Pokémon Ultra Sun/Moon: Is It Worth Buying?

Yes, I know I’m a month or so late with this post, but let’s pretend it’s still relevant, shall we?

Nintendo can be a bit unpredictable when it comes to “post-intro-gen” Pokémon releases. For any given generation, we could get:

  1. An official sequel (Pokémon Black/White 2).
  2. An updated version with a tweaked storyline (Pokémon Emerald).
  3. A remake of an old generation (Pokémon Omega Ruby/Alpha Sapphire).
  4. Both #1 and #2 (G4 got Pokémon Platinum and Pokémon HeartGold/SoulSilver).

For Pokémon Sun/Moon, Nintendo went with option #2 and gave us Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, a slight reimagining of the original games with some new features tossed in for flavor. Whether or not these updates are enough for me to recommend purchasing these games, however, depends on what you’re looking to do with the game.

Let’s address some of the changes individually:

  • As is the standard with third versions, the variety of Pokémon you can find and catch is much larger than in Sun and Moon. This is generally a good thing and I appreciate the different monsters that are now included (including brand new ‘mons like Poipole!), but for someone like me (a Pokémon veteran attempting a Nuzlocke run), it means I seem to get stuck catching a bunch of G1 stalwarts that I’ve been avoiding for the past 20 years.
  • The story has technically changed between Sun/Moon and Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon, but it takes a long time to notice it. I’m working my way through island #4 right now, and aside from different totem Pokémon and a few new characters that pop up occasionally, the story is essentially unchanged from Sun and Moon. I know there’s some exciting bits involving Necrozma and Ultra Space coming up, but otherwise it feels like Pokémon Platinum (i.e. Pokémon Pearl with more snow and the Distortion World) all over again.
  • A few new minigames have been introduced (such as Mantine Surfing), and while I could see some people enjoying then, they really didn’t catch my interest. Same with the interactive Pokémon and the Alolan Photo Club: Some people will have a blast with it, but most of the world will yawn and move on.
  • Remember how annoying the SOS mechanic was in Sun and Moon? It’s been dialed back a ton in the Ultra versison, giving enemy Pokémon a single chance to call an ally (and also seemingly reducing the chance that an ally will actually appear), putting an end to the frustratingly-endless battles of the first games.
  • Remember how annoying often you would receive phone calls in the original Pokémon Gold/Silver games? The Rotom in your Ultra Sun/Moon Pokédex is worse: It just. Won’t. Stop. Talking!!!  It cycles through the same basic advice constantly, and starts talking every you time you close the menu or finish the battle. (There’s also a Pokémon Refresh-like system that encourages you to interact even more with Rotom to get special Roto powers, but it’s feels really intrusive and I never actually got around to ever using the powers.) By the time you’re through a few islands, you’re wishing the game had stuck with the non-sentient Pokédexes of the past.

Now, despite everything I’ve said about the game thus far, at its core it’s still a Pokémon game. You’re still catching, training, and battling monsters just you always do, and it’s just as addictive and fun as it always is. I would still recommend playing Pokémon Ultra Sun/Moon, but with a few caveats:

  • If you’ve already played Pokémon Sun/Moon, getting the Ultra versions isn’t really necessary given the similarities between the games.
  • If you’re planning on doing a Nuzlocke run, I would recommend playing the original Sun/Moon games, since its focus on G7 monsters helps keep you from getting stuck with a team dominated by past generations.

In the end, you can’t go wrong with trying out either the ultra or non-ultra versions of Sun and Moon, but one run through Alola is probably enough.


Pokémon Face-Off: Necrozma vs. Mew

While Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are introducing a few new Pokémon to the franchise, the real star of the upcoming releases is Necrozma, a bizarre light-stealing creature likely created by Lex Luthor (with all the light gone, he can finally defeat Superman!). Necrozma could be found randomly at Ten Carat Hill in Sun and Moon (with no explanation besides Looker’s “That’s not an Ultra Beast”), but the Ultra remakes flesh out the Pokémon’s backstory and make it the focal point of the story, dragging the player on an interdimensional journey to save Sogaleo/Lunala and thwart Necrozma’s evil plans.

As a pure Psychic-type Pokémon with a 600 stat count, a natural comparison to Necrozma is Mew, the original extra Pokémon from Pokémon Red/Blue/Yellow. (While Necrozma’s antagonistic backstory is more reminiscent of Mewtwo, the latter has a signifcant stat advantage.) How might the G7 legendary hold up against its super-flexible G1 counterpart? You know the drill by now: it’s face-off time!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Stats

Statistic Necrozma Mew
HP 97 100
Attack 107 100
Defense 101 100
Spec. Attack 127 100
Spec. Defense 89 100
Speed 79 100
Total 600 600

While the type comparison is a dead heat (again, both are pure Psychic types), the stat comparison is an interesting one. Mew is best known for its moveset flexibility, but its across-the-board 100s (each a respectable score in its own right) make it a viable choice for nearly any situation. Although Necrozma can dish out a bit more pain than Mew (especially with special attacks), it comes at the cost of a noticeable Spec. Defense deficit and a major Speed disadvantage. Power is only useful if you’re fast or bulky enough to use it, so Mew walks away with the victory here.

