Top New and Fallen Threats of the OU Metagame

By undisputed and DJXO9.
« Previous Article Home Next Article »

In the days of the OU metagame with Latias and Salamence, many users were dissatisfied with how centralized the metagame was around Dragon- and Steel-types. People began wondering what the metagame would become without those top threats. To try it out, Jimbo hosted a tournament called the FUK DRAGON Tournament. It was a regular OU tournament, but with Latias and Salamence banned. During the course of the tournament, many users proclaimed this metagame as one of the best to date, and hoped that it would soon become the standard for OU.

On May 23rd, these users saw a glimmer of hope as Latias was deemed Uber by a vote of 13-8 in a controversial Stage 3-5. Stage 3 was supposed to be the last Suspect Test on Pokémon, as clauses were going to be the next subjects. Many users did not like the thought of that, since they thought Salamence deserved its own testing. It eventually did, but with a different system to Stage 3. The concept of the Smogon Council was then created. Many notable players submitted their battling resumes, hoping to fill one of the nine available spots on the Council. Then, on July 21st, Salamence was voted Uber by the nine members, by a count of 8-1.

After months of speculation, people finally got a chance to put their ideas to the test. It was obvious that things would be different without these behemoths. Some obvious thoughts were that stall would dominate the metagame, as Latias and Salamence were both very adept at breaking through stall. Many were also eager to use Roserade and Shaymin, since both were checked very well by the dragons. Another hot topic was Infernape, because Latias was just about a perfect counter for it.

People also had questions about some things becoming less popular now that Latias and Salamence were Uber. Scarf Tyranitar absolutely rocketed up in usage towards the end of the previous metagame because of how well it checked many potent threats, two of which were the banned Dragon-types. One of the most obvious speculations was that the emphasis on Steel-types would significantly decrease.

Now that a good three months have passed since Salamence's banning, the metagame has had a chance to sift out. This article will explore what threats have taken over the metagame, and what threats have dropped in utility.

Top Threats

Life Orb Starmie

Starmie @ Life Orb
Natural Cure
4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
-Hydro Pump
-Ice Beam
-Recover / Rapid Spin

Starmie has always been considered a top tier threat during Generation 4. It is often described as having "no safe switch-ins besides Blissey", and to a large extent, that is an accurate description. With great Speed, and the infamous BoltBeam combination, many Pokemon are unable to survive two Life Orb attacks and KO Starmie. Because of this, offensive teams have an incredibly difficult time switching into Starmie's attacks and consequently are forced to sacrifice Pokemon to safely deal with Starmie. On defensively oriented teams, switches can be equally difficult without Blissey. Common Pokemon seen on these defensive teams, such as Scarf Rotom-A and Scarf Tyranitar, both take high damage from LO Hydro Pump, so they are often restricted to a revenge killing role.

Life Orb Starmie is relatively easy to use. Generally, Starmie's defenses are not very strong, so it has difficult switching into even resisted hits. Because of this, Starmie usually enters the battle after a Pokemon has been KOed, provided that Starmie can OHKO it. An example of this is switching into Lead Heatran that is using Stealth Rock. From there, Starmie can easily scout its counters by using Hydro Pump for excellent damage.

Latias's banning had a larger impact upon Starmie than Salamence's. Originally, when Latias was still OU, it was relied upon to do largely the same jobs that Starmie does now, but it was typically considered better at them. With similar typing to Starmie, Dragon STAB, good coverage, and higher defenses, Latias made a better switch-in to Heatran, Infernape, and other Fire-type attackers. It was clearly the better choice for a majority of teams. Since its banning, Starmie has filled Latias's shoes better than any other Pokemon. Salamence had little to no impact on Starmie, however. Starmie was able to outspeed and OHKO Salamence with Ice Beam if Salamence hadn't Dragon Danced. Because of this, Salamence didn't jeopardize Starmie's well-being any more than Dragonite does, so consequently Salamence being banned didn't matter much to Starmie.

ChestoRest Kingdra

Kingdra @ Chesto Berry
Swift Swim
144 HP / 160 Atk / 40 SpD / 164 Spe
-Dragon Dance

Kingdra is likely the best setup sweeper in all of current OU. On the majority of good OU teams, there is bound to be a bulky Water-type to counter many top threats like Heatran. This Kingdra set is designed to use the presence of these bulky Water-types to its advantage. With high defense and good typing, Kingdra is able to obtain Dragon Dance boosts with ease, and if it is not checked immediately it can get three boosts at the very least. Then, once it's done Dragon Dancing and is at low health, Kingdra is able to Rest and restore full health with Chesto Berry. More often than not, Kingdra is able to remove the bulky Water-type, and then the opponent must find a way to stop Kingdra with multiple Dragon Dances under its belt. In short, countering this Kingdra is no easy task, and if left unchecked, Kingdra can easily sweep entire teams.

