Recently I decided to play Gold again, which I hadn’t touched since its’ release ~20 years ago. Unlike child me, I was prepared to do a bit of research regarding movesets and Pokémon/TM locations before starting the game. I wanted a team that:
- Was reliable to capture and field moves for (so nothing relying on Friendship, trading, hatching eggs, or head-butting trees for several hours),
- Didn’t require a ton of grinding (so no spending half a day getting a Dratini up to speed).
- Included ‘all’ of the available utility TM’s/HM’s, at all times (ie once everything has been captured). This was so that 'in theory', one could use the team to capture everything & complete the dex, whilst still having decent coverage options through the game.
In the end, I settled on a team that contained 2 HM slaves, which meant the game was effectively completed with 4 battle ready Pokémon. As Gold/Silver can technically be completed with ‘1’ battle ready Pokémon (see numerous speedrun videos), I didn’t see this as much of an issue. It also meant minimal time was spent grinding, as the team easily kept up level wise with in-game challenges.
So here’s the team. All of the Pokémon on this list can be captured after completing the Fog Badge (gym no. 4), and fall under the definition of ‘Mixed Sweepers’. Held items haven’t been included. I’ve added moveset progressions , given how important they are early in the game.
Ice Punch (TM)
Scratch -> Dig (TM, National Park)
Water Gun -> Surf (HM, Ecruteak City)
Leer -> Bite (for Morty) -> Strength (HM, Olivine City)
Rage -> Ice Punch (TM, Goldenrod City)
I chose Feraligatr mainly because of Morty. I wanted a Dark attacker that wasn’t: a Fire Dog/Fox that couldn’t evolve for ages, a Normal Pokemon with poor stats and move coverage, or a bird that required Headbutt to capture.
Strength to move boulders and to make use of ‘that Attack stat’, Surf because it’s standard on Water ‘mon, Ice Punch for Grass/Dragon/Flying coverage, Dig to get out of caves + Poison coverage.
Ampharos (Gold/Silver only)
Fire Punch (TM)
Iron Tail (TM)
Growl -> Fire Punch (TM, Goldenrod City)
Thundershock -> Thunder Punch
Tackle -> Iron Tail (TM, defeat Jasmine)
Thunder Wave -> Light Screen
Mareep has good all-round stats, is available early, and gets great move coverage. Nothing more to say really, other than ‘sorry Crystal players’!
Thunder Punch because ‘free high-damage STAB at level 30’ (or earlier if you’re desperate), Fire Punch for Grass/Steel/Ice coverage, Iron Tail for Rock coverage (and also Physical coverage), Light Screen as cover for other Pokémon to switch in vs strong Special Attackers.
Sludge Bomb (TM)
Vine Whip -> Razor Leaf
Growth -> Cut (HM, Ilex Forest)
Wrap -> Acid -> Sludge Bomb (TM, Route 43)
Victreebell is also available early (the same time as Mareep), gets Sleep Powder at level 15, and is about as awesome as it was in Gen 1 (though Vine Whip has less PP, which is a little sad). Sadly it cannot evolve until reaching Kanto (unless one gets lucky with ‘a phone call’), but is still decent as Weepingbell until then.
Razor Leaf because special STAB, Cut for clearing bushes and Normal coverage, Sludge Bomb because physical STAB , Sleep Powder because Sleep is silly.
Psychic (most likely a TM)
Giga Drain (TM)
Teleport -> Fly (HM, defeat Chuck)
Peck -> Thief (TM, Mahogany Town Rocket Hideout)
Leer -> Future Sight -> Psychic (TM, Celadon City)
Night Shade -> Giga Drain (TM, defeat Erika)
Xatu is ‘the Flyer’ and whilst it starts small, it eventually gets decent move coverage once it hits Kanto. Xatu requires a bit of care to get it to evolve from a level 20 Natu, but once it hits 25, evolves, and learns Fly from Chuck’s wife, it’s smooth sailing from there.
