Mean Look/Spider Web + Baton Pass in GSC OU

TonyFlygon

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As of right now, it's legal to use the combination of Mean Look/Spider Web + Baton Pass in GSC OU. Unlike in generations 5 and up, the trapping effect gets passed to the recipient here. Three Pokemon have access to this strategy; Ariados, Smeargle and Umbreon. The latter two of which being the biggest team building headaches in the tier by far, in my opinion.


Starting with Smeargle, the main problem in dealing with it is that it's usually one of two main sets that you're facing; Spikes or Baton Pass. Baton Pass sets can either be Spider Web or a boosting move like Agility, with the noteworthy difference being that Mean Look and Spider Web are already banned in conjunction with Sleep inducing moves. This means that it essentially comes down to Smeargle either having Spore or Spider Web, and therein lies the issue. If you go to a Sleep absorber like Sleep Talk Zapdos or Snorlax, you're well off into Spore sets, but could instantly lose the game to Spider Web Smeargle passing the trap to something like Curse Snorlax or starting up a full chain. If you go to a phazer or Explosion/Self-Destruct Pokemon to prevent that from happening, you're risking getting taken out of the game by Spore instead. 'Choosing' wrong could end your game on turn 1.


Umbreon doesn't learn a Sleep inducing move like Smeargle, but still has plenty of tricks up its sleeve to completely disrupt its counter play. The nastiest of those tricks is by far Confuse Ray, which reduces your chances to escape the Mean Look + Baton Pass trap to simply not hitting yourself two turns in a row. If you do and Umbreon successfully passes out against your Roar Steelix or Golem, for example, Pokemon like Cloyster and Vaporeon come in freely, click Surf and you're cooked. To make matters worse, Umbreon can often use (nearly) all of its Mean Look PP trying to pull this off, as it's very bulky and you have to go to your phazer every time. Umbreon also commonly runs Toxic to ruin phazers like Tyranitar, Golem and Rhydon, which you're basically forced to switch into Umbreon, because you can't chance a Mean Look being passed into a sweeper that farms better answers to Toxic.

This strategy is needlessly cheesy, makes for stupid games and painful team building hurdles, especially around Smeargle. I know banning Baton Pass outright is still a bridge too far for most GSC players, but can we please ban the passing of Mean Look and Spider Web as soon as possible? If they can't be used alongside Sleep moves, then surely this is a reasonable combination to axe as well.
 

Siatam

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I believed this proposal casts too broad a net and would like to focus future discussion on a narrower topic, Trapping + Confusion.

To address the op: Mean Look/Spider Web by themselves are not broken, uncompetitive nor place an unreasonable burden on team building.

Raw trapping attempts only work on the uninformed or uncautious player. While not every Umbreon/Smearlge/Misdreavus has a trapping move, you should play as if they do, since there is a great risk if you get trapped.
However it is not difficult to play around potential trapping moves. Mean Look by itself does not significantly change the counterplay to BP (phazing, Explosion, status) which is widely accepted as part of standard GSC team building. Hence why, for now, BP is accepted in the tier with no limitations.
The counterplay to BP is also difficult to prevent; there are only 3 ways of interrupting a phazing attempt, use a phazing move while slower (antithetical to BP's typical goal of passing speed), Sleep (banned with trapping), and Confusion (we'll get to it later). There is no Taunt, no faster phazing, or abilities that complicate matters in other generations.

Yet another reason why BP and by extension trapping + BP in GSC is acceptable is that successful chains are not immediately game ending. The maxed out EV system and 999 stat cap make it so even a maxed out BP recipient can not OHKO entire teams. For example, Marowak, one of the most threatening BP recipients, cannot OHKO Cloyster or Skarmory and must switch out in fear of Cloyster's Explosion/Surf or be involuntarily phazed out by Skarmory. This goes out the window if you are trapped, but is a reason why the 50/50 between Spore and ML Smeargle is a non-issue.

So when it comes to Smeargle, you are only really at risk of "losing T1" if you do not play around the possibility of Spider Web. Unless you allow your sole phazer to get slept, letting something without Sleep Talk take Spore is not game ending. 100% Safe counter play against lead Smeargle also exists in the form of Thief + Sleep leads such as Jynx and Nidoking. Though having multi phazers has fallen out of vogue in GSC team building, it is also a very reliable counterplay to Smeargle.

