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Introduction to Competitive Battling


Have you thrashed the Elite Four countless times? Are their terrible strategies endlessly frustrating? Or are you tired of being thrashed countless times in Wi-Fi or Pokemon simulation battles? Then maybe a take-up of competitive battling could help you. If you're up to the challenge of facing actual humans in fierce, strategy-filled battles, this guide can help you get started off.

The Basics

So, how do you begin? What's different from battling in-game? First of all, people have actual intelligence. No longer will you get free kills by simply switching in a Starmie on a Rhyperior and firing off a Surf. A human will be smart enough to see the obvious threat, and will respond accordingly. This is not to say that you will never KO a Rhyperior with Surf, but rather that another human will play with intelligence. There are also some key elements to the game that can no longer be overlooked, and these are detailed below.


When you go to view your Entei's summary, you see the words "Lonely Nature." Unlike you may have thought before, this does not mean that your Entei has no friends. Natures are simply present in the games to affect a Pokemon's stats. Each nature aside from the few "neutral natures" will raise one stat by 10%, while also decreasing another by 10%. What does this mean? Say you have an Alakazam with the moves Psychic, Focus Blast, Grass Knot, and Shock Wave. Although this is not a very good Alakazam moveset, it serves as a good example. Since this Alakazam does not use its Attack stat, what reason is there to not use a nature that decreases Attack and raises either Special Attack or Speed (Modest or Timid, respectively)? Alakazam would now have a reduction in a completely useless stat, but would have a large increase in one of its two great and useful stats.

For a complete list of natures and what stats they affect, take a look at this Nature table.


You have two Furrets, both at level 100. They are each Hardy Nature, but one has an Attack stat of 188 and the other has an Attack stat of only 164. Why is this? The answer would be that the two Pokemon have different IVs. IVs, or individual values, are 6 hidden numbers ranging from 0-31 that affect a Pokemon's stats. These are determined upon meeting the Pokemon, like natures, and cannot be changed. One is stored for each of the six stats that a Pokemon has (HP, Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, Speed). The effect of them can be summarized in that a level 100 Docile- natured Swampert with a Special Attack IV of 31 will have a Special Attack stat 31 points higher than another level 100 Docile Swampert with a Special Attack IV of 0. IVs also determine the type and power of the confusing but useful move Hidden Power.

For a complete guide, view this page.


Finally, a stat affecting element that you actually get to control. These are possibly the most crucial of the three listed so far. EVs are extremely important for every Pokemon. With the ability to increase a stat by up to a whopping 63 points, these cannot be overlooked. Rather than attempt to explain everything about these, this section will simply provide some beginning tips for EV training. First, EV the stats that your Pokemon excel in. Giving a Jolteon EVs in Defense will leave its amazing Speed and Special Attack wasted, and the result is a Jolteon unable to accomplish anything useful. Secondly, in EVing defensive Pokemon, EV the HP stat first and then the defensive stat wanted. This will increase the Pokemon's overall defenses far more than simply giving it 252 EVs in the defensive stat. The exceptions are Pokemon with colossal HP stats already, like Blissey. Blissey should always have its defensive stats EVd before HP, though any HP investment on a Blissey is a waste.

For a guide on what EVs do, how they are obtained, and where to EV train, refer to this page.


In the games, you always have the benefit of being able to use as many Revives and Hyper Potions as you want. Not anymore. In competitive battling, the focus is on held items. You may be familiar with Leftovers, a great item that restores a fraction (1/16th, to be exact) of the holder's health at the end of a turn. However, items are much more diverse than simply Leftovers. Some commonly used items include the aforementioned Leftovers, Life Orb, Focus Sash, Choice Items, Shed Shell, and Expert Belt. All of these have different uses, and some Pokemon who especially benefit from them.

"Bad" Items

Now, there are some items that should never be used. These include the obvious things like the completely useless Sticky Barb, Air Mail, Thick Club on a Pokemon who isn't Cubone or Marowak and Antidote. I have seen people giving Razz Berries to their Pokemon to hold and then send it into battle.

Other items like Wide Lens are quite useless and situational, and other items are almost always better. A 6% boost to Hypnosis might seem nice, but 66% accuracy is still terrible. Items like Miracle Seed or Spooky Plate also should not be used, as a 1.2x boost to just one attack is extremely limited. Muscle Band and Wise Glasses are even worse, as a 1.1x boost is absolutely worthless in just about every situation that will be encountered. Finally, Focus Sash is not a bad item, but commonly misused by new players. Focus Sash should NEVER be used on any Pokemon but a suicide lead (these will be explained later). This is because any sort of indirect (residual) damage will nullify the Sash's use, and allow your Pokemon to die. Most often, this damage is unavoidable damage on a switch-in from Stealth Rock. Suicide leads do not take damage from Stealth Rock, and thus it is relatively safe to use a Focus Sash.


