The Biggest Problem With Competitive Pokémon Battling

Nearly everyone who plays Pokémon games would agree that the best part of the series is the battling. Naturally, the online battling system is one of the game’s most popular features. Unfortunately, the current state of competitive Pokémon battling is not as good as it should be. The biggest problems with battling comes from its roots — literally — in the form of IVs and EVs.

Most people will play through a Pokémon game and never have any idea what an IV or an EV is. I had been playing Pokémon games for 6-7 years before I had even heard about IVs and EVs. IVs are “individual values” and EVs are “effort values.” Even though many people haven’t even heard of IVs and EVs, they frequently influence a Pokémon battle more than any other factor. IVs and EVs directly relate to a Pokémon’s strength. The more IVs and EVs a Pokémon has in a particular stat, the stronger that Pokémon is in that statistic.

For anyone who actually tries to gather a quality team of Pokémon legally, it is a huge hassle. Every Pokémon is born with specific IVs. IVs cannot be changed. Pokémon have IVs for each of the six statistics: Health, Attack, Speed, Defense, Special Attack, and Special Defense. A Pokémon can have an IV value as high as 31 for each stat. Even if you have a Pokémon with maxed out EVs in Attack (I’ll explain the meaning of that later), its Attack will only be a fraction of its potential strength if its IVs for Attack aren’t at an adequate level. You have to painstakingly breed Pokémon to try to get one with good IVs. There are items that you can give to a Pokémon’s “parents” to ensure that the offspring has good IVs in a particular stat, but IVs mainly come down to one thing: luck. IVs are an interesting part of competitive Pokémon battling, but they are ultimately more detrimental than beneficial.

After a player has gotten a Pokémon with adequate IVs, he or she still has a long way to go before that Pokémon is ready for online battling. EVs are very different from IVs. While IVs are inherited, EVs are obtained through battles. Every single Pokémon is worth a certain number of EVs in a particular stat. If you defeat a Pokémon, you will receive however many EVs that Pokémon is worth to a specific stat. For example, if your Charmander defeats a Magicarp, your Charmander will receive one EV to its Speed stat. It doesn’t matter if the Magicarp was at level 1 or level 100; your Charmander will always receive exactly one EV to its Speed stat (unless the Charmander is holding a specific item).

Every Pokémon can receive a total of 512 EVs. Each individual stat can receive up to 252 EVs. Once a stat reaches 252 EVs, a Pokémon cannot have any more EVs in that stat. A lot of strategy goes into which EVs a Pokémon should have. For example, if you are trying to make an especially offensive Pokémon, you might want to put 252 EVs into the Pokémon’s Speed and Special Attack stats while putting the remaining four EVs into its HP stat. This makes for a lot of unique Pokémon, but it takes a lot of time to EV train your Pokémon. Even if you have the proper items to most effectively increase the amount of EVs your Pokémon can acquire, it will still take you a minimum of an hour to completely EV train that Pokémon. You then have to do that to five other Pokémon to just have one team. Then, to even get the items that allow your Pokémon to acquire more EVs in battle, you’ll have to spend at least 2-3 hours in the Battle Subway to earn each item. There are six items to get, so it will take you a long time if you want to have all of the items necessary to EV train your Pokémon at the fastest possible rate.

As you can see, it takes a lot of work to simply have your Pokémon ready for battle. Even after a player has a good team, he will certainly want to try out new teams in the future. For each new team he tries, he’s going to have to spend numerous hours preparing his team. Considering it will easily take even the best players over 24 hours to acquire a single, solid team of Pokémon, it’s easy to see why so many people have resorted to hacking. This hacking is unfair to the people who have actually spent numerous hours preparing a team to battle. GameFreak (the developer) needs to come up with a better way to IV and EV train your Pokémon.

IVs and EVs bring a lot to the competitive battling scene, but they also take a lot from it. Most of the people who play Pokémon games are young kids, and the current state of IV and EV training makes the  competitive scene virtually inaccessible to them. Anyone who doesn’t IV and EV train Pokémon would hardly have any chance of beating someone who did. If GameFreak really cares about its fans and customers, it has to change IV and EV training in the 6th generation. The designers don’t even have to get rid of those stats, they just need to change them in a way that makes them accessible to more people.

Written by: Jay Curtis

The youngest writer at Gamers-Association. Twitter: @BlueOrigins PSN: TheBlue0rigins Steam: BlueOrigins

  • Chase

    And why ever go defensive? Does anyone enjoy all the tedious work in finding the perfect pokemon or do they play for the battles?

  • austin

    after learning about these it makes it hard to play through the game knowing that your starter and everything you catch has a good chance of sucking

  • I knew IVs & EVs existed by concept alone, but I never knew the details (or even names) of it all. That said, from what you say here, I see no major problem with the current setup. High-level competitive gaming always requires an above-and-beyond dedication, and this system seems to provide a method for these players to tailor their teams while reducing the element of randomness. At the same time, low-level players oblivious to these special statistics can still battle each other and have a blast.

    However, I do see the other side of the story. My biggest issue is the invisibility of IVs and EVs. If anything, why not make these values visible on each Pokemon’s stat screen? Why not give would-be competitive players a roadmap to improve without resorting to online Wikis and message boards? Also, I imagine this system minimizes the actual battling skill required just as it minimizes the random factor. If you have a team with perfectly distributed IVs and EVs, I’m guessing the outcome of any battle could be predetermined before either player even enters the fight.

    This ends Luke Frazier pretending like he knows anything about Pokemon beyond the first generation.

  • Just found out about IV and EV myself!

  • I agree wholeheartedly. I’ve played Pokemon for every generation, but never competitive The prospect of spending hours upon hours dabbling in a randomly generated system irks me. (Not to mention I didn’t even know about IV and EV until about a year or so back)