We've finally arrived at the latest generation. After combing through the first
, and fifth
generations of Pokémon with 20 years of games, we've arrived at X and Y with their sixth generation flavor. After about two months of battles and deliberation, people have arrived at some hard conclusions concerning some of the important updates and changes X and Y brings. But make no mistake, I'm personally having the most fun I've had in a long time with X and Y. The spectrum is just so wide, even if I'm left salty by unexpected strategies, I can still do the same with my own strategies.
The Sixth Generation: The Mega Factor
By far the easiest thing to write off about X and Y's new mechanics is the introduction of mega evolutions. Mega evolutions are more akin to in-battle buffs to stats and power rather than complete and permanent evolutionary stages. Mega evolutions for the most part of drastic buffs to a select few Pokémon with access to them and if megavolution is a part of your strategy, it'll happen without fail as it has the highest priority in battle, just below switching. For a few Megas, it can be compared to suddenly doing one or two Swords Dances for free before attacking, or an Iron Defense and Amnesia at once. Scizor for example gains more bulk to its defenses as well more attack. Scizor's mega form simply lends additional bulk to his Swords Dance sets but his Choice Banded Bullet Punch sets are pretty much unchanged.
Other Pokémon are much more extreme. Mawile, a long thought useless Pokémon, in the blink of an eye has 210 attack. It's new steel/fairy typing is also a factor to its strength but its ability also changes to Huge Power, making its attack monstrous before even boosting. Charizard gains two alternate mega forms, both with different abilities that differentiate their strengths. Charizard's X form gives it Tough Claws, enhancing its physical power while the Y form gets the coveted Drought in addition to a 170 sp. attack. This makes its Flamethrowers and Fire Blasts hit like cement covered dump trucks!
Speaking of Drought, its worth noting that weather has been nerfed to be only five turns, always. Even with Drought or Drizzle introducing weather effects, it only stays for five turns. This puts a damper on the rain dominated strategies of gen 5 and also puts a small nerf to incidental powerhouses like Tyranitar with Sand Stream. Weather strategies can still be implemented though. They just have to unfold at a blazing fast pace before the weather wears out.
These are only a few examples of just how drastically powerful Mega Pokemon are though. Two have already been quick banned to Ubers by the competitive school, Smogon, with another likely joining them in the Ubers tier. Pokemon like Mega Blaziken are so powerful that they can hang out with the likes of Mewtwo and Rayquaza! Kangaskhan of all Pokemon is being debated as to whether not he formally belongs in Ubers and I use it enough to know that discussion is not without merit.
The good news is that you can only have one Mega Pokémon on a team at a time, so there's no need to worry about preparing for a team of megas. Still, some of the more powerful megas are so powerful that you need ultra specific checks and counters just to hope to stop them.
Me First! The importance of priority
Priority moves have always been a crucial part of the metagame since generation IV. Being able to move first is an important part of any offense and guaranteeing that first move is what disrupts a lot of potentially match breaking strategies like sweeping after surviving with a Focus Sash. A disturbing trend has risen in X and Y though that adds to the importance of priority.
Coined as bulky priority, several keys threats lead by example on just how powerful it is to be able to take hits while still managing to move first with strong attacks. Azumarill has long been known as a bulky water type, capable of taking anything that isn't electric or grass type with ease but its speed was its main detriment. It now rises out of the depths of the UU tier thanks to a blessing in Aqua Jet being an egg move this generation. A Quick Attack but water-type and STAB for Azumarill at that, this nifty buff with similar success stories to other Pokémon, allow it to tank any damage it might incidentally receive while still being able to move first and dish out moderate to extreme damage. Give the water rabbit a Choice Band and his Aqua Jets are beyond painful.
With more and more Pokémon like Azumarill gaining access to priority, it becomes an arms race to see who is best at utilizing the power of speed in combat. Talonflame is making waves for being the sole recipient of Gale Wings, an ability which adds +1 to the priority of all flying attacks. It essentially turns Brave Bird, a 120 base power flying type attack, a super charged Quick Attack in Talonflame's hands, erm, wings. An important note to understand of about making priority moves a staple to your move set is that is makes training speed redundant, since your moves will go first unless your opponent does the same. By relying on priority, effort value points can be redirected from speed to bulk, letting you turn OHKOs into 2OHKOs and so forth while still pounding away at blistering speeds.
Another factor to the rise of priority is chipping away at the threat of set up sweepers. We've all been a victim of a set up sweeper at one point in our careers. Something finds the chance to get two or even one Swords Dances in and suddenly useless to stopping its +2 attack power followed by a natural speed advantage. Set up sweepers need time to get those boosts up though, but most are successful because they can calculate survival by the skin of their teeth then proceed to wreck shop unopposed. Most set up sweepers barely survive and sweep unopposed but a simple STAB Quick Attack or Extreme Speed acts as a hard check to anything looking to set up. No matter how fast a sweeper naturally is, it means nothing if Aqua Jet is guaranteed to go first due to +1 priority. Azumarill rose to prominence due to the need to stop Mega Blaziken in its tracks after a Swords Dance and its newly released hidden ability, Speed Boost. In any battle, trainers need to recognize priority users so that they can plan accordingly.
