How to get into Competitive Pokémon
Posted 03 Dec 2019 at 16:02 by Glen O'Brien
I’m sure a lot of us have been there. You finish one of the more modern Pokémon games and decide to dip your toe into an online battle. Let’s face it, you creamed the game with little difficulty, your team must be at least OK, right? Only, what happens next is that every person you get matched up with batters you in a way that would be kind of embarrassing and you suddenly realise that Ash Ketchum might not be as hopeless as he first appears...
Welcome to the world of competitive Pokémon!
It’s certainly disheartening at first, but you’re not necessarily bad at the game, you just need to prepare better. Your team that helped you finish your Pokémon League challenge just aren’t going to cut it in the big leagues. You’ll need to work at training Pokémon in a way that pushes their abilities to the limit.
I’m Professor Glen, some say that I’m not a real Professor because I just self-appointed myself that title just now. I say to them, “Shut up! I have a lab coat at home. It totally counts.”
Seriously, if this hack is a Professor, then I certainly am qualified.
I’ve been enjoying competitive battling in Pokémon games for almost 10 years now and as such, I know the ins and outs of training a Pokémon in a way that makes them competitive.
Competitive training has an image of being time-consuming and difficult to understand. While that may have been true back then, the latest Pokémon games, Sword and Shield, go to great lengths to streamline the process. It’s never been easier, provided you have some understanding of how it all works.
I’ll take this opportunity to mention that I’ll be casually talking about features in Sword and Shield that are available after the credits roll, so if you haven’t finished the game yet, you might want to wait until then.
Why bother with this?
Because it can mean the difference between victory and defeat. But a picture is worth a thousand words, so let me show you two different Inteleon, the one on the left is the one I used on my initial playthrough of Sword and Shield, while the one on the right is one that I’ve trained for competitive battles. See if you can spot the difference.
Did you notice it? The one below has generally better stats, but two stats in particular, Sp. Atk and Speed are remarkably higher. The only stat that you could say was worse is the Attack stat, but Attack is not required for that particular Inteleon. So it doesn’t matter that it’s low.
But how do you go about doing this? Well, there are three key mechanics that affect stats that you should familiarise yourself with. As well as this, there are some items and methods to make competitive training a lot easier.
Any good competitive trainer has a number of items and Pokémon available to make their lives easier. While not strictly necessary, I highly recommend getting this stuff before beginning.
- A 5-star Max Raid Ditto – As you should know, Ditto can breed with almost any Pokémon. So getting one with naturally good IV’s (More on those later) will save you a lot of time in the long run. A max raid Ditto has a good chance to have great IV’s, the more stars the better.
- An Everstone – This is an item that normally prevents a Pokémon from evolving, but it has a secondary effect that’s great for what you need to do here. You can get an Everstone from Turffield, but you can also get one from the Digging Duo in the Wild Area.
- A Destiny Knot – An item that is pretty useless in battles, but has another secondary effect that makes it invaluable in the breeding process. You can buy a Destiny Knot from the Hammerlocke BP shop for 10 BP. It’s the Pokémon Centre in the middle.
- A Gigantimax Meowth, preferably at Level 100 – This event Pokémon that you can get from Mystery Gift right now is amazing for building up money. All you have to do is take it to the Pokémon League, Dynamax it, and constantly use its Gold Rush move to rake in the dough. Just be careful of Ghost Pokémon.
- The Amulet Coin – Give this to the previously mentioned Meowth and it’ll double the prize money you get. You can find it in the Motostoke Outskirts, behind a certain sign.
- The Judge Feature – This handy dandy PC upgrade lets you see the IV’s of your Pokémon whenever you are in your PC. To unlock it, you’ll need to win 9 Battles in the Battle Tower. Once you do that, just press + twice on a Pokémon to see its IV’s.
What’s that? The Battle Tower is hard to do without a competitive team? I hear ya; luckily you can rent my good to go team with this code.
Find it in the VS Menu, under "Battle Stadium" and "Rental Teams"
It’s a pretty simple, yet effective team that should get you some easy BP.
Once you’re all ready, we can get started. I’m going to use my Charizard, Draco, as an example from now on.
Don't bother trying to take it, he'll just bite your face off.
What are Natures?
Every Pokémon you catch is designated a nature, such as Modest or Naughty. This isn’t cosmetic, as it can affect the stats of your Pokémon. If you look at Draco’s stats below, you’ll notice that Sp. Atk is highlighted red, while Attack is highlighted blue.
What this means is that Draco’s nature is giving a 10% boost to the Sp. Atk stat while also giving a 10% penalty to Attack. Ideally, you’ll want a nature that benefits a stat the Pokémon is good with while lowering a stat it doesn’t really need.
There is a way to change a Pokémon’s nature in Sword and Shield. There are a variety of mints for sale in the Battle Tower. They cost 50 BP, but are very useful for doing exactly this.
Another way of guaranteeing the right nature for your new Pokémon is through breeding. If a Pokémon is holding an Everstone and has an egg with another Pokémon (Probably Ditto), the child will have the same nature as the Pokémon holding the Everstone.
Simply put, give Draco (The Charizard in the picture above, stupid) the Everstone, breed it with a Ditto and all the Charmanders will have a modest nature. Which speeds things up immeasurably.
