DPT: Damage Per Turn. The amount of damage a fast move deals per 0.5 seconds. The equivalent of DPS in gyms and raids.
EPT: Energy Per Turn. The amount of energy a fast move builds per 0.5 seconds. The equivalent of EPS in gyms and raids.
TDO: Total Damage Output. The amount of damage a Pokémon can output before fainting.
SE: Super Effective. A move that is SE will deal 1.6x normal damage.
NVE: Not Very Effective. A move that is NVE deals 0.625x normal damage.
PvE: Gym and raid battles, as opposed to PvP, trainer battles.
Glass Cannon: A “Glass Cannon” Pokémon has low defense and HP, making it more likely to faint quickly. However, this is often paired with a very high attack stat.
Coming from PvE
AKA Everything you know is wrong, and Medicham is a golden god
One important thing to note when coming to PvP is that energy costs are different. The Trainer Battles section of a Pokémon’s profile is inaccurate. For whatever reason, Niantic decided to round energy costs up to the next 50.
While it would appear that Hydro Pump and Thunderbolt cost the same amount of energy, both being “1 Bar” moves, this isn’t accurate. Hydro Pump costs 75 energy, whereas Thunderbolt only costs 55. Charged moves will be discussed in detail further below. For more accurate move data, GamePress has a page for it linked below.
In PvE, you will have become used to the most important stat on a Pokémon being its Attack. While this will be discussed more in-depth in the “How to analyze a Pokémon” section, just know that defense and stamina tend to be more valuable in PvP than simply raw damage output. A high attack can even be detrimental in Great and Ultra Leagues.
This is even relevant in the context of IVs. While in PvE, it doesn't get better than a 100% IV Pokémon. Here, however, outside of Master League, you're more likely to want a 0atk/15def/15sta spread. This is because the Attack stat inflates CP, making it reach the league caps (1500 or 2500 CP) with worse overall stats. You can find the ideal IV spread for any Pokémon for any League here.
Medicham, for example, maxes out at 1431 CP, with an Attack lower than Aggron’s. This makes Medicham more than useless in gyms and raids but an absolute monster in Great League. The low stats allow Medicham to have impressive bulk and solid damage output. Other Pokémon that are awful in PvE but fantastic in PvP include Cresselia, Bastiodon, and Giratina-Altered.
In PvP, everything is broken down into 0.5 second long “turns”. You likely will not notice these while playing, but everything happens on one of these beats. The most important part of this mechanic is to know that “DPT” and “EPT” refer to how much damage and energy happen on average each turn.
If you and your opponent both would activate a charged move on the same turn, who gets to use theirs first is determined by the order in which you and your opponent pressed the “Use This Party” button. Specifics can be found in DownWithTTP’s article here.
At almost any point in the game, you can switch out your current Pokémon. This ability is on a 60-second cooldown. The timer does not stop counting down while your opponent switches, during the charged move minigame, or during the 12-second period a trainer has to choose their next Pokémon after their current one faints.
Each Pokémon can hold up to 100 energy. Filling up the charge circle does not mean you can't hold more energy, it just means it's harder to keep track of. There’s no way to know exactly how much energy you have, so you’ll have to get used to keeping track of it. Energy does remain with a Pokémon, so if you switch it out and then bring it back in later, it’ll have the same amount of energy it left with. Use this to catch your opponent off-guard!
Pictured is a 100 energy Whiscash, before and after firing off a Blizzard (75 energy), leaving you with 20 energy, exactly half of what it would take to use Mud Bomb (40 energy)
At the beginning of each match, each player starts with 2 shields. Each shield will block all but 1 damage from a charged move. This is one of your most important resources, and your shield usage can absolutely win or lose you a game! Be careful about using them on just anything!
Charged Move Minigame
When you activate a charged move, you’ll enter a minigame in which you have 3 seconds to tap the screen as fast as you can. Based on how quickly you tap, the move can deal anywhere from 1 damage (if you don’t tap at all) to full damage. You’ll know you’re at full charge when the camera starts moving erratically and then zooms out all the way. It’s not hard to reach this point with some practice, and as such, there’s no good reason to not deal full damage every time.
