In the Sun Series of VGC19, Xerneas has remained the powerful force is was in 2016 and found a new partner in crime: Lunala. Lunala is a very versatile Pokémon that can support, complement, or cover Xerneas in a lot of ways. Most notably, Lunala’s strong Moongeist Beam can deal with a plethora of Pokémon that Xerneas doesn’t like to face, like Solgaleo, Dusk Mane Necrozma, and Bronzong. Having access to support options like Tailwind and Roar also allow Lunala to provide some support to its team, a setup also commonly seen with Kyogre. In return, Xerneas provides coverage against Yveltal and other Dark-types that Lunala can’t reliably touch.
In general, Lunala and Xerneas provide a very strong, offensive duo that can punch big holes on opposing teams. With support from their partners, these two can combine and create a devastating force that few teams can handle safely.
In this Metagame
Xerneas and Lunala have been used together since the beginning of the series. Their natural synergy, as well as strong offensive presence, made them a good fit in theory and players immediately started building around it. It first rose to fame on the showdown ladder with the so-called “ALLSIX” composition, claiming several top spots in the high end of the ladder. Although it never got as popular as Xerneas/Groudon or Xerneas/Kyogre archetypes in the early stages of the metagame, this composition still managed to sneak into the Top16 of the Philadelphia Regionals.
Fast forward a month and Xerneas / Lunala found their peak, claiming both first and second places in Memphis Regionals with the exact same build. Despite the rise in popularity of the strong Xerneas / Kyogre / Tornadus core, the duo made its mark again at the Latin America International Championships where it went all the way to claim the title as well as a Top4 finish.
Alternative variants of this core with a more supportive Lunala have recently gained popularity, with moves like as Roar, Tailwind and Wide Guard and items such as Electric Seed or even Colbur Berry.
Xerneas and Lunala are a strong presence in the current metagame and the core is here to stay and will likely be able to keep claiming CP throughout the series.
Notable placings so far with this core at Regional-level tournaments:
- Zach Carlson – Top16 at Philadelphia Regionals
- Ashton Cox – 1st place at Memphis Regionals
- Jeremy Rodrigues – 2nd place at Memphis Regionals
- Qi Wei – Top8 at Portland Regionals
Notable placings with this core at International-level tournaments:
- Ashton Cox – 1st place at Latin America International Championships
- Jeremy Rodrigues – Top4 at Latin America International Championships
- Stephen Mea – Top16 at Latin America International Championships
Rundown of the Core
The core of Lunala and Xerneas is mainly focused on getting the most out of the restricted duo. Lunala and Xerneas provide a big part of the damage output of the teams they are part of, with their partners aiming to remove specific threats, protect the restricted duo from taking too much damage or help support the Xerneas setup.
Xerneas on its own is a terrifying Pokémon and one of the best Pokémon in the format. Paired with Lunala, Kyogre, Groudon or Yveltal, this Pokémon is the top threat everyone has to be prepared for. The ability to boost its Special Attack, Special Defense and Speed in one turn with Geomancy and Power Herb makes it a very strong presence in the metagame and therefore most teams with Xerneas aim to get that setup as soon and as safely as possible in order to sweep opposing teams.
Lunala is one of the most favored restricted partners for Xerneas. It is a fast and powerful special attacker that is very hard to OHKO thanks to its ability Shadow Shield, halving the damage from opposing moves while at full HP, and that helps Xerneas in a lot of ways, both as a supporter and as an offensive partner.
