Knowing the details about all of the hidden stats in Pokémon is enough to get your foot in the door, but to do well you have to do a bit more than that. Understanding the state of the meta is important, and it’s one of the few things that Nintendo can’t streamline. Team construction is therefore one of the most important parts of the game.
Mind Reading, 101
Building a successful team usually starts with a goal. The ultimate goal is to reduce the HP of your opponent’s pokémon to zero while keeping them from doing the same to you, but how this is accomplished varies. A lot of people have a particular pokémon that they want to force through, and some interesting teams have been formed from oddball choices here. Since the introduction of Mega Evolution, many people build their team on allowing their chosen mega to beat their opponent. Se Jun Park’s Worlds Team was an example of this; it focused on getting Mega Gyarados strong, and disrupting its counters. Other teams have more tricky goals.
Once you have a goal, it’s important to consider obstacles to that goal, which is where the mind reading comes in. It’s impossible to completely predict everything that your opponents might bring, but it’s helpful to have an idea of what you might face. Nugget Bridge is one of the best ways to do this, as they like to keep track of usage statistics across major tournaments. The Pokémon Company also helps a bit, as they track a top 12 on the website and report on the moves and abilities of every pokémon on the ladder. Trying to bring an answer to everything at once is futile, but in broad classes it’s possible to make good preparations.
Mind Reading, 102
Once you have a team, and you’re relatively confident, you still have to actually play the game. One thing that requires adjusting is that (especially in singles) players switch pokémon fairly often, where the in-game trainers essentially never do. To go along with this, being aware of when your opponent is likely to switch and what they might switch to is essential, and learning to predict well is what makes the really good players great. There’s a very strong element of mindgames here. For example, Se Jun’s Pachirisu had Follow Me, a move that forces all opposing pokémon to choose it for attacks. But even the psychology of that is important:
Pachirisu is very good against Electric-types due to Volt Absorb, especially in the later stages of a game. Therefore, it dissuades my opponent from using those attacks in the first place, so I don’t actually have to use Follow Me very often. As such, I can use Nuzzle and Super Fang very often, which makes Pachirisu amazing in doubles.
Prediction is also required when switching. If you have your opponent in a very obvious bad matchup, you might want to think about what they might switch to in order to get out of it, and act accordingly. But if you out-predict yourself and they don’t switch, you might lose out on a potential KO on the thing you’re facing in the first place. It’s vital to balance options like this against each other. In a way, it’s a bit like fighting games, only turn-based.
That’s enough on this topic, I think. Now that you have enough knowledge to hurt yourself, I recommend heading over to Nugget Bridge if you want to know more, or get into this sort of thing yourself. My Friend Code is 4897-6120-6518, but don’t count on me for any battles at the moment. Regardless, feel free to add me (and let me know if you do). Good luck in your battles to come!