In-game tier list policy discussion thread

Because the idea of the in-game tier list is to rank Pokémon according to their merits in a "regular" playthrough, and use that as a yardstick for their relative usability in other forms of play. Single-'mon speedrunning is a very specific and specialized way of playing, with its own unique requirements and conditions, and is pretty far removed from a casual playthrough, or most self-imposed challenges.

Also, speedrunning is not the mode most people on here play. There is an old speedrunning thread around somewhere, but it fell to the depths of the forums because of inactivity. I hardly ever see people posting about plans to speedrun a game, mostly we talk about playing on a way more casual level, and the in-game tier lists are most useful when written accordingly. I think separate speedrun tier threads could thrive given enough interest, but currently it appears to be a too "hardcore" mode for most people in here.

It's past midnight, so I'll stop for now, but hopefully you get the idea.
Oh no I definitely get "the idea", but I think you're missing the point here. Speedrunning is a highly refined and charted (as well as risky) way of playing through the game, but if you add enough minor variations to it and mainly just preserve the one Pokemon aspect, you end up with a very casual method, which is one that is very "regular" and also very efficient. So many casual players I know just played with one overleveled Pokemon the first time, with the logic "well if what I'm using is working, why add other team members?"

I am not endorsing a speedrunning-style. But what I will argue is that (at least for Gens I-IV where the experience formula does not take into account level differential):
  • a 1 Pokemon strategy is efficient and effective (as evidenced by speedrunners)
  • a 1 Pokemon playthrough is just as "casual" as any others. In fact more, because you're not constantly switching around, just hiding behind one Pokemon and dominating.
  • a 1 Pokemon playthrough is just as "regular" as any others. In fact, I'd wager a lot of money that more players instinctively choose something resembling a 1 Pokemon playthrough versus any other specific amount (2-6 Pokemon)
  • what is in fact extremely inefficient, is using playthroughs as a "yardstick" for usability for other forms of play. They are two metagames with very limited overlap. Even individual Pokemon, as a general rule with a few exceptions, have a very limited access to their full movepool that they would use in competitive play. Think of egg moves, tutor moves, tradeback moves, difficult to obtain/non-replenishable TM moves, etc.
As a result, I conclude that judging playthrough usability, while constricting methods of playthrough for faulty premises, is a foolish idea. I am not saying "forget about playing through with a 3-6 Pokemon team!". No, I am just saying all different kinds of teams should be considered, from 1-6 Pokemon.
 
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Merritt

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Oh no I definitely get "the idea", but I think you're missing the point here. Speedrunning is a highly refined and charted (as well as risky) way of playing through the game, but if you add enough minor variations to it and mainly just preserve the one Pokemon aspect, you end up with a very casual method, which is one that is very "regular" and also very efficient. So many casual players I know just played with one overleveled Pokemon the first time, with the logic "well if what I'm using is working, why add other team members?"

I am not endorsing a speedrunning-style. But what I will argue is that (at least for Gens I-IV where the experience formula does not take into account level differential):
  • a 1 Pokemon strategy is efficient and effective (as evidenced by speedrunners)
  • a 1 Pokemon playthrough is just as "casual" as any others. In fact more, because you're not constantly switching around, just hiding behind one Pokemon and dominating.
  • a 1 Pokemon playthrough is just as "regular" as any others. In fact, I'd wager a lot of money that more players instinctively choose something resembling a 1 Pokemon playthrough versus any other specific amount (2-6 Pokemon)
  • what is in fact extremely inefficient, is using playthroughs as a "yardstick" for usability for other forms of play. They are two metagames with very limited overlap. Even individual Pokemon, as a general rule with a few exceptions, have a very limited access to their full movepool that they would use in competitive play. Think of egg moves, tutor moves, tradeback moves, difficult to obtain/non-replenishable TM moves, etc.
As a result, I conclude that judging playthrough usability on one constricted method of playthrough is a foolish idea. I am not saying "forget about playing through with a 3-6 Pokemon team!". No, I am just saying all different kinds of teams should be considered, from 1-6 Pokemon.
So the reason why we don't do this is actually addressed in the opening of every single In-game Tier List article we have on site. I've included them all here, but they're all saying pretty much the same thing.

