Competitive Pokemon Meta Breakdown For All Formats in Generation 8

Today we’ll be crunching statistics from the 50 most popular Pokemon of each playlist in Sword and Shield. Going into 2021, Game Freak opened the floodgates for box-cover legendaries. Meaning it’s time to analyze the VGC meta and see what it takes for a Pokemon to tango in formats crowded with ground-shattering 670 Base Stat Total weapons of mass destruction. The results are pleasantly surprising.

I’ve compiled some Pokemon popularity graphs for the following formats: in-game singles, in-game doubles, and high-rank Smogon VGC formats. The data pulled from both switch formats have a sample size of 49, but I’ll include the 50th most popular pokemon on the charts for your viewing pleasure. 

  • We’ll do a breakdown by type: to compile an idea of which Pokemon types are the most popular across each format.
  • We’ll pull out some charts to see whether physical or special attack sweepers are better prepared to disintegrate some bones.
  • We’ll also be analyzing the average Base Stat Total and Speed ratings across the board.

So buckle up. I’ve got a ton of Pokemon usage statistics coming your way! You’ll have all the information you’ll need to build a competitive Pokemon team in Sw/Sh.

Nintendo Switch Single Battle Competitive Spotlight:

Pokemon meta generation 8 Defensive breakdown. Nintendo Switch Single battles 1v1: 47.22% Special defense. 52.78% Physical defense.

We’ll list the top 50 Pokemon in order of usage. This data was gathered from Pikalytics season 8 battle stadium results. I’ll include each individual Pokemon’s Base Stat Totals (BST’s) as well so you can see how well your favorites stack in terms of power level.

List of The Most Popular Pokemon in Sword and Shield’s 1v1 Format

    1. Cinderace (BST 530)
    2. Zapdos (BST 580)
    3. Landorus -Therian (BST 600)
    4. Mimikyu (BST 476)
    5. Ditto (BST 288)
    6. Zacian (BST 670)
    7. Tyranitar (BST 600)
    8. Rillaboom (BST 530)
    9. Urshifu – Single Strike (BST 550)
    10. Regieleki (BST 580)
    11. Lapras (BST 535)
    12. Yveltal (BST 680)
    13. Tapu Fini (BST 570)
    14. Hippowdon (BST 525)
    15. Quagsire (BST 430)
    16. Nihilego (BST 570)
    17. Ferrothorn (BST 489)
    18. Celesteela (BST 570)
    19. Urshifu – Rapid Strike (BST 550)
    20. Eternatus (BST 690)
    21. Necrozma – Dusk Mane (BST 680)
    22. Kyogre (BST 670)
    23. Metagross (BST 600)
    24. Dracovish (BST 505)
    25. Chansey (BST 450)
    26. Dragapult (BST 600)
    27. Grimmsnarl (BST 510)
    28. Calyrex – Shadow (BST 680)
    29. Ho-oh (BST 680)
    30. Swampert (BST 535)
    31. Xerneas (BST 680)
    32. Porygon2 (BST 515)
    33. Heatran (BST 600)
    34. Excadrill (BST 570)
    35. Calyrex – Ice (BST 680)
    36. Pheromosa (BST 570)
    37. Garchomp (BST 600)
    38. Primarina (BST 530)
    39. Tapu Koko (BST 570)
    40. Toxapex (BST 495)
    41. Umbreon (BST 525)
    42. Kartana (BST 570)
    43. Whimsicott (BST 480)
    44. Gastrodon (BST 475)
    45. Blaziken (BST 530)
    46. Arcanine (BST 555)
    47. Dragonite (BST 600)
    48. Shedinja (BST 236)
    49. Glastrier (BST 580)
    50. Zekrom (BST 680)*

Cinderace secures the slot of most popular pokemon for single battles. You can expect to see Cinderace running: Pyro Ball, High Jump Kick, Bounce, and Sucker Punch. The fouth move slot varies. 26.3% of Cinderace users are running U-turn and 18.8% are running Gunk Shot.

When climbing the ranking ladder, keep an eye out for imposters! Mimikyu and Ditto make surprise appearances in the top 5 most used Pokemon. Mimikyu’s disguise ability makes him the most reliable Swords Dance set-up sweeper in the game. His access to STAB priority in Shadow Sneak keeps Mimikyu a constant threat despite his underwhelming 476 base stat total. Luckily, Mimikyu is a one-trick pony.

