By Barış Akcoş, Contributing Writer

With the release of Pokémon Sword
and Pokémon Shield, Pokémon Trainers were introduced to a new battle
mechanic in the form of Dynamax and Gigantamax. Competitors could now Dynamax one
Pokémon per battle, creating both an exciting visual spectacle and a massive increase
in Pokémon power that has a sizable impact on battles. Trainers began to
develop new strategies on their way to mastering the Dynamax phenomenon, with
the outcome of many battles coming down to whether Trainers could take full
advantage of their Dynamax turns at pivotal moments in a match. Check out our
previous article about Dynamax for insight about how it works.

The excitement does not stop there,
though, as Gigantamax adds another wrinkle. In addition to the benefits of
Dynamax, Pokémon that Gigantamax change their appearance and gain access to an
exclusive G-Max Move! During some special events in the Wild Area, certain
Gigantamax Pokémon are more likely to appear. After these events, featured
Gigantamax Pokémon are added to the official Pokémon Video Game Championships (VGC) rules in waves for official competitions. As of May 1, Series 4 was formally
introduced and now all known Gigantamax forms currently available in the base
versions of Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield are legal, including the
most recent additions of Gigantamax Machamp, Gengar, Garbodor, Copperajah, and
Duraludon. Each of these new Gigantamax Pokémon bring new and exciting
possibilities to the competitive metagame, but before we review them in detail,
let’s recap which Gigantamax forms were successful throughout Series 3.

Our first Series 3 recap focuses on fan favorite
Lapras, which arrives in the Galar region with one of the best defensive G-Max Moves.
G-Max Resonance is a strong Ice-type attack that reduces both physical and
special attack damage to Pokémon on its side of the field by setting up Aurora
Veil. Following up G-Max Resonance with powerful Max Geyser attacks, Gigantamax
Lapras can hit a lot of the most common Pokémon in tournament battles—such as Arcanine,
Tyranitar, Excadrill, and Incineroar—with supereffective damage. Lapras’s
strength is that it slows down the pace of the game with G-Max Resonance’s
added effect and allows its Trainer to create long term game plans by denying
early knockouts.

Shell Armor is a great Ability for Lapras,
allowing it to avoid critical hits, which do not have their damage reduced by
Aurora Veil. Slow teams are susceptible to setup strategies, which is why Fevzi
Özkan paired Lapras with Arcanine and Dusclops to achieve victory in an April community
event with over 1500 competitors. While Arcanine supported Lapras through its
Intimidate Ability and the attack Snarl to reduce incoming damage, Dusclops was
able to “twist the dimension” back in favor of Lapras and foil stat-boosting
strategies with Haze. Fevzi championed Lapras’s role in his online success,
saying, “as long as offensive teams are present in the metagame, Gigantamax
Lapras will keep shining and win games by outlasting and enduring the damage it
receives.”

It certainly looks like Gigantamax Lapras
is going to stay strong in Series 4, especially when it’s holding the Light
Clay item that extends Aurora Veil to 8 turns.

When Hatterene was first discovered in
the Galar region, it was immediately a strong candidate for a spot on a Trick Room
team due to its low Speed, high Sp. Atk, and access to the Magic Bounce Ability.
However, it did not achieve much success in tournament battles until its
Gigantamax form was released, and it quickly established itself as a breakout
star. It was so outstanding that it took the championship title at the first
event where it was permitted for competition, the Regional Championships in
Malmo. Gigantamax Hatterene gets access to G-Max Smite, a powerful Fairy-type
attack that also confuses opposing Pokémon. Hatterene benefits from a great
partner in Indeedee, whose female form can learn Follow Me, a move that draws
in most single-target attacks while Hatterene safely sets up Trick Room. With
the turn order reversed by Trick Room, the super slow Hatterene can truly start
to shine, especially once it starts using Max Mindstorm boosted by the Psychic Terrain
that Indeedee sets up with its Psychic Surge Ability. Since G-Max Smite, unlike
Max Starfall, does not overwrite Psychic Terrain, those Max Mindstorms can stay
boosted turn after turn!

Tobias Kotschitzki piloted Gigantamax Hatterene to victory at the Regional Championships
in Malmo. He explains, “Gigantamax Hatterene allowed me to take full advantage
of Trick Room by disrupting defensive plays like switching and using Protect to
stall out Trick Room turns. Paired with Rhyperior and its use of the move Rock
Slide, I further decreased my opponent’s chance to attack with confusion and
flinch options.”

