The beauty of Pokémon are the various ways you can enjoy the game. Most players will play through the main campaign. Others may decide to fill out the entire Pokédex. It’s a task which has become more difficult over time as there over 800 creatures to collect. And of course, there are those who wish to test their skills and abilities against other aspiring trainers. Whichever way you play, this is a series anyone can enjoy.
Competitive Pokémon battling has grown in popularity over the past decades. Now we even have official tournaments held by the Pokémon Company every year. There are regional, national and international level tournaments held for all ages. It’s become quite an event now. Which is why some of you may be interested in joining the competitive scene. This the best time to jump into the game and learn the basics. It’s never been so accessible and fun to get into competitive Pokémon battling. However, there are many things to learn and understand before you can get started. While you could turn on your copy of Pokémon Sun/Moon and start battling online, the end result may not be the best. There are many things that you should be aware to make the experience as enjoyable as possible.
The following 25 tips are aspects of competitive battling that are essential to know before playing. I know that reading and studying can be a bit boring. But in the long run, a little bit of research can really pay off. Without further ado, let’s get into the list.
25 The Importance Of Effort Values
Effort Values (or EVs) are one of the hidden stats in Pokémon. These are essentially bonus stats that give your Pokémon an advantage in battle. Each Pokémon can gain up to 255 EVs, where 4 EVs are equal to 1 stat point. For example, if you put 8 EVs into Speed, the Pokémon’s Speed stat increases by 2.
EVs are gained by defeating Pokémon. You can find a guide online which lists how many EVs a Pokémon drops and what stat they boost. In competitive Pokémon, everyone will optimize their EVs distribution to take advantage of strong stats. So, Mewtwo can get EVs in Special Attack to make the most of its strengths.
24 Use Status Moves
In a regular playthrough, there isn’t much need to use status moves. This includes stuff like Swords Dance, Hypnosis, or Shell Smash. They usually buff stats and lower the stats of opposing Pokémon. However, the campaign won’t challenge players enough to force them to use such attacks.
In a competitive match, these moves are extremely important. Especially ones that increase your stats. Sometimes that is the only way you can do enough damage for a win. There are tons of status moves to use. You should get familiar with them and use the ones that work well with your Pokémon.
23 Use Your Favorite Pokémon
It might be tempting at first to disregard your own favorites and go for Pokémon that are strong or popular choices. But that’s not necessary. Ultimately, competitive battling is another way to enjoy Pokémon. If you want to have fun, then make it easy for yourself by picking the Pokémon you like.
You may not be able to use them in every battle, but there are some ways to make weaker Pokémon work. And chances are, your favorite Pokémon is actually a viable choice for the battle.
22 Double Battles Are Fun
It’s a good idea to do practice double battling. First of all, it’s actually really fun and adds another layer of strategy to the game. There are different tactics and viable Pokémon when it comes to double battles. Some Pokémon are more useful in this mode than they are in single battles.
Also, this is the official format of Pokémon tournaments or VGC as it is more commonly known.
It’s the format you’ll be playing if you want to participate in rating matches. It’s a good idea to practice this format if you are interested in entering a physical tournament at the regional or national level.
21 Don’t Always Use Powerful Attacks
It’s tempting to load up your Pokémon with attacks like Hydro Pump, Hyper Beam, and Fire Blast, but they aren’t always the best option for competitive battles. They tend to have low accuracy which can cost you the game. A single miss may decide your defeat.
Rather, try and look at some alternatives like Scald. This is a Water move with less power than Hydro Pump. However, it has 100 Accuracy and can even burn the opponent. That sort of utility can be more valuable than outright power. Not to say you should never use powerful moves. They still do have a use, just not as often as a regular playthrough.
20 Legendaries Aren’t The Best Option
After catching a legendary Pokémon, the first thing you want to do is give it a test run. You want to see what it’s capable of, especially in online battles against other players. However, this isn’t always the best choice to take.
