Every team gets two restricted legendary Pokemon in the VGC 2019 format. While having access to these powerful Pokemon is a good thing (depending on who you ask), having just two can feel limiting during teambuilding. What if I told you there was a way to add a third restricted Pokemon to your team?
Well, technically this isn’t possible, however there are some non-restricted Pokemon that can fill similar roles to the restricted Pokemon you won’t be able to fit on your team. Here is a list of some non-restricted Pokemon that can fill these said roles.
*Disclaimer*: While these Pokemon can play similar roles to the restricted Pokemon they would be replacing, they’re not exactly the same. Don’t be expecting a complete replacement for these Pokemon as the similarities will only extend so far.
Ho-Oh → Talonflame
Luckily there’s another flaming bird out there that can (sort of) replace Ho-Oh. The main similarity between these two is obviously their typing of Fire and Flying. These two offer similar offensive coverage, but the strengths and advantages of each differ greatly. With Ho-Oh, you have its excellent signature move, Sacred Fire, that has a 50% chance to burn the target (granted that it hits). With Talonflame, you have a much weaker Attack stat to go off of, but Flare Blitz is a reliable, stronger physical Fire-type attack at the cost of some recoil damage. Both have access to Brave Bird, however Talonflame’s can be given priority thanks to its ability Gale Wings if it is at full HP.
While these two function similarly in the offensive department, the primary difference between these two comes down to speed versus bulk. Talonflame is insanely fast, with Gale Wings potentially giving its Flying-type moves priority, but it is very susceptible to being KO’d. Ho-Oh is much harder to take down at the cost of some speed, but its amazing Special Defense makes it an incredible check to Xerneas. Talonflame can slow Xerneas down either with Taunt or using Tailwind to get the speed advantage, but even as a resisted hit, Talonflame hates the idea of taking a Moonblast.
Even though Talonflame doesn’t have the same ability to sit on the field for the entire game, it functions great as a Fire/Flying-type support Pokemon that can give your team the upper-hand speed-wise. Funnily enough, Ho-Oh is actually beginning to pick up in popularity, so maybe we’ll see these two duke it out at the next few major tournaments.
Lunala → Gengar
If you’re looking for a fast Ghost-type with access to a powerful Z Move (that isn’t Lunala of course), Gengar could be for you. Lunala is notorious for its signature Ghost-type Z Move that plenty of Pokemon in the VGC 2019 metagame don’t enjoy taking a hit from. Gengar has a similar threat with a slightly weaker Z Move, but one powerful enough to threaten a lot of Lunala’s intended targets as well.
Like Talonflame and Ho-Oh, the primary trade-off for Gengar versus Lunala is speed against longevity. Lunala is an amazing Pokemon for its signature ability, Shadow Shield, which makes even four times super-effective Dark-type attacks fail to KO it at full HP. Gengar is leagues more frail than Lunala, and since many opt for the Ghostium Z, they’re unable to hold the Focus Sash to guarantee that they take a hit. Another downside about Gengar is that it is a very straightforward and predictable Pokemon. Many Gengar carry the same moveset of Shadow Ball, Sludge Bomb, Protect and a filler move. Lunala on the other hand is much more versatile, with move sets carrying tech moves such as Tailwind, Psych Up, Trick Room and Wide Guard. Gengar can have one trick up its sleeve in the form of Destiny Bond (which can be powered up into Z Destiny Bond with the Ghostium Z), but this is usually rare and easy to predict once it’s revealed.
Gengar is nowhere close to being the offensive tank that Lunala is, but it’s able to threaten a similar level of damage with some unique support options. At least Gengar doesn’t have to deal with speed tying with opposing Lunala.
Yveltal → Hydreigon
Okay, this one is slightly more of a stretch, but hear me out. With Hydreigon you get a fast, offensive Dark-type that also has the ability to support the team. Nowadays, Yveltal is prized for its bulk and longevity, however the days of the all-out attacker variants of Yveltal are not yet dead.
Even without the power boost from Dark Aura, Hydreigon is still quite powerful, especially with the Darkinium Z giving it access to a devastating Black Hole Eclipse. Hydreigon also has access to some more diverse move options like Earth Power which can help against troublesome Pokemon like Incineroar and Stakataka. Finally, there’s Tailwind which many Yveltal have forgone due to the limitations of the Assault Vest, but Hydreigon’s move set can fit it well. Even though Hydreigon loses out on Yveltal’s insane bulk, you have a similar level of Dark-type damage output with some variance in offensive and support options for a team.
I’d recommend trying out Hydreigon on a team that needs a better answer to Lunala. Hydreigon out-speeds Lunala by one point and can score a KO with Black Hole Eclipse while Lunala can do virtually nothing back. With the growing popularity of Lunala teams similar to the one that Eduardo Cunha used to win the Oceania International Championships, Hydreigon could be a great niche pick to give your team an edge against one of the best teams in the current metagame.
While these non-restricted Pokemon don’t function as complete replacements for their legendary counterparts, they are strong picks for teams looking to fill specific roles or have an edge against popular metagame picks. Think of these Pokemon as “budget” restricted Pokemon that may not perform as well, but cost a lot less to add to your team.
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International