So Pokemon Unite is finally out on all platforms. And as it turns out, getting trapped in your spawn and repeatedly dunked on by Slowpoke kinda sucks. Let’s fix that.
While Pokemon Unite lacks the complexity of a League of Legends: Wild Rift, Honor of Kings and PC-centric titles, that doesn’t mean Pikachu and co. can ignore the core MOBA fundamentals. A good deal of patience always serves you well, but there’s some key things that are worth doing regardless of what Pokemon you’re rolling out as — and other bits and pieces about your opponents that you definitely need to factor in.
So let’s get into it.
Please look at your radar. A lot.
Getting tunnel-vision in video games is super common. You see it a lot in first-person shooters, where people forget to look at the radar in Destiny 2 or Counter-Strike, and they subsequently miss opportunities to make well-timed rotations or catch their opponents off guard.
The same goes for MOBAs. You have a wealth of information available in the top-left of your screen. It’ll usually give you an indication of how aggressive or passive you can be. It’ll let you know when your teammates are vulnerable, or likely to be vulnerable. (And as is often the case when playing mobile MOBAs, you’ll probably spot this before your team says anything.)
It’s not a hard and fast rule, but you should be glancing up at your radar every 15 or 20 seconds, and more frequently if there’s no opponent immediately in your Pokemon’s range. If you can’t see any enemy Pokemon battling your team in their lanes, it’s worth playing a little more defensively — and if you count a ton of enemies flooding to the opposite side of the map, that’s a perfect opportunity to lay on the pressure and bank those points.
Know whether your Pokemon uses normal attacks or special attacks.
This is something Pokemon Unite could really be clearer on. Basically, your Pokemon will either have a normal attack (think physical damage) or special attacks (think magic/energy attacks). The game doesn’t list this by default, but it’s important when you’re trying to buff your Pokemon with hold items that benefit different attack types.
Here’s what Pokemon fall into what category:
Physical Attack Pokemon
Special Attack Pokemon:
- Alolan Ninetails
- Mr. Mime
As you level up in Pokemon Unite, you’ll unlock different hold items that range in utility. A Sp. Atk Specs will increase your Pokemon’s special attack by 8. When upgraded to grade 10, that buffs increases to +12, and increases again to +16 when upgraded to grade 20. Muscle Bands, on the other hand, can buff your Pokemon’s basic attack speed while also increasing damage by 3 percent of the opponent’s remaining health. Huge.
Serebii has a full list of all the Hold Items in the game right here. It’s worth checking so you know roughly which items you want for which Pokemon, and what builds to focus on.
Make sure you’re comfortable with at least two different Pokemon that have different fighting styles.
This is just practical. You might invest a lot of time into a favourite character, level up their items and really get to know their strengths and weaknesses. But if it gets insta-locked, or your teammates immediately pick, say, two Attackers, it’s detrimental to your own success and the team’s success to pick a third.
It helps to have at least one all-rounder in your pocket, but you’ll be better served working with an Attacker or Speedster with a Supporter/Defender as your backup. You’ll also get a better gist of how the match flows for different Pokemon too — there’s no better way to understand a character or the weakness of a class than to play it yourself. Also, it’s just sensible to make sure your team has all their various roles filled. If you’re the one who’s more capable of doing that, you’ll generally win more games than you lose just because your team will always have the balance it needs.
Provided you or your teammates don’t deliberately throw, but that’s another thing entirely.
Claim your fair play points.
It’s a free-to-play MOBA, so it’s easy to get confused with all the currencies, rewards, and just pop-ups for countless pointless cosmetics. But your fair play points can be found in your Trainer Info page. It’s 20 coins every day — if you’re not quitting matchecs on the regular — and that can easily go towards upgrades or Pokemon unlocks.
Spend all your consumable stuff on the hold items, not unlocking Pokemon.
This is another reality of how the free-to-play system works. The difference between the top tier hold item is usually twice as good as what the first level option will be. Having those boosted will improve all your Pokemon, so it’s a smarter investment of your hard-earned consumables to buff those first rather than making sure you have, say, Greninja or Cinderace.
Understand how to use tall grass properly.
Like in other MOBAs — League of Legends particularly — heading into the tall grass will immediately hide you from enemy Pokemon. That’s good for getting away, but you’re not permanently invisible. You’re also not impervious to attacks, so if someone manually aims their skill shot into the grass to chase you down, you’ll still take the hit.
So obviously, you’ll want some distance between you and the enemy if you’re going to hide. But if you’re in a massive team fight, quickly ducking into the grass still has some utility. Because a lot of players don’t set up their controls correctly — or they never change off the default that targets the nearest enemy Pokemon — going into the tall grass can forcibly trigger their abilities to target someone else.
