So You Wanna Be a Pokkén Trainer? A Pokédex Guide for Pokkén Tournament

So you wanna be a Pokkén trainer, kid? Well, they paired you up with Nia, so you must have a modicum of talent. But that doesn't mean this will be just a walk in the tall grass, son. This is not just any battle—this is a fight. This is hand-to-hand... er... wing-to-wing... uh.... this is a fight. THIS. IS. POKÉ-SPARTA!! No berries to give you energy, no mommies to kiss your booboo, no Professor Oaks or Nurse Joys... just you, your Pokémon, and your opponent. (And like, several thousand people watching you but that's neither here nor there.)

If you want to survive Ferrum's Pokkén Tournament, you'll have to do your homework. This fight is far more physical, but as the trainer, you still need to keep your wits razor-sharp. The components of success are many and varied, but the best way to achieve victory is to always beat your opponent. Now there's something they won't teach you at Pokémon U, and ya learnt it for free.

I won't lie to ya, kid, Nia's a great trainer, and she'll help you out, but how about you check out this dossier of participants in the Pokkén Tournament. You'll thank me later. And all this just for a small fraction of your winnings? Charity, thy name is Ryan.


POKEDEX NO. #006 – Charizard

Type: Fire/Flying
First seen in: Pokémon Red & Blue (1998)
Pokkén classification: Power
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Roll with the OG homies, appreciate aerial maneuvers but generally prefer brute force to everything, just want to watch the world burn.

The first of the red hot lovers, gamers for the past twenty years have watched little starter Charmander evolve into the mighty Charizard much like Hollywood watches its child stars grow, minus the recreational drugs, inappropriate photos/videos, and three rehab stints. Now, with generations of Pokémon experience and two generations of Super Smash Bros. under its proverbial belt, Charizard is ready to make the other fighters in the Pokkén Tournament feel his heat, relying on specials such as Flamethrower and Flare Blitz.

 I'm also happy to report that Charizard's aerial game has substantially improved from its original “piss poor” ranking all the way up to a respectable “meh.” He generally can now dodge a good chunk of things coming at him from the sky, but still far prefers being on the ground.

Though he may have made gains in the aerial department, he's still slow and bulky. Opponents with the quickness like Pikachu Libre or with solid ranged attacks like Braixen should use this to their advantage.

POKEDEX NO. #025 – Pikachu

Type: Electric
First seen in: Pokémon Red & Blue (1998)
Pokkén classification: Standard
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Are first starting out, are unsure where their strengths may lie, just love that darn Pikachu!

One might think that soundly thrashing the effective head spokes-Pokémon in the Pokémon equivalent of a street fight may be seen as mildly distasteful, but it's simply not so—the little Electric mouse lives for the heat of battle and finds happiness in a strong competitive challenge. With extensive experience in numerous settings with a variety of other Pokémon, it's no wonder that Pikachu's fighting style is very well-rounded and balanced, being quite capable at offense, defense, synergy, and support, though maybe not excelling all the time.

With such a balanced fight style, it also means that opponents can make several battle strategies to take Pikachu out of battle. Don't get pinned against the fences! Use your speed, especially against slower Pokémon like Charizard and Machamp, to keep to the middle of the battlefield so you have room to land his Synergy Burst attack, the Volt Shock Fist.

POKEDEX NO. #025 SPECIAL – Pikachu Libre

Type: Electric, Cosplay
First seen in: Pokémon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire (2014)
Pokkén classification: Speed
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Like to take their fight to the proverbial top rope, believe that speed kills, are diehard fans of the movie Nacho Libre.

What could possibly be more adorable than Pikachu? How about a Cosplay Pikachu in a luchadora mask and wrestling singlet? BOOM. You got questions, we got answers.

Infinite cuteness aside, this Cosplay Pikachu is not just something pretty to look at. In addition to having many of the same Electric-type attacks as original recipe Pikachu, she also has a set of physical moves, and her speed allows for some great work in the air. Pikachu Libre has built a nice fan base since her first appearance in Pokémon OR/AS, and her Synergy Burst Attack, the Thunderclap Press, pays tribute to them by transforming Pokkén arenas into wrestling rings, taking it to the top rope, and laying the Poké-smackdown on that roody-poo excuse for a Pokémon!

Pikachu Libre may be winning awards for agility and cuteness, but she's still a small little thing, and a well-timed power move could put her down for the 1-2-3. Try Machamp. His outfit looks like it belongs in a wrestling arena already, so he's halfway there.

