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With NU's first round of official suspect testing over, Gorebyss, the lone Pokémon in the hot seat, was voted not broken by an almost unanimous vote. Their reasoning, which was also my reasoning behind the decision, is that Gorebyss is still too slow and frail, even in NU, to set up without being KOed by common threats, especially by Pokémon like Rotom-S and Tentacool. With this decision, NU has been deemed balanced, at least for the time being. The tier itself is very diverse at the moment, with both offense and stall working brilliantly and users peaking on the NU ladder with both just as easily. At the very least, in a tier where Combusken can be seen as a legitimate threat, there's a lot of stuff that works!
To refresh your memory, Shell Smash and Baton Pass are not allowed together in NU. However, the main users of Shell Smash, Gorebyss and Huntail, can easily sweep in their own right in NU, where the walls are frailer and the hits weaker. There are a few users of Shell Smash in the Neverused tier, and while Clamperl is indeed awesome, the three most popular users are Gorebyss, Huntail, and Carracosta.
While Gorebyss usage has gone down quite a bit in recent months, it is the most used Shell Smash sweeper in the Neverused tier, and it always will have a lot going for it. Base 114 Special Attack is powerful even before a boost, and it becomes almost impossible to tank a hit from it at +2 Special Attack. Base 105 Defense also allows Gorebyss to take some priority moves if its defenses aren't weakened (which happens pretty often due to the prevalence of White Herb). Combine this with a Speed tier that's usually just enough to outspeed whole teams after a boost, and Gorebyss becomes very threatening to face and very alluring to use (not just because of her bra). Surf is Gorebyss's main attacking move, and it's a pretty solid one at that, considering that it both gets great coverage and also hits most of the walls in NU on their weaker defensive stat. Ice Beam and the optional Hidden Power Grass can smash most Pokémon that resist Surf, making sure that Gorebyss isn't stopped too easily. Life Orb and White Herb are your two best choices for an item, though both Lum Berry and Focus Sash makes decent choices as well. Shell Smash is really the only set Gorebyss should be using, so there isn't much variation to what you will see. Substitute is sometimes seen, but it brings up a recurring problem with Gorebyss: It can't feasibly take on every Pokémon in NU. However, Gorebyss really does work, and if you can get the few checks for it out of the way you will have a monster on your hands.
Huntail comes in a distant second in usage, but it still packs quite the punch after a boost. While Gorebyss has a higher Special Attack stat, Huntail boasts an amazing 104 Attack stat, allowing it to plow right through some of the most common special walls in NU. In essence, going mixed is really Huntail's niche in terms of Shell Smash sweeping. Huntail uses Waterfall as its main attacking move, while only using special moves to plow through physical walls; primarily Tangela, who is dispatched by Ice Beam. There's also the option of Hydro Pump though, which lets Huntail plow through most physical walls besides Tangela, especially Weezing and friends. Crunch is a mainstay on Huntail as well, smashing through Mesprit, the king of NU for two months in a row. Other, less defensive Psychic-types are easily dispatched, not to mention Ghost-types like Haunter. The main thing to note with Huntail is that it sits at a crossroads: its Special Attack isn't too high, nor is its Attack; rather, it has the advantage of having solid stats in both areas to catch walls by surprise.
That said, if Huntail is only somewhat different than Gorebyss, Carracosta is Gorebyss's exact opposite, using its physical prowess to smash through most of the special walls in NU. Carracosta can often put itself into a position where it can use Shell Smash easily, due to its phenomenal base 133 Defense and Solid Rock ability, which is a godsend for it. Carracosta also has another great ability in Sturdy as well, making sure it will always survive at least one hit. Carracosta has a pretty sexy STAB combination in Water / Rock to boot, and it even gives it some nice resistances. Waterfall at +2 Attack smashes through anything not named Tangela, while Stone Edge just demolishes quite a few Pokémon which resist Waterfall or are neutral to it, namely Bug-types and Altaria. Carracosta also has one often unknown trick up its sleeve: Aqua Jet, which allows Carracosta to take out its offensive checks after a boost. For example, Carracosta beats Absol to the (Sucker) Punch with Aqua Jet, causing Absol's move to fail. Unfortunately, Rotom-S is only KOed with some prior damage and a switch into Stealth Rock, but Aqua Jet still has quite a lot of utility nonetheless. Alternatively, Ice Beam royally screws over Tangela, one of the only Pokémon capable of stopping Carracosta otherwise. Long story short, Carracosta is a physical monster; this can be problematic, however, in a tier where physical walls outnumber specially defensive ones.
