Competitive Pokemon Handbook – Part 1

Everyone that plays video games nowadays has heard of a little something called Pokemon. When the series made its debut in 1998 on the Nintendo GameBoy, it took the world by storm. Suddenly, it was impossible to go anywhere without hearing their names being called or seeing their faces posted on ads across streets, throughout stores, and on commercial breaks between your television shows. It was a global phenomenon, made stronger only by game-board and trading-card mogules Wizards of the Coast and continuous reinventions that continue to refresh the series and prevent it from ever going stale. Pokemon truly appears to be an immortal title.

Having been around now for over a decade, Pokemon has seen quite a few remakes and revisions in its time. For most, playing Pokemon was as simple as entering a battle, defeating the opponent, and walking away with a handful of experience points and coin. It was a system many RPG-goers were familiar with. In order to level-up a Pokemon, it needed to earn experience points. Whenever the Pokemon leveled, it would grow stronger in stats, and most even evolve at certain stages, accessing new powers.

In Generation III, a new system was implemented that would completely revolutionize the way Pokemon was played forever. The system is known as the Effort Value system (EV), and it adds a level of customization to the game that appeals to min-maxing RPG buffs that may have originally been turned off by Pokemon’s simplicity and childishness. The intent of the system is not to be kept within solo play, though it can. Indeed, the Effort Value system allows players to take make full use of competitive play. It allows players to custom design their Pokemon down to its stats — How much HP should it have? How much Speed does it need? Does it need Defense or Attack power? — letting them decide how each Pokemon will contribute to their team.

It’s true, each Pokemon has its own strengths and weaknesses. Part of the competitive play is learning which Pokemon are good at performing what function on the team. Some are better than others at taking damage, dealing damage, getting quick hits in, or simply have a wide enough range of moves that they are able to fulfill a multitude of roles. Not every Pokemon can be a rampaging bulldozer like Tyranitar is, or a thick-skinned wall like Blissey is, but that doesn’t mean those are the only Pokemon for the job. With different passive abilities, type sets, and over 640 Pokemon to choose from, there is plenty of room for personality.


Each Pokemon has six stats which affect its performance in battles:

  • HP is how much health it has.
  • Attack is used to determine how much physical damage it does.
  • Special Attack is used to determine how much special damage it does.
  • Defense is used to determine how much physical damage it resists.
  • Special Defense is used to determine how much special damage it resists.
  • Speed is a measure of how fast a Pokemon can act

Likewise, there are six corresponding effort points, which when invested determine a Pokemon’s effort values.

Each Pokemon is allowed a maximum of 510 total effort points, with each individual stat allowed only a maximum investment of 255. A Pokemon earns effort points by defeating other Pokemon in battle. Once your Pokemon defeats an opponent Pokemon, it is immediately awarded effort points which are instantly applied to that Pokemon’s stats. Each Pokemon is worth a different type and amount of effort points, a list of which can be viewed here. Every 4 effort points will increase the effort value by 1. Effort values are added directly to the corresponding stat.

Effort Points are not to be confused with Experience Points, which are used to level up Pokemon. When a Pokemon levels, a window appears on the screen detailing its stat growth. Stat growth is affected by three things: effort values, individual values (IVs), and nature.

Here is an example to help solidify all of this information, as it can be a lot to digest all at once.

Let’s say you have a Squirtle and it defeats a Bulbasaur. We can see by the chart linked above that Bulbasaur yields 1 Special Attack effort point. With just one effort point, Squirtle’s Special Attack won’t change, but if it defeats another three Bulbasaurs, it now has an EV of 4 Special Attack. Divide that number by 4, and we see that Squirtle has earned +1 to his Special Attack stat. Good job, Squirtle!

Though it may seem tedious at first, your troubles won’t go unrewarded. Because the stats between Pokemon can literally come down to ones and twos, carefully planning your Pokemon’s EVs can …

The last thing you should keep in mind before continuing is that 255 is not divisible by 4 — however, 252 is. Don’t forget this while training your Pokemon, otherwise you will have 3 wasted effort points that could have been better spent in something else. (If you put 252 EV into one stat, and 252 into another, and 4 into the last stat, you will only be wasting 2 EV — which is the best you can hope for if trying to maximize to stats.)


There are a couple things that can speed up the EV-training process. First, there are several items that will boost effort point yields after each battle.

  • Power Weight adds 4 HP EVs after each battle.
  • Power Bracer adds 4 Attack EVs after each battle.
  • Power Lens adds 4 Special Attack EVs after each battle.
  • Power Belt adds 4 Defense EVs after each battle.
  • Power Band adds 4 Special Defense EVs after each battle.
  • Power Anklet adds 4 Speed EVs after each battle.

The points added by these items are in addition to what a Pokemon would normally earn from the battle.

So, to use the example of Bulbasaur again, were your Squirtle wearing a Power Weight, instead of gaining just 1 Special Attack EV, Squirtle would also earn 4 HP EVs.

Another thing that can help you during the training process is the Pokerus — or Pokemon virus. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt your Pokemon. In fact, a Pokemon infected with the virus earns double the amount of effort points it would otherwise. That means your Squirtle up there would be gaining 2 Special Attack and 8 HP EVs.

The Pokerus is quite rare and it’s likely you won’t see it for a long time — if at all. However, once a Pokemon becomes infected, it’s easy to spread: it will spread the virus to any Pokemon next to it in the main party after battle. After a certain amount of days (which is not quite set in stone as it changes from strain to strain), the Pokemon’s immune system will kick in and fight off the Pokerus. Once this happens, the Pokemon cannot be infected again, or continue to spread the virus. In order to keep the virus alive so you can use it later for new Pokemon trainees, sticking an infected Pokemon into the PC or in Daycare will prevent its immune system from ruining your plans.