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Metagame Basics
Written by MewDragon   
Tuesday, 24 February 2009 23:30

The Metagame Basics article functions as the second half of the introduction to's content with the Fundamentals article having served as the first. 

If you've not yet gone and read the Fundamentals article and are trying to begin your journey into the world of competitive battling and pokemon training then we strongly recommend starting there.

The whole idea behind the metagame basics article is to introduce the average player to what exactly the metagame is, how and where it's
played, how it's developed, and in what nature it exists on the net and how players contribute to it.

The best way to think of the Pokemon metagame and competitive battling is to realize that at its heart it consists of a system designed to organize Pokemon into groups based upon combat effectiveness and a series of "counters" for every pokemon in the game.  The "series of 'counters' for every pokemon in the game" is by far the most true statement and most simple way to sum up the entire metagame.  When we talk about "counters" we mean that the metagame works from the basic type strength and weakness chart and takes it to another level by having specific pokemon which function to counter another type of pokemon.

To get a clearer idea of how this trend of "counters" dominates the metagame let's take a look at one of the Pokemon in the OU or Over Used
tier, Celebi. 

OU tier pokemon.

Now, as you're no doubt aware, Celebi is a grass and psychic type with weaknesses to flying, poison, dark, bug, ghost, ice, and fire types.  The metagame takes these weaknesses a step further and says:

"Well since Tyranitar has sandstorm to boost his special defenses and protect against Celebi's grass type attacks, he has time and the attack to make use of a dark type attack move to try and finish Celebi off."

Then, if Tyranitar was used to counter Celebi, whoever was using Celebi would bring in a different pokemon in an attempt to counter Tyranitar.  It's almost like a game of chess, which is why prediction is also very important in the metagame as you attempt to feel out your opponent to determine what pokemon they have on their team, what move sets each pokemon has and how your opponent will react and attempt to counter your own team of Pokemon.

At this point in time it's prudent to go back and talk about this idea of "combat effectiveness."  As I said the metagame can be summed up as being based on organizing groups based upon their combat effectiveness.  This is essentially the other half of the story, especially if the idea of 'a series of counters' is the first half.  Essentially combat effectiveness deals with both a pokemon's base stats and its' move pool.  Move pool just refers to all the different moves that a pokemon is able to learn, this would include regular level up moves, tms, hms, moves taught by a move tutor, and moves passed down through breeding (egg moves).  As we said though, a pokemon's type weaknesses
are central in this system of counters, but just as central to that system of counters is a pokemon's combat effectiveness, for to counter that Celebi for instance, we don't just take into account its' grass and psychic types, we also take into account what move set it is running/using.  Given that Celebi, and any other pokemon, has usually a pretty large variety of moves to choose from in its' move pool and if each of those individual movesets that you can create from the move pool allows Celebi to successfully counter different pokemon, with each moveset, then that raises Celebi's combat effectiveness.  A better way to think about it is that having a variety of different and effective movesets will raise the utilitarian value of Celebi making it more useful against more pokemon.  This also tends to raise a flag in competitive battling circles and thus trainers who use Celebi, or any other pokemon with a variety of different good movesets, will find more people having counters on their team designed to trap and defeat Celebi.

Basically though, a pokemon's "combat effectiveness" is determined by several things:

- what movesets and how many different movesets can I compile from any one particular pokemon's move pool?
- what base stats does my pokemon have?  How will they factor into my choice of a moveset, what Evs will I have to
choose which will make best use of the base stats that my pokemon has?

Both of these factors will determine how useful your pokemon is when it gets matched up against popular pokemon in the OU tier.

So, as I said before, and hopefully have demonstrated, the metagame is very heavily based off these ideas of a pokemon's combat effectiveness/usefulness and this "series of counters."  In any event, because the metagame is based off these two things it virtually ensures that the metagame will be in a continually changing state.  The "series of counters" does much to ensure a changing metagame since people will be, eventually, forced to switch movesets or pokemon based upon what is being used in other trainer's teams so as to be able to stay "current" and "competitive" in the metagame.  In a sense, there is an ongoing effort to develop new movesets from currently existing movepools in an effort to find a new playable moveset that will work against any of the major threats in the current metagame.

