Competitive Battling FAQ

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Spreadsheeter by day, Random Ladderer by night.
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Competitive Battling Simplified
Due to popular request, I'm adding this as a resource because learning the pure basics of competitive battling helps you on your Smogon journey. There are a lot more detailed explanations on Smogon however this is aimed at explaining the basics, where Battling 101 will take you to the next level of knowledge. Plus also has some really good Youtube guides on how to battle, too, so check them out.

This will also be useful to you:

What do Natures do?
Natures are important to all competitive battling. For example, using Bold on Sawk is not ok because Bold is +Defense, -Attack, which is good on some defensive attackers but not on a primarily physical attacker. It all depends on what you want to do with the Pokemon. A lot of Pokemon tend to benefit more from Speed-enhancing Natures, such as Timid and Jolly, which enhance either SpA or Attack. Breeding, and/or catching the Pokemon with the right Nature is extremely important, or else any EVs (as discussed below) you use on it are pointless, as the Pokemon won't be at its peak. All analyses will have the preferred Nature for a Pokemon so that makes it a little easier for you!

What are Characteristics?
Characteristics are useful in-game as they help determine what kind of IVs you have (found when checking a summary of a Pokemon). If it's Mischievous, the Pokemon could possibly have really bad IVs overall (with the highest in SpA, or the best possible IVs for SpA, so it depends. I'll explain how to breed for Pokemon with good IVs in the next post but for now the main thing you need to know is all these Characteristics have a chance at having one or more perfect IVs: Mischievous (SpA), Takes Plenty of Siestas (HP), Likes to Thrash About (Attack), Capable of Taking Hits (Defense), Somewhat Vain (SpD) and Alert to Sounds (Speed).

What are IVs?
IVs, or Individual Values, are what makes a Pokemon either good or bad in battling. If Sawk, as mentioned above, has an Adamant nature (+Attack, -Special Attack) and has the Likes to Thrash About characteristic there's a chance it could have perfect Attack. However, if it has only a 6, or a 1 in Attack, none of its IVs can be higher than the Attack stat. With that characteristic it'll have one of these as the highest IV in Attack: 1, 6, 11, 16, 21, 26, 31. If it's 31, great, if not, try again. In-game it doesn't matter as much but if you want to battle competitively, getting Pokemon with 31 IVs in at least five stats is important.

You can now use Hyper Training to upgrade any of a Pokemon's stats to match what it would be if the Pokemon had 31 IVs. Do note that with Hyper Training, the boost is superficial. The actual IVs of the Pokemon do not get increased, but give the appearance of having been maximised. Due to this, the Pokemon's Hidden Power will remain the same.

What are EVs?
Effort Values, or EVs, are very important to Wi-Fi battling, as well as PS! battles, but you don't need to do any of the effort on PS. When you max out a Pokemon's EVs in Attack (by giving it 252 EVs), that means it has the best possible Attack (paired with a 31 IV in Attack Pokemon) so it can produce the maximum damage. However that isn't set in stone! Some Pokemon require EVs in different stats, like a mixed attacker needing EVs in Attack/Speed/HP/Special Attack, for example. Since you have 508 EVs (510 in total, two are pointless) you can use, you can distribute only 30 to Attack, 50 to Speed (to outrun a certain threat) and the rest in SpA and HP. You can play around in EVs as much as you want, and when you learn more about battling you can calculate what EVs you need for a certain threat a bit better by looking at the analyses on-site.

If you'd like to EV train a Pokemon in-game, the easiest way is by using S.O.S. battles or via the Poke Pelago. PokeRus (a super rare virus) will earn double the EVs for each battle, helping you EV train a Pokemon faster. There are plenty of guides available online to read more about these methods.

Which move should I use?
Moves are either Physical, Special or Status. Infernape, for example, can use Physical and Special attacks at the same time, such as Fire Blast and Close Combat (and it would use something like Naive so that it doesn't have to use Modest or Adamant, which would reduce its Special Attack or Attack, for example).