Tiers are groups of Pokemon that have been determined based on their effectiveness in battling. A standard tier system is as follows:

  • Tier 1: Uber
  • Tier 2: OverUsed (OU or Standard)
  • Tier 3: Borderline (BL)
  • Tier 4: UnderUsed (UU)
  • Tier 4.5: Borderline 2 (BL2)
  • Tier 5: NeverUsed (NU)

The OverUsed tier is also known as Standard, because it is the basis for the rest of the tiers. The Uber tier functions as a ban list for the OU tier. Uber tiered Pokemon are deemed too powerful to be allowed in OU. These usually include the most powerful legendaries like Lugia, Rayquaza, Dialga, and others like them. Other Pokemon who are also deemed too powerful (or "broken," as they are often referred to as) almost always include Wobbuffet and Garchomp. Pokemon who are not useful enough currently to be in the OU tier are placed in the UU tier. If a Pokemon is not good enough for OU but too good for UU, it is moved to the BL tier, which is the ban list for UU. Pokemon that are still not useful enough in UU are moved to NU. The BL2 tier is rarely used, though a few battling sites, notably Smogon, have it or have begun to establish it. It acts as the normal BL tier does, but as a ban list for NU instead of UU.

Each site will have slightly different tier lists depending on the view of the people who made it. Most sites however, follow's tier list.


These are the final basic element of competitive battling. Moves are the most important feature of any Pokemon, and are why Pokemon like Serperior (without Contrary) and Unown are so useless. Th things to know about how to give your Pokemon effective movesets in competitive battling, and some are outlined here.

Outclassed Moves

This is the most common error new battlers commit. Players use moves such as Chip Away, Vicegrip, Take Down, Stomp, Strength, Rock Climb, Headbutt, Horn Attack, Egg Bomb, Crush Claw and Scratch when there is one move that trumps every single one of these in competitive battling: Return (base 102 power with full happiness). Another example is using Confusion or Psybeam over Psychic, or Ember / Incinerate over Flamethrower.

The point is these moves have a lower power / lower accuracy than another move of the same type and with better power / accuracy. You are needlessly downgrading your damage output by opting for a move that has base 60 damage over base 95 or 102. While some moves carry special effects like Confusion having a chance to confuse the opponent while Psychic cannot, in competitive battling the tradeoff is not viable.

This can be easily avoided by just looking at your Pokemon's available moves. Generally you want to use moves with a power above 70 and an accuracy above 75, although there are of course exceptions (for example, the abilities Technician and No Guard).


STAB is an acronym meaning Same-Type Attack Bonus. Same-Type Attack Bonus is the multiplier applied to a move's power if that move matches the type of the Pokemon using it. STAB is why your Blastoise's Surf seems to do more damage than its Ice Beam, because it actually does. When giving Pokemon moves, they should always have at least one STAB move. The exceptions to this (in the Standard tier) are Poison-typed Pokemon and normal-typed Pokemon not named Porygon-Z who revolves around its STAB Tri-Attack. These Pokemon have types for STAB that have absolutely no type coverage, and they are better off using other attacks. In the case of dual-typed Pokemon like Gengar, using their other STAB is perfectly fine.

Two-turn Moves

One of the most common mistakes made by new players when giving their Pokemon moves is the use of two-turn moves like Fly. Although these seem like they would be useful, they are simply a guaranteed free switch into a Pokemon who resists the attack. For example, your Salamence uses Fly as a slower Celebi tries to Thunder Wave it, but misses. You are locked into Fly, so your opponent can simply send in their Magnezone or a Metagross to easily take the Fly. Through this, they have brought in a threatening Pokemon who can set up, or simply just have a free attack if Salamence is not able (whether through a Choice item or simply not carrying a super effective move) to do sufficient damage to the threatening Pokemon.

Hyper Beam / Giga Impact / Blast Burn, etc.

This is another common error made by new players, similar to two-turn moves but actually worse. Although you attack on the first turn instead of the second turn like Dig or Fly, the recharge turn is a free turn for your opponent to kill your Pokemon or to set up. More importantly, a move like Fire Blast or even Flamethrower does more damage over the two turns needed for Blast Burn or another Hyper Beam clone to work, further rendering these moves inferior. Flamethrower does 190 damage over two turns, whereas Blast Burn does 150, and Flamethrower doesn't force you to recharge!

Non-damaging Moves

Although in-game these can be somewhat useless, in competitive battling they shine. There are two main types of non-damaging moves, those being stat- changing moves and support moves. Both are extremely useful in different situations, those situations usually depending upon the type of Pokemon on a team.

