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Pokémon on the Internet. Let's make it happen.—The site's original slogan. It's still unofficially used.
Smogon is a notable competitive Pokémon battling community. It provides reports for every fully-evolved and non-evolving Pokémon (as well as a few "special cases" like Pikachu, Porygon2, Scyther, and Vigoroth who differ play wise from their evolved forms, plus some others like Chansey or Magneton, who are strong enough to be used in lower tiers their fully-evolved counterparts are banned from) that analyze how well they do in the site's competitive battling circuits and give moveset recommendations. ALL Pokémon, regardless of evolution status, get a description of their abilities, base stats, and the moves they can learn. Smogon also has numerous informative articles that explain things like how Hidden Power works, how to make a good Rain Dance team, and so on.
The site is the current largest influential authority in the English-speaking competitive Pokémon battle scene. Their Character Tiers for the Pokémon are considered an excellent attempt at balancing what is a very unbalanced metagame. The tiers are also criticized and most everyone on the site admit that the tiers aren't perfect. The tier that the casual players tend to pay the most attention to is the "Uber" tier, as those Pokémon are deemed "too powerful" and are typically banned from standard play. Fortunately, only a minority of Pokémon are in this tier, and they all received placement in it for one reason or another. From the looks of things, all but a couple of them were designed to be there by Game Freak. The few that aren't (Wynaut, Wobbuffet, Garchomp, and Salamence in Gen IV, and Blaziken, Garchomp, Excadrill, and Thundurus in Gen V) appear to have very good reasons for their placement... and it could be argued that Garchomp and Salamence were also made powerful on purpose.
The site was founded in 2004 by one of the creators of Pokémon NetBattle, then the only battle simulator with a GUI (other battle simulators were on IRC and were very hard to follow or use) and then the most popular simulator. The website was born very similarly to a marsupial: undeveloped. At the time of its launch, it only had a bare-bones Pokédex for the third generation. The site's staff spent much of 2005 building up the site. They gave it a revamp when they finished.
Smogon then spent much of 2006 and 2007 on hiatus because they outgrew their servers. The site was relaunched in 2007 as what you see today. Along with the revamping came a name change to "Smogon University" and a slogan change from "Pokémon on the Internet; let's make it happen!" to "Nil Sine Pokémon".
It's unknown why this site is seen as an authority. One reason may be because the founder was one of the creators of NetBattle. Obviously, in order to create that simulator, there had to do a lot of ROM hacking to see how the Pokémon games worked. The site also claims that many of its staffers have been playing and/or hacking Pokémon since the days of Red and Blue. Another more likely reason is that the site's staffers simply work really hard in analyzing the game and its mechanics.
Smogon does the vast majority of its work on battle simulators, with the subsequent analysis fitting more with those simulators than for the actual game. This is easily justified, though, since it's an extremely hard (not to mention tedious) task to manually raise Pokémon to Level 100 in the actual games, especially since some mechanics, such as individual values (IVs), are beyond the Trainer's control. Also, some things in the game, such as TMs and move tutors, are one-time use in the games (except in Generation V.)
Smogon determines which tiers the Pokémon go into by tracking usage statistics on battle simulators. The Uber and Borderline tiers are ban lists for Pokémon too powerful in the Overused and Underused tiers, respectively. What they consider "too powerful" is typically determined via peer review, polling, and analysis of statistics; even then, Your Mileage May STILL Vary.
Smogon also has a side project known as Create a Pokémon, which attempts to create Pokémon that have specific roles in the metagame. Eleven were created for Generation IV. The CAP process was then suspended until the Black and White metagame stabilized. A popular spinoff, Create-A-Pokémon Anime-style Battling (CAP ASB) was formed to keep the forum alive in the meantime. A new Create-A-Pokémon project for Generation V began in February 2011 and, like the games themselves, restarted the numbering system at 1. In addition, a new portion of the process was dedicated to creating a pre-evolution for the CAP. All CAPs so far can be found here.
NetBattle was Smogon's official simulator until it was shut down in 2006. In 2008, they adopted a new program called ShoddyBattle. In April 2009, Smogon and ShoddyBattle merged. However, in 2010, after a decidedly late entrance and subsequent cutting of ties from Smogon, Shoddy Battle's successor, Pokémon Lab, was generally disowned by Smogon. Meanwhile, Pokémon Online, a simulator formerly known for being Scrub territory on Smogon, not only had working Generation IV, but also the only working Generation V in existence, as well as a far more active developer. Smogon has since created a server on the program, officially supporting Pokémon Online.
They have an IRC channel on synirc (currently #pokemon), and a monthly(ish) podcast.
Though the site hasn't been ruined by "tourneyfags"... yet, there are quite a few elitists on the forums.
- Batman Gambit: Most skilled players on the simulator end up doing this for their matches.
- Character Tiers: Naturally, Smogon is effectively the Trope Maker for the series. Justified in that all Pokémon are most definitely not created equal, and the tiers had to be established so that people could use the weaker Pokémon without being humiliatingly trampled over. In an interesting example of tier construction, tiers are primarily determined by the idea that the better Pokémon will be the more widely used ones -- in a sense, therefore, Smogon and its tiers really do live up to the series' long-preached ideal of success through using the Pokémon you like.
- Cherry Tapping: Using teams of Pokémon from lower tiers.
- Kicked Upstairs: For the Pokémon, being "promoted" to Uber tier is this.
