Hey there Hat Lovers,
While I never check twitter, when an article gets as suddenly popular as “5 Reasons Why Milotic isn’t Bisharp,” it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow. There are some pretty inane comments it’s received, both on the site and on twitter. While the original tweeter and commenting crew later realized that the article was written in April, and thus not a current comment on Milotic, the wake of that negative press will take a couple days to cool off.
In the meantime, the attention has had me revisit the article. Looking at what I said back then and where Milotic sits now in the metagame, I was actually inspired to write a bit of extra discussion.
This is not a response to criticisms the previous article received
Before reading further, this discussion is not a defence of the previous article. That article was written in April, and discusses Milotic in an April metagame. At the time, the Top Cut counts from the winter Regionals were:
Suicune – 18
Bisharp – 14
Milotic – 4
and for comparison…
Weavile – 4
They were different times; Milotic was about as relevant to the metagame as Weavile! I love metagame development and find it really interesting how Pokemon can rise from obscurity when someone figures out how to use it right. For instance, Gardevoir went from 3 Top Cut performances in winter to 7 in spring, and then to being on 6/37 teams including both of the Nationals Finalist teams in July.
How and why does that happen? What factors play into success like that? That’s what today’s article is on. But, while I definitely have more respect for Milotic now than I did in April, it’s still not an amazing Pokemon. If you don’t believe me, just check its usage: there were 5 Regionals in winter and 8 in spring, and Milotic made Top Cut just 4 times in each series. Even at US Nationals, only one Milotic made Day 2.
Meanwhile, Pokemon like Suicune and Bisharp started out with 18 and 14 Top Cut appearances in the 5 winter Regionals, only to fall to 4 appearances each in the 8 Regionals in spring, and finally two and one Day 2 appearances at US Nationals respectively.
I’m far more interested in that metagame development. So today, my goal is to further the discussion on Milotic, Suicune, and Bisharp.
Milotic through the metagame
Milotic is arguably an inferior Suicune, and it’s not as powerful as Bisharp. It lacks priority and has only Icy Wind for speed control. It can only use Ice and Scald for coverage, but doesn’t have the power to back either up well without taking advantage of weakness or a boost. What it does is be a jack of multiple trades, while mastering none. It’s a way of fitting both a bulky Water and an Intimidate deterrent onto a team. But why not compare Milotics of the past with Milotics of the present?:
Indeed, Milotic dropped its Ice Beam usage and increased its use of Recover, the niche move it gets that Suicune doesn’t; if you’re going to run an inferior Suicune stat-wise, it might as well do a job Suicune can’t. Milotic’s two major Ice Beam targets, Landorus-T and Salamence, also both bring Intimidate allowing Icy Wind to handle the two despite the low base power. Thus, dropping Ice Beam to give Milotic its niche of being a bulky Water with Recover seems pretty reasonable. We even saw Wolfe Glick take advantage of Recover by using a Maranga Berry on his Milotic at US Nationals.
Another small adjustment was that both Maranga Berry and Kee Berry became more popular; Maranga Berry went from obscurity in season 8 to 4.5% in season 10. But like I said earlier, Milotic hasn’t really gotten more popular, nor more successful. I would say Milotic was refined to fill its niche better (Recover, +Defence Berries), and the continued use of Mega Salamence and Landorus-T called for teams to include a bulky Pokemon with Ice coverage, and a Pokemon that can take advantage of Intimidate. Milotic is a good way to fill both roles wrapped up in one Pokemon. It’s also a scarfer that can out-speed and donk Landorus-T and Salamence; ~4.5% of Milotic caught people off guard with Choice Scarf throughout this year.
Bisharp and Suicune’s falls from grace
If I had to tell a story about a Pokemon’s development in a metagame, Bisharp’s tale from VGC 2015 is an impressive one. Once a king of donking Sylveons, Bisharp went from being the 5th most popular Pokemon on Battlespot in season 8 to the 11th in season 10. Bishy also went from a commanding 14 Top Cut appearances in 5 winter Regionals, to only 4 in the 8 spring Regionals.
