This guide contains all the things I learned on my climb to Rank 10 in Go Battle League, where I finished as a global top 200 player in both season 1 and season 2 (over 3200 MMR). It covers all aspects of Go Battle League including team building, in-game strategy, and mechanics like charge move timing. Each section contains my advice, tips, and tricks, followed by a “Knowledge Test” section to test what you know.
Keep in mind that there are many ways to battle in Pokemon Go. This guide covers my own play style, which has been very successful but is not necessarily the only good one. In particular, don’t take my suggested answers to the test questions as the only correct ones. In fact, many players find success by intentionally using counter-intuitive strategies that their opponents don’t expect.
If you find this guide useful and want to support me or find more resources from me, try downloading my app PVP IV (download links at pvpiv.com). It contains Pokemon rankings, a battle simulator, an IV Analyzer, and other resources to help you on your climb to Rank 10. You can also follow me on Twitter.
- Team Building
- High-Level Game Plans
- Sacrificial Swaps
The first step to playing Go Battle League is choosing a team of 3 Pokemon. There are no strict rules about which ones you should choose (aside from meeting the CP cap and other rules of the format you’re playing in), but there are quite a few recommendations.
For starters, you should choose strong Pokemon with good IVs. PVP IV, Pvpoke, and Pokebattler all have Pokemon rankings that show which Pokemon are strongest for each league, so I recommend starting there. You can refer to this guide to learn about PVP IVs.
Most well-built teams have 3 unique roles:
- Lead: The first Pokemon you send out. It should be a strong Pokemon capable of winning many 1:1 matchups, especially when shields are used.
- In Master League, a great example of this is Dialga.
- Safe Switch: The Pokemon you bring out if your lead has an unfavorable matchup. It should have favorable matchups against as many of your lead’s weaknesses as possible, so that you don’t have to switch it in to an unfavorable matchup. It should also be a Pokemon that has very few severe losses once it has an energy advantage, and like the lead should do well when shields are in play.
- In Master League, a great example of this is Mewtwo.
- Closer: The Pokemon you bring out last in most battles. It should have enough bulk that it’s capable of beating multiple opposing Pokemon on its own (with decent matchups and shield/energy advantage). The specific typing/matchups this Pokemon should have will depend on the strategy chosen (described below).
- In Master League, a great example of a closer is Groudon.
The typing/matchups you choose for your closer will have a large impact on your overall strategy. Although they don’t cover all teams, these are some common strategies:
- Balance: The closer aims to have neutral-or-better matchups against the lead and safe switch’s worst matchups. That way, if your lead or safe switch gets countered and faints early, you’re likely to have good coverage between your remaining two Pokemon.
- This is the most common strategy and there are many great examples; Altaria (lead), Azumarill (safe switch), Registeel (closer) is one.
- Overlap: The closer aims to have similar strengths and weaknesses as the safe switch. That way, if you bring in your safe switch and your opponent brings in their best counter to it, they’re unlikely to have a very good counter to your closer.
- A common example of this strategy is Skarmory lead, Shiftry safe switch, Meganium closer.
- Another is Charizard lead, Granbull safe switch, Clefable closer in Ultra League.
- Anti-meta: The closer (and sometimes the lead and safe switch) aim to hard counter specific common matchups, even if this means sacrificing coverage against less common matchups. That way, it’s likely you’ll win the matchups you see most often, even if you don’t have a good win condition in some other cases.
- A good example of this type of team is Shadow Victreebel lead, Deoxys Defense safe switch, Bastiodon closer. (Bastiodon has many hard losses and thus is not a very safe closer, but it severely punishes opponents who try to switch a flying type into the Victreebel lead. Additionally, the safe switch is this team’s only answer to many common Pokemon, e.g. Registeel and Toxicroak).
Here are some other general tips about team building:
- Either your closer or both your lead and safe switch should be able to fill the role of Farmer – a Pokemon with a relatively high-damage fast move and good coverage on its charge moves. This allows you to turn a 1:1 matchup that was a close loss into an energy advantage by farming the opponent down.
- Bulk is important. You should have at most one highly shield-dependent Pokemon on your team.
- Cheap moves are important. Both your lead and safe switch should be able to perform well when shields are up, and it’s often beneficial if your closer can as well.
