Argyle Asks – The VGC Drought – Questions with Top Players on the Rising Sun
Groudon’s current music choice – https://youtu.be/tUHWv3S4ONY?t=83
Hello everyone! Today, we’ll be taking a look at one of the biggest meta shifts we’ve had in Season 12 so far, the rise of Sun teams. While Sun cores have been prevalent within the competitive meta ever since the weather mechanic became a staple part of the VGC meta in 2010 and they have been a mainstay in the Sword and Shield meta-game (looking at you, Venukoal). However, Sun teams have seen a major rise in popularity thanks to their dominating presence at the Salt Lake City and Liverpool Regional tournaments held last month.
Taking first place at both events, teams with Groudon as part of their restricted duos were present six times in the top 32 of Salt Lake Regionals and ten times out of the top 32 at Liverpool regionals.
The base team that most Sun teams use as a starting point was created by Rinya Kobayashi
It was later popularized by JoeUX9 before the Salt Lake City Regional tournament. While JoeUX9 placed third there, an incredible feat in its own right, the entire tournament was won by Peng Chongjun, who piloted a slightly changed version of Rinya’s team.
Only a week later, Eric Rios won the Liverpool Regional tournament using, at the very least, the same six Pokemon as Rinya’s team, though there may have been some differences in moves and EV spreads. The fact that such a similar team won a major tournament when there had been time to test and build teams to counter it speaks volumes to the sheer power of this team.
Below, I’ve listed five questions that I have asked some top players in regards to the Sun archetype rising to the forefront of the current VGC meta-game. These players include: Brady “Bsmiffy” Smith, 45mice, Cedric “TalonVGC” Bernier, MarsVGC, Tyo, Mike D’Angelo, Carl “Crawlshots” Shotsberger, and Sohaib Mufti. The first answer is a summary of the players’ feedback, with the individual players’ responses below for those who would like the full answers. Without further ado, enjoy!
1) I know a lot of players I’ve spoken to have almost predicted that Sun teams would rise in popularity once the meta settled a bit and offensive Rain teams died down a bit. Do you have any insight into why you think that is or as to why you think Sun teams have risen so dramatically in popularity recently?
Summary – Most players interviewed held the same sentiment that, while offensive Rain teams often dominate the metagame of a new format due to their offensive pressure and ease of use, more defensive Sun teams have often risen to the forefront in the past, so many were not surprised that a Sun team such as Rinya-Sun is now doing so well that the meta has had some time to settle since the beginning of Season 12.
BSmiffy – Traditionally speaking, metagames always start off with more hyper offensive teams, then they progress into bulkier teams. Screens enable Groudon to do its job very nicely, and Groudon enables Charizard in return very nicely. Combine that with a Zacian, and it leaves you with an obviously good team. Two traits of a good team that players look for are flexibility and bulkiness, and Sun is certainly not lacking in either of these categories
45mice – I think Sun just takes a bit longer to find an optimal core. AV Groudon as well was a big advancement, as that really lets you tank a lot of hits you normally wouldn’t. It also lets you boost your Defense or set Sun. Offensive Rain is still good, but they haven’t quite figured out yet how to crack Rinya-Sun consistently.
TalonVGC – It’s been a common thread through many formats where Rain is successful for short periods, often early or mid format, but falls off because Water isn’t that strong of an offensive typing inherently and that there are inherent flaws of Rain sweepers. This is in line with hyper offense being a stronger archetype early format, until the format defining defensive cores develop. I see Rinya-Sun as that defensive core. We’re seeing sporadic Sun teams like YvelDon Venu and LunalaDon, but I think it’s really the defensive strengths of Rinya-Sun that are allowing it to thrive in tournaments even in the face of attempts by the entire player base to break it.
MarsVGC – Rain teams do great early in a format because it’s so new and everyone is just trying out different archetypes and if Kyogre is legal it’s easy for players, especially newer ones, to hop on ladder and spam Tailwind + Waterspout to get free wins. With that said, it starts dying down because it usually is the first team you want to prep or counter for which leads players to other archetypes. I think it was a matter of time until the Sun archetype was going to rise because of how well the Sun archetype has been doing since VGC20 when Gmax-Venusaur was first legal. The G-Max moves like Wildfire and Vinelash are big reasons why Sun is so strong. Chipping away your opponents’ Pokemons’ HP and having strong pokemon like Zacian and Groudon to clean up is a really strong strategy not easily beaten.
