Team support is often talked about, and for good reason. It coordinates the strategies of six individual Pokémon into a cohesive unit. Support is used to benefit a team as a whole, and some would fair considerably worse without it.
There are many ways of supporting teams, which are discussed separately below. Team support assumes many guises and I hope to detail the most common forms.
Stealth Rock is a Rock-type move with no Base Power that requires one turn to set up. When placed on the opposing field, it will damage any opposing Pokémon on the turn it switches in. Damage is dependent upon the target's weakness against Rock. 12.5% represents neutral damage, and this figure is multiplied according to resistance / weakness. Only Clefable is immune to Stealth Rock, courtesy of Magic Guard.
Stealth Rock is arguably the best support move in existence and benefits all styles of play. Requiring only one turn to set up, it helps to mitigate the threat of Gyarados, Dragonite, and anything else weak to Rock. It can reduce a 3HKO to a 2HKO or a 2HKO to an OHKO; something particularly relevant to offensive teams. Focus Sashes are broken upon entry and Stealth Rock reduces the walling capabilities of many Pokémon.
Spikes is a Ground-type move and another entry hazard. Spikes require only one turn to be effective, but can be stacked over three turns. One layer of Spikes will deal 12.5% damage, two will deal 18.75%, and three will deal 25%. Flying-type Pokémon and those with the Magic Guard or Levitate abilities are immune to Spikes, but it will hit through Wonder Guard.
As long as the opponent is not immune to Ground-type moves, they will sustain a set amount of damage from Spikes upon entry. Spikes is most common on stall-oriented teams because they will have the opportunity to set up three layers more often. However, the prospect of up to 25% damage every time something switches in is always desirable.
Toxic Spikes is a Poison-type move with no Base Power. If one layer of Toxic Spikes is on the opposing field, your opponent's Pokémon are inflicted with regular Poison upon entry, and lose 12.5% in HP each turn. If two layers of Toxic Spikes are down, Toxic poison is inflicted instead. Flying-, Steel-, and Poison-types and Pokémon with the Levitate or Immunity abilities are immune to Toxic Spikes. Poison-types that are not immune to Ground will absorb Toxic Spikes upon entry and clear them from the field.
Toxic Spikes will often thwart a sweep. Offensive teams tend to struggle against it because they lack recovery, but stall teams can equally suffer because key members, Hippowdon for example, are not immune to poison.
Rapid Spin is a Normal-type move with a Base Power of 20. It clears the user's field of Stealth Rock, Spikes, Toxic Spikes, and Leech Seed. It also frees the user of Bind, Clamp, Fire Spin, Magma Storm, Sand Tomb, Whirlpool, and Wrap. As a Normal-type move with a Base Power, it does not affect Ghost-type Pokémon. If used against a Ghost, the secondary effect is blocked.
Rapid Spin's primary support role is to clear the user's field of entry hazards. It is most frequently used on defensive teams where keeping certain Pokémon healthy is most important. It is also frequently used on offensive teams in order to keep Gyarados and Zapdos at full health before attempting a sweep. Rapid Spin's popularity is limited by the scarcity of viable users, some of the most common Rapid Spinners are Starmie, Forretress, Tentacruel, Hitmontop, and Donphan. Let us consider a common Starmie set.
Starmie @ Leftovers
Ability: Natural Cure
EVs: 160 HP / 132 SpA / 216 Spe
- Rapid Spin
- Ice Beam / Thunderbolt
Starmie makes a good Rapid Spinner due to its ability to induce switching, giving it a free opportunity to Rapid Spin. Starmie can regain lost HP with Recover and Natural Cure will heal poison status inflicted from Toxic Spikes as soon as Starmie switches out.
Commonly referred to as spinblocking, Ghost-type Pokémon are able to block Rapid Spin due to their immunity to Normal-type moves, namely Rapid Spin.
Spinblocking is commonly used on stall teams to stop Rapid Spinners from removing entry hazards that may have taken many turns to set up. Therefore, you will keep your advantage. Due to the ubiquity and usefulness of Stealth Rock, offensive teams can use attacking Ghost Pokémon as spinblockers too. Common spinblockers include Spiritomb, Dusknoir, and the Rotom-Appliances. A closer look at Spiritomb will reveal how it works as a spinblockers.
Spiritomb @ Leftovers
EVs: 252 HP / 140 Atk / 116 SpD
- Sucker Punch
- Pain Split
Spiritomb can switch in on Rapid Spin and threaten many common spinners immediately. For example, it threatens Starmie with Sucker Punch and Pursuit, and can Will-O-Wisp Donphan. Further, Pain Split allows it to pseudo heal lost HP and repeat the process if necessary.