As was the case in the original iteration of the NU metagame (before the January 1 tier shift), Flying-types are fairly dominant in NU, owing to the large amount of Grass- and Bug-type Pokémon residing in the tier. There are many excellent Flying-type Pokémon in the tier, but the top three are (in order of usage) Rotom-S, Swellow, and Braviary.
Rotom-S, while certainly not a bird in the traditional sense, is surprisingly the most used Flying-type in the Neverused tier. However, the traditional whipping boy of the Rotom family has a few tricks in its rotating blades. In the 5th Generation, Rotom formes lost their Ghost-typing and gained a secondary typing that was the same as their exclusive move; which means Rotom-S gained its Flying-type to go along with the decent Air Slash. This gives Rotom-S a large number of resistances to common types in the NU metagame (Grass-, Bug-, Flying-, and Fighting-types, among others) to abuse its nice base 107 defenses with. In addition, it has a trolly base 86 Speed stat, which allows it to outspeed the majority of the NU metagame when equipped with a Choice Scarf (notably Scarf Sawk and +2 Speed Gorebyss). This makes Rotom-S one of the premier revenge killers in NU, alongside Sawk. If that wasn't enough, Rotom-S can forego a Choice Scarf and abuse its great bulk with moves like Pain Split and Will-O-Wisp, turning it into a good defensive pivot. The best use of Rotom-S is the Choice Scarf set however, since it is such a useful check for a large portion of the metagame.
Swellow is the most used "bird" in NU. It's one of the best pure offensive cleaners in NU, owing to its blistering base 125 Speed. While base 80 Attack may not seem like much, Swellow is always seen using a Flame or Toxic Orb, which multiplies its attack stat by 1.5x due to Guts. This makes Swellow both insanely fast and insanely powerful, and comes with the side bonus of being immune to paralysis, which would stop other sweepers in their tracks. It also gets access to STAB Brave Bird and Facade, two extremely powerful moves that only further allow Swellow to dominate opposing teams. All of this comes at a cost though, namely the recoil from Brave Bird, Stealth Rock damage from switching in, and the damage from either burn or Toxic poisoning adding up quickly. Roost can be used to remedy this somewhat, but Swellow is best used as an endgame Pokémon, sweeping a weakened opposing team when Rock-type Pokémon are off the field.
Braviary's usage has taken a hit recently, but it is still a huge threat. It possesses STAB Brave Bird like Swellow, but is generally seen with a Choice Scarf due to its lower base 80 Speed. However, it has a few key things that Swellow doesn't, aside from not losing HP every turn due to a status effect. The biggest difference is Braviary's coverage moves, Superpower and Rock Slide. Superpower allows Braviary to deal with the Rock-types who could sponge its STAB Brave Bird, such as Golem, Regirock, and Probopass, severely crippling them. Rock Slide, boosted by Sheer Force, allows Braviary to maim Altaria and Rotom-S, the latter of which resists Brave Bird and Superpower. Finally, Braviary is the better user of U-turn and scouting overall, since it doesn't take damage each turn and has better overall bulk to capitalize on resisted attacks. Still, Braviary is slower than the other common Choice Scarf Pokémon, Sawk and Rotom-S, and is still vulnerable to a +2 Speed Gorebyss. It is best used as an early game scout and late-game cleaner, where it can gain momentum early on, and then finish off a weakened team later.
