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the Pokémon UNITE Championship Series. Read on below to learn more:
The Aeos Cup is on the way. What strategies and tactics will the top teams try to execute?
By Jake Sprague, Contributing Writer
The inaugural Pokémon UNITE Championship Series is starting to heat up! The Aeos Cup competition running April 23–24 will be the first ever in the Championship Series in which players battle for prize money on top of Championship Points toward World Championship qualification. With more on the line than ever before, this exciting event is a great chance to learn more about competitive play.
If you’re playing your first competitive matches or just starting to watch the stream at home, you’ll probably see some strategies and tactics that are a little different from the games you play with your friends. Why is there usually only one Pokémon on the top path? How do the players decide when to move as a team and when not to? Why is Greedent SO MEAN? This article is here to help you understand some of the exciting strategies and playstyles you’ll see the top ranked teams use on Aeos Island.
If you are just starting to watch Pokémon UNITE and haven’t played it yourself, it’s available now on Nintendo Switch systems and mobile devices. The in-game tutorials explain some of the basic concepts that will help you follow the championship games. They’re a good foundation to the strategies that we’ll cover here.
Picking your Pokémon is one of the first things you do in a match, so it’s a good place to start here, too. When it comes to competitive play, you’ll often see certain Pokémon on paths you might not expect from their usual roles. In your own matches, for example, you might have seen a lot of Speedsters get chosen to battle in the central area. But competitive players might take a different approach and choose an Attacker Pokémon like Cinderace instead. This is because Attacker Pokémon like Cinderace, Greninja, and Decidueye need plenty of Exp. Points to evolve and become super powerful, and the central area provides a lot more Exp. Points than either the top or bottom paths. So when that Raboot does evolve into Cinderace, look out! More often, when you do see a Speedster like Talonflame in competitive play, it might be heading to the top path to join an All-Rounder like Lucario instead.
You’re also going to see a smaller pool of Pokémon chosen for competitive matches. Players have had a lot of time to figure out which Pokémon work best in each position. Because of that, you are going to see plenty of Pikachu, Venusaur, and Lucario picks but not very many of Cramorant or Tsareena. However, as more Pokémon are released and the game gets updated with balance patches, the most-played Pokémon don’t always stay the top picks for long.
The metagame is constantly evolving, both with strategies that become the dominant ones of the moment and with strategies for countering them. Top players spend a lot of time playing similar strategies or counter strategies, looking for the best playstyle possible. For instance, Cinderace is a top meta pick right now for the central area, as it has been shown to perform better than other Attacker or Speedster Pokémon that could start in the central area, such as Decidueye or Gengar.
Now, let’s take a look at two of the most-played laning strategies in the metagame right now.
The 1-1-3 strategy is one that you may have seen in the North America and Europe Championship Series or in top-ranked games. In fact, it’s also called the North American or “western” strategy. Teams that use this strategy will send one Pokémon alone on the top path, one Pokémon in the central area, and three Pokémon on the bottom path, hence the name “1-1-3.”
For a typical team that sends only two Pokémon each on the top and bottom paths, it’s difficult for them to deal with the additional pressure of facing three opposing Pokémon on the bottom path. On top of that, a Pokémon by itself on the top path can usually put up a decent fight against two opposing Pokémon. If the three Pokémon on the bottom path can play aggressively, defeat a majority of the wild Pokémon, and get a few KOs along the way, they’ll be in a much better position to secure that all-important Drednaw once it appears on the bottom path. This first Drednaw is extremely crucial in the match, as the Pokémon on the team that defeats it will get both shields and a big chunk of bonus Exp. Points! This can help that team’s Pokémon evolve, learn their Unite Moves, and win big team battles.
You can expect to see top teams in North America and Europe, like Gaimin Gladiators (undefeated in the North America February Finals) and Five Guys (third place in the Europe February Finals) play this strategy. The Pokémon on the top path is often Lucario, Machamp, or Greedent. It focuses on getting as many Exp. Points as possible while scoring often, and it’ll usually have a held item with a stacking bonus, like an Attack Weight, so it can get even stronger each time it scores. The central area Pokémon spends its time defeating wild Pokémon in the center of the map, then usually heads up to assist the top path Pokémon with battling the Vespiquen and Combee that appear at the 8:50 mark. The three Pokémon that make up the bottom path group often include a Ranged Attacker like Pikachu or Venusaur—Pokémon that can rain damage down on the opposing team and help secure defeats on contested wild Pokémon. You’ll also see a Supporter or Defender like Wigglytuff or Slowbro—Pokémon that are incredibly bulky and great at bullying the opposing team. Finally, the third Pokémon on the bottom path is often another Supporter like Eldegoss, Blissey, or maybe even Hoopa—Pokémon that can keep the team healthy with shields and HP recovery moves, all while attacking the other team’s Pokémon at every opportunity. You’d be surprised how much damage a little Eldegoss can put out!