Advantage: Mew

The Abilities

Necrozma Mew
Prism Armor Sychronize

Sychronize is a decent ability by itself, but it can be worked around it certain circumstances (for example, Fire-type Pokémon can’t be burned by it) if the opponent knows that it’s there. Prism Armor, however, reduces the power of super-effective moves against Necrozma by 25%, so opponents either have to use neutral moves or swallow the damage reduction regardless of circumstance. Throw in the fact that Necrozma’s Spec. Defense is a little shaky and makes Prism Armor all the more critical, and the armor is a clear win here.

Advantage: Necrozma

The Moves

Chesnaught Decidueye
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Name Type Power Phys./
Prismatic Laser Psychic 160 S Psychic Psychic 90 S
Psycho Cut Psychic 70 P
Confusion Psychic 50 S
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Wring Out Normal Opp. HP S Aura Sphere Fighting 80 S
Power Gem Rock 80 S Mega Punch Normal 80 P
Night Slash Dark 70 P Ancient Power Rock 60 S
Other Notable Moves
Moonlight Restores 1/2 HP Amnesia Sharply raises Spec. Defense
Autotomize Sharply raises Speed Nasty Plot Sharply raises Spec. Attack
Charge Beam Electric 50 S Transform Become a copy of the opponent

It’s one thing to be flexible, but it’s another thing to be a “jack of all trades, master of none.” I’m actually surprised as how sparse Mew’s moveset actually is: It covers the absolute essentials (the best Psychic move, a few other things for type coverage), includes a ton of stat boosters (Nasty Plot, Amnesia, Barrier), and throws Transform on top of it all to let you copy a strong opponent. While this set makes Mew potentially viable in any situation, it also keeps it from filling any traditional roles on a Pokémon team, and thus the Pokémon is always your second choice in a scenario, but never your first one.

Necrozma’s moveset is a bit more conventional, but it’s also in the running for a Finebut award:

  • Prismatic Laser’s phenomenal cosmic power is fine, but you lose your next turn after using it.
  • Psycho Cut’s 70 power is fine, but it’s a physical move that relies on Necrozma’s lower Attack stat. (Then again, 101 Attack is no joke.)
  • Wring Out’s type coverage is fine, but its damage is variable based on the opponent’s HP.

Surprisingly, it’s the “other” moves that are most interesting here: Mew’s stat boosters give its sweeping potential, while Necrozma’s Autotomize and Moonlight/Morning Sun help cover its weaknesses. In the end, however, I’m going with Necrozma because its moveset clearly makes it the top play in certain scenarios, whereas Mew just never seems to have a place to truly shine.

Advantage: Necrozma

The TMs

Necrozma Mew
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Name Type Power Phys./
Psychic Psychic 90 S Thunder Electric 110 S
Dark Pulse Dark 80 S Fire Blast Fire 110 S
Flash Cannon Steel 80 S Surf Water 90 S
Earthquake Ground 100 P Blizzard Ice 110 S


Mew can use every TM ever made, so it pretty much wins this category by default. However, it’s worth noting just how poorly Necrozma’s TM pool meshes with its stats: It gets Psychic and can pair Earthquake with Gravity for a nice combination, but its TM movepool is dominated by psychical moves, which don’t take advantage of its Spec. Attack stat. This category is a blowout win for Mew.

Advantage: Mew

 The Results

The results of this face-off hinge on a single question: Does Mew have a role besides “do whatever the rest of the team can’t do?” EV training can make it fast, bulky, or powerful, and TMs can give it whatever type coverage you want, but when it comes down to a must-win situation, Mew isn’t really the Pokémon you want to see coming out of the bullpen. In comparison, Autotomize and a few decent Psychic moves can turn Necrozma into a frightening special sweeper with just enough bulk to leave its mark on the match. I’ve got to go with the new Pokémon on the block this time.

Winner: Necrozma


To be fair, a jack-of-all-trades Pokémon like Mew still has value as a team filler, as it can cover holes and roles that your other five monsters can’t. There’s usually a better choice to cover whatever holes and roles you’re worried about, however, and on a well-balanced team you’re likely better off making that choice over Mew.

