And here we are! The final list of this little project of mine! It has taken quite a while but we’re at the finish line now, with just a very short list of 23 trainers to get through thanks to Sword and Shield having quite a small scope and the Diamond and Pearl remakes not being out yet. There really isn’t much to say anymore, is there?
Here are links to the other ranked lists:
- Ranking the Gen I trainers
- Ranking the Gen II trainers
- Ranking the Gen III trainers
- Ranking the Gen IV trainers
- Ranking the Gen V trainers
- Ranking the Gen VI trainers
- Ranking the Gen VII trainers
In this list expect the following: plant-themed names, very easy battles, sportswear.
#23 – Sordward
Okay, so. An inauspicious start. Sordward and his brother Shielbert were… bad choices. They have bad designs, over the top personalities that don’t really gel with the rest of the game, are never a challenge to beat in battle and while they are obviously important to the game’s post-game conflict, they almost feel like a practical joke after the serious climax that the game manages to pull off. Perhaps that was the idea, but I seriously did not like it and I do not like them. It’s like the game really couldn’t decide whether to make the brothers comic relief or a serious threat, so they decided to go for ‘neither’. Sordward gets a very low 7.5/30.
#22 – Shielbert
As above, except he gets an 8/30 because his hair isn’t as absolutely awful as Sordward’s. It’s still heinous, but less unrealistic. Boo, shitty Pokémon Jedward knockoffs. Boo.
#21 – Bea
I will state right off the bat that Bea (and to a slightly lesser extent, Gordie) get a bit of a raw deal in my person rankings thanks to them being exclusive to Sword, where I paid the most attention to my Shield save. By the time I met them in Sword, I simply did not pay them the same amount of attention that I attributed to their alternatives Allister and Melony.
Saying that, Bea ends up being quite a generic trainer at the best of time. She is another Fighting-type specialist who talks a big game about personal strength like many other Fighting-type specialists before her without the development or quirks that make characters like Chuck and Maylene more memorable. In battles though she has a nice roster, using some cool picks like Sirfetch’d and Grapploct. Before the Championship tournaments Bea’s move choices are a little questionable (Bind on a level 52 Grapploct? Non-STAB Normal-type moves?) and even during the tournament she doesn’t get very good coverage moves, so she’s not a tough opponent to overcome with a little bit of foresight. Still leagues ahead of those dolts though, getting 12.5/30.
#18 – Kabu
Kabu is a pretty fun character who rounds out the early game trio of Gym Leaders of Grass, Water and Fire. He’s an older trainer whose design somewhat reminds me of Levi Ackerman from Attack on Titan so that’s pretty cool in my books. As a character he has little personality development outside of training and battling but something that’s nice about SwSh’s writing is they manage to put effort into even that (ignore the totally generic presentation that Bea gets…).
As a Gym Leader Kabu uses the very classic Arcanine/Ninetales one-two punch followed by his ace, Centiskorch. The first two are pushovers but the Centiskorch might possibly be one of the first challenges a competent player faces if they let it capitalise on its Dynamaxing and its Coil move. Aside from his Gym Challenge, Kabu has a few tricks up his sleeve. Pairing a Drought Torkoal (who also knows Stealth Rock) with a Solar Beam Ninetales can be nasty if the strategy works, and the rest of his team aren’t too shabby in their movesets – though a Sunny Day user to keep the sun up would be great for him. Add to that his neat participation in a post-game story Max Raid Battle and Kabu doesn’t do too badly on 16/30 – the points are racking up quickly in this gen.
#18 – Honey
Honey is a character exclusive to the Isle of Armor DLC who I don’t find overly… compelling. She is married to Mustard (a trainer who ranks much higher on the list) and she takes care of the Master Dojo, upgrading it in exchange for Watts. While she gets some backstory exposition there’s not much to say about her that isn’t about her battle – and you’d be understood if you said you didn’t even know you could fight her as you need to unlock this battle with a huge 1,000,000 Watts.
