Apr 28, 2022: Factions Season 2: Meta Updates
As the Silph Meta Team, we are excited to bring you a new season of action! You may have noticed we sent out a survey recently. Our goal with the survey was to assess what the community of Faction players are interested in for changes, and compare that with the plans we were already making. We will go over some of the survey results, alongside the usage data we used when making our decisions for Season 2. Let’s get to it!
The Meta team has routinely seen feedback that the Open Great League meta needed a shake-up. During the Global Melee, we tested a restricted list for Great League. We polled the Faction player base after the Melee to see what their thoughts were on making this change. 67% of respondents were in favor, with 54% of respondents in favor of making this a permanent change, while 33% would prefer to keep Great League fully open. As a meta team, what this tells us is that we will make the change to a restricted list, and assess the impact it has on the meta. We may occasionally go back to a fully open format in order to mix things up, depending on feedback.
In terms of the number of restricted picks, the most common choice was 3 and this will be the direction we will go to start with. We chose our restricted list based on usage and win rate data from Season 1 Cycle 3. Since it is still possible to pick 50% of your team from the restrictions, we decided to make the list long enough to justify 3 picks. We analyzed usage and win rate data to help us decide on our restricted list, although it was not the sole factor in making these decisions. We expected the meta shift that would allow different Pokémon that were not on the list to shine too bright, which means something with a low usage rate in the old Open Great League meta might be too powerful for unrestricted use. For example, Altaria was looked at for restricted vs unrestricted status, as its usage rate was low, but it felt a touch too strong for unrestricted with a lot of its hardest counters now being restricted. We will be watching the usage and win rate data to see how the meta develops and adjust for Cycle 2 as needed.
We have asked in the past about themed cup formats for Ultra League, and when we asked again recently on our survey we had 72% of respondents in favor of this change, with 40% preferring this be a permanent change and 32% preferring this being once a season. With this in mind, more than 50% of respondents did not want this to be a permanent change so we plan on creating one themed cup during Season 2. This themed cup will be during the Cycle 2, and we are releasing the format now, doing it early in advance so that players know which Ultra League Pokémon they might need to prepare for the format well before it begins.
For Cycle 1, we will have the restricted list return. 53% of respondents felt two restricted picks was ideal, so we will maintain that format. In order to shake-up the meta and allow the new Cycle to feel somewhat fresh, we decided to play around with the restricted picks to see how the meta responds to the situation. Nidoqueen posted low win and usage rates as a restricted pick. For this reason, we decided to try Nidoqueen as an unrestricted pick, and we look forward to seeing how this affects its usage and win rates. We felt Nidoqueen’s ability to lower opposing defenses could help deal with the dearth of bulky Pokémon that Ultra League has to offer, and provides another unrestricted option that
can counter Registeel. We considered something similar for Umbreon by moving it to unrestricted, but ultimately decided against it due to Umbreon’s bulk alongside how well it forms a core with the now unrestricted Nidoqueen.
Walrein and Kommo-o were added as restricted picks during the World Championships and will remain there to start Season 2. Walrein had overbearing usage during Cycle 3 and was a near instant decision to restrict. Kommo-o is a recent release with enough accessibility issues to warrant caution by restricting it for the time being. Cofagrigus has bounced around between restricted and unrestricted, and we’ve decided to make it an unrestricted pick again for Cycle 1. Ultimately, we really liked how the restricted list worked and felt it formed an interesting meta, a significant improvement on the old “one legendary and one starter” format that ended up overrun by mostly unrestricted XL Pokémon. We felt this format works and only needed a few tweaks to help it feel fresh for a new Cycle.
The Celestial Field
For Cycle 2, we are introducing the Celestial Field. It is a seven-type cup that includes a few specific Bug/Steel and Dark/Poison type additions to the meta. We wanted a cup with a large variety of types, in order to maximize the chances our Ultra League specialists have a variety of options already available for the format, and to minimize the amount of obscure XL Pokémon that jump into a point of prominence within the meta. The resulting meta features a good amount of neutral play and a variety of safe options that could allow for some decently bulky picks and energy management play, such as Cresselia, Lapras, Regirock, and Snorlax. A new technique we have never used before, which we have coined “to helicopter in” select Pokémon, allowed us to add to the meta without explicitly adding more new types which would force a large amount of unwanted new Pokémon to the meta balance.
