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How to prepare your roster for the Pokémon Go Battle League

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Pokemon Go banner (Image credit: Niantic)

The Pokémon Go Battle League is here! The first preseason has begun but it's not too late to build your roster to join in on the fun!

Which Pokémon should you focus on catching and powering up?

Which Pokémon are the best in Pokémon Go? There are more than 800 Pokémon out there and, though they've not all made it to Pokémon Go, more are being added all the time. So, even seasoned players can find themselves struggling to answer this question. Each new Pokémon, move, or rebalance to come to the game has the potential to be a game-changer (or to not matter at all!). Lucky for you, we've done the work in our own labs and are constantly updating our lists with each addition and alteration to the game.

While CP, IVs, and moves are all important in determining the value of a Pokémon in battle, some species of Pokémon are just better at their base. After all, the very best Pidgey with perfect IVs, high CP, and the best potential move set won't be able to hold its own against even a low-level Gyarados. So what makes any particular species battle-worthy? Three basic things: max potential stats, move pool and versatility. That can be a lot to go through for even a handful of Pokémon, so we have a cheat sheet for you:

  • Lucario - Now the best Fighting type in the game, Lucario unseated Machamp when the move Aura Sphere was added to its movepool.
  • Rayquaza - A Legendary Dragon and Flying type, this one cannot currently be caught but if you already have one, it's definitely worth investing in this powerhouse.
  • Rampardos - The Rock type final evolution of Cranidos, this Gen 4 Pokémon hasn't been available for long but if you happen to have one, it's well worth investing time and resources into building it up.
  • Chandelure - The strongest Fire and Ghost type in the game, Chandelure is the final evolution of Litwick. It requires many candies and an Unova Stone to acquire and has only just been introduced so many players do not have this awesome Pokémon.
  • Mewtwo - The iconic Psychic type Legendary from Gen 1, Mewtwo was the first EX Raid Pokémon but has since been re-released in multiple forms. Still one of the strongest Pokémon, you'll want it on your team.
  • Salamence - Another Dragon and Flying type, Salamence is the final evolution of Bagon. While it isn't quite as strong as Rayquaza, it is much more readily available and was featured in April 2019's Community Day so chances are you have this one already.
  • Metagross - Another Community Day Pokémon, the Psychic and Steel type Metagross is the final evolution of Beldum. If you have one with Meteor Mash from October 2018's Community Day, it will be an invaluable addition to your roster.
  • Kyogre - A Legendary Water type, Kyogre cannot currently be caught but if you already have one, it's the strongest Water type in the game and worth powering up.
  • Darkrai - A Mythical Dark type, Darkrai was only available during the Halloween Event, but if you're lucky enough to have one, it is the best counter for Psychic type Pokémon in the Game.
  • Giratina (Origin forme) - A Legendary Ghost and Dragon-type, Giratina is one of a select few Pokémon with multiple forms. In this case, the Origin forme is the one you want to focus on. While not currently available to catch, if you have one, build it up!
  • Conkeldurr - Another Fighting type that is technically more powerful (and more durable) than Machamp, Conkeldurr it the final evolution of Timburr. Unfortunately, it's fairly new and not super common.
  • Gengar - The Gen 1 Ghost and Poison-type, Gengar has remained one of the strongest Ghost-types in Pokémon Go. It is the final evolution of Gastly, a Pokémon you can catch all year round but which gets boosted spawn rates for the Halloween events.
  • Machamp - While no longer the best Fighting type, Machamp is more accessible than Lucario and an excellent addition to your team. Machamp is the final evolution of Machop.