POKEDEX NO. #068 – Machamp

Type: Fighting
First seen in: Pokémon Red & Blue (1998)
Pokkén classification: Power
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Believe anything can be solved with a good ol' fashioned bout of fisticuffs, not only prefer “phone-booth fights” but always carry quarters with them just in case, believe that everyone, no matter their size or shape, has the god-given right to wear a Speedo.

You'll never have to search too hard to find the Machamp in a Pokkén Tournament battle – he'll be right in front of you throwing punches a-plenty. If you've selected Machamp as your Pokémon, your strategy should come down to three words: pressure, pressure, pressure! Shift the Battle Phase into Duel Phase as quickly as possible and try to keep it there as long as possible so Machamp's most powerful moves such as Beat Up, Submission, or his Synergy Burst attack, Dynamic Fury, will hold even more power behind the attack with less set-up needs.

If you're fighting against this Fighting-type, get away and stay away! Utilize your ranged attacks and ranged Specials, if any, and keep the fight set to the wider fight stage of Field Phase, which will take away Machamp's advantage. Cardio has never been Machamp's forte.

POKEDEX NO. #094 – Gengar

Type: Ghost/Poison
First seen in: Pokémon Red and Blue (1998)
Pokkén classification: Technical
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Think that running is overrated, start counting down the days 'til Halloween beginning November 1, love racking up combo damage from a somewhat-unlikely source.

Gengar is tricky. He looks like an overblown bop-it punching clowns that had an unfortunate experience with a can of black paint. But an experienced Gengar trainer probably has a not-quite-right mindset his or herself, and delights in the thoughts of linking up multiple occurrences of Gengar's fear-based tactics such as Hypnosis and Shadow Punch. The same goes for its infamous Shadow Ball and finishing off opponents with its Synergy Burst attack, Shadow Drop, leaving enemies damaged and terrified, since they believe Mega Gengar has actually eaten them. Those Ghost-types always having fun. Oh, you.

Gengar isn't particularly nimble, but does have a way of picking up a sort of momentum as their attacks combo up. Stopping that momentum is critical if you face Gengar. Attacks don't have to be strong to break up a combo, they just have to land. Facing him with Pikachu Libre, Braixen, or even Weavile will improve your chances of surviving Gengar's horrors.

POKEDEX NO. #245 – Suicune

Type: Water
First seen in: Pokémon Gold and Silver (1999)
Pokkén classification: Standard
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Like to use every possible angle in a fight, believe a little space is a very valuable thing, have an overblown sense of ego and think only a god is worth their time.

Classifying Suicune as a “Standard” fighter? That's cold! And those are just the moves you want to utilize in Field Phase. Suicune's specials, including its Synergy Burst Attack, Sheer Cold, have a lot of “push-back” effect, and if an opponent sneaks up on Suicune, being the only quadruped Pokkén fighter on the roster, he can use those powerful back legs as part of an attack combo.

Suicune is awfully close to being a Power fighter as opposed to a Standard, so though common gameplay would suggest getting into Dual Phase for more damage to your opponent, I would recommend staying in Field Phase, utilizing all the available space and attacking from all angles, and grow Suicune's Synergy until you're able to call upon the power of Sheer Cold.

If you find yourself up against this Poké-deity, the difficulty will be finding a way in to attack, especially with Suicune's ability to protect itself all around. But if I may be so cheeky... have you considered topping? Minimizing the time spent in Field Phase will cut off many of Suicune's angles, and using a fighter with good aerial maneuvers, like Chandelure, Braixen, or Pikachu Libre, will open up the top angle to attack Suicune's back where it's more vulnerable. (Listen, Buster, you're basically up against a god. A cheap attack to the back never hurt anyone... well, at least from a trainer's point of view.)

POKEDEX NO. #254 – Sceptile

Type: Grass
First seen in: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (2003)
Pokkén classification: Speed
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Prefer landing five good hits as opposed to one mighty hit, believe you can't hit what you can't catch, like to jump around, jump around, jump up, jump up, and get down.

For those who like to get in quick, land any hits they can rapidly, and get out, Sceptile is your Pokkén fighter. When not in Synergy Burst, its attacks aren't exactly going to catch anyone's attention due to damage. Try telling this, though, to the opponent unlucky enough to be assaulted by Sceptile and its razor-sharp tail rapid-fire style. If you choose Sceptile, whatever you do, keep moving! Sceptile's speed and agility is its saving grace, and your opponent can't hit what it can't catch.

