Through almost 1,000 episodes of television and 20 spin-off movies, Ash Ketchum has become an iconic figure for aspiring Pokémon trainers across the world. An immortal 10-year-old from Pallet Town in the Kanto region, Ash has seen his dream of catching ‘em all shattered to pieces, as the original 151 Pokémon grew to upwards of 800.
Even so, Ash has built up a solid team on his travels through the seven regions, enabling him to spar with some of the very best (like no-one ever has?). As we narrow his most powerful team down to 15, we’re focusing specifically on those battle records and the calibre of opponents they've defeated, with minor emphasis on move sets.
Given the number of inconsistencies in the anime as compared to the games, there is only so much factual evidence we can supply, and as always, we welcome your own thoughts on Ash’s strongest team in the comments. It’s also impossible to tell how strong the various Pokémon Ash has prematurely released have become, so while the likes of Primeape, Tauros, and Pidgeot would normally be contenders, we’ve yet to see them at their full potential.
Let’s take a look at Ash’s Most Powerful Pokémon.
Back in Kanto, Bulbasaur was just the fourth Pokémon to join Ash’s team (behind Pikachu, Caterpie, and Pidgeotto). Only Pikachu and Meowth have made more anime appearances than Bulbasaur, while Pikachu is the only one's been on Ash’s team for more episodes.
Despite going up against some powerful opponents during his time with Ash, Bulbasaur holds a positive win-to-loss ratio. Its most impressive feat actually comes when it fights for Misty in the Princess Day Festival, where it defeats a Kingler, Pinsir, Cubone, and Raticate in a single battle. In Johto, Bulbasaur ties with its gen-2 equivalent’s final evolution, Meganium, having already taken damage from a Magneton, and it returns for the Advanced Generation series to defeat Brandon’s Dusclops, which had just beaten Charizard.
Bulbasaur now resides at Professor Oak’s Lab, where it maintains peace between Ash’s grass and water type Pokémon. In its only Sinnoh appearance, Bulbasaur is seen fending off Heracross, who is trying to suck sap from its bulb, and it returns briefly to Ash’s side in the Unova region.
Ash’s Gliscor didn’t stick around for too long after evolving from Gligar, but its very first battle won Ash a Badge at the Canalave City Gym. After beating Bastiodon, Gliscor went on to lose its next two matches, although its defeats to Candice’s Snover and Paul’s Torterra were narrow ones.
After training with McCann, Gliscor returned to Ash a far stronger Pokémon, having learned to perfect Giga Impact and Stone Edge under the Air Battle Master’s tutelage. Ash recalls Gliscor for the Sinnoh league, where the ground-flying hybrid gets the chance to show off its new power during a rematch with Paul. Gliscor battles through poison to defeat Drapion, which had knocked out three of Ash’s Pokémon in succession, but eventually loses out to Paul’s overpowered Electivire.
This was the last we saw of Gliscor in action, although it is seen at Professor Oak’s in the final Black and White saga episode.
Krabby was the seventh Pokémon caught by Ash, and the the first water type to evolve under Ash’s care (a record it held alone until Kalos, when Ash’s Froakie swept through the evolution process to become Greninja). We also didn’t see much of Kingler in the anime, but it racked up some impressive stats during its brief spell as part of Ash’s team. After evolving mid-battle, Kingler only lost one competitive match, and it remains the only one of Ash’s Pokémon to win a league match entirely single-handedly.
It entered the Pokémon League as a Krabby, and despite the type disadvantage, Krabby shocked everyone by defeating an Exeggutor in its first ever battle. It evolved then and there, and Kingler made quick work of Mandi’s Seadra and Golbat to sweep the board. In the following match, Kingler beats Cloyster by crushing its shell with a powerful Crabhammer, before finally falling to Pete’s Arcanine.
