With each new generation of Pokémon comes a whole new crop of the little critters. This is why, two decades in, we’re staring down the barrel of almost 1000 different Pokémon.
Balancing being what it is here in the Poké-world (freaking non-existent), it’s hard to know what you should be choosing for your team. After all, if you’ve gone into a new game blind, you’ll have all manner of surprises hopping out of the long grass at you. How can you know if that route one bird you caught is going to evolve into an awesome Staraptor or Talonflame, or a useless-as-a-one-legged-kitten-with-a-limp Unfeasant?
You can’t, that’s how. If you haven’t ventured into Alola before, Ultra Sun and Moon are going to be even more puzzling than usual in that regard. Generation seven contains some of the most unique Pokémon the series has yet seen, it’s gimmickry-amundo around here. New Toy Syndrome is strong here, and you want to try some of these guys, but which?
As with a lot of RPGs, if you’re just looking to make it through the main story, you can pretty well go with any team. Heck, make it a Magikarp-only challenge if you’ve got balls of steeliest steel. For best results, though, you’ll want to build your team right. All Pokémon are not created equal, after all, not even close. So feast your eyes on my picks for 10 Awful Ultra Sun and Moon Pokémon Nobody Should Pick (And 10 That Are Totally Underrated).
20 Awful: Decidueye, The Slowest Damn Ninja You Ever Saw
Now, it pains me to say this. It really, really does. I have been a proud member of Team Rowlett (hashtag and everything) since the little owl was first revealed, and you bet your sweet cheeks that I chose it as my starter without a moment’s hesitation. Give me that adorable little guy RIGHT NOW.
Nevertheless, being a superfan doesn’t blind me to its flaws (whatever the entire internet may tell you). When I picked this thing and saw leaks of its final evolution, I was expecting a super fast, super frail ninja of a Pokémon, along the lines of Greninja. So what the heck, Decidueye? Base 70 Speed? My grandma has more than base 70 Speed.
Such disappointment. I feel like I have grounds to sue here, I really do.
19 Underrated: Lycanroc-Dusk, The One That People May Actually Care About
Oh, Rockruff. As a general rule, I’m not really a fan of cutesy Pokémon. I don’t choose team members by virtue of cuteness. I’m not shallow enough to choose Pokémon based solely on their design. Okay, so you’re Brad Pitt. That don’t impress me much, as Shania Twain once wisely said on that matter.
Preach it, Shania. You’re a more discerning Pokémon-chooser, and that’s exactly what I look for in my country singers.
Anywho, vanilla Sun and Moon saw two different forms of Lycanroc, Dusk and Midnight. Both sported designs I can appreciate, and both were all kinds of suck, competitive-wise. You really don’t want to sleep on Ultra Sun and Moon’s new Dusk form, however, because its Tough Claws ability and slight stat tweak could give it a whole new lease of life.
18 Awful: Alolan Dugtrio- Look Ma, No Speed!
Now, I don’t know what happened here. I really, really don’t. I’m not sure if one of the designers was having a snarky joke or something, and I know this subject has been done to death already, but… why? Why have we just slapped blond wigs on a Dugtrio’s head and called it an Alolan form? Why is Alolan Ninetales such a beautiful, elegant creature that I could cry and write an entire volume of poetry dedicated to it, while Alolan Dugtrio just looks like The Beatles?
Still, as I say, we’re not here to judge anybody’s appearance, hilarious and ridiculous as it may be. We’re here to judge the fact that this Ground/Steel form of Dugtrio loses a precious 10 base Speed, leaving it to tie with a lot of other Pokémon. As such, it loses the only real asset that Dugtrio has.
17 Underrated: Palossand- Don’t Sleep On The Sandcastle
If there’s one thing the Pokémon franchise takes a lot of flak for, it’s the design aspect. We’ve all heard the gripes about the ice cream cone, the literal bag of trash, all these sorts of things. Any genwunner will tell you that Game Freak are losing their touch, that the original 151 Pokémon are the only ones worth mentioning, that we’ve scraped right through the bottom of the barrel into the muddy, muddy ground.
I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical about Sandygast and Palossand when I first saw them. Having used one competitively, though, I had a lot of fun with it, and there’s some decent defensive potential here. It has a unique typing, shared only with Golurk, and a neat movepool. If you can fit it into a team (it’s pretty darn niche), it can do some real work.
