A look at the three-on-three battle mode preferred by TPCi
This is part eight of a series of written guides on Pokkén Tournament Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. I’ve always loved this game and I’ve wanted to give back to the community and generate more interest in it. I’ll be creating more guides like this in the future and I hope this gets new players invested in the fighting game that taught me about fighting games. If you would like to try out Pokkén Tournament Deluxe, and learn more information about the game, be sure to check out the community Discord!
This will be the final beginner-oriented lesson in this series before we move on to in-depth breakdowns like character studies and high-level techniques. I saved this one for last because Team Battle is not a favored format in the greater Pokkén community; however, it has a meta all its own which is important to understand, and more crucially it was the format of choice for Pokkén’s official circuit run in the 2019 Pokémon World Championships.
Team Battle is a newly added mode in Pokkén DX, but it was never explored as a competitive format until 2019 (for those keeping score at home, this means we didn’t really play it for about a year and a half.) The format’s main gimmick is that instead of picking a single Pokémon for a one-on-one fight, you select a team of three a la King of Fighters or Capcom vs. SNK 2. Gameplay is largely the same with a few caveats- after one Pokémon is KOed, the player must select one of the two other Pokémon in the lineup for the next round. This means that a single game of Pokkén in Team Battle format becomes a best-of-five-rounds, rather than a best-of-three. (The sets themselves are still best-of-three-games.) The first Pokémon you select will always be your point character- simply, the character that you begin with- and you can choose which of your two remaining Pokémon will sub in for you after your point is KOed. This format is not a tag-in format like Marvel vs. Capcom or Tekken Tag Tournament, meaning you are strictly only ever playing as a single Pokémon during a round.
The main strategy in Team Battle comes from how certain meters function differently than they did in the Basic Battle mode. The first important difference is how the health works: unlike in Basic Battle, where you would regain all of your HP as expected between rounds, you retain most of the damage you accumulated from the prior round. You only heal back 10% of your total HP, and this does not include dark health, meaning any damage accrued from self-damage or chip damage will not be restored. In this way, health bars in Team Battle work similarly to how health between rounds functions in Vampire Savior or in Skullgirls one-on-one matches, although those titles don’t provide you with the leniency of a 10% HP refill.
The second major difference in Team Battle mode is how the Synergy Gauge functions. Even though every character has a differently-sized Synergy Gauge (we covered this when discussing Cheer Skills,) the Synergy gain between rounds will remain the same because it has been filled by percentage rather than by individual ccs of Synergy units. For instance, if Weavile, a Pokémon with a 100cc Synergy Gauge, is KOed and then tags in Mewtwo, a Pokémon with 400cc, Mewtwo will begin the round with full Synergy! The implications of this are very important when considering how to build your team. While there isn’t a formally designated anchor slot, whichever Pokémon you plan on saving for last should ideally be making use of the meter that its teammates built up. Speaking of Cheers, remember of course that those still apply in this format when you’re trying to build meter.
Like most team-based fighters, being successful in the Team Battle format requires a healthy knowledge of the roster and excellent control over multiple characters. Refer back to my Pokédex article if you want a refresher course on the cast in order to help you figure out your team composition. It takes quite some time in order to feel comfortable with a character, so make sure you spend that time wisely and use it to build experience with every member of your team individually. The character diversity and viability in the format is much the same as it is in the Basic Battle format, but in general there are some similarities in the ways that teams are structured. Characters with smaller Synergy Gauges (Shadow Mewtwo, Pikachu, Pikachu Libre, and Weavile all have a 100cc Synergy Gauge) will typically be selected as point, while characters with larger Synergy Gauges (Garchomp and Gengar have a 250cc Synergy Gauge, and Mewtwo has a 400cc Gauge) will typically be anchors. Middle characters are usually Pokémon you’re already skilled with, or otherwise characters that can be useful in any situation. Obviously these are not hard rules and you do not need to adhere to them tightly in order to build a successful team, but these guidelines explain some particularly popular picks in the format. If you were to glance at the Top 8 tournament results for the Pokémon WCS events of 2019, you would often see Mewtwo as an anchor or the 100cc Pokémon as point characters.
I never entered any 2019 WCS events, but I practiced the format on netplay and ran Blaziken/Scizor/Sceptile. Blaziken was my point character with a 150cc Gauge who could build meter quickly and do a lot of damage before eventually being KOed; Scizor was a character I was already familiar with who could benefit a little from that substantial meter build; I learned Sceptile from the ground up because he is widely considered to be a top-tier character with a variety of options and a high skill ceiling. I would often also see players using Shadow Mewtwo/[their original main]/Mewtwo because both Mewtwos were very powerful characters who could see play on the same team for the reasons listed above.
That’s it for this installment of Trainer’s School! Even though the current series of WCS events have been postponed due to the ongoing pandemic, it can still be valuable and even fun to experiment with the Team Battle mode. If you’re still having trouble figuring out a character, the next ‘chapter’ of Trainer’s School will be a series of articles that break down every character in the roster. I’ll be starting with the Standard cast one by one, so next week’s article will be about Blaziken!
EDIT (1/3/2021) Or so I thought at the time of publishing! While you can navigate to the Blaziken guide in the link above, you can also go to the true next-in-order lesson of Trainer’s School here. Lesson Nine is a crash course on important metagame terminology, with the end goal being to understand the properties of moves and combos.