Sunday, April 6, 2014

Smogon's worst decision since the Sand Veil ban

Unfortunately, that's not a very strong statement since that only happened a year and a half ago, but still, here's another one we can add to the category of really bad calls.

The combination of Swagger, Foul Play and Prankster, better known as Swagplay, had been under scrutiny for a while, and after discussion on the subject degenerated very, very badly, the decision was taken to give it a proper suspect test. Unfortunately, the voting ended up being on Swagger alone, instead of being in combination with Foul Play or Prankster. And words can't express the shock I had when I found out about it. I mean, sure, Swagger is a really bad move overall, except when used in combination with Foul Play, which gets its damage doubled by Swagger. So the competitive impact of a Swagger ban beyond Swagplay being forbidden would be practically non-existent, which is a step up from Sand Veil which could've had legitimate uses on other Pokémon besides Garchomp.

Still, it's the principle of the thing. Swagger alone isn't at all problematic, since as I just said it's a terrible move, and neither is Foul Play alone, which is a tremendous help to Pranksters and other support Pokémon like Mandibuzz. It's the combination of both that's debatably problematic, and as such I strongly believe a Swagger + Foul Play combo ban was the way to go. Yes, I'm not a huge fan of combo bans as a whole, but with an increasingly complex and synergy-based game, where rating moves and abilities on their own becomes borderline unfair, it's a necessary evil we have to put up with.

Obviously, this doesn't suddenly mean I believe the likes of Blaze Blaziken should be allowed in OU by just combo-banning Speed Boost and Blaziken. Nerfing various Pokémon just so they could be allowed in any tier would mean it would happen for just about everything in every tier, and of course we can't have that. On the other hand, doing it for combinations of moves, items and abilities is fine, since there's no real danger of a slippery slope effect there, as proven by the years following the Swift Swim embargo. For example, I'll point you towards the Endless Battle Clause that was put into effect a few months ago. It bans the combination of a Leppa Berry with either Harvest or Recycle, and even though Leppa Berry is completely useless beyond that, they still went ahead and did a combo ban anyway, because all the components of the ban are completely harmless on their own. So why didn't they do the same here?

Also surprising was the enormous blowout in favor of the ban of Swagger alone - 66 to 11. Not only because I would've imagined more people didn't like the idea of NOT doing a combo ban, but also because Klefki, the primary Swagplay user, is one of those Pokémon that fell out of OU with the tiering changes that only see the top 2% have a significant impact in the usage stats, suggesting Swagplay was more of an issue at lower levels of play, while better players could get around it better.

In the end, while banning Swagger alone doesn't have any effect beyond just getting rid of Swagplay, which was the intended goal all along, I still have a major problem with that way of doing things. What if someone wants to use Swagger for, say, phazing? Sure, it's far from the best way of doing it to say the least, but it's a universal move, and I guess it could work decently in certain contexts (such as opponents with no physical attacks). So I despise the notion of taking that option away, even if it's hardly a stellar one.

So, are you happy now? I did say I'd complain if something like that happened, so here you go.

Edit: Because I may not have been clear enough, let me reiterate: I see fundamentally nothing wrong with doing something about Swagplay, though I'm not nearly skilled enough to know for sure whether it's the right thing to do. However, preventing use of Swagger for what it was originally meant to do, even if it's bad at doing so... let's just say I'm not a fan. That's why I was hoping it'd be a combo ban with Foul Play.


  1. I congratulate you for being true to your word. Once again, the childish term Smoron is sadly making sense.

  2. Smogon isn't law. I do whatever I want, I breed whatever I want, and I play how I want.

  3. I haven't been too enamored with Smogon's OU policy recently and haven't been following this suspect test much, but I do agree with Smogon's decision from what I understand of the situation. SwagPlay as a strategy is notoriously noobish and everyone knows it. It's not the issue of whether or not it is good at high levels of play. If enough people hate that strategy (and obviously they do based on the turnout and huge majority vote) then the strategy is a problem, and it would be unwise to not do anything about it.

