Pokémon: Ranking the Important Trainers of Gen I

Hey all, I am here and back on my bull. Today I’m taking what I did in the oft-maligned Fuckable Dragons article and ranking the important Pokémon trainers of Gen 1! Not on fuckability this time, don’t worry. If this turns out fun, I might do the other generations too. AUTHOR’S NOTE: I did.

Here’s a quick list of all the lists in this project!

Without further ado, lemme tell you how I ranked these wonderful bits of data!

Just like the dragons, I broke down each Pokémon trainer into three aspects: how difficult they are to beat at their part of the game, how cool I think they are, and how cool I think their team is. I am also giving extra points or taking away points depending on some other things: their performance in other games of the same generation, any story relevance, particular disappointments or personal preferences. Each ranking is out of 5, with let’s say 5 extra points up for grabs as a maximum, giving every trainer a maximum score of 20.

How do I rate how cool something is? I just do. Gut feeling. Gone with the wind and the windows, baby. Fly with me and let loose.

Let’s hop in.

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#13 – Bruno

First up we have Bruno. Poor Bruno. Not all that hampered by personal cool with him being a tough topless dude and me being a basic gay, but his team sorely lets him down. You only need two attacking types to totally decimate his team, and you are extremely likely to have one of them just to get to the Elite 4, thanks to Surf. Just pack a Flying-type or the Gen 1 bruiser Psychic-type and you have a free fight, basically.

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Bruno’s Pokémon Stadium is barely any different, requiring the exact same type coverage in Round 1 and not much more in Round 2. Props to him for adding a Clefable to his team but that little does not go a long way. Thanks to his poor Stadium showing, where most trainers get a some much-needed variety, Bruno has a point deducted and falls short with 5/20.

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#12 – Koga

Koga had so much potential, being a super-cool actual ninja in a generation with so many Poison-types it’s almost cloying. Alas, he’s held up by an uninspired pure mono-type team that relies on annoying accuracy-changing moves and a surprise Selfdestruct to win in Red and Blue. While this is thematically fantastic, I find it very boring to fight against and requires little skill other than levelling up a lot or relying on luck. Yellow is an even worse offender where Koga is sporting just three Venonats and a Venomoth. Sure, they’re buffed to huge levels to compensate and they all have Psychic, but it’s just so, so boring.

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Koga also loses two points for very different reasons. One, I hate his gym puzzle and have it memorised out of pure frustration. Two, his Stadium team includes a Parasect of all things, which is possibly the worst coverage addition you can make. Sure, it has Spore, but it’s also a Parasect in a game where you’re fighting 3 vs. 3. Koga puffs out at 8.5/20.

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#11 – Misty

Possibly a controversial one but Misty ends up third on this list. When you come right down to it, a teenager who throws to stars at you isn’t all that cool. She can be damn difficult though! If you don’t have a solution to Starmie’s high-powered Bubblebeams from its massive Special stat, you may take a few tries to win here, especially if you started with Charmander. She gets a middling cool factor for her unique take on a Gym and being a teenage gym leader, but her lack of interesting team choices lets her down – two Pokémon from the same family? Please.

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She definitely gets a bonus point for her anime-inspired Stadium team however, sporting classics from the anime such as Horsea, Starmie, Psyduck and Seel. Unfortunately, this largely doesn’t carry over to her Round 2 team where she gains, for some reason, a Dugtrio. Misty swims into place with 9/20.

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#10 – Lieutenant Surge

Not far ahead of Misty both in the gym order and in this list, Lt. Surge falters a little around here thanks to very variable difficulty and bad gym placement. His team isn’t exactly varied but he gets a bonus point for the actually-fun choice of using his anime team in Yellow – a single powerful Raichu. His Red and Blue team suffer heavily from being pushovers though. Vermillion City is right next to Diglett’s Cave and his ace cannot even touch a Diglett as it only has Electric-type attack moves. Apart from that, Voltorb is just a road-bump and any Pikachu is laughable. A Diglett with Dig tears through this team like sandpaper.

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I will say though, that it’s nice to see his team as the definite difficulty bump in Stadium – his Pikachu and Raichu have Surf to counter any Ground-type shenanigans and his Round 2 team is full of Ice, Grass and the ever-potent Explosion Electrode. Surge shocks us with a painfully average 10/20.

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#9 – Brock

Brock’s difficulty is quite a perfect introduction to the world of Pokémon, where you need to learn what types are and what types do, and that’s why Brock made it here over three of his superiors and an actual Elite 4 member. There are very few solutions to his wall-like team that don’t involve Sand-Attack, brute force levelling or restarting with Bulbasaur or Squirtle instead. Either you chose a better starter, trained up a Butterfree, or you’re in for a bit of a struggle. Yellow changed up the mood a little by allowing the Nidoran twins to learn Double-Kick early and adding Mankey and Pidgeotto to the early route lists, but he’s still a challenge for a Pokémon newbie even then.

