VGC 2018 Metagame Analysis #1 – The Early Heroes

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Since the start of the VGC 2018 format, we have had 4 Regionals, 1 International Championship, and 6 Special Events as well as a multitude of Midseason Showdowns. With that being said, let's look at where the metagame is right now and where it might be heading in the future. This article will talk about the following events held between January 13th and February 10th which includes the following events.

Pokemon Usage Numbers at Events

Check out the full standings here!
This will be updated throughout the season.

This analysis will go more into depth the 20 Pokemon listed above.

1) Landorus-Therian landorus-therian.png

This month's leader is no surprise to anyone. Landorus has always been a Pokemon that is very high in usage in most formats of competitive Pokemon that Groudon isn't legal in. Thanks to the introduction of Z-moves in the 7th generation, Landorus has been given 2 things its always wanted, a very power single-target Ground-type move as well as a chance to make something of its flying typing. The combination of the Intimidate ability, well-rounded stats, and a large amount of viable moves as shown in our guide, Landorus has proven why its the most used Pokemon in events. According to usage stats,  45% of Landorus hold Assault Vest while the previously most popular item Choice Scarf, is in second place with 27% usage. No matter how the metagame shifts, Landorus is looking like its going to hold tight onto its 1st place position for a long time.

2) Tapu Koko tapu-koko.png

In VGC 2017, Tapu Koko was a very strong and popular Pokemon for the same reason its dominating this year. Tapu Koko has some strong offensive stats. The most common moves of Thunderbolt, Dazzling Gleam, Volt Switch, and Protect have proven to be the most common moves to expect on  Tapu Koko in battle as they are the most consistent but Hidden Power [Ice] and even Discharge might find their way onto Tapu Koko to help in specific matchups. Electrium Z has proven to be the most popular item but it's not the only item to run as Ashton Cox (@Linkyoshimario) has been seeing success with an Assault Vest Tapu Koko as a throwback to the VGC 2017 format where it was more popular.

3) Cresselia cresselia.png

Cresselia has been a very popular Pokemon in VGC ever since it was released as it has appeared at the World Championships every year it was legal since 2012. Its amazing bulk and decent typing were covered more in our guide, which showed how Cresselia's moves on a team could be tailored to what its team needed, which is helped by its vast amount of viable support moves. You can find Cresselia commonly running the super healing berries like the Iapapa Berry to give it a more staying power which has proven to be very important for a Pokemon that isn't easy to KO on its own. 

4) Zapdos zapdos.png

With Thundurus-Incarnate losing a lot of the tools, Zapdos has stepped up to the plate to take its place. The combination of Tailwind, good bulk, and some strong offensive stats as we talked about in our guide, Zapdos can fill the main roles that Thundurus can do while the roles it can't fill aren't exactly needed. You can commonly find Zapdos holding either the Misty or Psychic seed as its commonly seen on teams alongside Tapu Fini or Tapu Lele to gain the Sp. Defense boost to survive some of the strongest Z-Moves out there.

5) Mega Metagross metagross-mega.png

For one reason or another, Metagross has risen to become the most popular Mega Evolution in the 2018 format. While Metagross hasn't had any stat or ability changes between generations, the reason it's seeing a surge in popularity is that it undergoes a massive speed increase after Mega Evolving which it gains right away. This allows it to gain the full benefits of its Mega Evolution right away and become a major threat. It also got access to Stomping Tantrum through Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon move tutors which allows Metagross to hit Pokemon like Heatran and Aegislash that otherwise can wall out Metagross.

6) Amoonguss amoonguss.png

Amoonguss is another Pokemon that has always done well in VGC since its release in 2011, always making a large impact in every format its legal. While the way Amoonguss is played has not changed much since its release, its offensive move pool has gained a new tool in Clear Smog which with how this format is becoming infested with set-up moves and abilities, Amoonguss being able to use Clear Smog to reset those boosts can be very helpful. Its most common items have been the healing berries which work great alongside its Regenerator ability.

7) Kartana kartana.png

Kartana's popularity is stronger online as the main reason its usage shot up is it was used 16 out of 22 times in the Oceania Win-a-Trip Challenge which is the primary reason Kartana is at #7. While Kartana hasn't changed much in VGC 2018, it did gain access to Tailwind through move tutors which can be nice. Kartana can be found using Leaf Blade and Sacred Sword for consistent damage while holding either the Grassium Z for a strong attack or the Focus Sash to survive hits it otherwise wouldn't.

