Torchic Is the Best Starter In Pokemon Emerald, Here’s Why

If there’s a question no one will ever agree on it’s who is the best starter in Pokemon Emerald. Some will go with who had the most impact on them as a character, others shimmy to the one with the highest chance of decimating the game’s hardest moments.

That’s why we’ve decided to use stats, moves and how they fair against Pokemon Emerald’s toughest challenges to work out just who is the best and most rounded Pokemon starter in Emerald.

Starters vs Gym Leaders

Gym Leader 1 and their Pokemon

  • Gym Leader: Roxanne – Rock-type
  • Pokemon: Geodude (Rock/Ground), Geodude (Rock), Nosepass (Rock)

The first gym in Pokemon Emerald is a showdown with the Rock-type leader Roxanne.

As with most of the first gym battles this isn’t a particularly difficult fight, although it is the first time starter type advantages are thrown into the mix.

Rock takes double damage from Water and Grass-type Pokemon and half damage from Fire types. This puts both Treecko and Mudkip at an advantage while leaving Torchic as a suboptimal choice at this point in the game.

That is, unless Torchic has evolved into Combusken. If that happens, suddenly everything changes. The move Combusken learns, Double Kick, will make short work of most of this gym’s ‘mons.

It’s also worth noting that Geodude with the Rock/Ground typing doesn’t change things up much. Ground is weak to both Water and Grass and neutral to Fire, so Treecko and Mudkip still come out on top unless the starter is evolved, then it’s all about Combusken.

Gym Leader 2 and their Pokemon

  • Gym Leader: Brawly – Fighting-type
  • Pokemon: Machop (Fighting), Meditite (Fighting/Psychic), Makuhita (Fighting)

The second gym battle, located in Dewford town, is where things get interesting. Fighting-type Pokemon can hit like a truck if you’re not on your guard or if you’re Pokemon are under-leveled, this could go south fast.

The main way to take down Fighting types is to have a Psychic or Flying-type Pokemon throw out some double-damage attacks. As our Pokemon Emerald starters are Water, Grass, and Fire, that isn’t an option.

With this gym battle, there isn’t a clear starter to pick. Torchic, who should have evolved into Combusken by now should have its dual-typing, meaning it has a little extra defense against Fighting types. But besides that, the three starters all go into this fight needing to rely on other pokes to pick up the type differences.

Gym Leader 83and their Pokemon

  • Gym Leader: Wattson – Electric-type
  • Pokemon: Voltorb (Electric), Magneton (Electric/Steel), Electrike (Electric), Manectric (Electric)

By the time you reach Mauville City your Pokemon should be around level 22 and in their second form of evolution. If they’re not, you really need to go and grind. Like, right now.

Electric-type Pokemon are super effective against Water types, so that’s Marshtomp straight out. Electric is also neutral to Fire types and is not very effective against Grass types, making Grovyle a solid pick here.

Gym Leader 4 and their Pokemon

  • Gym Leader: Flannery – Fire-type
  • Pokemon: Numel (Fire/Ground), Slugma (Fire), Camerupt (Fire/Ground), Torkoal (Fire)

First things first, Fire is not very effective against Fire, so that’s poor old Combusken straight out. Fire is also super effective against Grass, meaning it’s best to keep Grovyle as far away as possible in this fight before they’re turned to ash.

As you can probably guess, the obvious choice here is Water. Marshtomp is basically running this gym battle in god mode and will make short work of Flannery’s Pokemon.

Gym Leader 5 and their Pokemon

  • Gym Leader: Norman – Normal-type
  • Pokemon: Spinda (Normal), Vigoroth  (Normal), Linoone (Normal), Slaking (Normal)

Do you get it? His name’s Norman and he’s a Normal-type gym leader. How very clever.

Normal battles either go smoothly or your team completely crumbles because no one accounts for Normal ‘mons. Them’s the rules of Pokemon, unfortunately. No one is safe.

Although Normal types have the least type advantages, there is one Pokemon in our deck that can make a difference. Combusken is a dual type, so if you’ve got a TM to teach them a Fighting-type move, that’ll hit for double damage.

Gym Leader 6 and their Pokemon

  • Gym Leader: Winona – Flying-type
  • Pokemon: Swablu (Normal/Flying), Tropius (Grass/Flying, Pelipper (Water/Flying), Skarmory (Steel/Flying), Altaria (Dragon/Flying)

The Fortree City gym battle is the player’s first real test, and those unprepared will find themselves struggling to keep up with Winona’s onslaught of offense.

The breakdown here is: Combusken beats Tropius and Skarmory, Grovyle should be able to topple Pellipper’s Water type, and Marshtomp is of next to no use in this fight.

Out of the two, Combusken wins this one hands-down thanks to being able to take out two separate Pokemon.

