Project VGC 2019 Ultra Series - POTW Analysis: Greninja

What Pokémon should I cover next week?

  • Alolan Muk

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  • Kyurem-White

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  • Pachirisu

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VGC 2019 Ultra Series POTW: Greninja!


artwork courtesy of JustoonSmitts

Hey everyone! I'm Conics, and today I'm going to be starting a Pokémon of the Week (POTW) series, where I attempt to take a niche Pokémon and shed some light on its potentially viable sets in the current VGC meta!

This week, I'll be starting with a pretty well-known
Pokémon: Greninja! I personally have an affinity for Water-type starter Pokémon, and I always choose the Water starter when I play through the Pokémon video games. In X and Y, it just so happened that a lot of other people did as well because the final evolution of Froakie was simply awesome! I grew very fond of this Pokémon as I explored the Kalos region, but we're here to talk about competitive viability! So how does this Ninja Pokémon fare in VGC 2019 Ultra Series?


Base Stats
HP: 72
Attack: 95
Defense: 67
Sp. Attack: 103
Sp. Defense: 71
Speed: 122
Total: 530

That speed, man. It's enough to outspeed every unboosted restricted Pokémon in the format, as well as many prominent Mega Pokémon like Salamence, Lucario, and Kangaskhan. In conjunction with its movepool, decent attacking stats, and Protean, it can threaten sizable damage onto just about everything.


Torrent: When HP is below 1/3rd its maximum, power of Water-type moves is increased by 50%. In conjunction with a Focus Sash, Greninja could theoretically use a Scald attack with the same boost as that of Choice Specs. However, there's a better ability to use.
Protean: Before the Pokémon uses a move, it becomes a pure Pokémon of that type. This is the ability you're going to want to use on Greninja. On its own, Greninja's offensive stats aren't incredibly strong. With Protean, Greninja can ensure a 1.5x STAB boost on every attack it uses. And with its incredible movepool, Greninja has no issue threatening super-effective STAB damage on just about every threat in the format.
Battle Bond: When Greninja defeats an opposing Pokémon, it turns into Ash-Greninja. Water Shuriken's base power becomes 20 and always hits 3 times. Unfortunately, this ability is banned in VGC due to it only being available via an event.

Notable Moves:

- Physical:
Gunk Shot - a pretty nice way to miss hit Xerneas super-effectively on is physically defensive side. It's also great for hitting Tapu Fini, Tapu Koko, and Choice Scarf Tapu Lele, the latter two of which can only be outsped after an Icy Wind/Electroweb or Tailwind setup.
Low Kick - hits Stakataka, Ferrothorn, Mega Kangaskhan, Snorlax, and Dialga extremely hard as well as Incineroar to a lesser extent (after an Intimidate, Low Kick isn't doing too much, even with STAB).
U-Turn - The ability to pivot is a pretty nice thing for non-restricted Pokémon to be able to do in this format. Unfortunately, it's not likely to be the strongest option for Greninja to use. At least nothing is immune to it, so Greninja can switch out a bit more reliably than with Volt Switch.

- Special:
Scald - in general, a pretty nice way to hit everything. The 30% chance to burn is pretty nifty, and it smacks Incineroar, Heatran, Landorus-T, Primal Groudon (if you can nullify Desolate Land), Ho-oh, and Stakataka. Solid move, can't complain.
Ice Beam - the myriad of Flying-types in this format ought to be scared if this attack. Pokémon such as Tornadus, Crobat, Mega Salamence, Mega Rayquaza, Yveltal, Landorus-T and Zapdos are normally 2HKO'd or OHKO'd by it if Delta Stream isn't protecting them (and if you can nullify Desolate Land, you can nullify Delta Stream). Other Pokémon like Kommo-o, Amoonguss, and Tsareena take super-effective damage from Ice Beam and must fear this STAB attack as well.
Dark Pulse (Black Hole Eclipse) - Dark Pulse is able to do massive damage to Solgaleo, Lunala, all Necrozma forms, Bronzong, regular and Mega Gengar, Mega Mewtwo Y, Cresselia, and Mega Metagross. However, when turned into a Z-Move, Black Hole Eclipse threatens OHKOs on all of the aforementioned Pokémon, while also obliterating just about everything that isn't massively specially bulky and/or resists Dark. This move is going to pop up a lot in the sample sets.
Grass Knot - With the number of heavy Pokémon in this format, Grass Knot should be hitting for 120 Base Power on a lot of opponents. Unlike Low Kick, this damage cannot be Intimidated, although Greninja still has to be wary of Snarl. This move has the added bonus of smacking Primal Kyogre and Mega Gyarados for super-powered super-effective damage.

