pokemon big 6

Taking a look at VGC 2017’s potential “Big 6”

After securing a second place finish at the North American International Championships following numerous Top Cut appearances, this team composition of VGC 2017’s best is looking like it has become VGC’s new “Big 6” archetype.

The “Big 6” is a name given to a team archetype that usually consists of a combination of the best Pokemon in a given format. In 2015 there was CHALK and 2016 found its “Big 6” very early on with the popularity of Xerneas and Primal Groudon. It doesn’t take a teambuilding genius to put together a successful “Big 6” team, as we’ve seen just how effective slapping the format’s six best Pokemon on a team has been.

Whether or not this team is worthy of being called the “Big 6”, there’s no denying the consistency of its recent results. Let’s take a closer look at each member of the team, as well as some other potential options that could appear on future variants.

Tapu Koko 

tapu koko pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Timid, Modest

Item(s): Life Orb, Choice Specs, Assault Vest, Electrium Z

Common Moves: Thunderbolt, Volt Switch, Dazzling Gleam, Hidden Power (Ice, Fire), Sky Drop, Nature’s Madness

Undeniably the format’s most consistent Pokemon, Tapu Koko is no doubt the Island Guardian of choice for this team. It’s speed, power and flexibility allow it to function in a multitude of roles which range from dealing damage or supporting its team mates. Going into the North American International Championships, we saw the rise of the Assault Vest item on a majority of Tapu Koko. In addition to adding to Tapu Koko’s defenses, The Assault Vest allowed for great supportive moves like Nature’s Madness and Sky Drop which can be crucial in setting up KO’s for Tapu Koko’s partners.

However, despite the Assault Vest’s popularity prior to Indianapolis, there were no Assault Vest Tapu Koko in the Master’s Top Cut. Instead, players favored the Electrium Z, allowing Tapu Koko to fire off a powerful, terrain-boosted Electric attack. Having access to Gigavolt Havoc allows Tapu Koko to claim crucial KO’s on less defensive variants of Arcanine as well as opposing Tapu Koko. Paul Chua opted for Thunder on his move set, deciding that the risk of Thunder’s shaky accuracy was worth the increase of Gigavolt Havoc’s base power.

Cesar Reyes proved that Choice Specs was still a worthy item choice, enabling Tapu Koko to threaten consistent damage without needing to set up. Life Orb variants still exists, but my guess is we won’t see nearly as many on the World’s stage.

Arcanine

arcanine pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Adamant, Jolly, Careful

Item(s): Iapapa Berry, Figy Berry, Mago Berry, Firium Z, Assault Vest, Choice Band

Common Moves: Flare Blitz, Extreme Speed, Will-o-Wisp, Snarl, Helping Hand, Toxic

Sitting up there with Tapu Koko as arguably the format’s best Pokemon, it’s no wonder Arcanine appears on this team. With the format’s lackluster amount of good Fire-types, Arcanine’s great base stats and access to Intimidate make it a solid fit for most VGC 2017 teams.

Arcanine is able to function in both an offensive and a supportive role. Flare Blitz and Extreme Speed are pretty much standard for all Arcanine variants, but Arcanine’s third move slot can see a ton of variation. Helping Hand looks to be the most popular according to Indy’s Top Cut, as the Helping Hand boost can be crucial for Arcanine’s team mates to pick up KO’s. Snarl is a move that can almost be spammed at points in order to severely weaken the opponent’s special attackers. Will-o-Wisp is also not a bad option for punishing physical attackers as Pokemon like Alolan Muk and Snorlax become a lot less scary when afflicted with a burn. Finally, Toxic can be a great surprise move that can rack up much needed damage on slower, more defensive Pokemon like Snorlax and Porygon2.

Arcanine can certainly be used in a variety of ways, but we’re likely to see the defensive variants of Arcanine dominate the World’s stage.

Garchomp

garchomp pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Jolly, Adamant

Item(s): Groundium Z, Choice Scarf, Assault Vest

Common Moves: Earthquake, Rock Slide, Fire Fang, Flamethrower, Poison Jab, Swords Dance

Garchomp’s been a staple in VGC in the absence of Landorus, and the implementing of Z moves in Generation 7 have made it even more threatening. Most teams in the format struggle to resist Ground-type attacks, and teams with poor answers to Garchomp can find themselves being swept rather easily. Groundium Z gives Garchomp an insanely powerful attack that does a ton of damage, especially after a Swords Dance. The rising popularity of Assault Vest Tapu Koko created a deadly duo with Tapu Koko’s fast Sky Drop next to a Swords Dance Garchomp. This combination is able to guarantee KO’s on slower Pokemon, and serves as a great way to deal with opposing Trick Room modes.

If it weren’t for Paul Chua’s impressive use of the Choice Scarf on Garchomp, odds are I wouldn’t have touched on it. Definitely something that can catch an opponent off-guard. A Choice Scarfed Garchomp has the capability to run through teams that aren’t equipped to deal with it. Having two spam-able moves in Rock Slide and Earthquake, make the Choice Scarf a pretty good win condition when set up right. We saw Paul Chua use this set effectively after whittling down his opponent’s Pokemon in order for Garchomp to quickly pick up KO’s with Earthquake. Also, a fast Rock Slide is always threatening with that terrifying 30% flinch chance.

After Chua’s run in Indianapolis, I expect Choice Scarf to become a lot more popular. Although, Groundium Z is by far the more flexible option, and will likely remain the most common variant.

Celesteela

celesteela pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Relaxed, Impish, Modest, Adamant

Item(s): Leftovers, Pinch berries, Assault Vest

Common Moves: Heavy Slam, Leech Seed, Flamethrower, Wide Guard, Air Slash, Flash Cannon

Just barely holding off Kartana as VGC 2017 most common Ultra Beast, we have Celesteela. Celesteela is an amazing defensive Pokemon with its fantastic typing, move pool, and immunity to Earthquake. A majority of Celesteela opt for the standard Heavy Slam, Leech Seed and Flamethrower move set, but the North American International Championships showed us a couple new tricks. Baris Ackos ran Air Slash on his Celesteela perhaps as a way to hit Buzzwole while also having the chance to flinch slower opponents. Paul Chua decided protecting his team with Wide Guard was more valuable than hitting Kartana with Flamethrower.

Celesteela might appear standard in team preview, but like I said, Celesteela has a very diverse move pool. Attacking variants of Celesteela aren’t unheard of, but by far the most consistent Celesteela set is the standard Leech Seed variant. Let’s hope that World’s doesn’t subject us to any Celesteela stall wars, especially if none of them are running Flamethrower.

Snorlax

snorlax pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Brave, Impish, Sassy, Adamant

Item(s): Pinch Berries (Figy, Mago, Iapapa)

Common Moves: Return, Frustration, Facade, Curse, Belly Drum, Recycle, Wild Charge, High Horsepower

Where would this team be without a Trick Room answer? Indianapolis showed us that Snorlax is in and Gigalith is (potentially) out. Snorlax is the very definition of a tank. It takes a ton of damage to take one of these things down, but only if its not able to Recycle its berry.

Depending on whether or not a Trick Room setter is present, Snorlax can run either Curse or Belly Drum to set itself up. Curse is a lot safer since it also boosts Snorlax’s Defense and is far less of a commitment. Belly Drum is the more aggressive option that puts Snorlax in a better sweeping position at the immediate cost of its berry. The Curse variant is the more popular option for this team due to its consistency, and allows for Snorlax to work better outside of Trick Room.

In regards to Snorlax’s move options, we saw a lot of change to what looks like a pretty standard Pokemon. Facade was present on both Snorlax in the Master’s finals which was likely a great call for a tournament that featured the use of Toxic. In exchange for Snorlax’s coverage, Stockpile was seen on some Belly Drum variants as a way of adding more bulk in addition to Snorlax’s monstrous Attack boost.

Snorlax looks to be VGC 2017’s most consistent Trick Room Pokemon regardless if a team has a way to set up Trick Room. Curse will likely see more play in Anaheim over Belly Drum, but both sets are equally viable.

