If you’re a long-term Pokéholic like me, you’ll surely remember the early days of Pokémon Red and Blue. The series was just starting out, it was your first playthrough of the first game. You chose Charmander –or you chose wrong, I’m not judging— and set off a spangly new adventure without your mama or even a change of underpants.
You didn’t quite know what you were doing, and you probably ended up with a Fire Blast/Ember/Flamethrower/Fly Charizard. Still, with the glass of snark half empty, we have to consider that everyone was a beginner back then. This was just natural.
As such, we had a reasonable grip on the type chart. Fire burns Grass’s unmentionables, Water gives no effs and washes Fire away, Grass gives Water a leafy smack upside the head. Psychic beats Fighting, Fighting beats Normal… you know these fundamentals. If you’ve been out of the loop for a while, though, you won’t have the more intricate workings of the type chart down. As the meme says, you’re going to have a bad time.
From the simple, beginner Fire-Water-Grass triangle sprang an elemental system much more complicated than you might expect. With Pokémon X and Y’s addition of Fairy, there are now eighteen different types, and many, many freaking dual type Pokémon. It’s a jungle out there.
I’m sorry, Bug. I want to defend you, I really do, but here you are languishing right at the bottom of the Pokémon type barrel. This is totally subjective, of course, and you’re free to disagree, but here’s my reasoning.
Nobody can deny that Bug totally got the shaft in the early days of Pokémon. There was precious little STAB to speak of; Beedrill using Twineedle was about the most that the Bug type could muster in generation one. Since then, most powerful moves and ‘mon have buffed Bug in a big way, but the sad fact remains: Generally, good Bug Pokémon are good despite their Bug typing, rather than as a result of it. I don’t know about you, but I’m really not convinced by that as a USP.
It’s a damn hard life being a Rock type. Firstly, you generally look like a huge-ass Rhino crossed with the Chrysler Building, and that’s a tough look for even the most charismatic of us to pull off. There are faces only a mama could love, and then there are faces that make mama want to abandon you in the woods to die.
Secondly, Rock types are weak to absolutely freaking everything ever. Rock is excellent offensively, scoring super-effective hits on Bug, Flying, Ice, and Fire, but in exchange for this, it has five weaknesses. This makes Rock types some of the hardest Pokémon to use, as two of the best of them, Tyranitar and Terrakion, have the most weaknesses of any Pokémon in the whole roster. Tied with Celebi and Exeggutor (Grass/Psychic) and Abomasnow (Grass/Ice) at seven, trivia fans.
Now, this really bums me out. I’m crying so many super sad tears of salty regret that I’m in danger of short circuiting my PC as I type this, but Ice (my favourite type) is bad.
The issue here is just the same as with Rock. These are the strongest two attacking types in Pokémon, but they’re incredibly vulnerable; they have weaknesses out the wazzoo to balance their power. Ice coverage is pretty well essential on any team, but actual Ice-type Pokémon are really quite rare. Generally speaking, you’ll see Water types using Ice coverage, so as to avoid the social stigma and embarrassing suckage that comes with being Ice type.
Here’s another one to file in the drawer marked 'Reasons To Give The Type Chart A Damn Good Tweak Or Two.' In terms of resistances to weaknesses, Grass is the most hopeless looking type of all. It’s super effective on three (Ground, Rock, and Water), weak to five, and is resisted by a ridiculous seven different types. Bearing in mind that there are eighteen in total, that’s pretty darn close to half of all Pokémon shrugging off Grass attacks like the Terminator and pointing and laughing.
This is cruel and unusual punishment, right here. The only thing Grass really has on its side is that it’s quite popular, the fourth most common elemental type overall. Still, that doesn’t really say much. Justin Bieber’s popular, and he still makes me want to punch my own ears in the face.
Psychic has had quite a rollercoaster ride of a journey through the generations. In the Red and Blue era, it was weak only to Bug, which boasted all the offensive prowess of a one-legged kitten in a coma (as I say, Twineedle). At that stage, Ghost moves had no effect on Psychics, which was all kinds of whack and ensured the typing’s total dominance.
Psychic was so overpowered that its nemesis, Dark type, was created just to foil its schemes for world domination. Since this change was made in gen two, Psychics have taken a huge fall from grace. Offensively, it’s very lackluster, being super effective on and resisted by two types. It’s one of those middle-of-the-road types, not broken in either sense of the word and so often overlooked.
