In a surprising twist of events, teams based around the Rain weather condition seemed to be the most popular archetype to be causing havoc in the Liverpool Regional that took place over the past weekend, with ten players who were leading Rain teams reaching the top level.
The meta has constantly evolved since Pokémon Scarlet and Violet were released, and in a lesser time since Series One VGC began.
Water-type Pokémon had suffered a significant loss in their viability as a result of the change Scald being removed from every Pokémon in the game other than Volcanion. This eliminated the most reliable method of dealing consistent damage, and the next best option these creatures were left with was Hydro Pump.
Hydro Pump is powerful — even more powerful than Scald — but its shoddy accuracy makes it difficult to maneuver. No one wants to have a near-anxiety attack each time they click a move, hoping that it connects and doesn't cost them the whole match. On the other hand, Scald gave Water-type Pokémon a 30 percent chance to cripple Physical Attackers each time they clicked their primary Water move.
Because of these factors, the competitive VGC community considered the Rain team archetype to be as close to death as it has ever been, especially since a large percentage of the top Rain sweepers were Special Attackers.
However, speed forward to January 21, and you will notice that a Rain team composition was the most popular throughout the tournament, appearing 22 times, compared to the second most popular team composition which appeared 15 times throughout the Regional, whose data was made available through the Liverpool Stats section of a meticulously crafted document shared on Twitter by the wonderful folks over at @VGCPastes.
This dominant team consists of the following Pokémon:
First things first, we must give credit where credit is due: this team composition was first created and popularized by Jeudy Azzarelli, a North American VGC talent who finished third in the San Diego Regional earlier this month.
What makes this team so special, and how does it overcome the difficulties that we've discussed earlier? Well, a lot of Rain's anticipated issues are mostly addressed by one Pokémon on the team: Palafin.
Due to the removal of Scald, Special Attacking Rain sweepers took a significant hit in viability, and prior to Generation IX, there were extremely few Physical Rain sweepers that were useful for Rain teams. Enter Palafin, the hero that Rain players didn't deserve, but needed.
The Palafin-Zero form is nothing special, but the primary reason players use it is for Palafin's Hero Form, which is activated through the game's signature ability Zero to Hero. The next time it enters the field, it will enter as its transformed Palafin-Hero form through a superhero-esque process.
Palafin gains nearly 200 additional base stat points over his Zero form, putting him ahead of cover Legendaries in terms of overall strength, with a devastating Attack stat of 160 combined with incredible bulk and speed.
Palafin has its signature move Jet Punch, a 60 BP Water-type move that always goes first regardless of Speed levels due to being a priority move.
Remember how special attacking Rain sweepers made Rain teams less viable now? Well, now that you have a phenomenal Physical Attacking Rain sweeper, you can see that the problem is no longer there.
Palafin-Hero's massive Attack stat combined with a stronger-than-average priority Water move like Jet Punch, which gets further boosted in damage due to the Rain makes him a very deadly late-game sweeper.
If you can, however, afford to have something removed from the opponent's side of the field for good, Palafin also gets access to Wave Crash, a 120 BP Water-type move that has 33 percent recoil, but the damage suffered to yourself is worth it when you can OHKO fragile Water-resistant Pokémon and bulky Water-neutral Pokémon.
Let's not forget that you can further boost Palafin's damage output using items, the most common being Mystic Water and Choice Band. The only thing that can immediately put a dent in Palafin's raw damage is Intimidate, although the ability has been reduced somewhat in the recent Series One meta, giving him one less thing to worry about.
Another neat tech move from Palafin that most players that coached the company decided to use was Haze. As we know, Dondozo and Tatsugiri are a formidable duo that must be considered when constructing your teams.
A very valuable and rare move that only a few Pokémon acquire that matches DondoGiri, making Palafin both an offensive sweeper and a ‘mon with valuable utility.
Next, we must examine the heart of any Rain team: its rain weather setter, which in this case, is Pelipper.
Players were initially concerned that Politoed would be the only Rain-setter among the two, since Politoed is generally the preferred Rain-setter among the two. However, they began to realize that this bird might be the exact anti-meta tool that they needed to elevate Rain.
Pelipper has access to Tailwind and Wide Guard, the former being a VGC staple for consistent Speed control on most teams, while the latter has now evolved into a staple Pelipper move due to how widespread spread moves seem to be right now in the metagame (thanks, Gholdengo).
Pelipper has access to the Hurricane, a powerful Flying-type maneuver with perfect accuracy in the rain that hits a lot of meta threats for super-effective damage, such as Amoonguss and Annihilape.
Amoonguss, Gholdengo, and Salamence make up the rest of the team, all of whom are benefitting from the Rain weather condition because they have one thing in common: their Fire weaknesses. Rain reduces the damage of Fire-type moves in half, essentially turning them into neutral hits against these three Pokémon.
Aside from that, each of the three Pokémon is equally amazing on their own, with Amoonguss being a massive support ‘mon that refuses to give up, ever, while Gholdengo and Kingambit both serve as bulky sweepers that cover for each others' weaknesses fairly well.
Salamence takes on the role of a secondary Tailwind-setter that can also deal enormous amounts of damage with Life Orb-boosted Draco Meteors and Hurricanes. Salamence also acts as a Ground-type switch-in, allowing it to comfortably enter the Ground moves aimed at Gholdengo and Kingambit while taking no damage due to it being a part-Flying-type Pokémon.
So there's also the ability to instill fear, which is one of the best in VGC.
The public figured out that Jeudy had cracked the code to a strong Rain structure that worked well as an anti-meta pick, and began working the team themselves, with their own modifications and variations.
Some variations were more drastic than others, in that players replaced the whole Pokémon with moves, items, Tera types, and the like.
Amoonguss for Meowscarada and Salamence for Dragonite are the most common variations of Jeudy's Rain team composition. This team variation worked so well for VGC pro Kurt Wonka that he not only won the Liverpool Regional, but he also earned a fifth-place finish.
Kurt and others who made this change probably realized that Amoonguss and Salamence would not be the only way to support this Rain core, and they sought out more offensive options that paid out in the long run.
While Jeudy's Pelipper-Palafin Rain team was the most popular team composition in the tournament, the individual Pokémon weren't at the top of the usage rankings.
Pelipper was named the seventh most popular Pokémon in the tournament, seen 97 times across all 487 teams with a usage rate of 19.92 percent, while Palafin was the 11th most popular Pokémon in the tournament, seen 79 times across all teams with a usage rate of 19.92 percent.
Gholdengo, who came in first, was seen 238 times with a usage rate of 48.87 percent, and Meowscarada, who came in second, was seen 233 times with a usage rate of 47.84 percent.
Amoonguss was up in second place, seen 179 times with a usage rate of 36.76 percent, but this is just because this sussy baka is the GOAT.