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Playing with Spikes in GSC [QC 2/2] [GP 2/2] [DONE]

Discussion in 'Uploaded Analyses' started by Jorgen, Nov 24, 2012.

  1. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
    is a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Past SPL Winner

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    Introduction
    GSC is often perceived as the stalliest metagame, and while the characterization of it as "all stall" is definitely misguided, it is true that Pokemon are generally taking more hits than usual. There's Leftovers everywhere, everything can have max defensive stats and still have enough Speed and Attack to scare things off, everything runs Rest and can generally live through it, and Sleep Talk users can use Rest when sleeping. Clearly, passive damage is more important here than in any other generation to get enough damage to score KOs, but there's no Sand Stream, Leech Seed is nerfed relative to future generations and is pretty uncommon, and Toxic resets upon switching out, not to mention that everything runs Rest to undo Toxic anyway. However, GSC does have one common source of passive damage: Spikes. Unfortunately, you only get one layer in GSC, but that's not to say that Spikes is merely a nuisance in GSC. Just because they aren't wearing things down and sometimes outright killing things as quickly as they do in future generations doesn't mean they aren't having an impact. Au contraire, the aforementioned necessity of passive damage and the lack of other good sources of it make GSC arguably the most effective generation for Spikes, even if the effect of the move itself is at its most subtle.


    The Main Spikers and Spinners
    Most sources of passive damage in GSC suffer from one crippling flaw: namely, that they aren't forever. Spikes, on the other hand, stay on the opponent's side of the field until Rapid Spin is used, meaning that the opponent can't just Rest them off like Toxic. However, both Spikes and the similarly-important Rapid Spin receive very poor distribution, and ultimately running a Spiker or spinner results in a loss of offensive or defensive team synergy. There are really only three Pokemon that commonly use Spikes or Rapid Spin, so the Spikes metagame often revolves around those three, although there are a few unconventional options that can work as well. Without further ado, the main Spikers and spinners in GSC are as follows.

    Cloyster
    Cloyster is probably the best Spiker in terms of giving up the least offensive synergy. With Explosion and STAB Surf to ensure that those Pokemon that resist Explosion are kept at bay, Cloyster is a major wallbreaking threat. In addition, its high Defense and STABs allow it to serve at least as a temporary check to Marowak, Steelix, and Rhydon, so it is not without its contributions to defensive synergy. In terms of the actual Spikes game, however, Cloyster is a bit flawed. First, while both Spikes and Rapid Spin are in its movepool, it cannot use Rapid Spin in conjunction with Explosion. Thus, Cloyster must make a choice between offering offensive synergy and being able to keep Spikes off one's own side of the field, which in turn has major implications for how fast- or slow-paced one's team can be. Second, Cloyster has glaring special weaknesses and a vulnerability to Toxic, and is also dead weight while asleep to make Rest a non-option for it unless it is paired with Heal Bell support. Thus, it can struggle to find opportunities to switch in, and it can easily lose the Spikes war by failing to outlast the opponent's Spiker or spinner. Finally, and perhaps most glaringly, it has absolutely nothing on Starmie, the game's premier spinner (read more about Starmie below). This means that if you're depending on keeping Cloyster's Spikes down, you need to run specific support to do so on a consistent basis—for example, you should use Misdreavus to spinblock instead of Gengar unless you're absolutely sure you can play around Gengar's Psychic weakness.

    Forretress
    Forretress is a lot more specialized than Cloyster is. Forretress doesn't offer anywhere near the offensive or defensive synergy that Cloyster does, as it doesn't have a good STAB for forcing plays. In addition, Forretress loses to Cloyster one-on-one in the short run since it is 3HKOed by its STAB Surf. However, what Forretress does do is shore up Cloyster's weaknesses in the Spikes game. For starters, it can run both Explosion and Rapid Spin on the same set, so it doesn't have to choose between having the ability to kill setup sweepers in case of emergency and being able to spin away Spikes. Second, it's got a nice Toxic immunity to give it the longevity it needs to outlast the opponent's Spiker or spinner in the long run (even a Cloyster if you manage to land a Toxic on it). Finally, with Hidden Power Bug it can 2HKO Starmie, meaning that it doesn't need specific support to keep Spikes against it. However, Forretress is not without its problems in the Spikes game. While it, unlike Cloyster, can afford to stay in against most Exeggutor, most Gengar, and most mixed sweepers, it is afraid of possible OHKOs by Fire moves, thereby forcing it to scout the opponent's Snorlax or Exeggutor for Fire Blast or Hidden Power Fire respectively before it attempts to set up on them. Furthermore, it doesn't take Water moves as well as Cloyster and cannot switch in to counter the likes of Marowak and Rhydon. Forretress therefore doesn't switch in to set up Spikes any more easily than Cloyster does, and in many cases it has more trouble switching in thanks to its inability to pose an offensive threat. However, when it comes to lasting long enough to both keep Spikes and spin them away against slower teams, you can't do any better than Forretress.

    Starmie
    So, the big thing Starmie lacks when compared to the other two is Spikes. However, it is the premier Rapid Spin user in the tier with its access to Recover that allows it to stick around longer than the most-used Spiker, Cloyster. In addition, it gets STAB Surf to check Ground-types, STAB Psychic to stop Machamp, massive Speed to cover threats such as Charizard and Nidoking while being able to smack Gengar and finish off low-health Zapdos who attempt to prevent it from spinning, and a movepool that includes Thunder Wave and Reflect for further team support outside of a limited spinning role. However, as already mentioned, Starmie lacks Spikes, and despite its status in later generations it's not a very good attacker in GSC, so its offensive usefulness is limited strictly to a supporting role. Thus, Starmie is best suited for slower-paced teams. Even on these teams, though, Starmie is far less effective than other bulky Water-types such as Suicune when it comes to checking mixed sweepers and Ground-type attackers, so some synergy is still lost with Starmie even though it's a better team player than the Spikers are. Furthermore, in terms of the Spikes game it struggles to spin against Forretress and get past Misdreavus's spinblock, although with its strong STAB Surf it isn't impossible. It's also vulnerable to Pursuit because of its Psychic typing. All-in-all, Starmie is still the best Rapid Spin support money can buy, but Rapid Spin is never a sure thing.

    Some more unconventional options
    Aside from the three metagame-defining options above, there are a few other somewhat-effective Pokemon that can also use Spikes or Rapid Spin. Smeargle can set Spikes somewhat effectively, especially since it gets Spore to prevent spinners from switching in willy-nilly to spin them straight away. However, Smeargle often has more menacing things it would like to do, such as using Baton Pass to give an Agility boost to a sweeper, and its bulk is basically nonexistent, which means it's hardly good for a drawn-out Spikes war against a slower team. As for unconventional spinners, there are Donphan and Tentacruel. Donphan is a Pokemon that was rather popular very early on in GSC, but has since fallen to mediocrity for various reasons, including disappointing special bulk and a lack of physical resistances outside of Rock. However, it spins against Raikou, Ghosts are afraid to switch in against it to block its spin, and it offers Roar support to make it perhaps the most defensively synergistic spinner in the game. Still, it is very mediocre as a spinner primarily because it invites Cloyster, the most common Spiker, to switch straight back in to reset Spikes and force Donphan right back out. Finally, Tentacruel makes for a solid spinner. It beats both Cloyster and Forretress one-on-one, both short-term and long-term. It is immune to Cloyster's Toxic and does not take super effective damage from Forretress, making it more reliable than even Starmie at times. However, Tentacruel has next to zero team synergy whereas Starmie at least offers niche defensive coverage and has support moves such as Reflect and Thunder Wave. In addition, Tentacruel struggles much more than Starmie does when trying to get past Ghost-types. Finally, Tentacruel misses out on Swords Dance when using Rapid Spin, and Tentacruel's Swords Dance set is widely considered its best set.


    Keeping Spikes
    So now that you've bothered to read my blurbs on the main players in the GSC Spikes game, let's take a look at the Pokemon and strategies that lead to keeping Spikes on the field. It's usually necessary to pair a Spiker with at least one of these "assistants" if you want to be able to consistently have at least a chance at keeping them down. These assistants, how to use them, and what they pair best with are described below.

    Ghost-types
    Obviously, the classic way to ensure Spikes stay down is to run a spinblocker. There are only two spinblockers available in GSC: Misdreavus and Gengar. Misdreavus has the benefit of lacking a Psychic weakness and having a little more Special Defense than Gengar, making it the more certain bet when it comes to blocking Rapid Spin, particularly from Starmie. For this reason, Misdreavus is the spinblocker that pairs best with Cloyster, as unlike Gengar, it can reliably block Starmie's spin. In addition, Misdreavus has the threat of Perish trap to force switches. However, Gengar is not without its selling points. It's immune to Toxic, so it doesn't require Heal Bell support to keep alive for a long period of time, and furthermore its attacking stats and movepool are better than Misdreavus's. Gengar is therefore a solid spinblocker to pair with Forretress, as Forretress can keep Spikes against Starmie while Gengar blocks spin against Cloyster and opposing Forretress.

    Pursuit
    It's important to note that Pursuit is a special attack in GSC. Pursuit users help to keep Spikes down against Starmie and Rapid Spin Cloyster. In addition, they can help your own spinners by taking out spinblockers and quickly taking out Cloyster, the most common Spiker. Tyranitar is by far the most common Pursuit user, and it is the best at sniping Ghost-types. However, its Water weakness leaves it vulnerable to a likely 2HKO from Starmie and a possible 2HKO from Cloyster, so it must tread carefully if it is going to attempt to Pursuit these threats. Generally, pairing Tyranitar with Light Screen support or Icy Wind from your own Cloyster gives it the advantage it needs to perform in these match-ups. Alternatively, Umbreon is a much more reliable Pursuit user, but unfortunately it doesn't have the power needed to actually KO things with its Pursuit. It fails to snipe Misdreavus because it cannot do enough damage to outpace Perish trap, and Starmie, while seemingly easily beaten by Pursuit Umbreon, can actually stall it out of Pursuit PP by spamming Recover. However, Gengar and Cloyster are slowly but surely eroded by Pursuit Umbreon, and Starmie still faces an uphill battle in dealing with it.

    Status
    Using status to mess with the Spikers and spinners makes it much easier to win the Spikes war. Toxic is usually the easiest status to use against Cloyster and Starmie, and is especially useful for limiting the lifespan of the former to prevent it from setting or spinning Spikes in the long run. Wearing down Starmie with Toxic is trickier, given its access to Recover, but it is possible since Starmie does not have Natural Cure in GSC. The idea is to repeatedly bait Starmie into switching into Cloyster and subsequently use Rapid Spin as you switch to a Pokemon such as DrumLax or Raikou to immediately force it to switch out before it can use Recover. Eventually, it will need to Recover instead of spinning, although getting to this point can be a chore. Usually, the best Pokemon to deliver Toxic against Starmie and Cloyster is your own Cloyster, although if Cloyster is your main target, other Pokemon such as Suicune, Skarmory, and Forretress are also good at baiting it into taking Toxic.

    Of course, if Forretress is the spinner you need to beat, Toxic isn't going to do you any good. Fortunately, catching it with paralysis or even sleep is a good way to prevent it from using Rapid Spin or Spikes. Snorlax with Body Slam or Lovely Kiss is especially good at drawing in Forretress to inflict status on it, as does Exeggutor with Stun Spore or Sleep Powder. Miltank is also good at baiting Forretress and paralyzing it with Body Slam. Snorlax and Miltank are also good at drawing in Cloyster to take these statuses. Starmie is most reliably afflicted with status by Toxic, as it is usually cautious about switching into paralysis or sleep, although Body Slam Steelix or Machamp do a good job of paralyzing it, whereas Exeggutor and Nidoking can occasionally have opportunities to put Starmie to sleep. In general, though, it's a bad idea to rely on being able to inflict status on Starmie outside of poison, since Starmie tends to avoid status like the plague.

    Using status to try to keep Spikes generally requires a lot of patience and extra support, and your hard work can always be undone by a Heal Bell user. If you encounter a user of Heal Bell, be sure to have a plan against it, whether you intend to capitalize offensively in response to its switch-in (e.g., switch a strong special attacker in on Miltank, a physical attacker in against Blissey), waste its 8 Heal Bell PP, or simply intend to prevent it from switching in to begin with.

    Baits
    Aside from baiting Spikers and spinners into taking status, certain Pokemon are good at baiting them into taking big hits. Steelix often forces opponents to switch Water-types in against it, so it has a chance of baiting Starmie or Cloyster into taking that Explosion. Steelix should be able to survive Surf from both if at full health, so that Explosion need not necessarily be used on the switch. In addition, Icy Wind Cloyster can set Spikes as Starmie switches in and gain the Speed advantage by using Icy Wind as Starmie uses Rapid Spin. This can allow a slower Pursuit user such as Tyranitar an opportunity to switch in and have an advantage in a match-up where it otherwise loses because of its Speed. If Starmie is poisoned before being slowed by Icy Wind, Cloyster might eventually keep Spikes on Starmie by itself since Starmie must eventually use Recover instead of indefinitely spamming Rapid Spin, and when that happens Cloyster can outspeed and Explode on Starmie before it can spin. Icy Wind Cloyster can also give itself the Speed advantage against other Cloyster switch-ins, which can be especially helpful when you need to Explode on an opposing Cloyster to prevent it from spinning away your own Cloyster's Spikes.

    Other Pokemon allow you to win Spikes wars by baiting these Spikers and spinners into taking hits without using Icy Wind or Explosion trickery. For getting past Starmie, Pokemon such as Marowak, Rhydon, Machamp, and sometimes Nidoking can goad Starmie into switching into powerful neutral or super effective hits. Cloyster can be goaded into taking big hits from Marowak and Rhydon, or can even be caught off-guard by an opposing Cloyster with Hidden Power Electric, which 2HKOs opposing Cloyster but does not do enough damage to be useful against Starmie. Beating Forretress can be done by wryly concealing the presence of a Fire move, such as Fire Blast on Snorlax or Hidden Power Fire on Exeggutor, then letting lose when you think your opponent has let their guard down with Forretress. Not only is this strategy good for keeping Spikes against spinners, it is also good for beating the opponent's Spiker to make your own spinner's life easier. However, this kind of tactic often relies on surprise, and as a result it can fail to work if your opponent sees it coming.


    Taking Advantage of Spikes
    Setting up Spikes and keeping them can be hard work. Now that you've managed to do it, though, you can now reap the rewards of what you have sown. Spikes on its own is rarely enough to flat-out KO anything, unlike the multiple layers available in later metagames where Sand Stream is available to help out and Rest is also far less prevalent. Thus, you cannot just splash Spikes haphazardly on a team and call that "offense." You must pair it with something else to make the most of these Spikes, and the following options are the best Jelly available to Spikes' Peanut Butter.

    Status
    Two status effects in particular, paralysis and poison, receive enough distribution to effectively capitalize on Spikes. Paralysis is often inflicted as a secondary effect of standard moves, such as Snorlax's Body Slam and Zapdos's Thunder. However, you can also use Stun Spore Exeggutor or a Thunder Wave user such as Starmie or even Porygon2 to effectively spread paralysis. Paralysis is great alongside Spikes because it not only forces opposing Pokemon to take Spikes damage on the switch in, but their lowered Speed ensures that they take two turns' worth of damage upon switching in, even from the likes of Snorlax. This can seal the deal against faster Spikes-vulnerable foes such as Raikou, which, as the fastest viable RestTalk user in GSC OU, can otherwise be difficult to KO before it Rests. Paralysis also helps setup sweepers outspeed foes and get free turns of setup, so paralysis provides versatile, well-rounded offensive support outside of merely enabling opportunistic KOs.

    Poison is almost exclusively inflicted with the move Toxic. Poison's main role alongside Spikes is to stack damage on the switch-in. Poison works a bit differently in GSC relative to other generations. Toxic poison reverts to normal poison after the affected Pokemon switches out. In addition, poison damage is assessed immediately after a Pokemon is willingly switched in or immediately after that Pokemon makes a move unless the poisoned Pokemon KOs the opposing Pokemon. Thus, a poisoned Pokemon switching in on Spikes, even one poisoned by Toxic, will take 25% damage from that alone (12.5% from the poison and 12.5% from the Spikes, making it much easier to force this Pokemon to Rest or even to KO it if the Pokemon is slow. It is important to note that, because of the timing of poison damage, if a phazing move is used, the Pokemon that was willingly switched in takes poison damage on top of Spikes damage immediately before being phazed out, although a poisoned Pokemon that is forcibly switched in by Roar or Whirlwind will not have the poison damage assessed until the following turn. This combination is particularly great for wearing down Snorlax, which is often the Pokemon that poses the biggest threat and which usually houses slower opposing teams' win condition. However, Toxic is a lot less versatile than paralysis, as fast RestTalk users, such as Raikou and Zapdos, do not care about poison at all and setup sweepers are not helped very much by poison support. Still, Toxic gets much better distribution than paralysis moves do, so poison support can be preferable for teams with a lot of walls, such as Suicune and Umbreon, which otherwise have no other means by which to impose offensive pressure.

