Series 8: The Restricted are back

It has already been three months since Series 7 started after the release of The Crown Tundra and the transition to VGC 2021. This format has been used for many major online competitions, including:

However, this has also included the first Regional-level live event since March, with the Taiwan Regional League. It is still unconfirmed whether any live events will be held these next months.

The rotating formats of VGC 2020 and VGC 2021 favour a rapid evolution of the metagame, which does not fully stagnate. The absence of large events (apart from the Pokémon Players Cups and some independent initiatives) also help these short-term strategies. The recently-announced Series 8 comes as the format for the Pokémon Players Cup III and as the first step towards a less ephemeral and more relevant series, probably with a GS Cup format, to be in use for the planned 2021 World Championships.

In this article we will introduce all that the new format of VGC, as confirmed on the 25 January issue of the Play! Pokémon ruleset document, brings to the table starting on 1 February and the impact that the return of the most dominant Pokémon will have on this fluctuating metagame.

Restricted Pokémon

The generally strongest Legendary Pokémon, known as Restricted Pokémon, have been used in some other formats in the past. VGC 2010, VGC 2016 and more recently VGC 2019 (including its three rotations: Sun Series, Moon Series and Ultra Series) were played with the competitive ruleset known as GS Cup, which means that two Restricted Pokémon were allowed to battle per team.

However, for the first time ever, only one Restricted Pokémon will be eligible during these three months of Series 8. The following is the list of Restricted Pokémon available starting on 1 February:

List of Restricted Pokémon
mewtwolugiaho-ohkyogregroudonrayquaza
MewtwoLugiaHo-OhKyogreGroudonRayquaza
dialgapalkiagiratinagiratina-originreshiramzekrom
DialgaPalkiaGiratina
(Altered F.)
Giratina
(Origin F.)
ReshiramZekrom
kyuremkyurem-whitekyurem-blackxerneasyveltalzygarde-50
KyuremWhite
Kyurem
Black
Kyurem
XerneasYveltalZygarde
(50% Forme)
zygarde-10cosmogcosmoemsolgaleolunalanecrozma
Zygarde
(10% Forme)
CosmogCosmoemSolgaleoLunalaNecrozma
necrozma-dusk-manenecrozma-dawn-wingszacianzacian-crownedzamazentazamazenta-crowned
Dusk Mane
Necrozma
Dawn Wings
Necrozma
Zacian
(Hero of Many Battles)
Zacian
(Crowned Sword)
Zamazenta
(Hero of Many Battles)
Zamazenta
(Crowned Shield)
eternatuscalyrexcalyrex-ice-ridercalyrex-shadow-rider
EternatusCalyrexIce Rider
Calyrex
Shadow Rider
Calyrex
List of Restricted Pokémon
mewtwolugiaho-ohkyogre
MewtwoLugiaHo-OhKyogre
groudonrayquazadialgapalkia
GroudonRayquazaDialgaPalkia
giratinagiratina-originreshiramzekrom
Giratina
(Altered F.)
Giratina
(Origin F.)
ReshiramZekrom
kyuremkyurem-whitekyurem-blackxerneas
KyuremWhite
Kyurem
Black
Kyurem
Xerneas
yveltalzygarde-50zygarde-10cosmog
YveltalZygarde
(50% Forme)
Zygarde
(10% Forme)
Cosmog
cosmoemsolgaleolunalanecrozma
CosmoemSolgaleoLunalaNecrozma
necrozma-dusk-manenecrozma-dawn-wingszacianzacian-crowned
Dusk Mane
Necrozma
Dawn Wings
Necrozma
Zacian
(Hero of Many Battles)
Zacian
(Crowned Sword)
zamazentazamazenta-crownedeternatuscalyrex
Zamazenta
(Hero of Many Battles)
Zamazenta
(Crowned Shield)
EternatusCalyrex
calyrex-ice-ridercalyrex-shadow-rider
Ice Rider
Calyrex
Shadow Rider
Calyrex

Impact on the metagame

The availability of some of these Pokémon deeply impact the current metagame of VGC 2021. Let’s take a look at the most promising of them:

Zacian

Zacian may lack the option of Dynamaxing (same as Zamazenta and Eternatus), but do not let yourself be fooled. Holding the Rusted Sword (thus entering battle in its Crown Sword form) and with its Intrepid Sword ability boosting its already sky-high Attack stat, it is one of the fastest and most dangerous offensive Pokémon.

