Monday, 12 October 2015

[VG] Dreykopff Explains the Game: Mirror Matches

(Artist: EvilQueenie)

Hello Internet users,

time to start a new series...or fail it. We'll see. You know, posting teams/reports exclusively gets boring at some point, and I always liked to mix different stuff in as well. The title I chose for it probably is half ironic and half serious -- who am I to explain this game to anyone anyway, with my various accomplishments that I never had? Anyway, this series targets any players from bad over good to excellent and it's entirely up to you what you're supposed to take away from those rants. If you agree with me, that's cool, but if you completely disagree, that's fine as well (please try to get some discussion going in that case though!).

That being said...let's have a deep look into the mirror!

Obligatory Definition Introductory Part

"Mirror" is a commonly used term to refer to matchups where both Trainers that are facing each other in a match of Pokémon are using teams similar to each other in important aspects. If you are playing to win, chances are that you'll be confronted with mirror matches eventually, because there will inevitably be other people who have similar ideas about how they are supposed to win.

Experiencing Mirror Matches

Experiencing mirror matches is definitely one of the sillier Pokémon experiences available. Let's say you are running Kangaskhan, Landorus, Thundurus, Heatran and two random other mons. Because a lot of people are doing just that, you can realistically expect to play matches with 4/6 same teams at preview, and very possibly even multiple times in a single tournament. So this should be a fair example.

Heatran has always been notorious for being awkward against itself. Faster one wins. The one without Earth Power or Shuca Berry loses. Let's just use Timid max Speed Shuca to maximize the odds, right? Right. *cough* What we then end up with is, well...a mon that still is kinda slow overall and has a very underwhelming damage output on top of that (which also means it just scratches the Thundurus you'd really like to see gone fast because it's Thundurus doing Thundurus things). It's also still pretty bad when either of the opposing Landorus (likely with Superpower) or Low Kick Kangaskhan is on the field. But you definitely aren't losing more than 50% of the time against the other Heatran. *cough* Sounds like a good mon to have, really. *cough*

Now Thundurus is a bit more straightforward and usually has a chance to be useful. Looking at the Thundurus vs. Thundurus matchup, again Speed is a pretty neat thing (this will be a common theme *cough*). Whoever gets to Taunt or Swagger the other one first will have an advantage if they click the wrong move or get the wrong RNG. Now just doing Timid max again means you theoretically have a good chance to be safe from the other's bullshit. Practically, this happens to be mostly wrong, because you will lose your Thundurus so much earlier if you don't bulk him up like the other. Clicking the Taunt button then is entirely based on glorified guesswork and you might get more value out of simply doing (lots of) damage. Okay, and about the rest... Thundurus is useful for making the enemy Heatran less of a threat (and even more so with common 5th/6th slots in Amoonguss, Aegislash and Cresselia), but especially Kangaskhan and Landorus are tricky to handle. You can go Thunder Wave that Kang and possibly lose your Thundurus for doing it, which may or may not be good or bad for anyone. If you have him Protect-less, she can also just click the Fake Out button for a head-start in the damage race. And then Landorus is one where Speed again is pretty important: If you have a super bulky Thundurus, it's probably safe to expect that you'll get hit by a Rock Slide or Stone Edge before you may even get a chance at possibly firing off a Hidden Power -- unless you, you know, are champ enough to just click Swagger instead and give them even worse odds of landing that same move in the first place. But the other way around, if your Thundurus actually is faster than their Landorus (and maybe even their Kangaskhan), you got yourself a super nice endgame option. Good Luck™ surviving long enough to learn about it. *cough*

With that we shall have a look at Landorus, probably the worst best mon ever. Literally the whole metagame is loaded against him so hard that I personally feel like it should be pointless to actually use Landorus, but well, reality is harsh. Intimidate is a really good Ability and Landorus is the only mon that gets (and keeps) it and is the least likely to be complete garbage otherwise. So on to the given matchup: Landorus is pretty shit at dealing with himself. If you have a slot for Knock Off, that can possibly be useful but it's still far from being the definite solution, because you'll still have to stand up to a barrage of Rock Slides, and possibly faster Rock Slides. Notice the common theme? Congratulations! Having the faster out of two Landoruses is usually good -- can only be bad when the slower one U-turns out, and stuff. Next thing Kang and Heatran -- if you see these two, you are pretty much required to bring Landorus, because there just isn't much that handles those two well at the same time, and most definitely there will be nothing like that in your own team at the same time. And about Thundurus...just see previous paragraph, have nothing new to add here.

