The Shadow Pokémon haunts and frightens opponents
This is part of a series of written guides on Pokkén Tournament Deluxe for Nintendo Switch. I’ve 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 twenty-second character guide in the Trainer’s School series centers on Gengar, the Shadow Pokémon. The quintessential Ghost Pokémon (actually a Ghost/Poison dual type,) Gengar made his debut in the initial Pokkén roster and has always been one of the strangest characters in the cast. A trickster archetype, Gengar will often interact with the player’s point of view in eerie ways, even trying to taste the results screen at some points. While he has a wide variety of tools in his kit, Gengar is primarily identified as being a pseudo-grappler with quirky movement that lets him warp around the stage with his invincible cancels. His end goal is to fill his rather large Synergy Gauge with his strange moves in order to access his Mega Evolution, infamous for being one of the most polarizing Bursts in the game.
Playstyle: While comfortable at any range, Gengar is played best when making use of optimized combos such as Scooby loops or Hypnosis > normal grab setups that build his meter. Properties like Shadow Stealth and Permeate make him difficult to hit, and Mega Gengar is the strongest Burst Mode in the roster.
Values: 510 Hit Points, 600 Shield Health, 250cc Synergy Gauge.
Poké Moves: Shadow Ball (Duel 5A, Field n.A,) Shadow Punch (Duel 4A, Field b.A,) Hypnosis (Duel 6A, Field f.A,) Sludge Bomb (]A[,) Astonish (j.A,) Curse (Duel only, 2A.)
High Stance: Invincible against low-hitting moves.
Low Stance: Invincible against high-hitting moves.
Unique Features: Any changes while in Burst Mode will be covered in the respective sub-section. Gengar’s standard dashes have substantial ghost-dash properties. In Field Phase, forward dash is invincible from frames 5 thru 24, back dash is invincible from frames 1 thru 18, and side dash is invincible from frames 5 thru 42. In Duel Phase, forward dash is invincible from frames 5 thru 22 while back dash is invincible from frames 1 thru 22. ]X[ is colloquially and unofficially referred to as Scooby (for the laugh that Gengar does) and builds 12.5cc Synergy when he laughs. Gengar’s normal throw absorbs your opponent’s HP and meter, restoring your dark green HP and filling your own Synergy Gauge. In Field, you can restore 100 HP, while in Duel you will restore 40. Gengar can cancel certain moves on the ground into Shadow Stealth, and holding R increases the duration of the invincibility. Likewise, Gengar can become invincible in the air using Permeate j.R, which can be done at any time during an empty jump (or during Field j.Y) and has the same properties as Shadow Stealth. Much like Gardevoir and Chandelure, Gengar has manipulable trajectory during his jumps: holding forward/back during a forward/back jump will carry you further, holding the reverse direction will halt your trajectory, and you can also move during a neutral jump.
The following moves can be cancelled into Shadow Stealth:
- Scooby ]X[ (which can also be jump cancelled)
- Shadow Ball
- Astonish: Face (both before and after the Face sprouts, but not after the Divekick.)
Remember as always to consult the frame data sheet for specific moves and their properties.
Gengar’s inherent trickiness comes from a steep learning curve where players must learn how to use their cancels and Permeate effectively to close in on or fade away from their opponents, along with the innate intangibility that other moves may provide. This learning curve is also heightened by the practice and optimization that goes into learning Hypnosis setups and Scooby combos. That being said, Gengar is still an excellent character with a powerful set of tools for mid-range pressure and zoning, while also being able to fake out opponents up close and force the fear of the throw into them. With good pokes, okizeme, reversal and aerial options, and straight-up intangibility, Gengar can be a powerful and unpredictable threat.
