Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Pokemon: The Tactical Advantage

Many players will often assume that the most amount of damage is the ultimate factor in who wins, however that is not the case at all. This is why various status moves exist, to shift the advantage. Also many abilities can do this, like prankster or gale wings to take the speed advantage. There are a lot of moves and abilities that are overlooked though, because they offer no obvious advantage.

Luck based tactics can be very effective, but require the correct setups to work at all. Instant KO moves have very low chances of success, they are luck based. but with the correct build, a highly defensive pokemon that has defensive boosts, for example, will benefit the luck based tactic, offering you a lot of chances to use the high risk moves. But if you fail to build the pokemon correctly, you will fail.

Defensive tactics are overlooked a lot, turning everything into glass cannons. Sure, the glass cannon may be capable of sweeping another glass cannon who has lower speed, but you will lose that glass cannon. If your opponent is smart, you will lose that cannon quickly. Mega Kangaskhan is the perfect example of something many players turn into a glass cannon, my Sableye scoffs at those using foul play to bring them down.

So when you boost up the offensive ability, you lose out on a massive tank. Mega Kangas should be utilized as a wall more than a cannon, take advantage of those high defenses and use it's ability to make up for a lack in offensive, because one or two hits from foul play will bring it down if you don't.

One move that can give you a huge tactical advantage is power split, one of those highly underrated moves. Take a pokemon with almost no offense but massive defenses, power split with the toughest opponent. That opponent is weakened and your power swapper becomes invincible, possibly even a sweeper with the right damage moves.

There are also many moves you can use on an ally in doubles, like guard split for a highly defensive pokemon, use it on your glass cannon and that cannon becomes massive, while the user of guard split only suffers a little. This offers you a tactical advantage, which can win the match.

One other tactical advantage is the force switch, keep hitting your opponent with hard status effects in doubles matches and force them to switch their pokemon into attacks, with the right predictions you will easily win the match. Predicting your opponent's actions and builds is another way to claim the tactical advantage.

The most important tactic though, be prepared for anything. It is possible to build a team that is ready for any situation, in spite of claims to the contrary. Go through the moves and abilities of your teams, build a team that is capable of dealing with status and damage moves, plan on things like sleep, confusion, and poison. Expect the common ones, but do not forget the uncommon builds.

What brought this topic up was the fact that a lot of players who are cheating others out of rightful wins by disconnecting are either mega Kangaskhan players, or Smogonites. So I will take this last moment to add this, Smogon does NOT control Pokemon, if you cannot take the heat, change kitchens. Smogon has their own arena to battle in, those of us on Battle Spot are not interested in your rules, and most of us don't even know your rules, the few of us that even know you exist. So stop trying to force everyone to think like you do, in other words, stop cheating.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Effort Values: The Once Hidden Power of Pokemon

NOTE: Portions of this article are out dated, however the basic concepts are still valid. EVs are no longer logarithmic.

Once people discovered the system of what are commonly called EVs in Pokemon, they began keeping track of them meticulously. As a result, competitive battles rose to a new level. Now Game Freak has decided to just let us see them, and give us an alternative method for training them.

I love this new change, because tracking the EVs was always a pain for me so I never did it. Now I tailor the EV spreads to each pokemon and what job they will do in any battle. But a funny trend has happened, people think putting a maximum number of EVs in one stat actually benefits that stat more than say half in two stats.

Bulbapedia shows why this is not a good idea, the effect of Effort Values is logarithmic, meaning that the smaller amounts of EVs in a stat will have a greater impact on the final stat's value. Basically, if you just max out two stats you are wasting at least a quarter of those points. The reason for this is the square root of the value, when something is square rooted it takes more to gain an increase at higher values. From 0 to 4 you gain a +1 to most stats, depending on the IV and base value. For a +2 you will need about 36 points for most stats. That +3 is above 100 EVs .....

You see the pattern now. Though I used estimations on the actual values the general idea is that to get to the next increase you need even more than the previous one. There are some players who have gotten the brilliant idea of optimizing the EVs, which doesn't usually result in maxing anything out. For those who do not have the patience for this, I offer some quick advice.

In the super training screen, increase everything by 12 at a time, you're more likely to hit a squared number that way. Increase one stat until the graph point noticeably "moves," that's about when you will see a difference in most stats. Once a stat you really need is up to that first line, just inside the edge of the graph, consider that high enough.

Other stats that you won't depend on most you can usually go to a point about halfway to that line, and if you don't max out any stats you will find you can reach that halfway point with almost all the stats for the pokemon in question. Another way to make sure you get the most value for the points is to keep track of them and increase to each square value, in other words: 4, 9, 16, 25, ... etc.