Pokémon Face-Off: Lycanroc vs. Stoutland

To celebrate the arrival of the newest Pokémon form, I decided to take a closer look at the Alolan rock dog Lycanroc to see how well it stacked up to its predecessors. The initial results weren’t promising, as many of the Rock types were either much weaker or much stronger from a stat count perspective. Dog Pokémon from the past weren’t much better, but there was one whose stats were close enough to make for an intriguing fight: Stoutland, the G5 equivalent of the St. Bernard. How will our illustrious rock hound fare against its thick-furred opponent? It’s time for a face-off!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net. Also, since we don’t know the specific stats of Dusk Form Lycanroc, the comparison will have to focus on its Midday and Midnight forms.)

The Types

Lycanroc (Rock) Stoutland (Normal)
Strong Against… 4 Types 0 Types
Ineffective Against… 3 Types 2 Types
Can’t Hit Type? No Yes (Ghost)
Resists… 4 Types 1 Types
Weak To… 5 Types 1 Type
4x Weakness? No No
Immunities? No Yes (Ghost)

The theme of this face-off is set early: Stoutland serves as the solid, unspectacular choice that is viable in most any situation but doesn’t offer any major advantages, while Lycanroc is a riskier pick that is either much better or much worse than Stoutland depending on the matchup.

This category turns on Lycanroc’s specific strengths and weaknesses—specifically, the fact that Water- and Grass-types absolutely destroy Rock-type Pokémon. Water and Grass Pokémon are everywhere in the mainline Pokémon games, and nearly every trainer in the world has one of these types in their back pocket (this was especially true when Surf was an HM). The prevalence of these two types generally relegate Rock-type Pokémon to a niche role. Throw in the fact that Fighting-type Pokémon, who represent the only weakness of Normal types, are also strong against Rock types, and Stoutland walks away with the win here.

Advantage: Stoutland

The Stats

Statistic Midday Lycanroc Midnight Lycanroc Stoutland
HP 75 85 85
Attack 115 115 110
Defense 65 75 90
Spec. Attack 55 55 45
Spec. Defense 65 75 90
Speed 112 82 80
Total 487 487 500

Wait, this isn’t fair—Stoutland’s outnumbered two to one! However, we can pare this down pretty quickly: Midnight Lycanroc is the clear loser in this truel, as its stat distribution is almost identical to Stoutland aside from being a fair bit squishier (-15 in both Defense and Spec. Defense).

While Midday Lycanroc is even squishier than its Midnight form, it also boasts an incredible +42 Speed advantage over Stoutland, which lets it fill a “glass cannon” role and gives it a fighting chance to take advantage of its respectable Attack stat.

So exactly who wins out here? A defensive stat of 90 is solid but not spectacular, so I’m going with my old “speed kills” maxim and giving this category to (Midday) Lycanroc. I’d also point out that even Midnight Lycanroc can fill Stoutland’s more-defensive role, even if it can’t do it very well.

Advantage: Lycanroc

The Abilities

Lycanroc Decidueye
Keen Eye Intimidate
Sand Rush (Midday) Sand Rush
Steadfast (Midday) Scrappy
Vital Spirit (Midnight)
No Guard (Midnight)

Once again, both Stoutland and Midday Lycanroc feature abilities that mesh well with their stat pools:

  • Stoutland improves its defensive posture with Intimidate, covers its Speed with Sand Rush, and can use Scrappy to hit Ghost-type Pokémon.
  • Midday Lycanroc boots its Speed even further with Sand Rush and Steadfast.
  • Midnight Lycanroc can…stay awake? No Guard is a move-dependent ability, but you really don’t want to give people a free shot at you when you have mediocre defense stats.

Stoutland gets the edge here because its abilities shore up its weaknesses, while Midday Lycanroc may not need to pile onto its already-impressive Speed advantage.

Advantage: Stoutland

The Moves

Lycanroc Stoutland
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Name Type Power Phys./
Stone Edge Rock 100 P Giga Impact Normal 150 P
Rock Slide Rock 75 P Last Resort Normal 140 P
Rock Tomb Rock 60 P Take Down Normal 90 P
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Rock Climb Normal 90 P Play Rough Fairy 90 P
Crunch Dark 80 P Crunch Dark 80 P
Bite Dark 60 P Ice Fang Ice 65 P
Other Notable Moves
Scary Face Blocks attacks, attacker takes damage Fire Fang Fire 65 P
Roar Raises Attack and Defense Work Up Raises Attack and Spec. Attack
Rock Throw Rock 50 P Thunder Fang Electric 65 P

Wait, which one of these two was supposed to be the solid, steady Pokémon? Lycanroc has basically every Rock attack you could ever want (although none of them are 100% accurate), along with some decent non-STAB options in Rock Climb and Crunch. Stoutland certainly brings the pain with its moveset, but it comes at a cost: Giga Impact forfeits the user’s next turn, Last Resort can only be used when every other move is depleted, and Take Down causes recoil damage.

