(Photo by Wen Zeng)
When I played Pokemon growing up, I did not pay attention to the finer details of the game. I was too busy exploring new horizons, diving into caves, and collecting as many pocket monsters as I possibly could. But now that I am an adult I find I want a bit more complexity in the games.
One of Pokemon’s greatest successes is its ability to provide that complexity to its older audience. I first became interested in competitive Pokemon play almost a year ago and I’m still learning quite a bit. But, in my research I have found few resources that attempt to explain the basics of the game to a total beginner.
Imagine my surprise when I found out that raising the Attack on my Pikachu never had any effect when I used Thunderbolt. These are the sorts of details that I want to start with.
By the end of this series, I hope to get you, the reader, breeding competitive grade Pokemon. And not just by following the steps just as your YouTube channel of choice does, but by knowing why the game works the way it does.
In part one, we’ll talk the most basic stats that make a Pokemon what it is, and how they work in battle. In part two I will discuss how these numbers can change temporarily in battle. In part three we’ll talk about some of the numbers that change the base stats permanently. After that, we can start on how you can manipulate your pokemon and the finer points of pokemon strategy.
If you have any questions by the end of this section, please feel free to ask in the comments. I’ll not only reply, but also revise the section to include the explanation. Those of you with some more familiarity might find this first part to be a bit boring, but hang in there and I\’ll get to the more complicated stuff later on.
Pokemon are all different from each other. Sure, they all have the same types and species. Pokemon grow up in the same way, one level at a time. And as they level up, they all get stronger.
But there’s a hidden element here that is by no means obvious to the average player. Underneath those animated sprites, an array of statistic power each Pokemon. These stats govern everything from how physically strong a Pokemon is to how quickly it can move. If you have spent any time playing the video games, you would have seen these stats before, but perhaps not paid any mind to them.
Short for statistic, these six numbers are called “Stats.\” They are as follows:
- HP (Hit Points)
- (Physical) Attack
- (Physical) Defense
- Special Attack
- Special Defence
Each of these statistics takes care of how one Pokemon affects another. We’ll take a closer look. But first, let’s get some important terminology out of the way.
The word Attack here will always refer to the stat. In other places you might see people use Attack to mean a move that a pokemon uses in battle. But for the sake of simplicity, I’ll always say a pokemon uses a move or just moves. After all, not all moves “attack” the opponent. Some are defensive or passive in nature. On the same note, Defence will always refer to the Defence stat.
When I’m talking about the Special Attack or Special Defence, I will always use the word Special to avoid confusing them with their physical counterparts.
Finally, while all Pokemon of the same species start with the same stats, they can be different. Genetic information they take from their parents as well as what their upbringing has an affect on how strong a Pokemon is, just like people. For now, when I say “Base Stat” I’m talking about the default numbers the game uses to find how strong a Pokemon is before considering it’s genetics and experience.
I’ll get more into how you can change a Pokemon’s stats for the better later. But for now we’re going to focus on the default numbers. With that in mind, let’s begin.
Short for Hit Points, the HP stat shows us exactly how many individual units of health the Pokemon has. An offensive move against a Pokemon will take away from it’s hit points. Obviously the more hit points a Pokemon has, the better.
Other stats such as the Defence or the opposing Pokemon’s Attack or Special Attack, as well as the Power of a move can affect just how many hit points a Pokemon loses after taking a hit.
Physical vs Special Attack
When a Pokemon uses a move, it will use one of these two stats to figure out how much damage that move deals. For example, if your Charizard uses Flamethrower, it will draw on its Special Attack to do damage. But if Charizard uses Fire Punch, it will use the Attack stat.
This is an important difference. Take a look at Charizard’s standard Base Stats:
Competitive Pokemon players will note this difference by calling a Pokemon a special attacker or a physical attacker. Most Pokemon will stick to one of these roles and will rarely deviate from them.
The Attack stat is all about getting up close and personal. To avoid confusion, many people will refer to the regular Attack stat as the Physical Attack. That’s because the Attack stat deals physical damage. Imagine punching someone in the face, or throwing rocks at them. These are actions where you can feel the solid consequences.
The Special Attack deals special damage. Special moves will always be more fluid, gaseous, or mental in nature. Flamethrower, Psychic, and Giga-Drain are all examples of special moves.
One last example before we move on. Surf and Waterfall are offensive water type counterparts of one another. Surf is a special move and Waterfall is a physical one. Imagine standing underneath a waterfall. Doesn’t the falling water feel more like rocks falling down on your head? Now imagine standing in the ocean by a beach and being lifting up and carried away by a giant wave. Does that not feel much more like water than the waterfall did? This is the difference between Attack and Special Attack.
Physical vs Special Defence
Defence and Special Defence reduce the amount of HP that a move takes away. There’s a complex math formula sitting behind all this. But all you need to know is the higher a Pokemon’s Defence, the less HP it will lose.
Physical and Special Defence work in the same way as Physical and Special Attack. In short, Physical Defence reducesdamage taken from Physical Attack moves. Special Defence reduces damage taken from Special Attack moves.
You can think of this as trying to force open a locked metal door. You can bang on the door as hard as you can and it won’t leave a scratch. But say the magic word and it swings open effortlessly. This door as a high Physical Defence but a low Special Defence.
Speed is arguably the most important stat of the bunch. This is because if you manage to knock out the enemy Pokemon, they lose their turn. Getting those extra turns is essential to winning any Pokemon game. In a round of a Pokemon battle, each Pokemon has a chance to move. Only one action happens at a time. With some exceptions, whoever has the higher Speed stat goes first.
Moves such as Quick Attack have what’s call a higher “priority.” This is one of the exceptions. Quick Attack will always go first unless a faster opponent also uses Quick Attack or another move with the same “priority.” Again, future sections with discuss priority with more detail.
In the next part of this series we’ll talk about what elements come into play during battle to change these six stats.