What is quite neat about her fight is that she uses the fully evolved form of whichever Kanto starter you do not choose to receive from her after beating Mustard’s trial, and these Pokémon have great movesets, especially the Gigantamax Venusaur who runs a potent Specially Defensive set. Other than that, she uses very powerful picks who can ruin your day – a Light Screen Blissey, nasty coverage Togekiss and Galarian Darmanitan, a set up Gallade and Toxic/Protect Salazzle. It’s a mixed bunch of Pokémon but they all have great stats and can ruin the day of the unsuspecting trainer who underestimates Honey. She gets a 16/30.
#18 – Klara
The SwSh DLCs saw fit to add a brand new rival to the Isle of Armor and for Sword players that is Klara. I’ll be square with ya, I don’t like Klara. I also don’t like Avery, as you’ll soon read. Klara has a pretty off-putting personality that seems based on tired anime tropes of ‘cute girl is actually not very nice and is a bit conniving and lazy’ and it’s just… eye-roll time. I also really hate her design – her colour scheme is awful, she has a single tight that looks like it’s Monster Energy Drink themed and the hair + hairpiece just look bad. Blergh.
Saying that though, Klara has a neat team of Pokémon that ends up including Galarian Weezing and Galarian Slowbro, the latter of which can be quite the troublemaker consistently thanks to a versatile typing and the combination of Quick Draw (Slowbro’s in-built Quick Claw) and Shell Side Arm (a Poison-inflicting move that targets whichever defence is the target’s lowest – nasty). Adding Galarian Slowking to her team is also a nice thematic move, and she gets kudos for that. In the end, she’s another 16/30.
#16 – Avery
Barely inching ahead of his Sword counterpart, Avery is the Psychic-specialist rival of Shield’s Isle of Armor story. Just like Klara, Avery is an ex-Gym Leader who isn’t a Gym Leader any more because he’s just a bad person, really. He’s a pompous, vindictive arse with possibly the worst design in all Pokémon history. Please, if you know of a worse design comment below – seriously. The high ruffled socks, garish shorts, black ruffled ascot and out of place top hat? The floating Poké Balls? Avery – no. The normal trainers of the region look normal or cool, why are the DLC rivals so so bad? Aren’t we supposed to enjoy them as characters?
Where Avery is a little ahead of Klara is in battle. I enjoy his roster a little more than hers: while he also shares the two Galarian Slowbro evolutions, his decision to use Galarian Rapidash and a Swoobat please me greatly as they are both fun Pokémon. Like Klara, his team is nothing to write home about when looking at his strategy but hey, they both get a bit of limelight and can end up fighting with you in Max Raid Battles, and that’s more than we can say for the majority of trainers on this list. He inches ahead of Klara with 16.5/30.
#16 – Marnie
I have to say I did rather enjoy Marnie in the games, but looking back on it and examining her rosters and such, she’s just not that impressive a character. She sort of pales in comparison to the other rivals and while it’s cool that she’s related to a Gym Leader, he makes her look bad by being so fantastic in comparison. She does have her own fanboys though, and they are an endearing pastiche of English hooliganism so that’s uh… a point in her favour?
I do like her outfit though, it reminds me of my emo days. And she gets to be a Gym Leader eventually, and we all know how much I love a promotion.
Like her older brother Marnie is a Dark-type specialist, though she seems to tend towards the more ‘cute’ side of the type – at least until the important battles where she busts out a Grimmsnarl.
Overall, she’s largely not a threat. At one point she uses a Liepard with Nasty Plot who has no special attacking moves nor Baton Pass, and coverage moves seem to be a mysterious, otherworldly concept to her until her Championship tournament team where her entire team gains precisely… five non-STAB moves over five movesets. And one of those is Quick Attack. She has the potential to use genuinely strong strategies but her choices just aren’t robust enough to make that dream come true. In the end, she shares a tie with the Psychic clown at 16.5/30.
#15 – Gordie
Oh look, it’s a Rock-type specialist who manages to use interesting Pokémon – that’s something of a rarity these days. Using two cool new additions to the Pokédex Stonjourner and Coalossal alongside two infrequently chosen Pokémon, Shuckle and Barbaracle, Gordie is nothing if not a surprisingly interesting trainer to battle for a badge. He even uses some high-level strategies including Power Split on his Shuckle and Wonder Room on Stonjourner which can throw the player for a loop. In his higher-level teams his depth of strategy is reinforced, adding a Tyranitar to the team for Sand Stream and making sure Stealth Rock gets set up. It’s impressive, honestly.
