March Madness: New threats in VGC 2020

By ChrystalFalchion. Released: 2020/03/30.
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Art by Pyritie.


With Pokémon Home bringing several old faces back and several Max Raid events legalizing several previously illegal Gigantamax formes, the spring season of VGC 2020 is shaping up to be vastly different to the winter one. So, in order to help prepare you for this, we'll be looking at some of the more threatening rereleased Pokémon and new Gigantamax formes.

Returning Threats



Specially Defensive

  • Incineroar @ Figy Berry
  • Ability: Intimidate
  • EVs: 236 HP / 244 SpD / 28 Spe
  • Careful Nature
  • - Fake Out
  • - Flare Blitz
  • - Darkest Lariat / Snarl
  • - Parting Shot

Assault Vest

  • Incineroar @ Assault Vest
  • Ability: Intimidate
  • EVs: 252 HP /252 Atk /4 SpD
  • Adamant Nature
  • - Fake Out
  • - Flare Blitz
  • - Darkest Lariat
  • - U-turn / Close Combat

Pairs well with: Togekiss Dusclops Dragapult

The king of VGC 2018 and 2019 is back and looking to conquer the Galar region. Incineroar has a lot going for it: access to Intimidate, Fake Out, a high Attack stat, nice utility options like Taunt and Snarl, and the ability to bring in a teammate safely through a relatively slow U-turn or its new toy Parting Shot. Its typing is helpful too, allowing it to threaten Pokémon such as Durant, Grimmsnarl, Whimsicott, and Dragapult. It usually holds either a pinch Berry to heal it back from the brink, which it can easily trigger with Flare Blitz recoil, or an Assault Vest, which when combined with Intimidate gives it great bulk both physically and specially. Its Speed tier also means it could be used on or against Trick Room teams, meaning there are rarely matchups where it isn't useful. It can work well alongside a plethora of other Pokémon and can find use on teams of almost any style due to the aforementioned traits.

However, on paper at least, things don't look quite as good for the wrestling tiger this time around. Fighting-types are much more common now that the Island Guardians are gone, which Incineroar hates running into due to its weakness. It has also received some indirect nerfs; while it gained Parting Shot, it also lost the coveted Knock Off. The pinch Berries now only heal 33% HP as opposed to 50%, reducing its longevity. Inner Focus, Own Tempo, Oblivious, and Scrappy now all provide an Intimidate immunity, and Dynamax means Fake Out is no longer as reliable as before. The popularity of Intimidate has also given rise to Milotic and Braviary, which both benefit from Intimidate thanks to Competitive and Defiant, respectively.



Sun Sweeper

Pairs well with: Torkoal Indeedee Duraludon

Venusaur is a major threat under the sun thanks to Chlorophyll. This generation has been very kind to the Kanto starter, as it gained access to Earth Power and can now use Weather Ball alongside Chlorophyll, letting it hit the bulky Steel-types like Ferrothorn and Corviknight that trouble other Chlorophyll sweepers like Leafeon and Vileplume. Venusaur loves the new Dynamax mechanic, as Max Ooze gives its side a Special Attack boost, while Max Overgrowth sets Grassy Terrain, giving its Grass-type STAB attacks a huge boost. If current trades are indicative, it will be the main sweeper on sun teams.

Venusaur does still have some issues though. None of its base stats are truly spectacular, and outside sun its Speed is rather average. Its Grass / Poison typing isn't great offensively, as Bug-, Poison-, and Steel-types all resist its main STAB moves. Venusaur also has a terrible case of four-moveslot syndrome, as it badly wishes it could run all of Solar Beam, Sludge Bomb, Earth Power, Weather Ball, Sleep Powder, Growth, and Protect. Giving up a coverage move leaves it walled by most Steel-types, giving up Sleep Powder costs your team valuable utility, giving up Protect makes it a prime target for Fake Out when not Dynamaxed, and giving up Growth can make it struggle against specially bulky Pokémon.

Alolan Ninetales

Alolan Ninetales

Aurora Veil

Pairs well with: Incineroar Dragapult Gyarados

Honorable mentions: Primarina Alolan Persian

While Vanilluxe and Abomasnow now also have access to the coveted combination of Snow Warning and Aurora Veil, Alolan Ninetales is much faster than the snow tree and the ice cream. Setup sweepers tend to be rarer in VGC than in singles, as finding space to set up is more difficult. But with Aurora Veil reducing all damage taken by a third, sweepers like Dragon Dance Gyarados and Clangorous Soul Kommo-o can set up much more easily.

