Competitive Pokémon Play Is Actually Pretty Intense

By Ishaan . July 22, 2014 . 1:01pm


If you’ve never watched competitive Pokémon before, you might find this interesting. The Pokémon Company recently held the Pokémon U.S. National Championships, and while the entire event was livestreamed, they’ve begun uploading video archives of some of the more prominent matches from the event.


The first video to have been released is the Junior Finals in the videogame section of the tournament (the other section being the Trading Card Game). You can watch it above.


This year’s Pokémon National Championships were actually the largest yet, according to The Pokémon Company. The competitive event, which is still growing, saw 2,166 players between the videogame and card game. The videogame in particular saw a large increase in numbers, with close to 800 players competing.


Not quite EVO numbers, but the interesting thing is that competitive Pokémon attracts both adults and children, and has separate categories for the two.

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  • AuraGuyChris

    Call me when I’m sure I can use my Ledian with confidence that it won’t get horribly mangled the first turn.

    • Desk

      well with its stats that won’t happen

    • Mega Ledian with some overkill ability.

      • AuraGuyChris

        *Rolls eyes* Of cooooooooourse. Slap a Mega Evolution on it! It’s like it will always solve the issue!

        Ha ha, no. Sorry.

        Use something else other than an incomplete evolution to fix things.

        • The Watcher


        • Chill. I’m just coming from Game Freak’s perspective as of late.

          Not like I’ll ever see Sandslash’s evolution, Steelslice, anytime soon either.

          • AuraGuyChris

            Yeah… I don’t like that perspective much they have either.

          • Eh, I roll with it. The only thing it’s given to the community is a reason for Smogon to have a heart attack for a solid year or so attempting to come up with an outdated-style tier list. That alone was worth it for the addition.

            But in terms of the execution, I agree it could be a whole lot better. If I can run over the majority of mons out there by simply going Tyranitar > Dragon Dance/activate Mega Stone in battles (better in rotation for shielding) then you can bet that there’s a few balance issues to work out.

        • RinaDawg

          What’s wrong with mega evolutions? They give an extra umph for Pokemon that need it. Of course they needed to appeal the audience with mega lucario and garchomp and tyrani, but some made really obscure Pokemon in the competitive scene a lot more viable. Look at Mawile! Kang? Manectric shows up every now and then… Houndoom exists.

          • AuraGuyChris

            I swear to god, your mentality would be very different if Mega Evolutions never existed.

          • RinaDawg

            You seem like youre just blindly hating on megas to me. Youre not giving me any reason to why you think they’re so bad.
            They exist now.
            What were you expecting they’d do? Bump your Ledian’s stats to 100 for no reason? Give it a broken ability like moody bidoof? What about all the other Poke? Let’s just give ALL the Pokemon the exact same stats. Screw variety, teamwork and synergy. :DD

            Edit: At least with megas, they give the stat boost and have some drawbacks like maybe weird ability and no item. Going back and thinking back to the days when megas don’t exist just make no sense since you have to deal with them now. That’s like saying:
            “I swear to god, your mentality would be very different if hidden abilities never existed.”
            Unless you’re against hidden abilities too, then if so, lol have a good day.

          • AuraGuyChris

            “Blindly hating” is a strong word. I rather use “dislike” because they seem to have destroyed normal evolutions altogether, and only Eevee has been isolated to normal new evolutions.

            I challenge Game Freak to fix stuff other than slapping a ME on them. Otherwise, the other Held Items can possibly fade away from existence and lose their purpose in the distant future.

          • RinaDawg

            Well, I can’t change your opinion on Pokemon standards. I think mega stones aren’t gonna replace held items for already OP pokemon anytime soon. Tryanitar and Garchomp barely ever mega (I may be wrong. I think I might be thinking Smogon and haven’t really wifi’d in a while. XD)

            I do agree that losing a held item is a bit disappointing, it’s like a weird way of adding an extra evolutionary stage and losing variety.

            But I don’t think held items are in anyway threatened. The newer items like Assault Vest and Weakness Policy are pretty strong and the pokemon that took advantage from megas never really did well with an item in the first place.

