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If I take two Pikachu's with 0 IVs, and an equal Sp. Att. of 50, the base Sp. Att. For Pikachu, and both used Surf (I picked Pikachu because it doesn't get a STAB boost to complicate things). The difference is, one Pikachu is holding Choice Specs, the other Mystic Water. Which Surf would hit for more?

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Choice Specs gives a 50% boost to Special Attack.
Mystic Water gives a 20% boost to Water type attacks.

So the one with Choice Specs hits harder.

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So boosting Sp. Att. Is the same as boosting an attack?
Basically yes, because both are part of the "other" section of the damage formula.
Oh, NICE ONE!!! :)