Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Are mega evolutions a failure?

Much to most people's surprise, the suspect test for Aegislash has been immediately followed by one for Mega Mawile. Just to go over things quickly, it has two primary sets: Swords Dance sweeper and Subpunch, off higher firepower than the likes of Mega Kangaskhan and Mega Mewtwo X, with the exalted presence of a Sucker Punch that outdamages Arceus' Extremespeed. And for two moves that don't even get STAB, Sucker Punch and Focus Punch share incredible synergy - one meant for use against direct attacks, the other otherwise (or hidden behind a sub). Yet one can't discount the enormous power behind the Swords Dance set, either.

This leads to a prediction game where correctly guessing what your opponent will do might give you a chance at halting Mega Mawile (easier said than done with its exceptional typing and workable defenses), but otherwise you pretty much lost the game. Which leads into the point I want to make today: prediction has always been part of Pokémon, and one of its most beautiful aspects at that. Yet even that is being challenged today with the old (read: new) 50/50 argument. Let it be known: I don't like how something that's been there for 18 years and not only accepted, but ultimately encouraged, is suddenly a scourge that has to be purged.

HOWEVER, the problem isn't guesswork itself, but the consequences of picking wrong in the gen 6 environment. Until now, if you picked the wrong move, or switched at the wrong time or whatever, the worst-case scenario was usually losing a single Pokémon. Gen 6 turned that notion upside down, though, with the advent of mega evolutions. Go back to last gen, if you please. Remember why Pokémon like Darmanitan, Chandelure and Haxorus failed as hard as they did despite their overwhelming firepower? Because they were neither fast enough, nor had enough survivability. Fast forward to gen 6, and we've already banned terrors like Mega Gengar, Mega Lucario and Mega Kangaskhan that not only had overwhelming amounts of power, but also the ability to actually USE it. And use it a lot, too. Mega Mawile is a bit from the same mold. Highest attack power in the game, gifted with an exceptional movepool, possibly the best defensive typing in the game's history, and just enough defenses to use it well.

Should it be banned? Forget it, I'm not going there, especially since I'm not only not that educated compared to the better players, but also inherently biased towards smaller banlists. I still believe gratuitous hate on Smogon is uncalled for, because to quote one of my former regulars: "They’re trying to balance a game that’s poorly balanced in itself, so of course things are going to get banned, especially since gen 6 introduced mega evolutions." Anyone who believes the "official" definition of standard Pokémon play is anywhere near balanced is on par with those eejits who argue that tiers don't exist in SSB and all characters are miraculously perfectly balanced, despite how Ganondorf can't even get a 50% win ratio in a mirror matchup.

Anyway, those combinations of power, speed and/or bulk mean that when faced with those megas (and it's easy to argue in favor of Aegislash being cut from the same cloth), you no longer risk losing one Pokémon to a bad decision, you risk losing the GAME. And that's what makes many of those mega evolutions so far above and beyond anything we'd ever seen before: the risk/reward ratio of running them. There's little risk in using one of these monsters either way, yet the rewards reaped are out of this world.

Which leads back to the concept of mega evolution itself. The basic notion was to make a creative way of giving weaker Pokémon some much-needed viability (and then give some to fan-favorites like Tyranitar and Gengar just to market the whole thing better). But in hindsight, the execution may have been lacking. We've already lost a few megas, right now Mawile is being tested, but what's next? Gardevoir? Medicham? Heracross? Yeah, Gamefreak may have messed up with this whole mega evolution thing. The idea of giving some Pokémon a boost was great, and while anyone with a brain could tell Gengar and Lucario would end up as they did, the likes of Kangaskhan, Mawile, Medicham and Gardevoir were starting from so far back that it was impossible to tell at which point they'd become gamebreakers. Even for Gamefreak.

So I can't really hate on them, no matter how much I'd like to if I was into knee-jerk reactions. I mean, they really couldn't go with small, incremental improvements until they reached a desirable result, it would've taken too long. So they essentially had one shot at it, and it's easy for us armchair experts to say how it should've been done after the fact, but we have the benefit of hindsight that they didn't have. Did they implement it poorly? Yeah, probably. Could they have done a better job? My honest opinion: only through dumb luck. I mean, aside from Gengar and Lucario, many previous OUs have megas, and they're perfectly fine (and yes, for the purpose of this write-up I'm going to call Mega Garchomp sucking the big one fine). The reason for that? Because Gamefreak held back and didn't improve them too much beyond stats, and even there the stat boosts are often defensive in nature (especially in Scizor and Tyranitar's case). The baseline was already at a desirable level, so it was easier to micromanage just what they wanted to give them. Heck, I'll even be generous and acknowledge that they noticed Lucario needed a hand, because regular Lucario just isn't very good nowadays.

