Master League is the highest PvP league in which you can currently participate in Pokémon GO. It has no CP limitations, so strong Legendaries, Pseudo-Legendaries and Mythicals such as Dialga, Mewtwo, both Giratina forms, Togekiss, Melmetal, Dragonite, Garchomp, Groudon, Palkia and Kyogre are common picks.
The purpose of this article is to provide full details about the strongest Master League Pokémon, their best movesets, what they are strong against, and how to counter them.
First things first, here’s a handy infographic that you can save and reference later:
The Elite 4 of Master League
These four Pokémon are the strongest contenders in Master League. They also have really good team synergy as they cover each others’ weaknesses and vulnerabilities, so it shouldn’t come to anyone’s surprise if you see all four of them on any competitive Master League team.
Dialga is undoubtedly the king of Master League. With two shields it can beat almost everything, even some of the Ground types and Fighting types that are meant to beat it. What makes Dialga so strong is its powerful STAB Dragon Breath combined with its amazing defensive typing, which grants it many resistances and most importantly a neutrality to Dragon, which makes it the only Dragon type currently not weak to Dragon itself. This enables Dialga to counter opposing Dragon types very efficiently while having very good coverage moves that hit most Pokémon in Master League for at least neutral damage. Iron Head is Dialga’s fastest charge move. Although it’s quite weak for its energy cost, it’s still mandatory since it gives it the best shot at beating the Pokémon it’s supposed to beat, such as Dragonite and the Giratinas.
Draco Meteor is the better second charge move overall, since it is so crazy strong that even opposing Steel types don’t want to take it. It actually does a little bit more damage than Thunder to Steel types despite being resisted, but the sharp attack drop makes Dialga pretty much obsolete after using it. Thunder is very handy for Ho-Oh and Lugia though, since Iron Head is resisted by Ho-Oh and Lugia doesn’t take much damage from it. It also gives extra insurance for Kyogre.
Although Dialga is very strong, it isn’t invincible. Groudon and Melmetal beat it in every even shield scenario. Togekiss can only beat Dialga with 2 shields, but it is left with a lot of health after, which makes it still useful later in the match. The other Ground types and Ho-Oh can beat Dialga in lower shield scenarios. Mewtwo OHKO’s with Focus Blast if it lands.
Note: The ideal IVs for Dialga are 15 Attack, 14 Defense and 12 HP minimum. 15 Attack reaches the highest breakpoint with Dragon Breath in the mirror match and 14 Defense ensures that opposing Dialga with 15 Attack don’t do extra damage. 12 HP guarantees the simultaneous KO in the non-Best Buddy mirror and Best Buddy mirror. Best Buddy Dialga with 15 Attack and 14 Defense always beats the mirror if the opponent’s Dialga isn’t Best Buddy.
Giratina-Origin is the other king of Master League since it forms an almost unstoppable core with Dialga by checking the Ground types, Fighting types and opposing Steel types that trouble it. Dialga in return can switch into most of Giratina-O’s counters such as Dragonite, Zekrom, Palkia and Reshiram. Giratina-O also has good matchups against Mewtwo, Melmetal, Lugia, Kyogre and Ho-Oh. The Groudon matchup is fairly even since it’s pretty bait dependent on both sides.
Dragon Pulse in itself is a pretty terrible move, but is the better second charge move overall since it nearly OHKOs Palkia, Reshiram, Zekrom and Dragonite if it lands. Shadow Ball is the charge move that Giratina-O will be using the most anyway, since it is powerful and has very good neutral coverage in Master League. Ominous Wind is also pretty terrible, but it provides a bait move for Shadow Ball, which is useful for the Giratina-A, Mewtwo, Lugia and mirror matchups.
Giratina-O loses pretty heavily to the various Dragon Breath users and Togekiss, but they all get 2HKO’d by Shadow Ball, so they almost always have to use a shield. The only Pokémon that truly hard counter Giratina-O are the rare Dark types and Snorlax.
