Double Trouble: Fallen Stars

Prepare for trouble, and make it double! To denounce the evils of truth and love! To extend our reach to the stars above!

…But what if some of those stars are no longer above, Puclonians? What if they have fallen, their flames faded to be outshone by younger stars? In this installment of Double Trouble, that is precisely the circumstances of some former VGC superstars that have lost luster for VGC 15. This week, we’re looking at five Pokémon that were amazing in previous years of the VGC that are… less amazing this year. Where are they now?

Rotom-H

Rotom-H had a fabulous year in VGC 14. The more limited selection of Pokémon available for use during last year’s VGCs, the introduction of the highly powerful and popular Fairy Types, and the overall climate of that year’s format all culminated into the perfect opportunity for a Rotom form OTHER than Rotom-W to shine (Rotom-W still did perfectly well for itself, though: it always does). And by the celestial plates of Arceus, the little poltergeist oven-that-could shone bright. Having a Fire type on your team was more important in VGC 14 than ever before, being one of the few types to resist the new Fairy type, on top of resisting and neutering an offensively improved and also highly prominent Steel type. Rotom-H’s unique typing gave also it solid match-ups against two of the three most prominent Mega Evolutions that year (Mega Mawile and Mega Charizard Y) and was so relevant that big bad Mega Mawile with the highest Attack stat in the game started EVing specifically to survive a Rotom-H’s Overheat. Its partial Electric type also gave it a huge boon in resisting both STAB attacks of a major threat new to the VGC scene whose omnipresence we all still continue to feel and be influenced by: Talonflame. Easily the most popular and new Gen VI Pokémon in the VGC, Talonflame’s popularity was a huge advantage for Rotom-H who resisted both of the bird’s STAB moves and could zap the Brave Bird out of the sky.

So what changed this year that has caused everyone’s favorite poltergeist oven’s star power to plummet? Essentially, just the return to a National Dex. What really allowed Rotom-H to shine as brightly as it did in VGC 14 was the absence of other, arguably (objectively) stronger Fire types to fill many of the niches Rotom-H had to its self last year. But Heatran, Arcanine, and Entei have all seen various improvements and vie for many of the slots Rotom-H might otherwise occupy on teams now. That is not to say Rotom-H is no longer viable, but the revenge of its quadruped competition, all very solid Pokémon, has tremendously reduced the number of teams for which Rotom-H is the best choice. Still, Rotom-H has its unique selling points, most notably a unique immunity to Ground types without requiring a Fire/Flying typing. Plus, it actually resists the STAB attacks of the Pokémon that has swallowed up the largest number of spots that Rotom-H might otherwise get: Heatran! So don’t put your head in the electric oven (so to speak!) yet. Just don’t expect it to go nearly as far as it did last year, either.

Latios

Anyone that played the VGC during Gen V knows just how dominant a force Latios was in it. It was the naturally fastest and strongest (Specially) Dragon in an era without Fairy types. Gems existed to make its Draco Meteors nukes capable of one-shotting tons of Pokémon (and with Choice Specs, if you could switch in and out, you could drop a nuke of that power more than once). Just as Rotom-H forced Mega Mawile to start investing to survive its Overheat, Latios forced a LOT of Pokémon to invest in bulk just to survive its infamous Dragon Gem Draco Meteor. And since most people invested enough to just survive the Timid version, a Modest Latios would KO nine out of ten of the Pokémon expecting survival but being surprised by the wrong Latios nature. Latios is also the first Pokémon on our list to be a former Masters Division VGC World Champion (VGC 13, per Arash Ommati). Every Pokémon on this list going forward is a former VGC World Champion, by the way: the epitome of fallen stars.

