Aug 5, 2022: Silph Faction Dev Notes: Season 2 Cycle 1 Usage Data and Upcoming Changes
As the Silph Meta Team, we are always looking at usage and performance data in order to adjust the metas between cycles. We also are actively listening to feedback, particularly seeing as many members of the Meta Team are Silph Faction players and experience each of the metas first hand either as a player or from watching a team member prepare and execute a matchup in a given week. Let’s dive into each of the metas from Cycle 1 of Season 2, and analyze what we’ve learned over the course of the 9 week cycle.
Analyzing the usage data for the restricted picks
For Cycle 1, we saw the first instance of the Great League meta moving away from an Open Great League format through the use of a restricted list. This initial list of 22 Pokémon consisted mostly of a who’s who of some of the biggest names in the Great League meta. The list also contained Pokémon such as Kommo-o and Tapu Fini, included for accessibility reasons. We preferred to avoid less accessible Pokémon to rise as dominant unrestricted selections for our first implementation of a Great League restricted list. Unsurprisingly, usage was dominated by what we consider the Great League Core 6: Registeel, Sableye, Walrein, Medicham, Trevenant, and Galarian Stunfisk. Medicham’s usage drops when the data is focused on only Emerald tier teams, where instead there is an increase in unrestricted Counter user usage of Obstagoon, Toxicroak, and Sirfetch’d (although there is a slight dip in Vigoroth and Machamp usage). Just outside of that Core 6, there is Swampert, Alolan Ninetales, Nidoqueen, Altaria, and Azumarill. All of these Pokémon put up some decent usage that did provide some challenge to the dominance of those aforementioned big names. In particular, Swampert was the best performing pick of all Pokémon in terms of its battle and match win rate when focusing solely on Emerald tier. We suspect its ability to challenge Registeel, alongside many of the most popular unrestricted picks, had a lot to do with that. Most of the remaining restricted picks, including Araquanid, Skarmory, Deoxys Defense, Lickitung, Umbreon, Mandibuzz, and Scrafty, were very underwhelming in their usage and performance. Mandibuzz did see a strong performance in Emerald tier, but its performance across all tiers was more lackluster. Bastiodon, Jellicent, Kommo-o, and Tapu Fini were non-existent enough that they did not make it onto the usage data presented. This is natural with a restricted list, picking one of these lesser-used restricted picks comes at an opportunity cost of using some of the most commonly-used picks. On the surface a Pokémon such as Scrafty is one of the better selections in Great League, but when put to the test against a group that consists of Walrein and Registeel (all of which share a fighting-type weakness) it gets tougher to justify using Scrafty without putting yourself at a potential disadvantage. However, as we will see with the Ultra League usage data, something that underperforms as a restricted pick can become one of the defining selections as an unrestricted pick, so careful consideration needs to be given on the best fit for a given Pokémon.
Analyzing the usage data for the unrestricted picks
The usage and performance of the unrestricted picks is more even than what we see with the restricted picks, making the unrestricted meta arguably a healthier distribution. Cofagrigus stands out as the best performing unrestricted pick, and it is understandable how this occurred. With its biggest Dark-type counters Umbreon and Mandibuzz relatively uncommon selections, the stage was set for Cofagrigus to flourish. It still had fellow ghost Sableye to worry about as a Dark-type with a high usage rate, but at a minimum Cofagrigus’ offensive output is not resisted. Sirfetch’d and Toxicroak stood out as strong performers. In terms of usage, Talonflame was the most commonly picked unrestricted selection. The brave bird saw usage on just short of one quarter of teams across all teams, and just above the one quarter mark in Emerald and Diamond tiers. The popularity of Registeel and Trevenant made Fire-types an alluring option, and Talon ended up the most common selection ahead of fellow Fire-types Kanto Ninetales and Alolan Marowak. Talonflame’s ability to hover and resist damage from punchers seemed to be preferable to Ninetales, whereas Alolan Marowak struggling more with Trevenant likely held it back.
What we learned for future cycles
The first cycle with a restricted list was successful in breaking up some of the common cores we see in Open Great League, and forced players into tougher roster decisions. We’ve seen in the Play Pokémon championships that pure Open Great League as of late has condensed a bit towards a number of similar teams. That being said, we have heard feedback from some players that they miss the true open teambuilding. For the upcoming cycle, we plan to keep a restricted list but we are changing the way we are approaching it. With the dominance of the Core 6 in Cycle 1, we are looking at ways to break that party up. For Cycle 2, we plan to have a smaller restricted list, and each team can pick just one of them. This will feel more like the Open Great League format, but break up the Walrein/Trevenant/Registeel/Sableye party from stacking for a second straight cycle. For future cycles, we may look at returning to a bigger restricted list but one where not every restricted pick is the same value. We hope we can continue to challenge our Great League specialists while finding the right balance that promotes diversity while maintaining the focus on some of the core Great League Pokémon that our specialists know and love.