- Note that while the closer can fill many roles, the one constant for virtually every team is that the lead and safe switch do not share very many common weaknesses.
- You can use these team building patterns to try to predict the third Pokemon on your opponent’s team after seeing the first two.
Question 1: Do you see any issues with a team of Altaria (lead), Shiftry (safe switch), Registeel (closer)?
Click for answerOnly Altaria is a good farmer; either the safe switch or closer should be able to farm effectively as well
Question 2: Do you see any issues with a team of Altaria (lead), Umbreon (safe switch), Venusaur (closer)?
Click for answerBoth Altaria and Umbreon are weak to Azumarill (one of the strongest/most common Pokemon available), so Azumarill leads will be very problematic for this team.
Question 3: Do you see any issues with a team of Stunfisk Galarian (lead), Azumarill (safe switch), Tropius (closer)?
Click for answerThis is a very common team without any major issues.
Question 4: Do you see any issues with a team of Quagsire (lead), Registeel (safe switch), Tropius (closer)?
Click for answerQuagsire’s moves are very expensive so it doesn’t perform well in the lead position (when shields are up).
Question 5: Do you see any issues with a team of Azumarill (lead), Torkoal (safe switch), Venusaur (closer)?
Click for answerTorkoal is currently not a very strong Pokemon, so this team will struggle when played at a high level because it won’t be able to rely on Torkoal to carry its weight in the safe switch role.
Question 6: Your opponent leads Altaria and switches Stunfisk Galarian. Which are they most likely to have in back: Skarmory, Scrafty, or Meganium?
Click for answerMeganium. If they were using two flyers, it’s unlikely they would lead with one of them, so we can rule out Skarmory. Using Scrafty would leave their entire team weak to Azumarill, one of the strongest/most common Pokemon available.
Question 7: Your opponent leads Azumarill and switches Haunter. Which are they most likely to have in the back: Umbreon, Machamp, or Clefable?
Click for answerUmbreon. Haunter is a very low-defense Pokemon that requires shields, so it’s unlikely they would have a similarly low-defense Pokemon like Machamp or Clefable on the team as well.
High-Level Game Plans
Most players understand that you want to align your Pokemon with your opponent’s Pokemon in a way that gives your Pokemon favorable matchups as often as possible. This game plan is usually called “maintaining switch advantage” because your opponent needs to switch out of unfavorable matchups, not the other way around. It’s very common in low-level gameplay, and is a solid strategy for high-level game play as well. However, there are actually five advantages that you can have throughout a game:
- Switch advantage: Being able to align your Pokemon with theirs in the way you prefer.
- Shield advantage: Having more shields remaining than your opponent.
- Energy advantage: Having more stored energy on your remaining Pokemon than your opponent has on theirs. The most common way to gain this is if an opposing Pokemon survives with very little HP and you KO it with fast moves. You can also use extra fast moves (overfarm) before KOing an opponent with a charge move.
- Damage advantage: Having done more damage to your opponent’s Pokemon than they’ve done to yours; the goal during each game is to convert your switch, shield, and/or energy advantages to a damage advantage and KO all of your opponent’s Pokemon before they KO yours.
- Remaining Pokemon advantage: Having more Pokemon remaining than your opponent. This is usually synonymous with damage advantage so it’s not discussed much, but if the match timer runs out, the player with more remaining Pokemon wins, even if they’ve taken more damage. You can also use a remaining Pokemon advantage as a pseudo-shield or pseudo-energy advantage via sacrificial swaps, which are described in a separate section.
So, when do you prefer switch advantage vs shield advantage? What do you do when you have an unfavorable lead – or even a neutral lead – that prevents you from getting switch advantage? This often depends on the team/strategy, but it all comes back to knowing which advantages are most important and when. These are some of the high-level game plans I follow to help make these decisions.
Plans for a Favorable Lead
- Plan 1: Aim to maintain all advantages, and try to win each matchup 1-on-1. This is usually only possible if the opponent doesn’t switch out after losing the lead, or if they switch out but you can also switch to a counter.
- This plan is recommended if you see that you have a good counter to each Pokemon they reveal.
- With this plan, you have to hope that your last Pokemon has a good matchup against their last Pokemon, especially if the first two matchups are close wins. You also have to watch out for them getting energy advantage by farming down your Pokemon after you win a close matchup.