Do the math: despite the OU banlist being ever-expanding, only two non-legendaries, non-megas have been banned thus far: Blaziken and Aegislash. And unfortunately, I don't see it changing any time soon - as I just mentioned, all the likely suspect candidates from now until ORAS comes out are megas. Are we supposed to consider megas as being on par with legendaries - some are overpowered, some aren't, and that's the way it's supposed to be? To be quite frank, I'm not a fan of that notion. Gamefreak CLEARLY meant for all megas to be used in standard play - you won't see any one of them (aside from those that belong to already banned legendaries) banned in an official tournament, for better or for worse. This is a shame, because I was totally behind the concept at first, and it's only now that I'm realizing that Gamefreak may have gotten in over their heads with it.

Of course, this is only one reading of the situation. What's yours?

22 comments:

  1. Not all megas are broken. Of course a few are but you cannot avoid that again 20/20 vision blah blah blah. However you don't see aerodactyl pulling to many sweeps. So are megas a failure? No. Not in my opinion. Some rotten eggs do spoil the bunch but people often forget about the other megas, not saying you did but others do. when "mega" comes up how often do you hear about aggron or houndoom or banette? not often. I believe that to many people just lump megas together as a whole again not saying you did. If a couple of the more powerful megas got banned like mawile and possible medicham (personally i don't think any others would be banned) it would allow the others to shine more. Of course if that happened Pinsir Gardevoir and Heracross would rain but maybe more Manectric or houndoom or areodactyl could be seen. Of course this is all speculation and i will end up eating me words like always but again 20/20 vision blah blah blah

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    1. Just gonna nitpick and say Manectric is already OU. That aside, I understand your point. Nonetheless, you have to remember that putting aside Lati@s, we currently have access to 28 megas. The Mewtwos are banned, of course, as is Blaziken. But then you have Gengar, Lucario and Kangaskhan that are already gone. We're down to 22 right there, Judging by the way people are talking about it (some are even outright saying it should've been tested before Aegislash), Mawile's not staying for long, That's already a quarter of all megas gone, and a few more casualties could increase the count to a full third. So while we haven't reached a critical point yet, it happening in the foreseeable future is actually feasible.

      Heck, as far as the new ones go Metagross and Diancie are looking like a million bucks right now, especially with the former getting a huge speed boost (which almost certainly means a trip to triple-digit land).

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    2. Yes a third of the first batch of megas might be. However hopefully gamefreak will learn from the first batch and make the following better. Of course the latis and others you mentioned will be strong without a doubt but diancie needed something and metagross was slipping a lot. Now from what we have seen the will be strong. OP? Again I speculate no. With the nerf steel got this gen metagross should be slightly easier to deal with. If steel was as defensive in years past them hell yeah it would be broken. Diancie again needed something. However it still has a shit move pool and has to go mixed if you want dual stab. If that's not fixed then I don't see it going anywhere. Lati@s will end up in ubers without a shadow of a doubt. Again this is just theory. As far as the other unreleased megas, I can only see sceptile going somewhere.

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    3. Fun fact: Metagross ranks slightly ahead of Lucario on the OU ladder. It gets 30% to everything bar Earthquake, whereas Lucario got 50% to both STABs. Both get important speed boosts from their megas. The two things that go against Metagross are its STAB coverage, and more importantly its inability to go mixed or special, unlike Lucario. Pure numbers say they're not that far from each other... but we'll see. This thing will be high OU at the lowest, guaranteed.

      Also, I don't see a nerf to Steel anywhere, aside from those that used to be neutral against Ghost and Dark... like Metagross (and, frighteningly enough, Aegislash for that matter). Aside from that, Steel gained so much from being the ultimate Fairy killer that it's unquestionably the best type in the entire game right now.

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    4. Yeah that nerf thing I said was a little far fetched. After rereading I not regret saying that. I also said in my head, "mailed could kill metagross with sucker punch easy." But then I remembered how this conversation started in the first place. However maybe bisharp or absol could kill it especially with stab. But this gets us to the realm of needing a specific pokemon to take down another which brings us to what happened to aegislash. So you are right, metagross will be freaking powerful.

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    5. Mawile nor mailed. Sorry typing this on a phone

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    6. Oh, and by the way, I was wrong. The boost for Lucario is 50% of regular damage, but since what Adaptability does is boost the STAB bonus from 1.5x to 2x, Lucario only gained 33% on its STAB moves. So essentially, Metagross is getting that same boost on every common offensive move it runs except Earthquake, not just its STABs. Yeah, I foresee a future in ubers for it.

