Just what makes a ban complex, anyhow?

Hogg

grubbing in the ashes
is a Site Content Manageris a Community Contributoris a Tiering Contributoris a member of the Battle Simulator Staffis an Administratoris a Tournament Director Alumnusis a Social Media Contributor Alumnus
Tiering Admin
As was discussed in another recent thread, we don’t currently have a public definition of what constitutes a “complex” ban. To paraphrase the immortal words of Justice Potter Stewart, no one wants to put a hard definition on it, but just about everyone seems to think they’ll know it when they see it.

This isn’t an attempt to define the term (despite the clickbait thread title). Instead, I wanted to encourage folks to move away from using the term “complex ban” altogether. I think it’s outdated and not really descriptive or useful anymore.

Instead, I’ll include a quote from a reference document I made for all tier leaders prior to the release of Sword and Shield. This isn’t really tiering policy, but rather a way to look at and talk about potential suspects and bans. I’m not proposing we necessarily turn this into formal policy or anything, but I thought it might make sense to have a place where we can discuss just what terms like this mean.

”Excerpt from the Gen 8 Tiering Framework document for tier leaders” said:
“COMPLEX” BANS

There have been posts about this in Policy Review, but this is actually a broader conversation I’d like to have among tier leadership. In general, I would like us to move away from referring to “complex bans” as much as possible. I think this term generates more confusion than it resolves. What, exactly, constitutes a complex ban? Is banning Drizzle complex? How about restricting Baton Pass to three users? Or banning both Trick and Shadow Tag on the same Pokemon?

Instead, I’d like us to get in the habit of looking at things in a more granular way:

  • Pokemon bans. We all know how these work. They’re straightforward, easy to understand and incorporate, etc. Staraptor is too strong for UU so it is banned. It’s easy to test, easy to resolve. Ideally, the majority of our bans should be Pokemon bans.
  • Non-Pokemon bans. Banning abilities, moves or items. In general, non-Pokemon bans are broader and will have a much greater impact than a Pokemon ban, and therefore require more focus and discussion. These typically will need to be looked at from a policy point of view, and if implemented, should likely affect all of the usage-based tiers. Individual lower tiers should almost never institute a non-Pokemon ban, because their limited subset of Pokemon means that issues can almost always be resolved via Pokemon bans instead.
  • Conditional bans. “If X condition is met, Y is not allowed.” Bans of a certain combination of Pokemon, moves or abilities. These should generally be considered a last resort option, something we only look to because any alternative solution would have such significant collateral impact that a conditional ban is preferable to no ban and/or just going to a Pokemon ban. Site leadership should be actively involved in any discussions of potential conditional bans.

I’m sure we’re not going to completely excise the phrase “complex ban” from Smogon’s collective vocabulary, but when we mention a complex ban, we should follow it up with exactly what we mean.
Again, not really proposing any specific policy change here, but since the phrase “complex ban” gets tossed around roughly every 30 seconds on this site, I thought it would be good to have this somewhere public, rather than just as part of the guidance to TLs. That said, I’ll leave this topic open in case anyone has any specific questions or concerns.
 

pokemonisfun

Free chess/UU tutoring for UU players Neigh. Perf.
is a Community Contributoris a Tiering Contributor
If "x" cannot be used, it's a simple ban.

If "x" can be used by itself, but "x" cannot be used in tandem with "y", it's a complex ban.

If "x" and "y" are both banned at the same time, but are independent bans of each other, it's just two simple bans.
I think you’re trying to simplify things which is good, but one point:

1) Your classification doesn’t differentiate between a simple Pokemon ban and a simple item/Ability/move ban. For example, banning Light Clay in gen8uu is a simple ban in your classification. But it’s clearly not on the same level of a simple ban of banning Xerneas in OU (or a Pokemon as strong as Xerneas ever became UU). Practically speaking, the Light Clay ban should require input from Policy Review. Theoretically speaking, Smogon tiers Pokemon, not items or other elements of the game, so it makes sense for our tiering decisions to be based on Pokemon.

My question for you: do you think it’s worthwhile to differentiate between simple Pokemon bans and simple non Pokemon bans? If not, why? If so, how can we amend your system? Actually, I’m not sure we need to amend anything, you basically just combined Hogg’s non Pokemon and Pokemon ban and called it a simple ban, then called his conditional ban a complex ban. So really my main question is the first one: why do you want to combine the non Pokemon and Pokemon ban?


