The Silph League Arena
Feb 28, 2023: IONIC CUP DEVELOPMENT NOTES
With the beginning of the second wave comes a shift in how the Monthly Silph Cups look. The 2020/21 Season saw the Arena introduce restricted-to-a-slot style cups with Commander, and then took it a step further in the 21/22 season with Nemesis. Now, here we are in 2023.
WHAT WE’RE HOPING FOR
In previous cups of this style, the choice of what restricted picks competitors have gone for has often had a significant influence on what else is – or perhaps more importantly, isn’t – on that competitor’s team. We’re hoping that with a more limited pool of remaining Pokémon to choose from, selecting any given restricted pick doesn’t mandate that another Pokémon either is or isn’t compatible with the team, leading to more varied combinations on teams.
While there are some restricted picks that feel significantly less useful than others in their category, we’re hopeful that the unique properties that some of them have allows more confident teambuilders a route to picking anti-meta combinations, while still maintaining some of the coverage of the “stronger” picks with Pokémon from the unrestricted pool.
This Cup went through a lot of iteration. The meta team had looked at a few places to start with possible commanders as starting points to build the ruleset around. Electric types were on the board from the start, as were Rock types that didn’t rely on Smack Down or Rock Throw to power through their positive matchups. Another thought was Fighting types that couldn’t Counter through opponents and had to use their typing defensively to win their positive matchups. You can see how these latter themes left their mark on the final ruleset to some degree, particularly with POLIWRATH, SNEASEL-H, and BARBARACLE being options in the Proton slot.
Wanting to ensure that the fighting types had defensive utility made Normal and Dark type additions to the meta natural next steps. To round out the ruleset, we added in Bug and Poison types as checks to the fighters, and Water types to add some further bulk to the unrestricted pool while also adding some value to the mandatory Electron. The huge amount of variety and strength in depth of these typings really threatened the viability of the Electrics though. That, along with needing to hand select Fighting additions to the ruleset, meant that setting up the rest of the cup as an approved list made the most sense.
This was also a big reason for adding the extra sets of optional restrictions which are now known as the Neutron and Proton slots. Yes, the hugely bulky UMBREON or MUNCHLAX, but this added restriction stops competitors from having both, and forces them to look to the unrestricted slots for sidegrades. A similar thought process means that selecting BEEDRILL means ruling out arguably the premier Fighting types.
Fighting Types – Poliwrath, Sneasel-H, Pangoro and Bewear all can make use of their Fighting typing defensively while having second typings that competitors will be prepared to face anyway.
Dark Types – While Raticate-A and Umbreon offer bulk, Weavile and Crawdaunt offer fast and hard-hitting neutral charge moves. This means that if competitors want to select a Dark type for their team, there’s playstyle choices in what they can choose from.
Architect-Inspired – Focus groups in the off-season saw competitors tell us how much people enjoyed the Architect Cup, and the inclusion of unrestricted favourites that Ionic shares includes Waters like Lapras, Milotic, and Qwilfish, as well as Poisons like Muk and Scolipede.
MATT’S FINAL THOUGHTS
Naiad went pretty much how the meta team expected it to go. Even my prediction that spicier Pokémon would succeed was correct to some extent, with Scizor, Hakamo-o, and Lugia all outperforming their usage (though I am a little disappointed we didn’t see more of the latter.)
I’ve been around long enough to remember feeling like I had enough knowledge of the game that when the Ferocious Cup dropped back in 2019, I could tell it was an Umbreon Cup. I, along with the exceptional players on the Meta team, do not think this is an Umbreon Cup, and I have faith that we’ll see this Cup play out roughly as we expect, too. Don’t get me wrong, it’s going to be easy to pick Beedrill and Umbreon, but for those who want to dig a little deeper and put some thought into how they want to play this cup, the upside is there to be had!