EV spreads are something that all VGC players are aware of, but deeply understood by few. This has caused a lot of debate on what is the most optimal way to EV your Pokémon, should you use each EV to have a purpose, or should you just use the standard 252/252/4 spread and not focus on such trivial things?
Well each individual you may turn to for the answer will likely have a different view on EV spreads but today I would like to add to this discussion with the knowledge I have gained since first learning about EVs back in 2007.
To save you some time I’m going to outright say what I think is true and then delve deeper into the upsides and downsides of each thought process. I personally believe that “complicated” EV spreads are the best for experienced players and higher level events, while the 252/252/4 method is better for beginner/intermediate players and lower level events.
I myself will usually spend a lot of time on EV spreads when preparing for a tournament. I will do hundreds of damage calculations, comparing different spreads I come up with to find what is the most optimal spread for what I’m trying to accomplish with a Pokémon.
But if you look at my highest placing event which was 2013 Utah regionals where I won the whole event while only losing 1 single game the entire weekend, I used 252/252/4 spreads on all 6 of my Pokémon. So why did I come to this mindset change when I found my best success with standard EV spreads?
Well the answer lies in my knowledge of the game.
A Quick Story On My Change In Mindset:
In 2006 I attended my first competitive Pokémon event, The Pokémon 10th Anniversary, Journey Across America. There I learned a lot about doubles, and a deeper love for the game grew. Going into 2007 I started to get more into the online side of VGC when playing Pokémon Battle Revolution and spent a lot of time playing online and watching my first VGC idol, Gigatitan. Through his channel I learned a lot about what EVs and IVs really did for a Pokémon but all I knew at the time were 252/252/4 EV spreads and believed that was optimal and the more complex spreads were for “gimmick” Pokémon such as Blissey, Lickilicki, and Shuckle.
So going into my first live VGC event in 2012 I had little time to prepare for it after I learned about the regional taking place an hour drive away from where I lived, and that team I brought mostly 6 standard mons all with 252/252/4 EV spreads.
Despite a poor 4-3 performance, after that event I was HOOKED on VGC, the atmosphere, the strategy, and the ability to dive deeper into a franchise that really influenced my life as a child in a whole new way.
So through that next year I started to play VGC much more frequently and seriously with my good friends, PimpShrimp, and Illucive. And after lots of begging, and convincing I got my parents to fly me out to Utah for their 2013 regionals as my birthday present. And from there I brought a team that I will forever cherish that used all 252/252/4 EV spreads. And just through playing the game so much leading up the event with these 6 I was able to win the event with just the comfort of my team and playing all the matchups 100s of times previously.
That’s when the 2013 US nationals happened, I brought 5/6 of the same Pokémon to nationals and finished 6-3 1 win away from making day 2 of the event. With this loss however I was introduced to a little site called NuggetBridge. And this website changed my view of the game forever, I saw people making team reports on their teams they used to top large events. One thing I immediately noticed was the fact that these teams were only using 252/252/4 spreads on a couple of their Pokémon, namely ones carrying the Focus Sash and Life Orb items.
As I read more and more articles I realized that these spreads allowed Pokémon to live certain attacks, out speed certain Pokémon, hit certain offensive benchmarks while also providing extra offensive or defensive stat points. After learning about these spreads it was over, I was hooked on EV spreads.
The idea of using each EV point for a certain goal really fascinated me and opened up a whole new learning process to up my game. But despite this knowledge the 2014 season was my worst year of VGC, wouldn’t the new spreads support me and make me improve upon my 2013 season?
Well let’s get into what I learned about the upsides and downsides of both styles of EV spreads
252/252/4 EV Spreads:
What I learned is that unless you are really skilled at making EV spreads you can fall into a toxic mindset of making your spreads look complicated, without any real substance or reasoning behind them other than to look complicated or pretty. If you are not fully knowledgeable of proper EV spreads then you can just be hindering your Pokémon’s stats.
This standard style of EV spreads is what I recommend for beginners and intermediate players, for the sole reason of EV spreads do not make or break a team. Greats such as Paul Chua have won many regionals with 252/252/4 spreads proving that having ample knowledge about the metagame, and comfort with a team trumps your complex EV spreads. I also believe the standard spreads are much more suited for local-regional level events. In these events they are not as heavily stacked as events such as Nationals, and Worlds and the ability for Pokémon to be as fast as possible and hit as hard as possible can be really valuable in obtaining a consistent performance.
When you are first beginning or are an intermediate player you have much more you need to spend time focusing on to improve at the game such as learning the meta, common Pokémon speed tiers, how your opponents team interact on team preview, and long term game plans making just to name a few.
