I’ve had several friends talk to me about pokemon lately, all of whom had the same questions that I had before I got into “endgame” material, and with the recent resurgence in HeartGold and SoulSilver as well as the announcement of Black and White I thought it might be a good idea to write up a guide or series of guides on endgame training/battling.

So for those of you that haven’t beaten pokemon Diamond/ Pearl/ Platinum/ HeartGold/ SoulSilver, it may or may not come as a surprise that beating the Elite Four, in whatever incarnation they come in, is really only the beginning of the game, much in the same way that hitting level 80 is only the beginning of World of Warcraft. After that, the real depth of the game comes in the form of collecting, breeding, and training truly powerful pokemon and assembling a comprehensive six monster team from them. I mean, there are hundreds of moves and hundreds of theoretical type combinations, plus several other details that become important only when you’ve trounced the best of the best that the computer has to offer.

There are four major things to think about when you hit endgame, before which you’ll probably only have considered one of them: effort values (EVs), individual values (IVs), natures, and move pools.

The most basic of these is a pokemon’s move pool. All pokemon can only have four moves at a time, of course, but something that you’ll start thinking about in endgame is the diversity of all possible moves that a pokemon can learn. For instance, Empoleon is a great pokemon but has a fairly narrow move pool. At the opposite end of the spectrum are pokemon like Mewtwo and Smeargle who can learn almost anything. A strong pokemon may be a poor team player for want of a wider move pool, while a weaker pokemon may be more valuable by being able to learn more effective combinations of moves. Think, for instance, about just how many strong pokemon can learn both Thunderbolt and Ice Beam, a completely unresisted combination of powerful moves. This leads us to lesson one:

1)   Statistics aren’t everything. Consider a pokemon’s move pool before deciding whether or not it should be on your team.

Next is something that you probably noticed at some point in time, but may not have paid much attention to; Nature. You’ll see that your pokemon likes a certain flavor (sweet, sour, spicy, etc.) and that’s about it. What nature functionally does, however, is increase one stat (anything but HP) by 10% and decrease another by 10%, applied after EVs and IVs are calculated. There are 25 natures, 20 of which do something and 5 of which are neutral and do not boost or decrease anything. You can find a good, easy to read table here. Natures are quite possibly the most important factor of a pokemon’s stat development, but luckily they are also the easiest to breed for as we’ll discuss later.  This brings us to lesson two:

2) Natures are important, not just a useless detail on your pokemon’s profile page.

Beyond that, we have two values that are completely hidden from view in-game, effort values and independent values. There is almost no way in-game to tell what these values actually are, but what they do is add to your statistics.

Effort value points, or EVs, are awarded to each pokemon that gets experience in a battle and they are pre-determined by the pokemon that is defeated. Bulbapedia is a great website that lists the Effort Values awarded by any given pokemon, so if you’re ever in doubt, check their excellent database. Essentially, you can earn 510 EVs on any given pokemon and a maximum of 255 in any one stat. For every 4 points that you earn, you increase that stat by 1, so you can a total of 127 points by the time you’re done EV training (e.g. 63 in two stats and 1 in a third). There are items and conditions that make EV training easier and berries to help correct for any errors made, but we’ll cover that next time.

Individual values, or IVs are by far the most enigmatic part of endgame training. For a complete, math-involved explanation, check out Serebii, but let’s cover the basics here. Essentially, all pokemon have an individual value ranging from 0 to 31 assigned to each of their six stats. By level 100, this IV will have added that number to that stat. For instance, a pokemon with a 0 IV in hp might have 300 HP at level 100, while a pokemon with a 31 would have 331 HP at level 100 (assuming a neutral nature). For the most part, IVs are randomly determined, locked into place when an egg is first created or at the moment of capture when a wild pokemon is caught. HeartGold and SoulSilver added a bit of control to IV heredity, important later. If you want to determine your specific pokemon’s IVs, you’ll have to use an IV calculator like the one on Serebii, making sure to also keep track of your pokemon’s EV development. It should also be noted that IVs ultimately determine the type and power of the move Hidden Power, should you decide to use it, though that’s a story for another article.

Between EVs and IVs, these comprise lessons three and four:

3) You are what you beat. The way your pokemon levels will determine its stat growth to a significant degree.

4) After everything else, there is still a level of random chance in how strong your pokemon are. Not all pokemon are created equal.

So ultimately, you don’t have anything like, “a Gyarados” or “a Bronzong.” Rather, in endgame terms you might have something like, “an adamant Gyarados EV trained in Speed and Attack with good IVs” or “a sassy Bronzong with 252 EVs in special defense, 128 in HP, and 128 in defense with crappy IVs.” For the WoW players out there, it’s the difference between “a level 80 death knight” and a “51/0/20 DPS spec’d level 80 death knight in full ICC25 gear.” The difference is significant.

So those are the basics and what to pay attention to. Bulbapedia, Serebii, and Smogon are all excellent resources if you’d like to do independent research and get more comprehensive data, otherwise next time I’ll cover the basics of how to train and breed to maximize the power of your endgame team! Enjoy!