Analyzing the usage data for restricted picks
Heading into the first Cycle of Season 2, there were 16 Pokémon included on the restricted list. Not all restricted Pokémon are created equal, as the majority of the usage ended up with Walrein, Trevenant, Swampert, Talonflame, and Registeel. Giratina Altered and Deoxys Defense both had lower usage than the aforementioned top 5, but came with some of the strongest Battle Win Rate and Match Win Rate values across all tiers. Meanwhile, Umbreon continues to come up near the bottom in Battle Win Rate and Match Win Rate across all tiers, although we see the opposite on display with strong values when the data is focused solely on Emerald tiers.
Analyzing the usage data for unrestricted picks
Going back to the last cycle of Season 1, we saw Nidoqueen as a restricted Pokémon that was low in both usage rate and win rate. We decided to try it unrestricted for a cycle, and as a result it jumped from one of the least used restricted picks to become the absolute highest-used pick. This comes to show that a Pokémon that is weaker as a restricted pick, is not necessarily healthier for a meta as an unrestricted pick. Outside of Nidoqueen, a lot of the unrestricted picks were similar to how they were in previous cycles: Politoed continues to show up strong in usage, and Cofagrigus continues to put up some of the strongest win rate performance as an unrestricted pick. When data is focused on Emerald players, a noticeable uptick in usage for all three of Nidoqueen, Politoed, and Cofagrigus is noticeable. Armored Mewtwo also failed to achieve a single Match Win in Emerald, sticking out on the Emerald usage data like a big sore thumb. Poor Mewtwo, at least things look better for you in Master League.
What we learned for future cycles
Cycle 2 will be the Celestial Field, but after that we will be back to our more regularly scheduled Ultra League format for the rest of the season. The usage data is showing us a very similar story to Great League, in that certain restricted picks are dominating usage. Nidoqueen also shows us that underperforming restricted Pokémon might not be healthiest being moved to unrestricted, as that could just lead to those becoming the highest used restricted picks. Similar to our thoughts for Great League, we might look at a restricted list where not all picks have the same value.
Analyzing the usage data for restricted picks
One unrestricted pick stands above all others in the pool for its usage rate, and that would be the one and only Mewtwo. Mewtwo sits above 50% usage across all tiers, and the same holds true when the data focuses on Emerald tier as well. Mewtwo’s ability to use TMs for a variety of second move choices makes it a perfect fit for the Faction format. After Mewtwo, the focus of usage ends up with Kyogre, Dialga, Giratina Origin, and Zacian. The usage for Zacian jumps up at the Emerald level, and its usage might also be suppressed by it being nearly a year since it was last in raids. Palkia, Groudon, Ho-oh, Lugia, and Giratina Altered all see some play and all put up decent performance win rates, indicating they are a healthy part of the meta. Mew, Meloetta, and Zarude see pretty much zero play, as to be expected of some of the most inaccessible Pokémon in the format.
Analyzing the usage data for unrestricted picks
Melmetal was by-far the most used unrestricted pick, eclipsing even Mewtwo’s usage rate to post 59% usage across all tiers and 71% in Emerald tiers. In order to counter these Melmetal, there was heavy usage of Landorus Therian, Garchomp, and Excadrill, particularly at the Emerald level. Gyarados was impacted heavily by Melmetal, as it still had an incredible 50% usage across all tiers but fell to only 17% in Emerald tier. Zekrom and Yveltal also posted strong performances as unrestricted picks. Meanwhile, Togekiss proved to be one of the biggest underperforming unrestricted picks. Primarina performed significantly better than Togekiss did, likely due to having a stronger matchup with Kyogre and the ability to flip the script on Excadrill with Waterfall if desired. Despite all the Melmetal being around, punching your way out of the problem with Machamp was not the answer, at least according to the usage data. It posted abysmal usage and performance across all tiers, poor enough that it doesn’t appear to have been used by any Emerald players. Meanwhile, the 1% of Conkeldurr users experienced the exact opposite. Conkeldurr posted the strongest win rate performance of any Pokémon in Master League, which included a 100% win rate in Emerald tier. This can almost certainly be chalked up to a low sample size, but nonetheless is a very fun statistic.
What we learned for future cycles
We see that Melmetal as an unrestricted pick is not the way to go. We knew it would be used a lot and wanted to see it start unrestricted due to its lack of accessibility concerns. However, it had a negative impact on the health of the meta due to its overuse. Moving forward, we plan to examine how we can make the restricted list better. We are looking at moving over some of the more heavily used unrestricted picks towards restricted status, and also considering increasing the number of unrestricted picks from two to three, in order to increase the diversity of viable team-builds within ML Factions. That said, Landorus (both forms), Zekrom, Yveltal, and Melmetal are getting added to the restricted list.
As mentioned in the previous meta development notes, we are also looking at introducing some select Mega Pokémon. This should help some of our free-to-play Master League specialists, who at a minimum can utilize Melmetal and a Mega Pokémon within their restricted selections. Right now we are looking at Mega Blastoise, Mega Charizard X, and Mega Venusaur as restricted selections, and Mega Beedrill as an unrestricted selection. Blastoise should provide an alternative to Kyogre to add more variety to the restricted Water-types. Charizard X plays as a Reshiram with better charged attack selection. Venusaur is heavily alignment-driven, but should make players think twice about running Water + Fairy cores. Beedrill provides an unrestricted Fairy-counter that can at least hit back against Steel-types.
