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With every new generation comes massive shifts in the metagame. Not only are new Pokémon, moves, items, and abilities constantly introduced, but core mechanical changes are made as well. The RBY OU metagame is vastly different from BW, and Pokémon that once thrived are now struggling in the lower tiers. In RBY, there were no items or abilities, Special Attack and Special Defense were lumped together as Special, the critical hit rate was determined by Speed, every stat was maximized, physical and special moves were determined by type, Steel- and Dark-types did not exist, and even 100% accurate moves could miss. Many moves functioned differently as well; for instance, Hyper Beam did not need a turn to recharge if it scored a KO or broke a Substitute, and partial trapping moves such as Wrap did not prevent the opponent from switching, but did prevent them from attacking. So, which Pokémon were able to stay strong despite these sweeping changes over the years, and which just failed to keep up? Today, we'll be looking at the stars of RBY OU, and where they are now.
Believe it or not, there was a time when Tauros here was king. With base 110 Speed and base 100 Attack, few Pokémon dared to switch into its STAB Body Slam, and for good reason. That Speed stat gave Tauros a 21.4% chance to score a critical hit and, when coupled with Body Slam's 30% chance of landing a paralysis, meant whatever did switch in risked getting crippled for the rest of the match. STAB Hyper Beam could easily finish off most threats, making Tauros all the more dangerous. Even the few Pokémon that could comfortably take its Normal-type STAB moves, namely Gengar, Rhydon, and Golem, had much to fear from Earthquake and Blizzard (which sports 90% accuracy in RBY). With so few options in the original metagame, Tauros saw use on essentially every competitive team that existed.
It's been a long time since Normal was the most dominant type in the game, and Tauros failed to ever make OU in another generation. Currently, it resides down in NU, though it is an extremely viable Pokémon in RU as well. Sheer Force boosts the power of moves with secondary effects by 30%, and negates Life Orb recoil for those moves to boot. This makes Tauros's STAB Rock Climb, Rock Slide, and Zen Headbutt all the more powerful, while Earthquake provides the usual coverage. High Speed and Attack for NU also allows Tauros to run effective Choice Band and Choice Scarf sets, with Intimidate increasing the number of switch-ins it can make. Although it's a far cry from when it used to rule the metagame, Tauros still fits in quite nicely in the lower tiers.
Back in RBY, Chansey's absurd HP and Special stats made it the premier special wall. The biggest special threats in the game failed to chip off even a quarter of Chansey's health, meaning it could comfortably stall with Softboiled against even critical hits. Thunder Wave allowed it to spread paralysis with ease. Base 105 Special also meant Chansey could dish out a bit of pain while hoping for a chance freeze from Ice Beam. Chansey could even manage a surprise hit on physical sweepers by using Counter, though most players knew to watch out for this. Though not as omnipresent as Tauros, Chansey still found itself on almost every competitive team.
After receiving an evolution in GSC, Blissey, that outright outclassed Chansey in every way, it seemed doomed to a life in UU. That changed with BW, however, when Eviolite was introduced. With the boost in Defense and Special Defense from Eviolite, Chansey actually took hits better than Blissey did, though the lack of Leftovers left many OU players with a preference for Blissey. Chansey's role hadn't changed much from RBY, though the additions of Wish and Stealth Rock to its movepool allowed it to remain viable despite the more offensive nature the metagame had taken. Chansey, although initially UU, carved a niche for itself in BW OU and maintained OU status for much of BW. BW2 was much harsher for it, however, and soon Chansey dropped back to UU. This time around, Chansey did not last in the tier very long, and it was recently banned due to its over-centralizing presence. Now in BL, Chansey remains a solid choice for any OU or Ubers team craving a solid special wall.
Snorlax rounds out the big three Normal-types of RBY, and it's arguably the most dangerous. While it doesn't have the Speed of Tauros (or much Speed at all, for that matter) or the stalling capabilities of Chansey, it easily makes up for it with massive 160 / 65 / 110 defenses and a deadly base 110 Attack. It was also the most versatile threat in the metagame, and could win 1 vs. 1 against almost anything. Snorlax was often seen carrying Body Slam and Hyper Beam, much like Tauros, but it also wielded another potent Normal-type attack: Selfdestruct. With Earthquake to cover the three main Normal resists, Snorlax could make quick work of anything. The fun doesn't stop there, however; Snorlax was one of the few Pokémon with access to Amnesia, which doubled its Special (equivalent to two Calm Minds in later generations). This allowed Snorlax to fire off Blizzard and other special moves alongside its normal STAB attacks, with Rest keeping it nice and healthy during its sweep. A truly fearsome threat, Snorlax was an easy fit onto any RBY team.
