This analysis will take into account tournaments of Regional level or higher that took place between 1/1/17 and 31/1/17. This includes the following:
- Leiden Special Event (Dutch Open) (7/1/17)
- Georgia Regionals (14/1/17)
- Leipzig Regionals (14/1/17)
- Melbourne Challenge (21/1/17)
|Top 15 Pokémon by Usage|
|Pokemon Name||Times Used (Out of 57)||% Of Teams|
|Tapu Koko||24||42.11% ←|
|Tapu Fini||24||42.11% ↑|
|Tapu Lele||17||29.82% ←|
This month’s leader brings with it some flashbacks to VGC 14. Garchomp being the most used Pokémon in top cut is something we’re no longer used to, but it’s an occurrence that can easily be understood. With the introduction of Z-moves, it can now unleash a 180 base power STAB ground-type move; a huge threat for any Pokémon that isn’t grounded. Not only this, but historically, ground-type Pokémon have seen a huge degree of success in VGC, with ground-type Pokémon making the final of every World Championships, and usually winning: Rhyperior and Hippowdon in 2009, Groudon in 2010 and 2016, Krookodile in 2011, Garchomp in 2012 and 2014, Mamoswine in 2013, and Landorus-Therian in 2013 and 2015.
This phenomenon can be explained by the offensive dynamic of this type; being super effective against fire, steel, electric, rock and poison makes ground-typing extremely potent, particularly given the commonality of both fire and steel types in VGC – the abundance of resistances given to steel-types makes having one on any given team almost a necessity. As such, having a Pokémon that handles them as well as Garchomp is able to can be extremely valuable. Furthermore, when examining the types that resist ground-type moves, we find grass, one of the worst defensive typings in the game, bug – also underwhelming due to its numerous weaknesses, and flying or levitating Pokémon. As you can see, it’s not easy to have a switch in to absorb a Ground move, particularly in a format in which there is only a single flying/levitating Pokémon with over 10% usage in top cuts, which may also be a product of the new terrain mechanics allowing them only to affect grounded Pokémon.
The popularity of Kartana has driven Fire Fang to increased popularity on Garchomp, with Dragon Claw being shunned due to its power being decreased by Tapu Fini’s Misty Surge. Poison Jab remains the other popular coverage move, allowing Garchomp to deal consistent damage to the Tapu quartet. Swords Dance remains a potent option for those Garchomp that don’t require a secondary coverage move, and is featured on this month’s sample set. The aforementioned Groundium Z has dominated most Garchomps’ item slot, with Choice Scarf and Assault Vest taking a back seat, though both still see some usage.
Arcanine takes out the second spot in this month’s tournament usage, despite being the most common Pokémon according to Battle Spot usage stats, and the most popular choice in our earlier Twitter poll. Its combination of Intimidate, well-rounded stats, and fire-typing in a format with restricted fire-type options make Arcanine a highly versatile option. In January, Arcanine saw a shift back to physical offence, with Flare Blitz seeing 65% usage according to Battle Spot usage stats. It also has access to a myriad of supportive and offensive coverage options, including Wild Charge, Snarl, Extreme Speed and Will-O-Wisp. Firium Z is among the more popular items on Arcanine, along with Sitrus Berry and the Figy Berry family.
Tapu Koko has retained its popularity with the development of the metagame, still used in over 40% of top cut teams in January. The moveset of Thunderbolt, Dazzling Gleam, Discharge and Protect remains standard, though Volt Switch and even Hidden Power Fire have picked up popularity as an alternative to Discharge. Life Orb is still the most common item choice on Tapu Koko, with Choice Specs and Focus Sash the most common alternatives. Fairium Z saw usage on Paul Chua’s Georgia Regionals winning team, allowing Koko to OHKO the likes of Garchomp and Tapu Koko (albeit needing a favourable damage roll on the latter).
Tapu Fini was one of the stories of the month, rising from almost no usage to becoming one of the most popular Pokémon in the format. Its meteoric rise comes courtesy of its fantastic bulk, great ability, and the lack of other viable bulky water-types in the format. The increased popularity of Arcanine and Garchomp also contributes to Tapu Fini’s success, as it has favourable type match-ups against both. Moonblast remains the mainstay of any Tapu Fini set, with Muddy Water still the most popular water-type STAB option. Swagger and Heal Pulse both saw success on Wolfe Glick’s Regionals team, with Taunt also starting to see some usage. Choice Specs and Leftovers remain popular choices on Tapu Fini, with Weakness Policy also seeing usage courtesy of its success on a high-rated Japanese team.