In the more offensively orientated teams, Lunala is often seen with a Spooky Plate or a Choice Specs. This allows Lunala to quickly remove or severely damage threats that would stop a Xerneas sweep. Lunala can take attacks from Ferrothorn, Kartana, Kyogre, Groudon, Bronzong, Stakataka and even opposing Xerneas and deal a lot of damage back, ensuring that these Pokémon can’t stay on the field for too long in order to try and stop your own Xerneas. These teams usually have Pokémon like Ludicolo, Incineroar, Amoonguss, Smeargle, and Toxicroak, that use their access to Fake Out as well as moves like Follow Me and Rage Powder to ensure Xerneas and Lunala can do their job. Ludicolo, Toxicroak, Crobat, and Stakataka also serve as individual checks to opposing Kyogre and Xerneas. Giving an extra help to the restricted duo, that does not resist Fairy or Water moves. When using these teams, one must be careful about preserving Xerneas and Lunala, positioning them correctly. As the rest of the team is usually more support-oriented, with lower damage output, and has trouble turning around a game where Xerneas and Lunala are not in the field anymore. Making sure the two restricted Pokémon, especially Xerneas, can setup and attack safely is the main challenge of offensive Lunala/Xerneas teams.
Another variant of this core uses a more supportive Lunala instead of an offensive set. While these teams still focus on getting Xerneas in a good position, they rely a lot less on Lunala for damage, as they include other strong attackers like Kartana, Tapu Lele or Tapu Koko. Therefore spreading out the damage output of the team and making it less reliant on getting Xerneas and Lunala in position. The incredible move pool of Lunala allows it to support Xerneas in a different way in these teams, by protecting it with Wide Guard and setting up Tailwind to give the team the upper hand in speed. Lunala is usually seen activating its Electric or Psychic Seed thanks to Tapu Koko or Tapu Lele’s terrain-inducing abilities. This allows it to better take opposing attacks and therefore help to ensure the setup for the other Pokémon of the team. The most common partners are Pokémon that enjoy the speed control and the support that Lunala provides, like Kartana, Tapu Lele and Tapu Koko, with the latter also being useful to activate the Seed that Lunala usually holds. Tapu Lele, when holding a Choice Scarf with Magic Room, also works as a way to stop opposing Xerneas from setting up in the first turn. It also boosts Lunala’s Psychic moves and protects Xerneas from Fake Out. Tapu Koko can easily pivot out of the field with Volt Switch, use Electroweb as another way of controlling the opposing team’s speed (especially if they have their own Tailwind), and prevent Sleep status with Electric Terrain. Pokémon such as Amoonguss and Smeargle can also be useful as they help a lot with the Xerneas setup and disrupting opposing teams. When using these teams, Lunala usually comes out first with one of the Tapus, making sure it gets its speed control up and starts chipping opposing Pokémon enough for Xerneas to clean up late game.
Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 4 HP / 4 Def / 196 SpA / 52 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam/Substitute
There’s not much to say about the standard Xerneas. Timid nature allows Xerneas to at least speed tie with other Xerneas as well as outspeed Timid Lunala. Which is important given that Lunala, if boosted by a choice Specs, can 2HKO Xerneas. Speed-tying with Yveltal (which can Knock Off your Power Herb), can also be important. The small SpD investment ensures Xerneas always lives a Water Spout from Modest Kyogre.
Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
EVs: 252 HP / 60 Def / 52 SpA / 100 SpD / 44 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Dazzling Gleam
- -1 252 Atk Kartana Smart Strike vs. 252 HP / 60 Def Xerneas: 102-120 (43.7 – 51.5%) — 4.3% chance to 2HKO
- 252+ Atk Groudon Precipice Blades vs. 252 HP / 60 Def Xerneas: 93-109 (39.9 – 46.7%) — guaranteed 3HKO
- 252+ Atk Solgaleo Sunsteel Strike vs. 252 HP / 60 Def Xerneas: 192-228 (82.4 – 97.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- +2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 252 HP / 100 SpD Fairy Aura Xerneas: 198-234 (84.9 – 100.4%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
Some players opt to forgo the Speed and increase Xerneas’s bulk. In teams that have access to several methods of Speed control such as Tailwind and Electroweb, Xerneas can afford to be slower and bulkier. Enabling it to survive more hits, including opposing Xerneas after the Geomancy boost, allowing it to have an edge on the Xerneas mirror. The speed milestones can be adjusted according to the team and personal preference of the players. One must be careful that slower Xerneas is likely to be outsped by threats such as Venusaur and Smeargle before it can setup.
