When it comes to the Pokémon games, Game Freak has always aspired to put accessibility first. The mega-hit RPG series is designed to appeal to all ages, of course, and a key part of this is to ensure that Little Jimmy isn’t being ruthlessly crushed by Dark Souls-esque levels of difficulty.
If you choose to venture into the world of competitive Pokémon battling, however, you’ll find that there’s a lot of depth to get to grips with. EVs, IVs, natures, held items… it’s surprisingly complex. Each team member only has four moveslots to work with, after all. How do you know which moves to pick and which to avoid? To get you started, here are ten moves you’ll often want to get rid of as soon as possible.
Ah, yes. When you first kicked off your adventure through Galar in Pokémon Sword and Shield, you knew you were letting yourself in for a classic series early-game: low-level duels using feeble moves like Scratch, Pound and the classic Tackle.
Yes, it would be absolute silliness if your starter Scorbunny knew Fire Blast or another super-strong Fire move right off the bat. Early opponents just don’t have the stats to take moves with that kind of base power. Even so, Tackle and its ilk are to be dropped as soon as the Pokémon concerned learns something new.
Now, some battlers like to be a little more strategic. The whole hyper offensive thing just doesn’t work for everybody. Lots of players like to whittle foes down with status moves, drop their stats and generally mess with them as their HP dwindles away. This is perfectly valid, of course, but Growl has been doing the rounds for over two decades now and it’s still largely useless.
Feather Dance, which instantly drops the opponent’s Attack by two stages, has a lot of merit in certain situations. AI opponents don’t tend to switch Pokémon, so that’s also nice. Growl, on the other hand, only drops Attack by one stage. It’s just too slow to have much of an impact.
8 Tail Whip
If we were judging moves based on how undeniably adorable their animation is, Tail Whip would absolutely be high tier. After all, if the sight of an Eevee shaking its fluffy little hindquarters at you doesn’t make you aww a little inside, you should probably head off down the Yellow Brick Road in search of a heart.
The thing is, though, we aren’t judging moves that way. We're judging them on their usefulness, among other things. In that regard, Tail Whip is in the same boat as Growl. They both hit all adjacent opponents, so you could possibly get something going in doubles battles, but still. Reducing Defense by one stage (on opponents that can easily switch out to remove the effect) just isn’t worth using up a turn or moveslot.
How many times have you seen Flash used in a competitive battle? Zero times, that’s how many. There aren’t a lot of moves that have been demoted from HMs to TMs (especially prior to Pokémon Sun and Moon), but Flash managed it way back in Generation IV. As of Generation VII, it’s not even a TM anymore.
Flash really existed only to illuminate dark caves on the overworld. In battle, it only reduced the accuracy of the opposing Pokémon by one, just like Sand Attack. It was useful for such a brief period, then had the audacity to take up a slot that had to be forcibly deleted (as HMs couldn’t be replaced any other way).
6 Blast Burn/Hydro Cannon/Frenzy Plant
Now, we can see the temptation here. When that Move Tutor offered you a super-powerful move for your starter, corresponding with their type (Blast Burn, Hydro Cannon and Frenzy Plant for your Fire-, Water- and Grass-type respectively), how could you refuse?
You and your Charizard stood ready, geared up to blast some poor unsuspecting Grass-type into a dimension of fiery pain usually reserved for those who underestimate hot sauce and have delicate digestive systems, when you realized: this is an elemental Hyper Beam. Yes, they have recharge turns, making them almost universally horrible choices. Learn them, use them once to check out the cool animation, then swiftly delete them again.
Just like Hyper Beam, Blast Burn and their ilk, Metronome is also a tempting choice. We’ve never quite understood how ‘waggling a finger’ allows a Pokémon to randomly use one of just about any moves in the game, but there it is. It’s RNG City and your Clefairy is invited.
The flaw with Metronome is an obvious one: it could be any move. It’s very unique and a darn funny novelty (Metronome-only battles are a lot of ridiculous fun), but that’s about as far as it goes. Again, try it out a few times when it becomes available, then quickly learn something more practical in its place.
It’s absolute 100% indisputable Pokémon fact (except it isn’t) that nobody has ever pulled off a successful Bide in all of Pokémon history. Bide has existed since Pokémon Red and Blue (it was actually a TM back then, before Game Freak realized what an awful idea that was) back in 1998 and it’s never happened.
The issue with Bide is that it’s such an impractical move to use. The idea is that the Pokémon using it absorbs damage over a period of a couple of turns, then deals it all back twofold. For this to work best, it needs to survive those turns, for one thing, while the opponent unwisely keeps attacking. Generally, then, a standard offensive move would be a far better option.
Next, we have the bane of every prospective Abra-owner’s existence: Teleport. This move has two major uses: ensuring that you have only one chance to catch the sneaky little Psychic-type before it vanishes into the ether and taking the player back to the last Pokémon Center they used.
In Trainer battles, naturally, it has absolutely no effect at all. It can come in handy at times to get you to a healing spot in a pinch, but it becomes completely obsolete on learning Fly and you’ll usually be better off with an attacking move (when you eventually get one).
2 Water Sport/Mud Sport
Water Sport and Mud Sport are both unique and incredibly niche moves. The former reduces the power of all Fire-type attacks by 67% (having been buffed from a 50% reduction in Generation V) for five turns (as of Pokémon X and Y), while Mud Sport has the same effect on Electric moves.
The main problem is that this is far too specific. Reflect and Light Screen are commonly used because they halve all physical and special damage respectively. Aurora Veil halves all damage, but can only be used during hail. With options like these, why reduce one specific type’s damage?
1 Sonic Boom
No, Street Fighter fans, we’re not talking about that Sonic Boom. Sit yourself down, Guile.
Sonic Boom is another classic move that has been present and correct in the franchise since Red and Blue. It’s another Normal-type move, this time dealing fixed damage. Very little fixed damage, at that: 20 HP.
Now, this can be useful in the early game, especially if you’re looking to catch Pokémon. Sadly, it becomes obsolete very quickly. After all, Dragon Rage also exists, a move that deals a fixed 40 HP damage.