How the Heck is that NU?
OU will always have its mainstays. The likes of Scizor and Tyranitar are incredibly viable in the tier and aren't going to be dropping out anytime soon. Other Pokemon such as Zapdos and Chandelure can do quite well in OU, but having failed to make the cutoff, they find themselves to be superstars in UU. And then there are the oddballs. These guys have carved out their own niches and, appearing on 1% or more of teams, are not entirely uncommon sights in OU. How is it, then, that they should plummet all the way to NU? Although viable in OU, these badboys have dropped down not to UU, or even RU, but the lowest tier of them all. Today, we'll take an in-depth look at these strangely viable Pokemon and attempt to answer the question: ''How the Heck is that NU?''
- Two words have come to define Gorebyss in the current generation: Shell Smash. After a single boost, it becomes an incredibly fearsome threat with a +2 boost to its offensive stats, though at the cost of lowering its defenses. With both Swift Swim and Hydration as abilities, it also functions incredibly well under rain; the extra boost to its STAB moves is just the icing on the cake. What really distinguishes Gorebyss from other Shell Smashers, however, is access to Baton Pass. While most Shell Smashers set up and attempt a sweep, Gorebyss can either take a shot at plowing through the opposition itself or simply pass off to something more suited for the role. Baton Pass chains in general received a major boost in BW thanks to Magic Bounce Espeon, which stops the opponent from simply Roaring boosts away or breaking chains with Taunt. Gorebyss can even opt to use White Herb, preventing the defense drops from a single Shell Smash and leaving it less open to priority, while also not being counter-productive to its Baton Pass chain allies.
- Unfortunately, the fun pretty much ends there for Gorebyss. It is not particularly fast, so unless something like Ninjask is passing it Speed boosts, it will have trouble setting up. Even worse, its defenses are nothing special, making it prone to getting KOed before pulling off a Shell Smash. The ban on Drizzle + Swift Swim means that Gorebyss can't even pair up with Politoed to boost its Speed before setting up. It also faces some pretty harsh competition from Cloyster, which has a more useful ability in Skill Link, better bulk and Speed, and secondary Ice-type STAB coverage, not to mention support options in Spikes, Toxic Spikes, and Rapid Spin. While Gorebyss can still function quite well on Baton Pass teams, those teams in general struggle in OU due to a heavy reliance on Espeon and a need for perfect prediction early on in the game. Things only get worse in UU, where the lack of Espeon makes Baton Pass chains even harder to pull off and the presence of Hippopotas makes manual rain teams quite risky to run. Although RU has no auto-weather inducers, making Rain Dance teams more viable, the ban on SmashPassing there completely destroys Gorebyss's main niche. Even worse, it's outclassed as a Shell Smashing Swift Swimmer by Omastar, which has better bulk, Speed, and Special Attack, a secondary Rock-type STAB, and the ability to bluff a defensive support set.
- Everyone's favorite derpy mudfish is back in the fifth generation, and this time he's actually useful. Quagsire gained some phenomenal utility from his new Dream World ability, Unaware. As the name implies, the ability makes Quagsire too incredibly dopey to even notice his opponent's stat boosts. Considering the number of setup sweepers that are running amok in OU, it's no surprise that Unaware would be a great defensive ability. Even after setting up, the likes of Cloyster, Dragonite, and Landorus have trouble breaking through Quagsire, who can just Recover off the damage with ease. Furthermore, the fifth generation gave Quagsire another new toy with which to bother the aforementioned sweepers: Scald. Scald offers solid STAB with a 30% chance to burn the foe, which will ensure that Quagsire will be able to tank their hits for as long as it pleases. Toxic is another great option for Quagsire, as it can just stall out the foe as they slowly succumb to residual damage. With a sole weakness to rare Grass-type attacks, Quagsire can be very difficult to break. This sassy simpleton can even take on a more offensive role in the OU metagame, using Curse to boost its own stats while ignoring its foe's boosts due to Unaware.
- So where does it all go wrong? Well, Gastrodon has proven to be a much more popular choice, as it boasts better bulk, is more offensive, and actually has (slightly) higher Speed, not that either Pokemon is particularly fast. It has access to Recover, Toxic, Scald, etc. just as Quagsire does, but also gains a Special Attack boost when hit by a Water-type move, making it an offensive and defensive counter to rain. Also, when it comes to stall wars, Quagsire is practically begging your opponent to switch in Ferrothorn and set up Spikes while it can at best hope for a burn with Scald. Breloom can also force out Quagsire with ease, and there are few Pokemon that are more annoying and fearsome to give a free Substitute to. But what about UU? Well, it certainly doesn't help that the most common Pokemon in the tier, Roserade, is immune to Toxic, resistant to Scald, packs STAB Grass-type attacks, and can set up Toxic Spikes that will ruin Quagsire for the rest of the battle. Quagsire once again faces stiff competition as a Water / Ground defensive threat in UU, this time from former OU giant Swampert. While Quagsire has the edge on ability and reliable recovery, Swampert boasts superiority in every stat, as well as access to Stealth Rock. Sadly, RU is even less hospitable to Quagsire; the tier boasts as many Grass-types as OU and UU combined! Furthermore, the top Fire-types in the tier, Entei and Moltres—which should be easy pickings for our half-witted hero—come standard with Hidden Power Grass.