(Original spread by @SilveiraVGC)
Choice Specs Lunala
Lunala @ Choice Specs
Ability: Shadow Shield
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moongeist Beam
– Focus Blast
– Wide Guard/Ice Beam/Heat Wave/Moonblast
- 252 SpA Choice Specs Lunala Psyshock vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Xerneas: 109-130 (46.7 – 55.7%) — 76.2% chance to 2HKO
- 252 SpA Choice Specs Lunala Psyshock vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Kyogre: 115-136 (55.5 – 65.7%) — guaranteed 2HKO
- 252 SpA Choice Specs Lunala Moongeist Beam vs. 4 HP / 252 SpD Solgaleo: 228-270 (107 – 126.7%) — guaranteed OHKO
- 252 SpA Choice Specs Lunala Moongeist Beam vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Shadow Shield Lunala: 254-300 (119.2 – 140.8%) — guaranteed OHKO
- 252 SpA Choice Specs Lunala Moongeist Beam vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Prism Armor Dusk Mane Necrozma: 184-217 (90.1 – 106.3%) — 43.8% chance to OHKO
Choice Specs Lunala has been present since the beginning of the series and is a very potent offensive threat. Max Speed and SpA allow it to dish out as much damage as fast as it can, punching holes on the opposing teams and allowing Xerneas an easier time in the late game. Moongeist Beam and Psyshock are the most used moves, being able to KO threats like Solgaleo, Bronzong, and Crobat while also having a decent chance of 2HKOing Xerneas and Kyogre. Focus Blast and Ice Beam hit specific threats like Incineroar and Zygarde. Heat Wave can be used to ensure the KO on Assault Vest Kartana, while Moonblast (especially if powered by Fairy Aura), gives Lunala a way to hit Yveltal.
Psych Up Lunala
Lunala @ Spooky Plate
Ability: Shadow Shield
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moongeist Beam
– Psych Up
This Lunala set trades the sheer power of the Choice Specs by the ability to change moves as well as run Protect. While not as strong offensively, Spooky Plate gives it the boost it needs to still punch holes on opposing threats. Psych Up is a move that has been seen a lot, especially in the most recent Latin America International. It allows Lunala to copy Xerneas’ boosts, giving it an extra degree of synergy and pressure opposing Xerneas, making them think twice before setting up Geomancy in front of Lunala.
Lunala @ Electric Seed
Ability: Shadow Shield
EVs: 196 HP / 4 Def / 124 SpA / 4 SpD / 180 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Moongeist Beam
Electric Seed Lunala is always paired with Tapu Koko to boost its Defense and reduce damage from Knock Off, the most used Dark-type move in the metagame. This set is slower and bulkier, aiming to stay on the field for longer. Tapu Koko is a great partner as it can quickly Volt Switch into something like Xerneas to immediately take advantage of the Tailwind. The speed on this sample set is enough to outspeed Smeargle, while the HP investment allow Lunala to survive two Knock Offs from Careful Incineroar without Intimidate (the first through Shadow Shield).
Any team with Xerneas requires setup and Lunala variants often need it even more. Therefore, the role of the partners in a lot of these teams is to allow the two restricted to set up with Geomancy, Psych Up, Tailwind, etc. As a general note, the teams need one or more Fake Out users to allow for a safer setup, as well as redirection in the form of Follow Me or Rage Powder. Thanks to neither Xerneas or Lunala resisting Fairy or Water, direct counters to Kyogre and Xerneas are necessary. Tapu Koko is a necessary partner for slower paced and control-based teams, as it is needed to activate Lunala’s Electric Seed and provide the support Lunala needs. Below are the most common individual partners on these teams:
Ludicolo can be included in more offensive variants of Xerneas-Lunala teams in order to help against Kyogre. Kyogre is a dominant force in the metagame, and neither Xerneas or Lunala can take its powerful Water-moves that well. The most common partners like Smeargle, Incineroar, Tapu Koko and Tapu Lele also struggle against Kyogre, especially the Choice Scarf variant. Therefore, Ludicolo is often added to pose an immediate threat to Kyogre, by using the rain to its advantage and threatening big damage with Grass Knot, significantly reducing Kyogre’s power. It is also another source of Fake Out pressure which is, once more, very important to ensure Xerneas and Lunala can setup safely. Ludicolo is often run with either a Life Orb (to increase its damage output and threaten the OHKO on bulk-less Kyogre) or an Assault Vest (allowing it to take more hits and supporting the team with moves like Icy Wind as well).
