Core Crisis - Centering Your Team

By Bloo and Fuzznip. Art by Cartoons!
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You're sitting in class listening to your professor's lecture about Earth's core. In a monotonous voice, he rambles about the viscous molten rock that flows slowly within it—none of it interests you. Your mind then begins to wander onto other matters, such as that tournament battle you really want to win on Smogon. The Earth's core won't help you there, but a Pokémon core might!

A strong core is one of the single most valuable things to form when creating a new team. Cores are typically made up of a group of Pokémon that, when used together, work excellently toward accomplishing a specific goal. The majority of cores have varying characteristics that allow them to triumph in different areas. Depending on your team, cores can be built to succeed offensively or defensively. Perhaps the core is designed to dismantle stall? Maybe the core is built to whittle away at your opponent's health by utilizing entry hazards? What if the core is just simply made to sweep? This article attempts to explore the concepts of both offensive and defensive cores with various examples.

Effective Offensive Cores

What exactly is an offensive core? An offensive core is a group of Pokémon that are both focused, and designed to enable the team to break through most other team styles while being balanced for general play. If you're still having a hard time grasping this concept, below are several examples of common and unique offensive cores.

Gyarados and Jolteon

Gyarados @ Life Orb
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Adamant nature (+Atk, -SpA)
- Dragon Dance
- Waterfall
- Earthquake
- Ice Fang
Jolteon @ Choice Specs
Ability: Volt Absorb
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Spe / 252 SpA
Timid nature (+Spe, -Atk)
- Thunderbolt
- Shadow Ball
- Hidden Power Grass
- Baton Pass

Who would've ever thought a useless fish would evolve into an atrocious sea monster and join forces with an electric puppy to make a formidable offensive core? The Gyarados and Jolteon core originated in the R / S era and continues to thrive even in today's metagame. This core focuses more on type synergy than anything else, and banks on the fact that each Pokémon is hit on different attacking sides. Thanks to Volt Absorb, Jolteon can effortlessly switch in on any Electric-type attack aimed at Gyarados and replenish 25% of his health. In return, Gyarados's Flying typing helps him easily switch in on the Ground-type attacks that plague Jolteon in the hopes of pulling off a free Dragon Dance boost.

Every core comes with a weakness, and in the case of Jolteon and Gyarados, the Skarmory and Blissey combo rips apart any plans this core has. Blissey rolls on the floor laughing when she's against Jolteon, brushing off his attacks like nothing happened. Skarmory's immense physical bulk allows him to easily phaze Gyarados away with Whirlwind, disposing of all of his stat boosts. The only way to really break through Blissey and Skarmory is by using a mixed sweeper, and because of that, Jirachi is an all-star partner. With just two moves in Iron Head and Thunderbolt, Jirachi can easily dispose of the two defensive beasts. As a bonus, Jirachi and Gyarados have excellent type synergy together.

Jirachi and Machamp

Jirachi @ Leftovers
Ability: Serene Grace
EVs: 164 HP / 168 Atk / 176 Spe
Jolly nature (+Spe, -SpA)
- Substitute
- Thunder Wave
- Iron Head
- Fire Punch
Machamp @ Leftovers
Ability: No Guard
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Atk / 4 Def
Adamant nature (+Atk, -SpA)
- Rest
- Sleep Talk
- DynamicPunch
- Ice Punch

Remember when locopoke kept trolling users on IRC, then got banned from nearly every channel? If you thought that was annoying, think again. This core will not only annoy the hell out of you, it will bust your balls, cause a homicidal spasm, and make you rip yourself apart. Paralysis is one of the main contributors to hax in Pokémon, and this core abuses it to the fullest. By using Thunder Wave alongside Iron Head's 60% chance to flinch (thanks to Serene Grace), Jirachi will ensure that its opponents will be immobilized for a majority of the time—they only have a 30% chance to touch Jirachi with a perfectly accurate attack! Machamp will literally smash his enemies to the floor with his herculean-like DynamicPunch, and with the paralysis provided by Jirachi's Thunder Wave, creates the infamous parafusion combo. On top of this, Jirachi can take advantage of Machamp's confusion by potentially setting up a free Substitute! You seriously can't let this core set up against you; otherwise you are in for an incredibly difficult, and daunting battle.