Meanwhile, slapping a choice scarf or quick powder on Ditto dawns the arrival of a potent revenge killer. It may seem tempting to keep Ditto as a permanent resident at your local daycare, but he can do more than breed! Ditto’s hidden ability allows him to transform immediately on entering combat, and his natural ability allows him to soak up an opponents stats alongside appearance. Given an extra little nudge toward his speed, he can take out just about anything he mimics.

Now for today’s weather! Sand scurries to the finish line with a resounding lead over other weather setters. Tyranitar takes a 15 position lead over Kyogre. Hippowdon also passes Team Aqua’s cryptic whale overlord by eight positions. As a result, Dracovish, Excadrill, Garchomp, and Gastrodon pull up a few seats of their own. The manifestation of Sandstorm is strong! Just don’t let Gastrodon know that Rillaboom finished 8th.

The average base stat total for the most popular Pokemon in battle stadium singles? Drum roll, please!

Average Base Stat Total of Top 49

Median Base Stat Total of Top 49: 570

Average Speed of Top 49

I wholeheartedly expected single battles to boast the highest average stat total across all formats. In principle, a format with less reliance on teamwork should be using as much force as possible. Instead, we’re proven that utility and meaningful abilities still outweigh the strength of sheer stats. The singles format had lower running averages than double battles!

I can’t say that eviolite users skew the numbers, either. We also only see two appear. Meanwhile, Dusclops and Clefairy prove to be irrelevant here. The other playlists each feature three eviolite prodigies.

Lastly, Shedinja in 48th proves Poltergeist and Will-o-Wisp on free switch-ins to be pretty effective. His three most common allies are currently Quagsire, Chansey, and Tyranitar: Letting us know that stall teams can still hold a candle to the likes of Yveltal and all of his cranky overpowered buddies.

The Most Popular Pokemon Types in Battle Stadium Singles:

Water-type takes home the trophy for most-used type in battle stadium singles, boasting 10 representations. To nobody’s surprise, Bug and Rock collect homemade participation ribbons (complete with glitter glue, of course) featuring only 2 representations each. Although, it’s worth noting that Bug-types won’t make one of these charts again. 

Here’s a graph with the full type usage breakdown:

[Graph text: Most Popular Pokemon types in Nintendo Switch Battle Stadium Singles format Total Water Pokemon in top 50 - 10 (First Place) Total Fairy Pokemon in top 50 - 8 (Second Place) Total Ground and Steel Pokemon in top 50 - 7 (Third Place) Total Flying Pokemon in top 50 - 6 (Fifth Place) Total Fire, Dragon, and Dark Pokemon in top 50 - 5 (Sixth Place) Total Grass, Ghost, Fighting, and Psychic Pokemon in top 50 - 4 (Ninth Place) Total Poison, Electric, Normal, and Ice Pokemon in top 50 - 3 (Thirteenth Place) Total Bug and Rock Pokemon in top 50 - 2 (Seventeenth Place)]

Fifth place is the lowest we’ll see Flying-type dip. We also won’t see Fire-type plop down outside of the top five again. Grass and Electric have pretty abysmal numbers considering every team seems to have a Water-type crowding into the frontlines. Maybe everyone’s using Zapdos. He did rank 2nd.

Dragon-types and Ghosts have fallen out of favor in all of our playlists. I can see why Ghosts aren’t as useful for spin blocking in the generation 8 metagame, but the advent of Dragons losing traction is surprising.

Nintendo Switch Double Battle Competitive Spotlight:

Pokemon meta generation 8 Defensive breakdown. Nintendo Switch battle spotlight. Generation 8 sword and shield metagame 2021. Double battles: 57.5% Special defense. 42.5% Physical defense.

The Pokemon popularity chart here shows a strong exploitation available for physical attackers. With physical attackers accounting for so much usage, I was surprised to see this large of a skew in favor of special defense!

