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Most players would argue that of all the soft skills which one requires in playing Pokemon, prediction and decision making are possibly the most important of them all. Prediction is the ability to foretell or predict what move your opponent is going to make and react accordingly to the situation. Being able to predict successfully often immediately puts a player into an advantageous situation and gives him crucial momentum. Planning is something all of us know about but we forget that it is extremely relevant in Pokemon. Every good battler must plan and map out his battle like a chess game. Every plan should be followed up by a backup plan to ensure that your opponent can't really just foil your entire attempt to beat by packing a certain Pokemon or adopting a specific battle style. Together, the twin concepts of prediction and planning make up general decision making which every battler should be versed in.
While prediction is of universal use in almost any metagame, the art of prediction is especially relevant in Ubers where there is an abundance of Choice item users and strategic switches are made to gain the upper hand. All it takes is one smart switch at the right time to completely change the dynamic of a game. Since many Pokemon in Ubers have ridiculously high attacking stats, nailing something like a Palkia with Thunder on the switch from your Kyogre and taking a chunk out of it (hopefully paralyzing it as well) might be really handy later in the game. Likewise, if you manage to Fire Blast a Ferrothorn on the switch with your Dialga and severely damage it, you immediately get a massive advantage over your opponent. This article will centralize around the Uber metagame and attempt to walk the reader through a crash course in proper prediction and planning in the Uber metagame. However, keep in mind that each and every one of the concepts which we introduce in this article can be applied in other tiers as well. So, don't worry if you don't play Ubers actively, keep reading!
Most players speak of prediction like a "gut-feel-sort-of-thing". While that is true to a certain extent since most advanced battlers predict intuitively, the art of prediction can be, on the whole, crystallized into two clear postulates according to which most players make their predictions, albeit subconsciously.
This is one of the most important concepts which is to be kept in mind while making predictions of any kind. A good prediction can completely tilt the game in your favor but if you make a mistake, it might be catastrophic, leaving you at your opponents mercy. Most skilled players always weigh out mentally whether it is better to make a certain prediction and act on the basis of it or just take the safe route out. However, it must be noted that the degree of risk taken often varies from player to player. Certain players prefer playstyles such as Hyper Offense and SmashPass where a large number of predictions need to be made, some of them having high risk-reward ratios but crucial nonetheless. Other players tend to gravitate towards playstyles which are less prediction-oriented and typically involve low risk-low reward choices. The playstyles which come under this umbrella are mostly Stall, Semi-Stall, and Bulky Offense.
Weighing out Risk vs. Reward is mostly applicable in the case of Choice item users such as Choice Scarf Palkia, Choice Band Terrakion, and Choice Specs Reshiram where one often has to juggle between picking moves. A good rule of thumb is to go for a move which has maximum overall coverage against your opponent's Pokemon if you want a moderate risk-reward ratio. While calculating the maximum coverage possible, it is always a good idea to utilize team preview to check out your opponent's Pokemon. So if you have a Choice Scarf Palkia out and your opponent has a Forretress in with a Heatran waiting in the wings, don't just blindly click Fire Blast. Carefully think it over whether it is worth taking that risk and possibly giving Heatran a power buff. Lastly, always keep in mind that it is almost axiomatic that no risk means no reward. So, no matter what playstyle you prefer, in order to come out on top in a Pokemon battle, you have to be able to take certain calculated risks.
