Pokemon VGC series 4 ruleset announced – don’t expect much to change

The ruleset governing the fourth season of Pokemon Sword and Shield ranked battles has been revealed. The VGC series 4 ruleset will apply to online ranked battles beginning May 1. Five new Gigantamax Pokemon will be allowed in the format, the lowest number of Gigantamax Pokemon made legal since series 1. The new Gigantamax forms are Machamp, Garbodor, Copperajah, Duraludon, and Gengar.

With this ruleset, all the currently available Gigantamax forms will finally be free to use on the ladder. However, it seems likely that none of these new additions will make a splash on the competitive scene. While some might have a bit of potential, it’s likely most will just be downgrades from their non-Gigantamax counterparts.

The potential

Gigantamax Machamp and Gengar are the two who could see some decent use in competitive play. Machamp’s Gmax move, G-max Chi Strike, will increase the critical hit ratio of both Pokemon on Machamp’s side of the field. This does mean Machamp no longer has access to Max Knuckle, which raises the attack stat of Machamp and allies. And while critical hits are generally less reliable than an attack boost, the move does offer a few advantages. Crits ignore offensive debuffs from things like burn and attack drops. It also ignores opponents’ defensive buffs, including those from Light Screen, Reflect, and Aurora Veil.

However, a crit isn’t guaranteed until the Pokemon has their critical hit ratio increased by at least three stages. Since G-max Chi Strike is only a one-stage increase, a Machamp would have to use all three Dynamax turns to ensure critical hits. 

VGC series four

Gengar receives G-Max Terror. This move prevents the opponents from switching. It does come at the cost of being able to use Max Phantasm, which lowers the opponent’s defense. Preventing switch-outs means you can use whatever moves you want on the opponents with impunity; no need to worry the opponent might switch in a Normal type Pokemon to take your Ghost type attacks.

This Gigantamax has decent potential on Perish Song based teams, since switching out is the only way to remove the Perish Song countdown. 

The downgrades

VGC series 4 will bring us two of the most disappointing Gigantamax forms yet — Garbodor and Duraludon. Garbodor is an underwhelming Pokemon to begin with, and giving up the special attack boost from Max Ooze makes it an even tougher sell. Unfortunately, it’s Gmax move isn’t going to overcome these shortcomings. Gigantamax Garbodor’s Gmax Malodor will poison both opposing Pokemon, and poison is just too slow for the fast-paced environment of doubles.

Duraludon has seen good usage on ladder. However, it’s likely trainers will continue using the regular form. Gmax Depletion is Duraludon’s Gigantamax move. This will deduct PP from the moves of both opponents’ Pokemon. Outside of a few five PP moves, this will have almost no effect on the vast majority of games.

Gmax Depletion would also replace Max Steelspike, which has the incredible side effect of boosting the defense of both Duraludon and its ally. It’s almost no contest for our poor little skyscraper dragon. 

VGC Series four

The borderline

The final Gigantamax form is Copperajah. This steel type elephant will have access to Gmax Steelsurge. Like Duraludon, this will replace Max Steelspike and its subsequent defense boost. I’m inclined to say that Max Steelspike is better, but I could be wrong here. Gmax Steelspike sets up a steel type hazard that damages the opponent’s Pokemon whenever they switch in. The damage is increased if the opposing Pokemon is weak to steel, and decrease if they resist it. 

This has some potential use. There are quite a few popular Pokemon weak to steel, like Togekiss and Tyranitar. One top of the free damage, the hazards can also break an opposing Pokemon’s Focus Sash. The Gmax Copperajah would most likely have to be a lead Pokemon to get the hazards up as soon as possible.

However, losing Max Steelspikes defense boosts may be too high a price to pay, particularly for Copperajah. Since it has such a high HP stat, Copperajah becomes quite tanky with the defense boost. 

It seems likely that VGC series 4 is going to look a lot like series 3. The opportunity cost for these Gigantamax Pokemon is simply too high, though I would love to be proven wrong. However, I am confident that future Gigantamax forms will have a much greater impact on the ladder. 

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Will Newhouse

Currently enjoying being the 2nd player on my wife's Animal Crossing island and falling down the Pokemon Battle Tower ranks.
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