So you’ve just finished beating Pokémon Sun and Moon. You’ve gotten to the end game and are slowly filling out your Pokédex. You and your team have been through a lot. You’ve conquered all of the trials of Aloha and beaten all the Kahunas. You think you can take on anything. But the thing is, this is where the real challenge begins. Because now you’re not just fighting a random set of curated A.I. trainers. To be the very best, you have to fight against the entire world of other trainers. #Pokemon’s pretty cute right? It’s just a kid's game, so all you need to do is make sure you pick the right monster and you can just spam a super attack like Hyper Beam or Solar Beam to win the day, right?
Wrong. There’s a reason why Pokémon has endured, when all its contemporaries and imitators have fallen by the wayside. Pokémon is a very layered and complex game filled with numerous mechanics that don’t ever really get explained to you. Well, before you find yourself completely thrashed by the absolutely brutal competition online, let’s talk about some of the basic things you need to know about the advanced mechanics of Pokémon battling.
Getting burned is one of the nastier status afflictions in Pokémon. Not only does your Pokémon lose one-eighth of its maximum health every turn, it also reduces their physical move attack power by half. So unless your critter is a powerhouse or reliant on special attacks, it effectively becomes crippled after being burned.
Any Pokémon can be burned, unless it’s a Fire type or has the Water Veil ability, but if your Pokémon is burned and has its type or ability changed mid-battle, the status will not change. Mostly Fire type moves can cause burns, but the moves Scald and Ice Burn can also inflict the status. Also nasty is Will-O-Wisp, a move that, unlike the other moves listed, deals no damage yet has high accuracy and only inflicts the Burn status.
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Freezing is one of the nastiest and most lethal status conditions in the world of battling. When a Pokémon is frozen, it is completely unable to make a move. Each turn your Pokémon has a 20 percent chance of thawing out, but that’s only a one-fifth chance you’ll be able to act instead of standing idly by while the rival trainer beats on your favorite critter.
Thankfully, because this status condition is so brutal, most moves that can inflict it only have a 10 percent chance of doing so, but it always remains a potential risk when facing down Ice-type Pokémon or Pokémon equipped with an Ice-type move. The only way to be thawed out is to be hit by a Fire-type move or if your Pokémon knows Fusion Flare, Flame Wheel, Sacred Fire, Flare Blitz or Scald. But these aren’t common moves, so the best you can do is pray to #Arceus that you don’t get frozen when you’re hit by Blizzard or Ice Beam.
As far as status conditions go, Paralysis is perhaps one of the least debilitating in comparison to some of the others detailed here, but in the realm of competitive play it can become a crippling condition that could hinder your team and steal a match.
When your Pokémon is paralyzed it has a 25 percent chance of being unable to do anything. It also has its speed reduced by 25 percent, which can potentially let your opponent outspeed you. Most Electric-type moves can cause paralysis, but there are a few exceptions outside of the typing like the Normal-type move Body Slam which can cause paralysis. Electric Pokémon or Pokémon with the Limber ability cannot be paralyzed.
Poison is a nasty condition that slowly leaches the life from your Pokémon in battle, taking away one-eighth of their maximum hit points at every turn. Steel and Poison Pokémon are immune to the condition, but every other type is fair game. One caveat to beware of is that, unlike other status conditions, there is a second stage of poisoning. When a Pokémon is poisoned by either Toxic or Poison Fang, they're damaged by one-sixteenth of their maximum health pool at every turn, but as turns continue to pass, the damage increases exponentially until they faint.
It’s a very popular tactic to have a bulky or support Pokémon use Toxic to wear down your heavy hitters, so be careful, particularly as just about every critter in the game can learn Toxic. However, you can reset the damage level by switching out. In fact, that's why Toxic is so popular; it forces an opposing trainer to deal with rapidly increasing damage that may cause their Pokémon to faint, or switch out a Pokémon that may be in all other respects advantageous to have on the field, just to keep it from fainting.
