Best restricted Pokémon to use for Series 12 VGC in Pokémon Sword and Shield

The most oppressive forces that define the current Series 12 VGC meta.

Image via The Pokémon Company
Image via The Pokémon Company

Series 12 VGC has been around in Pokémon Sword and Shield for nearly four months now, and the meta surrounding the dual-restricted Pokémon format has developed quite significantly since these new rules were first introduced in February. While some trends and archetypes continue to dominate the meta, there are tons of new restricted Pokémon that are showing players they have some serious hidden potential.

While it’s always fun to use your favorites, there’s no comparison to the results a tried-and-tested restricted Pokémon will yield. If your main concern is winning more games, taking the time to learn about the format’s dominant forces heading into the competition could bear fruit during your teambuilding. Keep in mind that the picks below are accurate at the time of writing, with a constantly-evolving metagame present in competitive Pokémon.

Below are the best restricted Pokémon to use for Series 12 VGC in Pokémon Sword and Shield.

Yveltal

Screengrab via The Pokémon Company

No one expected Yveltal to be the force of nature it currently is in the meta, with some of the other big names directly threatening it. But this Dark/Flying type is easily the best Max Airstream user in the format, boosting its team’s speed while dishing out strong STAB damage. When its Dynamax has worn out, it can continue using its signature move Oblivion Wing to keep itself healthy and cripple the opponent’s chances of winning at the same time.

Yveltal possesses the ability Dark Aura, which boosts the power of all Dark-type moves used when it is present on the field. This not only enables Yveltal itself to deal massive amounts of damage using its STAB Dark-type moves but also other strong Dark-type Pokémon running rampant currently, such as Incineroar and Grimmsnarl.

Yveltal can be run supportive and bulky with mixed-offensive options (courtesy of its great mixed offensive stat spread) like Snarl and Sucker Punch along with an Assault Vest to more comfortably eat hits and regenerate with Oblivion Wing, or just go full-out offense with a Life Orb and three attacking moves, depending on the team composition.

Suggested moveset

  • Dark Pulse
  • Oblivion Wing
  • Heat Wave
  • Protect

Suggested Ability/Item/Nature & EV Spread

  • Ability: Dark Aura
  • Item: Life Orb
  • Nature & EV Spread: Timid 4/0/0/252/0/252

Shadow Rider Calyrex 

Screengrab via The Pokémon Company

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Shadow Rider Calyrex is one of the most commonly-used restricted Pokémon in the meta: It’s incredibly powerful, because of the immediate offensive pressure it outputs due to its blindingly-fast base Speed stat of 150 coupled with its imposing base Special Attack stat of 165.

To add to this already threatening combo, Shadow Rider has its signature move Astral Barrage, a 120 base power STAB spread move with no drawbacks. That’s right—no imperfect accuracy, no lowering of its own stats after using the move, nothing. Just click a button and watch the chaos ensue.

Oh, did we mention that its ability, As One, combines the effects of Base Calyrex’s ability with Spectrier’s, which means that, essentially, Shadow Rider Calyrex has two abilities? Unnerve stops opposing Pokémon from consuming their berries, while Grim Neigh boosts Shadow Rider’s Special Attack stat every time it picks up a knockout. 

Shadow Rider does have one glaring weakness, which it owes to its typing of Ghost/Psychic, making most Dark-type moves knock it out in a single hit due to them dealing four times the damage against it. Due to this, Shadow Rider Calyrex can be most commonly seen running the Focus Sash item to let it stay on the field for longer and continue wreaking havoc.

Suggested moveset

  • Astral Barrage
  • Expanding Force
  • Will-O-Wisp
  • Protect

Suggested Ability/Item/Nature & EV Spread

  • Ability: As One
  • Item: Focus Sash
  • Nature & EV Spread: Timid 4/0/0/252/0/252

Groudon

Screengrab via The Pokémon Company

With the recent success of the “Rinya Sun” team created by Rinya Kobayashi, featuring Groudon alongside Zacian showing just how the Pokémon can be used to its full potential, Groudon has been catapulted up into the ranks of restricted Pokémon that you need to respect and fear in team preview.

Setting up the weather condition of Sun through its ability Drought, Groudon plays a slightly more supportive role than its eternal rival, Kyogre, since there are a variety of different Pokémon in the meta that are bolstered by the effects of Sun in comparison to Rain, such as Charizard with Solar Power and Venusaur with Chlorophyll.

