Preliminary Discussion: Z-Moves & Tiering Policy

Kink

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#1
This is a thread aimed at the discussion of Z-Moves and their ubiquity, and whether or not this is a matter of concern. My hope is that we can assess, together, whether or not Aldaron's current tiering framework is prepared to handle the integration of Z-Moves into our official tiers.

If policy mods think this thread is too similar to this one, please feel free to merge, however I think there are merits to having this thread stand on its own.

At the end of this post, here are some of the questions I have that I'd really like people's opinions on:
1) Is Smogon's current policy adequately prepared to integrate Z-Moves into our tiering framework
2) By extension, are Z-Moves healthy, broken, or uncompetitive?
3) By extension, are Z-Moves sets broken compared to other relatively powerful sets in previous generations?

We've had over a month with Gen 7 and there is a clear disparity in terms of how Z-Moves affect the viability of Pokemon compared to how we've examined the abilities of these Pokemon in previous generations. Already in UU Alpha (albeit an unofficial meta) we are seeing the centralizing forces of sets such as Z-Happy Hour Jirachi or Z-Belly Drum Azumarill completely overshadow their relative counterparts. Since we are close to our beta release, I have some concerns as to how Smogon plans to deal with "set overshadowing", which can drastically affect the way certain Pokemon are used and perceived in every tier.

The sheer amount of Z-Moves and possibilities will likely create a period of time in which we will discover new combination many months after our metas become official. Let me state that I have not yet spoken to my TLs about this, but considering this will affect every tier on the basis of Z-Move ubiquity, I felt PR was the most relevant platform for this discussion to take place. The following has me concerned: as UU approaches its beta period, and as OU becomes progressively more stable, I'm curious as to how we will adequately define Z-Moves in relation to Aldaron's tiering policies, particularly that of skill. Below I have included a slightly cleaner version of the "skill" metric. Under this, I will offer some questions that have arisen due to perceived ambiguity.
I.) Skill - the subjective metric we use to judge player worth in competitive Pokemon

A.) Team Building Skill - the part of skill that is involved in the preparation for a battle
1.) Assessing threats - ability to recognize major threats in the metagame and identify how they both individually and in tandem deal with your team
a.) Involves having metagame knowledge through playing and observing
b.) Involves the ability to think beyond individual Pokemon threats and into the realm of threatening strategies and concepts​

2.) Dealing with threats - ability to maximize the 6 Pokemon slots, 24 move slots, and 6 item slots to handle metagame threats
a.) Ability to recognize which slots are not serving maximum utility
b.) Ability to replace low efficiency slots with higher efficiency options​

3.) Building Towards a Strategy (or strategies) - ability to build a team that is "greater than the sum of the individual parts"
a.) Having the 6 Pokemon work together to cover weaknesses and emphasize strengths instead of just having 6 Pokemon with no cohesive strategy
* The most basic and common examples for covering weaknesses include combinations like CeleTran (Celebi and Heatran) or GyaraZone (Gyarados and Magnezone) in DPP
* One of the most basic and common example for emphasizing strengths includes a combination like DoubleDragon (using two Dragon Dancers to punch holes for each other).
b.) Obviously isn't limited to combinations or trios; can refer to overall team strategies (think BP chains before outlawed or simple stall cores that work to cover each other's flaws)​

4.) Creativity - ability to come up with unique strategies or sets to swing momentum in your favor
a.) This means being able to surprise the opponent with a unique set or strategy without losing on general utility (too much)
b.) Doesn't just mean creating new sets, but also being able to use existing sets in a creative manner​

5.) Catering to Metagame / Opponents - ability to predict opponent trends, patterns, and tendencies
a.) Involves knowing the percentages of what you'll encounter on ladder and being able to build accordingly.
b.) Involves knowing your opponents in tournaments and take note of their common trends in building and prepare accordingly.​

