Pokémon GO PvP has increasingly become more and more popular since the release of the feature in December of 2018. Since then, the Silph Arena has been the driving force for hosting new and exciting themed ranked tournaments and events.

One of the most important things to factor in if you’re looking to get into the Pokemon GO PvP scene or if you are a seasoned veteran and want to learn more about achieving success in winning tournaments is to know everything there is about having a dominant team for the Great League which is the primary format for tournament play.

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Knowing about what Pokémon to use for different situations in battle can be the difference between a win or a loss. Having a strong and diverse team composition combined with game knowledge is vital for climbing up the Silph League’s ranked ladder and being triumphant in your local PvP group.

Quick overview


Important terms

It is important to know about what Pokémon you can and can’t use for a tournament and to learn all about the top meta relevant Pokémon that have the best coverage. Some very important terms that need to be known before diving into building a strong Great League team are:

Pokemon GO Leads, Closers, Attackers and Defenders
Leads, Closers, Attackers and Defenders for Trainer Battles in the Great League

Lead

A Lead refers to a Pokémon that works exceptionally well as an initial ruling Pokémon in a battle, they’re ideal for sending out head first as they are capable of pressuring the opponent with good coverage and resistances, however, they more often than not rely on burning a shield or 2 to give them the best opportunity in battle.

Closer

Closer Pokémon are Pokémon that work well when you have no shields remaining, they have great typing and stats, alongside having exceptional moves to help them not have to rely on shields.

Attacker

An Attacker is a Pokémon whose best asset is to take down an opponent’s Pokémon that has shields remaining when you’re all out of shields to use yourself. Their natural bulk, strong attacks, and their resistances allow them to succeed against sturdy defenses.

Defender

Defenders are Pokémon that excel when you have shields and your opponent is all out. They are able to act as a sponge by absorbing damage and do not need to rely on the use of shields because of their bulkiness and diverse typings.

Now that you have learned about the categories, it’s time to talk about a few certain Pokémon for each category that have been an absolute powerhouse in the past for tournaments and why they did so well.


Leads

Skarmory

Skarmory has been a dominant force since the first-ever themed Silph Road tournament, the Boulder Cup.

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It was as if it was designed for the Great League, with its great bulk, excellent typing, and good moveset, Skarmory is a force to be reckoned with and is a staple for most, if not all tournaments that can include this beast. Skarmory is a solid lead option in the GO Battle League, however, it does have to watch out for another popular pick being Galarian Stunfisk.

Skarmory has a whopping 10 resistances and has a 100% win rate against all Grass- types in the Great League. When faced against a Grass-type opponent, its farming potential is astonishing which can lead you to store up 2 Sky Attacks to gain a huge advantage over your opponent.

Deoxys (Defense)

Defense Forme Deoxys is another top tier lead Pokémon. A pure Psychic-type, Deoxys Defense Forme has access to Counter as a fast move, as well as a plethora of strong and diverse charge moves. Psycho Boost and Rock Slide are generally the way to go as they counter a lot of the other Pokémon in the Open Great League meta, thus making it a must-have for any trainer.

Its one real threat is the Ghost-type, as Pokémon that counter Defense Forme Deoxys like Dark-types are easily worn down by Deoxys’ spaghetti arms that hit them with Counter. Its other weakness, the Bug type, is covered by Rock Slide, one of that hard-hitting charge moves it gets access to.

One of its hardest counters to watch out for as a lead in GO Battle League is Haunter/Gengar which melt through Deoxys, completely eliminating the Defense from its form.

Altaria

Altaria is a dominant Pokémon in the Great League. Its bulk and impressive damage make it a solid lead in the Great League. It usually requires a dedicated counter Pokémon to take Altaria down.

Its dual typing of Dragon and Flying makes it very difficult to resist, with a fast, hard-hitting quick move being Dragon Breath, it can be an annoying match up if you’re not prepared for it.

Pokémon such as Galarian Stunfisk, Azumaril and Abomasnow are its hardest counters that can ‘wall’ Altaria meaning that Altaria’s moves will only tickle these Pokémon besides Abomasnow which will have to shield Sky Attack.


Closers

Azumarill

Azumarill, aka the bulky blue egg, makes a great addition to any Great League team. Azumarill counters a lot of current meta picks naturally. Azumarill’s high defense allows it to withstand a few direct hits and still have a fighting chance. It is an exceptional Pokémon for making clutch comebacks without having to rely on shields to protect itself.

The addition of Ice Beam is a counter in itself to many Grass-type Pokémon, but consider it a last resort. Play Rough is also a great move that works against many popular picks in the Great League, such as Sableye and Medicham.

