Yo! What’s up guys, you got pokeaim here, and today we’ve got your one-stop guide for getting into online competitive Pokemon. Even if you’re a complete and total beginner, this video has everything you need in order to learn and jump into the scene. Keep in mind that Sword and Shield come out quite soon, and that will have its own unique set of guides – this is more about the fundamentals of competitive Pokemon play. Feel free to subscribe to stay tuned for the upcoming Sword and Shield competitive content coming out later this month! Anyway, the first thing we’ll do is give a small refresher course on Pokemon basics for anyone who hasn’t played in a long time.
The basis for the entire game is Pokemon’s capability of dealing damage to each other, which they do with their moves. You’ll likely remember that moves have base power, also known as BP, that define how strong they are, that they have accuracy that define how often they hit, and that they have PP that determine how many times they can be used. Another thing to keep in mind in this regard is the type chart – even if you haven’t played since Red and Blue, you’ll remember the basic idea. Water beats Fire, Fire beats Grass and Grass beats Fire, and so forth. Super effective attacks do double damage – for example, Charizard using Flamethrower on Venusaur. When an attack is not very effective, such as Fire against Water, it’s referred to as resisted – for example, Gyarados resists Charizard’s Flamethrower, and thus takes halved damage from it. When an attack is neither not very effective nor super effective, it’s referred to as neutral – for example, Charizard’s Flamethrower is neutral against the Psychic-type Mewtwo. When an attack does no damage whatsoever by virtue of type, it’s referred to as an immunity – for example, the Ground-type Rhydon is immune to Zapdos’ Thunderbolt.
It’s also worth remembering that if a Pokemon has two types, one of which resists another type and one of which is weak to the same type, it is in fact neutral to that type. For example, Lapras is a Water and Ice type. Water resists Fire, but Ice is weak to Fire. Therefore, Lapras is neutral to Fire. Another thing to keep in mind are the attacking and defending stats of Pokemon. While something that can usually be glossed over ingame, in the competitive scene they are important to keep in mind, lest you attempt to break through a Chansey with nothing but special attacks.
An attacking Pokemon uses its Attack or Special Attack stat against the opponent’s Defense or Special Defense stat, depending on whether the attack used is physical or special, respectively. For example, the damage done by a Heatran Magma Storm against a Tapu Fini is based off Heatran’s Special Attack against Tapu Fini’s Special Defense, since Magma Storm is a special attack. Of course, there are other factors to consider – the fact Heatran gets the same-type attack bonus on the Fire-type Magma Storm since it is itself Fire-type, Magma Storm’s base power, and Tapu Fini’s resistance to Fire, but the idea of Special Attack against Special Defense is clear. To draw an example on the other side of the spectrum, Garchomp’s Earthquake is a physical attack and thus runs off its Attack stat, and when hitting Slowbro, it takes the Defense stat into account.
Exceptions to this rule are Psyshock and Psystrike, which are special attacks that hits the opponent’s Defense stat – for example, Tapu Lele’s Psyshock takes into account its Special Attack stat but hits the target Chansey’s Defense. The speed stat is also key – the Pokemon with the higher speed stat will move before its opponent. In the event two Pokemon have the same speed, it is a 50% chance that either of them will go first. These stats can be affected in battle, by various moves, abilities and items. Any non-HP stat can be boosted or lowered by six individual stages. First, let’s go over boosts. A one-stage boost, more commonly referred to as a +1 boost, raises the stat in question by 50%. For example, if a Charizard had 300 attack and 200 Speed and used Dragon Dance, which gives a +1 boost to both Attack and Speed, it would receive a 50% boost to both, meaning it would then have 450 Attack and 300 Speed. A two-stage boost, or +2 boost, doubles the stat in question, meaning if the same Charizard Dragon Danced twice, it would now have +2 in both Attack and Speed, resulting in an Attack stat of 600 and a Speed stat of 400.
Conversely, a stat being lowered one stage, or being reduced to -1, results in 67% of the original statistic, and a -2 reduction sees the original statistic get halved. You can find the remaining percentages for + and – 3 through 6 on Bulbapedia’s Statistic page, link in the description. An important aspect of competitive battling are natures, EVs and IVs. These can be customized to maximize Pokemon’s potential, stats-wise. If you’ve played any game Ruby/Sapphire and beyond, you might have noticed your Pokemon having natures, but probably didn’t pay it much heed, while you’re unlikely to have heard of EVs and IVs without exposure to the competitive scene.
However, they are quite important. Natures boost one stat by 10% while lowering another stat 10%, with the exception of the HP stat, which is not boosted or lowered by any natures. For example, Timid nature boosts Speed while lowering Attack, making it ideal for a fast special attacker such as Greninja. There are some natures that are completely neutral, neither boosting nor lowering any stats, but they are generally not seen in competitive. You can find a full list of natures and their effects on Bulbapedia.