- If they switch out and you can hard counter their safe switch, you can stay in with your lead a few extra turns to get an energy advantage on your lead before switching to your counter.
- Plan 2: They switch out, but you stay in and use one charge move before switching out (giving up energy advantage). Then switch out yourself and continue with Plan 1, i.e. aim to maintain switch advantage for the rest of the game.
- This plan is not usually recommended over Plan 1, unless you don’t have a good counter to what they switch in (so switching immediately might cost switch advantage).
- You should only do this if your lead can use a charge move against what they switch in before they use one on you. Otherwise you’ll get behind the opponent on the switch timer and not be able to switch out at the same time as them anymore.
- Plan 3: They stay in, and you allow them to gain switch advantage but you get a shield and energy advantage or a two-shield advantage.
- This plan is recommended mostly for teams with relatively safe matchups across the board, e.g. a Great League team with Azumarill and Sableye in the back.
- You might also go this route if they commit shields early but you have a shield-dependent Pokemon like Toxicroak in the back.
Plans for a Neutral Lead
- Plan 1: Win switch advantage, maybe at the cost of a shield or energy advantage (i.e. if you get farmed down afterward). Make up for the shield or energy disadvantage with switch advantage/favorable matchups for the rest of the game.
- This plan is solid in general, but especially recommended if you have matchup-dependent Pokemon(s) in the back that aren’t too shield-dependent.
- Note that this is an exclusive or; it’s generally not recommended to give up both shield and energy advantage to win switch advantage on the lead.
- Plan 2: Lose switch advantage but gain a shield and/or energy advantage.
- This plan is recommended if you have Pokemon with relatively neutral matchups in the back that are good at farming – e.g. Azumarill and Sableye – or if you have a shield-dependent Pokemon like Haunter in the back.
- Plan 3: Switch out immediately, then follow one of the plans for a negative lead where you don’t switch out (assuming they switch to a counter).
- This plan is recommended if you have 2 Pokemon with very strong matchups against their lead in the back, especially if your team composition is Overlap (described in the team building section).
Plans for an Unfavorable Lead
- Plan 1: Immediately switch out, they do the same, and you use the slight energy advantage gained by switching first (possibly in combination with giving up shield and/or damage advantage) to win back switch advantage.
- This plan is recommended when both your switch and your closer can beat their lead.
- With this plan, it’s sometimes okay to give up both shield and energy advantage to win back switch advantage, depending on how badly your lead loses to their lead and how hard your closer beats their lead.
- Plan 2: Same as Plan 1, except that instead of trying to win back switch advantage you aim to get shield and/or energy advantage instead. Use that shield/energy advantage to swing an unfavorable matchup later.
- You might choose this route instead of Plan 1 if your lead doesn’t lose too badly to their lead and/or you don’t want to commit shields on your safe-switch because your other Pokemon are shield-dependent.
- Plan 1B/2B: Immediately switch out and get countered on the switch so badly that you’re unable to get switch or shield advantage, and they have too much health left to farm down for energy advantage. In this case, after your switch faints, bring your lead back in (even if your 3rd Pokemon has a better matchup against theirs). Aim to get their Pokemon low on energy and in farm-down range for your 3rd Pokemon. Then, bring in your 3rd Pokemon and farm theirs down for energy advantage and remaining Pokemon advantage.
- This plan is generally not recommended as your Plan A since it asks a lot of your third Pokemon, but is a great Plan B if you try to execute Plan 1 or 2 and your safe switch gets hard countered.
- Plan 3: Don’t switch out, but try to get the opponent low enough to farm them down for energy advantage. Use that advantage to overcome an unfavorable matchup later.
- This plan is recommended when your lead doesn’t lose that badly to their lead, and your Pokemon in the back will benefit more from saving your shields and/or getting energy advantage than they would from switch advantage.
- If you can’t get the opponent low enough to farm them down for energy advantage, this plan is only recommended if you only have one Pokemon on your team capable of beating their lead.
- Plan 4: Switch in to your closer. Hope that either they’ll choose not to switch out (since they still have a favorable matchup), or that they’ll instinctively blind switch into a Pokemon your closer can counter (since they won’t be expecting you to bring in a Pokemon that’s countered by their current Pokemon).
- This is generally only recommended as a high-risk, high-reward last resort when your only Pokemon that beats their lead is your safe switch, but your closer has a better matchup against their lead than your lead does.
