VGC 2018 Metagame Analysis #2: Times Are Changing

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The VGC 2018 metagame is continuing to develop. For this next set of data, we will be taking a look at 11 major tournaments with 4 Regionals and 7 Special Events which means it's time analyze what this data means and where the VGC 2018 metagame might be heading in the future. The following events below will show the major events which events were collected between February 13th and March 18th.

Pokemon Usage at Events

Spreadsheet where this data can be found linked here!
Note that the text in red shows how much a Pokemon
 has been used in the listed timeframe.


This analysis will take a look at the Top 15 Pokemon listed above. Instead of 20 Pokemon, we will be showing the 15 most popular Pokemon.
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1 - Landorus-Therian landorus-therian.png

Landorus-Therian is still number 1 in usage for a very good reason. It's Ground & Flying typing is very important in a format where most teams don't have the best switch-ins to a powerful ground type attack like Earthquake and also wants to be able to not take Ground type attacks as well. Intimidate has also historically been an amazing ability in VGC since being able to lower attack stats can be very helpful to help Landorus take hits as well as its teammates.

At the beginning of the season, Assault Vest rose to become the most popular item to help compensate for it's lower Sp. Defense stat but as the format develops, we're starting to see other items like Choice Scarf which was recently used by Wolfe Glick (@WolfeyGlick) used on his Landorus to win the 2018 Charlotte Regionals but other items like various Z-Crystals and even Choice Band which was primarily popularized by Conan Wild (@RazerVGC). The important thing to remember is the item on Landorus can entirely change the way you approach it. A more offensive item like Choice Band can make the opposing Landorus more of a target than a defensive item like a berry for example. In a Best of 3 scenario, its important to find this information out as soon as possible so you can play against their Landorus accordingly.

Something interesting to note is that Superpower has started to die down in popularity accept on Choice Band sets, due to how Mega Kangaskhan has started investing in bulk since it can no longer rely on the damage it once enjoyed in the 6th Generation. This means that you might see a Landorus with both U-turn and Knock Off where it previously would choose only 1 of these moves.

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2 - Tapu Koko tapu-koko.png

Still retaining its #2 spot in usage, Tapu Koko has proven itself to be a 2018 metagame staple. It's amazing speed allows it to out-speed and threaten some nice damage onto most Pokemon which helps it out. Although its Sp. Attack stat is pretty mediocre at base 95, its Electric Surge ability can help increase its damage output.

Electrium Z has been the most common item on Tapu Koko even in 2017 since its the most consistent one. Being able to use a Z-move that is powered up by your own ability can be very valuable. While most Tapu Koko can use Thunderbolt to base the power of its Z-move, some might even use Thunder which is can be more powerful than Thunderbolt. Recently, we saw Jamie Boyt (@JamieBoytVGC) who recently won the Malmo Regionals using an Electrium Z Tapu Koko that had Wild Charge which it to take advantage of its higher attack stat which Boyt noted that a Z-Wild Charge could KO Tapu Lele. Another item that has seen use is Assault Vest which has been popularized in 2018 by Ashton Cox (@Linkyoshimario) on a more supportive Tapu Koko where Ashton finished Top 4 at Oceanic Internationals and 2nd at two consecutive Regionals. Thanks to moves like Electroweb and Nature's Madness, Ashton could use his Tapu Koko to support his team.

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3 - Mega Metagross metagross-mega.png

As the undisputed most popular Mega Evolution in 2018 by a very large margin, Mega Metagross has been given multiple gifts in the 7th generation. The main thing it got was something that all Mega Pokemon got which is they get their new speed which has helped other Mega Pokemon like Swampert thanks to getting the instant speed boost instantly if Rain is on the field when it mega evolves, which saw a surge in popularity on Rain teams.

The other thing Metagross got was the new move tutor Stomping Tantrum, which gave it Metagross a reliable option to threaten steel types such as Heatran and Aegislash. This new move option adds to pretty long list of viable moves Metagross has to chose from. A Pokemon that can reliably use 3 of Iron Head, Zen Headbutt, Ice Punch, and Stomping Tantrum can be a big threat as it becomes a guessing game with your opponent making safe plays around a move you might not even have.

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4 - Tapu Finitapu-fini.png

Tapu Fini has proven to be the most popular Water type in the format which in part is thanks to its Misty Surge ability. This ability has single-handedly stop the use of moves like Will-O-Wisp and Thunder Wave as well as stopped the use of status moves in general which has been very helpful for not only Tapu Fini but its teammates in general.