Natures are important because in conjunction with EVs, they are crucial in maximizing Pokemon’s stats. We’ll get to EVs in a second, but for now, consider the fact that Pokemon have base stats, which is a way of saying how naturally good they are at something – for example, Tapu Koko has a tremendously high base speed stat of 130, meaning it’s already naturally pretty fast. However, to achieve the highest speed stat it possibly can, it needs a nature that boosts its speed to begin with, such as Timid. The 130 base speed stat means that with a boosting nature and maximum EV investment, the highest actual speed stat Tapu Koko can reach is 394. This means it will always be faster than a Pokemon with a lower base speed stat, even if that Pokemon also has a boosting nature and maximum EV investment – for example, Weavile is also quite fast, with a base speed stat of 125 which allows it to hit a maximum of 383, but it’ll never beat a maxed-out Tapu Koko.
If a Pokemon has maximum investment and a neutral nature, the highest stat it can reach will be lower – for example, Tapu Lele’s base 130 Special Attack that would be 394 with a positive nature translates to a 359 special attack stat with a neutral nature. Now, let’s delve into this EV business. EV stands for effort values. If you’ve ever followed VGC streams, you might’ve heard the announcer refer to a Pokemon as having been trained in a certain stat. That’s basically what EVs are – deciding what you want your Pokemon to be good at. For example, Magearna can be trained in Special Attack and Speed if it wants to play offensively, or it can be trained in HP and Special Defense if it wants to play defensively. A single stat can have a maximum of 252 EVs invested in it, and a Pokemon has 508 EVs to invest overall. Thus, two stats can be given maximum investment, with 4 EVs left over.
For example, most offensive Pokemon run maximum Speed and Attack or Special Attack investment with a corresponding nature, while most defensive Pokemon run maximum HP and Defense or Special Defense, also with a corresponding nature. Of course, one can distribute their EVs however they see fit – for example, Heatran often runs EVs in all of HP, Special Attack, Special Defense and Speed. EVs gift one stat point per every 4 EVs. So, if a Chansey starts with 641 HP and is given 4 HP EVs, it will have 642 HP; if it is given 8 HP EVs, it will have 643 HP, and so on and so forth, capping at 252 EVs. However, if a Pokemon is being EVed in a stat which its nature boosts – for example, a Timid Tapu Koko being EVed in Speed – then it can take advantage of EV jump points, where 4 EVs will raise the stat by 2 points. So, take the example of this Timid Tapu Koko being given Speed EVs.
212 EVs give it a Speed stat of 383. However, since 383 to 385 is a jump point for positive natures, adding 4 more Speed EVs to Tapu Koko will give it a 385 stat instead of a 384 stat. These jump points are achieved every 40 EVs, starting at 16 EVs for Pokemon with base stats ending in 0 or 5. For example, if a Modest Heatran, a Pokemon with 130 base Special Attack, is being EVed in Special Attack, it will gain its first jump point with 16 EVs making it go from the 328 Special Attack it had with 12 EVs to 330 with 16. With the every-40-EVs rule, it gets its next jump point at 56 EVs, then 96 EVs, then 136 EVs, then 176 EVs, then 216 EVs. Lastly, there are IVs. They’re basically the Pokemon version of genetics, with a scale of 0 to 31 used for each stat, and determining how high they can potentially go, with 31 being the highest possible.
For example, Tapu Koko always has base 130 Speed; as mentioned earlier, it can reach a 394 Speed stat with a Timid nature and maximum Speed EV investment. However, this is only attainable if it also has a perfect 31 Speed IV. If it had a 30 Speed IV, the maximum speed it could reach would be 393. If it had a 29 Speed IV, the maximum speed it could reach would be 392, so on and so forth all the way down to 0. Base stats, EVs and IVs may seem confusing at first, but it’s easy to get the hang of the idea once it clicks. You can further learn about Pokemon’s base stats as well as the effect of EVs and IVs by hopping on Pokemon Showdown and opening the teambuilder – it’s quite intuitive, and also will detail which natures do what. With enough experience, knowing all these will be second nature. A small note – you may notice that Pokemon without physical attacks will have their Attack IV automatically set to 0. While you normally want all your IVs to be maxed out, this is to minimize damage taken from confusion and Foul Play, since you will not be otherwise using that Attack stat.
Pokemon using Gyro Ball, a move that is stronger the slower its user is, may also use a 0 Speed IV. Other than these scenarios, it’s best to have maximum IVs. There are different generations of Pokemon; as of this video, there are eight. Each generation is comprised of the main series games that can interact with each other. Generation 1 consists of the Red, Blue and Yellow games; it is referred to as RBY. Generation 2 consists of the Gold, Silver and Crystal games; it is referred to as GSC. Generation 3 consists of the Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, FireRed and LeafGreen games; it is referred to as ADV, which is short for Advance, though a rare few may call it RSE. Generation 4 consists of the Diamond, Pearl, Platinum, HeartGold and SoulSilver games; it is referred to as DPP. Generation 5 consists of the Black, White, Black 2 and White 2 games; it is usually referred to as BW, though a few may call it BW2.
