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It was a cloudy day at the Pokémon Day Care. All was well; the young Pokémon were eating, exercising, and just enjoying playtime. The Fletchlings were tweeting by the window, and Ditto was doing what it does best, shamelessly flirting with just about every grown-up Pokémon in the place. All of a sudden, there was a long silence followed by a commotion as the doors flew open. The room became filled with harsh sunlight, and the babies in the daycare cringed as their eyes turned upon the unwelcome familiar faces that had once been removed from the premises for playing too roughly in the past. Scyther was permanently banned from ever coming back, and Sneasel had just recently been kicked out for its overly aggressive antics, but the six who had burst through the door looked around with a snide expression that implied they weren't planning on going anywhere, and the same thought reverberated through the minds of the babies in the room: "The bullies are back in town."
Just then, when all hope seemed lost, a few toddlers stepped forward from the back with daring looks on their faces. Tyrunt let out a roar and spawned pointed stones that levitated around the bullies; Yanma and Vulpix were seemingly a bit unnerved. Snover stepped forward with a Choice Scarf around its neck and let out a howling snowstorm that replaced the sunlight, while also shooting a glare at Gligar and Tangela. By this time, Fletchling had flown inside the open window with its Gale Wings, focused on Meditite, and Timburr walked in the door behind them, with a log over its shoulder and a fist aimed at Carvanha. Even though these previously banned Pokémon had come back to reclaim their turf, the Little Cup residents weren't going to let them have the run of the place. Without further ado, let's have a look at these returning threats, how they fare in the new XY Little Cup metagame, and how they can be dealt with.
Type: Water / Dark
Abilities: Rough Skin / Speed Boost
Base stats: 45 HP / 90 Atk / 20 Def / 65 SpA / 20 SpD / 65 Spe
With a difficult-to-ignore base Attack stat of 90 and a fairly decent base Speed of 65, Carvanha was always able to hold its own as a powerful physical attacker. It can be kept in check fairly well, however, as it has the defenses of a paper bag soaked in acid. The great power boost from Life Orb along with STAB Crunch, Waterfall, priority in Aqua Jet, and Protect let it use that Attack stat and rack up Speed boosts, turning itself into a wrecking ball of destruction that, left unchecked, will smash through your entire team without batting an eyelid.
Unfortunately, Carvanha's good points are all limited to its offensive capability. Priority keeps Carvanha at bay more than any other Pokémon in the tier besides Amaura. Mach Punch from Timburr and Vacuum Wave from Croagunk both knock it out cleanly in one hit with no consequence and nothing to fear. Croagunk gets a special mention for being able to switch in easily, as it takes little damage from both of Carvanha's STAB moves. Aside from beating it outright with priority and thereby bypassing its boosted Speed, Carvanha is generally knocked out by any decently powered neutral attack, and the chip damage from Life Orb doesn't help in its survival either. Carvanha is very potent as a fast offensive threat, but it should only be used as a cleaner and after important priority users are eliminated.
Type: Bug / Flying
Abilities: Speed Boost / Compound Eyes / Frisk
Base stats: 65 HP / 65 Atk / 45 Def / 75 SpA / 45 SpD / 95 Spe
Yanma is a serious threat and is a huge reason why entry hazard control is important. Offensively, it can make use of Speed Boost to maintain an untouchable Speed advantage over its foes, and the combination of its STAB moves and Ancient Power is resisted only by Steel-types, which is why Hidden Power Ground or Hidden Power Fire is commonly used on it. Although this is sometimes overlooked, Yanma also has the option to run its Compound Eyes ability so that it can put targets to sleep using a Hypnosis with 78% accuracy. From there, Yanma can U-turn out, and if they stay in, it can go to something that can take advantage of the sleeping enemy by setting up; or, if the player switches the sleeping Pokémon out, Yanma can go to a corresponding check to maintain momentum... in short, it's pretty nasty.
Yanma is not without its problems, however. An effective way to keep Yanma at bay is simply by keeping Stealth Rock in play. That by itself limits Yanma severely, as it loses half of its health just by entering the battle. It also doesn't have the defensive stats to take hits well at all, and its Bug / Flying typing does it no favors, as that makes it weak to tons of common types, as well as the previously mentioned Stealth Rock. Thunder Wave greatly cripples Yanma and pretty much ruins it unless it has already accumulated lots of boosts from Speed Boost, and even then, an untimely turn of full paralysis can screw it over badly. Yanma's offensive potency and utility are not to be underestimated, but if you're looking to beat it, the key is in its poor defensive capabilities, which aren't too awfully difficult to exploit.
