Making a Good Analysis Great
It's an age-old tale that makes QC and GP members alike hold their heads in their hands: you just signed up to write an analysis for a top-tier Pokemon when you realize you barely squeaked out a passing grade in English. Fret not, fair soul! They say practice makes perfect, and this certainly translates over to C&C. I'd like to preface this article by saying that you should never bite off more than you can chew; a working knowledge of the metagame and an understanding of the English language are absolute necessities when it comes to writing an analysis. However, if you're up to it, I hope you'll join me on our journey, in which we examine the qualities that make a good analysis great.
What defines a great analysis?
While it's easy to bicker about just what aspects of an analysis truly make it stand out from the crowd, it's even easier to simply throw out a fantastic example that is the quintessence of what an analysis should aim to be. Today, we'll be taking a look at Rising_Dusk's Whimsicott analysis.
It's typical of Game Freak to create a wicked new ability in Prankster, which gives all support moves +1 priority, and then create exactly one Pokemon with all the gadgetry necessary to abuse every facet of it. Whimsicott is that Pokemon. Filled to the brim with nearly every support move you could possibly want bar entry hazards, Whimsicott is a supremely effective momentum grabber, stat-booster check, and general annoyance to anything on the receiving end of its boundless movepool.
Whimsicott, while amazing in its ability to support its team, is a victim of circumstance and nothing more. While it is very cool that it can check pretty much any setup sweeper, Whimsicott requires nigh-perfect prediction for it to be worth its weight on your team. Whimsicott's bulky, don't get me wrong, but you don't want to switch Whimsicott in accidentally on an attack that even 3HKOes it, because Whimsicott won't be able to set up properly and will either get beaten soundly or forced back out to another Pokemon. In this sense, Whimsicott doesn't really check Pokemon like other, more popular Pokemon can, and this is really the reason for Whimsicott's lack of usage. You can't—or rather, won't—switch Whimsicott into even Grass-weak Pokemon to threaten them out, as that's just not how Whimsicott works. You'll be relying on Encore, Taunt, Substitute, and other tricks to screw them up and force them out so Whimsicott can do its job. If you aren't planning on doing that, then stop right now and pick a different Grass-type Pokemon, such as Virizion or Ferrothorn. Don't let me turn you off to using Whimsicott totally, though; it's a seriously solid Pokemon if you can play to its incredibly specific strengths and predict like a beast capable of winning the Smogon Tour. All I've got to say is: "You've been warned."
You'll notice that this overview is actually longer than the Gettysburg Address. While brevity is sincerely encouraged here at Smogon, a Pokemon such as Whimsicott really only has one set with a conglomeration of options, so the longer overview is a necessity in this case. Furthermore, Rising_Dusk uses word choices that would give a High School English teacher goose bumps. Although diction may seem like a snooty waste of time, this article is called "Making a Good Analysis Great," not "Mediocre Tips with firecape."
Another vital-yet-subtle nuance in this overview is the structure. The first paragraph focuses on why Whimsicott is a good Pokemon to use competitively, while the second notes flaws or problems. This is an extremely common structure for overviews, but it is generally fine if you can make like Rising_Dusk and make no attempt to hide said flaws. Otherwise, you may end up with an overview in which Luvdisc is praised because it can hit most of the metagame with Tackle.
move 1: Encore
move 2: Leech Seed
move 3: Substitute / U-turn
move 4: Stun Spore / Taunt
nature: Bold / Impish
evs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD
ivs: 0 Atk
I know what you're thinking: "This set has very few options in it, where are the rest?" Keep your pants on, because while Whimsicott has literally dozens of tricks it can play, what you see before you is the most reliable and best combination possible. If you want to adjust it to your tastes, be my guest, but this here is what the pros are packing.