Generation 6 consists of the X, Y, Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire games; it is referred to as ORAS. Generation 7 consists of the Sun, Moon, Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon games; it is referred to as SM, although some may call it USM or USUM. In addition to their respective names, each generation may be referred to by its number – basically, DPP and gen 4 are synonyms, as are gen 6 and ORAS. Pokemon Showdown simulates a link battle between two main series games within one generation. This means no inter-generational battles such as Red vs. Silver, nor is there crossing over into spinoff games, meaning there is no simulating Sapphire vs. Pokemon Colosseum. This is so both players are on equal footing that could be recreated with the actual games – everything available in Ruby can also be obtained in FireRed, and vice versa. If you are a Wi-Fi battler, however, the process of making one’s team is more intricate than the plug-in-and-play style of Showdown.
Thus, we’ll now go over how to obtain Pokemon with the desired natures and IVs, as well as how to EV train them. Non-legendary Pokemon can be bred, allowing you to easily control their natures and IVs. This is done by leaving two Pokemon in the same egg group at the Day-Care – one male and one female. You can find what egg groups Pokemon belong to on Bulbapedia. This will result in an egg carrying the base form of the female Pokemon – for example, if a male Charizard and a female Dragonite breed, you will get a Dratini egg.
Alternatively, you can have any non-legendary Pokemon breed with a Ditto and receive an Egg with that Pokemon’s base form. You can pass a parent Pokemon’s nature down by having it hold an Everstone – this has about 50% success rate. As an aside, to find wild Pokemon with certain natures, you can do so by making a Pokemon with Synchronize that has the desired nature the first Pokemon in your party. This also has a 50% success rate. To check your Pokemon’s IVs, you must beat the Elite 4 and hatch 20 eggs. The Ace Trainer right of the PC in the Battle Tree will then give you a PC function that allows you to check your Pokemon’s IVs from your boxes.
The terms the PC will give you to describe your Pokemon’s IVs are as follows: No Good: 0 Decent: 1-15 Pretty Good: 16-25 Very Good: 26-29 Fantastic: 30 Best: 31 As mentioned earlier, you want maximum IVs, so you will be looking for “best.” However, to pass down perfect IVs, you need to have Pokemon with them first – ideally, a Ditto, since that can pass its IVs down to anything you need to breed. That’s where SOS battles come in. Rather than us go through the entire process, we recommend perusing these easy-to-use sources that have already covered the subject in-depth: the guide to getting good IVs from them on IGN, while the Bulbapedia article on SOS battles also has additional information. After you’ve obtained your Pokemon with ideal IVs, the next step is to EV train them – luckily, IGN has a thorough guide you can reference on that as well. Links to all three of these pages are in the description. There are also many other tutorials on how to do so on YouTube. Of course, many good competitive Pokemon are legendaries, which cannot have IVs bred onto them.
However, don’t fear – the solution isn’t difficult, just tedious. Legendary Pokemon are guaranteed 3 perfect IVs, while the rest are random. Thus, with a Synchronize Pokemon to get your nature, all you have to do is soft reset until you get the IVs you desire. It will take quite a lot of patience, but the reward is worth it when you consider the power of many of those Pokemon in the competitive scene. It is worth mentioning that Sword and Shield are expected to have improvements to the EV and IV system, but that will be covered in its own guide when the games are out.
Now, to battling; each of the aforementioned generations have different mechanics. For example, the critical hit rate and how much damage those critical hits do differs depending on the generation. If you want to delve into the specifics of past generations, there is a thread on Smogon that succinctly explains all of them, titled “Mechanical Differences Between the Gens,” link in the description. However, here we’ll be covering the mechanics of the generation most current at the time of release – Sun and Moon, as those are a good starting point to springboard off of into Sword and Shield, given how likely they are to be extraordinarily similar.
There will be an updated guide for all things Sword and Shield-related, though. Anyway, let’s begin. Critical hits are damage-dealing attacks that deal an extra 50% damage about 4.167% of the time, which is a 1 out of 24 chance. They are often referred to as crits. Next, we’ll cover the mechanics of status conditions. Sleep – once put to sleep, the afflicted Pokemon is unable to move, with the exceptions of the moves Sleep Talk and Snore, until it wakes up.
Sleep can last from one to three turns. Pokemon with the Insomnia or Vital Spirit ability cannot be put to sleep, nor can grounded Pokemon during Electric Terrain or Misty Terrain. Grass-types are immune to Spore and Sleep Powder. These are the most important notes, but further information can be found on the sleep status’ Bulbapedia page. Burn – halves the afflicted Pokemon’s Attack stat and causes 6.25% damage per turn. Fire-types cannot be burned. Paralysis – halves the afflicted Pokemon’s Speed stat and makes it unable to move 25% of the time. Electric-types cannot be paralyzed. Poison – regular poison, as caused by Sludge Bomb or one layer of Toxic Spikes, causes a steady 12.5% damage per turn.