How to Analyze a Fast Move
What makes it good?
Fast moves have two main characteristics that define their utility: Damage Per Turn (DPT) and Energy Per Turn (EPT). DPT defines how much damage you deal with your fast moves, and EPT defines how quickly you can build up charged attacks. Additionally, fast moves have a duration, referring to how many turns they take to complete. Some fast moves take only 1 turn (like Fury Cutter), whereas Volt Switch takes 5 whole turns (2.5 seconds) to get out. A fast move’s duration does not significantly impact how useful it is, but it can be worth noting.
There’s no one thing that makes a fast move useful. Moves with high DPT and low EPT (like Razor Leaf) have their niche, as do moves with low DPT and high EPT (like Mud Shot).
The “baseline” for a fast move is 3 DPT and 3 EPT. You’ll find this statline on moves like Ember, Water Gun, and Feint Attack. While 3/3 moves are absolutely not bad, they’re not exciting. However, it’s worth watching out for anything that dips below that on both stats. Zen Headbutt, for example, has 2.66 DPT and 2 EPT. Zen Headbutt is not a good move and should be avoided. On the other hand, Razor Leaf has 5.5 DPT and 2 EPT. While it has the same restrictively low energy gain as Zen Headbutt, the damage is incredible and is, in fact, the highest available DPT on a fast move. On the opposite end of the spectrum is Mud Shot, with 1.5 DPT and 4.5 EPT. Despite its pitiful damage, Mud Shot’s energy gain makes it a top tier fast move, allowing it to power out charged moves. Moves like Dragon Breath and Confusion (both 4 DPT/3 EPT) deal fantastic damage through shields while also having solid energy gain. The best two fast moves in the game are arguably Counter (4 DPT/3.5 EPT) and Shadow Claw (3 DPT/4 EPT). Both are able to deal good damage without sacrificing any energy gain.
Other less impressive but still powerful moves include Ice Shard and Fire Spin, which have 3 DPT and 3.33 EPT.
There is a full list of fast moves, with all relevant information here.
While not all fast moves are equally powerful, most of them have a niche. Different fast moves work well in different contexts, and will be discussed in the “Moveset Analysis” section below.
How to Analyze a Charged Move
Charged moves have 3 main characteristics. Damage or Power (different words for the same thing) refer to how hard a move hits. Energy refers to how much energy it takes to use. Rather than being simply “1 bar” “2 bar” or “3 bar” like in PvE, charged moves can cost anywhere from 35 energy on moves like Dragon Claw to 100 on Struggle. The third characteristic is Damage Per Energy, or DPE. Typically, moves with a higher DPE are better, but it’s not the most important characteristic. As often seen with one-bar moves in PvE, it’s very easy to faint before you can fire off an expensive attack. Remember, it doesn’t matter how strong a move is if it gets shielded. Therefore, on the whole, the cheaper a move is, the stronger it is. High DPE moves like Hyper Beam (150 Damage, 80 Energy, 1.875 DPE) are powerful when they hit, but all too often they end up getting blocked by a shield, wasting an incredible amount of energy. On the other hand, Leaf Blade (70 Damage, 35 Energy, 2.0 DPE) gives you the best of both worlds, allowing you to pressure shields while also dealing good damage.
You can find a full list of charged moves with their PVP data here.
Stat Changing Moves
Some charged moves do more than just deal damage! These come in two main categories: Buffs (moves that increase your stats) and Debuffs (moves that decrease your opponent’s stats). There are a couple of things these moves all have in common. First, the stat changes happen even if the move is shielded. This is true for buffs (like Power-Up Punch and Ominous Wind) and debuffs (like Acid Spray and Leaf Tornado). Second, the stat changes remain even if a Pokémon is switched out. This can be very advantageous if you’re using a buffed-up Pokémon and you’re forced out. These stat changes work as follows:
Initially, you start out at the “Start” square. As you gain buffs and debuffs, you shift along this line. For example, if you use Power-Up Punch, and gain +1 Attack, you now effectively have 125% of your base attack stat. If you then get hit by two Leaf Tornado debuffs (which each apply a -1 Attack Debuff), you’re now at -1.