Alolan Ninetales

alolan ninetales pokemon big 6

Nature(s): Timid

Item(s): Focus Sash, Light Clay

Common Moves: Blizzard, Freeze Dry, Icy Wind, Aurora Veil, Roar, Encore

Finally, we have probably the most expendable member of the team: Alolan Ninetales. Even Paul Chua mentioned in his tournament report that he brought this Pokemon the least over the course of the weekend. Basically, Alolan Ninetales is really only needed for Aurora Veil. Other than that, spamming Blizzard is nice in some situations but its damage output will leave you hoping for a freeze.

Having Alolan Ninetales is a decent way to check opposing weather, but weather teams aren’t as common as they used to be. Still, having other interesting support options like Roar and Icy Wind can make Ninetales a bit more useful.

There’s a lot of debate over whether or not Alolan Ninetales is a “good” Pokemon, but you have to agree that it can be quite solid in certain situations. Aurora Veil protecting Snorlax is always tough to deal with, which is why we’ve seen this duo before.

Other Options

Trick Room

mimikyu pokemon big 6

With a Pokemon like Snorlax, having a Trick Room setter is never a bad idea. Mimikyu has seen the most play with this archetype since it has great synergy with Snorlax. Porygon2 has awkward synergy with Snorlax, since they’re both Normal type, but Porygon2 is consistent enough to work.

Another Tapu

tapu fini pokemon big 6

Tapu Lele and Tapu Fini have had many great tournament teams next to Tapu Koko, and this team composition could be a great fit as well. Tapu Lele provides another source of damage while Tapu Fini can support the team with Misty Terrain. Having either on the team can help keep the terrain advantage which is always good to have.

Kartana

kartana pokemon big 6

Kartana and Celesteela by no means function the same role per say, but when needing a Steel-type, either one works well. Celesteela will usually be favored due to its use as a defensive pivot and synergy with Garchomp, but Kartana can also work as another offensive option for the team.

Another Trick Room Attacker

gigalith pokemon big 6

Ninetales and Snorlax could easily be swapped out for Porygon2 plus Gigalith or Alolan Muk. Probably not the most likely change considering Snorlax’s overall consistency, but still an option.

So, is this team really the “Big 6” of VGC 2017?

While it has been a consistent team, it’s hard to say at this point. It’s very possible that this team could have a big showing at Worlds and will likely see some variation if players decide to bring it. Overall, this “goodstuffs” team is a solid pick for this stage of the format, but we’ll just have to wait and see if the “Big 6” can have another big tournament run in Anaheim.

Thanks for reading!


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Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

VGC 2017 North American International Championships metagame preview

Previously, we looked at a list of Pokemon that could be great off-meta choices for a team competing in Indianapolis this weekend. This time, we’ll supplement that list with an overview of the current strategies and cores that define the current VGC 2017 metagame. These are strategies that players should expect to play against, and spectators should expect to see.

Common cores + team compositions

FAKEPG (and its variations)

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One of the most popular team compositions to hit VGC is the awkwardly named “FAKEPG” archetype. The clumsy acronym, for those unfamiliar, stands for: Tapu Fini, Arcanine, Kartana, Electric-type, Porygon2 and Gigalith. The team is popular for a reason, as its brilliant type synergy and move coverage makes it tough to go up against. The team also features a variety of modes, even being able to effectively abuse Trick Room with the combo of Porygon2 and Gigalith.

To avoid being predictable, the team has undergone a bit of change since it first came onto the scene. Tapu Lele has replaced Tapu Fini on some variants, while Tapu Koko has solidified itself as the go-to E in FAKEPG. Speaking of Tapu Koko, the rising popularity of the Assault Vest item on it has also given rise to a new breed of Kartana that carries Swords Dance and the Fightinium Z. Tapu Koko is able to use Sky Drop on Pokemon that threaten Kartana, so it can then set up a Swords Dance and pick up a KO with a boosted All-Out-Pummeling on the next turn.

Other than these notable changes, the rest of the team is fairly standard. Slight move changes can vary from player to player on Gigalith and Arcanine, but you should expect things like Flare Blitz and Rock Slide.

How to beat it

I found that both a well-played Alolan Muk and/or Kartana do very well against FAKEPG. These two do struggle with Arcanine, but Muk does well against the Tapu’s while Kartana can be hard to stop to the team’s Trick Room mode. Dealing with Arcanine should be a priority, as Arcanine is usually the team’s main answer to common Steel-types and strong, physical attackers that give the team trouble.

The team is good, but it can struggle if against a player who knows the match-up, and has ways to win against it. Prediction is key, and a lot of it goes into predicting what mode the FAKEPG player will bring.

Goodstuffs

Basically, all of the metagame’s best Pokemon on one team. The most popular version at the moment is a variant with Alolan Ninetales and Snorlax. This composition has also hopped on the Assault Vest Tapu Koko hype-train, with the Swords Dance partner as Garchomp. Instead of Kartana, Celesteela has made itself the team’s go-to Steel-type.

How to beat it

Again, this team relies on Arcanine a lot for Fire-damage and its Intimidate ability. The lack of ways to manipulate speed can make the team weak against Tailwind and Trick Room based teams. Most well-built variants will be prepared to deal with speed control, so taking advantage of Tailwind or Trick Room turns is essential.

Drifblim+Tapu Lele (Tailwind)

A combination that has remained relevant despite the slight drop off in its usage, Drifblim teams are still pretty scary. Users of Driblim are now not only able to abuse the power of Tapu Lele, but also Ultra Beasts that could benefit from the speed boost like Nihilego and Buzzwole.

Despite the predictability when it comes to the leads, this team has a lot of options. Drifblim can work well with any of the team’s main sweepers, while Drifblim itself could be carrying a bunch of unique techs in its move set.

Drifblim is great and all, but Mandibuzz has recently been climbing back up in usage and makes a good fit for this team’s Tailwind mode. Mandibuzz is harder to take down, but its lack of Drifblim’s speed could leave it susceptible to Taunt or Sky Drop. Mandibuzz is a bit more flexible, being able to work with Tapu Fini and apparently Tapu Bulu like we saw in Japan.

More than likely, Drifblim will be the one to be prepared for, as its almost guaranteed Tailwind set up is hard to pass on.

How to beat it

The team’s hyper-offensive nature leaves it very susceptible to a match up where it loses the speed advantage. Tapu Lele’s Taunt gives the team a way to stop Trick Room and slower Tailwinds, but can easily be baited out with a lead that threatens either option. Snorlax is a popular sixth member to help against Trick Room, but without it, an opposing Trick Room mode can run over the team.

Disrupting Psychic Terrain also hurts the team a bit by weakening Tapu Lele. Tapu Fini is usually the best candidate for this role since Misty Terrain can prevent potential burns from Drifblim’s Will-o-Wisp.

BAN (Tapu Bulu, Arcanine, Nihilego)

Since Tapu Bulu has been quickly climbing the usage charts, it’s fitting that it should get its own core. Drew Nowak proved that this combination could win a big tournament and is worth preparing for. Tapu Bulu is able to threaten huge damage by setting up the Grassy Terrain which helps its teammates not lose to Earthquake. Other popular teammates are Pheromosa, Porygon2, Tapu Koko, Metagross and Hariyama just to name a few. The team is able to support a ton of damage with Tapu Bulu and Nihilego, bulk with Intimidate and Grassy Terrain as well as a slower mode with Hariyama and Araquanid.

A surprisingly diverse team that has a very solid matchup against many of the metagame’s other top teams.

How to beat it

One common thread of Tapu Bulu teams are the many Ground weaknesses the team has. Getting rid of Grassy Terrain makes Earthquake a fatal move for the majority of the team’s members, so preserving a method of Earthquake spam is helpful.

If Nihilego is dealt with, the team may struggle with Arcanine. It’s reasonable to assume Nowak’s Madison team, or a variation of it, will be what most players opt for so Araquanid is to be expected. Terrain advantage is crucial in the matchup, and denying Grassy Terrain is a consistent way to cripple this team.