Coalossal debuted with a new signature Ability
in the world of Pokémon. Steam Engine raises Coalossal’s base Speed by up to
six stages when it is hit by a Fire- or Water-type move, meaning this naturally
slow Pokémon could suddenly outspeed even the fastest opponents. Steam Engine
and Weakness Policy work in perfect harmony, boosting both Coalossal’s Speed
and offense through a single interaction, enabling Coalossal to steamroll
through unprepared teams. A popular strategy has been to self-activate both Coalossal’s
Ability and item by pairing Coalossal with a fast Pokémon that knows Surf, like
Weavile or Dragapult. Once ready, Coalossal benefits from support from Pokémon
that can redirect attacks, especially Gastrodon and Togekiss. Water-type and
Ground-type moves can hit Coalossal for quadruple damage. Gastrodon’s Storm
Drain Ability protects Coalossal from single-target Water-type moves, while Togekiss
can draw away Max Quake with Follow Me.

With its exclusive G-Max move, G-Max
Volcalith, Coalossal deals strong Rock-type damage and continues to damage
opposing Pokémon (except Rock types) for ⅙ of their max HP damage for four
turns. This extra damage played a huge role in Wolfe Glick’s victory in the
recent International Challenge April. When asked about the secret to Coalossal,
he mentioned that he “liked that Coalossal and Dragapult offered immediate
offensive pressure and provided a set game plan you can rely on for tournaments
like this.” It is safe to say that if you do not prepare for the Coalossal
matchup, then you’re going to be in a tough spot!

However, it will certainly have
competition with the new arrivals in Series 4—let’s take a closer look at those
in the spotlight!

Already known for packing a heavy punch
with its Fighting-type moves, Gigantamax Machamp is prepared to deal even more
damage! G-Max Chi Strike is a Fighting-type move that raises Machamp’s and its
ally’s chance to score critical hits. Like Max Knuckle, G-Max Chi Strike suffers
from having a lower starting base power than the Max Moves of many other types.
But by boosting the critical hit ratio of both of your Pokémon, they can
potentially deal even more damage in the long run.

Finding ways of boosting your critical
hit ratio has been a popular strategy in the current metagame, with Togekiss
opting to pair its Super Luck Ability with a Scope Lens to reach a 50% chance
to land a critical hit. The extra damage dealt from a critical hit can often be
pivotal in the outcome of a match, so Gigantamax Machamp is a great choice for
swinging the odds in your favor. G-Max Chi Strike will certainly build up to a
landslide victory if left unchallenged, so perhaps we will see a rise in
Machamp usage while critical hit strategies continue to be popular.

Next up is a Pokémon that has had plenty
of success in past VGC seasons: Gengar! This Ghost- and Poison-type Pokémon has
undergone many evolutions through the years, having access to many different Abilities
at various points in Pokémon history and even winning a World Championship with
its Mega Evolution. Mega Gengar was well known for its Shadow Tag Ability, which
traps non-Ghost-type Pokémon on the field. Gigantamax Gengar keeps its scary
reputation with G-Max Terror, which not only deals huge Ghost-type damage, but also
again traps opposing Pokémon on the field. This makes Gigantamax Gengar an
excellent partner for “Perish Trap” strategies when paired up with a Pokémon that
knows Perish Song. The opponent’s Pokémon will be unable to switch out of
battle to neutralize Perish Song, leading to catastrophic consequences—all Pokémon
that listen to Perish Song faint after 3 turns unless they are able to switch
off the field.

Gigantamax Gengar also has fantastic Sp.
Atk and Speed stats, so you can often outspeed other Pokémon and deal big
damage with a variety of other Max Moves. Gigantamax Gengar also excels when
paired up with another Special Attack-oriented Pokémon. Since Gengar can access
good move choices for both Poison- and Dark-type moves, it can use the Max Moves
of these types to great effect by raising the Sp. Atk of its partner before it
attacks or by lowering the Sp. Def of opposing Pokémon. Gigantamax Gengar looks
like it can fit right back into a similar offensive and strategic role like Mega
Gengar before it, but only time will tell whether it’s able to command a change
in the metagame.

