1. Introduction "The opponent is running a Zapdos / Latios / Hitmontop / Metagross / Tyranitar / Garchomp for their team. What can I expect from such a team?" As of 2011, battles in VGC have Team Preview active. This causes a major change in the metagame at the events, as it gives a valid reason to have a full team of 6 Pokemon when competing at a Regional and National event. It also changed what kinds of teams were used, as one didn't have to try to make a single team of 4 Pokemon to try to take on everything in the metagame. Instead, any one team has a lot more freedom on which Pokemon they want to bring to the battle and who is sent out first, reducing the chances of having a bad draw of opponent and fighting against a person who's leads counter your own. If you are reading this article for information to help build a team from the start, you've come to the wrong place. However, if you often feel lost on what to choose at the start of a battle, or have no idea what the opponent's team can do and what to watch out for, this may be an article for you. 2. Difference between OU Battle Team Preview and VGC Team Preview a. Bring 6, Choose 4 Unlike Single Battles, that many competitive Pokemon players play, VGC battles only have 4 Pokemon brought into a battle. Therefore, Team Preview is more than just deciding on who will be kicking off at the start of the battle; a player must also decide which two team memebers will be sitting out. This means that one must be decisive on who they want to bring to a battle. All 4 team spots are important to a match, and it will be too late to try to decide on which Pokemon to bring in order to answer an opponent's Pokemon after the battle has started, since you will not have your full team of 6. When playing on the game cartridge, Team Preview and selection is alotted 90 seconds. Should the 90 seconds expire, the game will automatically choose your team for you by selecting the first 4 Pokemon on your team, and sending them into battle in that order. b. Choosing 2 Pokemon to lead Since VGC battles are also Double Battles, 2 Pokemon have to be chosen to lead off in any given battle. While it may be an obvious statement, keep in mind that that only 4 Pokemon are brought into the battle. This means that half your team composes the frontlines. As such, lead choices are extremely important in the fast paced VGC environment. A poor lead choice can place you in a bad situation from the start, without any way to make a comeback barring some serious luck. 3. Reading Teams from Team Preview a. looking for clues on overall strategy What Pokemon you see in a Team Preview can tell a lot about an opponent's strategy. For example: You can immediately tell that the opponent is running a Rain team, and will be heavily reliant on having their weather up. There are a number of overall team strategies that are used in VGC. Although each strategy is customizable to fit a personal playstyle, there are usually a few key things to look out for that will show up on almost every team of a given type: Rain Politoed is the biggest indicator of a Rain team, due to acquiring Drizzle as a Dream World ability. Following up Politoed are Swift Swim Pokemon and Pokemon immune to Water-type attacks. These Pokemon are fairly dependant on having their weather up, so if a team has a large number of them, they will likely have a Pokemon to set up Rain manually using Rain Dance. Tornadus and Thundurus are likely candidates for running Rain Dance when used on rain teams, as their Prankster provides priority to their non-damaging moves. Be aware, not all rain teams are heavily dependant on their weather. Some may have as little as just a Politoed and Ludicolo for Water Pokemon, while running other Pokemon that benefit slightly from Rain, but are not dependant on it. Rain teams tend to rely heavily on outspeeding their opponents and crushing them under the weight of high-power Water-type attacks. However, this can leave the team wide open if they ever lose their advantage, due to the lack in variety in defensive typing. One can turn the tides on a rain team by using Trick Room, Thunder Wave, Tailwind, or changing the weather in order to try to regain speed control in the battle. Once the opponent loses their speed advantage, their rain Pokemon become a lot easier to manage. Also, since rain strategies tend to be heavy on Special Attack, specially defensive Pokemon and Pokemon that resist Water-type attacks are helpful if they are on your team. Sun Sunny Day boosts the Speed of various Grass-type Pokemon, and the strength of Fire-type moves, boosting the Speed or the offensive power of a Pokemon, but not both at the same time. A Sun team will usually have Ninetales, as its new Dream World ability, Drought, allows it to summon up the Sun upon entry. Other Pokemon such as Sableye, and Whimsicott can also potentially set up the Sun. Like Tornadus and Thundurus for Rain teams, their Prankster ability provides priority to Sunny Day, making it difficult to stop the set up. One can expect to see at least one Pokemon with Chlorophyll and a second Fire-type aside from Ninetales on a Sun team, but aside from that, the remaining Pokemon are highly variable, often to deal with Pokemon such as Politoed, Tyranitar, or Latios who aren't phased much by strong Fire-type attacks. One big thing to watch out for, when dealing with sun teams, is the threat of Chlorophyll Pokemon with Sleep Powder, such as Jumpluff or Venusaur. If you aren't careful, you may end up with a large portion of your team