Hello hat lovers!
This topic will be more rambly than usual, and some aspects of it will be less Pokemon specific. I wanted to highlight some flaws I thought people had when it came to approaching the game. I had meant to write this a lot sooner but didn’t quite know how to structure the post, so the tangents I go off of will be informal, but I figured it was the best way I could simply spew out my thoughts on this kind of topic.
Also, all of the examples here will be related to the VGC 2015 format and not 2016, because I’m not overly familiar with the new format just yet. 2015 is also the more developed meta game which makes it easier for me to determine what is actually effective instead of more creative ideas people have but have fairly untested success.
Common flawed approaches
The biggest flaw I see with how people approach problems in team building is that they often over extend to beat certain Pokemon. When asking themselves how to beat a certain threat, for whatever reason, the answer always seems to be to find something that out speeds and OHKOes said Pokemon (for example, when struggling with Landorus, people will use Scarf Mamoswine). This is a terrible habit I think people need to break. This is a flawed approach because the usefulness of a Pokemon like Scarf Mamoswine is very limited, and no matter how common Landorus may be, your goal is still to beat as many different threats as possible and not just whatever is popular. Also, because match ups don’t exist in a vacuum, using Mamoswine as your primary answer to Landorus will counter-intuitively make it more difficult to accomplish your goal, as Mamoswine is more easily dispatched by Landorus’ common partners.
This is the same reason why Blaziken is actually a poor solution to CHALK (and why I think it’s a poor Pokemon in general), regardless of the fact that it’s capable of OHKOing 4/6 of that team. Blaziken may beat most of CHALK one-versus-one, but when faced with combinations that the doubles format brings, it is too susceptible to Trick Room, Intimidate, Thunder Wave, or simply just the inherent flaw it has by being a Pokemon that only carries single target attacks.
Think of it this way: have you ever thought about what makes traits like Intimidate and redirection, among other things, so effective? The reason is that they cover a wide array of threats. Intimidate gives you an option against virtually all physical attackers, and redirection does the same with Pokemon that only carry single target attacks. The approach of finding something that outspeeds-and-OHKOes a threat has limited uses and you leave your team flawed as a result. Being successful in this game has more depth than just trying to KO everything as fast as possible, and while difficult, the less obvious solutions will often solve more problems than just trying to mindlessly find whatever the damage calculator tells you is the best.
On another note, something else that perplexes me about people’s team building approach is the idea of something that is “anti meta game”. I understand the importance of emphasizing good match ups versus the most popular choices, but why is it that that label of “anti meta game” is often attached to Pokemon that are less popular? There are no bonus points for not using common Pokemon. Also, a Pokemon like Landorus fits every criteria of “anti meta game”, does it not? After all, it has a positive match up versus Kangaskhan, Charizard, Heatran, Thundurus, and it has Intimidate to help control opposing Landorus. Every Pokemon is an anti meta game Pokemon if you squint hard enough. If you ditch that silly label, it will likely help you make decisions based on merits that actually matter rather than a reason as petty as how boring or innovative your idea is.
Becoming disillusioned with what “success” is
Whether it’s “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” or “it works for me!”, often times, people will deem their idea to be successful and refuse changes or modifications as a result. After all, if you’re successful, why should you change? The idea itself isn’t the problem, but rather, people are often disillusioned with what success is, or how successful they truly are (the Dunning-Kruger effect).
This is something that I think significantly stunts many players. They often believe that their flawed ideas are good, and as a result, will become stuck by never improving beyond their current level.
Personal story: Last season, I used the same team for nearly six months because I tricked myself into thinking that the idea was strong and I had little reason to change. After all, I had done decently at Premier Challenges and on the BattleSpot ladder, so what incentive did I have to alter my ways? It was only after a while that I was finally able to convince myself that my idea simply wasn’t good and I needed to adapt. Between the one Premier Challenge win I had, the team sitting in the mid 1800s on BattleSpot, and finishing a decent 6-2 place at Oregon regionals, everything could have been better, no matter how good the team may have seemed at first glance. I could have won multiple Premier Challenges instead of just reaching top cut in several of them, I could have been sitting in the 1900s and hit 2000 consistently on BattleSpot, and I could have finished better than 6-2 at Oregon and maybe even won the entire event. It took mediocre 4-4 and 5-3 spring regional finishes until it dawned on me that my approach was broken and needed fixing. Even now, after finishing second place at US Nationals and reaching day 2 of worlds, I still tell myself that everything that I’m doing can still be significantly improved.
If you’ve ever told yourself, “I’ve had success with _______”, you may not be entirely wrong, but you have to be careful when determining what “success” truly is. Some newer players will think reaching 1300 on Showdown or reaching top cut of a Premier Challenge is success, and all the power to you for feeling proud for accomplishing either of these, but don’t ever reach a stage where you’re refusing to change because you think what you’ve done is good enough. It takes humility, but in order to improve (this extends beyond just Pokemon), you always have to be open to the possibility that you’re wrong, and even if something isn’t “broken” per se and doesn’t need fixing, it doesn’t mean it can’t be improved, or that whatever idea works for you can’t work even better than it already has. Don’t ever believe that you’ve figured everything out, because chances are, you haven’t. Not even close.