Prepare for trouble, and you BETTER make it double!
While PUCLcon attended the US National Championships, I noticed of number of PUCLonians articulate frustration and dissatisfaction with the fact that in so many of the VGC battles that were streaming over the weekend repeatedly featured Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre. In fact, there probably was not a single battle on air that did not feature at least one of the two… from each side. They are both popular to the point of omnipresence and for good reason, of course.
And because of that, I decided to write about the concept of opportunity cost and the Primals this week.
Opportunity cost is something that applies to all formats of playing Pokémon, not just the VGC or Primals. For those unfamiliar with the term, its origins stemming from economics, opportunity cost is basically the value of what you DON’T have when you have to make a choice between things. As an example we can all relate to, when starting a new Pokémon game and selecting your starter Pokémon, whichever starter you choose comes with the opportunity cost of the two other Pokémon you do not select because you lose all the benefits of starting with those Pokémon instead.
Opportunity costs abound in competitive Pokémon, whether you play in the VGC, Smogon’s OU format, Ubers, Little Cup, et cetera. When teambuilding, because you can only have six Pokémon, every Pokémon you choose to put on your team takes a slot that can no longer be occupied by something else. Once you have your six Pokémon selected, ALL other Pokémon that are not on your team are the opportunity cost of your team. Opportunity cost also comes in to play when you have to select the four moves a Pokémon knows and is especially relevant to Pokémon known to have four moveslot syndrome. If a Pokémon has a plethora of moves that are viable on it, deciding which four to go with incurs an opportunity cost of the other moves, and defines what the Pokémon will and will not be able to accomplish (that it otherwise could have). It also applies to Mega Evolution – you can only Mega Evolve one Pokémon per battle. Usually this means you only pick one Pokémon to give a Mega Stone to on your team, but if you happen to have pick two, you have to decide which one to Mega Evolve with the opportunity cost being the other Pokémon’s Mega Evolution. Other examples include the one item a Pokémon can equip, status effects on the opponent, Sleep clause, leads, coverage, etc….The list of opportunity costs that exist in Pokémon goes on.
The rules of the VGC , specifically, introduce types of opportunity costs that do not exist in other types of battling formats. The Items Clause, for example, dictates that you cannot have two of the same item on your team, preventing one from lackadaisically slapping Leftovers and Life Orb left and right on all their Pokémon when they cannot decide what item would be best. When you are only afforded one Choice Scarf and one Life Orb to your team, which Pokémon gets to hold what can get to be tricky as it comes with the opportunity cost of your other Pokémon having the item. Being able to bring only four of your six Pokémon to a battle also brings with it an opportunity cost unique to the VGC as you do not get to benefit from the two Pokémon you do not bring to a battle.
But the reason we are talking about opportunity cost at all this week is because of a specific type of opportunity cost that does not exist in every VGC format but is huge this year: restricted Legendary Pokémon.
When the rules for VGC 16 were announced and we all learned that the box art-starring Legendary Pokémon would be available to use this year reactions varied. Some were scared, others excited. But considering how rarely these Pokémon get to be used competitively, it was nice to see them get their moment. After all, how often do you get to USE that Lugia or Yveltal or whatever it may be that you caught on your cartridge in a competitive format? In the VGC, not since 2010.
But players are only allowed TWO of these Restricted Pokémon to their team, which makes picking which to use a very important decision and which brings us back to opportunity cost. Of the list of Restricted Pokémon to pick from, the most popular by a large margin are Groudon, Kyogre, Rayquaza, and Xerneas. There have been quite a number of other Restricted Pokémon that have been used to great success, and that will definitely be the topic of a future article, but if you are not prepared for those four, you have already lost.
Of the four most popular Restricted Pokémon, it is exceedingly rare to encounter a team that does not run at least one of the two Primals in Groudon and Kyogre (although successful teams without them do exist, it must be said). Why is this? Is the opportunity cost of not having the Primal Reversions really so great?
Basically, yes. It is. A Primal Reversion is a Mega Evolution that does NOT count as your one Mega Evolution allowed per battle, their stats are absurdly high compared to most of their competition for your precious two restricted slots, their mega weather abilities are colossal in impact and shut down a lot of what the opposite Primal can do – and because of how common they are, being able to shut down an opposing Primal’s Water or Fire attacks is huge, encouraging you to use them to counter your opponents who use them. If you are not using one and your opponent is, the options available to you to shut down its weather are narrow and well known (no, Golduck is not going to take the VGC by storm). To not use the Primal Reversions, you better have a very compelling reason.
And the fact that they get to Primal Revert while still allowing you to have another Pokémon on your team Mega Evolve on top of not competing for items desired by other Pokémon reduced opportunity costs for you. It is no wonder teams using both Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre together saw a spike in popularity a couple of months back. Two Primal Reversions AND a Mega Evolution let you benefit from boosting three Pokémon in one battle.
So the Primal Reversions are everywhere and will be for the rest of the VGC 16 format. The opportunity cost of NOT using them is so high. But if you ever tire of seeing them, and many do, be of good cheer and remember the VGC format changes every single year! And give them their moment. This is pretty much the only time we will get to see Primordial Sea and Desolate Land function in a doubles format, giving us many unique combinations and strategies that will not exist in future years.
Until next time PUCL! Looks like I’m blasting off again!