Prepare for Trouble, and make it Double, Puclonians! And I mean that quite literally this week, because the topic of this installation of Double Trouble is Mega Kanghaskhan, a Mega Pokémon that attacks twice, thanks to its unique ability, Parental Bond.
This is not intended to be an analysis of its typical sets or how to use it in the VGC format, however. Rather, this is intended to examine the story of Mega Kangaskhan’s last year of existence to serve as a parable of what really happens when one becomes the very best there ever was (or at least the very best in a given year); it is a cautionary tale. There are a number of lessons about various phenomena that occur within the VGC to be gleaned using Mega Kangaskhan’s story as an example of them.
To get to the beginning of our tale, rewind back to the dawn of Generation VI with X and Y and the VGC 14 format. Receiving a Mega Evolution with an absolutely incredible ability, Kangaskhan rocketed to the top as one of the rags-to-riches Mega Pokémon. In singles, Kangaskhan got banned. But Pokémon do not get banned in the VGC format if they are legal at the onset of the year so Kangaskhan had a metagame where it was guaranteed to be allowed. And in a more narrow format than the last couple of years of the VGC, Mega Kangaskhan’s value stood out even more.
While the nature of the VGC makes it harder for things to be unstoppable, Mega Kangaskhan was still considered to be the best individual Pokémon to use in a VGC format since Kyogre in 2010 (2010 had really interesting rules, but that is for another time): she broke Subs and Sashes, she could use Power Up Punch to get a free Swords Dance, she provided awesome Fake Out support that could even effect Ghosts the first turn of battle, she had excellent bulk for a Pokémon as offensive as it was. I’ll stop there. Again, this isn’t about what makes Mega Kangaskhan good to use but simply what happens when a Pokémon is that good in the VGC.
And so she inevitably went on to be the single most used Pokémon for the entire year, essentially. And she won many, many tournaments across the world at the hands of all sorts of players. She won the US Nationals, Germany Nationals, and South Africa Nationals, and was present in the finals for the Nationals for a number of other countries as well.
And then Worlds came around, where Mega Kangaskhan went on to fall completely flat after winning so many tournaments on the way there, not even breaking the top cut of the Masters Division. The highest position she reached at the highest-level tournament was fourteenth place. After spending the entire year as the most frequently used Mega Evolution and one of the most common Pokémon in general she slipped down to the seventh most common Pokémon at Worlds in the Mastes Division. What happened? How did the Queen on ‘14 fall from grace so severely for the single most prolific tournament of the VGC?
Basically, she got to be too good for her own good. Which leads us to the crux of this cautionary tale. Whereas in non-officially sanctioned singles formats a community can elect to ban Pokémon it deems to be too good, in the VGC, if something gains too much traction, the metagame will react accordingly. Especially for Worlds. Because of the nature of double battles, it is not that Mega Kangaskhan was not too strong for VGC 14 but that she became strong enough and successful enough that the bullseye painted on her got so big it eventually became impossible to miss; you cannot fly too high without your wings eventually melting in the VGC.
Mega Kangaskhan was an extremely influential force for the VGC 14 metagame and so much of it revolved around the format’s queen that over time, people became more and more prepared for it; you had to be sufficiently prepared for it for your team to be considered usable, considering how many titles she kept accumulating under her belt throughout the year. Plenty of shifts in comparison with trends in previous years can be at least partially attributed to her. Amoonguss went from using Regenerator as its more popular ability to Effect Spore in part because of Parental Bond. Garchomp switched to Rough Skin as the default ability to be used after years of exploiting Sand Veil. Rocky Helmet became one of the most commonly used items for how well it punished Mega Kangaskhan (especially in conjuction with Rough Skin and Iron Barbs). A number of Pokémon such as Gourgeist and Trevenant saw rises in popularity because of sets that could handle her around the time of Nationals. Tons of Pokémon were EVed specifically to survive an attack from Mega Kangaskhan. Surviving her Return/Double Edge became a standard. Even with all of these changes, Mega Kangaskhan still went on to be extremely successful up until it choked at Worlds.
And that observation teaches us about Worlds more than anything. For those VGC players who receive invitations to The Pokémon World Championships, when crafting their teams they of course look at what has been successful throughout the year and ensure their team can handle it, and this is especially what led to the tournament being so inhospitable to Mega Kangaskhan. That accounts for why it performed so poorly. As for its drop in popularity, the same people preparing to counter Mega Kangaskhan also knew that the more popular something was during the year, the more responses there will be to it at worlds. Japan’s National Champion who came in fifth overall at Worlds relayed in describing his team for Worlds after the tournament that he chose not to use Mega Kangaskhan because he knew people would be so prepared for her.
Instead, the most popular Mega to use at Worlds was Mega Mawile, the best Mega Pokémon available to also have a strong match-up against Mega Kangaskhan, herself. The team that reached the highest place with Mega Kangaskhan on it? It also had Mega Mawile, a second Intimidate Pokémon, a Ghost type which could counter her, and a Garchomp with the ever-unpleasant Rough Skin; as a whole the team was heavily stacked to make make the lives of any opposing mega Kangaskhan absolute hell.
After Worlds, in all tournaments that took place with VGC 14 rules until the New Year manifested, while Mega Kangaskhan was still obviously an awesome Pokémon she never attained the same level of success she had before Worlds took place. Instead, Mega Mawile received some much-deserved love.
And yet, Mega Kangaskhan is currently back on top again after her tragic fall when it mattered most, currently reigning as the most commonly used Pokémon in the new format of VGC 15. But will she be destined to plummet yet again? Does the cycle repeat? Probably not. Or at least not to the same extent, anyway.
Part of what makes Mega Kangaskhan such a extraordinary example in the dramatic rise and fall she underwent is that her year of utmost glory was a more shallow format than usual. Because VGC 14 was limited to the Kalos Dex, the extent to which Mega Kangaskhan was such a strong Pokémon in the format got heightened. With VGC 15 going back to the National Dex and providing literally the most diverse VGC format to date, any lead Mega Kangaskhan holds in popularity and power is probably going to be downsized in comparison with VGC 14. There are a lot more Pokémon to prepare for, more ways to handle Queen Kang, and more ways to play. She may still sit in her throne as the most frequently used Pokémon in the VGC again this year so far, and she is technically a changed ‘mon thanks to the movetutors, but the odds are she will never have a year to reign as a tyrant with an expiration date like in VGC 14. Expect her to do well, but do not hold your breath for her to snatch as many trophies as she did last year prior to Worlds.
Until next week, PUCL! Looks like I’m blasting off again!