Pokémon to Watch for at the 2022 Pokémon GO North America International Championships

Be ready when the action starts with this guide to the Pokémon expected to make a huge impact.

By Gabby Snyder, Contributing Writer

Trainers have been competing on the online GO Battle League ladder since March 2020, and Pokémon GO officially joined the Play! Pokémon Championship Series this spring. The GO Battle League competitions are great training for live tournaments, but there are a few differences. Unlike the online ladder, where you can only bring three Pokémon in a predetermined order, the Pokémon GO Championship Series allows Trainers to use a team of six Pokémon and select three of them prior to battling each opponent. All Pokémon must be eligible for the Great League—meaning it has to have 1,500 CP or lower. The matches themselves are best-of-three within a double-elimination bracket, with the Winners, Losers, and Grand Finals matches being best three-out-of-five games.

This year marks the first year that Pokémon GO will be part of the North America International Championships (NAIC). What will Trainers bring to compete with the best of the best to earn their invitation to the World Championships this August? Let's take a look at which Pokémon have done well so far, and what you can expect to see in Columbus.

Remember that you can catch the action at the NAIC on June 24–25, 2022, on Twitch.tv/PokemonGO.


Medicham's greatest strength is Counter, one of the best Fast Attacks in the game thanks to its stellar Damage–Per–Second (DPS) and Energy–Per–Second (EPS) rates. While Medicham's stats are relatively low compared to some of the other Pokémon on this list, it can be leveled up to Lv. 50 and still remain under 1,500 CP, which increases its overall utility. Higher-level Pokémon have higher stats and can therefore deal more damage, giving Medicham a small advantage as one of the few Pokémon that can battle near their maximum stats in Great League matchups.

Power-Up Punch is one of its favored Charged Attacks because of the recent rise in Registeel's prevalence throughout the GO Championship Series. Power-Up Punch allows Medicham to take advantage of lower-damage matchups to slowly boost its own Attack, then hit hard with its other Charged Attack—typically Ice Punch or Psychic. Most Trainers in the GO Championship Series so far have stuck with Psychic for a more favorable matchup against Nidoqueen. But unless Medicham has a shield advantage when entering the field, it shines brightest as a lead by using Fighting-type attacks to apply early pressure on other common lead Pokémon like Walrein or Galarian Stunfisk.


Walrein has established itself as one of the key Pokémon within the GO Championship Series ever since Spheal's impactful January Community Day. Its Fast Attack Powder Snow charges energy quickly, which pairs nicely with Icicle Spear, a 35-energy attack with a same-type attack bonus that forces opponents to think hard about when to use their Protect Shields. Add Earthquake into the mix as Walrein's preferred second Charged Attack, and overall you have a top contender that's able to tank a few attacks and fire off knockouts in return.

Alolan Ninetales

Alolan Ninetales is unusual in the GO Championship Series as one of the few Pokémon with access to the Fast Attack Charm, which can deal heavy damage to opponents who aren't prepared for it. A common synergistic strategy among Trainers is to force their opponent to swap Pokémon, then to send in Alolan Ninetales knowing that the opponent can't switch again until the cooldown timer has run out. Once Alolan Ninetales uses Charm to wear down and knock out its opponent, its Charged Attacks are then ready to be fired off at the next opposing Pokémon. Moonblast and an Ice-type Weather Ball provide great type coverage, making Alolan Ninetales a Pokémon that's found commonly on top teams at tournaments.

For Vancouver Regionals Champion Cindy (Trainer name hsineerg), though, the Fire-type Ninetales was the secret to victory. It was a unique pick, given that a majority of Trainers in the tournament opted against running Fire-type Pokémon altogether, but the Fast Attack Ember proved to be just as powerful as Charm, and the combination of Overheat and a Fire-type Weather Ball allowed Cindy to destroy common counters like Galarian Stunfisk and Registeel. Cindy would often use both of her Protect Shields keeping Ninetales safe—and you can see why, as it was key in many of her battles leading into her Championship title win.


