DPP is the final generation that doesn't have Team Preview and plays Pokemon the 'traditional' way. You don't know your opponent's team and vice versa! Leads are one of the most important things when building a team as a good match-up just means you have the upper hand on just Turn 1! Leads can take on many roles though most of them are used to set up entry hazards (mostly Stealth Rock) as they can get them up as early as possible. Often, most leads try to stop other leads from setting their entry hazards. A good lead match-up can be half the battle won. Leads play an important role in every DPP team and some teams are quite focused on their leads. Nonetheless, some teams do not bother having a dedicated lead. Also, leads can sometimes instantly tell you the opponent's playstyle. A Hippowdon lead usually indicates sandstorm, stall or bulky offense and the likes. A Ninjask lead almost 100% means it's a Baton Pass team. If you've never seen an Aerodactyl, Azelf, Machamp, or Metagross lead, you've never played DPP OU.
So let's just start off with some of the more common leads! ^_^
Suicide leads are easy to use and are pretty straightforward! Most of the time they set up entry hazards and try to stop the opponent from doing the same. They can also set up field conditions such as weather and Trick Room. More often than not, they like to go off with a bang! Literally...
Aerodactyl is a pretty common lead due to its reliability in preventing opponents from setting up entry hazards or use status moves with its super fast Taunt thanks to its amazing base 130 Speed. After Taunting the opponent it can set up Stealth Rock the next turn as it can outspeed most opponents. After which it can just get KOed and it doesn't really matter because its job is to just Taunt and Stealth Rock. However, it falls to priority moves. Focus Sash is the item to ensure it gets up Stealth Rock bar priority and hail.
Azelf is one of the most annoying leads to face. Not only is it fast and has access to Taunt, it is also very powerful with base 125 (Special) Attack. Its main job is to set up Stealth Rock and then Explode. With such high Attack, even those that resist Explosion can be badly dent. As it attracts Ghost-types with Explosion, Pursuit users pair well with it. Psychic and Fire Blast are common moves it can run. The latter is useful for scorching Steel-type leads such as Metagross. Azelf can aslo set up a variety of things such as dual screens. Though rarely seen, it can use a Choice item and Trick it onto leads. Colbur Berry leads help against Machamp and Tyranitar. Azelf is easily one of the most versatile lead.
Frosslass is a somewhat rare lead but nonetheless effective. It's rarity is also one of the factors that make it pretty good. It lays as many layers of Spikes as possible and can cripple / kill the opponent in two ways: Destiny Bond or Trick. Frosslass is pretty fast at base 110 Speed and can get an unexpected kill with Destiny Bond while having probably at least one layer up. Trick can lock opposing leads into their first move and can often steal Focus Sash in the process. Always play with caution when facing one. Don't be too eager to KO it and get KOed with Destiny Bond. Furthermore, it has Taunt to tempt you to KO it.
Gengar is yet another annoying Ghost-type that's a pretty rare lead. It's a great weapon against opposing suicide leads as it can prevent the opponent from setting up Stealth Rock as faster ones to choose to either to attack Gengar and bring it down to 1HP or set up entry hazards. If it is the latter, the opponent has the trouble of having to 2HKO it thanks to Focus Sash bar something like Choice Scarf Tyranitar. Taunting against it is as good as losing your lead for no reason. It has counter to deal with physical attacking leads such as Metagross and Machamp. Icy wind is the crux of this set as it lowers the opponents Speed to put them in an unfavorable situation as shown above. It also has access to Taunt.
Infernape just wants to set up Stealth Rock with assistance from Stealth Rock and do as much damage as possible. It has Fake Out to break the opponents Focus Sash in hopes of being able to KO the opposing lead after setting up its own Stealth Rock. It can either get KOed if not Taunted or maybe survive with 1HP after KOing the opponent. Overheat and Fire Blast really hurts as it can fully invest EVs into its offenses. Encore and Endeavor are neat tricks in its sleeves. The latter can be paired with Vacuum Wave / Mach Punch to bring down the oppenent after Endeavoring after Focus Sash activates. Even if it cannot KO the opponent, being able to bring them to 1HP is certainly a neat trick.
