Our video game experts tell you what to watch for in Washington, DC, as top players prepare for the Pokémon World Championships.
We've called upon our panel of Pokémon video game experts to look at the top Pokémon pairs ahead of the Pokémon World Championships. There are a lot of questions about how the top players will adapt their games after the thrilling North America International Championships. With the best players from all over the world expected to compete, you know there'll be no shortage of new and unique strategies.
So read on to see what our panel of players, judges, and broadcasters says about what pairs will have what it takes to rise to the top in Washington, DC. As you watch the matches on Pokemon.com/Live on Friday, August 16, through Saturday, August 18, keep these power rankings nearby as a handy guide to the action!
The team of Primal Kyogre and Rayquaza is hot off a North America International Championships win, where the pairing placed definitively above its chief competition, Primal Groudon and Xerneas, for the first time since it swept the World Championships in 2016. Successful teams in Columbus supported Primal Kyogre and Rayquaza with new Pokémon, most notably Mega Metagross, Mimikyu, and Celesteela. The shift in teammates caught opponents off guard while providing new strategic options. Despite those creative choices, this team is typically supported by the same backbone of Pokémon as ever—Incineroar, Tapu Koko, and a Steel type. Primal Kyogre and Rayquaza seem dominant at this point, but will players be able to continue innovating the archetype with the creativity necessary to succeed against adaptations at the World Championships?
Groudon and Xerneas remain one of the best pairings of Legendary Pokémon in the format due to their strong damage output and the versatility of Pokémon that can support them. This archetype has significantly changed from what we saw at the first Ultra Series International in Berlin, with highlight partners now including Mega Kangaskhan and its Fake Out to help Xerneas use Geomancy safely, as well as Tornadus to double the team's Speed with Tailwind. Those are far from the only benefits these two Pokémon grant—Mega Kangaskhan's varied attacks and Tornadus's powerful Flying-type Z-Move also provide significant damage. I believe the pairing of Groudon and Xerneas was looking better going into North American Internationals than Worlds, as it's the pairing that will get the most attention as players prepare their teams. Nevertheless, this archetype is so flexible and powerful that it might still be able to win.
Metagross, Tapu Koko, and Kartana have replaced once-trusty partners like Incineroar, Tapu Fini, and Nihilego to bolster the effectiveness of this pairing against modern teams. But the emergence of Tapu Koko, Solgaleo, and Celesteela on opposing teams creates concerns for this pairing, and this build continues to lack solid ways to make use of any form of speed control. Landorus Therian Forme can give this pairing some reprieve against these specific threats, especially if it holds a Choice Scarf, which can be enough to give Xerneas the room to use Geomancy and start its devastating onslaught. The rise of Kartana alongside Rayquaza and Xerneas has been another key change that provides speed control with Tailwind. Kartana is also an excellent answer to disruptive threats like Primal Kyogre and Tapu Fini, which this pairing sometimes otherwise struggles with.
Look for this archetype to keep developing as competitors home in on countering the Pokémon that have stood in its way at recent events.
Rayquaza and Solgaleo are the dark-horse duo that most notably won the Japan National Championships in June. Mega Rayquaza earns its spot on many top teams thanks to its overwhelming Speed and power, and Solgaleo's contrasting traits make it strong in areas where Rayquaza might struggle. Solgaleo's stats tower over its non-Legendary Steel-type counterparts. With its exclusive Z-Move, Searing Sunraze Smash, Solgaleo becomes one of the strongest answers to Fairy types like Xerneas and Tapu Lele that give Rayquaza trouble. Its Full Metal Body Ability brushes off stat drops from Icy Wind and Intimidate, which are commonly used to bring down Rayquaza's massive stats. Generally strong Pokémon, such as Incineroar and Tapu Koko, often still find a place on this team. Not only can they help deal with foes that threaten Solgaleo, like Yveltal and Lunala, they can also take on strong cores that don't rely on Xerneas, such as Kyogre and Rayquaza teams.
For all their strength, Kyogre and Xerneas together are one of the more unexplored pairings, with only two Top 16 spots in the most recent International Championships as notable placements. But that doesn't mean it lacks potential.
Like all other cores featuring Xerneas, the goal of running these two Pokémon together is to ensure Xerneas can use Geomancy to boost its stats and go on the offensive. Primal Kyogre differentiates this combination from similar teams by offering protection with its Primordial Sea Ability to one of Xerneas' more popular partners, Amoonguss, and increasing the offensive power of another, Tapu Fini.
Kyogre certainly packs a punch of its own. It outplaced Groudon consistently throughout the North America International Championships. Its ability to do big damage to the Pokémon most commonly used to threaten Xerneas, like Steel-type Pokémon or strong physical attackers, makes it a valuable teammate to clear the way for Xerneas to sweep. Provided you are confident in your ability to support Xerneas—and support those Pokémon that support Xerneas with Kyogre—this pair will take you far.