For much of its existence, Poison too has also been a little overlooked and unappreciated. In another example of the Rock/Ice situation, good Poison-type team members are usually chosen in spite of said typing. In and of itself, Poison doesn’t really offer much. On the offensive, it was awful, super effective only on Grass and resisted by four types in return.
When Poison was utilized, it was in a defensive role, owing to its dual weakness (Psychic and Ground) trade-off for five resistances. You’d see the occasional physical tank Weezing and the like, but competitive showings from Poison types have historically been slim to bupkis. Fortunately for them, though, Poison-types are enjoying a new lease of life thanks to their ability to scare Fairies away. I never thought I’d see the day that Poison STAB was considered worthwhile.
Ghost is a curious typing indeed. It’s one that is often overlooked while building teams, whether as a potential member or as a potential threat. Much of this is due to the fact that it’s such a run-of-the-mill neutral type, neither resisted nor super effective on very much.
Ghost-types themselves are usually restricted to truly excellent ‘mon that just happen to be Ghost, such as Aegislash and the ever-present Gengar. Unless your team has a significant Fighting weakness, the typing alone will do nothing in terms of ‘plugging holes,’ but a powerful Ghost can be difficult to stop due to the lack of resistances to its STAB. There are definitely some great and commonly-used Ghost-types, but the typing alone will do slim to bupkis for you.
Ground is a tough one to categorize. If you’ve ever seen an Excadrill rip your poor, sobbing team into hunks of defeated spam in a Tyranitar’s sand, you’ll know what a damn fearsome type this can be. On the other, that really is the exception to the rule.
Generally speaking, Ground-types are hulking, slow-as-grandma’s-mobility-scooter defensive beasts. Think Hippowdon, for instance. They’re super tanky, and have access to possibly the strongest and most popular STAB move in the series: Earthquake. Offensively, this is excellent, super effective on five different types and resisted only by two (flyers are also immune, obviously). The trade-off is that Ground-types are weak to the common Water, Ice, and Grass attacks; these are usually special, and Ground’s typically high defense won’t save it when the… water hits the fan.
Where else to rank Normal but squarely in the middle? These guys are, by definition, the Jack-of-all-trades of Pokémon. Since Red and Blue, they’ve been defined by their utterly nutty-ass move pools (why in the name of every damn thing that’s good and pure can Tauros use Solar Beam?) and varied stats that allow them to do a bit of everything.
Normal has great special attackers like Porygon Z, the best special wall in the entire franchise in Blissey, physical powerhouses… everything you could ever want. The issue with Normal is that it isn’t super effective on anything by itself, often relying on powerful neutral hits to get the job done. Steel and Rock resist Normal, and Ghost is immune, meaning that these guys will often find themselves walled.
Next up, we have Normal’s only weakness: Fighting. Like all others, these guys have their pros and cons. Fighting is usually characterized by strong physical threats; the Heracrosses, Terrakions, and Machamps of the world. A fair few are tanky, but they tend to favour speed over survivability.
There have been some real highs and lows for Fighting recently. A few years back, they were prized as one of a select band of Pokémon able to swiftly end Mega Kangaskhan, sending it shooting back down Satan’s underworld u-bend from whence it came. They were also hampered by the death sentence that was Talonflame, though, and all of the Fairy-type Tapus doing the rounds just now make it difficult for them to operate. Still, you don’t screw with a well-played Pheromosa in the meta just now.
Granted, Fire doesn’t struggle as much as its buddies Ice and Rock. It isn’t like that meme of the dog sitting in its burning living room insisting that everything’s fine. That doesn’t mean these guys have it easy, though. The struggle can be real.
Things are a little more balanced for our flaming friends. They have some very common weaknesses in Ground and Rock, the latter being particularly suck-tastic because of that damn Stealth Rock. With water being the most common type in Pokémon, too, there’ll almost always be something on a team that has you covered.
Even with all of that said, though, Fire has some key advantages. It can scare away the ever-present Steel-types, and it also has a super important (and rare) resistance to Fairy. There’s always a danger for a Fire type on a team, but there’s almost always a place for one too.
Electric-types don’t have it as easy as you might think from watching the cartoon. This is real life, Ash, there’s no aiming for the horn here. Ground types are your natural predator. Like Liam Neeson, they will find you, and they will kill you.
