Double Trouble: Feeling Lucky, PUCL?

Prepare for trouble, and, as always, make it double, Puclonians! Have you missed me? I missed you. But Work. Has. Been. Hectic.

This week’s installment is a follow-up to my last one about how inescapable luck is in Pokémon. And if something is inescapable, why not utilize it. If you can’t beat it, join it, right? So without further delay, here are some tips to making luck your lady in the VGC.

In Accuracy We Trust

The difference between perfect accuracy and anything less than 100% cannot be sufficiently magnified. Yes, it can be seen as the age-old power versus accuracy argument, but it bears emphasizing for very good, format-related reasons. When you are only playing on a ladder where you do not have a limited amount of opponents to play against and you can keep playing even after a hax-ified game, using less-than-perfect accuracy moves is not as much of an issue. You can make up for luck and hax in future games where things will even out. But if you are playing in a VGC event, that luxury no longer exists and anything less than always hitting now comes with much higher potential risks. Especially if the early rounds are best-of-one instead of best-of-three. Suddenly, what place you come in depends much more heavily on how consistent your team can be. And accuracy can be a very large part of that consistency. It’s why we are starting to see Flamethrower on the likes of Mega Charizard Y despite Overheat getting FAR more OHKOs in the Sun, but coming with the risk of only 90% accuracy – crucial Overheat misses (and Heat Wave-misses, for that matter) have determined many games.

This is not to say one must ALWAYS use only 100% accurate moves on all their Pokémon on every team ever. Sometimes there are just no viable alternative options to moves that lack perfect accuracy. Going back to the Overheat/Flamethrower example, if you do not need the power of Overheat for specific threats but merely for a STAB-and-sun boosted single-target fire attack to roast opponents with, Flamethrower sounds like a great option. But that Overheat boosted by STAB and sun hits a LOT harder and can net a lot more OHKOs. If Overheat is the only way to get those on your team and Flamethrower simply will not accomplish what you need Overheat for, then it is a different story. A lot of teams use Mega Charizard Y’s Overheat to punch holes in an opponent’s team that alternative options will not be able to replicate.

And sometimes, there simply are not even alternative that are even merely somewhat close. There are no perfectly accurate physical Rock type attacks to be used in the VGC, for example. So we have no choice but to settle for the 90% accuracy of Rock Slide, and occasionally the MUCH rarer Stone Edge. And yet, in spite of its imperfect accuracy, many players consider Rock Slide to be the best move in the VGC format (more on that shortly). Just be aware of what completely accurate options there ARE. For example, the ever-popular Hyper Voice to be spammed by the likes of Sylveon, Mega Gardevoir, and Mega Salamence is a completely accurate spread attack, as is Earthquake, as is Dazzling Gleam, as is Blizzard in the Hail, and as are a number of other options. Meanwhile, attacks such as Rock Slide, Heat Wave, and Muddy Water, all very viable spread attacks, notably do NOT have perfect accuracy and they WILL inevitably miss at the most inopportune moments.

Secondary Things Second

Secondary Effects are awesome. Scald has become a more popular move than stronger Water type attacks in no small part thanks to carrying a 30% chance to burn the target. And even in spite of having imperfect accuracy and there being a 1% chance of missing BOTH targets, Rock Slide is considered by many VGC players to be the best move in the game thanks to applying a 30% flinch chance to both opposing Pokémon. We certainly cannot forget that while Ice Beam is mainly used to maim things 4x weak to it, it also carries with it a 10% chance to Freeze opponents solid!

These secondary effects can completely turn games around and often effect the decisions we make in battle. And that can be well and good, so long as one does not fall victim to the gambler’s fallacy. What is the gambler’s fallacy, you ask? The belief that you are “owed” a certain outcome based on previous instances. For example, if you have used Scald 10 times in a row and still have not gotten a single Burn from it, if you believed that this somehow made you all the more likely to get a Burn from Scald on your next turn (especially to the point of feeling entitled to it) you would be falling victim to the gambler’s fallacy. Each use of the move Scald comes with a 30% chance of getting a burn, regardless of what your previous outcomes with the move were. Do NOT factor in previous outcomes or patterns when determining whether or not to use a move for its secondary effects. You are NOT owed a certain outcome just because you may have failed to receive it repeatedly previously; remember that. Do not fall for that mistake.

Know When You SHOULD Push For Luck

Situations exist where you very explicitly DO have to rely on luck to win. And if luck is your only win condition, obviously you should go for it. DO NOT HAVE HONOR ABOUT IT if your goal is to win as much as possible. There are situations where you need to successfully use Protect three times in a row to win despite having a 1-in-3 chance of it working a second time and a 1-in-9 chance of succeeding the third time. There are also definitely situations where slapping an opponent with Swagger and Thunder Wave (and ideally Rock Slide as well) is your best course of action as well. Like when your team is at a disadvantage against that of your opponent and literally any other move reduces your chances of winning. This is honestly something that has the prerequisite of knowledge of the VGC format and enough experience to know when that is the case.

To emphasize how real this is, back in VGC 14 when Lapras was seeing an impressive amount of use, a good number of top players actually considered Sheer Cold to be deserving of the fourth move slot on it on certain teams. SHEER COLD. It is a type of tactic to use only when there is no better option, but, hey, there are situations where there are no better options.

So are you feeling lucky, PUCL? How about luckier than before, at least? Maximize your odds and until next time, it looks like I’ll be blasting off again!

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