Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Gym Leaders guide: teams, weaknesses, & strategy

While the core mantra of early Pokemon was all about catching 'em all, there is of course another major goal every player works to fulfill in the Pokemon games: to defeat the Gym Leaders and become a Pokemon Master by collecting all of the badges, defeating the Elite Four, and becoming the regional champion. That goal of course remains intact in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl.

Pokemon BDSP is resolutely traditional; there are eight gyms across the land, each with a gym leader who basically works as a 'boss battle' of sorts, gating your story progress until you can topple them. All sorts of progression is unlocked via gyms, from features like the freebie-giving Mystery Gift mechanic through to unlocking the use of special moves that'll allow you to travel to new areas of Sinnoh.

Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl Gyms guide: strategies and Pokemon teams for every Gym Leader

As ever, the gyms are type-themed, meaning it's fairly easy to understand what the strengths and weaknesses are of the Pokemon within. On this page, however, we'll list every Gym Leader battle in Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl, thus allowing you to plan ahead and strategize before you even enter the gym. 

As is always the case in Pokemon, having access to a wide variety of Pokemon of different types and not just a set six is always useful. Try rotating your team and keeping a few balanced contenders for your final six in the game - this will give you more to choose from as take on the gym leaders.

The challenge of the gyms will ramp up as you move through the game, with Pokemon sub-types becoming increasingly more important, augmenting the strengths and weaknesses of each leader beyond their basic Pokemon type weaknesses. Each gym battle nets you a badge, a TM, some stickers, and use of an all-new Hidden Move like Cut, Rock Climb, or Surf outside of battle - which is crucial to story progression. Scroll or click a leader:


Oreburgh City Gym - Rock Leader Roark

In an echo of the very first generation of Pokemon games, the very first gym you tackle is a rock-type gym - and standing in for Brock is the equally on-the-nose named Roark. Roark exclusively uses Rock-type Pokemon, though having Ground as a sub-type is also something of a theme throughout this gym.

To reach Roark, you'll need to engage in a series of battles against his students - but there's no puzzle element to this Gym. Roark uses the following Pokemon:

  • Geodude (level 12)
    • Rock/Ground type
    • Attacks: Stealth Rock, Defense Curl, Rollout
  • Onix (level 12)
    • Rock / Ground type
    • Attacks: Stealth Rock, Rock Throw, Bind
  • Cranidos (level 14)
    • Rock type
    • Attacks: Headbutt, Bulldoze, Leer

Rock-type Pokemon are weak to Water, Grass, Fighting, and Steel moves. Ground-type moves are also effective - but less so here, given that Roark has two Pokemon that have Ground as a sub-type. Rock-type moves are super-effective against Fire, Ice, Flying, and Bug-type Pokemon - avoid using those!

When Roark is defeated, you'll get the Coal Badge, TM76 Stealth Rock, and the ability to use Rock Smash outside of battle - which will let you access new areas and continue your journey.

Eterna City Gym - Grass Leader Gardenia

The appropriately-named Gardenia is the next Gym Leader up, with her speciality being Grass-type. To get Gardenia to agree to battle you, you'll need to defeat all of the other members of her gym - they're hiding around the gym and must be spoken to and taken on in order, with each trainer poinging you to the next.

Once the time comes to battle Gardenia, these are the Pokemon she uses:

  • Cherubi (level 19)
    • Grass type
    • Attacks: Grass Knot, Growth, Dazzling Gleam, Safeguard
  • Turtwig (level 19)
    • Grass type
    • Attacks: Grass Knot, Razor Leaf, Reflect, Work Up
    • Held: Miracle Seed
  • Roserade (level 22)
    • Grass / Poison type 
    • Attacks: Grass Knot, Petal Blizzard, Poison Sing, Stun Spore
    • Held: Sitrus Berry

You should naturally avoid bringing Water, Ground, or Rock-type Pokemon into this fight - the grass moves will shred them. However, go ahead and unleash the Fire, Poison, Flying, Bug, or even Ice-type Pokemon and moves - they beat Grass handily.

Defeating Gardenia gets you the Forest Badge, TM86 Grass Knot, and the ability to use the move Cut outside of battle - which again will unlock new places to explore and story progression.


Veilstone City Gym - Fighting Leader Maylene

The most naturally appropriate Pokemon typing for gyms is of course fighting type - it just suits the setup - and that's what leader Maylene has going in Veilstone City. The fighting-type specialist first has a puzzle, however - you'll need to create your path to her, and the act of doing so will put you into multiple trainer battles as you go.

Once you do reach Maylene, this is her Pokemon line-up...

