In case it has escaped anyone's notice, as new generations of pokemon games have been released, over time, there has emerged an increasingly competitive core group of pokemon gamers who practice getting the most out of their pokemon and their teams. With the use of programs such as NetBattle and now ShoddyBattle, pokemon "competitive battlers" are able to hone their skills without actually going through all of the effort of actually training their pokemon in the actual games. It has been in fact through the use of programs such as Shoddy and NetBattle that the pokemon metagame has emerged as a potent segment in the pokemon fandom, alongside such familiar facets as the rpg, tcg, and graphic design segments of pokemon fandom. While ShoddyBattle and NetBattle may have been used to actually develop the now familair tactics and strategy in the metagame, competitive battlers were also busy playing in game to decipher the code that results in two pikachus having completely different stats. While this end result is widely known and directly experienced every time you train two different pikachus, the actual mechanics and programming that nintendo set up which results in such stat diversification was also discovered by such competitive battlers, and is now a fundamental concept in the metagame.
While diamond and pearl at long last brought the internet as a viable platform to battle player's teams on, netbattle was in use previously for a number of years, though still to a largely select group of players who were familair with at least some of the basic tenets of the metagame. While the metagame has become increasingly acknowledged, even as early as through the battle frontier in emerald and the Journey Across America in 2006(?), there still remains a certain mytique surrounding the metagame. There are still players who rationally attempt to argue that their use of a Charizard and a Rapidash on the same team is "competitive." Others continue to be perplexed about the nature of Ivs and Evs and exactly how one plays "competitively."
In an attempt to remove this "mystique" from the metagame, pokemonfan.net's content is specficially designed to explain as many of the tenets of the metagame as possible in the most simplistic and clear manner as possible. We're here to teach and make things a little bit easier. Once you've got the jist of what the metagame is for the pokemon games, and how you too can play competitively, we hope you'll move on to other communities such as Battle Frontier or Smogon knowing that you found a solid foundation in the metagame here.
With that said, this "fundamentals" article hopes to serve as a basic starting ground and to establish many of the basic precepts of building a team for battling competitively before you move onto other sections of pokemonfan.net and learn more.
The first thing that must be established in a discussion of the fundamentals of team building in competitive battling is to distinguish the metagame from the "in game" experience. What we are referring to by "in game" is any team or battle (with exception to the battle frontier) which occurs inside of a pokemon game. Why are we distinguishing "in game" from the metagame/competitive battling? It's because pokemon teams and battles which occur "in game" are essentially operating in an environment which requires much less stringent rules, tactics, and strategy to emerge victorious. Even platinum, the latest pokemon game and arguably one of the most difficult, storyline wise, still requires much less effort on the player when battling and building a team. Ergo, just as a general cent of wisdom, it is wise not to apply strategy and tactics you may have found useful "in game" to the metagame. Another cent of wisdom is that you will in all likelihood find that smogon is rather notorious for having both very good players and very elitist players. Such players will be both quick and derisive in pointing out your application of "in game" strategy to the metagame, though this will probably happen anywhere. So with this fair warning in place, let us take a look at what makes the metagame a more disciplined and competitive environment then in game. At this point it would also be prudent to point out that the actual basics of the metagame are significant enough to deserve their own section, as we will turn our discussion in fundamentals to pokemon selection and team building, with the metagame in mind.
That said, there are several factors that one must keep in mind when looking towards building your own competitive pokemon team.
- pokemon selection and different tiers
- movesets, natures, and abilities
- game mechanics and evs/ivs
- training your pokemon team
- hold item use
Essentially the a lot of the job of building your team goes on not in the games, but with you and a notebook. A plan comes first as you leaf through your copy of Nintendo's Official Pokemon Full PokeDex Guide, or similar pokedex, and develop your team.
The selection of each of the 6 pokemon that will be on your team comes first. To facilitate this selection it is wise to refer to the Tier Listings page or a similar page on another site which lists what tier each pokemon is. Essentially what this does is it allows you to see how popular the different pokemon are. What the tier listing does is it reflects the general popularity of each pokemon by breaking them down into tiers. A pokemon's position in a tier is not just reflective of their popularity, it also takes in movesets, base stats, and effectiveness against some of the most popular pokemon in the OU tier. A combination of these attributes determines where any one pokemon is put. Garchomp, for instance, had originally been OU when Diamond and Pearl came out, but with the development of some very effective strategies (move sets) it was decided that it was a better fit in the Uber tier. The tier listings are subjected to continuous revision and are thus to be used only as a guide and not as a substitute for actual battle experience with your team, on shoddy for instance.
So besides tiers, you should also be looking at each pokemon's base stats and it's move pool (a list of all moves a pokemon can learn) in order to determine whether or not it is an appropriate selection to be included on your team. Smogon actually has catalogued, a list of the most popular and generally effective, move sets for each pokemon (final form only). While such move set listings are only a tool, it would not be advisable to ignore smogon's movesets, at the very least they provide critical information for how other competitive battlers will see the pokemon on your team and thus, what strategies they will use to counter them. Base Stats need to be considered because they provide you with information necessary to compare the stats of different pokemon, without having to go through the trouble of catching, evolving, and leveling up pokemon to a point where you can compare their stats in game. Base Stats also should be used when determining the Ev spread of your pokemon for it would be foolish to invest a whole 252 Evs into special attack, for instance, if that pokemon had a low base stat in special attack.
