How to play around Zapdos in Pokémon UNITE

Ever since the release of Pokémon UNITE, the Zapdos mechanic has been a point of contention. For anyone who has played a fair amount of Pokémon UNITE, this end screen and sentiment is a common one. Why go for Zapdos?? My team threw it smh#PokemonUNITE #NintendoSwitch pic.twitter.com/AX3OMq2m6u — Milotical (70/1M subs) (@MiloticCove) September 5, 2021 […]

How to play around Zapdos in Pokémon UNITE

Ever since the release of Pokémon UNITE, the Zapdos mechanic has been a point of contention. For anyone who has played a fair amount of Pokémon UNITE, this end screen and sentiment is a common one.

One side wins out in the early game, breaking goals and dominating lanes, then the last two minutes begin and it all falls apart. Zapdos is the great equalizer in Pokemon UNITE, any team with an early lead cannot let their guard down. No matter how many points are scored before Zapdos spawns, a team can eliminate that lead in a matter of seconds.

It is the crescendo that the entire game builds up to. In order to win the situation, there has to be an understanding of all the situations that can arise when playing around Zapdos.

Pre-Zapdos set up in Pokemon UNITE (4:00-3:00)

Just like any other multiplayer online battle arena game, the first thing to do when encountering a situation is to create a flowchart for decision-making. Here is a basic flowchart to help any player make the best decision.

Ahead or behind?

At the 4:00-3:00 mark, it is important to understand what is needed to win the game in the next few minutes. The most simple way of understanding which team is winning is to look at the number of goals on the map.

The Zapdos pit in Pokemon UNITE
The Zapdos objective can be a daunting task. | Provided by Pokémon UNITE

Let’s look at the map on the top left in the screenshot above. The purple team is ahead by about three goals, so a safe assumption is that the purple team is ahead by about 300-400 points. Ignore the time in the screenshot, and assume that the time is about 4:00. What does each team choose to do?

Purple team

For the purple team that is ahead, they must recognize that the only way they lose is to give up Zapdos. With this in mind, the purple team’s strategy is centered around prevention. This means the purple team must prepare for the fight at Zapdos as much as possible. Every team member should have their Unite move up for the inevitable fight around the objective. For those that already have their Unite move, the goal is to maintain the lead and prevent the enemy team from scoring any sneaky goals. Clear all the camps on the map and prepare for Zapdos.

A Drednaw will spawn at around 2:30, depending on when it was taken last. However, this Drednaw is usually not a priority for the winning team.

If a fight breaks out, the purple teams should not use Unite moves under any circumstance. Unless the fight is won so well that it allows the purple team to take Zapdos for free.

Orange team

The Orange team is behind by about 300-400 points, so the main goal for them is to score a few sneaky goals while prepping for Zapdos. Realistically, the only way for the Orange team to win is to get Zapdos and score all their points on the enemy goals. Their preparation remains the same – saving Unite moves and getting as many points as possible to score.

The Zapdos spawns, now what?

Zapdos in Pokemon UNITE
Zapdos has spawned, and the game can turn at any moment. | Provided by TheGamer

The 2:00 mark hits, and the Zapdos spawns. Chaos ensues, as the battlefield is even, and any team that gets Zapdos will have a huge advantage. However there are strategies that either team can perform in order to deal with Zapdos, even at a disadvantage.

Purple Team

As stated before, the purple team with an advantage has no pressure to take Zapdos. The goal is to prevent the orange team from getting the objective as it’s the only way they can win.

The bushes near Zapdos
Pay attention to clearing the bushes of enemies as the winning team. | Provided by Pokemon UNITE

The goal for the purple team is to inhabit those bushes and hold the position until the orange team makes a move. If the orange team decides to go for a split push to try and score, then the purple team can start Zapdos. If not, they can continue to stall the game until the purple team wins with an advantage.

An important thing to understand for the purple team is that one fight does not determine who takes Zapdos. Two minutes is a long time, and even if the purple team prevents the orange team from getting Zapdos once, the orange team can respawn and try again. The moment that purple team wins one fight, every player must reset back to base and jump to Zapdos as soon as possible. Many a Zapdos have been lost due to the winning team not taking a reset and fighting on low health.

Orange team

As the losing team, there are two options to choose from: fight Zapdos, or split push. If the purple team is gathered together in the Zapdos pit, then sending a mobile Pokémon to score while the enemy doesn’t contest is not a bad idea. Split pushing is more effective in the last two minutes because everyone scores double in that timeframe. One Pokémon scoring 50 points becomes 100, and that could turn the tide of the game to the orange team’s advantage.

Pikachu scores a goal in Pokemon UNITE
Split pushing to score is one of the best decisions to make when behind coming into Zapdos. | Provided by IGN

Post Zapdos (2:00-0:00)

This section will not be split into purple and orange teams, because in most games the team that gets Zapdos immediately has the advantage. The team that gets Zapdos can score instantly without any delay. In addition, Zapdos will shock every member of the enemy team with a large lighting bolt that stuns them.

The team that gets Zapdos

The team that defeats Zapdos should look to systematically run and score in every goal possible. Burn Unite moves and Eject Buttons in order to get to the enemy goal as fast as possible, then teleport back to base. After all the points have been scored with the Zapdos buff, the goal is to prevent the enemy from scoring back. An ideal position is to have one Pokémon standing on every remaining goal, while one stands on the Jump Pad in the base. The Jump Pad is able to interrupt any enemies trying to score at a goal, making them have to restart their channel. The knock-up from the Jump Pad even interrupts Pokémon with Score Shield equipped.

The team that lost Zapdos

When losing Zapdos, do not lose hope! The game is still winnable. As the enemy team runs to your side of the map to score, do not try to stop them. The best play to make is to run to the enemy goal to score. The Zapdos team has to pick one of two options: interrupt the losing team from scoring, or score themselves. The losing team is still able to score the same amount, it just takes longer. While it is unlikely that the losing team will win off of this, it is still a better play than trying to stop the enemy team with the Zapdos buff. Keep fighting and scoring small amounts even when the game seems lost, as matches are often decided by single digits.

While taking Zapdos can be a daunting task, it is also one of the most interesting parts of Pokémon UNITE. It forces both teams to have to play well, and the split-second decision-making in the last two minutes creates some fun situations.