You've taken them all down: The Elite Four, the Champion, even your Rival. You've conquered the Pokémon League at least 100 times now without breaking a sweat. Sometimes the opponent can't even land a single hit in. You've risen above the meek little trainer you were back when you got your first starter. You've become much, much stronger...
Maybe too strong. Now, you feel bereft of thrill, craving a challenge. A worthy opponent. Someone who won't drop by the 3rd Pokémon and knows their Fire-types from their Water-types. Someone strong.
Welcome to the world of Competitive Battling! Here, there are no shortage of trainers like you, looking to refine their Pokémon skills in order to dominate one another in a formal (or informal) competitive setting. Entire analyses, studies, and projects dedicated to squeezing every last drop of utility from every single thing the Pokémon franchise has to offer in its mainline RPG series. We wholeheartedly welcome you and hope you enjoy your stay, as well as learn more about the Pokémon franchise then ever before!
Catching them was the real test
You have beaten the rest
But now... you must ask yourself...
Do you wanna be the very best?
— 「AROUND THE WORLD」, "Pokémon - Vs Red - Traditional Japanese Version", YouTube
Before looking into this guide, you should be able to understand the following:
- How Pokémon battles work.
- How Pokémon stats work (e.g. what is the difference between Special Attack and Attack).
For an introduction to basic battle mechanics, see Battle Basics.
For a quick summary reference on stat differences alongside some other misc. info, see this FAQ on Smogon University.
This guide is written with no assumed knowledge beyond these two things.
Introduction: What is Competitive Pokémon? edit
If you're still on the fence, you might be wondering: what exactly is a 'competitive Pokémon battle'? Wonderful question. To put it simply, Pokémon in a competitive setting has additional rules and regulations, such as ban lists for items, Pokémon, etc. These rules will change depending on the format and can be anywhere on the spectrum from "super easy" such as VGC or Smogon OU, to really complicated like Smogon AG.
If that sounded like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, don't worry; We'll be taking a look at each of these formats in much more detail later. For now, all you need to understand is that we have extra rules in competitive Pokémon in order to facilitate a better and more competition experience for everybody involved, from the spectators to the players.
Video Game Championship (VGC) edit
The Pokémon Video Game Championships (VGC) is a part of the larger competitive initiative by The Pokémon Company known as Play! Pokémon. The program allows players to interact in a formal competitive setting with rules and regulations laid out for each facet of the Pokémon franchise, featuring mainly the Pokémon TCG and mainline video game series. For the video game RPG series, VGC is notable for being a Double Battle format with only 4 Pokémon instead of the usual 6, as well as having its own seasonal ban list for items and Pokémon. This is in stark contrast to most of the battles in the story mode for the mainline series, and as such, may prove to be slightly difficult to learn at first for complete beginners.
The Pokémon Championship Series' events will usually culminate in players being invited to the Pokémon World Championships, the highest competitive stage for Pokémon currently.
If you'd like to learn more, check out the Video Game Championships page.
Important Mechanics edit
EVs & IVs stand for Effort Values and Individual Values, respectively. If you've ever observed the stats of your Pokémon, you'll notice they have 5:
- Special Attack
- Special Defense
EVs and IVs both influence how much of an effect each of these display when a Pokémon uses a move.
Effort Values edit
Effort Values in concept, like the name suggests, are a bit like making your Pokémon work out: If you want your Pokémon to get a faster mile time on the track, you'd probably make them practice running. If you want them to win deadlift competitions, you'd make them work on their bench, and so on. EVs are kind of like that: They are how you "improve" a certain stat of your Pokémon.
In-game, EVs are points you can assign to each individual stat. Every Pokémon has exactly 512 EVs for use, and they can be split across the other stats however you see fit, however, you can only put a maximum of 252 EVs into any given stat (so you can't just put all 512 EVs into Attack, you can only put 252 EVs). Every 4 EVs increases the stat you invested in by +1. For example, let's create our own Pokémon named "Bill". It has exactly 1 point for each stat, so its stats look like this by default:
|Name||Stat Points||EVs Invested|
Remember, adding 4 EVs means you add +1 stat point. As such, it is always optimal to add EVs to stats in multiples of four. Let's see an example of that by adding 4 EVs to our HP:
|Name||Stat Points||EVs Invested|
Notice how our HP went up by 1 point. Now, if Bill were to go into battle with this EV spread, he would have 2 hit points instead of one, which means he will survive just long enough to knock out an enemy Bill without any investment.
