While Pokemon has spent the past twenty years enveloping kids and adults alike with its bright & colourful world, exciting battles and storytelling charm, everyone’s favourite creature capturing franchise has accrued a wide range of different types of players. Some want to just play through the story and use Pokemon they like the look of; some want to follow the series’ slogan and catch ’em all, and those who like to spend countless hours resetting their game over and over to get a Mewtwo that’s green instead of pink.
Which of those groups I’m a part of isn’t important (although my green Mewtwo will wipe the floor with whatever pathetic pink monstrosity you throw my way). However, others take things a significant step further. Not content with merely defeating each game’s champion and entering the Hall of Fame, some players go out into the real world with their Pokemon to battle anyone they can find to prove that they are the very best, like…you know the rest. Eventually, these competitions between trainers were formalised, and 2009 saw the video games series (referred to as VGC) join the Trading Card Game at the official Pokemon World Championships, using a 4 v 4 double battle format.
Naturally, with almost 900 hundred different Pokemon in the franchise, not all of them are going to have the power or skill that it takes to be a part of a world champion team and as such, a select few Pokemon have risen to the top. These Pokemon rose to the top and have claimed a spot of a world championship-winning team during their lifetimes. We’ll also be looking at teams that made it to the top 8 (quarter-finals). Be it because they dominated the metagame for a short space of time, or endured through the years as a staple of the scene, these are the 10 powerful Pokemon that are world champions.
10 – Tyranitar
One of the most fragile Pokemon on this list, Tyranitar is much like any good video game boss in that it has a big glowing weak spot in the form of Fighting-type Pokemon. Not only does Tyranitar’s Rock and Dark typing give it a 4-times weakness to them, but it doesn’t possess any kind of reliable move in its arsenal to deal with them.
Tyranitar’s main strengths come from its ability. The most prominent ability for this pale green monster uses Sand Stream to kick up a sandstorm as soon as it enters the field. This boosts Tyranitar’s defences and deals some all-important chip damage to any non-Rock, Ground or Steel-type Pokemon the field. Backing this up with moves like the forceful Crunch and Rock Slide – the latter of which can deal damage to both opposing Pokemon simultaneously – was the perfect way to make use of Tyranitar’s exceptionally high attack stat. Not to mention, it was always packing a Low Kick to deal with otherwise troublesome Steel types.
Tyranitar’s standout year competitively was 2012. It featured in five of the teams to make top 8 at the world championships that year, including helping the USA’s Ray Rizzo claim his third world championship. While its popularity has notably decreased since then, thanks to weather effects becoming less critical to the metagame, Tyranitar has still made sporadic appearances over the years. Most recently helping Roberto Porretti reach 7th place in 2018.
Tyrantitar is an undoubtedly flawed Pokemon having a whole host of weaknesses to common types. Still, it makes up for it with a fantastic ability and a whole truckload of powerful attacks that make this Pokemon one that can never be underestimated.
9 – Bronzong
From a Pokemon who has popped up on a few teams every year, to one that absolutely dominated a single year of VGC.
After a few sporadic appearances in the early days of VGC, Bronzong disappeared in the background and was very rarely, if ever, featured in high-placing teams as it was outclassed in its support role by incredible Pokemon like Cresselia. This begs the question, in 2016, why on Earth did it feature on 7 out of the top 8 teams, including world champion Wolfe Glick’s?
It was quite simply a beneficiary of the other Pokemon that ended up being featured heavily in the 2016 metagame. This was the first season since 2010 where “restricted Pokemon” like the cover-legendaries were allowed to feature on competitive teams. One of the most popular of these Pokemon was Xerneas, which had the ever-resilient Fairy type and an incredible buffing move in the form of Geomancy. Luckily for Bronzong, it was an almost perfect counter to the legendary of life. It’s rare Steel & Psychic typing made it quite the tough Pokemon to crack, especially against opposing Fairy types, which it could absolutely wreck with a well-placed Gyro Ball.
