Since January, a number of sweeping changes have occurred in the VGC 17 metagame. Pokébank brought with it new toys, such as Tailwind Drifblim and Curse Gigalith, both of which saw great success throughout the months of February and March. These months brought with them a number of high stakes tournaments, including the ONOG Invitational and Oceania International, as well as an array of Regional Championships. Not everything changed, however, as Arcanine, Tapu Koko and Garchomp retained their places among the most successful Pokémon in the format.
This analysis will take into account tournaments of Regional level or higher that took place between 1/2/17 and 31/3/17. This includes the following:
- Anaheim Regionals (19/2/17)
- ONOG Pokémon Invitational (26/2/17)
- Collinsville Regionals (5/3/17)
- Sheffield Regionals (5/3/17)
- Oceania Internationals (12/3/17)
- São Paulo Challenge (19/3/17)
- Malmö Regionals (19/3/17)
- Battle Road Gloria National Convention (19/3/17)
- Oregon Regionals (26/3/17)
- Buenos Aires Regionals (26/3/17)
|Top 15 Pokémon by Usage|
|Pokémon Name||Times Used (Out of 154)||% Of Teams|
|Tapu Koko||85||55.19% ↑|
|Tapu Lele||54||35.06% ↑|
|Tapu Fini||51||33.12% ↓|
Arcanine is easily the best fire type Pokémon in the current format as it has many characteristics that make it strong and unique. The fact that Steel types are so important in this format ensures that many players add Arcanine to their teams almost immediately during teambuilding, as it is such a powerful answer to Kartana and Celesteela. It’s main selling points are the access to the Intimidate ability, support moves like Will-o-Wisp and Snarl, and having overall great stats, which allow it to be played both defensively and offensively.
Defensive Arcanine usually runs Will-o-Wisp and Snarl in order to lower the amount of damage its teammates take, which is fantastic when your game plan involves setting up with one of your other Pokémon, such as Tapu Fini, Gyarados, etc. These bulky Arcanines sometimes carry other support moves like Roar, Morning Sun, and even Toxic, which help dealing with more specific strategies. Roar is used mainly against Trick Room, as it prevents it from going up, but is also very solid against teams that rely on setting up their Pokémon to win, including Eevee and Porygon Z, which lose their stat boosts when they are forced off the field. The Morning Sun and Toxic set is also a very threatening one as it allows Arcanine to deal with Pokémon that would normally have an easy time playing against it, like Porygon2, Gastrodon, and Snorlax. Arcanine can Toxic all of those and cut the amount of HP each one heals each turn, and even though it still loses 1 on 1 to Snorlax, it can win against Porygon2, non-Fissure Gastrodon, and others that more standard Arcanine sets would normally lose to.
Offensive Arcanine, like its defensive counterpart, is also very threatening to most teams, but for different reasons. Its 110 Attack stat combined with Flare Blitz allows it to do solid damage to everything that doesn’t resist Fire-type moves, and since it has access to Wild Charge, it can also threaten Water-type Pokémon, as it is able to 1 hit KO Gyarados and 2 hit KO Tapu Fini and Araquanid. The 4th move on offensive Arcanines is usually Extreme Speed, however, Bulldoze is also an option to consider as it gives some speed control to its teammates.
In terms of items, most Arcanine run pinch berries, even the offensive ones, as the increased longevity is valuable on a Pokémon that is often extremely important to its team. The combination of Intimidate, Will-o-Wisp, Snarl, and moves with recoil, as well as the fact Arcanine is switched in on resisted attacks very often, all make the berry activation very likely to happen. Firium Z and Assault Vest are also relatively common items on Arcanine, especially on offensive ones, so it’s always good to keep that in mind when playing against one.
Tapu Koko is a key Pokémon in many team archetypes, offering consistent strong damage against most Pokémon in the format. Its Thunderbolt in Electric Terrain offers neutral damage against 13 of the top 15 Pokémon, with Garchomp and Kartana the only Pokémon resisting Thunderbolt. Despite this, neither Garchomp nor Kartana has a positive match-up against Tapu Koko, with Dazzling Gleam KOing weakened Garchomp and Thunderbolt 2HKOing most variants of Kartana. In this way, Tapu Koko is reminiscent of previous VGC formats’ Kangaskhan, exerting masses of pressure onto key opposing Pokémon, and leaving the opponent unable to switch safely. Tapu Koko is most commonly seen alongside other Pokémon with high usage, including Porygon2 Trick Room teams, on which Koko is generally used to KO Pokémon late game or be a pivot in switching in stronger, slower Pokémon whilst setting up Trick Room.
