Project VGC 2019 Ultra Series - POTW Analysis: Aerodactyl

VGC 2019 Ultra Series POTW: Week 8

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Wow this was LATE. I would have taken the time to write this if I had the time, but the past two weeks were extremely busy: 3 exams, 2 essays, 2 quizzes, a lab report, and a lot of homework. But FINALLY I have some time to write this now that it's Presidents' Day Weekend. Unfortunately, this is the last article for this series. I feel bad cutting it off before even ten articles in it, but school is only going to get harder from now until the end of the semester, so I will have next to no time to do this. In addition, the last hurrah for this format will be the Latin American International Competition, which is next week. However, fret not! Pokémon Sword and Shield come out next week, and I have something big planned for when it comes out! After that, hopefully I can start producing content when I come home for winter break, so please look forward to it! I'm excited :)

But before any of that! We have another spooky Pokémon for this last Pokémon of the Week (POTW) article! Given that this article was meant to be released in October, I decided to find the spookiest anime picture of it I could find. To be honest, it might give me some nightmares... that's right! This week, we've got...

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Aerodactyl! Yup, this picture looks possessed. Unfortunately, there aren't any pictures of its Mega Form in the anime, which is a real shame because it's got a set in this article (more on that later). The only other interesting connection I have with it is that it's got one of the most annoying NPC sets in the Battle Tree. Believe it or not, one of the sets it can carry if you come across one in your streak is a Choice Scarf variant whose only move is Rock Slide (Literally, this is the pinnacle of VGC and I hate it). In my charges to a 50 streak in the three different modes in the Battle Tree, I have lost to this Pokémon and its flinching capabilities way too many times. Therefore, I think the demonic depiction of it above is more than appropriate to describe this particular Battle Tree set. But how much can it demonize the end of the Ultra Series metagame? Let's find out!

Overview

Type: Rock/Flying (Base and Mega)

Base Stats (Base)
HP: 80
Attack: 105
Defense: 65
Sp. Attack: 60
Sp. Defense: 75
Speed: 130

Base Stats (Mega)
HP: 80
Attack: 135
Defense: 85
Sp. Attack: 70
Sp. Defense: 95
Speed: 150

These stats don't really lend themselves to being defensive, however it can normally take a hit from things like Moonblast from Tapu Fini, Flare Blitz and Throat Chop from Incineroar, Dragon Ascent from Mega Rayquaza, and Fire Punch from Primal Groudon. But you certainly aren't using Aerodactyl for defense - no, this is definitely speedy utility! Tying with Tapu Koko and Mega Gengar is no joke, while still retaining great support like Taunt and Tailwind. Base 105 Attack, while not stellar, is enough to heavily dent anything weak to it, like Incineroar, Tornadus, and Mega Rayquaza.

But some people don't like the potential speed ties with Koko and Gengar and want to avoid them! Some people also have a Mega slot open! Some people also want Stone Edge to do more and like the added benefit of Tough Claws! These people might want to opt for Mega Aerodactyl! While its movepool doesn't change, the extra defenses can come in handy to survive things like a second Fire Punch from Primal Groudon. The added Speed and Attack helps to get the jump on base 130s like Koko, Mega Gengar, and Mewtwo and hit them on their generally weaker physical side with Stone Edge.

As a whole, however, being a fast Flying-type with Tailwind means Aerodactyl is competing for just about the same niche as Tornadus and Salamence. Support-wise, Tornadus also gets Tailwind and Taunt while not taking up a Mega slot, and is still no slouch oh offense with its Supersonic Skystrike off Hurricane with its Flyinium Z. Offense-wise, Salamence's Aerilate Double-Edge and Hyper Voice has superior damage potential, and while it takes up a Mega slot, it still finds ample room to Tailwind much of the time. So where does all this put Aerodactyl? Well, as for the normal form, I don't think it's viable unfortunately. In this RayOgre-heavy metagame, Stone Edge doesn't capitalize on Rayquaza's Flying-type thanks to Delta Stream. Even though Groudon doesn't OHKO it, Aerodactyl can't fire back with it for big damage. Base 105 Attack isn't that good when Intimidate is so omnipresent in this format, even if common Intimidate users like Incineroar and Salamence are weak to it (speaking of which, Aero also doesn't hit much super-effectively with Stone Edge either). Finally, while Aerodactyl is definitely a supporter rather than an attacker, Taunt, Wide Guard, and Tailwind just aren't redeeming qualities when it lacks access to a Sleep-inducing move and a generally good STAB attack. Mega Aero has extra Attack, Speed, and defenses, but still has similar issues to regular Aero. However, the Mega can redeem itself because Tough Claws helps it to deal extra damage with its coverage options and the extra speed helps to get Tailwind off before Tapu Koko or Mega Gengar can smack it for big damage, rather than risk a speed tie. Its niche is generally to get Tailwind up, get KO'd, and have a restricted partner swap in to sweep.

