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Being able to analyze one's or another's team is a vital skill when it comes to being successful in competitive Pokémon. Excellent analytical ability is a must, not only in the Rate My Team forum, but in almost every other field including battling and team-building. This trait can be developed over time and with consistent rating, as one is continuously evaluating one's performance, and looking for faults until no more can be found. It is because of this apparently tedious process that causes people to often quit rating after a short time, stating that "it takes too long to rate teams; as every team is an individual case, that requires specially tailored suggestions and changes", and for some, meaning one's "rating approach must be continuously changed to complement this". Even though every team is an individual case, it does not mean that a common and continuous method cannot be applied to every team one comes across—in fact, that is exactly what can be done!
In this article, I will be going over the five top tips one should keep in mind to improve the quality of one's rating over other teams, as well as their own. Hopefully, after reading this article, one will put their newly-found knowledge to work for them in the Rate My Team forum, and contribute to improving the quality of the forum in doing so. Rate My Team is lacking confident raters; those who are there are already doing an excellent job as it is, but as they say: the more the merrier! So, aspiring raters—we need you!
It is all well and good to be able to construct your rates in a cogent and coherent way, but all of that is worthless unless you actually know what it is that you are talking about. That begins by first identifying what problems the team you are reviewing may have. However, a common misconception between new raters is how one defines a "threat". In short, "a threat is something that may pose significant danger to the overall execution and success of a team". This does not mean a threat is necessarily a single Pokémon, but could, instead, be a common combination of Pokémon, status, or field hazard.
For example, a team may have trouble with the combination of Choice Scarf Tyranitar and Swords Dance Lucario, as the team might use Choice Scarf Rotom-h as the primary check to Lucario. This is troublesome because Rotom-h is susceptible to Tyranitar's Pursuit, thus removing the only potential threat to Lucario. However, if possible, the addition of Gliscor would act as an alternative check to Lucario without being endangered by Tyranitar's presence. Furthermore, the team under review may have a common weakness to field hazards such as Spikes, Toxic Spikes, or the prevalent Stealth Rock. It isn't uncommon for a team to have such weaknesses, but if they are present, it's important that they are addressed as significant threats as field hazards effect the fluidity of the team's movement within the match.
Identifying threats to a team is the first, and one of the most important, steps one takes when helping the team patch up any holes it may expose. However, it has to be said that it is easier to identify such threats when one boasts experience in the metagame within which the team resides. Personal experience is what allows the user to further differentiate threats and how they are dealt with practically as opposed to on paper.
There are several useful tools that one may take advantage of when rating as some raters are better working with visual comparisons than just conceptual thought. For instance, referring to Jumpman16's offensive and defensive threat lists are good guidelines that one should consider when searching Pokémon that may be problematic to a team.
So, you've identified whatever threat(s) the team you're reviewing may have. But, "what's next?" you ask. Well, even though you now know the team's threat(s), you have to convince the topic poster that your opinion is law and is the only opinion that is valid. You can only do this by affirming the identification of the threat through the use of evidence or supplying the topic poster with possible (and most likely) scenarios that could occur. This way, you keep a full control and the topic poster may not have to question you as long as your justification is logical and not completely blown out of proportion.
How do you go about convincing the topic poster that what you are saying is actually true and not a load of rubbish, though? It's simple. Provide the topic poster with logical evidence of the most likely of scenarios, with some emphasis on the dangers the threat could cause. Just saying "Gyarados will 6-0 your team after a Dragon Dance, so use Rotom-a to remedy this" will not suffice. Instead, note how Gyarados will be able to set up in the first place, and then how it could proceed to sweep then. For example, you could say: "Gyarados can easily set up with Dragon Dance once it switches into your Scizor locked into Bullet Punch. Gyarados does not suffer much from this which means it can proceed to OHKO every member of your team who is hit for super effective by offensive Gyarados's attacks." In those couple of sentences, I have noted how Gyarados can set up, why it can set up, and what the consequences of that set up are.
Obviously, not all consequences are as extreme as the example, but it is important to note what exactly the consequences could be in order to prevent any over-looking of a threat. Producing damage calculations for more obscure threats can be helpful, too. Additionally, you must remember that keeping this explanation short and to the point is essential; talking waffle or ramble-talk isn't necessary. In short, what you are looking for is some way of communicating how a threat is one in relation to how the team under review operates.
