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Sword and Shield Reviews: Galarian Darmanitan

Tags: #Sword and Shield  #Pokemon Reviews 
  • November 24, 2019

    With Pokemon Sword and Shield being out for...a full week now? Close to it at the very least, I've been jumping into Pokemon Showdown and trying out their beta for the OU tier (which really just means that nearly everything is still OU and stuff hasn't dropped to lower tiers yet) through competitive battling. This series is just a simple way for me to jot down my thoughts on some of the new Pokemon, items or new features. There isn't going to be any significant order to it other than being stuff I'm interested in specifically (expect a lot of heavy hitters, defensive Pokemon and weird movesets really). 

    Galarian Darmanitan

    Galarian Darmanitan is a fascinating new form for an otherwise solid attacker. Darmanitan has just about always been known for being a really heavy hitter with a good moveset and Sheer Force, boosted usually by either the Choice Band or Choice Scarf due to it's great attack and solid speed. Everything has sort o  changed for Darmanitan with it's new form because of it's rather insane ability Gorilla Tactics, and the change from Fire to Ice type. 

    This particular review goes into detail on the Pokemon's Abilities and Moves and will end in a few interesting sets to test out/use. I personally think it's going to stay in the OU tier but it's entirely possible that it could border on Uber. The ability and variety behind the Pokemon puts it pretty close to Mega-Lucario in my opinion. 


    Gorilla Tactics is very, very interesting and is basically the perfect tool for Darmanitan. The basic idea behind the ability is that it boosts your attack but locks you into your first move, essentially operating as a non-item Choice Band (though it's worth nothing that I'm not entirely sure whether it provides the exact same 1.5* boost or if maybe it's a 1.2 or 1.3 boost similar to Life Orb and Sheer Force respectively, that would probably be fairer but could be any option). The core idea behind the competive use of this ability is to throw on either the Choice Scraf to effectively start with a Dragon Dance (yeah that's not broken) being able to outspeed basically anything that isn't scarfed and still hit with insane power or you can use a Choice Band to get a truly insane starting boost to your Attack and just crush anything that you outspeed (pairs excellently with a Tailwind or Stickyweb user to boost/lower speed). 

    Zen Mode was trash on regular Darmanitan, it meant forcing yourself into a weird moveset that made it really easy to predict the change (Huh, you have Fire Blast instead of Flare Blitz, wonder if you have Zen Mode) and while it turned you into a solid defensive Pokemon, it just wasn't really worth it when compared to the sheer power and variety of Life Orb + Sheer Force (or Choice Scarf/Band) Darmanitan. But Zen Mode for Galarian Darmanitan is actually a really nice ability that is honestly just as good as Gorilla Tactics if a little bit riskier. Basically, it enchances your Speed and Attack by 40/20 making Darmanitan a far more effective sweeper. It's a different option to Gorilla Tactics, better for early-game sweeping rather than late-game sweeping option, making Darmanitan very interesting. 

    I personally prefer the consistancy and lack of risk behind Gorilla Tactics. I know that might be strange consideirng it locks you into a single move but I prefer that to requiring my G-Darmanitan to drop to 50% HP just to be actually useful. I've seen a set built around Belly Drum become quite popular with Zen Mode but I think that's really quite risky, I prefer to only use Belly Drum when a Pokemon has a priority move to make up for the low health (Linoone for example, Extreme Speed is great) and the ability to use a Berry can only help actually. With Zen Mode Darmanitan he's just too frail, lacking priority and requires extremely precise switching. 


    I'm really not sure if there are any non-legendaries that have as varied a moveset as G-Darmanitan, or at least not as strong and varied as it's moveset. High power ice, fire, ground, rock, steel, normal, fighting, and even Zen Headbutt. It's a pretty amazing amount of coverage that can counter just about anything. U-Turn adds an extra level of adapdability by allowing switches (especially for the Gorilla Tactics version). Personally I prefer to go with Flare Blitz, Icicle Crash, Earthquake/Iron Head and U-Turn but you could easily replace them with any number of other moves).

    The really interesting aspect of this moveset is the addition of Dynamax and how much that changes how combat works in Pokemon. I won't be going over the full set of additions (I will probably make a seperate post if anyone is interested in that) but the main bonus for Darmanitan is that it enables move-swapping. Because technically your base moves are replaced with Max Moves, it breaks the lock from your Choice Band/Gorilla Tactics and actually allows you to use any Max Move while your Dynamaxed. So the ability to Dynamax basically allows you to change your move, and gain actual variety without switching. It's pretty awesome, and then when you boost it by the fact that Max Moves have unique secondary abilities (sun, stat boosts and of course the extra damage) can really make G-Darmanitan really useful outside of what you'd normally consider.


    So, there are a few different movesets that are worth using, and I've covered the fact that G-Darmanitan has a really diverse moveset so I'm really just going to cover two different versions. One for Zen Mode and another for Gorilla Tactics. 

    Darmanitan-Galar @ Choice Scarf or Choice Band
    Ability: Gorilla Tactics
    EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
    Jolly Nature
    - Icicle Crash
    - Flare Blitz
    - Earthquake
    - U-turn

    The basic strategy really would be to start off with whichever move is going to defeat your current opponent, and then Dynamax once you've taken it out if you think you can take advantage of whatever they've swapped in. Let's use a pretty simple example of Appletun (Grass/Dragon) being taken out by your Icicle Crash and then your opponent sends in...Copperjah (Steel) to take advantage of the swap, normally you'd just swap out but now you can Dynamax into a Max Flare, defeat Copperjah, set up sun and then have a really nice couple of turns to take advantage of a full moveset (and maybe grab a few stat boosts) before swapping back. 

    Darmanitan-Galar @ Expert Belt
    Ability: Zen Mode
    EVs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
    Jolly Nature
    - Icicle Crash
    - Belly Drum
    - Flare Blitz
    - Earthquake

    The Zen Mode set is basically the same and will require a bit more tweaking. It isn't something I've personally used, rather it's what I've been recommended a few times and seen used to varying effect. The basic concept is to abuse the stupidty of Belly Drum setting you to below 50% HP and switching you into Zen Mode automatically. Personally I'm only going to recommend this in Doubles (where you can get supporting moves to boost you a bit more, or just provide better survivability that first turn) but it's an interest set that's worth testing. 

    It's a really basic set-up though, use Belly Drum, kill everything which...honestly at that point just about any move but you know, might as well try and get Expert Belt's boost whenever possible

    There's a variety of changes that could be made to these, and personally I'm going to be testing the Gorilla Tactics set a lot more. I'm really loving it across 20 or so battles so far (switching between Choice Scarf and Band regularly) and have tended to prefer the Scarf set because G-Darmanitan is so powerful anyway. The logic behind Earthquake on each set is pretty simple, it deals with most Rock/Steel/Fire types pretty effectively (or at least provides more coverage than other moves) which are all weaknesses of Darmanitan. The other side of this is that Max Quake provides a pretty nifty Special Defence boost. The other solid option in my eyes is Iron Head which is also nice for the flinch chance and Defence boost with Max Steelspike.