Other Pokemon have to stick to just using Special Attacks, such as Keldeo because its base Attack is too low to make use of. You can practice this in-game by getting a Pokemon, looking up an analysis, checking its Attack and Special Attack and decide whether you can afford to go mixed, or stick with either physical or special moves. That's often one of the most confusing things for new players because they might be used to doing whatever in-game in regards to moves, but becoming a competitive battler changes you and it'll be hard to start a game without caring about any of this. It'll just come naturally!

What items are best in competitive battling?
Life Orb is one of the most popular items, as you lose 10% of your health but you gain an additional 30% of power. A lot of attacking Pokemon use this if they are switching moves often and want that extra power. Choice Band, Choice Scarf and Choice Specs are for Pokemon that have enough sweeping capability to remain locked into one move. Sometimes other Pokemon in your team can pass them boosts through Baton Pass, or defeat the main Pokemon that could possibly stop your sweep. Leftovers recovers a little damage after each attack and is mostly for Pokemon that don't intend to sweep (like Alomomola, which supports its team with Wish), although there are a quite a few exceptions to that. Assault Vest is also commonly used to enhance already massive Special Defense, making said Pokemon a special tank. Eviolite increases both defenses by 1.5x, and is used on not fully evolved Pokemon.


That's about all for now. If you have anything you'd like to see added to this guide, send me a PM. If you have any other questions about the things discussed here, ask in the Simple Questions thread.


Spreadsheeter by day, Random Ladderer by night.
is a Community Leader Alumnusis a Programmer Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnus
Battle jargon thread – looking for input for adding new terms, and improving existing ones and their descriptions.

4MSS – 4 Move Slot Syndrome. The problem of a Pokémon having more than 4 moves with great ability to benefit it as a threat (having high efficacy), but the game enforcing a maximum of 4 moves on each Pokémon.

Autopilot – To play a battle with minimal attention, just run through your threatlist and make the same plays you've done time and time again against similar teams.

Aggression – A manner of play which seeks to pursue a win scenario by constantly trying to keep momentum, often at a risk, by anticipating the opponent's plays. Many teams tend to adopt this manner of play in order to be strategically accurate.

Bluff – To give the impression your Pokémon has a stronger (or weaker) matchup than it actually has, by trying to make out you have (or lack) a certain move, item or ability that wins the matchup.

Calculation – "Calcing" usually refers to using a damage calculator to calculate the damage done to a Pokémon, from inputting the attacker and defender's stats, and move, item, ability data. Other types of calculation include working out stats based on IVs, EVs and binomial theorem-style calculations. Calculation aids the player with evaluating the best play and team-building decisions to make.

Chain-switch – A sequence of two or more consecutive switches. Chain-switches are carried out in order to bring one of your threats in on a favourable matchup, or to abuse type resistances or immunities, and minimise damage dealt by an opposing threat.

Check – A Pokémon that is designated to stop a threat, but cannot reliably counter one, being unable to withstand repeated attacks from it, such as switching into the threat repeatedly. Checks can use high damaging attacks or other category moves that seek to impair functioning, to scare off their respective threats.

Cheese – High risk/reward tactics that rely on the opponent being unable to counterplay effectively, with little skill involved. As a consequence, it can refer to a player's attempt to rely too heavily on luck to successfully defeat an opponent. It also tends to exploit unconventional game mechanics.

Choke – To squander a lead, usually from unproductive thoughts, triggered by the pressure of trying to convert an advantage into a win, e.g. by playing too passively in the endgame.

Clutch – Making great plays at crucial moments, i.e. predicting well (choosing the right yomi layers) on decisive turns, and performing well under pressure.

Core – A combination of Pokémon that work well together, partner each other and give teams synergy, especially one that works as a unit to counter a large variety of threats.

