Xerneas, The Life Pokémon. Legends say it can share eternal life. It slept for a thousand years in the form of a tree before its revival. When the horns on its head shine in seven colors, it is said to be sharing everlasting life.
Xerneas is representative of everything about the Fairy type as a balancing decision, both good and bad. Xerneas is no Mega Rayquaza but never let yourself be caught without a good way to handle it. You don't need to look hard to see how insane Xerneas can be, since Power Herb Geomancy still stands as one of the strongest setup options in the game. The Fairy typing is incredibly strong both offensively and defensively, and Fairy Aura pushes that offensive pressure just a bit further which allows for a lot of flexibility in building Xerneas. While its stat spread doesn't look generally powerful on its own, its respectable power and fantastic bulk make it very easy for Xerneas to set up on a huge range of threats and just push foes aside. However, while it reigned almost unopposed for most of Gen 6, dealing with Xerneas is not quite as overwhelming as it used to be. Primal Groudon alone was an excellent addition for dealing with Xerneas, but now the addition of Dusk Mane Necrozma provides the most reliable form of dealing with Xerneas: a bulky Steel-type with reliable recovery and open item slot. While this doesn't stop Xerneas from being a deadly threat, the changes that Gen 7 brought with it have slowly managed to bring Xerneas down a few notches.
Fairy Aura - Powers up every Pokémon in play's Fairy-type moves by 33.3%
Another Yggdrassil Name
Geomancy is still one of the best sets Xerneas can run, and it's equally as straightforward as always. Finding an opportunity to set up with Geomancy is a bit more precarious but it's still a deadly move despite requiring Power Herb. Moonblast is a broken move and the strongest Fairy-type STAB around, so this needs little explanation. Focus Blast may have a shaky reputation for its accuracy but it's still the most reliable way to deal with Steel-types such as Ferrothorn, while also hitting Dusk Mane Necrozma and Mega Scizor for respectable damage. Hidden Power Fire is a much weaker alternative that deals with Mega Scizor more easily, but it doesn't do that much more to Dusk Mane Necrozma than Focus Blast due to Prism Armor. Thunder may look questionable when Xerneas gets Thunderbolt but this is necessary for breaking through Ho-Oh and more effective against other Electric-weak foes such as Primal Kyogre, Celesteela and Toxapex. Grass Knot can be considered a more consistent against Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre but it's far inferior to Thunder's coverage against Ho-Oh and Toxapex.
The given EVs allow Xerneas to outspeed +1 Adamant Mega Salamence, making it possible to set up against it if necessary. Special Attack is maximized with a Modest nature to ensure Xerneas can break through foes as effectively as possible, while the remaining EVs are placed in HP to increase overall bulk. There are numerous alternative spreads possible but generally speaking, outspeeding the aforementioned Salamence is a good benchmark. Power Herb is necessary for Geomancy, while Fairy Aura is the only ability option you even need.
Another Deer Pun
While Geomancy is the most popular Xerneas set, it's far from the only dangerous one. Choice Scarf Xerneas still boasts plenty power and immediate speed to revenge kill a wide variety of threats, while always bluffing the potential of Geomancy. Moonblast is still a broken STAB move and there's no reason to not use it. Focus Blast won't be OHKOing as many foes without a boost but it's still the best way to cover most Steel-types. However, Hidden Power Fire's reliability may prove to be more appealing at the cost of no boost and being a poor move to lock into. Thunder is likewise still the most reliable move to deal with Ho-Oh, Celesteela and Toxapex, though Grass Knot is a more appealing alternative against Primal Groudon without boost potential. Defog might look like a questionable option on a Choice Scarf set but Xerneas often forces switches so there isn't too much harm in removing hazards if you're expecting to switch out the next turn anyway. Aromatherapy works for similar reasons and can be a game-saving status removal option. However, if more coverage is desired than both Grass Knot and Thunder can be used together.
Maximum Special Attack and Speed investment are ideal for a Choice Scarf set, since being bulky has significantly less advantages here. Both Modest and Timid are viable options here, though Timid is generally not preferred unless Scarf Yveltal is a concern. The extra power from Modest tends to be more valuable in the long run since the base 90-100 range at +1 tends to not be a very common speed range.
Other Options and Partners
Hidden Power Ground can be considered over Fire if hitting the likes of Primal Groudon and Magearna is more desirable, though it hits fewer relevant targets than Fire.
