By Ana Hoffman, Contributing Writer
Pokémon GO is joining the action in London this August for its first Championship appearance at the 2022 Pokémon World Championships (Worlds)! Ever since watching the exciting showcase invitational at the 2019 World Championships in Washington, DC, and competing in independent tournaments, Trainers have been battling hard to earn their chance at becoming the inaugural Pokémon GO World Champion.
The Pokémon GO World Championships will be a special experience for competitors and spectators alike. There are so many questions leading into the event, including which Pokémon and strategies to expect, how players will handle the two-day event—and, of course, who will finish on top!
To help set the stage for the tournament, we’ll take a look at the top Pokémon you can expect to see—as well as a few that might surprise you—and get to know some of the top players you’ll get a chance to watch live from London at Twitch.tv/PokemonGO over the course of Worlds from Friday, August 19, 2022, to Saturday, August 20, 2022.
During this year’s Championship Series, we’ve seen a wide range of Pokémon used by various Trainers. While some mainstays have persisted, the metagame of the North America International Championships (NAIC) in June varied significantly from the Liverpool Regional Tournament back in March. But who are those mainstays, and how has that meta shifted throughout this series? Like any good party, six Pokémon have held the meta to some level of stability throughout these tournaments.
Since before the launch of the GO Battle League in 2020, the Iron Pokémon, Registeel, has been a force to be reckoned with in competitive Pokémon GO events. Having both an extremely defensive Steel typing and the uniquely fast-charging Fast Attack Lock-On, Registeel has had some form of relevance for the past two years and counting. Recently, Registeel’s addition of the powerful Charged Attack Zap Cannon has pushed it back to the top of the metagame.
The other mainstay Steel type in this competitive series has been Galarian Stunfisk. Since its debut in June 2020, this regional form of Stunfisk has threatened Registeel’s dominance, wielding the supereffective Charged Attack Earthquake to topple other Steel-type Pokémon. Paired with the formidable Charged Attack Earthquake is the Charged Attack Rock Slide, which offers Stunfisk strong offensive coverage in addition to its heavily defensive Ground/Steel typing.
To punch back against these dominant Steel types, the Fighting- and Psychic-type Medicham offers its aid. Over time, the Meditate Pokémon has remained one of the strongest Fighting types in competitive Pokémon GO. Carrying the strong Fast Attack Counter and an assortment of useful Charged Attacks, Medicham holds back prominent Steel-type Pokémon like Registeel and Galarian Stunfisk while keeping a good deal of other Fighting types on the sidelines.
The only type to resist Fighting-type damage—without in turn being resisted by Steel-type Pokémon—is the Ghost type, and two prominent Ghost-type Pokémon have naturally showed up throughout this series. Sableye instantly comes to mind as a powerful Pokémon with an attack for any opponent. Offering Dark- and Normal-type Charged Attacks in Foul Play and Return—the latter of which is unique to its Purified variant—Sableye has had a neutral option for every Pokémon in this series, with the exception of an occasional appearance from Lucario. Factor in a defensive typing that only fears Fairy types, and you can see why Sableye is considered one of the strongest and safest Pokémon to use in the format.
While Sableye brings safety and widespread coverage, another Ghost-type Pokémon, Trevenant, operates more on the attack. The Elder Tree Pokémon has made waves since its first in-game appearance during October of last year. Wielding the strongest Ghost-type Fast Attacks and Charged Attacks—Shadow Claw and Shadow Ball, respectively—and offering the Grass-type Seed Bomb as a supplement, Trevenant hits hard and fast. This makes for quick and dynamic battles, performing strong despite Trevenant’s weaker defensive typing and stat spread. By resisting Registeel’s Charged Attacks Focus Blast and Zap Cannon, going to town on Medicham, and taking out strong Water-type Pokémon like Azumarill and Swampert, Trevenant has taken up residence in the teams of many Trainers throughout the series.
The most recent addition to this group of popular Pokémon is arguably the most prominent of them all. In January of this year, Spheal Community Day featured two powerful new moves for Walrein to flex in Trainer Battles: the Fast Attack Powder Snow and the Charged Attack Icicle Spear. Since those additions, the Ice Break Pokémon has shifted from the margins to become an immovable force, offering extremely strong Ice-type damage alongside robust coverage with the Ground-type Charged Attack Earthquake. To add to its offensive potency, Walrein’s vulnerability to Grass-, Electric-, Fighting-, and Rock-type attacks is covered by Trevenant through type resistance and supereffective damage, making these two Pokémon a powerful pair.
While these six metagame mainstays remained competitive throughout—and were key players in most finalist teams—the auxiliary meta and anti-meta picks used over the course of the series have also progressed. Fortunately, the players behind those progressions will be playing in London this August, so let’s take a closer look at these Trainers and their Pokémon!
