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Smogon Tiering FAQ

Discussion in 'Smogon Info / Intro Hub' started by darkie, Jan 22, 2014.

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  1. darkie

    darkie just remember no caps when you spell the mans name
    is a Site Staff Alumnusis a Smogon Social Media Contributor Alumnusis a Super Moderator Alumnusis a Live Chat Contributor Alumnusis a CAP Contributor Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Smogon Media Contributor Alumnusis a Battle Server Moderator Alumnus

    Dec 25, 2005
    [​IMG] Tiering FAQ [​IMG]
    by darkie and tennisace

    What are the tiers?

    The main tiers are OU, UU, RU, and NU, which stand for Overused, Underused, Rarely Used, and Neverused, respectively. There are also several banlists, which are Borderline, Borderline 2, and Borderline 3; the Borderline lists are often just referred to by their initials: BL, BL2, and BL3. While the banlists are meant only serve as lists of Pokemon that are too powerful for the given tier.

    The Ubers tier is a special case, as it used to be considered as just the banlist for OU. However, it is now officially a tier. The Anything Goes format is a metagame above Ubers, where there are no clauses (except the Endless Battle Clause) and no bans. You can read a more detailed explanation of the philosophy of Ubers and AG here.

    What is the purpose of tiers?

    Tiers provide a snapshot of what the most important threats in the game are. While any Pokemon can be viable in a higher tier, they show you what Pokemon are most commonly used in the tier that you are looking at. This is extremely helpful when team building to make sure you account for the right threats. There is no use preparing for Musharna when you're playing OU because you will rarely, if ever, see one!

    Tiers also serve another important role: it allows for many metagames to take place in order to make all Pokemon viable. For example, that Musharna is probably never seen in OU because it is simply outclassed by too many Pokemon. There is, however, a place where it can excel: NU! Many interesting Pokemon which cannot make it in OU often excel in lower tiers; Pokemon such as Ecavalier, Kabutops, Musharna, and more all find useful niches there!

    Am I forced to use Smogon's tiers?

    We only enforce our tiers in our official tournaments, on our ladders, and on Wi-Fi battles that are arranged on Smogon. You may follow whatever tiers you like anywhere else, which includes direct challenges on Pokemon Showdown. In that case, as long as both parties agree, you may use whatever rules you want.

    Who uses your tiers?

    The primary audience for our tiers and rules are people who play Pokemon competitively and want to play in a 6v6 singles format under rules both players know and understand. They are not intended to replace Nintendo's VGC format nor is the ruleset meant to control how someone chooses to play the game's story. They are simply rules that have evolved over time based in a competitive mindset for competitive players.

    How are tiers and banlists determined?

    Smogon uses usage as the main metric to determine tiers, which is evident by the full names of the tiers: Overused, Underused, Rarely Used, and Never Used. The banlists, Ubers, BL, BL2, and BL3, serve to balance out the usage-based tiers. Ubers is the banlist for OU, BL the banlist for UU, BL2 for RU, and BL3 for NU.

    Each successive tier is calculated off of the higher tier as follows. Tiers are recalculated every three months using weighted usage statistics. The most recent month is given the highest weight with the two months prior given increasingly lower importance. The aggregate usages of all Pokemon are listed and any Pokemon who fall above the cut-off of 3.406% are counted in that tier. For example, when looking at OU's statistics, everything below the 3.406% cutoff is UU. From UU's, everything below is RU, and everything below RU's cutoff is listed as NU.

    While that number looks like it was just pulled out of thin air, it is not quite that arbitrary. Any Pokemon whose usage is above the cutoff had more than a 50% chance to be seen at least once in 20 battles on the given ladder. For example, if you play 20 battles on the UU Ladder on a simulator, while it is not guaranteed that you will see every Pokemon that is UU, these are generally the Pokemon that you will be fighting. For this reason, it is helpful to see tiers as sort of threatlists when you're building teams.

    Why is usage a good metric for tiering? Why not use something like winrate?