Tyo – In formats where Restricted Pokemon are available, people always tend to stick to standard teams when it begins and Tornadus/Kyogre is the most standard team there is. However, sooner or later, they realize G-Max Pokemon with moves that inflict damage over time are very, very good, no matter the format. The four Pokemon that can do that are Venusaur, Blastoise, Coalossal, and Charizard. Blastoise and Coalossal don’t fit on either Rain or Sun teams, so we’re left with Venusaur and Charizard. Those two Pokemon are incredible since you have the option to just stop your opponent with Venusaur’s Sleep Powder and Charizard can just about OHKO anything that doesn’t resist it while under Sun. Sun teams are always popular a bit after the format starts since people need to figure out how to build it best given the current meta. Whereas with Rain teams, it’s very straightforward to build them.
D’Angelo – Sun is honestly somewhat difficult to build. A very similar trend occurred in Series 8, where Sun teams were always there, but didn’t become dominant until around Players Cup 3. When Series 12 began, people tried to build off Sun teams from the previous format and struggled, especially against the early Rain teams which were much easier to build.
While offensive Rain teams were easy to build in the early metagame and thus dominated, Sun has a lot more tools at its disposal. Charizard and Venusaur complement Groudon so well, while Rain has like, Seismitoad… It was only a matter of time before the Sun players found the best way to use those tools effectively.
Sun teams took a few steps to get to where it is now. Most notably the Assault Vest Groudon and Gastrodon allow the Sun player to build a defensive game plan against the offensive Rain teams. In general, the player who can take the first knockout is positioned to win the weather war. Recent Sun teams have the tools to keep their pokemon around longer and to chip away at their opponent to set up an advantageous endgame.
Crawlshots – This is a trend in all Restricted formats in recent memory. 2019, Series 8, Series 10, and Series 12. Kyogre starts out as the strongest Pokemon to build a team/archetype around because it can spam huge spread attacks and win with fast-paced offence. And there are always doubters that Groudon or Sun in general will be good, because Kyogre seems so unstoppable at this stage. But the format always shifts to being bulkier and more positional, and Groudon teams benefit from this. Groudon tends to be most effective when it’s built with bulk, and it enables other very strong pokemon like Venusaur, Charizard, and Incineroar.
Sohaib – The reason Sun has risen to such popularity is because they answer the metagame much better than the offensive Rain teams. The best Sun team right now is much more flexible than the Rain teams but I can see a well built balanced Rain team doing well in the future.
2) Zacian/Groudon has seemingly been the optimal Restricted pairing for a Sun team. Are there any other Restricted partners for Groudon you would consider as viable?
Summary – Calyrex-Shadow was the standout choice for most players, with Yveltal and Lunala not far behind. However, the players were relatively split on their opinions on some of the other possible restricted Pokemon that could be paired with Groudon.
BSmiffy – Calyrex-Shadow would be my #2 pick for Groudon Sun, followed by Kyogre, then Reshiram. While I do believe Zacian is the best (Best Pokemon in game + Steel covers for Sun’s weak spots), I can certainly see a Calyrex-Shadow make it onto a team instead. It would need to be constructed differently, as I believe Calyrex doesn’t benefit from screens. Kyogre could be used for a “dual primal” mode, but you would need speed control for the Restricteds (ideally 2 types). Last up, I’d say Reshiram. Reshiram is cool in the sense that it can OHKO everything in Sun, but it’s not cool in the sense that if you merely bring Reshiram, your opponent knows that you are planning on maxing it, so it forces very linear play
45mice – Yveltal is a really good partner for Groudon as well. It got Top 4 at the Liverpool Regional Tournament. Yveltal with Sun does great vs Rain. Lunala has also seen some success with Groudon offering a more bulky partner that can set TR and one-shot Incineroar with Meteor Beam. There are multiple ways to run Sun other than with Zacian!
TalonVGC – Lunala threatening Incineroar with Meteor Beam, allowing for Speed control through Trick Room enables Groudon well. I think we could see Palkia play a similar role. Calyrex-Shadow is really cool at allowing Groudon to OHKO Shuca Berry Incineroar and generally a disruptive partner with Will-O-Wisp and Snarl.
