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Pokemon - Practical Guide to Breeding

Any serious pokemon player will eventually get into breeding at some point. If all you want is to complete your pokedex, this article will be of little interest to you. Go look up the bulbapedia entry for the pokemon you want, figure out how to get it, and get to work.

If you want to breed perfect pokemon, read on. This article will go into the math and science of breeding, and provide detailed guidance on how to breed the perfect pokemon as fast as possible. Be forewarned: even in the best case scenario, breeding pokemon is a patient process. Be prepared to spend a great deal of time preparing before you start breeding, and even more time actually breeding.

This article includes a lot of math and probabilities. If they seem complicated, just ignore them and follow the specific steps suggested in the text. Knowing the probabilities of the actions means that I can definitively say what is the best thing to do at a given step, but once that finding has been made it doesn't actually help you. I've left the calculations and probabilities in the article so that you know I'm not writing this based on conjecture or guess-work, and instead I've actually taken the time to calculate the probabilities so I'm absolutely certain that I'm correct. It also helps to estimate the average number of eggs you will need to hatch at each stage.

A Brief Explanation of Probabilities

Throughout this article, I'll list probabilities of certain events occurring. These probabilities are typically presented as fractions (1/2, 1/96, etc.), though I'll also present percentages when doing so is helpful. In addition, there are two very important things to understand about probabilities.

Probabilities vs. Outcomes

When you see a probability of x/y, it means that on average the event will occur x times in y number of trials. For example, if you roll a 6-sided die there is a 1/6 probability of rolling a 6. If you roll that die 6 times, you will roll each side once on average. This is what's called the "expected outcome".

If you've ever rolled a real 6-sided die (I'm sure you've played board games at one point in your life), you know that in any given set of rolls you won't roll a perfectly distributed set of values. That leads to my second point:

Set Theory is a Lie

"Set Theory" is the idea that if you generate a set of random numbers, each possible outcome will occur the same number of times. This is what fuels people to be bad at gambling, especially in games like craps or roullette, because people see that a certain number hasn't been rolled in a while, so they begin to expect that number. This is, of course, incorrect.

Each randomly generated number is a self-contained event. There is no relation to what has been generated previously, or what will be generated later. Rolling a 6-sided die still has a 1/6 probability of rolling a six, no matter how many times you've rolled a one previously.

The average distribution of probabilities does exist, but it only emerges over very large sets. You could roll a 6-sided die one hundred times, and it will gradually approach the exact average, but it's entirely possible that you could spend your whole life rolling that die and never generate a set which had an exactly perfect distribution of values.

What Does This Mean for Breeding Pokemon?

It means that you must be patient, and you musn't expect to hit the "average" case. If you want a better idea of how likely you are to succeed, throw the results into Wolfram Alpha. If you have a 1/x chance, and hatch x eggs, you've got a roughly 63.3% chance of getting the results you want according to Wolfram. That's better than even, but not guaranteed by any means, so don't be let down when you hatch all of those eggs and don't get the result you want.

Start from this example and tweak the numbers until you get a sense of how many eggs you will need to breed to be comfortably certain that you'll succed.

Before You Start Breeding

If you're serious about breeding, there's more to it than just grabbing a ditto and visiting the day care/nursery. Investing some time up front will save you much more time down the line. The more breeding you intend to do, the better the payoff will be.

Helpful Reading

A basic understanding of the breeding mechanics is helpful. Read the Bulbapedia page on Breeding.

If you want to breed shiny pokemon, you may also want to read about the Masuda Method. However, if you want pokemon that are both shiny and have perfect IVs, you will have better luck trading the egg to someone else to guarantee that it will hatch shiny. I'll explain further below, under Trade-Hatching Shinies.

Items

Collect the following items before you do anything else. They are presented in order of importance, but I strongly recommend grabbing all of them.

Complete the National Pokedex (Optional)

In generation 5 and beyond, the number of pokemon in your pokedex influences your rate of "critical captures", making it easier to catch dittos.

Get an Incubator

A pokemon with the abilities Flame Body or Magma Armor doubles the rate at which pokemon in your party will hatch, saving you a ton of time. Personally, I like Fletchinder/Talonflame because they can also use Fly, so you can go around doing other stuff (like catching pokemon) while you're hatching eggs.

