Incineroar and other Pokémon return in Sword and Shield VGC Series 3
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Several new Pokémon, notably including Incineroar, will become available in Pokémon Sword and Shield’s VGC format during Series 3. The announcement came in a series of tweets from the Play Pokémon Twitter account. Series 3 will launch as the standard VGC ruleset on March 1.

The beginning of Series 3 will open up competitive Sword and Shield to a plethora of previously unavailable Pokémon. Some regional forms, like Alolan Ninetales, are already available in the game thanks to Pokémon Home. However, players cannot use these Pokémon in official competitions until the beginning of March. Until then, players will be prohibited from locking in a team with a disallowed regional variant.

Many Pokémon will join the fray in the next wave of VGC competitions. All available regional forms will become usable, including Galarian Slowpoke. Multiple starter Pokémon will make their debuts in Sword and Shield, with the Incineroar line being perhaps the most significant. Alongside Litten, players will be able to use anyone in the evolutionary lines of Bulbasaur, Squirtle, Rowlet, and Popplio.

More Gigantamax Pokémon are also on the way with VGC Series 3. However, Play Pokémon has not yet announced which Gigantamax Pokémon will make the cut. Trainers should note that all Pokémon will need the Galar symbol to be legal in competitive play.

Events lasting multiple days will stick to the VGC Series that was active on the first day of the tournament. This may be relevant to any Regional Championships taking place at the very end of February.

Incineroar returns for competitive Pokémon Sword and Shield

Of all the new Pokémon coming to Sword and Shield, Incineroar will likely be the most game-changing. This creature previously dominated the competitive scene in Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. For example, of the eight Masters finalists at last year’s World Championships, seven had an Incineroar on their team.

A variety of factors make Incineroar so useful in the VGC. Incineroar possesses the Intimidate ability, which immediately lowers the attack of both of the opponent’s active Pokémon. In addition, it can learn Fake Out, allowing it to out-prioritize an opponent and guarantee a flinch. With access to moves like U-turn, Knock Off, Snarl, and Roar, Incineroar has many options for pressuring the opponent.

Competitive players like Wolfe “Wolfey” Glick and Aaron “Cyberton” Zheng had shocked reactions when they learned about Incineroar’s return. Currently, it is unclear exactly how strong Incineroar will be in Pokémon Sword and Shield. After all, Dynamax Pokémon cannot be flinched, weakening the value of having Fake Out pressure. Even so, Incineroar has the potential to greatly alter the current VGC metagame.

Dylan Tate is an alumnus of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is a gaming journalist with a love for Nintendo esports, particularly Super Smash Bros. and Pokémon.