MarsVGC – Yes, Yveltal, Lunala, and Calyrex-Shadow are solid partners for Groudon. We’ve seen Yveltal/Groudon, Lunala/Groudon, and Calyrex/Groudon do decently well early in the format and they’re starting to pick up again now that we have an idea on what’s going on in the meta. Yveltal/Groudon made Top 4 and Lunala/Groudon made Top 8 recently at Liverpool Regionals so I would keep my eye on those.
Tyo – Yveltal, Calyrex-Shadow, Lunala, Xerneas, and even Kyogre are all viable partners with Groudon (based on recent results in ladder and tournaments). However, the best three out of those to pair up with Groudon are without a shadow of a doubt Yveltal, Calyrex-Shadow, and Lunala. Yveltal has really good synergy with Groudon since Groudon does well against Zacian, which Yveltal is weak to, and Yveltal takes care of opposing Kyogres. With Yveltal, it is almost necessary to run the AV set so Snarls can slow down Kyogre and other special attackers.
Calyrex-Shadow is also good with Groudon since it can help to reduce damage done to Groudon. The ideal Calyrex-Shadow moveset with Groudon currently is Will-O-Wisp, Snarl, Astral Barrage, and Snarl with a Focus Sash. It may seem weird to have a Restricted Pokemon with support movesets, but people will underestimate Calyrex-Shadow’s power even without any boosting items. Calyrex-Shadow can also simply Dynamax and get Defense drops by using Max Phantasm to allow Groudon to do work even if it gets intimidated.
Lunala is probably the most interesting out of the three since it’s only recently shown results but I believe Lunala/Groudon will continue to show results in upcoming tournaments. With Lunala’s Ability, Shadow Shield, combined with Reflect and Light Screen, its bulk becomes incredible and it’s very, very hard to stop it from setting up Trick Room. Additionally, Lunala usually runs Meteor Beam, which OHKOs almost all Incineroars. This is really useful, as Groudon does not like Intimidate spam and a Special Attacker that can remove Incineroar immediately is always nice. Finally, just like Calyrex-Shadow, Groudon can always make use of the Defense drops from Max Phantasm.
D’Angelo – Plenty! Recent notable partners have been Calyrex-Shadow, Lunala, and Yveltal. Since Sun is able to use incredibly strong unRestricted pokemon like Venusaur and Charizard, the archetype is less dependent on the second Restricted to cover some of the matchups where Groudon falls short.
Crawlshots – Calyrex-Shadow is the other one I’ve been seeing having success with Groudon. I personally have been working on a Groudon team that has Palkia on it, and I think it’s strong. There is a lot of room for experimentation and optimization right now!
Sohaib – Calyrex-Shadow and Yveltal seem to be the most viable after Zacian. I have also seen some Kyogre/Groudon and Lunala/Groudon teams but they are not as consistent as the ones mentioned above.
3) Rinya’s Sun has been the main Sun core that most players seem to either be using without changes or at least using as a base. What is your opinion on the team and would you make any changes to it going into a tournament with it?
Summary – The players all agreed that the main strength of the Rinya-Sun team is its adaptability and flexibility to go up against almost any matchup. However, most of them had some ideas about changes to the team, though those changes were largely unique to each player. Some of those included different movesets, items, or even dropping the Grimmsnarl for Thunderus. Many believe that players are preparing to counter the team heavily in upcoming tournaments, so changes are likely merited.
BSmiffy – First of all, I believe Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian is much more dynamic in play, and this should show throughout the season as we discover the metagame more. That being said, I also believe that as long as you can hit your Precipice Blades, Sun will always be good. If I were to use the “Standard Sun,” I would personally use Screens and Scary Face Grimmsnarl for the bulk it provides Groudon, Swords Dance/Substitute Zacian because I don’t like missing Play Rough, Burning Jealousy Incineroar because it provides you a lot of options into opposing Zacian, and Charti Berry Charizard because you want to live random Max Rockfalls, and everything else would be untouched. Maybe the only change I would consider would be Safety Goggles on Incineroar to increase the Amoonguss matchup.
45mice – Rinya-Sun is the meta standard right now, it got 3 top 8’s at Victory Road’s Tournament which is insane. But I think the cracks are beginning to show. It has a hard time with Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian with Thundurus or Regieleki, which is why it’s spiking in usage so much. I probably wouldn’t run it for a tourney, just because people are so practiced with it and slowly figuring it out. I expect a ton of Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian at EUIC to counter it.