Encore is perhaps the single greatest move available to Whimsicott. You can switch Whimsicott into any stat-boosting or otherwise non-threatening move, Encore it, and then completely go to town. Encore also doubles as insurance against anything that tries to set up on Whimsicott. Nothing will attempt a Dragon Dance, Swords Dance, Nasty Plot, Substitute, or whatever against Whimsicott thanks to the threat of Encore. Whimsicott's next best bet at annoying opponents is with its priority Leech Seed, which screws up and wears down anything that isn't Grass-type. After that, Substitute and U-turn are both good options. Substitute allows Whimsicott to wither down many opposing Pokemon as they fumble to break Substitutes and force Whimsicott out. U-turn is a better option for offensive teams that want to bounce out and use Leech Seed healing and an offensive threat to force switches and sweep. Stun Spore in the last slot is spectacular at paralyzing and stunting the sweeps of everything from Excadrill to Thundurus. Meanwhile, Taunt can be useful at keeping something like Ferrothorn from coming in and throwing up layers of Spikes as Whimsicott looks on helplessly. Like I said before, these are just the most reliable choices for moves, you can mix and match pretty much anything in Whimsicott's movepool to create a cool and personalized variant of this fluff ball.
"Keep your pants on." Did you enjoy that? It takes only a bit of voice and sophisticated-yet-bold phraseology to truly hook your reader. The set itself is a great example for a number of reasons. First of all, the name is simple; truth is, no one really cares that you stayed up until the wee hours of the morning coming up with a fantastic pun for the name of your Braviary set. There are some exceptions to this rule, but most of them have something to do with Mojonbo.
The set doesn't suffer from what the higher-ups call "Slash-itis," or too many options for one set. The two most important moves appear first as generally non-negotiable, while some options to fit the team are given as well. Rising_Dusk does a great job here of justifying how each move fits the playstyle of both Whimsicott and the team.
Finally, you may notice the author cleverly employs one of the oldest tricks in the 3rd grade writing book: alliteration. Phrases such as "pros are packing" and "Stun Spore in the last slot is spectacular at paralyzing and stunting the sweeps" give the section a unique fluidity. However, it is easy to get carried away when it comes to strategies such as these, so always proceed with caution.
Because of Prankster, there's no reason to invest in Whimsicott's Speed stat at all. Instead, all EVs are allocated to physical bulk so that Whimsicott can take stray physical attacks from physical setup sweepers like Excadrill, Landorus, and Terrakion as it switches in to Encore their boosting move. This also makes Whimsicott's Substitute tougher to break, should you be running that. 0 Attack IVs should only be used if Substitute is used over U-turn, and only for the off chance that Whimsicott somehow gets confused and hits itself. Otherwise, stick with 31 Attack IVs. Bold being used over Impish is in a similar vein; Bold with Substitute, and Impish with U-turn. Also, you can invest Whimsicott's EVs in special bulk if your team calls for it. In that case, a Calm or Careful nature would be the way to go.
In some sense, Cottonee, Whimsicott's pre-evolution, is a better Pokemon than Whimsicott. Because offenses and Speed don't matter for a set like this, and considering the existence of Eviolite, it'd appear at first glance that you should always use Cottonee over Whimsicott. However, being able to use Leftovers is a huge deal for Whimsicott, because Leftovers recovery coupled with Leech Seed recovery can replenish the HP lost from Substitute at an alarming rate. Let this both be your reason to use Whimsicott and your reason to use Leftovers as the item.
Whimsicott is not usually a Pokemon that you specifically use other Pokemon with, rather it fills gaps in a team or provides specific team support that is needed. For instance, a lot of teams have problems with fast Speed-boosting sweepers and can't afford to pack a Choice Scarf Pokemon. These types of teams greatly benefit from Whimsicott's solid bulk and priority Encore to check those threats. Whimsicott doesn't like attackers with super effective attacks that have just switched in, because then it can't Encore to stop the attack. Even Water-types can seriously threaten Whimsicott if packing Ice Beam, since Whimsicott is almost never carrying an attack of its own. Whimsicott also appreciates being used on a rain team for the decrease in Fire-type damage taken and in order to maintain its Leftovers recovery. The Pokemon typically used in rain, such as Thundurus, also happen to partner well with Whimsicott, especially when Whimsicott is bouncing around with U-turn. Thundurus just loves free switch-ins. Speaking of Thundurus, offensive Pokemon in general can take advantage of double switches forced by Whimsicott's Encore followed by U-turn to pivot in and immediately threaten the opponent's team. Good choices for this can range from Terrakion to Tornadus and Reuniclus to Garchomp. Lastly, due to Whimsicott's unique style of checking opponents, it's good to support it with both entry hazards to abuse its ability to force switches and switch-ins to Fire- and Ice-type attacks. Depending on the type of team Whimsicott's being used on, this might mean that Heatran is a good choice, or it may mean that Jellicent is a good choice. Use your best judgment and Whimsicott will serve you well.