Wherever he goes, you can usually rely on Ash to snap up the regional bird Pokémon. Pidgeot never entered an official match (though it tore through a wild Fearow with ease); Noctowl, despite its winning record, was rarely used in battle; and Unfezant and Talonflame have losing records under Ash.
That leaves Swellow and Staraptor to battle it out for the number one spot. Starly was the first Pokémon caught by Ash in Sinnoh, and as it evolved into Staraptor, it became Ash’s longest-serving Pokémon beyond the Hoenn region.
Despite Swellow’s impressive record in battle, Staraptor has some equally impressive wins to its name, including those over Paul’s Honchkrow and Weavile (the latter with a type disadvantage), but its move set is by far the best of Ash’s bird Pokémon. Staraptor knows two of the most powerful flying type moves, Aerial Ace and Brave Bird, as well as Close Combat, which allows it to battle ice, rock, and steel types where it would usually have the disadvantage.
But Swellow still takes the top spot over Staraptor. Third only to Pikachu and Bulbasaur in terms of episodes spent on Ash’s team, it may not have the best moves of Ash’s birds, but Swellow is almost solely responsible for taking Ash through to the quarter-finals of the Hoenn League. It also puts in a strong performance at the Battle Frontier, where it defeats Tucker’s Swampert and Palace’s Venasaur.
In the Hoenn region’s Ever Grande Conference, Swellow twice knocks out two Pokémon in a row. First, it defeats Katie’s Venomoth and Scizor, before going up against Tyson, taking out both Hariyama and Donphan. In the latter, it even deals damage to Metagross, which would eventually allow Pikachu the win over the steel type. This comes after separate gym battle victories over Juan’s Whiscash and a more powerful Shiny Swellow.
Swellow’s unique resistance to electric moves sets it apart from Ash’s other flying types. In a double battle with Pikachu, Swellow not only takes Pikachu’s Thunder, but uses it as armor, transforming into an electric-charged version of itself and knocking out Lunatone with a single Thunder Armor Aerial Ace.
Glalie goes under the radar as part of Ash’s Hoenn team, but it should be noted that Glalie is currently Ash’s only ice type Pokémon (having released Lapras on the Orange Islands), and its record in battle speaks for itself. After evolving from a nervous Snorunt, Glalie never lost a one-on-one match (although it was forced into a tie on more than one occasion).
Glalie’s first win would come at the Ever Grande Conference, defeating a Charizard despite the disadvantage. In the following battle with Katie, Glalie takes out her Dugtrio with ease, and then uses Headbutt to seemingly knock out Misdreavus, only for the ghost type to use Destiny Bond at the last second to take Glalie down with it.
Glalie is Ash’s final Pokémon in his bout with Morrison, defeating Metang even after taking a couple of super effective hits from the steel type. Glalie’s Ice Beam matches Sceptile’s Solar Beam in the next round against Tyson, and the resulting explosion knocks out both Pokémon.
Heracross was the first of Ash’s Johto Pokémon, but it competed in surprisingly few battles in its initial run. It lost to Rochelle’s Donphan in its first official match, although it previously had easily beaten another of her Donphan before the match was interrupted. The following match was perhaps Heracross' finest moment, defeating Shingo’s Scizor with a powerful combination of sharp reaction time and strong move set.
Heracross has been in and out of Ash’s team ever since, spending most of its time at Oak’s Lab trying to suck the sap from Bulbasaur, and returning only when Ash has a tough battle ahead. Heracross was recalled for the Johto League Silver Conference, where it went up against Gary’s Magmar, overcoming a super effective Fire Blast and Flamethrower combination with a flush of its wings.
Later, at the Lily of the Valley Conference, Heracross rejoined Ash to battle Tobias. Facing off against his Darkrai, Heracross dealt the legendary Pokémon a powerful blow with its Megahorn, even after being put to sleep, and its Hyper Beam was a match for Darkrai’s Ice Beam before it was taken out by a Dream Eater.
