Galar’s most wanted
Back when Pokémon Sun and Moon released, I hopped onto Smogon.com and took a stroll around the Uncharted Territory forum to explore the potential of a lot of the newer Pokémon. A lot of them held down their position as powerful Pokémon, like Mimikyu and Araquanid. Others, like Salazzle, went down in history as being more of a gimmick than anything else. So now is the time to take a look at what’s going on the ladder and see what’s really cooking on Pokémon Sword and Shield‘s battles.
Note that most of these choices are personal observation through the lens of most common single battle formats. A lot of it is also informed by Smogon, one of the most researched and scholarly places for competitive Pokémon battling.
The interesting part of exploring the newest metagame of Pokémon is examining the fresh contenders. But a large part of any Pokémon game’s generation is going to revolve around older, more established characters, regardless of the decisions of who gets included with the most up-to-date Pokédex. So really quickly, let’s bring up older Pokémon who are big threats, either due to new toys they got or because certain competition in the meta is no longer present alongside them.
A good example of the latter is Durant. Durant was introduced after Scizor and was immediately seen as an inferior version of the bug/steel Pokémon. Scizor was stronger and bulkier in every way, its most infamous staple being Bullet Punch: a priority move guaranteed to go first while also having its power boosted by Scizor’s Technician ability. But now Scizor is no longer present in Galar and Durant is here to act as the rebound in the breakup. With a very powerful First Impression attack boosted by Hustle, Durant now reigns as Galar’s bug/steel revenge killer, even if Hustle trades power for accuracy.
Gyarados is a safe example of a powerful Pokémon from previous games not just retaining their power but thriving off new mechanics. While Gigantamax Pokémon look cooler, Dynamax Gyarados has many key qualities that push this classically powerful Pokémon over the edge. One option in particular that lends itself to Gyarados really well is one of its abilities, Moxie. Moxie still triggers in Dynamax form, raising his attack after a KO. Find a turn to set up with Dragon Dance, pave the road with Dynamax boosted moves, and watch the situation snowball out of control with Moxie.
Gengar is also back baby, and now he has Nasty Plot this generation for absurdly powerful boosting and wall breaking. I also think it’s hilarious Mega Gengar with Shadow Tag is gone and in its place is Gigantamax Gengar with a G-Max Move that traps the target.
Lastly are Ferrothorn and Toxapex with the dreaded FerroPex core. If you don’t know what a core is, at its most basic, a core is a strategic pair or even trio of Pokémon put together to specifically alleviate and switch into their respective weaknesses to support each other. If your first reaction to Ferrothorn is a fire or fighting attack, any trainer with half a mind in this situation simply switches to Toxapex, who proceeds to laugh at the incoming damage and steal some momentum for themselves in a favorable matchup. If Toxapex gets threatened by electric or psychic damage, simply switch to Ferrothorn. See how it’s pretty hard to get super effective damage on these two? Well, the addition of a new Galarian Pokémon down below ensures that this pair isn’t going to budge anytime soon.
Let’s start the newcomer list with the most popular Galarian poster child for ridiculous damage, Dracovish. Its signature attack, Fishious Rend, doubles in power if Dracovish moves first. This move counts as a biting attack for the purpose of boosting power with its ability, Strong Jaw. Now throw in a water boost from rain or maybe a choice band instead, and you get an attack with borderline the same attack power as Self-Destruct or Explosion. I think it’s important to note that if Dracovish’s plan gets messed up in any way, like status ailment or facing priority moves, he immediately becomes mediocre at best. Dracovish isn’t all that speedy without investment either, so he needs either a choice scarf for extra speed or a trainer with good knowledge of the speed tiers to switch him out if things look dicey. But Dracovish gains more leeway with a very strong defensive typing of water/dragon, preventing almost all super-effective damage except for fairy and dragon type attacks.
Dragapult is this generation’s newest high-spec dragon Pokémon and, oh baby, is it flashy. It’s one of the fastest Pokémon around with good offensive stats on both sides of the physical/special spectrum. It even has a neat signature move that hits twice for a total of 100 base power, allowing more possibilities like more critical hits or breaking substitutes and dealing damage around them. Dragapult also has a diverse move pool, so it’s difficult to get away from him before taking super effective damage. Dragapult is fairly straightforward but powerful nonetheless with stats to back it up.
Galarian Corsola is sure to be the bane of many peoples’ existence. Despite not being fully evolved, it has higher defenses than its evolved form, Cursola. Slap an Eviolite on it, boosting both defenses by 50% if the Pokémon isn’t fully evolved, and you have the third member of the FerroPex core to create a brick wall. With Stealth Rocks, Spikes, Toxic, and Will-O-Wisp between them, they’re sure to drive any opponent to a slow and agonizing death.
Galarian Darmanitan is an example of hilarious overcompensation. Its ability, Gorilla Tactics, boosts its power by 50% but locks it into the first move it uses. You know why that sounds familiar? Its ability is basically a choice band, but it can still stack an actual choice band on top of that. On top of 145 attack, it can hit for 2.25 times damage turn one, no set up necessary. Or give it a choice scarf and let it clean house late game when nothing is left to contest it with full health. If you have one with its zen mode hidden ability it only gets more obscene. Ice is viewed as a defensively weak type and offensively minded force, and Galarian Darmanitan is definitely as offensive as they come.
Orbeetle is interesting, as psychic-types rarely get much whenever they’re in the spotlight. This defensively minded bug/psychic type does, however, get access to a fairly powerful Stored Power set. Every boost makes Stored Power a stronger attack, and Orbeetle has access to Iron Defense, Calm Mind, Agility, and can even use Recover after boosting all those stats. However, most discussion I’ve come across simply want to emphasize that Orbeetle is probably the best user of Sticky Web this generation, seeing as how 110/120 defenses allow it to do all of the above without dying to a glancing blow like Galvantula does. Orbeetle is the kind of setup lead Dracovish loves, since every enemy Pokémon setting foot on Sticky Web will immediately lose speed, which is exactly what Dracovish wants.
I personally like Toxtricity, despite it lacking defensive bulk and speed to give it any real direction. Being electric/poison is its one saving grace defensively, being able to resist a lot of different attacks. Its other saving grace is its ability, Punk Rock, which boosts sound-based attacks. Not only is its signature electric attack, Overdrive, affected by this, it finally brings Boomburst into the realm of viability and turns it into one of the strongest normal type attacks of this generation. I’ve loved the idea of using Boomburst for years, since with STAB (same type attack bonus), it becomes a 210 base power attack. Unfortunately, the only real user of this move before, Loudred, just plain sucks. Toxtricity doesn’t even get STAB with Boomburst and its by far his strongest attack.
The last choice I want to highlight is one I wasn’t expecting, Indeedee. Indeedee fills the Psychic Surge void left behind by the absence of the Tapu Guardians from the last generation, amping the power of psychic attacks by 50%. If that weren’t enough, it gets the weirdest coverage move possible against the steel types that usually wall psychic types, Mystical Fire. While Hatterene is a more interestingly designed Pokémon, Indeedee having Psychic Surge allow it to do things Hatterene simply can’t in its space as a bulky psychic type. It also helps that Psychic Surge blocks all priority attacks, so something with Extreme Speed or Aqua Jet can’t just revenge kill it easily.
But those aren’t the only strong Pokémon in the Galar region. Have you found some success with your own unique selections?