Originally posted January 5, 2022
Pokemon’s competitive scene, ‘VGC’ (Pokemon Video Game Championships) is intricate and strategic, yet a wide range of Pokemon have found success in one way or another. This includes a lot of Pokemon you wouldn’t think were strong just looking at them - cute or unusual doesn’t mean weak!
These 10 Pokemon have found great tournament success in VGC while not quite fitting the mold of what people imagine a competitive Pokemon to look like. Here’s our list of Pokemon you didn’t know were great in VGC!
Upon its introduction in Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, Torkoal was nothing special. It has mediocre stats and an uneventful Ability in White Smoke, which prevents Torkoal’s Attack stat (which it doesn’t use) from being lowered. However, in Pokemon Sun and Moon, Torkoal was given a new Ability called Drought.
Previously exclusive to Groudon and Ninetales, Drought is commonly thought of as one of the strongest Abilities in the game. When a Pokemon with Drought enters the field, the weather changes to Harsh Sunlight, colloquially known as just ‘sun’. This boosts Fire-type attacks by 50% and weakens Water-type attacks by 50%. Torkoal can make use of its own sun with incredibly strong Fire-type attacks such as Heat Wave and Eruption.
These are not the only effects of Harsh Sunlight, however - it also enables some Abilities, such as Chlorophyll, which doubles a Pokemon’s speed stat. This allows Torkoal to be incredibly strong when paired with Pokemon like Lilligant and Venusaur, who can take full advantage of the sun to outspeed and defeat Water and Ground-type Pokemon that threaten Torkoal. These pairings (known as ‘Lilikoal’ and ‘Venukoal’) have had great tournament successes in 2017 and 2020/2021 respectively. Venukoal was so prevalent that it led to the creation of a meme within the community after a player received a Battlefy message with the hashtag #VenukoalNoSkill.
Introduced in 2019 with Pokemon Sword and Shield, Indeedee is a newcomer to the competitive scene, but this hasn’t stopped it from making a splash! Indeedee has slight differences depending on its gender - Male Indeedee are faster and have higher attacking stats, while Female Indeedee are slower and have higher defensive stats.
While Male Indeedee have seen some use as a fast attacker, Female Indeedee have stolen the spotlight for a few reasons. The first is a move Male Indeedee can’t learn, Follow Me. Follow Me is one of the strongest and most important moves in VGC, as it allows the user to redirect any attacks to itself, protecting its partner on the field. Couple this with Indeedee’s ability, Psychic Surge, which creates Psychic Terrain allowing it to protect itself and its allies from priority attacks (attacks that move first, ignoring the speed of Pokemon on the field), and suddenly Indeedee is a very potent support Pokemon.
Both Indeedee forms also have the move Expanding Force, a Psychic-type move that increases in power and hits both opponents in Psychic Terrain. This allows Indeedee to deal substantial damage on top of its incredible supportive skillset. Indeedee has seen a lot of use and success with fellow Psychic-type Hatterene, due to their impressive capability to almost always set Trick Room when used together.
Sejun Park’s 2014 World Championships victory went down in history, in part because of his electric rodent friend, Pachirisu. However, Sejun didn’t use Pachirisu just because it’s cute, but instead because it served a very important role on his team of Gyarados, Gothitelle, Gardevoir, Garchomp, and Talonflame.
Pachirisu’s Ability Volt Absorb allows it to ignore damage from Electric-type attacks and recover health from them instead. When coupled with Follow Me, this allows it to protect Gyarados incredibly well from the Electric-type attacks that threaten it, regardless of whether it has Mega Evolved or not.
Due to Pachirisu having access to Follow Me instead of Rage Powder, its redirection capabilities can’t be ignored by Grass-types or Pokemon holding Safety Goggles. This means it protects Gyarados from two of its main weaknesses, while also supporting it with moves like Nuzzle and Super Fang, which allow Gyarados to pick off weakened and Paralyzed targets.
Togepi’s adorable, winged evolution Togekiss has been very successful in the 2020 and 2021 seasons of VGC. Togekiss has incredible supportive capabilities with moves like Air Slash, which has a 60% chance to flinch an opponent if Togekiss has the Serene Grace Ability, and Follow Me. However, Togekiss also has great offensive capabilities thanks to its other Ability, Super Luck. Super Luck, coupled with the Scope Lens item, allows Togekiss’ attacks to land a Critical Hit 50% of the time, dealing 50% extra damage and ignoring any defensive boosts.
Togekiss also saw some use in early 2020 formats holding a Weakness Policy and Dynamaxing - the incredible Speed boosting effect of Max Airstream made it very hard to stop once it got going. Thanks to its incredible strength and versatility, Togekiss has found great success in multiple formats.
Although Pikachu is the face of the franchise, its evolution Raichu doesn’t get anywhere near as much love. However, while Pikachu has seen a tiny bit of play in VGC, Raichu has many results to its name, including a World Championships victory in 2016.
Raichu is very fast, with a base Speed stat of 110, which allows it to outspeed a majority of Pokemon in VGC. This is great when paired with supportive attacks such as Fake Out and Nuzzle, which allows Raichu to Paralyze opposing Pokemon and lower their speed. Raichu’s ally can capitalize off these speed drops and maybe even knock out an opposing Pokemon before it can move!
Raichu also has the Ability Lightning Rod, which allows it to passively redirect Electric-type attacks to itself, and gains a Special Attack boost for each attack redirected. This makes Raichu an excellent pair with Water and Flying-type Pokemon, such as Kyogre, Charizard, and especially Gyarados.
Raichu also has an Alolan form - it sacrifices Lightning Rod for a new ability called Surge Surfer, which allows it to move twice as fast in Electric Terrain. It also gains a Psychic typing on top of its Electric typing, allowing it to get STAB (Same Type Attack Bonus) on its Psychic-type moves.