Unfortunately, outside of setting Aurora Veil, there isn't really any reason to use Alolan Ninetales. Base 109 Speed isn't quite as good as it was back in Alola, with several threats such as Inteleon and Dragapult able to outspeed the arctic fox. It also has low defenses, and its typing grants it unfortunate weaknesses to Fire and Rock, as well as a nasty 4x weakness to Steel. To cap it off, its mediocre Special Attack stat means it won't be doing much damage to anything that isn't weak to Ice- or Fairy-type moves.

Gigantamax Formes


Gigantamax Lapras

Offensive Support

Pairs well with: Incineroar Kommo-o Gyarados

Lapras has access to one of the best G-Max moves of all in the form of G-Max Resonance. Essentially, it's a damaging Aurora Veil that doesn't need hail to be up to work. This can enable brutal hyper offensive teams, with previously frail Pokémon becoming far bulkier with the damage reduction. While its main niche comes from its Gigantamax forme, Lapras still isn't dead weight without it; great bulk, Water Absorb, and STAB Freeze-Dry allow it to beat just about every other Water-type commonly seen in VGC, with Gyarados, Dracovish, Gastrodon, and Ludicolo all taking 4x damage from Freeze-Dry. It can also use Shell Armor to check Super Luck Togekiss. Great bulk and lots of weaknesses also make Lapras an excellent user of Weakness Policy, which can remedy its average Special Attack.

On the downside, Lapras is rather slow and can be hard to fit onto Trick Room teams, as Jellicent and Araquanid tend to offer more to those teams. Jellicent can set up Trick Room itself, while Araquanid hits much harder thanks to Water Bubble. Average Special Attack means it won't be hitting too hard if it doesn't get to trigger its Weakness Policy. The rise of Fighting-types this generation is more bad news for the Transport Pokémon, and Electric-types are common threats too with the Rotom formes all gaining Nasty Plot.


Gigantamax Grimmsnarl

Gigantamax Attacker

Pairs well with: Milotic Corviknight Bronzong

Gigantamax Grimmsnarl's signature G-Max move, G-Max Snooze, has a 50% chance to make an opposing Pokémon drowsy, meaning they will fall asleep at the end of the next turn. In a metagame where Heal Bell, Aromatherapy and Sleep Talk are virtually nonexistent, this can spell doom for just about any foe or, at the very least, force a switch, leaving the Pokémon coming in a prime target for an easy KO. The release of its Gigantamax forme has freed Grimmsnarl up to run more offensive sets, letting it make use of its high base 120 Attack stat and wide movepool. In turn, this has given it a layer of unpredictability it didn't have before, making it much harder to check. STAB priority in Sucker Punch and Prankster-boosted Thunder Wave help make up for its low Speed, and like Incineroar, it can be used on or against Trick Room teams.

However, In a metagame with Togekiss running rampant, a weakness to Fairy-type moves isn't ideal, and offensive Steel-types like Duraludon and Durant are commonplace too. Gigantamaxing also means Grimmsnarl can no longer use Sucker Punch or its support movepool, leaving it slow without Trick Room or Tailwind support. While it's not frail per se, its bulk isn't exactly stellar either. Lastly, with Incineroar's release, Intimidate is quite common, so you will need to bring along Intimidate deterrents like Milotic, Braviary, and Corviknight if you want to use offensive Grimmsnarl.


Gigantamax Hatterene

Offensive Trick Room

Pairs well with: Indeedee Incineroar Conkeldurr

If you've ever faced this thing in a Max Raid battle, you'll know just what a pain Gigantamax Hatterene can be. G-Max Smite confuses both foes, meaning they could both potentially end up damaging themselves and missing a turn. In a format where you could win a battle in just two turns, this could potentially be devastating. Hatterene much prefers the confusion effect to setting up Misty Terrain, as it gets more mileage from the power boost and priority immunity that come with Psychic Terrain. Hatterene's niche as a Trick Room setter comes from its massive Special Attack, wide movepool, and access to Magic Bounce to bounce back moves like Taunt and Encore.

Hatterene's frailty means it will have a harder time getting Trick Room set up than bulkier setters like Bronzong, Mimikyu, and Dusclops, so it will require more support than they do. It dearly wishes it could hold two items, as it loves the power of a Life Orb but has a harder time setting up Trick Room without a Focus Sash or Babiri Berry. Togekiss's popularity has in turn made Steel-types popular, and outside Trick Room, most of the offensive ones like Duraludon and Durant can easily take out Hatterene.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully now you'll feel a little more prepared for some of the new faces you'll doubtlessly see in the upcoming metagame. We can all look forward to watching the metagame develop as more Gigantamax formes are legalized and, once the expansion passes come out, the additions to the Pokédex.

HTML by Ryota Mitarai.
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