What You Shouldn’t Do in GBL

If you’re the kind of person to go looking for Go Battle League advice on the internet, there’s going to be a few people who tell you to stick with a team. It’s a logical conclusion as good team comps should have play against a wide swath of the metagame. You’re also likely to find people telling you to avoid playing while tilted. That is to say play when your mind is clear and you’re not in the midst of a losing streak; when you can focus on the battles themselves.

As someone who plays the game from a disadvantage (one of my own making as I am not level 40 and have not dedicated myself to finding a full suite of GBL staples), I find these statements to ring a little hollow. While I may be able to come up with solid team comps, there is something to be said for when the meta shifts with your ELO and suddenly your team is no longer finding the right matchups to succeed. For me, especially after coming off a series of good sets, this can lead to tilt.

After closing out Wednesday at 2205 I felt good. Thursday things went a bit sideways. I had two sets where I had two wins, two losses, and a draw and five wins across the other three sets. This dropped me to 2133. I figured that the Sirfetch’d-Lapras’-AMuk team was still a solid choice given that those two draws came down to lag and just mistiming moves. I resolved to have a better day on Friday.

Friday started worse. I dropped to 2119 in my first set before bouncing back to 2134 in my second. Then in my third I just ran into awkward leads and I started to panic. I finished at 2118 and put the game down. I tried to figure out a way forward given what I was seeing. For whatever reason I was running into more and more XL Talonflame – something my team had trouble handling. While Lapras had a solid matchup I could not line up my squad such that Lapras could square off against the fire bird.

I made a chart of the backlines I was running up against and noticed a trend of Fire/Flying types and Steel or Fire/Flying and Fairy. I was also running into a fair share of Ghosts and Fighters/Counter users in the front. Finally I saw a smattering of Venusaur and Swampert as well, and more than one Cresselia and Umbreon.

Armed with this I went back to something I often use when trying to climb out of a ditch – an ABB line. I am not a huge fan of these all the time but they can give me a feeling of agency over my battles in a way that forces me to focus. Given what I was seeing I figured that a double Water backline, while risky given Venusaur and Melmetal, gave me a good chance against everything else I was seeing.

I put Gengar (Shadow Claw-Shadow Punch/Shadow Ball) in the lead with Gyarados (Dragon Breath-Aqua Tail/Crunch) on the switch. Lapras (Ice Shard-Surf/Ice Beam) remains my closer of choice this season. In the seven sets since I switched to this team I rose from 2118 to 2248 (5-0, 3-2, 4-1, 2-3, 3-2, 1-4, 4-1).

The team works like many ABB lines where you will swap into Gyarados to draw out whatever is best against a Water type only to close things out with Lapras. But make no mistake – this team is carried by Gengar. Gengar can put a ton of pressure on opponents early thanks to its raw damage output and games often hinge on proper use of Gengar.

If I have an advantageous lead I’ll stay in and against a bad lead I will instantly swap. Against middling leads, however, is where I go dancing. I will often build up to a Shadow Ball and launch a Shadow Punch, then swap immediately into Gyarados. This move is most effective against both Talonflame and Empoleon leads as I can soak their move and then farm down with Dragon Breath or build up to a decent energy reserve. I then have residual energy on Gengar that I can use to pressure whatever comes in the back. It also allows me to preserve shields for Gengar which is vital in the mid and late game.

The thing that scares me most with this team is Venusaur because of course it does. Now Venusaur is not unbeatable thanks to Gengar and even Lapras has some game if you have a shield or energy advantage. Still, the best place to see Venusaur is in the lead where you can position your Gengar and Lapras ideally to farm it.

How long will I stick with this team? As long as I can. I’m under no illusions that too many teams involving Venusaur and Melmetal can end my gains. I also am going to have to watch for when the tides shift and I start seeing more Obstagoon in the front. For now though I’m going to keep trying to claw my way up the ladder.

Published by Alex Ullman

Alex Ullman has been playing Magic since 1994 (he thinks). Since 2005, he's spent most of his time playing and exploring Pauper. One of his proudest accomplishments was being on the winnings side of the 2009 Community Cup. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised.

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