Some other tangential points:

-an example of each type of ban in the OP would be nice
-can a ban both be conditional and non Pokemon?
-can we call the “non Pokemon ban” an “ability, item, move” ban because I don’t think we will (or at least should) ever move out of this confine? Pokemon and non Pokemon ban implies that’s the universe of bans we have but it clearly isn’t
-where does Dynamax fit in this? If it doesn’t fit, we should strive to create terminology for the universe of bans we have in order to clarify things
-is there/should there be a rule that everything except Pokemon bans (see? I couldn’t type non Pokemon bans there!) needs PR input?
 

Lumari

miss blue sky
is a Site Content Manageris a Top Social Media Contributoris a Community Contributoris a Top Contributoris a Top Smogon Media Contributoris an Administrator
C&C & TFP Leader
Not tiering staff so don't yell at me for posting here please, but I've never found complex ban as a phrase confusing; it's simply "ban with multiple variables", i.e. Clone's definition, pretty much dictionary stuff.

I think where the for lack of a better word confusion with "non-Pokemon bans = complex bans?" comes in is that, while they're technically simple bans, this doesn't necessarily reflect intent. Like, while a ban on V-create would be a simple ban by any definition of the word, the intent of the ban would definitely not be to get V-create out of the metagame as a potentially unhealthy element of its own; it would be to nerf Victini and preserve its other sets. Or banning Protean to preserve Greninja in ORAS while deciding that preserving Torrent Greninja is worth losing Protean Kecleon. Or banning Gorilla Tactics rather than Galarian Darmanitan while it's literally inferior to Huge Power therefore can't possibly be broken as a standalone element. This is problematic because in spirit they're basically equivalent to "Victini + V-create", "Greninja + Protean", and "G-Darm + Gorilla Tactics" bans (after all the intent is expressly to nerf rather than ban the Pokemon), and of course the tiering system is based on tiering Pokemon foremost and becomes a lot more convoluted if instead of "ban Pokemon" it would be "ban Pokemon except when entirely through happenstance the elements that push them over the edge are uncommon and can be excised more surgically, in that case nerf them instead". It's not like Moody or Minimize or Light Clay or Drizzle*, which do the same thing pretty much entirely independently of user** and aren't part of the full package that makes the Pokemon in the same way as the aforementioned elements. In that sense yea separating Pokemon and non-Pokemon bans (and requiring a lot more justification for the latter) makes a lot of sense, even if they're both simple bans to the letter of the definition they clearly should be treated differently in the overall tiering system.

*I guess this one walks a finer line but still nowhere near Protean / V-create / Gorilla Tactics levels;
**alternatively phrased as "broken on everything that gets it", which I've always found a short-sighted phrasing though because if you're gonna argue that Sand Veil should be kept because Sandshrew is still easy enough to take out (or that V-create should be banned because it's broken on the one Pokemon that /happens to/ get it) then you're majorly missing the point.
 

Clone

Free Gliscor
is a Site Content Manageris a Forum Moderatoris a Tiering Contributoris a Social Media Contributor Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnusis a Smogon Media Contributor Alumnus
Moderator
I think you’re trying to simplify things which is good, but one point:

1) Your classification doesn’t differentiate between a simple Pokemon ban and a simple item/Ability/move ban. For example, banning Light Clay in gen8uu is a simple ban in your classification. But it’s clearly not on the same level of a simple ban of banning Xerneas in OU (or a Pokemon as strong as Xerneas ever became UU). Practically speaking, the Light Clay ban should require input from Policy Review. Theoretically speaking, Smogon tiers Pokemon, not items or other elements of the game, so it makes sense for our tiering decisions to be based on Pokemon.

My question for you: do you think it’s worthwhile to differentiate between simple Pokemon bans and simple non Pokemon bans? If not, why? If so, how can we amend your system? Actually, I’m not sure we need to amend anything, you basically just combined Hogg’s non Pokemon and Pokemon ban and called it a simple ban, then called his conditional ban a complex ban. So really my main question is the first one: why do you want to combine the non Pokemon and Pokemon ban?


