Something happened a couple of weeks ago that has a portion of the Pokemon community scratching their head.
Not the video chat for DSi owners that has a local function for some unknown reason. Unless you wear a Blackberry helmet.
Not the new heart-shaped Pokemon that means they apparently decided to evolve the worst Pokemon ever.
No, the decision is currently on Smogon's front page (as of July 29) - apparently they've kicked Salamence upstairs out of their most common metagame to ubers, the land of Dialga and Kyogre, future home of Reshiram and Zekrom.
wtf, you say.
It's not a usage based thing - if that were the case, Scizor would have gotten kicked upstairs a year ago. Salamence was top 10 consistently, but Scizor's been #1 with a bullet since Platinum launched. However, it was deemed too unbalancing to be in standard play and kicked out.
Now, you might be wondering why I care about this - I unofficially retired from competitive Pokemon in 2003 and officially retired a year later to concentrate on my job and a well-run wrestling fed where I was in the midst of a massive push. (Smack anyone who says I was suspended by the Netbattle admins for excessive gambling, I'm not Michael Jordan and the Netbattle admins were nowhere near as powerful as David Stern).
But I still observe the game, and I find it kind of curious that they've run their formal suspect process on eight Pokemon in the last couple of years - Garchomp, Wobbuffet, Deoxys-E, Shaymin (Sky), Manaphy, Latios, Latias, and now Salamence. And all eight times, the Pokemon has ended up being deemed too powerful.
And that's where I have a problem.
I have to give them credit for being somewhat open with the process - even with the last process, where they only had 9 voters, the entire chat log was posted for public consumption. But it still comes across as a giant echo chamber to an outsider like me (who only reads the Battle Frontier/Black and White discussion threads most of the time).
On two separate occasions, a Pokemon has been legalized and then kicked back upstairs. What this suggests to me is that there's a contingency who cares about these things, and find these Pokemon highly annoying or too powerful. They complain and in discussing the game with other people, float the opinion that it needs to be banned. They form opinions and manage to get it to an up-and-down vote, and if the vote comes off incorrectly, they keep at it until a review process occurs. Eventually, it's gone.
One person I'm following on Twitter suggested that the average player has an aversion to luck, which is why Double Team/Minimize and the one-hit KO moves are banned and have been realistically since the days of Cat-Gonk (which is before I played, to put it mildly). Without the possibility of a luck factor, these Pokemon grow too powerful and end up chucked. They talked about testing legal DT and OHKO after the Pokemon were taken care of when the process started, but oops, something came up all the time.
But let's look at the Pokemon that got chucked: Two Pokemon who realistically shouldn't have been legal to begin with (Wobbuffet and Deoxys-S), four Dragons, a check for the dragons (Manaphy), and a check for the check (Shaymin Sky). Hmm... sounds like a good team for a tournament circa 2007. It's not like the Latis had the Soul Dew, that was flatout gone. But as it stands, there's now three final form Dragon-type Pokemon left in their standard game: Dragonite, Kingdra and Altaria.
And I bet if I put effort into it, I could get Dragonite banned by the time Black and White come out in North America. It's on the same stat level as the other 4 Dragons that got banned and has some unique/powerful things it can do. Namely, its priority hurts a hell of a lot more than Deoxys-E's or Scizor's.
So here's my three questions about the results of this process.
1) Why is the OU tier considered the "standard" game and not the uber tier?
Name me a sport or game where the second-tier game is the most common - the only thing I can think of is Major League Soccer for people in the US who don't have access to the English Premier League. The poker game that gets all the publicity is No-Limit Hold 'Em, fighting games are usually between top tier characters, and FOX doesn't show the AAA National Championship game in October when the World Series is going on. Why does the only competitive turn-based strategy game with any play restrict itself like this?
If I'm playing in an NHL 11 tournament, I'm not going to play with the Maple Leafs even though they're my team in real life - if there's something on the line, I'm pulling out the Blackhawks or Capitals. If there's one thing that's fundamentally broken, then fine - kill it (see: RBY Mewtwo, Akuma in SSF2 Turbo). But if they want to introduce variety into the game, why not let the trainer use whatever the frack they want?
2) Is the Dragon-type, in of itself, fundamentally broken? Has the type been enhanced too much?
Let's see - defensively, it resists four of the most common types in the game and is only beaten by itself. Offensively, it hits everything but Steel for neutral damage and only 2 Pokemon in that type don't have one of its attack stats >100. The type has four moves (Dragon Claw/Pulse/Draco Meteor/Outrage, with a fifth exclusive in Spacial Rend) that are 90+ power, so these moves will HURT, and three of them were added in Diamond and Pearl. Hell, 3 Dragons and 3 Steels was (and still is) a functional team idea.
Is Altaria, by virtue of its type, 1 well timed boost away from being a top 10 OU?
3) Is the Pokemon simulator concept broken?
The whole purpose of a battle simulator was to provide people an opportunity to battle Pokemon as close to the cartridge as possible. But with the existence of WFC battling in Gen 4, I honestly didn't think they would go to the trouble of coding a simulator - especially after save files were hacked and Pokesav was released in English. (The lesson, of course, is never underestimate the boredom of programmers and the desire of people to skip the whole 'training' process.)
The predominant real-life metagame - Youtube battlers aside - however, is what's used for the Pokemon Company's sponsored events. Currently, that's doubles. No doubt by 2012, we'll have to raise teams for 3v3 battles at the VGC. Yet the most dominant battling program doesn't even have doubles implemented yet, talk of implementing 6v6 (every Pokemon on the field at once) aside. At this point, the version of Shoddy that implements doubles should be considered part of the preorder bonus for the Pokemon MMO, along with my Platinum FAQ.
Will there be a simulator next generation, or will the Dream World and other Black/White features provide all of what the average trainer needs? Could Battle Revolution 2 for the Super Wii provide simulator functionality? Who knows.
All I know is, my Smogon location/tag now reads "Real men use dragons". Read into that what you will.