Tapu Koko has a few viable item options, the most popular of which is Life Orb. However, Choice Specs, Assault Vest, Electrium Z, Normalium Z and Focus Sash have also seen varying degrees of use. As for moves choices, Thunderbolt. Dazzling Gleam and Protect are staples on all non-Choice sets, with the final move usually being Volt Switch, Sky Drop or potentially even Hidden Power. The Normalium Z Tapu Koko features Nature Power being used to switch between Gigavolt Havoc and Twinkle Tackle, the latter of which can only be used if Tapu Fini is switched in to activate Misty Terrain prior to activating the Z move.
Garchomp is one of the most threatening Pokémon in this format, and some players may even regard it as the best Pokémon available in the format. What makes it such a big threat are mainly its fantastic base stats, notably 130 base Attack and 102 base Speed. The combination of these allows Garchomp to launch quick and powerful attacks at its opponents, often using Groundium Z - the most common item on Garchomp to pick up valuable KOs on a range of notable Pokémon, including Arcanine, Muk, Tapu Lele, Gigalith, Kartana, and others.
The only moves that remain staple on Garchomp are Earthquake and Protect, with the other moveslots usually taken up by two of the following: Dragon Claw, Poison Jab, Fire Fang, Rock Slide, Swords Dance or Substitute.
Poison Jab was very common earlier in the season, but Swords Dance has picked up popularity and most players choose to run Rock Slide in the 4th slot. Shoma Honami contributed to the popularity of this set, as he used it to great effect on his ONOG Invitational winning team.
Other items worth mentioning are the Assault Vest and Choice Scarf. Assault Vest was more common earlier in the season, with Miguel Marti de la Torre even winning the London International with it. It has since become much less common, but can still prove effective as Lee Provost showed us after placing in the top 4 of the São Paulo Challenge with an Assault Vest Garchomp.
Choice Scarf is more common than Assault Vest now, especially on online ladders, with its strength coming primarily from the surprise factor. Choice Scarf allows Garchomp to outspeed Pokémon such as Tapu Koko and Pheromosa and pick up surprise 1 hit KOs, which sometimes make it very hard for the opponent to turn the game around. As a result, it’s good to be careful where possible, and suspect the Choice Scarf item when the opposing team has more than one ground-immunity, as Choice Scarf Garchomp appreciates having more than one teammate to use Earthquake alongside.
Kartana has remained popular throughout February and March, despite its initially unimpressive bulk. Its strengths lie in the huge offensive pressure it puts on the field - its 181 Attack makes it extremely hard to contain. Due to this huge Attack stat, Kartana can do a great amount of damage to almost every Pokémon in this format, with the exception of Fire types and Celesteela, as Leaf Blade and Smart Strike are its most common and powerful attacks, however, due to the Attack stat boost it can gain from its Beast Boost ability, even Fire type Pokémon might not be safe from its attacks.
The most common item on Kartana earlier in the season was Focus Sash, following which Ray Rizzo popularised the Assault Vest set which usually ran a fair amount of bulk. Right now the Kartana item worrying many trainers is Scope Lens, an item that was popularised by Rajan Bal, who used it to win the latest online International Challenge, as well as Nick Navarre, who used it to top cut a few events, including the Oceania International. What makes Scope Lens such a good item on Kartana is the fact that Leaf Blade has an increased critical hit ratio of ⅛, which means that combined with Scope Lens, Kartana has a 50% chance to land a critical hit on its opponent (but only when using Leaf Blade or Night Slash). This is incredibly powerful, because it means that Kartana is no longer as hindered by Intimidate due to critical hits ignoring the attack decrease, and some variants of Kartana’s primary counter in the form of Arcanine can even be 2 hit KOd by Leaf Blade upon switch in if both land critical hits.
Other items worth noting are Grassium Z, Fightinium Z, and Choice Scarf, as they allow Kartana to pick up surprise 1 hit KOs such as Bloom Doom on Tapu Fini even after being Intimidated, Bloom Doom 1 hit KOing Garchomp, and neutral All-Out Pummeling having a decent chance of 1 hit KOing Porygon2. The most common moves on the Grassium Z, Fightium Z, Scope Lens and Focus Sash sets are Leaf Blade, Smart Strike and Sacred Sword, however some players choose to replace Smart Strike with Swords Dance or Substitute. As for the Assault Vest and Choice Scarf sets, the most common moves are Leaf Blade, Smart Strike, Sacred Sword and one of the following: Razor Leaf, Night Slash, Guillotine. Even though it seems strange, Razor Leaf is definitely a viable option because in the case that Kartana takes down 2 weakened Pokémon in one attack with Razor Leaf, it will gain 2 stages of increased attack thanks to Beast Boost.