BW Ingame Tier Article said:
A team is actually the most efficient (in terms of utility per team member) if it only consists of a single member. This tier list will assume a team size of around three or four Pokemon, however, as otherwise the list would be extremely centralized around starters and early-game Pokemon—everything else wouldn't be worth the effort.
DPPt/FRLG Ingame Tier Articles said:
The most efficient team size for these runs is only one member, but if one doesn't assume something more like 3 members, the resulting in-game tier lists become incredibly centralized around Pokémon you get early on in the game rather than anything encountered later on.
HGSS Ingame Tier Article said:
Team size is actually most efficient if you use only one member, but I'm assuming something more like 3 members, as otherwise you get extremely centralized lists with starters and early game Pokémon at the far top and everything else pretty much too inefficient to bother with.
RSE Ingame Tier Article said:
A team is actually the most efficient (in terms of utility per team member) if it only consists of a single member; however, this tier list will assume a team size of around three Pokémon. Otherwise, the list would be extremely centralized around starters and early-game Pokémon while everything else would be too crappy to use.
XD Ingame Tier Article said:
Team size is actually by far most efficient if you use one member, but I'm assuming something more like 3 members as otherwise you get extremely centralized lists with starters and early-game Pokémon at the far top and everything else is pretty much too crappy to bother with.
RBY Ingame Tier Article said:
The most efficient team size for these types of runs is only one member. However, using this team size for the purposes of tiering would result in the list becoming incredibly centralized around Pokemon with specific coverage obtained early on in the game. Therefore, this list assumes teams will have at least 3 members.
This is absolutely, 100% true, with the exception of maybe BW (and even there it's possible to solo much the game with most early mons if favored enough). Take a look at sololocke runs, a subset of a Nuzlocke where you generally hack in a pokemon to replace the starter and if it faints the run is completely over. A hell of a lot of these end up sucessful, and I've seen ones where people do insane things like Tangela solos Blue and Sableye solos Emerald. You can solo almost any of these games with almost any Pokemon, so if we accounted for how stupidly effective a solo run is then the viability rankings would likely condense down to earlygame mons at the top, generally terrible earlygame mons who can work with more effort, slightly later but more advantageous mons and HM slaves at low middle, and everything after gym 3 or something in bottom tier. We could do that, but I don't think that'd be a particularly helpful or interesting resource.
 

Karxrida

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Something else to consider is that many people actually like having full (or mostly full) teams of Pokémon. I frequent TV Tropes (and their forums) and see people over there talking about planning out their teams of 4-6 mons all the time for casual playthroughs. These tier lists are usually for players like them.

Just because you and your friends often do 1 Pokémon runs doesn't mean that others do the same thing.
 
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I'd suggest counting a lack of combat ability as a minus (so the perfect HM slave will never be S-Tier), but not a lack of overworld utility. There's no denying that RSE Zigzagoon is incredibly useful, but the consistent availability of an HM user also comes at the cost of losing a slot that could be occupied by a more capable fighter. That's an obvious flaw, since ideally you'd focus on a varied and strong team that can tackle any opponent, and using an HM slave limits your options.

This logic doesn't work the other way around however, because catching a Magnemite in BW2 won't keep you from cutting down small trees, unless it's the sixth Pokemon you've caught. In a team that's balanced between fighting ability and overworld use, you might have one or two HM slaves depending on the game, and four or five battle Pokemon. Having one team member without overworld utility is much less of a detriment than one who can't fight, because the former's importance is lower than the latter's.
This was already brought up in the DPPt thread, and these were some of the points I saw.

Some HMs are mandatory and useless in battle, so it would be better to put them on a Pokemon that isn't going to battle anyway.
Using an HM slave means fewer battlers, which in turn means more experience for each battler.
A team has 24 move slots whether or not there's an HM slave. The move slots saved by the HM slave can be used for extra coverage moves, so a team with an HM slave can still be "varied and strong".
A 5 battler 1 HM slave team can have whichever five battlers the player wants, and whichever HM slave learns all the HMs not already covered by the battlers. On the other hand, some combinations of six battlers are impossible because they don't cover all the mandatory HMs.

I don't disagree with you. I'm bringing this up now just because I don't want an exact repeat of the discussion that happened in the DPPt thread.
 

