The strength of a Pokémon in any format is always at least partially determined by the other Pokémon available.
☆ NintendObs Weekly – Monday, September 26, 2016 – Sunday, October 2, 2016.
Discover the Secrets of the Video Game Championships
The 2016 Pokémon Video Game World Championships are over, but tournaments will use the 2016 Video Game Championships format until the big switch to Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. With this format’s most important tournaments in the books, let’s take a look at what made this year’s top teams soar above the rest. Read on to find out why Tyranitar and Hydreigon disappeared from the top tables this season, why many top Trainers tended to use only Mega Kangaskhan or Mega Salamence as their Mega-Evolved Pokémon, and why Pokémon like Mewtwo and Kyurem didn’t see much play.
Before we go any further, we want to remind Trainers that there’s no right or wrong way to train your teams. You should always try to do your best using whatever strategies and Pokémon are most appealing to you as a Trainer. But we hope Trainers looking to eke out as many wins as possible will find this article improves their performance at future tournaments.
The rules of the Video Game Championships are slightly different each year, ensuring each season presents a new challenge. The big twist of the 2016 Pokémon Video Game Championships was that Trainers were allowed to include two of 15 extremely powerful Legendary Pokémon for their teams, such as Kyogre and Groudon. The only other time these powerhouses were permitted in the Video Game Championships was in 2010, and these two seasons stand out as very different from the others as a result. The power of these Pokémon defined the 2016 Video Game Championships.
With the addition of restricted Pokémon, teams could be broken down into three different groupings of Pokémon. First, Trainers selected two restricted Pokémon to become the core of their strategies. These Pokémon tend to dish out much more damage than other Pokémon, and they’re very difficult to knock out, too. Just like taking an early queen in chess, getting a quick KO on a restricted Pokémon without giving up much in return often creates a mountain that is too large to overcome. The Trainer whose restricted Pokémon attack more frequently usually wins, so restricted Pokémon largely replaced Mega-Evolved Pokémon as the key Pokémon that Trainers built their strategies around protecting in battle.
For most teams, the second keystone was a Mega-Evolved Pokémon. For most Trainers, the pool of Mega-Evolved Pokémon dried up to just the two that could survive most attacks while dealing respectable damage and offering some support to their more powerful teammates: Mega Kangaskhan (Fake Out) and Mega Salamence (Tailwind, Intimidate as Salamence). Trainers struggled to help more-offensive Mega-Evolved Pokémon such as Mega Charizard Y and Mega Gardevoir make a big enough difference in this format to be a major factor. And with space on teams tight, few Trainers could fit in a second matchup-specific Mega-Evolved Pokémon, except for the occasional Mega Gengar.
Trainers completed their teams from the remaining Pokémon that were neither Mega Evolving nor restricted Legendary Pokémon. With almost 700 Pokémon remaining, Trainers could potentially have found Pokémon to fill a variety of different roles. But with so much power already on their teams, Trainers tended to move in a more complementary direction, filling out their teams instead of selecting Pokémon that were favored during other seasons. We’ll break down what happened with this group of Pokémon shortly.
Pokémon were notably competing for spots on teams only within these defined roles. There’s no question that Mewtwo is a stronger Pokémon than most of the Pokémon we saw on top teams. But with the limit of two restricted Pokémon, Trainers weren’t able to simply swap their Talonflame out for Mewtwo. Instead, Mewtwo was left in most Trainers’ PC Boxes because it needed to be more appealing than Groudon and Kyogre’s mix of offense and defense, Rayquaza’s unmatched single-target damage potential, and Xerneas’s Geomancy to earn a spot on a team.
Behind Every Great Pokémon…
Before each tournament begins, players are always working on how to make their teams as powerful as possible, but that isn’t as simple as just finding the Pokémon with the highest stats and adding them to your team. Instead, the key is finding the best way to approach the format you’re playing in and the state of the metagame—developing strategies to defeat the teams you’re likely to face.
