The Blame Game

You tell ’em Spheal

Hey there Hat Lovers,

Today I’ll be discussing a topic a lot of players have been murmuring about. It’s not a fun one to bring up, and it’s a bit self-contradictory to bother writing a whole article about a topic no one should bother bringing up, but here goes:

I call hax!

It’s easy to get riled up over some bad luck. A lot of players liken the luck aspects of Pokemon to the odds of bad beats in Poker. No one feels they deserved to lose when the odds were in their favour, and no one wants to hear about someone else’s bad beat unless there’s some funny story or interesting lesson involved. Simply put, unless you have something relevant to discuss, you’re just complaining if you bring up the details of your loss and the end message is “I don’t feel I deserved to lose.”

You’ll notice I used the word “deserved,” as if people are owed something by the game that will have our RNG rolls land as we want them to when we need them. But of course we aren’t owed anything, and we don’t “deserve” to be rewarded with a win every time we make the right play. We deserve to be rewarded with a win the proportion of the time that play would win us the game. If you miss a Play Rough and it costs you the game, that’s the 10% risk that comes with running Play Rough. But I doubt you often think “thank goodness Play Rough hit” the other 9 times you needed a Play Rough to win.

Negativity Bias” is the term given to people’s tendency to focus on the negative things that happen rather than the positive. It’s easy to forget the 9 times you won off of Play Rough when you’ve experienced the 1 time you lost off a miss. If you need convincing that the RNG isn’t out to get you, try this: over the next ~20 games you play, count the number of times your 90% accurate move hit or miss. I would be surprised if anyone hit less than 75% of their Overheats or Draco Meteors. And I imagine anyone that is at such a low ratio could bring it up to 90% with an increased sample size.

Curse you RNG gods!

This article comes in the wake of the May International Challenge, where trainers played 60 games over 3 days. If you used a 90% 60 times in your 60 games, you’re supposed to miss 6 of those over the course of the tournament! Six negatives is plenty of negative experience to remember. Those 54 games where things went as planned are folded and stored in the back of your mind never to be seen again. It’s a fallacy to say you deserved those wins, but didn’t deserve your 6 losses due to “hax.” The two are tightly intertwined. That’s the deal you made with the devil.

How to improve

It’s all fine and good to recognize that “hax” are part of the game; that we won’t always win a game we expected to. But the more important part is to recognize how to avoid such a situation in the future.

Recently, I attended a local premier challenge finishing 3-3. I think I can say that my head wasn’t in the game that day, but I can also say that luck wasn’t on my side. In round 1, at the end I lost because I missed a Will-o-Wisp. In round 3, I lost because I became paralyzed (Thunder Wave) and was fully paralyzed to prevent my game-winning attack. In round 4 I lost because my opponent got a ~35% damage roll.

But if I left my tournament report there, I wouldn’t be doing things justice as far as the true reasons I lost.

In round 1, I also made a foolish switch, saving my Bisharp from a Scrafty, but letting Venusaur become Perish-trapped. And what’s worse is that afterwards, I failed to see through obvious perish trapping plays and I hit a Protect once or twice when I probably should’ve seen it coming. But what’s more is that I could have recognized that my only out to not fainting to Perish Song was to double target their Gothitelle and not worry about the Politoed, meaning I should have ignored the urge to be clever and predict their Protects. It wasn’t a great start to the day. The game ended with my lone Rotom vs. his lone Scrafty, and Rotom missed a Will-o-Wisp required to tank his next Crunch and deal burn damage over a couple turns before finishing him off with Thunderbolt. I could blame the Will-o-Wisp, but that was a sloppy game on my part and I didn’t need to put myself in a position where I had to rely on Will-o-Wisp in the first place.

Sure, 85% of the time, when I played the way I did, I would have still won. But had I played a little smarter, had I sacrificed the Bisharp immediately, had I recognized a win condition and coupled that with some basic prediction, I would have won 100% of the time. That’s 100% my loss.