  • Meditite (level 27)
    • Fighting / Psychic type
    • Attacks: Drain Punch, Light Screen, Flash, Bulk Up
    • Held: Light Clay
  • Machoke (level 27)
    • Fighting type
    • Attacks: Low Sweep, Knock Off, Rock Tomb, Bulldoze
    • Held: Expert Belt
  • Lucario (level 30)
    • Fighting / Steel type
    • Attacks: Drain Punch, Screech, Metal Claw, Bulk Up
    • Held: Big Root

All three of Maylene's Pokemon are fighting type, but two of them have interesting sub-types. For instance, Machoke, a pure fighting-type, is wrecked by Psychic moves - but Meditite is part psychic, and so is not. Flying-type moves can work against both Meditite and Machoke, but it wouldn't hurt to have a Ground or Fire-type in your back pocket to exploit Lucario's partial steel-typing.

Once you've defeated Maylene, you'll get the Coal Badge, TM60 Drain Punch, and the ability to use Fly outside of battle - which basically unlocks fast travel, as we call it these days.

Pastoria City Gym - Water Leader Crasher Wake

Next up is the water-type gym, which is available from the moment you step foot in Pastoria City. As soon as you're ready, head on into the gym that's headed up by Crasher Wake. There's once again a small puzzle as you make your way towards the leader - this time, you're raising and lowering the water level in the gym. It's hardly the water temple, though, and you'll find yourself at Crasher Wake's side pretty quickly.

Once you reach him, this is the team Crasher Wake will field:

  • Gyarados (level 27)
    • Water / Flying type
    • Attacks: Brine, Ice Fang, Crunch, Flail
    • Held: Wide Lens
  • Quagsire (level 27)
    • Water / Ground type
    • Attacks: Rain Dance, Haze, Mud Shot, Scald
    • Held: Damp Rock
  • Floatzel (level 30)
    • Water type
    • Attacks: Brine, Ice Fang, Bite, Aqua Jet
    • Held: Sitrus Berry

As you might notice, only one of Crasher Wake's Pokemon is a pure water type - and this sort of behavior will continue going forwards. Water's arch nemesis is of course electricity - and you should use Electric-type moves on Gyarados and Floatzel - especially Gyarados, who is doubly weak to it. But Quagsire is outright immune to electricity thanks to its Ground-typing. For that, you can use Grass-type moves - which are also useful against Floatzel. Between Grass and Electric, you'll have this gym covered.

Once Crasher Wake is defeated, he'll hand over the Fen Badge, TM55 Brine, and you'll gain the ability to use Defog outside of battle - which again will open up your progression across Sinnoh.


Hearthome City Gym - Ghost Leader Fantina

Next up is a rarer gym-type in the series - one themed after Ghost Pokemon. You'll actually encounter this Gym earlier in the game, but you won't be able to reach it until this point - the gyms in this guide are listed in order. After some maths-based puzzles where you have to work out the answer and pick the right door, you'll find Fantina and her crew of Ghost-type Pokemon:

  • Drifblim (level 32)
    • Ghost / Flying type
    • Attacks: Strength Sap, Hex, Fly, Will-O-Wisp
    • Held: Zoom Lens
  • Gengar (level 34)
    • Ghost / Poison type
    • Attacks: Shadow Claw, Confuse Ray, Sludge Bomb, Dazzing Gleam
    • Held: Colbur Berry
  • Mismagius (level 36)
    • Ghost type
    • Attacks: Confuse Ray, Phantom Force, Magical Leaf, Dazzling Gleam
    • Held: Expert Belt

While there's a few cross-type Pokemon here, none of these are so difficult to deal with in that not so many of them remove other type weaknesses. In fact, all three of Fantina's Pokemon are weak to Ghost and Dark-type moves; so if you have those to hand, you're golden. Otherwise, you can use Ice type to take out Drifbloom, and Ground or Psychic on Gengar. Avoid Fighting and Normal-type moves - they don't work on ghosts!

After toppling Fantina and her ghostly gym, you'll receive the reward of the Relic Badge, TM65 Shadow Claw, and the ability to use Surf outside of battle. Finally, you can take to the high seas!

Canalave City Gym - Steel Leader Byron

Unlike the last one, this is another gym you can head to as soon as you reach its home city. This time it's a steel-type gym, headed up by Byron - who just so happens to be related to another leader we battled earlier. Once again, this gym has a minor puzzle - this time you're using elevators to get around.

Solving the little traversal pizzle will get you to Byron's platform, and there you can battle his team:

  • Bronzor (level 36)
    • Steel / Psychic type
    • Attacks: Confuse Ray, Sandstorm, Trick Room, Flash Cannon
  • Steelix (level 36)
    • Steel / Ground type
    • Attacks: Thunder Fang, Earthquake, Sandstorm, Gyro Ball
    • Held: Soft Sand
  • Bastiodon (level 39)
    • Rock / Steel type
    • Attacks: Iron Defense, Thunderbolt, Stone Edge, Flash Cannon
    • Held: Sitrus Berry

First up, let's talk about the Sandstorm. Two of Byron's Pokemon have access to this move; it can summon a five-turn sandstorm that'll do damage to all Pokemon each turn - but Ground, Rock and Steel-type Pokemon aren't effected. You need to prepare for the Sandstorm to be used against you. There are some abilities that can stop this - or you can use Pokemon of the correct type. 

