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While we're in the midst of Gen 5, I thought it would be a nice change of pace to step back in time; a time before teams became standardized, and a time before the metagame was swamped with the same Dragonite-based teams. Here we'll look at strategies that are often overlooked, forgotten, ineffective, or banned in this generation. With that said, we'll begin with two of the most irritating and common strategies seen in Gen 4: SkarmBliss and GyaraVire.
This was THE defensive core in Gen 4; thanks to Skarmory's amazing Defense and Blissey's enormous HP, this combination had tremendous defensive effectiveness against the majority of purely physical or special offensive threats. Besides walling opponents, both Skarmory and Blissey could provide valuable support for either a stall or balanced team, with Skarmory providing Spikes and phazing and Blissey healing teammates with Wish (especially helpful for stall teammates that lacked recovery). Blissey could also provide cleric aid with Heal Bell / Aromatherapy and Stealth Rock, if those moves were not present on teammates. While mixed attackers like Infernape and Salamence were a tremendous threat, they usually relied heavily on Life Orb to make up for their split offensive EVs. Between Life Orb damage and passive damage, stall teams had a good chance of dancing their way around these wallbreakers by using smart switching, status moves, and prediction. Celebi and Tentacruel were common teammates to this pair, sponging Fire- and Electric-types fairly well. While this strategy is still effective in BW, players generally prefer the new and improved combination of Jellicent and Ferrothorn. Furthermore, Gen 5 brings some completely new threats to the table, capable of tearing through SkarmBliss with ease. Jellicent and Ferrothorn are preferred due to their better type synergy, superior movepools, and Jellicent's ability to block Rapid Spin. Due to her significantly higher bulk, Blissey also faces stiff competition from Eviolite Chansey, making it much less common. Here's an example of a very successful stall team from Gen 4. It demonstrates how SkarmBliss can be used with other defensive Pokemon. Using Tentacruel and Celebi to switch into Fire- and Electric-type moves aimed at Skarmory, and Fighting-type moves aimed at Blissey, david stone's team was highly successful. A combination of Spikes, Toxic Spikes, Stealth Rock, and constant switching took its toll on the opponent. This is helped by Skarmory's Whirlwind, Celebi's Perish Song, and in some cases, Hippowdon's Roar. It's important to note that not only does the team wall all the major threats of the metagame, each teammate provides support that forwards the goal of stall.
Here lies another common strategy from Gen 4: GyaraVire. The name is as simple as it suggests—using Gyarados and Electivire as an effective offensive combination. The idea was to use Gyarados as a lure for Electric-type attacks, bring in Electivire for a Motor Drive boost, and proceed to plow through the opposing team. The only problem with this was Electivire's relatively weak attacking power. Reliant on its superb coverage, it lacked powerful STAB outside of ThunderPunch, as well as a way to hit Cresselia super effectively. Some players attempted to patch this up with Hidden Power Dark, but it was nothing more than a gimmick. This was an extremely predictable strategy, and it was very easy to counter. Team Preview makes it even more difficult to pull off, and players had to be careful; if both Pokemon are revealed too early, the opponent would realize the strategy, work around it, and leave you with two fainted Pokemon. Jolteon also works well with Gyarados, especially in this generation with Politoed's permanent rain; it too can switch into Gyarados's Electric-type weakness. Nevertheless, GyaraVire was an effective offensive combination, and I'm sure most players will agree with me.
Back when Garchomp was OU, the prevalence of this combination was great. The idea was to summon permanent sandstorm, hope for a lucky miss, set up Substitute or Swords Dance, and proceed to dominate the opposing team. Of course, this strategy was unstoppable, and Garchomp was deemed Uber. Due to Fire Blast, not even Skarmory could contain the dragon, and the only way to break Garchomp would be through sacrifice and revenge killing. There were no true counters. Unfortunately for Garchomp, it wasn't such a hit in Ubers, and it was pushed to one side in favor of more powerful Dragons, such as Rayquaza. It was fun while it lasted, and it caused a lot of controversy when the tiering decision was made, but Garchomp was a true monster in OU, and it skyrocketed to Ubers. Here is a successful sandstorm team from Gen 4, and it gives us an insight into Sand Veil Gliscor, a Pokemon which is no longer used due to its new ability, Poison Heal. With Tyranitar's permanent sandstorm, Pokemon that are immune to sand damage, and a combination of offense and defense, this team skyrocketed on the ladders.
Many moons ago, trap passing was an extremely helpful way for securing a safe setup and a sweep. The idea was to trap an opponent, Baton Pass to a teammate which counters the trapped Pokemon, and proceed to set up. Umbreon and Smeargle were the most effective users, crippling the opponent with Yawn and Spore, respectively. It's a shame that Gen 5's Baton Pass mechanics stop Mean Look and Spider Web being passed, because it was a truly menacing strategy. Shadow Tag Chandelure and Gothitelle are the closest resemblance, but they unfortunately aren't released yet, and they don't have the bulk to secure a safe setup.