B.) Battling Skill - the part of skill involved in actually battling

1.) Picking the Right Lead - ability to look at your team and your opponent's Pokemon and make an intelligent determination of what your win condition is and which Pokemon will best promote that in the beginning

2.) Recognizing the Win Condition - ability to look at your opponent's team in addition to the information gathered during a battle to recognize viable win conditions

3.) Picking the Right Move - ability to pick the best move in a discrete moment in time
a.) Encompasses ability to judge the opponent's potential moves
b.) Encompasses ability to choose between short and long term benefits and choose accordingly​
4.) Smart Switching - ability to switch intelligently to swing momentum in your favor
a.) Encompasses the ability to predict an opponent's moves and switch for the best scenario
b.) Encompasses the ability to continuously switch (double or triple switching) if necessary​
5.) Gathering Information and Making Assumptions
a.) The ability to predict or assume opponent sets in order to better plan a win condition
b.) The ability to to set probabilities for what the opponent has based on his actions in order to maximize predictions​
6.) Long Term vs. Short Term Goals
a.) The ability to weigh when to bring in a potential win condition
b.) The ability to judge whether an immediate benefit, such a revenge kill, is worth showing your hand or bringing out the win condition too early.​
7.) Assessing Risk
a.) Knowing when to sacrifice for a greater position later
b.) Knowing when and how to make a high risk, high reward move​
8.) Probability Management
a.) The ability to take into account the numerous probability factors that are in the game, including accuracy, secondary effects, and critical hits, and consider the best strategy
b.) Knowing how to minimize the risk presenting by probability factors​
9.) Prediction
a.) The ability to take into account all of the opponent's potential actions, apply weights to them, and move accordingly
b.) The ability to double or triple switch based on opponent tendencies to move momentum back in your favor​

In regards to the above policies, here are some questions I have when Z-Moves are held up against this model:
  1. Assessing Threats: Does the ubiquity of Z-Moves stifle the process of acquiring substantial metagame knowledge for the first year or two of almost every meta?
  2. Dealing with threats: Does the ubiquity of Z-Moves make it too difficult to adequately prepare for the overwhelming amount of Z-Move combinations?
  3. Building Towards a Strategy (or strategies): Do Z-Moves focus too much on the individual part? For example, even if Azumarill ends up in UU, will Z-Belly Drum ever become too much of a centralizing focus that'll force the meta to adapt to Z-Moves as a whole? Should adapting to Z-Moves require the lack of using them, or the ubiquitous use of them? Am I making any sense here? Idk.
  4. Creativity: Will Z-Moves hinder the creative process by stifling the use of extremely popular sets? Why would anyone really run CM Jirachi anymore when Z-Happy Hour + Iron Head offers a far greater advantage in overall use?
  5. Catering to Metagame / Opponents: At what point does "preparing for overpowered Z-sets" become a hassle to the tournament scene? Is a skilled meta one where we have more options or one that caters more to the cartridge experience?
In reference to Battling Skill (part two of the skill metric), the above questions/concerns I've offered can be issued in tandem. In essence, the TL;DR is that Z-Moves are ubiquitous, and it seems that, at the very least, we can have a preliminary discussion to see where we stand on this issue that has the potential to be problematic in the relatively near future.
 
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Josh

=P
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Mafia Champion
#2
My boy John Stuart Mill once said that the Z is just a product of the mind. Do Z moves truly exist?
There are really only a couple options when it comes to approaching z moves. Do we tier them as individual moves and ban z-conversion and z-happy hour in a hypothetical situation? Banning status z moves seems like a fair option becuase they're the main culprits and are what will break lower tiers. BANNING z moves outright is an option but I wouldn't advocate it as that's a huge mechanic to just nuke.
 

