Competitive play has existed in Pokemon since the release of Pokemon Red and Blue (the GameBoy remakes, mind you). Remember those times when we used to hunker down in a playground with friends and duke it out? Well, if you don’t, now’s your best chance to experience it. Playing Pokemon competitively has evolved over the years, with each generation of games making it easier to dip your toe into the scene.

What’s so great about Pokemon is you have the ability to play however you want. Granted, there’s a path to follow, but no one’s judging you if you choose to finish the games using only Flying-type Pokemon or a team of Bidoofs. But when it comes to the official competitive Pokemon format, the Video Game Championships (VGC) can only be played if you adhere to the specific set of rules imposed by The Pokemon Company. This guide will tell you how everything works if you’re trying to play competitively for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet.

Accepting Reality

It’s time to accept the facts at hand. A common complaint many players have with Pokemon games competitively is that the meta often revolves around only a handful of Pokemon. At the same time, the rest falls by the wayside and sees next to no use. Every Pokemon has its strengths, but you must face the reality that some are better than others if you want to get into the competitive scene—especially at a high level. The meta tends to ebb and flow as more trainers experiment with different builds, but if you’re patient enough, you might see your favorite Pokemon be part of the limelight as a viable Pokemon.

Battle Formats

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet have a whole myriad of battle types. You have single battles, double battles, multi-battles—the list goes on. Before anything else, you must decide what format you want to specialize in. In doing so, you’ll shape your team better since the strategies you’ll use for it might not work for another format. Double battles are the format of choice for the official tournaments held by The Pokemon Company. But if you’re just thinking of playing against other people from fan-led communities like Smogon, then single battles are the most popular.

Building the Ultimate Dream Team

The team-building part is the most nuanced and complicated aspect of competitively getting into Pokemon Scarlet and Violet. You’ll have to crunch a lot of numbers if you want to get the most out of your team. The VGC requires all players to have six Pokemon at level 50, and the game will either increase or decrease your Pokemon’s levels to match the battle types you’ll be getting into. Each match requires you to pick four of your six Pokemon to bring into battle. If you don’t want to get stomped on immediately, your Pokemon should have good Effort Values (EVs), Individual Values (IVs), Abilities, Nature, and Tera Type.

Making An Effort for EVs

Let’s talk about Effort Values—EVs, for short. EVs can be gained through sheer hard work, as your Pokemon can gain them by defeating or catching Pokemon. Defeating/catching different Pokemon will yield different EVs. For example, if your Clodsire defeats a bunch of Rookidees, its speed will increase. But if you let it defeat tons of Paldean Woopers instead, then its HP will be the one that grows larger instead.

Sky’s the limit in which stat you want your Pokemon’s EVs to get stronger, but note that you only have 510 EVs to allocate per Pokemon. Moreover, every four points worth of EVs in a stat increases it by one—meaning one, two, or three points of EVs will add nothing. If you don’t allocate your EVs correctly and just defeat all sorts of random Pokemon you find in the wild, you likely won’t make it far in the competitive matches. A proper EV spread is vital; it’s a headache to deal with, but it has to be done to increase your Pokemon’s survivability.

Getting the Perfect IVs

Getting a Pokemon with the perfect IVs involves breeding—a lot of it. Getting started is relatively easy; you must enter picnic mode a few times and rotate the Pokemon you want to breed with a Ditto until you get eggs in the basket. If you already have a Pokemon that has top-notch IVs, I recommend giving it a Destiny Knot to hold. That way, it’ll randomly pass down five IVs to their child.

Much like every Pokemon has HP, Attack, Defense, Speed, Special Attack, and Special Defense stats, each has obscure IVs between 0 and 31. You’ll first have to defeat Scarlet or Violet’s Pokemon League to check a Pokemon’s IV in your boxes. Once that’s done, your boxes will get the judge function which will tell you exactly how many IVs you have per Pokemon. The function gives you words that range from “No Good” (0 IVs) to “Best (31 IVs); ignore what the other things it says other than these two results.

Ideally, you’d want a Pokemon with 31 IVs in all its stats, but you can also employ some strategy. For example, Pokemon with high Speeds, such as Amoonguss and Hatterene, often go first in battles. If you want them to be slow, having a “No Good” speed result from the judge function should do the trick. And if you add some moves that complement the result perfectly, you’ll have a higher chance of winning matches.