When starting out, you shouldn't focus on creating complicated EV spreads. The folks over at Smogon and many others have done that work for you. When looking for an EV spread for your Pokémon, you should check out these resources and see which one fits your idea or role best. Later on, as you gain more experience and understand the intricacies of competitive battling better, you'll be able to naturally work out EV spreads for your specific objectives.
Individual Values (IVs) edit
If EVs are comparable to working out, IVs are comparable to genetics. They are the innate stats a Pokémon is born with when the game generates it, either from an egg or a random encounter. These values are immutable, meaning you can't change them. However, you are able to influence what kind of IVs a Pokémon is born with via breeding. For a detailed introduction to breeding, see Breeding Basics.
IVs in-game are also points for each stat a Pokémon has. Instead of having a certain amount however, IVs are fixed between 0-31, where 0 is like having very bad genetics for a certain stat and 31 is having perfect genetics for a stat. Ideally, you will want 31 IVs almost 100% of the time in every stat. However, there are some exceptions. The most common of which is making special attackers have 0 in the physical attack IV’s to minimize damage from confusion and recoil from struggle, as these calculate damage based on physical attack. If you do have concerns about this, research team reports and analyses to find out what IV spreads are currently popular in the meta. See the Resources section at the bottom of the page for more.
You may have observed your Pokémon has a certain nature, like 'Quiet' or 'Adamant'. While simple to understand, the difference these natures make are crucial to winning games and building appropriate teams.
Natures are values which, when assigned to a Pokémon, give both a -10% decrease to one stat and a +10% increase to another OR give no stat boosts. For the latter, it specifically buffs and nerfs the same stat, leading to a neutral result.
Take the nature Adamant for example. It gives a 10% buff to your Attack stat and a 10% nerf to your Special Attack stat. You might be thinking the nerf is a bad thing, but when building teams, Pokémon will often have one or two 'useless' stats. The best natures target the nerfs at a useless stat and the buff at a useful stat.
A practical example would be Mega Charizard X. MCX's strongest moves are all physical, meaning they are influenced by the Attack stat. As such, it would be totally fine if you gave MCX an Adamant nature to boost its Attack while nerfing its Special Attack; MCX will not be using any Special moves anyways, so it doesn't matter.
You may have wondered why one Pokémon may go first in a turn instead of the other. In-game, normally you'd see the Pokémon of higher level go first, but when playing competitively, every Pokémon is at the same level: either Level 100 (in Smogon formats) or 50 (in VGC formats). When this happens, you need to understand the Speed stat and its role.
When deciding which Pokémon gets to make the first move, the game will pick the Pokémon with the highest speed stat, unless there is a game state modification that doesn't allow this (for example, if a Pokémon has used Trick Room, then the slower one will go first). As we mentioned earlier, Speed stats can be influenced by things like nature, IVs, and EVs. As such, it is important to consider the requisite speed your Pokémon will need when building a team in order to not get caught on the back foot.
It is also important to note there are entire strategies surrounding the Speed stat:
- Trick Room: Usually a team made up of slow heavy-hitters with a Trick Room setter. Once Trick Room is up, the team can cause chaos for the opponent.
- Tailwind: A Tailwind setter can use Tailwind to double its team's Speed stat for 5 turns. Then, by out speeding even some of the fastest Pokémon in the game, the player can launch an offensive barrage that can destroy teams in a few turns.
Basics of Competitive Pokémon edit
You may not have paid much attention to Items back in the main game other than the Potions and Poke Balls. However, Items are the make-and-break of competitive Pokémon, often becoming the small difference between victory and defeat. When studying the usage of items, it is important to be explorative; Research optimal "sets" for Pokémon and see why they are using the item listed. For example, if you see a Tapu Lele set with Choice Scarf as the item, consider why speed is so crucial for Tapu Lele that players are willing to be locked to a single move being used.
To get you started, here are some of the most popular items in all formats right now:
- Leftovers: The king of all Pokemon items. This restores 1/16th of your health at the end of every turn. It is the most common item and most used on defensive Pokemon such as Ferrothorn or Toxapex.
- Life Orb: This item increases your Pokemon's attacking power by 1.3x in exchange for 1/10th of your max health per turn. It is often used on offensive, glass-cannon type Pokemon who need to access all of their 4 moves.
- Choice Specs: This item increases your Pokemon's Special Attack by 1.5x in exchange for restricting it to only using the first move the player selected. It may be difficult to get used to, but this is one of the most powerful items in the entire game.
- Choice Scarf: Increases your Speed by 1.5x in exchange for locking you to one move.
- Choice Band: Increases your Attack by 1.5x in exchange for locking you to one move.
- Assault Vest: Increases your Special Defense by 1.5x, but only allows the usage of moves which cause damage.