Best Master Ball Targets

Posted May 12, 2024

The Master Ball, the guaranteed-100%-catch-chance Pokéball, is something you usually only get 1 of in an individual Pokémon game. While revisiting the games recently during my eleventh hour scramble to finish all of the pre-Bank Pokémon games, I quite wanted to see a list that goes through all of the best possible targets for your Master Ball in each game. I didn’t find one, so now I’ve written one.

The GS Ball has nothing on this

If you just want the list skip down to “List of Best Master Ball Targets” and find the game you’re looking for (they’re in release order).

Master Ball Criteria

So, criteria first! I have a relatively simple set of priorities for deciding which is the best target for the Master Ball in a given Pokémon game.

Roaming Pokémon

Firstly, catching roaming Pokémon is an enormous pain. So I always prioritize using my Master Ball on roaming Pokémon. The reasons are multitude:

You have to train up a team that’s high enough level to tank hits from them while you’re throwing pokéballs.

Any Pokémon you send out also needs to prevent them from running away. Candidates for that include the moves Mean Look and Block, but you’d better be faster than the roaming Pokémon, otherwise they’ll run away before you get to use it. Or you could use the abilities Arena Trap or Shadow Tag, but be careful! Arena Trap doesn’t work on Flying Pokémon or Pokémon with Levitate (like Latios/Latias, god damn).

But when you try to escape from a battle

But even if you do that - some of them have Roar (Entei, this is unacceptable), so they can “run away” using that anyway. You could use the ability Soundproof to become immune to Roar, but then you don’t have Arena Trap or Shadow Tag. And there are no Pokémon with Soundproof that can learn Mean Look or Block. So that just doesn’t work.

Then you probably want to inflict a status condition on them as well, to make catching more likely. If your trap Pokémon has a status move to put them to sleep that’s probably the best combination. Gothitelle is a good option here, because it gets Shadow Tag and can learn Hypnosis. It is introduced in Generation 5 (Black & White) though, so Wobbuffet is likely your best bet before that. It doesn’t have a status move, but it does have Shadow Tag and is tanky so you have more time to throw Pokéballs.

In some games, roaming Pokémon can run away while asleep, which led to one of my favorite webcomics.

It’s all just been a multi-decade advertising campaign for Pokémon Sleep

Roaming Pokémon also generally keep damage and statuses between encounters (as long as you don’t knock them out). So you could use a fast status-setter and False Swipe over multiple encounters to whittle them down to 1 HP and inflict a status condition. But then you have to find them however many times to actually get to that position (use the various Pokédex/location tracking features in the game once you’ve seen them once, but that can be an unwieldy set of menus).

And I mentioned knocking them out, right? The behavior when you knock them out varies per game. Some games (generally later ones) they will respawn at full health if you beat the Elite Four again. But in a lot of the earlier ones they’re just lost forever, so you need to be careful about saving and resetting while doing that.

It’s daring you to knock it out

Ok. Alternatively. Instead of all of that. You could just throw a Master Ball at them when you first see them. I think you see now why I prefer that option. (But there are more than one roaming Pokémon in some games, so you’ll have to hunt some roamers like this.)

Healing Pokémon

The other thing that makes a Pokémon a good candidate for the Master Ball is if it has a healing move. If you’ve spent a bunch of time whittling it down to 1 HP just for it to use Recover, then you’re almost back to where you started. Except they might have knocked out your False Swipe user, so maybe you’re worse off than you started.

Pokémon that can heal themselves make hard catch targets, but the menagerie of difficulties with roaming Pokémon mean that I still prioritize using the Master Ball on roamers over healers.

But what if a Pokémon was both!? Huh, Platinum Articuno!?

Slow heals like Aqua Ring can also be difficult, because it doesn’t all happen at once and isn’t limited by PP.

You do have some mitigation options for healing like Heal Block, but it’s never become such a big problem that I tried this.

The Lottery

It would be remiss of me to discuss the Master Ball as a limited resource without at least mentioning the lottery. In various Pokémon games, additional Master Balls are the grand prizes for the in-game lottery, where every day the game generates a random number and compares the Trainer IDs of your Pokémon against it. Having Pokémon from many different trainers clearly increases your chances of winning, but the Master Ball is generally in the top category for matching all of the numbers, so it is still very unlikely.