Josh

=P
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Mafia Champion
#3
(Sorry for double post)

It's too early to come to a conclusion about z moves. The metagane(s) are very unstable and still adapting. Z moves are a completely new mechanic and we should not be coming to a conclusion this quickly. What I THINK will end up happening is z-status moves will get banned in every lower tier (not ou) and maybe a couple other odd bans. Offensive Z-moves are much less likely to become an issue in lower tiers imo but it is definitely a possibility. However, it's something we need to wait and see, preemptively banning them is bad because coming back to revisit will be much more difficult. Exclusive z-stones ie eeveeium should be treated as Mega stones and banned themselves. If bloom doom tran or z-rd manaphy become issues in ou those might get banned - manaphy was also arguably broken in some of the gen 6 ou meta stages, this is no new thing. Other than that, I don't think z moves will really be an issue in ou, but unless something like 10 mons are broken by them I'd be against banning them because z moves are a HUGE mechanic to just blanket ban. Lower tiers have already banned auto sun/rain for example, lower tier bans are no new thing.

Any lower tier ban on z moves also needs to apply from pu to uu. No bullshit like Baton Pass; if you are deeming the concept of z moves broken in lower tiers then it needs to go wholesome, not on a metagame by metagame basis. Same if z-status or specific z moves are banned.
 

Kink

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#4
(Sorry for double post)

It's too early to come to a conclusion about z moves. The metagane(s) are very unstable and still adapting. Z moves are a completely new mechanic and we should not be coming to a conclusion this quickly. What I THINK will end up happening is z-status moves will get banned in every lower tier (not ou) and maybe a couple other odd bans. Offensive Z-moves are much less likely to become an issue in lower tiers imo but it is definitely a possibility. However, it's something we need to wait and see, preemptively banning them is bad because coming back to revisit will be much more difficult. Exclusive z-stones ie eeveeium should be treated as Mega stones and banned themselves. If bloom doom tran or z-rd manaphy become issues in ou those might get banned - manaphy was also arguably broken in some of the gen 6 ou meta stages, this is no new thing. Other than that, I don't think z moves will really be an issue in ou, but unless something like 10 mons are broken by them I'd be against banning them because z moves are a HUGE mechanic to just blanket ban. Lower tiers have already banned auto sun/rain for example, lower tier bans are no new thing.

Any lower tier ban on z moves also needs to apply from pu to uu. No bullshit like Baton Pass; if you are deeming the concept of z moves broken in lower tiers then it needs to go wholesome, not on a metagame by metagame basis. Same if z-status or specific z moves are banned.
I'm not asking for any conclusions, as a preface. You're absolutely correct, the metagame is extremely unstable. But this goes beyond defining whether or not the metagame is stable. Instead, the question I propose seek to ask whether or not z-moves can contribute to a healthy metagame as our current tiering defines healthy. Are our tiering policies adequate enough to integrate Z-moves and their effect on the metagame? Do we need to adapt the tiering policies? If not, why not? If so, why? That is the aim of my OP, which goes into more detailed questions in relation to these points.
 
#5
This is a huge policy discussion that I'm not qualified to fully comment on, but it's an interesting topic going forward so I'm going to just toss out my thoughts on your five questions as a starting point. Sorry if I misunderstood you in places!