Porygon2 offers some of the best overall stats in the game, when backed by Eviolite. Surviving even some of the strongest Z-Moves as well as double targets usually allows for Porygon2 to guarantee Trick Room when not facing opposing Taunt users or a strong Fighting-Type Pokémon, of which there are very few available in the format. With access to Recover and Toxic, Porygon2 has the potential to set up multiple win-conditions in which the opponent is unable to break through its high defences. Download is also an amazing ability for Porygon2, as it allows it to chip opposing Pokémon into range of Tapu Koko’s Thunderbolt, Araquanid’s Liquidation and many other strong moves usually seen alongside Porygon2. STAB Return has also been rising in usage as of late, being used alongside Ice Beam to ensure both Download boosts are utilised.
Porygon2 is usually seen accompanying Gigalith, Mudsdale or Araquanid, as both provide heavy pressure in Trick Room. Pokémon such as Arcanine and Tapu Koko are often used as supports, with former having access to Will-O-Wisp, Snarl and Intimidate and the latter pressuring the opponent into Protecting so Trick Room can go up, or simply Volt Switching into a Trick Room abuser.
Trick Room, Ice Beam and Recover are seen on nearly all Porygon2, with Toxic, Return and Thunderbolt competing for the last slot. This gives Porygon2 the potential to win in a variety of situations, and all move choices are viable options.
Tapu Lele, just like the other Tapus, has the ability to the active terrain automatically when it is sent out on the field, which is one of the main reasons it is such an important Pokémon on many teams. Psychic boosted by Psychic Terrain coming from a 130 base Special Attack stat is extremely powerful, being able to 1 hit KO Pokémon like Tapu Koko, non bulky Arcanine, and numerous others, so when combined with an item like Life Orb or Choice Specs, Tapu Lele becomes a Pokémon that is extremely hard for the opponent to ignore. Another incredibly powerful item on Tapu Lele is Psychium Z as it allows it to launch a 175 base power Shattered Psyche, which, when boosted by Psychic Terrain, will almost certainly 1 hit KO anything that doesn’t resist it, making it one of the strongest Z moves of this format.
Despite all of its offensive pressure, Tapu Lele struggles quite a bit against physical attackers like Garchomp, Arcanine, Muk, and others due to its poor HP and Defense stats, so Intimidate and/or speed control options are more than necessary to play Tapu Lele effectively.
The most common moves on Tapu Lele are Psychic, Moonblast and Taunt, however, some people like using Thunderbolt if their team struggles with Celesteela.
Other items worth mentioning are Choice Scarf and Pinch Berries, with Choice Scarf sets being around since the beginning of the format and berries being more of a recent trend. The Choice Scarf item is used to enable Tapu Lele to threaten Garchomp and Pheromosa more easily, as well as for finishing weakened Pokémon with Dazzling Gleam. Hidden Power Fire is also a move often seen on Scarf Leles as it allows them to 1 hit KO Kartana.
The pinch berry set is not very common but still made appearances here and there after Enosh Shachar used it in the ONOG Invitational. These Tapu Lele are usually very bulky and carry Calm Mind to further increase bulk and offense.
Tapu Fini was originally seen as one of the weaker Tapu Pokémon, but removing opposing Terrains and weakening opposing Tapu allows for a team to have greater ability to safely switch. With access to Calm Mind, Fini can safely survive Tapu Koko Thunderbolts and threaten back with Moonblast, whilst also threatening popular Pokémon such as Arcanine and Garchomp with Muddy Water and Moonblast respectively. Misty Terrain also punishes Pokémon reliant on Toxic and Burn to break down bulkier teams, granting Tapu Fini and its teammates immunity to status and limiting the potential impact of secondary effects. In general, Tapu Fini has spiked in usage due to it promoting defensive and safe play, and being a neutral Pokémon which often rewards the stronger trainer.
Common partners include Arcanine and Kartana, completing the ‘Grass/Fire/Water’ core seen in many formats. Tapu Koko is also a very viable partner for Tapu Fini, with Misty Terrain allowing Tapu Koko’s Nature Power to OHKO Garchomp where Dazzling Gleam would not. Mandibuzz with Psychic Seed has also recently been piloted by Alessio Yuri Boschetto to Top Cut at Sheffield Regionals and Day 2 at the Oceania Internationals, and offers speed control and a wall of bulky Pokémon which is hard for many teams to overcome.
