The Returning Cast: Noteworthy Gen 1-6 Pokémon in VGC 17

With a lot of hype surrounding the new Pokémon being released in Pokémon Sun and Moon, it’s important for us to look back and take stock of the returning cast; the older Pokémon that are likely to have a role in VGC 2017. In this analysis, I’ll be going over a few of the gen 1-6 Pokémon returning in gen 7 that are either in an interesting position going into the new format, or simply have a lot of competitive potential in VGC 2017.

Arcanine

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Arcanine is a Pokémon that hasn’t had as much of a chance to shine in previous formats as perhaps it deserves. Excluded from VGC 2014 and overshadowed by Heatran and even Entei for much of VGC 2015 (though it did gain some popularity during this format), maybe VGC 2017 will be Arcanine’s format. With access to Intimidate; an ability both highly coveted and somewhat thinly distributed within the new format, as well as new tools in the form of Burn Up, Arcanine seems as well positioned as just about any Pokémon to be top tier.

Its Fire typing gives it some very useful resistances, particularly Fairy type, which seems set to become omnipresent in VGC 17 (at the very least for the early metagame) courtesy of the Tapu Quartet. Furthermore, Arcanine is capable of pulling off a hybrid-attacking-support set, with Will-O-Wisp, Snarl, Morning Sun, and the new move Burn Up; a Fire type special attack with a massive base power of 130 that removes the users Fire typing until it switches out. This isn’t Arcanine’s only viable set however. It can also carry off a Life Orb or Choice Band physical attacking set, with access to moves such as Flare Blitz, Extreme Speed, Wild Charge, and Close Combat.

Overall, Arcanine’s utility, versatility, and great all round base stats are such that you can expect to see plenty of it in the upcoming format.

Pelipper

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Well here’s something that would’ve sounded daft a few weeks ago; Pelipper shows signs of potential in the upcoming format. With as good as no competitive success in past formats, this season sees Pelipper granted access to a powerful new tool in the form of the ability Drizzle. This puts it in direct competition with Politoed as a rain setter, however, Politoed’s loss of move tutors puts it in the precarious position of potentially being outclassed by Pelipper, as it no longer has access to the likes of Icy Wind and Helping Hand. Furthermore, Pelipper is able to take advantage of rain in ways Politoed cannot, as it not only boosts its Water-type moves, but also gives it access to a 100% accurate Hurricane. That said, Pelipper’s additional weaknesses and lower base stats may leave Politoed as the Rain user of choice for many. Notably, there are far fewer Pokémon in this format with access to Swift Swim, as Kingdra and Ludicolo are absent. Despite this, rain is still a useful tool for neutering Fire types and boosting water type attacks, so don’t expect to see it absent from the VGC 17 metagame.

Though Pelipper’s base stats are far from spectacular, its ability to use Tailwind is a huge bonus in VGC 17, as the absence of move tutors has made the move far less well distributed as it was in VGC 15. In fact, of all the Pokémon available in VGC 17, only twelve fully evolved Pokémon have access to Tailwind: Pelipper, Butterfree, Honchkrow, Whimsicott, Braviary, Mandibuzz, Talonflame, Aerodactyl, Ledian, Drifblim, Oricorio, and Toucannon. Of these, around five are competitively viable, and with the nerf to Gale Wings and addition of Drizzle to Pelipper’s toolkit, it’s hard not to place Pelipper at the very least among the top 3.

Expect to see every Pelipper carrying Scald and Hurricane, with some combination of Tailwind, Wide Guard and Protect filling in the final two move slots.

Clefable

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Clefable is in an interesting position going into the VGC 2017 format. Though it is undoubtedly the best redirection user in the format, the absence of the likes of Azumarill and Mega Kangaskhan in VGC 17 may leave redirection itself in a far less powerful position than it had in VGC 15. The most notable set up Pokémon in VGC 17; Xurkitree does not benefit as much from redirection, as its only type weakness generally comes in the form of the spread move Earthquake. Furthermore, Clefable may end up being collateral damage of the attempted countering of the Fairy type Tapus, particularly in the early metagame.