8) Tapu Fini tapu-fini.png

Tapu Fini was another Pokemon that many people thought would be even better than it was in VGC 2017. The main reason was getting Icy Wind through move tutors which while its a move to expect on Tapu Fini, its only seen on roughly 15% of Tapu Fini on the ladder. Tapu Fini this season is commonly seen using the same Calm Mind variants that were seen from last season and commonly holding the super healing berries while Leftovers is sometimes found on it as well.

9) Mega Charizard Y charizard-mega-y.png

Mega Charizard Y is another Pokemon that has undergone barely any changes between generations. What makes it a strong Pokemon is that it can still do its job very well. Being able to set the sun with its Drought ability as well as strong offensive stats and a strong movepool as covered in our guide, it can be a very effective Pokemon. Most Charizard can be found using some of these powerful fire types moves like in Flamethrower, Overheat, and Heat Wave as well as Solar Beam mainly for water types.

10) Tyranitar tyranitar.png

Tyranitar also has changed much between generations. It still does its job just as well. Its high attack stat combined with both a strong offensive and defensive typing which allows it to threaten common Pokemon with super-effective damage. While its speed isn't as strong, the common Tyranitar either hold the Choice Scarf or use Dragon Dance which both can increase its speed to compensate for its speed.

11) Tapu Lele tapu-lele.png

Tapu Lele is also following the trend of Pokemon that haven't changed much since VGC 2017. The Psychic Terrain that it sets allows this Pokemon to dish out some very powerful Psychic-type moves and with one of its favorite items in Psychium Z, a Shatter Psyche in terrain can KO even the bulkiest Pokemon or deal over 60% of damage. Most Tapu Lele can be found using 2 fairy types moves in both Moonblast and Dazzling which serve similar purposes but can be helpful with the threat of Wide Guard.

12) Heatran heatran.png

Heatran has been having a little bit of trouble in the 2018 format. The reason is that to Metagross gaining access to Stomping Tantrum has essentially forced Heatran to hold Shuca Berry to survive a hit from the current most popular Mega Evolution. Other than that, a lot of what Heatran does well is still very relevant. It's Fire/Steel typing gives it a strong matchup versus most Pokemon and its Flash Fire ability means it can wall most Charizard that don't run Hidden Power [Ground]. While Heatran can make use of Z-moves, it would need the support to deal with Metagross before Heatran can consider other items.

13) Tapu Bulu tapu-bulu.png

Tapu Bulu is a Pokemon whose success is dependent on how the metagame shifts. This was big in VGC 2017 as the threat of super-effective moves was too much to use it reliably and the number of partners it could have was very limited. This year, the threats it used to have mainly Nihilego and Celesteela don't see the same amount of usage anymore. Access to coverage moves like Rock Slide for Charizard and Superpower for various steel types can give Tapu Bulu a better time overall. What it did well in 2017 still holds true this season. In Grassy Terrain, Tapu Bulu's grass type moves can deal some serious damage and with a potential Z-move, they can even threaten KOs.

14) Mega Tyranitar tyranitar-mega.png

This is the first VGC season Mega Tyranitar has really been seeing usage. The reason is that teams including Tyranitar have been finding trouble versus opposing weather so players have realized by slapping a mega stone onto Tyranitar, it can mega evolve if needed and regain weather control. Mega Tyranitar can be seen commonly using Dragon Dance to boost the power of Rock Slide and Crunch to deal serious damage and with the boosted speed, it can remedy its mediocre speed stat.

15) Snorlax snorlax.png

Snorlax was a Pokemon in 2017 that needed to be respected because if your team didn't have a way to stop it from setting up either through Curse or Belly Drum, it could easily KO all your Pokemon in a few turns. While this is still true, Pokemon like Landorus commonly running Knock Off to get rid of its berry can limit how annoying Snorlax is. This season, Snorlax has gained some powerful partners in Gothitelle and Cresselia, both of whom are very reliable supporters as they can learn Trick Room to allow Snorlax to abuse its low-speed stat as well as the very annoying Ally Switch.

