Welcome, folks, to a special article here on Crit the Books. I’ll be discussing my normal prep process for Pokemon Draft League games. This article assumes that you and your opponent already have your rosters drafted, so if you’re not there yet, take a break real quick!
We’ll be looking at my prep for the SV Darmanitan 98 from the IPL vs. FPL War offseason as an example for my techniques, mostly because that is a game that I won. You can look at the replay here, and you can see my preparation spreadsheet here. The final build for my team is also located here.
With every matchup, my first step is to put the rosters that my opponent and I are bringing into a copy of my Prep Spreadsheet, located here. This spreadsheet has a number of tools that I’ve put together to help make my prep happen quicker and easier.
Once the rosters are put in, the first tab I look at is the “Their Type Chart” tab. This lets me look over their team and see if there are any types that the opponent’s team is especially weak to. For this matchup, I saw that my opponent’s mons tended to be weak to Fire, Fairy, Fighting, Flying, and Ice. Because of this, I knew I was very likely going to be bringing Incineroar – it gets powerful Flying and Fighting coverage, and I can supplement that with good utility moves like Knock off and U-turn. I write down a basic planned moveset in the Teambuilding Tab.
I’ll then proceed in a similar fashion to build a basic 4-6 mon core. How exactly I do this varies – in a more resilient or stall based roster like I had in this matchup, I’ll try to make sure I have good swap-ins for most of my opponent’s threats or STAB attacks. In a more offensive roster, I’ll try to make sure that I have super effective coverage against most of my opponent’s mons.
As I add mons to the team, I’ll note down mons that they have at least one super effective move in the table higher in the teambuilding section. This is flexible; I also put here specific ways to deal with problem mons. For example, while Ditto does not have any moves inherent to it, I might note it down as a way to deal with a powerful setup mega because I know it will always outspeed thanks to its Choice Scarf.
While teambuilding, I try to make sure that for every pokemon that my opponent could bring, that I have at least 2 pokemon that are advantaged against it. This isn’t always possible, but I’ve found that it generally helps me from getting caught off-guard. I try not to build around a predicted team for my opponent, since it is easy to get caught with your pants down against a mon you didn’t bring a single answer for.
Once I have a basic core of 3-5 mons that handle the majority of my opponent’s possibilities, I’ll start to dig into more specific interactions. This is where the Move Table of my sheet comes in. Does my opponent have a lot of hazard options? If so, then I need to bring something to deal with those. Does my opponent have a powerful cleric that can heal their mons and/or remove conditions? I need to bring something that can deal at least 60% to that mon. This is where the fine-tuning of movesets comes in, or where I will bring in a specific tech pokemon.
During this step I’ll also double check my Teambuilding Type Table, and make sure that the team I’ve put together doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses. You’ll notice that in the SV Darmanitan 98 matchup, my team was quite weak to both Water and Fighting. However, I made sure to have a good swap-in against moves of these types.
Item wise, most mons naturally end up with one or two items naturally chosen for them. A bulky mon who primarily wants to be resilient? Leftovers. A mon with a ton of coverage and a bit of natural bulk? Assault Vest. I find that if an item doesn’t immediately stand out to me, my default choice tends to be leftovers or a choice item, based on whether the mon wants to be setting up and/or dealing damage as a primary option.
Once I have my basic teambuilding done, I’ll put all of the mons into Showdown and double check that the movesets are valid. Most times they are, but every now and then you’ll have an oddity that needs to be addressed. (Unaware Clefairy being unable to learn Soft-Boiled is one that caught me many times before).
If my movesets are valid, I’ll move on to EV selection. This is very much more an art than a science, and is one of the most subtle skill-testing parts of pokemon prep. The first stat I tend to worry about is speed. I’ll use my Speed Table on my prep sheet to speed creep my opponent. This isn’t perfect, but is a good way to make sure you don’t overinvest on speed when you don’t have to. If you look at my final set for the the SV Darmanitan 98, you’ll notice that very few of my mons are heavily speed invested. This is because I was planning on playing a slow, stally game, and wasn’t as concerned with outspeeding my opponent.
A few creeps that I think could have been important, however, are those on Lycanroc and Incineroar. Lycanrock was teched to outspeed a max speed neutral nature Cryogonal or Mienshao, both pokemon that were either weak to it or that it was weak to. Accelerock made the speed not a huge concern – hence the lack of a speed boosting nature – but I wanted to be able to handle them just in case. Incineroar is another interesting call – at 252 EVs and a neutral nature, it outspeeds both Tangrowth and Registeel at max speed positive nature. This isn’t very likely, but I didn’t want to be caught off guard by my opponent.
When putting in EVs, I’ll often follow a few basic pointers as well – EV for odd health so that Stealth Rock and other percentage based damage moves don’t deal extra damage, since those moves round down. Spare EVs almost always go into HP if they are not already there, since it is one of the most relevant stats.
Once I’ve put all of my EVs into place, I’ll often to a final sanity check of my mons. Did I accidentally put a physical move onto a specially-statted mon? Does my opponent have an especially threatening pokemon that I don’t have a good answer to? This is where calcs and making sure you can answer very specific threats comes into play. I’ll also try to make sure I have a relatively even mix of physical and special offensive and defensive mons, and adjust my team to make sure that is the case.
Once I’ve got all of that done, I’ll import my team into pokepast.es and store it for later. I personally organize my league prep into a Trello board, which lets me take notes on what to improve for later games as well as serves as a handy archive for previous preps and a way to have my preps on hand for if I want to ask other players to sanity check them.
Speaking of other players, don’t be afraid to ask for prep help! Pokemon is a complicated game and has a number of huge interactions, and it is easy to be caught unaware by trying to be cute or bringing something unexpected that is more bad than surprise factor. While many leagues have a competitive atmosphere, many players will also be glad to help you out or get better. They are an indispensable resource, and I’ve made some great friends as a part of the community.