devilishly handsome, and you get instant hax wins. Now, slap a Thundurus on your team and the word “hax” turns into “strategy.”
Terrakion in the limelight:
Hit hard and hit fast. 252/252.
Thundurus @ Sitrus Berry
Hidden Power [Ice]
You already know what this does.
I didn’t include the EV spread here because at the time of me writing this worlds has yet to happen. I did not make this EV spread (a certain Japanese worlds finalist did) and the creator has no idea I have it, so for obvious reasons I won’t spread it. It is a VERY bulky and fast set and is simply the best Thundurus I have used. What a shame. It was my chance to look like I don’t just use 252/252 Pokemon.
Thundurus is a Pokemon that is so versatile- both in EVs and roles. It can be EVd to be a fast and hard hitter (the way it was originally used, for those who haven’t been around since forever) or it can be used as the common utility. Do not fear to experiment with different Thundurus- not one set is best (unlike Kangaskhan, pshhh).
Landorus-Therian @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Intimidate Shiny: Yes
EVs: 156 HP / 124 Atk / 4 Def / 12 SpD / 212 Spe
Again, another Pokemon you already know inside and out. Originally I had experimented with Assault Vest Landorus, but quickly found it to be underwhelming and pointless. I don’t believe in using offensive Pokemon defensively, nor defensive Pokemon offensively. If a Pokemon is designed to do a certain task, then make it do that specific task. Bulky Talonflames with Roost? There’s a reason that has never made Top Cut. Timid Slowbro with 252 Speed and 252 Sp. Atk? Never seen in topcut. Those were pretty extreme examples, but I hope you see what I’m getting at. Certain Pokemon have certain responsibilities, and making them perform unnatural tasks is greatly inhibiting towards them. Landorus is meant to abuse its sky-high Attack. Sadly, its Speed stat needs help, but that’s what the scarf is for. Rock Slide, Earthquake, and Superpower are all self-explanatory moves. Superpower was a great option when I couldn’t Earthquake because of a Choice-Locked or non-protect Pokemon on my side which came in clutch a few times.
There have also been some arguments over Knock Off vs U-Turn. Move choice questions are always in a sort of grey area, but I think this specific choice is a black and white decision. Knock Off itself is a great move and in Bo3, it’s amazing. Revealing your opponent’s items is just great and puts you in a confident position for the next two matches. U-Turn, what does it do? Maybe a couple HP worth of damage? Speaking typing, Dark is better offensively than Bug. It hits harder initially than U- Turn as well. The problem with U- Turn, though is you’re putting yourself at a bit more risk than manually switching. Sure, it’s unlikely that their Terrakion is scarfed, but taking that minimal extra risk of getting hit with Rock Slide is still an extra risk you’re taking that you don’t need to. Plus the chance that they might switch into something with Rocky Helmet, Flame Body, etc just adds more risk to a table already stacked high with it. You’re playing Pokemon.
EVs? No idea what they do. I hope you’re getting the pattern by now. It probably lives some ice move, OHKOs the majority of steel types, and outspeeds everything not scarfed or named Mega- Beedrill. So basically, it’s a relevant spread I don’t need to think twice about.
Hit hard and hit fast. Scarf 124/212.
Milotic (F) @ Leftovers
EVs: 200 HP / 100 Def / 36 SpA / 122 SpD / 50 Spe
Ahhh Milotic. I remember as a wee child fishing for Feebas back in Emerald Version. Almost threw my Game Boy SP out the window in rage after my 743rd Carvanaha. Good times. Good times. Anywho, Milotic is wonderful (obviously, that’s why it’s on this team). When I was teambuilding, I noticed a slight weakness to Landorus- Therian. Obviously, this was something I could not let go, as he was on virtually every team. My answer to that was Bisharp, but I couldn’t fit Bisharp on this team- I would have a 5:1 ratio of physical to special Pokemon. Unacceptable imbalance. So I tried out Milotic for its ability. Competitive wrecked in a metagame where there were Mega Salamence and Landorus everywhere. Of course, there was the risk with Mega Mence that I might get Double Edged into a watery grave on T1, but I guess I would be a pretty bad player if I let that happen. You shouldn’t overlook a Pokemon’s potential simply because it gets one shot by another Pokemon. Unless its name is Rotom. Because Rotom is pathetic.
