Find out what to watch for from our three experts before the battles break out in Frankfurt, Germany.
The 2022 Pokémon VGC Europe International Championships (EUIC) are right around the corner, running April 22–24 in Frankfurt, Germany. The competition features a format that is sure to test even veteran players. For the first time in live competitions, players will battle using Series 12 regulations, which is a GS Cup format in the Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield games. That means every team can have two powerful Pokémon that would ordinarily be restricted from battling. This format will surely bring a lot of excitement to the battles for competitors and spectators alike.
To help prepare for the big event, we've invited three Pokémon Video Game Championships (VGC) experts to answer five of the most burning questions heading into the competition. Read on to find out what to expect when the 2022 VGC EUIC kicks off on April 22!
What combinations of restricted Pokémon do you think will have the biggest impact on this event and why?
Aaron Traylor: I think there are three main combinations to look out for: Kyogre + Zacian, Groudon + Zacian, and Zacian + Shadow Rider Calyrex. Zacian is nearly universally important thanks to its Intrepid Sword Ability, which boosts its Attack stat, and Behemoth Blade, which deals twice the damage to Dynamaxed Pokémon.
The pace at which each of these teams operates is often dictated by the other restricted Pokémon. Kyogre + Zacian teams typically focus on keeping Kyogre at full health for maximum-damage Water Spout, focusing on Speed control and synergy in the partners' defensive typing. Groudon + Zacian teams make use of the sunlight to support Pokémon that aren't Groudon—namely, Gigantamax Venusaur and Gigantamax Charizard. The sunny weather is otherwise used as a defensive tool to protect the teams from strong Water-type attacks.
Finally, Zacian + Shadow Rider Calyrex teams often control the game at a fast pace, and their key goal is to get as much damage as possible out of their Shadow Rider Calyrex while hiding the defensive flaws that come with its Psychic- and Ghost-typing. Pay attention to the supportive moves that Calyrex carries—Snarl, Will-o-Wisp, Speed Swap, and Trick Room can all disrupt the plans of even the most well-prepared opponent.
Markus Stadter: In the recent Regional Championships at Brisbane, Salt Lake City, and Liverpool, Kyogre + Zacian was the most common pairing, while Groudon + Zacian was the most successful combination. In the two most common archetypes, Zacian teams up with a strong partner that has few weaknesses and sets up weather. Kyogre is a bit stronger on the offense, whereas Groudon has better defensive capabilities. It's pretty safe to say that we will see both of these pairs a lot in Frankfurt as well.
Another combination that I think will have a high usage rate is Zacian + Shadow Rider Calyrex. It's a very agile archetype that can play into almost any matchup flexibly. At the same time, it can be pretty tricky to use because Shadow Rider Calyrex gets taken out much easier than, for example, Groudon or Kyogre. Other duos that I think could win the event are Yveltal + Zacian and the unorthodox Palkia + Ice Rider Calyrex.
Aaron Zheng: The format currently is heavily centered around restricted Pokémon combos featuring Zacian. I expect combinations with Zacian to be overwhelmingly popular at this event.
Groudon + Zacian and Kyogre + Zacian have established themselves as the two strongest restricted combinations in the early metagame and I think they'll continue to have a large impact on this event due to their consistency. Other Zacian combinations to look out for are Zacian + Shadow Rider Calyrex, Yveltal + Zacian, and Palkia + Zacian.
There have also been several other high-profile combinations that have done well at events recently, such as Solgaleo + Shadow Rider Calyrex, Kyogre + Dusk Mane Necrozma, Groudon + Yveltal, Groudon + Lunala, and Palkia + Ice Rider Calyrex. These combinations will not see nearly as much usage but have the potential to make a deep run at the event.
What Pokémon do you think are crucial to support the restricted Pokémon in the format?
Aaron Traylor: I mainly look for support Pokémon that will help my restricted Pokémon interact with Speed. With the power and utility that Dynamaxing provides, moving first is more important than ever.