Toxic Spikes absorption occurs when you switch in a grounded Poison-type Pokémon, which will remove the Toxic Spikes from your side of the field. Poison-types which are part Flying-type or have the Levitate ability will not activate this effect, although if Gravity is in effect or they are holding an Iron Ball, then Toxic Spikes will be absorbed upon switch-in.
This is easier than using a turn to Rapid Spin and it cannot be blocked. If you switch to a grounded Poison-type, any Toxic Spikes will be removed, even if under Safeguard or Baton Passed a Substitute. Bulky Pokémon are preferable for this role because it may be necessary to absorb Toxic Spikes more than once.
Status is the infliction of either a burn, freeze, paralysis, poison, or sleep on the opponent's Pokémon. Often it can open up opportunities for victory by crippling a key member of the opposing team. For more information, please refer to Arseus's "Status In DP" article by clicking here.
Status support offers so many opportunities. For example, if Gengar can put Bronzong to sleep with Hypnosis, you may find it easier to set up a sweeper later. You can also use Pokémon as a "lure" and inflict a status on key walls. A common tactic is to use "Double Status" in the hope of crippling two Pokémon. Paralysis is ideal for thwarting fast Pokémon and burn can blunt the threat from the most dangerous of physical attackers.
Reflect and Light Screen both have no Base Power and require only one turn to set up. Reflect and Light Screen last 5 turns each and reduce the damage of physical and special hits by half, respectively. Their effects are ignored in the event of a critical hit. If the user holds Light Clay, their effects last for 8 turns. If the opponent uses Brick Break, the screens are shattered and the damage reducing effect is nullified.
Reflect and Light Screen support all kinds of teams. They are ideal for setting up a sweep by halving damage from counters. For defensive teams, they add further protection.
Wish is a Normal-type move with no Base Power. Wish takes one turn to use, and recovers 50% health for whatever Pokémon is active at the end of the following turn. If the Wish user is KOed on the same turn it uses Wish, Wish will fail.
Wish is a great way of providing support to teams that include few Pokemon with access to recovery. Using a slow Baton Passer can ensure recovery for a weakened Pokémon by taking a hit before passing Wish. Let us consider a common Wish passer, Vaporeon.
Vaporeon @ Leftovers
Ability: Water Absorb
EVs: 188 HP / 252 Def / 68 SpA
- Ice Beam
- Protect / Baton Pass
Vaporeon has decent defenses that make it a good candidate for Wish passing. Protect works great in combination with Wish, allowing Vaporeon to Protect immediately after Wish and regain 50% health, on top of Leftovers. Alternatively, Vaporeon can use Baton Pass to gain a safer switch in for a team mate.
Trapping is when you literally trap a Pokémon to help KO it. Common trappers include Dugtrio and Magnezone, thanks to their respective abilities. Others use Pursuit to trap. Arena Trap, Magnet Pull, and Shadow Tag are the three abilities that prevent switching from certain opponents. Pursuit is a 40 Base Power Dark-type move that doubles in power if the opponent switches out, hitting the fleeing Pokémon. The hold item Shed Shell evades the effects of Arena Trap, Magnet Pull, and Shadow Tag. Mean Look will also trap the opponent, and can be Baton Passed, but it takes one turn to activate its effects.
Trapping is normally used to eliminate dangerous Pokémon or to engineer a sweep by opening up a gaping hole in the opposing team. The rewards of trapping tend to be immediate because the trapper will usually KO its victim. For more information, please refer to Erodent's "DPP Trapping Guide" by clicking here.
Trick is a Psychic-type move, and Switcheroo is a Dark-type move. Both cause the user to switch items with the target, unless the target has the ability Sticky Hold or Multitype, or is holding the item Mail.
Trick and Switcheroo provide support by crippling a member of the opposing team. Typically, the idea is to swap a Choice item onto something that cannot benefit from it, and therefore will only suffer the drawback of being locked into one attack. Other possibilities, such as Drifblim using Trick to allow for an easier Baton Pass, are also viable. Swapping a Flame Orb onto a physical sweeper (avoid Guts!) is another possible tactic.