EV spreads are great and can really help make a good team better but only if they work, and you can make them work. If you do not yet consider yourself highly knowledgeable in the areas of the game I previously mentioned then you should work on those first and start becoming a better and more knowledgeable player. Once you have a grasp on these then you can dive deeper into the intricacies of EV spreads and effectively implement that stage into your team building routine.
Now these spreads are simple, easy to use, and proved to be effective but what are the downsides of these spreads?
It all comes down to diminishing return on your investment. A lot of Pokémon such as Glastrier have incredibly high attack stats and dish out huge damage. But with Pokémon such as Glastrier you will hit a point where you are investing EVs into the attack stat that no longer effect any damage rolls. As an example (which is probably not true to the actual game this is just to give you a picture) let’s say Glastrier with 196atk EVs will get the same one hit KO’s and the same two hit KO’s as you would get with 252atk EVs. That would mean the 56 EVs you are investing into your attack beyond the 196 EV mark are being wasted as they are not increasing the odds of you KOing Pokémon and could be used to instead increase Glastrier’s defensive stats.
This same can be applied to Pokémon such as Regieleki. Its speed stat is higher than any other Pokémon, meaning unless you are trying to win the speed tie vs other Regieleki (which is a terrible game plan) or have a specific reason you are running max speed than running 252speed Timid Regieleki can be a waste of EVs. So instead you could identify what potential speed stat you want to hit. For example let’s say you want to out speed modest Venusaur in the sun, that would mean you need to hit a speed stat of 265, which for Regieleki translates into 164Speed Timid. With this speed stat you can take the 88 EV difference from 252 and apply that into bulk to help cushion some hits or dish out extra damage.
Now these scenarios are almost always null if you are using a Pokémon with Focus Sash, as their bulk is irrelevant when you are expecting them to always get knocked down to 1 hp making the max speed max offensive investment much more optimal. The only Pokémon who will break this rule is Amoonguss due to its regenerator ability and you will want it be as defensive as possible to survive as long as it can while the Focus Sash item is more of a backup tool to make sure Amoonguss isn’t getting OHKO’d by max moves.
“Complex” EV Spreads:
So now let’s get into the more complicated EV spreads that you see most high placing players use.
The upsides to these spreads I already slightly covered in the previous section. They allow you to remove the EVs that no longer help your offensive, defensive, or speed calculations and apply them into other stats to make that Pokémon overall more efficient.
These spreads can allow you to live certain hits, perfectly out speed targeted Pokémon by 1, while maximizing damage output.
The downside of these spreads however, is that they can be a trap that makes you think you’re more knowledgeable or a better player simply because you invest EVs in 5 stats. Something I have seen over the years and even more so recently with the increased popularity of having streamers “rate my team” is that these teams will have complex EV spreads and when asked what their EV spread accomplish a majority reply with “I don’t know”.
Another one is players will copy a popular team or Pokémon’s EV spread they saw online without having any idea what the spread is for. When doing this you are not utilizing that Pokémon properly because you are likely not going to know how to use that Pokémon in battle. If you are using a Venusaur spread that is meant to out speed +1 Thundurus in the sun while also having the EVs to live its airstream with coba berry and still playing scared with your Venusaur in front of Thundurus then you are not using that Pokémon the way the original spread creator intended. At the point its more efficient to use max speed max special attack so you at least know what you’re getting into.
Both of these are traps that players unknowingly fall into that make them think they are being more efficient with a mon when in reality they are likely misplaying with that Pokémon and using an un optimal spread for their team.
If you look at worlds teams you will see these complicated spreads, because at the highest level of play versus the best players in the worlds who have been practicing extremely hard you will want your Pokémon to be as optimized as they can be so you have the highest levels of success. If you want to reach this level you can and you will, if you put in the work. Don’t rush your progress, if you aren’t at the level of understanding the basics of VGC do not rush into complex EV spreads, just have fun while learning and this type of knowledge will come with time.
I personally am a huge fan of these types of spreads and making them is one of the most enjoyable parts about tournament preparations for me. Like I said I spend a lot of time doing calcs and moving EVs around to find the best way to distribute them for my goal I’m trying to achieve. I am not a master of EV spreads but with all this time I have spent on spreads over the years I have gotten really good at optimizing spreads, finding similarities, and understanding damage calcs and this has made me confident in my ability to make spreads and use them to their fullest potential. But it wasn’t always this way and because of me falling into these traps my 2014 season was much worse than it could have been compared to if I just followed the same team building path I had in 2013 and just worked on learning about EV spreads on pokemonshowdown instead of at live events.
Moral of the story is that the answer to the question of which kind of spread should you use comes down to where you are as a player, how knowledgeable you are, how experienced you are with the intricacies of EV spreads, and what type of event you are preparing for. If you want to begin getting a baseline of how EV spreads work and how crazy these spreads can get you can check out the VGC Improvement Library where I have linked many different EV spread guides to get you started on your way to EV mastery.
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