Field Phase Gengar relies a lot on powerful homing or lingering projectiles in order to pressure his opponent while he approaches. Field j.Y, n.Y, Shadow Ball, and Shadow Punch can all be useful as powerful long-range pokes, especially the variants that can be charged. S.Y is a useful sidestep that links into your very strong f.Y, which briefly makes you invincible (protects you from all lows on frame 5, and from everything on frame 29.) B.Y likewise renders you invulnerable to lows and can eradicate projectiles, making the wide dome useful as a pseudo-reversal. Even your j.X divekick is invincible at the beginning of the move, and it can also be angled up or down, making it a valuable movement tool and attack in its own right. The brief invincibility from j.X is balanced out by being absurdly minus: a whopping -33 on block. In general, though, the combination of these strong, lingering hitboxes and the intangibility given to several of Gengar’s moves makes him a threat that can be difficult to track down. ]A[ Sludge Bomb gets slightly more utility in Field Phase due to the trajectory of the puddles, but keep in mind that the puddles themselves deal no damage or hitstun. Also, your Homing Attack is likewise incredibly invincible, avoiding highs and mid-highs from frame 1.
Pause! Universal Gengar tactics
Since these tools and tactics are elaborate, key to Gengar’s gameplan, and can be applied to both Phases, they will be discussed in this separate section. Gengar’s strategy revolves heavily around the strike-throw mixup game, much like other grapplers or pseudo-grapplers with powerful throws. Since Hypnosis combos directly into your normal throw (or a longer combo if you want to be fancy and maybe squeeze out more meter gain,) wary opponents will already be fearful of your command grab and try to crush it at any given opportunity. What this means essentially is that you have to condition your opponent into overly relying on block or CA, which will then let you earn Hypnosis more frequently. Fortunately, Gengar has a handful of tools in both Phases that will allow him to earn that pressure, fake out his opponent, and then go for the Hypnosis once his opponent is scared of getting hit more than they are of getting thrown.
In both Phases, you can use variations on Shadow Ball, Shadow Punch, and Astonish pressure to keep your opponent blocking or holding CA. While normal Shadow Ball is good as a poke, the slow-moving EX Shadow Ball is very effective as an okizeme tool or as something to cover your approach. Shadow Punch’s unpredictability, homing, and rare ability to cross up also makes it highly threatening, and the charged version will counter pierce and launch. These two options combined usually mean that your opponent’s only perceived option will be to continue holding block. Once this pressure is established and you recognize that your opponent is blocking or using CA when they shouldn’t be, you can then start using Hypnosis to earn your throw setup. You also have tools like Field j.Y, 6Y, Astonish: Face, and the added layer of Permeate and Shadow Stealth in order to continue mixing up your block pressure depending on the situation.
Besides the aforementioned block and CA pressure tools, Gengar is also able to make use of strong normals with decent frame data and intangible properties. Your 5Y… and 6Y… series are, at worst, -8, and 6Y/6YX can be cancelled into Shadow Stealth and Permeate respectively, making them both powerfully safe light pokes. Furthermore, 5Y…, 6Y…, and 5X can all be special cancelled, which lets you use any sort of special reversal or any move that can be Shadow Stealthed or Permeated. One such move is Gengar’s Duel 2A, Curse, which renders him invulnerable from frame 9 to 45 and deals a ton of damage at the expense of some recoil damage (which can easily be healed back if you land your throw setups.) You also have a handful of other true reversals in the form of your 8Y antiair, 5X, and 8X, which are thus very difficult to punish in spite of their frame data. Duel j.Y is an especially privileged aerial poke, being i11, +8, executable out of Permeate, and special cancellable to boot. To wrap things up, you have a decent i11 -4 throw crush built into your typical 2Y. Use your safe pokes and intangible reversals to deal damage up close or at midrange, and your special moves to harass your opponent from afar. Developing proficiency with Shadow Stealth and Permeate will essentially make you untouchable.
For the cost of 250ccs of Synergy, Gengar essentially transforms into a different character. Much like Mewtwo, you will be centering your gameplan around building meter in order to access the Mega Gengar Burst Mode, via optimized combos and throw setups (we will discuss Scooby loops in the relevant section.) However, unlike Mewtwo, your meter is only slightly larger than average and you don’t spend it on special moves, meaning you can earn Burst Mode much faster than the Genetic Pokémon can- potentially in the second round or even earlier if you’re playing well. Mega Gengar also lasts for a whopping 18 seconds- this is the longest duration for a Burst Mode in the game. Mega Gengar gains the following properties:
- Instead of full invulnerability during High and Low Stances, Mega Gengar gains counter armor on frame 5: high-hitting counter armor in High Stance, low-hitting counter armor in Low Stance.
