Prepare for trouble and make it double, Puclonians! Because it is time for a very celebratory edition of Double Trouble! For those who do not know, last Saturday was my fellow PUCL Writer WiserOsprey’s birthday (and he turned 21 which means he’s LEGAL~).
In honor of this event, today’s installment of Double Trouble is kicking off the first of a series of special-edition entries entitled “Celebrate” to be released within a week of each of the PUCL writers’ birthdays to show my appreciation for their work and contributions to the site. I asked WiserOsprey what some of his favorite Pokémon are, which are going to be examined in the context of the VGC. His picks were: Kingdra, Scizor, and Ambipom. So bust out Ash Ketchum’s shiny Noctowl to use Foresight so we can better identify them. Foresight… that move sounds especially relevant and referential. Surely it is something very important and not to be ignored.
WiserOsprey’s first pick, Kingdra is a Pokémon that sees perfectly healthy use in the VGC and has been a relevant presence in it for years now. A common staple on Rain teams thanks to having Swift Swim as an ability, and a typing that is useful in a lot of situations as well as a couple of other distinctive selling points, Kingdra has seen plenty of success throughout its long career in the VGC. Two people took it to the Masters Division of the World Championship Tournament last year, and five people used it at the same tournament the year before that. It also regularly top cuts Regional and National tournaments throughout the year around the world in every annual format is has been allowed in, proving Kingdra’s consistent performance and potential in the VGC – something does not get taken to the World Championships year after year by accident. It is worth noting, however, that Kingdra became less popular last year with its rival, Ludicolo, becoming an unanticipated superstar of VGC 14 for a number of reasons (while two people did take Kingdra to Worlds this last year, TWELVE people took Ludicolo). The whole introduction of the Fairy type-thing did not do Kingdra any favors either, and definitely contributed to its decline.
If you ever plan on using Kingdra in the VGC, you are almost assuredly using a Rain team (Politoed is Kingdra’s most common teammate by a justified large margin) with Kingdra functioning as a Rain sweeper and definitely with Swift Swim as its ability. Kingdra is one of the standard three (previously two) Swift Swim Sweeper choices of VGC 15 with Ludicolo and, new-kid-on-the-block, Mega Swampert as its biggest competition. What has always set Kindgra apart from its competition is the ability to run Muddy Water and its part Dragon typing. It also has the best matchup of the three against Mega Venusaur, bane to many a Rain team. With Muddy Water, Kingdra distinguishes itself from its competition by being the only one using a Rain-boosted spread attack that targets just the opposing Pokémon; whereas the ubiquitously distributed, equally powerful Surf and Mega Swampert’s Earthquake target your own Pokémon as well. The chance to reduce the opponents’ accuracy is nice too, although the imperfect accuracy of the move, itself, can be frustrating. Kingdra’s Dragon typing also allows it to defeat basically all of the other Dragon types in the format (unless they use a Haban Berry) with its STAB Dragon attacks, since it becomes the fastest Dragon in the format as long as you have Rain up. Granting Kingdra access to the Draco Meteor to bomb anything in general (that isn’t a Fairy) is also a perk in Kingdra’s favor. All three common Swift Swim Sweepers have Ice type moves so they all can handle Dragon types pretty well, but against the ones that are not 4x weak to ice it can get hairy for the others, giving Kingdra the edge.
If you want to use Kingdra and you are new to the VGC, take note that the vast majority of them are Modest natured and use a damage-boosting item such as Life Orb (the most popular choice by a large margin) or Choice Specs. While Kingdra’s base Special Attack of 95 is not bad by any means, it is far from impressive and especially since Kingdra is the most directly offensive of the usual Rain Sweepers, it wants to boost its damage output as much as possible. To those extremely new to VGC, when you look at Kingdra’s stats, you may wonder why it never goes for a physical set since its Attack is just as high as its Special Attack, not to mention it can learn Dragon Dance. There are a number of reasons why it is virtually always specially oriented. For one, it has no reliable physical Dragon type STAB (Outrage is AWFUL in doubles because it picks a target to attack at random). Another reason is that Intimidate is extremely common in the VGC, further discouraging physical sets. And lastly, Kingdra has access to stronger viable STAB moves on its special side with both Hydro Pump and Draco Meteor in its arsenal.
Scizor is another Pokémon that has been blessed with much success in the VGC over the years, and like Kingdra before it, VGC 2014 was not its best year being an unkind format to it in a number of ways. Most notably, it lost Technician-boosted Bug Bite, previously a standard for Scizor and one of its biggest selling points. On top of that, Scizor received one of the few Mega Evolutions generally considered to be not worth using, due to its similarity to regular Scizor and insufficient strength boost. Fire types also became much more popular, a number of the Psychic types Scizor was strong against in the past were gone, and, while Scizor still clung on to its signature STAB Technician-boosted Bullet Punch, many of format’s relevant Fairy types were not even weak to Steel (think about it: Mega Mawile, Azumarill, Klefki). All-in-all, the year was Scizor’s awkward phase. Yet again just like Kingdra, two people still featured it at the Masters Division World Championships, with an solid eight using it the year before to give you an idea of the decline. Still, even with a weaker year than in the past, Scizor was used very effectively on a number of successful teams at various VGC tournaments last year, and has been one of the most reliable and widely used Steel types in years previous.