shut down by fast Sleepers. Pokemon that benefit from the Sun often have troubles dealing with Dragon- and Fire-type Pokemon, as they aren't phased much by the Fire- and Grass-type moves commonly used by these teams, and can end up in a bit of trouble if the weather is changed to rain or sand by Politoed or Tyranitar respectively, but as stated before, a sun team will likely have an answer to these Pokemon. Due to the threat of Sleepers, Pokemon with Safeguard, or Pokemon that hold a Lum Berry are helpful if present on your team. Sand Summoning a Sandstorm is often used simply to cancel other weathers, but some teams will use it to their own benefit, activating Sand related abilities. There are not a lot of Pokemon that have such abilities, so it will mostly be restricted to the presence of Excadrill, Garchomp, and Landorus. In addition to these Ground-type Pokemon, Flying-type or Levitating Electric-type Pokemon, such as Zapdos, Thundurus and Rotom-A, will often be around as well to perform the DisQuake combo. With the exception of Excadrill, a Sand team is not particularly affected by the loss of its weather. The main core of a Sand team ends up being relatively weak to Water- and Ice-type attacks, making life hard for Sand if they let the opponent get their own rain or hail active. However, since a sand team is fairly close to being a "Goodstuffs" team, what's considered effective against them will depend on what the team uses outside of the team's core Pokemon. Hail Hail, like sand, is used more as a weather canceller. But on rare occasions it will be used for a Hail team. These teams may be Trick Room teams as well. They are usually foretold by the presence of Abomasnow, along with Snow Cloak Pokemon, such as Glaceon, or Water-type Pokemon that will be using Blizzard with the hail. Due to Ice-typing having a large number of undesirable weaknesses, hail teams will often have difficulties handling Fire-, Fighting-, and Steel-type Pokemon. As such, well built hail teams probably won't have more than 2 or 3 Ice Pokemon, Abomasnow included, on their team. Although hail comes with a number of exploitable weaknesses, never underestimate the dangers of the opponent double spamming Blizzard. For every turn your team is hit with 2 Blizzards, there is a 34% chance that at least one of your Pokemon is frozen solid. This means that one should be cautious when trying to switch in their counter to Blizzards, or should get rid of the hail as soon as they can in order to return Blizzard's accuracy to a unreliable 70%. Trick Room These sorts of teams are recognizable based on having a large number of slower Pokemon, and having one or two Pokemon that are able to set up Trick Room. Keep in mind, that not all the Pokemon on the team will necessarily be slow Pokemon. It is also likely that the team will have either a Fake Out user, or a Follow Me in order to ensure that Trick Room can be executed successfully. While the easiest way to deal with Trick Room would be to prevent its set up all together, this is not always feasible. As such, it's usually better to expect that the opponent will be able to execute Trick Room at least once during the battle and plan accordingly, as opposed to being reckless and expecting to always be able to stop their set up. Fake Out, Taunt, Spore, Imprison, and Trick while holding a Choice Scarf are all decent ways of giving the opponent a tough time while they set up if you have them on your team. Goodstuffs Not every team will have an obvious overlaying strategy. These kinds of teams are considered "Goodstuffs" teams. The teams do not rely heavily on things like Trick Room or weather. Instead they are built with a goal of having no immediate weaknesses; trying to find a good balance between defensive and offensive coverage, while being able to have some sort of answer to just about anything. b. finer details in teams, going a step further Telling what a team's overall strategy is good to give a sense of direction of what to choose, but often isn't quite enough to make the best choice. Many Pokemon in VGC play a specific roles on a team, allowing you to have some expectations on what each Pokemon will do, as they are often defined by a specific ability, or a few key moves that they are able to learn. Being caught off guard, due to not knowing what a Pokemon can do, can be a fatal error in VGC's fast-paced envornment. This next section highlights on a few of these key moves and abilities, why they are relevant, and some common Pokemon that have them. While this is information that is easy to look up a list for, or read about in a Pokemon's analysis, you can't rely on looking for information once a battle has begun. It's very useful to be able to skim through an opponents team, and determine whether they have any Fake Out users, or Pokemon that run Follow Me or have Intimidate. Fake Out Fake Out is a valuble attack in Double Battles that is accessable to many Pokemon. With a +3 Priority, and 100% chance of causing flinching, it can disrupt the opponent's strategy for the turn. Unless the Pokemon is Ghost-type, has Inner Focus, or uses Helping Hand, a Pokemon targetted with Fake Out will be unable to attack for the turn, allowing the Fake Out user's parter to act without worry from that Pokemon. One exception would be the usage of Quick Guard. Quick Guard can block an incoming Fake Out saving the party from being flinched, but since Fake Out and Quick Guard have the same move priority, the user of Quick Guard must be faster than the Fake Out user. Fake