            But I get the frustration now. Maybe one day GF will introduce 4 evolutionary stages!

        • 하세요

          Who said it’s broken? It’s painfully obvious some Pokemon are just meant to look cute or cool while others are meant for battling, especially early Bug types.

          • AuraGuyChris

            Yet you don’t do much with the cute ones that aren’t strong.

    • Adrián Alucard

      Well, Ledian have a good special defense, so Ledian could survive a couple of special attacks

    • Pinkemon

      Well, if you don’t mind using battle simulators you can probably use it in a lower tier that doesn’t have stuff like Talonflame to ruin your day. (Can’t check its exact tier as of writing this cause Smogon seems to be down.)

      • Talonflame I know is OU. Ledian’s probably NU. Either way, that’s Smogon dictating it but Firebird beats out Ladybug by logic alone.

    • RinaDawg

      …focus sash? :U

  • 60hz

    some one shoot the sound man… get your levels correct man!

    Other than that very entertaining!

  • zferolie

    this is cool. It’s sad though that the game place right by my house never gets more then 1-2 people including me for their weekely XY tournament. :(

  • Aaron K Stone

    It’s kinda weird seeing children play so intensely.

    • AuraGuyChris

      The tears go down just as intensely, however…

    • Jadfish

      It’s kinda wierd knowing that those children didn’t grow up with gen 1.

      Actually, I recently had to explain the core concept of the pokemon games to my three 8 year old cousins (like, the basic rundown about RPG mechanics etc) since they had seen some pokemon on Netflix.
      They asked me about Mega evolutions and I just stared at them for a minute, whipped out my iphone, googled that stuff, and felt so out of touch you wouldn’t believe it

      • 하세요

        Just goes to show that starting from Red/Blue does not instantly making you a god at Pokemon.

  • Cazar

    Eh, I kinda grew tired of the Pokémon competitive scene. Too much time for too little return with mostly the same recycled strategies. I spent forever building a competitive XY team then got bored after about ten online battles. And the simulator community is full of narcissistic crybabies.

    • Well…it’s the simulator community complete with their own ruleset and ways they go about their game which is in no way the same game that Nintendo portrays. Of course you’re going to have an elitist community.

      I actually did a couple hundred bouts online just before they let PokeBank into the wild (and then a bunch of hacked mons flooded the place). It was worth it for that alone just to see what kids and adults alike did.

      • Cazar

        It wasn’t even just the elitism that turned me off, but the constant childish antics. You win, they talk shit. You lose, they talk shit. And the chat rooms were constantly full of ego indulging trash talk. At least that’s how it was back when I did it. I haven’t played any simulators post-5th gen.

        The online XY battles I had were also pre-PokéBank but I’m not sure if that was for better or worse. The lack of hacked mons was nice, but at the same time there was a lot less variety in strategy.

        • Well yea…you’re gonna see that talk a lot from Pokemon communities. That’s because you’re dealing with a bunch of kids. :P

          I’m not sure I understand a lack of variety in strategy though. The only real difference was 100-200 pokes to use versus 700+. In fact, I usually have a harder time dealing with a larger roster just for the sheer fact that you can’t really build a well-rounded team off such a crowded list. That can also be a good thing to keep certain ‘beats em all’ teams in check but on the other hand it can get a bit distressing when you craft a team only to see every combination in the book wall what you have.

          • Cazar

            That’s what I prefer about a larger roster though. With a smaller roster you have the “typical checks for the typical threats” but with a larger roster you can focus a bit more on just making your own effective team strategy instead of trying to counter everything because that’s never going to happen.

            Even then, I just grew tired of it and lost my competitive drive. At one point I had to question why I spent so much time building those teams. Maybe I’m just getting old.

          • HarakiriKami

            Its grueling

          • Had my time away from the game as well, actually. I was pretty much inactive most of 3rd gen into 4th. Only reason I got back into it was because they had a redo of G/S (HG/SS). So I can understand that.

          • Asura

            Umm… OU battles let you use any tiers you want except Ubers. If there’s a “lack of variety in strategy” the only reason would be because people think certain things just don’t work well enough to bother with.