Better known as a star of the Pokémon TCG
competitive scene, Garbodor has a chance to make a statement in the VGC world
with its Gigantamax form. Garbodor has not seen much usage in past formats, but
Gigantamaxing allows it to make better use of its Weak Armor Ability. Similar
to the way in which competitors have used Coalossal, Trainers could use a
supereffective physical attack like Earthquake to activate both a held Weakness
Policy and the Ability Weak Armor. Weak Armor is riskier than Steam Engine
because it not only boosts Garbodor’s Speed, but also lowers its Defense.

Taking an early knockout helps Gigantamax
Garbodor make use of its G-Max Move, G-Max Malodor, which poisons both opposing
Pokémon. On a more defensive team, being able to whittle away at your
opponent’s HP every turn with poison damage while using Protect or switching
defensively can really give you an advantage in the endgame. As a Poison-type
Pokémon, Gigantamax Garbodor can help defeat many popular Fairy-type Pokémon like
Togekiss, Sylveon, and Hatterene—but be wary of Steel types like Excadrill and
Corviknight switching in due to their immunity to Poison-type attacks. You only
get three turns to use Gigantamax, so it is important not to waste any of them!

This colorful Steel-type Pokémon brings a
new dynamic to the battlefield that can cause hazardous consequences for your
opponent. Its exclusive G-Max Steelsurge move deals strong Steel-type damage and
also leaves your opponent’s side of the field surrounded by sharp spikes. Similar
to the effect of Stealth Rock, the lingering effect of G-Max Steelsurge damages
any Pokémon that enters battle on your opponent’s side, with damage varying
depending on the Pokémon’s vulnerability to Steel-type damage. A Fairy-type Pokémon
like Sylveon immediately loses ¼ of its maximum HP in damage just for entering
the field when the spikes are active. This effect is a great way of limiting
your opponent’s freedom to switch their Pokémon and can provide extra chip
damage that may be critical towards the end of the match.

Copperajah is naturally slow and performs
best alongside Trick Room. It also has access to the powerful Sheer Force Ability
and a great variety of coverage moves, such as Power Whip and Play Rough, so it’s
still able to deal out some heavy damage when it isn’t Gigantamaxed. It is
certainly a Pokémon that could catch other Trainers off guard if they are not
prepared for it!

Before Season 4, Duraludon was a popular
choice on teams due to its newly introduced Stalwart Ability, which ignores
redirection effects like Follow Me. This Ability has been an exciting addition
to the VGC format, as it causes opponents to rethink their game plan when they
find themselves unable to safely redirect damage away from a key Pokémon. Stalwart
has seen particular success against the Ghost-type Pokémon that often set up
Trick Room, such as Dusclops, as a Dynamaxed Duraludon can hit them with a
powerful Life Orb-boosted Max Darkness and potentially score a one-hit KO!
Additionally, boosting its team’s Defense stat with Max Steelspike is effective
against the many teams reliant on physical attacks.

Instead of the Attack-lowering secondary
effect of Max Wyrmwind, Gigantamax Duraludon’s G-Max Depletion reduces the PP
of the last move the opposing Pokémon used by 2. This can be a great tool
against attacks that have naturally low PP like Hydro Pump or Draco Meteor. It is
even more consequential when paired up with a Pokémon with the Pressure Ability
or a Pokémon that knows Spite, further decreasing the opponent’s PP.

Gigantamax Duraludon might be benched in
favor of its more common Dynamax form in the current metagame, which is full of
offensive-style teams, but G-Max Depletion could still prove a clutch mechanic
in certain scenarios. Perhaps with the right positioning and support from its
teammates, Gigantamax Duraludon could be a surprising tournament champion.

The powerful Gigantamax Pokémon
introduced in Series 3 left some big boots to fill for the newest batch of
Gigantamax Pokémon in Series 4. However, with the right positioning and team building,
each of the Series 4 newcomers have the potential to make their mark on the
metagame. With the upcoming Players Cup approaching, now is the
perfect time to showcase these Pokémon’s strengths! Make sure to follow all the
action and see if you can spot any of these Gigantamax Pokémon on the field. And
keep checking Pokemon.com/Strategy for more video game tips and analysis. Good
luck, Trainers!

Barış Akcoş

Barış Akcoş is a contributing writer covering Play! Pokémon VGC events for Pokemon.com. Having played competitively for nine years, earning top placements at both International- and World-level events, Barış has recently turned his attention to being a Pokémon Professor and Judge. You can find him playing, judging, or podcasting at Play! Pokémon Events, as well as online as BillaVGC.


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