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I've gotten about midway into Pokémon Emerald -- completed the third badge (electric badge), and starting to get quite an assortment of Pokémon.

The problem is, I can't figure out which ones to keep and raise experience for, and which ones to leave rotting in the PC. My old strategy used to be "pick the most interesting-looking ones and always power up the weakest" -- this lead to some surprising strengths (like the mushroom one with Mega Drain).

What strategy should I use? How do I know which Pokémon to select and train, and when I capture new ones, how do I decide to add them to my party (and drop a different one) or leave them in the box?

Also, I have the "Exp Share" item, so I can easily power up weak Pokémon in a low-risk fashion. w00t!

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@Ullallulloo - Emerald (or at least, 3rd gen) is significant, because it was the last game before they changed the combat mechanics (the Physical / special split). If you remove the "Emerald" descriptor, you change the nature of the question entirely. – Raven Dreamer Mar 11 '11 at 17:07
@RavenDreamer: Yeah, I know, but that's a very minor influence in selecting your party. – Ullallulloo Mar 11 '11 at 17:28
@Ullallulloo - I was thinking in terms of specific pokémon suggestions: For instance, Absol as a Dark coverage is ill suited for the role in 3rd gen due to Dark being special and Absol having much better Attack, but is much better off in 4th gen, where Bite et al get to use Attack instead. If answers refrain from specific pokémon suggestions, it is perhaps, more minor. – Raven Dreamer Mar 11 '11 at 21:34
@RavenDreamer: Oh, I see what you mean. That's a good point. It would be a lot harder and rather subjective to provide lists of good and bad Pokémon though. – Ullallulloo Mar 11 '11 at 21:38
I'm not looking for a good and bad list. I'm looking for a set of metrics by which I can analyze pokemon and decide which ones to keep and which to throw out. – ashes999 Mar 12 '11 at 0:14
up vote 2 down vote accepted

Well, it comes down to personal preference, really. Aside from the very high level legendaries you can catch, there's no magic group of pokemon that will get you through the game with minimal effort. There are two good guidelines though.

1) A good balance of types

2) Leveling, leveling, leveling.

Getting a balance of types is pretty easy. You just want to get 6 pokemon, such that you won't end up in a situation where one poke type counters half your team. For example, my old gold team was

Kadabra (Psychic) Typhlosion (Fire) Suicune (Water) Graveler (Rock/Ground) Weepinbell (Grass) and one more I can't remember right now. (Oh well, you get the point.)

The other thing you need to do is level. Not just what you'd get from fighting every trainer, and leveling a team of 6 pokemon from that, I mean running around in the grass for hours to level. A good baseline would be lvl 10 for the first gym, and another 5 levels for every gym leader after that. If you do that, your party should be about on par with most of the trainers you come across.

Sadly, that won't be enough for the elite 4. IIRC, some of the champion's pokemon are in the 60's level wise, and although you can abuse type advantage, that won't make up for a 15 level difference. You have two choices at this point.

1) Spend more hours leveling up until you can beat them. 2) Catch Rayquaza, and curb stomp them with a level 70 legendary.

I picked the latter. MUCH faster. ;)

One last thing, make sure you evolve your pokemon, as it improves their stats drastically. Additionally, trained pokemon are actually a good deal more powerful than wild pokemon, even if the wild one is a few levels higher. The reason for this is somewhat convulted, but basically as you level up your pokemon manually, their stats will improve based on the pokemon they fought, in addition to the normal level up bonus. However, you don't need to worry about the mechanics behind it (unless you plan to play competitively, in which case you'd need more help then I could give you.)

Hope all of this helps.

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For reference, I managed to beat the elite four in Pearl with pokemon ~10 levels below the champion, but only because I had a Skarmory that was tanking non-fire attakcs, giving me a chance to use items. Level matters and it is hard to keep up with the gym leader's pokemon levels if you don't spend extra time in the grass. – Raven Dreamer Mar 12 '11 at 23:41

Your basic strategy is to try to get a wide variety of types and physical/special Pokémon with high base stats. (List of Pokémon by base stats) A variety of types is important so you can counter your foes' types, and a variety of physical and special is kind of important so you can counter your foes' defenses. (Sometimes, but this isn't actually that important, unless you're a really serious player with a list of Pokémon's base stats at hand to know which stat's weaker, and since physical and special are dependent on type in Gen III it's even less so.) High base stats are important because that's basically what determines how strong your Pokémon is.

For example, a bad party would be:

  • Sceptile
  • Beautifly
  • Dustox
  • Shiftry
  • Masquerain
  • Sunflora

A better party would be:

  • Sceptile
  • Metagross
  • Arcanine
  • Gyarados
  • Jolteon
  • Shuckle

You probably don't, however, just want to switch your Pokémon willy-nilly, since trained Pokemon are stronger than Pokemon raised in the wild due to EVs. (List of Pokémon by effort value yield)

If you're just playing rather casually though, pretty much any Pokémon will do and just sticking with one party of Pokémon that you like will be the best strategy, and, tbh, if you're looking to build the perfect, strongest party, you'd finish the plot first and then hatch a new party out from eggs that are specially bred for the perfect moves & IVs and then train them for perfect EVs. You wouldn't try to play through with them originally since you'd have to wait for quite a while in the game to find the strongest Pokémon, and then you wouldn't use those for playing through more of the story, since you can't know what EVs the Pokémon that trainers send out first will give. (Unless you use the "Emerald Berries" that lower EVs, I guess.)

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I am indeed playing casually. Initially, picking randomly based on what looks interesting is great. But later on, my powerful pokemon get pwned quite badly, and I'm left holding a collection of weaker and useless secondary pokemon. Hence, my question. – ashes999 Mar 12 '11 at 0:17

Just make sure that you have an Electric-type, a Fire-type, a Water-type, a Ground-type, a Flying-type, and maybe another good type like Psychic or Dark, doesn't matter which one. Or you could just get your favorite legendary, or another type that you like!

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