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The Silph League Arena

Arena Update

Dec 18, 2022: The Silph Arena Meta Team has evolved!

The Silph Arena Meta Team has evolved! Back in September, an announcement was made that Silph was looking to fill up to four spots on the Meta Team. In the end, we added eight new members to the team. We added more than we initially planned due to the overall strength of the applicants. Seriously, we were blown away by how strong the pool of applicants was! It also made for some tough decisions, as we couldn’t pick everybody who applied and a lot of strong applications just ended up missing the cut. These new Meta Team members have been hard at work, helping bring you the most recent assortment of Faction Metas for Cycle 3!

At the beginning of the selection process, the names of all applicants were covered up and each answer was graded and given a score out of 10 based on how well we felt they answered the question. This allowed us to quickly see which applicants were rising to the top, while avoiding potential bias that comes with knowing the name of the applicant. We wanted to give everybody a fair shot to impress us with their answers. 

The second stage of the selection process was to look at the top applicants and how they could provide value to Silph’s meta creation. We wanted to make sure the team included some highly ranked battlers, some strong analytical skills, and some with experience within the Master League specialization. In particular, having Master League specialists on the team has meant that playtesting can get much further than PolymersUp’s Level 35 Jumpluff facing off against Tangent’s Level 40 Donphan, which has proven over time not to be the best representation of the Master League Meta. 

Throughout the rest of this article, we will highlight some of the questions on the Silph Meta Team application and what we were looking for within the answers to these questions. We will provide examples from some of the new Silph Meta Team members on how they answered the questions. We hope this fun peek into the questions will provide a little bit of transparency to the selection process.


Question 1

“The following meta was announced, but alas the official PvPoke rankings aren’t up yet!

Allowed: Fairy, Fighting, Fire, Flying, Froslass, Ferrothorn, Forretress, Flygon, Fraxure, Feraligatr

Banned: Megas, Azumarill

Briefly summarize the meta. Discuss the general playstyle or anticipated strategies, and note which Pokémon (e.g. Vigoroth) and roles (e.g. Anti-Dragon) will be common, giving a short description of the role if needed.”

A key aspect of meta design is analyzing the meta—anticipating what key Pokémon and roles may come to the fore, whether RPS strategies are a chief concern, and whether any Pokémon are too dominant to remain. In our first question, we wanted to see each applicant’s approach to breaking down a meta. We had a little fun with this meta theme and chose to entirely center it around the letter F, but it had enough depth and unique roles with plenty of potential insights to share.

MatthewBrewer’s answer highlights exceptionally well the depth of analysis we were looking for by identifying key players and roles, commenting on RPS concerns where applicable, and considering potential safe swaps and how trainers might approach team building.

MatthewBrewer:

“I would expect Dedenne and A-Ninetales to be really strong. The lack of Poison types that put pressure on them (Salazzale and it’s availability issues being the only real option) means bulky fires such as Ninetales, aWak and Magcargo and Ferrothorn filling general “anti-fairy” role. Forretress is significantly less useful as it doesn’t have a way to hit the plethora of Flying types (Ferrothorn has the option of Thunder) and is far less consistent Vs Fairies than Ferrothorn, due to Bug Bite being resisted.

Fire in particular would be popular as they deal with A-Nine well and can usually outspam/bulk Dedenne, as well as picking up any rogue Mawile and roasting Ferrothorn/Forretress. I’d expect Magcargo to be the most popular one due to its anti-flying properties. 

With Fire playing such an important role, and the Fire/Ferrothorn anti-fairy pair being difficult to break outside of using Altaria (Which has major RPS problem potential with A9 and Fire), I’d expect anyone with a <1500 CP Tapi Fini to use it. A triple Fairy line of Fini lead, using Dedenne to draw out the fire type, and hiding A9 in the back could be very viable, especially as Fini doesn’t need to be lined up Vs a Fire or Altaria to be good. Fini can muscle past S.Zapdos and Dedenne, and the presence of Fire types, Alolan Ninetales, and the threat of Skarmory makes it very difficult to run the limited grass types that are available as well as Ferrothorn. 

All this results in a meta where players feel like they have to have Ferrothorn on their team do deal with Tapu Fini, whilst often being too scared to used it because of the presence of Fire and Altaria. I think this meta would see many many teams run A9, Dedenne, Fini, Altaria, Fire, Ferrothorn, and matches would be decided which RPS core each player tried to mitigate – Fini, Ferro, Fire, or A9, Fire, Altaria

Outside of that I could see Shadow Mud Shot Flygon safe swap doing ok with Earth Power and Stone Edge, in a strategy that relied on taking a shield or OHKO’ing the Alolan Ninetales counter swap, it I either get a big farm down with a Fire type, or win switch Advantage. It could also draw out a Ferrothorn which leaves Fini in the back in a strong position.”


