Mechanics Changes in Pokemon Sun and Moon + Alola Pokedex

Hello Hat Lovers!

Today we’re going to look at some of the information found from the Sun & Moon demo and how it will affect VGC 2017. There will be some spoilers for the new Pokemon, so don’t read on if you want to remain unspoiled.

Mechanics Changes:



It was just a prank

According to some tests with Supersonic in the demo, Confusion now causes a Pokemon to hurt itself ~1/3 of the time instead of 1/2 the time. I cannot put into words how much I appreciate this change. In the past Swagger has provided players with the opportunity to make the RNG decide to outcome of a match. Swagger is so powerful that it has made finals at Worlds from 2012-2015 (and possibly further back). Whether the main intention was to power up your own Pokemon, or you had a free move on a Scarf Pokemon or you just decided that no other move would win you as many games as Prankster Swagger would, Swagger was chosen by the strongest players and they went the distance with it.

Now that confusion only works 1/3 of the time, Swagger becomes a much less appealing move. Factoring in Swagger’s 90% accuracy, you can only expect it to bail you out ~30% of the time instead of 45%. At this point players will have to start asking if another move could’ve won them more games then Swagger. This also helps defensive teams, as they were vulnerable to Swagger because they couldn’t take KOs quickly and when they were losing 45% of their turns they would be overrun.

I think this is the best change GameFreak could’ve possibly made to competitive side of the game. If Dark Void is hardcoded to only be usable by Darkrai then all will be right in the world.



Rotom-W just isn’t allowed to have accurate moves

Unlike Confusion, this mechanic has more concrete evidence of its change. Paralysis now cuts a Pokemon’s speed in half, as opposed to reducing it to a quarter. This means that slower Pokemon like Sylveon can’t expect to out speed every paralyzed Pokemon. The speed drop can also be cancelled out by Tailwind or a +2 speed boost. This would’ve been terrifying last year against Xerneas, as it would still out speed most of the format. I’m not sure what prompted GameFreak to make this change. I can’t say I’ve heard anyone complain about the speed drop, though many have problems with the paralysis chance. Perhaps GameFreak wants players to move away from using Trick Room + Thunder Wave on the same team for flexible speed control, which has been very popular in National Pokedex formats.

Possibly the most important change to paralysis isn’t the mechanic itself, but Thunder Wave. The move most commonly used to spread the status now has 90% accuracy instead of 100%. This adds a risk to using Thunder Wave on your team. Me and Mark used Thunder Wave Rotom-W in 2015 because we were fed up with Will-O-Wisp’s 85% accuracy, and while Paralysis was a more useful status for the team than Burn, we probably never would’ve tried it in the first place if it didn’t have perfect accuracy.

Overall these changes seem to be positive. Thundurus’s main strategy of paralyze and confuse everything will be considerably weaker than it has been in the past, though I have no doubt it will continue to be at the forefront of VGC.


Only 1/10 of VGC players know what this move does

Terrain moves were introduced in generation 6, though I’d understand if you forgot they existed. GameFreak seems to want to push them into the spotlight this generation. Terrain are similar to weather. There were three terrain moves in generation 6: Electric Terrain, Misty Terrain and Grassy Terrain. Each of these moves would change the battlefield to their terrain, overwriting any previous terrain effect. Each terrain would have different effects on grounded Pokemon, and no effect on airborne Pokemon. Like weather, certain abilities are active when on a certain terrain. There is one new Terrain move found in the demo, known as Psychic Terrain. Here is a list of what each terrain does:

Electric Terrain: Boost Electric moves by 50%, prevents Pokemon from falling asleep.

Grassy Terrain: Boost Grass moves by 50%, heals Pokemon by 1/16th of their maximum HP each turn.

Misty Terrain: Prevent Pokemon from receiving non-volatile status, Dragon moves deal 50% damage.

Psychic Terrain: Boost Psychic moves by 50%, prevent priority moves from hitting.

Keep in mind that these affects only apply to grounded Pokemon. A Pokemon needs to be grounded to receive power boosts and damage reductions, though boosts don’t care if the target is grounded and reductions don’t care if the attacker is grounded. Each terrain have their own interactions with Nature Power and Camouflage. If Terrain becomes an important mechanic then Nature Power could become a solid move on special attackers to give them access to Thunderbolt, Energy Ball, Moonblast and (presumably) Psychic.

