The final regional championships of VGC 2019’s Moon Series wrapped up this past weekend in Greensboro and Perth, and yet another curious set of results has presented itself. Not only did a Ho-Oh finally win a regional championship, but it won two in the same weekend. Xerneas faced stiff competition causing it to barely secure a spot in the Top 4. Could this mean the end of Xerneas’ reign over VGC 2019.
Results and Teams
Teams/data from Trainer Tower
Ho-Oh’s Hot Streak
Ho-Oh not only finally won a regional this weekend, but it won two. Ho-Oh has been on the rise towards the end of Moon Series, and it seemed like only a matter of time before it achieved a string of solid results. Allan Martinez gave North America a unique taste of what a Ho-Oh team could do in Collinsville, while the spectacle that was the Cannes Special Event saw three Ho-Oh teams reach the Top 8. It took Alex Williams, a first-time regional champion, to prove to the world that Ho-Oh was indeed strong enough to win a major tournament. Also, Martinez returned to the Top 8 in a surprise invasion of an east coast event to give Ho-Oh another strong finish.
Ho-Oh’s go-to partner has been Kyogre, which, on the surface, seems a bit counter productive considering Ho-Oh’s best tools is Sacred Fire which gets a power nerf in the rain. However, its Ho-Oh’s ability to set-up Tailwind and deal with the Grass-type pests and Toxicroak that make Ho-Oh a valuable partner for Kyogre. Even though this duo gets dispatched easily by Electric-types, these teams often include a Pokemon with the ability Lightningrod (like Raichu or Togedemaru) to protect these two from problematic Electric attacks.
The rain aspect of the team allowed the return of one of the game’s most infamous Grass-types in Ferrothorn. This Grass/Steel-type’s kryptonite, Fire, takes a 50% power decrease in the rain, and Fighting-types are a rare sight in VGC 2019, especially with this team’s threat of Ho-Oh looming. The combination of Ho-Oh and Ferrothorn stop Xerneas hard in its tracks, with Ho-Oh’s ability to wall out Xerneas’ boosted Fairy-type attacks and Ferrothorn’s Gyro Ball turning Xerneas’ speed boosts against it.
Ho-Oh teams look like a strong pick to close out the remaining weeks of the Moon Series, but many are skeptical of this success riding into Ultra Series.
Zygarde and Solgaleo Establish a Dominant Archetype
Another underrated set of Pokemon that have been rising into the spotlight are Zygarde and Solgaleo. These teams are all about the slow game, setting up Zygarde and reversing speed with Trick Room on Solgaleo. Zygarde may not be an offensive threat to start out, but with a combination of Coil and Swagger boosts from Tapu Fini, Zygarde can easily close out the late game. Coil also boosts Zygarde’s Defense stat which it couples with a Special Defense boost from the Misty Seed item. Under the right set-up circumstances, Zygarde can become an un-KO-able force especially if it’s able to transform into its Complete Forme.
Despite being a relatively fast Pokemon, Solgaleo joins the slow game on this team with its use of Trick Room. Unlike Zygarde, Solgaleo threatens almost immediate pressure with its insanely powerful signature Z Move, Searing Sunraze Smash. Solgaleo and Tapu Fini halt opposing Xerneas which allow a much easier time for Zygarde to set-up and sweep. Solgaleo has also had some late success in Moon Series as a partner to Kyogre which Ashton Cox has used effectively in the last few North American events. The team Cox has cut back-to-back regional championships with is reminiscent of the couple Sogaleo rain teams that had success over Korea a few months prior.
Shifting back to the Zygarde/Solgaleo team, it has taken a different form in recent memory by hopping on the Volcarona bandwagon. Before Volcarona, these teams dealt with opposing Groudon with their own Venusaur, but Volcarona can work just fine as it can threaten big damage with Inferno Overdrive if Groudon decides to set-up the sun for it. Then there’s Volcarona’s amazing support kit with Rage Powder, Tailwind and Whirlwind which can be valuable to the set-up efforts of both Zygarde and Solgaleo.
Three out of the four Zygarde/Solgaleo teams that reached the Top Cuts of both Greensboro and Perth had Volcarona, but Christopher Kan shook things up by adding Porygon2 instead. Porygon2 is an infamous defensive behemoth with access to Eviolite, and has proven to be a strong Trick Room setter in past formats with excellent offensive coverage to make it a viable attacker as well. Perhaps there is potential for Porygon2 in the realm of legends as well.
We’re winding down VGC 2019’s Moon Series with less than a month and only a few Special Events separating us from the Ultra Series. This weekend showed that the metagame might have finally found a way to hard counter Xerneas, and have many questioning the future success of Xerneas in VGC 2019. Even though things look bleak right now, something tells me that with the introduction of the immense power boost come Ultra Series, Xerneas will be right back on top where it belongs.
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International