|« Previous Article||Home||Next Article »|
As some of you may be aware, Smogon has its own very lovely Anime Style Battling league! This probably sounds repulsive to all of you highfalutin, OU-playing Smogoners out there, but I guarantee that despite the nominal connection to the anything-but-strategic Pokémon anime, Smogon's ASB league is just as drenched in the competitive culture as everywhere else on the site; unlike in most other ASB leagues, everything in ours is highly codified. So come on, jump in, and get to battling, you hypercompetitive, validation-seeking son of a gun, but if you want to win, then I'd suggest you take the time to brush up on your basics.
(Fair warning, this article will be jargon-heavy, and I don't see a way to avoid it. A quick read of Deck Knight's Smog article or a perusal of the ASB subforum—especially the Data Audit Thread—should fill you in on everything I don't cover. I will not be explaining mechanics in this article unless absolutely necessary, for purposes of being concise.)
ASB is notable for its wide variety of viable Pokémon; it's entirely possible for a user to get far in the league using their favorites. If that's you, then by all means, ignore my advice here; you can still be just fine if you know how to battle. But to say there aren't good Pokémon and bad Pokémon would be a gross misrepresentation of the truth. If you've ever seen an ASB tourney with a Master Ball prize and said "goddamn, I want that," if you've ever watched a Gym league battle and said "I bet if I learned to play I could beat that guy," if you've ever thought to yourself "I'm going to be the best Trainer in ASB," then you should know how to pick your team wisely. You need to pump a significant amount of time into a Pokémon to train it, and doing so just to realize it's a terrible mon is not a fun feeling.
In OU, there are plenty of moves that may make the cut in Other Options but don't get used on actual sets because they have only specific uses. "Niche" is the word of the day for them, and any smart player will eschew them for dual STAB, a boosting move, and Stealth Rock. The lack of 4MSS in ASB means that you now live for these viable-yet-niche moves, and the more of them a Pokémon carries on one set, absolutely the better. The forum-based posting—and a variety of mechanics tweaks—makes an entire category of moves, "disrupting moves," become the single most important thing behind (some say ahead of!) reliable STAB. These moves are so important because they allow you to fiddle with your opponent and prevent the strategy they had from being executed. They include, but are not limited to, Taunt, Torment, Encore, Snatch, Dig and clones, Fake Out, Magic Coat, Zap Cannon, Feint, Agility, Teleport, U-turn, Volt Switch, Icy Wind and clones, Disable, Endure, switch forcers, status inducers, Speed boosters, partial trappers... the list goes on. Almost everything you never thought would have a use in competitive Pokémon is viable and often deadly in ASB. Of course, you need to do damage somehow, so this list is intermixed with strong STAB and good coverage. In general, what this section is trying to say has already been said: movepool is king.
Of course, movepool isn't the only thing that matters. There are often times where you are choosing between Pokémon of extremely similar movepools—for example, Spinda and Gengar. Too easy? Try Cyclohm and Krilowatt. (Trick question, use them both). Still, my point is that there are other things you should take into consideration. For one, ASB's stats. Now, we follow a normalized system, so it's not direct, and stats work into the damage formula with addition, instead of multiplication, but that doesn't make them completely unimportant. One thing to keep in mind with stats is to look for natural rank 5s (between 120 to 140 true stat) for Atk, Def, SpA, and SpD. Once a stat reaches into rank six, it still confers a bonus, but less of one; a Pokémon with all-around base fours, such as Shaymin, is typically considered to be superior stat-wise to a Pokémon with Haxorus or Rampardos-style stats. Second, make sure to keep an eye out for stat-boosting items: certain Pokémon get absurd boosts from purchasable held items, especially those with multiple stats in the same tier. For example, giving a Sableye an Everstone transforms it from a meager 90/3/3/3/3/50 to the much more formidable 90/5/5/3/3/50. Keep an eye out for stats when choosing your Pokémon, and remember the rank 5 cutoff, especially with regards to picking a nature.
It's also worthwhile to pay attention to abilities in ASB; as in OU, they can make or break a Pokémon. The most notable thing about abilities in ASB is that most battles are "All Abilities"—that is, a Pokémon gets access to every ability they can have, instead of just one. Technician + Skill Link Cinccino? Magic Guard + Tinted Lens + Wonder Skin Sigilyph? All this and more is at your disposal with ASB abilities. Last, it is worth your while to consider a Pokémon's typing, but don't pay it too much heed. Mostly, consider its type chart offensively and defensively and access to good STAB. For example, Steelix has a good typing because of its strong offensive STAB in Ground and its large set of resistances. Exeggutor has a bad typing because of its seven weaknesses, few resistances, and mediocre offensive STABs.
