Pokémon Special Attack vs. Attack: How to tell the difference?

When I first started playing Pokémon games, I had very little information about certain things including the different Stats and their advantages. So, when it came to picking a Pokémon, I used to mostly rely on the design. I’d often go for the Pokémon that looked cuter or cooler.

But with time, I began understanding what different stats mean and why they are important considerations. But among the stats I struggled to understand were Attack and Special Attacks. What were the differences between the two? Which one was better? These were all questions I struggle with.

Now that I am more knowledgeable, I decided to write this article to help newbies who may be wondering the same things about these stats. By the end of the article, you should have a better understanding of what each is, how they differentiate, and if one stat is better than the other. So, enjoy!

Pokémon Special Attack vs. Attack – How They Compare

The table below summarizes the comparison between Attack and Special Attack:



Special Attack


Affects physical moves like Slash or Tackle.

Affects special moves like a Thunderbolt and flame thrower.


Affected by the Defense stats of the opponent.

Affected by the Special defense stats of the opponent.

Abilities and Items

  • Attack Weight
  • Float Stone
  • Huge Power
  • Choice Band
  • Wise Glasses
  • Shell Bell
  • Lightning Rod
  • Soul Heart

What are the differences between Pokémon Special Attack vs. Attack?

Pokémon Special Attack vs. Attack - differences
Pokemon Unite: Attack vs. Special Attack. Image source: Nintendo

Now let’s delve into a deeper look into how the two vary. The following are some notable differences worth knowing:


The damage dealt by a move is usually calculated using the Pokémon’s stats. This is perhaps the biggest difference between the two stats. Attack is usually used in determining the power of physical moves, these are normally moves that require physical contact, for example, Tackle. On the other hand, special attacks are used to determine the power of special moves, that don’t necessarily require your Pokémon to be in contact with the opponent.

The higher the Attack stats on your Pokémon, the higher the power of their physical moves. Similarly, the higher the Special Attack stats the more powerful the special moves. So, if for example, your Pokémon has a high special attack stat and low attack stat, it would mean they would need to maximize their special moves to deal the most damage. On the other hand, high Attack stats mean maximizing physical moves.

In my experience, however, I have noted that the base stats are more important than the moves. So even if your Pokémon has a high special attack stat but a low base stat, the damage done using the special moves, won’t be as significant. The same goes for Attack stats.

Either way, I believe both stats are worth considering when deciding on the type of moves. The damage caused by physical moves or special moves can be equally as powerful, it just depends on which stat is higher.


Pokémon Special Attack vs. Attack
Prepare for Battle in Pokémon. Image source: Pokemon

Just like the Attack and Special Attack determine the power of your Pokémon’s moves, the type of defense the opposing Pokémon has will affect the damage caused by your Pokémon’s attack. So, if your Pokémon has a high attack stat, but your opponent has a high defense stat, the overall damage you cause them will be significantly reduced. The same applies when using special attacks, however, this is where the difference between the two comes into play.

Where damage caused by physical moves is affected by Defense stats, damages caused by special moves are affected by special defense stats. Therefore, Attack stats will be affected by your opponent’s Defense stats whereas Special Attack stats will be affected by your opponent’s special defense stats. It’s also worth noting that Special defense only applies to Special Attacks and can’t be used against physical attacks and vice versa.

So, in terms of defense, both Attack and Special Attacks tie, since they are both equally affected by their respective types of defense.

Abilities and Items

Pokémon Special Attack vs. Attack
Master Charged Attacks and Fast Attacks. Image source: Pokemon

In Pokémon games, an ability is something that can passively affect both the attack and special attack stats of your Pokémon. This can either be in a good way, if your Pokémon has the ability, or in a bad way if the ability is used against your Pokémon. Items, on the other hand, are things that your Pokémon may hold, that will also improve either the attack or special attack stats.

What’s worth noting is, some items only affect the attack stats, and some that only affect the special attack stat. For example, items like Shell Bell and Wise Glasses only affect the special attack stats on your Pokémon, while items like Attack Weight and Float Stone only affect the attack stats.

Similarly, when it comes to abilities some specifically affect the attack stats, for example, Huge Power and Choice Band. Some abilities affect special attack stats such as Soul Heart and Lightning Rod abilities.

Once again, both attack and special attack tie in this category, since the ability or item will only apply if your Pokémon has it. Also, I can’t say, that one is affected by more abilities and items than the other. They simply just differ.

Final Verdict: So, What is the difference? – Pokémon Special Attack and Attack

To sum up, special attacks aren’t any better than normal attacks. They are both equally powerful and relevant. While special attacks are believed to have additional unique effects, normal attacks often cause greater damage. So, it is important to have an equal number of Pokémon with high Attack stats and those with high Special attack stats. Therefore, keep this in mind the next time you’re selecting the Pokémon to include in your party.

FAQ Section

Which one causes more damage between Pokémon Special Attack and Attack?

Both stats are equally powerful, although Attack has greater damage capabilities. Still, Special Attack has additional unique effects that are equally as handy in battle.

How do you know if a move is an attack or a special attack?

This is usually shown on the status screen with a symbol associated with each move. So, if you see a yellow, it’s a physical attack but if you see purple then it is a special attack.

Which one is used often, Pokémon Special Attack or Attack?

Neither one. It depends on the Pokémon and if it has a higher Attack or Special attack stat. If the attack stat is higher then you’ll use more physical attacks, whereas if the special attack is higher then you’ll use more of the special moves to attack.

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