SWSH UU Alpha and Beta Coverage

By Estarossa and Juuno. Released: 2020/02/28.
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Art by FellFromtheSky

Art by FellFromtheSky.

Introduction

The beginning of any metagame is an interesting time to look back at. Pokémon that have no business being in the tier at all, hidden stars waiting to make their presence known, and threats that dominate the tier are usually what early metas consist of. This was no different for the beginning of Sword and Shield UU. Already it was looking to be an interesting meta from early speculative data, especially with the inclusion of by far the most controversial new mechanic to be introduced, Dynamax. With Pokémon Home being released in the middle of February, the old SWSH UU meta seems to have been cast aside. In reality, it shaped the meta that we know now in a myriad of ways.

Alpha Threats - Offensive

Doublade

Doublade was one of the most important Pokémon in UU Alpha, benefiting greatly from the reduced Knock Off distribution and acting as a fantastic check to dangerous Ghost- and Psychic-types like Gengar, Polteageist, and Sigilyph thanks to Shadow Sneak. Furthermore, it made a great setup sweeper and cleaner with Swords Dance, while Dynamax enabled it to gain further Defense and Attack boosts, as well as to tank hits much better from Pokémon such as Mamoswine, Obstagoon, and Weavile and remove them.

Weavile
  • Choice Band Weavile @ Choice Band
  • Ability: Pickpocket
  • EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Jolly Nature
  • - Throat Chop
  • - Icicle Crash
  • - Ice Shard
  • - Low Kick
  • Heavy-Duty Boots Life Orb Weavile @ Heavy-Duty Boots / Life Orb
  • Ability: Pickpocket
  • EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Jolly Nature
  • - Throat Chop
  • - Icicle Crash
  • - Ice Shard
  • - Swords Dance

Weavile was the fastest (viable) unboosted Pokémon in the tier during Alpha and was able to offensively check threats such as Gengar, Kommo-o, and Diggersby with its Dark- and Ice-type moves. Its near-unresisted STAB combination allowed it to serve as a great wallbreaker, with Swords Dance sets being particularly hard to revenge kill due to Weavile's Speed tier and Choice Band sets being able to more immediately punish switch-ins such as Galarian Weezing. Its powerful priority in Ice Shard was also extremely useful, especially on Choice Band sets, to check faster Pokémon such as Clangorous Soul Kommo-o, Max Airstream Sigilyph, and Polteageist.

Charizard

Charizard was one of the best Dynamax users in UU Alpha, thanks to its ability to activate Solar Power with its own Fire-type moves while boosting its Speed with Max Airstream to clean late-game. Answers to Charizard were typically limited, especially for more offensive teams, although Pokémon such as Umbreon could shut it down with Yawn, and Pyukumuku could take it out with Mirror Coat. Charizard was one of the main factors that led to Coalossal seeing early usage, despite the latter generally being a dreadful pick otherwise.

Durant

Durant received an important buff this generation in First Impression, which allowed it to revenge kill faster threats such as boosted Dragon Dance Haxorus and Max Airstream Sigilyph. Furthermore, through Dynamax Durant was able to overcome its main issue in inaccurate moves due to Hustle, and thanks to its great speed it could easily clean through weakened teams with its great coverage. Dynamax's removal of the Choice lock also let it more easily run Choice Band and First Impression without offering free turns.

Alpha Threats - Defensive

Milotic

Milotic served as the main bulky Water-type in UU Alpha and as one of the best checks to top-tier Pokémon such as Noivern, Rhyperior, Doublade, and Weavile. Furthermore, its coverage made it very difficult to switch into for more offensive teams, as popular checks such as Rotom-C, Roserade, and Tsareena were unable to switch into Ice Beam, while strong wallbreakers such as Haxorus, Sirfetch'd, and Diggersby could not risk switching into Scald and needed prior chip damage to KO Milotic. Milotic could also take advantage of Scald from popular opposing bulky Water-types as well as Toxic Spikes users such as Galarian Weezing and Drapion to activate Marvel Scale, allowing it to reliably check dangerous wallbreakers such as Mamoswine and Weavile and making it very hard to break through.

