Double Trouble: Back From Vacation – Returning Threats
Prepare for Trouble, and make it Double, PUCL! Double Trouble, of course: your regularly scheduled VGC and doubles-centric series and part of a balanced and nutritious PUCL diet (incomplete without consuming all of the other wonderful articles the rest of the writing staff regularly cooks up).
For all the students out there, high school, college, and otherwise, vacations are probably now over. And that means having to go back to all the work and responsibilities associated with that territory. But sometimes coming back from a break is not so bad! Sometimes it is fantastic! Just look at the VGC 15 format. With VGC 14 having a reduced number of legal Pokémon to use, a lot of Pokémon had the year off. With VGC 15 now upon us, however, they are back from their vacation and thrilled to once again impact the format. This week, I’m looking at my top ten Pokémon returning to the VGC this year after being off for VGC 14. To be clear, that means the Pokémon had to be already available in VGC 13 – not just getting an awesome move tutor or a new Mega Evolution this year if it was available in VGC 14 at all (sorry, Salamence). There are also a lot more notable returning Pokémon than can be fit in the scope of this, so keep that in mind as well. Without further delay, here is my top ten Pokémon happy that their VGC vacation is over.
Starting off this countdown is a Pokémon that is no stranger to the VGC. Togekiss has seen very healthy use in years past as one of the format’s premiere support Pokémon. Its claim to fame is being one of the few, and also one of the bulkiest (and therefore one of the best), Pokémon with Follow Me for redirection support. You know, that move current World Champion Sejun Park was willing to use a Pachirisu for. Further cementing its solid support status is access to speed control options such as Tailwind and Thunder Wave, both of which make the Air Slash attack almost all Togekiss carry all the more threatening since it can then much more reliably outspeed and terrorize its enemies with flinches. But Togekiss is a changed ‘mon since its last VGC sighting, now sporting a brand new Fairy/Flying typing. And with a new typing comes new resistances and immunities, but also new weaknesses, altering the teams for which Togekiss is the best choice for support. So it will be interesting to see what teams Togekiss finds itself successful on this year, but it is certain to make its mark.
Gen VI has put Fire types in a very good place with an advantageous matchup against both the new Fairy type as well as their Steel type counters, and Arcanine is reaping the benefits. Last year’s pool of available Fire types capable of taking a couple of hits to make the most of this was quite narrow but with the floodgates being reopened this year, Arcanine is emerging as one of the more solid Fire type options out there. Proving that you can teach an old dog new tricks (or at least give a new lease on life to an old Pokémon without having to resort to Mega Evolution). If you name it, Arcanine seems to know it: it has a priority attack, it has a STAB spread move, it provides Intimidate support which is better than ever, it can use Snarl and Will-O-Wisp to further weaken opponents, it has Helping Hand to bolster allies, it has Morning Sun to heal itself, it can go physical or special, all-out offensive or bulky and supportive or somewhere between those ends of the spectrum. That amount of versatility can make deciding how to use Arcanine tricky, but it also makes in unpredictable when facing one. Perhaps that is Arcanine’s biggest asset in VGC 15 compared to other Fire type options and why its return to the VGC has been so strong.
Let me start by stating Whimsicott is not on this list just to gratify my fellow PUCL Writer, TheFluffiestWhimisicott. That is just a happy coincidence. And like with Togekiss before it, there have been some big changes for the little Prankster Pokémon during its vacation away from last year’s VGC format, with Whimsicott now sporting a new Fairy/Grass typing. Also like Togekiss mentioned before it, Whimsicott is the only fully evolved Pokémon with its type combination. Unlike Togekiss, however, Whimsicott’s most popular partners in crime are very well established even this early into the format; some old, some new. The classic TerraCott combo popularized way back in VGC 11 makes its return in this format after not being available last year. For the uninitiated, TerraCott refers to using Whimsicott to support Terrakion with Beat Up (to activate Justified) and Tailwind. Be advised that the combo is a years-old established gimmick that an experienced VGC player will see coming and respond to accordingly, however. Instead, Whimsicott may see greater success than ever this year with a newfound ally in Mega Gengar, the two having excellent synergy together and meeting for the first time in the newest format. These mischievous Pokémon combined yield truly nefarious results with Whimsicott’s priority-Encore followed by Mega Gengar’s Disable rendering their doomed opponents trapped and forced to Struggle helplessly. Whimsicott is Mega Gengar’s new best friend; proceed with caution when you see the two on the same team. But even without specific allies, Whimsicott’s Prankster-powered toolkit is not to be underestimated; a double battle format like the VGC accentuates its strengths and lets it shine brighter for teams in ways it could not otherwise, so Whimsicott is definitely happy to be back in the fray.