Popular sets for Tapu Fini include Calm Mind, usually with Leftovers or a pinch berry to increase Tapu Fini’s survivability. Choice Specs is another option to increase its damage output, and Swagger + Heal Pulse with Leftovers allows Tapu Fini to support the likes of Porygon2 and Muk, as demonstrated by Luke Curtale in his top 4 finish at the Oceania International. All of these sets playing varying roles, with Calm Mind punishing passive playstyles, Choice Specs outputting a lot of pressure and Swagger Heal Pulse being used to set up partner Pokémon such as Return Porygon2, Muk, Garchomp and many others.
Celesteela is one of two major Steel-Type Pokémon in the format alongside Kartana, and with Steel being such a vital typing, many players will contemplate which of the two they will use in their team. Celesteela offers a Ground Immunity, which both a rare commodity and a valuable one in this format, with Garchomp’s Tectonic Rage being one of the strongest moves in VGC 17. It also allows friendly Garchomp to use Earthquake without damaging its teammate, which can be vaulable in situations where Groundium Z is not available to it. Celesteela’s coverage moves also allow it to play in both offensive and defensive teams, with the base stats to support either role.
Heavy Slam coming from a 999.99kg Pokémon is arguably Celesteela’s best move, and is used on most Physical or mixed sets. Substitute, Protect, Flamethrower and Leech Seed are common on Celesteela’s defensive set, covering Kartana and Steel-weak Pokémon such as Tapu Lele, whilst also having the potential to stall out entire teams once Fire and Electric-Type Pokémon are removed. This set usually utilises the healing through Leftovers or pinch berries, though Wacan Berry has also picked up some usage lately. Each of these options contributes to the longevity of Celesteela, allowing it to switch in safely in many situations.
The offensive Celesteela usually uses Assault Vest and takes advantage of Celesteela’s vast movepool. Moves such as Flamethrower, Air Slash, Earthquake and Giga Drain cover multiple Pokémon at once and make Celesteela a huge threat for teams reliant on super effective attacks on the special attacking side to KO Celesteela.
Snorlax is a Pokémon that many consider top tier this year, and even though it wasn’t very common in the beginning of the format, it has quickly become common and a threat to a lot of teams. Its great bulk and defensive typing mean that 1 hit KOing it is almost impossible, as only strong Fighting-type Pokémon can reliably manage it. On top of that, its very low Speed stat makes it a very strong answer to Trick Room, as it underspeeds every Trick Room sweeper naturally, with the exceptions of Torkoal and Gigalith. Snorlax also has access to the Gluttony ability which means it will consume any berry once its HP falls below 50%, which is extremely powerful in combination with a pinch berry as it makes it very hard to get rid of Snorlax. Curse is often used to increase Snorlax’s damage output and defence, whilst lowering its Speed stat, making it even better against Trick Room teams. After one Curse it is already able to 1 hit KO Tapu Koko with High Horsepower, as well as 2 hit KO many common threats with Return or High Horsepower, including Araquanid, Tapu Lele, Gigalith, Torkoal, Arcanine, and many more. It can recover all the HP it lost by using Recycle to obtain another berry after the original one is consumed, making Snorlax a powerful win-condition in many situations.
Another common way of using Snorlax is with Belly Drum over Curse, which gives it an immediate +6 Attack boost and allows it to 1 hit KO most Pokémon in the format with Return, including Kartana. However, this set usually has to sacrifice High Horsepower or Recycle for Protect, because it has +6 attack the opponent will be forced to focus on taking down Snorlax as fast as possible. Protect is also a solid option to have when your strategy revolves around a teammate copying your boosts with Psych Up - most notably Mimikyu.
Gigalith has recently soared in usage as of late, with players realising how strong it is against opposing weather based teams and Trick Room reliant teams. Araquanid is an extremely strong Pokémon under Trick Room and often threatens KOs on Tapu Koko, Arcanine, Garchomp and many other Pokémon in the top 15. Gigalith alleviates this threat somewhat, not allowing the opponent to mindlessly click Trick Room and exert pressure. Weather teams are similar, with Pelipper, Politoed and Ninetales being unable to pressure Gigalith and its teammates once their weather is overwritten. Rock typing is also relatively rare, with no other Rock Type Pokémon present in the top 15 most used over the past few months.
