So you have a team of Pokémon, all captured and ready to go. The question now though is simple: How do you train them for battle?
The second pillar of the Pokémon series is the battling. Like a cockfight with superpowers, Pokémon offers myriad ways to level up and train your little monsters for a fight, and thankfully, unlike the capture mechanics, there is less math involved in figuring out how to train them.
The basics of battling are simple. Each Pokémon can learn up to four moves at a time, and use them against opponents in a battle. Before generation IV, the moves were split into three categories by three distinct styles: physical, special, and status. Physical and special moves were determined by the type of move they were. For example, Body Slam and Hyper Beam, two normal type moves, would be considered physical, while Spark and Thunderbolt, both electric type moves, were considered special. This changed starting with Pokémon Diamond and Pearl. Hyper Beam and Thunderbolt are now special moves, while Body Slam and Spark are physical attacks. Status moves, such as Growl, Roar, and Leech Seed, remained unchanged.
Another feature in the previous games was the number of types available. The first generation famously had only fifteen types (or elements as they were called back then), before generation II introduced the Steel and Dark type, to balance out the overpowered Psychic type in the first game. The newest type, Fairy, was introduced in Pokémon X and Y, and serves as a type balancing tool to curb the overpowered Dragon types.
Each Pokémon is either one or two different types. The type of Pokémon they are determines the strengths and weaknesses they have against typed-attacks. So a Fire-type attack like Ember would cause super effective damage against a Grass type, while the Grass type attack Vine Whip would do minimal damage. In the Pokémon games, the amount of damage is usually done through a simple multiplier: 1x for a neutral hit, 2x for a “super-effective” hit, and .5x for a “not very effective” hit.
Other factors can increase and decrease damage output. A Pokémon with a matching type as their attack receives what is called a “Same Type Attack Bonus,” or STAB. One of the few mechanics unchanged since the first generation, STAB attacks increase damage output by 50%, providing more power behind a given attack. In a way, this makes dual-typed Pokémon more versatile, since they receive two different STAB bonuses, but may become more susceptible to different attacking types by received a 4x weakness.
Another factor to note is the base power and accuracy of a given attack. Base power refers to the amount of damage an attack would normally do, multiplied by STAB bonus. So a Water Pokémon using Surf would have its attack increase in power by 50% due to STAB, from 90 to 135. Type advantage/disadvantage, the Pokémon’s attack power (Atk or SpA) and the opponent’s defense power (Def or SpD) also factor into the equation after an attack was made. Typically, higher powered moves have restrictions on them, such as lower accuracy or losing a turn, that makes them less viable as options in the competitive scene. One type of move is the automatic 1 hit KO, but despite having the lowest accuracy ratings in the game, they are banned from play due to numerous work-arounds that increase the accuracy of an attack.
Normally, all of the above information is pretty much what most Pokémon enthusiasts worry about. The well-known type charts essentially do the rest of the work, showcasing who is effective against who, and cross-reference each type combination to help build a balanced team. For hardcore Pokémon battlers, however, the type combinations, attacking power, and any boosting power is just scratching the surface when training their Pokémon. Two other factors come into play in the form of Effort Values and Individual Values.
Effort Values are the attributes that give each Pokémon their base stat totals. Remember this picture?
The numbers circled in blue on the left are the base stats for a given Pokémon, usually totaling under 600 in total. In the case of Blastoise, it is a Pokémon with 530 in its base stat totals, each divided into different stat points such as defense and speed. As you level up, the base stats grow based upon their stat total, leading to a base minimum to maximum they would be. The green circle represents the base maximum when you train a Pokémon properly, the highest it can achieve.
Of course, like everything else, there are factors that change this. Starting in the third generation, each Pokémon received a nature that would benefit or hinder their personality. There are 25 possible natures in the game; five neutral natures, and five beneficial natures per primary stat besides HP. Each nature gives you one beneficial stat, and one hindered stat. For example, a Bold nature increases your defense stat, while decreasing your attack stat. A Lax nature also increases defense, but decreases special defense.
Finding a Pokémon with a beneficial nature is a time-consuming process in of itself, but the benefits are apparent. With the base stat totals, most hardcore trainers find combinations that benefit a Pokémon’s best stats, while minimizing the ill effects of a hindering nature. So say our Blastoise has a Bold nature–the maximum defense it can have increases from 299 to 328, while the minimum attack it can have decreases from 202 to 181.
Keep in mind these base stats are dependent on how you train them, which brings us back to Effort Values. Before Generation III, the EV points were tied to your actual statistics, and can be manipulated by increasing your stats by 65535. It is theoretically possible to maximize all of your stats to their maximum, although time consuming and highly unlikely. Generation III gave us the current model, where a total of 510 is attainable for each Pokémon, with a maximum of 252 allowed in a given stat line. So a typical tactic by competitive players is to maximize two statistics depending on the type of build you are creating.
To train EVss, you can use vitamins, special items, or fight wild Pokémon to increase your value gains. Each divisible of four increases a statistic by one. Vitamins can increase stats by 100 only before not having any effect. Defeating Pokémon yields specific EV points to a player. For example, knocking out a Pikachu in the wild yields 2 EV points for speed. EV yields range from one to three, and can be mixed on a given Pokémon. Finally, items, such as the power items, increases stat growths by an extra four each time you fight a Pokémon in the wild.
Pokémon X and Y again offer us a new method, the Super Training mini-games. Designed to showcase the stat growth of each Pokémon, for the first time you can now see the progress and where your EV points are being distributed for your team. Super Training is perhaps the easiest method to calculate EV points in the games, showing EV yields and taking less time than utilizing vitamins, power items, and Pokémon battles combined.
However, there is one more statistic that remains invisible: Individual Values. The simulated equivalent of genes, IVs are a fixed stat that determines the actual growth of a given Pokémon. The first two games offered a more complex way of determining the IVs of a Pokémon, to the point where it is pointless to explain. Starting with Generation III, IVs can range from 0-31, with factors such as gender, personality value, and nature determining the full IV stat.
To keep it simple, a hardcore battler wants a Pokémon with superior stats in as many categories as possible. It is not uncommon to see Pokémon fielded with five or six perfect IV’s in their stats, another time consuming option that is only negated by breeding. Starting in the Generation IV, a characteristic was added to the stat screen for a Pokémon, which is Game Freak’s sly way of telling you the highest IV value it has. Unfortunately, the IV value can be as low as 1, or as high as 31, depending on the phrase. The full list can be seen at this link, courtesy of Bulbapedia.
Generation V and VI also include the IV trainer, who will tell you how average or above average your Pokémon are, before telling you the highest IV stats it contains. This is the only surefire method to determine perfect IVs in the later generations, and even then full IVs are not guaranteed. The only place where a Pokémon is guaranteed two maxed out IV stats is in the Friend Safari in X and Y.
Training Pokémon is much more in-depth than meets the eye. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each Pokémon type, each attack move, and an individual Pokémon stats through IVs and EV training can create unique combinations of Pokémon that have varying degrees of strength. The only question left is how do you use all of this to breed a winning Pokémon? That, of course, is a discussion for another day. Until then though, class dismissed.
Well now, that was a lot to take in. Let’s be honest, how many of you knew so much was involved in Pokémon battles? Leave your comments below or contact me at @LinksOcarina if you have any questions! See you next time.