Hello everyone, welcome to our final article before the London International Championship begins. Today we’re going to be following a similar format to our previous interview-article, but this time we will take a closer look and instead focus on a more comprehensive response from Guan Yang Ze (Level 51) . Unlike our last article which focused on comparing multiple opinions on common strategies, this article aims to cover a wider array of answers for each question. We hope that both articles will serve you well not only in preparation for what to expect at London, but will help you to learn more about the format as a whole!
Question 1 – Top 3 Pokémon
From your experiences in the format so far, what would you say are the top 3 Pokémon to look out for?
The first Pokemon which immediately comes to my mind is definitely Celesteela, and while I’m sure most readers would know what it does I’ll recap: Celesteela packs amazing bulk with 120 Base Power, STAB, Heavy Slams hitting more than half the format. It is capable of packing up endgames by itself with its access to Leech Seed, and frequent use of Substitute and Leftovers – ensuring it can grind down any opponent given enough time. Celesteela also has access to the newly introduced ‘Beast Boost’ ability, which allows it to boost its highest stat by +1 when taking a KO. While this isn’t integral to Celesteela’s success, it is by no means a weak ability, as by boosting either its respectable Attack stat or its impressive Defences Celesteela can completely snowball your team’s momentum.
Alolan Marowak is second on the list, and is notable for its great Ghost/Fire offensive STABs which are often complemented by Bonemerang for Ground-type coverage. It has a unique interaction with its item in Thick Club, which raises its mediocre Base 80 stat to sky-high levels (equivalent to Base 212). It’s notable that Alolan Marowak is one of the few Pokemon capable of consistently OHKOing Celesteela regardless of the latter’s EV spread, which definitely contributes to its high standing. As well as this, its Lightning Rod ability helps give it a great matchup into offensive threats like Tapu Koko and Xurkitree – while helping it synergise with partners like Gyarados and Celesteela whom it can protect. Marowak also performs admirably under Trick Room which gives it many opportunities to abuse its enormous attacking power.
The third Pokemon is a much tougher choice — there are a bunch of Pokemon I think are great but not necessarily top-tier like Celesteela or Alolan Marowak. One Pokemon that I think comes very close is, surprisingly, Tapu Koko — surprising because after generating so much hype before its stats and movepool were released, its actual stat distribution and movepool (notably, the lack of Play Rough) caused a lot of disappointment. Many still lament it as a prime example of “what could have been”. Regardless, I think its great natural speed is excellent for a format where it outruns basically everything, and Electric Terrain does a great job of boosting its base 95 Special Attack to at least usable levels. Once again, a huge reason Tapu Koko is so notable is its ability to OHKO Celesteela, though perhaps not as consistently as Alolan Marowak. It remains, however, one of the top Pokemon in the format in my estimation, and is definitely worth respect despite how poor it appears at first glance.*
*source: I lost to it a lot
Question 2 – Speed Control
How important do you think speed control will be in the format, given that there aren’t nearly as many options as there were in previous years?
As someone who has always been ridiculously bad at utilising speed control options not named Thunder Wave or Tailwind, I find this question really difficult to answer. I’ll start with Trick Room, which I suppose is obviously the most viable option: Trick Room is honestly pretty scary this generation, especially for most of the teams I’ve been using. The ability to combine Torkoal—one of the most self-contained TR attackers I can think of in recent years—with a fast Sun mode in the form of Lilligant makes SemiRoom such an attractive option, similar perhaps to 2013 Rain. I’m not entirely sure about that last comparison but it makes me sound smart so I’ll leave it in.
Regardless, Trick Room is a really powerful option. We have a whole bunch of pretty strong and slow picks — Alolan Marowak, which I already pointed out as a S-tier pick, Torkoal, which is surprisingly capable of dishing out big damage onto most non-Rain teams without much support (and even more damage with Oranguru or Lilligant support), Araquanid, Snorlax… the list goes on, I think you get the idea. Overall, Trick Room has always been a very strong means of speed control at the higher tables, but I think Trick Room is especially likely to make its presence felt in this year’s format. Coupled with the presence of multiple strong Trick Room setters — Oranguru, Porygon2 and maybe even Alolan Exeggutor with Z-Trick Room come to mind — even full Trick Room teams may manage to not be relegated to low-ladder play.
In terms of using Tailwind, I’m rather sad that I can’t just slap Tailwind on actually usable Pokemon and go to town with them; however, I think of all the current Tailwind users, Aerodactyl appears to have some sort of potential, with access to Taunt to stop various cheesy shenanigans and, of course, STAB on the best move in the game. I’ve been trying out a friend’s Aerodactyl Tailwind team, and off a first impression of it, it seems like one of if not the most solid option I’ve used so far in this format. Pelipper is another option, as it provides teams with a decent answer to Celesteela and Marowak, and also offers speed control. While Tailwind isn’t the main reason you’d use Pelipper, it definitely doesn’t hurt it.I’m personally pretty excited for what Tailwind could do in this format.
