Aldaron's Proposal

By PDC. Art by Bummer.
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Introduction - What is Aldaron's Proposal?

Unless you have never played Gen V before, then you should know exactly what I am talking about. Aldaron's proposal, one of the most controversial, strange, and unique efforts to balance the early BW1 metagame, was implemented to make sure Drizzle would be under control with the presence of strong Swift Swimmers which were dominating the metagame at the time. The purpose of the proposal was to keep Drizzle in as a weather, but make sure those Pokémon with the ability Swift Swim could not be used in conjunction with Drizzle. Called a complex ban, it allowed Drizzle to be kept in as a weather while keeping it under control and preventing the weather from being fully broken due to the sheer power rain held. The number of abusers it had access to during this part of the metagame was unprecedented. Kingdra, one of the most notable abusers, was deemed too strong with instant rain being brought on the field. The proposal's goal was to make sure Drizzle stayed, but due to it being a complex ban, it made the community uneasy in implementing it. At that time, there was little resistance to the ban. But as time went on, Drizzle was becoming more and more of a commodity in the metagame. Slowly but surely, rain's biggest abusers, Manaphy, Thundurus, and now Tornadus-T, were later banned from the OU metagame to keep rain in balance with the rest of the metagame. But now, the question still stands: should Drizzle have just been banned in the first place? Many believe so, and in this article we will be examining the suspect process if Aldaron's proposal had not been implemented so early on, as well as what the metagame might look like. Would Drizzle as a whole have been banned? Or would smaller complex bans be implemented later to contain the broken Swift Swimmers and let the non-broken ones be allowed in the metagame. When you really think about it, Luvdisc, one of the worst Pokémon in the game, cannot be used with Swift Swim in conjunction with rain. Did this proposal go too far? Was it fair to just ban generally without a deeper understanding of each individual Pokémon?

Without it, what would the suspect tests look like?

Although this is pure speculation, it is quite easy to see that suspect tests would have had a lot more individual Swift Swimmers than the entirely general ban that Aldaron's proposal covered. Instead of a wide ban like Aldaron's proposal, it is likely Swift Swimmers would have been individually banned on their specific broken qualities. At the top of the list would probably be Kingdra, Ludicolo, and possibly Kabutops. Omastar, Gorebyss, and Huntail wouldn't be far behind, while the rest of the Swift Swim group would be rarely used. This means Pokémon like Mantine, Floatzel, and Carracosta would be among the bottom of the barrel. While all 3 of these, along with many others like Seismitoad, Luvdisc, and Golduck would be neglected with the presence of the other obviously superior choices for Swift Swimmers, it is possible that they could become a problem later on. Kingdra, Ludicolo, Kabutops, Omastar, and likely Huntail and Gorebyss would be punished for their power under rain, or at least in Gorebyss's and Huntail's case, for Smash Passing with amazing speed. These Pokémon would probably be placed under a similar complex ban to Aldaron's proposal, but not fully banned on their own, like Blaziken. This way, all the community-decided broken Swift Swimmers would be the only ones to be banned, making it ultimately more fair. Those choices are obvious to see, but the real question is whether the other weaker Swift Swimmers would be punished the same way the stronger ones would in Aldaron's proposal. This is where the line is drawn between broken and simply fair. Rain has a lot of tools to work with, and arguably was the best weather in the metagame from the very start. Would these, albeit, weak Swift Swimmers possibly push it to even higher heights?

This is where we must look at other weathers and their similarities. Sun did not suffer any sort of complex ban with Chlorophyll and Drought in combination, and it is obvious most of the Chlorophyll abusers are completely superior to some Swift Swimmers. If Aldaron's proposal was not put into place it would be rain's bottom of the barrel Swift Swimmers against sun's very best. Would it be fair to let a harmless Pokémon like Luvdisc get banned simply because it has the ability Swift Swim, while letting completely superior Chlorophyll users run wild? Sun overall is the weaker weather, but does this still mean it should get a free pass? Before we get into that, though, we must get back to the main problem. Would these weaker Pokémon still be banned just because they possessed the ability Swift Swim? It is hard to get an accurate answer out of speculation, but the best possible answer would be: no. Luvdisc would probably never be individually subjected to the ban hammer itself, and the same would probably apply to Floatzel and Mantine. Neither are overly powerful or pose a significant threat to the metagame. The only possibly problematic one that could pose a threat would be Carracosta. With access to Shell Smash and Swift Swim it could pose a problem, especially due to its decently strong attacking stats. Would it be assumed that Carracosta would be banned simply because of that? Probably not, but it is the only likely suspect to be placed under judgement after the big Swift Swimmers were subjected to a ban.

