Preparing Your Team: A VGC17 Staples Guide

As is the norm for most new formats, a lot of Pokémon have risen and fallen (and occasionally risen again) in usage as varying team archetypes are explored. With the rapid changes we’re seeing, it may be hard to understand what Pokemon to use and how they work. In this article I’ll summarise current ‘Staple Pokémon’ of VGC17 and how important each Pokémon is to today’s metagame. I’ll list “pros” and “cons” of each one, in order to help you prepare for these Pokémon in VGC17. To easily search for the Pokémon you’re looking for, use the shortcut CTRL+F (or COMMAND+F for Apple users) and type the name.

DISCLAIMER: This article has been written quite early in this season. No one has yet mastered the metagame, and this article is by no means a perfect reflection of what the format will look like into the future.

Celesteela

Metagame Importance: 10/10

Pros

  • Able to wall the majority of the metagame.
  • Almost guaranteed 120 BP Steel-type STAB in Heavy Slam.
  • Balanced stats allow for a myriad of custom EV spreads to meet individual team requirements.
  • Balanced stats also make it easier to influence which stat receives ‘Beast Boost’ buffs.
  • Access to Flamethrower to check opposing Celesteela.
  • Leech Seed and Substitute allow Celesteela to almost guarantee a win against slower Pokémon 1 vs 1.
  • Steel/Flying typing is important in managing opposing Fairy-type Pokémon (the Island Guardians) and Ground-type Pokémon (eg; Garchomp) being potent offensive threats in the early metagame.

Cons

  • Marowak-A is a deadly threat to nearly all Celesteela, and Marowak-A’s incredible damage output makes switching a team-mate in for Celesteela a potentially risky proposition.
  • Magnezone (and the odd Magneton) can trap Celesteela with the Magnet Pull ability and KO it with super-effective STAB Thunderbolt. Both Magnet Pokémon possess a 4x resistance to Celesteela’s STAB attacks. If they’re faster, they can set up a Substitute to block Leech Seed too.

Tapu Koko

Metagame Importance: 8/10

Pros

  • Extremely good typing in Electric/Fairy.
  • Common Pokémon immune to Electric-type attacks, such as Garchomp and Krookodile, are hit for super effective damage by Dazzling Gleam.
  • One of the fastest Pokémon in the format.
  • Can run multiple attacking movesets (Physical/Special/Mixed are all viable) and has a number of useful support options including Taunt, Nature’s Madness & Sky Drop.
  • Can OHKO Celesteela with its super-effective STAB Thunderbolt or Wild Charge.

Cons

  • Marowak-A can block Tapu Koko’s single-target Electric-type moves with Lightningrod, resists Fairy-type attacks and can easily OHKO Tapu Koko.
  • Special Attack is only base 95, so Dazzling Gleam’s damage output can be underwhelming if not super-effective.
  • No access to any physical Fairy-type attacks to take advantage of Tapu Koko’s 110 Base Attack stat.
  • Is unlikely to OHKO any Pokémon without a combination of boosts from Items/Electric Terrain/Super Effective coverage.
  • Minimal bulk leaves it vulnerable to strong, non-resisted attacks.

Tapu Lele

Metagame Importance: 7.5/10

Pros

  • High Special Attack stat and Psychic Surge ability allows it to dish out incredibly powerful Psychic-type attacks.
  • Fairy typing and access to Moonblast allows it to check Dark & Dragon-type Pokémon.
  • Has a usable Speed stat and decent Special Defense.
  • Access to Thunderbolt for coverage and Taunt for support sets.
  • Setting Psychic Terrain allows it to protect itself and partner Pokémon from priority attacks.
  • The Shattered Psyche Z-move is able to OHKO most Pokémon that don’t resist it when under Psychic Terrain.

Cons

  • Walled by Celesteela, who can OHKO Tapu Lele with a super-effective Heavy Slam.
  • Weak Defense stat leaves it vulnerable to physical attacks.
  • Usually requires the boost from Psychic Terrain to pick up OHKOs on opposing Pokémon.

