This guide will explain all meanings of all terms used, assuming the reader has only base knowledge of Pokémon battling in a competitive sense, so trainers of all skill levels may read and understand it. Before starting to train a competitive battling team, it is advisable to beat the entire game's storyline as this unlocks many features that will make the job easier.
So, you want to be a professional battler who can take on the best of the best in a competitive match and knock them crying to the ground. However, you have no idea where to start... there are many fiddly points and to be completely honest the hassle of researching on the furthest corners of the internet can and will give you headaches galore.
Look no further now, for this is a (mostly) complete guide to the basic fundamentals of deciding on and preparing a team of Pokémon for competitive battling. A competitive battle is a battle against another person using either Infra-red or Wi-Fi, which is considerably more difficult than in-game battling as a human being has logic and can analyze patterns in your attack, which the AI of the Nintendo DS cannot. There are several main sections that need to be covered, and amongst them are some details which you will need to research further to get full understanding;
- Pokémon Natures
- EVs and EV training
- Choosing your Pokémon's' moves (and, as sub-categories, details on Breeding, Egg Moves and the rather peculiar move Hidden Power)
- Choosing Pokémon for your team
Now, without further ado, let's begin!
Practically every Pokémon trainer knows that different Pokémon, even within the same species, can have different natures. However, a considerably less known fact is that a Pokémon's nature is one of the key deciding ingredients when their base stats (or statistics, meaning Attack [Atk.], Special Attack [Sp. Atk.], Defense [Def.], Special Defense [ Sp. Def.], and Speed [Spd.]) are generated. There are 25 natures overall. Five of these natures are neutral - they do not affect the Pokémon in any way. The other twenty natures all affect two stats - One stat is raised to higher than average, and the other is lowered below average. An example would be the nature Adamant, which increases the Pokémon's Atk. and lowers their Sp. Atk. In contrast, the nature Modest instead raises Sp. Atk and lowers Atk. Each nature is listed below, along with its effects on the stats;
Hardy : Neutral
Lonely : +Atk./-Def.
Adamant : +Atk./-Sp. Atk.
Naughty : +Atk./-Sp. Def.
Brave : +Atk./-Spd.
Bold : +Def./-Atk.
Docile : Neutral
Impish : +Def./-Sp. Atk.
Lax : +Def./-Sp. Def.
Relaxed : +Def./-Spd.
Modest : +Sp. Atk./-Atk.
Mild : +Sp. Atk./-Def.
Bashful : Neutral
Rash : +Sp. Atk./-Sp. Def.
Quiet : +Sp. Atk./-Spd.
Calm : +Sp. Def./-Atk.
Gentle : +Sp. Def./-Def.
Careful : +Sp. Def./-Sp. Atk.
Quirky : Neutral
Sassy : +Sp. Def./-Spd.
Timid : +Spd./-Atk.
Hasty : +Spd./-Def.
Jolly : +Spd./-Sp. Atk.
Naive : +Spd./-Sp. Def.
Serious : Neutral
When deciding on the nature that would be best for a Pokémon, you should take into account their stats and also the role you wish them to play in the team; this second point will be explored later. As an example, Alakazam has very high Sp. Atk and Spd., mediocre Sp. Def, and low Atk. and Def. An Alakazam with the nature Jolly (+Spd., -Sp. Atk.) would not be ideal, as it is best to have as high a Sp. Atk. stat as possible. Nor would the ability Naughty (+Atk., -Sp. Def.) be very beneficial, as Alakazam rarely uses physical attack moves, which rely on the Atk. stat. A more suitable ability would be Rash (+Sp. Atk., -Sp. Def.) or Quiet (+Sp. Atk., -Spd.), as this gives Alakazam as much hitting power as possible with special attack moves, which rely on the Sp. Atk. stat, without crippling them too badly by decreasing either Sp. Def. or Spd. Using a different category of Pokémon entirely, a slow, defensive Pokémon such as Bastiodon would benefit most from a nature that reduces Spd. and raises their Atk., which would be the Brave nature; They are slow with or without a Spd. beneficial nature, so hindering the Spd. stat does not affect their battle capability at all.
