Competitive Pokémon can be quite intimidating to the casual fan. Not only do its conventions fly in the face of what seems like typical play in the eyes of a predominantly single-player gamer, competitive Pokemon is far more demanding than any story mode in the series. It requires an understanding of IVs, dedicated EV training, a knowledge of Egg Moves, a refined clarity on what each Nature does, and enough time to balance an entire team. There’s so much upkeep involved in maintaining a competitive team that you really need to commit to the idea beforehand. Of course, there are ways to save on some time. If you do a bit of research, you’ll find countless strategies and guides online that basically build a competitive team for you. Now, there’s no shame in getting a bit of help, but it isn’t exactly what competitive Pokémon is about when it comes down to it. Especially since it can lead to players going into professional play with strategies that, while powerful, are seen as too casual for their own good by the fanbase. It seems almost counterproductive, but there’s an “Honor Among Trainers” mentality within the competitive scene that works to prevent casual strategies from finding play. Where do your strategies fall?
25 Don't Use The Best Of The Best
Most fans of the franchise will advise you to follow the golden rule: use who you like. While there are tier lists, and they are well researched, the heart of Pokémon comes from building a team that suits your tastes and your tastes. Who cares about winning if you aren’t using Pokémon you actually like? A few people actually. One of the most game-breaking strategies you’ll never see any self-respecting fan use out of a fear of seeming casual is simply using whichever Pokémon are considered best. This typically means checking Smogon to see which Mon are topping the charts. As a strategy, it works, but it creates a homogenized metagame where the same Pokémon keep getting used over and over again. It’s a lazy alternative to legitimate team building.
24 Tier Breaking Is A Bad Strategy
On the flip side of the “use whoever you like” conversation, you’ll be hard pressed to find any competitive fan who accepts tier breaking as a legitimate strategy worth using. The basic logic behinds tiers are to lock certain Pokémon away from each other in order to ensure fairer fights. Should those tiers be broken, it’s entirely possible one trainer will come out on top with a massive advantage. Don't bring an Arceus to an Under Used fight. Tier breaking is banned as far as Smogon rules go, but there’s nothing stopping a player from ignoring said ban as Game Freak doesn’t take Smogon into consideration for online play. It’s a strategy that lives up to the series’ core philosophy, but it also flies in the way of basic balancing. A good trainer can fend off a tier breaking team, but it likely won’t result in a fun or engaging battle.
23 You're Probably Using Slaking Wrong
With 670 total base stats, Slaking is an absolute monster compared to other Pokémon. His stats are so high, that he’s a borderline Legendary. Why wouldn’t you want to use him? Well, for starters, Truant is a trap ability unlike any other. Slaking is basically a Pokémon designed to capture the eye of casual trainers who don’t really understand that high stats aren’t all it takes to win a battle. Unfortunately, while this train of thought certainly works, a competent trainer can make Slaking work in spite of Truant’s fallbacks. Although Truant causes Slaking to miss every other turn, properly EV training him can ensure he survives long enough to make use of his insane base stats. Of course, you won’t find many pro fans wanting to waste time just trying to make Slaking viable.
22 Endless Switching Is For Casuals
There’s nothing more annoying than prepping up the final blow on a Pokémon only for your opponent to swap them out. While it’s frustrating, this is a legitimate strategy. In fact, many professional strategies involve swapping out Pokémon at the right moment. At the same time, endless switching is very much a casual approach to battling. Endless switching is basically swapping out multiple times within the same battle in order to try and gain an advantage. This is best done with a team of Pokémon with high HP stats so the damage done to them in the swapped turn allows them to survive for a few extra turns. From the point of view of someone dealing with such a strategy, it’s an incredibly frustrating tactic that rewards players not for skilled team building, but for creating an obnoxious back and forth.