Given this goal, Pokémon with the Prankster Ability are ideal because their non-attacking moves have increased priority. Whimsicott and Tornadus Incarnate Forme are my first choices because they can set Tailwind easily. However, Incarnate Forme Thundurus and Grimmsnarl can reduce the Speed of individual opposing Pokémon with Thunder Wave or Scary Face, and they can also provide defensive capabilities with Eerie Impulse, or Reflect and Light Screen, respectively.
One Pokémon that hasn't seen much use is Sableye, which can disrupt an opponent during a crucial moment with Quash and use Will-o-Wisp on important targets like Groudon and Zacian before they move. Sableye, Whimsicott, and Grimmsnarl can all control an opposing Pokémon's Speed for the length of the match with Trick or Switcheroo by passing an opponent a Lagging Tail or Iron Ball.
Markus Stadter: Fake Out, Follow Me, and Pokémon with the Prankster Ability are generally providing the strongest support. Incineroar and Rillaboom can create free turns for a restricted Pokémon by making an opposing Pokémon flinch with Fake Out. Plus, Incineroar's Intimidate and Parting Shot lower the damage output of the opposing team and help to get your Pokémon into the right position. Rillaboom's Grassy Surge contributes to the longevity of its allies and Taunt shuts down any shenanigans the opponent could go for, like Trick Room, Spore, or Parting Shot.
Female Indeedee provides great support by drawing attention away from a more powerful Pokémon using Follow Me, as well as by setting up Psychic Surge, which stops moves with increased priority. While Whimsicott uses its Prankster Ability to support the team with Tailwind, Helping Hand, and sometimes Charm or Cotton Spore to drop stats of the opposing team, Grimmsnarl beefs up its allies by setting up Light Screen and Reflect or disrupts the opponent with Scary Face, Thunder Wave, Trick, or Fake Tears.
Another Pokémon with immense support potential is Gastrodon. Locking out a Pokémon for a turn with Yawn is almost as powerful as Fake Out, and it is not surprising that Gastrodon is on the most successful team composition.
Aaron Zheng: In this format, there are several different groups of Pokémon that are used to support the restricted Pokémon.
Pokémon that know Fake Out, such as Incineroar and Rillaboom, are incredibly popular due to the prevalence of Zacian. Incineroar is notably strong against Zacian as it can Intimidate it, resist Behemoth Blade, and fire back with a supereffective Flare Blitz.
Pokémon that aim to set up speed control for restricted Pokémon are also popular. Some examples include Pokémon that know Tailwind, such as Whimsicott and Tornadus, as well as Pokémon with Trick Room, such as Porygon2 and Dusclops. Regieleki is also a popular pick in this category as it has access to Electroweb.
Grimmsnarl in particular gets access to both flinching via Fake Out and Speed control via Thunder Wave and Scary Face. It's one of the most common support Pokémon at the moment and is often seen with Light Clay and Reflect or Light Screen.
Finally, offensive Pokémon that get access to Max Airstream are great picks that synergize well with restricted Pokémon. Common examples include Charizard, Zapdos, Thundurus, Therian Forme Landorus, and Kartana.
Which Pokémon will players be looking to capitalize on with their techs/counter teams?
Aaron Traylor: Many of the popular Pokémon play in remarkably straightforward ways: Kyogre uses strong Water-type attacks in the rain; Groudon survives attacks thanks to its bulk, which allows Venusaur or Charizard to run away with the game; and Zacian uses Behemoth Blade to stop opposing Dynamaxed Pokémon. Because these options are so strong and consistent, opponents are opened up to adding specifically-designed niche options that make these strategies as challenging to pull off as possible.