Roserade can cripple opposing leads that don't carry Lum Berry with Sleep Powder though it has a somewhat shaky accuracy. After which it can proceed to set up Toxic Spikes and let Focus Sash guarantee the second layer. Roserade packs a punch thanks to its base 125 Special Attack and can dent / KO leads with Leaf Storm. It faces well against slow leads as it can cripple them with Sleep Powder and simply set up Toxic Spikes without being hindered. Occasionally, its good special bulk helps it survive weak special attacks.
Smeargle is a suicide lead that aims to cripple leads with Spore and set up Spikes and/or Stealth Rock. Focus Sash is all it needs. It can also use counter to KO physical attacking leads such as Machamp; Own Tempo prevents confusion from Dynamic Punch. Spore is a great utility move as it can put opposing leads to sleep, which makes half the battle won. However, Smeargle falls to faster Taunt users such as Aerodactyl, but it can use U-turn to at least break their Focus Sash. Still, Smeargle can resort to many tricks such as setting up field conditions such as Trick Room. Lv1. Endeavor Smeargle lead can spell doom to many leads that do not have either a status or priority move. Lum Berry leads also trouble Smeargle as it cannot put them to sleep before being KOed. With Endeavor, Smeargle is almost guaranteed to get the opposing lead to 1HP bar the above Pokemon and Ghost-types. It can then finish off with Dragon Rage or let a teammate get a free kill.
Unlike suicide leads, they tend to stick around for the rest of the match. They might not serve any definite purpose though most of them are capable of setting entry hazards. They often do not fair well against suicide leads and scouts but they can sponge blows from anti-leads.
Abomasnow sets up hail with its Snow Warning. It's usually found on a hail stall team or an offensive hail team. Its special bulk is decent and can take a couple of non-super effective special attacks. Hail breaks pretty much every common Focus Sash bar Frosslass. It has Leech Seed to wear down opponents even faster in tandem with hail. Its main purpose is to set up hail and do as much damage as possible or just switch out. Its offense isn't too poor as it can utilize a Choice item or even a Life Orb. Blizzard hurts as well.
Bronzong makes a very good bulky lead thanks to its sole weakness to Fire. Steel / Psychic is a very good defensive typing and pair that with its good defenses, Bronzong can easily take a couple of hits. Given how fast most suicide leads are, especially Aerodactyl, Bronzong's Gyro Ball can dent them. It can set up Stealth Rock or start attacking Taunt users with Gyro Ball and escape relatively unscathed. Earthquake, Payback, and the occasional Hidden Power Ice are other offensive options. Though Bronzong is mainly a bulky lead, it can double up as a suicide lead by using Explosion. However, Explosion is usually reserved to situtation when its HP is too low or when it needs to take out a huge threat. Trick Room and dual screens are the other things it can set up. Tricking a Choice item is viable as well.
Empoleon has a great typing and decent bulk. It can reliably set up Stealth Rock and attack opposing leads with a powerful Hydro Pump or Surf thanks to its remarkable base 111 Special Attack. With access to Aqua Jet, it can KO Taunt leads such as Aerodactyl after hitting it on the turn it gets Taunted, thus preventing opposing leads from having their way. With a Chople Berry or Focus Sash, Empoleon can survive against most leads and either attack directly or set up Stealth Rock. Ice Beam and Grass not are great coverage moves and the latter is especially helpful against opposing bulky leads: Hippowdon and Swampert.
Forretress has great physical bulk to tank physical attacks. It completely walls some physically-oriented leads such as Metagross, giving it free opportunities to set up entry hazards safely and in multiple layers. Besides setting up its own entry hazards, Forretress can also Rapid Spin away the foe's entry hazards. For example, against an Aerodactyl lead, Forretress can just Gyro Ball and KO it with Rapid Spin, removing the entry hazards in the process as well. Aerodactyl can't do anything besides setting up Stealth Rock and switching to a Ghost-type, as Taunting Forretress is futile but not Taunting it will give it free turns to set up. Forretress fares well against most physically-oriented leads and those without Taunt. It reliably sets up entry hazards and spins them away against bulky leads.