Despite that he’s still a trainer who tries to actually use Bide, and we can’t reward him too much for that.

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Brock’s Stadium teams are similarly impressive to me and earn him 2 bonus points. One for great outings for Vulpix/Ninetales and Golbat, staples of his anime roster, and another one for featuring some fossil Pokémon, a glimpse of his team in generations to come. Brock shakes it up with 10.5/20.

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#8 – Erika

I’m very fond of Erika, despite recent happenings in my ongoing Pokémon Nuzlocke LP where she proved to be something of a force to be reckoned with. I love her kimono, and Grass-types are some of my favourites. Her team is consistently quite cool, and her being the first gym leader to only feature fully-evolved Pokémon is an intimidation that my young self took to heart. Unfortunately, she loses some of this steam in Yellow where her Vileplume and Victreebel have yet to evolve.

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Stadium Erika is what I’d call a ‘decent effort’, with a Dewgong slotted in with Surf and Blizzard to ward off the Fire and Flying-types, and a similar Ice Beam/Thunderbolt toting Clefable there for good measure, but what Erika gets a bonus point for is her Wrap/Toxic Victreebell, which is a terrifying opponent to face. Inspired. She blooms up with 11/20.

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#7 – Lorelei

The personification of cool, I’ve always loved Lorelei. Ice-types are fantastic and always look the best, and Dewgong has been a favourite of mine for as long as I can remember. She’s a very fitting opener to the Elite 4, favouring the strategically useful bulky Water-types, liberal use of the confuse status, and a genuinely threatening Lapras. Of course she’s battered by Electric-types, but we all have our weaknesses. And clock the bonus point for having a gosh-darn Articuno in her Stadium roster too!

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Where Lorelei ultimately fails however, is in her movepools, costing her a little. Over the ten Pokémon appearing over Red/Blue and Yellow, only one of them has the Ice Beam attack, which is a move you can just purchase in Celadon! No excuses, Lorelei. Add to that weird AI that can make her use a Super Potion on her Dewgong even at full health and a Jynx who still knows DoubleSlap, and you have to question her decisions. Lorelei teaches us how to be a good type-trainer with 12/20.

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#6 – Blaine

The opposite of cool is hot, and yet Blaine is up here in the big leagues. Blaine scores highly on how cool his teams are, thanks to strong showings from both Rapidash and Arcanine, and a nifty Ninetales in Yellow. I’m just quite a fan. It’s also neat of Blaine himself to be an older gentleman with scientific experience being a gym leader. Where he’s let down is in his movepool selections and especially the movepools in Red/Blue, which is a running theme in all of Generation 1 Pokémon but really shouldn’t be for the seventh gym leader of the region. His ace, Arcanine, has Roar for goodness sake. And there are so many wasted slots amongst all his Pokémon for moves like Tail Whip, Growl and Leer.

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His Yellow team however, are quite a bite better. Everyone is fully evolved, they all have a strong Fire-type move (Fire Spin was decent back then!) and Confuse Ray and Take Down round it all out nicely for a really unbalanced and easy game. Bonus point. Another point for his Stadium team utilising awesome picks such as Charizard, Kangaskhan and Chansey and Blaine is burning up the rest of the list at a hot 13/20.

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#5 – Sabrina

Everyone’s favourite creepy anime child, Sabrina’s appearance in the game is that of a more confident and headstrong lady with cool psychic powers. With Gen 1 being a veritable playground for Psychic-types Sabrina is easily one of the common stumbling blocks for new players who don’t know how to deal with her – especially poor Venusaur users. Having a whip is nice, too. That definitely bumped up her personal appeal level.

Team-wise, Alakazam is always going to be a considerable threat, and moreso in Yellow where it actually has Psychic. Other than that, Kadabra is still a force to be reckoned with, her use of Mr. Mime is quite unique in that it shows some developer creativity with enemy builds, and Venomoth is… there. Something that holds Sabrina from getting a perfect score though is the fact that she has an Abra as one of her only three picks in Yellow. It has Teleport, a move that does nothing, and Flash, which is a move easily negated by switching out. Poor show.

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Overall, Sabrina is usually a considerable threat and the braindead execution of her strategy in her Stadium roster leaves me feeling a little bored, so she gets no bonus points. I wonder if she foresaw her very decent 13.5/20 score?

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#4 – Lance

My personal Elite 4 begins with Lance, the master of all dragons. He’s quite a fitting climax in the game, with Dragon being by far the rarest type in the game. And damn he’s extravagant in that cape and a hairdo that must require at least a whole tub of gel per day. His team is nice and varied too, probably out of necessity – can’t exactly shove a Dratini in there just to have three different Dragon-types. Gyarados and Aerodactyl round out the team nicely, and provide some challenge in dealing with what could have been five uses of Ice Beam for a free win.

