Sunday, April 17, 2016

Playing the System: My VGC 2016 Experience

I wanted to make a bunch of consecutive Tweets on this but then I realized that I have my own medium for that kind of thing. Sorta forgot about this blog but hey, found a good reason to post again at least.

For those who know me, you probably already have heard / pieced together most of this but for those who don't I'll make it really clear: I really am not good at VGC 2016. This isn't me berating myself or lacking confidence, just the reality of it. I haven't practiced more than 50 total matches since the format began, probably less than I've played at live events so far. I'm learning damage calcs as they happen, learning battle sequencing (especially with weather) the hard way when Kyogre drops three Water Spouts in a row and subsequently my entire team of four, and I'm making mistakes that most players at events probably won't be making.

I've been to quite a few events this year despite how bad I am at the format, though, mostly because the system has allowed for me to do so and at least reap some points. I gained a lot of my points in the 2015 format, which I was a lot more comfortable with and decent at. Some of that came from Tauros cheesing on the west coast back in November, some of it from Phoenix Regionals, which I actually prepared adequately for.

Looking at the other points I've gained:

54 from going 4-2 at the Illinois MSS, in which I used a team I'd played maybe a dozen practice games with. I pressed Swagger 27 times over the course of the MSS + following PC, which about explains the amount of 2016-style thought I put into it (hint: about none.)

30 from winning the 12ish-man Illinois post-MSS PC, used the same team and pulled some favorable matchups and got a few things to roll my way.

64 from going 2-2 at the Boise MSS! Gotta love it.

And I probably would have gotten my Worlds invite in Spokane if it weren't for me giving even less of a damn about my in-game preparation than I have in the past and getting myself DQ'd for a mistake I should have easily avoided. I'm instead still sitting at 329 points, close enough to get in by maxing out PCs or somehow squeaking into finals of a MSS or Top 16ing a Regional (or getting any points from Nationals.) Needless to say even though I'm godawful at the format, I should be able to get an invite.

In terms of the invite system, I think it's fine. I don't think it should be hard to play in Day 1 of Worlds and I love the way it's set up. What I think should be focused on for next season is the tournament structure (especially MSSes), but this was a pilot year and the mistakes are incredibly understandable in hindsight if looked at given the knowledge they had before they did what they did. I think next year it'll get fixed well enough to not allow mediocre players like myself to show up at 16-man events and get almost 1/5th of a Worlds invite by going 2-2. The amount of MSSes awarded should be limited to one per major metro area, similar to States in TCG and I feel like this will be corrected going into next season.

Back to the story though - I'm absolutely playing the system for my invite. I drove an extra two hours to the less-threatening Spokane MSS this weekend to avoid Hayden, Demitrios, and Markell at the Portland MSS since I probably can't beat any of them on a normal day, and felt inclined to spend $200 on a Boise trip that netted me 64cp but also wasn't necessary at all if I had any good idea what I was doing. Of course my experiences from previous formats and my understanding of the game will give me certain advantages in picking things up, but the puzzle is missing a ton of major pieces and even though I have thoughts and opinions on the format, they come from a scattershot understanding of it and should be perceived with consideration to both the positives and negatives there.

It's kind of weird to look at it now, but I just don't have the motivation or the prioritization of playing on a high level. I wrote about this a while back and I think it still holds true. Moving across the country, starting a new job, being a full time student while working full time all adds up and I think the grind there makes me more content in the end than performing on a high level at VGC events, at least for the time being. The amount of free time I've had where I've felt like playing at all has been next to none, and that type of thing leads me to play a season like the one I've played this year. The end goal here is to keep the door open for myself so that if by the time Worlds rolls around I do have the time and prioritization and desire to re-invest myself in the game, I can actually do so. If not, I throw darts at the wall and hope something sticks and shrug if nothing does and enjoy my free competitor swag bag and the rest of the weekend.

I really think that for myself, the pinnacle of playing the game is being able to compete at the highest level and seeing where it takes me. I don't think any sort of skill level in the in-between is worth the time, and I don't think bottom-feeding is really rewarding either. This season's been a bit of a paradox in that regard, but I view the regular season as nothing but a qualifying method for Worlds and if this gets me there, then so be it. In the future I don't think I'd ever opt to do something like this again -- I'd just quit playing even semi-seriously and show up to events to hang out or play some crazy teams -- but it's been an interesting experience that I'm probably glad that I had.

I don't know what the future will hold. I don't honestly know if I will ever attempt to play at a high level again. I don't think I've been a good player since 2012/2013 and even though some of the things I was bad at then I'm good at now, I think the practice and time invested in preparing and learning were way more conducive to success than those things I was bad at back then. If I ever get a chance to put it all together it'd be awesome, but I can't make any promises because of the way other things in life are taking over. In terms of the game it's disappointing, but in terms of my own life it simply is what it is.

