Introduction: How to Build a Competitive Pokemon Team: a Comprehensive Guide

Picture of How to Build a Competitive Pokemon Team: a Comprehensive Guide

This guide is intended for the most updated versions of the game (Sun and Moon). While some aspects of this guide (such as breeding mechanics) the guide can still be used for past generation games. Please note that details such as tier lists, stat distributions, movepools, item availability, etc. tend to change and update from generation to generation. Things such as item locations will have to be looked up separately from this guide if you are not using sun or moon.

Step 1: Materials

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Not every item you will use will be listed here. You will understand why later in the guide, but here are the ones you will need no matter what:


  • Nintendo DS
  • A copy of Pokémon Sun or Moon. Make sure the game has progressed passed the elite four.

In-game materials:

  • Destiny Knot: This item can be obtained in the Battle Royal Dome (48 BP) or by the ability “Pickup” (Any level) (1% chance).

The Destiny Knot is necessary for passing down stats while breeding two Pokémon. This item will be given to the Pokémon that does not have the nature you want to pass down.

  • Everstone: This item can be obtained in Hau'oli City (Trainers' School), Poké Pelago (Isle Aphun - Brilliant-Stone Hunting), held by wild Roggenrola (50% chance), or held by wild Boldore (50% chance).

The Everstone is necessary for passing down natures. The Everstone is given to the Pokemon that has the nature you want to pass down.

Step 2: Planning

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Before you begin to do anything in-game, you need to plan your team. In competitive battles, players usually abide by the rules of a “tier”. There are several different tier lists out there, but as a standard, this tier list is used:

Take some time to check out the different rules and limitations for each. You will notice that only certain Pokémon can be used for each tier. Keep this in mind when building your team. The standard tier used is "OU". Note that you may use any Pokémon listed under "OU" and any tier below it. If you plan on entering an official competition, you will need to look at the restrictions for that specific competition, the most recent being “VGC17”.

The Showdown Application:

Once you have a good idea of what Pokémon you will be placing on your team, head over to this website:

This application is commonly used to map out team builds before creating them in game. It lists each Pokémon’s abilities, movepools, stats and so on which you can use to construct the blueprints for each Pokémon on your team. You will use what you do on this application as a guide when you are breeding and training your Pokémon.

A rundown of how to utilize the showdown application:

  • When you first get to the page, click on “Teambuilder” on the leftmost side. You will be sent to a new page.
  • Under “All Teams”, click on “New Team”.
  • Under “Format” choose the format you will be creating a team for. If you’re lost on which one to choose, I suggest “OU” or “Doubles OU” depending on whether you want to compete in single or double battles (doubles is the standard).
  • Click “Add Pokémon”
  • Search for a Pokémon you want to use or browse the provided list. (The application will tell you if the Pokémon you’re trying to select is banned from the format you chose).
  • After choosing, you will be brought to a new page where you will input the Pokémon’s item, ability, moves, individual values, effort values, and nature. This is a lot to take in this early into the guide. Use this site to reference what a competitive set for your Pokémon might look like: (replace “arcanine” in the link with the name of your Pokémon).
  • Input your Pokémon’s item, ability, moves, stats, and nature by clicking on each box under that field (you can input the nature under the stats field).
  • For the stats and nature, the application will automatically suggest a spread based off the moves you chose. If you don’t want to come up with your own you can click on the suggested spread and it will automatically fill in everything.
  • When you are done, click the box with the plus sign at the top to add another Pokémon to the team and repeat the process.

Another useful tool you might be interested in using before officially starting to build your team in game is this:

This application will allow you to play out specific scenarios you might run into in battle. Want to know exactly how many thunderbolts your Scizor can take from a fully sp.atk invested Tapu-Koko? This site allows you to find that out without having to run into that exact situation in battle.

