Weather Wars II – It’s Always Sunny In The VGC
Prepare for Trouble, Puclonians! And as always, make it double! Double the Weather coverage, as it happens, as this is the second entry into my examination of weather. This week we cover Sun!
Sun is definitely a tricker type of Weather to approach than Rain is for the first time. Whereas Rain teams get their STAB power ups and speed boosts onto just Water types, Sun quite frustratingly divides these two things with Fire types getting the STAB boost but Grass types getting the speed boost. Grass and Fire also have more weaknesses to cover than Water’s enviable two weaknesses, and Grass types even have one of their weaknesses magnified in the Sun. Rain teams also have different types of attacks that capitalize on the weather change between Thunder and Hurricane whereas Sun has no such equivalent, merely making Solar Beam usable which is already on the two types most directly impacted by Sun. With this in mind, at a glance one might wonder why anyone would bother with Sun at all.
But Sun also has worthwhile merits unique to it. Whereas Water types in Rain merely further reduce the damage of Fire attacks that they were not concerned with in the first place, Fire types effectively remove their Water weakness in the Sun. And especially in the VGC format where Stealth Rock is virtually non-existent and Fire types have the most resistances of any type after Steel, on top of just two weaknesses after removing the weakness to Water in the Sun, Fire types are in a very solid position both offensively and defensively in the Sun. Splitting the advantages Sun offers onto multiple types instead of stacking them all on one type like Rain does for the most part also makes it easier to make them versatile enough to adapt to every playstyle one might encounter. While it may have been considered overly niche in years past, ever since Gen VI, Su n has more than proven its worth, winning Regional events and having a solid presence at all of the highest levels of competition of the VGC. One cannot discount its validity any longer.
Talking about Sun in the VGC predominantly boils down to a discussion about Mega Charizard Y, its obligatory crown jewel. Red might have a Mega Charizard X in Pokemon Origins, and Alain might have a Mega Charizard X in the Pokemon Mega Evolution Specials, and Mega Charizard X fanboys everywhere can build whatever altars and start up whatever cults they want to for the black and blue Mega Fanservice Dragon X.
But in the VGC it is Mega Charizard Y whose flames shine the brightest, with Mega Charizard Y being one of the most popular and successful Mega Evolutions in the VGC format, with the ratio of Mega Y to Mega X being literally 19 to 1. To further elucide just how prominent and influential a force Mega Charizard Y is in the VGC, it is currently the second most common Pokémon on the doubles Battle Spot and also the second most frequently used Mega Evolution after the Queen Mega Kangaskhan. During VGC 14 it was considered one of the “big three” Mega Evolutions, and, of those three, ultimately placed highest at the VGC World Championships Masters Division, peaking at second place. This year, Mega Charizard Y’s momentum shows no signs of slowing down, either. Although the circle of what are considered the most powerful Megas has expanded with the introduction of Megas Salamence and Metagross, Mega Charizard Y still holds its footing.
So what makes Mega Charizard Y the messiah of the Sun? Obviously there is the fact that it gained Drought as its Ability upon Mega Evolution making it the weather changer Sun needs. But that alone does not make it good. After all, Ninetails has had Drought in previous years of the VGC and saw a tiny fraction of Mega Charizard Y’s use. There’s obviously the ‘it’s Charizard’ factor going on but aside from that, in a format as fast paced as the VGC where weather is even more effective and viable (as discussed last week) Mega Charizard Y has all the tools it needed to be really strong. And sheer strength counts for something.
A 159 Base Special Attack stat, boosted by STAB and boosted further by Sun is outrageously powerful and fuels Heat Waves that definitely do not regret the power drop from being spread attacks and one of the most relevant nukes in the format: Modest Mega Charizard Y’s Sun-boosted Overheat. Those two moves, Solar Beam, and Protect are the de facto set. The popularity of Modest over Timid may surprise some initially, and Timid is definitely present, but Modest is more popular because it further amplifies that enormous Special Attack stat, there are methods of speed control available, and because while 100 Speed is a nice benchmark, this year especially a lot of things are faster than it anyway.
Being able to Protect for a turn before Mega Evolving to change the weather also gives Mega Charizard Y an added layer of flexibility for setting up weather when it is most opportune for a player – an advantage it has over various other auto-weather Pokémon seen in the VGC (watch out for the Mega versions of Tyranitar and Abomasnow being able to reset their weather by Mega Evolving as needed though!). So aside from the fact that Mega Charizard Y is scarily powerful justifying its use, it does have relevant advantages as a weather setter. Ninetales WISHES.
So, Mega Charizard Y essentially being a given and the backbone to any aspiring Sun team, what makes a VGC Sun team… a Sun team? Because MANY VGC teams can just slap Mega Charizard Y on without making their team interact with the Sun it summons and be successful because it is that strong. If you are utilizing anything else that takes advantage of Sun besides Mega Charizard Y, though, you are definitely headed in the right direction.
