Looking at Baton Pass/Evasion in BW Ubers

steelskitty

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To preface this, I consider BW Ubers a nearly perfect tier. I've played it for over seven years and have seen the metagame completely transform and still to this day progress. BW Ubers in current year looks nothing like BW Ubers in 2013, largely due to metagame developments resultant from BW Ubers' continued presence in the Ubers Tournament Circuit. The Tournament Schedule for 2020 lists six tournaments that feature BW Ubers: Ubers Premiere League, Most Wanted, BW Ubers Cup, Homefield Advantage, Ubers Live, and Ubers Pentathlon. The last four of these tournaments count toward the Ubers Ribbon, while the first two are widely considered Ubers's most prestigious ever since it was yanked out of officials. 2019 had a comparable number of BW Ubers tournaments, as did 2018, and so on. What this ongoing presence in tournaments has given us is a not insignificant BW Ubers playerbase, a playerbase that has pushed the tier's development forward even long after BW stopped being the main generation. What this means is that we fundamentally understand BW Ubers more now than we did when it was the current generation. Countless new teams, spreads, sets, and even Pokemon have surfaced that would have seemed outlandish or totally unviable in 2013. Regrettably, with all this development, we've also discovered something terrible, something that singlehandedly calls into question BW Ubers's competitiveness. I'm talking about the optimization of the infamous Evasionpass, a strategy that brings out the worst of two different yet related issues: Baton Pass and Evasion.

It's first of all notable that BW is the only generation of Ubers, and in fact one of the only competitive metagames on Smogon at all that allows evasion moves. What can we attribute this to? Some history: before the arrival of Mega Rayquaza, the formal establishment of Ubers as a tier, and the creation of Anything Goes, former Ubers leader bojangles experimented with making Ubers less, rather than more, restrictive. The thread discussing the philosophy behind this is here, and the actual implementation of it here. Back when Ubers was simply OU's banlist, there was a push to "determine...at what level the concept of risk versus reward devolves into uncompetitiveness" (quote from the OP of the first thread). At this time, Ubers had no banned Pokemon, so what this meant was suspect testing clauses put into place back in DPP: OHKO clause, Evasion Clause, Moody Clause, Sleep Clause, and Species Clause. The Species Clause suspect never happened, but the others did, and out of them, only Evasion was freed. Evasion remained in Ubers, to little fanfare, for a few years, saw an uptick in usage on the ladder, and was unceremoniously banned in ORAS Ubers by Sweep and Fireburn in 2015. It has been banned in every generation since, and is also banned in RBY-DPP Ubers.

Baton Pass, meanwhile, is only banned from USM Ubers and SS Ubers. USM did not suspect it; SS did. In both generations, it is overwhelmingly seen as fundamentally uncompetitive because it lacks counterplay, is excessively awkward if not impossible to check, and takes the skill out the game. Perception of the move in other generations of Ubers varies wildly. In ADV Ubers, full pass is seen as an inconsistent gimmick. Outside of full pass, Celebi and Umbreon can viably Baton Pass Substitutes and Mean Look, respectively. In DPP, full pass is seen as pretty uncompetitive (expect another thread on it later). Nothing in the tier viably runs BP outside of full pass chains. In ORAS, full pass chains don't exist and nothing viably runs the move, but a gimmicky strategy involving Smeargle passing Geomancy to something like a Mega Diancie or Primal Groudon is very rarely used. Baton Pass doesn't exist in RBY, and I can't comment on it in GSC Ubers due to having no experience with the tier.

Baton Pass in BW Ubers, meanwhile, is not viably run by anything outside of two team styles, one of which squarely falls under the category of cheese and the other of which directly threatens the integrity of the tier. The former strategy, referred to as Smashpass, involves clearing the field of entry hazards, setting up a Shell Smash with Focus Sash Smeargle, clicking Spore, and passing +2 Atk / Spa / Spe to a powerful recipient like Dialga, Kyurem-W, or Giratina-O. Popularized by this RMT, Smashpass has, since its inception, been perceived as a way to win on matchup versus a more skilled player. It has consistency issues and can be deceptively difficult to pilot, but it is outright impossible to overcome in some instances and can even cheese wins when the initial Baton Pass gets denied. The latter strategy, known as Evasionpass, takes the form of a full Baton Pass chain where multiple Pokemon run Evasion-boosting moves. When an Evasionpass team gets even a single free turn it throws every facet of competitiveness out the window, completely taking the game out of the opponent's hands and making them statistically less and less likely to win each additional turn the game progresses. Evasionpass is both incredibly easy to use in a number of matchups and maddeningly consistent — if its use wasn't so stigmatized, it would completely overrun BW Ubers tournament play. As-is, I'm worried about it cropping up in the upcoming BW Ubers Live and Pentathlon, hence why I decided to make this thread now.

