Archetypes in the VGC '15 metagame: Part 1

By Steven Stone. Art by Bummer.
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Hey! Sebastián Lara here, also known as Steven Stone on the forums.

When I started playing VGC, I didn't have any idea of what to run until one of my friends helped me get to know the most common Pokemon in the metagame back in 2012. The same thing has started happening to me when I've helped people teambuild for VGC 2015, but the issue is that you can't build a team just by knowing the common Pokémon in the metagame. If you try to build a team around them you'll often find yourself in the situation that each Pokémon can handle the threats they're meant to handle really well, but there's no synergy between the partners at all. So, to help all of you make the best team that you can, yours truly and a group of VGC players will describe each of the popular VGC team archetypes, mentioning every single detail that we can identify. Well, without further ado, let's get started!

Section 1: General Playstyles

This section will be dedicated to tactics such as manual speed control, gimmicky archetypes that are skill based enough to make it here (no Minimize archetypes, sorry), and, most importantly, regular teams that aren't based on weather or are based on other speed control that isn't Tailwind.

1) General Buildings

Art for general buildings

Common Pokémon:

Kangaskhan-Mega Metagross Mega Salamence Mega Gardevoir Mega Landorus-Therian Hydreigon Aegislash Terrakion Amoonguss Milotic Heatran Thundurus Sylveon Bisharp Conkeldurr Rotom-Wash Cresselia Suicune Breloom

Honorable Mentions:

Zapdos Blaziken Ludicolo Scrafty Azumarill Smeargle Volcarona Clefable Clefairy Talonflame Gengar Virizion Tyranitar Ferrothorn Jellicent Garchomp

Common answers

Thundurus Scrafty Terrakion Rotom-W Aegislash

The answers for this archetype will depend on the opposing Mega Evolution. Also, while teambuilding, some players leave holes open for Pokémon that aren't as common, such as Volcarona and Scizor.


The Pokémon in this archetype are known for their success in tournaments, as well as being the most powerful, bulky, and versatile Pokémon in the metagame. The building process is simpler than it looks: one picks a Mega Evolution and tries to cover as much of the metagame as possible by picking teammates that have good synergy and can fulfill multiple roles, such as providing speed control and tanking attacks.

Kangaskhan Mega Thundurus Landorus-Therian Sylveon Heatran Amoonguss

I know, I know; you probably have seen a similar team structure while playing online. This is Riley Factura's Seattle Regionals team, which i found to be perfect for describing this archetype. Kangaskhan as the team's Mega Evolution says enough for itself (i mean, Kangaskhan won Worlds and was on both sides of the field), while the very common double genies core of Landorus-T and Thundurus makes for yet another appeal on these teams. Heatran was most likely added to patch up the Ice weakness the team had at that point, and Sylveon has one of the strongest spread attacks in the entire game. Amoonguss is a supportive Pokemon meant to pair with Power-Up Punch Mega Kangaskhan, while also taking hits from bulky Water-Types and being able to hit Fairies for super effective damage with Sludge Bomb.

Common Mindset (sung to Royals by Lorde):

"But every game's like, turn one Fake Out, Tailwind on Suicune
Rock Slide, Choice Scarf, prayin' it'll flinch soon,
We don't care; we're running Camerupt and ice creams.

But everybody's like, Prankster, Thunder Wave, spam it for the paralysis
Brave Bird, Heatran, tigers on their cloud feet.
We don't care; like my Bibarel we're Unaware."

"And well never be boring (boooooring)
We're having fun just like we should,
Mega Kangaskhan just ain't for us.
We're more into stuff like Mandibuzz.
Let's just say that I'm cooler (cooooler),
I'd even use a male Combee
And baby I'm cool, I'm cool, I'm cool, I'm cool.
Let me live that fantasy."


Yep. I'm sure that this little song describes it rather accurately. Well, this archetype can give you some surprises, like a random Trick Room Gengar as your Suicune sets up Tailwind, or an Ice Punch Kangaskhan destroying that Landorus you thought you could switch in safely, but to be fair, if you ever play online, the players will most likely be using really generic sets. Identifying their strategy on Team Preview is important, but don't let your guard down: some players are smart enough to bluff this archetype and give you some surprises.