Alchemy saw 16 Pokémon with a usage rate above 10%, which is a decent level of overall diversity. That being said, four core selections concentrated the meta in their direction, having a usage rate above 50% (Stunfisk, Cofagrigus, Ninetales, and Alolan Sandslash). Alolan Sandslash was surprising in a meta with Fire types and Deoxys Defense, both hard counters to it. However, its role in the meta was undeniable as it was able to compress two valuable roles into one Pokémon as a Cofagrigus check and as a hard counter to Dragons/Fliers. However, this led to players utilizing ABB strategies to their advantage by drawing out Alolan Sandslash using their Cofagrigus, in order to try and sweep with their Dragon or Gliscor hiding in the back. In this sense, a meta which appeared heavily Rock-Paper-Scissors on the surface had elements that felt less RPS when you dug deeper into the strategies. Looking back, the changes we would make to the meta would involve removing Dragons and A-Slash from the meta. Alolan Sandslash was a prominent part of the Colony meta and would have made more sense to have it dominate only one meta instead of both at the same time. Dragons, particularly in their shadow form, put heavy fast move pressure that felt a bit extreme at times. Shadow Dragonite could plow through nearly the entire meta if given two shields, with the exception of its main meta block in Alolan Sandslash. For future metas, the Meta Team will be taking a look at Dragons more carefully, to make sure a meta has more variety in ways they can be dealt with in order to avoid mainly one Pokémon compressing that role like Alolan Sandslash did here. In terms of surprise performance, Litleo put up an impressive win rate across all tiers. That performance did drop when the data shifted to just Emerald tier, where instead Piloswine was the performance king. Both Litleo and Piloswine had low usage, so that big performance could very well be attributed to the variance of a low sample size as opposed to them being secret meta kingpins. Nidoqueen takes the crown for poor performance across all tiers, a performance that somehow got even worse in Emerald with roughly a 25% win rate. Did you even realize Nidoqueen was in this meta until you just read this? The likes of Hypno and Pidgeot were only marginally better than Nidoqueen. It just wasn’t their meta.
Colony saw 15 Pokémon with a usage rate above 10%, which is a similar level of overall diversity to Alchemy. The top used picks were not quite as concentrated as Alchemy was, but Alolan Sandslash, Cresselia, Excadrill, Samurott, Galvantula, and Quagsire all found themselves above 40% usage. Alolan Sandslash was by far the most popular pick across all tiers, but when data is focused on Emerald, the result is a sudden surge in Excadrill to the top of the usage charts. Because of this, Politoed and Flygon were two of the biggest win rate holders at the Emerald tier level, due to their ability to help slow down the most popular pick. Colony as a meta involved a wide variety of Pokémon that deal low fast move damage and charge energy quickly. As a result, the meta often felt like it was a race to charge attacks and many battles were won and lost with Pokémon in the red health squeezing out that one move needed to close a match. The resulting meta felt a bit less lead-dependent than alchemy did, although hard counter relationships still were present in the meta, such as Excadrill vs Galvantula and Alolan Sandlsash vs Cresselia. Looking back, we don’t think we would make any major changes to the meta. It felt fresh and unique. In terms of surprise performance, Durant came out of nowhere to put up a strong win rate across all tiers. Flygon was the hidden gem of Emerald tier, with an impressive win rate above 60% that is hard to ignore. That being said, low sample size for both could be playing a role in those boosted numbers. The worst performing Pokémon yet again…. was Nidoqueen! This was just not a good cycle for the queen of 1-2-3-4-5-Fang, as she took the crown as the absolute worst pick for both metas. Torterra, a Pokémon designed to make a low RPS meta feel a lot more RPS, posted the second worst performance. Perhaps that was a good thing for all of us that getting Razor Leafed down was not generally a dominant strategy.
In Great League 6 of the restricted picks dominated usage while the unrestricted meta was relatively healthy with no specific dominant pick. For Cycle 2 we are restricting the core 6 Pokemon and you get to pick 1, with the rest of the meta open. For future cycles we might do something more complex such as doing a small point system for restricted picks if needed.
In Ultra League Nidoqueen dominated the unrestricted usage which showed a low performing restricted pick does not necessarily make a healthy unrestricted selection. For Cycle 2 you will have the chance to play Celestial Field but after that we might try a point system for restricted picks similar to our idea for Great League.
In Master League Melmetal was by-far the moost used unrestricted pick, in conjunction with other issues resulted in a meta that was not as healthy as the previous meta. Our plan is to add a third restricted pick and make the restricted list larger plus a few Megas will be added to provide some additional diversity to the Master League restricted list.
We are excited to see what happens in Cycle 2!
– The Silph Arena Meta Team –