However, that is only the first theory of how the metagame would have played out without Aldaron's proposal. It is very possible that rain itself could have been simply banned. This would avoid a complex ban altogether, and possibly make Pokémon like Manaphy and Thundurus not broken in the metagame. Without Drizzle, Manaphy would certainly have not been as powerful. It would not have any sort of insta-cure abilities to heal itself fully every turn while simultaneously boosting its stats to great heights with either Calm Mind or Tail Glow. Thundurus would not have a 100% accurate Thunder and could not abuse Drizzle to the amount that it did. Both would surely lack the grasp of power they held on the metagame, and it could have lead to future diversity in the metagame if both were not banned. Manaphy could still function as an offensive special attacker with Tail Glow. Having a pure Water typing is not a bad thing at all—in fact a bulky Water is almost a necessity on teams. Hydration is still a cool ability, and could still be useful in some cases, although Manaphy would probably be only used for a purely offensive role with the absence of rain. It would perfectly balance it out, no one-turn full heal of all status or damage, and in return a powerful little bulky water that could definitely be a positive introduction in the metagame. With the rather balanced stats and movepool Manaphy had, it probably would have been able to cope in the metagame without being broken. Thundurus is still debatable, but it would not be nearly as broken as it was with the prevalence of Drizzle. Not only would it lose access to a 100% accurate Thunder, but it would also lose the general synergy it had with almost all offensive rain teams. Tornadus-T would have almost certainly have never been banned, and because of this it would probably fall down to UU. Without that 100% accurate Hurricane it loves to spam in the rain, it would have certainly dropped to UU in no time. Many would argue that this would keep the bans to a minimum and keep the metagame more diverse without the huge influence of an additional weather. This would leave the two main weathers, sand and sun, to be the only ones to brawl it out in the metagame on their own, with the occasional hail team joining from the sidelines. This brings up the argument that sun would possibly become broken itself without rain, but this is not a very easy argument to make. Without rain, sun would surely be more dominant in the metagame, along with the addition of sand as well. Overall, sun would probably not pose as huge of a threat as you would think without rain, but it would definitely be a stronger option in the metagame than it is now. This may mean additional balancing efforts could be put into place, but it would probably not result in a ban of any Chlorophyll users or Volcarona.

What would the metagame look like?

If Aldaron's proposal was not implemented, the metagame could look very different, or at least in some cases. We will start with the individual banning of broken Swift Swimmers. With Kingdra, Ludicolo, Kabutops, Omastar, and most likely Gorebyss and Huntail banned through a complex individual ability ban, this would leave the weaker Swift Swimmers fair game still. Carracosta would probably be the only one worth using, but even then due to the common sight of Ferrothorn, it would still have a hard time breaking through the metagame's biggest defensive threats. More serious teams would probably not even dare to use weaker Pokémon that are often obsolete compared to other Scarfers or better alternatives in general. This metagame would be not all that different in theory, but in practice, the ladder might be filled with scrubs using Floatzel and Luvdisc in hopes of surprising people and getting a fast kill. Overall, this metagame would not be too different, but it is possible Ferrothorn might be slightly higher in usage just to combat the likes of Carracosta or Floatzel, along with the other weaker Swift Swimmers.