Counter – A Pokémon that consistently stops a threat throughout the battle. Generally, a counter can withstand repeated attacks from the threat and also possibly pose an additional attacking/impairing threat against it, that helps with recovering health. Hard counters wall all movesets, while soft counters only wall some movesets.

Counterplay – The choices for countering a threat, tactic or strategy trying to be executed by the opponent.

Ditto – A matchup where opposing players use the same Pokémon or team.

Endgame – The end of a battle where few Pokémon are left and accuracy is crucial if there's still an even playing field.

Evaluation – The process of drawing conclusions from assessing a multitude of scenarios, with assistance from damage and additional probability-focused calculations, e.g. deciding your win condition and win scenario in the endgame.

Flipside – In situations with only 2 yomi layers, where layer 2 loops back to layer 0, the flipside is layer 1, the aggressive move, if playing passive, and layer 0, the passive move, if playing aggressive.

Gimmick – A highly unorthodox strategy that may sometimes be effective, but is generally too unreliable to be commonplace.

Hax – Excessive luck in favour of one player over another. One haxes, if they are on the benefitting end, and gets haxed, if they are on the detrimenting end.

Ladder Addiction – An obsession with achieving certain point thresholds on ladders, with one of the symptoms being the receival of a thrill when clicking the find battle button in the hope to be rewarded with more enjoyment, points and success at the risk of experiencing dissatisfaction, less points and more failure. Tilt is the main side-effect of laddering for several hours on end. For most, ladder addiction is not a long-term wasting of potential, but is nevertheless a massive temptation for players who have not marathon battled recently.

Lead – A Pokémon that is sent out first by the player, which ideally fits the lead role, to try to seize an early advantage.

Lure – A Pokémon that baits the opponent to make a move that plays into your hands, such as allowing you to switch-in a threat easily or do damage to an important check to your win condition.

Matchup – An outline of how a Pokémon or a team fares against another.

Midgame – The middle part of a battle, between the opening and the endgame, usually the bulk of the battle.

Mind game – An attempt at psychological manipulating an opponent, by mixing up yomi layers, in order to confuse them.

Misdirection – The process of trying to confuse the opponent with 2 or more threats, using chain-switches, in order to give leeway to one of them or another, as a result of the opponent choosing the wrong move.

Momentum – To have momentum is to dictate the course of play, forcing the opponent to devote their efforts to prevent you from winning , at the expense of pursuing their own win scenario, i.e. if you have momentum, your opponent will be reacting to your plays rather than forcing you to respond to their's.

Opening – The first set of moves in a battle, featuring leads versus each other, and subsequent related moves, involving pseudo-leads.

Out(s) – Additional counterplays that are available should one fail.

Partner – A Pokémon that works well with another, as part of a core, in order to give a team synergy.

Passivity – A manner of play which seeks to pursue a win scenario by forgoing most anticipatory moves and switching, in order to seek to eliminate poor outcomes, but not necessarily to maintain momentum, and Pokémon used in such a manner, which are incapable of posing an offensive threat in most matchups.

Play(s) – Put simply, the choice of a move or a switch to another Pokémon. When someone is said to make plays, it usually refers to taking intelligent risks in order to squeeze an advantage against the opponent, which is deemed necessary to win the battle.

Played – Fell victim to a great play, especially one that involves misdirection.

Playstyle – A combination of aggression/passivity, how much one cheeses, and the team styles that a player uses.

Prediction – A major element concerned with guessing the moves/plays the opponent will make. Predicting correctly is about choosing the right yomi layer to counteract the opponent's play. Playing safe is ignoring prediction when your win is guaranteed or likely enough.

Pseudo-lead – A Pokémon that could be a lead, due to having lead characteristics or being presented first in team preview, but isn't chosen to be.

Risk Management – The identification, assessment and prioritization of risks (threats).

Role – A stereotypical niche, carried out by Pokémon with specificly catered movesets and stats. For example, walls tend to have recovery moves and good defenses. Some roles may be similar versions of others, using a pseudo- prefix, for example phazers (pseudo-hazers), or be more specific, such as special walls (walling special attacks).