Here are some replays of Baton Pass in action in BW Ubers.

Smashpass:

https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/smogtours-gen5ubers-511517 (UPL game)
https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/smogtours-gen5ubers-512985 (UPL game)
https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/gen5ubers-590613752
https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/ubers-45377406 (Smashpass mirror)
https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/ubers12366036

Evasionpass:

https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/smogtours-gen5ubers-288575 (UPL game)
https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/smogtours-gen5ubers-439244 (UPL game)
https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/gen5ubers-1178277187-d6hmzeautakjarztvikxdvwv6o95qnkpw
https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/gen5ubers-1123349424
https://replay.pokemonshowdown.com/gen5ubers-1123070171 (winning with a recipient that's wholly competitively unviable)

What does overcoming either of these strategies look like? Smashpass is undeniably easier to beat — first-turn wakes, surprise Magic Coats, Taunts, Sleep Talks, or phazing moves, and losing the hazard game can all wrest momentum out of the Smashpasser's hands, not to mention that the two strongest Smashpass recipients in Dialga and Kyurem-W miss a handful of relevant KOs. Smashpass also struggles versus the sleep-inducing Darkrai, Espeon, and Accelgor, and hates multi-hitting sets like the uncommon Dual Chop Garchomp and Double Kick Terrakion. If your team can't make any of these things work, you probably immediately lose, but if it can you're a-okay. Evasionpass, on the other hand, has no meaningful in-game counterplay bar a phazing move from an unexpected Pokemon. You have to account for Evasionpass in the builder, and the ways to do this are so limited that it's completely unfeasible to run them on every team. There are six viable Pokemon in BW Ubers that learn Haze (Darkrai, Zekrom, Tentacruel, Xatu, Omastar, and Qwilfish), and none can viably run it. The only viable Pokemon that learns Perish Song is Arceus, and Perish Song is on the very fringe of viability — of the many dozens of BW Ubers teams I've built, I've found space for Perish Song Arceus on exactly one and am not even convinced it's optimal there. Heart Swap Manaphy is theoretically an option, but Manaphy itself is barely viable and has no space for the move if it wants to do anything besides check Evasionpass. There are a handful of 100% accurate attacks in Aura Sphere, Aerial Ace, and Thunder in Rain, but the most optimized Evasionpass team runs immunities to Thunder and Aura Sphere and simply doesn't care about Aerial Ace because nothing in BW Ubers viably runs it. What this means is that you need to go very, very far out of your way to achieve any sort of consistency against Evasionpass in the builder. You have high odds of immediately losing to it if you don't.

The inevitable question is this: why was something as obviously busted as Evasion allowed in the first place? I believe you can attribute this to a set of fundamental differences between the Ubers community then and today, as well as a lack of understanding within the 2012 playerbase about the full implications of allowing Evasion to roam free. These differences in the competitive community should be pretty evident from what I've already said. It's very telling that Evasion is illegal in every generation of Ubers except BW, just as it's very telling that it hasn't been seriously brought up for an unban in any of these generations in over half a decade. There is nothing at all that makes BW Ubers uniquely equipped to handle Evasion — it is just as uncompetitive here as it is in every metagame it is actually banned from. The only reason Evasion is free is due to a really terrible policy precedent set before Ubers became a tier, a precedent based on the whims of an uninformed voting base that has since almost entirely exited the community. Looking at the suspect discussion thread, past the first page a recurrent concern is that people haven't even played against Evasion on the ladder. When people did encounter full evasion chains, the teams they saw weren't anything like that which was linked in the previous paragraph. They looked like this, because people hadn't figured out how to build yet. It's unsurprising that there isn't a single good take in the entire thread on either the pro- or anti-ban side, given how little everybody had to work with. Now that we know what we do, there's really no valid argument, tiering-related or otherwise, for keeping Evasion in BW Ubers.

I am specifically recommending that we ban Evasion-boosting moves, items, and abilities from BW, in addition to Baton Pass. I see this as the most elegant way to solve the remaining uncompetitive elements in BW Ubers. Banning Evasion-boosting moves alone is not enough — the Pokemon in full pass chains just start running Brightpowder and/or Sand Veil, and you have exactly the same problem you did initially. Simply banning Baton Pass also does not completely resolve everything — recognize that sets like Brightpowder Sand Veil Garchomp and Double Team Gliscor are still fundamentally uncompetitive, passing boosts or no. Banning Evasion-boosting moves, items, and abilities yet keeping Baton Pass free is also a non-starter. You don't see full pass chains without Evasion right now, because they're strictly worse than the ones with Evasion. If you completely ban Evasion yet keep Baton Pass, people start running full pass without Evasion, which is still a massive pain in the ass to handle even if it's more susceptible to luck. The competitive downsides to banning Evasion are zero. The competitive downside to banning Baton Pass is that we eradicate the totally-fringe-and-dubiously-healthy-in-the-first-place playstyle of Smashpass but then prevent having to make another thread about this sixth months down the line. The choice, to me, is obvious.
 