Snorlax just got better in GSC, and though its utility faded throughout the following generations, it remained solidly in OU until BW. Base 110 Attack just isn't what it used to be, and in what is often called the Fighting generation, Snorlax's typing has gone from blessing to liability. It's certainly made a name for itself in UU, however, where it's a fantastic special wall and offensive tank. Snorlax is as versatile as ever, effectively running anything from a RestTalk phazing set to a hole-punching Choice Band set. Even the classic CurseLax set from GSC sees usage, though BW's sleep mechanics make it less threatening than it once was. Although it's no longer OU, Snorlax is easily one of the most dominant threats in BW UU.
With good bulk, solid offenses, and a handy typing, Exeggutor was a great addition to most RBY teams. It was often seen as a lead, thanks to its access to Sleep Powder. Base 125 Special allowed it to tank Psychics while dishing out powerful Psychics or Mega Drains of its own. On the physical side, it could use Explosion to bring down Chansey and other specially bulky threats, while Double-Edge is a good option for the frailer Alakazam and Jynx. Stun Spore is a common option as well, allowing Exeggutor to cripple multiple threats with a dual status set. Overall, it's a fantastic threat that can fill in various niches for any team.
Exeggutor is far from the threat it used to be, now residing all the way down in NU. It's managed to do well in NU, however, with a variety of effective sets depending on what its team needs. Usually, it's getting full use out of that monstrous base 125 Special Attack by equipping a Choice Specs and blasting holes through teams with Leaf Storm. It makes good use of its Chlorophyll ability on Sunny Day teams as well, boosting that meager base 55 Speed to more impressive levels. Although often seen as gimmicky, Exeggutor can also stall with a SubSeed + Harvest set or sweep faster teams with a Trick Room set. While it's certainly not as good as it was in RBY, Exeggutor is definitely a Pokémon to look out for in BW NU.
Starmie's solid bulk, excellent Water / Psychic typing, and access to Recover and Thunder Wave made it a great defensive pivot. Even better, its base 100 Special and fantastic offensive movepool, which includes Blizzard, Thunderbolt, Surf, Psychic, and Hydro Pump, made it quite the threat once Chansey was out of the way. A blazing base 115 Speed that gave it a 22.3% chance to score a critical hit is simply icing on the cake. Starmie is a top-notch threat that easily fits onto a variety of teams.
Starmie is one of just two Pokémon that have maintained OU status for all five generations. In BW, it epitomizes the role of offensive spinner. That fantastic base 115 Speed allows it to outpace most of the metagame, while its good base 100 Special Attack and amazing coverage allows it to put a dent in a wide variety of foes. It can also function as a speedy, bulky spinner with access to Recover and Scald. It's a deadly hole puncher with Choice Specs and a fabulous revenge killer with Choice Scarf; both sets have the boon of running Trick to cripple opposing walls. Starmie is one of those rare Pokémon that remains consistently great throughout the generations; here's to hoping it can keep it up in XY!
With a massive base 135 Special and access to Recover, Alakazam was fantastic special wall in RBY. It put a quick stop to the likes of Exeggutor, Chansey, Starmie, and opposing Alakazam, though it couldn't do much back to them without luck (or Seismic Toss for Starmie and Alakazam). Thankfully, luck tended to work well with Alakazam, as Psychic's 30% chance for a Special drop, along with Alakazam's 23.4% chance to land a critical hit, could allow it to muscle past even Chansey. Reflect was a popular option for Alakazam, as it buffed up its Defense and forced physical sweepers to either hope for the critical hit or use Selfdestruct or Explosion. With superb bulk, Alakazam could take paralysis and even sleep better than most threats, making it a valuable asset in the status-filled RBY metagame. It also easily spread paralysis of its own with Thunder Wave. An extremely versatile and useful Pokémon, Alakazam was a great choice for almost any team.
Alakazam failed to remain OU for the next three generations, and initially found itself down in RU for BW. That all changed when it got Magic Guard from the Dream World, however. Immunity to all forms of indirect damage, including weather, status, recoil, and entry hazards, has boosted Alakazam back to its former glory in OU. Phenomenal Special Attack and Speed allow Alakazam to power through a multitude of threats. The recent addition of Psyshock to its movepool means even special walls aren't safe from Alakazam. Thanks to its immunity to entry hazards, Alakazam can survive any hit when equipped with a Focus Sash, so even priority attackers and faster foes can't bring a full stop to it. Alternatively, Alakazam can use its immunity to recoil to become an even fiercer threat with Life Orb. While it struggles against several common Steel-types, Alakazam is still superb in the current metagame and is a great choice for a glass cannon special sweeper.
