Pokemon Emerald is one of the best Pokemon games, and is the definitive GBA Pokemon game. It’s not just called “Emerald”, it’s a true gem in the GBA library. There is nothing wrong with taking one’s time playing through Emerald and appreciating what this game has to offer.
However, this guide is for the man-on-a-mission; the one who seeks out the fastest and most practical way to play through the game. To help such players out, I’ve put together a team building guide for getting through Emerald quickly.
This guide is different from most team building guides that I’ve seen. Many in-game team building guides focus on making a balanced team of 6 battlers, suggesting that players keep all 6 throughout the game. These guides are flawed in that experience values tend to distribute better among fewer pokemon, and by late game, players would have been better off with 2 to 4 higher-level battlers than a full team of 6 pokemon that can’t quite hack it.
Another flaw with those teams is that they seldom consider HM users, leaving players that try them with the task of backtracking to either catch HM users or access PC boxes as they come across roadblocks.
Such guides also suggest keeping every teammate on their team for the rest of the game. While the authors do take care to select teammates that carry their weight for the rest of the game, sometimes, that’s not the most practical way to go about things. Sometimes, you have to box a pokemon that’s no longer carrying its weight, or once you have a pokemon that better serves its purpose.
What this guide gives you are suggestions that are designed to get you through the game. A core of battlers will be considered with the intent of covering the challenges you’d reasonably face in a playthrough, and suggesting HM users to give you maximum mobility.
With that, let’s get this team building guide underway:
The first pokemon on your team would be your starter. It was close, as each of the Hoenn starters are pretty good. But for this game, the best starter would be Mudkip. Mudkip has an advantage at the first gym, so things are easy for it when getting started. But it gets even better when it evolves to Marshtomp. As a combination Water/Ground type, its only weakness is Grass. It’s a double weakness, but Grass attacks are infrequent. With its ground typing, it’s great against the third gym. It’s final form, Swampert, is kind of slow. However, its offensive and defensive stats are great, and Swampert has access to strong Water, Ground, and Rock attacks, giving this pokemon some great coverage against many opponents.
Surprised? So am I. But Taillow actually is an effective early-game pokemon. Its defensive stats are really low, which is something to be careful about. But it’s very fast and has a pretty good Attack stat, so it can hit pretty hard with Wing Attack, which it learns at level 13. Taillow evolves to Swellow at level 22, which results in an even greater boost to its Attack and Speed. Taillow does a great job of making sure that an opposing Grass type isn’t an auto-loss, which is really important considering your rival will eventually face you with Grovyle. What’s more, Taillow will have an advantage in the second gym. Taillow will eventually be replaced with another pokemon, but it’s great at its job until then.
Zigzagoon is a decent HM user. It can be taught Cut, Surf, and Rock Smash. Of those three, you’re likely to use Cut soon after catching it (after getting the first badge), and it can use Rock Smash when you need a pokemon that can use it. Surf comes much later in the game, but by then, you’ll have other pokemon that can learn it. Zigzagoon has a gimmicky use: some players like to try to get a few of them with the Pickup ability and benefit from the items it might pick up after battles. The Pickup item list is different in Emerald, and is influenced by the Pickup pokemon’s level, but it’s still a nice ability that could pay for itself before long. Later, on Route 119, you’ll be able to find Zigzagoon and Linoone that have levels in the 20s, which makes it easier to obtain better items. Unused space in your party can be put to use to obtain items.
A fan favorite, and a pretty good choice. But I had a tough time adding Ralts to this list because it’s encounter rate is so low (4% on Route 102), and is pretty weak at first. However, Ralts has an advantage against the second gym, and evolves into a pretty good Psychic type. Ralts and it’s family learn strong Psychic moves by level, as well as Calm Mind, and it can learn Thunderbolt from a TM for decent coverage. Abra is a good pokemon of the same type, but Kadabra has to be traded to get Alakazam, which might not be an option. Therefore, the nod goes to Ralts. Ralts is not necessary for this playthrough, but you can go with it if the thought of going with just your starter and a Flying type for a while bothers you.
In Dewford Town, next to the gym is a fisherman who gives you an Old Rod. It also happens that it’s right there in Dewford Town that you could fish up a Tentacool with that very same rod. Tentacool is an awesome HM user in that between Tentacool and Tropius (which you can catch later) all 8 HMs can be learned, granting you full mobility while freeing up the rest of your team to teach whatever moves you please. Tentacool’s HM selection is Cut, Surf, Waterfall, and Dive. Most of those moves come much later in the game, but when the time comes to use them, Tentacool is an awesome choice to teach them to.