Let's say you are in an Uber battle and your opponent sends in a Palkia against your Choice Scarf Kyogre. Naturally, you assume it is a Choice Scarf Palkia since it is the most common variant. Obviously, you switch to your Ferrothorn to take the incoming Thunder and smile triumphantly as you see your Ferrothorn take a measly 23% from the Palkia's Thunder. You proceed to set up Spikes as the Palkia switches out and after a few turns the whole scenario repeats itself. You successfuly switch Ferrothorn into Palkia again, sponge the Spacial Rend, click Spikes ... and the next moment, you see that beautiful green HP bar drain away like the water in your sink as the "Scarf" Palkia miraculously used Fire Blast after Thunder. Well, you've been duped. That Choice Scarf Palkia was really a Lustrous Orb Palkia who was "bluffing" a Choice Scarf in order to lure out your Ferrothorn and KO it. This is more of an advanced technique which experienced players adopt to lure out certain threats to their team and KO it while catching the opponent off-guard. While it is extremely rewarding if pulled off correctly, it takes some patience and concentration to pull it off. When using a lure to deal with certain key threats on your opponents team, it is a good idea to reveal as little information as possible. So, if you're using a Palkia with Focus Punch to smash Dialga switch-ins, it might be a good idea not to use the move lightly. Only spring the trap when the prey has laid down his guard, not before!
However, before you get all gung-ho about using lures, it's always useful to remember the objective of using lures in the first place. Lures are used to remove certain threats or checks to your main sweeper so that it can devastate the opponent's team unhindered. From the definition itself, it can be easily understood that most lures have to be tailor-made for a particular Pokemon and sometimes even a particular set. For example, if you are using an ExtremeKiller Arceus, only certain Pokemon such as Mixed Rayquaza make a good lure to KO counters such as Giratina and Groudon with its powerful Draco Meteor. Always make sure that the lure is normally a relatively non-threatening to the target Pokemon so that it can actually take the bait without much thought. Another thing to consider while making lures is that they can be tailored to fit your team. For example, Fire Blast Blissey is a good lure to Forretress and Ferrothorn on a sun team. Most Blissey don't usually carry Fire Blast and are setup bait for Forretress or Ferrothorn. Lastly, always try to use and design lures which can perform an auxiliary function apart from acting as a lure. This ensures that the lure doesn't immediately become dead weight if the Pokemon to be lured isn't present on your opponent's team or you have already managed to KO it.
So, you've finally got the hang of playing Pokemon and the different sets and playstyles that people use. You can chuck a team together and scrape wins here and there. However, playing Pokemon is more than just being able to search up, make, or steal teams while reading analyses and then trying it out in practice. Like all strategy games, you must have a clear vision on what you are doing. This means, before you make your first move, you should have a clear plan for the game. This also dabs into team-building somewhat, because when you build your teams, you should always have a focus, such as an Extremekiller Arceus sweep or punching as many holes as possible with Mixed Dialga. Whatever it may be, you should always have a gameplan before making your first move. Obviously, things will happen that will impede your plans, but overall, your primary focus should always hopefully stay intact. If it doesn't go according to plan, you should always have backup plans ready and waiting.
When you're starting off, it might be helpful to just spend that extra minute in Team Preview to clearly formulate a plan according to what your team is trying to do and what you can gather about your opponent's team. You have five minutes, you may as well spend it. Write down your plan if you need to. Having a clear method of winning (a plan) is just as important as having the ingredients (your team). Over time, you should be able to do it much more quickly and via your subconscious.
So, what does planning ahead involve?
Again, this ties back into sticking to your primary objective. If your goal of an Extremekiller Arceus is plausible, then stick to it! Sometimes, losing a Pokemon or two is insignificant if your gameplan stays intact. There are plenty of games where it seems like one person would win comfortably, only to get destroyed by something like a last-Pokemon Calm Mind Manaphy or something similar. One person kept their eye on the ball even when things got tough, the other only had eyes for what was in front of them, simple as that.
Obviously, if you want to have a proper plan, you need to take your surrounding conditions into account. A team is only as strong as its weakest link. No team is perfect, which means there generally would always be a weakness somewhere. Sometimes, that weakness is easy to see, sometimes it isn't. However, you should generally be able to spot one way to take down the opposing team that is more achievable than another plan. For example, if you can see a Blissey on the opposing team, you'd want to keep your physical attackers or specialized Blissey-breaking special attackers handy since it would be ridiculously difficult to break through the pink blob without them. If you cannot see a clear weakness early on, your second best chance may be forcibly create a crack in your opponent's defenses. This includes using things like double-Dragon combos to lure out and weaken opposing Steel-types, for example, so that your second Dragon-type can sweep more easily. Again, such weaknesses may not present themselves immediately, but you should always keep an eye out for them, and even try to create them if possible.
