Published on July 3rd, 2012 | by R Inanimate


A Preview to Team Preview in VGC

1. Introduction

The opponent is running a Zapdos / Latios / Hitmontop / Metagross / Tyranitar / Garchomp for their team. What can I expect from such a team?

As of 2011, battles in VGC have Team Preview active. This causes a major change in the metagame at the events, as it gives a valid reason to have a full team of 6 Pokemon when competing at a Regional and National event. It also changed what kinds of teams were used, as one didn’t have to try to make a single team of 4 Pokemon to try to take on everything in the metagame. Instead, any one team has a lot more freedom on which Pokemon they want to bring to the battle and who is sent out first, reducing the chances of having a bad draw of opponent and fighting against a person whose leads counter your own. If you are reading this article for information to help build a team from the start, you’ve come to the wrong place. However, if you often feel lost on what to choose at the start of a battle, or have no idea what the opponent’s team can do and what to watch out for, this may be an article for you.

2. Aspects of VGC Team Preview

a. Bring 6, Choose 4

Unlike 6 vs 6 Single Battles, that many competitive Pokemon players are familiar with, VGC battles only have 4 Pokemon brought into a battle. Therefore, Team Preview is more than just deciding on who will be kicking off at the start of the battle; a player must also decide which two team members will be sitting out. This means that one must be decisive on who they want to bring to a battle. All 4 team spots are important to a match, and it will be too late to try to decide on which Pokemon to bring in order to answer an opponent’s Pokemon after the battle has started, since you will not have your full team of 6. When playing on the game cartridge, Team Preview and selection is alotted 90 seconds. Should the 90 seconds expire, the game will automatically choose your team for you by selecting the first 4 Pokemon on your team, and sending them into battle in that order.

b. Choosing 2 Pokemon to lead

Since VGC battles are also Double Battles, 2 Pokemon have to be chosen to lead off in any given battle. While it may be an obvious statement, keep in mind that that only 4 Pokemon are brought into the battle. This means that half your team composes the frontlines. As such, lead choices are extremely important in the fast paced VGC environment. A poor lead choice can place you in a bad situation from the start, without any way to make a comeback barring some serious luck.

3. Reading Teams from Team Preview

a. looking for clues on overall strategy

What Pokemon you see in a Team Preview can tell a lot about an opponent’s strategy. For example:


You can immediately tell that the opponent is running a Rain team, and will be heavily reliant on having their weather up. There are a number of overall team strategies that are used in VGC. Although each strategy is customizable to fit a personal playstyle, there are usually a few key things to look out for that will show up on almost every team of a given type:


Rain teams are geared towards trying to brute force sweep through opponents using boosted Water-type moves. They tend to be heavy on using Special Attacks, often having Water, Ice, Grass, Dragon, and Electric-type moves. They also tend to contain, a Steel-type Pokemon or two for defensive synergy by taking advantage of weakening of Fire-type moves.

Politoed is the biggest indicator of a Rain team due to acquiring Drizzle as a Dream World ability. Following up Politoed are Swift Swim Pokemon and Pokemon immune to Water-type attacks, such as Ludicolo and Gastrodon, respectively. These Pokemon are fairly dependant on having their weather up, so if a team has a large number of them, they tend to have a Pokemon that can set up Rain manually using Rain Dance. Tornadus and Thundurus are likely candidates for performing such a task as Prankster makes it difficult to disrupt the setup.

Rain as a primary offense is highly destructive, but the focus on Special Attack and lack of variety leaves the team vulnerable if they lose their advantage. Changing the weather or using Trick Room can easily turn the tables on Swift Swim Pokemon, while moves such as Thunder Wave and Tailwind can allow one to regain speed control in the battle. Once you take away a Rain team’s speed advantage, they become a lot easier to manage. Keep in mind, however, that not every team will have a heavy reliance on the weather. Some teams have as little as a Politoed and a Ludicolo as far as Water-type Pokemon go.


Although not as common as Rain or Sand teams, Sun teams should not be underestimated. The two big things to worry about are Grass-type Pokemon, who double in speed with Chlorophyll and threaten with Sleep Powder, and Fire-type Pokemon who get a boost in their STAB attacks.

