Double Trouble: Need for Speed Control
Prepare for Trouble, and make it Double, PUCL! Alola to you all (does that become a thing now?). Welcome to the first installment of Double Trouble to be released AFTER Pokémon Sun & Moon! VGC 17 is now officially a thing!
The first major tournament, the London International, is just days away and virtually anything is possible. European participants got EXTREMELY little time to prepare for it, and the meta is still extremely young and unsettled. What will snatch the win the weekend? Anything could happen and anticipation is swelling.
One thing that never goes out style in the VGC, however, is speed control. Whether it’s paralysis, Icy Wind, Tailwind, Trick Room, or something else, just about every single successful VGC team throughout the years had ways to manipulate speed and who went when in the turn order, since that is such an important and powerful aspect of battles. And options for speed control in VGC 17 is the topic of this article because, much like the pool of available Pokémon to use this year, choices are… limited.
But in spite of having narrower options for speed control this year, having some form of it remains an often essential component to a successful team, so it is worth looking at what one has available to them in order to be the very best like no one ever was. So without further delay, let’s examine each common method of speed control in VGC 17!
Y’all. When the VGC format at hand lacks move tutors, you really start to FEEL it when looking for Tailwind setters. No, you cannot have Tailwind on your Salamence. The same goes for your Crobat. And Suicune and Zapdos aren’t even available this year. What DOES Tailwind this year? Here’s a list of EVERY Tailwind option available to us this year, with the more viable options being bolded:
This is a MUCH shorter list than usual. Toucannon and Oricorio are noted as the only Gen 7 Pokémon that can get Tailwind at this time. Aerodactyl stands out as the naturally fastest Tailwind user available can also be used to hunt for flinches with its STAB Rockslide. Murkrow and Whimsicott are your choices for Prankster Tailwind. And while Talonflame has definitely been nerfed this year, it can still get off a priority Tailwind on turn one, and remains extremely fast even without priority Flying type moves the second it takes damage. At full health, Talonflame can also threaten with a priority-285 Base Power (after STAB) Supersonic Skystrike via Brave Bird, so don’t let the Gale Wings nerf allow you to write it off just yet.
And while they have hardly shone in the VGC of most years past, this year could provide Braviary and Mandibuzz with opportunities to shine. Braviary’s Defiant ability lets it boost its Attack stat from the omnipresent Intimidates in the format on top of an impressive Attack stat to begin with. With access to Superpower for coverage and a lack of other viable Tailwind users compared to years past, it might see more use than in years prior. Its Unova cousin, Mandibuzz, has access to additional valued support moves like Snarl and Knock Off – another valuable move tutor move that is going to be much harder to come by this year. With the ability to get past its awful offensive stats with STAB Foul Play, Mandibuzz has quite a lot to offer this year. Factor in its excellent bulk (it is THE bulkiest Tailwind user available) and Mandibuzz makes a very good case for itself to see more use than it has in years past. Do I expect either of these birds to take the VGC by storm? No, but if they were to see success, this would be the year for it. And the more I look at everything Mandibuzz has to offer this year, the more compelling it looks.
The real rags-to-riches story on this list, however, is Pelipper, who now brandishes Drizzle as one of its abilities. There is no doubt that Pelipper WILL be one of the most popular Tailwind users in the format if not THE most popular choice. Drizzle provides players a plethora of possible strategies and could justify Pelipper’s usage by itself. But Pelipper has a lot more going for it on top of that. Its base Special Attack stat was boosted by 10 points, making it stronger than Politoed, on top of having not just rain-boosted STAB water attacks to launch, but a perfectly accurate STAB Hurricane as well. Tack on Roost for potential longevity, the oft-coveted Wide Guard for support, Ice Beam for coverage if you want it, and the highly underrated Soak, and you have a Pokémon with a lot of solid options at its disposal. It even gets KNOCK OFF (in a year where it’s not available via move tutor). This is Pelipper’s year to shine!
Let’s just start with the list of everything that can get Icy Wind this year to make a point:
If you thought the Tailwind list was bad… It’s slim pickings if you want Icy Wind as your Speed control and even slimmer if you want a user that is actually good. The lack of move tutors is especially palpable with this list, whereas in years past you would see legendaries such as Suicune and Cresselia utilizing Icy Wind.
The ONLY reason Vanilluxe is bolded is because it gets Snow Warning now, but it’s very hard to justify using it when Alolan Ninetales is available with the same ability. Weavile is notably the fastest user available, and can provide additional support to a team with access to Fake Out. If one is using Weavile, however, it is likely not for the purpose of speed control with Icy Wind.