21 Kecleon’s Chameleon Ability
Kecleon’s Color Change is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it can allow opponents to game Kecleon so that they can give him an exploitable weakness. On the other hand, a clever trainer can eventually luck out and find themselves in a situation where their Kecleon is just the right Type to take out the opposition. Dumb luck is not a real strategy. What makes a Color Change strategy so casual is the mere fact that it almost only ever gets pulled off by sheer luck or a dumb opponent. If you opponent isn’t smart enough to properly fight off a Kecleon, chances are you would have won otherwise. It’s a strong strategy that doesn’t require any skill and only works some of the time. Hardly worth it for the real pros.
20 Maining Your Starter Is A Bad Idea
It’s easy to get attached to your starter. In fact, just about every player will go through each game with their starter leading their team in the first slot. It’s just the nature of Pokémon when it comes down to it. The games work to build a bond between the trainer and their starter. By endgame, primarily using your starter can pay off incredibly well. That’s not a show of your skill though. In general, starter Pokémon are leaps and bounds better than any Pokémon you’ll get over the course of the game bar the Legendaries. They tend to have great move pools, interesting type advantages, and great base stats. Since you get them early, you’re also just bound to use them often. Winding up with a good starter is expected and in no way a show of your ability to raise a Pokémon.
19 Early Game Transfers Aren't The Way To Go
Transferring your Pokémon from game to game is just the nature of the franchise at this point. Why would you want to keep all your monsters separate from one another when having them in one reliable location is so easy? Most games balance such a feature by only allowing players to transfer in their Pokémon after beating the game, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t workarounds. Have some patience and use new Pokémon. Transferring old Pokémon early on in a new game is one of the most casual things you can do. Although there are measures in place to ensure you can’t abuse your high level older mons for the whole campaign, they’re still easy enough to work around. You’re effectively snapping your single player experience’s difficulty curve in two.
18 Wonder Trade Abuse
Don’t fret if you don’t have any Pokémon to transfer into your new game, just abuse Wonder Trade by tossing away easily catchable Pokémon! A feature that allows players to randomly trade with one another, it’s entirely possible to use Wonder Trade quite early to build up an incredibly powerful and unique team. It’s an interesting feature from a gameplay perspective, but it isn’t balanced in the slightest, resulting in an utterly broken main game. Pros tend to save it for late game. Casuals use it immediately.
17 Accuracy Abuse
Don’t even think about using Sand Attack more than once against the same Pokémon because that one use is more than enough. The penalties associated with any accuracy affecting move are so severe that it’s honestly OP to commit to repeatedly using Sand Attack. Smogon actually does have a ban in place to prevent such a situation, but Game Freak? Not a chance. You have to be able to hit each other for it to be a fair fight. Non-Smogon regulated battles can very easily end with you being Sand Attacked to the point where your Pokémon fail to hit for the rest of the battle. While this is a legitimate strategy, it’s built around a debuff that’s simply too useful for its own good. It effectively locks the opposition from playing. Powerful, yes. Casual, also yes.
16 The Drizzle + Swift Swim Combo
The Drizzle and Swift Swim combo is so overpowered but simultaneously casual that it’s likely you’ve never even heard of it. Together, Drizzle and Swift Swim elevate any and all Water Types to the point of sheer superiority. Even a shoddily trained Water Type would be able to dominate the competition thanks to Drizzle and Swift Swim. The fanbase, as a whole, seems to have accepted that this combo is simply too overwhelming to be viable in competitive play. It’s rare, but every now and again the fanbase does come together to put a stop to those strategies that work just a bit too well.
15 A Legendary Team (Multiplayer)
The only thing worse than building up a Legendary team for single player is building one up for multiplayer. Unless you’re directly battling against someone with a team of Legendaries, and you both know you’re going to be using Legendaries, there is absolutely no reason to challenge someone with a team full of Legendaries. It’s basically a form of valid cheating, one that screams “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I want to do well.” It’s more rewarding to earn a win through effort and skill than to be given one because you placed six overly powerful Pokémon into the same team.
14 Max Level Grinding
As Pokémon is first and foremost an RPG series, logic dictates that grinding Pokémon to their max level would naturally result in the strongest interpretation of said Pocket Monster. Here’s the thing though: while such a philosophy isn’t technically incorrect, it’s more effort than it’s worth and only a casual player would fall into the trap of grinding their team to level 100. When it comes down to it, 50 is good enough. Why 50? Because online matches scale your team’s level down to 50. Unless you need a certain move that’s learned post-level 50, there is no reason to power level your Pokémon. It is not only a waste of time, it’s also a waste of resources. You’re better off improving your team in other areas.