The folks here do the math

This is slow and unreliable (0.83% chance per day in Platinum, even if you have the maximum 546 Pokémon in your game and no two are from the same trainer). Even for catching roaming Pokémon I don’t consider it a serious option, because it’s more reliable (and almost always faster) to train a team up to effectively hunt roaming Pokémon than to win this lottery.

List of Best Master Ball Targets

Here we are - by game, my selections for the list of best Pokémon to use your only Master Ball on. I’m starting at Generation 3, because I haven’t yet replayed the Virtual Console Generation 1 and 2 games. (I might update this list in the future if I do.)

Ruby, Sapphire, & Emerald

Latios in Ruby, Latias in Sapphire, or one of them of your choice in Emerald, appear as roaming Pokémon after you beat the Elite Four. They’re the only roamer in each game, so this is an easy choice.

Latios Latias

Fire Red & Leaf Green

Entei, Raikou, or Suicune will appear after you finish the Team Rocket storyline in the Sevii Islands. The one that appears is the one that has a type advantage against your starter Pokémon. Again, the one that appears is the only roaming Pokémon in this game, so it’s an easy choice.

Entei Raikou Suicune

Beware, there is a glitch in these encounters in Fire Red & Leaf Green. If the roaming Pokémon uses Roar to end the battle, they will be lost forever, instead of continuing to roam. Only Entei and Raikou know Roar (Suicune does not). So if it’s Entei or Raikou you’re chasing definitely use a Master Ball.

Colosseum & XD: Gale of Darkness

Pokémon Colosseum and Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness on the GameCube are sort of outliers. But you do get a Master Ball in each. All of the Shadow Pokémon you can catch in both of them are repeatable - every trainer has a rematch location somewhere after you’ve beaten the game. So actually, unless you’re particularly annoyed by a certain Pokémon battle, I’d suggest giving your Master Ball to a Pokémon and trading it to one of the Generation 3 games, then bringing it up to Generation 4 (as a held item via Pal Park) where you can use it in games that have more than one roaming Pokémon.

The canonical “no Pokémon to display” image

Diamond & Pearl

Woe is you - there are multiple roaming Pokémon this time. Cresselia and Mesprit both roam after you fulfill their criteria. Take a note of my suggestion in the Colosseum & XD: Gale of Darkness section - you could use that to get additional Master Balls.

Cresselia Mesprit

There aren’t any particularly good reasons to use a single Master Ball on one or the other. They have the same Catch Rate. Neither has a healing move. In the tiniest of tiny advantages, Mesprit has Lucky Chant, which prevents you from landing critical hits. Since crits are generally bad when you’re trying to capture a Pokémon, that could push you to use your Master Ball on Cresselia. But either is a good choice.

Heart Gold & Soul Silver

Woe, once again. There are 3 roaming Pokémon in each copy of these games. Raikou and Entei roam after the Burned Tower and Latias in Heart Gold and Latios in Soul Silver roam after a very easy to ignore side quest (scroll to the bottom). You can go back and trigger it later.

Entei Raikou Latios Latias

Oof, there are good reasons to choose any of these. Latios and Latias know Refresh, so they’ll remove some statuses you can afflict them with. They also have Levitate, so they’re immune to Arena Trap (you have to use Shadow Tag, Mean Look, or Block instead). But Entei and Raikou both know Roar.

Roar’s the deciding factor here. Use the Master Ball on one of Entei or Raikou, and catch the other plus Latios/Latias the old fashioned way.


Why is this not grouped with Diamond & Pearl? Because Platinum adds 3 more roaming Pokémon! The legendary birds from Kanto roam Sinnoh in Platinum after talking to Professor Oak in Eterna City (you have to meet him in Pal Park first for him to show up here). And the pièce de résistance? They all know Roost so they can heal themselves.

Cresselia Mesprit Articuno Zapdos Moltres

Mesprit and Cresselia are no longer the priority - roaming with healing moves, you should use the Master Ball on one of the legendary birds. But you still have the other 4 to catch the old fashioned way!

