Estimated reading time: 10 minute(s)

Victor and I are veterans of the Pokémon series going back to the original Pokémon Red and Blue in 1998, as I discussed when I dated myself by publishing an article on the 20th anniversary of the U.S. release of Pokémon Gold and Silver. Although Victor and I went to school across the street from each other in the early 2000s, including when we were both playing Pokémon Gold and Silver, we did not actually meet each other until 2006, shortly before he outed himself as a school newspaper tyrant. For that reason, we never crossed Pokémon swords until 2007, and with the time and effort it takes to train good competitive teams, we did not battle with properly trained teams until 2016 or 2017 in Pokémon Sun and Moon.

Because the current generation Pokémon games – Sword and Shield for Nintendo Switch – make both training team and online battling easier than ever, Victor and I have had more battles of late from our respective homes. We decided to try a new battle idea for The New Leaf Journal – a three-match series where we draft each other’s teams. Below, I will explain our new Pokémon draft battle and how the project came to be.

Our actual Pokémon draft battle will likely occur in late January or early February, meaning that you can expect our preview content and a battle recap to be published about that same time.

Our Past Pokémon Sword and Shield Battles

Victor and I have had a large number of six-vs-six online Pokémon battles in Sword and Shield for Nintendo Switch. For these battles, we use teams of Pokémon that we have properly trained and optimized. Our battles were reasonably competitive, with me winning somewhere in the range of six-to-seven out of ten matches. One issue we had with our battles was repetitiveness.

Battle cards for special 2019 Christmas Pokémon battle between N.A. Ferrell and V. Gurbo.
Screenshot of our matchup cards from December 2019, when I confronted “NIXON” with a Christmas-themed Pokémon team built around the immortal Delibird. As you can see, only one of us properly captured the Christmas spirit. My character name is “Celia” after the character of the same name in Harvest Moon: A Wonderful Life. Victor is always “NIXON.”I captured this photo with my Nintendo Switch.

Over time, we became familiar with some of the Pokémon making appearances, which made our strategies somewhat predictable. For example, Victor was quite fond of setting entry hazards with his Ferrothorn and Toxipex, and I always dealt with entry hazards by blocking them with my Espeon or Xatu, which repel them, or clearing them with my Galerian Wheezing. Victor cycled through a small number of Pokémon whereas I had a larger universe of Pokémon but had some constants on every team (e.g., always one of Espeon or Xatu) in order to counter Victor’s most common strategies. Having been busy of late, we have not had many battles in recent months, and for my part, I haven’t picked up the game at all in a few weeks.

Are We Actually Good at Pokémon Battles?

To start, neither Victor nor I are professional gamer caliber Pokémon players. However, we both understand how to train competitive Pokémon teams and how to battle in singles matches (one Pokémon for each side at a time). Victor reported that he had far more success in random online battles than he did in our one-on-one matches, winning far more often than not. Each month, Pokémon has online ranked battles, where you are matched against random trainers around the world with similar ratings and your rating goes up or down depending on the results. I took it seriously back in March and achieved the highest rank of Master Ball after finishing the month with a record of 25-7. This is certainly not a seismic achievement (thousands of players achieve the top rank each month), but it shows, at the very least, that I know what I am doing.

N.A. Ferrell's Master Ball ranking from the ranked battles singles latter in Pokémon Shield in March 2020.
I took this screen capture of my March rating in the official singles ranked battles latter. As I noted above, I won one final match before calling it a month to conclude at 25-8.

Neither Victor nor I have much experience playing doubles (two Pokémon for each side at a time), the official competitive format. We also do not have many Pokémon trained for doubles matches, so almost all of our matches are singles. Consider us purists – double battles were not introduced until the third entries in the Pokémon series, Ruby and Sapphire in 2003.

Concept for Our Pokémon Draft Battles

Victor and I recently drafted Pokémon teams for the other to use in our Pokémon draft match. I got the idea from the title of a YouTube video, but I do not remember the title off the top of my head.

The rules for the Pokémon draft were as follows:

  • We drafted a team of nine Pokémon for the other trainer to use.
  • Victor picked first, I picked second and third, Victor picked fourth and fifth, and so on until each of us had chosen nine Pokémon for the other trainer to use.
  • We restricted ourselves to choosing only fully evolved Pokémon or Pokémon that were at one time fully evolved (e.g., If a Pokémon was at one time a final evolution, but subsequently received a new evolution in a later game, we could choose it in this draft).
  • Each Pokémon could only be chosen once (e.g., Victor’s first choice for me was a Dunsparce, so I could not subsequently choose a Dunsparce for him).
  • Where applicable, must define Pokémon variant (some Pokémon have what are called “regional variants” – e.g., a Pokémon called Ninetails was introduced in the original games and is a fire type, but in Pokémon Sun and Moon an Ice/Fairy variation of Ninetails was introduced).
  • The Pokémon must be obtainable in Sword and Shield (some Pokémon are currently unavailable in Sword and Shield – since our match will be in Sword and Shield, it goes without saying that any Pokémon we chose must actually be obtainable in the games).

