Win Some, Lose Some - Influential Competitive Buffs and Nerfs Between Generations | Part 1

By Kalalokki. Released: 2019/11/21.
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Over 7 generations and 20 years of Pokémon games we've seen a lot of changes to moves, abilities, and items. While few care that Sweet Scent now lowers the foe's Evasion by 2 stages instead of 1 or that Twineedle can no longer poison Steel-types, there's been plenty of buffs and nerfs that have played a bigger role in competitive battling. This article will cover the most significant ones as well as some honorable mentions. The article will also be split into two parts, where the first part will cover all the buffs and the second part the nerfs. Without further ado, let's get to it!

Disclaimer: As this article was written before Gen 8 came out, some parts might be a bit out of date with the current situation of the buffs mentioned.


Bisharp Weavile Kartana Mega Sableye Tangrowth Mienfoo Pawniard

Knock Off

Ever since held items were introduced in Gen II, they've played a massive role in competitive play, to the extent that the lack of a held item can be seen as a big disadvantage in almost all cases. While niche moves like Thief and Covet require the lack of an item on the user's part to succeed in stealing items or Trick and Switcheroo merely switching the places of the user's and foe's items if the user lacks one, Knock Off at its introduction was able to negate the foe's item for the rest of the battle. However, this was later changed in Gen V to only remove the item. Despite a large distribution of the move through Move Tutors, the low Base Power of 20 held Knock Off back as a prominent move, being sidelined for use by weaker defensive Pokémon that could afford to sacrifice the power for the utility provided by it or centered amongst Little Cup users, whose reliance on Eviolite and Berry Juice meant that Knock Off's utility could truly shine. This all changed at the start of Gen VI: the Base Power was increased to 65, with a further power boost of 1.5x against held item users. Coupled with the Steel type no longer resisting Dark-type moves, the scene was set for Knock Off's reign of terror over all metagames. With its already widespread distribution, Knock Off has now solidified itself as a powerful coverage or STAB move across all types of physical attackers, as well as a popular move among all types of defensively oriented users for the beneficial utility, removing sources of longevity in Berries and Leftovers as well as boosting items like Choice items and Life Orbs. Although the introduction of Mega Stones, Z-Crystals, and other items that can prevent the 1.5x power boost and can't be removed by Knock Off, the use of it can still provide useful scouting information of these items' usage within a team, and there's usually only one user of each of those type of items on any given team.

Defog artwork

Art by Rocket Grunt.

Tornadus-Therian Gliscor Latias Arceus Silvally Snivy


Introduced as an HM in the Sinnoh region to stop overworld fog from plaguing areas with its accuracy debuff in battles, it also lowered the foe's evasion, as well as clearing screens and entry hazards from their side. Yep, you read that correctly; while it might provide an answer to offensive teams utilizing screens, you will also clear off all entry hazards you've spent time setting up, making it a near-useless move for the following 2 generations. This was at a time when the entry hazards game became increasingly potent, with the original ever-popular Spikes, the introduction of Toxic Spikes, and the ubiquitous move that would define all metagames to their core—Stealth Rock. It was Gen VI that introduced a saving grace to Defog's mechanics: the added effect of clearing entry hazards from both sides of the field. Entry hazard removal was now usable against Ghost-types without the use of Foresight and could only be blocked by Taunt, as when it is Magic Bounced, it still clears entry hazards from both sides. But, its best feature was its widespread distribution thanks to being an old HM, mostly at the hands of Flying-types, making for broad use throughout the various tiers. Being an HM would've normally prevented the users from being transferrable up through the generations; however, as Heart Gold and Soul Silver didn't retain Defog's status as an HM, Pokémon were able to be transferred up from those games after being traded from the Sinnoh games. This did come with the caveat of making Defog incompatible with hidden abilities, as those were introduced in Gen V, making otherwise potent users like Immunity Gligar, Poison Heal Gliscor, and Regenerator Ho-Oh an impossibility. This was fortunately remedied in Gen VII and Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, with Defog being included amongst the pool of Move Tutor moves. This also opened up the move's availability for 3 previously unutilized generations of users and ushered in a new era of widespread entry hazard removal.

