With the rising popularity of famous leagues such as the UCL or the GBA, many people have been participating on this new fun format. Although draft league format rules vary depending on which league you are in, the idea is the same: each trainer/coach drafts a pokemon that may only be used by him for the rest of the season. Each coach typically chooses 9-12 pokemon from different tiers trying to come up with the best team available.
Once again, rules regarding the drafting itself may vary between leagues but typically leagues allow only one mega per team and there are certain limits or point system when it comes to tiers. You will most likely be only able to get 3-4 OU pokemon max and the rest will be from lower tiers. This is what catches the attention of most casual players, the ability to use all of these otherwise underused pokemon without having to know much about other metagames, like RU or PU.
This guide will try to help you with guidelines on how to draft a successful team. Notice that I will be breaking down teambuilding depending on your skill level but as a rule of thumb, the more skilled and experienced you are in singles format, the better will be for you to translate that knowledge into the draft format.
1. KNOW YOURSELF
Only you knows how much experience and skill you have. This is important because it can limit or hinder your ability to play certain styles or certain mons. Moreover, despite your skill, you might feel uncomfortable playing certain archetypes. For example, some people love playing stall teams while some others don’t feel comfortable playing hyper offense. Knowing what styles fit you better and what are your preferences would be the first thing to have in mind. Having said that, whoever manages not only to play a variety of styles ranging from stall to hyper offense but also draft a team that allows him to do so, will have a considerable advantage when it comes to weekly teambuilding. Many opponents will evaluate not only the versatility of your team but also yours. If you are known to just use bulky offense, your opponent will have an easier time prepping for that. At the same time, if for any reason you know your opponent has a hard time dealing with stall, you could have the upper hand if you are able to bring a stall team against him. Before moving on to the next tip, let me summarize this one as one of the most important: do not attempt to use something you are not familiar with! This can be applied to the next tip as well so I’ll expand there.
2. KNOW YOUR POKEMON
This sounds obvious but I’ve seen many coaches drafting a role pokemon they have never used before and then complain about their lack of bulk, shallow movepool, speed, etc. While it’s good to try out new things every now and then, make sure the core of your team is something you are comfortable with and at least have some experience. Also, bear in mind that your first round picks pretty much determine -or at least they should- how your team is going to work. There are some mons that are super splashable, which means they can be slapped on any team and will almost always be useful. Examples of this are Clefable, Tornadus-T or M-Altaria. There are other pokemon that are very niche on what they do and may only be good at one thing. For example, Chansey is only good as a mixed wall. Its lack of SpAtk doesn’t allow her to run a Calm Mind set like Blissey could. However, saying it can “only” do that doesn’t mean it’s a bad pokemon. What it does, it does very good. But because it can only be used for that specific role, it won’t be a good fit for all team archetypes so choosing Chansey when you are building a more offensive team will not be a good idea. Knowing what each pokemon does or can do will help you choose the better options down the draft when all the “good” mons are taken. For example, Hypno can be used as a Calm Mind sweeper or a special wall with Wish pass support. However, he is very mediocre at both and is completely outclassed by others. Even though is a low tier pokemon, there are better options to choose from. Meanwhile, there are other lower tier mons that while being niche they might excel at what they do. One example is Aromatisse, she might be outclassed as a fairy cleric/wish passer by Clefable, Sylveon and arguably Florges, but if you are looking for the most reliable Trick Room setter, this is probably your best bet. Notice how despite her having that niche, it can also do the support role fairly well.
3. KNOW YOUR ROLE
Somewhat picking up from the previous tip, when assembling a team a general way to draft is building around your Mega. The first thing you need to ask yourself is what playstyle are you looking to play. If your answer is offense then it makes little sense to go for something like M-Camerupt. If you are more into balance or semi stall, then M-Sceptile doesn’t make a great choice either. There are Megas that could be played in different ways like M-Altaria or M-Venusaur and those will give you more flexibility when drafting the rest of your team. Other pokemon like M-Pinsir or M-Manectric only do one thing so you have to recognize this and build around that. Looking at those two for example, M-Pinsir is a phenomenal sweeper/late game cleaner but it needs support to do that. Your job would be to draft pokemon that help with hazard control and something to soften up his checks (fast electric mons and Skarmory). Giving priority to another sweeper is inefficient because you are wasting your first round picks on redundancy when you already have a great mon with sweeping capabilities and you are still lacking support for your Mega. On the other hand, M-Manectric is a fast mon that gives a lot of momentum but struggles versus fat ground mons and also appreciates hazards. If you stack speedy mons with it you are just making your team getting walled by specially bulky mons like Umbreon or Goodra. This is why we emphasize on the previous tips to know what you are using. For example, M-Medicham is a monster but it will rarely sweep a team. It’s meant to be used as a great wallbreaker, so good pokemon to pair him with are slow VoltTurn users (to bring him in) and late game cleaners that will benefit from him tearing up walls.