The #1 used NU Pokémon for three out of the past four months (and only usurped by 1% usage in December), Mesprit is the undisputed king of NU. However, Mesprit is not a traditional dominant threat. Its role in the metagame and its high usage owe to the fact that it is a jack of all trades. Mesprit is incredibly versatile, and has extremely balanced stats to back it up. It can support the team with Stealth Rock, Thunder Wave, dual screens, Trick Room, and Healing Wish. It can go on the offensive with a myriad of coverage moves, both physical and special. It can be defensive, using its base 80 HP and base 105 defenses, or it can be fully offensive, with its base 105 offenses and base 80 Speed (which is pretty fast for NU). It can even mix and match, depending on what a specific team needs. Its Psychic-typing does make it weak to common Bug- and Dark-type attacks in the NU tier, but gives it useful Fighting- and Psychic-type resistances, allowing it to check the likes of Sawk, Jynx, and Exeggutor, depending on the situation. All in all, Mesprit may not be overly dominant at one thing like the following threats, but in this case, the sum of all of its attributes is much greater than the whole.
Magmortar is easily the biggest special attacking threat in the NU tier, owing to its massive base 125 Special Attack stat, and fast-for-NU base 83 Speed. The one thing that sets Magmortar apart from its special attacking brethren is Thunderbolt. With Thunderbolt, no Water-type is safe switching in, save Quagsire. The beauty of Magmortar is that it only needs four moveslots to accomplish basically everything it needs to. A moveset of Fire Blast, Thunderbolt, Focus Blast, and Hidden Power Grass hits everything in NU at least neutrally, which is all Magmortar needs to break down opposing cores. If one is worried about Altaria, simply use Hidden Power Ice, while Hidden Power Water smashes through Camerupt and opposing Magmortar. Magmortar is most effective at breaking down defensive cores when using Life Orb or Expert Belt, but it becomes one of the most powerful revenge killers in the tier when holding a Choice Scarf, only truly rivaled by Sawk.
Speaking of Sawk, Sawk is simultaneously the best and only offensive Fighting-type in NU, so it's no surprise that it is one of the top threats. Owning a large base 125 Attack stat and a great base 85 Speed stat, Sawk has the ability to punch through many teams simply by using Close Combat. As mentioned before, Sawk can run a mean Choice Scarf set, using STAB Close Combat to mow down weakened opponents. Unfortunately, its not fast enough some of the time, especially when it's up against opponents like Choice Scarf Rotom-S and +2 Speed Gorebyss. Aside from those two, however, Sawk outspeeds the majority of the Neverused metagame. On the other hand, Sawk works incredibly well as a wallbreaker when carrying a Choice Band, as it can easily 2HKO almost every single Pokémon in the tier, bar incredibly sturdy Pokémon like Misdreavus and Tangela; both of whom are still 3HKOed by Stone Edge and Close Combat, respectively. Speaking of Sturdy, Sawk's main ability is also an incredible failsafe in many situations, allowing it to bypass otherwise fatal moves while at full health and take out the opposition with Close Combat.
And then there's Absol, who is completely different in terms of function from the Pokémon thus covered. Absol has the most powerful priority move in the tier; Sucker Punch coming off of a massive base 130 Attack. Sucker Punch at once both remedies Absol's subpar Speed and gives it a way to batter through its opponents. Swords Dance only compounds things, allowing Absol's Attack stat to skyrocket. Dark is a very effective type in NU, hitting many Pokémon neutrally and several important targets super effectively, namely Mesprit, Exeggutor, and Misdreavus. Access to Night Slash also allows Absol to muscle its way through slower opponents who try to status it. Superpower is another move all Absol should be running, as it's the only way it's getting through most Rock-types, especially Regirock, who is OHKOed handily after a boost. Swords Dance is by far the most common set, using 3 attacks and holding a Life Orb. Substitute + Swords Dance is less common, but it has the capability to wipe out stall teams whose only option normally is to status it or hit it with weak attacks. It also has its merits versus some offense teams, giving a buffer against faster opponents with priority. Absol can also run Choice sets to some effect as well, working as a powerful wallbreaker with Choice Band equipped, or as a fairly quick revenge killer when holding a Choice Scarf. Note, however, that it won't be outspeeding +2 Speed Gorebyss even with a Choice Scarf equipped.
