In-Depth Stories

Predictions In Competitive Battling

A small tutorial to help everybody with their battling predictions. It even has examples!

Hello there guys and girls! Archy here with a bit of advice for competitive battling for all of you. I’m going to talk about predictions in battling, a bit of theory and some examples for all of you.

First of all, there are a couple of concepts that I want to explain.

Risk versus Reward

This is a very simple concept. In a few words, you try to measure your reward in a play over the risk that it carries. Let’s put it like this. My opponent has a Bisharp and I have a Latios with Fighting type Hidden Power (HP). At the same time, I have a Landorus-T (Lando) in my team. There’s no point in using HP Fighting against Bisharp, because it could screw me over with Sucker Punch. However, it doesn’t really have a great chance against Lando. The safe play would be sending Lando in, as there’s no need to run that risk when the reward can be achieved with a safer play.

Let’s now imagine a situation where the reward is really big, but the required play carries a big risk. You have a Latios with Surf and your opponent has a Mega Diancie. These two Pokèmon are on the same speed tier, and your team has nothing against Diancie. This is your best bet. Taking down Diancie means that you can win the battle. This is the kind of situation where you should risk, ignoring the fact that you are risking. If your only option to win is a risky play, don’t think. React. Just do it. A loss is a loss. If you have nothing to lose otherwise, just take the risk. Sometimes a last desperate resort tends to be the difference between losing or winning.

This is something that takes time to be familiar with. It’s not something that you will learn from one day to another. It takes experience to analyse a situation properly. So don’t get disappointed if you don’t do it right from the start! After all, sometimes you are betting. You never know if it’s going to be like you planned.


Since you are playing with another human being, most of the time he/she will try to predict your plays. This is a tricky situation, as
there’s a lot of moments where your opponent would do the opposite thing. Over-predicting is, in a few words, reading too deep into your opponent. Sometimes the obvious answer isn’t the right one.

Let’s consider this example, where it’s the first turn of the battle. Your opponent sends a Garchomp, and you send a Clefable. The logical and obvious answer would be to expect a switch, since your opponent has a Heatran on the team. Clefable can’t really take Garchomp down with a single hit. Let’s imagine that you are trying to prepare yourself for Heatran – it’s the obvious move, right?

Nope – your opponent, instead of switching or attacking, sets Stealth Rock up. Doing hard predictions right off from the start tends to be a bad idea, as somebody who used to do that a lot. I can also tell that over-predicting has cost (and still does) a lot of battles for myself. Don’t read too deep in the first turns, as over-predicting is something that you should do more at mid/late game where it is safer to do so. Sometimes it’s something that can give you the advantage, but sometimes it can be the last nail in your coffin.

With those two things already explained. I would like to say that knowing the movesets that each Pokemon usually runs is a helpful thing, but you can’t – nor shouldn’t – rely on this, in fact. However, it’s useful for predictions. Try to take logical conclusions. A Stealth Rock user won’t have a Choice item (Scarf/Specs/Band) – it’s just a terrible, counter-productive idea. This is something that you’re going to learn with the time. If you know the common movesets, you can make better predictions overall. You shouldn’t rely on your opponent being creative all the time. Even if there is always a chance the opposing Pokémon has an unusual move you wouldn’t expect, most times the common movesets will be encountered instead.

Replay example

I’m going to show you a replay now, from a battle that I had some days ago. I’m going to point out at key predictions – or mis-predictions – on some turns. Giving some examples of predictions, you’re going to see if I was right or not, since you can always see the next turn. I would like to thank user Castform for battling with me and allowing me to use this replay.

With that said, here’s the replay. I had this battle on PokèCommunity Showdown Server, which can be found here as well.

First of all, let’s take a look at the teams.
My team is: Hydreigon / Metagross / Clefable / Talonflame / Tangrowth / Starmie
While Castform’s team is: Volcanion / Latios / Manectric / Gliscor / Bisharp / Tangrowth

Right off from the start, I can see that he doesn’t have a hazards setter, even if Gliscor can learn it. Meanwhile, on my team, Clefable has Stealth Rock. This isn’t common, but I feel it works decently enough. Volcanion can be a problem for me if it has Choice Specs, as it pretty much destroys Clefable. Another problem of mine is Bisharp. It’s one of those Pokèmon that you tend to play on mid/late game. Leading with a Bisharp is a bad idea. So my only worry is Volcanion.

Look at the battle and see how that goes. He leads with Manectric. It’s a good lead, but it can’t really get through Clefable at full health. I managed to get Stealth Rock up, in early game. This is generally regarded as an advantage, so we can say that I made the right move.

On the second turn, I make a risky play. That luckily didn’t ended in a terrible move. Sending Starmie was a bad idea on my side. Why? Gliscor tends to carry Knock Off, so Starmie won’t like that at all. This is where knowing the moveset of a Pokemon can save you. Turn three was also risky. Using Psychic when your opponent has a Dark type Pokemon around is risky as well. However, I’m sure that Castform thought that I would use Hydro Pump, to kill Gliscor. A bit of over-prediction there as well, on both sides. On turn four, there was a bit of a conservative play. I know that he won’t let Volcanion die. So I just use Recover, trying to keep my Starmie alive, as it’s still useful for me.

Let’s move a bit forward on the battle. Turn fifteen to sixteen Bisharp gets into the field, which is a safe play for my opponent, since he could expect me using Psychic again. On the next turn. I expect that he’s going to use Pursuit, as Starmie is dead one way or another. So I try to risk and hit Bisharp with Hydro Pump, I thought it would kill it, but sadly it doesn’t. At least, I scored some damage and I didn’t let Starmie die without a reason. I made a terrible move sending Metagross there. I don’t even know what I was thinking. Luckily I noticed before it was too late.

On turn twenty, I made another bad move. Draco Meteor forces me to switch, given Bisharp was too weak. The move that I should have used was Dark Pulse, since no matter what, his team can’t really switch into Hydreigon. You can see what I mean from turn twenty four. I started to spam Dark Pulse, and his team didn’t had any reliable switches into it.

On turn thirty, the proper move would be Stealth Rock. It’s not that important, but it’s helpful anyway. Moonblast won’t hit any of his Pokèmon hard enough to be relevant.

There’s a lot of situations that I hadn’t pointed out. But since you can see the replay, feel free to take your own conclusions about it. I highlighted the plays that I thought could explain what I mean with making predictions and safe moves, taking risks and so on. With that said, I can’t really do all the work for you. Practice is the way to go here!

Stay tuned for the next article, thanks for reading!

Edited by bobandbill and Charlie Brown.
Cover image by Pebbles.