Pokémon games are known for being mainly similar with little tweaks from version to version. The first game you play is a real learning curve, and after that, you start to figure some things out.

I wouldn’t exactly say I’m the most seasoned Pokémon master out there, not by a long shot. After all, I didn’t start playing until the DS generations. But I’ve picked up a thing or two since my first somewhat oblivious game.

Here are some of my favourite strategies for being a Pokémon master.

 

Pick your starter wisely.

When that kooky old professor decides to give your 10-year-old self a powerful, elemental animal stuffed in a little red-and-white ball, make sure you make a good choice. Don’t just pick the cutest one, because you can always get your hands on it later (see tip #2).

I’ve always found it’s much wiser to pick the one that’ll be most useful through the early parts of the game.

For example, HeartGold is all grasslands once you leave New Bark Town, and it’s difficult to find powerful fire types until well into the game, so I rely on the fire-type starter; but Moon is much more reliant on water types (you know, being a chain of islands and all), so I found it much more useful to get a grass type early on.

 

Do not fear the Wonder Trade.

Wonder Trade is a wonderful, messy thing that first reared its head in Pokémon X and Y. It has the power to bring you all the critters from all over the world, but many players give up after the 50th level-one Bidoof shows up.

However, if you set yourself up properly and keep trading that one unwanted Pokémon until you get something you want, the Wonder Trade will live up to its name.

It took a lot of time (and accompanied me basically through the entirety of the Office), but it’s how I got a Ditto with 4 IVs and many a Pokémon with hidden abilities.

 

Use Flame Body for hatching.

This has been a game function since breeding was introduced, and it has made my life very easy.

Basically, if you have a Pokémon with the ability Flame Body in your party while you’re hatching eggs, it will halve the time it takes to hatch them. Comes in very handy when you’re making that team of Eeveelutions with their hidden abilities and at least four IVs, which I totally didn’t do…

 

EV train early.

Effort values determine how your Pokémon grow. If you don’t train them, they grow based on who you fight—and you can’t always control what their strengths and weaknesses will be.

Super Training was another fun feature introduced in X and Y, and it gives you the ability to EV-train a Pokémon however you want. This isn’t a huge deal for your first team, but when you start building battle-readies in late game, it becomes a make-or-break thing.

For example, my Alex the Arcanine and Astoria the Gengar are two that I bred and EV trained.

Alex was well-rounded in terms of attack and defense, and can usually tank well enough while dealing a bunch of damage. Astoria, on the other hand, focused on special attack and speed, so she can one-hit just about anything.

 

Don’t stick to one type of move.

The first time I played HeartGold, I was paranoid about running out of PP and not being able to hit something with an electric move, so I gave my Ampharos a full complement of electric moves.

That made him great against water and flying, but atrocious against pretty much anything else. And the team he was on needed eight tries to defeat Red.

It’s usually better to spread it out and try to cover as many bases as possible, and plan ahead. If you need a hand picking the best moves, I like checking out sets on Smogon.

For example, let’s pick on Alex again.

His set, which is built to play alongside my Ninetales with the Drought ability and poison and ghost moves, comprises fire, electric, fighting, and normal.

Close Combat, Wild Charge, and Flare Blitz all either lower his defense or damage him with recoil, and Morning Sun heals him based on weather (so sunny weather caused by Drought heals more).

I have run through the Pokémon League in Alpha Sapphire with Alex by himself, just to raise five little hatchlings with an Exp. Share.

 

So there are some of my favourite techniques when it comes to being a Pokémon master. What are yours?

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