That wasn’t all it did though, as its primary role on the team was to set up Trick Room, which is a move that turns the speed-calculations on its head and allows the slowest Pokemon on the field to move first. This was a crucial factor to victory in a metagame littered with fast Pokemon like Salamence, Gengar and even Rayquaza. It could even run a move like Hypnosis, to prevent those Pokemon from moving entirely, or use Skill Swap on it’s allied Primal Groudon/Kyogre to keep the beneficial weather effects in play while the Primals make the switch out of battle.
Although Bronzong has seldom been seen in VGC before or since the 2016 season, during that one season, it was almost mandatory to have if you wanted to land yourself a high placement. In the long-run, it will always have Pokemon that do its job better, but it absolutely proved that all it takes is the right set of circumstances to launch any Pokemon into the forefront of the metagame.
8 – Incineroar
One thing that is abundantly clear when looking through the history of competitive VGC is that starter Pokemon do not make good competitive team members. Their relatively even stat balance often makes them perfect for running through the singleplayer game, but relatively unviable for the much harsher climate of competitive play. So what makes Incineroar different?
First of all, the Dark-type is a huge boon, as it gives it access to some fantastic competitive moves. These can include moves like Snarl that lower the opposing Pokemon’s Special Attack, or Knock Off which can rid opposing Pokemon of their held-items, which are often crucial to a Pokemon’s survival in battle. The moves that were key to any Incineroar set, however, were Fire Blast, which could deal out massive Fire-Type damage, and Fake Out, which was guaranteed to immobilise its target on that turn if it hit.
Combine this with its Intimidate ability – an ability that lowers the opposing Pokemon’s attack when Incineroar enters the field – and you’ve got yourself the perfect support Pokemon. It’s able to keep its partner in the fight by stalling out opponents and perfectly countering some of the most prominent and powerful Pokemon in the Sun & Moon metagame, including Aeigislash, Celesteela and even the all-powerful Cresselia.
As such Incineroar has seen huge usage since its Intimidate ability set was released in 2018. It featured on five of the top 8 teams in 2018 and seven in 2019, featuring in the 1st place team both times.
Incineroar was able to prove that starter Pokemon are more than just fodder for the singleplayer game and fond childhood memories, but could wreck shop on the battlefield too.
7 – Amoonguss
Another Pokemon here that has seen scattered usage throughout the years, Amoongus is one of those support Pokemon that never truly goes away.
Spore and Rage Powder are the moves that have been key to Amoonguss’ success over the years. Spore is a move with 100% accuracy and is guaranteed to put the opposing Pokemon to sleep, which is an incredibly powerful thing to have in your arsenal. Meanwhile, Rage Powder forced all attacking moves (not counting spread moves) to target Amoonguss, allowing it to easily protect it’s partner while it dealt out all of the damage.
It had options when it came to its abilities. It could run Effect Spore, which had a chance to inflict a status effect onto any Pokemon that attacked it, or Regenerator, which let it restore one-third of its health when it switched out of battle. While Effect Spore was run for its early seasons, in the years since, high-ranking Amoonguss players have almost exclusively Regenerator sets. This makes it a bulky support Pokemon that can restore its health whenever it wants to, which is a giant boon to controlling the pace of any battle.
Amoonguss’ presence in VGC is quite wide-spread, but also somewhat scattered. It featured on three of the 8 teams in 2011, 2013 & 2019, while taking a spot on a whopping six teams in the 2015 season. It also claimed the world championship in both 2013 & 2015.
Amoonguss ended up being one of those support Pokemon that competitors in VGC just keep coming back to. It has some pretty clear counters, which is why it isn’t seen every year, but when the metagame allows for Amoonguss to flourish, it will always have a noteworthy spot to fill on a team with world championship aspirations.
6 – Thundurus
Arguably one of the most versatile Pokemon this list, Thundurus can fill just about any role you need it to, depending on how you build it.
With a lightning-quick Speed stat (pun definitely intended) and a Special Attack stat to die for, Thundurus could thrive as an all-out attacker. Running Thunderbolt as a robust attacking move made it hard to contend with. It could also carry Hidden Power Flying or Hidden Power Ice to deal with several Pokemon that would otherwise threaten it. Its speed made sure it’d always get to move first, save for a Trick Room which wasn’t overly common in the seasons where Thundurus saw its most prominent usage.