Bad poison, as caused by Toxic or two layers of Toxic Spikes, causes damage that starts at 6.25% and increases by 1/16 with each passing turn. Poison- and Steel-types cannot be poisoned, except by the corrosion ability. Freeze – prevents the afflicted Pokemon from moving for an indefinite amount of turns until it thaws out; it has a 20% chance to thaw on any given turn. Being hit by a Fire-type move will thaw a frozen Pokemon out, as does Scald or Steam Eruption; a frozen Pokemon can also thaw itself out by using either of these moves, as well as Flare Blitz, Sacred Fire, Fusion Flare, Burn Up and Flame Wheel.
Ice-types cannot be frozen. Confusion – the afflicted Pokemon has a 33% chance to hit itself with a 40 base power typeless physical attack for 1 to 4 turns. Finally, for fans of the first few generations, it’s worth mentioning that the base powers of moves you may remember have been toned down. Surf, Flamethrower, Thunderbolt and Ice Beam used to be 95 base power, but now they are 90. Similarly, Fire Blast, Hydro Pump, Thunder and Blizzard went from 120 to 110.
So now, let’s get into the backbone of what makes competitive Pokemon competitive Pokemon: switching. Playing against in-game NPCs can be boring – even the Elite 4 lets their Gyarados get fried by Thunderbolt every time. However, when you play against another human being, they know their Gyarados will not survive a Thunderbolt, and they will switch out. This is where the game begins. You might wonder, how does anything get KOed if players just switch out every time? It’s a fair question, but Pokemon do not have infinite health or PP, meaning they will go down eventually. It’s also not easy to switch into some of the stronger attacks in the game even if you know they’re coming. Plus, only held items are allowed in competitive battles – this means no spamming Revives. Here are the common items used in competitive battles: Z-Crystals – these give you a one-time upgrade to any given move to be used at a time of your choosing, and cannot be removed by Knock Off or Trick. They are based off type; a Pokemon holding a Firium Z can upgrade any Fire move it has, from Ember to Overheat, into the Z-Move Inferno Overdrive, with the increased base power varying based on the power of the original move – a powered up Overheat would do far more than a powered up Ember.
Z-Crystals can also be used on non-attacking moves, and their effects vary – consult Bulbapedia for the full list, since they can be used for legitimately any attack in the game. An example is Z-Stealth Rock boosting its user’s Defense stat. Mega stones – these allow certain Pokemon to Mega Evolve, becoming upgraded versions of themselves. They also cannot be removed by Knock Off or Trick. Before we move on, do note that Z-Crystals and Mega Evolutions will not exist in Pokemon Sword and Shield, so this is strictly for Sun and Moon. Leftovers – the definitive competitive item, it gives even Pokemon that don’t have recovery moves a way to stay healthy throughout a game. For example, if Tapu Fini didn’t hold Leftovers, it would not be able to switch into Ash Greninja at all, but since it does, it is one of the sturdiest switch-ins to it there is. Black Sludge is an alternative for Poison-type Pokemon – for them, it is the same as Leftovers, but non-Poison types lose 6.25% health per turn when holding Black Sludge, making the item an effective deterrent to the move Trick, which exchanges the items of the two Pokemon on the field.
Choice Band, Choice Specs, Choice Scarf – these are known as the choice items; a Pokemon holding them is said to be choiced. They provide a 50% boost to a Pokemon’s Attack, Special Attack or Speed, respectively, but force it to only use the first move it uses when it switches in. It resets upon switching out, though. For example, if Choice Specs Tapu Koko uses Thunderbolt on the first turn it is out, it cannot use Dazzling Gleam on the next turn. However, once Tapu Koko switches out, it can pick a different move the next time it comes in, though it will of course then be locked into that move. Choice Band and Choice Specs Pokemon are utilized to dish out heavy damage against the opponent, examples being Tapu Bulu and Tapu Lele, respectively, while Choice Scarf Pokemon use their extra speed to stop fast opposing Pokemon. In general, a Pokemon that is able to stop another Pokemon is said to be “checking” that Pokemon, and Choice Scarfers are common checks to many prominent threats. Life Orb – this item provides a 30% boost to all its holder’s attacking moves at the cost of 10% of the user’s HP with each attack.
This does not apply to Magic Guard Pokemon. Rocky Helmet – if the user of this item is hit by a contact move, the attacker takes 16.7% damage. Note that though it may seem so, contact moves are not necessarily synonymous with physical moves! Admittedly, most of them are, notably anything that punches, such as Ice Punch, as well as U-turn and Knock Off, but there are physical moves that don’t make contact, such as Earthquake. Most special moves don’t make contact, with the exception of Grass Knot. You can check whether a move makes contact or not on Bulbapedia and Pokemon Showdown. Assault Vest – this item gives its holder’s Special Defense a 50% boost, but only allows it to use moves that deal damage to the opponent.
