Trainer Talk: First Impressions of VGC20

Ultra series is coming to a close, and the release of a brand new Generation of Pokémon games in Sword and Shield has caused much excitement. Many VGC players are eager to explore the next format—the allure of so many new Pokémon to play around with is tough to resist! What are their first impressions of VGC20? How will they approach the game with newly-introduced features and mechanics such as Dynamax or the Speed stat being recalculated mid-turn? We’ve interviewed a few of our top players to see where they stand!


  • Eduardo “Edu” Cunha: a storied Portugese player, whose greatest accomplishments include winning an International Championship and making semifinals at the World Championships.
  • Calvin Foster: Calvin is a player from the UK and recently became the Paris Special Event Champion, in addition to top cutting Sheffield Regionals—undoubtedly someone to keep an eye on!
  • Stephen Mea: a player from the US, Stephen took it all at the Toronto Regionals and made top 8 at the World Championships during the VGC19 season.

Topics Covered

  • Top threats
  • Interesting-to-use Pokémon
  • Popular archetypes
  • Dynamax
  • New items
  • New Speed mechanics

What are some Pokémon that strike you as notable potential threats and why?

Dragapult and Corviknight are two of the new Pokémon that I’m expecting to be fairly common,” says Edu. He goes on to say that they’re both good Pokémon to Dynamax, but with very different strengths: Dragapult excels at dealing damage, whereas Corviknight excels at sticking around. 

“They both have one thing in common, which is the helpfulness of their types’ Max Moves’ side effects, but Corviknight has an edge in that aspect. In fact, some might say it’s that very edge that makes it such a threat.” Edu is correct in mentioning the side effects of their Max Moves: Dragapult’s Max Phantasm and Max Wyrmwind can be used to drop both opposing Pokémon’s Defense or Attack stats, respectively; potentially useful, provided your opponent isn’t dissuading it with Abilities such as Mirror Armor or Defiant. Conversely, Corviknight’s Max Steelspike raises its already-impressive Defense stat (as well as that of its partner!), whereas Max Airstream boosts the Speed of the Pokémon on its side of the field. These two effects are less situational.

Calvin, much like Edu, mentions Dragapult before any other Pokémon. “Due to its part-Ghost typing and Clear Body Ability, Dragapult can’t be Faked Out or Intimidated. That makes this Pokémon a force to be reckoned with and tough to slow down.” Although Calvin notes its impressive base 120 Attack stat first, he also mentions its serviceable base 100 Special Attack in addition to it: “With STAB attacks such as Shadow Ball and Draco Meteor, and coverage moves such as Fire Blast / Flamethrower and Scald, I can see a lot of players opting for specially-oriented sets.”

Also like Edu, Calvin goes on to bring up Corviknight. “What makes this regional bird interesting is its great Flying/Steel typing and a brand new Ability in Mirror Armor. This Ability bounces back stat lowering effects, in turn deterring Intimidate users and Speed-decreasing moves like Icy Wind.” Calvin points out that a Dynamaxed Corviknight, which has double the HP it’d normally have, is very difficult to knock out thanks to its impressive bulk.

Finally, Calvin mentions a somewhat underlooked Pokémon: Hatterene. “Hatterene has a familiar typing in Psychic/Fairy and brings with it access to the ability Magic Bounce. The reason this stands out to me is because Hatterene learns Trick Room, and is therefore immune to moves like Taunt and Roar, which are commonly used to stop Trick Room.” When paired with Indeedee-F’s Psychic Terrain Ability and Follow Me support, Calvin says, Trick Room is almost unstoppable. “Once Trick Room goes up, Hatterene can rip through a team with Psychic Terrain-boosted attacks.”

Stephen is the third of our interviewees to mention Dragapult, noting that its base 142 Speed is impressive enough that it might as well be its own form of speed control. He also brings up an oldie-but-goodie in Excadrill. “With Sand support (possibly set by itself now), Excadrill can return to its outspeed-and-hit-everything ways.” Indeed, should it need to, Excadrill can now set up its own Sandstorm by using Max Rockfall.

What are some Pokémon you think could be interesting to use?

“The new fossils look very unique and powerful, especially with their signature moves,” is Edu’s response. Although there are four fossils in total, he’s likely referring to the speedier Dracovish and Dracozolt: the former with the signature move Fishious Rend, a Water-type 85 BP attack which is further boosted by Dracovish’s Strong Jaw Ability, and the latter with Bolt Beak, an Electric-type 85 BP attack. Both of these attacks double in power if the user moves first, giving them effective Base Powers of 170!

