Pokémon battles require skill, knowledge, and experience to master. Pokémon GO gives Trainers of all levels the opportunity to master Pokémon battling through the GO Battle League, and there's plenty of incentive to climb the ranks—including earning rewards such as Rare Candies and Stardust along the way. If you're just getting started with Trainer Battles in Pokémon GO, there's a lot to learn—and even more advanced Trainers can benefit from tips, advice, and strategies, too.
Here, we'll take a deep look at one of the most important components of a successful Pokémon GO Trainer Battle strategy: attacks.
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To develop an effective attacking strategy, you first need to understand the various components of an attack in Pokémon GO: type, damage, and energy generation or requirement. Each Pokémon's attacks function differently between Trainer Battles and other types of battles, such as Gym battles and Raid Battles. For the purposes of Trainer Battles, make sure you're looking at the statistics listed in the Trainer Battles tab in your Pokémon's attack listings. (Note that Weather Boosts don't apply in Trainer Battles.)
Each Pokémon in Pokémon GO has two attacks: one Fast Attack and one Charged Attack. The Fast Attack is the one you're going to use the most—it's the attack you perform simply by tapping your screen. Each time you use your Fast Attack, it generates energy that can be used for Charged Attacks. You can see this energy generation during battle; a small circle with the name of your Pokémon's Charged Attack near the bottom of your screen will fill slightly with each use of your Pokémon's Fast Attack. This circle will have a color and symbol associated with the attack's type—for example, a Water-type attack will have a blue circle that contains a raindrop. Once the circle is completely full, you can tap it to use that Charged Attack.
A Pokémon's attack types can be just as important as that Pokémon's type. Many Pokémon will know Fast and Charged Attacks that match its type. For example, Skarmory is a Steel- and Flying-type Pokémon can currently learn only Steel- and Flying-type attacks in Pokémon GO, and it's a popular choice in the GO Battle League's Great League. While a Pokémon using only attacks of its type might make it more predictable, there is an advantage to doing so: when a Pokémon uses an attack of its same type, it deals more damage than normal.
Other Pokémon have access to a wider variety of attack types, offering better coverage to patch up your team's weaknesses. For example, Alolan Marowak—a Fire- and Ghost-type Pokémon that appears frequently in Great League battles—can currently learn Fire-, Fighting-, and Ghost-type Fast Attacks and Fire-, Ground-, and Ghost-type Charged Attacks. Water-, Ground-, Rock-, and Ghost-type attacks are all super effective against Alolan Marowak, so opponents often include Pokémon of those types on their teams. But if Alolan Marowak knows a Fighting- or Ground-type attack, like Rock Smash or Bone Club, an opposing Rock-type Pokémon would take supereffective damage from that attack. An Alolan Marowak that knows the Fighting-type Fast Attack Rock Smash would also have an improved matchup against a Dark-type Pokémon, perhaps making your opponent think twice about which Pokémon to bring into battle.
Countless Trainer Battles are decided based on how the Trainers use their Protect Shields. Getting your opponent to use their two Protect Shields as quickly as possible—leaving the rest of their lineup vulnerable to your Pokémon's Charged Attacks—is a solid strategy. One way of doing this is to use a Pokémon that knows a Charged Attack that requires little energy to use.
You can see how quickly a Pokémon's Charged Attack charges up by examining the bars to the right of the attack on the Pokémon's summary screen. The Charged Attack will have either one long bar or two shorter bars next to its name. One long bar usually indicates that the attack takes longer to charge but deals more damage, while two medium bars usually means that the attack charges faster but deals less damage. Different Fast Attacks generate energy at different rates, too. Sometimes, a Fast Attack might deal less damage than other Fast Attacks but generate energy faster, whereas some Fast Attacks deal significant damage but generate energy slowly.
On a Pokémon's summary screen, each attack has a number next to it that indicates its damage. Fast Attacks typically deal between 0 to 16 damage, while Charged Attacks have a massive range—for example, Acid Spray deals 20 damage and Aeroblast deals 170.
In many cases, attacks that deal lower damage have other benefits. A Charged Attack that deals less damage might require less energy, raise your Pokémon's stats, or lower the opposing Pokémon's stats.
Shadow Pokémon—Pokémon that have been rescued from Team GO Rocket but haven't been purified—deal additional damage with both their Fast and Charged Attacks. You can see how much extra damage Shadow Pokémon deal by looking at the number following the plus sign in their attack's damage listing. For example, Mewtwo's Fast Attack Confusion deals 16 damage, and its Charged Attack Psystrike deals 90 damage. But a Shadow Mewtwo's Confusion deals 19 damage, and its Psystrike deals 108 damage. The tradeoff for this damage increase is that Shadow Pokémon also take more damage from your opponents' attacks.
Most Pokémon can learn a second Charged Attack, which is helpful in a few ways for Trainer Battles. A second Charged Attack could provide a Pokémon a good way of dealing with its weaker matchups, for example. You could also use a Charged Attack that uses up less energy to bait out a Protect Shield, then take advantage of your opponent's false sense of security in the immediate aftermath by using your Pokémon's other Charged Attack to sneak in a big hit. For example, an opponent might not use a Protect Shield against your Rhyperior, expecting the impending Charged Attack to be Surf, allowing Rhyperior to instead get in a powerful Earthquake attack. It can sometimes be difficult to predict which Charged Attacks a Pokémon will use, and taking advantage of unexpected attacks can be a powerful strategic tool. As you move up the ranks in the GO Battle League, having Pokémon that know a second Charged Attack will be necessary to stay on equal footing with your fellow competitors.
When choosing your team's attacks, you'll want to think about which attacks will help shore up your team's weaknesses. Swampert, for example, is a popular Pokémon in Trainer Battles, particularly in the Ultra League and Ultra League Premier Cup. This Water- and Ground-type Pokémon takes significant damage from Grass-type attacks, so Trainers in the GO Battle League sometimes carry Grass-type Pokémon on their teams specifically to counteract it. While Swampert in the GO Battle League typically know Hydro Cannon and Earthquake, an alternative Charged Attack that Swampert could use is the Poison-type attack Sludge Wave. This attack can hit Grass-type Pokémon for supereffective damage, which can help Swampert out in a seemingly unfortunate matchup.
Another popular GO Battle League Pokémon that takes great advantage of a second Charged Attack is Melmetal. This powerful Steel-type Pokémon has access to a surprisingly diverse range of attacks, including the Normal-type Hyper Beam, the Fighting-type Superpower, the Electric-type Thunderbolt, the Rock-type Rock Slide, and the Steel-type Flash Cannon. As a Steel-type Pokémon, Melmetal is weak to Fire-, Ground-, and Fighting-type attacks. Melmetal can improve its matchup against Fire-type Pokémon with Rock Slide, which can deal supereffective damage against them.
To teach a Pokémon a second Charged Attack, go to its summary screen and then tap the NEW ATTACK button. Teaching a Pokémon a second Charged Attack requires Stardust and Candy, the amount of which you can see next to the NEW ATTACK button. The costs can be as low as 10,000 Stardust and 25 of a Pokémon's Candy for some, and as high as 100,000 Stardust and 100 of a Pokémon's Candy for others. When you unlock a second Charged Attack, the new Charged Attack will be a random one that is available to that Pokémon. You can use a Charged TM to change a Pokémon's Charged Attack to a random attack that Pokémon can learn, or you can use an Elite Charged TM to select an attack out of all the ones that the Pokémon can learn.
Ready to start battling? Remember to have fun and learn from every battle! You can look forward to more GO Battle League coverage on Pokemon.com.