MattL

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I think the first question to answer is "What is the target audience of this tier list?" I think that matters because some Pokemon are "harder to use" than other Pokemon. This isn't the best analogy, but stall is generally an easier playstyle to use than HO (as in, an inexperienced player will probably still be able to to okay using stall, but will likely be much less successful using HO as it requires you to make more intelligent double switches and the like). The point is that I think a tier list geared towards less experienced players would look quite a bit different from a tier list geared towards more knowledgeable players.

Because this tier list is on the Smogon forums, the intent is to probably assume that the reader of the list has more Pokemon knowledge, but it's still good to clarify. Do we assume the reader assesses risk versus reward during battles? Do we assume that the reader can look at a Pokemon's learnset and "correctly" determine which moveset optimizes their chance of success during the game? Do we assume the reader can make an intelligent determination of which team members to add to a partial team in order to fill necessary roles and patch up weaknesses? In any event, I think the question of target audience knowledge is the first one to answer, followed by which criteria factors into a Pokemon's in-game viability.

Speaking of which, I would define a Pokemon as "more viable" than another if it can help the player beat the game more easily with less effort/skill. The Pokemon in quadrant A (beat the game easily with little effort required) are the most desirable, and D the least. Pokemon in B (beat the game easily, but require a more effort/knowledge to reach their potential) might not be as good if the target audience is less experienced.

 
I think the first question to answer is "What is the target audience of this tier list?" I think that matters because some Pokemon are "harder to use" than other Pokemon. This isn't the best analogy, but stall is generally an easier playstyle to use than HO (as in, an inexperienced player will probably still be able to to okay using stall, but will likely be much less successful using HO as it requires you to make more intelligent double switches and the like). The point is that I think a tier list geared towards less experienced players would look quite a bit different from a tier list geared towards more knowledgeable players.

Because this tier list is on the Smogon forums, the intent is to probably assume that the reader of the list has more Pokemon knowledge, but it's still good to clarify. Do we assume the reader assesses risk versus reward during battles? Do we assume that the reader can look at a Pokemon's learnset and "correctly" determine which moveset optimizes their chance of success during the game? Do we assume the reader can make an intelligent determination of which team members to add to a partial team in order to fill necessary roles and patch up weaknesses? In any event, I think the question of target audience knowledge is the first one to answer, followed by which criteria factors into a Pokemon's in-game viability.

Speaking of which, I would define a Pokemon as "more viable" than another if it can help the player beat the game more easily with less effort/skill. The Pokemon in quadrant A (beat the game easily with little effort required) are the most desirable, and D the least. Pokemon in B (beat the game easily, but require a more effort/knowledge to reach their potential) might not be as good if the target audience is less experienced.

The writeups should explain how to assess risk versus reward, determine the best moveset, etc. for each evolution family, so I don't think the target audience's possible lack of experience is a problem.
 
This is absolutely, 100% true, with the exception of maybe BW (and even there it's possible to solo much the game with most early mons if favored enough). Take a look at sololocke runs, a subset of a Nuzlocke where you generally hack in a pokemon to replace the starter and if it faints the run is completely over. A hell of a lot of these end up sucessful, and I've seen ones where people do insane things like Tangela solos Blue and Sableye solos Emerald. You can solo almost any of these games with almost any Pokemon, so if we accounted for how stupidly effective a solo run is then the viability rankings would likely condense down to earlygame mons at the top, generally terrible earlygame mons who can work with more effort, slightly later but more advantageous mons and HM slaves at low middle, and everything after gym 3 or something in bottom tier. We could do that, but I don't think that'd be a particularly helpful or interesting resource.
I only saw the GSC thread and didn't see it there, but I guess I'm not surprised that Smogon would even be clausing playthroughs for fairness and balance. My bad for not realizing.
 

DHR-107

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Just going to reply to some of the people in this thread as I have been reading through it. Liking the discussion so far and it is interesting to see peoples views on things.

One thing I did want to bring us is the use of limited availability items. Do we take into account the fact that a person may want to save their Master Ball? I don't think we should, personally. Also on the subject of Master Balls, should the availability of this factor into a mon's tiering? It was brought up in the DP thread a while ago for mons like Mesprit.
Do we assume people will spend money on things like vitamins?
Generally agree with your post. Just wanted to reply to this one. I think using an item as important as a masterball is an interesting question. I presume in most instances for efficiency it would be wise to use it to capture your specific legendary unless you go into the fight willing to go for a slog fest/have the right set up. Again, this comes down to personal preference. If you want to use the Masterball to make that particular fight a lot easier, why not?

