Welcome to the Nuzlocke University Pokémon Emerald Nuzlocke Guide! This is a collection of specific advice, tips, and information regarding the third generation Pokémon games Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald.
Note: this guide refers specifically to Emerald version, but most of the information will apply to Ruby and Sapphire versions as well.
This guide isn’t intended to be a step-by-step walkthrough of the game, as there are many guides out there for that exact purpose already. Instead, this guide will look at some of the big decisions you’ll be making and important battles you’ll face, showing you advice and helpful strategies to give yourself the best chance of success. It also includes a few neat tips and tricks I’ve discovered through Nuzlocking Emerald multiple times, which you can hopefully apply to your own run. Here are a couple additional resources you may find useful:
Let’s get started!
All three starters are viable to some degree in Emerald, although Mudkip takes the top spot due to Swampert’s incredible typing, stat distribution, movepool, and type advantages against Gym Leaders. Treecko is effective in the early game, but falls off a bit later on due to its lack of high-powered STAB grass moves in generation 3. Torchic struggles a bit in the early game due to type weaknesses against early gyms, but becomes a powerful sweeper in the late-game, though it does lack bulk. For a more in-depth look at each of the Hoenn starters and our ranking of them, check out this article I’ve written ranking the Hoenn starters. A quick summary is listed below, if you’re still on the fence about which starter to bring.
- Above-average movepool for a grass-type
- High Speed and Special Attack
- Type advantage against first gym, eighth gym, and champion (Emerald)
- Low Defense and HP
- Doesn’t gain a secondary type, has limited type coverage
- Weak or neutral against most gyms and Elite 4
- Lacks powerful STAB Grass-type moves for the late-game
- Many other grass-types available
Treecko’s late-game type advantages and decent movepool make it a viable choice, but its weakness against mid-game gym leaders, its low physical bulk, and the availability of other usable grass-types render it generally outclassed by Mudkip and Torchic.
- Amazing water/ground typing
- Good mixed attacking stats
- Great bulk
- Trivializes the first, third and fourth gyms, and is strong against other gyms and Elite 4 members
- Hoenn has very few threatening Grass-type opponents
- Low speed
Mudkip’s water/ground typing is incredible offensively and gives it type advantage against many early to mid-game gyms. Its good mixed attacking stats allow it to hit hard with both water and ground type STAB moves, and its great bulk allows it to survive tough battles. While Hoenn does have an abundance of water types, Mudkip and its evolutions are superior to nearly all of them. Of the available starters, none is a safer and more consistent choice than Mudkip.
- Great offensive typing in fire/fighting
- Excellent mixed attacking stats
- Type advantage against fifth gym and Elite 4
- Few other fire types available
- Mediocre defensive stats
- Weakness to water, which is abundant in Hoenn
- Weakness to eighth gym and champion (Emerald)
Offensively, Torchic is unparalleled as a starter, thanks to its incredible typing and attacking stats. However, its mediocre defensive stats and poor defensive typing make it something of a glass cannon. If you can play cautiously and keep it out of dangerous situations, Torchic can be a powerful and versatile attacker, and a good choice for a starter.
In this section, we’ll quickly cover which early-game encounters are worth keeping on your team, and which you’d be better off leaving in the box. Virtually every player will encounter most, if not all, of these Pokémon in the first few routes, and because they’re so common they deserve a little bit more attention. You don’t want to waste time grinding Pokémon that won’t be useful to your team, you’ll have enough of that to do later!
Poochyena – Box. It’s a toss-up, but if you’re playing the original generation 3 games, I recommend boxing this Pokémon. Dark-type STAB is nice, but in this generation all Dark-type moves are Special, and Mightyena has a low base 60 Special Attack stat, meaning it can’t use its STAB moves effectively. However, this Pokémon can have the Intimidate ability, which is very valuable in Nuzlockes, essentially giving your Pokémon a fifty-percent Defense boost and indirectly increasing its bulk. If you catch a Poochyena without Intimidate, you can safely leave it in the box.
Zigzagoon – Keep. This Pokémon is actually very powerful in the early-game, with access to STAB Headbutt at level 9 and an early evolution into Linoone at level 20. It also gets the ability Pickup, which is a nice bonus allowing you to pick up items passively and save money. While its Normal-typing means it will never have type advantage and won’t be your primary answer to most threats, it’s a great brawler and is capable of holding its own. You’ll eventually replace this Pokémon as the late-game approaches, but it does enough in the early and mid-game to justify a spot on your team.
