Dragapult is in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, meaning it is instantly one of the best returning Pokemon for Generation 9, or so they say. Despite its high speed and strong presence when it’s in its Dynamax form, a lot of players call it overrated, especially as its usage fell off at the end of Sword and Shield official competition. But, Pokemon Showdown players have proven that Dragapult with its amazing speed, good move pool, and great offensive typing in Dragon/Ghost, it doesn’t need Dynamax to compete at all.
First off, 142 speed is absolutely exceptional for a Speed stat. It’s outsped only by legendaries like Deoxys, Zacian, Zeraora, Pheromosa, and Regieleki, plus Pokemon like Accelgor, Electrode, and Ninjask who barely ever see play. Its signature move Dragon Darts hits twice in doubles, but also can hit each opponent once in doubles. Dragapult also has a powerful second STAB (same-type attack bonus) move in Phantom Force. While this is a two-turn move, Dragapult is semi invulnerable, and it also breaks through protection moves such as Baneful Bunker, Protect, Quick Guard, and Wide Guard.
With 120 base Attack, Dragapult certainly hits pretty hard. Unfortunately, the only other strong physical move it has is the Dark-type Sucker Punch. The Bug-type U-Turn is useful if you plan on using Dragapult as a pivot, but it doesn’t hit that hard. Most of its other strong moves are specially based. While 100 Special Attack is fine, it requires you to build Dragapult much differently and go all in with Special moves like Draco Meteor, Shadow Ball, and Fire Blast, while sometimes even using Flamethrower, or a status move like Will-o-Wisp or Thunder Wave.
Also, Dragapult has the Infiltrator ability, that while it doesn’t override protection moves, it does hit right through Substitutes and ignores screens such as Aurora Veil, Reflect, and Light Screen. The Clear Body ability is decent, in that it ignores stat lowering moves from opponents. It also has Cursed Body as its Hidden Ability; it’s bad enough on Gengar, so why would you bother? Infiltrator is usually the better choice here, though.
The question is then, what’s the best moveset for Dragapult going into Scarlet and Violet? Clearly, it’s going to outspeed just about any of the new Pokemon. Zacian won’t be around for quite a while in the beginning, as it will only come back (with less attack in Crowned form) once Pokemon HOME allows you to transfer into Scarlet and Violet. We also have Tera Types to consider, too.
One drawback to going all in on special attacking moves is the necessity to run either Choice Specs or Life Orb to make up for its lower Special Attack. With a Modest nature, which boosts Special Attack at the cost of Attack, this is certainly doable. It’s going to come down to damage calculations, and without Dynamax, it doesn’t have the benefit of Max Airstream to help it outspeed things like Zacian and the other legendaries that will come for it eventually. Going for a Timid nature will help mitigate that, but then even with max investment, you may not OHKO Pokemon that would otherwise threaten it.
Speaking of threats, Dragapult has great offensive typing, but Dragon/Ghost has the defensive drawbacks of being weak to Ice, Ghost, Dark, Dragon, and Fairy type moves. While these can certainly be covered for, it’s a lot easier to do if you run the physical attacking set, which allows you to go Adamant (plus Attack, minus Special Attack) or Jolly (plus Speed, minus Special Attack) and hit even harder than a fully invested Special Attacker.
Dragapult may not be the force it once was, but considering that it was the #2 Pokemon in Generation 8 OU on Pokemon Showdown in October 2022, it’s clearly still pretty darn good without Dynamax. It’s also so strong that it’s actually banned in National Dex OU. While his usage went way down in recent VGC, that’s thanks to every team having two legendary Pokemon, and another format in which you could run mythical Pokemon. Sword and Shield really did some stupid stuff there at the end with doubles, didn’t it? It also fell way off in Battle Stadium Singles, ranking only #44 in usage in Series 13. Its usage in Gen 8 OU doubles was still #6 in October 2022, though, so it’s more than the Pokemon Company decided to keep too many busted Pokemon legal in the tier (aka Zacian and a host of other legendaries who were mainstays in Sword and Shield official ladders).
The truth is that Dynamax was a busted mechanic, and while Dragapult really fell off at the end, when it’s in a fair environment, it’s one of the best Pokemon in the game. It should be a very strong Pokemon in Scarlet and Violet, and many early Battle Stadium and Gen 9 OU ladder teams are sure to have one. Jolly Physical Attacking Dragapult should be an easy way to go. In Generation 9, without Dynamax, it will probably even run Dragon Dance along with its signature Dragon Darts, Phantom Force, and U-Turn.
My personal Dragapult would go all in this moveset. At least for the time being, going all in on attacking with a Jolly nature and a Life Orb seems like the way to go, investing in the extra speed just to outspeed other Dragapults. Once it has competition from legendaries or certain Paradox Pokemon that can outspeed it with Choice Scarf, then switching to a Scarf as well seems like it will do the trick. In singles, I feel Dragon Dance will be an important move if you want to sweep, but it may be able to ditch the set-up move and instead Will-o-Wisp or Thunder Wave to mess with opponents. The presence of a status inducing move will especially be important in doubles.
What do you think of Dragapult in Scarlet and Violet? I can’t see it being anything but strong, and keep in mind it was in a world where Dragonite was still very good, and Haxorus and Salamence were still very much around. While stall teams can certainly give Dragapults fits, with the huge reduction of power points for recovery moves, the removal of Scald from everything but Volcanion (which could cause a burn and halve the physical attack stat of big attackers), and many stall Pokemon losing some recovery (Roost) or phasing moves (Teleport) entirely, Dragapult will have more victims. Of course, no more Dynamax will definitely level the playing field quite a bit.
In any case, watch out for Dragapult, because it’s going to be around. Of course, once a lot of the old legendaries are back, it’s likely they get used over Dragapult. Hopefully there will be no more double restricted teams in Battle Stadium singles or doubles, because as much as I love legendaries (and I have a great many of them in Sword and Shield) the games all end up playing too much the same. Dragapult, for all it’s already accomplished, now has a new time to shine in Gen 9.
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