Unlike with what happened previously where Dynamaxing was banned from most of the Smogon and Pokémon Showdown competitive scene, Galarian Darmanitan was voted on over a very short time period and is now unable to be used in the OU tier.
Fans shouldn’t be too surprised at the ban considering the high-usage rate and extremely favorable results that the current meta shows for Galarian Dramanitan, but the fact that this was done through a quick-ban is still a little odd.
Normally, when a Pokémon is brought up in a discussion that involves a competitive ban or new tier, it will be put into a suspect testing period. That basically means that players can test that Pokémon and see how it performs in the opposite tiers, helping provide the overseeing council that is making the ultimate vote with more data to base their decision on.
In this case, Galarian Darmanitan received no suspect test and was instead banned outright through a vote by Smogon’s OU council. That means players can no longer use Galarian Darmanitan on any Sword and Shield competitive ladder outside of Ubers.
Smogon has no bearing on VGC or any official matches or tournaments hosted by The Pokémon Company or Nintendo, so neither this nor the previous Dynamax ban applied to matches played outside of Smogon’s tier system. But this is still a massive change for the competitive community.
Outside of the high-usage rate, this ban was facilitated by two big factors: how hard Galarian Darmanitan can hit and a lack of counters in the Sword and Shield OU meta. Or in simpler terms, there is no solid check for Galarian Darmanitan that has been workshopped yet.
“The moves Darmanitan-Galar needs to employ in order to be uncounterable typically range from two to four, depending on the matchup,” Smogon user Chamflash said in the announcement. “This means that it isn’t really restricted by any form of four-movement-slot-syndrome. Additionally, it can usually freely click the Ice-move / U-turn for great returns, rarely not getting satisfactory damage no matter what gets clicked.”
A four-movement-slot-syndrome essentially means you have to pick and choose four moves when making your Pokémon’s moveset that compliment your other team members while providing the best coverage. Galarian Darmanitan can typically avoid this issue by running that Ice-type attack and U-Turn combo plus any two moves that the player thinks work well for their lineup.
It also has a base speed stat of 95, which allows it to outspeed almost every defensive option in the current OU tier, which leads to either massive damage or a direct KO on all of them. That combined with a Choice Scarf means it can easily contend with much faster Pokémon who aren’t running the item, getting even more kills if you play your cards right.
And all of that is without mentioning its ability, Gorilla Tactics, which acts as a free Choice Band by giving the Pokémon a free attack boost while locking it into a single attack. This can also stack with a Band, boosting its massive attack stat even further and turning it into the ultimate wall breaker.
And as noted by competitive battler and YouTuber Jamvad in a discussion with Joey “pokeaimMD” about the ban, this speed tier hasn’t been considered fast in about three generations.
“Darm is now considered fast because it has base 95 speed and that hasn’t happened in about three generations,” Jamvad said. “For that speed tier to be considered fast, that just shows the shift. And because that is considered fast and it’s essentially Choice Banded and Choice Scarfed at the same time and Ice being so good as an offensive typing, that’s the key.”
The main points against the ban were it having very low defensive stats and a clear weakness to entry hazards like Stealth Rocks, but both of those weaknesses become nullified if it can just survive long enough to kill two Pokémon. Galarian Darmanitan would gladly trade the 25-percent HP loss it takes from Stealth Rocks if it can guarantee at least one kill, and both Spikes and Toxic Spikes become non-factors if the pace of the game is sped up.
It is simply a matter of whether you get your Galarian Darmanitan in without taking a hit before hitting back. Because if you can manage that, you will almost assure yourself an advantage thanks to an easy kill.
Outside of that, the argument of banning just the Gorilla Tactics ability is a solid one, but it isn’t really how Smogon decides to hand out bans.
“We ban Pokemon regardless of whether their movepool, their stats, or their ability makes them overpowered,” Charmflash said. “Our tiering system is built on this principle; banning Pokemon components separately will produce a bloated and convoluted ruleset if consistently used as a first measure.”
You can read the full reasoning for Galarian Darmanitan’s competitive ban and a list of various calculations done against OU defensive countermeasures on the Smogon forum.