Jynx is another potent setup sweeper that every team should watch out for. With access to Nasty Plot as well as STAB Ice Beam, Jynx can easily 2HKO most of the Neverused metagame at +2. Her most common set tends to be Substitute + Nasty Plot, abusing Lovely Kiss and the great coverage that Ice-type provides; in fact, the only common defensive Pokémon that can stop Jynx are Probopass and Cryogonal. On the other hand, Jynx can forego Substitute and use one or two more attacks, giving it better super effective coverage. Jynx can also run a very effective Choice Scarf set, which can serve as a great check to Gorebyss with Energy Ball and an immunity to Surf. It also kills some other very important threats, namely Fighting-types like Sawk, which are dispatched by Psychic; Probopass and other Steel-types have to deal with Focus Blast coming off of base 115 Special Attack.
Despite the common misconception that stall will always play second fiddle in NU, it's still a pretty cool playstyle to try out. However, stall and defensive play in general has to contend with some common, powerful threats, which are the main reason that stall has a pretty tough time. To play defensively with success, you should probably make sure that you are checking some of the most common attackers. For example, take a look at Gorebyss - that is, if it's on the field and has a Shell Smash boost. What are you going to do about it? You should be packing a strong special wall to take care of it, like Lickilicky and Eviolite Tentacool, both of whom can take hits from it and either phaze it or poison it, respectively. Other powerful attackers like Choice Band Sawk, as well as Choice Specs Exeggutor, also need to be dealt with.
There are also defensive combos you can use as a base for a team. Let's use the example of Alomomola and Tangela; each of them tanks physical hits with different types, while also giving each other reliable recovery in the form of either Leech Seed from the latter or a gigantic Wish from the former. Special walls are also of importance in NU, meaning that a defensive player will need one or two on their team. Lickilicky is a great candidate for just stalling the daylights out of some attackers, while also giving Wish support. Tentacool is another one, and it's also a great check to Gorebyss, as it does approximately squat to Tentacool, while it bites back with Giga Drain or Toxic. On that note, if you're playing stall, you might as well abuse Toxic Spikes. The Neverused tier at this point in time is incredibly weak to Toxic Spikes, as there is nothing to really absorb it, bar Tentacool, while at the same time two layers of Toxic Spikes hurts most of the major Pokémon in the tier, including, but certainly not limited to: Gorebyss, Regirock, Sawk, Magmortar, and Lickilicky. In summary, if you follow a few simple rules, stall can work really well, even in a tier dominated by offensive threats. Go ask Karpman about it!
Combusken, in my unbiased opinion, is the best offensive NFE in the Neverused tier at this moment. Speed Boost is an amazing ability on any Pokémon, and Combusken isn't an exception to this rule by any means. It can abuse Swords Dance to fire off a boosted Flare Blitz, which hurts even off of base 85 Attack. Sky Uppercut is a pretty bad physical STAB actually, but it allows Combusken to go straight through Rock-types which resist Flare Blitz. Then again, there's always a special attacker set with Substitute, Protect, and Combusken's two STAB moves, Fire Blast and Focus Blast. The power it dishes it out is actually quite astonishing; it literally OHKOes or 2HKOes every Pokémon in NU except for Altaria and Tentacool. This lets Combusken work as an excellent lategame cleaner, as Substitute will block status and priority, giving it an advantage against both stall and offensive teams. Try it out please!
Scraggy, otherwise known as the little lizard that could, is another interesting character that's starting to show its face more and more often. It boasts amazing defenses with Eviolite, allowing it to patch up its otherwise low base HP. Bulk Up is Scraggy's main set, which it pulls off to good effect thanks to said bulk, as well as a proverbial ace in the hole in Shed Skin, allowing it to ignore Toxic Spikes, which cripple most other sweepers in NU. Shed Skin also gives Scraggy semi-reliable instant recovery in Rest, allowing it to tank quite a few hits. Scraggy also has a really cool STAB combo in Dark / Fighting, allowing it to hit most of NU at least neutrally. All of these factors come together in a peculiar Pokémon that doesn't seem like much, but proves that a whole is greater than the sum of its parts in that it sweeps rather easily.
If I haven't gotten you, the reader, to think this earlier by reading this article, it should be obvious that the bottom rung of competitive Pokémon has a lot of diversity and fun things to try out. Just like Stage 0 before them, these first two stages of the NU metagame are probably never going to be replicated again, so enjoy them while you can! Tiering changes are going to be implemented very soon, and along with them a new metagame, both devoid of some of the most common threats and once again home to some new interesting characters. Hope to see all of you on the ladder!
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