Wurmple – Keep (but just for a little while). Wurmple reaches its final evolution extremely early at level 10, and both Dustox and Beautifly are great answers to the Fighting-type second Gym with a 4x Fighting resist. You should probably leave it behind fairly shortly after the second Gym, as its power drops off quickly after its initial spike, but this Pokémon is easy to train and is very useful early. Keep it until the third Gym or so and then move on.
Shroomish – Keep. Breloom is a fantastic Fighting-type with Grass-type utility moves like Leech Seed, Stun Spore and, if you hold off on evolving Shroomish, Spore. While it is fairly weak early on, and you won’t use it as a Grass-type attacker due to its low Special Attack, Breloom is a Pokémon you might end up taking all the way through to the Champion.
Whismur – Box (depending on your team). I mention it here because it’s a guaranteed encounter in Rusturf Tunnel, so every player can have one. This one depends on your team composition. If you don’t have a Zigzagoon, Whismur can provide a good early to mid-game Normal-type with access to strong STAB normal moves early (you can teach it Strength immediately after the third Gym). However, Exploud’s movepool and stats don’t compliment one another well. Like Linoone it falls off in the late-game, but it doesn’t have the same early-game dominance as Linoone and so I generally recommend leaving Whismur behind. It does get access to good coverage moves later in the game and so can be brought out as a desperation tech if you really need Ice Beam or Fire Blast, but other Pokémon make better use of these moves.
Tentacool – Keep. While Tentacool itself is fairly weak, its evolution Tentacruel is a bulky tank with great typing and a good movepool. If you invest the time to train and evolve this Pokémon, it will serve you well, and it’s a very common encounter with the Old Rod.
Magikarp – Keep. Very similar reasoning to Tentacool, except that Gyarados is perhaps even stronger. You’re virtually guaranteed to find one of these fishing in any town, and so it’s a free encounter that doesn’t take away from another encounter on a route. If you don’t choose Mudkip as a starter, Gyarados should be on your team every time.
Gym Leader Strategies
In this section, we’ll take a brief look at each Gym Leader, which common Pokémon are good counters to bring, and what strategies you can use to tip the scales in your favor.
Roxanne (Rock) – If you picked Mudkip or Treecko as your starter, simply use Grass or Water-type moves to sweep Roxanne’s team. For Torchic users, Shroomish can be a good choice, clearing the Geodudes with Absorb and using a combination of Leech Seed, Absorb, and Stun Spore to whittle down her Nosepass. Be wary of using Wingull – while its Water Gun can sweep the Gym, it can also be killed by a Rock Tomb from Nosepass if it fails to OHKO. If none of these Pokémon are available, Torchic can be evolved to Combusken and clear the Gym with Double Kick.
Brawly (Fighting) – This fight is easily handled if you bring the right Pokémon and keep a couple tips in mind. First, be careful bringing Taillow to this battle. Its dual Flying and Normal-typing means it does not resist Fighting-type moves, and is often killed by a Makuhita Vital Throw if it fails to OHKO with Wing Attack. The safest Pokémon for this Gym are actually Dustox or Beautifly, as they each boast a 4x Fighting resist and can hit back with Gust or Confusion while taking very little damage. Golbat is similarly effective, if you were able to catch a Zubat in the cave outside of Dewford Town. One important thing to remember: when fighting Brawly’s second Meditite, never use boosting moves or items if you can avoid it, and make sure you’re attacking with a damaging move every turn. This Pokémon will often attempt to use Focus Punch, which will kill anything that doesn’t resist it but will fail if the Pokémon takes damage. As long as you remember to constantly attack it, this Meditite may not get a single attack off, but if you forget, you may find yourself on the wrong end of an extremely powerful Focus Punch.
Wattson (Electric) – If you chose Mudkip as your starter, this fight is almost trivial. Simply bring Marshtomp, which is immune to Electric-type attacks, and use Mud Shot to sweep Wattson’s team. Be wary of Selfdestruct from the first Voltorb, although this shouldn’t be a problem since your Mud Shot should OHKO. For non-Mudkip users, this fight is more challenging. Wattson’s Manectric can deal serious damage with Shock Wave, so it’s important to bring an Electric resist if you have one. Grass-types, such as Treecko, Shroomish or Oddish which can be caught just outside of Mauville, can survive these attacks but struggle to deal meaningful damage back with Absorb, so a good strategy is to use Leech Seed or Poisonpowder to whittle it down while healing whenever necessary. Geodude works similarly well here if you have it, as it resists or is immune to virtually every attack on Wattson’s team and hits back hard with Magnitude. This Gym requires planning, but there are enough possible counters that nearly every player should have some way of conquering it.
