How to Ladder (and Win).

By Windsong. Art by andrew3391.
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Any serious Pokémon player has had aspirations to reach the elusive peaks of the Shoddybattle—excuse me, Pokémon Showdown ladders, where only the mightiest of all Pokémon players, such as Whitequeen and Lavos Spawn, make their homes. It is a goal that very few achieve in their lifetimes, despite spending hours, or perhaps, in the case of Kevin Garrett, years formulating teams and plans to achieve their dreams. Then, finally, when it comes time to actually strike at the ladder and aim for your goal of the number one spot, tremendous mental and emotional fortitude might be necessary. However, reaching the top spot on the OU ladder is something that, with proper training, time spent in the mountains honing one's skills, and the ability to turn Super Saiyan, almost anybody can accomplish if they really put their mind to it.

Step One: Preparation - Electronics

Oftentimes, players think that once they've built a few solid teams and gotten warmed up by lucking every big name player they know, they're ready to tackle the big leagues—the top of the OU ladder. Sadly, if one is aiming for the top of the heap, it's not enough just to play a couple of games, then sit down with your laptop and plunge into the dark and murky underworld of competitive laddering. No, doing that will only result in near instant failure, as any number of terrible misfortunes could very easily befall you.

First and foremost, if you intend to have a long ladder run, make sure to be well supplied. If you're one of the illustrious top ladderers of previous generations, then you'll understand that to truly master the ladder you need to play for a bare minimum of seventeen hours straight. If one wants to achieve the ultimate success—the number one spot—then they may need to do what Delta 2777 did at the close of generation four to reach the top of the OU leaderboards: ladder for five days solid. If one intends to make it that far, the first thing that they'll need to do is make sure that they have a computer charger on hand, lest their computer runs out of power after a measly five hours of laddering. For those suffering from the "South American Internet Syndrome" (SAIS), commonly seen by user Cristal, be sure to have a backup router at the ready at all times. Finally, if there are any tornado warnings and whatnot, grab a quick flight into the next state or country over and set up your laddering station there.

Step Two: Preparation - Sustenance

Even the mighty wills of famous ladderers of the past would have crumbled had they been forced to spend hours at the computer without food or drink. Thus, in order for one to be successful in the world of ACRE, Glicko2, and bitching at opponents, it's key to stay well fed and hydrated. Food is, of course, the most important factor. For the most serious ladderers, it's important to be packing in as much extra nutrients as possible—playing Pokémon has been shown to be significantly more stressful than even studying for final exams, and as rapid weight loss can be caused by the extreme amounts of stress put onto the players, it's important that they be eating bare a minimum of seven thousand calories a day. Good, easy sources of calories can include McDonald's cheeseburgers, takeout Chinese food, and large pepperoni pizzas. For those of you who are seeking to look like a Machamp at the end of your laddering run, replacing the pizzas and burgers with protein shakes will help you meet your goal.

On to drinks. Now, many ladderers believe that water is the best drink for any laddering run. However, upon speaking with some of the top ladderers of this generation, it soon became clear that water just isn't going to cut it if one really wants those top leaderboard spots. Since playing Pokémon can be a serious aerobic and anaerobic workout, sports drinks are what I recommend. Gatorade, Rockstar Energy, Monster Energy, and, of course, Red Bull are the best options. The large amounts of caffeine in these drinks is also critical to those who can't handle staying awake for more than seventy-two hours without supplemental support. Don't drink any of soda or iced tea sorts of things though—you're a serious athlete. A ladderer. You have to stay healthy.

Step Three: Preparation - Distractions

It's a well known fact that, when playing competitive Pokémon, there are many dicks involved. Not just because most of the players are male, but because choking is such a prevalent part of the competitive aspects of the game. When laddering for long periods of time, it's crucial to not place yourself in situations where you'll get irritated and play recklessly, leading you to choke horribly and lose hundreds of points. You can't afford to allow any distractions when you're playing, simply because they lead to these small yet crucial errors.

The easiest distractions to eliminate are, of course, the external distractions around your household. Industrial strength handcuffs can easily be purchased on eBay for use on siblings, pets, and so on, and are very effective in keeping them from disturbing you during your laddering runs. Internal distractions are much more difficult, however; downloading your battle simulator, copying the text archive of every analysis on Smogon into your word processor, and then uninstalling every other application on your computer is very effective in removing any serious distractions that may be caused by your computer.

The one acceptable potential distraction is music. That's right, music is the one and only allowed distraction. Nothing else should be allowed. Clothes? No. True Pokémon players play naked. Glasses? No. If you wear them just lean in closer to your computer and squint. In fact, even with music, listening to it while laddering is only acceptable if it's the basest moth*rfucking shit you've ever heard. Nothing else is even remotely okay.

Step Four: Laddering

Once you've completed all the previous steps (and either built yourself a team or stolen Trinitrotoluene's weekly team from the RMT forum), then you're ready to get started on the ladder. The first thing that you should know is that you're not going to win every game. Not because you're bad at the game necessarily (you might be), but because the ladder has an incredible ability to bring out the worst possible luck anyone could have. But that's okay, because with some proper conditioning work and a little bit of good luck on your side, even the very worst and unluckiest players can reach the top of the ladder.

When You Lose

Since most players are going to be losing a lot, knowing how to react upon losing is very important. The first thing any player should understand is that if you lost, it wasn't your fault. It was luck. It doesn't matter if your opponent demolished you brutally with a Kyurem-B after you sacked your only Steel-type turn two. No, it's not the fault of your plays, or your teambuilding, or anything else you could control. It's luck, and you should remember that. In a fair fight, you'd demolish that guy. With this in mind, you have to realize that you can't just let your opponent beat you like this. When you first realize that you're losing, the first step is to blatantly insult the player. For example, if he has a silly PS! username such as "kokoloko," make a rude pun about his team being loco. Assuming that he lacks a silly name, the next step is to make fun of his team. Finally, if you realize that you just can't defeat the guy, the correct course of action is to quickly call your opponent "talentless trash" before closing the window.

When You Win

Admittedly, you probably won't ever win, but if you do, you can't get too cocky. It's important to realize that you can still get stronger, still catch 'em all and defeat the Elite Four and champion Philip7086 if you try your hardest. In order to keep this motivation going, every match, you have to tell yourself that you didn't beat your opponent because you're good—you beat them because they were bad. In order to increase the drive and motivation of your opponents to make them stronger competition in the future, it's key that you let them know that they're bad. The best times to do this are often after landing "unneeded" freezes, burns, and critical hits, because while you surely would have won without them, your opponent clearly deserves such brutal torment for his lack of Pokémon abilities.

So, you must berate your opponent for their lack of skills, their teambuilding abilities, and most of all, their inferior (but irrelevant) luck. This will help them achieve a state known as Super Saiyan at some point in their laddering experience, so all in all, you're not only helping yourself to their rating points, but you're improving the world a little bit one battle at a time.


Laddering is a truly complex and multifaceted experience, and to enjoy and be successful at it, it's crucial that one takes these tips to heart. With any luck, soon there'll be a new generation of top players becoming famous off the ladder, and any one of you readers could be one of them!

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