Coeur7 This is not a speed running discussion. We all agree on that part and Merritt makes an excellent post about why this is not the case. Speed running will always turn into "This 1 mon is best, these other 5 are decent, don't use anything else". That's not the sort of help we want to give people. We just want to guide the more casual player in their expectations of what they should expect out of a Pokemon.

What's the policy, if any, on Pokemon games featuring easy to perform glitches, such as item duplication in RBY or the Pokeball glitch in Colosseum? These could influence the allocation of theoretically limited resources, or ease the burden of obtaining something (the birds don't compete for the Master Ball, for example). These could be performed in game without significant detour most times, and since these seem to go by release (GSC is separate from HG/SS, for example), they seem like something to at least be clear about in the ranking rules, whether as a sweeping rule or on a thread-by-thread basis.
We did discuss the usage of X Items for Gen 1 ingame runs (because of they break the game so easily, especially in the case of X Accuracy + Horn Drill). I think we should accept that the item duplication glitch in Colo (which is super easy to perform) and other "easy" glitches (Cloning in GS/Missingno in RBY) might be used by the player, but I do not think we should endorse them for the Tier Lists. We should be looking at the game as it is, not as what it might be through glitches.

I suppose I should maybe contribute what direction I come from when making a post about efficiency on the threads, just to see if there's any faults with it. I've two fundamental ideas I always keep in mind: A) This is for casual runs. Not something where you have a definite goal in mind like beating the game in the best possible time or even aiming for in-game facilities; but just a normal play of the game you pick up from time to time for fun - and B) The lists do not denote what you should use; but rather accept that this is the Pokémon you are wanting to use, now here is a general guideline of how well it will perform.
What I see a lot of people falling into is that there is in some way some sort of specific goal to keep in mind when tiering these lists. This is why we've had a few people recently contributing formulas and speedrun tactics and the like, when really it's not so rigid -- the two fundamental ideas I put forward combine to basically say that there is not a specific goal or rigid set of rules or some ultimate answer we're trying to reach here. It simply deals with casual runs and attempts to inform people doing these casual runs how well they will perform. Not what they should and shouldn't do; not what goals they should be reaching; but as a general guideline of what they can expect from the choices they will make.
This basically hits the nail on the head for me. These tiering threads have always been about how a Pokemon feels to use. We've had great discussion over what that means and also debates over whether waiting for an evolution of a mon is better than grabbing it at the earliest opportunity (Azurill vs Marill for example). I strongly believe these lists should be a generic list of how we expect any particular mon to perform across the most "average" of games. Yes, having more/less mons will improve/worsen your team overall, but dragging around Ledian will devalue your team much more than Gyarados for example.

Because this tier list is on the Smogon forums, the intent is to probably assume that the reader of the list has more Pokemon knowledge, but it's still good to clarify. Do we assume the reader assesses risk versus reward during battles? Do we assume that the reader can look at a Pokemon's learnset and "correctly" determine which moveset optimizes their chance of success during the game? Do we assume the reader can make an intelligent determination of which team members to add to a partial team in order to fill necessary roles and patch up weaknesses? In any event, I think the question of target audience knowledge is the first one to answer, followed by which criteria factors into a Pokemon's in-game viability.
I think we would mostly assume that the person reading a list like this would have a decent understanding of the game. They would know that Tackle -> Headbutt -> Return is a logical increase in power for a Normal type move (Similar stuff could be said for Water Gun -> Bubblebeam -> Scald/Surf). I would hope that the majority of Smogoners (and Pokemon players in general) would understand that certain moves are far better than others and they can make "intelligent determinations of team members". I do not think we need to go that far base level. Hell, if a totally new player read these lists and went "OK these guys look cool" -> Picks a bunch of S/A/B mons and then an E/F mon, they would be easily able to understand why they are ranked in such a way.

As I have said above, whilst we look at "Efficiency" in these lists, personally I see these more of recommendations. If a mon is high tiered, you're going to have a much easier time with it in your party over those mons which we deem to be "worse". As others have said plenty of times, everything can work in game (and as I proved by using bottom of the barrel mons for an XY playthrough). I believe these tier lists help inform people of what to expect at a quick glance of any mon which is available in said game.
 