Flannery (Fire) – Another easy win for Mudkip users. Be aware of Sunny Day from Camerupt or Torkoal reducing your type-advantage here, but as long as you keep your wits about you and make good use of Mud Shot, this Gym should be straightforward. Otherwise, this is a great chance for Tentacruel or Gyarados to shine, both of which can be obtained very easily early in the game by fishing with the Old Rod you acquire in Dewford. Still, make sure you’re appropriately leveled for this fight, as Torkoal boasts a powerful Body Slam that can make life difficult even for Water-types if they’re under-levelled. As well, if you have a choice, bring female Pokémon to this fight, as Flannery’s female Torkoal will use attract to prevent male Pokémon from attacking, which can interfere with your strategy and be very annoying. Water-types are exceedingly common throughout every stage of the game in Hoenn, so as long as you’re careful with the Torkoal, this battle shouldn’t present too much of a challenge.
Norman (Normal) – This battle can be a real run-ender if you’re not prepared. You need to be especially careful with both Linoone and Slaking here. Against Linoone, avoid playing passively and make sure you’re dealing good damage to it early. It will attempt to use Belly Drum to give itself a +6 Attack boost, and if you haven’t managed to damage it before that point it’s virtually guaranteed to take down a couple of your Pokémon with its strong Normal-type STAB moves even at half HP. The key to defeating Slaking is to abuse its Truant ability, which forces it to rest every other turn, and to find a way to survive its powerful attacks in-between. A Pokémon with Protect is great for this; simply use Protect on Slaking’s active turns and deal damage when it’s loafing around. Dustox is a Pokémon that learns Protect naturally at level 17, and so it has a niche in this battle as a Slaking counter. If that’s not an option for your team, try taking Slaking down with powerful Special moves to avoid being surprise KO’d by Counter, and absolutely DO NOT inflict a status effect besides Sleep on it, as this will boost its Facade’s strength to absurd levels.
Winona (Flying) – While most of this Gym battle is fairly straightforward, Winona’s Altaria is dangerous and can end a run if things get out of hand. What makes this Pokémon so dangerous is its access to the moves Dragon Dance and Earthquake. Earthquake prevents you from using an Electric-type such as Manectric against Altaria, although its Dragon-typing probably rules that out anyways. Dragon Dance means that if you don’t manage to take this Pokémon down quickly, its Attack and Speed will skyrocket and allow it to sweep your team. The best counter to Altaria is to head to the Abandoned Ship southwest of Slateport, and pick up the Ice Beam TM. This is a great move for Swampert, but if you don’t have one, Tentacruel and even Exploud can learn it in a pinch. It’s 4x super-effective against the Flying-Dragon-type Altaria, and should allow you to bring it down quickly.
Tate & Liza (Psychic) – This Gym is unique in that it hosts a Double Battle, which complicates the battle situation and multiplies the amount of damage your Pokémon can possibly take in a single turn. One effective strategy for this battle is to bring two Surf users, such as Swampert and Tentacruel, and use the spread damage and high power of Surf to hopefully bring down both of their Pokémon simultaneously. This works especially well here because of the high number of Rock and Ground-types Tate & Liza bring, and with well-levelled Water-types this strategy can render this otherwise dangerous Gym trivial. Another possible solution is to head to Mt. Pyre and catch a Ghost-type like Shuppet or Duskull, though this strategy is less consistent and often requires more grinding. Don’t rely on Earthquake, as most of Tate & Liza’s Pokémon have Levitate or the Flying-type, and don’t bring Electric-type Pokémon to deal with Xatu as Claydol’s Earthquake will deal severe damage.
Juan (Water) – Grass or Electric-type Pokémon do well here. Ideally, bring both, to deal with the Water/Ground-type Whiscash and the Water/Ice-type Sealeo. The biggest threat here is Kingdra, which is only weak to Dragon-type attacks in this generation. It uses Rest and Double Team to draw out the battle, and hits relatively hard with Water Pulse and Ice Beam. Since you’re unlikely to have a Dragon-type attacker at this point (and both Flygon and Altaria would be decimated by Ice Beam anyways) the best strategy I’ve found is to simply level up a Pokémon that resists Kingdra’s attacks and brawl it out with neutral damage. Swampert’s Earthquake does this well, but any Pokémon that doesn’t take super-effective damage from Water or Ice-type moves and can hit back with strong neutral STAB attacks will get the job done. More elegant strategies may exist here, but in all of my runs this Kingdra fight has come down to simple brute force and smart, timely healing.