Notice how I said to look at the type chart in the previous paragraph, instead of type match-ups? That wasn't unintentional. It's extremely hard to define an "OU" for ASB, even though some stats geeks who have nothing better to do occasionally compile an ASB census. Really, unless you know what you'll be facing ahead of time (and you probably won't), don't bother looking to cover holes with a Pokémon. In a similar way, don't think about how good your STAB coverage is. Terrakion, for example, prevails in OU largely because he can threaten the whole metagame between just two STAB moves. There's no such thing as a "sweep" in ASB—if you're incredibly lucky / incredibly skilled / facing someone incredibly bad, you might be able to deal twice as much damage as you take. So don't worry about a Pokémon's STABs hitting a large part of Pokémon neutrally as much as you would in OU when looking at offensive Pokémon. Your team can cover that for you. Ironically, considering what I just said, the last thing competitive players need to expunge in order to get into ASB is the idea of team synergy. Your Pokémon don't need to work together; they need to be good individually. Ignoring the fact that a lot of matches don't even allow switching at all, you should still only be switching once every two rounds. That's six actions of getting pummeled—obviously, it's not reasonable to expect your teammates to really back each other up, and it's literally impossible to switch into resistances, thanks to switch mechanics in ASB. Besides, once you have a team of 30 Pokémon to choose from, the fact that you bought something mediocre like Walrein to cover your Ice weakness will strike you as really silly. (Remember, I am talking about which Pokémon to buy. When you're looking at who to bring to a match, or if you are making a team that you expect to counter every threat, such as for a Gym team or a team that you bring to a tournament, you should absolutely care about match-ups. As you can imagine, I was horrified to realize that 7/8 of my Pokémon's STAB were Not Very Effective or worse against Objection's Hydreigon in the tournament finals. Still, through having generic strong Pokémon, as covered above, I was able to prevail.)
To give you an idea of what to look for in an ASB Pokémon, I'm going to talk briefly about the attributes that make Sableye, Pyroak, and Cyclohm three of the best Pokémon in the game, and why they're all so infinitely better than Ferrothorn.
Sableye, from the depths of obscurity in UU, makes its way onto many prominent players' rosters in ASB. Why? First of all, it's got a good supporting movepool: Taunt, Torment, Snatch, Magic Coat, Metal Burst, Fake Out, Helping Hand, Will-O-Wisp, Icy Wind, Dig... which I admit wouldn't make it one of the best Pokémon in ASB, if it wasn't for an absolutely splendid set of abilities. Stall, believe it or not, is actually one of the best abilities in ASB, as instead of being automatically active, you choose whether or not to move last on an action-by-action basis. Never again will Sableye have to waste its substitutions on Dig or Counter (and its Payback will always hit with the justice of full power). Prankster mitigates the pitfalls of his low Speed—and you'll be loving that low Speed, as having exactly a 17 BRT means he gets to milk Everstone for all it's worth and get a 2 point boost to both his Atk and Def, as well as a 1 BAP boost on his STAB moves.
Pyroak is approximately the polar opposite of Sableye. Lacking any good item interactions, having a fairly shallow movepool, and being locked into an undesirable Speed, one must wonder—what makes Pyroak stand out? Well, if Sableye is like a scalpel, Pyroak more closely resembles a sledgehammer. With 120 HP and 15 BAP, no drawback STAB moves thanks to Rock Head and Flare Blitz/Wood Hammer (whose power are based on weight class in ASB), good luck finding a Pokémon that can kill Pyroak before it kills yours. And when all else fails, it has Zap Cannon, Low Kick, Earthquake, and Stone Edge for coverage, so expect to always be hit by an attack of at least 10 Base Attack Power.
And somewhere in between these two extremes, you find still-powerful Pokémon such as Cyclohm. Cyclohm doesn't excel in any one area; it is the jack of all trades with wide coverage, a decent supporting movepool including Bide and Heal Bell, a strong-but-not-too-strong ability in Shield Dust, and good stats including 110 base HP and a base 5 SpA (with positive nature). Able to play defensively or offensively, Cyclohm may not stand out with any of its attributes, but there's a reason it's the most owned Pokémon in ASB: it's hard to imagine a scenario where Cyclohm fails to pull its weight.