Toxicroak is seen as an alternative to Ludicolo in a way that it’s also here to provide Fake Out pressure and a Water resist (in this case, immunity, thanks to the Dry Skin ability). While Ludicolo poses a more immediate threat to Kyogre and also damages Groudon, Toxicroak provides more utility in neutral matchups, with access to Feint as well as Fighting-type STAB moves that hit Stakataka, Incineroar and Kartana (if running Drain Punch, as Low Kick has very low base power against Kartana) for super effective damage. The Poison-type coverage is also useful to deal with Tapu Koko, Tapu Fini and especially opposing Xerneas. Toxicroak is often seen with an Assault Vest, making it capable of taking on Xerneas as well as walling Kyogre without caring that Thunder will deal too much damage. Assault Vest also reduces the damage dealt by Tornadus’ Hurricane, a very common lead on Kyogre teams. Focus Sash can be used as an alternative if Assault Vest is already taken.
Tapu Koko is often seen paired with Electric Seed Lunala. The Electric Terrain helps stop Smeargle, Amoonguss, and Venusaur from putting things to sleep and allows Lunala to receive a much welcome Defense boost, as well as losing its item (meaning Knock Off does a lot less damage). Unlike previous metagames, where the Melemele Guardian was seen as a fast and highly offensive threat, Tapu Koko has found a plethora of different uses in VGC19 sun series. In Xerneas-Lunala teams, Tapu Koko can be seen most often with a support/pivot set, consisting of moves like Taunt, Sky Drop, Electroweb, Nature’s Madness and Volt Switch. These sets usually choose Assault Vest as their item of choice, making Tapu Koko capable of taking on Kyogre’s powerful moves and hitting back with strong Electric-type moves. It is important to note that, while Sky Drop can’t lift most of the restricted Pokémon, it can still be a good asset to the team. Stopping opposing redirection as the opponent tries to setup (as Sky Drop nullifies the effect of Follow Me and Rage Powder). This is particularly effective when paired with Roar Lunala, as Lunala can then disrupt Xerneas or a Trick Room setter without worrying about redirection. If Assault Vest is taken, Focus Sash is a good alternative, as it allows Koko to run Taunt, helping against Trick Room setters, Ammonguss, Smeargle, and also stopping Xerneas from setting up. Electroweb and Volt Switch are also important moves that should be considered. Electroweb ensures an important speed advantage that Lunala, Kartana, and Xerneas can capitalize on, while Volt Switch is an excellent way to bring in a better-suited teammate to partner Lunala. The combination of Koko’s Volt Switch and Incineroar’s U-turn make a very solid core for repositioning, allowing a better board control for more control-oriented variants.
One thing that is noticeably different in Tapu Koko compared to previous formats is the preference for physical electric moves. Wild Charge, thanks to Koko’s higher physical attack and Kyogre’s lower physical defense, is capable of hitting a OHKO on even bulkier variants, something no other move in Koko’s arsenal can do reliably. Thanks to this, Choice Scarf physical Koko is sometimes seen as a way to immediately take out Scarf Kyogre before it can move. Despite this though, this variant of Koko is not as useful in neutral matchups as the more supportive variants.