A Sun team will usually have Ninetales as its new Dream World ability, Drought, allows it to summon the Sun upon entry. Other Pokemon such as Sableye and Whimsicott can also potentially set up the Sun. Like Tornadus and Thundurus for Rain teams, their Prankster ability provides priority to Sunny Day, making it difficult to stop the set up. One can expect to see at least one Pokemon with Chlorophyll and a second Fire-type aside from Ninetales on a Sun team, but aside from that, the remaining Pokemon are highly variable, often to deal with Pokemon such as Politoed, Tyranitar, or Latios who aren’t phased much by strong Fire-type attacks. One big thing to watch out for, when dealing with sun teams, is the threat of Chlorophyll Pokemon with Sleep Powder, such as Jumpluff or Venusaur. If you aren’t careful, you may end up with a large portion of your team shut down by fast Sleepers.

Pokemon that benefit from the Sun often have troubles dealing with Dragon- and Fire-type Pokemon, as they aren’t phased much by the Fire- and Grass-type moves commonly used by these teams, and can end up in a bit of trouble if the weather is changed to rain or sand by Politoed or Tyranitar respectively, highlighting the importance for Sun teams to have an answer for these threats. Due to the threat of Sleepers, Pokemon with Safeguard or Pokemon that hold a Lum Berry are helpful if present on your team.


Summoning a Sandstorm is often used simply to cancel other weathers, but some teams will use it to their own benefit by activating Sand related abilities and taking advantage of their Pokemon’s typing. They tend to have a good balance between physical and special attacks.

Naturally, Tyranitar is staple to a Sand team due to it’s Sand Stream ability and sizable bulk. Pokemon with sand related abilities, in particular Excadrill, Garchomp, and Landorus, follow after Tyranitar. Lastly, to round it off, Flying-type or Levitating Electric-type Pokemon, such as Zapdos, Thundurus and Rotom-A, will often be present to pair up with the Ground-type Pokemon to perform a DisQuake combo.

With the exception of Excadrill, a Sand team is not particularly affected by the loss of its weather. The main core of a Sand team ends up being relatively weak to Water- and Ice-type attacks, making life hard for Sand if they let the opponent get their own rain or hail active. However, since a sand team is fairly close to being a “Goodstuffs” team, what’s considered effective against them will depend on what the team uses outside of the team’s core Pokemon. While sand is not vital for the team’s success, it still is not something one should leave active when facing a Sand team if it can be avoided. The stories about Garchomp activating Sand Veil to make a last stand and turn a battle’s result are in no short supply.


Hail, like sand, is used more often as a weather canceller, but on rare occasions it will be used for a Hail team. Naturally, their main goal is to throw 100% accurate Blizzards around, devastating many common Ice weak Pokemon, such as Zapdos, Garchomp, and Latios. However, due to Ice-type being a poor defensive type, a well made Hail team won’t be quite as obvious as one may think.

Hail teams have Abomasnow; that is a guarantee. Along with Abomasnow, Pokemon such as Rotom-F, Glaceon, and Froslass are Pokemon of choice when it comes to using Blizzard. As mentioned before, Ice-type is a poor defensive typing, so a team will likely be restricted to having one of the three mentioned Pokemon. In addition to the Blizzard users, a team will either have Trick Room or Tailwind support, such as Jellicent and Togekiss, respectively, in order to get Abomasnow to outrun its targets. The remaining members serve to try to cover up on weaknesses as best as possible.

Fire-, Fighting-, and Steel-type Pokemon all give major trouble to Ice-type Pokemon. But even if you are resistant to Ice-type moves, never underestimate the dangers of the opponent double spamming Blizzard. For every turn your team is hit with 2 Blizzards, there is a 34% chance that at least one of your Pokemon is frozen solid. This means that one should be cautious when trying to switch in their counter to Blizzards, or should get rid of the hail as soon as they can in order to return Blizzard’s accuracy to a unreliable 70%. Pokemon that run Flare Blitz, or Scald are also useful, as they are able to thaw themselves out from being frozen solid and thus are not as worried about Blizzards.

Trick Room

Trick Room teams are recognizable based on having a large number of slower Pokemon as well as one or two Pokemon capable of setting Trick Room. Keep in mind that not all the Pokemon on the team will necessarily be slow Pokemon. A notable example would be someone running a Thundurus on a Trick Room team, since Prankster can allow it to still have some function regardless of whether Trick Room is active or not. It is also likely that the team will have either a Fake Out user or a Follow Me in order to ensure that Trick Room can be executed successfully.