Okay, I admit, this isn't forgotten, but it's nowhere to be seen this generation. Unlike in Gen 4, Prankster Taunt users can shut down Baton Pass chains; not to mention that priority Thunder Wave can screw with Substitute Ninjask. Back in its prime, Baton Pass Ninjask was as common as muck, and for good reason. Speed Boost, combined with Swords Dance, Protect, and Substitute made it the ideal setup Pokemon, turning your regular Lucario or Tyranitar into an unstoppable monster. Ninjask is a one trick pony however, after a single attempt of setting up it was usually too weak to bring in again, and the prevalence of Stealth Rock meant it lost 50% of its health upon switching in. In this generation, Ninjask faces many problems, and it no longer competes in OU. Our ninja bug resides in NU for the time being, waiting for a time to shine.
Gravity is a VERY underrated strategy, and it's quite effective when you can pull it off correctly. The first things you should know are the Gravity basics. Gravity makes Flying-types vulnerable to Ground-type moves, Spikes, and Toxic Spikes, while it negates the Levitate ability. Also, when Gravity is active, evasion is decreased by two stages, making less accurate moves, such as Hydro Pump and Blizzard, viable. Finally, the moves Bounce, Fly, Magnet Rise, Hi Jump Kick, and Splash are prevented. Gravity teams can be played both offensively and defensively. For example, offensive teams focus on powerful, less accurate attacks, while defensive teams focus on entry hazards and phazing. It's surprising why this isn't seen more often; wouldn't you like to see your opponent's Flying-type be poisoned by Toxic Spikes? There are so many viable Pokemon for Gravity teams it's unreal. Anything with a powerful STAB Earthquake, low accuracy attacks, or plenty of entry hazards can be considered. There's no shortage of Pokemon to set it up either; Metagross, Ferrothorn, Blissey, and Forretress are some good OU examples, while there are plenty of others scattered throughout the tiers. Have you heard about the Gen 5 glitch? I thought not; the move Sky Drop can be abused to the extent of it being banned in VGC games. Due to an error in the game's programming, the target remains unable to move until either the user is knocked out or switched out. If you're looking to be creative and unique, why not give it a go?
Baton Pass teams are deadly if you can use them correctly, and it's a mystery why they aren't very common. It's even harder to understand why people overlook this strategy, especially when monsters like Mew, Zapdos, Celebi, and Espeon can be used to set up. Raise your stats to insane levels, cripple the opponent, and proceed with an unstoppable sweep. Prankster is one of the only ways to beat this strategy, and Taunt is only a temporary way to stop boosts being passed. The only other way to overcome Baton Pass teams is through a combination of incredible luck and critical hits. A common Baton Pass team consists of four or five boosters, a final receiver, and sometimes an offensive Baton Pass user to dispose of threats. It takes a ballsy player to whip out a Baton Pass team, but when utilized correctly, it can be incredibly difficult to stop.
Explosion was extremely common in past generations, and its main purpose was to take out a dangerous Pokemon on your opponent's side of the field. Most commonly seen on Heatran, Bronzong, and Metagross, Explosion was guaranteed to KO an opponent that didn't resist it. In Bronzong's case, the idea was to set up screens and Stealth Rock, Explode, then bring in a dangerous Pokemon, such as Salamence, to set up. Heatran's goal was to decimate the fat blob we call Blissey. Unfortunately, the majority of Heatran were Choiced, and Explosion was predictable.
What made Explosion a bad move this generation are the new game mechanics. Gen 5 removed Explosion's Defense-lowering attribute, making it significantly weaker and less viable. It's still usable in some cases, such as Trick Room teams looking for a safe switch-in, but in most cases it's much easier to switch or attack. Pokemon such as Azelf can still pull it off, but U-turn and Volt Switch are widely available, and much more effective.
Here is a team that demonstrates how Explosion was used to knock out Blissey, and to provide a safe switch in for teammates. Azelf's role was to set up Stealth Rock, Explode, and make way for a dangerous sweeper. Heatran used Explosion in a completely different manner, the idea was to lure in our favorite pink blob and Explode in her face, providing special sweepers with an easy end-game sweep.
Trick Room is one of those strategies that works well sometimes, but requires a lot of prediction to work effectively. The idea is to set up Trick Room, bring in a sweeper, and do as much damage over three turns as possible. Trick Room gives slower Pokemon a fighting chance, and it even brings some NFE Pokemon to light! Clamperl and Trapinch might seem like jokes or gimmicks, but with Clamperl's signature item and Trapinch's Arena Trap, they're anything but. Our favorite chubby friend, Snorlax, and the mindless Slowbro are commonly seen as well. The possibilities are endless; even Level 1 Pokemon with Endeavor are viable, and that's taking gimmicky to the extreme. Now, what made this strategy less common and effective? Well, for starters the addition of Prankster means the priority provided by Trick Room is overcome, and Pokemon can be shut down before launching an attack. Explosion was extremely common on Trick Room teams as well, and the power drop has severely hindered its effectiveness. Trick Room is less common because faster Pokemon are more preferable; luckily, with Trick Room in effect, the majority of fast Pokemon in the tier are outsped, making Trick Room extremely deadly.
If you're interested in any of the above strategies, there are numerous articles which can help you on your Pokemon quest. These include:
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