Question 2

“The following meta is being discussed by the meta team.

Allowed: Electric, Water, Grass, Normal, Dragon

Banned: Megas, Trevenant, Tropius, Diggersby, Wigglytuff

What single type do you think we could ADD to make the meta more balanced? Please explain why.”

Some metas that appear unbalanced are potentially one adjustment away from really shining. Understanding how to creatively address the collective concerns surrounding a meta with one simple Type addition illustrates how well someone can think critically about meta balance. In the second question, we wanted to see just that. This meta was strategically chosen to have some aspects in need of re-tuning, but it’s also essential to not over-correct by introducing overly dominant or heavily RPS Pokémon. The most immediate concern would be slowing down Abomasnow. As you can see based on the typings, Abomasnow runs wild here with just Normal-type Counter users to slow it down. A secondary goal could be to add more Dragon resistances to the meta to slow down the unchecked fast move pressure Dragons can apply. A third goal would be to add meaningful depth to the meta if adding a Type. There wasn’t one correct answer here, as the way that applicants justified their selection was crucial. Reflective of this, we saw a wide range of answers across all applicants. More importantly, seeing how applicants prioritized and creatively addressed these goals was insightful.

Nesabethan’s answer of Bug checks all of the previously listed boxes, and moreover, his explanation thoroughly walks through why other potential choices such as Fire, Fighting and Steel might not be the best fit for this meta for various reasons. 

Nesabethan:

Bug seems like a nice addition.

Abomasnow’s dominant position in the initial meta is obvious, helped by its ability to check the Dragons in the meta, and the shortage of walls to its Ice and Grass damage. A type that checks Abomasnow is useful, but some of them produce undesirable metas. Fire types don’t enjoy a Dragon heavy meta and could produce a nasty Aboma-Fire-Dragon RPS. Steel brings some of Great League’s bulky powerhouses into the meta, and their strength over Abomasnow and Dragons makes them a bit too dominant. Rock brings one of those powerhouse to the meta, Bastiodon. Bastiodon’s position might not be quite as strong as some of the other Steels that could be allowed, but its strong matchups against Aboma and Dragons and bad matchups against Water-Grounds and pseudo-Fighters might not prove fun. Poison brings Nidoqueen into the meta and puts it in a very strong position. Fighting isn’t the worst addition to the meta, though the Aboma-Fighter-Altaria loop at the top of the meta is quite simplistic, and the presence of Fighters and Dragons in the meta elevates the value of Charmers, to create a meta that might be fast move heavy and RPS.

Bug on the other hand checks Abomasnow while having neutral matchups against some of the Dragons and against some of the strong Normal types. Bug-Steels provide Dragon resists, but they aren’t as dominant there as some other Steel types that could have been allowed. Bug also provides a source of resistance to the powerful Vigoroth. Bug isn’t overloaded with Great League powerhouses, and the score spread of the meta improves hugely with Bug added: 38 Pokémon have a score over 90 on the default custom ranking. Much improved from the initial meta with only 14.

DijonTheDjinn’s answer provided an interesting solution to the meta holes. Adding in Dark types brings in Dark/Poisons to provide alternative checks to Abomasnow while still not entirely walling it, which reduces RPS concerns. Dark/Poisons are also generally safe and could shift the meta in a unique way bringing Swampert or Poliwrath to the forefront. Additionally, the bulkier Dark types don’t necessarily resist Dragon fast move pressure, but slow down the threat somewhat with their sheer bulk in a similar way to some of the weaker Steel-types.

DijonTheDjinn:

“Just based on the types, it looks like water is going to struggle heavily in this meta. With no real targets in the meta, water types are going to be dependent on secondary typing or coverage moves to have any impact. This meta also has no real resistance to any ice that may show up (Walrein, Abomasnow, Dewgong, etc). These pokemon seem to run free in the meta without any hard checks outside of some glassy electric types for the Water/Ice and some counter users. I think adding in dark types will help balance the meta a fair amount. There would be a few additional abomasnow checks in the forms of the dark/poisons. We can also check the other ice/normal types with pokemon with fighting coverage like malamar/pangoro. Due to the lack of fairy types in the meta, dark will go largely unresisted, but it also plays very neutral into most matchups. None of the dark types look extremely dominant and seem to be fairly neutral across the meta. The addition of the poison/darks may make way for swampert and poliwrath to enter the meta as viable water types as well.”

