Phil's Protips Vol. 4

By Philip7086. Art by CyzirVisheen.
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Hello, hello, hello, and welcome once again to Phil's Protips—Volume 4 this time! If you have been following my column up until now, you should have a lot of the basics down for how to be successful when battling, but this well is not empty just yet! This issue, I will start to go into more advanced tips which you will likely need experience to execute properly, so if you are a beginner, I suggest you start at volume 1 and work your way up. The topic of today's article is "Seeing the Big Picture". People often get very short-sighted when it comes to Pokémon, so hopefully this article will help you remember to see the big picture!

Protip #7: Beat the Pokémon, Not the Types

One of the things I've noticed over the course of my Pokémon career is that a lot of people tend to live by type charts when they build teams. I see it all the time, both on the Rate My Team forum, and when I build teams with other people. The mentality is to just throw six Pokémon together who can pack multiple resistances to every type of move in the game. Now, although that can sometimes yield good results, you can easily overlook big threats if this is how you build. For example, just because you have Gliscor and Rotom-A doesn't mean you are safe against Electric moves, because Electric-type moves are often used by Jolteon, who can easily tear through both with a Life Orb set. You also can easily fall into the trap of a stall-weak team by focusing too much on type charts, because stall teams do not use powerful attacks as their main method of taking opponents down. I'm not advocating that you just never use a type chart again when you make teams, because they can actually be a big help in getting started, but instead of just trying to fill in resistances, you should try to view things a different way. If the type chart is telling you that you are weak against a certain type of attack, you should think about which Pokémon actually pack that type of move and make sure you have counters or checks to that Pokémon. For instance, going back to the Electric-type example, you might notice that most Electric attacks in OU come from special attackers like Jolteon, Zapdos, or Rotom-A. With that in mind, it might be a better idea to use a special sponge like specially defensive Tyranitar or Blissey than to just throw in a Ground-type Pokémon to fill that role. Or if you're lacking a Dark-type resister, but you have Choice Scarf Jirachi and defensive Hippowdon, then you probably don't have to worry about tossing one in for the sake of it, because you naturally have checks for Tyranitar and Weavile.

The obsession with type resistances does not just stop at building teams though, from what I've seen. A lot of players also focus too much on type charts while playing matches. For instance, I often see decent players make mistakes like opting to not use Bullet Punch from a Choice Band Scizor against a Starmie at 30%, because Water-types resist Steel-type moves. In the same vein, even the best players sometimes make suboptimal decisions while battling, because they want to use whatever super effective move they have, instead of the best move for the job. In a recent major tournament tie breaker match, someone had a Choice Specs Zapdos out against an Occa Berry lead Metagross. Instead of using Thunderbolt to 2HKO Metagross, the user went with Heat Wave, which is also only a 2HKO. Because of this, his opponent was able to switch in Heatran to nab a Flash Fire boost and blast a hole in his team. Just because Heat Wave was the super effective attack does not necessarily mean it was the better attack, considering Thunderbolt would KO Metagross in the same number of turns, yet also gets STAB from Zapdos to nail something hard, should Metagross switch out. If you have multiple moves to choose from to net the same outcome against a Pokémon that is out, you should always pick the move that will have the most devastating effect, should the Pokémon switch out. This is particularly important late game, where careful switching on your opponent's part could turn your lead around easily.

At the end of the day, just remember that although type coverage and resistances are important, the "big picture" is to KO your opponent's full team while keeping yours intact. You ultimately accomplish this by making sure you're using the correct move to do the most overall damage, and making sure you have the right team members to ensure you have an answer to all Pokémon, not just the resistances to their moves.

Protip #8: There Are People Behind that Computer Screen!

Now, this one I too am sometimes guilty of not following when I start to become a mindless drone on the ladder. When you're staring at a screen of Pokémon, it's sometimes easy to forget that there is someone sitting on the other side of the screen making moves. Every person has his own personal tendencies, and if you can exploit that, then you can put yourself at a huge advantage. This goes for both ladder and tournament matches. On the ladder, people are more vulnerable to this, because like I said, it's easy to become a mindless drone after laddering for a while. That means people can get to be more predictable, and you can easily take advantage of it. If someone tends to play things safe, play accordingly. If someone tends to take big risks, leave something in while they make a fool of themselves over-predicting and punish them. People are a lot easier to read than you might think on the ladder, and most people at the top of the ladder have mastered the art of reading people mid-game. It also helps that you often see the same person over and over again while laddering for a while. That gives you more opportunities to analyze his style of play and adapt to beat it.

As far as tournament play goes, you won't be able to analyze people over time (unless it's a best of three format or something), so you have to pick it up as you go. However, you gain something more valuable to use when you play a tournament match: you know who you are playing before you play. With this knowledge, you can go into the match prepared for common things that your opponent likes to use. Again, I'm not advocating counter-teaming here, as I still think counter-teaming is a poor strategy, since there's no telling which team your opponent will actually choose for your match. Instead, it is good to gain intel on your opponent to find out what types of teams he likes to use. If you get matched up against someone who loves to use stall a lot, make sure your team is not weak to stall. If you get matched up against someone who likes to use Heatran a lot, make sure your team isn't weak to Heatran. By preparing for common things a person likes to use, you put yourself in a win-win situation. If your opponent brings what you prepared for, then they cannot use it as effectively as they might usually be able to. If your opponent anticipates you preparing for something and changes his usual style, then you are basically forcing your opponent out of his comfort zone and putting yourself at an advantage. For this reason, I also encourage everybody to always use different things, whether it be on ladder or in tournaments, because by being versatile, your opponent cannot prepare for you as easily. Again, I want to emphasize that I am not encouraging counter-teaming here! Counter-teaming means building a team that is specifically designed to beat one team that your opponent uses. Doing that can lead to disasters where you focus too much on beating one team and end up losing to threats you're not prepared for, because your opponent can easily just use something else. At the same time, it would simply be foolish to go into a match with a team that loses 6-0 to Agiligross against someone who is known to love using Agiligross.

It is very easy to lose track of the big picture when playing Pokémon. A lot of people forget that they're not really playing Pokémon as opposed to playing people using Pokémon. Once you cement this idea into your brain and start using people's tendencies against them, you might find yourself to be a lot more successful than you currently are!

Once again, I hope you found these tips to be helpful. Unfortunately, this Pokémon master is running low on tips to hand out. I'm afraid the next volume of Phil's Protips will have to be the last one. After that, it's all up to you to become the best trainer you can be! If you find yourself still wanting help after Volume 5, come sign up for a tutor in the Battling 101 section of Smogon! We have plenty of very good players looking to lend a hand to new talent. Until then, keep an eye out for my next and final installment of Phil's Protips! See you around!

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