Out only stops one Pokemon from attacking, so if Both Pokemon are immediate threats it may be less helpful. Fake Out can also be stopped by simply Protecting with both Pokemon to avoid it, but it can lead to problems if the opponent predicts it. Common users of Fake Out include: Hitmontop, Ludicolo, Weavile, Ambipom, Hariyama, Scrafty, Mienshao, Sableye, and Infernape Follow Me / Rage Powder Follow Me and Rage Powder redirect all opponent attacks towards the user, if possible. This is often used in order to divert attacks away from another Pokemon trying to set up. Either that, or diverting attacks away from a Pokemon that hits hard but is very frail. Naturally, attacks that hit multiple targets, such as Heat Wave, Blizzard, Earthquake, Rock Slide, and Icy Wind will completely bypass Follow Me. Also, Fake Out may be used to stop a user of Follow Me or Rage Powder if Fake Out user is faster, due to both moves having +3 priority.Common users of Follow Me or Rage Powder include: Togekiss, Amoonguss, Parasect, Volcarona, and Jumpluff. Tailwind Tailwind doubles the speed of a team for 3 Turns after its usage. This opens up a window of opportunity to go all out on the offensive. However, since it only lasts for 3 turns, Tailwind isn't too difficult to stall it out by playing defensively, or making smart switches. Aside from Tornadus and Whimsicott, it can be hard to predict whether a Pokemon will run Tailwind. There are many Pokemon that can learn Tailwind, but few that actually run it. Other than the previosly mentioned Pokemon, Zapdos, Salamence, Latios, Togekiss, and Scizor among others may occasionally run Tailwind. Discharge + Earthquake A simple, but effective, combination of using Discharge and Earthquake where the ally is immune to the other's attack, sometimes referred to as DisQuake. The two attacks hit indiscriminately, and the users of the moves are relatively fast, dealing heavy damage to Pokemon without any resistances to either move. It's a straightforward offensive tactic, so either bringing some Pokemon faster than the opponents, or Pokemon that can easily handle Ground- and Electric-type moves can work well in dealing with DisQuake. Discharge users will include Zapdos, Rotom-A, and Thundurus, while Earthquake users may include Garchomp, Landorus, and Excadrill. Beat Up + Justified Also known as TerraCott, named after the most infamous example of the combo. This combination involves the use of Beat Up to provide a +4 Attack boost to a Pokemon with Justified. While not a common strategy and fairly easy to stop, it is extremely dangerous if executed successfully. Getting caught off guard by it is almost always fatal. Follow Me or Rage Powder are the easiest way to handle TerraCott, as it will redirect Beat Up away and stop the +4 Attack boost. Simply outrunning the opponents and threatening them with strong attacks will also stop the combo, although it's easier said than done at times when Pokemon such as Weavile and Whimsicott are involved. Beat Up users will usually be Whimsicott or Weavile, but Krookodile and Ambipom may try it as well. Terrakion is normally the recipient of the Beat Up boosts, but keep in mind that Arcanine, Gallade, Lucario and Absol may also be used to take advantage of Justified. LightningRod / Storm Drain Lightningrod and Storm Drain redirect Electric- or Water-type attacks towards the Pokemon with the ability, while granting immunity to said attacks and boosting Special Attack whenever hit by them. This can be used for both defensive purposes, by directing attacks away from your ally, or offensive purposes, by using multi-target attacks to provide Special Attack boosts and deal damage to the opponent. Pokemon that have Storm Drain include Gastrodon, Cradily, and Lumineon. Lightningrod is run or Zebstrika, Manectric, Seaking, and Rhyperior. If these Pokemon are present on an opposing team, you may want to think twice about throwing around Water- or Electric-type attacks recklessly. Intimidate Intimidate cuts the attack of both opponent Pokemon upon entry. Leading with an Intimidate Pokemon provides immediate support against the opponent's Physical attackers. These Pokemon can also be useful on a switch in to throw off the enemy's damage calculations, as such it's important to pay attention to Pokemon that may have Intimidate on the opposing team in order to better manage your physical attackers. Metagross and Bisharp do not care about Intimidate due to their abilties. Common Pokemon with Intimidate in VGC include: Hitmontop, Salamence, Arcanaine, and Gyarados. Wide Guard While not a very common move, Wide Guard blocks multi-target moves from dealing damage to the user and its ally. Since multi-target moves are very commonly used in VGC, Wide Guard can create and attack opportunity for its ally. Especially since Rock- and Fire- type attacks are largely appear in the form of Rock Slide and Heat Wave repsectively in battles. It's important to be aware of users of Wide Guard in order to avoid wasting too many moves. Pokemon that use Wide Guard in VGC include: Hitmontop, Mienshao, Swampert, Machamp and Carracosta. Now that we have an idea of things to look out for, let's go back to the example Rain team at the start. The Politoed is guaranteed to have Drizzle, allowing it to summon up an endless rainstorm. Ludicolo and Kingdra will have Swift Swim, allowing them to easily outrun other Pokemon once the rain is set up, making them the main offense force on the team. In addition, Ludicolo will have Fake Out to allow for some supportive