I hope this helps with the mystery of how EVs work, and happy gaming.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Game Of Numbers: Failed Pokemon Strategies

One trend that I have noticed in rating battles is players relying on the best numbers instead of a strategy that can secure a win. While I do find some players who have pretty interesting tactics and strategies, the majority are all just "hit them with the hardest moves you can." Brute force can work in many games, but not in Pokemon. One reason are abilities.

I have been playing around with a Sableye and Klefki lead, both with prankster, giving them first move on status abilities. Loki, my Sableye, is a tough nut to crack as it is. He's highly underrated and his small form is misleading. With EVs evenly spread in both defenses and HP he has a lot of bulk for something so tiny, but most of all, only one weakness and several immunities.

But his move set is the key, same with the Klefki, they are 3 status moves and one damage move each. One of the pair alone will neuter most heavy damage causing opponents, but the two combined will reduce all the biggest, most powerful, pokemon into dead weight. Loki burns the opponents who pose the biggest threat, taunts other status users, restores damage he takes on his own. The damage move he has .... foul play. Foul play uses the target's attack stat for the damage, which is devastating to the heavy attackers.

Klefki has both screens and drain kiss, the fourth move I have yet settled into and it keeps changing at this time. If the Klefki sets up both screens, I usually start with reflect because most teams I have faced are mostly physical attackers, then all damage my team receives is halved. Even fire damage from a mega Charizard to my Klefki is only an inconvenience.

Leading with them both is kind of a cheap trick, but it's loads of fun, only because most opponents I face have almost nothing but heavy damage moves. Many of the overlooked, underrated, and generally scoffed at pokemon have benefits like Klefki and Sableye, their abilities and move pools can disrupt an opponent's primary strategy very easily. I also notice a lot of players running damage calculations, expecting the opponent to be as predictable as they are. This is cool, because when you run damage calculations it makes you even more predictable and anything I do will disrupt your tactics without much bother.

Now, the truly unusual pokemon I often run with, Galvantula. His name is Tallit, and yes, he's a glass cannon, but one of the more buff ones. Often my Gavlantula manages to take down two or three opponents before getting squished, which surprised me as I only expect him to take down one. The reason for this are the EV spreads. Putting maxed EVs in anything is a huge waste, optimized EVs tend to work the best. I have battled someone who optimizes their EVs and they are one of the toughest opponents I have ever faced.

The best way to explain it is this: The increase from 1 to 127 EVs is at least 4 times what the increase from 128 too 252 EVs is. The effect is logarithmic, and my pokemon are nearly optimized, as in the EVs are spread to the stats I think they need most but only a few are maximum. Not only do I get more of an increase from this, but the pokemon are more versatile. By sacrificing a small increase in one stat, I can put a huge increase in another.

This makes the entire team unpredictable, you could, in theory, catch opponents off guard with any member of the team. Other ways are to use moves that you never see, like soak on a Lanturn, it's very effective but rarely seen. Soak an opponent then strike them with a mega Ampharos, even those with lightning rod will go down.

Happy gaming to all, I hope you find this helpful in planning out strategies for not only Pokemon but any other PvP game.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Cheaters: This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things

A while ago, Game Freak had to shut down the ranked battles because of a program that was made which allowed people to cheat during the battles in game breaking ways. Recently a patch to the game fixed this, thankfully, and they restored out ranked battles to us. But there was something that got caught in the crossfire, something that I didn't use but liked it being in existence. The trade checking program.

Knowing your opponent's decisions before you make yours is certainly cheating, though I don't blame the hacker who actually figured out it. But knowing what you are getting in a trade is not really cheating. There are players of all games who are dishonest, the battle program is proof of that, and sometimes something crops up that looks like a cheat but really makes dishonest people more honest.

The trade program was one of those tools, trade cheaters, thieves basically, were unable to get away with cheating someone out of a legitimately obtained pokemon. So these thieves faded into obscurity while the program was popular. This made trades much better, we were able to trust more players who said they had something for trade that you wanted. Sure, shiny pokemon became more common, but those are nothing more than a fancy palette swap anyway.

Shiny collectors must remember one thing, there are a lot of players and way more pokemon caught or hatched than there are players everyday. Some of us just toss the shiny if it's not good enough for battle, we have no interest in them at all. Others prefer the standard look. What makes something valuable is when more people want it, correct? Well, most players don't care about shiny pokemon other than as a novelty.

I have one shiny, it was given to me by a friend just because I said I never got a single shiny in this gen. It is not battle ready, it doesn't even have any egg moves, it sits in my box looking different, and that is all. The only value this Bellsprout has is that it was a gift from a friend who I enjoy battling, which is a lot of value but the fact that it's a shiny only makes it stand out enough to remember it.