  • Kingler- The Gen 1 evolution of Krabby, this Water type boasts an even higher Attack stat than Gyarados and, since the introduction of its signature move, Crabhammer, it is an invaluable addition to any trainer's roster, especially for those who missed out on Kyogre.
  • Raikou - The Legendary Electric-type, Raikou's potential move set makes it the best Electric Pokémon in the game. It is not currently available to catch but if you have one, it is well worth your resources to boost up.
  • Electivire - The final evolution of Electabuzz, this Gen 4 Electric-type can be only be obtained with a Sinnoh Stone. However, if you missed out on Raikou, it is a solid alternative.
  • Mamoswine - Another Pokémon to get the Community Day treatment, Mamoswine is the Ground- and Ice-type final evolution of Swinub. Although it requires a Sinnoh Stone to evolve, during the February 2019 Community Day, trainers could earn up to 10 Sinnoh Stones. If you participated or have since evolved this Pokémon, you definitely should power up your Mamoswines.
  • Moltres - The Gen 1 Legendary Fire and Flying type, Moltres has been in Raids and Research rewards multiple times so many players will have at least one. It remains one of the strongest Fire types in the game and is worth your attention.
  • Dialga - The Gen 4 Legendary Dragon and Steel type, Dialga is the only Dragon-type in the game who doesn't take Super Effective damage from other Dragon types and is the second strongest Steel types available. However, like most Legendaries, it has only been available in limited Raids so many do not have one to power up.
  • Palkia - The counterpart to Dialga, this Dragon and Water type is a solid choice for your roster. While it's not nearly as powerful as Rayquaza and lacks the necessary moves to be used as a primarily Water type attacker, it can more than hold its own as a Dragon-type.
  • Roserade - Another Sinnoh Stone evolution, Roserade is one of the best Grass and Poison-types in the game. If you happen to have one or a strong Roselia and a Sinnoh Stone, it is worth building up.
  • Excadrill - The final evolution of the newly introduced Gen 5 Drillbur, this Ground and Steel type is one of the best Ground type attackers. It is still very new so many players do not have one yet but it fortunately only requires 50 candies to evolve so keep an eye out for those Drillburs.
  • Terrakion - As far as Rock types go, Terrakion doesn't match Rampardos but it is better than Tyranitar. This Legendary Pokémon is part of the Swords of Justice.
  • Dragonite - The Gen 1 Pseudo-Legendary Dragon and Flying type, Dragonite is the final evolution of Dratini. Having been featured in the second Community Day, as a reward for Special Research and one of the possible Shadow Pokémon featured in the Team Go Rocket's arsenal, most players have at least one.
  • Tyranitar - Another Pokémon to get the Community Day treatment as well as having been a common Raid boss, Tyranitar is the Dark and Rock type final evolution of Larvitar. It boasts very high stats and is readily available so you probably already have at least one that you've invested resources in.
  • Blaziken - The Fire and Fighting type starter Pokémon, Blaziken is the final evolution of Torchic. Blaziken is easy to get and was featured in May 2019's Community Day. While not the absolute best Fire or Fighting type, it is certainly one of the best that is readily available and its Community Day exclusive move Blast Burn make it a solid substitute for the stronger Fire types.
  • Swampert - Another starter, Swampert is the Ground and Water type final evolution of Mudkip. Featured in July 2019's Community Day, its limited move Hydro Cannon makes it a solid replacement for players who missed out on the Legendary Kyogre.
  • Breloom - Evolution of the readily-available Shroomish, this Fighting and Grass-type Pokémon only costs 50 Candies to evolve and boasts the highest Attack stat of all the Fighting types. After a recent rebalance, it can outperform Machamp in some situations.
  • Garchomp - The final evolution of Gen 4's Gible, this Psuedo-Legendary Dragon and Ground-type Pokémon doesn't compare to the Legendary Dragon types currently in the game but for players who missed out on the Legendaries, it can be a decent substitute.