    One thing to remember when using status is to ensure that it gets spread widely. This means using a host of paralysis or poison inducers that can force a wide variety of Pokemon into taking the status move of your choice. A detailed description of this is topic enough for another article entirely, but essentially, you want to use Pokemon that bait your status targets into switching in (e.g., Body Slam Steelix baits Suicune into taking paralysis, Toxic Cloyster baits Starmie into taking Toxic). In addition, Pokemon that avoid targeting Pokemon who normally don't care about your status of choice—for example, sleeping RestTalk users and CurseLax for paralysis-based teams; Steel- and Poison-types and RestTalk using Electrics for poison-based teams—make for the best status supporters. If nothing else, make sure that paralysis-based teams can target Raikou and that Toxic-based teams can target Snorlax, for these are the most relevant threats to target with status as mentioned above.

    Opportunistic Attackers
    It should be obvious that attacks do damage, and hence are good for any offense to have. However, what do I mean by having "opportunistic" attackers that can take advantage of Spikes? Well, really, what I mean by this is that attackers that can do a lot of damage without having to set up benefit the most from Spikes. Pokemon such as Vaporeon, Charizard, and Quagsire that rely on setting up to destroy their foes can still be paired with Spikes, there is nothing wrong with that as Spikes can be useful in wearing down their most prominent counters. However, to utilize Spikes to their fullest, it is best to use offensive Pokemon that do not require setup. Mixed sweepers such as Nidoking, Tyranitar, and Dragonite greatly appreciate the fact that Spikes can enable them to take out their most prominent counters, Suicune and Raikou. Zapdos and Raikou with Thunder do appreciable damage to Snorlax, but nonetheless fail to 3HKO it, meaning that they get Rest-looped under normal circumstances. Spikes forces Snorlax to take that extra bit of damage on the switch in to make the KO by STAB Thunder much more likely. Snorlax itself is a big offensive threat with or without setup and loves Spikes support to help it wear down foes such as Misdreavus, Tyranitar, Steelix, and Miltank. Marowak, Machamp, and Rhydon are also deeply appreciative of Spikes support, as it makes life much easier for them when they have to get past Suicune and Exeggutor. There are other attackers, such as Exeggutor and Gengar, that appreciate Spikes' ability to wear away at Snorlax and Raikou.

    Phazers
    Pokemon with phazing moves literally force switches, and with prediction they can shut down the opponent's offense, force Pokemon to accumulate Spikes damage and be forced to Rest without accomplishing much in return, and in certain cases, can force a Pokemon such as a low-health Snorlax to switch in on Spikes and sentence itself to death before it can find an opportune time to Rest. Raikou is far and away the best phazer to pair with Spikes. Its STAB Thunder prevents Spikes-immune foes such as Zapdos and Skarmory from staying in, and additionally doesn't allow Rapid Spin users to blow away Spikes. Furthermore, while most teams have at least two good switch-ins to Raikou, the other four Pokemon on many of these teams will likely be Pokemon such as Suicune and Skarmory and consequently will match up quite poorly against it. Thus, Raikou can force a long-lasting cycle of one of its counters switching in, taking Spikes damage, then being Roared out to bring in another favorable match-up for Raikou. Steelix is another decent phazer to pair with Spikes, as it can repeatedly Roar out counters such as Suicune and Miltank that are pressured to switch in and take Spikes damage by Steelix's ability to set up Curses against common opponents such as Snorlax (especially mono-Normal variants) and Raikou. However, Steelix does not do a good job of preventing Rapid Spin and needs Rock Slide to stop Spikes-immune Flying-types from staying in, so it needs a little more support to be effective. Tyranitar is also a pretty good Spikes shuffler, but unfortunately four-moveslot syndrome prevents it from getting all the favorable match-ups it would like, and in general would rather be using Pursuit against the Flying-types it forces out instead of trying to Roar shuffle the opponent's team. Other phazers such as Suicune and Skarmory aren't exactly the best phazers to shuffle the opponent's team to rack up Spikes damage, most notably because they let Zapdos and spinners have their way with them. Regardless, they both have limited offensive prowess, and it's not as though their ability to Roar shuffle is totally ineffective, so if Skarmory or Suicune must be active, you might as well try to Roar shuffle. Perish trappers such as Misdreavus and Gengar can also effectively phaze opponents, forcing foes to go immediately to their own phazers. If enough Spikes damage can be racked up on these phazers as they switch in, they can be forced to Rest, which gives these Perish trappers an opportunity to capitalize on the situation.

    Stall Endgames
    Spikes should be utilized if you are using a fairly slow team and expect stall endgames to arise frequently. Spikes tend to put powerful offensive Pokemon without Rest, such as Marowak and Nidoking, on a timer, thereby allowing a team with a lot of passive members to legitimately outlast an offensive one instead of simply waiting to lose. It also does a good job of making life much more difficult for DrumLax attempting to set up against or get a Rest in against your stall. Furthermore, once you get to the stall endgame where neither player can outright break the other, Spikes helps to prevent the opponent from simply endlessly switching, thereby allowing you to eventually win the PP war. However, if you want to be sure to win stall endgames, you ought to use a Rapid Spin user, as Spikes alone does not confer an advantage. You need to also lack Spikes on your own side so that you can conserve your own PP by switching without consequence. Preferably, this spinner is not Cloyster, as Cloyster is on a much shorter timer than the Toxic-immune Forretress and the Recover-using Starmie are. Using a spinblocker is also all but mandatory, because you really need to be able to ensure Spikes are down if your passive team is going to be able to force a stall endgame instead of slowly withering away. Generally, the Pokemon that work well to force a stall endgame are those generally seen on a team that pairs Toxic with Spikes; Pokemon such as Suicune, Umbreon, and Skarmory are impeccable stallers. Of course, you will need to use Pokemon such as Snorlax and Raikou and double-switch to them frequently to place enough offensive pressure on an opponent that adopts a similarly defensive playstyle, lest many of your matches simply end in a tie.


    How NOT to use Spikes
    Of course, now that you know about the best ways to use Spikes and the reasoning behind them, you might be scheming your own teams and, possibly, even your own devious Spikes strategies. Before you get too far, though, remember to avoid the following common pitfalls when using Spikes.

    There is only one layer
    I cannot stress this enough. It's generally a mistake made by newer-gen players farting around in GSC, so advanced players looking for nuance from this guide don't need to worry about this too much. However, I'd rather not see even the beginners waste precious turns by trying to set up extra layers that don't exist in GSC. So, to reiterate: there is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. There is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. There is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. Don't waste your time trying to set up more. Furthermore, because there's only one layer, learn to work with just that one layer. Spikes' advantage, as I've said before, is a lot more nuanced in GSC than in future generations where multiple layers of Spikes are shaving off a quarter of foes' HP and many more foes cannot recover HP.

    Do not be too passive
    This has also been touched on before, but do not be too passive with your teams just because "you have Spikes" for offense. Even if you're using a slower team with passive Pokemon such as Suicune and Skarmory, you should have some hefty offensive threats such as DrumLax to double-switch to frequently to keep the pressure on, and ideally some other offensive pathways such as capitalizing on Spikes with a phazer, having a Perish trapper to take advantage of an opponent's downtime, or having a mixed sweeper to go to for outright damage when Snorlax is asleep. Otherwise, Spikes alone probably will not be enough to pressure offensive teams into switching around and fading away, and you'll end up in deadlock against similarly defensive teams. Spikes is only one aspect of the game, and the Spikes advantage is not a win condition in itself unless you're looking at a stall endgame with 2-3 Pokemon per side.

    If Spikes is a focus, do NOT just splash it on your team
    I should preface this by saying: if you have an offensive team with a lot of attacking moves and Explosion users, you can afford to just splash a Spiker on your team, as the option to set up Spikes is always better than not having it at all. Generally, the splashable Spiker is Cloyster because it provides immediate offensive pressure with Explosion and some defensive synergy against Ground-types, so the team gives up little while gaining Spikes. Furthermore, with a hyper-offensive team that makes use of a strategy such as JoltWak to end the game quickly, you don't need to worry about Spikes at all. However, if you want to utilize Spikes + Roar, are using a slower team that doesn't have all that many attacking moves, or in general want to make Spikes a focal point of a reliable offensive attack, you can't just splash a Cloyster on your team and expect things to go hunky-dory. You'll need to run support to make sure you can keep Spikes. Maybe this is direct support in the form of spinblock. Maybe it's more situational support such as Pursuit or Toxic paired with a RestTalk using Electric-type. Regardless, you need to think about not only using a Spiker, but also how you'll keep Spikes up if Spikes plays a central role in the success of your team.

    Do not focus too much on Spikes
    This can catch you by surprise if you start focusing too much on the Spikes metagame, particularly if you are using a spinner. Your instinct is usually to either save your Spiker until you can keep Spikes against a spinner or to repeatedly switch your spinner into the opposing Spiker. Don't get caught in the trap of saving Cloyster when Exploding it would open up a Belly Drum Charizard or Machamp sweep, or switching your Starmie into Cloyster repeatedly for DrumLax or Electric-types to take advantage of it. Remember that Spikes, while very useful, is only one part of the game, and that you sometimes need to forget about Spikes and see the situation as a whole to come out with the win.


    Inherent Limitations of Spikes
    Of course, I've been singing the praises of Spikes and the strategies that capitalize on their presence. I've tried to be realistic about their nuanced effectiveness, although I recognize that I have stated that GSC is the best generation for Spikes, if for no other reason than because other forms of passive damage are hard to come by. However, Spikes has definite limitations that you must account for when using them.

    ZAPDOS (and Skarmory, to an extent)
    Zapdos is probably the biggest pain in the ass for a team looking to abuse Spikes, hence why its name in the header for this paragraph is in ALL CAPS. Specifically, Zapdos is immune to Spikes, is a huge offensive threat, and can tank hits from most unboosted attacks, even super effective ones. Zapdos is a big reason why Raikou and Steelix are good phazers to pair with Spikes; they're not forced out by the standard Hidden Power Ice Zapdos, and generally are able to hit it pretty hard in return. Still, they're not full stops to Zapdos. Zapdos can afford to take a couple hits from these Pokemon, and can paralyze Raikou with its Thunder while chipping away at Steelix with Hidden Power Ice. Furthermore, Zapdos cuts the effectiveness of Spikes + Roar in half, as normally Spikes + Roar forces two Pokemon to take Spikes damage, whereas Zapdos's immunity ensures that, if it switches in, only one Pokemon has to. Zapdos is also a good reason why Tyranitar is such a good mixed attacker for utilizing Spikes. While Tyranitar has much more severe four-moveslot syndrome than Nidoking or Dragonite, it has access to a STAB Rock Slide, which achieves the rare feat of 2HKOing Zapdos. Furthermore, it has Pursuit to chip away at Zapdos even as it switches out. However, Tyranitar cannot afford to switch in on Zapdos's Thunder, which 3HKOs it. Really, Zapdos can be a pretty problematic foe to go up against for any kind of team, but it's especially frustrating for a Spikes-based offense. Just be sure you have plenty of plans for dealing with it. Raikou, Tyranitar, Light Screen Blissey, Snorlax, Quagsire, and Pokemon that can Explode on it such as Exeggutor and Gengar are all good things for dealing with Zapdos, and having many answers to Zapdos is vital because Zapdos can generally match up very well against even its “counters."

    In addition, Skarmory can make use of its own Flying typing to avoid Spikes damage and be difficult to break when walling Snorlax. However, Skarmory doesn't impose offensive pressure the way Zapdos does, so it's easier to switch into. Just be careful to use Pokemon that both make the most of Spikes and can deal with Skarmory and you should be fine. This should be easy, since most of the more prominent Pokemon that pair best with Spikes can force Skarmory out pretty easily, but if you're not careful you could end up being dependent on a core of, say, Giga Drain Exeggutor and Earthquake CurseLax to capitalize off of Spikes, which would make life against Skarmory needlessly difficult.

    Limited Synergy
    The big problem with the Spikers and spinners is that they sacrifice some of the other team synergy you might otherwise have in that slot. Cloyster's defensive utility is limited to checking Marowak, Rhydon, and Steelix, and its offensive utility is limited to Explosion. Forretress offers nothing except a secondary check to Exeggutor. Starmie offers the most synergy, but takes a lot of damage in return from most of the Ground-types it checks, its other defensive roles such as countering Machamp and Charizard are frequently unneeded, and it's generally an easy switch in for offensive threats such as Snorlax and Raikou. Teams that use Spikes are often forced to also run a spinblocker to ensure that Spikes stay down, which leaves only four Pokemon slots to establish offensive and defensive synergy outside of Spikes. On many teams, a balance must be struck between having enough support for Spikes and having enough room for Pokemon to capitalize on them and other vital teammates.


    Conclusion
    Spikes are likely at their most important in GSC because of the lack of other truly good options for passive damage. However, they're not necessarily as effective as they are in later generations, because in GSC, everything can recover HP and you only get one layer. Spikes are very helpful for getting opportunistic KOs with Pokemon that attack well without needing setup, and are also necessary for slower teams that do not use many attacking moves. However, it is important to realize that Spikes are limited on their own, and that plenty of support, both in keeping Spikes on the field and utilizing Spikes, is necessary to get the most out of them. It's also important to remember that Spikes are not the end-all-be-all of GSC; while important, they are only one aspect of the game. Despite the Spikes-centric topic of this article, be careful to look at situations holistically and to put Spikes on the back burner if you are becoming predictable with your spinner switch-ins or if you see a way to pressure the opponent offensively without Spikes.


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    Introduction
    GSC is often perceived as the stalliest metagame, and while the characterization of it as "all stall" is definitely misguided, it is true that Pokemon generally take more hits than usual. There's Leftovers everywhere, everything can have max defensive stats and still have enough Speed and Attack to scare things off, everything runs Rest and can generally live through it, and Sleep Talk users can use Rest when sleeping. Clearly, passive damage is more important here than in any other generation to get enough damage to score KOs, but there's no Sand Stream, Leech Seed is nerfed relative to future generations and is pretty uncommon, and Toxic resets upon switching out, not to mention that everything runs Rest to undo Toxic anyway. However, GSC does have one common source of passive damage: Spikes. Unfortunately, you only get one layer in GSC, but that's not to say that Spikes is merely a nuisance in GSC. Just because they aren't wearing things down and sometimes outright killing things as quickly as they do in future generations doesn't mean they aren't having an impact. Au contraire, the aforementioned necessity of passive damage and the lack of other good sources of it make GSC arguably the most effective generation for Spikes, even if the effect of the move itself is at its most subtle.


    The Main Spikers and Spinners
    Most sources of passive damage in GSC suffer from one crippling flaw: namely, that they aren't forever. Spikes, on the other hand, stay on the opponent's side of the field until Rapid Spin is used, meaning that the opponent can't just Rest them off like Toxic. However, both Spikes and the similarly-important Rapid Spin receive very poor distribution, and ultimately running a Spiker or spinner results in a loss of offensive or defensive team synergy. There are really only three Pokemon that commonly use Spikes or Rapid Spin, so the Spikes metagame revolves around those three, although there are a few unconventional options that can work as well. Without further ado, the main Spikers and spinners in GSC are as follows.

    Cloyster
    Cloyster is probably the best Spiker in terms of giving up the least offensive synergy. With Explosion and STAB Surf to ensure that those Pokemon that resist Explosion are kept at bay, Cloyster is a major wallbreaking threat. In addition, its high Defense and STABs let it serve at least as a temporary check to Marowak, Steelix, and Rhydon, so it is not without its contributions to defensive synergy.

    In terms of the actual Spikes game, however, Cloyster is a bit flawed. First, while both Spikes and Rapid Spin are in its movepool, it cannot use Rapid Spin in conjunction with Explosion. Thus, Cloyster must make a choice between offering offensive synergy and being able to keep Spikes off one's own side of the field, which in turn has major implications for how fast- or slow-paced one's team can be. Second, Cloyster has glaring special weaknesses and a vulnerability to Toxic, and is also dead weight while asleep to make Rest a non-option for it unless it is paired with Heal Bell support. Thus, it can struggle to find opportunities to switch in, and it can easily lose the Spikes war by failing to outlast the opponent's Spiker or spinner. Finally, and perhaps most glaringly, it has almost no way through its own efforts to keep Spikes against Starmie, the game's premier spinner (read more about Starmie below). This means that if you're depending on keeping Cloyster's Spikes down, you need to run specific support to do so on a consistent basis—for example, you should use Misdreavus to spinblock instead of Gengar unless you're absolutely sure you can play around Gengar's Psychic weakness.

