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G'day guys, sorry for the long break between Art of (Pokemon) War posts, but here we go with another one. We're over halfway through the chapters now, but there's still plenty left in the tank, so I hope you've been enjoying these and continue to enjoy the rest of this series. The title of this chapter immediately makes the idea of switching come to mind, but there is more to it than that, as we will find out as we explore. This chapter is a long one, so I hope it makes up for me missing a week.
2. Having collected an army and concentrated his forces, he must blend and harmonize the different elements thereof before pitching his camp.
This point would best emphasise the point that teambuilding is not just about having 6 pokemon, but to make sure that they work really well together. This would include making sure that EV spreads and move choices are relevant to the teams composition and weaknesses, and that testing has been thorough on the lineup so flaws can be identified and rectified, and so the trainer knows how to get the best use out of his 6 pokemon.
Only careful practice will give you the skills to blend and harmonize the different elements of your teams when you prepare them, so it is good to practice teambuilding in this manner, as well as perfecting your team in the lead up to a major competition.
3. After that, comes tactical maneuvering, than which there is nothing more difficult. The difficulty of tactical maneuvering consists in turning the devious into the direct, and misfortune into gain.
4. Thus, to take a long and circuitous route, after enticing the enemy out of the way, and though starting after him, to contrive to reach the goal before him, shows knowledge of the artifice of deviation.
5. Maneuvering with an army is advantageous; with an undisciplined multitude, most dangerous.
This point I would consider to regard more the in battle skills of being able to move your pieces around the board, so to speak, to gain or maintain an advantageous position. It is a fine line to walk between having a safe switch in, and having ones switch ins punished - indeed, this is one of the more difficult decisions one can have to make in certain battles.
It is incumbent upon you as the pokemon trainer to understand the risks and rewards of maneuvering when you decide to do so, so that you can make the correct decision for the right moment. This can mean sacrificing a pokemon so that you don't get punished on a switch in, or it could mean sacrificing a switch in so that you can earn a free switch in later on. While every opponent and battle is different, learning how to judge these situations through practice is essential.
Maneuvering with an undisciplined multitude describes what I would consider to be poor switching, or having a team with such poor defensive synergy that your team is unable to maneuver itself effectively. Of course, this is a little matchup dependent, but a well constructed team should still have options even against matchups which give it trouble. Referring back to our earlier point, defensive synergy and safe switching can be helped by better blending and harmonizing during the teambuilding phase.
7. Thus, if you order your men to roll up their buff-coats, and make forced marches without halting day or night, covering double the usual distance at a stretch, doing a hundred LI in order to wrest an advantage, the leaders of all your three divisions will fall into the hands of the enemy.
This relates to switching again. If you're asking too much of your back pokemon, by switching them both in, you are potentially giving away a lot of free damage to your opponent just to attempt to improve your board position. While this passage was intended to discourage such forced marches, or equivalent, I would be hesitant to say never double switch - just be really sure that the improvement you get in board position justifies it, and that the risk of being punished heavily is low. If you fall too far behind on damage output, you can lose many matches as a result, no matter if the double switch improved your position, so keep that in mind when switching.
13. We are not fit to lead an army on the march unless we are familiar with the face of the country--its mountains and forests, its pitfalls and precipices, its marshes and swamps.
While fortunately IRL pokemon battles are generally held inside, and the terrain moves rarely see use, this passage relates to game and metagame knowledge. To get the best out of yourself as a trainer, you ought to be knowledgeable about what a great many pokemon do, even obscure ones - their typing, general stats (especially speed), movepools, and common items, as well as damage calcs where you can. Not only that but you should be familiar with common team archetypes, what has been recently popular, and what is popular and common local to your competition. When you are familiar with all of that, you can not only design your team to safely navigate the minefields that are major tournaments, but you can also make your decisions in battle with more certainty and less guessing. Knowing how to exploit opponent's weak points, and disguise your own is critical to making it through a tournament successfully, and can help balance out the luck element involved in Best of One play.
Knowledge and confidence is everything in tournaments, so let your familiarity with the game and the metagame keep your spirits high as you pursue tournament glory.
19. Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
Some teams make it immediately obvious what they intend to do right from Team Preview. While it is impossible to entirely disguise this, it can certainly be advantageous to have several strategies up your sleeve that are not immediately obvious in team preview. I feel like teams are more likely to perform well when they force their opponents to be tentative in scouting out what your plans are, as it can buy you more time to execute them.
Battle Spot Special/CHALK teams are great at doing this as there is a large variety of sets their pokemon can run despite the pokemon themselves being very commonly seen. This is somewhat more reliable than using rarely seen niche pokemon to obsfucate your plans, as these rarely seen pokemon usually have more flaws and are weaker in general than more common picks. Though you may still have success with these kinds of Pokemon, if you use them well, skilled players will see through their plans and adjust accordingly.
21. Ponder and deliberate before you make a move.
This one is pretty straightforward, but I thought it would be good to include it. Always think through the possibilities before you lock in your choices. You may not always be able to consider every possibility before making an action, but by allowing yourself the time to compute things, you give yourself the best chance of making a good decision, after having considered most if not all of the possibilities.
27. A whole army may be robbed of its spirit; a commander-in-chief may be robbed of his presence of mind.
Losing your presence of mind is the big thing to keep in mind here. In Pokemon battles and tournaments, this can happen and affect you in various ways. If you get thrown off in a battle, say by being caught out by a misplay, or RNG, your decision making may become clouded and you may miss opportunities later in the battle to make successful reads and decisions.
If you let this affect your decision making and playstyle over the course of the rest of a tournament, or laddering effort on Battle Spot, you can be said to have gone on tilt. You may still win games while on tilt, but compared to your usual calm, collected and focused self, you will likely be making more errors, such as over ambitious reads, overreaching for a KO, doubting yourself and choosing poor leads and/or backs.
Keep in mind that your team is only as good as the pilot, and be aware of your mental state so that you may maintain your presence of mind while battling to help propel you towards victory.
30. Disciplined and calm, to await the appearance of disorder and hubbub amongst the enemy:--this is the art of retaining self-possession.
By remaining focused, and in a good state of mind, you will be in a better position to capitalise on any opponent of yours that gets flustered. You will also be in a better position to recognise win conditions and how to exploit your opponent's play style. Just as in an earlier chapter we mentioned that the skilled fighter knows which moment to pick to make the winning move, the skilled fighter must also remain calm, focused and disciplined in the lead up, to allow for that moment to occur.
For those of you that stuck by the missed week, thanks for coming back. For those of you clever enough to realise that I skipped ahead a chapter accidentally when posting this, also well done. Next week we will get chapter 6 out, then should be on the right track to finish off this series. Cheers!
Next: Variations in Tactics