Meanwhile, in terms of weaknesses - each of these three has a different subtype, so it's a more complicated battle. Bronzor and Steelix are both weak to Fire-type moves, which is the primary weakness of steel-type Pokemon; use that if you've got 'em. However, the surprise star here is Ground-type moves - these will dish out super effective damage to all three of Byron's creatures! A natural ground-type Pokemon with good moves will eliminate the Sandstorm and take care of business - so if you've got one, that's the one to use.

When defeated, Byron hands over the Mine Badge, TM91 Flash Cannon, and the ability to use Strength outside battle - a classic progress-enhancing Pokemon move.


Snowpoint City Gym - Ice Leader Candice

So, here we are, at Pokemon Brilliant Diamond & Shining Pearl's penultimate gym - and we're facing off against Candice, the Ice Gym Leader. This icy gym has an appropriate little traversal gimmick where'll you'll be slipping and sliding around in order to reach the leader. 

Once you get to Candice's platform, you'll find she's the first gym leader to have four Pokemon - who have an Ice theme but aren't strictly ice-type. She's definitely one of the harder gym encounters in the game. Her Pokemon:

  • Snover (level 38)
    • Grass / Ice type
    • Attacks: Mist, Razor Leaf, Water Pulse, Avalanche
    • Held: Icy Rock
  • Sneasel (level 38)
    • Dark / Ice type
    • Attacks: Metal Claw, Hone Claws, Dig, Avalanche
    • Held: Chople Berry
  • Medicham (level 40)
    • Fighting / Psychic type
    • Attacks: Ice Punch, Bulk Up, Brick Break, Rock Slide
    • Held: Expert Belt
  • Abomasnow (level 42)
    • Grass / Ice type
    • Attacks: Auora Veil, Giga Drain, Earthquake, Blizzard
    • Held: Sitrus Berry

Unsurprisingly, being an ice-type gym, you'll find Fire-type Pokemon and moves most at home here. They can melt most of this gym away, after all - but one of the four might prove a problem. For the three ice types, Bug, Rock, and Steel type moves are also a safe bet. The curveball is Medicham, a fighting/psychic type who had an elemental ice move. In weakness terms, you can exploit its fighting-type nature - so try rolling out Flying or Ghost-type moves against it.

Once you've defeated Ice Leader Candice, you'll get the Icicle Badge, a few copies of TM72 Avalanche, and the crucial ability to use Rock Climb out of battle. You've likely been wanting this ability all game - now you have it.

Sunyshore City Gym - Electric Leader Volkner

And here we are - only one more leader stands between you and a battle with the Elite Four of Sinnoh - but it's the most devious gym leader yet. Found in Sunyshore City, Volkner's Electric-type Gym is actually closed for business - you'll need to convince its leader to have one last battle. When you do that, you'll find a surprisingly varied team:

  • Raichu (level 46)
    • Electric type
    • Attacks: Nuzzle, Volt Switch, Surf, Charge Beam
    • Held: Shuca Berry
  • Ambipom (level 47)
    • Normal type
    • Attacks: Fake Out, Thunderbolt, Double Hit, Last Resort
    • Held: Chople Berry
  • Octillery (level 47)
    • Water type
    • Attacks: Octazooka, Focus Energy, Auora Beam, Charge Beam
    • Held: Expert Belt
  • Luxray (level 49)
    • Electric type
    • Attacks: Thunder Fang, Ice Fang, Crunch, Iron Tail
    • Held: Sitrus Berry

A lot of Pokemon Gym Leaders have sort of deliberately-unbalanced teams, but Volkner's foursome actually more closely resmbles a proper team. It has a theme, but it also covers a lot of bases, and that can leave you vulnerable if you're not careful. Because this is still an electric gym with lots of electric moves flying arounding, bringing a bunch of Paralyze Heal item,s certainly wouldn't hurt.

Because of the nature of his team, let's break down some suggested weaknesses one-by-one:

  • Raichu & Luxray: weak against Ground-type; deploy the best ground-type you can.
  • Ambipom: it only has one 'super effective' weakness, and that's Fighting-type. otherwise, anything but Ghost-type will do normal damage.
  • Octillery: as a pure water type, you can deploy an Electric Pokemon in an Electric gym here. Alternatively, Grass will work just as well.

And that's it! The last of the Gym Leaders. Defeating Volkner will reinvigorate him as a gym leader, and he'll hand over the Beacon Badge and TM57 Charge Beam as thanks. He also unlocks the use of Waterfall outside battle, which is crucial for your final journey to becoming Sinnoh's champion.