Competitive Pokemon Battling?
Yeah! It's like what you've been doing all Pokemon X and Y -- except with other people.
That sounds boring.
Don't make me pull out the squeaky hammer, kid. Pokemon is serious business. All jokes asides, though, you'd be surprised at the sheer, sprawling complexity of the multiplayer component. Yes, the basic mechanics might be the same but there's enough to the underlining meta to fuel stuff like the Pokemon World Championships.
I know, right?
... the prizes aren't that hot, though.
Hush. Those kids are still more famous than you.
Fine, I'm convinced. Tell me more.
Thought you'd start seeing things my way! Cool. Okay, so there are a lot of reasons propelling this global obsession with Pokemon battling. Part of it is the sheer unpredictability of the experience. Putting aside the existence of popular team builds and community-curated tiers for a moment, let's examine the number of variables at work here. Pokemon X/Y features 718 of the critters. Each team can have up to six Pokemon. Discounting the possibility of repeats and weirdos who might want to play with anything less than a full team, we're talking ... one hundred eighty-six trillion, three hundred forty-five billion, seventy million, seven hundred seventy thousand, eight hundred fifty-nine different possible team combinations. (Thank you, slumpcat. )
And that's before we factor in the fact that each Pokemon can have four Moves each, the presence of HMs and TMs, natures, abilities, items and -- you get what I mean. What's really interesting, however, is before you can even start planning to account for all these probabilities, you're going to have breed for it.
Breed for it?
Well. Not you personally.
You see, Pokemon teams aren't just about excellent theory crafting or mid-combat stratagems. They're about great pedigree. As you already know, Pokemon are restricted to four moves and an ability. No more, no less. In order to have a Gengar of a chance on the battlefield, you're going to want to ensure those five slots are stocked with the best possible options and to do so, you will need to have Pokemon that, well, own said relevant skills. While some of that can be accomplished through the usage of TMs or HMs, the only real way of getting the perfect Pokemon is to have the right parents pass the right stuff to the right kids.
But that's not all. Pokemon eugenics can also give your team the statistical edge with the help of a little something called Individual Values.
Individual Values? Eugenics? Weren't we talking about a kid's game?
Believe it or not, we totally still are. Competitive Pokemon battling really is that crazy.
Moving on, IVs are essentially your Pokemon's genes, random numeric values ranging from 0 to 31 which are assigned to each of your Pokemon's stats upon birth/creation/what-have-you. Having perfect IVs in the relevant statistics is, of course, the goal here. They're what will determine if your Dragon Claw will graze or gut your opponent's Pokemon.
In order to get Pokemon with perfect IVs, you can do one of two things: engage in the Sisyphean job of trying to catch one in the wild or breed your pets in a bid to create champion progeny. On top of being way, way easier to do, the latter route also permits you control over the resulting Pokemon's moveset, ability AND nature.
Like I said earlier: you gotta breed for it.
And that's just the pre-game?
Yeah. It gets better. Now that you know about the kind of effort required to build a team, we can start discussing the actual line-up itself. What separates the Gyaradoses from the Magikarps? Pokemon battling isn't just about having level 100 Pokemon with maxed-out stats and a bad-ass moveset. Okay, it's a little bit about that but it's also about tactical planning. Before you turn that poor Ditto you found on Wonder Trade into an egg factory, take a moment to cogitate on these points:
What's your play style?
Are you the aggressive sort who loves bulldozing through their enemies or are you the kind of person who would rather hang back and play it cool? Whatever your disposition, Pokemon's got your back. Smogon's mildly outdated but still useful-as-all-heck dictionary lists three common play styles:
- Offense Offensive teams rely on outspeeding and outdamaging the opponent directly. Players using this style of play will often utilize hard-hitting Pokemon and use resistances and immunities to switch into attacks as opposed to defined walls to take hits. Tactics include: lures to eliminate counters, using stat boosters, and utilizing a quick Stealth Rock in order to facilitate kills. The suicide lead is an expansion of the quick Stealth Rock concept and is often used by offensive teams. A suicide lead is essentially a Pokemon in the lead position whose role is to stop the opponent from setting up Stealth Rock and at the same time set up its own Stealth Rock, such as Aerodactyl and Azelf.
- Stall Stall teams are based off of residual damage. This damage can come in many forms, including: sandstorm, hail, Toxic Spikes, Spikes, and Stealth Rock. The majority of Pokemon on a team like this will have good defenses and contribute to the overall goal of indirectly fainting the opponent's team. Tactics include using Ghosts (Cass's note: If it can learn disable, it can be used in place of a Ghost-type) to block Rapid Spin (a move which can eliminate entry hazards), setting up entry hazards as fast as possible, and using Pseudo-Hazing (Phazing) moves, such as Perish Song, Whirlwind, and Roar.
- Balance This type of team does not rely on any single type of Pokemon. Generally speaking, balanced teams have a couple of sweepers, backed up by a number of walls and/or tanks. Most teams of this type will utilize a form or two of entry hazards. The most successful balanced teams often revolve around a certain threat, while the other teammates seek to help guarantee a sweep by the said threat.
Do you want to follow the beaten path or be a trail blazer?
There's absolutely nothing wrong about doing your own thing. Pokemon wouldn't have a competitive scene if everyone played the exact same way day in and day out. Still, even if you're intending to sally forth and experiment on your lonesome, you should probably take a few moments to read up about what makes a good foundation. StrategyWiki's guide to the matter, while outdated as of Generation VI, is probably one of the better ones I've read. Once you've gone through that, you may want to shore up your knowledge even further with this primer on the changes brought about by Pokemon X and Y.
On the other hand, if you'd rather play it safe and make use of proven techniques, there's a wealth of available information that's just waiting for you to sieve through it. The Internet is filled with stuff like Smogon's tier compendium which can tell you Squirtle's exact worth in the eyes of the public and Nuggetbridge's guide to team previews in the Video Game Championships which is also coincidentally a fantastic overview of the common strategies utilized in competitive play.
Regardless of which road you end up taking, you should always remember that battle simulators can be your bestest friend ever.
You're ...kinda weird.
People keep saying that, yeah.
I give! This does sound amazing but I gotta know. Now what?
You wait for Dustin Quillen's amazingly in-depth guide to the nitty-gritty aspects of multiplayer Pokemon.
I hate you.
Yeah, I get that a lot too.
Need more Pokemon help?
Check out these other USgamer Pokemon articles. We have tons of hints, tips and information on how to get the best out of your team – and become a Pokemon master.