We included three Dark/Poison types in order to provide select Dark-types into the meta that players might already have, that help fight back against many of the strong Ghost and Psychic-type selections but not as hard of a counter as Dark-types such as Umbreon and Mandibuzz which we did not want to include. We also included two Bug/Steel options in Scizor and Durant. We felt Scizor was an interesting pick to add into the meta in order to challenge a lot of common choices, and Durant could play a similar role but plays more as a spicier option for increased variety. We banned all Fire types in order to discourage people trying to burn these Bug/Steels into the ground in a meta that already features Rock, Water, and Dragon types. Fairy types were banned in order to allow the Dragon-types more chances to flourish with more neutral play. Fighting-types and Water/Ground dual types were banned in order to allow the Rock-types more room to operate. We hope you enjoy this first crack as an Ultra League Field, and we hope this advanced notice can help you prepare well in advance for any picks you might not currently have to be prepared.
The survey results for Master League were a bit mixed in terms of switching from the current format to a restricted list format. The results were 41% of respondents being in favor of making this a permanent change, 21% being in favor of making this change but only once a season, and 38% being in favor of keeping the current format. With this in mind, we are going to try a restricted list for Cycle 1 and reassess afterwards based on feedback. 58% of respondents felt 2 restricted picks was appropriate. The restricted list we have chosen focuses on some of the strongest Legendary Pokémon in the game, alongside three Mythical Pokémon which have strong potential performance and a lack of ability to collect Candy XL outside of either using Rare Candy XL or walking it as a buddy Pokémon. This means a variety of Legendary and Mythical Pokémon are now available to pick unrestricted, which should allow for more diversity within the non-restricted meta.
Legendaries such as Tapu Bulu and Landorus are recent or current raid bosses, which means players have had chances recently to collect some Candy XL for these. We also feel they play at a similar level of power to a number of current Master League unrestricted Pokémon, which means players who lack the resources for these now unrestricted Legendary Pokémon should still be able to field a highly competitive team. We wanted to keep most of the core unrestricted Pokémon that way for now, due to the fact that building a team for Master League can be more demanding than for other leagues and a sudden restriction of Gyarados, Metagross, Togekiss, Garchomp, and Dragonite, for example, could have drastic consequences on some players ability to field a team. Also noteworthy on the unrestricted list is Melmetal, which had low usage and win rates last season. We wanted to shake-up the meta, and we felt an unrestricted Melmetal could help curb the extremely high usage rate of Gyarados alongside providing more variety in the unrestricted anti-Fairy options alongside Metagross and Excadrill. We are intrigued by testing this for a Cycle and seeing the impacts of Melmetal being more freely available to all players on the meta.
Looking ahead towards Cycle 2 and Cycle 3, we don’t want the Master League meta to become stale so we are looking at ways to shake things up, but in a way that makes sense for the investments players have made. Not every Master League player can instantly prepare new meta Pokémon so we hope we can give advance notice on these future shake-ups. With the recent updates to the Mega System, we can confirm as a team we are looking at making an introduction of Mega Pokémon a reality for Factions, and just need to work on making sure there aren’t any logistical errors that block this from being possible. One potential hurdle is that Niantic will boost the CP of certain Mega Pokémon for periods of time, which does complicate our ability to implement them in Factions. We hope we can work around this. What we like about Mega Pokémon is their ability to bring new typings into the meta. For example, Mega Venusaur provides a wall to Zacian that is rarely seen in Master League, and also provides rare meta-relevance for Grass and Poison-types. We hope we can make this a reality, and to prepare we would suggest you start to work on gathering Candy XL for your favorite Mega Pokémon.