Hopefully things allow me to be able to invest my time in the game and get good enough to dive in for Worlds or the 2017 season (or both), but who knows what the future holds. It's been a fun ride and a great learning experience so far whether it continues or not.

Friday, February 26, 2016

More Like the Big 9 - VGC 2016 Best-of-Three Stats Overview

Hey all, it's been a while since I've written here. I took a break from the game for a while but I've found interest in the format recently, so you'll probably see me posting here and there again.

I wanted to take a look at what's been performing well in best-of-three sets so far this year. I had a sneaking suspicion on a couple things but wasn't sure if there was anything behind it, so I put together numbers on how individual Pokemon had done in cut this season. Here's the short list of Pokemon that have made cut at least 10 times this year, sorted by win percentage:

 - 57% (24-18)
 - 55% (68-55)
 - 54% (22-19)
 - 53% (59-52)
 - 52% (46-42)
 - 52% (65-60)
 - 52% (53-49)
 - 52% (46-43)
 - 48% (42-46)
 - 43% (9-12)
 - 36% (9-16)
 - 30% (10-23)
 - 28% (9-23)

Amoonguss being at the top is a little surprising, but it's felt like an underrated tech for a while now and I think being able to hard-check Trick Room modes and provide redirection when not doing so is, as always, a really helpful tool for teams. Kangaskhan at 2nd is very Kangaskhan, nothing we haven't really seen before. Rayquaza edging out the rest of the pack is a bit strange, but it isn't too far off from the rest. It seems like everything from Rayquaza to Smeargle is about what you'd expect - consistent, above average production. They're all strong choices this year and have proven to be consistent thus far. Kyogre at 48% is a bit odd, but it does have a slightly lesser matchup against the format than Groudon does and probably will always be its little brother in terms of Primal comparison. It's definitely a solid choice and has proven that it's consistent enough to get very heavy usage, but it's a peg below Groudon and it shows here. 

And speaking of Groudon, I'm actually kind of surprised it's only at 52%. It feels more like Kangaskhan thus far in terms of raw power, so it's a little strange seeing it clumped in with Xerneas, Talonflame, and the rest. But regardless, the numbers probably have a bit of a margin of error, albeit probably not a gigantic one, so everything here should be taken with a grain of salt regardless.

Now for two Pokemon that are ostensibly viable but probably don't have a good case for said viability. I've sort of infamously tweeted on a couple occasions about Crobat being pretty bad and I think it was 100% pure gut feeling at the time after mulling it over in my mind in theory / never seeing one used effectively, but I really haven't changed my thought on that after seeing it enough in practice. It's okay at everything except doing damage, and when it isn't able to directly control opposing damage and you can figure out what its moves are, the team around it gets outdamaged - an occurence that's apparently a little more common than Crobat actually being useful past game 1. Ferrothorn is about as equally questionable in my mind. It's even more ridiculously underwhelming than in previous years - it appears to be a good option type-wise and damage-wise against most of the metagame until you realize that type interaction has virtually no bearing on competitive play anymore and Water Spout takes half of its health away. 

Mawile and Cresselia are interesting in their own ways. Mawile is pretty much a 43% win Pokemon in this format. It isn't quite as underwhelming as Ferrothorn or Crobat at its role, but it also will never be a bona-fide top 10 Pokemon. It seems to teeter right between 10-12 in usage and it feels almost right for it. It's a good option under Trick Room and has functionality outside of it with Sucker Punch, but being incredibly weak to Groudon and not a fan of Kyogre makes it hard to use properly. Cresselia being at 30% is somewhat shocking. I've had a love-hate relationship this year with it and I think it's an alright mon if used as a TR bot, but it seemingly gets overwhelmed once it hits the more well-built teams and better players. If it ends up between 40-50% by the end of the year I wouldn't be at all surprised, but so far it really hasn't shown that it can control the game as well as it should in theory. Bronzong might end up being what Cresselia wishes it could be.

I also took the numbers from the top legendary duos. There weren't enough numbers on the rest, but here are the main four duos (which probably resemble the main four archetypes) and their win percentages:

 - 56% (15-12)
 - 54% (45-38)
 - 46% (13-15)
 - 41% (7-10)

Not sure exactly how useful these stats are given that three of them aren't even statistically significant, but it paints a really rough picture of the metagame, just not an accurate one. Rayquaza + Kyogre definitely isn't a 56% team outside of the UK, and Groudon + Kyogre definitely has shown more promise than 46% in recent weeks. It'll take a little time to get a more accurate picture of these duos. Groudon + Xerneas at 54% is about spot on, and Kyogre + Xerneas at 41% isn't too far off either.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Top of the Hump Day - January 6th (Week 4)