When bulky Water-type Pokémon are common, as they are in the Great League, there are always strong Grass-type Pokémon to be found. The interesting thing about Trevenant in the GO Championship Series is that it is a Grass- and Ghost-type Pokémon, meaning it benefits from a same-type attack bonus for both types of attacks. Its preferred Fast Attack Shadow Claw can farm energy effectively, and its Charged Attacks Seed Bomb and Shadow Ball have low energy costs for high damage output. Combined, this allows Trevenant to take down expected foes like Nidoqueen, Araquanid, Walrein, and more. It's no surprise that Trevenant is by far the most common Grass-type Pokémon in the GO Championship Series thus far.


By far one of the most powerful Pokémon for the GO Championship Series is Registeel, thanks to its high defensive stats. It has a favorable type matchup against common standouts like Alolan Ninetales, Sableye, Walrein, and Araquanid. Registeel can charge energy quickly thanks to its Fast Attack Lock Onand it has fantastic Charged Attacks. Zap Cannon is a popular choice given that it's guaranteed to drop the opponent's Attack by one stage, and Focus Blast allows Registeel to stand up to other Steel-type Pokémon without issue. Registeel is such a threat that many Trainers not wanting to get caught off guard will run multiple counters on their team for it.

Solid Ground-type Pokémon

Given Registeel's immense utility, it makes sense that one of the most common Pokémon on GO Championship League teams is an option that can hit Steel types with supereffective Ground-type attacks. There are several different Pokémon that Trainers use to accomplish this goal:

One of the more popular of these Pokémon is Nidoqueen, one of the only Poison-type Pokémon found in competitive play. What sets Nidoqueen apart from other Ground-type Pokémon is its Charged Attack Poison Fang, which is guaranteed to drop the opponent's Defense by a single stage. Nidoqueen can pressure the opposing Trainer into switching Pokémon, as these Defense drops cause attack damage to add up quickly. Once its opponent switches out, Nidoqueen can likewise be switched for a more favorable matchup to deliver the knockout.

Swampert is an excellent Ground-type pick that has access to Earthquake and Mud Shot. What sets Swampert apart is the Community Day Attack Hydro Cannon, which charges faster than Rock Slide and has significantly more attacking power, forcing its opponent to think very carefully about whether or not to use a Protect Shield. Swampert also gets access to Sludge Wave, which is effective against its only weakness: Grass-type Pokémon. But given the relative lack of Grass types present in the Championship Series, most Trainers will opt against bringing this move.

Galarian Stunfisk is an interesting option for Trainers who need a Pokémon that forces opponents to use their Protect Shields early. Its Fast Attack Mud Shot charges energy very quickly, making its Charged Attacks accessible early on in a matchup. From there, Galarian Stunfisk can use Rock Slide to trick opponents into using their Protect Shields on a less powerful attack, or go straight to Earthquake for big damage. The one downside to Galarian Stunfisk is that it loses against the strongest Water-type Pokémon in the format, so expect Trainers who run it to also have a strong Water-type counter on their team such as Venusaur, Trevenant, or Lurantis.

Bulky Water-type Pokémon

Water-type Pokémon are another common find in winning GO Championship Series teams, with many teams opting to run two of them.

Azumarill has historically been one of the strongest Pokémon in the GO Battle League, making a splash in the Great League as early as Season 1. Like Medicham, it can be leveled up for a higher Attack stat while still remaining under 1,500 CP, adding to its overall damage output. It also can single-handedly defeat every common Dark-type Pokémon in the format with Play Rough as its Charged Attack. Most Trainers opt to run Bubble as the only Water-type attack; Azumarill does get access to Hydro Pump, but since it takes 75 energy to use, many Trainers will opt for Ice Beam instead for a faster charge to help use up shields.

Politoed made an appearance on Trainer 610hero's team at the Vancouver Regional Championships and it's easy to understand why. Despite its pure Water typing, Politoed can use Earthquake and Mud Shot, just like Swampert. And it has Weather Ball as its Water-type Charged Attack of choice, which takes only 35 energy, meaning it can charge up quickly and put pressure on the opponent's shields. If you're having trouble gaining a shield advantage, swapping out your Ground-type Pokémon for Politoed could be an innovative way to build around that!