Finally, Kangaskhan. The other 3 are actually fairly tame in comparison to what everyone's favorite kangaroo that can't fucking jump across the plains brings to the mirror table. Just the other day I've again seen a Bo3 match where game 1 started with bottom player's Kang Faking Out top player's Kang. Game 2 of that match, naturally, started with the top player's Kang Faking Out the bottom player's Kang, and no, this wasn't IT Nats or something like that, so they didn't switch sides between games! These guys are so good, aren't they!? We can't even blame them, man. If you willingly run something other than Jolly max, you're also willingly opening yourself up to be cornered by not only this specific kind of iconic play, but also to lose Kangaskhan mirrors in general -- hitting first is such a major advantage with a fucking panzer like Kangaskhan even if the slower one happens to be EVed dedicatedly anti-Kangaskhan! Next thing, you might think Inner Focus could be a way to shield yourself from Fake Out nonsense -- well that's wrong, it's just useful against Raichu, Liepard and all that shit. Trying to pull off Inner Focus against other Kangs always comes with the risk of them simply Low Kicking yours into death either immediately or they get to be confirmed faster next turn. Inner Focus is just useful for guaranteeing to get a Fake Out off when it's absolutely crucial. And that's the whole gist of it again, again see other paragraphs for the rest.

Could do this same analysis for any kind of mirror matchup, but yeah, no. At the end of the day, it's totally natural that every kind of mirror matchup in the world is some fickle kind of powder-keg. It's already inherent with the absolute nature and impact of the Speed stat.

Winning Mirror Matches

Yeah, that's right. Now I'm gonna fucking tell you the one ultimate recipe for consistently winning against literally yourself. Except I'm maybe not, sorry. That recipe probably exists somewhere out there, but how would I even be aware of it when I don't actually run this particular archetype, at least?

Anyway, I did in fact reveal the most important thing, it's really easy and really hard at the same time: go and beat yourself. How would you beat yourself? If you can beat yourself, you can beat others who try to be yourself. Doing it occasionally is something that probably everyone can feasibly achieve, but doing it consistently, that's, if anything, a Champion's privilege. Feel free to try and do it though, because we always need new Champions to make sure the old Champions aren't fading away at the lack of competition, you know. If you find a way and get to show it while also not losing anything towards non-mirror matchups, congratulations.

Special Snowflaking as the Easy Way Out

So if you really are winning your mirror matches consistently while also beating the rest, you are incredibly good or you are incredibly lucky. Probably some of both, because I've never seen (and never will) an excellent player take his Championship completely without getting lucky along the way, you know. Anyway, if you do have a solid plan for beating a copy of yourself when it matters, that's pretty good -- and if you don't, you're basically accepting that your tournament run will literally be determined by luck.

And because of this, personally, I'm a special snowflake. I hate my tournaments be determined by luck exclusively, so I very much prefer to run something different. Mostly some second/third-rate standard shit, because that's already enough to make the natural coin-flip matchup uncommon enough for it to likely not determine my run. I simply know that I'm terrible at this kind of matchup, and my record of actual mirror matches with what I'm indeed using totally is nothing to write home about -- but I face it rarely, and I do get good records against almost everything else.

The magical number in the world of Bo1 Swiss is greater than 75-85%. You can pull it off via confronting mirrors or you can pull it off via avoiding mirrors. You decide. Good luck.

Bonus: News from America

Specifically with my chosen example (not that there was much choice to begin with, hahahah), I doubt that I've told you guys much new, just raised awareness at best, nothing more. An actual solution we saw just yesterday was a mindboggling representation of the Kangaskhan/Azumarill/Amoonguss core (you know, might as well just call it "KAA" -- shoutouts to our friends from Japan, haha) mixed into the usual CHALK and friends. It turns out that advancement of the metagame sometimes may just as well mean literal regression -- welcome back to early 2014 in this case, haha. Definitely not telling you that you should all run Azumarill now though, because, you know, a lot of people will anyway, and so it's actually what you are absolutely required to have a plan against. Use it or not use it, but always beat it -- or get beaten and get lost.

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