Why Zygarde is bad (but you should still play with this team)

Who are you and what is going on here?

Hi! I'm Carl Wilken, a.k.a. Muzikal online, and I'm a co-host of the popular Littleroot Lessons podcast! Fun fact, I've only been playing VGC for about a year or so, so I've still got a long way to go when it comes to VGC!

So, this team originated from a love of Zygarde in Series 8 and the challenge put out by my co-host of Littleroot Lessons to have a battle at the official start of Series 10. I won, and that's what got me started working on this team a little more seriously. However, the more I played with it, I found out a horrifying truth. Zygarde is just bad most of the time!

Then why play with Zygarde you might ask? Well, I personally enjoy VGC more when I play with my favorites over winning games with what's defined as "good" or "meta", so I stuck with it. With introductions out of the way, this is the story of why Zygarde is just terrible, but you should still play with this team.

What is the team?

The team originally consisted of Zygarde… and that's about it. I knew I wanted to play with Zygarde, but Series 10 was a whole new beast. With Dynamax gone, one of Zygarde's best traits was removed, which was the ability to just stall games with overwhelming defense. Between Power Construct and Max Quake/Steelspike, Zygarde could become untouchable alongside Tapu Fini or Comfey. However, those weren't viable strategies anymore, so I had to come up with a new plan. One that wasn't as reliant on Zygarde, but could still leverage the mighty Order Pokémon.

After about a week of planning and testing, I came up with this:

This was designed to try and do Weakness Policy things with Zygarde and Comfey alongside the powerhouses of Incineroar, Rillaboom, and Tapu Fini. Scizor started out on the team, then I swapped to Celesteela realizing I needed some more reliable special attacking power. It felt fine, but was really weak to intimidate spam, and there was a very scary Deer on the horizon that would change the shape of the team permanently.

The Xerneas Problem

As the super early, and unofficial, series 10 format started to develop, there was a glaring issue with my team, Xerneas. You'd think the Pokémon designed to be the thing that keeps these Pokémon in check would be designed to handle it, but that's not the case. Anyway, Xerneas was a real big issue for the first iteration of the team. I could do all the weakness policy shenanigans I wanted, but these Xern teams were designed to beat the tar out of me. I recognized this issue and had to go back to the drawing board quickly. That's where the second iteration of the team came around:

This had gone back to the bulky stall Zygarde I was familiar with, but had a ton of answers for the Xerneas match up. Again, we were back to Choice Band Scizor on the team, but I really wanted to play with my favorite possessed sword, so I went with Aegislash. In hindsight, Aegislash didn't offer enough to have a spot on the team, as it was only brought against Xern and the occasional Caly Shadow, but we'll get to that later.

The rest of the team was designed to be bulky. We needed to slow the game down and chip away at our opponents. We still had the Rillaboom/Incineroar/Tapu Fini core, and added our secret weapons for Xern in the aforementioned Aegislash and a new favorite, Volcarona. The big thing about both of these is that they can deal with Xern fairly well, either taking it out entirely, or making it to where it'd be a non-factor. However, Xerneas would adapt again and we'd have to adapt alongside it, but this created a new problem.

Waluigi Game Time!

With the start of Series 10 on the horizon, I needed to lock in a team and get to building. With all the fixing I did to mitigate my weaknesses to the ever popular Xerneas (and sword doggo Zacian), I realized that I had a slight issue during team select. I never knew who to bring. I had tons of answers, but they only lined up against specific Pokémon and we're really weak otherwise. I knew I needed to shore up Zacian for sure, but I didn't know where to make cuts to achieve this. Then, the discord sparked something. Quagsire.

Quagsire (a.k.a. Waluigi) was something that I looked at before, but brushed off because it didn't fit with the team game plan. We wanted to stall, sure, but we needed to be able to actually hit our opponents, and Quagsire wasn't the best at doing so. Plus, in a format riddled with Rillaboom, we were just asking for trouble. However, I didn't have a ton of grass weaknesses on the team. In fact, I had plenty of Pokémon to switch in on a Grassy Glide, and thus Swampert made it on to my team!

You're prolly wondering why Swampert over Quagsire after I had put so much work into hyping that up? Well, it comes down to content. My co-host Carter was also working on his team, and he really liked Quagsire as well. I didn't want us both using a ton of similar Pokémon ( by the end of the building process, we shared 2 Pokémon, which would've been 3 with Quagsire), so I again opted for a favorite of mine over what was likely optimal, Swampert.