- Status/Support:
Icy Wind - This is Greninja's only form of spread speed control, and while it lacks the sheer power of Ice Beam, it helps support teammates in the speed department while still dealing decent damage to the aforementioned Ice-weak Pokémon. This can also help defeat Pokémon that are normally faster than Greninja that hate to eat its STAB attacks like Mega Gengar, Ultra Necrozma, Tapu Koko, Choice Scarf Tapu Lele and Crobat. If they switch into an Icy Wind, then they risk being overcome by one of Greninja's many STAB attacks.
Taunt - helps ensure Amoonguss can't spam Spore, Tapu Fini can't use any of its essential status moves, Trick Room is denied from Stakataka, Dusk Mane Necrozma, and Dialga, and Tailwind is denied from Mega Salamence, Lunala, and Ho-oh (keep in mind some Pokémon are able to get it up before Greninja attacks, like Crobat and Tornadus). Powerful setup options like Geomancy from Xerneas and Swords Dance from Mega Rayquaza and Primal Groudon are also temporarily disabled.
Haze - while not the best user of the move (since it doesn't have the same bulk as Tapu Fini or Crobat), Greninja can halt setup sweeping by removing the stat boosts from its opponents (may require the help of a Fake Out to stop a Geomancy-boosted Xerneas).
Protect - Protect. In my opinion, it's not a great move for Greninja's niche.
Role Play - This can be nice in order to copy a partner Primal Kyogre's Primordial Sea to override Desolate Land and allow Kyogre to use a Water attack onto Primal Groudon or to simply nab a secondary Intimidate, but I personally believe this final status move is the most important of all of Greninja's attacks.
Mat Block - yes, Greninja can stop a +2 Moonblast from the incarnate of life or a Choice Banded assault strong enough to destroy meteors from the Lord of the Atmosphere with a kicked-up mat. That's a glorified way of saying that arguably Greninja's biggest selling point is Mat Block! It's a move that only works on the first turn a Pokémon is on the field, similar to Fake Out. However, Mat Block has no priority bracket like Fake Out. Instead, it remains at +0 priority, and blocks all direct damage from attacks onto Greninja AND its partner that happen after Mat Block is used. However, since Greninja is so fast, it's usually bound to negate all damage onto its side for the turn. However, it does not stop status attacks, so be wary of important status moves like Spore and Taunt.

How Should it be Used?
Mat Block is great for allowing teammates like Rayquaza and Xerneas to set up with Swords Dance and Geomancy, respectively. However, I personally don't feel it's a great option on Turn 1. What I mean by that is it's potentially a detrimental way to lead a battle. The reason for this is because of the high usage of Fake Out in this format. Like I said, Mat Block has no increased priority like Fake Out does, and Mat Blocking in front of a Fake Out user + a dangerous setup Pokémon like Xerneas or Mega Salamence (with Tailwind) can result in you playing on the back foot at the start of the battle, which Greninja inherently does not do well. Because of this, it's better to lead with a Fake Out user and save the Mat Block for the middle of the game, where the Greninja user has better potential to control board positioning by then. Generally, you want to be in a position where the opponent cannot set up to punish the use of Mat Block, which is usually more opportune in the mid-game. It pairs really well with Mega Rayquaza because Mat Block can allow for a free mid-game Swords Dance, and Rayquaza also appreciates Greninja's ability to threaten common Intimidate users and Lunala. In return, Air Lock allows Greninja to hit Primal Groudon with Scald and Flying-types through Delta Stream with Ice Beam and Icy Wind. Primal Groudon also appreciates Greninja's ability to heavily threaten Lunala, Flying-types, and Kyogre with Dark Pulse (Black Hole Eclipse), Ice Beam/Icy Wind, and Grass Knot, respectively. It also can make use of Mat Block to set up Swords Dance safely. Xerneas also appreciates Mat Block, because any damage it can block while setting up Geomancy makes strides in making sure it can steamroll opposing teams. Low Kick also helps in beating Xerneas's Steel-type checks, and Gunk Shot is appreciated for opposing Tapu Fini.