Kyogre is stopped in its tracks by Gastrodon's Storm Drain Ability, or by Rillaboom's Grassy Glide. An Eerie Impulse from Zapdos or Thundurus will ruin its damage output as well. Groudon can't enable Venusaur or Charizard if another weather effect is set up—Prankster Pokémon with Rain Dance disrupt this synergy, for instance. And finally, Zacian, which is perhaps the biggest threat of all, hits less effectively if its Attack stat is reduced—look for Will-o-Wisps coming from every direction and Babiri Berries to survive Behemoth Blade more effectively. Teams with multiple Dynamax candidates like Blastoise, Entei, Seismitoad, Reshiram, and Regieleki can also make it really difficult to use Zacian effectively.
Markus Stadter: After winning the Regional Championships in Salt Lake City and Liverpool, the “Rinya Sun” team composition—named after its creator, 2021 Japan Nationals runner-up Rinya Kobayashi—is a hot topic of conversation. The team consists of Charizard, Groudon, Gastrodon, Incineroar, Grimmsnarl, and Zacian. Players are trying typically-overlooked Pokémon, such as Weezing, Aerodactyl, or Ho-Oh, just to get an advantage in this matchup, and even then it's very tough. The problem so far has been that focusing solely on Groudon + Zacian leaves one weak to some of the other archetypes encountered elsewhere in the tournament.
In my opinion, it is a more profitable approach to use naturally-strong Pokémon and tech for specific matchups, like teaching Shadow Rider Calyrex moves like Leaf Storm or Energy Ball to deal with Gastrodon. No matter what players attempt, figuring out how to reliably beat the Rinya Sun team composition is key to success in Frankfurt.
But it might not be that simple. Since everyone is very likely to face the Rinya Sun team in Frankfurt, I expect that most players will have thought about their approach to the matchup beforehand and practiced it. It's up to the Rinya Sun players to ruin these plans by innovating and coming up with flexible approaches like leaving behind one of their restricted Pokémon and focusing on other strengths of the team.
Aaron Zheng: Going into this tournament, I expect players will work especially hard to counter the lineup of Charizard, Groudon, Gastrodon, Incineroar, Grimmsnarl, and Zacian.
Examples of Pokémon and strategies that players may use to counter this team include Therian Forme Landorus with Swords Dance, which is often paired with Indeedee. This duo is strong, as Landorus can deal massive amounts of damage—especially after a Swords Dance—while Indeedee can protect Landorus from Zacian's Behemoth Blade.
Using Rain Dance from Prankster-using Pokémon, such as Sableye or Tornadus, can also be an interesting technique to change the weather and reduce the damage output of Charizard in particular.
Finally, some players have explored the duo of Weezing and Kyogre to counter this team. Weezing shuts down Abilities through Neutralizing Gas, allowing Kyogre to launch Water-type attacks with ease.
I think we may also see players use specific utility moves more frequently. Brick Break, for example, is a great way to break through Reflect and Light Screen, while Burning Jealousy can deter players from switching in Zacian.
Which Pokémon do you think will have the biggest impact when Dynamaxed or Gigantamaxed?
Aaron Traylor: Trainers will have to consider: should they Dynamax one of their restricted Pokémon, thus taking advantage of its naturally strong base stats? Many restricted Pokémon are quite fearsome when Dynamaxed. Dialga and Palkia can hit a wide variety of Pokémon for supereffective damage and score key knockouts when holding a Life Orb to boost their damage. Yveltal can reduce its opponents' Special Defense with a Dark Aura-boosted Max Darkness, powering up future attacks for it and its special-attacking partners. When it's outside of Dynamax, Calyrex in both its Shadow Rider and Ice Rider forms relies on a double-target attack, which deals reduced damage if the opponent has more than one Pokémon. Dynamax allows Calyrex to target a single enemy, and if it collects a knockout, it'll get a crucial boost to its primary attacking stat, which makes the next Max Attack even stronger.
Dynamaxing isn't just about making already-strong Pokémon deal more damage, though. Non-restricted Pokémon often match or surpass the power of restricted Pokémon—key highlights include Gigantamax Charizard, which burns through teams in sunny weather thanks to its Solar Power ability, and Regieleki, which can tear through opponents with Max Lightning before they have the chance to move.
