We were in a similar spot about six months ago talking about how good Incineroar was after receiving its Hidden Ability. Here we are again in a brand new format and it seems that Incineroar isn’t going away. According to Pikalytics, Incineroar is beyond 80% usage on Pokemon Showdown! and VGCStats reports that Incineroar has earned close to 5,000 Championship Points this season. Not only that, but Incineroar recently dominated the Philadelphia Regionals, appearing on 31 of the Top 32 teams. Is Incineroar broken? Unhealthy? Overpowered? Or just fine? Discussion has been brewing in the community on both sides of the argument, but like it or not, Incineroar is here to stay.
Why is Incineroar so good?
For those asking how a starter Pokemon is dominating a format filled with some of the most powerful Pokemon in existence, let me break it down for you. Incineroar is pretty much a Swiss Army knife of a Pokemon. It has access to the best ability in VGC in Intimidate, it has access to Fake Out and a ton of other support moves, great stats on offense and defense, and an excellent offensive typing that makes it one of the best users of Knock Off (which is especially good for VGC 2019’s Sun Series where every item is able to be knocked off). What’s interesting is that Incineroar hasn’t changed at all since last year. It plays the exact same role on a team. However, there have been some slight updates to its viable moves and items. Everyone knew instantly that Incineroar was going to be amazing once it got access to Intimidate in VGC 2018, but who knew it could overshadow VGC 2019’s cast of legendary Pokemon.
Does Incineroar make the game unhealthy?
Despite it being on close to 80% of teams, the popular opinion would say “no”. Let’s approach this question by using a couple of criteria:
Does Incineroar necessitate for a team to have counters to it? No, not really. The thing is that Incineroar has checks and counters all over the metagame. Incineroar isn’t like Kyogre or Xerneas that require teams to have answers to them so they don’t auto-lose when they face them. With the popularity of Pokemon like Kyogre, Ludicolo, Groudon, and Xerneas, Incineroar counters are pretty easy to come by. Incineroar isn’t a Pokemon that can win you games automatically, but its just really solid overall.
This might be the biggest argument against Incineroar, but this argument doesn’t come from the players. Players find Incineroar like a glue that brings a lot of team compositions together since it fills so many roles. Sure, for spectators seeing Incineroar in every game, it might seem boring or unhealthy. This doesn’t hold up however when viewed like a popular character in a fighting game or a staple card from a TCG. Many players don’t find issue with building a team basically with five Pokemon to choose from. The rest of the metagame has proven to be diverse outside of Incineroar, so maybe this isn’t such a bad thing.
The only problem with Incineroar’s omnipotence is the fact that it crowds out several other Pokemon that could play similar roles. There are other Incineroar-esque Pokemon like Hitmontop and Arcanine that have seen success, but why use one of these Pokemon when Incineroar can do (almost) everything these two can do, but perhaps better? It’s not a matter of players having to use it, but rather, why wouldn’t you use it?
So, is Incineroar unhealthy and ruining competitive Pokemon? Doesn’t look like it. Besides this debate, Incineroar is looking to reach unprecedented levels of usage in a VGC 2019 season and we’re less than a month in. Incineroar just seems like the perfect VGC Pokemon that isn’t too broken or overpowered and people seem to be okay with it. It will be interesting to see if Incineroar’s usage remains constant as we move into the Moon and Ultra Series later in the season, but for now, long live the new king of Pokemon VGC.