Random Formats on Pokémon Showdown

By marthaa.
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Art by LifeisDANK.


Pokémon Showdown has a plethora of available formats to play, ranging from official tiers to past generations to randomized metagames. Random formats are unique because you don't need to bring a team, meaning that the pressure of building is no longer an issue, and the pressure of the time it takes to find a battle and really play it seriously is almost non-existent. This also means that randomized formats tend to be how newer players learn the ropes of PS and possibly competitive Pokémon in general. Unlike other formats on the simulator, most randomized metagames do not follow the structured ideas of Smogon, and they tend to offer more freedom. They also allow you to experiment with new Pokémon that you may never have used before! PS supports a variety of these random formats, which vary in rules and playstyle from metagame to metagame.

USM Random Singles

When you first log onto PS, what format do you see? USM Random Battle is the format that appears on the homepage unless you select a tier, meaning that a lot of people will see it and give it a try, especially those new to the site. USM Random Battle isn't just for new players, however; there is a dedicated playerbase, and the ladder is the highest in terms of ratings on the simulator, surpassing even OU. The activity of the ladder also means that finding matches is never difficult, no matter what time of day it may be. When your favorite metagame's playerbase is sleeping or offline, it's easy to just click the Battle! button and discover a new world of formats to play. In USM Random Battle, and all randomized metagames for that matter, you receive a team of random Pokémon. In this format, all fully evolved Pokémon, as well as some viable not-fully-evolved Pokémon such as Chansey, Porygon2, and Gligar, can be generated for your team. They will all have competitive moves, abilities, and items, including Z-Crystals; the Pokémon are also level-balanced, meaning that Ubers Pokémon are lower leveled than PU Pokémon, and the level scale makes some Pokémon like Nasty Plot Simipour viable. Despite this, the chance for a second Uber or PU Pokémon is reduced if you already have one. However, like any format, there are a few Pokémon that really shine. Access to Geomancy, coupled with a Power Herb, allows Xerneas to become a threatening sweeper in just one turn, and unlike in Ubers, you may not have a check or counter to stop it once it gets going. Additionally, a set of Cosmic Power / Stored Power / Roost / Psycho Shift on Sigilyph, in tandem with Flame Orb and Magic Guard, makes it a very difficult Pokémon to break. With successful Pokémon come failures, and it can be argued that Random Battles are "uncompetitive" due to the number of potential failures, since PU Pokémon are faced with Uber tier threats. However, this format tests the player's ability to analyze their situation and successfully work with their team, so most of the time the team isn't the only factor in the outcome of a match.

Old Gen Random Battles

Do you every get nostalgic for a certain generation? Are you sick and tired of the repetition of the mechanics and playstyle? Or did you just miss out on the chance to play a certain generation, either in-game or competitively? Every generation has a randomized format with a ladder playable on PS, and this allows you to experiment with different generations of playstyles and Pokémon. From the early beginnings of Generation 1 to the more complex Generation 6, there will be a ladder for you to enjoy if past generations are your thing. The differences of mechanics between generations, such as the lack of Dark-, Steel-, and Fairy-types and the lack of a physical / special split, also make old gen Random Battles consistently fun and engaging to play. Some Pokémon become more viable, and some Pokémon that shine in Generation 7 may not be as good. However, the number of strategies available in Generation 7 contrasts with the more simplistic sets in older generations, as they generally have less to work with, such as the lack of items and abilities. If you're looking for a quick battle to play, the lack of interest in past generations does show here, with the ladders being significantly lower in terms of ratings and less active; the formats are a lot harder to get into as well, as USM Random Battles are far more engaging. As PS was around during Generation 5 and 6, these randomized metagames are rarely updated, meaning that they could become stale.

Random Doubles

While Smogon metagames, and by extension randomized formats provided by Smogon, generally focus on singles 6v6 play, Random Doubles gives you six random, level-balanced Pokémon without a Team Preview, and you have two Pokémon at a time instead of one to work with. This allows you to experience doubles metagames where the playstyle is a lot different. Moves such as Helping Hand, Tailwind, and Heal Pulse are usable in this format, meaning that Pokémon that have a wide support movepool are a lot more viable here compared to random singles. Prankster users such as Whimsicott become more useful, while entry hazards, and by extension the Pokémon that primarily set them, become less effective due to the lack of switches. Even though many Pokémon perform similar roles, spread moves such as Heat Wave and Dazzling Gleam become a lot more practical during play. Weather setters, such as Kyogre and Mega Charizard Y, also become more useful due to weather allowing certain partners to excel, but due to the nature of the format, you could end up with a Fire-type paired with a rain setter or a Water-type paired with a sun setter. While status moves are good, sometimes the number of them present can hinder some Pokémon if they don't have partners that can utilize these strategies. You could end up with two Helping Hand users as your last two Pokémon!