Gliscor has great physical bulk and typing. With base 95 Speed, it's easily the fastest bulky lead and can Taunt opposing bulky leads. After which it can start to assault them with Earthquake and heal off damage with Roost or simply just U-turn out. It can also set up its own Stealth Rock though suicide leads with Taunt are faster and forces Gliscor to switch or U-turn out most of the time. Gliscor can stick around and act as a check to many physical threats later in the game.
Heatran has a good unique typing and great defenses to go with it. Its great bulk allows it to take a couple of hits from common leads such as Azelf, and Shuca Berry lets it survive some Earthquakes. Heatran can reliably set up Stealth Rock while tanking some attacks. Heatran is also not duly worried by Trick users as it isn't really crippled by Choice items. Having a Choice item might even be beneficial sometimes. It is pretty good offensively too with base 130 Special Attack. With that, it can get past opposing bulky leads with its pure strength. Heatran also has access to Taunt though it hardly uses it. While Heatran doesn't have too much problems surviving, it can use Explosion as a last resort. Specially defensive and Life Orb Heatran works well as leads too.
Hippowdon is many stall team's lead of choice thanks to its gigantic physical bulk. It can even survive super effective physical assualts and recover with Slack Off. It sets up Stealth Rock reliably against some anti-leads thanks to its bulk and can start piling up residual damage with Roar or Toxic. Sandstorm also breaks many Focus Sashes. Its uninvested base 112 Attack is quite threatening as well and can dent many leads with just Earthquake. It fares well against leads without Taunt or a status move. Hippowdon isn't a dedicated lead but it does its job well.
Skarmory is known for its physical walling capabilities. Sometimes it's used rather riskily as a lead as it can be easily trapped by Magnezone though it can opt for Shed Shell. It can Taunt slower leads and quickly set up Spikes and begin annoying foes with Whirlwind and rack up entry hazard damage. Its high defense allows it to sponge many physical attacks and Roost off the damage. Skarmory is an okay lead if you aren't particularly worried about it being trapped and killed by Magnezone if it doesn't have Shed Shell. It doesn't fare too well against offensive leads such as Azelf though. Taunt and status doesn't do it any favor either.
Swampert is one of the most common physical walls but can double as a lead, though not a very dedicated one. It can take a couple of blows and set up Stealth Rock. It has decent offenses and can attack with Earthquake and Ice Beam, two of the most common attacking options. Roar also shuffles the opposing team and rack up entry hazard damage. Protect enables it to scout moves, especially Trick. Swampert does well against Metagross as it resists Meteor Mash and can fight back with Earthquake.
Tyranitar is a multipurpose and versatile lead. It doesn't have a specific lead set but it can still function well as one. Choice Scarf Tyranitar can KO leads such as Azelf and Starmie. There are also bulkier variants designed to set up Stealth Rock and weather a few hits. With Lum Berry, Tyranitar can defeat Focus Sash sleeps leads such as Roserade and Smeargle. Furthermore, sandstorm robs them of their final HP. Tyranitar leads might indicate sandstorm teams that have Sand Veil Gliscor waiting in the wings to take advantage of sand. However, that isn't a definite though. Tyranitar also has pretty high Special Defense thanks to sandstorm boost to take even super effective special attacks with some investment in EVs.
They are used to scout the opponent and might or might not use a Choice item (with Trick). They can often stop the opposing lead with Taunt and cripple it in one way or another. U-turn is the most common move on these leads.
Azlef can hold a Choice Band and hit quite hard off the bat. Choice Band-boosted U-turn is bound to hurt and surprise faster Taunt users and in the process, it can break Focus Sashes. Azelf works well by scouting the opponents with a powerful U-turn or just attack with powerful moves such as Zen Headbutt. When the time is up, it can use an insanely powerful Explosion that will dent even those that resist it. Though less commonly seen, it can use Trick to cripple opposing leads. Anyone who mistakes Azelf for the classic lead set will probably be in for trouble.
Crobat is yet another speed monster with base 130 Speed and access to Taunt, running (flying) parallel to Aerodactyl. However, it trades the ability to set up entry hazards for the ability to scout with U-turn. After Taunting foes, it often U-turns away to get in a better switch-in. It can also wear down foes with Super Fang before escaping with U-turn. Roost provides it much greater longevity as well. With some investment, Crobat can be surprisingly bulky. Crobat can also set up weather with Rain Dance and Sunny Day too though.
