Casual Pokemon players have wondered for years what the point of the daycare in every Pokemon game is. Yes, if you leave two Pokemon there they might make an egg; everyone knows that (besides the daycare attendants, who somehow seem confused every single time).
But why? Is there a benefit to hatching Pokemon rather than catching them in the wild? And is there any reason to take advantage of this system?
If you ever want to crack into Pokemon’s deeper levels — the realm of competitive battling, which we cover in detail right here — the answer to those questions is “You bet your Pikachu there is.”
Breeding is how you get Pokemon with the best stats, by taking advantage of several semi-hidden systems within the Pokemon games. And if you’re getting into competitive battling, you’d better believe that everyone else has Pokemon with the best possible stats, so if you want to compete you need to as well.
Although it can be a time-consuming and frustratingly random process, strategically breeding Pokemon is necessary for success. And it can feel deliciously rewarding when you finally breed the perfect Pokemon. It makes you wonder if Brock knew what he was getting himself into?
Why you need to breed
Breeding is necessary for competitive players because of that old nugget of Pokemon knowledge. Every Pokemon, even if they’re the same species, level, gender, and nature, will have different stats from its peers. That’s due to a feature called Individual Values, or “IVs.”
IVs are like a Pokemon’s DNA. They range from 0 to 31 and there’s one for each stat. IVs determine what a Pokemon’s stats look like, high or low. Once you’ve hatched any 20 eggs you can speak to a character in the lobby of the Battle Tree on Poni Island to gain the ability to easily check any Pokemon’s IVs, a feature new to Sun and Moon.
Pokemon caught in the wild usually have random IVs, but those hatched from eggs inherit some IVs from their parents, like genetics. And that’s why you must breed to get perfect competitive Pokemon. By selectively breeding across multiple generations, you can get the highest possible stats for your Pokemon.
This doesn’t matter at all when playing through a Pokemon game’s story, up to and beyond defeating the Elite Four. That’s because in-game, you can simply level your Pokemon above your opponents’ levels, and gain an unbeatable advantage (not to mention most players are smarter than the game-controlled opponents). But in competitive and online battling all Pokemon are the same level, and Pokemon without perfect IVs are at a serious disadvantage.
How breeding works
It may seem complicated, but there are concrete rules that go into breeding, and it all makes sense in the end.
When you drop two Pokemon off at the daycare they’ll eventually make an egg, if they’re in the same egg group. Note that they don’t need to be the same type or species of Pokemon — just the same egg group. Look a Pokemon up on Serebii, a great Pokemon resource, to find out what egg group its in. However, any Pokemon can breed with Ditto, which is important.
Thanks to egg groups, a Dratini and a Magikarp will happily make eggs together, and whichever Pokemon is female determines what comes out of those eggs. Either gender can mate with Ditto, though, and the non-Ditto Pokemon determines the species of the hatchlings (i.e. you can’t hatch a Ditto).
If the parents in the daycare are holding no items, the Pokemon that hatch from their eggs will have a random nature, while the female Pokemon has a greater chance to pass its ability down if the parents have different abilities.
The hatched Pokemon’s stats will also be half random — three of their six stats will be passed down from the parents, while three will be determined randomly. There are items you can use to adjust those odds, which we’ll discuss in the next section.
Those are the basics. Now let’s get into how best to utilize them.
How to breed the best Pokemon
The most important factor when breeding Pokemon is the items that the parents are holding:
- Power items: These ensure that a specific stat is passed down (or, if both parents are holding one, give a greater chance for both specified stats to be passed). They include the Power Weight, Power Anklet, Power Band, Power Belt, Power Bracer, and Power Lens, each corresponding to a different stat. They can be bought at the Battle Royal Dome.
- Everstone: When a Pokemon in battle holds an everstone, it will never evolve. But when a breeding Pokemon holds everstone it ensures that the hatched Pokemon will have the same nature as the parent. They can be found on some common wild Pokemon.
- Destiny Knot: The Destiny Knot’s breeding function was a game changer when it was introduced in Pokemon X and Y, making it far easier to breed effectively, and it remains crucial today. It ensures that not three, but five of a Pokemon’s stats are inherited from its parents. It too can be bought in the Battle Royal Dome.
There are two other important things you need to make sure you have:
- Oval charm: Get this from a character in Heahea City’s Dimensional Research Lab after you beat the Elite Four. It causes Pokemon in the daycare to produce eggs more frequently.