Terrain will become an important mechanic in 2017, because of some new Pokemon and their new abilities.

Guardian Deity Pokemon

There are four guardian deities in Alola, Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu and Tapu Fini. Each of these Pokemon have a new Ability that creates one of the terrains when they enter the battlefield.


Tapu Koko is an Electric/Fairy with a new Ability that summons Electric Terrain. I expect Tapu Koko to be the fast member of the quartet. Having access to boosted Electric attacks and Fairy attacks gives Tapu Koko good range. Tapu Koko really want to be faster than the Ground types we have available in 2017. The most promising Ground types are weak to Fairy which allows Tapu Koko to deal with potential counters.

Tapu Lele is a Psychic/Fairy with a new Ability that summons Psychic Terrain. Tapu Lele seems like it’ll be one of the premiere Trick Room setters in 2017. Being able to block all Fake Outs with Psychic Terrain is something Trick Room teams would love to have had in the past. On top of this Tapu Lele will likely have higher stats than other Trick Room setters available and can buff its Psychic attacks with its Ability.

Tapu Bulu is a Grass/Fairy and summons Grassy Terrain with its Ability. I’m not sure what to make of Tapu Bulu yet. I suspect it’ll have a high attack stat and learn moves like Wood Hammer.

Tapu Fini is a Water/Fairy type and creates Misty Terrain with its new Ability. Misty Terrain is the only terrain without an offensive benefit, though blocking all non-volatile status is really strong and while reducing Dragon damage seems redundant on a Fairy type it does help the rest of the team.

Aurora Veil

There was a new move revealed in the data mine called Aura Veil. By its description, this move cuts all physical and special damage in half for 5 turns. Its unclear from the description if this applies to both sides or not, but I suspect it does based off the description. This move would be incredible if it only affected your side of the field, while if it affects both sides it introduces a new way to play defensive teams. We have no hints as to which Pokemon learn this move, it could be the signature move of a legendary Pokemon or an Ultra Beast (though this does give the option to Smeargle at least). Its also somewhat likely that the move only cuts damage by 33% in doubles like Reflect and Light Screen do.

I don’t want to board the hype train prematurely here, but this is certainly a move to keep your eye on.

Alola Pokedex

You can find a list of the leaked Alola Pokedex here. I’ve made a list of the top 8 Pokemon I’m excited to use in VGC 2017 and why.

Me and some of the other writers have been playing testing doubles teams using only the available Pokemon on Showdown. This list has been influenced by Pokemon that have been performing well there. Its impossible to say how good the new Pokemon will be, but some that have interesting abilities/typing have caught my interest.

#8: Starmie

starmieBack in 2013 me and Mark built a team around Choice Specs Starmie and Liepard. This was after we’d both made top cut at a Regionals, but weren’t super serious about VGC yet. This lead combo was surprisingly strong (though we probably didn’t get that high on the Showdown ladder). Starmie could OHKO most Pokemon in the format and Liepard was an excellent support Pokemon. In generation 6 Starmie never stood a chance. All of Starmie’s special attacks got nerf’d, and Sucker Punch was all over the place thanks to Kangaskhan, Mawile and Bisharp.

Starmie probably won’t be good in 2017. Tt has fantastic coverage, but it struggles against neutral targets, Focus Sash and resist berries can ruin its day and to top it off Starmie has to rely on Hydro Pump. We just came off a format where 80% and 85% were standard and I don’t have many nice things to say about that format. Starmie holds a lot of nostalgia for me, so its hard to say if Starmie was as good as we remember or if we were just low ladder scrubs beating worse low ladder scrubs.


#7: Oranguru

oranguruThe big draw for Oranguru is that it is a Trick Room setter (presumably) that has Telepathy. This makes Oranguru the idea Pokemon to try and revive Boom Room. For those that are unaware, Boom Room was a 2016 team using Dialga, Landorus, Kyogre and Kangaskhan. You always lead in that order and always go for Explosion + Trick Room turn 1. This strategy was stupidly effective on Showdown and the most fun I’d had playing 2016.