Celebi is somewhat of a mix of leads. It can set up Stealth Rock like many other leads and has pretty decent bulk. Leaf Storm and Earth Power definitely hurts with full investment in Special Attack. Celebi has a cool niche with U-turn and Natural Cure. The former is useful for scouting as usual while the latter clears it of status. Its typing grants it many resistances as well, making it a pretty good lead scout. However, U-turn can be replaced by Hidden Power for coverage but that means that Celebi can no longer scout with U-turn.
Jiarchi can often cripple leads by Tricking a Choice Scarf to them and then set up Stealth Rock. After that, it can simply scout and switch out via U-turn. Many leads do not wish to be crippled by Trick and when they are, Jirachi gains plenty of advantage and U-turn really adds to the momentum it obtains. In a favorable match-up, Jirachi can just spam Iron Head and probably flinch the opponent to death. Besides Stealth Rock, it can also set up dual screens.
Ninjask scouts while accumulating Speed boosts by using Substitute and Protect. By doing so, it scouts the opponent's moves against Ninjask until Ninjask no longer has enough HP to make more Substitutes. When Ninjask is threatened by phazing moves and Taunt, it can simply just Baton Pass out to the next receiver or a sweeper. Protect and Substitute can scout what the opponent has and Ninjask has the tendency to attract phazers. In which case, Ninjask actually scouts by luring out the phazer as many teams do not have multiple phazers.
Zapdos has pretty good bulk and typing that allows it to stick around longer in lead position. It can use Agility to outspeed the foe and then use Substitute to scout for attacks and switch-ins. After that, it can also just Baton Pass away. Its good bulk enables it to take a couple of hits even without Substitute. Zapdos can even use a Choice Scarf and just use U-turn to scout, especially against Azelf and other favorable match-ups. Zapdos is quite versatile in lead position as most of its sets fare well here. Choice Specs and SubRoost work to quite a good effect as well.
Anti-leads are a nightmare to face. They made to defeat and stop most of the common leads with ease. These leads have quite specific counters in leads but they are almost guaranteed to gain the upper hand against most other leads. They often force players to use leads that work well against them.
Dragonite has good bulk and typing along with great offenses. Dragonite makes a great mixed lead as it can demolish physical walls such as Hippowdon and Swampert with Draco Meteor. Flamethrower and Fire Blast roasts the Steel-types bar Heatran. Earthquake is also another move it can use to dispose of Steel-types. Superpower also deals with Heatran. Mixed Dragonite is pretty hard to wall and easily destroys opposing leads. To finish off weakened leads and those brought down to their Focus Sash, Dragonite can just use ExtremeSpeed to rob them of their last turn. Draco Meteor + ExtremeSpeed KOes many common leads easily. Inner Focus is yet another good thing about Dragonite as it can avoid the flinch from Fake Out. With a Lum Berry, Dragonite can defeat status leads such as Smeargle and Roserade. Dragonite is not easy to wall, especially as a lead. Dragonite had single-handedly defeat many common leads.
Gallade has a good base 80 Speed to distinguish itself from Machamp. Furthermore, it has a good priority move in Shadow Sneak as well, which lets it pick off Azelf, Starmie, and Gengar. Colbur Berry Azelf is sometimes used to beat Machamp, but Gallade can just 2HKO Azelf with Shadow Sneak. Gallade also works well against Machamp as it can OHKO the latter with STAB Zen Headbutt. Its priority Shadow Sneak allows it to KO many Focus Sash leads such as Aerodactyl without taking a single attack unless they want to forgo Stealth Rock. Close Combat is a reliable STAB move as well and deals with Heatran. Ice Punch and Stone Edge are great coverage moves; the former KOes Dragonite and Gliscor while the latter dents Zapdos and the likes. However, bulky leads such as Hippowdon and Skarmory can just heal off the damage.
Hariyama is an all-out offensive lead that uses Gut-boosted attacks to rampage through opposing leads. It easily activates its status Orb with Fake Out and that gives it an immunity to sleep-inducing moves. After that, it can just plow through and defeat opposing leads with its powerful attacks and good coverage moves such as Payback, Ice Punch, and Stone Edge. The opposing lead will have a hard time suriving against this offensive juggernaut. Its only aim is to defeat opposing lead as quickly as possible and in the process, hopefully stopping them from attaining their own goals.