    Forretress
    Forretress is a lot more specialized than Cloyster is. Forretress doesn't offer anywhere near the offensive or defensive synergy that Cloyster does, as it doesn't have good STABs for forcing plays. In addition, Forretress loses to Cloyster one-on-one in the short run since it is 3HKOed by its STAB Surf. However, Forretress does not have Cloyster's most glaring weaknesses in the Spikes game. For starters, it can run both Explosion and Rapid Spin on the same set, so it doesn't have to choose between having the ability to kill setup sweepers in case of emergency and being able to spin away Spikes. Second, it's got a nice Toxic immunity to give it the longevity it needs to outlast the opponent's Spiker or spinner in the long run (even a Cloyster if you manage to land a Toxic on it). Finally, with Hidden Power Bug it can 2HKO Starmie, meaning that it doesn't need specific support to keep Spikes against it.

    However, Forretress is not without its own problems in the Spikes game. While it, unlike Cloyster, can afford to stay in against most Exeggutor, most Gengar, and most mixed sweepers, it is afraid of possible OHKOs by Fire moves, thereby forcing it to scout the opponent's sets for possible Fire moves before it attempts to set up on them. Furthermore, it doesn't take Water moves as well as Cloyster and cannot switch in to counter the likes of Marowak and Rhydon. Therefore, Forretress doesn't switch in to set up Spikes any more easily than Cloyster does, and in many cases it has more trouble switching in thanks to its inability to pose an offensive threat. However, when it comes to lasting long enough to both keep Spikes up and spin them away against slower teams, you can't do any better than Forretress.

    Starmie
    So, the big thing Starmie lacks when compared to the other two is Spikes. However, it is the premier Rapid Spin user in the tier because of its access to Recover, which allows it to stick around longer than the most-used Spiker, Cloyster. In addition, it gets STAB Surf to check Ground-types, STAB Psychic to stop Machamp, massive Speed to cover threats such as Charizard and Nidoking while being able to smack Gengar and finish off low-health Zapdos who attempt to prevent it from spinning, and a movepool that includes Thunder Wave and Reflect for further team support outside of a limited spinning role.

    However, as already mentioned, Starmie lacks Spikes, and despite its status in later generations it's not a very good attacker in GSC, so its offensive usefulness is limited strictly to a supporting role. Thus, Starmie is best suited for slower-paced teams. Even on these teams, though, Starmie is far less effective than other bulky Water-types such as Suicune when it comes to checking mixed sweepers and Ground-type attackers, so some synergy is still lost with Starmie even though it's a better team player than the Spikers are. Furthermore, in terms of the Spikes game it struggles to spin against Forretress and get past Misdreavus's spinblock, although with its STAB Surf threatening decent damage against Misdreavus it isn't impossible. It's also vulnerable to Pursuit because of its Psychic typing. All-in-all, Starmie is still the best Rapid Spin support money can buy, but Rapid Spin is never a sure thing.

    Some more unconventional options
    Aside from the three metagame-defining options above, there are a few other somewhat effective Pokemon that can also use Spikes or Rapid Spin. Smeargle can set Spikes somewhat effectively, especially since it gets Spore to prevent spinners from switching in willy-nilly to spin them straight away. However, Smeargle often has more menacing things it would like to do, such as using Baton Pass to give an Agility boost to a sweeper, and its bulk is basically nonexistent, which means it's hardly good for a drawn-out Spikes war against a slower team.

    As for unconventional spinners, there are Donphan and Tentacruel. Donphan is a Pokemon that was rather popular very early on in GSC, but has since fallen to mediocrity for various reasons, including disappointing special bulk and a lack of physical resistances outside of Rock. However, it spins against Raikou, Ghosts are afraid to switch in against it to block its spin, and it offers Roar support to make it perhaps the most defensively synergistic spinner in the game. Still, it is very mediocre as a spinner primarily because it invites Cloyster, the most common Spiker, to switch straight back in to reset Spikes and force Donphan right back out.

    Finally, Tentacruel makes for a solid spinner. It beats both Cloyster and Forretress one-on-one, both short-term and long-term. It is immune to Cloyster's Toxic and does not take super effective damage from Forretress, making it more reliable than even Starmie at times. However, Tentacruel has next to zero team synergy, whereas Starmie at least offers niche defensive coverage and has support moves such as Reflect and Thunder Wave. In addition, Tentacruel struggles much more than Starmie does when trying to get past Ghost-types. Finally, Tentacruel misses out on Swords Dance when using Rapid Spin, and Tentacruel's Swords Dance set is widely considered its best set.


    Keeping Spikes
    So now that you've bothered to read my blurbs on the main players in the GSC Spikes game, let's take a look at the Pokemon and strategies that lead to keeping Spikes on the field. It's usually necessary to pair a Spiker with at least one of these "assistants" if you want to be able to consistently have at least a chance at keeping them down. These assistants, how to use them, and what they pair best with are described below.

    Ghost-types
    Obviously, the classic way to ensure Spikes stay down is to run a spinblocker. There are only two spinblockers available in GSC: Misdreavus and Gengar. Misdreavus has the benefit of lacking a Psychic weakness and having a little more Special Defense than Gengar, making it the more certain bet when it comes to blocking Rapid Spin, particularly from Starmie. For this reason, Misdreavus is the spinblocker that pairs best with Cloyster, as unlike Gengar, it can reliably block Starmie's spin. In addition, Misdreavus has the threat of Perish trap to force switches. However, Gengar is not without its selling points. It's immune to Toxic, so it doesn't require Heal Bell support to keep alive for a long period of time, and furthermore its attacking stats and movepool are better than Misdreavus's. Gengar is therefore a solid spinblocker to pair with Forretress, as Forretress can keep Spikes against Starmie while Gengar blocks spin against Cloyster and opposing Forretress.

    Pursuit
    It's important to note that Pursuit is a special attack in GSC. Pursuit users help to keep Spikes down against Starmie and Rapid Spin Cloyster. In addition, they can help your own spinners by taking out spinblockers and quickly taking out Cloyster, the most common Spiker. Tyranitar is by far the most common Pursuit user, and it is the best at sniping Ghost-types. However, its Water weakness leaves it vulnerable to a likely 2HKO from Starmie and a possible 2HKO from Cloyster, so it must tread carefully if it is going to attempt to Pursuit these threats. Generally, pairing Tyranitar with Light Screen support or Icy Wind from your own Cloyster gives it the advantage it needs to perform in these match-ups.

    Alternatively, Umbreon is a much more reliable Pursuit user, but unfortunately it doesn't have the power needed to actually KO things with its Pursuit. It fails to snipe Misdreavus because it cannot do enough damage to outpace Perish trap, and Starmie, while seemingly easily beaten by Pursuit Umbreon, can actually stall it out of Pursuit PP by spamming Recover. However, Gengar and Cloyster are slowly but surely eroded by Pursuit Umbreon, and Starmie still faces an uphill battle in dealing with it.

    Status
    Using status to mess with the Spikers and spinners makes it much easier to win the Spikes war. Toxic is usually the easiest status to use against Cloyster and Starmie, and is especially useful for limiting the lifespan of the former to prevent it from setting or spinning Spikes in the long run. Wearing down Starmie with Toxic is trickier, given its access to Recover, but it is possible since Starmie does not have Natural Cure in GSC. The idea is to repeatedly bait Starmie into switching into Cloyster and subsequently use Rapid Spin as you switch to a Pokemon such as DrumLax or Raikou to immediately force it to switch out before it can use Recover. Eventually, it will need to Recover instead of spinning, although getting to this point can be a chore. Usually, the best Pokemon to deliver Toxic against Starmie and Cloyster is your own Cloyster, although if Cloyster is your main target, other Pokemon such as Suicune, Skarmory, and Forretress are also good at baiting it into taking Toxic.

    Of course, if Forretress is the spinner you need to beat, Toxic isn't going to do you any good. Fortunately, catching it with paralysis or even sleep is a good way to prevent it from using Rapid Spin or Spikes. Snorlax with Body Slam or Lovely Kiss is especially good at drawing in Forretress to inflict status on it, as is Exeggutor with Stun Spore or Sleep Powder. Miltank is also good at baiting Forretress and paralyzing it with Body Slam. Snorlax and Miltank are also good at drawing in Cloyster to take these statuses. Starmie is most reliably afflicted with status by Toxic, as it is usually cautious about switching into paralysis or sleep, although Body Slam Steelix or Machamp do a good job of paralyzing it, whereas Exeggutor and Nidoking can occasionally have opportunities to put Starmie to sleep. In general, though, it's a bad idea to rely on being able to inflict status on Starmie outside of poison, since Starmie tends to avoid status like the plague.

    Using status to try to keep Spikes generally requires a lot of patience and extra support, and your hard work can always be undone by a Heal Bell user. If you encounter a user of Heal Bell, be sure to have a plan against it, whether you intend to capitalize offensively in response to its switch-in (e.g., switch a strong special attacker in on Miltank, a physical attacker in against Blissey), waste its 8 Heal Bell PP, or simply prevent it from switching in to begin with.

    Baits
    Aside from baiting Spikers and spinners into taking status, certain Pokemon are good at baiting them into taking big hits. Steelix often forces opponents to switch Water-types in against it, so it has a chance of baiting Starmie or Cloyster into taking that Explosion. Steelix should be able to survive Surf from both if at full health, so that Explosion need not necessarily be used on the switch. In addition, Icy Wind Cloyster can set Spikes as Starmie switches in and gain the Speed advantage by using Icy Wind as Starmie uses Rapid Spin. This can allow a slower Pursuit user such as Tyranitar an opportunity to switch in and have an advantage in a match-up where it otherwise loses because of its Speed. If Starmie is poisoned before being slowed by Icy Wind, Cloyster might eventually keep Spikes on Starmie by itself since Starmie must eventually use Recover instead of indefinitely spamming Rapid Spin, and when that happens Cloyster can outspeed and explode on Starmie before it can spin. Icy Wind Cloyster can also give itself the Speed advantage against other Cloyster switch-ins, which can be especially helpful when you need to explode on an opposing Cloyster to prevent it from spinning away your own Cloyster's Spikes.

    Other Pokemon allow you to win Spikes wars by baiting these Spikers and spinners into taking hits without using Icy Wind or Explosion trickery. For getting past Starmie, Pokemon such as Marowak, Rhydon, Machamp, and sometimes Nidoking can goad Starmie into switching into powerful neutral or super effective hits. Cloyster can be goaded into taking big hits from Marowak and Rhydon, or can even be caught off-guard by an opposing Cloyster with Hidden Power Electric, which 2HKOes opposing Cloyster but does not do enough damage to be useful against Starmie. Beating Forretress can be done by concealing the presence of a Fire move, such as Fire Blast on Snorlax or Hidden Power Fire on Exeggutor, then letting loose when you think your opponent has let their guard down with Forretress. Not only is this strategy good for keeping Spikes against spinners, it is also good for beating the opponent's Spiker to make your own spinner's life easier. However, this kind of tactic often relies on surprise, and as a result it can fail to work if your opponent sees it coming.


    Taking Advantage of Spikes
    Setting up Spikes and keeping them can be hard work. Now that you've managed to do it, though, you can now reap the rewards of what you have sown. Spikes on its own is rarely enough to flat-out KO anything, unlike the multiple layers available in later metagames where Sand Stream is available to help out and Rest is also far less prevalent. Thus, you cannot just splash Spikes haphazardly on a team and call that "offense." You must pair it with something else to make the most of these Spikes, and the following options are the best jelly available for Spikes' peanut butter.

    Status
    Two status effects in particular, paralysis and poison, receive enough distribution to effectively capitalize on Spikes. Paralysis is often inflicted as a secondary effect of standard moves, such as Snorlax's Body Slam and Zapdos's Thunder. However, you can also use Stun Spore Exeggutor or a Thunder Wave user such as Starmie or even Porygon2 to effectively spread paralysis. Paralysis is great alongside Spikes because it not only forces opposing Pokemon to take Spikes damage on the switch-in, but their lowered Speed ensures that they take two turns' worth of damage upon switching in, even from the likes of Snorlax. This can seal the deal against faster Spikes-vulnerable foes such as Raikou, which, as the fastest viable RestTalk user in GSC OU, can otherwise be difficult to KO before it Rests. Paralysis also helps setup sweepers outspeed foes and get free turns of setup, so paralysis provides versatile, well-rounded offensive support outside of merely enabling opportunistic KOs.

    Poison is almost exclusively inflicted with the move Toxic. Poison's main role alongside Spikes is to stack damage on the switch-in. Poison works a bit differently in GSC relative to other generations. Toxic poison reverts to normal poison after the affected Pokemon switches out. In addition, poison damage is assessed immediately after a Pokemon is willingly switched in or immediately after that Pokemon makes a move unless the poisoned Pokemon KOes the opposing Pokemon. Thus, a poisoned Pokemon switching in on Spikes, even one poisoned by Toxic, will take 25% damage from that alone (12.5% from the poison and 12.5% from the Spikes), making it much easier to force this Pokemon to Rest or even to KO it if the Pokemon is slow.

    It is important to note that, because of the timing of poison damage, if a phazing move is used, the Pokemon that was willingly switched in takes poison damage on top of Spikes damage immediately before being phazed out, although a poisoned Pokemon that is forcibly switched in by Roar or Whirlwind will not have the poison damage assessed until the following turn. This combination is particularly great for wearing down Snorlax, which is often the Pokemon that poses the biggest threat and which usually houses slower opposing teams' win condition. However, Toxic is a lot less versatile than paralysis, as fast RestTalk users, such as Raikou and Zapdos, do not care about poison at all and setup sweepers are not helped very much by poison support. Still, Toxic gets much better distribution than paralysis moves do, so poison support can be preferable for teams with a lot of walls, such as Suicune and Umbreon, which otherwise have no other means by which to impose offensive pressure.

    One thing to remember when using status is to ensure that it gets spread widely. This means using a host of paralysis or poison inducers that can force a wide variety of Pokemon into taking the status move of your choice. A detailed description of this is topic enough for another article entirely, but essentially, you want to use Pokemon that bait your status targets into switching in (e.g., Body Slam Steelix baits Suicune into taking paralysis, Toxic Cloyster baits Starmie into taking Toxic). In addition, Pokemon that avoid targeting Pokemon who normally don't care about your status of choice—for example, sleeping RestTalk users and CurseLax for paralysis-based teams; Steel- and Poison-types and RestTalk-using Electrics for poison-based teams—make for the best status supporters. If nothing else, make sure that paralysis-based teams can target Raikou and that Toxic-based teams can target Snorlax, for these are the most relevant threats to target with status as mentioned above.

    Opportunistic Attackers
    It should be obvious that attacks do damage, and hence are good for any offense to have. However, what do I mean by having "opportunistic" attackers that can take advantage of Spikes? Well, really, what I mean by this is that attackers that can do a lot of damage without having to set up benefit the most from Spikes. Pokemon such as Vaporeon, Charizard, and Quagsire that rely on setting up to destroy their foes can still be paired with Spikes; there is nothing wrong with that, as Spikes can be useful in wearing down their most prominent counters. However, to utilize Spikes to their fullest, it is best to use offensive Pokemon that do not require setup. Mixed sweepers such as Nidoking, Tyranitar, and Dragonite greatly appreciate the fact that Spikes can enable them to take out their most prominent counters, Suicune and Raikou. Zapdos and Raikou with Thunder do appreciable damage to Snorlax, but nonetheless fail to 3HKO it, meaning that they get Rest-looped under normal circumstances. Spikes forces Snorlax to take that extra bit of damage on the switch in to make the KO by STAB Thunder much more likely. Snorlax itself is a big offensive threat with or without setup and loves Spikes support to help it wear down foes such as Misdreavus, Tyranitar, Steelix, and Miltank. Marowak, Machamp, and Rhydon are also deeply appreciative of Spikes support, as it makes life much easier for them when they have to get past Suicune and Exeggutor. There are other attackers, such as Exeggutor and Gengar, that appreciate Spikes's ability to wear away at Snorlax and Raikou.

    Phazers
    Pokemon with phazing moves literally force switches, and with prediction they can shut down the opponent's offense, force Pokemon to accumulate Spikes damage and be forced to Rest without accomplishing much in return, and in certain cases, can force a Pokemon such as a low-health Snorlax to switch in on Spikes and sentence itself to death before it can find an opportune time to Rest. Raikou is far and away the best phazer to pair with Spikes. Its STAB Thunder prevents Spikes-immune foes such as Zapdos and Skarmory from staying in, and additionally doesn't allow Rapid Spin users to blow away Spikes. Furthermore, while most teams have at least two good switch-ins to Raikou, the other four Pokemon on many of these teams will likely be Pokemon such as Suicune and Skarmory and consequently will match up quite poorly against it. Thus, Raikou can force a long-lasting cycle of one of its counters switching in, taking Spikes damage, then being Roared out to bring in another favorable match-up for Raikou.