Oranguru also has another interesting move: Instruct. This move causes the target to use whatever move it last used in the turn. This means you could have your Choice Specs Sylveon use double Hyper Voice in Trick Room. The potential seems pretty high for this move, though we’ll have to see if it has negative priority or if we need to manage Oranguru’s speed with relation to the rest of the team.

#6: Decidueye

decidueyeMe and Mark have been excited about Rowlet since it was first revealed. Mark has an Owliver plush that is just so adorable, so when a promising Owl Pokemon comes along we were bound to like it. We’ve known about Rowlet’s final form since the demo came out, but only once Decidueye was officially revealed did I really get excited about it. Early testing in the format has shown me that we are in desperate need of good Grass types.

In a surprising turn of events, Decidueye becomes a Grass/Ghost type, as opposed to the Grass/Flying type we expected the Rowlet line to stick to. Losing the double Ice weakness was a big step in the right direction for Decidueye. Decidueye seems like it’ll have high attack and speed, based on its description and signature move. Spirit Shackle is an interesting move that prevents the target from switching. It wasn’t made clear how long this effect lasts, it could be for the entire battle regardless of whether or not Decidueye remains in play.

#5: Tapu Lele

tapuleleTapu Lele seems poised to redefine how Trick Room is played in 2017. Many popular Pokemon from the Trick Room archetype are missing from the Alola Pokedex, such as Cresselia and Amoonguss. Tapu Lele creates Psychic Terrain which boosts Psychic moves by 50% and prevents priority moves from hitting grounded targets. Gone are the days of turn 1 Fake Out + Trick Room, but now Fake Out can’t be used to stop Trick Room either. I think this point is being overhyped, as after you used Fake Out to block their Fake Out + Trick Room play you still had to get rid of the Trick Room setter. Psychic Terrain just gets rid of the turn Fake Out trade.

The real benefit of Psychic Terrain is once Trick Room is set up. Pokemon like Talonflame could be used to check Amoonguss in Trick Room before, but not Talonflame is vulnerable to just about everything in Trick Room. Against Trick Room teams Fake Out  does more than disrupt setup. The best use of Fake Out was to stall out a turn once Trick Room went up. Psychic Terrain denies this free turn of safety.

Its also possible that Taku Lele will be great outside of Trick Room teams. Psychic Terrain would’ve been huge in past formats as it would stop Mega Kangaskhan’s oppressive Fake Out and stops Thundurus from doing anything to grounded Pokemon. Talonflame has been really strong in our speculative testing and Psychic Terrain could be a huge roadblock for our brave bird.

#4: Milotic

MiloticLong time readers may recall that me and Mark had mixed opinions on Milotic in 2015. We thought it was vastly overrated and saw way more usage on Pokemon Showdown than it would at tournaments. Milotic didn’t scare us away from bring an Intimidate user any more than Suicune, and unlike Suicune we could usually double into it and KO it before it could do damage. We also had a Grass type and an Electric type on both our main teams that season so we have plenty of options against it. Milotic just didn’t deter us from using Intimidate like Bisharp did and we didn’t respect it much for it.

But if you’re a really long time reader you’ll remember that Milotic was one of the Pokemon I was the most hyped about using going into VGC 2015. Despite all the hate I gave it in 2015, I really do like Milotic as a Pokemon and want it to be good.

So what changes in 2017 to make Milotic a strong contender? We don’t have Suicune in the format, making Milotic the bulkiest Water type available. The absence of Mega Evolution greatly reduces the amount of powerhouses that could tear through Milotic. Z-Moves might be the only reliable way to KO Milotic, and we’re still uncertain of their mechanics. There’s a long list of Pokemon that I expect to be good and have a bad match-up against Milotic, such as Garchomp, Talonflame and every viable Intimidate user. The final thing that gets me excited is that we don’t have many good Electric and Grass types in the format (barring the new Pokemon). Milotic will be able to stay in play for a long time pressuring Pokemon weak to Water and Ice and threatening Scald burns.

