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Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s new moves and items, explained

Time to shake up the competitive scene

Kallie Plagge is Polygon’s senior copy editor. She began writing about games in 2014, and has covered beats from Pokémon and RPGs to first-person shooters.

Some of Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s new moves and items have been detailed in a trailer expressly geared toward competitive Pokémon players. It was first shown during the 2022 Pokémon World Championships, and watching a trailer like this with a crowd — especially one full of people who know the ins and outs of Pokémon math and who treat every battle like a chess match — is always exhilarating. The Pokémon Company tailors the Worlds trailers for these players, revealing small mechanics that can have large effects on battle strategy.

But you don’t need to be a competitive player to have fun with new mechanics. Every Pokémon generation gets new stuff, and Scarlet and Violet’s flagship mechanic is the Terastal phenomenon, which was revealed in a previous trailer. Like Mega Evolution or Dynamaxing before it, Terastallizing is the “gimmick” of this generation — a mechanic that all players, not just the most hardcore battlers, will encounter and have to adapt to throughout the game.

Based on the trailer, the Terastal phenomenon is all about messing with your opponent — and even outside of Terastallizing, the new moves and items share that same theme. By shaking things up and keeping trainers on their toes, these new mechanics could give Pokémon with bad battle raps a new lease on life. Here’s how they’ll influence competitive play.

The Terastallize surprise

quaxly in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet in its Terastal form Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo

Let’s start with what we already knew: The Terastal phenomenon will allow Pokémon to change types mid-battle to their “Tera Type,” which is inactive until the Pokémon Terastallizes. Each individual Pokémon has its own Tera Type, so one Pikachu could have a different Tera Type than the next, offering some variation and a lot of potential for collectors. The new trailer showed off a few examples — and they’re kind of diabolical.

Take Coalossal, a Pokémon introduced in Sword and Shield. Coalossal is normally rock/fire type, giving it a four-times weakness to water-type moves; however, its signature ability, Steam Engine, increases its speed massively if it’s hit by a water-type move. Increasing Coalossal’s speed can be a good thing, since moving first can make or break a battle, but getting hit by a water-type attack... is not ideal. In the trailer, Coalossal Terastallizes to become a water-type, allowing it to experience the benefits of Steam Engine without its major drawback. And because Tera Types are completely hidden until the Pokémon Terastallizes — and because one Coalossal could have a different Tera Type from the next — the opponent won’t know any of this until it’s likely too late.

Even with simpler strategies, there’s still room for a few tricks. The trailer gave the example of a Tyranitar with the ghost Tera Type; ghost-type Pokémon are immune to fighting-type moves, so Terastallizing caused the opposing Gallade’s fighting-type Close Combat to miss entirely. Sucks to be Gallade.

It actually doubly sucks to be Gallade, because Tyranitar then uses the new Terastal-based move Tera Blast, which is normal-type until a Pokémon Terastallizes. After the transformation, Tera Blast becomes the same type as the Pokémon’s Tera Type, meaning Tyranitar took no damage and then responded with a ghost-type move, which is super-effective against Gallade’s psychic typing. Gallade would normally have the advantage in this matchup, but Tyranitar had the element of surprise.

Competitive Pokémon is all about prediction. A good player can look at their opponent’s Pokémon — which are revealed via a pre-battle team preview — and imagine what their strategies might be. In Sword and Shield, if your opponent had a Coalossal, you could guess that it might have Steam Engine and do everything in your power not to hit it with a water-type attack, however tempting it might be to do all that damage. You might decide to go for a ground-type attack instead. But in Scarlet and Violet, you won’t know at a glance if your ground-type attacker will even be safe against Coalossal, who could counter with a water-type Tera Blast. Everything you think you know about a Pokémon could go out the window the second it Terastallizes.

In the competitive scene, this could give new life to Pokémon that would typically be written off due to disadvantageous typing or a poor move pool. And that could give new life to the competitive meta as a whole, where only a small subset of Pokémon are usually considered “viable” — and where the element of surprise, a rare commodity, can win championships.

Turning the tables

Cyclizar using Shed Tail to create a substitute in battle against Cloyster. Image text reads: “New move: Shed Tail. Create a substitute, then swap places with a party Pokémon in waiting.” Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo

Of course, the trailer wasn’t all about Terastallizing. There were also some regular new moves and items, all of which could give rarely used Pokémon yet another shot at competitive viability.

Shed Tail, used by new Pokémon Cyclizar in the trailer, is especially interesting. Shed Tail creates a substitute — which costs HP, but protects your Pokémon from damage up to a certain amount (Pokémon math!) — and then switches the Pokémon out for another one in your party, transferring the substitute to the new Pokémon. You can use this in a lot of creative ways, since a substitute has the same type and stats as the Pokémon that created it; a substitute made by a Pokémon with really high defense but low attack, for example, could help protect a Pokémon with lower defense but high attack, allowing the stronger attacker to take a few more hits and therefore have more opportunities to do damage. (And that strong attacker gets a substitute without sacrificing its own HP, which helps too.)

Strategic switching is a big part of competitive Pokémon, and there’s a lot of potential for galaxy-brain plays with Shed Tail in the Scarlet and Violet meta. But even in a regular Gym battle during the course of the main story, it can be helpful to switch out a Pokémon that can’t do much damage for one that can — and Shed Tail will allow you to do that safely, rather than switching Pokémon normally and exposing the newcomer to the opponent’s attack.

The trailer also revealed two new held items. The most exciting, Mirror Herb, copies the opposing Pokemon’s stat increases. In the trailer, we see Mirror Herb activate after Azumarill’s Belly Drum, a move that maxes out the user’s attack in exchange for half its max HP. Mirror Herb gives Cetitan the benefit of Belly Drum without the drawback (a theme of this trailer). In effect, it lets you punish your opponent for daring to boost their stats; you could even use Mirror Herb to mitigate the consequences of your own mistakes, like if you accidentally trigger Coalossal’s Steam Engine. And best of all, as a held item, Mirror Herb — unlike the moves that copy an opponent’s stat changes in a similar fashion — is available to any Pokémon, not just Pokémon that can learn a specific move. The pool of viable Pokémon keeps expanding.

Cetitan’s held item, Mirror Herb, is triggered, increasing Cetitan’s attack. Image text reads: “New item: Mirror Herb. Copies an opponent’s stat increases when consumed.” Image: Game Freak/The Pokémon Company, Nintendo

The second item, Loaded Dice, gives a modified version of a very rare ability, Skill Link, to any Pokémon that holds it. When a Pokémon holding Loaded Dice uses a multi-strike move, which can hit anywhere from two to five times, Loaded Dice increases the likelihood that the move will hit more times. (Skill Link guarantees it’ll hit five times, which is better, but very few Pokémon can have that ability.) Because these moves will continue to hit and cause damage even after fully damaging and removing a substitute, Loaded Dice is potentially a nice answer to Shed Tail. Plus, the trailer showed it off with Breloom, one of those Pokémon that never gets the spotlight and is sadly easy to forget about. Shout out to Breloom.

A third new item was revealed on the official Scarlet and Violet website but not in the trailer: Covert Cloak. This item allows the holder to ignore the additional effects of moves, which is especially handy against attacks that, in addition to doing damage, cause the target to flinch and miss a turn. Flinching can really cost you in a battle, and the flinch-causing move Fake Out is incredibly popular in competitive play. Will that bring fresh Pokémon faces into the competitive scene? Probably not. But it’s cool.

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