    Banning a single move ended up being the decision with the least collateral damage. Let's be honest; Swagger was not used for phasing nearly an much as it was used for this very often catastrophic purpose of SwagPlay. In my experience, it was more akin to Moody than Sand Veil in the degree to which it could screw the opponent over. It wasn't a top-tier tactic, but it wasn't terrible like that infinite-stalling tactic that has been disallowed. I don't have a problem at all with the decision to ban Swagger.

    1. Honestly, I'm fine with doing something about Swagplay. I am, however, NOT fine with anyone trying to use Swagger for what it's supposed to do not being allowed to do so, even if it's shit.

    2. It's probably just a difference in philosophy, then, As a former Ubers tester, I tend to value a minimal banlist. I am also rather averse to combo bans that are not absolutely necessary. I understand that it is a very good thing for new players to be able to experiment with bad moves/items/Pokémon for the sake of feeling their way around the metagame and having fun along the way. It is just that in my opinion, the benefits of a simple and comprehensible banlist probably outweigh the restriction of creativity in this case. I really am curious what non-Swagplay Pokémon would be hurt the most by this ban.

    3. "Simple and Comprehensible?" Making a point like this:
      - Pokemon that have both swagger and foul play in their moveslots

      Is too complicated for n00bs to understand? Do you think everyone entering competitive play is the Irate Gamer? That's just insulting to me. And as for what non-swagplay pokemon could be hurt, see my ninetales below. I'm sure there's other pokemon that can use it well without foul play or prankster (like gengar), but since restriction of creativity is okay with you I guess players are discouraged from thinking outside the box.

    4. Not to mention, Swift Swim could've gotten a simple ban like that too last gen because it was complete trash with just Rain Dance. Did things go that way? No, they decided to leave the Rain Dance option there, even if it sucked.

  4. The thing is, Swagger is so absolutely shit that the only good use was in conjunction with something else. This scenario is not such that both sides are useful but in conjunction are broken, this is one where one side is useful and the other simply is not. Why ban extra things when you can keep the list simple? Makes perfect sense to me.

  5. As someone who is a long time user of a swagger/substitute/fire spin/hypnosis ninetales, I'm on Slowflake's side in this.

  6. Agreed, Slow. I doubt many people are using Swagger outside of a Swagplay combo (hell, the only person I saw abusing it was Klefki), but there's absolutely no reason it shouldn't have been a combo.

  7. Smogon is ridiculously simple about its banning policies. Instead of banning Blaziken with Speed Boost, they just ban the Pokemon completely. Instead of banning Excadrill with Sand Force, they once again ban it completely. It makes no sense. Both of these Pokemon are viable in OU and not OP with their other abilities and can still see use on teams. The people who frequent Smogon are way too simple minded. Banning Swagger is silly, because Swagger is a double edged sword - your opponent can free itself of confusion and wreck you, it can be Bounced back, opponent can send out a special attacker with 0 Atk IVs against your Swag user, they can use it to their advantage or bring out something immune to confusion, etc. Banning Swagplay makes sense, at least somewhat, because that's harder to counter and it's an actual technique rather than a tack-on move. Banning the technique will also make people smarter about how they use Swagger by itself too, as it opens more doors and gives people the potential to try out new shit.

    I haven't been using Smogon recently because I don't have the time (though admittedly I would otherwise), but the community there is dreadful and they get upset over stupid things far too easily. I understand some of their bands, like M-Gengar to an extent and M-Kanga, and Snow Cloak/Sand Veil somewhat, but for the most part it just seems like an overwhelming amount of Smogon frequenters don't know how to counter things and just get frustrated way too easily. Not to mention a lot of people are complete assholes and have really poor fighting spirit and the mods don't usually do shit about it. It's a damn shame really. It used to be cool and had a lot of potential, but poor moderation and banhappy people have soured the entire thing for me.

    1. (I realize Exca's not banned in OU anymore, but my comment still stands. Also, that was quite a tangent, and I apologize if I've said anything unnecessary.)

