- Increases wild encounter rate (no effect in battles).
- Boosts power of Bug-type moves by 50% when at 1/3 HP or less.
- Moves that do not deal direct damage have their priority increased by one level.
Level 100 Statistics (see level 5, 50, 100)
Before BW came around, Volbeat was relegated to the depths of NU, its only (and not very effective) niche being the ability to Baton Pass Tail Glow. With a terrible stat distribution that makes it both frail and nonthreatening, it seems as though Volbeat is absolutely worthless in OU. However, BW changed all of that in an instant by granting Volbeat one of the best new abilities: Prankster. Prankster turns Volbeat from a terrible, near-useless Pokemon into an excellent support Pokemon: the +1 priority which it provides to non-attacking moves allows Volbeat to easily pull off a Tail Glow + Baton Pass combination. Volbeat also has a stellar support movepool with which to abuse Prankster, including but not limited to Encore, Thunder Wave, Substitute, and Trick, which allows it to use Baton Pass more effectively. Unfortunately, its lack of Taunt means Volbeat is susceptible to Taunt itself, and will often end up doing absolutely nothing for the team if affected. Powerful priority attacks such as Choice Band Scizor's Bullet Punch or Choice Band Dragonite's ExtremeSpeed bypass Prankster's +1 priority and can take Volbeat out before it has a chance to do anything. In addition, its Special Attack stat is so abysmal that it can hardly abuse the Tail Glow boost itself, meaning that Volbeat is good for one thing, and one thing only: Baton Passing Tail Glow boosts.
Tail Glow is a move that raises the user's Special Attack by three levels in BW, and is unique to Volbeat, Manaphy, and Smeargle. Other than Smeargle (which is better off passing Quiver Dance or Shell Smash), Volbeat is the only Pokemon that can Baton Pass Tail Glow, and with priority to boot. Obviously, Baton Pass and Tail Glow are the crux of the set, allowing Volbeat to turn a bulky special attacker into an immediate threat. The last two moveslots are mainly filler, but they still make use of Prankster. Encore stops setup sweepers in their tracks and gives Volbeat a free turn if played correctly. Thunder Wave can be used to spread paralysis through your opponent's team or cripple a faster opponent as a last-ditch effort. However, Substitute protects Volbeat from status to an extent and provides a cushion to Volbeat's Baton Pass recipients, allowing them to take the incoming blow and come out unscathed. Unfortunately, Volbeat cannot directly abuse the boosts itself due to its atrocious Special Attack, so passing the Tail Glow boost is its only niche.
Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Volbeat has numerous other options which are made viable by Prankster. With Prankster, it gains priority on Tailwind, Light Screen, Confuse Ray, Moonlight, Sunny Day, Rain Dance, Toxic, and Trick. Of the aforementioned, only Toxic or Moonlight might be worth using, as the others are better left to more efficient users. Priority Toxic in conjunction with Moonlight allows Volbeat to outstall certain Pokemon, but the strategy isn't very effective in the offense-oriented BW OU metagame. With the prominence of sandstorm, Moonlight will often be rendered useless, and there are auto-weather starters present for sun and rain as well, meaning Sunny Day and Rain Dance are hardly necessary. Trick is an interesting option which could be used with Lagging Tail or Iron Ball to cripple an opponent, but it is a gimmick at best, and Volbeat really shouldn't be doing anything other than Baton Passing.
Checks and Counters
Taking out Volbeat is not very difficult, as with its terrible defenses, it won't be surviving much, even with defensive EV investment. Volbeat is weak to Stealth Rock and vulnerable to both types of Spikes, meaning that entry hazards will likely slow down or even stop Volbeat from performing its one and only task, Baton Passing Tail Glow. Although Prankster gives Volbeat the edge on most Pokemon, priority attacks will stop it in its tracks, especially powerful ones from the likes of Choice Band Scizor and Choice Band Azumarill. Even with full investment in Defense and HP, Volbeat's stats are so pathetic that it cannot possibly stand repeated, hard-hitting attacks such as Choice Band Dragonite's Outrage; powerful special attacks such as Choice Specs Latios's Draco Meteor can also instantly OHKO, provided Volbeat doesn't have a Substitute up. Since Volbeat doesn't have access to Taunt, it is highly vulnerable to Taunt itself. Phazers such as Skarmory can also take care of Volbeat and phaze away any boosts it may have accumulated.