Anyway, the first three moves are a Milotic staple. Scald gets burns and crucial residual damage for a Pokemon of its archetype. I’ve seen some weird sets with Hydro Pump- that’s a big no-no. (See: Landorus Therian section.) Milotic can stall out teams of physical attackers even when it’s down 1-3 if it can get off its Burns. I chose Icy Wind over Ice Beam because I wanted a spread move to lower speed on Pokemon that Thundurus couldn’t hit. So basically, Landorus. Competitive Icy Wind also took care of some chip damaged Landorus as well.
Testing Milotic, I received some arguments that Milotic was just a poor man’s Suicune. NO. ABSOLUTELY NOT. The two Pokemon are completely different and serve different roles. Suicune is mostly used as a Tailwind support Pokemon, whereas Milotic is mostly used to lower opponent’s speed via Icy Wind. Also, Competitive is much more important in this metagame than pressure. Their stats are similar, but again, Milotic is simply more important to me in a VGC team than Suicune (though Suicune is still a perfectly viable and good VGC Pokemon by common standards). The difference here is that Milotic prevents people from using their Intimidate Pokemon haphazardly, or not even use it altogether. For a team like mine that has a good number of physical attackers, this was paramount. Milotic’s Competitive even works on a subconscious level- starting at team preview, your opponent will look at your team more cautiously in regards to Milotic and play more safely with his intimidate Pokemon. This helped ease predictions a lot in many battles for me. If I saw Landorus-Therian, for example, on their team, I would usually be right when I expected them to bring it against me (after all, my team is decently weak to Landorus). So if, for example, they don’t lead with Landorus, then I can safely assume that it’s in the back and HP Ice a switch in to get myself a KO. A lot of Pokemon is simply what helps you ease into predictions more easily. It doesn’t even matter what you use if you can’t make predicts and reads.
Oh, Confuse Ray. I think I actually justified my use for Milotic over Suicune because of this move. But for sake of you learning, ignore that kind of rationale and look to the paragraph above for educational content on why I chose Milotic over Suicune. Confuse Ray was a move that I kind of tossed on last-minute. I didn’t find Protect to be wholly practical in a lot of scenarios, but it was still a close second. Protect is always a viable option if you don’t know what to put for your fourth move or are unsure of how CONSISTENTLY a certain move performs. But yeah, Confuse Ray. Great for mind games, and great for flipping coins. I absolutely hate the move Swagger- not for the reasons of Confusion, but because of how it ALWAYS misses when I use it! I tried a Safeguard/Swagger set way back when, but always lost in testing due to missing Swagger on my own Pokemon. No joke, I played three games in a row and missed Swagger. So why would I risk swaggering someone else’s Pokemon? Confuse Ray had 100% accuracy and kind of just accumulated damage and stress when Milotic was just sitting there and flopping around. Wait, that’s paradoxical… It definitely garnered some chuckles and confusion from viewers alike, so I guess that was the best part about using it. Give it a try. If you’re going to play a game with hax, at least make it in your favor!
Guess what this EV spread does?!…..Don’t know? BECAUSE I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA EITHER! WHOOOOOOHOOOOOOO!
You can see Milotic tanking moves left and right while retaining a strong presence on the field by applying pressure via Confuse Ray and Scald.