- Your dashes are faster, with additional ghost-dash-like invulnerability.
- Field n.Y now fires three projectiles in each direction.
- Sludge Bomb’s puddles are larger.
- Curse now deals hitstun on all hits instead of just the last one.
- Shadow Ball has additional advantage on hit and block, and the uncharged version will launch the opponent.
Additionally, nearly every normal is now a completely different move:
- Your Burst Mode normal grab heals you back for slightly less damage (only 90 HP in Field Phase) but is now a dunk that does a ton of damage (140 in Field, 150 in Duel.)
- Neither Field f.Y nor s.Y are special cancellable anymore.
- Field s.Y is now a ring of flames similar to Field j.Y
- Field f.Y is now a full-screen counter-piercing laser that fires forward into an upward trajectory.
- J.X, the same move in both Phases, is now a spinning wheel attack, but otherwise has the same frame data as the original divekick.
- Homing Attack is now an i17 series of swipes.
- 2Y is now a low claw swipe that is +4 on block.
- 5Y is now a multihit move that does more damage that can be special cancelled at any point.
- 5YY is likewise an additional swipe with better advantage on hit and block.
- 8Y loses its full invulnerability but is still invincible against highs and mid-highs. Instead of turning Gengar into a tornado, 7/8/9Y is now a claw swipe that spawns tornado projectiles in front of Mega Gengar. The tornado will launch the opponent, and charging 8Y will form all three possible tornados.
- 2X is a laser similar to Field f.Y that has high-hitting invulnerability.
- 5X is a spin attack invincible from frames 13 to 34. The charged variant will counter pierce and is invincible from frames 43 to 63.
- 8X is a laser similar to 2X and Field f.Y. The move puts Mega Gengar in the air, rendering him invincible against lows on frame one and totally invincible from frames 9 to 24. Upon landing, Mega Gengar is invincible from frames 52 to 57. Changing the input of the move (7/8/9X) will change the location where you land.
- You can no longer use Scooby.
Mega Gengar is an intimidating threat, to say the least. Between powerful, screen filling lasers, bonus frame data on close-and-midrange normals, and counter-piercing wheels of death, Mega Gengar is immensely powerful at any part of the screen. The terrifying, demonic bully’s ability to deal major damage with his new moves makes him hard to deal with, and his additional counter-pierce properties add another layer that forces your opponent to continue blocking instead of attempting to CA through pressure. This likewise leaves them vulnerable to your buffed throw, as well as your Burst Attack, Shadow Drop. Shadow Drop is an i21 command grab that is invincible on frame 1. Any Support Pokémon on the Field will disappear on activation. While the move is invulnerable and a throw, it can be avoided with jump-ins or with low-invulnerable moves, so any knowledgeable opponents can still crush it.
Strengths and Weaknesses
Gengar is a contender for top-tier in this game, and is genuinely a very strong character overall. Despite his overall fragility, he’s very difficult to hit and punish, spending a lot of time in the air with moves like Astonish and j.Y, and being able to warp in and out of existence whenever he wants. Furthermore, he can even heal himself and steal Synergy using his normal grab, which enhances his survivability via a normal part of his Attack Triangle gameplan and lets him access his powerful Burst Mode even faster. Gengar’s kit features tools not unlike those that the rest of the top-tier cast have and is a threat at pretty much any part of the screen, with the ability to literally fade away from pressure as he pleases. The main disadvantage to Gengar is simply the fact that his kit is bloated and he’s difficult to use. Scooby loops require above-average execution, and having the presence of mind to use Shadow Stealth and Permeate to escape bad situations comes with a lot of playtime and practice. While Gengar has seen success at high-level play, very few players are consistently able to maintain that success, which speaks to how difficult he is to play. Still, at low- to mid-levels, newer players without the matchup knowledge can get overwhelmed by Gengar’s confusing options, giving you a lot of undue respect and allowing you to run your gameplan unhindered.
