Beyond catching Pokémon in the wild, the biggest in-game features you’ll want to take part in are gym battles and raids. That means you’ll need to get yourself some meta-relevant Pokémon. This article won’t delve into what specific Pokémon you need to defeat another, instead it will examine the idea of metagaming in Pokémon GO.

So what is metagaming? According to Wikipedia, it is “knowledge of the current strategic trends within a game” and the “emergent methodology that is a subset of the basic strategy necessary to play the game at a high level.”

Let’s address the first point. Conventional Pokémon wisdom tells us that to defeat any Pokémon you should use a type-counter with the highest base attack stat.

For example, say you want to smash a Blissey out of a gym. Most trainers would tell you Machamp is your best choice. It has the highest base attack stat of any current Fighting type Pokémon and gains STAB (same-type attack bonus) against Blissey.

Both Pokémon are meta-relevant as they both follow the current strategic trends. Blissey is the top gym defender because of its high defensive stats and Machamp is the highest DPS counter.

Pokémon Weakness Optimal Counter
Blissey Normal Fighting Machamp Counter, Dynamic Punch
Machamp has a base attack of 234. Combined with STAB and the optimal moveset and it will take down Blissey the fastest.

But, let’s say you don’t have that certain special Pokémon everyone tells you must have to take part in the current game meta. What do you do then?

For instance, the top Pokémon you needed for raiding Kyogre was Raikou. But, maybe you weren’t playing when the Legendary Beasts were raid bosses and you don’t have 6 Raikous, let alone 1. Well, there’s more than one way to skin a whale. While Raikou was the most efficient for taking down Kyogre, an “emergent methodology” rose out of the game, suggesting using Groudon with Solar Beam as a specialist attacker.

Now, Groudon is weak against Water, so if you’re using conventional thinking it wouldn’t make sense to use it against Kyogre with a full water-type moveset. That would be suicide and you would be right.

However, thanks to high overall base stats, resistance to Electric attacks, and access to Solar Beam, Groudon is one of the best attackers against Kyogre with Thunder. By understanding how the different mechanics of the game work together, you can see how a Pokémon you wouldn’t typically use against another could become meta-relevant.

Pokémon Fast Move Charge Move Usage in Meta
Raikou Electric Thunder Shock Electric Wild Charge Electric Overall best counter, good vs. all movesets without much fuss.
Groudon Ground Dragon Tail Dragon Solar Beam Grass Solid specialist against Kyogre with Thunder, mostly due to resistance and bulk.

And yes there are better counters to Kyogre than Groudon, the point here is that stats alone won’t earn you 3 damage balls. A Pokémon’s moveset plays a huge role in how relevant a Pokémon is to the game meta. Remember when trainers thought having a Bite-Crunch Tyranitar was the worst thing ever?

If you’re willing to invest the candies and stardust, you can create your own “meta-relevant” Pokémon as an alternative or substitute to the top-tier attacker (or defender) you don’t have in the current meta.

Take Hariyama. It offers a cheaper alternative to Machamp with only 50 candies to evolve from Makuhita (instead of 125 for Machamp) and slightly lower DPS. Hariyama can be nearly as effective as Machamp until you catch your first hundo Machop.

Pokémon Evolves from Alternative to
Hariyama Counter, Dynamic Punch Makuhita 50 candies
Machamp Counter, Dynamic Punch
Affordable counter to common Normal type gym defenders, such as Blissey, Chansey, and Snorlax.

Also, keep in mind that a rework to the battle system could see meta-relevant Pokémon become less relevant. Niantic has nerfed Pokémon before. Does that mean you shouldn’t put all your resources into current meta Pokémon and opt for a little more diversity in your battle dex? Don’t know. That’s a topic best left for another article.