Well, as my last few posts suggest, the allure of Truant Durant has proven too strong for me, and after a little theorymoning, I've put together a pretty successful streak. It's still active at 406
, but after finishing the first set over 400, I'm at a good place to pause, write things up, and discuss potential improvements.
Nature: Jolly (+Spd, - Spa)
Stats: 165/129/132/61/69/177 (265 speed with Scarf)
Trait: Skill Link
Nature: Adamant (+Att, -Spa)
Trait: Rough Skin
Nature: Jolly (+Spd, -Spa)
The basic idea is obvious. Entrainment on the first turn to reset the opponent's lead poke's ability to Truant. Switch to Cloyster while the opponent loafs around, alternate Protect and Shell Smash to get Cloyster to +6 in Attack and Speed, and then sweep. Obviously every match doesn't play out quite so simply, but this is the goal.
Durant leads things off, and Entrainment is obviously at the center of the strategy. At 265 speed with a Choice Scarf, Durant outspeeds the entire Subway (barring priority moves), and so can usually fire off a first turn Entrainment before other pokes have the chance to OHKO it with a powerful special or Fire move, flinch it, status it, or otherwise interfere. Once the opponent is successfully Entrained, Durant can switch out and let Cloyster (or occasionally Garchomp) set up.
Protect seems suboptimal on a poke that can only move every other turn, but it is there for when the opponent's lead either has the ability Trace or is already Truant (e.g. is a Slaking). Without Protect, I have to let the opponent get a free hit on Durant before switching out so that my sweeper comes in unscathed. With Protect, I Protect on the first turn, and then switch out on the second, letting my sweeper freely set up while keeping Durant unharmed. X-Scissor and Iron Head are only used rarely, but once in a while the opponent's last poke will manage to absorb a hit from my last sweeper and kill it, but will be at low health. The attacking STABs allow Durant to finish off such a weakened third poke.
Because of how easy it typically is to set up and sweep after an Entrainment, a natural question is how this team deals with lead pokes that can either prevent or neutralize Durant's Entrainment. As noted earlier, non-priority attacks or defensive moves like Substitute don't worry me, because Durant is fast enough to outrun them all. Priority moves, and moves that allow the opponent to switch pokemon after the Entrainment, on the other hand, are a concern, with the biggest suspects being Fake Out, Protect/Detect, U-turn, and Volt Switch.
With a Fake Out lead, I consider how hard the other moves hit. Given Durant's good physical defense and very strong typing combination, certain Fake Outers can't really hurt Durant. In such a situation, I just stay in, taking the Fake Out on turn 1, absorbing whatever weak attack follows, and Entraining successfully on turn 3. Where the opposing Fake Outer can beat Durant, such as an Infernape or Mienshao, I immediately switch to Garchomp, which takes the Fake Out and does a little damage back with Rough Skin. At that point, Garchomp can sometimes set up or at least KO the lead on its own, but it will often just get knocked out. This is fine, however, since I can then bring Durant back in, safely use Entrainment, and set up Cloyster.
Protect and Detect are more interesting, since the AI can use these moves multiple times, potentially shutting down multiple Entrainment attempts, but tends to use them rather randomly. If the opponent can't really hurt Durant too much, I'll often stay in, and usually get the chance to Entrain eventually, given the AI's loose wiring. Sometimes, for example the AI will protect on both the first and second turns, making a third turn protect extremely unlikely and likely to fail even if used. Note also that if the opponent thinks it can get a KO by attacking, it will almost always use the KO attack rather than Protect. Accordingly, if the opponent Protects on turn 1 and does between 50% and 100% to Durant on turn 2, I can almost always resolve Entrainment on turn 3. If I'm in doubt about how to handle a Protecter, I'll usually just switch to Garchomp, who is my most "disposable" poke, and can often set up a Swords Dance unaided and then KO the Protect user, leaving Durant around to Entrain later, and keeping Cloyster's Focus Sash intact.
U-turn looks like a big threat, but in fact is not typically an issue. The reason is that it's a physical move that Durant resists. The AI will almost never attack Durant with it on the first turn because there's usually almost always another move that hits harder, and once the foe is Entrained, later uses of U-turn won't matter, since Protect used by a sweeper while it sets up not only prevents the damage, it also stops the U-turn switch.
Volt Switch is much more threatening. It's a special move, and so hits Durant's much weaker Special Defense, and Durant does not resist Electric attacks, so the AI will often lead with it. A lead Volt Switch from a hard hitting special attacker can do a double whammy on me, both negating my Entrainment and OHKOing Durant, denying me the chance to Entrain another poke and set up later on. When facing a Volt Switcher, I immediately switch to Garchomp. Garchomp typically is very strong against Volt Switchers, switching in for free due to its immunity and then setting up or unleashing a devastating STAB Earthquake. Volt Switch is such a threat that if I ever replace Garchomp as my secondary sweeper, I can't see myself using a poke that doesn't likewise handle Volt Switchers. Volt Switch Magnet Pull Magnezone deserves special mention. Naturally, I can't switch out of it, and so am likely lose my Durant either to the Volt Switch or the alternative choice of Thunderbolt. However, I'm usually still fine, since Garchomp can still come in and dominate, and won't even have to worry about Sturdy messing with its OHKO. Still, a lead Volt Switching Magnezone is one of the larger threats to this team, and if the opponent has the wrong partners for it, I could be in trouble.
