The sixth generation’s iconic X and Y duo has been dominating the VGC 2019 Sun Series format, but Xerneas and Yveltal now have to face off against their lesser known counterpart, Zygarde. In its early days, Zygarde received no love in Pokemon VGC as it was basically a Pokemon without an ability. Dragon-type Pokemon already have a hard time due to the influx of powerful Fairy-types into the metagame, but Zygarde has been managing to hold its own this season. Top players like Wolfe Glick and Justin Crubaugh have put Zygarde on the map, and maybe there’s more to Zygarde than we think.
Before we get into things, we’re mainly going to be focusing on Zygarde in terms of its 50% and Complete Forme since those are the most popular.
Stats & Typing
Unlike the other members of the Kalos trio, Zygarde’s stats are unique to it. Zygarde’s main appeal is its bulk, and its Complete Forme gives it even more by doubling its base HP. Base 100 isn’t bad for an Attack stat, but its definitely weak in comparison to other available restricted Pokemon. Even the Special Attack-based Xerneas beats it out at base 131. At first glance, Zygarde looks to have gotten the short end of the stick.
Even though base 95 speed isn’t bad, it leaves Zygarde in an awkward position of just not being fast enough to keep up with its counters. For this reason, many Zygarde players focus mainly on Zygarde’s defensive prowess which almost makes up for its middling Speed.
If Fairy-type Pokemon didn’t exist, Zygarde’s typing would be amazing for it. Unfortunately, the Dragon-type has taken a major hit and isn’t even represented in Zygarde’s play. On the other hand, Ground is an amazing type offensively in VGC 2019, and that alone can save Zygarde from fading immediately into mediocrity.
Admittedly, things aren’t looking too great for Zygarde off the bat, but its main strengths are soon to come.
- Thousand Arrows: We’ll just get straight to it, Thousand Arrows is one of the best tools in Zygarde’s arsenal. Although it is slightly weaker than the Ground-type staple Earthquake, Thousand Arrows has the added effects of being able to hit Flying-types and Pokemon with the ability Levitate while also being able to permanently ground them. Justin Crubaugh’s team from the Memphis Regional Championships showed just how useful this could be for a Pokemon like Groudon that can more easily sweep through a team with Precipice Blades despite the presence of Flying-types. Not to mention that Thousand Arrows is also a spread move so its able to be spammed once Zygarde is primed to sweep.
- Thousand Waves: The special counterpart to Thousand Arrows isn’t nearly as essential, but its added effect traps the opponent’s Pokemon much like the ability Shadow Tag. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but it can allow for much easier Intimidate cycling or set-up opportunities if you trap the right Pokemon in.
- Extreme Speed: Luckily Zygarde has access to one of the game’s most powerful priority attacks to make up for its low Speed. With a couple of boosts to its Attack stat, Zygarde can pick off weakened members of the opponent’s team on its quest for a sweep.
- Coil/Dragon Dance: Zygarde basically has two options for boosting. Both Dragon Dance and Coil boost Zygarde’s Attack, but Coil increases Defense while Dragon Dance boosts Speed alongside the Attack raise. Either of these choices can work, but some players might value Coil more because it can help make Zygarde an impenetrable wall.
- Glare: Even though Zygarde is mainly a set-up sweeper, Glare offers a neat support option for it. Unlike Thunder Wave, Glare can affect Ground-types as well and doesn’t suffer from less than perfect accuracy.
- Substitute: A common choice for bulky set-up Pokemon, but the added benefit for Zygarde is that cutting its HP can help Zygarde reach its Complete Forme faster.
Misty Seed: Zygarde is often paired next to Tapu Fini, making Misty Seed a natural item choice. This item has become popular amid the rise of Coil variants of Zygarde as the Special Defense boost from Misty Seed compliments the Defense boosts from Coil.
Pinch Berry: Of course this item works for a bulky Pokemon like Zygarde, but there is a bit of an awkward spot Zygarde can get in if it wants to activate Power Construct. Since the berry activates before the end of the turn, a Zygarde will heal over 50% if knocked into the berry range, which won’t let it transform. The pinch berry can become amazing if Zygarde somehow manages to reach its Complete Form without having eaten the berry.
Leftovers: An option for gradual recovery, which can help keep Zygarde on the field. Due to how susceptible Zygarde is to strong opposing damage considering the quicker pace of doubles, this is likely less preferable to the aforementioned items.
One of the reasons Zygarde was cast aside when it was first introduced was because of its original ability, Aura Break. Aura Break suppresses Xerneas and Yveltal’s “Aura” abilities respectively, but that does little to stop their immense damage output.
With Generation 7 came Power Construct and Zygarde’s Complete Forme. Power Construct allows Zygarde to attain this form when it falls under 50% HP. Zygarde’s Complete Forme actually heals Zygarde a fair amount once it reaches it, since it gives it a whopping 108 base HP. No longer was Zygarde a Pokemon without an ability, and this new form helps turn Zygarde into an unkillable force with the right support.
Checks and Counters
Xerneas (and other Fairy-type Pokemon)
Even if Zygarde has Aura Break, there is little it can do to stop Xerneas. A Fairy Aura-boosted Moonblast absolutely rips apart Zygarde even without the help of Geomancy. With Zygarde’s low base Attack and Xerneas’ amazing bulk, Zygarde can’t do much back without a couple of boosts under its belt.
Kyogre (or anything with Ice Beam)
Being x4 weak to Ice means instant demise to a strong Ice Beam, which usually comes from Kyogre. With the help of Misty Seed, the extra Special Defense could help Zygarde survive a weaker Ice Beam, but it’s still best to keep Zygarde away from any Ice-type attack.
We’ve already mentioned the Misty Seed synergy, but Misty Terrain helps Tapu Fini assist Zygarde in another way. One of the popular strategies going around is self Swagger with Tapu Fini since Misty Terrain blocks a Pokemon from becoming confused. With the +2 Attack boost from Swagger, Zygarde can get damage off much quicker.
These are Pokemon that can help deal with Xerneas. Tapu Fini can cripple it with Haze, but the offensive threat to Xerneas must come from elsewhere. Popular choices for this team slot are Solgaleo, Ferrothorn, Stakataka and Kartana.
Of course Incineroar, but there’s a reason for Zygarde specifically. Fake Out can buy Zygarde a turn to set-up, Intimidate can help further boost Zygarde’s already insane bulk and Roar can help deal with opposing Xerneas. Incineroar can also help handle Grass-types, which can easily switch-in to Thousand Arrows.
So why use Zygarde?
Although there are certainly better options for restricted slots on your team, Zygarde can easily hold its own in VGC 2019. Its amazing bulk can help it win games on its own in the right circumstances, and it has the ability to be an offensive powerhouse with the right support. Thousand Arrows is one of the best attacks in the game and it does work offensively in a format that struggles to switch in to Ground-type attacks without relying on Flying-types.
Even though it was denied its own game cover, Zygarde is finally in the spotlight, and it’s looking to solidify itself as a powerful member of the XY and Z trio.
Images from Bulbapedia, the Pokemon Anime, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International