There are 5 types of weather: sandstorm, rain, sunlight, hail, and fog. Sandstorm can be summoned permanently through the ability Sand Stream, rain can be made permanent through the ability Drizzle, sunlight through Drought, and hail through Snow Warning. Each weather also has a respective move in Sandstorm, Rain Dance, Sunny Day, and Hail. Sandstorm will do 6.25% damage at the end of any turn to any Pokémon that are not part Rock-, Ground-, or Steel-type, or unless the Pokémon has the ability Sand Veil or Magic Guard. Hail will also do 6.25% damage at the end of every turn, although to Pokémon which are not Ice-types, or do not carry the ability Snow Cloak or Magic Guard, as well as healing any Pokémon with the ability Ice Body. Rain will do no damage, but will benefit any Pokémon with the ability Swift Swim, Rain Dish, Hydration, or Dry Skin. Sunlight will benefit any Pokémon with the ability Chlorophyll, Solar Power, Flower Gift, or Leaf Guard. Sandstorm also provides a 1.5x Special Defense boost to Rock-types. Rain will provide a 1.5x power boost to any Water-type moves, and will reduce Fire-type move's power by half. It will give Thunder 100% accuracy. Sunlight will mean that Fire-type moves are given a 1.5x power boost, as well as reducing Water-type move's power by half. It also means SolarBeam does not need charging up. Hail increases Blizzard's accuracy to 100%. Fog however, cannot yet be invoked through a Pokémon's move or ability. When it is foggy, a Pokémon's accuracy will be reduced by 10%. The move Defog however, will get rid of the fog. Note Castform's Forecast ability will change its type depending on the weather. The abilities Cloud Nine and Air Lock will also nullify the effects of any weather.
Weather provides many, many ways of supporting teams, normally through abilities. Everlasting weather provided by the likes of Abomasnow can support the team with a simple switch in. For example, a stalling Walrein needs hail to consistently stall, something that Abomasnow can easily provide. On top of this, the offensive boosts gained through the weather can power up certain moves to allow for easier KOs. For example, Kingdra's Waterfall becomes boosted by the rain, allowing it to 2HKO Blissey more easily. It can then possibly sweep with its powerful special moves. Sandstorm and hail can also be used for damaging for the opponent, and can help stop the opponent's team.
Trick Room is a Psychic-type move with a priority of -6. For 5 turns, the slower Pokémon in any match-up will attack first. However, attack priority is still recognized. For example, Bullet Punch will still hit first against Fire Blast.
Trick Room means that slower Pokémon will attack first, giving sweeping opportunities for slow, hard hitting Pokémon, such as Rhyperior. For more information, please refer to Gen. Empoleon's "Trick Room" article by clicking here.
Roar is a Normal-type move with no Base Power. Whirlwind is also a Normal-type move with no Base Power. Both have a priority of -5, unless asleep and using Sleep Talk, under which both moves have a priority of 0. Both force the opponent's Pokémon to switch randomly with another Pokémon in their team. The ability Suction Cups and the move Ingrain prevent this effect. Roar also does not affect any Pokémon with the ability Soundproof. Both are often used in conjunction with entry hazards.
Roar and Whirlwind have many purposes on teams. The most important is to force the opponent to switch; erasing any stat boosts and preventing a sweep. It also means the opponent may take damage from entry hazards such as Stealth Rock. Finally, they help to scout the opponent's team.
Perish Song is a Normal-type move with no Base Power. The move causes all Pokémon on the field to faint in three turns. Only Pokémon with the ability Soundproof are immune to the effects of Perish Song.
Perish Song often acts as a phazing move and forces the opposing Pokémon to switch, giving up their stat boosts and being forced to take more damage from entry hazards upon re-entry, because if they stay in, they will faint. Perish Song can also be used to eliminate a last Pokémon if a team cannot eliminate it by sheer force.
Haze is an Ice-type move that resets all stat changes to zero. Choice item boosts are exempt.
Haze allows you to reset many turns of set up in one use, thereby preventing a sweep.
Taunt is a Dark-type move that forces the opponent to use directly damaging moves for 3-5 turns. It also prevents the opponent from using Assist, Copycat, Me First, Metronome, Mirror Move, and Sleep Talk. However, it does not prevent the use of Bide, Counter, Endeavor, Metal Burst, or Mirror Coat.
Taunt has various uses. It is often used to prevent entry hazards from being laid, or healing. Therefore, stall teams often have trouble against Taunt. This can open up opportunities for a sweep. Typical Taunt users tend to be fast. An example of a good Taunt user is Crobat:
Crobat @ Leftovers
Ability: Inner Focus
EVs: 160 HP / 132 SpA / 216 Spe
- Brave Bird
Crobat's high Speed stat makes it a great candidate for Taunt, especially when paired with Hypnosis. When a Pokémon is put to sleep, it will be unable to use Sleep Talk due to Taunt, rendering it useless. U-turn works well with Taunt, allowing you to scout a switch and act accordingly.
Encore is Normal-type move with no Base Power that causes the opponent to repeat their last move for 4-8 turns, unless they switch.
