When the curtain of night closes the day, it's as though the stage is being set for a performance. Lights flash by with fleeting beauty against nightly elegance where anything is possible. Darkness is love... there's nothing to fear. It's a place where the clouds are bound by jagged peaks, where the palm trees are covered in snow. But just like a dream it is built on familiar sights. Maybe I'll call it Vario.
This is a basic look into my thought process when approaching HO teambuilding in SM Ubers. The overall structure of Vario is not one that is cutting edge or elusive, but it was chosen as the vessel for good reason. More than anything, this build highlights the importance of details and how they contribute to flexibility. I feel that details are perhaps the most under appreciated aspect of building in this generation so far. More importantly, details decide Pokemon games, especially in higher level play.
As a rater and tutor I'm often asked to evaluate builds. For newer players I see a trend with nearly perfect consistency: a lack of structure. Structure is the way in which the builder has defined and assigned the necessary roles of their team. A builder must be informed of their choices in order to know that they follow one of several optimized paths. To have a sensible structure, the builder must have good reasons as to why they have selected each Pokemon. Often when I ask someone why they decided to use a particular Pokemon or what their objective is, the response is a blank chat window.
This is the first SM team I built, which is based around the combination of Xerneas, Mega Gengar, Yveltal, and Primal Groudon. Xerneas and Mega Gengar have always had effective offensive synergy together, where Mega Gengar is able to trap and eliminate a variety of defensive Xerneas checks. Mega Gengar is also able to force adequate chip damage or trades against most offensive Xerneas checks such as EKiller, Primal Groudon, and Mega Lucario. The use of Yveltal alongside Xerneas and Mega Gengar makes intuitive sense, providing a ground immunity and a method of getting Mega Gengar actively into play. Looking at just these three Pokemon there is potential for detail work that can cover any archetype, while several critical defensive roles are also covered, all while doing the business of offensive synergy.
Primal Groudon is used on virtually every gen 7 Ubers team, but its inclusion shouldn't be assumed. Like any other Pokemon its place needs to be justified, and auto-placing it on a squad will only increase your risk of falling into teambuilding ruts. Looking at the four primary members, Primal Groudon fills key roles of Geo Xern check, Primal Kyogre check, Ho-Oh check, Steel-type punish, and primary Fairy-type resist. Regardless of how the detail work plays out later, Primal Groudon will most likely want to function as a wallbreaker to open things up for Yveltal or Xerneas. Additionally, its strong physical presence is good for balancing the special attacking nature of the other three core members.
The remaining two slots are less stringent in their mon selection, but will usually conform to a SD Arceus and a SR setter. If I were to pinpoint the greatest flaw this build's structure has, it's that its offensive progression against certain powerful defensive teams can be disjointed or meagerly punishing. Of course this can be rectified with intelligent play, is dependent upon the sets in question, and can be detailed to accommodate areas of concern, but nevertheless this is something I keep in mind.
The first version of Vario came directly from one of my gen 6 teams, Devenio Laqueus, featured here in a PotW interview. The new Mega Evolution mechanics coupled with the nerf to Klefki provided new degrees of freedom to the combination of Mega Gengar, Xerneas, and Yveltal. This is why the team was brought into gen 7. The Mega Gengar set was changed to Taunt + Destiny Bond as Protect is no longer needed. Xerneas was used to experiment with Farium Z. EKiller and Scarf Yveltal required virtually no updating, and the current metagame is much more favorable to Scarf Yveltal than it was in gen 6.
This is the version I decided to post and discuss. The only substantial change from Devenio Laqueus is that the hazard setter has been changed from Dialga to Excadrill. The squad gains a spinner and becomes a bit more proactive, while rare attempts at spinblocking can be punished with Yveltal if necessary. The Dialga variant still has the niceties that come with another beatstick mon and provides extra cover to threats such as Mega Salamence and Primal Kyogre.
Deoxys-S can be used as the hazard setter if desired. The purpose is to integrate screens onto the build, which can have a very strong offense matchup. Screens can also turn Deoxys-S into a pseudo-beatstick mon, although unlike Dialga it’s reliant on teammates to achieve any damage output. Lack of a spinner can mean less anti-lead options, and a mirror matchup is even more prone to RNG.
Mega Gengar offenses are usually limited in their capacity to check RP Primal Groudon, which is what the Arceus-Ground variant attempts to offset. A Ghost resist is lost due to the change of an Arceus type, but this is a non-issue thanks to Yveltal. The Yveltal set should be changed to Life Orb or Choice Specs due to the increased threat of Geo Xern (loss of EKiller). Either Z Arceus-Ground or Z Geo Xern is workable here, and should be selected based on the opponent.
