VGC Underdogs - From Zero to Hero

Art and writing by Kinneas.
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With the introduction of Uber Pokémon into the VGC metagame this year, you could be forgiven for thinking that this would lead to a ridiculously centralised metagame where only a few specific Pokémon see any real use. The reality though is far from this, as 2010 became a year of forgotten heroes, seeing Pokémon who you would never normally consider capable of surviving against 680 BST beasts bringing the championships to life in a refreshing and exciting way. In this article we'll be taking a look at some of the Pokémon who nobody expected to face at the start of the season, and recalling memorable moments in the VGC season.

The List

5. Lanturn

Lanturn is a niche Pokémon with a unique typing. With decent defenses, resistances to Water and Ice, the ability to absorb Electric attacks, and light weight, meaning Grass Knot's Base Power stays low, Lanturn makes a great counter to Kyogre and a good switch in on Abomasnow and Ludicolo too. While it wasn't seen much at all in the United States or Europe, Japanese player Takushi Morishima showed how effective it could be at the World Championships, steamrolling through the opposition in the Last Chance Qualifier with a cleverly devised Discharge team.

4. Solrock

Solwat? Seriously? Yes, seriously. Someone managed to find a decent use for Solrock in a rain dominated metagame. Admittedly, there are much better Trick Room users available in VGC and there are much better Explosion users too - even in Trick Room conditions - but we here at The Smog love a trier and admire people willing to innovate. Solrock does get a fantastic VGC movepool, with an array of support moves including Helping Hand, Trick Room and screen support, but making use of them is difficult when you take into account Solrock's average stats in all areas, and 6 weaknesses to some very common attack types.

One player managed to make it to the Top 8 of the Dallas Regional with a team based around Solrock, and in the process started a heated debate within the community about how on earth a team consisting of so many Rock and Ground-types could survive more than 3 turns against a Water Spout Kyogre. We're still hazy on the details of how the team actually functioned, but it involved Trick Room, a Passho Berry, and a Hippowdon with Dig. Complete and utter madness.

3. Absol

Absol isn't really a Pokémon that seems capable of much in double battles. It doesn't have the Speed or movepool to make a huge impact, and has to rely on priority and Super Luck as its main gimmicks. Despite being dealt a poor hand when it comes to Speed and defenses, Absol is lucky enough to boast the most powerful Sucker Punch in the game, thanks to a base 130 Attack stat and STAB, and that alone has tempted a few people to play around with the twilight terror. At US Nationals, Brianna Birt unleashed the dark disaster on unsuspecting players and sent shock waves through Indianapolis as her Super Luck carried her through to the top 16. It seems Absol's luck rubbed off on the rest of her team, and refused to run out before Quick Claw Kyogre cut short TTS's campaign. Dubbed "Absol Girl" by players across the internet, Brianna and Absol still taunt TTS to this day.

2. Parasect

Parasect @ Life Orb / Focus Sash / Sitrus Berry / Yache Berry
Dry Skin
252 HP / 252 Atk / 6 SpD
Brave Nature
- Spore
- Protect
- X-Scissor
- Seed Bomb

Everybody loves Parasect. How can you not? Look at those beady little eyes. It's the original Spore Pokémon. You want to use Parasect on every team, but you can't, because it's slow and has a ton of weaknesses. Well, VGC might just be the metagame where "PARASECTU!!!" gets its well-deserved chance to shine. Dry Skin is brilliant in VGC thanks to the abundance of Kyogre, and in Trick Room teams Parasect often moves first, firing off 100% Spores or hammering Psychic-types such as Cresselia with STAB X-Scissor.

Articuno64 began the Parasect push in the Seattle regionals, but Huy Ha's Top 8 placing at the World Championships with a Trick Room team featuring Parasect brought it to the attention of the entire world and had Japanese players literally falling out of their chairs in shock and awe.

1. Hitmontop

Hitmontop @ Life Orb
252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD
Adamant Nature
- Mach Punch
- Protect
- Sucker Punch
- Fake Out

So you need a hard hitting Fake Out user to support your lead? Infernape and Weavile spring to mind as fast and efficient Fake Out users, but both are fairly frail. If you need something that packs a punch at blinding Speed while still being able to take a hit, this might be more up your street. Popularized by makiri early into the VGC season, the "TopOgre" combo saw a huge surge in popularity, and went on to win or place highly at nearly every regional across the world. By the time US Nationals rolled around, people were building teams with "TopOgre" in mind, as it had quickly become the biggest threat in the metagame. The hype didn't go unnoticed: Mike Liesik even added Hitmontop to the World Championships decor as a homage to one of the true underdogs of VGC.

So how does Hitmontop function so well in the doubles metagame? With a base Speed stat of only 70 you'd expect it to go down before even getting a hit in. An Attack stat of 95 doesn't even compare to Infernape and Weavile, yet Hitmontop manages to overcome both of these problems through its movepool and abilities: Technician boosts the Base Power of base 60 moves and below, and what type of useful moves can you find with less than base 60 power? Priority moves. Hitmontop became the patron saint of priority in VGC 2010—boasting a moveset consisting of Fake Out, Mach Punch, and Sucker Punch meant that Hitmontop could ignore its Speed stat completely and focus on boosting its attack and defenses. It even had an answer to Giratina, unlike its fellow fighting type Infernape. Add a Life Orb and Choice Scarf Kyogre to the mix and you have an extremely potent attacking lead combo that can decimate the ill-prepared.

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