While the easiest way to deal with Trick Room would be to prevent its set up all together, this is not always feasible. As such it’s usually better to expect that the opponent will be able to execute Trick Room at least once during the battle and plan a turn or two ahead as opposed to being reckless and expecting to always be able to stop their set up. Fake Out, Taunt, Spore, Imprison, and Trick while holding a Choice Scarf are all decent ways of giving the opponent a tough time while they set up if you have them on your team.


Not every team will have an obvious overlaying strategy. These kinds of teams are considered “Goodstuffs” teams (also known as “Read and React”). These teams do not rely heavily on set up like Trick Room or weather. Instead they are built with a goal of having no immediate weaknesses, trying to find a good balance between defensive and offensive coverage, while being able to have some sort of answer to just about anything.

Although it could be said for facing just about any team, getting an early lead on a Goodstuffs team is extremely helpful. As they rely a lot on their team’s synergy, taking a Pokemon out early in the match can break the opponent’s formation, potentially leading to their team’s collapse.

b. finer details in teams, going a step further

Being able to deduce your opponent’s strategy is good to give a sense of direction of what to choose but often isn’t quite enough to make the best choice. Many Pokemon in VGC play a specific roles on a team, defined by a specific ability or a few key moves, allowing you to have some expectations on what each Pokemon will do. Being caught off guard, due to not knowing what a Pokemon can do, can be a fatal error in VGC’s fast-paced envornment. This next section highlights on a few of these key moves and abilities, why they are relevant, and some common Pokemon that have them. While this is information that is easy to look up a list for, or read about in a Pokemon’s analysis, you can’t rely on looking for information once a battle has begun. It’s very useful to be able to skim through an opponents team, and determine whether they have any Fake Out users, or Pokemon that run Follow Me or have Intimidate.

Fake Out

Fake Out is a valuble attack in Double Battles that is accessable to many Pokemon. With a +3 Priority, and 100% chance of causing flinching, it can disrupt the opponent’s strategy for the turn. Unless the Pokemon is Ghost-type, has Inner Focus, or uses Helping Hand, a Pokemon targetted with Fake Out will be unable to attack for the turn, allowing the Fake Out user’s partner to act without worry from that Pokemon. One exception would be the usage of Quick Guard. Quick Guard can block an incoming Fake Out saving the party from being flinched, but since Fake Out and Quick Guard have the same move priority, the user of Quick Guard must be faster than the Fake Out user. Fake Out only stops one Pokemon from attacking, so if both Pokemon are immediate threats it may be less helpful. Fake Out can also be stopped by simply Protecting with both Pokemon to avoid it, but it can lead to problems if the opponent predicts it. Common users of Fake Out include: Hitmontop, Ludicolo, Weavile, Ambipom, Hariyama, Scrafty, Mienshao, Sableye, and Infernape

Priority Moves

Priority moves aren’t particularly powerful but are still important moves in VGC battles. The ability to get a jump on fast and frail sweepers, such as Latios, or being able to pick off crippled targets is incredibly useful in a fast paced, high offense metagame. There is a handful of priority moves that are used, ranging from Sucker Punch to Ice Shard to Bullet Punch. Knowing what Pokemon can potentially run Priority moves can allow you to save a crippled Pokemon from being picked off. Some priority move users of note include: Hitmontop, Scizor, Metagross, Bisharp, Mamoswine, Conkeldurr.

Follow Me / Rage Powder

Follow Me and Rage Powder redirect all opponent attacks towards the user, if possible. This is often used in order to divert attacks away from another Pokemon trying to set up. Either that or diverting attacks away from a Pokemon that hits hard but is very frail. Naturally, attacks that hit multiple targets such as Heat Wave, Blizzard, Earthquake, Rock Slide, and Icy Wind will completely bypass Follow Me. Also, Fake Out may be used to stop a user of Follow Me or Rage Powder if Fake Out user is faster due to both moves having +3 priority. Common users of Follow Me or Rage Powder include: Togekiss, Amoonguss, Parasect, Volcarona, and Jumpluff.


Tailwind doubles the speed of a team for 3 Turns after its usage. This opens up a window of opportunity to go all out on the offensive. However, since it only lasts for 3 turns, Tailwind isn’t too difficult to stall out by playing defensively, or making smart switches. Tornadus, Whimsicott, and Zapdos are common users of Tailwind, but other Pokemon, such as Scizor, Latios, and Suicune, may also run the move.

