Leadership Look-Back: CAP 3 (Mollux)

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Deck Knight

Shovel Knight
is a CAP Contributoris a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Smogon Media Contributor Alumnus
So an idea occurred to me earlier today. We're going to be making some changes in the leadership structure for CAP 5, and after all the discussions we've had and the long PRC threads, I was initially thinking of penning up a Smog article for successful strategies in CAP I've utilized or noticed that would be valid for each step. I might still do that, but in preparation I was going back over some of the early CAP 3 threads to get an idea of what did and didn't contribute, what derailed the thread a bit, where it got off track or moved back on, and the end result of the thread. That's a bit of a mouth full, but basically now that we've completed CAP 4 I looked back and saw the old project in a new light.

What I want to do with this thread is go back in time and back inside my head a little, and provide a little insight into each step. I think this will be very instructive for the members, and also for anyone who will be in the leadership structure for CAP 5. I've been contributing to CAP for a long time and I haven't lost my spark for it. My Final Product thread was fairly short and to the point, in this post I want to go a bit more in-depth.

[Jump=Imp]Impulsive Influences[/Jump]
[Jump=CS]Concept Submissions[/Jump]
[Jump=CA]Concept Assessment[/Jump]
[Jump=Type]Typing Discussion[/Jump]
[Jump=Threat]Threats Discussion[/Jump]
[Jump=PAD]Primary Ability Discussion[/Jump]
[Jump=SLim]Stat Limits[/Jump]
[Jump=SSub]Stat Spread Submissions[/Jump]
[Jump=SAD]Secondary Ability Discussion[/Jump]
[Jump=Art]Art Submissions[/Jump]
[Jump=Name]Name Submissions[/Jump]
[Jump=FAD]Flavor Ability Discussion[/Jump]
[Jump=SFAD]Secondary Flavor Ability Discussion[/Jump]
[Jump=AMD]Attacking Moves Discussion[/Jump]
[Jump=NMD]Non-Attacking Moves Discussion[/Jump]
[Jump=MLim]Movepool Limits[/Jump]
[Jump=MSub]Movepool Submissions[/Jump]
[Jump=Sprite]Sprite Submissions[/Jump]
[Jump=Dex]Miscellaneous Flavor[/Jump]
[Jump=FP]Final Product[/Jump]
[Jump=Close]Closing Thoughts[/Jump]

[a]Imp[/a]Impulsive Influences:

Let me just state before I start that in going over the discussions again, it's a good learning experience because you see yourself when you're posting in a position of high stress and high responsibility. Looking back afterward you can easily judge yourself harshly or wonder where you were going with something. I think it's very beneficial to know what your basic impulses are, and when you look back see if you can identify them. Maybe you don't know them, but it's good to take a look back at your previous posts and examine it.

For me, my basic impulses are as a very strong-willed, decisive person. When I waver, it is usually between two very strongly held positions on direction and I end up siding with one or the other. I can be excessively harsh sometimes and appear stubborn to a fault, even if that isn't necessarily my intent. I'm also a perfectionist and I try to shoot for very pointed questions to help crystallize my own thinking and the thinking of others. It reminds me somewhat of an exercise in a Political Science class where my attention to detail and strong positions were alternatively thought of as either arrogant, decisive, or compelling. I guess my first piece of advice is to know your own instincts - they can be either beneficial or a hindrance on a particular portion of the project, but at least in knowing them you can police your own behavior somewhat.

With that out of the way, lets start delving into the actual process.
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[a]CS[/a]Concept Submissions:

I'll never forget how much stress I put on my fellow moderators on this particular step. Not only am I strong willed, I'm also ambitious, so I went very far out on a limb for some of the concepts I was willing to slate. The slate combined a number of concepts that could have had optics ramifications like The Deceiver or Double Team, as well as concepts revitalized for a new generation like Break the Mold 2, Boot to the Head, and Extreme Makeover: Typing Edition. All in all I think we pulled in a number of good and varied concepts that asked good questions, and eventually Extreme Makeover: Typing Edition was selected.
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[a]CA[/a]Concept Assessment:

This was where the fun began for the general public. I started this thread coming on very strong with three different interpretations I thought would address the concept adequately. Having been with the project since early days, and being somewhat infamous for "hijacking" CAP 8 the one thing I've always had a heated dislike for is vagueness. On the one hand being so concrete to start with did veer off track as some people responded to it, on the other hand it provided a few launching points to move onto the next set if questions to be answered.