Chesto Rest Kingdra isn't a difficult Pokemon to use. Once the opponent's physical wall has been weakened or removed, Kingdra is able to Dragon Dance on almost any bulky Water-type. From there, Kingdra should use Dragon Dance as many times as possible before having to Rest and restore health. Kingdra should then cause as much damage as it can through Waterfall and Outrage.

Latias's and Salamence's bans were easily the greatest things that could have happened to Kingdra during Generation 4. Previously, it was easily overshadowed by the resident OU Dragons, both of which had higher attacking stats and Speed. Once Salamence and Latias got what was coming to them for a long time, Kingdra was given the chance to shine. In fact, Chesto Rest Kingdra was created after the bans as part of an increase in Kingdra interest. One of Chesto Rest Kingdra's main selling points is that it can easily sweep through Fire/Water/Grass Cores with its two STAB coverage moves. Combined with the fact that bulky Water-types are a staple on OU teams, Kingdra becomes a fearsome set-up sweeper.

Another indirect aid to Kingdra's rising success is the shift in the requirements of a revenge killer. During the Latias and Salamence days, revenge killers were almost required to have a speed stat greater than 100 and a move that OHKOes Salamence. Otherwise, Salamence would have easily decimated a team with its Dragon Dance set. Nowadays, Rotom-A and Flygon are the most common Pokemon designated for this role, and Rotom-A is unable to KO Kingdra with Thunderbolt while Flygon's Outrage is easily used for set-up. Since Kingdra is hard to revenge and easy to setup, it has thrived since the exit of its broken siblings.

SubSplit Gengar

Gengar @ Life Orb
4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
-Pain Split
-Shadow Ball
-Focus Blast

Pain Split Gengar has been around for a little while now, and it is the new standard Gengar set for good reason. Gengar has perfect coverage with STAB Shadow Ball and Focus Blast, and when coupled with high Special Attack, that makes it very hard to counter. Additionally, Pain Split allows Gengar to heal itself, which limits the opponent's ability to effectively wear it down with Life Orb and weather recoil. If that wasn't enough of a threat, Gengar's main counters like Scizor and Tyranitar are both unable to complete their job if Gengar obtains a Substitute. Often times, opponents usually have to sacrifice one Pokemon to ensure that Gengar does not manage to get a Substitute.

Gengar's main game plan is to enter the battle on one of its handy resistances or after a KO. In addition, Gengar should be able to threaten the Pokemon it switches into with a KO. Once Gengar enters the match, Substitute will typically be the best first move. It allows Gengar to avoid being trapped by Tyranitar or Scizor and damage Choice Scarf Pokemon that hope to outspeed and KO it. If the opponent switches, Gengar should 2HKO any switch-in it can, and if that is not an option, Gengar should Pain Split and switch to a counter.

Latias and Salamence did not have a major effect on Gengar's OU success. In fact, Sub Pain Split Gengar was just gaining popularity around the time of Latias's suspect test. The way Gengar was generally used varied dramatically from that of Latias, so it was never overshadowed. Also, Gengar could easily OHKO Latias with Shadow Ball, so Latias never threatened Gengar's well-being. Salamence and Gengar's relationship was similar to that of Latias and Gengar. Neither performed the same task, nor did one counter the other. As a result, Gengar usage didn't rise or fall much after Salamence was banned.

SubRoost Zapdos

Zapdos @ Leftovers
252 HP / 4 SpA / 252 Spe

SubRoost Zapdos is a rising threat in today's metagame. These days, teams are built around strong Special Sweepers like Offensive Suicune, SubSplit Gengar, Choice Scarf Rotom-A, and Heatran. This is where Zapdos finds its time to shine. With its excellent bulk and Speed, managing to 2HKO Zapdos is very difficult. Because it is so difficult, Zapdos is easily able to use Toxic on opposing Pokemon, while simultaneously stalling with Substitute and Roost. Common Zapdos counters such as Heatran and Tyranitar rely on low PP moves with which to KO Zapdos. Using Substitute and Pressure, Zapdos can easily waste the opponent's meager 8 PP and obtain a Substitute when the opposing Pokemon runs out of moves.

