Published on July 12th, 2012 | by Firestorm1
Introduction to Competitive Pokémon
Oak: RED! You have endeavored hard to become the new LEAGUE champion! Congratulations, RED, you and your POKEMON are HALL OF FAMERs!
Ah, that moment of triumph when you think yourself to be Pokémon Champion. However, if you’ve taken your team to a tournament, you’ve likely found out that the same strategies you used to get into the Hall of Fame aren’t enough to get you that Championship title. What is wrong? Why are you feeling defeat at the hands of these Youngsters, Lasses, and PokéManiacs? Well, if you’re looking to find out and improve your skills, you’ve come to the right place. This article will introduce you to some of the core mechanics in the game you need to be aware of before building a team for competitive play. Afterwards, you can take a look around at the other articles under the Beginner sections to build your first competitive team and make better sense of all the materials we have to help you on your quest to become Pokémon World Champion!
The first thing you’ll notice about competitive play is that there are two Pokémon on each side of the field at a time. Every official tournament since 2006 has been held in the doubles format, and it doesn’t look like that will change even with the introduction of triple and rotation battles in Pokémon Black and White. You may be disappointed that you spent your time in the game training a team in the singles format only to require a doubles team for tournaments. Don’t worry; as you’ll soon find out, that in-game team was going to need to be stored away anyway.
Banned Pokémon and Moves
You might have been excited to use that Zekrom or Reshiram you got to catch just before finishing the game, but unfortunately they are not usually allowed in competitive play. Although rules can change from season to season, the current metagame does not allow any of the Pokémon banned in the Battle Subway or Global Battle Union. It also does not allow the moves Dark Void or Sky Drop.
Item Clause and Species Clause
You’re not allowed to have more than one of any Pokémon on your team (defined by Pokédex number). So you’re allowed to have one Scizor and Scyther, but not two Scythers. You’re allowed to have a Rotom-Heat and Heatran, but not a Rotom-Heat and Rotom-Freeze. Much like Pokémon, you’re also only allowed one of each item on your team.
Elements of a Pokémon
A Pokémon has four attributes which will determine whether or not it is a good fit for your team — five if you consider how awesome they look to be relevant. Unfortunately, Farfetch’d’s killer style doesn’t make up for the other four elements it sorely lacks.
What type a Pokémon is can very well be the factor that decides whether you want it on your team or not. Taking advantage of strategic resistances and immunities can be the turning point in a battle.
Starting with the Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire versions, each Pokémon species has anywhere between 1 to 3 abilities. A few of them aren’t very useful in battle, but others can be game-changers. Abilities like Intimidate and Lightningrod can take Pokémon from obscurity to superstar status.
In many cases, the moves a Pokémon learns are the most important aspects of your team choice. If you need the type of speed control that Icy Wind provides, then you’ll need a Pokémon that can learn Icy Wind. Having a movepool that complements the rest of a Pokémon’s attributes is very important. Flareon, for example, has been forever cursed by a movepool that just doesn’t take advantage of its typing, ability, or stats, while Cresselia is a staple on many teams because the excellency of her typing, ability, and stats is matched by the excellency of her movepool.
The base stat numbers of a Pokémon are used in the formula to calculate its final stats. It’s the constant with which you can compare different Pokémon. The only way to see these base stats is to look at an online Pokédex like the one on Veekun because you won’t actually see the base stat in the game. What you’ll see is the final stat which takes into account a variety of customized options. Knowing how to customize these stats is the single most important thing you’ll learn in this transitional phase to becoming an Ace Trainer!
Do you remember Youngster Joey repeatedly calling you about his Ratatta being in the top percentage of Pokémon? He was actually hinting heavily at one of the hidden stat systems in the game. Aside from your Pokémon’s level, which plays a huge part in how strong your Pokémon is, there are three different elements you’ll need to keep in mind.
Natures are the least hidden stat modifier. A Pokémon has one of 25 natures assigned to it when caught or born. Each nature boosts one stat by 10% and reduces another stat by 10%. Selecting which stat you need the boost in and which stat you can stand to lose is a major part of selecting your Pokémon’s strategy. There are five natures which boost and reduce the same stat making them completely neutral. Although this may seem like a good idea at first, you are always better off boosting one of your stats.
Individual Values (IVs)
IVs are the most hidden of the stats, and the ones our friend Joey likes talking about the most. Each stat on a Pokémon has a value between 0 and 31 assigned to it. The higher the IV, the higher that stat is. At level 50, every two IVs results in an extra stat point.
There’s very little strategy or customization when it comes to IVs: You want the highest IV you can get in every stat. There are only two exceptions. One is if you are running a Trick Room team, in which case you want your speed to be a low as possible. The other is if your Pokémon uses the move Hidden Power which changes its type and power depending on your IVs. You can learn about techniques to increase your chances of getting higher IVs in our Training section and can calculate your IVs using an IV calculator.
Effort Values (EVs)
EVs are hinted at throughout the game — there are even items that manipulate them — but they’re never outright mentioned to you. The best way to think about EVs is by thinking of online RPGs like World of Warcraft or Maple Story. When you level up in those games, you select which stat you want to increase. You have a limited number of stat point increases to use and need to use them wisely to support your character’s strengths. It works similarly in Pokémon and we call these stat point increases “EVs.”