Markus Stadter: Some of the strongest Dynamax and Gigantamax Pokémon use their three turns to also set up Speed control for their team by using Max Airstream or Max Strike. Charizard, Zapdos, Incarnate Forme Thundurus, Therian Forme Landorus, Yveltal,, Kartana, and Regieleki are all very powerful options. Other Pokémon use the additional bulk and power from Dynamax to punch holes into the opposing team early on, like for example Dialga, Palkia, or White Kyurem. Gigantamax Charizard and Gigantamax Blastoise can set up very powerful residual damage that makes it easier for their partners to sweep the opposing team.
Besides that, I think it's just great to witness Pokémon like Gastrodon, Incineroar, or even Whimsicott Dynamax and swing a battle when it was least expected. Overall, I think being flexible with Dynamax is key to success in this format and in my opinion, the strongest teams utilize multiple Dynamax options and adapt to the respective game state.
Aaron Zheng: Almost all the restricted Pokémon are incredibly strong Dynamax options. The most common ones are Kyogre, Groudon, Palkia, Yveltal, and Ice Rider Calyrex, as they can all deal large amounts of damage in a short amount of time. Some of the less popular picks, like Dialga, are incredibly powerful while Dynamaxed but considerably weaker afterwards, so players will have to be especially careful in how they use Dynamax.
Outside of the restricted Pokémon, the highest-impact Dynamax and Gigantamax options include Zapdos, Incarnate Forme Thundurus, Therian Forme Landorus, Kartana, and Regieleki. These Pokémon are all generally fast, can deal large amounts of damage quickly, and get access to Speed control via Max Airstream and/or Max Strike. Finally, Venusaur, Charizard, and Blastoise are all strong Gigantamax options thanks to their G-Max moves, which add residual damage for four turns.
Which Pokémon do you think is underrated in the format right now?
Aaron Traylor: An opposing Pokémon that terrifies me when I think about teambuilding is Lunala. Out of the restricted Pokémon, I think it has the most untapped potential—its Shadow Shield Ability allows it to survive strong attacks that would otherwise knock it out quickly. Thanks to its survivability, it can Trick Room safely and launch powerful attacks like Meteor Beam when holding the Power Herb item. This is especially effective against Incineroar, one of Lunala's most common foes. The Pokémon that fear Lunala the least are Kyogre and Groudon, each of which can withstand its damage output, threaten its partner while breaking Shadow Shield, and fight in a Trick Room without worry. If someone can carefully put together a Lunala team that works against the top compositions, I think they'll find success.
Similarly, Xerneas, which once dominated these power rankings, has fallen into obscurity. It will require reworking to function in the age of Dynamax—it's no longer possible to lead it alongside Fake Out or Rage Powder and dominate the game from the very first turn. But players should be vigilant regardless: once it boosts with Geomancy, it is very challenging to stop, and after opposing Pokémon exhaust their resources, Xerneas can run away with the game.
Markus Stadter: A few weeks ago, I would have said Shedinja without hesitation. It has some very unique benefits that have since been showcased by Thomas Gravouille's second-place finish at the Liverpool Regionals. Wonder Guard stops two of the strongest Pokémon of the format—Kyogre and Zacian—entirely. Combining Wonder Guard with the move Ally Switch can make facing Shedinja a nightmare, especially when it is used to stall out Dynamax turns. However, since more players are considering this tactic in their team building, EUIC might not be the right tournament for Shedinja to come out of its shell.
I think Tapu Fini is a Pokémon that is underrated and might see some success. It has a proven track record in previous formats and can also compete against some of the most powerful restricted Pokémon. Its Misty Surge Ability shuts down Amoonguss and makes the life of Dragon types like Palkia or Dialga very hard. It's a niche pick, but on the right team I wouldn't be surprised to see Tapu Fini do well in Frankfurt.