Here's where my instincts come into play. Usually when I do something I always have multiple goals I want to accomplish with it. In this case I wanted to come on strong, see where the discussion went, and then after having people sound off on the kind of combinations they thought desirable, to bring the discussion back to what constituted a good or bad typing. Maybe I should have started with those questions first. In either case after a little while I became overly impatient. I don't get confused myself that often and if I do I try to get to the bottom of the confusion quickly, so I might have been a bit too short with people.

The thread itself was a fairly long one by CAP standards. By the time it was done it was six pages long and had gone on for four days. I thought it necessary though, and I argued at least a few times I was taking it slow deliberately because our entire concept relied on making over a bad typing, and as the only two discussions before the typing poll were the concept assessment and the typing discussion itself, it made sense to take it slowly to begin with. I still stand by that decision, even if it was considered tedious or wandering. I actually feel fairly vindicated Doug had made a challenging proposal on where to go with it. I think if you can attract strong leaders to take an interest in the direction you're leading the project you can feed off of that energy and come up with something better - in this case I incorporated Doug's proposal into the 4th discussion point for the Typing Discussion.
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[a]Type[/a]Typing Discussion:

This is where all of the work in the earlier discussion paid off. As a community we were able to jump into the discussion with a clear idea of what was on the table, what we should be discussing, and hashing out which types would best fulfill the concept based on their strengths and weaknesses, in addition to the final question which asked if it was the worst type that still remained competent at what it was supposed to do. Again I started with a baseline developed in the previous thread, but the community expanded it outward and one of those expansions ended up being selected.

Since this thread is also about what was going through my head, I should say I had some good behind the scenes discussions with Rising_Dusk about a few of the different types, one of which was Ice / Rock. We had actually discussed something that was not so much a glass cannon, but rather something with incredibly excellent Special Defense that it could use in Sandstorm to ward off attacks. Ice / Rock actually doesn't have many special weaknesses (Nothing uses Flash Cannon and Focus Blast is notoriously unreliable, while Scald tends to be used primarily for the Burn chance on water types with little or no SpA investment, meaning if you won the weather war it wouldn't work out too bad for a special attacker.) Other things we discussed were potential abilities like Prankster Baton Pass to get CAP 3 out of a potential Mach Punch/Bullet Punch, which could also work well with a stat booster. I think it's good to have those discussions with someone whose judgement you trust, and spend a little time thinking outside the box. You can poll jump as much as you want on IRC, especially in a private discussion between friends.

Incidentally this is where I think "vision" gets discounted too much as tertiary to the project, where it's actually very important to look ahead and see where you can guide the project based on the community's choices. Not because you think they will choose wrong, but rather so you can take their decisions in stride and re-focus as necessary to enhance the upcoming discussions.
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[a]Threat[/a]Threats Discussion:

After Fire / Poison was selected as the typing, the Threats Discussion actually turned out to be a defining point for CAP 3. I think the placement of the Threats Discussion was actually crucial and it makes a lot more sense than where we placed the old Counters Discussion. In this particular case it was able to create a platform for changing the process steps to facilitate achieving the concept, and I don’t see why this would change in the future. This is where leadership and listening both play a crucial role in enhancing the experience for the forum as well as seeking out the concept’s niche.

Threats Discussion is where I think we really threaded the needle of where we wanted to go with the concept by focusing on what the type could and couldn’t do, and by making a decision on how to address one key thing the typing was missing we were able to move forward with a specific competitive niche in mind. There had been only a few posts about interaction with immunity abilities, but I did move quickly to shut down three in particular, Magic Bounce, Magic Guard, and Wonder Guard because those abilities are too powerful and defining. Wonder Guard makes everything about Wonder Guard and makes the exact types it interacts with footnotes. Going back to discussions I had with Dusk earlier I was absolutely adamant about not allowing Wonder Guard. I wasn’t even really thinking about optics, it just seemed like a Mountaineer-esque cop-out on the typing. Magic Guard and Magic Bounce weren’t as extreme, but I still found them to be too centralizing and distracting. The difference is that Ice / Rock with Wonder Guard is about Wonder Guard where Fire / Poison with a Water Immunity ability was about what the combination of the type and the ability did for the Pokemon’s niche, which was highly targeted against Rain.