Araquanid is the new kid on the block for Water-type Pokémon in the GO Championship Series, and it's easy to see why it's so quickly risen in popularity. Having only been released in-game as a part of May's Water Festival, Araquanid has already found itself on two Regionals winning teams. Its Fast Attack Bug Bite doesn't take long to use and provides three energy, allowing it to charge up its Charged Attacks quickly. What's more, both of Araquanid's Charged Attacks provide valuable debuffs against its opponents. Bug Buzz can deal a ton of damage and has a 30% chance of dropping Defense by a single stage, while Bubble Beam will consistently drop Attack by a single stage. The Pokémon that Araquanid commonly loses to include Nidoqueen, Alolan Ninetales, Registeel, Galarian Stunfisk, and Mandibuzz—all of which saw increased usage on teams after Araquanid's introduction. It's clear that this Pokémon has significantly changed the metagame and is one to keep an eye on moving towards the North America International Championships.

What about Shadow Pokémon?

Originally introduced in the 2004 Nintendo GameCube classic Pokémon Colosseum, Shadow Pokémon were added to Pokémon GO alongside the nefarious Team GO Rocket in the summer of 2019. These Pokémon can be captured after defeating a member of Team GO Rocket and have a spooky aura due to Team GO Rocket's attempt to make them stronger through unnatural means. For the GO Championship League, though, this added strength can be a significant advantage.

Shadow Pokémon have higher offensive capabilities than their non-Shadow counterparts, at the cost of lowered defenses. Not all Pokémon can be found in their Shadow forms currently, which means their impact to the metagame is limited. However, Pokémon like Nidoqueen, Swampert, Walrein, and even Alolan Ninetales can make use of this additional damage bonus to win matchups they would be unable to secure otherwise. For a bulky Pokémon like Walrein, the increase in damage taken isn't too bad since it is still able to outlast many opponents on its own—for frail Pokémon like Ninetales, the attack boost means its Fast Attacks are much more terrifying to deal with. Top Trainers will look at Shadow Pokémon as another way to gain a competitive edge, so we can thank Giovanni for the help!

If a Shadow Pokémon is purified, it loses access to its Shadow Bonus but learns Return as a Charged Attack. As a Normal-type Attack, only Ghost-type Pokémon can resist Return, which has intriguing possibilities. The most common Pokémon to take advantage of this matchup is Sableye, as its other Charged Attacks tend to deal less damage than other Pokémon. This allows Sableye to remain viable in disadvantageous switches and deal enough damage for your other Pokémon to find a favorable matchup. Given the lack of Fairy-type attacks at the past few events, as well as Sableye's fantastic Ghost and Dark typing, this is definitely a Pokémon to keep an eye out for. While many teams in recent Regional events had a Purified Sableye present, I wouldn't be surprised to see that percentage increase as we get closer to NAIC.

Parting Shot

At the end of the day, if you're planning on competing at the North America International Championships, it's important to keep the Pokémon listed above in mind when crafting your team. Given Pokémon GO's real-time battles, it's important to have a game plan against common metagame mainstays so that you're not caught by surprise the day of the event. But that doesn't mean you can't bring a little bit of spice to your own teams!

We're already seeing the benefit to bringing a Fire-type Pokémon now that Registeel has risen in popularity. Alolan Marowak, for example, has a lot of potential thanks to Bone Club's low energy costs and Shadow Bone's chance to drop Defense by one stage. Some Trainers are experimenting with Charizard and Talonflame as Fire-type additions to their teams as well, as both can hit Araquanid for supereffective damage thanks to their Flying-type Charged Attacks. I also wouldn't be surprised to see more Tropius around, given its wide availability as one of the Pokémon attracted to Incense Lures during this year's GO Fest. With favorable matchups against Medicham, Trevenant, and Water-type Pokémon like Araquanid, Tropius is definitely a Pokémon to watch out for moving forward.

For more coverage of this year's North America International Championships for the Pokémon GO Championship Series, stay tuned here on Pokemon.com. Until then, best of luck with your battles, Trainers!

About the Writer

Gabby Snyder
Gabby Snyder is a contributing writer covering Play! Pokémon events for Pokemon.com. She competed in VGC tournaments from 2009 to 2016, qualifying for the World Championships in 2015. She is now a part of the commentary team for International- and Worlds-level competitions. She can be found online as GabbySnyder.

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