Spreading paralysis and confusion against basically everyone is cool and all, but this core comes with a small price: it suffers from the inability of being able to quickly dispose of bulky Ground-types such as Hippowdon and Swampert. Both Hippowdon and Swampert are immune to Thunder Wave and have excellent defensive bulk, which allows them to take Machamp's DynamicPunch much better. There's one Pokémon that can easily combat both Swampert and Hippowdon: Celebi. This little green onion is capable of making them run crying back into their PokéBalls with its STAB super effective Grass Knot. Additionally, Celebi is further able to spread paralysis by utilizing Thunder Wave.

Scizor and Kingdra

Scizor @ Choice Band
Ability: Technician
EVs: 248 HP / 252 Atk / 8 Spe
Adamant nature (+Atk, -SpA)
- U-turn
- Bullet Punch
- Superpower
- Pursuit
Kingdra @ Leftovers
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 180 HP / 252 Atk / 76 Spe
Adamant nature (+Atk, -SpA)
- Dragon Dance
- Rain Dance
- Outrage
- Waterfall

Scizor's boxing glove-like pincers instill fear in a butt-load of Pokémon because they can knock most of them out instantly. Kingdra, the Pokémon equivalent of Poseidon, can summon large rain storms to drench the opposition. If you ever pair these two Pokémon together, your enemies will be in for a hell of a beating. Kingdra uses both Rain Dance and Dragon Dance to plow through unprepared teams with ease, as a Dragon Dance and rain-boosted Waterfall is sure to cause complete destruction. Scizor is your basic Choice Band user, but works excellently in conjunction with Kingdra because Scizor lures and can U-turn against Pokémon that Kingdra can take advantage of, such as Heatran and Gliscor. Defensive Rotom-A is also one of those Pokémon that Scizor tends to lure in, but poses a problem for both Kingdra and Scizor. Having a Pokémon like Tyranitar in the wings to help with this is important. Kingdra's role in this partnership is to break down the opponent's defenses in the hopes of weakening them enough for Scizor to mop up the floor. Even better, Scizor's only weakness to Fire is thankfully accommodated by the presence of the rain Kingdra sets up, and it also resists Kingdra's only weakness to Dragon.

It's true that this is a pretty brutal core when played correctly, but it has a few key issues when it comes to sweeping. Skarmory's high defensive prowess easily enables him to switch into Kingdra or Scizor, take their assault relatively well, and Whirlwind them out. Gyarados is somewhat similar in function to Skarmory, as he has excellent physical bulk thanks to Intimidate, resistances to Kingdra's Waterfall and most of Scizor's moveset, and Roars them out with impunity. Having said that, Jolteon is an excellent Pokémon to consider, as he can shock both Skarmory and Gyarados into oblivion with Thunderbolt, and can even set up Rain Dance himself to help Kingdra and Scizor.

Gengar, Tyranitar, and Magnezone

Gengar @ Life Orb
Ability: Levitate
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Spe / 252 SpA
Timid nature (+Spe, -Atk)
- Substitute
- Pain Split
- Shadow Ball
- Focus Blast
Tyranitar @ Choice Band
Ability: Sand Stream
EVs: 160 HP / 252 Atk / 96 Spe
Adamant nature (+Atk, -SpA)
- Stone Edge
- Crunch
- Pursuit
- Aqua Tail
Magnezone @ Leftovers
Ability: Magnet Pull
EVs: 172 HP / 252 SpA / 84 Spe
Modest nature (+SpA, -Atk)
- Thunderbolt
- Hidden Power Grass
- Thunder Wave
- Substitute