Easily one of the most lethal but rarest status conditions, Curse can only be used by Ghost-type Pokémon. When a Pokémon is cursed it loses a quarter of its maximum hit points after each turn. Pokémon who have been cursed cannot use recover or healing moves. But in order to enact this debuff, the Ghost-type that uses the move sacrifices half its maximum HP in order to inflict the status condition.
Generally it’s pretty rare to see this move in competitive play, but always be aware if someone is looking to throw a curveball into the metagame by cursing your team with misfortune. It's more common to see Curse used with a non-Ghost Pokémon, when the player drops their speed by a stage but raises their attack and defense by one stage, allowing bulky Pokémon with an already low speed to set up for the kill with little sacrifice.
The Sleep status completely immobilizes your Pokémon, preventing them from doing anything unless they know the moves Snore and Sleep Talk. Sleep generally lasts from one to five turns when your Pokémon wakes up and is chosen randomly. Luckily, there aren’t a lot of moves that can inflict Sleep. The big ones you want to watch for are Dark Void, Spore, Yawn and Sleep Powder. Fortunately, only one Pokémon knows Dark Void, and Spore is fairly uncommon. Still, this status can be a lethal inconvenience if it’s allowed to persist.
Everyone hates Confusion, but thankfully it’s been nerfed in #PokemonSunMoon. Previously, your Pokémon had a 50 percent chance of punching itself in the head with a 40 power typeless attack, but now that has dropped to 33 percent. Remember, those multi-turn moves, like Fly, Dig, or even Solar Beam, mean checking twice to see if your critter clobbers itself, rather than do anything even remotely useful. All the more reason not to use them.
Infatuation is kind of a far nastier version of paralysis. When your Pokémon is infatuated, it cannot attack 50 percent of the time. The one thing working in your favor is Infatuation moves like Attract won’t work against Pokémon of the same gender. So male Pokémon can inflict it on female Pokémon and vice versa, but it’s completely useless against Pokémon of the same gender. This means it’s a dice roll as to whether or not you’ll be able to use this move, seeing how there’s no way to predict the gender of your opponent’s Pokémon. Normally you don’t see this happen a lot in competitive play. But if you do you can switch out your Pokémon to remove the status condition.
Trapped is a status condition that prevents you from switching out your Pokémon until it faints, or the Pokémon who inflicted the status condition faints or is forced to switch out. Ghost-type Pokémon are immune to Trapping status. But if you have a disadvantageous-type match-up you're screwed, unless you have a move like U-Turn, Volt Switch or Baton Pass. You can see why this would be massively advantageous and is part of what makes Wobbuffet and Mega Gengar so dangerous, since they both have access to Spell Tag, an ability that prevents the opposing Pokémon from swapping out.
Flinching is a temporary status whereby a Pokémon is prevented from attacking. Generally most moves that inflict this status have a small chance of doing it and only the faster Pokémon has a chance of inflicting it on the defending slower one. King’s Rock and the Razor Fang items allow for any Pokémon who uses a damaging move, and who doesn’t have a chance of inflicting Flinch, a 10 percent chance of causing it.
There are a few moves that are capable of partially trapping a Pokémon. When a Pokémon is trapped by a move like Magma Storm, Sand Tomb, Whirlpool, Wrap, Bind, Clamp, Infestation or Fire Spin, it takes periodic damage over four or five turns. Each hit from a trapping move causes damage equal to one-eighth of a Pokémon’s maximum health. This can increased to seven turns if the Pokémon is equipped with Grip Claw.
So one of your Pokémon learned something like Spikes, Stealth Rock or Toxic Spikes? Useless, right? Why waste a moveslot when you can just pound away at your enemies using whatever is super effective against the opposing trainer’s preferred type? Besides, no one actually switches out their Pokémon, so you have to make them faint first.
That may be true in PvE, but in PVP, switching Pokémon is pretty common, as are items like Focus Sash which keeps a Pokémon from fainting if they’re at full hit points. All of a sudden, inflicting just a little damage or a status effect every time a Pokémon swaps in doesn’t look so shabby, does it? And keep in mind, if you do set up entry hazards and then knock a Pokémon to incredibly low health, your opponent may not be able to swap it out because sending it back in means it may faint after taking damage from your hazards again.