- Ninjask has always been a straightforward Pokemon. It does one thing, and only one thing, well: pass Speed boosts. Sure, it might get lucky and pass a Substitute or Attack boost as well, but for the most part, it only passes Speed reliably. That said, it is arguably the best Pokemon for such a role. After using Protect on the first turn to let its Speed Boost ability kick in, it outspeeds any Choice Scarf user, allowing it to quickly Baton Pass the boost to a slower sweeper. It can also alternate between Protect and Substitute to bide its time, passing even more boosts to its ally. It is a necessity for any Baton Pass team, as Speed is the most important stat to get a full chain started. It allows the members to set up a fast Substitute, boost, and pass off to the next teammate. Although predictable, Ninjask is the most commonly used NU in OU because it offers support that nothing else really can.
- So what's the problem? Well, the fifth generation was certainly harsh to poor Ninjask. Team Preview has destroyed the lead metagame, and Ninjask can only function well as a lead. A glaring weakness to Taunt means that the opponent, upon seeing it, will simply switch a Taunt user to the front and force Ninjask to only pass off one boost at most. Phazing is also an effective way of dealing with Ninjask, though passing to Espeon will just phaze out the phazer instead. A 4x weakness to Stealth Rock greatly reduces Ninjask's ability to function mid- to late-game, and even then it remains predictable. An even bigger blow came in the form of Prankster. In OU, Tornadus can utilize Prankster Taunt to prevent Ninjask from even passing a single boost to Espeon. Down in UU, there's still Prankster Sableye and no Espeon to back Ninjask up, and RU even has Prankster Whimsicott. Although it was OU back in DPP and still sees use in OU today, Ninjask is simply too predictable and easily defeated for it to see high usage anywhere, NU included. Its unique niche, however, means that it will never be completely absent from any of these metagames.
- And finally, we come to every fanboy's favorite, Charizard. Talk to any 20-something year old that doesn't know anything about competitive battling, and they'll boast about their level 76 Charizard with awesome Fire / Fire / Fire / Fire coverage. As far as competitive battling goes, however, Charizard has always been pretty crappy; that was, at least, until it picked up Solar Power from the Dream World. With Ninetales providing infinite sun, Charizard can set to work smashing through anything that doesn't resist its sun-boosted, Solar Power-boosted, STAB Fire Blast. It also gets SolarBeam to use in sun, though it's not exactly the best option with Tyranitar and Politoed lurking everywhere. STAB Air Slash, Focus Blast, and Hidden Power all offer great coverage options against Pokemon which resist Fire-type attacks, giving Charizard some offensive versatility.
- Why, then, is such a beloved icon all the way down in NU? Well for starters, sun can be rather difficult to keep up against rain and sandstorm, making it a rarer sight in general. A horrifying 4x weakness to Stealth Rock is also bad, especially combined with the residual damage from Solar Power. Base 100 Speed also isn't what it used to be, and it doesn't help that new, faster threats such as Terrakion and Landorus often carry Stone Edge. After Vulpix got the boot from UU, Charizard struggled to succeed there as well. Sure, it could set up Sunny Day itself, but Hippopotas brings auto-sandstorm and makes other weathers riskier to run. RU was, until recently, the tier that Charizard called home. While it faced some stiff competition as a Fire / Flying type from Moltres, it stood out as a great choice for Sunny Day teams. The ability to manually set up weather in a tier without auto-weather inducers made it pretty viable. Unfortunately for Charizard, Trick Room began gaining popularity, and manual weather took a nosedive. Charizard, Sawsbuck, and Ludicolo, all solid weather abusers, dropped down in the most recent tier shifts. So welcome back to NU, Charizard; we hope you enjoy your stay.
There are plenty of Pokemon that fulfill a certain unique niche in OU that nothing else can. Whether those niches happen to vanish in lower tiers or remain consistently low in value regardless of tier, there's no denying that NU Pokemon can still be viable threats in OU. So really: Why the Heck not?