Stoutland does have a huge type coverage advantage, mostly because of its trio of elemental fang attacks. While these attacks further its goal of being a Pokémon that can be leaned on it almost any situation, its STAB issues pigeonhole it into a “jack of all trades, master of none” role. If you want to bring the full power of your type to bear, Lycanroc has got you covered.

Advantage: Lycanroc

The TMs

Lycanroc Stoutland
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Name Type Power Phys./
Brick Break Fighting 75 P Wild Charge Electric 90 P
Swords Dance Sharply raises Attack Return Normal Happiness P
Return Normal Happiness P Surf Water 90 S
Double Team Raises evasiveness Shadow Ball Ghost 80 S

Surprisingly, neither Pokémon gets a huge boost from their TM pool. Stoutland gets a sorely-needed no-side-effect Normal move in Return, and Lycanroc gains some improved type coverage with Return and Brick Break, but that’s about it. Surf, Thunderbolt, and Shadow Ball may look impressive for Stoutland, but they’re reliant on its laughable Spec. Attack, and Wild Charge is yet another recoil damage move. Stoutland gets the edge here on Return alone, but neither Pokémon gets a lot of help.

Advantage: Stoutland

 The Results

“Tweeners” might be a prized commodity in the NBA, but they’re not nearly as useful in Pokémon, and unfortunately for Stoutland, that’s exactly what it is. It’s not bulky enough to be defensive, it’s not fast enough or have enough reliable damage to be a sweeper, and it’s outclassed as a physical attacker by its face-off opponent. It’s a decent matchup for Midnight Lycanroc stat-wise, but it can’t keep up with the formidable Attack/Speed combo that Midday Lycanroc offers, and both forms are hard rockers that could carve out niche roles on a Pokémon team.

Winner: Lycanroc (especially Midday Lycanroc)

Of course, the caveats I mentioned at the beginning of this post still apply, and there are much better Rock- and Normal-type choices than these two if you’re looking for someone to fill out your roster. (As a cat person, I’d take a Delcatty over both of these two anyway.) Still, given the abysmal win rate of G7 Pokémon in these face-offs, it’s nice to see an Alolan Pokémon come home victorious for a change.

Pokémon Face-Off: Xatu vs. Oricorio

It’s been a while since our last face-off, but with Pokémon hype back on the rise with the announcement of Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon (as well as the eventual Switch title), I think it’s time to revisit the series and continue comparing the 7th generation Pokémon to the pocket monsters of yore.

Since Pokémon Gold and Silver have been announced as upcoming Virtual Console titles, I decided to investigate one of my favorite Pokémon from this generation, the future-seeing psychic bird Xatu. It’s never been much of a player on the Pokémon competitive circuit (Smogon has it in the NU tier), but it’s got a really cool design and has some built-in defenses against the pesky bugs that are forever tossed against Psychic types.

As it turns out, Alola has its own Xatu: Oricorio, the type-shifting dancing bird that can take on the Psychic type by sipping the Pink Nectar of Akala Island. Can it temporary psychic bird hold its own against a permanent one? The answer lies in…a face-off!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Types

Since we’ll be focusing on the Psychic/Flying version of Oricorio for this battle, the two combatants have the same type and thus have the same type strengths and weaknesses. (For what it’s worth, Oricorio’s overall type flexibility might give it an advantage if you know you’re opponent’s teams ahead of time, but switching its type is not a terribly convenient process.)

Advantage: Draw

The Stats

Statistic Xatu Oricorio
HP 65 75
Attack 75 70
Defense 70 70
Spec. Attack 95 98
Spec. Defense 70 70
Speed 95 93
Total 470 476

Wow, these two are basically the same bird, huh? Oricorio has a slight advantage in its overall stat count, but it’s the Pokémon’s stat distribution that really gives it the edge:

  • With matching mediocre 70/70 defense spreads, both birds need all the help they can get to stay alive, so Oricorio’s +10 HP advantage is much appreciated.
  • Xatu’s +5 attack advantage is essentially useless, since both birds will be leaning on their higher Spec. Attack for damage.
  • The Spec. Attack and Speed differences are basically a wash: Xatu is barely faster, while Oricorio deals a smidge more damage.

While I usually say that Speed is the most important thing for “squishier” Pokémon, the difference here is so small that the HP gap takes precedence.