TalonVGC – Coming into EUIC I think players should most critically think about the Charizard sets and Grimmsnarl as a whole. Charti Berry and Ancient Power doesn’t see usage in many matchups but is excellent in the mirror, while Life Orb is generally much stronger. Grimmsnarl alternates between Speed control options, and the Iron Ball variant that won in Taiwan is exceptional if you see Calyrex-Ice being important in the field. I do think Grimmsnarl is the most replaceable of the 6 with replacements like Whimsicott and Thundurus winning certain matchups more easily, but not quite as standard across the board.
MarsVGC – Rinya’s Sun core is outstanding and consistent. I would definitely run the screens, Light Clay build with Grimmsnarl since it’s the most consistent for me, but if I could change some moves or items for a tournament, I think Shadow Claw on Groudon is a nice tech for Calyrex-Shadow or Lunala. It also has the option to lower your opponents’ Defense using Max Phantasm to set up a powerful Max Quake or Behemoth Blade the following turn. Adding Burning Jealousy onto Incineroar with Shuca berry to punish Max Airstream or Max Quake could also be good.
Tyo – Rinya’s team is incredible since it has tools for every matchup. This is especially key in Bo3’s, which is why you don’t see as much Rinya-Sun at the very top of the Ranked Ladder. Rinya-Sun has so many different tools to adjust after a Game 1 and there are so many lead combinations that work well with that team. As for changes, I’d put Burning Jealousy on Incineroar to better help deal with Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian teams that are popular now and I would consider putting Shadow Claw or Giga Impact on Groudon. But apart from that, I think the team is good as it is.
D’Angelo – I think those six Pokemon are here to stay for a little while longer, but recent events have shown that there is a lot of variation even among that composition. Since Rinya debuted with the team, each subsequent successful variation of the team has been a bit different. I believe those six pokemon will always have a place in the metagame, with minor changes making a large difference vs the specific threats at the time.
I really like Lum Berry Charizard right now, since more Grimmsnarl are opting for Thunder Wave over Scary Face and Venusaur are being used to put Charizards to sleep. If you give Charizard a single extra turn it can easily run away with the game.
Crawlshots – It is very strong indeed. I would not argue with anyone looking to bring it to a major tournament. The Zacian/Calyrex-Shadow/Thundurus cores are strong into Rinya-Sun right now, and I think the Iron Ball Grimmsnarl variant of Rinya-Sun is helpful into this team, as Grimmsnarl can Trick the Iron Ball onto Thundurus and allow Charizard to deal with it better. I think Life Orb on Charizard is best all around for sheer damage, but Charti Berry and Lum Berry are both good, depending on how much insurance you need for specific matchups. Venusaur has been making a comeback, and it can be problematic for Rinya-Sun.
Sohaib – It is easily the best team in Series 12. In my opinion, it gives you a lot of flexibility in different matchups. It can either be played very slowly or can be played very offensively. The changes I would make would be speed creeping the Groudon and Incineroar and changing the set of Charizard. In my opinion, that will give you the edge in the mirror.
4) Be completely honest with me. Do you think there’s any place for the other Drought users in this format?
Summary – While most merely denied Torkoal or Ninetales a place in the current meta, a few did point out that Torkoal could have a niche on certain teams and gave examples of such ideas. Unfortunately, and much to my dismay, Ninetales did not receive any support whatsoever.
BSmiffy– Torkoal, but only if you just want a “Sun Mode” on your team that pairs well with your other Restricteds. Yawn + Burning Jealousy will always be insane, in my opinion.
45mice – Actually, Bingjie had a really cool Torkoal team that’s all over ladder right now (with good reason) I think Torkoal has some niche usage, just because Burning Jealousy + a bulky Yawn user does have value, but unlike Season 8 and 11, you can’t slap Venukoal with any Restricted and it work
TalonVGC – Ninetales is hot garbage unless you want to spam Choice Scarf Hypnosis I suppose. Torkoal definitely has its niche. I think it hasn’t been as prevalent since it better enables Venusaur than Charizard, and in this format Venusaur has really struggled to compete with Kyogre teams’ options.