Rising_Dusk shows another important tactic to utilize when writing an analysis here: varying sentence lengths. A typical prose problem involves writers using excessively lengthy sentences when they know what they want to say, but just not how they want to say it. Conversely, those that lack English as their primary language typically write shorter sentences. While the metagame may be all the same, your sentences should not follow this pattern!
The second paragraph is notable as genuine, thought-out advice is considered. The tendency amongst writers is to smash together their opinion for an EV spread and an item or two and call it a day in the Additional Comments section. Instead, the author should truly show the different options, and justify why the listed set is the best. If there are other comments that pertain to the individual set, feel free to make them here as well (don't leave them all to the Checks and Counters section).
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, the Additional Comments section should clearly define what teammates work best. Rising_Dusk immediately identifies that Whimsicott provides support to the team rather than the other way around, but still lists a wealth of options, such as entry hazards and Thundurus. There is nothing more frustrating for myself than to open up an analysis, only to find that the section of Additional Comments listing team members lacks depth or is non-existent. If you were building a team, what would you use in conjunction with this Pokemon?
I had originally prepared an amazing paragraph for you to read, but rather than shoving a couple hundred words down your throat, I will instead just list the myriad of support moves that Whimsicott is able to abuse successfully: Cotton Spore, Cotton Guard, Tailwind, Charm, GrassWhistle, Memento, Switcheroo, Toxic, Sunny Day, Rain Dance, Light Screen, and Trick Room. Each of these has niche value on Whimsicott for specific teams, so you should amuse yourself and experiment with them to find the best combination for what you want to achieve. As an aside, you might sometimes desperately want an attacking move on Whimsicott for whatever reason. If you must, Giga Drain is the way to go, although Hidden Power Fire isn't bad for opposing Grass-types. Just remember that Whimsicott is pitifully weak offensively, and even more so if you're not investing any EVs in its Special Attack.
While many writers simply love to list haphazard moves as their Other Options section, Rising_Dusk nearly makes a mockery of it while maintaining voice and being genuine. Don't sound phony or fake; it is very easy to slip into either a dictionary-like arrogance (a problem had by yours truly) or an exaggerated tone. Other Options should be the section where you spark inventiveness, not where you say "well, you could run this set, but Quality Control didn't approve it for me so I'm going to sneak it in here."
[Checks and Counters]
Do yourself a favor and don't switch in something in an attempt to use Whimsicott as setup fodder. That only works if Whimsicott both lacks Taunt and you're setting up entry hazards or ordering your own Pokemon to use Taunt. Speaking of Taunt, it's the best way to guarantee that you can force Whimsicott out. Thundurus happens to be faster than 0 Speed Whimsicott and has Prankster itself to Taunt before Whimsicott can do anything. Since Whimsicott almost never runs an attacking move, this either makes it kill itself with Struggle or gives Thundurus a free turn to attack.
Outside of the obvious Taunt, the best way to get by Whimsicott is to just hit it until it dies. Even Pokemon that normally don't like Grass-types, such as bulky Water-type Pokemon, can give Whimsicott trouble just by spamming Ice Beam. Most of these Pokemon won't like suffering the withering effects of Leech Seed, but a few can get around it. For instance, Whimsicott will only hurt itself if it tries to Leech Seed against Tentacruel, while Tentacruel can either smash it with STAB Sludge Bomb or set up Toxic Spikes if Whimsicott isn't running Taunt. Rain Dish Ludicolo can be a real pain for Whimsicott in the rain, as it doesn't take rain-boosted Scalds or super effective Ice Beams well at all. Using a Grass-type of your own is also a surefire way to put a damper on Whimsicott's shenanigans. Virizion can come in and use Hidden Power Ice to force Whimsicott out, while Ferrothorn can come in and either attempt to set up Spikes or do serious damage with Gyro Ball. Other less common Grass-types, such as Celebi, Shaymin, and Breloom, work as well if they just outright attack Whimsicott, but won't appreciate a U-turn to a typical check like Tornadus. Either way, just remember that Whimsicott is not an offensive threat in any manner, and if you're carrying any of the aforementioned checks, you'll probably fare just fine against it.
No. Don't use Chlorophyll, use Prankster. If you really want to use Chlorophyll, change Whimsicott's species to Venusaur and try again.