VGC, Double, & Triple Battle Options
While you may already be convinced from last week that Magearna is the more deadly Fairy-type, Xerneas is still an incredibly powerful threat in Doubles. Setting up a Power Herb Geomancy might look obnoxious give that there are two foes to deal with that can potentially shut you down, but despite that there are many tools that can make a Xerneas sweep just as dangerous, if not more deadly than a Xerneas sweep in Singles. Fake Out support and redirection can effective checkmate a foe that lacks options to deal with a boosted Xerneas, and dealing with a boosted Xerneas alongside its teammate can be an ordeal. However, despite the potentially greater payoff, Xerneas does suffer from a number of flaws that limit its potential. The biggest one is that Xerneas is essentially forced into one moveset with only Fairy-type attacks, which means that you don't need to worry about coverage moves sniping its counters. The other issue is that while Xerneas has a teammate to help it set up, so does the opponent, which can mean all sorts of things including Wide Guard to block Dazzling Gleam or simply a Fake Out + Knock Off combo from everyone's favorite Incineroar. Dark Void is also effectively a dead move now so half of what made Xerneas a hassle to deal with in Gen 6 Doubles is no longer a concern. Make no mistake though, while Xerneas isn't the world killer it used to be it's still an extremely powerful threat you shouldn't neglect.
No Dark Void, No Problem
Even with its partner in crime, Smeargle, getting one of its deadliest options removed from its repertoire, Xerneas is fairly straightforward: find a time to set up with Geomancy and try to destroy as much as possible. If you're playing in a serious tournament setting, don't expect to see any moves other than these. Moonblast is an absurdly powerful single target STAB backed up by Fairy Aura and Geomancy, capable of breaking through anything but the sturdiest resists. This is an incredibly important slot to ensure Xerneas isn't shut down by Wide Guard, otherwise Dazzling Gleam is an incredibly dangerous spread move after setting up. Dazzling Gleam is unfortunately fairly weak before setup so making sure Xerneas has the means to do so is incredibly important. Protect is equally important as it tends to be in Doubles, since Xerneas will often be one of the first Pokemon that your opponent will want to address. This is equally useful before finding a setup opportunity and afterwards, so don't ever think about dropping this for a coverage move.
This EV spread is already sub-optimal even though the format just started, but it's the safest starting point for general recommendations at the beginning of the VGC 2019 format. Maximum Special Attack and Speed investment will rarely fail to get the job done offensively, though it's recommended you run a bulkier set if you have specific benchmarks you want to hit such as surviving Groudon's Precipice Blades twice. At this moment Red Orb isn't allowed so that's a less relevant benchmark, but regardless Xerneas spreads will continue to become slower and bulkier as the season goes on. This means that Modest is generally a better nature than Timid, since Speed control and the Geomancy boosts handle the speed issues enough so the bulk investment will grant more setup opportunities to begin with.
Other Options & Team Ideas- As noted before, Xerneas really appreciates teammates that can help it set up via Fake Out pressure. Incineroar comes up again as the most efficient in this role, providing valuable Intimidate support and being bulky enough to tank a hit from opposing Xerneas while also threatening Steel-types. Smeargle can likewise do this job but is far more passive and strictly support-oriented.
- Dusk Mane Necrozma is a major issue for Xerneas, so teammates that can handle it such as Lunala, Yveltal, and the aforementioned Incineroar are great teammates to consider. Lunala becomes an especially scary option once Z-Moves become legal since few threats will want to switch into a powerful Ghost-type Z-Move.
- While this isn't a factor under current restrictions, Primal Groudon is a threat to Xerneas that needs to be addressed, which makes all of the weather trio respectable picks under the right conditions. Mega Rayquaza is the most reliable in this specific role since it doesn't play with speed ties or misses and is less vulnerable to Primal Groudon's attacks, though both Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre offer a more defensive backbone for the team and provide more immediate pressure to teams relying on Trick Room to beat Xerneas.
While there are few things that want to tank Moonblasts from something as deadly as Xerneas, there are a few reliable answers that most teams will likely fit naturally. Primal Groudon is the main one, you will usually not see a team without it in Singles and the specially defensive sets in particular will do an effective job at checking Xerneas. It lacks recovery though so it shouldn't be a team's only Xerneas counter. Dusk Mane Necrozma on the other hand is favored to win against Xerneas in almost any scenario unless it's heavily weakened, since it can heal off the damage after taking out Xerneas. In a similar vein, other bulky Steel-types such as Magearna, Ferrothorn, Mega Scizor, and Bronzong are also effective Xerneas checks, though they must be wary of its coverage moves and most of them lack reliable recovery. Magearna is particularly notable though because it can steal Geomancy boosts with Heart Swap and turn the situation against Xerneas. Ho-Oh gets a special mention for its fantastic special bulk and Regenerator, making it a good offensive check if it can steer clear of boosted Thunder. Toxapex functions as a similarly effective answer that can also run Haze to remove the Geomancy boosts entirely and switch out to heal damage with Regenerator. Other Poison-types such as Mega Gengar and Arceus-Poison can also check Xerneas without fearing any of its common coverage moves, though the former ideally wants to catch Xerneas on a double switch due to its shaky bulk.
Locations in Games
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