By Sophtoph, Contributing Writer
The second of the four International Championships of the 2023 Championship Series has arrived! The 2023 Pokémon GO Oceania International Championship will take place from February 17 to 19, 2023, in Melbourne, Australia, where four more Trainers will join the 34 that have already earned a ticket to the 2023 World Championships in Yokohama, Japan, later this summer.
Remember that you can watch matches live from Melbourne on Twitch.tv/PokemonGO throughout the competition. Visit the OCIC streaming page for more details.
With many talented Trainers expected to make an appearance and an international all-star staff gathered, OCIC is sure to be a great competition. To help you get ready to follow the action, let’s take a look at some of the top Pokémon and players heading into the event!
Pokémon GO Metagame Overview
When Trainers assemble teams of six Pokémon, most will draw one or two Pokémon from each of the following types: Fighting, Flying, Steel, and Ghost. Between them, these types can handle the most-played Pokémon right now as well as give each other cover from outside threats. The top Pokémon in these categories most often gain their status through some combination of high bulk, efficient Fast and Charged Attacks, and the versatile type coverage of their attacks.
Fighting-type and Counter Users
This category emphasizes Fighting-type Pokémon, but it also includes any Pokémon that can use the Fighting-type Fast Attack Counter. Counter’s combination of damage output and energy generation makes it one of the most efficient Fast Attacks in the game. As a result, its users can easily dispatch bulky Pokémon who are weak to Fighting-type attacks, like Umbreon and Galarian Stunfisk, in addition to winning many neutral matchups.
The most popular Pokémon on the circuit this season has been Medicham. Its Fighting and Psychic dual typing allows it to beat other Fighting-type Pokémon, and access to Ice Punch allows it to hit some of its most common threats—Noctowl and Trevenant—for supereffective damage. In addition, the variety of Medicham’s available moves allows it to fill multiple roles depending on the needs of the Trainer’s lineup. While its most common pair of Charged Attacks is Ice Punch and Psychic for maximum versatility, Medicham’s ability to learn Power-Up Punch or even Dynamic Punch means that it can throw off opponents who might try to absorb Medicham’s attacks with bulky Steel-type Pokémon.
The most common alternatives to Medicham for Trainers who want a Fighting type are Scrafty and Obstagoon. Scrafty and Obstagoon both have Dark as their second type and can learn Dark-type Charged attacks, so both can fill the niche of Fighting types that beat Ghost types. Scrafty, notably used during Fanuchin’s Top 8 finish in December’s Regional Championship in Brisbane, is less popular than Obstagoon because it’s less effective against the metagame’s many Ghost-type Pokémon. Obstagoon's advantage and distinction is that unlike most Fighting types, it both can learn Counter and doesn't take supereffective damage from Flying-type attacks. Interestingly, both Pokémon also have the capability to increase their Attack, providing them the potential to shred through unprepared or unlucky opponents—Obstagoon’s speedy Night Slash has a chance to increase its Attack by two stages, while Scrafty can quickly ramp up its Attack with Power-Up Punch.
The biggest change to the metagame since the last International Championship, the Latin America Internationals, has been the rise of Flying-type Pokémon. The most recent move rebalance increased the energy gain of the Fast Attack Wing Attack, allowing its users to power up Charged Attacks more quickly and pressure Protect Shields. While Flying-type Pokémon have always served the role of challenging the types they’re strong against, like Grass and Fighting, Wing Attack users have become much better in neutral matchups.
The main implication of this has been that the already-common Noctowl has transformed from a solid Pokémon to an absolute staple. Noctowl’s Normal/Flying typing gives it favorable matchups against Fighting-type and Ghost-type Pokémon, which are very popular. Its matchup against Trevenant is the most lopsided in the current meta, and its ability to learn Shadow Ball gives it valuable coverage for counterplay against Steel types like Galarian Stunfisk. This Pokémon forms a near-perfect pair with Medicham, covering the Ghost-type Pokémon that Medicham is weak to while Medicham does well against the Ice- and Steel-type Pokémon that threaten Noctowl.
Altaria is the second-most common Flying-type Pokémon—while it doesn’t have access to Wing Attack, Dragon Breath allows it to power through almost every neutral matchup while still dispatching Grass- and Fighting-type Pokémon with relative ease.
