In between "Pokémon" journeys, Jeremy enjoys working as a pharmaceutical chemist and campus manager.
Risky Attacks in Pokémon
Pokémon attacks come in a variety of shapes and sizes, some inflicting damage, others harassing foes with status conditions. Often, the strongest attacks have some sort of drawback to help balance them, like low accuracy, recoil damage, or decreasing your own stats.
When they work, they work. When they don't... you've got a good story to tell. Well, do you feel lucky, punk? These are the 10 riskiest moves in Pokémon!
10. Outrage/Petal Dance/Thrash
- Type: Dragon/Grass/Normal
- Power: 120
- Accuracy: 100
Since their debut, these three moves gained a much-needed power boost, landing a whopping 120 damage at full accuracy. However, the downside is that you're locked into them for 2-3 turns, and at the end of the duration, the user becomes confused.
Despite their power, the drawbacks make them hard to recommend. To make matters worse, these are some of the worst offensive types in the game, rarely able to type-trump opponents for extra damage.
- Type: Normal
- Accuracy: 85
Swagger confuses your opponent and raises their attack stat two stages. Normally, you don't want to empower your enemies, but since self-inflicted confusion damage is based on attack, the buff can actually work in your favor.
Swagger peaked in generations 5-6, where the Prankster ability let you go first with status moves and the Foul Play move used your opponent's attack stat for damage. Sadly, it isn't as viable now that confusion only has a 33% (previously 50%) chance to thwart an attack. Swagger's accuracy was also reduced from 90 to 85, troubling compared to Confuse Ray's perfect 100.
8. Counter/Mirror Coat
- Type: Fighting/Psychic
- Power: Varies
- Accuracy: 100
If you're hit by a physical move during a turn, Counter strikes back with double damage, while Mirror Coat does the same for special attacks. Risky, but you can reap lots of pain if you accurately predict opposing plays. Just watch out for non-damaging status moves, which neither technique can exploit.
Thanks to decreased priority, you know you're going to go second, so not only do you have to guess the type of attack correctly, you have to survive it—consider using a Focus Band held item to even the odds.
Note that Counter and Mirror Coat don't factor in type weaknesses/resistances; for instance, Counter won't be super-effective against a Normal-type. However, they both fail against opponents with the right immunity (Counter doesn't work on Ghosts and Mirror Coat fails against Dark).
7. Focus Punch
- Type: Fighting
- Power: 150
- Accuracy: 100
Focus Punch has excellent power and accuracy plus a great offensive type—what's not to love? Well, you begin charging the move at the start of the turn and execute it at the end, but only succeed if you weren't hit by a damaging attack that round.
Again, you have to out-think opponents, or you can rig the odds by drawing aggression to other Pokémon with moves like "Follow Me."
6. Zap Cannon/Dynamic Punch
- Type: Electric/Fighting
- Power: 100
- Accuracy: 50
These entertaining moves have decent types, strong damage, and a guaranteed status; Zap Cannon inflict paralysis while Dynamic Punch induces confusion.
Of course, the downside is the pitifully-low 50% accuracy, giving you only half a chance to hit under normal conditions. For better reliability, try increasing your accuracy with moves like Lock-On or Coil and abilities like Compound Eyes.
5. Jump Kick/High Jump Kick
- Type: Fighting
- Power: 100/130
- Accuracy: 95/90
Some moves have recoil damage that hurts the user, but it's usually not much and only applies when your attack successfully lands. With these kicks, you suffer damage only when you miss; both moves inflict half your total HP on failed attempts!
That's a huge drawback, but few moves can match them in power and accuracy, plus competitive typing. Here's one of those cases where you should go big or go home, with High Jump Kick being the superior attack despite a higher crash chance.
4. Belly Drum
- Type: Normal
- Accuracy: Self (no accuracy check needed)
Belly Drum sacrifices half your HP, and if you were already at or below that value, the move fails and you wasted a turn. But when successful, you maximize your attack, increasing it six stages in normal conditions (possibly more if it was previously lowered)!
With that power, it becomes ridiculously easy to KO opponents—if you survive that long. Try using healing berries or the Rest technique to regain some lost HP and endure.
3. Curse (Ghost-Type)
- Type: Ghost
- Accuracy: Self
When used by a Ghost Pokémon, Curse sacrifices half your HP, but puts a unique volatile status condition on the target that deals 1/4th of their max health as damage at the end of each turn.
As risky at the attack is (it knocks you out if you're below half health), that's a lot of reoccurring damage, far more than end-of-turn damage from weather conditions or the Poison and Burn statuses. Still, Toxic is usually a safer play, especially since foes can't switch out to end it.
If a non-Ghost Pokémon uses Curse, they lower their speed and raise attack and defense, but you can obtain these benefits without the speed drop using moves like Bulk Up.
2. One-Hit KO Moves
- Type: Varies
- Power: Full damage
- Accuracy: 30
These moves have terrible accuracy and fail against higher-level opponents, but when they resolve, they immediately reduce your victim's health to zero! Your chances of hitting is independent of accuracy and evasion stat changes, but increases when targeting lower-level Pokémon.
Note that each move won't work against a certain type (Ice Pokémon are immune to Sheer Cold despite not normally negating Ice attacks). Also, Fissure always hits anything that's underground from the Dig move, though you'll rarely see that in competitive battles.
List of One-Hit Knockout Moves
|Move||Type||Won't Work On|
1. Self-Fainting Moves
The riskiest of the risky, these moves sacrifice all your health to score a powerful effect, from tons of damage to a full heal on the user's replacement. With the damaging moves, you're really taking a gamble against foes with guards like Protect, but the attacks were especially deadly prior to generation five, where they also halved enemy defense.
Sadly, the Focus Band item won't prevent self-inflicted fainting, but the damage triggers before you knock yourself out—so if everyone is down to their last Pokémon and Explosion defeats your opponent's, you win the battle.
Moves That Can Make Your Pokémon Faint
Inflicts 250 damage
Inflicts 200 damage
Inflicts damage equal to HP the user lost
Sharply lowers target's attack/special attack
Restores next Pokémon's HP and removes status conditions
Restores next Pokémon's HP/PP and removes status conditions
Other Gambles in Pokémon
In addition to today's moves, remember other chancey attacks have recoil damage (Double-Edge), lower your defenses (Close Combat), or force you to recharge on the next turn (Hyper Beam), offering incredible power at a price.
Carefully consider risk versus reward when employing these moves, but they sometimes offer the extra edge to win a close match. But for now, as we eagerly await Nintendo's next set of risky attacks, vote for your favorite move and I'll see you at our next Pokémon countdown!
© 2019 Jeremy Gill
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on June 05, 2020:
Self-KO moves aren't great for the main quests, where you'll fight multiple trainers in a row, but they can be useful competitively, having your already-weakened unit sacrifice itself to score a massive hit.
Ozzie Bennett on May 27, 2020:
You should always have a K.O move if you can learn it, but counter doesn't work in video games. For Example in Let's Go, It's not like you can block a move with your move, thats only in the anime, so I have to go with outrage/petal dance (no thrash that's bad) because they're both very powerful moves, and have no side effect.
Kevin Mann from Canada on August 25, 2019:
I never got the self-ko moves, never felt it was the best strategy to use.