Galarian Weezing

Galarian Weezing was the most popular new Pokémon in UU Alpha. Its fantastic defensive typing allowed it to check Pokémon such as Sirfetch'd, Mamoswine, and Tsareena, while its incredible movepool made it one of the most useful utility Pokémon in the tier, commonly serving as a Defogger or Toxic Spikes setter, the latter of which it was particularly good at due to common entry hazard removal options such as Noivern and Tsareena having a poor matchup versus it. Other options such as Toxic allowed it to more immediately punish switches it forced against Pokémon such as Umbreon to cripple Pokémon such as Milotic and prevent them from activating Marvel Scale on a single layer of Toxic Spikes while also making it more useful in matchups against grounded Poison-types such as Salazzle and Drapion.

Umbreon

Umbreon was one of the most important defensive Pokémon in the tier, checking many threats such as Sigilyph, Doublade, Gengar, Polteageist, special Clangorous Soul Kommo-o, and Indeedee. Furthermore, the Wish support it provided enabled it to greatly support Galarian Weezing, which it shared incredible synergy with thanks to Galarian Weezing checking the Fighting-types such as Sirfetch'd that threatened Umbreon and Umbreon checking the Psychic-types such as Indeedee that bothered Galarian Weezing. Another important facet Umbreon presented during the Dynamax meta was its ability to use Yawn to counter Dynamax sweepers such as Charizard while also being able to generate momentum and free opportunities to pass Wishes to teammates such as Doublade.

Hippowdon

Hippowdon returned to UU again in SWSH as one of the premier Ground-types and Stealth Rock users. Importantly, it was one of the few Pokémon in the tier that could defensively check Obstagoon, as it could avoid being 2HKOed by Facade, although it was less safe versus Taunt and Switcheroo sets, and it also provided a decent check to physical attackers such as Durant and Diggersby. While it could be easily overwhelmed, especially by Diggersby, Dynamax provided it with a safety net against these Pokémon and allowed it to also serve as a decent one-time check to Gengar.

January Shifts and Transitioning Into Beta

Losses

Mew

While Mew received some heavy nerfs in SWSH due to losing access to any recovery moves, it also gained access to Spikes and Dragon Dance, as well as some useful coverage moves in Close Combat and Darkest Lariat. This enabled Mew to serve as both an entry hazard lead for hyper offensive teams and, more importantly, a dangerous sweeper that could easily guarantee setup due to its bulk and sweep through enemy teams with Dynamax while also preventing Pokémon such as Hippowdon from phazing it. The loss of Mew negatively affected hyper offensive teams, especially with the loss of Kommo-o at the same time, while lightening the burden on defensive teams, which primarily had to rely on options such as Pyukumuku and physically defensive Mantine or Dynamaxing their own defensive Pokémon such as Doublade to deal with it.

Sylveon

Though it faced heavy competition as a special wall and Wish passer from Umbreon due to the latter's typing allowing it to check Gengar and Chandelure better and its ability to provide a strong check to Doublade, as well as from Galarian Weezing as a defensive Fairy-type due to its greater utility options, Sylveon was a useful option to some teams that could compress a Fighting-type check and a Wish passer into one teamslot. It also had the ability to punish Gengar switching in better than Galarian Weezing with Mystical Fire, potentially assisting a teammate, while serving as an excellent check to Noivern, Haxorus, and Kommo-o. The loss of Sylveon primarily led to such Pokémon becoming more common while also allowing Haxorus to be a much more dangerous threat due to the removal of its main defensive check.

Kommo-o

Kommo-o was one of the most dominant and versatile presences in UU Alpha. Its roles were widespread, being able to serve as a dangerous sweeper with Clangorous Soul, a breaker with good defensive utility with Taunt-based sets, and both an offensive and a defensive Stealth Rock user. Defensive Stealth Rock sets in particular picked up heavily in usage towards the end of UU Alpha, making use of Body Press to attain a powerful Fighting-type STAB attack while being a great check to physical attackers such as Obstagoon, Crawdaunt, and Sirfetch'd. The loss of Kommo-o shook the tier massively, resulting in more variety in Stealth Rock users, a lot of which Kommo-o's bulk and defensive typing had previously overshadowed, while widening the options for fast Pokémon on more offensive teams, which needed ones that could beat Kommo-o after it used Clangerous Soul, such as Rotom-F and Gengar. Furthermore, the removal of the tier's main answer to it led to Crawdaunt becoming a much more problematic Pokémon, eventually leading towards its ban.

