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XY/ORAS Singles Competitive Battling Guide: Predicting the Opponent

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Expert FPS Player
Staff member
Having a good team isn't enough to win. You know what they say: it's not the team that wins, it's the player. You yourself need to know what to do to beat other players, because the team isn't going to do it all for you unless your team is far, far superior in design to your opponent's...in which case you're probably a better player than they are anyway. Predicting the opponent's moves and reacting accordingly is the key to winning the game, and while prediction may seem rather daunting and difficult to learn for the inexperienced, it's actually a lot easier than it seems at a glance – here's the key to playing the guessing games.

Best way to demonstrate this is to use an example. Imagine you have a Sceptile, and I have out a Swampert against you. Now, to the untrained eye this seems like a rather nasty situation for me to be in...and in a way it sort-of is. The obvious thing to do would be to use a Grass-type attack to kill my Swampert here, but we need to look more closely at the situation.

Instead of simply rushing in with that Grass-type attack, look at the situation from my perspective; I have my Swampert out facing your Sceptile. I'm slower than you and 4x weak to your STAB attack. Odds are, I'm not going to leave Swampert in to die to your Sceptile, so I'll probably switch out and bring in something resistant to Grass. 'Course, if you actually went and used that Grass attack on me now, it's probably rendered rather ineffective on whatever's just come in, and odds are Sceptile is now at a heavy disadvantage against whatever just switched in on it when Swampert left the scene – not good for you.

The point I'm trying to make is that in order to predict an opponent, you need to put yourself briefly in their shoes when deciding what move to make. Simply throwing out super-effective attacks at whatever's in at the moment is an easy way to get murdered by anyone with half a competitive brain in their head. Going back to the above example, say for instance I switch in my Scizor when I switch Swampert out from your Grass-type attack. He takes only 25% damage from Grass-type moves, so he'll be able to switch in pretty easily and take little damage in the process. His Bullet Punch can OHKO Sceptile, and it also lets him go first, so now Sceptile's the one at risk of being KO'd. You switch Sceptile out, I predict you'd do that and use Swords Dance, and now your entire team has been murdered by my Scizor. We've just gone from me being at a horrible disadvantage with my Swampert out against your Sceptile, to me winning the entire game because you attempted to use a Grass-type attack on my Swampert. Granted this is a hypothetical example, but it's also an extremely realistic situation in a competitive match, and one that could very well happen to you if you play in a predictable manner.

What you want to do to predict an opponent is put yourself in their shoes, and think about what you'd do if you were in their situation. If you had Swampert out against their Sceptile, would you switch Swampert out? I daresay you most likely would, which means they're likely to do that too. So if they're going to switch out, using a Grass-type move won't be effective – heck, in the example given using that Grass-type attack costs you the match. Say for instance your Sceptile has Hidden Power Fire. Swampert's still in, he's probably switching out, so use Hidden Power Fire instead. Now, Swampert may resist Hidden Power Fire, but he's switching out anyway so he's not the target – the target is the Pokemon that'll be coming out in his place. If it's Scizor, then Scizor's as good as dead – he's 4x weak to Fire, so he's going to get KO'd and you'll have not only prevented the aforementioned defeat in the previous example from occuring, but you've also taken out an extremely powerful force on my team and maintained your advantage.

Of course, it isn't as simple as all that. You may or may not have noticed I used words like “probably” and “likely” a fair bit when talking about what Swampert would do, and it wasn't without reason. After all, what if Swampert doesn't switch out? As insane as it may seem, I might decide to try and use my Ice Beam to take out Sceptile, even though I'm slower and guaranteed to die to your STAB attack. However, I might be aware that you expect me to switch out, and that you'll use a move that isn't a Grass-type attack to try and knock out whoever I switch in. Swampert wouldn't be KO'd by such a move (Hidden Power Fire especially) but my Ice Beam would do massive damage to Sceptile if Swampert stayed in and survived Sceptile's move, and Sceptile certainly won't be switching out from Swampert anytime soon. In this scenario, using your Grass-type attack would actually be effective, since by going for the kill and leaving Swampert in, I've left myself open to attack and a Grass-type move would completely destroy my Swampert with no retaliation. At this point, we know that nothing is guaranteed – neither player can be certain what move the opponent will make, but when thinking about what move to choose, you need to be thinking about what your opponent is likely to do in the situation they are in, not just thinking about KO'ing whatever they have sent out.

This is probably a bit much to digest, so I'll try to summarize it now. When predicting you need to put yourself in your opponent's position in your mind. Think about what you'd do if your roles were reversed, if you were using your opponent's Pokemon at this point and they had yours, and what you'd do if you were them. That is the key to predicting moves, and where it all starts. After that, you start to enter the “I knew that you knew that I knew” part of it, which is where things start to get more complicated. At this point, there's no easy instructions to give since anything can unfold at this point, but through practice and experience, you'll be able to learn how to win the war of wit and cunning. It's just a matter of actually using that wit and cunning to try and predict your opponent's moves to begin with, since many novice players don't do it and simply throw out whatever's super-effective against the Pokemon they're up against. At least you know not to just do that now.
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