Europe International Championships, April 22–24, 2022
Notable shift: Air Slash Mandibuzz
Pokémon GO’s first appearance in the Play! Pokémon Series was at Liverpool in March 2022, with the winning team featuring Nidoqueen, Walrein, Defense Forme Deoxys, Cresselia, Scrafty, and Diggersby. Four of those Pokémon are notably vulnerable to Mandibuzz’s Fast Attack Air Slash, a surprising change from the more common Fast Attack Snarl. This important distinction was key to Aeeriis’s success in the following event, the Europe International Championships (EUIC). Though somewhat niche at the time, using Mandibuzz with Air Slash allowed Aeeriis to take out copycats of the previous Regional Champion while having an advantage against any Sableye, Medicham, and Trevenant brought to the tournament.
Mandibuzz rounded out Aeeriis’s team, which otherwise featured five of the main six Pokémon mentioned previously—Sableye, Medicham, Walrein, Registeel, and Galarian Stunfisk. While it’s unclear if the Bone Vulture Pokémon will accompany Aeeriis to Worlds in London, his comfort and familiarity with the core meta will assuredly serve him well, and whether Mandibuzz—or another anti-meta pick—comes along for the ride, his plays are sure to engage the crowd.
Indianapolis Regional Championships, May 7–8, 2022
Notable shift: Azumarill’s return
Kiengiv (Kieng) was far from the first Trainer to use Azumarill competitively, nor was he the first to make it to London on the back of this Water- and Fairy-type powerhouse, but he did so in a way that was clearly carried by his comfort with the Aqua Rabbit Pokémon. Bringing a team of Azumarill, Sableye, Medicham, Shadow Walrein, Registeel, and Trevenant, Kieng played similarly to Aeeriis, using five of the six meta mainstays and rounding out his team with a calculated addition.
Once again able to take out prior-tournament copycats, Kieng was well poised against any opposing Mandibuzz while retaining an advantage against Sableye and Medicham with his Fairy-type Pokémon. The Water- and Fairy-type Azumarill additionally offered him more strength against Galarian Stunfisk at the expense of a slight vulnerability to Trevenant, perhaps in the hopes that some Trainers were scared of using Trevenant after Mandibuzz’s recent dominance. Kieng’s team played brilliantly off of his competitive experience—he’s used Azumarill, Sableye, Medicham, and Registeel for years, and the recent power duo of Walrein and Trevenant supplemented those four comfortable Pokémon choices.
Kieng’s win was a reminder of how longtime players know these picks in and out, and that comfortable confidence was a joy to watch. While it’s uncertain whether he’ll stick with that comfort for London or make a surprising shift, Kieng is sure to be a fan favorite to make it to the finals this August.
Joinville Regional Championships, May 7–8, 2022
Notable shift: Lickitung’s resurgence
Lickitung is another Pokémon that’s been gaining more time in the spotlight after a previous top finish, this time by second-place Liverpool finalist Statastan. While the Joinville tournament was, unfortunately, not covered on a livestream, Zarddy’s dominance with Lickitung was the signal of a metagame shift that would be felt in subsequent tournaments. Zarddy’s use of this Normal type was clearly in response to the increasing frequency of double Ghost-type teams, like Kieng’s, that proved weak to the Licking Pokémon. Lickitung’s Charged Attacks Body Slam and Power Whip allow it to be a neutral matchup powerhouse while hitting hard against teams with multiple Water types, such as Kieng’s from Indianapolis.
Zarddy rounded out his team with Swampert, Walrein, Defense Forme Deoxys, Mandibuzz, and Trevenant. Whether or not he brings Lickitung to London, it is sure to be on many teams fighting for first place. And other picks from Zarddy—such as his Swampert—seem to have increased in power from subsequent meta shifts and would look great on a London lineup.
Perth Regional Championships, May 21–22, 2022
Notable shift: Bastiodon
Dewpider and its Evolution, Araquanid, made their Pokémon GO debut on May 12 of this year, making Araquanid the first Water- and Bug-type Pokémon to hit the 1,500 CP limit for the Great League. With resistance to both Ice- and Ground-type damage, the Water Bubble Pokémon was quickly recognized as a possible counter to the meta-centric Walrein. But instead, Robdrogo saw Araquanid as a target.
Bringing the premier Rock- and Steel-type Bastiodon to the Great League, Robdrogo sought to beat up on any Araquanid he saw, while setting up a powerful wall for anyone who wanted to bring Lickitung into battle after its triumph at the tournament in Joinville.
