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Once upon a time, in a metagame oh-so far away, Latias was Uber and Garchomp reigned free. That was until Garchomp was banished, Platinum had caused an unstable metagame to emerge, and suspect testing was in full-swing. The infamous Celebi + Heatran (CeleTran) combination was still at large, Weavile was a plausible sweeper, Bronzong was a beast, and Choice Scarf Gengar was the ideal revenge killer. But then, Bullet Punch Scizor rose in usage and many Pokémon were never to be seen again and the formerly overshadowed Salamence gained what it had always longed for: Outrage. Platinum had changed competitive Pokémon and caused a lot of controversy with the many additions it gave—both in terms of new Pokémon and new movepool changes.
Way back when stall was one of the most threatening assets of the game, semi-stall was virtually non-existent, and Toxic Spikes was actually useful, the metagame was still experiencing new reinvigoration and diversity. Even with Platinum's effects, experimentation was a much-loved prospect and offered people the chance to always try and use new things.
However, even though these changes definitely had a profound effect on the metagame (and the way Pokémon was played for the rest of Generation IV at least), there was little preparation for an upcoming suspect which would, at first, seem like the savior of the standard metagame, but would instead develop into one of the most intensely discussed Pokémon in modern times.
On the 31st of January, 2009, after a month of suspect ladder testing, debate, and deliberation, Latias was declared OU by an overwhelming majority with 80% of the vote in favor of degrading its tiering. At the time, there were issues of possible centralization on the suspect ladder, but it was hoped that this would not stem into the standard metagame due to the two being completely different platforms. On the other hand, there was physical evidence for a definite change in the way Pokémon was being played and there was considerable reason for concern regarding the definite change in the structure of teams. TAY's "Pride & Prejudice" was the first major and publicized indicator of change to a new, staler, and certainly less diverse metagame where Ice-, Fire-, and Grass-types were to suffer: the dawn of the "three Dragon, three Steel" metagame. TAY even described the metagame as an "unhealthy metagame in which the dominant strategy involves using only two types"—and how true he was!
Latias's immense impact on the metagame as a bulky sweeper, alongside the dangerous additions to other Dragon-types' movesets (notably Kingdra and Salamence's Outrage), caused obvious panic amongst battlers. At the time, there appeared to be a single way to deal with such a draconian situation, and that was to pack as many Steel-types onto teams as possible to shield themselves from Draco Meteors, Outrages, et cetera.
The most popular Latias set during the short time after its induction was the Calm Mind sweeper set. Unfortunately, at the time, the Calm Mind sweeper could be dealt with much more easily than it's more threatening sets such as the Life Orb and Choice Specs sweepers. Tyranitar and Scizor were obligatory additions to teams which did not want to be weighed down by Blissey; Specially Defensive variants of both Pokémon were deemed sufficient checks to Latias. On the other hand, Latias was seen to be a saint to the standard metagame; an excellent check to the likes to Infernape, Vaporeon, Suicune, Zapdos and many other special attackers. Sure, the metagame had to change (albeit for the worse in the long run), but in the short-term, Latias's addition to the standard metagame was blissful. For a week or so, anyway.
The end of each of the six suspects outlined in Jumpman16's Order of Operations thread was closing in. Or so many had hoped. Deoxys-S, Shaymin-S, Garchomp, Manaphy, Latios, and of course Latias, hit the attention of competitive battlers everywhere, not just Smogon; it was cross-forum news everywhere for a long time. However, Latias was always overshadowed by the other suspects and it is probably for this reason for which it lasted over a year in the OU metagame—it took time to grab the full attention of voters and debaters.
Latias was dubbed as the "little big suspect" throughout the first few sub-stages of Stage Three. It wasn't until Stage 3-3 where Latias began to catch the public eye as a potential threat when it's recently popular Choice Specs set began to be used with Spikes which made it harder for its grounded counters, Tyranitar and Scizor, to deal with Latias. Choice Specs Surf and Draco Meteor was always a 2HKO on the aforementioned checks to Latias, and with Spikes and Stealth Rock present on the field, it almost made it impossible for them to do their jobs efficiently. It was because of this for why there was a spark of interest into the use of Choice Scarf Tyranitar—the most overused Tyranitar at the moment. Choice Scarf Tyranitar could outspeed Choice Specs Latias and made it the ideal revenge killer, and made a huge hit with the rising popularity of "semi-stall" teams.
In the early Stage Three suspect rounds, Latias was always compared to its counterpart, Latios, and so it was hard for Latias to receive and correct and individual scrutiny—the sort of scrutiny needed to make a valid decision on its tiering. Many blame Latias's constant appearances in sub-stages on the fact that it acted extremely well as a check to other suspects such as non-Haban Berry Garchomp and Manaphy. Latias was seen to be the ideal check to common OU threats Infernape and Salamence, also. It came down to the last two suspects in Stage 3-4: Manaphy and Latias. Unfortunately for Manaphy, it was sent straight to the Uber hell from whence it came. Latias, on the other hand, received a simple majority of 60% in favor of banning it, but it was finally realized that Latias never received a super majority at any stage in the suspect process (in favor of sending it to Ubers). It was therefore deemed necessary to open another vote which concentrated on Latias purely, as at other times it was constantly overshadowed by its more potent suspect comrades.
Although Latias escaped three prior tiering votes, it became clear that Latias's time was coming to an end. The intensity of the discussions held in Stark Mountain and IRC chats in #stark was an indicator of the sudden shift in opinions. Those who originally thought Latias brought good to the metagame began to think differently when the support characteristic of an Uber was brought into the argument alongside the original offensive characteristic which many disputed only Latias's brother, Latios, possessed.
