Ask The Experts: The Hivemind on Spectating

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Ask The Experts is a 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 week, rather than asking one person a bunch of questions, we’re asking several reputable players one question to give readers a wider variety of responses. These players have all had a strong season so far, so their perspectives will be experienced ones. Enjoy!

Question: When you’re spectating matches, what questions do you ask yourself to best assess what you can learn from the players and their teams? What things do you look for when watching?

“When I am watching, I analyze the situation from both perspectives and think of how I would go around the most obvious plays. Then see how they play certain pokemon.” – Benji Irons

“When I’m spectating matches, I really look at the players’ teams, especially if they are doing well. This gives me an idea of what to build around or counter. It’s also helpful to look at the plays people make. If you’re watching smart plays and predictions, scenarios come up that you might not expect, which give you ideas on ways others would be caught off guard in the same way.” – Jake Rosen

“One question I ask myself is why a player did a certain move at a specific turn. Of all the turns they could have done it, why at that turn? Or during the beginning of a match why did they choose to go with that specific lead? Since VGC is a doubles metagame it’s important to figure out what leads give you the greater chance of winning the match. When spectating matches the first thing I look for is anything uncommon both sides are using. Be it a certain move or a pokemon that is unknown to VGC. Some examples include during Worlds 2012 when Wolfe Glick used the move skill swap with his Cresselia to swap abilities and give his Heatran earthquake or when Adib Alam used Goodra on his 2014 Nationals team. Trying to understand why a player uses a surprise move or Pokemon is essential to coming up with new strategies and tricks to keep your opponent on edge.” – Dan Levinson

“When I watch matches, what I try to do is understand each player’s thought process, and sometimes this takes more than one watch-through. That way, I can kind of apply what I learn by watching the battle to my own battles. Like, ‘I know that opponents in this situation tend to think in this manner. How can I prepare for that?’ I’m a big fan of watching battles twice, once pretending to be one player, and the second time pretending to be the other player.” – Aaron Traylor

“I try to put myself in one of the player’s shoes, typically the one that’s at a disadvantage. I try to think of what they need to do in order to get themselves into a better position. This does multiple things that will help me grow as a player. This makes me think about what sets the players could be using, consider what the opponent is using, and properly analyze what plays need to be made from one side in order to end up on top. By doing this, I immediately gain information about the metagame and how people play the game. If I see a Garchomp on the field I would think that it was 252 attack 252 speed with a lum berry until proven otherwise. If another item is revealed while watching the match, I learn possible sets that people could be running on their Garchomp. This information can then be applied to other matches or in team building down the road. In terms of how the players play, if somebody makes a play that differs from what I considered to be the ‘best play’ for one of the players, I would see a different outlook on the situation that was presented to the audience and the players. This could potentially lead to a different train of thought down the road while playing battles based on a way somebody saw that specific turn.” – Blake Hopper

“I usually check out how well the pokemon on the field take hits and what sort of item they are holding. The fact that certain items can change a pokemon’s role on the team completely really interests me. The way the player uses a pokemon is entirely up to their playstyle, and if they use it in an effective or different way i like to take note of that and keep it in mind. For example, the first time i saw some one using a defensive pokemon like cresselia, offensively with expert belt I was shocked by the way it performed amidst other cresselia. Always learn from battles that you and other skilled players perform in!” – Logan Castro

“I don’t really look for anything in particular. I just like watching matches. If anything, I love watching a match with some serious shenanigans that I can laugh at. I’m not terribly analytical when I play. I’m just in it for a good time. I will notice things like an interesting moveset, or someone using a unique Pokemon, but I don’t care too much about analyzing.” – Rina Purdy

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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.