Black & White

Back to sanity, Tornadus and Thundurus are the only roaming Pokémon in these games: Tornadus in Black and Thundurus in White.

Tornadus Thundurus

Easy choice, use the Master Ball on whichever of these two is in your game.

Black 2 & White 2

A first since Generation 1 (Red & Blue) - there are no roaming Pokémon in Black 2 & White 2. Tornadus and Thundurus, the Generation 5 roamers, appear via Pokémon Dream Radar instead (which I talked about before).

This leaves you with a veritable smorgasbord of legends to choose from.

Cresselia is my choice for best Master Ball target here, because it knows Moonlight this time, which is a significant healing move. Alternatively, Virizion has Giga Drain which can also heal enough to be a problem. But there is a (somewhat harrowing) workaround - if you defeat Virizion when you meet it first at level 45 and then return after defeating the Elite Four, it will be level 65 instead, and will no longer know Giga Drain.

Cresselia Virizion

Black 2 & White 2 are also one of the very few games where you reliably get 2 Master Balls. So if you’ve got both, use them on the two Pokémon I’ve suggested here!

Notably, Reshiram and Zekrom have significantly higher Catch Rates than all of the other legends available in these games, so despite them being on the box art (sort of), they’re not really worth throwing a Master Ball at.

X & Y

Technically there is sort of a single roaming Pokémon in these games, but they don’t use the same roaming mechanics I described earlier, so in practice they’re much less of a problem and I wouldn’t use the Master Ball on them. It is once again, the Kanto legendary birds. (Articuno if you started with Chespin, Zapdos for Fennekin, or Moltres for Froakie.)

Articuno Zapdos Moltres

However, I think Mewtwo is the best Master Ball target in these games, because it knows Recover.

Like it’s 1996 again

Alternatively, in Y only, Yveltal’s Oblivion Wing does heal it. But Yveltal’s Catch Rate is so much higher than Mewtwo’s, I think Mewtwo is still the better target.

Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire

Once again, there are no roaming Pokémon here. But there are a lot of legends to choose from. We’re once again using move sets to make our choice, and here, Deoxys knowing Recover is the deciding factor for me. It’s also level 80, which is pretty high, so it’s difficult to tank those Psycho Boosts and Hyper Beams for long, even with Mega Rayquaza on your side.

And you get to fight it in space

Honorable mention for Virizion yet again as a secondary Master Ball target, who always knows Giga Drain this time.

Sun & Moon

And again, no roaming Pokémon here! The choice here is reasonably straightforward: as the only legendary Pokémon that knows a healing move, Tapu Fini is my choice for best Master Ball target.

Ultra Sun & Ultra Moon

No roaming Pokémon here either, but there is a huge list of legends to catch, thanks to the Ultra Wormholes. And there is a pretty large list of healers as well, who all make good Master Ball candidates.

Tapu Fini with Aqua Ring, Mewtwo with Recover, Latias with Wish (Ultra Moon only), Rayquaza with Rest, Cresselia with Moonlight, Virizion with Giga Drain, and Yveltal with Oblivion Wing (Ultra Moon only).

Tapu Fini Mewtwo Latias
Rayquaza Cresselia Virizion Yveltal

This is a tough one. Yveltal’s higher Catch Rate means we don’t need a Master Ball for it as much (and would only be in consideration for Ultra Moon anyway). Virizion’s Giga Drain is mitigate-able (use something that resists Grass), which counts it out too. Tapu Fini’s Aqua Ring healing is slow, so you get to use multiple Pokéballs before it’s significantly healed every time.

Latias’s Wish is less consistent because it takes 2 turns, so it wastes a few of them on the turn between (and is obviously irrelevant in Ultra Sun).

In the end, I’m going to pick Rayquaza as the best Master Ball target here, because Rest always heals all of its HP and heals any status conditions is might have as well. But you wouldn’t be going particularly wrong with any of the above.

The End

And there we have it! That’s my list of pre-Bank Pokémon Master Ball target recommendations. I hope this has helped a few of you find out where to use those precious Master Balls best!

And if you still can’t decide, you can always go with my suggestion from a previous post:

Clearly the best Master Ball target