Jolt019’s answer approached the meta from a different perspective focusing on Vigoroth instead. The addition of Ghosts likely shuffles the hierarchy of preferred Normal-types here while adding in new potential targets and even Pokémon such as Froslass, Cofagrigus, and Jellicent.

Jolt019:

“You need a way to counter both dragons and vigoroth, even though Lapras/Dewgong/Walrein are allowed, having just them (all with grass, electric and vigoroth weakness, and to a lesser extent, dunsparce) it will turn into a quick rps match, get the ice type against the dragon and the dragon against the electric/grass pokemon. Vigoroth is too neutral and it has unresisted counters and body slam. I’d add Ghost types (banning sableye to keep the rest viable) to get cofagrigus (a lot of neutral matchups) and runegrigus (a risky but viable pokemon), jelli even drifblim who has ice coverage. Gourgeist could see some play too, and Gengar/Haunter with their moveset versatility.”


Question 3

“The following meta is being discussed by the meta team.

Allowed: Grass, Psychic, Poison, Steel, Dragon, Fairy

Banned: Megas

Which allowed Type would you DROP to make the meta more balanced? Please explain why.”

“Addition by subtraction.” Balancing metas is an iterative process and sometimes that means removing things as well. Knowing when and what to remove can be valuable. The third question was intentionally a bit easier as we wanted questions to span a range of difficulty. For this meta, Steel was a slightly more obvious pick to ban, but that doesn’t mean the question still wasn’t informative.

ArceusAurelius really went above and beyond on this answer, walking through his rationale and thoroughly explaining the subsequent implications on the meta with the removal of Steels as well.

ArceusAurelius:

“I could see some merit in Fairy being removed, as it would make the counters to Steel better, but as Steel types resist all of the other types allowed, it would only be a meta about running the Steel type, or beating the Steel type. When Steel type is gone, all of the other types become more valuable. And I must admit I am a little biased here, as the Poison typing is one of my favourite PvP typings, as there is so much utility in them, and the resistances and strong/weak matchups vary so much with their sub typings.

The biggest issue of this new cup is very little Psychic resistance, and Bronzong would be a very strong force in this cup. With Confusion as a strong fast move and Payback to hit other Psychics, its place as a top pick is undeniable. Luckily, there are strong counters to Bronzong in the meta still. Dark/Poisons, Victini, Mawile and Zweilous all terrify Bronzong, and themselves have a lot of nuance themselves in between. Nidoqueen, Beedrill and (in the most desperate of scenarios) even Toxicroak can hit the remaining Steel types with super effective damage.

The Poison typing is so varied that the meta themselves in between would alone be very interesting, and I think Beedrill stands out to me here as an extremely strong offensive pick. Being able to hit Fairy, Steel, Grass and Psychic for super effective damage is valuable here. With the strong Poison and Steel sub typings still in play, bulky Psychics with threatening coverage moves and low amount of real targets, Charm users will be too risky to run in this meta and will be rare. But you still need the Fairy typing to actually threaten the Dragons, and have strong generalists in Mawile and A9.

I can see some fast move beatdown teams being popular, like Fire Fang Mawile + Charm core, but as long as picks like Qwilfish, Tentacruel and Fire Punch Hypno are available, there are strong options to keep them in check. I believe the six most common picks would be Bronzong, Beedrill, Drapion, Altaria, Nidoqueen and Hypno.

With Steel gone, the Dragons may still have some strong play. Altaria going toe-to-toe with Bronzong, and Zweilous resisting the Psychic damage, I think the meta is so varied and nuanced that this would be my preferred choice.

Sadly, I don’t see a lot of play for Grass types here with any of the removals. Poison, Dragon and Steel types all allowed makes the playing field way too hostile for the plants.”


Question 4

“The following meta is being discussed by the meta team.

Allowed: Dark, Flying, Ghost, Poison, Rock, Steel

Banned: Megas, Shadows, Galarian Stunfisk, Registeel, Bastiodon, Probopass, Scrafty, Sneasler, Regirock

What three Pokémon do you think we could ADD to make the meta more balanced and interesting? Please explain why. The three suggested Pokémon should not have overlapping typings.”

Potentially our favorite question alongside Question 2, the fourth question sought to push applicants to think critically about how to strategically balance the stated meta, albeit with individual Pokémon additions this time instead of a single Type. Understanding the essence of the meta and then making intentional additions, mindful of how they soften potential RPS loops and add neutrality, is an important element of the meta design process.

RigelStarlight’s answer captured this incredibly well. From the outset, they provide valuable context on their expectations from the metagame and then thoroughly explain how each Pokémon addition fits within this framework to add versatile, but not overpowering, picks to the meta.