I might have said a lot before even discussing abilities, but it's important to get this across before going further. For the discussed reasons, I will not be including a sample set for regular Aerodactyl when we get there.


Abilities
Rock Head: whether you're using Mega or normal Aero, this ability sucks. If it got access to Head Smash, I might've considered it but all it gets for this is Double-Edge. So no, bad ability.
Pressure: With the amount of Pokémon that have moves with only 8 PP in this format, it can be nice to squeeze the dangerous attacks out of your opponents. However, Precipice Blades and Origin Pulse have 16, and this ability is almost useless on Pokémon that aren't restricted as they generally have more than 8 PP on all their moves. In addition, stalling out PP requires stalling, which is just something that Aerodactyl doesn't do well. This ability is better on Mega variants, however, as Pressure has the same activation priority as things like the Surge abilities of the Tapus and Intimidate, so it's nice to check for Scarfs in base form before going mega.
Unnerve: This is about its best ability, even if it doesn't impact much a lot of the time. Berries are a crucial part of the best attempt at a balance core in Ultra Series: Incineroar and Tapu Fini. Remove this, even for a turn, and your partners can capitalize. Unnerve has activation priority, meaning it will always activate before other abilities, so if you're going Mega then it doesn't help you get much info. However, it can be nice on normal variants.
Tough Claws (Mega): While Stone Edge doesn't get buffed by this ability, it's nice for additional attacks like Iron Head to attempt to keep up with the high damage of Z-Moves, other Megas, and restricted Pokémon.


Notable Moves

- Physical

Stone Edge - I've said it a bunch, but I'll say it again. Stone Edge is Aero's strongest STAB attack, but it does miss a lot. To handle that, we have...
Rock Slide - I can't believe I forgot about it while writing the above paragraphs. While lacking in power, it doesn't miss as much as Stone Edge, hits both opponents, and a 30% chance to make opponents mad flinch!
Aerial Ace - I mean... yes it's a Flying-type attack boosted by Tough Claws, but if you're trying to damage with a Flying-type attack, you might as well use Mega Mence or Tornadus as STAB Aerial Ace is still pretty weak.
Aqua Tail - yes it allows you to smack Groudon and is boosted by Tough Claws, but to reliably use it, you need Rayquaza, which also wants to Mega, or Kyogre, which partners better with Mega Salamence (because of Intimidate) and Tornadus (because Hurricane can't miss under rain).
Iron Head - It can go toe-to-toe in terms of damage on Xerneas with Mega Salamence's Double-Edge with Tough Claws boosted Iron Head, so of all the coverage attacks one can use on Mega Aero, I personally think this one is the best.
Crunch - Lunala answer? Sure. Best option? I don't think so.


- Special
no.

- Support
Tailwind - the most important support move in its arsenal, speedy Tailwind is the first and foremost reason you should consider Mega Aero. After setting it up, Mega Aero's bulk somewhat ensures it will go down soon after, allowing for partners to freely swap in and wreak havoc.
Taunt - with its base 150 speed, Mega Aero Taunts before any other common Taunt user except Prankster Tornadus, which shuts down any supportive countermeasures and setup from just about the rest of the metagame.
Wide Guard - really helpful against the spread attacks of the Primals, Mega Salamence, and Stakataka (a rival Rock Slider).
Sky Drop - I think it's better on normal Aerodactyl than Mega, but with all the heavy Pokémon in this format, it might not get a great amount of use.

