Any sufficiently popular game will generate a serious competitive scene. Despite its cute, family-friendly exterior, Pokémon has one of the most in-depth and active competitive communities. It’s no secret that some Pokémon and moves are stronger than others – maybe too strong. Some strategies have been banned for allegedly ruining the balance and fun of Pokémon battles.
This list is based on the rules set by Smogon, the Internet’s premier Pokémon battling community. Many of these rules are contested by the community, and bans can come and go as the meta changes. Are these bans too strict or are they necessary for fair and fun play? It’s up to trainers to decide for themselves.
10 Having Multiples Of The Same Pokémon
There are a lot of viable Pokémon in competitive play. However, the meta has more or less revolved around a few dozen top-tier Pokémon like Garchomp, Blissey, and Hawlucha. Efforts need to be made to prevent competitive matches from becoming too stale. So, a near-universal clause bans having more than one of the same Pokémon on a team.
“Same Pokémon” is defined by Pokédex number, so multiple Formes of the same Pokémon is still a no-go (sorry, Rotom fans). A few trainers argue that this clause isn’t particularly needed, but there have been no major movements to repeal it. Playing with six of the same Pokémon is a bit boring anyway, right?
9 One Hit KO Moves
A few moves can make an opponent faint regardless of their defense or remaining HP. They all have low Accuracy to balance it out. Fissure, Guillotine, Horn Drill, and Sheer Cold will only hit 30% of the time.
Moves and strategies relying on chance are discouraged in competitive play. There’s even a trick to get OHKO moves to hit every time. The No Guard ability makes all of the user’s attacks hit – and yes, this includes the OHKOs. Banning these moves was a no-brainer.
Dynamaxing may be Pokémon Sword and Shield‘s main selling point, but the competitive community didn’t take too well to it. Unlike Mega Evolution, which lasts an entire battle, Dynamaxing only lasts three turns. During those three turns, the Pokémon’s stats are boosted to an insane degree. Many trainers thought Dynamaxing reduced matches to a three-turn burst. Placing so much importance on a few turns made matches more unpredictable.
Smogon’s ban on Dynamaxing received some pushback. Some argued that banning it stripped Sword and Shield of its identity. Few will say that it’s competitively balanced, though.
7 Putting Too Many Pokémon To Sleep
Sleep is one of the most annoying status conditions. Pokémon can’t do anything while they’re asleep – and their nap could last up to three turns. Putting all opponents to sleep is certainly a viable strategy, but it’s also a cheap one. Ergo, Smogon has a clause against players putting more than one opponent to sleep at a time.
This clause is mostly enforced as a sort of gentleman’s agreement. Some unofficial battle simulators have this built-in. If an opposing Pokémon is already asleep, further sleep moves against its teammates will fail. This is the biggest argument against the clause – that effectively enforcing it requires a change in the mechanics not present in actual Pokémon games.
6 Abilities That Prevent Switching
Shadow Tag and Arena Trap are abilities that prevent the opponent from switching Pokémon. Switching is one of the most important aspects of battling, so Pokémon with these abilities were very strong – maybe too strong. The most infamous case is Arena Trap Dugtrio. This Dugtrio was so widely used that teams had to be modified specifically with countering it in mind.
This ban is a rather recent development, officially instated in 2017. Trainers opposing the ban argued that the problem was Dugtrio, not the ability, and there were plenty of ways to counter it. Despite that, the ban passed a popular vote and remains in effect. Consider Dugtrio buried.
Swagger confuses an opponent while sharply boosting their attack. The boost might sound like a downside, but it actually makes the move even more dangerous. Damage taken from confusion also increases as Attack goes up. So, as the confused Pokémon hits itself, it’ll lose more and more of its HP. Swagger is also far more accurate than other confusing moves like Supersonic.
However, Swagger isn’t banned in the current metagame. In Pokémon Sun and Moon, the move’s accuracy was lowered to 85%. Power creep may have left the move behind as well. It may not seem like it, but Swagger was one of the most feared Pokémon moves, once upon a time.
4 Double Team And Minimize
These stat-boosting moves sharply increase evasion. That means the opponent will have a much harder time hitting the user. At maximum evasion, most moves only have a 1 in 3 chance of landing. Many Pokémon fans have encountered these moves in the games proper, and know how irritating they can be.
BrightPowder and Lax Incense, two items that affect evasion, are frequently banned as well. Since abusing evasion moves can reduce a Pokémon battle to a game of chance, this ban hasn’t been challenged much over the years.
3 Baton Pass
Baton Pass is a move that switches out the user, passing on any stat changes as well. The strategic potential of this move is insane. Countless teams have been built around the use of Baton Pass. The most infamous is Baton Pass Scolipede. Scolipede has access to Swords Dance and the Speed Boost ability, so it can build up buffs very quickly before passing.
The Baton Pass ban sparks controversy to this day. Some trainers think that the move is too strong and that teams built around its use are unfair. Others argue that Baton Pass has enough counters to not be worthy of a hard ban.
Moody is a rare hidden ability introduced in Gen V. This ability causes a Pokémon’s stats to randomly fluctuate. Each turn, one stat increases by two stages, while another is lowered by one stage. Although it’s unpredictable, there will always be a net increase in stats as the battle goes on.
Pokémon that can have Moody – the Bidoof and Remoraid lines, for example – aren’t often considered the strongest. But if the user stalls for a few turns with Protect or Substitute, they’ll garner enough stat boosts to be a beast. It also has the potential to increase evasion – see the entry on Double Team for why that’s bad news. Smogon banned Moody almost immediately.
1 Creating An Endless Battle
Pokémon has a built-in failsafe to prevent battles from going on forever. Typically, the move Struggle causes the user to faint once all its PP is gone. But there’s one strategy that can keep a struggling opponent alive indefinitely. A Slowbro holding a Leppa Berry with Recycle, Slack Off, Block, and Heal Pulse is the key. The troublemaker uses Block to trap the opponent, Heal Pulse and Slack Off to restore both party’s HP, and Recycle to keep using the PP restoring Berry.
This is the only thing banned in every Smogon tier. For good reason – once a trainer gets trapped, the battle won’t end until someone forfeits. Stall builds are a legitimate strategy, but they aim to let opponents faint via Struggle. The only reason someone would use this strategy would be poor sportsmanship.