Despite falling slightly in usage, Porygon2 remains the premier Trick Room setter in the VGC 17 format. It is commonly used on semi-Trick Room teams in combination with the likes of Araquanid, Snorlax or Mudsdale. The standard Porygon2 functions much the same as it did in December, with the mainstays of the set being Ice Beam, Recover, and Trick Room. Thunderbolt remains the most popular coverage option, with Return picking up popularity as Download more commonly boosts attack rather than special attack. Tri Attack and Shadow Ball are also options to consider, with Toxic still used to improve match ups against bulkier teams. The introduction of Pokébank gives Porygon2 access to Analytic, which could see it finding a new role to perform, though time will tell whether or not this is the case.
Kartana remains popular in January, having picked up popularity late in December as part of the infamous Arcanine-Tapu Fini-Kartana core. Leaf Blade, Smart Strike and Sacred Sword all see usage on almost every Kartana set, with Night Slash and Protect/Detect being the most common filler moves on Assault Vest and Focus Sash variants respectively. Guillotine has grown in popularity as a last-ditch, bail-out answer to otherwise unwinnable situations, or unfavourable match-ups such as Arcanine or Celesteela. Focus Sash and Assault Vest remain the most popular items, with Grassium Z and Choice Scarf developing as niche options.
Muk’s fantastic offensive and defensive typing have resulted in its popularity rising in January. With access to Poison Jab and Knock Off, Muk is a great option for dealing with the Tapu quartet, Ninetales, and Porygon2. The popularity of the Figy Berry family makes Knock Off an increasingly useful option, resulting in it seeing usage on every Muk set. Poison Jab is the most common poison-type STAB option, with Shadow Sneak and Curse being among the more popular filler moves. Imprison has also picked up popularity as an option to counter opposing Muks, and is featured in this month’s sample set. The powerful combination of Gluttony and Figy Berry remain the most popular ability and item on Muk, with good reason.
Tapu Lele has retained its usage throughout the month of January, with its psychic terrain-boosted Psychic able to KO almost the entire format in one or two hits. The rise of Garchomp has caused Choice Scarf to rise to the most popular item on Tapu Lele, allowing it to outspeed and OHKO Garchomp with Moonblast. Psychium Z is the most popular alternative, with terrain-boosted Shattered Psyche being strong enough to OHKO almost any Pokémon that doesn’t resist it. Psychic and Moonblast both see usage on almost every Tapu Lele set, with Dazzling Gleam and Thunderbolt being the most popular filler moves on Choice Scarf sets. On sets with Psychium Z, Taunt remains a popular option, allowing Tapu Lele to prevent moves such as Trick Room.
Celesteela has undergone a drop in popularity with the progression of the early metagame, as Kartana has taken its mantle as the most popular steel-type in the format. Celesteela’s flying-typing has become increasingly valuable with the rise of Garchomp, as it is the only Pokémon with over 10% tournament top cut usage that is immune to its Earthquake/Tectonic Rage. The standard Celesteela set has begun to shed Substitute in favour of Flamethrower (due to the aforementioned increase in Kartana’s popularity), though Substitute does still see some usage. These standard sets favour Heavy Slam as the best attacking option, with Leech Seed and Protect filling in the other slots. Leftovers remains the most popular item on Celesteela, though Assault Vest variants have begun to pick up some usage. These Assault Vest sets tend to favour special attacks, with Flash Cannon, Flamethrower, and Giga Drain being the mainstays of the set.
Another beneficiary of Garchomp’s increased popularity is Alolan Ninetales; one of the few Pokémon that naturally outspeeds and OHKOs it. Snow Warning also allows Ninetales to utilise Aurora Veil; an extremely valuable defensive option. The standard Ninetales set is Blizzard, Freeze Dry, Aurora Veil and Protect, though some shed Protect/Freeze Dry in favour of Icy Wind. Both Encore and Moonblast see some usage, though both are niche choices.
Though Snorlax’s top cut usage remains somewhat limited, it has recently picked up in popularity due to its success on Markus Stadter’s 1st place team from Leipzig Regionals. The standard Snorlax set uses Return and High Horsepower as attacking options, with either Belly Drum or Curse to set up, and Protect or Recycle to provide longevity. Facade is sometimes used as an alternative to Return as a STAB option that mitigates the effects of burns, though this is more common on Belly Drum variants. The aforementioned regionals winning Snorlax opted for the Curse & Recycle combination, allowing Snorlax to underspeed the likes of Gigalith and Torkoal after a Curse, and as a result, the popularity of both of these moves has risen.