That wasn’t all Thundurus could do though, as it was also an ideal support Pokemon. It couldn’t dish out healing like other great supports, but it didn’t need to. Its ability, Prankster, gave all of its non-attacking moves priority, which meant that they would always execute first, even if the opposing Pokemon was faster. Combine that with access to a move like Thunder Wave and the opposing Pokemon would be lucky if they ever even got a chance to move before they were swept away by Thundurus’ partner. It could even run Rain Dance to control the weather if the team needed it.
Thundurus’ standout year was inarguably 2011, featuring on seven of the top 8 teams at that year’s world championships, including 1st place. It was most frequently partnered up with its fellow genie Tornadus, and the fair of them wrecked shop throughout the 2011 metagame. It’s usage dropped in 2012 when the enitre National Dex was allowed to compete in VGC, instead of just the Unova Dex. However, it still managed to find a spot on four top 8 teams in 2012 and three top 8 teams in 2013.
Its last hurrah was in the 2015 season, where it won itself a second world championship thanks to Shoma Honami using it as a part of his team. It held two top 8 spots in 2016 but was mostly unable to make an impact thanks to the presence of Primal Groudon & Primal Kyogre.
Even though the Primals were banned again for 2017, it faced a significant problem as there was a new Electric-Type Special Attacker on the scene that outclassed Thundurus in just about every way and that Pokemon’s name was…
5 – Tapu Koko
I won’t lie to you, this list is most legendary Pokemon from here on out.
Dipping back into the well of Generation 7 Pokemon now, Tapu Koko has seen almost total dominance over VGC since it burst onto the scene in 2017 and it’s clear to see why. It has a stupidly high Speed stat which allowed it to totally wipe the floor with the rest of the metagame, which ended up being full of pretty slow Pokemon. It was in a bit of trouble if it came up against a Trick Room team, but even then it had a few tricks up its sleeve to protect itself.
First of which was its ability, Electric Surge. This causes the terrain to become charged with electricity immediately upon Tapu Koko entering the field. Electric Terrain was an insanely powerful tool, as it boosted the power of electric type attacks by 50%, prevented any Pokemon on the ground from falling asleep. Finally, it made the move Hidden Power (a reasonably common move on a lot of Pokemon) the chance to paralyse its target. On top of that, it always ran Thunderbolt (chosen over the more powerful Thunder due to it’s higher accuracy) as a mighty attacking move. It also was backed up by Volt Switch, which allowed it to easily switch out of battle and refresh the Electric Terrain when it rejoined the fight.
Tapu Koko featured on a world championship-winning team in both the 2017 and 2018 seasons of VGC, featuring on seven of the top 8 teams in 2017 and four top 8 teams in 2018 and 2019. It had a great variety of allies over the years, although it was most commonly seen alongside Incineroar for an overwhelming display of attacking prowess.
4 – Garchomp
There are no frills on Garchomp, it’s just a big nasty bastard with more power than most Pokemon can handle. With an absolutely monstrous Attack stat, even the bulkiest of Pokemon have trouble standing up to Garchomp when it gets going. There’s nothing complicated about its moveset either. Garchomps main attacking moves are the devastating Earthquake, which damages every other Pokemon on the field that isn’t flying. It also packs Dragon Claw to cover anything that resists or is immune Earthquake, and even if a Pokemon resists both of those moves, Garchomp can also carry Rock Slide to deal with it.
It even has some defensive prowess too. Dragon and Ground is an incredible defensive type combination and while it’s HP and Defense stats don’t quite match up to its Attack, they’re certainly nothing to be sniffed at. It can even work its defensive capabilities into its moveset, as Substitute could be used instead of Rock Slide, to keep itself around on the field even longer than usual.
Garchomp’s usage in VGC has been a bit scattered throughout the years, although it is generally only missing from the metagame in years where ‘restricted Pokemon’ are allowed. It first made waves in 2012, where it features in three of the top 8 teams, including Ray Rizzo’s first-place team. Garchomp’s standout year was 2014, where it sat on five of the top 8 teams, including battling alongside Sejun Park’s legendary Pachurisu, which won him the world championship that year.
