When it was confirmed that Gengar will appear in the wild with the Ghost Hunt trailer for Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, the entire fan base rejoiced. The long-time fan favorite Ghost reached an all-time high in Google searches in late October 2022, following the trailer, according to Google Trends. The spike in interest likely is partly being the week leading up to Halloween, and ghosts in general see a huge demand spike, and also partly being its availability in the game.
Through Generation 7, you could typically only acquire a Gengar by trading your Haunter with someone else, who would then have to trade you back your now-evolved Gengar. (There was a corner case you could find one in the wild as an SOS Pokemon in Sun and Moon, but that often proved extremely difficult to actually catch.) In Generation 8, however, Gengar began to appear at high levels in the Wild Area of Sword and Shield, and the fully evolved Pokemon also appears in the wild with Pokemon Legends Arceus. It appears that with Scarlet and Violet, if the trailer is indeed accurate, that we will again find Gengar in the wild, greatly lessening the need to evolve one through trades.
In competitive Pokemon, Gengar has been so good for so long that it once was on pretty much every competitive team that existed. Only by taking away the Levitate ability bestowed upon it in Generation 3 after a nerf in Sun and Moon did Gengar begin to only be an overused option. Of course, in Sun and Moon it still had the Mega it gained in X and Y, and in Sword and Shield, it gained a special Gigantamax form. Still, losing Levitate dropped Gengar down a few pegs, too good to be underused, but also not quite good enough to be overused, thanks to being super weak to Ground-type moves and many entry hazards without the Levitate ability. The G-Max form was good, but not quite good enough, not with all of the more competitive Gigantamax options available; that Ground weakness has proven to be a heck of an issue!
For Scarlet and Violet, Gengar will have neither a Mega form nor a Gigantamax form, and be stuck with the relatively innocuous, although not entirely irrelevant Cursed Body ability. However, thanks to the advent of Tera Types, Gengar may find a niche as an overused Pokemon once again. As of Sword and Shield, Gengar has gone from being a primarily offensive force to being a Pokemon who sits behind a Substitute, powers up with Nasty Plot, and attempts to hit hard with two of Shadow Ball, Focus Blast, or Dazzling Gleam. Notably, it didn’t even always play Sludge Wave, which is good because that move has been removed from Gengar. Sludge Bomb is still available, though, with the only drawback being that it can’t hit Pokemon with the Bulletproof ability; it’s a niche ability, but it does exist.
Even in the Generation 4 remakes of Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl, Gengar is incredibly underused. Mismagius, still having Levitate to this day, is just a better sweeper, despite having significantly base lesser stats. BDSP has actually been much more kind to Haunter, who in fact does still have Levitate. Modest Haunter with four attacks – Sludge Bomb, Shadow Ball, Hex, and Dazzling Gleam – isn’t super common in the niche BDSP OU (Overused) singles format, but according to Pikalytics it does pop up. Gengar, meanwhile, doesn’t.
The fact is, there’s going to be new Ghost types in Scarlet and Violet. Gengar already felt the power creep getting to him in Sword and Shield, and even in the vastly reduced Pokedex of BDSP couldn’t hold his own. Granted, the Pokemon in BDSP have been buffed significantly since their appearance in the original Generation 4 games, but the fact Gengar struggled to find footing even in Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl seems to prove that his competitive window is closing, and likely closing fast.
On the other hand, Gengar is a perfectly good Pokemon, whether you choose to play him in competitive Pokemon or not. A Timid Nature Gengar can still outspeed a lot of things, thanks to the plus 10 percent boost to Speed at the cost of a 10 percent loss to physical Attack which you aren’t using anyway. While some trainers still prefer a Modest nature, boosting Special Attack by 10 percent at the same cost of physical Attack, Speed is everything in Pokemon. We’ll have to see how the speed tiers work out in Scarlet and Violet; if there are any new threats that Gengar will need the Timid nature to outspeed, Gengar’s niche may shrink even further.