Skarmory Steelix Sawk Golem Carracosta Magnemite Onix


When first introduced, Sturdy negated all OHKO moves, a lackluster feat considering the prohibition of these types of moves throughout all Smogon metagames through a clause. However, as of Gen V, it worked akin to Focus Sash, preventing a knockout from any one move when the user's health is at full, with the extra benefit of not expiring after use, allowing multiple uses should a user regain its full health. This freed up the item slot for some Pokémon that would've used Focus Sash otherwise, mainly entry hazard leads and setup sweepers that appreciated the added turn of protection, such as Skarmory and Carracosta, respectively. But, the largest impact of this change was to the defensive users, allowing them to sponge a powerful hit from a foe and cripple them with status, deal out some major last-minute damage, or phaze setup users. This in turn made entry hazards and chip damage increasingly important for opposing teams to negate Sturdy's effectiveness, especially for users with reliable recovery such as Skarmory.

Mamoswine Salazzle Lickilicky


To stop the rampant usage of Attract in competitive play, the ability Oblivious was introduced as a surefire way to halt the progression of infatuation as it tore through the metagames. What? No one ever used Attract in any serious situation? Oh well, in Gen VI Oblivious also gained the ability to block Taunt. Although potentially prominent users such as the Slowpoke line prefer the superior Regenerator ability, it sees usage among a variety of others: Salandit and Salazzle are able to freely set up Nasty Plots, Mamoswine can serve as a Stealth Rock lead, and Lickitung and Lickilicky are bulky Wish users able to sponge hits from a variety of threats in their respective tiers.

Crustle Omastar Onix Vullaby

Weak Armor

While Weak Armor had seen usage prior to its buff, the +1 boost to Speed at the cost of the -1 drop to Defense was often not that significant, as most users had average Speed stats at best. The buff in Gen VII to a +2 boost Speed instead was just what was needed to allow Weak Armor to truly shine. Setup sweepers like Crustle and Omastar have a respectable Defense stat to easily take a hit and boost in tandem with Shell Smash, allowing them to outspeed even some of the fastest foes at +4. They can also use the utility of Weak Armor to act as fast entry hazard setters that either get to set up an extra layer or fire off a powerful attack. In Little Cup, Weak Armor serves as a powerful deterrent on prominent bulky users such as Onix and Vullaby, as the Speed boost allows them to deal with a plethora of common Fighting- and Flying-types, respectively.

Mega Blaziken Mega Lucario Mega Mewtwo X

Low Kick

Gen I's options for Fighting-type moves weren't much to write home about; Low Kick was no exception: with a Base Power of 50 and an accuracy of 90%, albeit a 30% chance to flinch the target. Gen III changed it up with a then-new damage calculation that was based on the foe's weight, the Base Power varying between 20 and 120 depending on heavy they are. While it could be hard to guarantee a consistent damage output against most teams, Move Tutors gave it a broad distribution, with some Pokémon having it as their sole viable Fighting-type move available, ensuring that it would see usage amongst varying attackers. But it's in the Ubers metagame where Low Kick gets to truly shine, as the overwhelming majority of Pokémon residing there all have a Base Power of 120 against them. While powerful attackers like Mega Blaziken, Mega Lucario, and Pheromosa have either equally strong or stronger options in Close Combat or High Jump Kick, their drawbacks make them inferior in comparison to the reliability of Low Kick, as well as it being the strongest option available for some users such as Mega Mewtwo X.

