Best Non Legendary: As Pokémon fans know, balancing is all but an impossibility in this series. It’s not a team shooter with a roster of twenty or so characters, after all (and they can be utter nightmares to balance at the best of times). There are hundreds and hundreds of Pokémon, and no way at all of making them all competitively viable.
Competitive players have a way of gravitating towards the best of the best, leaving the vast majority of Pokémon far behind. After all, to be the very best (like no-one ever was), you’ve got to use the very best. There are some contenders that will always be popular picks whenever they’re allowed in a format.
A lot of the time, these will tend to be Legendary Pokémon, but more often than not, those won’t be eligible in competitive play. So-called ‘Ubers’ like Rayquaza, Groudon and Kyogre are only permitted in certain formats, meaning that players have to opt for the best standard Pokémon instead. Which ones are those? Well, we’re about to find out. Let’s take a look at some of the greatest (non-Legendary) Pokémon in the series, and the wide range of traits that makes each of them so good.
Updated 27th August, 2020: With so many incredible shiny Pokémon out there, it was impossible to resist adding even more.
Where better to kick off this list than with Gengar, the OG Ghost-type (the only one back in the day, in fact) that has been known for generations as a top-notch special sweeper?
This Ghost/Poison Pokémon hits hard and fast, and also boasts a Mega Evolution and a Gigantamax form. It’s a huge fan favorite that also has tricks like Destiny Bond and Perish Song up its sleeve. However, it’s really suffered from the loss of its Levitate Ability and many Pokémon have been added since its heyday that outspeed it, which is why it’s in first (last) place on our list.
Unlike many of the Pokémon on this list, Blissey isn’t particularly powerful in the conventional sense. More in the shrugging off hits like Arnold Shwarzenegger in the Terminator movies sense. This Pokemon looks relatively harmless, but it’s actually the bane of most special attackers’ existence.
With its titanic HP and excellent Special Defense, Blissey can take a heck of a beating from special sweepers, happily healing off the damage with Soft-Boiled. As a Normal-type, it’s only weak against Fighting, a typing that very rarely uses special attacks in the first place. Eviolite Chansey is just as much of a pain to deal with, and if it starts throwing out Minimize… well, you’re going to have a terrible time trying to take this defensive behemoth out. Its physical frailty and lack of damage out in response lets it down, though.
Speaking of hitting hard and fast, here comes the fearsome silent assassin that is Greninja. Whether it’s hitting much harder than it should on paper thanks to its Protean Ability or throwing out crazy combos in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Greninja has definitely proven all of those who were being snarky about Froakie wrong.
Even so, it definitely comes up short without its Hidden Ability and really can’t take a hit in return.
When it was first released in Pokémon Gold and Silver, Scizor really wasn’t all that impressive. However, it’s one of those lucky Pokémon that seems to have been steadily buffed and buffed as the generations have gone by. Changes to the mechanics have meant that it could make best use of its high Attack and strong Bug/Steel STAB moves (now that both of those types actually have moves worst using).
The Technician Ability and addition of Bullet Punch to its arsenal, along with the great defensive typing it already had, have made Sizor a true force to be reckoned with. It is quite slow and predictable, though, making it a little easier to play around than some major threats.
There’s just something about Charizard, isn’t there? The first generation of Pokémon have all become iconic in their own ways, but few have risen to quite the same heights of fan-favoritism as this fantastic Fire-type.
Owing to its debilitating Rock weakness, Stealth Rock has tended to ensure that this Fire/Flying Pokémon stayed in check in the past, but its true potential has been unleashed in more recent generations. Not only were both of Charizard’s Mega Evolutions absurd powerhouses, but it also has a new Gigantamax form that that can be a nightmare to deal with too. The residual damage from G-Max Wildfire is not fun to deal with. Nevertheless, that unfortunate weakness holds it back from the big leagues, as do those modest stats in its vanilla form.
The first pseudo-legendary Pokémon on our list is the mighty Metagross. This Steel/Psychic critter has been a meta mainstay several times since it was added in Generation III. It’s super tanky and can even take the surprise special attacking route. With its Mega Evolution, it could even make up for its mediocre Speed, with the boost from base 70 to base 110.
You don’t want to mess with this angry, spidery supercomputer, that’s for darn sure. All that really prevented it from ranking any higher was its exploitable weaknesses (especially after the Steel nerf) and rather predictable nature.
Of course, you can’t mention super tanky Steel-types without giving Ferrothorn a shoutout. This Grass/Steel Pokémon has been Power Whipping, Leech Seeding and shrugging off hits like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the Terminator movies for years now, and it’s sure as heck not going to change its ways any time soon.
It’s up to its old tricks again in the Pokémon Sword and Shield meta, appreciating the freedom from Hidden Power Fire. Sadly for Ferrothorn, it’s now got to worry about Mystical Fire instead. All kinds of Pokemon that could previously barely scratch its spiky surface learn that now, and they’re poised to burn it to a sad, salty cinder.