    Steelix is another decent phazer to pair with Spikes, as it can repeatedly Roar out counters such as Suicune and Miltank that are pressured to switch in and take Spikes damage by Steelix's ability to set up Curses against common opponents such as Snorlax (especially mono-Normal variants) and Raikou. However, Steelix does not do a good job of preventing Rapid Spin and needs Rock Slide to stop Spikes-immune Flying-types from staying in, so it needs a little more support to be effective. Tyranitar is also a pretty good Spikes shuffler, but unfortunately four-moveslot syndrome prevents it from getting all the favorable match-ups it would like, and in general would rather be using Pursuit against the Flying-types it forces out instead of trying to Roar shuffle the opponent's team.

    Other phazers such as Suicune and Skarmory aren't exactly the best phazers to shuffle the opponent's team to rack up Spikes damage, most notably because they let Zapdos and spinners have their way with them. Regardless, they both have limited offensive prowess, and it's not as though their ability to Roar shuffle is totally ineffective, so if Skarmory or Suicune must be active, you might as well try to Roar shuffle. Perish trappers such as Misdreavus and Gengar can also effectively phaze opponents, forcing foes to go immediately to their own phazers. If enough Spikes damage can be racked up on these phazers as they switch in, they can be forced to Rest, which gives these Perish trappers an opportunity to capitalize on the situation.

    Stall Endgames
    Spikes should be utilized if you are using a fairly slow team and expect stall endgames to arise frequently. Spikes tend to put powerful offensive Pokemon without Rest, such as Marowak and Nidoking, on a timer, thereby allowing a team with a lot of passive members to legitimately outlast an offensive one instead of simply waiting to lose. It also does a good job of making life much more difficult for DrumLax attempting to set up against or get a Rest in against your stall. Furthermore, once you get to the stall endgame where neither player can outright break the other, Spikes helps to prevent the opponent from simply endlessly switching, thereby allowing you to eventually win the PP war. However, if you want to be sure to win stall endgames, you ought to use a Rapid Spin user, as Spikes alone does not confer an advantage. You need to also lack Spikes on your own side so that you can conserve your own PP by switching without consequence. Preferably, this spinner is not Cloyster, as Cloyster is on a much shorter timer than the Toxic-immune Forretress and the Recover-using Starmie are. Using a spinblocker is also all but mandatory, because you really need to be able to ensure Spikes are down if your passive team is going to be able to force a stall endgame instead of slowly withering away. Generally, the Pokemon that work well to force a stall endgame are those often seen on a team that pairs Toxic with Spikes; Pokemon such as Suicune, Umbreon, and Skarmory are impeccable stallers. Of course, you will need to use Pokemon such as Snorlax and Raikou and double-switch to them frequently to place enough offensive pressure on an opponent that adopts a similarly defensive playstyle, lest many of your matches simply end in a tie.


    How NOT to use Spikes
    Of course, now that you know about the best ways to use Spikes and the reasoning behind them, you might be scheming your own teams and, possibly, even your own devious Spikes strategies. Before you get too far, though, remember to avoid the following common pitfalls when using Spikes.

    There is only one layer
    I cannot stress this enough. It's generally a mistake made by newer-gen players farting around in GSC, so advanced players looking for nuance from this guide don't need to worry about this too much. However, I'd rather not see even the beginners waste precious turns by trying to set up extra layers that don't exist in GSC. So, to reiterate: there is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. There is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. There is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. Don't waste your time trying to set up more. Furthermore, because there's only one layer, learn to work with just that one layer. Spikes's advantage, as I've said before, is a lot more nuanced in GSC than in future generations where multiple layers of Spikes are shaving off a quarter of foes' HP and many more foes cannot recover HP.

    Do not be too passive
    This has also been touched on before, but do not be too passive with your teams just because "you have Spikes" for offense. Even if you're using a slower team with passive Pokemon such as Suicune and Skarmory, you should have some hefty offensive threats such as DrumLax to double-switch to frequently to keep the pressure on, and ideally some other offensive pathways such as capitalizing on Spikes with a phazer, having a Perish trapper to take advantage of an opponent's downtime, or having a mixed sweeper to go to for outright damage when Snorlax is asleep. Otherwise, Spikes alone probably will not be enough to pressure offensive teams into switching around and fading away, and you'll end up in deadlock against similarly defensive teams. Spikes is only one aspect of the game, and the Spikes advantage is not a win condition in itself unless you're looking at a stall endgame with 2-3 Pokemon per side.

    If Spikes is a focus, do NOT just splash it on your team
    I should preface this by saying: if you have an offensive team with a lot of attacking moves and Explosion users, you can afford to just splash a Spiker on your team, as the option to set up Spikes is always better than not having it at all. Generally, the splashable Spiker is Cloyster because it provides immediate offensive pressure with Explosion and some defensive synergy against Ground-types, so the team gives up little while gaining Spikes. Furthermore, with a hyper-offensive team that makes use of a strategy such as JoltWak to end the game quickly, you don't need to worry about Spikes at all. However, if you want to utilize Spikes + Roar, are using a slower team that doesn't have all that many attacking moves, or in general want to make Spikes a focal point of a reliable offensive attack, you can't just splash a Cloyster on your team and expect things to go hunky-dory. You'll need to run support to make sure you can keep Spikes. Maybe this is direct support in the form of spinblock. Maybe it's more situational support such as Pursuit or Toxic paired with a RestTalk-using Electric-type. Regardless, you need to think about not only using a Spiker, but also how you'll keep Spikes up if Spikes plays a central role in the success of your team.

    Do not focus too much on Spikes
    This can catch you by surprise if you start focusing too much on the Spikes metagame, particularly if you are using a spinner. Your instinct is usually to either save your Spiker until you can keep Spikes against a spinner or to repeatedly switch your spinner into the opposing Spiker. Don't get caught in the trap of saving Cloyster when exploding it would open up a Belly Drum Charizard or Machamp sweep, or switching your Starmie into Cloyster repeatedly for DrumLax or Electric-types to take advantage of it. Remember that Spikes, while very useful, is only one part of the game, and that you sometimes need to forget about Spikes and see the situation as a whole to come out with the win.


    Inherent Limitations of Spikes
    Of course, I've been singing the praises of Spikes and the strategies that capitalize on their presence. I've tried to be realistic about their nuanced effectiveness, although I recognize that I have stated that GSC is the best generation for Spikes, if for no other reason than because other forms of passive damage are hard to come by. However, Spikes has definite limitations that you must account for when using them.

    ZAPDOS (and Skarmory, to an extent)
    Zapdos is probably the biggest pain in the ass for a team looking to abuse Spikes, hence why its name in the header for this paragraph is in ALL CAPS. Specifically, Zapdos is immune to Spikes, is a huge offensive threat, and can tank hits from most unboosted attacks, even super effective ones. Zapdos is a big reason why Raikou and Steelix are good phazers to pair with Spikes; they're not forced out by the standard Hidden Power Ice Zapdos, and generally are able to hit it pretty hard in return. Still, they're not full stops to Zapdos. Zapdos can afford to take a couple hits from these Pokemon, and can paralyze Raikou with its Thunder while chipping away at Steelix with Hidden Power Ice. Furthermore, Zapdos cuts the effectiveness of Spikes + Roar in half, as normally Spikes + Roar forces two Pokemon to take Spikes damage, whereas Zapdos's immunity ensures that, if it switches in, only one Pokemon has to. Zapdos is also a good reason why Tyranitar is such a good mixed attacker for utilizing Spikes. While Tyranitar has much more severe four-moveslot syndrome than Nidoking or Dragonite, it has access to a STAB Rock Slide, which achieves the rare feat of 2HKOing Zapdos. Furthermore, it has Pursuit to chip away at Zapdos even as it switches out. However, Tyranitar cannot afford to switch in on Zapdos's Thunder, which 3HKOes it.

    Really, Zapdos can be a pretty problematic foe to go up against for any kind of team, but it's especially frustrating for a Spikes-based offense. Just be sure you have plenty of plans for dealing with it. Raikou, Tyranitar, Light Screen Blissey, Snorlax, Quagsire, and Pokemon that can explode on it—such as Exeggutor and Gengar—are all good things for dealing with Zapdos, and having many answers to Zapdos is vital because Zapdos can generally match up very well against even its "counters".

    On the other hand, Skarmory can make use of its own Flying typing to avoid Spikes damage and be difficult to break when walling Snorlax. However, Skarmory doesn't impose offensive pressure the way Zapdos does, so it's easier to switch into. Just be careful to use Pokemon that both make the most of Spikes and can deal with Skarmory and you should be fine. This should be easy, since most of the more prominent Pokemon that pair best with Spikes can force Skarmory out pretty easily, but if you're not careful you could end up being dependent on a core of, say, Giga Drain Exeggutor and Earthquake CurseLax to capitalize off of Spikes, which would make life against Skarmory needlessly difficult.

    Limited Synergy
    The big problem with the Spikers and spinners is that they sacrifice some of the other team synergy you might otherwise have in that slot. Cloyster's defensive utility is limited to checking Marowak, Rhydon, and Steelix, and its offensive utility is limited to Explosion. Forretress offers nothing except a secondary check to Exeggutor. Starmie offers the most synergy, but takes a lot of damage in return from most of the Ground-types it checks, its other defensive roles such as countering Machamp and Charizard are frequently unneeded, and it's generally an easy switch in for offensive threats such as Snorlax and Raikou. Teams that use Spikes are often forced to also run a spinblocker to ensure that Spikes stay down, which leaves only four Pokemon slots to establish offensive and defensive synergy outside of Spikes. On many teams, a balance must be struck between having enough support for Spikes and having enough room for Pokemon to capitalize on them and other vital teammates.


    Conclusion
    Spikes are likely at their most important in GSC because of the lack of other truly good options for passive damage. However, they're not necessarily as effective as they are in later generations, because in GSC, everything can recover HP and you only get one layer. Spikes are very helpful for getting opportunistic KOs with Pokemon that attack well without needing setup, and are also necessary for slower teams that do not use many attacking moves. However, it is important to realize that Spikes are limited on their own, and that plenty of support, both in keeping Spikes on the field and utilizing Spikes, is necessary to get the most out of them. It's also important to remember that Spikes are not the end-all-be-all of GSC; while important, they are only one aspect of the game. Despite Spikes being the focus of this article, be careful to look at situations holistically and to put Spikes on the back burner if you are becoming predictable with your spinner switch-ins or if you see a way to pressure the opponent offensively without Spikes.
  2. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
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    I've finished the rough draft for this and QC people can check it now. I might at pretty pictures later to better define the subsections.
  3. Crystal_

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    Looking great. Great job!

    Maybe you can say that if you spin with Closyter, since it is prone to being worn down quickly, it is useful if most of your Pokemon can hit Forr and Cloy hard (or have Toxic for Cloy) if they try to switch in. This way, you can minimize the times your opponent will be able to switch their spiker in, and if he does switch it in, the spiker would ideally would take some good damage (or cloyster get toxic'd) that could add up to your own spikes damage. This way it is easy to get cloyster able to spin without being worn down before your opponent's spiker is.

    Also, maybe you could explicity mention the fact that Cloyster wins the spikes war 1 on 1 against forr, due to forretress not resisting Cloy's Surf and being 3HKOed by it (also that forr could be surprised by cloy's clamp if it wants to stay into cloy one turn to toxic it).

    And maybe the fact that the success of some of the phazers could depend on the opponent's team. For example raikou generally works better against stall built teams because these run skarmory and a water type, and these are like free turns for raikou to get a free phaze and rack up damage, and is only really forced out by snorlax against most stall teams. Against more offensive teams however, raikou will have to face stuff like egg/steelix/king/ttar/rhydon a lot more more often. Steelix, another phazer, enjoys matchups against mono-normar snorlaxes, raikous (especially hp ice) and the likes.
    Do whatever you feel like with this. It's not really that important.

    And lastly, in the opportunistic attackers section, maybe you could say that missy itself may also benefit from spikes, because without a cray set spikes are the only way it can wear down steelix/ttar/rhydon by itself through double switching, and the fact that a ptrap missy forces a lot of plays means that spikes further help it. I know this is just a specific example though.

    Having said that, the letter looks great already and the content is awesome; despite all the [minor] things I've said, this letter completely deserves my approval.
  4. Pocket

    Pocket GOJIRA
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    Awesome Read! This letter can even go on a Smog Article, imho!

    Forretress
    What do you mean by purely physical Ground-types (Marowak)? Also why must it be Ground-type? Can't Curse Machamp, SD Tentacruel, BDrum Charizard, etc all set up on Forretress?

    Pursuit
    For the new players that only knows Pursuit in DPP and BW, you should remind readers that Pursuit is a SPECIAL move. I have to admit, I was also stuck in DPP+ mode and was scratching my head when I read that Pursuit helps eliminating Cloyster ;x

    Sleep Talking Electrics
    Lol, again I was in ADV+ mode; I was puzzled why you said Poison damage would wear Starmie down, because it has Natural Cure! Please remind your readers that Starmie in GSC lacks Natural Cure >_<

    Poison

    You should explain to readers that unlike later gens, Poison damage takes place not at the end of the turn, but immediately after the poisoned mon switches in / makes a move. Thus, a poisoned Pokemon who switched in only to be phazed out before the turn ends would still inflict poison damage. This subtle mechanic difference would help appreciate new players the lethality of Poison + Spikes.
  5. Borat

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    I am iffy about this entire paragraph:
    There is very limited synergy in practice between an ST electric and a Toxic Cloyster.

    First and foremost, Roar Raikou is probably the best abuser of spikes in the game.

    Moreover, it's going to take a couple turns to get starmie in that recover zone. I think net is like ~12.5% damage per iteration. During this time, cloyster is taking damage. As long as you're able to do more than 18.75% to cloyster on the switch-in, you're keeping pace with the whole cloyster -> zapdos/raikou tactic. Average damage from skarm's DP is ~18% off the top of my head. It doesn't seem all that reliable. This is comparable to heracross trying to take down skarm on its own, which as you know, isn't really a fun affair.

    And if Cloyster is packing rest, that means you're pretty much dedicated to the spikes game, so hopefully you have something more reliable than just an ST electric to keep it down.
  6. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
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    Responding to feedback

    Crystal_:

    Oh, I didn't mention Toxic on its own already? I think I did diffusely, but didn't give it its own section. My bad, I should do that.


    Cloy beats Forr, at least short term. Long-term, the aforementioned Toxic whittles down Cloy. Gotcha. (I don't think I'll mention Clamp, though, because Forr can always just Spin out of that).


    Do whatever you feel like with this. It's not really that important.

    I thought I already expanded on this? I'll go over it again, though, just to make sure.


    I mentioned Missy as being able to abuse spikes under the SpinBlockers section. I want to avoid redundancy, plus Misdreavus isn't really an "attacker".


    Pocket:

    I mean Marowak, and Rhydon, too. I mention these in particular because Forry doesn't check them, but Cloy DOES, unlike the other stuff you mentioned which both Cloy and Forry fail to check (although Cloy is definitely harder for anything to set up on, except for Tenta). I'll reword this to make it clear what Forr fails to prevent from setting up relative to Cloy, in addition to what it fails to CHECK relative to Cloy.


    Will do.


    Again, will do.


    Yeah I kinda skimmed over this (25%) without explicitly mentioning the precise mechanics difference. I'll add that in. Also I don't know if I mentioned that Toxic poison turns into normal after switching out, but if I haven't, that seems important too.


    Borat:

    You know, the more I think about it, I'm being too specific with the Sleep Talk Electrics thing and that section should probably be removed. It's really Toxic that's doing the work here, and it's not just good in an iffy sense for Starmie, it also good in a definitive sense for Cloyster. Hell, it's not even just Electrics that force Starmie out without having time to Recover (Starmie has to duck outta the way of Drumlax and sometimes even Heracross, too), plus the Electric strategy is totally ruined by Heal Bell removing Toxic, further showing that it's really the status, not the Electrics, doing the work. The thing is, I already mention Toxic under the Status section for "abuse", so should I give a mention of how Toxic (and para/freeze, too, but seriously, how often are you paralyzing/freezing a Starmie?) can help keep Spikes under that section, or put in a subsection replacing Electrics under "helpers"? I'm inclined to go with the former to avoid redundancy, and because Toxic alone is, as you said, really hard to pull off and not nearly as straightforward as Ghost/Pursuit support, making it a bit of a black sheep.


    I have a few more things that I, myself, am thinking of adding in:

    1) Add Baits under Helpers: Steelix can bait Starmie and Cloyster and Explode on them to keep them from spinning. Your own Cloyster can also go for Icy Wind + Explosion to potentially make life awkward for Starmie, or just straight-up go for the Explosion to keep Spikes on spinning Cloys. The reason I'm not just making this an "Explosion" subheader is because I also want to talk about things like HP Electric Cloy baiting spinning Cloys and wrecking them, Fire Blast Snorlax or HP Fire Exeggutor possibly baiting Forretress and nailing them (requires a good fake-out, though, as any smart forry will switch out first time to avoid the hit), or stuff like Machamp, Nidoking, and Ground-types baiting Starmie into taking big hits (and, at least in terms of Ground-types, Cloyster, too). Also helps to have baits if you need to spin against these chumps, as Crystal_ pointed out. The problem with this, though, is that it can be pretty unreliable.

