Pokemon player wins regional competition with an unexpected Articuno using one of the most baffling competitive movesets I've ever seen

Articuno in flight in the Pokemon anime.
(Image credit: The Pokemon Company)

The Pokemon community has been left flabbergasted by the team of the Masters champion at the European Special Event in Utrecht yesterday, which includes one particular Pokemon with an unusual moveset that you'd usually never see in competitive battling.

To be exact, winner Nikhil Reddy brought with them the legendary Ice-type bird, Articuno. According to competitive Pokemon battling fansite Smogon, Articuno falls into the ZU – or "Zero Used" – tier in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet, which as the name suggests, means it's very rarely used. This wasn't the only reason why Reddy's usage of it was notable, though – the attention has been placed on its moveset, which was described by content creator WeedleTwineedle as "the type of set you run on your in-game Pokemon when you're 10 years old".

For context, the player's Articuno had learned Blizzard, Ice Beam, Freeze-Dry and Sheer Cold – all four of which are Ice-type moves. Apart from Freeze-Dry, which is super-effective against Water types, the legendary bird had no type coverage to damage Pokemon that resisted its chilly attacks. Not only that, but Sheer Cold is a high-risk, high-reward move that can one-hit KO opponents… if you're willing to risk the 70% chance that your attack will miss. 

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This was all tied together with the Snow Cloak ability to boost Articuno's evasion in snow, and an Ice Tera Type to enhance the power of its icy moves further when Terastallized. It also held the Choice Specs item to increase special attack, with the drawback of being locked into the same move until switched out of battle.

While this setup may feel reminiscent of your first starter Pokemon which ravaged the Elite 4 with Flamethrower, Fire Blast, Fire Spin, and Ember, it's certainly not something we see often on competitive teams – especially ones that win. In the Masters Final, Reddy won 2-1, with Articuno's almighty Blizzard attacks decimating the team of their opponent, Aurélien Soula.

All in all, while it might appear to be a rather amusing setup, the strategy clearly worked. Sheer Cold is a risky move, sure, but in the face of an opponent that seems impossible to take out, it could have actually been incredibly useful. While the move wasn't used to secure the win in the final battle, Articuno was still an enormous help, and it wouldn't be surprising if we start to see the big blue bird used on more competitive teams as a result of this.

Be sure to check out our ranking of the best Pokemon games to see which one we think is the greatest of them all.

Catherine Lewis
News Writer

I'm one of GamesRadar+'s news writers, who works alongside the rest of the news team to deliver cool gaming stories that we love. After spending more hours than I can count filling The University of Sheffield's student newspaper with Pokemon and indie game content, and picking up a degree in Journalism Studies, I started my career at GAMINGbible where I worked as a journalist for over a year and a half. I then became TechRadar Gaming's news writer, where I sourced stories and wrote about all sorts of intriguing topics. In my spare time, you're sure to find me on my Nintendo Switch or PS5 playing through story-driven RPGs like Xenoblade Chronicles and Persona 5 Royal, nuzlocking old Pokemon games, or going for a Victory Royale in Fortnite.