Tapu Lele provides a lot of synergy with Xerneas and Lunala. Its Psychic Terrain not only protects Xerneas from opposing Fake Outs but also powers up Lunala’s Psychic moves. Its high Special Attack makes it a very strong offensive powerhouse on its own, with Psychic Terrain boosting its Psychic moves and also taking advantage of Xerneas’ Fairy Aura to power up its Moonblast.
Tapu Lele can be used in several ways. A Choice Scarf variant can be used to outspeed Scarf Kyogre and deal big damage to it before it can move, significantly reducing Water Spout’s damage output, but the Choice Scarf set has other tricks up its sleeve. It works as a deterrent to Smeargle and Xerneas with Magic Room, which nullifies Xerneas’ Power Herb and Smeargle’s Focus Sash. This allows Lunala or Xerneas to hit the OHKO on Smeargle while preventing Xerneas from setting up on one turn and making it unable to move or switch out for that turn. Magic Room also has the very interesting mechanic of deactivating the Scarf, making Lele able to switch moves again and making it a safe move to be used with a Choice item. Nature’s Madness is also a good move on Scarf Lele as it can damage Pokémon like Incineroar, Solgaleo and Dusk Mane Necrozma, that usually don’t take much damage from Tapu Lele’s moves before Lunala and Xerneas can finish them. One must be careful about using Magic Room with Xerneas on the team though, as it also deactivates your own Xerneas’ Power Herb.
Focus Sash is another common item on Tapu Lele, allowing it to live an attack from Kartana, Lunala or Kyogre and hit back, while keeping the ability to Protect and Taunt potential Trick Room setters or support Pokémon like Smeargle.
Stakataka is often seen in Xerneas-Lunala teams as a direct counter to Xerneas. It is mainly seen when the team is low on speed control and therefore vulnerable to opposing Tailwinds. Stakataka is a formidable answer to opposing Xerneas as it resists Fairy and hits back with a strong super effective hit, getting the OHKO in even bulky variants. Its incredibly low speed and its high Attack make it a menace under Trick Room, with Gyro Ball hitting maximum power against a major part of the metagame. With the help of Incineroar and redirection, Stakataka can be hard to take down for opposing Xerneas-Lunala teams that often lack ways to stop it. Safety Goggles is the most common item on Stakataka, preventing Amoonguss from putting it to sleep before it can set up TR or just attack, although Focus Sash or Lum Berry can also be used. Stakataka also has a positive matchup against Incineroar, thanks to its sky-high defense and access to super effective Rock-moves.
While Stakataka can be trained to get a Beast Boost in Attack, players usually opt for a Defense boosting variant. This is mainly because the loss in Defense allows Kartana to grab the OHKO on Stakataka, something it can’t do if it has a Brave instead of a Lonely nature. The defense boosts are also helpful against Incineroar and other physical attackers, allowing it, for example, to live Groudon’s Precipice Blades after a boost.
Clefairy / Smeargle / Amoonguss (Redirection)
These three Pokémon are commonly used to provide redirection and other means of support to Xerneas and Lunala. Smeargle is the most common partner, as it also has access to Fake Out. Its access to virtually any move in the game allows it to suit the team’s needs at will, and in this case, Fake Out, Follow Me and a sleep-inducing move are the best way to go with Smeargle. The fourth move is more team-dependent and comes to personal preference. Usually, Wide Guard (to help against Groudon and Kyogre), Spiky Shield or Feint can all have merit. Transform is a niche tech that can turn the game in your favor if you manage to transform into your own boosted Xerneas.
Clefairy, in addition to the redirection, provides additional bulk to its partner thanks to Friend Guard, which can be important as Xerneas and Lunala are usually run very offensively. Although not as common as Smeargle and Amoonguss, Clefairy has access to Helping Hand, Icy Wind, and a slow Encore which can disrupt the opposition, for example, opposing Xerneas, by locking them into Geomancy, or Dusk Mane Necrozma, by moving first under Trick Room and locking the opponent into Trick Room. Its slow After You can also be used as a countermeasure against Trick Room teams.