Aaron Traylor: Rayquaza, Amoonguss, Xerneas, Incineroar, and Tapu Koko—these Pokémon individually present unstoppable challenges to opponents. Mega Rayquaza and Tapu Koko outspeed the vast majority of the Pokémon strong enough to battle at the World Championships and can wield a variety of move sets and items, each presenting unique difficulties. Xerneas has classically unmatched setup potential and offense, and it's one of the only Pokémon that can threaten the two aforementioned Pokémon. Amoonguss and Incineroar have great typing and offer unbreakable support options, especially for Mega Rayquaza and Xerneas. I would expect the vast majority of Top 8 teams to be made up partially or completely of these Pokémon. The race is on to find Pokémon that beat these “unstoppables” while still being useful enough to a team composition in general—if you know of any, tell me, because I'd love to use them!
Alex Gomez: Dusk Mane Necrozma is a Pokémon that may get Trainers' attention in order to deal with Rayquaza and Xerneas. It's an underrated Pokémon that has seen no success at all yet, but I believe it will reach its peak at Worlds. Its large move pool allows it to be trained in many different ways, it can carry Solganium Z to get rid of Pokémon that may threaten Necrozma's partners, and it also has access to Trick Room. Ultranecrozium Z is another item that can be used by Dusk Mane Necrozma, and it allows it to transform into Ultra Necrozma and provide lots of damage. No doubt it's a Pokémon to keep an eye out for at the World Championships.
Gabby Snyder: Day 1 of Worlds is notorious for being one of the most difficult tournaments of the year. By optimizing for consistency, you ensure that you have the best chance of going X-2 and making it into the second day of the tournament. Trainers have had ample time to practice and fine-tune their teams to optimal proficiency since the last major tournament. As a result, games are more likely to come down to how you play rather than luck, which can be mentally taxing even if you are prepared for it.
Day 2, however, allows for a lot more creativity. Trainers from Day 1 can adjust for anything that took them by surprise before, while Trainers who start their Worlds run in Day 2 get the element of surprise. More competitors will take risks and run Pokémon, items, or moves that may catch their opponents by surprise. After all, with only the title of World Champion on the line at that point, what do you have to lose?
Justin Burns: Last year, we saw many players succeed with perfected versions of their signature teams in the 2018 format. This is in stark contrast to the last World Championships played with a restricted-Pokémon ruleset in 2016, where a brand-new team tailored to defeat a metagame dominated by Groudon and Xerneas teams emerged victorious. The current metagame is much more expansive than the one seen in 2016, so don't be surprised if this tournament looks more like its 2018 edition and features the best users of each archetype trusting the teams that took them this far rather than attempting to counter everything.
Lee Provost: Restricted pairings are always going to be the centerpiece of every team, but it's the nonrestricted Pokémon that hold the keys to being crowned the 2019 Pokémon World Champion. Mega Kangaskhan, Tornadus, and Kommo-o are three Pokémon that have made appearances at recent events with their ability to support and deliver incredible damage. Mega Aerodactyl could stamp its mark on this event with its high Speed and access to invaluable tools, including Sky Drop, Tailwind, Taunt, Whirlwind, and Wide Guard—especially when paired with Xerneas. And Tsareena's Queenly Majesty Ability could bring value to a lot of teams, with so many relying on Fake Out support.
A restricted pairing that caught my eye recently is Mega Rayquaza and Dusk Mane Necrozma. They complement each other extremely well, giving other common cores like Xerneas and Groudon a very difficult time. I could see them doing extremely well because of the constant guessing games these specific Pokémon give their opponents with so many variations on how they can be trained.
About the Panel
Aaron Traylor has been competing in VGC since 2011 and placed in the Top 8 at the World Championships in 2016. He believes that the friendship between Trainers and their Pokémon is ultimately what leads to success in battle. Outside of Pokémon, he is a graduate student studying computer science and cognitive science.
Alex Gomez has been playing Pokémon VGC for eight years. He has won regionals and nationals and placed second at the 2017 European International Championships. You can find him online as PokeAlex.
Gabby Snyder is a contributing writer covering Play! Pokémon events for Pokemon.com. She competed in VGC tournaments from 2009–2016, 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.
Justin Burns first started competing in VGC at the start of the 2015 season and has made four appearances at the Pokémon World Championships. He is a two-time regional champion and has most recently been a finalist at the 2018 Pokémon North America International Championships and a semifinalist at the 2019 Pokémon Oceania International Championships. Justin graduated from college last year and has been working in the computer science field since then.
After playing his first VGC tournament in 2009, he has had a number of top finishes including two third-place national finishes and multiple regional top cuts, plus finishing seventh place at the 2014 Pokémon World Championships. He also began commentating for Play! Pokémon events in 2017. You can find him online as OsirusVGC.