Well, that brings my Regionals segment to a close. This next part is just about the two Pokemon I swapped around for Nationals. Refill that coffee if you have to. And here we go~
(replacement for Talonflame)
Amoonguss @ Black Sludge
EVs: 188 HP / 156 Def / 164 SpD
Sassy Nature IVs: 0 Spe
Oh gosh, I hate this thing. By far the most useless Pokemon I’ve used since Gourgeist in 2014 Regionals. I guess there’s a similarity in those two. Let me make one thing clear- I was pressured into using this because I was afraid of standing out with Talonflame. I got scared of using it because no one else was using it so therefore it must be bad, right? Looking back at all the games I lost at Nationals, I could have easily won the matchup had I had Talonflame in my party instead of Amoongus. I literally faced three Blaziken and 6 Amoongus (2 of which were Garde/Amoongus cores) which were all difficult to navigate around.
Right when I think I bring in Amoongus to the right place and time, I get absolutely dunked on. Spore a Scrafty switch in? NOPE. LUM/TAUNT VARIANT. RIP. Everyone and their mother was prepared for Amoongus at Nationals, and I should’ve followed my INTUITION and gone with Talonflame. But hindsight is 20/20 and my tears are meant for Terrakion only. Don’t fall into the same peer pressure trap I did.
Let me get this straight- Amoongus is a great Pokemon. It is absolutely deadly when played in the right hands. It has redirection, killer stats, and two great abilities which it can abuse. By no means let my incompetence in using it impede you from using it. The moral I’m trying to ingrain in your head is to never ever use Pokemon you are “forced” into using or are uncomfortable with. It can only go one way, and that way is the opposite direction of a trophy. At the same time, you can’t just refuse to learn how to play with standard Pokemon and go charging into Nationals with a bug brigade consisting of Shedinja, Leavanny (“Mango, that’s a Pokemon?”), and Volbeat.
A last minute addition, I ripped this EV spread from y’boi GengarBoi (The “o” in his name is not a 0, for all you people who think my hat says “hi.”) It tanks all special attacks, lives an HP flying from Ursaring, makes your bed on Sunday mornings, yada yada yadaa I don’t care.
(replacement for Milotic)
Bisharp @ Choice Band
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
MangoSol’s Choice Band Bisharp. Patent pending. I used it last year to get 9th at Nationals and this year to get 11th, so something tells me this little chess piece is CONSISTENT (when put in the right team).
If you weren’t around last year, I used an Assurance variant to blow things up right after Kangaskhan’s turn 1 Fake Out, including TheBattleRoom’s Hydreigon at 100%. So basically Bisharp gives me something I look for when building any team- raw power and speed. Sucker Punch boosted by Defiant and a Choice Band absolutely demolishes anything that stands in its way, notably Landorus Therians. I really liked the auto-response to Intimidates (Competitive/Defiant) and since Milotic was no longer on my team once I replaced Talonflame, the transition to Bisharp was natural. In testing, actually, I had used the two interchangeably to great success. Both fit seamlessly onto a team that need a Landorus counter. But in short, Defiant is an amazing ability that pinned Salamence and Landorus against walls. And like Milotic, it played mind games with Defiant.
Sucker Punch just boosted from CB can straight out OHKO things like regular Manectric and Mega Metagross. I actually cloned this Bisharp, slapped it on a rain team, and gave said team to my hometown friend Rafal Gladysz to use at nationals the week before. Even though Rafal is relatively new to the competitive scene, he was able to score a positive record and beat notable players like Ashton Cox in a bo3 set, which just shows how effectively Bisharp can be employed if you know when to Sucker Punch and when not to.
The switch to Knock Off from Assurance was a switch that I was satisfied with. In a Bo3 format, your opponents could scout out Assurance and figure out how to evade or protect around it. But in a Bo3 format, your opponent cannot evade Knock Off and its item reveal. So in that regard, Bisharp was relentless in its dismantling of teams.
