Galar is the most wanted
Around the time Pokémon Sun and Moon was released, I hopped on Smogon.com and wandered around the Uncharted Territory forum to explore the potential of lots of new Pokémon. Many of them have maintained their position as powerful Pokémon, such as Mimiqui and Tarenbulle. Others, like Malamander, have gone down in history as more of a gimmick than anything else. So it's time to take a look at what's happening on the scale and see what's really going on in Pokemon Sword and Shield battles.
Note that most of these choices are personal observation through the lens of the most common unique combat formats. Much is also informed by Smogon, one of the most researched and learned places for competitive Pokémon battles.
The interesting part of exploring the new Pokémon metagame is looking at the new candidates. But much of any Pokemon game's build is going to revolve around older, more established characters, regardless of the decisions of who gets included with the newer Pokédex. So very quickly, let's touch on some older Pokemon that are big threats, either because of the new toys they've gotten or because the competition in the meta is no longer present alongside them.
Fermite is a good example of the latter. Fermite was introduced after Scizor and was immediately considered an inferior version of the bug/steel Pokémon. Scizor was stronger and bulkier in every way, its most infamous staple being Punch Bullet: a priority hit guaranteed to go first while also having its power boosted by Scizor's tech ability. But now, Scizor is no longer present in Galar and Fermite is there to act as the rebound from the snap. With a very powerful first impression attack boosted by Hustle, Fermite now reigns supreme as the bug-killer/revenge of Galar, even if Hustle trades power for precision.
Gyarados is a surefire example of a powerful Pokemon from previous games not only retaining their power but thriving through new mechanics. While Gigantamax Pokémon look cooler, Dynamax Gyarados has many key qualities that push this classically powerful Pokémon beyond the limits. One option in particular that lends itself very well to Gyarados is one of its abilities, Moxie. Moxie still fires in Dynamax form, increasing her attack after a knockout. Find a ride to settle in with Dragon Dance, set the stage with Dynamax-boosted moves, and watch the situation snowball out of control with Moxie.
Gengar is also back as a baby, and now he's got this generation's Nasty Plot for an absurdly powerful boost and wall break. 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.
Finally, Ferrothorn and Predasteria with the fearsome FerroPex core. If you don't know what a Core is, at its core, a Core is a strategic pair or even a trio of Pokemon joined together to specifically mitigate and switch to their respective weaknesses to support each other. If your first reaction to Ferrothorn is a fire or combat attack, any half-spirited trainer in that situation simply switches to Predasteria, which continues to laugh at the damage taken and steal momentum for itself. in a favorable confrontation. If Predasteria is threatened by electrical or psychic damage, simply switch to Ferrothorn. See how hard it is to get super effective damage on these two? Well, the addition of a new Galarian Pokémon below ensures that this pair won't be moving anytime soon.
Let's start the list of newcomers with the most popular Galarian poster child for ridiculous damage, Hydragon. His signature attack, Fishious Rend, doubles in power if Hydragon moves first. This move counts as a biting attack in an attempt to increase power with his ability, Strong Jaw. Now add a rain boost or maybe a bunch of picks instead, and you've got an attack with the same attack power as Self-Destruct or Explosion. I think it's important to note that if Hydragon's blueprint is messed up in any way, like a status ailment or facing priority moves, it immediately becomes mediocre at best. Hydragon isn't very fast without investment either, so he needs a choice scarf for more speed or a trainer with good knowledge of speed levels to switch him up if things look tough. But Hydragon gains more leeway with a very powerful water/dragon defensive typing, preventing almost all super-effective damage except fairy and dragon type attacks.
Lanssorien is the newest high-generation dragon Pokémon of this generation and, oh baby, is it flashy. It is one of the fastest Pokemon with good offensive stats on both sides of the physical/special spectrum. He even has a neat signature move that hits twice for a total of 100 base power, allowing for more possibilities like more critical hits or replacements and dealing damage around them. Lanssorien also has a diverse move pool, so it's hard to get away from him before taking super effective damage. Lanssorien is quite simple yet powerful with stats to back it up.
The Galarian corsole is sure to be the bane of many peoples' existence. Although not fully evolved, it has higher defenses than its evolved form, Corayome. Hit an Eviolite on it, increasing both defenses by 50% if the Pokemon isn't fully evolved, and you have the third core member FerroPex to create a brick wall. With Stealth Rocks, Spikes, Toxic, and Will-O-Wisp between them, they're sure to lead any opponent to a slow, agonizing death.
Galarian Darumacho is a hilarious example of overcompensation. Her ability, Gorilla Tactics, increases her power by 50% but locks her into the first move she uses. Do you know why this sounds familiar? His ability is basically a choice strip, but he can still stack an actual choice strip on top of that. In addition to 145 attacks, it can deal 2,25 times the damage on the first turn, no configuration needed. Or give her a scarf of choice and let her clean up in the late game when there's nothing left to challenge her at full health. If you have one with its hidden ability in Zen Mode, it only gets more obscene. Ice is considered a defensively weak type and an offensive-minded force, and Galarian Darumacho is certainly as offensive as it gets.
Astronelle is interesting because Psychic-types rarely get much when they're in the spotlight. This defensive-minded bug/psychic type does, however, have access to a fairly strong set of stored power. Each boost makes Stored Power a stronger attack, and Astronelle has access to Iron Defense, Calm Mind, Agility, and can even use Recover after boosting all of these stats. However, most of the threads I've come across just want to point out that Astronelle is probably the best Sticky Web user of this generation, given that 110/120 defenses allow her to do all of the above without dying from a look like Mygavolt does. . Astronelle is the kind of setup that Hydragon likes, because every enemy Pokémon that sets foot on Sticky Web will immediately lose speed, which is exactly what Hydragon wants.
Personally, I like Salarsen, despite his lack of defensive volume and speed to give him real direction. Being Electric/Poison is his only defensively saving grace, able to withstand many different attacks. His other saving grace is his ability, Punk Rock, which boosts sound-based attacks. Not only is his signature electric attack, Overdrive, affected by this, but it finally brings Boomburst into the realm of viability and makes it one of the strongest normal-type attacks of this generation. I've loved the idea of using Boomburst for years because with STAB (same type attack bonus) it becomes a 210 base power attack. Unfortunately the only real user of this move before, Ramboum , is simply zero. Toxtricity doesn't even get STAB with Boomburst and it's by far its strongest attack.
The last pick I want to highlight is the one I didn't expect, Wimessir. Wimessir fills the psychic void left by the absence of the last generation Tapu Guardians, amplifying the power of psychic attacks by 50%. If that wasn't enough, he gets the weirdest cover move possible against the Steel-types that usually line Psychic-types, Mystical Fire. While Witchcraft is a more interesting Pokémon, Wimessir having Psychic Surge allows it to do things Witchcraft just can't do in its space as a cumbersome 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 these aren't the only strong Pokémon in the Galar region. Have you found some success with your own unique selections?
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