While more recently it has only seen two top 8 placements at the world championships (both in 2017), that’s not entirely representative of the force Garchomp has been on the metagame over the years. Even in the years where it didn’t reach any of the highest placements, it was still widely used amongst the community helping various competitors win regional and national championships respectively.
Garchomp is a Pokemon that needs nothing more than it’s pure power to be successful, which makes sense when you look at the absolute monster this thing presents itself as.
3 – Groudon & Kyogre
I’m giving these two the same entry because their careers in VGC have been heavily linked to each other in some way and their roles on teams are pretty similar in the grand scheme of things.
While Groudon & Kyrogre may not look like they’ve been used as much as many other Pokemon on this list, that is only because they’re classed as ‘restricted Pokemon’ which means that they have been banned from usage in all but three seasons. In 2010, which was their debut season, they were featured heavily. Their ability to control the weather upon entry into the field made them perfect for the format, as it meant they would always be switching in with an advantage.
Their solo typing combined with their substantial defensive stats made them great Pokemon to control the pace of a battle, as it was likely they’d be able to stick around in the fight for an incredibly long time. It would really put the pressure on the opposing team to find a way to handle it quickly, or risk getting swept away by the pair’s hard-hitting spread moves like Surf or Earthquake. As such both Pokemon were featured heavily at the world championships that year, with five of the top 8 teams featuring Kyrogre and six featuring Groudon. This included Ray Rizzo’s 1st place team, which made use of both of them.
Restricted Pokemon weren’t allowed again until 2016, and the metagame had shifted a lot by then. Mega-Evolutions were now running rampant, and there was plenty of brand new powerful Pokemon that threatened to put the weather duo out of a job. Then Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire came out and bestowed Groudon & Kyogre with a gift from the heavens…Primal Forms.
Primal Forms completely turned the metagame on their head and were vital for victory in the 2016 season for a couple of major reasons. Firstly, they didn’t take up a mega-slot. Under normal circumstances, there can only be one Pokemon per team that can mega-evolve in a battle. However, the Primal Forms triggered automatically upon entry, provided they were holding the right item (Blue Orb for Kyogre, Red Orb for Groudon). This meant that you could run a different Mega-Evolved Pokemon alongside them, essentially allowing you to have two Mega-Evolved Pokemon in every battle.
With them came some genuinely incredible abilities. Kyogre’s Drizzle ability became Primordial Sea, which prevented attacking Fire-Type moves from doing any damage whatsoever. Meanwhile, Groudon’s Drought ability became Desolate Land, which prevented attacking Water-Type moves from doing any damage whatsoever. As you can imagine, this led to tense battles for control over the weather, as one of those weather conditions would prevent the opposing legendary from executing their signature move (Origin Pulse for Kyogre, Precipice Blades for Groudon). This factor ended up dragging Mega-Rayquaza into the metagame, as its ability, Delta Stream, was able to remove both of these weather effects.
Both Pokemon were all over the 2016 & 2019 seasons, which were the only two that Primal Kyogre & Groudon have been allowed to compete in as of 2020. In 2016, Kyogre saw a bit more useful than Groudon, claiming five slots in that year’s top 8, including 1st. Meanwhile, Groudon only managed three, just missing out on the top slot at 2nd place. However, in 2019, the situation was flipped on its head as this time Groudon was the one to claim 1st place, while Kyogre’s highest placement was only 3rd.
The only thing holding back Kyogre and Groudon is how infrequently they’ve been allowed to take part in VGC. Although, it’s clear as to why that’s the case, as any season where they’ve been allowed to take part, they’ve absolutely dominated the competition and have become must-haves for anyone with world championship aspirations.
2 – Landourus
I wonder if Game Freak meant for the genies to be this powerful when they made them?