Now then, let's discuss some very basic elements concerning individual pokemon; most prominently, natures and abilities.
Also, in order to discuss the selection of a nature of your pokemon and how abilities should factor into your consideration, we must first finish discussing movesets, for movesets largely form the core of what makes your team, competitive. As we were discussing, while a pokemon's base stats and ev spread do factor largely into determining the success of both an individual pokemon and the team as a whole, it is each pokemon's moveset where your success or failure in battle will be determined. Because the moveset of each individual pokemon on your team is so critical, it is important that you not attempt to spend even a single move slot on a pokemon frivolously. Thus, do not double up on the same type of move on a single pokemon; i.e. do not give Charizard both Flame Wheel and Fire Blast. Secondly, focusing on combo attacks; i.e. rain dance and surf, is a good idea, but it has to be balanced and useful not just for that pokemon but for others on the team as well. For instance, having one pokemon lead with rain dance and then switching into a pokemon with the ability Swift Swim will allow it to take advantage of the previous pokemon using rain dance. It is very simple strategies like this which pave the way to a greater strategy which can pave the way to vital teamwork between the movesets of the different pokemon on your team.
As you are no doubt aware, there are 25 different possible natures that any pokemon can have; five of which do nothing stat wise. The remaining 20 natures all positively affect one stat by increasing all growth in that stat 1.5 times and negatively affect another stat by decreasing all growth in that stat 1.5 times. The subtle and cumulative effect that a pokemon's nature, base stats, and ev spread have on their stats when combined with an effective move set cannot be understated. This cumulative effect is so dramatic in fact that it is almost solely responsible for the rise of the metagame.
The last, depending on your perspective, thing you should consider when selecting each pokemon is the hold item that you'll give your pokemon. With the advent of diamond and pearl the potential, useful, hold item pool has grown considerably with such items as Life Orb, Choice Specs, and Choice Scarf, joining such perennial favorites as Leftovers and the Salac Berry. While last in our discussion they are by no means least as a hold item can mean the difference between success and defeat and there can be no such thing as a "wasted" hold item slot on any of your pokemon on your team.
Thus the following should be criteria for selecting each individual pokemon on your team, should you wish to play/battle competitively:
- what tier is your pokemon located in and how does it match up with some of the most popular pokemon in the OU tier?
- how will your pokemon function cooperatively with other members that you have selected for your team?
- what are the base stats of your pokemon and what moves best compliment and utilize the strengths of your pokemon as determined by its' base stats?
- based upon the moveset that you determined above, what nature would best compliment the moveset?
- based upon the direction you have chosen for your pokemon, through it's nature and moveset:
- what stats are most crucial to the success of your pokemon?
- and therefore, what Ev spread would be most appropriate for your pokemon?
- what item will compliment your pokemon and it's moveset?
Let's use an example so you can understand how some of this gets put into practice.
For this example let's use Garchomp, who has consistently been a favorite in the metagame since his introduction in diamond and pearl.
First, Garchomp has the following BaseStats:
Hp - 108
Atk - 130
Def - 95
Special Attack - 80
Special Defense - 85
Speed - 102
For a discussion on base stats, evs, and ivs, please go here.
As mentioned previously, Garchomp used to be listed in the OU tier, but now he is listed in the Uber tier. We'll probably cover specifics of why this is the case in the dp metagame article. In the meantime, suffice it to say, Garchomp shares the uber tier with the likes of Rayquaza, Mewtwo, Deoxys, Latios, Latias, other legendaries and other stronger pokemon. Now, let's take a look at the first moveset for Garchomp that smogon lists.
As you can see, Smogon includes all of the information that we summarized earlier, thus confirming how vital a role the moveset, nature, hold item, and Ev spread of a pokemon play in the metagame. Furthermore as you can see, smogon includes a description of each individual moveset they list for Garchomp. In each moveset's description you can see how they describe the effectiveness of that moveset when pitted against popular pokemon in the uber tier, based upon the moveset that a popular pokemon (such as Deoxys-S) would probably be running.
Smogon has, almost always, multiple movesets for every single pokemon, and it is wise to at least consider the movesets they list, even if you ultimately choose something different.
As a last note for building your competitive pokemon team, once you have all the plans laid out for it, the last thing you obviously have to do is build it and train it! Training and building your pokemon team in game can actually be one of the most challenging and rewarding parts of the entire process as breeding (for ivs) and Ev training alone can take up countless hours. I myself breed and train in emerald, since I can make use of about 18 different secret bases I have, each one possessing a team, which when beaten, gives me 18 Evs in one particular stat. So I use secret bases to Ev train, but there are countless "spots" where you can find wild or a trainer's pokemon to defeat so as to best facilitate your Ev training.
Now though that you are familair with what elements you need to consider to build a competitive pokemon team, you may yet find yourself standing among some of the elite pokemon masters around the community; good luck.