Disclaimer: This guide assumes that the reader has casually played through a Pokemon game and has a basic understanding of the series. Assumed knowledge includes type advantages, common Pokemon and physical and special attacks. In addition, this guide was initially intended to be a single article. However, it was decided that it should be split into parts to produce a more comprehensive guide.
You have been playing Pokemon for the majority of your life and you believe you’ve experienced everything the series has to offer. One day, you stumble upon a forum discussing “EVs,” “IVs” and various terminologies that you do not understand. What happened? You thought you knew Pokemon inside out.
Sound familiar? It happens to all of us at some point. Usually, a Pokemon fan would like to learn more about this “competitive” aspect of the game after initially being exposed. This guide will provide a brief overview of the Pokemon metagame for any newcomers.
Natures are detrimental to the effectiveness of any Pokemon during a competitive battle as they have a direct effect on a Pokemon’s stats. A nature can either:
- Raise one stat by 10% and lower one stat by 10%
- Have no effect on the growth of any stat (neutral natures)
For example, a timid nature will raise a Pokemon’s speed by 10% and lower a Pokemon’s attack by the same factor. This is ideal for a special attacker such as Greninja, as it would not use physical attacks; a 10% loss is harmless. A complete list of natures and their effects on a Pokemon’s stats can be found on Serebii. It should be noted that every Pokemon should have a nature raising one stat and lowering another. While it may seem effective to opt for a neutral nature to produce a “balanced” Pokemon, there will always be a benefit from raising one stat and lowering another. Every player should use natures effectively to gain an advantage in battle.
Effort Values and Individual Values (EVs and IVs)
Since the beginning of the series, Gamefreak has included EVs as a hidden aspect of the games. Essentially, the protagonist’s Pokemon gain EVs for a specific stat when they defeat their opponents in battle. For example, a Pokemon defeating a Magikarp will receive one speed EV. At level 100, every four EVs in a stat will raise it by one. For instance, 100 EVs in attack will lead to a +25 increase at level 100. Therefore, EVs can be manipulated to improve the Pokemon’s stats and effectiveness in battle. However, there is a limit to the number of EVs that be used; a Pokemon can have a total of 508 EVs and a maximum of 252 EVs in a specific stat.
In a similar manner to EVs, IVs are hidden values that have a direct impact on a Pokemon’s stats. All six stats will have an assigned IV ranging from 0 to 31. As the name implies, these individual values allow for variation among the same species of Pokemon, with each additional IV signifying a +1 increase in the stat at level 100. For instance, a timid Infernape with 252 speed EVs and 31 speed IVs will have a speed stat of 346 at level 100, while the same Infernape with 0 IVs will have a speed stat of 315. As one may expect, 31 IVs are ideal for the majority of Pokemon. There are two instances where this may not be the case:
- If the Pokemon is part of a Trick Room team, 0 speed IVs may be preferred
- Hidden Power type is dependent on the Pokemon’s IVs. Therefore, perfect IVs must be sacrificed to obtain an ideal type. For example, the maximum speed IVs of a Pokemon with Hidden Power Fire is 30
Most players are aware of the fact that a Pokemon is able to hold an item. In the competitive metagame, items are incredibly useful in increasing damage output or improving the Pokemon’s longevity. Here are some frequently used items in the competitive scene:
Leftovers: Raises the holder’s HP by 1/16th every turn. Leftovers are one of the most effective items in the metagame and are viable on almost any Pokemon. They are especially useful on defensive Pokemon such as Blissey or Slowbro.
Life Orb: Increases damage output by 30% at the cost of 10% of the holder’s HP, which might be ideal on fragile yet powerful Pokemon. For instance, Bisharp can use this item with a high degree of effectiveness.
Assault Vest: A new item introduced in Generation VI that raises the holder’s Sp. Def. by 50% at the cost of only being able to use moves that inflict damage. This item is generally effective on tanks – Pokemon that are defensive but are able to retaliate with powerful attacks. For example, Conkeldurr is a strong candidate for the Assault Vest.
Choice Items: These items raise a stat by 50% yet only allow the holder to use same attack until it switches. A Choice Band raises attack by 50%, Choice Scarf raises speed by 50% and Choice Specs raise Sp. Atk. by 50%. Choice items are effective in giving power boosts to the holder or allowing the user to outspeed Pokemon that are faster under normal circumstances.
Focus Sash: If the holder is at full HP, it will survive, with one HP, an attack that is normally fatal. This item is effective in suicide leads that are setting up entry hazards (this strategy will be further explored in the next part). For instance, Galvantula frequently uses a Focus Sash to more or less guarantee Sticky Web on the opponent’s side.
Mega Stones: Used for mega evolutions, which can only be done once per battle. For example, Gardevoirite evolves Gardevoir into its mega evolution. These items have the advantage of being unaffected by Knock Off, an incredibly effective attack in today’s metagame. Once the Pokemon mega evolves, its stats generally improve and its ability may change. It should be noted that the Pokemon’s speed stat is altered the turn after the mega evolution and that its other stats are altered immediately.
Toxic Orb/Flame Orb: Inflicts poison or burn on the user. Effective on Pokemon with the ability Guts, Quick Feet or Poison Heal. Gliscor provides an example of the effectiveness of these items, as it frequently uses the Toxic Orb to trigger its Poison Heal, allowing it to recover 1/8th of its HP every turn.
Eviolite: Increases Defense and Sp. Def. in Pokemon that are not-fully evolved (NFE). This is the preferred item on many NFE Pokemon, such as Chansey.
This concludes the first part of this guide. The next section will outline effective moves that may not be useful in-game, abilities, tiers and a basic Pokemon set.