A sudden blackout occurs from the power plant raided by magnetic Steels; two huge, red eyes begin to float around the room, lurking in the shadows; a distant rumbling can be heard outside from a tyrannous beast. What's going on? The formation of one of the most effective offensive cores is what's going on! All three members of this trio have access to high-powered STAB attacks, making them easily capable of ripping unprepared teams to shreds. This combination of Pokémon is mainly geared to deal with each other's weaknesses, seeing as each Pokémon attracts an opposing counter that a member of the core can effectively deal with. Gengar lures in Scizor, who is handled by Magnezone. Tyranitar attracts Lucario and Skarmory, who are dealt with by Gengar and Magnezone respectively. Magnezone brings out Heatran and Blissey, who are taken care of by Tyranitar. Get the idea? Magnezone further aids its colleagues by spreading paralysis through Thunder Wave, giving Gengar a decent chance at setting up a free Substitute and Tyranitar an easier time outpacing fast threats.

Despite this core packing three powerful threats, it isn't impenetrable by any means, as it has a vulnerability to a few prevalent Pokémon. Pokémon such as Dragon Dance Salamence, Agility Metagross, and Dragon Dance Gyarados give this core a considerable amount of trouble if any one of them manage to set-up. Each of them possess moves that demolish Gengar, Tyranitar, and Magnezone with ease. In order to remedy this dilemma, it is wise to run a Pokémon that is capable of defeating the aforementioned threats. Some noteworthy partners to accompany this core are Choice Scarf Flygon and Choice Scarf Jirachi. When equipped with Choice Scarf, both Flygon and Jirachi gain the ability to revenge kill Gyarados and Metagross, and at worst, speed tie with Salamence after they set up.

Effective Defensive Cores

You may be thinking, "What on Earth is a defensive core?!" The answer is simple: a defensive core is a group of Pokémon chosen to give a team a solid set of resistances and the ability to switch into most, if not all, of the common and threatening attacks in the metagame, allowing it to stick around long enough to beat other teams. Need examples? Look below!

Skarmory and Blissey

Skarmory @ Leftovers
Ability: Keen Eye
EVs: 252 HP / 232 Def / 24 Spe
Impish nature (+Def, -SpA)
- Brave Bird
- Roost
- Spikes
- Whirlwind
Blissey @ Leftovers
Ability: Natural Cure
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 Spe
Bold nature (+Def, -Atk)
- Wish
- Protect
- Seismic Toss
- Toxic

Long, long ago... In a land where Gyarados was UU and Misdreavus was OU...came the birth of arguably the most effective defensive core that ever existed: Blissey and Skarmory. This defensive duo, famously known as SkarmBliss, has existed for generations upon generations, and will continue to be a dominant defensive force in the future. Surely this core must have some complicated premise because of how successful it is, but it is actually very simple. Blissey is a fat-ass for a reason: she serves the role of sponging up practically every special attack aimed at Skarmory. Skarmory, on the other hand, takes the physical attacks Blissey hates with ease and can set up Spikes to reduce an opponent's ability to switch around. On top of this, both Skarmory and Blissey have access to instant recovery, which increases their longevity by a mile.

Blissey and Skarmory do seem quite impenetrable, but with every Goliath, there is a David. Infernape can karate chop his way through this core without breaking a sweat. With his excellent mixed sweeping capabilities, Infernape can obliterate Blissey and Skarmory with his STAB Close Combat and Fire Blast, respectively. Thankfully, Gyarados is a wonderful partner to deal with the flaming monkey, as he can generally defeat nearly all versions with a simple RestTalk set.