Discharge + Earthquake

A simple, but effective, combination is using Discharge and Earthquake where the ally is immune to the other’s attack, sometimes referred to as DisQuake. The two attacks hit indiscriminately, and the users of the moves are relatively fast, dealing heavy damage to Pokemon without any resistances to either move. It’s a straightforward offensive tactic, so either bringing some Pokemon faster than the opponents, or Pokemon that can easily handle Ground- and Electric-type moves can work well in dealing with DisQuake. Discharge users will include Zapdos, Rotom-A, and Thundurus, while Earthquake users may include Garchomp, Landorus, and Excadrill.

Beat Up + Justified

Also known as TerraCott, named after the most infamous example of the combo. This combination involves the use of Beat Up to provide a +4 Attack boost to a Pokemon with Justified. While not a common strategy and fairly easy to stop, it is extremely dangerous if executed successfully. Getting caught off guard by it is almost always fatal. Follow Me or Rage Powder are the easiest way to handle TerraCott, as it will redirect Beat Up away and stop the +4 Attack boost. Simply outrunning the opponents and threatening them with strong attacks will also stop the combo, although it’s easier said than done at times. Beat Up users will usually be Whimsicott or Weavile, but Krookodile and Ambipom may try it as well. Terrakion is normally the recipient of the Beat Up boosts, but keep in mind that Arcanine, Gallade, Lucario and Absol may also be used to take advantage of Justified.

Storm Drain / LightningRod

Storm Drain and Lightningrod redirect Water-type or Electric- attacks, respectively, towards the Pokemon with the ability, while granting immunity to said attacks and boosting Special Attack whenever hit by them. This can be used for both defensive purposes, by directing attacks away from your ally, or offensive purposes, by using multi-target attacks to provide Special Attack boosts and deal damage to the opponent. Pokemon that have Storm Drain include Gastrodon, Cradily, and Lumineon. Lightningrod is run or Zebstrika, Manectric, Seaking, and Rhyperior. If these Pokemon are present on an opposing team, you may want to think twice about throwing around Water- or Electric-type attacks recklessly.


Intimidate cuts the attack of both opponent Pokemon upon entry. Leading with an Intimidate Pokemon provides immediate support against the opponent’s Physical attackers. These Pokemon can also be useful on a switch in to throw off the enemy’s damage calculations. Because of this it’s important to pay attention to Pokemon that may have Intimidate on the opposing team in order to better manage your physical attackers. Metagross and Bisharp do not care about Intimidate due to their abilties. Common Pokemon with Intimidate in VGC include: Hitmontop, Salamence, Arcanine, and Gyarados.


Prankster is an ability that provides +1 priority to the user’s non-damaging moves. This can be incredibly useful for using moves such as Thunder Wave, Taunt, Encore, Swagger, and Substitute. Pokemon with Prankster often come with a wide variety of supportive moves that they can run to make full use of their abilitiy. Pokemon with Prankster include: Thundurus, Whimsicott, Tornadus, Sableye, and Volbeat.

Wide Guard

While not a very commonly learned move, Wide Guard blocks multi-target moves from dealing damage to the user and its ally. Since multi-target moves are very commonly used in VGC, Wide Guard can create an attack opportunity for its ally, especially for partners weak to Rock- and Fire- type attacks which are usually seen as Rock Slide and Heat Wave respectively. It’s important to be aware of users of Wide Guard in order to avoid wasting too many moves. Pokemon that use Wide Guard in VGC include: Hitmontop, Mienshao, Swampert, Machamp and Carracosta.


Swagger is an interesting move. By raising a target’s Attack by two stages and confusing them, it can be used for both offensive and defensive purposes and is fairly popular with Japanese players. The most common users of Swagger are Thundurus and Cresselia while recipients tend to be along the lines of Metagross, Scizor, Conkeldurr, and Tyranitar. Teams revolving around Swagger tend to require some form of speed control, so expect Thunder Wave or Trick Room to show up with it.

Now that we have an idea of things to look out for, let’s go back to the example Rain team at the start. The Politoed is guaranteed to have Drizzle, allowing it to summon up an endless rainstorm. Ludicolo and Kingdra will have Swift Swim, allowing them to easily outrun other Pokemon once the rain is set up, making them the main offense force on the team. Thundurus is likely to have Rain Dance on its moveset, giving the team a way to get its Rain back. Scizor and Toxicroak provide some Physical attack coverage, working well on many Pokemon that don’t worry about Water-type attacks. Toxicroak, like Ludicolo has access to Fake Out, and will have it on its moveset. Lastly, one can expect some of the Water-type Pokemon to run Surf as it combos well with Toxicroak’s Dry Skin ability.

c. prediction of Pokemon you can expect your opponent to use

There is one last aspect to choosing a team based on Team Preview beyond knowing the opponent’s team style and what the opponent’s individual Pokemon can do, and that is predicting what Pokemon your opponent will actually bring to the battle. Reading an opponent involves knowing your own team. Naturally, the opponent will also be trying to choose what is best for them to bring into the battle. Would you expect an opponent to bring a Heatran against a Rain Team? Probably not. Would you expect them to bring an Abomasnow if they have one? Almost guaranteed.