Sample Sets

Okay so now we've talked a little bit about the tools in Greninja's arsenal. Here are some potential sets that can make some good use out of this frog's capabilities!
Focus Sash + Mat Block (Special Attacker)
- Mat Block
- Ice Beam/Icy Wind
- Dark Pulse
- Scald/Grass Knot/Taunt/Protect
Ability: Protean
Item: Focus Sash
Nature: Timid (-Atk, +Spe)
EVs: 4 Def, 252 SpA, 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk

This is Greninja's bread and butter special attacker set. Mat Block helps Mega Rayquaza and Primal Groudon setup with Swords Dance in the mid-game like I stated above. Ice Beam is really helpful for hitting offensive Intimidate users like Landorus-T and Salamence. Dark Pulse is pretty mandatory to have solid neutral damage on most Pokémon in the format, as well as 4x super-effective damage on Lunala and Dawn Wings Necrozma and 2x super-effective damage on Bronzong, Gengar, and the other two viable forms of Necrozma. Finally, the last slot is dedicated for hitting Groudon (when Greninja's partner is a Rayquaza) or Kyogre (when Greninja's partner is a Groudon). If opposing setup is too problematic for your team, then Greninja can use a very speedy Taunt to shut it down. The EVs are pretty self-explanatory: maximum Speed and a Timid nature to have faster Mat Blocks and outspeed base 120 Speed Pokémon like Mega Salamence and maximum Special Attack to deal as much STAB damage as possible. Greninja hits 147 HP with no investment, so it takes a tad less damage from Nature's Madness and Super Fang from full health than if the HP were an even number, so the last 4 EVs were added to Defense instead. Focus Sash is always there to help tank a hit, but it becomes unusable if Greninja gets hit with Fake Out. Extreme Speed can also get around the benefits of Focus Sash, so be wary. Protect is a final option if you just want to burn the aforementioned Fake Out and preserve your Focus Sash, but isn't recommended over the other options. All-around, this is a solid way to use Greninja!

Darkinium Z + Mat Block (Mixed Attacker)
- Mat Block
- Dark Pulse
- Ice Beam/Icy Wind/Low Kick
- Gunk Shot
Ability: Protean
Item: Darkinium Z
Nature: Naive (-SpD, +Spe)
EVs: 36 Atk, 220 SpA, 252 Spe

This set is a variation of the previous set that does pretty heavy damage to just about everything that doesn't resist Dark with Black Hole Eclipse (160 BP). Dark Pulse with 220 Special Attack EVs will always do at least 50% to zero-bulk Lunala, and Black Hole Eclipse always OHKO's it. Gunk Shot with 36 Attack EVs will always do at least 70% to zero-bulk Xerneas if it hits and always does over 50% to the common bulkier Xerneas spreads. Icy Wind doesn't pick up the OHKO on Naive Mega Salamence and zero-bulk Landorus-T, but since Greninja is meant more for the mid-game, it should be relatively easy to find the necessary early chip damage onto these Pokémon to pick up the KO with Greninja when it comes out. However, if this chip damage is hard to nab, then Ice Beam can be a more reliable way to pick up the necessary KOs. Black Hole Eclipse does about 60% to 252 HP/4 SpDef Primal Groudon, but can be amplified by Dark Aura if Greninja is paired with Yveltal. Low Kick has a 25% chance to OHKO 252 HP Stakataka, and can always pick up the KO if complimented by a follow-up attack or some prior chip damage. It also deals over 60% to Dialga and Snorlax, and has a 98% chance to 2HKO 252 HP Ferrothorn without Leftovers. In my opinion, this set works best with Rayquaza and Yveltal, as both appreciate Greninja's ability to deal massive damage to Xerneas, which makes picking it off much more doable. Greninja also helps remove Lunala for Rayquaza to pile drive enemy teams with Swords Dance-boosted offense (obtained with the help of a Mat Block). Dark Aura, as stated above, helps Greninja surgically remove an opposing Pokémon with its Z-Move, while Mat Block can help Yveltal set up Tailwind. The Low Kick variation of this spread is a great partner to Xerneas, as it deals heavy damage to all of its common checks. Solgaleo, Dusk Mane Necrozma, Primal Groudon, Lunala, Stakataka, Ferrothorn, Dialga, and Tapu Fini all have to fear the combination of damaging attacks from this set. Mat Block, as you might have guessed by now, is great for setting up Xerneas's Geomancy. Overall, this is a much more aggressive way to use Greninja that suits its glass cannon sort of playstyle!