As a character though Gordie is a little bit one-note. He’s shown to be a bit sulky when he loses and makes the predictable rocky puns during battle, but he does get to show a bit of dramatic flair during his Gym mission, taunting and/or encouraging you. Not only that, it’s nice to see someone with Gordie’s body shape in Pokémon. Along with his mother Melony and Chairman Rose we’re seeing a shift away from all of the standardised body types of games past, which rarely dared to experiment with larger [important] characters without making them wrestlers or something. 17/30.
#13 – Allister
Resident creepy kid, Allister is a weird one. He breaks a long-standing tradition of Ghost-type trainers being largely very personable and friendly, in stark contrast to the predictable trappings of the morbid typing. Instead, Allister is a shy and withdrawn child who has such a severe case of social anxiety that he cannot bear to be seen without his mask. I mean, I can relate. But it’s also a bit on the nose? That said, it’s a cool design and I do like the idea of a celebrity who is never seen without his mask.
As a trainer Allister has some cool picks, like most of the trainers on this list. Galarian Corsola is a really gorgeous new addition to Galar and Galarian Yamask (later Galarian Cofagrigus) is a really well-designed Pokémon that Allister smartly builds as a disrupter, teaching it Disable and later, Trick Room. Apart from that his team is rounded out by the typical ghosts, including a Gigantamax-capable Gengar as his ace. It looks hella impressive in battle, but it’s still just a Gengar once those three turns are up. He briefly has a Polteageist during the Champion Cup Finals but unfortunately it doesn’t make its way onto the main team. Taking all of this into account, Allister’s great roster and team building sets him at a nice 18.5/30.
#13 – Opal
I really do like Opal. If you’ve read past posts you’ll know that I have a soft spot for the older generation of Pokémon trainers and Opal is no exception. But there are a lot of reasons to really like this cool lady – firstly her ace is probably my second favourite Pokémon from the entire Gen VIII Pokédex – Alcremie. And if you were wondering, my favourite is Milcery. And she has a pretty diverse battle team too, using a Togekiss and Mawile in addition to the new Galarian Weezing. As a result, Opal gets to show off the Fairy-type quite well for a trainer who ends up not being one of the many top-tier opponents you can face at the Championship Tournaments thanks to her stepping down as a Gym Leader.
Mid-game demotion instead of promotion? Still cool development, I guess.
And she bloody loves
pink purple (EDIT: thanks Tom!), and tormenting her challenges with pop quizzes that often feel unfair. There is nothing I don’t admire about Opal. If only she was a bit more challenging as a trainer. As it stands she has 18.5/30, and with that we’re halfway done with this list!
#10 – Nessa
Starting us off in a trio of Gym Leaders who all placed tenth, Nessa is a really great character. She’s a popular model and celebrity Gym Leader yet seems really down to earth, yet shows some proper passion for battling in her mid-battle barks. She makes a good, strong impression and also gets a little bit of limelight when the post-game arc takes the player back to Hulbury, which boosts her up in my eyes. Plus… I do sort of really like Hulbury as a town. It reminds me of home. Except less polluted and deprived.
Nessa is neat in that during her first Gym Battle her ace is a Drednaw who Dynamaxes normally, but in subsequent fights she has a fully-fledged Gigantamaxing Drednaw, which is a nice way of showing her taking things seriously and plays into the confirmed idea that Gym Leader adjust their teams heavily depending on the skills/badge collection of their opponent. Or she just fed it some of Honey’s magical soup or whatever.
Other than her Drednaw, Nessa has a robust team-building strategy that balances offensive Pokémon with team support. Outside of her dreadfully generic first impression, she gets to lead battles with a very threatening Swords Dance Golisopod backed up by a coverage-oriented Barraskewda. Supporting the team are a bulky Pelipper who can use Tailwind, and a Seaking who can set up Aqua Ring before trying to put dents in you ready for Drednaw. She can be an annoying opponent if you let her set up, and for that she gets bumped up to the top 10 at a fair 19/30.