Type: Ground / Flying
Abilities: Hyper Cutter / Immunity / Sand Veil
Base stats: 65 HP / 75 Atk / 105 Def / 35 SpA / 65 SpD / 85 Spe
Gligar returns to Little Cup as what is without a doubt the absolute best entry hazard control Pokémon in the game; its access to the newly buffed Defog allows it remove hazards effortlessly from both sides in a way that cannot be blocked like Rapid Spin can. In addition, it is unaffected by Spikes, Toxic Spikes, and the new Sticky Web, it is immune to the common Earthquake and Electric-type attacks, and it's also a Flying type that isn't weak to Stealth Rock. As such, it isn't affected very much at all by the hazards it comes in to remove for its team, whereas other hazard removers are vulnerable to them, such as Vullaby or Drifloon. With Roost, it can heal away the damage it does suffer over time as it switches in to clear the field, and it has access to Stealth Rock itself as well as U-turn, all of which allow it to provide excellent control throughout the game as well as utility that allows its team to maintain momentum. Its stats are nothing to scoff at either, being able to hit the coveted 19 Speed tier with a Jolly nature, and having 105 base Defense and formidable offense isn't bad either. Its STAB Earthquake + Acrobatics coverage, indeed, allows it to also serve as a potent offensive giant when it needs to. The loss of Flying Gem this generation tones down Gligar's immediate offensive capabilities just enough that it isn't deemed broken, and might very well mean that Gligar will stick around in XY Little Cup.
With a 4x weakness to Ice (a very common attacking type in LC), Gligar has an Achilles' heel that brings it down in a heartbeat. The Choice Scarf Snover set that was popular last generation doesn't need to change its old ways in order to be able to bring this monster down easily or send it fleeing in fear. Scald is also a huge problem for Gligar, as even if it doesn't quite knock it out, the burn chance is a pain, and a burned Gligar loses its offensive utility almost entirely. Gligar even has a hard time switching in on things it can easily beat one on one, like Skrelp and Growlithe. Overall, Gligar is definitely a solid choice and is a welcome addition back to Little Cup, but don't play with it too recklessly or you'll lose it fairly quickly.
Type: Fighting / Psychic
Abilities: Pure Power / Telepathy
Base stats: 30 HP / 40 Atk / 55 Def / 40 SpA / 55 SpD / 60 Spe
With Pure Power, Meditite ties for the strongest Pokémon in LC at a massive 28 Attack, equal to that of Huge Power Bunnelby. In comparison, if you were to maximize Scyther's attack, it hits 22 Attack. Pairing Meditite's unbelievably high Attack with moves such as High Jump Kick, Drain Punch, and Zen Headbutt, as well as coverage moves such as Thunder Punch, Ice Punch, plus Fake Out and Bullet Punch for priority, Meditite is a force to be reckoned with, and is able to wield a variety of tools to build your destruction.
Meditite's offensive power does have its limitations, however. Regenerator Slowpoke always wins against it, as it walls Meditite's STAB moves and resists the coverage moves it usually carries to function well in the metagame, namely Ice Punch and Bullet Punch. The new XY Little Cup addition, Honedge, also has little to fear from Meditite, as it walls it nicely and threatens it offensively with its Ghost-type STAB moves. While it's true that Meditite can run Thunder Punch and Fire Punch to win against Slowpoke and Honedge, it will lose out on its other more important coverage options. Without Bullet Punch, it can't hit Fairy-types hard or revenge kill anything, it isn't nearly as potent in general without both of its STAB moves, and without Ice Punch, it is completely unable to check Gligar or prevent it from shifting momentum on the switch-in. As is the case with most physical attackers, burning Meditite will screw its offensive capability for the rest of the match, and in this case it pretty much nullifies its Pure Power ability, which is the only reason Meditite is viable. Notable Pokémon for this job include Will-O-Wisp Growlithe, which can lower Meditite's Attack further with Intimidate, and Flame Body Larvesta, which can switch into most of Meditite's moves on a resisted hit and have a generous burn chance upon Meditite making contact.
