Pokémon can be overwhelming. The newest pair of releases, Pokémon Sun and Moon, put hundreds and hundreds of fighting beasts at your disposal. It can be difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak, when you’re drowning in Pokédex entries about living leis and comatose koalas. Which of these critters are worthy to be honed into hardened, murderous warriors? (It’s not those two.)
One of the beauties of the Pokémon games is that there are a million ways to put together your elite squad of furry commandos. There’s no wrong way to become the best. But if you’re at a loss as to where to begin, or if you’d like some suggestions for reliable stand-bys that will help you out in a pinch, then read on and let me offer some suggestions.
You’re going to need a fighter right out of the gate, and your life is going to be a whole lot easier if that fighter is a cat who breathes fire and crushes things in its tiny, flaming jaws. Are you going to be tempted by the sartorially-inclined owl or the clown-seal? Of course you are. But focus. Eyes on the prize. By the time your feline firecracker evolves into a heavyweight wrestling machine of death, you’re going to be glad you went with the Litten. BONUS: After battles, you can gently comb tangles out of its fur while singing it lullabies, and then you can give it chin scritches.
I made a lot of time for Wonder Trade while I was playing Sun and Moon, and I received many a surprising and generous gift from trainers across the globe. (If you got a level 23 Zubat named “We Bat A Zu,” that was me, and, uh, I’m sorry.) At some point, somebody gifted me a Popplio, and I felt like I’d stolen someone’s puppy. After I got over that feeling, though, I quickly realized that Primarina, the final evolution of Popplio, was a superb complement to my Incineroar. Having two fully-evolved starters is an excellent way to get through the game, so get to Wonder Tradin’.
You want a Toucannon on your team because looks can kill. Well, not really. You want it on your team because it’s got rather high attack power and you can get it quite early on in the game. Toucannon evolves from Pikipek, the doofy and omnipresent woodpecker that you’ll encounter in the game’s first battles and which, on its own, isn’t good for much. If you keep it in your rotation until it hits level 28, however, you’ll have yourself a Toucannon—and if you like to linger and hunt Pokémon as you explore the Alola Islands, you’ll probably get to level 28 well before you’re halfway through the story. You probably won’t be taking on the Elite Four with a Toucannon in your party, but having one in your back pocket will make the middle stretch of the game much easier.
Bewear is another critter you’ll be able to nab before you hit the game’s halfway mark. It evolves from Stufful at level 27, and Stufful are plentiful on the game’s second island. Bewear has exceptionally high HP and attack power, meaning if your preferred battle strategy is anything resembling mine (“hit ‘em real hard until they stop moving”), it’ll be a welcome addition to your little army. The trick here, and this is important to keep in mind, is that you want a Fluffy teddy bear for your squad of bestial murderers. A non-Fluffy one simply won’t do. (Seriously, get one with the “Fluffy” attribute, it makes them twice as hard to kill.)
This is one of the Totem Pokémon that you fight during your Island Trials, though you won’t be able to get your hands on one until later in the game. It’s got relatively few weaknesses, and its special attack power is through the roof, so it’s good to use against enemies that have high regular defense but are weak to special attacks (presuming, of course, your Primarina didn’t finish them off first). This is another critter that you can get by evolving one of the earliest Pokémon in the game: Grubbin becomes Charjabug becomes Vikavolt. If you’re in need of an Electric Pokémon through the mid-game, you can always hang around the first city hoping to come across a Pikachu in the tall grass, but who likes Pikachu? Not many people, I’d wager.
Alright, I’m gonna level with you: On a purely statistical basis, Lycanroc is an unremarkable Pokémon. It packs a pretty good punch, but the rest of its attributes are middle-of-the-road. You want Lycanroc on your team because of the intimidation factor. Look at those glowing eyes. Look at that wild fur. Your enemy is going to look at your team and see a range of personalities: Your Toucannon’s ready to kill at a glance, your Incineroar is hamming it up for the crowd, your Bewear wants a friendly hug—but the Lycanroc is a wild card. It has that mad gleam in its eye that lets an enemy know it’s capable of anything. And it’s a ‘mon like that you’ve got to watch out for. They’ll get you when you least expect it.
You’re going to want a Palossand in case your opponent has any Pikachus. Palossands hate Pikachus. Here is an image of a Palossand dragging a Pikachu to its demise. Seriously, though, a Palossand comes in handy when you’re up against a physical tank—it’s got both high defense and special attack, meaning that against a physical fighter it’s more likely to come out on top. Just don’t let it get wet or frozen. A Ghost/Ground combo, Palossand will also let you round out the types in your party nicely. You can get a Palossand by evolving a Sandygast, which is easy to come by at Hano Beach on the second island.
There’s a trick to getting Golisopod—you have to catch a Wimpod, which you can only do in a couple places, and only once where it’d be early enough to really give you an advantage—but if you manage to snag one of the cowardly trilobites, you’ll be able to evolve it into this hulking behemoth as soon as it hits level 30. Golisopod has crazy attack and defense and only three weaknesses, making it more than worth the effort of tracking down. If you haven’t yet left Akala Island, go try to snag a Wimpod from just outside the Pokémon Center on Route 8. (Just make sure you save before you do—Wimpods have a habit of running away, and they won’t respawn for 24 hours of real-world time!) Then you’re just a few levels from this arthropod avenger.
Metagross is a Steel/Psychic Pokémon that has strong defenses against just about everything. If it bears a bit of a resemblance to a walking tank, well, that’s probably intentional. It’s been around for several generations, and I understand it’s popular with Pokémon trainers because it’s exceedingly sturdy. The only problem, of course, is actually acquiring one. Both Beldum and Metang, its lower-tier evolutions, have such a low rate of capture success that—especially with Sun and Moon’s new “call for help” system, you may tear all your hair out before you actually get one to stay in the dang Pokéball. If you’re patient and well-stocked with items, however, you can start chasing Beldums on Mount Hokulani on Ula’ula Island.
A lot of these Pokémon are beasts you can acquire fairly early in the game with only a modicum of hassle. You’re going to want a real prize-fighter to take with you into the endgame, though, aren’t you? Kommo-o is, colloquially speaking, your boy. You won’t be able to catch one until near the very end of the game—you’ll need to hunt around for its little cousin Jangmo-o in the tall grass at Vast Poni Canyon, and they take their bloody time showing up—but when you get Kommo-o on your team, you’ve got a Fighting Dragon with stats through the roof and style to match.
Sure, there are legendary Pokémon and so-called “Ultra Beasts” and Mega-Evolutions to chase, but Pokémon is about the journey as much as the destination. If you want to steamroll your way through Alola and leave the kahunas flabbergasted by your crack team of beasties, pluck some choice names off this list and get fightin’. You’ll best the Elite Four in no time.