Edu then mentions a somewhat unexpected Pokémon: “I’m also interested in seeing how well Copperajah can work, since its damage output seems to be fairly menacing.” The sluggish Steel-type elephant Pokémon is perhaps best suited to a Trick Room team, but under the right conditions, it could certainly wreak havoc—especially given its base 130 Attack combined with the Ability Sheer Force. 

Calvin also brings up Dracovish, mentioning how scary its Strong Jaw-boosted, potentially 170 BP STAB attack is to face. With a Choice Scarf, he notes, Dracovish can ensure Fishious Rend will double in power against most foes. “It makes Dracovish a Pokémon to be respected, seeing as it threatens to OHKO a large portion of the metagame.”

The next Pokémon Calvin mentions is the Dark/Fairy Pokémon, Grimmsnarl. Its Ability, Prankster, makes it especially noteworthy. “With access to moves like Fake Out, Taunt, Thunder Wave, Fake Tears, and both Screens, Grimmsnarl makes quite the candidate for a strong support option.” He goes on to say that it’s no slouch in the offense department, either; with its base 120 Attack, it can threaten big damage! 

Thunder Wave may become a staple move for Grimmsnarl, according to Calvin. “Prankster Thunder Wave may prove to be rather irritating to face, due to the updated Speed mechanics we’ve received in Generation 8. It will instantly cut the target’s Speed in half, making it a great way to utilise speed control.”

Stephen has some rather unconventional picks: “Cinderace and Rillaboom’s abilities are both interesting.” While neither Pokémon’s Hidden Ability is obtainable yet, they will be sure to shake up the metagame once (or if) they’re released. Cinderace’s HA, Libero, functions exactly like Protean, whereas Rillaboom’s HA, Grassy Surge, would allow it to double as a solid pivot (with access to moves such as Fake Out and U-turn) and terrain control option.

“Perhaps Galarian Weezing can be of use if an Ability-dependent strategy gains popularity,” Stephen also suggests. Some players have experimented with Galarian Weezing to shut down dominant early-meta strategies such as Beat Up + Justified Arcanine, and the Pokémon has already won a sizable Galar Weekly tournament, so Stephen’s assumption seems quite on-the-mark.

What are some archetypes you expect to see during the early metagame and why?

Edu tells us a fact every aspiring VGC20 player should be aware of: “Sand is already basically everywhere.” The combination of Excadrill and Tyranitar is proving to be more popular than ever. “Weather in general seems to excel in abusing Dynamax, as not only are they able to get insane amounts of damage off very quickly, they also can help winning the weather war through the side effects of Max Moves.”

Calvin agrees that weather will be dominant, and also picks out the Sand core of Excadrill as Tyranitar as being especially common. “With the ability to Dynamax and make use of its great Steel/Ground coverage, Excadrill becomes incredibly threatening in Sand. This pair is commonly supported by the likes of Braviary, Sylveon, Rotom-Wash, and Arcanine.” 

However, Calvin also brings up another popular weather in Rain: “Rain cores are also likely to be tested in the format, with Pelipper having many partners to utilise its Drizzle ability. Ludicolo, Seismitoad, and Barraskewda are Pokémon you’ll likely find being run next to Pelipper.” Calvin notes that Max Geyser allowing these Swift Swim Pokémon to set up Rain once more, if needed, is yet another point in its favor.

Stephen’s response is concise, but in line with what other interviewees have said: “Weather and hard speed control will likely dominate early on, as usual.” However, he’s also interested in hard set-up as a strategy, as he feels Max Moves may facilitate it. With so many Max Moves granting its users beneficial boosts, it’s tough to disagree with his conclusion.

What are your thoughts regarding the new Dynamax mechanics?

“It’s still a bit too early to really know for sure,” says Edu. “I’ve honestly been enjoying some of them, but it’s hard not to wonder how healthy they truly are. They get my temporary approval.” Many players likely share his concern regarding whether or not the mechanic will turn out to be healthy for the metagame, but on the whole, his first impression seems tentatively positive.

