The science and math behind competitive Pokemon training (yes, it exists)
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — A new series of Pokémon Championships is on the horizon, bringing not only new rewards, but plenty of new competitors to the online battlegrounds, all hoping to put their well-trained Pokémon to the test. But what exactly goes into a ‘Well-Trained Pokémon’?

Everyone knows that Pokémon have a set of statistics (usually referred to as ‘stats’) that dictate how they perform in battle. Here’s a quick overview of all six main stats, and what to expect from each one:

  • HP: Self-explanatory. The total amount of Hit Points (HP) a Pokémon possesses. If a Pokemon reaches 0 HP, it has ‘fainted’, and is unusable until healed.
  • Attack: There are actually two types of damaging moves in Pokemon: Physical (usually referring to those that involve claws, fangs, or attacks using parts of the body) and Special (typically related to firing fireballs, psionic waves, or water blasts at others). As such, each statistic corresponds to the power or resistance a Pokémon has to one of these attack types as a whole. Attack is the measure of how strong a Pokémon’s ‘Physical’ moves deal.
  • Defense: Defense measures how much damage a Pokémon takes from physical attacks. The higher the defense, the less they take.
  • Special Attack: Special Attack, in particular, is the increase in power that a Pokemon’s Special moves deal.
  • Special Defense: Similar to Special Attack, this is a statistic that is related to the ‘Special’ category of moves — specifically, the amount of damage they take from them.
  • Speed: The faster a Pokemon is, the more likely its’ chances are of attacking first. In a game full of fast attackers, beating some of the series’ deadliest fighters to the punch can be crucial.

Even without taking competitive play into account, it’s easy to state that many Trainers would prefer to have their Pokemon’s statistics as high as possible, but there’s a lot more behind this idea than originally meets the eye. The truth is, there are a lot of different factors that weigh into a Pokemon’s overall power, and some of them are a bit less obvious than others. Nonetheless, they can be key to an overwhelming victory or a crushing defeat — especially in the competitive scene, where every aspect of a creature matters.

This weekend’s gaming column focuses on these smaller, less obvious (but still extremely important) aspects of proper Pokemon training. If you’re interested in tournament play for the current or upcoming seasons of the Pokemon video game, or just want a more in-depth look at the finer workings of everyone’s favorite collectible monsters, there’s no better time to learn about these key factors!


Much like humans, every Pokemon you catch comes with a behavioral trait — better known as a ‘Nature’ in game terms. These one-word descriptions of a Pokemon’s ‘personality’ don’t have any impact on how they act during battle, but do serve another important purpose. Many Natures have positive and negative impacts on a Pokemon’s battle statistics, so picking the right one can be a major part of helping your fighter have that extra edge over another just like it.

As a general rule, 20 of the 25 random Natures that a Pokemon can have will benefit one of its’ statistics (except for HP) and increase the overall gain from it, at the cost of lowering another (Hardy, Docile, Serious, Bashful, and Quirky natures have no increases or decreases). Ideally, those searching for battle-ready Pokemon will aim to have a Pokemon with a nature that boosts their strongest statistics — with higher Speed and Attack/Special Attack being particularly ideal in many cases — without detracting from other important values. In this case, you can note that our reporter’s Ceruledge has an ‘Adamant’ Nature — which increases its’ Attack, but also lowers its’ Special Attack. However, as Ceruledge is primarily used for its Attack statistic, this does not take away from either its’ offensive or defensive capabilities, and as a whole, is entirely beneficial.

Note the red and blue arrows near Ceruledge’s Attack and Special Attack statistics. The red arrow indicates which stat is increased by a Pokemon’s Nature. Likewise, the blue arrow indicates which stat is decreased as a result of it.

If a Pokemon’s nature is not ideal, though, there are ways of changing it. ‘Mint’ items, which have been introduced in more recent games, can be used to immediately ‘swap’ a Pokemon’s nature to another. It’s worth noting, however, that these mints only change the boosts, and not their actual programmed nature — meaning that while giving your Docile Pokemon a Timid Mint will change it’s improved and reduced statistics to as if it were Timid, it’s nature would still be considered ‘Docile’ when breeding. Still, if one is more interested in battling, this is rarely important. If you’re unsure which Nature is the perfect one for you, here’s a helpful table to help explain which nature features increases and decreases in each stat.

