Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Basic Guide to Consistency


Pokemon, it is often said, is a luck based game. Many players have a horror story consisting of the time they missed Eight Rock Slides or were Paralyzed six times in a row or a crucial Freeze ended their tournament run. However, despite the fact that Pokemon appears to be a luck based game there are many players who are able to perform consistently at the top regardless of the format. Players such as Enosh Shachar who almost always top cuts and has a strong record behind him, Aaron Zheng the two time US National Champion, the Korean sensation Sejun Park, and of course the three time World Champion Ray Rizzo himself all seem to defy the notion that luck dominates the game of Pokemon. Yet there can be no denying the fact that games are lost to Swagger or Thunder Wave or an untimely critical hit. My goal in writing this analysis is to help pass my limited understanding of this apparent paradox onto you.

Ray, Aaron, Sejun, Enosh and the other handful of top players have a key something that sets them apart from other players, and it is perhaps the most obvious key to success in Pokemon and therefore the ideal starting point. All of the aforementioned players are, without a doubt, good Pokemon Players. They don't need to rely on percentages to win matches, as with superior prediction and teams that fit their individual playstyles (not to mention the tricks they often include in their teams) these players are able to consistently win because their play is consistently above the average level. However, there is another subtle clue that sets these players apart from the proletariat. Their playstyles, although different, are similar in one aspect. These players all understand the basic concept of risk and reward. What it takes to understand risk and reward is the ability to remove oneself from a battle and step back in order to analyze the situation. It doesn't matter if you can predict a protect and double up on an opposing Pokemon if a remaining Pokemon who will be sent in can sweep your team. These players don't take unnecessary risks, and they are more consistent because of it. Understanding risk and reward is also what lends these players to being able to make high level predictions more frequently and more confidently than the players below their skill level. By placing themselves in their opponents shoes, these players are able to take advantage of situations in which the opponent has only one option in order to claim victory. This mindset also does not lend itself typically to losing a lead due to poor playing. Playing in this vein is especially dangerous as a small advantage can turn quickly into an insurmountable one as careless choices that threaten to remove a lead, no matter how small the odds of it occurring, are generally avoided. 

Another aspect to performing consistently lies in the preparation and the team you bring to each event. Half the battle is using a team that performs well and you are comfortable with, but also performs consistently. Finding a team like this can be difficult as it is unique to each individual players specific battling style, yet some general ideas can be utilized to great effect. The following is my general checklist when analyzing my teams consistency:

1. Attend to your Accuracy
When building a team, players are often forced to choose between higher power, lower accuracy moves versus lower power, higher accuracy moves. While I dont feel as a general rule all moves on a team should be One-Hundred percent, I do think that each individual Pokemon that chooses a more powerful move in exchange for accuracy should have a very good reason why. For example, on a Choice Scarf Salamence I personally do not feel their is a suitable alternative to using Draco Meteor. The Ten percent chance of a Draco Meteor missing, although game changing often, does not effectively account for the damage that Draco Meteor is able to dish out and the KO's it is able to achieve. However, despite the fact that Draco Meteor is more or less essential, certain precautions may be taken. I chose to run Dragon Pulse alongside Draco Meteor despite its redundancy in typing and weakened power simply because I wanted a STAB move with perfect accuracy to pick off middle HP foes without risking Draco Meteor missing. Another choice I chose on my Choice Scarf Salamence was to run Flamethrower instead of the more powerful Fire Blast. Despite Flamethrower's lower base power, I found that not having to account for the possibility of a miss outweighed the gain in power. Some Pokemon, however, are unable to choose between high and low accuracy moves, such as Rotom-Wash with Will-o-Wisp. In these cases, the Pokemon should be used accounting for the likelihood of a miss and never relying fully on a percentage less than One-Hundred.

2. Offensive Teams can go Off Kilter
One of the playstyles that typically I try to stay away from is heavy offensive teams, consisting of frail powerful, fast Pokemon that attempt to end games quickly. This particular playstyle is not consistent because of its inability to effectively handle Critical Hits or Confusion particularly well. Each Pokemon on a heavy offense team is more essential due to its ability to deal with particular threats to the team as a whole, and owing in general to the poor bulk of so called "glass cannons" a clever player is able to preserve their specific counters until the threat is Knocked Out.

3. Defensive Synergy
In addition to making sure that a team has enough defensive bulk to take attacks is the necessity for being able to switch out of one attack into another in order to gain a field advantage. Defensive synergy is important because it allows a good player to take advantage of an opponent through prediction, as often a not very effective Critical Hit does less damage than a Super Effective attack.

4. Gaining Momentum
Part of the ticket to success in Pokemon is not only making big flashy predictions but also gradually clawing you're way up to gain an advantage. By gradually improving your position in the game and refusing to relinquish your advantage, a small lead can easily snowball into a large one. An opponent who loses ground turn by turn will eventually, inevitably find themselves in a position where their chances of victory are very slim. This is the reason that making high risk high reward predictions is not generally a favorable option when a player already has an advantage.

5. Multiple Options
Earlier I touched on being able to take advantage of an opponent who only has one good move available to them. The converse of this is that you generally want to give yourself as many good options as possible when building a team,so as not to allow your opponent any opportunity to take advantage of an obvious move. This concept is slightly hard to grasp, yet if you keep an eye out for it while playing it should become apparent.
6. Provide a balanced team that does not require intense prediction to win
One of the hardest challenges presented by Regionals to me is the fact that I am unable to accurately guess the skill level of my opponents until the battle begins. My first opponent in the Virginia Regionals last weekend had a team that had three fire types and a bunch of standard Pokemon, so I assumed he was probably not very good, yet he was my only loss in Swiss play. Part of the reason I lost was because I was unable to effectively determine how in depth I should make my predictions, as unfortunately I had a weakness to Fire Pokemon, and because my team was unable to handle his regardless of the moves we made, I was defeated. Additionally, certain threats can be checked more in depth than others: I generally over prepare for sleep and confusion simply because I dislike the random element it adds to matches, yet because of my preparation I lose to sleep and confusion less often than I did before.

Lastly, I want to touch on a small bit of advice that has helped me throughout many tournaments. In any given situation, it is safest to always assume the worst. If you play always expecting the least desirable outcome, you are able to not get caught completely off guard and can even begin planning a reaction to a worsr possible scenario event. Whenever I spore a Pokemon I play assuming it will always get a one turn sleep, which has been extremely helpful in the situations that I have redirected an attack from a sleeping Pokemon on the off chance that it decides to wake up. This is an idea that is harder to simply pick up and go with, yet it can be extremely beneficial in providing results.

I hope you have enjoyed these few thoughts, I have more to say on the matter but I feel the information provided is an understandable basic structure. Look for more on consistency in the future!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice "guide", i'm from Chile and this past weekend there was the first "big official tournament" and i can say that the best opponents i had, and the ones who finally get top cut, where the ones that understand that doesn't risk excesively and play like you said.