Sacrifice (also fodder) – The act of allowing one of your Pokemon to be KO'd in order to bring something else in without taking damage. This may be done to minimise damage from an opposing threat or to bring your own threat into play.

Scout – The utilization of tactics to intentionally reveal the opponent's Pokémon (or movesets), in the cases it's either previously not revealed to you, or you want to learn your opponent's chosen counterplay to your current threat. Both cases better help you evaluate your options later on.

Strategy – A plan of action intended to achieve a specifical goal, e.g. a plan of action that leads to a win scenario, or set of win scenarios for the player.

Strategic Accuracy – The degree to which players make the "correct" plays, to extend their game winning advantage, i.e. reduce the odds the opponent can extend their advantage or get back into the game. Games can often have multiple good paths, that become less good due to how the opponent behaves and luck, so strategic accuracy can be very debatable in Pokémon.

Synergy – Benefits resulting from the combination of Pokémon in a team.

Tactic – An action calculated to achieve something useful, e.g. a play to gain an advantage over the opponent. In comparison to a strategy, tactics are smaller in scale.

Team style – The degree of how offensive/defensive a team is, often listed in order from the most offensive to the most defensive styles.

Threat – A Pokemon (and its moves) that is capable of advancing the game towards a win scenario for a player, i.e. one that does damage to the opposing team or limits it.

Threatlist – A checklist of threats and the reactions to them for a team. Players mentally construct these lists while testing out teams, or by scrupulous theory, and sometimes write them down in order to educate other people or recall them in the future.

Tilt – Losing points and damaging your ranking on a ladder, as a result of playing too long on the ladder and not recovering your psychological wellbeing. Players suffering tilt are likely to get angry over the battles they lose narrowly and think of how things could have gone differently, meanwhile not resting and going onto the next battle in the hope they can recover their points, but generally gambling their points away, due to poorer decision making. Tilt tends to subdue its victims for a period of time. It can also be used to describe other poor series of battles, such as in a tournament.

Uncompetitive – A Pokémon, tactic or strategy that limits the game from being played in a fair and skilful manner, i.e. the odds of successfully countering something uncompetitive with the average team are too low (luck reliant counter play).

Win condition – A threat or tactic that can win the game (or battle) with a win scenario.

Win scenario – A sequence of events that will win a game for a player, due to insufficient counterplay available.

Yomi layer – A layer of prediction. Yomi layer 0 is acting or reacting based on what the logical move would be if there was no prediction from the opponent; yomi layer 1 is recognising your opponent will think you will choose layer 0 and creating a counterplay to your opponent. Higher yomi layers, if available, will recognise the opponent's yomi layer below and try to counterplay the corresponding play.

Thanks to Ortheore & Arcticblast for helping with a term or few.
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Spreadsheeter by day, Random Ladderer by night.
is a Community Leader Alumnusis a Programmer Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnus
Tier jargon thread – looking for input for adding new terms, and improving existing ones and their descriptions.

Balanced tier (also Playable tier) – An ideal tier which seeks diversity of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities. It should also find a good balance between luck and skill, as well as deliver enjoyment and comfort among many other things to the player base.

Ban Transitivity – The notion that lower tiers inherit all Pokémon, item, move and ability bans from higher tiers in the same tier list. Breaking transitivity is discussed for item, move and ability bans.

Battle Mode – Singles, Doubles, Triples or Rotation Battles.

Boundless tier – A single tier for each battle mode and each appropriate sub-generation’s mechanics – that is reasoned to have the least amount of limitations. These are generally either labelled Anything Goes (least amount of limitations intended by the games) or Hackmons (extra removal of limitations such as EV Caps, and move set and ability restrictions).

