The Pokemon Company recently announced their second online competition for Pokemon Sword and Shield, the Galar Newcomers event. For those who may have missed it, the rules are simple: Only Pokemon introduced in Generation VIII, save the legendaries, are allowed in this competition, which is a doubles-format VGC style. The full rules are found here, but those who participate are guaranteed 50 BP for registering a team.
While I am still hard at work at finishing up our current go through of competitive Pokemon strategy guides, I thought it might be fun to take a detour and focus a bit on the Galar Newcomers competition. It is a good way to get players new to VGC battling and team building some experience before the registration deadline of Jan. 24.
Because of the limited pool of Pokemon this time around, team-building strategies will be crucial for the next online competition. Thankfully there are a number of good options to go with for your own online matchups. I thought it might be best to give out a full team that hopefully takes advantage of the Galar Newcomer’s format and provide for newcomers an explanation as to why I feel the team synergizes well. I fully admit that this team will be a bit unorthodox on my end, and we will go through strengths and weaknesses. This will showcase the selection process against the this limited metagame, as well as have a bit of fun to go with it all.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Galar Newcomers - Building our Core
So, like always, we need a solid core to start with, and I think that this time around, our core is going to focus on an old but popular strategy: Trick Room.
As you know, Trick Room is a field maneuver that switches the Speed priority of every Pokemon; so faster ones go last, while slower ones go first. This can be a make or break strategy in doubles, as speed is still arguably the most important stat to manipulate in the entire game.
A lot of the newcomers in Generation VIII are on the slower side. The fastest legal Pokemon for Galar Newcomers is Dragapult at a base 142, while slowest Pokemon is Pinchurchin with a base 15 Speed, but there are a total of eight fully evolved Pokemon with a base 30 speed or less, which will be a boon for Trick Room. Of these, Hatterene is perhaps the most important Pokemon to look at, as she will be the main core of our team going forward.
Hatterene is a Special powerhouse, sporting a base 136 Special Attack and 103 Special Defense, along with base 57 HP and 90 Defense. Her Psychic/Fairy-typing is fairly good too, being weak to Steel, Poison, and Ghost while being immune to Dragon and resistant to Fighting and Psychic. Hatterene also has Magic Bounce, an excellent ability that reflects back all stat-lowering and status changing moves, such as Thunder Wave and Will-o-Wisp, meaning the opponent would be hit by them instead.
This, combined with access to Trick Room, makes her a viable Trick Room setter. Thanks to her low Speed, she's a powerful beast on the field when Trick Room is set up, with access to tons of special moves like Dazzling Gleam, Psychic, Mystical Fire, and Giga Drain. Hatterene also serves a pretty strong check against Dragapult, and with coverage like Mystical Fire, she can take on pesky Steel-types like Corviknight, which threaten it as well.
With Hatterene as our core, the question now is which teammates go well with her. One that needs to be seriously considered is the Psychic/Normal-type of Indeedee.
Indeedee is a utility Pokemon, not one meant to do a lot of damage but one that is definitely a potent threat. In this case, the female version of Indeedee is what we want; it has the right base stats and exclusive moves that help in this support role. Those stats are much more defensive in nature, with a decent 70/65/105 in all defenses, which can be boosted to maximize its defensive potential with the right EV training.
The real draw to Indeedee is the move Follow Me, which forces the opponent to attack Indeedee over any other Pokemon on the field. This is a great way to guarantee Trick Room is set by Hatterene on the first turn, maximizing the chances of gaining our speed advantage that our team wants to gain. Indeedee also has Helping Hand, Heal Pulse, Ally Switch, and Healing Wish to support Hatterene and the rest of the team, along with some of the similar attacking coverage as Hatterene, including Mystical Fire and Psychic when you’re in a pinch. All of these combined makes Indeedee bulky enough to withstand hits and hard to deal with as it supports itself and other teammates.
One other boon is Indeedee has access to Psychic Surge as an ability, which gives the player an automatic Psychic Terrain. Because Weather is less viable in Galar Newcomers, Terrains will be a center focus for some teams. In this case, Psychic Terrain protects all Pokemon from increased priority moves, rendering the likes of Prankster Pokemon such as Grimmsnarl useless while it is an active effect, as well as boosting the Power of Psychic-type moves. This not only is excellent synergy with Trick Room, but it also helps protect your Pokemon from priority manipulation, even when Trick Room is no longer active, giving you an advantage in close matchups.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Galar Newcomers - Sweepers and Coverage
With what is likely going to be our opening duo for most matches, the question now is which Pokemon do we surround them with? With Trick Room being a primary focus, the best options may be uncommon choices that can benefit from Trick Room, that are also unorthodox picks when compared to the top tier threats in the current metagame. Pokemon to look out for include Duraludon, Corviknight, Dragapult, Grimmsnarl, Dracovish, Darmanitan, and opposing Hatterene. First up would be our primary attacker, the pure Steel-type Copperajah.
