The Popular Monster That's Slowing Down Competitive Pokemon

A couple of months after Sun and Moon's release, one monster has appeared on 40 per cent of the best-performing teams in the competitive Pokemon scene: Celesteela, the ultra beast. Celesteela's schtick: Becoming a "wall" against opponents, and surviving attacks for very a long time. And yet, for all her popularity, Celesteela's antic of slowing matches to a crawl can be a frustrating for players and spectators alike.

Illustration: Angelica Alzona

The Great Wall of Alola

Celesteela made itself known at the first major Pokemon event following Sun & Moon's release, the European International Championships. Spain's Miguel Marti de La Torre went up against Italy's Nico Davide Cognetta in the finals with Celesteela on each side of the field. Their aim was to set up a situation where Celesteela could soak up attacks, heal itself and whittle away at the opposing Pokemon.

Between Celesteela's Steel/Flying type's eight resistances and two immunities, Celesteela's well-rounded defensive stats and the combination of Leech Seed, Substitute and Protect — all of which help maintain a monster's HP — a long, drawn-out battle seemed inevitable. Combine that with Celesteela's Beast Boost ability, which raises its highest (often defensive) stat after getting a knock out, and Celesteela can easily snowball its way to near-invulnerability.

But surely such a defensive Pokemon must be a weak attacker, you might imagine. Well, with access to Heavy Slam and the highest weight in the game, Celesteela can actually two-hit-KO a fair amount of opponents. Even worse, that list includes the very popular Alolan guardian quartet.

The Perfect Stall Storm

In the first game of their best of three set, De La Torre quickly took out Cognetta's Celesteela and took control for the win. In the second game, De La Torre managed to delay an eventual loss with his Celesteela for over 20 minutes — and he could have dragged things out longer. If he wanted, the set would have come down to sudden death, and the first player to end their turn with more Pokemon than their opponent would have been crowned the European International Champion. Instead, he used the limited round-time remaining to pressure Cognetta into playing aggressively for an advantage. By returning every blow and keeping his team healthier, he was able to win anyway.

In earlier generations, that kind of "stall" play would be impossible. Stalling wasn't as viable when a single game in a best of three set only lasted 15 minutes, per the official rules. Were Celesteela around then, you could have taken out its partners and run out the game timer. Then, if you had more remaining Pokemon, you'd win.

Many players aren't particularly thrilled about the new timer, either. Watching your chance of victory tick away with the seconds on the clock can be infuriating, and it's incredibly boring for spectators to watch on stream. Still, some players love the ability to manipulate the board until Celesteela can simply sit there and win. Others are just trying to figure out what Celesteela even is.

Despite her prominence and potential annoyances, some don't think Celesteela is that big of a problem. Now that people know Celesteela is a common pick, some players are readying for her appearance with monsters that can check her ability to set up and win. Usage rates fluctuate with the metagame on a regular basis, but a few novel counters to Celesteela emerged during the past month that weren't immediately obvious when the season began.

A lot of it is thanks, in part, to World Champion Wolfe Glick and European International Championship sixth-place-finisher Tobias Koschitzki. At the European International Championship, they demonstrated that Politoed and Magnezone have great ways to beat Celesteela.

Magnezone uses the Magnet Pull ability to trap the steel-type Celesteela in play and nuke it with a very powerful electric type attack. Politoed, meanwhile, can Encore Celesteela into any of its moves and eliminate the majority of its recovery. If it can't cycle between Leech Seed, Substitute and Protect, it's a lot easier to whittle down. Alternatively, Politoed can use Perish Song, which makes all Pokemon that hear it faint in three turns. This makes it impossible for Celesteela to just sit there soaking up damage until everything faints from Leech Seed damage.

Don't expect these tricks to work forever. While some have figured out ways around the current "standard" Celesteela set, players are still only about a month into the season. With its deep movepool, players will certainly find other clever ways to take advantage of Celesteela's power in ways no one is expecting. That, and players likely haven't settled on the absolute best five teammates that can help Celesteela win most effectively.


    Annoying walls notwithstanding, I'm liking the shake up to the meta with Sun/Moon. Only grievance would be the inability to get most Mega Stones into the game, which cuts out my fave Wallbreaker/Sweeper/Wall/UnstoppableForceOfNature Mega Tyranitar.

      Wouldn't Mega Tyranitar just get one shot by any high powered fighting moves? Being he has a 4x weakness to fighting?

        Yes, but that's why--depending on the Mega T-tar's role--you either eliminate fighting types before setting up if it's a sweeper, or switch out into a fighting resistant wall if it itself is a wall.

        Plenty of Pokémon have 4x weaknesses to common offensive types, you just build your team to cover that weakness. It doesn't automatically make that Pokémon bad.

          Copy that im not much of a competitive Pokemon player just play for the adventure and collecting the Mons.

    I'm still playing through Pokemon X... What's a Celesteela?

      A Pokémon introduced in Sun and Moon. It's technically an Ultra Beast, but realistically that's just a fancy name for a subset of Legendaries.

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