Disclaimer: I'm not a BW ubers player, so I'm not going to weigh in with my opinion on it, but I decided to look at evasion discussion in ubers discord to see if there was some consensus on it by BW players before Steel posted this. These are the screenshots of the discussions

Immediate reaction to evasionpass in upl.PNG

part2.PNG
part3.PNG
This is just to show some context of the stigma that bringing evasionpass has in ubers, discouraging it from being used more often.

Blim regret, garay annoyed, sparksblade annoyed.PNG
hack saying its a dick mood.PNG
Tony + Pearl.PNG
Astounded enforing that evasion is banned in the bw rules of tour.PNG
Sarah.PNG

Worth pointing out for Hack's opinion, I cut off the screenshot a tad early by mistake, having missed slightly later discussion where he says it's bad but entirely luck based.
 

Earthworm

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I haven't played many BW Ubers games to preface this post. I just took issue with the logic in your final paragraph:
I am specifically recommending that we ban Evasion-boosting moves, items, and abilities from BW, in addition to Baton Pass. I see this as the most elegant way to solve the remaining uncompetitive elements in BW Ubers. Banning Evasion-boosting moves alone is not enough — the Pokemon in full pass chains just start running Brightpowder and/or Sand Veil, and you have exactly the same problem you did initially. Simply banning Baton Pass also does not completely resolve everything — recognize that sets like Brightpowder Sand Veil Garchomp and Double Team Gliscor are still fundamentally uncompetitive, passing boosts or no. Banning Evasion-boosting moves, items, and abilities yet keeping Baton Pass free is also a non-starter. You don't see full pass chains without Evasion right now, because they're strictly worse than the ones with Evasion. If you completely ban Evasion yet keep Baton Pass, people start running full pass without Evasion, which is still a massive pain in the ass to handle even if it's more susceptible to luck. The competitive downsides to banning Evasion are zero. The competitive downside to banning Baton Pass is that we eradicate the totally-fringe-and-dubiously-healthy-in-the-first-place playstyle of Smashpass but then prevent having to make another thread about this sixth months down the line. The choice, to me, is obvious.
I disagree with the notion that evasion / strategies that rely on odds are "fundamentally uncompetitive". There are a huge number of game elements that we have never touched in any tier in any generation that are wholly reliant on fishing for odds. This is just a part of the game from my perspective. We should be targeting only the most egregiously overpowering moves/game elements when considering what to ban. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't reinstate Evasion Clause or ban Baton Pass, though.

I've been aware for a long time that evasion moves, for the most part, are probably only really overpowering when combined with Baton Pass in singles in most generations past probably generation 3. This is primarily because using up a move slot for an evasion move comes at a massive opportunity cost. Baton Pass significantly reduces that opportunity cost and I have no doubt that it is the only actually overpowering strategy that involves evasion. However, Baton Pass has historically (prior to the last few generations) been considered a more desirable game element to retain than evasion, which significantly strengthens full pass chains. I would encourage careful consideration of what needs to be banned in order to remove the overpowering strategy rather than simply going after everything at once.

In particular, I don't recognise that Sand Veil and Bright Powder are worthy of being targeted for bans, especially in an Ubers tier with plenty of viable weather changers and (I'm kind of assuming here) enough powerful offensive and defensive Pokemon to handle the Pokemon that actually have Sand Veil. Bright Powder especially comes at a huge opportunity cost. I would be extremely surprised if full pass chains could "just start running Bright Powder and/or Sand Veil" and achieve anywhere near the same consistency, since that also comes at the significant opportunity cost of losing Leftovers (or whatever other items are used. Pinch berries are presumably pretty good).

Furthermore, I have looked at the Evasion Clauses listed on site for Ubers tiers and all of them that I checked have the same definition, which is "A Pokemon may not have either Double Team or Minimize in its moveset." It would probably be unnecessarily confusing to differ from that.





Separately, despite barely knowing most of them, I feel that the criticism directed at the tier leaders of that time is unnecessary. They did their best with the resources at their disposal to shape the tier in a way that aligns with good tiering ideologies, although they simply had not optimised the strategy enough to discover that it was overpowered. Now that we have discovered how powerful the strategy can become, we are able to undo this.
 