Even taking that immunity into account, Fire / Poison is still an objectively “bad” type. Essentially your intent is to use a typing that has its competent offensive STAB completely neutered by the weather you intend to use it in (I’ll get to Drought later, it demands its own section), and a secondary STAB with no offensive presence at all. Certainly there are ways around that particular weakness in STAB (coverage moves), but speaking directly to the type chart of the combination, it’s still not a “good” typing because of its weaknesses and intended use.
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[a]PAD[/a]Primary Ability Discussion:

Here is where having a focused topic leader can make a massive difference. Changing up the usual order of a CAP is one of the key tools in the process and the ability to create a framework is not something which should be discarded lightly. I fully expect different leaders to work together cohesively so that decisions like this can still be made if necessary. In this particular case a portion of a community was not pleased I had so quickly pigeonholed an element of a CAP, but I felt the Threats Discussion obviated this discussion next. I also felt that because of that discussion I had to step out into the open and basically state that abilities were the only thing strong enough to do what we wanted to do, and we were doing it. Even if you think something is self-evidently obvious (i.e. the only way for a Fire type to beat Water threats in the BW Metagame is either Drought to change weather to Sun or a water immunity ability) you will take criticism for it and need to be prepared with your reasoning.

This discussion was fairly short and sweet and set up the first confrontation with Drought. This one wasn’t particularly bad though, it focused on what Drought could and couldn’t bring vs. Dry Skin, Storm Drain, and Water Absorb and what the hazards were of using it. Ultimately I decided to pare it down to the two options that got the most support rather than having the water immunity abilities all fight it out while Drought received roughly consistent support.
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[a]SLim[/a]Stat Limits:

Stat Limits has always been one of the trickiest discussion areas. For being so short historically, it always seems to have a huge problem with vagueness and hedging. I don’t know if that’s caused by the fact we essentially plug it into BSR, whether we prefer higher limits than necessary to allow variety, or if it’s some combination of these things, but in any case its one of those areas of the process I think could use improvement, but I’m not exactly sure how to go about it.

What I would recommend is to always have a stat spread in mind before you make the post and have an idea of what exactly it is you want the CAP to do competitively. For me it’s usually “should be able to 2HKO Jellicent with Thunderbolt while being able to eat CB Scizor Bullet Punch, losing less than 25% HP after Dry Skin healing” or something. Yes, you can poll jump in your own head while thinking about the limits you want to set. It’s the overall BSR limit that tends to be the final say in how spreads will end up, just keep that in mind, and maybe someday the limits won’t seem so hedged.
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[a]SSub[/a]Stat Spread Submissions:

CAP has always impressed me with what it can put out in this area, so I don’t have much to say on it. I think this is always one of the best areas of the CAP because of how high the bar has been set on submissions, and I hope I’ve contributed to that somewhat. I know last gen I would always have a very detailed listing of attack tiers to work with along with some battle notes like OHKOs / 2HKOs with SR and such. In general the poll is always a good matchup between well argued and well thought-out submissions, and whichever one wins the result is usually good for the CAP.

Looking back I did step into the discussion a little bit, more from the guidance perspective. I have my own little quirks and things I look for, but I’m not opposed to slating particularly well thought out submissions even if they wouldn’t be the kind of thing I would submit. Rising_Dusk had such a spread and his ended up winning, so it all worked out in the end. Going back to my very first thought about instincts, my directness sometimes gets me in hot water.
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[a]SAD[/a]Secondary Ability Discussion: (a.k.a. The Great Drought War Part I)

This thread is probably one for the ages in terms of contention and fighting it out. Unlike the primary ability discussion thread, in this thread we already had the stats down, and as a function of Rising_Dusk winning and him having specifically been fighting for both Dry Skin and Drought all CAP long, well, lets just say with him and some long standing CAP contributors in favor of Drought it dominated a large portion of the discussion, got heated, and escalated a bit.

To be perfectly honest I don’t have a problem with contention in the abstract, and I can’t say that particular thread was a bad one. It was a competitive oriented thread with people hammering out competitive abilities. In retrospect I think perhaps I should have given more credence to Storm Drain as an alternative, more offensively oriented water-fighting ability. As it stood effectively it came down to Drought and No Competitive Ability, and Ability got postponed until after art to decide on something flavorful.
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[a]Art[/a]Art Submissions:

Not my particular area of expertise. Let me just use this space to throw out props to all of our CAP Artists. Mos-Quitoxe blew the poll wide open, but I loved so many of the designs, from Doug’s radioactive dog, to tea_and_blues anemone, CyzirVisheen’s Manticore, to KoA’s slug and several other amusing ideas (Bomb Elephant!) were excellent. Keep up the good work!
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[a]Name[/a]Name Submissions:

I’ve won a few of these polls and I’m always impressed at least by the diversity of names people come up with. Unfortunately I’m nowhere near my all time record of 3 out of 6, but I guess things like that come and go. People complain about the name thread but I really don’t know how to improve that either. We get good names and bad names, and it’s harder to justify one over the other among the decent quality submissions.
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[a]FAD[/a]Flavor Ability Discussion:

