Mindape’s Journey to the West

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The Art of (Pokemon) War: Weak Points and Strong

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G'day all, welcome back after the break. 


VI. Weak Points and Strong

1. Sun Tzu said: Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted.

2. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.

This point connects quite strongly with picking leads well in battle. When choosing your four pokemon in team preview, consider which leads will give your opponent the most trouble, and will enable you to keep out of trouble against their leads, without you needing to lose precious time switching to make up for poor initial positioning.

If you have the ability to start the battle on the front foot because of good leads, this will better allow you to execute your plans and strategies, rather than trying to react to your opponent's strategies, and having to sacrifice damage opportunities just to regain field position.


3. By holding out advantages to him, he can cause the enemy to approach of his own accord; or, by inflicting damage, he can make it impossible for the enemy to draw near.

Some opponents can be baited to chase after shadows, by having to target a threat, or a really annoying pokemon such as Thundurus, or risk being punished. You can use this knowledge to then make your read of the battle and your opponent a little clearer and more accurate.

By getting a large lead in the damage trade through forcing free turns for yourself, in some matchups this can be enough to ensure victory simply by getting in to a lead that your opponent cannot catch up to. While you cannot rely on early damage or pokemon leads to win you battles, you can be confident that this puts you ahead, and gives your opponent less room for movement and error.


7. You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you only attack places which are undefended.You can ensure the safety of your defense if you only hold positions that cannot be attacked.

Most obvious example to illustrate this point of attacking places that are undefended would be something like this:  an opposiing pokemon that is slower than you, has just protected, and is threatened with the knockout, will either be switched or sacrificed (barring a double protect). You can be certain of landing your attacks on that slot, and so often can be rewarded if you double in to that slot with a second move that may hit a switch in super effectively, and punish it. Any other time, unless you happen to know what your opponent's moveset is, you cannot always predict their behaviour 100% of the time

Additionally, you cannot always be certain that your pokemon will be ok unless you specifically click protect, or are certain of your opponents moveset, as they may otherwise make a fantastic read and punish your presumption of being safe to do as you like on a given turn.


16. The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few.

This comes down to making obvious plays, or rather, not making them. If you have multiple good options for hitting an opponent at any given time, and they try to hedge their bets, you can punish them for it. This can be applied both on given turns, and in team preview - since a team may have multiple modes available to it, your opponent must prepare for some, but in trying to cover all of them at once, may be overwhelmed by whatever you do choose.


17. For should the enemy strengthen his van, he will weaken his rear; should he strengthen his rear, he will weaken his van; should he strengthen his left, he will weaken his right; should he strengthen his right, he will weaken his left. If he sends reinforcements everywhere, he will everywhere be weak.

18. Numerical weakness comes from having to prepare against possible attacks; numerical strength, from compelling our adversary to make these preparations against us.

All teams have strengths and weaknesses, and team preview allows you the flexibility to cover some of these, or at least leave out weak pokemon in the main matchup - however, sometimes to cover a threat, they may be forced to bring a pokemon with a poor matchup otherwise, weakening their overall position. A great example of this is having a Ferrothorn on a rain team, where your opponent's only way to beat Ferrothorn is a Heatran. Heatran is not very useful at all in the rain matchup, so to prevent losing to Ferrothorn, your opponent must weaken his rain matchup. 

By having a team with many strong combinations, you can force your opponent to overprepare for one which they are weak to, which you can exploit should you be alert to this. While mind games can eventuate if you have a smart opponent who can see through this, even a clever opponent can be punished should you get a read on them.


23. Rouse him, and learn the principle of his activity or inactivity. Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots.

24. Carefully compare the opposing army with your own, so that you may know where strength is superabundant and where it is deficient.

25. In making tactical dispositions, the highest pitch you can attain is to conceal them; conceal your dispositions, and you will be safe from the prying of the subtlest spies, from the machinations of the wisest brains.

This is especially pertinant to best of three matches, but also against high rated players who you may battle on a frequent basis at big events in a best of one setting. If you can learn whether your opponent likes to play safe, or make riskier calls, and exploit that, this will be to your advantage. However, this advantage can be turned around - opponents may able to get a read on your decision making process, trying to follow the same method as yourself. Hence, you should  be able to change and adapt your dispositions such that your opponents can neither use your high profile, nor previous battles in a set to be 100% certain on how you will make your decision, and hence how to read your plays and counter them. It may not be easy, especially as it may boil down to 'levelling', which describes the decision making made in many strategy games (in the link, it's poker). Another, more pokemon relevant link, is this article by Thage on Nugget Bridge, which covers the levelling concept a bit.

Knowing where your opponent and your own strengths and weaknesses are is a key skill that comes from team preview. However, in a best of three set, this also comes down to finding out your opponents sets, as well as playstyle, to be able to further manipulate the battle to suit your own strengths against their weaknesses, particularly if keeping a particular pokemon alive, or getting rid of one, forms a key part of a win condition.


28. Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.

29. Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards.

32. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions.

33. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain.

This is twofold. Firstly, this comes between tournaments and teambuilding for them. Secondly, this refers to decisions made within battles and within best of three sets

As Barry Anderson may attest, regarding his famous LieLoom team - if you have success with one strategy in one tournament, especially a big one, you can be sure that people will know the teams makeup and how you play with it. If you don't change things up a bit between tournaments, you can be caught off guard with a knowledge disadvantage in the future should you bring exactly the same team, and meet someone who has considered how to play your team already.

Wolfe Glick's 2015 season is an example of modifying ones tactics in terms of being able to have success with a wide variety of teams, winning two regionals and getting a big finish at US nationals with three very different teams, and then winning an early 2016 season regional as well with a completely different team. It is not easy to be so adaptable with teambuilding and piloting, but it is an art that is worth practicing as it means you can potentially stay one step ahead of the metagame with some good calls.

Regarding making changes within battles and within best of three sets, if you win a battle or a turn on a gutsy call, or because of bringing certain leads, you should expect your opponent to adjust for that if they have room to. In being able to preemptively adjust to changes in your opponents team choice or in battle decision making, you can keep the initiative and stay one step ahead of them.

At the same time, if a certain approach or tactic does not work early in the battle, or in the first battle, be prepared to adjust as necessary in order to mount a comeback. While a strong unifying aim is good for a team, being able to adjust to the various opponents one might face is crucial - and so the water metaphor here is a really good one to keep in mind.



Thanks for tuning in again, hope you found this useful!


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