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After many months of rigorous testing and deliberation, stage 3 begun. All the suspects that were individually tested – Garchomp, Deoxys-S, Shaymin-S, Latias, Latios, and Manaphy - were made available for play on a single Suspect ladder, creating the stage 3 Suspect metagame. Deoxys-S was quickly removed from the ladder after it became glaringly obvious it didn't belong in OU, but since then the Suspect metagame has developed and stabilised, blossoming into something quite far removed from standard play. In this analysis I will try and discuss the different trends and Pokémon that are defining this new metagame and making it such a different experience from standard OU.
Good old 'chomp is back, but the niches it finds itself occupying in stage 3 aren't quite the same as from a few months back. SD Yache Garchomp was arguably the 'uber' set, said to have no counters and be guaranteed a kill a game, and was easily the most prevalent of all of Garchomp's sets at the time of its banning. However, this 'uber' set has been seeing far less play on the Suspect ladder then one would expect. With two faster Dragons just around the corner, eager to come in on any of Garchomp's moves bar its Dragon attack and take it out with their own, Haban Berry has actually seemed like the more attractive resist berry of choice. However, neither is the de facto item for Garchomp any more, since even with a Haban Berry it risks being OHKOed from a Specs Latios Draco Meteor, and so other sets not reliant on the one time resist provided by a berry have been seeing more use.
Choice Scarf Garchomp is prevalent once again and is cementing its role as one of the most powerful and effective revenge killers in the game. With its resistance to Stealth Rock and immunity to sandstorm, it finds itself lasting for a surprisingly long time and can continue to serve a team's revenge killing needs for the entirety of a battle. It wishes it had Flygon's Levitate and immunity to Spikes, but it more than makes up for it with the sheer power of its Earthquake and Outrage, even without a boosting item. With the majority of Skarmory opting to run specially defensive spreads to better deal with the dual threat of Latios and Shaymin-S, Choice Band Garchomp has found a niche as a powerful stallbreaker; its CB Fire Fang 2HKOing these Skarmory and its STAB attacks threatening everything else on a standard stall team. The raw power of its CB Outrage means that said specially defensive Skarmory can still take nearly 40% from it, making Garchomp even more of a thorn for defensive teams.
The commonness of Choiced Garchomp has lead to most players dealing with it simply by using a resist to its predicted attack, or by revenge killing with something like Scizor. Substitute Garchomp, in particular with Salac Berry, has shown to be devastating in the right hands, since it can simply Sub up as Latios comes in on the predicted Earthquake then whack it with Outrage, or sub down to Salac and sweep with a Substitute up. This strategy is even more potent in a sandstorm, since chances are at least one attack is going to miss as Garchomp subs down, letting it get in that gamechanging Swords Dance as well. It is this Sub Salac set that has taken the SDer's place as the preferred set for a Garchomp that cleans up late game.
Defensive Garchomp have been popping up as well, being used quite often as a bulky Ground type and Stealth Rock user on stall teams, in place of Hippowdon or Swampert. Garchomp is overall bulkier than Swampert both physically and specially, and has many of its important resistances such as Fire, Rock, and Electric. However, it is well worth noting that the use of Garchomp on these defensive teams can be at least partially attributed to the desire to get Suspect Experience. Mix variants of Garchomp, the "chain chomps", are rarely seen, since the surprise set's main targets of Hippowdon and Gliscor aren't used as often to check it on the Suspect ladder as they were during its time in OU.
Shaymin-S is the most controversial suspect, having been declared suspect from its very introduction into competitive play and initially voted Uber by an extremely close 51-49% majority. Stage 3 gives it another chance to prove itself as OU-worthy material. The majority of Shaymin-S encountered on the Suspect ladder tend to be either Choiced, be it Scarf or Specs, or of the SubSeeder variety. Life Orb sets have been a rarer sight.
The flying hedgehog has proven itself to be a powerful Pokémon whatever set it's running. Scarf Shaymin-S, primarily used as an anti-lead against Deoxys-S, remained one of the most effective revenge killers in the metagame even after Deoxys' removal. Whatever it can't hit super effectively can usually be taken out by an Air Slash flinch or two. Because of its potential to quite realistically 'hax' its way past its checks, scarfed Shaymin-S can be a very difficult Pokémon to prepare for. One of the biggest perks about its base 127 Speed is that even without a boosting nature it will outspeed +Speed base 110s, most notably Latios. This means Shaymin-S can use its nature to increase its Special Attack, while still remaining one of the fastest Pokémon in the tier.
The other two most popular Shaymin-S sets, Specs and SubSeeder, are both very efficient wallbreakers, and can dismantle a stall team by themselves if not prepared for. The power of a Modest Specs Shaymin-S can be demonstrated by the simple fact that after Stealth Rock damage, the standard Blissey will be 2HKOed by Seed Flare if the first one lowers Blissey's Special Defense. Even Latios, with its resistance to Grass and high Special Defense, takes up to 55% from a Specs Seed Flare, and that's without the Special Defense drop. The SubSeeder doesn't use raw power to get the job done, but with the combination of Shaymin-S's extremely high Speed, fast Substitute, and the potential for free healing with Air Slash flinches, can be both difficult and very annoying to take out. Shaymin-S causes a lot of switches, and the SubSeeder capitalises on this to get the SubSeed cycle started. With Leech Seed and Substitute, it has the potential to take out many of the checks for its other sets, such as Bronzong and Heatran.