So in retrospect I think I was overdoing it in this particular step, and went a little bit too overboard in making “no competitive ability” synonymous with “totally useless ability.” This discussion actually wasn’t that bad, and I was probably too pedantic with it. We get into a lot of topics where saying something about flavor is an invitation to hear a chorus of hissing before a respected user tries to chomp your head off like an angry viper. I think I went too far in the other direction for part of that discussion and made it far too limiting though, and didn’t let people have enough fun with it. In the end I think I made the right choice and presented a decent flavor slate, lesson having been learned. I usually know what’s going on in my head, looking back I’m wondering if I was trolling or not in the middle there. Fire/Poison w/ Water Veil / Poison Heal w00t.
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[a]SFAD[/a]Second Flavor Ability Discussion: (a.k.a. The Great Drought War Part II)

After the last thread I thought it was over. Peace and harmony would return to the land. People would be happy about the flavor. OH GOD I WAS WRONG! The following words are banned from all future CAPs according to my sovereign edict: “DW unreleased.” It was entirely unhelpful that this satanic phrase was attached to the word “Drought.”

Please bear in mind that this was a flavor discussion and we had managed to get through the previous one with the only person being kind of aloof being myself. In this case we were arguing over the legacy of a contentious ability fight that had once again managed to define the CAP 3 of a generation. It’s like the evil sun in Super Mario Bros. 3: It’s creepy enough that it is angry and hateful looking. Then it starts attacking you like you just stumbled into a Kirby game, and you’re wondering when the Moon is going to declare fisticuffs too (no, that’s Majora’s Mask). jas was right and I should have killed that thing deader than dead when I first saw it.

Unfortunately I also got the backing of other CAP mods that were supporting DW unreleased Drought, so it was entirely unhelpful and I blame myself for opening up that can of worms. Eventually Wyverii shut the whole thing down after we all discussed it as staff and it was terrible. This is why we have CAP Policy periods separate from when we’re doing actual CAPs since all it does is induce confusion – especially since I was both a TL and a Moderator.
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[a]AMD[/a]Attacking Moves Discussion:

Onto the Movepool threads. The Attacking Moves Discussion really hinged on one or two attacks and whether they should be included or excluded. The direction of the CAP up to this point was in the direction of a Fire type that could function in Rain and threaten Rain threats without being that threatening to Sand Pokemon, so Electric was a natural and obvious coverage choice. The real debate was over whether to include Scald or not. Mollux had extraordinarily high Special Attack and giving it a Water move would allow it to substantially threaten Sand threats if you controlled the weather with Rain. I went back and forth on it for a bit and finally decided to take it out. Mollux’s coverage essentially ended up as Fire/Poison/Electric/Hidden Power.

The other dust-up in that thread was my contention of Acid Spray as a competitive attacking move. There was some pulling back and forth, I made a point of it only because it actually could net 2HKOs because of the SpD drops, could force some switches, and worked very well as an adjunct to other attacks. It might have been a pointless fight to pick and hindered the discussion. I felt justified putting it in there as opposed to the non-attacking moves because of those properties. I thought Acid Spray was also marvelous for the concept as a usable STAB with the high SpA that made it much easier to support the fire attacks under Rain.
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[a]NMD[/a]Non-Attacking Moves Discussion:

I think I ultimately caved on this one, and essentially let people go with what they wanted out of the support movepool. One of the things I hope a change in leadership structure will address is the burnout that tends to occur at this phase. I thought I had maintained control and focus on the project long enough to really allow the STAB’s to shine, and I doubted a full support set would negate the typing of the project in any case, since it would be deliberately using its typing and ability qualities to effectively pull off such support.

One thing I do question a bit afterward is the fact I had no votes on the different movepools. I don’t know if it was fatigue or if I really thought there didn’t need to be things put to a vote. I’ve always harbored a dislike for the way movepool threads go so it might have just been not wanting to leave the community to vote with a chance for an odd outcome on what would and wouldn’t be allowed. It’s a conundrum.
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[a]MLim[/a]Movepool Limits:

This thread will live forever in infamy as the thread where Rising_Dusk and I collided, and we ended up losing a good contributor because of it. Maybe this is a bad thread to bring this up or go over it, but since this is a leadership thread I think it’s instructive to state that sometimes your decisions are going to have a lot greater impact than you think they will. This was supposed to be a tiny holdover thread, but Dusk got so excited about posting up his Movepool Submission he started trolling the thread and mocking it. I had jokingly suggested he make a post about Drought, which he did – I warned it – and it all exploded from there. Perhaps I should have just deleted it instead, but the confrontation was a long time coming and there had been instigation in this CAP and elsewhere for a while, so it was ugly and for me seemed inevitable.

