When it comes to Pokémon champions, fans tend to agree that two of the strongest are Steven and Cynthia. Steven Stone is the Hohen region’s champion in Pokémon Sapphire and Ruby, utilizing a team made up of Rock, Steel and Ground types. Cynthia is the champion of the Sinnoh region and is one of the first champions to not really use a specific typing or theme with her Pokémon team. What if these two champions went one on one?
Because of how often these two appeared together in games like Pokémon Masters EX, fans have speculated on this matchup for years. Trying to theorize a Pokémon battle can be difficult due to the sheer amount of factors at play, including type effectiveness and team makeup, as well as battle strategies.
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Both Cynthia and Steven play a role in stopping a huge disaster from destroying their home regions. They are also the first to have post-game rematches in the same game they debuted, in which they use stronger versions of their initial teams.
Steven and Cynthia have had multiple teams across numerous Pokémon games. For this breakdown, we’ll be looking at the teams they use in their post-champion rematch fights. This means Cynthia will have her Pokémon Platinum rematch team and Steven will have his Pokémon Emerald Metor Falls team. Since the rules and mechanics of the Pokémon games change each generation, this breakdown will use Generation 4’s mechanics when looking at Pokémon typing and move strength.
The first thing that defines any Pokémon battle breakdown is the typings on each team. Type matchups are incredibly important, because some are far more effective against others. This is even more important when considering duel-typing Pokémon, which Cynthia and Steven have in spades.
Looking at Steven’s team first, each one of his Pokémon carries either the Steel, Rock or Ground-type. All of his Pokémon are also duel-types, adding Grass, Bug and Psychic to the mix. His team is going to be particularly weak to Fire, Ghost and Dark-types, but his biggest type weakness is Water. His team has moves to deal with Fire and Water types, though Ghost and Dark are still significant weaknesses for his team.
Cynthia’s team is much more diverse in both Pokémon typings and moves, meaning she has far fewer shared weaknesses than Steven. While she has multiple team members with weaknesses to Ice, Flying, Electric and Fire, she also has moves that can cover those vulnerabilities.
Comparing Cynthia and Steven’s Pokémon teams, it’s fairly clear Cynthia has the better-constructed team from a type-coverage standpoint. When looking at how they counter each other, however, they both have Pokémon that can take advantage of each other’s major weaknesses. Cynthia may have the better-constructed team, but she really doesn’t have that many options to take advantage of Steven’s worse overall type-coverage.
A team’s starter Pokémon can define the entire tone of the battle. Whichever team can set and keep the pace will be able to swap in new Pokémon and use non-damaging moves with a bit more leniency. Steven and Cynthia both have some pretty tough Pokémon to start, but one has a very clear advantage over the other.
Cynthia opens with her Spiritomb, a Dark/Ghost-type Pokémon who’s typing means it has no major weaknesses. Steven starts every battle with his Flying/Steel-type Skarmory, which is notable due to a diverse set of moves like Toxic and Spikes. According to Pokémon Showdown’s damage calculator, Skarmory can KO Spiritomb in four moves, while Spiritomb would need at least five moves to KO Skarmory. This gives Steven a fairly solid opening advantage against Cynthia, presenting him with a few options moving forward.
This category is a bit harder to figure out since the AI of both Pokémon Platinum and Emerald aren’t fully understood. Instead, it could be assumed that since both of these trainers are/were Champions of their respective Pokémon Leagues, they’ll each be able to use optimal strategies and utilize their team to the best of their ability. In order to understand what strategies are available to them, it’s necessary to take a closer look at their teams.
Steven’s team seems to be built around having a solid mix of defense and offense. Pokémon like Metagross, Aggron and Armaldo have high attack and physical defense stats, though they can often be on the slower side because of this. His Skarmory and Claydol tend to have better special defenders compared to the rest of his team. Speed is a clear weakness.
Cynthia tends to go for a more balanced approach, with her team only having a minor focus on offense. Because of this, most of her Pokémon end up out-speeding Steven’s by a massive amount, with the only notable exception being with Skarmory and Spiritomb, where Steven’s Skarmory has the advantage. This more balanced approach means Cynthia not have to take as many risks as her opponent.
Looking at their type coverage, the Pokémon they lead with and how their teams may reflect their battle strategies, this would be an incredibly close fight. Assuming both Steven and Cynthia are using flawless strategy, it appears this battle would go to Cynthia, but only by a hair.
Her better type-coverage and the more balanced nature of her team’s stats are a fairly strong counter to Steven’s more specialized emphasis on defensive Steel, Rock and Ground types. Both champions have incredibly tough teams, but Cynthia’s just happens to be a perfect counter to Steven’s.
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