A third mention goes to Celesteela, which hasn't seen a lot of play in this format. It has a solid matchup against Zacian, a same-type attack bonus for Max Airstream, Beast Boost, and Leech Seed, just to name a few of its appeals. Overall, I think it has the potential to be a dark-horse contender and do very well, like when Wolfe Glick used Celesteela to win the 2019 North America International Championships.
Aaron Zheng: I think there are many restricted Pokémon that are underrated right now. Dialga, Reshiram, Xerneas, Solgaleo, Lunala, and Dusk Mane Necrozma, have all had strong performances in the past month, either at the Salt Lake City or Liverpool Regional Championships, or the online Battle Stadium Doubles ladder. These Pokémon may be more difficult to use, but building a strong team around them can lead to heavy payoffs since few players will have proper practice against them.
I also think there are tons of non-restricted picks that are under-explored currently. Some examples include Shedinja—which can single-handedly win against certain restricted duos, such as Kyogre + Zacian—and Ditto, which can copy any opposing Zacian. Other interesting options include a variety of Pokémon that employ Fake Out, such as Alolan Persian, Sableye, Weavile, and Gothitelle, as well as offensive Dynamax options like Celesteela and Dragapult.
Aaron Traylor: Shedinja deserves special mention. Although it's not traditionally thought of as a “supportive” Pokémon, it restructures how its opponents make decisions thanks to its Wonder Guard Ability. The stakes of a game with Shedinja are clear to both Trainers: Shedinja's opponent must conserve their Pokémon with moves that hit Shedinja super effectively, and Shedinja's Trainer can either use it as a lead to sow chaos, save it until it's invulnerable, or not even bring it at all! Notice how these interactions are set up from a position of control for the Shedinja player—they set the pace of the game and force their opponent to react. Proactively controlling the match is a big part of winning in VGC, and Shedinja enables control over your opponent like no other Pokémon. What could provide better support?
Players have already found success with Shedinja, such as Thomas Gravouille, Eliott Legroux, and Florian Henry at the Liverpool Regional Championships, earning runner-up, 12th, and 22nd places, respectively. I expect Shedinja to continue to succeed in Europe. If you see a Shedinja while watching the stream of the 2022 VGC Europe International Championships, pay attention to how players set themselves up to win with Shedinja—and how their opponents play around its unique Ability.
Markus Stadter: The Rinya Sun team composition I mentioned above is at a very interesting point currently. Everyone knows how strong it is after its wins in Salt Lake City and Liverpool. Whenever it seemed like players had figured out an answer, the team was able to innovate again, like with the recent use of the move Burning Jealousy on Grimmsnarl and Incineroar to punish Zacian and other Pokémon that boost their stats. I think that the team can definitely be very successful again in Frankfurt, but I also think that some players will not trust the team, fearing that counterstrategies have been figured out. Either way, I'm very excited that live events are back and I can't wait to see what will happen in Frankfurt!
Aaron Zheng: The current Series 12 format is incredibly deep, and I think we are just scratching the surface of it. For this tournament, I expect most players to opt for safer, more consistent teams and restricted duos, especially as they try to secure Championship Points to qualify for the 2022 World Championships. This format is particularly difficult, as mistakes can be punished quite easily. Comfort with your team feels even more valuable than previous years.
I think there's also a lot of room for creativity in the format, and those who can properly build around less-common restricted Pokémon can really be rewarded for their efforts. While it's likely that most players will stick to safe Zacian cores, I wouldn't be surprised to see multiple unique duos pop up in the top of this event, just as they have at the Salt Lake City Regionals and Liverpool Regionals.
Overall, I'm excited to see if top players at EUIC will continue to use what has been dominant or look towards creating new strategies that have not been explored yet!
For more Pokémon video game strategy and analysis, visit Pokemon.co.uk/Strategy.