Marowak has suffered one of the most severe falls from grace over the course of the last month, dropping by 30% in top cut usage between December and January. It has been held back by its inability to vary its item, and the incredible utility of Intimidate; the ability of the fire-type Marowak has to compete with for its place on a team – Arcanine. However, it still remains a viable option, being better against the likes of Tapu Koko than Arcanine, and being more effective in Trick Room. There has been little advancement in the way of Marowak sets, with Flare Blitz, Shadow Bone, Bonemerang, and Protect making up the standard moveset, with Perish Song and Swords Dance remaining niche options.
Araquanid roughly retained its usage over the past month, almost always seen in combination with Porygon2 on Trick Room teams. Tapu Fini’s rise in popularity is detrimental to Araquanid, as it resists both of its STAB options, however, Araquanid’s Hydro Vortex remains one of the strongest moves in the format. The physical set with Liquidation, Leech Life/Lunge, Wide Guard, and Protect remains standard, though Substitute has also picked up some popularity in favour of the bug-type STAB option. Toxic has also seen some usage as an option that allows Araquanid to beat the likes of Porygon2 and Tapu Fini, albeit only if Misty Terrain is not active. The special-attacking set with Surf and Scald is also worth acknowledging, though it remains far less common than the physical alternative. Waterium Z remains the most common item, with Mystic Water and Sitrus/Figy Berry among the more common alternatives.
Despite being generally underwhelming in terms of stats, Mandibuzz has found itself picking up in usage in the VGC 17 format. Its combination of Tailwind and Taunt allow it to gain the speed advantage whilst preventing opposing Trick Room, and Foul Play offers consistent damage output without relying on Mandibuzz’s underwhelming offensive stats. Roost usually rounds out the moveset, with Snarl being one of the only other moves commonly seen on Mandibuzz. Knock Off will also become available after the rules are updated post-Pokébank, which may see some usage on Mandibuzz. Misty Seed and Psychic Seed are the most common items on Mandibuzz (depending on its teammates), with Sitrus Berry and Leftovers among the more common alternatives.
Vikavolt rose in usage in late December and early January, and has since seen steady usage. Its strengths come in the form of its immunity to ground-type moves and ability to switch in somewhat safely against Kartana. Thunderbolt and Bug Buzz are the STAB moves of choice, with a myriad of coverage/supportive options available, with String Shot, Energy Ball, Hidden Power Ice, Discharge, and even Mud Shot seeing some play, the latter on a team used by 2014 world champion Sejun Park. Electroweb will also become available to Vikavolt after the rules update for Pokébank is released, which will offer an alternative speed control option instead of String Shot.
Pheromosa – 5 top cut appearances
Krookodile – 5 top cut appearances
Nihilego – 4 top cut appearances
Gastrodon – 4 top cut appearances
Tapu Bulu – 4 top cut appearances
The infamous combination of Arcanine, Tapu Fini and Kartana (often termed the “AFK” core) picked up popularity late in December, and has so far retained its position as among the more popular cores in the format. The type synergy between a Fire, Water, and Grass type has long been noteworthy and has arisen in past formats (for example, Mega Venusaur, Heatran and Rotom-W formed a core that became popular during the middle of the VGC 15 format). These cores typically function with each member being reasonably bulky, and though Kartana isn’t as defensively oriented as some of the other Grass-types that have filled such a role in the past, such as Amoonguss and Mega Venusaur, its purpose is instead to pressure some of the Pokémon that otherwise provide strong, neutral coverage against the core, such as Tapu Lele.
As with many strong cores, no single Pokémon can truly claim to single-handedly beat this combination. Since its rise, it has become somewhat standard for Garchomp to carry both Groundium Z and Fire Fang, making it one of the most dangerous Pokémon for this core to face. A well supported and protected Tapu Koko can also be threatening, though it loses much of its offensive pressure should its Electric Terrain be overwritten. The best approach to beating the AFK core is not to tech a single Pokémon onto a team, but rather to build the entire team with such a match-up in mind.
This is less so a core in itself, but a nuance surrounding the usage of Porygon2 in the current VGC 17 metagame. Porygon2 is almost always used as a Trick Room setter, and can function in one of three ways. It can be used on teams featuring Pokémon in the middle of the speed tiers, used to pivot around and pressure in certain situations until the opposing team has been whittled to such a point that gaining the speed advantage via Trick Room will allow Porygon2 and its teammates to seal up the game. A secondary usage for Porygon2 is as a Trick Room setter on a more dedicated Trick Room team, such as Gavin Michaels’ San Jose winning team, though this form of team is yet to truly take off in tournament play, featuring in only a minor proportion of top cut teams. The final usage of Porygon2 is on a normal team featuring several fast Pokémon, with a single slower offensive attacker, such as one of the above. This application of Porygon2 has seen a great degree of success thus far in the format, featuring in Paul Chua’s regionals winning team, Alex Gomez’s top 16 London internationals team, and Enosh Shachar’s second place regionals team, amongst many others. Araquanid remains the most popular “sweeper” in this core, though each of the others listed also sees usage.
