Priority Moves and why they Matter in the VGC

Discussion in 'Team Strategies' started by Regis_Neo, Feb 6, 2012.

8 league13 468 60
  1. Regis_Neo

    Regis_Neo Moderator


    Priority Moves and why they Matter in the VGC
    Article by: Travis Evans
    Date: 1/24/12
    Current Format: VGC

    As alluded to in my last article (, every VGC player should be prepared to deal with priority moves. Why? To give a brief explanation, priority moves “break” the normal rules by allowing select attacks to occur first, regardless of speed. Your most basic attacks, such as Surf or Thunderbolt, occur at normal (or 0) priority, meaning that they are influenced solely by the speed of the Pokémon in question. However, certain moves, such as Protect, Bullet Punch, or Trick Room, have priority attached to them, meaning their effects will happen first or last, depending on the priority tier and regardless of the user’s own speed stat.

    Priority Tier List

    The priority tier is as follows:

    • +7 Pursuit (on a switch)
    • +6 Switch (as in switching Pokémon in/out), Focus Punch (initial charge up)
    • +5 Helping Hand
    • +4 Detect, Protect, Snatch, Magic Coat
    • +3 Fake Out, Follow Me, Rage Powder, Quick Guard, Wide Guard, Endure
    • +2 Extreme Speed, Feint
    • +1 Aqua Jet, Mach Punch, Vacuum Wave, Bullet Punch, Ice Shard, Quick Attack, Shadow Sneak, Sucker Punch, Bide
    • 0 Pretty much everything not listed here
    • -1 Vital Throw
    • -2 None
    • -3 Focus Punch (attack)
    • -4 Avalanche, Revenge
    • -5 Counter, Mirror Coat
    • -6 Roar, Whirlwind, Circle Throw, Dragon Tail
    • -7 Trick Room, Magic Room, Wonder Room

    Moves most likely to be seen in VGC competition are in bold. A basic version of the priority list can also be found here:

    As you see, the list makes sense for the most part. Moves such as Aqua Jet and Ice Shard are light hitting attacks meant to give the jump on an opponent (and are given priority for this reason), and to counter those moves such as Protect are placed higher up on the list to block them. In contrast, moves such as Counter or Mirror Coat would function awkwardly if given normal or higher priority, and the low priority on Trick Room is meant to put a degree of risk for the prize of having your slower Pokémon move faster for several turns.

    So, let’s break down the tier level by level and move by move:


    Pursuit is meant to punish players trying to switch their Pokémon out safely, which is why it has the highest priority (as switching itself is otherwise the highest priority out there). Keep in mind Pursuit used as a normal attack drop down 0 (normal) priority if the opponent it targets isn’t switching. For the most part, although switching can become common in VGC battles, Pursuit isn’t nearly as useful as it is in Singles because you’re trying to predict which of 2 Pokémon are going to be swapped out, which isn’t always as cut and dry as in Singles. Usually it’s better to just nail the incoming Pokémon with your own normal attacks, or even multi-targets to ensure a hit on both opposing Pokémon.


    This is where switching Pokémon naturally falls, as outside of Pursuit you’re free to swap in any Pokémon you like before opposing priority moves kick in. This is also where the text for Focus Punch while charging will be displayed.



    Helping Hand is definitely something to watch out for, as it can boost big attacks even further into KO range. What’s useful is that they will trigger before attacks like Fake Out (which inflict a guaranteed flinch effect), ensuring you can at least boost your partner’s attacks and have it not be a “dead” turn otherwise by flinch.

    +4 ​

    Protect and Detect are the big things here. Protect is the most commonly used defensive move since just about all Pokémon get it from the TM, and is fantastic in Doubles for a variety of reasons: scouting, avoiding damage from multi-target attacks (including your partner’s), stalling for HP recovery, and more. Detect is an option some Pokémon get over Protect, and it does have some uses; for example, against an opponent using Imprison (likely to negate moves such as Protect), Detect is unaffected and you’re free to use it.