Pinch berries, Rockium-Z and Assault Vest are Gigalith’s most common items, and all have varying moves. Pinch berry Gigalith usually uses Curse, and with the defence boosts from the Sand and Curse it is extremely difficult for a player to KO Gigalith and mitigates the issue of Rock Slide’s lacklustre base power. Rockium-Z Gigalith will more often than not carry Stone Edge to boost the power of Continental Crush, and seeing Stone Edge on Gigalith is a clear sign that it is Assault Vest or Rockium-Z, as Stone Edge is often forgone on other movesets. Other key moves Gigalith uses includes Wide Guard, Heavy Slam and Earthquake, all of which compete for a slot on pinch berry and Rockium-Z sets.
Alolan Muk has been common since the very beginning of this format, having top-cut several Regionals and Internationals so far. What makes it so good is its Poison/Dark typing accompanied by its solid natural bulk, having no weaknesses outside of Ground type moves. Poison Jab KOs most Tapus in one hit, and Knock Off is a huge help for beating very common Pokémon like Porygon2, Snorlax, Drifblim, etc. Similar to Snorlax, Muk is also known for having the Gluttony ability, holding a pinch berry, and using Curse, making it difficult to KO without losing too many resources in exchange. Many teams rely on Garchomp to keep Muk under control, so having solid answers to the ground-type is a must on any team reliant on Muk.
There aren’t any other common item choices for Muk, however, some people prefer to have other moves over Curse, such as Shadow Sneak, Imprison, and Clear Smog, which helps it to deal with Eevee teams.
Ninetales has three key roles; provide support through Aurora Veil, remove opposing weather and provide a solid answer to Garchomp. Ninetales’s lacklustre special attack stat is extremely obvious in practice, and most users will immediately opt for Aurora Veil over Blizzard damage in the first turn. Thankfully, Aurora Veil is an extremely strong support move, and Ninetales’s low Base Stats can be overlooked. With set-up Pokémon including Belly Drum Snorlax, Swords Dance Garchomp, and Substitute Kartana, Ninetales will often play the supporter role and offer chip damage so its partners can KO the opposing Pokémon.
Ninetales commonly uses Blizzard, Freeze Dry, Aurora Veil and Protect, all of which aid it in achieving its goal of chip damage and ensuring Aurora Veil is set up. Icy Wind and Roar are other moves that have seen some usage, usually taking the place of Protect when used. Focus Sash remains Ninetales’s most effective and popular item, though Light Clay has seen some usage, allowing Aurora Veil to remain active for 3 additional turns.
Gyarados started off as one of the most common Pokémon early in the format, before disappearing almost entirely. It regained usage after the ONOG Invitational and Oceania International, both of which saw Gyarados put in great performances. The main reason to use Gyarados is that it is one of the few Pokémon in this format that can safely switch into Garchomp and immediately threaten it with either a Hydro Vortex or an Ice Fang, and also the fact that it is one of the few solid Pokémon to have access to the Intimidate ability.
Gyarados is a Pokémon that can quickly turn games around if it has the chance to set up with Dragon Dance, however, it can struggle quite a bit against some common archetypes, as it usually needs speed control in its favour in order to be truly effective.
The most common items on it are Waterium Z, Flynium Z, Groundium Z, and Sitrus Berry, and the most common moves are Waterfall, Protect, and Dragon Dance, with the 4th slot usually being Bounce, Earthquake or Waterfall, depending on the item.
Drifblim is a Pokémon whose usage has risen dramatically in the last two months, much of it thanks to Shoma and his ONOG Invitational winning team. Drifblim’s main selling points are its access to Tailwind and the Unburden ability, which means that after its item is consumed (usually Psychic Seed or Misty Seed) its Speed stat doubles. Because of this, it’s almost impossible to prevent Tailwind from being set up. Speed control is very important in pretty much any format so being able to set it up so reliably is a huge boon for the balloon. After Tailwind is set up, Drifblim will usually use Will-o-Wisp or Disable to disrupt the opponent, or chip away their health with Shadow Ball. Some Drifblim choose to run Haze to prevent setup strategies, or Rain Dance/Sunny Day in order to beat opposing weather teams, or simply to boost an ally’s Fire-type or Water-type attack. Destiny Bond has also seen usage in the final moveslot on Aaron Zheng’s Oregon Regionals winning team.
When used in conjunction with Tapu Fini, Misty Terrain can allow Drifblim to use Swagger on its allies to boost their Attack stats without inflicting the Confusion status. This is usually used in conjunction with the likes of Garchomp, Arcanine, or Kartana.
For damage dealing moves, Drifblim usually only has Shadow Ball, however, its low offensive stats can sometimes result in Drifblim becoming dead weight on the field after Tailwind has been set up. Due to Unburden no longer being active if Drifblim is switched out, momentum management can become a huge factor, and knowing when to keep Drifblim in and when to switch it out can become extremely important.
