If you’ve been a fan of the Pokemon franchise for a while, then you may be surprised to learn that there is a thriving competitive video game community known as VGC. I definitely was.
While Pokemon was a game that I grew up on and am a fan of some of the more grassroots efforts in the game such as speed runs and randomisers, I never felt the need to take the dive into the VGC in the past.
Well, that all changed with Pokemon Scarlet and Violet and as someone who is coming into it fresh, I had to learn a lot. I did a ton of research and grinding to learn as much as I could, and while I’m still learning, I felt compelled to share my experience and some tips and tricks that will help you get into the VGC.
Preparing for battle
The first thing that I’d highly recommend that you do is to go through a casual playthrough of one of the games. The game is very good, so you should enjoy it. It will make coming back to it time and again to run the ranked ladder that much more enjoyable.
After you’ve beaten the game, the next step you’ll want to do is gather a bunch of resources. This ranges from EXP candies, mints and berries, poke dollars, bottle caps and tera shards. If you happen to be playing during any tera raid events or black crystal raid events, then do as many of these as you can, as they are an easy way to farm resources. You will want to have a few Pokemon that can easily take down a majority of what’s out there, but I found that my Pokes from my playthrough were good enough to get me started.
For some easy money, there’s a neat little trick that you can do to AFK farm star pieces. Here’s how to do this:
- First, disable autosave
- Next, make sure that there are only two Pokemon in your party, and that they cannot breed (two of the same gender, or genderless).
- You’ll also need to pick up some sandwich supplies: butter, peanut butter, bananas and toothpicks.
- With these in hand, fly over to Cascarrafa, and head into the desert. You’ll notice a bunch of shiny objects on the ground.
- Save before picking up each one and snag them. If you find one that’s a star piece, immediately close your game and reload.
- Then, once you’ve loaded back in, set up your picnic in such a way that the picnic basket and the end of the table is covering the shiny object on the ground.
- Then create a great peanut butter sandwich with the supplies you picked up. This will give you “Egg Power Lv 2”.
- Then stand next to the basket, and every 5-10 minutes, check the basket for a bunch of free star pieces.
- The buff only lasts 30 minutes, but if you pick up enough ingredients to go for a few hours, you can end up with quite a bit of money.
Money is one of the most important resources in the game. Scarlet and Violet introduce the ability to IV train your Pokemon via bottle caps. This allows you to "craft" perfect stats on your Pokemon. You can buy bottle caps for 20,000 poke dollars, and you'll need at most six. Then you can EV train with vitamins, which are also expensive. You'll end up spending around 1,000,000 poke dollars to fully train up a perfect Pokemon.
Once you have your team perfectly IV and EV trained, then you'll also need to buy battle items. These are pretty pricey. The Choice items are 100,000 poke dollars, with the other meta items being between 20,000 and 50,000.
Probably the most important thing you can do during your playthrough and resource farming is research on what kinds of Pokemon exist in the metagame. You can find this information in a variety of places, such as Twitter, Youtube, and various websites. I would highly recommend using the VGCPastes Twitter, as they have a collective of many of the top teams from ladder and events. Additionally, from a YouTube perspective, checking out people like CybertronVGC and WolfeyVGC is great as they showcase tons of different teams and they’re incredibly knowledgeable and high-calibre players. This step is something that is going to be an ongoing process, but It’s definitely worthwhile to start this process early.
Picking your team
Now that we’ve done some research, it’s time to construct our team. With that, there are a couple of things to start thinking about. First off, do you want to build your own team for ladder? This may be a strange question to ask, but I’ll explain why we ask it in a bit. Let’s say you want to build your very own team. How do we go about that? I’m going to take you on the journey I went through to ultimately end up on the final team that I decided to stick with for Ranked.
First, you’re either going to pick a specific Pokemon to build around or a general strategy - a few common ones are Tailwind, Trick Room, and weather. The first Pokemon I decided to build my team around was Palafin. Palafin has a special ability called Zero to Hero, where when it switches out and back in, it comes out in its Hero form, with much higher stats. How do we facilitate this happening? We could send Palafin out first and then switch them in, but that’s not efficient. Thankfully, Palafin has Flip Turn, a move that switches them out for another Pokemon, while dishing out some damage. That’s a good start, but what else can we do? Well, I decided on using a very fast Iron Bundle with Icy Wind for speed control. With our Palafin being EV trained for Attack and Speed, we should definitely be faster than everything else in the format and get off Flip Turn.
