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Monday, August 22, 2022

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet “Competitive” Play Trailer... and Cyclizar

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - I just wanted two articles in a row with “competitive” in scare-quotes.

At the end of the Pokémon World Championships (VGC 2022), The Pokémon Company showed us this trailer of Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet that it claims caters to competitive players... though there's clearly things here that every Pokémon fan will want to see:

That trailer doesn't represent everything they had to share, however. To be specific, what we learned about yesterday was:

  1. Cyclizar, the Mount Pokémon. A common form of transportation among Paldeans for many generations
  2. Shed Tail, a move Cyclizar learns, which sets up a Substitute and then Baton Passes with it on the same turn. Unlike a normal Substitute's 25%, the user loses 50% of its max HP
  3. Mirror Herb, a new held item that acts as a one-use Psych Up upon the opponent using a stat-boosting move, such as Belly Drum or Quiver Dance
  4. Covert Cloak, a held item version of the Shield Dust ability, which protects the holder from extra effects of moves like flinching or Body Slam's paralysis
  5. Loaded Dice, a held item version that makes multi-strike moves like Bullet Seed and Fury Swipes “be more likely to hit more times.” A chance-based item version of Skill Link
  6. Tera Blast, a new TM move that is normally a Normal type, but when used by a Terastallized Pokémon, becomes the same type of move as the user's Tera Type, using Attack or Special Attack depending on which is higher, like Photon Geyser
  7. The Battle Stadium exists, and there are Ranked Battles, unranked Casual Battles, Online Competitions, and Rental Teams.

Cyclizar is a new Pokémon. Sure, Shed Tail is a competitive Pokémon player's dream utility move for providing a safe switch-in, but casual Pokémon fans want to see new Pokémon too, regardless of competitive viability. So it's weird that its announcement could theoretically be missed by casual players who'd avoid a video called “Competitive Play Trailer | Pokémon Scarlet and Pokémon Violet”. Cyclizar seems pretty important to the world-building of the Paldea region (everyone seems to ride one to get around), and possibly also the region's lore, given its... great design similarity to the cover legends, Koraidon and Miraidon.

Why does the player get to ride around on Legendary Pokémon while the rest of the peasants ride on Cyclizar? What makes the protagonist special, eh? Or maybe Cyclizar is really a Legendary Pokémon too, and in the evolutionary family. In any case, I like its name. It's a cycling lizard, but it also sounds and looks like an unconjugated Spanish verb, which fits the Iberia-based Paldean region.

Shed Tail in the trailer reduced Cyclizar from 145 HP (max) to 72 HP (50% rounded up)—normal Substitute makes a decoy with 25% of the user's HP (rounded down). This prevents Cyclizar using Shed Tail more than once in a battle without some form of recovery like Leftovers, Grassy Terrain, or Wish. It's unclear if Shed Tail's Substitute would actually have 73 HP (which would make it twice as durable as a normal Substitute)—perhaps the extra 25% is a cost to try to balance the move, rather than a benefit. I think a lot of competitive Pokémon would prefer a 50% HP Substitute than a 25% HP decoy, since it'd allow the doll to survive for longer (and you wouldn't need 404 HP to take two level 100 Seismic Tosses).

Pokémon Scarlet Violet Shed Tail Substitute Baton Pass
I'm not sure that Shed Tail is better than Teleport on a Regenerator Slowbro/Slowking.
Slowbro and Slowking can do that multiple times a match and can provide other support and utility.
Cyclizar can only do this once, and its other utility is... currently unknown.

As for Mirror Herb, it's very situational. Unlike a Ditto on Team Preview, which may dissuade you from using stat-boosting moves on a set-up sweeper until the Ditto is removed from play (because it can copy the stat boosts for itself upon Transforming), you won't know if your opponent has a Mirror Herb or not. But your opponent also won't know if you're going to use a stat-increasing move. The item would be better if it would activate upon any Pokémon using a stat increase—imagine you're in a doubles format and you can have one Pokémon use Belly Drum and then your second Pokémon instantly copies the stat boost (without the 50% HP loss) with Mirror Herb, and then attacks with a spread move like Rock Slide to eviscerate the opponent. But the site and video specify it's an opponent's boost.

Meanwhile, we already know about Terastallizing—you can get one Pokémon per team per match to Terastallize and change its type to whatever its Tera Type is, which, with enough grinding, can apparently be any of the types. It'll stay that type and get boosted power while using moves of that type. But there's a special move that you can teach to take up a move slot—Tera Blast. It's like Hidden Power in a way (which has been removed from Galar), but better in that it no longer only grants Special coverage but can grant universal type and move category coverage. The trailer portrays a Ghost Tera Type Tyranitar becoming immune to a Gallade's Close Combat (normally it'd be 4x weak to it and faint) and then Tera Blasting it—with Tera Blast turning into a Ghost type Physical attack. We don't know what its base power is, but presumably it's stronger than the only other physical Ghost attack Tyranitar can learn, Shadow Claw. But Tera Blast only becomes powerful and a non-Normal attack while a Pokémon is Terastallized (and only one Pokémon can per team per match), as opposed to Hidden Power being a coverage option for any and all Pokémon.

I think Loaded Dice is probably a bad item, depending on how likely is “more likely.” But I can see Technician Breloom (as shown in the trailer), Technician Cinccino, and maybe Technician Fury Swipes Meowth in Little Cup appreciating it. (The latter for the same reason Skill Link Fury Swipes Aipom is a menace in Little Cup—when you're at level 5, the damage rolls work a bit differently.)

Shield Dust is an incredible ability that's given to very bad Bug type Pokémon, so it never sees competitive use. I'm not sure what Pokémon would actually want to wear a Covert Cloak instead of having a Lum Berry or Leftovers. Perhaps I'm not imaginative with this. It's nice to have and it'd be great if good Pokémon had it as an ability, but I don't see it as being a consistent option worth an item slot. Maybe some VGC strategies just to prevent Fake Out and you'd rather use an item slot on Covert Cloak than a moveslot on Protect or Detect?

Ludwig is, for sure, not getting Pokémon Scarlet or Pokémon Violet. Still, he follows the competitive Pokémon scene and its metagame and strategies, even if he has no interest in actually implementing those in the actual videogames. Rental Teams are a way around that, but you also can't use them for VGC competitions based on their Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield iterations. Anyway, what do you think of this competitive trailer and associated information? Have you thought of interesting use cases with these new tools? Would you ride on a Cyclizar? Ludwig certainly wouldn't, and he'd think you're a worse person for doing so. Let him know in the comments section if you'd like him to write more detailed competitive Pokémon content.

The next new Pokémon reveal is Grafaiai.

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