As for 100% safe counter play for Toxic Umbreon: Toxic immune phazers are totally viable, if you build teams with only phazers susceptible to toxic you must accept that you will need to play quicker for a win condition vs Toxic + ML Umbreon. This is not an unreasonable disadvantage in team matchups. The same counter play exists, but under a turn-based limitation. This is a competitive scenario, though one player has the innate advantage.

To address the strategy of concealing a ML + BP user in the back. I do not see it as any different than executing any other strategy where you conceal a win condition and try to remove the opponent's one or two checks before they realize what you are up to.

We should also recognize that teams using ML Smeargle/Umbreon have a large opportunity cost. ML + BP Smeargle and Umbreon are useless by themselves and their only offensive/defensive utility comes from forcing switches. If their trapping attempts are not successful, their team is playing at a major disadvantage.

In short, If you routinely find yourself struggling against Smeargle or Toxic + ML Umb you may need to reevaluate your team building or play. The tools exist to deal with these threats.


Now to finally get to Confuse Ray Umbreon. Currently I am borderline whether this deserves to be banned, but I believe this is where discussion should be focused.

On the anti-ban side: Cray Umbreon does not force a switch to your phazer(s) and play the lottery. Other counterplay exists in the form of faster Explosion users as well as status. Though not a switch into ML Umbreon, Machamp can be used to prevent ML + Cray cycles from occurring. For example, if you successfully phaze out Umbreon while you are confused it is often a good idea to then switch out and clear the status effect. After being phazed out, Umbreon can usually immediately switch back in with little risk. Bringing in Machamp on this turn breaks this loop and can provide an important free turn.

On the pro-ban side: there is admittedly a limited amount of counter play outside of relying on not getting confused twice in a row. Explosions can be spent and status absorbed While the chance of Confusion lasting longer than 1 turn and succeeding twice in a row are only ~20%, over the course of 8 ML PP's that has a 84% chance of occuring at least once. Confuse Ray + Mean Look is also similar in nature to the banned Sleep + Trapping, an uncompetitive strategy with higher odds for immediate success and significantly less counterplay.

Once again, I am currently undecided on the matter of Confuse Ray + Trapping but lean anti-ban. I am firmly anti-ban when it comes to Mean Look as a whole.

I think future discussion should be focused on determining if Confuse Ray + Trapping is an acceptable strategy when Sleep + Trapping is not.
 

Fear

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I personally believe that Mean Look & Baton Pass should be banned from OU. The culprit here is Smeargle and to a lesser extend backline Umbreon.

Lead Smeargle has no safe responses because of the threat of Trap + Baton Pass. If you guess wrong turn 1, you could have your sleep talker trapped or at best, your phaser crippled. Of course, Agility Passing is also a major card on its sleeve, as is Double Statusing. One could argue about the 'soft' effect of having your pokemon Status'ed in GSC but there is not a better pokemon than Smeargle at that because it threatens a 1-0 kill lock at best and a 6-0 lock at worst as it forces specific responses.

I will elaborate with recent examples from games taken during the span of the year that passed:

Fear vs ABR, SPL 12

The infamous GSC trap pass game, where the strategy was executed by ABR, succesfully Trap Passing the Forretress(turn 5) into starting a chain, only bailed out by a short Encore and Forretress having Explosion on its moveset. This game showcases how a trap could easily escalate into an easy set up or straight up sweep.

Tony vs Fear, GSC cup quarterfinals

A good lead into the slower Cloyster. If Cloyster stays in to spike Turn 1 and Smeargle Mean Looks, it encores the Spike and passes to backline sweeper, usually Jolteon. Therefore Cloyster is forced to switch if it respects the trap. If Smeargle is Spore and Cloyster anticipates trapping and stays in(zero info at this point), the Spike user is shut down. The only truly safe option for the cloyster user would be if it held Miracle Berry and Exploded turn 1, even then this is assumed with the scenario that the Smeargle player chooses to stay in and execute its strategy.
Turn 1 gamble (trap vs sleep), leads to turn 3 second cripple on a pokemon because the Smeargle can still Agility Baton Pass on the just put to sleep Zapdos. Therefore trying to respect Agility Pass, could get your team further crippled.