7-The Legendary Dogs
It is with great pleasure to advertise PUCL’s very own mascot, Suicine, at least in part, on this list. Now, I am shoehorning the entire trio into a single slot to cover more returning Pokemon, but all three members of the legendary dog trio are very viable this year, doing their maker, Ho-oh, proud. Entei is making Ho-oh especially proud, by wielding its awesome signature move, Sacred Fire, with that delicious 50% burn rate on top of being a solid STAB attack for it. The addition of this single move this generation literally gave Entei enough of a niche to be worth considering. Raikou is an interesting Pokémon in that it has a lot of qualities in common with various other Pokémon, and if looking at those qualities isolated, other Pokémon may seem to be better choices, but Raikou is the only Pokémon with all of these qualities combined. What sets it apart most is access to both screen moves and its excellent speed tier. Raikou is a good Pokémon that will be the best pick possible for very specific teams in the VGC but those teams can be very strong. I am happy to say that PUCL’s mascot, Suicine, is the breakout star of its trio in this year’s VGC format, though. Suicune has been good in years previous of the VGC but is seeing much heavier use this year than ever before. Perhaps it is the result of speed control being much more heavily emphasized this year and Suicune being an extremely bulky Tailwind Pokémon and particularly notable for having the move and not being a Flying type. Suicune also has Icy Wind for an alternative form of speed control, and on top of its excellent bulk can weaken opponents from both sides of the attacking spectrum with its own attacks between Snarl (the whole trio likes having access to Snarl) and burns from Scald. Calm Mind sets have also been made to work in the past, so they need to be considered as well. Cumulatively, the legendary dogs are seeing more use this year than ever before in the VGC, so hurray for PUCL mascot success!
A Pokémon of particular relevance to last week’s article, Milotic is another Pokémon that received changes in the transition to Gen VI and is only just now getting to utilize them after not being allowed in VGC 14. But rather than get a completely new typing, Milotic simply got a new ability. But what massive changes a single new ability can bring to a Pokémon! With Competitive, Milotic can exploit the many Intimidates to be found in the format and on nearly every single team for the equivalent of a free Nasty Plot boost and this new quality makes it more than happy to be legal again. With very solid bulk which can be further augmented with Recover, even though it may not have the widest Special Attacking movepool to work with, Milotic’s best qualities combined make it capable of sticking around in a battle and dishing out punishments to those who dare to bring Intimidate out against it.
Actually the first Pokémon on this list to have an explicitly negative matchup against Fairy types, Terrakion returns to the VGC after taking last year off to prove you cannot keep a good ‘mon down. While the introduction of the Fairy type to Pokémom certainly did not do Terrakion any favors, all of its biggest selling points remain. Terrakion’s typing might have gained a weakness but it is still excellent offensively and threatens a lot of relevant Pokémon in the VGC metagame including: Mega Kangaskhan, Talonflame, Mega Charizard Y, Bisharp, Thundurus, (Mega) Salamence, Hydreigon, Zapdos, Heatran, the aforementioned Togekiss, Arcanine, and Entei, Volcarona, (Mega) Tyranitar, and (Mega) Gyarados, and other things as well, I am sure. With its very solid speed tier (although it needs speed control to be excellent), Terrakion also offers a fast STAB Rock Slide for when you feel like rolling the dice for flinches. If you have a move slot to spare, Terrakion also offers surprisingly supportive options to try out such as Quick Guard and Taunt. Terrakion proves having a lot of weaknesses does not prevent you from doing well as long as you have enough in your favor for your use to be Justified.