Some other tangential points:

-an example of each type of ban in the OP would be nice
-can a ban both be conditional and non Pokemon?
-can we call the “non Pokemon ban” an “ability, item, move” ban because I don’t think we will (or at least should) ever move out of this confine? Pokemon and non Pokemon ban implies that’s the universe of bans we have but it clearly isn’t
-where does Dynamax fit in this? If it doesn’t fit, we should strive to create terminology for the universe of bans we have in order to clarify things
-is there/should there be a rule that everything except Pokemon bans (see? I couldn’t type non Pokemon bans there!) needs PR input?
1: they're still both simple bans. Whether it's a pokemon or item, "x" cannot be used. Still a simple ban. I don't really differentiate between the two because there's no can't use x with y scenario here.

If all you're asking me is if I think it's worthwhile to differentiate between move/item/ability/pokemon bans in the context of simple vs complex, I do not. If "x" cannot be used and there are no other variables, I see it as a simple ban regardless of what "x" is, whether it be a pokemon, item, etc. Changing the logic makes things messy in my opinion and the more variables you add complicates things.

If you're asking me about banning a move/ability to keep a mon in a tier, I see that as a different topic than the one at hand because we're now getting away from simple and complex bans, and instead delving into what the acceptable tiering philosophy should be (ie do we ban an ability or move to save 1 mon even if it's not broken on anything else?). I don't really want to go down that rabbit hole here due to the slippery slopes it often causes, but I at least wanted to address what I'm interpreting the question to be

As far as the tangential points you brought up, I don't really have answers or strong opinions on them
 

quziel

I am the Scientist now
is a Site Content Manageris a Forum Moderatoris a Live Chat Contributoris a CAP Contributoris a Tiering Contributoris a Contributor to Smogonis a member of the Battle Simulator Staff
Moderator
Note: Not a tiering admin, just giving viewpoint and wanting to nail down a specific sub-definition

I think it should be worth explicitly stating that any ban that affects one Pokemon (in the given format or any lower formats) is a complex ban. Banning V-Create is effectively banning V-Create on Victini (ye Ray exists but its Uber). Banning Soul Dew in DPP OU is effectively banning Soul Dew on Latias (Latios Banned). Any ban that surgically removes an option from a mon with no other effects is something I'd consider to be complex.

This goes alongside the idea that a non-pokemon ban should only be approached if the element can be shown to be overpowered or un-competitive on several Pokemon simultaneously (note several is not all). Eg in the above example Protean would not be applicable because the only Pokemon it could be shown to be overpowered on is ORAS OU Greninja, while being shown to be fine on Kecleon and Frogadier. Something like Moody is non-complex and eligible for a ban (in my opinion) because it was shown to be un-competitive on several distinct mons simultaneously.

Ig this is sorta restating Lumari's point.
 

May

My, my! So you've FINALLY arrived...
is a Site Content Manageris a Forum Moderatoris a Community Contributoris a Pokemon Researcheris a Top Contributor
Moderator
I'm not really fussed about this but I wanted to answer one point.
1: they're still both simple bans. Whether it's a pokemon or item, "x" cannot be used. Still a simple ban. I don't really differentiate between the two because there's no can't use x with y scenario here.
To preface, this isn't about suddenly going "oh move/ability/item bans are clapped mate don't do em", but explaining why they aren't necessarily prioritised. I personally think that these bans are very beneficial and the current policy behind them is fine. I don't think they're "complex" per se, but their own little thing. I think "simple" and "complex" is a bit reductionist and that mentality can make it hard to discuss tiering.

The main difference is that by sending a Pokemon to Ubers (or equivalent) you are not writing a new rule, as the ruleset says "You can't use Uber-tiered Pokemon". With an item or move ban, you essentially add a new one, such as "You can't use Counter" or "You can't use Soul Dew". This is partially why these bans are avoided unless absolutely necessary, as you're not only "surgically" removing a part of what makes a problem child unbalanced but also adding a new line to a ruleset. I know it sounds ridiculous on the surface but as the bans increase so does the convuluted appearance of the ruleset. This is what people mean when they say "Smogon tiers Pokemon".

Some may think this is a load of bollocks, but part of Smogon's draw is its accessible rulesets. Look, I know what you're sayin, invisible voice in my head: "oi bruv ur point is bare dumb who tf cares about some extra line ur shoes are mad dusty". However, I'm sure you can agree that ideally, you can just have a tier where you simply can't use the Pokemon from the above one, and can just pick up and play with no strings attached. Tiering should be kept largely hands-off to ensure that you don't end up with something draconian to newcomers, yes? GSC OU is a good example of this, having the same clauses across the entire generation;
1631651678174.png

There are no individually banned items or moves in an awkward list, and you can easily grasp the whole metagame just at a glance. Ain't that wonderful, chap? Shouldn't that be the grand aim, first and foremost?