Cloyster is my primary sweeper, and I've been very pleased with its effectiveness. Since I can use Protect to set up unscathed against a Truant opponent, Focus Sash gives Cloyster an "extra life," making sweeping much easier. Icicle Spear hits ridiculously hard at +6, OHKOing even many things that resist it, and its multi-hit nature means that opposing Sturdy and Focused Sashed pokes are not a problem. Also nice is that nothing is immune to Ice attacks.
Rock Blast is used much less often due to the risk of missing with its 90% accuracy, but is essential against certain bulky Waters and especially Water/Ices. Icicle Spear is walled pretty badly by Thick Fat Dewgong, for example! This miss chance is a real pain, so it's important not to use Rock Blast when it can be avoided. For example, most opposing fire types (save Heatran and Bulky Quiver Dance Volcarona) are frail enough that not very effective Icicle Spear still OHKOs them, and so it is foolish to turn to super effective Rock Blast. Likewise, especially on the opponent's final poke, it is often better to go for a sure 2HKO from Icicle Spear than go for the OHKO from Rock Blast. Sure, the chance of missing two Rock Blasts in a row is only 1%, but part of building long streaks is minimizing the chance for even highly unlikely hax to wreck you, so it's important to play around it where you can. Also remember that where Icicle Spear fails to OHKO, it usually still comes pretty close. This means that on a final poke, even if Cloyster is KOed after using Icicle Spear, the opponent is typically low enough for Durant to finish off. Similarly with five hits, a critical hit on just one of them is often enough to turn a 2HKO back into a OHKO, meaning that in such a situation, Icicle Spear in fact has a 27.58% percent chance of OHKOing.
Shell Smash is obviously key for letting me boost both Speed and Attack. That it lowers defenses is unfortunate, but honestly since Cloyster OHKOs most things and carries a Focus Sash to allow it to tank one hit, the reduced defenses are not typically a big issue. Also note that being able to fully set up with just three uses of the move, rather than six for other Speed/Attack (or Special Attack) boosters like Dragon Dance and Quiver Dance, is in fact a pretty big deal. First is just the time issue. Setting up is a little boring and provides opportunities for misclicks, so being able to set up more quickly both makes matches go faster and helps limit the chance for misclicks. Second, however, is that this accelerated set-up allows me to get more boosts in when the opponent's Entrained lead is self destructive. If the opponent is holding Toxic Orb or Flame Orb, or has Hi Jump Kick or Explosion in its move list, I've only got a limited number of turns to set up before the Entrained poke dies from its own item or moves. Shell Smash lets me get more fully set up, making Cloyster much better able to sweep than it would be were it stuck with a slower boosting move.
A few other things should be noted about using Cloyster. First is that when setting up against a Truant opponent, you should get in the habit of Protecting the first turn after you get to +6/+6, rather than attacking immediately. No reason to risk some sort of unexpected miss or the like when you can safely wait to attack on the loafing around turn. There are a few exceptions, particularly when the opponent may use Stealth Rock or the like, but attacking the opponent's lead only on the loafing around turn is a safe default and should be your choice most of the time. Second is that Cloyster's Ice typing is very handy for making it immune to Hail. Since any residual damage neutralizes my Focus Sash, immunity to Hail is extremely helpful. Third is that you shouldn't forget about Protect when facing your opponent's second and third pokes. Though Protect's main purpose is of course to allow free set up while your opponent's lead can only attack every other turn, Protect can also be used to protect your Focus Sash against a second or third poke with Fake out, or survive a Custap Berry turn in the rare situation where the opponent survives your first attack and would be able to go first on the second turn thanks to the Berry. Fourth is to make sure to wait out a lead poke's Trick Room while you set up, even if this means using Shell Smash a fourth time. You do NOT want to be going second against your opponent's second poke.
Garchomp, as noted earlier, is on the team more to get around the things that disrupt the Durant-Cloyster combo than to sweep. Still, it's a very durable and hard hitting pokemon, and so can still often set up and sweep on its own. Because it is immune to sandstorm, I often bring it in instead of Cloyster when the opponent's Entrained lead has the move Sand Storm, so that Garchomp can set up and stall the Sand Storm out before KOing the lead, giving Cloyster the opportunity to come in later under clear skies and keep its Focus Sash intact. Naturally, this doesn't help against permanent Sandstorms, so against Hippowdons and Tyranitars, I typically set up Cloyster immediately, particularly since they are typically on teams heavy in Sturdy and Sashed pokes, where Garchomp won't be able to OHKO but Cloyster will.