16) Incineroar incineroar.png

Incineroar is a Pokemon that has risen from almost no usage in 2017 to one of the most common Fire-types in VGC 2018. While Incineroar was almost always thrown to the wayside in favor of Arcanine in 2017, VGC 2018 is giving Incineroar its time to shine. Its Fire/Dark typing gives it the ability to beat most of the common Pokemon like Charizard, Aegislash, Heatran, Tapu Lele, and Cresselia as we talked about in our guide. Access to Fake Out can be really helpful and should Incineroar gain its hidden ability in Intimidate, expect its usage to rise even further.

17) Porygon2 porygon2.png

Porygon2 has always seen niche usage in National Dex formats. In 2015, Sam Schweitzer (@SamVGC) used it to finish Top 16 at the 2015 Fort Wayne Regionals. What Porygon2 does well is that in a format dominated by Fairy and Psychic-types, Porygon2 doesn't have to worry about fighting types nearly as much.

18) Scrafty scrafty.png

Scrafty is the only fighting type really seeing usage right now, which is mainly due to its Intimidate ability as well as moves like Fake Out and Knock Off. It can commonly be seen on bulkier teams that appreciate what it can provide. Teams with Pokemon like Gothitelle and Snorlax absolutely love Scrafty because it can switch in and Intimidate the opponents and use Fake Out to help out. You can find Scrafty holding either one of a berry, Assault Vest, or even the Eject Button.

19) Mega Kangaskhan kangaskhan-mega.png

Kangaskhan was once the most popular Mega Evolution but thanks to the nerf of its Parental Bond ability, losing Power-Up Punch, and Sucker Punch's base power dropping, Kangaskhan has dropped from its throne. What Kangaskhan does well is despite the nerf to its ability, it can deal a decent amount of damage and what players are finding is that Kangaskhan can get pretty bulky with a decent amount of investment.

20)  Azumarill azumarill.png

The final Pokemon is Azumarill, a Pokemon that most thought wouldn't be popular in 2018 due to the popularity and existence of Tapu Lele who sets Psychic Terrain which can stop its main move in Aqua Jet. Azumarill first saw success this season from Brendan Zheng (@Babbyton) who won a Liberty Garden Midseason Showdown and went 9-0 in Swiss to finish Top 16 at the 2018 Dallas Regionals. What Azumarill does well is after using Belly Drum, it can use strong moves like Aqua Jet, Play Rough, and Knock Off to KO most Pokemon. To use Azumarill effectively, it needs the support of other Tapus like Tapu Koko and Tapu Bulu to get rid of the problematic Psychic Terrain.

Common Cores (Jan. 13 - Feb. 10)

1) Mega Charizard Y Teams

charizard-mega-y.png +landorus-therian.png+tapu-koko.png
This core sets out to support the Charizard. These types of teams are very diverse but Landorus-T and Tapu Koko have been commonly found on most successful Charizard teams. Landorus is found because it naturally works well. Landorus provides Intimidate to allow Charizard to take Rock-type moves that it otherwise wouldn't as well as Charizard's flying type allows Landorus to use Earthquake next to it. Tapu Koko can use Gigavolt Havoc form a very strong pin alongside Charizard's Overheat which when both of those moves are targeted into the same slot, it can KO most Pokemon.

Common Partners: cresselia.pnggothitelle.pngporygon2.pngtyranitar.pngamoonguss.pngkartana.pngsnorlax.png
These are 7 most common Pokemon seen on teams with the core above. Cresselia, Gothitelle, and Porygon2 are mainly added because of their ability to use speed control to support the main 3 as well some of the other Pokemon on the team. We saw Alberto Lara (@Alberto310) use the Gothitelle and Snorlax combo on his Top 8 Oceanic Internationals team. What Gothitelle does for Snorlax is thanks to its Shadow Tag ability and Heal Pulse to allow Snorlax to use Belly Drum then sweep. Porygon2 can be seen alongside Tyranitar as Dallas Regionals semifinalist Carson Confer (@carson_confer) and Dallas Regional Champion Cedric Bernier (@TalonVGC) have shown how well these 2 can work well together since Porygon2 can help Tyranitar by setting Trick Room. Amoonguss is a strong support Pokemon with Spore and Rage Powder while Kartana's strong offensive power can be very helpful.