If you find Sceptile in the opposite side of the arena, your best strategy may be to go with a Technical fighter and wait to capitalize when Sceptile makes a mistake. A well-timed counterattack from Gengar or Gardevoir may be just the ticket.

POKEDEX NO. #257 – Blaziken

Type: Fire/Fighting
First seen in: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (2003)
Pokkén classification: Standard
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Value the "art" in martial arts, like to take the fight to their opponent instead of waiting for it, appreciate Machamp's thought processes but can't bear the thought of a Speedo.

To think of Blaziken as a lighter, faster version of Machamp wouldn't be too much of a stretch. Like the Power fighter, Blaziken works best in the opponent's pocket, taking the fight to their opponent and engaging in hand-to-hand battles. Unlike Machamp, however, Blaziken's speed can be used to easily evade any counterattacks and continue its up-close assault. The trade-off here is that obviously its moves aren't as powerful as Machamp, and Blaziken's Synergy Burst, his Gatling Flame Kicks, are a bit harder to land initially than Machamp's Dynamic Fury.

Like Machamp as well, if Blaziken is your opponent, then range is your ally. Pokémon such as Suicune and Charizard who can effectively put space in between themselves and Blaziken can then follow up with ranged attacks and specials, and then the student shall be the master (ball).

POKEDEX NO. #282 – Gardevoir

Type: Psychic/Fairy
First seen in: Pokémon Ruby and Sapphire (2003)
Pokkén classification: Technical
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Believe a powerful defense is just as important as a powerful offense, can employ patience while calculating their next move, believe in style and grace even in the heat of battle.

Gardevoir, without question, stands as one of the most unique fighters in Pokkén Tournament. Its style and elegance resonates in its fight style, and opponents may be captivated with the beauty of its psychic moves at the very time when Psyshock, Magical Leaf, or Fairy Tempest is crashing into its face. Many of Gardevoir's specials require Calm Mind to be activated first, so creating a space to engage in Calm Mind is critical to Gardevoir's gameplan; a trainer's success in casting Calm Mind first is the key to victory for the Embracing Pokémon.

A trainer's failure in casting Calm Mind first is the key to victory for Gardevoir's opponents. It may not seem nice to brutalize such a graceful creature, but when trainers see Gardevoir trying to cast Calm Mind or create the space away from his opponent in order to do so, attack at will. Preventing Calm Mind prevents Gardevoir from casting its more powerful specials, so take advantage of this fact.

POKEDEX NO. #445 – Garchomp

Type: Dragon/Ground
First seen in: Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (2007)
Pokkén classification: Power
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Think outside the Pokéball, don't depend on their Support Pokémon as often as they probably should, not only admit they have RBF but actually enjoy it.

Known as a reclusive, standoffish Pokémon, the announcement of Garchomp in the Pokkén Tournament came as something of a surprise. Trainers who dare to be adventurous with this pseudo-legendary should take advantage of its relative unknown-ness—it's not often that a powerful Dragon-type that can fly at Mach speeds also has a very powerful set of Ground moves such as Sand Tomb hidden up its sleeve—er... wings... wait, fins? Who knows. Science is hard.

Garchomp's foes will have to watch for attacks from above and below as well as on terra firma. Surprisingly, the ones with the best chances against the mighty Garchomp are the wee ones. Speedsters like Pikachu Libre and Weavile should use their quickness and small stature to their advantage, rev the motor on their Chevro-legs, and run circles around Garchomp, potshotting when they can. Do your best to stay in Field Phase, as room to run will be your key to victory.

POKEDEX NO. #448 – Lucario

Type: Fighting/Steel
First seen in: Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (2007)
Pokkén classification: Standard
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Like a truly well-rounded plan of attack, are learning the basics of Pokkén Tournaments, feel sorry for the guy since he's the opponent character in the Practice Dojos for every character.

If Pikachu is understood to be the mascot for the Pokémon franchise, then it wouldn't be too Farfetch'd (HAH! See what I did there? Puns, y'all...) to set up Lucario as the face of the Pokkén Tournament. With his experience in the main series beginning in Generation IV as well as two generations of Super Smash Bros., combined with his Fighting-type background, Lucario is a natural for the fights based out of Ferrum.

Lucario is skilled in hand-to-hand combat and accentuates it with Aura-based techniques such as Aura Sphere and Bone Rush. He mega-evolves during his Synergy Burst attack, Aura Blast, making him a serious threat in any Phase, at any angle.

