With Regionals fast approaching the question of ‘What team am I going to use’ looms over the head of every player in the nation. From recent Premier Challenge and Grassroots results it is fairly clear that Australia’s team building is lacking, with a large majority of players using teams taken from US Events and European Regionals, or having blatant holes to common metagame threats. With Regionals right around the corner, this needs to be fixed. However, do not fear! I’m here to help.
This guide is going to reflect the way I team build this format, as it varies heavily from the team building of other formats which you may be more accustomed to. I personally team build in three steps; Choosing Restricted Pairings, Choosing A Mega Pokémon, and Covering Bases With Support. Please note that all example spreads given are solely used as examples to represent what a Pokemon will do, and EV spreads may not be efficient. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Step 1: Choosing Restricted Pairings
Okay, so you know you have two restricted Pokemon slots on your team and you want to utilise them as best as possible, but you have no idea which ones have good synergy and work well together. Given that you’ll be bringing these two Pokemon to a large majority of games, it’s important to have strong synergy to be able to tackle major metagame threats with both of these two Pokemon. Recently, there has been very strong combinations which have been demonstrated over multiple events worldwide, and I think using these as a base is a great start for anyone who wants to build their own team.
Primal Groudon / Xerneas
You’ve probably seen this pair before if you’ve played this format, but what you may not realise is why both of these Pokémon have great synergy. Groudon and Xerneas are the two restricted Pokémon in what is currently known as ‘The Big 6,’ which has the goal of using Xerneas’ best asset, Geomancy, to sweep through the opponents team. The extent of the boosts Xerneas receives makes it an insanely large threat, with only a few Pokémon in Ferrothorn, Scizor, Amoonguss, Crobat, Kyogre and Groudon and a few others being able to survive a boosted Moonblast, whilst also fulfilling other roles in a team. Having Groudon alongside Xerneas patches up these holes, being able to pick up the KO on the aforementioned threats to Xerneas, whilst being able to switch in on Kyogre, effectively nullifying any major damage output onto Xerneas. The raw power and fast play of this type of team makes it a safe pick against inexperienced players, as the goal of setting up Xerneas with Groudon’s coverage is done relatively easy. This team is not without weaknesses however, with the team being heavily prepared for and many players having experience against this team and how it operates.
Mega Rayquaza / Primal Kyogre
This pairing is probably the second most common pairing at the moment due to its positive match up against Xerneas and Groudon, given the proper support to prevent Geomancy. Rayquaza and Kyogre has a positive match up against this team primarily for its ability to heavily damage Xerneas with Rayquaza’s Dragon Ascent whilst utilising it’s Pre-Mega Ability Air Lock to allow Kyogre to KO Groudon with a Water Type move, without having to switch out to reset the weather. Kyogre struggles heavily against Grass Type Pokémon, namely Ferrothorn, as Kyogre may be KO’d by Power Whip, whereas Rayquaza struggles against Mega-Salamence and Follow Me users, as the defence drop from using Dragon Ascent usually leaves it open to be KO’d be the Follow Me user’s partner. The synergy of both Pokémon allows Rayquaza to patch Kyogre’s weaknesses to Grass Types with Dragon Ascent or Overheat for Ferrothorn, whereas Kyogre can cover Rayquaza’s Dragon Type weakness with Ice Beam, as well as powerful spread moves in Water Spout and Origin Pulse to help deal with Follow Me users. Rayquaza and Kyogre require a much larger amount of support to be effective, as Xerneas is able to KO Rayquaza with a Geomancy boosted Dazzling Gleam, and Kyogre with Dazzling Gleam and a Moonblast.