With move tutors absent from Pokémon Sun and Moon, Clefable loses some of the tools it had in access to in VGC 15. The most notable of these are Icy Wind and Helping Hand, both of which saw some usage in past formats. That said, Clefable is more than capable of functioning without these, and a standard set is likely to feature Follow Me and Protect, along with an attacking move such as Moonblast or Ice Beam, with Thunder Wave a possible candidate to round out the set.

One potential niche Clefable might be able to utilise in VGC is that of an Unaware user should Tail Glow Xurkitree become particularly popular. You can read more about Xurkitree and the other Ultra Beasts in our analysis of them here.

Metagross

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Metagross suffered a dip in usage between VGC 13 and VGC 15, but the lowered power level and absence of other steel types such as Heatran and Aegislash may make 2017 Metagross’s year for a comeback. Its Clear Body ability allows Metagross to prevent Intimidate users from dropping its impressive attack stat, which may end up being a very useful ability with a few very viable Intimidate users in the format. With the absence of move tutors, it does lose access to coverage in the form of Ice Punch and Thunder Punch, as well as Iron Head, and must therefore rely on Meteor Mash for its powerful Steel type STAB move.

Assault Vest has the potential to be an extremely viable option on Metagross, however, it is not limited to this, as it is also capable of carrying off any manner of sets, including Life Orb, Lum Berry, Choice Band, or even Air Balloon. Typical moves to watch out for include Meteor Mash, Zen Headbutt, Bullet Punch, Hammer Arm, and Earthquake.

Milotic

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Milotic was one of the late-blooming stars of the VGC 2015 format. With its exceptional bulk, solid defensive typing, and access to Intimidate deterrent in the form of its Competitive ability, many might question why it didn’t pick up usage earlier. One thing’s for sure, it won’t be overlooked early in VGC 17. With only a handful of Pokémon with the ability to take advantage of opposing Intimidates in the format, and the notable absence of Bisharp among them, Milotic is undoubtedly the most viable of the bunch. That said, the loss of Icy Wind should not be understated going into the new format. This loss of speed control options greatly reduces Milotic’s utility, however it shouldn’t be enough to wipe it out of the metagame entirely.

Standard Milotic sets in 2015 featured Sitrus Berry or Maranga Berry, typically with Scald, Icy Wind, Recover, and Protect for the move set. The aforementioned absence of Icy Wind may lead to Ice Beam being the likely replacement on the set.

Garchomp

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Garchomp was a powerhouse of the 2014 format. With excellent stats in attack, speed, and defences, as well as powerful STAB moves in the form of Dragon Claw and Earthquake, what you see is what you get. It dropped off in usage in the transition to VGC 15, as Landorus-T took over as the premier Ground type, but with its absence from the new format, Garchomp looks set to take its crown back. Its Dragon typing may end up being something of a liability, as many predict Fairy types to be omnipresent in the new format. However, this is very unlikely to be enough to force Garchomp to be anything short of high tier in VGC 17.

In past formats, Garchomp has utilised a number of items, most notably Lum Berry and Life Orb, the latter of which picked up popularity of a set with Substitute instead of Rock Slide late in VGC 14. Typical move sets include Dragon Claw and Earthquake and Protect with either Rock Slide or Substitute in the final slot, but when playing against Garchomp, you shouldn’t disregard Rock Tomb, Draco Meteor, or even Poison Jab for those best-of-one games.

Trevenant

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Trevenant was something of a fringe pick for this analysis. Though seemingly on paper it is in a bracket just below the other Pokémon in this analysis in terms of power level, its utility within the format comes less so from its inherent power level, and instead from the niche created by the lack of other Trick Room users in the VGC 2017 format. With the absence of the likes of Cresselia, Gothitelle, and Gardevoir from the format, opportunity for somewhat less powerful Trick Room users is likely to arise. There are still a few solid users remaining in the format, with Trevenant and Porygon2 among the more notable of the returning cast. Oranguru is the only real addition to the list of somewhat viable TR setters from the new generation, so chances are that Trevenant might make an appearance once again.

Trevenant garnered some popularity back in 2014, but was mostly outclassed by the likes of Gothitelle and Gardevoir. With its ability; Harvest, Sitrus Berry is a mainstay on any Trevenant set. Its moves typically consist of Trick Room, Will-O-Wisp, and some combination of Leech Seed, Horn Leech, Wood Hammer, Phantom Force and Shadow Claw rounding out the set.

