Previous: Tactical Dispositions
G'day, welcome back to another edition of The Art of (Pokemon) War. Ironically, this chapter shares a name with an energy drink. I tend to find tea more relaxing to drink before battles, but if you need something to perk yourself up if you're tired midway through a tournament, be safe in the knowledge that you can drink this ironically and probably be the only one in on the joke.
This chapter is a rather long one to analyse, as I feel there are many good points contained in it, so you may need an energy drink to get through it. Here goes.
3. To ensure that your whole host may withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken-- this is effected by maneuvers direct and indirect.
4. That the impact of your army may be like a grindstone dashed against an egg--this is effected by the science of weak points and strong.
This kind of advice feels to me like it appears frequently, so to reiterate points you may have picked up from previous chapters - This involves EV spreads, and defensive switch-ins. These can be planned ahead in the team building stage, but also then made use of during battles, so do keep it in mind at all the stages.
Regarding defensive switch ins, you should aim to not have any auto-lose matchups in building your team, and when selecting your four to bring in team preview. This gives you more ways to get out of potentially inferior board positions other than just getting KO'd
EV's are also important. Although one should not just make defensive EV spreads for the sake of it, running enough bulk to literally withstand the brunt of the enemy's attack and remain unshaken is important, as keeping your team members on the field a little longer can be the difference between winning a damage trade, and losing it, and as a result, possibly winning or losing the battle.
5. In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.
6. Indirect tactics, efficiently applied, are inexhaustible as Heaven and Earth, unending as the flow of rivers and streams; like the sun and moon, they end but to begin anew; like the four seasons, they pass away to return once more.
This passage is in my opinion not just limited to the idea of switching in ones pokemon during a battle, although that is a narrower interpretation one could make.
Indirect tactics refer to the myriad ways one can adjust board position and tactics according to what they are facing, especially given the innumerable possible combinations of pokemon and sets able to be run. Although most teams should have preferred game plans, they should also have secondary plans, as well as tricks for particular scenarios, and most importantly, they and their pilot should be capable of ad-libbing when the game situation calls for it.
This follows up the previous point. When teambuilding, explore the endless possible combinations of team members, combos, natures, movesets, and EV spreads. When you think of all the different teams you will face over your Pokemon journey, there will be countless variations, so having at least explored the variations yourself, you should be able to find many combinations that work for you and can win you games. Exploring the endless variety in Pokemon thoroughly will also help you to understand and recognise the combinations of your opponent and how to break them down with your own.
The artiness of the Heaven and Earth, Sun and Moon statements are not only pretty, but can be used to understand the nature of how metagames develop, shift, and flow, and how they can often go back to where they started later in the season.
12. The onset of troops is like the rush of a torrent which will even roll stones along in its course.
13. The quality of decision is like the well-timed swoop of a falcon which enables it to strike and destroy its victim.
14. Therefore the good fighter will be terrible in his onset, and prompt in his decision.
Here we go again with the torrent metaphors. Water Starters clearly influenced Sun Tzu, although he was perhaps not aware of hidden abilities. Although they are saying the same underlying thing, I have included these three points here, rather than just one of them, to help you visualise their meaning. Being promt in your decision does not mean never taking the full timer to input your commands, but instead to be able to instinctively know the right time to go for the jugular, so to speak. Rather than going for KO's when they are not attainable, or it is too risky to do so, falls outside of this, but obviously this is a skill that must be learned through practice, as you cannot simply repeat this phrases ad nauseum and become a prediction god.
Knowing the right time to make decisive actions to win a battle is the key message, and the better the battler, the more one will get this right. Falcons might be great birds of prey to use in a metaphor, but even they have a period where they have to learn the optimal time to strike. Practice this, learn the time to do with with your team against other types of team, and come tournament day, you could be the Falcon with the well timed swoop. Bird Up.
16. Amid the turmoil and tumult of battle, there may be seeming disorder and yet no real disorder at all; amid confusion and chaos, your array may be without head or tail, yet it will be proof against defeat.
This point seems a little confusing at first, so it took me a little while to think it through and make sense of it - hopefully that comes out in this explanation, and it isn't just a series of words. Battles can get chaotic with damage and KO's flying around, and with RNG's ability to intervene at opportune/inopportune moments. Through all of that, you should look to keep in mind your end goal for each battle, and what needs to happen to achieve it. Staying focused on your plan for the end game can help you come out on top even if the mid-battle period is a messy bunch of damage trading, particularly if you are able to look after your win conditions sufficiently. Hence, it may appear to an outsider that the battle is disordered and hard to make sense of who is at an advantage, when there is actually a lot more control and thought being placed in to decisions and outcomes.
19. Thus one who is skillful at keeping the enemy on the move maintains deceitful appearances, according to which the enemy will act. He sacrifices something, that the enemy may snatch at it.
20. By holding out baits, he keeps him on the march; then with a body of picked men he lies in wait for him.
If the enemy keeps trying to improve their field position, without being able to get damage (or only insignificant damage) on your pokemon, while you are able to keep reasonable field position and get damage off, you have been skillful at keeping your opponent on the move. This does not necessarily mean you have maintained a deceitful appearance - that seems something more like (for example) baiting a fake out on to a switched in Rocky Helmet pokemon, or other such moves where you have your opponent chasing at shadows by launching attacks in to switches that render them less effective. Defensive synergy better allows for you to do this, particularly if you have a pokemon that you know your opponent wants to hurry up and get rid of, since that makes those sorts of reads easier to execute correctly.
Knowing that a particular pokemon is a threat, and that your opponent cannot afford to ignore it can also allow you to hold out a bait for your opponent simply by teasing them with timely protects, so that your other pokemon may be given free reign to get necessary KO's or chip damage, playing the role of a body of picked men waiting to ambush their opponent.
21. The clever combatant looks to the effect of combined energy, and does not require too much from individuals. Hence his ability to pick out the right men and utilize combined energy.
Time for everyone's favourite buzzword: Synergy! Unless you're looking to make a fun gimmick team where winning isn't the end goal, it is generally problematic to have one or two pokemon in a team required to do the hard work of picking up KO's - more often than not, there will be too much work for them to do, and they will fall short, even with the support of their allies.
Many of the better performed VGC teams make use of the effect of combined energy, whereby the team is able to work together well in many configurations to achieve victory, without being overly reliant on one Pokemon to pick up multiple knockouts (although picking one Pokemon to deal with a specific problem Pokemon on the opponent's side can be ok, provided it is not utterly shut down by the rest of your opponent's team).
A great example of this is the CHALK core that dominated the Masters division at the 2015 World Championships. People may have been able run counters to one or most of the pokemon in the core, but their combined synergy and the difficulty in countering all of them at the same time, especially given the variance they could still run, meant when piloted expertly, as they were, these teams were able to not be overly reliant on individuals, instead working together as the sum of their parts to great success. While this is not the only example of a team working together well without being reliant on individuals, I feel like it is a high profile one - the results of the World Championship can be learned from without simply dismissing the Top 8 makeup as boring.
Thanks for tuning in again!
Next: Weak Points and Strong