Few Pokemon are more frustrating to face than Cacturne. As a Swords Dance sweeper with STAB Sucker Punch and base 115 Attack, it would already be sufficiently threatening, but throw in a 20% chance to evade any attack in sandstorm and you have a truly evil cactus. With access to Spikes, Cacturne is also a surprisingly effective team supporter, capable of setting up multiple layers of entry hazards against some of the most common defensive Pokemon in UU. Cacturne does have its flaws, however. Its low base 55 Speed forces it to rely on the fickle Sucker Punch to take on most offensive Pokemon, and its pitiful defensive stats and weaknesses to common types such as Bug, Fighting, and Fire make it easy to KO, provided the attacks connect. Like it or not, Cacturne is a Pokemon that relies on luck to reach its full potential; one roll of the RNG dice can be the difference between a wasted team slot and a devastating sweep.
With an excellent base 115 Attack stat and access to STAB Sucker Punch, Cacturne is a fearsome Swords Dance sweeper. After a boost, Cacturne has the power to 2HKO the entire tier with the appropriate move. Sucker Punch covers Cacturne's low Speed and OHKOes the vast majority of offensive Pokemon, including common bulky attackers such as Milotic, Venusaur, Moltres, and Torterra. Seed Bomb is a more reliable STAB attack to use against defensive Pokemon and those that try to play around Sucker Punch with Substitute and other non-attacking moves. Low Kick rounds out Cacturne's coverage by OHKOing Registeel and Steelix; it is also Cacturne's best move against other walls that resist Seed Bomb, such as Tangrowth.
This set is frightening enough as it is, but it becomes truly terrifying when sandstorm is up. Sand Veil makes every counter a shaky one and gives Cacturne the ability to sometimes come out on top in matchups where it would otherwise always lose. Using Substitute in the third slot allows Cacturne to really take advantage of the evasion boost by stalling out the opponent's hits until the near-inevitable miss. Substitute also allows Cacturne to use Focus Punch in the last slot, giving it even more power against defensive Pokemon such as Tangrowth, Arcanine, and Hitmontop.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Cacturne is most often seen as an extremely dangerous Swords Dance sweeper, but with access to Spikes, Encore, and Sucker Punch, it can also be an effective lead. Encore locks opposing Pokemon into non-damaging moves such as Stealth Rock, giving Cacturne free turns to set up multiple layers of Spikes, while Sucker Punch punishes foes that try to attack. As one of the very few Pokemon that can set up Spikes while retaining an offensive presence, Cacturne is a good fit on offensive teams in need of entry hazards.
Spikes and Encore are the two most important moves on this set. Cacturne's Focus Sash guarantees it will get at least one layer of Spikes up against any opposing lead that lacks Taunt, but Encore often creates opportunities for Cacturne to set up the second and third layers as well. Sucker Punch works extremely well in tandem with Encore; Encore encourages opponents to attack Cacturne directly, and Sucker Punch nails them when they oblige. Sucker Punch also deals heavy damage to most common U-turn leads, including Ambipom, Uxie, and Mesprit. Furthermore, the priority is very useful in finishing off opposing leads after knocking them down to their Focus Sash. Seed Bomb is the best option in the last slot, as it provides a reliable STAB attack that hits leads such as Omastar, Kabutops, and Cloyster for super effective damage.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While Cacturne's base stats clearly favor offense, it also functions fantastically as a defensive Spikes user. Cacturne holds several advantages over its fellow UU Spikes users: it's the only one with access to Encore, the only one with instant recovery (barring the extremely rare Roselia), and its typing allows it to comfortably set up against common Pokemon such as Spiritomb, Rotom, Milotic, and other bulky Water-types. Sand Veil further increases Cacturne's effectiveness, often giving it one or more free turns even against Pokemon that would otherwise counter it. Finally, Cacturne's fantastic Special Attack stat allows it to threaten most common Rapid Spinners with super effective Grass-type attacks, making it difficult for opponents to quickly remove the Spikes that Cacturne sets up.
Synthesis provides reliable instant recovery, allowing Cacturne to stick around longer and set up as many layers of Spikes as possible. Dark Pulse and Energy Ball are both solid STAB attacks that hit hard even without any investment in Special Attack; Energy Ball hits Rapid Spin users such as Donphan, Cloyster, and Kabutops hard, while Dark Pulse grants valuable neutral coverage. If Cacturne has sandstorm support, Synthesis becomes less useful, so the set plays a little differently. Substitute works well with Sand Veil by creating opportunities for a miss, and Leech Seed provides recovery and causes switches, which will rack up residual damage and give Cacturne free turns to set up additional layers of Spikes. Encore is also a good option in the third slot, regardless of the situation, as it is very effective at generating free turns and forcing opponents to switch.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Cacturne learns Nasty Plot and has equal base attacking stats, so a special set with Dark Pulse, Energy Ball, and Focus Blast is just as powerful as the standard Swords Dance set. While this set does allow Cacturne to beat a couple of its usual counters, such as Weezing and defensive Hitmontop, Cacturne will have a very difficult time trying to sweep without the priority of Sucker Punch. With such low Speed and pitiful defenses, a Nasty Plot set is unlikely to land more than one attack, so you're almost always better off using Swords Dance.
Destiny Bond is always a nasty surprise for opponents, but Cacturne's low Speed makes it difficult to use. Superpower, Brick Break, and Drain Punch are alternative Fighting-type moves that Cacturne can use, but most of the Pokemon Cacturne wants to hit with a Fighting-type move are heavy Pokemon that Low Kick hits for 100 or 120 Base Power anyway. ThunderPunch can surprise Moltres on the switch, but it offers very little value otherwise. Poison Jab hits Tangrowth and other Grass-types slightly harder than Cacturne's other moves, but its overall coverage is disappointing. Needle Arm is Cacturne's signature move and comes with a nice 30% flinch rate, but Seed Bomb is significantly more powerful, and Cacturne is too slow to make good use of the secondary effect.
Checks and Counters
Hitmontop can fire off a Technician-boosted Mach Punch to easily OHKO Cacturne before it can do anything back, and it also has Rapid Spin to rid the field of any Spikes Cacturne has set up. Blaziken, Arcanine, and Toxicroak similarly dodge Sucker Punch with powerful priority attacks of their own, although they will take some serious damage in the process, as their priority moves will only 2HKO. Moltres can use Substitute to block Sucker Punch and resists all of Cacturne's other moves. Scyther's Aerial Ace ignores Cacturne's evasion boosts, and it also has Quick Attack to stop Cacturne from striking first with Sucker Punch. Weezing resists Seed Bomb and Low Kick and can cripple Cacturne with Will-O-Wisp or wipe out its boosts with Haze. If Cacturne lacks Seed Bomb, Ghost-types such as Mismagius can switch in with impunity and burn Cacturne with Will-O-Wisp or set up a Substitute and boost with Nasty Plot. Any faster Pokemon with Encore can force Cacturne out by locking it into Substitute or Swords Dance, although this should be done with caution, as you don't want to end up Encoring Spikes.
When Sand Veil is active, remember that none of these counters are guaranteed to succeed. There is a good chance (close to 80%) that you will miss at least once against a Cacturne that is spamming Substitute. Make sure your Cacturne counters are healthy enough to take a hit and still do their job, or you will find yourself furiously cursing at your opponent as Cacturne wipes out your team.