Advanced Battle Techniques for Beginners
Once you’ve got the basics of Trainer Battles down, picked a team you’re happy with, and have powered up everything you need to claim victory over your opponents, it’s time to start working some more advanced techniques into your repertoire.
Let’s talk about a few ways to really improve your play.
Charge Move Priority (CMP)
When battling another trainer, if you both reach your charge move simultaneously, you can’t both fire at once! Charge Move Priority (CMP) refers to how the game determines which of you will get the advantage to fire first in the event of that tie. Currently, CMP is granted to the Pokémon that has the higher attack stat, which takes into account the base Pokémon stats as well as the IV. While in most matchups you won’t necessarily want to worry about this in deciding what to bring, this does mean that a more diverse range of IV spreads might be acceptable (or even desirable!) to change the outcome of mirror matches.
In Pokémon Go, Pokémon are limited to a maximum of 100 energy regardless of what charge moves they have access to. This means that even if all of your charge moves are ready to launch, you are still gaining energy by using fast attacks up to the energy limit. For example, Blast Burn is a charge move that costs 50 energy. A Pokémon like Charizard can use 10 Fire Spin fast attacks, acquiring 10 energy per Fire Spin, and then launch two back-to-back Blast Burns.
In some cases, it’s very beneficial to knock out your opponent’s Pokémon with fast moves instead of a charge move so that you have a ton of energy to unleash on the next incoming pokemon! This kind of strategy is incredibly useful, and can often help swing bad matchups.
While it is fast paced and doesn’t seem like it, Trainer Battles are all turn-based. Every fast move, charge move, and swap takes a turn (or multiple turns, depending on the speed of the fast attack). This is why CMP exists, and why you can not use a fast move and a charge move at the same time.
Self-piggybacking is essentially attempting to skip one of those turns by stacking two charge moves on top of one another. Instead of using fast attacks until you have stored enough energy for your charge move, using it, then going back to fast attacks to charge another, you fast attack until you have the energy to use two charge moves back-to-back.
Self-piggybacking isn’t always necessary, but it can be a game-changing trick to use in mirror matches when the difference of a single fast attack can determine the outcome, or draw a shield on the first attack, and force your opponent to decide if they want to burn 2 shields on a single Pokémon, or accept their mistake and just let it go. Beware, however, while this tactic can be great when it works, due to how the turn-based system functions, sometimes self-piggybacking will not work.
Since you and your opponent both have only two shields in any given battle, one popular strategy is to make your opponent use those shields quickly so they won’t be able to block your charge moves later.
Shield baiting is using lower-cost moves to draw a shield so you can use your more powerful moves when shields are down. The only problem is that your opponent knows this, and will do their best to discern whether or not what you’re about to use against them will be a dangerous move they want to avoid or not. Some more elite trainers may even know the number of fast moves it will take to get to all of your charge moves.
A common way to use this strategy is to fully charge the move with the higher energy cost before firing the cheaper move. This may make your opponent think you are about to hit them with a stronger move, drawing the shield, and leaving you with an opening and a powerful move that’s already half-way charged.
Shield baiting can turn the tide of a battle, but it can also backfire if they correctly call your bluff. It’s a high-risk play that you should decide for yourself if it is worth it. If they shield, do you have the health remaining to get that strong move all the way powered up before they can take you out? If you don’t draw the shield, is the matchup salvageable? Weighing your options in real time is a skill you will need to hone in practice and in live play.
Have you ever found yourself in a bad starting position thanks to a bad lead, or a matchup you need to swap out of, but know that as soon as you bring in your counter, they will do the same? Sometimes, that can be a benefit. Sacrificial swapping is when you do this intentionally in order to draw out a specific counter and remove something you perceive as a threat to your team.
Say you find yourself facing an opponent with a Tropius, and you know your team is weak to it aside from a single hard counter. You can swap in something weak to Tropius, fully expecting your opponent to swap that Tropius in to take you out. Once they do, you don’t shield, and allow your opponent to take out your Pokémon as quickly as possible. Here’s where the sacrifice pays off: now your opponent’s Tropius is locked in. You can bring in your Tropius counter and farm energy against your team’s biggest threat. You might be able to beat it with fast moves so the next Pokémon your opponent brings in will need to deal with a barrage of charge moves you have banked from your advantageous matchup.
One of your Pokémon had to faint to make it happen, but in one clever move, you have been able to take out your biggest threat, AND apply shield pressure to the next Pokémon, setting yourself up a potential big advantage.
The Third Shield
Some of the most intense, game changing moments in tournament play involve using one of your Pokémon as a third shield. It’s a difficult move to pull off, but when done correctly, can be absolutely devastating to your opponent’s strategy. It works by essentially using one of your Pokémon to protect another Pokémon you want alive to finish the battle.
A third shield swap might play out something like this:
You have your opponent down to their last Pokémon. You have your counter fighting it, but you are at a health and/or energy disadvantage, and have one Pokémon in the back, but it is low on health and loses badly to your opponent’s Pokémon. Neither of you have shields, and you know that your counter will not reach a charge move before your opponent.
Rather than just plugging away and hoping to do enough damage to win, you can try to predict when the charge move that will finish you is coming. If timed correctly, just before they launch their attack, you quickly swap in your other Pokémon, who promptly takes the charge move to the face and faints. Your original counter comes back in, still lower on health, but now your opponent has used all their energy, and you have bought yourself enough time to get to YOUR charge move, and fire it off to win. By using your back-up Pokémon to absorb the charge move, you’ve snatched victory from the jaws of defeat! It’s tough to pull off, but downright thrilling when you do.
A similar, but less risky move can be made in the same manner by swapping in something that will resist that charge move at the precise correct moment, emptying your opponent’s energy, while preserving your Pokémon’s HP without using a shield.
It will take time and practice, but if you can master these techniques, you’ll be a Pokémon Master in no time!
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