Welcome to The Underrated List! In this series we’ll be looking at Pokémon that aren’t really popular, but could have a ton of potential in a given format. Today, I’d like to make a case for the Seafaring Shuttle Pokémon: Lapras, and why it deserves some recognition in the VGC 2017 meta game.
Stats & Typing
At face value, other than its HP, Lapras’ stats are pretty average. Although, this allows for Lapras users to invest in its defenses and Special Attack stats to make a nice, bulky attacker.
Despite its attacking stats being the exact same, Lapras shines mainly in its special-attacking move pool. I wouldn’t worry about Speed, as it’s not worth trying to speed-creep anything at Lapras’ speed tier. Might be useful for Trick Room if a team has it as an option.
Water and Ice is a decent type combination on the offensive side, being able to hit everything (besides Water) for neutral or super-effective damage. Lapras can mitigate the Water-type issue with a cool move I’ll be touching on later. I feel like Lapras’ typing helps it primarily on offense, as being an Ice-Type gives Lapras access to a plethora of useful moves, including some that a pure Water-type wouldn’t get.
When it comes to defenses however, having the Ice-typing leaves much to be desired. It’s common knowledge that Ice is the worst defensive typing in the entire game, and Water does little to help it. In total, Lapras has 4 weaknesses (two being added from being an Ice-type) and 2 resistances (Ice helping resist itself) which might not seem great, but its stats allow it to tank attacks if necessary. If properly supported, Lapras’ type can easily be more of a strength than a weakness.
There is a ton a Lapras can potentially carry on a move-set, but just to make sure you optimize Lapras for VGC 2017, I’ll be only showing moves that I think are (somewhat) viable.
Learned by Level-Up
- Ice Shard: Priority move than can be great for picking off weak opponents. Just be careful you’re not in Psychic Terrain.
- Perish Song: A win-condition that can be utilized if you have an extra move slot. Your team might need to help support this option for it to be worth running.
- Ice Beam: The primary STAB option for most Ice-types, but I’ll get to an Ice move later that I think works a lot better.
- Hydro Pump: A powerful (yet shakily accurate) Water-Type move that would fit nicely on an attacking-based set. If you are not running an attack-boosting item, I would recommend this to make up for lost damage.
- Sheer Cold: My personal favorite. But let me explain myself. This is the epitome of what you would run if you have that extra move slot. I’m not saying to rely on a 30% one-hit-KO move, but if you have a free turn or don’t threaten a lot of damage, why not roll the dice? It also makes a nice win condition in a normally un-winnable match-up if it comes down to it. I’ll say that Sheer Cold has bailed me out way more times than it should’ve.
Learned by TM or HM
- Roar: I doubt I’d ever use this move, but if you really don’t want your opponent to set up Trick Room, the random Roar option could be for you.
- Toxic: In VGC 2017 (especially under this new timer) Toxic is used on a majority of more defensive Pokémon. I would consider Toxic if you’re looking for a support move option, because it’s is one of the best out there.
- Blizzard: I only mention Blizzard since Alolan Ninetales is reasonably common. Plus it has a chance to freeze which is always nice. But like I said with Ice Beam, a better Ice-Type move exists.
- Thunderbolt/Thunder: I’ll put these in the same category because they function very similarly on a Lapras set (Thunder is better if you have some sort of Rain setter on your team). If you don’t like Sheer Cold, this is probably the next best attack to use.
- Substitute: A cool move that could be run on almost any Pokémon really. Try it out if you don’t like any of the other moves listed.
- Surf: Probably not the best Water-type move for Lapras, but other than Hydro Pump (or Water Pulse), your strong, special Water move selection is very limited. Would be nice to pair with a Pokémon that absorbs, resists, or doesn’t get hit by moves from an ally.
Learned from Breeding
- Ancient Power: A move used back in 2014 when Mega Charizard Y was popular, but Rock-type moves in this format aren’t that great. Just thought I’d mention it due to its past success alone.
- Freeze-Dry: A bit of a tough move to breed onto a Lapras, but boy is it worth it. This is Lapras’ claim to fame in my opinion. Freeze-Dry on a Water Pokémon makes Lapras a hard counter to any other Water-type Pokémon in the format. It also pretty much ensures victory against a 1-on-1 with Gastrodon as it will Toxic, but you knock it out in two hits. Not many VGC 2017 Pokémon get this move, and Lapras is by far one of the best to have access to it.
Water Absorb is by far the best ability for Lapras. Remember I mentioned how Lapras can wall pretty much all other Water-types? Well this is another method for it to do so. Water Absorb gives Lapras the ability to heal itself when hit by a Water-type attack making it an excellent switch in to opposing Water Pokémon. This ability combined with Freeze-Dry almost single-handedly counters the common Rain duo of Pelipper and Golduck, making it a pretty safe go-to lead in a common match-up.
As for its other abilities (Shell Armor and its Hidden Ability Hydration), there’s not a lot to say here. Water Absorb giving Lapras all it does is invaluable to its function, and I can’t see any reason to not run it.