Sun/Moon introduce "Isle Avue" ("I love you", if you hadn't figured it out) as part of Poke Pelago, which can be used to hatch eggs. You can leave up to 18 eggs in the hot springs to hatch, but since that all take places in real-world time you may still prefer to hatch some or all of your eggs by carrying them. Hatching eggs in the hot springs also means that it's difficult to trade them to other people to hatch guaranteed shinies (explained below).

Catch Dittos

One ditto is absolutely not sufficient. In an ideal world, you'll have one ditto with perfects IVs of every nature. However, that's essentially impossible to accomplish since you can't breed dittos, and since you would need to catch an average of 26,843,545,600 dittos to catch them wild. Yes, that's 26.8 billion dittos. If you managed to catch one per minute (impressive on its own), that's a little over 51,000 years. Since I can't imagine you want to invest that much time, we'll take some shortcuts.

This step may feel like a lot of effort without a ton of immediate gratification, but remember that you only need to do this once. You can bring these dittos along with you across generations, forever guranteeing that you have a collection waiting when you need to return to breeding.

Catch one ditto of every nature. That will make it easy to breed pokemon of the desired nature. You can use pokemon with the ability Synchronize to increase the likelihood of finding a ditto with a specific nature, which can be helpful when you've got most of the natures covered, but forcing yourself to catch them all normally can be helpful since it gives you a better chance of catching a few with really good IVs. You can, of course, skip the extra "neutral" natures. Once neutral natured ditto is sufficient.

It can be very helpful to catch your dittos on one game and do all of your breeding on a different game. Breeding two pokemon with different original trainers increases the egg probability by one step, offsetting the "different species" reduction.

Ditto's catch rate is just 4.6%, so you'll need to do more than hurl pokeballs at them to catch them quickly and reliably. I recommend grabbing a Parasect with Spore and False swipe, and using Repeat Balls. If your Parasect has high enough speed you should be able to reliable hit dittos with Spore before they can transform, but you may want to have Parasect carry a berry to keep it from being put to sleep. Be sure that Parasect doesn't know any damage moves except False Swipe or you'll find yourself occasionally needing to revive it after an especially fast ditto with Quick Powder manages to to some damage. Ideally, you should be able to use Spore turn 1, use False Swipe turn 2 to drop the ditto to 1 hp, then throw a ball on turn 3 and catch with between 99% and 100% capture chance depending on which generation you're playing.

Ditto are available in every main-line pokemon game (except Ruby and Sapphire for some reason). However, some games make collecting them en masse easier than others. The table below notes the best places to catch dittos. Older games will require you to transfer pokemon up to whatever generation you want to use for breeding, but the catch rates may be worth the effort. My personal favorite is Heart Gold / Sould Silver because the capture rate is high, and I don't need to do any mental gymnastics or deal with mirages or the Poke Radar.

Ditto Locations and Capture Chances by Game
Game Location Rate Notes
Sun / Moon Mount Hokulani 10% While a 10% chance is annoying, Sun / Moon introduced the new "backup" mechanic, which allows you to chain backup pokemon to achieve some neat tricks. If you chain up to 30+ backup pokemon, it guarantees a spectacular 4 perfect IVs on the backup ditto. Several other people have written thorough guides on how to capitalize on this mechanic.
Omega Ruby / Alpha Sapphire Mirage Cave North of Route 132 or Mirage Island South of Route 132 40% Mirage Spots are a pain, but if you can get them to appear the 40% catch rate is fantastic.
X / Y Pokemon Village (yellow flowers) 20% You can't use the Poke Radar in the pokemon village for some reason, which makes collecting dittos much more difficult.
X / Y Friend Safari (Normal) 25% Check out /r/Friend Safari to find people with normal type safaris. 25% is pretty good, but since they're so in-demand it can be hard to get someone to befriend you with their limited friend slots. Friend Safari also has one totally unique benefit: all of the pokemon captured there have two guaranteed perfect IVs. This cuts out a lot of breeding for pokemon species which you can capture there, and it means that you have a 1/1048576 chance to catch a pokemon with perfect IVs instead of 1/1073741824. Those numbers are both still horrifying, but 1 in 1 million is much better than 1 in 1 trillion.
Black 2 / White 2 Giant Chasm Crater Forest 15%
Black / White Giant Chasm Entrance 15%
Heart Gold / Soul Silver Route 47 41% If you don't want to deal with the Poke Radar, this is the way to go.
Platinum Trophy Garden 5% Only on days when ditto is the random pokemon
Diamond / Pearl Route 218 (Poke Radar) 22% Chaining dittos with the Poke Rader is probably the easiest and most reliable way to collect dittos quickly.
Fire Red / Leaf Green Cerulean Cave B1F 25%
Emerald Desert Underpass 50% Extremely high capture rate, but it may be extremely time-consuming to transfer your dittos up to the game where you plan to do your breeding.