Remember how I said Gen VI was good to Fire types earlier? Heatran does, being the third Fire type to make this list. Heatran has always been one of the best Fire types available in every format it is legal in ever since it was created. And while, unlike some of the other Pokémon covered so far, Heatran may not have received a new typing or ability or cool move to use, the transition to Gen VI did bring about some changes to its unchanged typing. While Heatran lost its Dark and Ghost resistances it did gain a quadruple Fairy type resistance in exchange. Heatran’s Steel typing is now much more viable offensively, and this is the first VGC format where it is actually regularly running a STAB Steel attack in Flash Cannon, which is its best attack against a number of threats in the current format. Heatran is also awesome against Mega Mawile and Mega Charizard Y, two of the most popular Mega Evolutions. So while there is a lot of competition amongst Fire types for a team slot, Heatran is not going to have any problems making its presence known after last year’s absence.
It would be a travesty for Cresselia to not be on this list. Considered by many to be the absolute best support Pokémon there is for double battle formats, when Cresselia is not legal in the VGC, the VGC just doesn’t feel like… the VGC. It is a staple of the format and practically synonymous with it. Coupled with gargantuan bulk, three different speed control moves, Helping Hand, Skill Swap, and plenty of other moves, there are a lot of ways Cress is able to support teams and it being a big part of VGC 15 is inevitable. But it may not play as large of a role as it has in the past. Perhaps it is because Cresselia is such a difficult and obnoxious Pokémon to obtain that it currently is not seeing as much usage, but so far Cresselia is not as common as it has been in the past. The buff to Knock Off which is now very common did it no favors, either. Still, Cresselia is an inherently good enough Pokémon that even if its role in the format is diminished as a whole it will still be a very relevant Pokémon in it to consider. And it may simply be gaining traction until more people obtain it.
Metagross is the only Mega Evolving Pokémon to make this list, but probably would have still made it even if it did not receive a Mega Evolution because it has always been a really excellent VGC Pokémon and that would continue to be true of it even without Mega Metagross existing. However, the existence of Mega Metagross does make one of Hoenn’s two pseudo-legendary Pokémon’s return to the VGC special. Like with Heatran before it, the Steel type no longer resisting Dark and Ghost hurts, but whereas Heatran is now simply neutral to those types, Metagross has to contend with them as new weaknesses (and it is especially vulnerable to Foul Play). Also like Heatran, however, Steel’s utility in combating Fairy types does give Metagross new usefulness as well. Metagross has a wide variety of viable moves it can run, does not need to Mega Evolve to be used, can be on double Mega teams, and has such a different speed tier when it does Mega Evolve that it can function differently than it did before. It is a pretty easy Pokémon to fit on a team and can be dangerous to assume what moves it has until you know the whole set, and that means Metagross can truly do well in its Hoenn homecoming back to the VGC this year.
Or Landorus(-T) and Thundurus(-I), at any rate, both being consistent staples in the format and among the top six most frequently used Pokemon on the Battlespot. Their brother and 2013 World Champion, Tornadus, definitely got hurt the most during their VGC sabbatical, losing both its Defiant hidden ability thanks to the Pentagon rule as well as its potent Flying Gem+Acrobatics combo with Gem items unavailable currently (and nerfed from a 50% boost to 30% to rub salt in the wound). But while Tornadus has fallen from grace dramatically, Landorus has stolen the limelight in this year’s format as the second most used Pokemon, second only to Queen Mega Kangaskhan. It is the best Ground type in the format (don’t be bitter, Garchomp), it has Intimidate, is a fantastic Choice user, and hits really hard off that awesome base 145 Attack Stat. Thundurus is part of the standard as well as the sixth most used Pokémon on the Battlespot, but for those unfamiliar with the VGC, why it is so popular may be surprising. Although Thundurus has a stat distribution that makes it look like a total attacker, it is primarily used for Prankster Thunder Wave and Taunt support (and sometimes Swagger) and usually invests heavily in its bulk. Prankster on those two moves is just too good to not use. Even so, its Thunderbolts are still not weak enough to just disregard and it can have excellent coverage with just Thunderbolt and HP Ice. These two genies dominate the format and you need to have an answer to them both now that they are back with a vengeance after being absent last year.
There are a lot of other Pokémon making comebacks to the VGC after a hiatus from VGC 14 and I would love to cover them all but there just is not the time or the space. Some honorable mentions include: Breloom, Swampert, Blaziken, Jellicent, Volcarona, and Lati@s. What Pokémon are you happy to see returning to the VGC format that was not available last year?
Until next week, Puclonians. Before then I’ll just be blasting off again!
-Have something you want covered in Double Trouble? Feel free to message me with requests for topics!