Resist berries – these berries reduce damage of a super effective hit by 50%. For example, Shuca Berry weakens super effective Ground moves. Thus, if Tapu Koko holds a Shuca Berry, an Earthquake that would normally do 120% has its damage halved, meaning it would do 60%. Note that these berries, like all other berries, can only be used once. Pinch berries – these berries, such as Iapapa and Wiki Berry, give its user 50% back once it’s been taken down to 25% or lower. They’re essentially a second life for certain Pokemon that take big hits and don’t get as much out of the incremental healing of Leftovers. Note that certain berries confuse their user if they have a certain nature – consult Bulbapedia or Pokemon Showdown for each, so that if you have a Pokemon with a certain nature that wants a berry, you can give it one of the ones that does not confuse it – their effects are identical outside of that.
Type-based boosting items – these provide a 20% boost to moves that correspond with the type of the item. For example, Mystic Water boosts Water-type moves, meaning its holder will have increased power on its Hydro Pump. These items come in the form of both regular items such as Mystic Water and Plates, such as Splash Plate, which is fundamentally the same item. Expert Belt – this item provides a 20% boost to any super effective attack its holder may land on the opponent. Eviolite – this item boosts the Defense and Special Defense stats of any not-fully-evolved Pokemon. Focus Sash – this item allows its holder to survive any hit, so long as it is at full HP. It is one-time-use. There are other semi-notable items that a competitive battler should be aware of; we will list them here and let you reference them for yourself on Bulbapedia or Pokemon Showdown. They are: Air Balloon, Mental Herb, Red Card, Custap Berry, Toxic Orb, Flame Orb and weather extension items. If you’ve played any game generation 3 or later, you’ll know about the existence of abilities.
Next up, we’re going over the biggest ones in the game. Intimidate – when a Pokemon with this ability switches in, it lowers the Attack stat of the opposing Pokemon by one stage. Regenerator – a Pokemon with this ability regains 33% of its health upon switching out. Levitate – a Pokemon with this ability is immune to Ground-type moves. Natural Cure – a Pokemon with this ability is cured of any status conditions upon switching out. Magic Guard – a Pokemon with this ability can only be damaged by attacking moves. Rough Skin and Iron Barbs – the ability equivalent of Rocky Helmet, though they only dish out 12.5% damage to the contact move user. Tough Claws – boosts the power of contact moves by 30%. Pure Power / Huge Power – doubles its wielder’s Attack stat. Sturdy – a built-in Focus Sash. Trace – copies the opponent’s ability. Water Absorb / Volt Absorb – heal 25% of their health if hit by Water or Electric moves, respectively.
Flash Fire – the wielder is immune to Fire-type moves and gains a 50% to its own Fire-type moves if hit by an opponent’s. Storm Drain / Lightning Rod – the wielder is immune to Water and Electric moves, respectively, and gains a +1 Special Attack boost if hit by one. Weather abilities, Drought/Drizzle/Sand Stream/Snow Warning – these abilities summon their respective weathers for 5 turns, 8 if their wielder is holding the corresponding weather extension item – Heat Rock, Damp Rock, Smooth Rock and Icy Rock, respectively. Drought summons sun, which strengthens Fire moves by 50%, weakens Water moves by 50%, allows for automatic use of SolarBeam, makes Thunder and Hurricane 50% accurate, and triggers the Chlorophyll ability, which doubles speed.
Drizzle summons rain, which strengthens Water moves by 50%, weakens Fire moves by 50%, makes Thunder and Hurricane 100% accurate, and triggers the Swift Swim ability, which doubles speed. Sand Stream summons sandstorm, which does 6.25% damage per turn to all non-Rock, Ground and Steel types and triggers the Sand Rush and Sand Force abilities, which double speed and provide a 30% boost to Rock, Steel and Ground moves, respectively. Snow Warning summons hail, which does 6.25% damage per turn to all non-Ice types and triggers the Slush Rush ability, which doubles speed. Poison Heal – the wielder gains 12.5% health per turn if poisoned. Pressure – all moves directed at the wielder lose 2 PP instead of 1. Magnet Pull – Steel-types cannot switch out against the wielder unless holding a Shed Shell. Arena Trap – non-Flying, Ghost or Levitating Pokemon that are also not holding an Air Balloon or Shed Shell cannot switch out against the wielder.
Banned in standard play. Shadow Tag – no non-Ghost Pokemon not holding a Shed Shell can switch out against the wielder. Banned in standard play. Beast Boost – raises the wielder’s strongest stat upon achieving a KO. Magic Bounce – bounces back the effects of non-attack moves such as status and Leech Seed. Serene Grace – doubles the percentage chance that the wielder will achieve its moves’s secondary effects. For example, Flamethrower usually has a 10% chance to burn, but a Serene Grace Pokemon will have a 20% chance to burn with it. Unaware – ignores the effects of the opponent’s stat boosts. Mold Breaker – ignores abilities that would nullify the effects of its wielder’s attack. For example, a Pokemon with Mold Breaker can use Earthquake to hit Pokemon with Levitate.
