The 2019 Video Game Championship Series features the GS Cup format, where, alongside the usual rules, Trainers are permitted to use two of the powerful Legendary Pokémon typically prohibited from tournament play. This year, there'll be another twist—there will be three series throughout the season, each with different sets of additional restrictions.
The Sun Series is up first, where many powerful items will be restricted. Trainers will be prohibited from giving their Pokémon Mega Stones, Z-Crystals, the Red Orb, or the Blue Orb. Plus, Rayquaza will be prohibited from knowing the move Dragon Ascent, so it won't be able to get around that Mega Stone ban and Mega Evolve!
There's a lot to consider this season with nearly the full cast of Pokémon available and a brand-new format to figure out. Here are some key Pokémon and strategies to keep in mind as you prepare for your upcoming battles.
Plan for Xerneas
Teams in this season's first leg are likely to be judged by how well their strategy stops or supports Xerneas. The Life Pokémon has the Geomancy move, which raises its Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed by two levels in a single turn with help from a Power Herb. It's powerful enough that it seems like the strategy to beat, with many other prominent Legendary Pokémon hobbled by the Sun Series' restrictions on Mega Evolution and Z-Moves.
Xerneas's most popular attacks are all Fairy type, so it tends to struggle against Fire-, Poison-, and Steel-type Pokémon with powerful physical attacks. Bronzong and its Gyro Ball attack was the most popular solution at the 2016 World Championships—it was so effective that it was part of the top seven teams. These days, Solgaleo and Dusk Mane Necrozma are first in line among more offensively-oriented solutions to Xerneas, and both Pokémon will greatly benefit from the introduction of Tapu Lele and its Psychic Surge Ability.
Many Trainers opt to negate the stat boosts from Xerneas' Geomancy instead of banking on a quick knockout. Roar and Whirlwind can be effective tools to negate Geomancy, and Tapu Fini can wield Haze much more capably than Pokémon in 2016 could. In the past two seasons, we've seen many Trainers teach their Amoonguss Clear Smog to stop strategies based on Belly Drum and Calm Mind, and it's just as effective against Xerneas. Some Trainers may even give their Pokémon a Red Card to hold in hopes of ejecting Xerneas from battle after its Power Herb is consumed.
Assemble a New Supporting Cast
The partial availability of once-restricted Legendary Pokémon presents a different challenge from what we normally see at the Pokémon World Championships when it comes to team composition. Each team is sharply focused on the power they bring, so it's crucial for their teammates to complement them and maximize their effectiveness.
Trainers looking back to 2016 for supportive Pokémon are likely to return to the drawing board. Kangaskhan isn't much help without Mega Evolution, Talonflame's Gale Wings now only works while it's at full health, and Smeargle can no longer use Dark Void successfully at all. Shadow Tag is still available through Gothitelle and Wobbuffet, but these days, it isn't likely enough to support the 2016 strategies we saw built around Mega Gengar.
There's a big gap to fill, and some Pokémon from the Alola region are sure to help. Incineroar has a truly awful type matchup against Groudon and Kyogre, but its high stats will make it one of the more popular choices for both Intimidate and Fake Out. A flashier Alolan innovation is the move Instruct—sacrificing Oranguru or Smeargle's turn to allow a teammate like Mewtwo or Rayquaza to attack twice can be a game changer.
The guardian deities' “Surge” Abilities each create Terrain that impacts the battlefield, offering a whole new type of support that wasn't present in 2016. Fake Out was a crucial element of most teams in the 2016 VGC format, but the Psychic Terrain created by Tapu Lele's Psychic Surge Ability can protect grounded Pokémon from its effect. Similarly, many Trainers taught their Pokémon moves that caused their opponents to fall asleep in 2016, but such tactics are much more difficult to execute in face of Tapu Fini's and Tapu Koko's Abilities.
Prepare for Weather Wars
Any format permitting Groudon and Kyogre is sure to be full of Abilities that change the weather, but the Sun Series will feature some interactions that the 2016 Video Game Championships did not. Trainers will need to find new items for the two Legendary Pokémon to hold with Red Orb and Blue Orb prohibited, critically eliminating the more powerful Abilities they gain during Primal Reversion.