The main idea of SubRoost Zapdos is simple—sitch in to a resisted attack, use Toxic, then stall the opponent while recovering. The most difficult aspect of this set is knowing when to Roost and when to Substitute. A general rule of thumb is to make sure to Sub as many times as you can while making sure that you are not in 2HKO range. This will not only keep Zapdos in good health for the whole match, but it will also allow Zapdos to switch into the battle when needed.

Zapdos usage has risen considerably since Latias and Salamence were banned. One contributing factor was the raw power that both Dragons possessed. Before the bans, Zapdos was not only a second rate attacker when compared to the duo, but it couldn't comfortably take their strong Dragon attacks. Since their removal, Zapdos has been incredibly effective at defeating a wide variety of Pokemon that do not have the raw power to 2HKO it. Also, the fall of the Dragon/Steel core, which gave rise to the Fire/Water/Grass core, turned out very favorably for Zapdos. Bulky Water-types are typically unable to damage Zapdos before being KOed, and Fire types carry STAB moves that are easily PP stalled with Pressure. The only type of the three that Zapdos doesn't have a distinct advantage facing is Grass, but Celebi, Shaymin, and Roserade typically don't carry moves that do close to enough damage to even break Zapdos's Substitute.

Dragon Dance Dragonite

Dragonite @ Life Orb
Inner Focus
4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe Jolly
-Dragon Dance
-Roost / ExtremeSpeed / Fire Blast

Dragonite has one of the best Attack stats in all of OU, and when coupled with a move that increases both its speed and power, it's hard to not see Dragonite as a threat. With Outrage and +1 Attack, Dragonite is capable of KOing every OU Pokemon, aside from Steel-types and defensive walls like Hippowdon. As a result, most teams are forced to play cautiously against Dragonite, and they may be forced to sacrifice Pokemon to prevent Dragonite's sweep. Once Dragonite has Dragon Danced, the opponent will often be forced to rely on revenge killing it with a Choice Scarf Pokemon. The opponent will be very hard pressed to defeat Dragonite if their Scarfed Pokemon is KOed.

DD Dragonite can be played in several different ways. A lot of the time Dragonite is saved to be a late-game sweeper. As such, users will usually use it conservatively and minimize its switch-ins. Other times it is used as a mid-game wall breaker which usually constitutes a more aggressive style of gameplay. Whichever suits your style, Dragonite should usually enter the match with decent health against a Pokemon that is not a threat to KO it. From there, it is recommended that Dragonite try to wait as long as possible before being forced to Outrage.

There is no Pokemon in the OU tier that was affected by Latias's and Salamence's bannning more than Dragonite. For almost all of Generation 4, Dragonite was often considered the 'little brother' of the two Dragons. It didn't have a significant edge over either, and was close to 2nd rate on every set. Latias was faster and packed an incredibly similar special movepool along with a superior Special Attack stat. Salamence outclassed Dragonite in Attack, Special Attack, and Speed, which made it the more desirable of the two. But, now that both are gone, Dragonite has risen to fill Salamence's shoes and is doing a good job at it. It is running very similar sets to the ones Salamence used to use, but it is outsped by a variety of Pokemon that are able to keep it in check. It looks like Dragonite will be a powerful force to stay in the OU metagame.

Top Fallen Threats

Substitute + Thunder Wave Jirachi

Jirachi @ Leftovers
Serene Grace
164 HP / 168 Atk / 176 Spe
-Iron Head
-Fire Punch
-Thunder Wave

Substitute + Thunder Wave Jirachi was another late arrival to the previous OU metagame. It saw almost no usage until it was featured in Pride and DJXO9's Team X. It was an absolutely devastating threat, as it was able to dismantle multitudes of threats. If the opponent is paralyzed, it only has a 30% chance of using its move after factoring in flinches from Iron Head. If Jirachi has a Substitute up, it becomes exceedingly hard to take down.

This Jirachi was a very effecient check to both Latias and Salamence, since both lost a lot of usefulness if paralyzed. Neither have a terrific Defense stat, and can be fairly easily taken out by Iron Head. Scarf Jirachi is usually the other way to take out Salamence and Latias, but could be set up on very easily if it was locked into Iron Head or Ice Punch. This Jirachi never has to worry about that.

