Hello Hat Lovers!
Nugget Bridge has compiled a list of teams that made top cut in the Spring Regionals (you can find that list here). I took a tally of how often each Pokemon showed up on a top cut team (Click here to view the list) and I’m going to look at this data and see what it says about the metagame heading into Nationals.
Mega Evolutions are usually the start of most players teams, so we’ll start with them here. Every team had at least one mega and there were a total of 13 teams with two mega evolutions.
Kangaskhan (16 Mega)
It shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that Kangaskhan continues to be the most popular mega evolution at the top tables. Other mega evolutions have been rising in popularity, but none have been able to surpass Kangaskhan yet. While Kangaskhan is still the most common mega evolution it is no longer the most common Pokemon in the format anymore.
Kangaskhan looks poised to make a strong showing at Nationals. Its a testament to Kangaskhan’s power when its usage been on the decline yet still shows up on 25% of teams. Kangaskhan will only do poorly if the metagame hard counters it like at worlds last year. With a greater variety of viable mega evolutions and team archetypes its hard to say if players will be able to hard counter Kangaskhan while covering their bases against the rest of the metagame.
Salamence (14 Mega)
Salamence was a close second to Kangaskhan in popularity. In addition to being popular in top cut Salamence also went far into cut, making finals at half of the Regionals. Salamence has two great abilities and a 700 BST. Its as if Arceus blessed Salamence twice.
At the start of the season special Salamence was the most popular set, though it quickly became apparent that physical Salamence was the stronger set and it became the standard Salamence set. Recently special attacks have been finding their way onto more Salamence. Previously physical Salamence have gone mixed and picked up Hyper Voice, which is an appreciated option when you don’t rely on it as your main source of damage. Purely special sets have also cropped up again, especially on sand teams.
Metagross (10 Mega)
Metagross continued to have a strong presence in the metagame, but it hasn’t been able to go make finals in any of the regionals this time around. The winter regionals saw the innovative Substitute Metagross set do extremely well.
Despite using it I’ve never been able to put into words why Metagross is good. Whenever I used Metagross I never consider it to be more valuable than the rest of the team and am more willing to leave it behind more than other mega evolutions.
Charizard (9 Mega)
The weather has improved since the winter regionals, as evidenced by Charizard nearly doubling in usage. Charizard teams seem to fit a mold more so than other teams do. The most common partners for Charizard are Cresselia, Sylveon, Venusaur, Rhyperior and Scrafty, all being on about half of Charizard teams.
Charizard is the most popular Mega to focus on special attacks rather than physical attacks. A sun boosted Overheat is stronger than any other un-boosted attack in the metagame. Charizard can have a rough time with all the Landorus, Terrakion and Heatran running around but if its teammates can handle these Pokemon then it can punch holes in the opponent’s team.
Venusaur (9 Mega, 14 Total)
Mega Venusaur was the most popular choice for a second mega evolution. There were 9 teams with a Mega Venusaur and 8 of these teams had another Mega Evolution on them. You would expect most dual-mega Venusaur teams to have Charizard on them, but only 2 teams featured to popular duo.
Mega Venusaur is the kind of mega that isn’t right for each match-up, so pairing it with an alternate mega is a smart idea. Mega Venusaur prides itself on its bulk and being incredibly difficult to OHKO. When you face teams that have the means to OHKO Venusaur then it has a hard time proving its worth. Metagross and Mawile make sense as partners because they do well against Mega Salamence and Gardevoir which have a good match-up against Venusaur.
Gardevoir (6 Mega, 7 Total)
Gardevoir, which has been a popular Pokemon in Japan, has developed a presence in the North American metagame. Initially Gardevoir was seen as a poor option when Sylveon fills a similar roll without needing to mega evolve.
The main benefit Gardevoir has is speed. Gardevoir can outrun Pokemon like Bisharp on its own, preventing Gardevoir from getting bonked by Iron Head. Gardevoir is fast enough that it’ll outrun pretty much everything in Tailwind and it can be slow enough to set up Trick Room and sweep. Four out of six teams with Mega Gardevoir also had redirection support to help it set up Trick Room.
Mawile (5 Mega)
Mawile saw a bit of a resurgence these Regionals. Mawile’s usage took a drastic drop off at the start of the season with the return of several Pokemon it doesn’t like facing like Heatran, Landorus, and Bisharp. I was surprised that Mawile saw such a drop in usage but it seems that players are finding ways to make it work again and I expect it to have a stronger showing at nationals.
Like Venusaur, Mawile appeared almost exclusively as a secondary mega. Three Mawile were paired with Venusaur, which makes sense as Mawile does well against Pokemon that threaten Venusaur like Salamence and Kangaskhan. One Mawile was paired with Camerupt on a Trick Room team. The last Mawile replaced Salamence on a team similar to our own.
Tyranitar (1 Mega, 5 total)
Gengar (1 Mega, 3 total)
This section is for the top five most used Pokemon from Regionals. The Pokemon on this list sit at the top of the metagame and are guaranteed to make a good showing at Nationals.
It should come as no surprise that Landorus-T was the most common Pokemon on top cutting teams. Landorus is extremely easy to fit onto teams. Landorus can either be really fast or really bulky and it can be difficult to account both before you confirm which set it is.
Landorus doesn’t really have a silver bullet in the format. Trying to out-speed Scarf Landorus and OHKO it is generally unreliable as most Pokemon that can out-speed and OHKO it miss the KO on Assault Vest Landorus and are frail. Wide Guard blocks Landorus’s two best attacks, though
Wide Guard limits Landorus’s options but is a passive way to deal with it. Rain teams probably have the easiest time dealing with Landorus, but in my experience Rain isn’t even enough to deter it from coming to games.