Weather teams

Rain

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Double Duck hasn’t gone away just yet unfortunately. Coming off a recent victory in the Japanese National Championships and the confirmation of Tommy Cooleen’s attendance in Indy makes Rain worth discussing. Often relying on the Pelipper+Golduck lead to set up Tailwind and drown threats with Golduck’s rain-boosted Hydro Vortex, the team relies on rain for both speed and power.

That being said however, the team can still function without the rain with Pokemon like Tapu Koko and Kartana being good checks to popular rain answers. Plus, the consistency of the team allows off-meta picks like Buzzwole, Metagross and now even Tsareena to function in the meta game. A team composition that looks standard, but is surprisingly sticking around and adapting.

Sun 

Not quite as common as Rain, but this archetype could still be a possible matchup. Torkoal+Lilligant is arguably a bit easier to deal with than Double Duck, but the mind games of predicting After You Eruption, a Z Move or Sleep Powder is not fun to play against.

Ashton’s Latin America team is a well-built version that might be the go-to for Sun team players, but its lack of recent success makes it less likely for it to do well in Indianapolis.

Sand

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The reason I’m even mentioning this mode is the fact that Lycanroc+Gigalith did make it to the Top 8 of the Japanese National Championships. Other variants use Stoutland as their Sand Rush abuser, being able to act more supportive rather than offensive. The team functions similarly to the aforementioned weather teams, but the reliance on Sand doesn’t extend far past Gigalith and its Sand Rush-ing partner.

It’s a strategy that most likely wouldn’t expect, but its lack of success at a best-of-three tournament leaves a lot of players skeptical.

Note: I’m not mentioning Hail since the weather mode has been pretty much non-existent. Still, Vanilluxe and Alolan Ninetales are solid on their own.

How to beat weather

Weather disruption is by far the best way to shut down every weather mode. If you don’t have a way to set up your own weather, here are some Pokemon that do well against each mode.

Rain: Gastrodon, AV Tapu Koko, Goodra, Kartana

Sun: Arcanine, Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini, Snorlax

Sand: Garchomp, Kartana (watch out for Fire Fang), bulky Water/Grass-types

Less common, but viable teams, modes, etc. 

Eevee

Someone always manages to take a tournament by storm with Eevee, and it’s still a team to be feared. I’ve gone into depth about Eevee before, but tl;dr Eevee sets up the Extreme Evoboost and Baton Passes it to a sweeper.

You beat it by denying that. Eliminate the boosts, Eevee and/or the sweeper(s). Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Porygon2 + Araquanid 

Remember when this pair won four consecutive regionals in North America? Well Araquanid is still a huge threat under Trick Room since many teams don’t have great Liquidation switch-ins.

MimiLax (Mimikyu+Snorlax)

Another Trick Room duo that has fallen off a bit, but can still rip through teams after Snorlax sets up Belly Drum. Mimikyu doesn’t go down easily, and nearly always has Mental Herb so good luck trying to Taunt it. Not to mention, Mimikyu can copy Snorlax’s maximized attack with Psych Up.

*shudders*

Lightningrod+Gyarados (or a combo of Water and Flying-types)

Togedemaru and Marowak could be good calls for Indianapolis considering the abundance of Tapu Koko, and one of the most common partners for these two is Gyarados. Gyarados can be troublesome to KO without an Electric attack, and leaving it unchecked could mean a Dragon Dance sweep.

Lightningrod Pokemon have also seen usage on teams with Mandibuzz, Tapu Fini and Celesteela which can make these bulky Pokemon also pretty annoying to take down. Lightningrod support helps Mandibuzz set up Tailwind, Tapu Fini set up Calm Mind and Celesteela do its thing.

Smeargle & Ultra Beasts

Ian McLaughlin taught us that Smeargle is still scary, especially when paired with a few Ultra Beasts. Smeargle’s ability to disrupt opponents and support its teammates make an Ultra Beast partner terrifying to go against. Xurkitree can Tail Glow, Nihilego can set up Substitutes and Pheromosa can out-speed and annihilate its main threats. All while Smeargle racks up stat boosts from Moody.

It’s almost here

Hopefully I was able to provide a solid overview of the most common Pokemon and strategies in the current VGC 2017 metagame. We’ll likely see all of these strategies, even the lesser-used ones, appear in one shape or another. However, as VGC 2017 has showed us time and time again, the player who finds a way to successfully counter the meta with their own unique strategy, likely wins it all.

I guess we’ll find out which teams will make it to the top in just a couple more days. A champion will be crowned, and all eyes will shift towards Anaheim, and what the World’s metagame will have in store.


Art/Images of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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VGC 2017 Spring Metagame Preview

With a sizable amount of tournaments in the books, what’s next for the VGC 2017 metagame? In a format that’s been flipped on its head after every tournament, creativity has begun to slow but has not stopped. Many new cores and strategies have emerged and are waiting to be countered, which further expands this format’s potential development. These months leading up to Worlds should be exciting, and here are the Pokémon we should expect to see:

A War of Speed Control

Trick Room and Tailwind are the most popular forms of speed control, and they are set to clash until the format’s end. With both modes becoming increasingly more viable, there are some solid Pokémon to add to a team if you’re looking for a speed advantage.

Tailwind

DrifblimImage result for drifblim

I think we’re all sick of this thing already. Everyone knows what Drifblim does, but for those unfamiliar, let me explain.

Drifblim, usually paired next to a Tapu Lele, will lead with said Tapu Lele activating Psychic Seed which boosts Driflbim’s Special Defense by one stage due to Lele’s Psychic Terrain. Unburden now doubles Drifblim’s speed since it has no item allowing it to be the fastest thing on the field. Drifblim sets up Tailwind and now Tapu Lele and friends can wail on your opponent’s team.

Although Drifblim might appear standard, there’s a lot of move options outside of the standard Tailwind and Shadow Ball. Will-o-Wisp is common to burn physical threats like Garchomp, Snorlax, and Muk. Recently, Aaron Zheng won Oregon Regionals with a Destiny Bond Drifblim, which was able to clutch some cheeky KO’s if Drifblim becomes expendable. Then there are fun options like Disable and Hypnosis if you want to make your opponent smash their 3DS.

MandibuzzImage result for mandibuzz

Mandibuzz functions very similarly to Drifblim as Mandibuzz opts mainly for Seed items. However, Mandibuzz is the more defensive option. With access to great support moves like Snarl, Taunt, Foul Play and Toxic, Mandibuzz can set up Tailwind and stick around to torture your opponent. Plus Mandibuzz is a bit more versatile as it can work with Tapu Fini as well as Tapu Lele.

Trick Room

Porygon2Image result for porygon2

This little duck will never go away. Porygon2 is such an adaptable Pokémon that it doesn’t even need Trick Room to thrive. Though that’s an option most tend to opt for.

The standard Porygon2 set has morphed significantly over the course of 2017, which is a testament to Porygon2’s versatility. It’s insanely bulky due to Eviolite and has a ton of move options for both offense and defense. I think Special Attacking Porygon2 might be making a comeback, but Trick Room and Recover are still staples.

If unchecked, this thing can win a game 1v4, so either Taunt or a Fighting-type should be present on a team.

MimikyuImage result for mimikyu png

The newest member of the Trick Room club is everyone’s favorite Pikachu knock-off: Mimikyu. Mimikyu’s unique ability Disguise brings an interesting dynamic to how it can function in a match. It’s able to take a free hit allowing it to set up Trick Room for its partners or deal some good damage with its solid STAB.

Mimikyu has found some good synergy next to Trick Room sweepers such as Snorlax and Gigalith since it doesn’t share a Fighting-type weakness like the aforementioned Porygon2.

If you want a full Mimikyu analysis, I recommend my buddy Drew’s piece showcasing all of Mimikyu’s talents. Regardless of what the Pokédex says, everyone loves Mimikyu.


The GoodStuffs

Every format has its standard and VGC 2017 is no exception. These are the Pokémon you will see at least once per game in this format.

GarchompImage result for garchomp png

When Landorus isn’t around, the Ground-type to rule them all is Garchomp. We’ve seen Garchomp undergo a lot of change so far with moves like Poison Jab, Fire Fang and Rock Slide revolving in and out of the standard move sets. Right now the most popular build is a bulkier set-up sweeper with Swords Dance to take advantage of Tailwind being set up.