So what happened to Latios, arguably the most influential Pokémon on the metagame during its reign of prominence? Mega Salamence. And Fairy types. And the removal of (and nerf to) Dragon Gems. And the power reduction to Draco Meteor. And the rise in Bisharp’s popularity. Clearly a lot of things took the wind out of Latios’s sails, and it is their cumulative impact that has reduced Latios to a shadow of its former glory. Looking and how each individual parts contributes to this, part of what made Latios so popular was that it was THE naturally fastest Dragon type you could use. With the introduction of a Mega Salamence that is faster than Latios (and to a lesser extent, Noivern) that is no longer the case, so anyone seeking a fast Dragon nuke will sooner use Mega Mence (also, can we talk about how absurd it is that the Pokémon resembling a JET gets no additional speed with its Mega Evolution – Latios WOULD be more usable if its Mega traded some Attack for Speed). The introduction of Fairy types now means there are Pokémon completely immune to its once horrifying nuke (and how foolish would one look having their Latios use Draco Meteor to have it redirected by a CLEFAIRY to do nothing?). The removal of the Dragon Gem and the power reduction to Draco Meteor both also make the nuke hit weaker than it used to, so it is more easily survivable. Oh, and Knock Off got a huge boost, which is part of why Bisharp is now as popular as it is and part of why Latios has fallen as far down as it has from the top.

Like with Rotom-H before him though, Latios IS still usable though. It does have a solid movepool, solid stats, and can hit hard. It doesn’t hit AS hard as it used to, but it can still hit hard. It has made Top Cuts at regionals this year. But definitely don’t expect it to win the World Championship again this year.

Tornadus

Like Latios before it, Tornadus is a former World Champion per Arash Ommati in 2013. Its time of major import is more particular, however. Being one of only six usable Legendary Pokémon in an EXTREMELY shallow pool consisting only of the Unova-Dex during VGC 11, it of course saw major use during VGc 11 and made it to the finals of the World Championships, but it was with improvements it received prior to VGC 13 that it was most effective and managed to win the whole thing.

Prior to VGC 13, Tornadus received its Hidden Ability, Defiant. Paired with its Flying Gem-Acrobatics combo and Superpower for coverage, with a Defiant boost Tornadus was more lethal than ever. With Defiant/Competitive and Intimidate now more popular than ever before, Tornadus’s success as the first Pokémon with Defiant to win the Masters Division World Championships could be interpreted as a precursor for the abilities’ seeming omnipresence today.

But it is an omnipresence Tornadus is no longer contributing to, since Tornadus no longer legally has its Hidden Ability for the VGC. Without it, Tornadus is mostly just a second or third choice weather setter in an era of auto-weather. With Hurricane, I suppose. But Special Tornadus has never seen the success Thundurus has. Physical sets were Tornadus’s strongsuit, but not only has it lost Defiant to exploit, but the removal of Gem items has been just as cruel to Tornadus as it has been to Latios (but at least Latios didn’t lose its preferred ability). Flying Gem Acrobatics from a Tornadus was spectacular. Now, it is a remnant of the past. Should Tornadus receive its Hidden Ability again for use in the VGC it could make something of a comeback, even with the nerf to Flying Gem (if Flying Gem shows up, that comeback is all the likelier) especially considering how much more prominent Intimidate and Defiant are. But until that happens it is even a stretch to call Tornadus usable the way Latios and Rotom-H are. It IS usable… technically. But it’s on a tangibly lower level.

Garchomp

At many points of VGC 14, Garchomp was the most commonly used Pokémon. More than Mega Kangaskhan and Talonflame. Garchomp has also received Masters Division World Champion status more than once, both under Ray Rizzo back in VGC 12 AND Sejun Park in VGC 14. It was the most common Pokémon at the VGC 14 World Championships, in fact. So clearly it must be a solid Pokémon. And it is. VGC 14 was especially kind to it, too. Its base Speed of 102 was fantastic in a format where 100 was especially prominent. The format was also very notably physically oriented, and Garchomp was able to use its Hidden Ability of Rough Skin to capitalize. So with its fantastic stat distribution, a excellent STAB Earthquake and solid move options between Dragon Claw and Rock Slide (yay flinches!) how is it that Garchomp could have fallen this year to be considered a fallen star?