Note that Garchomp has his Dream World ability of Rough Skin. Though the chance of a free turn with Sand Veil is usually much better in battles against another human, in the Subway, Rough Skin is much stronger. Many times during my 336 win Garchomp/Suicune/Ferronthorn streak, I wished that Rough Skin Garchomp was available, and so am very happy to have it now. Rough Skin breaks a lot of Focus Sashes, and turns a number of 2HKOs into OHKOs for Garchomp. Switching into a Fake Out, for example, Rough Skin often gets the opponent just low enough that even an unboosted Earthquake or Outrage can OHKO. This can be remarkably helpful sometimes. As far as Chomp's equipped item, Lum Berry is very nice, allowing me to recover from post-Outrage confusion or get a free Swords Dance off when the opponent tries to status Garchomp.
Though very strong, this team of course has its vulnerabilities. Powerful Volt Switchers can prevent me from being able to set up on a Truant opponent. Bulky Waters, Ices, and Steels can often survive an Icicle Spear (or get missed by Rock Blast) and cause problems with their counter attacks, particularly since, with its defenses reduced, almost anything will 2HKO a fully set-up Cloyster. If the second Poke can survive the initial attack and then Trick Room, I'm on the back foot, though judicious use of Protect can help me stall it out. Priority moves always outrun Cloyster, but thankfully, there aren't too many priority users in the Subway, so it is rare to come up against opponents whose second and third pokes both have priority moves (besides Fake Out, which can be stopped with Protect). Speed Boost Yanmega can also cause big trouble if it leads with Detect, particularly if it gets flinches on its Air Slashes. Bad luck against Bright Power or Lax Incense can likewise cause problems, though so far, I've been lucky enough not to miss twice in a row against anything with these items. Garchomp isn't able to boost his speed either, so if Cloyster gets KOed, there are a number of things that can outspeed and OHKO with an ice attack (or a crit). One final problem I've once encountered was a lead Forretress that used Toxic Spikes on the Entrainment turn, making it unwise to switch in Cloyster and try to set up through all the poison damage. I had to go to Chomp and let its berry neutralize the poison, but this left me very vulnerable to a number of potential second or third enemy pokemon. Thankfully, my luck held and I survived. I lost my initial streak with this team somewhere in the 150s to ill advised use of Rock Blast and a little bad luck on my opponent's third poke, but so far have avoided any fatal errors on this, my second time through with the team.
I'm sure there are ways to improve this squad. The most obvious would be to reduce Durant's speed. Since the fastest opposing poke in the subway has 258 speed with a Choice Scarf, I could safely move some speed EVs into Special Defense and still outrun the entire subway with Durant.
I'm also torn as to the possibility of using another poke instead of Garchomp. Chomp's inability to boost its speed is really frustrating given the number of very fast pokes that can show up on opponents' teams, so I'm occasionally tempted to replace it with something that can speed itself up. However, as noted earlier, a key consideration for my team is being able to handle Volt Switchers, and there are very few pokes that can resist Electric Attacks and can boost their Speed and the appropriate Attack stat with a single move. The best option is Lilligant, who can boost with Quiver Dance and use his grass typing to sponge Electric Attacks. As a secondary sweeper, a Lilligant with a Protect/Substitute/Quiver Dance/?Attack set can boost 3 stats, claim an "extra life" with Substitute, and attack away. I see two possible attack/item combinations. Petal Dance/Lum Berry lets me do a nice Garchomp Outrage impersonation, hitting very hard while having the berry to undo the self-inflicted confusion or sponge opposing status. Giga Drain/Leftovers lets me take full advantage of the Special Defense boosts from Quiver Dance, giving me a ton of durability and even, should it prove necessary, letting me play the stall game of alternating Substitute and Protect while recovering with Leftovers.
Unfortunately, Lilligant's base stats are a lot weaker than Garchomp's, it can't freely switch into Thunder Wave like Chomp can, and it still takes some damage when switching into other Electric attacks. Moreover, given the poor coverage of Grass-type attacks, Lilligant, even if fully set up, is going to get far fewer OHKOs than Chomp does. Accordingly, for now, I'm sticking with Chomp as my secondary sweeper.
One last possibility worth noting is actually moving Lilligant into the primary sweeper role. The main allure of this is being able to claim not just one, but two "extra lives." Protect/Substitute/Quiver Dance/Giga Drain Lilligant, equipped with a Focus Sash, on a Truant opponent, can set up to +6/+6/+6, put up a Sub, and reactivate its Focus Sash by healing to full with Giga Drain. It hits much less hard than does Cloyster and doesn't break Sashes automatically, so is more likely to need these extra lives to sweep, but it's certainly worth considering, particularly since with Special Defense at +6, many special attacks are going to fail to break the Sub. One thing to remember, however, is that this set is completely walled by Sap Sipper Bouffalant, which would either need to be stalled out or reliably handled by the third poke.
This has turned into quite a long post, but I hope it's helpful. I'll post again when my streak is ended, or perhaps earlier if I pick up some new insights on the team.