Porygon2

Metagame Importance: 7.5/10

Pros

  • Incredible bulk plus recovery makes it the most reliable Trick Room setter in the format.
  • Access to multiple coverage moves such as Ice Beam, Thunderbolt & Shadow Ball.
  • Download boosts allow it to provide offensive pressure and deal good chip damage to many Pokémon.
  • Toxic and Recover stall can win 1 vs 1 against a large portion of the metagame.
  • Porygon2’s large viable movepool keeps an opponent guessing on what moves it will use.

Cons

  • Choosing 4 moves for Porygon2 can be difficult –  depending on the attacking moves chosen Porygon2 will likely be forced to forfeit coverage on key threats.
  • Can sometimes have little offensive pressure if it fails to get a Special Attack boost from Download, or if it can’t hit opposing Pokémon with super-effective attacks.
  • Taunt will shut down Porygon2, denying it access to Recover and Trick Room. This causes it to somewhat become ‘dead weight’ – this allows the opponent to ignore Porygon2 with attacks.

Marowak-A

Metagame Importance: 7.5/10

Pros

  • Attack boost from Thick Club allows it to dish out incredible damage to most of the format.
  • Amazing offensive coverage, with dual Fire & Ghost-type STAB moves backed up by Ground-type attacks.
  • Lightningrod allows Marowak-A to protect its partner from non-spread Electric moves, and its defensive typing allows it to wall key Electric-type attackers such as Xurkitree and Tapu Koko.
  • Able to OHKO all variants of Celesteela, usually reliant on a damage roll to get the OHKO if Celesteela has a Defense boost from Beast Boost.
  • Speed stat allows it to function both in and out of Trick Room.

Cons

  • Speed ties with other Marowak-A can often decide a game, as Marowak-A can easily KO opposing Marowak-A.
  • Ghost/Fire typing leaves it vulnerable to common spread moves such as Earthquake, Rock Slide and Muddy Water.
  • Celesteela is able to Substitute before Flare Blitz hits, meaning that Marowak-A can still be stalled out if hit with Leech Seed on a switch-in.
  • Low Special Defense makes Marowak-A an easy target for powerful special attacks.

Gyarados

Metagame Importance: 7/10

Pros

  • Intimidate has limited distribution and is a potent check to many of the physical attacks in the format.
  • Hydro Vortex backed with a Dragon Dance boost is able to OHKO nearly all Pokémon in the format.
  • Able to check both Celesteela and Marowak-A due to its defensive typing, decent bulk and the aforementioned Intimidate.
  • Can easily set up with Dragon Dance thanks to its bulk and with minimal support from partner Pokémon.
  • Has access to a wide range of coverage moves and support options including Taunt and Thunder Wave.

Cons

  • Random Discharge Pokemon such as Porygon2 and Tapu Koko can bypass efforts to protect Gyarados with Lightning Rod.
  • Average base Speed stat requires Gyarados to be heavily invested in speed to outspeed Tapu Koko and other faster Pokemon after Dragon Dance.
  • Waterfall and Ice Fang are its best attacking moves, and both moves have only moderate base power.

Garchomp

Metagame Importance: 7/10

Pros

  • Access to a strong Tectonic Rage gives it the ability to OHKO a number of important Pokémon.
  • Excellent coverage options in STAB Dragon Claw, Poison Jab & Rock Slide, while both Fire Blast and Fire Fang can be used as an anti-Celesteela tech.
  • Excellent base stat distribution grants it a perfect blend of offense, speed and bulk.
  • Is a candidate for multiple items including Choice Scarf, Groundium-Z and Assault Vest.

Cons

  • Ice & Fairy-type attacks are common coverage options in VGC17.
  • Poison Jab doesn’t OHKO 252HP Tapu Lele without a Choice Band.
  • Without a Fire-type attack, Garchomp is walled by Celesteela.

Nihilego

Metagame Importance: 7/10

Pros

  • Access to STAB Sludge Bomb allows it to OHKO Tapu Lele, Tapu Koko and Tapu Bulu with a Life Orb boost.
  • High Special Defense allows Nihilego to survive most attacks from faster Special Attackers, such as Tapu Koko and Ninetails.
  • STAB Power Gem plus Life Orb can OHKO Marowak-A, Gyarados, Salamence and Arcanine.
  • Outspeeds Garchomp and can OHKO non-Assault Vest sets with a Life Orb Hidden Power Ice.
  • Beast Boost allows Nihilego to snowball, possibly sweeping entire teams.