Thunder Wave is notably less prevalent in VGC17 than in previous formats, but I honestly lack the metagame knowledge to explain why this would possibly be the case; I assume it’s because most of the best Pokemon with access to Thunder Wave already have their sets filled with four other moves far preferable to Thunder Wave. The nerf in speed reduction, the lowered accuracy of the move, and the frequent presence of Marowak also obviously hurt it a lot.
And haha, what is Icy Wind? On to the next question please…
Question 3 -Weather
How common do you think weather teams (Ninetales/ Torkoal/ Pelipper/ Gigalith etc) will be, and why?
The only weather I’ve seen being played a lot is probably Torkoalwith the semi-standard combination of Lilligant/ Oranguru . I gave it a shot myself on the ladder and it was definitely rather scary, plowing through a lot of not so well-built teams on the ladder. Unfortunately for Torkoal, teams at Internationals in London will probably be better built, and unless the user of such a team hits all his Sleep Powders on the day of competition, it seems unlikely that a dedicated Torkoal team will go better than x-3 in my opinion.
Rain teams — or rather, teams with rain on them — are another interesting build, I feel. Rain seems like it plays a lot like 2013 Sand, where it’s used not so much to be abused by any other members of the team (especially due to the lack of significant Swift Swim users like Ludicolo or Kingdra), but rather to stop opposing weathers. I’ve run into people using Politoed to shut down Torkoal leads, for example, where no other Pokémon on the team other than Politoed itself really benefits all that much from the Rain. There is also the combination of Pelipper and Golduck which has seen some use recently. The idea is that Golduck will fire off Z-Move Hydro Pumps (185BP) and provide damage threat, while Pelipper can either attack or set up Tailwind to help sweepers in the back. The strategy seems ok, and can mow through unprepared teams fairly easily (Golduck can even OHKO Tapu Lele with Hydro Vortex), though it struggles versus some increasingly popular Pokemon like Gastrodon, and Goodra, and it can be awkward to play vs other weather teams.
As for Sand and Hail — do people use these?. The most threatening I’ve really seen Sand be so far this year is with Bright Powder Sand Veil Garchomp, cutting previously perfectly accurate moves down to 72% accuracy, though you’re not guaranteed to get any misses of course. That becomes even less effective when you consider how Sand is constantly being disrupted by other weathers. Lycanroc is no Excadrill, either — it’s significantly weaker, has a poorer STAB and doesn’t really make all that much use of Sand Rush anyway. Gigalith’s only use appears to be as a Trick Room attacker of sorts, and while it does ok, there are better options.
Hail has it slightly better off maybe, with a decently fast setter in Alolan Ninetales which can attempt to spam Blizzards before its reign is once again dramatically and tragically cut short by everyone’s favourite hot tortoise, the ubiquitous Alolan Marowak or Wide Guard Celesteela, which are all far too common to just ignore. Aurora Veil is the main option that Hail teams present, which can be especially useful to keep setup Pokemon alive. However, Ninetales often goes down so soon after setting it up that its questionable how useful it really is. I’ve also had some trouble with Alolan Sandslash flinching all my Pokemon with surprisingly powerful Icicle Crashes, Iron Heads and Rock Slides. Maybe Z-Conversion Porygon-Z using Blizzard a lot could be an issue too, but otherwise Hail doesn’t appear to be a very strong option. That is, unless you hit almost every flinch and freeze roll you make in a day.
Question 4 – Terrains
With the Tapus being popular and all having access to terrain setting abilities, what are your thoughts on the Terrains in general, and how do you think they will affect the game?
Terrains seem like how weather was in 2014 or even 2013: they provide a nice starting point from which to build a team, but your whole team can’t rely on the Terrain and you’re not super disadvantaged if you don’t have a terrain-setter (Tapu) on your team. The only disadvantage that I think comes from not playing a terrain is the disadvantage of not having a Tapu on your team. Beyond this comparison, Terrains arguably have even less of an effect on the field than weather, since they’re not outright “abusable” like weather was. Having conflicting Tapus on your team also doesn’t seem to be as bad for a team as one might think at first. With this in mind, I’ll recap what the Terrains do and which Pokemon work well in each.