No ChangeDecreased AttackDecreased DefenseDecreased Special AttackDecreased Special DefenseDecreased Speed
Increased AttackHardy (No Change)LonelyAdamantNaughtyBrave
Increased DefenseBoldDocile (No Change)ImpishLaxRelaxed
Increased Special AttackModestMildBashful (No Change)RashQuiet
Increased Special DefenseCalmGentleCarefulQuirky (No Change)Sassy
Increased SpeedTimidHastyJollyNaiveSerious (No Change)

Effort Values (EVs)

Effort Values, or EVs, are special, ‘hidden’ values on a Pokemon that are slowly increased as it grows and travels with you. While generally upon a first playthrough, the EVs that a Pokemon receives are difficult to predict, learning how to gain them is essential for anyone seeking to raise a battle-ready Pokémon fit for competitive play.

According to Shigeru Omori (a team member who has been working with the series since 2002, and is the director or producer of every console-based Pokemon game from 2014 to present day), these numbers are hidden from the main game because he prefers to think of Pokemon as real living creatures, each with their own journeys, strengths, and weaknesses — but knowing how to focus on and modify these numbers is essential for competitive play due to the bonuses they provide. EVs have a direct impact on a Pokemon’s battle statistics, and so creating the perfect combination is ideal for the serious Trainer.

Typically, the common way to gain EVs is to take your Pokemon out into the wild and fight other creatures. Each enemy Pokemon has a hidden number of EVs that it will give to yours when it is defeated in battle — and generally, the stronger the opponent, the more EVs it will reward (for example, defeating a Larvitar will grant a Pokemon one Attack EV, while besting its final form Tyranitar will provide three). This can be sped up with special held items, but it tends to take a while.

For those without the time to individually thrash Pokemon to gain EVs, there are other ways to increase these values — previous games in the franchise offered systems that would allow players to EV Train their Pokemon passively over time (Poke Pelago from Sun and Moon or Poke Jobs from Sword and Shield are perfect examples). In the latest games, the best option for speed training is Vitamins — expensive items that, when consumed by a Pokemon, will immediately increase their EVs of a certain stat. Here’s a quick rundown of which vitamins will boost which statistics. While they’re a great help, keep in mind that to boost even one EV to maximum, you’d need a whopping 26 of them. Best start saving up!

  • HP Up- Adds 10 HP EVs to the Pokemon.
  • Protein- Adds 10 Attack EVs to the Pokemon.
  • Iron- Adds 10 Defense EVs to the Pokemon.
  • Calcium- Adds 10 Special Attack EVs to the Pokemon.
  • Zinc- Adds 10 Special Defense EVs to the Pokemon.
  • Carbos- Adds 10 Speed EVs to the Pokemon.

Unfortunately, even with all the vitamins in the world, it’s not physically possible to raise every EV to its highest value — all Pokemon can only have a maximum of 508 EVs placed into their stats (it’s technically 510, but the last two have no effect). This means that many trainers will experiment with combinations of EVs in order to find the perfect mix of statistics. The most common layout of these Effort Values is known as the ‘252-4-252’ variant — which consists of placing the maximum amount of EVs in their strongest statistics and an extra four into another useful trait. In this example, one can see that our Meowscarada (a Pokemon focused on Speed and Attack as its two main advantages) has the maximum amount of EVs placed into these stats to amplify them as much as physically possible, with the leftover four being placed into Special Defense to potentially minimize the damage from popular attacks that are super-effective against it.

While the 252-4-252 method is popular, there are many occasions where a different combination of EVs fares better in the current game or at countering specific threats — requiring revamps of a Pokemon’s statistics. EVs can be removed through the use of different berries, but finding these (and likewise, training EVs up all over again) can be a hassle. To avoid making time-consuming mistakes, some team builders will test their EV ‘spreads’ on online battle simulators and ask for feedback on forums before implanting them on their video-game variants.

