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The VGC metagame is filled with many viable playstyles that can be used to bring about success in battle. Players can use themed teams such as Trick Room and hail to grant immediate team synergy, or opt for a simple "goodstuffs" playstyle, which is a collection of all-around excellent Pokemon. While no single strategy is universally better than the others, there is no denying that using a team based around field effects grants immediate advantages due to the team support and synergy they offer. In this article, we will examine some of the most prominent strategies that use field effects to their greatest effect.
Tailwind was blessed in BW with the arrival of Prankster. This ability grants priority to Tailwind for easy setup. There are only three Pokemon available that can abuse both the move and the ability: Whimsicott, Tornadus, and Murkrow. However, there are some fairly bulky and flexible Pokemon that can use Tailwind without this ability. Other common setters to look out for include Zapdos, Togekiss, Suicune, Latios, Latias, Scizor, Salamence, and Gliscor. With the awesome effect of Tailwind doubling the Speed of all of the Pokemon on your side of the field, which starts the turn after Tailwind is used, it's a pretty effective strategy that can really catch some players off-guard. However, these effects only last for 4 turns including the turn when Tailwind is set up and cannot be prolonged by any means possible. This makes it very susceptible to being Protect stalled easily.
Tailwind can also have its uses under weather by boosting the Speed of weather abusers that don't have a Speed-boosting ability, allowing for your team to use more bulk while still outspeeding even opposing weather abusers. However, you are more likely to see Tailwind on a "goodstuff" team with the aforementioned setters than on a weather-abusing one. While Tailwind is an excellent supporting move, be aware that using Tailwind means you will need to forgo one coverage move on the support Pokemon.
Some of the most common themed teams you'll see in VGC will be weather-based. The use of auto-weather setters, such as Politoed, Ninetales, Abomasnow, Tyranitar, and Hippowdon, gives your team automatic control on the field with your weather of choice active. The Speed of the Pokemon is critical in determining which weather will be in place at the start of the battle. Weather is determined based on the Speed of the weather starters, and the slower your weather starter is, the more likely they'll win the first turn war. However, like Tailwind, weather can be set up with the use of the ability Prankster, granting immediate change in the weather upon the use of moves like Sunny Day and Rain Dance. Pokemon with the ability that get weather setting moves are Tornadus, Thundurus, Whimsicott, Sableye, and Murkrow.
Rain is typically heralded as one of the best playstyles for beginners to use to learn the metagame due to the simplicity of the playstyle, which is typically just the spamming of Water-type attacks until they win. A rain team can either lag on the burden of being forced to use Politoed, or make use of Prankster users, such as Thundurus, Tornadus, and Sableye, which are all pretty bulky and don't add another Grass-type weakness to your rain team. Even though rain is thought of as bog-standard and boring, with correct knowledge of the metagame and what certain Pokemon bring to the field, rain can actually help you beat a majority of the metagame.
The most common rain abusers that you'll see in your time laddering will be Swift Swimmers, namely Ludicolo and Kingdra. Both are excellent with not only good stats and Swift Swim, but also a highly useful 4x resistance to Water-type attacks, making Surf spam that much easier. While Kingdra is only an ideal special attacker for rain teams, Ludicolo does have some other niches on rain teams. The pineapple also has access to Fake Out and a key Grass typing to act as a hard counter to Pokemon such as Rotom-W and Gastrodon. Though both are good rain abusers themselves, they can both tank or just flat-out sponge common attacks from rain teams and hit back hard. Thundurus is a powerful asset to rain teams, not only as an excellent abuser with high Special Attack and access to Thunder, but also as a backup rain setter. Pokemon with Water Absorb, such as Jellicent and Vaporeon, make great tanks for rain teams, having easy recovery by just Surf spamming with a partner Pokemon. Dry Skin is an ability that was seemingly made just for rain, and many Pokemon with this ability can be very powerful threats or even counters to other rain teams. Parasect and Toxicroak are both fantastic Pokemon for rain teams, being able to tank hits thanks to Dry Skin recovery while still providing offensive strength to cover potential threats such as Ferrothorn and Gastrodon. Hurricane is the Flying-type equivalent of Thunder as it too receives perfect accuracy in the rain, with the only difference being it can confuse the opponent instead; Dragonite and Tornadus are the most prominent users of the move. Choice Scarf Jellicent is another potent rain threat, being able to wreck opponents with fast, rain-boosted Water Spouts.