Okay, how do we fill in the rest of the team? I decided I wanted to run with a Trick Room pair on the team to be able to close out games that went super long. For this, I decided to run Scream Tail to set up Trick Room, which reverses Pokemon speed order, and Torkoal to be the secondary Trick Room sweeper. To round out the team, I decided to use Annihilape with Final Gambit as a sniper, and a Sylveon to be able to deal with the projected Dragons in the format like Garchomp and Dragapult.
I take this team onto the casual ladder, and things seemed really good. Until they weren’t. The format got announced, and Paradox Pokemon were banned. That takes out 2 very important components, Iron Bundle and Scream Tail, from my team. How did I pivot from here? Well, I tried to craft various Palafin strategies, but time was not on my side, and I failed to find something I liked.
Remember when I asked if you want to build your own team earlier? Well, here’s where that question comes in. After failing to find a Palafin team that I feel good about, I start renting teams that are being created by other players and taking those onto the ladder. Yup! This is a thing you can do. So I started messing around with some fun teams. Slowly but surely, I started to find components of the original Palafin team I really enjoyed and started to craft this new party. Here is how I ended up.
- Dragonite: Choice Band, Inner Focus, Normal Terastalize, Extreme Speed Spam
- Annihilape: Choice Scarf, Defiant, Final Gambit
- Hatterene: Trick Room setter, but with Life Orb for offensive moves like Dazzling Gleam
- Torkoal: Charcoal, Fire Terastalize, Eruption Spam
- Ammoonguss: Rage Powder, Trick Room assist with Spore
- Rotom Wash: Nasty Plot, Volt Switch to counter Water types
What started as a faster sweeper type of team that closed out with Trick Room very quickly became the opposite, with Trick Room being the bread and butter, and the speedy Pokemon in the back were the secret sauce. Dragonite is still super-speedy in case the game goes a touch long and we need to take something out post Trick Room, but generally, the team wants to really take advantage of Trick Room.
If you have a certain Pokemon you want to build around, you have your work cut out. You’ll need to find other Pokemon to help complement what that Pokemon wants to do. You will also want to have a Pokemon or two that have various coverage moves to fight off counters to your sweeper or other walls.
If you’re going with a themed, focused team, such as Trick Room, Tailwind or Weather, then the job becomes a bit easier, as there is a general direction to the team and you can very quickly cut Pokemon from your list that don’t fit the mould.
Obviously, metas will change over time. As more people explore different options and tech for teams, new teams will emerge to fight them. But how can you be flexible in your testing and decisions? That leads us to my first general tip.
Tips and tricks
Utilise rental teams or Pokemon Showdown
Pokemon Showdown is a program on PC that allows you to tailor Pokemon to be exactly how you want them to be, with the exact stats, moves, abilities and Items. Then you can take your newly created team, and head into battle against thousands of other trainers under various different rules, including the Generation IX Series One ruleset. Leveraging a tool like this is going to be the best way to efficiently use your resources when you’re finally ready to put a team together.
"Murder your darlings"
The phrase “Murder Your Darlings” is regularly used in many creative spaces, including Game Design. It means you need to be ready and willing to completely get rid of an idea if it isn’t working, even if it's one you really care about. You may not necessarily have to scrap the entire thing, but being stubborn on an idea that isn’t working will only stunt your progress.
Set realistic expectations and goals
If you’re just starting off in the VGC like I was a couple of months ago, then you want to make sure that you set up appropriate expectations and goals for yourself. My initial goals were to take the ranked ladder very seriously, try to hit at least Master Ball rank, and possibly even compete in one of the regional events happening during this year’s circuit, as it’s only about an hour away from where I live. Those expectations may not line up with what you want, though. You may just want to make a team that can play on the competitive ladder and you have a fun time doing it. That’s fine, just make sure you don’t overshoot your goals.
Study up and practice up
You’re always going to want to be learning about the intricacies of the VGC. From format rules and type match-ups to meta teams and more, the more knowledge you accumulate, the better off you will be overall. Always be consuming trustworthy and relevant content to hone your knowledge. Additionally, continually practising with your team is super important. You’re going to face countless situations that are going to be new to you, given the variance in this format,
This tip may seem a little cliche, but it’s definitely worth noting. This is a video game, and while we want to be competitive to varying degrees, fun is at the core of what we do and it can be easy to lose sight of that sometimes.