Iron Head for fairy types. So basically Sylveon and Gardevoir. In the battles I brought Bisharp against Gardevoir, I was either a) Redirected into Amoongus b) Knocked out by a faster Hyper Voice. So I lost those matchups anyway. Low Kick was for opposing Bisharps, which, unfortunately I never encountered. I didn’t want a Jolly nature because Bisharp is the kind of Pokemon that really wouldn’t fit that personality type. Just look at its frown. Looks like a mean look to me. But really, I don’t care much for speed if I’m using Sucker Punch. Plus, the damage would be amplified at a greater rate with CB if I had Adamant instead of Jolly.
A well played Bisharp can plow through teams.
Hit hard and hit fast. Band 252/252.
For those of you that have gotten this far, congrats (or sorry). For those of you who skimmed, I hope the only thing you didn’t pick up was my apathy towards EV spreads. Feel free to comment what you think of my team below. “Mango I hate it. It sucks and you suck.” If you’ve stayed with me, so far, I’m sure you’ve gone through three cups of coffee, so take it easy and try decaf this time around. Anyway, we’re going to start with the next order of business which is more important than any team you’ll build: consistency. Let’s first take a look at the dictionary definition:
Consistency: the way in which a substance, typically a liquid, holds together; thickness or viscosity.
“the sauce has the consistency of creamed butter”
The following sections will direct you in the preparation of Bavarian Cream Custard.
Ok, terrible joke. I’ll be here all night. “Mango, you still suck. Stick to Pokemon.” Alright, consistency. Before writing this article, I consulted with many players on what their thoughts would be on this topic. The general consensus was that it would be a difficult topic to “teach,” but would be beneficial for the average player who places well once in a blue moon. As I write this, my goal is for novice players to establish some habits that might lead to higher finishes more often, and for experienced players to get a look into the habits of another player and revise their current methods if they are looking for a change.
Let me talk about myself for a bit. In past reports I refrained from really talking about the physical experience of a tournament, but I see now that it is exactly the physical experience of a tournament that determines how you approach it and how you place. Quick Biography: I started playing Pokemon competitively in singles for a couple years on Pokemon Online. I then heard about VGC in 2012 and entered my nearest regionals (Madison) as a Masters division participant. I missed the Seniors cut off by two months, but I see masters is a better place to learn. The following list contains all my accomplishments. I swear, I’m not doing this to brag, but to prove a point later on:
[Madison Regionals 2012- 4th] [Madison 2013- Top 8] [Madison 2014- 2nd] [Madison 2015- 3rd]
[Nationals 2012- 3rd] [Nationals 2013- Top 64] [Nationals 2014- 9th] [Nationals 2015- 11th]
Worlds 2012- 11th
If you look carefully, you’ll notice that there has been only one event that wasn’t a top cut or Day 2: Nationals 2013 (we won’t count worlds). If you know me personally, then you know that I only attend 2 events every year due to time constraints, travel, and protest of the CP structure. Regardless, the point is that the ratio of events attended and events top cutted is very strong. This is something that all competitive VGC players strive for naturally – once you have the taste of success (or even defeat, for that matter) you want more. You want to solidify yourself as a player, and the way of doing that is wrapping more wins around your belt.
Who’s the best player in the world? An overwhelming majority of you automatically have the name Ray Rizzo in your head. Why is it that? Is it because he used Gothitelle? Or Escavalier? Or is it because he won worlds thrice? There may be a few other players came into your mind, but I’m sure the reason they are there is because they have proven to the world over and over that they can excel in any metagame at any given time. Let me tell you a little personal story. In 2o12, my most successful year, I received a lot of backlash from the community when they saw I was running BrightPowder Garchomp. They instantly dismissed my consistent run throughout the season as a fluke and bet that I would never see success in upcoming tournaments. In the following years where I was trying to shrug off this backlash, I really learned the importance of consistency and how vital it was in rooting a player as “good.” Being a “one and done” kind of person is ok, but when you manage to prove that you can do the same thing over and over without fail, that’s when you really prove to yourself and others that you ARE as good as you think. So far, those of you out there who have done good “once” and are worrying if you’re good, you probably are. But I challenge you to try again. Challenge yourself and others around you to place as highly as you once did. You’ll be surprised at the motivation it may bring you.