If you want another example, in a post I made regarding desyncs in RBY and why Desync Clause Mod had to be made, I showed that it was made to avoid the bans of 10 moves. 10, or 13 if you went a different route, and probably more as other game breaking funnies are discovered! That's crazy!

Anyway, kind of spitballing here but yeah. It's all fairly obvious information to the learned, but I thought I'd put this out. This is obviously a "slippery slope" type thing but said slope has been ventured down a few times with mixed feedback, which is why I'm pointing this out in the first place.
 
Last edited:

Ortheore

Tournament Banned
Hello, I'm glad this is getting clarified, because I really do think it's worth differentiating between regular bans, non-pokemon bans and complex bans, and I do regularly see people conflate non-pokemon bans with complex bans, which does somewhat annoy me.

I think Lumari's point about intent behind non-pokemon bans is interesting, especially since I'm aware people seriously discussed potential bans for Gorilla Tactics and Protean at various points. This definitely highlights the need to address this issue, however I would also point out that none of those proposed bans came to fruition. Such proposals seem to treat bans as a tool to nerf certain game elements, rather than removing problematic elements from a metagame- perhaps a subtle distinction to make, but I believe it's significant. I and many other people would prefer to play the actual pokemon games just with the quality of life improvements of a simulator, and treating bans as a tool to be used sparingly to remove problematic elements aligns with that. However, the idea of using bans as a means of nerfing things, though still technically true to cart, doesn't sit quite as well, and you get the impression that it's a philosophy that verges towards modding the game.

In any case, I think that this issue can be managed by establishing a clear priority hierarchy, as well as guidelines describing when a different level of said hierarchy should be considered. That sounds maybe a little excessive given that there's currently only 3 categories in play but oh well. Anyway, as far as priorities go, I think it's pretty simple
  • Pokemon ban > non-Pokemon ban > complex ban
The latter two options should be seen as significantly more undesirable than Pokemon bans. After all, pokemon are what we establish tiers for, and what people identify. They're also fundamental, discrete units, which means that a single pokemon ban will always stop at a single pokemon, obviously, whereas the other options can affect multiple pokemon/tactics, thus creating the potential for excessive scope. Complex bans mitigate this, since the only reason I can see for their implementation is to minimise "collateral", though they're not entirely immune and they raise various other issues imo

So when do you progress to non-pokemon bans? In such cases, there would need to be a strong case made the non-pokemon element is the root cause of the issue. The most obvious instance would be if the element in question had repeatedly proven itself to undermine competitive depth across multiple cases. This covers stuff like Moody and Baton Pass, which repeatedly cause issues across numerous formats and with multiple abusers, so we can reasonably conclude their bans are warranted.

However such reasoning is impossible in the cases described by Lumari, as they all have limited distribution/effect. In those cases, I would argue that the effect of the non-pokemon element should be required to meet a much, much higher standard- the word overwhelming was what initially sprang to mind, however it's the kind of thing that might be difficult to define and minimise subjectivity. As a shortcut, I would propose that setting a standard analogous to that required for something to be insta-banned might be suitable. As an example, no-one in their right mind would consider allowing old gen Soul Dew into OU unless both Latis were banned, as its effect is immensely powerful so it gets instabanned. By contrast, Gorilla Tactics effect isn't nearly as strong and fails to meet that standard, thus we can easily say it's not broken in its own right, but instead a significant part of why Darm-G is broken.

As for implementing complex bans, that's a huge can of worms I guess, and very much an open discussion. My personal stance is that complex bans should never be implemented, as I regard minimising collateral (the only reason I can think of for their implementation) to be of substantially lesser priority than maintaining the simplest possible ruleset (I'm happy to elaborate, but I'm concerned of taking things on a tangent). I think if bans are only implemented when absolutely necessary and they target the correct game element, there won't overall be much lost as collateral regardless. Of course, I know I take a much harder line on this than most other people, so I'm expecting people to disagree and whatever's decided to be less strict than my personal position.

tldr:
  • We should define which types of bans are preferred over others. I think Pokemon>non-pokemon>complex
  • Non-pokemon bans should only be considered if:
    • It's a recurring issue across numerous instances or
    • If its effect is of sufficient magnitude to conclude that it is broken in its own right (e.g. potent enough to be instabanned), for cases where distribution/effect is limited
 

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 1, Guests: 0)

Top