Machamp is probably the most common and most feared anti-leads. DPP granted it No Guard and with that, an accurate DynamicPunch. Bullet Punch is yet another priority move that allows Machamp to quickly finish off leads in 2 hits most of the time. Confusion from DynamicPunch can be annoying as well and robs leads of their Lum Berries. Furthermore, Machamp itself often carries Lum Berries to deal with almost every status lead as it can 2HKO them and bypass its low Speed with Bullet Punch. Machamp has good coverage with Ice Punch and Payback as well. It can 2HKO most leads with the appropriate move, and even if it can't, it can sometimes count on confusion hax to nab a 3HKO. There aren't many counters for Machamp and facing it as a lead often main that you'll simply lose your lead. Opposing suicide leads often just set up Stealth Rock and get sacrificed to Machamp. Machamp doesn't have too many flaws besides its low Speed. Faster Lum Berry leads that can avoid the 2HKO from Machamp are one of the few leads that can even face Machamp well.
Mamoswine has a good base 130 Attack and access to priority Ice Shard. It also has Stealth Rock to set up if it gets the chance to. Its powerful Earthquake can still OHKO Shuca Berry Heatran. It has good typing that lets its Focus Sash stay untouched by hail and sandstorm. Endeavor allows Mamoswine to lower the opponent's health to possibly 1HP if it activiates Focus Sash and then Mamoswine can finish off with Ice Shard. With the combination of Endeavor and Ice Shard, Mamoswine can pick of many leads by itself. However, it has problems against status leads due to the lack of Lum Berry and also bulky leads that can shrug off Mamoswine's attacks.
Metagross is an anti-lead that can defeat opposing anti-leads, most notably Machamp. Meteor Mash 2HKOes Machamp bar a miss and it avoids the confusion thanks to Lum Berry. Metagross is a very bulky offensive lead that can down many opposing leads. It has access to Stealth Rock and can lay them when given the opportunity to do so. It also plays mind games with Aerodactyl as the latter has to choose to Taunt it and prevent Metagross from setting up Stealth Rock or use Stealth Rock itself and get KOed by Bullet Punch later. It can even survive Azelf's Fire Blast and nab the 2HKO. Occa Berry is a less used option as it makes Metagross unreliable to take down Machamp but it helps against Fire-types such as Infernape. Explosion is a nifty move to use and really hurts as it's backed by a base 135 Attack. Metagross fares well against most suicide and opposing anti-leads but its downfall is against bulky leads. Though Metagross can launch its powerful attacks at bulky leads, it still won't be enough to dent them as they aren't super effective and they can often heal off the damage.
Raikou makes a good anti-lead with only one weakness and acceptable bulk to take a hit or two. It has good base 115 Special Attack and Speed (though it has to use Rash nature for Crown Raikou). Thunderbolt dents a lot of things especially when most leads do not resist or are immune to it. Hidden Power Ice provides it with pseudo-BoltBeam. Raikou is yet another anti-lead with access to priority move in ExtremeSpeed that allows it to pick of foes that are down to their Focus Sash. This three moves are usually enough but Raikou can cover even more leads with a free fourth move. Extrasensory deals with Machamp and Roserade while Lum Berry cures Raikou of (pseudo-) status. Shadow Ball hits Ghost- and Psychic-types super effectively, proving to be useful against Azelf leads though Thunderbolt should do enough damage to it anyway. Aura Sphere severely dents Tyranitar and Heatran leads. The latter carries Shuca Berry quite often anyway. Raikou has little issue with its coverage and it could be hard to wall it with your lead.
With Life Orb and great coverage moves, Starmie makes a great offensive lead depsite having only an average base 100 Special Attack. Starmie sits comfortably in its Speed tier of base 115. Starmie becomes a good anti-lead with Rapid Spin. It can bring down Pokemon such as Aerodactyl to their Focus Sashes and then KO them with Rapid Spin, killing two birds with one stone. Life Orb boosted Hydro Pump can 2HKO many common leads as well. It has some other options to choose from as well, such as Grass Knot and Recover. Starmie is great against many suicide leads, especially those with Focus Sash. However, Starmie lives in constant fear of being trapped by Pursuit users. Starmie also has Natural Cure to deal with pesky status. Still, it has issues with leads that can survive an attack and OHKO Starmie, for example Roserade with Leaf Storm.