Without a Ground resist in its way, Garchomp can annihilate teams that aren’t prepared for it. It makes a Fairy-type or an Ice-move a necessity to any team.

ArcanineImage result for arcanine png

When Arcanine is good, it’s really good. By far the most popular Intimidate user in the format, Arcanine is a fantastic blend of offense and occasionally defense. Stopping Kartana and Celesteela in their tracks is one of the main reasons (other than Intimidate of course) Arcanine finds a place on a majority of successful teams.

SnorlaxImage result for snorlax png

Much like its role in the single-player game, Snorlax can be quite the formidable obstacle. Insane bulk coupled with Gluttony to take full advantage of the 50% berries, Snorlax isn’t easily removed. Plus it can set up Curses while sitting there and endlessly Recycling its berry.

The premier Trick Room sweeper at this point in the meta game, however, there is another that has been rocking the format as of late.

GigalithImage result for gigalith png

This thing is a stone-cold killer under Trick Room. With an amazing Attack stat, Gigalith can hammer on opponents with strong Rock Slides. To complement its offensive prowess, Gigalith can also set up with Curse or protect your own team with Wide Guard. What’s most attractive about Gigalith right now is its excellent match-up versus Drifblim and Tapu Lele, but it has to have Trick Room up first.

Tapu KokoImage result for tapu koko png

In my opinion, the perfect sixth member for any team in this format is none other than Tapu Koko. Dominating the format in usage, Tapu Koko is by far one of the most versatile threats in the game. Mainly valued for its offense and speed, Tapu Koko can take advantage of many different items and move options.

The most popular item is often Life Orb, but we’ve seen success with items like Assault Vest and Choice Specs to capitalize on Tapu Koko’s offensive presence. Electric and Fairy-type moves are standard for Koko, but easily can be added or replaced by Hidden Powers, Sky Drop or Nature’s Madness just to name a few.

It’s essential to have an answer to this Pokémon or have it on your team for success in 2017.

Tapu LeleImage result for tapu lele png

I’ve already briefly touched on Tapu Lele’s primary role in the format right now, but there’s more to it than just being Drifblim’s right-hand. Psychic Terrain combined with Tapu Lele’s high Special Attack stat makes it a threat as soon as it hits the field. Tapu Lele’s move set doesn’t often deviate from its STAB attacks, but it can branch out depending on what item it holds.

Most Lele now are much more defensive rather than speedy since they’re usually accompanied by a Tailwind user. Expect either a choice item (Specs or Scarf mainly) or a Life Orb with Taunt to help stop Trick Room.

Tapu FiniImage result for tapu fini png

The Tapu Fini hype might have died down a little, but Tapu Fini is far from gone. Tapu Fini’s ability to disrupt opposing Terrains and offer decent offensive support gives a comfortable role on many teams in the game. Plus the AFK (Arcanine, Fini, Kartana) core is still really good, so I wouldn’t let Tapu Fini slip under your radar.

KartanaImage result for kartana png

One of two Ultra Beasts that continues to top the usage charts is the slashing sweeper Kartana. Most Kartana have moved away from the once popular Assault Vest for just full on offense and speed with a Focus Sash.

Although now a new trend featuring Scope Lens (an item that raises critical hit ratio) has popped up to many players’ dismay. Scope Lens gives Kartana’s Leaf Blade 50% chance to critical hit which can be clutch in racking up Beast Boosts.

Yeah this thing is the reason Fire-type moves are a necessity for any team.

CelesteelaImage result for celesteela png

Speaking of things that make Fire-type moves essential, let’s talk about Celesteela again.

Celesteela has done its fair share of adaptation, but the ol’ bread and butter Leech Seed strategy is still going strong today. Though now, Flamethrower has become the default rather than Substitute in order to deal with those pesky Kartana running around.

A new trend that’s appeared recently are offensive Celesteela, mainly focused on the Special Attack side. Believe it or not, Celesteela gets access to a bunch of great moves like Air Slash and Giga Drain if a Special Attacking Celesteela that can boost interests you. But let’s not forget Celesteela’s physical side with moves like Flame Charge and Earthquake which could be valuable.

Celesteela may be unbelievably annoying at times, but it’s been quite a fun Pokémon to see used as of late.


Common Cores

Tapu Lele & Drifblim

Image result for tapu lele pngImage result for drifblim

Not to be redundant, but if I’m talking about cores, I have to mention these two. The only thing left to add is that the typical team composition for these two can suffer significantly if a loss is suffered in terms of speed control. Speed is the name of the game with this team, with Pokémon like Garchomp and Kartana being present to take full advantage when it’s time to sweep.

AFK or ATK 

Image result for arcanine pngImage result for tapu fini pngImage result for kartana pngImage result for tapu koko pngImage result for tapu lele png

Remember the Arcanine, Fini, Kartana core I mentioned? I think it’s fair to branch out to include the other Tapu Pokémon despite the less attractive acronym. The Tapu Pokémon compliment Arcanine and Kartana well in terms of offense and defense which is why this combination retains its popularity. Its quite often to see more than one Tapu on a team with this core because of how well some of the Tapus work together. A common starting point for most teams that will probably remain in the meta game until the end of the format.

Mimikyu & Snorlax

Image result for mimikyu pngImage result for snorlax png

MimiLax, as those familiar with this core know it, is a common Trick Room mode for teams not solely dedicated to Trick Room. Both of these Pokémon can be tough to remove in the first few turns, so for this combo, setting isn’t hard at all.

While most Snorlax opt for Curse, we have seen Belly Drum pop up from time to time ever since its success in the Top Cut of Anaheim Regionals. This is a bit more risky of a strategy, but can be used effectively in the right hands.

With recent success in Oregon, Gigalith can easily replace Snorlax as Mimikyu’s partner. It functions pretty similarly while also having a much better match-up against Tapu Lele and Drifblim teams.


Unseen Forces

We’ve seen a lot of niche Pokémon thrive in this format, and here are some that I think have the most potential going forward.

Alolan PersianImage result for persian alola png

This shady cat has snuck its way into a few recent Top 8’s and even secured a Regional win in Buenos Aires. Persian is a special blend of bulk and speed that is able to offer effective support for its teammates. Its become popular next to Snorlax dues to its ability to switch into it with Parting Shot after lowering a threatening opponent’s stats. With some valuable synergy with other common Pokemon, Persian has potential to keep placing well in future tournaments.

Tapu BuluImage result for tapu bulu png

Tapu Bulu being the least used of its Tapu brethren has earned it a bit of a bad reputation in the format. But despite this, it has since earned a Regional victory under its belt and a few solid placings at Internationals.

Grassy Terrain is still a powerful terrain allowing for not only Tapu Bulu, but for its teammates as well. Tapu Bulu can fire off strong Grass-type attacks while its partners are protected against Ground moves and are slowly healing.

Since a lot of common Pokemon right now struggle with being Earthquake-resistant, Tapu Bulu offers a nice solution to this problem. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Tapu Bulu top the results of another major tournament in the near future.

Togedemaru Image result for togedemaru png

With the rising popularity of Gyarados and the current popularity of Tapu Koko, Togedemaru has a great place in the meta game right now. Dan “Adrive” Clap initially showed us the power of the electric rodent in the ONOG Invitational, leading to Alex Underhill taking it all the way to a Regional victory in Collinsville.

Togedemaru has a great defensive typing, outside of being Garchomp food, that excellently supports the great Water Pokémon in this format. It also has neat moves like Zing Zap which can score crucial flinches to halt your opponent’s momentum.

All I’m saying is an electric rodent won Worlds once. A bit of a bold prediction, but I think Togedemaru can do it.

BuzzwoleImage result for buzzwole png

In a metagame full of speed control, a Pokémon like Buzzwole can shine. Buzzwole’s awkward speed stat places it in a special place to be useful under Trick Room and Tailwind.