#3: Gengar

GengarGengar seems poised to be an excellent anti-meta Pokemon (as always). Gengar has two fantastic STABs in Ghost and Poison, which only a few Pokemon in the format can resist both. With the introduction of Tapu Lele and Psychic Terrain Trick Room teams are revelling in their new found immunity to priority moves. Gengar can cause headaches for Tapu Lele with super effective attacks and non-priority Taunt.

The introduction of the Guardian Deities puts Gengar into a particularly promising position. The obvious benefit to a metagame full of these Pokemon is that Gengar can deal super effective damage to all of them with Sludge Bomb. These is another benefit that isn’t immediately obvious, however. With increased emphasis on terrain more Pokemon are encouraged to be grounded so they can receive the benefits. This increases the potency of Earthquake and Gengar makes a fantastic Earthquake partner.

#2: Oricorio
oricorioOricorio is a Flying type that is also either Fire, Electric, Psychic or Ghost depending on its form. Oricorio also has an new ability, Dancer. Whenever a dancing move is used (Dragon, Swords, Quiver and Teeter Dance) Oricorio will use that move after the user. This marks the first time that a Pokemon can use more than one attack in a turn (though Oricorio isn’t the only new Pokemon that can make this happen).

Dancer provides some fairly obvious strategies right off the bat. Lead Oricorio next to a faster Dragon Dance user (like Salamence, which provides Intimidate support to boot) and your first turn can be double Dragon Dance followed by a boosted attack. When both your Pokemon get to use a set up move and you don’t have to give up all your offensive pressure you’re feeling pretty good about yourself.

oricorioeWithout knowing the base stat its hard to say how good Oricorio will be, but consider the following. If the Electric/Flying Oricorio can reach a 142 attack stat (base 90 attack, 252 EVs, neutral nature BTW) it’ll be able to OHKO 252/252+ Milotic with Wild Charge after a Swords Dance.

I have to imagine Oricorio will have mediocre base stats in order to keep such an amazing ability in check. With multiple typings and a new ability full of potential, I look forward to seeing what this new bird can do.

#1: Tapu Koko

tapukokoTapu Koko is an Electric/Fairy type. As mentioned before it has the new ability Electric Surge, which summons Electric Terrain. Described as a guardian deity, Tapu Koko seems to be a legendary Pokemon and will likely have a good BST. Tapu Koko effectively has a free Choice Specs boost for its Electric moves and has Fairy moves to threaten Garchomp and Krookodile.

The main reason why I’m excited for Tapu Koko is that its the most promising partner to create my old ScrubChu team. Alola Raichu is supposed to be an obvious partner for Tapu Koko because of the synergy between their abilities, but if Tapu Koko gets Discharge it’ll have a much stronger partner in Lightning Rod Raichu. For this purpose I really hope Tapu Koko has a base speed above 110. This will also help it fight Gengar.


  1. Just a small correction, you wrote “Gengar has two fantastic STABs in Ghost and Dark”.

    Great article, I’m eager to know everything the new Pokémon can offer.


  2. Talonflame doesn’t have anything stopping it from using priority moves though, does it? Psychic Terrain, being a Terrain move, will only affect pokemon on the ground – and Talonflame is flying, so it’ll still have all its priority in Trick Room as usual. Unless I’m misunderstanding you.


    1. Actually, it does.

      Psychic Terrain creates terrain that envelops the field.
      This terrain has the following effects on Pokémon that are on the ground.
      It prevents affected Pokémon from being hit by moves with increased priority.
      It boosts the power of Psychic-type moves used by affected Pokémon.

      Talonflame is free to use non-attacking Priority Moves (Tailwind) and Priority Attacking Moves on Non-Grounded Pokemon… however…Tapu Lele would be protected from its Brave Bird; as Tapu Lele would be grounded and as such; protected by Psychic Terrain’s effect. (Although you could simply switch in another Tapu and just switch the Terrain effect)


  3. Quick note Misty Terrain isn’t just ‘non-volatile’ anymore, it now also includes Confusion (this is stated on the official website under Tapu Fini’s entry, don’t know if I can post links).

    (I now see what you mean about Talonflame though – you’re saying that so long as its opponent is grounded, it might not be able to land priority moves on them, depending on how the move works, whether it stops it at the source, or the focus – blame my poor reading comprehension!)


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