TDK vs TC, GSC invitational

You may believe you know the team, only for Smeargle to be running the other set as shown in this replay here. This compliments the previous replay and showcases another turn 1 gamble by risking sleep, in the need to respond to a potential trap.

gorgie vs Fear, SPL 12

Disruption on the team(turn 12) because you have to respect the possibility of Agility or Trap Passing. Usually teams with 1 phaser are forced to gamble, taking status on something else so they can 'chase' the beginning of a probable Agility chain.


Garay Oak vs Tricking, GSC invitational

Agility Passing added in the above threats of turn 1 Spore or Trap. Lead disadvantage turned by hard Agility. AgiPass is guaranteed after this turn 1 because of Spore. This may seem unrelated to Trap Passing, but by having all the possibilities shown and outlining the worst of them(Trap & Pass) exactly points out why it needs to go, so that the others can be preserved.

Umbreon falls in a similar role when its played in the back; most of the times it only needs to 'bluff' Mean look to get forced responses from the opponent. By having Charm and Moonlight, it pretents to be either Toxic Pursuit, or Mean Look Baton pass as one sets hides the other until the moment is appropriate. The trap pass set can also be 'exaggerated' by adding Confuse Ray in the mix over Charm, forcing Umbreon to be a dedicated, near guaranteed Trap Pass which has brought some more attention to be handled recently. I'd personally say that the hidden tech is the deadliest and adding Confuse Ray isnt what pushes the set to unfairism; it's Mean Look and Baton pass, even the possibility of it forces direct or specific responses which could turn up to be detrimental in the final game outcome (eg getting your Tyranitar or Golem Poisoned).

My opinion regarding Mean Look/Spider Web and Baton pass has been public for a while now. The combination of Mean Look/Spider Web and Baton pass needs to go. Keeping this in GSC preserves nothing and especially in the case of leading Smeargle, is a turn 1 russian roulette.
 
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Century Express

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I'm too lazy to elabore a good reasoning, but I'm fine with banning Baton Pass (as a whole), in the sense that "BP + any remotely decent support" often forces scenarios where the RNG / counterplay / outplay element can be a little too much out of the player's control (e: "Horn Drill-esque" scenarios when ML + BP Umbreon sucessfully bails its phazers with a well-timed Confusion hit, or a Sand-Attack / Brightpowder miss). Smeargle, in a similiar way, ends up forcing way too many chaotic gamestates... I feel like Smeargle is the perfect example of a Pokémon with the potential to screw you up, regardless of your level of gamesense, outplaying potential and whatnot, it adds an undesirable teambuilding dillema as well. This is not fine at all.

As long as you guys ban Baton Pass completely, or Mean Look / Spider Web, i'm fine with either, or both. But please, just don't create another unnecessary complex ban, because otherwise I wouldn't be suprised to see another BP thread popping up under a few months...
 
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Zokuru

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Completely agree with CE, we entered an era where people will abuse cheese, even if it's very shaky and not quite reliable. Therefore we need to take action to keep the metagame healthy, and not devolve into trying to predict who is gonna use BP and when.

Baton pass as a whole doesn't add anything to the metagame, at best there's the niche Growth pass teams that can be considered to not rely too much on the BP side to be " fine ", it sees very little play and it's very hard to make it not destroyed by the super common Sleep Talk Snorlax.

Anyways, the point is that the move BP is only used to win some games on spot by abusing hax ( used with para spam / Confuse Ray ) or as a gamble that forces your opponent in having the exact phazer that beats your passer or play way too offensively for the amount of informations they have ( and having the team paced fast enough to back the play up ). This move has nothing to do with competition in GSC, it has been banned for being way less good than that in other gens, therefore please get rid of it, and do not keep it for reasons like " It was not good before " or stuff like that. The old builds weren't as refined as today's ones, and everyone used Roar everywhere, often even x3 phazer per teams, which cannot be done today because it would loses to the dominant force of the metagame that is Offense.

Thank you for reading.

EDIT & Tldr : If you want a complex ban to preserve non-cheese BP you can go with banning BP + Sleep OR Mean Look OR Speed OR Haxx inducing moves ( Statut moves that applies para, confusion or reduce accuracy ( inclusive ORs ). That probably rules the problems out. But banning BP plain and simply is probably easier at this point.
 