Latias's ability to Trick an item onto its #1 counter, Blissey, opened the doors to its teammates to abuse the opportunity to set up and potentially sweep. Not only this, but Latias's Choice Specs Draco Meteor guaranteed to 2HKO nearly any Pokémon, bar Blissey and any Steel-type (the only Dragon-type resistor) with significant HP and/or Special Defense investment. It became obvious that anyone could abuse this immense power from Latias to break open any team. Users often argued that the only way to defeat Latias would be if you had the following: a trapper (Specially Defensive Scizor or Tyranitar), two Steel-types, or a Blissey. Subsequently, the tiering administration were pushed into a déja vú situation, in the sense that the same over-centralization views held by those who contributed to the banning of Garchomp, were being presented now—two years on.
Everything was in place for yet another vote. Unlike previous sub-stages, Stage 3-5 would bring to light a new method of deciding Latias's fate; a quicker and more efficient way of maximizing the potential voter pool and getting a more balanced and fair way of deciding Latias's tiering after so long in the standard metagame. In May, lists were generated of prolific Shoddy battlers between February and April. Accounts held on these lists were to be confirmed by their forum account holders, and then paragraphs of justification for voting rights were solicited for.On the 23rd of May, 2010, Jumpman16 publically announced the vote made by a final tally of twenty-one eligible voters. The decision went 13-8 in favor of the removal of Latias, and thence it was banned having being voted Uber twice in a row.
Although Latias is now gone, the standard metagame will still take time to re-adjust. One thing that is certain, though, is the fact that Generation IV has closed one of its darkest chapters with the banishment of Latias. The post-Latias metagame will grant many Pokémon the opportunity to shine through the shadow of their former oppressor and this will leave OU more vulnerable than ever to change - this window of opportunity will define the rest of Generation V.
The metagame will remain forever stricken by the centralization that Latias is often argued to have caused. However, we should expect to see a likely return of some unlikely heroines to the metagame. Shaymin will again re-populate OU with its powerful Life Orb set, now causing even more concern than pre-Latias. Infernape will also make a welcomed return and with more diversity than in recent times, especially with the extremely dangerous Swords Dance set. A very hopeful Zapdos will also wish to re-print its mark into the metagame after being overshadowed as a special wall by Latias for so long. And finally, Suicune will be stepping back into the limelight as one of OU's most feared residents due to its unmatched popularity as an offensive and defensive Calm Mind sweeper: a role otherwise filled by Latias, who could also Trick Suicune, locking it into a single move—but no longer.
Undoubtedly, most users discussing Latias's tiering placement often that Latias was the bringer of the stale structure that OU adapted to in order to cope with it: the infamous "three Dragon, three Steel" typing combination. It was a predictable outcome of Latias due to its omnipotent Draco Meteor. Although many expect to see a return to a more stable, unpredictable and free-flowing structure within everyday teams encountered online, there is indication from Jimbo's FUK DRAGON tournament—which saw a temporary exile of Salamence and Latias—of something quite contrary to this.
In the closing stages of Generation IV, we could be seeing the return of a classic combo; that's right, the Water, Grass, and Fire combination. However, although this new typing combination may appear to grant more diversity within the standard metagame, it may fail to live up to expectations as it is an environment for where Heatran are many and Shaymin will rise. Heatran's popularity will rise exponentially thanks to Latias's absence as a Pokémon that could take repeated Life Orb Fire Blasts or Choice Specs Overheats. Heatran may become so popular that it could pose a serious threat to Scizor who has dominated the usage ladder as #1 for over a year.
The same will go for Shaymin, whose Life Orb Seed Flare / Earth Power / Hidden Power Fire + filler set will spell trouble for any Pokémon that can't regain instant health after being afflicted by it (much like Latias could). Water-types have always been a staple of sorts anyway, so not much of a change will occur in that department. That said, however, offensive Suicune could see an exceptional increase in usage, too. Other common Water-types, such as Swampert, Vaporeon and Gyarados, will remain at a stable rate of usage and none of them should see a major decline or increase in usage either. On the other hand, Swampert's Curse sweeper variant might see a minute spark of interest before slowly returning to that little corner from whence it came.
Conversely, with the increase of Water-, Grass-, and Fire-types, Dragon-types will see an overhaul in usage. Latias's banishment from OU will indeed see its relatives (Kingdra, Dragonite and Flygon) step up to the plate, but none of them will impact the metagame in a similar way. Sure, it's most probable that they will be used for novelty purposes at first, but in the long-haul it is very unlikely that they will maintain the same popularity that Salamence and Latias, in particular, held for many months.
Finally, stall will see a short surge in usage again before all the hype revolving around it is swiftly brought to an abrupt halt. Latias posed a particular threat to stall, being able to incapacitate its #1 enemy, Blissey, leaving it prone to death by Pursuit from either Scizor or Tyranitar. However, without her, stall will have a much easier time, albeit once it recovers from the inevitable increase in Infernape. Without taking too much away from stall's reputation, it is most likely the case that it will play a more potent role over into the transition from Generation IV to Generation V, but, in late-DPP, it won't be nearly as dominant as stall was in DP.
Changes in the metagame are imminent indeed, but maybe it's too little too late, as they say. As Generation V swiftly approches, the standard metagame may never get a chance to adjust accordingly to its new surroundings. Much like period in which Platinum's effects were being phased in, the metagame will see one spontaneous shift after another in the popularity of Pokémon. New former novelties will hit the big stage and there will be a major attempt to create new crazes before we all hit an even playing field with the dawn of a new era of competitive Pokémon.
Whatever the outcome of the next couple of months is, though, there is one thing we know for certain: Latias reshaped the modern metagame and has had one of the most profound effects any Pokémon has ever had.
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