#10 – Milo
Milo is the first of two ‘Oh no he’s hot’ moments on this list, for me. Something about a barrel-chested, pink-haired caring boy who likes plants speaks to my tastes in a fierce way. And that’s pretty much all that can be said for Milo’s display of personality – it’s a simple one but it’s effective in making him seem like a developed person. Milo is pleasant, friendly and eager to go head-to-head with you in a fun battle. All seems great to me.
Despite a very easy to overcome first battle, Milo gets to show off a cooler roster in his later fights. What is really cool about him is that his rosters change depending on which game you are playing – in Sword he leads with a Shiftry and uses a Flapple as his ace, and in Shield the lead is a Ludicolo and his ace is predictably, an Appletun. I quite like this little blink-and-you’ll-miss-it difference. The rest of his team is stacked with feminine, pretty Pokémon too – I do love a man who isn’t afraid to get in touch with his softer side. Milo gets a 19/30 – like Opal he does suffer from being a really easy battle in a really easy game.
#10 – Melony
I super adore Melony’s design. She manages to look like an Ice-type trainer without resorting to Pokémon’s usual icy-blue colour scheme that I find so unappealing to the eye and looks so good doing it. I really like how her outfit is definitely designed for her comfort and style while also having more subdued and subtle nods to the sporty aesthetic that the whole Gym Challenge seems to have to adhere to. Also, glorious hat.
As a character, Melony has this interesting personality where she’s not exactly cold but she reminds me of a P.E. teacher who has something of a shortness with kids. She takes everything seriously and this is even referenced in her backstory with her son Gordie – their relationship is strained and it is implied that this might have something to do with Melony’s strict expectations for him.
As a fighter, Melony has a gorgeous team. Ice-type Pokémon are so elegant and fun. And somewhat threatening if you don’t just bulldoze them with Fire- and Fighting-type attacks. Frosmoth is a stunning Pokémon and she uses it to support the rest of her team with Hail and Tailwind – packing Blizzard in the later fights too of course. Mr. Rime and Darmanitan make up the offensive core of her team, and Eiscue is there to look weird and keep the Hail going. Her ace is the delightful Gigantamax Lapras who can be a bulky nightmare with Life Dew and powerful Special moves. Ice is quite an easy type to overcome, but Melony does her best, getting another 19/30.
#8 – Rose
Chairman Rose is quite firmly the second ‘Oh no he’s hot’ of this list. I find Rose a very interesting character because while he fills the role of Actual Evil Boss when Team Yell turns out to be a whole lot of bark with no bite, Rose is ostensibly just… not evil. In fact, all the evidence leads me to believe that while he was misguided and and perhaps blinded by his idealism, he’s a very good guy. He sponsors Bede’s League Challenge and even gave him his first Pokémon, he is eternally affable, and uh… very obviously cares about the environment and the energy crisis. I like that he’s a villain with a bit of a twist about him, and even while the suspicions mount up against him it’s a genuine surprise that the true evil of the game is ‘environmental idealism’ instead of ‘capitalism’.
In battle, Rose is a Steel-type specialist through and through just like his brother. There’s not much of a theme tying his team picks together beyond that, but it’s a solid team anyway. He likes set-up sets, using a Swords Dance Escavalier, Curse Ferrothorn and Shift Gear Klinklang, which in theory should be good at softening you up for his beastly Copperajah to storm the show. Unfortunately, it’s a Gen VIII game and he’s easy to beat.
Overall, Rose is a well-developed character who suffers from a spell of abject stupidity and while he definitely deserves his eventual fate of being incarcerated, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the bloke. He gets a 19.5/30.
#8 – Mustard
Possibly the coolest of the cool old dudes, Mustard takes the cake in the ways he outshines his peers. An ex-champion who held the title for 18 years, this guy is the Dojo Master of the Isle of Armor who plays a huge role in the island’s eponymous DLC. It is through Mustard that you take and complete the quests to acquire Kubfu, one of the newest legendary Pokémon and a right cutie at that.