Swampert could do it all. It had the bulk to survive hits from Xerneas and Zacian, while also being immune to Intimidate spam that was ever prevalent due to the sheer number of physical Pokémon on the team. Swampert ended up becoming an all star on the team, and is still a current member! It's been a phenomenal asset and I'm surprised more players aren't utilizing it.

Here's where the initial team stood at game time:

I added Swampert over Tapu Fini, and made the decision to play with Tapu Bulu over Rillaboom, afraid that Tsareena would be waiting around the corner for me. I had nothing to fear though, as Carter had also made the choice to use Tapu Bulu, and our teams were set for this Day 1 matchup!

Time to Adjust!

After our match (which can be found on our YouTube channel here: {insert link}), I was very pleased with the Zygarde team. However, I wouldn't touch it again for about 3 weeks, realizing that the team wasn't a Zygarde team, but a team with Zygarde on it. And for a while, I was happy with that. I was then contacted by Joe Asad (@CloverBells on Twitter) to come on to his channel as a guest to show off my Zygarde team. I was ecstatic to show off all my work, but realized I needed to adjust the team to catch up to the times. Aegislash and Volcarona were kind of outdated at this point, and I noticed from playing with it occasionally that I really needed speed control of some sort. Thus, the rebuild had begun!

I came up with some other concepts, all staying within the same boundaries for the most part, but settled on what is now the final product:

Tapu Bulu, Volcarona, and Aegislash were great in their time, but don't really stand up to what is going on now, which is where Stakataka, Grimmsnarl, and Amoonguss come in. Stakataka is our generic Steel type that just happens to get ohko'd by a ton of things, hence the Focus Sash. Grimmsnarl and Amoonguss are great at being utility support while still being able to deal damage. We've also come full circle, as both Amoonguss and Grimmsnarl are Pokémon I used on my Series 8 Zygarde teams, so I thought that was super cool. Let's get into some specifics and why I chose what I did.

The Team


Like I mentioned at the very beginning, Zygarde was always meant to be the linchpin of this team. It's unique ability makes it bulkier than most, and Series 10 lacking in Ice coverage, makes Zygarde an actual offensive threat. You get a couple Coils off in front of your opponent makes you nigh untouchable, and once you add in screens / intimidate / snarl, Zygarde can become a monster to deal with.

Zygarde @ Leftovers

Ability: Power Construct

EVs: 252 HP / 124 Atk / 132 SpD

Careful Nature

- Thousand Arrows

- Coil

- Protect

- Iron Tail

Notable calcs for Zygarde:

252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 252 HP / 132+ SpD Aura Break Zygarde: 114-134 (53 - 62.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO after Leftovers recovery

+1 252 Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Zygarde: 133-157 (61.8 - 73%) -- guaranteed 2HKO after Leftovers recovery

+1 124 Atk Zygarde Iron Tail vs. 92 HP / 12 Def Xerneas: 132-156 (61.9 - 73.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

+1 124 Atk Zygarde Thousand Arrows vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Zacian-Crowned: 116-138 (69 - 82.1%) -- guaranteed 2HKO


Swampert has become an all star in it's own right. Between it's bulk and coverage, it carried many a game on its shoulders. Even though we're 4x weak to one of the most popular Pokémon in the format, you can easily position around that if needed to have Swampert shine.

Swampert @ Assault Vest

Ability: Torrent

EVs: 28 HP / 220 Def / 164 SpA / 92 SpD / 4 Spe

Bold Nature

- Ice Beam

- Scald

- Earth Power

- Flip Turn

Notable calcs for Swampert:

164 SpA Swampert Earth Power vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Zacian-Crowned: 96-114 (57.1 - 67.8%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

+1 252+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Close Combat vs. 28 HP / 220+ Def Swampert: 109-129 (60.8 - 72%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

+2 252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 28 HP / 92 SpD Assault Vest Swampert: 156-184 (87.1 - 102.7%) -- 18.8% chance to OHKO

Avoid Grass types at all costs!


This Incineroar set is probably the most basic set I have on the team, but it just does so much. There's likely an argument to be made about going speedy with focus sash while putting safety goggles on Stakataka, but I just love goggles Incineroar. Having a dedicated Amoonguss/Venusaur/Liligant answer that can take all the hits from Rillaboom makes Swampert that much safer.

