It’s January which means the 2018 competitive Pokemon season is officially underway. As players prepare for the first big tournaments of the season, some may struggle to learn this vast new format. Fear not, because there already have been a number of high-profile Midseason Showdown tournaments across the world meaning we have a pretty solid idea of what the early 2018 metagame will look like. For those of you still struggling, here are some of the most common cores that have achieved early-season success.
Basically, using the best Pokemon out there.
For anyone who’s played a national-pokedex format in the past (the 2015 season for example), all of these Pokemon should be very familiar. Mega Kangaskhan may have been beyond nerfed since its glory days, but this Mega Evolution is still a force to be reckoned with. Parental Bond still makes moves like Double Edge and the also nerfed Sucker Punch do massive amounts of damage and can still pick up KO’s left and right. While Kangaskhan has changed from faster builds to much slower and defensive ones, it’s still one of the most versatile Mega Evolutions out there.
Landorus-Therian needs no introduction. Speaking of versatility, Landorus now has an ocean-deep pool of strategies at its disposal. It’s no longer just mindless Rock Slide spam with the Choice Scarf as Landorus players have taken advantage of items like the Assault Vest, Life Orb (for Special-attacking sets) and even various Z Crystals. Landorus is a Pokemon that can be put on a number of teams so it makes sense that it would be on a team with the best.
Cresselia and Heatran have been the bread and butter Trick Room for pretty much every year they’ve been allowed together and for good reason. Cresselia can do a number of things to support Heatran like Skill Swapping Levitate onto it, giving it Helping Hand boosts, and most importantly, setting up Trick Room. Heatran is another Pokemon that has taken advantage of Z moves as it boasts a very powerful Inferno Overdrive. Still, the typical set using Substitute and Leftovers can work quite well too.
The supporting cast
For the first time in a while the goodstuffs archetype has seen many significant new additions to its repertoire. Tapu Fini has remained relevant in 2018 especially after being given access to the Move Tutor-exclusive move Icy Wind. This allows Tapu Fini to play a much better support role, but an offensive build using Choice Specs can also work effectively with this team.
With the fall of Thundurus, Zapdos has swooped into the spotlight as the format’s premier Electric-type. Zapdos actually has really good synergy with Tapu Fini with the introduction of the Misty Seed, raising its Special Defense after it enters Misty Terrain. Oh yeah, Tailwind is pretty good too.
Volcarona is a Pokemon that has picked up a lot of popularity recently as a Fire-type substitute for Heatran. Volcarona also really likes Firium Z and can sweep through an opponent’s team after a couple Quiver Dances.
If you thought Rain was scary in 2017, it’s gotten a whole lot scarier.
Rain players rejoice as you now have Politoed and a much better selection of Swift Swim Pokemon. Why is Politoed better than Pelipper? Well players seem to prefer it for its bulk and versatility over Pelipper’s frailness and limited usability. Pelipper still finds use on more hyper offense teams while Politoed’s bulk is preferred for balanced and defensive teams.
The main thing that makes Rain so much better in 2018 is the amount of better Swift Swim Pokemon there are available. Ludicolo is pretty much a staple on Rain teams as its Grass-type coverage is invaluable in assuring that the Rain lead won’t get walled by either Gastrodon or other bulky Water-types. Fake Out is also great for disrupting the opponent, allowing Ludicolo’s partner a turn to support or get off big damage.
Mega Swampert is ironically one of the least popular Mega Evolutions for the Rain archetypes despite it having access to the Swift Swim ability. Good Swift Swim Pokemon exist outside of Ludicolo, but Ludicolo’s value to the Rain archetype makes it nearly staple on all Rain teams and many players don’t want to add many other Water-types outside of their Rain duo. However, Mega Swampert and lesser used Swift Swimmers like Kingdra are still viable, and definitely can help form more dedicated Rain teams.
The supporting cast
Steel-types are the typical first-stop for Rain teams as Steel-types appreciate the nerf to Fire-type attacks. Ferrothorn is especially good and weakened Fire-types makes Ferrothorn much harder to deal with. Aegislash is another option, but Aegislash commonly holds a Z Crystal which many players like to reserve for their Rain sweepers.
Tapu Bulu and Tapu Koko are the most popular Island Guardians. Tapu Koko enjoys spamming 100% accurate Thunder’s under Electric Terrain and its natural speed makes it a huge offensive threat. Tapu Bulu favors more control-centered Rain teams which players have been combining with the Gothtielle/Mawile core (which we’ll get to).
Mega Charizard Y/Landorus-Therian/Cresselia
While you could call this a “Sun” team, Charizard is really the only one who benefits from the Sun directly.
This core really focuses on the Charizard/Landorus combo as this high-power pair has excellent coverage and a lot of combined damage output. Mega Charizard Y is better on the Special Defense side so Landorus’ Intimidate helps Charizard handle physical attacks much better. Landorus likes being paired with two Pokemon that are off of the ground as this allows relatively free Earthquake spam. Cresselia basically gives this team a Trick Room option, but Cresselia’s bulk is helped by Landorus’ Intimidate. Cresselia’s access to Ice Beam helps against opposing Landorus.