In battle Mustard fights like a Fighting-type specialist who learned to diversify. In his high-level battles he uses a Mienshao and a Kommo-o (both amazing, btw) but also a Luxray, Corviknight and Lycanroc – in addition to the Urshifu form that the player did not evolve their Kubfu into. His team is genuinely a very rough one to beat thanks to intelligent move selections – Fake Out/U-turn Mienshao is a fantastic scout, his Lycanroc can ruin plans with Accelerock and Stealth Rock, and his Urshifu uses only the best moves it can learn. Mustard is a force to be reckoned with and thus gets a hefty 19.5/30.
#7 – Hop
Well-written character or just a re-tread of Hau? Yes! Hop is another in a long line of rivals who are just joyful and positive lads who live close to the player who begin their journey at the same time as you. It’s become a very trope-y territory that has left a significant portion of the fanbase feeling quite bored and eager for a shakeup. That said, Hop does get to distinguish himself from his peers. For one, his character arc where he feels disillusioned by his many losses is a lot more pronounced, realistic and satisfying than previous attempts to tap into this type of arc that we’ve seen with Barry, Hugh and Hau. It comes to a clear, positive conclusion and Hop gets to show his development off during the rest of the game.
Along with a certain Gym Leader, Hop gets a rather large spotlight set upon him during the post-game where he is heavily involved in the events of the quest to thwart the two dumb-haired shits who currently fester at the bottom of this list. Not only does he finally get to play the hero in a larger capacity but he catches a box legend. This is something we haven’t seen since the days of Ghetsis, and it’s a lot more permanent than that whole ordeal too. Hop gets some serious cool points for it.
As a rival, Hop doesn’t really pose much of a threat. He’s one of those very disappointing rivals who chooses the starter whose type is weak to your starter’s type for one, and he doesn’t really get to add any exciting Pokémon to his team until the battle levels start getting into the mid-30s where he gets nice additions like Trevenant and Snorlax. For the most part he seems to embrace the level-up lists and not make any exciting strategic decisions regarding his team’s movesets, but once the player starts battling him at higher levels his Pokémon are swinging around hard-hitting coverage moves and experimenting with some defensive or disruptive strategies.
What’s quite neat about Hop is that he changes his party around quite a lot. He has a few Pokémon only seen for one battle, and the Rookidee he uses in the very early battles doesn’t appear for a while before coming back as a fully-fledged Corviknight – it feels like he’s experimenting with his team as he travels like a player would, and comes back to his favourites. I think there was a lot of thought that went into making Hop a fully-rounded character and it pays dividends – while he can easily be dismissed as yet another generic rival towards the beginning, he has a fun personality and compelling character arc that make him a highlight of the SwSh games. He gets a great 21/30.
#6 – Oleana
It would almost be surprising to find someone who is basically an ‘Admin’ so high up on a list given how poorly they have done on past lists, but jeez Oleana is something else. While officially she is Rose’s vice-president and secretary she fits the role of Evil Team Admin in the same was as Rose fits the role of Evil Team Boss: in gameplay. And thanks to the condensed cast and narraive that the SwSh games have Oleana is not only allowed to present a personality, she gets a fully thought-out roster too.
While she sticks to the background quite a lot – only butting in to cutscenes to get Rose to concentrate and back onto his schedule – she does prove herself loyal to her boss and exhibits a sharp tongue to boot. She effortlessly switches between a professional, public-facing personality and a more caustic, strict one with which she has no trouble ordering about the young protagonists of the game. It comes as no surprise that she’s more than willing to threaten a child with her formidable roster of Pokémon to prevent her beloved boss being disturbed.
Oleana has something of a gimmick team, and it struck me with out-loud laughter when I fought her for the first time. Her first four Pokémon are stereotypically girly and beautiful – Froslass, Tsareena, Salazzle and Milotic. It’s very much like Lusamine’s team or Generation III’s Wally’s. They mirror Oleana’s outer beauty – the facade she puts up. And then comes her ace… Gigantamax Garbodor is a fantastic add to her team not only because it’s a tough bastard to beat up quickly but because it’s such a stark contrast to the rest of her team that you can’t help but leap the obvious conclusion that it represents Oleana’s darker, nastier insides.
