Common rating mistakes you should avoid

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We’ve recently had a discussion amongst the RMT staff about the quality of rating at the moment, and while there are certainly plenty of useful rates being made, there are also a lot of widespread problems. I’ve put together what you’d probably describe as a short essay on one of the issues that we singled out as being particularly important and pervasive to inject a bit of activity into this forum, as well as hopefully getting some of you to think about what I’m saying!

When it comes to rating, there's no point fixing all of the main problems with a team but completely changing it in the process. After all, the point of rating is to help people make final improvements to a team they've created. One of the most common mistakes made by raters is forgetting this and then wondering why the OP isn’t very interested in what they have to say. While sticking a Slowbro on a hyper offense team certainly means that it can deal with setup sweepers better (at least on paper), I don’t think anyone would be able to argue that it improves the team in practice.

Most of us began rating in a fairly simplistic manner: looking at a threatlist for the relevant tier, going through it one pokemon at a time, making a list of what the team struggles with, and seeing if there’s a way to fix it without being too drastic. While that’s certainly a good way to spot weaknesses, it’s heavily biased towards rating defensively-minded teams. If a team’s aim is to have a response to everything, then rating in this manner is perfectly acceptable. However, in BW2 the vast majority of teams won’t have a hard counter to everything. To give an extremely simple example, a Dragon Dance Dragonite easily sweeps a team of SD Terrakion, LO Starmie, Jirachi, SE Breloom, Tyranitar and LO Latias once it’s set up, but it’s never going to get that opportunity outside of the player making a huge misplay.

That’s not to say that spotting defensive weaknesses isn’t an important part of rating, but it certainly isn’t the be all and end all that many raters treat it as. If you were to take a random sample of rates by competent raters from the first few pages of the forum, it’s a pretty safe bet that the majority of them would be along the lines of “Hi, this is a solid team enough team, but you lose to X sweeper. To solve that, you can change Y to Z”. I don’t think I can explain my first point any more clearly than Heist recently did:

I think a lot of rates are constructed from a defensive point of view; rather than rating to help the team achieve its goal, you are stacking the team with defensive utility pokemon to hinder the opposing team’s strategy.
This really hits the nail on the head. Outside of rating a stall team, for which this method of rating is pretty much what you’re looking for (although you still have to take things like making sure it isn’t really easy to spin against into account), what a truly excellent rate should do is look to fix any glaring weaknesses and make sure that the team works effectively as a unit, all while keeping the original team in mind. By this I mean that you want to focus on making the team as effective as possible at executing its chosen strategy, rather than largely ignoring what that strategy may be and trying to add ways to hinder the opponent’s.

Of course, there’s only so much you can say about rating in complete generality. After all, if there was a wonderful formula that you could follow to make the perfect rate every time, we’d have a program that does that for us by now and the ladder would be a much less interesting place as a result. Instead, I’ll look at a couple of examples of different teams, and hopefully manage to convey a few more points while I’m at it.

This being BW2, rain is probably the first thing that people are going to be worrying about when rating a team. Can the team survive against rain; can the team beat standard rain cores? The current flavour of the month seems to be specially defensive Rotom-W, which can certainly take a few strong water attacks or Hurricanes, so you might see it as a perfect candidate for patching up teams that have problems with rain. However, that’s not always the case - there are numerous ways that a team might have problems with rain. An offensively-minded team couple have a couple of pokemon that Tornadus-T comes in for free on and nothing that can take a Hurricane. Rotom to the rescue, right? That certainly fixes the problem of not being able to handle Tornadus firing off Hurricanes once it gets in, but it really misses the underlying problem – it’s an offensive team that invites the pokemon it’s most scared of to come in. When you look at it that way, it’s clear that the correct way to solve that problem is to stop giving free switches to Tornadus, rather than sticking on a band aid in Rotom and pretending that that everything’s fine.

At the risk of repeating myself one time too many, the Rotom-W example that I just gave is the main example of a very general problem: the majority of rates are trying to shore things up defensively, whether or not that’s in the best interests of the team. The easiest way to shore things up defensively is by introducing some of the “band aid” pokemon – Sdef Rotom-W, LO Latias, SDef Jirachi, Gliscor, Balloon Tran, Scarf Terrakion etc. The common theme here is that they’re all pokemon that more often than not are used in balanced sand teams. Obviously, not every team is a balanced sand team, not every team aspires to be a balanced sand team, and not every team will really benefit from being given some of the qualities of a balanced sand team, but more often than not this style of rating is going to end up pushing teams in that direction. One of the strengths of pokemon is that there’s so much room for creativity and so many different kinds of team that can be successful. I suppose my main point is that the first thing you should consider when rating is what makes the team interesting and how does it aim to function? If you bear that in mind, you’ll find that you’re able to make much more interesting rates, and we might even see the odd rate that doesn’t suggest using a Rotom!