You always want to be focusing characters down in team fights, so that little trick can buy you the few seconds you need to either escape, stay alive longer and potentially win the team fight outright. It won’t help if players are manually aiming into the grass, of course. But when you’re just starting out, jukes into the grass can work wonders.
Cancel your attacks by hitting B (or dragging up to the cross symbol).
Another basic tip that people forget: you can cancel your attacks. You don’t always want to waste your cooldowns if you don’t have to. So if you’re in a spot where you want to hold onto an ability, or it’s the kind that’s going to launch you into an area (and possibly get you killed), just hit B or drag up to the cross-symbol in the top-right for mobiles to cancel the attack.
Jungling early? Kill the Pokemon with the sombrero first.
There’s two buffs you can get from the jungle Pokemon early on. The buffalo Pokemon, Bouffalant, gives you an orange buff that slows down enemies when hit with a normal attack. That’s fine, but it’s not as good as the blue buff you get from killing Ludicolo, this weird duck thing:
Knocking off Ludicolo first will get you a buff that improves your attack against enemies with low health, which can speed up not only your jungling but your ganking ability.
Hold down your attacks to aim them manually.
I mentioned this before, but not how you can actually do it yourself. It’s covered in the tutorial when you first play Pokemon Unite, so here’s a refresher. Most abilities can be manually targeted by holding down its button and then dragging on screen (for mobile) or moving the right stick to aim (on Switch).
Pay attention to when the boss Pokemon spawn, and know what they offer.
There’s Zapdos who appears once a game, but the boss Pokemon at the top and the bottom will spawn at 7 minutes and they have a big impact on the mid-game.
Beating Rotom, who appears at the top of the map, will move towards the nearest enemy goal. You’ll be able to insta-dunk on that goal for 15 seconds — if Rotom isn’t killed before it gets there. You’ll also get 20 points for whoever nails the final blow. That’s an enormous buff. Dreadnaw appears at the bottom, and it gives a temporary overshield of about 15 percent of your max health to all players on your team, regardless of where they are. Plus, whoever got the last hit will get 20 points as well.
But Zapdos is the big one. Kill that and the last hitter will get 30 points for dunking, while everyone else on the same team will get 20 a piece. That’s a potential 110 points for the end of the game, a massive swing that can determine a win or loss, not to mention anything extra you gain if there’s a big team fight over the legendary Pokemon. It’s also doubled because of how the Final Stretch bonus works (more on that below). Killing Zapdos also means you’ll have 30 seconds to insta-dunk any points you have in any of the enemy’s goals.
But the key thing to remember here: the final hit is what happens, much like other MOBAs. So pay attention to the enemy’s positioning, and make sure you save your cooldowns to stunlock them so they can’t gank the benefits from you.
All points will be doubled once the game timer hits 2:00.
This doesn’t matter in the early-to-mid game, but if you’re looking to score and the clock is almost about to hit 2 minutes, wait. All points will be doubled once you get into the Final Stretch, so it’s always worthwhile waiting that little bit extra to maximise your reward.
Know your role and try not to steal last hits and experience depending on who you’re laning with.
Not all Pokemon are equal, at least when it comes to dealing damage. There are certain Pokemon that specialise in being aggressive, which means those Pokemon should be favoured when it comes to last hits. A Slowpoke that hits level 10 isn’t as useful as, say, Charizard or Gengar hitting level 10 first, because the latter two will be able to do more direct damage to the other team a lot faster.
Getting those high-damage dealing allies boosted faster means you have a much better chance of winning those important team fights over Rotom or Dreadnaw, which can make all the difference when it comes to scoring points and establishing map control.
Collect all the random bonuses from the daily missions and pre-registration campaign.
This isn’t just “here, have some free tokens because we’re a free-to-play mobile game”. Pokemon Unite has genuinely good, useful bonuses that you can claim right now. One of them is a free unlock for Pikachu, while another is a breezy 1,000 Aeos Tokens that can go towards another Pokemon unlock.
Don’t destroy the other team’s goal if a nearby teammate has a lot more points than you.
This is just common courtesy and good sense. If you destroy the other team’s goal, your teammate will have to travel further into enemy territory — and your team will potentially lose out on points as a result.
It’s in the same spirit as not stealing last hits from allies who need it more. You win and lose together, and you’ll win more often by not wasting opportunities. Your opponent might be able to walk forward to that second goal, but that costs you time which your team could be using to gather more points. Or taking more team fights.
Losing time is often almost as important as losing points, because of the opportunity cost involved. It’s why being patient matters. Sure, you could go into a fight just to kill one opponent, but the time lost spent respawning could result in your goal being destroyed. Or losing a Dreadnaw fight. Or Zapdos. Or just crucial time while laning. You get the idea.
So, don’t be greedy. Think about your teammates.