Bottom of the Barrel
These leads aren't really that common though they have some use against certain matchups but generally do not perform well. Nonetheless they can still take on the lead role except that they might not do as well as other leads.
Lucario is an offensive lead thats aims to defeat the opposing lead and hopefully prevent them from setting up entry hazards. With it's powerful Close Combat, it can bring down many frail leads down to activate their Focus Sash and finish off with ExtremeSpeed. Inner Focus is a neat trick against Fake Out users. It can also bring down bulky leads such as Swampert thanks to Focus Sash. Counter when used with Focus Sash can get a surprise KO.
Weavile breaks Focus Sash with Fake Out and can Taunt opposing leads. It's like a mix between Infernape and Lucario. It tries all out to KO opposing suicide leads. Focus Sash and Counter are great for defeating physical attacking leads such as Metagross. Ice Shard is a rare option to KO faster but frail leads after breaking Focus Sash with Fake Out. It works fine against bulky leads too thanks to Taunt and Counter.
Uxie makes a great mixed wall with base 130 Defenses. Though somewhat unorthodox for a bulky lead, it can Trick opponents with a Choice Scarf and its base 95 Speed is pretty good with and without Choice Scarf. It can then quickly set up Stealth Rock. Uxie can cripple opposing leads or switch-ins with Thunder Wave or Yawn. Once it's job is done, it can simply U-turn away. Choice Scarf U-turn enables it to become a great scout though Tricking Choice Scarf and setting Stealth Rock while sponging hits is usually its primary role. Uxie can also set up dual screens and various field conditions such as Trick Room.
Ambipom is a dedicated scout though it can opt to go all-out attacking. Usually, it simply just Fake Out and then U-turn to an appropriate switch-in. However, if Ambipom has a chance of KOing the foe, it can use moves such as Payback, Return, Pursuit, and Low Kick. It also has access to Taunt to stop slower leads from setting up. Ambipom's role is simple. Simply Fake Out to break Focus Sash and possibly scout the opponent's item and proceed with U-turn. Ambipom works well as a revenge killer too thanks to Fake Out. Fake Out is also boosted by Technician as well, making it considerably powerful with 90 Base Power after STAB.
Speed Boost enables Yanmega to outspeed every non-Choice Scarf leads bar Ninjask. It certainly packs a punch with Bug Buzz and Air Slash thanks to its base 116 Special Attack. It can quickly outspeed threats and 2HKO them before they can attack. Protect ensures a Speed boost and protects Yanmega from Fake Out users. It can rely on Hidden Power Ground or Fire for coverage. Life Orb is an option over Focus Sash if you're not duly worried about opposing Focus Sash leads. Yanmega can 2HKO Metagross while avoiding the same from Meteor Mash and Bullet Punch with some investment. Still, it has issues with Focus Sash status leads, Aerodactyl, and a few others that it simply cannot plow through. Though Yanmega is not superbly common, it's nonetheless effective and somewhat underrated. If the lead match-up is unfavorable, it can still work as a late-game sweeper, especially with Life Orb.
Leads being pretty dominant and important is a unique part of DPP. There is no perfect lead to use but choose the one that suits your team the best. Having as many favorable match-ups as possible is desirable to have the most advanatage from Turn 1. Leads are easily one of the most important things to consider when team building!
A few things I hope that can come from this thread and a few questions to keep in mind:
- What do you think is one of the more underrated lead?
- What leads set have you used to great effect that are not standard? (Post the sets! ^_^)
- What are some leads that fare well particularly against others?
- What is your favorite lead and why?
- Do you build teams according to the leads or do you choose the lead according to how the team is built?
- What are some of the ways you deal with troublesome leads such as Machamp?
If you feel that there should be some more Pokemon on the list or vice versa, just bring it up in this thread! :D Thanks for reading and participating! ^_^