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Where would we be without entry hazards? Perhaps one of the main strategic focuses in competitive Pokemon is getting up those entry hazards quickly; it is a game within a game, one where the goal is to keep your hazards up and your opponent's, well, down, so to speak. Entry hazards are so important that, without them, Pokemon such as Volcarona and Dragonite would be broken to an extreme extent, and it would even make Pokemon like Moltres usable; its Stealth Rock weakness stops it from even having a chance of getting some OU action. To summarize, entry hazards play a huge part in today's metagame, and this article will give a general guide to what they can do, how they can be used, and which Pokemon can use them. Enjoy!
Well, where would the metagame be without Stealth Rock, eh? Perhaps the most controversial move in the game, Stealth Rock is pretty much a must-have on any team, quite frankly just because of the huge amount of total damage that it can cause over the duration of a match. Stealth Rock, unlike the other forms of hazards, affects almost every single Pokemon in the game, and it is absolutely crippling for Pokemon such as Volcarona and Dragonite, which could otherwise be considered very broken indeed.
Since you should pretty much have Stealth Rock on every team, it is important to work out where you can fit the move. Funnily enough, unlike in DPP or with any of the other hazards, Stealth Rock is move that you can just stick on any Pokemon, since it only needs to be used once. For example, you can put it on your offensive Mamoswine; you would never be able to put Spikes on such an offensive Pokemon, but Stealth Rock is a different matter. The most common users of Stealth Rock, though, are easy to talk about. Tyranitar is the first that comes to mind; with its ability to switch in on a lot of threats and set up Stealth Rock without difficulty, it makes a stellar choice. Walls such as Bronzong and Ferrothorn can also make good use of the move, although the latter is perhaps more suited to setting up Spikes. Jirachi is also great at setting up Stealth Rock—its ability to come in on a variety of special attackers and grab a free turn is exemplary. Otherwise, any Pokemon on your team with a free slot for Stealth Rock makes a good choice—all you need is that free turn.
Stealth Rock is needed on all kinds of teams, whether offensive, defensive, weather based or weather-less. Offensive teams need it so their sweepers are able to grab those crucial OHKOs, and defensive teams need it to increase their residual damage outputs, which they will want to do no matter what. Weather teams really want to use it, as all the weather starters takes damage from Stealth Rock; Ninetales and Abomasnow are crippled by its mere presence.
Seriously though, Stealth Rock is a necessity for every team, so make sure you leave a moveslot for it; going into a battle without Stealth Rock is something that a good player will rarely do, so make sure to have it on every team.
Spikes are the second most commonly seen entry hazards, after Stealth Rock. They are extremely useful in this metagame, as they certainly do a number on each of the weather starters; with Politoed, Tyranitar, and Ninetales switching in and out to keep up their weather, having Spikes up on the opposing side of the field is a huge advantage for your team. Spikes are also hugely useful for hurting Pokemon like Scizor, which loves hopping in and out with U-turn—getting some residual damage on Scizor really helps when trying to take it down. Spikes are also good in other ways, as two of the most used Pokemon in the tier, Skarmory and Ferrothorn, can set up the hazards with ease. The abundance of Pokemon such as Politoed and Rotom-W allows Ferrothorn to set up multiple layers of Spikes with ease; it is perhaps the best OU Pokemon to use to accomplish this task.
Ferrothorn @ Leftovers
Ability: Iron Barbs
EVs: 252 HP / 92 Def / 164 SpD
Careful Nature (+SpD, -SpA)
- Leech Seed
- Thunder Wave
- Power Whip
The above set allows Ferrothorn to come in frequently on Pokemon such as Jellicent, Starmie, Rotom-W, and Politoed, before setting up multiple layers of Spikes. Ferrothorn also pairs well with Jellicent, which is perhaps the best spinblocker in the tier. These are its main advantages over other Spikers—Dragon- and Water-types are completely ridiculed in the face of Ferrothorn—it's definitely something to watch out for.