            I remember when I used to actually make teams for Pokemon Showdown instead of just random battling, I rarely had more than 3 OU Pokes per team. Nothing stopped me from getting wacky and having awkward strategies. I do think in the long run those weren’t as fruitful as the more by the books stuff, but all competition suffers this.

            Tiers exist in fighting games, tiers will exist in turn-based fighting games too.

          • I’m wondering what you’re misinterpreting here. I know everything about what you’ve just spoken about but I fail to see how tier talk applies to what you responded to here.

    • James Reht

      As far as “same recycled strategies” goes, were you playing VGC or Smogon, I find VGC allows for much more diversity than smogon.

      • Cazar

        I’ve played both, but I agree with that notion to a degree.

  • Kalis Konig

    The problem with competitive battling is that with over 600 monsters, you are going to only be seeing the same ones over and over or the same set of strategies with the occasional surprise. I don’t know if gamefreak sucks at balancing, or if they only put the time into the pokemon they personally like to make them combat ready.

    • HarakiriKami

      You clearly have no knowledge of how competitive pokemon works.

      What do you just play tiered matches in Smogon?

      A dude destroyed another team with a flippin’ Audino lol

      Pokemon has WAAAAY too many strategies and options available. Battles are pure mind games and knowing your damage calculations and how abilities/moves/priority/weather mechanics work while breeding a shit ton of pokemon that have good IV’s and EV training them.

      And thats just in doubles.

      You have single battles, inverse battles, triple battles and rotation battles. Which all require different strategies (official pokemon competition is doubles and singles though. Doubles is the prime even)

      The only other competitive game I can think of that is this complex is Smash Bros Melee

      • Cazar

        Gonna have to disagree. There are plenty of gimmicky strategies but you really have to bait someone into falling for them. In a real competitive environment they won’t work nine times out of ten. There is some variety but after a while it all begins to look familiar. And your comparison to Melee as a complex game… doesn’t really help your case.

        • PreyMantis

          I can tell you don’t play much of the competitive scene of Pokémon. There are many different combinations of strategies in Pokémon, baiting is not the only one. A baiting strategy is a horrible tactic in a competitive scene because one wrong move can put you in a losing position. Yes, there are times a strategy won’t work because it all depends on what your opponent’s monsters are, items they hold, ability, moves, stats, and their overall tactic; but it’s ignorant to say that nine out of ten of these strategies don’t and won’t work.

          • Cazar

            I was referring to gimmick strategies relying on baiting tactics; not all strategies. I’ve played quite a bit of competitive Pokémon actually, thank you.

            You can always make the argument that something is complex or deep if you try to make it so but in the larger scope of competitive gaming Pokémon and Melee are far from sitting at the top. I’d allege that perhaps it’s not that I haven’t played enough of either of those game competivily, but that HarakiriKami and yourself haven’t played enough other competitive games. Because I have in fact played a lot of Melee and Pokémon competitively; I don’t need a lecture on them.

          • HarakiriKami

            Why would you bring up situational gimmick strategies if nobody was talking about those?

          • Cazar

            >A dude destroyed another team with a flippin’ Audino lol

            As for your other reply, I’m not sure what Sakurai’s opinion has to do with that as he never had intended for Melee to be played in the fashion that competitive Smash players do. Everything about competitive Smash is metagame.

            I’m well aware of the stark contrast between competitive and casual Smash play. The only reason I called you out on it was because compared to games like Virtua Fighter and KoF competitive Smash is practically child’s play – and that’s not just because of execution. It just didn’t do much to support your argument by saying it was the most complex game you’ve ever played.

            Back on the subject of Pokémon, I’m not denying that it has depth but that depth does have a cieling. I didn’t just fall off the Oddish truck so talk of EV spreads and mind games isn’t going to impress me. I played enough to reach a point where I kept seeing the same strategies used. Even the video in this article was full of overused Pokémon with tired out move sets with a few 6th gen builds added into the mix. But ironically most of the 6th gen builds here were in my own 6th gen team that I built within the first month of the game’s release. It just goes to show… :

          • HarakiriKami

            Because Sakurai knows that the skill gap between playing Melee competitively and just playing 4 player free for all is such a wide difference that it discourages people who are good at one version of melee from playing the other.

