Working the Lower Ladders

By Ray Jay, Texas Cloverleaf, and Moo. Art by paintseagull.
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OU is undoubtedly Smogon's most popular tier, and dominating the OU ladder is a sure-fire way to gain notoriety in our community rather quickly. While this is more easily said than done, it is not impossible, and through enough tweaking of a team, and some knowledge of how to use alts, it can be achieved through repeated battles by anyone truly willing to put in the time.

Meanwhile, the other tiers have a different roadblock to laddering in a lack of ladderers. Sure, you may have the best darn Gen IV Ubers team around, but unless you're willing to be very patient, you will not be finding any battles or peaking on the ladder. There are certain nuances to every tier; although weather has dominated OU, this is not the case everywhere due to different availability of Pokemon for use, different players shaping the metagame with creative strategies, and different centralizing Pokemon.

On the bright side, a smaller ladder is an easier to conquer ladder, and with this guide by your side, you'll be well on your way to understanding how to climb up the first few rungs of the lower ladders.

Please note: all tiers covered in this article are Gen V.

Working the "Lower" Ladders

When battles are hard to come by, consistency is all the more important. Depending on the traffic, losing a battle means losing points you may not be able to recover for hours. For this reason, riskier strategies, such as Baton Pass, are far more rare than in OU (there are some exceptions, such as SmashPass).

If you read the previous article on the OU ladder that appeared a while back, then you may remember what the author described as "tilt." "Tilt" (typically a poker term) describes a fatigue where one starts losing to players they should normally be beating. In the lower ladders, this is especially disastrous, as a loss of points is even more devastating when you can't find another battle. If one senses even the slightest frustration or fatigue on the lower ladders, he or she should always stop battling on their main alt. Alts are very important in the battle for the top of the ladder, namely because clean alts are easier to peak with (not always true, but in most cases) and because one must be completely confident in how their team handles the entire metagame before attempting to peak. In other words, dominating the lower ladders isn't an overnight process; rather, the more time you spend practicing, the easier the final ascent up the ladder will become.

The lower ladders also offer a multitude of psychological games, as it is much more common to face players who you have faced before or even face completely identical teams, due to the tendency of newer players to rip teams from the RMT forums. In general, the mind games are not worth your time, and you should always play as if you've never faced the team or battler before. Overpredicting will cause you to lose sleep; allow the opponent to overpredict and be forced to pay for it.

Of course, there are many intricacies of each individual ladder, and the rest of this guide will attempt to explain these.


UU has a respectable player base, which is expected of the tier directly below OU. Players on a "standard play" hiatus, people who just want to use their favorite Pokemon (which happen to be lousy in OU), and people who genuinely enjoy UU; these can all be found among the UU ladder. You might think "Dude that's like just a watered down version of OU, that's pointless...", but it's actually a very enjoyable tier that is always shifting and changing. Because of this, the metagame always stays fresh and exciting, and new threats are rising all the time. That's all well and good, but what does it consist of?

The UU metagame is constantly adjusting, so it's hard to pinpoint exactly what is popular, as what is currently popular might not be in a month's time. Originally, Baton Pass was all the rage, with the likes of Espeon, Celebi, Mew, and Gorebyss running rampant, although a suspect test saw the end of that. Sand also had its time to shine. Standard sand teams that did well usually contained Hippowdon, Stoutland, Roserade, a bulky Water-type, and some fillers. Hippowdon was banned shortly after this craze, because although it was not directly the problem, the support that it provided made it too easy for Stoutland to sweep. Hail is currently popular on the ladder, with a combination of Snow Cloak abuse and Blizzard spam. Although hail was on top, what will make its claim to fame now that hail is gone? My money's on the little hippo, because with hail out of the way (theorymonning here), it'll be the only permanent weather inducer in UU, and the fact that Hippopotas is terrible won't affect sand teams as much as it would now in terms of maintaining weather. But hey, I could be completely wrong, who knows? Some good advice would be to think ahead and make plans for what you're going to use in advance.

One problem with the UU ladder is that it is slow to adjust. A new threat pops up, such as or sand, or hail, and some players will take advantage of this, while most other players simply won't adapt. Broken or not, people should at least prepare for these threats as best they can, rather than moan about them being broken. Because of this, there's an influx of players on the lower end of the ladder, while players at the high end of the ladder run through their unprepared teams, gaining a very easy +2 points. This isn't a good thing, because while it makes it a chore for new or inexperienced players to make that trek up the ladder, it also makes it very easy to take advantage of these players and rise to the top. With a little innovation and some creativity, this problem can be remedied, and the UU ladder will be a much more enjoyable environment, with even more diversity.


If there are two things that completely dominate the Ubers ladder, they are weather and bulky offense, with the two of them often intertwining to work incredibly well in a metagame that has been almost tailor-made for them to thrive. Both benefit from the top Pokemon in Ubers, Kyogre, which has a fat 45% usage rate, in part due to its ability to summon rain, its often deceptive bulk, and incredibly powerful Water-type attacks. Many of the other most used Pokemon also fit into this general mold, like Groudon, and formes of Arceus.

Purely offensive Pokemon also shine in Ubers, with the tier itself often favoring them. A testament to this is Mewtwo, which sits at number 2; it isn’t nearly as bulky as many of the other Pokemon in Ubers, and usually doesn’t bother to invest there—rather, it’s best suited to outright sweeping with a boosted Psystrike, which is obnoxiously powerful after a single Calm Mind boost thanks to the second highest Special Attack stat out of all Pokemon.

