Sunday, 24 August 2014

[VG] There's a Traitor Amoonguss

(Artist: Celestial-Moo)

Hello post-Worlds depressive Pookaymanz out there. If someone asked me, what are the worst mons I've ever used, Amoonguss would probably be a big favorite to win this contest. It used to be a thing of bias, personal habits and what have you, but just recently, it turns out I haven't been wrong at all with my thinking that Amoonguss sucks. Here comes the rant about why this is the case and why I've randomly seen it coming from miles away! The article is going to have a chronological structure by formats, so we're starting with its introduction and ending with... its downfall.

2011: A New Toy

Well, it's not unlikely some of you don't even have an idea about this format, and you don't really need to be... But the format was only Unova-Dex Pokémon allowed, Amoonguss obviously is one of them and it was actually pretty useful back then. The metagame was somewhat hard-limited and Amoonguss happened to be really good at taking multiple hits from most mons in it, and that even without Regenerator available yet. The biggest threat to it clearly was Tornadus with Flying Gem Acrobatics, and that was commonly fixed by simply giving it a Coba Berry to hold. The next best thing to do the job would be some Fire types, like Chandelure or Darmanitan, but they already had this inherent issue of not matching with the entire metagame as well as Tornadus, making them less common to begin with. (However, rogue things like super-fast Amoonguss with Focus Sash did also exist!) So, for usage stats, Amoonguss was pretty much guaranteed to be at least top 5 in the Master Division throughout the year, and I totally contributed to that.

Let's talk a bit more about the options to deal with Amoonguss... Naturally, just OHKOing it isn't all you can do. The next obvious one is Taunt, which naturally, is almost as predictable thanks to the limited set of Pokémon learning it, let alone have the moveset space for it. It popped up every now and then, but it really wasn't too common. So that's it for what could be viewed as the hard answers... Now to the soft ones: Lum/Chesto Berries and Safeguard, or more generally, making Spore ineffective but still being susceptible to Rage Powder (or for the other way, spread moves, but they're actually not too effective if not named Heat Wave or rogue Blizzard). I used Safeguard on my Terrakion's last slot to make sure I wouldn't lose Amoonguss wars easily. Some other people liked Berries on Amoonguss to get momentum, since Speed creeping wasn't an option with 252+ Amoonguss outspeeding Thundurus and Tornadus in Tailwind having been discovered early, and thus being a part of the metagame.

Now if we look at that year's World Championship, third place was the best result for Amoonguss, with the two finalists both being as well prepared as one can expect from players at this level: the one having a Safeguard Gothitelle (long before Shadow Tag got released, mind you) and three Grass-resisting Subsitute users, the other having multiple ways to one-turn it, involving any pair of Krookodile, Tornadus and Life Orb Eelektross. To sum it up, effective ways of dealing with Amoonguss existed, but you had to be a bit creative to find them.

2012: A Forgotten Toy

That's strange. I actually can't even make much sense of it, but Amoonguss mostly and randomly just vanished all throughout the year. The most you would encounter it in obvious Trick Room teams to be the obvious setup slave and stuff, but outside of that it was surprisingly and to me inexplicably rare. It's also the only year I haven't used Amoonguss a single time myself. This not because I thought it sucked, but because I was busy using other stuff and saw no direct need/desire for an Amoonguss job there. You don't use Amoonguss just for the sake of using Amoonguss, you know. Now taking the metagame into account, Amoonguss does seem to fit into it almost just as well as before, with the tradeoff of super-effective moves against it being more common but straight OHKOs being – believe it or not – rare. There was also this temporary Gastrodon hype, where Amoonguss would have matched up with just as well as all those teams stuffed with random Hidden Powers and Energy Balls. I'm not even joking when I say that Amoonguss probably was the single biggest oversight of the year (Swagger and defensive Thundurus made their way into common teams outside of Japan, after all), and the evidence for that we find in the next year...

2013: A Toy Popped Out of Many Closets

Well, now it ended up being fucking everywhere again! With Nugget Bridge establishing itself and a few big-name people on there praising Amoonguss, it doesn't take long till pretty much everyone accepts Amoonguss as being useful and also being a threat. (Irony being that Japan, not too involved with the outside world, still had Amoonguss at rather moderate usage till the end.) We've seen all sorts of metagame spikes that year actually, and Amoonguss happened to be one that actually came to stay. With what was given, it made sense, really. Oh, and it also just got Regenerator released, which found one of its most prominent uses in Lajo's evil Heatran-wall team. Also notable is the common use of Amoonguss as an anti-gimmick insurance (most prominently teams that overextended on Trick Room or rain strategies), which especially Zach described and appreciated it as. And this matchup-patching role it also had to fill in the World Champion team, where his final opponent happened to be horribly unprepared for the major disruption this Mamoswine and Amoonguss Speed-extremal combination could bring to his team. And ironically, this Worlds runner-up had delivered similar slaughter to a more traditional punching-bag Amoonguss Trick Room team in the Japanese National final match. I think this single story underlines the difference between Japanese and non-Japanese metagames at that time very well... But back to Amoonguss.