A reason why I love competitive Pokemon more than any other competitive video game is because it is not a reflex-based game. Meaning, you aren’t REQUIRED to spend hours a day ensuring that your skills are sharp for the next tournament. So basically, you can drop practicing Pokemon for a few weeks, and pick right on up where you left without losing any skill. As I tell some students I teach chess to, it’s like riding a bike – once you learn how, you’ll always know how to. Of course, practice is VITAL to chess and Pokemon alike, so omitting the necessary hours it takes to hone your skills will reflect on your performance at tournaments. But let me let you in on a secret: For nine months out of the year I don’t play Pokemon. I don’t log on to any simulator or even touch my DS. This has always been the case since 2012. Why is it that I perform consistently then? Because of the way I build teams, practice, and handle game days. These are the three core aspects of consistency.
There are two times during the year I devote an extraordinary amount of time for Pokemon. Two weeks of winter break, and then the start of summer break. During these two periods, I go into this process I like to call “the works.” For 4-7 hours a day, I sit on Showdown and build a team. I spend the majority of my winter trying to come up with the perfect team. The perfect weapon for ME. I swap around different megas, different cores, different techs, different items, etc. I test defensive synergy, offensive synergy, and overall team synergy. EV spreads are the last thing I finalize. I look on Nugget Bridge to see the list of teams that were used during Winter and Fall Regionals. I think to myself “OK, these are the Pokemon I need to beat, and these are the Pokemon I should use for the most part.” With the team blueprint in mind, I think of how I would dismantle each individual team I see on those Regionals list. When I team build, I come to the understanding that to perform well, I must use Pokemon that can do well. I need to use Pokemon with the highest base stats and best relevant typing. I need to use the strongest Pokemon available in the metagame. I also need to understand that my opponents will prepare for those specific Pokemon, so I need to come in with counters to protect my core. I personally prefer team building around a mega, but I have seen a good many successful teams built in different ways. Don’t let one specific method of teambuilding bog you down.
Like I said in my team analysis, don’t try using abnormal Pokemon to accomplish goals other higher base-stat-total Pokemon can also handle. If you test out a totally niche Pokemon that yields consistent results, by all means use it! If it produces wins, it’s all you need to care about (unless you’re using Brightpowder Garchomp. Then you must suck, obviously). Certain Pokemon are standard for a reason – they’re simply the best that the metagame has to offer. That doesn’t mean there are a lot of undiscovered Pokemon waiting for their potential to be tapped into, but in all metagames there are a couple Pokemon that are ESSENTIAL to any successful team. In this season, it just so happens to be Thundurus and Landorus. If you can’t get over the fact that you’re going to have to use some standard Pokemon eventually, you’ll never finish high consistently.
The key here is to use standard Pokemon with a twist. If you’re running, say, four standard Pokemon and two strange tech Pokemon, then great! You’re off to a good start. If you’re running five strange tech Pokemon and one semi-standard, then you’re in for a rough day. When I say twist, I don’t mean “secret.” Your Cresselia running Red Card isn’t a twist. Your Choice Scarf Aegislash isn’t a twist. If you think these types of twists will win a drawn out tournament, especially best of three, you’re record will reflect. Now, if you have something like a Scarf Mold Breaker Excadrill, a Sleep Talk Sylveon, or Choice Band Bisharp (wink wink), now you’re talking. All of these twists are things that would take apart the common standard teams and strategies if played right. These are the kind of “gimmicks” that are capable of pinning your opponent against a wall, regardless if they know you have Scarf by game 2 or not.
