Competitive Pokémon Battling

2011-05-26 by . 1 comments

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Pokémon is child’s play, right? Between the animé and the adorable plushies sold, it probably seems so. However, the world of competitive Pokémon battling is extremely in-depth, and requires more knowledge than is initially assumed. The first place to visit is Smogon; one of the best resources at your disposal while learning the ropes of battling.

Smogon is German for Koffing - the Pokémon featured at the top of the insignia.

The most important point of competitive Pokémon battling is the idea of tiers. Pokémon are categorized into various tiers, to create a balanced metagame. The tiers are Uber (everything goes), OU (overused), BL (borderline), UU (underused), and NU (neverused). (Unfortunately, at the time of writing, the tiers are still being decided for the Black & White metagame, so the tiers are based on usage rather than actual strength. In a few months, enough playtesting will have occurred that each and every Pokémon properly be placed in a tier.)

When playing an NU battle, only NU Pokémon can be used. In a UU battle, UU and NU Pokémon can be used. This continues until playing Ubers, where you can use every Pokémon. The most commonly played tier is OU, but people sometime tire of seeing the same Pokémon over and over, and play UU battles as well. The reason for these tiers is to provide a scale on how strong each Pokémon is, so there aren’t battles where one trainer has vastly superior Pokémon to another in-battle.

There are many different roles that Pokémon can fulfill. One of the most straightforward to understand is a sweeper. Sweepers usually come in late-game, and are extremely fast and / or powerful Pokémon that can easily seize a victory. The general counter to a sweeper is a wall, sponge, or tank. Despite having different names, all three are bulky Pokémon who can take lots of hits. Leads begin a game; they are usually fast Pokémon that can set up various entry hazards that help the user later.

Most competitive Pokémon battles contain 6 Pokémon on each team. Variations of this sometime occur; for example, Nintendo’s own VGC tournaments are typically double battles, where two Pokémon from each party are on the field at each time. This adds extra depth to the game, because any Pokémon can attack any on the field (even an ally!).

A TV showcasing a battle at the 2010 Phoenix Regionals VGC tournament

For those who have played the Pokémon games before, do you remember attacks like Howl and abilities like Intimidate that weren’t very helpful in-game? These attacks are very useful in competitive Pokémon battling. These moves can turn the tide of a battle, depending on how they are used. Attacks like Howl and Dragon Dance are usually known as set-up moves, because they boost the user’s stats. Dragon Dance, specifically, raises the user’s Attack and Speed; because of this, a Gyarados that has set up multiple Dragon Dances is truly a force to be reckoned with.


These battles can take place within the Pokémon Black and White games, but simulators such as Pokémon Online have been made to make the process of making teams and battling simpler (as the Pokémon don’t need to be caught and trained). Battling with an online simulator also simplifies the process of starting the battle (battling in-game requires both parties to enter friend codes), and is simply more convenient. Games progress much faster within simulators, and the chat is handy for psyching out your opponent and also viewing the history of how the match has progressed. An additional feature of simulators like Pokémon Online is that they allow users to spectate battles going on. As a newer user, watching as many high-calibre battles as possible is important, and you can even chat with the battlers and ask them questions.

Almost like playing it on your DS!

There are many YouTubers who put their battles on YouTube, including KwandaoRen66, KingDaddyDMAC, wilechase, shofu, and Dangerous36M. For those who are interested in competitive Pokémon battles, watching these people are a good place to start. Each narrator’s battles are very informative, and they have different styles of battling (some more defensive, some more offensive).

This concludes my extremely brief overview of the competitive Pokémon battling metagame. For more information, make sure to visit Smogon, as the information there is extremely detailed and in-depth.

Filed under Gaming 101

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  • Mana says:

    Solid post, bro. I was surprised to see no joking prod at how the tier list of Pokemon was probably changed at least 50 times while you wrote this.

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