Note: This guide is for beginners but I won’t be talking about Breeding, Natures, and Ev-Training, although I’ll leave some links below!
A bit over three years ago I wrote a guide on how to get into the VGC format. And despite being old some of the info there is still relevant, so I decided to grab that article and revamp it for the new generation!
First, let’s talk about what VGC is. It stands for Video Game Championships and it’s the official format for Pokémon competitions. Also, the battle format is always Doubles, where you have to bring a team of 6 Pokémon and choose 4 to battle. You can play this format by going into Ranked Doubles in the Battle Stadium.
The most daunting aspect of this format has to be the fact that you’ll need to think twice as much since you now have two Pokémon on your side of the field. Will you attack with both Pokémon? Or do you think one of them will be targeted and decide to protect it? Should I Dynamax early or wait for the late-game? It’s normal that at first, you won’t be making the correct decision but I assure you that with each match your decision time will improve as your knowledge of the meta grows.
But what is the meta? In any competitive game, we call the meta the most optimal way of playing a game in order to get the best results. In VGC, this translates into choosing the right team of Pokémon that synergize well with each other and do well against most teams in the format. And, of course, there are team comps that work better and are more popular, so when you start playing you’ll eventually recognize what’s the strategy of your opponent’s team just by looking at it in the team selection.
The best way to find out what’s the current meta of the game is by going to the Victory Road or Trainer Tower. They both share results from the most recent tournaments and have rental teams that you can try for yourself. In case you don’t know, instead of training a full team for yourself you can pick up a Rental Team shared by a pro and try your luck in Ranked immediately. Just make sure you learn how to play with that team first! You can easily do this by asking around in the forums or watching some Youtube videos.
For example, I was using a rental team that I thought I knew how to use but was struggling to get past the Ultra Ball tier so I had to lookup more info on the team and I learned a small detail that was crucial to finally break into the Master Ball tier.
Some people might say that it’s more enjoyable to build your own team and climb through the ranks and I agree with that but, if you don’t know much about the format or team-building I think it’s more beneficial to start learning the game with a team that actually works.
Once you start comprehending the game better, you can then start team-building but don’t build your team in-game just yet! Imagine spending your time breeding and EV-training your Pokémon just to go online and find out that your team doesn’t synergize as well as you thought they would. You can avoid this by going to Pokémon Showdown, a Pokémon Battle Simulator. In a couple of minutes, you can build your own team and test it in really fast matches! If you do well and start seeing results, you can then go in-game and prepare your team.
One important aspect of VGC, and Pokémon battles in general, that you must know and learn to accept is that there are things that you just can’t control. For example, there are a lot of moves that don’t have 100% accuracy meaning they won’t land every single time, like Hypnosis or Sleep Powder. These are really strong moves that render your Pokémon completely useless, can you imagine if these landed every single time? The same can be said for moves that have a high damage output like Fire Blast or moves that flinch such as Iron Head or Rock Slide.
It can be difficult for some to accept this especially if you’re the one missing those attacks, but these things happen, and, from a viewer standpoint, this unpredictability and the way players deal with it is what makes this game so much fun to watch! Also, keep in mind that there isn’t a perfect team, every strategy has a counter-strategy. The most broken Pokémon Team in VGC might be hard-countered by a team that looses against most of the others. Keep calm and try to make the best play you can, if you do this there’s no reason for you to feel bad about loosing!
I hope you’ve found my beginner’s guide to Pokémon Sword and Shield VGC useful! Here are some links to players I like watching and some tutorials!
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