Togekiss is one of the very few Pokémon in Master League that can consistently beat Dialga with two shields. It is one of the best leads in the format, if not the best lead, since it easily beats every Dragon type and Ground type with two shields. This gives Togekiss the very unique trait of breaking the Dialga + Giratina-O core. On top of that, it has Ancient Power as a charge move which has a 10% chance to raise its Attack and Defense by 2 stages. Basically, the only Pokémon that it can’t beat with two shields are Steel types and Ho-Oh. Because there are currently so many Dragon types in Master League and more will come in the future, Togekiss will always be relevant.
Groudon is the best Steel type counter in the format. It hard counters Melmetal and beats Dialga in every even shield scenario. It even beats Dialga in the 2 shield scenario straight Fire Punch. Earthquake nukes anything weak to it and easily 2HKOs anything that doesn’t resist it, which makes Groudon very good at applying shield pressure. The only Pokémon that hard counter Groudon are Dragonite, Palkia, Kyogre, Ho-Oh and Lugia.
Giratina-Altered Form, Pros and Cons
Giratina-A is much bulkier than Giratina-O and as a result has a lot less power, which is what separates them the most. The movesets are also slightly different, with Tina-O using somewhat slow but powerful charge moves while Tina-A has access to quicker yet weaker charge moves and Dragon Breath as an alternate viable fast move.
Dragon Breath wins the mirror match against Shadow Claw Tina-A and makes the matchups against Ground types, Ho-Oh and opposing Dragon types much more favorable, but makes the Mewtwo and Lugia matchups much scarier. It also forfeits the Melmetal matchup, which is huge, since one of the biggest traits of the Giratinas is the ability to beat Melmetal. Even though Tina-O does the Ghost type attacker job much better overall, Shadow Claw is the fast move you usually want to go with.
Tina-O has much more closing power than Tina-A, making it much more useful and reliable once shields are down. It is arguably the best closer in Master League since virtually nothing resists both of its STAB moves. Overall, Tina-A is a safer and less risky pick than Tina-O since it isn’t easily hard countered like Tina-O is. Both forms generally lose to Dialga regardless of the moveset they have.
Tina-O beats Tina-A if it lands a Shadow Ball.
Melmetal’s main role is to shut down Togekiss and the ubiquitous Dragon Breath users. One of its main perks is that it also reliably beats Dialga with Superpower as long as it avoids getting hit by Draco Meteor or Thunder. This makes it a fantastic lead, since it can Superpower on most bad matchups and switch to something more favorable. Its fast Rock Slides and fantastic Steel typing enable it to wreck Ho-Oh with 2 shields, Dragonite, Lugia, Togekiss and Reshiram. It still can usually beat Palkia with Rock Slide, but it is much closer. Zekrom is the only Dragon Breath user that Melmetal really struggles with. Melmetal loses very hard to Ground types and the rare Fighting types. It loses to the Giratinas for the most part, but it has a positive matchup against Dragon Breath Tina-A. Ho-Oh and Kyogre only win in lower shield scenarios.
With both shields behind it, Kyogre can beat almost anything that doesn’t resist Water, which makes it a great lead. Unfortunately, what it loses to, it loses hard. Pretty much any Dragon type wrecks it, except Reshiram since it doesn’t resist Water.
Mewtwo’s wide range of coverage moves allow it to potentially hit everything in Master League for super effective damage. Because of this and having the highest Attack stat in game, it is the best safe swap in the league. However, it is somewhat frail, so it can struggle early game when shields are up, especially against Togekiss, Kyogre and Dragon Breath users. Strong neutral attacks like Swampert’s Hydro Cannon, Ho-Oh’s Brave Bird, Garchomp’s Outrage and Groudon’s Earthquake can overwhelm it very easily.