Buzzwole flexes for a reason, as its Attack stat is pretty beefy. Its move pool is great too, with moves like Ice Punch and Poison Jab offering great coverage for popular threats. With a big All-Out-Pummeling courtesy of Fightinium-Z, Buzzwole can easily start racking up Beast Boosts.

This monstrous mosquito’s success hasn’t expanded much farther than a couple Top 8’s, but its usage will definitely increase with things like Snorlax, Porygon2, and Gigalith being popular.

MudsdaleImage result for mudsdale png

Galloping into the last entry for this section, Mudsdale brings some untapped power. Since a Ground-type is nearly essential to deal with Tapu Koko and the occasional Muk, Mudsdale can play a role suited for an effective Ground-type.

It’s speed and usability under Trick Room is Mudsdale’s main selling point, being able to threaten huge damage when speed is in its favor. Not to mention every time its hit with an attack, Stamina kicks in to give it a Defense boost. All of this with a solid arsenal of attacks gives Mudsdale a good case for a Trick Room attacker.

Having claimed a Regional title in Dallas, Mudsdale shows promise for more solid finishes. Its unique role as a Ground-type in the format is one that more players will consider adding to their team.


Just a Snapshot

As the title of this section would suggest, this is only a small look into the vast pool of Pokémon that are viable in VGC 2017. I’m just telling you what to expect, not what to bring. This particular year in VGC is immensely rewarding for creative minds looking to find the next big strategy. These last few months before Worlds are sure to produce some great tournaments, and the ones who innovate will be leading the charge.

Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori

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Play pokemon vgc logo

Three Interesting Stats Halfway Through the 2017 Pokémon VGC Season

A Plethora of Pokémon

Half way through the season and one thing is certain, no meta has developed. Having completed nine events so far, VGC 17 has yet to see a single team reign supreme. Due to this, some 25 Pokémon have found their niche and appeared on the winner’s pedestal during the course of these nine events.

Pokemon who have placed first vgc 2017

Though no core of Pokémon has risen to dominance yet, one core has seen more play than any other. The AFK core, consisting of Arcanine, Tapu Fini, and Kartana, has been popular; but thus far it has only finished first in one out of nine major events, piloted to victory by the great Markus Stadter during the Dreamhack Regionals in Germany.

World Class Trainers

Even though there are still four months to go until the Pokémon VGC World Championship, 23 Trainers have already qualified for an invitation.

VGC 2017 Pokemon Standings

These are the trainers lucky enough to have earned enough Championship Points for an invitation so far. Will one of these 23 be the very best? Only time will tell.

Trainers still have time considering there are still two International Championships, as well as a plethora of Regionals and other smaller events to go. Names like Aaron “Cybertron” Zheng, and Gary Qian, still have time to claim an invite.

Going Against the Grain

2017 is the year of the Tapu and Ultra Beast. Introduced in Pokémon Sun and Moon, these creatures are incredibly powerful. It is no surprise then, that they have appeared on every winning team of a major VGC tournament. Every winning team except for two.

Image of Gavin Michaels

Gavin Michaels Second from the left | Image courtesy of @komvgc

Those two teams belonged to the same Trainer, Gavin Michaels. Gavin was able to claim victory in both California Regionals during the winter matches. Winning both tournaments without use of either a Tapu or an Ultra Beast. Truly a feat to watch.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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Pokemon togedemaru steals the show

Pokémon VGC 2017 Collinsville Regional Wraps Up – Alex Underhill Takes First, Togedemaru Steals Show

Farewell Collinsville

Competition wrapped up this weekend at the Pokémon VGC Collinsville Regional tournament, and fans were not disappointed. Around 300 Trainers showed up for their chance at walking away with $3,000 cash, and Championship Points towards entrance to the World Championship. While many Trainers competed, only one proved he had what it took to be a champion. Alex Underhill marveled the crowd as he battled his way to his first major VGC victory.

Alex Underhill using Togedemaru to win Collinsville regionals Pokemon

Image courtesy of @LexiconVGC

Alex combined offensive pressure from Gyarados and Arcanine, with Celesteela’s stalling ability. To top it off, Alex’s centerpiece was his Togedemaru, a little steel mouse capable of unnerving foes with its shocking tactics. Throughout the entirety of the tournament, Alex impressed the crowd with the expert use of his Togedemaru. Whether it was faking out opposing Tapu Koko, or Encoring Kartana into repetitive sword dancing. Alex was nothing short of fun to watch.

Togedemaru Wasn’t the Only Interesting Trend

Pokémon Togedemaru

Image courtesy of Game Freak

Togedemaru may have Zing Zapped his way into the fan’s hearts with his shocking display, but there was another interesting trend occurring. Teams running Tapu Lele and Drifblim were on full display in Collinsville this weekend. In fact, four of the top ten teams ran the combo. If this sounds familiar, it should be. This is because Tapu Lele and Drifblim are the pair Shoma used to claim victory in the recent ONOG Pokémon Invitational.

Watching the impact Shoma’s play had on many of the Trainers was an interesting thing to see. Even the second place finisher, Justin Berns, was using Tapu Fini and Drifblim. However, the disruption caused by Togedemaru’s antics just proved too much to overcome. After three full rounds, Justin found himself yielding victory to Alex when the final match came down to Snorlax versus Celesteela.

See You Down Under

melbourne australia for pokemon international

Image courtesy of Australia.com

The next major Pokémon VGC event will be the International Championship in Melbourne Australia. This will be the second in a series of four tournaments in the brand new International Championship Series. With a massive Championship point payout and open admittance to all Trainers worldwide, International Championship Series tournaments promise to bring a large crowd of talented Pokémon Trainers.

Scheduled to begin March 10th, the tournament will run until March 12th. Make sure to keep an eye out for new strategies. Will Porygon2 still be a staple? Could Togedemaru be a surprise VIP? Maybe Evoboost Eevee will take the cake. If nothing else, the VGC 2017 season certainly has been dynamic. See you in Melbourne!

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pokemon regional championship banner

Winter Regional Diversity – A Look Back at the Last Three Years of VGC

Diversity of the VGC

Each year Game Freak changes up the rules that govern the VGC. With the release of Pokémon Sun & Moon, for example, only Pokémon who can be captured in the Alola region are allowed to be used.

As the metagame develops through the season, sometimes the Pokémon lineups that emerge victorious from the countless tournaments can be varied and unique. However, sometimes the rule-set Game Freak rolls out leaves the meta with little wiggle-room for unique teambuilding. The lack of diversity in the VGC is an often cited complaint for the format. Unofficial formats such as Smogon have even formed to try to solve some of these issues.

So how is the VGC 2017 season stacking up compared to previous seasons? Taking a look at five winning teams from the Winter Regionals of the last three seasons, we can see how the meta is developing.

VGC 2017 Winter Regional Champions

VGC 2017 is unique due to the fact it is restricted to a regional Pokédex, in this case the Alola-dex. This generally only happens when Game Freak releases a whole new generation of Pokémon games to their fans.

Regional dex restrictions can be a mixed bag. Sometimes fan favorite Pokémon are left out, or a poorly balanced Pokémon makes its way into the mix. The one thing that is certain in these instances, however, is there is always an air of mystery as the season progresses.

Let’s take a look at the five Champion teams from the 2017 Winter Regionals.

San Jose, California Regional

Gavin Michaels –

sprite of porygon2sprite of haryanamimikyuAraquanidDrama

 

 

 

Dallas Regionals 

Andrew Nowak –

tap kokokartanaSalamencemudsdale

 

 

 

Georgia Regionals 

Paul Chua –

tap kokokartanaarcanine  muk-alola

 

 

DreamHack Leipzig Germany Regional

Markus Stadter –

tap finekartanaarcaninegar chompmandibuzzsnorlax

 

 

 

Anaheim, California Regional

Gavin Michaels –
mimikyu sprite of haryana snorlax

 

 

VGC 17 Pokemon

Number of times used

Porygon2

4

Araquanid

4

Kartana

3

Magnezone

2

Hariyama

2

Mimikyu

2

Tapu Koko

2

Arcanine

2

Snorlax

2

Drampa

1

Salamance

1

Mudsdale

1

Muk-Alola

1

Tapu FIni

1

Garchomp

1

Mandibuzz

1

With 30 potential slots, only 16 unique Pokémon appeared on these five winning teams. Seven Pokémon had a unique one-time appearance.