Cons

  • Is walled by Celesteela (even after Beast Boost) and is OHKOed by Heavy Slam.
  • Low Defense leaves it open to being OHKOed by strong, neutral physical attacks.

Tapu Bulu

Metagame Importance: 7/10

Pros

  • Wood Hammer with a Grassy Terrain boost can deal devastating damage.
  • Access to strong coverage attacks in Superpower, Megahorn and Stone Edge.
  • Access to Leech Seed and Horn Leech alongside the healing from Grassy Terrain allows it to survive for extended periods of time.
  • Grassy Terrain weakens Earthquakes from Garchomp and Krookodile, which can assist any of Tapu Bulu’s teammates that are weak to it.

Cons

  • Walled by Celesteela and is normally 2HKOed by Heavy Slam.
  • No access to physical Fairy-type attacks, leaving Grass-type moves as its only STAB options.
  • Average speed of base 75 leaves it vulnerable to fast attackers that can hit it for super-effective damage – especially Kartana and Garchomp with Poison Jab.

Arcanine

Metagame Importance: 7/10

Pros

  • Access to Intimidate, Morning Sun and good bulk grants Arcanine excellent staying power.
  • Good Speed stat with access to both Snarl and Will-O-Wisp allow Arcanine to weaken both physical and special attackers before they can attack.
  • One of the few viable Fire-type Pokémon in VGC17.
  • Excellent physical and special movepool with Flare Blitz, Burn Up, Wild Charge and Extreme Speed standing out.

Cons

  • Arcanine is weak to most of the same things as Marowak-A. Due to the latter’s popularity, most teams will usually have a number of checks for Arcanine.
  • Very few resistances, leaving it open to be OHKO’d by powerful Z-Moves from Pokemon such as Garchomp, Gyarados & Tapu Lele.

Oranguru

Metagame Importance: 6.5/10

Pros

  • Amazing typing, with weaknesses only to Bug and Dark. Immune to Marowak-A’s Shadow Bone.
  • Good stat distribution, with some offensive pressure from Psychic as well as solid bulk for setting Trick Room.
  • Access to Instruct and Telepathy allow its teammates to spam spread moves like Earthquake, Surf and Discharge without taking friendly-fire.
  • Inner Focus is also an option to prevent opponents from stopping Trick Room with Fake-out.
  • Can hold Mental Herb to help block Taunt and Encore, or Sitrus Berry for clutch healing. This gives it a major advantage as a Trick Room setter over Porygon2 (who is forced to hold Eviolite).

Cons

  • Outshone by Porygon2 in terms of overall bulk, recovery and offensive coverage options.

Krookodile

Metagame Importance: 6.5/10

Pros

  • Access to Intimidate.
  • Has STAB access to both Tectonic Rage and Black Hole Eclipse, allowing it to run whichever is more beneficial to the team.
  • Is one of the few Ground-type & Dark-type Pokémon that is viable in the format.

Cons

  • Speed stat leaves it slightly slower than major threats such as Garchomp, Tapu Lele and Salamence, all of whom are capable of heavily damaging Krookodile before it can attack.
  • Is generally inferior to Garchomp as a Ground-type, and Arcanine as an Intimidate user.

Raichu-A

Metagame Importance: 6/10

Pros

  • Multiple viable Z-Moves such as Raichu’s signature Stoked Sparksurfer, which guarantees Paralysis.
  • Electric Terrain increases the strength of its Electric-type STAB moves and activates Raichu’s ability Surge Surfer, boosting its speed. This combination makes its Electro Ball particularly potent.
  • Access to Fake Out, which has little distribution in this format.
  • Amazing speed stat leaves it faster than most of the metagame.

Cons

  • Poor bulk means it may be OHKOed by strong neutral attacks, especially on the physical side.
  • Base 95 Special Attack means neutral attacks from Raichu-A can be lacklustre in damage.
  • Easily checked by Marowak-A.

