The #Pokemon "No Hazards" Challenge
The No Hazards challenge was an interesting challenge, testing the idea of how truly necessary entry hazards are in the metagame. The rules of the challenge were simple - Spikes, Stealth Rock, and Toxic Spikes were all banned. Anything else was fair game!
Espeon was an early favorite for the challenge, allowing players to bounce back entry hazards (thus supplying them with their own, or at least keeping the playing field level). Espeon in its own right is a decent Pokemon, but is usually considered below average (hence its tiering of, albeit subsequent banning from, UU). The fact that it was a popular choice here seems to only prove the theory that hazards are so game-changing that players are willing to put in a Pokemon dedicated to just getting them. In fact, this coincides with a popular metagame trend from last generation; Suicide Leads. Pokemon dedicated to getting up Stealth Rock (and maybe Spikes), even at the risk of having an immediate disadvantage of trailing 6-5.
Another interesting effect of banning hazards for our players was the rise of U-Turning and Volt Switching. As seen in ToF's 2nd place team, he filled his team with U-Turn and Volt Switch to replace the momentum that hazards had given him. This constant pressure gave him the ability to still dictate matches in the sense entry hazards would. It's important to note the use of Xatu on this team as well, another Pokemon that could use its Magic Mirror ability to steal the opponent's hazards.
One of the biggest complaints I had heard was what I had originally predicted; players felt overwhelmed by threats such as Volcarona. Even in ToF's team, a Volcarona with just one boost would sweep him and it wouldn't be very hard to get in without Stealth Rock on the field. Other dangerous Pokemon included Dragonite, basic Life Orb sweepers, and even old threats such as Gyarados. Obviously entry hazards help keep these Pokemon well in check, but it was truly intriguing to see how powerful they became when hazards weren't available to us. This might have been the biggest reason of all for Espeon's increased usage throughout the challenge (Xatu as well).
On a final note, Baton Pass was rarely used by anyone. I found it to be pretty successful myself, but most players opted for teams with just offensive presence. Perhaps players are too well adjusted for it now after its original suspect nomination? Or perhaps it just isn't as effective as we made it out to be? Regardless, players avoided using Baton Pass in a challenge that seemed to encourage it!
Here is the final list of players and their rankings in the challenge.
Thank you to all the competitors, especially Squirrel for winning, ToF for a valiant second, and august for a solid third!
The #Pokemon "VGC 12" Challenge
To kick off the VGC 2012 year and recognize the recent addition to the Smogon Server (the VGC 2012 ladder), this challenge began with the goal being to simply "reach the top". Many recognized VGC specialists rose the challenge such as JRank and Human, but the winner, surprising many, was DetroitLolCat who topped the leaderboard with a final ranking of 1250.
I think it became quite clear through the ladder what the top method of play was in VGC 12 - Trick Room. And Trick Room is exactly what DLC used to top the ladder, found below. VGC 12's fast paced metagame definitely surprised a few people, but some, primarily single players as is the case with DLC, embraced the change and built effective teams.
A complete player list can be found below.
DetroitLolCat won the challenge, topping the leaderboard with 1250 points while Human came second and JRank placed third. Congratulations to all of them and thank you to everyone who played.
The #Pokemon "Diversity Cup" Challenge
The Diversity Cup was one of the most interesting challenges yet, forcing users to add diversity to their teams from lesser used tiers—the rules following the concept of 1 NU, 1 RU, 2 UU/BL, and 2 OU—many players found themselves using lesser used Pokemon that were given Eviolite to survive in the heavy OU metagame. Other popular choices were Pokemon such as Sharpedo and Mamoswine, who were already considered very anti-meta.
A strategy that seemed to be everyone's favorite was the use of heavy offense with Magneton. These teams usually employed Deoxys-S to lay hazards while the rest of the team swept with the power of hazards. Eventual co-winner ShakeItUp reached number 1 with such a team, which can be found below.
Aside from heavy offense, one of the other most popular teams was sun—because many of the available sun abusers are found in RU and UU, it was easy to begin stacking a team with the most popular. And as far as the NU selection went, these teams got access to Dugtrio, a Pokemon commonly found on many standard OU teams regardless! Sun teams were certainly a force to be reckoned with.
However, heavy offense and sun weren't the only viable teams available—other co-winner ToF topped the challenge completely (although at the time of his victory did not reach number 1) with his version of stall which employed use of many lesser used Pokemon. One of the most interesting things about this team was the lack of a Steel-type—despite the weakness to Dragon-type attacks, ToF's team of heavy defense never found itself at a true disadvantage!
What I think this challenge showed all of us was that we all need to reevaluate which Pokemon are truly "good" in OU—as ToF and ShakeItUp proved by getting into top 5 on OU ladder, there are many Pokemon outside the box to consider using! The best way to keep learning about the metagame is to use these low tiered Pokemon and find out which sets truly hold a unique niche.
Congratulations to ToF and ShakeItUp for co-winning this challenge, as well as Aqualouis for placing third. Thanks to everyone who sent me their team as well, it is much appreciated!