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The release of Pokemon Black and Pokemon White challenged Suspect Testing organizers and voters alike in ways never seen before in the previous Generation. Not only did Game Freak release new Pokemon with jaw-dropping stats and phenomenal typing, but they also souped up various pre-existing Pokemon with amazing new Dream World Abilities. Weather conditions have since been brought to the forefront of the OU metagame through the release of Drizzle Politoed and Drought Ninetales, leading many to appropriately label BW as "the weather Generation."
With such a drastic shift in the nature of the metagame, numerous questions have arisen that have seemingly defined the Fifth Generation Suspect Testing. Is weather healthy for the metagame? Do certain Dream World Abilities ruin the spirit of competitive play? Can complex bans be implemented successfully as alternatives to blanket bans? This article will attempt to explain how we arrived at the state of the current metagame by reviewing the past four Suspect Testing rounds, and it will also address how voters as a whole have answered the aforementioned questions.
When the dust from all the Policy Review mudslinging finally settled, and after a very fat foot was put down, an initial banlist for the Fifth Generation was eventually produced in late 2010. The banlist consisted only of 670+ Base Stat Total Pokemon, meaning DP Ubers such as Darkrai and Deoxys-A were fair game in standard play. Coupled with threats including the ability Moody (known as Inconsistent at the time) and the newly released Drizzle Politoed and Drought Ninetales, Round 1 was indeed a very volatile testing period.
Unsurprisingly, Shaymin-S, Darkrai, and Deoxys-A were the preeminent threats throughout Round 1. Shaymin-S commonly ran the virtually uncounterable SubSeed set, which could easily flinch its way past common counters, including Bronzong and Skarmory. Darkrai and Deoxys-A were also top-tier threats, as more often than not a fast Choice Scarf or priority user was required to check them. While many players were rejoicing over the opportunity to abuse some of their favourite Gen 4 Ubers, other players looked for other more obscure sets to abuse. By the half-way mark of the testing period, Moody users started to become more and more popular. Octillery and Bibarel were popping up all over the place, as they could abuse Protect and Substitute effectively to rack up stat boosts across the board. If they happened to nab a +2 Speed boost with the first Protect, it was often "good game" from there, as they could just alternate between Substitute and Protect until they acquired enough Evasion boosts to become untouchable. The luck-based nature of this strategy had many players loudly screaming for a "quick ban," and Moody became a hot topic of debate in Dragonspiral Tower.
Despite the dominance of individual Pokemon with amazing BSTs, weather teams were still a dominant force in the metagame. While Drizzle Politoed could be used to abuse powerful Swift Swim Pokemon such as Kingdra, Drought Ninetales also became popular to turn Venusaur, Blaziken, and Volcarona into frightening sweepers. Although there was much infatuation with the fact that Drizzle and Drought could be used in OU, Tyranitar found itself as one of the most common Pokemon because of its Sand Stream ability. Black and White brought about many new Sand Stream abusers, including Landorus, Terrakion, and most notably, Excadrill. While Drizzle teams were soundly countered by the common Ferrothorn + Jellicent core and Drought teams struggled against any other form of weather, Sandstorm teams were difficult to stop because of their sheer versatility.
By the time Round 1 ended, the Generation 5 Suspect Test had suffered its first casualties. Darkrai, Deoxys-A, Deoxys-N, and Shaymin-S were all given the axe for hitting supermajorities, while the ability Moody was also instantly banned after being voted Uber by 96% of the voters. Excadrill, Latios, and Shadow Tag were able to escape being banned by failing to hit a simple majority. On the other hand, Drizzle and Manaphy were put on notice after they both received 50%+ support to be banned. When all was said and done, suspect testers had effectively eliminated numerous broken aspects of OU, although many question marks still remained, especially with regard to dealing with Drizzle and the weather-dominated metagame.