More often than not, a lot of legendaries will be banned from competitive play. Powerful beasts like Mewtwo, Dialga, Xerneas, and others are not allowed in many forms of competitive battling. You can still use weaker ones like Suicune or Zapdos. Also, event Pokémon may also be banned from battles, depending on the rules set by the Pokémon Company.
19 Breeding Perfect Pokémon
This may not be something obvious at first, but breeding for the best Pokémon can give you an advantage. Pokémon have another hidden stat called Individual Value. This is a value they are assigned from the start and cannot normally be changed.
A Pokémon can have a max IV of 31 in each stat.
The best way to achieve this is through breeding. It’s possible to even get Pokémon with 31 IVs in every stat. In the generation 7 games, there is an IV trainer who can boost the stat at the price of bottle caps. It will still take a while to do.
18 Team Synergy
One of the most important things to note is that your Pokémon team must have synergy. The six Pokémon should work well together and cover their weaknesses. A simple example could be if your main attacker is an Electric-type, you may want a Flying-type to cover its weakness to Ground attacks.
There are other things you also need to consider. For example, what sort of team you’re building. If it’s a team based on sweeping as fast as possible, you need Pokémon that can fulfill those roles.
17 Type Match-Ups
This is a simple one but still important to note. Make sure you know the type chart by heart, or at least most of it. The last thing you want to do is use the wrong move because you don’t know a type’s weakness or resistance.
Another important thing to know is the types of some commonly used Pokémon. You want to be sure about what type a Pokémon is before attacking it. If you’re not familiar with the types, you may waste a turn on a useless attack.
16 The Tier List
In Pokémon, the tier list can be important if you wish to follow it. These are also known as the Smogon tier list since that’s the most commonly used one. It should also be noted that the Smogon list is not an official tier and has no bearing on tournament play.
The tier list can be great for people who want to use different Pokémon.
If you’re sick of seeing the same old overpowered legendaries, this may be for you. There are several tiers like Overused (OU) and Underused (UU). Find the one you like the most and start building your team for that tier.
15 Battle Clauses
There are some restrictions during battle which are called clauses. The purpose of these rules is to make battles more enjoyable and prevent some cheap tactics. For example, there is the Species Clause which prevents players from using two of the same Pokémon.
Another example is the Sleep Clause which only allows you to put one Pokémon to sleep at once. These rules ensure that certain strategies cannot be used which could make battle boring or one-sided. It also keeps things interesting, otherwise, everyone would have the same team.
14 Watch The Professionals Play
It’s a good idea to watch the pros actually play. There are some great YouTubers who play competitive Pokémon. Some of the national and world champions also post videos where they play some ranked matches.
By watching the experts play, you can learn a lot about how a battle works. It’s also an excellent way to become familiar with the different types of strategies in Pokémon. Of course, simply watching won’t be enough, but it’s a good way to start.
13 A Pokémon’s Nature
Another hidden stat that might have evaded your attention. Every Pokémon is given a nature out of around 20 or so. These natures can have an effect on the stats of the Pokémon. They usually increase one stat while decreasing another. Some of them are neutral and don’t change anything.
Usually, you want to get natures that are beneficial for the Pokémon.
If you want a Special Attacker, get a nature that boosts Special Attack and reduces Attack. You wouldn’t want to reduce the other stats like Defence or Speed as they are useful.
12 In-Game Battle Facilities
Believe it or not, but the Battle Tower (and other similar facilities) can actually be useful. These facilities get tougher the longer your win streak. This tower also assumes you’re using Pokémon that are trained for competitive play.
While there’s nothing like the actual challenge of battling another player, this is good practice. You can also earn a lot of battle points to buy useful items for battle and training. The Battle Facilities also sell many great TMs which you can’t find elsewhere.
11 The Ideal Moveset
Just like a team’s synergy, a Pokemon’s set of four moves should also suit its role. If you’re building a Pokemon that specializes in entry hazards it should have moves like Spikes and Stealth Rocks.
Sweeping Pokemon need type coverage to be successful at their job. As an example, Scizor can have a combo of Bullet Punch (Steel), U-Turn (Bug) and Superpower (Fighting). You can find a whole heap of move sets for most Pokemon on Smogon’s website. You can also try experimenting for yourself to see what works.