A Mold Breaker Pokemon with boosts will also hit even Unaware Pokemon with the power of those boosts – for example, Unaware Quagsire takes normal damage from even a +6 Mega Charizard X, but it takes the full brunt of boosted attacks from Mega Gyarados thanks to Mold Breaker. Unburden – doubles the wielder’s speed once its item is consumed. Scrappy – allows the wielder to hit Ghost-types with Normal- and Fighting-type moves.
Technician – gives a 50% boost to all moves 60 BP or lower. Contrary – reverses the effects of any stat boosts exacted upon the wielder. For example, Leaf Storm usually halves its user’s Special Attack, but when Contrary Serperior uses it, its Special Attack is doubled. Conversely, Calm Mind usually provides a +1 boost to Special Attack and Special Defense, but if Contrary Serperior were to use it, it would receive -1 Special Attack and Special Defense. This can also be applied to the Intimidate ability and moves that would otherwise lower the wielder’s stats, such as Defog and Icy Wind.
Flame Body / Static / Poison Point – any Pokemon making contact with the wielder has a 30% to be burned, paralyzed or poisoned, respectively. Guts – if the wielder is affected by a non-confusion status condition, it receives a 50% boost to its Attack stat. Sheer Force – if the wielder’s attacking moves have secondary effects, the effects are removed and the attack receives a 30% boost. Prankster – the wielder’s non-attacking moves gain priority. Thick Fat – Fire- and Ice-type moves have their power halved against the wielder. Aerilate / Pixilate – the user’s Normal-type moves are turned into Flying or Fairy type, respectively, and given a 20% power boost. Moxie – the wielder gains +1 Attack after it KOes something. Soul-Heart – the wielder gains +1 Special Attack whenever something faints, meaning even if the opposing Pokemon succumbs to Toxic. Defiant – any of the Pokemon’s stats being lowered give it a +2 Attack boost.
Protean – the user turns into the type of any move it uses, and gains STAB on every attacking move. The terrain abilities, Psychic Surge/Electric Surge/Misty Surge/Grassy Surge – specific to the Tapus, these abilities summon the terrains they are named for. All terrains apply to grounded Pokemon only, that is to say non-Flying or Levitating Pokemon, and last 5 turns, 8 if their wielder holds the Terrain Extender item.
Psychic Terrain boosts Psychic moves by 50% and blocks the use of priority. Electric Terrain boosts Electric moves by 50% and prevents Pokemon from sleeping. Misty Terrain weakens Dragon moves by 50% and prevents the effects of status conditions. Grassy Terrain boosts Grass moves by 50%, weakens Earthquake by 50% and gives Pokemon on both sides of the field 6.25% health each turn. Those are the most important abilities to be familiar with. It is advised to consult Bulbapedia and Showdown for a more comprehensive list. Finally, we’ll go over some of the most important moves in the game. We’ll start off with what are referred to as entry hazards, or just hazards. Competitive Pokemon is all about switching, and once these entry hazards are set up, every Pokemon that can be affected by them takes damage every time they switch in to battle.
The best example is Stealth Rock, also known as SR or just “rocks,” widely considered to be the best move in competitive Pokemon. It damages every single Pokemon in the game, barring those with the Magic Guard ability. The damage done is based on the Pokemon being damaged matchup against the Rock type. Pokemon neutral to Rock take 12.5% damage upon switching in. Pokemon weak to Rock take 25% switching in. Pokemon with a double weakness to Rock take 50% switching in.
Pokemon that resist Rock take 6.25% switching in. Pokemon with a double resistance to Rock take 3.125% switching in. The reason Stealth Rock is so great is that the damage adds up significantly over the course of a battle, hitting just about everything, and Pokemon is often a game of inches – every percent counts. Plus, it only takes one turn to set up, and its effect is permanent unless removed by Defog or Rapid Spin, which are key for the very reason that they get rid of rocks. They also help against the other entry hazards, which are: Spikes, which affect every grounded non-Magic Guard Pokemon Pokemon for a universal 12.5% after its first use, also known as one layer owing to the fact that Spikes can be used multiple times for increasing damage. Two uses, or two layers, will do 16.67% to Pokemon hit by Spikes, and three layers will do 25%. Toxic Spikes poison every Pokemon that isn’t Steel, Poison or Flying, or has the Levitate ability; a Pokemon with Magic Guard will be poisoned, but will of course not feel the effects of the poison damage.
Toxic Spikes also have layers – one layer will cause regular poison, and two layers will cause Toxic poison. Finally, Sticky Web doesn’t cause damage, but lowers the speed of all grounded Pokemon by one stage. Each of them have their place in the competitive scene, but Stealth Rock is so good and so important that it is considered to be required on every single competitive team, for you would be putting yourself at a disadvantage for not using it. There are other important competitive moves, but we won’t go over all of them – it’s self-evident why something like healing moves and status moves would be good. We’ll just mention a few of the bigger ones that newer players wouldn’t immediately think of. Defog – removes both the opponent’s and its user’s entry hazards while also lowering the opponent’s evasion, though this is usually just a bonus side effect.