- Subversions do occur. Garchomp is a legitimate threat in the Gen IV Ubers' metagame due to its speed and power, and Latias and Latios are able to outspeed and KO many great threats. Other times, this is played straight: Salamence and Wynaut are both usable in Gen IV Ubers, but are quite often outclassed by others of the same type with better stats (Rayquaza and Wobbuffet, respectively). In Gen V, Blaziken and Garchomp are subversions, as they are still good in Ubers for various reasons (in Blaziken's case, better Sun support in Groudon [along with STILL being fairly powerful AND getting the Dream World ability of Speed Boost], and for Garchomp, keeping his beneficial speed tier and revenge killing capacity), but Deoxys-N plays it straight, still falling under the "outclassed" denomination of Ubers, especially now with Deoxys-S being uber.
- Initially inverted during the change to Generation V: ALL the Ubers were temporarily kicked downstairs at the beginning of Generation V in order to properly test their adequacy. It was then played straight and subverted (depending on their resulting place in the Ubers metagame), as first Mewtwo, Ho-Oh, Lugia, Groudon, Kyogre, Rayquaza, Dialga, Palkia, Giratina, Arceus, Reshiram, and Zekrom were kicked back upstairs, then Deoxys-A, Deoxys-N, Manaphy, Darkrai, Shaymin-S, Garchomp, and Deoxys-S were booted back up.
- Kyurem initially averted the trope. It has all the flavor characteristics of an Olympus Mon, including a BST of over 600 and similarities with the main duo, but due to its defensively fail-tastic Ice-typing, redundant STABs of Ice and Dragon, an awful speed tier, a terrible signature move, and simply being outclassed by the now-legal Latios (and then-legal Garchomp), it failed to really go anywhere but Underused. However, without the other truly "amazing" Dragons -- Dragonite, Salamence, Latios, Latias, Garchomp (well, then anyway), Haxorus, Hydreigon -- to give it competition, no Scizor/Conkeldurr to make its life hell, Hail being a much better weather in Gen V's UU, and 125/90/90 defenses suddenly getting a LOT stronger relative to the tier's average power level, it was free to abuse STAB Draco Meteors and Blizzards to its heart's content. Kyurem was banished to the Borderline tier (i.e. UU's "Uber Tier") unanimously, playing the trope straight.
- Deoxys-D, Mew, and Wobbuffet (and by extension Wynaut) in Gen V also inverted the trope. Mew turned out to be a Master of None in OU, Deoxys-D has to deal with a bad defensive typing, and Wobbuffet simply fails to be nearly so effective in a Team Preview-enabled, fairly momentum-based, hard-hitting metagame. (It's still effective, just not nearly as much so as in past gens.) Increased usage of Mixed Tyranitar (who stops Wobbuffet cold) and Scizor (who can simply U-Turn out), as well as Encore being nerfed, doesn't help Wobb's case either.
- The Borderline (BL) tier is this for Pokémon that are too strong for UU, but not used enough for OU.
- There is also now BL 2, for Pokemon deemed too powerful for RU, but not used enough for UU.
- Lethal Joke Character: A Pokémon from the UU tier, when used correctly, can handle itself well in OU (or even Ubers!). One such Pokemon is Shedinja, an NU tier Pokémon that walls many Uber sets. There's also Quagsire, which pretty much eats Kyogre alive.
- Tiers are determined by usage on whatever simulator Smogon currently endorses. The idea is that players will naturally choose the strongest Pokémon, thus creating a usable tier list that generally determines how useful a Pokémon is under common battle circumstances. If a Pokémon has a crippling flaw such as a 4x Stealth Rock weakness (prior to Gen V) or other bad typing/poor stat distribution, is outclassed by something else under most relevant circumstances, has a weakness to common trends in the metagame (i.e., anything weak to most of the top 10/20,) is amazingly potent under certain specialized conditions but force a team to be built around them JUST to obtain those conditions (e.g., the infamous Stall Walrein, commonly abbreviated as Stallrein, which requires a relatively inefficient Hail team build), or is just plain generally bad (Luvdisc, Farfetch'd), it will fall in usage and possibly tier lower. If a Pokémon is good under the right conditions but needs to be specifically set up to obtain those conditions outside of a general "remove the opponent's counters to your Pokémon," then it's not likely to be in the OU tier, even if it's powerful enough. That being said, there are a good number of these Pokémon.
- Butt Monkey: Most Pokémon with terrible attacking moves and stats are treated this way in their analysis. Luvdisc and Spinda are two notable examples.
- Crazy Prepared: Smogon will tell you how to survive a Life Orb Modest Porygon-Z's Nasty Plotted Adaptability Tri Attack.
- Development Hell: The Generation V analyses took a really long time to get put up on the main site -- most of them were complete and ready for submission several months before the main site was ready and did it.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: Unown's Generation IV analysis brags about how it can 1 or 2-hit KO a number of Pokémon... except all have either low Special Defense or a 4x weakness. The teammates section is basically "Team building for dummies", full of advice that is not specific to Unown.
- Grammar Nazi: The people who QC Pokémon analyses. Justified in that their job is, in fact, to catch mistakes and make the analyses look professional.
- Ascended Meme: Energy Ball Jellicent Lair. See Rage Quit for the actual meme.
- Bilingual Bonus: "Smogon" is the German name for Koffing, the site's mascot.
- Trou du Cul, a forum used to house the forum's stupidest threads for mockery by the staff, means "asshole" in French.
- Fat and Proud: Whenever you quote someone on the forums, the attribution line always says "Originally posted by Fat <user name>".
- Pretentious Latin Motto: "Nil Sine Pokémon" (Nothing Without Pokémon)
- Rage Quit: A few Trou du Cul threads are this -- which are subsequently mocked by the staff.
- This happened rather infamously once, concerning an Energy Ball Jellicent. After a Pokemon Online moderator named Somalia lost to a Jellicent with Energy Ball and thus proceeded to use his moderator privileges to systematically rageban all members of the Smogon PO server and subsequently was banned, Energy Ball Jellicent has become a regular sight, even becoming part of a temporary new name of the off topic discussion forum.