- If it pays off, they get less value from their lead than if you didn’t switch out. However, there’s a good chance they’ll just switch into a hard counter to your closer, so the risk isn’t worth it this unless your lead is also hard countered.
Question 1: Your team is Altaria lead, Azumarill safe switch, Tropius closer. Your opponent leads Scrafty and switches into Zapdos. You stay in and KO the Zapdos but are left with very little HP. They bring in Azumarill. What do you do?
Click for answerImmediately switch to Tropius. You know both of their remaining Pokemon will lose to Tropius, so there’s no reason to allow them to get an energy advantage by farming you down. If they switch out, they also give you a temporary energy advantage. This also gives you remaining Pokemon advantage.
Question 2: Your team is Wigglytuff lead, Stunfisk Galarian safe switch, Azumarill closer. Your opponent leads Scrafty and switches to Altaria. Do you switch in Azumarill or Stunfisk?
Click for answerSwitch in Stunfisk. Although both Azumarill and Stunfisk beat Altaria, Azumarill beats Scrafty while Stunfisk doesn’t. So it’s better to preserve your Azumarill so that you have 2 counters to one of their remaining Pokemon instead of 1 after taking out the Altaria.
Question 3: Your team is Altaria lead, Azumarill safe switch, Meganium closer. Your opponent leads Bastiodon. Do you switch in Azumarill or Meganium?
Click for answerMeganium (switch in your closer game plan). Although Azumarill is usually the safe switch, it’s your only reliable answer to Bastiodon. Nothing is getting worse than an Altaria vs Bastiodon matchup, so you can switch in your closer and hope for a more neutral matchup if they switch. If they switch out, you have Azumarill to counter Bastiodon later. Additionally, Bastiodon is usually paired with a grass type to hard counter Azumarilll while it’s rarely paired with a flyer (the only hard counter to Meganium), since both are weak to Registeel and Azumarill.
Question 4: Your team is Azumarill lead, Ferrothorn safe switch, Registeel closer. Your opponent leads Altaria and immediately switches Azumarill. What do you do?
Click for answerStay in with Azumarill and farm up energy, then switch to Ferrothorn when you get close to maximum energy (ideally when they’re going to use a Hydro Pump). Ferrothorn will beat Azumarill even if it’s at an energy disadvantage, and farming the energy with Azumarill gives you an energy advantage later without risking switch advantage.
Question 5: Your team is Altaria lead, Azumarill safe switch, Meganium closer. Your opponent leads Azumarill. Do you switch to Azumarill or Meganium?
Click for answerAzumarill. Although Meganium has the better matchup vs Azumarill, if you switch to Meganium they’ll switch out and the Azumarills will have to face off later anyway. Or if you’re unlucky, they’ll switch in a flyer and completely wall your Meganium (this is why Meganium isn’t usually used in the safe switch role).
Question 6: Your team is Altaria lead, Azumarill safe switch, Meganium closer. Your opponent leads Skarmory, and you KO the Skarmory with Altaria but take a 1-shield disadvantage. After that, your opponent brings in Azumarill and farms you down with 8 bubbles. Do you bring in Azumarill or Meganium?
Click for answerAzumarill. If you bring in Meganium, they’ll use 2 Ice Beam before you use Frenzy Plant and be able to force another shield. However, Azumarill should be able to win this matchup without committing shields since you should have a damage advantage from Altaria. On the other hand, this might backfire if it’s a Play Rough Azumarill and yours isn’t.
Question 7: Your team is Altaria lead, Azumarill safe switch, Meganium closer. Your opponent leads Deoxys Defense (Altaria loses the 0 shield but wins the 1 and 2 shield). Do you commit a shield to win switch advantage?
Click for answerYes. Altaria survives this matchup with a lot of health and some energy, so you’ll be trading shield advantage for switch advantage and damage advantage. You don’t risk giving up energy advantage unless they have a Charm user, since Altaria survives with enough health to avoid being farmed down.
Question 8: Your team is Altaria lead, Azumarill safe switch, Meganium closer. Your opponent leads Altaria as well. You both shield the first Sky Attack and your opponent wins CMP on the second one, which will KO you. Do you commit a shield?
