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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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
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!
Art of Pokémon from Pokémon and Ken Sugimori