Basically, these three cover each other really well and allow the team to branch in a number of directions. That’s the interesting thing about Mega Charizard Y teams, they don’t have to conform to being Sun teams and can be very diverse as a result.
The supporting cast
Honestly, three out of the four Island Guardians (sorry Fini) work well on Mega Charizard Y teams. Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele favor more offensive team compositions while Tapu Bulu, again, really supports more defensive play. Tapu Bulu and Tapu Koko are preferred since they help deal with Water-types which Charizard can hate going against without the Sun.
Wide Guard is almost a must-have in order to stop Charizard from getting hit by Rock Slide. Aegislash is fairly common as these teams appreciate both the Ghost and Steel-type attack coverage, but Stakataka is also a great option which can add to a team’s Trick Room mode.
Lastly, Fighting-types are common teammates as they help mainly against Tyranitar, which can get rid of the Sun thanks to Sand Stream. This slot has a lot of fun options like Hitmontop who can also use Wide Guard and give your team another Intimidate user. Thanks to its new Z Move, Kommo-o has become much more viable and a lot of players have noticed some great synergy with Mega Charizard Y.
Mega Metagross/Tapu Lele/Hydreigon
When previewing Mega Metagross for the 2018 format, I mentioned how strong the Mega Metagross and Tapu Lele combo is, and players have noticed. Psychic Terrain, Tough Claws boosted Zen Headbutt coming off of Mega Metagross’ base 145 Attack stat can OHKO a lot of the metagame; but the shaky accuracy of Zen Headbutt always makes it a high-risk/high-reward play.
Tapu Lele is known for damage and it still does a lot. Tapu Lele is mainly here for Psychic Terrain as the terrain not only boosts the power of the team’s Psychic-type attacks but also protects the team from priority moves.
Finally, Hydreigon completes the Fairy/Steel/Dragon core and provides valuable Dark-type coverage for the two Psychic-types. Having Hydreigon allows Metagross and Tapu Lele to have a switch-in for the inevitable Aegislash encounter which Hydregion is able to deal with rather easily.
These three form a fairly offensive core that looks to score KO’s fast. They can be rounded out with either more offensive Pokemon or some more defensive and supportive ones to maintain the consistent damage output.
The supporting cast
Some players have been substituting Hydreigon for Tyranitar, which does break apart the Fairy/Steel/Dragon core, but shows that maybe the Dark-type coverage is more valuable than Dragon-type synergy. As mentioned previously, Metagross and Tapu Lele struggle versus Aegislash and other Ghost-types, so having a powerful Dark-type attacker is important for this team.
Amoonguss has also become common on these teams which may play into the more support-oriented supporting cast. Amoonguss works well with Tapu Lele as Psychic Terrain is able to override the Sleep-preventing Electric and Misty Terrains. Amoonguss can also redirect attacks away from damage-dealing teammates with Rage Powder.
Zapdos also works here with Psychic Seed over Misty Seed to reconstruct the threatening Tapu Lele plus Tailwind combo. Plus, Zapdos gives you a way of hitting Water-types, mainly Tapu Fini which can easily get rid of Psychic Terrain.
Gothitelle/Mega Mawile (aka GothMaw)
A duo that was hyped up long before the 2018 season began, GothMaw has proven itself as a threat. This duo focuses on trapping your opponent’s Pokemon with Shadow Tag while Mega Mawile feasts under Trick Room. Gothitelle can support Mawile with Helping Hand and Heal Pulse while Mega Mawile pretty much sweeps by itself. Players usually combine Intimidate, Fake Out and even weather in order to disrupt any and all team compositions.
Trap and sweep is the name of the game with these two, and this combo is becoming increasingly popular just because of how consistent it can be.
The supporting cast
When I mention weather, Rain is the one players usually opt for. This is mainly for two reasons. One, Gothitelle can easily trap a Mega Charizard Y and switch in Politoed making Charizard essentially useless. And two, Politoed has access to Perish Song which can give this team a Perish Trap mode as well. Also with Mawile being a Steel-type, weakening Fire-type damage helps it a lot.
Tapu Bulu has been the go-to Guardian for these teams (especially with the Rain modes) because Tapu Bulu fits well with the controlling nature of the team. Grassy Terrain helps heal the team and can disrupt opposing Terrains while Gothitelle traps the poor Tapu. Like Mega Mawile, Tapu Bulu is another Pokemon that can deal massive damage and can easily sweep while Gothitelle traps the opponent’s Pokemon.
(I know that this is the third team with a Rain mode, but Rain is really popular right now so you’ll be seeing it a lot)
Now that you have some basic cores to start teambuilding, get out there and start practicing for the new season. While these are the most common cores out there, there are still a ton of unexplored Pokemon and strategies that are waiting to break the metagame. With the first big tournaments of the season coming up, we’ll just have to wait and see which core proves to be the best.
Thanks for reading!
Images from Pokemon Global Link and Pokemon Team Planner
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