Trainer’s School: Garchomp Character Guide

The Mach Pokémon has brutal rushdown attacks

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This is part of a series of written guides on Pokkén Tournament Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. Ive always loved this game and I’ve wanted to give back to the community and generate more interest in it. I’ll be creating more guides like this in the future and I hope this gets new players invested in the fighting game that taught me about fighting games. These character guides are meant as surface-level breakdowns of each of the playable Pokémon in the cast. If you would like to try out Pokkén Tournament Deluxe, and learn more information about the game, be sure to check out the community Discord! Access to the character-specific Discords will help you find any information that isn’t listed in this guide, and you can also ask the players there for specific advice.

The fourteenth character guide in the Trainer’s School series is all about Garchomp, the dual Dragon/Ground-type Mach Pokémon from the generation four RPGs. Garchomp is iconic as the Sinnoh region Champion Cynthia’s signature Pokémon, and carved out a major competitive niche for itself due to its unique dual typing, wide moveset, and incredible power and speed. The land shark’s appearance in Pokkén is characterized by a yakuza-like thuggish personality and a brutal moveset. Much like Scizor, Garchomp is an incredibly fast bruiser who can rush down his opponent and bully them in the corner, despite being classified as a Power-type. His power opens up drastically in Duel Phase, where he gains access to his Running Stance to extend his combos or continue frame traps and blockstrings.

Garchomp: Overview

Playstyle: Garchomp wants to get into Duel as soon as possible so he can open up his opponents with a brutal rushdown style, enhanced by his command specials and a unique Running Stance.

Values: 660 Hit Points, 600 Shield Health, 250cc Synergy Gauge

Poké Moves: Dragon Claw (Duel 5A, Field n.A,) Dig (Duel 6A, Field f.A,) Stone Edge (Duel 4A, Field b.A,) Earthquake (Duel j.A, Field j.n.A,) Sand Tomb (Duel only, 2A,) Dragon Rush (Duel only, 8A.) Several of these moves will have EX versions that proc only on crit: namely, Sand Tomb, Stone Edge, Dig, and Dragon Rush. Sand Tomb and Stone Edge can be charged. 8[A] Dragon Rush transitions into Dig.

High Stance: Rough Skin lets Garchomp red armor through low-, mid-low-, and special-mid-hitting moves from frame 17 on. This red armor will deal 10HP worth of recoil for each hit.

Low Stance: Charges Synergy Gauge. Does not crouch highs.

Unique Features: Specific details can be found on the frame data sheet. Garchomp’s ]X[ has three versions. The grounded version is a straightforward dragon-punch style anti-air. When released in the air at full jump height, j.]X[ is a two-part drill attack where Garchomp will travel in a V-shaped trajectory. When released low to the ground, only the downward drill will come out, which is much safer on block. (The notation for the ‘downward drill only’ variant is ij.]X[.) In the air, j.R is a command fastfall that resembles a feinted Earthquake- this can be special cancelled. The first hit of Dig only deals hitstun on crit or with an Attack buff. Dig is high-invuln on frame 1, projectile-invuln on frame 9, and completely strike-invuln on frame 17. Garchomp can leap out immediately with a press of Y/X, or he can hop out of the ground without a hitbox by pressing R. Dig is also jump-cancellable, and you can go into aerials right away as well.

Pause! Running Stance, and the importance of j.]X[

Garchomp can only access Running Stance in Duel Phase. Running Stance in neutral is performed by tapping forward three times and continuing to hold the input (666.) Several Duel Phase moves can also transition into Running Stance with a held input, and doing so makes these moves safer: 4[Y,] 6Y[Y,] and 5[A] Dragon Claw. Sand Tomb can also be cancelled with R before the throw hitbox comes out, which will also put Garchomp in Running Stance. In Running Stance, Garchomp will run forward quickly with a continuous dash and build up to six ticks of Synergy, 2.5cc per tick. Running Stance can be cancelled with R, by entering Burst, or by jumping. Garchomp has two unique moves in Running Stance: RS.Y/RS.YY and RS.X. Garchomp can also perform ]X[ and any special move out of Running Stance.