2) Bulky Offense

Art for bulky offense

Common Pokémon:

Kangaskhan Mega Metagross Mega Venusaur Mega Sylveon Togekiss Heatran Zapdos Hydreigon Amoonguss Clefable Aegislash Cresselia Thundurus Landorus-Therian Suicune Terrakion Rotom-W Bisharp Conkeldurr Arcanine Milotic

Honorable Mentions:

Clefairy Scrafty Entei Rotom-H Scizor Scizor Mega Liepard Meowstic Gastrodon Tyranitar Gengar Mawile Mega Volcarona Blaziken Gyarados Krookodile Garchomp

Common Answers:

Kangaskhan Mega Cresselia Blaziken Salamence Mega Gardevoir Mega Thundurus Volcarona Talonflame

and anything that can either break bulky offense or wall it. Life Orb attackers,setup sweepers, and Calm Mind Cresselia are options that you should keep in mind. Crippling the bulky Pokémon with Will-O-Wisp or the rare Toxic is also a good option.


Bulky offense, as the name states, is the balance between damage output, speed, and bulk. This archetype typically consists of a Mega Evolution whose stats are great both offensively and defensively, a bulky Tailwind setter, two to three Pokémon that are great both offensively and defensively, and one hard hitter.

Trick Room bulky offense also exists, but given that you only need to move EVs to transform a team from regular Trick Room to Trick Room bulky offense, it's not really a different way of playing Trick Room. A Trick Room bulky offense player's mentality does not dramatically change from that of a player of regular Trick Room, so consider this playstyle to be a part of Trick Room.

Also, bulky offense teams are much slower than other teams. Their battles usually last around 8+ turns as well. Keep that in mind and prepare to fight a war rather than a battle.

Venusaur Mega Zapdos Blaziken Gyarados Krookodile Scizor

This is Josh Krieger's Oregon Regionals team. Mega Venusaur was meant to take plenty of hits and beat Pokémon such as Milotic, Suicune, and Gastrodon, which Josh thought he didn't have an answer for otherwise. Zapdos is the Tailwind setter, handling Pokémon like Salamence, Mega Charizard Y, and most importantly, Talonflame. Blaziken was added to handle Mega Kangaskhan and Heatran, while Gyarados supported Blaziken by being able to handle Mega Salamence. Krookodile provided more Intimidate support without being 4x weak to Ice, which this team was really weak to already. Krookodile also helps this team break Cresselia and other Psychic-types. To finish this team, Scizor was added to help mitigate the team's Fairy weakness and to take on Trick Room teams, which this team otherwise struggled with.

General Mindset:

I try to lead often with Zapdos alongside a Pokémon that has the advantage in the most possible scenarios and try to set up my Tailwind up as soon as possible. Then, I start to play this team like hyper offense: I know my Pokemon will be able to withstand a hit and 2HKO whatever threat is active.

The most important thing about bulky offense is not losing momentum, as its main objective is to have the best matchup in all possible situations. You lose momentum by switching too much, but if you play it right, your opponent will switch out a lot too.

Also, with bulky offense, you don't need to bring your Mega Evolution all the time. You'll find yourself in situations that your Mega Evolution won't work better than your other 4 Pokemon. Heck, sometimes bulky offense is perfect for Double Mega teams too!


3) Semi-Room

Art for semi-room

Common Pokémon:

Milotic Gardevoir Mega Zapdos Azumarill Amoonguss Aegislash Thundurus Landorus-Therian Rotom-W Suicune Cresselia Terrakion Conkeldurr Heatran

Honorable Mentions:

Gengar Virizion Scrafty Rotom-H Kangaskhan Mega Mienshao Garchomp

Common answers:

Aegislash Thundurus Amoonguss Kangaskhan Mega Heatran

and anything that can stop the speed control method from going up. Taunt or Fake Out users are really good at this.


Semi-Room is an archetype that has one primary and another secondary speed control method. Although Thunder Wave seems like a good option for primary speed control, Tailwind has been highlighted on the spot, creating the most popular variant of this archetype: TailRoom. As the name states, this is the combination of the Trick Room and Tailwind speed control options on the same team. This allows the team to choose the right speed control option for each specific opponent. For example, you can set up Trick Room while the opponent is operating under Tailwind or weather. Conversely, if the opponent doesn't have a clear speed control option you can set up Tailwind and start sweeping.

Semi-Room usually has one Trick Room setter and one or two primary speed control setters, and then you choose your remaining Pokémon to work in one or both modes.

