Pokemon 101: Planning My Team

In our last article Where Do I Start? we covered competitive Pokemon at a high-level, and went through the concept of competitive formats. As mentioned at the end of that discussion, we will be walking you through constructing a team for the VGC 2018 (VGC18) format.

As such, it’s time to start building our team! At face value you may think “piece of cake, I do this in every Pokemon game!” However, constructing a competitive team strays far from a story-based playthrough. There are complexities and considerations you will learn about, many you may have no idea existed.  Without further ado, let’s dive in and learn about what teams are currently seeing play!

We Need a Team Captain

When you get into competitive team building, you’ll often find that a lineup is comprised of a few different “cores,” or Pokemon that synergize well and get you towards your win condition. VGC18 has a very diverse field, as far as team compositions and play-styles. Below are just a few of the format’s pillar team archetypes:

SunScreen Shot 2017-12-28 at 10.43.26 PM

  • Sun teams focus on Fire-type Pokemon, and others who benefit from sunny weather conditions. Pokemon like Charizard-Mega-Y and Torkoal have the ability Drought, which causes the battlefield to turn sunny upon entering.
  • Sun provides a +50% boost to Fire-type moves, and a -50% penalty to Water type moves. As well, certain Pokemon have abilities which only go online in Sunny conditions, so they pair best with passive Sun enablers like Drought.

RainScreen Shot 2017-12-28 at 10.42.35 PM

  • Rain teams Focus on Water-type Pokemon, and shutting down Fire-type Pokemon. Similar to Sun’s behaviour, Rain provides +50% to Water-type and -50% to Fire-type moves. Rainy weather also provides a significant bonus to the move Thunder, making it a popular move choice on these teams.
  • Rain setters often come in the form of Politoed and Pelipper, via the Drizzle ability which causes Rain when entering the battlefield.

SandScreen Shot 2017-12-28 at 10.40.55 PM

  • Next, another popular weather based team, is Sand (or the weather condition Sandstorm). While Sand does not provide an explicit +/-% like the last two do, Sandstorm hits each Pokemon for 1/16 of their health at the end of each turn (unless they are Rock, Ground or Steel type). Along with other benefits, this is a nice passive health knock-off, and helps get around items like Focus Sash. Similar to the past two weather effects, certain Pokemon come equipped with Sand-based abilities, and shine with a main Sand-setter as their partner.
  • Sand is most commonly kicked up by the Sand Stream ability, most often (almost exclusively) provided by Tyranitar. Gigalith is another Sand Stream option that sees play, but Tyranitar will most often be your go to Sand-setter.

Trick RoomScreen Shot 2017-12-28 at 10.39.41 PM

  • Trick Room teams are an interesting beast, and will require practice to play effectively (moreso than many weather teams). The ability Trick Room causes slower Pokemon to move first for the next 5 turns after use. As such, the idea behind a Trick Room core is to bring slow Pokemon to the battle and use Trick Room through the early turns of the game. In doing so, this completely flips the Speed table, and allows all of the slowest Pokemon in the game to move ahead of faster ones. Strong, fast sweepers (such as Charizard-Mega-Y or Tapu Koko) suddenly are unable to do their job, and can be easily KO’d by a strong hit from a slower Pokemon.
  • Due to the fact that this strategy absolutely shuts down many sweepers, teams will frequently bring a Pokemon or two who intentionally have slow speed stats as well, so that they can act as a backup plan when an opponent shuts down their core.
  • Hands down Cresselia is the most popular Trick Room setter in the format, and always has been in every format it has been legal. Other options include Gardevoir-Mega, or even Pokemon like Gothitelle in some of the more niche Trick Room teams.

Good StuffScreen Shot 2017-12-28 at 10.36.51 PM

  • While the above teams are all based on tightly knit, cohesive strategies, this is not always the case! “Good Stuff” is a term used across many different games, as sometimes it is simply the best explanation available. Many teams you’ll come across in VGC are comprised of strong Pokemon, who have various synergies, but ultimately don’t aim for a single win condition, aside from out-valuing your opponent.
  • A very popular example of this style of play is CHALK (CresseliaHeatranAmoongussLandorus-TherianKangaskhan-Mega). This team does not have any linear strategy it tries to follow. The main goal is to pick 4 Pokemon that will have great type matchups, and just hammer your opponent into the ground.
  • Another popular team in the “Good Stuff” department is referred to as Psychic Spam, and consists of a Tapu Lele & Metagross core. This team… uh.. spams Psychic.. until your Pokemon are all laying on the ground fainted (and it does it well, too).

And there ya have it, the kingpins of VGC 2018! While this list has fair coverage of the format, there are many more styles of play and teams which reflect them. We can’t cover them all in this team building discussion, so you’ll have to get out there and see them for yourself!

Picking Our Team

Time to start looking at sculpting a team of our own. For the sake of Pokemon 101, we’ll be covering the first option in our list, the Sun archetype! This team often resonates with long-time Pokemon players, as it contains a viable Charizard-Mega-Y set, and occasionally even a splash of Venusaur for the Gen. 1 old-timers. What better way to start off our Pokemon 101 team building than with some of Ash’s favorite Pokemon!

Stay tuned for upcoming entries in the Pokemon 101 series, where we’ll begin making selections for the 6 slots on our new Sun team!

What do you think of the VGC 2018 meta? Have any questions or comments about any of the archetypes we covered? Leave a response below!


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