Skarmory is in much the same boat, as Haxorus, Gliscor, and Scizor are also extremely common, and Skarmory can set up on all of the aforementioned Pokemon, unless Gliscor carries Taunt. Skarmory also possesses a higher overall physical defense than Ferrothorn, which means it can switch into Pokemon such as Scizor without worry.
Skarmory @ Leftovers
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD
Impish Nature (+Def, -SpA)
- Brave Bird
Skarmory boasts a few other key Abilitys over other Spikers: being immune to Ground-type attacks is a huge advantage, and access to reliable recovery in Roost, which Ferrothorn lacks, is also a great boon. Sturdy is a fantastic ability, and it allows Skarmory to get up another layer of Spikes against Magnezone, which can sometimes be game-changing. The variant of Skarmory listed above is the most popular set in OU at the time of writing. Its ability to take on almost any physical Dragon-type, along with most of the members of a common sandstorm team, means that Skarmory can cement its place as a top-tier Spiker.
Spikes are used on a variety of teams. They are extremely useful for dealing with all weather starters, as noted before. Having 25% of a Pokemon's health stripped is a huge boon for any team, but Spikes are most commonly seen on balanced teams, as they allow the team to deal with some dangerous threats without having to pack a team of five walls and a Choice Scarfer. For example, threats such as Nasty Plot Celebi, Body Slam Jirachi, and Scizor can all be dealt with by smart switching and Spikes. Of course, these are just a few examples of Pokemon; there are many more, and that is why Spikes can be so valuable on a balanced team. Spikes are also seen on offensive teams (despite their relatively low effectiveness). Deoxys-S is commonly seen setting up Spikes for such teams, before sacrificing itself after getting as many layers as possible. After the task is done, and Stealth Rock and as many layers of Spikes are set up as possible, offensive sweepers such as Volcarona, and Lucario (an example of a Pokemon that really enjoys Spikes support) can rip through teams. Overall, Spikes are excellent hazards to have on any team, and they should be used whenever possible, as long as your team can regain the momentum lost by setting them up.
Ah, Toxic Spikes. The "dark horse" of all entry hazards, Toxic Spikes are usually only seen on stall teams, due to their primarily long-term effect. With two layers down, Toxic poison is inflicted onto any Pokemon that switches in on the Toxic Spikes, bar Steel-types, which are immune, Flying-types, which are also immune, and Poison-types, which actually absorb the hazard, meaning they have to be set up again for them to be effective. One layer of Toxic Spikes only causes normal poison damage, so often if a team has no way to deal with Toxic Spikes they will often switch in an important Pokemon so it is only regularly poisoned, not badly. Politoed is often seen switching into Tentacruel as it sets up its second layer of Toxic Spikes — even though Politoed is generally ineffective against Tentacruel — as Politoed hates Toxic poison.
Toxic Spikes are pretty much only seen on stall and balanced teams, and as such, defensive Pokemon should be the ones to utilize these hazards. Tentacruel is perhaps the best option for this in the current metagame, with Rain Stall being an effective strategy. Its great special bulk along with relatively good typing allows it to switch in on a variety of threats, such as Jirachi, Forretress, and Ninetales.
Tentacruel @ Leftovers
Ability: Rain Dish
EVs: 252 HP / 216 Def / 16 Spe
Bold Nature (+Def, -Atk)
- Toxic Spikes
- Rapid Spin
This variant of Tentacruel is excellent on most Rain Stall teams; Rain Dish is an ability that really helps Tentacruel reach its greatest potential. With Protect, Tentacruel is able to heal a total of 36% of its HP in two turns, and this is without having to waste time using an instant recovery move (although Protect does sort of act as one). Tentacruel is able to set up Toxic Spikes without difficulty, while Rapid Spin allows it to double up as a defensive Rapid Spinner; always a useful thing to have on a team.
Other options for Toxic Spikes users include Forretress, which is more or less a physical version of Tentacruel, which exchanges an excellent ability for the option of Spikes and Stealth Rock alongside, or instead of Toxic Spikes.
Finally, Roserade makes a stellar choice, although it lacks the same amount of bulk as the aforementioned two. However, it does have access to Sleep Powder, as well as the ability to inflict decent damage with Giga Drain thanks to its good Special Attack stat.