The choice between Rhydon and Golem is a debate as old as RBY OU itself. It's nearly impossible to discuss one without the other, as they were so similar in roles. That said, almost every competitive team had one of these two, and both were top threats in their own right. Rhydon boasted a higher Attack stat and slightly greater bulk. Golem, on the other hand, had a bit more Speed and access to Explosion. Both have handy resistances to Normal-type attacks, as well as Electric immunities. It's thanks to these two that Zapdos couldn't freely plow through any team, and their ability to sponge Body Slams and Hyper Beams made them invaluable to the metagame.
Rhydon was on a slow downward spiral after GSC, and its evolution in DPP, Rhyperior, seemed to be the final nail in its coffin. Luckily, Eviolite has given it a fantastic niche in RU as a tank, where it can easily set up Stealth Rock and fire away its great STAB attacks. Rock / Ground coverage is nearly flawless, and Megahorn fills in the few gaps. With base 130 Attack, it also makes good use of a Choice Band, smashing anything in its way. Rhydon can even set up Rock Polish to attempt a sweep. While its defensive typing and low Speed leaves much to be desired, Rhydon fits in just fine in the RU metagame.
Golem's fared even worse than Rhydon over the ages. Its old niche over Rhydon, Explosion, even got a nerf in BW. Thankfully, a buff to Sturdy has given Golem a nice role in NU as a Stealth Rock lead. Sturdy allows Golem to survive any hit, as long as it's at full health. Sucker Punch gives Golem useful priority to make up for its poor Speed, while STAB Earthquake and Rock Blast offer great coverage. With the common threat of Braviary in NU, a Flying-type resist is almost a must, and Golem fits that role handily. While it faces competition from Regirock in this aspect, Sturdy and Sucker Punch give it enough of a niche to distinguish itself as a unique threat in the tier. It's taken a rough fall from the days of RBY, but Golem is still a solid Pokémon down in NU.
With great Speed and mixed offensive stats, Zapdos made an effective late-game cleaner. The only things standing in its way were Golem and Rhydon, as both were immune to Thunderbolt and Thunder Wave, and took little damage from Drill Peck. If those threats were removed, however, Zapdos could easily pull off a sweep, especially after an Agility boost. While it was a bit riskier to use due to the omnipresence of the Rock / Ground-types, Zapdos was still an immense threat when kept hidden.
After spending the first four generations in OU, Zapdos has fallen down to UU. It's still viable in BW OU, but the more offensive nature of the metagame takes it toll on the former giant. Down in UU, it works fantastically, and there are a healthy variety of sets it can run. Thunderbolt, Heat Wave, and Hidden Power offer solid coverage, while Roost keeps it nice and healthy. Its EVs are easily customizable for a physically bulky, specially bulky, or purely offensive set, depending on what role you need Zapdos to play. It can even work as a hole puncher with Choice Specs while maintaining momentum with Volt Switch. Furthermore, it can set up a sweep with Agility. Although it's not the top tier threat it once was, Zapdos is more dominant than ever down in UU.
Back in RBY, the only Dragon-type move was the laughable Dragon Rage, meaning it was a far cry from the powerhouse typing of later generations. Dragonite itself wouldn't even be noteworthy were it not for the broken Wrap mechanics. Although Blizzards were everywhere and spelled instant disaster for Dragonite, it became a fearsome threat after just a single Agility boost. Once set up, Dragonite could wear down opponents with Wrap before finishing them off with Hyper Beam or Surf. Although the original metagame developed without proper Wrap mechanics, and some still prefer to play with it banned, Dragonite is a potent force in the true RBY OU.
After playing second fiddle to Salamence the past two generations, at least until its banning in DPP, Dragonite has finally usurped the position of the more dominant Dragon / Flying-type. Dream World blessed Dragonite with Multiscale, which cuts the power of attacks in half when Dragonite is at full health. This gives Dragonite fantastic defensive capabilities which, when combined with its stellar base 134 Attack, make it one of the top tanks in BW OU. It can easily set up a Dragon Dance and sweep teams, or opt to wield a Choice Band and just muscle through them. SubRoost sets allow it to get the most out of Multiscale, and Dragonite can effectively use those sets for either offensive (Dragon Dance + Dragon Claw) or defensive (Thunder Wave + Dragon Tail) purposes. It's also an effective rain sweeper, as it can fire off powerful Hurricanes and Thunders in rain. A versatile, powerful threat, Dragonite is a top tier choice for a wide variety of BW OU teams.
As the metagame evolves over the generations, so does a Pokémon's place in it. Few Pokémon can stand the test of time, though occasionally they're given a second chance later on. Join me next issue when I'll take a look at Pokémon that failed to make an impact on the RBY OU metagame, but have proven quite capable in BW. Until then, go try out some RBY OU!
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