Gym Leader 7 and their Pokemon

  • Gym Leader:  Tate and Liza – Psychic-type
  • Pokemon: Claydol (Ground/Psychic), Xatu (Psychic/Flying), Lunatone (Psychic), Solrock (Rock/Psychic)

This is where things get a little more complicated thanks to the random mash-up of types. Because of this, there isn’t a clear winner.

What this gym comes down to are what’s known as ‘same type attack bonuses (STAB) moves’ and type advantages.

The first Pokemon, Claydol will fall to Grovyle or Marshtomp due to Ground being weak to Grass and Water. Grass is weak to Flying, though, so Grovyle will stumble if put up against Xatu.

For those reasons, the safest bet is Marshtomp, closely followed by Combusken for STAB attacks provided you’ve learned them.

Gym Leader 8 and their Pokemon

  • Gym Leader: Juan – Water type
  • Pokemon: Luvdisc (Water), Whiscash (Water/Ground), Sealeo (Ice/Water), Crawdaunt (Water/Dark), Kingdra (Water/Dragon)

With one gym battle left, we’re starting to get an idea of who the best starter in Pokemon Emerald is.

By now, level 41, all three starters should be fully evolved and at the most powerful. The downside? If you picked Mudkip as your starter, you’re going to have to bench them because this gym is not for them.

Conversely, Blaziken is going to get obliterated by each of Juan’s Pokemon due to their Water-typing. Seriously, don’t play Blaziken, while that Pokemon is super strong, it’ll be destroyed here.

That leaves us one remaining choice: Sceptile. This guy should be able to take most of the gym’s Pokemon with the exception of Sealeo, whose dual-typing throws the super effective Ice into the mix. If an Ice move hits Sceptile, they’ll fall, so be sure to plan out how best to deal with that before trying to one-hit-knock-out your way through this battle.

Starters vs Gym Leaders Conclusion

Let’s take a look at where each of the starters came for each gym battle.

  • Gym Leader: Roxanne – Mudkip and Treecko
  • Gym Leader: Brawly – Torchic
  • Gym Leader: Wattson – Grovyle
  • Gym Leader: Flannery – Marshtomp
  • Gym Leader: Norman – Combusken
  • Gym Leader: Winona – Combusken
  • Gym Leader:  Tate and Liza – Marshtomp
  • Gym Leader: Juan – Sceptile

The points breakdown, surprisingly, ends on three points each. Shocking, we know! It turns out the gym battles have been balanced by Game Freak to be fair regardless of which starter you pick. Although if you chose to level up your Torchic to learn double kick at the start of the game, the results will look very different.

An overall draw is all kinds of anticlimactic, we know, and we want a clear winner. As luck would have it, there is a way to work out who is the best starter in Pokemon Emerald thanks to how the Elite Four plays out.

Pokemon Emerald Starters vs Elite Four

The Elite Four in Pokemon EmeraldThe Elite Four is where players have to think deeper about how they play. They know what type works against what, but it’s here where the real tactics come into play.

It’s also important to note there are a few cheeky Water type Pokemon thrown in for fun. Normally, that should play a factor in which starter you choose but it’s a little more complicated than that.

  • Elite Four Member 1: Sidney – Level 46 Dark-type
  • Elite Four Member 2: Pheobe – Level 49 Ghost-type
  • Elite Four Member 3: Glacia – Level 50 Ice-type
  • Elite Four Member 4: Drake – Level 52 Dragon-type

Believe it or not, despite looking good on paper due to the type match-ups, Sceptile is the weakest of the three starters in this fight.

That’s because Blaziken can run in with the moves Brick Break, Sky Uppercut, Blaze Kick, Flamethrower, or Aerial Ace. These moves alongside a balanced team make Blaziken a near unstoppable force that can melt just about anything in its path.

You see, by this point you should have access to Fallarbor Town, which is where the move reminder is located. Trade Heart Scales and you’ll be able to access an even deeper pool of moves for Blaziken – moves that will turn this Pokemon from a well-round monster into a complete beast.

Full Conclusion

When it comes to the Elite Four, nothing beats Blaziken overall. Flamethrower will melt Glacia and Brick Break will demolish Dark Pokemon with super effective attacks. Even up against Dragon types Blaziken can hold its own through sheer power.

There’s also the fact that if you want to walk the first gym, leveling up Torchic to learn Double Kick means Torchic wins outright as the pick to go up against gym leaders as well as the Elite Four- four points to Treecko and Mudkip’s measly two points.

That means without question, Torchic is by far the best starter in Pokemon Emerald. All hail our new Pokemon overlord.

Wesley Copeland
Wesley Copeland

Wesley Copeland is a gaming, tech, and toys journalist with over 10 years of experience writing online. Originally starting in video games before specializing in tech and toys, you can find his bylines at IGN, VG24/7, Kotaku, Tech Radar, Games Radar, PC Gamer, Heavy, and many more. He's also highly passionate about how tech can be used to better our day-to-day lives.