Follow the red dots.
The menus on the home screen might seem convoluted and intimidating to new users. That’s a shame because there are multiple free goodies hidden in those menus ready for players to collect. The game basically gives you seven Pokémon free — though that will change after Aug. 31 — and they can very easily be missed.
Fortunately, the menu alerts you when there’s a reward you can collect by marking menu icons with a red dot. Follow these red dots through the many menus to collect everything you can before entering a battle. Once you enter a battle and return, there will likely be new red dots that’ll lead you to more goodies.
Don’t spend Aeos coins on free Pokémon.
To unlock new Pokémon to use in battle, you have to purchase the corresponding Pokemon’s pass in the shop. Aeos coins can be difficult to come by, especially since there is a 2,100 coins per week cap. Don’t waste coins on Pokémon that the game is going to give you free.
The Pokémon to avoid purchasing are Alolan Ninetales, Cinderace and Greninja — all of which will be gained as a “welcome to the game” bonus just for logging in the first two weeks — as well as Slowbro, Crustle, Venusaur and Zeraora. Slowbro and Venusaur are free rewards for gaining trainer levels by participating in battles. Crustle is a reward if you complete the Beginner’s Challenge in its entirety. Zeraora is a free reward that is only available until Aug. 31 and can be obtained by pressing X, going to “mail” and clicking on the “launch bonus” email.
Figure out your playstyle in the practice area.
There are five different types of characters — All-Rounder, Attacker, Speedster, Defender and Supporter — and two ways these characters attack: ranged and melee. When you start the game and complete the tutorials, one of the first things you should do, before even getting into a match, is click on the “Pokémon” menu, click a Pokémon of your choice and go to “Practice Area.”
Here, you can experiment with the types that interest you and choose an opponent to see how well your pick fares in certain matchups. Pressing the + button in this mode will allow you to tweak your settings, like whether wild Pokémon appear, so you can concentrate on specific things to test.
This is also a great way to discover which level-up moves you prefer. In “Pokémon Unite,” you can only have two special moves at a time, and once you hit a certain level threshold, you’re given a choice to replace one of your current moves. It’s difficult to test these moves out in a chaotic battlefield, making the controlled Practice Area a perfect environment for just that.
Use the battle prep menu (ZL) before the match begins.
Before the countdown reaches zero and you’re thrust into the match, hit ZL to set your battle items, held items and Map Path (more on that below). This is critical to do before each match as some Pokémon will appreciate certain items more than others.
As an example, Alolan Ninetales, who’s mainly an attacker, will get less out of the Leftovers item (which slowly heals health over time) than it would from something that plays to its strengths, such as an item that boosts damage output. Switch out Leftovers for something like the Wise Glasses or the Shell Bell, both of which increase special attack.
Call your path before the match begins.
“Pokémon Unite,” like any MOBA, requires a lot of cooperation. Perhaps the most overlooked thing players do is enter a match without letting their team know which path they’re going to take.
As a primer: The main map of “Pokémon Unite” is a circle featuring a top, middle and bottom path. Your team should aim for a 2-1-2 composition: two taking the top lane, two on the bottom, and one in the middle who can adapt and head toward either path depending on which group needs more help. You’ll want this mid person to be the fastest character on your team. Speedsters are great for the middle path.
What’s more, “Pokémon Unite” actually has recommended paths for the character you choose. You can see this by selecting “Map Path” in the Battle Prep menu before matches start. See which paths your teammates are taking and select the path your team needs to cover. An orange icon next to a teammate means they’re taking the top path, blue means middle and pink means bottom.
Be smart with your movement. Use springboards, items and special moves wisely.
The first thing you should know, regardless of whichever type of character you’re playing, is that this game favors players with better movement.
Since all Pokémon have a range for their attacks, moving out of an opponent’s range is critical to staying alive — whether by retreating from an advancing team or sneaking behind enemy lines to score goals without them noticing. Novice players will typically run in straight, predictable lines without anything really boosting their movement speeds or directions.