Advantage: Oricorio (slightly)

The Abilities

Xatu Oricorio
Synchronize Dancer
Early Bird
Magic Bounce

Dancer is an interesting ability, but it’s hamstrung by the limited number of moves that affect it, as well as by Oricorio’s inability to use these moves effectively. (For example, Oricorio’s middling Attack isn’t going to scare a Dragonite out of using Dragon Dance and setting up a sweep.) Xatu, on the other hand, has several abilities that discourage attackers from using status-affecting moves or setting up entry hazards, as Synchronize will pass any burn/poison/paralysis Xatu receives onto its opponent, and Magic Bounce will reflect a ton of moves (moves that lower stats, moves that induce a status, entry hazards, even junk like Taunt) back onto their use. It’s best to go after Xatu’s meager HP, because its abilities mean that you go after anything else at your own peril.

Advantage: Xatu

The Moves

Xatu Oricorio
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Name Type Power Phys./
Future Sight Psychic 120 S Hurricane Flying 110 S
Psychic Psychic 90 S Revelation Dance Psychic* 90 S
Air Slash Flying 75 S Air Slash Flying 75 S
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Ominous Wind Ghost 60 S Pound Normal 40 P
Night Shade Ghost Level S Double Slap Normal 15 P
Other Notable Moves
Wish Heals 1/2 HP after next turn Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP
Me First Uses opponent’s move if used before opponent Mirror Move Copies opponent’s last move
Confuse Ray Confuses opponent Teeter Dance Confuses nearby Pokémon

*Revelation Dance takes its type from the primary type of its user. For Psychic/Flying Oricorio, it becomes a Psychic move.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to shallow end of the move pool.

While both Pokémon take advantage of their respectable Spec. Attack stats, they don’t do it very effectively. Hurricane is annoyingly inaccurate, Future Sight takes two turns to kick in, and Air Slash is not terribly strong. Neither Pokémon has any much coverage to speak of, but Xatu’s mediocre Ghost-type moves are better than Oricorio’s laughable Normal-type ones. On the flip side, Oricorio’s “other” moves are a bit stronger, as Roost heals it immediately and Mirror Move is not dependent on outrunning its opponent.

To be honest, I can’t see much of an advantage either way in this category. In fact, the sheer similarity between the movesets of these Pokémon is a little eerie. Are we absolutely sure Oricorio isn’t just Xatu’s Alolan form?

Advantage: Draw

The TMs

Xatu Oricorio
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Name Type Power Phys./
Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP Calm Mind Raises Spec. Attack and Spec. Defense
Shadow Ball Ghost 80 S U-Turn Bug 70 P
U-Turn Bug 70 P Steel Wing Steel 70 P
Dazzling Gleam Fairy 80 S Round Normal 60 S

Okay, this category has a clear winner. While both Pokémon share a lot of important TM moves (Calm Mind, Roost, Return, Fly) Xatu gains a lot of useful type coverage (on top of the moves above, it gets Grass Knot and Steel Wing) while Oricorio is left with mostly non-STAB, non-special moves. The G2 bird wins this round in a blowout.

Advantage: Xatu

 The Results

If there’s one conclusion we keep circling back to, it’s that these two are exactly the same bird: Same type, same stat distribution, same types of moves, etc. There can only be one winner in a face-off, however, and when push comes to shove, Oricorio’s ever-so-slight stat advantage can’t compete with Xatu’s superior abilities and TM pool, and the G2 bird flies away with the victory.

Winner: Xatu

Of course, Xatu’s well-deserved victory only comes over 1/4 of Oricorio: While the Alolan bird’s stats and moveset cannot change, its type certainly can, and the ability to transform into Fire, Electric, and Ghost versions of itself can be very useful when you’re taking on the variety of Pokémon you see in the main game. Additionally, every trainer and their mother runs Ice Beam on the competitive circuit to deal with dragons, and being able to, say, switch to a Fire-type and counter that weakness might be more important than being able to learn Dazzling Gleam. In short, your success running either bird will likely come down to individual matchups rather than raw strength and move availability.

Some Quick Tips For Online Pokémon Battles (or “Why Do I Keep Losing?!”)

Nintendo and The Pokémon Company like to maintain a veneer of fairness around their monsters, and push the idea that players can win with whatever Pokémon they want to use. Sure, they might encourage players to have a wide variety of types on their team, and they might hint that raising Pokémon from a low level is better than just catching them a higher one, but the main campaign is structured so that any old monster can be raised to a high enough level that they’re practically guaranteed to be viable.

The kid gloves come off when you venture into online play, however, and many a player has found that their super-awesome team, one that can rip through the Elite Four without breaking in sweat, consistently getting their collective head handed to them by the Internet. It’s a frustrating experience, and often leaves the player at a loss as to what they can do to improve.