Abilities: Flash Fire / Drought
Base stats: 38 HP / 41 Atk / 40 Def / 50 SpA / 65 SpD / 65 Spe
Behold, the minion summoner of harsh sunlight. Vulpix returns to Little Cup with a fiery wrath, bringing its scorching ability Drought along with it, which not only supplies Vulpix with practically a neutrality to the Water-type attacks it's weak to, but also bolsters its Fire-type attacks for even more power than its STAB provides. It gets Energy Ball, which lets it hit Water-, Rock-, and Ground-types for super effective damage; this is important as Pokémon of said types resist Vulpix's STAB moves and can hit Vulpix super effectively with their own. In addition to giving power to itself, the automatic sun that Vulpix brings also benefits teammates if they have the Chlorophyll ability, doubling their Speed and therefore making them more offensively threatening, especially when combined with moves like Sleep Powder that Chlorophyll carriers often have access to. The sheer number of advantages this brought, and the sheer potency of those that benefited last generation all pushed Vulpix over the edge and resulted in its ban, but now that auto-weather has been nerfed to last only 5 turns (8 turns with the corresponding weather Rock), Vulpix might be deemed as toned down enough to stay for a little longer in XY Little Cup.
As an individual Pokémon, Vulpix is let down by its poor physical defense and its weaknesses to Ground and Rock. Anything with Earthquake or Rock Slide or Stone Edge will knock it for a loop, and any kind of neutral physical attack will leave a huge dent in it. Its weakness to Stealth Rock considerably limits its survivability and the number of times it can enter battle to bring sunlight back, and Vulpix demands anti-hazard support in order for it to have the security of any decent lasting power throughout a battle. Lickitung can use Cloud Nine to get rid of the weather, and therefore Vulpix's niche, while taking the hit thrown at it like a champion. Vulpix's only real advantage, albeit a huge one, is that it brings automatic sunlight; without Drought, there would be no reason to ever use it in Little Cup. It can be great, as it fits the centerpiece of any sun-based team, but must be played with care to maintain weather support for its team, especially since auto-weather is no longer permanent.
Abilities: Chlorophyll / Leaf Guard / Regenerator
Base stats: 65 HP / 55 Atk / 115 Def / 100 SpA / 40 SpD / 60 Spe
Tangela works almost hand-in-hand with Vulpix. The two form a core that covers their weaknesses and patches up the offensive shortcomings of their counterpart. Tangela's massive physical bulk combined with its base 100 Special Attack (very high by LC standards) and Chlorophyll to boost its speed allow it to function as a powerful sweeper that's hard to take down when under the sunshine that Vulpix brings. The combination of Giga Drain or Solar Beam, a sun-boosted Hidden Power Fire, and Ancient Power is walled by absolutely no typing available. Synthesis (which restores two-thirds of Tangela's maximum HP in the sun) complements the spectacular physical bulk Tangela has, and the addition of Sleep Powder to the mix makes Tangela a monster that very few Pokémon are comfortable facing. Even without sun, Tangela is very viable as a user of the Regenerator ability, which gives it excellent longevity throughout battles, and in conjunction with its impressive offensive power and its high physical bulk, to make use of its resistances and allows it to switch in, take the hit, and hop right back out, healing in the process.
The unfortunate thorn in Tangela's side is its sub-par special bulk, which does it no favors against Yanma's STAB moves in Bug Buzz and Air Slash or against common special attacks it's weak to, such as Ice Beam and Fire Blast. The addition of Fairy-types this generation has also increased the usage of offensive Poison-type attacks like Sludge Bomb, and Tangela doesn't take those very well at all either. It should go without saying that while sunlight does greatly benefit Tangela, it also amplifies Tangela's weakness to Fire, which is more exploitable than you would think in some cases. It's unfortunate that Tangela's poorest stat is called Special Defense, because there's certainly nothing special about it, and it's often the key to its downfall. Grass / Poison types such as Foongus or Bulbasaur can come in, shrug off Sleep Powder thanks to the recent Grass-type buff preventing Powder moves from causing a status, and then respond with STAB Poison-type attacks, although they have to take a hit. RestTalk Pokémon don't mind being put to sleep and can fight back undeterred, and Lileep can outlast Tangela fairly well, thanks to Toxic, a neutrality to all of the moves Tangela can fight back with, and immunity to Sleep Powder.
Make no mistake, these unbanned threats are back with a vengeance (with the exception of Tangela and Yanma, who were just banned very recently by the LC council). Each of them is very threatening in their own respective right and it is certainly necessary to be prepared for them, but they are not impossible to defeat. Each of these previously exiled champions has an Achilles' heel, and being able to successfully target the weaknesses of these Pokémon will guarantee that you have an easier time and a more enjoyable experience when playing the XY Little Cup tier. Nothing in Pokémon is truly invincible, and this goes to show that even in a tier called Little Cup, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.
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