Ask The Experts: Blake Hopper On Win Conditions

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Ask The Experts is a new column where we interview respectable players and try to get their opinions on the basics of competitive Pokemon. Read on to hear their insight! 

This time, we’re talking to Blake Hopper, known as MrBopper or just Bopper. In the 2014 VGC season, Blake finished 24th in North America, then proceeded to get top 4 in the World Championships Last Chance Qualifier, granting him his first ever invite to Worlds, where he finished 11th. Today, he’s going to talk about what big name players mean when they say “win condition.”

Chalkey Horenstein: Let’s start with the basics. What do you define as your win condition? What comes to mind when you say that?

Blake Hopper: Your win condition is a series of actions you take in a battle that result in you getting to a spot where you pretty much never lose. This could be taking out a certain threat to open of the field for one of your Pokemon in back, or could be bringing in certain Pokemon to get enough momentum to carry you through the match.

CH: What are some common ways you have tried to get the momentum in the past? What kinds of things do you look for?

BH: Mainly if a Pokemon isn’t doing anything important it isn’t generating any momentum. I’ve had a battle where I had a Choice Scarf Tyranitar and a Charizard out against a Garchomp and Gengar. Tyranitar was able to KO Garchomp before he could do anything and Gengar couldn’t take a heat wave. The only thing he could switch into an Ice beam was Mawile, which would feint to Heat Wave. My momentum on that turn was so great, he couldn’t do anything but give up a Pokemon. What I look for is positioning and how I can KO a Pokemon without one of my own being KO’ed.

CH: Let’s talk about the other side of this. What are some common mistakes that cause people to lose momentum? What have you seen against opponents, both easy and difficult ones, that cost them the match?

BH: The biggest thing I can think of is losing a Pokemon that drives your matchup/win condition. For example, if you keep your Rotom-Heat on the field to burn a Garchomp then have it KO’ed by an attack, you might not have anything that’s able to KO a possible Steel type in back, such as Mawile or Aegislash. If you lose a Pokemon that KO’s something that has the potential to run through your team, you could have some serious issues.

CH: Let’s talk about another aspect of win conditions: predictions. What goes through your mind when trying to read the opponent?

BH: Sometimes it’s just gut. Situations like “I have a fresh Ludicolo that can use Fake Out on the field next to my Hydreigon, he’s going to protect his Garchomp, I’m 99% sure” are the most typical predictions that you just go with cause it makes too much sense. That’s where you can get taken off guard by either an opponent who sees through that or just doesn’t know about the possibilities and attacks regardless.

Other times you just know something is going to happen. For example, Fire blasting an opposing Dragon type with your Choice Scarf Dragon type for a surprise KO on a Steel type switching in. Best example of this is Salamence (very commonly Choice Scarfed) Fire Blasting a Garchomp as it switches to Mawile.

Knowing how your opponent plays is also very important. If your opponent is known to play risky and stay in against Pokemon like in the situation I just mentioned, you could find yourself in a bad position. However if you catch the switch, you could very likely be in a nearly auto-win condition if Mawile was capable of running through your team.

CH: When trying to learn how to read your opponent and make proper predictions, what goes through your mind to determine the skill or playstyle of the opponent?

BH: Whenever I play a new player I try to play safe and readjust if I get into a bad spot. I’ve been playing long enough to know who is good and who isn’t as good, so knowing how people play isn’t too tough.There are also some points in a battle where you recognize your opponents only win condition and act on that for a finishing blow. I typically go off of “There is no way my opponent won’t do this. So acting on that can be easy.” That’s something that just comes second nature the more you battle.

CH: If you don’t recognize a player and have no lead on their skill or playstyle, what do the steps look like for building your predictions later on?

BH: Pretty much lead the best I can and play safe. If my leads are good enough, playing safe will be too much for my opponent to handle and get a win.

CH: What do you mean by playing safe?

BH: In the example I gave previously, instead of Fire Blasting a Garchomp, go for the Draco Meteor. If I lead properly or chose the right Pokemon in back, I should be able to switch into an attack from Mawile safely or possibly nerf it with status conditions.

CH: What are some basic risk management skills you can advise to new players? Some ways to prevent losing a win condition that you don’t think everyone knows or practices?

BH: Basically how I look at it is this: “This Pokemon is likely going to faint this turn. If I let that happen, will that prevent me from KOing something on my opponents team?” If the answer is yes, save that Pokemon somehow. Also, be sure you play around hax. That’s a huge factor in this game. For example. You could Sucker Punch and Dragon Claw an opposing Charizard with your Mawile and Garchomp or you could Rock Slide with Garchomp for the KO and use Mawile to get more damage off on the thing next to Charizard. If you miss that Rock Slide, you could lose your Mawile and possible get to a losing position. Whereas Sucker Punch and Dragon Claw would get rid of the threat more safely. Depending on what’s next to Charizard, that would be the best option to take.

It’s all about “What does this Pokemon beat,” and “Does it need to be kept alive?”

CH:That’s good advice, considering most people complain about losing to hax, when they could occasionally just play around it and avoid it altogether.

BH: Some people have a hard time recognizing other ways to KO things rather than relying on inaccurate moves. Same goes for Dragon Pulse and Sucker Punch or priority moves on Dragon types [as opposed to relying on Draco Meteor].

CH: We’re almost out of time. Do you have any last minute advice for new players, or players looking to get better?

BH: The more you study why you lost and how you could have won, the better you get. That’s probably the best advice I could give. After Nationals I studied how I was losing and I noticed many flaws in my playstyle. Then I went to LCQ and did exceptionally better than I expected. I’ve proved it works and stand by it as one of the best ways to grow as a player.

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About Author

Chalkey Horenstein is the Editor of Team Magma. In his spare time, he also writes for Retroware TV. When not playing pokemon, he works for a homeless shelter in Boston, and enjoys traveling, running, and eating as much food as possible.