Big update 12/17/15: The guide has been restructured and rewritten.
Hello everybody, my name is UberPyro, and this is my guide to teambuilding. I have been playing for quite a while, having started competitively in BW2. I started out knowing nothing about competitive Pokémon, and slowly learned the game from the ladder. I made this guide because I see that question show up all the time in the chat: “Can someone help me teambuild?” Instead of working alongside every new player that comes my way, I figured it was a good idea to put it all down, so I can state my knowledge once, and then give it for all to share. So without further ado, let’s a-do.
Teambuilding is simple in concept: It’s when someone builds a team, goes through the teambuilding process, and takes into consideration a particular metagame (such as OU). The builder starts with a center—something to build around. The Pokémon that follow help support the center. Then, there are the last few Pokémon, which are like the missing pieces to a puzzle. Finally, the builder tweaks the team. Battling versus a variety of teams is absolutely necessary to work out all the kinks. Some Pokémon will have to be replaced, sometimes a large group at a time to shift around the threat coverage and to fit in all the utility moves.
Sure, you can head on over to the RMT section and steal a good team. However, there are plenty of compelling reasons to build your own.
- You need teams, and what better than your own! If someone snatches someone else’s team, they might not understand it fully because they haven’t gone through exactly how it works. Even if you are new to Pokémon, and want to become better as fast as possible, it’s still better to use your own team, because you can understand everything that’s on it, and you can grow from there.
- It makes you a better battler, and understand the game on a deeper level. Teambuilding and battling go hand and hand. Getting better at one means getting better at the other. Understanding teambuilding leads to understanding concepts such as momentum, and by working though how plays work before the battle starts can lead to better on-the-fly critical thinking.
- It’s fun! Creating Pokémon teams can be fun just like battling with them. Making a serious Pokémon team might take a large sum of time and effort, but many people find the process for doing so fun, and it is also rewarding when finished. Additionally, building with friends is something to take into consideration—they can make building more fun, and two heads is better than one.
Before you start teambuilding, you have to be prepared. First, here’s what you need to understand:
There is no perfect team. Not even close, as ORAS is a very diverse metagame. There are so many threats in OU that it is impossible to cover every single one. What is true is that some teams will be prepared for more threats than others, especially when constructed from the hands of an experienced teambuilder. However, threat coverage isn’t the end-all truth for how good a team is, because there are other factors such as the function of the team. Lastly, how many threats teams cover overall is controlled by the diversity of the metagame. A broader and more diverse metagame means that there are more Pokémon to counter, making good threat coverage harder, and a tighter and more centralized metagame renders fewer viable Pokémon, making good threat coverage easier to attain.
Here’s what you need:
- Pokémon Showdown (or a similar simulator)—Of course, we need the site to build it on. If you don’t have access to a computer, and if you get antsy like me when you get an idea, paper works fine, too.
- Viability Rankings—In this thread, the community rates how viable Pokémon are in the metagame. There are hundreds of Pokémon in this game, and as a result, some are significantly better than others—this is why we have tiers. Since this is “competitive” Pokémon, and the ultimate object here is to win, it is ideal to use the most effective Pokémon possible…when possible. Don’t scroll down the list, scoop off the first 6 Pokémon, and call it quits. There’s a very important reason for that—more on it later.
- Usage Stats (updates monthly)—These are the statistics for how often a Pokémon is used on a team. It suggests (but does not indicate!) viability, and most importantly, it represents the metagame. This list tells what the most common threats are, and what needs to be prepared for when teambuilding. It also tells what the opponents are NOT prepared for, and helps suggest when to introduce a lower-tier threat. Lastly, while threat coverage is most important, generic type coverage is important as well. More on that later as well. Important note: If the stats are outdated, then increase the month number in the URL until you get an error. The last working one is correct.
- Damage Calculator—Handy for when teambuilding as it shows what ohkos, 2hkos, etc.. It demonstrates if your wall actually counters a certain Pokémon after rocks, or if your sweeper is walled by a certain Pokémon, etc., so you can adjust accordingly based off how well a Pokémon covers a threat.
- Smogdex—If you don’t have much experience with a Pokémon, and you need to know what the best moves to run for a set are, then you can look up the Smogon analysis of that Pokémon.
- And if you’re new to the game, the Pokémon Dictionary. If you need clarification on some of the terms I’m using—metagame, momentum, playstyles, etc.—you can look them up here. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been updated since BW. Also, you need to know the exact definitions of checks and counters for this guide, which can be found in the smog article here.