Restricted Pokémon and Mega-Evolved Pokémon were selected largely for their power this season, but the other Pokémon from the top teams at the 2016 World Championships are notable in large part because most lack high stats. This was the first season where Tyranitar was permitted for use but did not participate in any age divisions’ World Championship finals. It was also the only year since Hydreigon’s discovery in Pokémon Black and Pokémon White that Hydreigon failed to make it into the Masters Division World Championships top cut. In past formats, where it was more important for each Pokémon to carry its own weight and contribute offensively and defensively in each battle, these Pokémon were the best of the best. They have lots of great type resistances, they can deal solid damage to most Pokémon, and they rarely have extremely unfavorable matchups against opposing teams. They’re some of the most powerful Pokémon overall, but all-around individual strength probably wasn’t the best way to fill out your team in 2016.
The availability of Mega-Evolved Pokémon as secondary attackers helped stack the deck in favor of more specialized Pokémon. With two or three slots on most teams taken up by Pokémon with peerless offensive potential, there wasn’t much value in adding yet another Pokémon that focused on dealing even more damage to the opposition.
Instead, Pokémon that were trained to perform specific roles to support their team rose to the top. The top supportive Pokémon in previous years’ World Championships tended to be Pokémon that were difficult to knock out and were too disruptive to ignore for long, such as Amoonguss, Cresselia, and Thundurus. This year, most of the top teams had at least one support Pokémon that was neither especially sturdy nor able to deal significant damage.
These Pokémon made it to the top cut by helping their restricted teammates attack more frequently and endure fewer attacks from enemies—even if they could only hang around for a few turns themselves. Hitmontop and Raichu dominated the 2016 World Championships, and a defensive Talonflame, an Infernape, and a supportive Volcarona all finished in the top-8. Whimsicott, Meowstic, and Crobat all made it to the top cut of the Masters Division. Each of these Pokémon may have seemed too frail or too weak on offense to advance so far in Pokémon’s most prestigious tournament—but there they were, helping their Trainers earn impressive finishes.
These Pokémon were able to succeed because connecting with just a few key supportive moves this season was often game-changing in a way that slugging at restricted Pokémon with more conventional attackers was not. The moves Fake Out, Trick Room, Tailwind, Icy Wind, Thunder Wave, Nuzzle, Will-O-Wisp, Dark Void, Safeguard, Follow Me, Rage Powder, Quick Guard, Wide Guard, Skill Swap, and Roar, as well as the Abilities Intimidate and Lightning Rod, stand out as the game-changing tactics of the 2016 season. Pokémon that could use these moves effectively became key contributors to their teams because of the presence of the restricted Pokémon, and replacing them with “stronger” Pokémon from past formats, such as Hydreigon and Tyranitar, would definitely have weakened their teams instead.
Here Comes the Sun…and Moon
It’s impossible to say what surprises the 2017 Video Game Championships might hold until after the release of Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. But there are certainly some key takeaways from the 2016 season that could help Trainers in future seasons.
The strength of a Pokémon in any format is always at least partially determined by the other Pokémon available. Think of how much stronger a Pokémon with the Swift Swim Ability is in a format that also permits Politoed and its Drizzle Ability, for instance. And with Pachirisu and Raichu each helping win one of the last three Masters Division World Championships, keep in mind that the Pokémon with the highest stats may not be the best choices for your next team. When the 2017 season starts, take time to evaluate the whole collection of available Pokémon for synergies that other Trainers miss.
The biggest reason for big shifts in Pokémon power from past seasons was the inclusion of both restricted Pokémon and Mega Evolution in 2016. Next year, it’ll be important to take a close look at which Pokémon and new mechanics are available and try to figure out where you might be able to gain an advantage. Similarly, Pokémon such as Crobat, Smeargle, and Jumpluff, which benefitted from the presence of restricted Pokémon, may not be as powerful in the future as they were in 2016 unless restricted Pokémon are also permitted.
Good luck in the rest of the tournaments using the 2016 Video Game Championships format. Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon are just a couple of months away, and with them will come a new format to master. Look forward to discovering strategies to help you in your battles in the Alola region here on Pokemon.com, from the start of your new journey all the way to the Pokémon World Championships. And be sure to check out more Pokémon TCG and video game tournament coverage and analysis at Pokemon.com/Strategy.