Step 3: Breeding

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Now that the planning phase is complete, you can finally begin the breeding process. These are the things that you will need to know:


IV stands for Individual Value. Each Pokémon inherits 6 hidden individual values at birth, one for each stat. This includes HP, attack, defense, special attack, special defense, and speed. An IV can range anywhere from 0 to 31. The higher the IV, the more proficient the Pokémon will be in that stat. Most of the time you want to shoot for 5 perfect IVs, covering every stat except for attack or special attack (whichever one's usefulness isn't maximized by your Pokémon’s moveset). The reason I listed a game file progressed past a certain point is because you need to talk to the Ace Trainer at the Battle Tree to unlock the ability to view your Pokémon’s IVs. (Quick note: you also need to hatch 20 eggs before talking to them).

Once you have talked to the character that gives you the ability to look at IVs, take some time to look through the Pokémon in your boxes.

Results translated into IV ranges:

No Good: 0

Decent: 1- 15

Pretty Good: 16 - 25

Very Good: 26 - 29

Fantastic: 30

Best: 31

If you have never bred for stats before and haven't done much wonder trading, chances are all the Pokémon in your boxes will have terrible stats. If this is the case, don't worry! Before anything, I would recommend looking around some Pokémon forums or social media groups and to see if someone would be willing to give you a 6IV Ditto. Dittos are extremely helpful since they can breed with any Pokémon (even some genderless ones such as Beldom!). If that is not something you are willing to do, you can try to get a decent Ditto yourself using the chaining method. Here is a link to the separate guide for this if you're interested:

The Wonders of Wonder Trade:

If you have given up on trying to get a Ditto, or just don't want to try, another option is Wonder Trade. Everyone who breeds for competitive Pokémon is going to end up with "breedjects": Pokémon that are almost perfect, but not quite. A lot of these breedject Pokémon are sent out over Wonder Trade in hopes that it lands in the hands of someone who might want to use it. Try Wonder Trading for a while to see what you get! A good indicator of a breedject is a first-stage level 1 Pokémon. So, before you let go of that level 1 Rattata, check its stats first! For your first round of breeding I suggest that at least 1 of the two Pokémon being bred have more than 2 perfect stats. So even if Ratatta (or whatever Pokémon you got with more than 2 perfect IVS) isn't what you're trying to breed for, you can still use it if it's male! The only time male Pokémon can breed for their own species is with a female of the same species or a Ditto. Outside of that, a male can breed with any female Pokémon within its egg group.

SOS Battling for Stats:

Pokemon in a "chain" of more than 40 called ally Pokemon in SOS Battles will have 4 perfect IVs, guaranteed. This is a great place to start for breeding purposes.

Here is a guide on how SOS chaining is done:

Egg Groups:

Egg groups are important to know about when you are breeding without Ditto. There are 15 different egg groups indicating which species can breed with which. Say you want a Goodra on your team. You already have a female Goomy and you just got a 3-4IV male Dratini from Wonder Trade. Are they compatible? The answer is yes! This is because they are both in the Dragon egg group! Can the same Goomy breed with a perfect Rattata? Nope, because Goomy is in the Dragon egg group and Ratatta is in the Field egg group. Reference this list to check to see if two Pokémon are compatible:

Egg Moves:

Egg Moves are one thing you need to consider before even trying to breed for IVs. Back in the planning phase, you chose 4 moves for each Pokémon. Check the page for each Pokémon on your team on and use ctrl+f to search for each move that you chose for each Pokémon. Egg Moves are moves that a species needs to inherit from birth. Some species can only obtain certain moves by having them passed down from a parent that knows that move. For instance, if you look at the Bulbapedia page for Vulpix, you can see that it can learn the move Extrasensory. However, if you look to the right it lists a few Pokémon. These are all Pokemon that fit into Vulpix's egg group and that can also learn Extrasensory by leveling up or by using a TM. To have Vulpix learn Extrasensory, you need to breed any female Vulpix with any male in the same egg group that has the move Extrasensory learned. This can be an irritating process since sometimes you'll need to level up a Pokémon just so it can learn a move to pass down. However, once you have a pokemon with an Egg Move already learned, you don't have to worry about breeding outside it's species for that move anymore. If one parent knows the move, it is passed down. A Vulpix that already knows Extrasensory will always breed another Vulpix with Extrasensory.