List of The Most Popular Pokemon in Sword and Shield’s 2v2 Format

  1. Incineroar (BST 530)
  2. Regieleki (BST 580)
  3. Rillaboom (BST 530)
  4. Landorus – Therian (BST 600)
  5. Whimsicott (BST 480)
  6. Urshifu – Single Strike (BST 550)
  7. Tapu Fini (BST 570)
  8. Amoonguss (BST 464)
  9. Zacian (BST 670)
  10. Grimmsnarl (BST 510)
  11. Tornadus (BST 580)
  12. Indeedee – F (BST 475)
  13. Galarian Moltres (BST 580)
  14. Thundurus (BST 580)
  15. Kartana (BST 570)
  16. Venusaur (BST 525)
  17. Porygon2 (BST 515)
  18. Calyrex – Shadow (BST 680)
  19. Metagross (BST 600)
  20. Lapras (BST 535)
  21. Yveltal (BST 680)
  22. Groudon (BST 670)
  23. Torkoal (BST 470)
  24. Charizard (BST 534)
  25. Dialga (BST 680)
  26. Calyrex – Ice (BST 680)
  27. Zapdos (BST 580)
  28. Raichu (BST 485)
  29. Glastrier (BST 580)
  30. Solgaleo (BST 680)
  31. Cinderace (BST 530)
  32. Spectrier (BST 580)
  33. Comfey (BST 485)
  34. Tyranitar (BST 600)
  35. Dragapult (BST 600)
  36. Stakataka (BST 570)
  37. Togekiss (BST 545)
  38. Celesteela (BST 570)
  39. Clefairy (BST 323)
  40. Dusclops (BST 455)
  41. Xerneas (BST 680)
  42. Urshifu – Rapid Strike (BST 550)
  43. Tapu Lele (BST 570)
  44. Kingdra (BST 540)
  45. Rotom – Heat (BST 520)
  46. Coalossal (BST 510)
  47. Regigigas (BST 670)
  48. Milotic (BST 540)
  49. Galarian Zapdos (BST 580)
  50. Rotom – Wash (BST 520)

Incineroar and Regieleki have a stranglehold over the top two usage slots. That tells us they aren’t facing much competition as team leads. 

To anyone out of the loop, Incineroar packs a nasty turn one Fake Out flinch, which is compounded by his Intimidate ability that drops opposing Pokemon’s attack by 33% every time he jumps into battle. Regieleki tends to spit out Light Screen and Reflect then blow himself up with explosion to preserve momentum. Although, Regieleki has a signature trapping move and a pretty stout Special Attack rating. You may be surprised to know most sets aren’t using him for screens at all anymore.

You can most likely expect to see Regieleki running moves like Electroweb, Protect, and Volt Switch: All of which boast more than 75% usage.

Whimsicott shoots up to 5th place, letting us know that a ton of Tailwind teams are reaching for their torches and pitchforks. Whimsicott has officially sealed its title as Pokemon’s premier Tailwind user, as it tops each of these lists. This is namely due to his ability “Prankster” increasing the priority of support moves. Tailwind gets priority. Suddenly, Whimsicott’s teammate gets a speed buff and hits before the opponent has time to blink.

Speaking of Tailwind, Tornadus (11th) and Yveltal (21st) seem to have abandoned poor Talonflame in 79th place while fighting tooth-and-nail for that coveted “Flying-type Tailwind user” award.

Both forms of Urshifu made all three lists. I respect the increase in rapid-strike usage… but it still isn’t enough to edge out the classic single strike set. Single strike Urshifu takes home his most impressive award here: 6th place.

Landorus still reigns as the king of Rock Slide, with so much representation that the only other Ground-type brave enough to poke its head out in the top 50 is Groudon.

Average Base Stat Total of Top 49

Median Base Stat Total of Top 49: 570

Average Speed of Top 49

The Pokemon battle stadium doubles format also has the lowest population of Ultra Beasts, only housing three in the top 50. Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele share the same 570 BST rating, but as far as the stat tier goes – we’re still seeing less representation.

The Most Popular Pokemon Types in Battle Stadium Doubles:

Aim for the skies! Flying-type Pokemon are the most common threats in Battle Stadium Doubles. They account for 10 of the top 49 most popular Pokemon in online battles.

[Graph text: Most Popular Pokemon types in Nintendo Switch Battle Stadium Doubles format Total Flying Pokemon in top 50 - 10 (First Place) Total Fairy Pokemon in top 50 - 9 (Second Place) Total Fire, Water, Psychic, Steel, and Dark Pokemon in top 50 - 6 (Third Place) Total Grass and Electric Pokemon in top 50 - 5 (Ninth Place) Total Ghost Pokemon in top 50 - 4 (Tenth Place) Total Normal, Fighting, Ice, Dragon, and Rock Pokemon in top 50 - 3 (Eleventh Place) Total Ground Pokemon in top 50 - 2 (Sixteenth Place)]

Again, I apologize for not noticing the numbering bug on Pikalytics earlier. If we slap Rotom-W in the charts, Water catapults into a definitive third position. Electric also gets the extra nudge it needs to pull ahead of Grass-types.