Moreover, VGC 15 definitely looks to be better for Scizor than VGC 14 was, with it getting Bug Bite back and many Pokémon Scizor does well against returning to the fray such as Cresselia, the Lati@s twins, and Togekiss with a new typing Scizor can now exploit. Scizor also looks to reclaim its status as one of the best Steel types of the VGC thanks to how well it handles a top threat new to VGC 2015: Sylveon, currently the fourth most popular Pokémon in the format right now. Legally gaining Pixitlate Hyper Voice, Sylveon has skyrocketed in popularity to become one of the most common Pokémon that everyone has to prepare for. And a Life Orb or Choice Band-boosted Scizor’s Bullet Punch will one-shot the Eeveelution, even if it runs max HP – a very sweet addition to a Pokémon’s resume in the current format. Sylveon happens to be the Pokémon Scizor most frequently defeats currently. Even though there is more competition amongst Steel types than ever, Scizor has enough going on for it this year to justify itself.
If you would like to use Scizor in the VGC this year, you are essentially certain to be running Bullet Punch and probably Bug Bite alongside it, although some prefer to run U-Turn without Bug Bite. From there, it really depends on what you want Scizor to accomplish for your team, because there are quite a number of options Scizor has at its disposal, and its versatility is reflected in how fractured its item usage is – the most common item on Scizor being a Lum Berry on less than 30% of Scizor (in contrast, over 60% of Kingdra hold Life Orb). Other common choices include Life Orb, Scizorite, and Choice band. Scizor can run both Choice Band and Swords Dance sets effectively, and can also provide a surprising amount of team support in the VGC format with access to Feint (my favorite move in VGC), Tailwind, and Quick Guard, and can sustain itself with Roost. With tutors back, it also has even more options in the form of Superpower and Knock Off. You also always have to look at running Protect in doubles. Between all that, Scizor is a Pokémon with so many options it can quite easily be tailored to meet various specific needs for a great variety of teams. Although whether he ascends to the same usage he saw in VGC 12 and 13 is a matter of speculation at this point, definitely expect him to rebound from his slump in VGC 2014.
I saved Wiser’s true favorite for last. While he may technically prefer Aipom, because it is not fully evolved and definitely does not have the defenses to pull off Eviolite, its evolved form, Ambipom, will be examined in its place. Unlike the two previous Pokémon WiserOsprey picked, Ambipom does not have any notable VGC accomplishments under its belt. And unless a future generation of Pokémon games throws it something major, Ambipom will probably never become a Pokémon of great notoriety in the VGC. That does not mean it cannot be utilized effectively or made viable. There are probably very specific teams out there for which Ambipom is the best choice, that also have the potential to be successful. Plus, as most of us probably know, a favorite does not have to be the best or even good, necessarily, to be meaningful to us.
When I looked at what Ambipom had to work with for the context of the VGC format, specifically, I was surprised at how many useful things it has in its arsenal. I was also definitely expecting it to have the awesome support move, Helping Hand, considering Ambipom’s physiology, but alas, it cannot learn it. What Ambipom can learn, however, is Fake Out, which is also one of the best support moves in the VGC (and which you can read about in greater detail in the previous installment of Double Trouble). In fact, with 115 as its base Speed, Ambipom has the second fastest Fake Out in the game, second only to Weavile (third if you count Mega Lopunny, but Lopunny has to use its original speed the turn it Mega Evolves). Ambipom also learns Fling, which, when paired with a King’s Rock, can be used to nab two flinches in a row for the first two turns its in battle (Fling is an attack with properties and powers dependent on the item a Pokémon holds – King’s Rock guarantees a flinch as long as it goes before its target). Two turns of guaranteed flinching can definitely strongly influence the outcome of a battle. In fact, Fake Out combined with King’s Rock-Fling is actually a combo Weavile will occasionally carry. But Ambipom does have some other tools which in conjunction with the above combo technically would give it a unique potential niche, with access to Thunder Wave and an especially fantastic support tool in Quick Guard, among others things. The more stones you turn over looking at Ambipom, the more there is to appreciate about it.
Happy birthday, Wiser! Thanks for all of the awesome work you have contributed to this community. For anyone that somehow has not read WiserOsprey’s articles, definitely check them out! He has written some seriously fantastic stuff and is a fantastic resource for trainers. ‘Til next week, Puclonians! Until then it looks like I’m blasting off again.