16 Awful: Gumshoos, The One Whose Election Victory Proved That The Simpsons’ Future Prediction Is Still On Point
Gumshoos is another Pokémon that intrigued many of us when it was first shown off. On the one hand, it was tempting to just dismiss the thing off hand. The knowledge that it was a Normal type, and one of the first Pokémon you encounter in Alola, was more than enough. It would be the Ratatta, Bidoof, or Zigzagoon of its generation; just a pitiful practice Pokémon that we can practice our catching on.
With that said, it does have a couple of more interesting traits. It’s a good deal stronger than your average route one trash, and its ability Stakeout (all attacks will deal double damage on a Pokémon that has just switched in) is exclusive to it. In practice, though, it’s totally underwhelming, and was quickly shunted into the lowest tier on competitive community Smogon.
15 Underrated: Araquanid, One Awesome Creepy Crawly
So here we are, barrelling towards 2018 at a terrifying pace (where the heck did all that time go? Last I can remember it was February). It’s been over twenty years since Pokémon first hit, and we’ve all learned a few things in all that time. Chief among them: spider Pokémon just don’t really work.
Ariados? Surskit, the pond skater? Both crapper than crap on the most craptastic day of its life. Araquanid doesn’t care about any of your preconceived notions of spider Pokémon sucking, though. It’s going to steam right in and raise a spidery middle finger in defiance at them all.
Araquanid has had a lot of success in tournament play, thanks to a range of useful traits. Its ability, Water Bubble, is like three in one, rendering it immune to burns, halving Fire damage it takes and doubling the power of its Water moves. A top tank.
14 Awful: Golisopod- Dude, Where Are You Going?
How could we go wrong with this one? The Bug/Water type Golisopod is the signature Pokémon of Team Skull’s ‘tude-tastic boss Guzma. It’s a huge, frightening, monstrous-looking bug, straight from the depths of Satan’s vlogged underworld U-bend. See those claws? There are claws and there are claws, and those bad boys are the latter.
In short, this thing looks as villainous as its trainer, sans Mr. T-style chains. It’s pretty darn strong statistically, too. So what’s it doing in the Awful section of things? That’s mainly due to its ability, Emergency Exit. This forces the slow-as-molasses Golisopod to switch out when hit by a move that brings it below half HP, functioning much like the item Eject Button. There’s some utility to this, but a lot of the time it’ll happen at the most inopportune moment.
13 Underrated: Komala: Never Underestimate The Lazy
We’ve already taken a look at Gumshoos, a fairly nondescript Normal-type that made its debut in the Alola region. Its only claims to fame are not sucking quite as much as it could have, being an early encounter, its unique ability and the fact that it seems to have stolen Donald Trump’s toupee and claimed it as its own. I can dig all of this, certainly, but there’s another Pokémon in a similar situation that captured my imagination more.
In my experience, Komala is a Pokémon that just always seems to perform better than you expect it to. I love koala bears, as we all do (even if you think you don’t, you’re just in denial and you really do), but this lazy little bugger’s ability is what really makes it. Through Comatose, Komala is considered to be ‘asleep’ permanently, and so cannot be status. This is SUPER useful.
12 Awful: Ribombee- Only A Super Sweet Scarf To Its Name
Come on now. Stop this crazy talk. That isn’t a scarf? It’s just part of its body? There isn’t some lunatic out there who outfits each of these little guys with a teeny scarf on their evolution from Cutiefly? Blasphemy. I don’t have to sit here and listen to your lies.
Bug types, as Pokéfans will know, have long had a bad rap in the series. Since generation one, when there were precisely zero bug moves worth using (Beedrill! Use Twineedle!), Bug has been one of the weakest types. Granted, there are powerhouses like Volcarona who will crush your souls into spam if you talk smack about them, but generally… Well, take Ribombee here. It’s a Bug Fairy with fairly pitiful stats, which can only spread a little status and bitterly regret every life decision it ever made.
11 Underrated: Necrozma- Buffed Out The Wazzoo
When I hit Pokémon Sun and Moon’s post-game last year, I liked what they’d done with the Ultra Beasts. It was a kind of full-blown quest after the main story, and that’s something that Pokémon has traditionally failed to deliver. Generally, after being crowned Champion, you’re just hauled butt-first out of the door of mama’s house, left to resume catchin’ ‘em all at your own pace.