The last time Gengar really showed up in competition was in Series 12 VGC, which interestingly enough is the same rule set as Series 14 VGC, now the forever format for Sword and Shield as of November 2022 until the servers eventually go down (which probably won’t be for quite some time). Even then, Gengar saw only a blip of play as a Trick Room setter with the STAB (same type attack bonus) moves of Sludge Bomb and Shadow Ball, plus Icy Wind for speed control. Series 13 Battle Stadium singles was a bit kinder to Gengar as a four-attack offensive Pokemon, opting for type coverage rather than boosting with Nasty Plot, using some combination of Shadow Ball, Icy Wind, Hex, or Energy Ball. Some Gengar still ran Hypnosis, the very inaccurate sleep-inducing move.
This is where we get to the part where we ask what is the best Tera Type for Gengar? One possibility is to choose a Ghost Tera Type, which would improve Gengar’s Ghost-type STAB to 2x instead of the regular 1.5x, removing the Ground weakness, while retaining the STAB on Poison-type moves. Still, many trainers prefer the coverage of Dazzling Gleam on Gengar, too, so a Fairy Tera Type could also help Gengar by giving STAB to not only Ghost and Poison type moves, but on Dazzling Gleam, as well. Unfortunately, Fairy type just opens Gengar up to Steel type weakness and loses it the Poison resist, converting it into a weakness. The best bet seems to be doubling down on the Ghost type and improving Gengar’s defensive profile slightly. Thing is, since you can only Terastalize once per battle, you’re likely not going to depend on Gengar as your main Tera threat; it’s just good to have just in case.
There is yet another option. Gengar can run Thunderbolt or Thunder, much like its Ghost-type sweeper counterpart Mismagius. This means that the Electric Tera Type may yet be a good option. Equip Gengar with an Air Balloon and it gets pseudo Levitate until the Balloon is popped by a damaging attack. If you can set a Substitute successfully, though, you can potentially some serious damage before the Balloon is popped. Unfortunately, Thunderbolt or Thunder will have to take the place of Nasty Plot, as you want to retain the STAB moves of Shadow Ball or Hex and Sludge Bomb. Unfortunately, this Gengar will probably not do enough damage to be a serious competitive threat without Nasty Plot, but it will probably serve you just fine in the actual game.
Of course, there’s also the possibility of playing Gengar just as the competitive players have recently, throwing up a Substitute, using Nasty Plot, and just setting up a late-game sweep. In doubles, you could also use Perish Song and use Dugtrio with Arena Trap as a partner to set up a ghetto version of the Perish Trap strategy often used with Mega Gengar in the past. This strategy even worked with GMAX Terror in Sword and Shield, but again, no Dynamax in Generation 9. So, Gengar likely loses the efficacy of that niche. The new version that really requires an Arena Trap Pokemon as a partner doesn’t really work.
So, how good is Gengar going to be in Scarlet and Violet? My best bet is on a Ghost Tera Type with an Air Balloon, which alleviates the Ground weaknesses and overcomes many hazards. Equipping Black Sludge for recovery after setting up a Substitute is not a bad idea, but my sense is that Electric types and Pokemon with Electric Tera Types are going to be running amok. Hence, there will likely be a lot of Ground-type coverage, and many Ground-type Pokemon have been confirmed to return. We’ll see how things actually shake out, and I’ll be sure to update this article as we see what other new Pokemon emerge to either partner up with Gengar or push him further out of the competitive meta.
Hilariously, I feel like Haunter is going to be the better competitive Pokemon in Generation 9. It still has Levitate, and the Electric Tera Type means he would have no weaknesses at all. He may not even run an Electric type move, just using the Tera Type defensively to more easily Substitute and strike from behind the Sub with Shadow Ball, Sludge Bomb, and Dazzling Gleam with Life Orb boosting its attacks by 30 percent at the cost of 10 percent HP per attack. We may even see the old fashioned Choice Scarf Trick Haunter with the same offensive moves. Sure, Haunter was a low-tier singles Pokemon in Sword and Shield, but gaining a Ground-type immunity could put him over the top, something Gengar can’t achieve without an Air Balloon, and that’s a neat gimmick perhaps at best.
Any way the wind blows him in competitive Pokemon, I’m happy to be able to catch a wild Gengar once again. Also, thanks to being able to catch Ralts or Kirlia with Synchronize very early in the game, I’ll easily get a Timid nature one for when I need Gengar to sweep a certain gym or Team Star base. These are just my thoughts for now; hopefully, some exciting new builds of Gengar emerge in the early days of Scarlet and Violet competition.
How will you use Gengar in Scarlet and Violet?
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