First of all, it’s typing is incredible. Being the odd combination of Ground and Flying-Type gives it not one but two immunities; Electric and Ground-Type attacks won’t even scratch it. While there are better defensive Pokemon, its defensive stats are still high enough to give it some staying power. Surely with access to amazing moves like Earthquake and Rock Slide, it would be a sure-fire hit for VGC right? Well…not at first.
For the first couple of years after debuting, Landourus didn’t actually make any top 8 placements at the world championships. The problem was, there were just other Pokemon than could do its job better. Between Terrakion, Krookodile and Garchomp, there wasn’t much reason to pick Landourus over any of them.
In 2012, Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 released, which gave each of the genies (Thundurus, Tornadus & Landorus) brand new “Therian Forms”. While the other two genies ended up not using theirs much over the years. Landorus, on the other hand, became terrifying. It’s Attack stat got boosted to 145, which is one of the highest for any non-Mega Evolved Pokemon. At this point, Landorus dominated.
At first, in 2013 it made four of the top 8 spots at the world championship. That was nothing, however, compared to the 2015 season, where Landorus’ Therian Form featured in all eight to the top 8 teams that year; a feat that no other Pokemon has ever achieved as of 2020. That wasn’t even the end of its dominance, as it persisted into the 7th generation. It most recently featured on six of the top 8 teams at the world championships in 2018.
Landorus got off to a bit of a rocky start, but once the Therian Form came along, there were few Pokemon that stood any chance of stopping it. It has almost unrivalled attacking power and a type combination that is both unique & exceptionally useful.
1 – Cresselia
To put it simply, Cresselia is the ultimate support Pokemon.
The first point in its favour is it’s exceptionally high HP and Defence stats. The solo-Psychic typing means that it doesn’t have a great deal of weakness, and its Levitate ability grants it immunity from the ever-present and potentially devastating Earthquake. The long and short of it is that once Cresselia is out on the field in a battle, it can stay there pretty much as long as it wants to, with its opponent having to scramble to find a way to get rid of it. This is because if the opponent doesn’t find a way to remove it from the battle quickly, it could very well wreak havoc.
As for the ways it can wreak havoc, they vary. The most commonly used set is the Trick Room set. Using Trick Room to allow the slowest Pokemon the field to move first is a great asset that almost always puts Cresselia in control of the pace in the battle. From here it can be loaded up with a bunch of great support moves, and there’s honestly so many to choose from. It has its choice of Light Screen or Reflect, which reduces the power of opposing attacks and usually carries Helping Hand to boost the power of its partner’s attacks.
When Cresselia isn’t using Trick Room, Icy Wind is the move it will use to control the pace of the battle, as that move is guaranteed to lower the Speed of the opposing Pokemon. Thunder Wave is also an option, as it can inflict Paralysis. However Icy Wind is usually preferred as it does damage along with the reduction in speed. It will also carry the move Calm Mind, which raises both the Special Attack and Special Defence of Cresselia. This boosts its bulk even further, along with giving it greater ability to deal out damage for itself, instead of relying on its partner to do all the heavy lifting. It’s attacking move of choice is Psychic, although it can also carry Ice Beam to take out common threats such as Landorus or Mega Salamence.
When it comes to top 8 placements at the world championships, Cresselia is second to none. With the exception of 2019, the only years where it didn’t claim a spot were the years that it was banned. In every other year, it has claimed a spot on at least one of the top 8 teams, winning a world championship on three separate occasions; those being in 2010, 2012 & 2015.
With the sheer amount of usage it’s seen over the years, you could make an excellent case for Cresselia being the face of VGC. Every time a new generation comes along, it features a handful of useful support Pokemon. Still, none of them will ever be able to have the longevity or legacy that Cresselia has in the competitive. It’s seen a slight dip in usage in recent years, but you can bet that it will only be a matter of time before Cresselia finds yet another way to take charge of the competitive scene; probably winning another world championship in the process.
And there you have it! Thank you very much for taking the time to read this. Please, let me know what you think of these Pokemon, either in the comments below or on Twitter @10ryawoo. Finally, make sure you come back this time next week, as I’ll be releasing the first instalment in my summer-long series where I’ll be running down my 100 favourite games of all time! You won’t want to miss it.