Metagross

Metagame Importance: 6/10

Pros

  • Steel typing is very useful for Metagross given the amount of Fairy-type Pokémon in use currently.
  • Clear Body prevents stat drops from opposing attacks and abilities. Blocking Attack drops from Intimidate and Lunge is highly useful.
  • Solid defensive typing and bulk backed by a high Attack stat.

Cons

  • Awkward speed tier at base 70 Speed.
  • Metagross’ most viable STAB attacks (Zen Headbutt and Meteor Mash) don’t have perfect accuracy.
  • Generally inferior to Celesteela, who has greater staying power and more reliable offensive options.
  • Strongly threatened by Marowak-A, who can hit for super effective damage with both of its STAB attacks and its primary coverage move.

Pelipper

Metagame Importance: 6/10

Pros

  • One of two Pokémon with access to Drizzle, allowing Pelipper to automatically activate Rainy weather when brought into battle.
  • Both main STAB attacks receive a boost in the rain – Water moves like Scald get a damage boost and Hurricane becomes 100% accurate.
  • Access to Tailwind for speed control, which few Pokémon have access to this year.
  • Access to Wide Guard to help shield teammates from spread attacks, especially Discharge.

Cons

  • Low Speed stats and horrible defensive typing. Pelipper almost always requires a Focus Sash to remedy this.
  • Outside of Rain it’s utility and damage output is minimal.

Araquanid

Metagame Importance: 6/10

Pros

  • Excellent ability in Water Bubble. It boosts Araquanid’s Water-type attacks, halves damage from Fire-type moves and makes Araquanid immune to burns.
  • Hydro Vortex allows Araquanid to pick up a quick OHKO on many Pokémon.
  • Low Speed stat (base 42) makes it perfect for a Trick Room team.
  • Special Defense is very high (base 132).

Cons

  • Weak to Electric-type attacks, which are frequently present to help check Celesteela.
  • Physical Defense is lacking.
  • Vulnerable to a lot of threats outside of Trick Room (Marowak-A & Nihilego stand out). A lot of of these threats are easy OHKOs for Araquanid under Trick Room.

Tapu Fini

Metagame Importance: 6/10

Pros

  • Amazing Defense & Special Defense.
  • Water- and Fairy-type attacks hits many Pokemon for super effective damage, while Nature’s Madness aids in Tapu Fini’s offensive pressure.
  • Misty Terrain helps protect Tapu Fini and it’s partners from status effects (burn, paralysis and poison).

Cons

  • Average Special Attack means that Tapu Fini’s damage output can be poor if not hitting for super-effective damage.
  • Weak to Poison- and Electric-type attacks, both which are common.
  • Water-type STAB options are underwhelming, with Scald’s burn chance blocked by Misty Terrain and Hydro Pump having imperfect accuracy. Hydro Pump is necessary to have a chance at an OHKO on Marowak-A.

Kartana

Metagame Importance: 6/10

Pros

  • Few viable Grass-type Pokémon available this year, creating a niche for Kartana on teams.
  • Outspeeds and OHKO’s Pokémon such as Nihilego and the Island Guardians with Smart Strike.
  • Access to Night Slash and Sacred Sword provides strong coverage to KO Marowak-A and bulky Normal-types respectively.
  • Ability to pick up quick KOs and activate Beast Boost can allow Kartana to sweep unprepared teams.

Cons

  • Extremely weak Special Defense allowing most neutral special attacks to OHKO.
  • Walled by Celesteela who can OHKO Kartana with Flamethrower.
  • Often difficult to switch in due to it’s paper-thin Special Defense and average HP stats.

Salamence

Metagame Importance: 6/10

Pros

  • Expansive special movepool including Hydro Pump, Fire Blast and Draco Meteor.
  • Intimidate has limited distribution and is always extremely useful.
  • Devastating Drake (from Draco Meteor) is able to OHKO many Pokémon and bypasses Draco Meteor’s Special Attack drop, allowing Salamence to deliver another powerful attack afterwards.