Running Stance is often used either to extend combos or, like many other stances, to make the cancelled move safer. RS.Y/RS.YY is functionally identical to 6YY, but has an earlier impact frame (i15 compared to i19.) Like 6YY, you can continue holding RS.Y[Y] to stay in Running Stance. RS.X is a pseudo-overhead (it’s actually a mid-hitting move) that launches the opponent. Running Stance can also be performed immediately out of CADC by inputting the 666 RS during the dash cancel- this is appropriately referred to as CARC, or Counter Attack Run Cancel. CARC’s most obvious application allows you to use your Running Stance options immediately after armoring through a move, much like Scizor’s CAHC parry.

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This is how the Garchomp Discord recommends you use ]X[ mid combo for ij.]X[. This requires a bit of dexterity and it’s possible to fat-finger your inputs on accident, so I recommend claw grip as an alternative.

All three versions of ]X[ are likewise very important for increasing Garchomp’s damage output in the same way as Running Stance. The Garchomp Discord recommends a specific input method for learning how to buffer ]X[ while performing other moves, which I will provide the infographic for here. If keeping your thumb on the X button while also using it to press Y or A is difficult, you can use the claw grip to hold your X button, which I will also provide an image for below. Improper and prolonged use of claw grip can lead to hand injury (just ask any Melee player,) but you’re less likely to fat-finger your inputs and you leave your thumb free to press B for jump. If neither style suits you, you can remap your controls in the System Menu, but remember that you may have to change it back for other characters. When performing ]X[ out of CARC, remember that you can continue holding the X button after the dash cancel to make things easier for you.

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Claw grip allows your thumb to manipulate the rest of the controller (mainly the B button) while also priming ]X.[ Take care of your hands.

Remember as always to consult the frame data sheet for specific moves and their properties.

Garchomp is a character designed to get in his opponent’s face and condition them into guessing wrong so that he can punish them with the crit EX versions of his special moves. All of his special moves have some sort of purpose to facilitate this and are explicitly designed around Attack Triangle wins. Dragon Rush and Dig can be used to avoid certain moves and beat grabs; Stone Edge can be used to punish mashing, and you can extend your damage out of it with ]X[; Sand Tomb can punish reckless armor or fearful blocking. Dragon Claw into Running Stance will allow you to extend combos and blockstrings, letting you continue your pressure on your opponent’s block and carry them into the wall. Being fast, brutal, and bulky also affords him a unique rushdown playstyle that larger characters typically don’t utilize, and Running Stance expands his options when moving forward or after a CADC.

Field Phase

The Sandstorm Y projectiles are very useful for maintaining your pressure.

Garchomp can’t access Running Stance in Field Phase, but in exchange he has powerful moves that make use of intimidating Sandstorms to oppress his opponent. S.[Y] is useful in order to sidestep your opponent’s projectiles while also throwing out a powerful homing boomerang. While the normal j.Y throws a small fin-like projectile, the charged j.[Y] is very useful due to its trapping properties: the tornado that Garchomp slings out will cross up the opponent and become a Sandstorm that will make its way back to your starting position. If your opponent isn’t prescient enough to block or try to armor it, they’ll get hit from behind without realizing it; if they do block it, they’ll be dragged toward you, allowing you to set up even more pressure. Up close, you can use f.Y as a spacing tool to fling mud in your opponent’s face, or b.[Y] to either catch your opponent’s CA or as a meaty option on okizeme.

Your options otherwise are pretty straightforward. Garchomp’s movement by default is fast, so system movement like CADC, sidestepping, and Homing Attack are still useful. Garchomp’s j.X is a typical ‘aerial Homing Attack,’ but instead of a divekick at the end, Garchomp performs a pizza-cutter move with his fin. This is a double-edged sword, since most divekick j.Xs are harder to punish, but the pizza cutter can be blocked and then thrown once Garchomp lands, so it should mainly be used as a punish or on reaction. Likewise, you can use Dig to approach in Field, but be wary of the options you use out of it, as the normal attack out of Dig can be baited and punished as well. Mix up your options out of Dig by cancelling or jumping out of it after avoiding moves successfully, and then using options like CA or Earthquake.

Duel Phase

Running Stance lets you get in, and your special moves will let you punish your opponent’s bad habits.