   Self-boosting Moves These are possibly the best non-damaging moves in Pokemon for competitive battling. Through a simple turn used to Swords Dance, something like an Aegislash can go from a decently powerful physical attacker to a nearly unstoppable sweeper. Nasty Plot is less available, but still a great move for those that learn it. Agility and Rock Polish are also useful for Pokemon like Metagross who have amazing attacking stats but poor Speed. Support moves are mostly used by defensive Pokemon, with the most common ones being Thunder Wave and Toxic.

   Support Moves All status conditions, as well as moves such as Roar, Heal Bell, Wish, Reflect, Light Screen and Encore, are beneficial to have in a competitive team. However, which ones to use on which Pokemon and on what types of teams are important, and as such they can be easily misused. Paralysis cuts the paralyzed Pokemon's Speed by 75%. There is no point in spamming Thunder Wave against your opponent if he / she has a team full of rather slow Pokemon (or your team is packed with Pokemon with very high Speed) because the speed cut is useless if you can already attack before the opponent without it (although the 30% chance of immobility is nice).

Using Will-O-Wisp on a special attacker such as Noivern (Will-O-Wisp halves the burned Pokemon's Attack stat) is also another example of a misused support move. While the burn damage is nice, it isn't used to its full potential, something that Thunder Wave on said Noivern could do by cutting its impressive Speed by 75%.


How many Pokemon that are hit for super effective or neutral damage by a specified Pokemon's attacks is that Pokemon's coverage. Coverage is the most important aspect of a moveset for offensive Pokemon, and is to be focused on intently. If an Pokemon's moves cannot hit many types of Pokemon with much power, it will be unable to sweep teams. For this reason, a Pokemon should never have two attacking moves of the same type in its moveset, like Fire Blast and Flamethrower. There are exceptions to this rule, although there are extremely few. These include Pokemon who use Water Spout or Eruption as a primary attack and need a backup STAB attack.

I have seen people use a moveset of Thunder / Thunderbolt / Shock Wave / Thunder Wave. Can you say Volt Absorb? Or Diglett?


This is what makes competitive battling have a suspenseful air to it. Although there is no way to physically teach prediction because it is a skill learned only by actually battling, this section explains what prediction is and the basic ideas behind it.

The Basics

You have a Weavile in against an Alakazam. Weavile outruns Alakazam and can easily OHKO (One-Hit KO) it with an attack, so you expect the Alakazam user to switch. Thus, you use Pursuit with Weavile and KO the fleeing Alakazam. This is prediction in its simplest form.

Another example of prediction could play out something like this. You have a Lucario in against a Blissey. The Blissey user obviously fears a strong Fighting attack (like Close Combat), and you expect the Blissey user to switch into a Fighting-resisting Pokemon. So, you use Ice Punch and hit a Gliscor as it switches in to take the Close Combat. Ouch! This is also basic, but is riskier because Ice Punch does not KO Blissey and it can hit Lucario with Thunder Wave to decimate one of its only assets - Speed - if the Blissey user is smart / lucky and knows that you will expect a switch.

Safe Moves

You are in a situation where you have literally no idea what to do, or what your opponent will do. This situation will be represented with a paralyzed Life Orb Metagross without ThunderPunch against a defensive Rotom-Cut. You have a Modest offensive Suicune, and you know that your opponent has a Choice Scarfed Moltres. This situation can theoretically play out in one of multiple ways, listed below.

  • Metagross Meteor Mashes Rotom for little damage, Rotom does little damage with Thunderbolt
  • You predict the Moltres switch in and go to Suicune as Moltres comes in
  • You go to Suicune predicting Moltres, but Rotom stays in and Thunderbolts Suicune
  • Opponent switches to Moltres as you Meteor Mash it for little damage

In this situation, what offers the least risk if you have no idea what to do? Suicune can take attacks from Moltres if it does switch in, so staying in with Metagross and not risking Suicune is the safest option. Leaving Metagross as death fodder is viable if a guaranteed switch for Suicune is wanted.

Team Building

All of this is useless if you do not know how to build an effective team. Some of the common roles on a team are described below.


These Pokemon can take hits all day. Usually they focus on taking attacks from one side of the physical/special spectrum. They have high stats in HP, Defense or Special Defense, or both HP and a defensive stat. Often their typing provides useful resistances. These Pokemon commonly carry recovery moves such as Slack Off or Recover. These are the users of most support moves like Roar or Thunder Wave. They commonly hold Leftovers, although Steel-typed walls like Skarmory or Forretress carry Shed Shell to escape Magnezone. Some common examples are Blissey, Skarmory, Forretress, Celebi, Zapdos, Gyarados, and Swampert.