Also, while you’re in Dewford Town, you’ll obtain TM 47. I suggest saving that for the pokemon that I suggest next.
When you make it to Route 119, Skarmory will be available to capture. Skarmory replaces Swellow, so you’ll be boxing Swellow for another team member. There are a few caveats to this choice worth mentioning. Some players would prefer holding onto Swellow because it’s faster and has a comparable Attack stat. Also, it can take a while to find a Skarmory, since it has only a 5% rate of encounter on Route 119. What’s more, Skarmory levels up slower than Swellow, and when you find Skarmory, it will likely be underleveled compared to the rest of your team.
So, why is Skarmory worth the trouble? Because it pairs excellently with Swampert. Swampert is weak to Grass, while Skarmory resists Grass moves for days. Skarmory is weak to Electric and Fire, two move types that don’t really bother Swampert. Swampert and Skarmory make an excellent tag team which rocks when played well. What’s more, Skarmory benefits well from the bounty of resistances that its Steel typing offers, and thanks to its flying type, it’s immune to the Ground moves that would normally plague Steel types.
You find Skarmory at level 16, and it comes with Peck and Swift, which are so-so attacks, and it doesn’t learn a decent offensive move by level until it learns Air Cutter at level 29. That’s why it’s a great idea to use TM 47 to teach Skarmory Steel Wing, so it has a decent Steel move. It’s also a good choice for Fly (the HM) or Aerial Ace (TM 40). Skarmory may take more EXP to level up, but experience splits pretty well between it and only one or two other teammates. If you can be picky about the ability, in-game Skarmory does pretty well with the Keen Eye ability, which makes life easier against opponents that like lowering Accuracy.
On Route 119, Tropius appears 9% of the time, which isn’t too bad. Once you have it, you’ll have a pokemon that can learn all the HMs that Tentacool doesn’t. Tropius, along with Tentacool, will be your team’s dedicated HM users. With them, you’ll be set as far as HM users goes. You can do something similar by pairing Tropius with Gyarados, but Gyarados is a bit more challenging to obtain.
It’s also on Route 119 that you can find higher-leveled Zigzagoon or Linoone for better Pickup yields, if you’re interested.
You get an opportunity to battle and catch Rayquaza after it resolves the Kyogre/Groudon dispute, and it can be found at the top of Sky Pillar, where you already met it. You’ll have seven badges at this point, so you’ll have almost beat the game. But having Rayquaza on your team ensures that you shred the rest of your way through. The only potential problem for Rayquaza would be Ice moves used by Juan, Glacia, and Wallace. But Rayquaza is so strong, they might not stand a chance, anyway.
Rayquaza comes at level 70, has superhigh stats, and already has team-wrecking moves without having to use a TM on it. But if you do teach it TMs, you’ll find that Rayquaza can learn many different types of moves. It’s a one-pokemon army. Just a few levels after catching it, Rayquaza learns Hyper Beam, which is great if your team needed a wave motion gun.
Rayquaza doesn’t have to replace any team member, but it’s so strong that it might make the rest of your team seem obsolete. The trick is catching the thing. Without resorting to using the Master Ball, catching Rayquaza is a tall order.
But what about…
Pokemon Emerald is packed with great pokemon, so picking out just a few for a team is challenging. Here are a few that didn’t quite make this team, but are still great pokemon.
Torchic – It evolves to a pokemon with great stats and typing, has a great movepool, and does well against several gyms. The nod went to Mudkip because it evolves to a pokemon with just one weakness that doesn’t come up often and is easily covered by another teammate. Also, Blaziken has several weaknesses, relatively low defenses, and its Speed, though higher, is just okay.
Aron – Great defensive typing in Rock/Steel and an awesome Defense stat means that the many Normal moves that you see in-game, especially early on, will hardly leave a dent. However, Aron and family doesn’t take strong Special attacks very well, especially from Water types.
Abra – Needs to be traded to evolve to its final form. If that’s an option, Abra’s a great alternative to Ralts. However, Gardevoir can learn Thunderbolt, while Alakazam would have to settle for Shock Wave.
Miscellaneous other great pokemon such as Lotad or Shroomish – Making this list wasn’t easy, and neither was excluding pokemon that really aren’t bad. Hoenn has a lot of great pokemon. If you’d rather use a pokemon that didn’t make the team, it’s your call. It’s not like Emerald is especially hard. Personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a lot of disagreement with the choices, here. It goes to show how balanced the Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald games are that there are so many choices that work well. Unlike Crystal, where if you get an Abra with elemental punches, it could take you through nearly every opponent you face.
What team would you use to get through Pokemon Emerald?