Mewtwo is very straightforward, using its whopping 300 attack stat and strong charge moves to OHKO or 2HKO almost everything. Psystrike is Mewtwo’s fastest and best charge move and paired with Focus Blast has fantastic coverage that only misses out on opposing Psychic types. Although it is also legacy and thus would require an Elite TM, Shadow Ball is also a very good secondary charge move in general to go with Psystrike. It takes two fast moves longer to reach than Psystrike, but has much better coverage overall. Notably, it hits opposing Psychic types such as Lugia for super effective damage and most importantly hits the Giratinas super effectively, netting an easy 2HKO on both of them. It also hits Steel types for strong neutral damage, but the Steel type nuke potential is . If you don’t have any legacy Mewtwo, Ice Beam is the best charge move to use with Focus Blast for maximum coverage. Mewtwo generally loses to the Giratinas and Dialga, especially with shields up, but they need to watch out for potential super effective coverage moves. Other than that, there really isn’t anything that hard counters Mewtwo, especially if it has Psystrike.
Other Ground Types
Similar to Groudon, their main roles are to counter Steel types (mainly Melmetal) and check Reshiram and Zekrom. All of them have good matchups against Ho-Oh as well. Each is unique since they have different typings, stats and coverage moves.
Garchomp is a monster. It has a crazy high max CP and amazing stats that rival a lot of legendaries and Mythicals such as the Giratinas and Melmetal, while also having a moveset that fits it perfectly. It unfortunately loses to Dialga, Reshiram and Zekrom in the two shield scenario since it’s weak to Dragon Breath, but it picks up consistent wins on them when shields are down. Garchomp basically ties them in the one shield matchup. Earthquake Garchomp should only be used late game or when shields are down on the opponent’s side, as that’s when it can really show its true potential. It’s one of the best closers in Master League since Earthquake and Outrage can OHKO or 2HKO almost everything. Sand Tomb is a solid option over Earthquake, as it gives Garchomp viability early game by allowing it to beat Dialga, Reshiram and Zekrom in the one shield scenario much easier. It can even beat both Giratina forms with two shields if it baits shields successfully with Sand Tomb.
Swampert makes a pretty good lead since it threatens Groudon, Dialga, Landorus, Ho-Oh, Melmetal, Reshiram and Zekrom. It can beat Dialga, Reshiram and Zekrom even in the two shield scenario but it has to land the Earthquake on Dialga and Zekrom to win, which requires a lot of mind games or luck to pull off. Since Reshiram doesn’t resist Water, Swampert can actually beat it in the two shield matchup only using Hydro Cannon, but it is extremely close.
Landorus is the frailest of the three, but has the best coverage and resists Ground itself, which enables it to check Garchomp without Sand Tomb. It beats Reshiram only using Rock Slide in the one shield and two shield matchups, but needs to land Earth Power to KO it when shields are down. It unfortunately can’t beat Dialga or Zekrom in the two shield scenario reliably due to its low bulk. Even if it successfully baits twice, Landorus gets farmed down before it reaches the third Earth Power in the lead matchup against Dialga. The same thing happens if Zekrom only throws one charge move against Landorus, so never throw more than one charge move with Zekrom or Dialga against Landorus. However, Landorus beats them convincingly in the one shield and no shield scenarios straight Earth Power. Although Landorus doesn’t resist Rock Slide, it still beats Melmetal reliably in every even shield scenario straight Earth Power.
All three lose to Kyogre, Palkia, Togekiss, Lugia and Dragonite, especially if shields are up. Swampert and Landorus lose to the Giratinas and Psystrike Mewtwo pretty convincingly. Garchomp gets absolutely clowned by Togekiss and is weak to Palkia and Dragonite’s Dragon Breath, but has the best matchup of all the Ground types against Mewtwo, Kyogre and the Giratinas, especially with Sand Tomb. Swampert loses very hard to Dragonite since it resists both of its moves, but forces at least one shield on Togekiss, Palkia and Kyogre most of the time. Landorus loses hard to Kyogre, Swampert and Palkia since it is weak to Water, but has the best matchups against Togekiss, Lugia and Dragonite.