Incineroar @ Safety Goggles

Ability: Intimidate

EVs: 236 HP / 36 Def / 236 SpD

Sassy Nature

- Snarl

- Parting Shot

- Fake Out

- Flare Blitz

Notable calcs for Incineroar:

252+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Close Combat vs. 236 HP / 36 Def Incineroar through Reflect: 96-114 (48 - 57%) -- 91% chance to 2HKO

0 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. -1 4 HP / 0 Def Zacian-Crowned: 204-242 (121.4 - 144%) -- guaranteed OHKO

252+ SpA Life Orb Calyrex-Shadow Astral Barrage vs. 236 HP / 236+ SpD Incineroar: 51-60 (25.5 - 30%) -- guaranteed 4HKO


This is where we start to venture off into new territory for the team. Amoonguss is no slouch. Not only does it love to switch in on Rapid-Strike Urshifu and Rillaboom, it can take a ton of other hits as well, making this a great pivot point for the team. Between that and helping us keep our threats alive with Rage Powder and Pollen Puff, it felt like an auto-include after we added Stakataka.

Amoonguss @ Rocky Helmet

Ability: Regenerator

Level: 50

EVs: 212 HP / 60 Def / 236 SpD

Calm Nature

IVs: 0 Atk / 0 Spe

- Spore

- Rage Powder

- Pollen Puff

- Grass Knot

Notable calcs for Amoonguss:

+2 252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 212 HP / 236+ SpD Amoonguss: 99-117 (45.8 - 54.1%) -- 54.3% chance to 2HKO

252 SpA Tornadus Hurricane vs. 212 HP / 236+ SpD Amoonguss: 152-182 (70.3 - 84.2%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

252 Atk Urshifu-Rapid-Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 212 HP / 60 Def Amoonguss on a critical hit: 63-72 (29.1 - 33.3%) -- approx. 0% chance to 3HKO

4 Atk Incineroar Flare Blitz vs. 212 HP / 60 Def Amoonguss: 188-224 (87 - 103.7%) -- 31.3% chance to OHKO

0 SpA Amoonguss Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. 0 HP / 4 SpD Kyogre: 90-108 (51.4 - 61.7%) -- guaranteed 2HKO


Stakataka is like a second Restricted Pokémon. It hits so hard and just covers a ton of things that can cause us issue. We just have to play smart, but we also have sash to bail us out if we need to make a risky play. This is also our form of speed control, as the team out speeds most of the hard Trick Room teams naturally, but isn't fast enough to compete with the Zacian and Xerneas teams.

Stakataka @ Focus Sash

Ability: Beast Boost

EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 SpD

Brave Nature

IVs: 0 Spe

- Trick Room

- Rock Slide

- Gyro Ball

- Wide Guard

Notable calcs for Stakataka:

NOTE - we have focus sash, so we can easily take a lot of 1 vs 1 hits, however it’s good to know...

-1 252+ Atk Stakataka Rock Slide vs. 236 HP / 36 Def Incineroar: 74-90 (37 - 45%) -- guaranteed 3HKO

252+ Atk Mystic Water Urshifu-Rapid-Strike Surging Strikes (3 hits) vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Stakataka on a critical hit: 144-168 (85.7 - 100%) -- approx. 6.3% chance to OHKO

252+ SpA Life Orb Calyrex-Shadow Astral Barrage vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Stakataka: 130-153 (77.3 - 91%) -- guaranteed 2HKO after Leftovers recovery

252+ Atk Stakataka Gyro Ball (150 BP) vs. 0 HP / 4 Def Calyrex-Shadow: 169-199 (96.5 - 113.7%) -- 81.3% chance to OHKO

252+ Atk Stakataka Gyro Ball (150 BP) vs. 252 HP / 252 Def Xerneas: 234-276 (100.4 - 118.4%) -- guaranteed OHKO


Grimmsnarl was the last addition to the team, as we really wanted the bulk of screens to supplement our already good bulk. Grimmsnarl also just happens to carry Sucker Punch, just in case we need to pick up a cheeky KO.