These are the Pokemon who are supposed to tear down the opponent's team through pure force. They have high Attack or Special Attack stats and usually a good Speed stat. They focus on either physical or special attacks, but not both. Many utilize boosting moves like Swords Dance to boost their attacking stat and then obliterate the opposing team. They are often quite frail however, and must not be subject to many powerful unresisted attacks. These often hold a Life Orb or a Choice Band/Specs, and use powerful moves such as Close Combat, Hydro Pump, and Fire Blast. Some common examples include Salamence, Gyarados, Dragonite, Tyranitar, Jolteon, Starmie, Heatran, Gengar, Scizor, Lucario, and Metagross.

Mixed Sweepers

These are sweepers who use both physical and special attacks in order to take down walls. They almost always have high Speed, good STAB types, powerful attacking stats on both sides, high base-powered attacks, and a great movepool. Very few are actually viable in OU. The usable ones are Salamence, Dragonite, Lucario, Infernape, and sometimes Electivire. On a rare Rain Dance team, Kingdra makes a fearsome mixed sweeper.


These Pokemon do exactly what their name says: they are sent out first. They usually set up entry hazards, or a weather effect if the team is based around one. They commonly hold Focus Sashes, and many use Explosion. Other leads, called anti-leads, are designed to stop common leads from doing what they are supposed to do. Often they target a few specific leads, and lose to others. Leads should get momentum in the favor of your team somehow. Some good leads include Azelf, Jirachi, Swampert, Metagross, Roserade, and Gliscor.

Revenge Killers

Are there Pokemon that your team just can't stop? Try revenge killing them. Most revenge killers hold Choice Scarves in order to outrun the Pokemon that they are supposed to kill, and have high attacking stats from which to launch powerful attacks. Dugtrio gets a special mention for having the ability Arena Trap, which prevents the opponent from switching out to escape. It however, almost always holds a Choice Band to boost its mediocre Attack.

Team Types and Layout

There are three main types of teams to choose from. These are Stall, Balanced, and Offensive. Many variations on these exist, though they are generally harder to use and not suited for a beginning battler.


Stall teams rely on walls to stop opposing sweepers while accumulating residual damage through Toxic and entry hazards. All team members serve a common purpose of stalling and forcing switches, and the different walls attempt to counter as many of the common Pokemon in OU as possible. Roar and Whirlwind are used to stop setup sweepers, while a Rapid Spinner and Spin Blocker are also used to aid in control of entry hazards. These teams play as conservatively as possible.


Although there is no specific layout for a stall team, every stall team should have:

  • All three entry hazards (Spikes, Stealth Rock, Toxic Spikes)
  • A user of Wish to keep team healthy
  • Defog, Rapid Spin or some way of removing entry hazards.
  • Optional: A user of Roar or Whirlwind (also known as a PHazer)
  • Synergy between all teammates
  • No conflicting status (Using Thunder Wave as well as your Toxic Spikes, etc)
  • A method to beat common Taunt users
  • A workaround for stallbreakers (problematic Pokemon include Conkeldurr, Scizor and Tyranitar)


A balanced team uses both walls and sweepers to attempt to create a situation in which one of the sweepers has an open path to sweep. This is done through synergy with that sweeper as well as Pokemon to eliminate its common counters (ex. Using a Tyranitar to eliminate Rotom for a Metagross sweep).


A common balanced team looks somewhat like what is listed below, although deviation is fine. A few ideas:

  • Dedicated lead/anti-lead
  • Purpose Pokemon (either a physical or special sweeper)
  • Complementary sweeper (if purpose Pokemon is special, this should be physical and vice versa)
  • Physical wall
  • Special wall
  • Mixed Sweeper/Complementary sweeper (either spectrum)/Revenge killer


An offensive team uses many sweepers to bring a constant beating against the opponent's team, and eliminate the counters to one of the sweepers for an open sweep. The Pokemon on these teams almost always hold Life Orbs, although some will hold choice items. These teams are prediction-heavy to gain opportunities. There is no defensive switches so offensive teams should have VERY strong synergy and the user should have good prediction skills.


Again, there is no specific layout for an offensive team. A basic offensive team sometimes looks like this:

  • Stealth Rock lead
  • Physical sweeper
  • Special sweeper
  • Mixed sweeper
  • Sweeper to fill synergistic gaps, any spectrum, can be Choice Scarfed


After reading this article, get out there, make a team, and start battling! You won't improve unless you try it yourself, so what are you waiting for? Good luck!

External Links

Marriland Team Synergy Calculator: A self-explanatory calculator that shows overall type weaknesses of a team.
Pokemon Online: An extremely popular battle simulator. All elements of a team are made virtually and painlessly. Pokerealm has a server there so you might as well come visit us!
Pokerealm Damage Calculator: Want to know just how much your Conkeldurr's Mach Punch does to a Tyranitar? Find out using this tool. You can also check damage calculations against an entire Pokemon tier!

Complete credit for this guide goes to Rampaging_Lairon. Updated on 12/10/14 by Markiss.

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