    2) Add "Unconventional Spikers/Spinners" Section
    Probably won't make this too long and will be more listed at the end to de-emphasize them (since they aren't really the metagame), but stuff like Spikes Smeargle and Donphan I think deserve a little bit more than just the hand-wave I give them under "Spikers/Spinners" so people realize exactly what they offer to make them appealing in the first place, as well as what ends up limiting their use.


    I promise I'll actually update the post soon, I'm just outlining the changes I'm making before doing it to make it clear where in this long-ass article that's happening.
  7. Pocket

    Pocket GOJIRA
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    Supporting the 2 new sections.
  8. Crystal_

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    Also, I must say, when I first read this I had the same feeling that STElectrics were given too much importance in this article. Seeing "Sleep Talking Electrics" so early in the article and dedicating them so much space, surprised me. I mean, I was completely expecting to read "phazers" as the third and last subsection inside the helpers section instead of STElectrics because that's what comes to mind when you think about Spikes (of course, when I saw phazers inside the spikes abusers section it made more sense). I just found that weird. But in the end I didn't say anything because you know your stuff and I didn't want to expand my first post a lot.

    Just to say.

    Anyway, wouldn't it be 6.25 net damage instead of 12.5? Starmie will be healing with Leftovers that turn.
  9. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
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    Starmie takes 6.25 on each of 2 turns; the one it switches in and the one it spins.

    Also yeah, to reiterate I'm probably just removing the ST Electrics section and giving a quick mention of how Status can also be used to help KEEP spikes under the abuse section (since Toxic, not just the Electrics, is doing the bulk of the work).
  10. Crystal_

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    oh I thought you meant double-switching from cloyster to the elctric into the predicted Starmie. But yeah, now that I think about it, doing this instead wouldn't make much sense.
  11. Borat

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    Well I just think too much weight. Toxic is far and away the main player here. And if your opponent is playing passive, you can definitely double/triple/whatever set spikes in the face of starmie to speed up the process. Of course, one wrong guess means starmie has recovered all that lost HP.

    Icy Wind is a good way to "keep" spikes without having to explode imo. Since starmie now forced to "predict" when you do it. Then you can just go to your electric if starmie guesses wrong. In this sense, there's more synergy between icy wind and electrics than with toxic. Of course, I think psychic is like a 2hko on cloyster so yeah.

    HP electric cloy is pretty good and definitely worth a mention.
  12. M Dragon

    M Dragon The north wind
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    If you want to add unconventional soinnera, dont forget Tentacruel (although its much worse than the subSD set)

    I agree with borat, I have always found that roar kou was better than the restalk set, because its maybe the best abuser, and it kills the 2 most used spinners, and hits the third very hard. Another advantage of roar Raikou is that it threatens to KO most of the mons that are not affected by spikes, while its counters are weak to spikes, so they have to predict if their lax/kou/bliss/ground will lose 12.5% only to get roared away.

    I cant see Hp electric working vs Starm, but it is p good in cloy vs cloy though
  13. .Maguss.

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    You can add Dragonite learn Thunder Wave, so it helps not only by being an oportunist attacker, but also an Status inducer. Also, Thunder Wave + Dynamicpunch can be very annoying, forcing more switches.

    I don't think that countering Machamp with Starmie is frequently unneeded. It's not easy to counter Machamp without Starmie.
  14. Borat

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    Twave on dnite is one of the best ways to nail raikou.

    Agree with starmie's role vs machamp is huge.
  15. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
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    M Dragon:
    I was thinking of adding Tenta, but held off on putting it in the update post because Tenta does have a much better set you'd normally rather use (although then again, so does Smeargle).

    Yeah HP Electric is really only for Cloy dittos, but it's great for when those show up.

    I thought I already mentioned that Raikou not only stopped Spinners, but also kept Fliers from switching in. I'll look over it again to make sure it's clear.

    Borat/Maguss:
    Machamp really isn't that common, hence why I said Starmie's coverage against it is "frequently unneeded". When Machamp does stroll in, yes, Starmie's role in walling it is crucial, but when it's not there you find Starmie can be pretty mediocre on defense.

    I never really liked Twave on Dnite. You need Boltbeam to make Dnite do work against Waters and Zapdos/Egg/Grounds, respectively. You need Dpunch for Lax and stuff. To be honest you need DE too because relying on DPunch as your only physical move kinda sucks. Dnite is an attacker first and foremost, and I've found that trying to run support moves on it tends to end in disappointment.
  16. Borat

    Borat

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    I really like twave starmie (and too a lesser extent, reflect) just so it doesn't suck as much with his very limited offensive perks arent there.

    Boltbeam, DE, twave. Your DE's are doing just as much damage (if not more) than STAB body slams from lax anyway. Throw twave on and you've got yourself something. Sure as hell beats trying to land 3 dpunches in a row or something ridiculous.
  17. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
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    Hey guess what I did. I finally updated this :o

    Also I'm holding off on formally adding Crystal_'s QC approval unless he reaffirms it because I did add new content.
  18. Crystal_

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    Gave this a read and all I have to say is that it is extremely well done. Can't think of a better way to do it, and content-wise is extremely good as well. So congrats and consider my QC approval reaffirmed.
  19. M Dragon

    M Dragon The north wind
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    I approve
  20. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
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    You dudes are quick wow.

    All right 2 QC checks are in, that makes this ready for GP checks then.
  21. Mr.E

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    Gangplank checks?

    "However, Smeargle often has more menacing things it would like to do, such as pass Agility or Baton Pass to a sweeper, and its bulk is basically nonexistent, which means it’s hardly good for a drawn-out Spikes war against a slower team."

    You don't pass Baton Pass, that's the move that does the passing of your other shit. "Such as [Baton] pass Agility or _____ to a sweeper...." "Such as Agility and Baton Pass to a sweeper..." That is to say, needs some rewording.
  22. Oglemi

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    Introduction
    GSC is often perceived as the stalliest metagame, and while the characterization of it as "all stall" is definitely misguided, it is true that Pokemon are generally taking more hits than usual. There's Leftovers everywhere, everything can have max defensive stats and still have enough Speed and Attack to scare things off, everything runs Rest and can generally live through it, and Sleep Talk users can use Rest when sleeping. Clearly, passive damage is more important here than in any other generation to get enough damage to score KOs, but there's no Sand Stream, Leech Seed is nerfed relative to future generations and is pretty uncommon, and Toxic resets upon switching out, not to mention that everything runs Rest to undo Toxic anyway. However, GSC does have one common source of passive damage: Spikes. Unfortunately, you only get one layer in GSC, but that's not to say that Spikes is merely a nuisance in GSC. Just because they aren't wearing things down and sometimes outright killing things as quickly as they do in future generations doesn't mean they aren't having an impact. Au contraire, the aforementioned necessity of passive damage and the lack of other good sources of it make GSC arguably the most effective generation for Spikes, even if the effect of the move itself is at its most subtle.


    The Main Spikers and Spinners
    Most sources of passive damage in GSC suffer from one crippling flaw: namely, that they aren't forever. Spikes, on the other hand, stay on the opponent's side of the field until Rapid Spin is used, meaning that the opponent can't just Rest them off like Toxic. However, both Spikes and the similarly-important Rapid Spin receive very poor distribution, and ultimately running a Spiker or spinner results in a loss of offensive or defensive team synergy. There are really only three Pokemon that commonly use Spikes or Rapid Spin, so the Spikes metagame often revolves around those three, although there are a few unconventional options that can work as well. Without further ado, the main Spikers and spinners in GSC are as follows.

    Cloyster
    Cloyster is probably the best Spiker in terms of giving up the least offensive synergy. With Explosion and STAB Surf to ensure that those Pokemon that resist Explosion are kept at bay, Cloyster is a major wallbreaking threat. In addition, its high Defense and STABs allow it to serve at least as a temporary check to Marowak, Steelix, and Rhydon, so it is not without its contributions to defensive synergy. In terms of the actual Spikes game, however, Cloyster is a bit flawed. First, while both Spikes and Rapid Spin are in its movepool, it cannot use Rapid Spin in conjunction with Explosion. Thus, Cloyster must make a choice between offering offensive synergy and being able to keep Spikes off one's own side of the field, which in turn has major implications for how fast- or slow-paced one's team can be. Second, Cloyster has glaring special weaknesses and a vulnerability to Toxic, and is also dead weight while asleep to make Rest a non-option for it unless it is paired with Heal Bell support. Thus, it can struggle to find opportunities to switch in, and it can easily lose the Spikes war by failing to outlast the opponent's Spiker or spinner. Finally, and perhaps most glaringly, it has absolutely nothing on Starmie, the game's premier spinner (read more about Starmie below). This means that if you're depending on keeping Cloyster's Spikes down, you need to run specific support to do so on a consistent basis—for example, you should use Misdreavus to spinblock instead of Gengar unless you're absolutely sure you can play around Gengar's Psychic weakness.

    Forretress
    Forretress is a lot more specialized than Cloyster is. Forretress doesn't offer anywhere near the offensive or defensive synergy that Cloyster does, as it doesn't have a good STAB for forcing plays. In addition, Forretress loses to Cloyster one-on-one in the short run since it is 3HKOed by its STAB Surf. However, what Forretress does do is shore up Cloyster's weaknesses in the Spikes game. For starters, it can run both Explosion and Rapid Spin on the same set, so it doesn't have to choose between having the ability to kill setup sweepers in case of emergency and being able to spin away Spikes. Second, it's got a nice Toxic immunity to give it the longevity it needs to outlast the opponent's Spiker or spinner in the long run (even a Cloyster if you manage to land a Toxic on it). Finally, with Hidden Power Bug it can 2HKO Starmie, meaning that it doesn't need specific support to keep Spikes against it. However, Forretress is not without its problems in the Spikes game. While it, unlike Cloyster, can afford to stay in against most Exeggutor, most Gengar, most mixed sweepers, and even on STAB Thunders, it is afraid of possible OHKOs by Fire moves, thereby forcing it to scout the opponent's Snorlax or Exeggutor for Fire Blast or Hidden Power Fire respectively before it attempts to set up on them. Furthermore, it doesn't take Water moves as well as Cloyster and cannot switch in to counter the likes of Marowak and Rhydon. Forretress therefore doesn't switch in to set up Spikes any more easily than Cloyster does, and in many cases it has more trouble switching in thanks to its inability to pose an offensive threat. However, when it comes to lasting long enough to both keep Spikes and spin them away against slower teams, you can't do any better than Forretress.

    Starmie
    So, the big thing Starmie lacks when compared to the other two is Spikes. However, it is the premier Rapid Spin user in the tier with its access to Recover that allows it to stick around longer than the most-used Spiker, Cloyster. In addition, it gets STAB Surf to check Ground-types, STAB Psychic to stop Machamp, massive Speed to cover threats such as Charizard and Nidoking while being able to smack Gengar and finish off low-health Zapdos who attempt to prevent it from spinning, and a movepool that includes Thunder Wave and Reflect for further team support outside of a limited spinning role. However, as already mentioned, Starmie lacks Spikes, and despite its status in later generations it's not a very good attacker in GSC, so its offensive usefulness is limited strictly to a supporting role. Thus, Starmie is best suited for slower-paced teams. Even on these teams, though, Starmie is far less effective than other bulky Water-types such as Suicune when it comes to checking mixed sweepers and Ground-type attackers, so some synergy is still lost with Starmie even though it's a better team player than the Spikers are. Furthermore, in terms of the Spikes game it struggles to spin against Forretress and to get past Misdreavus's spinblock, although with its strong STAB Surf it isn't impossible. It's also vulnerable to Pursuit because of its Psychic typing. All-in-all, Starmie is still the best Rapid Spin support money can buy, but Rapid Spin is never a sure thing.

    Some more unconventional options
    Aside from the three metagame-defining options above, there are a few other somewhat-effective Pokemon that can also use Spikes or Rapid Spin. Smeargle can set Spikes somewhat effectively, especially since it gets Spore to prevent spinners from switching in willy-nilly to spin them straight away. However, Smeargle often has more menacing things it would like to do, such as pass Agility or Baton Pass to a sweeper, and its bulk is basically nonexistent, which means it's hardly good for a drawn-out Spikes war against a slower team. As for unconventional spinners, there are Donphan and Tentacruel. Donphan is a Pokemon that was rather popular very early on in GSC, but has since fallen to mediocrity for various reasons, including disappointing special bulk and a lack of physical resistances outside of Rock. However, it spins against Raikou, Ghosts are afraid to switch in against it to block its spin, and it offers Roar support to make it perhaps the most defensively synergistic spinner in the game. Still, it is very mediocre as a spinner primarily because it invites Cloyster, the most common Spiker, to switch straight back in to reset Spikes and force Donphan right back out. Finally, Tentacruel makes for a solid spinner. It beats both Cloyster and Forretress one-on-one, both short-term and long-term. It is immune to Cloyster's Toxic and does not take super effective damage from Forretress, making it more reliable than even Starmie at times. However, Tentacruel has next to zero team synergy whereas Starmie at least offers niche defensive coverage and has support moves such as Reflect and Thunder Wave. In addition, Tentacruel struggles much more than Starmie does when trying to get past Ghost-types. Finally, Tentacruel misses out on Swords Dance when using Rapid Spin, and Tentacruel's Swords Dance set is widely considered its best set.


    Keeping Spikes
    So now that you've bothered to read my blurbs on the main players in the GSC Spikes game, let's take a look at the Pokemon and strategies that lead to keeping Spikes on the field. It's usually necessary to pair a Spiker with at least one of these "assistants" if you want to be able to consistently have at least a chance at keeping them down. These assistants, how to use them, and what they pair best with are described below.

    Ghost-types
    Obviously, the classic way to ensure Spikes stay down is to run a spinblocker. There are only two spinblockers available in GSC: Misdreavus and Gengar. Misdreavus has the benefit of lacking a Psychic weakness and having a little more Special Defense than Gengar, making it the more certain bet when it comes to blocking Rapid Spin, particularly from Starmie. For this reason, Misdreavus is the spinblocker that pairs best with Cloyster, as unlike Gengar, it can reliably block Starmie's spin. In addition, Misdreavus has the threat of Perish trap to force switches and accumulate Spikes damage. However, Gengar is not without its selling points. It's immune to Toxic, so it doesn't require Heal Bell support to keep alive for a long period of time, and furthermore its movepool is far more diverse than Misdreavus's. Gengar is therefore a solid spinblocker to pair with Forretress, as Forretress can keep Spikes against Starmie while Gengar blocks spin against Cloyster and opposing Forretress.

    Pursuit
    It's important to note that Pursuit is a special attack in GSC. Pursuit users help to keep Spikes down against Starmie and Rapid Spin Cloyster. In addition, they can help your own spinners by taking out spinblockers and quickly taking out Cloyster, the most common Spiker. Tyranitar is by far the most common Pursuit user, and it is the best at sniping Ghost-types. However, its Water weakness leaves it vulnerable to a likely 2HKO from Starmie and a possible 2HKO from Cloyster, so it must tread carefully if it is going to attempt to Pursuit these threats. Generally, pairing Tyranitar with Light Screen support or Icy Wind from your own Cloyster gives it the advantage it needs to perform in these match-ups. Alternatively, Umbreon is a much more reliable Pursuit user, but unfortunately it doesn't have the power needed to actually KO things with its Pursuit. It fails to snipe Misdreavus because it cannot do enough damage to outpace Perish trap, and Starmie, while seemingly easily beaten by Pursuit Umbreon, can actually stall it out of Pursuit PP by spamming Recover. However, Gengar and Cloyster are slowly but surely eroded by Pursuit Umbreon, and Starmie still faces an uphill battle in dealing with it.

    Status
    Using status to mess with the Spikers and spinners makes it much easier to win the Spikes war. Toxic is usually the easiest status to use against Cloyster and Starmie, and is especially useful for limiting the lifespan of the former to prevent it from setting or spinning Spikes in the long run. Wearing down Starmie with Toxic is trickier, given its access to Recover, but it is possible since Starmie does not have Natural Cure in GSC. The idea is to repeatedly bait Starmie into switching into Cloyster and subsequently use Rapid Spin as you switch to a Pokemon such as DrumLax or Raikou to immediately force it to switch out before it can use Recover. Eventually, it will need to Recover instead of spinning, although getting to this point can be a chore. Usually, the best Pokemon to deliver Toxic against Starmie and Cloyster is your own Cloyster, although if Cloyster is your main target, other Pokemon such as Suicune, Skarmory, and Forretress are also good at baiting it into taking Toxic.