Salamence

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Regular Salamence was all but absent in VGC 15, as it was both crippled and outperformed by the presence of more powerful Pokémon, notably the likes of Sylveon, Thundurus, and Landorus-T. With the likes of Milotic and the Tapu brigade available in VGC 17, Salamence’s best role is not immediately clear. Its lack of access to Tailwind in Pokémon Sun and Moon leaves the prospect of a more supportive set looking grim, and it seems as though Salamence’s best option may still be the fast and powerful Choice Scarf or Choice Specs role it tended to perform in VGC 2014.

Salamence does benefit from having a wide array of attacking options available to it, with the likes of Draco Meteor, Dragon Pulse, Fire Blast, Flamethrower, Hydro Pump, Rock Tomb, and Stone Edge all viable options on one of the aforementioned Scarf or Specs sets. It also has the move pool to support a physically based set, with the likes of Dragon Claw, Earthquake, and Brick Break, though the viability of such a set would likely be determined by a very specific niche in the format.

Overall, don’t expect Salamence to be quite as powerful as it was in 2014, but don’t write it off altogether.

Scizor

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One man’s loss is another man’s gain, and just as Salamence and Garchomp may lose out from the increase in viable Fairy types, Scizor may profit greatly. Though it only saw niche usage in both 2014 and 2015, the absence of competing steel types in the form of Bisharp, Aegislash, and Heatran may allow Scizor to return to its former glory. It’s not all plain sailing for the Bug-type though, as with the absence of move tutors comes the loss of Bug Bite; Scizor’s best Bug-type move. Furthermore, it’s reliance of priority moves, particularly Bullet Punch, may become an exploitable weakness in 2017, as the introduction of Tapu Lele and its Psychic Terrain allows such moves to be blocked completely. Scizor does get access to Feint, however, which may go up in value in 2017 as it allows its partner Pokémon to use a Z-move without potentially wasting it on a Protect, as Z-moves only deal 25% of their damage to a Pokémon using protect.

Scizor’s greatest assests are its solid typing, as well as its combination of the Technician ability with the likes of Bullet Punch. Typical Scizor sets run Bullet Punch, X-Scissor and Protect, with Swords Dance being a very common 4th move. Life Orb is its most common item, with Lum Berry and Choice Band being possible alternatives. Watch out for possible coverage moves such as Brick Break and Aerial Ace, as well as Iron Head as an option to get around Psychic Terrain.

Gyarados

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Gyarados’s well rounded base stats make it a highly versatile Pokémon capable of performing a wide array of roles. Another solid Intimidate user, Gyarados lost remarkably little with the removal of move tutors in Pokémon Sun and Moon. It still has access to support moves such as Thunder Wave and Taunt, and solid offensive coverage courtesy of Waterfall, Earthquake, Ice Fang, Crunch and Stone Edge.

In past formats, both supportive sets and offensive sets (typically run with a focus on Dragon Dance) have seen some usage. Supportive sets tend to utilise the likes of Thunder Wave and Taunt, often using a Sitrus Berry or even Rocky Helmet. The more offensive sets tend to focus on setting up with Dragon Dance, and using Waterfall as a primary STAB move with Ice Fang or Earthquake as coverage. These variants prefer items such as Life Orb or Lum Berry as primary options. Another interesting side-note is that Gyarados can now use Z-move Splash to gain +3 attack in a single turn, which may be powerful enough to warrant a set on its own.

Whether or not both of these Gyarados sets is viable remains to be seen, but due to the sheer versatility of the Pokémon, it’s hard to imagine a world in which it doesn’t find itself a niche in the format.

Honorable Mentions

This analysis was limited to 10 Pokémon that are in an interesting position competitively, or show promise. Here are some others that almost made the cut:

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  • Bigby

    Good stuff – Arcanine caught my eye early in the data mine as a standout Intimidate-er and Fairy counter as well…Burn Up is the icing on the cake. Gyarados should be an easier Intimidate user to spec up though with all of Arcanine’s egg moves…I bet it will have more usage in the early-meta as people scramble to put their teams together. As a VGC spectator it should be a lot of fun to watch!