BISMARCK, N.D. (KXNET) — The Pokémon Franchise has come a long way since the early years. Back in 1999, the franchise started with only 151 Pokémon, a little-to-no competitive scene, and old-school graphics on the Game Boy Color.

Now, it has blossomed into a worldwide multimedia franchise spanning nine ‘generations’, one of the longest television shows in history, all sorts of merchandise, and 1,008 individual Pokemon to catch, collect and train. But this doesn’t mean that the original idea of creature fighting isn’t alive and well — and there’s no better way to see that than in the game’s online championship seasons.

Here, trainers are able to match their ‘Mons against those all over the world, and every stat point, move and teammate matters. In both Single Battles (one Pokémon out at a time on each side) and Double Battles (two Pokémon for each), players compete to win ranks, prizes, money, and even invitations to world championships in Japan. And with a brand new series and season coming up on February 1st, introducing new rules as it does so, it’s a great time to look at the kind of creatures you can expect to see hitting the battlefield.

While there are plenty of Pokémon that have already had their time in the spotlight (and stayed there in this new game), in this article in KX’s new Gaming columns, we’d like to highlight some of the brand-new Pokémon from Generation 9 that have already made a splash in the latest games in the series, based on not only the top 20 teams from the previous Online Championship Series (omitting the six teams that were not recorded), but the top ten results from both of this years’ most recent regional tournaments (which took place in San Diego, California, and Liverpool, England) recorded by competitive Pokémon battling site Victory Road. If you’re a newer Pokémon fan, or just an old one curious about the newer critters, take a look at five of Paldea’s most competitive newcomers!

#5: Baxcalibur (6/34 Teams)

Baxcalibur (Image Credit: The Pokemon Company)

Every generation of Pokémon has what’s known as a ‘Pseudo-Legend’ — an extremely rare find (usually of the elusive Dragon Type) that’s difficult to catch, and needs a lot of time and care to evolve into its final form, but rewards the player for this effort with an extremely strong Pokémon with statistics that rival Legendary monsters (who are designed to be too powerful to enter in tournaments). The most famous of these are the older entries, and old favorites like Dragonite, Salamence, and Garchomp (a personal favorite of this writer) still frequently appear in competitive play to this day. While Baxcalibur hasn’t yet reached the level of infamy as other Pseudo-Legends, if its early tournament appearances are any indication, it already fits in with the other beasts in the category.

Baxcalibur boasts the highest Attack of any of the Pseudo-Legend Dragons, a tremendous 145 (for reference, most have somewhere in the 135 area). This massive number is held back by a Speed on the lower end, but this can be corrected with access to the incredible move Dragon Dance (which not only increases its Speed but its Attack even further as well). Furthermore, it possesses a good mix of moves, and its signature attack Glaive Rush is an incredibly risky but incredibly powerful strike. On top of all of this, Baxcalibur’s special ability ‘Thermal Exchange’ boosts its Attack power more whenever it’s hit with a Fire-Type attack, making even striking its weak spots a dangerous game. When used effectively, Baxaclibur can single-handedly smash through some of the strongest Pokémon in the generation, and it’s no wonder why so many people are already looking at it with high hopes.

#4: Kingambit (9/34 Teams)

Kingambit (Image Credit: The Pokemon Company)

The Pokémon that eventually evolve into Kingambit (Pawniard and Bisharp) were released in 2010, but Kingambit made its debut in Scarlet and Violet as the final step in their evolutionary line. Considering Bisharp was already a plenty strong Pokémon, placing highly in competition as part of winning teams from previous games, it only makes sense that an even stronger, more regal form would keep a tight hold on the competitive crown.

Kingambit is slower than its previous form but makes up for that with a huge extra batch of Health and Attack Power. It’s also not only retained the access to powerful moves like Iron Head and Sucker Punch of its old form but even added a completely new one in the form of Kowtow Cleave — an attack that never misses its target.

The final tool completing Kingambit’s arsenal is the Supreme Overlord ability — which boosts the power of all of its’ attacks by 10% for each member of your team that has been defeated prior to Kingambit entering the battlefield. If every other Pokemon on your side has fallen, this means all of Kingambit’s attacks get an impressive 50% power boost. With that much strength, it’s safe to say that Kingambit reigns as one of the new region’s top contenders.

#3: Dondozo and Tatsugiri (14/34 Teams)

Dondozo (Image Credit: The Pokemon Company)
Tatsugiri (Image Credit: The Pokemon Company)

We’re kind of cheating the structure of the list here since this is two Pokémon, but given the nature of this deep-water duo, it’s impossible to mention one without the other. In fact, every single team that includes either Dondozo or Tatsugiri includes the other. While both have their strong points (Dondozo, in particular, is slow, but very strong), they possess an incredible combination technique that makes using them as a tag-team worthwhile — especially in the Double Battles that make up the championships.