Grimmsnarl @ Light Clay

Ability: Prankster

EVs: 252 HP / 4 Atk / 124 Def / 100 SpD / 28 Spe

Impish Nature

- Light Screen

- Spirit Break

- Reflect

- Sucker Punch

Notable calcs for Grimmsnarl:

252+ SpA Life Orb Calyrex-Shadow Astral Barrage vs. 252 HP / 100+ SpD Grimmsnarl: 66-78 (32.6 - 38.6%) -- 99.2% chance to 3HKO

4 Atk Grimmsnarl Spirit Break vs. 0 HP / 4 Def Calyrex-Shadow: 60-72 (34.2 - 41.1%) -- guaranteed 3HKO

252+ Atk Zacian-Crowned Behemoth Blade vs. 252 HP / 124 Def Grimmsnarl through Reflect: 181-216 (89.6 - 106.9%) -- 37.5% chance to OHKO

252+ SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 252 HP / 100+ SpD Grimmsnarl through Light Screen: 161-192 (79.7 - 95%) -- guaranteed 2HKO

Playing with Zygarde

Some big things to note before we get too much farther, Zygarde isn't your normal Restricted. Yes, it can take over games against the right opponents and sure, it's got decent typing, but Zygarde takes a ton of practice to master. If you expect you can just pick this team up and win, you're right, you can. It won't be with Zygarde however. The other 5 Pokémon on this team are designed to work together regardless of Zygarde, because there's just some matchups that you can't bring it. I made the comment way back when I originally built the team, but Zygarde is in no way needed for this team to do well, it just benefits the most from what the team's game plan is. Speaking of…

How the heck do you play with this team!?

Option 1: The Zygarde + FWG

Swampert + Incineroar + Amoonguss + Zygarde

This is good for if you're unsure what your opponents team is doing, but can't safely bring Stakataka to play. Amoonguss and Swampert can usually carry the load, and you can safely leave Zygarde in the back. Incineroar is also here to help protect Swampert from opposing grass types looking to prey on him.

Option 2: Trick room + Zygarde

Stakataka + Amoonguss + Zygarde + Swampert

This is the main way I play with the team. You have your powerful options of Stakataka + Amoonguss/Incineroar/Grimmsnarl depending on your opponent's team, alongside Swampert and Zygarde in the back. This is the most flexible build, as all of the team can come to play depending on what is needed.

Option 3: No Zygarde (Trick Room + FWG)

Stakataka + Amoonguss + Incineroar + Swampert

This is a variant of the Trick Room build, but you end up leaving Zygarde at home. This is good if you need to fight through an opposing Trick Room team (Caly Ice specifically), or just can't safely play Zygarde (all the Fairy types). This team can also be used against certain dragon Restricteds like Reshiram or Zekrom.

Option 4: Stall Wall (Trick Room + Grimmsnarl)

Stakataka + Grimmsnarl + Incineroar + Zygarde

This core is my second most common core it feels like, as it covers a lot of options and is fairly straightforward in its game plan. However, this option is the weakest to Fake Out, so if you see double or triple Fake Out in team preview, this core is likely the weakest of the bunch, and you need to look into other options.

There's also tons of other combinations!

Don't feel forced to play the team like I play it. It's flexible enough that you can find your own leads that you like and play with them. However, there are some common leads when I don’t know what exactly to do that I like:

Swampert + Grimmsnarl --- Great into teams without strong Grass coverage

Incineroar + Grimmsnarl --- Great into Caly Shadow/Lunala/Dawn Wings

Zygarde + Grimmsnarl --- Lines up real well into FWG cores like Rilla, Incin, Waterfu

Zygarde + Amoonguss --- Great into matchups with single target fairy damage that isn’t Xern

Zygarde + Incineroar --- Puts out a ton of pressure early, allows for fast Coil setups

All of these are viable leads for this team, usually backed up by a Stakataka or a Swampert in the back.

Where are my specific matchup charts!?

While I do have flow charts for certain matchups, I don't believe in locking into certain Pokémon when I see X, Y, or Z. That leads to becoming predictable and making bad plays because you're expecting your opponent to do something that you have no control over. Being flexible is one of the ways I look to gain advantages over opponents, so I encourage you to experiment with leads and the team!

Wrap Up

After spending so much time in building this team, I feel kind of bad that I don't find time to ladder more often. Between my day job and YouTube editing, I've been putting VGC on the back burner for a little while, but this definitely rekindled my interest in playing again. If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read this, it means a ton to me. I want to thank our whole community over on discord (discord.gg/lrlessons), and Cloverbells for inspiring me to pick the Zygarde team back up. Again, thanks from the bottom of my heart, and I hope you enjoy my Zygarde team!

If you're looking for recorded matches, check out the video Carl did with @Cloverbells over on his youtube channel!