It’s been a while, Pokémon fans, but I’m finally back with more excellent Pokémon content! If you’ve been up to date on your Pokémon current events, you know that the Pokémon Oceania International Championship 2020, took place in Melbourne, Australia over February 20th, 21st and 22nd. For those of you who don’t know, the Pokémon International Oceania Championship is an event where talented Pokémon trainers from around the world compete in the VGC (video game championship) or in the TCG (trading card game). I’ve been watching the live streams of the Championship for the past few days, and I love watching these incredibly skilled Pokémon trainers play these impressive battles. As I’ve been watching VGC, which is played in a 4v4 doubles format, I’ve noticed many of the same Pokémon and strategies again and again, so in this article, I will be explaining the most common Pokémon and strategies I’ve seen players use in VGC.
Tyranitar has always been an excellent Pokémon, and VGC is no exception. Being a pseudo-legendary, Tyranitar has excellent stats, including a monstrous base 134 attack for dangerous damage output. Tyranitar’s ability, Sand Stream, creates a sandstorm for five turns when Tyranitar enters a battle. A sandstorm raises the special defense of rock type Pokémon by 50%, so Sand Stream allows Tyranitar to take less damage from opposing special attackers. A sandstorm also does chip damage to all non-steel, rock, or ground Pokémon at the end of each turn that the sandstorm is active. That chip damage can make a big difference in a close match, and multiple times I’ve seen Pokémon barely survive an attack only to faint at the end of the turn from chip damage. A sandstorm also benefits Pokémon with the abilities of Sand Rush and Sand Force since these abilities raise speed and attack by 50%, respectively. Additionally, if Tyranitar dynamaxes, it can use Max Rockfall to set another sandstorm if the first one times out or is overrun by another weather condition. The most common item Tyranitar holds is a weakness policy, which doubles a Pokémon’s attack and special attack if it survives an attack. This item makes an already strong Pokémon even stronger and allows Tyranitar to potentially get many KOs. Most Tyranitars run Rock Slide, an excellent rock type spread move (a move that hits both opposing Pokémon) that can make the opposing Pokémon flinch. Some interesting variations I’ve seen on the most common Tyranitar sets included a specially based Tyranitar and a Tyranitar with a fighting move so that it could use Max Knuckle when dynamaxed to knock out an opposing Tyranitar.
Of all the Pokémon I’ve seen watching VGC (not as many as you may think), I think Excadrill is the most common. It has an incredible base 135 attack, a great base 110 HP, and a decent speed tier at base 88 speed. Excadrill has three excellent abilities: Sand Rush, Sand Force and Mold Breaker. I already explained what Sand Rush and Sand Force do in Tyranitar’s analysis. Both abilities allow Excadrill to take advantage of a sandstorm set by a partner Tyranitar or an enemy Tyranitar (or Hippowdon, but I’ve seen no Hippowdons in VGC 2020). Sand Rush allows Excadrill to outspeed many Pokémon it would not otherwise, and Sand Force allows Excadrill to do more damage and get more KOs on its opponents. Excadrill’s hidden ability, Mold Breaker, allows Excadrill to ignore the abilities of an opposing Pokémon. For example, Pokemon with the ability Levitate cannot usually be hit by ground-type attacks, but Pokemon with the ability Mold Breaker can use ground-type attacks to damage those Pokemon. The most useful benefit of Excadrill’s Mold Breaker that I’ve seen in VGC is allowing Excadrill to hit many forms of the Pokémon Rotom, all of which have Levitate, for super effective damage. Excadrill’s steel and ground type attacks, like Iron Head and Earthquake, hit many common Pokémon in VGC for super effective damage, including Togekiss, Arcanine, Tyranitar, and Rotom (if Excadrill has Mold Breaker).
Togekiss has great stats, with a base 120 special attack and 85/95/115 defense. It also has two excellent abilities: Serene Grace and Super Luck. Serene Grace doubles the chance of a move’s secondary effect occurring. Togekisses often complement Serene Grace with the move Air Slash, which has a 60% chance after Serene Grace of making the target flinch. The more common ability that Togekiss runs in VGC is Super Luck, which raises Togekiss’s chance of getting a critical hit from 6.25% to 12.5%. Critical hits are great because they multiply the damage the target takes by 1.5 and because they ignore the attacker’s stat drops and the opponent(s)’s stat boosts. Some Togekisses with Super Luck in VGC run the item Scope Lens, which when combined with Super Luck raises Togekiss’s critical hit chance to a whopping 25%. Most Togekisses in VGC hold either a Sitrus Berry or a Babiri Berry. A Sitrus Berry allows a Pokémon to regain 25% of its maximum HP when its current HP is at 50% or less and gives Togekiss more longevity on the battlefield. A Babiri Berry halves the damage that a Pokémon takes from a super-effective steel type attack. A Babiri Berry allows Togekiss to survive an Iron Head from the ever-present Excadrill. Togekisses can play both offensively and defensively. Togekisses almost always have Dazzling Gleam, a fairy type spread move that hits common opposing Tyranitar, dragon types, and Conkeldurr for super effective damage. Togekisses also carry air slash, a special flying-type move that takes great advantage of the Serene Grace Ability. When Togekiss dynamaxes, Air Slash turns into Max Airstream, which raises the speed of Togekiss and its ally by 50%.
