Sunday, 3 August 2014

[VG] Introducing the Anti-Talonflame

(Artist: ColonelCheru)

Well, this blog could totally use more actual Pokémon stuff... For the Nugget Bridge Invitational (please let's not talk about my showing, haha), I have in fact cooked up a little something that is pretty interesting. I shall apologize beforehand if this has been done before to this extent, but because I've been a bit out of the loop for my period of inactivity after Bochum, there's hardly a way for me to notice – and then I just searched through the places I knew, where no one seemed to have my idea before me. I find it somewhat surprising, because it's really no rocket-science... Anyway, the Anti-Talonflame. That's what I call this device that is nothing more than a Talonflame, first and foremost, that is designed to never lose Talonflame mirrors without giving up too much of its defining properties outside of that job.

Motivation and Assumptions

So I was dicking around with yet another incarnation of this Mega Tyranitar + Swords Dance Garchomp combo that apparently worked pretty well for some Japanese players in the International Challenges. Since I can't successfully use Amoonguss for the life of me, I went mostly for pretty offensive company to these. Three of the four slots I changed multiple times, but what stayed from the beginning to the end was a pretty natural choice as well: Talonflame.

In a nutshell, this team was pretty effective at simply outspeeding and outpowering stuff – assuming I wouldn't make too many bad trades. Now, there is one quite detrimental thing that is not at all unlikely to happen: both players have Talonflame out, it's a Speed tie, it's an OHKO, both enter Brave Bird, the winner is decided on a coin flip and the loser is pretty much guaranteed an unfavorable turn. The first thing I did was just change the nature from the expected Adamant to Jolly, but well, I've already been there with Kingdra a year before, and the false assumption that no one else would be this “smart”, naturally, led to a fatal error. Also naturally, I did run into a Talonflame that outsped mine – expected it to happen eventually, and my confirmation (at least) came around quickly this time.

So that is all of the motivation. What I'm now assuming is that we're using a mostly generic Choice Band Talonflame whereof we will modify the EVs to do some new things, because the raw power of Choice Band is exactly what my team wanted. There will be a section on non-CB builds toward the end of the entry as well, but I'll leave the actual building of those Anti-Talonflames to those who are actually in need of them, also noting that there are in fact multiple ways to manipulate the matchup.

Oh, and last but not least, I'm defining “not losing the mirror” as: my Talonflame either beats the other Talonflame or, when getting knocked out by the other Talonflame, it will fall as well from the recoil. Getting the 1-1 trade is the minimum I want to guarantee (ignoring the obvious crits or other extrinsic modifiers), and the likelihood of getting the actual win based on that is what I want to maximize.

Finding Optimal Choice Band Builds

Guaranteeing a Hit

First, the numbers that are the most important to start this: Brave Bird damage.

  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Talonflame: 163-193 (105.8 - 125.3%) -- guaranteed OHKO
  • 252 Atk Choice Band Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Talonflame: 148-175 (96.1 - 113.6%) -- 75% chance to OHKO

This confirms what we already knew: generic Adamant builds annihilate each other as if they were typical special Dragons. But it also tells us: Simply going Jolly instead already brings about an 80%ish chance to win out, assuming it's a definitive Speed advantage. If both players had the same idea, it obviously drops down to something below 50% again. More numbers that are not directly in the damage calculator's output but also possibly important: the Talonflames have 154 max HP, Adamant takes 51 recoil, Jolly takes between 49 and 51 recoil. Recoil increases against builds with more HP but the same Defense, damage and thus also recoil drops when using different Items.

The obvious (well, maybe not?) thing one would try now is to guarantee survival, in order to get a hit in that definitely kills. Here are the simplified calculations for exactly that:

  • 252+ Atk Choice Band Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 4 HP / 188 Def Talonflame: 129-153 (83.7 - 99.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
  • 252 Atk Choice Band Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 4 HP / 108 Def Talonflame: 129-153 (83.7 - 99.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

Leaving the defenders at full Attack for now, the attackers chip themselves into OHKO range no matter what. The recoil is 43 or more, which is still enough to lead to an 1-1 trade even if two of these semi-defensive Talonflames fought each other!

So theoretically, we're actually done now, this is it. Practically, there are still a bunch of optimizations to be made. First, the HP/Def split could be altered – with Talonflame's base Defense being weaker than its base HP, I doubt you can actually save points though. Second, need to have a good look at what happens to Talonflame's actual defining stats: Attack and Speed.

Practical Optimizations

Let's look at an Adamant Anti-Talonflame first. Since it could possibly be outsped by all other Talonflames it faces, it does want the full 4/188 bulk. Assuming 252 Atk, this leaves only 60 Spe left, for a stat of a measly 154. That just outspeeds the neutral-natured base 100 group (Mega Kangaskhan, Zapdos, all Charizards) by 2 points. I daresay that feels as if Talonflame had no Speed to begin with in most matchups, and with people even bringing back Timid non-Scarf Hydreigons, you better wouldn't Flare Blitz as long as you're not absolutely certain that your Talonflame is the fastest mon on the field (and also important, it could be trolled by Sucker Punches no matter what). What you actually likely want to outspeed could possibly be Mienshao (is just above Garchomp and can be annoying with Quick Guard and Rock moves): requires a 173 stat, or 212 EV. That leaves only 100 remaining for Atk.

Now Jolly is the one that seems to be allowing for more wiggling room at first sight, since you don't actually need the Defense to survive an Adamant Brave Bird, but you do need the Speed investment to actually make a point out of not being Adamant. Turns out, it in fact is!