With so many Pokémon on the bottom path from both teams, it’s no surprise that a big team battle breaks out right when the bottom path Audino shows up. Whichever team can secure this Audino will gain a strong Exp. Point advantage right away. It’s such an important first objective to battle over that Gaimin Gladiators player Indiebear has referred to it as a “mini Drednaw.”
While the bottom path Pokémon fight over every last bit of Exp. Points they can get from wild Pokémon, the top path and central area Pokémon get lots of Exp. Points all to themselves by being alone. If all goes well, the central area Pokémon will have gained enough levels to have their Unite Move available by the time Drednaw appears around the 7:00 mark, which is when the first huge team battle usually breaks out on the bottom path. If the three Pokémon on the bottom path have performed well and can win this early Drednaw battle, they’ll put themselves in a powerful position throughout the rest of the match.
Many teams take different approaches after this first big battle. Some teams decide to not score all of their points in the other team’s bottom forward goal zone to prevent it from getting destroyed. Sounds like a crazy play, right? Why wouldn’t you score as much as possible and destroy the opposing team’s goal zone right away? Well, if both teams’ forward goal zones on the bottom path remain active, wild Pokémon will continue to appear in the center of the bottom path. This allows the team that is ahead to keep defeating wild Pokémon and level up fast! Other teams might push their advantage and start scoring goals, destroying the goal zone and trying to score extra points in the middle goal zones early. Either way, teams playing the 1-1-3 meta are often more focused on gaining Exp. Points and winning team battles throughout the match.
Despite its regional nickname, this strategy has been extremely popular and used all over the world! Variations on it have emerged, too, such as top Philippines team Aeos Fortis Reges using Pokémon like Blissey and Venusaur as part of this team.
Can this powerful strategy be beaten? If so, it might come from this next extremely popular play style…
Like a roller coaster with no brakes, a team that runs the “Score Comp” meta strategy attacks the opposing team’s goal zones at breakneck speed while having lots of ups and downs throughout the match. Whether the team wins or loses big objectives or battles, they continue to push relentlessly toward the opposing team’s base, snagging and scoring every bit of Aeos energy they can. This exciting strategy rose to prominence in Japan and is still referred to as the “Japanese meta,” but it has since been adopted by teams in every region. The winners of the February Finals in the EU region, Random Gaming, and the runners-up, Yerman Burger Flippers, both used this strategy! Not to mention top teams from many other regions, including the top team from Japan, Team Galaxy.
Simply put, the way to win in Pokémon UNITE is to outscore your opponents, and this strategy is focused almost exclusively on that. You will see Pokémon diving onto the opposing team’s goal zones, happily sacrificing themselves to score even small amounts of Aeos energy. The teams that play this strategy score so much that even if they don’t secure Zapdos near the end of the match, they are often so far ahead in points that they can still win.
So what does this look like in practice? The teams using this strategy often use Pokémon like Talonflame, Greedent, and Crustle—extremely mobile Pokémon that can put pressure all over the map. You’ll see a super-tanky Crustle scoring on the top path, a ravenous Greedent invading the opposing team’s central area to take all the wild Pokémon and Aeos energy there, and the rest of the team pushing hard toward map objectives and the opposing team’s goal zones. While this team might not win a full-on team battle against their opponents, they make up for it with their constant scoring.
The Score Comp meta is a real treat to watch, with some games having both teams score over a thousand points! On the other hand, it’s wild to see Greedent use its Unite Move and Buddy Barrier to score as little as two points—or see Dragonite leave its team during a big team battle, take to the sky, and fly toward the opposing team’s base to sneakily make a big score. You’ll even see Score Comp teams purposefully avoid fighting Zapdos at the two-minute mark altogether and instead run straight into the opposing team’s goal zones to score enough points to win the match.
Which strategy is best? The deliberately planned 1-1-3, the all-out Score Comp, or a clever combination of the two? It’ll be fascinating to watch the season play out and discover which of these contrasting metagames pulls ahead. And of course, we’ll find out for sure when all of the regions collide this August in London for the World Championships! There are sure to be a lot of things changing between now and then as more Pokémon are added and top teams come up with new strategies.
After getting a better understanding of these contrasting strategies, you probably have even more questions! That’s where the official Pokémon UNITE Championship Series broadcasts come in. Watch and listen to the team of broadcasters (including myself!) to learn all the info you need to follow along. Hope to see you there!
For more Pokémon UNITE strategy and analysis, be sure to check out Pokemon.com/Strategy.
Jake Sprague, a.k.a. “spragels,” is a broadcaster for Pokémon UNITE Championship Series competitions and holds the record for the most “yeehaws” said during an official Pokémon broadcast.