Goodra is the third-stage evolution of Goomy, Ash’s only pure dragon type Pokémon, and one of just eight pseudo-legendary Pokémon (meaning any Pokémon in its third and final stage of evolution whose base stat total is exactly 600).
Before its inevitable release, Goodra was undefeated in all forms of battle. In its first two official matches as a Goodra, it took down the double threat of Tierno’s Raichu and Wartortle (along with Pikachu), and earned Ash a Voltage Badge by defeating Clemont’s Luxray in the final round.
Upon its return to the team, Goodra fought Sawyer’s Slurpuff to a draw, and followed that with successive losses to Alain’s Bisharp and Lysandre’s Mega Gyarados, despite a strong set of moves. Goodra’s powerful Bide is backed up by attacks such as Dragon Pulse, Dragon Breath, and Ice Beam, but it just misses out on Ash’s ultimate team. Had Goodra maintained its winning record, there would be no doubt of its place in the top six.
Krookodile was the ninth and final Pokémon to join Ash’s team in Unova, and by far the most powerful of the lot. Unfortunately, Ash’s Unova team was so large that none of them got a chance to fully develop. Krookodile actually had more to do when it was still a Krokorok.
That said, Krookodile has one of the highest win rates out of all Ash’s Pokémon at 75%, and the way it wins is just as impressive. Krookodile’s first victim was Iris’ Dragonite (which admittedly wasn’t paying Iris any attention through most of the round). Krookodile’s next bout is at the Vertress Conference, where it was sent out first to battle Stephan’s Liepard. Krookodile was recalled after its win, returning for the final match with Sawk, and beating the fighting Pokémon with a surprising Aerial Ace attack.
The flying type move stands alongside Dig, Dragon Claw, and Stone Edge in what is arguably the most powerful move set of all of Ash’s Pokémon. It’s just a shame we didn’t get to see more of Krookodile in action.
Pikachu has to make Ash’s top six, just on the basis that Ash would never leave Pikachu out of his dream team. But that’s not say that Pikachu doesn’t earn its spot; even having been around since the very first episode of the anime, Pikachu still holds a win rate of over 60%.
That 60% includes wins over three pseudo-legendary Pokémon. Pikachu defeats a heavily worn-out Dragonite in the Orange League, and both Metagross and Tyranitar fall to Pikachu during Ash’s loss to Alain at the Lumiose Conference in Kalos. Pikachu even boasts a winning record versus full legendary Pokémon, having beaten Brandon’s Regice and tied with Tobias’ Latios-- not to mention its win over Mega Lucario, which may just as well be legendary.
On the other hand, Pikachu has been on the receiving end of some equally surprising losses. Among others, Pikachu was defeated by Trip’s Snivy, despite Snivy never having battled before, as well as Jeanette’s Bellsprout. Its inconsistency just keeps Pikachu from the top five, but Pikachu is most definitely at the highest level of any of Ash’s Pokémon, and would always make his team of six.
When it comes to legendary Pokémon, Ash’s Sceptile has arguably the most notable win in the entire anime, taking out Tobias’ Darkrai at the Lily of the Valley Conference. Darkrai had never been beaten in battle, where Sceptile is able to take it out with a single Leaf Blade, although some of the credit has to go to Heracross, having already scored some damage on Darkrai. Sceptile’s record against other legendaries, including Regirock and Latios, is not so good, but you can hardly count that against Sceptile, which has also fought May’s Blaziken to a tie.
Now that it has access to Mega Evolution, Sceptile potentially stakes a claim as Ash’s outright most powerful Pokémon, but its current win rate of just 44% through its three stages of evolution proves that Ash hasn’t been able to count on Sceptile as much as some of his other Pokémon. Unlike those above Sceptile, it just hasn’t put together enough successive wins to be considered for the top spot.
Snorlax may never have defeated a legendary, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t. Snorlax has overcome near impossible odds to win a good majority of its matches, despite being reserved specifically for Ash’s most intense battles.