Knowing your team’s apparent weaknesses plays a role in prediction. By being aware of what the opponent has that is a major threat to your team, you can formulate a plan, or set a trap, in order to deal with the threat. While prediction and choice changes depending on what you use and who you face, there are still a few general tips that can apply to a number of situations:

1.Fake Out users, such as Ludicolo, Hitmontop, Toxicroak, Weavile, and Ambipom, will often be used as leads in a battle
2.Similarly, Follow Me or Rage Powder users, such as Togekiss or Amoonguss, respectively, also tend to act as leads in a battle
3.It is unlikely that a person will use both a Fake Out user and a Follow Me user lead at the same time, assuming they have both on their team
4.Against a weather reliant team, the opponent is very likely to bring their own auto-weather Pokemon to the battle if they have one in order to cancel out your weather. Keep in mind that they will not necessarily lead off with the Pokemon
5.A team that runs Trick Room will almost certainly lead with something that can use Trick Room. More often than not, they will try to set up on the first turn.

4. Things not to do with regard to Team Preview

As with anything else, there’s always some things that you shouldn’t do with Team Preview. This section is to touch on a few things that either don’t work or are unecessarily risky.

1. Having a Pokemon on the Team solely as a Bluff

A team should always have a few tricks up its sleeve. Bluffing a strategy can allow you to catch the opponent off guard as they prepare themselves against the wrong kind of team style. However, this requires the opponent to be aware of what your team looks like it’s doing, and to feel threatened by said team style. After all, bluffing will not work if the opponent is completely clueless to what you are doing or feels no threat from what you are pretending to be. Regardless of how much your team tries to pull a bluff, nobody should go as far as to place a Pokemon onto their team of 6 solely for the purpose of bluffing like having a Damp Politoed on the team to try to make the team look like a rain team or bringing a Zoroark that isn’t EV trained to try to play mind games on the opponent. Bringing a Pokemon without any intention of using it in battle will simply handicap the team giving you only 5 viable Pokemon to choose from while attempting a bluff that may not pay off.

2. Reading an opponent’s Pokemon as individual parts without seeing the big picture

Pokemon “A” counters Pokemon “1”
Pokemon “B” is countered by Pokemon “1”

You lead with “A” and “B”, because “A” should be able to deal with “1” before it can make a move. You predicted right, and the opponent leads with “1”. However, you did not account for Pokemon “2”, which outruns and OHKOs “A”, leaving “B” vulnerable to “1”, so now you’re well on your way to the battle being 2-4 after the first turn. This is another reminder that VGC battles are in a Double Battle format, therefore things are not so simple that you can haphazardly match Pokemon to counter to the opponent’s Pokemon. It’s often better to go for a lead and team setup that is flexible in handling any situation than it is to take a gamble and run the risk of a terrible lead match up due to being too focused with handling certain Pokemon.


Ignoring the information provided or constantly doing something that is way too predictable. For example, thinking that a Rain Team can get away with always leading with Politoed and Ludicolo, or for a Trick Room team to always accompany their Trick Room lead with a Fake Out user without seeing what Pokemon the opponent has. VGC battles are not so easy that you can auto-pilot through the Team Preview and expect to win all your battles.

6. Conclusion

With this, you should be able to better read opponent teams and make sound decisions at the preview of your VGC battles. However, this is only the starting line, the next step is to build on double battling and team building skill. After all, even if you are good at reading and predicting the opponent at the Team Preview, this will be meaningless if you don’t have the battling skill to back it up, or if your team is at a complete disadvantage from the start. This preview to Team Preview is now over.

About the Author

R Inanimate is a long time participant in official Pokemon Tournaments, first attending the 2005 Battle in Seattle Tournament. Known for using teams that are a bit off from the standard, and not using RNG'd Pokemon. Avid Battle Frontier fan. Worlds 2013 competitor, known for running Togekiss and Mold Breaker Excadrill.

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