There are a few common cores on the Ubers ladder, although the most common one by far is the balanced core of Tentacruel / Kyogre / Ferrothorn. Kyogre often only needs a few layers of entry hazards to wipe out teams. Many of the Pokemon that will try to switch into Kyogre will usually end up throwing their attacks at either Tentacruel or Ferrothorn, depending on who tanks the hit better. From there, entry hazards can be set up to facilitate a Kyogre sweep, with Ferrothorn setting up Spikes for initial damage on the switch-in, and Tentacruel setting up Toxic Spikes to neuter any bulkier Pokemon that could otherwise stand in Kyogre's way. Aside from this core, you will also see many teams that are either influenced by or are exact copies of the infamous team, Drown All, by trickroom, which dominated the ladder for some time and can still wreak havoc.

The Ubers ladder itself will sometimes be a bit skewed; for example, you will often see many inexperienced players on the Ubers ladder solely because they want to use a legendary to complete their in-game team on PO. That's the only reason why Charizard is number 36. To make matters a bit worse, the ladder is often inactive, meaning that going up can be slow. However, a good player should easily be able to get up to the point that you face a competent challenge. With all this in mind, go out there and take on the ladder!


As one of the more recently established tiers, RarelyUsed is still growing in recognition and popularity. As such, when laddering you won't find huge lists of players to battle, but there will be enough players to make finding a battle not much of a problem. One of the things that makes laddering in RU so enjoyable is the level of competition that is experience, gimmick are all but non-existent at this stage in the tier's life, meaning that despite some repetition among consistent battles, the battles will always be conducted at a high skill level. As RU is still fairly early in its developmental stages, the tiers are quite fluid, with a fairly consistent flow of Pokemon between the RarelyUsed and NeverUsed tiers, in addition to the monthly suspect tests that identify broken Pokemon in the metagame. Furthermore, as a newly introduced tier, RU is able to avoid preconceptions that may plague tiers like UU, being able to carve out its own niche without being considered a lesser version of OU. Nor is it considered a buffed version of NU due to the the strength and diversity of most of the tier. This diversity lends itself to all sorts of threats and playstyles being viable.

Although there is rarely one Pokemon that dominates the metagame around it, one can gauge a group of Pokemon that are popular based on how they play together. Balance teams are consistently the most popular choices on the ladder, with threats such as Entei and Rotom being present, as well as common cores such as Slowking and Tangrowth being common on these types of teams. Offense and stall are less popular, though offense is easily the more favoured of the two. This is due to the huge offensive threats in the tier including Porygon-Z and Honchkrow, that latter being popular for its inability to be stopped once it gets a sweep going thanks to its deadly Moxie ability. Another formerly popular facet of the RU ladder is Hail, summoned by the only automatic weather inducer in the tier, Snover. Traditionally, Hail was dominated by traditional BlizzSpam strategies, utilising Pokemon such as Glaceon and Rotom-F, as well as stalling strategies thanks to StallRein being in the tier. In recent weeks however a new Hail strategy was created, known as ENTRAILS, or Endeavor+Trick Room+Hail, which utilises the ability of Solosis and Duosion to set up Trick Room while also abusing Endeavour alongside a Focus Sash to kill Pokemon that take Hail damage, themselves being unaffected by Hail due to their Magic Guard ability. This strategy had been hotly contested, taking the ladder by storm, but a resolution was avoided due to the banning of Snow Warning from UU, and therefore RU.

One of the big concerns with laddering in RU is the vast number of threats one can encounter. This is of particular issue when one is just starting to ladder, the variance of teams you will face is immense, and there will be some team that your team cannot beat. There's no way around it, no matter how good your team is, there will be some obscure threat that will sweep you. Fortunately, with persistance your ranking will rise, and once you hit around the 1200 ranking the teams with random threats will have been weeded out, making the ladder far more a test of skill. Its been said that Pokemon is 20% teambuiling and 80% skill and this holds especially true in RU. With the exception of broken strategies such as SmashPass, the diversity of the tier, with so many playstyles being viable, ensure that no one team is able to dominate all others, encouraging good play and strong predictions. With all this kept in mind, you will be prepared to take on the RU ladder and rise to the top of the heap in this hotly contested tier.


The Little Cup ladder is infamous for having only one or two people on it at any given time (or, if it wasn't infamous before, it is now). Still, it is not impossible to climb high on the ladder, as demonstrated by many more dedicated players, such as Furai, who peaked at over 1500. The magic formula for this lies not in stall or hyper offense, but within a bulkier offensive strategy. Pokemon such as Bronzor dominate the ladder for their ability to deal damage while serving as a hard stop to otherwise deadly sweepers such as Drilbur, while Mienfoo consistently dominates the usage stats as it retains momentum while also applying immediate pressure.

Bulky offensive teams are a far cry from the typical strategy of Gen IV Little Cup (which focused on the ubiquitious hyper offense strategy) due to the addition of Eviolite. Arguably the most important item in the metagame, it slows down the pace of battles, preventing monstrous sweepers, such as Abra and Scraggy, from overrunning the tier. Also notable in the usage stats is Chinchou, that also places in the top three, as its useful resistances in combination with Volt Switch keep the battle in the player's favor.

It is clear that there are two keys to dominating the Little Cup ladder: bulk and momentum. Nearly every peaking Little Cup team includes at least one or two Pokemon that can use U-turn or Volt Switch, and also a splattering of useful resistances. Sand is another common strategy, as Drilbur outspeeds and decimates a large portion of the tier.


A wise man once said, "Ask not what the ladder can do for you, but what you can do for the ladder." Now that you are equipped with the proper playstyles and broader ideas to dominating the lower ladders, it's time to make your mark on history. With these tips, determination, and a little luck, you could be at the top in no time. And, if that fails, these tiers are all offered by the Battling 101 staff, and there's no shame in asking for help.

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