  1. Thankfully, Z-moves cannot provide coverage that the Pokémon lacked originally, so I think the general thought process of "for any coverage this Pokémon could have used before, I should be aware they could use a more powerful version" is a fairly intuitive jump that doesn't hinder metagame knowledge. Of course, sets that rise in popularity (Fight-Z Lele) should be noted in particular. The same goes for STAB moves, with the caveat that sometimes Z moves can make a formerly unviable STAB good, but so far this seems limited to Z-Fly. Otherwise, type combos that wall certain coverage combos should continue to do so, although "soft checks" to certain types should be treated with more scrutiny. As for Z status moves, the pool of actually worthwhile uses appears to be limited (+1 to all stats, utility +1 Speed, recovery) and so it shouldn't take too long to learn all the best uses of such moves and internalize them as metagame knowledge, especially given the small distribution of the best moves (Happy Hour, etc.). Z-moves also provide a few methods to scout them, like a lack of Knock Off boost and the lack of recovery/recoil/choice lock, so once those flags go off, a player can start considering the options that Pokémon has available.
  2. Already kind of covered this but I'll also say that if a Pokémon became new too hard to cover as a result of a Z-move, the Pokémon should be looked at, not the move. I don't foresee a scenario where so many Pokémon fall under this category that we need to crack down on the Z power mechanic in general, because as stated, the opputunities granted by Z moves aren't usually that far outside what a Pokémon can accomplish normally.
  3. I don't fully understand you here, but from how the current metagame is playing out, SM Z-moveless teams are massively more common than ORAS Megaless teams. I also feel like adapting to Z-BD Azu is no different than adapting to a generational change where BD always works like Z-BD--adapting to this one edge case isn't equivalent to adapting to the whole Z power mechanic because if it.
  4. I think Z moves do the opposite. It's been a real treat seeing new creative sets become meta-relevant like Conversion PZ. Will these sets crowd out existing sets? Quite possibly, but keep in mind the one Z-move limit. Z-HH Jirachi may overshadow CM Jirachi, but is it worth using your slot on it? Is Jirachi the best user if Z power on your team? If not, CM or Scarf or SubToxic are still all legitimate sets on your team. Even without this limit, Z status moves used for boosting still need to worry about phasing ruining your day. This is the same reason CM Xerneas still popped up from time to time afaik: Geomancy is obviously stronger in most cases, but it still has a distinct downside.
  5. I'm not experienced enough to truly comment on the tournament scene, but the biggest shift I can see is an even higher importance on team building. If a player knows their opponent enough to predict if they'll prepare poorly for a certain Pokémon or type, they can double down on that weakness with Z moves. A last gen example I can come up with is CBB commenting that certain players don't prepare well for Mega Pinsir. A similar weakness could be stressed if say, a player tends to check Tapu Lele with Jirachi and runs slow teams, so a player pulls out Neverending Nightmare Lele and is able to clean up afterwards. I think the burden on learning the meta for high level play will be higher than in previous generations, but not such an insurmountable task that it ruins the scene.

Overall, while Z-moves definitely add a layer of unpredictability to the metagame, they can be understood and adapted to using mostly equivalent frameworks from previous generations. While I doubt anyone is suggesting this at this point in the game, but I think the absolute worst case scenario would be removing or nerfing large portions of the whole Z power mechanic just because it appears to be a detriment to existing tiering practices. To me, that would be a tragedy on the level of banning all Mega Evolution or all gen 5 hidden abilities. It's an intimidating new aspect of the game but I don't think it needs special treatment in comparison to what we've already been doing.
 
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UltiMario

Out of Obscurity
is a Pokemon Researcher
#6
Personally I've been a fan of the way LC has handled Z-Moves, as it most closely matches existing frameworks and past tiering decisions.

For example, we've banned Mega Stones (and thus, the mega forme) in the past. For the exclusive Z-Moves, this route makes the most sense. LC banned Eevium Z (and thus, Extreme Eevoboost). It feels like the most straightforward 1:1 with previous tiering decisions, and is a natural progression to move to.

On the other hand, if a Pokemon is broken with a non-exclusive Z Move, I feel like it should be treated as any broken set is, like how LC banned Porygon. We quickly try to look at "could be" broken elements to ban like Normalium-Z or Conversion, but banning moves or items that are accessible on multiple Pokemon but only bannable on 1 typically have resulted in just banning the Pokemon instead (except Soul Dew).

Trying to cripple the Z Move mechanic to force Pokemon to stay in the tier is bad precedent on the level of banning Speed Boost Blaziken. It's pretty unlikely that we'll have to ban more than 1 or 2 generic Z-Move abusers per tier (too many more "broken" abusers than that and it just means the tier needs to adapt to its higher power level) so I don't think just banning those abusers is going to cripple the count of viabe Pokemon in the tier.

Overall we have a mechanic that can be adapted very simply from existing tiering procedure, and I see very little reason to change that.