Charizard, always a fan favorite, has finally had its time to shine in the Great League meta because of the Wing Attack rebalance. It was the breakout star of the Liverpool Regional Championship in January—it was featured by three of the Top 16 Trainers, including the winner, HumanCatcherBug. Wing Attack’s swift energy gain allows Charizard to quickly fire off the extremely hard-hitting Charged Attack Blast Burn, and Charizard’s ability to learn Dragon Claw gives it the opportunity to bait shields. Shadow Charizard, which deals and takes 20% more damage, can be especially terrifying—its Blast Burn, reached after only seven seconds, is one of a small handful of Charged Attacks capable of taking out the bulky Galarian Stunfisk with one hit.
A few other Flying-type Pokémon that have benefited from the Wing Attack rebalance are worth mentioning. Like Noctowl and Charizard, Pelipper—used in Brisbane by both g0nE1001 (Top 4) and Basherballgod (Top 8)—and Gliscor both benefited from the Wing Attack rebalance. They are often chosen because their second types (Water and Ground, respectively) mean they can deal damage to Galarian Stunfisk more quickly and better counter its role as a damage absorber. Mantine, previously a virtually unheard-of pick in the Great League, has also been seen in battles—it was most notably used by the 2022 Senior Division World Champion and 2023 Stuttgart Regional Champion MEWeedle. Mantine’s ability to learn Ice Beam, along with the advantages of being a Flying-type, allow it to challenge Noctowl and Medicham while also targeting common picks such as Swampert and Trevenant.
Steel-type Pokémon are the natural answer to the ubiquitous Flying-type Pokémon. As a result, nearly every Trainer will likely include one in their lineup. The two dominant Steel-type Pokémon are Galarian Stunfisk and Registeel, both being flexible Pokémon with wide coverage in their Charged Attacks. At the beginning of the Championship Series season, Galarian Stunfisk was by far the more common Steel type—since the recent move rebalance, however, more Trainers have been opting to bring Registeel.
While Registeel is slower than Galarian Stunfisk, it has better matchups against the oh-so-important Medicham and Noctowl core, usually resisting all Charged Attacks from Medicham and almost knocking out Noctowl with a single Zap Cannon. These two Steel types are so strong that it’s not uncommon for Trainers to add both to their team. Bastiodon also occasionally makes an appearance in a Steel-type slot; its high bulk means that it wins most neutral matchups, but its inflexible, slow energy gain means that few Trainers are choosing to send it to battle—notably, one of these Trainers is Play! Pokémon caster and San Diego 2nd-place finisher CalebPeng.
The role of Ghost-type Pokémon is to target Medicham or find neutral matchups elsewhere. Trevenant and Sableye, who can learn the Fast Attack Shadow Claw and the Charged Attack Shadow Ball, often do well in neutral matchups with these efficient moves. Froslass also sees occasional play, as its dual Ice/Ghost typing allows it to break up the central Noctowl and Medicham core. Trevenant is the most commonly used Ghost-type Pokémon, and it was the fourth most common Pokémon overall in Liverpool—in addition to beating Medicham, its Grass typing tips the scales in its favor against Water-type Pokémon like Lanturn or Swampert and Ground-type Pokémon like Galarian Stunfisk. Trevenant can be a risky bargain, however, as going up against Noctowl almost always means a game loss.
Sableye, on the other hand, has long been considered one of the safest Pokémon in the Great League. Combining Shadow Claw with its Charged Attacks Foul Play and Return, Sableye can hit almost every Pokémon in the game for neutral damage. Its Dark/Ghost dual typing means that it only takes supereffective damage from Fairy-type attacks, which have significantly dropped in frequency since the recent rebalance decreased the damage output of the Fast Attack Charm.
Flying-type Pokémon have become so prominent and powerful that it’s not enough to have a Steel-type Pokémon on your line of six to deter them—Trainers often opt to have at least one additional answer to Flying-type Pokémon. This usually takes the form of an Ice-type Pokémon, such as Alolan Ninetales, Walrein, Abomasnow, or Froslass, or the Electric-type Lanturn—the fifth-most used Pokémon in Liverpool. Lanturn’s rise has mainly occurred as a response to the increasing prominence of Noctowl, but it does well elsewhere, such as the neutral matchups against Umbreon, Sableye, Medicham, Registeel, and more. Lanturn is also the best answer to Charizard in the current meta, always dealing supereffective damage while comfortably resisting Charizard’s primary attacks. Trainers also have flexibility in what Fast Attack their Lanturn uses; Water Gun gives it better play against Ground types like Galarian Stunfisk and deals more Fast Attack damage, while Spark has the advantage of higher energy gain to pressure opponents into using Protect Shields.