    In general, if you can opt for Detect over Protect, it is optimal if only to avoid it being randomly shut down by Pokemon using Imprison to negate Protect. One important thing to keep in mind with Detect and Protect though is that you cannot use either of them as successfully in consecutive turns, as their chance to work is reduced to 50% (this includes using Protect, then Detect, and vice versa). This effect is also shared with Wide Guard, Quick Guard, and Endure in the next tier below. Magic Coat and Snatch both aren’t seen as much, as both rely too heavily on prediction to get right and once used are predictable by the opponent.


    The rest of the defensive move tier, sans Fake Out. Wide Guard is notable for protecting both of your Pokémon from multi-targeting moves, instead of the 1 Pokémon Protect offers. However, it is more limited in what it defends against, as it will only work against moves such as Surf and not moves like Hydro Pump. Quick Guard is similarly specialized, guarding both of your Pokémon only against opposing priority moves, making it overall less useful than you would think after the beginning turns of a battle. Finally we have Fake Out, it being invaluable for the 1 turn guaranteed flinch effect on an opposing Pokémon which relieves you of a turn from their attacks as well as allowing you a chance to set up your own Pokémon, such as using Trick Room.

    However, the main thing to keep in mind with Fake Out is that it only works during the first turn that Pokémon is out in the field; for example, you can use Fake Out as your first attack during your first turn with success, but subsequent attempts will fail unless that Pokémon is called back and sent out again. Endure is about the only move here not seen in Doubles - while it functions much like Protect and Detect in ensuring survival for a turn, it leaves your Pokémon with 1 HP and open to many of the opposing priority moves from +1, making it less desirable from that standpoint, as well as any damaging weather such as Hail and Sandstorm.


    Extreme Speed is actually very useful, as it is the big brother of Quick Attack: more damage and a slightly higher priority. However, the bulk of the Pokémon that learn this are either ineligible or not super great choices for the VGC, though Pokémon like Lucario do make an occasional appearance. Feint in theory is a great move, allowing you to hit through Protect and Detect and allowing that Pokémon using Protect/Detect to be hit by any subsequent attacks targeting it. However, it is difficult to use as it requires you to predict when your opponent will use it (and what Pokémon), otherwise it’s essentially just a weakened dark type attack. In addition, much like Extreme Speed, quite a few of the Pokémon who learn Feint aren’t generally popular (though this could work to your advantage in planning something creative).


    This is where the bulk of commonly used priority moves lie, most of them having the same effect. Aqua Jet (Water), Mach Punch (Fighting), Bullet Punch (Steel), Ice Shard (Ice), Quick Attack (Normal), Vacuum Wave (Fighting) and Shadow Sneak (Ghost) all have a base power of 40 and only differ in the Pokémon who learn them and their type affiliation (Vacuum Wave technically is a special attack as well instead of a physical attack). If course, many popular VGC Pokémon can learn one (or more in a few cases) of them, so it’s always good to be on alert for them if one of your Pokémon is on the verge of being KOed. Sucker Punch is a bit trickier to use (requiring the opposing Pokémon to target the user with an attack), but deals more damage than the above moves and generally can be used successfully with proper prediction. Bide is the only move you’ll never see since it’s just bad all around as it requires you to sacrifice 3 turns in order to deal damage, during which your opponent can easily set up (and not damage the user of Bide) or outright KO the user of Bide.


    Self explanatory for the most part, 0 priority encompasses just about every other move in the game. This includes multi-target attacks such as Surf, Earthquake, Blizzard, and single target ones such as Flamethrower, Swords Dance, and Ice Beam. Of note, Pursuit normally will fall here unless the opposing Pokémon you are targeting switches out, in which case it jumps to +7.



    Vital Throw isn’t a bad move per say considering what it does, but many Pokémon don’t bother with accuracy or evasion modifier moves in the VGC, so you’re better off with just a normal Fighting attack in just about every case. Additionally there are a lot of good Fighting attack options to choose from, such as Drain Punch and Close Combat. However, if you're using a Pokémon that would otherwise move last, using Vital Throw is just as good in that regard as any other Fighting attack.


    Technically no moves yet have -2 priority, but it’s still noted just in case any do spring up.


    Again, Focus Punch normally isn’t a bad move, but it requires a lot of help to use in Doubles compared to Singles (where you can generally hide behind a Substitute much easier). Having a partner use Follow Me while the Pokemon uses Focus Punch or sets up a Substitute to use it next turn can work, as well as disabling your opponent through status conditions (such as Sleep) in order to increase your chances of getting it off.