Elite Four and Champion
Just like our Gym Leaders section, we’ll spend a few minutes here going over strategies, useful Pokémon, and tips to remember for each member of the Pokémon League.
Sidney (Dark) – Since you’re unlikely to have a powerful Bug-type Pokémon this late in the game, a Fighting-type is your best bet for most of this battle. Breloom works great here, as its Grass-typing makes it an even better counter to Crawdaunt than a pure Fighting-type. If none of your Pokémon have a type advantage against Dark, it’s fairly easy to find answers for Sidney because three of his Pokémon (Shiftry, Cacturne, and Crawdaunt) have secondary types and can be easily handled with Fire, Ice, or Electric-type moves. Crawdaunt and Absol both know Swords Dance, so avoid playing passively in case they set up and threaten to sweep your team. Luckily, Absol doesn’t have a single STAB move, so your biggest worry is a critical-hit from a boosted Slash. One more tip – don’t lead with your strongest physical attacker here, as Sidney will always lead with Intimidate Mightyena. Instead, lead with any other Pokémon and immediately switch to your physical attacker, avoiding the stat drop. As long as you don’t send out any Pokémon with a type weakness, this fight shouldn’t present too much of a challenge if your team is appropriately levelled for the other Elite Four members.
Phoebe (Ghost) – Two Dusclops, Two Banettes, and a Sableye – not a ton of variety in this fight. You either have answers and this fight is a breeze, or you don’t and it’s a real obstacle. It’s tough to utilize type advantage in this fight, since Ghost-type is only weak to Dark and other Ghost-types. Strong Dark-types are rare in Hoenn, and your own Ghost-type Pokémon will both take and deal super effective damage. Teaching Shadow Ball or Crunch to one of your non-Ghost Pokémon as a coverage move can work, although I find the best strategy is usually to rely on my strongest attacker to overpower Phoebe’s team. This works well because her Dusclops have low attacking stats, despite their incredible bulk, allowing you to win a battle of attrition, while her Banettes are threatening but very frail and will go down to a strong STAB attack, super effective or not. Specific things to know before this fight are that her first Dusclops will often use Curse, forcing a switch, so be prepared with a second Pokémon who can switch in safely and survive a few turns, and that her last Dusclops has access to Earthquake and Ice Beam which can catch you off-guard. Because it’s so difficult to utilize type advantage against Phoebe, this fight is difficult to sweep, and requires smart, careful play to advance.
Glacia (Ice) – While Glacia is classified as an Ice-type trainer, three out of her five Pokémon are Water-type, so relying on Fire-type Pokémon exclusively in this fight is a bad idea. A strong Electric-type Pokémon makes this fight much easier, as it allows you to counter her two Sealeos and Walrein (although beware: the Walrein is bulky enough that you won’t OHKO it). A good Fighting-type Pokémon is also very useful and will hit all of Glacia’s Pokémon super effectively, but you need to be careful of getting worn down by Hail damage and powerful Surfs and Blizzards. Having a Pokémon that knows Sunny Day is a great idea, as it allows you to avoid the chip damage from Hail and weakens enemy Water-type attacks. It’s important to bring down her final Pokémon, Walrein, as quickly as possible – it knows Sheer Cold, which has low accuracy but will OHKO your Pokémon automatically if it lands. The best ways to avoid this are, first, have a Pokémon above Walrein’s level (level 53) as this will cause Sheer Cold to always miss, or, second, take it down quickly so it doesn’t get as many chances to roll the dice. Also, be aware that Glacia’s second Glalie knows Explosion and will use it if its health drops too low, so be prepared to switch to a Steel or Rock-type to absorb it if you have one.
