Pokémon GO PvP has increasingly become more and more popular since the release of the feature in December of 2018. Since then, the GO Battle League has become bigger and better with each season and also 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 matches to know everything there is about having a dominant team for the Great League which is the primary format for tournament play and arguably one of the most popular GBL formats too.

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 ranks ladder and being triumphant.

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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

Jellicent

Jellicent has been a dominant force since its release back in Season 6. This dual Water and Ghost type provides the user with immense shield pressure and works well with a lot of team compositions.

Not only is Jellicent incredibly bulky, but it also has a spammy moveset thanks to its Fast Move, Hex. The best part about Jellicent is that there are multiple ways to play it, every single move that it can learn can be used as a solid option that will keep your opponent on their toes and always guessing.

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Jellicent has a bait move (Bubble Beam), heavy-hitting moves (Shadow Ball and Ice Beam) and Hex, one of the highest DPE Fast Moves in the game. What more could you want from this Jellifish?

Trevenant

Trevenant is featured a lot on this list and for good reason. This new addition to Pokémon GO is no joke. Introduced in the 2021 Halloween event, Trevenant has quickly made its way to the top of the list for several roles and formats.

Its dual typing of Grass and Ghost grant it a whole 6 resistances to Normal, Fighting, Water, Ground, Grass and Electric. These typings are seen often in the Great League which means that this tree is an absolute meta destroyer.

Trevenant might not be the bulkiest Pokémon, however, with shield advantage, it can deal heavy damage against almost every single Pokémon in the meta. 

Medicham

Medicham has been a fan favourite since Season 1. It’s gotten even stronger with the release of XL Pokémon meaning that this Fighting and Psychic type deals more damage and has gained more bulk.

With this increase in stats, Medicham has a better time dealing with Pokémon that normally used to give it trouble in the past such as Azumaril. There are many ways to use Medicham depending on your movesets.

Some like to run Power-Up Punch to make those Counters hurt even more, Ice Punch to help take down those pesky Flying types which can give Medicham trouble and even Psychic to deal heavy STAB damage.


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.

Skarmory

Skarmory has been a staple in the Great League since the dawn of time. Popular for being an absolute wall to Grass types and having play against almost everything (I’m looking at you Bastiodon).

This flying menace has an incredible 10 resistances to Poison, Grass, Bug, Steel, Psychic, Normal, Ground, Flying, Fairy and Dragon, way to show off Skarmory.

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Having access to Brave Bird means that when your opponent is shields down, they will be met with the wrath of Skarmory’s full power which can often either one-shot or deal massive nuke damage to anything in its sight.

Registeel

Registeel is another OG Pokémon that has always had play. Despite its Charge Moves getting a nerf, it can still deal massive damage.

It can be tough when you’re up against certain Pokémon such as Galarian Stunfisk, Swampert and Medicham, however, pairing Registeel with Pokémon that can deal with its weaknesses means that it can have an easier time to show off its potential.

Sirfetch'd

Sirfetch’d is a semi-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 is yet another staple Pokémon for the Great League and has been for some while now. The addition of Shadow Bone which an exclusive move, 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.

The release of XL Candy means that an XL Bastiodon is one of the tankiest Pokémon in the entire Great League. It can be a nightmare to take it down without having the right counters in place.

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.

Diggersby

Diggersby has gained popularity in many different cups and even has solid play in the open Great League due to its extreme bulk, spammy moveset and shield pressure.

It has many solid matchups against several current meta Pokémon such as Galarian Stunfisk, Sableye, Nidoqueen, Skarmory and Bastiodon.

When it comes to Diggersby’s moveset, there are 2 different options. Firstly, Fire Punch is a must due to its bait potential and spam. Secondly, trainers can decide to either take Earthquake or Hyper Beam which are both strong nukes that can have play in different situations.

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.

One of the most popular cores in the Great League is running Swampert with Skarmory as these 2 can deal with almost every other meta Pokémon in the game.


Defenders

Sableye

Sableye is arguably one of the best safe swaps in the game currently. Its purified form means that it can deal massive neutral damage with Return. Paired with its high attack stat, this move can make your opponents Pokémon suffer.

Shadow Claw is one of the most top-performing Fast Moves due to its damage and energy per turn which Sableye has access too. It also knows Foul Play which is 45 energy move that deals 70 damage.

Although Fairy types will eat Sableye for breakfast, having access to Return means that it can turn the tides on those that do not respect this heavy-hitting move and oftentimes you can win switch advantage back from tough situations.

Drapion

Drapion has gained popularity recently due to the buff for Poison type moves. Its spammy moveset and versatility means that using it as a safe swap can take down most Pokémon with the use of shields and its Charge Moves.

Having access to Crunch, which now has a chance to lower your opponent’s Defense by one stage means that if you’re lucky enough to debuff your opponent, you can turn the tides on tough matchups.

Another reason why Drapion is so versatile is that it also has access to Aqua Tail which is a bait move that can also have coverage against Pokémon that will often counter Drapion such as Galarian Stunfisk.

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