There was one thing about the Ultra Beast quest I didn’t quite understand, though. Necrozma seemed to be a bit of an afterthought, hidden away somewhere obscure at the end. For Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, however, the creature has stepped into the limelight, and is a crucial component of the main story. It’s also gotten itself some super powerful new forms, by fusing itself Kyurem-style with Lunala and Solgaleo.
Ultra Necrozma? Do not screw with that thing. The most horrifying dragon since Yu-Gi-Oh.
10 Awful: Celesteela- Horrible For A Whole Different Reason
Just speaking about the Ultra Beasts gives me a little Celesteela-related PTSD. This thing. This damn thing.
Celesteela is a Steel/Flying Pokémon, exclusive to Pokémon Moon and Ultra Moon. It is one of the metagame’s most tanky Pokémon, maybe one of the tankiest ever introduced. As with Cresselia, we’re talking about the sort of taking-umpteen-million-hits-to-the-face-with-no-cares ability that can completely shut down teams that don’t have an answer to it.
I’ve seen this thing defeat an entire team by itself, simply with Leech Seed stalling and the occasional Heavy Slam. Luckily, there’s a lot of Electric and Fire power in the meta which can deal with it, but you’ve got to take care when this thing’s around. Which it ALWAYS is. I’m getting darn sick of seeing it, as with something like Mega Kangaskhan a few years back.
9 Underrated: Toucannon The Destroyer
Every generation, as I say, there’s been a Route One Bird. This is one of the very first Pokémon you encounter on your adventure, often in the patch of grass right outside your mama’s house. It’s usually dropped like a hot, radioactive potato with nails in it as soon as you catch something better. There are exceptions to this rule, as we’ve seen, but generally this isn’t anything worth bothering with.
Pikipek, which eventually evolves into Toucannon, is a unique sort of case. It boasts high Attack, equal to that of mohawked death-hawk Staraptor, the ability Skill Link (multi-hit moves will always hit the maximum number of times), and an unusual movepool for a Flying type to abuse it with. Like a lot of generation seven Pokémon, its speed lets it down, but if you can work around that, this thing can be surprisingly effective.
8 Awful: Cosmoem- Splashing Its Way To Victory
Now, I don’t know about you, friends, but I was expecting great things from Cosmoem. We had spent pretty well the entire main story with Lillie and her partner Nebby, the greatest bizarre get-in-in-the-bag comedy double act of our time. There were constant hints of the suppressed power this thing wielded, and that it was just waiting for the right moment to tear EVERYONE AND EVERYTHING a whole new range of bodily orifices.
When we finally got our hands on a Cosmog of our very own, and it evolved, it felt like being handed one of Popeye’s tins of magical spinach. We held the power right in our palms at last, and were poised to unleash it. Imagine my surprise, then, to learn that this thing can do absolutely nothing at all. It learns a grand total of three moves, two of which have zero effect whatsoever in battle.
7 Underrated: Drampa- Send WHO To A Home!?
These days, OAPs can be more uncomfortable than ever with their place in society. As the world becomes increasingly more tech-tastic at an alarming rate, they’re getting left behind. iPods? Instagram? Memes? Justin Bieber? None of this curious phenomena existed when I was young, buddy boy. If people wanted to share a picture of their dinner with the world, we’d say, what the heck, dude? Why would you want to do that? Nobody cares (they’re right, by the way).
Still, at least Game Freak know how to appreciate their elders. Drampa may be a kind of shonky design, but this isn’t a Pokémon to screw with. One of the sleeper hits of Alola, it has titanic Special Attack, particularly if you can get the boost from its Berserk ability to trigger. It’s slow as an octogenarian on a mobility scooter (appropriately enough), but it claims souls on Trick Room teams.
6 Awful: Turtonator- A Bad Case of Charizard Envy
I wasn’t remotely convinced by Turtonator when I saw it for the first time. As an avid fan of craptacular old Arnold Schwarzenegger action movies, the neat little pun in its name was something I could fully support, but that’s just not going to cut it. A man needs more than just a humorous name, am I right?