Araquanid is one of the best abusers of Trick Room, with Liquidation backed by its ability; Water Bubble allowing it to deal absurd damage. Araquanid’s typing and Base Stats allow for it to apply pressure onto the opponent at all times, with only two of the top 15 Pokemon being able to OHKO it, and it being able to OHKO over half of the top 15 with Hydro Vortex. Alongside Porygon2, Araquanid can usually remove large threats to any team with a double target, or a single Hydro Vortex, and can throw momentum in the Araquanid user’s favour as they’re forced to switch into a 170 base power Liquidation. Outside of Trick Room Araquanid is still not easy to deal with, as without a Tapu Koko players may be forced to double target it, risking a Protect.
Common Araquanid will always run Liquidation and Protect, with Bug Bite, Lunge, Leech Life, Toxic, Substitute, and Wide Guard all viable options for the final two slots. Bug Bite recently has been rising in usage, mirroring the usage of pinch berries which Araquanid can consume with Bug Bite to heal itself. This is especially useful against Snorlax, as it is left unable to use Recycle once the berry is removed.
Nihilego - 14 top cut appearances (9.09%)
Mandibuzz - 11 top cut appearances (7.14%)
Magnezone - 9 top cut appearances (5.84%)
Buzzwole - 8 top cut appearances (5.19%)
Aerodactyl - 8 top cut appearances (5.19%)
Xurkitree - 8 top cut appearances (5.19%)
Persian-A - 8 top cut appearances (5.19%)
Popularised by 2015 World Champion Shoma Honami in the ONOG Invitational, Drifblim, Tapu Lele and Garchomp have become a prominent core. Drifblim with Unburden and Psychic Seed boosts its speed to over that of even Pheromosa, effectively allowing the user to use Tailwind before the opponent can Taunt or KO Drifblim. From here, Tapu Lele can use its powerful Choice Specs, Life Orb, or Psychium Z boosted Psychic to pick up KO’s on multiple Pokémon, backed by Drifblim’s support. Will-O-Wisp can burn threats to Tapu Lele including Kartana, Garchomp, Muk-A and Gigalith, allowing Tapu Lele to survive longer and continue to deal damage with Psychic. With access to Disable, Drifblim can also ensure that Pokémon reliant on one offensive move, such as Araquanid, Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele are unable to exert as much offensive pressure, and are left dealing subpar damage. Garchomp is also part of this core, and much like Tapu Lele relies on dealing heavy damage under Tailwind. Bulkier Garchomp with either Swords Dance or Substitute is the most popular set and punishes Protects. With few common Pokémon resisting ground-type moves, Earthquake will deal considerable damage against almost every Pokémon on the opponent’s side.
Common partners for this core include Pheromosa, Magnezone, Tapu Koko, Gyarados, Arcanine, amongst others. Pheromosa offers even more offensive pressure alongside Tapu Lele and Garchomp, and creates more situations where the opponent must switch to avoid being KO’d by All-Out Pummelling or High Jump Kick, and thus take powerful hits. Magnezone does a similar job, as Steel and Electric-Type coverage is threatening for opposing Tapus and Water-Type Pokémon. Pokémon which cannot KO Magnezone due to Sturdy will require surviving an attack from Magnezone, and even Fire-Type Pokémon such as Arcanine may struggle with KOing it.
As Drifblim is the only form of speed control, Trick Room is a huge issue for this team. If Trick Room is set up, Araquanid is able to threaten the KO on every opposing Pokémon. This is alleviated somewhat by potential Intimidate support provided by Gyarados or Arcanine, but Drifblim and Tapu Lele, being key Pokémon in this core, may still be KO’d in the process.
Celesteela is also an issue as Garchomp and Tapu Lele cannot deal consistent damage onto it. Heavy Slam threats 2HKOs on Tapu Lele and Drifblim, and without Arcanine or Magnezone KOing Celesteela is too difficult for the primary core to do. Offensive Celesteela with Assault Vest is arguably harder to deal with, as the Attack boosts from Beast Boost can allow it to sweep this entire core given the chance. Burning it with Will-o-Wisp is often this core’s best answer to Celesteela, however, special-attacking variants of Celesteela can easily threaten Drifblim’s teammates even when burned.