Gardevoir Mega Thundurus Landorus-Therian Suicune Amoonguss Heatran

This was Juichi Sasaki's TailRoom team that he used at the Japanese Nationals. Mega Gardevoir, his Trick Room setter, has an amazing typing that makes it synergize well with Amoonguss. In return, Amoonguss used its Rage Powder to keep attacks away from Mega Gardevoir, protecting it while it sets up Trick Room. Under Trick Room, Amoonguss becomes a menace, gaining access to the fastest Spore in the game. Suicune, on the other hand, worked as the team's Tailwind setter, boosting the Speed of Landorus-T, Thundurus, Heatran, and Gardevoir, all of which work amazingly under Tailwind. Landorus-T provided Intimidate support, while Thundurus completed the double genie core that's so popular in VGC. Heatran handled bulky Steel-types that Mega Gardevoir can't beat, particularly Aegislash and Mega Mawile, and created a pretty neat Fire / Water / Grass core with Amoonguss and Suicune.

General Mindset:

Uhh, can I call anything general here? Semi-Room is so full of surprises that I can't really do that. I can tell you the playstyle of TailRoom players will change depending on Team Preview: if the opponent has a Tailwind user, you should usually lead with the Trick Room user and a supporter to set up Trick Room as they set up Tailwind. Against opposing Trick Room, you should also lead with your Trick Room user and a supporter, but you work on it in a different way. This special way will depend on your Trick Room matchup and your opponent's team. Against weather teams, you lead depending on what weather you're facing. Against teams that don't have a clear speed control option, lead Tailwind+Support.


4) Perish Trap

Art for perish trap

Let's all thank P3DS for this write-up!

Common Pokémon:

Politoed Gengar Mega Amoonguss Gothitelle Scrafty Raichu Whimsicott Clefairy Dewgong Azumarill Togekiss Hitmontop

Honorable Mentions:

Lapras Arcanine Terrakion Murkrow Kangaskhan Landorus-Therian Eject-button

Common Answers:

Aegislash Thundurus Landorus-Therian Bisharp Hydreigon

and keeping up a lot of offensive pressure. Feint users can also mess with it badly.


Perish Trap is one of the strongest archetypes around; however, it is the most difficult to master and one of the hardest to make consistent enough to function in high-level play. Don't let that put you off, however; a well-built Perish Trap team can be extremely deadly. This archetype plays very differently to your standard battle, as you rarely attack while you try to stall out the Perish Song turns. Because of this, a lot of players disregard Perish Trap as unsportsmanlike. However, Perish Song ignores Substitute, evasiveness, accuracy, and semi-invulnerability from moves such as Fly, bulk, Magic Coat, and Magic Bounce. It also reveals the Speed order of your opponent's Pokémon, giving you crucial information about the opponent's team. Although Perish Trap is good, you need to go all-out with your support for the team. Encore, Disable, Substitute, Swagger, Thunder Wave, Dark Void, Will-O-Wisp, Snarl, Intimidate, Rage Powder, Follow Me, and Fake Out all help our trappers survive, and so the trap survives as well.

Politoed Gengar Mega Arcanine Amoonguss Gothitelle Scrafty

This is Wolfe Glicke's Perish Trap team that he used to take first place at the Massachusetts Regionals. It relied on bulk to hold out for the duration of Perish Song. However, the team could flip the tables with a strong Trick Room core of Scrafty, Gothitelle, Amoonguss, and Politoed, so it could spread Spore and then use Perish Song before getting hit by other moves. The slow Pokémon all had 0 Speed IVs and Speed-reducing natures, so if it came to a two-on-two situation with Perish Song, his Pokémon would usually be the slowest, so he could just stall out the Perish Song turns.

Common Mindset:

Perish Trap demands a very smart player who can turn the course of the battle in their favor. You must have a strong will, as a lot of players regard this archetype as unfair and skill-less, and if you're playing online, they won't stop from letting you know. You must also be prepared to do what others would never do in regards to techniques on the team, utilizing moves such as Swagger, Encore + Disable, and Dark Void. You should have an eye for detail, picking up on as much information as possible, such as turn orders from Perish Song and noticing that the Poké Balls used can affect the abilities of certain Pokémon (for example, a Pokémon in an Apricorn Ball or Safari Ball cannot have its hidden ability by any means). Play intelligently with Perish Trap, and you will be rewarded for the effort.

Reports (Not many reports have been released in regards to Perish Trap):

Well, for what we've seen from these archetypes, they have placed relatively well in competitions thanks to some amazing players such as Wolfe Glicke, Aaron Traylor, Aaron Zheng, Baz Anderson, Zach Droegkamp, etc. Keep in mind that there's no better archetype: the playstyle, skill, and luck of each player will determine the victory!

Watch out for the second part of this installment, which will describe weather archetypes and some more of the most successful archetypes in the VGC history.

Take care, and have fun!

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