My face when I stare down
a Rotom I can’t KO

I don’t have as in-depth a story involving my Gyarados being paralyzed. The game is a bit fuzzier in my memory, but I don’t recall any egregious misplays. Of course that doesn’t mean I didn’t make any. I think there was a turn I should have Protected, but didn’t without a good reason. What was really odd about that game was that his Rotom-H didn’t have an electric attack. I was dodging in and out, Intimidating with Gyarados trying to avoid a Thunderbolt when it turns out I didn’t need to. And at the end, I was Thunder Waved to prevent Gyarados using Ice Fang on Garchomp for the win. Accounting for accuracy, I could say that I should have won that scenario ~70% of the time, but let’s get real here:

Any other Rotom would have been carrying Thunderbolt and I would have lost that turn anyways had he used Thunderbolt instead of Thunder Wave. I can’t blame my luck when the same game played with an extremely standard moveset would have resulted in my loss. I was playing with the expectation that he had Thunderbolt, and I still would have fallen victim to it. As such, I can’t even call my Gyarados switching a misplay to watch for in the best of 3, because it wasn’t what lost me the game. Had he run Thunderbolt, that was my loss to take 100% of the time.

My third loss , both myself and my opponent were pretty done with the day, and just there for fun. We both aspired to much higher than starting the day 1-2. Neither of us were really concentrating very hard on the match and we both slipped up here and there I think. I lost the game when his Mega Gengar Shadow Balled my Gardevoir for KO. I knew it was a bulky Gengar and had done calcs before to see if my Gardevoir could survive its Shadow Ball. I misremembered and instead of Sucker Punching the 1 HP M-Gengar, I used Dazzling Gleam and planned to Assurance the Ferrothorn sitting next to it. But the true calc is that I survive Shadow Ball the majority of the time, not all the time. Had I remembered this, I probably would have played differently.

Your point?

My point is that each of my 3 losses that tournament I could be blaming on “hax.” I lost a game on a 15% chance, a 29% chance, and a 37.5% chance. Each loss I could attribute to being on the receiving end of poor luck, but I can’t look back at that day as anything other than losing 2 games I know I could have won with better play, and 1 game where I am sure better plays could have been made, though I don’t recall them specifically. Each of those losses were completely deserved. My goal as a player should be to put myself in a situation where the RNG has as little role in determining the winner as possible. I failed to do that on 3 separate occasions and 3 times in a row it came back to bite me. For that, I can only blame myself.

To grow as a player and become better, the only way you should ever reflect on a tournament is not to say “I would have won if only this hadn’t happened.” Instead, ask yourself “how could I have played differently, or built my team differently to avoid my losses?”

I want to clarify, I don’t think that every loss to “hax” can be attributed to subtle personal errors. Often your team’s move accuracy can’t be altered too drastically without missing out on KO’s. But if you don’t look to all possible sources for your loss, you can’t get better.

I’d love to see Aaron Zheng chime in here with his thoughts after his famous Worlds Top 4 match where he missed 5 Will-o-Wisps in a row, and Ryosuke played a strategy (paralysis + confusion) designed to abuse probabilities. Looking at his series, I could say he was robbed of a win in one of his games due to bad luck. But in the third game of that series the RNG favoured Aaron if anything, and yet he still lost. So can I really say that he was robbed of a win earlier? As a study experience, I think that series is an amazing one to reflect on how luck affects the game. I strongly encourage everyone to give it a watch if they can:

In Conclusion

Luck Probability is part of the game. As players, we can choose to follow one of two ideals:

  1. We can abuse probabilities and try to generate situations where the RNG rolls in our favour more often than not.

    Or

  2. We can choose to avoid probabilities and try to generate as few situations where the RNG determines the outcome of a match as possible.

Both extremes hold merit, but you should recognize the faults in either approach and where in this continuum you lie. Nonetheless it is foolish to blame the RNG without first acknowledging how well you’ve ascribed to your choice of ideal.

Whether you embrace the RNG or refuse to acknowledge its presence, it is a ubiquitous force in the game of Pokemon.

Cheers,
Crawdaunt out

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3 comments

  1. Needs an Assault Vest set, and your EVs could use some tweaking on especially on the non sitrus sets. 252 HP isn't only a max HP, but it's a sandstorm number to boot. 252 HP/68 SDef survives Timid Mega Manectric thunderbolt all the time.

    -bearsfan

    Like

  2. An Assault Vest set is an interesting idea if it could survive two Thunderbolts or something similar, however I haven't found Azumarill to work without some way of boosting it's attack.

    Like

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