However, seeing more Rock-type Pokemon than Ground is a welcome surprise. We can also begin to see an impact from the high distribution of Close Combat. Fighting-type is plummeting out of favor!

Considering 106 Pokemon learn Close Combat and only 74 Fighting-type Pokemon exist in-game, the typing as a whole seems to have taken a big nerf in generation 8. Even my cranky old Grandmother learns Close Combat. 

P.S. I don’t recommend standing in the same room as her.

Meanwhile, Fairy sustains the second most popular Pokemon type in the doubles format as well. Fairy-types perform quite well in the Nintendo Switch metagame!

Smogon High-Rating VGC Battle Showdown:

Pokemon meta generation 8 Defensive breakdown. Smogon high rank VGC format OU tier sword and shield metagame 1760+ rating: 48.6% Special defense. 51.4% Physical defense.

The following data was collected from players with a rating of 1760 or higher. If your Smogon rating was 1659 when I compiled this list: I’m sorry, but your vote doesn’t count. *Cue the Kricketune’s chirp.*

[Wait. Is someone trying to steal my car? Oh right, back on topic: Better luck next time!]

Since we can’t find data distinguishing high-ranked players elsewhere, I nabbed some stats from the Smogon data mine. The data doesn’t look a whole lot different than Smogon’s Sun and Moon metagame, but we’ll dive in with our tail fins intact:

List of The Most Popular Pokemon in Smogon’s VGC Format

  1. Incineroar (BST 530)
  2. Tapu Fini (BST 570)
  3. Porygon2 (BST 515)
  4. Regieleki (BST 580)
  5. Landorus – Therian (BST 600)
  6. Glastrier (BST 580)
  7. Urshifu – Single Strike (BST 550)
  8. Rillaboom (BST 530)
  9. Grimmsnarl (BST 510)
  10. Amoonguss (BST 464)
  11. Kartana (BST 570)
  12. Whimsicott (BST 480)
  13. Galarian Moltres (BST 580)
  14. Spectrier (BST 580)
  15. Thunderus (BST 580)
  16. Zapdos (BST 580)
  17. Dusclops (BST 455)
  18. Urshifu – Rapid Strike (BST 550)
  19. Indeedee – F (BST 475)
  20. Metagross (BST 600)
  21. Celesteela (BST 570)
  22. Dragapult (BST 600)
  23. Nihilego (BST 570)
  24. Venusaur (BST 525)
  25. Cinderace (BST 530)
  26. Torkoal (BST 470)
  27. Rotom – Heat (BST 520)
  28. Togekiss (BST 545)
  29. Tornadus (BST 580)
  30. Coalossal (BST 510)
  31. Clefairy (BST 323)
  32. Zacian – Crowned (BST 720)
  33. Stakataka (BST 570)
  34. Mamoswine (BST 530)
  35. Kyogre (BST 670)
  36. Heatran (BST 600)
  37. Raichu (BST 485)
  38. Rotom – Wash (BST 520)
  39. Galarian Zapdos (BST 580)
  40. Garchomp (BST 600)
  41. Dialga (BST 680)
  42. Dracovish (BST 505)
  43. Registeel (BST 580)
  44. Lapras (BST 535)
  45. Charizard (BST 534)
  46. Tyranitar (BST 600)
  47. Cresselia (BST 600)
  48. Ferrothorn (BST 489)
  49. Regigigas (BST 670)
  50. Weezing (BST 490)

Seeing Weezing slip onto the top 50 usage charts brings back the awful memory of the day Gengar lost his levitate ability. Gengar fell out of Smogon’s OU-tier practically overnight, which speaks volumes about the strength of the ability.

Our eviolite Trick Room users place pretty high here. Porygon2 in third isn’t a major shock, but seeing Dusclops still hitting the top 20 means Trick Room currently dominates the meta.

Both Trick Room setters are commonly paired with Incineroar, Glastrier, and Tapu Fini. Although Porygon2 has a 40% chance of being paired with Regieleki, so brace yourselves for some more complex speed shenanigans than we’ve seen throughout the generation 7 metagame.

Incineroar sees an ample 47% usage rate, almost accounting for half the leads in all online Pokemon battles.

