Double Trouble: Underwhelming ORAS Megas in the VGC
Prepare for Trouble, and make it Double, PUCL! It is yet again time for another installment of Double Trouble, made all the more timely by the upcoming VGC-style tournament, P.F.T.T. I do not want to tell you what I am considering running for the P.F.T.T., but I will tell you some of the things I am not running.
ORAS introduces a brand new batch of Mega Evolutions to shake things up with. And with a new batch of shiny toys to play with, there were some that stood out and have performed really well in the format, and others… that… didn’t. So this week I thought I would make a list of what I consider to be the Top 5 Most Underwhelming ORAS Mega Evolutions in the context of the VGC. And take note before I start that this is just my opinion; feel free to disagree with it. Onto the list!
5 – Mega Pidgeot
Bless Mega Bird Jesus. Pidgeot has been getting buff after buff in Gen Vi, and while getting a Mega Evolution can be one way to catapult a Pokémon into superstardom, such will not be the case for the first Pokémon on this list. Mega Pidgeot’s schtick is offering completely accurate Hurricanes and Heat Waves outside of the rain. Since Heat Wave is such a popular spread move in the VGC to start with, this might look like it would bode well for Mega Pidgeot. But alas, the format is more cruel than kind to it.
To begin with, Rain Teams are an extremely common archetype in the VGC, so if someone wants perfectly accurate Hurricanes, there are already ways of getting that without resorting to a team’s Mega Evolution slot. There is also the problem that the disadvantages of No Guard become especially evident in doubles with Rock Slide being such a popular, but usually unreliable move in the VGC format. Flying Type is also exyremely common in the format, and there are plenty of other Flying types that shine brighter or can accomplish more with the Mega Stone. Bottom line: it is not that Mega Pidgeot is bad at what it tries to do so much as that there are so many solid Flying Types in the format to pick from, many who do not require a Mega Stone (and those that do being a lot more powerful), and Mega Pidgeot does not have enough to stand out and justify its own use.
Remember the VGC 14 World Championships? That tournament Sejun Park won with Pachirisu? You should also remember that his team, Pachirisu included, revolved around supporting Mega Gyarados, yet another Dark/Water Mega Pokémon that Sharpedo is put in direct competition with. Except with WAY better bulk. And a higher Atack stat. And a wider viable movepool. And with team support offered through Intimidate before Mega Evolving. And a better capacity to bluff being a Mega or not. The list goes on. While it might be a different story in singles, Mega Gyarados sees to it that Mega Sharpedo remains underwhelming in the VGC simply by being in direct competition with it for a slot, and generally offering way more to teams.
There are distinctions for Mega Sharpedo to pride itself on, of course. Strong Jaw makes Mega Sharpedo’s STAB Crunch and Ice Fang stronger than those of Mega Gyarados (supposing Gyara does not get a Dragon Dance under its belt), and Sharpedo is also much, much faster (again, supposing Gyara is not boosting with Dragon Dance). Plus, Sharpedo can boost its already impressive Speed further if it waits for a turn before Mega Evolving by Protecting – a move it should probably be carrying anyway! Of course, that requires the burden of having to spend a turn not Mega Evolved for Sharpedo, and its strengths compared to Mega Gyarados are far outweighed by its weaknesses. Bulk is extremely valuable in the VGC since more attacks can happen in a single turn. If you are a frail offensive Pokémon in the VGC, you really have to pull your weight on a team or offer something useful and unique that another Pokémon cannot do, but Sharpedo does not quite deliver in that area in the VGC format.
Mega Sharpedo is extremely frail by VGC standards whereas Mega Gyarados is extremely bulky and has its bulk increased further by virtue of the Intimidate ability Gyara has before Mega Evolving. If Mega Gyarados gets a single Dragon Dance off, Mega Sharpedo’s Crunch and Ice Fang become weaker by comparison as well. Since virtually every VGC team has some form of Speed control or another, Mega Gyarados’s lower speed is much easier to support on a team compared to Mega Sharpedo’s paper-thin defenses. And because it is so outclassed by last year’s VGC World Championship winning Mega Evolution, Mega Sharpedo is less than impressive in the VGC.
As this is the half-way point of underwheliming ORAS Mega Evolution for the VGC, let me start by saying Latios is a strong Pokémon and definitely viable in the VGC. Latios has even been one of the most influential and relevant Pokémon in the VGC for a number of years in the past. But despite getting a brand new Mega Evolution, something that ordinarily makes a Pokémon better, Latios has arguably gotten worse in doubles this generation.
Back in VGC 12 and 13, Pokémon were EVed specifically to survive a Timid Dragon Gem Latios Draco Meteor. It was an expected standard because of how popular Latios was in the format. As the fastest and strongest Dragon Type available in the format, Latios was incredibly solid, and with a Dragon Gem you could easily seal games up by eliminating the right threat with this nuke. And then the Fairy Type was invented. I would not be exaggerating to say how Latios performed in VGC 12 and 13 influenced the decision to add another type to the game. Is was that prominent.
