The third and final expansion to draft some aces
On previous lists looking on the Pokémon meta, we’ve seen both brand new Pokémon set the tier list aflame as well as witness old favorites continue holding down the fort. Now it’s time to see what has changed since the base game launched with how the Isles of Armor brought back classic Pokémon, gave current dex Pokémon new tools, and determine how some returning legendaries may fare when the Crown Tundra releases.
Some that were on previous versions of the list, like Gyarados, are still dangerous owing to the strength and longevity of their sets. Others, like Durant, will experience a dip in usage as old rivals like Scizor return, better than ever with new moves like Dual Wingbeat for Scizor specifically.
One such example worth pointing out for Crown Tundra is everyone’s favorite meme sweeper, Dracovish. Dracovish’s number one problem is a lack of speed. Without speed, Fiscious Rend will be working at half strength when Dracovish inevitably goes second, unless this is remedied with Choice Scarf or Sticky Web support. The new Hidden Patch item coming with Crown Tundra, however, will switch a Pokémon’s ability to its hidden ability (with no option to go back if you desire). In Dracovish’s case, its hidden ability is Sand Rush, doubling speed during a sandstorm.
It is important to note the obvious, that Dracovish will lose Strong Jaw, which boosts Fiscious Rend’s base power by 50%. So fixing one problem only creates a deficit in another place for Dracovish, so it can’t catch a break. Of course, Fiscious Rend will still hurt quite a bit, especially if you can guarantee that Dracovish won’t be outsped, it just won’t hurt quite as much. Sand Rush Dracovish will probably function as more of a late-game sweeper to pick off weakened Pokémon as opposed to Strong Jaw Dracovish working as a threatening wall breaker.
Speaking of Pokémon returning from the base game to the expansions, Cinderace and Rillaboom have made a splash thanks to their hidden ability, which goes to show how changing one aspect of a Pokémon can make a mediocre ‘mon amazing. Rillaboom got two new toys during Isle of Armor: access to its hidden ability, Grassy Surge, which creates grassy terrain, and Grassy Glide from the move tutor, which is a strong priority attack that only works on grassy terrain. Coupled with Rillaboom’s strong attack stat and a diverse selection of practical items, it’s a strong offensive presence that can help revenge kill or wall break. Switching away from a Grassy Glide, only to get smacked by Wood Hammer can hurt a lot, or if the Rillaboom trainer sees the switch coming, it can use U-Turn and maintain the momentum.
Cinderace, on the other hand, is experiencing Blaziken’s ubers ban, getting quick banned to ubers in organized play like Smogon due to its own hidden ability, Libero. Libero is basically just Greninja’s Protean ability, switching its typing to match the move it uses. The difference between Greninja and Cinderace is that Cinderace actually has the offensive stats to back up its ability, alongside wide coverage of moves with high base power. With Libero granting automatic STAB for any move, Cinderace can hit hard with Pyro Ball, Hi Jump Kick, or Gunk Shot, all attacks that are over 100 BP. Cinderace even still has room for a more specialized strategy like U-Turn for momentum, Sucker Punch for priority, and Court Change for flipping field hazards like Stealth Rocks. Simply getting STAB with a wide variety of powerful moves already at its disposal makes Cinderace’s 116 base attack hit that much harder, not to mention the defensive utility of changing its weaknesses and resistances.
Clefable is really thriving right now thanks to its hidden ability, Unaware. 95/73/90 across HP, defense, and special defense doesn’t sound like a particularly bulky Pokémon, but Fairy-type carries very useful resistances, and having the choice between Magic Guard and Unaware makes Clefable impossible to chip away at after it invests in defensive EVs. While not the most powerful Pokémon, its bulk, combined with an incredibly diverse move pool, can make Clefable hard to predict until it gets moving.
Will it use Thunder Wave to paralyze while stalling with Soft-Boiled? Or will it use Calm Mind to boost and turn its Moonblast into a powerhouse? Or maybe it’ll use Wish then Teleport to safely heal a hurt sweeper to regain its momentum. Magic Guard lets Clefable’s bulk stand out as it won’t take damage from Toxic or Sandstorm or even more insidious, Sticky Barb, before trying to pass it on to someone else.