Click for answerNo. Your Altaria is in farm down range. If you commit a shield and your opponent doesn’t, you’ll get switch advantage but lose both shield advantage and energy advantage. This is too risky since you don’t know what other Pokemon they have.
Question 9: Your team is Altaria lead, Registeel safe switch, Meganium closer. Your Altaria wins the lead vs an opposing Altaria but is in the red in HP, and your opponent brings in Azumarill. What do you do?
Click for answerImmediately switch out. This gives you remaining Pokemon advantage and prevents them from getting an energy advantage (which would allow Azumarill to win the matchup against Meganium). Both of your Pokemon have a decent matchup against Azumarill it’s unlikely they have another flyer in the back to counter Meganium.
Question 10: Your team is Altaria lead, Alolan Marowak safe switch, Meganium closer. Your Altaria wins the lead vs an opposing Altaria but is in the red in HP, and your opponent brings in Azumarill. What do you do?
Click for answerAllow them to farm you down, then switch in Meganium. Although the Azumarill will farm enough energy to force a shield from Meganium, it’s critical that Meganium – rather than Alolan Marowak – matches up against Azumarill, so you can’t give up switch advantage.
Question 11: Your team is Stunfisk Galarian lead, Azumarill, Meganium. Your opponent leads Skarmory and switches in Toxicroak. What do you do?
Click for answerStay in with Stunfisk and use a Rock Slide, then switch to Azumarill. It’s critical that you maintain switch advantage so you match up Stunfisk – rather than Meganium – against Skarmory. If you switch right away, Toxicroak beats your Azumarill by committing two shields. But if you land the Rock Slide, your Azumarill beats the Toxicroak in the 0 and 2 shield, meaning you can guarantee that you maintain switch advantage by giving up one shield. (If they shield the Rock Slide, then you beat them with Azumarill in the 2-to-1 and 1-to-0 shield.)
Question 12: Your team is Cresselia lead, Azumarill safe switch, Registeel closer. Your opponent leads Stunfisk Galarian. Do you switch to Azumarill, or stay in with Cresselia?
Click for answerStay in with Cresselia. Even though you lose this matchup, you can damage the Stunfisk enough that Azumarill can farm it down, trading switch advantage for energy advantage. If you switch in Azumarill, they’ll switch out too, and then either Cresselia or Registeel will have to face Stunfisk without Azumarill’s help later, when you no longer have an opportunity to get energy advantage by farming it down with Azumarill.
Question 13: Your team is Umbreon, Azumarill, Registeel. Your opponent leads Skarmory and immediately switches to Shiftry. What are they most likely to have in the back?
Click for answerAnother grass type, most likely Meganium. Because they switched Skarmory out of a neutral matchup right away, they’re likely using an Overlap team with two grass types (whereas a Balance team would be more likely to stay in on the lead). The specific trio of Skarmory, Shiftry, Meganium is also very common and you should learn to recognize it when you see it.
Mechanics are the turn-by-turn steps you take while executing your in-game strategy. Mastering them will turn close losses into close wins. This section doesn’t have any knowledge tests because it’s about following a process, rather than making decisions.
Charge Move Timing
Using a charge move usually takes one turn. However, your opponent gets to finish their current fast move without using extra turns when you use a charge move. For example, if you use a charge move on the first turn of an opponent’s 4 turns fast move, your opponent essentially gets +3 turns compared to if you used the move 3 turns later (on the last turn of their fast move).
Depending on how many turns your fast move and your opponent’s fast move are, the most optimal charge move timing will be different. In order to time your charge moves correctly, you need to count your fast moves as described below. Note that you count your own fast moves rather than your opponent’s; if you count your opponent’s then you’ll always fire on the first turn of their move, which is the least optimal time. Also, note that the count restarts each time a player uses a charge move. Here are the counts you should use for each fast move combination:
- 2 vs 3: Count 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, … Fire after 1
- 3 vs 2: Count 1, 2, 1, 2, … Fire after 1
- 3 vs 4: Count 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4, … Fire after 1
- 4 vs 3: Count 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, … Fire after 2
- 2 vs 4: Count 1, 2, 1, 2, … Fire after 1
- In this case, the opponent gets +1 turn each time you use a charge move.
- 4 vs 2: No optimizations possible, except the charge move delay (below).
- In this case, the opponent gets +1 turn each time you use a charge move.
