Now that we’re about a month into VGC 2019’s Moon Series, the metagame has finally begun to develop a bit. On the surface, it doesn’t seem like much has changed since the end of Sun Series, but to a more trained eye, there are many notable differences.
One of these big changes are the popular pairings of restricted Pokemon, which form the main concept of many, if not all, VGC 2019 teams. There are still some that continue their dominance from the prior series, but there have been some new dynamic duos making their way into relevance. Even the pairs that have stuck around have changed quite a bit.
Let’s take a look at the five best pairs of restricted Pokemon that are currently dominating the VGC 2019 Moon Series metagame.
Groudon & Xerneas
Ever since the beginning of Moon Series, Groudon has been all the rage. It has two places on this list, and it looks like it will remain at the top (almost) neck and neck with its buddy Kyogre.
Groudon and Xerneas were an amazing pair back in VGC 2016 where Groudon was able to Primal Revert, and will likely remain an amazing pair once Groudon regains its Red Orb a few months from now. Groudon’s insanely powerful physical Ground-type attacks tear apart opposing Steel and Poison types that exist to deal with Xerneas. Then Xerneas… you know…does its thing.
This pair is at the top of this list because it’s hot off a big regional win in Dallas thanks to Nick Navarre. Combined with the sunny speed demon known as Venusaur, these teams can steal games away quickly. While Kyogre remains a pain to deal with at times, these teams usually have a Grass-type (or two…or three) to deal with those looking to rain on their parade.
This looks to be the duo to beat right now, and after falling off hard towards the end of Sun Series, Groudon and Xerneas have made a huge comeback in the first month of Moon Series.
Groudon & Yveltal
You know what other restricted Pokemon Groudon goes great with? Xerneas’ version counterpart: Yveltal. These two made it big towards the end of Sun Series with a statement win at the Anaheim Regional Championships, and since then have made a seamless transition into Moon Series.
While teams including these two are more than capable of pushing major loads of offense, these two act as sort of the defensive backbone of the team. Yveltal usually carries the Assault Vest and looks to support the team by spamming Snarl in order to weaken opposing Special Attackers. Groudon is also used more slow and defensive, however many carry Swords Dance in order to become offensive threats.
After the first couple of tournaments in Moon Series, many thought this duo was going to fall off, but it has stuck around quite a bit. Even though it didn’t appear at all in the Top Cut of the Dallas Regional Championships, it was still all over Top 32. Since then, teams using these two have reached the Top Cut of major events in other parts of the world such as Malaysia and Panama.
Of course, the same old team that popularized these two in the first place won’t remain easily successful forever. It’s time for this team to adapt, and for some major upcoming events, it surely will.
Xerneas & Lunala
One of the best duos in Sun Series remains amazing in Moon Series and is another example of an archetype that made a seamless transition. Ashton Cox and Jeremy Rodrigues pioneered this archetype and have led it to numerous impressive finishes. That trend looks to continue even when both players have Worlds qualification as a mere speck in the rear-view mirror.
This team was never too complicated in terms of strategy. Basically, maneuver Xerneas and Lunala around until you can successfully set up Geomancy and have Lunala use Psych Up to copy the boosts. This team usually accomplishes this by having Fake Out users and other disruptive Pokemon cycle in and out of play until that favorable position becomes a reality.
However, like the famous Groudon and Yveltal team, this is one that had to adapt as well. The trend seemed to be ditching Crobat as that’s what both Cox and Aaron Traylor did with their teams that made Top 8 in Dallas. Traylor added a Landorus-Therian which is a Pokemon gaining a lot of steam at the moment, while Cox did something a little more interesting.
Cox decided to bring back everyone’s favorite scaly dragon Kommo-o with its signature Z Move: Clangorous Soulblaze. This change actually makes sense for Cox’s team since Lunala is also able to copy the stat boosts from Kommo-o’s Z Move, while Kommo-o can support Lunala by taking care of opposing Incineroar with its Fighting-type moves.
Regardless of which event they attend, you’ll likely see both Cox and Rodrigues rocking this team, and likely doing well with it. What’ll be interesting to see is what fun and unique changes they give it as new iterations come out.
Xerneas & Kyogre
Finally a Kyogre team makes an appearance, and its one VGC players likely already know and despise. Pairing the two best restricted Pokemon in the format seemed like a natural idea at the start of Sun Series, although these two don’t have the best synergy on their own.
Enter Tornadus, and suddenly you have the missing piece to one of the most dominating teams in the metagame. With Tornadus to support with its Prankster support moves and 100% accurate Hurricanes, Xerneas, and Kyogre are basically allowed to run rampant in most matchups.
However, and this has indeed become a running theme, these cookie-cutter teams have undergone some unique revision in order to make them stronger and more unpredictable. One of the minor changes is the inclusion of Tapu Lele which not only functions in a similar role to Tsareena (which many of these teams have ditched by this point) by blocking priority moves, but also helps against nuisances to Rain teams such as Toxicroak and Amoonguss.
The next change is both a fun, but an insanely strong change to the formula and that’s Z Psych Up Kyogre. We’ve already mentioned Psych Up next to Xerneas when talking about Lunala, but Kyogre can take advantage of this strategy too. When powered up by a Z Crystal, Psych Up heals the user back to full health. What this means is that if this combo is pulled off correctly, Kyogre becomes unstoppable with Water Spouts at doubled Speed and Special Attack. Shoutouts to Singaporean player Benjamin Tan for refining this cool team idea and writing a report on it (which you should totally check out).
Xerneas & Yveltal
Much like Groudon and Kyogre, these two seem to have been at war for the entirety of VGC 2019. But what if they teamed up? Turns out that they make a pretty good combo.
This duo has been underrated for a long time, and since its breakout at the Dallas Regional Championships, they have quickly risen to the point of tournament taking contention. Xerneas and Yveltal utilize their bread and butter strategies here (as usual), but the Pokemon that accompany them do some cool things for the team.
Landorus-Therian is a big one, and is one of the main checks to opposing Groudon and Stakataka with the latter being a Pokemon that both Xerneas and Yveltal struggle with. Tapu Fini has become a bit more rare nowadays, but on this team it reprises its fantastic support role with moves like Icy Wind, Heal Pulse, and Nature’s Madness. Even Gengar can be a great anti-meta Pokemon that can be a strong Z Move user.
There are definitely a bunch of other combinations and restricted Pokemon in general out there that are viable, however expect to see these five the most. VGC 2019’s Moon Series has its first International Championship in just under a week from now in Melbourne, Australia beginning February 15.
One of the biggest storylines going into this tournament is which one of these heavily favored restricted Pokemon combos will beat out the rest. Or maybe a new duo or take on one of the old ones will show us something entirely new. Regardless, this should be a fun tournament to watch unfold.
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International