There are so many reasons Bisharp both fell in popularity and ceased seeing great success, so I apologize if I miss one or two. First and foremost, Bisharp was put onto teams to KO fairy types, and be a strong Knock Off. It also threatened a big Sucker Punch at +1. It’s always used Life Orb more commonly than Focus Sash, though Focus Sash steadily gained on Life Orb through seasons 8 to 10 (29.9->36.7%); Choice Band also went from 0.7->2.3% if anyone finds that interesting (Manoj Sunny used a CB Bisharp at US Nats).
So what happened? Well… Bisharp was never an amazing Pokemon, but it did get to just donk Sylveons and Knock Off popular Pokemon like Cresselia, Aegislash, and Rotom-W. Bisharp also threatened a ~70% KO on Landorus-T at +1 with Sucker Punch, which was not a gamble Landorus-T players wanted to face.
What changed? Pokemon started surviving or KO’ing Bisharp.
Landorus-T spreads that guaranteed surviving a +1 Sucker Punch sprung up. Gardevoir saw increased play as a Pixilate Hyper Voice user that could out-speed Bisharp and take out most of its HP if not outright KO it. Many players prepared for Bisharp better with Kangaskhan, fast Rotoms with Will-o-Whiff, and redirection support from Amoonguss to deal with the threat of Sucker Punch. Heatran also got into a speed war with itself, and indirectly began ensuring it out-sped Bisharp. While it didn’t stick around, Terrakion even ran Double Kick as a tech to KO Bisharps through their Focus Sash.
The world became very rough for Bisharp, and it’s not surprising that Bisharp went from winning 2/5 Regionals in the winter to only four Top Cut appearances in the spring. But it’s important to remember that Bisharp really was one of the best-performing Pokemon in the metagame.
I don’t have as good a handle on Suicune’s development. Amoonguss increased in usage, which is a direct problem that Suicune had to deal with. I think an increase in Gardevoir and other Trick Room teams gave Suicune a lot of grief, as Suicune’s main niche is to be a bulky Water type with Tailwind. Trick Room thus prevents Suicune the ability to give its team momentum.
Perhaps another contributing factor was that Salamence found better partners. Looking through Winter Regionals teams, I was pretty surprised to find out that only one team had both Mega Salamence and Aegislash in the winter Regionals (Conan’s Oregon-winning team), but the combo had made it onto 7 teams by the spring. While not required for Mega Salamence to succeed, Aegislash offered a good answer to the rise of Trick Room and a good Pokemon to switch in to Ice Beams.
Continuing on with the Mega Salamence archetype, only three Salamence teams had a Suicune check in the winter. Further, each had different Pokemon for the role: Thundurus-T, Zapdos, and Rotom-W; yes, there wasn’t a single team with both Salamence and Thundurus-I in the Winter Regional championships. By the spring, the Salamence archetype had been much better refined, and 7/14 Salamence teams also had Thundurus-I, while 4/14 had Rotom-W. Both Thundurus-I and Rotom-W cause major headaches for Suicune, which prevented Suicune from performing one of its roles: dealing with Salamence comfortably.
And thus, Suicune went from a definitive top Pokemon in the metagame, to an underwhelming addition to many teams. Suicune made the Top 4 four times in the winter, and then never again.
There you have it! I think it’s genuinely interesting to see these three major metagame developments. Milotic clearly earned a lot of people’s respect (including mine) from spring Regionals performances; despite only four Top Cut appearanaces, Milotic made the Top 4 three times in the Spring, even winning one Regional. Meanwhile, Bisharp and Suicune faced a lot of problems with the developing metagame, and apparently couldn’t keep up. Once sitting atop the metagame, Bisharp and Suicune fell to Milotic’s level of usage, and are now languishing there indefinitely.
p.s. Thanks to www.nuggetbridge.com and the individuals who collect team info for posting the “Teams from Regional Championships” articles, which I’ve heavily referenced in this article. Pokemon.com also just put out the US Nats day 2 info in a bit more detail, so be sure to check out Pokemon.com!
p.p.s. The reason I write these articles is because I enjoy writing. I like getting my thoughts out of my head and onto paper. I feel like writing lets me move on from a thought process that would otherwise nag at me. Whether it’s other’s obsession with a Pokemon I don’t fully understand, or a curiousity regarding how Premier Challenges have fared, I find writing helps me organize my thoughts and find answers to the questions I have at that moment. Another benefit of writing is getting to look back on my changing perspectives as time has gone by, as understanding both my mistakes and successes can only help me grow as a player.