  8. Smogon is way out of hand now. Essentially, they ban anything that they have a problem with in battle. Swagger isn't a bad move. Any Guts poke will see a benefit as will a poke that carries a Lum/Persim berry. My Guts Machamp carries a persim for that very reason. Smogon is scared of EVERYTHING. Blaziken is still used. Speed boost? Ok, big deal. Talonflame checks him now so it doesn't matter. Excadrill can't take a super-effective attack from a decent Poke so it shouldn't have been on anyone's banlist. Come prepared to battle, Smogon. Learn the game, learn how to play, learn how to stop things, and get better. Banning everything doesn't make anybody a better trainer. It just goes to show how ineffective they really are from a training standpoint.

    1. Cool Machamp you have there, bro.
      "My Guts Machamp carries a persim for that very reason."
      Essentially, this is one of the reasons why the competitive community hated swagger so much, because some were forced to carry obscure counters such as that in the case that they ran into a swagplay based team. I'm not an avid machamp user, but if I were to run the guts set, I'm pretty sure a burn orb would give it a more reliable guts boost rather than rely on a swagplayer to give my machamp the ability to sweep.
      Excadrill ain't banned anymore bro. When it WAS banned, it was because of it's abilities sand rush/sand force which either boosted it's attack or more importantly, speed to mind-numbingly high levels, which was heavily abused by gen 5 perma weather. It doesn't help that it's got a neat 110 base HP, so it's not exactly frail, and it'll put a hole the size of texas in any of your mons with that stellar base 135 attack before they can lay a finger on it (unless your team consists of 6 mach punch users) . However, perma weather doesn't exist anymore, so no abuse anymore phew, and now excadrill is kind of meh in this meta.

      Talonflame checks blaziken pretty well, as does quick attack pinsir, and a couple of others. However,like you said, it's merely a "check", and after all, the logic is flawed as it opens up a variety of possibilities:
      Rayquaza is checked by weavile. Should rayquaza be unbanned? Lol
      Mewtwo is checked by bisharp, should mewtwo be unbanned? lolno
      Xerneas is checked by scizor, should Xerneas be unbanned? Lololol
      And it goes on.

      I don't mean to sound snarky, but could you play the smogon metagame a bit more before you criticise it? I'm not saying I know exactly how much you play competitive, but this is my assumption, and I may be wrong.

  9. If you had any form of skill, swagplay was a non-issue. If you got abused by this strategy, then the problem was with YOUR team. Not the tactic. Learn to adapt people. Is confusion annoying? Yes (Although it will probably be banned at this rate), but is it something to cry about? Not at all. It's a status in the game that we've been seeing since freaking Koga. And Foul Play is hardly a game breaking move. Talk to any team that has a Dark, Fighting, or Fairy type on it. None of those guys were phased by that move (Sometimes I feel like people aren't taking enough advantage with Fairy types). And I'm just talking about countering this tactic with types. You can do so much to avoid this if you have the right items, moves, or abilities that most teams will have on their team somewhere.

    SwagPlay didn't break the game. It just made noobs realize how bad they were at it and rather than change their Neanderthal tactics, they complained until mommy Smogon removed the key piece of it.

    I for one, was pro-SwagPlay. I thought it was a unique and unconventional tactic that worked half the time at best.

    I also want to point out that if people were abusing SwagPlay as much as everyone said they were, don't you think they would have been ranked high enough to vote for it? I think Smogon needs to get off their high horses and realize they don't need to ban every little game change that comes their way.

  10. Lol at the comments which say "eww smogon banned swagplay b/c they don't have skill ew ew, my specialised counter machamp can easily beat it, if they can't beat it they'll ban it lol nuubs"
    To be honest, I never had much of a problem with swagger by itself. However, Swagger+foul play was irritating AF, and it didn't really help that most dark/fighting types, the only ones with resistance to foul play besides fairy types, mostly had pretty high base attack to begin with, making confusion damage even higher.

    And then there's Swagger+foul play+T-wave. Virtually no reliable counters unless your team is based around electric types, blissey, or some ridiculous specialised counter.

    Yet, I'll have to agree with you, a blanket ban of swagger is a bit too much. I wouldn't mind a ban of Swag+FP in one set, or even a ban of Swag+fp+twave, although smogon isn't a fan of complicated bans, which makes sense.