If Drizzle had been banned as a whole from the start, the metagame would have been completely different than just a few minor changes. Entire suspect tests would not have taken place, some Pokémon would have never risen to such heights in popularity that they are now, and the entire metagame would probably have different usage statistics depending on individual bans. Let's start with Manaphy. Without rain, this little pixie's ban probably would have never happened, and even if it did, it wouldn't have been for a much longer amount of time. Manaphy would be a formidable threat in the metagame with an offensive Tail Glow set, and due to its bulk it could survive quite a large amount of hits. A simple moveset of Tail Glow, Surf, Ice Beam, and Hidden Power Fire could let it tear through defensive teams lacking a strong special wall. This could possibly mean the rise of fast Electric- or Grass-types such as Thundurus-T, specially defensive Celebi, and Jolteon, or make hard-hitting fast Dragons more popular. Latios could make a fine check to Manaphy with either a Choice Specs or Life Orb Draco Meteor, while Jolteon and Thundurus could appreciate being checks to this little offensive pixie. Without very impressive individual stats, Manaphy could not be a very hard hitter without rain giving it Hydration or a boost to Surf's power. Rotom-W and Ferrothorn both could alternate as checks depending on the Hidden Power ran, but Rotom-W would definitely see more usage as a fast offensive variant that could take it out quickly, while taking minimal damage in the process. Combinations of Magnezone and Manaphy could be interesting, each feeding off of each other's weaknesses. While it is possible Manaphy could still be banned due to Tail Glow's formidable +3 Special Attack boost, and the fact Manaphy does not require much setup effort or support, it is much less likely without Rain to instantly heal it. Next up on the list is Thundurus. Although Thundurus very well could have still been banned due to its very broken qualities, it is less likely it would have been banned when it was. Thundurus could make its home on a weatherless team and set up fast Nasty Plots with ease, but this time without a 100% accurate Thunder to abuse in the rain. Thundurus very well could have lasted much longer into the metagame if it did not get banned so early on due to its brokenness under rain. This definitely would have meant the rise of hard counters such as Jolteon, Starmie, Scarfers, and Latias. However, without Drizzle, Tornadus and Tornadus-T would have failed to be as popular as they were. Without a 100% accurate Hurricane to abuse, they would have fallen into a pure niche role, almost a guaranteed drop into UU for them both.

Aside from those directly 100% affected by rain, we have those other Pokémon who are commonly seen on rain teams which would suffer in usage if Drizzle was completely banned. While many Pokémon are used on rain teams, we will be focusing on the top players of rain. Ferrothorn is one of those Pokémon who at the start of the Generation was hailed as a savior almost to Swift Swim users. It was an amazing utility Pokémon who packed a punch as well. Great typing, great bulk, and solid offenses all made it one defensive giant that ruled over Swift Swimmers like Kingdra and Kabutops, while Dragons feared it due to its strong Gyro Ball. On top of that, it could lay down Stealth Rock and Spikes while crippling the opponent with Thunder Wave or Leech Seed. Ferrothorn rode on the coattails of Drizzle for most of this generation, and without it, would it have ever found that original fame? While it would surely still be an awesome utility Pokémon due to the huge amount of Dragons in the metagame, it in no way would be able to capture the public's eye without Drizzle in the first place. Ferrothorn has a very special place on all types of Rain teams, from defensive to offensive based ones as a reliable hazard setter and crippler. Ferrothorn would probably not be at a Top 5 usage statistics placement if it were not for rain. Second, we have Keldeo. While initially viewed as a general fast Scarfer or powerful Calm Mind and Choice Specs user for all types of teams, Keldeo was quickly put under judgement in Round 9 with the testing of both it and Tornadus-T. Many thought Keldeo was too powerful under rain. With considerable bulk for an offensive Pokémon, very solid offenses, and a decent enough wall-breaking ability, Keldeo rose to the top on rain's tidal wave bandwagon during this time. Keldeo was just what rain teams needed. A fast, strong, and bulky Pokémon that could reap the benefits from rain itself and use them to its own advantage. Keldeo was the ideal choice for this, and without Drizzle being in the metagame it would probably be much lower in the statistics than it is today. Although notorious combinations like CBTar and Calm Mind Keldeo are very popular due to their effectiveness, and despite the power it holds on just basic weather-less teams, Keldeo finds its main and most powerful role on a simple rain offense team.