Volcarona, along with every other bug dual-type Pokémon, is currently rejoicing at the prospect of Heavy Boots, the one thing that rectifies the staggering effect Stealth Rocks has had on the meta since its inception. Forgoing a more useful item in favor of ignoring Stealth Rocks along with all other field hazards is an obvious choice considering Volcarona is an example of a Pokémon that is extremely powerful on paper but has difficulty actually working in practice due to the threat of Stealth Rocks.
Nothing else has really even changed for Volcarona. It’s always been quite powerful with Quiver Dance and a 135 base special attack to really punch holes in opposing teams, but now that it can travel to Galar through Pokémon HOME, it gets to experience life in a whole new light thanks to Heavy Boots.
Lastly, before we talk about some concrete additions to legendaries, we come to two Pokémon that share a singular buff in the form of the Isle of Armor move Poltergeist. Ghosts have long struggled to become powerhouses due to almost all of their moves having moderate to poor base power. Shadow Ball is 80 BP special attack that favors special sweepers while physically attacking ghosts are nearly non-existent. Pokémon like Giratina and Dusclops rely on more roundabout strategies to find work, while Giratina-O and Duskinoir rely on alternatives to ghost-type attacks to do damage.
Poltergeist singlehandedly gives them an offensive presence thanks to a beefy 110 BP, 100% accurate attack that only works on Pokémon holding items, which is virtually a 100% guaranteed chance. Duskinoir has always been overshadowed by its Eviolite enabled form, and Giratina only had Shadow Force to use, which is a two-turn attack that can be countered easily. Now with Poltergeist, physical ghost-types like these two have more of a presence on the field compared to their usually more passive movesets.
Moving into the realm of legendaries as they have a lot of push with Crown Tundra and the Dynamax Adventure, a few are getting access to new moves to freshen up. Groudon, for example, will get Heat Crash, which will work well due to its weight class as it becomes stronger the more the user outweighs the target. Others, like Kyogre, don’t get anything new because they’re already too good. Speaking of the weather trio, Rayquaza can not only learn Meteor Beam, giving it access to rock-type coverage, but it also gains Hydro Pump, which I think is overkill on this overwhelmingly offensive force. Even without its mega form, getting this powerful water-type coverage will let it threaten opponents it wouldn’t normally be able to intimidate before.
Cresselia has always classically been known as a wall and stall type of Pokémon, preferring to do more damage via Toxic then stalling with Moonlight healing more than anything else. Crown Tundra will give Cresselia access to Stored Power and Cosmic Power, letting Cresselia become impossible to kill wall while simultaneously boosting the power of its STAB Stored Power. While the overall strategy doesn’t change (wall out your opponent in a battle of attrition), Stored Power gives Cresselia access to a flashy finale after setting itself up to become a problem unless it gets forced out via Whirlwind or Roar.
Lastly on the list is a revisit on the Tapu guardians from my previous draft. While last time I just touched on what they’d bring to the table as they are, they’ll now have access to the terrain specific moves that the Isle of Armor move tutor offers. That means Tapu Bulu will get priority with Grassy Glide, Tapu Lele will get a buffed up Expanding Force, Tapu Koko will get an amazing 140 BP Rising Voltage, and Tapu Fini will get Misty Explosion, which is frankly pretty bad, but Tapu Fini’s role as a Defogger will remain intact as the pool of useful hazard cleaners is still pretty small. But all these new moves on the Tapus latent terrain setting abilities are sure to make them a deadly force in the meta. I’m a big fan of putting Tapu Bulu’s tank and spank strategy on my teams, so giving him Grassy Glide is sure to surprise some people.
But these are only a small handful of contenders for now during Isle of Armor, and in the future with Crown Tundra. Even with just a few new Galarian Pokémon like the legendary birds or the new Regis, a few new moves and the addition of easy access to hidden abilities will make some fun shake-ups to the meta even after quickly finishing whatever content the Crown Tundra has to offer as a single-player experience.