Rising_Dusk does a fantastic job of actually using the penultimate Checks and Counters section for what it should be used for: checks and counters. If someone wants to utterly mutilate Whimsicott, they're going to turn here. You're done being "Mr. Nice Guy," it's time to take the analysis you've worked so hard on and pick apart what it can't beat. This section need not be super long (for example, I would not go into detail of how every Fighting-type beats Bibarel), and while generalizations can be made, it is typically best to mention what is the ideal answer to the Pokemon in question. Keep in mind that since this section is called "Checks and Counters," this may include Pokemon that can only force it out (such as Ice Shard Abomasnow as a check to Flygon).
Finally, we have come to the Dream World section. Rising_Dusk effectively employs this short section to go out with as big a bang as he started with. This section will vary drastically by Pokemon, but it is likely you should either explain why it is inferior or why it is superior.
Rising_Dusk's analysis epitomizes what an analysis should like. Overall, it is perhaps slightly lengthy, but his fantastic prose and usage really renders that point moot. It demonstrates how an author can use voice while still maintaining sophistication and providing a lot of information. Just remember, at the end of the day, someone is going to be reading your analysis for information. Nonetheless, informative is by no means synonymous with boring.
Avoiding Bad Writing Habits and Clichés
Certainly, if you've spent some time here at Smogon, you've wandered through a variety of analyses for different Pokemon. Unfortunately, this often rubs off on new writers and old writers alike; it is simply too easy to fall into bad habits and make your prose sound like that of every other analysis. While consistency is nice, we don't want things to get boring around here. Furthermore, some of these common phrases are just plain wrong. Let's take a look at a brief, non-exhaustive list of some big phrases to avoid.
Protip! bojangles says to stay away from:
- "Despite its shortcomings, x is a great Pokemon if played to its advantages / strengths / played well"
- Technically, if you're playing poorly and the opponent is playing well, they could beat you with Caterpie. Don't use this as an excuse. If a Pokemon has disadvantages, don't feel like you are hurting Game Freak's feelings.
- "x move could be used instead of y move, but it is generally inferior"
- The object is to tell the player the best option, not to tell them how to lose.
- "Pokemon x should always be considered when building a team / when a certain niche needs to be filled"
- Maybe it's my partiality against the word "niche" here, but this is simply way too common. First of all, if it's a solid Pokemon, of course I'm going to consider it! On the other hand, Deerling just doesn't deserve consideration on my OU sun team.
- Using a Pokemon's species name ("Garchomp is great. Look out for the Mach Pokemon!")
- We have pronouns for a reason. This has been way overdone and often comes off as corny at this point.
- "Like all sweepers, x loves entry hazards"
- Last time I checked, you weren't writing an analysis for all sweepers. Again, this one's been used way too much.
- "Pokemon y loves to switch into Pokemon x"
- Do you picture the Pokemon just jumping around in its Poke Ball, anxiously saying, "Let me take damage!" While this isn't really incorrect, perhaps change it to something along the lines of "Pokemon y typically can weather a hit from Pokemon x on the switch."
- "Hits hard from both sides of the spectrum"
- Here's one that's just plain wrong. There is no spectrum; rather, Pokemon have Attack and Special Attack. A spectrum implies that one end is all special and one end is all physical and there is a point in the middle like a number line that's 0... or something like that.
- "This set trades blank for blank (for example: Defense for raw power)"
- In a strict sense, there is nothing wrong with this, it's just everywhere. Show a little creativity. Perhaps something as, "While Defense is by no means a bad thing to have, this set instead focuses on maximum investment in Pokemon x's mammoth Attack stat."
- "Nature x is preferred as it allows (definition of what Nature x does)"
- We probably all know what a specific nature does. Explain why it is superior to the other option.
- "Underestimate Pokemon x at your own risk"
- Stale and typically unnecessary.
"Underestimate this [type of pokemon (ex: bagworm, land shark)] at your own peril."
Get out there!
With a few tips, some sticktuitiveness, and a "go get 'em" attitude under your belt, you too can soon be writing interesting and authoritative analyses. We hope these tips have both sparked creativity and a renowned passion for the process of making a Smogon analysis. And while you may never be the next Rising_Dusk, you just may write an analysis that will allow the community to sit back and say, "He doesn't completely suck." And perhaps one day, in the distant, distant future, you may be writing an article for The Smog about how to make a good analysis great.