While the competitive metagame for the Pokémon franchise is constantly tweaked with each generation, several stat-buffing moves are consistently reliable in battle. With over 1,000 unique species that carry unique Type combinations, there are always plenty of creatures to make use of these moves in a variety of situations.
Depending on what stats a given Pokémon specializes in, there should be a viable option in a playable Pokémon’s moveset to either make it into a defensive wall, an offensive sweeper, or a speedy attacker. Cosmic Power is among the best moves for making a Pokémon as sturdy as possible, while Dragon Dance is a classic example of a buff that creates a fearsome attacker.
10 Belly Drum
Introduced in the second generation titles Pokémon Gold and Silver, Belly Drum is an offensive-focused move with a catch. Ironically, the third-generation species Makuhita and Hariyama might be some of the most famous users of this move.
Players will likely only be able to use Belly Drum once, as it cuts the user’s max HP in half in return for maximizing its Physical Attack stat. Players will need to be careful that their Pokémon has the defensive backup to make the best of the move before getting knocked out, but the tradeoff of getting a staggering 6-stage offensive buff could devastate the opposition.
Curse is one of the most unique stat-buffing moves in the Pokémon mainline games since its effect varies depending on the user’s Type. Also introduced in Generation II and used by Ghost Pokémon like Gengar, this move has different boons and banes for Ghosts and every other Type.
If used by a Ghost species, Curse will cut the user’s max HP by half in exchange for plaguing the opponent with a 1/4 health drop every turn. However, non-Ghost users will benefit the most from this, as the effect for them involves dropping their Speed stat by a single stage in return for raising their Physical Attack and Physical Defense by one stage.
8 Cosmic Power
For a Pokémon that can use it, Cosmic Power is perhaps the best defensive move they can use in battle. Debuting in Generation III, this move focuses on outlasting a Pokémon’s opponent in a battle of attrition.
Unlike other defensive buffs, Cosmic Power raises both of a Pokémon’s defensive attributes, as it boosts Physical and Special Defense stats by one stage each. This move can stack as well, so if the player can set up one of their Pokémon with already solid defensive stats with one or two turns of Cosmic Power, it will make them a formidable defensive wall.
7 Nasty Plot
For players who think that the best defense is a great offense, Nasty Plot is one of the best moves available. It’s geared toward Special Attack-focused Pokémon, and it was introduced in the Generation IV games Pokémon Diamond and Pearl.
A Dark-Type buff move, Nasty Plot raises the user’s Special Attack stat two stages. Players will have to be careful with the Pokémon using this move, though, as they will need to be fast and defensive enough on their own to avoid being knocked out before Nasty Plot can be useful. So long as players are mindful of these issues, then this it’s a potent buff that turns Pokémon into powerful Special sweepers.
6 Shell Smash
Shell Smash is terrific for players using Pokémon who are well-equipped to overcome its drawbacks. Introduced in the Generation V games Black and White, this Normal-Type buff is dedicated to sacrificing defense for an all-out offensive.
Shell Smash lowers the user’s Physical Defense and Special Defense by one stage but raises Physical Attack and Special Attack by two stages. The drawback might be noticeable, but for Pokémon like Blastoise who already have fairly staunch defenses, Shell Smash more than compensates and turns them into mixed-attacking sweepers. Perhaps the only other major downside is that not many species learn this move.
5 Calm Mind
Psychic-Type Pokémon have been some of the most beloved species since Alakazam in the Gen I games Red and Blue, and Gen III finally gave them their signature buff. By Generation III, Psychic-Type was no longer a borderline cheat code like it was in the first mainline games, but Calm Mind still makes a powerful Type even better, as well as enhancing other Special-oriented Pokémon.
Calm Mind makes a Pokémon’s Special attributes more robust in battle, boosting Special Attack and Special Defense by one stage each. It’s one of the most accessible and versatile Special-focused buffs in the games, as many Psychic and non-Psychic species can learn it via level-up or TM.
4 Bulk Up
In addition to Calm Mind for, primarily, Psychic-Type Pokémon, Generation III also gave Fighting-Type Pokémon a great buff. The Fighting move Bulk Up is seen as the Physical equivalent of Calm Mind.
Bulk Up raises the Physical Attack and Physical Defense of the user each by one stage. Like its Psychic-Type counterpart, this move turns a Pokémon into a Physical tank. So long as players recognize when it’s safe to use Bulk Up, it becomes even more rewarding when they’re on the offensive and when it’s stacked two or three times.
3 Swords Dance
One of the more classic buff moves in the series, Swords Dance has been a go-to for many Pokémon since Generation I. As with other offensive buffs, this move is seen as the counterpart to Nasty Plot. This Normal-Type move boosts the Physical Attack of a Pokémon by two stages, positioning them to be a great offensive sweeper.
While it might not offer the robustness of something like Bulk Up that splits the buffs between offense and defense, Swords Dance is much more accessible by comparison and more versatile. A long list of Pokémon of many different Types can learn this move via level-up or TM.
2 Dragon Dance
Even in the current Generation IX, Dragon-Type Pokémon are some of the most sought-after species in the mainline games. And although it took until Gen III for them to get it, Dragon Dance has earned its status as a classic buff move. It’s a classic for a reason, as Dragon Dance can make an already powerful pool of Pokémon even more of a force in combat.
Fairy-Types are an understandably needed check against Dragons, but Dragon Dance’s one-stage boost to Phys. Attack and Speed are nonetheless valuable today. The move isn’t limited to Dragon-Types, of course, as even powerhouses like Tyranitar can make excellent use of this ability.
A buffing move that’s exclusive to a single Pokémon species is certainly not ideal in terms of versatility, but Geomancy is too strong of an asset to ignore. Introduced in the Generation VI games X and Y as a signature move for the former’s Xerneas, this move turns the Legendary creature into a fast sweeper.
Though Geomancy requires one turn to charge and another to execute, it boosts Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed by a stunning two stages. Given the blistering speed and sheer power this move provides, it’s easy to see why it’s locked behind one Legendary Pokémon.