Popular checks: n/a
These cores are more often checked by a playstyle or move than a single Pokémon, as no single Pokémon can expect to successfully take on each and every variant of this core. Taunt is often used to prevent Trick Room, and Trick Room can also be reversed by an opposing Porygon2. If these options are not available, the opponent should aim to gain such a position that they are able to stall out the five turns of Trick Room whilst manoeuvring into such a position that they can prevent a subsequent follow-up Trick Room from being set up.
Though not typically acknowledged as a core in the same way that Arcanine + Kartana + Tapu Fini is, this combination of Pokémon has seen a great degree of success in recent times. Featuring in the top 8 of both Leipzig and Georgia’s recent regionals on the teams of Joshua Schmidt and Wolfe Glick respectively, as well as taking out first place in the Melbourne Challenge on the team of Aaron Zheng, this core certainly has potential. Each of these three players opted to complement the core with Tapu Fini and Arcanine, a notorious combination as discussed above. Having only one weakness in the form of ground-types, Alolan Muk can be protected from opposing Garchomp by Porygon2’s Ice Beam, whilst Garchomp itself deters the most common Intimidate user; Arcanine from hindering Muk. This favour is reciprocated by Muk, whose Poison Jab can successfully deal with opposing Ninetales and Tapu Fini/Lele that threaten Garchomp.
Once again, countering this core is no mean feat, and there is no single Pokémon that can truly claim to do so. Certain combinations, such as Porygon2 + Mudsdale/Araquanid tend to be the best option to outright counter such a core, though such teams are far from “auto-loss” match-ups, and can even be favourable depending on the composition of the rest of the teams.
Despite being more of a minor combination that a core itself, the pairing of Garchomp and Vikavolt makes an appearance for the simple fact that each and every one of Vikavolt’s top cut appearances has found it alongside Garchomp. The main reason to use Vikavolt has been its combination of electric-typing and ground-type immunity, giving it the position as the only electric-type in the format capable of pulling off the “DisQuake” combination, which has featured in every VGC format in one way or another, usually with the inclusion of Landorus-T or Garchomp alongside Thundurus or Zapdos. This is due to the ability of the combination of ground and electric-type moves to hit most Pokémon extremely hard, which, alongside the huge boon of being one of very few viable Pokémon in VGC 17 with a ground-type immunity has contributed to the success of Vikavolt.
Though it is a powerful combination, combatting these two Pokémon alone is not hugely difficult. Porygon2 can usually survive a double attack and hit Garchomp hard with Ice Beam, and Alolan Ninetales and Scarfed Tapu Lele can outspeed and OHKO the standard Groundium Z variants of Garchomp. With that said, given the right supporting cast, this core can certainly function as a powerful mode on any team it features on.
This combination is known for being one of the strongest examples of a hyper offensive core. Pheromosa’s high speed, attack and special attack stats make it a Pokémon capable of dealing crazy amounts of damage whilst outspeeding the entirety of the format. Its low defences make it susceptible to almost any attack, but, with Tapu Lele’s Psychic Terrain, it won’t have to worry about priority moves. The most appealing characteristic of this duo, however, is related to they way they complement each other offensively. The Pokémon that resist/are immune to Psychic are Dark, Steel and Psychic types and all of them are weak to one of Pheromosa’s STABs. That basically means that the only Pokémon that are willing to take a Psychic from a Tapu Lele fear Pheromosa, so very few Pokémon can survive a double target from these two.
The most common sets for on this core are Fightinium Z Pheromosa and Choice Scarf Tapu Lele, allowing the pair to hit as fast and as hard as possible. The Choice Scarf on Lele makes it even harder to find a Pokémon faster than it that takes a hit from Pheromosa.
Since it’s such an offensive and frail combination, anything that manages to actually hit them is a threat. As such, their main issues will be Pokémon that either move first, survive an attack that it wasn’t expected to survive thanks to Focus Sash, or simply survive a double target. Mimikyu is a great example of the latter, since it doesn’t take damage from the first hit and can be EV’d to survive the Psychic. Some other solid checks are redirection and tailwind. Redirection allows you to force your opponent to target one Pokémon, while the other can try and get a KO or even set up. Tailwind helps in the same way as Choice Scarf, but it works even better, as it allows the rest of the team to deal with the combination too.