Hisuian Arcanine continues to be Pokémon VGC’s most dominant force

From underdog to top dog.
Hisuian Arcanine with its mouth open.
Screenshot via The Pokémon Company

Pokémon Scarlet and Violet’s VGC meta sees a dramatic shift with each new regulation and Hisuian Arcanine has been the brightest star of the current Regulation E ruleset. Dot Esports spoke to Pokémon expert and regional champion Chuppa Cross IV about the rise and success of VGC’s best dog.

First introduced in Legends: Arceus, Hisuian Arcanine is the newer Fire/Rock-type variant of the Gen I fire dog we all know and love. Like Kantonian Arcanine, its Hisuian form has already made a name for itself in competitive play with access to two strong assets in VGC—Intimidate and Rock Slide.

Hisuian Arcanine and Shiny Arcanine standing next to each other in a grassy field in Pokémon Scarlet and Violet.
Hisuian Arcanine is outshining its Kantonian friend. Screenshot by Dot Esports.

Since Regulation E began on Oct. 1, H-Arcanine has claimed first place at six of the seven major VGC tournaments around the world, the biggest being the Latin America International Championships (LAIC) on Nov. 17 to 19. Currently, H-Arcanine is the one and only Pokémon in the format with six wins in Reg E despite not being the most popular ‘mon at these events.

One of H-Arcanine’s wins came at the hands of Chuppa Cross IV at the Toronto Regionals back on Oct. 28 to 29. Cross brought the Hisuian dog again to LAIC with an impressive ninth-place finish. Currently ranked second in North America and tied for third in the world among VGC players in Championship Points, Cross gave Dot Esports lots of insight on H-Arcanine from a pro’s perspective after LAIC.

We began by discussing what makes H-Arcanine so good in the Reg E meta. Much of its success stems from its synergy with Tornadus, the primary Tailwind user of Reg E and one of the best support ‘mons right now.

“H-Arcanine has become a much better fit for the dominant Tailwind compositions than any other Intimidate Pokémon,” Cross said. “Rock Slide and Flare Blitz coming off of STAB boosts are extremely powerful, and Tailwind helps it move first when its average bulk and speed stats paired with its poor defensive typing often hold it back. At the same time, its Intimidate lets it keep a partner like Tornadus alive longer, giving Tornadus more room to support it with Tailwind or even raw Bleakwind damage. That relationship is extremely beneficial to both.”

Indeed, one of the advantages of the Hisuian variant over the original Kantonian Arcanine is its access to STAB Rock Slide. Paired with Tornadus’ Tailwind, H-Arcanine’s Rock Slide has the opportunity to deal massive damage and potentially flinch its targets before they have a chance to attack. Without the speed boost from Tailwind, the dog from Hisui is much less threatening on the field.

This reliance on Tailwind, however, is what continues to keep H-Arcanine from being as popular as the two best Gen IX Pokémon, Flutter Mane and Iron Hands—even though H-Arcanine has more Reg E wins than both of them. At LAIC, for example, Flutter Mane and Iron Hands were both used by over half of the competition while H-Arcanine was sitting at a usage rate of only 23.8 percent.

The top 12 Pokémon at LAIC.
Why aren’t more players using Hisuian Arcanine? Image via The Pokémon Company

“Arcanine isn’t as easy to splash on teams as Hands or Flutter Mane because it’s more reliant on speed control than them,” Cross explained. “People that want to use more balance-oriented archetypes similar to Paul Chua’s Toronto Runner-Up team might opt for other Intimidate ‘mons like Landorus.” 

One of H-Arcanine’s most important jobs is to lower the opposing Pokémon’s Attack with Intimidate, but on certain teams, that role might not be necessary or there could be a ‘mon that fits the role better, like Landorus, as Cross mentioned.

Speaking of Intimidate, H-Arcanine’s biggest competition will likely be Incineroar, another Fire-type Intimidate user expected to make its VGC return in the near future. Incineroar is infamous for being one of the best Pokémon in VGC over the years as a menace that can constantly cycle Intimidate and Fake Out with the help of Parting Shot or U-turn. Pro player and former World Champion Wolfe Glick even went as far as saying, “You could probably make the case that Incineroar is the best Pokémon of all time. Period.”

When Incineroar inevitably returns to VGC, Cross believes H-Arcanine could still have a place in the meta but to a lesser extent since Incineroar is generally easier to add to teams. “I think Incineroar will more or less completely phase out supportive H-Arcanine sets, and we’ll be left with just the offensive sets like Choice Band and Life Orb.”

Luckily, H-Arcanine is already starting to lean more toward offense as opposed to the supportive sets we commonly saw with Kantonian Arcanine using Will-O-Wisp, Snarl, and Howl. While supportive H-Arcanine has been showcased by players like Michael Zhang and Raghav Malaviya, we can’t ignore the rise of the pure offensive Choice Band set.

When asked about the shift from support to offense, Cross explained, “H-Arcanine’s Rock typing and access to STAB Rock Slide and Head Smash make it a Pokémon much more suited to offense than Kantonian Arcanine. On top of that, I feel that the Reg E metagame with a Prankster Tailwind user as strong as Tornadus tends to be a more offensive format overall, making it difficult to find the time to click support moves like Will-O-Wisp or Snarl.”

Again, Tornadus’ strong presence in Reg E has played a huge role in shaping H-Arcanine into the champ it is today. So far, the only major Reg E tournament H-Arcanine didn’t win was Brisbane Regionals in Australia on Nov. 25 to 26, where there wasn’t a single Tornadus in the top eight teams. That said, H-Arcanine already proved it can win without holding Tornadus’ hand, taking home the trophy at Sacramento Regionals as a key part of Michael Zhang’s unique Kommo-o team back on Oct. 15.

Looking ahead, there are two more major events in Reg E for H-Arcanine to add to its growing resume: Stuttgart Regionals on Dec. 9 to 10 and San Antonio Regionals on Dec. 16 to 17. Reg E is set to end on Jan. 2, and the next regulation is expected to add a new wave of Pokémon from The Indigo Disk DLC. That batch should include Incineroar, so H-Arcanine’s moment of glory may come to an end soon.

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Author
Karli Iwamasa
Karli is a freelance writer based in the Bay Area. She has written about your favorite video games on sites like Dot Esports and TheGamer. When she's not writing, she's playing VALORANT or the latest Pokémon game.