Hydro Pump has the potential to deal massive amounts of neutral damage to most match-ups and can just about eliminate an Alolan Marowak with no shields.

Venusaur

Venusaur with the community day exclusive move Frenzy Plant is one of, if not the best, Grass-type Pokémon in the Great League meta. It only takes 6 Vine Whip to charge a Frenzy Plant, which makes Venusaur quite dangerous. Venusaur can be an especially deadly Grass-type killer with its access to Sludge Bomb which is a high hitting Poison type Charge Move. Its high defense stat makes it an incredibly strong closer.

If you are lucky enough to have one under 1500CP, it is a no brainer to power up an incredibly strong dual Grass-type for the Great League. It does have to watch out for common popular meta Pokémon such as Alolan Marowak and even Rapidash with its recent Quick Move addition Incinerate.

Umbreon

Umbreon, the fabled black cat, may not look like the most tanky Pokemon, but don’t underestimate the power of Umbreon. It knows how to take a hit and is an exceptional Closer and even a phenomenal Safe Swap.

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Although it has few counters to it, it makes up for its Fighting-type weaknesses by being a great “staller” (running the clock down to swap Pokémon). Umbreon has great use with the Community Day exclusive move Last Resort, which deals strong Normal-type damage and can be a solution when using Azumaril which counters Umbreon.

Umbreon can be a great counter to top tier picks such as Deoxys (Defense form), Altaria and even Skarmory. It may be tricky to acquire an Umbreon with Last Resort under 1500CP, but if you can get your hands on one, it can and it will serve you well in battle.

Sirfetch'd

Sirfetch’d is a new edition to Pokémon GO. It has great versatility and is such a strong Pokémon to close out games with its use of Close Combat which is an insanely strong Fighting type Charge Move. Close Combat will lower your defence by 2 stages, the best way to use it is to charge up to 2 Close Combat in order to use them one after the other before your opponent gets an attack off.

Counter, paired with Leaf Blade charges energy extremely quickly and can dish out a spammy Grass type burst that can deal with several Pokémon in the Great League meta.

Sirfetch’d also has access to Night Slash and Brave Bird. The beauty of Sirfetch’d is that you can build it to suit any team composition, it fits in well with the meta and has many positive matchups.

Marowak (Alola)

Alolan Marowak has been a staple for the Great League for some while now. It recently was gained access to a new move being Shadow Bone which is a hard-hitting Ghost type move that does slightly less damage than Shadow Ball, but has a 20% chance to lower the opponent’s defense by 1 stage.

Its dual Ghost and Fire typing make it incredibly efficient at dealing with Fighting, Bug and Steel types. Alolan Marowak has access to Bone Club which is a 40 damage Ground type move that has amazing bait potential that can flip a matchup if your opponent falls for it.


Attackers

Bastiodon

Ah yes, the ‘grasshole’ staple Pokémon, many trainers dislike finding this Pokémon in the lead because they know what the other 2 Pokémon are, which, most of the time is 2 Razer Leaf users. This tactic gained popularity in Season 4 which caused trainers on social media to vent about this epidemic.

Jokes aside, this would not be a list of top tier picks without having this monster mentioned in it, Bastiodon is at this current time the number one pick as an Attacker. Its job is what it looks like, a big strong wall, it’s only real “threat” is Fighting and Ground-type Pokémon which even then don’t really hurt Bastiodon too much and can still withstand a few solid hits to the face.

You will have to fork out a tonne of stardust though if you’re willing to employ it to your Great League team but in the grand scheme of things, it will be well and truly worth it and will be an extremely valuable asset to your team.

Medicham

pvpoke.com ranks Medicham highly in the Great League, which is a testament to its power. Medicham is a huge threat to a number of top tier Great League Pokémon such as Galarian Stunfisk, Bastiodon, and Abomasnow

Medicham is also surprisingly bulky. The fact that you can spam Power-Up Punch, and get increased stats with each time it uses it, makes it very dangerous if you don’t have a solution for it. Medicham can often carry your entire team to victory.

Medicham is a very pricey Stardust investment, but the fact that it maxes out at 1431CP allows it to show its full potential in the Great League. If you don’t take down Medicham quickly, you will have serious problems, as it will keep growing in power with each Power-Up Punch you take.

Swampert

If you’re looking for an annoyingly strong Water/Ground-type Pokémon, then look no further than Swampert. Swampert’s well-rounded stats and typing make it an excellent counter to a ton of current meta picks. Swampert is able to quickly charge and spam Hydro Cannon, which can be an absolute game-changer.