Ho-Oh & Lugia
Last but not least, these Pokémon are very strong Groudon counters that check Togekiss. Their other matchups differ since their stats, movesets, sub-typings and the way they are used are different.
With the addition of Incinerate, Ho-Oh is FINALLY viable in Master league. Fire isn’t a very good offensive typing in Master League since many Pokémon resist it, but it hits Melmetal super effectively and Groudon, Dialga and Togekiss neutrally, which is extremely important. Ho-Oh’s viability doesn’t just come from Incinerate though, it also comes from it’s powerful charge moves that are completely unresisted with each other. Earthquake has fairly good neutral coverage in Master League and hits some important threats super effectively, such as Dialga, Melmetal, Reshiram and Zekrom. Any Flying types wanting to switch in to absorb an Earthquake can be met with a powerful STAB Brave Bird.
Ho-Oh checks Melmetal and Dialga in lower shield scenarios with Earthquake. It is bulky enough to survive the 2nd Rock Slide from Melmetal in the 1 shield scenario and land the Earthquake to KO. Unfortunately, this is where the good news ends for Ho-Oh. It can’t beat Dialga and Melmetal in the 2 shield scenario, unless they don’t shield Earthquake for some reason. Although Brave Bird is really strong, it lowers the user’s Defense by 3 stages (for reference, the most stats can be lowered is 4 stages), which means Ho-Oh has to play extremely carefully if it plans to use it. This makes the matchups against opposing Flying types (or most Pokémon for that matter) very tricky, since using Brave Bird too early can spell imminent doom for Ho-Oh if it gets shielded. Due to Brave Bird’s mechanics, Ho-Oh is best used as a lead. This allows it to switch out and clear Brave Bird’s debuffs most effectively.
Lugia is the bulkiest Pokémon in Master League. It can survive even Master League’s most devastating attacks from full health, including Palkia and Dialga’s Draco Meteor, Zekrom’s Wild Charge and Kyogre’s Blizzard. With its signature move Aeroblast, Lugia is stronger than ever. It has a very high energy cost, but is so powerful that it flips the Giratina (both forms) and Dialga matchups if it lands. Lugia goes toe-to-toe with Kyogre, Ho-Oh and Reshiram and has good matchups against the Ground types, Palkia, Dragonite and non-Shadow Ball Mewtwo.
Lugia loses hard to Melmetal and generally loses to Dialga and the Giratinas. Shadow Ball Mewtwo turns the tables against it. Zekrom beats it pretty easily in lower shield scenarios. Ho-Oh loses to Melmetal with 2 shields. Dialga beats Ho-Oh in the 2 shield scenario head-to-head, but if Ho-Oh has even 1 Incinerate of an energy lead, it can usually make it to the 3rd Earthquake and KO. The Giratinas, Zekrom, Dragonite and Reshiram also usually beat Ho-Oh, but Zekrom and Reshiram can’t afford to take an Earthquake and Brave Bird does a ton of damage to the Giratinas. Palkia and Kyogre are the strongest counters Ho-Oh, but again, Brave Bird does a ton of damage to them.
Other Dragon Breath Users:
Dragonite and Palkia are the best Dragon Breath users besides Dialga. What makes them generally better than Zekrom and Reshiram is they beat Ground types instead of being weak to them. Dragonite is actually the strongest Groudon and Swampert counter in the game, since it resists Ground, Water and Fire. Although it may seem completely outclassed by Dialga at first, Dragonite has a few advantages over the Master League king. For starters, Dragonite wrecks Ground types and Ho-Oh and checks Fighting types rather than being weak to them. Garchomp can still OHKO with Outrage though, so make sure you have shields on your side if you plan to use Dragonite to beat Garchomp. It still usually beats the Giratinas like Dialga does and beats most other Dragon Breath users 1v1 since it has Dragon Claw. Having only Dragon attacks, despite how powerful they are, leaves Dragonite extremely vulnerable to Togekiss, Melmetal and Dialga, although Dialga can’t afford to take too many Dragon Claws or a Draco Meteor, as it almost OHKOs it.