Garchomp’s power in Duel Phase increases drastically due to RS and its related tech. I’ve covered a majority of the utility in the Pause! segment, and we will revisit more RS and ]X[ usage in the Target Combo section below. To recap: you can cancel or transition from light normals, Sand Tomb, and CADC into Running Stance or CARC, which can then cancel into RS moves, jump, ]X[, and special moves. Recognizing that 6Y[Y], 4[Y] and Dragon Claw are a little bit safer into RS and allow you to continue your pressure is important for your mixup game. As an example of a situation: you can start a blockstring with 5Y into 5[A], and then your next option while in RS will be based on what your opponent attempts after block. Once you’ve punished their go-to option out of an RS cancel enough times, your opponent should respect you enough to stop using their bad option, which will then limit their own options and allow you to play more aggressively. If they have a bad habit of continuing to block or attempting to armor through your blockstring, you can special cancel RS into Sand Tomb, and either reset or continue your pressure depending on the version of Sand Tomb. (Resets out of Sand Tomb are especially useful to keep your opponent in Duel Phase for longer, since, like many of the command grabs we’ve discussed so far, it deals 0PSP.)

Befitting the Mach Pokémon, Garchomp is a fast character with pretty decent frame data. J.Y is a great combo starter, being i11 and even on block, making it a safe choice out of Garchomp’s numerous aerial/jump cancels. Earthquake (j.A) is also really great for similar reasons: while it’s very slow and has fewer combo opportunities, it’s still +4 on block, which gives you better options if you jump cancel an unsafe use of Dig. Neither 8Y and 2Y are special cancellable, but the former is an excellent anti-air launcher, and both are good i11 throw crushes. We’ve discussed the importance of ]X[ already, but it’s important to recognize that even though it’s very fast (i15 across all versions) it’s massively unsafe on block (unless you land after the downward j.]X[) so be careful about using it raw. The 8A Dragon Rush is a decent alternative where the startup will throw crush and it’s only -4 on block, making it difficult to punish normally. (This is also why it’s great to punish people who think that you’re going to try Stone Edge in front of them or after RS.)

Synergy Burst

Garchomp has a rather large Synergy Gauge at 250cc, and the transformation into the fearsome Mega Garchomp only lasts for about 12 seconds. Still, if you can maintain your fast, brutal playstyle, those 12 seconds may be all you need to close out the round. If you’ve been successfully playing your mixup game throughout the match by scoring crits, you will have built Synergy very quickly and meter optimization shouldn’t be much of an issue, so feel free to let it rip if you need to close out the round or even the playing field against an opponent’s Burst. Mega Garchomp gains the following simple but significant change in Burst Mode:

  • Mega Garchomp’s special moves are always the EX versions that land on crit.
Mega Garchomp’s violent nature shines through during Outrage Smasher.

While this is the only change, this drastically increases the threat of Stone Edge, Sand Tomb, Dragon Rush, and Dig, allowing you to score combos and followups off of the EX versions without relying on crits. Mega Garchomp’s Burst Attack, Outrage Smasher, is a violent and ferocious series of swipes. Only the first hit will trigger the Burst Attack animation on a successful confirm. The move itself has red armor from frame 1 (and is invincible from frame 9,) will counter pierce, and cause a Guard Break if your opponent blocks all the way through it. However, Garchomp is a whopping -16 at the end of the series of swipes, and also takes 50HP of recoil, meaning that he’s vulnerable to being opened up even after the Guard Break. Be especially careful when using this Burst Attack.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Garchomp is a character who is as good as the player controlling him. Field Phase is where he has the easiest time closing the gap against characters who can zone or do an otherwise excellent job of walling him out, and in Duel Phase he has nigh-unparalleled rushdown and mixup options. Since success with the Attack Triangle and punishing your opponents’ bad choices is important in order to make use of Garchomp’s EX special moves, this likewise means that any opponent who is wise to your act can cut those same options out of your gameplan. This isn’t necessarily limited to any specific opponent, as nearly every character in this game has at least one option they can rely on in certain pressure situations. What this really means instead is that it’s important for a Garchomp player to recognize their opponent’s habits, understand the properties of those moves quickly, and punish accordingly. That being said, top tiers like the Mewtwos and Sceptile with good escape options and mid-range hitboxes, or characters like Chandelure and Darkrai who excel at limiting the space you have to move, can still be tricky to fight against. Mastery of Running Stance and your punish combos off EX is crucial for maximizing your potential with the character.