            Its like you dont read what someone gives you. Use your damn headmeat son.

          • Cazar

            Right back at you. You’d see that I acknowledged that if you’d just read my damn post a little clearer. No shit there are skill gaps. Most games have massive skill gaps between competitive and casual players. That doesn’t inherently place it at the pinnacle of complex games.

        • HarakiriKami

          Not talking about gimmick trick room strategies man. As for melee,it is complex mechanics wise. Its not complex to learn input wise,but the backbone of the game is quite complex

          Hell the difference between competitive melee and regular play is staggering

          As the folks on Gaf say, Pokemon is insane.

          And grueling.

          • Cazar

            >referencing gaf opinions

            Yeah we’re done.

          • HarakiriKami

            Actually its Sakurai’s opinion. Read the thread.

    • k.b.a.

      To expect balance with anything over 100 options is the starting point of insanity. To expect balance from Nintendo is denial

      • Kalis Konig

        lol true

  • FlobotingIt

    Yup, it is, I hate competitive battling, I always get destroyed.

    • I dunno. I kinda like getting destroyed so long as I learn why I did. I didn’t get better at anything otherwise.

      • AuraGuyChris

        Oh no. This game turned you into a masochist!

        • Naaaaw. That game alone certainly didn’t. I had MORE than enough experience with games of my childhood and the NES console to claim that one.

      • FlobotingIt

        Eh, I can see that, and I respect that. To each their own. I’m not too great at it, ha! But, if you can learn, then hey!

  • ParrotProphet

    Watch Haydunn, Shofu, Pikawu, or TheFlamingSpade. Those guys do many different tiers and use all pokemon you can even think of.

    • James Robert Thompson

      Nbz is good too, though he does make a lot of dumb plays he does more gimmicky battle-spot style sets.

    • No one loves Xenon.

      • PreyMantis

        I do!

    • 하세요

      I used to watch a lot of TheFlamingSpade before I discovered Twitch.

  • Jadfish

    Cory and Miranda are adorable kids. I wanted both of them to win, and I am impressed how deep Pokemon goes AND how good those two were at making decisions.

    Those X and Y pokemon look dumb though.

    • RinaDawg

      talonflame would like a word with you.

      And don’t get me started on almighty sticky lord Goomy.

      • 하세요

        Talonflame is the coolest bird we’ve had since Staraptor.

        • RinaDawg

          don’t cha mean…

          …hottest bird? >:DD

    • triablos

      Hopefully you don’t mean the gloomy line, those slug-dragons are the best things to come out of pokemon since tyranitar

  • Robgoro

    That’s what I’ve been telling you, Ishaan! Just talk to the people who memorize damage calculations for certain EV/IV sets on standard competetive Pokemon.

  • Makoto Yuki

    I have been watching youtubers like Shofu, thejustinflyin and it’s really interesting. What I don’t like most about it’s the crit, sometimes it ruined the battle for them.

    • HarakiriKami

      Moves that miss I think contribute to that more

    • 하세요

      It sucks when it’s not in your favor, but good sports don’t get mad because it IS part of the game and could go both ways.

  • HershelLousyton

    Pokemon is serious shit.

  • gulabjamal

    “These kids are really excited!”
    “yeah so excited”

    *tumbleweed rolls by*

    • I don’t think I’ll ever understand Pokemon. It’s like the Dragon ball z of video games.

    • Bunzi

      People were clapping and cheering and oohing and aahing at the plays – it wasn’t huge uproarious applause or anything, but enthusiasm was there.

      • gulabjamal

        Watch the intro of the kids. Miranda is like “where the hell am I” and the announcers had to convince each other that the kids were excited which was very lol-worthy.

        And then there was the accomplishment listing. “Miranda also has alot of accomplishments” *1* “UHHH she’s also from a Pokémon family!”
        I didn’t know that was an accomplishment.