Okay, so you've explained why the Pokémon is a threat, but you are still no way near actually rating the team. There would be no point in just saying "Gyarados will 6-0 you effortlessly by setting up on you Scizor's Bullet Punch", providing a bit of explanation, and then leaving it at that. As a rater, you are indeed expected to identify threats, but also suggest how the team poster could fix the problem, too.
It is important to remember that a solution need not be the replacement of one Pokémon for another which checks the identified threat. More often than not, that can lead to even more problems arising. Quoting Stathakis, "indeed, it is often best to try and deviate as little as possible from the original team as possible. Remember, you're here to rate the team, not re-build it." This is an absolute fundamental idea that you must be able to recognize. The topic poster has posted their team for Smogon's team rating service, not team-building service; in which case, it would be best that they are re-directed to Smogon's Battling 101 program where they can receive such help.
Therefore, it is important to remember that you must keep the team's overall strategy into account when suggesting a solution to any threat. Otherwise, you may find yourself ruining the concept behind the team, and also hinder its performance. As Stathakis also states: "good rates are ones that help people beat threats without compromising the team's purpose; even better rates are ones that improve the execution of the team's purpose without compromising its ability to deal with threats"—this is true word for word. Remembering that and putting it into action will definitely change your view on rating for the better, and an instant improvement will be noticeable.
However, this does not mean you are limited to only changing the occasional EV spread, nature, or even moveset. It is understandable that this sometimes just does not work, and changing one or two whole Pokémon may be a necessity if all else is tried. As long as you aren't compromising the team's purpose and execution, then you are most likely making an excellent rate regardless.
Similarly to affirming the identification of a specific threat to a team, you will also be required to justify your solution if you are aiming to construct an excellent rate. Justifying the reasons for why you have given a specific solution is purposely for reassuring the topic poster. This does not need to be a ten-thousand word dissertation on why you think Solution X should be the replacement of Pokémon Y; your justification need only be a sentence or two long.
Carrying on the Gyarados scenario, you may suggest Celebi as the solution to it. By doing so, you would justify your choice by briefly explaining how it can help remedy the Gyarados problem, but also note how Celebi (or any solution) benefits the team as a whole, also. For example: "Celebi acts as a good check to Gyarados because of its resistance to Waterfall, and access to Recover and Grass Knot. In addition, Celebi acts as an excellent check to most Water-types in general and also has access to Thunder Wave which cripples foes and gives your own Pokémon the upper-edge." In these couple of sentences I have highlighted some key points including how Celebi helps deal with Gyarados, and what else it can do for the team as a whole.
It's not just good enough to say that "Solution X is a good check to Pokémon Z" as that doesn't convince the topic poster of how else Solution X could benefit the team. If you had suggested a solution that only dealt with the threat and serves no other purpose, then that's a waste of team space. A solution must be able to perform duties outside of any single role.
Rinse and repeat: the bane of a lot of raters. Often, people rating teams forget to look over any potential threats or problems that may emerge after suggesting a solution to an initial problem. For the sake of argument, consider the Celebi example given earlier in this article. You may have included Celebi onto the team over Pokémon Y; "Pokémon Y" being a Tentacruel. By doing this, you could have effectively dealt with the team's Gyarados weakness, but you may also have caused another significant hole to emerge: exposure to an Infernape sweep. As you can see, Celebi's addition has done its first job, but has compromised the team again.
It is absolutely important that you look back at your suggestion and then take the team back to Tip #1. If there are no immediate apparent threats, then you've done extremely well! However, if there appears to be another significant hole caused by your suggestion, see if you can overcome this with the use of another Pokémon, or an alternative change in moveset. For the purpose of the Gyarados scenario in this article, you could try looking for a Pokémon that deals with both Gyarados and Infernape. Vaporeon instantly springs to mind, and there—you've done it—you've dealt with both threats!
So there you have it—five comprehensive, but simplistic steps to effective rating. Hopefully, you will refer to these comments when rating in the future, and after a while the whole process will act formulaic without much need for continual referral to this article for every team you approach for rating.
As well as your own knowledge benefiting you when making rates and justifying the content within them, there are many resources you can use to improve the quality of your rate: DougJustDoug's monthly statistics thread and Jumpman16's offensive and defensive threat lists are just two of such resources. However, if you still feel uncomfortable with rating, then consider joining Smogon's Team Rating Workshop where we have a team of dedicated tutors that are on hand to take tutees under their wing to improve the quality of their rates and also boost their confidence in general.
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