The Strongest Pokemon Currently In Ash Ketchum’s Roster (Excluding Pikachu)
We all know Ash Ketchum's strongest Pokemon is Pikachu. While he's had his fair share of embarrassing defeats against Pokemon owned by rookie Trainers (ahem, Snivy, ahem), he's more than proven himself with an extensive hit list that includes four Legendary Pokemon (Regice, Latios, Silvally, and Tapu Koko) and strong performances under the brightest possible lights.
Still, that doesn't mean the Pallet Town native's other Pokemon don't deserve time in the spotlight. Ash has caught tons of Pokemon over the years and regions he's traveled, and his ever-developing skill as a Trainer has produced some of the strongest Pokemon in the entire anime. This list will give that spotlight to the Pokemon currently in Ash's roster that deserve it, and which have stuck around over the years.
As the title alludes to, this list will not include Pokemon that have been released, such as Greninja.
Updated November 29, 2022, by Kyle Laurel: The Masters Eight Tournament is over, and Ash is a World Champion! With that in mind, some updates have been made with tons of consideration for his entire Journeys team, with the ranking changing and the addition of another core member.
Ash has a knack for developing a few of his Pokemon without evolving them, and while fellow Grass-type starters Bulbasaur and Snivy have also been fine examples, Rowlet has arguably been Ash's strongest Pokemon in that particular mold.
Beating your own fully-evolved form is a pretty decent barometer of strength, and Rowlet has done that — beating Hau's Decidueye with the costume and all, alongside other times when it played its role as an unpredictable sparkplug on Ash's Alola team. It's done so by confusing opponents with its speed, quick reflexes, and surprisingly wide offensive arsenal, consisting of Razor Leaf, Seed Bomb, and Brave Bird.
Swellow might have been the best regional bird to ever grace Ash's roster. That might be a hot take with Staraptor and Talonflame also being key contributors at one point, but Swellow has too good a battling resume to ignore, having helped Ash win key Gym battles and Battle Frontier symbol matches.
As is natural with its species, Swellow never lacks in toughness. It might have been the prototype of Ash's unrelenting determination jammed into a Pokemon, and that's helped when executing headfirst Aerial Aces or ridiculous Thunder Armor tactics. Speaking of which, it may also have the best aerial skill out of Ash's Flying-type Pokemon – it looks like a fighter jet flying over the battlefield.
Ash's Johto captures are often overlooked, with Bayleef, Quilava, and Donphan deserving some consideration. However, his prize catch from that stretch was probably his first: Heracross.
This Bug/Fighting-type was a skilled battler from the get-go, flaunting good mental toughness and surprising speed for a Pokemon of its bulk. It's quite versatile, too, being able to deal ranged attacks (Hyper Beam) or physical ones (Megahorn, Focus Punch). It's been relied upon in key battles even after Ash's Johto travels, namely: the Silver Conference battle against Gary, the battle against Spenser for the Spirits Symbol, and battles against Nando and Tobias at the Sinnoh League.
The only thing even close to a Legendary Pokemon eligible for this list, Ash's lone Mythical Pokemon is certainly powerful. It might be the best in terms of pure physical strength, which makes sense considering it literally has steel for muscles.
As a Meltan, it really wasn't fit for battling, but its ability to eat metal got it out of sticky situations. While it's still a bit rough around the edges and barely has a battling resume to speak of, its power is undeniable. If it could learn to control that Double Iron Bash and execute it with more restraint, it could skyrocket up this list in due time.
Ash's Lycanroc is one of a kind, being the only known Dusk Forme in the anime. It's also, of course, the MVP of Ash's match against Gladion for the Alola League championship.
It was always a very strong Rock-type Pokemon — easily the best on Ash's roster — but it had a streak of not being able to control its power when angry. It's since been able to control its red-eyed state, and used it as a boost to its power during Ash's most important battles in the Alola League. It also seems to have tons of endurance, with however many Counters it was able to take from Gladion's Lycanroc during its shining moment.
Hardcore fans of the anime think of one battle when Ash's Snorlax is brought up: that time it battled Greta's two Fighting-type Pokemon with six moves. That could easily be just a writers' mistake, but it still proves this Normal-type is plenty powerful.
While it had a tendency to sleep on the battlefield at the wrong time, it can hit like an 18-wheeler and take tons of damage unfazed, thanks to its incredibly bulky body. It's also deceptively fast, able to keep up with other Pokemon you wouldn't expect it to be able to. Above all else, that Body Slam is guaranteed to break its opponents' spines.
The first of Ash's Fire-type starters to appear on this list, Ash's Incineroar had one of the best growth and development arcs among all of Ash's Pokemon. While its power as an Incineroar has yet to be seen, its time as a Torracat was enough to get it decently high here.
What really pushed it was its rivalry with Professor Kukui's Incineroar. It always had that goal of equaling and eventually defeating Kukui's Incineroar in mind, and all its best showings in the anime were against Kukui's Incineroar, both in the Battle Royal Dome and Manalo Conference exhibition match.
Ash has a few other decent Ground-types, such as Donphan, Gliscor, and Gible, but none of them hold a candle to the sunglasses-wielding Krookodile. This Ground/Dark-type was one of the later additions to Ash's team during the Black & White seasons, but it immediately stole everyone's thunder.