We agreed that we would have three six-vs-six Pokémon battles, and that each Pokémon we received must be used in at least one of the six-vs-six Pokémon battles. Finally, all Pokémon levels for our battles will be set to 50 (out of 100). Having agreed on those rules, we prepared to draft.

Screenshot from capturing a Metapod in Pokémon Shield max raid battle.
Sadly, our rule about choosing evolved fully evolved Pokémon did not allow fora special Metapod exemption. I captured this photo off my Nintendo Switch.

Our Pokémon Draft Results

Victor and I set about choosing Pokémon for the other trainer to use, somewhat constrained by the fact that the other could respond to the previous choices. Remember when reading the results below that we were choosing the other player’s Pokémon team. This means, for example, that Victor’s first choice was for me to use, and so on and so forth.

  • Gurbo pick 1: Dunsparce
  • Ferrell pick 1: Gothitelle
  • Ferrell pick 2: Tsareena
  • Gurbo pick 2: Abomasnow
  • Gurbo pick 3: Hippowdon
  • Ferrell pick 3: Klinklang
  • Ferrell pick 4: Hitmonlee
  • Gurbo pick 4: Azumarill
  • Gurbo pick 5: Farfetch’d (Kantonian form)
  • Ferrell pick 5: Lickitung
  • Ferrell pick 6: Stonjourner
  • Gurbo pick 6: Tentacruel
  • Gurbo pick 7: Araquanid
  • Ferrell pick 7: Vanilluxe
  • Ferrell pick 8: Mr. Mime (Kantonian form)
  • Gurbo pick 8: Roselia
  • Gurbo pick 9: Greedent
  • Ferrell pick 9: Golbat

As a result, we have the following teams.

N.A. Ferrell’s Team: Dunsparce, Abomasnow, Hippowdon, Azumarill, Farfetch’d (Kantonian form), Tentacruel, Araquanid, Roselia, and Greedent.

V. Gurbo’s Team: Gothitelle, Tsareena, Klinklang, Hitmonlee, Lickitung, Stonjourner, Vanilluxe, Mr. Mime (Kantonian), and Golbat.

Pokémon Draft Analysis

I am loath to offer too many thoughts on our Pokémon draft, for I want to win our battle, and Victor may choose to read our site’s content. Without going into too many details, we both picked an interesting mix of Pokémon, and some of them are considered to be good. We also had some creative picks. Victor stuck me with a Kantonian Farfetch’d, long considered to be one of the worst fully evolved Pokémon. I gave Victor two Pokémon, Lickitung and Golbat, that were once fully evolved but subsequently received new final evolutions, whereas Victor gave me one – Roselia. All in all, there is an interesting mix of Pokémon types and abilities, and we will have many different options for building our teams.

Building Our Pokémon Draft Teams

Here, I will offer a short primer on what Victor and I will be doing to customize the Pokémon that we foisted on each other.

Before Continuing: How Do Pokémon Battles Work?

Victor and I will have three six-vs-six Pokémon battles. The goal of a battle is to knock out all six of the opponent’s Pokémon.

Immutable Pokémon Characteristics: Type and Base Stats

Each Pokémon has two things that are immutable: typing and base stats. A Pokémon’s basic typing cannot be changed for general purposes, although there are some relatively uncommon moves that can change it in battle. For example, the first Pokémon that Victor gave me, the mighty Dunsparce, is a Normal type. While I can train Dunsparce in many different ways, it will remain a normal type. The first Pokémon that I gave Victor, Gothitelle, is a psychic type. Victor can customize his Gothitelle in many ways, but it will remain a psychic type.

A Pokémon’s base stats also cannot change. Each Pokémon has a specific numerical statistical value for hit points, attack, defense, special attack, special defense, and speed. This base stat value does not change. However, as I will discuss in the next section, there are other variables which affect a Pokémon’s final stats.

Customizing Our Pokémon Stats

Although a Pokémon’s base stats cannot change, there are three changeable variables that affect a Pokémon’s actual stats.

First, each Pokémon has what are called “individual values,” (“IV”) a numerical value of 0-31 in each of the six stat categories. The higher the value, the higher the Pokémon’s final stat total is. Points from IVs are added to the Pokémon’s base stats. Through breeding, it is possible to guarantee that a Pokémon will have up to 5 maximum IVs out of 6. In most cases, 5 out of 6 is sufficient so long as they are in the right categories. There are also items to max a Pokémon’s IVs for counting purposes in stats where the Pokémon’s IV total is less than 31.