4. KNOW YOUR OPPORTUNITY- COST
Like I mentioned earlier, when drafting you will be looking for certain pokemon to fill a potential role in your team. But often times the pokemon you had in mind gets sniped by someone else and now you are wondering what to do since that was “the perfect” fit for your team. Obviously there will be some degree of improvisation as rounds progress but what you should have in mind, if you can, is what are the good value mons on each tier/round. You might know the roles of most pokemon but know comes what the opportunity cost. Let’s say you are looking for a fast electric type. There are a few around but they are usually on the top tiers. Not counting M-Manectric, there is Raikou, Thundurus-I, Thundurus-T, Jolteon and regular Manectric (Zapdos could count but it’s also used as a bulky mon so it has different roles). Manectric will probably be unavailable most of the times due to M-Manectric being chosen most of the times. From the remainder pokemon you could see how you would have to pay a great price to get most of them. However, Jolteon is usually in a tier below or at a much cheaper cost. While it certainly is not as great as the others it has a better speed, a good movepool and a nice ability. Jolteon is an example of good value for –relatively- low price. If you went for M-Medicham, then you probably don’t need another wall breaker, you already got one of the best in the game. Meanwhile other coaches looking for one would be in the same situation described for the fast electric case. Do you want a wall breaker so bad that you want to spend your first round picks on one? Let’s pretend Diggersby and Crawdaunt, both being great wall breakers, are both in OU/Tier 1. Instead of going for one of them you could free up an OU slot/points if you choose a wall breaker from lower tiers. An example of this is CB Tyrantrum, it usually is placed lower than the aforementioned mons and the good thing is that is not just stuck into the wall breaker role, it can perform as a late game cleaner or even as a bulky SR lead.
Having said that, bear in mind that certain pokemon typing/roles are scarce in the game so if you are planning to get one you might have to draft them early. Examples of this are good fairies, good Pursuit users, good spinners and good priority users (very important).
6. KNOW YOUR CORES
I’ve seen in a lot of videos how they stress out the importance of certain cores. The most popular by far are the Fire/Water/Grass (FWG) and the Dragon/Fairy/Steel (DFS) cores. While this is important in standard 6v6 format, on draft format is more important to build based on my previous points. Why? Because I have seen many players trying to look for a *that* fire pokemon that will complete his FWG core. However, a lot of coaches don’t realize that the original FWG core was meant to be used as a defensive core because it covers a lot of common attack types like ground, fire, water, grass, electric and fairy. So if you just rushed in to get Typhlosion just to complete your FWG core, you just wasted a pick. You have to realize that the members of a defensive core must be somewhat efficient at the defensive role. Something frail like Darmanitan will not be able to switch in into many neutral hits. On the other hand, the DFS core can be used both defensively and offensively and it’s a common component on bulky offense styles.
Other cores are less flexible and require more commitment from the team to successfully pull them off. Sometimes these will rely more in execution to pull them off. Examples are Fighting/Dark/Steel offense (M-Medicham/Weavile/Magnezone or M-Gallade/Bisharp/bulky pivot), Bird spam + grass (Talonflame/M-Pidgeot/Serperior) or Electric/Ice/Grass (Raikou/Weavile/M-Sceptile).
Weather cores are a separate category and in general can be very deadly in draft format if the coach is familiar with the style. In general, weather cores are good versus offense since speed always gives trouble to offense but will need some support to remove its checks. For example rain offense is sometimes better paired with M-Heracross than M-Swampert to absolutely destroy what typically checks rain: bulky waters, bulky grass, specially bulky pokemon (Umbreon, Chansey, Latias) and Tyranitar. A common rain core would include Politoed/M-Hera/Swift Swim abuser (Kingdra or Kabutops). On the other hand sand offense benefits more Tyranitar than Hippowdon because the former is more versatile and checks more pokemon than the latter. A typical sand offense core could be scarf Tyranitar/Excadrill/grass user (Serperior or Breloom if you want offense; Tangrowth or Amoongus if you want support).
I hope this guide gave you some good tips on how to plan for your draft. I said in the beginning that it’s better if your team can be used in a variety of styles but if you are fairly new to the competitive scene it would be best if you plan to build a balanced team first. That way you’ll get to learn the limits and merits of your drafted pokemon each week. After all, if things didn’t go as planned even after free agency trades, there is always next season!