The maximum stat change you can be at is +4 or -4. These changes are incredibly meaningful and can swing games in your favor.
Keep in mind that not all status changing moves are good. At the time of writing, Acid Spray and Leaf Tornado are considered underwhelming gimmicky moves. Power-Up Punch, on the other hand, is overpowered and makes any Pokémon that gets it much stronger. For a more thorough breakdown on Power-Up Punch, read RyanSwag’s piece here.
Typically, low EPT fast moves should be paired with cheap charged moves. A fantastic example of this is Tropius, who has Razor Leaf (5.5 DPT, 2 EPT). Tropius typically runs Leaf Blade (35 energy) and Aerial Ace (45 energy). It’s realistic to assume you’ll be able to use these attacks despite Razor Leaf’s pitiful energy gain.
On the other end of the spectrum is Groudon. In Master League, Groudon runs Mud Shot (1.5 DPT, 4.5 EPT) paired with Earthquake (65 energy) and Solar Beam (80 energy). Mud Shot’s energy gain provides a much higher “budget” for your charged moves.
Just because a Pokémon has a fast move with high EPT doesn’t mean you should just be using expensive moves though. Giratina-Altered, arguably the best Pokémon in Ultra League, uses Shadow Claw (3 DPT, 4 EPT) to power out Dragon Claw (35 energy) and Ancient Power (45 energy). This gives it incredible shield pressure.
If you’re not sure what moveset to use, Gamepress is working on rolling out moveset guides for every Pokémon, so if whatever you’re trying to use doesn’t have a guide yet, it may very soon.
How to Analyze a Pokemon
Unlike in raids, Pokémon are a limited resource. You can’t just wipe, then re-enter with a new team. This makes bulky Pokémon much more valuable than glass cannons.
Because attack increases a Pokémon’s CP more than defense or stamina, a high attack stat can be more detrimental than helpful in Great and Ultra League. Pokémon like Cresselia and Bastiodon, who have unbelievably high defensive stats, are very powerful in PvP. On the other end of the spectrum, Pokémon like Sharpedo whose attack stats are incredibly high but have very low defense often faint before they’re able to accomplish anything. That said, Pokémon like Toxicroak and Lucario can still be powerful despite their suboptimal stat weighting. They just require you to be more careful with shields.
Not every Pokémon is strong everywhere. While there’s no hard and fast rule for when to use any given mon, there are guidelines and a couple of roles that can mark where you’ll want to use a Pokémon.
Pokémon with high DPT/low EPT fast moves are at their most effective when your opponent has shields up. Because shields reduce the impact of charged moves, using a move like Bite (4 DPT, 2 EPT) will allow you to deal more damage to your opponent than they can deal to you.
Similarly, Pokémon with high EPT fast moves and cheap charged moves make for power leads. While their charged moves may not deal quite as much damage, you can fire off a lot of them, forcing your opponent to either use up their shields or feel very pressured by the damage you’re putting out..
Closers, also called anchors, are the Pokémon that only come out at the very end of the battle. Pokémon like Tentacruel and Torkoal, who only have expensive charged moves, fit this role to a T. Because it takes so much energy to fire off even one charged move, they often lose if your opponent has even a single shield available. These are typically risky Pokémon to run, but if your opponent is out of shields then there aren’t many things that can survive a full-power Hydro Pump or Overheat.
Not everything has to fit into one of those specific roles, though. Pokémon like Altaria, who have Dragon Breath (4 DPT, 3 EPT) with Sky Attack (80 damage, 45 energy) and Dragon Pulse (90 damage, 60 energy) deal good damage through shields, and pressure shields, and hit hard with their charged attacks.