Anyhow, back to the main topic, enough about shiny values. Game Freak patching to break that battle cheat was a great thing, I am so glad it happened, but the backlash of them having to do that so quickly is that paranoia is already setting in the trade communities. I participate in an IRC channel, in which many members there have said they won't trade with anyone that they do not already have in their friends list except for junk. I don't blame them though.

Actually, the people who are at fault for this whole mess, the return of the paranoia, the power given to the thieves, and a neat little toy that some people enjoyed having, the ones who are to blame are those who would use a program to actually cheat at the game. The checker for the pokemon during trades is not a cheat, because it doesn't actually alter the rules of the game or give you any edge in the portion that is ranked. But the battle analyzer broke the game, literally in many cases, and ruined the fun of the most important part of the game.

So those of you who would have used this "battle analyzer" program, it's your fault, you are the scum that is ruining everything for everyone. Cheaters are, to put it more simply, no better than Adolf Hitler.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pokemon Battles: Why Smogon is Stupid

I get it, yes I do, you like the little offbeat challenged like all level one, all underused, etc. But for open matches, arbitrary restrictions on a ton of things is simply not of interest to the vast majority of the players. Let's catch up to the modern age already.

Originally the game system for Pokemon was broken, for lack of a better descriptive, when applied to competitive gaming. What do you expect? There was no wifi, there was barely a functional internet, and you were limited to about 10 feet from any possible opponent. Competitive play was simply a possibility .... for the future.

Fast forward ahead, we are finally here, in the future, when players from around the globe can finally battle in epic tournaments. Did you think Game Freak was just sitting around twiddling their thumbs this whole time as well? No, they tweaked, tested, and made changes to the battle system, correcting errors and filling in holes. They were balancing it out for competitive play. Is it perfect? Well, not yet, but it is actually balanced.

Let's take the big restriction I hear so much about, the sleep restriction. Yeah, can you believe Smogon players are so bad at the game, they have no idea or viable tactic to counter sleep? There's an ability, it's pretty common, insomnia. Why don't you have one of the pokemon with insomnia? Oh, that's right, because they can't do a ton of damage to the opponent. Well duh, that's what balances it.

Those who depend on non-damaging tactics like sleep are not powerful pokemon, they're all pretty easy to knock out with the right strike. Every time they are considering a pokemon, the only thing they ever look at are how high the stats are. This is because all they are playing is a brawl battle, no strategy, no tactics, no underhanded plays. Just a plain, straight up, who can do as much damage as everyone else.

Which is not bad, it's actually perfectly okay, and not my gripe. What is my gripe is how stupid these people are, how extremely shortsighted and naive they are. To make the claim that "pokemon is just broken in competitive play" is truly outdated, much worse, to assume that an elite few are better at making that call than the creators of the actual game is arrogant. It would be the same as a human saying that honey from bees is made wrong.

Another good example is the evasion boosting, double team being the most common move. Use it on a heavy hitter and it's a waste of a turn, and move slot. With all the combinations of types, not to mention double type pokemon, you need those heavy hitters to have as many different move types as possible, and keep at least one of each STAB available.

Then your status inflicters are the ones you need double team on, so they have a chance to do something. Good status inflicting pokemon are all low in stats, most cannot take a hit, few can do any damage, their role is to disrupt the tanks, walls, and stallers. How can they do that job, if they are knocked out by a single blow from one of them? Double team becomes the balancing move, you have an escape hatch, a reason to use a variety of pokemon.

Another thing about Smogon fans, they don't use bugs. Bug pokemon are awesome, most of them are have move pools that can frustrate any opponent, force them to think outside the box. But most bugs are easy to knock out, which is fine considering what they can do for your team. Poison, sleep, stun, draining, everything in on kind of pokemon. But their stats are lower than most of the others, of course, they'd be capable of sweeping if they had a total of 600 like the dragons.

There it is, the one thing that Game Freak really needed to fix, the most broken thing in the series, the dragon. Dragons are so cool looking, I love them, but their typing was broken in the game for so long, and they were never really that rare. The thing is, it's not because of their abilities that they were broken, it's because of their stat totals. With ice and themselves as the only real threats, players suddenly had teams of nothing but dragons, which was possible and still never have any of the same pokemon.

But instead of offering some arbitrary ban, Game Freak put their heads together and decided that their new type, the fairy, will be the bane of dragons. Fairy are not just the bane of dragons, they are the bane of almost all tanks. A team of fairies and bugs, with mostly status moves, can wreck a team of dragons, as long as you don't follow arbitrary rules formulated by a popular opinion of some few elite jerks who think they're the best of the world at something.

So I put out this challenge, all you snooty Smogon fools, battle players who don't follow your idiotic rules, while still following your own idiotic rules. If you can defeat all of us, without ever losing, then you can claim to be something. Until then, you are just too weak and too stupid to play real Pokemon.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Pokemon: The Convention of Unconventional

My favorite battles are with players who use unconventional move sets and tactics. The biggest benefit is that it helps you balance your teams out better, the other benefit is that it teaches you several unconventional tactics. These unconventional tactics can easily throw a trainer off, while also eliminating the raw power moves' advantage.

