Gotta Catch ‘Em All
It’s a statement that’s fueled the Pokémon craze and hundreds of millions of video game sales since the series was first introduced well over a decade ago. Many Trainers from all over the world have endeavored to complete their Pokédexes (in-game electronic encyclopedias with entries that must be manually filled in with successful captures) and to know the satisfaction of not one but many, many jobs well done.
I enjoy catching Pokémon, but while I’ve completed my creature logbooks a few times, I’ve never really seen much of a point to doing so, in and of itself.
I would capture dozens and dozens of Pokémon, but this wouldn’t always change the way I played the game–at least, that was true at one time. Since careful training takes a great deal of planning and time investment, I prefer to have practical uses for the Pokémon I choose to go after. But what difference will it make if I can continue using the same party of Pokémon to experience the post-game content, such as the Battle Tower and similar how-far-can-I-go challenges?
Gotta Use ‘Em All
Enter Pokémon Black Version 2’s and White Version 2’s type-restricted tournaments. That powerful Dragon I’d spent hours breeding, training, and nurturing? If it’s not at least part-Ground type, it’s ineligible for the Ground-type tournament. That Flying-type that decimates its opponents with quick and powerful attacks? If it’s not at least partially Bug-type, it’s useless in that tournament. In other words, whenever I want to try my hand at another one of these seventeen restricted tournaments, I generally have to restart my training from scratch.
This forces me to understand and cherish the potential opportunities seen in Pokémon I normally might not give a second thought to. More open formats like the Battle Tower were both a blessing and a curse in comparison–I could use whatever Pokémon I chose, barring particularly powerful “legendary” creatures, but at the same time, because I could potentially face almost any combination of Pokémon and strategies, actual defense planning became very difficult. I had to be prepared for anything, and oftentimes that led to the opposite happening.
This leads to its own interesting set of challenges. I can’t just use my favorite Electric-type Pokémon to decimate the generally electricity-susceptible Flying-type roster … at least, not unless that Pokémon is partially Flying-type as well. This in turn creates a dangerous game of checks and counters. It’s not difficult to look over the list of Flying-type Pokémon and to determine what their common weaknesses are. What’s difficult is wondering whether I’ll have to face the very same counters that I myself am designing.
One of the most interesting Pokémon I’ve trained is known as a Gliscor (think of a gliding scorpion), a Ground/Flying species that, thanks to a combination of a particular equipped item and passive ability, turns poison damage into recurrent healing. Gliscor also knows a move called Ice Fang, which deals double damage versus many Flying-types and quadruple damage versus other Gliscor, since Ground- and Flying-types are both weak to ice attacks. While this may sound like an excellent strategy, it once carried a heavy burden–I had to make absolutely certain to breed and train my Gliscor to make its Speed as high as possible, lest I have my own idea used against me.
Gotta Know ‘Em All
An essential part of winning these tournaments is knowing what a particular set of opponents is capable of doing. This knowledge applies across two layers–what Pokémon a given Trainer might use, and what moves and held items those Pokémon have. If you face the Gym Leader Elesa in an Electric-restricted format, her flying squirrel Emolga will be immune to the Ground-type attacks generally dreaded by Electric-type Pokémon. The same thing will happen if you come across a Magneton (quadruply weak against Ground-type attacks) that happens to be holding the Air Balloon item, which provides this same immunity but can be burst by direct damage from a non-Ground attack. But even the Collector’s Edition strategy guide doesn’t give movesets for these Pokémon; if you want to know those, you’ll need to look on places such as Bulbapedia, where even there such information is considered a spoiler.
You might, due to this, end up coming across a Bug-type Pokémon who’s more than capable of hurling devastating Rock-type attacks to crush all of your own bugs. That Pokémon may also hold an item that enables it to easily outpace your own monsters, with the only drawbacks having been planned for and worked around by the AI, lending several additional layers of depth and new pieces of knowledge for you to plan for if and when the computer hands you a humiliating defeat. Sometimes, as with my Gliscor, you might need to find ways not to necessarily avoid problems but to turn them into triumphs–a practical example is to combine the Poison Heal passive ability, present not in nature but on Gliscor that were evolved from Gligar who themselves had a special ability found in Nintendo’s online Dream World, with the Toxic Orb, a held item that induces Poison status. With this ability, however, Gliscor not only makes each turn’s poison damage into restored health but also becomes immune to more serious ailments such as burns and paralysis. Furthermore, because Gliscor still technically is poisoned, this causes a move known as Facade to double in strength.
Gotta Beat ‘Em All
Sooner or later all of your planning will have only as much practical value as you’re willing to risk in the arena, and while there’s plenty of skill involved, some elements will still come down to luck of the draw:
* What Trainers will you face?
Some Pokémon types have so few dedicated in-game Trainers that the designers of Pokémon Black 2 and White 2 had to make up additional generic characters in order to have enough participants for a tournament; types such as Electric and Water, on the other hand, are so popular that you as the player will likely not be facing the same set of opponents each time you enter the same three-round Tournament. Therefore, while your planning will hopefully cover a large portion of opponents you might be facing, you may also need to adjust your strategies to account for Pokémon lineups that aren’t quite the same between Trainers of the same specialty. And speaking of which …
* What Pokémon will you face?