Amoonguss is a bulkier and less dedicated Xerneas supporter, but still a very good Pokémon on its own. Like Smeargle, it can redirect opposing moves and also put targets to sleep. While it is unable to redirect or put to sleep threats like Venusaur, Kartana, and Pokémon with Safety Goggles. Amoonguss provides very important Water and Fairy resists and is able to deal big damage to Kyogre with Grass Knot or removing Xerneas’ boosts with Clear Smog. Like Clefairy, Amoonguss is a good answer to Trick Room thanks to its low speed, threatening to put the opposing team to sleep if they set up Trick Room in front of it.
Crobat has been used successfully in more offensive teams as it provides much-needed Tailwind support to more offensive Lunala (which often doesn’t carry Tailwind itself), as well as, Taunt and Haze support to disrupt opposing setup. This role can also be performed by Talonflame or Aerodactyl, offering different types of support to the team, in case the other members of the team already cover what Crobat offers.
Kartana is a very good Pokémon in the current metagame, and it can easily fit in more balanced teams by taking advantage of Lunala’s Tailwind or Tapu Koko’s Electroweb to gain the upper hand. It’s Grass/Steel typing means it resists both Xerneas and Kyogre, something that despite its awful Special Defense stat, can not be ignored, as it means it hits both for super effective damage.
+ – Thanks to the presence of Lunala, the matchup against Zygarde and Solgaleo is usually a favorable one in most cases. Xerneas is usually the end game win con here, so one must be able to remove the Solgaleo with Lunala and Incineroar before Xerneas can come in to face the Zygarde. Tapu Fini’s Haze can be troublesome, as can a possible Roar from Incineroar. So some care must be taken when using Geomancy against these teams. Solgaleo is a tough opponent for the core, so removing it is usually a major step towards winning.
+ – Xerneas and Groudon teams sometimes struggle to beat Lunala, especially the Seed variant, as Incineroar is usually their only answer to it. A well-played Lunala, as well as a well-timed setup of Xerneas, can usually take this matchup.
+ – While not a strong matchup per se, due to how strong this core is. Xerneas and Lunala, especially if partnered by Ludicolo, can usually put enough pressure on these teams. Xerneas is usually the win con once more, but the setup might not be easy as these teams usually carry Prankster Taunt and Tailwind Tornadus and Kartana, which can put some pressure on Xerneas even after it sets up. A well-protected Xerneas by Smeargle and Ludicolo/Toxicroak can often take this matchup.
+ – DM Necrozma is capable of surviving even Choice Specs Moongeist Beam, which makes is quite troublesome to beat. Xerneas / Lunala teams are usually fast, and they do not enjoy having Necrozma set Trick Room for partners like Incineroar, Ferrothorn, Amoonguss, and slow Kyogre. Not an un-winnable matchup, but something that can really cause trouble if played well.
+ – Solgaleo is immune to Intimidate, which makes it harder sometimes to handle than Dusk Mane Necrozma. However, it can’t live Lunala when boosted by a Choice Specs, and even Spooky Plate gets close to the OHKO (even on bulky variants). As Solgaleo can easily get rid of Incineroar, Lunala is the key to removing the threat. However, the presence of Yveltal makes Lunala’s job a lot harder, as the matchup enters a Rock-Paper-Scissors game that needs some care to take on. One can describe this matchup as «Xerneas > Yveltal > Lunala > Solgaleo > Xerneas», meaning that losing one restricted from either side, automatically hinders the options of taking care of one of the opponents.
Incineroar – Some Xerneas + Lunala teams really struggle to break Incineroar, especially if it carries Snarl. Your own Incineroar is key, by controlling its damage and preventing it from doing much damage to Lunala, while Xerneas, Ludicolo, Stakataka, and Toxicroak chip it away.
- Ashton Cox and Jeremy Rodrigues Latin America International Winning Team
- Zach Carlson’s Top 16 Philadelphia Team