As mentioned throughout, Toxic Spikes is primarily for use on stall teams, unless one chooses to use it to help an offensive sweeper that has trouble with bulky grounded Pokemon, such as Substitute + Calm Mind Jirachi, which has trouble beating Grass-types such as Celebi. Otherwise, Toxic Spikes are useful on stall teams for their ability to help take out threats such as Tyranitar, Politoed, Volcarona without Rest, Celebi, Jellicent, and various others. Be sure to carry a user of the move on your stall team, since Toxic Spikes can help deal with a huge variety of threats.
Rapid Spin is, unfortunately, the bane of all hazards. Having your hazards spun away is one thing any team wants to avoid, as losing all the momentum from setting them up can be crippling. The main problem with using hazards to their full potential in this metagame is that dreaded move. In addition, Rapid Spin is an attacking move, and cannot be prevented with Taunt. Luckily, though, Rapid Spinners are relatively easy to deal with, due to the recent banning of Excadrill, which was previously able to rip through any spinblocker thanks to its great Attack and blazing Speed. Now, the main threats to hazards are Starmie, Tentacruel, and Forretress, each of which can be easily dealt with by a spinblocker such as Jellicent or Gengar (the latter with good prediction).
Starmie @ Leftovers
Ability: Natural Cure
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature (+Spe, -Atk)
- Rapid Spin
Starmie's great Speed and threatening Special Attack, combined with its stellar type coverage with just two moves means it is often able to scare away the two most common spinblockers: Gengar and Jellicent. Its access to Recover, which is really excellent for Starmie, as well as Natural Cure, perhaps one of the best abilities out there, is another boon for our spinning starfish. Being able to switch into Toxic Spikes, use Recover or Rapid Spin, then switch out again without the poison status is something many bulky Water-types would kill for, and Starmie is lucky enough to possess this talent.
Starmie does have some issues with Rapid Spinning though. Jellicent can take a Thunderbolt and get back at Starmie with Shadow Ball (if it's using the move) or just stall it out with Recover. However, Starmie can choose to forgo having such excellent living abilities and equip a Life Orb, which allows it to 2HKO some variants of Jellicent with Thunderbolt. This means, though, that Starmie cannot use Rapid Spin as often as it can with Leftovers, so you have to choose a balance.
Anyway, onto the arch nemeses of the Rapid Spinners. The spinblockers are in town...
Jellicent @ Leftovers
Ability: Water Absorb
EVs: 248 HP / 216 Def / 44 Spe
Bold Nature (+Def, -Atk)
The above set allows Jellicent to block Rapid Spin from less used spinners such as Forretress with ease, and it can switch into Starmie if it expects a Rapid Spin, scaring it away with Shadow Ball or just stalling out Thunderbolt with Recover. Jellicent can also burn other common Pokemon such as Scizor and Tyranitar with Scald, which is always a plus in a primarily physical metagame.
Gengar is the other Pokemon that does an okay job of spinblocking. Its Levitate ability makes it immune to Earthquake, which is always useful. However, Gengar is just slower that Starmie, which means it loses to the little star, despite having super effective STAB against it. Gengar does, though, serve an effective role as a utility counter on a team, and the spinblocking capabilities provided by it is often only seen as an extra attribute it brings to the table.
Gengar @ Leftovers
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature (+Spe, -Atk)
- Shadow Ball
- Focus Blast
The above set is Gengar's most common, and arguably its most effective. Being able to switch into Pokemon holding a Choice item along with other threats such as Conkeldurr, Reuniclus, and Ferrothorn is a truly remarkable Ability, and spinblocking is just an added extra on top of that.
On the whole, spinblocking is a difficult task, but it can be done with good prediction skills; these are imperative for spinblocking success.
Well, as you have probably seen by now, entry hazards are extremely useful assets in today's metagame. Having them can take a huge amount of pressure off your walls and sweepers, both offensively and defensively. Slap some hazard setters on your team and get out there!
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