PokéPrep #10 How To Break Through A Plateau In VGC

Hello Reddit, I’m Primitive and today I am here to present you with the next article of the PokéPrep series! This will (hopefully) be a weekly series of articles focused on providing simple, actionable tips that can be applied to improve your VGC gameplay but don’t involve actual in-game tips! Today we will be talking about how to break through a plateau so you can continue to grow daily. (Thank you Reddit user Strider755 for the topic suggestion!)

Whenever you are looking to improve at any sort of competitive game there are going to be times where you inevitably hit a plateau and this is something that is frustrating for new and experienced players alike. Hitting a plateau can break some players and send them into a downward spiral for a long time, however, this is the worst case scenario and is completely preventable with proper actions. I will be providing tips that will help you get out of this slump before the spiral happens or hopefully negate the chances of the plateau happening at all.

Now before I get into my tips on how to get back on track let’s first talk about why we hit these plateaus in the first place. There are a few different reasons players hit a plateau that I have seen throughout my years, comfort/routine, change in mentality, extended losing streaks, and dedication level. 

Comfort/Routine:

When playing VGC many players will have a tendency to stick to one specific playstyle, team, or idea. This could be because they saw good success with a team, they enjoy the concept of the team, want to make one specific Pokémon work, or don’t want to play meta teams. These are big issues because in VGC the metagame will evolve weekly and the Pokémon you must adapt to will also change weekly. If a team you are using is good for a few weeks but then starts not working as well it is likely not due to you as a player but more likely because it was better suited for the older variant of the meta but now a new team has emerged that the meta revolves around making a team less viable. Committing to making one specific Pokémon work can also be a hard challenge to overcome if that Pokémon isn’t well suited in the current metagame (for example Barraskewda in series 7 when Pokémon like Rillaboom, Venusaur, Thundurus, and Zapdos are rampant.) 

Obviously there are outliers to this such as Ashton Cox in 2014, and James Baek’s 2019 team. These examples are in the minority however and will require extreme levels of game knowledge and practice to pull off at the highest levels.

Change In Mentality:

Another reason you could be hitting a plateau is due to your current mentality. This could mean a few different things, the first being you could just not prioritize VGC as highly as before. If you are more invested in your job, school, or other hobbies than the time you will want to invest into VGC will decrease, landing you in a plateau. Another mentality change you could have is seeing the game in a more negative light. If you begin to not enjoy the game, start only seeing your opponents luck and not your own, or stop enjoying the general gameplay loop then you will likely not be as open to improvement or constructive criticism which in a competitive game is the fastest way to a plateau.

Losing Streaks:

Going on long losing streaks causes a change in mentality that I just previously mentioned where you start to see the game in a more negative light. If you struggle from this make sure to check out my article I wrote about what to do during losing streaks.

Dedication Level:

This one piggybacks off the other previous sections but it is still important to note. If your dedication to the game decreases then the time you spend playing the game will also decrease. As I mentioned before the metagame is always shifting and evolving and if you aren’t putting in as much time into the game as you were previously you will fall behind and not be adapted to the current metagame. I have stated this in other articles in spite of some players seeing it as a controversial statement but VGC is NOT a game of skill, it is a game of knowledge and prediction.  Therefore, if you are not up to speed with what Pokémon, items, moves, and speed tiers are popular in the metagame you will have a much higher chance of hitting a plateau just due to not being able to craft a team that is suited for the current meta and effectively analyzing your opponents options each turn.

So now that we have gone over the main reasons for hitting a plateau, let’s begin going into the actionable steps to take to get out of your slump and back into high ladder.

Play Different Teams/Cores:

The most common reason players hit a plateau is because they get too comfortable with one style of play or team. The best way to combat this is to test as many well performing teams as you can. Doing so is extremely important because it will;

  1. Broaden your knowledge of how Pokémon work in the current meta
  2. Teach you what beats the team you are using so you can incorporate that knowledge into you own team building
  3. Give yourself the opportunity to begin finding new teams/cores that fit your playstyle that you enjoy therefore giving you more of a foundation when looking to build a team.

When playing teams you find online don’t be afraid to make changes how you see fit. I do recommend before you begin to change a team that you get enough games in to fully understand why the Pokémon had the item/move/evs it had that you wish to change. Once you understand this and still want to make changes go ahead that way you can experience the same team in a different light furthering the knowledge gained from testing that team.

Most players in the VGC community would be more than happy to share why the team is built the way it is so if you have questions about a team try and locate the creator(s) of the team and ask away. Worst case scenario they say they don’t wish to share that info yet so it’s not public until after an upcoming tournament but most teams that are spread around online are not being kept secret therefore you can freely get the info you need. (Be sure to support these players as well by following their social media and streams!)

Take A Step Back:

Sometimes the best thing you can do while in a slump is take a step back from where you’re at. If you’re grinding everyday for hours and playing in every tournament you can then its likely you just need a mental refresh by taking a few days/a few weeks off from the game. If you aren’t as active yet still play as much as you can then a small break will also be beneficial so you can once again make the most out of your time when playing. A mental refresh is super important as just a few days or so off will let you analyze your thought process about the game, give you clarity about what you may be doing wrong/what on your team is not working, as well as mentally reinvigorate you for months to come leading you to more easily push through your plateau.