Ms. Indeedee pops in seven positions lower than she did on Nintendo Switch, barely edging out Togekiss as the format’s premier “Follow Me” cannon-fodder role. This could be a sign of fewer priority moves for teams to protect against with Psychic Terrain. My guts says it’s simpler than that. Togekiss has access to Yawn, which can break a team’s Dynamax sweep.

This brings me to one of the most impressive statistics on these charts. Amoonguss busted into the top 10 for doubles on both platforms. Spore is irreplaceable. I get the feeling our Pokeball-headed mushroom is responsible for the heightened Trick Room presence in competitive Pokemon right now.

Average Base Stat Total of Top 50

Median Base Stat Total of Top 50: 570

Average Speed of Top 50

Smogon VGC has the lowest average stats across the board. It seems like high-ranked players are valuing powerful passive abilities above all else. To be fair, each playlist was topped by a Fire-type starter with a less than impressive 530 BST. We can’t solve all the world’s problems with numbers alone. A Pokemon needs gusto to prove worthwhile in battle.

The Most Popular Pokemon Types in High Ranked Smogon Battle Showdown:

One last drum roll, please! Smogon’s most popular types are: Steel and Flying. Smogon LOVES Steel-type Pokemon. We see the most Steel representation in Smogon’s battle showdown by a wide margin. The real surprise is that Steel-types share the throne with our uncaged birds. Keep those sights set to the clouds because Flying-type isn’t giving up their title here.

[Graph text: Most Popular Pokemon types in Smogon Battle Showdown VGC format - high ranked filter 1760+ rating Total Flying and Steel Pokemon in top 50 - 9 (First Place) Total Fire Pokemon in top 50 - 7 (Third Place) Total Water, Fairy, Electric, and Grass Pokemon in top 50 - 6 (Third Place) Total Dark Pokemon in top 50 - 5 (Seventh Place) Total Poison, Rock, and Dragon Pokemon in top 50 - 4 (Eighth Place) Total Normal, Fighting, Ice, Ghost, Psychic and Ground Pokemon in top 50 - 3 (Eleventh Place)]

Smogon may have the most populated bottom typing tier of our formats, but overall we see the most balance of any format. We don’t see any typing with a full 10 reps or any typing with less than three reps – aside from Bug-type who’s too embarrassed to show its face. Our main elemental types all sit pretty snugly in the same usage tier.

Rock beats Ground again. What a topsy-turvy world we live in! Before I know it, someone will pull up a data sheet telling me Rock beats Paper. I’d be instantly freed from a lifetime of debt.

Pursuit may have been erased from the world of Pokemon, but you can tell that Smogon isn’t ready to let go of the idea that “Psychic-type is bad”

To put it bluntly, Indeedee gets usage for her ability alone. Calyrex shows up to the party with sheer strength at its disposal. A base stat total of 680 seems to be where we draw the line of when defensive typing becomes less important.

The Terrain Wars Meta Continues Across All Formats Going Into 2021:

Tapu Fini’s misty surge, Rillaboom’s grassy surge, and Indeedee’s Psychic Surge are still roaming rampant in every playlist. Smogon favors Tapu Fini, while our Nintendo Switch users favor Rillaboom. Tapu Koko gets a little love, too. Not as much as I’d expect from formats who want to throw Spore around like confetti and worship birds. *Shrugs in Alolan* Oh well.

The new tutor moves have escalated free terrain to a power level that outshines legendary Pokemon. That’s right, their power level is probably over 9000. Crowned Zacian’s base stat total may completely dwarf those of our setters, but the terrain is almost like a legacy left behind once our hero faints from battle. Their willpower may have wavered, but their song still echoes eloquently into eternity…

Until my opponent drops Rillaboom next turn. Oof.

The Competitive Pokemon Meta is Slowing Down:

While Dragapult is certainly still popular, I wouldn’t classify him as the “threshold to beat” in terms of speed anymore. Many teams are favoring Metagross as their Pseudo-Legendary. Better yet, the solo scene has tearfully welcomed Tyranitar back into their open arms.

Overall, a Pokemon needs to do a specific job and do it well. General speed seems to be an afterthought remedied by Tailwind support or a bulky Trick Room user.

It makes sense. There’s no point in out-speeding everything with a Jolteon if it lacks the strength to knock out a legendary Pokemon. Of course, we’ve got Regieleki to worry about these days, and he poses an interesting threat of his own.

But, no worries. The popularity of online Pokemon battles is still as strong as ever! I look forward to seeing you in the arena, fellow trainers.