- 1 vs N: Count 1, 2, … N, 1, 2, … N, … Fire after N – 1
- N vs 1: No optimizations possible.
- N vs N: No optimizations possible, except the charge move delay.
- In this case, the opponent gets +N – 1 turns each time you use a charge move.
In the example in the images above, Groudon is able to beat Togekiss but only if it times its moves correctly. It has a 2 turn move and Togekiss has a 3 turn move. So, it counts 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, fire. 1, 2, 3, 1, fire. 1, 2, opponent fired. 1, fire. 1, 2, 3, 1, fire.
Note that there are some reasons you may deviate from these counts:
- If your opponent switches to a new Pokemon or there’s lag, the timing will be thrown off and you need to offset the first number in your count accordingly.
- If you can KO your opponent by using a charge move and they’re not on the last turn of their fast move, the fast move damage won’t register. This is discussed in the Charge Move Delay Optimization section.
- The count is restarted whenever either player uses a charge move.
Charge Move Delay Optimization
In many situations, you should prefer to KO your opponent with a charge move rather than with a fast move. This is because your opponent doesn’t get to finish their fast move on the turn they’re KOed (unless it’s the last turn of the move anyway).
As an example (shown in the images above), say both you and your opponent have a 2-turn fast move. You have enough energy to use a charge move, but need to use your charge move and one additional fast move to do enough damage to KO. If you use the charge move first, your opponent will get to use one fast move when you use your charge move, and an additional fast move that registers at the same time as the fast move you use to KO. However, if you use the fast move first, your opponent gets to use one fast move at the same time as you, but they’ll faint before the one started at the same time as your charge move registers. This means they get to use one less fast move than if you didn’t delay.
This optimization simply requires waiting to use your charge move until it will do enough damage to KO, rather than using the charge move then KOing with fast moves. Note that you should only use this optimization when you’ll win the matchup. Also, note that doing this optimization requires knowing exactly how many moves it will take to KO the opponent; this is often only possible in Master League where IVs are predictable.
In the example in the images above, Groudon is able to beat Giratina Origin, but only with this optimization. Groudon waits to use Fire Punch until it will KO, rather than using it immediately once it has enough energy.
Sometimes an opponent will try to switch out right when you’re using a charge move so that it damages a different Pokemon instead.
However, it’s not possible for them to switch in the middle of a fast move; they have to wait for the move to finish to switch out. If you want to make sure your charge move lands on the current opponent, make sure to use your charge move in the middle of the opponent’s fast move.
- This strategy doesn’t work if your opponent’s fast move is only one turn.
- You can still use this strategy if you and your opponent have fast moves that are the same number of turns, but in this case you have to stop attacking (don’t use a fast move or charge move) for one turn, then use the charge move if they start a fast move. This doesn’t actually waste a turn unless they switch out, since they would finish their fast move in one turn if you used a charge move anyway.
- Sometimes it’s not possible to use this strategy without giving your opponent free turns. In this case, it’s a tradeoff between safety and the other charge move optimizations mentioned above.
- As the other player, try to time your switch to happen right when the opponent’s previous move ended and they would be deciding between using a fast move or charge move.
Fast Move Only Win
If your opponent’s last Pokemon is low on HP but they have shields remaining to block your charge moves, you can KO it more quickly if you just don’t use charge moves. This is because using a charge move takes a turn, but only does 1 damage if it gets shielded.
You can intentionally avoid getting an “Excellent” on your charge move in order to do less damage so that you can farm the opponent down with fast moves. In general, this isn’t recommended based on the logic in the Charge Move Delay Optimization section (and because it’s difficult/unreliable to pull off). However, there are a couple situations where it makes sense:
- When you’ve maxed out at 100 energy and need to unload some.
- When your opponent does a sacrificial swap (described in a separate section) and you didn’t intend to use your charge move on the current Pokemon.
Over farming means using extra fast moves to build up energy before using a charge move to KO the current opponent. For opponents who don’t do much damage with their fast move (and for some opponents who have high-damage fast moves), the most optimal play is usually continuing to use fast moves until they’re one turn away from using a charge move, then KOing them. This maximizes your energy going into the next matchup. However, there are also some reasons to use your charge move a bit earlier:
- When you’ve lost track of how close they are to a charge move due to lag, etc. Especially relevant if their charge move would do a lot of damage to you.