        They’re just kids I know but come on, some excitement please. The interviewer or announcers should try to get it out of them but they’re just bricks with fake enthusiasm themselves

  • Jonathan Tse

    singles for life.

  • DarkLight

    Cor’s link battle number in the vid tho…..

  • LuxbeyTheMechromancer

    I just wish people would understand that smogon doesn’t mean anything….Sorry if this seems “spam-ish” but I always feel compelled to say this in competitive pokemon stuff. Other wise, yeah competitive battles can get heated and I love it for that.

    • I would agree if Nintendo offered a competitive singles format, but no.

      • John Smith

        The reason they use doubles instead of singles is because singles would take too long. If two skilled players went up against each other, the match could easily go over half an hour.

      • LuxbeyTheMechromancer

        well smogon acting like they’re official and people believing it is the real problem.

        • 하세요

          Some of the crowd that follows them are to blame for that. Smogon themselves I found are just fine. When people bring up “bans” and grouping Pokemon within tiers such as OU or RU, they have extremely detailed responses with reasoning, mathematical data to back them up, and numerous testing before making decisions.

          It’s the people outside of this that think they go “Welp, I can’t beat this so BAN LOL.” No, it doesn’t work like that and never has. I’m in no way saying Smogon are PokeBalance gods or anything, but if you sit and look at their threads, these people put in a lot of work between decision making. They take a lot of heat they do not deserve, if you ask me.

          Edit: And just to clarify, I used to be very anti-Smogon until a friend showed me some threads. I realized…”These guys aren’t pretentious assholes…it’s just Gamefaqs forums.”

          • LuxbeyTheMechromancer

            I’ve seen the discussions and all too. It’s not them a lot of the time; it is the people. But just the whole thing in general still pisses me off. I think smogon needs to do more to make it clear to the people that think it’s official to understand that it isn’t. And I’ve found that really the only way you can’t take down something that’s “banned” is because you’ve restricted yourself to their standards already. Othewise it’s really no problem. So I still don’t get it, personally.

          • Asura

            Yeah, not being able to “take down” certain Pokemon is because you’ve restricted themselves to their standards? You definitely don’t get it, thanks for demonstrating.

            The whole point is to remove Pokemon that are too good relative to a large chunk of the others so there is more variety to play with (and then set up UU battles to subdivision again so the rest of the Pokemon could also see some use). Yeah, banned Pokemon can “take down” (I’m gonna ignore my annoyance with the semantics behind this for now) other banned Pokemon. That’s why the uber tier exists, and guess what we get non-ubers used in that tier here and there, but overall it’s predominated by only 20 or so Pokemon. Then there’s Gamefreak choosing nonsensical bans like not allowing Jirachi in online play for example. That’s completely arbitrary on their part.

            You also don’t comprehend that people ALREADY KNOW smogon isn’t “official”. It doesn’t even make much sense to say it’s not official; it’s a super akward statement. You’re confusing people who just really enjoy those rules and want everybody to play like they do as people who misunderstand “officialness”.
            No. Those people are identical to you. They just want to complain about others who don’t play the way they do.

    • Asura

      I just wish people would understand that if you don’t want to play a certain way, don’t.

      Smogon means a lot to people who want competitive battles with the most balanced metagame. Smogon is pretty much the only source that keeps track of actual battle statistics from actual online servers as to what certain Pokemon are capable of and take lengthy discussions to set bans.

      Just because it gets your panties in a bunch that people don’t play the way you want them to play, it doesn’t mean it invalidates the playstyle of all those other people.

      Cut it out already.

      • LuxbeyTheMechromancer

        If people want to play a certain way, that’s fine. it’s the people that think smogon is official and thinks everyone should play it that bothers me. i’ll be online trying to find someone to go against and the second i use a pokemon or whatever else smogon has “banned” they disconnect. just because they put a lot of work into doesn’t make them official. too many people think it is. if people could just see it isn’t official and understand not everyone goes by it, that would be great.

        • Asura

          Hey, people who disconnect from the online battles in-game are douches, yes. That’s not smogon’s problem. That’s all on the person. Smogon doesn’t have a statement endorsing DCing when playing the game cartridge, buddy.