Fly because STAB (and flying beats walking), Thief for Psychic/Ghost coverage and to potentially steal items mid-fight, Psychic because high Special Attack+STAB, Giga Drain for Rock/Ground/Water coverage.
And then the 2 HM slaves:
Flash (HM, Sprout Tower in Violet Town)
Sweet Scent (TM, Ilex/Route 34 Guardhouse)
Rock Smash (TM, Route 36 after removing Sudowoodo)
Headbutt (TM, Ilex Forest)
Whirlpool (HM, Mahogany Town Rocket Hideout)
Waterfall (HM, Ice Path)
These 2 Pokémon can both be caught/fished in Ilex Forest , which is around about the time that their utility moves start to appear. If one wishes, these two HM slaves can be switched out for Legendaries if/when they are captured, however I never really run into any issues by running a ‘4-mon team’ with full HM utility at all times. So it’s fine to leave them in.
Alternative Team for Crystal
For the sake of balance, here is one potential team that instead contains '6' battle ready Pokemon, should work well for Crystal, AND contains all of the utility moves available in the game. However, it doesn't necessarily fit the description of 'reliable to capture and field moves for', would require trading, and would require more grinding to keep everything 'not underlevelled'.
I won't go into as much detail with this one, just the movesets:
Thunder Punch (TM)
Victreebel (caught on Route 32)
Sweet Scent (TM)
Sludge Bomb (TM)
Poliwrath (fished from Ruins of Alph after getting Old Rod)
Alakazam (caught at Route 34)
Thunder Punch (TM)
Ice Punch (TM)
Fire Punch or Reflect (because your starter already has Fire STAB)
Fearow (caught prior to Whitney via headbutting trees)
Thief (Pursuit prior to this for Morty)
Heracross (caught prior to Whitney via headbutting trees, hopefully!!)
Rock Smash (TM)
Megahorn (Fury Cutter beforehand)
And finally, I guess a rough walkthrough of how I found my Pokemon teams/TM's/HM's and completed the game. I tried to fight all available trainers, collect visible items, and catch any new Pokémon that I stumbled into, though I don’t explicitly state this in the walkthrough (so I’m stating it here!).
Do all the intro stuff. Get Totodile to about level 10 before attempting 1st Gym. Use Rage+Berries held by Totodile.
Capture Mareep and Bellsprout on Route 32. Use Mareep to clear Sprout Tower and grab Flash, use Bellsprout to fight Water/Rock ‘mon on Route 32 and Union Cave. Grab Old Rod from Poke Centre on Route 32. Leave Ruins of Alph for later.
Get Mareep and Bellsprout to about level 15 before attempting 2nd gym. Use Flaaffy/Thundershock for Bugsy, and then use Sleep Powder and/or Thunder Wave on Bayleef for Rival Battle (probably the most difficult battle early game TBH , but after this everyone gets Grass coverage so it’s fine).
Catch Paras and fish for Poliwag in Ilex Forest after grabbing Cut. Teach Cut/Flash to ‘Bell/Paras, find and teach Headbutt to Poliwag. Talk to butterfly lady in north Ilex Forest guardhouse, teach Sweet Scent to Paras.
Use ‘Bell and Totodile as main Pokemon up until 3rd gym. Buy Fire Punch (for Flaaffy) and Ice Punch (for the Croc) from Goldenrod Dept. Store , clear underground path, grab a bike. If possible, evolve Totodile/Bell at levels 18/21 before fighting Whitney. Use Sleep on Miltank to stop it from repeatedly drinking milk and interrupting Rollout damage.
After defeating Whitney, grab Squirtbottle. Set Croconaw as lead, then bike your way to National Park. Head through the gap in the fence on NE side of park (it has no chairs behind it blocking the way), then head SW and grab Dig. Teach Dig to Croc.
Aim to get Croc to around level 25 before attempting the 4th gym. Squirt Sudo, learn Rock Smash from nearby NPC and teach to Paras. Once in Ecruteak, clear dance house and grab Surf for Croc, THEN do Gym. Use Bite/Dig to clear out the Ghosts, keep some Awakening’s handy for Gengar.
