Do you want to be the very best, like no one ever was? Whether you are an active participant in the monthly Silph Arena Cups or someone preparing to take on the official GO Battle League in early 2020, we have prepared a guide detailing some advanced PvP techniques and strategies, that upon learning, will help you in transitioning from a beginner to an intermediate or advanced player. If you are someone who still believes that PvP entails tapping and swiping mindlessly, we hope this article will nudge you in the right direction into thinking otherwise. Choosing the best Pokémon with the best IV combinations will only take you so far, it’s time to familiarize yourself with the advanced techniques used by the pros.
Before diving into the advanced strats, here is a quick refresher on what Step 0 entails, and that is, Knowing the Meta:
Being informed and educated is the first step to winning a Trainer Battle. Going into a PvP battle without knowledge of your own team, as well as, your opponent’s team is already putting yourself at a disadvantage. Knowing the meta includes knowing which Pokémon are eligible in your battle or overall tournament. For eg: The Silph Arena hosts monthly themed cups, that are usually restricted to 4 or 5 typings. Therefore, only Pokémon that have at least one of those pre-determined typings will be eligible in a given Silph Cup. The next step is knowing which Pokémon shine within said meta. If you are unsure about this step, resources like Pokebattler and PvPoke are your best friends. They put out, and consistently update PvP rankings every month for every league.
Once you’ve learned the meta and which Pokémon to use within said meta, the next step entails learning the possible move-sets (fast and charge moves) of each viable Pokémon in that meta. And lastly, know your typings, including super-effectiveness and resistances. That basically covers the bread and butter of Step 0. Now that the basics have been covered, it’s time to dive into some advanced techniques and strategies.
Easy to Medium Difficulty
1. Reading Teams
The first step before your battle starts includes predicting your opponent’s lead and picking your own lead. This is possible by carefully reading teams. Assume you are using the team on top and are facing up against against the bottom team. There are two ways to approach reading teams:
- The first method is by going over each Pokémon on your team one by one and seeing how many winning match-ups each one has against your opponents team. In this instance, if we start with the Nidoqueen, we can see that it has good match-ups against the opponent’s Minun and Alolan Ninetales, as well as, the opponent’s Nidoqueen depending on how much energy you have going into the battle. Next, if we look at Alolan Ninetales’ match-ups, we can see that it has winning match-ups against Minun, Umbreon, Shelgon, and Bibarel, and is therefore looking very strong against the opponent’s team. So on and so forth.
- The second method is by trying to find gaps and weaknesses in your own team and coming up with counter strategies. This is possible by assuming that your opponent’s team is your team and vice versa. By doing so, you can figure out which Pokémon on your opponent’s team have strong match-ups against yours, and counter pick those Pokémon. This is usually a bit more risky than the first method.
Once you have picked a strong lead and a team with good synergy, it’s time to move on to some more advanced techniques.
2. Energy Farming
If you are hearing this term for the first time, Energy Farming refers to using only fast moves and filling up your charge move meter/gauge several times over if possible. Unlike in raids and gym battles, a Pokémon continues to gain energy even after their charge move meter/bar is full in Trainer Battles (PvP).
This is possible when you are in a favourable match-up against your opponent and are dishing out super effective fast move damage to the opposing Pokémon while your own Pokémon is taking resisted or neutral damage from their fast move. The 2 scenarios in which Farming is possible are:
- When you win the lead against your opponent and they do not switch out instantly. For example, if you lead into a battle with Skarmory and your opponent leads with Venusaur, there is nothing a Venusaur can do against a Skarmory. Skarmory will of course take some damage, but not enough to prompt you the trainer to use any shields. This gives Skarmory the opportunity to faint down Venusaur using only fast moves, thus filling up its charge move gauge more than once. When Venusaur eventually faints, and your opponent brings in their next Pokémon, your Skarmory now has enough energy to fire off multiple charge moves. This could deal heavy damage to the incoming Pokémon, potentially even fainting it, or force your opponent to use up their shields.
- The second scenario in which Farming is possible occurs when you win the lead match-up but your opponent immediately switches into a direct counter. Using the same example as above, If you lead with Skarmory and your opponent lead Venusaur, but this time your opponent swaps straight into an electric type, say Lanturn. If you chose a team with good synergy, now is when you would switch into Skarmory’s bodyguard, aka a Pokémon that covers Skarmory’s weakness. Assuming you switch into a Grass type, say Meganium, now you have the chance to energy farm the Lanturn.
Important Note: It is important to note that switching out a Pokémon causes a Switch Timer to start counting down, during which (for 60 seconds) neither you nor your opponent are not allowed to swap. Thus, when faced with the above situation, it is important to not faint down the Lanturn with your Meganium too quickly. This would open a window for your opponent to swap into something counters Meganium, and you wouldn’t be able to swap out because the switch timer would still be active. This scenario segways out next pro strat.
3. Switch Timer/Clock Waiting
If a Pokémon faints while the switch clock is still active, a common strategy used by trainers to wait out the 10 second Switch window for as long as possible to run down the overall 60 second timer. This means that when you wait down the clock and eventually switch in your next Pokémon, and your opponent’s switches into a direct counter to your Pokémon, you would be free to swap again as you would have ran down the previous 60 second switch clock/timer by then.