Lucario as an opponent is a tough nut to crack for any character; the upside to this is that any character has a fairly equal chance to triumph over the Aura wielder. A solid defense and quick counterattacks will be the keys to victory for any Pokkén fighter going toe-to-toe with Lucario.

POKEDEX NO. #461 – Weavile

Type: Dark/Ice
First seen in: Pokémon Diamond and Pearl (2007)
Pokkén classification: Speed
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Gotta go fast, are always thinking two steps ahead in their next attack, feel sorry for Disney villains when they lose and want to give them a hug and a very evil cookie.

Even though for some reason Weavile is the preferred Pokkén partner of your in-game adviser, Nia, Weavile gives most sensible people—including me—the creepy heebie-jeebies. I mean, look at it. It looks like the love child of the Weasels from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and a Final Fantasy imp. Weavile is as speedy as he is sneaky and can Fake Out his opponents before sneaking in several fast Fury Swipes to his confused victim.

Skilled Weavile trainers will also take advantage of his Ice-type background, especially Icicle, which creates a mid-air frozen stalactite that can be utilized to set up the next attack from the air as part of a combo or simply dropped on an opponent's head à la ACME anvil.

Though we cannot endorse taking too many hits for any reason, Weavile's attacks, considered singularly, are not all that powerful; hence, one of the resident tough guys, such as Machamp or Charizard, can stop Weavile in its tracks with a well-timed power attack. Garchomp's Ground attacks are particularly useful as they're hard for even a little speed rat like Weavile to dodge.

POKEDEX NO. #609 – Chandelure

Type: Ghost/Fire
First seen in: Pokémon Black and White (2011)
Pokkén classification: Power
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Believe in the boxing adage of “punches in bunches,” like to go the distance by keeping their distance, boldly say the name of Candle Jack aloud despite knowing that the urban legends say he will then stalk you and carry you off without warning.

Personal confession: I knew very little about Chandelure before getting my hands on Pokkén Tournament, but after taking it out for a practice run in the Dojo, it quickly became one of my personal favorites. The floating Ghost Pokémon that burns the spirit of its victims has very quick turnaround on its attacks, often sending out three or more in a very short span, and has exceptional performance with ranged attacks. Its Grab is particularly useful as well as fairly damaging, and its Synergy Burst Attack, Final Flicker, lays some serious otherworldly hurt in a dark-yet-enjoyable Addams Family kind of way.

Though Chandelure's ranged attacks are its greatest asset, some of them make the word “ranged” look like an understatement—“shot from a high-powered bazooka” could be more apropos. Therefore, if you prefer fighters such as Blaziken or Machamp, who like to fight in the pocket anyway, stick to Chandelure, and smother it with love and close-up attacks.

POKEDEX NO. #654 – Braixen

Type: Fire
First seen in: Pokémon X and Y (2013)
Pokkén classification: Standard
Good for Pokkén trainers who: Believe in making magic work for them, can generally stay one step ahead of their foes, who would dump everything and move to Japan if a new planet was discovered because it finally means that they can join Sailor Moon and the Sailor Scouts (guys and girls).

Braixen is the closest thing to the hominahominahomina-type fighting game girl trope Pokkén Tournament is going to give you (they're animals, for god's sake, ya pervert). Unlike other fighting game girls, however, when Braixen's doing the hippy-hippy shake, it's because she's conjuring up some serious magical blasts. Like Chandelure, Braixen's bread and butter is her ranged attacks and specials, but she's also more technical than the average Standard class fighter.
 
Her registry of excellent distance attacks balances out her weaknesses in her close-combat techniques, and given a bit of breathing room, Braixen can cast Sunny Day, enhancing her already powerful special moves. Braixen also likes kitties, rainbows, flowers, and all things cute, and she'll share them all with you when she turns you into a Psyfirecracker during her Synergy Burst Attack.

Those who face Braixen get the bonus of looking at an adorable beauty (calm down, furries) but don't let those cute eyes distract you... put the pressure on her and keep close enough to where her ranged attacks either are ineffective or miss the mark completely. Blaziken, Pikachu, and Lucario are all good choices against this foxy magician, with decent ranged attacks and close-up techniques to stay within that safe range near Braixen, but enough speed to escape should they make a mistake.

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So who will you be choosing as your partner Pokémon when Pokkén Tournament launches this Friday, March 18? Whoever it is, my Chandelure and I will meet you on the battle arena.