Oh, one thing I noticed: why don't we have threads for RBY, FRLG, and BW? Are the lists we have for them already assumed perfect?

I'm assuming we simply haven't gotten to gale of darkness yet.
 

DHR-107

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Oh, one thing I noticed: why don't we have threads for RBY, FRLG, and BW? Are the lists we have for them already assumed perfect?

I'm assuming we simply haven't gotten to gale of darkness yet.
With everything else going on for the time being, I would rather what finish what we already have started, than not get dragged down into EVEN MORE threads haha. When we get another one finished, then we can move on from there. The BW2 one is the closest to being completed iirc, so if you are able to, focus on that one!
 

sin(pi)

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One thing I did want to bring us is the use of limited availability items. Do we take into account the fact that a person may want to save their Master Ball? I don't think we should, personally. Also on the subject of Master Balls, should the availability of this factor into a mon's tiering? It was brought up in the DP thread a while ago for mons like Mesprit.
Thought about this a bit and the best solution to me is that we tier based on the assumption a player will reset the game on completion; ie all items are available to be used during the run (eg Gen 1-4 TMs, Master Ball). Obviously we can and should take opportunity cost into account for 1-of items. I also think that, if a Pokémon needs a limited-availablity item to be effective (eg DPPt Azelf needs the Master Ball, or Gible needs TM26 Earthquake), then this should be noted at the end of the writeup; this allows us to cater to both styles of play, if you will.
 
I'm not sure if we should put it at the end of the writeup -- simply mention it naturally during said write-up. Say for instance that "Rayquaza is an extremely good Pokémon once you've caught it in the Master Ball; needing absolutely no investment to immediately go ahead and solo most of the opponents left in the game", or "Gligar once it has been taught Earthquake through TM becomes a great early-game monster, and its evolution item is acquired at just the right time for it to keep up in terms of power".
 

Karxrida

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With everything else going on for the time being, I would rather what finish what we already have started, than not get dragged down into EVEN MORE threads haha. When we get another one finished, then we can move on from there. The BW2 one is the closest to being completed iirc, so if you are able to, focus on that one!
The Colosseum thread has progressed pretty quickly and just needs some rank tweaking and the write-ups, though the latter is on hold due to changes proposed in this thread. I could pump out an XD thread right now if I really wanted to, but it probably wouldn't be wise since I haven't played it recently and the list of Pokémon is much larger than Colosseum's.
 
One last train of thought:
When you are trying to provide a resource, shouldn't it efficiently provide information using the structure that will best suit this objective?

I respect that a lot of people put effort into these tier lists, but this whole concept just comes off as "we are Smogon and like tier lists, so we want to categorize in-game Pokemon in a tier list". Which in itself may not be the worst thing, if people also like receiving information in the format of a tier list.

But I cannot help but think that there are more optimal ways of expressing the same kind of information outside of the more counter-intuitive tier lists. Even something as simple as dividing Pokemon by roles and listing the tiers for those roles (HM slaves for instance). What intuitive purpose does it serve to be listing HM slaves alongside battlers?
 

Diana

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But I cannot help but think that there are more optimal ways of expressing the same kind of information outside of the more counter-intuitive tier lists. Even something as simple as dividing Pokemon by roles and listing the tiers for those roles (HM slaves for instance). What intuitive purpose does it serve to be listing HM slaves alongside battlers?
I think part of the reason is that there are plenty of Pokemon that can function decently in battle while also functioning as an HM slave at the same time. Water-types are notable for this since Surf and Waterfall are both reasonable attacking moves and that can put a lot of overworld utility onto one Pokemon that you can actually use. Trying to list them separately makes you have to figure out whether something like Tentacruel should be considered an HM slave or an actual battler when it's very capable of doing both in the same run. I'd even argue that Bibarel in DP is a viable attacker just because it get STAB on multiple types of HMs. The line between competent team member and HM slave is very blurry.

I wouldn't worry too much about opportunity cost in most cases. These types of lists seem best off just looking at the Pokemon and what it can do on its own in case someone wants to use that Pokemon. If it's totally outclassed but still very usable, it's fine being in something like B rank instead of pushing it to D.
 