Porygon2 and Araquanid come in as the most used Pokémon, with four appearances each. Porygon2’s usage is not surprising at all. Eviolite bulk, combined with a decent move pool and Trick Room support, see Porygon2 as a staple of the VGC 2017 season. Araquanid packs a punch, and becomes a real threat when Trick Room is up.

VGC 2016 Winter Regional Champions

VGC 2016 flipped the rules of competitive Pokémon on its head. Trainers were allowed to include two super powerful Pokémon from a list of what was called “Restricted Pokémon”.

Pokémon such as Groudon, Xerneas, and Kyogre finally had a chance to make an appearance on the MainStage, and they did not disappoint.

Virginia Regional 

Paul Chua –

kangaskhanSalamence regional championgroudonxerneastalonflame regional championsmeargle

 

 

 

Collinsville Regional 

Andrew Nowak –

kangaskhanSalamencekyogre regional championxerneasthundurusscizor

 

 

 

Anaheim Regional 

Aaron Zheng –

Salamencemawilegroudonkyogrebronzongsmeargle

 

 

 

Florida Regional 

Wolfe Glick –

Salamencedialgakyogrelandorusthundurusferrothorn

 

 

 

Oregon Regional 

Randy Kwa –

Salamencegroudonxerneastalonflamesmeargleespeon

 

 

 

VGC 16 Pokemon

Number of times used

Salamence

5

Groudon

3

Xerneas

3

Smeargle

3

Kyogre

3

Kangaskhan

2

Talonflame

2

Thundurus

2

Scizor

1

Mawile

1

Bronzong

1

Dialga

1

Landorus

1

Ferrothorn

1

Espeon

1

Only 15 Pokémon filled the 30 team slots for the 2016 season. Not really surprising considering a third of each Trainer’s teams were picked from a very short list.

What is surprising though is how similar the number of unique winning Pokémon from the Winter Regionals of 2016 & 2017 are. Considering the major difference in rule-sets, it is incredible to see that the overall variety of winning Pokémon didn’t change so much.

VGC 2015 Winter Regional Champions

Oh 2015, what a great season to be a competitive Pokémon fan. Following the regional dex restriction of the 2014 season, VGC 2015 opened up the playing field to all Pokémon, other than those considered restricted.

Many remember 2015 for its diversity, but was the Winter Regional season really more diverse than 2016 and 2017?

VGC 2015

Missouri Regional 

Aaron Traylor –

kangaskhan regionalbisharp regionalconkeldurr regionalclefableheat ranlandorus

 

 

 

California Regional

Alberto Lara –

kangaskhan regionalSalamencerotomsylveonferrothorn regional championlandorus

 

 

 

Virginia Regional

Karl Concepcion

mawilevenusaurchandeluresprite of haryanacresseliabisharp

 

 

 

Oregon Regional

Conan Thompson –

SalamenceterrakionaegislashWeavilecresseliathundurus

 

 

 

Florida Regional Championship

Wolfe Glick –

Banetterotomlandorusheat ranscrafty

 

 

VGC 15 Pokemon

Number of times used

Landorus

3

Kangaskhan

2

Bisharp

2

Heatran

2

Salamence

2

Rotom-W

2

Venasaur

2

Cresselia

2

Conkeldurr

1

Clefable

1

Sylveon

1

Ferrothorn

1

Mawile

1

Chandelure

1

Terrakion

1

Aegislash

1

Weavile

1

Thundurus

1

Banette

1

Scrafty

1

20 original Pokémon showed up in our five Winter Regional Winners of 2015. Top that off with the fact that a single Pokémon showed up three times or more, and a shocking 12 Pokémon showed up once.

VGC 2015 really did shake things up and give Trainers a unique and fun metagame. While 2017 is not nearly as stale as 2016 ended up being, it does not seem to be shaking it up like 2015.

On the Way to Worlds

We are marching closer and closer to the 2017 World Championship, and it will be interesting to see how the meta continues to develop. Will Porygon2 ever fall out of lineups? Are Tapu and Ultra Beasts really as powerful as they seemed at first glance?

One thing is certain right now though, Trick Room is the defacto 2017 strategy to beat, and Gavin Michaels seems to be piloting it with precision. It really makes you wonder what Worlds has in store for us this year.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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QR Rental Teams – A New Way to Play Competitive Pokémon

A New Challenger Approaches

Capturing, Breeding, Training, there has always been a lot of monotony to preparing for a competitive Pokémon match. Trainers spend countless hours picking Pokémon for their team, and working on training the perfect specimen. Each time a trainer chooses to replace even a single member, they must go through the process again. Not anymore with QR Rental Teams.

QR Rental Team scan prompt in game

TPCI has added the option to bypass breeding and training with the introduction of QR Rental Teams. QR Rental Teams allow trainers to register teams they train and share them with other trainers. Has TPCI finally removed the need for breeding and training in competitive Pokémon altogether?

QR Provides First Steps Towards Convenience 

QR codes now grant trainers easy access to battle with teams they put no work into. Simply access teams of Pokémon on the Pokémon Global Link website and generate a QR code for the team. Then scan the generated QR code when prompted in Pokémon Sun and Moon and BOOM, you are battling with a team bred and trained by another trainer.

It has never been easier to practice and battle with some excellent Pokémon teams. QR Rental Teams are not without their restrictions, however. Here is a list of battles in which you trainers can use QR Rental Teams:

List of battles that allow QR Rental Teams

Furthermore, QR Rental Teams are not permitted at all for official tournaments. So the hopes of moving away from breeding and training for trainers interested in VGC competition is still not entirely possible.

Helpful But Not Entirely Convenient

As with many things TPCI does, QR Rental Teams are a fantastic idea with implementation that leaves much to be desired. In order for a trainer to share their teams, they must register it to their Battle Box. Then the trainer must log into their account on the Pokémon Global Link website. From there they can access the Pokémon teams in their Battle Box and register them as a QR Rental Team.

Example Pokémon QR Rental Team from Pokemon Global Link website

At this point the team is ready to be used by trainers around the world. While you would think in order to use a rental team, you would simply scan a QR code that is shared with you. Sadly it is not that easy. A trainer has to access the Pokémon Global Link website, and locate the team or trainer who owns the team. Once they locate the team they wish to rent, they can generate a personal QR code to be scanned with their Pokémon Sun and Moon game. Not exactly the epitome of convenience.

The other area that needs improvement is the user interface. Rental Teams are separated into only two different formats, Single and Double. This makes hunting down teams for specific things, like VGC format, difficult and time consuming. On top of that, there are very few options for filtering through teams outside of specifying specific Pokémon.

A Hope For the Future and a Word of Caution

Overall, Rental Teams are a fantastic move for TPCI to make. Allowing easier access to trainers to try out the more competitive aspect of Pokémon is certainly a step in the right direction. Hopefully they are able to iron out some of the kinks with the current system and provide more and more convenience to their fans and prospecting competitive trainers.

One word of caution however, there are rumors going around that currently QR codes contain Pokémon trainer ID info that can be maliciously accessed. This data can then be used to get the trainer account attached to the Rental Team banned from the Pokémon Global Link. Please use this new service with caution until more info comes out!

All images courtesy of Game Freak

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A New Gimmick That’s Shore to be a Threat – Palossand & Smeargle

Oh no, not Smeargle again! I thought we got rid of that thing after last season!

*Cue traumatic flashbacks to VGC 2016*

Well Smeargle isn’t exactly what you should be scared of. It’s the sandcastle that Smeargle is going to help destroy you.

Who’s That Pokémon?

Image result for palossand png

It’s Palossand!

Yeah I don’t really remember this thing either.

Who thought this Pokémon would ever see play in any competitive format? Palossand is a new Pokémon, courtesy of the seventh generation that has developed a rather interesting strategy that has taken the current meta game by storm. It involves everyone’s favorite dog Smeargle, and getting Palossand to unbelievable levels of bulk and strength.