RigelStarlight:

“Current meta:

At a first glance, this meta appears centralised around a triangle of Fighter, Anti-Fighter and Anti-Anti-Fighter.

The top Pokemon in the meta are:

Fighter: Obstagoon, Escavalier, Toxicroak, Sudowoodo, Bonsly

Anti-Fighter: Altaria, Dragonite, Pelipper, Togekiss, Weezing, Dragalge, Sableye, Cofagrigus

Anti-Anti-Fighter: Steelix, Melmetal, Magnezone, Excadrill, Togedemaru, Umbreon, Zweilous

Some of the core meta seems to reflect Obsidian Cup, so I looked into Obsidian to see what they implemented to attempt to add more variety. For the Pokémon top 6 in usage in Obsidian, only Politoed is not present in this meta. Its inclusion seems healthy and beneficial. To start, its water coverage provides an additional answer to Steelix, which has a phenomenal ranking in the meta. It also has a flexible second move: Earthquake to hit the allowed Steel and Poison types and potential electric type checks, or Blizzard to hit fliers and potential grass type checks (I would want to add Poliwrath, however, it takes a fighting slot for a different fighter I’d like to add).

Another Pokemon that I believe would be a useful addition is Snorlax. Having access to superpower gives it good play against the swarm or dark and steel types without being too oppressive. It has good general bulk and play against the whole meta. It is also one of the few normal safe swaps that has somewhat consistent losecons to certain ghost types due to its lack of a consistent charge move against them, so hopefully this pokemon being included will not totally suppress the usage of ghost types.

Finally, Primeape is a somewhat niche pick that specifically targets the current standout steel and dark types. It also has access to ice punch, in a meta that is very close to being dominated by dragons. It has many checks left in the meta, and its low bulk prevents it from being overbearing. Hopefully with its wide coverage it will act as a viable option for a safe swap and prevent the meta from forming a triangular “RPS” feel.”


Question 5

“The following meta is being discussed by the meta team.

Allowed: Psychic, Fighting, Fire, Water, Bug

Banned: Megas, Shadows, Medicham, Scrafty, Walrein, Lanturn, Sneasler, Latios

What Pokémon do you think we could BAN to make the meta more balanced? Please explain why.”

We did our best Zorua impression here and threw a tricky, curveball of a query with Question 5. This meta was strategically designed to have Jellicent be OP, as Tangent and myself (PolymersUp) know all too well that the Custom Rankings algorithm on PvPoke would sometimes prefer suboptimal movesets on Pokémon (e.g. non-Feather Dance Pidgeot or Ice Beam+Shadow Ball Jellicent). Thankfully for all of us, PvPoke [insert heart emoji] now has the Custom Rankings tool use the moveset from the open league rankings by default, but prior to this, Jellicent was not #1 and instead buried in the #30-40 range. However, with a custom moveset override, Jellicent would rise all the way to the #1 spot in the rankings and by a wide margin at that. The question is, would anybody find the hidden diamond in the rough and ban it?

HotPoket777’s answer correctly identified the sleeping giant that was Jellicent. In fact, Poket was one of only two applicants to do so. The other applicant mentioned Jellicent in passing in their answer, while Poket, however, put the focus squarely on Jellicent.

HotPoket777:

“Jellicent would be SUPER strong in the wake of lanturn and scrafty bans as it could hit every type for at least neutral and would become super centralizing – a likely strat being just gang up on it with mons that have the appropriate moves or subtypes to handle it. Its presence, even if not brought by everyone – would change the meta for the worse.”

While few applicants found the hidden Jellicent, we received a variety of other ban considerations and strong rationale behind the selected choice. The most common picks for a ban tended to be Cresselia and Swampert. CLeonardo’s answer went a different direction, explaining his rationale well for a less obvious ban selection that was poised to cause potential problems for the meta at hand.

CLeonardo:

“I would ban Araquanid. It has many dominant matchups and it’s able to deal huge damage even in its worst losses. Double shielding the Araquanid and bug biting through the opponent’s line of 3 would be an overused strategy and the meta would revolve around it.”

We selected example responses from the incoming group to demonstrate how they each tackled the problem in unique and creative ways, but there were many other quality answers from them and other applicants as well for each of the questions above. As we highlighted in the introduction, we approached these decisions with great care and other factors were considered as well to address areas of need on the team itself (e.g. additional expertise with Master League).


Thank you all!

Their contributions have already been impactful with the metas previously announced for Factions Season 2 Cycle 3, and we are thrilled to have this outstanding group join the Silph meta team. Thank you again to all that applied!

 


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