Support and Cheer Pairings

Fortunately, there are a healthy variety of Support Sets that Garchomp can rely on in order to bring harder matchups into his favor, as well as make his mixups more effective. Projectiles like Frogadier, Emolga, and Cubone can force your opponent to block or halt their approach while you move in on them, and you may even earn a combo or a throw for it. Likewise, Attack buffs from Pokémon like Eevee, or the Always Critical Hit buff from Victini, can make earning the EX versions of certain moves even easier, opening up your combo potential. (If you’re feeling lucky, you can even use Mew to gamble and earn the best of both worlds.) If you’re feeling cheeky and referential to VGC history, Pachirisu’s Follow Me can help you close the gap against zoners, allowing you to exert your powerful rushdown pressure. Since your Synergy Gauge is very large, but your Supports may also still be valuable, Standard and Special Cheers are likely preferable picks. (You can try Synergy Cheer as a crutch when starting out if you don’t value Supports as much.)

Target Combos

These are some easy combos that you can get started with right away- they are bread-and-butter combos, not necessarily the most difficult or the most optimal. If you want to learn more about what your character has to offer, I suggest exploring the longer combo guides found in the Pokkén character Discords, as they will often be the most up-to-date with the current version of the game. The sample combos in the tutorial mode are also very good at helping you figure out your character’s combo theory.

Here is the j.Y (hold X) 5Y 5[A] RS.jc ij.]X[ (hold X) 6A ]X[ combo. I actually begin holding X before the j.Y here, so you can try that too.

Garchomp’s combos are varied and rather difficult for beginners once you get into the longer ones, mainly due to the specificity in when you can do them (on a crit/EX special, against the wall, out of RS or using ]X[, etc.) I will provide one example of a midscreen combo that makes use of ]X[ and RS, and one combo each for EX Sand Tomb and EX Stone Edge. (Since EX Dragon Rush instantly Phase Shifts, there’s no combo opportunities after that one. Enjoy your free 222 damage.) In these notations, I will point out when a jump cancel occurs with jc, and anytime only the downward hit of j.]X[ is supposed to land, I will note it with ij.]X[. (That’s a lowercase i.) I will also point out in the middle of the combo when you should begin holding X in order to prime ]X[, but this should also be clear if you read the input history in the clips.

j.Y (hold X) 5Y 5[A] RS.jc ij.]X[ (hold X) 6A ]X[

EX 2A (hold X) ij.]X[ (hold X) 4Y ]X[

EX 4A 8X j.YX 6YY

These are examples of midscreen combos you can earn off a successful crit.

Remember that these target combos are mostly to help you understand combo theory- you do not need to worry about hitting these combos 100% of the time. If you’re having trouble with ]X[ extensions especially, or you’re afraid of dropping your combos in a high-pressure situation, you can always go for something simpler. You can usually just do something like EX 2A or EX 4A into ]X[ immediately, or get a 5Y Poké Combo after a launcher for the corner carry. Re-emphasizing the above disclaimer at the beginning of the section, it’s important to explore the ingame combo tutorials and figure things out in the Free Training room if you get stuck on something.

Conclusion

Garchomp is a vicious rushdown character who wants to tear into his opponents upon earning a Shift into Duel Phase. In Field, Garchomp works his way in by making his opponent fear charged Sandstorm projectiles on his Y buttons. Once he’s in Duel Phase, he has access to multiple new mixup options and his unique Running Stance, which lets him close in and drastically increases his pressure. The plethora of different options that Garchomp has out of Running Stance can let him continue oppressing opponents on block or force them to pick a wrong panic option, which he can then punish accordingly. In Burst Mode, Mega Garchomp has access to his EX special moves for the duration of the install, letting him guarantee certain options and combo paths regardless of critical hit. Garchomp is a character who relies on precise inputs to access things like CARC and ]X[, and his strength is directly proportional to the player’s skill. Supports like Cubone and Emolga can cover Garchomp’s lack of a Duel Phase projectile, while Victini and Mew can potentially make critical hits even more threatening.

With the conclusion of the Garchomp guide, only nine characters in the Pokkén roster remain. The next series of Pokémon will be Speed-Type characters: all of them are highly aggressive, very fast rushdown characters with tricky movement options. Next week, we’ll be taking a look at Pikachu Libre, the Cosplay Pikachu!

I seem to run into salty players a lot while recording Trainer’s School clips.

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