If you're anything like me, you haven't picked up a Pokémon game since Diamond and Pearl, which came out almost 10 years ago. Picking the best Pokémon for your team was a daunting task then and has only grown now that there are 801 pocket monsters running around. With 80 new Pokémon in Sun and Moon alone, you've got your work cut out to find the best new creatures to fight for you as you make your way through your trials in Generation 7.
There's no "correct" way to build your team in Pokémon Sun and Moon, but this guide will provide some insight in building the best team as you make your way to the Elite Four. It also covers tips and tricks for getting the most out of your Pokémon if you'd like to try competitive battling or want to know that your Pokémon are objectively the strongest.
Pokémon Sun and Moon Team Builder: Vikavolt, Toxapex, Kommo-o and other Gen 7 Pokémon
You can start accumulating Pokémon that will take with you through the end of the game as early as Route 1. To start, you can catch a Grubbin on Route 1, though it is a little rare. Although this Pokémon may look unimpressive, it quickly evolves (at level 20) into Charjabug, a powerful dual-type bug/electric-type with good stats, especially special attack and defense.
It's also only weak to two types of damage, rock and fire, which you probably wouldn't be using it against anyway. You'll have to level it up in Vast Poni Canyon to reach its final evolution Vikavolt, which will make it immune to ground-type moves. However, Charjabug will be more than powerful enough to carry you through the second island, when you're likely to be fighting a lot of grass- and water-type Pokémon.
Another good (if unusual) choice is newcomer Mimiky. It's a ghost/fairy-type Pokémon that's immune to a whopping three damage types. So if your opponent uses a lot of fighting, dragon or normal types, Mimikyu will ruin their day. Its special ability "Disguise" also allows it to negate the first damaging attack that hits it in battle, which I always seem to conveniently forget about when I use my Decidueye's Z-move against it right out of the gate. Although Mimikyu isn't the strongest fighter, having the fairy type allows it to fill a niche that might otherwise remain empty — unless you picked Popplio as your starter.
Another strong dual type to consider from the new generation is Kommo-o. The final form of Jangmo-o is a dragon/fighting-type Pokémon you can catch in Vast Poni Canyon. Kommo-o boasts strong stats across the board (though its base HP is a little low) and is resistant to six damage types. Its hidden ability Overcoat also protects it from weather conditions that can damage it, like sand and ice storms. Just don't bring it out against fairy-type Pokémon. It'll take four times as much damage from fairy-type moves.
Sure, you can train Salazzle to be a good poisoner (and with her special ability Corrosion, she's quite good at it), but you should also consider Toxapex, the "Brutal Star" Pokémon. Although its attack and special attack stats are below average, Toxapex has outrageously high defense and special defense stats. Aside from those defensive stats making fighting it a horrible slog, Toxapex's ability Merciless makes all attacks against poisoned Pokémon into critical hits. So combining Toxic, which poisons an opponent, and Venoshock, a poison-type move that doubles in power against a poisoned foe (both learnable from TMs) with this ability, Toxapex has the ability to shred a lot of different types of Pokémon, even ones it doesn't have a type advantage against.
Paste recommends trying to get the other Generation VII starters as well through Wonder Trading. It's going to take a while, but there seem to be a few good samaritans sending out Littens, Popplios and Rowlets every once in a while. Just try and remember to pay it forward at some point!
Pokémon Sun and Moon Team Builder: Metagross, Ash-Greninja and other previous-gen Pokémon
If Wonder Trading isn't your thing and none of your friends are into Pokémon breeding enough to have multiple versions of their starting Pokémon, you could also consider grabbing the free Ash-Greninja you earned for downloading the Pokémon Sun and Moon Special Demo Version from the Nintendo eShop. After completing the demo, you can talk to Professor Kukui and have him transfer Greninja over to a full copy of Pokémon Sun or Moon.
Ash-Greninja is a stylish addition to any team, especially if you're unimpressed by the fish-heavy selection of water types available in Alola. Greninja has high speed but suffers from slightly below-average attack and defense stats. This is mitigated somewhat by his hidden ability Protean, which makes it so that his type always reflects the move he's using, meaning he'll always get a type bonus to attacks. Ash-Greninja also comes with an ability called Battle Bond, which activates after it KO's a Pokémon in battle. It causes Greninja to change form to the one pictured above, and increases the power and effectiveness of its Water Shuriken move. Not too shabby for something you'll get out of a free demo.
You can find another great addition to your team on Ula'ula Island while on the road back from Mount Hokulani: Beldum, who evolves into the pseudo-legendary Metagross. Aside from its weird (perhaps hurtful) name, Metagross has strong stats all across the board, favoring attack and defense, and is a dual type Steel/Psychic type. This makes it resistant against nine separate damage types, but good luck catching one. Its base form Beldum has only a 10% chance to spawn in the high grass on the path down from Mount Hokulani, and it has a notorious habit of breaking out of PokéBalls. If you found the Heavy Ball on Mount Hokulani, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better use for it than to catch a Beldum. Otherwise, make sure you bring a lot of Pokéballs and catch it before it uses Takedown to KO itself at low HP.