    Generally, we assume that most people who play competitive Pokemon play to win, and when people play to win, people generally use what is best. That said, usage is the most objective form of tiering for Pokemon. For example, because Pokemon is not played 1 on 1, winrate is not an accurate measure; while support Pokemon such as Ferrothorn or Blissey might lose to most Pokemon 1 on 1, they are still an important part of a team's structure.

    Other objective metrics might include BST or legendary status, both of which are often misleading because a Pokemon is more than just the sum of its stats or an arbritrary recognition as a legendary Pokemon. While some low BST Pokemon like Talonflame or Breloom excel thanks to well-placed stats, good movepool, and useful ability, others with high BST or legendary status, such as Regigigas, Articuno, and Mesprit, fall short because of a bad distribution of stats, poor typing, and/or useless or detrimental ability.

    What is the process of banning a Pokemon?

    Sometimes when a Pokemon seems too strong for the rest, they are labelled as what we call suspects. Once suspects are named, they can be tested in isolation in what is known as a suspect test. These tests, ranging in time period of 1 week to 1 month, depending on the suspect, allow voters to decide whether or not that Pokemon truly was overcentralizing or not.

    People can obtain eligibility to vote by playing in the suspect test and making sure their rating in that test falls above a certain point and that they play in enough games. This is to ensure that voters are informed so they can make an educated vote. Once the test is over, voting takes place in a blind vote, so there is no risk of bandwagoning or one person's opinions shaping another's.

    Can Pokemon be unbanned?

    Yes, Pokemon bans are not permanent. If there are significant shifts in the metagame, due to new Pokemon being released, new moves for old Pokemon, or new Hidden Abilities becoming available, then banned Pokemon can be re-introduced to the metagame via a second Suspect Test. Unbannings occur much in the same way as bannings, only the suspect ladder includes an extra Pokemon, the suspect, rather than the normal suspect test, which has all Pokemon except for the suspect.

    A prominent example of this is in Generation 5 Neverused, where Jynx was banned early in the metagame, but unbanned after several Pokemon dropped from RU and BW2 changes had taken effect. A similar situation occured in BW when Latios, for the first time, dropped down from Ubers into OU, where it was seen that, without Soul Dew, he was not quite as powerful as people initally expected.

    Why did you ban X Pokemon?

    More information about past bans can be found on the forums. As a general rule, however, Pokemon are banned when they become too overcentralizing. This is not to say that they don't have counters, but rather, that either everyone runs that Pokemon or everyone runs its counter, which, in the case of some suspects, are often obscure Pokemon which normally would not see the light of day.

    For example, in XY, Mega Kangaskhan was considered so powerful that people used obscure, highly specialized counters like Sableye who would otherwise be outclassed and/or more or less useless in a battle.

    X Pokemon is strong! Why isn't he OU?

    Our tiering is based on aggregate usage over 3 month spans. Every 3 months, our tiers are "refreshed", so to speak, and Pokemon rise and drop based on their usage for the past 3 months. With this in mind, there are many Pokemon that can and do work in tiers higher than the tier they are listed under. The reason it isn't OU, or any other tier for that matter, is simply because it didn't obtain enough usage. It says nothing about the power of the Pokemon in question, but realize that people overall tend to use Pokemon that work and are easy to use. Lower tier Pokemon can perform very well in higher tiers, but often require specialized team support. In those cases, there will be analyses detailing the best strategy to use for the lower tier Pokemon.

    Can I use lower tier Pokemon in higher tiers?

    As alluded to in the previous answer, yes, of course! You may not use a Pokemon in a tier lower than the one it is officially listed in, but you can certainly use a Pokemon in a tier higher than the one it is listed in. For posterity, the order of tiers from highest to lowest is: Ubers, Overused (OU), Underused (UU), Rarely Used (RU), and Neverused (NU). Smogon Doubles and Little Cup are tiered independently of these metagames, and VGC is not tiered at all, but rather uses the current rules for that particular season.

    Tiers for LC, Doubles, etc.?

    Tiers for Little Cup and Doubles are entirely separate from the main Level 100 Single Battle tiers that includes Ubers, OU, and the lower tiers. Pokemon that are banned in either Doubles or in Little Cup are not automatically banned in Singles, nor vice versa. The reason for this is simple: Little Cup and Doubles are entirely different play-styles than the normal tiers. Little Cup is played at Level 5, which means stats don't have as much of a range as they would at Level 100. Two Pokemon could have different Base Speed stats but still tie in Little Cup. Doubles is, well, 2v2, which means a whole host of other strategies and moves become viable.

    So which tier should I play?

    This is the beauty of the tiering system: you can play whichever tier you want to! Whether you enjoy the subtle strategy involved behind battling with NU Pokemon or you enjoy the brutal action of Ubers, there is probably a tier for you! Even if none of the standard tiers gets you your kicks, Smogon also has an Other Metagames forum where people can play with even weirder rulesets, such as Sky Battles, where you can only use Pokemon and moves which are not grounded (i.e. Pokemon that are part Flying-type or have Levitate and moves that do not rely on being on the ground like Dig or Earthquake).
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2014
    FrankP831, Gaburaisu, Eeyore and 23 others like this.
  2. Lutra

    Lutra Players don't give out wins. Tournament hosts do.
    is a Forum Moderatoris a Community Contributor

    Apr 3, 2007
    Tier jargon thread – looking for input for adding new terms, and improving existing ones and their descriptions.

    Balanced tier (also playable tier) – An ideal tier which seeks diversity of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities. It should also find a good balance between luck and skill, as well as deliver enjoyment and comfort among many other things to the player base.

    Battle Mode – Singles, Doubles, Triples or Rotation Battles.

    Broken - A Pokémon, item, move or ability which is deemed too powerful for the tier environment and subsequently banned from the balanced tier. Broken Pokémon often have high viability, making the tier overcentralized around them, and can sometimes have a diverse range of movesets, making them hard to counter.

    Broken tier (also ban tier, ban list) – The opposite to a balanced tier, containing broken Pokémon, items, moves or abilities, which centralize the tier environment or fail more often than not to reward skill.

    Centralization – The state of unevenness in a tier environment, usually represented by high viability of few Pokémon, items, moves and abilities, and low or zero viability of the majority.

    Chaos tier – A single tier for each battle mode and each appropriate sub-generation’s mechanics – that is reasoned to have the least amount of limitations. These are generally either labelled Anything Goes (least amount of limitations intended by the games) or Hackmons (extra removal of limitations such as EV Caps, and move set and ability restrictions).

    Chaos tier category – A tier category which contains all tier categories for a particular battle mode, subgeneration’s mechanics and modifications, as well as the appropriate chaos tier.

    Clause – A complex ban or category of bans used to make rulesets more concise (e.g. Species Clause, Evasion Clause).

    Complex ban – A term to describe bans that are more complex than a simple ban. Complex bans usually involve either combinations of Pokémon, items, moves, abilities and/or a limit to the usage of them (e.g. SleepPerishTrap Clause, Sleep Clause, Species Clause, Baton Pass Clause).

    Diversity – The state of evennness in a tier environment, represented by high viability of lots of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities. Banning broken Pokémon (etc.) aims to increase the diversity in the tier environment, as removing one Pokémon is often for the greater good of the viabilities of otherwise low viability Pokémon, even though you're essentially removing options, so lowering the potential diversity.

    Format (also Ruleset) – Consists of: modifications made to mechanics (e.g. RNG, Sleep Clause); a ban list (or allow list) – of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities and combinations between them; a restriction list (x amount of y Pokémon, moves etc.); limits on levels (e.g. Level 50), number of Pokémon allowed and Pokémon stats. They together aim to make a tier or tier category balanced, or define a tier or tier category (e.g. Little Cup with Level 5, hatchable Pokémon).

    Generation – Mechanics and limitations corresponding to Pokémon, items, moves and abilities that are released (or available via hacking) at a certain time period, for example: 1st gen, 2nd gen, 3rd gen, 4th gen, 5th gen, 6th gen. Earlier generations have less Pokémon, items, moves and abilities.

    Metagame – A snapshot of a tier environment whereby viability of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities are dictated by player base trends.

    Metatope – the metagame of a tier experienced by players on a particular platform/simulator, in a particular tournament (series) or on the ladder.