The two most popular items for Tapu Fini have been either Choice Specs or a healing berry, both of which were commonly used back in VGC 2017. Choice Specs can turn Tapu Fini's more supportive nature into an offensive Pokemon. The boost it gets from Choice Specs is reminiscent of the boost it gets from using Calm Mind. It also allows Tapu Fini to use its moveslots to fill up with more reliable attacks. You can see the inaccurate Muddy Water paired with the safe Scald and some might use Trick to give Pokemon items they don't want like stealing a berry or a signature item like Eviolite. Healing berries offer a safe option for HP recovery. While not as popular, Waterium Z has started to gain traction as it was popularized by Louis Milich (@UncleLou21) on his Top 8 St. Louis Regionals team which was paired with a Rain Dance Mega Manectric.

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5 - Incineroar  incineroar.png

While still being a very popular Pokemon and a popular fire type option, Incineroar's major rise in usage is 100% thanks to it recently gaining the Intimidate ability. The first weekend it was used at major events, Incineroar was consistently one of the most use Pokemon over that weekend which isn't looking like that's gonna change. 

It's item choice has generally been between Assault Vest which gives it extra special bulk to compliment the increased physical bulk from Intimidate but also allows Incineroar to use other moves like Low Kick and U-turn, or a healing berry which can help with the recoil damage from Flare Blitz but also allow it to use Protect as well as an interesting move in Snatch which allows Incineroar to steal moves like Tailwind, stat boosting moves like Belly Drum, Dragon Dance and Minimize or even a Substitute. What's interesting is that when Incineroar was given Intimidate, multiple players instantly were looking at Milotic thanks to its Competitive ability so if its hit with Initimidate, it could gain a Sp. Attack boost which was shown how affected this ability is when Wolfe Glick won Charlotte Regionals that same weekend.

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6 - Cresseliacresselia.png

Cresselia has been touted as one of the bulkiest Pokemon that's ever touched VGC, which is thanks to its Psychic typing an insane bulk which helps it out as a support Pokemon. Access to a ton of strong support moves like Helping Hand, Icy Wind and Ally Switch among at least 10 other moves not listed allows Cresselia to efficiently help its teammates out. 

It's item choice has primarily been a healing berry like an Iapapa Berry for example. This is in part because Cresselia has always struggled with longevity because in the past, it had to devote a move-slot to Moonlight just to have a reliable healing option without devoting an item slot to something like a Sitrus Berry or Leftovers. Being able to hold a berry that can give you 50% of your health back is very impressive and can extend Cresselia's longevity.

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7 - Mega Charizard Y charizard-mega-y.png

Although it hasn't changed much, Mega Charizard Y has still proven to be a very strong Mega Evolution and Fire type. A sky high Sp. Attack stat as well as decent speed and defenses can allow Charizard to be surprisingly bulky. Its Drought ability can be very helpful as it can increase its damage output but also means it can support Pokemon that are weak to Water type moves like Landorus-T.

Charizard hasn't really developed much throughout the season. We have seen multiple players succeed with a Timid nature on their Charizard to focus more on its speed while still paying attention to its bulk and damage. We have been seeing the rise of Flamethrower as opposed to either Heat Wave or Overheat for a safer Fire type move as Heat Wave has a chance to miss and is spread while Overheat lowers your Sp. Attack stat after each use.

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8 - Zapdos zapdos.png

When Thundurus-I lost most of what allowed it to succeed in the 6th Generation, including both a nerf to Thunder Wave and the Prankster ability, Zapdos was chosen by many players to fill the roll of a bulky electric type with reliable speed control in Tailwind. Zapdos even played a pivotal role on very popular teams. 

Something interesting to note is that Zapdos has recently started to see a decline in high level play in favor of other electric types like Tapu Koko and Mega Manectric. This is due to the format getting bulkier and taking a slower pace. While this happens, Zapdos hasn't fully figured out how to adjust in a bulkier format yet due to either not being bulky when using a more offensive Electrium Z set or not very powerful on a bulkier terrain seed or healing berry variant. Should Zapdos adjust, the success it saw early on may return.

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9 - Kartanakartana.png

If there's one thing Kartana is really good at doing, its threatening a lot of damage very quickly. Kartana has a high attack stat and as well as decent speed stat to allow it to out-speed multiple very powerful Pokemon and land its 2 most common attacks in Leaf Blade and Sacred Sword although some will run the newly obtained Knock Off. Kartana also got Tailwind through move tutors which gives its team the very much appreciated speed control.

The 2 most common items for Kartana has been Focus Sash which allows Kartana to be guaranteed to survive an attack it otherwise couldn't and Grassium Z which gives Kartana a very powerful nuke type of move of its already powerful Leaf Blade or can partner up with a Choice Scarf Tapu Fini that has Soak so the player could turn the opponent into a water type then use Kartana to KO them with a super-effective Z-move, as shown by Alvin Hidayat (@JibaNOTHERE) who brought back this 2017 strategy on his 1st Place Collinsville Regionals team.

