Competitive Pokemon: Getting Started in 5 Steps

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2016 is arguably the best year of Pokemon to date.  It is the 20th anniversary of the series, it marks the release of Pokemon GO (One of the most successful mobile games ever), it spawned a brand new Pokemon Series, fans saw Ash reach the Pokemon League Finals,  and it brings fans two new entries into the core series with Pokemon Sun and Moon.  With all this new Pokemon goodness, it would only make sense that all this extra attention would result in an increase in interest for competitive Pokemon battling.  This guide is meant as an intro to the world of competitive video game battling using the official Pokemon World Championship Tournament style, named VGC.  

Step 1: Understanding What You Are Getting Yourself Into

There is a massive difference between casual Pokemon battles and competitive Pokemon battles.  Casual battles consist of friends or family throwing together a team of their favorite Pokemon (many of which were probably used during the campaign) and then having a few battles here and there.  These battles are lots of fun, but they are essentially the Pokemon equivalent of button mashing in a fighting game.  It is very easy to have a blast using this method and many gamers never bother to go beyond this level.

    Competitive Pokemon requires above all else, a huge time investment.  Time must be invested to learn the ins and outs of many Pokemon, beyond just the ones that comprise your team.  If you are unwilling to invest dozens, if not hundreds of hours into learning, breeding, and practicing Pokemon then you should just stop reading now.  

    Still here?  Okay, then let’s move on to step 2.

Step 2: Making the Perfect Pokemon through Breeding

    So you have officially committed to spending hours upon hours on Pokemon.  Saying it is one thing, but following through is what will make the true Pokemon Masters rise to the top.  Many trainers will never get passed this part, which is totally okay.  Competitive Pokemon is not for everyone.  

In order to make the perfect Pokemon, you must first familiarize yourself with breeding, IVs, and EVs.  The most important things that breeding brings to competitive Pokemon is access to egg moves and well as a chance to improve on a Pokemon’s Individual Values, more commonly known as IVs.  IVs are an invisible stat that determines a specific Pokemon’s HP, Attack, Defense and every other stat.  A trainer can have two Pokemon that were caught in the same patch of grass, both have the same nature, both have the same ability, but one can still be objectively better for competitive battling.  This is because of the Pokemon’s IVs.  In order to get a Pokemon with perfect IVs, trainers have to breed and breed some more.  It is possible to figure out all this stuff through trial and error, but there is already such a huge time commitment that we will be using guides as often as possible.  So, for this we look to Verlisify’s Youtube Channel for his complete Breeding Guide to Pokemon Sun and Moon.  He is one an excellent Pokemon Youtuber and worth a follow for knowledge as well as just entertainment.  Either stop reading now to go watch that video or bookmark it for later.  It provides valuable info for breeding in general as well as tricks specific to Sun and Moon.

Step 3: Building Your Team

    This is where the fun begins.  Building a Pokemon team can be just as fun as battling for some trainers.  This is where trainers really get to play around with their own tastes in Pokemon.  Building a team that fits your playstyle and has few weaknesses is tricky at first, but there are plenty of resources to help figure out if your team has any glaring weaknesses during the building process.

    This is where we go to our second resource.  Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng is arguably the best player in the world to have never won the Pokemon World Championship.  He has one of the best Youtube Channels for VGC content.  He commentated this year’s world championship tournament and was part of Nintendo’s 2016 E3 panel for Pokemon Go.  He is the real deal.  He has put together a video lasting over 40 minutes explaining his process for teambuilding using the VGC format.   This video will help break down some of the rules of the format as well as helping with figuring out which Pokemon are allowed in the format.  This is a MUST WATCH for anyone getting into competitive Pokemon or even just casual VGC.  Once you watch the video there is not much left but to get to work putting a team together.  

Step 4: Learn from the Pros

    Watch as much VGC games as you can stand, and then watch some more.  VGC is a completely different animal from singles, but it is still the official format and should be learned if you are interested in competing on the biggest stage.  The thought process is different from singles play.  The games are fast paced and can come down to one or two major decisions.  When you start watching videos you will hear the pros say things like, “I should make this play, but that is just SO OBVIOUS.”  At first you might feel a little lost as to why a play is obvious, but after enough videos, you will begin to understand the mindset of a VGC player.  Things like alternating using Protect between your last two Pokemon when your opponent has a spread move and has the speed advantage starts to become common sense.  Don’t worry about that stuff for now, just start watching videos.

    The number of great VGC players with content available on Youtube is constantly growing, but when the current Pokemon World Champion (Wolfe Glick) has a channel dedicated to VGC, that would be the safest place to start.  Since Pokemon Sun and Moon came out he has done several videos breaking down individual Pokemon while explaining their role and possible movesets in the VGC format.  Those videos might be more helpful for teambuilding, but he has plenty of matches to watch and learn from as well.  Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng has also started up his famous “Road to Ranked” series for the 2017 season where he plays VGC matches and provides live commentary as he goes.  There is plenty of great Youtubers for VGC content and Cybertron’s team building video has a link to many of them so make sure to go back and bookmark that for later if you haven’t checked it out yet.

Step 5: Play, Experiment, and Learn

    Now that you have built a solid team and have some understanding of how the VGC format works, it is time to get out there and play.  There is no substitute for playing and gaining the experience yourself.  The more matches you play, the more you will learn, and the better you will get.  Don’t be discouraged if an idea you liked doesn’t seem to work out.  Some teams or strategies seem great in theory, but just don’t end up working out the way you hope in reality.  Always feel free to experiment and try new things to see what works best for you.  Just keep playing and learning.  Learn from your mistakes, from your losses, and even from your wins.  Understand that even the best players in the world make mistakes and lose games.  It’s not the end of the world.  Just make sure to accept that you probably aren’t as good as you think you are…YET!  

So that’s our guide to getting started with competitive Pokemon battling.  Competitive Pokemon is a great way to make new friends and have a good time.  Just remember that it is still a game and it is meant to be fun.  The best players in the world got that way because they love playing Pokemon.  Thanks for reading and happy battling!

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