Pokémon VGC: How to Reach Master Ball Tier

Hitting Master Ball isn’t as hard as you think. A solid team will take you a long way, and a cool head will see you to the top. Follow these simple tips to see the summit for yourself!

Pokémon VGC: How to reach Master Ball Tier

With Generation 9 just three months away, the era of Sword and Shield nears its end. If you’ve ever thought about gunning for the highest tier in competitive play, now’s the time. Follow these tips, and you too can be among the top 30,000 players in the world. (Doesn’t sound so hard, does it?) 

Find a Solid Team 

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I’m going to assume that you’re not yet—emphasis on yet!—ready to build and pilot your own team. If I’m wrong and you’re a naturally gifted teambuilder, feel free to skip ahead. But if you’re like the rest of us and struggle with what is likely the most complicated aspect of the game, you’re better off using a tried and tested team. 

Zacian, one of the most common (and hated) threats in VGC

Zacian, one of the most common (and hated) threats in VGC

The truth is that even the most seasoned teambuilders have a hard time using unorthodox Pokémon, especially in the current meta. Overpowered Legendaries like Zacian and Kyogre will run right through you if your team isn’t up to snuff. So as much as I hate to admit it, you should stick to what everyone else is using. (Or don’t! Being original is challenging but fun.) 

Luckily, there are plenty of resources online to help you find a solid team, which you can rent or recreate. I personally recommend Victory Road

Try Hyper Offense

When you’re looking for a team, consider using one listed under “hyper offense.” These teams are meant to seal matches in the first three turns and are generally straightforward in their tactics. Things are simpler when there are only two paths to take: go hard or go home. Hyper offense is especially effective in the lower ranks, where players aren’t as defensively sound and don’t know how to recover from a deficit. 

Regieleki, the face of hyper offense

Regieleki, the face of hyper offense

I can’t guarantee that hyper offense will hold up as well when you’re approaching Master Ball or when you’re in it. Hyper offense trades adaptability for simplicity, but better players emphasize the prior. If you get the first turn wrong, or if you’re up against a bad matchup, there won’t be much you can do. When you can’t go hard, you go home. 

But beyond what it can or can’t do for your rank, hyper offense is a ton of fun. Some of my fondest memories in competitive Pokémon are with physical Regieleki and Choice Specs Calyrex. Like a hot spoon through margarine… good times! 

Take Breaks 

I can’t stress this enough. Tilt is a very real thing in Pokémon. Back-to-back losses have a way of snowballing into something crazy like a 10-game losing streak. What happens is that you start rushing, eager to get back in the groove, when you should be playing every turn as slowly as possible. It’s a lot like gambling, really. If you’re not calculated with your moves and double-checking the field state (e.g. dropped stats, terrains, screens), you’re putting yourself at a massive disadvantage.

Grimmsnarl sets screens like Tim Duncan (or so I'm told; I don't watch basketball)

Grimmsnarl sets screens like Tim Duncan (or so I’m told; I don’t watch basketball)

My personal policy is to always take a break after two losses. When I’m really serious about laddering, I’ll take a break after every game, even when I win. This is all to keep myself calm and collected. A hot head will always work against you. I guarantee it. 

Hit the Books 

A lot—and I mean a lot—of competitive Pokémon boils down to knowledge. Knowing your secondary effects and meta-game trends is infinitely more important than reading your opponent. 

For instance, you might know that Grassy Terrain boosts Grass-type attacks, but did you know that it also halves the damage of Bulldoze, Earthquake, and Magnitude? You’re familiar with Intimidate, but what does Multiscale do? Did you know that most Dittos carry a Choice Scarf? Details like these are often the difference between winning and losing. 

Venusaur, Max Ooze, Grassy Terrain—the next Max Overgrowth is going to hurt

Venusaur, Max Ooze, Grassy Terrain—the next Max Overgrowth is going to hurt

How do you learn all of this? By doing exactly what you’re doing: reading! Or, if you’d rather not spend hours on Bulbapedia, you can watch streamers and the like. I recommend CybertronVGC and MoxieBoosted

Hack the Game 

You could also literally hack the game. I have no idea how you’d do this, but maybe you’re a tech wiz. Break down the firewall, breach the mainframe, corrupt the servers… I don’t know. I’m not a nerd. 

Practice (Duh!)

Like anything in life, competitive Pokémon takes practice. If you find yourself languishing in the lower ranks, don’t be discouraged. Chances are, you’re losing to experience. Read all the Bulbapedia articles you want, but you still need a battle instinct. Knowing which moves to make is a skill that comes with time and practice. Patience, young grasshopper…

Regigigas: hard to beat without practice

Regigigas: hard to beat without practice

But keep in mind that not all practice is good practice. That is, practice doesn’t make perfect. Practice makes permanent. If you’re not taking the time to reflect on your results, you’re bound to repeat your mistakes. For every match you play, try identifying your “winning/losing turn.” 

If you’re practicing the right way but still falling short of your goals, review the tips above. Ask yourself: Is my team optimal? Am I taking enough breaks? Do I know enough? How secure are Nintendo’s servers? Troubleshooting will go a long way. 

At the End of the Day…

It’s not about your rank. Competitive Pokémon is fun because it’s wildly intricate and creative. Working towards a higher rank is rewarding, but it can also be stressful and even boring. Why use Pokémon you don’t like? Why spend an afternoon reading Bulbapedia? If the grind starts to feel like a chore, don’t bother. Competitive Pokémon is about having fun. If you’re enjoying yourself, you’re already in Master Ball. 

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