Filling the Gaps
Most teams will draw at least one Pokémon from the types we’ve already discussed, which means there are still slots to fill to cover any outstanding weaknesses or bring additional flexible Pokémon. This is where we see some variety—often what makes a team unique are the flex picks a Trainer chooses to accompany their core.
Ghost-type Pokémon Counters
Normal- and Dark-type Pokémon are often used to deter opposing Ghost types. In particular, Umbreon has seen a huge surge in usage compared to last year. Its bulk and neutral play against the majority of the central meta mean that it can deal heavy damage in almost every single matchup. Lickitung’s anti-Ghost-type role has been usurped by Umbreon due to the rise of Noctowl, but Lickitung’s bulk and access to the cheap and efficient Charged Attack Body Slam still make it a solid pick. Dunsparce is also a good choice because it is highly disruptive to the central meta, having favorable matchups against Ghost-type Pokémon with its Normal typing, as well as to Flying-type Pokémon because of its Rock-type attacks.
Offensively Focused Pokémon
Some Pokémon don’t have specific targets—instead, they can deal extremely heavy damage in neutral matchups to pressure opponents and sweep endgames with hard-hitting Charged Attacks when shields are down. Venusaur and Swampert both can learn energy cheap and efficient Community Day–featured Charged Attacks (Frenzy Plant and Hydro Cannon, respectively), and they can pose serious threats to any Trainer that doesn’t have a hard answer to them. These Pokémon are especially common and potent in their Shadow form, when they deal 20% more damage.
Names to Watch
Now that we’ve spotlighted many of the Pokémon that will likely appear at OCIC, let’s take a look at some of the Trainers who might make a splash. Australia has hosted several Regional Championships between the 2022 and 2023 seasons, and many veteran Trainers who shined at those tournaments are expected to return.
ValiantVish, the 2022 Melbourne Regionals runner-up, has already earned his ticket to Yokohama for this season after winning in Brisbane. He’s also one of only a handful of Trainers who has qualified for both World Championships. We can expect to see him make a deep run as he hones his skills for Yokohama and continues to carve out his résumé as a dominant force in Oceania.
RicFlareon, the 2022 Melbourne Regional Champion who finished in the Top 16 at the most recent World Championship, will be looking to join ValiantVish to compete at his second World Championships. He has continued to show strong performance in grassroots competitions, and we can expect to see him vie for another title in Melbourne.
Robdrogo, the 2022 Perth champion, will also be looking for his second World Championship invite. However, as he wasn't able to travel to London in 2022, he will undoubtedly be looking to do well at OCIC to enjoy the World Championship experience that he deserves.
g0nE1001 has been on the cusp of a Worlds invite multiple times, having finished third in Melbourne in 2022 and fourth in Brisbane this season. If he’s able to repeat those performances at OCIC, the larger prize table from International Championships compared to Regional Championships will mean a ticket to Yokohama.
YuseiFurou and DebbiePebble are both popular content creators who have experienced success at past championships. Having finished fourth in Melbourne and Perth, respectively, in 2022, both will undoubtedly have many fans cheering them on at OCIC.
Several other well-known names are also expected to make an appearance, including the following.
Avrip, a content creator and the 2022 Perth runner-up
Steeeeeeeeeeve7, a long-time content creator and meta analyst in grassroots tournaments
AceTrainer1993, who can often be found near the top of the GO Battle League leaderboard
Innerbloom94, arguably Australia’s strongest player in grassroots tournaments
DrTrotter, who finished in fifth place last season in Melbourne
Laurenlolly, who finished tenth place in Melbourne
RocketClare, who finished in the Top 16 in Melbourne and has enjoyed success in grassroots tournaments as well
These are just a handful of the 70+ Trainers we will see compete, and there are undoubtedly many more to support.
We’ve taken a look at the Pokémon and Trainers who we expect to top OCIC, but arguably the best part of watching and following these championships is seeing new Pokémon take their place in the meta or previously unknown Trainers make a name for themselves. Now that you’re ready to enjoy the show, tune into Twitch.tv/PokemonGO from February 17 to 19, 2023, to follow all the action live!
Sophtoph is a contributing writer for Pokemon.com. She has been an avid enjoyer of the GO Battle League since its release and has reached the top 10 on its global leaderboards. She can often be found sharing her battles at Twitch.tv/sophtoph or with her Pokémon GO Battle League-dedicated Discord community.