By now you’ll probably have noticed that, despite my claim that rating isn’t just about making sure a team isn’t swept by common pokemon, I’ve talked almost exclusively about ways of doing exactly that. The main point I wanted to try and get across is that “stacking the team with defensive utility pokemon” as Heist put it isn’t really the best way to do it, so that’s taken up the vast majority of the post. I’ll end by pointing out that there are plenty of ways of improving a team other than fixing a defensive weakness. The classical example that I’ve seen dozens of times when helping raters out over the years is when rating a balanced team. As a fairly random example, let’s say our team is something along the lines of SDef Hippowdown, Jirachi, Ferrothorn, SDef Rotom, LO Latias and Starmie. That’s a pretty terrible team as I’ve just listed 6 fairly common defensive pokemon, but let’s pretend that it’s not got any glaring weaknesses for the sake of having an example. Plenty of times I’ve been looking at a team like this with someone and their impression is that it’s “hard to rate”, by which they mean they can’t improve it. Certainly, if you look at how it counters each pokemon on paper in isolation, you’ll struggle to find many weaknesses, and if you’re focused entirely on how it counters various offensive threats, you’re going to limit yourself to making fairly trivial changes such as tweaking movesets and EV spreads, or changing a pokemon for a similar one which deals with a certain threat a tiny bit better. However, once you stop worrying about what it can’t defend against, theres a huge problem: how does it kill anything? Short of scald burns and Draco Meteors from Latias, the only way it’s going to do any damage at all is through entry hazards, but it’s only got one form of phazing and it’s about as easy a team to spin against as you’ll find. Certainly, Tentacruel, Starmie and Forretress can all come in and spin against a couple of the members without too many worries. So it’s pretty obvious that stall is a huge problem, and I doubt the team’s really going to stick around long enough against a solid offensive team to beat it – it’s much more likely to just get worn down and lose in a fairly unspectacular manner.

That example was rather trivial, but it does illustrate a couple of ways in which you can find problems with a team that aren’t along the lines of “you lose to this sweeper”. Rather than rambling on about various examples, I’ll end by linking to a rate I made earlier to try and illustrate my points properly. For convenience:

This isn't a bad team, but it can certainly be improved a lot without too much work. Certainly, you've got a lot of the right ideas in place. The main problem that you have is that your team seems to be lacking a real idea of what it's trying to do - half of your team is built to be an offensive team, while the other half is based around letting it take hits well, which isn't really the right way to do things - every time you switch into a wall, you're giving up all of the momentum you've gained through offensive play. The other real problem that you have is that, despite the fact that you've tried to build an offensive team, the only two pokemon you have with real offensive presence are Politoed and Tornadus, which means that you're going to struggle to wear down more defensively-minded teams.

The obvious change that you can make to try and fix that is to replace Chansey, as a dedicated wall isn't really necessary (Ferrothorn doesn't count as it has more of a support role), but I'll get back to that. First of all, I'm going to suggest that you change your Scizor to a Sub CM Jirachi for a number of reasons. Firstly, it'll help deal with your problem of the team in general not really being threatening enough offensively, as Scizor doesn't really perform as well as it used to in the current metagame, and Jirachi is a pretty scary sweeper on rain teams. Secondly, it helps you deal with probably the number one threat at the moment, Tornadus-T much more easily, as well as helping pick up the slack when it comes to sponging special hits once Chansey is gone. I'd suggest you use the SubCM set from this analysis.

Now, on to Chansey. As I said, you don't really need a dedicated wall on this kind of team - you'd be much better off with a reasonably bulky pokemon that also offers an offensive contribution. At the moment, outside of going to Politoed constantly (which is a surefire way to get it worn down and lose the weather war), you're going to struggle to take out pokemon like specially defensive Hippowdown. There are two immediate choices that leap out as being well-suited to a rain team: Latios and Keldeo, both of which could give you an extra weapon against sun teams, which could be a bit annoying at the moment. You could either add a Specs Keldeo or a LO Latios and keep the rest of the team the same, or add a Scarf Keldeo and change Garchomp's set. If you're willing to make that many changes, I'd probably lean towards the latter - Keldeo lets you outspeed modest Venusaur in the sun (only relevant if you have HP Ice), and is a pretty scary lategame sweeper on rain teams, whereas Garchomp isn't really a great scarfer anymore. Keldeo also deals with Volcarona almost as easily as Garchomp does.

As for other small changes, I'd probably give Ferrothorn a more specially defensive EV spread, especially now that Chansey is gone, so that you can take boosted water moves a bit more easily. For a similar reason, you're going to want Leech Seed on it, which makes it much harder to kill. I'd replace Spikes, as you're probably better of just focusing on one kind of hazards with Ferrothorn. If you want to keep spikes, you could replace Stealth Rock, and use a Rocky Helmet SR Garchomp set (provided you use a Scarf Keldeo).

Hopefully you'll find some of my suggestions useful, good luck!
I won't claim that this is a perfect rate, and I'm sure that plenty of the people reading this will be able to think of a better rate, but it's certainly a good example of what I've been talking about. You'll notice how I've not followed the "standard format" of listing defensive weaknesses and trying to patch them up. Instead, I've focused on making the team work as well as possible in the way it was intended to, and worked defensive considerations into it once I've identified the things holding the team back. Also, to repeat one of the smaller points I made earlier - throwing a specially defensive Rotom-W onto every team that doesn't like Tornadus isn't the only way to do things!

Hopefully some of you will find what I’ve said useful! If you’ve got any questions about anything I’ve said, or any suggestions for similar threads that you’d like to see in the future, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
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