Tapu Fini/Kartana/Arcanine is often known as ‘AFK’ and is the most popular Tapu Fini core thus far. These three Pokémon alone cover 5 of the 6 types in both of the ‘Fire/Water/Grass’ core and the ‘Fantasy Core,’ consisting of Fairy/Steel/Dragon typing. Alongside Intimidate, these Pokémon can answer most of the popular team archetypes if played to their potential. The defences of Tapu Fini and support Arcanine, as well as Kartana’s good defensive typing help to offer relatively safe switching, which most other archetypes fail to offer. In tandem with Misty Terrain, this is one of the more neutral teams in terms of match ups, and by limiting RNG factors with Misty Terrain and playing defensively the stronger player will usually win games involving this core. Teams other than AFK often require a more aggressive playstyle, and can rely heavily on reads and avoiding RNG factors to ensure win-conditions remain on the field. If these reads are unsuccessful or unfavourable RNG occurs, a weaker player can potentially take games. This rewarding element is another factor contributing to the continued popularity of this core.
Common partners of this core include Garchomp, Ninetails, Muk-A, Gigalith, Porygon2, Mandibuzz, Persian and Snorlax. Gigalith and Snorlax provide an out to Trick Room and Araquanid, as other than Roar Arcanine this core has no way to stop Trick Room being set up. Araquanid and Porygon2 are able to double target and KO most common AFK members, outside of Tapu Fini. Snorlax with Curse and Gigalith being able to underspeed Araquanid are key in ensuring that it is adequately checked, and doesn’t threaten the rest of the team. Persian has recently risen in usage, with Sebastian Escalante using it to take first seed at the Oceania International as well as first place at the recent Regionals in Buenos Aires using Persian’s Fake Out and Parting Shot support to aid Snorlax and Calm Mind Tapu Fini in setting up. Garchomp is probably the most common partner to this core, as it completes the ‘Fantasy Core’ and has good general synergy with all of AFK.
Snorlax is arguably the biggest threat for AFK, most specifically the combination of Mimikyu and Belly Drum Snorlax. As AFK relies on a defensive playstyle, exerting pressure onto Belly Drum Snorlax is not easy. With Snorlax’s common partner; Mimikyu, Trick Room and Belly Drum from Turn 1 may prove too difficult to stop, and could potentially sweep entire AFK teams if unprepared.
Nihilego applies pressure onto Arcanine and Tapu Fini, both of which are very common Pokémon to lead. Bringing Kartana is often a necessity despite how threatened it may be by opposing Pokémon, and therefore playing around Nihilego’s Beast Boost may pose a difficult challenge for most players, and losing either Arcanine or Tapu Fini will increase Nihilego’s already impressive special attack.
The core of Tapu Koko, Garchomp, Celesteela and Arcanine, also known as “Goodstuffs”, is one of the most common cores in the metagame, having obtained success at real life events as well as the online ladders. These teams usually have 2 of the following Pokémon in the last 2 slots: Mandibuzz, Ninetales, Tapu Lele, Tapu Fini, Snorlax.
There are multiple reasons for this core to be so strong, not least the fact that each individual component of the core has solid base stats and typing, hence the term “goodstuffs”. Tapu Koko and Garchomp together make one of the strongest offensive duos in the format, with Koko able to threaten opposing Tapu Fini, Gyarados, and Celesteela with Life Orb boosted Thunderbolts, while Garchomp tries to setup a Swords Dance or just launch a powerful Tectonic Rage. Tapu Koko and Garchomp are also great at stopping Pokémon that beat Arcanine, including Garchomp, Araquanid, Tapu Fini and Gigalith. This allows Arcanine to support them both with Intimidate and handle the Steel types. Finally, there is Celesteela, which not only gives the team a switch in to Ground type attacks, but also solidifies the Tapu Lele and Trick Room matchups, as it can function as a sponge against both and deal solid damage to Tapu Lele.
The remaining 2 slots are usually focused on providing speed control to the team or just improving a few specific matchups, like Rain or Trick Room.
One of the biggest problems this type of team can have is the lack of ways to deal with Trick Room once it is set up, since they usually rely on Taunt coming from one of the Tapus or Mandibuzz to prevent it from going up, which is not always reliable. If it does go up, it relies on defensive switching, which can be difficult against the likes of Araquanid or Gigalith.
Another Pokémon that can be very difficult for these teams to deal with is Gastrodon, since the main core has nothing to heavily damage it besides Tectonic Rage from Garchomp, which can be threatened by Ice Beam.
The sudden increase in usage of Drifblim has also become an issue for this core, it can’t prevent Tailwind from going up and must instead rely on switching to avoid being swept by Tapu Lele and co. These teams sometimes run Mandibuzz alongside Tapu Lele as a speed control option, however, it won’t be able to do much after it is Taunted by a Tapu Lele or 1 hit KOd by Magnezone, which are both very common partners of Drifblim.
