PKMN 101

By nerd. Art by Bummer
PKMN 101 banner by Bummer

Getting Started

Are you completely new to Pokémon? Don't worry! Here at Smogon University, we welcome everyone and aim to provide aspiring trainers with resources to help them improve. Below, you will find an overview of Pokémon battles as well as a crash course in Pokémon basics. Go ahead, take your first steps into the world of Pokémon!

What is a Pokémon battle?

In a Pokémon battle, two trainers pit teams of six Pokémon against each other. The main goal of every Pokémon battle is to defeat all your opponent's Pokémon. Pokémon battles are turn based, with each trainer selecting a single action (attack or switch) per turn.

Find a Battle

Where can I play?

The majority of Smogon University's battles occur on simulators, applications that mimic the conditions of Pokémon battles found in Game Freak's handheld games. Simulators allow quick and easy creation of Pokémon teams without the need to train them within the Pokémon games themselves. The most popular Pokémon simulator on the web is Pokémon Showdown.

How do I start?

This guide will walk you through completing your first Random Battle, a battle in which you are randomly given six Pokémon and paired against a human opponent. Random battles are an excellent way to gain knowledge quickly, because they expose you to a large number of Pokémon strategies over a short period of time. To start your first random battle, navigate to Pokémon Showdown using this link, and locate the menu pictured to the right. Afterward, click the blue "Look for a battle" button, and enter a username.

The Battle Interface


A few seconds after clicking "Look for a battle" you will be met with a screen that looks similar to the image above. From this screen, you can view the details of your team, select moves for your Pokémon to execute, or swap your active Pokémon for another member of your team. Each major aspect of the battle interface is numbered on the image above. These aspects are as follows:

  1. Your opponent's Pokémon
  2. Your active Pokémon
  3. Your team
  4. The attack menu
  5. The switch menu
  6. The battle log

An explanation of the specific details of each of these aspects can be found below.

1 Your Opponent's Pokémon


By hovering your mouse over your opponent's Pokémon, you can view details such as the Pokémon's name, level, type, current HP (Health Points), and possible abilities.

There are 721 unique species of Pokémon within the Pokémon universe. Each of these species has its own name. In the battle pictured above, the opponent's Pokémon is Raichu.
A Pokémon's level is a measure of its relative strength and ranges between 1 and 100. Random battles ensure an equal playing field among all Pokémon by raising the levels of weaker Pokémon and lowering the levels of stronger Pokémon.
Most Pokémon are either male () or female (). Some Pokémon are genderless.
Every Pokémon has at least one type. These types govern the damage Pokémon take from attacks. Raichu has one type: Electric.
HP (Hit Points)
Hit Points are a measure of a Pokémon's vitality. Once a Pokémon loses all of its HP, it faints and is unable to fight. The goal of any battle is to reduce the HP of all of your opponent's Pokémon to zero. Your opponent's HP is always shown as a percentage.
Possible Abilities
Every Pokémon has an ability. Abilities have a variety of effects in battle: for example, the Rock Head ability prevents a Pokémon from taking recoil damage, and the Intimidate ability lowers the foe's Attack as the user switches in. Hovering over your opponent's Pokémon will show you which abilities it can have.

2 Your Active Pokémon


By hovering over your active Pokémon, you can see data regarding its type, level, current HP, ability, item, and stats.

Current HP
From this screen, you can see your current Pokémon's HP as both a percentage and an exact number. Remember: your Pokémon faints if its HP reaches zero!
Hovering over your active Pokémon allows you to see its ability. In the battle pictured above, Gourgeist has the ability Frisk, which allows it to discover the opposing Pokémon's item upon being sent into battle.
Every Pokémon is able to hold a single item. Like abilities, every item has a specific effect. Items like Leftovers allow a Pokémon to recover HP at the end of every turn. Others like Life Orb boost the power of a Pokémon's attacks.
A Pokémon's stats determine its ability to deal and withstand damage. Stats vary from Pokémon to Pokémon and increase with level.
Hit Points (HP) is a measure of a Pokémon's vitality.
Attack (Atk) determines the strength of a physical attack.
Defense (Def) determines damage taken from a physical attack.
Special Attack (SpA) determines the strength of a special attack.
Special Defense (SpD) determines damage taken from a special attack.
Speed (Spe) determines attack order. Faster Pokémon move before slower Pokémon.
Status Conditions
If a Pokémon is afflicted by a status condition, it will not be able to battle to the best of its ability.
Poison chips away at a Pokémon's HP at the end of every turn.
Paralysis reduces a Pokémon's Speed and sometimes renders it immobile.
Sleep prevents a Pokémon from attacking for 1-3 turns.
Freeze prevents a Pokémon from attacking until it thaws.
Burn reduces a Pokémon's Attack by half and chips away at its HP at the end of every turn.
Confusion sometimes causes a Pokémon to attack itself instead of performing its chosen action.
Infatuation prevents a Pokémon from attacking Pokémon of the opposite gender half the time.