This is the real kicker. All tournament opponents, to the best of my knowledge, are programmed to have a full lineup of six Pokémon ready to use when necessary, but in many tournament formats other than the insane and insanely fun Triple Battles, where three Pokémon from each team battle side by side at a time (with the remaining three being backups), you won’t be facing all of those six over the course of a single match. Two-on-two battles and Rotation battles only require four of those six Pokémon to be used, for example. (In a Rotation Battle, three Pokémon stand on a ‘platter’ with one backup; one Pokémon from each team fights at a time, but switching between the three Pokémon on the platter is a free action and doesn’t consume a turn.) Likewise a Single Battle only sees each Trainer using three of his or her Pokémon, and therefore a Pokémon you expected to either be a pushover or a nightmare, may not even show up in your opponent’s active roster.
Some elements of battle, such as held items and a Pokémon’s set of four available moves (out of the dozens most species are capable of learning), are static and unchanging; that Fighting/Steel-type Lucario who’s been decimating your own Steel-types with powerful Fighting-type attacks will most likely do the same thing every time you face it, even if it probably won’t use exactly the same move every turn. Battle opponents’ strategies themselves are not random, and their Pokémon are smart enough to know when to use powerful but risky attacks and when to use weaker but speedy and reliable finishing moves when your own Pokémon are low on health.
This creates a Dark Souls-esque opportunity for understanding: if you lose a battle, you’ll generally know why you lost, and being able to learn from and even capitalize on your defeats will sometimes be just as much a part of your eventual victories as the initial strength of your team is. There are rare occasions, however, when the deciding factor will be something largely out of your control, such as whether a random critical hit turns a battle against a powerful enemy from a two-turn Pyrrhic victory into a one-turn knockout, or whether the randomized damage formula will leave an opposing Pokémon with a tiny amount of remaining health instead of none at all.
In the end, however, the elements that you as a Trainer can predict and plan for will vastly outweigh the ones you cannot, and whether you win a whole tournament or lose in the first round (it can and does happen, though thankfully you don’t lose any money or items), both outcomes will quite often be due to skill, not to luck.
In closing: Gotta Teach ‘Em All
Training for type-restricted battle formats has, through experience, taught me many valuable lessons about Pokémon battling, the foremost being that my options for creatively designing and fighting with a unique team of Pokémon are in no way diminished by limiting what Pokémon I can use. Pokémon I never had thought about using and might never have considered, have suddenly become my strongest and most devoted allies, and their unique abilities bring plenty of potential for truly unusual battle strategies.
Another valuable lesson that I carry with me, not just in these special formats but in all of my battles, is that I have to learn to account for common elemental weaknesses and eliminate them as much as possible. Since my Flying-type team members turned out to be extremely powerful, if rather fragile, I began using them in battle formats without type restrictions and was quickly shown how weak my team was against only a few types. I’ll need to design a new, much more diverse team in order to keep those common weaknesses from being an obstacle, but that’s nothing I can’t do. Regardless of what kinds of battles I find myself participating in, the most important words I can say to myself won’t be “You’re going down” but will be something closer to this:
“Well, back to the drawing board.”
Share your strategies with us!
I’d been wanting to see more user-made strategy mini-features on Takuchat for some time: What kinds of games do you all enjoy playing? If you’re particularly good at these games, I’d love to see some of your tips or maybe even some of your secrets. I don’t have a catchy title topic for such [Strategy] articles, but at this point in time, one may not be needed. What really matters is that you guys feel encouraged to share any strategy tips and “help guides” that you would like.
I created a new Strategy category (to be included underneath Takuchat Topics) and a “strategy” tag for the purpose, as I think both will help to organize tip articles like this.
This article uses content from the following pages on the free resource Bulbapedia:
– Pokémon Black and White Versions 2
– Ice Fang
– Type Expert Tournament/Fire
– Type Expert Tournament
Said content is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license and is not being used for any commercial purpose, nor does Bulbapedia endorse the purposes of this article or Takuchat.
Image credits and other sources:
– The “Black Kyurem” featured image is from Bulbapedia article Pokémon Black and White Versions 2 and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license.
– The Pokémon franchise’s video game sales numbers are from the article “Pokémon™ Black Version and Pokémon White Version for Nintendo DS coming to Europe in Spring 2011″ on Nintendo’s UK site: http://www.nintendo.co.uk/
– The tournament bracket picture is from the article “Novo modo Pokémon World Tournament em Pokémon Black Version 2 e Pokémon White Version 2″ on Nintendo’s Portugal site: http://www.nintendo.pt/
– This article references Serebii.net’s list of fifth-generation Flying-type Pokémon.
– The “Volkner VS Trainer” picture is used from the article “Pokemon Black and White 2 Review” on the website Hard Reset.
– Nintendo’s Dream World can be reached from the Pokémon Global Link website: http://en.pokemon-gl.com/