Here’s How it Works

The basic strategy involves the combination of Smeargle and Palossand, where Smeargle buffs Palossand and Palossand just has to stay alive long enough to get all of its boosts. Smeargle uses Water Shuriken, a priority Water-type move capable of hitting multiple times, on Palossand which basically deals no damage. This triggers Palossand’s ability, Water Compaction, which increases its Defense by one stage every time it is hit with a Water-type attack.

Now here’s where it gets fun.

On this team, Palossand will typically hold a Weakness Policy which doubles its Attack and Special Attack stats when hit by Water Shuriken (since Palossand is weak to Water). So now to recap, you should have a Palossand with (ideally) 4+ stages of Defense, doubled Attacking stats, and now double Special Defense after you use Amnesia.

And after all of that, if Palossand took any damage, it can heal pretty much all of it back with its signature recovery move: Shore Up.

Then What?

Now, Smeargle is either gone or continues to support with Wide Guard or Follow Me. When Smeargle finally goes down, the next move is to switch in your Psych Up sweeper and copy all of Palossand’s boosts.

Good Game.

What Does the Rest of The Team Look Like?

Really, once you set up Palossand, the rest of the team doesn’t matter. But, there are a few ways to support your unstoppable sandcastle.

courtesy of Quassihollic Art on Tumblr

Tapu of your Choice

Since all of the Tapu Pokémon gain access to Psych Up, the choice of which one to use is completely up to player preference. Tapu Fini may be a popular choice considering how popular it is in the format right now, thanks to its already impressive bulk. Second to Fini would likely be Tapu Koko due to its Speed and capability of sweeping with the increase to its Special Attack.

Image result for espeon

Espeon

A choice for a Psych Up sweeper seen on a successful Japanese player’s version of the team. Espeon gets access to Stored Power, which is a Psychic move that increases in strength for every stat boost on the user. With the added defensive boosts, Espeon could be terrifying to go up against.

Image result for arcanine

Arcanine

The literal “Top Dog” of VGC 2017 seems to find its way onto pretty much every flavor of team out there. Arcanine can deal with the ever-present Kartana, which may cause problems for Palossand since Leaf Blade can easily score a critical hit and wipe out your set-up sandcastle.

Image result for Kartana

Kartana

Speak of the devil. Kartana can deal with Water-types (mainly Tapu Fini) that can hit Palossand pretty hard due to its low Special Defense.

Gigalith

Gigalith is a Pokémon that has been rising up in popularity as of late, and it makes a good teammate for Palossand. Palossand is able to recover even more health with Shore Up since it’s boosted by the presence of a sandstorm, which Gigalith can set up for it.

How Do You Beat It?

It shouldn’t be too hard to beat this strategy if you follow one or more of these steps:

  • Get rid of Smeargle (Just watch out for Moody)
  • Taunt Palossand so it can’t use Amnesia or Shore Up (also Taunt is useful for Psych Up users)
  • Strong Water and Grass-type attacks (Tapu Fini and Kartana work well)
  • Resistances/Immunities for Palossand’s attacks (mainly Earth Power)

Finally, Here Are Some Sample Teams to Try Out!

These teams can be found and scanned using the QR Team feature in the Pokémon Global Link.

Art of Pokemon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori unless otherwise credited

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Top in Class: VGC 2017 Top Three Fire Types

Where There is Smoke, There is Fire

Fire typing is undoubtedly one of the most powerful typings in all of Pokémon. Fire types have been burning their foes to the ground since generation one. VGC 2017 has been no different, and three fire types have risen to the top of the class.

Specializing primarily in offense and speed, fire types like to hit their opponents fast and leave them with a burn. Burning an opponent in Pokémon will actually serve to reduce the amount of physical damage they are capable of doing.

Not all fire types fit into this formula, however, let’s take a look at which fire types have risen to the top of the pack in VGC 2017.

Slowest Finishes Third

Pokémon Torkoal placing ni VGC

Torkoal @ Charcoal/Life Orb
Ability: Drought
EVs: 116 HP / 252 SpA / 140 SpD
Quiet Nature
IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe
– Eruption
– Heat Wave/Flamethrower/Solar Beam
– Overheat/Flamethrower/Solar Beam
– Protect

While Torkoal may not be finding a massive presence in high end tournament play, this fire type turtle defined the meta early. Doing work a bit differently than other Pokémon, Torkoal would come onto the field and overpower its opponents with help from its partner’s status effects or Trick Room.

Unlike most fire type Pokémon, Torkoal is slow and bulky, with high special attack. Changes in Sun & Moon have granted Torkoal the ability Drought, which allows it to summon the sun when it enters the field. This grants its already strong fire attacks a tremendous bonus to damage.

Stranger in the Night

Pokemon Marowak-Alola places 2nd among fire pokémon in vgc 17

Marowak-Alola @ Thick Club
Ability: Lightning Rod
EVs: 252 HP / 172 Atk / 4 Def / 68 SpD / 12 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Flare Blitz
– Shadow Bone
– Bonemerang
– Protect

Marowak used to be a ground type that never saw competitive play, but Sun & Moon have changed that completely. Marowak-Alola is a monstrous opponent if left unchecked. Shedding its previous ground typing, Marowak-Alola is now a Fire/Ghost type.

Just like its type changed, so too has its use in the competitive scene. Marowak-Alola started out the VGC competitive tournament circuit as most used fire type, but has since fallen to second place. While Marowak-Alola packs a punch, he can be somewhat predictable and lacks some utility.

They’re Gonna Hear Me Roar

Pokemon Arcanine places in VGC

Offensive Arcanine

Arcanine @ Iapapa Berry/Sitrus Berry/Life Orb
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Extreme Speed
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl/Wild Charge/Will-O-Wisp
– Protect

Support Arcanine

Arcanine @ Firium Z
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 204 HP / 4 Def / 116 SpA / 4 SpD / 180 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Overheat  / Burn Out
– Will-O-Wisp
– Snarl
– Protect

Arcanine has been a fan favorite since generation one, and he is still putting in work. Sitting as the most popular fire type at this point in the 2017 VGC circuit, Arcanine has been a reliable pick for many trainers. It is no surprise, due to the plethora of ways it can be run.

Always packing intimidate support, Arcanine makes his presence felt as soon as he enters the field. From there, the battle plan is based on the trainer’s choices during breeding. Arcanine can run Snarl support to lower Special Attack and deal chip damage to its opponents, or Will-O-Wisp to inflict burns.

An offensive set can also be run abusing Flare Blitz and Extremespeed. Utilizing items from Sitrus Berry, to Assault Vest, to Life Orb, Arcanine is great at leaving the opposing trainer guessing. That is why, season after season, he continues to be on top.

A Prediction For the Birds

pokemon talonflame could rise the ranks of vgc

Talonflame @ Flyinium Z
Ability: Gale Wings
EVs: 236 Atk / 20 SpD / 252 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Brave Bird
– Flare Blitz / Overheat
– Protect
– Tailwind / Taunt

Due to nerfs, Talonflame has yet to take off like it has in previous seasons. My prediction is that moving forward, Talonflame will play a much more prominent roll. Offering great offensive pressure, Tailwind support, and the ability to pressure the popular Kartana, Talonflame is poised to make a comeback!

All images courtesy of Game Freak

Follow me on Twitter: @aeroashwind

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VGC 2017 – Meta Overview and the Rise of AFK

The Shaping of a Meta

The competitive Pokémon meta in the VGC format changes from season to season. The VGC 17 season has seen its meta develop at a breakneck pace. After last year’s rules allowing restricted Pokémon to compete, this year’s lower power-curve has resulted in many changes to the variety in the metagame and strategies teams are employing.

Many components come together to form the VGC meta. With the most important being how the Pokémon on trainer’s teams work together to beat their opponents. Things like covering each others weaknesses or setting up a gimmick are examples of this. Trainers build their teams with these factors in mind in order to overcome many of the challenges they will face.