    Of course, if Forretress is the spinner you need to beat, Toxic isn't going to do you any good. Fortunately, catching it with paralysis or even sleep is a good way to prevent it from using Rapid Spin or Spikes. Snorlax with Body Slam or Lovely Kiss is especially good at drawing in Forretress to inflict status on it, as does Exeggutor with Stun Spore or Sleep Powder. Miltank is also good at baiting Forretress and paralyzing it with Body Slam. Snorlax and Miltank are also good at drawing in Cloyster to take these statuses. Starmie is most reliably afflicted with status by Toxic, as it is usually cautious about switching into paralysis or sleep, although Body Slam Steelix or Machamp do a good job of paralyzing it, whereas Exeggutor and Nidoking can occasionally have opportunities to put Starmie to sleep. In general, though, it's a bad idea to rely on being able to inflict status on Starmie outside of poison, since Starmie tends to avoid status like the plague.

    Using status to try to keep Spikes generally requires a lot of patience and extra support, and your hard work can always be undone by a Heal Bell user. If you encounter a user of Heal Bell, be sure to have a plan against it, whether you intend to capitalize offensively in response to its switch-in (e.g., switch a strong special attacker in on Miltank, a physical attacker in against Blissey), waste its 8 Heal Bell PP, or simply intend to prevent it from switching in to begin with.

    Baits
    Aside from baiting Spikers and spinners into taking status, certain Pokemon are good at baiting them into taking big hits. Steelix often forces opponents to switch Water-types in against it, so it has a chance of baiting Starmie or Cloyster into taking that Explosion. Steelix should be able to survive Surf from both if at full health, so that Explosion need not necessarily be used on the switch. In addition, Icy Wind Cloyster can set Spikes as Starmie switches in and gain the Speed advantage by using Icy Wind as Starmie uses Rapid Spin. This can allow a slower Pursuit user such as Tyranitar an opportunity to switch in and have an advantage in a match-up where it otherwise loses because of its Speed. If Starmie is poisoned before being slowed by Icy Wind, Cloyster might eventually keep Spikes on Starmie on its lonesome by itself since Starmie must eventually use Recover instead of indefinitely spamming Rapid Spin, and when that happens Cloyster can outspeed and Explode on Starmie before it can spin. Icy Wind Cloyster can also give itself the Speed advantage against other Cloyster switch-ins, which can be especially helpful when you need to Explode on an opposing Cloyster to prevent it from spinning away your own Cloyster's Spikes.

    Other Pokemon allow you to win Spikes wars by baiting these Spikers and spinners into taking hits without using Icy Wind or Explosion trickery. For getting past Starmie, Pokemon such as Marowak, Rhydon, Machamp, and sometimes Nidoking can goad Starmie into switching into powerful neutral or super effective hits. Cloyster can be goaded into taking big hits from Marowak and Rhydon, or can even be caught off-guard by an opposing Cloyster with Hidden Power Electric, which 2HKOs opposing Cloyster but does not do enough damage to be useful against Starmie. Beating Forretress can be done by wryly concealing the presence of a Fire move, such as Fire Blast on Snorlax or Hidden Power Fire on Exeggutor, then letting lose when you think your opponent has let their guard down with Forretress. Not only is this strategy good for keeping Spikes against spinners, it is also good for beating the opponent's Spiker to make your own spinner's life easier. However, this kind of tactic often relies on surprise, and as a result it can fail to work if your opponent sees it coming.


    Taking Advantage of Spikes
    Setting up Spikes and keeping them can be hard work. Now that you've managed to do it, though, you can now reap the rewards of what you have sown. Spikes on its own is rarely enough to flat-out KO anything, unlike the multiple layers available in later metagames where Sand Stream is available to help out and Rest is also far less prevalent. Thus, you cannot just splash Spikes haphazardly on a team and call that "offense." You must pair it with something else to make the most of these Spikes, and the following options are the best Jelly available to Spikes' Peanut Butter.

    Status
    Two status effects in particular, paralysis and poison, receive enough distribution to abuse effectively with effectively capitalize on Spikes. Paralysis is often inflicted as a secondary effect of standard moves, such as Snorlax's Body Slam and Zapdos's Thunder. However, you can also use Stun Spore Exeggutor or a Thunder Wave user such as Starmie or even Porygon2 to effectively spread paralysis. Paralysis is great alongside Spikes because it not only forces opposing Pokemon to take Spikes damage on the switch in, but their lowered Speed ensures that they take two turns' worth of damage upon switching in, even from the likes of Snorlax. This can seal the deal against faster Spikes-vulnerable foes such as Raikou, which, as the fastest viable RestTalk user in GSC OU, can otherwise be difficult to KO before it Rests. Paralysis also helps setup sweepers outspeed foes and get free turns of setup, so paralysis provides versatile, well-rounded offensive support outside of merely enabling opportunistic KOs.

    Poison is almost exclusively inflicted with the move Toxic. Poison's main role alongside Spikes is to stack damage on the switch-in. Poison works a bit differently in GSC relative to other generations. Toxic poison reverts to normal poison after the affected Pokemon switches out. In addition, poison damage is assessed immediately after a Pokemon is willingly switched in or immediately after that Pokemon makes a move unless the poisoned Pokemon KOs the opposing Pokemon. Thus, a poisoned Pokemon switching in on Spikes, even one poisoned by Toxic, will take 25% damage from that alone (12.5% from the poison and 12.5% from the Spikes), making it much easier to force this Pokemon to Rest or even to KO it if the Pokemon is slow. It is important to note that, because of the timing of poison damage, if a phazing move is used, the Pokemon that was willingly switched in takes poison damage on top of Spikes damage immediately before being phazed out, although a poisoned Pokemon that is forcibly switched in by Roar or Whirlwind will not have the poison damage assessed until the following turn. But because, when using a phazer you hope to force that Pokemon's counter to switch out and be replaced by a Pokemon that the phazer beats. This works to your advantage and allows Toxic in conjunction with a phazer to be especially deadly. This combination is particularly great for wearing down Snorlax, which is often the Pokemon that poses the biggest threat and which usually houses slower opposing teams' win condition. However, Toxic is a lot less versatile than paralysis, as fast RestTalk users, such as Raikou and Zapdos, do not care about poison at all and setup sweepers are not helped very much by poison support. Still, Toxic gets much better distribution than paralysis moves do, so poison support can be preferable for teams with a lot of walls, such as Suicune and Umbreon, which otherwise have no other means by which to impose offensive pressure.

    One thing to remember when using status is to ensure that it gets spread widely. This means using a host of paralysis or poison inducers that can force a wide variety of Pokemon into taking the status move of your choice. A detailed description of this is topic enough for another article entirely, but essentially, you want to use Pokemon that bait your status targets into switching in (e.g., Body Slam Steelix baits Suicune into taking paralysis, Toxic Cloyster baits Starmie into taking Toxic). In addition, Pokemon that avoid targeting Pokemon who normally don't care about your status of choice—for example, sleeping RestTalk users and CurseLax for paralysis-based teams; Steel- and Poison-types and RestTalk using Electrics for poison-based teams—make for the best status supporters. If nothing else, make sure that paralysis-based teams can target Raikou and that Toxic-based teams can target Snorlax, for these are the most relevant threats to target with status as mentioned above.

    Opportunistic Attackers
    It should be obvious that attacks do damage, and hence are good for any offense to have. However, what do I mean by having "opportunistic" attackers that can take advantage of Spikes? Well, really, what I mean by this is that attackers that can do a lot of damage without having to set up benefit the most from Spikes. Pokemon such as Vaporeon, Charizard, and Quagsire that rely on setting up to destroy their foes can still be paired with Spikes, there is nothing wrong with that as Spikes can be useful in wearing down their most prominent counters. However, to utilize Spikes to their fullest, it is best to use offensive Pokemon that do not require setup. Mixed sweepers such as Nidoking, Tyranitar, and Dragonite greatly appreciate the fact that Spikes can enable them to take out their most prominent counters, Suicune and Raikou. Zapdos and Raikou with Thunder do appreciable damage to Snorlax, but nonetheless fail to 3HKO it, meaning that they get Rest-looped under normal circumstances. Spikes forces Snorlax to take that extra bit of damage on the switch in to make a Snorlax ensure the KO by STAB Thunder much more likely. Snorlax itself is a big offensive threat with or without setup and loves Spikes support to help it wear down foes such as Misdreavus, Tyranitar, Steelix, and Miltank. Marowak, Machamp, and Rhydon are also deeply appreciative of Spikes support, as it makes life much easier for them when they have to get past Suicune and Exeggutor. There are other attackers, such as Exeggutor and Gengar, that appreciate Spikes' ability to wear away at Snorlax and Raikou.

    Phazers
    Pokemon with phazing moves literally force switches, and with prediction they can shut down the opponent's offense, force Pokemon to accumulate Spikes damage and be forced to Rest without accomplishing much in return, and in certain cases, can force a Pokemon such as a low-health Snorlax to switch in on Spikes and sentence itself to death before it can find an opportune time to Rest. Raikou is far and away the best phazer to pair with Spikes. Its STAB Thunder prevents Spikes-immune foes such as Zapdos and Skarmory from staying in, and additionally doesn't allow Rapid Spin users to blow away Spikes. Furthermore, while most teams have at least two good switch-ins to Raikou, the other four Pokemon on many of these teams will likely be Pokemon such as Suicune and Skarmory and consequently will match up quite poorly against it. Thus, Raikou can force a long-lasting cycle of one of its counters switching in, taking Spikes damage, then being Roared out to bring in another favorable match-up for Raikou. Steelix is another decent phazer to pair with Spikes, as it can repeatedly Roar out counters such as Suicune and Miltank that are pressured to switch in and take Spikes damage by Steelix's ability to set up Curses in favorable match-ups against common opponents such as Snorlax (especially mono-Normal variants) and Raikou. However, Steelix does not do a good job of preventing Rapid Spin and needs Rock Slide to stop Spikes-immune Flying-types from staying in, so it needs a little more support to be effective. Tyranitar is also a pretty good Spikes shuffler, but unfortunately four-moveslot syndrome prevents it from getting all the favorable match-ups it would like, and in general would rather be using Pursuit against the Flying-types it forces out instead of trying to Roar shuffle the opponent's team. Other phazers such as Suicune and Skarmory aren't exactly the best phazers to shuffle the opponent's team to rack up Spikes damage, most notably because they let Zapdos and spinners have their way with them. Regardless, they both have limited offensive prowess, and it's not as though their ability to Roar shuffle is totally ineffective, so if Skarmory or Suicune must be active, you might as well try to Roar shuffle. Perish trappers such as Misdreavus and Gengar can also effectively phaze opponents, forcing foes to go immediately to their own phazers. If enough Spikes damage can be racked up on these phazers as they switch in, they can be forced to Rest, which gives these Perish trappers an opportunity to capitalize on the situation.

    Stall Endgames
    Spikes should be utilized if you are using a fairly slow team and expect stall endgames to arise frequently. Spikes tend to put powerful offensive Pokemon without Rest, such as Marowak and Nidoking, on a timer, thereby allowing a team with a lot of passive members to legitimately outlast an offensive one instead of simply waiting to lose. It also does a good job of making life much more difficult for DrumLax attempting to set up against or get a Rest in against your stall. Furthermore, once you get to the stall endgame where neither player can outright break the other, Spikes helps to prevent the opponent from simply endlessly switching, thereby allowing you to eventually win the PP war. However, if you want to be sure to win stall endgames, you ought to use a Rapid Spin user, as Spikes alone does not confer an advantage. You need to also lack Spikes on your own side so that you can conserve your own PP by switching without consequence. Preferably, this spinner is not Cloyster, as Cloyster is on a much shorter timer than the Toxic-immune Forretress and the Recover-using Starmie are. Using a spinblocker is also all but mandatory, because you really need to be able to ensure Spikes are down if your passive team is going to be able to force a stall endgame instead of slowly withering away. Generally, the Pokemon that work well to force a stall endgame are those generally seen on a team that pairs Toxic with Spikes; Pokemon such as Suicune, Umbreon, and Skarmory are impeccable stallers. Of course, you will need to use Pokemon such as Snorlax and Raikou and double-switch to them frequently to place enough offensive pressure on an opponent that adopts a similarly defensive playstyle, lest many of your matches simply end in a tie.


    How NOT to use Spikes
    Of course, now that you know about the best ways to use Spikes and the reasoning behind them, you might be scheming your own teams and, possibly, even your own devious Spikes-abusing strategies. Before you get too far, though, remember to avoid the following common pitfalls when using Spikes.

    There is only one layer
    I cannot stress this enough. It's generally a mistake made by newer-gen players farting around in GSC, so advanced players looking for nuance from this guide don't need to worry about this too much. However, I'd rather not see even the beginners waste precious turns by trying to set up extra layers that don't exist in GSC. So, to reiterate: there is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. There is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. There is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. Don't waste your time trying to set up more. Furthermore, because there's only one layer, learn to work with just that one layer. Spikes' advantage, as I've said before, is a lot more nuanced in GSC than in future generations where multiple layers of Spikes are shaving off a quarter of foes' HP and many more foes cannot recover HP.

    Do not be too passive
    This has also been touched on before, but do not be too passive with your teams just because "you have Spikes" for offense. Even if you're using a slower team with passive Pokemon such as Suicune and Skarmory, you should have some hefty offensive threats such as DrumLax to double-switch to frequently to keep the pressure on, and ideally some other offensive pathways such as capitalizing on Spikes with a phazer, having a Perish trapper to take advantage of an opponent's downtime, or having a mixed sweeper to go to for outright damage when Snorlax is asleep. Otherwise, Spikes alone probably will not be enough to pressure offensive teams into switching around and fading away, and you'll end up in deadlock against similarly defensive teams. Spikes is only one aspect of the game, and the Spikes advantage is not a win condition in itself unless you're looking at a stall endgame with 2-3 Pokemon per side.

    If Spikes is a focus, do NOT just splash it on your team
    I should preface this by saying: if you have an offensive team with a lot of attacking moves and Explosion users, you can afford to just splash a Spiker on your team, as the option to set up Spikes is always better than not having it at all. Generally, the splashable Spiker is Cloyster because it provides immediate offensive pressure with Explosion and some defensive synergy against Ground-types, so the team gives up little while gaining Spikes. Furthermore, with a hyper-offensive team that makes use of a strategy such as JoltWak to end the game quickly, you don't need to worry about Spikes at all. However, if you want to utilize Spikes + Roar, are using a slower team that doesn't have all that many attacking moves, or in general want to make Spikes a focal point of a reliable offensive attack, you can't just splash a Cloyster on your team and expect things to go hunky-dory. You'll need to run support to make sure you can keep Spikes. Maybe this is direct support in the form of spinblock. Maybe it's more situational support such as Pursuit abuse or a Toxic + RestTalk using Electric-type abuse. Regardless, you need to think about not only using a Spiker, but also how you'll keep Spikes up if Spikes abuse plays a central role in the success of your team.

    Do not focus too much on Spikes
    This can catch you by surprise if you start focusing too much on the Spikes metagame, particularly if you are using a spinner. Your instinct is usually to either save your Spiker until you can keep Spikes against a spinner or to repeatedly switch your spinner into the opposing Spiker. Don't get caught in the trap of saving Cloyster when Exploding it would open up a Belly Drum Charizard or Machamp sweep, or switching your Starmie into Cloyster repeatedly for DrumLax or Electric-types to take advantage of it. Remember that Spikes, while very useful, is only one part of the game, and that you sometimes need to forget about Spikes and see the situation as a whole to come out with the win.


    Inherent Limitations of Spikes
    Of course, I've been singing the praises of Spikes and the strategies that capitalize on their presence. I've tried to be realistic about their nuanced effectiveness, although I recognize that I have stated that GSC is the best generation for Spikes, if for no other reason than because other forms of passive damage are hard to come by. However, Spikes has definite limitations that you must account for when using them.

    ZAPDOS (and Skarmory, to an extent)
    Zapdos is probably the biggest pain in the ass for a team looking to abuse Spikes, hence why its name in the header for this paragraph is in ALL CAPS. Specifically, Zapdos is immune to Spikes, is a huge offensive threat, and can tank hits from most unboosted attacks, even super effective ones. Zapdos is a big reason why Raikou and Steelix are good phazers to pair with Spikes; they're not forced out by the standard Hidden Power Ice Zapdos, and generally are able to hit it pretty hard in return. Still, they're not full stops to Zapdos. Zapdos can afford to take a couple hits from these Pokemon, and can paralyze Raikou with its Thunder while chipping away at Steelix with Hidden Power Ice. Furthermore, Zapdos cuts the effectiveness of Spikes + Roar in half, as normally Spikes + Roar forces two Pokemon to take Spikes damage, whereas Zapdos's immunity ensures that, if it switches in, only one Pokemon has to. Zapdos is also a good reason why Tyranitar is such a good mixed attacker for utilizing Spikes. While Tyranitar has much more severe four-moveslot syndrome than Nidoking or Dragonite, it has access to a STAB Rock Slide, which achieves the rare feat of 2HKOing Zapdos. Furthermore, it has Pursuit to chip away at Zapdos even as it switches out. However, Tyranitar cannot afford to switch in on Zapdos's Thunder, which 3HKOs it. Really, Zapdos can be a pretty problematic foe to go up against for any kind of team, but it's especially frustrating for a Spikes-based offense. Just be sure you have plenty of plans for dealing with it. Raikou, Tyranitar, Light Screen Blissey, Snorlax, Quagsire, and Pokemon that can Explode on it such as Exeggutor and Gengar are all good things for dealing with Zapdos, and having many answers to Zapdos is vital because Zapdos can generally match up very well against even its "counters."