Monotype Random Battle

Monotype Random Battle is where you are given a team that shares a common type. Unlike in general Monotype, Mega Evolutions that lose the shared type are legal, such as Mega Charizard X and Mega Gyarados on Flying-type teams. This fun and fast-paced battle style allows you to experience Monotype in a unique way. It allows you to consider strategies only useful in Monotype, like being able to utilize different aspects of your team to counter a type that has an advantage over yours, and this is arguably harder because you cannot choose your checks or coverage moves. Types that really shine in Monotype Random Battle are types that are strong offensively, such as Fairy. Fairy teams have access to the Island Guardians, which can set up Terrains to further enhance your team, and access to powerful Mega Evolutions such as Mega Mawile, Mega Gardevoir, and Mega Diancie. Steel excels as a more defensive typing and has a range of Pokémon that can check threats, such as Heatran with Flash Fire and Celesteela and Skarmory with their secondary Flying typing. Pokémon such as Kartana and Excadrill can also offensively pressure foes. Finally, types with Pokémon that have high base stat totals are good in Monotype Random Battle; having a Dragon-type team almost guarantees you a Pokémon in the Uber tier. However, Monotype Random Battle is a tournament- and challenge-only format on PS, meaning that it doesn't have a ladder available, so it is a lot harder to get into than other random formats, and you can't play it casually without friends who are also interested. Type disadvantages are common, making it a very unbalanced format. Winning with a disadvantage is possible, but it makes the match a lot harder and biased.

Challenge Cup

Challenge Cup is a randomized format where you receive Pokémon that have moves and abilities that they can get naturally, albeit not always competitvely viable, as well as completely randomized items. There are two Challenge Cup formats: CC1v1 and CC2v2. CC1v1 gives you six Pokémon, but you only choose one to battle with. You determine your Pokémon by looking at the moveset primarily because a Pokémon that knows a relatively strong STAB move is generally preferred to a Pokémon that is in a higher tier but has very weak moves. For example, an Ubers Pokémon could only have status moves or only know Tackle as its attack, while a PU Pokémon could have a viable moveset. You should also be wary of Frustration and Return because many people have lost games due to a low-Base Power move because happiness in randomized. Despite this, it is a very easy metagame to play because matches don't take long, but laddering it can be very unpredictable, and it is hard to be consistent in. The pace of the game is appealing, but you can never be guaranteed to get a usable set, making it more of a fun format than a competitive one. CC2v2 is very similar to CC1v1, but you choose two Pokémon from a selection of six. This means that you have to find two Pokémon with viable movesets, which can often be a challenge. Sometimes, there may only be one Pokémon that you can use, and your second Pokémon just sits there spamming Happy Hour as the match ends in your defeat. It is also tournament- and challenge-only and relatively new to the server, so few people play it or even know it exists.

Hackmons Cup

Hackmons Cup is an extremely fun and well-known format that involves completely random Pokémon, moves, abilities, and items, creating either broken strategies such as Wonder Guard users with only one weakness or completely useless Pokémon with no attacking moves that just act as dead weight to a team. Extremely weak Pokémon like Sunkern and Magikarp are also fair game, so you can never be guaranteed that you will win, no matter how experienced you are with the format. Recently, Hackmons Cup was updated to include Mega Evolutions that have already Mega Evolved even lacking the required Mega Stone. Many people like Hackmons Cup, and it has a large playerbase, but it is a very unbalanced format that is hard to be consistent in; however, being able to utilize what you have is a skill that is extremely prevalent. The format can often be seen as uncompetitive due to the sheer randomness of it, as well as the presence of abilities like Wonder Guard and Huge Power. Additionally, extreme setup moves like Geomancy and Extreme Evoboost are a lot more common than you would expect. Doubles Hackmons Cup is a doubles version of Hackmons Cup, allowing you to make use of some of the annoying status moves that can't be used at all in singles. However, it is tournament- and challenge-only and few people actively decide to play it over singles, so for most people, hopping on the ladder is far easier.

Battle Factory

Battle Factory is based on ORAS Smogon metagames, with teams consisting of Pokémon viable in a certain tier. Matches can take place with Uber, OU, UU, RU, NU, or PU teams, but some Pokémon from lower tiers may be on your team if they impacted the metagame in some way. Both players have teams in the same tier, and Pokémon's sets are chosen from fixed sets instead of four viable moves given to them, so it is arguably the most balanced randomized format and therefore seen as the most "competitive" one. Battle Factory is also the only randomized format where all Pokémon are level 100 because level-balancing is not needed. However, due to the generation shift, some of the sets and strategies are outdated and harder for newer players to get to grips with if they didn't have experience with the metagame at the time; they also won't know which Pokémon perform which roles and what their checks and counters are if they have changed a lot. The format can also seem "boring" to players that prefer a certain tier's playstyle, as some tiers are faster or slower than others. However, Battle Factory is a great way to understand Smogon metagames better, and it bridges the gap between competitive and causal random formats. While Battle Factory is played in ORAS as of now, the format will be updated for USM, meaning that it can be played with all the amazing attributes, such as learning Smogon metagames in the most competitive light, without it being in a past generation.

BSS Factory

BSS Factory is the newest randomized format on PS if you don't count CC2v2 as separate, and it is 3v3 singles based on the cartridge format Battle Spot Singles. It uses sets that are viable in that metagame, chosen by users familiar with the tier; it's also the only randomized format played at Level 50, as that is the level that BSS is played at on cartridge. For players not experienced with BSS, this format allows them to try out new strategies that other randomized formats and Smogon metagames don't utilize. However, this is not always a positive. BSS lacks a Sleep Clause, meaning you can't avoid sleep by switching if you need to remove a threat quickly. Additionally, Moody Clause also does not exist, so the infamous Moody Glalie can use Substitute and Protect to accumulate as many Moody boosts as possible, aiming for evasion, and then watch as your Pokémon struggle to even hit a move. Despite all this, this format is also fast-paced and easy to ladder, so it is always fun to give it a try!

Final Thoughts

There are a plethora of randomized formats available, so there is almost certainly one for you. Get out there, and give them a try today!

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