Glass Cannons vs Tanks
Some Pokémon, like Lucario, have very powerful damage output. However, this comes at the cost of limited bulk. This means they all but require shields to accomplish anything, as even a resisted charge move will deal significant damage. Because of this, it can be risky to include more than one of these on a team.
Other Pokémon, notably Bastiodon, have such high defense that you often don’t even need to shield super effective attacks. This makes them incredibly powerful additions to any team and makes them great partners to any glass cannons you may be running.
There’s no exact science as to whether or not it’s worth spending a shield. It’s something you’ll have to learn over time through practice. However, there are a few basic guidelines. If you expect that your opponent will be dealing enough damage to knock out your Pokémon, and you surviving could allow you to get off meaningful damage, then it’s likely worth shielding.
If your current Pokémon is a core part of your team’s strategy, and you need to keep them alive to win, then it’s worth investing shields.
If your Pokémon is unlikely to be able to accomplish anything before fainting, then it’s probably not worth shielding. For example, if your current Pokémon has barely enough health left to survive a fast attack, shielding is basically throwing away resources.
Shield Advantage is another important concept to consider. Put simply, if possible, you want to have more shields available to use than your opponent. Having 2 shields and 2 Pokémon left can be better than 1 shield and 3 Pokémon, and is far safer than 0 shields and 3 Pokmon.
Be careful with your switches! As mentioned before, switching is on a 60-second cooldown. Most Pokémon cannot survive that entire time. As such, if your opponent hasn’t yet used their switch, they can often counter-switch (that is, switching in response to your switch) into a Pokémon that beats whatever you just put in. Typically, it’s safest to not switch unless you’re in a heavily disadvantaged matchup. Venomoth can knock out Toxicroak in 4 hits in Great League, and it doesn’t really get much worse than that. You effectively get a free switch when you’re knocked out, so you have to decide if it’s worth it.
Put simply, shield baiting is using the cheaper of your two charged moves and tricking your opponent into shielding it.
Let’s say you’re using a Flygon with Mud Shot as a fast move, and Dragon Claw and Earthquake as charged moves. Mud Shot has 1.5 DPT and 4.5 EPT. Dragon Claw has 50 damage and costs 35 energy, and Earthquake has 120 damage for 65 energy. Your opponent still has shields. So what can you do?
Well, pretend! The first step is to charge to the point where you have enough energy to fire off either Earthquake or Dragon Claw. Then, if you use a charged move your opponent has to guess which of your moves you used. The shield bait, in this case, would be to use Dragon Claw. If your opponent decides to shield, then they take just as much damage from Claw as they would have from Earthquake. But instead of setting you back 65 energy, you’re only set back 35! Now you have 30 energy to start with to work towards that next move.
This is the core of shield baiting, and it’s one of the most important things to learn if you want to do well in PvP.
How Do I Get Better?
From all this, you might be intimidated. PvP may be easy on the surface, but there’s a ton of depth available if you go looking for it. Other than the obvious “practice a lot,” there are a couple of really valuable resources to check out.
First, this website! If you’re interested in Silph League tournaments, there are fantastic monthly meta breakdowns, explaining Pokémon that are worth checking out and what movesets might be useful. You can also use GoBattleSim to test out Pokémon and team matchups!
Second, PvPoke.com has rankings of the best Pokémon in each league and provides recommended movesets. It's battle simulator is also very useful for seeing how different ways of shielding can impact a battle’s outcome.
Third, PokeBattler’s PvP Rankings. While PokeBattler’s simulator is somewhat clunkier than GoBattleSim or PvPoke, its rankings are useful, and it also tells you what the ideal IV combination is for any given Pokémon.
Finally, reddit is a great resource! TheSilphArena’s subreddit has regular posts where people discuss various aspects of the game. Get out there and talk to people, and don’t be afraid to ask questions!