While the world of Pokemon is full of all kinds of different things trainers can do with their Pokemon, the main (and most fun) activity is battling. Putting teams up against each other to determine the best trainer is a thrill like no other. Battling through the single-player campaign to become champion is all well and good, but some seek to go further.
Players worldwide look to compete with each other, pushing their teams to the limits in order to call themselves world champions. Over the past decade or so, where Pokemon VGC has been officially recognized, some Pokemon have risen to the top. While different meta-games come and go, some Pokemon always find a way to be useful and have helped win multiple world championships.
Updated November 11, 2021, by Ryan Woodrow: As the competitive scene in Pokemon Sword and Shield continues to evolve, players are finding more and more monsters worthy of a spot on their best Pokemon team. From brand-new Legendary Pokemon to the very first Starters the franchise ever had, the best competitive Pokemon can come from anywhere in the Pokedex, proving that anyone's favorite can make competitive Pokemon teams with some know-how.
The recent Players Cup events have seen old favorites fall out of favor, while the meta evolves to allow Pokemon who have never gotten the spotlight before a chance to shine. With the competitive scene staying with Sword & Shield, even in light of Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl's release, trainers will have plenty of opportunities to get involved in the current meta.
17 Tapu Fini - A Fairy With Bulk
One of Alola's guardian spirits, all four of them have seen a fair amount of competitive usage since their introduction in Generation 7. Tapu Koko has always been a force to be reckoned with, while Tapu Bulu and Tapu Lele had their niches. However, Tapu Fini has benefitted from the jump to Generation 8 the most.
With 130 in Special Defence, and a Water/Fairy-type combination, Tapu Fini can take a hit and keep on trucking. Its Attacking power isn't incredible, but it has access to moves like Nature's Madness, which is guaranteed to halve an opponent's HP. It usually carries Icy Wind to slow other Pokemon down and sometimes uses Heal Pulse to support its allies.
16 Venusaur - Teaching An Old Pokemon New Tricks
Venusaur is the final evolution of the very first Pokemon in the Pokedex. To say it's been around for a while would be quite an understatement. Despite this, it was never used very prominently as a top competitive Pokemon. That was until Sword & Shield came along and breathed new life into it.
For a long time, it had good Special Attack and Defence, with 100 in each, but its low HP and Speed meant it could never put it to good use. However, with its Chlorophyll hidden ability, its Speed doubles in sunlight, and suddenly, it becomes a bulky tank with a turbocharger strapped to it. The Isle of Armor DLC giving it a Gigantamax form was quite a boost too.
15 Galarian Moltres - Fire And Fury
At first glance, it doesn't look like Galarian Moltres would be all that great, but it benefitted from the circumstances in which it came about. As an addition to the Crown Tundra DLC, it popped up simultaneously as popular Pokemon like Cresselia made their return, and new ones like Calyrex and Spectrier appeared. Galarian Moltress could obliterate them all.
Combing the Weakness Policy item with Dynamax means that Galarian Moltres can hit powerful Dark-type moves that nothing can resist. It has great Special Attack and even better Special Defence, allowing it to give and take hits with ease. Plus, even when it isn't Dynamaxed, its signature move Firery Wrath, has a 20% chance to cause the opponent to flinch, meaning they may not even move.
14 Regieleki - Faster Than Light
One of the newest Pokemon in the franchise, being added in the Crown Tundra DLC in late 2020, Regieleki has quickly become a force to be reckoned with. 200 Speed is an incredible place to start and makes it one of the best Electric-types in the scene right now.
With 100 in both Physical and Special Attack, it can hit with some fierce power. What's more, is its Transistor ability boosts its Attack by 1.5x when using an Electric move. This means it can savor moves like Thunderbolt to hit with some force or Volt Switch to keep as fast as possible and never take a hit.