Truly competitive Pokémon play has a high barrier to entry, one that involves tens to hundreds of hours finding, breeding, and training an optimal team of monsters that can handle any possible threat. Most of us just don’t have the time or desire to raise a perfect-IV, optimal-EV monster (much less a whole team of them)—we just want a solid team that gives us a decent chance to win on the online circuit. Luckily, there are some quick & easy steps we can take to help improve our odds.

For this discussion, I’ll use my own poorly-constructed team from Pokémon Moon as a starting point, and see how it can be improved to be a bit more successful online.

Pokémon Type
Incineroar Fire/Dark
Toucannon Normal/Flying
Vikavolt Electric/Bug
Alolan Persian Dark
Lilligant Grass
Starmie Water/Psychic

Step 1: Add a “higher-tier” Pokémon or two to your roster.

The competitive Pokémon-battling community has been around a long time, and its metagame is fairly stable and mature despite the inevitable churn that comes with every successive Pokémon generation. As such, all of the current Pokémon have been organized into several different battle tiers based on their strength, moveset, and general viability. Smogon ranks these tiers as follows:

  • Uber (strongest)
  • OverUsed (OU)
  • UnderUsed (UU)
  • RarelyUsed (RU)
  • NeverUsed (NU)
  • PU (weakest)

There’s no enforcement of these tiers in Pokémon’s online modes, so if you find your Pokémon are constantly getting crushed, it may be because they’re facing off against Pokémon from a higher tier, and are thus at a disadvantage because they’re not as strong. Switching out lower-tiered Pokémon in favor of higher-tiered ones isn’t a guarantee of success, but it helps ensure you and your opponent on at least on equal footing.

If we check the tiers of our example team from above, we see that we’ve got a lot of work to do:

Pokémon Tier
Incineroar NU
Toucannon NU
Vikavolt NU
Alolan Persian NU
Lilligant NU
Starmie UU

If you’re banking on five NU-ranked Pokémon to bring you online battle glory, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Thankfully, this particular team has some options available:

Alternate Tier
Primarina UU
Decidueye UU
Alolan Ninetales UU
Mudsdale NU

Thus, we can improve our team through a few individual switches without  any additional effort. The next question: Who goes and who stays?

Step 2: Look for glaring holes in your team’s type coverage.

Hidden among Ray Rizzo’s competitive team-building tips is this gem of a line: “I recommend having no more than two Pokémon on the same team that share a common weakness.”

While having multiple Pokémon that are weak to the same type isn’t a death knell, it leaves an easy hole for an opponent to exploit and limits the number of viable three-Pokémon teams you can build from your top six. If you don’t have a solid counter to any Pokémon that can exploit this problem, you’re just asking for trouble.

Luckily, PsyPoke has a handy type analysis tool that will quickly show you where your type weaknesses reside. If we feed our example team into the tool, we receive the following output:

Type 4x Resist 2x Resist Immune 2x Weak 4x Weak
Bug 0 1 0 3 0
Dark 0 2 0 1 0
Electric 0 2 0 2 0
Fairy 0 0 0 1 0
Fighting 0 2 0 2 0
Fire 0 2 0 2 0
Flying 0 0 0 1 0
Ghost 0 2 1 1 0
Grass 0 4 0 1 0
Ground 0 1 1 1 0
Ice 0 2 0 2 0
Poison 0 0 0 1 0
Psychic 0 1 2 0 0
Rock 0 0 0 3 0
Steel 0 3 0 0 0
Water 0 2 0 1 0

Upon examining the chart, there’s actually a lot to like about this team: They have no 4x weaknesses, they mostly stick to Rizzo’s “two or less” rule, and they’re so devastating against Grass-type Pokémon that I’m hereby christening them “The Lawn Mowers.” (While they also crush Steel types, “The Steeldrivers” was already taken.) Unfortunately, there are also lot of trouble spots here, the biggest being Rock, Bug, and Fairy types (Flying and Poison types are also minor concerns).

So what sort of switches does this analysis suggest?

  • Bringing in Decidueye for Lilligant seems like a good move, as it negates some of the Bug and Poison disadvantages while not exacerbating any major problem areas (Ghost and Dark types are already well defended against).
  • Despite its NU status, swapping Mudsdale in for our Alolan Persian seems to be a net positive, as it strengthens our position against Poison, Fairy, Bug, and even Rock types! The major cost here is an increase in our Ice vulnerability, but we still have Fire and Ice types to keep them in check. (And honestly, Incineroar can do most anything better than Alolan Persian can, so there’s no point in doubling down on Dark types.)

Just like that, we’ve come up with two potential switches that will our improve our team! But there more we can do, because the above chart has one major omission that needs to be discussed…

Step 3: Identify a Dragon-type counter, and if you can’t, find one to add to your team immediately.