13 Individual EV Training
EV training is one of the most important tools at a trainer’s disposal, if not the most important. Failing to EV train a Pokémon for competitive play is the fastest way of ensuring a guaranteed loss. In general, EV training is done by battling specific Pokémon who carry a specific EV, but later games actually added alternative ways of EV training. Your time will always be better spent elsewhere. Instead of battling Pokémon, trainers gained the ability to play certain mini-games in order to individually raise EVs without needing to battle. Unfortunately, as helpful as this process is on a conceptual level, it pales in comparison to actually battling. Fans play Pokémon for the gameplay and EV training is part of that. Mini-games are nothing more than a distraction.
12 A Full Team Of The Same Pokémon? Pathetic.
Although Gym Leaders and Elite Four members get away with it all the time, competitive players strongly frown upon using more than one of the same Pokémon on the same team. After all, what happens if someone just stocks their team with six of the strongest Pokémon in the game? A nightmare, that’s what happens and- while Smogon bans it- Game Freak does not. Don't be like Lance in Gen II. It’s entirely possible to find yourself in a battle with a trainer using a full party of the same Pokémon. Even if their Mon isn’t all that strong, here’s the problem: your team won’t be built to take on the same Pokémon over and over again. It just isn't’ a viable strategy. A Mono-Mon team is powerful because it’s specifically designed to grief other trainers.
11 Using Items In Single Player
Even though Pokémon allows players to use items during battles so long as they’re playing single player, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a bad crutch. Since legitimate battles, including ones in the post-game, disallow items, it’s important that players recognize the casualness of relying on potions to hear mid-fight or buffs via the X items. If you’re primarily playing Pokémon like a traditional RPG, go for it. If you’re gearing up to get competitive, though, wean yourself off this behavior asap. It’ll do you no good when the time comes to play for real.
10 Bringing A Legendary To The Elite Four
Building a team full of Legendaries to tackle the single player is bad enough, but it’s not nearly as pathetic as using a recently caught mascot Legendary to tackle the Elite Four. As later games added mandatory Legendary encounters, this has become quite the easy feat to pull off. Gone are the days of skill in the Elite Four now that Legendaries are basically just given to players. In bringing a Legendary to the Elite Four, you’re essentially admitting to the world that you don’t have what it takes to beat the game. The Elite Four is meant to test everything you’ve learned along the way with a full team of Pokémon you’ve nurtured, but it doesn’t work if you bring a Legendary you just caught to lead you to victory.
9 Legendary Team (Single Player)
Legendary Pokémon are without the doubt the most sought out Pokémon in every game. They have high base stats, consistently great designs, and often factor into the plot in big ways. Later titles even require players catch Legendaries before the end of their journey. Of course, this does result in a bit of Legendary abuse. You're impressing nobody with that team of Legendary Dogs. Building a team full of Legendaries is the fastest way to utterly ruin any and all semblance of difficulty in your adventure. It doesn’t matter which game because no game in the series has actually managed to balance themselves around a player using a Legendary. It certainly doesn’t help that Legendaries require very little upkeep, meaning you don’t have to put any effort into making them viable.
Trading will always play a large role in the Pokémon experience and absolutely should be used by any and every player, but it should not be abused. Specifically, trading shouldn’t be used as a way of getting around training and building your own team. Sure, it’s easy to just trade for a fully EV trained Pokémon with all the right stats and moves, but why do that? That Pokémon isn’t truly yours. If you win with it then you’re just getting by off someone else’s effort. This is something no professional player would fall into, but an incredibly easy trap for casual fans getting into the competitive scene.