By taking note of simple details like this you can provide your Pokémon with the extra edge that they need to win. And don't worry if you get a Pokémon with the wrong nature; just keep searching or hatching eggs, and eventually you are certain to come across one that meets your needs.
EVs And EV Training
An alarmingly small amount of people are aware of the hidden game mechanic Effort Values (AKA EVs), which affect how a Pokémon's stats grow and develop as they level. Each time your Pokémon battle and defeat an opponent, they will gain EVs, similar to XP. Points (experience points), and every 4 EVs gained in a particular stat will increase that stat by one. Each Pokémon also gives specific numbers of EVs towards a specific stat, or to more than one stat (max. 3 in total).
As an example, your Pokémon defeats a level 20 Metapod and gains 40 XP. Points. A Metapod provides 2 Def. EVs no matter the level, so your Pokémon also gains 2 Def. EVs. If two Pokémon take part in a battle against that Metapod, the XP. Points will be split so each gains 20 XP. Points. However, EVs are not split; instead, both Pokémon who took part gain the full 2 Def. EVs. The same follows if the item Exp. Share was used. This makes it very easy to allow young, weak Pokémon gain EVs quickly.
There are a few rules for Pokémon when it comes to gaining EVs. This is to stop Pokémon from having ridiculously overpowered stats. The first rule is that a Pokémon may have a maximum of 510 EVs overall, and the second is that a single stat may only have a maximum of 255 EVs.
Seeing as 4 EVs lead to +1 point to the stat, this means that giving a Pokémon 255 EVs in a stat would make 3 of the EVs go to waste. The best amount of EVs to invest in a single stat is therefore 252, which will have an overall increase of +63 points to the stat. This does however mean that there will always be at least 2 EV points wasted when you EV train a Pokémon, and that can't be fixed through any method.
When you catch or hatch a Pokémon, it has a total of 0 EVs. The moment it takes part in a battle, EVs are gained. Because of this it is best to begin EV training a Pokémon immediately after catching or hatching it.
For low level Pokémon it is a good idea to make use of the Exp. Share. But seeing as most Pokémon give only 1 or 2 EVs to a stat, it can become tedious EV training a Pokémon. There are Pokémon hold items that can greatly speed up the process, though all of them cause the Pokémon's Spd. to be halved for the duration of them being held;
Macho Brace : Doubles all EVs gained in a battle
Power Weight : +4 HP EVs every battle
Power Bracer : +4 Atk. EVs every battle
Power Belt : +4 Def. EVs every battle
Power Lens : +4 Sp. Atk. EVs every battle
Power Band : +4 Sp. Def. EVs every battle
Power Anklet : +4 Spd. EVs every battle
Another way to speed up the process is to use Vitamin Drinks. In Pokémon Diamond, Pearl and Platinum they can be found in the Veilstone Department Store, and in Black and White the Department Store on Route 9, with one costing $9,800. They are kept in the medicine pocket of your bag and are used outside of battle. Each Vitamin Drink increases a specific stat by 10 EVs, but only a maximum of 10 of each drink can be given to a single Pokémon, giving a possible 100 extra EVs to each stat;
HP Up : +10 HP EVs
Protein : +10 Atk. EVs
Iron : +10 Def. EVs
Calcium : +10 Sp. Atk. EVs
Zinc : +10 Sp. Def. EVs
Carbos : +10 Spd. EVs
Contrary to this, if at any point you need to remove a Pokémon's EVs for any reason, there are different types of berries that when fed to a Pokémon reduce the EVs in a certain stat by 10. However, in Generation IV, the first berry resets the EVs of that stat to 100 (if they were higher in the first place). In generation V, this is no longer the case. The berries and effects are as follows;
Pomeg Berry : -10 HP EVs
Kelpsy Berry : -10 Atk. EVs
Qualot Berry : -10 Def. EVs
Hondew Berry : -10 Sp. Atk. EVs
Grepa Berry : -10 Sp. Def. EVs
Tamata Berry : -10 Spd. EVs
When EV training, it is a good idea to keep a tally of the amount of EVs gained so far; this will insure you don't go over the amount you would like to give your Pokémon. Another key point is that you don't have to max out a Pokémon's stat. You could give 100 EVs to Atk., 100 to Sp. Atk., 100 to HP then 112 to Spd.; it is entirely up to you, and how you would like your Pokémon to grow.