On that note, I’d like to briefly address scouting. It happens. By the time you’re seven rounds into a tournament, everyone and their slap-happy grandpappy will know the exact EV spread and held item of your Teddiursa (except me, because I have no idea what EV spreads my own Pokemon even run). I have literally been in multiple situations where my previous round opponent is giving his notes sheet to my next round opponent right in front of me. And I never care to stop them or even voice concern. At the same time, I too have been guilty of doing the same thing, so no hard feelings. Point is, you need to be confident in what you’re running so that even if your opponent knows every item, move, and spread, you can still pull out a win. Of course, you should build your team with some “secrets” that can hopefully net you at least a game 1 win (and hopefully an overall win), but you need to ensure that your team is capable of pinning your opponent’s against the wall no matter the circumstances. THOSE are the teams that go far. Your teams need to be ones that give your opponents no breathing room. CONSTANTLY apply pressure so they either crack or help you make a prediction that seals the game.
If you punch a punching bag the wrong way 100 times, you’ll never get better. You might break your wrist and risk fracturing your forearms. On the flip side, if you punch the bag correctly and accurately 10 times, you now know how to hold your own. Just like that, there is a method in training properly. The key is to optimize your time spent; you’re trying to gain the most information and experience possible in the least amount of time. So many people go overboard optimizing EV spreads, moves, etc, when what they really need to optimize is the efficiency of their training.
So I teambuild and practice a bit during winter, but what do I do during the start of summer, leading up to Spring Regionals? I lock in my team. By now, I’ve become fairly confident in my teams ability to counter and beat the majority of teams I will encounter. Of course, adjustments should be made throughout practice if you miss something here and there, but for the most part, I’ve reached a point of no return and will not alter my core. A problem for many players is deciding on a team; they are so indecisive that they keep rotating around Pokemon never truly practicing with one comprehensive team. This remedies that problem by kind of locking you into that mentality of “I have to use this because this is what I prepared most with.” Which brings me to another point: use what you have the most practice with. Earlier I said how building a team is like crafting the perfect weapon for you. By the time your team comes out of the workshop, you need to know it inside and out. What team dismantles it? What team do you do extraordinarily good against? How would you play out the teams that have some hard counters? What are your hard counters? How do you account for unexpected events, should it come your way? All these are essential questions that should go through your head in your teambuilding process. Let me make this clear, my play-style might not necessarily be the most consistent one for you. It may be, but I think each individual player should build teams and use certain Pokemon they feel most comfortable playing around. Whether it be a Trick Room team switching around to establish a comfortable position and slowly whittling away at the opponent’s HP, or going in guns blazing with three choice-item Pokemon, find what suits you best. Me personally? I imagine myself as a spider when I play. I want to paralyze and force my opponent into a web before I devour them in one fell swoop. If I can establish positions where they’re FORCED to do something, it helps make prediction a 50/50 gambit. I like to say that leading right is half the battle. Considering an average doubles game lasts about five moves, you have no time for mistakes. Leading correctly ensures you’re applying the most pressure in the least time, so when you practice, keep in mind how many of your losses are due to leading wrong.
So teambuilding is done. Best ways of practice?
Showdown. I cannot stress the importance of laddering. I cannot stress how important it is that you play against the world instead of a few specific friends of yours. Forget what you heard about laddering. Forget the “good” player who said laddering isn’t important. Forget people who say “ladder doesn’t prove anything.” IT ABSOLUTELY DOES. It proves a plethora of things! First, it shows how ready your team is. Secondly, it shows you how good you are. Sure, you can win maybe six out of seven rounds in Swiss, but a better show for consistency would be if you win 100 battles and lose 25 on ladder. Thirdly, you gain valuable insight on a vast array of different ideas and strategies. I’ve heard complaints that the initial games of laddering are always against “noobs” using weird things. Truthfully, those are the places where I learn the most. That’s where I see ideas I’ve never seen before and make sure my team has a way of handling it (-cough cough- not that I’ve been in that area very often -starts sweating rapidly-). The further up you go on the ladder, the more standard the teams you face will be. Which is totally fine, since those are the kinds of teams you will face at tournaments. Anyway, please please please please practice laddering. The competitive boost of trying to get above your friends and the world can be an incentive, and also helps you focus on individual games. Which brings me to my next point- focus. Raise your hands if you’re guilty of going auto-pilot on Showdown. I’m guilty too. If you want to improve as a player, you need to go the extra mile. As a tournament chess player in high school, after I played a game and lost (or sometimes even won) I would go over the game with my coach. I would see where I went wrong and what I should’ve done. In my experience, this was by far the best way in which I improved. So look over your game after you lost. Look for the turn where you messed up. Slap yourself on the forehead for not realizing you should’ve trusted your gut and nailed the incoming Breloom switch-in with a Psychic. Mistakes breed knowledge, and if you fail to acknowledge your mistake or see how you committed it, you will never gain that knowledge, thus rendering that entire battle a waste of time.