Sun is probably the least practical of all of the weather playstyles, as it typically has attackers that are frail or weak to Fire-type attacks (sometimes both!). However, regardless of how frail it is, sun attackers can be extremely powerful with many sun-boosted Fire-type attacks being featured, such as Flare Blitz, Heat Wave, and Overheat. Ninetales is typically what you think of as the ideal weather setter for sun, but like rain, sun can be set up by Prankster users such as Sableye, Whimsicott, and Murkrow.
Sun has a very small pool of excellent abusers compared to other weathers. The most common ones, much like rain, are Chlorophyll users and naturally fast hard-hitters. The main Chlorophyll abusers are Grass-types such as Venasaur, Jumpluff, and Tangrowth. These abusers usually take advantage of Sleep Powder to stop bulky threats and take them out as quickly as possible before they wake up. The "go to" Fake Outer for sun teams is typically Infernape; however, Shiftry is also an excellent and lesser-used option to have a super-fast Fake Out if sun is already up at the start of the turn. Fire-type sun attackers include Rotom-H and the overpowered Chandelure, decimating the opponent with sun-boosted Heat Waves. The brilliance of most physical attackers who abuse sun, such as Darmanitan and Blaziken, is that they can't be crippled by Will-O-Wisp from Sableye and the defensive tanks, such as Dusclops and Dusknoir. Solar Power Charizard is another potent sun attacker, as it receives the equivalent of a Life Orb boost and recoil even without using it, leaving it free to run a different item.
Hail is one of the more unique weathers. Aside from using Abomasnow, the only way of reliably keeping hail on the field is by having Hail on bulky Pokemon. The benefits of hail are also quite scarce; non-Ice-type Pokemon are worn down, and sweepers can abuse a 100% accurate Blizzard, which is what hail is known for. Indeed, Blizzard spam is one of the defining features of hail teams; even threats that resist the move, such as Scizor and Metagross, will be crippled by an untimely freeze. However, hail is not a one-trick pony. Most good hail teams feature excellent synergy, with the common core structure being pairing Rotom-F and Abomasnow with Fire-types such as Heatran and Chandelure.
As said earlier, hail is all about Blizzard spam. Being a powerful move with a chance to freeze is certainly great to abuse, especially with the likes of Glaceon and Abomasnow. The only abilities that are tailor-made for hail abuse are Snow Cloak and Ice Body. Snow Cloak is just annoying for the enemy; trying to take out powerful attackers such as Mamoswine and Froslass can be quite troublesome with this ability in effect. Froslass has a niche as a hail abuser, being immune to Fake Out and Fighting-type attacks and having a unique support movepool with moves such as Destiny Bond and Disable. Mamoswine also has a niche for being one of the few hail-abusing physical attackers that can even help counter other hail teams and hail threats, such as Heatran, Chandelure, and Metagross. Ice Body abuse is practically non-existent on hail teams; with the timer in VGC, it's very impractical to try and stall with this ability.
Sand is a force to reckon with as it gives Rock-types a Special Defense boost. Tyranitar gets that boost every time thanks to its ability Sand Stream. It also deals 6% damage to all Pokemon barring Ground-, Steel-, and Rock-types at the end of each turn. The residual damage also helps you see which Pokemon is the fastest on the field, as faster Pokemon take residual damage first. Tyranitar can wear down opponents with STAB Rock Slide; don't expect any flinches though, as it is very slow. Hippowdon is an alternative for setting up sand, as it is an excellent physical tank that can take hits, heal off damage with Slack Off (something Tyranitar lacks), and hit back hard. However, Tyranitar has better overall bulk when sandstorm is active, so choose carefully between the two.