Broken (also Overpowered, OP) – A Pokémon, item, move or ability which is deemed too powerful for the tier environment and subsequently banned from the balanced tier if a consensus is reached. Broken Pokémon often have high viability, making the tier overcentralized around them, and can sometimes have a diverse range of movesets, making them hard to counter.

Broken tier (also Ban tier, Ban list) – The opposite to a balanced tier, containing broken Pokémon, items, moves or abilities, which centralize the tier environment or fail more often than not to reward skill.

Centralization – The state of unevenness in a tier environment, usually represented by high viability of few Pokémon, items, moves and abilities, and low or zero viability of the majority.

Clause – A complex ban or set of bans used to make formats more concise (e.g. Species Clause, Evasion Clause), and thus be more easily imparted.

Complex ban – A term to describe bans that are more complex than a simple ban. Complex bans usually involve either combinations of Pokémon, items, moves, abilities and/or a limit to the usage of them (e.g. SleepPerishTrap Clause, Sleep Clause, Species Clause, Baton Pass Clause).

Diversity – The state of evenness in a tier environment, represented by high viability of lots of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities. Banning broken Pokémon (etc.) aims to increase the diversity in the tier environment, as removing one Pokémon is often for the greater good of the viabilities of otherwise low viability Pokémon, even though you're essentially removing options, so lowering the potential diversity.

Format (also Ruleset) – Consists of: modifications made to mechanics (e.g. RNG, Sleep Clause); a ban list (or allow list) – of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities and combinations between them; a restriction list (x amount of y Pokémon, moves etc.); limits on levels (e.g. Level 50), number of Pokémon allowed and Pokémon stats. They together aim to make a tier or tier set balanced, or define a tier or tier set (e.g. Little Cup with Level 5, hatchable Pokémon).

Generation – Mechanics and limitations corresponding to Pokémon, items, moves and abilities that are released (or available via hacking) at a certain time period, for example: 1st gen, 2nd gen, 3rd gen, 4th gen, 5th gen, 6th gen. Earlier generations have less Pokémon, items, moves and abilities.

Metagame – A snapshot of a tier environment whereby viability of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities are dictated by player base trends.

Metatope – the metagame of a tier experienced by players on a particular platform/simulator, in a particular tournament (series) or on the ladder.

Micro-tier (also Micro-metagame) / Micro-tier set – A tier or tier set which has considerably less (viable) options, than more standard tiers or tier sets in the subgeneration have. Less than 50 available Pokémon is a common definition in newer generations.

Modifications – Changes made to the game's data and/or mechanics when simulating it for battles. They can either be: necessary modifications (e.g. RNG, HP bar, synchronisation) – modifications made because there's a major issue with simulating exactly; or balancing modifications (e.g. Sleep Clause, Freeze Clause) – modifications that are made to make the tier or tier set more balanced.

Niche A unique role carried out by a Pokémon in a tier environment.

Outclass Surpass all the important roles of another Pokémon, item, move or ability.

Parallel tier – A tier in another (sub)generation and equivalent tier set that has an equivalent ranking, e.g. DPP LC OU and BW2 LC OU.

Role (function) – A combination of Pokémon's moves, typing, stats, item and ability that does work for the player, i.e. the abstraction of a Pokémon role.

Role limit – The maximum number of Pokémon (or items, moves, abilities) that can fulfill a similar role for a team, without jeopardising that team's ability to be competitive in a tier environment. Role limits are usually higher for micro-tiers, where the diversity of roles for Pokémon are small (have a lack of niches), and likewise specifically higher for shared roles of very viable or broken Pokémon, and their counters.

Simple ban – A general ban on a Pokémon, item, move or ability.

Stage – A time period in a tier environment, which corresponds to a certain format in place.

Subgeneration – Time periods within a generation corresponding to a game where all Pokémon, items, moves and abilities are available via hacking, but nevertheless formes and mechanics can differ. More limitations are present in the earlier subgenerations. Examples of subgenerations include: RBY, Stadium, GSC, XD, HGSS, BW2, ORAS.