Picking up where Round 1 left off, OU was still a fairly hectic war zone when Round 2 rolled around. For one, several sweepers like Latios, Manaphy, and Excadrill, who had been thought to be broken by many, made it past the chopping block. In addition, Drizzle and Shadow Tag were also able to slip their way through and remain available in standard play. What did this mean for the metagame? Well, simply put, Drizzle dominated. With all the hype surrounding the Gen 4 Ubers subsiding as a result of their bans, Drizzle became the most prominent force within the metagame. Manaphy was one of the biggest threats in Round 2, since the recently buffed up Tail Glow and prevalence of Drizzle allowed it to abuse Hydration to the fullest. Swift Swim users were also incredibly threatening, and there were many successful teams that simply spammed Politoed paired with Manaphy and four Swift Swimmers. Kingdra, Ludicolo, and Kabutops were the "Big Three" Swift Swimmers, and as long as Drizzle remained active, they were virtually impossible to stop without several dedicated counters. Magnezone was also a huge asset for Drizzle teams, since Ferrothorn was easily their number one counter. In addition, its 100% accurate STAB Thunder was very difficult for anything not named Blissey to switch into.
Another strategy that began to gain popularity was Baton Pass + Shell Smash, commonly known as SmashPass. Deoxys-S would more often than not be the lead, as it could set up Reflect, Light Screen, and Stealth Rock easily thanks to its blistering Speed. Behind the dual screens, Gorebyss was incredibly difficult to OHKO, allowing it to get a Shell Smash off and Baton Pass it to a recipient. Garchomp was the ideal receiver: excellent Attack and Speed, arguably the best typing in the game, and often overlooked bulk. This strategy was absurdly effective when it was first conceived, as there were very few common ways of stopping it. People eventually caught on though, and started using Thundurus and its priority Taunt to combat SmashPassing teams.
However, perhaps the most unpredictable twist this round was the emergence of Reuniclus. With its incredible bulk, offensive prowess, excellent movepool, and an ability that nullified all forms of passive damage, this powerhouse impacted Round 2 immensely. Its two most common sets, Calm Mind and Trick Room, absolutely tore apart stall and offensive teams respectively, and there were only a handful of common counters to this beast.
When all was said and done, many more threats were banned after an intense Round 2, and the metagame became much more stable for future suspect rounds. Aldaron's Proposal made history as the first complex ban in Generation 5, and under this clause, the abilities Swift Swim and Drizzle could not be used on the same team. This proposal was meant to limit the power of Drizzle teams without eliminating it entirely from standard play, as it was felt that Drizzle without Swift Swim was healthy for the diversity of OU. Added to the fact that Manaphy was also banned, Drizzle finally got the nerf that was so desperately needed. Excadrill and Latios were once again voted upon and once again failed to meet a super majority. Despite a seemingly huge support to have it banned, Reuniclus only received a pitiful 26% Uber vote, keeping it in OU for the next round. Although Round 2 was successful in that Drizzle no longer overpowered the metagame, there was a lot of concern regarding the "slippery slope" aspect of complex bans. This opened the door to a lot of talk regarding the legitimacy of potential Pokemon + Ability bans, especially in Round 3 when Blaziken began to dominate standard OU.
With the implementation of Aldaron's Proposal, OU became a much more stable tier compared to previous suspect rounds. Everything was starting to fall into place, and it seemed that we were close to achieving the elusive "desirable metagame." However, there were still two notable Pokemon whose popularity was beginning to gain momentum, especially considering that the seemingly endless downpour of Round 2 was starting to die out: Garchomp and Blaziken. The land shark was already infamous for the devastation it caused in the Fourth Generation, but how could Blaziken, who was after all modelled after a lanky chicken, manage to stack up against top tier OU threats? The answer is simple. Game Freak asked itself "what would happen if we released a Speed Boost Pokemon that didn't have terrible stats and that wasn't completely torn apart by Stealth Rock?" Enter Blaziken, who, with Speed Boost augmenting its decidedly average Speed stat, became a frightening sweeper capable of shutting down almost any playstyle.