Another useless move, right? If you want to switch out your Pokémon, why wouldn’t you just swap it out normally? Well, because Baton Pass hands off all the stat increases and decreases your Pokémon has to the one it swaps out to. So you can have a big, meaty Pokémon with huge Special Defense or Defense-set things up for you by poisoning or burning other Pokémon and setting up entry hazards. Then you can begin buffing your defenses or offenses with moves like Dragon Dance, Swords Dance, Nasty Plot or Double Team, then pass that all off to a heavy hitter who is ready to come in and wreck the other team without risk of being knocked out trying to set up all their stat boosts. All thanks to your Pokémon with Baton Pass.
This isn’t one of my favorite setups, but it certainly deserves mention since it’s really obnoxious if you’re not prepared for it. Trick Room swaps speed within each priority bracket. What’s move priority? Well, it’s the internal mechanism the game uses to determine which moves goes first. Most moves have a plus-zero priority, which means whoever is faster goes first. But maybe you’ve wondered why quick attack always seems to hit first. That’s because it has a plus-one priority, so even if your Pokémon is fast, unless it’s also using quick attack or a move with increased priority, it’s going to eat that attack.
What Trick Room does is swap around who goes first if both Pokémon are using the same priority move. You may have a #Greninja with a perfect nature, and a maxed-out speed stat, but if your opponent has Trick Room up, all of a sudden it’s eating a face full of wood hammer from the opposing #Abomasnow that normally moves about as fast as a dump truck full of rocks with four flat tires.
Weather has some interesting effects on your team, but it’s not always worth it to waste a moveslot on Rain Dance. Instead, consider the underrated Politoed. With access to the Drizzle ability, your weird-looking toad starts the waterworks as soon as it hits the field, meaning:
- Increases the power of water type moves by 50 percent.
- Decreases the power of fire type moves by 50 percent.
- Gives Thunder and Hurricane 100 percent accuracy.
- Halves the power of Solar Beam.
- Activates other Pokémon abilities, such as Dry Skin.
While Water and Electric types and even some Grass types love the rain, the sun is a boon to Fire types and anything with access to Solar Beam:
- Increases the power of fire type moves by 50 percent.
- Decreases the power of water type moves by 50 percent.
- Allows solar beam to be used instantly.
- Activates abilities such as chlorophyll.
Not quite so many stat bumps as some of the other weather effects, but that’s mostly because Hail functions like it’s own entry hazard. Mix in actual entry hazards and a little creative thinking, and all of a sudden things start to look much more viable, especially when you use them to mess with teams that depend on weather effects. Check out a few others:
- At the end of each turn, damages Pokémon that are not Ice type by one-sixteenth of max health.
- Makes Blizzard 100 percent accurate.
- Halves the power of Solar Beam.
Just like all other weather types, you’ll want one of your Pokémon to be able to set up without wasting a moveslot or a turn. Both #Tyranitar and #Hippowdon have access to an ability that lets them create a Sandstorm upon entering a battle, and there are a number of excellent choices for supports, too. Steel types have some pretty good Pokémon kicking around, so it’s not too difficult to find something that won’t be damaged by your weather. Take a look at some of the effects:
- Damages Pokémon caught in Sandstorm unless they are Rock, Ground or Steel.
- Boosts Special Defense of Rock types by 50 percent.
- Halves the power of Solar Beam.
This is just scratching the surface, so we haven’t gone over held items, hidden abilities, EVs, IVs, breeding, egg moves or Pokémon tier lists. We recommend you check out the Smogon forums if you really want to see how deep the rabbit hole goes into what at first appears to be a simple game designed for children. This isn’t like #PokemonGo that’s designed for those filthy casuals who only remember the anime series. Hope this helps you get up to speed on the true depth of the core series that has helped it endure for the past 20 years.
Let us know in the comments below about your favorite battle tactic.
[Image credit: Art Work via Serain on DeviantArt]