That doesn’t mean Groudon doesn’t pack a punch. Its preferred choice of STAB move, its signature Precipice Blades, is a spread move that hits hard and can turn into Max Quake when Groudon is dynamaxed, which is especially notable because Max Quake boosts Groudon’s weaker defensive stat in Special Defense. This lets it patch up its own, as well as its teammates’, defensive holes while outputting serious offensive pressure.

Groudon can work in Trick Room, Tailwind, Tail-Room, semi-Room, and a bunch of other team archetypes simply due to its middling Speed stat and its capability of enabling various threats in the current meta.

Suggested moveset

  • Precipice Blades
  • Stone Edge
  • Heavy Slam
  • Thunder Punch

Suggested Ability/Item/Nature & EV Spread

  • Ability: Drought
  • Item: Assault Vest
  • Nature & EV Spread: Adamant 252/156/4/0/60/36

(The above Groudon set is from Peng Chongjun’s SLC Regionals winning team variant of Rinya Sun, and is best used with that team composition.)

Kyogre

Image via The Pokémon Company

Kyogre has reigned at the top of competitive viability ever since it was legal in VGC, and for good reason. Not only does it possess a solid typing in Water, which hits crucial types for super-effective damage while hitting many others for neutral, but it also possesses great resistances, notably being able to comfortably switch into Steel-type moves, which is rampant in Series 12 VGC meta.

Kyogre doesn’t mind hitting Pokémon for neutral damage, since the combination of it setting Rain up with its ability Drizzle that powers up its Water moves along with access to the move Water Spout means that with adequate speed control on its side of the field, Kyogre can wash away opponents with the click of a few buttons.

Its ability Drizzle also means it acts as support for its team as well, letting the weather condition of Rain cut the power of Fire moves from the opponents (as well as your own) in half, letting any Steel, Grass, Bug, and Ice types on its team position themselves on the battlefield more freely.

Kyogre, like many of the top Pokémon in any given meta, is incredibly splashable, letting you run it in a variety of ways to suit the archetype you are trying to build around.

Suggested moveset

  • Water Spout
  • Origin Pulse
  • Ice Beam
  • Thunder

Suggested Ability/Item/Nature & EV Spread

  • Ability: Drizzle
  • Item: Choice Scarf
  • Nature & EV Spread: Timid 0/0/0/252/4/252

Zacian: Crowned Sword

Screengrab via The Pokémon Company

Zacian was a mistake, plain and simple. There is no reason for a Pokémon this overpowered to be approved into the game without some prior balancing, let alone into the official competitive format for the World Championship. But our bad doggo is here to stay.

Zacian, the Crowned Sword form (which is the competitively viable form), possesses the Fairy/Steel-dual typing, which is arguably the best typing in the game. The types work together to create amazing defensive synergy, having only two weaknesses and a variety of useful resistances, along with the most threatening offensive presence the game has ever seen. 

Not only does this Legendary dog boast a gargantuan base Attack stat of 170, but its ability Intrepid Sword also gives it a 1.5-times boost to its Attack stat each time it enters into battle. This means that Zacian essentially gets a free Choice Band every time it gets into the battlefield without having the drawback of only being locked into the first move you select.

Zacian is an outstanding Pokémon in general, but another reason why it thrives in the current, dual-restricted format is because when it equips the item Rusted Sword, which turns it into its Crowned form, it also turns the move Iron Head present in its moveslot into Behemoth Blade, a 100 base power Steel-type move that deals double the damage to Dynamax/Gigantamax Pokémon. Zacian itself isn’t able to Dynamax, though (not like it needs to).

Oh, yeah, and it’s fast too. Like, base Speed stat of 148 fast. So with its game-breaking offense, wide coverage in its moveset, and turbo-charged speed, your team can and will get quickly sent back to their Poké Balls in one fell swoop of Zacian’s (Behemoth) blade.

With a base stat total of 720, rivaling Arceus, Zacian takes the crown for the best overall Pokémon you can use in Series 12 VGC. Zacian is the most dominant force in the metagame while being incredibly splashable, fitting on a plethora of team compositions and easily putting in copious amounts of work in each of them.

Suggested moveset

  • Behemoth Blade
  • Sacred Sword
  • Substitute/Play Rough
  • Protect

Suggested Ability/Item/Nature & EV Spread

  • Ability: Intrepid Sword
  • Item: Rusted Sword
  • Nature & EV Spread: Jolly 0/252/0/0/4/252