It might surprise you to know that there’s an active competitive gaming scene that focuses on Pokémon. The Pokémon Company holds dozens of tournaments throughout the year, culminating in a World Championship in August.
Competitive Pokémon battles are a bit different than what’s usually seen in the main series Pokémon games. Competitive Pokemon battles are 2v2 team battles, which adds a wrinkle to how players lay out their teams and strategies.
To keep things interesting, the Pokémon Company also enforces different rules each “season,” banning certain items and Pokémon. This prevents the competitive scene from getting too stagnant, although you’ll often see a few key Pokémon emerge as the dominant choices in battle.
This year, the competitive Pokémon scene is limited to using only Pokémon found in the “Alola PokéDex” from Pokémon Sun and Moon. That means that players can’t use some of the most powerful Pokémon from last year’s competitive scene and have instead focused on many of the new Pokémon introduced last fall.
So which Pokémon are currently the top Pokémon in the competitive scene? The competitive Pokémon website Trainer Tower recently compiled which Pokémon appeared the most in tournaments over the last couple of months. So, here’s a look at the six most used Pokémon as well as why they’re so effective in battle.
While the current metagame features a lot of newer Pokémon, an old standby is currently the most popular Pokémon in competitive teams. Nearly 4 out of 5 players are using Arcanine in competitive play right now, making it far more used than any other Pokémon.
So why Arcanine? In part it’s due to the presence of Kartana and Celesteela, two powerful Ultra Beasts that dominated the competitive scene in the fall and winter. Both are weak against Fire-Type Pokémon, which means that Arcanine can act as a valuable counter to some of the strongest Pokémon around.
Arcanine also has the Intimidate ability, which automatically lowers an opponent’s Attack stat. Abilities that lower stats are always in high demand in competitive play, which gives Arcanine even more value.
All four of the Guardian Pokémon are designed for competitive play, but Tapu Koko has emerged as the go-to choice for many players. Because of the current limitations in what Pokémon can be used, there aren’t too many Pokémon that can’t be hurt by one of Tapu Koko’s Electric of Fairy-Type attacks.
Like the other Guardian Pokémon, Tapu Koko can automatically change the field to an Electric Terrain, which gives all of its Electric attacks a major boost in power. It can also use the valuable move Volt Switch, which can deal damage AND allow a player to switch out Tapu Koko in case its vulnerable in battle. When coupled with Arcanine (whose Intimidate ability automatically lowers Attack stats), a Tapu Koko with Volt Switch can be deadly in battle.
Kartana remains the most popular Ultra Beast in competitive play, which is why so many players are carrying an Arcanine on their team. As a Grass/Steel dual-type, Kartana is super-weak to Fire-Type attacks, although Kartana will survive at least one Fire attack when holding a Focus Sash.
Players like Kartana because of its exceptionally high Attack stat, which gets boosted whenever Kartana knocks out an opposing Pokémon. It also has access to a wide variety of moves that can deal out a lot of damage to many of the Pokémon found on other teams.
The Pokemon metagame has a way of elevating some very strange Pokémon to the top. Take Porygon2, which is used by almost half of top players in competitive play. Porygon2 is useful because of its ability to use Trick Room – a move that allows Pokémon with the lowest Speed stat to attack first. Priority is critical in competitive play, so any move that can counter an opponent’s attempt to get the speed advantage is critical to success.
Porygon2 doesn’t have much use other than to control the speed of battle, but it can learn a wide variety of attacks. Therefore, competitive players will often load up Porygon2 with attacks that can damage other popular Pokémon.
Tapu Fini is another popular Guardian Pokémon, especially when paired with Kartana and Arcanine. Players like Tapu Fini because it automatically brings Misty Terrain onto the field, which prevents all Pokémon from being affected by any status conditions.
Tapu Fini is a naturally defensive Pokémon, which means that it can take more damage than other Guardian Pokémon. When using Calm Mind, Tapu Fini can survive a round of attacks by opposing players and then unleash a boosted attack the following turn. Its main offensive attack is Muddy Water, which is handy as it has a chance of lowering an opponent’s accuracy.
Garchomp has always been a versatile Pokémon, which is why it rounds up the top six most popular Pokémon despite having no real standout abilities. Garchomp often acts as a counter to Tapu Koko, as it can unleash a powerful Ground-Type attacks to wipe out the popular Guardian Pokémon.
Garchomp has also emerged as the attacker of choice in many speed-based teams. When coupled with a Pokémon like Drifblim that’s immune to Ground-Type attacks AND can raise the speed of friendly Pokémon with its Tailwind ability, Garchomp can attack an opponent’s team all at once with Earthquake.