Palkia / Primal Groudon
This restricted pairing was popularised by Aaron (Cybertron) Zheng at the recent New York Premier Challenge. Palkia’s typing gives it an immense edge against opposing Primals, with Palkia walling both Origin Pulse and Eruption from Kyogre and Groudon respectively. This typing allows Palkia to set up Trick Room in front of both Primals, and then proceed to have Groudon under Trick Room sweep through teams with Eruption or Precipice Blades. Groudon’s sweeping potential increases under the effects of Palkia’s Gravity, guaranteeing that Groudon’s Precipice Blades will hit even Flying Type Pokemon such as Talonflame and Salamence. Being able to hit opposing Primals outside of Groudon’s own weather makes it a perfect candidate for sweeping under Trick Room, as Kyogre in this position would be heavily effected by Groudon switching in to activate Harsh Sunlight. Weaknesses of this team primarily include Smeargle as the lower speed tier can allow for free Dark Voids, leaving the team vulnerable to fast, heavy-hitting Pokemon whilst Palkia and Groudon take a nap.
Ho-Oh / Primal-Kyogre
Arguably the most ‘Anti-Meta’ pick, Ho-Oh and Kyogre have had decent results throughout US events, as well as a double Top Cut at a recent Australian Premier Challenge, by myself and Jackson Lakey. Ho-Oh is arguably the best counter to both Xerneas and Groudon, boasting an insane 154 Base Special Defence stat, allowing it to tank boosted Moonblasts and full power Eruptions respectively. With access to Sacred Fire, Ho-Oh is able to cover it’s lower Physical Defence stat with the option of burning Physical Attackers who’re commonly alongside Xerneas and Groudon, as well as another popular restricted Pokemon, Rayquaza. Being paired with Kyogre further covers Groudon, with access to Thunder to cover opposing Water Type Pokemon and Origin Pulse and Ice Beam to heavily damage the two most common Physical Attacking Mega Pokemon, Kangaskhan and Salamence. Weaknesses to this team include the low Physical Defensive of both Pokemon, with heavy damage from Kangaskhan and Rayquaza being a problem. The shaky accuracy of both Origin Pulse and Sacred Fire is also a concern, plus the lacking reliability of burning with Sacred Fire to patch the Physical Defence.
Dialga / Kyogre
Another ‘anti-meta’ pick which utilises Dialga’s great typing to wall a large portion of the metagame. Dialga’s typing improves a teams switching capabilities with its limited weaknesses in only Ground and Fighting, and resisting nine types. This leaves only Groudon as the only restricted counter for Dialga, as a strong Ground Type attack is able to KO it. Pairing with Kyogre patches this weakness, further giving Dialga the ability to wall other restricted Pokemon such as Rayquaza and Kyogre, whilst threatening Xerneas with Flash Cannon. Access to Trick Room on Dialga gives this team another mode, being able to overwhelm opponents with extremely high powered Special Attacks. However, this team has a weakness to Pokemon with heavy Physical Attacks, such as Kangaskhan, for their ability to hit both Dialga and Kyogre on their less defensive sides for heavy damage.
Primal Groudon / Primal Kyogre
Double Primal is the most straightforward combination of restricted Pokemon, utilising their ridiculously high stats to overwhelm the opponent with offensive pressure. The Primal Pokemon have opposite weaknesses and strengths, with Groudon boasting large Physical Attack and Defence, and Kyogre boasting a large Special Attack and Special Defence stat. This allows for easy switching between both Groudon and Kyogre, covering each others weaknesses and controlling to weather to output offensive pressure. Weaknesses of Double Primal include the awkward speed tier, being slower than Kangaskhan, Xerneas, Salamence and many more, as well as Scarf Smeargle’s ability to take control of games with Dark Void. The double weather is also an issue, as switching in Groudon next to Kyogre is often necessary but can pose as a problem for Kyogre’s offensive capabilities, so that’s something that you need to be wary of when playing double primal.
Step 2: Choosing A Mega Pokemon
Unfortunately due to the high powered nature of this format, only a few Mega Pokemon are viable and have seen usage across events worldwide. In this step it’s not only good to note what each Pokemon does, but how it synergises well with certain restricted Pokemom.
