Discussion Focused Feedback - Movepool Levels


heralds disaster.
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(yes I owe a bunch of fight posts; symptom of the post-launch crunch and a post-holiday crunch irl)

This feedback thread will be to assess the following questions, and to discuss related topics. Unlike the general feedback thread, feel free to respond to other posts in this thread.

Points of Discussion:
  • When a Pokemon gains a Level, how much stronger do they become?
  • Which Levels (besides Level 1) are large increases in power? Which are negligible?
  • Can Pokemon convincingly fight Pokemon above their own Level?
  • How much does Level influence the result of battle, compared to match-up (typing, etc.)?
  • Which Pokemon benefit the most from which Levels?
Discussion Goals:
There's no immediate plans to change the level of any moves right this second, even as a result of the feedback within. Rather, this thread is a feeler looking to assess to what degree each of the statements above are or are not true.

Strict PvP matches will likely be level-synced, but the information is still useful for creators of facilities. This info could also be used for later types of content, involving asymmetric PvP possibilities, depending on the consensus reached.

This thread might be a bit of a slower burn, as some of the above situations might not be explored very well yet. As info comes in, feel free to return to this thread to answer or re-answer the above points of discussion.
I haven't spent much time thinking about this, but I think the most notable thing so far is that a lot of the really strong tricks in doubles specifically (e.g. Ally Switch, or Giga Impact/Hyper Beam combos for threatening ORKOs) are locked behind level 4. This makes lower level doubles matches just hitting each other without much strategy beyond that. Even in City's Realgam, where there are a bunch of bulkier mons, it's just been trading hits and recoveries without any opportunities for tricks or anything like that.

(Keep in mind that everything after this point is just theorycrafting, as opposed to thoughts based on experience/what I've seen, and is mostly focused around singles) For all of the other points I think it will depend heavily on the pokemon in question tbh. Mons like Tsareena that rely heavily on nature will get a lot stronger at level 3, but for mons like Goodra-H level 3 is a negligible upgrade. I think mons like Tyranitar that are basically just stat sticks that hit hard will easily be able to fight 1-2 levels up, but mons like Gardevoir that have a bunch of tricks in their movepools will be much less effective at fighting up levels (or even to a lesser extent competing with the stat sticks at lower levels).

As for which pokemon benefit the most from which levels, I expect there to be a few clear trends: pivots in general will benefit greatly from hitting level 3, since that's when they'll have all of their important matchup control tools available. Stat sticks like Metagross will not really benefit much from levels beyond 2 (unless they're a mon like Tyranitar or Donphan that really likes getting a nature). Anything that gets Pain Split will probably get a huge spike at level 4. I also think that anything that relies on a wide variety of tricks like Imprison or Skill Swap will get a big spike at level 4, since while none of those moves individually are super impactful, when a pokemon has access to a lot of variety in tricks that is very impactful and can make it hard for the opponent to order. Mons that rely on +Spe natures for accuracy (mostly HJK users, but there are a few others) will get a decent spike at level 3. I think anything that knows Knock Off will also get a pretty big spike at level 3. I might add a few more thoughts later on if I can think of any more trends I expect to happen.
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It's beauty and rage!
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My early impression is that Level 2 is the vital level to reach. While there will undeniably be many mons who's individual vital level is 3 or 4, I think every mon will want to at least reach Level 2. Like I think a Level 2 could reasonably pick a fight with a Level 3 or even 4, it would certainly be an uphill battle but I think it's possible, but I don't think a Level 1 could pick a fight with anything outside of Level 1 (or 0). At Level 2, you get:

- Hidden Ability, which can often be the source of a mon's strength.
- Access to higher BAP move options in the 10-15 range, compared to the 10 and below range with Level 0 and 1 moves.
- Recovery moves.
- Stronger stat boosting/dropping moves (Swords Dance vs Howl, etc).
- Some matchup control tools (Partial Trapping).
- Entry hazards.
- A lot of signature moves for non-starter/legendary mons.

It really feels like the playbook opens up at Level 2. I've played in a couple Level 1 battles and it often has felt safe to just equip Choice Band/Specs since there really isn't all that much to sub for, other than like Protect, and then countering moves or sleep if the opponent has access to them.
I'm inclined to agree with TheEver on low-level battles. At Level 1, a Pokemon has few notable support, defense, or disruption options (aside from Protect and basic status), leaving it with the strategies of "damage race" and "overwhelm with status conditions." With a paucity of counterplay options available, neither of these are particularly fun or engaging.