Victini Porygon-Z Charizard Meloetta Xerneas Ho-Oh Porygon

Omniboost Z-Moves

Pokémon is no stranger to useless moves: Splash has been a mainstay joke for 7 generations, with its only effect being a message that surprisingly states that nothing happened at all, and recent event-only moves such as Celebrate, Happy Hour, and Hold Hands have no effect in competitive settings. There's also been certain signature status moves, such as Conversion, Forest's Curse, Trick-or-Treat, and Sketch that had marginal effectiveness at best, with Geomancy as a strong exception to this, being one of most potent setup moves available. What is, then, the connection between all of these moves? Gen VII introduced Z-Moves and gave these moves additional special and powerful effects; while Splash merely received the effect of raising Attack by 3 stages, the rest got a boost to Attack, Defense, Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed—a so-called omniboost. These previously marginalized moves became sought after and provided their users with a powerful setup move, with many of them like Charizard, Venusaur, Meloetta, and Jirachi starting to soar in viability and becoming too much for their original tiers, so they were met with suspect tests or quickbans. Z-Conversion also came with original effects of Conversion, transforming the Porygon line's typing to the type of the first move in their set, allowing for a multitude of beneficial typings for them to use and wreak havoc with new STAB moves on otherwise would-be answers. Z-Geomancy transformed defensive Xerneas to a near-unstoppable behemoth in conjunction with Ingrain and Rest, which let it set up and decimate teams without the fear of status, residual damage, or being phazed and losing its boosts. However, the introduction of Marshadow and its Spectral Thief, as well as the popularization of Magearna and Necrozma-DM on teams to adapt to its set, has effectively killed off its viability nowadays.

Hitmonlee Mega Medicham Mega Lopunny Hawlucha Dodrio

High Jump Kick and Jump Kick

Originally signature moves, together with Rolling Kick, of Hitmonlee, they were some of the best Fighting-type moves available in Gen I, which isn't saying much, as well as having a peculiar crash damage of 1 HP in case of a miss, which was later corrected in later games. They remained fringe moves until Gen IV, when their Base Powers were buffed to 100 and 85, respectively, but didn't really take off until Gen V, with a wider distribution and further boosts to powers of 130 and 100 each, although the crash damage was increased to half the user's total HP. Users like Blaziken, Scraggy, and Medicham were able to fire off powerful High Jump Kicks with help from setup moves or just the raw strength in Pure Power, while Mienshao and Hitmonlee had Reckless to further boost the move's power. Later generations include Mega Lopunny, Hawlucha, and Pheromosa as dominant users to take advantage of this powerful STAB attack. Jump Kick is mostly seen as a respectable coverage option of Normal-types such as Dodrio and Sawsbuck, allowing them to break through would-be answers.

Glare artwork

Art by Rocket Grunt.

Serperior Zygarde Zygarde 100% Druddigon Snivy


Another previously signature move, this time of the Arbok line, that later became available to a variety of serpents and a few dragons; Glare was just a unique variation of Stun Spore, a move that was already uncommon at best due to Thunder Wave's widespread distribution and perfect accuracy in comparison, and was thus left to be forgotten along with its users. Gen V boosted the accuracy up to 90%, but it didn't quite catch on until Gen VI and VII, when the accuracy was finally bumped up to 100%. Gen VII also saw the nerf of Thunder Wave's accuracy to 90%, making Glare the most reliable paralysis-inducing move, along with its previous advantage of being able to paralyze Ground-types. Both Snivy and Serperior are able to make great use of Glare, either setting up a Substitute or boosting up using Contrary-boosted Leaf Storms on turns of full paralyzation. Druddigon is able to serve as a great defensive utility Pokémon, crippling foes with status, setting up Stealth Rock, and phazing setup Pokémon with Dragon Tail. But the premier user of Glare is Zygarde, bar the frailer 10% forme. Zygarde was able to dominate OU with its vast variety of viable sets, where Glare often played a crucial role in its success, crippling would-be checks and counters and taking advantage of this to boost itself to a later victory. Eventually, Zygarde was suspected and banished to Ubers, where its superior Complete forme was already a dominant force. There it serves as a defensive monolith once transformed, able to function similar to its lesser form: spreading status and utilizing its bulk and paralysis to eventually overpower many teams after enough boosts.

