Mastering the OU Ladder

By Reverb. Art by Kevin Garrett.
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With the advent of Shoddy Battle as the premier Generation 4 competitive Pokemon simulator, and the feature it provided (the ladder), an eternal struggle would endure, with players trying to prove their skills to themselves and their colleagues. The ladder was set up to rank players based on their conservative rating estimate, or CRE. The CRE is based on the deviation of a players rating range, and how high their rating range is. A laddering master knows how to play efficiently, and allow themselves a high rating, and CRE. Their validation is a place at the top of the Shoddy Battle leaderboard. What this article addresses are the common mistakes and misconceptions that players have when they try to achieve a place among the great players, at the top of the leaderboard. By following the lessons listed below, a player can easily increase their rating and CRE, and further increase their chances of making it to the top of the most populous OU leaderboard.


Stall vs. Offense

In the game of Pokemon, there are essentially two types of teams; those that gravitate towards an offensive structure, and those that gravitate to a stallish one. Many times, people have asked which style of team is superior for ladder play. The answer to that question is a tricky one: stall is superior after a person has eclipsed a conservative rating estimate of 1500, while before that CRE is reached; offense is the superior style to play. Every stall team is extremely weak to something bizarre and random that no good player would use. Since Shoddy Battle pairs a player with people close to their current CRE, before reaching 1500, a person would be subjected to being paired with extremely inexperienced players who could use anything. Now a player using Refresh Latias or CM Clefable is a joke when you have an SD Lucario to completely own them. However, when your only way to win battles is to induce status, and phaze for entry hazard damage, random pokemon like these will almost certainly beat your team. After 1500, these random threats become non-existant. DPPHGSS has too many threats; a player cannot cover all of them. Stall merely covers all the relevent threats. A player using something weird that threatens stall could not get to their current CRE by using such horrible Pokemon. Therefore, when paired with a better player, you will cover everything with stall since there is a minimal chance they would have a gimmick on their team that could beat you. The challenge from this point onward is maintaining a high enough win ratio to be able to progress higher on the the leaderboard. This can be difficult if you are constantly relying on 85% accuracy moves to be able to win your battles. Stallish teams almost always have 100% accurate moves and simple strategies. Another thing that makes stall the superior playstyle from this point onward is that offensive teams require more prediction than stall teams do; prediction is something that should be avoided. The ideal scenario is to only predict when it is necessary for your victory, but you also run the risk of losing the battle if you mispredict. Since stall entails less predicting, there is less risk involved in winning battles.

Defeating Your Worst Enemy: Yourself

A lot of players are great when they are winning. However, a good amount of notable players simply cannot take a loss well. They lose to some random in a haxy battle, instantly lose their composure, and end up going on tilt. Tilt is a colloquial term for losing mental function. It is often used in the world of poker to explain why this professional is playing worse than the amateurs he's supposed to be beating. Symptoms of tilt include overly apparent frustration, lack of patience, and subconcious unwillingness to play well. To players near the top of the leaderboard, tilt is their biggest threat, a 1700 CRE player can suddenly find themselves out 50 points if they can't recognize that they went on tilt. The best way to deal with tilt is to stop playing. A big asset for a good player is sensing when they're on tilt. Once one realizes this, ceasing to play, and taking a break will immensely help their laddering experience. However, tilt is not the only way a player can defeat himself. Simply laddering for too long a session is just as bad as going on tilt. After playing for a certain amount of time, mental function declines without the player becoming aware. Some players like imperfectluck are fine playing for 12 hours without stopping. Others, like yours truly, find that they do not play as well after 4 hours of straight laddering. The best thing to do is know one's personal durational limits. By finding out how long you can go before your playing declines, you will make the most of your laddering time, and find your CRE to be higher than it would otherwise be if you played beyond your limits.

