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None can deny that entry hazards play a huge role in the OU metagame. How do you use them to your advantage, though? Each of the three entry hazards has their own effects with unique advantages over those of other hazards. You also have many options when it comes to putting the hazards into play—again, each Pokemon has advantages and disadvantages when compared to the others. Once the hazards are down, however, unless you are able to exploit them, you just wasted a very valuable turn.
This article will go into the rights and wrongs of entry hazards: what they do, how you can put them down, and different strategies for using them to your advantage. There will also be specific examples of Pokémon who do the best in one of those areas.
The most common of the entry hazards in OU is by far Stealth Rock, for pretty obvious reasons. There are seventeen Pokémon in OU capable of putting it in play, as compared to only four for the other two entry hazards. It is also the easiest to put down since it only takes one layer, while the other two take two or three layers. Stealth Rock is also the only hazard that can hit Flying-types and Pokemon with the Levitate ability. Since it hits all Pokémon for at least some damage, except for Pokémon with Magic Guard, it is also used to break Focus Sash, which would otherwise be a very difficult item to work around.
Stealth Rock does damage based on how weak the defending Pokémon is to Rock-type attacks. If the Pokémon doesn't have a weakness or a resistance to Rock-type attacks, it will take 12.5% damage. If the defending Pokémon is weak or resistant to Stealth Rock, the damage is a direct multiple of 12.5%, ranging from 3.125% to 50%.
Spikes are not as common as Stealth Rock, but are usually more dangerous. Spikes are put down in up to three layers, and increase in damage output with increasing layers. The downside is that they are only able to hit grounded Pokémon. With one layer, the spikes do 12.5% damage; two layers yield 18.75% damage; three layers do 25% damage with each switch.
Toxic Spikes are potentially the most dangerous of the entry hazards. Like Spikes, they only affect grounded Pokémon. In addition, any grounded Poison-type is able to absorb Toxic Spikes and take them off the field for the remainder of the match. Because the effect is Poison-type however, they are unable to hit Steel-types. The first layer of Toxic Spikes acts as a standard poison. The switch-in takes 12.5% damage per turn for the remainder of the battle. If two layers are down, the switch-in becomes badly poisoned. The first turn, the Pokémon takes 6.25% damage. For every turn after that, another 6.25% is added on, so the damage from the first three turns would be 6.25%, 12.5%, and 18.75%. If the Pokémon switches out and comes back in, the damage starts over at 6.25% again.
Many people view entry hazards as a must-have on any team, and try to get them out as early as possible to reap the benefits sooner rather than later. As such, many leads use Stealth Rock. Many players now run anti-leads, to OHKO other leads before they have a chance to do anything. The Stealth Rock leads have now had to adapt to these newer anti-leads. One of these answers is Colbur Berry Azelf.
Azelf @ Colbur Berry
EVs: 8 HP / 140 Atk / 144 SpD / 216 Spe
Jolly Nature (+Spe, -SpA)
- Stealth Rock
Against standard Azelf leads, Lead Machamp is able to 2HKO them with a combination of Payback and Bullet Punch. With Colbur Berry however, Azelf can Stealth Rock while taking the Payback, then Explode or U-turn since Bullet Punch doesn't do enough damage to finish Azelf. Since Azelf isn't using Focus Sash, it also has some EVs in HP and Special Defense so it has more survivability. The HP allows it to always survive max Attack Metagross' Meteor Mash so it can get Stealth Rock, and switch out to be fodder later on. The Special Defense lets it take Timid 252 EV Roserade's Leaf Storm. That also means it will survive other attacks like LO Starmie's Hydro Pump and Shuca Heatran's Fire Blast.
Just like any other lead though, this one is not perfect. It still has trouble against faster Scarf users like Jirachi, or hard hitting priority-users like Choice Band Scizor. The most powerful attacks like Specs Heatran's Overheat also can beat this Azelf since it doesn't have Focus Sash anymore.