13 Rillaboom - Attacking With Priority
Rillaboom saw spotty usage throughout the first few Players Cups. There were definitely ways it could work, but Pokemon like Incineroar were still somewhat boxing it out. This changed in a major way when Players Cup events started allowing restricted Pokemon on teams (a group that mostly includes Legendary Pokemon).
Here, Rillaboom found its place as a Pokemon that could handle some of the most powerful ones. With its Grassy Surge Hidden Ability, combined with the move Grassy Glide, Rillaboom held a powerful Grass-Type move that had priority, guaranteeing it would move before even some of the fastest Pokemon. It meant that even monsters like Regieleki and Urshifu were now far less of a threat.
12 Bronzong - Killer Of Faries
Bronzong is an unassuming Pokemon that many trainers may not think would be a good fit for competitive play. While its usage hasn't been widespread, it has proved to be an essential player on teams in certain years.
Its Steel/Psychic typing makes it a tough nut to crack. Additionally, its versatile move set allows it to control the pace of battle with moves like Trick Room and hit hard with Gyro Ball. In 2016, it was near-essential to have on teams due to the prevalence of Fairy Types, which Bronzong could rip right through.
11 Calyrex - Two In One
The headline Pokemon for The Crown Tundra DLC, Calyrex was immediately made a Restricted Pokemon, limiting its competitive use. However, when it's been allowed to step onto the battlefield, it has wreaked havoc.
With Special Attack and Speed that few Pokemon can match, there is little most Pokemon can do to stop it. Additionally, when combined with Spectrier, its As One Ability is like two in one. Calyrex's Unnerve stops the opponent from eating crucial Berries, while Spectrier's Grim Neigh boosts its Special Attack every time it gets a KO. It is a threat that will be immediately prioritized when the opponent pulls it out because letting it get going will result in a total team sweep.
10 Urshifu - Fast, Furious Fists
Several Pokemon have seen heavy usage in the Pokemon Sword and Shield era of competitive play. With a more limited Pokedex, players have been forced to get more creative with their teams. Urshifu has risen to the occasion as a solid pick.
With a high Speed stat, Urshifu is able to get onto the battlefield and strike before many other powerful Pokemon. On top of that, its two forms often mean opponents won't know what they're up against until it's too late. Combine that with a signature move that guarantees a critical hit, and players have a tournament-winning Pokemon on their hands.
9 Amoonguss - Supportive Spores
With the double-battle format of VGC, trainers don't have to focus on raw attacking power. Supportive Pokemon can be just as effective in keeping the opponent's strikes at bay. Amoonguss is one of the better Pokemon for keeping the fight going.
It can put opponents to sleep with frightening accuracy using Spore and can focus attacks on itself with Rage Powder. Additionally, it boasts enviable Abilities. Effect Spore means an attacker may find themselves victim to a status condition, while Regenerator restores Amoonguss' health when it switches out.
8 Incineroar - Intimidating Sweeper
Generation 7 left a large impact on the Pokemon franchise, and the competitive scene was no exception. Incineroar's power is rivaled by very few Pokemon. It managed to break the mold of starter Pokemon being fairly useless in competitive play. Its move pool lets trainers have their pick of the litter, but what really set it into the mainstream was its Hidden Ability.
Incineroar's Intimidate Ability makes it a mainstay on almost all of the top teams. Lowering the opponent's Attack stat upon switching in is a huge boon, and Incineroar can back it up with attacking moves that destroy anything in its path. This dominance has seen it claim a world championship every year since its Intimidate Ability was released in 2018.
7 Thundurus - Versatile Power
Part of Generation 5's Legendary Genie Trio, Thundurus lives up to its Legendary status. With fantastic stats and a wide move pool, Thundurus has been able to fill a number of different roles on competitive teams.
With its enviable Special Attack and Speed stats, it can make waves as an all-out sweeper with Thunderbolt and Hidden Power. However, it can also fill a support role. Its Ability, Prankster, allows all non-attacking moves to go first, regardless of Pokemon's speed. This means it can dish out moves like Thunder Wave and completely immobilize opponents with ease.