Normally, when you think sand, you think Garchomp. Garchomp is a naturally fast and strong threat that gets featured as a sand abuser quite often with Sand Veil, pulling off many comeback wins after evading 10 attacks from the enemy. Gliscor is another Pokemon with this asinine, rage-inducing ability, and as mentioned before, it can give your team an even greater advantage with Tailwind support. Sand Rush is another common element of a good sand team. Strong abusers, such as Excadrill and Stoutland, can pull off easy sweeps by just spamming Rock Slide and Earthquake, netting you a quick, easy win. Excadrill even has Sand Force to boost the power of Rock Slide and Earthquake, something it shares with Landorus. Speaking of Landorus, it can run a potent special set with its good base 115 Special Attack; a special attacker that is immune to sandstorm recoil can be a great asset to most sand teams. However, there are a few other amazing special attackers for sand teams in the form of Storm Drain abusers, such as Gastrodon and Cradily. Even though they add some smaller weaknesses to the team itself, they provide an invaluable Water-type immunity and thus help counter Water-type attackers such as Rotom-W and Jellicent that can pose a big threat to sand teams.
Threats can vary heavily depending on what weather you're talking about, as weather isn't really a "one-thing-will-always-beat-it" kind of thing. However, there are simpler ways of keeping the weather in your favor. As obvious as it sounds, smart play with your own weather setter can have a huge impact on the game being played.
Threats to rain are certainly more well known and common on goodstuff teams. Grass-types and Gastrodon themselves actually plow through rain teams if valuable assets such as Ludicolo and Ice Beam users are lost to misplays. Even a simple Parasect can break through your rain team if you are not careful, which will be quite embarrassing to look back on. However, there are tank threats even in VGC in the form of Ferrothorn, which can wreak havoc on your rain team if you lack a Fighting-type.
Sun is a very frail, hard-hitting playstyle in VGC. The main goal for sun teams is to either smash opponents off the bat with amazingly overpowered Fire-type attacks, or put them to sleep with Spore and Sleep Powder, and then go for the win. Most sun teams are vulnerable to Thunder Wave, however; faster attackers can then blow away the frail sun abusers with powerful neutral attacks. Spread moves such as Rock Slide, Earthquake, and Heat Wave can also make quick work of a sun team.
Hail's most valuable asset can sometimes be the Fire-type sponge on the team, namely Heatran and Chandelure. However, the same Fire-types can also be the bane of hail abusers such as Abomasnow and Rotom-F. Fast or bulky Rock-types are also massive threats to hail abusers (which are predominantly Ice-types with a Rock-type weakness), as they can deal heavy damage with Rock Slide while also scoring the occasional crucial flinch.
Sand can be the tougher cookie to crack, compared to other weather playstyles. Bulky Water- and Fighting-types have little to no problem plowing through most sand abusers if they can avoid being flinched by Rock Slide from Sand Rush and Choice Scarf users. Because sand is a mostly physical playstyle, Intimidate can be very problematic as well, significantly reducing the damage output of even Pokemon such as Garchomp.
Trick Room has been one of the most consistent playstyles throughout each generation of VGC with its flexibility in being able to play with slow, bulky Pokemon that can still outspeed most opponents. However, Trick Room is one of the two field effects that can't be set up automatically by one Pokemon just being sent onto the field.
Most of the common weather abusers in this metagame are typically given Speed boosts from abilities such as Swift Swim, Chlorophyll, and Sand Rush. Trick Room helps take care of these threats by reversing the Speed tiers on the field and allowing your slower, bulky Pokemon to make easy work out of these weather abusers. However, you, or even your opponent, could take advantage of the effects of Trick Room along with weather effects on the field by abusing abilities such as Rain Dish, Sand Force, Solar Power, or Hydration. Trick Room also completely screws over Tailwind teams by using their Speed boost against them.
I could go on forever for each playstyle, going more in-depth on the pros and cons of each, but alas, this is not the article for such detail. Goodstuff is not always the best playstyle, and some of the most successful teams are teams based off one or two of these playstyles. VGC is a fun metagame because you have the freedom to use whatever you want against big threats, so try out whatever playstyle fits you the best. You can never really go wrong, as at the end of the day, it all depends on how you play.
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