Critical Thinking: Team Rating From the Experts

By Aerrow, with assistance from vashta. Art by Nastyjungle.
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The Rate my Team forum has always been one of the foundational forums of the Smogon Community as this is the forum that new and aspiring battlers come to, to hone their skills and talents for competitive battles, as in this forum they learn to adjust to and take advantage of a variety of play styles which can be used by both them and their respective opponents. As such, team raters play a massive role in the community as it is they who first guide newcomers into the whole competitive battling scene, teaching them how to face different strategies and play styles via team rates. In this article, you will find an assortment of tips and tricks from veteran and experienced team raters which will try to help aspiring team raters improve and better their team rating abilities in order for them to give more helpful and more sophisticated rates to teams in need.

Tip #1:  Learn How to Play the Game, and Play Often

This is probably the most important of the tips that will be discussed in this article, as it is the basis of efficient team rates. By playing the game often, you start to build experience and knowledge of different strategies and techniques commonly seen in battles that you can imply into your team rates and helping others with team building, in a general perspective. Also, as you gain knowledge about a specific metagame by playing consistently in said metagame, you'll be able to more easily identify threats and problems a team may have, as by then you'll probably have seen opponents using similar strategies (or maybe even you may have used a similar play style before) so it'll be easier for you to identify any flaws or mishaps in a team which you can try to fix through a rate.

Tip #2:  Think of the Team You're Rating as if it Were Your Own

This tip sort of ties in with the previous one; if you've been playing the game consistently for a lengthy amount of time, and you've understood the current metagame (what strategies are optimal, which Pokemon are best at countering, checking or revenge killing opponent Pokemon X), you'll be able to start identifying problems with someone else's team simply by imagining you're in a battle using it. Chances are that if you're a competent battler, you'll know what opponents can do to counter the strategy of the team you're rating, so by implying your experience and knowledge, you'll be able to see what changes would be optimal for the team you are rating. Not much else can be explained about this tip as it's mostly a natural thing that comes to a rater's mind; if it takes a lot of effort to find threats using this method, it will probably be best If you do one of two things, the first being that you use resources like a threat list or, the second being that you just hop onto Pokemon Online and play a bit more to get a better understanding of the metagame.

Tip #3:  Try to Understand the Goal of the Team You're Rating

Understanding the goal of the team that you are rating is an absolute necessity. As such, you should focus on empathizing with the topic poster in their ambition to improve the execution of their team's purpose. To quote one of Smogon's most prolific raters, Stathakis: "good rates are ones that help people beat threats without compromising the team's purpose; even better rates are ones that improve the execution of the team's purpose without compromising its ability to deal with threats". In consideration of this, it is important that you reflect on several issues before you begin to suggest any potential amendments.

Primarily, you should ask yourself: what is the team trying to accomplish? Are all members of the team productively contributing to the accomplishment of this goal? And if not, you should begin to, as always, consider potential changes. However, you should reflect upon those very same questions again as you prepare to make your rate. It is advised that you evaluate the extent to which your suggestion improves the performance of the team: which areas would your suggestion effectively address, and are there any problems that may emerge after incorporating the change? If so, you should weigh up whether the positive aspects surpass the negative aspects.

Tip #4:  Present Your Rate in a Detailed Manner

This next tip deviates from the rest as it doesn't deal with the experience and knowledge aspects of team rates, but the aesthetic and format aspects, as they are just as essential as the aforementioned knowledge factor. Although it would be great if you were to successfully identify all the problems of a team and provide great suggestions in order to fix said problems, the OP of the thread probably won't read your rate if it's one huge block of text filled with a large amount of grammatical errors. Doing this will also repel other raters from reading your rate, likely leading to unneeded repetitions of suggestions or comments you may have already explained or mentioned. To prevent this problem from occurring it's important for you to format your rate in a legible and visually engaging manner, as this will make it much easier for other community members to understand and build on your rate, thus making it more useful for the team being rated.

Tip #5:  If a Team Requires Too Many Changes, It's not Worth a Rate

Please note that this tip, our final tip, is a PROTIP from the team rater badge-leader, Haunter, and is one that any aspiring team rater must abide to if he/she is attempting to procure the TR (team rater) badge. This tip is the tip that all aspiring team raters must follow, and for good reason, as it helps team raters determine the difference between the teams that are worth the time and effort needed to be rated, and the teams that are, in simple words, a waste of time for any rater to be rating. Although this does seem like common sense, many team raters forget to check if the team they are rating is actually worth the effort needed. Remember, it's Rate my Team, not Build my Team.

Sure you can help better a team which includes Pokemon like Choice Band Dragon Dance Gyarados and all-out attacking Blissey, but remember that if the OP of the team had any experience or knowledge about the metagame, he/she wouldn't have posted such a mediocre team. If he/she didn't make an effort to make their team the best that they possibly could have, then it doesn't make sense for you to take the time and effort to rate a team which had a minimal amount of effort put into it. To put it into simple words, if a team is in need of too many changes, it's probably not going to be worth the time and effort needed to be rated. Even if you have enough time to rate such a team, it's probably better if you invest your time and effort into more deserving teams, which have been constructed and refined by someone with a passable amount of experience of playing the game.


To conclude this article, I just want to say that the points in this article are more or less the main ones dealing with effective team rates, so rating consistently with these guidelines in mind will gradually make you into a better and more efficient team rater. If you find any of the tips explained in this article difficult to abide by, then using resources like threat lists and type-synergy charts will probably help immensely; if you're still having trouble with giving adept team rates, you can always visit #ratemyteam on IRC for help on giving better, more sophisticated team rates, as there's almost always someone present on the channel who's willing to help an aspiring team rater; also here's another Team Rating article which takes a harder look at the overall process of individual team rates, written by the co-author of this article, vashta. Lastly, I want to give a special thanks to the following users as they've been invaluable in the creation of this article: Bloo, Haunter, Jibaku, Setsuna, and Tab.

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