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Excal

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i agree largely with god tony chan, fear, ce, and zokuru's posts. baton pass is quite unhealthy in gsc and puts building in a chokehold. it gives smeargle way too many options and accounting for trappass + agilitypass + mirror coat + spikes sets simultaneously just isn't feasible and you're effectively forced to spin the wheel in some sense to deal with it (spinning incorrectly on turn 1 could result in a very quick loss). mean look + baton pass strategies with umbreon put a chokehold on building as there are very few phazers who can somewhat safely deal with it, and even then there's the potential for cheesing past its checks with confuse ray + sand attack.

i am against a mean look ban because this move has benefits in the metagame and isn't inherently broken (ie. mean look gengar sets make way for unique strategies and serve as interesting counterplay to snorlax). baton pass is not a positive influence on the metagame and should be banned in full, avoiding any unnecessary complex bans that will inevitably be revisited down the line as gsc builders continue to push the metagame's boundaries.

tl;dr ban baton pass, but a complex ban of trapping + pass is preferable to the status quo if that ends up having to be the middle ground
 

McMeghan

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Baton Pass isn't balanced in Singles. The fact that it had to be nerfed in every gens before getting fully banned shows that. For some reason it always received special treatment compared to other things that got fully banned. In every gen where it's not fully banned, it's the subject of one or multiple clauses to somewhat keep it around.

The Baton Pass nerf approach is honestly the result of a very conservative era that I truely respect, but I also believe that the more proactive approach to tiering nowadays leads to more enjoyable metagame development. While I reckon this is a subjective take, I'm inclined to believe it's shared by a sizable majority as more and more people updated their views on similary controversial topics such as trapping in other gens.

EDIT: I'll clarify for the sake of this thread that I'm 100% in agreement that AT LEAST Trap+BP should be banned. I admit I kinda went off-topic with this message kinda being about BP as a whole. I'm willing to compromise everytime on these topics, as any action is better than none, but I wanted to share where I stand in general.
 
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Earthworm

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As a GSC council member I feel obliged to post here; also noting that fellow councillor Conflict has said he lacks posting rights.

As has been made evident by a few people here, it is not clear what is banworthy, broken, or "problematic" here. I'm going to frame my thoughts in terms of each Pokemon that can take advantage of trap passing or trapping and then look at the options that have been raised so far.

:gs/Smeargle:
Smeargle mostly relies on surprise value, as usual. To be more specific, it relies on the opponent guessing the set incorrectly or respecting the more dangerous possibility, which it can do because it is used in a lead in a mode without team preview. It can pull off wonders in games that it works, but these are currently the exception rather than the norm. It's difficult to play into offensive teams, which are much more common.

The other use it can see is as a trap passer in a longer BP chain. Only a few prominent players have tried to pull this off due to the lack of anti-phazing options available, and especially because Smeargle cannot deter them with its own damage threat in 95% of cases. Umbreon is considered a much better option for this role, owing to its bulk. Smeargle does have a couple of edges over Umbreon, specifically its superior speed and access to Encore.

When considering whether to take tiering action due to Smeargle, I would say it is balanced sufficiently by its lack of stats. It is very dangerous into some matchups (against passive stall), but this requires a matchup gamble from the user. Additionally, in order to actually take advantage of trap pass, one is required to use Pokemon that can actually gain an advantage against the Pokemon Smeargle pulls off a trap against, which causes inflexibility and arguably further weakens the strategy as an archetype. Smeargle beats virtually nothing on its own, which makes this even harder to pull off.

:gs/Umbreon:
Umbreon is where the real potential for brokenness is with regard to Trap + Baton Pass. With all of Confuse Ray, Swagger, Charm, Sand Attack, Mud Slap, and Zap Cannon at its disposal, it can realistically threaten any team. Unlike with Smeargle, its utility is not entirely absent if it cannot immediately pull its strategy off, as it is much harder to punish for making repeated attempts.

Confuse Ray and Sand Attack do not have any truly reliable answers when combined with Mean Look. Although they are not likely to prevent a singular phazing attempt, Umbreon is more than capable of pulling off additional attempts, especially if it evades status.

Even without Baton Pass, Mean Look Umbreon can be dangerous, especially Sand Attack variants through their ability to a) PP stall foes, and b) set up opportunities for dangerous teammates against phazers.

Umbreon also has moveset uncertainty as an advantage. Although Toxic is currently not too common, it is quite viable and can punish phazers and Explosion users that switch in too eagerly.

Unlike Smeargle, a trap pass Umbreon can realistically fit on almost any team, which further amplifies its strength.