As you catch dittos, periodically check their IVs using the Stats Judge. Keep the ditto of each nature which has the highest number of perfect IVS. This can help save you time when you start breeding EVs.

I recommend nicknaming dittos to indicate their nature and perfect IVs so that you can quickly identify them later. Using the "mark" function works fine on the pokemon Summary page, but when you're quickly glancing through boxes or talking to the day care/nursery staff you'll only see the pokemon's name. I nickname dittos with the first four letters of their nature, a hyphen, and a capital letter for each perfect IV and an underscore for non-perfect IVs. For example, a ditto with a serious nature and perfect IVs would be nicknamed SERI-HADADS, while a ditto with a calm nature and only perfect speed would be nicknamed CALM-_____S.

If the option is available to you, find a foreign-language player who is doing the same thing and exchange dittos with them. This increase the chance of breeding shinies via the Masuda Method. While it won't get you perfect IVs any faster, shiny pokemon are fun to collect, they look great in your pokedex, and they make excellent trade fodder.

Research

Before you start breeding it can be helpful to do some prior planning.

  1. Pick the pokemon your want to breed, and acquire a female
  2. Plan desired egg moves
  3. Gather parent pokemon, including compatible pokemon with egg moves
  4. Select desired nature

Breeding

The exact mechanics of breeding change every generation, gradually becoming easier and more flexible, so I recommend breeding on the latest generation game you have available.

The following steps can technically be completed in any order, but doing EVs last is the only practical way to do it since breeding a pokemon with perfect IVs has a probability of 1/32 in the absolute best-case scenario, and setting up that scenario takes a lot of work. Alternatively, you can do the Egg Moves and Nature breeding with one pokemon, breed a partner pokemon with good IVs separately, then combine the two. This method is descibed below, under "Advanced Breeding".

If you care to do so, it may be helpful to check the EVs of every pokemon involved in your breeding efforts. If you happen to find one with a perfect IV, have it hold the appropriate EV-enhancing item to ensure that that the IV gets passed on. If you have a pokemon with 3 or more perfect IVs, have it hold your Destiny Knot to increase the likelihood that all of your perfect IVs will be passed on. Doing either will save you time when

Egg Moves

Grab a male pokemon with egg moves that you want, and breed it with a female of your desired pokemon. If you happen to have a parent pokemon with the Nature you want, have it hold an everstone to pass on the Nature to save you some time later.

In generation 6 and beyond, female pokemon can pass on egg moves, allowing you to collect egg moves from a variety of "father" pokemon, gradually adding them to successive generations, and continuing with the first female who knows the desired egg moves. In previous generations you may need to breed egg moves into multiple "father" pokemon of your target species and gradually combine them.

When you're done, you should have a level 1 pokemon of either gender with all of the egg moves you want for that pokemon. On games prior to generation 6, you want a male so that you can continue passing on the egg moves.

Nature

If you didn't manage to pick up your desired nature while breeding for egg moves, it's time to break out your collection of dittos. Find one with the nature you want, hand it your everstone, and get breeding.

When you're done, you should have a level 1 pokemon of either gender with your desired nature and your desired egg moves. On games prior to generation 6, you want a male so that you can continue passing on the egg moves.

Abilities

Unfortunately, your pokemon's ability is still greatly affected by the random number generator. While it has become easier to pass on your pokemon's abilities in later generations, the chance never exceeds 80%. This can be very frustraing, especially if you want a pokemon with a hidden ability and perfect IVs since it adds an additional level of randomness, slowing your breeding down to 80% of the success rate if you ignored your pokemon's ability. If you want a non-hidden ability, I suggest ignoring the ability entirely and using an ability capsule once you've hatched your pokemon.