Her battle isn’t much to write home about – she is however one of the few trainers in the region who specialises in inflicting status effects, having Will-O-Wisp Froslass, Attract Tsareena, Poison Gas Salazzle and Toxic Spikes Garbodor ready to make your day a living hell. I seriously enjoy the effort that went into making Oleana a fun character and that’s why she surpasses her boss so well with 21.5/30.
#5 – Peony
Also surpassing Rose as a character he is so closely affiliated with is Peony, his brother. He’s a character from the Crown Tundra DLC and is an ex-Gym Leader and ex-Champion, who only resigned to avoid being in his brother’s shadow once he assumed the role of League Chairman. In Crown Tundra Peony gets quite a bit of development, becoming close to the player and getting to strut his stuff as a family man who gets things just a bit wrong when trying to involve his daughter in his interests – it’s all a bit endearing and he’s a fun character to be around.
In combat, Peony is another Steel-type trainer just like his brother. He even uses a Copperajah too, but his ace is ostensibly his Aggron as that is who he uses when he is allied to you in Max Raid Battles. He forgoes any subtlety that Rose may have had and has a team chock full of attacking moves – only his Bronzong can use a non-damaging move and it’s the fantastic Calm Mind. Instead, Peony has decked out his roster with coverage moves out the wazoo in the hopes of devastating his opponents with super-effective moves. It’s a decent way to go, I guess. He was worried about being overshadowed by his brother but in this little list he towers over him with 22/30.
#4 – Raihan
The Dragon-type trainers always do so well, don’t they? I think it would be interesting to fight a Dragon-type trainer as one of the first gyms for once, instead of always eighth or in the Elite 4. Eh, I digress. Raihan is great – he’s a cocksure influencer with the talent to back it up. He displays a ton of personality through his over the top animations, addiction to his Rotom Phone and really awesome draconic jacket complete with fabric teeth. I really like how they handled Raihan, especially since he seems a little (and this is quite the popular opinion, it seems) queer-coded. Which is an instant way into my heart as a character.
Raihan even gets to be awesome in general as a Gym Leader. Not only does he insist on the Double Battle format, but he uses a very specific weather strategy! With Gigalith as his sandstorm starter he can gain momentum quite quickly with chip damage, Stealth Rock and a stall Sandaconda. His later battles are a little less organised though, where he uses two sunlight setters, a Rain Dance Goodra and a Sandstorm Flygon – it’s quite a mess and even though these battles are in Singles Raihan would benefit greatly from sticking to one type of weather. Despite this, the fact that he has such a creative strategy (for an in-game trainer at least) is a huge boon for him.
Raihan is a unique trainer to fight, a cool-looking character and a nice sign that Game Freak is rolling with the times and incorporating more modern themes like the social aspect of the internet into their games. He’s great. 22.5/30.
#3 – Bede
For the longest time in my first playthrough of Shield I thought Bede was a woman. The reveal that he is indeed a dude came as a great shock as I was so convinced that he was actually a short old lady with an attitude problem. Yeah, I don’t know how I thought that either.
Bede is great. He plays the part of brash rival who is almost antagonistic to you – hearkening back to the days of Silver. His character arc is resolved a lot quicker though, climaxing with him getting ‘betrayed’ by his icon, Chairman Rose, the man who sponsored his Gym Challenge and introduced him to the world of Pokémon training while he was still a young orphan. Rose is forced to disqualify Bede from the challenge thanks to some damage Bede inflicted on a historic landmark in his efforts to please Rose, and there isn’t anything much more heart-breaking than his life up to then, is there?
Bede then goes through the transition from Rival to Gym Leader as he’s recruited by the wonderful Opal to take over her gym, and Bede goes from a Psychic-type specialist to a Fairy-type trainer, gaining a whole new lease of life. He’s a little more tolerant of the people around him but still retains an edge that keeps him an interesting character.
His transition from one type to another is pretty smooth, what with Bede having two Pokémon that are both Psychic- and Fairy-type – Galarian Ponyta and Hattrem at the point of promotion. He is another trainer who seems to prefer very gorgeous, feminine Pokémon and I’ll let you guess what I think that means for certain aspects of Bede’s personality… In fights though he has basic strategies – he focuses on hard-hitting STAB moves with limited coverage, though his ace does pick up Calm Mind which can make her a beast. Never too much of a challenge, but his arc is perfection – Bede gets a 23/30.
