Despite the switch to Moon series, overall viability rankings are mostly unchanged. If something was good in Sun series, there’s a high chance it’s still good in Moon. However, several notable Pokémon gained significant tools with access to Z-Moves, and that’s what we’ll be looking at here.
Notable Z Options: Waterium
Kyogre boasts the strongest Z-Move in the format in terms of raw damage, with Hydro Vortex off Water Spout hitting for a whopping 200 base power. Unlike the move it’s based off, the power remains at 200 regardless of Kyogre’s current HP. Combined with Kyogre’s base 150 Special Attack and the boost from rain, very little is capable of withstanding this. To give you an idea of just how powerful this move is, take a look at this damage calc:
- 252+ SpA Kyogre Helping Hand Hydro Vortex (200 BP) vs. +2 4 HP / 0 SpD Xerneas in Rain: 240-283 (118.8 – 140%)
It does require the boost from Helping Hand to outright OHKO, but being able to just delete a boosted Xerneas with a special move with room to spare is absurd. Despite this huge damage potential, Waterium Z probably still won’t surpass Choice Scarf as the best Kyogre item. Kyogre is at its best when it can’t be prevented from getting a high-power Water Spout off.
Notable Z Options: Lunalium, Fightinium
Lunala basically had a free item slot for all of Sun series, with no clear best item. Now, Lunalium Z clearly rises to the top. Lunalium turns Moongeist Beam into Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom, a 200 base power Ghost move that retains the Mold Breaker-like property of its base move. The ability to double damage output for a turn is obviously extremely valuable, and allows Lunala to handle restricteds that don’t resist Ghost significantly better, as well as OHKO other Lunala through Shadow Shield. Additionally, holding a Z crystal causes Lunala to take less damage from Knock Off. Z-Focus Blast is a far less viable option, but usable if you want to remove Incineroar or Stakataka (the latter of which is OHKOed roughly 50% of the time by Menacing Moonraze Maelstrom anyway).
Solgaleo/Dusk Mane Necrozma
Notable Z Options: Solganium, Fightinium
Much like Lunala, Solgaleo and Dusk Mane Necrozma gain access to a Z crystal that boosts their signature move, turning Sunsteel Strike into the 200 base power Searing Sunraze Smash. The Steel type has fantastic neutral coverage, allowing this move to do significant damage to a large portion of the format. Solgaleo has the added benefit of being impossible to Intimidate due to Full Metal Body, ensuring that this move is always firing at full power. Solgaleo also retains the less viable Fightinium Z option, this time based off Superpower. With base Superpower already reliably doing significant damage to the likes of Incineroar and Kartana, this is really only an option to consider if you are very averse to the Attack and Defense drops it inflicts, as Full Metal Body does not protect Solgaleo from stat drops from moves it uses.
Notable Z Options: Waterium
Palkia packs a significant punch in the rain, but is hampered by accuracy issues. Without access to Scald, it must rely on Hydro Pump for Water type damage. Why it is apparently unable to produce hot water despite learning several Fire moves is beyond me, but that’s beside the point. Palkia’s accuracy issues are partially cast aside with access to Waterium Z, allowing it to fire one 185 base power Hydro Vortex before returning to its accuracy struggles. Sitting at 100 base Speed gives Palkia a significant advantage while using this move, as it is one of the highest restricted speed tiers, most notably outspeeding Xerneas and threatening a KO before it gets to Geomancy. Use that one accurate move wisely and don’t be afraid to use it out of rain: even in sun it’s capable of OHKOing some Groudons.
Notable Z Options: Groundium
Another restricted able to rectify accuracy issues through a Z-Move, Groundium Z turns Precipice Blades into a 185 base power single target Ground move that not only won’t miss but will also bypass Wide Guard, something that Groudon otherwise struggles to hit around. In a similar manner to its aquatic counterpart, however, Groudon likely has superior item options despite the high amounts of damage that Groundium Z offers. Groudon’s longevity is significantly increased by holding a 50% berry, and on teams like standard Yveltal Groudon that thrive off having a strong defensive backbone, increased longevity probably means the Groudon does more damage over the course of the game than it would with a Z-Move.
Notable Z Options: Electrium
If you any of VGC 2017 or 2018, you’re familiar with this set and why it thrives. Z-Thunderbolt (or Thunder if you’re either feeling risky or have a Kyogre) in Electric Terrain enables Tapu Koko to punch well above what its 95 base Special Attack would suggest it’s able to do, and a high speed tier means that it’s difficult to prevent the Z-Move from going off. This combination of factors allows Tapu Koko to become one of a select few viable non-restricted Z-Move users. The only significant changes from the sets of the past two formats are the replacement of Dazzling Gleam with Grass Knot to hit Groudon harder and a significant shift from Timid to Modest as there are very few threats currently residing in the gap between those speed tiers. A major shift back to Timid should be expected when Mega Salamence and Mega Gengar are freed with Ultra series in April, but for now enjoy the boosted damage.
Notable Z Options: Waterium
If you played any of VGC 2018, you should be well aware of this set and why it thrives (that sounds familiar). With Swift Swim active, Ludicolo is one of the fastest Pokémon in the format, and the rain boosts its Water moves, resulting in a powerful Z-Move that’s very difficult to prevent. The major downside is that Ludicolo has to run Hydro Pump to gain power for its Hydro Vortex, leaving it susceptible to accuracy issues after firing the Z-Move. Fortunately, Ludicolo is clicking Grass Knot or Fake Out far more often than it is clicking Hydro Pump.
Overall, most of the Z-Move users you’ll be encountering are restricteds. The damage offered by some of them is simply unrivaled, and often necessary to check other restricteds. Non-restricted Z-Move users that can offer similar benefit are few and far between, but you’ll notice that many of them were in the upper tiers of Z-Move users in past formats. Notably absent, however, is Kartana, as sets that are not holding a Focus Sash or Assault Vest will likely be removed by Choice Scarf Kyogre before getting the chance to move.