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  2. Honestly, I wish G.F. thought over the idea of giving EVERY Mega a 100 stat increase to a Pokémon's BST. I don't see how Garchomp needed much more in terms of its BST(aside from *possibly* Sp.Attack). Though Gengar may be a fan favorite, that's NOT a valid excuse to give it a Mega Evo. with Shadow Tag of all things. They design the games, and yet they don't see the consequences of giving certain Pokémon new abilities, stats, moves, etc.? (Then again, Pikachu's only viable event move is STILL Surf, so I'm not sure I should be surprised)

    As I recall from a few years ago, you mentioned how G.F. employees(not sure if it was only the designers) had a lot of trouble dealing with Bronzong in a private tournament. Now, don't get me wrong. I know a good Bronzong player can really intimidate the opponent by making them question whether or not they should risk selecting a Ground or Fire move to see which ability the Bronzong has. However, you've almost never heard of it breaking the top 5, 10, 20, etc. on the usage lists, especially nowadays. But with Gengar, that's a WHOLE other story. It's one of the few Gen 1 veterans that has managed to stay in OU. While I realize G.F. doesn't COMPLETELY follow the competitive scene, I would've thought that they would think about how to handle such a risky move as giving a Special sweeper, which is still frail today, with base 110+ in both Sp. Attack and Speed even MORE attacking prowess. T.B.C.

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    1. Bronzong was an absolute terror back in the gen 4 days, though, so I can see how they could've struggled with it. I've been told Gamefreak put their hand up and apologized for Mega Kangaskhan, though I've never been shown actual proof.

      Also, IMO gen 7 should do away with Shadow Tag on everything not named Wobbuffet, since they've already tampered with it on Chandelure this gen.

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    2. The story seems to stem from a Tweet from Junichi Masuda and a Japanese website, but the translations does seem to suggest that at least he Acknowledged they went too far. However if a professional translator could delve further that would be great.

      http://pokemon-matome.net/articles/36658.html

      https://twitter.com/Junichi_Masuda/statuses/450619150109405184

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  3. Why should I care what Smogon does? (It should be noted I don't follow the metagame.)

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    1. Because they're the only ones actually attempting to balance a game that is horrifyingly unbalanced.

      If that means nothing to you, by all means, don't care. But understand that the game is horrifyingly unbalanced.

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  4. Not really in my opinion, since all of the Mega Evolutions are one of the following:

    A) Improved a not-so-good Pokemon
    B) Are not always used on the Pokemon, so it adds unpredictability
    C) Are banned, so you won't be seeing them.

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    1. It's the third category that's the problem. If half of them "Are banned, so you won't be seeing them", that's an issue.

      And as for B)... what the fuck runs without their Mega? All I can think of are T-Tar, Scizor, and Garchomp. If you see something else with a Mega, 99% of the time they're going to go Mega, and to anyone with a basic understanding of statistics that means it may as well be a sure deal.

      Also on A)'s subject, brilliant job with that. Some not so good pokemon still aren't so good (Banette still got the shit end of the stick) and others became too good (Hello 2 Kangaskhan, Gengar)

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    2. C: Well, since the "Banned" category consists of 3-4 Pokemon out of 28, it's not THAT bad...
      B:Gyarados also runs without Mega.
      A: Brilliant job indeed, since most of the remaining ones used to be average at best and roadkill at worst. Especially Banette and Mawile.

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    3. Gyarados rarely does so. Also, the "banned" category is six out of 28, not just three or four. And that number will probably inflate further in the coming months, if not weeks.

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    4. Really? Looking at Smogon, I remember only one of Gyarados' four OU sets using Gyaradosite, but I could be wrong...
      And I suppose I should've counted Mewtwo X and Y, but even regular Mewtwo has no business being in anything other than Uber...

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    5. Looking at Smogon's monthly stats, three Gyaradoses out of four are mega.

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    6. To be fair, if one out of four are not mega, it shows its viability. Maybe without it it wouldn't be in mid-OU but idk, it's mega is better BUT keeping it without does allow two great abilities, which is enough to at least consider using another Mega instead. It's more than one can say about some pokes who are dead in the water without its Mega.

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  5. I like seeing previously overlooked or forgotten Pokemon like Kangaskhan and Mawile become popular and relevant in the metagame, even if their success is hit-or-miss and there's a strong possibility of going too far. That's why we have Smogon to help balance the metagame, after all. Sure, official tournaments are going to be all over the place, but at least our metagame will have some level of balance even if we have to ban a large amount of Pokemon (and even consider an unusable Uber-Uber tier). I mean, mega-evolutions are really just extras anyway. You can still use the base forms in standard play (most of them), like mega evolutions never happened.

    The only thing I worry about is that the game is becoming too centralized around having a mega evolution on your team. The restriction of one to each team is obviously a good thing, but it's getting to the point where you NEED one on your team to have a chance, and that limits teambuilding options since we have so few megas so far. If you're playing in the OU tier, you're playing with six less megas automatically, and there's a bunch more that aren't up to par for that tier, so you're really just left with a handful of options for a Pokemon that almost has to be on your team.

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    1. To be fair, that's only an issue right now. We can be sure GameFreak will continue creating new Megas. Maybe they didn't have enough time or they just didn't want to create too many in case they were a complete failure. Who knows.

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  6. The thing that bothers me about this test is that it's so incredibly soon after the Aegislash ban that the metagame hasn't been given time to settle.

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