This core, like any other “goodstuffs” from previous formats, suffers for being very predictable as well, which is part of the reason some players have chosen to try and use unexpected items and movesets, like Normalium Z/Electrium Z Tapu Koko, Choice Scarf Garchomp, or Assault Vest Arcanine, amongst others.
This core has recently been popularised by Nick Navarre, Nico Davide Cognetta and Ben Kyriakou, all of whom recently Top Cut the Oceania International with this core. Tapu Koko works as an offensive pivot, with Volt Switch to bring in Gigalith for Trick Room mode and Twinkle Tackle to alleviate the Ground-Type issue by immediately removing Garchomp and Krookodile from the field. Arcanine provides support through Intimidate, and is a staple in both the Trick Room and fast modes of this team. Gigalith aids in dealing with Rain and Araquanid, both of which would threaten Tapu Koko and Arcanine under normal circumstances. The ability to switch between both Trick Room and fast offensive modes will often be difficult for the opponent to adapt to, and is the reasoning behind why this team has seen such consistency recently
Popular partners include Gyarados, Kartana, Celesteela and Tapu Lele, all of which provide support for the core. Gyarados provides more Intimidate and a Ground-Immunity, of which this team appreciates given Tapu Koko, Gigalith and Arcanine are all threatened by Ground-Type Pokémon. Kartana and Celesteela provide the Steel-Typing this team requires, somewhat alleviating Tapu Lele weakness and adding general type coverage.
With 3 Ground weaknesses and reliance on Twinkle Tackle to remove Ground Types, Mudsdale and the newfound Tectonic Rage Gastrodon are huge threats for this team. Under Trick Room, opposing Mudsdale and Gastrodon can abuse their naturally low speed stat to threaten KOs onto Tapu Koko, Arcanine and Gigalith, with each of these Pokémon struggling to KO them back. Gyarados and Celesteela are the best outs to this, with both Mudsdale and Gastrodon being unable to deal major damage to either of these Pokémon due to their Flying-Typing.
Tapu Lele, specifically with Choice Scarf, is also dangerous for this team. If the Scarf Tapu Lele underspeeds Tapu Koko, it will be able to threaten masses of damage onto Tapu Koko, Arcanine and Gigalith, as well as any Kartana. As was demonstrated in the set between Nick Navarre and Luke Curtale in the top 8 of the Oceania International, Thunderbolt also threatens Celesteela and Gyarados, and these surprise KOs can be crucial.
The Mimikyu and Snorlax combination is one deserving of fear and respect, with no greater example of its strength than Gavin Michaels’s Anaheim Regionals winning team. There are several ways of playing with Mimikyu + Snorlax teams, a very common strategy is leading with Mimikyu and a Pokémon that has access to a strong Explosion, such as Choice Band Metagross or Silvally, which threaten immediate 1 hit KOs on several common leads, including Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele, allowing Mimikyu to set up Trick Room safely on turn 1. Even in the case that the opponent simply uses Protect with both Pokémon, using Explosion allows Snorlax to come in safely to make use of Trick Room for the maximum number of turns.
Alternatively, simply leading Mimikyu and Snorlax generates a number of possibilities with vastly differing counterplays. For example, on faster Mimikyu variants it is possible to use Z-Destiny Bond to redirect attacks away from Snorlax and set up Belly Drum immediately, whilst also threatening to use Trick Room and Protect. The flexibility of this combination and sheer power of boosted Snorlax makes it extremely feared, and for good reason.
The best way of stopping this combination is simply to deny their setup, or to get rid of their boosts right after they set up. Taunt Mimikyu does a pretty decent job of this, as it can prevent Belly Drum as well as to deal good damage against the opposing Mimikyu. Mandibuzz (or rather just Foul Play in general) is also great against these 2 Pokémon, because if they choose to boost their Attack stats to +6, they will simply be OHKOd by it. Drifblim can also be problematic as it is one of the few Pokémon in this metagame that has can carry Haze, making it able to get rid of all those Attack boosts and allowing allies to deal with the opposing Pokémon more easily. Lastly is Muk, which has access to a strong Knock Off, allowing it to get rid of Snorlax’s berry and so making the Belly Drum sweep far more difficult, since Snorlax can’t even use Recycle to obtain another berry after it has been Knocked Off. Despite this Mimikyu can still copy Snorlax’s boosts with Psych Up should it carry it, so this is far from a perfect answer to the combination.