Much like previous years of VGC that allowed “restricted” legendary Pokemon, all of the buzz this year has been around the weather trio. Well, it’s mainly been the duo of Kyogre and Groudon getting all of the attention, but what about Rayquaza? In the 2016 season, Rayquaza earned the highest prize in competitive Pokemon as it won a World Championship. However, for the first two-thirds of VGC 2019, it’s looking like Rayquaza will rot at the bottom of usage stats until it regains it’s signature move Dragon Ascent.
How much not having Dragon Ascent hurts Rayquaza
Not only can Rayquaza not Mega Evolve without Dragon Ascent, but its physical-attacking movepool suffers immensely without it. Without Dragon Ascent, the next best physical Flying-type attack Rayquaza has access to is Aerial Ace, which has only half of Dragon Ascent’s power. As an offensive typing, Dragon has suffered a lot in the face of the plethora of viable Fairy-types and the introduction of Misty Terrain thanks to Tapu Fini. Rayquaza’s best option on the physical side is Outrage, which is a move not commonly seen in VGC period since it guarantees the user get confused and it chooses its target randomly.
But what about Rayquaza’s special attacking options? Rayquaza actually has access to many unique moves which can offer great coverage on a set. Thunderbolt, Ice Beam, Earth Power, Draco Meteor, Air Slash and Overheat are ones that immediately stick out. While Rayquaza’s base Attack and Special Attack are the same, it lacks a strong option on the special side besides the heavily weakened Draco Meteor in order to snag one-hit-KO’s. Rayquaza also lacks a way to boost its Special Attack, but it does have access to Dragon Dance and Swords Dance for boosting its physical attack.
Rayquaza’s moveset outside of Dragon Ascent is not very impressive. The combination of Swords Dance and Extreme Speed plus the plethora of unique special attacks Rayquaza gets are interesting, but don’t make Rayquaza stick out as a worthy Pokemon to be taking up your restricted slot.
Air Lock ≠ Delta Stream
One of Rayquaza’s main niches was to disrupt the always present weather conditions set up by either Groudon or Kyogre. This was crucial for Primal Kyogre in 2016 as Rayquaza could come in even before Mega Evolving and neutralize the effects of Primal Groudon’s Desolate Land allowing Kyogre a free KO onto it. Delta Stream also provided the amazing side effect of weakening damage to Mega Rayquaza from super effective hits targeted at its Flying-typing.
Air Lock was still an amazing ability in 2016 since it neutralized the oppressive weather conditions of Primordial Sea and Desolate Land, but in a metagame without these abilities, Air Lock becomes a lot less valuable. Sure, Groudon’s Drought will weaken Kyogre’s Water-type attacks, but Groudon will not appreciate taking a Water Spout or Origin Pulse even in the sun. It could be argued that using Air Lock to remove the effects of Drought could set-up a KO for Kyogre on Groudon, but teams using Kyogre usually have other ways of dealing with Groudon which means switching Kyogre out would be better in the long run. Air Lock just isn’t that useful of an ability without Primal Groudon or Kyogre running around, and this is likely why other niche users of the ability or a ability similar to it in Cloud Nine haven’t been relevant.
In its current state, there really isn’t much of a point to using Rayquaza in the Sun and Moon Series of VGC 2019. Without Dragon Ascent, Rayquaza just loses out on way too much damage and doesn’t function well as a set-up sweeper. Air Lock isn’t necessary for teams now with the Red and Blue Orb being banned, meaning that the Primal Pokemon and their weather conditions aren’t needing to be dealt with.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for Rayquaza however, as VGC 2019’s Ultra Series starting in April will grant Rayquaza the ability to know Dragon Ascent as well as Mega Evolve. If the results from the recent World Championship Friendly online tournament (a tournament using the Ultra Series rules) show us anything, it’s that Rayquaza is will easily be a Top 10 Pokemon and one of the most common Mega Evolutions. So just be patient Rayquaza, sooner or later you’ll be able to ascend back to your former glory.
Images from,Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International.