Gains

Hawlucha

Hawlucha was one of the two Pokémon to drop to UU at the start of Beta and immediately solidified itself as the top Pokémon in the tier. With it gaining access to Close Combat in SWSH, Hawlucha gained the ability to reliably activate Unburden with a White Herb, instead of needing to run Terrain support or waste a moveslot on Sky Attack. Hawlucha became the premier sweeper and cleaner in the tier and it was often run with Indeedee to allow it to immediately activate Unburden. While Hawlucha wasn't able to deal with them all at once, it was able to reliably pick and choose its checks, with Throat Chop allowing it to hit Doublade and Taunt allowing it to prevent Hippowdon from phazing it and in return set up freely on it, as well as beat Unaware Pokémon.

Barraskewda

Barraskewda was the other Pokémon to drop to UU. Thanks to it possessing the best Speed stat in the tier, it was able to immediately put a lot of pressure on more offensive teams, especially when running Life Orb sets, which the lack of a Choice lock prevented Noivern from revenge killing. However, it greatly struggled versus more defensive teams due to being unable to reliably break through bulky Water-types such as Milotic and Mantine and put a considerable strain on teambuilding due to its lack of any defensive utility compared to such other Water-types.

Beta Bans

Crawdaunt

Even before Kommo-o rose to OU, Crawdaunt was one of the most dangerous wallbreakers in the tier, due to its incredibly strong STAB attacks, access to Knock Off, and ability to outspeed most common defensive Pokémon as well as revenge kill threats such as Diggersby, Gengar, and Mamoswine. After Kommo-o rose, Crawdaunt no longer had any reliable defensive checks, and counterplay to Crawdaunt relied mostly on prediction and attempting to not let it get free turns as much as possible. Some teams started to run Crawdaunt with Teleport Xatu, however, which made this much harder to prevent. Due to this very limited counterplay, Crawdaunt was banned from UU in a 11-1-1 vote.

Gengar

Thanks to the removal of Pursuit in SWSH, Ghost-types and Psychic-types became much more dangerous. Gengar in particular, however, also gained access to Nasty Plot, allowing it to break through would-be checks such as Umbreon, Drapion, and Mantine far more easily. The removal of Pursuit also made it much more threatening to offensive teams due to its unresisted coverage, great Speed tier, and ability to come into play freely many times in a game. Choice Specs sets in particular became very problematic, having relatively few switch-ins and being able to break through even would-be checks such as Umbreon and Mantine fairly easily with Sludge Bomb's poison chance, as well as punish such checks with Trick. Gengar had been a top 2 Pokémon in the tier since UU Alpha started and resulted in a lot of Sticky Web based offense teams and mandated the use of Umbreon, Drapion, or preferably a Dark-type faster than Gengar on teams. This lack of defensive counterplay coupled with dangerous set versatility and its great offense matchup led to Gengar being banned in a 10-3 vote.

Obstagoon

Obstagoon was one of the most threatening Pokémon in the UU tier. Its above average Speed tier coupled with unresisted coverage allowed it to greatly threaten offensive teams, with Obstruct even allowing it to break through some of its checks such as Kommo-o more easily. It was also incredibly threatening to more defensive teams, being able to easily come in on bulky Water-types due to not caring about Scald and other defensive Pokémon such as Umbreon and having very few checks outside of Hippowdon and Avalugg, which could be broken through with Taunt and Obstruct, respectively, and disliked taking a Knock Off. Other options such as Switcheroo also existed, allowing it to cripple checks such as Kommo-o with its Flame Orb or potentially receive a boosting item such as Life Orb or Choice Band to hit dangerous power levels or Leftovers to offset its burn damage, making it much harder to wear down. Obstagoon was more controversial for the UU council, with some members pointing out that it had to reliably activate Flame Orb first if not running Obstruct, that short-term checks such as Rhyperior were common, and that its Speed tier left room for it to be more easily revenge killed than Gengar, as well as expressing they believed it was a good limiter to the strength of defensive teams; however, Obstagoon ended up being banned in a close 7-6 vote.