The most expected additional ingredient would be a teammate with Chlorophyll as its ability. And it is yet another Kanto Starter that most frequently and generally most effectively fills this role: Venusaur. Whereas Rain has a Holy Trinity of Swift Swim sweepers that all see good use and additional viable Swift Swimming options available to it, the Sun-powered speed-boosting ability has a much more lopsided presence with Venusaur being the only notably common and relevant Chlorophyll Pokémon.
But it definitely justifies carrying this mantle on its own. Venusaur has the overall highest stats of any Pokémon with Chlorophyll, its Poison typing is better than ever and worth considering now that it can tear through Fairy types and, most importantly, is extremely versatile. Rain’s standard Swift Swimmers all have very defined roles unique to them but Venusaur has a plethora of options available to it. It can go purely offensive or opt for a much more supportive role (beware the Sleep Powder after the Speed boost!) or somewhere in-between and can even play the wild card of a Double Mega and carry its Mega Stone. Never make too many assumptions about a Venusaur on the same team as Charizard until you actually know the moveset. A staple Sun combo as of last year in the VGC, Mega Charizard Y and Venusaur were a very solid combination in VGC 14 with extremely little being able to handle them both and teams actually needing to consider the pair as potential enemies when teambuilding. This year, there is a lot more that gives them trouble (see: Heatran) but the combination is still solid. And a sun team overall looks to benefit from their fantastic synergy and symbiosis.
Aside from the easy-to-consider Chlorophyll addition, deciding on additional team members might seem less straightforward. There are certain other abilities that interact with Sun such as Solar Power, Leaf Guard, Harvest (very famously used by Wolfe Glick a few years back), and the Doubles-exclusive Flower Gift, but for the most part Sun based abilities have seen far less use than their Rain and Sand counterparts. Part of this is because of how the abilities themselves function. Leaf Guard is far less exploitable than Hydration, for example, because it prevents status altogether as opposed to healing status conditions, which thwarts you from pairing it with Rest.
And the lack of prominent Sun-fueled abilities to effectively utilize arguably benefits Sun teams in a way because it gives them additional room to ensure the team’s diversity and capacity to better handle all the metagame’s relevant threats; remember, any VGC team needs to be able to still function without its primary strategy in case that strategy is unviable or ill-advised for a specific battle.
And there are still other channels one can pursue to further exploit the Sun they summon that are especially worth noting, Moonlight being one of them, and on Cresselia specifically. Although Cresselia is not what it once was, it is still arguably the strongest support Pokemon in the format, pairs well with Mega Charizard Y thanks to Zard incinerating the Bisharp which have made Cresselia’s life this year much rougher and Cresselia providing awesome support and speed control in return. Because Overheat and Heatwave were not strong enough in the first place – they wanted a Helping Hand to take it to astronomical levels. Something that bulky being able to restore two thirds of its health at once also definitely constitutes utilizing the Sun for a Sun team; it is the equivalent of putting Thunder or Hurricane on a Rain team although it accomplishes something very different. And while Cresselia is the poster child for it on a Sun team, plenty of other Pokemon have either Moonlight or Morning Sun to at least consider for a slot if they offer something very specific you are looking for.
And just as Steel and Grass types enjoy the Rain for removing their Fire weakness so, too, do Rock and Ground types enjoy the Sun for removing their Water weakness. Except Rock and Ground are much more offensively inclined types, and they both really help out Mega Charizard Y. While Charizard and Venusaur as a pair are weaker this year than last, it is actually Terrakion that has emerged as Mega Charizard Y’s most common partner, more than happy to lose a weakness in the Sun and in return take out Mega Charizard Y’s (and Venusaur’s) biggest road-block: Heatran. And on a team carrying both Mega Charizard Y and Cresselia, a Ground type does not just lose its Water weakness but can also much more easily fire off Earthquakes. There are a lot of really strong options for Ground types, too, between Landorus-T, Garchomp, and Mamoswine, among others. And Mega Charizard Y loves them all the more for also being able to take out Heatran (truly the bane of its existence this year).
Onto playing against Sun: did I mention Mega Charizard Y hates Heatran? This is the first format featuring both Heatran and Mega Charizard Y, and Mega Charizard Y is not happy to have to share the battleground with it after a year with much fewer viable Fire resists. Also, Rock Slide – it really hates a fast Rock Slide. The prominence of Flying types in this format, Zard included, has also made Electric types all the more viable and all the better to use against it. Yet another weak point to exploit is the fact that Mega Charizard Y can be outsped by quite a lot if it lacks speed control support and although Modest Zard often invests a good deal into bulk, it is hardly “bulky”. Kill the Zard. It is the crown jewel, after all.
And that’s all for this week, PUCL! Tune in next week for the final entry of the Weather Wars~