Its most impressive feat is demonstrating six moves during Ash’s match with Greta at the Kanto Battle Frontier. While Ash’s Pokémon are often inconsistent with their move sets, none has displayed more than four separate attacks in the very same battle. By contrast, a 5000 IQ Alakazam is able to stretch to only five moves. Oversight or not, when we combine Snorlax’s move set with its unbelievable agility (for a Snorlax), and a 100% record against fighting type Pokémon (supposedly a normal type’s sole weakness), it understandable that many consider Snorlax to be Ash’s most powerful Pokémon.
Its only losses come to Clair’s Gyarados, Gary’s Scizor, and Harrison’s Houndoom, but in all three matches, Snorlax had already defeated at least one of its opponent’s Pokémon.
Ash’s relationship with Charizard got off to a rocky start, but wins over Blaine’s Magmar and Tad’s Poliwrath got the pair back on the right track. Since then, Charizard has faced off against far more powerful opponents, and come out with a winning record. Its most notable win was its defeat of Noland’s Articuno at the Battle Factory, while it also held its own against Entei in the third Pokémon movie.
Legendary Pokémon aside, Charizard has equally impressive victories over Falkner’s Pidgeot and half of Gary Oak’s entire team at the Silver Conference. Charizard swept through Gary’s Scizor, Golem, and Blastoise, despite the type disadvantage in the latter two, to earn Ash his first win over his childhood rival.
And this is all before its training in the Charicific Valley, which was recently confirmed to be complete. Charizard’s only battle upon its return saw the Pokémon take the upper hand against Iris’ Dragonite, before the match was called off.
Charizard has losses to Blaziken and Dusclops to its name, but a large chunk of its loss percentage is due to its early disobedience of Ash, and with its training now complete, Charizard at full power is a match for just about any Pokémon.
Since evolving from Monferno, Ash’s Infernape has lost only once, and that was to Elite Four member Flint. In its other battles – in those it was expected to win and in those it seemed outmatched – Infernape has always pulled through, and currently holds an 83% win rate under Ash – the highest of any of his Pokémon.
Even excluding its physical power, Infernape’s bond with Ash is so powerful that between them, they are able to control Infernape’s Blaze ability. With Blaze activated, Infernape is nigh unbeatable, even after taking heavy damage.
Infernape won Ash the Beacon Badge, defeating Volkner’s Jolteon and Luxray after taking powerful electric attacks from both, and it single-handedly ran through Paul’s team at the Lily of the Valley Conference. After battling through poison to beat Aggron and Ninjask, Infernape finally settled the score with Electivire, activating Blaze and finally defeating its old rival.
Infernape has a higher win percentage than Charizard, and a superior set of moves. Infernape’s only drawback is that it never defeated a legendary Pokémon, but with Blaze, we’d count on Infernape to overpower just about anything.
None of Ash’s Pokémon have, as yet, Mega Evolved, but Greninja has come the closest. In fact, Greninja doesn’t require a stone to reach its most powerful stage – only its bond with Ash. The resulting form, known as Ash-Greninja, mentally fuses Ash and Greninja, and is just as strong as any Mega Evolved Pokémon seen in the anime, even through Ash's struggles to master the transformation.
The evolution, which hasn’t been seen in thousands of years, has battled Alain’s Mega Charizard X, Wulfric’s Mega Abomasnow, and Diantha’s Mega Gardevoir. Greninja triumphed in the latter two matches and initially lost to Charizard, only for the rematch to be cut short by Ash’s inability to maintain the pressure of the Ash-Greninja form.
At exactly 80%, its win rate falls just short of Infernape’s, while it also has yet to test its strength against a legendary Pokémon, but Greninja's bond with Ash exceeds even his connection with Infernape, which virtually guarantees Greninja as the first name on Ash’s ultimate team.
Which of Ash's Pokémon do you think is the most powerful? Let us know in the comments!