It’s blocked by Taunt, though. Rapid Spin – removes only the opponent’s entry hazards. It’s blocked by Ghost-types, though. U-turn and Volt Switch – these moves hit the opponent and then allow the user to switch out. They are incredible offensive tools – for example, if a Tapu Fini has to switch out against Tapu Koko, Tapu Koko can safely use Volt Switch, damaging the Tapu Bulu switchin and then being able to bring in whichever teammate it wants.
Knock Off – this move removes the opponent’s item. It also does respectable damage on its own to the point where some Pokemon use it for its coverage and power as much as its item-removing effect. Pursuit – competitive Pokemon is all about switching, and this is the one move even a switching Pokemon can’t escape, doing doubled damage should it attempt to do so. Pursuit trapping, as it’s often referred to, is a key offensive tool.
Taunt – forces the opponent to only use attacking moves. It is excellent at blocking defensive Pokemon from using recovery, or preventing the opponent from setting up Stealth Rock. Various boosting moves – Calm Mind, Swords Dance, Dragon Dance and so on – sometimes, straight-ahead damage isn’t enough, so Pokemon will boost their stats, allowing them to break through or outspeed Pokemon they normally would not be able to deal with. Substitute – this decoy taking damage means you can safely hit whichever one of your opponent’s Pokemon has switched in rather than having to guess.
For example, Mega Mawile is scaring out a Tapu Bulu, and wants to Ice Punch a Landorus-Therian switch or Focus Punch a Heatran switch. If it uses the wrong move against either, it must switch out or be KOed, and will not have accomplished anything. With Substitute, these woes are mitigated. Substitute also blocks status, which can be immensely key. Priority moves – these moves always go first, even if the opponent has the fastest Pokemon imaginable, unless it too uses a priority move. They can be lifesavers against Pokemon that would otherwise potentially win the game. Examples include Sucker Punch, Water Shuriken, Fake Out and Ice Shard. Leech Seed – while not affecting Grass-types or Magic Guard users, this move weakens the opponent while healing its user; the healing effect continues for its teammates should the user switch out. The effect goes away once the afflicted Pokemon switches out, but it is still an incredibly useful move. Roar / Whirlwind – forcing the opposing Pokemon to switch out can be invaluable. Haze – removes all stat boosts on both sides of the field.
Protect – racks up passive damage on the opponent and Leftovers recovery for its user, while also safely checking what move a choiced Pokemon will lock itself into. Wish – heals whichever Pokemon is on the user’s side of the field the turn after it is used by 50% of the user’s HP, meaning it can be used to heal teammates. For example, Jirachi uses Wish on one turn, and on the next turn it switches to Gliscor, who then recovers 202 HP, which is 50% of Jirachi’s 404 HP stat. So, at this point, you’re itching to get out on the battlefield, be it on Wi-Fi or Pokemon Showdown. You know about moves, the type chart, natures, EVs, IVs, held items, abilities and the best moves, including entry hazards. You know that switching is the key to competitive battling. So, now you’re wondering, what are the rules and formats for battling? How do I build a team? And most importantly, how do I win battles? For the first question, please refer to my guide to Pokemon Showdown, which contains the list of standard battling rules, such as Sleep Clause, Species clause and so on.
This guide also explains the concept of tiers, which are the formats you can play in – for this guide, we’ll refer to Sun and Moon OU for our examples. Each generation’s OU tier is that generation’s standard format – the Pokemon that are considered too powerful for balanced play, such as Mewtwo and Arceus, are banned, and left are Pokemon like Heatran. Again, more information in the aforementioned guide. You can also refer to Smogon.com – their formats page has a thorough explanation of the tiers that are used on Pokemon Showdown and generally throughout the competitive battling world. Finally, Pokemon Showdown lists which Pokemon are in which tiers for each generation – some browsing in it will give you the general idea. Remember, you don’t need to use OU Pokemon to succeed in OU – there are some Pokemon in tiers below OU such as Gastrodon and Slowbro that are great choices for the metagame. However, as a general rule, the OU Pokemon are the best place to start, as those are the staples of the tier – the Tapus, Greninja, Magearna and so forth.
Now, teambuilding. Those who have played in-game may remember NPCs that told you the importance of a balanced team that could handle all types. A similar idea rings true here. Running six Fire-types seems fun until you run into Tyranitar, Greninja and Mega Latias; you’re probably not going to win that. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to teambuilding – other than fitting Stealth Rock on one of your Pokemon – but in general, the idea is to cover your Pokemon’s weaknesses.