Speed Boost Blaziken quickly proved itself as one of the top threats in the whole tier. Hi Jump Kick got buffed up to 130 Base Power, giving Blaziken the powerful Fighting-type attack not named Superpower that it so desperately wanted in Gen 4. Throw in Air Balloon and Blaziken was kicking twice as high, becoming immune to all Ground-type attacks and giving it time to set up a Swords Dance despite its frailty. While Swords Dance sets were well known for ploughing through even the bulkiest of Pokemon, Blaziken's mixed set was arguably even scarier to face. Between Hi Jump Kick, Fire Blast, and Hidden Power Ice, only a very select few Pokemon could switch into the speedy chicken. Most mixed Blaziken carried Protect to act as a pseudo-Choice Scarf, and after a few Speed Boosts, absolutely nothing could revenge kill Blaziken outside of priority. There was virtually no way of checking Blaziken at all, so players would be forced to hard counter it. Unfortunately, Blaziken's incredible attacking stats made it difficult for even the sturdiest of walls to switch in. Players were creating new sets left and right, most notably a Work Up set with Hidden Power Ghost, in the attempts to eliminate the likes of Slowbro and Jellicent, who were otherwise excellent Blaziken counters. If that wasn't enough, Blaziken was also a staple on Drought teams due to its incredible Speed even when sunlight wasn't active; Drought Ninetales boosted Blazkien's already powerful Fire-type attacks to obscene levels.
Garchomp didn't really gain much from his journey to the Unova region. But hey, unlike Blaziken, it didn't really need a fancy new ability or powerful new attacks to dominate Gen 5. Garchomp's flawless stat distribution, excellent dual STAB, and infamous Sand Veil ability left almost no room for improvement. Garchomp brought talks of Evasion to the limelight once again, as Substitute sets sporting BrightPowder made an already outstanding sweeper nearly invincible. With its 102 Base Speed and deceptively good bulk, Garchomp could easily set up against anything slower than it and laugh as its opponent's 100% accurate moves were reduced to levels lower than Stone Edge. However, Garchomp had much more to offer than just Sand Veil shenanigans. The tried and true Yache Berry Garchomp could still annihilate teams without relying on the luck factor, while Choice Scarf turned Garchomp into one of the best revenge killers in the game.
After several long weeks of suspect testing, Round 3 came to a close, and took quite a few things with it. BrightPowder and Lax Incense were ultimately banned, no longer under the often scoffed-at "Hax Items Clause," but in a clause all their own as an attempt to keep Garchomp in check. Once again, the weather abilities Drought and Drizzle were nominated, but neither reached even a simple majority. Latios and Deoxys-S both received the simple majority, leaving their fates to be determined in the next round. The most game-changing result of all was the immediate banning of Blaziken, as it reeled in enough votes for a supermajority. Round 3 was easily the most controversial suspect round in Smogon's history. Many old-school players were livid that Blaziken, a Gen 3 starter, garnered enough support to be voted Uber after seemingly being ignored in the previous two testing periods. On the other hand, proponents to the ban argued that Blaziken's ability to break apart well-constructed teams after one Speed Boost was unhealthy for the metagame. Although Round 3 left a sour taste in many players' mouths, the fact that fewer and fewer Pokemon were being banned was a sign that the Suspect Testing process was coming to a close. All that was left was to determine whether or not Garchomp could be stopped without the benefit of the Evasion items, and if weather abilities were in fact a good thing to have in Gen 5.
The past three suspect tests really set the stage for Sandstorm to dominate the metagame. Round 2 completely crippled Drizzle teams due to Aldaron's Proposal being adopted, whilst Drought teams lost arguably their best abuser when Blaziken was banned. Although the BrightPowder ban limited Garchomp's effectiveness slightly, Substitute + Leftovers sets soon became the standard, allowing Garchomp to abuse Sand Veil just as well as when it ran BrightPowder. Although it was voted OU in all three previous rounds, Excadrill was still one of the best Pokemon in the entire game. Adamant Life Orb variants were both a devastating sweeper due to Swords Dance and a reliable revenge killer thanks to Sand Rush. Most offensive teams crumbled at the hands of Excadrill, as it more often than not required hard counters such as Gliscor and Skarmory to be stopped. Even though Sandstorm was the dominant weather even in Round 1, the bans from previous rounds meant that it was the undisputed king of weather when Round 4 rolled around.