Dragons are annoyingly common in online Free Battles, even when legendaries are removed from the equation. It feels like everyone and their mother has a Salamence or Dragonite in their pocket, just waiting to unleash it on their unsuspecting foes.

Here is where things get tricky: Both of our remaining alternates (Alolan Ninetales and Primarina) are Fairy-types, making them immune to Dragon-type attacks while dealing super-effective STAB damage in return. (Furthermore, the Ice/Fairy-type Alolan Ninetales is about as scary to Dragons as a non-Dragon type can be.) However, Fairy-types also open the team up to Poison-type Pokémon, especially if one of them replaces our Starmie.

After playing around with the type tool, it seems that our best bet is to leave the Starmie alone, and instead target our Toucannon for replacement. Primarina holds a slight advantage over Alolan Ninetales for this spot, as it cuts down on our Rock weakness, keeps our potential Fire weakness in check, and the one major weakness it opens up (Grass) is covered by Incineroar and Vikavolt (and kinda-sorta blocked by Decidueye). In one swoop, we’ve added a Dragon-type counter and reduced our attack surface, further improving our chances for victory.

Step 4: Take your game online, and repeat the above steps as needed.

The previous three steps improved out team in theory, but there’s only one way to see how things play out in practice: Jump to the Battle Spot and take on the world! You should get a sense of whether or not your has improved pretty quickly, and be sure to ask yourselves some questions as you go along:

  • Which team members are dominating, and which are getting owned?
  • Are there certain Pokémon that keep popping up on your opponent’s side and giving you heartburn? (For example, Aegislashes are the one non-Dragon-type that consistently gives me trouble, so countering them should be a priority.)
  • Do you find yourself saying “Gosh, a ___ would be really handy right now” a lot? If so, see if you can get your hands on a ___, whatever that may be.

Once you get a sense of how your team is performing, you can revisit the step above to see if there are further improvements.

Unfortunately, sometimes the “quick and easy” steps to building a stronger Pokémon team still aren’t enough to get the job done. Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways to improve your Pokémon team and achieve success—your only limits are your curiosity and desire. You may find yourself raising several special Pokémon to fill all the holes on your team, or even digging into the details of breeding, EV training, item usage, and so on. Ultimately, the goal is to have fun battling with Pokémon, and the only things you have to do are the things you want to do.

How Nintendo Can Improve the Pokémon GTS

Back when the Pokémon Global Trading System (GTS) was introduced, it was hailed as a watershed moment in the game’s history. No longer were a player’s trading options restricted to their local counterparts and gated by whoever had a Link Cable handy—now, an ambitious Trainer could conveniently collect pocket monsters from all over the world. In theory, it was a brilliant move (and probably a necessary one).

In practice…well, it was still a brilliant move, but it came with a cost:

“Although being a well-meaning trade function, the GTS has come under criticism. Many traders ask for a legendary Pokémon, such as Mewtwo, in exchange for a common Pokémon, and some players request Pokémon at levels it is impossible to legally obtain that Pokémon at, such as a “Level 9 and under” Charizard.” —Bulbapedia, “Global Trade System”

Instead of being the liberating experience it should be, interacting with the GTS is more frustrating than anything else, as players find themselves  using a clunky interface to find Pokémon they can’t obtain because of unreasonable or impossible demands. It’s enough to drive people to take a chance on a random Wonder Trade rather than suffer through using the GTS.

So what can Nintendo and The Pokémon Company do to improve players’ experience with the GTS? After all, they can’t force players to stop asking for Enteis and Palkias in return for their precious Caterpies and Magikarps. They can fix some of the more-broken pieces of their interface, however, starting with the following suggestions:

(Note: While I made this list myself, I make no claim that these ideas are original. In fact, the idea in my first bullet point below is at least two years old.)

  • Allow players to query the system with the Pokémon they have, not just the Pokémon they’re looking for.

Pokémon Moon gifted me my first ever female stater Pokémon (a Litten), so I figured this would give me an advantage on the GTS—after all, everyone wants a starter Pokémon, right? Unfortunately, after breeding an army of Littens, it turned out that no one seemed to want a starter Pokémon in exchange for the specific monsters I was looking for. By my tenth fruitless query, I was shouting at my 3DS “Good grief, what can I get for a freaking Litten around here?!”

Having an option to search trade requests by the Pokémon you’re planning to offer gives players an accurate sense of the market they’re participating in, and may lead to unexpected-but-totally-welcome surprises that the player hadn’t considered (“Oh hey, I can get a Scyther for this thing? I’ll take it!”). It increases the odds of finding a successful trading partner, and thus increases the chances of a satisfying GTS experience.

  • Allow players to search for any Pokémon right from the start, instead of forcing them to type in the names of monsters that aren’t in their Pokédex.