Since every team has their weaknesses, you can rest assured that your own team would have weaknesses or troublesome Pokemon too. You should generally have a good idea about what your team is weak against after a few proper matches (not against the random lower ladder players using Charizard). If you can fix these problems, do it, but if it's not worth the trouble, you should simply keep these in mind every time you battle. For example, Ubers sand teams in general have problems with Fighting Arceus and Gliscor. If you see a Gliscor on the opposing team or an Arceus that may be Fighting Arceus, you should have alarm bells ringing in your head, telling you "DANGER, DANGER, DANGER, MUST REMOVE IMMEDIATELY". In other words, you should prioritize your plan to remove these trouble Pokemon first. Similarly, these Pokemon might not be a huge danger to your team, but they can still conflict with your preferred game plan. For example, the opposing team may be horribly weak to Fire-type attacks, and you're running a sun team ... but they have a Kyogre on their team. You should then, of course, devise a strategy to remove Kyogre from their team so that you can easily bring in the sun and sweep. Obviously, your opponent is also likely to be employing "locate weaknesses to their team"; they would be hoping to keep Kyogre away from danger if possible. This is where you would need analyze every turn for risk vs. reward and understand the type of player your opponent is to try and make the best predictions according to all the information that you can gather.
Obviously, things won't always go according to plan. Hax is a frustratingly annoying factor, while there are obviously times where your opponent will stop your plan through good play. Just like any well-made plan, you need to have backup plans just in case your original one doesn't work. Again, this depends on what your opponent is running and what your team is. Offensive teams demonstrate this the best, since most of the Pokemon in such a team are sweepers that synergize with each other well, so when one Pokemon gets stopped, another can easily set up on the revenge killer due to type advantages. Something like Dragon Dance Rayquaza paired up with Swords Dance Steel Arceus is a good example. Rayquaza can be revenge killed by Choice Scarf Palkia, but being locked in Dragon-type attacks, Steel Arceus can easily take advantage of its resistance to these attacks and set up easily. A well-defined game plan complete with its set of backup plans (that are just as good as the original plan) is akin to a Xanatos Gambit, where no matter how your opponent stops individual parts of your grand plan, they are still losing because their short-termed victory would just lead to a backup plan taking hold and defeating them.
Now that you've read an entire section on planning, making sacrifices to keep your plan intact should be obvious. Conversely, if there is a Pokemon on the opposition that is a huge threat that may sweep a huge part of your team if it gets set up, sacrificing your current Pokemon (as long as it's not too integral to your team) to stop it setting up for free should be done without hesitation. For example. If the opponent has an 65% Swords Dance Rayquaza (with a Life Orb) in front of you with a 50% Groudon and Lustrous Orb Palkia remaining, and you have a 40% Choice Specs Kyogre locked into Surf along with something like a full health Choice Scarf Palkia, a Giratina-O, and a Tentacruel remaining on your team, it's probably worth it to just use click Surf against Rayquaza. Even if it means losing Kyogre to Rayquaza and losing the weather war, at least it will not be able to sweep the remainder of your team because it will kill itself to Life Orb recoil before it does, while your Choice Scarf Palkia would most likely be able to clean up with Spacial Rend anyway. Always see the big picture when playing a game of Pokemon.
Now, that you have read through this article, you're probably well versed in some of the more advanced concepts of Uber planning and prediction; all that is left is to garner some experience on the ladder. As all veteran players will tell you, there is no real substitute for experience gained on the ladder. So, go ahead and try all those new concepts which we introduced in this article; I can say with complete assurance that these concepts won't disappoint you!
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