    Avalanche and Revenge are the same basic attack in two different flavors, one in Ice, the other Fighting, and offer a normal base damage of 60 that doubles if the user is hit by an attack. Given the prevalence of multi-targeting moves, both Revenge and Avalanche are potentially useful. Still, this is another general case of “why wait to do damage when I can use another damaging equivalent faster and not have to deal with negative priority?”, especially for faster Pokemon. Normally slower Pokemon that would go last anyways (presuming you're not using Trick Room) can benefit from this nicely as it will usually allow them to get in a big damaging attack.


    Much like the above moves, both Counter and Mirror Coat are fabulous when used right, often dealing huge damage. However, the problem is twofold; you have to predict as well as match the right move with the right opposing attack, otherwise it does nothing. So while some Pokémon can carry them if you’re great at prediction. For example, Chansey or Blissey are both great candidates for Counter since it's almost guaranteed they will be targeted by physical attacks due to it being their lowest defensive stat.


    Both Roar and Whirlwind aren’t as useful as they are in Singles for the most part: tactics such as Stealth Rock and Spikes aren’t used here, and you’re dealing with a team of 4 instead of a team of 6, making the scouting potential much less useful. Circle Throw and Dragon Tail are a tad more useful though, as they will actually deal a basic amount of damage in addition to the switching effect, so you’re still doing some damage while forcing switches that your opponent may not like. For some cases, they can be moderately useful, especially if you need to get rid of a pesky stat-upper or sweeper temporarily during something like Rain.


    Trick Room obviously is the most likely move you’ll encounter in the VGC at this level; entire teams are built around slow, hard hitting Pokémon and relying on Trick Room to flip-flop speed levels to get the jump on opponents. This move exists at this tier as it is meant to be harder to get out for those reasons, giving your opponent has ample time to disable the user through various means to prevent Trick Room from coming into play. Therefore, it’s almost essential to have a supporting partner to better your odds of using Trick Room. Magic Room generally isn’t good; shutting down item effects in theory sounds good, but bear in mind your own items are locked too, and many teams aren’t or shouldn’t be overly reliant on items. Wonder Room is intriguing as it swaps around all Pokémon defense and special defense stats (leading to some interesting situations), but ultimately it can be a pain to keep track of, not to mention it affects your Pokémon as well. Still, Wonder Room could let you get a big jump on Pokemon such as Blissey, which would allow special attacks punch through it.


    Prankster deserves its own small subsection for the effect it provides, which is to boost the priority of all non-attacking moves by 1 and allows those moves to circumvent Quick Guard in this manner. This includes moves that already have priority (so Protect would be at +5 instead of +4 for example) and moves that normally do not have priority. The last part is big, as this allows moves such as Taunt to gain priority with Pokémon possessing Prankster, allowing them to shut down attempts by opposing Pokémon at stat-upping without necessarily having to outspeed them normally, and strategies such as Tailwind can either be shut down more efficiently or be used by you with a better success rate.

    Generally, there are 3 big Pokémon that have Prankster are also commonly seen in the VGC: Whimsicott, Thundurus, and Tornadus. Thundurus and Tornadus both have excellent attacking stats and several big non-attacking moves (like Taunt and Tailwind) that get boosted to priority with Prankster, making them great additions in both a support and offensive role. Whimsicott has many varying non-attacking moves that get boosted by Prankster (over 20), allowing him tons of customization to fit a team.

    Several Pokémon also gain Prankster as a Dream World ability, and a few are quite useful. For example, Sableye is already notable as being 1 of 2 Pokemon with no Weakness in game, and with Prankster and its access to a variety of non-attacking moves moves Confuse Ray and Trick (imagine being able to Trick a Lagging Tail onto one of your opponent's fastest Pokemon, thereby making it the slowest), in addition to staples such as Fake Out and Sucker Punch. Murkrow, though unevolved (Eviolite can help increase its survivability), is the only Prankster with access to Quash, which forces a target to move last, and Murkrow is all but guaranteed to move first barring other faster priority users. Murkrow also learns several unorthodox support moves you wouldn't think it could, such as Thunder Wave, and can set up Tailwind support for the rest of your team as well.