    Micro-tier (also Micro-metagame) / Micro-tier category – A tier or tier category which has considerably less options than more standard tiers or tier categories in the subgeneration have. Less than 50 available Pokémon is a common definition in newer generations.

    Modifications – Changes made to the game's data and/or mechanics when simulating it for battles. They can either be: necessary modifications (e.g. RNG, HP bar, synchronisation) – modifications made because there's a major issue with simulating exactly; or balancing modifications (e.g. Sleep Clause, Freeze Clause) – modifications that are made to make the tier or tier category more balanced.

    Niche – A unique function carried out by a Pokémon in a tier environment.

    Simple ban – A general ban on a Pokémon, item, move or ability.

    Stage – A time period in a tier environment, which corresponds to a certain ruleset in place.

    Subgeneration -– Time periods within a generation corresponding to a game where all Pokémon, items, moves and abilities are available via hacking, but nevertheless formes and mechanics can differ. More limitations are present in the earlier subgenerations. Examples of subgenerations include: RBY, Stadium, GSC, XD, HGSS, BW2, ORAS.

    Suspect Test – Testing a currently banned Pokémon, move, item or ability (suspect), or one deemed to be broken, in a tier. A suspect test is usually carried out by creating a separate tier to co-exist with the current one, that includes or excludes the suspect Pokémon, move, item or ability, in order for the player base to determine if a simulator's metatope(s) (and by extension, the tier's environment) will be healthier under the suspect's inclusion/exclusion, i.e. more balanced. A Suspect Vote is subsequently carried out to decide the correct course of action after the suspect testing period is over.

    Tier – A category of battles that are subject to the same ruleset, centred on a battle mode and subgeneration’s mechanics. Tiers are so-called because they are usually labelled (as part of a tier list) with a collection of Pokémon that aren’t allowed in lower, more limited tiers in the same tier category, in order to achieve acceptable usage, in practice, of most or all Pokémon in the particular tier category.

    Tier category – A collection of tiers that share a common ruleset. Tier categories are mostly branches of other tier categories with fewer limitations, inherited from the chaos tier category.

    Tier environment – A collection of battles in a tier that gives an overall impression of the viability of Pokémon, items, moves and bilities used in that tier. Tier environments change: when a tier's ruleset is altered to aid in balancing the tier; by being affected by changing viability in higher tiers in the tier category; due to metagaming effects.

    Tier list – A visual arrangement of tiers, usually separated into tier levels, that indicate which Pokémon aren't allowed in lower tiers. The broken tiers (labelled with Ubers, BL etc.) indicate the Pokémon ban list (and previous tier environment if played) of the eventual balanced tiers (OU, UU etc.) in each tier level. The aim is to list all Pokémon once and once only.

    Tier levels – Components of tier lists which group together related broken and balanced tiers, e.g. Ubers with OU, BL with UU, BL2 with RU and BL3 with NU – in order from highest to lowest.

    Tier system - A philosophy of tiering and the resulting tiers, e.g. tiering Pokémon based on a usage cut-off formula from the usage statistics and banning Pokémon, moves etc. via community or administrative agreement, to form a tier list and balance each tier level within it respectively. The aim of any tier system is to open up the potential for many interactions between Pokémon, items, moves and abilities in competitive Pokémon battles, i.e. make them, and the tactics and strategies that utilise them, viable.

    Usage statistics – Usage data for Pokémon, items, moves, abilities, EVs, IVs, and various combinations between them. They are a tool to help understand the current metagame of a tier environment high usage indicating high viability, and the evenness of usages and amount of Pokémon, items, moves, abilities utilised indicating how diverse the tier is.

    Viability Ranking – A tool that ranks the perceived viabilities of Pokémon in a tier environment, and ideally aids the player base in team building and preparing for battle in the tier. Importantly, the first few ranks should contain Pokémon banned from lower tiers if for a balanced tier, whilst the lower ranks mostly (or only) contain Pokémon allowed in lower tiers.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 11, 2015
    SparksBlade, galbia, -Snow and 4 others like this.
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