3 Your Team

This area of the battle interface displays the six Pokémon on your team. By hovering over a Pokémon's image, you can see its name, current HP, and status. Fainted Pokémon will appear faded. You can see the opponent's team on the opposite side of the battle window.

4 The Attack Menu

This area of the battle interface displays your Pokémon's moves. Pokémon can have up to four moves. Hovering over a button will give you a detailed description of the move's power and effects.

Each of your Pokémon's moves has its own button. The move's name appears in the center of the button.
Every move has a single type. A move's type determines its effectiveness against other Pokémon. Pokémon types interact in a way similar to rock-paper-scissors. Earthquake, a Ground-type move, deals double damage against Raichu because Electric-types are weak to Ground moves. A chart explaining type interactions can be found here. If a Pokémon's type is the same as one of its moves, the move will receive a Same-Type Attack Bonus (STAB), and the power of the move will increase by 50%.
There are three categories of moves: physical, special, and status.
Physical Physical moves deal damage using a Pokémon's Attack stat and target the foe's Defense stat.
Special Special moves deal damage using a Pokémon's Special Attack stat and target the foe's Special Defense stat.
Status Status moves have a variety of effects but do not deal direct damage.
Base Power
The strength of a move is determined by its Base Power. The higher an attack's Base Power, the more damage it will deal. Moves with low Base Power sometimes have useful added effects!
A move's accuracy determines the likelihood of the move connecting with the opponent. Stronger moves usually have lower accuracy.
Power Points (PP)
A move's Power Points determine the number of times it can be used. Once a move's PP are depleted, that move can no longer be selected. Once a Pokémon is completely out of PP, it is forced to struggle, dealing minor damage to the opponent and losing 25% of its HP each turn. A move's PP is located in the bottom right of the its button.
Mega Evolution
Certain species of Pokémon can Mega Evolve when equipped with a mega stone. If a Pokémon can Mega Evolve, a button will appear in the attack menu. Mega Evolution occurs at the beginning of the turn and does not rob a Pokémon of its action for that turn. In order to Mega Evolve a Pokémon, click the Mega Evolve button before selecting an attack. Mega Evolutions have different stats, types, and abilities than their base formes.

5 The Switch Menu


Switching is a necessary aspect of Pokémon. If the opponent's Pokémon has an advantageous type matchup against yours, you should switch to a Pokémon that resists the opponent's attacks. You can select a new Pokémon from the switch menu located beneath the attack menu. Switching takes up an entire turn, meaning your Pokémon will not be able to attack.

To view a Pokémon's data, hover over its button in the switch menu. The pop-up that appears will show you information on the Pokémon's level, type, HP, ability, item, stats, and moves. Use this information to achieve an beneficial matchup! Clicking on one of your Pokémon will switch it with your active Pokémon.

6 The Battle Log

The battle log is a record of all moves that occur during a battle. Each battle is separated into turns. A turn concludes when every Pokémon on the field has used a move. Some moves and items deal damage or recover HP at the end of the turn.

Pokémon Showdown provides support for a variety of battling styles. In formats other than Random Battle, you use Pokémon and teams of your own design. The format of the current battle appears at the top of the battle log.
Competitive battles utilize clauses to limit the use of unfair strategies. For example, Sleep Clause prevents a trainer from putting more than one of his or her opponent's Pokémon to sleep at the same time.
The battle log lists the damage an attack deals to a Pokémon as a percentage of its max HP. Super effective attacks deal double damage, while not very effective attacks deal half damage. Rarely, an attack will score a critical hit and deal 50% more damage than usual.
When a trainer runs out of active Pokémon, the battle ends and Pokémon Showdown declares a victor. Victorious trainers increase in rating, and defeated trainers decrease in rating.

Next Steps

If you are ready to design and battle with your own Pokémon team, Smogon University offers a variety of resources and programs to help you achieve those goals. Our Strategy Dex offers detailed explanations and example sets for each Pokémon. Smogon University also offers tutoring programs such as Battling 101 that aim to make you a better trainer through one-on-one tutoring from Pokémon veterans. Once you have gained experience through battling, we suggest you jump into the many discussions located on our forums!

Thank you for reading, and we hope you enjoy your time at Smogon University!