Speaking solely from the perspective of movepool additions, I would call Level 3 the most universally important level, though. At this point, a Pokemon significantly expands its defensive/escape options; learns the vaunted Knock Off; and acquires reliable, damaging Speed-control tools, which are vital for playing dynamic matches.

While less so for the general population, Level 4 is still an important upgrade for Pokemon whose movepools contain the most competitive stat-boosting Moves (Belly Drum, Shell Smash, etc.); OHKO Moves (something has to give players a prayer of a comeback from an abyss-depth hole, right?); or massive wrenches like Pain Split, Endeavor, Destiny Bond, or Reflect Type. We also see the addition of Substitute, which comprised half of the game's historic "premiere suite" of defensive options.

As a slight digression, I'm curious as to what "level-synced" entails for our competitive PvP modes (TLG, Tours, etc.). Is this similar to our current system of scaling Pokemon to a lower Level?


heralds disaster.
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Level sync is the term for that exact function, yes.

Moving Substitute to the end was a bit contentious, but it's also the most complex and versatile option we could put there. Do lower levels feel bare without it, or does it feel like it appropriately "completes" a defensive suite?
Personally, I think that the lengthy wait before obtaining Substitute is odd. It is a complex move, yes, but the ability to create a small HP/status "buffer" is one of the most fundamental defenses we have available, and its uses are reasonably intuitive to players of Smogon competitive metagames or older BBP editions. I also have a suspicion that the noted dominance of sleep-inflicting moves at lower levels would be reduced if faster Pokemon could simply throw up an effect like Substitute to protect themselves from the status, but that idea is less relevant to this discussion.
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i'm ok with doubles redirection being at higher levels. i would rather not be constantly forced to sub for them with my level 2 guys.

i also don't find doubles to be particularly brainless compared to singles. there's this neat aspect of managing the hp of 2 mons at once, making use of moves like protect and recoveries to prevent one mon from getting targeted down too fast. also individual stat changes and status are generally worse, but in return, field conditions (tailwind, weather) and spread move combos (hello rock slide + mud slap) become a lot cooler. switch phases also get really exciting when there are so many combinations of mons to go to.

i think it being more attack-heavy than singles is kind of just...doubles in general, also. i remember oras ubers mega mence ran dragon dance roost 2 atks, vgc16 mmence ran protect hyper voice double-edge filler. in most cases the immediate power is just more helpful, and there's also the general nerf to defensive play that comes with 2 opposing mons being able to target your guy.


heralds disaster.
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Lots of good discussion on the early Levels, and the moves within those Levels.

As a reminder, feel free to re-use previous Feedback threads with an appropriate topic, if that topic should become relevant again, for when you have a very specific piece of feedback, or when you want to hold a longer discussion. That's what they're left open for!

(I'll leave deciding "what makes sense in Casual Discussion" and "what makes sense in Feedback" as an exercise for the users.)
I noticed a desire for level reassignment suggestions in the PHB's new update. Here's a plethora of ideas that I've been contemplating since the start of the generation.

Uproar: Level 3 -> Level 1
This idea, which I remember as being floated a while ago, has my full support because it increases the number of Sleep counterplay options in the Status' most oppressive Level range.

Phazing Moves: Level 1 -> Level 0
The current lack of matchup control at Level 0 means that Beginner Battles often devolve into slugfests that aren't representative of typical BBP gameplay. Adding Phazing Moves—the weakest matchup control tools—to this Level makes these matches a little more interesting and teaches players to think about more complex strategies earlier in their stays, which better equips them for more serious formats.

Damaging Speed-Lowering/Boosting Moves: Level 3 -> Level 2
There is a somewhat-popular sentiment that Level 2 is the point of competitive viability, but I don't believe that this statement can be true without access to this category of Moves. Speed control is a crucial part of competitive gameplay, and a one-sided inability to reliably manipulate turn order without spending their Combo Counters or dropping their damage outputs with a Status move means that Level 2 Pokemon suffer a substantial disadvantage when fighting Level 3 or 4 Pokemon.

Pivoting Moves: Level 3 -> Level 2
This follows a similar thought process as the above reassignment. If a Pokemon can't escape its bad matchups, it's unable to compete at the same basic effectiveness as a higher-level opponent because it lacks a fundamental tool.

Substitute: Level 4 -> Level 2
Traditionally, Protect and Substitute have formed the core of all Pokemon's defensive profiles, and the relegation of Substitute to endgame content levels has clear consequences. By moving everyone's favorite personal protective dummy to Level 2, we increase the depth of the mid Levels by reintroducing and by offering universal mitigation of the threat posed by the games controversial, constantly updating reworked Status conditions. Moreover, Level 2 means that Substitute comes online at the same time as Multi-Hit Moves, allowing counterplay to proceed as usual.