Kangaskhan is one of the most prominent Pokemon this format, and for good reason. With a base 100 Speed Stat Kangaskhan is able to outspeed both Primal Pokemon and Xerneas, and is able to consistently inflict over 50% damage to majority of the metagame. This, alongside access to Fake Out, allows Kangaskhan to provide support to the restricted Pokemon, threatening weakened Pokemon and allowing its teammates the get off attacks. Kangaskhan is one of the few Pokemon which is suited to most teams, with the Fake Out support and consistency being valuable regardless of the Pokemon it is paired with. There are however better choices from some teams which may not require Fake Out support, so choosing Kangaskhan right away may not always be the best course of action.
Salamence is currently the second most common Pokemon, rivalling Kangaskhan in usefulness. With the list of viable Intimidate Pokemon decreasing, many players have looked to Salamence to provide this support, as in such a high powered metagame with little switching, Intimidate often proves invaluable. With Salamence’s high base stats such as a base 120 speed stat and a high Attack and Special Attack stat, Salamence applies a lot of pressure, especially to weakened Pokemon. The 120 base speed places Salamence above Rayquaza and all other restricted Pokemon, guaranteeing a heavy hit onto the weaker defensive side. Salamence fits extremely well alongside restricted Pokemon who have lower Physical Defense or are threatened by Kangaskhan, such as Kyogre, Ho-Oh, Xerneas and Dialga.
Gengar is a little less straightforward. Access to Shadow Tag in mega form allows for the Gengar user to control the weather, locking in either a Groudon in rain or a Kyogre in sun. Gengar’s typing also proves useful, with STAB Sludge Bomb being a roll to OHKO Xerneas and Gengar being immune to Kangaskhan’s Return/Double Edge. Gengar’s speed is another asset it utilises, outspeeding Salamence and Rayquaza, which Gengar can hit for respectable damage. Pokemon such as Kyogre to win the weather war against Groudon and Whimsicott for Encore-Disable have proven to be the best partners for Gengar.
Rayquaza is an odd Mega, doubling as a restricted Pokemon. Rayquaza’s great speed stat put it above Kangaskhan, Xerneas and both primal Pokemon, with the ability to OHKO all of them with Life Orb Dragon Ascent (Note: This is a roll) and Waterfall respectively. Rayquaza’s amazing stats come at a price; using up both the Mega and restricted Pokemon slots in a team and being able to be KO’d after its Dragon Ascent Defense drops. Rayquaza is a high risk, high reward Pokemon, working well primarily with Kyogre in order to abuse Air Lock to hit Groudon with a Water Move.
Step 3: Cover Bases With Support
Support Pokemon are extremely important this format. Having one mega and two restricted Pokemon, you are always forced to bring at least one support Pokemon. What support is required is very team dependant, with only a few support types being absolutely necessary for a consistent team, so I’ll be splitting support into two categories; Required Support and Team Dependant Support.
If there’s one thing that all successful teams have in common, it’s speed control. With such high powered Pokemon, being able to hit first is often the difference between winning and losing, so being able to utilise speed control effectively can help carry you through games. Tailwind, Thunder Wave and Trick Room have seen the most usage this season, with the Pokemon seen above being the most successful Pokemon thus far in the format. Talonflame, Crobat and Whimsicott all fill varying roles, whilst having access to speed control in the form of Tailwind. Talonflame is the heaviest damage dealer, and is effective when your opponent has weakened Pokemon after you set up Tailwind, whereas Crobat and Whimsicott double as Taunt support, which is another necessity. The major difference between Crobat and Whimsicott is Super Fang and Quick Guard Vs Prankster, which can often be a difficult choice for players. On the other hand, Thundurus is arguably the only Thunder Wave using support Pokemon, so if Ground Type Pokemon such as Groudon are covered well, then Thundurus is also a great choice for speed control. Thundurus’ typing also allows it to deal respectable damage onto Kyogre and access to Taunt makes Thundurus extremely good at providing both support and offensive pressure, so long as Groudon isn’t in the way to wall it. The last, and possibly most effective, form of speed control is none other than Trick Room. Cresselia and Bronzong fulfil very similar roles, with Cresselia boasting amazing defences and Bronzong with a great typing and the ability to hit Xerneas for respectable damage. Bronzing however struggles when not paired with both Kyogre and Groudon, as opposing Groudon can threaten Bronzong’s ability to Trick Room. If not paired with both Primal Pokemon, Cresselia is the better choice as it’s able to tank Fire Type attacks and set up Trick Room much easier than Bronzong.