7 Full Team Sweep
Having a good sweeper is a valuable asset to any team; but a team of sweepers? That would be otherworldly. Along with being ridiculously casual. A team of sweepers just has no place in competitive play. On a conceptual level, you’re theoretically going to be hitting first and hitting hard to knock out the opposition, but you’re just as likely to get crushed considering most sweepers aren’t all that sturdy. It’s also just not good sportsmanship to built a team with backup sweepers in mind. Chances are you’ll lose more times than not, but the matches you do end up winning will likely end with your opponent losing some serious respect for you.
6 Practice Matches
Going into a battle is supposed to be a tense affair. You don’t know what kind of part your opponent is using, your opponent has no clue what you’re about to bring to the table. That element of luck, randomization, and uncertainty is part of what makes the average Pokémon battle so exciting. That’s why you should try as hard as you can to avoid practice matches. Every now and then, you might come across someone who just wants to test out their team against you so they can “practice.” This is a trick, and a rather dirty one at that. Practice matches benefit nobody in a grand sense. They only allow you to craft strategies in advance of the actual match and ruin Pokémon’s inherent element of surprise.
5 Mass Team Building
If you’re dedicated to playing competitively, you’re going to spend quite a bit of time building your team. Team building can range from breeding all the way to proper EV training. It’s a foregone conclusion to any professional player; each game will bring with it more building opportunities. Just don’t go overboard, though. Don't be like Ash in the Safari Zone episode. One of the biggest mistakes casual fans make is buying into team building whole hog. Although having a large roster of readily available and fully trained Pokémon is useful, it’s also a bit of a waste of time. You shouldn’t mass team build. Rather, you should train the Pokémon you know you want to use and go from there. Sinking time into a Pokémon you may never use prevents you from familiarizing yourself with the team you would use.
4 Lazy Leftovers
The Leftovers item is easily one of the most popular held items in the series. An item that allows Pokémon to heal every turn, it can pay off in big ways when paired with a tank. If you put Leftovers on Chancey, for example, you’re basically guaranteed to survive for as long as you want so long as you play smart. You shouldn't be snacking mid-match anyways. The problem with using Leftovers is that it ultimately comes off cheap, dragging fights out for longer than they need to simply because of a held item. They’re not a measure of skill and are fairly easy to find at that, meaning they don’t require any meaningful play to obtain. They certainly have a place in competitive play, but on every Pokémon? That’s just too much.
3 Baton Pass
What makes Baton Pass so powerfully casual is that it’s quite easy to abuse all things considered. Baton Pass is basically a glorified swap out, but it actually transfers buffs to whichever Pokémon is taking the user’s slot. Naturally, this means you can train a Pokémon specifically meant to spend a few turns buffing themselves only to use Baton Pass, buffing the Pokémon who actually needs it. It requires no skill or forethought. The only necessity is a Pokémon who can buff themselves and tank a few hits. You don’t even need to EV train them if they have a naturally high defense.
2 Soloing With Your Starter
Just as easy as it is to effectively main your starter, it’s also easy to solo most single player campaigns with just your starter. In later games especially, where the difficulty curve isn’t as demanding, your starter will level up quite a bit, giving them a natural advantage over the opposition. It’s a workable strategy, but it’s not exactly the smartest thing to do. Short-term successes lead to long-term problems. By the time you reach post-game, you’ll find that your starter most definitely will not be able to handle all the extra content on their own. Post Elite Four material almost always demands a full party, especially in regards to the Battle Frontier. It’s a beginner’s trap that ends with players being forced to grind just to make something out of the post game.
1 Resetting To Avoid A Blackout
Pokémon is not the kind of game to have traditional game overs, but it’s not without consequence. Losing all your Pokémon in a battle results in you blacking out and rushing to a Pokémon Center. You likewise also lose a nice chunk of change, but your team gets to keep any experience they got from the battle. It’s a nice workaround and one that’s balanced well within the game. Unless you reset, that is. Arguably the most casual thing you can do in Pokémon is avoiding a blackout by resetting before you lose. This is especially disgraceful when challenging the Elite Four. What is supposed to be the final test of a player’s skill is too often save scummed to avoid needing to battle the lower ranked members. If you can’t win all in one go, perhaps you don’t deserve to win at all.