Which Pokémon should you keep an eye out for in the upcoming Region Finals? Our experts let you know.
With the Pokémon Players Cup III Video Game Region Finals on the way, we've brought our panel of experts together once again to look at the upcoming matches. Using the regulations of Ranked Battles Series 8, the Region Finals allow each team to have one Pokémon that is usually not allowed. Choosing the right one is crucial to a Trainer's success.
Read on to see which Pokémon to watch for when the Region Finals begin. Then head to Twitch.tv/Pokemon to watch exciting matches on April 10 and 11!
Zacian is regarded by most players to be the strongest of the usually restricted Pokémon in Series 8. Zacian's stats are incredible across the board, its solid combination of Steel and Fairy types makes it hard to hit for supereffective damage, and its Ability gives it a free Attack boost when it enters the battle. Its most important trait, however, is its move Behemoth Blade, which deals double damage to Dynamax Pokémon. This means players cannot Dynamax defensively to reduce damage taken from Zacian and will have to find other ways to mitigate incoming attacks.
One drawback that Zacian has is that it must hold the Rusted Sword item to gain access to its Crowned Sword form, which means it cannot hold another item. Zacian is also unable to Dynamax, so it can have a tough time avoiding being knocked out when it is backed into a corner. An opposing upside is that players can be more flexible when building a team around Zacian compared to other Pokémon that are usually restricted from play. For example, Zacian can be supported with powerful G-Max Moves from Pokémon such as Lapras or Coalossal because Zacian does not Dynamax.
Zacian will almost always have a Fighting-type move, like Close Combat or Sacred Sword, due to the good coverage of a Fighting-type move alongside the Steel-type Behemoth Blade. Few Trainers teach Zacian the Fairy-type Play Rough, since Behemoth Blade is stronger in most cases, instead opting for moves that punish passive plays like Substitute or Swords Dance. —Justin Burns
Kyogre once again ranks highly in our list, due in large part to the offensive capabilities of its Water-type attacks in the rain that it summons with its Drizzle Ability. What's different for Kyogre in Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield is its interaction with Dynamaxing, which lets Kyogre trade the powerful spread damage of Water Spout for the single target hit of Max Geyser, allowing Kyogre to deal massive damage no matter how much HP it has remaining.
Although some Trainers support Kyogre with Pokémon that thrive in the rain, like Kingdra and Kartana, others add depth with a completely different mode: Venusaur and Torkoal. Although Kyogre's Drizzle and Torkoal's Drought Abilities are sometimes at odds with each other, clever Trainers use these Pokémon carefully to hone in on an opponent's weather weaknesses. Kyogre finds unexpected Water-type attack support in Venusaur's Weather Ball, and Venusaur further supports Kyogre by using harsh sunlight to pick off otherwise-problematic Pokémon, such as Zacian and Regieleki. Choosing this chaotic composition comes at the cost of Torkoal and Kyogre sometimes stepping on each other's toes (if they had toes), whereas focusing solely on Kyogre's Drizzle Ability provides clearer direction.
Kyogre's most common partners focus on controlling Speed. Kyogre wants to be attacking first no matter what, lest its opponents attack it and reduce the power of Water Spout. Pay attention to how Trainers position their Kyogre alongside Pokémon such as Porygon2, Tornadus, Dragapult, and Regieleki (among others) to get the most out of their time in the rain. —Aaron Traylor
Shadow Rider Calyrex's tricky Ghost and Psychic type combination combined with blistering Speed and a huge Special Attack stat make it one of the most dangerous of the usually restricted Pokémon in Series 8. Shadow Rider Calyrex also has access to some very powerful attacks: Astral Barrage, a new Ghost-type attack that hits both opposing Pokémon at once, and Expanding Force, which becomes a powerful double-target attack on Psychic Terrain.
Despite Shadow Rider Calyrex's great attributes, it does have some pretty big drawbacks as well. With a double weakness to both Ghost-type and Dark-type attacks, Trainers have to tread carefully in a format where such threats are abundant. Yveltal, Incineroar, and Single Strike Urshifu are all Pokémon that can resist the Ghost and Psychic attacks from Shadow Rider Calyrex and pressure easy knockouts in return.
Trainers looking to support their own Shadow Rider Calyrex most frequently turn to Whimsicott, Incarnate Forme Thundurus (with the Defiant Ability instead of the more famous Prankster), female Indeedee, or Single Strike Urshifu.
Trainers building a Shadow Rider Calyrex team should remember to include options specifically to battle Trick Room. Having an anti–Trick Room mode or utilizing some options like Ferrothorn, Stakataka, or Glastrier can go a long way toward complementing Shadow Rider Calyrex and pushing it from a steady canter to a thundering gallop in the Series 8 format. —Lee Provost
Throughout VGC history, players have used Groudon as one of the main building blocks of their teams whenever the strongest Legendary Pokémon are permitted. Primal Groudon's immense Attack stat and its one-of-a-kind Desolate Land Ability, which allows Groudon to completely nullify all Water-type attacks, pushed it to the front of every Trainer's mind in 2016 and 2019. Without these tools, we haven't seen Groudon quite dominate the competition in the same way as before. This year, Groudon has taken a step back from the spotlight and moved into a more supportive role.
Groudon's Drought Ability doesn't benefit Groudon itself much without Primal Reversion to give Groudon the Fire type. Instead, team compositions involving Groudon are focused on dealing lots of damage with Pokémon that do make great use of Drought, like Charizard and Venusaur. Charizard has access to Solar Power, an Ability that boosts Charizard's Special Attack if harsh sunlight is active, and Venusaur's Chlorophyll Ability doubles its Speed when the sun is out.