Drizzle suffered a big blow when Manaphy and Drizzle + Swift Swim were banned, but the playstyle effectively reinvented itself in Round 3, and this became very apparent in Round 4. Kingdra and company became virtually useless for Drizzle teams thanks to Aldaron's Proposal, so players looked towards other offensive Pokemon to use alongside Politoed. Surprisingly, it was an RBY star that emerged as one of the most potent offensive Drizzle abusers. Starmie's fantastic 115 Base Speed meant it was faster than almost every common Pokemon, and with Drizzle boosting its Surfs and Hydro Pumps, it was a huge threat to any team that didn't pack Blissey or Ferrothorn. Thundurus enjoyed a great deal of usage in all three previous rounds, but murmurs of it being Uber began in Round 4, since it became more common as Drizzle teams increased in popularity. While Thunder Wave + 3 attacks was previously the most common set, Nasty Plot variants became the standard for their ability to tear apart both offense and stall. Thundurus had a nice niche on Drizzle teams by offering them a sweeper that didn't rely on STAB Water-type moves, but rather its extremely powerful Thunders. While offensive Drizzle teams contributed greatly to the success of Drizzle teams in Round 4, Rain Stall was also a hugely threatening playstyle. Very few Pokemon were strong enough to break through Blissey, Ferrothorn, Rain Dish Tentacruel, and Gliscor when rain was active, making Rain Stall a very viable alternative to the standard Sandstorm Stall. The re-emergence of Drizzle teams strongly contributed to new talks regarding whether or not auto-weather abilities should be banned in standard play.
Amid all the weather abuse in OU, a strange new playstyle was found to be incredibly strong in Round 4. Dragon Spam, as it is affectionately called, relied on the likes of Garchomp, Haxorus, Dragonite, Salamence, Hydreigon, and Latios to pummel opponents with powerful Dragon-type attacks and then sweep with a remaining Dragon. This simple yet effective strategy worked due to the fact that even the bulkiest of Steel-types had troubles dealing with Choice Band Outrages, especially from Haxorus with its Rivalry ability. While Magnezone was often seen on Dragon Spam teams, it often wasn't required, as a well timed Fire Punch or Fire Blast was usually enough to send Skarmory and Bronzong packing. Ironically, this playstyle was threatened mostly by opposing Dragon-types, especially Garchomp in the sand, as a well-timed miss would often be enough to sweep an entire Dragon Spam team. As such, Scarf Politoed was a great Pokemon on these teams, controlling weather while providing an effective revenge killer.
For the first time ever, all three auto-weather abilities, Drizzle, Drought, and Sand Stream, were put up to vote to finally determine if suspect voters believed weather was healthy for the metagame. All three abilities failed to hit a simple majority, and were thus found to be completely OU. On the Pokemon front, Garchomp was voted Uber even with the BrightPowder ban from Round 3, as voters felt Garchomp and Sand Veil introduced an unnecessary aspect of luck to the metagame. Thundurus also received a majority, but it fell just short of a supermajority, meaning it would be available in Round 5. One of the more surprising aspects of Round 4 was the fact that neither Latios nor Deoxys-S, who reached a simple majority in Round 3, were able to reach a simple majority again. For the fourth time, Excadrill was found to be OU, leading many to claim that a Pokemon should not be voted on after being voted OU so many times. With Garchomp out of the picture and the fate of weather abilities finally settled, the final question mark for the Fifth Generation Suspect Testing seems to be Thundurus. Once that is settled, barring a huge metagame shift such as the release of Dream World Pokemon like Keldeo, it appears that Suspect Testing has done its job.
No one can say with certainty what direction the OU metagame will take in the future. Much of this depends on how players view weather abilities in the future, and whether or not Keldeo, Genesect, and Meloetta are released. Although, like any other process, the Suspect Testing has its flaws, the fact that Smogon's best players have successfully put together a playable metagame over the course of around half a year is indeed a testament to its effectiveness.
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