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Ahh, Protect. A move that is loved by many. It's not hard to see why, as it gives the user one turn of guaranteed protection from anything detrimental—indeed, pretty much everything you can think of is blocked, from direct damage to annoying moves like Taunt and Trick. Its most common uses in the metagame include "scouting" Pokémon carrying Choice items to ease prediction and retain momentum for one's team, as well as allowing a number of bulky Pokémon to gain Leftovers, Poison Heal, Rain Dish, Leech Seed, Ice Body, or Wish recovery without getting hurt in the process. It reached the height of popularity during the latter half of BW1 when "VoltTurn" teams were extremely popular, as being able to predict around U-turn and Volt Switch allowed you to slow down the VoltTurn team and gain back precious momentum.
Politoed - Used on the bulky set, thus allowing it to stall out Perish Song turns more easily, as well as getting Leftovers recovery.
Heatran - Used on the Specially Defensive set to regain Leftovers recovery and to stall for Toxic or burn damage.
Ninetales - Used on the defensive set to regain Leftovers recovery and stall for Toxic or burn damage.
Vaporeon - Used on the Wish set in order to be able to heal with it without taking a hit on the second turn.
Tentacruel - Used on virtually all of its sets to gain Leftovers and Rain Dish recovery.
Gliscor - On most defensive sets to gain Poison Heal recovery.
/ Blissey / Chansey - Used on sets with Wish in order to be able to heal with it without taking a hit on the second turn.
Ferrothorn - An option on the support set to regain additional Leech Seed recovery and damage.
Jirachi - Used on sets with Wish in order to be able to heal with it.
Gengar - Used on MYSTICGar to predict around Choice Band Scizor.
Terrakion - Used to predict around Choice users such as Choice Scarf Landorus and Choice Band Scizor.
Abomasnow - Used on many sets to predict around Choice users, or to gain Leftovers or Leech Seed recovery.
Sharpedo - Used to get +1 Speed from Speed Boost.
Walrein - Used on Stallrein to gain Leftovers and Ice Body recovery.
This article would be pretty boring if it were just highlighting everything that's good about Protect, because frankly, everyone know those advantages anyway. The section below will be devoted to highlighting the many common instances of misuse of the move and why it could potentially cost you games.
This is probably the most obvious trap that beginners fall into when using Protect. It is horribly tempting to get some free Leftovers recovery even when your Pokémon does not really need it, while using it to "scout" what your opponent will do. There have been plenty of cases where a beginner has his 87% Gliscor out against an unboosted Terrakion, and then uses Protect to get back to 100% health. This action is absolutely unnecessary and is a complete waste of a turn. Your Gliscor does not need to be at 100% to counter an unboosted Terrakion. All it does is give your opponent a free switch into whatever they want to switch into Gliscor, such as Latios. Another example would be when using the MYSTICGar set. The set itself is not bad, and it is deadly in the right hands. However, it could very well backfire. What if your Gengar uses Protect because you think Scizor is Choice Banded, but instead, it uses Swords Dance? You just gave it a free boost, which immediately puts you on the defensive. An even worse mistake occurs when people use Perish Song, and then use Protect on one of the turns after using the move, ESPECIALLY when there is a trapping Pokémon on the other team. There have been so many times where I have seen people use Perish Song with defensive Politoed, and then immediately use Protect the very next turn, even when they know I have Wobbuffet on my team. I don't even know what to say to that kind of mindlessness. The use of Protect to minimise prediction can be analagous to training wheels on a bicycle. Yes, for the short term, it helps you familiarise with the game and helps you make more informed decisions. However, if you want to be able to ride a bike quickly, you'll have to remove the training wheels. Same goes for Protect. It's not a bad option to get into the feel of the game, but in the end, you will have to learn to predict without it.
One thing that can be seen from newbies using Protect is that they are overly dependent on it all the time. They often depend on the move so much that they become predictable. Like the Gliscor example used previously, it may not just be against Terrakion. The player would use Protect on Gliscor every second turn because they can. Once they get into this kind of pattern, it becomes very easy to play around. When you get into a pattern like that, it is very easy for your opponent to take advantage of those turns to set up entry hazards or to switch in more dangerous threats because they know you'll be using Protect. You may have made your opponent a little easier to predict around, but in exchange you have also made yourself easier to predict around as well.
Pokémon is not just a battle of two teams of Pokémon but also between the minds and psyches of those wielding those teams. While team match-ups and good team building are extremely important, the mental battle can hold more weight in the outcome of a match. When you battle, you should reveal as little as possible about your team, as well as your battle style and tendencies, to your opponent while trying to gain as much information about them as possible. Using Protect is one way of revealing too much about how you play to your opponent. It tells your opponent that you're not very keen to take risks, and therefore it can be easy for your opponent to lead you into a trap or simply allow them to be more aggressive. It gives them more room to play around because they know what kind of player you are. Simply put, Protect reduces risk, but when you don't take risks you would not get the rewards involved.
Protect is a good move if used sparingly, but sometimes, you really have to ask yourself: is it really worth that moveslot? This is especially true when some Pokémon have heavy "four moveslot syndrome" already. Ferrothorn is probably one of the biggest examples of this. Yes, Protect is probably the best move on most Ferrothorn sets as it gives it an extra turn of Leech Seed recovery. However, is it really worth using over something like Thunder Wave, a second STAB attack (like Power Whip for Gyarados), or that extra entry hazard? Each move that you place Protect over may be an extra moveslot wasted on another Pokémon, or an advantage lost to your team. Obviously, if your team can accomodate it, that's fine, but if your team is running low on moveslots, maybe it's a good idea to drop Protect for the other move. The standard bulky Politoed is another example. Normally, it's using Scald / Perish Song / Toxic / Protect. It is the optimal set, but what if your team is really having trouble with Dragon-types? Maybe it might be a good idea to put Ice Beam on it instead of Protect. This obviously depends on what your team needs, but it may not always be the best idea to put Protect on a Pokémon that may need a more specific move to support its team.
Protect is one of the more useful moves in the metagame, but like everything else that is good, there are always downsides to Protect, even though they might not be as obvious. As long as you keep its dangers in mind and use it appropriately, Protect will be an extremely useful move at all levels of competitive battling.
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