It seems players have finally rediscovered the utility of Thundurus. The thunder genie’s usage has nearly doubled since the winter regionals. Its hard to stop Thundurus from paralyzing half of you team which opens up the door for RNG to hurt you. Like Landorus with Rock Slide there is almost always hope when you have a Thundurus that can use Thunder Wave and Swagger.
There have also been some offensive Thundurus that take advantage of players expecting a bulky Thundurus. Life Orb Thundurus beats Pokemon like Terrakion that expect a good match-up when they see Thundurus.
Aegislash was the most used non-mega/legendary by a large margin. Stance Change gives Aegislash an effective 720 BST putting it right up there with the mega evolutions and legendary Pokemon. Aegislash is difficult to OHKO and can OHKO most Pokemon after a Weakness Policy boost. Aegislash is also the best user of Wide Guard.
The only problem with Aegislash is that once you’re in blade form its risky not to go back to shield form. While this is a flaw it can be played to Aegislash’s advantage with good prediction.
Terrakion is a Pokemon that either has a great match-up or a terrible match-up against the rest of the top Pokemon in the format. Terrakion is a valuable addition to many teams because it can OHKO stuff like Kangaskhan, Charizard and Heatran and also has a good time against most Thundurus. At the same time Terrakion has a rough time against Landorus and Aegislash.
Heatran has been picking up steam since the start of the season. Heatran’s unique defensive typing allows it to wall several common Pokemon in the game. Metagross, Charizard, Gardevoir, Sylveon and Mawile all lack a common attack that threatens Heatran.
Overall, Heatran is probably the best Fire type in the format. Charizard can’t be fit onto every team due to being a mega. Arcanine, Rotom-H and Entei don’t have as easy a time fitting onto teams than Heatran does.
As Pokemon rise in usage others must fall. We only get six Pokemon per team and if Pokemon like Thundurus and Gardevoir are showing up more frequently than others must drop in usage to make room.
Bisharp appears to be on the decline, only appearing on four teams. Bisharp has been one of the top Pokemon on the battle spot doubles ladder all year, though even there it is dropping in rank. I imagine this rise of Heatran and Mega Gardevoir have made things difficult for Bisharp.
With Bisharp seeing less play it’ll be tempting to bring a team with multiple Intimidate users to Nationals. We’ll have to see if the skewered ninja stays down are if it makes a comeback.
Suicune went from being on 25% of top cut teams to being on a mere 6.25%. Suicune’s lowered usage coincides with increased usage of other water types in the metagame. A number of Pokemon Suicune has trouble with have seen increased usage, such as Thundurus, Rotom-W, Amoonguss and Ludicolo. Suicune doesn’t offer much offensive pressure so it isn’t hard to see why it saw less play. Earlier in the season I attributed Suicune’s high usage to players not being ready to take on a bulky Water that you could double into without KOing. Now that players have adjusted to the metagame Suicune isn’t as good as its winter performance would indicate.
Last year Talonflame dominated throughout the whole season. Initially Talonflame was considered a bad Pokemon because it was extremely frail and would usually take out half of its HP for you with Life Orb and Brave Bird recoil. Talonflame was popular throughout the season and won both US Nationals and Worlds.
This year Talonflame continues to be one of the most used Pokemon on the battle spot ladder, but it only made top cut once in the last set of regionals. The season the most common Pokemon all give Talonflame a rough time. Thundurus and Heatran beat Talonflame pretty handily and the other members of the big six beat it 1v1. Mega Salamence also provides a strong Flying type attack so Talonflame isn’t even needed for type coverage as much. The days where players could just click the win button may be over.
Rain was the most popular weather at Regionals, making finals in four of the six regionals and winning one. The popularity of Rain teams is hardly surprising. Rain is good against several of the top Pokemon in the format like Landorus, Terrakion and Heatran.
Rain will likely continue to have a strong presence at Nationals. It’s easy to fit Politoed & Ludicolo onto a team to round out its match-ups. Make sure your Nationals team is ready to handle this archetype.
Sand has also been on the rise, thanks to the Japan Cup team that Aaron Zheng featured on his Youtube channel. The garden variety sand team of Tyranitar, Excadrill, M-Salamence, Amoonguss, Rotom-W and Aegislash made top cut twice in Georgia. Not all sand teams fit the Mold (though none of them broke it), and the sand teams that went against the grain went farther into cut.
Tyranitar is a Pokemon that always did well in the past. Early on this season it didn’t seem like Tyranitar was in a good place. Kangaskhan got Low Kick, Terrakion and Landorus were back in town, Sylveon got Hyper Voice and Steel type attacks were more popular as a result of Steel type attacks were more popular. Despite all these issues Tyranitar has a vast move-pool and fantastic stats boosted further by its ability, giving it plenty of options to deal with the format.
Me and Mark may need to re-evaluate our understanding of reality. As our readers know, we don’t have a high opinion of Milotic. I wanted Milotic to be good and it seemed like it would be on paper but in practise it was underwhelming. Milotic is a worse Intimidate deterrent than Bisharp and is a worse bulky Water than Suicune.
Clearly not everyone shared our sentiments. Milotic ended up making top cut four times at Regionals. What surprised us is that 3/4 teams with Milotic won at least one match in top cut, with one of them winning a Regional. If Milotic was making appearances in top 8/16 but not going any further than that we could overlook it, but we have to accept the reality that Milotic is winning games at a high level.
I decided to write this just to be my thoughts into words while dissecting all the teams from the Spring Regionals. I hope this is useful while preparing for Nationals