While still applicable to any game or generation, these advanced tips are for players who have a solid grasp of the basic Principles of Success from Nuzlocke 101: General Tips and are looking to improve their performance further and master the Nuzlocke Challenge.
- Shrink your squad: If you have three or four solid Pokémon with good coverage for the important types you’ll be facing, it can be helpful to use a team of three or four Pokémon for battling rather than the regular six. First, this allows those Pokémon to more quickly reach higher levels, as the EXP from battles is less widely distributed. Second, this allows you to carry HM slaves or fodder Pokémon (weak, less useful Pokémon who can be switched in as a sacrifice to buy an extra turn and a free switch in exchange for their life), making your team more effective. The drawback is a greater possibility of encountering a battle you don’t have a good counter for, but the advantages often make the tradeoff worthwhile.
- Avoid “lock-in” moves: Avoid using moves like Uproar, Outrage, or Petal Dance which lock you into an action for multiple turns and restrict your ability to switch out.
- Don’t ignore Normal-types early on: Moves like Headbutt, Hyper Fang, and Horn Attack are very powerful in the early game, and can turn that Rattata or Zigzagoon you’re thinking of replacing into a powerful weapon.
- Use defensive Pokémon: In a high-stakes situation like a Nuzlocke, a defensive Pokémon such as a bulky Rock or Steel type can act as an insurance policy in dangerous battles. This Pokémon can be switched in when an Explosion or other powerful attack is expected, and can buy you time to set up, heal your team, or execute a strategy. While sometimes overlooked, this Pokémon can be a bulwark, allowing you to stabilize in tough situations and avoid a wipe. Though it’s true that the best defense is to simply one-shot every opposing Pokémon, this Pokémon protects you in cases where that simply isn’t possible.
- Embrace non-damaging moves: Completely overlooked in most Pokémon playthroughs, stat-boosting and status moves can allow you to overcome what might otherwise be dangerous or difficult battles. Moves like Dragon Dance or Swords Dance allow your Pokémon to eliminate threats before they can harm you, defense-boosts allow your Pokémon to survive otherwise deadly attacks and continue fighting, and status moves like Toxic or Leech Seed allow you to stall your way through difficult opponents. In the right combination, these less-popular strategies can be extremely effective, and can be the key to winning battles without spending days grinding for EXP. (Note: In most cases, moves which raise your own stats are preferred to moves that lower the opponent’s, as your own stat boosts will remain until the Pokémon switches or faints.)
- Don’t overlook Battle items: Another often overlooked resource, Battle items such as X Attack, Dire Hit, and Guard Spec. can be extremely useful tools. While useful in all generations, these items are especially powerful in generations seven and eight, as they raise a stat by two stages, whereas in previous generations they yielded only a one-stage increase. What makes these items so useful is that they replicate the effect of stat-boosting moves like Swords Dance without taking up a moveslot, allowing your Pokémon to use those slots for moves that provide coverage or inflict status effects. They also allow you to boost any stat on any Pokémon, even if they normally would not have a move to do so (not every Pokémon gets a defense-boosting move like Acid Armor, for example). This allows you to strengthen your team with a high degree of flexibility while getting the most out of each of your Pokémon’s moveslots.
- Use Encore: We’ve already discussed the value of non-damaging moves, but Encore is so useful that it gets its own section. Encore allows you to lock an opponent into their last used move, forcing them to use only that move for the next 2-6 turns. This can allow you to lock an opponent into a weak or non-threatening move for a few turns, allowing you to get a free switch, use Battle Items or boosting moves to raise your stats, and generally do whatever setup you need to. There are lots of useful moves in Pokémon, but one like Encore that allows you to buy yourself multiple free turns is absolutely invaluable in a Nuzlocke run.
With these tips in mind, you’re ready to tackle the Nuzlocke challenge. If you want to test yourself even further, head over to the Nuzlocke Variants page for unique and challenging variations on the classic Nuzlocke. For more Nuzlocke content, check out the Guides and Articles section for game guides, tier lists, starter rankings, and more.