But its threat is even greater: its characteristic move Behemoth Blade deals double damage to a Dynamaxed Pokémon, thus rendering their HP boost irrelevant. With an excellent Speed stat and only two type weaknesses in Fire and Ground, it is not an easy prey at all either.

Ice Rider Calyrex and Shadow Rider Calyrex


The most recent Legendary Pokémon, Calyrex, has two very powerful forms that are somewhat similar to the Glastrier and Spectrier that are being played in Series 7, but with much more potential.

On the one hand, when Calyrex bonds with Glastrier, it becomes Ice Rider Calyrex. This is a rather slow Pokémon with incredible physical offensive power. Although its Psychic/Ice typing is not very helpful defensively, it has such amazing stats that it does not matter so much. On the other hand, when Calyrex bonds with Spectrier, it becomes Shadow Rider Calyrex. Contrary to its other form, this is a very fast and offensive Pokémon on the special side, which is only weak to Ghost-type and Dark-type moves… if they hit before their opponent is taken down.

Beware of their surprisingly endless support moves and their fatally dangerous spread moves (Ice-type Glacial Lance and Ghost-type Astral Barrage), whose damage cannot be mitigated with any berry and are boosted after each felled opponent due to their As One ability.

Kyogre and Groudon


The eternal battle resumes. The protagonists of the “weather wars” are back and it is not clear who will have the upper hand this time.

Kyogre seems superior at first glance, with the type advantage over its nemesis and the rain-boosted STAB moves powered up by its Drizzle ability and the option to hit Max Geysers. We can go back in time a little over one year and recover that core that James Baek masterfully piloted throughout VGC 2019, as the combination of Tornadus (Incarnate Forme), Incineroar and Kartana with Kyogre seems a pretty solid option with just some small tweaks.

Its Drought ability is not as powerful now that Primal Reversion is not possible, but Groudon gains access to Special Defense boosts with STAB Max Quakes. Sun-based teams have been strong during many series already, and with the threat of Zacian and the company of Grass-type Chlorophyll users, it does not seem that they will fade away any time soon.

Xerneas and Yveltal

The uncontested dominance of Xerneas may come to an end in its particular feud with Yveltal, despite the type advantage.

The abundance of Steel-type threats might be too much even for the Fairy Aura and Geomancy-boosted Fairy-type Pokémon, although do not sleep on it because its role will be similar to the one it played in VGC 2016 and VGC 2019 alongside Pokémon with redirection moves.

Yveltal seems to have some benefits with its access to Max Airstream based on the recovery move Oblivion Wing and with its Dark Aura ability boosting both its moves and its Dark-type allies’, especially in a metagame that currently has Incineroar, Single Strike Style Urshifu, Galarian Moltres and Grimmsnarl on the top of usage statistics. Will they remain prevalent during this new series?

Steel-type Pokémon

The Steel type is very strong with Max Steelspike providing Defense boosts to their users’ generally high bulk. The extra offensive power that Restricted Pokémon bring to the table can help Steel-type options like Dialga, Solgaleo or Dusk Mane Necrozma rise in usage in this series. Do not be surprised and expect to see some of them hold a Weakness Policy in order to become a major threat accompanied both by offensive and by supportive Pokémon!

Anti-meta options

Less popular options can often find a niche as anti-meta picks depending on the path the development of the metagame takes. The radar may be far from Pokémon like Ho-Oh, Zekrom or Zygarde, but their possibilities in this Dynamax-dominated format may give them the tools to unexpectedly find their place on top. There is no doubt that they are strong, but is the field ready for their power?

What's next?

Although this article is focused on the new available Pokémon, five other Pokémon will make up the team. It will definitely be a mistake to centre the teambuilding on the one Restricted Pokémon and not worry enough about the rest. That is why it is somewhat difficult to predict which strategies will stay from Series 7, for example replacing a basic Pokémon with a similar Restricted one, and which new ones will come up.

Victory Road is preparing a brand-new challenge for Series 8 that will be announced soon so that you can test your strength in the new metagame ahead of the Pokémon Players Cup III. Also, for the women, Victory Road will cover the second edition of the Women’s Tournament organised by Alyssa Smith (TemporalVGC) that will take place on 6–7 February!

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