Personally, I prefer the speediness of simulators over Battle Spot. I find the “download” time of information to be 4x slower on my DS, so I always refrain from practicing on it. On Showdown, on the other hand, I can play two games at once and finish them both within a couple minutes and gain that much knowledge for it. If you have no preference for the mode of practicing, I urge you to revamp your simulator approach. I know some people prefer playing on DS because it emulates the feel of playing at a tournament, which is also perfectly acceptable. I know some players who also take notes while doing Battle Spot, which is absolutely wonderful. More power to them. Do whatever makes you “download” the most information the fastest and most efficiently. Be consistent in your approach though. Be disciplined.
Of course, some of you don’t have a budgeted five weeks to “git gud,” so by all means spread out the intensity over however much time you have. Build yourself a consistent routine. Do realize that your laddering/wins will fluctuate at random periods throughout your practice times. One week you might get all the way to 1600 on the ladder, and the next you might struggle to break 1200. This is totally natural and isn’t an indicator of your skill level, so just take a break and come back to it. Burning yourself out will make you detest the game and damage your competitive spirits. You can’t place well at a tournament if you don’t have the heart and mind for it. So do yourself a favor.
Now the most important part. Game day. Alright, back to talking about me. I’m an OK team builder at best. I don’t follow the metagame and am never fully up to date on what the next big thing is or all the great ideas that people have come up with. And it’s totally my loss. In my top 4 match with James Baek I had no idea what Clefairy’s type was. I didn’t even know what it’s ability was, but it seemed like everyone and their fanny granny seemed to have known what it was used for. I was actually considering Close Combatting it at one point because I thought it was pure Normal, but had a doubt that it turned into a Fairy type (didn’t everything that was pink turn Fairy?). I don’t even know the EV spreads on my Pokemon and slap on moves because they’re convenient! But don’t be like me. Follow the metagame and try to know everything about every Pokemon possible. Perfect your Pokemon, but above all, perfect yourself and your ability to improve and place consistently. Although Pokemon isn’t a reflex-based game, it’s totally dependent on who has more knowledge about the game, so stay on top of the various mediums of Poke-information.
But back to game day. This is 55% of your success. The other 45% went into the preparation you put in. This is why players like me who are trash at EV spreads excel while others who are savants at the art may fail to get a positive record. This is why people like me don’t really need to care about what specific fourth move is placed on your Pokemon if you know how to land the other three moves on incoming switch-ins.
Physical preparation. Eat properly. Drink plenty of water. Bring a water bottle to the tournament. Exercise is also really good leading up to tournaments. I know, I know, this is a Pokemon thread, but seriously, try getting blood rushing through your veins. Being in good physical condition helps peak mental condition. And rest. Your brain needs to be amply rested, so don’t make bad decisions the night before. I know it’s hard not to stay up until 2 AM because you only get a few days to see all your buddies across the nation, but at least take it easy the night before Swiss. The tournament starting at 8 AM doesn’t really help either. Adjust your sleep routine if you can – I know some of you gamers out there go to sleep at like 3 AM! These are things your mother would say and we all know momma knows what’s best. “MommaSol?” No.