    In addition, Skarmory can make use of its own Flying typing to avoid Spikes damage and be difficult to break when walling Snorlax. However, Skarmory doesn't impose offensive pressure the way Zapdos does, so it's easier to switch into. Just be careful to use Pokemon that make the most of Spikes abusers that can deal with Skarmory and you should be fine. This should be easy, since most Spikes abusers can force Skarmory out pretty easily, but if you're not careful you could end up being dependent on a core of, say, Giga Drain Exeggutor and Earthquake CurseLax for utilize Spikes, which would make life against Skarmory needlessly difficult.

    Limited Synergy
    The big problem with the Spikers and spinners is that they sacrifice some of the other team synergy you might otherwise have in that slot. Cloyster's defensive utility is limited to checking Marowak, Rhydon, and Steelix, and its offensive utility is limited to Explosion. Forretress offers nothing except a secondary check to Exeggutor. Starmie offers the most synergy, but takes a lot of damage in return from most of the Ground-types it checks, its other defensive roles such as countering Machamp and Charizard are frequently unneeded, and it's generally an easy switch in for offensive threats such as Snorlax and Raikou. Teams that use Spikes are often forced to also run a spinblocker to ensure that Spikes stay down, which leaves only four Pokemon slots to establish offensive and defensive synergy outside of Spikes. On many teams, a balance must be struck between having enough support for Spikes and having enough room for Pokemon to capitalize on them and other vital teammates.


    Conclusion
    Spikes are likely at their most important in GSC because of the lack of other truly good options for passive damage. However, they're not necessarily as effective as they are in later generations, because in GSC, everything can recover HP and you only get one layer. Spikes are very helpful for getting opportunistic KOs with Pokemon that attack well without needing setup, and are also necessary for slower teams that do not use many attacking moves. However, it is important to realize that Spikes are limited on their own, and that plenty of support, both in keeping Spikes on the field and utilizing Spikes, is necessary to get the most out of them. It's also important to remember that Spikes are not the end-all-be-all of GSC; while important, they are only one aspect of the game. Despite the Spikes-centric topic of this article, be careful to look at situations holistically and to put Spikes on the back burner if you are becoming predictable with your spinner switch-ins or if you see a way to pressure the opponent offensively without Spikes.


    [gp]1/2[/gp]
  23. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
    is a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Past SPL Winner

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    GP Check #1 implemented. Thanks Oglemi!
  24. relaunched

    relaunched

    Joined:
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    This is an amateur GP check. Additions in blue, removals in red.

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    Introduction
    GSC is often perceived as the stalliest metagame, and while the characterization of it as "all stall" is definitely misguided, it is true that Pokemon are generally taking more hits than usual. There's Leftovers everywhere, everything can have max defensive stats and still have enough Speed and Attack to scare things off, everything runs Rest and can generally live through it, and Sleep Talk users can use Rest when sleeping. Clearly, passive damage is more important here than in any other generation to get enough damage to score KOs, but there's no Sand Stream, Leech Seed is nerfed relative to future generations and is pretty uncommon, and Toxic resets upon switching out, not to mention that everything runs Rest to undo Toxic anyway. However, GSC does have one common source of passive damage: Spikes. Unfortunately, you only get one layer in GSC, but that's not to say that Spikes is merely a nuisance in GSC. Just because they aren't wearing things down and sometimes outright killing things as quickly as they do in future generations doesn't mean they aren't having an impact. Au contraire, the aforementioned necessity of passive damage and the lack of other good sources of it make GSC arguably the most effective generation for Spikes, even if the effect of the move itself is at its most subtle.


    The Main Spikers and Spinners
    Most sources of passive damage in GSC suffer from one crippling flaw: namely, that they aren't forever. Spikes, on the other hand, stay on the opponent's side of the field until Rapid Spin is used, meaning that the opponent can't just Rest them off like Toxic. However, both Spikes and the similarly-important Rapid Spin receive very poor distribution, and ultimately running a Spiker or spinner results in a loss of offensive or defensive team synergy. There are really only three Pokemon that commonly use Spikes or Rapid Spin, so the Spikes metagame often revolves around those three, although there are a few unconventional options that can work as well. Without further ado, the main Spikers and spinners in GSC are as follows.

    Cloyster
    Cloyster is probably the best Spiker in terms of giving up the least offensive synergy. With Explosion and STAB Surf to ensure that those Pokemon that resist Explosion are kept at bay, Cloyster is a major wallbreaking threat. In addition, its high Defense and STABs allowlet it to serve at least as a temporary check to Marowak, Steelix, and Rhydon, so it is not without its contributions to defensive synergy. In terms of the actual Spikes game, however, Cloyster is a bit flawed. First, while both Spikes and Rapid Spin are in its movepool, it cannot use Rapid Spin in conjunction with Explosion. Thus, Cloyster must make a choice between offering offensive synergy and being able to keep Spikes off one's own side of the field, which in turn has major implications for how fast- or slow-paced one's team can be. Second, Cloyster has glaring special weaknesses and a vulnerability to Toxic, and is also dead weight while asleep to make Rest a non-option for it unless it is paired with Heal Bell support. Thus, it can struggle to find opportunities to switch in, and it can easily lose the Spikes war by failing to outlast the opponent's Spiker or spinner. Finally, and perhaps most glaringly, as a Rapid Spin user it has absolutely nothing on Starmie, the game's premier spinner (read more about Starmie below). This means that if you're depending on keeping Cloyster's Spikes down, you need to run specific support to do so on a consistent basis—for example, you should use Misdreavus to spinblock instead of Gengar unless you're absolutely sure you can play around Gengar's Psychic weakness.

    Forretress
    Forretress is a lot more specialized than Cloyster is. Forretress doesn't offer anywhere near the offensive or defensive synergy that Cloyster does, as it doesn't have a good STABs for forcing plays. In addition, Forretress loses to Cloyster one-on-one in the short run since it is 3HKOed by its STAB Surf. However, what Forretress does do is [choose an idiom besides "shore up", which isn't appropriate here] Cloyster's weaknesses in the Spikes game. For starters, it can run both Explosion and Rapid Spin on the same set, so it doesn't have to choose between having the ability to kill setup sweepers in case of emergency and being able to spin away Spikes. Second, it's got a nice Toxic immunity to give it the longevity it needs to outlast the opponent's Spiker or spinner in the long run (even a Cloyster if you manage to land a Toxic on it). Finally, with Hidden Power Bug it can 2HKO Starmie, meaning that it doesn't need specific support to keep Spikes against it. However, Forretress is not without its problems in the Spikes game. While it, unlike Cloyster, can afford to stay in against most Exeggutor, most Gengar, and most mixed sweepers, it is afraid of possible OHKOs by Fire moves, thereby forcing it to scout the opponent's Snorlax or Exeggutor for Fire Blast or Hidden Power Fire respectively before it attempts to set up on them. Furthermore, it doesn't take Water moves as well as Cloyster and cannot switch in to counter the likes of Marowak and Rhydon. Therefore Forretress therefore doesn't switch in to set up Spikes any more easily than Cloyster does, and in many cases it has more trouble switching in thanks to its inability to pose an offensive threat. However, when it comes to lasting long enough to both keep Spikes and spin them away against slower teams, you can't do any better than Forretress.

    Starmie
    So, the big thing Starmie lacks when compared to the other two is Spikes. However, it is the premier Rapid Spin user in the tier with its access to Recover that allows it to stick around longer than the most-used Spiker, Cloyster. In addition, it gets STAB Surf to check Ground-types, STAB Psychic to stop Machamp, massive Speed to cover threats such as Charizard and Nidoking while being able to smack Gengar and finish off low-health Zapdos who attempt to prevent it from spinning, and a movepool that includes Thunder Wave and Reflect for further team support outside of a limited spinning role. However, as already mentioned, Starmie lacks Spikes, and despite its status in later generations it's not a very good attacker in GSC, so its offensive usefulness is limited strictly to a supporting role. Thus, Starmie is best suited for slower-paced teams. Even on these teams, though, Starmie is far less effective than other bulky Water-types such as Suicune when it comes to checking mixed sweepers and Ground-type attackers, so some synergy is still lost with Starmie even though it's a better team player than the Spikers are. Furthermore, in terms of the Spikes game it struggles to spin against Forretress and get past Misdreavus's spinblock, although with its strong STAB Surf it isn't impossible. It's also vulnerable to Pursuit because of its Psychic typing. All-in-all, Starmie is still the best Rapid Spin support money can buy, but Rapid Spin is never a sure thing.

    Some more unconventional options
    Aside from the three metagame-defining options above, there are a few other somewhat-effective Pokemon that can also use Spikes or Rapid Spin. Smeargle can set Spikes somewhat effectively, especially since it gets Spore to prevent spinners from switching in willy-nilly to spin them straight away. However, Smeargle often has more menacing things it would like to do, such as using Baton Pass to give an Agility boost to a sweeper, and its bulk is basically nonexistent, which means it's hardly good for a drawn-out Spikes war against a slower team. As for unconventional spinners, there are Donphan and Tentacruel. Donphan is a Pokemon that was rather popular very early on in GSC, but has since fallen to mediocrity for various reasons, including disappointing special bulk and a lack of physical resistances outside of Rock. However, it spins against Raikou, Ghosts are afraid to switch in against it to block its spin, and it offers Roar support to make it perhaps the most defensively synergistic spinner in the game. Still, it is very mediocre as a spinner primarily because it invites Cloyster, the most common Spiker, to switch straight back in to reset Spikes and force Donphan right back out. Finally, Tentacruel makes for a solid spinner. It beats both Cloyster and Forretress one-on-one, both short-term and long-term. It is immune to Cloyster's Toxic and does not take super effective damage from Forretress, making it more reliable than even Starmie at times. However, Tentacruel has next to zero team synergy whereas Starmie at least offers niche defensive coverage and has support moves such as Reflect and Thunder Wave. In addition, Tentacruel struggles much more than Starmie does when trying to get past Ghost-types. Finally, Tentacruel misses out on Swords Dance when using Rapid Spin, and Tentacruel's Swords Dance set is widely considered its best set.


    Keeping Spikes
    So now that you've bothered to read my blurbs on the main players in the GSC Spikes game, let's take a look at the Pokemon and strategies that lead to keeping Spikes on the field. It's usually necessary to pair a Spiker with at least one of these "assistants" if you want to be able to consistently have at least a chance at keeping them down. These assistants, how to use them, and what they pair best with are described below.

    Ghost-types
    Obviously, the classic way to ensure Spikes stay down is to run a spinblocker. There are only two spinblockers available in GSC: Misdreavus and Gengar. Misdreavus has the benefit of lacking a Psychic weakness and having a little more Special Defense than Gengar, making it the more certain bet when it comes to blocking Rapid Spin, particularly from Starmie. For this reason, Misdreavus is the spinblocker that pairs best with Cloyster, as unlike Gengar, it can reliably block Starmie's spin. In addition, Misdreavus has the threat of Perish trap to force switches. However, Gengar is not without its selling points. It's immune to Toxic, so it doesn't require Heal Bell support to keep alive for a long period of time, and furthermore its attacking stats and movepool are better than Misdreavus's. Gengar is therefore a solid spinblocker to pair with Forretress, as Forretress can keep Spikes against Starmie while Gengar blocks spin against Cloyster and opposing Forretress.

    Pursuit
    It's important to note that Pursuit is a special attack in GSC. Pursuit users help to keep Spikes down against Starmie and Rapid Spin Cloyster. In addition, they can help your own spinners by taking out spinblockers and quickly taking out Cloyster, the most common Spiker. Tyranitar is by far the most common Pursuit user, and it is the best at sniping Ghost-types. However, its Water weakness leaves it vulnerable to a likely 2HKO from Starmie and a possible 2HKO from Cloyster, so it must tread carefully if it is going to attempt to Pursuit these threats. Generally, pairing Tyranitar with Light Screen support or Icy Wind from your own Cloyster gives it the advantage it needs to perform in these match-ups. Alternatively, Umbreon is a much more reliable Pursuit user, but unfortunately it doesn't have the power needed to actually KO things with its Pursuit. It fails to snipe Misdreavus because it cannot do enough damage to outpace Perish trap, and Starmie, while seemingly easily beaten by Pursuit Umbreon, can actually stall it out of Pursuit PP by spamming Recover. However, Gengar and Cloyster are slowly but surely eroded by Pursuit Umbreon, and Starmie still faces an uphill battle in dealing with it.

    Status
    Using status to mess with the Spikers and spinners makes it much easier to win the Spikes war. Toxic is usually the easiest status to use against Cloyster and Starmie, and is especially useful for limiting the lifespan of the former to prevent it from setting or spinning Spikes in the long run. Wearing down Starmie with Toxic is trickier, given its access to Recover, but it is possible since Starmie does not have Natural Cure in GSC. The idea is to repeatedly bait Starmie into switching into Cloyster and subsequently use Rapid Spin as you switch to a Pokemon such as DrumLax or Raikou to immediately force it to switch out before it can use Recover. Eventually, it will need to Recover instead of spinning, although getting to this point can be a chore. Usually, the best Pokemon to deliver Toxic against Starmie and Cloyster is your own Cloyster, although if Cloyster is your main target, other Pokemon such as Suicune, Skarmory, and Forretress are also good at baiting it into taking Toxic.

    Of course, if Forretress is the spinner you need to beat, Toxic isn't going to do you any good. Fortunately, catching it with paralysis or even sleep is a good way to prevent it from using Rapid Spin or Spikes. Snorlax with Body Slam or Lovely Kiss is especially good at drawing in Forretress to inflict status on it, as doeis Exeggutor with Stun Spore or Sleep Powder. Miltank is also good at baiting Forretress and paralyzing it with Body Slam. Snorlax and Miltank are also good at drawing in Cloyster to take these statuses. Starmie is most reliably afflicted with status by Toxic, as it is usually cautious about switching into paralysis or sleep, although Body Slam Steelix or Machamp do a good job of paralyzing it, whereas Exeggutor and Nidoking can occasionally have opportunities to put Starmie to sleep. In general, though, it's a bad idea to rely on being able to inflict status on Starmie outside of poison, since Starmie tends to avoid status like the plague.

    Using status to try to keep Spikes generally requires a lot of patience and extra support, and your hard work can always be undone by a Heal Bell user. If you encounter a user of Heal Bell, be sure to have a plan against it, whether you intend to capitalize offensively in response to its switch-in (e.g., switch a strong special attacker in on Miltank, a physical attacker in against Blissey), waste its 8 Heal Bell PP, or simply intend to prevent it from switching in to begin with.

    Baits
    Aside from baiting Spikers and spinners into taking status, certain Pokemon are good at baiting them into taking big hits. Steelix often forces opponents to switch Water-types in against it, so it has a chance of baiting Starmie or Cloyster into taking that Explosion. Steelix should be able to survive Surf from both if at full health, so that Explosion need not necessarily be used on the switch. In addition, Icy Wind Cloyster can set Spikes as Starmie switches in and gain the Speed advantage by using Icy Wind as Starmie uses Rapid Spin. This can allow a slower Pursuit user such as Tyranitar an opportunity to switch in and have an advantage in a match-up where it otherwise loses because of its Speed. If Starmie is poisoned before being slowed by Icy Wind, Cloyster might eventually keep Spikes on Starmie by itself since Starmie must eventually use Recover instead of indefinitely spamming Rapid Spin, and when that happens Cloyster can outspeed and Explode on Starmie before it can spin. Icy Wind Cloyster can also give itself the Speed advantage against other Cloyster switch-ins, which can be especially helpful when you need to Explode on an opposing Cloyster to prevent it from spinning away your own Cloyster's Spikes.

    Other Pokemon allow you to win Spikes wars by baiting these Spikers and spinners into taking hits without using Icy Wind or Explosion trickery. For getting past Starmie, Pokemon such as Marowak, Rhydon, Machamp, and sometimes Nidoking can goad Starmie into switching into powerful neutral or super effective hits. Cloyster can be goaded into taking big hits from Marowak and Rhydon, or can even be caught off-guard by an opposing Cloyster with Hidden Power Electric, which 2HKOs opposing Cloyster but does not do enough damage to be useful against Starmie. Beating Forretress can be done by [use a word different from wryly] concealing the presence of a Fire move, such as Fire Blast on Snorlax or Hidden Power Fire on Exeggutor, then letting lose when you think your opponent has let their guard down with Forretress. Not only is this strategy good for keeping Spikes against spinners, it is also good for beating the opponent's Spiker to make your own spinner's life easier. However, this kind of tactic often relies on surprise, and as a result it can fail to work if your opponent sees it coming.