You’re probably surprised to see Shedinja here. After all, its maximum HP stat of a single point doesn’t exactly scream Pokémon powerhouse, does it? However, it’s got some fantastic gifts to compensate.
This bug/Ghost Pokémon is perhaps the most unusual in the whole game. Its exclusive Ability, Wonder Guard, renders it completely immune to all attacks that aren’t super effective on it. As such, it can be entirely invincible. Or, it can be effortlessly swatted aside like the pitiful, rotten, undead husk of a sad little bug that it is. It entirely depends on the match-up. Status, hazards and damaging weather will also immediately take it out, and it’s so situational that its only place on this list could be right around the middle.
On the surface, Dracovish doesn’t look like much of a threat. It looks… well, equal parts horrifying and ridiculous, but its stats really aren’t anything special at all.
Why’s it sharing a similar spot to Shedinja in the middle of our list, then? Because it has a huge ace up its sleeve, in the form of Fishious Rend. This already-powerful attack is twice as strong if Dracovish goes first, and can also be boosted by its Strong Jaw Ability. This Water/Dragon Fossil Pokémon is a bit of a one-trick Ponyta, but there’s a reason why it’s been so big in the early days of Sword and Shield.
Tyranitar is a Pokémon that needs no introduction. This powerhouse of a Rock- and Dark-type has been spreading its sandy shenanigans across the battlefields of the Pokéverse for generations. It’s darn strong and has incredible coverage with a surprise special or mixed set. You never quite know what Tyranitar’s going to do, but you can be sure that you won’t like it.
It’s also deadly because it enables frightening threats like Excadrill, which really can claim souls left and right under the effects of the sandstorm. Tyranitar is a little limited by its Speed and various weaknesses, though (x4 to Fighting is a particular drag).
Another OG Pokémon from Generation I, Snorlax has always been a solid (if unspectacular) pick. Its huge HP and Special Defense, coupled with its potent Attack, allows it to dish out much more damage than walls tend to be able to muster, and various interesting strategies like Curse Snorlax and Belly Drum Snorlax have emerged over the years.
With the release of Gigantamax Snorlax in Pokémon Sword and Shield, it’s sure to become a meta mainstay once again. Its Gigantamax attack, G-Mac Replenish, restores berries that it and its allies may have used, opening up some super strong strategies in the doubles format. If you’re a competitive player, watch out for this one! As always, though, its dismal Speed holds it back from reaching the top spot.
Hydreigon is a simple Pokémon with simple tastes. It doesn’t want to get into complex set-up strategies or mess around with status moves. It’s (usually) here to put on its stylish Choice Scarf/Choice Specs and blast its opponents so far into the horizon they won’t make it back to their trainers for 7-12 business days.
This vicious Dark/Dragon Pokémon does sometimes take the physical route with a Dragon Dance set, but that can be tough to pull off. It’s often at its best punching holes with its powerful STAB special moves. A well known threat, held back only by its average Speed and the existence of the Fairy type.
Often, Game Freak give deserving Pokémon a little boost to their base stats between generations. It’s never really all that significant, but it’s nice to throw a Pokémon in need a bone. It’s rare that the devs choose to nerf a Pokémon’s stats in the same way, but that’s exactly what happened to Aegislash in the transition to Sword and Shield.
Its defences are now base 140 in Shield Forme and its offenses are now 140 in Blade Forme. This is a very minor reduction, but it still proves just how good this Steel/Ghost Pokémon is. When played well and supported, Aegislash will always perform well, taking hits with its high defences before switching to Blade Forme and retaliating with all its might. It can be a little predictable, though, which is why it just misses out on the top spot.
In the penultimate spot, we have perhaps the strongest pseudo-Legendary Pokémon in series history: Garchomp. Since it first appeared in Gen IV, Garchomp has a very popular pick and a force to be reckoned with.
It boasts very high Attack, just the right amount of Speed, high HP and excellent STAB moves in Outrage and Earthquake. It has some great coverage moves available to it as well (even able to run a mixed set well), meaning it can cover specific issues your team may have. Heck, it can be tanky with Stealth Rock, Rough Skin and Rocky Helmet. You’re never quite safe from Garchomp, because you’re never quite sure what it’s going to do and which moves it has. A constant threat.
Now, here’s the thing about Ditto: you do not want to underestimate it. Sure, it looks like some kind of hideous sentient jello-based dessert, but it packs a major punch. You thought Ditto was just a convenient Pokémon to use for breeding? Well, it’s definitely that too, but when used strategically, it can absolutely overpower anything.
It copies the opponent’s stats (and all stat boosts) automatically now, thanks to the Imposter Ability. With a Choice Scarf, it can also outspeed just about everything to boot. It’s not a Legendary Pokémon, but at the same time, it can be any Legendary Pokémon. Its HP and PP suffer, but work around those shortcomings and you’ve got potentially the strongest and most versatile Pokémon ever created on your hands. A worthy winner.