With the announcement of the Ultra Wormholes allowing players to catch legendary Pokemon in Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, there remains uncertainty over which ones will be available. In preparation for the 2018 format, many players have taken to the Battle Spot Doubles online ladder in Pokemon Sun and Moon in order to practice for the upcoming format. This rule set allows the entire National Pokedex, with the exception of restricted legendary Pokemon as well as Mythical Pokemon, making it very similar to what we expect the 2018 format to be like. Although, the lack of concrete evidence we have on whether or not VGC staples like Landorus and Cresselia will be returning to 2018 leaves many players skeptical.
A National Pokedex format without the staples of the past would shake things up considerably for the 2018 season. Let’s take a look at what a potential 2018 meta game could look like without these legendary Pokemon returning.
Landorus (Therian Forme)
Wreaking havoc on VGC since 2013 is none other than the infamous intimidating cat known as Landorus-Therian. Anyone whose played Pokemon competitively knows how powerful and versatile Landorus can be, and many players are hesitant in welcoming this Pokemon back. Landorus has access to one of the best abilities in the game in Intimidate while also being a great source of damage output. Replacing Landorus will involve looking to other Ground-types as well as other users of Intimidate.
For Ground-types, the easy answer is Garchomp. Garchomp is a Pokemon that has dominated formats in Landorus’ absence as it fills the role of a strong, Ground-type attacker. Garchomp may lack Intimidate, but the amount of offensive pressure it puts on with the ability to spam Earthquake makes it a great choice for a sweeper. Outside of Garchomp, the remaining options are admittedly niche, but other options exist.
- Mamoswine: Of course I call other Ground-types “niche” but Mamoswine won a world championship in 2013. The typing of Ice and Ground is solid offensively as Ice hits the plethora of Dragons as well as other Ground-types and the Ground-type gives Mamoswine a powerful Earthquake. Mamoswine does lack speed and unfortunately has to deal with the defensive woes of being an Ice-type, but Choice Scarf has been an effective item to alleviate the speed issue. Just ask Arash Ommati.
- Excadrill: The cover sweeper for the Sand archetype, but unfortunately that’s about as far as Excadrill goes. Like Mamoswine, Excadrill suffers from a low speed but Excadrill’s Sand Rush ability mitigates that entirely when paired with Tyranitar. Excadrill is a good Pokemon with Sandstorm, but lackluster otherwise.
- Other Options: Mudsdale, Krookodile, (Mega) Swampert, Gastrodon
Intimidate is a much more widely available tool that many teams won’t have much trouble replacing. Salamence (and most likely Mega Salamence) will be players’ number one choice considering that we do have confirmation on the return of Mega Evolutions. Salamence has the ability Intimidate prior to Mega evolving, but the loss of Intimidate upon Mega Evolution turns Mega Salamence into a terrifying sweeper. But unlike Ground-types in VGC, many more viable options for Intimidate exist.
- Mawile: Mawile is another case of a Pokemon that will primarily be used for its Mega Evolution, but its access to Intimidate makes it even more useful. Like Salamence, Mawile turns into a massive attacking threat upon Mega Evolution allowing it to serve similar roles as Salamence and Landorus, but perhaps a more popular choice for Trick Room teams.
- Hitmontop: Despite the drastic increase in Fairy-type Pokemon, Hitmontontop has remained as a solid niche Intimidate user despite its less-favorable type matchup. Hitmontop can not only utilize Intimidate but also has access to great support moves like Fake Out and Wide Guard. As a non-Mega Evolution, I could see Hitmontop being high on the usage charts for Intimidate users.
- Other Options: Gyarados, (Mega Manectric), Arcanine, Staraptor, Scrafty
With the increased usage of Fairy-type Pokemon, Heatran’s usefulness has skyrocketed. Heatran mainly plays the role of a slow, Special Attacking sweeper that functions well under Trick Room. When looking to replace Heatran, we’ll have to examine the available Fire and Steel-types at our disposal.
The Pokemon that most fucntions the most similarly to Heatran would be Mega Camerupt. Mega Camerupt isn’t the most popular choice for a team’s Mega Evolution, but its role as a slow, Fire-type Trick Room sweeper makes me think of Heatran. Of course, we should examine non-mega options considering Heatran does not compromise that slot.