I haven't played many BW Ubers games to preface this post. I just took issue with the logic in your final paragraph:

I disagree with the notion that evasion / strategies that rely on odds are "fundamentally uncompetitive". There are a huge number of game elements that we have never touched in any tier in any generation that are wholly reliant on fishing for odds. This is just a part of the game from my perspective. We should be targeting only the most egregiously overpowering moves/game elements when considering what to ban. This doesn't mean that we shouldn't reinstate Evasion Clause or ban Baton Pass, though.

I've been aware for a long time that evasion moves, for the most part, are probably only really overpowering when combined with Baton Pass in singles in most generations past probably generation 3. This is primarily because using up a move slot for an evasion move comes at a massive opportunity cost. Baton Pass significantly reduces that opportunity cost and I have no doubt that it is the only actually overpowering strategy that involves evasion. However, Baton Pass has historically (prior to the last few generations) been considered a more desirable game element to retain than evasion, which significantly strengthens full pass chains. I would encourage careful consideration of what needs to be banned in order to remove the overpowering strategy rather than simply going after everything at once.

In particular, I don't recognise that Sand Veil and Bright Powder are worthy of being targeted for bans, especially in an Ubers tier with plenty of viable weather changers and (I'm kind of assuming here) enough powerful offensive and defensive Pokemon to handle the Pokemon that actually have Sand Veil. Bright Powder especially comes at a huge opportunity cost. I would be extremely surprised if full pass chains could "just start running Bright Powder and/or Sand Veil" and achieve anywhere near the same consistency, since that also comes at the significant opportunity cost of losing Leftovers (or whatever other items are used. Pinch berries are presumably pretty good).

Furthermore, I have looked at the Evasion Clauses listed on site for Ubers tiers and all of them that I checked have the same definition, which is "A Pokemon may not have either Double Team or Minimize in its moveset." It would probably be unnecessarily confusing to differ from that.

Separately, despite barely knowing most of them, I feel that the criticism directed at the tier leaders of that time is unnecessary. They did their best with the resources at their disposal to shape the tier in a way that aligns with good tiering ideologies, although they simply had not optimised the strategy enough to discover that it was overpowered. Now that we have discovered how powerful the strategy can become, we are able to undo this.
I agree completely with this post, although I would like to take it further and say that I believe the core issue of both Smashpass and Evasionpass in BW Ubers is neither the Shell Smash or Double Team pokemon themselves, as the tier is more than capable of handling these threats, but Baton Pass alone allows both of these strategies to work and brings an unhealthy aspect to the metagame, which not only often allows a player who is significanly less skilled than their opponent to notch a win [which is why some resort to smashpass and evasionpass in the first place], but smashpass / evasionpass games also often result in a frustrating experience for both the spectators and the player who is up against said team. While I admit that baton pass chains can be inconsistent and can also be ruined by a well timed dragon tail / roar, in many other cases (as seen in the replays posted by steelskitty), these teams result in near auto-wins when given the right match-up, and then the game results in a baton pass flowchart win where there is little to no real interaction bewteen both players.

I personally don't see any good reason to keep Baton Pass in the tier, BW Ubers is a old generation tier that is in a uniqiue position of having not only one, but two viable Baton Passing team styles that also happen to be fairly strong (Shell Smash Smeragle Passing and Espeon Evasion Passing). There is also already a strong precedent for banning baton pass in ubers as it was already done twice. Once in the recent SS Ubers Suspect Test, and also banned in USM Ubers. The main argument I've seen for keeping it in this tier is somewhat along the lines of "it's technically not broken and doesn't achieve many tournament wins", which I believe is a poor reason to keep something that is clearly unhealthy and that the tier would be much better off without, as there is no use for baton pass outside of passing chains.

To sum it up, I think that the only solution is to ban baton pass, wheather or not evastion stays does not really matter to me as baton pass is the only issue in my opinion. I'm also not criticizing any decisions made nearly a decade ago, as the uber community and its philosophy / attitude towards the metagame and other tiering issues in general is vastly different from then, along with the fact that baton pass was severly underdeveloped from that era, so obviously we can't apply today's standards to the past.
 
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I'm not that great of a BW Ubers player, and therefore will avoid addressing the 'competitiveness' or nuances in the viability, playstyle, or degree of 'broken' that evasion or baton pass supposedly constitutes. I'd prefer to focus on one aspect that Steel touched upon without mentioning in his original post - consistency.

