Amusing as it has been to watch Leon and Eugene get wrecked by the AI in contests, it’s also kind of discomforting on a different level, I hope this quick guide will take you through the basics and get you started.
The focus of our community is on competitive battling, so some may wonder why bother with something like contests at all. Well, since we are a competitive community, our ultimate goal is to have our players play at the higher level sanctioned tournaments: Regionals, Nationals, and even Worlds itself. Games at this level are played using the timer and limited to only 15 minutes. There is therefore merit to the strategy of winning on the timer in certain situations, especially should you run into a team carrying the likes of Minimize Chansey.
Those who have seen it already may have observed that the contest star ribbon animation that triggers when the Pokémon comes out is not insignificant in length. With that in mind, and given how winning in contests is not particularly difficult, I feel that it is an edge that should not be overlooked.
Also for relatively unimportant reasons like being the only way to get Lucarionite in ORAS and also being the easiest way to get a Destiny Knot in ORAS. But I think most of us just asset-stripped our X/Y anyway.
Note: This guide is for you to get a contest star ribbon with ANY Pokémon. I’m not going to do something silly like recommend Pokémon species that are “good for contests” because that would defeat the purpose of this guide. We can’t let that criteria dictate what we use in our competitive teams after all. And if you need specialised mons to beat the AI you are doing something wrong.
The main reason many consider contests in ORAS ‘nerfed’ is because they removed the limit on the number of Pokéblocks you can feed to a Pokémon. As such, you can easily max all five aspects of a Pokémon’s condition and give yourself a significant advantage over the AI.
Add to this the bonus from holding the appropriately coloured scarf (after maxing your Pokémon’s condition, go to the Pokémon Fan Club in Slateport and talk to the President five times to get five different scarves), and there are times when you really have to mess up in order to lose, such is your advantage from the start.
See for yourself (the blue bar is the value for condition):
Note: Regarding Scarf vs Mega Stone, against the AI I would recommend the guaranteed bonus given by a Scarf, unless you’re running a moveset specifically designed to max crowd approval.
Your goal is to use the Pokéblock Kit in your key items to make Rainbow Pokéblock +, which will raise all 5 aspects of Pokémon condition at once. Using the regular Rainbow Pokéblock would be too slow (69 needed to max!), so ignore any that you make en route to your +s. You need 4 berries of different colours for this.
Since we are all competitive players, I believe it is a good practice to be growing/have grown a supply of EV-reducing berries in case you need to tinker with an EV spread. Luckily for us, all 5 colours of berries can be found in this group (Tamato and Pomeg are both red). Put 4 different berries together (again, don’t use both Tamato and Pomeg):
And hopefully you will get:
You need 16 to max a single Pokémon’s condition, so keep going until you have enough. Feed the Pokéblocks, let it hold the appropriate Scarf, and more than half the job is done.
Before we go into any specifics, do yourself a favour and clear all the way until you unlock Master rank for each contest type by finding a Pokémon that knows Explosion/Self-Destruct/Destiny Bond/Final Gambit/Memento/Healing Wish/Lunar Dance and maxing its condition. On turn 1, use that move, then put your 3DS aside for a while and come back after you win. Repeat until you’ve unlocked all 5 Master ranks.
Every Pokémon attack has an appeal attached to it, measured in hearts, and in most cases an additional effect. These can all be viewed on a Pokémon’s status screen:
“Jamming” subtracts a number of hearts from the Pokémon that appeared before you that turn (either the one just before or all of them, depending on the move). Jamming should NOT be your focus when going up against the AI, though Giga Impact/Hyper Beam on the last turn is always viable.
Serebii has a comprehensive list of what moves do in contests, with every Pokémon’s dex page having a contest equivalent (like Garchomp).
The goal therefore is to earn the highest amount of total hearts possible.
During contests, there is a meter in the top left corner of your screen that measures audience excitement, going up to 5 stars. This plays an important role.
Each aspect of Pokémon condition has two supporting aspects, based on the star that shows a Pokémon’s condition.
Cool – Beauty/Tough
Beauty – Cool/Cute
Cute – Beauty/Clever
Clever – Cute/Tough
Tough – Clever/Cool
When you use a move that matches the contest type, the audience excitement will increase by a star, and you will gain an additional heart. (There are certain moves like Chip Away that will get this no matter what contest type, but they have low appeal and are therefore irrelevant for us)
When you use a move from a supporting aspect, there will be no reaction from the audience and your hearts remain unchanged.
When you use a move from one of the other two aspects however (Cute move during Cool contest for example), audience excitement will decrease by 1 star (if possible) and you will lose a heart.
When audience excitement hits 5 stars, the Pokémon that used the move will trigger a special animation based on their type (and mega evolve if holding the appropriate mega stone) and gain an additional 5 hearts (for non-mega). Audience excitement then resets to 0.
A general rule to follow is that the max excitement bonus is nice to have, and basically guarantees that you win that contest, but is not necessary for beating the AI (unless Lisia triggers it twice, which can happen since the AI rigs sometimes).
The additional heart you gain by matching the contest type with your move however, is very important. With 5 moves that’s a potential swing of 5 hearts either way, which is why sometimes just spamming moves that match the contest type is the way to go (elaboration on this school of thought later).
Note: When I refer to “base value”, I am talking about the number of hearts earned before audience reaction, be it positive or negative.
Certain pairs of moves trigger a combo when used in the correct order, giving you 3 bonus hearts. A list of these combos can be found here.
Since you have 5 moves, the most straightforward approach to take would be to use a combo twice, and use the free turn to pull off a situational high base value move (last turn Explosion is nice for obvious reasons).
However, don’t fall into the trap of blindly going for combos, as not all combos are made equal, especially if one or both moves do not match the contest type. There is a good chance that you will fare better by spamming generic non-combo moves, due to either having high base value and/or matching the contest type and earning the bonus heart each turn.