These are certainly not the only options by far but they are the top 26 so if you're hoping to achieve a high rank in the Pokémon Go Battle League, you should definitely focus on powering up Pokémon from this list. That having been said, we still don't know what teams for the Pokémon Go Battle League will look like. They could be set up like the current PvP battles and Team Go Rocket Battles, in which players can only choose three Pokémon or they could be set up like Gym and Raid Battles, in which players can choose six Pokémon. What's more, we don't know if players will get to build a new team for each battle or must use the same team for several battles. Even if players can choose their team each time, unless they see their opponent's team beforehand, the selection process could still prove quite challenging. However, these are the top 25 attackers, so if you work on them, you're bound to have the best to choose from when the Pokémon Go Battle League begins.

Back up Pokémon

So, a lot of the Pokémon on that list are Legendary or Mythical, while others are rare and require special means of Evolution. You might find yourself needing to fill in the ranks a bit. You could also be a really active player and just want an even more diverse selection when it comes time to enter the Pokémon Go Battle League. Fortunately, there are plenty of great Pokémon to choose from. The following may not be the absolute best but they're still worth your consideration:

  • Zapdos - A Gen 1 Legendary Electric bird, Zapdos has a really high Attack stat but its Charged Move isn't great. Still, it's readily available and a good back up.
  • Latios - Another Legendary, Latios is a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. He is well rounded though and so makes a decent backup.
  • Groudon - Another Legendary that has been available quite often, Groudon used to be the best when it came to Ground-type Pokémon but has since been edged out by Excadrill. Its moveset holds it back.
  • Weaville - Weaville has a great moveset when it comes to Ice, Dark or even Ghost type moves. Sadly, its DPS really holds it back.
  • Magnezone - Magnezone doesn't have the DPS of other Electric types like Raikou or Electivire, but it does have a resistance to Blizzard that makes it useful in certain battles.
  • Hydreigon - Stronger than Tyranitar for Dark type attacks, Hydreigon doesn't match up to other Ghost or Dragon types.
  • Darmanitan - As far as strictly Fire types go, Darmanitan is one of the best. It's new and not very accessible, but if you have one, it's worth building up.
  • Venusaur - If you happen to have a Community Day Venusaur with the Legacy Move Frenzy Plant, it's one of the best Grass type attackers in the game. Roserade outperforms it but it is much more likely you have a few of these.
  • Charizard - Another Community Day game-changer, a Charizard with the Legacy Move Blast Burn is a great investment of your resources and easier to build up than Moltres.
  • Alakazam - While Alakazam cannot stand up to Mewtwo, if you're lucky enough to have one with the Legacy Move Psychic, it's worth building up.
  • Gyarados - While Gyarados is outperformed in every area, it doesn't require a Legacy Move and Magikarp are extremely common.
  • Feraligatr - With its Legacy Move Hydro Cannon, Feraligatr isn't as strong as Swampert, but it is still a good back up.
  • Espeon - Easy to come by and power up, Espeon makes for a great Psychic back up.
  • Entei - While this Legendary Fire type doesn't do the DPS that Moltres can, it's bulky and has a two-bar charge move that makes it great for certain battles.
  • Sceptile - With the Legacy Move Frenzy Plant, Sceptile is a good back up, though it doesn't compare to Roserade or Breloom.
  • Gardevoir - A very specified Pokémon, Gardevoir does great against Dragon types and in Cloudy Weather.
  • Hariyama - While it can't hold up to Machamp, Hariyama got a rebalance back in November of 2018 that made it a great back up Fighting type.
  • Torterra - Another Pokémon relying on a Community Day Legacy Move, Torterra with Frenzy Plant is comparable to Venusaur with the same move.
  • Honchkrow - As a Flying type with Sky Attack, Honchkrow is pretty useful though you shouldn't rely on it as a Dark type.
  • Rhyperior - A little slow but quite bulky, Rhyperior is a great back up, especially with Smack Down.
  • Glaceon - Glaceon can do comparable DPC to Weaville as an Ice type and is super easy to come by so a good back up to invest in.
  • Empoleon - After getting a Community Day treatment, Empoleon with Hydro Cannon is a good Water type, albeit not the best.

How do types factor into building a team?