I didn’t want it to go down that way, but that’s what ended up happening. I don’t predict any different leadership structure is going to have to deal with something so personal, I just offer it up as general advice. There are some issues you just can’t solve no matter your intent, and they can end badly.

As far as the thread itself I think it is still useful to establish as a concrete baseline, and much like you should go into stat limits with a spread in mind, you should go into movepool limits with a completely fleshed out movepool in mind that includes the TM VGMs that are by canon effectively required on the Pokemon. That’s a good baseline to start from – I always start by building a movepool and then going to Mew’s Pokedex page and rifling down the list, then paring it back. That’s why I ended up expanding the VGMs a bit, I wanted to see where people would take the support movepool.
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[a]MSub[/a]Movepool Submissions:

While the Movepool Discussions are always suspect, I usually enjoy the amount and thought people put into their actual movepool submissions. I’ll admit over the years there were more than a few movepools I actually loathed from a flavor perspective even if they were competitively viable (Tomohawk’s for example completely irritated me and I’m glad in a recent PR capefeather admitted he did that intentionally.) Ultimately I think while there is some room for improvement here I don’t think it’s that crucial. People will have their own take on how a Pokemon will “naturally” act and their own interpretation on which subset of the allowed moves would make the most sense competitively. In this case the allowed list on attacks was small while the non-attacking moves was large, and submitters took full advantage of it.
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[a]Sprite[/a]Sprite Submissions:

Once again, mad props to all of our great Smogon talents. We always get a great mixture of interpretations and posers, and it really shows off what a dedicated and diverse community we are. One thing I think we should do is add some of our best sprite submissions to a sprite gallery along with our Art gallery. We truly do have some great talents in our midst.
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[a]Dex[/a]Miscellaneous Flavor:

This is where the Pokedex submissions went after I fiated a Height/Weight. I think the Dex submissions as a whole need some work, but I’m not sure how to go about it because it’s a very personal thing, and some people try to be funny, others scary, and others use it as a chance to hone their ESL skills on the rest of us. I think in the aggregate we get a few good submissions spread out among multiple submitters, and we all get to relax a bit while the CAP is actually being implemented.
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[a]FP[/a]Final Product:

Final Product threads are extremely important as the last legacy of the CAP. It is the only thread that remains in the main forum, while the rest are archived. It should be used to give the project and its members the respect they deserve for persevering through the project and its many steps, and used as another discussion point for how the CAP turned out and what could be done better, or where the strongest and weakest points lied in the process. As the leader you don’t really need to be long winded about it, just mark down what you thought was important about the process and where it led the community – and what it resulted in. After all, the objective of CAP is to maximize good discussions, but the end product is a fine encapsulation of that process that allows us to have some fun and celebrate with our collective brainchild. Even if the responsibility is split up, the point of the project is what the community built, and a good head with a guiding hand is always instructive.
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[a]Close[/a]Closing Thoughts:

If you can’t tell from my post length, Topic Leadership for a CAP is an extremely long, multifaceted process and it tests every single one of your personal skills and character traits. It tests your patience, your intelligence, your vision, your reasoning ability… it is extraordinarily taxing, and I believe for this reason so many of the people that have obtained it have burned out, moved on, or simply moved to other areas. It is not something many people would willingly do again.

What hasn’t really happened before is having a Topic Leader give a full, thorough walk through of the CAP Process they led and every single challenge faced along the way. In the wake of the previous CAP and all of the Policy Review threads, I felt it only fitting to be the person assigning themselves this task, so that anyone who wanted to could benefit from my experience in full, and have a way to attack their responsibilities in a future CAP, however broadly or loosely those responsibilities would be defined. Having to re-live CAP 3 was very exhausting – people put a ton of effort into CAP, and re-living it with fresh eyes gives you a much better perspective.

I hope this thread will be used as a reference and instruction guide, and maybe if I’m lucky I can goad reachzero into doing something like this for Tomohawk. I have always thought the CAP Forum was special, that it could unlock the leadership skills, writing skills, and reading skills of everyone who entered into it in earnest, and that is why I created this tome. I hope people don’t view it as self-aggrandizement or a rah-rah thread, but rather as an opportunity as someone who was there from start to finish, who has no intention of letting up in the face of new challenges. I have made this thread and organized it with jump tags for your benefit, but I do encourage you all to take the time to read it from start to finish as a kind of story. That’s the way to get the most out of it, whatever you’re doing. In general I'd like to see some feedback on my take of things, a look from your eyes, and what we can use here to move forward.
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Happy New Year everyone!
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