Mental preparation. Don’t be nervous. Nervousness is the #1 reason people perform worse than they anticipated. I’ll be honest, I’m probably a mediocre player at best. I don’t spend nearly as much time as I should on this game and I don’t keep up with my Pokemon knowledge. Yet, when I face some friends who I KNOW have laddered higher than me (with a much better super duper anti meta team) I’m often shocked at how poorly they play. Predictions which they could’ve made on simulators in seconds fail to emulate in a physical setting. They start making unconventional plays unlike their true selves and are on tilt for the rest of the battle because they are in a tough spot which they’re rarely in. DON’T CHOKE. Imagine you’re taking a standardized timed test. You come across a very difficult problem which you’re not sure of. Deep inside you don’t know what the answer is and will probably guess and it all depends on if you’re lucky and circled the right answer. Now, do you die on that problem and go on tilt the rest of the test? Or do you acknowledge there was nothing you can do on and move on to the next problem? Such is every turn in Pokemon. There are so many games I’ve played where it came down to 50/50 chances. My opponent and I both know what the two options are, but it’s a coin toss regardless. Is the winner better because he got lucky with heads? Not necessarily, but if the other player goes on tilt and decides to perform worse in game two, even though he know he can win, then yes, the winner deserved that win. Your performance at live tournaments are not just a reflection of your skills at Pokemon. It’s a reflection of how well you handle stress, tilt, and nervousness. If you can’t juggle all three, you’re putting yourself in a bad spot. The good tournament player is the one who can be as consistent in live tournaments as he is online.
Get over your nerves. Breath evenly and focus only on the game at hand. Don’t worry about who you’re playing. Big names are literally just that: names. Round 1 of Regionals last year, I got 4-0d by a Choice Band Crobat (from a random player) and was ready to drop that same round. If I hadn’t gotten over my frustration and tilt, I wouldn’t have been able to come back and earn 2nd place. Channel your desire to win, frustration with losses, and other extraneous useless feelings into the game at hand and you will succeed. There is no room for your thoughts to wander and not think of every possible move your opponent can throw at you. You need to keep the same positive winning attitude throughout every game you play. You can’t fluctuate around and lose focus. BE CONSISTENT and play like your usual self.
Trust yourself. Trust your Pokemon. You know you’re ready for anything that any opponent throws at you. If you’re not, trust that your tournament persona will be able to figure things out and muscle his way through any sticky problems. Trust the team you’ve built and locked in. Don’t second guess any decisions on Pokemon, moves, items, or EV spreads. Doubt breeds fear. Fear breeds nervousness. Nervousness breeds losses. Trust that your team is the perfect sword for you. The weapon is only as good as its wielder. Play to your fullest potential and prove yourself- no one will care about the excuses you make as to why you weren’t ready. Be formulaic in the way you always set yourself up before tournaments. Consistency doesn’t happen without methodical planning!
I truly hope all of you who took the time to comb through this article will be able to take at least one thing out of this and help you become a better player. Thank you to everyone that has helped me become the player I am (you know who you are). Alex Buell, Johnathan Neville, Evan Deligiannis, and Sam Bentham for editing and fine tuning this article. And of course, a big thanks to you, the reader, for your time. See you at the top.
“You said you have a dream… That dream… Make it come true! Make your wonderful dream a reality, and it well become your truth… If anyone can, it’s you!” –N
- The Hawaiian snapback was bought when I was at worlds in Hawaii because all the pros seemed to have hats. That specific hat can only be bought at a specific store in Hawaii, so I thought it was special and indicated good luck. Just clearing things up. I’m not from Hawaii. I’m from Illinois. My parents are from India. But I study at Alabama. Got it? Good.
- Check out this guys Pokemon artwork; I really want him to get noticed by TPCi, so do me a favor and get their attention. His content found here and here is topnotch, I swear.