Every team should try to accomplish something in battle, whether that is eliminating checks of a sweeper or inhibiting the strategy of the opponent. Every Pokémon on the team should then contribute to this objective in some way or another. The most basic objective for a team is to prepare a single sweeper (usually a Pokémon with a boosting move) to sweep (KO the remaining Pokémon), but still have back up win conditions (wincons) in case of a bad match up or something goes wrong. Another type of objective is to have a core of Pokémon, or an established group of Pokémon that have exceptional synergy. The core serves as a strong starting point for a team because the Pokémon work very well together to begin with. However, the core must have a purpose. In the case of an offensive core, it is usually for breaking up the opponent’s team, or in some cases securing a win, and in the case of a defensive core, it is to help wall (inhibit the strategy of) the opposing team. Lastly, an objective can be conceptual, which means that the objective does not revolve around any individual Pokémon, but rather the team as a whole. However, conceptual teams do tend to have a poster child Pokémon or core. Examples of conceptual objectives are to stall and to voltturn. To stall by walling all of the opponent’s Pokémon requires the team’s Pokémon to come in on, or counter, specific Pokémon of the opponent’s, so it is a team effort. Similarly, a full voltturn offense team makes use of several U-Turn and Volt Switch users to pivot in and out, weakening the opponent’s Pokémon. To recap, there are three main categories for a team objective: to prepare a sweeper to sweep, to support a core, and to conform to a concept. The objective of the team usually determines the playstyle of the team, i.e. whether it is offense, balance, stall, etc.. Then, the rest of the team has to be built appropriately, supporting the center of the team and contributing to the overall objective.
Filling in the rest
When choosing Pokémon, there are A LOT of factors to consider. Here, each one will be enumerated and explained.
Primarily, Pokémon will be chosen to fulfill a desired role, or have a “job” on the team. The Pokémon contributes to the overall objective through preforming its role. Examples of some roles as seen on basic frameworks are sweepers, stallbreakers, walls, pivots, SR, defog, etc. however when building a team roles could be more specific, like a Keldeo lure or a Bisharp + Zard X counter. The Pokémon’s role also determines its set, so theoretically anyone following this process should never wonder what set to run on their Pokémon, because the Pokémon takes on the role, and not the other way around (by set I mean the overall set of the Pokémon; wondering the moveset/coverage options for a Pokémon is OK). Just remember that Pokemon should be chosen based off a combination of things: synergy (how well 2 Pokémon work together), viability (How "good" a Pokémon is), and role (What it does for your team). To wonder what set to run on a Pokémon is to build without roles.
Viability versus Role and Synergy
Remember when I said to use the viability rankings thread but not to scoop off the first 6 Pokémon? And then I said that I would explain why later. Now is later. The viability rankings list, as you can imagine, lists the Pokémon in the metagame and ranks them based off their effectiveness in the metagame. This means that Pokémon of higher ranks (like S, A+, A, and A-) should be used whenever applicable. Viability is not the end all truth for how good a Pokémon is on your team. It's only part of the equation. How good a candidate a Pokémon is on your team is determined by both its viability in the metagame, and what it does for your team. For example, rain teams can be effective, but some rain-associated Pokémon cannot be found within the higher ranks. This is because, individually, those rain Pokémon do not perform well in the metagame, but when put together, along with a few higher-ranked partners, some magic happens, and they do perform well. The teambuilder must balance Viability with role. Now. similarly, the teambuilder also has to take into consideration synergy. In this case, synergy is how well the Pokémon work together. Mega Sableye and Weavile are both great Pokémon, but they probably will not be found on the same team, because only the offensive playstyles will call for a Weavile and only the more defensive playstyles will use Mega Sableye. No, it is necessary for Pokémon to talk to each other. Mega Sableye has trouble blocking Tank Chomp’s SR due to its DTail, therefore Togekiss can be used to block Tank Chomp’s hazards instead, and additionally function as a backup defogger. Therefore, the Pokémon Mega Sableye + Togekiss are much better on a team than Mega Sableye + Weavile, even though Togekiss is way down there on the viability rankings list, and has less viability in the metagame individually. This captures the essence of why a team consisting of the first 6 Pokémon, or composed entirely of S and A+ ranks, would not work, at least to full effectiveness. There would be a lack of synergy, and lack of purpose.
Usage Coverage versus Type Coverage
The usage stats can be interesting to interpret. It represents the OU metagame by how often each Pokémon is used. When adapting a team to counter the metagame, the usage stats is what to refer to, because it lists what is actually being used, regardless of how good the actual Pokémon are, because all that matters when tailoring a team to a metagame is responding to what is going to show up the most number of times, to give the team the best chances for a favorable matchup. However, teams generally should not be designed to be 100% antimeta, and entirely focused around countering specific Pokémon. It is also important to have good general type coverage, offensive or defensive on the respective playstyle, however this is most noticeable from a defensive perspective. As a team is designed to be more threat-based, it tends to have wider gaps in type coverage. As a consequence, the team is more susceptible to a low usage threat. The threat based team does not have a proper response to the low usage threat due to the hole in the defensive type coverage, which might be, let’s say, the low usage threat’s STAB combo. The low usage threat then does sever damage to the opposing team, despite its likely low viability, as a result of the matchup. On the other hand, a defensive team could be designed to be more type-based, and would therefore respond much better to random low usage threats, but may have trouble with the powerhouses at the top of the metagame. From an offensive point of view, the advantage comes in from having a Pokémon with its usage opposite of how the defender prepared. As a note, low usage surprise Pokémon should be determined with the help of the usage statistics, as it also shows what is down in usage, and therefore what people are not preparing for. Actual Pokémon teams generally have a mix of high usage and low usage threats, generally leaning on the high usage size do to the overall consistency of the upper tier Pokémon. Overall, Metagame and Type coverage is something that the teambuilder has to balance.