And then they weakened and removed Gem items. And added faster Dragon options (Noivern and Mega Salamence). And Draco Meteor became weaker. Just about everything that made Latios so dominant was modified in Gen VI and cumulatively, these changes have definitely taken their toll. But then Latios received a Mega Evolution! That should help it overcome these changes, right? Unfortunately, Latios has one of the worst stat boost distributions for a Mega Evolution across the board. It received a huge boost to its Attack Stat it generally does not want to use, underwhelming Defensive boosts, a Special Attack Boost weaker than simply holding a Life Orb, and, most damningly NO boost to Speed. The high speed of Latios is what made it so good in the first place. And with new competition now racing past it, a speed boost was really necessary to justify Mega Latios. Latios is still perfectly usable in the VGC, but its Mega Evolution is a waste of a Mega Stone and far too similar to normal Latios who can achieve better results with a Choice Item or Life Orb.
With such a gorgeous design, I really wanted Mega Steelix to be good. And the VGC would be the format where it would actually have a chance to shine, requiring weather to best function. But alas, things did not align correctly. As was the case with Latios before it, Mega Steelix is really hard to justify over normal Steelix. It demands a lot of assistance to attempt to shine, but its glimmer is put to shame by what a non-Mega Evolved Steelix can do without taking up a precious Mega Stone. It needs Sand. It wants Trick Room. It prefers teammates that do not mind Earthquake. That is a fat list of criteria to build around in order to attempt to take advantage of Mega Steelix and its Sand Force ability.
But the real kick in the teeth is that normal Steelix can actually hit harder without demanding so much team assistance (in the majority of circumstances). I will grant that Mega Steelix, in a Sandstorm, has a stronger Earthquake. That’s it. In case you forgot or were not aware, Steelix has Sheer Force as its Hidden Ability (you know, the one Feraligatr got, pleasing Thatch immensely). And a Life Orb boost stacks with Sheer Force on top of not doing recoil damage AND can effect attack types other than just Steel, Ground, and Rock. Steelix has the movepool to take advantage of this, too, with access to the elemental Fangs for customizable coverage. Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix actually hits harder with Ice Fang than Mega Steelix does.
But Mega Steelix has the boost on Rock, Ground, and Steel moves! It does, but the only Steel type coverage move I would consider worth using is Iron Head… which is boosted by Sheer Force. Life Orb Steelix actually hits exactly as hard as Mega Steelix (in Sandstorm ) with its STAB Iron Head. So that leaves you with Earthquake (and Rock Slide, although using Rock Slide on something that slow is really tricky to justify – plus Life Orb Steelix would hit just as hard with the Life Orb boost on Rock Slide). So Mega Steelix, in a sandstorm required to get a boost at all, has a harder hitting Earthquake. Congratulations, Mega Steelix. You hit harder than your normal form with a single move. A single spread move that a lot of Pokémon in the format are immune to. Stick to the regular form.
Coming out on top as what I consider to be the most underwhelming Mega Evolution from ORAS for the VGC is Mega Audino, a completely support-oriented Pokémon. Normal Audino has been used to success in the VGC on a couple of teams in the past, believe it or not, so with a new Mega Evolution that also features a type change one might think Mega Audino would have some merit. And perhaps it does have some merit. With Healer as its abilit, Mega Audino is explicitly intended for a doubles format.
And the reason Mega Audino gets to be in the number one slot is because the nature of using a non-offensive Mega Evolution for your Mega is wasteful, I would argue. So many Mega Evolutions become extremely strong and are offensive juggernauts. Opting to use a healing Mega Evolution, even with the increased bulk and technically improved offenses, because there are so many powerful Megas out there, is a high opportunity cost that sets Mega Audino up not to be used. There is also a Pokémon with just as much bulk that can also hold an item that has been the Queen of VGC Support for years: Cresselia. Mega Audino is not about to snatch that crown. It’s not Mega Audino’s fault, but using Mega Audino feels like a waste of your Mega Evolution in comparison with other options that can accomplish more. It is really cute though when you stop and look at it. No wonder it becomes a Fairy type!
With that said, one of my favorite things about the VGC format is how much creativity it allows for. There could very well be an angle or team with one of the above Mega Evolutions that has never crossed my mind to fathom that is amazing. New ideas can emerge that constantly change how we perceive Pokémon, so if any of the above are your favorites, you don’t have to completely count them out.
And that is my list of the most underwhelming ORAS Megas in the VGC. Honorable mentions would go to Mega Beedrill and Mega Glalie. What Mega Evolutions were you unimpressed by? What are you absolutely not going to use in the P.F.T.T.? Until ndxt week, PUCL. Looks like I’m blasting of again!