Grassy Terrain is brought about by Tapu Bulu, and has a few added effects. Firstly, within the terrain, Grass-type moves used by grounded Pokemon are boosted by 50%, which mostly means that Tapu Bulu’s Wood Hammers and Horn Leeches are going to do some crazy damage. The second part is the every grounded Pokemon on the field – yes, even your opponent’s – will receive a small heal (1/16) at the end of each turn – essentially giving grounded Pokemon a free leftovers. Finally, the more interesting part of Grassy Terrain is that it halves the damage from Bulldoze, Magnitude, and EARTHQUAKE. This last part is pretty great because Earthquake has been a staple of VGC for about as long as doubles has existed, and being able to (fairly) consistently reduce its damage has pretty big implications for the metagame. Notably, due to a lack of partners to Earthquake next to (limited to mostly Gyarados and Celesteela), and the looming threat of Tapu Bulu to stop your damage output, Earthquake is in a much weaker position than it ever has been before. On top of that, Ground-Types often struggle to find usable STAB moves outside of Earthquake, so in some ways the type as a whole can be managed by positioning your Terrain. Pokemon like Nihilego, Xurkitree, and Alolan Marowak, who all have great damage output but a glaring Ground-type weakness, are the ones who can take advantage of this.
Next is Electric Terrain, brought on by the somehow underrated but also overhyped Tapu Koko. Electric Terrain, like Grassy, also raises the power of Electric-type moves from grounded Pokemon by 50%. Its secondary effect is reasonably useful, in that it prevents grounded Pokemon from falling asleep, both from enemy moves and their own Rest. This seems to help out matchups vs teams like Torkoal+Lilligant that can rely on a fast Sleep Powder, or Eevee/PorygonZ+Smeargle teams that can rely on Spore. Theres also its interaction with the ‘Surge Surfer’ ability of Alolan Raichu, which doubles Raichu’s speed when in Electric Terrain – making it outspeed every relevant Choice Scarfed Pokemon in the format. Outside of these interactions however, Electric Terrain is mostly there to make Tapu Koko feel better about its relatively average offensive stats.
Misty Terrain is brought on by Tapu Finiand is somewhat of a letdown compared to the others. It notably makes sure that grounded Pokemon cannot be effected by status conditions at all, and it also reduces damage taken from Dragon-type attacks by 50%. These are ok interactions, but most importantly there is no boost to Fairy-type moves, leaving Tapu Fini with not a lot to do other than replace existing terrains. Pokemon that could benefit from this could be things like Metagross or fast, special sweepers – as their offensive capabilities and their speed are unable to be altered by Burn or Paralysis.
The only terrain that I feel really changes things up is Psychic Terrain from Tapu Lele, due to its blocking of priority moves in addition to the 50% boost to Psychic-type moves. This closes off a couple of traditional support options or damaging moves. Fake Out, for example, is a crutch which I rely on a lot; often in 2014 or 2015 I’d blindly lead Kangaskhan into battles thinking “okay I can flinch something I guess lol”. I started 2017 doing the same thing with Persian, but due to the prevalence of Tapu Lele precisely whenever I put Persian on my team, I’ve been forced to abandon it (no thanks to the Global Link’s temporary ban on Parting Shot). Good partners in Psychic Terrain are things like Pheromosa, Nihilego, and Ninetales – who all share weaknesses to priority moves that can be blocked.
Besides Psychic Terrain, though, I’m pretty happy with how the Terrains are balanced — it seems that for once Game Freak managed to control themselves from going all-out on making up a gimmick and boosting it to insane levels (“haha weathers are fun, what if we made them, like, a thousand times better?”). Did I answer the question? I’m not sure myself.
Question 5 – Sleeper Pick
If you had to pick one Pokémon you think is underrated that will do well at London, what would it be?
This is a tough one, haha. There are a bunch of Pokemon I think aren’t being taken seriously enough right now. I guess the most exciting and spectacular answer I could give to this question is probably Eevee A lot of teams I’ve seen or faced (or used!) tend not to have strong answers to Eevee, since no one really considers Eevee during teambuilding anyway. We’ve seen Eevee teams reach decently high placings on the PS ladder as well, so they do have some degree of consistency to them if built well. I can definitely see an Eevee team going x-3 or even x-2 if they get a lucky schedule, though they might not get far through the Top Cut even if they do make it in.
If you’re looking at more solid definitions of “doing well”, I think (or certainly hope) that we’ll have the pleasure of seeing an Araquanid in the Top Cut of London, with its three-abilities-in-one-ability leading to a surprisingly good damage output off Liquidation, coupled with its access to important support moves like Wide Guard. Doubling the damage of water type moves makes its base 70 Attack stat insanely more valuable than it appears at first, and an immunity to burn does a lot to help keep its damage output consistent. The most common item i’ve seen is the Waterium Z, but we’ll see what players have opted for in London – as items like Mystic Water or Life Orb allow Araquanid to hit solid offensive benchmarks rather than relying on a one-turn-nuke.
That’s it for now! We hope that this edition of Trainer Talk has given people an idea of what to expect from the early metagame. Granted, London will bring about some change, so stay tuned for our post-London analyses as well. With that being said, we wish good luck to everyone participating at the London International Championships this weekend!