Groudon can still do more than just support its teammates by controlling the weather. Groudon's allies can be used as a distraction while it boosts its Attack stat by using Swords Dance. After a Swords Dance, Groudon's massive defensive stats and its huge Attack allow it to become a formidable threat to the opposing team. Even though Groudon does not look as scary as it once did, Trainers have to give it well-deserved respect and have effective countermeasures against it. —Alex Gomez
In a format that allows Pokémon that are usually restricted, a majority of strategies rely on hitting hard and hitting fast, and Ice Rider Calyrex accomplishes one of those tasks far better than the other. With a somewhat sluggish Speed stat, Ice Rider Calyrex sits in the awkward spot of being too slow to compete with the most popular of the normally ineligible Pokémon but too fast to contend with common Pokémon found on Trick Room teams, like Torkoal or Stakataka. However, that apparent weakness is ultimately Ice Rider Calyrex's strength when put on the right team.
Trainers typically pick one single mode of Speed control when building their teams—either Tailwind or Max Airstream to become faster than their opponent or Trick Room to make being slower an advantage. By providing Ice Rider Calyrex support to counter both modes, usually via a Trick Room user of your own, all a Trainer has to do is determine which mode the opponent is setting up and counter it appropriately. It's very important to know the relative Speed stats of opposing Pokémon so that Ice Rider Calyrex will always move first against your opponent.
Once Ice Rider Calyrex is able to move first, it follows a similar strategy to its Shadow Rider counterpart, relying on its signature move—the Ice-type Glacial Lance in this case—to deal crazy amounts of damage to both of the opposing Pokémon on the field. Add in other strong attackers that are comfortable in both slow and fast modes, like Gigantamax Venusaur and Torkoal, and you have a nearly unstoppable combination. —Gabby Snyder
Justin Burns: Series 8 is different from previous formats that permitted Pokémon from the restricted list in that you can only use one instead of two. This absence of an additional powerhouse means teams must include Pokémon that can play more balanced roles. Instead of niche picks, players rely on established powerful Pokémon. Two good examples of this are Venusaur and Charizard, which are enabled by Torkoal when they are on a team with a usually restricted Pokémon other than Groudon. This strategy has seen success with every Pokémon in our rankings, so expect it to be a popular strategy in the Pokémon Players Cup III.
Alex Gomez: Umbreon is a Pokémon I expect to go up in usage for the Pokémon Players Cup III. It is one of the few Pokémon able to endure most of the powerful attacks in this format, and it has access to Yawn, which helps to mitigate the value of Dynamaxing. Umbreon can also be used on sun-based teams. The move Moonlight benefits from harsh sunlight by restoring more HP than normal, helping Umbreon stay on the field longer. Umbreon's Inner Focus Ability prevents it from flinching, better allowing it to use moves like Snarl and Foul Play to have more chances to wear down its opponents. Due to Umbreon's popularity (and that of other Pokémon with sleep-inducing moves), more Trainers have opted to give their Pokémon sleep-prevention items to block the threatening Yawn, but in stopping opponents from using a more offensive item, Trainers could consider Umbreon to have done its job.
Gabby Snyder: In honor of Pokémon Brilliant Diamond and Pokémon Shining Pearl being announced, I feel it would be a shame to not mention Dialga's and Palkia's roles in the Series 8 metagame. Thanks to The Crown Tundra, both now have access to their Telepathy Hidden Ability, allowing them to avoid damage from ally Pokémon on the field. Given their natural bulk and defensive type combinations (Dragon and Steel for Dialga and Water and Dragon for Palkia), they're perfect candidates for a defensive Dynamax Pokémon that can lower the Attack of opposing Pokémon via Max Wyrmwind or raise defensive stats through Max Quake or Max Steelspike. Telepathy allows you to place them comfortably on a team with a Pokémon that knows Earthquake, like Therian Forme Landorus, enabling a devastating combination of attacks from Pokémon that are very hard to knock out. If you're looking for a slower, more defensive playstyle throughout Series 8, I'd definitely try these two out!
Lee Provost: Ice Rider Calyrex and Shadow Rider Calyrex are the two Pokémon I would look to run in the Pokémon Players Cup III. I feel that both have an incredible ability to create huge momentum swings in battles that is unmatched by any other Pokémon. Their respective Glacial Lance and Astral Barrage attacks—paired with the As One Ability to boost their respective primary offensive stat whenever an opposing Pokémon is knocked out—are tools that are very hard to stop once started. Building around both of these Pokémon in effective ways is key, as both have glaring weaknesses that make them double-edged swords. But as glaring as these weaknesses are, win conditions can also be easily identified with the right support.
A hot pick I could see doing well in the Pokémon Players Cup III for me would be a hybrid between a harsh sunlight team and a Trick Room team, utilizing both Gigantamax Charizard and Ice Rider Calyrex. I could really see the combination of Fire and Ice being extremely effective.
Aaron Traylor: When normally restricted Pokémon are in play, even one small mistake is enough for a Pokémon to be knocked out immediately by a powerful attack. With these powerful Pokémon and Dynamaxing in play together for the first time, the stakes are higher than ever. The pressure can come to a head as early as the first turn, when Trainers vie to set the pace of the game—perhaps by Dynamaxing or Gigantamaxing a Pokémon immediately.
When you're watching these events, pay attention to how Trainers play the very first turn of a battle. Do they immediately seize control of the game with a powerful Gigantamax Pokémon, such as Venusaur, Charizard, or Coalossal, or do they respond to the opposing Pokémon's capabilities by using the move Protect or switching their Pokémon?