What is Competitive Pokémon Battling?
Everyone remembers sweeping aside the Elite Four with their Level 87 Typhlosion. The Pokémon franchise put forth a difficulty curve catered to younger gamers, yet also gave some older gamers a challenge in classic fights (Whitney’s Miltank, anyone?). So how does this compare with the competitive Pokémon battling scene? In competitive battles, all Pokémon are the same level, so no unfair advantage can be gained. Generally, Pokémon are set to level 100, depending on the battle format. This gives rise to strategic thinking more in line with a turn-based strategy game. Pokémon are optimized to do the most damage, have the best items, take the biggest hits and utilize some of the cheesiest tactics. Sadly, the Level 87 Typhlosion that we raised when we were 6 wouldn’t stand a chance in a competitive battle! Competitive battling can be notoriously difficult to simply pick up and play, but this guide will attempt to give you a good understanding of the basics.
Basic Terminology and an Introduction to Smogon Tiers
In competitive battles, the Pokémon you are allowed to use is determined by the Tier that it resides in. The Tier a Pokémon is in is based off of how powerful the Pokémon is and how often it is used in the entirety of competitive battles. It would hardly be fair to pit your team of 6 Magikarps against a team containing a Mega Rayquaza! The main Smogon Tiers are as follows: Ubers, OverUsed (OU), UnderUsed (UU), Rarely Used (RU), NeverUsed (NU), PU (which has no acronym), and a relatively new tier called Little Cup (LC). Pokémon in the Uber tier can’t be used in the OU tier, but Pokémon in the OU tier can be used in the Uber tier, albeit they may be underpowered. Competitive battling has a few universal rules in the interests of fun and fairness called Clauses. Two examples of a Clause would be:
- Sleep Clause: Only one Pokémon may be put to sleep on the opposing team at a time, if not induced by a move such as Rest.
- Species Clause: Players cannot have two Pokémon with the same Pokédex number on the same team.
There are more Clauses and rules involved in competitive battling, a full list of which can be found on the Smogon Gen VI Tier List. There are other battling formats, such as VGC, but as this is an introductory guide to competitive battling, that information is beyond the scope of this guide. Each Tier also has a list of banned Pokémon, abilities, Mega Forms, items and moves, and the playerbase must abide by these restrictions when building their respective teams. All Pokémon have different roles on a competitive battling team, determined by what that Pokémon is best at. Following is a basic list of roles Pokémon can fulfil on a team:
|ROLE NAME||DESCRIPTION||IMPORTANT STATS||EXAMPLES|
|Sweeper||A Pokémon that attempts to KO as many opponents as possible.||Attack/Sp.Attack, Speed||Uber: Mega Blaziken
|Wall||A Pokémon that soaks as much damage as possible without fainting.||Defence/Sp.Defence, HP||Uber: Defence Deoxys
|Staller||A Pokémon that stalls for time whilst chipping away at the opponent’s HP, usually using moves like Protect, Toxic, and Substitute.||Defence/Sp.Defence, HP, Speed||Uber: Lugia
NU: Mega Audino
|Lead||A lead can perform many functions, but in general a good lead can set entry hazards like Stealth Rocks and Spikes and set up important beneficial conditions for your team.||Speed, Defence/Sp.Defence||Uber: Primal Groudon
But what do the other words that I’m sure you’ve seen thrown around in the competitive community mean? Here are a few basic terms explained:
- Movepool – The entire group of moves that a single Pokémon has access to.
- Moveset – The four moves that a Pokémon is running at one time. For example Substitute, Toxic, Protect, and Earthquake is a moveset.
- Set – The specific moveset, item and stat distribution that a Pokémon is running.
- Stat Distribution – The way the Pokémon’s Speed, Attack, Special Attack, Defence, and Special Defence is spread. For example, Blissey has a high HP stat, but a low Speed stat.
For a comprehensive list of all competitive and non-competitive related Pokémon terms, please refer to the Smogon Pokemon Dictionary.
Hopefully this very brief guide has given you an introduction into the world of competitive Pokémon battling. You’ll be able to jump into a competitive match and understand the general principles behind each Pokémon’s set, be it a stall, wall, or sweeper. Following this, I will be writing a more advanced and longer article delving further into the strategies of competitive battling, such as team building, team synergies, the VGC format, and the more niche Pokémon archetypes, so stay tuned! Many thanks to ShiinaBat for the opportunity to write articles for the Raging Monkeys community, Screaming Rowlet for his input and patiently answering any questions I had, and to the Pokémon channel for the awesome casual tournaments that are organized!