If we are to take any tiering action over trapping and / or Baton Pass, in my opinion it should primarily target Umbreon's strategies.

:gs/Misdreavus:
Although it is not a trap passer, Misdreavus can pull off a similar strategy to Umbreon with Confuse Ray or Attract. It is virtually guaranteed to at least trade evenly if it pulls off a ~25% chance confusion self-hit into double Protect or re-application of Confuse Ray, and usually will pull off a KO and stay somewhat healthy.

Like Umbreon and Smeargle, part of its strength comes from moveset uncertainty. It can run Toxic or Thief sets with equal or superior viability to Perish Trap sets, and guessing wrong can be punishing for the opponent

Its weaknesses are its vulnerability to Pursuit, its lack of bulk, its vulnerability to status, its lack of utility when at low health due to its shaky recovery (reliance on Protect), and the possibility of the foe using Explosion on the turn Perish Song would KO them.

Like Smeargle, it is particularly punishing against more passive teams and can easily turn into dead weight against offensive teams. In my opinion, its flaws sufficiently balance it.


What to target with tiering action, if anything?
Here I will weigh up different options that have been raised.

First, my attitude towards tiering action, for those who don't already know, is approximately as follows:
- We are not designing our own game; we are rather playing the game as it has been given to us, with restrictions that promote expression of "player skill", but as few of those as possible.
- Banworthy elements are typically those that invoke the RNG which are not practically avoidable, have a high chance of success, significantly influence the game, and don't have a high opportunity cost.
- They could also include Pokemon that severely limit strategic choice, which can cause games to depend too much on one or two team building choices, thus inhibiting expression of player skill.

It is this tiering perspective through which I determine whether or not I think something should be banned.

I do think that Umbreon is toeing the line with its TrapPass + RNG-forcing options. At this stage, I don't think the other Pokemon are at the level where they need to be considered too much. I would like to see these strategies used more often so that I can form a stronger opinion. Currently, I would not support action in the immediate future, but there is still utility in enumerating the consequences of taking certain types of action. Therefore, here are my thoughts on each suggestion so far.

Banning trap + Baton Pass Tony's suggestion
This would gut Smeargle considerably, hurt Umbreon a lot, and do nothing to Misdreavus. Without the ability to pass, Mean Look Umbreon could PP stall, try to set up a 1v1 with Curse, or try to generate a setup opportunity for a teammate by crippling a foe and then switching. These options are all extremely susceptible to phazers.

Banning trap + Confuse Ray Siatam's suggestion, could be extended to some other RNG-forcing moves
This wouldn't touch the currently prevalent Smeargle strategies, but it would eliminate the parts of Umbreon and Misdreavus that lack reliable counterplay. I feel this is a more appropriate option to consider.

Banning Baton Pass various others' suggestion
This would turn Smeargle into an almost entirely unviable Pokemon, hurt Umbreon about as much as the Trap Pass option, not touch Misdreavus, and also hit a lot of other random Pokemon like Jolteon, Scizor, Espeon, and Vaporeon. With the possible exception of ABR's team which sets up a midgame Pass, very few Baton Pass teams have proven to be consistent or worthwhile at high levels of play.

There are a couple of advantages of banning Baton Pass over the other options involving bans, namely ruleset consistency between generations (since it looks like we are heading this way in other gens too) and simplicity. However, it seems unnecessary to fully ban the move at this stage, and I believe in managing each tier's needs individually as a priority over consistency between generations. I don't believe we are at a point where we can call Baton Pass a broken singles move as a general statement; as usual, it should only be viewed through the lens of each metagame's context.
---

I also want to draw attention to a replay from the recent GSC Invitational which displayed the strength of Umbreon:
Loser Bracket Round 5, TC v Star (Game 2, Star up 1-0)
For context, in the previous game in the series, Star had brought the same six Pokemon with the same lead Pokemon (although with a different set). This may have influenced TC's decision to leave his Snorlax in against Umbreon. While he had Lovely Kiss to potentially get past it despite the trap, this game showed how Umbreon can exert high levels of pressure, take significant advantage of the opponent's potential assumptions about its set, and fit effectively onto a variety of teams. However, it's worth noting that Star would probably have struggled this game if TC had respected the possibility of Mean Look more.


And if you only read this sentence, my general position is that I would prefer to wait longer and see before taking tiering action.
 
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