Shooting for the Stars vs. Point Hustling

When laddering, there are essentially two approaches that top players use. Players like august and Twist of Fate are more notable for playing an excessive amount of battles in a short time frame while maintaining an exceptionally high win ratio. While players like Kevin Garrett and panamaxis milk an already solid alt to assure an optimal rating so that they can later ladder to a very high CRE. The general goal of milking is twofold: to maintain a player's current CRE, and to increase the rating so they can gain more points per win when they choose to ladder more intensely. Milking revolves around maintaining an ideal deviation. Since deviation (the size of the rating range) is directly related to CRE, it is important to have a proper range. 'Not too big, not too small' is the backbone proper deviation control. If you have 200 deviation, a single loss will do great harm to your CRE. On the contrary, a deviation of only 30 means you are not going to see your CRE change all that much. 50 deviation is optimal for milkers since it allows a player to gradually increase their CRE when they ladder, but does not leave them vunerable to a single loss. Eventually, good playing overcomes any hax that caused a 'milker' to lose. If their deviation was too high, a single loss would have sent the CRE crashing down double digits, but if the deviation were too low, a player would be unable to increase their CRE. To properly milk like Kevin Garrett or panamaxis, you will need to use the 'Hannah Montana Concept', to get the best of both worlds. As for the formers mentioned, they fall under the category of those who shoot for the stars. This playstyle looks very good on paper. Essentially, don't lose and you will dominate the leaderboard. The main issue to this type of strategy is hax; a player actually has to be lucky to not lose due to hax before they hit the top of the leaderboard. When you're constantly relying on 85% accuracy moves and withstanding crits to win, it's actually very unlikely that you can make it to the stop unscathed. Thus, in order to pull off this strategy, players often have to try it on multiple alts until it finally works. Of course, losing when 'shooting for the stars' is extremely unpleasant. Players who use this strategy will often lose 40 CRE points when they are well over 1600 CRE from their first loss. Point hustling is implored by players who make it to the top 10 or top 5 of the leaderboard with solid win ratios. The main idea behind this concept is to play a reasonable amount of battles a day in order to increase the range of their rating. This in turn, speeds up the pace of which they gain points and eases their laddering experience. Additionally, players who point hustle are amongst the most consistent; Kevin Garrett has only dropped below 1600 CRE one time since last December. Point hustling means that solid play over time will overcome luck. Players using this technique nearly never 'screw up a nick' since they've been meticulously solidifying a solid rating. Therefore, one battle is not going to ruin their nick, unlike how it could feasibly to a player who tries the first strategy named. Overall, both strategies work, players can try both strategies to see which one better fits them. However, if you are not in the mood to have a seizure when you lose a battle; the latter strategy is probably best for you.

Grinding to the Top: The IPL Factor

No player has consistently dominated the ladder like imperfectluck. Under his main, imperfectluck., and some unpronounceable alts, this player consistency proves that he is the best ladder player in the world. Back in DP, IPL reached 1822 CRE twice, and continues to dominate the leaderboard on a daily basis. However, imperfectluck ladders by grinding, a way that is very different from the ways previously mentioned. Grinding is playing for long shifts with the underlying philosophy to play countless games in order to make up for games lost. Essentially, he plays for hours a day in order to rack up points per win, and assure that he is on top of the leaderboard. His dedication is so strong that players have witnessed him playing for twelve consecutive hours. In order to avoid a decrease in CRE, IPL needs to maintain an extremely high win ratio (and he does). It is rare to see IPL come out on the losing end of a battle; it is even rarer to see IPL lose without luck being the ironic means of his demise. As for his team, players may be suprised to find out that it rarely changes. IPL devised a very solid core to utilize as a stall team. If one were to examine IPL's laddering teams since DPP, the format of Blissey / Rotom-A / Forretress / two Phazers + Filler is omnipresent. IPL strives to counter all relevent threats in the current metagame, so, while Blissey / Forretress / Rotom-A are there to stay, the other three Pokemon may vary depending on what threats are most prevalent. As he states himself, "I only have my 1 ladder stall team, usually it goes like 'oh everyone is using Azelf leads and Scizor is on the rise and so are Salamence and Latias' so I adjust accordingly; 1 Pokemon, 1 moveset change at a time!" IPL wants to be able to 'beat the metagame', not a particular player. By combining a solid team core with excellent play, IPL has established himself as a prolific ladder player.


Ultimately, while laddering is not the only thing that determines a player's skill, it validates to everyone that a player is capable of consistently winning in Pokemon. Laddering is not easy; it takes a while before someone becomes a laddering master. Hopefully, by reading this article, you will become a better player on the ladder.

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