Alolan Raichu has seen some competitive success, mostly when used by non-binary player Malcolm Mackellar, AKA MogarChu. They used Alolan Raichu in combination with Tapu Koko to make four Top 8 finishes in Regional level events between 2017 and 2019, and qualify for the World Championships in those years. They have since used the original Kantonian Raichu to great success, too.
Although cute, Azumarill packs a punch! Its Ability Huge Power doubles its Attack stat, making its STAB boosted attacks like Liquidation and Play Rough do incredible damage. Azumarill also gets access to Belly Drum, a status move that allows it to halve its HP to maximize its Attack, quadrupling its original value and making Azumarill’s damage output near unstoppable. This is often used with redirection in some form, with partners such as Amoonguss and Clefairy allowing Azumarill to get set up.
Azumarill has also seen some play in a more supportive role, utilizing its Hidden Ability Sap Sipper to give it an immunity to Grass-type attacks. This kind of Azumarill is usually paired with a Pokemon it can enable, like a Weakness Policy Coalossal. Coalossal can Gigantamax and receive an Aqua Jet from Azumarill, activating its Weakness Policy and Steam Engine Ability to greatly improve its Speed and damage output. Azumarill can then use Perish Song towards the end of some games to guarantee victory.
The only Legendary Pokemon on our list, Cresselia is one of VGC’s all-time greats. Teams containing Cresselia have won the World Championships three times, and have made the top 8 almost every year Cresselia has been legal for play.
Cresselia has absurdly strong natural bulk, meaning it can take a lot of hits and then heal them off with Moonlight. Cresselia also allows its trainers to turn the battle in their favor by using moves like Icy Wind and Trick Room to control the speed of Pokemon on the field. A wide range of other supportive moves such as Helping Hand, Ally Switch, Skill Swap, Sunny Day, and Thunder Wave have allowed Cresselia to be one of the most useful support Pokemon of all time.
Cresselia’s usage has declined a bit since the introduction of Incineroar and Urshifu, but it is still known throughout the community as an incredibly strong Pokemon.
The Painter Pokemon, Smeargle, is very special - it is the only Pokemon that can learn every move in the game, due to its signature move, Sketch. Sketch allows Smeargle to copy the opponent’s last move, and keep it permanently. This means Smeargle is incredibly versatile and has incredible supportive capabilities, held back only by its defensive stats and Speed.
Smeargle is the only Pokemon with access to both Follow Me and Wide Guard in VGC. This means it can protect its allies from both single target moves and multi-target moves (often called ‘spread moves’) if its trainer makes the correct prediction. Smeargle also has access to the other best supportive moves in the game, such as Spore, Fake Out, and Instruct.
For a long time, Smeargle was capable of using Dark Void, a spread move with an 80% chance to put the targets to sleep. The only other Pokemon that can learn Dark Void is Darkrai, which is not legal in VGC. Considering how strong the Sleep status is in VGC, this move was incredibly powerful and caused outrage in the community, making Smeargle one of the most disliked Pokemon competitively. It was often paired with Xerneas in the 2016 format, allowing it to set up its Geomancy boost and sweep the opposing team while they were asleep. As of Pokemon Sun and Moon Smeargle can no longer use the move, which also received an accuracy nerf from 80% to 50%.
Although Smeargle isn’t in Pokemon Sword and Shield, the introduction of the move Decorate (which allows the user to boost its ally’s Attack and Special Attack) has players wondering if the Painter Pokemon will continue to be a menace in future formats.
Although cute, Mt. Moon’s resident Fairy Pokemon is incredibly useful in VGC. Its ability, Friend Guard, provides its allies a 25% damage reduction while it’s on the field. This is a huge reduction and allows Clefairy’s allies to be significantly harder to take down, especially when combined with Dynamax.
Now, why Clefairy instead of Clefable, you ask? Two reasons: First, Clefable doesn’t get access to Friend Guard. Secondly, since it’s not fully evolved, Clefairy is capable of holding an Eviolite, which boosts its defenses by 1.5x. This makes it ever so slightly bulkier than Clefable, in exchange for the ability to hold an item.
Clefairy has a great pool of supportive moves, most commonly using some combination of Follow Me, Helping Hand, Icy Wind, Sing, and Ally Switch alongside Protect, to keep itself safe. These moves allow Clefairy to bolster its allies’ offenses, neutralize opposing Pokemon, or protect allies from harm. Clefairy excels at both of these and has proven itself to be an incredibly strong supportive option with great tournament successes, including 3 Regional wins.
Although it’s not much to look at, Amoonguss is widely regarded as one of the best Pokemon of all time in VGC. It has found great success in every single format it has been legal in, including 2 World Championships wins, 3 International wins, and over 20 Regional wins.
Amoonguss’ strength is in part because of how strong the Sleep status is. Spore is a Grass-type status move that is 100% accurate and puts the target to sleep and is held back only by limited distribution. However, Amoonguss is one of the few Pokemon to be blessed with this incredibly strong move, and it makes sure to use it well!
Additionally, Amoonguss has access to Rage Powder. Rage Powder is identical to Follow Me in function, except it can be ignored by Grass-type Pokemon and Pokemon holding the Safety Goggles item. Both of these stipulations were introduced in Pokemon X and Y as a response to Amoonguss’ strength in previous VGC formats. The combination of Rage Powder and Spore allows Amoonguss to protect its allies and allow them to deal damage or set up, while also putting on an incredible amount of pressure by threatening to put opposing Pokemon to sleep. This means that just one wrong move around Amoonguss can put you on the back foot!
You can find out more about all of these Pokemon, how they’re used, their tournament performances, and more at https://limitlessvgc.com/ and https://www.pikalytics.com/!