Mindape’s Journey to the West

A Pokemon VGC Blog

The Art of (Pokemon) War: Variations in Tactics

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Hi all. This post was ready quite a while ago, but as I was busy with...being distracted, I guess, it kind of fell by the wayside in terms of getting posted for quite a while. I feel this chapter is named pretty well, if you are to look at it in a vacuum and decide if it is relevant to Pokemon battling. However, the subject matter looks at things more than just the straightforward understanding of having a variety of teams to choose from, and options within your teams. As we shall see, the focus seems to be more on understanding, and how to use that understanding. Anyway, enough talking from me here.


VIII. Variation in Tactics


4. The general who thoroughly understands the advantages that accompany variation of tactics knows how to handle his troops

5. The general who does not understand these, may be well acquainted with the configuration of the country, yet he will not be able to turn his knowledge to practical account.

I would interpret this in terms of understanding the various gameplans and win conditions their own team can play for. Equally as important would be knowing matchups and gameplans between and against a wide variety of opponents and archetypes.

Without knowing all of the possible win and lose conditions that your team has, you may fail to recognise some during battle (and thus lose), even if you are very familiar with the metagame, what is popular, and what many common teams do. Additionally, without practice, or at least theorizing game plans against a great many opposition matchups, you may enter a tournament and find yourself underprepared for a particular matchup, which may be the difference between top-cutting or not if you are not able to spontaneously find a way out of a tricky unexpected matchup. It is only through being familiar with both of these aspects that you will be best placed to navigate the tricky matchups that tournaments can and will throw at you.


7. Hence in the wise leader's plans, considerations of advantage and of disadvantage will be blended together.

When one only considers the strengths of their team, you become unprepared for the unfavourable positions one can be caught in during a tournament. No one tactic is a one size fits all automatic win against every opponent, so when building and learning how to use a team, one must discover when it is at a disadvantage, and learn to navigate around that successfully.

However, if you only consider how you will try to negate disadvantages, your team may struggle to make use of its advantages, or even have enough favourable matchups to breeze through unprepared opponents, as you can dilute and spread your strategy too thinly if you try to patch too many holes without trusting in your own tactics to pull you through.


8. If our expectation of advantage be tempered in this way, we may succeed in accomplishing the essential part of our schemes.

9. If, on the other hand, in the midst of difficulties we are always ready to seize an advantage, we may extricate ourselves from misfortune.

Following on from the previous point, when you know the strengths and weaknesses of your team, and understand how you and others can play around that, you will be more likely to be able to navigate a tournament setting successfully. Also, by remembering what the team aims to accompish, even in adjusting for our opponent's strategies and choices, game plans can still be accomplished, rather than being obliterated due to a failiure to adequtely consider our opponent.

By being aware of how your team can win battles, you also allow yourself to overcome early setbacks, like surprise movesets or items, strange plays, or poor rng rolls - in staying focused, not giving up, and working to an adjusted plan, you may get your team back in to a good position or a winning position through your use of your knowledge of how to use your team and how to manage its advantages and disadvantages.


11. The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive him; not on the chance of his not attacking, but rather on the fact that we have made our position unassailable.

This can be interpreted in a number of ways. Firstly, one should not bet too heavily on your opponent making a particular decision during a battle, whether it is in what they bring, or a move they choose; and secondly not betting too hard on whether you will or will not battle a certain archetype during a competition.

Of course, the former could be a manner of aggressively reading your opponent in a third battle of a Best of Three match, but generally if the risk is too high of you getting punished for banking on a certain decision of your opponent, you may come unstuck more easily than if you made a decision whereby you could put together a win from a less risky position with a more balanced approach.


12. There are five dangerous faults which may affect a general: (1) Recklessness, which leads to destruction; (2) cowardice, which leads to capture; (3) a hasty temper, which can be provoked by insults; (4) a delicacy of honor which is sensitive to shame; (5) over-solicitude for his men, which exposes him to worry and trouble.

13. These are the five besetting sins of a general, ruinous to the conduct of war.

I feel as if these five dangerous faults can still be applied to Pokemon battling, and may be important to keep aware of so that you may not be negatively impacted by them.

  • Recklessness - giving away pokemon, and win conditions too easily, going for overly risky plays that aren't justified by the potential reward. Not considering all of the plays that your opponent could make and being caught out by them, even when they are obvious, is another sign of reckless battling.
  • Cowardice - not responding to your gut instincts, or making overly safe plays when behind in the battle. Playing too negatively and reactively, keeping you behind in the battle and lacking initiative, and not making the ballsy plays needed to come back from a bad position.
  • A hasty temper - getting put into a tilt by bad RNG, or by a poor decision, clouding your future decisions. Also being easily provoked by insults although most in the pokemon community are not so mean spirited as to try to rattle opponents with jibes and taunts.
  • Having a delicacy of honour might be best construed as putting artificial limitations on your teambuilding by not using particular options that you find distasteful, even to the extent of forcing yourself to choose inferior moves, items or Pokemon. It could also refer to the habit of referring to strategies you dislike as 'cheap', or 'gimmicky' , such as Dark Void, Perish Trap, or even just using a Battle Spot Special/CHALK team.
  • Point 5 can be considered to be always using your favourites, even if they lack synergy or are outclassed at a role - You should care for your pokemon, but you also should be unafraid to use whatever you have to to make sure your team is the strongest it can be. If you want to win in a big tournament, sometimes your favourite Pokemon just won't be up to the task, either because it needs too much support, or it is not strong enough to be effective. Caring too much about your favourite Pokemon to the point of only ever using them can be detrimental to your experience and performance as a trainer, as it means you won't get to understand and appreciate the strengths of other Pokemon, even if you feel like they are overused and overpowered. This isn't supposed to be a debate about that whole Elite Four Karen quote about "Strong Pokemon and Weak Pokemon". This is to highlight that for a successful trainer wanting to build a strong team, the focus should always be on the team and its performance, not the individual 'special pokemon'. Besides, there is plenty of time for fun battles with your favourites outside of major competitions. 


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Sorry again for the long wait between these posts, hope this one has been useful, and I'll try not to go two months between them next time.


Next: On the March, Terrain, and Situations