Top 10 Things That Ruined Pokemon: Part 1

By LonelyNess. Art by elcheeso.
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The game of Pokémon is often referred to as a game that is much like the game of Chess, a real "thinking man's" game, if you will. There are infinitely many variations that can be made during team building and due to the equally vast amount of teams that one can be pit against, each match requires the player to adapt on-the-fly strategies in order to execute their win condition. Whether this be accomplished by a clever double switch that allows your sweeper to set up freely, an expertly predicted super effective attack as your opponent brings in what he thought was a Pokémon able to counter your move, or feigning weakness when you're really in a position of strength, one thing is for sure: winning at Pokémon takes skill. There are a number of things in the game of Pokémon, however, that are an affront to the game we know and love; things that altogether combined have, in this competitive player's opinion, made the game less skillful. In the issues to come, I will attempt to identify and rank where the problems lie and, if possible, make recommendations on how they could be fixed in order to create a more balanced, skillful game. So, without further ado, I present to you the Top 10 Things That Ruined Competitive Pokémon: Part 1.

#10. Choice Band/Specs in Conjunction with High BP Spammable Moves

When Choice Band was first introduced to the game in Ruby and Sapphire, there were very few competitively viable physical attacks with higher than 80 Base Power and, with the exceptions of Explosion, Earthquake, Return, and Focus Punch, most of these moves had horrible distribution. (Really, try to think of what OU Pokémon actually learn Meteor Mash / Megahorn / Body Slam / Hi Jump Kick / Sky Uppercut / Superpower in RSE.)

You'll notice that the most powerful physical attacks with the best distribution have something very important in common: they all have immunities, various resists, or horrendous drawbacks to discourage misuse. Explosion sacrifices your own Pokémon for an extremely powerful attack, but god help you if you explode on a Ghost or Steel-type, rendering your attack nullified / significantly less powerful at the cost of one of your team members. Focus Punch similarly has no effect on Ghost-types and comes with the huge drawback of doing absolutely nothing if your opponent decides to use an attack on the turn that you use it. Return, again, is useless against Ghost-types and has the downsides that it will never hit for super effective damage and is resisted by the ever common Steel-type. Lastly, 8 of the 26 OU Pokémon in RSE are either part Flying-type or have the Levitate ability and 2 additional Pokémon are resistant to Ground-type attacks, greatly discouraging the overuse of Earthquake. Aside from those moves, most often when an attacker employed the use of a Choice Band, they were relegated to using a physical Hidden Power or the weak Rock Slide to round out their coverage.

What does all of this mean? Simply put, Choice Band used to be legitimately difficult to use and acquire good results. The best physical attacks all had serious drawbacks due to their typing or mechanics, and the attacks without these serious drawbacks or those with better typing were significantly less powerful, meaning in order to get the most out of Choice Band, you had to make good predictions on what your opponent would do in order to land a well-earned, strong attack. Additionally, due to the restriction on what moves drew off a Pokémon's Attack stat, there were plenty of OU type combinations that had little to no physical weaknesses at all (such as Flygon, Forretress or Skarmory), giving the bulkiest of physically defensive Pokémon plenty of breathing room when taking these powerful attacks.

So, if Choice Band was such a well designed item in RSE, what went wrong? Enter DPP and the emergence of the physical / special split, the introduction of a number of high Base Power physical moves as well as the new item Choice Specs and an increased distribution of these moves through new Level-Up Learnsets / Egg Moves / Tutors / TMs.

Overnight, the market for physical moves was flooded with great options for a Choice Band set. Over 20 new Physical moves with 80+ Base Power entered into the fray, all with excellent distribution—and what's worse, the physical / special split meant that these moves had far more advantageous types, like Outrage's Dragon-type. Additionally, the best of these new moves not only had great typing, but had far fewer drawbacks. Who cares that Close Combat lowers your defenses when after using it to score a strong Choice Banded hit, you were going to switch out anyway? Why should I be concerned about the self-damaging effects of Brave Bird / Flare Blitz when the obscene power they grant allows me to power through multiple Pokémon before succumbing to recoil. The physical / special split also created a universe that did away with typings that lacked physical weaknesses, meaning Pokémon no longer had to split their EVs in order to hit physically bulky Pokémon hard with a super effective special attack. Furthermore, Pokémon with really high Attack stats that previously had no great physical STAB, like Gyarados, Salamence, and Dragonite, were suddenly given what they'd always wished they'd had. The introduction of Choice Specs was similarly horrible in that high Base Power moves with great typing already existed in the base 95 elemental attacks, Hydro Pump, and Fire Blast, as well as the introduction of new attacks like Draco Meteor, Grass Knot, Focus Blast, and many others.

"But, LonelyNess, why is this a problem? It seems like Choice Band / Choice Specs have the same drawbacks that they used to, but with a few new toys! What makes that such a bad thing?"

Well, sit down and I'll tell you why! The introduction of all of these things turned the strategy of Choice items from that of using carefully chosen moves that give a hard-earned power boost, to that of spamming your obscenely powerful, low-drawback STAB attack hoping to break through your opponents through sheer force and rarely opting for one your coverage moves. There's no choice or interesting play associated with clicking Draco Meteor and hitting everything except for Jirachi or Blissey for extremely high damage, nor is there any skill involved with spamming rain-boosted Hydro Pumps until the Miltanks come home. When Choice Band and Choice Specs received high Base Power attacks with little to no downside, it robbed the game of something so intrinsic to the items that it's even in their fucking name: CHOICE. The current iteration of the items should be renamed to something more appropriate, like "Spam Band" or "Spam Specs", because that is the type of non-skill, degenerative gameplay that they encourage and reward.

What, if anything, can be done about it?

I personally believe that the RSE implementation of Choice Band was perfect. There were heavy drawbacks to the moves that could be affected by Choice Band that made what attack and when you selected it have real weight to how the match was determined. You predict correctly and you're rewarded appropriately. One way this item could be fixed from its current iteration is a would be to decrease the power boost to something more acceptable like 130% or 140%. If that seems unpalatable, then decreasing the Base Power of moves that do not have heavy drawbacks would be the next route I would take. I would suggest lowering the Base Power of any move above 90 Base Power unless that move has some sort of immunity associated with it (things like Hydro Pump or Fire Blast could stay, assuming the distribution of Flash Fire / Water Absorb increased). With these changes, equipping a Choice Band or Choice Specs once again becomes less about overwhelming your opponent with obscenely powerful, low-drawback attacks, and more about landing the correct attack to hit for super effective damage. I realize that this change would leave many Pokémon with movepools that provide less expansive type coverage little to no reason to run Choice items, but I'm of the opinion that overall, a decrease in the power boost of Choice Band and Choice Specs, or a decrease in the high Base Power spammable moves is the best way to bring this item back in to balance and have it resume its post as a skill-based item that aptly rewards making good plays.

Alternatively, if we're fine with the power level of the moves and Choice Band, we could opt to change Choice Band's move restriction to be permanent. You'll still get all of the power that you know and love, but your opponent will know with 100% certainty (after you choose your first move) what attack you will use. Giving your opponent this sort of knowledge goes a long way towards balancing an otherwise broken item.


At their heart, Choice Band and Choice Specs are conceptually not broken items. However, the power creep of Pokémon has taken its toll on this once balanced pair of items, changing their optimal gameplay from one based around risky prediction and appropriate reward to that of spamming your most powerful STAB move until the opponent is overwhelmed. This is the least obtrusive and easiest to fix of all of the problems on this list, which is why it earns the #10 spot.

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