Whirlwind - basically Roar without getting affected by Throat Chop. However, Iron Head already handles Xern and Rock STAB handles Incineroar, so I don't personally recommend it.

Sample Sets

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I won't go over regular Aerodactyl sets as I have already stated above. It accomplishes similar feats as Mega Aero albeit being less effective but taking up a Mega slot. I'd say it makes the most sense to use either Flyinium Z (with Fly) or a Focus Sash with Rock Slide, Tailwind, Sky Drop, and either Wide Guard or Taunt. Nothing extremely special, it's just what you'd expect if you were to come across a normal Aerodactyl The reason I'm talking about Mega Aero is because it actually got Top 16 at Worlds in the Masters' Division this year, piloted by Portuguese player, Eduardo Cunha! He was kind enough to give me his Aerodactyl spread and (most of) the team he used to achieve this incredible feat! Without further ado, let's get into it!

Aerodactyl-Mega @ Aerodactylite
Ability: Pressure
Level: 50
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 20 Def / 4 SpD / 148 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Rock Slide
- Wide Guard
- Tailwind
- Iron Head


This variant was used on Edu's XernDon team at Worlds. According to Edu himself, the reason he opted for Mega Aerodactyl over Mega Salamence was to outspeed threats such as Ultra Necrozma, Tapu Koko, Mega Gengar, and Crobat while checking specific things he feared as Worlds rolled around. It also had the benefit of resisting the STABs of KangTorn and hitting Tornadus, Mega Ray, Mega Mence, and Incineroar for super-effective damage. Finally, having the looming pressure of being able to flinch opponents redirected a lot of attention to it, allowing it to Tailwind, get KO'd, and bring in Groudon. Here are some really cool calcs of what the EVs can do!

252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Aerodactyl Iron Head vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Tapu Lele: 156-184 (106.8 - 126%) -- guaranteed OHKO
252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Aerodactyl Iron Head vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 128-152 (63.3 - 75.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Aerodactyl Iron Head vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Nihilego: 218-258 (117.8 - 139.4%) -- guaranteed OHKO
252 Atk Mega Aerodactyl Rock Slide vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Tornadus: 132-156 (85.7 - 101.2%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO
-1 252 Atk Mega Aerodactyl Rock Slide vs. 0 HP / 0 Def Mega Salamence: 54-66 (31.7 - 38.8%) -- 93.3% chance to 3HKO
-1 252 Atk Mega Aerodactyl Rock Slide vs. 236 HP / 4 Def Incineroar: 68-84 (34 - 42%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
252 Atk Mega Aerodactyl Rock Slide vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Crobat: 116-140 (60.4 - 72.9%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252 Atk Mega Aerodactyl Rock Slide vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Yveltal: 102-122 (50.4 - 60.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ SpA Tapu Lele Psychic vs. 84 HP / 4 SpD Mega Aerodactyl in Psychic Terrain: 132-156 (79.5 - 93.9%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
+2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 84 HP / 4 SpD Mega Aerodactyl: 142-168 (85.5 - 101.2%) -- 6.3% chance to OHKO
252+ Atk Primal Groudon Fire Punch vs. 84 HP / 20 Def Mega Aerodactyl in Harsh Sun: 75-88 (45.1 - 53%) -- 29.7% chance to 2HKO
+2 252+ Atk Primal Groudon Fire Punch vs. 84 HP / 20 Def Mega Aerodactyl in Harsh Sun: 149-176 (89.7 - 106%) -- 37.5% chance to OHKO
+2 252 Atk Primal Groudon Fire Punch vs. 84 HP / 20 Def Mega Aerodactyl in Harsh Sun: 135-160 (81.3 - 96.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252 Atk Dark Aura Yveltal Foul Play vs. 84 HP / 20 Def Mega Aerodactyl: 123-145 (74 - 87.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
4 SpA Tapu Fini Scald vs. 84 HP / 4 SpD Mega Aerodactyl: 92-110 (55.4 - 66.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Ice Punch vs. 84 HP / 20 Def Mega Aerodactyl: 136-160 (81.9 - 96.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252 Atk Tough Claws Mega Metagross Bullet Punch vs. 84 HP / 20 Def Mega Aerodactyl: 108-128 (65 - 77.1%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Landorus-T Rock Slide vs. 84 HP / 20 Def Mega Aerodactyl: 86-102 (51.8 - 61.4%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