- Flame Body: Keep a Pokemon with this ability (like Talonflame) in your party and eggs will hatch more quickly.
The Destiny Knot is the most important item in Pokemon breeding because it takes away almost all the randomness (five sixths of it, in fact). Most competitive Pokemon only need five perfect IVs to be viable, since most Pokemon only use one attack stat (either attack or special attack) and the unused attack stat doesn’t matter. If the parents you’re breeding have the five perfect stats you’re looking for between them, Destiny Knot gives a good chance that all five will be passed down.
For best breeding, catch the perfect Ditto
But before you get to that point you’ll likely need to go through multiple generations of eggs and parents. One thing that can help a lot is to catch a Ditto with its own perfect IVs, which is easier than ever in Pokemon Sun and Moon thanks to a new feature called “ally chaining.”
There’s a fantastic guide on exactly how to do this right here on Reddit, but the gist of it is you find a wild Ditto, get its health low, then keep it alive while it continuously “calls for help.” Every time it summons another Ditto to help it you defeat the new Ditto, until it’s summoned 40 or more. Then you defeat the original Ditto and catch the most recent summon. After a 40-Pokemon chain, the new arrivals are guaranteed to have at least 4 perfect (31) IVs.
Having a Ditto with four perfect stats gives you an advantage when breeding. You can even do that more than once to have multiple well-endowed Dittos, so that no matter what stats you wind up breeding for you have a Ditto with a perfect IV in that stat.
Let’s do a hypothetical. You’re trying to breed a Mimikyu with perfect 31s in HP, Attack, Defense, Special Defense, and Speed, plus a “jolly” nature that raises its speed and lowers its special attack (the one stat this Mimikyu, a physical attacker, won’t need)
- You get a jolly Mimikyu, either by catching one in the wild using a Pokemon that has the ability “synchronize” and a jolly nature, by breeding a female Mimikyu with a jolly male Pokemon in the same egg group holding an everstone, or by hatching Mimikyus randomly until you get a jolly one.
- You give the jolly Mimikyu an everstone and breed it with a Ditto with 4 of the IVs you want holding a Destiny Knot.
- Every time you hatch a new Mimikyu with better IVs than the one that’s currently breeding, you swap it in to breed with the Ditto.
- Eventually you’ll land on a Mimikyu with enough perfect stats that you can swap in another Ditto, or breed two of the Mimikyu together, as long as the two Pokemon between them have the IVs you want passed down.
Eventually you will get a Mimikyu with the nature and the five perfect IVs you want, even if it takes hours or even days of riding Tauros around in circles to hatch eggs. (And in the meantime you can send all the rejects off through Wonder Trade!)
The other benefits of breeding
There are other benefits to breeding besides getting the IVs and nature that you want.
For example, many Pokemon have special “egg moves” — attacks they can only learn through breeding with Pokemon of a different species (possible thanks to egg groups). Want a Tyranitar with Dragon Dance? Can’t blame you, but you’ll have to breed a female one with a male Haxorus that knows the move.
That’s just one example, and there are countless combinations. This muddies the process significantly, though it can be worth it to surprise opponents with advanced strategies.
You can also use breeding to pass rare “hidden abilities” on if you find a Pokemon with one. The easiest way to get them is through ally chaining, which makes Pokemon with hidden abilities more likely to appear. Hidden abilities are sometimes better than a Pokemon’s normal abilities, like Venusaur, whose hidden ability double its speed stat in battle during “sunny” weather. Serebii is, as always, a good place to research hidden abilities.
(If you wind up with a Pokemon that has the perfect stats but the wrong ability, you can buy an expensive item called an Ability Capsule to change it. It will never change it to a hidden ability, however, so ally chaining is the way to go for those.)
It’s important to note that IVs can be artificially manipulated in Pokemon Sun and Moon at the Hyper Trainer in the Hau’oli City mall. Trade bottle caps and you can raise Pokemon’s IVs above their actual levels. However these increases apply only in battle and not while breeding; so Pokemon who’ve had their IVs increased through Hyper Training will still pass on their original IVs if used to create eggs.
Once you finally have the perfect Pokemon bred, there’s still a lot more to do before you’re ready to start battling competitively. Check out our comprehensive guide to competitive Pokemon battling to find out exactly what.
And remember: Since nobody knows how Pokemon eggs are made, it’s definitely not gross to continuously breed freshly hatched Pokemon with their own parents in search of perfect genes. Nope, not gross at all.
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