Dragon Claw is the charge move that Dragonite will be using most of the time since it’s fast and reliable. Although it’s a Community Day exclusive, Draco Meteor is the preferred second charge move as it’s ridiculously powerful and is only slightly slower than Outrage. It does have a sharp attack drop after usage though so be careful when using it. If you don’t have any Dragonite with Draco Meteor, then Outrage is still a solid choice. It doesn’t have the attack drop so it does consistent damage but it’s much weaker than Draco Meteor. Hurricane allows Dragonite to hit Togekiss hard if it gets locked into it and demolishes Fighting types, but it has no other use besides that.
Palkia doesn’t resist Ground like Dragonite does, but it is bulkier and has a much better matchup against Melmetal, the biggest threat to Dragon Breath users. It also absolutely walls Kyogre, since it double resists Water and only takes neutral damage from Blizzard. Aqua Tail is really fast and puts immense shield pressure on the Ground types and Ho-Oh. Unfortunately, Palkia isn’t as reliable at beating the Giratinas as Dragonite, Zekrom and Reshiram since its only super effective charge move is Draco Meteor, but with both shields up it still can usually overcome them.
Dragonite beats Palkia if the Palkia isn’t Best Buddy. Best Buddy Palkia with 15 Defense reaches a bulkpoint on Dragonite’s Dragon Breath which flips the matchup. However, if the Dragonite is Best Buddy as well, it still wins.
Zekrom and Reshiram are the only Dragon Breath users capable of threatening a OHKO on Togekiss, which is a pretty huge deal. Not even Dialga’s STAB Iron Head can do that. The main reason they aren’t higher on this list though, is because they are very vulnerable to Ground types. They both beat Palkia for the most part (although barely) and the Giratinas, but can only tie Dragonite at best.
Zekrom has the strongest Wild Charge in the game. This enables it to OHKO Togekiss from almost full health (if it lands) guaranteed with just a little chip damage from Dragon Breath. This doesn’t mean Zekrom counters Togekiss though, since it is weak to Charm. Wild Charge also lets it beat Melmetal if it lands, which makes it the only current Dragon Breath user capable of beating Melmetal head on. However, since Wild Charge harshly lowers your Defense upon usage, you must be careful when using it on any opponent. Crunch has virtually perfect coverage with Wild Charge in Master League. It hits the Ground types and opposing Dragon types that resist Wild Charge for solid neutral damage and gives it a move to hit opponents without lowering its Defense. Most importantly, it hits the Giratinas and Psychic types such as Mewtwo and Lugia super effectively. Outrage might seem appealing to nuke Dragon types when shields are down, but the combination of Dragon Breath + Crunch is usually enough to take them down. Garchomp is much better with shields down anyway. Don’t use Stone Edge.
Reshiram has an amazing offensive typing that gives its STAB moves completely unresisted coverage in Master League. This makes it a fantastic safe swap capable of OHKOing or 2HKOing almost everything. It also is the only other Dragon type besides Dialga to not be weak to Charm. STAB Overheat does 75% damage minimum to Togekiss, making it an easy OHKO after some chip damage from Dragon Breath or a Crunch. It absolutely nukes Steel types, although Melmetal’s fast and super effective Rock Slides are usually too much for Reshiram to handle. Overheat harshly lowers your Attack when you use it, so similar to Zekrom you must play Reshiram carefully. Crunch once again is there to pressure the Giratinas and Psychic types and hit opponents without lowering its Attack. Stone Edge can be used instead of Overheat to pressure Togekiss more and surprise Dragonite and opposing Reshiram, but without Overheat you lose any chance of beating Melmetal and worsen your matchups against Dialga and Groudon. Reshiram is the only Pokémon in the game that currently has both Draco Meteor and Overheat in its arsenal. This can let it run a very interesting and very powerful double nuke set, but since both of those moves harshly lower your Attack when you use them, it would probably only work as a lead so you can utilize hit-and-run tactics with them reliably.