In addition to Bastiodon, Robdrogo brought Azumarill, Swampert, Sableye, Medicham, and Registeel to Perth’s tournament. While Bastiodon is far from a fan favorite due to its polarizing matchups, it would certainly make for a unique pick in London. Robdrogo’s team shows further comfort with the central meta as well, so he’s sure to have options—whether that includes the Shield Pokémon or not!
Lille Regional Championships, May 21–22, 2022
Notable shift: Araquanid
While Robdrogo was squashing Araquanid in Perth, on the other side of the world IDexxBI had an Araquanid vs. Araquanid face-off in the finals against JBGWinsenHSV. The merits of this Water- and Bug-type Pokémon are not hard to see: beyond operating as the best answer to Walrein in the meta, it is also strong against Sableye, Medicham, and Trevenant. Looking back at Zarddy’s team—keeping in mind that the Lille tournament was held the same weekend as Perth—it’s clear that Araquanid would have a lot of play against Swampert, Walrein, Deoxys, and Trevenant, and that IDexxBI would surely have an upper hand against those following trends.
Accompanying the Water Bubble Pokémon were Shadow Swampert, Sableye, Walrein, Registeel, and Talonflame. The winning teams of these recent Regional Championships are more likely to stay viable for Worlds, and IDexxBI’s team is a lineup that I could see continuing as-is into the London tournament.
Vancouver Regional Championships, May 28–29, 2022
Notable shift: Ember Shadow Ninetales
A Champion who needs no introduction, Hsineerg showed up to Vancouver with an unconventional anti-meta powerhouse in Shadow Ninetales using the even less conventional Fast Attack Ember. The Fire-type Ninetales put in serious work for Hsineerg throughout the tournament, threatening the new arrival Araquanid while putting the hurt on the common meta Steel-type Pokémon as well as Walrein and Trevenant. Hsineerg’s Ninetales also made any Trainer who brought the Ice- and Fairy-type Alolan Ninetales to battle—such as against her final opponent, DaiLapCheurng—immediately regret their decision.
Of all the meta shifts in the series, this is undeniably the largest: a Pokémon rarely seen with the Fast Attack Ember suddenly became synonymous with the Trainer and her playstyle. Hsineerg stands out as a Champion with a true ace Pokémon.
Accompanying the Fox Pokémon on Hsineerg’s team were Medicham, Shadow Walrein, Registeel, Mandibuzz, and Trevenant. Her team composition was expertly crafted to handle the core metagame, and the pairing of Shadow Ninetales with Mandibuzz was seen in the majority of her matches that made it onto the livestream. While other Trainers’ teams are up in the air, it would be very surprising to not see Hsineerg’s signature Ninetales in London. Regardless of her party lineup, Hsineerg is a clear fan favorite heading into the World Championships.
North American International Championships, June 24–26, 2022
Notable shift: Shadow Nidoqueen claims the crown
ItsAXN’s second time in the Top Cut was far more successful than his first venture in Indianapolis back in May. Going undefeated in any of these tournaments is a tough task, and ItsAXN’s perfect run through one of Pokémon GO’s toughest competitions to date is nothing short of amazing. While Shadow Nidoqueen saw play throughout the series—from the Liverpool Regionals all the way to the NAIC—its frequency in battle is clearly on the rise and ItsAXN’s dominance reflects that. In addition to offering meta-wide pressure, Shadow Nidoqueen is notably favored against Shadow Ninetales as well as Obstagoon, which made a resurgence in tournaments between the Vancouver Regionals and the NAIC. Appearing on three of the final four teams and seeing frequent play in post-NAIC community tournaments, Nidoqueen is a sure bet for London in some capacity.
ItsAXN’s other team members were Lickitung, Swampert, Sableye, Medicham, and Shadow Walrein, which offered him a good deal of anti-Nidoqueen play between those Ice-, Ground-, and Ghost-type Pokémon. Being the most recent Champion—save for whomever will advance from the Last Chance Qualifier in London—ItsAXN’s team will be under heavy scrutiny, and his decision whether to stick with that lineup or adjust it will have to be an extensively considered one. Regardless of the party he brings, it won’t be a surprise if we see ItsAXN in the Top Cut of the Worlds tournament in London.
While we’ve taken a look at a number of the flashiest competitors to expect at the World Championships, there will many, many more Trainers in attendance ready to battle. Keep an eye out for players you might not have caught at previous events, but who have been preparing just as hard for their big chance to win it all in London!
Whether you’re rooting for amazing Azumarill achievements or a shadowy sweep, the 2022 Pokémon World Championships are assuredly a great time for competitive Pokémon GO fans. Be sure to catch the action August 19–20 at Twitch.tv/PokemonGO.