Calvin finds Dynamax to be fresh and exciting. “It allows for a lot of creativity when teambuilding and it offers a lot more potential options when making decisions in-game,” he says. However, he’s also worried about the side-effects of certain Max Moves, such as Max Knuckle and Max Phantasm, as raising offensive stats or lowering defenses can easily cause a snowball effect. “It makes it extremely difficult to make defensive swaps, as you’re punished on the switch-in.”

The health boost is also a concern when combined with Max Moves. “Dynamax Pokémon have a huge advantage in being able to knock out non-Dynamaxed Pokémon. I don’t believe that Mega Pokémon or even Z Moves had such a polarising impact.” But Calvin doesn’t believe Dynamaxed Pokémon are unstoppable: “A reliable check to offensive Dynamax Pokémon could be the use of status or stat decreasing moves such as Will-O-Wisp or Snarl, or even the use of your own Dynamax Pokémon. I’m very eager to see what other checks people develop over the course of the season for these oversized beasts.”

Stephen, like the others, enjoys Dynamax as a mechanic. “I personally really liked Z-Moves, and I thought Megas were OK, so this seems to be a happy medium.” He’s uncertain about how Dynamaxing will affect game balance, however. “I want to hold tight on how balanced some of the side effects are (constantly changing weather is kinda nutty at first glance), but it seems fine so far.”

What are your first impressions of the new items?

Edu thinks the new items are cute, but niche. “They open up creative paths for strategies, but don’t seem to bring anywhere near the same impact as the FIWAM Berries in Gen 7.” Indeed, FIWAM Berries dominated VGC for a long time, but with the nerf to their effectiveness in Gen 8—they now only restore 33% of a Pokémon’s HP when activated, as opposed to 50%—we likely won’t see them around quite as often.

Calvin finds some of the new items interesting. “The one that appeals to me the most is the Room Service item. This item reduces the Speed of the user by one stage when Trick Room is set up. I think it could allow for a lot of creative play and revamp the standard Trick Room cores by allowing mid-Speed Pokémon to hit a really low tier.” 

He’s also curious about Throat Spray, which raises Special Attack by one stage when the holder uses a sound-based move: “I think a lot of people will be trying this out on Pokémon like Sylveon, which gets access to Hyper Voice.”

Stephen seems to agree with Calvin, and brings up the same two items: Room Service and Throat Spray. “I think Room Service has a higher potential for high level use, especially because of the sheer amount of mons it can potentially enable under Trick Room.” He mentions that he’s excited to see what mid-Speed sweepers might be able to make use of the item. 

Stephen, much like Calvin, expects to see Throat Spray on Sylveon. “Though I think Specs Sylveon is just as viable, because the odds that Sylveon gets off more than two Hyper Voices is low.” Indeed, the early meta hs seen a lot of Throat Spray on Sylveon, but players may make a return to Specs as the format goes on.

What are your thoughts on Speed being recalculated mid-turn?

“The Speed changes are fascinating interactions,” says Edu. Much as with Dynamaxing, he’s unsure on whether or not the changes are healthy for the game, but he believes it makes battles more dynamic. “I’ve personally been enjoying them, but it’s early for a final verdict.”

Calvin, similarly, finds the changes intriguing, and also describes them as dynamic—much like Edu. “I expect Whimsicott to shine this season due to its Prankster ability and its access to Tailwind, meaning it can set up Tailwind with increased priority. With Speed tiers now recalculating mid-turn, Whimsicott’s partners can instantly receive the double Speed boost, making Pokémon with a mid-Speed tier suddenly very threatening.” Indeed, Whimsicott has been incredibly prominent in the early meta.

“As well as Tailwind setters benefitting from the updated speed mechanics, most Flying types in general receive a huge buff,” Calvin goes on to say. After Dynamaxing, he notes, Flying-type Pokémon such as Braviary and Corvknight can make use of Max Airstream to provide Speed control.

Stephen seems to agree that Tailwind has received a boost with the change: “It’ll buff a lot of fast Tailwind users, and has the potential to really help slower sweepers if they’re paired with such mons.” He also appears to be more comfortable with the mechanic than most. “I think it’ll be a fair mechanic, and everyone who played earlier Gens just has to get used to it,” is Stephen’s final word.

Thanks to our three interviewees for sharing their opinions! It remains to be seen how players adapt to the changes brought to VGC by Sword and Shield, but we hope this interview sheds some light on the current metagame.