Vary your movement by running unpredictably, making you harder to kill. Use held items like the Float Stone or battle items like X Speed to make your Pokémon faster. The Eject Button item is your best friend; use it to travel through walls. Or use the gray springboards found midstage to catapult yourself over walls when being pursued by enemies. Grab the green fruits when you’re at the center of the map, which give you temporary speed boosts.
And keep in mind that the special moves of several Pokémon can actually double as getaway tools — like Greninja’s Smokescreen or Wigglytuff’s Rollout — giving you even more movement options. There is a reason Gengar is considered the most overpowered character in the current meta. It’s not just because of his damage output; it’s also because his Hex ability allows him to teleport quickly to unpredictable areas.
When you’re by yourself, don’t be too aggressive.
It can be tempting to rush a goal by yourself if you have a ton of points and want to bank them. The problem is that any opponent’s attacks will interrupt the process of banking the points, meaning that even if one defending opponent is sitting in the goal, you won’t be able to score.
What’s worse — any player that sits in their own goal gets a substantial health regen bonus, making it nearly impossible for a player to down an opponent in their goal by themselves. Instead, wait for another teammate and attack goals together. A general rule of thumb: Two attackers will usually beat one opponent sitting in their goal unless that opponent is a substantially higher level than the two attackers.
Use tall grass as a stealth option, not to run away from enemies.
Any opposing character that enters tall grass is shielded from sight, meaning that if you notice there aren’t any enemies around, you could wait in tall grass to set up an ambush. Typically, the most advantageous sneak attacks are against the special NPC Pokémon that give your entire team boosts if you land the killing blow. Wait for the opposing team to whittle down a tough one like Drednaw, then pop out at the last second to steal the kill and turn the tide of the battle.
If you’re patient enough, you can also use tall grass to trick opponents into running beyond you, allowing you to score behind their backs. This is a good strategy if you’re alone, have accumulated a lot of points and know that enemies are heading toward the goal you’re aiming for. They’ll see no one’s there, advance beyond where you’re hiding and give you the opening you need to score.
One thing you shouldn’t use tall grass for, however, is escaping from opponents. They won’t be able to see you as you enter the tall grass. But the grass patches in “Pokémon Unite” are typically very small, meaning it’s pretty predictable where you’ll pop out if an enemy sees you entering.
Don’t be afraid to sacrifice goals.
Like other MOBAs, it’s sometimes better to run away and live to fight another day than stand your ground. When you notice you’re starting to get low on health and are fighting an enemy, retreat back to one of your goals to heal up. Grab yellow fruit if you see one nearby (they give you health back quicker). Then, get back into the fight.
Conversely, if you are getting overwhelmed defending a goal, it’s almost always better to let your opponents have the goal and move elsewhere. Each goal will only allow a specific amount of points to be banked before disappearing from the battlefield, meaning there can only be so much damage done through one goal sacrifice.
If you decide to abandon a goal, press down on the directional buttons to communicate with your team. Tell them the new path you’re going to take and try to join your teammates to overwhelm the opposing team elsewhere on the map.
Keep an eye on the minimap for Drednaw and Zapdos.
Two special NPC Pokémon, Drednaw and Zapdos, appear on the bottom and middle portion of the maps at certain points in the match. There will always be a message that flashes on-screen indicating that they’ve appeared. When they do, direct your team to attack them if possible, because they provide huge advantages if your team lands the killing blow.
In Drednaw’s case, the Pokémon will give your entire team experience points and temporary shields. Getting ahead of the opposing team level-wise gives you a huge advantage throughout the game.
In Zapdos’s case, your team will score an incredible number of points, and all of the opposing team’s goals will be temporarily disabled, meaning you can score on any goal without a delay period. It can single-handedly win you games (and quite honestly, the devs should probably nerf it in a future patch).
After a match, upgrade your held items.
After you reach a certain trainer level, the game will give you a tutorial on upgrading held items. This is the backbone of the game, as some held items provide giant stat boosts and other effects to really swing matches to your advantage.
Held items are also the only way to “level” your characters, in a sense. Because of this, you’ll really want to micromanage upgrading your items. You’ll also get the best bang for your buck if you concentrate on only a few held items that you deem important for your playstyle.