    Taking Advantage of Spikes
    Setting up Spikes and keeping them can be hard work. Now that you've managed to do it, though, you can now reap the rewards of what you have sown. Spikes on its own is rarely enough to flat-out KO anything, unlike the multiple layers available in later metagames where Sand Stream is available to help out and Rest is also far less prevalent. Thus, you cannot just splash Spikes haphazardly on a team and call that "offense." You must pair it with something else to make the most of these Spikes, and the following options are the best Jelly available to Spikes' Peanut Butter.

    Status
    Two status effects in particular, paralysis and poison, receive enough distribution to effectively capitalize on Spikes. Paralysis is often inflicted as a secondary effect of standard moves, such as Snorlax's Body Slam and Zapdos's Thunder. However, you can also use Stun Spore Exeggutor or a Thunder Wave user such as Starmie or even Porygon2 to effectively spread paralysis. Paralysis is great alongside Spikes because it not only forces opposing Pokemon to take Spikes damage on the switch in, but their lowered Speed ensures that they take two turns' worth of damage upon switching in, even from the likes of Snorlax. This can seal the deal against faster Spikes-vulnerable foes such as Raikou, which, as the fastest viable RestTalk user in GSC OU, can otherwise be difficult to KO before it Rests. Paralysis also helps setup sweepers outspeed foes and get free turns of setup, so paralysis provides versatile, well-rounded offensive support outside of merely enabling opportunistic KOs.

    Poison is almost exclusively inflicted with the move Toxic. Poison's main role alongside Spikes is to stack damage on the switch-in. Poison works a bit differently in GSC relative to other generations. Toxic poison reverts to normal poison after the affected Pokemon switches out. In addition, poison damage is assessed immediately after a Pokemon is willingly switched in or immediately after that Pokemon makes a move unless the poisoned Pokemon KOs the opposing Pokemon. Thus, a poisoned Pokemon switching in on Spikes, even one poisoned by Toxic, will take 25% damage from that alone (12.5% from the poison and 12.5% from the Spikes, making it much easier to force this Pokemon to Rest or even to KO it if the Pokemon is slow. It is important to note that, because of the timing of poison damage, if a phazing move is used, the Pokemon that was willingly switched in takes poison damage on top of Spikes damage immediately before being phazed out, although a poisoned Pokemon that is forcibly switched in by Roar or Whirlwind will not have the poison damage assessed until the following turn. This combination is particularly great for wearing down Snorlax, which is often the Pokemon that poses the biggest threat and which usually houses slower opposing teams' win condition. However, Toxic is a lot less versatile than paralysis, as fast RestTalk users, such as Raikou and Zapdos, do not care about poison at all and setup sweepers are not helped very much by poison support. Still, Toxic gets much better distribution than paralysis moves do, so poison support can be preferable for teams with a lot of walls, such as Suicune and Umbreon, which otherwise have no other means by which to impose offensive pressure.

    One thing to remember when using status is to ensure that it gets spread widely. This means using a host of paralysis or poison inducers that can force a wide variety of Pokemon into taking the status move of your choice. A detailed description of this is topic enough for another article entirely, but essentially, you want to use Pokemon that bait your status targets into switching in (e.g., Body Slam Steelix baits Suicune into taking paralysis, Toxic Cloyster baits Starmie into taking Toxic). In addition, Pokemon that avoid targeting Pokemon who normally don't care about your status of choice—for example, sleeping RestTalk users and CurseLax for paralysis-based teams; Steel- and Poison-types and RestTalk using Electrics for poison-based teams—make for the best status supporters. If nothing else, make sure that paralysis-based teams can target Raikou and that Toxic-based teams can target Snorlax, for these are the most relevant threats to target with status as mentioned above.

    Opportunistic Attackers
    It should be obvious that attacks do damage, and hence are good for any offense to have. However, what do I mean by having "opportunistic" attackers that can take advantage of Spikes? Well, really, what I mean by this is that attackers that can do a lot of damage without having to set up benefit the most from Spikes. Pokemon such as Vaporeon, Charizard, and Quagsire that rely on setting up to destroy their foes can still be paired with Spikes, there is nothing wrong with that as Spikes can be useful in wearing down their most prominent counters. However, to utilize Spikes to their fullest, it is best to use offensive Pokemon that do not require setup. Mixed sweepers such as Nidoking, Tyranitar, and Dragonite greatly appreciate the fact that Spikes can enable them to take out their most prominent counters, Suicune and Raikou. Zapdos and Raikou with Thunder do appreciable damage to Snorlax, but nonetheless fail to 3HKO it, meaning that they get Rest-looped under normal circumstances. Spikes forces Snorlax to take that extra bit of damage on the switch in to make the KO by STAB Thunder much more likely. Snorlax itself is a big offensive threat with or without setup and loves Spikes support to help it wear down foes such as Misdreavus, Tyranitar, Steelix, and Miltank. Marowak, Machamp, and Rhydon are also deeply appreciative of Spikes support, as it makes life much easier for them when they have to get past Suicune and Exeggutor. There are other attackers, such as Exeggutor and Gengar, that appreciate Spikes' ability to wear away at Snorlax and Raikou.

    Phazers
    Pokemon with phazing moves literally force switches, and with prediction they can shut down the opponent's offense, force Pokemon to accumulate Spikes damage and be forced to Rest without accomplishing much in return, and in certain cases, can force a Pokemon such as a low-health Snorlax to switch in on Spikes and sentence itself to death before it can find an opportune time to Rest. Raikou is far and away the best phazer to pair with Spikes. Its STAB Thunder prevents Spikes-immune foes such as Zapdos and Skarmory from staying in, and additionally doesn't allow Rapid Spin users to blow away Spikes. Furthermore, while most teams have at least two good switch-ins to Raikou, the other four Pokemon on many of these teams will likely be Pokemon such as Suicune and Skarmory and consequently will match up quite poorly against it. Thus, Raikou can force a long-lasting cycle of one of its counters switching in, taking Spikes damage, then being Roared out to bring in another favorable match-up for Raikou. Steelix is another decent phazer to pair with Spikes, as it can repeatedly Roar out counters such as Suicune and Miltank that are pressured to switch in and take Spikes damage by Steelix's ability to set up Curses against common opponents such as Snorlax (especially mono-Normal variants) and Raikou. However, Steelix does not do a good job of preventing Rapid Spin and needs Rock Slide to stop Spikes-immune Flying-types from staying in, so it needs a little more support to be effective. Tyranitar is also a pretty good Spikes shuffler, but unfortunately four-moveslot syndrome prevents it from getting all the favorable match-ups it would like, and in general would rather be using Pursuit against the Flying-types it forces out instead of trying to Roar shuffle the opponent's team. Other phazers such as Suicune and Skarmory aren't exactly the best phazers to shuffle the opponent's team to rack up Spikes damage, most notably because they let Zapdos and spinners have their way with them. Regardless, they both have limited offensive prowess, and it's not as though their ability to Roar shuffle is totally ineffective, so if Skarmory or Suicune must be active, you might as well try to Roar shuffle. Perish trappers such as Misdreavus and Gengar can also effectively phaze opponents, forcing foes to go immediately to their own phazers. If enough Spikes damage can be racked up on these phazers as they switch in, they can be forced to Rest, which gives these Perish trappers an opportunity to capitalize on the situation.

    Stall Endgames
    Spikes should be utilized if you are using a fairly slow team and expect stall endgames to arise frequently. Spikes tend to put powerful offensive Pokemon without Rest, such as Marowak and Nidoking, on a timer, thereby allowing a team with a lot of passive members to legitimately outlast an offensive one instead of simply waiting to lose. It also does a good job of making life much more difficult for DrumLax attempting to set up against or get a Rest in against your stall. Furthermore, once you get to the stall endgame where neither player can outright break the other, Spikes helps to prevent the opponent from simply endlessly switching, thereby allowing you to eventually win the PP war. However, if you want to be sure to win stall endgames, you ought to use a Rapid Spin user, as Spikes alone does not confer an advantage. You need to also lack Spikes on your own side so that you can conserve your own PP by switching without consequence. Preferably, this spinner is not Cloyster, as Cloyster is on a much shorter timer than the Toxic-immune Forretress and the Recover-using Starmie are. Using a spinblocker is also all but mandatory, because you really need to be able to ensure Spikes are down if your passive team is going to be able to force a stall endgame instead of slowly withering away. Generally, the Pokemon that work well to force a stall endgame are those goftenerally seen on a team that pairs Toxic with Spikes; Pokemon such as Suicune, Umbreon, and Skarmory are impeccable stallers. Of course, you will need to use Pokemon such as Snorlax and Raikou and double-switch to them frequently to place enough offensive pressure on an opponent that adopts a similarly defensive playstyle, lest many of your matches simply end in a tie.


    How NOT to use Spikes
    Of course, now that you know about the best ways to use Spikes and the reasoning behind them, you might be scheming your own teams and, possibly, even your own devious Spikes strategies. Before you get too far, though, remember to avoid the following common pitfalls when using Spikes.

    There is only one layer
    I cannot stress this enough. It's generally a mistake made by newer-gen players farting around in GSC, so advanced players looking for nuance from this guide don't need to worry about this too much. However, I'd rather not see even the beginners waste precious turns by trying to set up extra layers that don't exist in GSC. So, to reiterate: there is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. There is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. There is only one layer of Spikes in GSC. Don't waste your time trying to set up more. Furthermore, because there's only one layer, learn to work with just that one layer. Spikes' advantage, as I've said before, is a lot more nuanced in GSC than in future generations where multiple layers of Spikes are shaving off a quarter of foes' HP and many more foes cannot recover HP.

    Do not be too passive
    This has also been touched on before, but do not be too passive with your teams just because "you have Spikes" for offense. Even if you're using a slower team with passive Pokemon such as Suicune and Skarmory, you should have some hefty offensive threats such as DrumLax to double-switch to frequently to keep the pressure on, and ideally some other offensive pathways such as capitalizing on Spikes with a phazer, having a Perish trapper to take advantage of an opponent's downtime, or having a mixed sweeper to go to for outright damage when Snorlax is asleep. Otherwise, Spikes alone probably will not be enough to pressure offensive teams into switching around and fading away, and you'll end up in deadlock against similarly defensive teams. Spikes is only one aspect of the game, and the Spikes advantage is not a win condition in itself unless you're looking at a stall endgame with 2-3 Pokemon per side.

    If Spikes is a focus, do NOT just splash it on your team
    I should preface this by saying: if you have an offensive team with a lot of attacking moves and Explosion users, you can afford to just splash a Spiker on your team, as the option to set up Spikes is always better than not having it at all. Generally, the splashable Spiker is Cloyster because it provides immediate offensive pressure with Explosion and some defensive synergy against Ground-types, so the team gives up little while gaining Spikes. Furthermore, with a hyper-offensive team that makes use of a strategy such as JoltWak to end the game quickly, you don't need to worry about Spikes at all. However, if you want to utilize Spikes + Roar, are using a slower team that doesn't have all that many attacking moves, or in general want to make Spikes a focal point of a reliable offensive attack, you can't just splash a Cloyster on your team and expect things to go hunky-dory. You'll need to run support to make sure you can keep Spikes. Maybe this is direct support in the form of spinblock. Maybe it's more situational support such as Pursuit or Toxic paired with a RestTalk using Electric-type. Regardless, you need to think about not only using a Spiker, but also how you'll keep Spikes up if Spikes plays a central role in the success of your team.

    Do not focus too much on Spikes
    This can catch you by surprise if you start focusing too much on the Spikes metagame, particularly if you are using a spinner. Your instinct is usually to either save your Spiker until you can keep Spikes against a spinner or to repeatedly switch your spinner into the opposing Spiker. Don't get caught in the trap of saving Cloyster when Exploding it would open up a Belly Drum Charizard or Machamp sweep, or switching your Starmie into Cloyster repeatedly for DrumLax or Electric-types to take advantage of it. Remember that Spikes, while very useful, is only one part of the game, and that you sometimes need to forget about Spikes and see the situation as a whole to come out with the win.


    Inherent Limitations of Spikes
    Of course, I've been singing the praises of Spikes and the strategies that capitalize on their presence. I've tried to be realistic about their nuanced effectiveness, although I recognize that I have stated that GSC is the best generation for Spikes, if for no other reason than because other forms of passive damage are hard to come by. However, Spikes has definite limitations that you must account for when using them.

    ZAPDOS (and Skarmory, to an extent)
    Zapdos is probably the biggest pain in the ass for a team looking to abuse Spikes, hence why its name in the header for this paragraph is in ALL CAPS. Specifically, Zapdos is immune to Spikes, is a huge offensive threat, and can tank hits from most unboosted attacks, even super effective ones. Zapdos is a big reason why Raikou and Steelix are good phazers to pair with Spikes; they're not forced out by the standard Hidden Power Ice Zapdos, and generally are able to hit it pretty hard in return. Still, they're not full stops to Zapdos. Zapdos can afford to take a couple hits from these Pokemon, and can paralyze Raikou with its Thunder while chipping away at Steelix with Hidden Power Ice. Furthermore, Zapdos cuts the effectiveness of Spikes + Roar in half, as normally Spikes + Roar forces two Pokemon to take Spikes damage, whereas Zapdos's immunity ensures that, if it switches in, only one Pokemon has to. Zapdos is also a good reason why Tyranitar is such a good mixed attacker for utilizing Spikes. While Tyranitar has much more severe four-moveslot syndrome than Nidoking or Dragonite, it has access to a STAB Rock Slide, which achieves the rare feat of 2HKOing Zapdos. Furthermore, it has Pursuit to chip away at Zapdos even as it switches out. However, Tyranitar cannot afford to switch in on Zapdos's Thunder, which 3HKOs it. Really, Zapdos can be a pretty problematic foe to go up against for any kind of team, but it's especially frustrating for a Spikes-based offense. Just be sure you have plenty of plans for dealing with it. Raikou, Tyranitar, Light Screen Blissey, Snorlax, Quagsire, and Pokemon that can Explode on it such as Exeggutor and Gengar are all good things for dealing with Zapdos, and having many answers to Zapdos is vital because Zapdos can generally match up very well against even its “counters."

    In additionOn the other hand, Skarmory can make use of its own Flying typing to avoid Spikes damage and be difficult to break when walling Snorlax. However, Skarmory doesn't impose offensive pressure the way Zapdos does, so it's easier to switch into. Just be careful to use Pokemon that both make the most of Spikes and can deal with Skarmory and you should be fine. This should be easy, since most of the more prominent Pokemon that pair best with Spikes can force Skarmory out pretty easily, but if you're not careful you could end up being dependent on a core of, say, Giga Drain Exeggutor and Earthquake CurseLax to capitalize off of Spikes, which would make life against Skarmory needlessly difficult.

    Limited Synergy
    The big problem with the Spikers and spinners is that they sacrifice some of the other team synergy you might otherwise have in that slot. Cloyster's defensive utility is limited to checking Marowak, Rhydon, and Steelix, and its offensive utility is limited to Explosion. Forretress offers nothing except a secondary check to Exeggutor. Starmie offers the most synergy, but takes a lot of damage in return from most of the Ground-types it checks, its other defensive roles such as countering Machamp and Charizard are frequently unneeded, and it's generally an easy switch in for offensive threats such as Snorlax and Raikou. Teams that use Spikes are often forced to also run a spinblocker to ensure that Spikes stay down, which leaves only four Pokemon slots to establish offensive and defensive synergy outside of Spikes. On many teams, a balance must be struck between having enough support for Spikes and having enough room for Pokemon to capitalize on them and other vital teammates.


    Conclusion
    Spikes are likely at their most important in GSC because of the lack of other truly good options for passive damage. However, they're not necessarily as effective as they are in later generations, because in GSC, everything can recover HP and you only get one layer. Spikes are very helpful for getting opportunistic KOs with Pokemon that attack well without needing setup, and are also necessary for slower teams that do not use many attacking moves. However, it is important to realize that Spikes are limited on their own, and that plenty of support, both in keeping Spikes on the field and utilizing Spikes, is necessary to get the most out of them. It's also important to remember that Spikes are not the end-all-be-all of GSC; while important, they are only one aspect of the game. Despite the Spikes-centric topic being the focus of this article, be careful to look at situations holistically and to put Spikes on the back burner if you are becoming predictable with your spinner switch-ins or if you see a way to pressure the opponent offensively without Spikes.


    Excellent article! It has a refreshing comprehensiveness to it.
  25. Jorgen

    Jorgen World's Strongest Fairy
    is a Forum Moderator Alumnusis a Community Contributor Alumnusis a Contributor Alumnusis a Past SPL Winner

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    Thanks relaunched, I'll get through looking through it at my earliest availability.

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