Potential Held Items
/ Leftovers & Sitrus Berry
I put these two together because they both are standard recovery items. Which ever one you use is up to personal preference depending on which item fits better on a team. These items would favor a bulkier Lapras with possibly Toxic and Protect to function like most other bulky Water-types.
Since Lapras is almost always a Special Attacker and doesn’t have the greatest Speed, Choice Specs is probably the best for a “Choice” item. With this boost in attack power, this gives more leeway for defensive investment. Just 4 of Lapras’ best attacking moves would be optimal, which ones are your choice (and there are a lot to choose from).
The most popular, as well as my favorite held-item for Lapras, is the Assault Vest. Lapras becomes a Specially Defensive tank that can take hits while also dealing good damage back. Assault Vest allows for more diverse attack options like Ice Shard and Sheer Cold since Lapras isn’t dedicated to just Special Attacks. Unfortunately with an Assault Vest you won’t be able to Protect Lapras (much like with Choice Specs) so it leaves it susceptible to being targeted. Honestly, I think Assault Vest fits Lapras’ role the best and I would recommend starting with it when first trying out Lapras.
A bit of a more fun item choice, but it could work well for a Pokémon like Lapras. Lapras fits into a special category of a defensive Pokémon with weaknesses to very common types which makes Weakness Policy great for it. It’s able to take a super-effective attack (depending on where it comes from) and get boosted to +2 Special Attack instantly increasing its threat status. Trick Room works amazingly well with this item choice, as even though Lapras gets boosted Special Attack, it needs the speed advantage to fully utilize it.
Checks & Counters
Strong Electric-Type Attacks
I put Tapu Koko here because Electric Surge is a terrifying ability for Lapras to deal with. Other Pokémon to be scared of include but are not limited to: Raichu, Magnezone, Vikavolt, Arcanine (w/ Wild Charge), Xurkitree, and others. Depending on the item or investment Lapras could survive a hit, but I wouldn’t count on winning the exchange.
Lapras is easy-pickings for Kartana’s hunger for Beast Boosts. Lapras might be able to deal good damage to Kartana on a switch-in depending on Kartana’s item (because of its pitiful Special Defense), but realistically Lapras shouldn’t be anywhere near this thing without a Fire-Type partner.
All-Out_Pummeling or Close Combat should scare Lapras away easily due to its low Defense. Fighting-types aren’t the most common in VGC 2017, but Hariyama appears on a bunch of Trick Room teams, and Pheromosa may possibly be on the rise so it’s a threat to consider.
I don’t know where Tapu Bulu went, but I don’t think it’s going away forever. Just because Lapras is an Ice-type, doesn’t mean it deals well with Tapu Bulu. Lapras can’t KO it with an Ice-type attack, but Tapu Bulu destroys Lapras with a Grassy Terrain boosted Wood Hammer or Horn Leech.
Most Water-types have issues with Celesteela, but Lapras is also an Ice-type so Heavy Slam can damage it effectively. Bottom line is: Lapras can’t effectively damage Celesteela and Celesteela can set up Leech Seed and Heavy Slam to its heart’s content. This does make Celesteela a nice Sheer Cold target if it becomes too much trouble. Just saying.
Here’s your easy solution to those Electric-types I mentioned earlier. Marowak gets access to Lightning Rod as well as Bonemerang so it not only redirects, but it also can strike back. Also this gives you an answer to Kartana and even another slow Pokémon to add to a potential Trick Room Mode. Marowak is a solid partner for any bulky Water-type in the format and Lapras is no exception.
Another token partner for Water Pokémon, Arcanine basically handles the Grass-types that threaten Lapras. Intimidate also helps immensely by artificially increasing Lapras’ physical bulk, which could possibly allow it to take a strong Grass or Fighting-type attack. Arcanine is a more defensive pick if you don’t feel Marowak’s offensive nature fits your team.
Hey if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Kartana helps take Rock and Grass-type attacks and works well in building a Fire/Water/Grass core for Lapras. Kartana’s common moves like Smart Strike and Sacred Sword can handle things like Tapu Bulu and Magnezone which can give Lapras trouble.
If Kartana isn’t your Steel-Type of choice, Metagross is a solid pick to be paired with Lapras. Metagross has the Steel-typing to do the things Kartana can, but its Psychic typing can help deal with Fighting-types that may show up from time to time.
Honestly you could slap Porygon2 on any team and it’ll work. Porygon2 can do things like set up Trick Room to give Lapras a speed advantage and provide offensive coverage with Thunderbolt which works well with Lapras’ Ice-type attacks. Not specifically tailored to Lapras, but a solid teammate.
So Why Use Lapras?
With so many other bulky Water Pokémon that pretty much do the same thing, Lapras can fill a unique role on a team needing a good Water-type. It’s bulky, has an exceptional move pool, and has common Water-type synergy with other great Pokémon in the format. It’s Water Absorb ability gives it an amazing match-up against other Water-types, including the infamous “double duck” Rain+Swift Swim combination that many other teams struggle with. Lapras may not be the most popular choice, but it can be a fantastic choice for a Water Pokémon in the format.
Image courtesy of the Pokémon anime
Art of Pokémon courtesy of Pokémon and Ken Sugimori
Held-Item pictures courtesy of Pokémon Sun & Moon