The GTS’s “type to search” system has never made any sense to me. Anybody can look up a list of Pokémon on the Internet, so it’s not like you’re blocking people from obtaining certain Pokémon. All it does is slow me down, test my spelling abilities, and annoy me.

Instead, every Pokémon should be incorporated into the alphabetical search system currently reserved for Pokédex entries. Sure, it may take a little while to scroll through all the Pokémon that start with the same letter, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer than having to tap out K-a-n-g-a-s-k-h-a-n on the 3DS touchscreen every time.

  • Have a “secret” trade option that restricts access to specified trade offers.

One theory I’ve heard floating around is that part of the prevalence of unreasonable GTS offers is that players use the technique to transfer Pokémon between games, or set up a trade with a specific person. Since anyone can trade for a Pokémon offered on the GTS, demanding a king’s ransom for your Pokémon ensures that no one else will step in and steal a Pokémon you only intended to pass between your copies of Pokémon Sun and Moon. (While the Pokémon Bank takes care of this case in theory, a lot of players are either unable or unwilling to pay a monthly fee for that service.)

Instead, players should have the option to protect their trades by marking them as “secret,” keeping them from being included in public queries. Instead, searching for secret trades would require knowing a) the name of the Pokémon you’re looking for, and b) perhaps a four-digit passcode set by the trade offerer.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s no less secure than the current method of demanding legendaries for common Pokémon, and it reduces the number of crazy trade demands that clog the screens of normal users.

Of course, none of the above options keep people from posting unreasonable trade demands or guarantee that you’ll find the Pokémon trade of your dreams. They’d be a small step in the right direction, however, and perhaps help change the GTS experience of many players from frustrating to fruitful.

My Reaction To The Pokémon Direct

(Note: The actual Direct footage starts just after the 30-minute mark of the above video.)

Yesterday, Nintendo announced a short Pokémon Direct presentation for this morning, sending Pokéfans like yours truly into a frenzy: What would they announce? Would they focus on mainline titles, spin-off games, or mobile apps? Perhaps most importantly, what consoles would these games be appearing on? With the Nintendo Switch’s portable mode, the long-held dream of a mainline Pokémon game appearing on a “home” console seemed imminent.

Then we saw the presentation, and…well, we didn’t get much information at all, much less what people were clamoring for.

The presentation included three big announcements:

  • Pokkén Tournament will be getting the Mario Kart 8 treatment, and will be released for the Switch this September as Pokkén Tournament DX. Like Mario Kart 8 DeluxePTDX will get five new playable characters (Darkrai, Scizor, Empoleon, Croagunk, and Decidueye), but otherwise it appears to be a straightforward port of the Wii U version. While this is great news for Pokkén Tournament fans, I care about this series even less than I care about ARMS, so I wasn’t all that excited personally.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon will be getting the Pokémon Black/White treatment, with Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon announced for this November on the 3DS. Most of the negative response to this Direct stems from this announcement—more specifically, from what this announcement is not:
    • It’s not Pokémon Stars (although you could make the argument that it’s basically what Stars would have been).
    • It’s not a mainline Pokémon game for the Switch.
    • It’s not the rumored remake of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl that people were speculating about.

While I understand people’s disappointment at not getting to see their favorite monsters in glorious 720/1080p, I’m okay with what’s we’re getting here, especially since it’s essentially the 3rd game version that we used to get back in the early Pokémon days. I had thought that Pokémon Sun and Moon had gotten sacrificed by Nintendo as a way to bridge the Wii U/Switch gap, so it’s nice to see that the company is still sticking by the game. (My biggest concern is how well Ultra Sun and Moon work on older 3DSes, as my XL could just barely handle the original games.)

  • Finally, the original Pokémon Gold and Silver are being re-released for the 3DS Virtual Console this September, much like Pokémon Red and Blue were last year. As someone who has played Gold, HeartGold, SoulSilver, and even a bit of Crystal, I’ve had my fill of Johto for a while, so I don’t care about this at all.

In the end, there wasn’t a whole lot here to excite me: Either I’ve already experienced these games, or I didn’t have any interest in them to begin with. Still, Pokkén Tournament will help Switch owners bridge the gap between Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey, and Ultra Sun and Moon will keep the 3DS alive and well into 2018, so I suppose the presentation was a net positive for Nintendo fans. (With Sonic Mania and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle also set for release in late-summer/early-fall, I’ll probably have too many games on my plate anyway, so a lackluster Pokémon announcement doesn’t really bother me.)

One final thought: Pokémon would have been a guaranteed Switch-seller, so Nintendo leaving it on the 3DS means one of two things: A surge in confidence that the Switch can stand on its own two feet, or a fear of making the current console shortage any worse than it already is…