For example, if you want to use Heatran, it is a good idea to use a Pokemon that covers its weaknesses to Water, Ground and Fighting. Tapu Bulu resists all three of these. In return, Heatran can switch into Fire, Ice, Steel, Poison and Flying attacks aimed at Tapu Bulu. By covering your Pokemon’s weaknesses, you will be able to switch effectively, respond to your opponent’s threats and then be able to attack in return. Of course, the type chart is not the end-all be-all when it comes to covering your weaknesses; users of one type of move can also use other moves to cover their bases. The Heatran and Tapu Bulu combination is generally quite solid defensively, but if the Greninja attempting to Hydro Pump the Heatran also has Gunk Shot, then Tapu Bulu won’t be able to counter it. However, these metagame-specific threats are things you will learn to deal with through experience; once you become more familiar with the metagame, you can tweak your teams to deal with these specific threats you see rather than just covering types. You don’t have to be a master teambuilder immediately, either – if you head over to the OU subforum on the Smogon forums, you will find a Sample Teams thread that has proven, solid teams you can use to get acquainted with the metagame; eventually, you can develop your own style.
The OU subforum is also a great resource due to the plentiful discussion about the metagame from some of the most in-tune players around. So, finally, the big question: how do I battle? In very basic terms, you will look at team preview and attempt to identify which of your Pokemon is likeliest to win you the game. For example, it is unlikely that your Ash-Greninja would sweep a defensive team consisting of Toxapex and Chansey, but your Swords Dance Kartana might pose a significant threat.
Thus, you would want to play in such a way that you put your Kartana in the best position to sweep – you would not switch it into Toxapex’s Scald, but you would try to force in the opponent’s Chansey, which would allow you to Swords Dance on it safely. It’s a combination of having a team that can deal with the common combinations of the metagame and identifying how you will execute your plan to deal with the opposing team. This is a simplified explanation of a very complex concept, but it is the foundation upon which Pokemon battles are won, and once you get out there and try it for yourself, it will begin to make sense. There are other notable formats besides OU singles, though. The Video Game Championship, also known as VGC, is the official Nintendo-endorsed format; players travel to several events attaining points in hopes of gaining enough to qualify for Worlds, which take place each August in a major city.
The format is bring 6, pick 4 level 50 doubles, and can be played on Showdown, but that is usually meant as easy-access practice for the events themselves, where players win money and can travel across the world. More information can be found on pokemon.com, link in the description. Another common format is Battle Spot singles, or BSS. It is the official Singles metagame played on the seventh generation Pokemon games; the battling format is bring 6, pick 3, with Pokemon at level 50. The format can be played on Showdown, but it’s generally meant as practice for the real deal played on the handheld games. For more information, check out the Smogon page dedicated to it, link in the description. Finally, an immensely popular format is that of the draft league. It’s sort of like a Pokemon version of fantasy sports. The player, or coach, if you will – that’s you – drafts Pokemon as one would draft players in fantasy sports. Twelve Pokemon make up the roster – you cannot have Pokemon that anyone else does, just like two players in one fantasy basketball league could not both have LeBron James. Once the rosters are finalized, the player-coaches face off against each other in weekly matches to reach the playoffs and ultimately become the champion of the league.
There are many draft leagues out there to follow and join – luckily, Reddit user RoboticPancakeMan has outlined all the details for anyone interested in participating. Links in the description. Overall, the question of how does one Pokemon battle, irregardless of the format played does not have a single, definitive answer. While the goal of attempting to faint the opponent’s six Pokemon before they do the same to you is universal, different players approach that goal differently. Some players love to make lots of aggressive predictions, while others prefer a more cautious approach, and others still find themselves somewhere in between. Once you get out there and play, you’ll begin to find your own style. You can also visit the Tournaments subforum on Smogon; each big tournament in there has its own subforum as well, and in that subforum there will be a thread containing the Showdown replays of the battles from that tournament. You can watch these and get an idea of how some of the best battlers in the world play, as well as the teams they use, and it might be the jumpstart that sends you on your own journey to become the very best, like no one ever was.
Also, don’t worry – there will be a guide to advanced battling in the future. Plus, there are other sources you can refer to on the subject with Pokemon Sword and Shield: my Showdown lives, Wi-Fi battles, moveset videos and BattleSpot videos are all good learning tools, so subscribe if you’d like to see more. MrJamvad is releasing a book about advanced competitive play that’s sure to be a massive help to anyone looking to take their game to the next level.
Also, check out BKC, who wrote the script for this video; his channel contains in-depth analysis of the highest level of competitive Pokemon, mostly focusing on the older generations but with explanations that are great analyses of the game of Pokemon as a whole. Finally check out RedSnivy who’s exceedingly professional work and editing this video was an invaluable part of its presentation. So, that about wraps things up. The competitive scene can seem daunting in its vastness at first, but it is my genuine belief and hope that this video has given you the guidance necessary to get involved in this wonderful game. Thank you guys so much for watching, and let me know if it’s helped you! Feel free to subscribe, leave a like and I’ll see you later.