    So for example of how Prankster can play out, a Thundurus using Taunt (+1 now with Prankster instead of 0) will hit its target before an opposing Weavile’s attempt to Taunt Thundurus from using support moves, despite the fact Weavile is normally faster with the proper EVs. However, a Weavile using Fake Out (+3) on the initial turn Weavile is out and targeting Thundurus using Taunt (+1) will still beat it and disable Thundurus before it can Taunt. Overall, it’s a good idea to keep Prankster in mind when planning strategies, as Pokémon with Prankster circumvent the normal rules even further, and should be taken into account both when making your team and analyzing opposing teams.


    When used at the appropriate time, priority moves are a huge boom for players: they can allow you to get in quick KOs and likewise prevent KOs and damage from occurring. They also add a nice tactical element to the game as well, instead of being a simple X Pokémon will always outspeed Y, Y may instead get the jump on X or its partner. The use of defensive moves such as Protect and Detect also offer many strategies to happen and provide a nice strategic option to avoid otherwise deadly damage. Hopefully this guide will further aid you in your quest in becoming a master VGC player. :thumb:

  2. JimboPro

    JimboPro New Member

    Being only a casual player, at home with the kids, I rather enjoyed reading this. I play more of the card game because I stink at the VG but this actually helped me out alot by understanding new concepts that I didnt realize were apart of the game, thank you!
    Posted with Mobile style...
  3. ultimatedra

    ultimatedra New Member

    Agreed, it is a very well done article - pairs perfectly with your Guide to VGC teambuilding.

    I hope that all you TCG players read these articles for a 2nd chance for a trip at regionals!
  4. vaporeon

    vaporeon Moderator

    I enjoyed reading this. I try to keep quick attack and other 'fast' moves on my team because they do net you kills when you need them.
  5. Element_Enigma

    Element_Enigma New Member

    Cool article, didnt expect to see much VGC discussion over here but pretty good! :thumb:
  6. Gryphon

    Gryphon New Member

    Great article!

    I like to use Whimsicott to Switcheroo an Iron Ball onto a pokemon that is either Flying or has Levitate, or is likely to attack with Acrobatics powered up with a Flying Gem (usually going to be a Flying type like super-fast Crobat). A Levitating pokemon is usually brought in to avoid a partner's Earthquake, but Iron Ball shuts off Levitate. Iron Ball also slows down a pokemon and makes it heavier, and take more damage from Grass Knot. But, you have to watch out for pokemon with Fling.

    I can also have a partner pokemon in doubles with Skill Swap to grab Prankster off of Whimsicott, or from an enemy Prankster.

    If Taunt is a major problem, try Mental Herb.
  7. Juxtapoz

    Juxtapoz New Member

    if i'm not mistaken, (and i might be,) lagging tale actually lowers the holders priority by one. sorry sableye. very good article, and this is coming from an overly skeptical singles battler
  8. Regis_Neo

    Regis_Neo Moderator

    Lagging Tail (and Full Incense as well) do not affect priority in that way. If 2 Pokemon were to use priority moves in the same speed tier (say I'm gonna Trick Laggaing Tail onto you and you respond with Aqua Jet), then Lagging Tail would cause the Trick user to go last in that scenario, but my Sableye would still use Trick before other normal moves are used thanks to the priority boost from Prankster. But yeah, Lagging Tail does not give -1 to priority, rather it simply makes ther holder move last in a given speed tier I guess you can say.
    Posted with Mobile style...
  9. iwinsq

    iwinsq New Member

    Pursuit is meant to punish players trying to switch their Pokémon out safely, which is why it has the highest priority (as switching itself is otherwise the highest priority out there). Keep in mind Pursuit used as a normal attack drop down 0 (normal) priority if the opponent it targets isn’t switching. For the most part, although switching can become common in VGC battles, Pursuit isn’t nearly as useful as it is in Singles because you’re trying to predict which of 2 Pokémon are going to be swapped out, which isn’t always as cut and dry as in Singles. Usually it’s better to just nail the incoming Pokémon with your own normal attacks, or even multi-targets to ensure a hit on both opposing Pokémon.
  10. JamesCarl

    JamesCarl New Member

    Good info, thanks for sharing this post!

Share This Page