Copperajah is absurdly powerful, with a massive 130 base Attack that is augmented by its two abilities, Sheer Force and Heavy Metal. Copperajah also sports a beefy 122 base stat HP, which pairs well with its mediocre base 69 defenses. With an already low base 30 Speed, Copperajah is best suited for Trick Room; and thanks to its steel-typing, its weaknesses are limited to Ground, Fighting, and Fire.
The major flaw is that all of its weaknesses are fairly common attack-types, but the lack of Ground and Fire-STAB thanks to the Galar Newcomers restrictions gives Copperajah more breathing room to soak up some hits. Copperajah has no real recovery, so the goal is to do as much damage as possible with a wide range of coverage. Thankfully Copperajah has this in spades; with STAB Iron Head and Heavy Slam, along with Grass, Ground, Rock, Fighting, Fairy, and Fire coverage in excellent move choices such as Power Whip, High Horsepower, Rock Slide, Superpower, Play Rough, and Heat Crash. Each of these moves takes advantage of Sheer Force, which increases their power while removing their secondary effects.
Copperajah is one dimensional, but its coverage allows it to be modular to gaps in your team’s coverage. Against the lineup of common threats, the best moves to include with Iron Head are arguably Heat Crash to check Corviknight, Darmanitan, and Duraludon; Superpower for Duraludon, Corviknight, and Grimmsnarl; and Play Rough for Dracovish, Dragapult, and Grimmsnarl. Iron Head also takes care of Hatterene, while doing massive damage to Darmanitan. Lastly, the Assault Vest item, which boosts your Special Defense if you have only attacking moves, might be the best bet to go with here, giving Copperajah extra bulk against its Special Defense in a pinch, curbing the power of the special-attacking Dragapult, Hatterene, and Duraludon further.
A mixed attacker would be helpful for covering a lot of weaknesses here as well, and in this case we're calling on one of the new fossil Pokemon, Arctovish.
The Pokemon Dracovish is one of the top threats in Generation VIII due to its access to Fishious Rend, a physical Water-type move that doubles its power if the user moves first. This, combined with its Strong Jaw ability and base 75 speed, allow it to function great on a multitude of teams as a powerful Pokemon. Arctovish also has access to Fishious Rend, and shares the same base 90 attack and HP and Defense stats as Dracovish. Where Acrtovish may shine, however, is its lower base 55 speed, base 80 special attack, and Ice-typing.
Ice is a tricky type to use, mainly because it is incredibly weak defensively but super powerful offensively. All Pokemon who are Ice-type in some form struggle with this, with the majority of them being offensive glass cannons or in rare occasions, defensive pivots. Arctovish is no exception to this, but the Ice-typing allows it to have access to a powerful move in Freeze Dry, a special attack that allows it to hit Water-types super effectively. This, combined with low speed and Fishious Rend, make it a hard check to most of the top threats legal in the Galar Newcomers format.
Freeze Dry, for starters, can actually take out Dracovish with ease. Even against non-waters, the neutral damage to the likes of Duraludon and Corviknight can hit hard enough to make a dent in them. Fishious Rend will not reach the power of Dracovish, but can neutrally hit most of the biggest threats with some pretty hefty force. Rounding it out is good attack and defensive options that play with its classic Water/Ice-typing, such as Psychic Fangs, Icicle Crash, Crunch, and Rock Slide.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Galar Newcomers - Oddball Picks
Outside of our attackers, we also need to consider some more defensive options that can take advantage of Trick Room as well. There are actually a ton of choices, but two Pokemon in particular fill in the gaps for the team in terms of offensive and defensive coverage, giving us a balanced Trick Room team in the process.
For this, we need to call on another oddball choice: Runerigus.
Runerigus is the Galarian form of Cofagrigus, a pure Ghost-type from Generation V. Cofagrigus is a powerful defensive Pokemon known for low Speed and trademark Mummy ability, and Runerigus is really no exception to its Unovan counterpart. The biggest differences are the Ground/Ghost typing, its swapped Attack and Special Attack stats, and the ability Wandering Spirit, which exchanges the abilities of the Pokemon that directly hit it with a move.