Dragonite Salamence Haxorus Kyurem-Black Zygarde Tyrantrum Kommo-o


After a generation of no real attacking Dragon-type moves, Outrage was one of the new introductions in Gen II as the strongest one. Despite this, Outrage was left to the sidelines up throughout Gen III due to all Dragon-type moves being special and its potential users all being predominantly physically inclined instead. Fast forward to Gen IV, and we get both the revolutionizing new physical/special split mechanic, where the majority of Dragon-type moves were now physical instead, and a Base Power boost to 120. This made Outrage in the hands of the powerful Dragon-types a menace to anything in its way, able to put a major dent in even the bulkiest Pokémon that resist it. While the dawn of Fairy-types in Gen VI made it increasingly dangerous to be locked into Outrage and made people shift towards the safer Dragon Claw, the added power provided by Outrage was often a risk worth taking. Whether it's boosted by Choice Band or Dragon Dance through old classics like Dragonite, Salamence, Haxorus, and Kyurem-B or newer threats like Zygarde forms, Tyrantrum, or Kommo-o that can also utilize Z-Crystals to fire off a powerful Devastating Drake, Outrage remains a move for opponents to always be wary of.

Arcanine Entei Arceus Rayquaza Linoone

Extreme Speed

Despite its miniscule distribution and even fewer users that can get a STAB bonus from it, Extreme Speed remains one the most powerful priority move since its introduction in Gen II, and it was about to become even better; in Gen V its priority bracket was increased from +1 to a +2, meaning it could reliably outprioritize almost everything else available. It has seen usage amongst almost all those that can get their hands on it: from the original user in Arcanine to Lucario and Dragonite and all the way up to Ubers powerhouses in Deoxys and Rayquaza. Then there's the lucky few that get the coveted STAB bonus from Extreme Speed: Zigzagoon and Linoone are able to decimate their opposition with the combination of Belly Drum + Extreme Speed, but one can't forget the most notorious user that has been immortalized with its own iconic name—Extreme Killer Arceus. As if it weren't enough, Game Freak has been kind enough to release several special event Pokémon with access to the move, which includes the event gifted, yet lackluster, Pikachu, but also to threats like Entei and Genesect.

Skarmory Celesteela Chansey Wobbuffet Whimsicott

Major move buffs from Gen I to II and forward

It's to no one's surprise that moves of the first generation of Pokémon had some weird or outright useless effects. Most of those were fortunately fixed in the following generations to come. Roar and Whirlwind's ability to force out the foe to another party member on random had no effect whatsoever in trainer battles, which was then fixed in Gen II. Toxic and Leech Seed worked similarly to today's counterparts, with the unusual exception of running off the same damage counting system, meaning that if they were used together they both scaled with Toxic's increasing formula, quickly racking up the damage. Meanwhile, Counter could only reflect back physical damage dealt via Normal- or Fighting-type moves, as well as having the ability to, by fulfilling certain criteria, execute the move several turns after using it or even reflect your own attacks, dealing double what you previously did. Substitute had way too many odd characteristics to be able to list them all here, but highlights include not preventing Leech Seed or status conditions inflicted by status moves, preventing Hyper Beam from needing to recharge, and preventing Explosion and Self-Destruct from KOing the user upon an opposing Substitute, KOing the user if it has less than 25% health remaining instead of failing, and forcing multi-hit moves to end immediately after breaking a Substitute.

Magearna Rotom Incineroar Snorlax Linoone

Pinch healing Berries

Berries have always had beneficial effects as held items since their introduction in Gen II and later revamp in Gen III, but healing capabilities have mostly been limited to Sitrus Berry's decent 25% healing at 50% or less health remaining. Along came Gen VII and the previously unremarkable Figy, Wiki, Mago, Aguav, and Iapapa Berries, with their mere 12.5% healing at 25% health or less, got massively bumped up to a healing rate of 50%. The preference of which Berry to choose only depends on not choosing the one corresponding to the stat lowered by one's nature; otherwise, it's free game, allowing for a generous selection in VGC to circumvent the Item Clause in place. While the more balance-oriented singles metagames favor Leftovers as the premier healing item, the Berries still see usage on pivots like Magearna, Rotom-A, and Incineroar, capitalizing on the many instances of chip damage they take during a battle to trigger the Berry and giving them even more longevity. There's also those that can run the Berries together with Gluttony to trigger them at 50% health instead: Snorlax is able to gain a near-reliable healing option by using those together with Recycle, while Linoone is able to recover its health to full after a Belly Drum right out of the gate. But as you might've guessed, the more offensive and faster-paced Doubles metagames are able to take the usage of these Berries to a whole new level, with them being present on all types of Pokémon that appreciate the instant healing provided.