Whilst generally one would advise boosting the Pokémon's highest stats, there are some cases when you should boost their lower stats. With Pokémon like Weavile and Blissey, who have incredibly low Def. each, you should invest some EVs into the Def. stat so that they can endure more hits and therefore fight for you further. Once again, however, this is down to personal preference.
To end this section, here is a list of the best Pokémon to EV train against in Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum, HeartGold/SoulSilver and Black/White.
For HP :
D/P/Pt - Shellos/Bidoof (+1, Valley Windworks)
HG/SS - Slowpoke (+1, Slowpoke's Well), Hoothoot (+1, National Park [Night])
B/W - Stunfisk/Palpitoad (+2, Iccirus City), Ducklett (+1, Driftveil Bridge), Audino (+2, shaking grass)
D/P/Pt - Machoke/Bibarel (+2, Route 211)
HG/SS - Goldeen/Seaking (+1/+2, Route 42, Route 9,Route 10, Route 24, Route 25, Mt Mortar, Cerulean City)
B/W - Patrat/Lillipup (+1, Route 1)
D/P/Pt - Graveler/Onix (+2/+1, Iron Island)
HG/SS - Tangela (+1, Route 21)
B/W - Durant (+2, Victory Road), Venipede/Sewaddle (+1, Pinwheel Forest)
For Sp. Atk.
D/P/Pt - Gastly/Haunter (+1/+2, Old Chateau)
HG/SS - Psyduck/Golduck (+1/+2, Route 35, Route 6, Ilex Forest, Cerulean Cave [Surf])
B/W - Elgyem/Litwick (+1, Celestial Tower)
For Sp. Def.
D/P/Pt - Tentacool/Tentacruel (+1/+2, anywhere you Surf)
HG/SS - Tentacool/Tentacruel (+1/+2, Route 34, Route 40, New Bark Town, Cherrygrove City, Olivine City, Cianwood City, Route 19, Route 20, Route 21, Route 26, Route 27, Pallet Town, Vermillion City, Cinnabar Island)
B/W - Frillish (+1, Route 17/28, P2 Lab [Surf])
D/P/Pt - Staravia/Pikachu (+2, Trophy Garden)
HG/SS - Diglett/Dugtrio (+1/+2, Diglett's Cave), Rattata (+1, Sprout Tower)
B/W - Basculin (+2, Route 3 [Surf]), Swanna (+2, Marvelous Bridge)
Choosing A Pokémon's Moves
Every Pokémon has access to roughly 20 moves as they level. Choosing only 4 of these as permanent moves can be difficult, as you never know which moves will be useful and when. In addition there are moves that come from alternate sources, such as TMs, Egg Moves (which we will cover later in this section) and Move Tutors. The first thing to do before deciding what moves to give your Pokémon is to decide what sort of role you would wish them to play in a competitive battling team.
The first role is referred to as a 'Sweeper' - Pokémon that hit fast and hard, but don't necessarily have the best defenses. They usually specialize in either Atk. or Sp. Atk., although there are a few that are Mixed Sweepers and use both Physical and Special Attack Moves. An example of a Physical Sweeper is Garchomp, a Special Sweeper is Alakazam, and a Mixed Sweeper is Infernape. Sweepers can make good Leads (meaning they are the first Pokémon sent out in the battle), especially if they are given a wide range of move types so as to have an advantage over most any opponent.
Another category is known as a 'Wall'. These Pokémon are used as a counter to Sweepers and have high defenses, focusing more on giving Status Conditions to the opponent (Burn, Paralysis, Sleep, etc.) then chipping away at their HP slowly whilst restoring their own HP. Like Sweepers, there are Physical, Special and Mixed variants, examples of which are Weezing, Blissey and Claydol respectively. Water types generally aren't used, but some such as Milotic with high HP and Def. are very useful against common Sweepers like Garchomp and Tyranitar because they have access to both Ice and Water type moves, so can easily defeat them.
A sub-category of a Wall is a 'Tank'. They have all the perks of Walls but also pack a punch; their main purpose is to wait until after the opponent moves then strike hard. Because of this they often have moves such as Avalanche or Payback which have their power doubled if they take damage before they use the move. Examples of common Tanks are Marshtomp (Physical) and Dusknoir (Special/Mixed).
