Hello everyone, and happy Tuesday! Today marks the release of the second weekly series dedicated entirely to improving your skills in competitive play. I'll be doing the best I can to cover as many topics as possible to help improve your tactics in-game, and hopefully the veteran competitive players out there will learn something as well in the process. As usual, please leave constructive criticism below to improve the content for future weeks and participate in community discussions on the forum and discord. With no further delays, let's enter the world of Pokémon and explore team synergy!
Competitive play starts and ends with one thing - teambuilding. Your team determines everything about your battles, and as such having a strong and well-balanced team is the first step towards improving your competitive skill.
It's important to note that there isn't a single method for teambuilding - it's a changing experience that depends on your own personal playstyle and the metagame you're using. However, the one thing that is consistent - testing is a must. The more often you practice with your team, the better you'll get at battling, being able recognizing potential threats, and properly respond to them. Do not be afraid to change your team members! You'll run into as many combinations of Pokémon that don't synergize well together as those that do, and it's up to you to determine what changes need to be made to address your team's weaknesses. Remember - a team of strong Pokémon isn't always a strong team, and a strong team isn't always a team of individually strong Pokémon.
When getting involved with teambuilding, it's important to understand the Pokémon mechanics, competitive tactics, and the current metagame. Pokémon mechanics is simply knowledge about how the game works such as the type chart, moves, abilities, and so on. Competitive tactics can be described as the process of turning these mechanics into a beneficial strategy. For example, knowing moves is not necessarily the same as understanding how they are used in competitive play, particularly in combination with one another. Lastly, the metagame itself dictates what common teams look like - shortly after GenVI was released, competitive teams saw an increase in Stealth Rock users due to Talonflame and Mega Charizard Y. As a result, the number of spinners (Pokémon with Rapid Spin or Defog) on teams increased as well.
Therefore, teambuilding is really the process of using Pokémon knowledge to create strategies capable of defeating opposing threats on the battlefield. However, this doesn't mean this goal is reachable - no team can be victorious in all battles all of the time. When teambuilding, most of the process is trying out new strategies and refining an existing team rather than starting from scratch.
Personally, I like to think of Pokémon as a form of Rock-Paper-Scissors on steroids - every Pokémon has a strength somewhere, and every Pokémon has a weakness somewhere. With that in mind, creating a competitive team really just an attempt to maximize strength and minimize weaknesses. As such, it's important to consider the following 'sources' of strengths and weaknesses.
Now that we've established the goal of teambuilding and the compenents involved, the easiest way to understand the thought process behind it is to walk through an example of creating a team in Pixelmon.
To start off this teambuilding session, I'm going to choose a Pokémon that I'm interested in playing with and would like to develop my team around. There are no real rules for figuring this out, so just pick a Pokémon and roll with it! In this case, I've already got one in mind -
- Manectric Stats | Show
- Type: Electric
Abilities: Lightning Rod, Minus, Static
Sp. Atk: 105
Sp. Def: 60
I'd like to run Manectric with a Choice Scarf, so Volt Switch will help Manectric keep momentum without losing a turn. Overheat is going to be a solid choice as well, and I'm left with a couple of options for Hidden Power, the best of which is Ice. This combination actually gives us perfect type coverage in Pixelmon, as the only Pokémon that resists all three is Rotom-Heat.
For the last move, I'm left with a variety of options. Thunder Wave is a great choice to cripple any major threats the opponent has, but I'm going to go with Switcheroo instead - this allows me to give my Choice item to the opponent which can really mess up their strategy. Likewise, I can continue the momentum trend by giving Manectric Lightning Rod for free switch-ins.
Lastly, I'm going to max out EVs in both Sp. Atk and Speed and leave the remaining 4 in Sp. Def. For a nature, I'm going to go with Modest to boost my Sp. Atk as my speed is already high thanks to the Choice Scarf. Running a Timid nature would allow Manectric to outspeed Salamence after a Dragon Dance and cause some serious damage with HP Ice, but it's not an OHKO and not something I foresee being common.
Now that all that's taken care of, let's look at our team now -
- Team Preview <V1> | Show
Manectric @ Choice Scarf
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 2 Atk / 30 Def
- Volt Switch
- Hidden Power [Ice]
Alrighty, let's look at Manectric's weaknesses. Manectric is quite frail, and can easily be overpowered by some stronger Pokémon or walled out by those specially defensive. Typewise, Manectric is only weak to Ground (and by extension most physical attackers from Earthquake), but still struggles with Dragon-types and other Electric Pokémon. Hmm, I think I know just the right Pokémon for this!
- Gliscor Stats | Show
- Type: Flying/Ground
Abilities: Hyper Cutter, Sand Veil, Poison Heal (H)
Sp. Atk: 45
Sp. Def: 75
Defensive Gliscor is best run with Poison Heal and Toxic Orb, and typically has Roost. I plan on using the set introduced to me by my mentor, so I'm going to round things out with Swords Dance, Earthquake, and Knock Off which are each good move on their own and work well together. This set is meant to break through more defensive Pokémon, hence Swords Dance, and Knock Off is a huge help with getting rid of Leftovers and other items to whittle down the opposing team. Rounding things out, I'm going to go with a specially defensive EV spread to give Gliscor a bit of staying power against special walls that counter Manectric, though I will be using an Impish nature (+Def -Sp.Atk). However, this set won't be able to deal with most Dragon-types and some of the huge attackers, so I should remember these threats when choosing future team members.
Now, here's what Gliscor's looking like -
Gliscor @ Toxic Orb
Ability: Poison Heal
EVs: 184 HP / 72 Def / 252 SpD
- Swords Dance
- Knock Off
Though Manectric's Overheat helps to deal with Gliscor's 4x weakness to Ice, it is in no means a reliable counter and doesn't help with the large quantity of Water/Ice Pokémon nor Ice Beam. Gliscor handles the physical side of the spectrum pretty well, but Manectric acts as more of a hat-trick sweeper - it's job is just to do as much damage as possible quickly, and thanks to the Choice Scarf speed isn't too large of an issue. However, this means that I'm missing a reliable special attacker that can take some hits. On top of that, I should also be looking for a Pokémon that can deal with Ice types well. With all this in mind, I think I've found a pretty good option for our third team member.
- Lucario Stats | Show
- Type: Fighting/Steel
Abilities: Inner Focus, Steadfast, Justified (H)
Sp. Atk: 115
Sp. Def: 70