Pokemon Type Badges

Pokemon Type Badges (Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

Something else that any Pokémon trainer worth their salt must know is the various Pokémon types and how to use types to their advantage. In Gen 1, Pokémon had 15 types but 3 more have been introduced since. Having to keep track of 18 different types, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, is challenging enough but many Pokémon have two different types making it even more complicated. Fortunately, we've summed up each type in this straight forward chart:

TypeSuper Effective AgainstResistant toNot Very Effective AgainstWeak to
NormalNoneGhostRock, Steel, GhostFighting
FireBug Grass Ice SteelBug Fire Fairy Grass Ice SteelDragon Fire Rock WaterGround Rock Water
FightingDark Ice Normal Rock SteelBug Dark RockBug Fairy Flying Poison Psychic GhostFairy Flying Psychic
WaterFire Ground RockFire Ice Steel WaterDragon Grass WaterElectric Grass
FlyingBug Fighting GrassBug Fighting Grass GroundElectric Rock SteelElectric Ice Rock
GrassGround Rock WaterElectric Grass Ground WaterBug Dragon Fire Flying Grass Poison SteelBug Fire Flying Ice Poison
PoisonGrass FairyBug Fighting Fairy Grass PoisonGhost Ground Poison Rock SteelGround Psychic
ElectricFlying WaterElectric Flying SteelDragon Electric Grass GroundGround
GroundElectric Fire Poison Rock SteelPoison Rock ElectricBug Grass FlyingGrass Ice Water
PsychicFighting PoisonFighting PsychicPsychic Steel DarkBug Dark Ghost
RockBug Fire Flying IceFire Flying Normal PoisonFighting Ground SteelFighting Grass Ground Steel Water
IceDragon Flying Grass GroundIceFire Ice Steel WaterFighting Fire Rock Steel
BugDark Grass PsychicFighting Grass GroundFighting Fire Flying Fairy Ghost Poison SteelFire Flying Rock
DragonDragonElectric Fire Grass WaterSteel FairyDragon Fairy Ice
GhostGhost PsychicBug Poison Fighting NormalDark NormalDark Ghost
DarkGhost PsychicDark Ghost PsychicDark Fighting FairyBug Fighting Fairy
SteelFairy Ice RockBug Dragon Flying Fairy Grass Ice Normal Psychic Rock Steel PoisonElectric Fire Steel WaterFighting Fire Ground
FairyDark Dragon FightingBug Dark Fighting DragonFire Poison SteelPoison Steel

If a type is Super Effective against another, that means it will do more damage. If a type is Resistant to another, that means it will receive less damage. Likewise, if a type is Not Very Effective against another, that means it does less damage and if a type is Weak to another, it takes more damage. While preparing your roster for the Pokémon Go Battle League, make sure you have Pokémon with a variety of types and move sets that are also varied. The more of the different types you can build up, the better chance you will have at being able to effectively counter your opponent's team.

Which moves are the best for PvP battles?

Pokemon Go Trainer Battle

Pokemon Go Trainer Battle (Image credit: Niantic)

Now that you know which Pokémon are the best to build up, you need to determine which move sets are best and if those move sets are even an option. While there are many moves that are either Legacy Moves (meaning they have been removed from a Pokémon's potential move pool) or were limited to special events like Community Day or Legendary Raids, each Pokémon has a pool of potential moves that it can be assigned. If a move is currently in a Pokémon's pool but your particular Pokémon doesn't have that move, you can use Technical Machines or TMs to change your Pokémon's move. TMs are single-use and change to a random move from the potential pool so be careful before using them. Be extra careful if you have a Pokémon with a legacy or limited move because once you change its moves, you cannot get those back.

Players may also consider paying the sizable Stardust and Candy cost to add another attack to their top Pokémon. While the cost can be as much as 100K Stardust and 100 Candies for a Legendary Pokémon, having a second Charged move can make your Pokémon more versatile and give you a better chance of being able to take down your opponent. If you do decide to add a second move, make sure the Pokémon you're considering has another strong charged move in its pool that is of a different type than the one it already has. While you may not get the move you want on the first try, using a Charged TM, you can select one of the moves to swap it out.