Cons

  • Fairy-type Pokémon are common, are immune to Dragon-attacks and normally cannot be OHKOed by Salamence’s coverage options.
  • 4x Ice weakness is problematic as always, due to Ice Beam being a common coverage move.
  • Celesteela resists Dragon-type moves and is usually 3HKOed by Flamethrower. In return, Salamence is 2HKOed by Heavy Slam.
  • Slightly slower than a number of major offensive threats, it can be OHKOed by Garchomp, Nihilego and Ninetales-A.

Gastrodon

Metagame Importance: 6/10

Pros

  • Walls Tapu Koko.
  • High HP, average Defense and Special Defense and access to Recover make Gastrodon incredibly bulky. Water/Ground typing leaves it only weak to Grass-type attacks and Freeze Dry (both are 4x effective).
  • Storm Drain allows Gastrodon to protect its partners from Water-type attacks (Marowak-A especially appreciates this) while also boosting Gastrodon’s Special Attack every time it activates.
  • Scald and Ice beam provide offensive coverage against most threats. Marowak-A and Nihilego dislike the former, while Salamence and Garchomp won’t enjoy taking the latter.

Cons

  • Very slow. Pokémon that Gastrodon needs to KO; like Marowak-A and Krookodile, often hit it first for decent damage.
  • Lack of good Ground-type STAB attacks where they’re sorely needed.

Xurkitree

Metagame Importance: 5.5/10

Pros

  • Can OHKO nearly every Pokémon after a Beast Boost or Tail Glow.
  • Access to a variety of different STAB moves for different situations; Discharge for spread damage, Thunderbolt for single-targetting and Volt Switch for tactical switching.
  • Viable coverage moves in Energy Ball and Dazzling Gleam, alongside surprise Hidden Powers.

Cons

  • Marowak-A is immune to Xurkitree’s STAB attacks, can redirect Thunderbolt and Volt Switch away, resists Energy Ball and Dazzling Gleam and is capable of OHKOing Xurkitree.
  • Average Speed and defense stats leave it open to being easily OHKOed by Krookodile and Garchomp.

Muk-A

Metagame Importance: 5.5/10

Pros

  • Knock Off has low distribution and can be useful for scouting an opponent’s item.
  • Poison Jab can OHKO common Fairy-type Pokémon and also has a high chance to inflict poison.
  • Gluttony + Figy Berry combo effectively grants Muk-A 150% HP.
  • Good defensive typing in Poison/Dark leaves it with only one weakness to Ground-type attacks.

Cons

  • Faster Marowak-A, Garchomp and Krookodile can do heavy damage with Ground-type moves.
  • Burn can easily cripple Muk’s offensive capabilities.
  • Poison Jab and Knock Off’s damage can be disappointing against neutral targets. Knock Off’s damage is especially poor if the opponent has no item or is holding a Z-Crystal.

Golduck

Metagame Importance: 5.5/10

Pros

  • Hydro Vortex in rain is one of the strongest moves in the metagame.
  • Access to Encore allows it to cripple Pokémon who use Protect to try and stall out Rain or block Golduck’s Water-type attacks.
  • Able to win games single-handedly against unprepared teams.

Cons

  • Requires Rain for both the speed and damage boost. Without it, Golduck is especially vulnerable to OHKOs from Pokémon it could otherwise beat.
  • Relies heavily on it’s STAB Water-type moves. Teams with resistance to Water-type moves or Pokémon with the ability Storm Drain are an issue for Golduck.

Conclusion

Making sure you have ways to counteract or check the above Pokémon will be crucial for those looking to do well in VGC17. Likewise, training up these Pokémon in Sun & Moon will provide players with an abundance of options when looking to build strong teams for this format. As always, the metagame is ever-changing. It is essential for players to not only be aware of new threats (or returning old threats), but to train up Pokémon ready to swap into their teams on short notice. Thanks for reading!

About BargensVGC

Bailey started playing competitive Pokemon at the age of 11 under the alias of Bargens, with a primary focus on singles, before moving to VGC in 2014 at the age of 14. Bailey has become a much bigger VGC nerd since then, focusing on understand the metagame.
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