Nature’s Influence

Natures are a bit more complicated than IVs and EVs; it influences two of a Pokemon’s stats, boosting one and lowering the other. Lowering a stat isn’t beneficial, but you cannot undermine the power of nature. You can see how the increase and decrease go by looking at your Pokemon’s stats page, with the blue and red arrows signifying which stat got a boost and which stat got lowered. In a best-case scenario, you’d want to have your Pokemon with a Nature that would boost its Attack, Special Attack, or Speed, while the detriment would be put into an unused “attacking type” like Harden, for starters.

Suppose you want to change your Pokemon’s Nature. In that case, you use Mints—each of which corresponds to a specific nature. For example, letting your Pokemon take an Adamant Mint will boost their Attack and lower their Special Attack stats. You can buy all sorts of Mints from the shops, but you can also find them as items on the ground while you traverse the Paldea region. Like in IVs, you can breed Pokemon to pass down specific Natures and Abilities.

Abilities Can Make You Win or Lose A Match

Another important quality of having competitive-worthy Pokemon is its Abilities. Abilities are passives that can be triggered when put in a perfect circumstance. More often than not, they can provide a boon for your Pokemon, and you can use your Pokemon’s entire build and moves to revolve around it.

For example, if you have a Pokemon that has the Drizzle Ability, it’ll summon a rain shower for five turns. This weather effect gives you a 50% bonus to Water-type moves and weakens Fire-type attacks. Since Drizzle summons a powerful field effect for free, you can use a Water-type Pokemon to take advantage of the situation—unless the opposing trainer you’re facing has a Pokemon with the Cloud Nine Ability. Another great Ability is Intimidate, which lowers the Attack of the opposing Pokemon after switching in. Not only does it halt strong physical attacks before they begin, but it also improves your physical defense by a whopping 50%.

Pokemon can have up to two Abilities and a third Hidden Ability. Game Freak introduced Hidden Ability in the fifth generation of Pokemon; it’s where your team’s best trump card may be. Say you have an Amoonguus, where one of its Abilities is Effect Spore. It’s not a lousy Ability, but if you use its Hidden Ability—Regenerator—you can heal the Pokemon for ⅓ of its HP once you switch them out. An Amoonguus’ stats, moves, and type provide excellent defensive capabilities, and by having Renegerator, you’ll also be able to heal tons of HP by simply switching out.

If you’re thinking of changing your Pokemon’s Abilities, there are two items to help you: Ability Patches and Ability Capsules. Both are rare item drops you can find in high-level Tera Raids, but if you have the money, you can purchase Ability Capsure from the shops.

Terastallize Your Pokemon and Make Them Shine

We already have Z-moves, Mega Evolution, and Dynamax. Now, it’s time for the Terastal phenomenon. Terastallizing is exclusive to Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, and while the competitive scene isn’t exactly at its full steam yet, it promises to deliver an exciting role. What Tera Type works best for certain Pokemon remains to be seen now, but this is precisely why you should go out and experiment.

Finding the right combination for you can only be done by trial and error, so go ahead and mix and match all Tera Types for your Pokemon. Say you have a Dragonite—an excellent choice, but when against Fairy-types, it could get trounced. You could alter your Dragonite’s Tera Type to Steel to hide those glaring weaknesses. That way, it won’t be rendered useless against a Sylveon or Azumarill.

Changing your Pokemon’s Tera Type is as simple as collecting Tera Shards from Tera Raid battles. Just know that it’ll take a while, as you’ll need 50 Tera Shards for your goal.

Move At Your Own Pace

Don’t cry like a Sobble if all of this information feels overwhelming. The best thing to do for a beginner trying to play Pokemon competitively is to move at your own pace. Taking advantage of the meta could net you some wins, but considering everything changes constantly, you don’t need to worry too much. It’s easy to think of Pokemon as a game with many rules, but the truth is that it’s an inherently random game. You could sometimes miss a vital move or make the wrong switch. Whatever the case, the more you play Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, the more you learn. Just try not to get heated as if you got hit by a Fire Blast.

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