#2 – Piers
I have such a soft spot for Piers. It’s a bit of a tired trope but the ‘scary dude who is actually really nice’ always hits well for me, and Piers exemplifies this sort of personality. As the first Dark-type Gym Leader in the history of Pokémon Piers had to live up to quite the high standards that the fanbase had placed upon that role and I think he does well. He exudes punk. Not only is his ace a Pokémon so explicitly based on Gene Simmons, but he even gets to show off as much punk energy as is possible for a Nintendo game, shunning the social norms of Galar by being a Gym Leader who eschews Dynamaxing for his challenge and is also the captain of Team Yell.
Not only is Piers a Gym Leader and quite involved in the main narrative as the captain of the bait-and-switch faux evil team of the games, but he’s also ostensibly the co-star of the post-game quest that deals with Sordward and Shielbert alongside Hop. Piers gets to strut his stuff a bit more and grab some limelight in a way that isn’t too obnoxious. As you take part in more and more Max Raid Battles alongside him, you do build up a bit of camaraderie with him just like you do Hop and the other Gym Leaders – I’m a big proponent for building a character up by making them fight alongside the trainer for the same cause.
In battle, Piers definitely enjoys Pokémon who have cool hair and suit his ‘punk’ aesthetic, with lots of dark colours and moody expressions. Obstagoon particularly matches up with Piers’s design perfectly and it’s really cool to see them working together. His strategies are pretty basic, but effective. He has strong attackers who can back their strength up with Toxic, defence-melting skills and some utility moves like Fake Out and Counter. He’s never a true threat, like basically the entire Gen VIII cast but he makes an impressive effort, getting him a total of 23.5/30.
#1 – Leon
Champion, elder brother, Poké Ball tutorial delivery man, walking advertisement – is there anything Leon can’t do? Well, remember directions is one. I like Leon a lot. He is a lot more down to earth than so many of the other Champions of other Pokémon Leagues and treats you rather realistically like you’d treat a friend of your little brother’s. He’s a fun personality to be around, knows how when to turn his serious face on in times of crisis and is a rare depiction of true celebrity in these games. It makes him cool.
In battle, Leon’s team is suitably powerful and impressive. All of his picks are capable of dishing out oodles of damage and he has some rare picks for the game such as Aegislash and Dragapult, two Pokémon that can be a bit tricky to take out if they get up in your business. His strategies are rather predictable, which is disappointing for a Champion, but it is nice that he changes his roster based on which starter you took, getting the stronger starter’s final evolution plus an extra pick which is coincidentally weak to your starter (for example a Rhyperior if you chose Sobble).
Leon’s ace is of course, the Charizard he is never seen without. At this point in time a Charizard is just an eye-roll selection for a Champion’s signature Pokémon but it is what it is. Gigantamax Charizard is both pretty cool to see and also surprisingly fragile – by the time you’re finally facing off against Leon for the championship none of his team should be a challenge individually, though they may manage to wear you down a bit. I would have really enjoyed it if he had any other powerful Pokémon as his ace, but meh.
One thing I’ll briefly bring up is something I read on Twitter a few months ago – someone posted a short analysis of Leon and concluded that he may have a condition called Developmental Topographical Disorder or DTD, which is a neurological impairment characterised by an inability to orient oneself to one’s surroundings. Or in other words, always getting lost even in very familiar places. I think this is an intriguing interpretation but also makes the fact that the game seems to play it for a laughs a bit awkward if the theory holds water. It’s likely just a joke the game makes, but I thought this alternative view would be interesting to bring up here!
To conclude, Leon is worthy of the title he holds, could do with having a more interesting ace as Charizard is more overdone than iconic these days, and he gets a strong showing of personality and depth. He tops out the list at 25.5/30, a very high score.
And well… there we have it. That is three-hundred-and-five trainers ranked, written about, dissed and praised, researched, remembered, and posted about incessantly on Twitter. If you’ve stuck with me this long, I hope you have enjoyed it! Stay tuned for a little deep-dive into the actual stats of the project, and a reveal of every single individual sub-score each trainer received.