Manaphy provides helpful bulk to teams while still posing a big threat with Tail Glow. Easily the most common set for Manaphy is the bulky Substitute Tail Glower, with 252 HP EVs granting it 101 HP Subs, and in turn, a free set up on Blissey. This makes it quite the issue to stall teams which depend solely on Blissey to wall special attackers, and its role as an effective stallbreaker has cemented its place on many offensive teams.
Manaphy has proven to pair up very with both Shaymin-S and Latios - resisting their Ice weaknesses and Shaymin's Fire weakness, but more importantly, providing a good switchin and immediate threat to Blissey and Bronzong, both of whom can cause issues for the two aforementioned suspects. The ease with which Manaphy can come in on Bronzong, a Pokémon that can potentially wall Shaymin-S, Latios, Latias, and Garchomp, is one of the main reasons that Manaphy is relied on as much as it is. It lets the player keep up the offensive momentum by using one Pokémon's counters as a free set up for another - Bronzong's Earthquakes and Gyro Balls fail to break max HP Manaphy's subs, letting it Tail Glow to its leisure - all the while gaining valuable Suspect Experience.
In a way, the surety with which Manaphy defeats (or at least forces to PP stall) Blissey is one of the main driving forces behind the slant towards special defense on many defensive Pokémon. Sure, Latios and Shaymin-S both hit a lot harder, but Blissey and Bronzong between themselves provide a reliable stop to both. It's Manaphy, weaker but with the potential to easily destroy these common special walls, that forces stall teams to adapt and play differently on Suspect. Almost every Skarmory met on suspect is EVed extremely heavily towards Special Defense, usually with a Careful nature and max HP / SpD, letting it serve as a one time check to Manaphy if it needs to (an 80 SpA Manaphy deals 65% on average with a +2 Surf to Skarmory), and also helping against Shaymin-S and Latios. Specially defensive Empoleon with Roar, Stealth Rock, and Ice Beam has been seeing a good deal of use too, since it serves as an effective check to both Manaphy and most Latios and Latias. Defensive teams have also been reverting to Toxic Spikes much more on Suspect than they would in the Levitator / Steel heavy standard OU metagame. Both Manaphy and Garchomp are hit very hard by Toxic Spikes, and with grounded Poisons and spinners very uncommon on offensive teams, they can shut down both these threats effectively.
Latios instantly became the single biggest immediate special threat as soon as the Suspect ladder started up. 130 base Special Attack, further bolstered by Choice Specs, backing up a 140 Base Power move with a single resistant type — Latios' Draco Meteor blows massive holes in any team without Blissey or a highly specially defensive Jirachi or Bronzong. Specs is easily the most common set on Suspect, and for good reason. If Latios gets in safely - which it has many opportunities to do, with respectable defenses, a Ground immunity, and resistances to Fire, Water, Grass, Electric, and more - its user can simply press the Draco Meteor button and be assured around 50% damage to any switchin, barring specially defensive variants of Blissey and Bronzong who take around 30% apiece. With this threat looming around the corner, every Suspect team carries Blissey, Bronzong, or a reliable Pursuiter / scarfed Dragon to revenge.
Alongside Draco Meteor, the Specs set usually carries two of Surf, Thunderbolt, and Dragon Pulse, and then Trick in the last slot to deal with predicted Blissey switchins. Draco Meteor and Surf together get perfect coverage against everything in OU apart from Empoleon, and Thunderbolt can remove that check as well. However, Dragon Pulse is a very powerful move after STAB and allows Latios to sweep a lot easier than any of its other moves. Other kinds of Latios, such as Calm Mind, Dual Screens, and Dragon Dance, are far rarer sights on Suspect. While powerful, its other sets often can't compare in power and ease of use with the Specs set, or are done better by Latias. The Dragon Dancer has quite limited effectiveness since it still can't deal with specially defensive Steel types, in particular Bronzong and Skarmory, and boosting its Speed won't help Latios survive being revenged by Scizor's Bullet Punch. Scarf Latios has been a surprisingly effective revenge killer, outspeed scarf Garchomp and still dealing hefty amounts of damage with Draco Meteor. It does make Latios quite a bit more vulnerable to Pursuit though.
Latios usually gets quite a good switchin on Manaphy, Heatran, Skarmory, and Shaymin-S if it's locked into Seed Flare. It needs to watch out for more offensive variants of Manaphy if they Ice Beam on the switch, but the standard bulky Sub Manaphy can't come close to OHKOing with an unboosted Ice Beam. Specs Latios pairs up nicely with Specs Shaymin-S in weakening and removing each other's counters. If either of Blissey or Bronzong come into Modest SpecsMin's Seed Flare and get a Special Defense drop, both can be taken out by the subsequent one. Even if they aren't, they are so heavily hit by the combination that they are quite quickly overpowered. Latios gets a comfortable switchin to any Scarf Heatran that tries to revenge Shaymin-S, provided it doesn't use HP Ice. Latios is another big factor that has lead to the specially defensive bias on defensive Pokémon on Suspect.
You'll have noticed that Latias hasn't been mentioned in too much detail so far in the analysis, and that's for good reason - it sees very little use on the Suspect ladder in general. Offensively it is quite soundly outclassed by Latios, the 20 points of base Special Attack difference granting it many key OHKOs and 2HKOs that Latias misses out on. With all the scarfed Dragons and strong priority users ready to revenge kill the more threatening Latios at a moment's notice, bulkier Latias sets rarely get a chance to flourish. Offensively the best use of Latias so far is probably just using a double dragon strategy with it and its sibling, using one to weaken / Trick their counters and the other to finish them off then proceed to sweep.
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