Now that you have Surf, clear party so that 1 Pokémon slot is available (via Bill’s PC), and backpedal to Route 32. Head down to lower level of Union Cave, Surf across small body of water, then head to NW exit. Capture Level 20 Natu in the grass, then use Teleport to get back to Ecruteak City.
Stock up on Potions, then head to Burned Tower. Lead with Croc for Rival battle. After that, lead with Natu if you can to level it up, else use bait-and-switch tactic in a similar manner to levelling Magikarp.
After the tower, battle your way to Olivine City. Once at Olivine, grab Strength from Sailor, teach it to Croc, then clear Lighthouse.
Once you’ve reached Jasmine, stock up on Potions and Antidotes, and it’s time for a Surf! If Natu hasn’t evolved yet, switching from Natu-> Flaaffy while fighting Tentacool/cruel is a good way to evolve both of them. There are heaps of trainers between Olivine and Cianwood, so you should fight them and aim to have at least: Ampharos (level 30), Feraligatr (level 30), Weepingbell at 25 and Xatu at 25, before taking on the 5th gym.
Your team should now be strong enough such that any Pokémon can lead, so rotate them around to make sure they all stay around the same level going forward. Grab medicine, fight Chuck (mainly with Amph and Xatu), get Fly, then fly back to Olivine. Fire Punch your way through Jasmine's rather undermanned 6th gym.
You should now have all of the utility moves available bar the end-game special water ones, so perhaps have an explore! Take a look through Mt Mortar and Dark Cave if you wish. Otherwise, head to Mahogany Town.
Head to Lake of Rage, kill/capture the Gyarados, then fly back to Mahogany. Clear the Rocket Hideout, grabbing Thief (for Xatu) and Whirlpool (for Poliwag) along the way. After defeating Team Rocket, double back to the Route 43 Gatehouse and grab Sludge Bomb (for Weepingbell). Use Gatr/Amph for the 7th gym and Pryce.
Grab Waterfall (for Poliwag) from Ice Cave and do the Waterfall things. By this point, the only moves left to secure are TM’s found in Kanto for Xatu, so I’m just going to summarise which ‘mon work for each major encounter.
Rival battles: Ampharos can effectively solo his whole team, just be careful with Confusion/Paralysis/Curse.
Blackthorn/Clair's 8th gym: Feraligatr does well with Ice Punch, just be careful with Paralysis and Thunderbolt on one of the Dragonairs.
Indigo Plateau/Will: Xatu with Thief/Fly should do well, just be careful of Jynx.
- Koga: Use Xatu and Amph.
- Bruno: Use Xatu and Bell.
- Karen: Umbreon is annoying, but Feraligatr should be able to sweep the lot. Use Strength for Umbreon, switch out to Bell and use Sleep if Sand Attack is annoying.
- Lance: Use Amph and Gatr .
- And then in Kanto:
- Pewter/Brock: Use Bell.
- Cerulean/Misty: Use Bell and Amph.
- Vermillion/Surge: Use Amph with Light Screen/Fire Punch and Gatr with Dig.
- Pick up Psychic from Saffron house (ie ‘Mr Psychic’) and teach to Xatu.
- Celadon/Erika: Grab Leaf Stone from Celadon dept. store and evolve ‘Bell. YAY! Use Xatu for Erika, then teach Giga Drain to Xatu.
- Saffron/Sabrina: Use Xatu with Thief.
- Fuschia/Janine: Use Xatu.
- Cinnabar/Blaine: Use Gatr, careful with Magmar.
- Viridian/Blue: Lead with Amph, switch in whatever is necessary.
- Pallet/Mt Silver/Red: Lead with Amph, and use Light Screen, as 5 out of 6 of Red’s Pokémon are special attackers. Amph > Pikachu (Fire Punch), Xatu > Venusaur (Psychic) and Espeon (Thief), Gatr > Charizard (Surf), Bell > Blastoise (Leaf) and Snorlax (Sleep Powder + Sludge Bombs).
Aaaand that’s it. Hope this helps someone!