As we’ll see later, Water-types are a hugely popular part of the meta. Grass-types being rare and a little shonky, it follows that Electric-types also feature prominently as a way of sending these popular picks down to Davy Jones’s Locker. Like Fighting-types, Electrics usually want to hit hard and fast, and so they can struggle with anything that resists their STAB. Many of them carry Hidden Power Ice to try and deal with those Grounds, but that’s really the best they can do.
Here’s another elemental type that has risen, fallen and risen again over the years. As we’ve seen, Dark was introduced with Pokémon Gold and Silver, after Game Freak realized they’d dun goofed and created a monster with the rampant Psychic. Along with Ghost, after they’d fixed that, Dark was intended as Psychic’s greatest weakness, and did much to curtail its utter domination.
As Psychics became less of a threat, so did Dark itself, and the lacking base power of most Dark moves didn’t do much to help their cause. Then there was the huge buff to Knock Off, which was carried by everything. Then, Fairies appeared, and Dark-types were reduced to cowering in their bedrooms and muttering that they hate everyone, like the edgy teenagers they are. There are still the super popular likes of Alolan Muk to fly the flag, though. What a wild ride it’s been.
Yet again, we’ve got quite the mixed bag on our hands here. Flying is, I’ll admit, another of my favourite types. Remember the Bird Keeper trainer type? The sprite of the spiky-haired little dude with the bird cage? During the Pokémania era of the late nineties, he was what I wanted to be when I grew up. So yep, I guess you could say I’m kind of partial to flyers.
The fact is, though, this is one of the most versatile and balanced types in the series. Flying has three weaknesses and three resistances. It is super effective on three types, and is resisted by three types. That’s the kind of neat symmetry I can get behind. Flying is powerful offensively, able to cover the types that resist it well, but its weaknesses are some of the most common types in the game (Ice, Rock, Electric).
Water is the most common type in Pokémon. There are more Waters than any other type, and that’s a neat little metaphor for their place in competitive Pokémon. From Slowbro to the spangly new Tapu Fini, the Bulky Water will always be an essential part of teams.
Water has only two weaknesses, Electric and Grass, the latter of which is rarely a factor. In return, it boasts four resistances, all of which are quite commonly seen. As such, Water is one of the best defensive types, arguably the best. It shines in a walling/tanking role, but can be just as terrifying on the offensive. Have you ever fallen victim to a rain team you weren’t prepared to deal with? They’ll crush your hopes, dreams and mortal soul into dust in an instant.
Throughout this list, we’ve taken a look at a lot of types that have risen and fallen in favour. That’s the way a metagame works; top threats appear, are countered and so fall in use, as do their counters, all of that fun stuff. As of Sun and Moon, Poison STAB is actually a thing! What a time to be alive.
Dragon, however, doesn't give AF about any of this. Since the type was first introduced, it’s been hugely powerful. It’s only weak to itself and Ice, it has some key resistances, some of the best Pokémon in general are Dragon-type… they’ve just been unstoppable. X and Y added the Fairy type specifically to counter these OP scaly a-holes, which highlights the kind of second-coming-of-first-generation-Psychic situation we were in.
Speaking of Fairy, here comes that new band of cutesy little pixie-dudes now. The Fairy type, as I say, was created for the sixth generation of Pokémon, partly in response to player backlash about those darn Dragons.
Fairy not only gave those scaly monsters another weakness to worry about, but they are also completely immune to Dragon-type attacks. Granted, you still see Garchomp, Salamence and their top-tier buddies lurking around, but they’re not as prevalent or as safe as they once were. The addition of fairy was a neat, necessary paradigm shift for the meta. Weak only to Poison and Steel, and boasting great neutral coverage, they are now one of the top threats to contend with as well. The fact that the legendary Tapus are all part Fairy just adds to the type’s great popularity.
And so we arrive at Steel. Since their introduction, Steel-types have been known as an unbreakable defensive force. Notorious for resisting freaking everything for no reason at all, Steel was another type that was wanged in the face with the nerfhammer when generation six arrived.
Previously, Steel resisted an absurd eleven different types, which was just damn excessive whichever way you slice it. Dark and Ghost were removed from that tally, and Fairy added, giving them a total of ten resistances. Hear that? That’s the sound of Grass-type everywhere crying to their mamas in envy. Steel is such a dominant force that Fire, Ground, and Fighting are considered some of the best offensive types, purely because they can hit Steel super effectively. Calm the hell down, Steel.