On the other hand we have something absolutely atrocious and nasty like Ferrothorn. What makes it so much worse than in OU? Glad you asked! In OU, it can pick its battles; in ASB, it's expected to be able to outdamage a wide variety of Pokémon. Two of the worst offensive STABs in the game really don't help accomplish this goal, and its coverage is absolutely pitiful, consisting of Payback, Aerial Ace, and Bulldoze. Furthermore, it carries a 4x weakness to Fire. 4x weaknesses should be avoided at all costs; they are the bane of almost any Pokémon's existence, especially to such a common coverage type as Fire. Its support movepool, while just right for OU, is also embarrassingly shallow. Unless you're Deck Knight, you're not likely to be impressed by hazard access, and Leech Seed is made temporary in ASB. Thunder Wave sounds nice, but it only cuts base Speed, so 80+ will still outspeed you after you paralyze them (and besides, every Pokémon can just use a substitution to Substitute on the Thunder Wave). Really, it only has one nifty move, Endeavor, which it will be certain to make use of, since it loses almost every match-up. Just look at the list above: Sableye wrecks it completely; Pyroak wrecks it completely; Cyclohm wrecks it completely. Ferrothorn exists to support a team; in ASB, every Pokémon needs to be a one-man team. Come on, Ferrothorn. Even Blissey knew that.
So you've picked some decent Pokémon with my help and are itching to try them out in battle. What do you need to know? Well, the first thing to note in Anime Style Battling is that it is most certainly not normal battling. Normal battling is predicated on the uncertainty provided by both you and your opponent ordering at the same time; ASB is a much more exact science, as the forum-based mechanic means that you can, given infinite skill, make an objectively right move at every turn. When the battle starts, you need to think of a long-term plan for victory based around your opponent's team. Identify which Pokémon of yours threatens the opponent the most and which Pokémon on the opponent's team can stop it, and vice-versa. From there, you can determine goals for your team every round and build your orders around them. Is it imperative that you not be Taunted? Is Stealth Rock an absolute necessity? Often, your goal will simply be to deal more damage than the opponent, and that's perfectly okay too. Just make sure that you set your goals well, and don't go above and beyond accomplishing them—the more ambitious you get, the more spread out and prone to failure you become. And don't try to prevent all possible damage from your opponent. As someone who first did this to obsession when he joined, I was a terrible battler, because doing so drains all your energy in about three rounds. Pay attention to your energy consumption and try to keep it in check, so you can go all-out with that killer combo when the time is right. ...Which segues right into my next pearl of battling wisdom: just because combinations are new and cool and sound strong doesn't mean you should spam them willy-nilly. Now I'm not saying that you should never use combos; I've used them to great effect, as has everyone else, but you better have a darn good reason and you better have calculated how much damage it'll do. Often, combos are weaker, more easily blocked, more costly in energy, and in every conceivable way worse than simply using the move twice in a row. Especially when you're ordering first. If there's one thing you should take away from the battling strategy section, it's NEVER combo when you order first.
Oh, hey, speaking of ordering first—instead of ordering simultaneously in ASB as in cartridge battling, you order in turn, alternating between first order and second order. I will cover the differences between handing the two in-depth, because grasping this is essential to knowing the game.
Ordering first isn't about winning. You win when you're ordering second; when you're ordering first, the game is not losing. Moving first is about damage control, about maintaining the lead you accrued in the vicious tug-of-war that we play. Moving second may be the time for fancy tactics that nobody expected which you pull out of your ass to net double KOs, but the player that wins the battle is going to be the one who, when ordering first, doesn't have actions that allow that to happen. Sound easy enough? Well, if you can always write first orders that don't collapse like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, not only will you win almost all of your battles, but you are also the god of ASB and I will PM you the PIN to my checking account.
There are always exceptions, but a good rule of thumb is that whatever you try in first order WILL fail against a competent player, and the goal is to make it the least spectacular failure possible, so you can look at the reffing and say, "All things considered, I haven't lost yet." The first step to take when ordering first is to scope over an opponent's moveset and make a list, mental or physical, of all of their possible problem moves—moves that can mess you up that you can do anything about. Yes, when you're facing a strong opponent, this list may be ten to twenty moves long, and yes, you have to cover all of them with your two substitutions. I know it's not enough—it's not supposed to be enough. You don't get to sub for every move your opponent might use and there's a reason for that; the battle would simply become a test of match-up with no skill involved. You have to figure out how to make as many of the opponent's moves as possible invalid based on your main action set and only sub for the ones you absolutely can't do this for. Does your opponent pack Torment? Rather than subbing for it and using Earthquake ~ Earthquake ~ Earthquake, just order Earthquake ~ Drill Run ~ Earthquake. The drop in power won't kill you—but it will save you from Torment. And yes, this involves a lot of weighing of opportunity cost, as you have to decide what really is most important to you. If you want to place hazards while ordering first, you can expect to burn every sub to do so, which will make your orders fairly easy to play around besides. If you're dead-set on doing damage, you're probably going to have to make the sacrifice and realize you will get Taunted. Unless, of course, you use Taunt first, but from personal experience, Taunt on a first order will usually take more subs than you have in order to pull it off. If you're going to accomplish anything when you order first, you're going to have to go in with both cheeks and only try to play around the things that will specifically keep you from doing what you want to. It's almost impossible to accomplish anything besides your main goal in a first order scenario without leaving some ugly hole which will leave you accomplishing nothing at all.
