April 2, 2019, introduced the Ultra Series to the VGC 2019 format as its final iteration for the season. Ultra Series brings about by far the most changes to VGC 2019, and things are going to look very different compared to either the Sun or Moon Series. With many powerful items and Pokemon now being allowed, VGC 2019 is going to be full of new threats and strategies. Here are some of the metagame’s most significant additions courtesy of the Ultra Series rule set.
A Much More Intense Weather War
Groudon and Kyogre can finally realize their full potential in Ultra Series due to the return of the Red and Blue Orbs. With their respective Orbs in hand, Groudon and Kyogre undergo Primal Reversion in order to return to their much more powerful Primal states.
With these Primal forms come a set of even more oppressive weather-related abilities. Primal Groudon’s Desolate Land has all of the effects of normal harsh sunlight, but with the added benefit of making all Water-type attacks evaporate (meaning they have no effect). This makes Primal Groudon even harder to deal with as its main weakness becomes totally ineffective. Primal Groudon also becomes a Fire-type (making the weakness to Water even worse) which allows it to take full advantage of its great Fire-type attacking options like the fearsome Eruption.
Primal Kyogre’s Primordial Sea has the same effects as rain being present on the field but cancels out any Fire-type attacks instead. While this is a minor inconvenience for Groudon, especially since it’s pretty much guaranteed to be knocked out by a Water-type attack, Groudon can still function under Primordial Sea since its main means of attacking is the Ground-type move Precipice Blades. However, this more intense version of rain is very useful to Steel and Grass-type Pokemon making them popular partners for Primal Kyogre.
Technically, Mega Rayquaza fits into this category as well due to its ability Delta Stream summoning its own weather condition as well. The “strong winds” effect of Delta Stream gives Flying-type Pokemon a defensive buff by weakening super-effective hits. This proves crucial for a Pokemon like Rayquaza who has its normally 4x weakness to Ice lowered to only a 2x weakness instead.
There is an even harsher weather war at work in VGC 2019, and that means an even tougher game of positioning that needs to be played. Kyogre players will need to carefully play around Groudon switch-ins while Groudon players will have to fear Rayquaza switch-ins since normal Rayquaza’s ability, Air Lock, still cancels out the effects of the Primal weather-conditions. These three Pokemon will be the centralizing forces in the Ultra Series, and it’ll be interesting to see which one (or two in some cases) will reign supreme.
Mega Evolutions Return
The always controversial Mega Evolutions have returned to Pokemon VGC once again, and they shall prove to be an important piece to the metagame. Despite the significant nerfs they’ve received, Mega Salamence and Mega Kangaskhan remain as top choices for a team’s Mega Evolution, however, Salamence seems to be the go-to for many early-metagame teams. Mega Salamence’s Intimidate before Mega Evolving, resistance to the Primals, fantastic speed-tier, access to Tailwind and amazing damage output makes it one heck of a package for just one Pokemon, and it looks to be dominating the metagame thus far.
However, there are other great options out there such as the even more dangerous Mega Gengar. Shadow Tag becomes a scarier ability in the Ultra Series due to heavy positioning game that the Primal Pokemon rely on so heavily. We saw in 2016 how Wolfe Glick’s World Championship-winning team was able to utilize Mega Gengar’s trapping ability to shut down opposing Primal Groudon with his own Primal Kyogre. Many early Mega Gengar/Primal Kyogre teams are looking to emulate Glick’s team from 2016, however, it remains to be seen if this once iconic team can withstand the three-year gap.
Another popular candidate among players is Mega Manectric which has a lot of hype surrounding it going into the Ultra Series. Mega Manectric may not be utilized as an offensive powerhouse, however, its niche as a supportive, offensive pivot can work really well with two restricted Pokemon. We saw how much work Mega Manectric could put in back in 2016 on Johnathan Evans’ team that he took all the way to the World Championship finals. Mega Manectric’s fast pivoting with Volt Switch makes it a fantastic tool in the positioning war while also being able to lower the opposing Pokemon’s stats with its Intimidate ability and the move Snarl.
And of course, there’s Mega Rayquaza which we’ve talked a bit about already, it really needs no introduction. One of the strongest Pokemon in the entire game that also can influence the weather war, Mega Rayquaza will be all over the place during the Ultra Series. There remain many more options for Mega Evolutions out there, but the five mentioned so far look to be the top choices in the current metagame.
The New Necrozma
Necrozma can finally realize its full potential as well with its signature Z Crystal, the Ultranecrozium Z, being allowed. This Z Crystal serves two purposes by allowing either the Dusk Mane or Dawn Wings form of Necrozma to transform into Ultra Necrozma which can then use the terrifyingly powerful Z Move, Light that Burns the Sky. A popular early-metagame strategy has been pairing Tapu Lele with Ultra Necrozma in order to boost the power of this Z Move which allows it to pretty much devastate any Pokemon that doesn’t resist Psychic-type attacks. With its buffed-up stats and new ability Neuroforce that grants a 20% boost to super-effective attacks, Ultra Necrozma becomes an amazing offensive powerhouse capable of winning games on its own.
What’s interesting is that both forms of Necrozma can transform into Ultra Necrozma, which can lead to some mind games. For Dusk Mane Necrozma, being a Steel-type, it could be worth saving the Ultra Burst until an opposing Xerneas or faster Fairy-type has been dealt with. Ultra Necrozma can easily run a physical-attacking set, however, many players have opted to use Dawn Wings Necrozma for a special-attacking approach.
There are a couple of reasons for this. One, Photon Geyser can work better as a special attack since it won’t be affected by Intimidate (since Photon Geyser can be a physical or special attack depending on which stat is higher). And two, Dawn Wings Necrozma allows Ultra Necrozma to use Moongeist Beam which offers amazing coverage with Photon Geyser and Earth Power. Regardless, if you see a Necrozma in team preview, nine times out of ten, expect it to Ultra Burst.
These are the biggest changes that Ultra Series brings to the VGC 2019 format, and these additions will surely shake things up. Players now have much more powerful Pokemon to work with and prepare for, and it’ll be exciting to see the plethora of new teams and strategies that will emerge in the final part of VGC 2019.
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International