Each Pokémon can have up to 510 EVs, and you can assign up to 255 EVs per stat. At level 50, every 4 or 8 EVs gives you an extra stat point. If you calculate it out, this gives you enough room to max out two stats with a just a little bit (6 EVs) left over to spend somewhere else. Most EV spreads you’ll make starting out will have you doing precisely that: maxing out two important stats like Speed and Attack while dumping the leftovers into HP or maxing out HP and a defense to take the right hits. But as you get more experienced you’ll start training your Pokémon specifically to take hits from common foes or OHKO special threats.
Unfortunately, you don’t get to just click a button or move a slider to change your EVs. You’ll need to train them specifically. There are two ways in which you can do this.
Screw the rules, you have money! Vitamins increase the EVs in a specific stat by 10. However, they won’t work once you hit 100 in that stat. They’re a great way of getting started out though. For 98,000 Pokédollars you’ll be almost halfway done maxing out a stat!
With the release of Pokémon Black and White, Game Freak introduced Wings, which increase your Pokémon’s EVs by 1 even once you have 100 EVs in that stat. Unfortunately, their rarity makes them a very inconsistent way to train.
This is the primary way to gain EVs. Every time your Pokémon gains experience after defeating a wild or opponent’s Pokémon, it will gain EVs. Which stat you gain the EVs in will depend on the Pokémon being defeated, and you can find that information by looking at a Pokédex (Veekun is again a great resource here). Because every Pokémon that gains experience from the battle gets the EVs, you can use EXP Share or switch out your Pokémon at earlier stages to make the training easier. There are a number of factors that can make EV Training easier, but that’s better left for a later guide!
Once you understand how stats work, you’re ready to start looking at getting a team together. There’s a lot of thought that goes into building a team. If you take a look around the Beginner’s area, you’ll see some guides to creating simple, easy-to-understand teams centred around solid themes. It’s important to clear up a common misconception people have about types while going through the game though.
Often I see players talk about missing a Fire-type or a Fighting-type on their team. In the realm of competitive battling, it’s not entirely just about having as many types as possible. The important thing is to be able to both effectively hit a variety of Pokémon by utilizing different types of attacks and switch in and take hits from a variety of attacks.
It’s not so much about “having a Steel-type” as it is about “having a Pokémon that can take Draco Meteor and Ice Beam”. PsyPoke’s Attack Type Analyzer and Marriland’s Team Builder can help identify holes in your team.
Physical vs Special
You’ll notice that there are two types of offensive stats and two types of defensive stats. Some attacks are considered Physical (denoted by the icon) and others Special (denoted by the icon). Physical attacks use the Attack and Defense stats while Special attacks use the Special Attack and Special Defense stats. Pretty simple, yeah? You’ll want to use attacks corresponding to whichever stat your Pokémon specializes in most cases. As you get more advanced, you’ll experiment with mixed attacks but for now just see what stat your Pokémon is naturally better at and work on improving that by using the right attacks, nature, and EVs.
Flow of Battle
Are you still with me? Wow! You must be really serious about this Pokémon business! Don’t worry, this is the last bit. Once you’ve got a team together, you’ll finally be able to battle! There are a number of ways to do this. The easiest is to jump on the Global Battle Union and start playing against random players from around the world. You can do this by talking to the lady at the upper right counter of the Pokémon Centre (pictured). You can also find various online and local tournaments in the Tournaments section of our forums. And of course, you can battle in the Video Game Championships! How these battles play are a little different from what you might be used to in game though, so here’s a quick rundown.
Before the battle begins, you’ll be shown your opponent’s team of six. From this screen, both of you will select four of your own Pokémon to send into battle. Yes, that’s right, your opponent will be using the same amount of Pokémon as you. This is an important part of the battle and team building. We have a very in-depth article on all the different reads you can make during this part of the battle.
Items During Battle
The only way to use items like Revive and Full Restore during a multiplayer battle is to use the Wonder Launcher, which isn’t on during VGC play. Once a Pokémon has been knocked out, it’s out for the entire battle. Held items, on the other hand, function as you’re used to with one important difference: after the battle, you get single use items like Berries and Gems back. If you’ve played the Battle Subway or Battle Frontier in previous games, items work exactly the same as they do there.
If you go through the game with the default settings, you’ll notice that you’re allowed to switch your Pokémon for free every time you knock an opponent’s Pokémon out. This is not the case in multiplayer. However, you will be seeing switches happening much more often as players change Pokémon to sponge attacks and get favourable matchups throughout the battle. It’s not something you often need to think about during your single player adventure, but always remember you can always bring your Pokémon back into its ball to fight another day.
So Where to Next?
Now that’s you’ve got the core mechanics and terminology down, it’s time to start taking a look at some of the other articles on the website. The Beginners section will be populated as time goes on with introductions to simple and effective teams to get your feet wet in the current metagame. You can also take a look at the Reports section and find Tournament Reports by players who describe their teams and how they fared in the highest of competitive environments – the Pokémon Video Game Championships. The Articles section has an assortment of different Pokémon knowledge that should give you the edge on your opponents as you improve your battling skills. And above all, don’t forget to join us on the forums where you’ll find hundreds of other like-minded players to learn from and socialize with!
Our forums also show where you can put your newfound knowledge to the test in tournaments online, locally, and of course Play! Pokémon-sanctioned events like the Video Game Championships! Or just turn on your DS at and play in the Battle Subway or on the online Global Battle Union ladder. What’s the matter, Trainer? Get out there and play to win! Oh, and have fun I guess…