Trivial Adamant: 154 (4) 146 (252+) 91 89 178 (252)
“Optimized” Adamant: 154 (4) 125 (100+) 115 (188) 90 (4) 173 (212)
“Better Adamant”: 154 (4) 125 (188) 115 (188) 90 (4) 173 (92+) 32 EV leftover!
Optimized Jolly: 154 (4) 133 (252) 105 (108) 90 (4) 179 (132+) 8 EV leftover!
Trivial Jolly: 154 (4) 133 (252) 91 89 195 (252+)

First thing we see is that the proposed speedy Adamant variant is plain trash. If you want to go Adamant (or more precisely, if you need the power over the Speed), plain and simple, drop your Speed, then it's still valid – otherwise go Jolly. And preferably don't use one based on the middle variant either, because it's still rather inefficient overall. So, what Anti-Talonflames are actually good for use: the bolded variant if Jolly and a variant that doesn't care about Speed much if Adamant.

Final Optimizations

The next thing you can do is shift the HP/Def balance a bit for less weather and recoil impact in a lot of situations outside the Talonflame mirror, but it comes at the disadvantage of costing more points the further you go. One can probably justify taking an OHKO by the max damage roll in order to free up a point or something, but I can't see that bringing actual benefits though, so it's mostly a matter of personal preference...

It could also be prudent to have yet another look at the Speed. In fact, that's what I did for my personal final spread. I noticed that Mega Lucario sits just there at 180, and it tends to be annoying for teams that use Megatar. So I tried to free up points in order to outspeed and nail it with Flare Blitz (since it's very likely to survive a Jolly Brave Bird). The final point I needed for it just happened to come out of the Attack, which is just due to the somewhat strange fact that, while a point of Attack less does change calculations overall, it still keeps the 12/16 damage rolls to OHKO trivial Talonflames.

Thus, my final spread ended up being 155 (12) HP / 132 (244) Atk / 104 (100) Def / 90 (4) SpDef / 181 (148+) Spe. Copy that if you will, but with how tight the numbers actually are, I do advise everyone who wants to run an Anti-Talonflame to re-evaluate all the details against the team it's going to be put in.

Some Notes on Other Items

Life Orb is the first one that comes to mind here. It's inferior in the sense that it makes OHKOing other Talonflames harder and also decreases general damage output while, naturally, granting more flexibility. Choice Band Jolly, my current favorite, offers the option to snipe other Talonflames before they even get to do something, and that one thing would get out of reach by using Life Orb immediately. However, in the odd case that a lot of people start to copy my idea, Choice Band Jolly would lose that advantage, and then Life Orb could potentially be just as good for the job. I'm saving calculations around that for the time when they will in fact be interesting. In any case, it's noteworthy that the original Talonflame of the worldwide most copied team in format happens to actually be Life Orb Anti-Talonflame – it's just unoptimized and risks to fall to the max damage roll.

Well, and then there are also a few more obscure Items for Anti-Talonflame jobs. The first one is Focus Sash, which looks like it could do the trick as well, but it's quite harder and you better have other good reasons to run that item in the first place. The general idea would be to maximize the recoil they take from attacking you (i.e., you don't invest into Defense, might even consider bad IV or nature for kicks) and then finish them off with your own Brave Bird. Obvious ways to circumvent this: weather damage, defensive Talonflame or even just the wrong attacking order that can change the recoil unfavorably. However, it's noteworthy that critical hits mess with about everything I've mentioned so far pretty badly while Focus Sash simply says nope, haha. So in a nutshell, I shall just repeat what I already said: Immediately forget about Focus Sash, unless you are already using it for entirely different reasons.

Last one's quite intriguing, I've run into it during my own testing: highly defensive Talonflames with Rocky Helmet. The actual purpose of it is – what else would it be? – to troll Kangaskhan, but it might help in shifting Talonflame matchups as well. It's another thing I'm not calcing yet because I egoistically don't have a use for a supporting Talonflame right now and don't know the generally assumed spread for it, but for the few people already running that, go ahead and check your calculations for the mirror. If those work out perfectly or are feasibly close to that, it makes this rogue idea even better.


Yeah, so this is it, my possibly biggest contribution to this format that I still actually haven't found a real way into (but who has anyway?). In a nutshell, the Anti-Talonflame nullifies a bit of this fishing for Speed ties that I so despise ever since it has cost me multiple tournament performances. It's in fact a very rare concept in Pokémon to be guaranteed to be able to at least trade an A against another A with both at full health, and if that A just happens to stand for the common priority nuisance of Talonflame, isn't that simply beautiful? I take pride in effectively removing an element of RNG from the game and I'd be very happy to see my idea be represented at Worlds in less than two weeks, especially if doing well on top of that!

However, to keep things as moderate as they should be: The Anti-Talonflame is in no way a savior of all living or something, it's just a nice buzzword for a neat concept. It very much relies on its team to be good at what it does to win matches, because a Talonflame ultimately still is but a Talonflame. That flimsy bird is absolutely nothing anyone should consider building a team around, but if you do happen to use a Talonflame to help your team along, might as well consider tweaking it to do some nifty things.

Bonus: Some Words on Quick Guard Stalling

It's obvious that all this stuff here is turned into a semblance of a joke when someone choses the sissy's way out of the mirror by spamming Quick Guard, haha. The key to this situation obviously is to have a mon in the partner slot that either beats the opposing Talonflame's partner, or can efficiently cross-attack with Talonflame so that the Quick Guard will be punished by regular priority. With all this in mind, we remember once again that Quick Guard is a very unreliable/risky move against people that know what they're doing and thus shouldn't be worried about more than absolutely necessary. Or, to be a bit more precise, Quick Guard really isn't a bigger problem than simply our good old Protect, and we deal with that mostly by playing it out / outplaying it.

Will write more Pokémon stuff any time between soon and never, I'll basically only know when I do. Take care.

1 comment:

  1. Great Read and interesting thoughts! Interessant wie immer :]