Minimizing the Effects of Luck

By Caelum.
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Anyone who plays competitive Pokémon realizes this game is part strategy and part luck. We've all been in a situation where a certain Pokémon critical hits your designated counter opening a sweep, or flinches you to death, or freezes you with an Ice Beam. Many players will often complain that "hax" occurs against them more often than others or they don't get as much hax in their favor or some other nonsense along those lines. In actuality, rather than someone being inherently unlucky, this is usually the fault of the player. Minimizing bad luck on your side is a conscious decision made when constructing a team.

Critical Hits

This is one of the more difficult aspects of luck in this game to prepare yourself for. There are two scenarios where critical hits usually make a significant difference on the outcome of the match. The first scenario is when your designated counter is KOed from a critical hit leaving you open to a sweep. For example, Life Orb Gyarados Dragon Dances as you switch in Starmie. Gyarados Earthquakes, it critical hits Starmie, and Starmie dies. You are now left open to a Gyarados sweep. The first way to counteract this effect is to find a better counter. Ask yourself, if my opponent gets a critical hit is it still a good counter; and, more importantly, if that counters goes down is my team open to being swept? Maybe you would have been better utilizing a Celebi rather than a Starmie in attempting to counter Gyarados on your specific team, obviously synergy issues would require you to modify your team to accomodate Celebi but the overarching point still stands. The second way, and superior way, is to have multiple counters or checks to the biggest threats. If something is a large threat, there is good reason to have multiple counters or checks in not only the case of your first counter or check dying to something else; but in the case of a critical hit crippling your first check or counter. There is a reason that Pokémon like Salamence and Scizor are so common on teams. It's because they are powerful Pokémon and these powerful Pokémon nearly require you to have multiple checks for your team to be successful on the whole. It's as simple as that.

The second scenario where critical hits make a difference is in the case of Curse, Calm Mind, or Bulk Up users getting struck by a critical hit. This can be frustrating, but this can be resolved by play style somewhat. Let's say you are running a team with the combination of Choice Band Scizor and Rest-Talk Calm Mind Suicune. As you Calm Mind, your opponent switches in Celebi. What do you do? Many players will attempt to go for the the next Calm Mind knowing Suicune will survive the obvious Grass Knot an attempt to set-up. Why are you setting up against something that can be easily dealt with by your Choice Band Scizor? Switch in your Scizor, deal with the Celebi (it's an example - let's assume you are certain it is not running Hidden Power Fire) via U-Turn or Pursuit accordingly, and then set up your Suicune later on. In short - don't do defensive stat-ups against Pokémon who you are at a disadvantage against without them, in particular when you have a good counter for them already. Let's take another example: Curse Snorlax. Snorlax is sitting at 40% health and a particular Pokémon is going to deal about 19% in damage to your Snorlax. In addition, sandstream is active so your Leftovers recovery is nullified. Rather than setting up another Curse and Resting the next turn, you should be Resting that turn to prevent the chances of a critical hit ruining your Curselax sweep. The situation of defensive stat-up and critical hit scenario can often be resolved by not overzealously playing. Playing conservatively is often the best and simplest way to counteract the effects of the second scenario.

Luck-based status effects

An untimely freeze, or full paralysis, or a burn from Heatran's Fire Blast as you switch in your Choice Band Tyranitar. We've all been in that scenario and undoubtedly have lost because of it. Similar to critical hits, what ways can we strategically, in playing and team building, minimize the effects of these statuses? The first and most obvious strategy, is to utilize a sturdy Cleric such as Aromatherapy Blissey or Heal Bell Celebi. But is this the only way? This also goes back to the idea of multiple checks I alluded to in the critical hits section. Let's take the example of Heatran's Fire Blast. As I stated in the first paragraph, you need multiple checks to top threats. The checks should also be sufficiently different for the reasons I'm about to illustrate. Let's say your teams checks against Heatran are Choice Band Tyranitar and Special Defensive Tentacruel. Which do you switch in on the Fire Blast assuming both are at good health. You should be switching in Tentacruel in fear of a possible burn from Fire Blast since this will not cripple Tentacruel in the same way it does Tyranitar. Your multiple checks to a top threat should not have similar weakness to status moves, such as my example of Tentacruel and Tyranitar. Another way to counter these effects is to have a designated "status absorber"; in particular the cases of Thunder Wave. Is it wise to straight-out switch your Lucario into Blissey? What if Blissey uses Thunder Wave; then you have a virtually useless Lucario. In team building, one should identify common users of moves that inflict status; such as Thunder Wave Blissey, and have designated switch-ins to those moves to absorb the status. Have something like Bronzong or Electivire that actually enjoy getting hit with Thunder Wave; or something like Jolteon that doesn't mind it at all. You should be minimizing the effects of these luck moves by having designated switch-ins to status moves such as Thunder Wave or reasonable switch-ins that don't mind the secondary effect of a particular move (e.g. Fire Blast, Thunderbolt, etc.).


Probably the easiest of the luck elements to counter. Simply put, use a Pokémon that takes minimal damage from the most common flinch moves and, preferably, one with a recovery option. For example, using Calm Zapdos to counter Air Slash Togekiss or Yanmega. Flinching can also be eliminated by faster Pokémon and paralysis support on your own side of the field since flinching relies on being faster. Priority moves also are a great help in inhibiting the efficacy of flinch-abusing Pokémon.


As Jumpman16 will tell you, "Stone Edge is the worst move in the game". My personal opinion is Focus Blast is, but who am I to question him? Anyway. This is a very, very simple issue to resolve: use more accurate moves. There are cases where a move is necessary and there is simply no other option, Choice Scarf Gengar with Focus Blast for example; but many times there is a more accurate counter-part that often can, and should be used, or at least considered. I personally will never use Choice Scarf Heatran with Fire Blast; always Flamethrower. Will I miss out on some KOs? Yes, but I'd rather miss a few KOs then not do any damage at all period. Furthermore, usually the damage output can become identical with the aid of Stealth Rock and Spikes. This idea of using the more accurate counterpart is particular important in terms of countering and checking. You don't want to ever have to rely on your check to a top threat with an inaccurate moves causing you to miss and forcing you to lose the match. Should you be using 100% accurate moves all the time? Probably not, but when an option of superior accuracy is on your plate it should at least be considered.

Incorporating these in Team Building

Simply put, it's not feasibly possible, the majority of the time, to incorporate all of these features into a single team; but the best idea is to consider different aspects of them and incorporate as many as you can while still maintaining a successful team. Look for Pokémon that complement one another well, while countering both unique and identical threats, as discussed in the "critical hits" section. A combination of Celebi and Starmie would fall under this. Both can counter unique threats the other can't, while if Celebi or Starmie fails to effectively counter Gyarados; a partner is waiting in the wings. Then a Blissey can be woven into the mix to provide Aromatherapy support to prevent the other three team members from suffering from status-related luck as well as provided a solid special walling support in relation to Celebi and Starmie. This is how these elements are incorporated. One takes simple team-building strategies and tries to fit in the techniques of minimizing luck wherever possible.

Can "bad luck" be completely eliminated by strategic team building and smart playing? Of course not. However, it can be significantly reduced by using some of the tactics and play styles I've alluded to here.

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