I used it again, multiple times in fact. My most prominent use of it probably was in that infamous Hail Room team, that somehow was a cool metagame call (pun intended) basically all year, but Amoonguss felt quite out of place in it to me. It performed well mostly as something to cheese out players so bad that you should be able to beat them regardless, but if I brought Amoonguss against better players, I'm not sure. I very well did get a few wins using it, but it looked genuinely good in none of them, haha. Eventually, I experimented with lineups forgoing Amoonguss, and when I then tested some with Amoonguss again, I easily came to the conclusion that I didn't want it any more. I also found no fortune in copying some successful teams by other people with Amoonguss in them, in the sense that literally Amoonguss itself felt a lot like a slot that would put me at an immediate disadvantage because people doubtlessly knew better how to make Amoonguss's life a misery than I knew how to use Amoonguss successfully. I can't say I'm surprised at this, since my Hail Room team in all of its iterations was so heavily anti-Amoonguss that people who tended to use Amoonguss to patch up Trick Room issues still had quite a tricky matchup against me more often than not.

Present: A Toy with a Broken Neck

New generation, new mechanics – that's the one core information that almost everything concerning Amoonguss can be inferred from. First there's the new Grass type that now has the attribute of “powder immunity”. This means that Amoonguss wars are no longer a matter of Amoongusses Sporing each other, since they'll be immune to Spore as long as they don't lose its Grass typing (think of some fancy gimmick if you will, but to this day I've never seen it actually happen). This also means that Rage Powder loses its universal redirection power, so for example, if you're into that Amoonguss + Belly Drum Azumarill cheese or whatever, an opposing Grass Pokémon is enough to single-handedly stop that. I think that's actually a pretty cool mechanic. It's only hindered by someone having a Grass Pokémon in their team or not being somewhat arbitrary, since the Grass type still hasn't lost any of its notorious shortcomings.

But wait, you don't actually have to use a Grass Pokémon in order to have an Amoonguss immunity! New mechanics also means new Items, and the one we have to look at here is Safety Goggles. It does grant its holder the very same magic that Grass types inherently have, as well as protection from residual damage by weather. (Oh, and there's also the Overcoat Ability doing the same as Safety Goggles, but its distribution is pretty much limited to Reuniclus and Escavalier, so I shall just leave it at that for now.) At the beginning of the season, Safety Goggles were widely considered a gimmick, since using them would obviously be a very hit-or-miss thing. To make it effectively worth it, there needs to be a metagame that does favor Safety Goggles usage – and that is very much what ended up happening. With effective Speed control means gone, people felt more of a need for redirection and Amoonguss was the natural choice for it with Togekiss banned. (This is particularly important to mention because this matchup-fixing purpose of yore is no longer applicable just because of all the new stuff that is hostile to Amoonguss.) Safety Goggles became a commonly used Item all around the Earth, particularly on bulky Electric Pokémon. One pretty striking example of it doing work we find in Germany's National top 16, where Billa thought he had the matchup against appi's Trick Room / fast mode switch on lock, but he didn't know about Rotom's Safety Goggles and that ruined his plan, leading to ultimate defeat.

So what, now we have ways to circumvent Amoonguss, is that all? Well, no! Two words: talon and flame. Added together, Talonflame. Priority Brave Bird and a damage boosting Item, and it will wreck Amoonguss no matter what. (Playing the Intimidate game, which is popular in damage calculations, doesn't actually make too much sense, because all Intimidators are at minimally medium risk of punishment and overly defensive play like that is also what Talonflame is very well able to potentially thrive on.) You can't simply use Coba Berry like in 2011 because Talonflame can get around that by using Brave Bird instead. Focus Sash is equally problematic because sandstorm messes with it and you'll likely not get much mileage out of it against other stuff as well. Common practice is to use Amoonguss with Rocky Helmet to troll Kangaskhan and a bunch other attackers that make contact a lot, or Sitrus Berry to prolong its punching-bagging on the fly. The end of the line is: Amoonguss has no absolutely satisfying Item choice, and chances are that a well-built team will make Amoonguss generally ineffective no matter what Item it holds.

You will soon find out that I used Amoonguss again this year – this was quite before that “power past powder” thing became a thing. Since I was at no point happy with it, you can very well imagine how it would feel today, haha. But because I'm not really someone who matters, we might as well just consider Sejun's story. As is commonly known, he did some work with a Mega Gyarados + Amoonguss combination and that original team basically is what he refined for Worlds. In his official interview, he revealed that he ceased to favor Amoonguss because people were preparing hard against it. It's physically impossible to prepare equally as hard for Pachirisu because Follow Me grants unrestricted redirection and there's also no Talonflame-like instant-kill button. And from that, moving over to the general story of the World Championship: Amoonguss entirely missed the Master Division's top cut and it also racked up the worst possible total record of all Pokémon used. If that doesn't prove that Amoonguss really isn't as good any more as it used to be, then what else does?

Future: A Toy to Be Forgotten Again???

Now this game is fairly easy to understand. Let Amoonguss usage fall close to nothing because of the incentive against it, and then the overpreparedness will also relent. That is the point where Amoonguss can again step in to do some work and the circle shall continue forever. It's all about metagame and metagaming. Or in tournament lingo: pairing luck, because what is this “metagame” anyway?

That shall conclude my rant on what is totally not Electrode's evil heir. If nothing else comes up, first team article next time. Take care.

PS: Oh, I entirely forgot to talk about what Spore actually brings to the table throughout the whole thing. It's really terrible. Sleep lasts from 1 to 3 turns, all cases being equally weighted. This means 33% to get a one-turn sleep, which only rarely turns out better than not using Spore at all. It's a thing that depends on team building pretty much, but for the very general purpose, this 1 for 1 trade I feel like is not worth it. You tend to and want to expect 2 turns because only that is likely to bring you forward, so not getting it may lead to (very) bad momentum – momentum that you wouldn't have thrown away had you not gambled on Spore. It's a thing I always hated about Amoonguss and sleep in general, the randomness.

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