It was the bright spot and lone consistent performer from an otherwise underwhelming Unova roster, constantly showing off in important battles with its speed and power. Aside from a strong Dig and Stone Edge, it's got excellent coverage with Dragon Claw and Aerial Ace. It has proven its worth by defeating some of Ash's strongest opponents, including Iris's Dragonite and Stephan's Sawk.
Ash's first officially owned Ghost-type got off to a rough start, but after learning how to Gigantamax, it earned a bunch of key knockouts in important World Coronation Series matches. That said, it's developed to be quite good even without G-Maxing. It did a lot of work in the Masters Eight Tournament despite other gimmicks like Pikachu's Z-Move or Lucario's Mega Evolution being utilized instead.
While it's still probably the frailest Pokemon on Ash's Journeys team, Gengar can still be called upon to deal big damage in spurts. Its moveset has steadily evolved in terms of versatility, having learned Dazzling Gleam, Sludge Bomb, and especially Will-O-Wisp, which was very useful for offsetting its defensive shortcomings.
The Sinnoh Fire-type starter slowly but surely rose up to become Ash's Diamond & Pearl ace after it was released by Paul. While it never really developed under Paul's harsh training, Ash's nurturing treatment allowed it to blossom.
Of course, its Blaze ability is the stuff of legends, surpassing any other starter-exclusive ability (i.e. Blaze, Overgrow, and/or Torrent) in the anime in terms of unadulterated power. While it used to be a sign of emotional volatility, it became an asset once Infernape gained control over it. Its relatively recent bout against the legendary Moltres, despite it being a loss, proved it's on a constant pursuit of improvement, too.
If there was one Pokemon on Ash's Journeys team that stepped up when it mattered most, it was probably Sirfetch'd. It took a while for it to really become a useful member of Ash's team, but once it evolved and rounded out its moveset, it became arguably the team's best workhorse.
While its ability to deal massive damage with Meteor Assault is the first thing that might scare an opponent, it should be commended for doing all the dirty work, especially under the bright lights of the Masters Eight Tournament. While it didn't score as many knockouts, it definitely helped its teammates do so by chipping away at opposing Pokemon and taking away battlefield effects like Stealth Rock and Psychic Terrain.
It's easy to reduce Sceptile's skill down to "it defeated Darkrai" and call it a day, but even that doesn't do justice to just how good of a battler Sceptile is. Even as a Grovyle, it took a lot of names, such as Norman's Slaking, Winona's Altaria, and Morrison's Steelix, despite neutral-to-unfavorable type matchups.
The eye test tells a similar tale. Its speed and agility are unparalleled, not even matched by Pikachu. Its best asset might be its cool, calm, and collected nature; even as things don't go its way in a battle, it remains unfazed and will still execute as planned.
Ash's resident bearhugger is kind of the opposite of Gengar, in that it cooled off a bit after a red-hot start. It was a certified star in its first few battles, with very impressive wins against Korrina and Iris. Afterwards, it entered a mini-slump and couldn't score a knockout until Ash's battle against Leon, where it defeated Leon's pesky Dragapult.
Still, Dragonite's power is unmistakable as Ash's best pseudo-Legendary, blowing Goodra out of the water in terms of pure power. Its ability to set up with Dragon Dance is somewhat rare for a Pokemon owned by Ash, but it's very often put to great use, boosting attacks like Dragon Claw, Hurricane, or an impromptu, anime-finishing-move-esque Draco Meteor.
Despite the several captures on Ash's Journeys roster that immediately proved powerful, no one else took the anime by storm quite like Dracovish did. It immediately took heads in its first-ever important battle, making frozen mincemeat out of Iris's infamous Dragonite.
It's barely taken any L's since, aside from an underwhelming performance against Steven. It was the MVP of Ash's battle against Drasna, then it took out some big hitters in the Masters Eight Tournament against Cynthia and Leon. It's one of Ash's best-ever throwing wrenches, thanks in big part to its versatile moveset, consisting of its signature Fishious Rend, Water Gun for range, Dragon Rush for headfirst physical damage, and Ice Fang for some unexpected coverage.
Ash was truly blessed with an incredibly powerful Charizard as a rookie Trainer. It's great to see now that Ash actually has the chops to handle such a behemoth, especially since he clearly didn't during Charizard's earliest days as a fully-evolved Pokemon.
It's tough to say exactly how strong Charizard is now, because he hasn't battled alongside Ash in decades at this point. While he's never faced a Pokemon owned by anyone in the Masters Eight, he's the only Pokemon on Ash's roster aside from Pikachu to beat a Legendary Pokemon straight-up (Nolan's Articuno). While there rightfully haven't been many complaints about Ash winning it all with his Journeys team, it would've been nice to see Charizard battle just for posterity's sake.
What might be Ash's most highly-anticipated Pokemon ever has certainly been more than stellar. As if its ability to Mega Evolve — a first for a Pokemon owned by Ash — wasn't enough, Lucario also has that Aura connection with its Trainer, and received training with Ash's Greninja to strengthen that bond further. That aside, it's also a very all-around battler, with moves like Reversal, Aura Sphere, and Bullet Punch in its arsenal.
It's beaten some big names on the way to Ash becoming a World Champion; most notably, it's the only Pokemon in the whole anime to defeat Cynthia's Garchomp on-screen. The one big stain on its resume that makes its top spot here debatable is a massively disappointing showing in the championship match against Leon.
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