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Pro Players Weigh In On the Crazy Pokemon Metagame

pokemon metagame
James Francisco

Yo! Champ in the making! Discourse about bugs and glitches aside, the release of Pokemon Scarlet and Violet has been game-changing for the franchise, and we’re not just talking about the surprisingly poignant writing and story. On a competitive level, Scarlet and Violet are making things extra spicy with new Pokemon, new combat mechanics, and new strategies. It’s a crazy time to experience the Pokemon metagame.

So what’s up with the metagame now? And to borrow a phrase from recently crowned champion Ash Ketchum, how does one get to be the very best, like no one ever was? Well, we asked a couple of pro players to weigh in with their thoughts.

Bugsy Centeno got into the competitive scene pre-pandemic in the last generation and won second place in a competition organized by PGP: Pilipinas Got Pokemon. Ericsson Marquez made his debut in the competitive scene in 2015, boasts 13 local offline tournament wins and was even a Video Game World Championship competitor in 2016. He also contributes to the scene as a part-time organizer. 

We asked these two Pokemon pro trainers for their insights and what it takes to be a champ this time. So what should aspiring pros need to know?


X and Y introduced mega evolutions, Sun and Moon had Z-Movies, Sword and Shield had Dynamaxing. Scarlet and Violet enjoy their own special generational mechanic in the form of Terastalization. So what is it?

Terastalization is a thing you can do in a battle that allows you to change your Pokemon’s type! Each Pokemon has a Tera type – think of it as a special genetic quirk your Pokemon has – that determines how it Terastalizes. If you have a Pallosand (normally a Ground/Ghost type) with a Grass Tera Type, simply Terastalize it, and it’s a Grass type. See the possibilities?

Marquez certainly does. “At first, it was a bit daunting to think about playing against it because you have to account for all of the Tera-Types in battle, but the official competitive format needs all players to have open teamsheets, meaning you would get to know all of your opponent’s pokemon’s tera-types along with their moves and items. Overall, I like Terastalization as it adds more complexity to the game without being too overpowered.“

Already, the Pokemon community is figuring out the best Tera types to transform certain Pokemon into. For competitive player and former champion Wolfe Glick, Dragon and Steel are great Terastalization options, but maybe not Psychic. Consider how you can compensate for a Pokemon’s weaknesses by changing their type. Take the Pallosand example from earlier – with its Water Compaction ability, how might things turn out if you changed its type to Grass, Electric, or even Water?

Pokemon to Watch Out For

They say one ought to win with their favorite Pokemon, regardless of strength, but here’s the thing – some Pokemon are just stronger than others. And for every generation that has come out, players have identified Pokemon that qualify as huge threats – whether they want to use them or prepare to fight against them.

Centeno might advise you to watch out for the fists of fury of Annihilape, the newest evolution of Primeape. “Annihilape is a strong meta pick with great stats, awesome typing, and a good move pool.” A well-time Drain Punch or even Rage Fist could end things even before they start. Centeno also mentions Iron Hands, the Paradox form of Hariyama, saying that it has bulk comparable to Snorlax and “hits like a truck.”

The Video Game World Championships of Pokemon will make you fight in the Doubles format though – two on two – and for Marquez, the dynamic duo is the Dondonzo-Tatsugiri pair.

Marquez states: “They force many teams to sacrifice move slots or a pokemon slot in their teams just to be able to cover the matchup against the dreaded fish Duo. They are also infamous for stalling out rounds to the last minute in tournaments so they are not very pleasant to see in a tournament setting.”

For context: in-game, Dondonzo and Tatsugiri have a somewhat symbiotic relationship. Tatsugiri’s signature ability Commander raises Dondonzo’s stats by a lot. Dondonzo’s signature move, Order Up, inflicts damage and raises its stats even more, as long as Tatsugiri is commanding, so to speak.

How do you deal with stat changes like that? Well, this generation, the humble Murkrow gained the ability Prankster, which gives priority to a lot of non-damaging moves. That’s why you’ll often see Murkrow using Tailwind to help everybody in their party go first or Haze to nullify the stat changes that are core to Dondonzo and Tatsugiri’s strategy. Again, it’s a crazy time to experience the Pokemon metagame.

Tips from Pro Players

The best advice for anybody wanting to get better at anything is to practice, practice, practice. But how does one do that in Pokemon?

For Centeno, is a great resource for beginners and veterans. He also recommends watching other pro players. “Watch a lot of streams or videos of seasoned VGC pros. I'd recommend CybertronVGC, Wolfe Glick, and James Baek. It helps familiarize you with the meta and how to think when battling.” 

Centeno also highly suggests climbing online competitive ladders like in Pokemon Showdown or the in-game Double Battles Stadium. Finally, he endorses building your own teams, and not just using pre-built rental teams.

Marquez makes the following poignant statement: “A player may practice for 500 games, but progress very little in the end as he does not study his games, other people’s games, or does not do his research. A player that practices for only 100 games, but does his metagame research, studies his replays, studies other’s replays, or asks his peers for advice, will end up way better than the former kind of player.” 

In short, be in a community with your fellow trainers, and that will help you get better with practice and study.

I logged onto Pokemon Showdown recently to see how things were going in the Doubles format. The amount of information to keep in mind and process during every single turn can be daunting at first – Centeno also mentioned that the metagame would change significantly once the game’s DLC comes in. But knowing that you’re fighting against someone who loves the game as much as you do, if not more, is fun. 

Have fun in the metagame this generation. And may your Scarlet and Violet playthroughs be… relatively glitch-free.

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