6 Zacian - The Counter To Everything
Pokemon Sword's box-art Legendary and Restricted Pokemon, Zacian lives up to its moniker. Its 170 Attack stat is already amazing, but its ability immediately boosts that when entering battle. Additionally, it has some of the most incredible moves available.
Behemoth Blade not only deals double damage to Dynamax/Gigantamax Pokemon but is powerful enough to one-shot some of the most powerful Pokemon out there. Xerneas and Tapu Lele don't stand a chance against it, and even neutral Pokemon like Landorus and Incineroar can't stand up to it very well. Even for Pokemon that do resist it, moves like Close Combat and Play Rough are perfect options for Zacian to carry.
5 Tapu Koko - Like Thundurus, But Better
Tapu Koko came along in Generation 7 and immediately made an impact. As well as being one of the coolest-looking Pokemon of the generation, it turned out to be the ultimate Electric-Type Pokemon for competitive play.
Like Thundurus, it can use powerful attacking and supporting moves like Thunderbolt and Thunder Wave. However, Tapu Koko's Electric Surge Ability also gives it a terrain advantage, boosts Electric-Type attacks, prevents Sleep, and gives Hidden Power a chance to Paralyze. Tapu Koko doesn't need a support Pokemon, because it more or less supports itself. As such, it was all over the competitive scene in Generation 7, winning a world championship in both 2017 and 2018.
4 Garchomp - No-Frills Sweeping
Garchomp has everything trainers could want from an effective sweeper. Its monstrous Attack stat could make most Legendary Pokemon quake in their boots. It has access to some of the game's most powerful attacking moves, and the defensive capabilities to stick around.
Earthquake and Rock Slide are powerful moves that hit both opposing Pokemon at once. If Garchomp needs a more focused attack, Dragon Claw is no problem. It has seen prominent usage in almost every year where it was allowed to compete and featured on world championship-winning teams with 2012 and 2014. It may rise to prominence again with the Diamond and Pearl remakes later in 2021.
3 Groudon & Kyogre - A Primally Powerful Duo
These two Pokemon are powerful for the exact same reason. Their Primal Forms put them among the most powerful legendary Pokemon. Added in Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire, these more powerful forms of Groudon and Kyogre grant them powerful signature moves and boosted versions of their abilities.
The Desolate Land or Primordial Sea Abilities not only massively boost their own signature moves, but prevent the opposite signature move from being used. As Legendary Pokemon, they have incredible stats that any trainer could make good use of. This made having at least one of them on a team essential for success in the seasons where they have been allowed to compete.
2 Cresselia - The Ultimate Support Pokemon
Cresselia is the one Pokemon that can be useful in just about any situation. Its Psychic single-typing means it doesn't have many weaknesses. Combine this with extremely high HP and Defence stats and a Levitate Ability for Ground-Type immunity, and Cresselia becomes a wall that few Pokemon can break through.
What makes it so useful as a support Pokemon is its massive move pool, which gives trainers so many options for how they want to use it. It can use Trick Room or Icy Wind to control the pace of battle; Light Screen or Reflect to boost their Pokemon's defensive capabilities; or Helping Hand to boost their partner's attacking power.
1 Landorus - The Best Competitive Pokemon
When first introduced in Pokemon Black and White, players immediately saw potential in Landorus. With an incredible type combination of Ground and Flying, it had not one but two Type immunities. However, at first, its stats didn't back it up.
That was until Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 were released, unlocking Landorus' Therion form. This form gave it a monstrous Attack stat and had moves that made it virtually unstoppable. In 2015, it featured in all 8 of the top 8 teams and has remained a mainstay in the scene ever since. No other Pokemon has remained such a dominant force in the competitive scene for so long, and even in the modern era, it shows no signs of being pushed around.
There are some incredibly well designed Pokemon in the gen 1 games, although not all of them quite live up to their excellent appearances in battle.