At first glance, Shiftry's base 100 Attack and base 90 Special Attack seem usable, but not outstanding. Look a little deeper, however, and you'll see that it has several ways of boosting its offenses, enabling it to become a surprisingly huge threat. While it can't abuse the move Growth and its Chlorophyll ability as effectively without permanent sun, Swords Dance and Nasty Plot are both excellent boosting moves. Moreover, unlike many other sweepers down in NU, it isn't starved for coverage at all thanks to its great movepool, the highlight of which is STAB Sucker Punch. Due to its frailty and multitude of weaknesses, however, Shiftry isn't quite the kind of Pokemon one can thoughtlessly slap on a team and expect to sweep. It needs quite a bit of support, but do look out for Shiftry, as that crafty grin isn't all it has to its name.
The first of Shiftry's plethora of offensive boosting moves is Swords Dance. While such a set might seem better done by Cacturne, who has a higher Attack stat, Shiftry boasts a better Speed stat and a larger movepool. The goal of this set, however, is much the same: set up a Swords Dance and sweep.
Seed Bomb is reliable STAB, and enables Shiftry to break through bulky Water-types, especially Alomomola. Sucker Punch lets Shiftry beat frail, faster Pokemon, making it very difficult to revenge kill by conventional means. Furthermore, it packs immense power after STAB, and is thus a useful—though at times unreliable—sweeping move in its own right. Nature Power is the equivalent of Earthquake in Wi-Fi battles; not only does it provides super effective coverage against the likes of Skuntank, it also easily demolishes the likes of Bastiodon and Probopass.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Aside from Swords Dance, Shiftry also receives Nasty Plot, with which it can boost its Special Attack to tremendous levels. This set shares many similarities with the Swords Dance one, and though the lack of priority is undoubtedly a limitation, it does boast a number of specific advantages, such as the surprise factor. Though this should not be relied on, considering Shiftry's frailty, the opportunity to possibly snag a free set-up turn is always appreciated.
Giga Drain and Dark Pulse are obvious STAB choices; the former provides recovery while the latter has slightly greater power and a flinch chance. Solely with its STAB moves, Shiftry hits many common defensive types—namely Water, Rock, Psychic, and Ghost—super effectively, making it difficult to wall. It does miss out on opposing Bug-, Grass-, and Steel-types, however, which is where Hidden Power Fire comes in. Hidden Power Fire gains pseudo-STAB in sun; in fact, the ability to better hit bulky Grass-types, most of whom are physically defensive to boot, is the main draw of this set over the Swords Dance variant.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
If you're looking to use Shiftry on a dedicated sun team, or use one to counter said sun teams, a set with Growth, SolarBeam, Sucker Punch, and Nature Power is probably what you're looking for. Do note though that Shiftry does not learn Night Slash, so even with the Chlorophyll boost, Shiftry must stick with Sucker Punch. Indeed, the boost Shiftry gains from sun cannot be overemphasized, as it not only increases Shiftry's Speed to breakneck levels, but also enables it to go mixed with Growth. You might therefore be interested in letting Shiftry support itself with Sunny Day, but Shiftry generally cannot spare a moveslot. Substitute can be considered because Shiftry forces switches, and is useful to protect it from revenge killers, but again, Shiftry lacks free moveslots: if it gives up its boosting move, its power output is pathetic, while if it gives up an offensive move, its coverage suffers immensely.
In fact, this is the case for just about all of Shiftry's many, many support moves; it can use Embargo to more easily break through Eviolite users, Spite to drain the PP of Charizard's Fire Blast or Sawk's Close Combat, or Tailwind for immense team support. However, there are better choices for support Pokemon—don't waste Shiftry's access to such excellent boosting moves! Not to be outdone, Shiftry's Grass typing also grants it a number of other options, but these are just as unviable. Said options include SubSeed and Synthesis, but the former is better done by the naturally speedier Jumpluff, or even Prankster Cottonee, and Shiftry is too frail to make use of the latter; additionally, there exist better bulky Grass-types with arguably better typings, namely Tangela, Torterra, and Leafeon. Bounce is Shiftry's best physical option against most Fighting-types, but as it requires a charge turn, it's easy to avoid. Shiftry has an amazing offensive movepool, including Focus Blast, Air Cutter, X-Scissor, Rock Slide, and so on; in fact, barely a fraction is covered in the above sets. However, rest assured that the listed options are the best ones. Finally, Shiftry can use Sunny Day along with an immensely fast Explosion to set up weather and bring in a teammate without losing offensive momentum, but this is a job for only the most dedicated of sun teams.
Checks and Counters
Most physical walls, Tangela, Leafeon, and Weezing to name a few, are not 2HKOed by any of Shiftry's attacks. Bulky Fighting-types, such as Throh and Gurdurr, also make good counters to Shiftry; the latter in particular has Mach Punch to pick off weakened Shiftry without first taking a hit. Combusken is notable for resisting both Shiftry's STAB moves, as well as Hidden Power Fire, but must watch out for a super effective Nature Power. Priority is also a good way to handle Shiftry. Aside from Mach Punch Gurdurr, good picks include ExtremeSpeed Linoone and Ice Shard Sneasel; as a bonus, both can strike before Shiftry's Sucker Punch. Shiftry is to all intents and purposes impossible to outspeed if sun is up, but outside of that, Choice Scarf users that resist Sucker Punch, such as Sawk, will typically suffice.