- When their switch timer is almost up and you want to KO them before they switch out.
- When you’re getting low on HP and don’t want to take extra fast move damage.
- When you’ve already maxed out at 100 energy.
Sometimes you might even allow your opponent to use one extra charge move even though you have enough energy to use a charge move first, if this lets you KO them with fast moves and gain energy advantage.
It also goes without saying that if you can KO your opponent with a fast move instead of a charge move, you should. This saves energy and fast moves actually have higher priority than charge moves (unless they’re “skipping” turns as described in the timing section) which makes it a more reliable way to KO if you lose/tie CMP.
With some game plans, you end up switching out a low-HP Pokemon that the opponent could farm down. This Pokemon can provide value later if you switch it back in right when your opponent would use a charge move. Similarly, if you predict when your opponent is going to use a charge move, you can switch at that moment to absorb the move on a Pokemon that resists it. This is known as a sacrificial swap, and it often works to provide pseudo-shield or pseudo-energy advantage.
As described in the Switch Timing section, you should time this swap on a turn where your opponent will be deciding between using a fast move or a charge move. As described in the Under Charging section, if someone sacrificial swaps you, you can under-charge your move to still farm them down and get some energy back.
Sacrificial swaps are risky because if your opponent doesn’t use a charge move, you’ll be giving up switch advantage and probably giving them free energy if the swapped-in Pokemon is low on HP. So, you should only do them when you think the only way you’re likely to win is with a sacrificial swap.
Baiting means using a cheaper charge move that doesn’t do much damage because you’re expecting your opponent to shield. A large part of baiting is being unpredictable. If your opponent thinks you’ll bait, they won’t shield; if they think you won’t bait, they’ll shield. This might make it sound like you should just bait randomly.
However, baiting is fundamentally a high-risk, high-reward play. If you bait successfully, you save energy. But if your opponent doesn’t shield, you waste energy to do less damage than you could have. So, mastering baiting largely comes down to understanding the risk and reward involved – as both the attacker and shielder.
Some matchups can only be won by baiting, while others can be won without baiting, although baiting still gives you an energy advantage in the latter case. If a matchup can only be won by baiting, then often it’s worthwhile to try to bait. PVP IV is the only battle simulator that identifies these matchups, so I definitely recommend downloading it to get a better understanding of which matchups you need to bait to win.
For other matchups, understanding when the risk is worthwhile is something that varies a lot based on context, and it takes a long time to master. The knowledge test questions are a good starting point for learning more about the tradeoffs.
Question 1: Your team is Skarmory lead, Azumarill safe switch, Toxicroak closer. Your opponent leads Meganium. They switch in Galarian Stunfisk and you switch in Azumarill. Do you bait with Ice Beam or use Hydro Pump right away?
Click for answerUse Hydro Pump. Your opponent is unlikely to shield their Stunfisk since they probably won’t win the matchup anyway, and can easily KO the Azumarill with Meganium. Winning switch advantage is not critical, since both Skarmory and Toxicroak can handle Meganium. So, it’s safe to use Hydro Pump to KO the Stunfisk more quickly, and the risk of getting Hydro Pump shielded and losing the matchup is offset by getting shield advantage and having two Pokemon with a favorable matchup against their back line.
Question 2: Your team is Skarmory lead, Azumarill safe switch, Scrafty closer. Your opponent leads Clefable. They switch in Galarian Stunfisk and you switch in Azumarill. Do you bait with Ice Beam or use Hydro Pump right away?
Click for answerBait with Ice Beam. In this matchup, maintaining switch advantage is critical. Getting Hydro Pump shielded gives Stunfisk a chance to win. However, Azumarill can reliably win using only Ice Beam in the 0 and 2 shield. In the worst case, you give up a one shield advantage (winning 2 shields to 1) but maintain switch advantage. This guarantees their Clefable stays aligned with Skarmory (who can beat Clefable even at a 1 shield deficit), and ensures Clefable won’t be aligned with Scrafty later (this is a very unfavorable matchup). As a side note, it probably would have been preferable to switch Scrafty into Stunfisk instead.
Question 3: Your team is Skarmory lead, Azumarill safe switch, Toxicroak closer. Your opponent leads Tropius. They switch in Galarian Stunfisk and you switch in Azumarill. Do you bait with Ice Beam or use Hydro Pump right away?