All of these are assets that give Runerigus good offensive utility. For a start, Runerigus is best suited as a secondary Trick Room setter, just in case Hatterene falls. Runerigus also has a ton of support moves that can cause havoc against the opponent’s team, most notably Will-o-Wisp for burns, Ally Switch for the player, and Memento to lower attacking stats when it is severely weakened. All of these in conjunction with coverage such as Earthquake, Sand Tomb, Shadow Claw, and Body Press helps in plugging a major gap of coverage in our team, while providing good support for heavy hitters like Hatterene, Copperajah, and Arctovish.
Runerigus also pairs well with Indeedee and Copperajah, further cementing it as a possible lead over Hatterene depending on the matchup. Its coverage helps in taking down the likes of Duraludon, Corviknight, Dracovish, physical Dragpults, and Grimmsnarl, and completely walls Toxtricity thanks to its electric immunity. While its HP is a liability, Runerigus has enough bulk to be a great defensive asset to the team, soaking up hits, weakening opponents, and in a pinch doing a bit of damage on its own.
Lastly, we have one more offensive-support style Pokemon in the pure Fighting-Type Grapploct.
Like most of the Pokemon on the team, Grapploct is on the slow side with a 46 base Speed, but it supports good defensive bulk with base 80/90/80 stats, and a base 118 Attack. For this team, Grapploct is not a major sweeper, but rather an alternative attacker with some tricky moves that also support the team at the same time.
In particular is the move Octolock, which prevents a target from switching out but also lowers its defenses each turn it’s on the field. This signature move can be devastating if played correctly, softening up tankier Pokemon and leaving them exposed to super effective damage. Along with this trick, Grapploct can shut down setup sweepers with Taunt, reverse stat changes with Topsy-Turvy, and even use oddball moves like Soak, which changes the target Pokemon’s type of Pure Water.
All of these are viable options to go along with good attacking coverage, such as Drain Punch, Sucker Punch, Ice Punch, and Liquidation. Grapploct has enough attack to do some damage and cover some pretty threatening Pokemon in the process, including Dracovish, Grimmsnarl, Duraludon, and Corviknight.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Galar Newcomers - Type Advantages and Disadvantages
Overall, our team is powerful but also has some major weaknesses. Plugging it into a team planner, we get a glimpse of our type advantages and disadvantages.
For a start, our team is pretty resistant to common attacking-types like Rock and Psychic, and also has decent resistances to Bug and Ice. We cover all types save Electric, Fire, Ground, and Ghost, but we do have an Electric and Ghost immunity to compensate.
The team is also strong against Rock and Poison, though their typings are limited in the Galar Newcomers format. More importantly, we can check Dragon, Dark, Fighting, Ice, Steel, and Fire with ease, and have coverage for all types except Water and Bug.
Out of these, the biggest threats the team faces would be Duraludon with the Stalwart ability, which allows it to ignore Follow Me and potentially knock out Hatterene in one hit. Dragapult is another threat because of its speed and Ghost-typing, while Dracovish has immense power and Water-typing. Pure Fighting-types such as Falinks, Grapploct, and Sirfetch'd also pose a threat. Thick Fat Appletun can also tank most of our team and dish out some damage in return, and Morpeko being Electric/Dark may be an obstacle as well. In terms of raw power, most used Pokemon I mentioned above will be constant threats, so good play and combinations need to be used to render them ineffective against our team.
Pokemon Sword and Shield Galar Newcomers - Final Thoughts
So with all of our teammates chosen, here are the full move sets, items, and abilities I selected for them. The goal is to use coverage and Trick Room wisely to soften up or explode weaknesses on the opposing team.
The main start will usually be Hatterene and Indeedee, but sometimes Runerigus with Indeedee may be necessary. Setting up Trick Room turn one or two is the primary goal, with Indeedee running interference with Follow Me or Protect, while your Trick Room setter does it's work.
From there, it depends on the teams your facing. Copperajah has the most coverage, but sometimes Arctovish or Grapploct will be needed instead. Think about the type advantages and disadvantages you may face. If you see the likes of Dragapult, Dracovish, Duraludon, or other major threats, bring a team member that can check them and take them out with the Trick Room advantage.
Watch out for other Trick Room teams too; they can also play against you. Finally, Gigantamax forms are allowed in Galar Newcomers, and I unfortunately do not have any members who can use a Gigantamax form. Of your team, Copperajah and Hatterene are the only two capable of Gigantamaxing, and both are great choices in this format thanks to their secondary abilities. As for Dynamaxing, both are again, great choices to effectively nuke the opposing side thanks to their wider coverage options.
And that's that. Hopefully for the Galar Newcomers competition, you all have lots of luck building your teams, and maybe I will see you out there with my Hatterene above! Until next time, happy battling.