And for the first time in this list, we see genuinely competent movesets! Liberal use of Hyper Beam can work through an unprepared challenger in moments thanks to Gen 1’s quirk where Hyper Beam doesn’t require a round of rest if it KO’s an opponent, and Lance’s Yellow team shows off some creativity with his Dragonair having either Thunderbolt and Thunder Wave or Ice Beam and BubbleBeam for extra coverage. It’s a great capstone.

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Add in a bonus point for proving that Charizard IS a dragon with his Pokémon Stadium team, and Lance is brought up to a legendary 14/20.

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#3 – Giovanni

That’s right, we’re down to our final Gym Leader. Giovanni clocks in at a great second-alternate not because of his difficulty (because his team is piss-easy to deal with) but because of his story relevance, cool-factor, and some Stadium kudos. Having the final gym leader be the boss of the criminal organisation you’ve been dismantling piece by piece for the last few hours is a very satisfying conclusion to the admittedly lacklustre storyline of RBY, and its conclusion nicely separates the narrative elements from the gauntlet you face with the Elite 4 which is really just for kicks and bragging rights as a trainer.

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Giovanni touts an unthreatening team that can be mostly taken out with a couple of Surfs. There is some attempt at genuine creativity though. He gets a point for having both Nidoqueen and Nidoking, which I always liked, and he gets some credit for leading his Yellow team with a Dugtrio that knows Fissure. Fissure is a 1HKO move which only works in Gen 1 if you are faster than your opponent, and Dugtrio is fast, so that’s a genuine threat. He gets a full bonus point for having a Persian too, which is a great nod to the anime.

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Not only that, but Giovanni racks up bonus points for being the first proper story-relevant gym leader and also for having what looks like a fantastic pair of teams in Stadium, including and King/Queen dynamic pair and a frikkin’ Moltres! Have you been keeping track? That’s four entire bonus points, the most of any trainer on this list. What could have bumped Giovanni even further up the rankings? I would have loved to have seen Kangaskhan make it to his Gym team, despite not being Ground-type. All said and done, this crime boss steals third with 15.5/20.

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#2 – Blue

Yes, depending on what game you play he might be known as Red or Gary, but this dude is canonically Blue so that’s what I’m going with. Blue is another guy who really feels good to beat. He easily has the most varied team of anyone you’ll face in the game, has the highest levels, and you’ve known him since the very first few minutes of the game to boot! The fact that his teams is altered to counter your choice in starter is inspired, and he gets a full bonus point for the way his Eeveelution is decided in Pokémon Yellow! Beating up his Eeveelution with my own superpowered Pikachu is a childhood highlight of mine.

Not only is his team varied, but it is strong. He likes to pick great attackers such as Gyarados, Magneton, Arcanine, Alakazam and Rhydon. Seeing this team grow throughout the game is great too. It’s so fitting that in later entries his ace is ostensibly his trusty Pidgeot, which is something I adore. If you’re running low on healing or you simply aren’t prepared, you will be in for a bad time. Beating him is not only the final challenge of the game but it feels great because he’s just a bit of a knob to you – an arrogant friend who you like to knock down a peg or two.

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Add bonus points for his great relevance to your own personal narrative and his absolute batshit insanely great Stadium roster which includes great inclusions such as Pinsir and a TM-loaded Clefable and you have a very fantastic contender for the top spot at a more than respectable 16.5/20.

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#1 – Agatha

It was Agatha all along! Agatha is, in my mind, the most challenging member of the Elite 4 and it’s because she has strong Pokémon, varied typing and a strong luck-based strategy to boot. Sporting two Gengar, a Confuse Ray/Hypnosis Haunter and an Arbok with Glare, you need to be on your toes around Agatha or she can really lock up your entire team quickly. Oh, you tried to set up during her first Pokémon? Golbat can also come in and Haze your stat boosts away. She’s clever, and she has great stats to back up her place in the Elite 4.

And let’s not discount the fact that she’s a cool older lady who has a history with Professor Oak! She’s confident, almost arrogant, and it comes from a place of experience. Like Lance she gets a bonus point for having varying types outside her specialty that may give you pause, and she gets another for having the most badass arena theming in the game. Battling surrounded by grave stones? That speaks to me. Finally, she gets a final point for having a Pokémon Stadium Round 2 team that can purely wreck your shit with sweepers like Alakazam and Gyarados, a very bulky Venusaur, a Gengar that can explode, the ever-hated Glare Arbox, and a surprisingly well-thought-out Jynx set.

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Agatha reigns as the queen of generation 1 with a whopping 17.5/20. And it is absolutely a deserved place. She is a run-ender that requires forethought, luck and

And with that, we’re done. Look out for future instalments, where I might just be tackling all 20+ important trainers we can fight in Generation 2!


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