The main issue with Swampert is its double weakness to Grass attacks. Pokémon like  Venasaur can melt Swampert in an instant and, if you’re not careful, take you down with one charge move.

Hydro Cannon is Swampert’s saving grace and is one of the best moves overall in the Great League. It allows Swampert to bait shields, while also allowing access to Earthquake for serious damage dealing.


Defenders

Lanturn

Lanturn’s dual Water and Electric typing make it a very versatile Pokémon for your team. Lanturn is a safe and solid pick for Great League and has some really great uses.

While it does take 20+ Water Guns to full charge a charge move, Lanturn’s quick moves alone can dish out a lot of damage. As a Defender, if you have shields to burn, spamming Water Gun to get to a Hydro Pump (or even a Thunderbolt) can be a powerful option.

Lanturn provides great coverage against many top tier picks, such as Skarmory and Azumaril. Don’t forget it is also super effective against Fire, Rock, and Ground, which makes Lanturn a tremendously versatile pick for your Great League team.

Forretress

Forretress made its debut as an exceptional Bug/Steel-type Pokemon, and a natural counter to top tier meta Pokémon such as Venasaur and Defense form Deoxys. Both of these get destroyed by Forretress Bug Biting them into oblivion.

Fortress main vulnerability is Fire-types which will melt through Forretress. However, if you pair it Azumaril, Whiscash or Swampert, and let them cover Forretress’ main weaknesses, you will have an excellent team for Great League.

Heavy Slam can be used to trick your opponents into thinking you are using Earthquake. This is a great baiting tactic, a skill in its own, to trick your opponent into using a vital shield.

Vigoroth

Vigoroth is known for having one of the most spammy play styles of any Pokémon in the Great League. Vigoroth can be a nightmare to be up against if you do not have a solution for it. Its quick move Counter can either be a great neutral damage source or a deadly move against many popular picks, such as Bastiodon and Galarian Stunfisk.

Before you know it, you will have stored up enough energy for a Body Slam, which is Vigoroth’s bread and butter charge move. Body Slam can deal a surprising amount of damage for a normal type move. This large amount of damage can catch your opponent off guard and win many match-ups.

During the Silph Arena’s Jungle Cup in season 1, Vigoroth was a must-have, and many argued that it should be banned entirely due to it being overpowered.

Stunfisk (Galarian)

Last but certainly not least we have Galarian Stunfisk. Ranked #1 for its overall performance on PvPoke.com, Galarian Stunfisk is a force not to be reckoned with. Its incredible bulk paired with its deadly Charge Moves place Galarian Stunkfisk firmly on the pedestal as king of Great League.

Galarian Stunfisk counters popular picks such as Skarmory, Altaria, Bastiodon, Galvantula and Alolan Marowak to name a few. Earthquake, which has always been a heavy-hitting move, charges up quickly due to its Quick Move Mud Shot which has a high EPS (Energy Per Second)

If you can get your hands on a Galarian Stunfisk, pairing it with another solid Pokémon such as Azumaril creates immense pressure and will provide you with a bulky team composition that has coverage against a plethora of top tier Great League Pokémon.

Parting words

Ensuring you have a diverse team structure will aid you on your quest to victory in the competitive Pokémon GO PvP scene.

The great thing about PvP is that you never know what to expect when it comes to versing your opponents and how they have structured a team. Your opponent can completely throw you off with an off-meta team or use a Pokémon that you may not have much knowledge about, what moves it has or how well it will perform.

There is no exact list of what Pokémon to use for a tournament, but take this article as a general guide on how to verse some of the most highly picked Pokémon in the current meta and also to understand what roles they perform best at.

You can use them, or even build a team with the knowledge on how to beat them, by picking tips and tricks outlined in this article. With that in mind, it is highly suggested to have at least one Pokémon on your team that can cover a specific role in battle. This will help you build a diverse team and prepare you for every situation that will arise in a battle. Overcome your opponent with knowledge, rather than brute force.

If you’re interested in joining the Pokémon GO PvP competitive scene, I would highly suggest heading to silph.gg to find a local tournament and to get started in your journey to climb the competitive ranked ladder and to potentially be the best within your community!

-Adam ‘Avrip’


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Writer / Editor for the Pokémon GO Hub. PvP enthusiast and tournament organizer in Perth, Western Australia. Collector and enthusiast of rare Pokémon retro memorabilia. Admin of the Pokémon GO Perth & WA Facebook page. Sold my soul to Niantic on 07/07/2016. https://twitter.com/GOHubAvrip