Let's look at my Galvantula tactic, which works so well against a Greninja with protean. Greninja with protean is pretty much all I see now, it's predictable, another predictable move is to use ice beam on my Galvantula. The problem is that my Galvantula will stay standing after the first hit, the Greninja is now double ice type and gets hit by my Galvantula's gastroacid. Now the Greninja is stuck in ice, my slower partner for the Galvantula then smacks the frog with a fighting move and knocks it out in one hit.

Yes, it's that simple, my partner for Galvantula is either my Seismitoad, which is never targeted by the Greninja, or something that's weak to ice but can take the damage from one hit. Which depends on if I want my Galvantula later or can afford to sacrifice it. Now look at why this actually works, the player with the Greninja is looking at a bug, thinking ice will KO it with the double STAB, so they don't put any EVs into the defenses, expecting it to sweep in a doubles match with it's superior speed.

The problem with their tactic is that double ice is also extremely weak to fighting moves, so even without STAB the Seismitoad can KO the Greninja with one hit from a drain punch. Thus the only way a Greninja could avoid this is to sacrifice some of the speed and attack EVs to increase the defenses. That is unconventional, however, it is the only thing that stops my tactic in it's tracks, the Greninja survives and still out-speeds my Galvantula, but it still has to switch out to reclaim protean or it will be down in the next round no matter what it tries.

The best effect of unconventional tactics in battles is that they almost always catch the trainer off guard, unless they have encountered that strategy or tactic somewhere they will struggle to figure out a new tactic to counter it. In Battle Spot I was constantly taking out Greninjas with that tactic, and I mean a lot of them. I have other tactics to use against Greninjas in doubles matches as well, because of practicing with other unconventional trainers.

That's the irony of the underused pokemon as well, trainers often only use pokemon with high stats, and this reduces the variety in the battles a lot. It gets redundant after a while, facing the same teams, but when they are facing a pokemon that is not common they panic. They panic because they are unprepared for it, they have nothing to counter it. One example of an underused pokemon that can really catch people off guard is the Sableye with prankster.

Sableye's stats are low, however it's lack of weaknesses make those low stats almost comparable to a Seismitoad. Add prankster and a good set of status moves that trainers won't expect and you will have the advantage. Drop a few status effects, especially one of the major ones like sleep, onto their toughest tanks and you can just chip away their hitpoints in your own time. Or hit it with a bunch of stat changes.

Though stat changes can be reset by switching, you have taken their advantage away from them whether they switch or not. If you know the other pokemon in their team, you can spam attacks those are weak too on the weakened ones. These attacks will still do some damage, more if you weaken it well enough, and when they switch in the next one you will likely hit it with a super effective move.

Changing status values can be devastating if you can predict your opponent's actions well, thus the common tactics and pokemon become a disadvantage no matter how high their stats are. If you are lucky then even without good predictions, you will still be at an advantage with the correct status moves.

This brings us to my favorite tactic, shifting chance to your side. Paralysis and sleep are great luck based statuses to inflict, it gives you time to buff up or switch pokemon without much risk. Confusion is another good luck status to cause, though not always the best because it can be cured by switching. The goal of this strategy is to decrease their chances of being able to use any moves, then you can switch in some heavy hitters or sacrifice those with the status moves and cause some damage to keep the edge regardless of losing one or two pokemon.

The sacrifice play is one often overlooked, it's valuable for many reasons, one is that it avoids switching into a damage move, the other is that the opponent has to use PP to bring them down, valuable PP. If your typing is done right, they will not have enough big damage moves to bring your tanks down before they can claim your victory.

Typing is another factor often missed, with the return of STAB this can really hurt your team. Often I will find a team that the trainer has too many of one type of damaging move, and none of another. My team is balanced in type weaknesses, at most two or three of my pokemon will have a type as a weakness unless I suspect they will not have that type of move available. Also the most common types used are best avoided as weaknesses, which this changes depending on which pokemon is the most popular of the week.

The best rule of thumb, if it's popular, avoid using it. That is the ultimate tactic, don't use a common one because the best trainers will be prepared for it, but do prepare for the most common weaknesses for your team. This means you need more than six pokemon ready for battle, so you can change your team when needed. You also have to practice different strategies all the time, get use to your teams, all of them. Don't waste too much time on one single team, or you will lose the advantage over the overused pokemon.

I hope this article helps some new trainers to offer up more challenges in the near future. I don't mind losing, as long as you don't cheat, and I hope you will offer something new to see. Also, never overlook the underdogs, even an underdog can bring you down.