Please note that it's probably a good idea to focus on breeding Egg Moves onto your Pokémon before worrying about breeding for IVs. Also note that you may end up having to "chain breed". Chain breeding is a particularly tedious process where you must breed Egg Moves onto multiple species before working your way up to a Pokémon in your target Pokémon’s egg group.

Passing Down Abilities:

Most Pokémon have multiple abilities that they can have. When breeding, the female has an 80% chance of passing down their ability. This means that if you want to maximize your chances of passing down a certain ability, you want to favor using a female Pokémon with the ability you want for breeding. If a male or genderless Pokémon has its Hidden Ability and is bred with Ditto, it has a 60% chance to pass down its Hidden Ability. Hidden abilities can only be passed down by the mother when not breeding with Ditto.

Passing Down Natures:

Natures can simply be passed down by giving the Pokémon with the nature you want an Everstone. You can give the Everstone to either parent, the nature will always be passed down.

Passing Down IVs:

The best way to pass down IVs is to have one parent hold the Destiny Knot. This will pass down five IVs from either parent to the offspring, but the five stats will be chosen at random. You want to continuously breed the offspring with overlapping perfect stats until you finally obtain all 5 preferred perfect stats.

Step 4: Training

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After breeding your team, it's time to train your Pokémon.

Referencing your showdown sets, look at the values you inputted for the EVs. EV stands for Effort Value. All Pokémon start off with 0 EVs for each stat. You can distribute a total of 510 EVs between all stats and the max number of Evs that can be invested into one stat is 252. Every 4 Effort Values invested in one stat translates to 1 stat point increase. You can increase the EVs for each stat using a couple different methods.

Method 1: Battling

Each individual Pokémon has what's called an "EV yield". An EV yield determines what EVs are increased when that Pokémon is defeated. For example, when looking at the Bulbapedia page for Psyduck, it lists that the EV yield is for 1 special attack. That means whenever your Pokémon defeats a Psyduck, it gains 1 EV point in special attack. Unfortunately, there is no way to view the exact number of EVs your Pokémon has in each stat in Sun and Moon. This means that you will have to keep track of the number of EVs your Pokémon has in every stat you're not fully investing in. If you are investing the max 252 EVs in one stat, you will know when that stat is maxed out by viewing a Pokémon’s summary and pressing Y. A maxed-out stat will be sparking.

Reference EV yields are every Pokémon here:

SOS Battles: You can speed up the EV training process using SOS battles. Use this link to reference the best SOS locations for each stat:

Note: This page also does a great job explaining which items are best for boosting EV gain in and out of battle. It also mentions which items decrease EVs for each stat. Overall, it’s a great resource and you should read the entirety of it.

Method 2: Vitamins

Vitamins can be purchased for P10,000 at the Mount Hokulani Poke Mart. These will award 10 EV points to a specific stat. You can only use 10 of these on each stat, up to a 100 EV point value. If a Pokémon already has 100 or more EV points in a stat, Vitamins won't have an effect.

Available Vitamins:

HP Up: Increases HP

Protein: Increases Attack

Iron: Increases Defense

Calcium: Increases Special Attack

Zinc: Increases Special Defense

Carbos: Increases Speed

The only thing that may not be completed after this step is having all your Pokemon to the right evolutionary stage. After you have invested all 510 EVs into your Pokémon's stats all you have left to worry about is leveling up or doing whatever you need to evolve your Pokemon!

Step 5: Closing Notes

I understand that this guide may not touch on everything readers want to know about the team building process. If you have any questions or suggestions on how to improve this guide, please let me know and I will respond accordingly!


Swansong (author)2017-09-20

Lots of good info, I think my husbands' old cards are still in a box in our house somewhere. We should find them so our nephew can learn to play!

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