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Moves used by the holder deal 30% more damage. The holder takes damage equal to 10% of its max HP rounded down each turn it successfully lands an attack that directly deals damage. Multi-hit attacks have every hit boosted by Life Orb, but the user only takes recoil once. Rock Head does not block this damage. Life Orb does not damage the holder if the attack hits a Substitute. Life Orb does not boost the power of set damage moves like Seismic Toss, but still deals recoil damage if they hit. No recoil for Future Sight or Doom Desire, either when used or when the attack is returned. Life Orb does not boost the damage caused by confusion, nor does it deal additional recoil damage when a Pokemon hurts itself in confusion.
Life Orb is an extremely common hold item for a wide range of sweepers. It provides the biggest increase in damage output of any item bar the Choice items, and has the obvious advantage of not locking the holder into a single attack. It also increases all damage done by the holder, both from physical and special attacks, and so is a perfect item for the majority of mixed sweepers. Since many sweepers are frail as it is and will take big damage even from neutral hits, the 10% loss of health with every attack is mostly inconsequential to their attack-taking abilities, and the damage output is greatly appreciated. Life Orb is largely responsible for the success of offensive teams, and it is one of the main reasons that walling sweepers through sheer defensive base stats is not as feasible as it once was, and using resistances to take attacks has become a lot more commonplace than in previous generations.
Many setup sweepers use Life Orb to significantly boost their damage output after a boost, and give them the power to break past their common checks. Dragon Dancers such as Dragonite, Gyarados, and Tyranitar have the power of their attacks boosted by approximately 1.95x after a single boost taking into account Life Orb's increase in damage output. Similarly, sweepers who have only a limited time in which they can effectively sweep use Life Orb to let them do as much damage as they can, while they can. Swift Swim Pokemon during rain, Chlorophyll Pokemon during bright sunlight, and sweepers that rely on Trick Room support all make good use of Life Orb to boost the power of their attacks.
One of the biggest advantages of using Life Orb over another boosting item is its reliability - the holder is guaranteed a 30% increase in its attack strength regardless of what attack it uses, and has the freedom to switch attacks around if you mispredict. Choice Specs and Choice Band grant a larger power up, but they only boost a single attacking stat and have the problem of only allowing the holder to use one attack at a time. While Expert Belt, the Arceus Plates, and the type-boosting items give almost the same power boost as Life Orb does, Expert Belt will only give this for super effective attacks, and the Plates and type-boosting items only for a single attacking type. Muscle Band and Wise Glasses provide a reliable and flexible boost for a single attacking stat, but the boost is quite small. Life Orb's ease of use, reliability, and power often makes it a primary choice over these other boosting items, and means the recoil damage can often be forgotten altogether in lieu of the benefits provided.
However, the recoil damage should not be disregarded altogether, especially if the holder is susceptible to other forms of residual damage. For example, while both Gyarados and Dragonite make formidable use of Life Orb's power increase, they are both weak to Stealth Rock and are not immune to sandstorm damage. On sweepers such as these and others, it should be well noted that their longevity is greatly reduced by introducing another form of residual damage on top of the ones they will already be taking, and so one should carefully gauge the value of Life Orb's power boost compared to the recoil damage it inflicts.