Heatran @ Choice Specs
Ability: Flash Fire
EVs: 40 HP / 252 SpA / 216 Spe
Modest Nature (+SpA, -Atk)
- Earth Power
- Hidden Power Grass
- Stealth Rock
Because Heatran has so much power, it has gained popularity, given its ability to obliterate so many leads. Anti-lead Machamp is easily OHKOed, as is Swampert, and even Occa Berry Metagross. Earth Power can also OHKO Shuca Heatran, even though they will most likely outspeed and OHKO you with Earth Power first. That is why some people like going with max Speed on Specs Heatran: for the speed tie with other Heatran.
Stealth Rock is also used to get the best of both worlds from Heatran. If the opposing lead is forced out by Heatran (Jirachi, for example), why bother predicting with an attack when you can just get your own Stealth Rock down? Once Stealth Rock is down, and Heatran starts firing off powerful Overheats, not much will be sticking around for long.
When using a more defensive team like pure stall, your Stealth Rocker will want to go along with that theme. Hippowdon is one of the more popular Pokémon to lay Stealth Rock when using stall.
Hippowdon @ Leftovers
Ability: Sand Stream
EVs: 252 HP / 152 Def / 104 SpD
Impish Nature: (+Def, -SpD)
- Slack Off
- Stealth Rock
Hippowdon has incredible bulk and very reliable recovery in Slack Off that is not seen to often in other Pokémon. Hippowdon can also make use of Roar to start building up the entry hazard damage that is so important with stall teams. With massive defensive bulk, it is able to get Stealth Rock down on a multitude of Pokémon, and continue walling them while chipping away with Earthquake. Hippowdon also adds to the passive damage by starting a sandstorm with its ability.
When using Spikes and Toxic Spikes, it's not as easy to abuse the current metagame. The amount of available Pokémon drops from seventeen with Stealth Rock to four with either Spikes or Toxic Spikes, including Smeargle. With so few Pokémon to choose from, the type of team you are building tends to do the choosing for you.
Smeargle @ Focus Sash
Ability: Own Tempo
EVs: 4 Atk / 252 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature: (+Spe, -SpA)
- Stealth Rock
When using offensive teams, it's of the utmost importance to keep the momentum in your favor. Smeargle does a good job of that, simply because it has access to every move in the game. Being able to put the defending Pokémon to sleep 100% of the time with Spore is a great way of keeping said momentum, and usually leads towards more Spikes. Due to the increase of anti-leads with priority attacks and Lum Berries, Smeargle tends to have a difficult time in the lead position. Because of its frailty, it also has a hard time coming in on anything, which means you won't find many opportunities outside of the lead position either. So if you're looking for Spikes on an offensive team, you might want to look other places.
With Salamence and Latias gone, Skarmory has dropped some in usage. It was able to use both of them to set up, as well as Scizor, who was most-used at the time. Since then, Heatran, who utterly destroys Skarmory, has replaced Scizor at the #1 spot. Fire-types in general have gotten more popular, as well as other Pokémon, like Zapdos, who don't make Skarmory's life any easier.
Skarmory @ Leftovers
Ability: Keen Eye
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 Spe
Impish Nature: (+Def, -SpA)
- Brave Bird
This is likely one of the most obvious yet simple sets. With Skarmory's massive Defense, it is able to tank many different moves to set up Spikes. Skarmory has Roost to help it stall out the opponent and set up the rest of its Spikes. Once it has enough layers down, it can start using Whirlwind to begin racking up the Spikes damage. Brave Bird can be used to finish off some Pokémon that are low on health. Even with only a base 80 Attack stat, Brave Bird can still do a decent amount of damage.
Even though some Spikers aren't as useful in the current metagame, one in particular is very happy that Salamence and Latias are no longer around.
Roserade @ Leftovers
Ability: Natural Cure
EVs: 252 HP / 120 Def / 136 SpD
Calm Nature: (+SpD, -Atk)
- Grass Knot
- Hidden Power Fire
Roserade is very grateful for the lack of both Salamence and Latias, as even if it has HP Ice, they both outspeed Roserade and can OHKO or set up on it. Usually Roserade is used since it has access to Sleep Powder and has a powerful base 125 Special Attack stat. The natural bulk it has in Special Defense usually goes unnoticed though. Combined with Natural Cure and Rest, it can easily stay around to get all three layers of Spikes, while continuing to do decent damage with Grass Knot and its other coverage move, not necessarily Hidden Power Fire. Roserade can also fill the role of the Grass-type in the now popular Fire / Water / Grass core, and has an easy time at setting up against opposing Water-types. Even with the EVs focused in its defenses, Roserade still has plenty of power, OHKOing LO Starmie with Stealth Rock, while only taking 53.1% - 63% from Ice Beam.