Now that Latias and Salamence have been banned, Jirachi not only lost two potential victims, but the metagame continued to shift away from Jirachi's favor. Cores consisting of Fire-, Water-, and Grass- Pokemon began appearing everywhere. This meant Heatran, one of the best counters to this set, become more popular than ever. Jirachi also has trouble with the OU Water-types, as the bulkier ones don't mind paralysis and take very little from Iron Head, and Starmie has Natural Cure to rid itself of paralysis. Every one of the OU Grass-types bar Breloom has Natural Cure for an ability, meaning Jirachi won't have a lasting effect on them. The Rotom formes are all also just as popular now as they were when Latias and Salamence ruled, and still counter Jirachi just as well. While Jirachi was a terrific anti-metagame Pokemon earlier on, it just has too many popular counters to be anywhere near as effective.

Toxic Spikes Lead Roserade

Roserade @ Focus Sash
Natural Cure
4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
-Sleep Powder
-Toxic Spikes Roserade
-Leaf Storm
-Hidden Power Fire / Hidden Power Ice

Toxic Spikes Roserade was always a solid lead - until recently. It used to be able to Sleep Powder opposing leads thanks to Focus Sash, and before Salamence and Latias were banned, teams were poorly prepared for the consequences sleep brought. In addition, Toxic Spikes were very worthwhile in conjunction with popular CM Stallers like Suicune and CM Wish Jirachi Leaf Storm and the HP of your choice made counters to Lead Roserade predictable. For example, Heatran was bound to come in on Roserade once the opportunity arose. This made Roserade incredibly efficient at not only doing its job, but also getting momentum from an early point in the match.

The first thing that hurt Roserade was the rise of Lead Machamp. Roserade was unable to put Machamp to sleep before it was 2HKOed by Ice Punch followed by Bullet Punch. The other option was to use Toxic Spikes once, which is vastly inferior to two layers in the long run. Plus with this option, teams with a Roserade lead had to also deal with a full health Machamp. However, the nail in the coffin for Roserade was ironically that Spikes Roserade and Venusaur became popular. This new Roserade set, which hadn't been revealed until after the bans, was on a good enough number of teams that Roserade's Toxic Spikes proved to be a waste of time in many cases. Suddenly, with all the contributing factors pooled together, Roserade became one of the most inefficient leads in the metagame, and its usage dropped accordingly.

Choice Scarf Tyranitar

Tyranitar @ Choice Scarf
Sand Stream
4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
-Stone Edge
-Superpower / Earthquake

Scarf Tyranitar was another huge threat towards the end of the Latias and Salamence era. It took surprisingly long for such an avid Scarf user to appear on the scene. Scarf Tyranitar can easily revenge Latias, Starmie, and many other top notch threats. Because sandstorm ups Tyranitar's Special Defense by 50%, it makes an even better counter to these specially oriented threats. With Latias being such a menace, people were looking for another good check that could still function well otherwise. Tyranitar was that solution, even though it still wasn't perfect, as a Latias with Choice Specs could still 2HKO it with Surf.

Because Latias was one of the main victims of Scarf Tyranitar, its banning could only mean Scarf Tyranitar usage would fall. Also, because Scarf Tyranitar had gotten so much usage, players started forgetting about other Tyranitar sets. Choice Band Tyranitar is able to do devastating damage, 2HKOing the most defensive of Skarmory. When using Choice Band, Tyranitar's Attack stat is significantly more than when it has Choice Scarf; sets with Choice Band have 604 Attack, while the Choice Scarf set has 367. Some players react to a Tyranitar expecting an Attack from a stat of 367. When they get hit by a stat of 604 Attack, chances are they're forced to switch back out, or find themselves incapable of taking any more hits without saccing one of their other Pokemon. Not to say the Choice Scarf Tyranitar is bad, but by no means is it the best set available for Tyranitar.


There have been many other notable changes in the metagame. One of the more obvious ones is the popularization of cores with Fire-, Water-, and Grass-type Pokemon. This is clearly evident in that just about every Pokemon of those types went up in usage from before the Latias ban till now. Heatran also easily overtook Scizor for the #1 spot in usage and still has quite the comfy lead.

This, along with other things, were bound to happen. With the two Dragon-types leaving the OU metagame, that opened the door for the less used Fire-, Water-. and Grass-type Pokemon, as both Salamence and Latias were able to counter or check a great majority of them. Since those two powerhouses are gone now, some Pokemon had to fill their shoes, so that's what this article is here to explore. Latias and Salamence were such a defining part of the metagame, so not many were able to visualize a metagame without either of them. Now that we've had this metagame for a while, it will be interesting what else begins to appear to take advantage of other trends. Good knowing you, Latias and Salamence—we'll see you in the next generation!

« Previous Article Home Next Article »