function. Thundurus is likely to have Rain Dance on its moveset, giving the team a way to get its Rain back. Scizor and Toxicroak provide some Physical attack coverage, working well on many Pokemon that don't worry about Water-type attacks. Toxicroak, like Ludicolo has access to Fake Out, and will have it on its moveset. Lastly, one can expect some of the Water-type Pokemon to run Surf as it combos well with Toxicroak's Dry Skin ability. c. prediction of Pokemon you can expect your opponent to use There is one last aspect to choosing a team based on Team Preview beyond knowing the opponent's team style, and what the opponent's individual Pokemon can do, and that is predicting what Pokemon your opponent will actually bring to the battle. Reading an opponent involves knowing your own team. Naturally, the opponent will also be trying to choose what is best for them to bring into the battle. Would you expect an opponent to bring a Heatran against a Rain Team? Probably not. Would you expect them to bring an Abomasnow if they have one? Almost guaranteed. Knowing your team's apparent weaknesses plays a role in prediction. By being aware of what the opponent has that is a major threat to your team, you can formulate a plan, or set a trap, in order to deal with the threat. While prediction and choice changes depending on what you use and who you face, there are still a few general tips that can apply to a number of situations: 1.Fake Out users, such as Ludicolo, Hitmontop, Toxicroak, Weavile, and Ambipom, will often be used as leads in a battle 2.Similarly, Follow Me or Rage Powder users, such as Togekiss or Amoonguss, respectively, also tend to act as leads in a battle 3.It is unlikely that a person will use both a Fake Out user and a Follow Me user lead at the same time, assuming they have both on their team 4.Against a weather reliant team, the opponent is very likely to bring their own auto-weather Pokemon to the battle, if they have one, in order to cancel out your weather. Keep in mind that they will not necessarily lead off with the Pokemon 5.A team that runs Trick Room will almost certainly lead with something that can use Trick Room. More often than not, the will try to set up on the first turn. 4. Things not to do with regard to Team Preview As with anything else, there's always some things that you shouldn't do with Team Preview. This section is to touch up a few things that either don't work, or are unecessarily risky. 1. Having a Pokemon on the Team solely as a Bluff A team should always have a few tricks up its sleeve. Bluffing a strategy can allow you to catch the opponent off guard as they prepare themselves against the wrong kind of team style. However, this requires the opponent to be aware of what your team looks like it's doing, and to feel threatened by said team style. After all, bluffing will not work if the opponent is completely clueless to what you are doing, or feels no threat from what you are pretending to be. Regardless of how much your team tries to pull a bluff, nobody should go as far as to place a Pokemon onto their team of 6 solely for the purpose of bluffing. For example, having a Damp Politoed on the team to try to make the team look like a rain team, or bringing a Zoroark that isn't EV trained to try to play mind games on the opponent. Bringing a Pokemon without any intention of using it in battle will simply handicap the team to having only 5 viable Pokemon to create a team illusion that will not always work. 2. Reading an opponent's Pokemon as individual parts without seeing the big picture Pokemon "A" counters Pokemon "1" Pokemon "B" is countered by Pokemon "1" You lead with "A" and "B", because "A" should be able to deal with "1" before it can make a move. You predicted right, and the opponent leads with "1". However, you did not account for Pokemon "2", which outruns and OHKOs "A", leaving "B" vulnerable to "1", so now your well on your way to the battle being 2-4 after the first turn. This is another reminder that VGC battles are in a Double Battle format, therefore things are not so simple that you can haphazardly match Pokemon to counter to the opponent's Pokemon. It's often better to go for a lead and team setup that is flexible in handling any situation, than it is to take a gamble and run the risk of a terrible lead match up due to being too focused with handling certain Pokemon. 3.Auto-Pilot Ignoring the information provided, or constantly doing something that is way too predictable. For example, thinking that a Rain Team can get away with always leading with Politoed and Ludicolo, or for a Trick Room team to always accompany their Trick Room lead with a Fake Out user without seeing what Pokemon the opponent has. VGC battles are not so easy that you can auto-pilot through the Team Preview and expect to win all your battles. 5. Conclusion With this, you should be able to better read opponent teams, and make sound decisions at the preview of your VGC battles. However, this is only the starting line, the next step is to build on double battling and team building skill. After all, even if you are good at reading and predicting the opponent at the Team Preview, this will be meaningless if you don't have the battling skill to back it up, or if your team is at a complete disadvantage from the start. This preview to Team Preview is now over. -------------------------- I'm having a bit of troubles with coming up with points to add to parts 3c and 4, so feel free to make some suggestions of things to add, or things that need to be changed.