For example in a Beauty contest, Garchomp may have access to the Stealth Rock+Roar combo (2+3+3 combo bonus=8 hearts) but would be better off using the two turns to spam Flamethrower and Dragon Pulse (4+1 audience bonus+4+1 audience bonus=10 hearts) instead.
The other advantage of using high base value moves that match the contest type is that there is always the chance of triggering the max audience excitement bonus, which combos involving moves of other contest types would miss out on.
Aggravating as it may seem to have to potentially teach your Pokémon new moves for different contest types as well as have to relearn all your competitive moves at the end, keep in mind that Heart Scales are easier than ever to farm using DexNav, and the Move Tutors are relatively cheap if you’ve cleared a Chatelaine or two in the Battle Maison.
While I use 4 hearts as my benchmark for generic non-combo moves, since that is the base value of moves with no additional effects such as Flamethrower, there are other moves that can earn you more than that if used correctly.
Here is a list of move effect types that you should look out for:
First to move bonus: Aerial Ace, Quick Guard, Shock Wave, Swift, etc.
These moves have a base value of 2 hearts, but if you go first in a turn you get 6 hearts instead. If you max your Pokémon’s condition, you will always go first on turn 1, so that’s one turn of guaranteed bonus. Even with negative audience reaction this will still earn you 5 hearts, so something to keep in mind if the Pokémon lacks high base value moves that match the contest type. Moves like Agility make you go first the next turn, creating a pseudo-combo of sorts.
High base value, receive double jamming: Double-Edge, Overheat, etc.
These moves have a base value of 6 hearts, but if you receive a jamming effect from anyone going after you it will subtract double the number of hearts. Somewhat risky, but you can sometimes safely assume that you will not be jammed during that turn (since you can scout the AI movesets by going to their tabs) and if you go last there is no risk anyway. Moves like Endure ensure you go last the next turn, making these moves safer to use.
Buffs: Swords Dance, Calm Mind, etc. and Buff abusers: Stored Power, Secret Power, etc.
The first group of moves gives you a star, which will increase the base value of subsequent moves by 1 heart. Using it on the first turn therefore will yield 1+4 more turns=5 hearts. The second group of moves takes advantage of the star by increasing base value based on the number of stars, with 1 star the base value becomes 4 hearts, with 2 it becomes 7 hearts. A sequence involving 1 buff and 2 different buff abusers would therefore yield 1+4+2+7+7=21 hearts, an above average amount. Everything gets Secret Power, which is helpful.
Match previous move type: Round, Psych Up, etc
These moves have a base value of 2 hearts, but become 6 hearts if the Pokémon that moved just before you used a move of the same contest type (if it used a Beauty move, Round becomes 6 hearts). Again somewhat risky, but you can predict what an opponent is going to do by looking at its moveset (for example, Wallace’s Milotic only has Beauty moves so Round would be a safe choice).
Finishers: Explosion, Destiny Bond, Final Gambit, etc
Base value of 8 hearts, Pokémon cannot make any moves in future turns. Ideal for turn 5.
Important combos to look out for
Focus Energy+Karate Chop/Shadow Claw/Psycho Cut: Starts with a buff so the amount of hearts escalates.
Stealth Rock+Roar: Average base value, but always glorious to see Stealth Rock unnerve Ali. Roar’s effect of making you go last next turn also sets up a move like Endeavor or Outrage, and the high base value of those moves can put you in a position to unnerve others with your next Stealth Rock.
Amnesia/Cotton Guard/Hone Claws/Calm Mind/Nasty Plot+Stored Power/Baton Pass: Buff+buff abuser combo. Calm Mind+Stored Power is the combo most often cited as “OP” on messageboards.
Stockpile+Spit Up: Buff+buff abuser combo
Charge+Charge Beam: Buff+buff abuser combo
Endure+Endeavor/Flail/Reversal: Endure makes you go last next turn, the second move gets a bonus and becomes 6 hearts if you go last.
Rest+Snore: This is notable not for having high base value, but for being a Cute combo that EVERYONE can learn, making Cute contests relatively painless for all mons.
Hail+Icy Wind: Also average base value, but a fairly accessible Beauty combo especially for most water types.
Just to give you a starting point, here are some of the moves that I have used for common VGC’15 Pokémon:
Sylveon: Eevee gets Stored Power as an egg move, as well as Baton Pass as a level up move, forming an obvious combo with Calm Mind.
Kangaskhan: Gets Endure and Reversal via level up.
Salamence: Gets Focus Energy via level up to combo with Shadow Claw (TM).
Rotom: Learns Charge though level up, Charge Beam via TM. Transform into Mow/Heat for access to Leaf Storm or Overheat.
Thundurus: Charge+Charge Beam again.
Smeargle: Well obviously you can optimise your moveset for each contest type, but no one wants to have to Sketch over and over again. I used Endure/Flail/Destiny Bond for a high base value combo involving moves from opposite contest types and a strong finisher.
Thoughts on player contests
There are no tangible benefits to playing contests against other players, so I see little reason to give any more than a passing mention to it. The way I see it, since players will obviously be maximising the value of their own moves (it’s no secret which moves will earn you the most hearts, after all), it all comes down to who gets the max audience excitement bonus, turning the entire thing into a giant lucksack.
Yes, arguably controlling turn order can be a factor in getting the bonus, especially the first time around, but that just ends up creating a bizarre reverse condition creeping situation since a later effect will overwrite the previous one where applicable, and even that all goes to naught if one joker decides to hit Trick Room and scramble the whole thing (hi Isaac).
I hope I’ve gone through the basic mechanics of contests in ORAS here. Feel free to comment below if you think I missed anything out or made an error somewhere.