2) Mega Metagross Teams

These 5 make up the original blueprint for the popular team in the format. While the exact origins of this team is unknown, 2016 Worlds semifinalist Eduardo Cunha (@MeninoJardim) has popularized it and because of this, this team and changes players have made have managed to win some major events including Flavio del Pidio (@PadoVGC) winning the Leipzig Regional and Alessio Yuri Boschetto (@YureeVGC) winning the Oceanic Internationals. The idea of this team starts with the with first 4 in Tapu Fini, Zapdos, Landorus-Therian, and Tyranitar which focuses on strong defensive synergy shown here where Rock is the only type that isn't the safest to switch in to typing wise, but the strong offenses these 4 pack together can be hard to break. Mega Metagross has proven to be a strong fifth member as it resists Rock-type moves and its strong offensive coverage can make it a very difficult Pokemon to reliably switch into thanks to the new move tutor in Stomping Tantrum. Amoonguss can be found as a strong defensive pivot thanks to its bulk and access to moves like Rage Powder and Spore can help it become a strong support Pokemon

Common Partners: tyranitar-mega.png tapu-lele.png celesteela.png
Since no original draft of a team is perfect, players have found some ways to update the team in order to make it better. Due to the issue with opposing weather, mainly rain teams, players have found out by giving Tyranitar its mega stone, Mega Tyranitar becomes a better answer versus rain teams as Tyranitar can surprise the opponent with its mega evolution and once again keep the sand up. Mega Tyranitar also brings the Dragon Dance option to make up for its lackluster speed stat and further increase its attacking power. Tapu Lele has also been found on this team as a replacement to Tapu Fini since the Psychic Surge it can set could power up Metagross' Zen Headbutt as well as allow Amoonguss to make use of Spore which Tapu Fini doesn't allow it do, which both Alessio Yuri Boschetto and Flavio del Pidio used to win their respective events listed above. The final Pokemon in Celesteela only sees niche usage on this team but can be found holding a Misty Seed to make use of Acrobatics which has been gaining traction on Celesteela.

3) Dual Mode Set-Up

This type of team has gained a lot of traction throughout January. This team typically has 2 really strong options it can use to win games. The first option revolves around allowing Snorlax to set-up through Belly Drum and then trying to KO everything with a strong Return. Gothitelle can perfectly help Snorlax out thanks to its Shadow Tag ability, Trick Room, and Heal Pulse to make sure Snorlax can do its job. The second mode revolves around helping Tapu Fini also set-up but with Calm Mind. Mega Manectric can help out thanks to its Snarl + Intimidate combo to weaken damage of all kinds as well as its Lightning Rod ability before mega evolving so Tapu Fini doesn't have to worry about dealing with the common electric types like Tapu Koko and Zapdos. Celesteela finds it way onto this team thanks to being a really solid defensive pivot who can also benefit from Manectric's Lightning Rod ability which allows Celesteela to do its job of walling out most Pokemon.

Common Partnerscelesteela.png landorus-therian.png incineroar.png kartana.png
Celesteela finds it way onto this team thanks to being a really solid defensive pivot who can also benefit from Manectric's Lightning Rod ability which allows Celesteela to do its job of walling out most Pokemon. Landorus can be found on this team thanks to its Intimidate ability which can be very helpful if Manectric isn't brought to the match or can't mega evolve yet. It also can hit very hard with Earthquake and Rock Slide as well as Knock Off for utility. At the 2018 Collinsville Regionals, Louis Milich (@UncleLou21) added Incineroar to his team which can be very helpful thanks to Fake Out and various other support moves which gave him a better match-up versus steel types and it can allow his Pokemon to set-up. Kartana has popped up from Alvin Hidayat (@JibaNOTHERE) showed how Kartana can work well alongside Tapu Fini in 2018. Alvin's Tapu Fini was a Choice Scarf variant with Soak to turn the target into a water type so Kartana could use either Leaf Blade or Bloom Doom to KO them. What Alvin showed is that this combination which we saw in 2017 at the World Championships is that this duo is alive and well in 2018.


The start of VGC 2018 appears to be a bright one filled with multiple strategies and Pokemon doing well so far. As the season progresses, be sure to check back to the Nimbasa City Post for coverage on the forever changing metagame.


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