Froslass is a particularly interesting option this year. Its covetable access to Icy Wind definitely makes it stand out more than it would in previous years, but on top of that, it can also utilize Z-Destiny Bond, which applies redirection onto Froslass. I’m not saying it’s really good, but it is definitely interesting, and if you REALLY want Icy Wind, Froslass is a pretty good choice given your options.
But the real star here is indubitably Alolan Ninetales, who has a lot to offer a team even without Icy Wind. Like completely accurate Blizzards and the powerful ability to set up Aurora Veil for your team, both possible due it having the Snow Warning ability. Alolan Ninetales DOES struggle to find room for Icy Wind, however. Blizzard is pretty much a given, but the new Ninetales also wants to run Ice Beam/Freeze Dry, Moonblast/Dazzling Gleam, Aurora Veil, and Protect. It has additional viable options on top of those. So while Alolan Ninetales is the most viable Icy Wind user of VGC 17, it is not always going to be used for Icy Wind when it has so much else to offer and only four moves to use.
Paralysis got nerfed. It now only halves a Pokémon’s speed instead of reducing it to a fourth of its value. Fine. Actually, that makes some sense because its stat drop now matches that which a burn causes. It still has a 25% chance of making a Pokémon unable to use a move every turn. But then Thunder Wave had its accuracy reduced to 90% – that is the only change I do not like. The list of Pokémon that learn Thunder Wave would be much longer than the lists provided for Tailwind and Icy Wind since the move can be taught via TM instead via move tutor, so it will not be provided here.
Instead, it is worth emphasizing that the changes to paralysis change do slightly reduce its merit as a means of speed control. Paralysis is still an extremely valuable form of speed control and certainly the easiest to fit onto a team. But the change to reducing a target’s speed by half means if the opponent has Tailwind up, their Pokémon have their normal speed values. And the drop in accuracy on Thunder Wave will definitely create a lot of turns of frustration when it inevitably misses. There are also going to be many instances where a Pokémon would have outsped a paralyzed opponent when the speed drop took it down to 25% of its value, but who will now still be outsped by the paralyzed Pokémon. You can no longer assume most slow, bulky attackers will outspeed once their opponents are paralyzed. Assess speed tiers accordingly if you plan to use paralysis for speed control.
Last, but certainly not least, is the speed control option that flips speed control upside down: Trick Room. And while Trick Room is available as a TM, the list of learners is sufficiently short that it warrants providing:
It is somewhat hard to say what is viable as a Trick Room user. If your only criteria is to find something slow and bulky, that is easily enough done, but some of the most successful users of Trick Room in the history of the VGC have been fast. Trick Room Gengar saw great success on a team at Worlds a couple of years back, for example. All slow and bulky Pokémon that are available for VGC 17 were bolded for this list, however, in addition to a number of other Pokémon that stand out for various reasons.
To begin with, Alolan Exeggcutor now has the distinction of being the only Grass/Dragon type to learn Trick Room, and it definitely has the stats to take advantage of it.
Oranguru is definitely one of the more commonly seen users of Trick Room at the moment, and stands out with its signature move, Instruct. Instruct has a lot of potential and can be more powerful than a Helping Hand, however, it is important to note that Instruct does not have priority like Helping Hand and Oranguru can be targeted down before it gets to use Instruct. Another asset of Oranguru is that it is the ONLY Pokémon available in VGC 17 with access to Telepathy as its ability, allowing it to safely Instruct its partners’ Earthquakes and Discharges and such.
Mimikyu also stands out as one of the most reliable setters of Trick Room thanks to its Disguise ability. With Disguise ensuring it takes a hit, Mimikyu can more confidently utilize a Mental Herb as its item to ensure in cannot be taunted OR easily knocked out before setting up Trick Room successfully.
And while it is not new, Porygon2 with Eviolite stands out as the bulkiest Trick Room user available and is seeing substantial usage at this time as well. With access to Recover and an extremely versatile movepool, it can be tailored to meet specific needs for many teams. Knock Off not being nearly as common this year helps it as well.
There are SO MANY viable strategies in VGC 17! This is looking to be a very exciting year with an excitingly diverse format. But with so many viable strategies, and comparatively fewer choices for speed control, knowing how to add speed control to your team can be crucial! Plan accordingly, and you can be the very best like no one ever was. Until next time, PUCL! Looks like I’m blasting off again~