Check the Bulbapedia entry on Inheriting Abilities for additional information.

EVs

This is the part of breeding which takes the most time. You're going to become very friendly with the Stats Judge, and you're going to spend a lot of time running back and forth to hatch eggs.

Generating a pokemon with perfect IVs by chance happens 1 in 1,073,741,824 times (yes, less than 1 in 1 billion). If you haven't bred in your desired nature and are leaving that to chance, you're looking at 1 in 5 billion, which is why you should deal with your egg moves and nature before you worry about IVs. We want to improve our probability of perfect IVs as much as possible. Each step below will gradually increase your probability of generating perfect pokemon, and will give you exact numbers so you know just how much your work is paying off.

First, select your parent pokemon. If you're on a game before generation 6, you'll want a male pokemon with the nature and moves that bred previously. If you're on gen 6 and up, either gender is fine. This is your "nature parent". Have this pokemon hold your everstone.

Your other parent is your "IV Parent", whose role is to provide IVs. If you have another pokemon of the same species with some perfect IVs, that's great. If you don't, use the ditto with the most perfect IVs in your collection.

Always keep your everstone on your "nature parent", even if it's the parent with the most perfect IVs. Losing your nature and egg moves means starting over, and the Destiny Knot doesn't care who is holding it. Once you're breeding two pokemon of the same species and both have your desired nature and egg moves, the "nature parent" and "IV Parent" become interchangeable, so either can hold either item.

Skip to the appopriate section below depending on how many perfect IVs you have on the parent with the most perfect IVs. As you breed pokemon, remember to replace the parent of the same gender whenever you produce a new pokemon with more perfect IVs, as this will gradually increase your chances of generating perfect IVS.

I have no perfect IVs on either parent

Brutal, but fairly impressive if only because it's so statistically unlikely. If you managed to catch 21 dittos to cover all of the non-redundant natures, you should have several perfect IVs among the set due to normal statistical distribution of random numbers.

If you somehow have no perfect IVs, breed your two parent pokemon until you get a child with at least one perfect IV, then replace the parent pokemon of the same gender (or the ditto if you're using a ditto in place of a gender). It shouldn't take long. The child will inherit 3 IVs, but the other 3 will be randomly determined, so you've got 3 shots at a 1/32 chance.

Probability of 1 or more perfect IVs from parents with no perfect IVs
Outcome Probability
6 Perfect IVs Impossible
3 Perfect IVs 1 in 32768 (<0.1%)
2 Perfect IVs 31 in 32768 (<0.1%)
1+ Perfect IVs ~1 in 11 (9.1%)
0 Perfect IVs ~10 in 11 (90.0%)

So you'll breed an average of 11 eggs to find one with one perfect IV.

I have one perfect IV on either parent

If your "IV Parent" has one (and only one) perfect IV, have it hold the EV-enhancing item for that IV. This guarantees that the holder's IV in the stat will be inherited, so the child pokemon will have 1 perfect IV, two other IVs inherited from their parents, and 3 randomly determined IVs. This is an important distinction: normally, when an IV is inherited, it's randomly decided which parent passes down the IV. So if you have one parent with perfect Attack and one without, and if Attack was one of the three IVs randomly inherited, there's still a 50% chance that you'll get the non-perfect Attack EV. The EV-enhancing item removes the 50% chance.

The chance of generating at least on additional perfect IV stays the same as before, so you have a roughly 1 in 11 chance of producing a pokemon with at least two perfect IVs. You'll need to breed an average of 11 eggs to find one with two or more perfect IVs.

I have two perfect IVs on either parent

This is one of the most mathematically complex stages in the process because without going into the math it's unclear if it's better to use an EV-enhancing item or to use a Destiny Knot.

So let's go into the math. For simplicity we'll assume that the parents have identical IVs since this dramatically simplifies the math. That will give us an idea if which item is better at this stage, then we'll proceed. I'm not a statistician, so the math here might be a bit questionable.

If you use an EV-enhancing item, you're fixing one of the three inherited IVs. The other two inherited IVs are still randomly determined from among the parents' IVs for other stats, and the three remaining IVs are generated randomly. That's roughly 2/55, so you'll need to hatch something like 27 eggs to get a third perfect EV.