Hawlucha

Hawlucha quickly became the most dominant Pokémon in the UU tier. Its counterplay was extremely limited, and Hawlucha had the ability to pick and choose its checks by choosing between Taunt and Throat Chop. Furthermore, Doublade, Hawlucha's main check, was easily worn down due to its lack of recovery and could be easily beaten by Electric Seed sets. Revenge killing Hawlucha was also incredibly difficult, as it could afford to run considerable bulk while still outspeeding the whole boosted tier, allowing it to take priority moves such as Mamoswine and Weavile's Ice Shard provided it was at high HP. Counterplay mainly involved preventing Hawlucha from ever setting up or forcing it to use Close Combat multiple times so that it could be taken out with priority moves, and Hawlucha ended up being banned in a unanimous vote.

Tier Impact Post-Beta

Galarian Weezing

Thanks to the banning of Obstagoon, Galarian Weezing was less pressured to run fully defensive sets in order to check it better. This led to offensive sets becoming more prominent, which took advantage of its fantastic STAB combination and access to Fire Blast while still defensively checking threats such as Sirfetch'd. Furthermore, these offensive sets allowed Galarian Weezing to serve as a much better Toxic Spikes setter, as it could more easily punish grounded Poison-types such as Drapion and Roserade for attempting to switch in while having a fantastic matchup against opposing entry hazard removers such as Noivern and Tsareena. These offensive sets were particularly popular on balance teams, which appreciated the offensive presence it could provide and were able to provide Wish support in return. On such teams, offensive Galarian Weezing would often take the role of a Defogger instead, making room for other Noivern sets such as Taunt or U-turn variants.

Chandelure
  • Choice Specs Chandelure @ Choice Specs
  • Ability: Flash Fire
  • EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Timid Nature
  • IVs: 0 Atk
  • - Fire Blast
  • - Shadow Ball
  • - Energy Ball
  • - Trick
  • Choice Scarf Chandelure @ Choice Scarf
  • Ability: Flash Fire
  • EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Timid Nature
  • IVs: 0 Atk
  • - Fire Blast
  • - Shadow Ball
  • - Energy Ball
  • - Trick
  • Heavy-Duty Boots Chandelure @ Heavy-Duty Boots
  • Ability: Flash Fire
  • EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Timid Nature
  • IVs: 0 Atk
  • - Fire Blast
  • - Shadow Ball
  • - Calm Mind
  • - Energy Ball

Previously, Chandelure was largely outclassed by Gengar as an offensive Ghost-type, but once Gengar was banned, Chandelure quickly rose to prominence. Chandelure was able to run multiple viable sets, such as Choice Specs, Choice Scarf, Will-O-Wisp + Hex, and Calm Mind, making it an very unpredictable presence. Choiced sets were especially threatening, having relatively few switch-ins and being able to cripple their main checks such as Umbreon with Trick, and could force out metagame staples such as Reuniclus and Galarian Weezing easily. Will-O-Wisp + Hex sets could instead nail certain switch-ins such as Gigalith and Drapion while having more longevity due to being able to run Heavy-Duty Boots and Pain Split. Another option was Taunt to prevent targets from recovering their health.

Reuniclus
  • Life Orb Reuniclus @ Life Orb
  • Ability: Magic Guard
  • EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpA / 4 SpD
  • Modest Nature
  • IVs: 0 Atk
  • - Psychic / Psyshock
  • - Focus Blast
  • - Shadow Ball / Trick Room / Calm Mind
  • - Recover
  • Leftovers Reuniclus @ Leftovers
  • Ability: Magic Guard
  • EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD
  • Bold Nature
  • IVs: 0 Atk
  • - Stored Power
  • - Calm Mind
  • - Acid Armor
  • - Recover

Thanks to the banning of Obstagoon, Crawdaunt, and Gengar, slow Psychic-types like Reuniclus were able to thrive. Reuniclus in particular became very popular due to its ability Magic Guard letting it easily deal with defensive cores without caring about status, and its set versatility made it rather unpredictable. Calm Mind + Acid Armor sets became very popular to begin with, due to the relative lack of counters present, especially when paired with Toxic Spikes, making use of its newly gained access to Stored Power, allowing Reuniclus to set up on enemy teams. 3 Attacks sets were possibly the most dangerous, trading setup potential for raw immediate power, making use of Life Orb + Magic Guard and great coverage in Psychic, Shadow Ball, and Focus Blast and finding many opportunities to wallbreak against Pokémon such as Galarian Weezing, Milotic, Noivern, and Rhyperior. Finally, offensive Trick Room sets also saw some usage, which allowed Reuniclus to serve as a deadly wincon against more offensive teams while still being able to break through defensive teams and perform early-game thanks to Recover.