But of course, we need to talk about fairies and the type chart in general.
The new Fairy-type was first introduced to hard counter dragons but also serves to counter the rising strength of fighting and dark-type Pokemon. This sudden shift in metagame is the reason people are saying ghosts are powerful this gen due to the taming of one of their best enemies, dark-types. Fairy as a type is mostly a defensive type, being able to soak up powerful fighting attacks like Close Combat while completely negating incoming Draco Meteors and Outrages. Fairies are also weak to poison and steel-type attacks, bringing interest to very offensively irrelevant types. When was the last type you thought to teach your Pokemon Sludge Bomb or Flash Cannon for coverage?
Most individual fairies also follow a defensive mantra, furthering cementing their status as walls and pivots. Unfortunately, most new fairies have weird fits: Sylveon demonstrates this with terrific HP and sp. defense but lacking in the defense department. The bad part is that most attacks Sylveon wants to tank are physical attacks, seriously hamstringing his defensive potential. A lot of fairies share this kind of obtuse direction, which reduces most notable fairy-types to a smaller, more easily predicted bunch like Azumarill or Gardevoir.
And yes, Azumarill. He shows up again on this list due to his new fairy/water typing. Most of the better fairy-types are retconned Pokémon. Azumarill is once again a big threat not only due to its power and bulk, but with his fairy-typing adds to its ability to wall just about anything that was a big threat in previous generations like Garchomp or well, Blaziken.
"Looks like its time to fuck shit up."
For purposes of simplicity, we'll be skipping Mega forms. Almost all megas are extremely powerful and warrant either specific counters or simply another Mega. Except for Mega Bannette.
In a move that surprised no one, Gengar is still at the top of the threats. In fact, while nothing particular has changed about him asides from an Uber banned Mega form, he's actually gotten more powerful due to the rise of ghost-types. With the introduction of fairies to disrupt dragons and darks, Gengar becomes stronger as dark-types shrink back and poison attacks are needed against fairies.
Speaking of ghosts, Aegislash is another example of the increased importance of ghost-types. With a very useful ghost/steel typing, Aegislash's unique ability, Stance Change, allows Aegislash to shifts its massive stats from an offensive state to a defensive one. By alternating between Kings Shield to go into defense form and Shadow Sneak for priority and offense form, most match ups with Aegislash boil down to 50/50 guessing games in order to bait Kings Shield.
I've already mentioned Azumarill and Talonflame. Both are priority based threats: one is a super bulky fairy while the other can basically priority smash anything due how universally useful flying-type is offensively. Whenever these two Pokemon arrive on the field, you'll most likely be switching to something that can take the hit because few will want to take a choice banded Aqua Jet or Brave Bird unless you intend to take them down with you.
Greninja has also made waves as one of the few starters with a lot of competitive potential. Its ability, Protean, changes its typing to its chosen attack. This effectively gives it STAB on all its attacks which is great because Greninja's offensive potential would've reached its limit early if not for STAB on all its attacks. With great speed and fragile defense, Greninja is a typical scout, especially with STAB U-Turn. Many successful Greninjas can successfuly hit with Hydro Pump, Ice Beam, and your choice of a third special move which is usually Dark Pulse. Most water-types use Ice Beam for coverage against grass but Greninja's can hit especially hard due to Protean. Because of Protean though, there are a lot of weirder sets like using Spikes to become ground-type and block an electric attack, or Shadow Sneak to become ghost-type and spinblock. Most of these unorthodox sets are underpowered compared to an all-out attack set Greninja's speed should always be its most valued asset.
Rotom's Wash and Heat forms have also received stealthy little buffs. Electric-types can no longer be paralyzed in any way, similar to how fire-types are immune to burns. With a distinct advantage to switching in on Thunder Wave, Earthquake and Rotom-H also switching in on Will-o-wisp, Rotom's the world over are usually trained to be bulky and with its typing, Rotom makes a very effectively pivot that fits into nearly any team. Not only can Rotom-W and H switch in Thunder Wave and Will-o-wisp, it can also return the favor itself, making it a defensive mammoth that's difficult to deal with by itself.
And there you have it. This article has been a long time in coming and that's because its a combination of gleening information from theorycrafting and personal experience, along with the fact that gen 6 has had quite the shake up, but we're finally caught up on the metagame for Pokémon as of 2014. If you have anything to add, I would love to hear your personal thoughts on Pokemon battles, not just for me but for any other readers! See you guys on the battle field and in the next generation!