You may have heard of pokemon online battle simulators, such as netbattle or more recently, shoddybattle.  Because of the popularity of these programs and their ease to access and use, it ensures that pokemon trainers can easily test out new and different teams.  Both Shoddy and Netbattle allow you to pick your pokemon's Ivs and Evs and thus it bypasses the entire difficult in game breeding and ev training stages and brings trainers straight to having to deal with the strategy and tactics of the metagame.  Because of the prevalent use of shoddy and netbattle it has ensured that it takes much less time for different tactics or more specifically, changes in the use of widely accepted movesets, to be brought into play by some trainer and then discovered and used again by other trainers.  This pattern is another reason why the metagame changes so rapidly and is also why it has been nearly impossible to nail down and keep track of, in anything close to real time, specific 'trends' in the metagame, because the minute such a trend, say Garchomp's popularity, emerges, someone else is already using something to try and effectively counter it.

An even greater truism of the metagame is that with the addition of, virtually any main stream pokemon game(rbygscrsefrlgdpp), the metagame changes again.  Since we've established the metagame is based upon counters and movesets, the addition of new pokemon, new moves, etc is a huge factor in really taking the metagame and giving it a vicious shaking.

Furthermore as the metagame has developed over the years it has also expressed, through tiers, different 'sub areas' of the metagame.  Basically people who battle solely with pokemon from the UU tier, for instance, or with pokemon in the Uber tier.

So, what does all this mean for you, and more specifically for your team?  Several things.  

First off, the synergy of your pokemon team will play an enormous role in the overall effectiveness of your team, or how well you'll do when you battle against other trainers.  What I mean by "synergy" is basically that your team functions so that for each pokemon that your opponent counters on your team, you have another pokemon on your team to counter the pokemon your opponent just sent in.  If you build your team with this idea in mind, it becomes much easier to play effectively.

Secondly it means that you ought to use the tiers as a guide, and not as a rule book.  The tier list does change, and there's an entire set of pokemon which even have a tier named "Border Line", which means that the pokemon in the BL tier set between the other tiers and can easily be in either or both.  Because of the nature of the tier system, the best thing you can do is be active in using and trying out different ideas you have for your team on Shoddy Battle.  Once you've nailed down a team that you like to use and is generally effective, most of the time, then go back into your diamond or other pokemon game and start breeding your team.

As the last section of our metagame basics article, I'd like to cover different types of "roles" that a pokemon can fulfill.  I still don't like calling it a "role" but it's a pretty commonly used term these days, and so I'll borrow it.  Essentially what a "role" is, is that it is a specific function that any one pokemon will serve on a pokemon team.  The specific function, or task, for which that pokemon serves is inevitably determined, primarily, by its' moveset and the moveset inevitably defines the name that is given to the
specific role.

You will see many references when you are on gamefaqs, smogon, and other competitive battling pokemon forums and sites to these different roles.  Many times the 'role' is specific to a certain pokemon running a particular moveset, such as "CurseLax."  Other times the 'role' is a generic term to describe any pokemon running a moveset with a specific focus.  The term "sweeper," "tank," or "staller" are such terms where a specific role is described that many different pokemon can assume.

More often than not such roles are simplified even further by what particular stat they play from.  Such as a sweeper, which describes a pokemon an offensively oriented pokemon, or a pokemon which is meant to attack and have strong attack stats but that is not necessarily expected to last long, but is expected to be able to take out pokemon in a short mattter of time.  Basically though such roles, as a sweeper, can be simplified even further by saying that a pokemon can be either a physical or a special sweeper.  We'll use this Salamence, which is a physical sweeper, as an example to demonstrate how roles are used effectively to summarize a pokemon's purpose on a team and it's moveset.  This Salamence has also been given the name of "CBMence" and so has a similar name which is defining it's particular moveset, such as our CurseLax we mentioned before.


CBMence set
Salamence - Adamant
Evs: 4 HP, 252 Atk, 252 Speed
Item: Choice Band
Hidden Power Flying
Rock Slide

As you can see, Salamence has several solid offensive moves and also has Evs maxed out in Attack and has Choice Band to boot.  Tacking on those speed evs is essential as speed can more often than not mean the difference between victory and defeat, especially in the metagame.  The end result that you have though is a Salamence that is designed to virtually annihilate most anything in very short order.  This Salamence is in fact an excellent example of exactly what a sweeper is.  In a similar fashion, tanks, annoyers, stallers, clerics, etc. (the list goes on and on) will operate much in the same pattern as this Salamence, with the exception that they take up traits of whatever "role" they are being classified as.

Thus you should have a very general understanding of the basic principles which make up the metagame.  The metagame may well be a very competitive, and rightly so,
sect of the pokemon fandom, but nevertheless it is also one of the most fun and most rewarding.



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