Roserade has a fantastic support movepool that can be utilized in many ways. On this set in particular, you could easily run Toxic Spikes and Sleep Powder over Spikes and your coverage move. If you wanted to, you could also go with both Toxic Spikes and Spikes, and forego the coverage move. There's also Leech Seed, which can be used as another form of recovery instead of Rest. When choosing Roserade's moveset, it's just important to remember that Spikes and Sleep Powder are illegal together.
Roserade @ Focus Sash
Ability: Natural Cure
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature: (+Spe, -Atk)
- Toxic Spikes
- Sleep Powder
- Leaf Storm
- Hidden Power Fire
Roserade's Speed lets it outpace a good amount of the OU leads. Against bulkier leads without Lum Berry, Sleep Powder puts them right out before they have a chance to lay their own hazards. Roserade has a tougher time against the faster leads with Taunt, since it can't put them to sleep or use Toxic Spikes. Leaf Storm does plenty of damage to them though.
Roserade is geared toward more of an offensive use of Toxic Spikes. It can still be used for defensive approaches, but there is another Pokémon that can usually do a better job of that.
Forretress @ Leftovers
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 SpD
Careful Nature: (+SpD, -SpA)
- Toxic Spikes
- Rapid Spin
This Forretress has an incredible amount of utility. Not only can it lay down Toxic Spikes and Spikes, it can Rapid Spin other hazards, and if a Ghost-type switches in to block it, Payback hits it for a good amount of damage. Given Forretress' incredible base 140 Defense, it is able to set up on a multitude of Pokémon. The specially defensive spread allows Forretress to take attacks from Pokémon like Rotom-A with greater ease.
One of the few downsides to Forretress in general is the lack of reliable recovery. Without recovery, it becomes hard to continuously take attacks. In that regard, it is advised to run Wish support with this Forretress, which usually comes in the form of Blissey or Vaporeon.
If a Pokémon comes in with only 75% health, it will obviously be much easier to KO, which is the premise behind using Spikes and Stealth Rock on offensive teams. Kevin Garrett and august's Kevin, Please Come Home is a beautiful example of using Spikes effectively on an offensive team. It uses hard-hitting offensive sweepers like Lucario and the now Uber Salamence to blast holes in the opposing team. As the opponent's Pokémon switch back and forth to check different threats, they continue to take the passive damage and the predicted attacks, and are eventually swept clean by one of Please Come Home's Pokémon.
Obviously this team is a bit out of date, as two of the key Pokémon are now Uber, so when building offensive teams that abuse Spikes, you'll need to explore other possibilities. The Specs Heatran set mentioned earlier is an interesting choice, because even if you predict correctly, you still can lose a massive chunk of health. Using Choiced Pokémon is also a good idea as the opponent will be more willing to switch out to try and catch you at a disadvantage. Anything that forces your opponent to do more switching than usual is a good way to abuse entry hazards in general.
Phazing is any sort of move or strategy that forces your opponent to switch Pokémon. These include moves such as Perish Song, Whirlwind, and Roar. Roar is the most-seen move from that list because so many Pokémon have access to it. Whirlwind has the advantage over Roar in utility though, as any Pokémon with the ability Soundproof are immune to Roar. Any Pokémon that causes many initial switches is a solid candidate to abuse Roar.
Gyarados @ Leftovers
EVs: 248 HP / 248 Def / 12 Spe
Impish Nature: (+Def, -SpA)
- Sleep Talk
Gyarados can be a very dangerous sweeper if teams are unprepared. Combined with Intimidate and a unique typing, many opponents are forced to switch out. This is a prime time to abuse Roar. When the initial Gyarados counter comes out, it already takes a possible 37.5% damage from Stealth Rock and Spikes. Gyarados then forces it out with Roar, and brings in another Pokémon which also takes that 37.5% damage. The opponent might now be stuck with a Pokémon who also shudders under Gyarados' presence. If the opponent switches back to the original counter, they have now taken a possible grand total of 75% damage—not too hot for a Pokémon that is supposed to stop Gyarados. Obviously, you won't have three layers of Spikes and Stealth Rock out everytime, but the damage continues to rack up like that.
