The Pokémon series took a massive step into a completely new direction with Pokémon UNITE, the franchise’s first venture into the MOBA genre alongside the likes of League of Legends and Dota 2. The game has only been available for a short time, though within the cast of familiar faces are Pokémon with exceptional strength in Unite Battles and those that struggle to be effective.
While there are no Pokémon that are definitively bad in the current meta, the difference between a Pokémon that can single-handedly carry games and those that can’t is apparent. The current meta in UNITE can’t yet be concrete, though the power of certain Pokémon that flourish within the jungle role—which involves them clearing wild Pokémon camps in the center path and helping allies in both lanes—hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Like in other MOBAs, players who use the game’s jungle have the important task of being aware of situations across the entire map at all times. With the power of leveled-up held items, however, this becomes a non-issue since junglers will be clearing camps so rapidly that they’ll be forced to go from lane to lane to continue being relevant. Yet leveled-up held items aren’t the major determining factors of the current meta centered on the jungle. That honor belongs to the Pokémon Zeraora and Gengar.
Both the mythical Pokémon Zeraora and the popular Ghost-type Gengar are classified as Speedsters, meaning they thrive in their ability to move around the map freely. They both prefer the jungle over either lane due to their access to dashes, letting them bounce in and out of the lanes to help their allies with ease. But what places these two Pokémon at the top of the current meta is their ability to dish out major damage in little time—a trait uncommon for Pokémon classified as Speedsters.
Zeraora’s Discharge does astounding damage to opponents that get trapped within its grasp, even if Zeraora doesn’t have powerful held items. When combined with its ability Volt Absorb that lets it deal additional damage to opponents, this move alone can completely deplete the health of a Pokémon who’s at full HP.
And thanks to Zeraora’s Unite Move, it has access to two ways of one-shotting opponents with the click of a button. Unlike most Unite Moves, Zeraora’s Plasma Gale locks onto opponents regardless of how hard they try to escape. The blast does significant damage and creates an area-of-effect that does even more damage to opposing Pokémon. Although self-sustain isn’t in Zeraora’s favor, its ability to dismantle opponents by simply clearing jungle camps then walking away freely has made it a bit too strong. Thus, it’s one of the best abusers of this jungle meta.
Alongside Zeraora in defining the meta is Gengar, the Shadow Pokémon. Unlike Zeraora, Gengar takes a few levels to come online completely. Players must progress through Gastly and Haunter to fully unlock Gengar’s true potential. And when they do, they’re rewarded handsomely.
Hex and Sludge Bomb take the award for the most powerful combo that can be spammed in mere seconds. Thanks to Sludge Bomb’s guaranteed poison, Hex receives a massive cooldown decrease that allows a player to spam it every few seconds on the poisoned target. When using Hex, Gengar also disappears, making it completely invulnerable to any attacks. This is one of the most powerful ways to invade a lane since opponents will rarely see Gengar coming before they’re instantly defeated. Though the counter to this combo is catching Gengar out when an ally isn’t poisoned, this Pokémon has another trick up its sleeve: its Unite Move.
When using its Unite Move, Phantom Ambush, Gengar dashes to the targeted location and gains movement speed. When used again, it deals massive damage in an area-of-effect and slows all Pokémon hit. Using this move in combination with both Sludge Bomb and Hex creates such a destructive force in Gengar that Pokémon attempting to heal via their goals will be defeated even as they’re being constantly healed.
Unfortunately, UNITE’s current meta is very unhealthily centered around these two powerful Pokémon that have an incredibly easy time in the jungle position. It’s unknown whether any type of balance patches will be coming to UNITE in the near future, but if they do, Zeraora and Gengar might just be on the top of the list of receiving nerfs of some kind.