Supports and Cheer Pairings
While Support Sets for Gengar can change based on the matchup and personal preference, there are some Sets that are always handy and synergize well with his kit. Mismagius and Ninetales are exceptionally useful for okizeme and to exert the block pressure you need to setup Hypnosis. Emolga and Rotom can both lock your opponent down and the stun will likewise earn you a free command grab. Fennekin and Umbreon are both once again reliable invincible reversals in a pinch, and Espeon makes the latter set valuable if you find yourself low on HP due to having a smaller health bar than most characters. Beyond that, experimentation is encouraged and your final choice is up to you. Synergy Cheer can be a useful crutch Cheer when starting out, before transitioning into Special.
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.
While it’s completely possible to get by with Gengar using the tutorial combos and short confirms like j.Y 2XX or Hypnosis into throw, eventually you should try to learn Scooby loops. Scooby loops are an important part of extending combos and building Synergy after a launcher. While Scooby itself is i15, it’s also a whopping -57 on block, meaning it’s not always the best neutral tool if your opponent is blocking and ready to punish. Being jump- and Shadow Stealth cancellable makes it a bit safer, but more importantly it also makes it a useful tool for extending combos. The route usually goes as follows: after a launcher, jump forward with j.Y and begin priming X. Then, land Astonish: Face, and cancel it with R before Astonish: Divekick. After cancelling onto the ground, release X in order to land Scooby. At this point, you can either take the meter gain from landing Scooby or jump cancel the move into another j.Y, at which point the cycle continues. You can often land at least two Scooby loops in a single combo if you’re successful. The initial loop looks something like the following, with an example using 6YX as your starter launcher:
6YX j.Y (hold X) j.6AR ]X[
A full 21-hit Scooby loop from the 6YX launcher will look like this:
6YX j.Y (hold X) j.6AR ]X[ (three hits) j.Y6AR j.Y (hold X) j.6AR ]X[
In these combos, you are using the j.6A variant of Astonish, which spawns Astonish: Face at a further distance and gives you space for your Scooby and jumping-forward j.Y followups. Gengar is a high-execution character and there are many failure points in these combos, often centered around priming or releasing Scooby, or cancelling Astonish too early or too late. If you begin priming Scooby immediately after your j.Y, you should be able to have Scooby ready as soon as you land Astonish: Face. Also, cancelling Astonish: Face too early will stop the face shadow from sprouting, whereas cancelling too late won’t get you anything at all and you will continue with Astonish: Divekick instead. Try to time your cancel as soon as you see the shadow appear on the ground, but before the face sprouts. After landing three hits of the Scooby punches, jump cancel and continue the loop. Try practicing the combo with a single loop first, and then experiment to see how many more loops you can add. The length of Scooby loops will vary slightly depending on how many hits of each move you land, as well as opponent height, since you may inadvertently land the 21 hit maximum too early.
Gengar is an unorthodox character who relies on establishing the fear of the strike-throw mixup, harassing from any range, and being nigh-untouchable with his cancels and normal intangibility. The Shadow Pokémon makes use of powerful special moves like Shadow Ball, Shadow Punch, and Astonish to pressure the opponent at a distance, before moving in with privileged normals that can be made to grant invincibility. After exerting this pressure, landing Hypnosis into normal throw (or longer Scooby combos) will build your meter, letting you access your absurdly strong Burst Mode. Mega Gengar is essentially a win condition who might as well occupy the 24th roster slot, being able to continue playing the same game as his normal counterpart while also gaining access to absurd full screen projectile attacks and a devastating command grab super. While Gengar has a lot going for him, his skill ceiling is very high, and the character is not recommended for players who don’t want to spend a lot of time in the lab or who are new to the game in general. Despite that, Gengar is an often unseen character with a versatile toolkit that allows his player to get very creative.
We’ve made it to the home stretch! There’s only one character guide left- fittingly, out of all of the Pokémon in the game, it’s the only one unique to Pokkén, even if it’s derivative of an iconic character. The final Trainer’s School character guide will be all about Shadow Mewtwo, the boss character of Pokkén Tournament DX!!