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Guide to Fast Move Mechanics

Last updated June 24th, 2019

Have you ever missed a Charged Move you were furiously tapping? Why do Pokemon sometimes launch into an extra Fast Move when you have enough energy? And in the sims, why do Fast Moves sometimes happen at irregular intervals? In this article, we’ll go over the mysterious mechanics behind these phenomena and how they impact gameplay.

Special thanks to FlarkeFiasco and GarretK19383 for bringing these mechanics to my attention and helping to compile and explore video evidence for all sorts of scenarios! This was an incredibly challenging puzzle to solve and it couldn’t have been done without their help.

Jump to a section:

  1. Turns
  2. Fast Move Duration
  3. Fast Move Registration
  4. Sandbox Mode
  5. Video Examples

Turns

Trainer Battles are broken up into turns. Each turn lasts 0.5 seconds. On a typical turn, each Pokemon can take one action - a Fast Move, a Charged Move, or a switch. Let’s take a look at how Fast Moves use of turns and interact with one another.

Fast Move Duration

Each Fast Move lasts a certain number of turns, usually referred to as its “duration” or “cooldown”. Duration determines the amount of time between your Fast Moves. The timelines below illustrate different Fast Moves and their durations. Each circle represents a new action.

As you can see, a shorter duration allows more frequent actions.

Fast Move Registration

When you use a Fast Move, does it hit right away? Actually, it depends! Duration also determines when Fast Move damage and energy register. That is, a certain number of turns have to pass before the damage and energy from your Fast Move take effect.

How does this all work? There are two requirements to make a Fast Move register on a given turn:

  1. Enough turns have passed since the Fast Move was used.
  2. Either player takes an action.

An action from either player will ultimately trigger a Fast Move to register after enough turns have passed. A Fast Move won’t register if neither player acts on that turn.

Check out to the table below for move durations, the number of turns that need to pass before they register, and example moves. Note that 1-turn moves register immediately on the turn they are used.

Duration Turns to Register Examples
1 0 Water Gun, Dragon Breath, Bug Bite
2 1 Counter, Vine Whip, Mud Shot
3 2 Air Slash, Fire Spin, Bubble
4 3 Confusion
5 4 Volt Switch

So what does this look like in action? The examples below show circles for when you tap to use a Fast Move and squares for when the move actually hits.

2-Turn Move vs. 2-Turn Move

Above we have a mirror match where both Pokemon’s Fast Moves have the same duration. Nothing happens on the first turn because no moves are ready to hit yet. On each subsequent action, the game registers the previous moves and readies another one to register on a future turn.

2-Turn Move vs. 4-Turn Move

Things play out similarly when the Fast Moves involved are even.with one another. For example, Counter (2 turns) and Confusion (4 turns) happen in step so Confusion doesn’t register until the next Confusion, and Counter registers on and between Confusions.

1-Turn Move vs. 3-Turn Move

Now let’s take it a step further. From the table above, a Fast Move can register 1 turn before it finishes. This is easiest to see and understand when we have a 1-turn move for comparison.

Because an action happens every turn, the 3-turn move registers at the earliest possible moment - 1 turn before the attack finishes. This is big for the Pokemon with the 3-turn move because that energy is available when they take their next action. Otherwise if they’re short of a Charged Move, they would be forced into an extra Fast Move.

2-Turn Move vs. 3-Turn Move

Things get even more different here! Instead of registering at even intervals, energy and damage occur in a staggered pattern. This is because the 2-turn and 3-turn moves alternate between falling on different turns and on the same turn. Energy and damage can be difficult to anticipate in this kind of matchup.

Sandbox Mode

If you’re a fan of Sandbox Mode, you’ll find it works the same as before with a few tweaks. When you enter Sandbox Mode, circle icons appear above the timeline to indicate when each players can use an action, like what’s been shown in the article so far. These appear at regular intervals like you might be used to, dictated by Fast Move duration. Click on the circular Tap icons to select an action for that turn.

You can select one of the following actions:

  • Fast Move - This player will use a Fast Move. This action will register any outstanding Fast Moves that qualify and queue a new Fast Move to be registered as described in this article.
  • Charged Move - This player will use one of their Charged Moves. This will register any outstanding Fast Moves. Note that a Charged Move will fail if it registers damage that faints the user.
  • Wait - This player will take no action on the selected turn. This can delay Fast Moves from registering or prevent you from using an unnecessary Fast Move if the opponent registers enough energy for you to use a Charged Move the next turn.

Video Examples

Now, it’s time to put this all together. Below are video examples of real-world battles with their corresponding simulations. Hopefully these help illustrate the mechanics at play and ground the simulations as you explore them.

In the example above, Drapion and Xatu both have 3-turn moves (Infestation and Air Slash) so they gain energy and deal damage in step with one another. Mathematically, Drapion should be able to use Crunch after 5 Infestations, but it needs to use a 6th because the energy from its 5th Infestation doesn't register until both Pokemon use a 6th Fast Move.

Here we have Hypno with a 4-turn move (Confusion) and Venusaur with a 2-turn move (Vine Whip). Venusaur gets 2 Vine Whips for every Confusion. Because they land evenly with one another, Hypno needs to use 6 Confusions to reach Shadow Ball.

This example pulls out all the bells and whistles. Alolan Raichu has a 2-turn move (Spark) against a 3-turn move (Infestation), so energy and damage register in a staggered pattern. While Drapion beats Raichu to the first Charged Move, it also registers Raichu's energy early enough for Raichu to beat it to the next. Because of how these two moves interact, Raichu isn't dependent on registering its own attack.