Supreme tier set – A tier set which contains all tier sets for a particular battle mode, subgeneration’s mechanics and modifications, as well as the appropriate boundless tier.

Suspect Test – Testing a currently banned Pokémon, move, item or ability (suspect), or one deemed to be broken, in a tier. A suspect test is usually carried out by creating a separate tier to co-exist with the current one, that includes or excludes the suspect Pokémon, move, item or ability, in order for the player base to determine if a simulator's metatope(s) (and by extension, the tier 's environment) will be healthier under the suspect's inclusion/exclusion, i.e. more balanced. A Suspect Vote is subsequently carried out to decide the correct course of action after the suspect testing period is over.

Tier – A type of battle that is subject to a particular battle mode, format, and subgeneration’s game mechanics, while being associated with a collection of Pokémon that aren’t allowed in lower, more limited tiers in the same tier set, determined by usage and/or viability, in order to achieve acceptable usage and/or viability, in practice, of most or all Pokémon in the particular tier set. Tiers are arranged hierarchically in a tier list.

Tier environment – A collection of battles in a tier that gives an overall impression of the viability of Pokémon, items, moves and abilities used in that tier. Tier environments change: when a tier's format is altered to aid in balancing the tier; by being affected by changing viability in higher tiers in the tier set; due to metagaming effects.

Tier list – A visual arrangement of tiers, usually separated into tier levels, that indicate which Pokémon aren't allowed in lower tiers. The broken tiers (labelled with Ubers, UUBL etc.) indicate the Pokémon ban list (and previous tier environment if played) of the eventual balanced tiers (OU, UU etc.) in each tier level. The aim is to list all Pokémon once and once only.

Tier levels – Components of tier lists which group together related broken and balanced tiers, e.g. Ubers with OU, UUBL with UU, RUBL with RU and NUBL with NU – in order from highest to lowest.

Tier set – A collection of tiers that share a common format. Tier sets are mostly branches of other tier sets with fewer limitations, inherited from the supreme tier set.

Tier system – A philosophy of tiering and the resulting tiers, e.g. tiering Pokémon based on a usage cut-off formula from the usage statistics and banning Pokémon, moves etc. via community or administrative agreement, to form a tier list and balance each tier level within it respectively. The aim of any tier system is to open up the potential for many interactions between Pokémon, items, moves and abilities in competitive Pokémon battles, i.e. make them, and the tactics and strategies that utilise them, viable.

Uniqueness clause – A complex ban that limits a player to only having one of a kind, e.g. species clause allows only 1 of each Pokémon corresponding to its national dex number, while item clause allows only 1 of each item.

Unviable (also Inviable) – A Pokémon is unviable if it is outclassed in all of its roles, or in the case species clause is active, if the sum of the Pokémon that outclass a Pokémon in each of its roles are more than or equal to the respective role limits for the tier, i.e. it cannot fit into a competitive team in the tier environment. It also applies to items, moves and abilities, with equivalent uniqueness clauses.

Usage statistics – Usage data for Pokémon, items, moves, abilities, EVs, IVs, and various combinations between them. They are a tool to help understand the current metagame of a tier environment high usage indicating high viability, and the evenness of usages and amount of Pokémon, items, moves, abilities utilised indicating how diverse the tier is.

Viable – Able to be used in a competitive team in a tier environment, i.e. not unviable. Viability is how much it can (ideally) be used.

Viability distortion – When Pokémon, item, move or ability usage statistics do not accurately reflect perceived viability, e.g. the number one used Pokémon is not deemed broken, but a lower ranked Pokémon is.

Viability Ranking – A tool that ranks the perceived viabilities of Pokémon in a tier environment, and ideally aids the player base in team building and preparing for battle in the tier. Importantly, the first few ranks should contain Pokémon banned from lower tiers if for a balanced tier, whilst the lower ranks mostly (or only) contain Pokémon allowed in lower tiers.
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