On the grounds of consistency, I believe it's important that evasion is removed from BW Ubers. A combination of quotes from the OP sums up the argument for this:

steel skit dude said:
[Evasion] has been banned in every generation since [BW], and is also banned in RBY-DPP Ubers [...] it's very telling that Evasion is illegal in every generation of Ubers except BW, just as it's very telling that it hasn't been seriously brought up for an unban in any of these generations in over half a decade. There is nothing at all that makes BW Ubers uniquely equipped to handle Evasion — it is just as uncompetitive here as it is in every metagame it is actually banned from.
The comparison Steel uses here between previous and future gens as evidence for tiering policy is in-line with other policy decisions, including the quickban of Cinderace from OU, the retaining of an Endless Battle Clause in old gens, and recent RBY changes. As well, the only point of contention would be the presence of a mitigating factor that weakens Evasion in BW Ubers. Trusting Steel's expertise and familiarity with the BW Ubers meta, as well as my personal experience and anecdotal evidence, I'm comfortable accepting that there is no unique mechanic or strategy in BW Ubers that can justify a unique stance on Evasion compared to the other gens that have deemed it ban-worthy.

I do not know what current value that Ubers policy and tiering council places on "consistency", nor do I want to derail this thread from the discussion of Evasion and Baton Pass. (Such a talk about consistency in Ubers policy and tiering would almost certainly constitute its own thread, and include current gen Ubers policy, especially Dynamax.) However, I want to introduce the idea of consistency as a value not only in this case, but also going forward, recognizing that this decision will reflect tiering values in Ubers at large. Past OUTLs ABR and Fichinator, as well as past head TD Teal6, have placed an emphasis on consistency in their philosophies, and I think it's important to consider it in this and future discussions.
 

shrang

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Just to preface that I'm pretty sure I voted either ban or abstain back when we unbanned Evasion in BW2, so personally I favour banning Evasion if we came to it. That being said, I think this needs to go through due process - especially when we had a suspect test (which for all intents and purposes are the gold standard for tiering decisions made on Smogon). I think it's only fair that if we want to ban evasion again that we should roll it through another suspect test or similar. Before you all point out that no-one's going to play yadda yadda - people can opt to not play and not vote, that's their choice, but it should be offered at a minimum. There will be people who play and those who play and meet reqs will be given the opportunity to vote. I know most people who played BW2 are gone, but I hope that we can at least respect their decision all those years ago and we should at least have something of equivalent community input to reverse that decision - I'm a sentimental guy.

As for what I think of Evasion and BP, tl;dr I think evasion should be banned and BP should not. Even back during the evasion suspect test I knew Evasionpass would be a shitfest but at the time I didn't get the impression that anyone was really bothered by it. Evasion on its own is absolutely dogshit. Baton Pass is also dogshit in pretty much every metagame I've played and I'm quite frankly baffled on why we have it banned pretty much everywhere on Smogon at the moment and I'm not impressed that Ubers has also hopped on that bandwagon. I can't comment on the gen 8 Ubers BP ban because I haven't intelligently played gen 8, but the gen 7 Ubers BP ban (the blanket ban, rather than something more targeted like Eevium Z) was an absolute disgrace in my opinion that had no good evidence presented (see my thoughts here). There has been no change to the core gameplay of BW2 Ubers that make BP not turd outside of Evasion unban, which I'll get to in a sec. The only things that have changed are metagame shifts (but not the tools to deal with BP) and people's attitude that we can now ban things that are not fun (and hey I hate playing against BP about as much as everyone but you all know that I'm a boomer who hates banning things in general). BW2 is not a conducive metagame to BP at all - you can see Smashpass/BP chains from team preview, Roar/Dragon Tail are everywhere, shit just hits amazingly hard consistently so you have no time to get boosts most of the time. Stigma is one thing, but people don't run BP or Evasion for a reason, and it's because they're legitimately bad strategies that do not consistently yield wins.

Evasion and BP are a different beast though. I don't know if anyone read my post in the gen 8 BP thread, but basically it's all about time and the longer you let a BP chain sit there the worse off you'll be, and BP chains to start off with are playing catch up because they're far weaker than you from the get go. Evasion gives them the opportunity to make up that time more easily, and it does it in a way that takes decision making out of your (and to an extent your opponent's) hands and takes out skill involved (from you the person trying to stop it and also to the person using the BP team), and that's why I would support a ban.

tl;dr
- Evasion should be banned and BP shouldn't -> I wouldn't particularly mind an Evasion/BP complex ban if that was a thing but I don't have strong feelings about this
- Evasion was democratically unbanned, so it should also be democratically banned again if we want to ban it - suspect test or something of the same level of BW2 Ubers community input
 

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