Forretress and Heatran

Forretress @ Leftovers
Ability: Sturdy
EVs: 252 HP / 252 SpD / 4 Atk
Sassy nature (+SpD, -Spe)
- Toxic Spikes
- Spikes
- Rapid Spin
- Payback
Heatran @ Leftovers
Ability: Flash Fire
EVs: 244 HP / 220 Spe / 32 SpA / 12 SpD
Calm nature (+SpD, -Atk)
- Substitute
- Torment
- Protect
- Lava Plume

What do you get when you pair a bagworm with a lava dome? A core that is fully capable of frustrating your opponents until they rip their hair out! Forretress's main role in this partnership is to lay down entry hazards in the form of Toxic Spikes and Spikes in order to pile up residual damage on an opposing team. Heatran takes full advantage of Forretress's entry hazards by using Torment in conjunction with Substitute and Protect. This allows him to royally screw over the opponent by forcing switches and poison stalling longer than the stall war that took place between imperfectluck and Zak91 in Smogon Tour's season nine finals. This core's use doesn't end there, though! Forretress attracts Fire-type attacks like honey attracts bees. With Heatran's Flash Fire, he can fearlessly absorb those Fire-type attacks to power up his Lava Plume. Speaking of Lava Plume, its 30% burn chance is extremely helpful in that it allows Heatran to cripple Pokémon that are immune to Toxic Spikes, particularly Steel- and Flying-types.

At first glance, the strategy of this core looks incredibly difficult to bypass; however, there are a few Pokémon that immediately trouble this Forretress and Heatran combo to no end. The most prominent Pokémon that laugh at this core are CroCune, RestTalk Gyarados, and opposing Heatran. Through the use of Rest, Suicune and Gyarados can purify themselves of status and use Sleep Talk from there to set up or hurt Heatran and Forretress with their Water-type STABs. An opposing Heatran is just like Chuck Norris—you don't beat him, he beats you. He is simply immune to Toxic Spikes and gains a free Flash Fire boost from Lava Plume, instantly stopping the core dead in its tracks. In order to prevent these three troublesome Pokémon from ruining your day, Vaporeon and Celebi are invaluable teammates. Vaporeon can single-handedly defeat both RestTalk Gyarados and Heatran, absorbing their STAB attacks and retaliating with Hidden Power Electric and Surf, respectively. Celebi easily keeps Suicune at bay, rubbing off its Surf and firing off repeated STAB Grass Knots in return.

Breloom and Zapdos

Breloom @ Toxic Orb
Ability: Poison Heal
EVs: 236 HP / 248 Def / 24 Spe
Impish nature (+Def, -SpA)
- Substitute
- Leech Seed
- Focus Punch
- Spore
Zapdos @ Leftovers
Ability: Pressure
EVs: 248 HP / 184 SpD / 76 Spe
Timid nature (+Spe, -Atk)
- Substitute
- Roost
- Thunderbolt
- Toxic

Does it really make sense that a mushroom boxer and thunder bird can make a pretty awesome defensive core? Not really, but you better believe it! This core can be a serious pain in the rectal area, as it specializes in abusing Substitute with HP-draining attacks. Breloom is determined to Leech Seed stall the opponent with whatever it takes, incapacitating a threat with Spore when the need arises. Zapdos, on the other hand, makes its opponents' lives a living hell by using Toxic in order to drain their health. To make matters worse, Zapdos causes further trouble by exploiting the Substitute + Roost combination with its excellent overall bulk and ability, Pressure. Breloom, with his fighting spirit, can fend off the special defensive behemoth known as Blissey, along with the sand monster named Tyranitar, both of whom greatly trouble Zapdos. To return the favor, Zapdos can manhandle the Pokémon that utterly wall Breloom, such as Celebi.

Everyone hates the pink blob of fat, also known as Blissey, but she is seriously a helpful teammate to this core. Starmie may look like a puny little sear star, but it can single-handedly put this core to death with its powerful, super effective Ice Beam. With gargantuan defensive stats, Blissey has absolutely no ounce of fear when switching into Starmie. Not only that, but Blissey can aid her partners with the ever-helpful Wish, giving them added survivability, and can spread around more poison status with Toxic for the Substitute-abusing Pokémon to take advantage of.


After reading this article, we hope you have gotten a better understanding of cores and how important they are when it comes to team-building. Take time to experiment with different Pokémon combinations if you are in need of a new team, because once you find that core that brings you a lot of success, it will be smooth sailing from there.

Good luck!

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