Four generations have passed since Alakazam's glory days in RBY, and each one has brought something new to spite it, while giving it almost nothing back in return. GSC's special split not only ruined Alakazam's special bulk, but also made Snorlax a more potent foe, and also added Blissey and Tyranitar to the fray. ADV added abilities, which improved just about every Pokemon in the game except Alakazam, and also introduced Choice Band, which increased the strength of the physical attackers that Alakazam hates. It was DPP, however, that gave Alakazam the final push into obscurity, with the introduction of Choice Scarf to undermine Alakazam's godlike Speed, the physical / special split to make both Pursuit and the elemental punches physical, and of course the rise of the ubiquitous Technician Scizor, in which Alakazam has at last met its match. Additionally, for the first time since its introduction, Alakazam became close-to-outclassed by a non-Uber Pokemon, Azelf, who has slightly lower Speed and Special Attack, but an arguably better movepool that most notably includes Nasty Plot. While its old rivals Gengar and Starmie still get by on their slightly larger movepools and better typings, Alakazam lacks the necessary traits to be a special sweeper in this metagame. Primarily, it lacks notable resistances, priority moves, and usable setup moves. Furthermore, it is as frail as a glass thimble and its STAB is resisted by half the OU metagame, all of which combine to make it less than half the threat it used to be.
However, do not be so hasty as to condemn it to disuse. While the metagame seems to have passed it by, Alakazam still has all the traits that made it so good back in the day: its titanic base 135 Special Attack stat, the highest of any non-Uber Pokemon, as well as its equally impressive base 120 Speed stat, which allows it to outrun nearly the entirety of the unboosted OU metagame. Aside from raw power, however, Alakazam is also known for its plethora of annoying tricks in Encore, Trick, and Taunt. All in all, when played correctly, Alakazam can become as threatening as any other offensive Pokemon. It might have fallen from grace, but popularity is by no means a definition of power.
While Alakazam has fallen out of favor as an offensive Pokemon, it is still one of the strongest special attackers in the game. Unlike its fellow Psychic-types Starmie and Azelf, Alakazam can outrun Jolly Choice Scarf Tyranitar, which enables it to not only bypass an otherwise rock-solid check to Psychic-types, but also act as an excellent lure by removing these problematic Pokemon with a combination of Substitute and one of its coverage moves.
Substitute enables Alakazam to scout its opponent, hit the switch-in with the appropriate attack, block status moves from the likes of Blissey, and escape from Pursuit traps set by opponents such as Weavile and Scizor. Alakazam's tendency to force switches makes it relatively easy to get a Substitute up; however, remember that Alakazam will be losing a great deal of health to passive damage, so Substitute should generally be used sparingly. Psychic is good reliable STAB that has the power to 2HKO just about everything that does not resist it outside of Blissey and Snorlax. Focus Blast gets rid of the Dark-types that are immune to Alakazam's STAB attacks, as well as the Steel-types that can cause problems. It easily OHKOes Tyranitar and Heatran, and does a fair amount to Blissey and Snorlax. However, many of OU's common Steel-types, such as Scizor, Metagross, and Skarmory, take only neutral damage from Focus Blast, and given how dangerous these Pokemon are to Alakazam, it is necessary to have a way to take them out quickly. Hidden Power Fire OHKOes Scizor and, with Life Orb, cleanly 2HKOes Jirachi, Celebi, and Metagross. On the other hand, Signal Beam enables Alakazam to hit Psychic-types, such as Starmie, Azelf, and Celebi, and also grants it a more reliable hit on Dark-types. Unfortunately, the loss of Hidden Power Fire is a crippling blow to Alakazam's effectiveness against Steel-types.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Alakazam is nothing if not versatile, and it has a massive number of appealing tricks up its sleeve. Taunt and Encore have already been mentioned, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Alakazam is the fastest user of dual screens in OU, and can easily set up with the help of Taunt. Trick is an excellent move and is useful on Choice sets, but this is no longer Alakazam's trademark as Rotom-A does this more effectively; furthermore, it leaves Alakazam as Pursuit bait for Tyranitar and Scizor. Thunder Wave is another useful move to support the team with, but because of Alakazam's blistering Speed, it can rarely take advantage of paralyzed opponents. Knock Off is much the same; as fun as it might be to deprive Scizor and Tyranitar of their Choice items, it is generally not worth the moveslot. Of all the field effects Alakazam gets, Gravity is perhaps the most notable, as it improves the accuracy of Focus Blast and also supports the team.
On the offensive side, Calm Mind is an interesting setup move that can be used on Alakazam's sweeper set in place of—or even in addition to—Substitute, but a setup sweeper Alakazam is stopped too easily by phazers and Blissey to be effective. Lum Berry lets Alakazam absorb otherwise crippling status, but the loss in power from Life Orb is considerable. Lastly, Recover can offset lost health from Substitute, Life Orb, sandstorm, and other residual damage, but this compromises Alakazam's type coverage and it has many better options to run in that moveslot.
Checks and Counters
Alakazam's fall hinged on the metagame packing everything Alakazam hates—strong special walls and a multitude of physical attackers. Of all potential counters to Alakazam, Blissey is by far the most solid, as it can take a Choice Specs-boosted Focus Blast with ease and recover health with Softboiled or Wish. However, Alakazam can employ Trick, Taunt, Recover, and Encore to beat Blissey, so be on your guard. Snorlax can also take most special attacks and has access to Pursuit and Return, but can be 2HKOed by Life Orb Focus Blast with a little residual damage.
Scizor walks all over Alakazam if the latter lacks Substitute. If Scizor switches in and Alakazam does not have a Substitute up, Scizor essentially traps it entirely—if Alakazam stays in, it risks getting KOed by Bullet Punch, but if it switches out, it can be KOed by Pursuit. Furthermore, Scizor can also use U-turn to annihilate Alakazam and escape from its counter all in one stroke. Similarly, Choice Scarf Steel-types, such as Jirachi and Heatran, can switch in to revenge kill, but they risk a super effective attack on the switch. In fact, all of the Steel-types that typically switch into Alakazam—especially Scizor—should be mindful of Hidden Power Fire.
If Alakazam lacks Shadow Ball or Signal Beam, Starmie beats it soundly between Recover and its attacking options. Weavile is another nasty threat despite its rarity, as it is immune to Psychic and is one of the few Pokemon naturally faster than Alakazam; it can then OHKO Alakazam with Pursuit regardless of whether it stays in or switches out. Tyranitar also deserves a mention in this regard as it can act as a last-minute check if Focus Blast misses. Alakazam will generally faint to any attack, so just about any faster Pokemon can revenge kill it; however, outside of Choice Scarf users, Pokemon that naturally outspeed Alakazam are few and far between.