There are a few other variations I’ve used with Pokemon and sets that are a bit more specialized and less obvious, but I’ll hold off on spoiling those.
The decision to use Fairium Z Xerneas is due to its matchup against offensive threats and status. This set is better at justifying high bulk investment when compared to a Power Herb Xerneas due to the effects of Z Geomancy. Bulk is desired because Xerneas functions as the primary check to Yveltal sets, Mega Salamence, Rayquaza, and niche offensive threats such as Pheromosa, Darkrai, Zekrom, and Palkia. A bulky Geomancy Xerneas with Rest is also less concerned with switching into or taking status upon setup. The result is a Xerneas set that is less afraid of support Arceus, Zygarde-C, or blobs that can also clutch past HOs or BOs reliant on physical revenge killing to check Xerneas. The cost of the set comes from its lower immediate power and inferior options versus certain defensive Steels.
Taunt accomplishes several objectives for this team. It completely shuts down stallmons that lack attacks, it leads into forcing a trade against defensive threats, it increases options for anti-leading hazard setters, it prevents the removal of hazards, and it can be used to deny setup of offensive threats. Destiny Bond also provides a safety net against a number of offensive threats, primarily EKiller. The combination of Focus Blast and Sludge Wave allows Mega Gengar to smack most of its intended targets. Sludge Wave is strong for Fairy removal coming out of Yveltal and has the highest damage output of any of Mega Gengar's moves against neutral targets. Taunt and Destiny Bond can be dropped for Substitute + an additional attack, which has stronger follow up to compensate for the lost utility described above. Wisp has better performance against Alolan-Muk, but the squad doesn't offer any support for a Hex set.
The team relies on EKiller to help keep RP Primal Groudon and Geomancy Xerneas in line, which favors an Adamant LO EKiller with Earthquake. Z Geomancy Xerneas covers Mega Salamence and Zygarde-C, while Ghosts are sufficiently covered by Yveltal. As a result, Ice Beam isn't really needed and Shadow Claw isn't a huge boon. Fire Blast hits several targets that this squad is annoyed by, mainly stemming from the decision to use Z Geomancy Xerneas, such as Ferrothorn, Mega Scizor, Celesteela, and Skarmory. The only big target lost due to the drop in speed other than tying opposing Arceus is Mega Lucario. While this Pokemon can be very threatening, it can be trapped and KOed by Mega Gengar if unboosted, revenged by Scarf Yveltal, and struggles to get a setup opportunity.
Double dance Primal Groudon is utilized so that the Primal Groudon set has the ability to bust through support Arceus while also having a way to dent Ground neutral Steels. The lack of Swords Dance on a Primal Groudon typically means it has fewer options to pressure defensive teams. Such defensive teams have Pokemon that can tank +2 attacks, but by that point the damage is done as these can be reliant on Rest for recovery (Zygarde-C or Primal Kyogre) or are broken in exchange for their Toxic (Support Arc or Lugia). The SpD invest is the minimum requirement for standard Geomancy Xerneas and the Speed beats up to +1 standard Mega Mence at +2, creep obviously not included.
In addition to its ability to bypass Psychics and Ghosts, Scarf Yveltal is around to tackle offensive threats. It's the primary defense against Swords Dance Primal Groudon, Mega Gengar, Swords Dance Arceus, Deoxys-A, Lunala, and Mewtwo. U-turn keeps the mindgames running, helps avoid becoming locked, and gets favorable teammates into play. Foul Play is used to revenge physical attackers, especially those that have set up. Modest gets some calcs against Pokemon such as Celesteela and Giratina-O, but is mostly circumstantial. I tend to pick the nature depending on the Speed tiers I think my opponent will reach for.
As discussed earlier a number of different hazard leads can work here. Excadrill anti leads several Pokemon, removes SR in a pinch, and is unique in its ability to set against Mega Sableye. Toxic is preferred over Rock Tomb as Z Geomancy Xerneas covers Mega Salamence and punishing Giratina-O + support Arceus is a big deal. Maximum Speed beats 252 Landorus and below and there's not an especially strong incentive to run Adamant. Excadrill can also do some backup Ground-type stuff if not traded for SR early on. It can also emergency checks things if the Sash somehow remains intact.
I hope you've enjoyed this dance with me... Until the next evening... Vale~