Second, each Pokémon has a nature. Most natures increase one of the Pokémon’s stats by 10% and decreases another by 10%. Several natures do not change stats at all, however. Most competitive Pokémon have a nature that optimizes one stat while diminishing another.

Third, Pokémon have “effort values” (EV). A Pokémon gains EVs through defeating other Pokémon, special training, or items. Each Pokémon can have up to 510 EVs total, and 252 in any one specific stat (e.g., a Pokémon could have 252 attack EVs and 252 speed EVs with 6 left over for other stats). Every 4 EVs increases a Pokémon’s final stats on top of whatever the total would have been accounting for base stats, IVs, and nature.

Choosing Pokémon Move Sets

Each Pokémon can know up to four moves. Most Pokémon, including all of the Pokémon that Victor and I will be using, are capable of learning many more than four moves. Thus, one of our most important decisions will be carefully choosing moves for each Pokémon on our team to fulfill different roles.

Victor and I will discuss specific moves in the context of our teams in future articles about the project.

Before continuing, it is worth noting that we will only be using moves on Pokémon that are legal for official Pokémon Sword and Shield competitions. In short, Pokémon can be imported from earlier Pokémon games. In some cases, these Pokémon may have moves that are not otherwise obtainable for the Pokémon in Sword and Shield. A good example is the move Toxic. In previous Pokémon games, nearly every Pokémon could learn Toxic. However, in Sword and Shield, very few Pokémon can learn Toxic without carrying the move from an earlier game. Official Sword and Shield competitions only allow moves that can be learned in Sword and Shield without transferring from previous games. We will abide by that restriction for our Pokémon draft battles.

Pokémon Abilities and Held Items

Every Pokémon has an ability. Most abilities have some effect in battle, although some abilities only change things outside of battle. Most Pokémon have different possible abilities but can only have one at any given time.

To use an example, let us consider the last Pokémon I gave Victor – Golbat. Golbat can carry one of two abilities, Inner Focus or Infiltrator. Inner Focus would prevent Golbat from being flinched and prevent Golbat’s attack from being lowered by Pokémon that have the Intimidate ability. Golbat’s second ability, Infiltrator, ignores certain moves – Substitute, Reflect, Light Screen, and Safeguard – that would otherwise protect the opponent’s Pokémon. In building his Golbat, Victor will have to decide which ability serves his purposes better.

Of course, some Pokémon only have access to one ability. Victor’s Stonjourner, for example, only has access to the ability “Power Spot,” which increases its ally Pokémon’s attack power in doubles battles. Since we are not having a doubles battle, I suppose that ability will be rather useless. For the record, however, I gave Victor Stonjourner because he hates both biped Pokémon and Pokémon based on inanimate objects, so I thought he needed an anime biped Stonehenge on his team. I was not actually thinking about its useless ability for singles battles.

Finally, each Pokémon can carry an item going into battle that has a specific in-battle effect. We will discuss this further in our articles about our final teams.

Pokémon Draft Battle and Article Schedule

Victor and I will each write a preview article where we explain our team builds and strategy going into the Pokémon draft battle. For obvious reasons, we cannot publish these preview articles before we actually battle because that would give our strategies away. For that reason, we will write our preview articles before our battle, but then have the battle before publishing the preview articles. After our battle, we will publish our preview articles on consecutive days before publishing the battle recap. Think of it as a sort of article tape delay.

We will aim to have our battle in late January or early February.

Final Thoughts

Battle cards for N.A. Ferrell vs V. Gurbo battle in Pokémon Sword and Shield in the summer of 2020.
Matchup cards for our most recent battle over the summer. You can learn about why my trainer number is 999 in a one of my older posts.

Victor and I had been planning to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of Pokémon Gold and Silver with a battle in the deluxe version of those classics, Pokémon Crystal, which was re-released for the Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console a couple of years ago. It was going to be Victor’s chance to redeem himself after we did the same with the original Pokémon Yellow in summer 2019 – the battle that we failed to have 20 years earlier – and it transpired sub-optimally for him.

Sadly, because Crystal does not allow online battles, those plans were deferred by the Wuhan Flu, which has rendered Victor a Quarantine Sessions man. Since Chairman Xi’s great plague prevented us from crossing swords in Crystal for the time being, we decided that a Sword and Shield Pokémon draft battle would be a suitable replacement and good New Leaf Journal content. Through our preview articles and recap, we will offer enough information for Pokémon series veterans and those with no knowledge to the series (or with out-of-date knowledge) to follow our epic struggle.

We look forward to reporting about our exploits in January and/or February.