Doesn't sound fun, does it? Of course not. That's why in high-level matches which allow switching, you will almost always see the phrase "Counterswitch Declined". Learn these two words and learn them well. I can only speak for myself, but I am far more confident in my ability to succeed with a second order in a bad match-up than with a first order in a good match-up.
This is the thrill of ASB, right here, the high every battler lives for: being able to absolutely wreck your opponent when ordering second. See, while ordering first you often have to determine the lesser of two evils, but I have spent hours ordering second with analysis paralysis, deciding whether to take 20 damage and do 100 with a combo or take 0 damage and do 60. These are the kinds of dilemmas which you will often be faced with when ordering second and as such I don't feel the need to go in-depth. Just remember to leave no stone unturned when plotting out your orders, because some niche move you never thought would have a use could end up being your savior. And, though I did touch on it earlier, you should be wary of not dealing much damage. Setup is all fine and good to a point, but that point comes fairly quickly. You want to be smacking your opponent around like crazy when you order second, usually. However, if you can (this is by no means mandatory), it's a good idea to avoid ending on a combo, as it gives your opponent a free action next round and prevents switching. All second order takes is some intelligence and persistence to get the desired results.
Big surprise here, but there's a pretty giant difference between playing singles formats and playing doubles or even larger formats. You need to know how to conduct yourself in both situations if you want to conquer everything there is to conquer in the league, though it's perfectly acceptable to be better in one format than another.
For those of you used to OHKOing your foes with super effective moves, the thought of a STAB Close Combat from your favorite physical sweeper being a 4HKO might be hard to stomach, but such is the reality of singles battling. As fun as it is to maneuver in such a way that you can smack your opponent for all they're worth in two hits, by the time you've done that they could have been dead long ago. Chip damage is the most reliable, consistent, and usually efficient way to dispatch of foes in a singles match—and the greatest is efficient. You have to be more cautious with your energy in singles matches, since Pokémon tend to live for a decently long time. Don't be using gaudy, energy-heavy moves and combos unless you know you have to. The general idea in a singles match is that with low risk comes low reward but also low chance to be royally screwed.
Remember all I said about ordering first, because doubles is where you'll need to put all that knowledge to practice. Why? Two words: Helping Hand. Take all I said about how you can't achieve OHKOs in ASB and throw it out the window, because you totally can, and they're called Helping Handed combos and they are glorious. Even if you don't have the wisdom to pack a Helping Hand user, you can still get by with double-targeting whoever you want to kill. In a nutshell, you cannot reasonably expect, ordering first, that your Pokémon will survive the round. If your opponent really wanted it dead, they could make it happen.
But fear not! Because if you try fancy tactics, your opponent can disrupt them with moves such as Tailwind, Snatch, or Fake Out, all of which have great utility in a doubles setting. Of course, all of this means that the reward when ordering second is just that much greater, as you get to do the same thing to your opponent. In singles, you can often tell who has momentum a couple rounds in. But in a good doubles match, it will keep shifting back and forth, and not until the very end will anyone be able to call the winner with certainty, which is what makes them so thrilling.
There's a reason not many players are fond of triples or larger matches. Virtually every first order will look something like this:
And while they can be more strategic and less boring than that, the fact that the above will in fact win you 70+% of Triples matches means they're not going to appear often in higher-level play, so you needn't concern yourself with reading some guide to winning them. They are good for quick training matches, though.
Unlike its namesake, Anime Style Battling is both competitive and marketed toward people not subject to COPPA bans. If you've had an ASB account for a while but have been trying to bring it to the next level, or if you've been looking at Socialization in the Empire and wondering what Anime Style Battling is, you should stop by #capasb or poke your head in the forum and give us a try! Who knows, you might become as hooked as I am and slowly dwindle into a remnant of your former self offline, but you'll have a maxed Pyroak so it's totally cool.
|« Previous Article||Home||Next Article »|