Taking a step back can also just be toning down a bit. If you read PokéPrep #9 I mentioned how I played way too much and now after taking my break I toned it down by instead of playing 2 tours a week I play one, instead of playing 7 days a week I play 5. It’s all scalable from where you are currently at as a player but taking a step back/away from the game is one of the best ways to reset and get back on an upwards scale instead of a plateau. 

Watch/Read VGC Content From Different Sources:

Unlike in other competitive games where you can only use a small set of characters, in VGC there is on “correct” way to play and still find success. Sure there are teams that are clearly better than others however, It can differ from player to player on what they think are optimal moves, plays, items, and EVs. Meaning the more you branch out your intake of content the more viewpoints on the game you can receive and the more lines of play you will be able to take for yourself. There are many top players you can watch and learn from but they all could play the same team differently and if you begin to learn the options available to you then you will begin to have more options to evaluate when playing which will more than likely lead to more wins.

I’m sure most players have their favorite streamers/YouTubers they like to watch, but going to watch different creators from time to time will only be beneficial as you can see how they play a team, how they build teams, and their thought process when playing. As I mentioned previously this is a game of knowledge therefore if you can see as many viewpoints as possible you begin to broaden your lens and be able to take what you find useful and apply that to your own gameplay.

You don’t need to watch/read only new content, content for VGC has been produced for almost 10 years now and even older content can provide extremely useful knowledge.

There is great written content out there about VGC, and I think some of the best most informative content throughout the years has been made as written content so don’t just only learn from video content or else you will be missing a whole section of potential learning. 

By the way I have compiled a library of some of the best informative VGC articles and videos throughout the years which you can view here. 

Create Time For Undistracted Practice:

This is a hidden reason for a potential plateau. As I have noticed many players tend to practice while surrounded by lots of distractions such as social media, TV, YouTube, or playing other games in between practice games. Without having set time to give you undivided attention to VGC and always playing while distracted you will be missing out on a lot of learning while playing by lacking 100% focus on the task at hand.

There are lots of studies done to show that multitasking is not effective and it can take anywhere up to 25 minutes minutes for you to regain your full attention after being distracted. Distractions also take up brain space, it’s going to be a lot harder to consider all of your opponents options, as well as your options when you’re also putting your attention towards things like your favorite TV couple breaking up, how you lost your last game of Fortnite, or how someone said something you disagree with on Twitter. Chances are if you play undistracted and give your full attention to playing you may find you aren’t in a plateau, you may just be hindering your thought process with whatever else you have going on. 

In today’s day and age I can understand that it may be difficult at first for people to not be tempted to look at their phones while waiting for your opponent to choose their move, and while the dynamax animation goes off. However, if you are truly looking to improve your game and get out of a slump then playing undistracted so you can clearly make decisions is very crucial. This will get easier over time and it will actually save you time by making each play session more impactful so you can get the same amount of game knowledge and practice in less games than if you played distracted.

I suffered from this a lot myself back when I played Hearthstone at the highest level. Most players will use the entire 75 seconds they are allowed to make their move even if it is an obvious play because they want to analyze all their options. After playing in 100s of tournaments I would find myself going towards distractions during this time and to no surprise I also found myself making terrible plays because I was distracting myself and not fully thinking through my plays. Out of all the things I took out of my pro Hearthstone career the biggest one was that distracted play is a huge hindrance and I know for a fact I would have been way more accomplished as a player if I didn’t allow myself to get distracted during the down time of matches.

Make New Friends:

Continuing with branching out of your comfort zone another way to get new perspectives is to meet new players and exchange ideas with them. In a previous article I provided some discords you can join to socialize. There are other ways to meet new players such as playin in online tournaments, joining draft leagues, talking in livestream chats, joining discords or even looking around reddit for other players looking to widen their testing group. 

Working with different players can provide you with their perspective and feedback on your teams. Just like branching out the content you watch this will also allow you to see how they look at the game and you can really learn a lot about your own playstyle by seeing how other players use teams you have built. 

Working and talking with new players can also provide you with a more uplifting environment which will motivate you to play more and spend more time having conversations about VGC.

Remember VGC is a video game and is meant to be fun, don’t let the competitive aspect turn into a chore for you and force yourself to play. Make sure you’re taking care of your mental health and putting that above tournament results or ladder rank.

Thank you for reading today’s article! If you enjoyed please give this post a share, or consider checking out my social media for more VGC improvement content. You can find my Twitter here, YouTube here and my Twitch channel here. If you have any topic suggestions for future PokéPrep articles please feel free to DM on twitter!  I hope you enjoyed and I wish you a fantastic day!

Published by Primitive

My name is Michael, but if you know my from competitive gaming you probably know me as Primitive. I'm a life long competitor in various card games, and turn based games who still has the burn to compete and work to be my best. I have been on a health and fitness journey since February 2018 and it is now one of my burning passions, making one of my new major goals to become a personal trainer to help others see the benefits exercise and nutrition can bring!

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