Lead Pokémon are Pokémon that you send in first in Trainer Battles. It’s the Pokémon with which you start the fight, and very often it can determine the outcome of the entire battle.
Choosing a good (or a bad) Lead Pokémon can make a difference between victory and loss, and it will affect the entire flow of battle – energy usage, shield advantages and battle tempo.
So, what makes a good Lead Pokémon for Pokémon GO’s Trainer Battles? Let’s dive in.
What is a Lead Pokémon?
Lead Pokémon is the first Pokémon you send into battle. Lead Pokémon set the tempo for the fight, and can force your opponent to make a switch, or help burn down its shields.
Choosing a Lead Pokémon is one of the most important aspects of picking a team, and it should always complement the rest of your team, alongside providing benefits once the Battle starts.
What makes a good Lead Pokémon?
A good Lead Pokémon has to have the following perks:
- A large number of resistances, which reduces the chance of you having to make a Switch
- Solid amount of HP, which allows it to soak up some damage, see your opponent's moves and buy time to burn down some Protect Shields
- A choice of two different Charge Moves, which allows it to apply pressure and deal damage, while introducing an element of surprise for your opponent
Wide resistance coverage
Lead Pokémon should almost always be dual-types with a large number of resistances. For example, Alolan Marowak resists 9 types, Trevenant 6, Altaria 6, and Galarian Stunfisk resists whooping 10 types.
Of course, not all resistances are created the same, and the choice of which ones you want to cover depends on the current PvP meta. At the moment of writing this guide, the majority of high end Leads resist either Water or Ground-type moves, mostly due to the prevalence of those types in the Great League.
There are a few thing to keep in mind here:
- If your Lead of choice does have a set of strong resistances, make sure it has the moves to back it up!
- Some resistances are less important than others, for example resisting Bug-type moves may not be a priority as there are no Pokémon in the meta that use Bug-type moves
Shield and Energy pressure
There are a few goals you want to achieve with your Lead Pokémon. For instance, you may want a Lead that will apply enormous amount of pressure and force your opponent to spend Shields.
Pokémon like Scrafty, Galarian Stunfisk, Medicham, Walrein, Alolan Marowak and Trevenant all have moves which are easy to charge up, and they provide a way to force your opponent to use a Shield.
For example, Alolan Marowak could launch a Bone Club Ground charge move, or surprise your opponent with Shadow Ball, a devastating Ghost type charge move that deals a lot of damage if unshielded.
Having Charged Attacks that can be used to bait opponents is another good quality of a lead Pokémon.
Another goal you may want is to deal a large amount of damage with your Fast Move and force your opponent to switch, putting you in an advantageous position and letting you choose how to counter the new Pokémon.
Pokémon with strong Fast Moves excel here, and finding the right pick will depend on the meta. Player can often see a Dragon Breath Altaria devastating an otherwise well put together team, just for the fact that the opponent doesn’t have any Pokémon which resist Dragon-type moves.
Good Lead Pokémon in GO Battle League
With all of that being said, the question is: which are some good Pokémon in GO Battle League? We are listing out examples for all three Leagues, but do be aware that this changes constantly as new Pokémon and new moves become available in the game.
We, as many others, use PvPoke to run GBL simulations and GO Battle Log and see which Pokémon are currently meta relevant, and which Pokémon we want to be running during this Season.
Despite not having that many resistances, Scrafty is only weak to Fairy, Fighting and Flying, and its moves allow it to spam Power-Up Punch and hit hard with Foul Play if unshielded.
Galarian Stunfisk has 10 resistances, Mud Shot generates energy extremely quickly, and Rock Slide / Muddy Water provide enough Shield pressure for most opponents.
Trevenant is a Ghost /Grass typed monster, and it allows him to counter most Water opponents, and perform excellent against anything that’s not Walrein or a Fairy type.
Walrein is a bulky Water/Ice type that uses Powder Snow and Icicle Spear to apply enormous Shield Pressure, and Earthquake is there to nuke when needed.
Sneasler is a spammy attacker with unusual typing, and most of his opponents will fall for X-Scissor bait.
Medicham opens up the meta with Ice Punch serving as a Grass / Dragon type counter measure, and defeats most other Water types when matched with equal number of Shields.
Registeel takes place as the strongest Lead in the Ultra League, as the arguably best Steel type to use as an opener. Registeel’s bulk, large number of resistances and a quick move that generate massive amounts of Energy, allow it to burn at least one Protective Shield from your opponent.
Trevenant’s and Walrein’s strengths carry over from the Great League into Ultra League quite successfully, so no surprises there. They are still stronger in the Great League, but excellent in Ultra League as well.
Swampert’s advantage is that it’s only weakness are Grass-type attacks, which are quite rare in the Ultra League. His Ground typed attacks are a blessing against the growing number of UL Steel types.
On the flip side, Buzzwole wins against Swampert and Walrein, and it’s a yin to their yang. With an unusual Bug and Fighting type combination, Buzzwole is a surprisingly good Lead that instills a sense of high pressure into your opponent.
Lastly, Cresselia is an extremely bulky, spammy antithesis to Swampert, Walrein and Scrafty (who happens to be a good lead in UL as well). Her victory over Giratina Altered Forme is also notable, but it does lose from Registeel quite easily.
Master League turns expectations on its head, with Groudon becoming one of the most important Leads to have. Groudon’s ability to exert Shield Pressure with Fire Punch, and the ability to counter Steel types easily make him an ideal candidate against Mewtwo, Dialga, Metagross and other prevalent Pokémon in the ML format.
Palkia is one of the rare Pokémon which fight against Giratina Origin Forme, but also against Mewtwo and Metagross at the same time. Dragon Tail hits hard, and Aqua Tail allows for shield baiting, while the only danger lies in other Dragon and Fairy types.
Shadow Mewtwo is a scary opponent, as its wide move pool confuses opponents and makes it hard to skip Shielding against it. With Psycho Cut, Mewtwo becomes a spammy shield pressure machine, and Shadow Ball allows it to nuke quite hard.
Giratina Altered and Origin Forme are both extremely bulky, defensive options, which ensure pressure is strong against most other types. With 8 native resistances, and strong hitting Fast and Charge moves, it’s quite difficult to balance against them.
Yveltal comes in as an answer to Mewtwo, Metagross, Giratina and Dialga, and is often the go-to option for countering these opponents. Snarl is great for generating energy, and Dark Pulse and Focus Blast combo allow for an element of surprise.
Dialga, similar to its Water-typed cousin Palkia, is a strong candidate for defensive shield baiting, and with 10 resistances, it becomes somewhat of a nightmare to deal with. It looses to Groudon, but can go toe to toe with almost all other Master League leads.