Illustration: Angelica Alzona

A couple of months after Sun and Moon’s release, one monster has appeared on 40 percent of the best-performing teams in the competitive Pokémon 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.

The Great Wall of Alola

Celesteela made itself known at the first major Pokémon 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 Pokémon.

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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 Pokémon 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 twenty 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 Pokémon 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.

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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 fifteen 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 Pokémon, you’d win.

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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.

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A lot of it is thanks, in part, to World Champion Wolfe Glick and European International Championship 6th-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 go for the Perish Song, which makes all Pokémon 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.

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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.

Jason Krell is a freelance journalist, VGC player and editor-in-chief of the Saffron City Post.