With the given speed, it hits 207 Speed, which is all it needs to outspeed the rare Mega Manectric and any 103 Speed Pokémon under Tailwind, while speed tying with Scarf Lele's or Lando-T's that might hit 207 trying to also outspeed Manectric. Speaking of Scarf, Pressure as a base ability was used scout for Scarf Lele and Lando-T, which helped Edu make a game plan accordingly. Positioning-wise, Aerodactyl and Tapu Fini were paired together to set up for the Groudon in the back. Aerodactyl would use Tailwind and likely get knocked out after, and Tapu Fini would use Gravity so Groudon could operate under full Tailwind turns and also smack Flying-types and Levitate users. Fini would then use Nature's Madness before Groudon could move, allowing it to better secure KOs after. Thanks for letting me borrow the spread and the team for this article, and congrats on your Worlds finish Edu!!!


Sample Teams

For this team, Edu has requested I don't post the exact Xerneas spread as he is still using it in his major events. Respecting his wishes, I have replaced it with a simple 252/252/4 spread!

:sm/aerodactyl-mega: :sm/tapu fini: :sm/groudon-primal: :sm/kartana: :sm/xerneas: :sm/incineroar:
Aerodactyl-Mega @ Aerodactylite
Ability: Pressure
Level: 50
EVs: 84 HP / 252 Atk / 20 Def / 4 SpD / 148 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Rock Slide
- Wide Guard
- Tailwind
- Iron Head

Tapu Fini @ Wiki Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
Level: 50
EVs: 244 HP / 12 Def / 4 SpA / 204 SpD / 44 Spe
Calm Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Icy Wind
- Nature's Madness
- Haze
- Gravity

Groudon-Primal @ Red Orb
Ability: Desolate Land
Level: 50
EVs: 252 HP / 36 Atk / 68 SpA / 100 SpD / 52 Spe
Brave Nature
- Precipice Blades
- Fire Punch
- Earth Power
- Protect

Kartana @ Grassium Z
Ability: Beast Boost
Level: 50
EVs: 44 HP / 252 SpD / 212 Spe
Jolly Nature
- Leaf Blade
- Detect
- Knock Off
- Sacred Sword

Xerneas @ Power Herb
Ability: Fairy Aura
Level: 50
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Moonblast
- Dazzling Gleam
- Geomancy
- Protect

Incineroar @ Figy Berry
Ability: Intimidate
Level: 50
EVs: 236 HP / 36 Def / 236 SpD
Sassy Nature
IVs: 2 Spe
- Flare Blitz
- Snarl
- U-turn
- Fake Out


Twitter: Eduardo Cunha - @MeninoJardim
Smogon: EmbCPT


Bad Matchups
The severe lack of bulk really forces Aero to play glass cannon support, so if you ignore it (granted you don't get Rock Slide flinched over and over) and avoid taking super effective damage from Rock Slide or Iron Head, you can effectively play a 2v1. For supporters like Aero, its effectiveness is only measured by how much its teammates can accomplish thanks to moves like Tailwind or Wide Guard. If you want to outright kill it, Water attacks under Heavy Rain from Primal Kyogre typically do the trick. Even without rain, it can usually seal the deal. Tapu Koko, while being slower than Mega Aero and at the mercy of Rock Slide flinches, can OHKO it in return. Repeated Intimidates hamper the damage of Rock Slide and Iron Head, and repeated chip damage from U-Turns and Fake Outs hurt the defensive calcs shown above. While it takes Groudon's attacks well, it has a hard time doing anything in return, so it relies on being KO'd after clicking Tailwind to get much long-term use.

Conclusion
Thanks everyone for your continued support of my content! This might be my last installment to this series, but I hope you all will join me again in VGC 2020! Again, I've got something special planned for you all when Pokémon Sword and Shield drop next weekend! Massive shoutouts to blarajan Jio and Netherious for helping me get this off the ground and their feedback throughout the series! In the comments below, tell me what you like about Aerodactyl, what you thought of my articles, and what you want from me when VGC 2020 comes around! Thanks once again everyone, see you all in VGC 2020!!!

Love you all,
~ Conics :)

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