Honorable Mentions

Araquanid Golisopod Buzzwole

Leech Life

Having shared the #1 spot of weakest draining move together with Absorb for generations, Gen VII finally promoted Leech Life to one of the strongest instead, now with a Base Power of 80. While this buff is one of the biggest seen in one single step, there's few viable Bug-type users to take advantage of it, as well as it being somewhat lackluster as a coverage move. Nonetheless, Araquanid, Golisopod, and Buzzwole are all proficient enough to see Leech Life take a place in their moveset.

Mandibuzz Forretress Escavalier


Previously only protecting the user from weather-related damage, Gen VII included the added protection from powder- and spore-based moves as well as the ability Effect Spore. While this added protection from popular sleep and status moves was appreciated by the Mandibuzz line, Forretress, and Escavalier, many others with access to the ability, such as the Cloyster, Reuniclus, and Kommo-o lines, have better ability options available to them.

Mega Heracross Breloom Cinccino

Bullet Seed and Pin Missile

From being some of the weakest multi-hit moves, with Base Powers of 10 and 14, respectively, they later received buffs, in Gen V and Gen VI respectively, that upped them both to 25 Base Power. Although multi-hit moves are generally rare, these see usage on prominent enough users to not be completely forgotten. Bullet Seed excels on Technician Breloom and complements the coverage on Skill Link Cinccino, while Mega Heracross frequently uses both Pin Missile and Bullet Seed to break opposing walls.


Diamond Storm

Diancie's signature move was already one of the strongest physical Rock-type moves available that also came with a 50% chance to raise its Defense by 1 stage on use, but Gen VII decided to further improve it and up the Defense raise to 2 stages instead. While Mega Diancie is rarely able to fully take advantage of the added Defense, regular Diancie that's defensively oriented can utilize this strategy to further check powerful physical attackers like Toxicroak and Drapion in RU, as well Mega Aerodactyl and Terrakion in UU.

Ash Greninja

Water Shuriken

Greninja's signature physical priority multi-hit move was mostly left forgotten in its debut generation, but with the introduction of Ash-Greninja and Battle Bond, it was revitalized as an essential move to this new forme. The reasons for this was its change to a special move and increase in Base Power to 20 upon Greninja's transformation to its Ash forme, as well as always hitting 3 times, giving Ash-Greninja an essential 60-Base Power priority move that it's able to clean up the opposition with.



This one is one that might be unknown to most out there, as a Teleport still fails in trainer battles in the most recent Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon 3DS games that most competitive formats are based on. But in the Let's Go series of games for the Switch, Teleport finally gained a useful function in trainer battles, becoming a decreased priority move of -6 that switches the user out. This essentially guarantees a slow pivot for any user, regardless of their Speed stat, granting a much needed "dry-pass" move, should this effect carry over to Gen VIII, that has been sought after since the banning of Baton Pass in most metagames.


Light Ball

Game Freak has always showered their mascot Pikachu with unique items, moves (both regular and Z-Moves), alternate formes, and whatever else they can think of at the time. Light Ball was introduced in Gen II, and when held it doubled Pikachu's Special Attack, transforming this meek mouse into a surprisingly powerful attacker. But this wasn't enough for Game Freak, so Gen IV made Light Ball double both Attack and Special Attack of Pikachu. Together with its broad movepool of some of the strongest moves in Volt Tackle and Extreme Speed, Pikachu theoretically could become a fearsome mixed attacker in its own right. But pitiful bulk and overreliance on this held item have always held Pikachu back from doing much in most cases. Basically, it still sucks.


This wraps up the first part of influential buffs over the ages, but don't fret that it's over just yet! Join us in the next part when we take a deep dive into all the nerfs instead, that either brought mild inconvenience or almost utter ruin for all future.

HTML by Ryota Mitarai.
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