For more information on selecting the best possible moves for your Pokémon, see our Move Set Guide.

What are IVs and how do they impact the value of a Pokémon?

Pokemon Go Appraisals

Pokemon Go Appraisals (Image credit: iMore/Casian Holly)

Another important factor to consider before building up any Pokémon is the Pokémon's Individual Values or IVs. Unlike CP and HP, which are visible, IVs are hidden and can only be determined by having your Team Leader appraise your Pokémon. While appraisals used to be far more complicated requiring players to interpret a list of possible phrases along with doing a fair bit of math, the appraisal system is much more straight forward now.

  1. Click on the Pokémon you wish to appraise.
  2. Select the menu icon at the bottom right corner of the Pokémon's screen.
  3. Select Appraise.

It's just that easy! Your Team Leader will show up and provide a chart with three stats (Attack, Defense and HP,) each consisting of three bars and an overall rating of 1, 2, or 3 stars. Ranging from 0 (the worst) up to 15 (perfect), the more of a stat's bar is filled-in, the better that Pokémon's base IV is. Having great IVs alone won't make your Pokémon battle-ready, but those IVs do determine the maximum Attack, Defense, and HP a Pokémon can have as you power it up. Ideally, you want those IVs to be as close to perfect as possible, but keep in mind that you'll still need to spend Stardust and Candy to reach that max. The lower a Pokémon's CP is, the more you'll have to spend to get it ready for the League. Because very few players have huge stockpiles of Candy and Stardust lying around, it's important to balance high CP with high IVs. After all, a lower IV Gyarados with CP in the 3000's is going to perform better than a perfect 100% Gyarados with CP in the low 2000's.

What do battles in the League look like?

When available, the battles in Go Battle League seem to be blind and random. Upon entering, Trainers are matched up and each get to choose their team. However, players don't get to see each other's teams. Each gets to send out their Pokémon, one at a time, until all of one player's Pokémon have fainted. Players can "earn" the right to battle in five battle increments by walking five KM. After finishing five battles, you must walk another five KM to earn more battles.

Is there anything else you can do to prepare?

Pokemon Go Gyms Raids

Pokemon Go Gyms Raids (Image credit: Niantic)

In addition to building up your existing Pokémon, you can practice battling in the various methods that already exist within Pokémon Go. Challenging Raid bosses, especially the 4- and 5-star Raids, not only gives you the chance to catch a new, strong Pokémon but also give practice attacking and dodging. Likewise, Team Go Rocket Grunts provide the chance to practice other battle mechanics, while also giving you the chance to catch and purify a Shadow Pokémon. Battling opposing Team's Gyms is also great practice, as well as providing its own share of rewards. Doing Trainer Battles against the Team Leaders and your Pokémon Go friends can give you practice using Shields and the new motions for Charged Attacks, as well as grant rewards.

It is also probably a good idea to stock up on Potions and Revives. While battles against Team Leaders automatically heal and revive your Pokémon afterward, most other types of Battles leave your Pokémon injured or fainted. We don't know for sure which way the League will operate but it's never a bad idea to have a healthy supply of Potions and Revives just in case.

So, get out there and play, Trainers! Catch as many Pokémon as you can, appraise each one and spin every Pokéstop and Gym you come across. Expand your inventory to hold all those Potions and Revives. Practice every type of battle you can. And, most important, power up your best Pokémon! While January might be a few months away, the Pokémon Go Battle League will be here before you know it!

Casian Holly has been writing about gaming at iMore since 2019, but their real passion is Pokémon. From the games to the anime, cards and toys, they eat, sleep, and breathe all things Pokémon. You can check out their many Pokémon Go and Pokémon Sword and Shield guides and coverage here on iMore.