Those are the three main types, but there are also Pokémon in these categories that can double as Supporters. They are Spikers/Stealth Rockers (use Stealth Rock, Spikes or Toxic Spike to create entry-hazards - usually done by a Wall or Tank such as Skarmory or Forretress), Spinners (use Rapid Spin to remove these entry-hazards - usually Starmie, Donphan or Cloyster), Healers (use Aromatherapy or Heal Bell to heal the entire team of Status Conditions - usually a Wall with a recovery move, such as Blissey and Miltank), Baton Passers (raise their own stats through moves such as Swords Dance or abilities such as Speed Boost whilst hidden behind a Substitute, then Baton Pass the stat boosts/Substitute to another Pokémon - usually doesn't double as a Wall or Sweeper, but may have an attack move; examples are Ninjask and Umbreon), and Hazers/Phazers (Hazers use the move Haze to remove stat boosts, Phazers use Whirlwind or Roar to force the opponent to switch and also remove stat boosts - usually a Tank, like Steelix or Hippowdon).
Once you've decided which type you think would suit the Pokémon and your team, you should easily be able to choose the moves the Pokémon should have after researching the moves they can learn.
Earlier we mentioned Egg Moves; let's go into more detail on this. Breeding is the only method of teaching an Egg Move, so first we shall look at this. Two Pokémon that belong to the same Egg Group are able to breed; by placing a Male and a Female from the same Egg Group into the Daycare Centre and leaving them, they can breed and produce an Egg. This Egg will hatch into the same Pokémon as the Female, and may inherit moves from the Male. In this way, moves that normally could not be learned by a Pokémon can be passed to it from its father. For example, Sneasel/Weavile learn no Physical Ice Type Attack Moves, despite their high Atk. and Ice typing. By breeding a Female Weavile or Sneasel with a Male Medicham that knows Ice Punch, the move can be passed to the Sneasel offspring so that when it hatches it knows Ice Punch. Research on Bulbapedia can show what Egg Moves a Pokémon can learn and how it can learn them.
A final note in this section is on the move Hidden Power. You may have noticed when you use it that the type seems to change randomly, along with the power of the move. This is because the type and power of Hidden Power are determined by the IVs (Individual Values) of the Pokémon, which are hidden values generated randomly upon encountering the Pokémon. It is very difficult to figure out the IVs of a Pokémon, so if in doubt, simply battle repeatedly against different Pokémon types and you shall eventually figure out the typing. The power, however, is unable to determine through this method. For further information see Bulbapedia, Serebii.Net or a similar site.
Choosing Your Pokémon Team
This is the final and probably most simple step of preparing for competitive battling. There are some very simple guidelines for this;
NO. 1 VARY THE POKEMON ROLES
A team full of Sweepers isn't a good place to start. As a general rule, a balanced team should have a Wall, two Sweepers, and then three Supporters. There are more specialized teams that may consist entirely of Walls, but these are harder to effectively form and shouldn't be attempted by beginners.
NO. 2 COVER ALL WEAKNESSES
Make sure that somewhere on your team there is a Pokémon that covers another's weaknesses. If all your Pokémon are weak to the same type or cannot effectively wall/counter it, you're going to be in trouble. Even just giving a move to counter will be sufficient.
NO. 3 INCLUDE A MOVE OF ALL TYPES IF POSSIBLE
6 Pokémon with 4 moves each; this makes a total of 24 moves overall. If possible, see if you can include a move of all 17 types, or if not possible, attempt to include enough types that there is at least a normally effective move against every possible Pokémon type.
NO. 4 NO DUPLICATE SPECIES/TYPED POKEMON
This rule is rather simple. If you already have a Zoroark, don't include another Zoroark. If you have a Venusaur, don't also select a Grass type like Sceptile. This will ensure you have equal type coverage and more of a chance at winning.
Now you know the basics of competitive battling. You'll still have to research on Bulbapedia (or a similar site) when choosing Pokémon moves, checking their stats, etc., so preparing a team is no easy feat. However, the rewards are great. I hope this was useful; happy training!