Beware though, no nature ever affects HP, so don’t bother aiming to influence that stat through nature manipulation.
What are IV’s?
Now we’re getting a bit more technical here, but stay with me. IV’s stand for Individual Values. When you get a Pokémon, the chances are that each of its stats will be affected by IV’s. These can increase each stat from anywhere between 0 points to 31 points. Of course, the more, the better, but how can we tell how many IV’s Draco has? Well, through the handy-dandy Judge PC Feature.
If you look on the right, you’ll see that HP, Defense and Sp. Def all have the word “Best”. That means those stats have the magic IV number of 31. After Best, you’ll get Fantastic, Very Good, Pretty Good, Decent and then No Good depending on how low the IV is for that stat.
The real question is, how can we make it so Draco’s IV’s are good? Well, thankfully, it’s not down to complete random chance. There are a number of ways to skew the odds in your favour.
I mentioned before that a Max Raid Ditto will have a good chance to get those “Best” IV’s. Well, this applies to all Max Raid Pokémon. So a good starting point is to catch a Pokémon through that. More stars mean more “Best” IV’s!
After that, you can breed the Pokémon with that Ditto and the child will inherit 3 of its IV’s from the parents. Which isn’t bad, but if you give one of the parents the Destiny Knot item, the child will instead inherit 5 IV’s which is almost perfect if you have the right IV’s on the parents. I recommend giving the Destiny Knot to that awesome Ditto and never letting it go.
Of course, that still leaves one stat to random chance, but it doesn’t have to be like that. There is a wonderful feature in the Battle Tower called “Hyper Training” that lets you use Bottle Caps (Also gotten from the Battle Tower) to change a stat’s IV to 31 instantly. The Pokémon has to be Level 100 to do this, so I hope you have lots of Candy.
If you can't be bothered with that, you can always just use Hyper Training to max out all the IV's anyway, but that will no doubt cost a lot of BP. It's up to you.
It’s worth noting that Hyper Trained stats cannot be passed on to children, the same goes for any natures that were changed with mints. Only the Pokémon’s natural IV’s will pass on.
What are EV’s?
I hope that wasn’t too confusing, because it only gets more technical from here. Yes, really, pay attention, now.
EV’s stand for Effort Values, and unlike the last two mechanics, is not genetic, instead it’s based on what you do with a Pokémon after you catch or hatch it.
OK, so let’s take Draco, back when he was a Level 1 Charmander, he had no EV’s what-so-ever, which is the perfect place to start, as it allows you full freedom on how exactly you want EV’s to boost its stats.
But before we get stuck into doing that. Some golden rules to remember about EV’s.
- 4 EV points will boost a stat by 1 point
- Each Pokémon can have a maximum of 510 EV points
- Each stat can have a maximum of 252 EV points
So, as an example, I want Draco to maximise its Sp. Atk and Speed stats, as I feel those are the stats I want Draco to specialise in. That means I want Draco to have 252 EV points in Sp. Atk and Speed. There are a number of ways to do this, but for the sake of not going on longer than necessary. I’m only going to tell you about the most easy and efficient way. Just don’t let your Pokémon earn any experience before completing this step.
Beautiful, beautiful drugs!
The Wyndon Pokémon Centre has a smorgasbord of EV enhancing drugs that anyone can buy. (Battle Tower also has some if you have too much BP) Shoving one down your Pokémon will instantly give it 10 EV points in the appropriate stat (Always read the label so you don’t get the wrong stat).
That sounds expensive? Well, why do you think I recommended the Meowth earlier? Definitely get one of those.
So to give Draco that perfect Sp. Atk and Speed it needs, we’ll need 26 Calcium and 26 Carbos. That will total 260 EV points in the two stats. (Don’t worry, you’re not wasting EV points by going to 260, the game automatically caps it at 252 for you)
“But Glen!” I hear you cry, “252 plus 252 equals 504! What about the last 6 points?” Well, you can just put that in another stat that you think needs it most. It’s only adds one point to the stat, but every little helps. I went for a HP up in this case.
And there you have it! Draco is all set to rip into the competition once I’ve taught it some good moves. Well… as long as a rock Pokémon doesn’t show, no amount of extra points is going to save him from a Rock Slide. Which leaves us with one final question.
What Pokémon should I use?
Ah, the eternal question that I’m afraid I have no concrete answer to. The world of competitive Pokémon is vast and there are way too many strategies for me to contain in this article. I’m always open to giving recommendations for Pokémon builds if anyone asks, but I’ll never be able to give you an unbeatable team because there is no such thing. You will have to experiment and see what works for you.
You can have a balanced team with a wide variety of Pokémon that fulfill different roles, or focus on one aspect, such as certain weather conditions, to really keep your opponents on your toes. And no matter how much optimising you do, prediction is just as important as strategy and preparation. Practice goes a long way and you may find yourself having to tweak your team and replace Pokémon that just aren’t working for you.
But once it starts to click, it becomes very exciting trying to outsmart your opponent and very rewarding when you pull off a close victory. And that’s why I love competitive Pokémon. Good luck out there!
And remember, we have an excellent community of Pokémon players who are only too happy to talk about the games and answer any other questions you might have in the Pokémon Sword and Shield thread on our forum.