If you use the Destiny Knot, your child pokemon inherits 5 EVs, only 2/6 of which are perfect. You want the 1 non-inherited IV to be one of the 4 bads IVs so that it will be re-rolled. That gives you a 1/48 chance of getting 3 perfect IVs.

Item Effects with two 1-IV parents
EV-enhancing Item Destiny Knot
Outcome Probability Probability
6 Perfect IVs Impossible Impossible
3-5 Perfect IVs 2/55 (3.6%) 1/48 (2.1%)
2 Perfect IVs 23/55 (41.8%) 21/32 (65.6%)
Only 1 Perfect EV 30/55 (54.5%) 31/96 (32.3%)

In this case, the EV-enhancing item is the better option. 1.6% isn't a huge difference, but it's over 50% better than the Destiny knot. Of course, this only applies when the parents have matching IVs. The math for parents with differing IVs becomes considerably more complicated, and overall improves the odds of generating pokemon with more than 2 good IVs. It also gives us the (extremely remote) possibility of breeding pokemon with up to 6 perfect IVs.

I have three or four perfect IVs on either parent

I'm going to slack a bit here and omit the math here. Unfortunately, doing a comprehensive analysis of every IV combination would yield hundreds of tables, and even for me that's a bit too much work to give one very simple piece of advice:

Give your nature parent an everstone, and give you other parent a destiny knot. Breed batches of pokemon, and check for IVs periodically. When you get a better parent, replace one of the existing parents and continue.

With any luck, this step won't take too long. It should be a gradual steady climb until your get parents with 5 perfect IVs, at which point the next session should provide some reassurance that you're not totall insane, if nothing else.

I have five perfect IVs on either parent

My initial thoughts at this point were that having two parents with identical IVs would make more sense at this stage. While the logic is simpler, the math is easier, and it's faster to disqualify bad pokemon, using pokemon with differing IVs actually doubles your probability of generating a pokemon with perfect IVs.

Pokemon with 5 perfect IVs are frequently referred to as "Breedjects", and are easily available from trading communities like /r/pokemontrades/. Hang on to some breedjects to trade with others, and you can quickly get into breeding other pokemon species without suffering through the previous steps.

Probability of IVs with 5-IV parents
Matching IV Spreads Differing IV Spreads
Outcome Probability Probability
6 Perfect IVs 1/192 (0.5%) 1/96 (1.0%)
5 Perfect IVs 31/192 (16.1%) 65/192 (33.8%)
4 Perfect IVs 5/6 (83.3%) 94/192 (49.0%)
3 Perfect IVs Impossible 31/192 (16.1%))
I have six perfect IVs on one parent

You finally managed to get one perfect pokemon! But maybe you want a spare, maybe you want an extra to trade away, maybe you didn't get the gender you wanted, or maybe you want to keep breeding until you get a shiny. The chances of getting a new perfect pokemon improve by 0.8%, nearly doubling your chances!

Probability of IVs with one 6-IV parent and one 5-IV parent
Outcome Probability
6 Perfect IVs 7/384 (1.8%)
5 Perfect IVs 222/384 (57.8%)
4 Perfect IVs 155/385 (40.4%)
I have six perfect IVs on both parents

Congratulations! You've maximized your probability of breeding perfect pokemon. At this point, almost everyone will stop breeding their current species and move on to another. However, if you want duplicates, want pokemon to trade away, or want pokemon give to other people, you may wish to continue.

This is the most efficient way to breed pokemon with perfect IVs. Only one stat is generated randomly (the other 5 are guaranteed to inherit a perfect IV thanks to the Destiny Knot), so you have a 1/32 (3.1%) chance of generating a perfect pokemon.

Hatching

If you only care about the pokemon's stats, things are pretty easy. Carry your "incubator" and some eggs, and walk back and forth until they hatch. If you're on Sun/Moon, stick some eggs in Isle Avue, too.

After you've hatched a batch of pokemon, check their IVs by visiting the Stats Judge. This will be extremely tedious in Gen VI and below, unfortunately. In Gen VII, the Stats Judge is part of the PC (once it's unlocked), so you can quickly check a pokemon at a glance and dump any rejects.

If you want to hatch shinies, you can either leave it up to the random number generator, or you can trade-hatch shinies.