Individual Values (IVs)

While EVs start at zero and grow over time as a Pokemon is trained, the second set of values — known as Individual Values (IVs) — are set in stone when you first catch or hatch a new teammate, and can’t be changed through normal gameplay or without the use of items. These, as the name would imply, are values a Pokemon is born with, and much like some talents in the real world, some are simply higher than others. These cannot be manipulated as easily as EVs, but are just as important when it comes to preparing Pokemon for battle. They’re never mentioned in-game, but alluded to as ‘potential’.

Upon their catching or birth, one can see that a Pokemon has a built-in Individual Value for each of the six statistics, ranging from 0 to 31 (measured in terms like ‘no good’ and ‘best’). The higher the IV, the higher the statistic — and even if two Pokemon have the same EVs in a stat or similar base values, a higher IV will always result in a higher overall number. To prove this, we ventured out into the deserts of Paldea to catch a living example of IVs in action.

In this example, our reporter caught a Cacturne to display the importance of IVs. All Cacturnes have equal base levels when it comes to both Attack and Special Attack (115) , but viewing the straits of our example, one can see that its Special Attack value is somehow higher than its Attack value. It does not have a nature which would increase or decrease one of these stats, nor does it possess any Effort Values (as the following images were taken immediately after Cacturne was obtained). Instead, the only difference is the Individual Values of Cacturne’s two statistics. Looking at the stat layout, we can note that its’ Special Attack IV is naturally higher than its Attack IV (implied by the terminology used), which results in Cacturne’s overall Special Attack being higher.

There are ways to attempt to guarantee higher base IVs in Pokémon breeding, but hatching eggs is a whole other can of worms (Orthworms, to be specific) to discuss in another article. Fortunately for those without absurd luck or the essential breeding tools needed to create a Pokémon with maximum IVs, there are ways to still bring out a monster’s hidden potential. In more recent games, Bottle Caps can be taken to specific individuals in the game to put Pokémon through ‘Hyper Training’. For the cost of a Bottle Cap, this individual will immediately raise one of a Pokémon’s IVs to 31 (the incredibly rare Gold Bottle Cap will allow them to raise every value at once instead). This process is especially useful for those who have rare Pokémon that either may not have the ability to breed (Legendary Pokémon, for example), or rare alternatively-colored or special edition ones who may not come with ideal Individual Values.

The only bad part about manipulating a Pokémon’s IVs is that while Bottle Caps offer a quick way to raise values, there is no way to lower them. On the surface, this does not seem like a problem — after all, in many cases, the higher the statistics, the better — but there are some instances where low IVs are preferable. Some strategies which take advantage of the move Trick Room (which reverses the turn order, allowing the slowest party members to attack first) prefer to have their team’s Speed IVs as low as physically possible. In some cases, Special Attack-focused Pokemon will also appreciate having a low regular Attack IV to defend against tournament favorite Foul Play (a move that uses the target’s Attack stat to calculate damage, therefore being more effective against Pokémon with higher levels).

As a result of this inability to reduce IVs at will, those who seek to create teams focused around Trick Room or who need to be protected from Foul Play often have to deal with much more rigorous breeding methods to create the perfect partners. This disparity has been noticed by fans, and many have begged The Pokémon Company for a ‘Rusted Bottle Cap’ that reduces an IV to the absolute minimum as opposed to the others — but this request is yet to be fulfilled.

With how in-depth the process of training a Pokemon to reach its’ ideal potential has been, it only stands to reason that in order to open the competitive scene to more players, The Pokemon Company would open the field up to those who may not have the time to breed the perfect pocket monsters in recent times. In Scarlet and Violet, the most recent mainline additions to the Pokemon Franchise, Bottle Caps, Vitamins, and Nature Mints are much more obtainable and can be purchased in in-game stores. This is fantastic news for many casual and serious fans of the games — who can quickly bring their favorite Pokemon up to their maximum potential without dealing with the hassle of ideal breeding or taking on more difficult challenges to do so.

Although it may not have as much importance in the main story (which can be cleared easily without investing in specialized EV/IV training), knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each Pokemon — and likewise, the perfect natures and stat layouts necessary to draw out their maximum potential — can be the difference between victory and defeat for more serious battlers. If you’re looking to compete in online multiplayer or just enjoy creating the perfect battle machines, we hope that this handy guide helps you bring the best out of your favorite Pokemon!

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