4. Shield Baiting
One of the earliest and commonly used strategies used by pros is shield baiting. Although not all Pokémon are able to make use of this strategy, when used, it has the potential to turn the tide of a battle and turn a losing match-up into a winning one.
For a trainer to successfully pull off a shield bait, the Pokémon being used requires having 2 charge moves: one that needs relatively low energy to fire off, and one hard hitting, high energy costing, nuke charge move. The premise for this strategy is for you the trainer to keep hitting fast moves and charging up to a high energy requiring, hard-hitting charge move. However instead of hitting the heavy charge move, you would go for the low damage, lesser energy costing charge move. This tends to give your opponent the illusion that you are going for the heavy charge move thus prompting them to use up a shield. And now that they used a shield in vain, when you charge up to the heavy charge move for the 2nd time, they are less likely to shield again and burn both shields.
For eg: One of the most common scenarios of Shield Baiting occurs when a Steelix VS Steelix mirror match ensues. Steelix has access to Crunch (a low energy costing, low damage dealing charge move) and Earthquake (high energy, hard-hitting charge move). Your best approach to win this mirror match is by baiting the opposing Steelix’s shields. One can do this by charging up to an Earthquake, but instead firing off a Crunch to bait the opponent’s shield. You are now in a position to reach Earthquake for the 2nd time faster than your opponent, thus either forcing their 2nd and final shield or completely KO’ing them with Earthquake.
Intermediate to Advanced Difficulty
1. Counting Fast Moves
If you’re thinking to yourself, what’s the point? Then let us enlighten you. A difficult technique to master that takes months of battling practice and battle mechanics knowledge, counting fast moves enables the player to know the exact moment when the opponent has their charge move ready. This requires knowledge of two important factors:
(i) What is the energy gain for a specific fast move
(ii) How much energy is required to pull off a specific charge move.
Therefore, knowing the above two factors will allow you the trainer to know the exact moment when a particular charge move is ready to be fired off by your opponent. You are now in a position where you can make a strategic swap at precise moment into a Pokémon that would resist the incoming charge move
For example, assume you lead into a battle with a Steelix and your opponent leads Toxicroak. This is a bad match-up as Steelix being a Steel type is weak to the Fighting type Toxicroak. Now you could either switch immediately, or wait for the apropos time to swap out. It takes Toxicroak 6 Counters to reach a Mud Bomb. If you have this knowledge, you can swap out your Steelix, just as the opposing Toxicroak hits its 6th Counter, and could swap into a Golbat or Skarmory for example, and basically absorb the Mud Bomb charge move without having to use up a shield. This strategy segways into the next pro technique.
2. Sacrificial Swapping
Counting fast moves can not only lead to shield conserving swap-outs, it can also provide an opportunity for the player to do whats known as a sacrificial swap. Here is how one can attempt to pull of a successful “Sac Swap”
Imagine a scenario where you have 2 Pokémon left versus your opponent, out of which 1 is at pretty low health and will have little to no effect on the battle anymore, whereas your opponent only has 1 Pokémon left, however they have an energy advantage and are in a winning position. This means that, if you count their moves accurately and know when they are about to use their charge move and faint your fully healthy Pokémon, you can swap into your 2nd, already depleted Pokémon, thereby absorbing the charge move and leaving their Pokémon with no energy, thus successfully turning the tide of the battle.
3. Queued Sequential Attacking
A relatively new technique discovered and made popular by Trainer WildSusanBoyle and GO Stadium, QSA is a pro technique trainers can use to gain an energy advantage over their opponent. Disclaimer, we believe this is not an intended game mechanic, but rather an exploit or loophole that could be patched in a future update. Here’s how it’s done:
QSA can be triggered when you select a charge move in between continuous fast spamming of your fast move. The game is tricked into giving the fast moves priority over the charge move, and leaves the charge move in “limbo” as long as you keep endlessly spamming the fast move. The game did receive the player’s request/input to hit the charge move and has “queued” it behind the barrage of fast moves.
What breaks this sequence and fires off the charge move, is either you not tapping a fast move fast enough, or your opponent chooses to fire off their charge move. This will interrupt your fast moves and then cause your charge move, which was previously “queued” to fire immediately after theirs.
When this happens, you will almost always get in another extra fast move in as your opponent does their charge move, thus putting you at an energy advantage. So when it comes time to firing off the 2nd charge move, you will get there faster than your opponent.
QSA is similar to what many #battlers and #girlsthatpvp know as traditional “Piggybacking” wherein the primary goal is to gain an energy advantage over your opponent by sneaking in an extra fast move while your opponent is attempting to fire off their charge move.
A description by Trainer WildSusanBoyle can be found here
In conclusion, PvP is a multi-faceted system, with several subtle nuances that require mastery. Some of the aforementioned techniques and strategies are fairly easy to comprehend while some take weeks and months of practice to master. We highly recommend trying out and practicing some of the strategies against Team GO Rocket Admins and Giovanni who use fairly strong Pokémon with high CPs and also use their shields. With the official GO Battle League on the horizon, it’s time to hone these skills trainers!