Enter Landorus-T. And it has to be the Therian forme. You may notice the years Garchomp won its World Championship titles are the same years that Landorus-T was not around for. Landorus did not have access to its Therian forme until VGC 13 which let Garchomp shine in VGC 12, and Landorus was not allowed at all during VGC 14. As awesome as Garchomp objectively is, it is just too similar to Landorus-T. Except Landorus-T hits even harder and has Intimidate to support the entire team and boost its bulk (and it can U-Turn in and out to get in multiple Intimidates). The existence of Landorus-T is honestly the only reason why Garchomp is so much less popular this year (although Mega Salamence probably is not helping either). It is just a matter of applying opportunity cost to team building for competitive Pokémon.

Cynthia’s signature Pokémon and partner is still really good though. It just typically means not using Landorus-T in a format that prefers the Genie. But Garchomp does still have a number of things differentiating itself that the dirt genie probably hates. Although they are both Ground types and share that damnable quadruple Ice weakness, they also have somewhat different resistances and weaknesses. Rough Skin also continues to be a really strong ability to exploit the many contact moves in the format. Chomp is also naturally faster (although Choice Scarf is one of the standard Lando-T items) and can exploit sand better with its original ability, Sand Veil (best used in conjuction with Leftovers and Substitute: see Ray Rizzo’s 2012 World Championships team). So while they share similarities, the land shark and the dirt genie do have distinctions that allow Garchomp to be the best choice for certain teams. There are just WAAAAY fewer of those teams now that Landorus-T has returned.

Cresselia

Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Cresselia may never have been the offensive juggernaut that the metagame revolved around, but it, too, shaped the VGC metagame for a very long time because everyone needed a way to get past its indomitable bulk. Often considered the best support Pokémon in the VGC, Cresselia also became a Masters Division VGC World Championship under Ray Rizzo in VGC 12. She offered Trick Room, Thunder Wave, Icy Wind, Helping Hand, Dual Screens – if it was a form of support she probably had it. And with that bulk, she just WOULDN’T die. AND with Ice Beam she could one-shot the big threats quadruple weak to Ice with relatively little investment necessary. For years Cresselia was hailed as the ultimate example of how Pokémon that don’t work very well in one format can do amazing in another.

Until that format’s metagame becomes more hostile too it. Hello, new-and-improved Knock Off. And Aegislash. And power-creeping Mega Evolutions. Why Bisharp and Hydreigon, you both seem more popular than ever before, too! Cresselia is essentially just less impregnable than it used to be. In yesteryears, Special Defense-boosting natures were most popular but just because of the Knock Offs and Mega Kangaskhans of the world, Cresselia are now more frequently more invested in their physical Defense just to ensure they meet certain thresholds. And even something as minimal as the drop in power to Ice Beam has made what was once considered an amazing and stardard EV spread for Cresselia that could take specific hits on both ends of the spectrum and still one-shot Pokémon quad weak to it is no longer what it used to be, with a number of those Pokémon previously guaranteed to be knocked out now having a chance at surviving.

The evolution of the Pokémon franchise has made Cresselia’s life harder, and people know it isn’t as good as it once was, but it is still seeing notable usage and success. It IS winning regionals and making Top Cuts still, and has actually found a great new partner in Mega Charizard Y and a new usable item in Rocky Helmet. Cresselia is not what it used to be – of that there is no doubt – but there also is not a Pokémon that does everything it does better. Cresselia has just gone from being the best support Pokémon ever to the best support Pokémon for certain types of teams and certain partners. So perhaps there is yet hope for the lunar Pokémon to take its place again amongst the stars.

Do you have a Pokémon whose greatest moment to shine has passed? Is its 15 minutes of fame over? What caused it? Until next time, Puclonians, it looks like I’m blasting off again!

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