If you also happen to have Toxic Spikes, Gyarados does an amazing job at stalling out the opponent with Rest and Sleep Talk, and letting the passive damage do the work for it. Gyarados' solid defenses, typing, and ability can already keep it around for a long time, and only increase in effectiveness with Rest. Sleep Talk is also helpful in that it negates Roar's negative priority and sometimes allows Gyarados to Roar before the opponent has a chance to attack.
Philip7086's Team of Torment is an excellent team designed around doing just that. Forretress is used to set up Spikes and Toxic Spikes, while the rest of the team forces switches. Both Latias and Gyarados can be dangerous sweepers on their own, so when the opponent continuously switches out, it makes their job even easier.
It's harder to abuse Toxic Spikes in the same way you abuse Stealth Rock and Spikes, so a different approach is needed. Since the damage taken by Pokémon poisoned by two layers of Toxic Spikes increases with every passing turn, you don't want your opponent to switch them out. The best way to ensure that is by keeping the same Pokémon out yourself. In order for your Pokémon to stay alive when they're up against a check or counter, they must have some pretty good defenses and reliable recovery.
Jirachi @ Leftovers
Ability: Serene Grace
EVs: 252 HP / 220 Def / 36 Spe
Bold Nature: (+Def, -Atk)
- Calm Mind
I'm sure almost everybody reading this has at some point been swept by this set. When using it, you simply Calm Mind on the initial switch, and if Jirachi can beat the opposing Pokemon, just set up with more Calm Minds and Wish when appropriate. WIth no offensive investment, this set won't be doing much when up against the likes of Blissey. Toxic Spikes are the perfect remedy for a Blissey walling this set. Blissey will have no chance once the damage from Toxic Spikes piles on, as building poison damage will eventually overwhelm its recovery. Even while boosting its stats, Jirachi can just let Toxic Spikes do the damage for it. When it has enough boosts, the opposing team won't be able to do much as the damage will have already been done.
Vashta's Team Rose Tyler shows just how effective Toxic Spikes can be when used in this way. Not only does it have a Jirachi very similar to this one, both Swampert and Rotom-W are very effective in their own right at abusing Toxic Spikes. Swampert uses Rest and Sleep Talk like the aforementioned Gyarados set, while Rotom-W uses Substitute and Charge Beam to stall the opponent and boost its Special Attack stat. With so many ways to abuse Toxic Spikes, many teams find themselves helpless in front of them.
If you're not using stat-uppers like these to abuse Toxic Spikes, you're probably going to use the playstyle most famous for entry hazards, stall. In fact, stall relies solely on entry hazards to do the work of damaging the opponent's Pokémon. When using stall, your Pokémon constantly cause your opponent to switch to an appropriate counter for what you currently have out. As this cycle continues, your opponent's Pokémon continue to take passive damage, as your own Pokémon continue to heal, rinse, and repeat. Many simpler teams find themselves begging for mercy in front of stall, which some battlers call the most consistent playstyle.
Taylor's Tyranitar Stall is a fairly up to date example of a good stall team. It has all the characteristics of the general stall team and a small twist in Scarf Tyranitar. It certainly showed how effective Scarf Tyranitar is on stall teams, taking out the now Uber Dragon-types, Latias and Salamence. When people realized how many dangerous threats Tyranitar covered, it began appearing everywhere, even after Latias and Salamence are gone.
Entry hazards are never to be underestimated. In many battles, we have all switched our final Pokémon in only to have it KOed by Stealth Rock. Toxic Spikes and Spikes can both be devastating when used in the right way. Many team builders overlook entry hazards other than Stealth Rock when building their team, so many teams tend to be weak to the strategies behind the other entry hazards.
So when team building, don't just think about your Dragonite only having 75% health when switching in, but think about what the other entry hazards can do to your team. Make sure that you won't be wiped out by stall or bulky Pokémon like Calm Mind Jirachi or Suicune and the like. Just be careful and watch your step when you're team building. You wouldn't want to trip!
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