That Move You Have For Smeargle
Smeargle is by far one of the biggest threats this format, with access to the strongest move in the game; Dark Void. Access to this move plus the ability to use a Focus Sash makes team building with Smeargle in mind a necessity, and any teams which are built without this in mind often fall short at events. Thundurus, Crobat, Whimsicott and Liepard are all able to Taunt Smeargle before it can move, whilst also fulfilling other support roles in either Speed Control or Fake Out. Taunt has other uses outside of Smeargle, in that it prevents all major forms of Speed Control and your opponent cannot Protect to stall out your own Speed Control, which with most Taunt users is useful. Kangaskhan is another Pokemon which has access to a move that can KO Smeargle, as it is not effected by Focus Sash. In saying this, Scarf variations of Smeargle do exists (although much less common than Focus Sash) and can still prove a problem. Your own Smeargle can also provide support through Crafty Shield, which as of recent has picked up usage due to it’s ability to block Dark Void, Thunder Wave, Taunt and Encore’s which may be aimed at the team.
Team Dependant Support
Intimidate is one of the strongest abilities in the game, being able to lower the opponents attack and allow your team to survive an onslaught of physical attacks. However, Landorus-T, Salamence and Mawile are the only Pokemon with access to this ability, whilst still being viable. Intimidate benefits primarily alongside restricted Pokemon lacking in Defence, such as Kyogre, Rayquaza, Xerneas and Ho-Oh, but can still prove useful in any team. It’s important to note that Salamence and Mawile can also be used alongside another Mega, giving you the option to use Intimidate when faced with a primarily Physical team.
In this high-powered metagame, the ability to stop your opponent from moving for a turn can often shift the game into your favour, which is why Fake Out is such a dominant move. Fake Out allows the high powered restricted Pokemon in this metagame, such as Primal Groudon, Primal Kyogre and Xerneas, to inflict masses of damage onto the opponent, flinching the opposing threat and ensuring that you will attack or set up the game in such a way where you can win. Fake Out, whilst not being completely necessary, works on majority of teams this format, with every team having a large offensive presence. One move can be the difference between winning and losing, such as a Geomancy, Water Spout or Precipice Blades, throwing momentum in your favour. Kangaskhan, Liepard, Weavile and Raichu are arguably the only viable Fake Out users, as after the first turn other roles must be undertaken by these Pokemon, in either heavy attacks, type coverage, or support moves.
Usually after choosing Restricted Pokemon and a Mega Pokemon, a weakness to another restricted Pokemon becomes pretty obvious. For example, a Rayquaza/Kyogre team may have a glaring weakness to both Xerneas and opposing Kyogre, as they have the ability to KO Rayquaza and Kyogre. This posses as a problem, and is where a Pokemon like Ferrothorn will come in handy if faced with this match up. Ferrothorn is one example of a Pokemon solely in a team for it’s typing and ability to deal respectable damage to large threats, without having major weakness to the rest of the metagame. Scizor and Landorus-I are two other Pokemon who fit in this category, as they threaten Xerneas and Cresselia and Landorus respectively, whilst still providing offensive pressure against other threats.
If you follow all these steps and familiarise yourself with team composition, you’ll be able to better build teams as well as understand the ins and outs of how your team works. Although it’s very easy to use proven teams from other players, it’s important to expand knowledge as to exactly what specific Pokemon achieve on a team, so I definitely encourage you following these steps to make your team for the upcoming Regionals and Nationals.