MarsVGC – Torkoal does have the potential to have some place in the format. We saw Bingjie get top 30 last season on the Battle Stadium Rank Ladder with a Torkoal on their team. It has a great move pool like Yawn and Burning Jealousy for a support role or can play an offensive role with Eruption for going up against Trick Room teams like Calyrex-Ice.
Tyo – I’m actually a huge fan of Torkoal this format. I have been trying it with Focus Sash and Shuca Berry, but I’ve also seen players who hit 1900 on Showdown with Choice Specs Torkoal. I like Torkoal because Yawn and Burning Jealousy are incredible moves in Dynamax formats. Being able to make the opponent waste their Dynamax turns by being affected by status conditions is super useful. Torkoal also has incredible physical bulk and beats Zacian one on one easily. It also beats Incineroar if you run Body Press on it. Beating two of the most used Pokemon in the format is very, very good. Furthermore, if you lead Torkoal against a Rain team, you are always guaranteed to have Sun at least on that first turn since Torkoal’s Sun sets last.
D’Angelo – It’s hard to see Torkoal fitting into the metagame any time soon. Since weather wars are much more common in this format, it’s no longer enough to just set the Sun. Your Sun setter has to be able to compete with Kyogre in far more situations, and Torkoal just doesn’t have the stats to do that. It’s possible that Torkoal can find a niche on a Trick Room team though. I’ll pretend that Ninetales doesn’t even exist.
Crawlshots – There’s a place for Torkoal. It makes sense on cores like Zacian-Xerneas that benefit from having Charizard or Venusuar as dedicated Dynamax choices and on a team that would also get steamrolled by Kyogre without the Sun element.
Sohaib – Yes! There is, I feel like Torkoal can work in hybrid Trick Room teams like Palkia/ Calyrex-Ice where they can also support Venusaur.
5) If you had to call what Restricted Pairing to win the next Regional, what would it be?
Summary – Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian was by fair the restricted pairing favored to win the next big tournament by the players, though many admitted that Rinya-Sun could still do very, very well.
BSmiffy – Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian is the highest skill ceiling archetype, in my opinion. I believe it has everything it takes to win the World Championships, but players have yet to catch up to it. Every time I play it, I realize how far I still have to come as a player to do the team justice; that being said, I believe Sun is still in a great spot in the metagame and, as of right now, I believe Sun is the best team to pick up if you want to win a Regional tournament happening soon.
45mice – Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian. Very positive Rinya-Sun matchup, neutral into most things at least if not positive. The new variants with Whimsicott or Regieleki over picking Thunderus are legit. It will be well represented by top players, and I expect it to win.
TalonVGC – Groudon/Zacian is the team to beat but I could see Zacian/Kyogre figuring out that matchup and taking it all
MarsVGC – I’m gonna go with Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian on winning. It’s one of the Restricted duos that has a fair if not better matchup against Rinya’s Sun team or any other Sun core depending on the Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian build
Tyo – I think Calyrex-Shadow/Zacian will win the next Regional or EUIC. This is because I believe Zacian and Calyrex-Shadow are the strongest Restricteds out of Dynamax. So by Dynamaxing a non Restricted like Blastoise and getting the damage over time, Zacian and Caly-Shadow can easily clean up after Dynamax turns are over.
D’Angelo – Kyogre/Zacian is due for a first place finish. They have been consistently appearing in top cut and are clearly still a top metagame threat. The player who figures out how to improve the Sun matchup without compromising the other matchups is going to have a good tournament.
Crawlshots – Very tough to call! I’ll go with Zacian and Calyrex-Shadow..
Sohaib – I believe Zacian/Calyrex-Shadow can win the next Regional or a different big tournament. The current build is strong into the Rinya-Sun build but I think Rinya-Sun can easily win that matchup still if it is piloted by a strong and experienced player.
Well there you have it! Hopefully you’ve enjoyed these incredible insights from some of the top players in the current competitive Pokemon scene. Will the Sun-archetype will remain dominant over the next coming major events, or will a different team core usurp its position as king of the meta? Let us know your answer or any other thoughts on the opinions expressed in the article in the comments below!
– When not playing or writing about Pokemon, David Alan “Argyle” Burnett can be found teaching, spending time with his wife and two children, or trying to figure out how to get Ninetales to work in this meta. He can be found at Twitter.com/argylevgc