All 4 of these Pokémon generally to Dialga and Togekiss, especially if they have both shields. Zekrom & Reshiram are very vulnerable to the Ground types, but with both shields in tact they have a good chance of beating them. Reshiram has a big Kyogre and Swampert problem since it doesn’t resist Water. Palkia, Dragonite and Reshiram are pretty weak to Melmetal. Lugia with both shields beats all of them fairly easily. It even checks Dragonite and Palkia in lower shield scenarios, but at the same time Reshiram and Zekrom have a much easier time against Lugia in lower shield scenarios.
Like Melmetal, they hard counter Togekiss and check Dialga. The main issue with them though is they lose harder to the Giratinas, Ho-Oh and Zekrom than Melmetal and lose to Palkia and Reshiram.
Metagross beats Dragonite as long as it doesn’t get hit by Draco Meteor. It can farm Togekiss from full health, which is huge since a 100 energy Metagross is one of the scariest things to face in Master League. Meteor Mash is the best Steel type charge move in the game. It 2HKOs almost everything that doesn’t resist it, even Giratina-O. Earthquake is the best coverage move Metagross could possibly get. It lets it check Melmetal and Dialga and hits every relevant threat that resists Meteor Mash at least neutrally. Metagross has much better matchups against Ground types than Melmetal and Heatran.
Heatran is a VERY high risk, high reward Pokémon. It’s the hardest Togekiss counter in the game and beats Dialga and Metagross straight Flamethrower, but it loses to basically everything else. It can’t even beat Dragonite, Reshiram, Ho-Oh and Lugia reliably despite having Stone Edge. The Melmetal matchup for the most part is in Melmetal’s favor due to Superpower. It loses harder to Palkia, the Giratinas and Zekrom than Metagross. Stone Edge is the best second charge move since it gives Heatran the best chance at beating most of the Pokémon that resist Fire. It is actually stronger than STAB Iron Head.
Both lose pretty hard to the Ground types and the Giratinas. Kyogre, Ho-Oh and Palkia give Metagross a very hard time. Heatran is really weak to the rare Fighting types and is walled by Kyogre, Swampert, Garchomp and Palkia.
The hardest wall to Giratina-O in the game if it doesn’t have Dragon Pulse. But even if Tina-O has Dragon Pulse, Snorlax can easily tank two of them and threaten it with Earthquake. It easily beats Shadow Claw Tina-A as well but it needs to land an Earthquake for it to be consistent. Dragon Breath Tina-A turns the tables on Snorlax. The combination of Lick and Body Slam allows Snorlax to soft check Mewtwo with shields up, but it has to watch out for Focus Blast, which almost OHKOs from full health. Earthquake lets Snorlax soft check Steel types, Zekrom and Reshiram, but those matchups are extremely bait dependent, so don’t expect Snorlax to always be able to beat them. Same thing goes with Outrage, it might seem appealing to use it to surprise Dragons, but since it is almost as slow as Earthquake, the opponent will most likely see it coming and shield it.
Snorlax is very bulky, but it loses most neutral matchups since it is rather weak offensively, especially against Dragon Breath users. Togekiss beats it, Groudon beats it, Kyogre beats it, Melmetal keeps it on its toes with Superpower, Mewtwo’s Psystrikes can overwhelm it, the list goes on. The only things it hard loses to though are the rare Fighting types.
Darkrai is pretty much a Dark type version of Mewtwo, which lets it beat the Giratinas and Lugia rather than mostly lose to them. Since it double resists Psystrike and resists Shadow Ball, it makes a very good Mewtwo counter as well. However, it is VERY frail, so it needs shields to beat them reliably and to have a chance of beating the Ground types.
Togekiss, the rare Fighting types, Kyogre with both shields and Dragon Breath users with both shields eat it for breakfast.