10 Get A Flame Body Pokémon
When preparing for competitive battles, you need to do a lot of breeding. To speed up the process there are some things you can do. One of them is getting a Pokémon with the Flame Body ability.
Flame Body cuts the number of steps required to hatch an egg by half. You’ll be surprised to see how this can speed up the whole process of breeding. Especially if you’re looking to breed a whole bunch of Pokémon. The ideal Pokémon is Fletchinder since it has Flame Body and can learn Fly so you can travel between places quickly.
9 Pokémon Showdown Is A Great Tool
Pokémon Showdown is an unofficial battle simulator with a wide range of tools. You can do battles against other players in ranked matches. There’s a powerful team building tool with a lot of customization. You can even chat with many other people with a whole section just for newcomers.
It may not be an official website, but it does many things that even the official resources don’t do. There’s nothing that can beat an entire community of players who can help newcomers learn the ropes of competitive battling.
8 The Physical/Special Split
This was a new mechanic introduced during Generation IV. It split each individual attacking move into either a special or physical category. The former scales damage off Special Attack and latter does so from Attack.
It’s important to know which moves are based off the regular attack stat and special attack. Since different Pokémon specialize in different stats, you need to be careful when assigning moves. There are also some moves which also make contact and can take damage from the Rough Skin ability.
7 Inherent Abilities
Every Pokémon has an inherent ability that can give them the edge in battle. Some Pokémon have multiple abilities so you need to find something that works well for that specific creature. That being said, some abilities are not very useful and not worth the effort it takes to attain them.
It’s best to learn about as many abilities as you can and know what they do. You also want to know which Pokémon can learn Flash Fire or Water Absorb. Not only are they immune to those types but they also get a power boost from them.
6 The Right Held Item
You absolutely must give your Pokémon held items. More or less every Pokémon in competitive battle will have a held item. The trick is to figure out which items are best suited for each Pokémon and the role they play.
You can get most of the competitive items from the battle facilities.
You do have to earn a lot of battle points to get them all, but they will be worth it. You should also study what each item does so you’re familiar with common combinations.
5 Learn The Meta
It’s a good idea to learn the current meta of the official game. See which Pokémon are popular and which ones are not. It’s also a good idea to learn what are some of the common move sets they use.
However, don’t be too concerned with knowing about the whole meta. At times, people may use different moves outside the meta which could catch you off guard. Regardless, it’s good to have to an understanding of the meta but don’t worry about it too much.
4 Smogon Is A Great Resource
Even if you’re not using Smogon tiers, I highly recommend you use the website as a guide. You can get plenty of Pokémon move sets and team building tips. Each Pokémon also has a whole section devoted to usage tips and weaknesses.
There is also a great forum on Smogon where you can interact with other players. One of the best ways to learn more about competitive Pokémon is by talking with others and taking their advice.
3 Join The Community
Don’t be afraid to talk to others about the game, whether online or in real life. Check to see if there are any local tournaments being held and try to participate. You can meet new people, learn more about the game and even win a few matches.
It’s also a great place to trade Pokémon. Many people have a lot of leftover Pokémon from breeding. These often have a few perfect IVs and you can use them for breeding perfect Pokémon of your own.
2 Pokémon Roles
Something I didn’t know when starting competitive Pokémon, was the role of each team member. You have tanks, sweepers, spinners, and many more. We won’t be able to go through each of them here, but you should try to learn about them.
These roles will form the backbone of any team you try to build.
You won’t need to fulfill all of them, but some are mainstays. For example, you will almost always need a Sweeper of some sort to finish off a battle.
1 Play The Game
My final piece of advice, just play the game as much as you can. Talking about the theory and planning strategy is great, but useless if you don’t actually try to battle. It’s the best way to become familiar with the game and get better.
It doesn’t matter how you play. You can battle on the actual game with VGC rules. If you want to save time and not bother with breeding, then there’s always Pokémon Showdown. Here you can battle according to whatever rule you want, be it VGC or Mono-Type. And whatever you want to play, remember to have fun!