Empowerment Through Terrain and Weather

Since its rise in popularity in gen five, weather has had the propensity to be a dominate force. Rain especially has been strong in the Pokémon VGC meta. This season, however, terrains have been introduced as somewhat of a compliment to weather. When a Tapu comes onto the field, their ability creates a terrain effect, much like weather. These terrains create different benefits. From rendering status effects ineffective, to increasing the damage grass type moves do, terrains along with weather can truly shape a match.

Terrains are extremely popular at the moment due to the strength of Tapus, and appears on almost every team. Where as weather is seeing popular use with a few popular teams.

Pokémon Torkoal placing ni VGCPokemon Liligant places in Pokémon VGC

Torkoal + Liligant

Torkoal provides Sun weather when he comes onto the field. Sun both boosts Torkoal’s fire attacks, but also provides Liligant with a speed boost. This allows Liligant to set up sleep and provide Torkoal with an opportunity to sleep.

Tokoal + Liligant saw a quick rise in popularity in the beginning of the season, but since has become more of a sleeper. However, it is extremely dangerous if you are unprepared for it.

Pokemon Pelipper places in pokemon VGCPokemon Golduck places in Pokemon VGC

Pelipper + Golduck

Pelipper sets Rain when he enters the field, and provides a sharp boost in speed to Golduck. Golduck will then attempt to use the boost in power from rain to sweep the opposing team. Much like the Torkoal team, this strategy can be strong, but easily dismantled.

Speed Control is So 2016

Speed control has always been an extremely important part of any VGC season. In the early days of VGC 17, however, tools such as Tailwind and Thunder Wave become less popular. Trick Room is the de facto form of speed control for VGC 17. While Tailwind still makes an appearance, Thunder Wave’s popularity has plummeted with a nerf to its accuracy.

There are a few popular Trick Room users, but one is solely responsible for its shear popularity this season.

Pokemon Porygon2 places in VGC

Porygon2 @ Eviolite
Ability: Download
EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 164 SpD
Careful Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Trick Room
– Tri Attack
– Ice Beam
– Recover

On top of having Trick Room, Porygon2 has an extremely diverse move-pool. It also benefits from holding an Eviolite, granting it tremendous bulk. Combined with the fact gen seven introduced many slow and bulky Pokémon, and Cresselia is not allowed in VGC 17, Porygon2 has found itself right at home.

Pokemon Pelipper places in pokemon VGC

Pelipper @ Focus Sash
Ability: Drizzle
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest/Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Scald
– Hurricane
– Tailwind
– Protect

Pelipper finds itself as the most popular Tailwind user this year, receiving buffs to both its stats and ability. Now with the ability Drizzle, Pelipper can summon Rain as it enters the field. Rain will serve to both boost Pelipper’s own STAB Scald, as well as grant Hurricane 100% accuracy. This gives Pelipper a lot of offensive potential, on top of Tailwind and Rain utility.

How About Some Goodstuff?

Goodstuff is a term coined in Pokémon VGC for Pokémon and teams of Pokémon who are individually strong and well rounded. VGC 17 is no different.

Pokemon Tapu Koko places in VGC

Tapu Koko @ Life Orb/Focus Sash/Fairium Z/Electrium Z
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Discharge/Taunt
– Protect

Tapu Koko creates Electric Terrain when it enters the field. This prevents sleep, along with boosting the power of electric type attacks. Combining this boost of electric damage with Tapu Koko’s already impressive offensive stats results in quite the monster.

Pokemon Celesteela places in VGC

Celesteela @ Leftovers
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 180 HP / 180 Atk / 148 SpD
Careful Nature
– Heavy Slam
– Substitute/Flamethrower
– Leech Seed
– Wide Guard/Protect

A master of stall, and a great defensive pivot, Celesteela has a fantastic steel/flying typing. When Celeteela enters the field, prepare for a long drawn out conflict, unless you have an answer prepared immediately.

pokemon Muk-Alola places in VGC

Muk-Alola @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Atk / 108 Def / 100 SpD / 4 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Poison Jab
– Knock Off
– Curse/Shadow Sneak/Imprison
– Protect

Muk-Alola not only provides impressive stats and good move-pool, but its typing leaves it with only a single weakness to ground. Muk also acts as a fantastic counter to all of the Tapu Pokémon.

Pokemon Snorlax places in VGC

Snorlax @ Figy Berry
Ability: Gluttony
EVs: 68 HP / 196 Atk / 244 Def
Brave Nature
IVs: 0 Spe
– Return
– High Horsepower
– Curse
– Protect/Recycle

Snorlax provides a neutral powerhouse that can be a force to be reckoned with. Generally running the Curse set and lots of bulk, Snorlax will mow down teams and counter Trick Room in a pinch.

All of these Pokémon have one thing in common. They are all extremely deadly in almost any setting without any work needed. When building for VGC 17, it is important to supplement your core to counter as many Goodstuff Pokémon as possible. While no true Goodstuffs team has solidified for VGC 17, there are many Pokémon who fit the mold.

Gimmicks Can Be Silly, But They Are Dangerous

VGC 17 has brought with it a host of gimmicks. Two, however, are seeing use at some of the highest levels of play.

Pokemon Eevee places in VGC

Eevee @ Eevium Z
Ability: Adaptability
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Last Resort
– Baton Pass
– Helping Hand
– Protect

You will normally find Eevee alongside Pokémon like Clefairy or Smeargle for Follow Me support. While holding an Eevium Z item, Eevee is able to use an exclusive move called Extreme Evoboost which doubles all of its stats. Eevee then attempts to use Baton Pass to pass the stat increases to a sweeper such as Tapu Lele or Espeon.

Pokemon Porygon-Z places in VGC

Porygon-Z @ Normalium Z
Ability: Adaptability
Level: 50
EVs: 20 HP / 28 Def / 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 204 Spe
Modest Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Shadow Ball/Thunderbolt/Ice Beam
– Tri Attack/Shadow Ball/Thunderbolt/Ice Beam
– Conversion
– Protect

Porygon-Z now gains access to Z-Conversion while holding the item Normalium Z. Z-Conversion both boosts all of Porygon-Z’s stats by one stage, as well as change its type to match that of the move in its first slot. This turns Porygon-Z into quite a formidable enemy, and must be accounted for.

In VGC 17 AFK Will Put You Away

One core has risen to the top so far during the course of VGC 17. AFK, standing for Arcanine, Fini, and Kartana. These three Pokémon comprise a fairly traditional fire/water/grass core. However, these three bring some seriously deadly synergy.

Pokemon Arcanine places in VGC

Arcanine @ Iapapa Berry/Sitrus Berry
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 164 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Extreme Speed
– Flare Blitz
– Snarl/Wild Charge/Will-O-Wisp
– Protect

Arcanine is a proverbial swiss army knife of a Pokémon. It can be run fast or bulky, with a focus on offense or support. Bringing Intimidate to the field to weaken the opposing Pokémon’s physical attack also allows Arcanine to immediately apply pressure.

Pokemon Tapu Fini places in VGC

Tapu Fini @ Leftovers
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 44 Def / 196 SpA / 4 SpD / 12 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
– Muddy Water
– Moonblast
– Calm Mind
– Substitute/Protect

Tapu Fini’s ability to support its teammates is without question. Its Misty Terrain prevents status effects from taking place. While Tapu Fini’s bulk and boosting ability make it a powerful force on the field if it is able to set up.

Pokemon Kartana places in VGC

Kartana @ Focus Sash
Ability: Beast Boost
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Smart Strike
– Leaf Blade
– Sacred Sword
– Protect

Then there is Kartana. Kartana brings a grass/steel typing and high offenses and speed. When Kartana is on the field it has one objective: apply as much offensive pressure as possible and rack up the KOs.

This is Only Just the Beginning

VGC 17 is only just getting started. What we see now could quite possibly be totally different from the most popular teams in two months. This is one of the things that makes Pokémon VGC so exciting. Who will be the key player in the World Championship is anyone’s guess, let’s find out together.

All images courtesy of Game Freak

Follow me on Twitter: @aeroashwind

You can ‘Like’ The Game Haus on Facebook and ‘Follow’ us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from other great TGH writers along with Drew!

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