Spin Out: Level 4 -> Level 2 or Level 1
This Move seems to have drifted into Level 4 due to its 2-Stage Speed reduction, which brings to mind powerful nukes like Overheat or Draco Meteor that require a harsh drawback to balance their strengths. Nevertheless, Spin Out is not nearly as potent of an attack. It's not a physical Draco with a more consistent damage output; it's Hammer Arm with better Accuracy and a worse Speed penalty, and it thus deserves to be learned no later than Hammer Arm.

I'd also like to propose the idea of generally making Doubles-specific Moves available earlier. Waiting until the latter half of a Pokemon's leveling to learn Moves such as Decorate, Instruct, Helping Hand, or Ally Switch wasn't really inconvenient when multi-battles appeared only in certain Realgam scenarios, but the advent of the Raid Frontier has increased the demand for these specialized support moves across all levels.
I think most of the above is reasonable, but I really dislike the idea of Substitute at Lv2; I think lower levels already favour aggressive strategies more and letting them just Substitute into most tricky moves for a free action advantage while the best moves for the defender are Lv4 would make that even more oppressive.
That's a fair point, but I actually see Substitute as a defensive tool.

Substitute gives little advantage against faster opponents, as an order set of Sub - attack - attack trades at minimum 1/4 of of your HP and a Major Status—now designed to be equivalent in value to a heavy hit—or other debilitating condition for 50-67% of your opponents HP, which means a metagame with prolific access to Substitute really only hurts the slower tricky mons. Even in matchups involving these Pokemon, the effect of Substitute can be reduced to the dedication of a substitution to either using or breaking/bypassing Substitute, depending on which player is ordering first. Thus, slow tricksters would really only have to spend an additional action on Speed control or Taunt when ordering second, or exploit the fact that their opponents would need to use Substitute twice to completely protect themselves from Other Moves during a round to force the expenditure of 50% of their opponents' HP in Substitutes while taking only a single attack, themselves.

In contrast, complaints about action denial via aggressive application of Other Moves (especially Major Status) have arisen frequently since the beginning of the Generation. Perhaps I'm misconstruing the evidence here, as these Moves were buffed considerably from their previous incarnations, but I think the fact that such a problem exists in the first iteration of BBP that lacks immediate access to Substitute and the associated anti-trick tactics of switching to a faster Pokemon and subbing up isn't coincidental.

I never really noticed how many more devastating support Moves were assigned to Level 4 than were attacks, though. That's interesting.


heralds disaster.
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I'd say Substitute was a major factor in making status unviable at most levels of play. Moving Substitute to a high level was another axis of buffing status, and letting other counterplays like Safeguard take the stage. This way, by the time status-reliant Pokemon have to deal with a decoy, they would have their full suite of answers to Substitute (Encore, phazing, and so on) at their disposal. This means there'd be less risk of low-damage status-spreading Pokemon losing outright to a single use of the move.

Lowering Substitute would involve taking a harder look at its "job" in relation to the things it beats; then, deciding how Pokemon "should" be beating a decoy; then, focusing the move into that job. That might involve messing with the HP that the decoy is created with, for example, or messing with what does or doesn't bypass it.

Though, Substitute is an intuitive effect that seems easy to "basically" understand. You make a doll, and the doll takes hostile actions for you. That's a mark in favor of lowering the Level that it's learned — that is, it can be lowered if it is made simpler to understand. There's other moves that could do important and easily-understood work in early battles, such as Rest, that I'm looking into cleaning up as well.
I was under the impression that statuses weren't viable primarily because they were all—frankly—historically bad. Until the Gen IX update, their net values in terms of HP were so inferior to attacking that they were best used in combinations as desperation plays for chances to buy up to two free actions. Thankfully, statuses now have enough value to merit use as their own strategy, and the ease with which even status-reliant Pokemon can meet the 12 damage-per-action benchmark required to trade fairly into most of the metagame's Substitutes leaves me doubtful of the move's potential damage to the archetype's performance.

I'm willing to work with the idea that low-level Substitute is as problematic as I'm being told, though. Maybe we could scale Substitute's effects by its user's Level, as with Light Ball or Ceaseless Edge. As you said, Lou, changing its HP or limiting the variety of Moves it blocks would certainly make it less oppressive against Pokemon below Level 4.

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