The descriptions of these two in the story state that while Dondozo is indeed mighty, it has trouble finding food or surviving alone due to its low intelligence. To compensate for this, it teams up with the weak but intelligent Tatsugiri to catch food for both of them. This can be seen in battle, wherein if the two are on the field at the same time, Tatsugiri’s ‘Commander’ ability will activate, causing it to enter Dondozo’s mouth to issue commands. This removes Tatsugiri from the fight until Dondozo faints, but gives the big fish a tremendous boost to all of its statistics (not counting Health).

With the huge bonus from Tatsugiri’s help, Dondozo’s enormous Attack and Defense are even more dangerous, and it even helps to bring the more lackluster sides of the bigger fish (especially its Speed and Special Defense) up to high levels. Although you do lose the ability for Tatsugiri to attack (it gets spit out to fight again if Dondozo goes down), the beefed-up Dondozo itself is more than worth the trade-off, and the pair can completely overwhelm enemy teams who aren’t prepared for them.

(Interestingly enough, there are even statistics to be had in looking at the different colors of Tatsugiri that the champion teams decided to use. Seven preferred to use a yellow one, four opted for orange instead, and three decided on pink. The color of your Tatsugiri can affect the bonuses that Dondozo gets from its’ signature attack Order Up, so make sure you’re including the right one in your team!)

#2- Meowscarada (17/34 Teams)

Meowscarada (Image Credit: The Pokémon Company)

When the first three Starter Pokémon were revealed for the new game, many Pokemon fans immediately gravitated towards the Grass-type Sprigatito for its similarities to a cute kitten. Its final evolution Meowscarada was also an immediate hit upon release — not just for its’ suave appearance, but because it’s an incredibly effective Pokémon that any Trainer would be glad to have as their partner in their adventures through Paldea.

Fast and Furious is the name of the game with this feline: it boasts huge Speed and Attack stats, and a huge assortment of moves that allow it to make the most of them. As a Grass/Dark-Type, it’s great at fighting and countering some of the more popular types of Pokémon in competitive play (Grass is super-effective against Rock, Water, and Ground Types, and Dark destroys Ghost and Psychic Types). It’s especially interesting because its special ability Protean allows it to change its typing, letting it fill another damage-dealer niche if necessary.

The best part of Meowscarada, of course, is its move set. It has access to strong damage moves that can become stronger with its type-change ability, including Sucker Punch (which always hits first) and its signature attack Flower Trick — an immediate, guaranteed Critical Hit (which deals bonus damage and ignores defenses). All of this together makes this cat the most popular of the three Starter Pokemon in competitive play, and by a long shot, too (the Fire-type starter Skeledirge only appears on two teams we counted, and the Water-type Quaquaval didn’t show up at all).

#1- Gholdengo (20/34 Teams)

Gholdengo (Image Credit: The Pokémon Company)

In the story mode of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet, obtaining a Gholdengo can be annoying. Getting one requires finding 999 special coins that can be discovered all over the game and giving them all to another specific Pokémon, but the process is very time-consuming, and even a successful hunt will usually award only 10-50. However, if you’re up to the task, your reward is an incredible one — and the number of trainers who have it on their teams is proof.

Over half of the known championship teams (including the first-place teams in every competition we looked over) include Gholdengo, and it’s not just because it has the honor of being the series’ 1000th Pokémon. The golden giest possesses one of the highest levels of Special Attack in the game (not counting outliers like Legendary or Paradox Pokémon) and boasts the ability to learn all sorts of moves. Its signature attack Make it Rain is a huge help, dealing massive damage to multiple enemies and obliterating the wildly popular Fairy-Type. In addition, it has access to moves to allow it to stay alive longer and even inflict status conditions on its opponents. This means that it can be used as an attacker, a supporter, or even a defensive wall if necessary. If there’s a niche that can be filled on a team, Gholdengo can fill it — and it’s this variety is one of the things that keep it so popular.

This entire array of uses is completed with Gholdengo’s special ability Good as Gold, which prevents it from the negative status effects of any enemy attack that targets it. That implies that it can’t be hit by tournament favorite techniques like Taunt (which makes a Pokemon only able to use attack moves), Encore (which forces a Pokemon to use the same move five times in a row), or other attacks that would lower its stats — ensuring its attacks and defenses remain sturdy. It’s unknown if Gholdengo will maintain its status as the gold standard for tournament Pokemon with the advent of faster and stronger additions for Series 2, but there’s a very strong case for it remaining a treasured ally for some time.

While there are plenty of new and old favorite Pokemon who will be returning to the battlefield in Series 2, we’re also expecting some brand-new entries, especially the past and future ‘Paradox Pokemon’ who will be making their official tournament debuts this February. Those fourteen are worth an article in themselves, but we’ll save that until we see the results from Series 2 and witness just how much of an impact they have.

If you’re an old or new Pokémon fan, what do you think about these selections? Do you like the newest entries into the Pokedex, and for competitive players, do you have a strategy to face them? Let us know in the comments on Facebook what you think of these tournament contenders, and who you’re most excited to see hit the brackets in February!