I can also appreciate unusual and unique typing combinations, and Fire/Dragon is pretty darn cool. It’s Turtonator’s stats that really let the team down, with a great base Defense and everything else being mediocre at best. Mega Charizard X is everything a Fire/Dragon Pokémon should be, while this poor guy languishes in the poop-smelling depths of PU tier. If it doesn’t manage to get a Shell Smash up, it’s both too weak and too slow to do much of anything at all.
5 Underrated: Wishiwashi- When The Whole Squad Shows Up
We’ve already spoken about the Pokémon of Alola, and the range of new strategies, abilities and exclusive moves they bring to the table. At a time when the franchise is being criticised more than ever for losing its touch, I think these things were super important.
The Tapus, for instance, all set an insta-terrain when they hit the battlefield, and so Terrain has gone from complete niche obscurity to absolutely everywhere. One of the other intriguing Pokémon of this gen is Wishiwashi, a teeny fish which schools together with its fellows while its HP is high.
In School form, its offenses are incredibly high, but when it falls below one quarter of its max HP, it is left alone, a useless little limp minnow. A tough one to use, sure (think Archeops and its Defeatist ability), but it’ll crush you and your family’s whole lineage if you take it lightly.
4 Awful: Alolan Sandslash Looks Super Cool, Is Not
Here’s another entry that totally gives me pangs of regret. I’m sorry, Alolan Sandslash, I really am. Ice is my favourite Pokémon type of all, and I’ve waited for years for Hail to be even remotely viable in comparison to other weather effects. Only with the new games has this started to become a thing; thanks mainly to the new ability Slush Rush, which doubles the Pokémon’s speed in Hail.
Very few ‘mon get this ability, but Alolan Sandslash does. I saw it along with Alolan Ninetales, the new auto-Hail setter, and I instantly felt great waves of joy passing through my happy-parts. Sadly, in practice, the duo just can’t keep up. Both are very underwhelming in terms of power, and Sandslash, in particular, is very rarely seen. Depending on its nature and the item you choose, it’ll either be just not fast enough or just not strong enough.
3 Underrated: Pheromosa- Deadliest. Bug. Ever
If the great and varied range of Ultra Beasts have one thing in common, it’s their totally whacked-out stat distribution. Kartana, for instance, has incredible Attack, high Defense and Speed, and a hilariously low Special Defense stat. There are some among them that are more balanced, but they’re mostly lopsided in one stat or another.
Pheromosa is one of the more interesting. It’s a glass cannon in the most literal sense of the word, sporting great mixed offenses, the highest speed stat in the entire game, and the ability to take precisely zero hits. It isn’t that commonly used in the format, because of its super feeble nature and typing. Bug/Fighting isn’t much cop in a meta dominated by fearsome new Fairy type. Particularly when you’re so squishy that an errant sneeze from a gnat would destroy you from 500 yards away.
2 Awful: Kommo-o- How Do You Screw Up A Samurai?
Prior to the release of the original Pokémon Sun and Moon, Jangmo-o and its evolution line were kind of a big deal. This was a Pokémon that embodied the whole island theme they were going for with the game, what with the influences of its name and all. Early in the Island challenge, we came across a lot of these guys, in a trial that served as a sort of tutorial to taking photos with the Rotom dex.
It was a prominent Pokémon, is what I’m basically getting at here. Like many new players, then, I had high hopes for Kommo-o, but I’ve mostly been disappointed. It’s not bad, per se, with decent mixed offenses and defenses and an exclusive Dragon/Fighting typing, but it’s severely outclassed. A decent Fighting STAB move would have gone a long way.
1 Underrated: Crabominable- Don’t Mess With Me Because I Look Ridiculous
First things first here, can we talk about the fact that Crabominable looks like a Weeble? If you remember these bizarre egg-shaped figures that wobbled but didn’t fall down, you won’t ever be able to unsee the resemblance. As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the most bizarre Pokémon designs in series history, if not the most.
I did not see this freakish furry abomination evolving from my Crabrawler, and I’m darn glad that I didn’t spoil that for myself. Once you’re over its odd looks, you begin to appreciate the ‘mon underneath. This Fighting/Ice type is really darn strong, has a decent movepool, STAB combination, and set of abilities to choose from. It needs Trick Room to function, but it can lay all kinds of smack down if used correctly.