Choice Scarf
- Mat Block
- Scald/Ice Beam/Icy Wind/Gunk Shot
- Dark Pulse
- U-Turn
Ability: Torrent/Protean
Item: Choice Scarf
Nature: Modest (-Atk, +SpA) or Rash (-SpD, +SpA)
EVs: 84 HP or Atk, 252 SpA, 172 Spe

This set is admittedly pretty wacky, but if you REALLY want to lead with Mat Block + Setup, then this could be the set for you! in addition, this set also is a decent late game cleaner thanks to Greninja's substantial Special Attack stat + Dark pulse. With a +SpA nature at 252 SpA EVs, Greninja hits 170 Special Attack, which is pretty great. The Scarf Mat Block is admittedly a super cheesy way to stop Ultra Necrozma + Scarf Tapu Lele for a turn so Xerneas can set up, for example. Since Scald and Dark Pulse make up the foundational STAB attacks on this set, Torrent can be a nice way to bolster Scald attacks while Greninja's HP is low. However, Protean is this the better choice in abilities if you choose to run Ice Beam, Icy Wind, or Gunk Shot in that slot. If you opt not to use Gunk Shot, the 84 EVs in HP can help Greninja sponge weaker support/pivot attacks like Icy Wind and U-Turn, but invest those in Attack for better damage on Xerneas and the Tapus if you choose Gunk Shot. If Greninja does swap in on an opposing Icy Wind, Greninja has the speed to still outpace Lunala, as it hits 164 Speed (compared to Timid Max Speed Lunala's 163). When unhindered, this Scarf Greninja is able to outpace Choice Scarf Kartana with a Speed-neutral nature. Since Greninja now has the speed to outpace Choice Scarf Tapu Lele, Tapu Koko, and Mega Gengar, it can OHKO them all first, or it can support Xerneas even better with Mat Block and can protect Ultra Necrozma as it sets up a Swords Dance or Calm Mind (or Rock Polish if you really want). This is a really fun way to use Greninja, and really makes massive use out of its speed and Mat Block!

Bad Matchups
Well here's the thing: given how massive Greninja's movepool is in conjunction with Protean, as well as the versatility in items it can use, it's pretty uncounterable. The bad matchups it has really depend on what moves it has. Mat Block and Dark Pulse are pretty mandatory on every set but the other two moves are up in the air. The most surefire way to take it out is to outspeed and kill it. If Greninja lacks Choice Scarf, then Tapu Koko and Choice Scarf Tapu Lele can accomplish this. Amoonguss's Spore is a nice way to halt it as well, though it has to be wary of Ice Beam. Intimidate becomes an issue for it if it's carrying Gunk Shot or Low Kick, and gives Pokémon like Xerneas, Tapu Fini, Dialga, Mega Kangaskhan, and Ferrothorn an easier time against it, although they will still be taken out if they aren't careful or take a critical hit. Fake Out stuffs Greninja when it tries to use Mat Block (and breaks Focus Sash if Greninja is holding it) and opens up an opportunity to Tailwind, set up offenses, or just kill it while it flinches. Kyogre is a decent answer if Greninja lacks Grass Knot. Togedemaru and Raichu can Nuzzle it and then follow up the next turn with a Zing Zap or Volt Switch, respectively, to finish it while it's paralyzed. However, as stated above, none of these Pokémon can face down Greninja without fearing at least one attack it might have, and so must take great caution when attempting to do so.

Hey guys! I hope you all enjoyed my little article about Greninja! Please tell me what you think about Greninja, if I missed any important points about it, any sample sets you enjoy using, and any teams you are willing to share that include Greninja! Also be sure to vote on what Pokémon I should write about for next week!

1. Alolan Muk
2. Kyurem-White
3. Pachirisu
4. Gothitelle

That's all for now, see you all later!
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