You can grab the hammerhead-esque Garchomp by traversing the Haina Desert (north of Route 13) at night, again on Ula'Ula Island. At night, Haina Desert is cloaked in a withering sandstorm, and you can be ambushed by Pokémon hiding in dust clouds.
Sometimes, when these Pokémon call for help, Gabite, Garchomp's previous form, will appear, allowing you to catch it. Gabite evolves into Garchomp at level 48, and has a strong attack stat, so focus on those physical Dragon-type and Ground-type attacks to get the most out of it. You can also mega-evolve it using an item you get from the Battle Tree at the end of Ancient Poni Path on Poni Island. As a Dragon-/Ground-type Pokémon, it doesn't have a ton of weaknesses, but it will take a whopping four times extra damage from ice attacks, so watch out for anything that you even suspect might have an ice-type attack in its arsenal.
That all said, there's no "right way" to build your teams, and if you don't fancy any of the Pokémon suggested here, there are some really handy team-building tools online you can use to see where your dream team might have a hole in its armor. Other than that, experiment and see what Pokémon work best for your specific build.
Pokémon natures and how they affect your Pokémon's stats
OK, so if you've played a Pokémon game before, you probably have noticed every Pokémon has a nature. If you want to raise your Pokémon to be the strongest it can be, you'll have to pay attention to this seemingly useless detail, because your Pokémon's nature governs an increase and a decrease in two stats over the course of 100 levels.
Pokémon natures, as the Pokémon Database helpfully points out, will raise one of your Pokémon's stats by 10% and lower one of them by 10% over the course of 100 levels. The exception to this is if your Pokémon's nature increases and decreases the same stat, you'll get a net neutral 0% increase. So you've got a one-in-five chance of your nature not affecting anything at all.
If you're planning on wringing every stat point out of your pocket monsters, you'll want to pay attention to what nature they have. You can check a Pokémon's nature with the second tab of their summary page, but Sun and Moon will show you what stats your Pokémon's nature increases and decreases by highlighting them with red and blue, respectively. A Pokémon's nature is determined when you encounter it, whether that's when you get it as an egg, see it in the wild or receive it from an NPC, so expect to spend a lot of time in the Pokémon nursery breeding Pokémon to get ones with the right natures.
The implications of running a Pokémon breeding program out of a nursery are a bit disconcerting, because your trainer is 11 years old. But you can always just Wonder Trade away your suboptimal Tepigs and make a stranger's day if you feel weird about it.
How to use IVs and EVs to make your Pokémon as strong as possible
If having strong Pokémon with good natures isn't enough for you and you need to have the strongest Pokémon, you're going to need to pay attention to your Pokémon's individual values (IVs) and effort values (EVs).
Individual values are the more complicated of the two, because they're determined when a Pokémon is generated and can't be changed. Once you've got a Pokémon, its IVs are locked and there's not really a whole lot you can do if they're suboptimal. This is important because IVs are included as part of the calculation that determines your Pokémon's actual stats: Low IVs mean lower stats, which can be a killer in competitive play where min/maxing is the law of the land. You can check your Pokémon's IVs after you beat the Elite Four in Pokémon Sun and Moon, though the information you get from the in-game judge is best utilized to get more detailed readouts from third-party IV calculators.
Effort values are a hidden stat which ranges from 0 to 252, and you accumulate them by defeating Pokémon. Each Pokémon you defeat gives the Pokémon that defeated it a certain number of effort points for one stat. If that intrigues you, iDigitalTimes has recently released a list of the best spots to farm EVs in the Alola region.
However, you're going to want to get an EV-enhancing item from the Battle Royale Dome first. There's one for each stat, and they'll add eight EVs to the Pokémon holding them every time it gains experience. You can buy them with Battle Points you've earned from the Battle Royale Dome or the Battle Tree. You can also purchase single-use items like protein or iron to give your Pokémon 10 EVs for a stat, but that only works until said EV hits 100, at which point you're back to grinding for the remaining 152 EVs it'll take to max the stat.
If you manage to catch a Pokérus (a benign virus for Pokémon), you'll get double the EVs you normally would for KOnig a Pokémon, but it's incredibly rare: a 1 in 21,845 chance. So you'll probably need to coordinate and trade with someone who's already got it, which is again slightly disconcerting.
Chances are you won't want to really start fiddling with EVs and IVs until after you're done with the main storyline of Pokémon Sun and Moon, but they're helpful to keep in mind if you're at all interested in breaking into competitive battling at some point. But best of luck to you in your quest for the strongest Pokémon! Now get out there and catch some cool ones so you can become the Alolan champion!
More Pokémon Sun and Moon guides, tips, tricks, cheats and secrets from Mic:
If you're serious about Pokémon Sun and Moon, you'll want to read up so you can be the very best. Check out our guides for picking the right starter, Pokémon Sun and Moon cheats, using a damage calculator, how to catch the new legendary Pokémon, how to get Munchlax, how to customize your character, how to trade, how to find all the evolution stones, how to use QR codes, all the Team Skull passwords, which Pokémon to catch early on and picking between Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon.