The Nuzlocke challenge is a lot of fun, but it’s also famously challenging.
The first question most new players ask after learning the rules and trying them for the first time is “how do I get better at Nuzlockes?” and that’s the question we’re here to answer.
Here are five of the quickest ways for new or novice Nuzlockers to improve their skills and begin the long process of mastering the Nuzlocke challenge.
1: Use online resources to research tough sections of the game.
The first thing you can do to get better at Nuzlockes is to improve your knowledge of the game.
Even if you’ve never played a Nuzlocke before, or you’re trying a certain version of Pokémon for the first time, you can give yourself a big advantage by using online databases (check our Resources page for a detailed list) to research the teams of challenging Gym Leaders, team bosses, Elite Four members, and other tough opponents. This way, you can avoid being surprised by tricky moves on your opponent’s Pokémon, and can build your team to be ready for the toughest challenges you’ll face.
You can also look up the locations of wild Pokémon to help you find the best encounters, as well as see where important TMs and other items can be found, both of which can give you an edge and help you build a strong and balanced team.
Remember, there’s no shame in using these resources to your advantage! Some players decide to do their runs blind, with no research, as a personal preference, but even very experienced Nuzlockers will often look up opponent’s teams or Pokémon locations to jog their memory and give them an edge. As a new Nuzlocker, you should feel free to use all the tools at your disposal to help you improve!
2: Expect critical hits and bad luck, and prepare for them.
Losing a Pokémon to a poorly-timed critical hit is an experience all Nuzlockers can relate to. New players have a tendency to write these deaths off as bad luck, but the truth is that with smart play these are almost always preventable.
So how do we avoid losing Pokémon to critical hits and other bad luck?
Well, we can’t stop them from happening (though we can limit how often they come up – more on that later) but we can factor them into our planning and play around them so that we limit their impact.
The simplest way to do this is by ALWAYS assuming the worst-case scenario – assume your opponent’s attack will critically hit, or that your attack will miss, or you’ll hit yourself in confusion, or so on, and let that guide your decisions.
If a critical hit will knock out your Pokémon, switch out.
If you can’t afford to miss an attack, avoid moves with low accuracy.
The general rule to remember is if in doubt, switch out. Because the truth is that over a long challenge like the Nuzlocke, critical hits aren’t bad luck – they’re guaranteed to happen eventually, and good players play around them and factor them into their gameplan.
3: End battles as quickly as possible.
We’ve just finished talking about how you should expect and prepare for bad luck, but do you know how you can limit the amount of bad luck you need to face in the first place?
Fight shorter battles.
How does that work? Well, if a battle lasts five turns, that’s five chances for your opponent to land a critical hit, inflict a random status condition, or dodge your attacks – but if that battle lasts ten turns instead, they get twice as many chances. That’s double the opportunities for bad luck to go against you, and over the course of hundreds of battles in a Nuzlocke, this adds up to a LOT more bad rolls of the dice.
Often, battles will last longer than they need to because novice players overthink – they get excited hearing about the fancy pivots and clever AI manipulation experienced Nuzlockers pull off, and end up overcomplicating their plans trying to replicate those strategies. In reality, clicking Surf, Flamethrower, or Thunderbolt five times is often the best strategy you can use, because it ends the fight quickly and simply – which means less turns for bad RNG to rear its head.
4: The order of your encounters matters!
This one only applies if you’re using Duplicates Clause, but since our recent Nuzlocke community survey results showed that 95% of players do, I feel comfortable including it.
So why does it matter what order you visit the different routes and catch your Pokémon in? Well, if you’re using Duplicates clause (or dupes clause) then by visiting certain routes and catching certain Pokémon first, you can remove those Pokémon from the encounter pool for a different route, making it more likely (or even guaranteed) that you find the specific Pokémon you want on that later route.
A good example of this is in Pokémon Platinum, where one of the game’s most desirable encounters, Gible – which evolves into the mighty Garchomp – can be encountered in Wayward Cave B1F. Gible only has a 20% chance of appearing, but if the player waits to enter the cave until they’ve already caught the other four possible encounters in other areas (Bronzor, Geodude, Onix, and Zubat) then Gible is the only valid encounter left, and they have a guaranteed chance to add it to their team!
All the games are full of tricks like this, which a smart Nuzlocker can use to give themselves better odds of finding and catching the best Pokémon to add to their team. It just takes a little bit of research to find out which Pokémon appear in each area and determining the best order to visit the different routes.
5: Have a Backup Plan for Major Battles
Good Nuzlockers will enter every battle with a plan, but what happens if that plan gets derailed by a badly-timed critical hit, a misplay, or some other unexpected turn of events?
In these cases, having a backup plan can be the difference between losing one or two Pokémon and wiping completely.
Before every battle, take a look at your available Pokémon, review your plan, and ask yourself these two questions:
1: How could this plan possibly fail?
2: If it does fail, what’s my backup plan?
Your backup plan might be a second Pokémon with a type-advantage who can take over if something happens to the Pokémon you planned to sweep with. It might be stalling an opponent with Leech Seed and status conditions if you can’t knock it out quickly. The exact plan will be different for every battle, but it’s important that before any dangerous fight, you spend some time thinking about what you’ll do if things start to go sideways. It will help you stay calm and avoid panic during the battle, and can save you from an early wipe.
As a beginner, you won’t always play perfectly, but by having a solid backup plan you can limit the impact of your mistakes and give yourself the best possible chance of succeeding, even when things don’t go as planned.
And that wraps up our list!
These are the first five tips we think every new player should master to improve from a beginner to intermediate level Nuzlocker. There’s a lot more to learn, and rest assured, we’ll cover some more advanced strategies in the future, but with these tips, and a little persistence, any new player should be able to successfully tackle their first Nuzlocke.
If you’re interested in trying a Nuzlocke for yourself, read our guide on which Pokémon games are best for new Nuzlockers, and for more tier lists, articles, tips, and other content, check out the Nuzlocke University Guides and Articles feed.
Thanks for reading, and happy Nuzlocking!