Jirachi is also a Pokémon that captured the public eye through rain with its annoying but effective Calm Mind or support sets that could decimate other teams under rain. Jirachi reaps the benefit of a Fire protection bonus, a 100% accurate Serene Grace Thunder, and other annoying antics like a boosted Water Pulse in conjunction with Thunder. Jirachi was always useful, but on rain it reaches new heights of both annoying and threatening. While Jirachi would not fall far from its current placement in the metagame, it would certainly be a few spaces down due to its use on rain teams. Another Pokémon that would greatly suffer from the banning of rain would be Tentacruel. While still a useful Rapid Spinner and hazard layer, Tentacruel would lack a definite place on teams without rain. The reason Tentacruel is used so often on rain over Starmie is because of its bulk, utility, and in general annoying tactics. Tentacruel makes a fine counter to Volcarona, Keldeo, and many other Fighting-types. In general, it is a great special wall and can be used as a last-ditch defense against many of rain's threats. Without it, Starmie would be favored on the majority of teams due to instant recovery, more offensive stats, and the fact that it can fit on a slightly wider array of teams. In rain, Tentacruel heals every turn through Rain Dish, but without access to that instant recovery every turn, it could easily fall from grace very quickly. Strictly weather-reliant Pokémon like Toxicroak would fall off the map completely due to their limited niches. While it has a unique typing, movepool, and niche on a rain team, it really lacks any sort of redeeming factors for it to be used outside of rain. Even with Drizzle in the metagame, it is an uncommon sight, but when it is used it can cause quite a bit of damage thanks to its interesting movepool and ability.

While many other Pokémon are commonly used on rain like Latios, Rotom-W, Terrakion, Starmie, and Scizor, these changes would be nowhere near as drastic as the prior ones. The metagame would accommodate for itself and change accordingly to the other threats brought up through the remaining weathers. Without rain, the usage statistics would likely look very different when studied closely. Many of the top spots held today would be altered slightly, most likely by 2-3% each, in either a higher or lower position depending on rain's absence. Sun would probably be much higher on the list due to less competition. Ninetales could easily take hold of a top 10 spot in no time, while Venusaur, Volcarona, Heatran, and other sun abusers would all probably sit higher on the list. Sand could also be similar, probably being the top weather overall. Terrakion, Landorus-T, Tyranitar, Hippowdon, Stoutland, and many others would probably rise slightly because of rain's absence. The metagame would not change too drastically, but just enough so that the top spots would shift by a little, while more uncommon weather abusers would reach much higher spots. This could either be a good or bad thing however, as it could possibly make one weather the next superpower, and could make it become just as broken as rain was. Without less competition to stand in either sand or sun's way, it could easily become the next suspect round. This is not a 100% guarantee due to the variables that must be considered, but it is a much higher possibility. This could arguably create an even more broken metagame with unbalance than the one we have today, but that is up for pure speculation. Banning rain would surely nerf many of the huge problems we face today, such as rain being a dominating force that almost anybody can use to success on the ladder, easily containing Keldeo's power, and letting new faces back into the metagame as well. Like previously stated, it could bring variety too, making the metagame a bit less centralized and turning it into a much better environment. As of now, slightly over 50% of teams are weatherless, showing the shift away from weather-based teams slowly. Without rain, weatherless teams would surely become the top competitor in the metagame, possibly reaching as high at 65% or so. Many plead for all weather to be banned to balance the overall metagame out, but as of now, it seems that it almost is certain that no other huge test with be conduced as the final days of BW2 are being counted down.

Special Interview with Iconic on the Suspect Testing Process and Opinion on Aldaron's Proposal

<PDC> Question #1: What is your favorite aspect of suspect testing? Why did you choose to bring it back?

<Iconic> To me, the best part about suspect testing is the fact that any person, regardless of his or her "online Pokémon status", has the ability to contribute to the shaping of Smogon's tiers. It's probably the most accessible way for a new user to begin contributing to the website, and speaking from experience, it's how I first started participating in Smogon affairs way back when I was a wee lad. I've always been a big opponent to a purely council based tiering system, and even though it did a pretty good job, it achieved exactly the same result as suspect testing without that participation factor I mentioned before. As I mentioned in my interview with The Smog, I believe that, despite its numerous (and I mean numerous) flaws, suspect testing is the best way to determine tiers because it does the most good for the website as a whole.

<PDC> Question #2: As the current head of the suspect testing process, do you think there are any flaws with it? Anything that can be improved?