Arcanine is a classic Pokémon and a favorite of mine, so I love seeing its presence in VGC 2020. Arcanine has great all-around stats, with 110/100/95 offense and 90/80/80 defense, and a wide movepool, both of which allow Arcanine to play offensive, defensive and supportive sets very well. The Arcanines in VGC 2020 use that versatility to play a support role. All these Arcanines run Arcanine’s second ability, Intimidate, which lowers the opposing Pokémon attack by one stage (multiplied by ⅔) when Arcanine comes into battle. This gives Arcanine and its team an advantage since physically attacking opponents will do less damage to Arcanine and company. All of these Arcanines also have Snarl, a spread move that lowers the opposing Pokémon special attack by one stage. As a result, Arcanine can lower the damage output of all opposing attacks in a single turn, especially with its good base 95 speed. Many Arcanines also run Will-O-Wisp, a status move that burns the opponent. When a Pokémon is burned, it loses 1/16 of its maximum HP at the end of each turn, and its damage output is halved until the burn is cured. A burn is deadly for physical attackers: a Pokémon can switch out to reset stat drops from moves and abilities (like Intimidate), but the damage reduction from a burn is permanent unless cured with specific moves. The chip damage burns do is always helpful as well. Some Arcanines also run Helping Hand, a move that boosts the damage your ally does that turn by 50%. Helping Hand allows Arcanine’s teammates to get KOs they wouldn’t otherwise get. Arcanines always carry a fire type move to provide offensive pressure themselves, usually Flare Blitz, Flamethrower or the spread move Heat Wave. Arcanines tend to carry Sitrus Berry to increase their longevity so that they can support their teammates.
Grimmsnarl is a new generation 8 Pokémon that has shined in its first-ever VGC. It has a good base 95 HP, and great base 120 attack, and base 95 special attack. All the Grimmsnarls in VGC run the Prankster ability, which gives all of Grimmsnarl’s status moves +1 priority. If you don’t know about priority, every move is in a priority bracket from +5 to -7, but most moves are in bracket 0, so they have no special priority. Moves in higher priority brackets go first. Within a priority bracket, the speed stats of the Pokémon determine which move goes first. Prankster is a great ability that provides many advantages to a team; Prankster Pokémon can cripple opposing Pokémon before they can attack and help their teammates in a way that would be much harder without a Prankster. Grimmsnarl is a great example of both. Grimmsnarl’s most common strategy utilizes the move Fake Tears, which lowers the special defense of the target by two stages (divides by two). Prankster gives Fake Tears +1 priority, so a Grimmsnarl using Fake Tears will almost always move first. Then, Grimmsnarl’s special attacking partner can use a special move on the same target to deal massive damage and get KOs that would otherwise be out of reach for that Pokémon. Grimmsnarl is a decently slow Pokémon with base 60 speed, so without Prankster, Grimmsnarl would not be able to use Fake Tears in that way. Grimmsnarls also tend to run Thunder Wave, a status move that paralyzes the target. Paralysis halves the affected Pokémon’s speed and has a 25% of preventing that Pokémon from using a move each turn. Thunder Wave allows Grimmsnarl to play the role of speed control and cripple opposing Pokémon before they have a chance to attack. Grimmsnarl also runs Spirit Break, its signature move. Spirit Break does damage and lowers the opponent’s special attack by one stage so that special attacks do less damage to Grimmsnarl and its teammates.
Conkeldurr has great stats with 105 base HP, 140 base attack, and 95 base defense. It has two great abilities for VGC: Guts and Iron Fist. Guts is an ability that boosts the Pokémon’s attack stat by 50% if it is affected with burn, poison or paralysis, and the attack drop usually associated with burn does not apply. Pokémon with this ability always carry a Flame Orb or a Toxic Orb to inflict themselves with burn or poison, respectively, to activate Guts after the first turn of battle. Guts boosts the damage done by Conkeldurr’s attacks to sky-high levels and allows Conkeldurr to put a lot of offensive pressure on the opposing team. Iron Fist is the more common ability seen on Conkeldurr in VGC. Iron Fist is an ability that boosts the power of fist and punch moves, like Ice Punch and Thunder Punch, by 20%. An ability that increases damage is always good on an offensive Pokémon, especially a Pokémon that utilizes that ability well like Conkeldurr. Conkeldurrs in VGC 2020 run Drain Punch often. Drain Punch is a move that damages the opponent and restores the user’s HP by ½ the damage the opponent took. Drain Punch allows a Conkeldurr to give damage and heal itself and thus giving it longevity in combination with its good defensive stats. All Conkeldurrs also run Mach Punch, a move with +1 priority. Mach Punch is a great move to finish off a weakened Pokémon so that the opponent cannot get one last attack in with that Pokémon. Conkeldurrs also tend to run Ice Punch or Thunder Punch. Another common Pokémon in VGC 2020, Togekiss, which I talked about above, is weak to both Ice Punch and Thunder Punch, so those coverage moves allow Conkeldurr to offensively pressure Togekiss. Conkeldurrs without the Guts ability tend to hold an Assault Vest. An Assault Vest is an item which raises a Pokémon’s special defense by 50% but only allows that Pokémon to use attacking moves. Assault Vest remedies Conkeldurr’s poor base 65 special attack to let it take special attacks better. Conkeldurr doesn’t mind the drawback of Assault Vest since it is an offensive Pokémon.
Thank you so much for reading my analysis of the most popular Pokémon and their strategies at VGC 2020! I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. The Pokémon Oceania International Championship is over now, but you can watch the live streams from the three-day event on YouTube if you want to see some of these strategies in action. Thank you again for stopping by Pokémon fans, and I hope to see you again soon!
(All photos courtesy of The Pokémon Database)