          Doesn’t make you whatsoever correct to whine about how “smogon doesn’t mean anything”. It means the entire competitive scene for a lot of people.

          It doesn’t matter if smogon isn’t “official”. Apparently it has more support behind it than the actual “official” game.
          Again, blame people who DC in a context where different rules are set up when they could just play Pokemon Showdown. Don’t target your statement as “SMOGON IS MEANINGLESS STOP CARING ABOUT IT!”

    • ShawnOtakuSomething

      I agree. Mostly but They do make some useful sets for pokemon

      • LuxbeyTheMechromancer

        yeah. i’ll be perfectly honest, i’ll go to smogon for EV spreads and movesets but i’ll tweak them from there. i’ll give them that. again, it’s more of the “fans” that are the problem.

  • Rohan Viajar

    it warms my gamer-heart when I see children participating in tournaments.
    even as a spectator.

  • Crevox

    The entire game is balanced through checks and balances; its a giant game of rock paper scissors. You build your team to cover as much stupid stuff as possible, but ultimately, dumb things happen and bad RNG gets you. A lot of the game comes down to luck, whether or not your team is good against their team (again, rock paper scissors) or you get extremely bad luck. Even popular competitive moves just bring RNG and can swing the match horribly for either person (ice beam, play rough, paralyze, etc).

    Pokemon will never be a balanced game, but fun to play for the fun of it, especially when too many outliers to the balance, too much RNG, and too many OP strategies exist that need to be banned for it to be “competitive” (sleep clause is a fine example).

  • Invisbin

    These kids could beat me any day. I Yolo when I play Pokemon.

    • Earthquake is the only strategy I need~

      • ShawnOtakuSomething

        ……….but flying types and levitate

  • Bunzi

    You know it’s serious when the dubstep kicks off.

  • ShawnOtakuSomething

    Playing Competitively will make you lose your mind……..its truly a rush sometime when you battle someone who is good

  • Snorlaxation

    I would love to be able to battle fiercely like this. Alas, my username is a pretty good idea as to how I raise my Pokes. Built for comfort, no speed.

  • thrak

    I always wanted to say this: Pokemon may not be harder than older SMT titles, but it is harder than Persona games. Even story-mode bosses (especially Sinnoh, in my case) are unforgiving in Pokemon and I can’t even think of playing competitvely while in Persona it is crazily easy for me to fight strong enemies without much grinding. Plus the annoying fact all the vital information about pokemons real strength is hidden inside a game instead of being obvious. The game encourages you to play casually, to name the first pokemon you caught, for example while in reality you should make a harsh selection and fight only certain pokemon according to a plan… It encourages you to become attached to your pokemon even in reality your favorites should be switched asap for absolutely different ones. Pokemon is quite prosaic RPG under the mask of cutesy fluff. I like it, but it is a deceptive game… *Sigh*

    • PotatoPower

      idk, persona is definitely more difficult imo. in pokemon you can beat the game by just leveling only your starter and the legendary. i mean, many kids have beaten the game without even knowing how to read

      • DaiRaiOh

        Persona is honestly the easiest of Shin Megami games though (Devil Children excluded). The first was okay on difficulty, second series was easy to win by pure attack power, and 3 and 4 were very easy once you learned the patterns on the AI

      • thrak

        I don’t know, I think fights lthemselves (Think about ultra easy ALL OUT mode) are easier in Persona, it is just the story that is more for adults.Thats the reason kids don’t play the game. But Elite four battles in Pokemon are very hard for me. Okay, I know it may be just me. All I can do now is feel secretly happy when poor Pokemon players complain that they can’t beat a boss in Persona with their favorite Pixie…Heh…

  • Pedro Tavares

    It has been for years only the idiots that like to say, “Pokemon hasn’t changed” don’t notice that, the metagame has changed every region, its fun and competitive, its fun to play and fun to watch.

    • blackMamba345

      well those who say that are referring the core game it’s self. The battle style as changed but the core game it’s has stayed the same since Red and Blue

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