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10 - Tapu Leletapu-lele.png

Tapu Lele has always been a very powerful Pokemon because thanks to its Psychic Terrain, It can use Psychic and its Z-move equivalent to threaten KOs on a vast majority of Pokemon. It's Fairy typing as well as been very helpful thanks to the number of popular Dragon types like Salamence and Kommo-o with a powerful Moonblast. It's indisputable most popular item has been Psychium Z for a strong Z-move that takes advantage of its terrain although Choice Specs to increase its damage output and Choice Scarf for its speed have both seen some use.

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11 - Snorlaxsnorlax.png

Snorlax has proven to be the most popular Normal type in the 2018 format. Snorlax's rise to success has been mainly thanks to the super healing berries in combination with its Gluttony ability. A sky high HP stat, decent defenses and attack has allowed Snorlax to really shine this year. More recently, Snorlax has had to worry about the surge in Knock Off users like Landorus and Incineroar, the latter gaining Intimidate which can be especially annoying, can get rid of its berry which can put a severe halt on its longevity. Snorlax can be commonly seen boosting its attack stat with Curse and Belly Drum, but Stockpile was used to success by Louis Milich (@UncleLou21) to finish Top 8 at Collinsville Regionals.

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12 - Amoongussamoonguss.png

Amoonguss has been a very prevalent Pokemon throughout its lifetime in VGC. Although Spore has become less valuable this year due to the terrains set by both Tapu Koko and Tapu Fini. While this hasn't helped it, Rage Powder is amazingly helpful because without prevalent grass types in the format barring Venusaur, Ferrothorn, and Kartana, Amoonguss can take the attacks from its partner which has always been something Amoonguss can do very well. This year, Amoonguss has starting using Clear Smog as its main attack which is very helpful for stopping the large amount of set-up this season like Belly Drum and Dragon Dance or more importantly, Chansey.  

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13 - Tapu Bulutapu-bulu.png

For a long time, Tapu Bulu was regarded as the worst Tapu Pokemon due to its terrain actively helping out its opponent as well as its multiple weaknesses to common types as well as common Pokemon. While these things are still true, what has changed is Tapu Bulu has gained some very powerful partners that can help it out. Tapu Bulu still operates the same as it did in 2017 using its Grassy Terrain to use some very powerful grass type moves as well as Z-moves. Lately, Tapu Bulu has started to appear on bulkier teams alongside Pokemon like Incineroar, Porygon2, and Araquanid from a team popularized by Eduardo Cunha (@MeninoJardim) which his team was used by both players in the finals of Prague Special Event

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14 - Tyranitar tyranitar.png

Tyranitar saw a large uptick in usage at the beginning of the format due to its popularity on early Metagross and Charizard teams. This was also the first season in a long time that players were using Mega Tyranitar who appears to be dropping in usage according to vgcstats. Most Tyranitar can be found using Dragon Dance to increase both its attack and speed to boost the power of its 2 most common moves in Rock Slide and Crunch although Choice Scarf sets have also succeeded also using Ice Beam and Low Kick which allows it to threaten even more targets.

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15 - Porygon2porygon2.png

The final Pokemon in Porygon2 was one that surprised many players were surprised to see gain large amounts of usage. Fighting types aren't really prevalent this year barring mainly Scrafty whose usage has started to decline because of Incineroar getting its hidden ability means Porygon2 doesn't have to worry as much about its only weakness. It does have to worry about the multiple Knock Off users such as Landorus-T and Incineroar since they can get rid of the Eviolite which is the reason Porygon2 is such a bulky Pokemon.

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Rising Stars in Usage

milotic.png
Milotic's Competitive ability quickly shot this Pokemon up usage stats due to the release of Intimidate Incineroar. Being able to increase its Sp. Attack stat as the result of an Intimidate user helped this Pokemon out. We even saw Wolfe Glick win Charlotte Regionals with Milotic, who noted in his team report video that the reason Milotic can be really good if you use its Competitive ability as a deterrent for opposing Intimidate users such as Landorus-T and Incineroar to help your physical attackers succeed. Wolfe also mentions that using Milotic as an offensive Pokemon that needs to get the boosts to win games isn't the optimal way to play it.

araquanid.png
Araquanid has seen a slow increase in usage in part because it barely takes any damage from whatever Incineroar wants to do. It's slow speed also helps it to sweep under Trick Room and most Araquanid can be found using Bug Bite which is especially helpful due to how many berries exist in the format. Pokemon like Snorlax, Cresselia, Tapu Fini, and Incineroar love their berries and being able to steal and gain HP from it is very nice. Please be weary of Mago Berry as most Araquanid run the Brave Nature which means if it consumes a Mago Berry, it can get confused if Misty Terrain is not set up. Water Bubble is still a fantastic ability since it doubles the power of its Water type moves, prevents the burn status, and halves the power of fire type moves which also helps the Incineroar matchup.

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Conclusion

The VGC 2018 metagame is continuing to expand and if the release of Intimidate Incineroar has anything to show, it's that this metagame is far from done and it's interesting to see where it heads, but check back to the Nimbasa City Post for how the format develops.

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