The absence of these items creates an opportunity for other Pokémon. During the 2010 World Championships, Abomasnow and Tyranitar were powerful choices because they could negate Drought and Drizzle with their Abilities, and they should once again be good options in the absence of Desolate Land and Primordial Sea. Pokémon that can make effective use of Blizzard, like the quick, brilliant Mewtwo, also get a huge boost with Abomasnow finally having a real chance to keep Hail active during battles.
Groudon and Kyogre need new items to control the weather. Keep an eye out for Trainers handing out items like Iron Ball that greatly reduce the Speed of these Pokémon. Deliberately making your own Pokémon so much slower may seem silly, but it almost guarantees a Groudon or Kyogre holding it will end turn one with its weather active. These items can also create a Speed advantage under Trick Room, a tactic we may see a lot of this year.
Have a Berry Good Time
Another big change from past formats involving the strongest Legendary Pokémon is the impact of some Berries that seem to grow a little differently in the Alola region. The Aguav, Figy, Iapapa, Mago, and Wiki Berries restore more HP than a Sitrus Berry, and several members of the same team may hold one because the Berries have different names but the same effect.
The restricted Legendary Pokémon can quickly dispatch most other Pokémon, so Trainers will need to get creative to keep those other Pokémon on their feet. Consuming a Berry that restores a large amount of health can often enable a Pokémon to survive three hits instead of two. They're even more effective when combatting Pokémon like Groudon, Kyogre, and Xerneas that often split their damage between two targets instead of focusing their damage on one. The HP recovered from these powerful Berries can be the difference between launching a crucial attack or fainting, so expect to see lots of Pokémon holding them—especially the more defensive Pokémon.
Risk Nebulous Results
One of the most exciting parts of the Sun Series will be witnessing new restricted Pokémon blaze uncharted territory. Solgaleo, Lunala, and Necrozma are now permitted in the Video Game Championships for the first time ever, and Zygarde's Complete Forme is making its first appearance, too.
Solgaleo and Dusk Mane Necrozma share the Psychic- and Steel-type combination Metagross and Bronzong have won with. Both have excellent Attack stats, but Solgaleo trades slightly lower offensive stats for higher Speed and defensive stats—crucially including HP. Both can use Sunsteel Strike, a powerful and accurate Steel-type attack the likes of which Metagross fans have been dreaming of since 2003. Their Abilities cover their weaknesses—Solgaleo's Clear Body prevents its Attack from being lowered by Intimidate, while Necrozma's Prism Armor reduces the damage of supereffective attacks. If Xerneas is really the force many expect it to be, these Steel-types are likely to be popular picks.
There's not as clear a need for the strange Ghost- and Psychic-type combination Lunala and Dawn Wings Necrozma possess. A double weakness to Ghost-type attacks makes these Pokémon easier to counter than most, but few foes can easily endure powerful Ghost-type attacks like Moongeist Beam. Lunala's Shadow Shield Ability greatly reduces the damage it takes while its health is full, and it has a natural immunity to the Normal-type Fake Out, making it very difficult to knock out quickly (Necrozma's Prism Armor sometimes has a similar effect). Lunala's capability to learn Icy Wind, Tailwind, Trick Room, and Wide Guard makes it a better team player than most Legendary Pokémon, but its offense may be lacking while Z-Moves are prohibited.
Players may well have forgotten Zygarde was even available in 2016 given how little it was used. It got a lot of help in the Alola region, with the greatest impact coming from the attack Thousand Arrows and the Power Construct Ability. Thousand Arrows is an all-in-one move—it damages airborne foes despite being a Ground-type attack, knocks them down to the ground as though they were hit by Smack Down, and it targets both opponents to boot. Power Construct allows Zygarde to transform into its Complete Forme if its HP falls under half, finally gaining stats that bring it in line with other restricted Pokémon and recovering some of its now-absurd HP.
We'll be posting the top teams from this season's Regional and International Championships at our Championship Series Event Results page, so stay tuned to see which Pokémon come out on top of this clash of titans. You can even browse the Event Finder to check out events near you!