The most common use is to Encore a non-damaging attack, thereby gaining a free turn or inducing a switch. These free turns can allow easier set up or a free attack. Entry hazards and other kinds of residual damage complement Encore excellently because it forces switching.
Aromatherapy is a Grass-type move with no Base Power, and Heal Bell is Normal-type move with no Base Power. Both cure all Pokémon in the user's team of status. However, Heal Bell does not heal Pokémon with the ability Soundproof. Common Aromatherapists include Blissey and Vileplume, and common users of Heal Bell include Celebi and Miltank.
Aromatherapy and Heal Bell reduce the threat of status. It reduces the impact of those 10% chance status inflictions, as they can be healed. Both work excellently in combination with Rest to afford easy recovery for many Pokémon who would otherwise have none.
Baton Pass is a Normal-type move with no Base Power that makes the user switch with another Pokémon of choice. It passes any stat changes and certain effects given by moves such as Magnet Rise.
Baton Pass is primarily used to pass stat boosts that will benefit the recipient. It can also scout switching, thereby allowing the user to engineer a favorable match up. A slow Baton Passer will ensure that the recipient can switch in safely by taking a hit beforehand. A common Baton Pass recipient is Octillery:
Octillery @ Life Orb / Expert Belt
Ability: Suction Cups
EVs: 20 HP / 252 SpA / 236 Spe
- Energy Ball
- Ice Beam
Octillery is well known as a good recipient of stat boosts, especially Speed, due to its diverse movepool and the ability Suction Cups, which makes it immune to Roar and Whirlwind. Octillery lacks Speed, but has decent Attack and Special Attack, making Speed passing desirable. Surf / Energy Ball / Flamethrower / Ice Beam hit 10 of the 17 types for super effective damage, making Expert Belt an option. Alternatively, Life Orb boosts Octillery's offensive stats further. For more information, please refer to Komodo's "Baton Pass" article by clicking here.
A lure is a Pokémon designed to lure in a specific counter and cripple it, in hopes of creating a sweep for another Pokémon. For example, Tyranitar can lure Gliscor, who would suffer an OHKO from an unexpected Ice Beam. With Gliscor gone, this gives Heracross the opportunity to sweep.
A lure supports a team by crippling or eliminating a key counter, thereby making it easier for something else to sweep. Here is an example of the common Tyranitar lure:
Tyranitar @ Expert Belt
Ability: Sand Stream
EVs: 252 Atk / 232 SpA / 24 Spe
- Ice Beam
- Fire Blast
- Earthquake / Stone Edge
This Tyranitar is a good lure for Gliscor, because of its surprise value. Expert Belt may trick the foe into believe Tyranitar is Choice Banded, meaning when Gliscor comes in to take an attack it gets hit by an Ice Beam, OHKOing it provided Tyranitar is using the right EV investment. This can then open a sweep for something else.
This is simply when you pair up certain Pokémon to support each other through typing. An example would be Jirachi and Salamence: Jirachi resists all of Salamence's weaknesses, whilst Salamence resists all of Jirachi's. This is most relevant in offensive teams that must rely on resistances in lieu of walls.
Teams can use resistances for a number of purposes. In offensive teams that function without walls, resistances are the main method of taking hits. Stall teams may use resistances to help stop Choice item users, come in on weak hits to heal up quickly, or set up entry hazards.
There will be occasions during a battle where you are on the wrong end of a mismatch. That is, when your opponent's active Pokemon has a significant advantage over your own. In order to obtain a better match up, you must switch. This can be direct or via an intermediary switch. Pivoting describes the latter, where another Pokémon, the pivot, is used to absorb the likeliest move and force the opponent to use a different attack. It is immediately switched out to facilitate a cheaper, or less risky, switch for the desired match up. Resistances are key to a pivot's usefulness and weaknesses are helpful to provoke the use of the correct attack.
Pivoting can offer you a valuable edge in competitive battling because your Pokemon will take less damage when switching into things that they are supposed to threaten. It is particularly useful when trying to salvage a weakened Pokemon. Anything can serve as a pivot, but the strategy is heavily dependent upon the accuracy of your predictions.
An example would be Mamoswine vs Starmie. You would like to obtain the match up of Electivire vs Starmie, but a direct switch would lead to Electivire taking a STAB Surf. Therefore, you can switch to Gyarados (the pivot) first, induce a Thunderbolt, and then switch to Electivire and activate Motor Drive.
Those listed are the most common ways of providing successful team support. Some are explicit and straightforward, while others are more subtle and require skill and experience to pull off. Hopefully this guide will prove helpful to you, not only in future team building, but in battle as well. Thank you for reading.