In the survey we asked for the preferred styles of metas. The most popular selection, type-restricted metas with open team building, is what we have typically seen in Factions. The two new metas are both of this format. We might try a few of the other meta styles polled from time-to-time, and also plan on bringing back past metas from time-to-time similar to what we did during Season 1. The results show us that most players prefer the types of metas we’ve been making for Factions, but also that there is some desire for different types of formats. One bonus that Factions has compared to regular monthly Silph Cup formats is that players have a bit more agency on the meta they play. If two-tier metas aren’t your style, for example, hopefully one of your teammates is able to pick that meta up for your team as you focus on a different meta.
The Alchemy Field
Our first new field is the Alchemy field. Of the two new fields, Alchemy is the one that should feel more familiar to players as it features a variety of standard meta picks from past Cups and Open Great League. The Pokémon that emerge within the meta, such as Cofagrigus, provide a handful of decently neutral play with limited hard counter scenarios that should help players utilize energy management to win games. We were interested in exploring the relationship between Fire and Ground types, a combination of types rarely seen together in themed cup formats. Ground is effective against Fire types, but does not resist Fire-type damage, which leaves room for counter play from Pokémon such as Talonflame and Kanto Ninetales. One reason we rarely see both Ground and Fire types together is because they both share a weakness to Water. In order to pull this off, we decided to ban all Water-types.
Next we wanted to add other types that could provide some neutral play. Ghost, Flying, and Psychic have limited interactions with the first two types, with the main one being that Flying-types can help slow down some of the Ground-types that look to prey on Fires. Ghost and Psychic together make the format vulnerable to Dark-types, which have been featured heavily in a number of recent metas. To mitigate this, we also banned all Dark-types from the meta. This meant Pokémon such as Mandibuzz were eliminated from the format, but we are certain many players will enjoy a bit of a break from the bulky buzzard. This leaves Ghosts in a strong meta position, but there are enough Normal-types such as Pidgeot and Noctowl to keep them in check.
Steel-types were added to the mix towards the end of meta creation because we felt that Pokémon such as Perrserker and Melmetal could provide some interesting additional play to the format with their Anti-Ghost and Anti-Fire capabilities, respectively. To make it work, we banned the big Steel types Registeel, Bastiodon, and Probopass which we did not have any intention of adding into the meta when we decided to add Steel to the mix.
Most of the additional Pokémon bans are your standard powerful Open Great League staples such as Galarian Stunfisk, Medicham, and Altaria. Golem and Graveler might seem to be odd bans, but they ranked high with a currently unobtainable Mud Shot moveset, and without Mud Shot they don’t provide much value to the meta that Rhydon and Rhyperior are not already providing for the respective role.
Cresselia and Mew did not seem overly oppressive to the meta, but both are eligible in our second Faction field, and were also eligible in Comet (which also contained Fire, Flying, and Psychic-types). These two bans on Mew and Cresselia help to make Alchemy feel more distinct from the aforementioned Colony and Comet. In contrast, Deoxys Defense, Wobbuffet, and Steelix were removed from the Colony field and instead are kept around in the Alchemy field.
The Colony Field
Our second new field is the Colony field. In contrast to Alchemy, the goal with Colony is to present a meta that looks more unfamiliar and includes a variety of underused Pokémon that don’t as often find room to play in our typical themed cup fields. Three types are banned within the meta. The ban on Fairy and Flying-types are designed to help Bug-types thrive in a way we rarely see. A number of the strongest Bug/Steel types were also banned in order to allow different bugs to emerge, as most bug-type metas we have attempted have ultimately just resulted in the Bug/Steel types taking over.
Fighting-types, Deoxys Defense, and Wobbuffet were all banned in order to give the meta a unique feel with significantly less Counter-users. You might notice the lengthy ban list, and the reason for this was to help flesh out the meta into something we really felt was unique by removing a lot of the common Open Great League meta staples. Frequently meta-relevant Ground types were removed, but we wanted underused Ground-types to still have an important anti-Electric and anti-Steel role here as well.
Similarly, Abomasnow was banned to provide more opportunities for other underused Grass types to see play. Even with Grass and Ground having roles here, Pachirisu remained an accessibility concern in a meta with generally lower bulk. Once all of this was put together, the resulting meta was one that had us really excited, and we hope that level of excitement translates to the playing field!