Drake (Dragon) – Despite being the strongest member of the Elite Four, Drake’s team is actually the easiest to sweep if you bring the right Pokémon. Ice Beam or Blizzard will absolutely decimate Drake, dealing 4x super effective damage to Altaria, Flygon, and Salamence, and dealing regular 2x super effective damage to Shelgon, his least threatening Pokémon. Because of this, Walrein is the perfect counter to Drake, but if you don’t have one, any Pokémon that knows one of these Ice-type moves will get the job done. The only Pokémon on his team that isn’t trivialized by Ice-type moves is Kingdra, which can threaten you by setting up with Dragon Dance. Paralyzing it or burning it can be a good strategy, or if that’s not possible, simply pummeling it with strong STAB attacks will get the job done if your Pokémon are sufficiently levelled. While Drake certainly brings powerful Pokémon to this fight, they have severe weaknesses which a smart player can exploit, and with proper preparation you should find this fight a breeze.
Champion Wallace (Water) – The biggest threats in this fight are Milotic and the rain. Gyarados and Whiscash can be scary, but are brought down quickly by Electric and Grass-type attacks respectively (note – his Gyarados knows Earthquake, so try to be sure your Electric-type attacker is fast enough to avoid getting hit by this surprise move). Tentacruel is bulky and tough, but will go down to strong Electric or Psychic-type attacks, and Ludicolo, while terrifyingly fast and strong in the rain, is much less scary under Sunny Day. A Sunny Day user makes this entire fight much easier – it weakens Wallace’s primary STAB attacks and neutralizes Ludicolo’s Swift Swim speed boost. Make sure to attack Wailord aggressively at the start of the battle – its Water Spout loses power quickly as his HP drops. Finally, to bring down Wallace’s ace Milotic, you’ll need to utilize a combination of strong super effective attacks and damage over time to overpower its high defenses and ability to restore HP with Recover. Toxic poison is ideal, as its ever-increasing damage will eventually become too much for Milotic to handle, though you will have to apply it a couple times as Wallace will clear it with Full Restore. If that’s not possible, moves like Leech Seed, Will-o-Wisp, or regular poison can accomplish the same job, just more slowly. It’s tough to win a slug-fest with a Pokémon as bulky and strong as Milotic, so it’s important to use status effects and secondary damage to tip the scales in your favor. If you’re careful, patient, and smart, you’ll eventually prevail, and be crowned the champion of the Hoenn Pokémon League (Nuzlocke Edition)!
- If using the Duplicate Clause, you can use Repels to “force” certain encounters and have a better control over which Pokémon you add to your team. One example is Route 106, immediately after Rustboro. One of the possible encounters on this Route is Whismur. However, Whismur is a guaranteed encounter in Rusturf Tunnel, which is the very next area you’ll head towards! If you catch a Whismur on 106, you’ll have a duplicate encounter in the Tunnel and end up missing out on a Pokémon early. However, if you use Repels to avoid encounters on Route 106 and head straight to Rusturf Tunnel, you can catch the Whismur and then head back for your regular encounter on Route 106, guaranteeing yourself two different Pokémon in these areas. Another area this is useful is in Granite Cave outside Dewford Town, where by using Repels to avoid encounters on the first level you can potentially catch an Aron or a Sableye in the deeper levels, if you’d prefer that over Zubat or Makuhita (however Crobat is amazing in Nuzlockes so consider this one carefully).
- Use the interviewers Gabby and Ty to grind for EXP. This is a fairly easy Double Battle, which you can repeat endlessly by Flying from location to location as they move around. The battle also scales with each victory level up to level 39, allowing you to get meaningful EXP from this fight until fairly high levels. Because Emerald doesn’t have a VS Seeker like FireRed and LeafGreen, this is one of the most consistent ways to grind for EXP throughout the game. Check here for locations and an overview of their team at each stage.
- Prioritize Electric-types – they have high value in Hoenn due to the abundance of water routes and Water-type Pokémon you’ll be facing. Electric-types outperform Grass-types in most cases, as Pokémon like Pelipper and Tentacruel take neutral damage from Grass-type moves and are very common, although exceptions such as Guagsire and Whiscash do exist where Grass is preferred. Either way, you really want to have a way to deal with all of these Pokémon, so if you can’t land an Electric-type, head to New Mauville (where you’re guaranteed to get a Voltorb or Magnemite) or if all else fails, teach Shock Wave or Thunderbolt to another Pokémon that learns it. Even without STAB, these attacks are very valuable in Hoenn and make for a great coverage option.
For a few more tips that apply to Nuzlockes in general, check out these advanced Nuzlocke tips.
This guide is always in progress! Check back later for updates, or click here for more Nuzlocke guides, tips, tier lists, and other content!