A Deep Dive into Understanding 1v1 Fundamentals

By lost heros. Released: 2020/03/06.
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A deep dive into understanding 1v1 fundamentals art

By Cresselia92.


Cinderace beats Rillaboom, Rillaboom beats Inteleon, and Inteleon beats Cinderace. That's how 1v1 is supposed to work, right? 1v1 is actually far from a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with Pokemon playing. It's a game of advantages and disadvantages. Skilled players must both understand the matchups their Pokemon have against the foe and how those individual matchups affect the overall match against the opponent. The best players can then utilize these different types of matchups to net more wins both on ladder and in tournaments. In order to succeed at 1v1, you have to understand the fundamentals of the format and how the merits of skill in 1v1 transcend in-battle gameplay alone.

Differentiating between Rock, Paper, Scissors and 1v1

The first thing needed to understand 1v1 is to understand the difference between it and Rock, Paper, Scissors. In Rock, Paper, Scissors, each player chooses one of three options. Each of these options beats one, loses to another, and draws against the third. This creates nine possible scenarios per round, with six of them resulting in one of the players winning. Players keep playing rounds until one of these six scenarios occurs. This means that any given player has exactly a 50% chance to win the game.

At a glance, 1v1 seems like a fancy game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with Pokemon. After all, each player has three options to choose from before choosing one. However, the key difference here is that in each of the nine scenarios, one player wins. There is no way for a matchup to end up as a draw. This means that, in any given match, each player can have a percent likelihood to win of 100%, 89%, 78%, 67%, 56%, 44%, 33%, 22%, 11%, or 0%. This means one thing: in 1v1, one player is at an advantage, and another player is at a disadvantage, something that can never happen in Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Understanding Advantages at Team Preview

Unfortunately, understanding advantages is not so simple. While mathematically there are ten different potential advantages, a good 1v1 player will never experience most of those situations because of four key things. If one Pokemon beats all three opposing Pokemon, a good player will always choose it regardless of the other Pokemon's matchups. If one Pokemon loses to all three opposing Pokemon, a good player will never choose to give the advantage to the opponent. If one Pokemon beats one opposing Pokemon, but another Pokemon beats the same Pokemon and another one, a good player will never choose the first because it's outclassed by the second. These three important facts change the potential advantage a player can have to 100%, 67%, 50%, 33%, and 0%. The final key thing that changes advantage is when a matchup is determined by a 50% chance. This usually occurs when two of the same set go up against each other, a Speed tie that determines the match occurs, or each player has to make a single decision between two lines of play to determine who wins. When this occurs, these specific matchups do not contribute to either player's advantage and can have major impacts on overall advantage calculations.

Utilizing Advantages at Team Preview

The most important thing about the advantage at Team Preview is determining who has it. Understanding the matchups between Pokemon differentiates the good players from the bad ones. The first step to entering 1v1 is to learn the matchups of some of the most popular Pokemon and especially the ones on your team. Players who incorrectly determine who has the advantage often make mistakes when choosing their Pokemon. This can happen when one player purposefully builds a team with a lure set to try and bait a certain Pokemon or type of Pokemon into a false sense of security or when a player naively believes that just because one of their Pokemon beats two of the opponent's that they have the advantage.

Utilizing Advantages in Teambuilding

Understanding advantages can help your teambuilding immensely. Every team you pick for a battle should try to maximize your advantage and minimize your disadvantage. Using a series of strong Pokemon is a great way to maximize your advantage, even if your Pokemon don't cover each other's weaknesses. If you can use one or two of your Pokemon to coordinate an assault on the enemy teams, you can quickly gain elo. On the other hand, minimizing your disadvantage is also a good strategy. Using a specific Pokemon, even if it's not as viable, to cover key weaknesses that your other Pokemon share can help mitigate the effects of counter-teaming and make for a more well-rounded team. While the team might not be as devastating to the metagame as a whole, you'll always have a fighting chance against most teams.

When using a Pokemon to maximize your advantage, it's important to focus on the stats that guarantee the most wins. These sets use highly invested EVs, generally 200+, to give the most power, speed, or bulk depending on how the Pokemon secures its wins. However, when trying to minimize your disadvantage, EVs should be more custom tailored to ensure survival or just enough power to KO the foe, with a specific target Pokemon or type of Pokemon in mind. For example, Dragapult is a prominent force that can run either Choice Band or Choice Specs. However, with some investment, even Aegislash can beat either set without changing its playstyle. With an EV spread of 120 HP / 196 Def / 192 SpA and a Relaxed nature, Aegislash can narrowly survive Shadow Ball and Phantom Force! Some other threats to try and bulk against can be Dracovish, Galarian Darmanitan, Cinderace, and Inteleon.

Furthermore, misleading your opponent can also be a powerful tool. It's possible to specifically target strategies and specific Pokemon by presenting a team that appears to be naturally countered with a 3-0 matchup, when in reality one or more Pokemon utilize strange or uncommon lure sets. For example, a team of Kommo-o, Dragapult, and Grimmsnarl may appear to be really weak to a popular Fairy-type Pokemon like Sylveon, and opponents will naturally tend to send out Sylveon without even much thought about it. However, with a combination of Soundproof to prevent Hyper Voice, Substitute to block Hyper Beam, and Iron Head to pick up a 2HKO, Kommo-o can easily and effectively lure in and beat Sylveon. Being able to target metagame trends or a tournament opponent's likely used Pokemon by utilizing lures is extremely difficult and in some regards is reflective of a more skilled player who is very in tune with the micro-metagame they're playing.

Advantages in the Tournament Scene

Because of the multiple-match nature of 1v1, consistency has a huge role in tournament success. Any information you can learn from your opponent can be incredibly valuable. Do they seem to properly recognize who has the advantage? Do they like to press the advantage when they think they have it, or are they more cautious?

Building teams for tournaments is also drastically different from ladder. On ladder, the goal is to build against the entire metagame, or any micro-metagame the ladder is experiencing. However, in tournaments, the goal is to beat just one opponent. Any information on how the opponent typically builds can help inform you how to build. Understanding how your opponent builds can help prepare for them. Opponents that favor lures or non-standard sets may try to trick you with what seem to be too-good-to-be-true matchups and use your sense of advantage against you quickly and unexpectedly, and using teams that utilize several meta-defining Pokemon can help overwhelm many kinds of lures. On the contrary, opponents that use tried-and-true teams and strategies will be hard to easily overpower, and in response a more balanced approach to your teambuilding may help even the matchups.


With a proper understanding of advantage and its importance in 1v1, any player can change from bad to good or even good to great. Advantage in 1v1 can be tricky to understand and harder to properly utilize. Teambuilding, set-building, and playstyle are all drastically different in 1v1. The biggest skills in 1v1 aren't in the choices you make during the match, but rather how you've prepared for the match itself and how you understand the match before you even pick your Pokemon. By the time the Pokemon are sent out, the most difficult part is over; crafting and selecting to maximize the possibility for success is a hallmark trait of a skilled 1v1 player. To get a good idea of how the best players are approaching 1v1, check out 1v1PL IV happening right now!

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