Life as a Pokemon Go PVP casual

The Silph Road, the original home of digging into game mechanics and grassroots Pokemon Go PVP tournaments, announced back in May that they were shutting down operations entirely in August. Some parts of the Silph network were already down when it was announced. I’ve made so many friends through Silph tournaments, both online and in person, that it’s hard to dismiss Silph and PVP as a small part of my life.

I’ve competed in every single Silph meta. When the pandemic started, Pokemon Go lifted the requirement to be ultra friends in order to battle remotely, so I started doing more remote tournaments.

Something weird happened. I started getting better.

I had been doing well in local PVP tournaments before the pandemic, some months better than others, although I had won only one tournament. But the pandemic gave me more opportunities to battle more people across all skill levels and strategies.

I was never the very best, but I saw some success. I’m still not among the very best. I never qualified for Play! Pokemon worlds, and I’ve never gotten to Legend in Go Battle League.

I’ve attended Go Fest and Play! Pokemon tournaments, and none of those would have been as much fun if I didn’t have online PVP friends to meet up with at these events. I’ve built the weirdest Pokemon to use in limited Silph metas. Nowhere else would I have dumped precious stardust into Natu or Tyrunt or Nidoking or Bibarel or Vaporeon or Shelgon or Venomoth or Nidoqueen before learning to count to five.

Last year I joined Silph’s team format after insisting I was too busy. It started as a joke; some battlers I know had a team named Musubi, and I joked that how dare they have a team with a sushi avatar and not have me on it. Well… it turned out not to be a joke because they did have a spot to fill for the next cycle, so I jumped in. And it was a blast. Sure, Ember wasn’t the most diverse meta, but I played the Arcana field for the last cycle, and I went 16-8 in eight bouts.

To be honest, PVP and the community are the only reasons I still play Pokemon Go. Everything else is a way to gain resources and hunt for PVP IVs.

This post has been a work in progress all summer, and it was supposed to be all about Silph feelings. Since I started writing it, I’ve gone to NYC Go Fest and Pittsburgh regionals. I went to Pittsburgh alone because it was a relatively inexpensive east coast flight and I could stay with a friend for free. With no idea what to expect both from the meta and social standpoints (friend groups are scary! new move update means meta changes!), I registered for the CP-giving side event on Friday, hoping to playtest my team for Saturday against some stacked competition.

Somehow, I made top cut at that side event. Even more shockingly, I won it.

Then I went 1-2 in the regional itself, 2-3 in the side event on Sunday, and won only one round in the local tournaments this month (which shows how stacked the Atlanta PVP scene is, and some of the heavy hitters weren’t there). My team and I definitely peaked in Pittsburgh, but between that and my Charlotte record, it gave me some hope at getting better at this game. After all, it’s primarily math with a graphics element. But getting good is a heck of a commitment, and I’m not sure I want to make it.

I have a lot of competing priorities outside of this game. My writing. My career. Trying to jumpstart my noveling again. My social life, which overlaps with some of these things. Being an adult in a society. Right now I’m half-assing a lot of things, and becoming the very best means whole-assing one thing.

I still grab the free Go Battle League research every season to get 500 wins and the other goodies. Most of those battles happen when I feel like battling and when I like the format, not out of obligation to do all my battles daily. I’ve never made a serious push toward legend. Twice I’ve said “Hey, maybe I should do some battles” during the last month, reached Expert and the high 2800s, and then fallen enough during the last week to the point where a legend push became impossible. All this means reaching Legend should be possible, but I need more consistency throughout the season (and let’s be real, more chances to recover from bad elo days or metas I can’t crack the code for).

There are two problems. I hate Go Battle League’s blind format with the fire of a thousand suns. It’s a lot more fun to laugh or groan at the game when you can talk to your opponent instead of just yelling at your phone about RPS while doing Go Battle League. The other is that while I could travel to a lot of regionals, I’m objectively not good enough to qualify for worlds, yet I keep wanting to get better and better at things I’m somewhat good at. That’s what I really miss about Silph: there were more ways to be successful without being the very best.

Maybe I’ll get to legend one day. Maybe whatever replaces Silph for limited meta battles will get me more into battling and help people (me included) be successful without having to be the very best. For now, I’ll slowly get better as a PVP casual and keep going to local challenges and regionals that are within road trip distance. Almost 4500 Great League wins, and I’ve been battling since PVP came out. Who knows, maybe 5000 can happen before the Charlotte regionals in January. For now I’ll keep on tapping.

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