- Arcanine: The 2017 season may be ending soon, but that doesn’t necessarily mean Arcanine is going away. Many teams that didn’t feature Heatran in the 2015 format saw Arcanine as a solid option for a more defensive Fire-type. While Arcanine doesn’t function in the same way as Heatran, Arcanine serves a nice role as a more defensive Fire-type that can also do respectable damage.
- Volcarona: Many players see potential in Volcarona as a Fire-type that can perform a sweeper role, but with a bit more speed at its disposal. Unlike Heatran, Volcarona has access to a boosting move in Quiver Dance that increases Volcarona’s Special Attack, Speed and Special Defense. Like Heatran, Volcarona also has a high Special Attack that can easily take advantage of a powerful Z-move whether it be Inferno Overdrive or another coverage option. Aside from the sweeper role, Volcarona can also play support as it does have access to Rage Powder, allowing it to redirect attacks away from its teammates. Volcarona’s power and versatility could make it a popular choice whether or not Heatran comes back.
- Other Options: Alolan Marowak, Infernape, Heat Rotom, Chandelure
- Celesteela: When I think of defensive Steel-types, Celesteela is the first one to pop up. Celesteela has already shown its dominance in the 2017 metagame, and if Heatran is missing from 2018, Celesteela will certainly thrive.
- Aegislash: Aegislash has the ability to be defensive as well as offensive as it switches between its two forms. Aegislash mainly functions in the attacker role, but some Aegislash may carry Wide Guard in order to defend its teammates against Rock Slides or Dazzling Gleams. Like Celesteela, I predict that Aegislash will thrive in a metagame without Heatran.
- Ferrothorn: Up to this point, I’ve only been exploring two options for each category, but I couldn’t talk about Steel-types without mentioning Ferrothorn. In a format without one of the strongest Fire-types in VGC, Ferrothorn will have a great time with its x4 weakness to Fire. Functioning similarly to Celesteela, Ferrothorn is able to win games just by sitting there and sucking the opponent’s health away with Leech Seed. If a team needs a defensive Pokemon, Ferrothorn is often a great choice.
- Other Options: (Mega) Metagross, Bisharp, Bronzong
The queen of VGC needs no introduction. Cresselia has been an anchor for teams ever since it made its debut in the fourth generation, and 2018 will be no different if Cresselia is available in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Cresselia’s main role is a defensive Trick Room setter, but we’ve seen Cresselia function in many other roles making it into a Pokemon that can fit on almost any team.
Cresselia is a hard one to replace, as very few Pokemon can do its job as well as it can. Porygon2 is the first that comes to mind when thinking of a Cresselia replacement, as it too functions as the defensive Trick Room setter. However, Porygon2 can really only function in that role, which limits its usefulness, but in the 2017 season it was a staple for a team’s Trick Room mode. If Cresselia isn’t around, we’d likely see Porygon2 return to this role, but Porygon2 isn’t the only option for a team’s designated Trick Room setter.
- Oranguru: One of the newer faces to the game was unfortunately overshadowed by Porygon2, but Oranguru has some tricks that separate it from the rest. Instruct is a move that will only become better as more Pokemon are available, and this direct support Oranguru can provide to Trick Room sweepers can make a sweep much easier to pull off.
- Gothitelle: Gothitelle is another Trick Room setter with a unique trick up its sleeve: Shadow Tag. Shadow Tag allows Gothitelle to trap both opponents (as long as they’re not ghosts) which can be very difficult to break free from. This ability has great synergy with Perish Song as well as Intimidate as your becomes powerless in attempting to prevent their trapped Pokemon from being KO’d. If Cresselia isn’t around, expect Gothitelle to be a popular choice to replace her.
- Other Options: Jellicent, Dusclops, Slowbro, Slowking, (Mega) Gardevoir
What lies beyond the Ultra Wormholes?
At this point we can’t be certain, and it’s likely we won’t find out whether these Pokemon await us in Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon until the games are released. Until then, we have no choice but to play a guessing game about the upcoming metagame. Practicing on the Battle Spot Doubles ladder is the best bet we have right now for those looking to prepare for the 2018 season, but players should be cautious in determining their strategies.
In all honesty, we’ll likely have the opportunity to catch all of these legendary Pokemon due to the nature of the Ultra Wormhole mechanic, and how similar it looks to the rings found in the post-game of Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire. But that, much like the rest of this article, is purely speculation.
Thanks for reading!
Images from Pokemon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International
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