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Hello again, and welcome to the second volume of Phil's Protips! As some of you might recall, last issue I focused on preparing for battle, which is obviously the best place to start (hint: go read that issue if you're just starting out!). This issue, however, we will get down to business with actual battling advice! The topic of this issue is "Playing to Win."
I cannot tell you how many times I have seen users either take unnecessary risks or give up just because their win seems impossible – even at higher levels of play. For example, let's say you're down 1-4 with only a Choice Scarf Flygon left with the moveset Earthquake, Outrage, U-turn, and Fire Blast, versus a Jolteon at 100% (who is out right now), Tyranitar at 60%, Skarmory at 40%, and Heatran at 30%. What move should you choose? I have seen so many people either just flee from the battle or pick Earthquake in a situation like this, just so they can save some time or get an extra KO before going down. What does that accomplish? You save one minute of time? You lose 3-0 instead of 4-0? I realize that the odds of coming out of a situation like this on top are slim to none, but the fact of the matter is, Flygon can technically critical hit its way through all of these Pokémon, and not hit itself in confusion with Outrage. I know, the likelihood of this happening is extremely low, but at least there is a chance, instead of having absolutely no chance at all. A few months back, I was playing a user who we will call Aldan00b, for anonymity's sake, in Ubers, and it was down to my unboosted Rock Polish Groudon at 40% versus his paralyzed Choice Specs Kyogre locked into Surf, his Mewtwo with Ice Beam, and his Latios with Grass Knot. I could have taken out Aldan00b's Kyogre easily with my Life Orb Earthquake, but then Mewtwo or Latios could also easily revenge kill me. Instead I just hoped for Kyogre to be fully paralyzed while I used Rock Polish, and it actually happened! I swept the rest of Aldan00b's team clean with my Groudon. It might seem like you're banking on hax to win in these situations, but you have to remember: Pokémon is a game of mathematics, including odds, or "luck". You need to take full advantage of all the odds in this game and make sure you're maximizing your odds of winning.
Before you go and say, "Hey Phil, isn't this the same as attempting to hax your opponent for the win?" keep in mind that hax has been and always will be part of Pokémon. So sure, technically this strategy is hoping for hax to win your match, but if you have no other alternatives then why not go for it? If you want to be "noble" and just give your opponent the win at that point, that's up to you, but just know that the majority of people will do whatever they can to beat you. Also, if you're not willing to accept hax as part of Pokémon and use it when you need to, then you should probably find another game to play, because this one will just end up annoying you more than you would think a video game could.
Another issue I have seen happen a lot is someone giving away their advantage (and oftentimes losing) because they want to win by a large margin. As an example, let's use the Flygon situation I outlined previously again, but this time let’s pretend to be on the other side of the table – the person who's up 4-1. I always see people in situations like this try to switch in Skarmory expecting Flygon to use Earthquake, so they can say they beat so-and-so 4-0 instead of 3-0. However, if that opponent uses Outrage instead of Earthquake, Skarmory is now 2HKOed, and you have significantly reduced the amount of luck your opponent needs to win. Similarly, let’s say you are up 2-1, and your current Pokémon loses to your opponent's, but your last Pokémon completely counters it. Do NOT, under any circumstances, switch to your counter Pokémon, because you have no idea what kind of random hax could befall it. Instead, play it safe and sacrifice your current Pokémon to ensure a safe switch-in with your counter. Similarly, if your opponent is weakened to the point that you no longer need to use an inaccurate but powerful move to finish him off, use the accurate move. I know this sounds like common sense, but I have seen even the most respected battlers make this mistake. In fact, in a recent Smogon Premier League UU match, a player had his Life Orb Moltres out versus a Chansey with 5% health left. Instead of using Hidden Power Grass to finish Chansey off, he used Air Slash which missed and allowed Chansey to heal back up. Like I said, Pokémon is a game of mathematics and odds, so do not ever take any unnecessary risks when you practically have the game won already.
Of all the Protips I have given so far, this one is, in my opinion, the most important one. When you build a team, you aim to make every Pokémon useful and try to cover all your bases with each addition. However, oftentimes when you play people, the fact of the matter is that certain Pokémon become more important to winning than others – it all depends on your team matchup. People seem to never be aware of this idea and get reckless with the only Pokémon who actually gives them a shot at winning. Figuring out which Pokémon are important (and which Pokémon are not important) can become very complicated, so I will try to be as basic as possible with this example. Let's say your team is made up of Lead Metagross, Choice Scarf Tyranitar, Swords Dance Lucario, Calm Mind Suicune with Ice Beam and Surf, RestTalk Rotom-A with Will-O-Wisp and Thunderbolt, and Choice Scarf Flygon (please keep in mind this is just a random set of Pokémon I threw out there, not an actual team… it’s kinda terrible actually), and your opponent’s team is Lead Heatran, Life Orb Gengar, Bait Tyranitar, Taunt + Toxic Gliscor, Choice Scarf Jirachi, and Dragon Dance Gyarados. Can you identify which of your opponent's Pokémon is your biggest threat, and subsequently identify which of your own Pokémon is therefore the most important Pokémon to keep alive? Also, can you identify which Pokémon of yours is the least useful in this matchup? If you noticed that Taunt + Toxic Gliscor is the biggest threat to your team, you are correct. It safely walls every one of your Pokémon except Suicune, and therefore you absolutely NEED to keep Suicune alive until Gliscor has been KOed, or else you will most likely lose the battle. Also, because your opponent has such a perfect check for it, Lucario is likely your least useful Pokémon in this matchup, and should therefore be the designated death fodder, should a situation arise where you need one. On a side note, you should probably go and fix your team after the match is over to not be so Taunt + Toxic Gliscor weak…
Like I said, figuring out who your MVP is can be very tough, especially if your opponent leaves a few Pokémon unrevealed. However, once you've seen every Pokémon on your opponent's team, you should be able to identify which one of your own you need to keep alive, and which are less useful. Never let a Pokémon die if you know it is the only Pokémon you have which can stop one of your opponent's Pokémon. This can often be very difficult to do depending on the circumstances, but just remember: if you lose your matchup MVP, you significantly decrease your chances of winning.
Again, on the flip side, you should always be aware of which one of your own Pokémon gives your opponent's team the hardest time, and try to keep it alive. In the matchup example I just gave, if you were the trainer with Gliscor on your team, you should not take any risks versus your opponent’s Suicune by trying to "predict" and Taunt or Toxic it. If you predict wrong, you lose your big ticket to an easy win, and even put yourself at a disadvantage because you now have one less Pokémon to check the other five threats on your opponent's team.
You should be constantly analyzing what your opponent has, and making sure you have an idea of how you will beat their remaining Pokémon. You cannot just look at the battle as whichever Pokémon are currently out on the field; sure, you can probably survive that attack and KO them in return, but would that put you at a low enough health that you would no longer be able to stop that other Pokémon you saw earlier? If so, then is there some other way to stop both of these threats? These are questions you should be asking yourself throughout the match, and if you do so, you will see a significant increase in how often you win (provided you have already followed last issue's Protips and created a reliable team).
That’s all I have for you today. Between the two volumes of Phil's Protips, you should now have enough information to go out and start winning the bulk of your matches. Stay tuned for the next volume, where I plan to go over some more battling strategies! If you absolutely need more Protips NOW, then feel free to follow these Protips provided by users coldasice and zerowing (now known as makiri):
coldasice’s Protip: to beat da best you have to beat da best
zerowing’s Protip: Cross Chop can be bred on many Pokémon like Psyduck and Machop! Use it well!
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