Trade-Hatching Shinies

Before proceeding, identify an egg with a pokemon with perfect IVs. You can do this by saving, hatching eggs until you get a pokemon with perfects IVs, then soft-resetting. Find the egg which had the perfect pokemon, put it somewhere safe, and read on.

By finding another player with a certain "Trainer Shiny Value" (TSV), you can trade an egg to them and it is guaranteed to hatch a shiny pokemon. This removes the randomness of hatching shiny pokemon, which is ideal for hatching shiny pokemon from an egg that you know has perfect IVs. However, finding a trainer with the correct IDs can be difficult. Fortunately, communities like /r/SVExchange/ exist which are dedicated to exchanging "trainer shiny values" so that people can find trainers to hatch their eggs.

/r/SVExchange has a wonderful Quickstart Guide on using shiny values to guarantee hatching shiny pokemon. Instead of attempting to replicate that information here, I recommend reading their guide since it's actively maintained by people who are more familiar with the practice than I am.

Advanced Breeding

If you just want a handful of perfect pokemon, you can use the steps above and you'll be done. The following information is more complicated, and goes beyond what you may reasonably need to do, even if you're planning to play competetively.

The Breeding Tree Method

A method of my own invention, the breeding tree method makes use of overlapping egg groups to create a tree of pokemon with perfect IVs which allow you jump-start your IV breeding process by breeding with a pokemon of a different species. If you plan to breed a large number of perfect pokemon, this method is absolutely crucial unless you somehow managed to get a perfect ditto to serve as a perpetual IV parent.

Building Your Breeding Tree

Your breeding tree is going to involve a lot of weak pokemon. Powerful pokemon like Charizard or Salamence take longer to hatch eggs, which dramatically slows down the entire procees, and uneven gender ratios (starters are generally 95% male) make things even harder. The pokemon you want to include in your breeding tree have a 50/50 gender ratio, are in two egg groups, and the minimum possible hatch time. Magikarp, which is the fastest egg to hatch, should generally be the root of your breeding tree. This allows you to build your breeding tree as quickly as possible. It's also important that the pokemon in the tree be male so that you can use them for EV breeding of other species.

Don't worry about egg moves, natures, etc. on these pokemon. They exist purely to carry EVs, and worrying about other aspects will slow down the process without providing a significant long-term benefit. If you plan to use these pokemon in competetive play you may wish to invest the time to breed the egg moves, nature, and ability that you want, but many of the pokemon in your tree are likely to be competetively weak, so you may not want to invest the time to perfect anything but their IVs.

Unfortunately, pokemon in the "Undiscovered" egg group will still need to be bread using Dittos.

Example: Optimized Gen 6 Breeding Tree
Breeding Tree Graphic

As you breed more pokemon with perfect IVs, new male pokemon can become nodes in your breeding tree. This will offer additiional "IV Parent" options, many of which will already possess natures and egg moves that you like. In my own tree, I have a male Adamant Gyarados that knows Dragon Dance which has served as both my Nature Parent and my IV Parent for a small mountain of other pokemon.

Using Your Breeding Tree

Start by breeding a "nature parent", as described under Breeding, above. This parent should be female, and will include the nature and egg moves that you want to pass down. Having good EVs on this parent is helpful, but not required. Then, grab a compatible male from your breeding tree to serve as an "IV Parent", and breed it with the "nature parent". This will jump-start your EV breeding, cutting out several hundred eggs on average, allowing you to jump straight to the "I have six perfect IVs on one parent" stage, as described above.

Games prior to generation 6

In games prior to generation 6, you will have trouble with egg moves because only male parents can pass on egg moves. If you want egg moves, this can severely limit the utility of the breeding tree method. In that case, I recommend using your breeding tree to breed a female parent pokemon with 5 or 6 EVs, then use it as the "IV Parent" as described under Breeding > EVs, above. This will still jump-start your EV breeding, cutting out a huge number of eggs which you would normally need to hatch, but won't be as effective as it would be in generation 6 and beyond.

FAQ

Should I breed my existing shiny pokemon?

Parent shininess has no effect on the child pokemon, so don't consider shininess when selecting parent pokemon.

Why is 256 such a commonly occurring number?

Binary. 256 is 2^8: the highest number you can store in a single byte. A lot of pokemon's math is tied very closely to how much data can be stored in a byte.