After winning back-to-back national-level tournaments, Mega Rayquaza has cemented its place at the top of VGC 2019’s Ultra Series. In light of its recent dominance, it’ll definitely be a top pick for the 2019 World Championships, but what variant of Mega Rayquaza will be the most popular/sucessful?
One of Mega Rayquaza’s best qualities is its versatility in terms of how it can be used and what teams it can fit on. There are at least five viable Mega Rayquaza variants, and each one has a somewhat unique play style. Finding out what item an opposing Mega Rayquaza is carrying is essential to figuring out the matchup, and knowing how to approach each variant will be a key practice point for players going into the World Championships.
*The “Unique Moves” section is reserved for moves a particular variant of Mega Rayquaza might carry outside of Dragon Ascent and Extreme Speed.*
Unique Moves: Earth Power, Crunch, Icy Wind, Overheat, Waterfall
The blend of bulk and offense that is Assault Vest Mega Rayquaza is by far the most popular variant right now. Both Hirofumi Kimura (2019 Japan National Champion) and Wolfe Glick (2019 North America International Champion) both used an Assault Vest Mega Rayquaza, however the moves/teams they chose were totally different.
That’s the beauty of the Assault Vest variant, it can take advantage of Rayquaza’s amazing move pool. The sacrifice in damage output (and sometimes Speed) can be a hindrance at times, but Mega Rayquaza can more than make up for it with its newfound resilience and vast move selection. Offensive options like Crunch and Earth Power are excellent for coverage, and can help patch up bad matchups for a team. With the Assault Vest, Mega Rayquaza can also pick up a support move like Icy Wind which worked wonders for Wolfe Glick’s Primal Kyogre.
As previously mentioned, one of this set’s biggest weaknesses is the sacrifice in damage output. Without the ability to pick up KOs with Dragon Ascent, the defense drops can leave Mega Rayquaza open for taking more damage since the stat drops pretty much negate the boost from the Assault Vest. Not being able to use Protect can be a problem as well since many players will try to eliminate Mega Rayquaza as soon as possible, which makes the ability to play defensively useful for a Mega Rayquaza player.
Unique Moves: Earth Power, Overheat, Draco Meteor
This variant of Mega Rayquaza is all about offense, and usually teams built around this version reflect its more offensive nature. Some examples from the recent North America International Championships include Jean Paul Lopez-Buiza’s Rayquaza/Xerneas team that made the Top 4 and Joseph Ugarte’s Rayquaza/Groudon team that placed in the Top 32.
Mega Rayquaza is a Pokemon built for offense, and Life Orb allows it to almost fully capitalize on it. The good thing about Life Orb is that it boosts both sides of Mega Rayquaza’s offensive stats, allowing its special attacking options like Earth Power, Overheat and even Draco Meteor to hit even harder.
The downside to this set is the Life Orb item taking away HP with every attack. With the Defense drops from Dragon Ascent, this Mega Rayquaza finds it difficult to stick around for long periods of time if its not picking up KO’s. Slowing this variant down with Intimidate and speed control likely leads to its defeat, if it doesn’t KO itself from Life Orb recoil first.
50% Berry (Figy, Iapapa, etc.)
Unique Moves: Swords Dance, Tailwind
This set is the new kid on the block and will likely be the sleeper pick for the best Mega Rayquaza variant in Washington D.C. This variant of Mega Rayquaza keeps things simple by either boosting its own stats or helping out its teammates with Tailwind. Jonathan Evans made it to the Top 4 with a Swords Dance variant while Shohei Kimura placed in the Top 16 with Tailwind. Interestingly, both of these teams had Primal Kyogre and a secondary Mega Evolution in Metagross suggesting perhaps the optimal team for this version of Mega Rayquaza.
This kind of Mega Rayquaza may be a great late-game win condition, but without proper setup, it can be easily overwhelmed. While other Mega Rayquaza variants can immediately get going with their offense, this one must play the slow positioning game in order to actually be worth using. It’s definitely one of the more tricky versions of Mega Rayquaza to use, but it can thrive in the upper echelons of play which makes it a fantastic call for the World Championships.
Honorable Mentions: Focus Sash and Choice Band
The previously mentioned variants are by far the most viable and popular versions of Mega Rayquaza right now, but there are still two more items that function in similar ways to those stated above.
The Focus Sash is an item that came through big time for the three Mega Rayquaza players that made the Top 8 of the 2016 World Championships (including the World Champion, Wolfe Glick). The Focus Sash allows Mega Rayquaza to live any attack from full HP, but once the Focus Sash is broken, it basically becomes useless. This is another popular item to use alongside Swords Dance, but something tells me that players will opt for the Berry variant over the once great Focus Sash one.
Finally, the Choice Band was an item that was fairly popular at the beginning of the Ultra Series, but slowly began fading out as the format progressed. While Mega Rayquaza’s damage output is ridiculous with a Choice Band, the fact that it becomes locked into a move (which pretty much has to be physical) makes it much more susceptible to being read and slowed down. It seems that players prefer the ability to switch moves and use Protect, which likely explains the preference for the Assault Vest and Life Orb items.
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Pokken Tournament, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International