Pawniard sits at a middle ground in the Little Cup metagame. It has a lot going for it, starting with its high Attack stat. This, combined with Swords Dance and Sucker Punch, makes Pawniard a fearsome sweeper that can floor most Pokemon before they have a chance to retaliate. Its Steel-type STAB is good for hitting every Fighting-type in the metagame neutrally on the switch, making them reluctant to try and come in on a Sucker Punch. With a Life Orb set, Pawniard becomes nigh unstoppable after a Swords Dance, as not even defensive Mienfoo can stomach a boosted Iron Head. Defensively, it has that wonderful Steel typing, which gives it a lot of opportunities to switch in on resisted hits with Eviolite, as well as Toxic. Its Defense stat is also above average, which allows it to take hits from powerhouses such as Murkrow and Guts-boosted Taillow with ease.
That same typing, however, gives Pawniard a fatal double weakness to Fighting-type moves, which are everywhere in this metagame. It also gives Pokemon that Pawniard should hard counter, such as Abra and Misdreavus, a chance to outpredict and slay it with Hidden Power Fighting. Its Special Defense is also somewhat dismal, which makes switching in on most special attacks a bad idea. It also competes with Murkrow for a team slot most of the time, due to Murkrow's better movepool, access to Prankster with Substitute and Roost, a STAB move that blows Fighting-types away, as well as shared access to Sucker Punch. Even with these downfalls, Pawniard has excellent potential in the Little Cup metagame and can clean up late-game like no other.
This is Pawniard's best set in the current metagame. With an Eviolite, it grabs a much-needed defensive boost that lets it switch in on Brave Birds and other resisted hits much more easily, which is important due to Pawniard's lack of recovery. It also makes it very easy to set up on weak walls such as Lileep, which can't touch Pawniard at all. Swords Dance doubles Pawniard's Attack stat after one use to a whopping 34, allowing it to break through many of Little Cup's bulkiest walls. Sucker Punch is Pawniard's most powerful physical Dark-type attack, and also has increased priority, which is a main component to Pawniard's success. Without it, Pokemon such as Staryu, Choice Scarf Larvesta, and Drilbur would be sure stops to any Pawniard sweep; a +2 Sucker Punch is a guaranteed OHKO on all of them with a layer of entry hazards.
The last two moveslots can be customized to the role Pawniard is to fill on your team. With Brick Break in the third slot, it gains the ability to hit Steel-types such as Ferroseed and opposing Pawniard. This aids Pawniard a lot in sweeping as it wants the best coverage possible. The other option for this slot is Pursuit, which is best used if Pawniard's main purpose is to eliminate Snover for sand teams. It can switch in easily on Giga Drain and Blizzard, but is 2HKOed by Hidden Power Fire after one round of hail damage, so be wary of that. Pursuit would be good for opposing Ghost-types, but unfortunately, most of them outspeed Pawniard and have Hidden Power Fighting to KO it on the spot. For the last moveslot, it is advisable to choose another STAB move. Iron Head is the main choice to augment the coverage of the first two moves; no Fighting-type in LC resists both Steel- and Dark-type moves, so you will always have a move to hit them with. It also has the same Base Power as Sucker Punch, so you don't need to use it if you fear the opponent won't attack. Night Slash, on the other hand, gives you a reliable Dark STAB to use that doesn't require your opponent to choose an attacking move. This move is best for slower opponents such as Frillish and Slowpoke, as well as Bronzor, Elgyem, and Eviolite Chinchou. However, this gives Pawniard problems with Fighting-types which it can no longer hit very hard.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While the Eviolite set focuses on taking hits and then setting up, this set is all about offense with a lot less bulk. The change to Life Orb from Eviolite is a significant one, and causes Pawniard to lose almost all of its defensive potential. However, in exchange, it gets a huge increase in power. For example, the standard Mienfoo tank set is demolished by a +2 Iron Head, while Life Orb Murkrow is OHKOed by a +2 Sucker Punch all the time if it has taken one round of Life Orb recoil beforehand.
As similar as this set and the Eviolite set may seem, their playstyles are very different. Whereas the Eviolite set uses its high defenses to set up boosts, this one sets up on forced switches such as against Lileep or Choice-locked Snover. Once you've set up one Swords Dance boost, there is almost nothing in the metagame that can stop Pawnaird. The main moveset stays the same from the Eviolite set, sans Pursuit. Pawniard is trying to boost when the opposing Pokemon switches out, not knock it out. For the last slot, Iron Head is highly recommended, but if you really need to ensure the KO on Slowpoke and Frillish and the 2HKO on Bronzor, then Night Slash will work too.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
A Choice Scarf set could be viable, but Mienfoo fills that role much better with its higher Speed, powerful STAB Hi Jump Kick, and Regenerator. Zen Headbutt scores a strong hit on most of the Fighting-types in the metagame, but since most of them have priority or are already beaten by Iron Head, it sees little use. For most of the BW1 metagame, Stealth Rock was illegal with Sucker Punch as Egg moves for Pawniard, but now that Stealth Rock is available through tutors, it can possibly utilize a bulky Stealth Rock support set.
Checks and Counters
Timburr and Croagunk are far and away the biggest threats to Pawniard, since they can put it down with their STAB priority Fighting-type moves. Mienfoo and other Fighting-types can also work well, but they need to be wary of Pawniard's boosted attacks. Basically, anything with a Fighting-type move that isn't weak to Sucker Punch can make an excellent Pawniard check. Magnemite can trap Pawniard while resisting Sucker Punch and Iron Head, but needs to be wielding a Choice Scarf to avoid a Brick Break, and can't break through the Eviolite set if Pawniard is at full health. Misdreavus initiates a deadly guessing game with Will-O-Wisp, Hidden Power Fighting, and Sucker Punch, where the wrong move will KO either Pawniard or Misdreavus. Most of the time, though, Misdreavus comes out on top due to its higher Speed and ability to take a burned Iron Head well.