<Iconic> Absolutely, there are tons of flaws with the system. Firstly, we have yet to figure out a "perfect" rating requirement for voters because ratings seem to fluctuate so much between suspect tests. Also, the fast inflation in ratings we see on the suspect ladder are troublesome because it means that people with terrible records can qualify if they win against the right people early on. We've tried to mitigate this by requiring a 50%+ win ratio of voters, but there is still a ton of variation in records and ratings that we see among qualified players. The only other main problem with suspect testing that I can think of stems from the "do good players = good policy makers?" debate that has been argued countless times in the past several years. While it's certainly not true in every case, I personally feel like the history of suspect testing has shown us that in general the answer to that question is "yes", but there are still tons of doubters out there. Whether or not reintroducing paragraphs for qualified voters will fix this issue is yet to be seen, but I'd really rather not go down that road.

<PDC> Question #3: Now, Aldaron's proposal has always been something that has not sat right with the community, and it would be very insightful to see where you stand on it. Do you agree with it, or do you believe that rain itself should have been banned from the start?

<Iconic> At the time it was implemented I was pretty indifferent towards Aldaron's Proposal since I figured rain would eventually be banned in the future. As it stands now, I think Aldaron's Proposal has been a pretty great success (cue Borat voice). There's no doubt that Swift Swim + Drizzle was terribly broken in OU, but keeping rain in the metagame has prevented any of the two other weathers from dominating. While I'm purely speculating, I'm pretty sure that a metagame without rain would eventually lead to a metagame without weather, and following that Dragons would probably be next on the chopping block. I've never been against a full out Drizzle test. I honestly have no qualms with the current state of the metagame, while a metagame without Drizzle would inevitably be extremely volatile.

<PDC> Question #4: Do you plan on being the suspect testing leader next generation? And how do you think suspect testing will carry on into the 6th Generation? Will the process be different?

<Iconic> Nothing is really set in stone yet. As a whole the council is a group of pretty busy individuals, and I am personally always on the lookout for people who can potentially take over for me when it's time to step down, which very well might be soon for me. The only problem is that in order to lead tiering, you have to be good at two things, playing Pokémon and dealing with policy issues. Here's where the problem lies: most of the good BW players are not good with people, while most of the good policy makers are not well-versed in the metagame. It's really hard to find people who can balance both. A lot of people joke that council is made up of a bunch of geezers who don't play Pokémon, but trust me, if ever the day comes when I think I'm out of touch with competitive Pokémon, I'll gladly step down. I'm sure the other council members would agree. If someone comes along and proves himself to be a competent Pokémon player and policy maker (ie: not an asshole), then I can virtually promise that this person will eventually be a tiering leader. I think that the council + suspect testing hybrid will continue to be used in Gen 6 because it's proved to be pretty effective. It's a nice way of balancing community involvement with the policy experience of the council members. I like to think that it'll be the go-to method for tiering for XY, but really anything can happen.

Conclusion - Would it have been better if we just banned rain?

This is where the entire decision goes up under flames. Rain has been the most controversial weather in the metagame from the very start. After all components were accounted for to possibly show what the metagame would be like depending on the different choices we could have made at the start of the generation, it is time to make a decision on pure speculation and theory. This is going to be hard as not everybody can be happy with something like this, as there will always be people doubting the decision and wishing it were another way. While some will side with saying what we have now is a good thing, others will root for individual Swift Swim bans to make sure the banning process was more fair, and yet others will say that rain should have just been banned as an individual weather in the first place to get rid of all the trouble in the long run. At this point, it looks as if we have to break even. With the dwindling last few months of BW2 coming to an abrupt close, we must look for the final solution to weather as a whole. At the moment it seems as if we are banning the Pokémon that make rain broken, not removing any policies or anything of that sort. We are instead doing a combination of sorts, as can be seen with the recent banning of Tornadus-T and the wanted banning of Keldeo. It is hard to say if it would have been better if we had just banned rain, if that would have made anything marginally better or in trade made something else overpowered. As it stands, rain and weather will stay the same, at least for the time being. It doesn't look like this metagame is going to move away from the weather-controlled basis it stood upon from the very start. While many are unhappy about how it was carried out with subjective banning and suspect tests, it did overall work to some degree. At this point there is no turning back; the metagame is not going to marginally shift at the very end of its time, as time is running out quickly. So, would it have been better if we had just banned rain? It seems as if the answer is more subjective than one that is set in stone. Which metagame would you prefer? One with less weather or one with balanced and selective banned Pokémon that make weather broken? Or, are you just content with the one you have now?

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