I reject the underlying premise though since I don't believe there are any pointless combats except through a certain lens. The through line that I see between many people who do avoid what they perceive to be pointless combats is because they have a story in mind and anything outside that story runs the risk of being pointless. They tend to eschew random encounters as a result, which makes some sense if that's the default approach for their play.Well, then you are, avoiding them have pointless combats! You are taking steps to make sure it isn't pointless!
I don't have a story in mind or a plot I'm trying to keep the PCs on. What happens is the story - an exciting, memorable one we all build together while having fun (or, at least, that's the goal). Therefore the combats can't be pointless. They are the story. This is through no special effort I'm making - it's just us playing the game.