The line between competent team member and HM slave usually isn't very blurry at all. If you are using it to battle, it's not an HM slave. HM slaves are specifically the Pokemon you use to teach HMs to, and don't bring into battle, except on the rarest occasions or to take a hit that you wouldn't want others to take.

A Pokemon like Bibarel or Tentacruel can both be listed on an HM slave list, and on a battle list. Maybe it would be best to say "utility" rather than "HM slave" though, like Abra with Teleport can be helpful for "utility" despite it not being a "HM slave". But the general idea behind the dual listing would be that you can use it either to battle as well as maybe HM, or simply to HM. A Pokemon that is outclassed and weak but a good HM slave, could be a C rank battler, and an S rank HM slave. By listing them separately, you see that yes you can use it to battle, but it's much better just being used for HMs.

Since smaller teams are generally more powerful than larger teams, the opportunity cost is minimal for reducing the amount of HM slaves, unless you have your heart set on playing with a certain larger squad, or without HM slaves. But in that case you can figure out which Pokemon on your larger squad can learn HMs and then play matchmaker for your HM slave.
 
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On the finished tier lists, under the credits, can there be a link to the thread that was used to create the tier list? That would make the task much easier for people who are curious about how the tier lists are made.
 
On the finished tier lists, under the credits, can there be a link to the thread that was used to create the tier list? That would make the task much easier for people who are curious about how the tier lists are made.
Expanding on this - unless I misunderstood, in which case I apologise - I think the list threads should be linked whether they're finished or not. Makes things a little cleaner and easier to access.
 

cityscapes

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Yeah that's what it was meant for anyway. For tiering by all means use the categories as they are or whatever amounts from this thread, but for writing up for on-site stuff, I would suggest that just doing overviews could be a better option.
the overview system does sound more optimized than the bullet points, but it sounds like a lot of work to change the existing ones. i'd be up for it but i want to know what everyone else thinks
 
Expanding on this - unless I misunderstood, in which case I apologise - I think the list threads should be linked whether they're finished or not. Makes things a little cleaner and easier to access.
By "finished", I mean when the tier list becomes a Smogon article.
the overview system does sound more optimized than the bullet points, but it sounds like a lot of work to change the existing ones. i'd be up for it but i want to know what everyone else thinks
Like Kurona said, I think the best system would be to have one paragraph for availability and investment, and a separate one for usefulness.
 

Karxrida

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I think write-ups should consist of three parts:
  • Availability: Includes time of acquisition (starter, early game, mid-game, etc.), location, ease of acquisition (basically how rare or dumb it is to get) and special methods of acquisition if applicable (e.g. DPPt Spiritomb).
  • Overview: The meat of the write-up that explains the Pokemon's role. The content of these will basically be like the examples given by Its_A_Random on the first page.
  • Additional Comments: A short sentence or two for stuff that doesn't necessarily fit into the main Overview, like recommendations for specific strategies (random not necessarily viable example - using a Friend Ball in GSC when catching Miltank to quickly build up Return damage) or suggestions to hold off on capture until later (like early Magikarp vs. waiting for wild Gyarados).
 
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  • Additional Comments: A short sentence or two for stuff that doesn't necessarily fit into the main Overview, like recommendations for specific strategies (random not necessarily viable example - using a Friend Ball in GSC when catching Miltank to quickly build up Return damage) or suggestions to hold off on capture until later (like early Magikarp vs. waiting for wild Gyarados).
All these examples seem related to investment, so they would fit better in the investment paragraph than their own separate one. I'm pretty sure most entries will only need two paragraphs.
 

Karxrida

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All these examples seem related to investment, so they would fit better in the investment paragraph than their own separate one. I'm pretty sure most entries will only need two paragraphs.
I'd rather have it as its own thing for presentation reasons. It's easier to read several smaller paragraphs than a couple larger ones, especially since it avoids text walls.
 

DHR-107

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Honestly, I do not see a problem with the format we already had, its clear and relatively concise. The only thing that I would like to do is cut out even more "overall" chaff, and bring it down further. I don't think 4/5 headings saying things is too much information at all. The Black/White 2 thread has "perfect" entries as far as I am concerned. They are short, concise and too the point.

What is the main issue people are having with the lists? I understand that there is going to be heavy discussion of some mons vs others, but that is good in such a thread. I know people want to try and quantify their experiences somehow, but I don't think its possible. You just have to go with your gut sometimes.
 

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