Diggersby
  • Choice Scarf Diggersby @ Choice Scarf
  • Ability: Huge Power
  • EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Jolly Nature
  • - Body Slam / Mega Kick
  • - Earthquake
  • - U-turn
  • - Spikes
  • Choice Band Diggersby @ Choice Band
  • Ability: Huge Power
  • EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Jolly Nature
  • - Body Slam / Mega Kick
  • - Earthquake
  • - U-turn / Quick Attack
  • - Quick Attack / Spikes
  • Life Orb Diggersby @ Life Orb
  • Ability: Huge Power
  • EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Jolly Nature
  • - Swords Dance
  • - Earthquake
  • - Body Slam / Mega Kick
  • - Quick Attack

Thanks to its ability Huge Power, Diggersby was one of the most dangerous wallbreakers. Its versatility between Choice Band, Choice Scarf, and Swords Dance sets allowed it to be a somewhat unpredictable presence, being able to punish switches with Swords Dance as well as providing a very powerful revenge killing option that could still break holes in an enemy team with Choice Scarf. With the removal of Crawdaunt's Aqua Jet and Gengar's ability to threaten it out with Focus Blast, two strong revenge killing options to Diggersby were lost, benefiting it further.

Noivern
  • Heavy-Duty Boots Noivern @ Heavy-Duty Boots
  • Ability: Infiltrator
  • EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Timid Nature
  • IVs: 0 Atk
  • - Draco Meteor / Hurricane
  • - Flamethrower
  • - Roost
  • - Defog
  • Heavy-Duty Boots Noivern @ Heavy-Duty Boots
  • Ability: Infiltrator
  • EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Timid Nature
  • - Draco Meteor
  • - Flamethrower
  • - U-turn
  • - Roost
  • Choice Specs Noivern @ Choice Specs
  • Ability: Infiltrator
  • EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
  • Timid Nature
  • - Draco Meteor
  • - Flamethrower
  • - U-turn
  • - Hurricane

Noivern was a decent Dynamax user during the Alpha stage due to being able to boost its Speed and fire off strong attacks without accuracy issues or Special Attack drops. However, it only continued to become more commonplace in the Beta meta as one of the tier's two best entry hazard removal options and as a check to various threats such as Durant, Roserade, Lucario, and Choice Band Haxorus. Despite being one of the best Defoggers available, it could also function as a good pivot with U-turn sets or as a breaker with Choice Specs. Being one of the fastest Pokémon in the tier allowed Noivern to provide utility as a revenge killer in addition to its many possible roles.

Weavile Pangoro Umbreon

Thanks to the Obstagoon and Crawdaunt ban, Weavile rose to higher usage levels due to reduced competition as an offensive Dark-type. Other offensive Dark-types also saw some usage. Pangoro's STAB combination allowed it to break through Pokémon like Umbreon too, access to Darkest Lariat enabled it to break through Acid Armor Reuniclus, its typing allowed it to switch into threats more easily, and super effective coverage let it take on Galarian Weezing. Drapion continued to see usage to check the now prominent Chandelure while remaining an excellent Toxic Spikes setter, and until the release of Home it was one of the few remaining Pokémon to have access to Knock Off. Umbreon also benefited from the removal of Gengar, as it became one of the best checks to Chandelure, and in the Beta meta, Taunt sets started to see more usage in favor of Yawn sets in order to shut down Stealth Rock users such as Rhyperior and Hippowdon and prevent bulky Water-types such as Milotic and Mantine from healing against it.

Weavile Durant Diggersby

Recently, and mostly due to the changes of Pokémon Home, these three ever-prominent wallbreakers in the tier were all banned! The loss of Durant, Weavile, and Diggersby, alongside the upcoming tier shifts, is sure to shake up UU heavily!

Final Thoughts

In comparison to SM UU, SWSH UU was radically different. The introduction of Dynamax, the cutting of several Gen 7 metagame staples such as Scizor and Latias, and new movepool changes spiced up the meta in a previously unseen way. Z-Moves' removal improved defensive cores in general due to them no longer having to fear a high-power nuke that could possibly catch a glue Pokémon off guard. To some, the changes were welcoming and a breath of fresh air. To others, they were an unwelcome and unnecessary, especially towards the competitive scene as a whole. One thing is for certain: the reverse power creep is a major step in another direction for the development of UU.

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