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Starting out on the right foot is key in Pokémon. Momentum gained with the proper lead often determines the course of the game. Throughout ADV and DPP, with Team Preview not in the picture, a lead metagame existed. This lead metagame dissipated with the introduction of Team Preview in BW. However, many players are beginning to find that some of their favorite leads from DPP still work in BW, in addition to numerous new discoveries. While many players think that dedicated leads are all but dead in BW, this is far from the truth. With the game becoming more and more hazard-centric, people are beginning to turn to Pokémon that can reliably set them up. Deoxys-D is the foremost of these, being a heavily debated suspect at the moment, but many others exist. Stealth Rock is the most important move in the game, and a few layers of Spikes makes many sweepers almost impossible to stop. There are other types of dedicated leads as well, though they are less seen. With that said, this article will tell you numerous leads you can use and how to use them, so without further ado, let's get on with it.
Deoxys-D is, without a doubt, the best suicide hazard lead in this metagame. The main reason for this is its extreme reliability (due in part to its insane bulk and solid Speed) and ability to run moves such as Magic Coat, Psycho Boost, Hidden Power Fire, and Skill Swap for its counters. These traits make Deoxys-D good enough to be the poster child for heavy offense (of which Deoxys-D variants are in a class of their own), which is primarily known for taking literally no skill to build. The reliable hazards Deoxys-D provides make these teams' onslaught difficult to defend against, leaving opponents hard-pressed to spin, even if they can knock-out the spinblocker (usually Gengar) that is often paired with Deoxys-D. Deoxys-D usually runs Stealth Rock and Spikes, with a few only running Spikes. This leaves it with room for two moves, the first of them being Taunt to prevent opposing setup, hazards, and Taunt. The last move can be utilized to deal with one of spinners, Tyranitar, Magic Bouncers, and faster hazard setting and Taunt. With a ton of item options that also help with certain counters, Deoxys-D has near-limitless versatility, which makes it an amazing choice for a hazard lead and is one of the reasons for its recent suspect status.
Terrakion is the other big lead in this metagame. It possesses similar reliability to Deoxys-D with two key differences: its high power and Speed. A Focus Sash allows Terrakion near-guaranteed Stealth Rock right off the bat. Even without a boosting item, Terrakion is still one of the most powerful Pokémon in the metagame. It is practically impossible to set up Stealth Rock or freely switch into it, especially when Taunt is taken into consideration. Terrakion's high Speed means almost every hazard setter in OU will be unable to set up against it. You can also go balls to the wall and Swords Dance to demolish unsuspecting opponents. This really helps against Deoxys-D, limiting it to only one or two layers, and allows Terrakion to beat spinners and spinblockers alike. If you have a spinner and Terrakion has an advantageous matchup, you can even save the Sash for later in the game. Terrakion is amazing on offensive teams that need Stealth Rock and a powerful attacker, which, come to think, is pretty much every offensive team.
Mew has certainly made a name for itself in BW2 with its amazing leading capabilities. Mew's main advantages over other leads are its great Speed, bulk, and array of support moves it can run. You can't forget about Explosion, which, with a Normal Gem boost, can OHKO or at least severely cripple pretty much all opponents that are not resistant or immune to it. Other than Explosion and a faster Taunt, Mew has one huge and underrated available option: Tailwind. Tailwind allows Jirachi to wreck opponents like Terrakion and Keldeo with Zen Headbutt (it is best used over Taunt). Mew can shut down almost every other possible lead with the right move or at least force it out. It's also an amazing choice for teams with a Baton Passer like Gorebyss, Smeargle, and Venomoth, as Explosion often kills the opponent and Mew, leaving the Baton Passer with the freedom to do whatever shenanigans it does to cripple the opponent and pretty much make that the game. So if you ever want to make your Baton Pass team even more skill-less, slap a smug little Mew on it.
Azelf was one of the best leads back in DPP, and while it's certainly not the same as it once was, it's still really good. Azelf is really fast and powerful, in addition to having an expansive movepool. The best set is probably a Life Orb (or Normal Gem!) attacking Stealth Rock one. Between its attacking move of choice (many run Zen Headbutt for Terrakion or Fire Blast for Ferrothorn) and U-turn, Azelf can do some damage and get out if it needs to. Of course, you can just explode right off the bat, doing even more damage than Mew. For an idea of its power, it OHKOes 252/252+ Blissey. That is strong stuff. Azelf just blows stuff right off the face of the earth. Oh, and it demolishes Terrakion, which is of course just awesome. Another cool way to run Azelf is with a Focus Sash and Taunt; you prevent opposing hazards (even attacking Deoxys-D doesn't learn a move to hit it hard), set up your own really reliably, and then go boom. It's reminiscent of simpler times when one of a lead's main priorities was to go boom.
While Mamoswine is best known for revenge killing the ubiquitous Dragon-types of OU, it also has a niche as a Stealth Rock lead. While it's rather slow, it also learns the oh-so-amazing Endeavor. Think FEAR Rattata from last generation but at level 100 and being able to hit like a nuclear warhead. Oh, and not screwed over by Pokémon that carry Leftovers. Endeavor + Ice Shard is sure to surprise your opponents, but that's not its main function. Mamoswine's main function is to set up Stealth Rock. With one Pokémon heavily crippled and Stealth Rock in play, Mamoswine almost always does its job as a lead. It can also OHKO the living daylights out of Jirachi and Heatran. What fun.
First off, it's Garchomp. It's Garchomp. IT'S GARCHOMP. What can't it do well? Anyway, after Garchomp was let back into OU, it took the metagame by storm with its devastating-as-always Choice Band and Swords Dance sets. However, a new set soon emerged, one that would become one of the faces of the leading game. Garchomp has insane bulk for an attacker, Rough Skin for its ability, and the power to KO or at least force out literally the entire OU tier. With these traits, Garchomp can easily set up Stealth Rock. Other than opposing dedicated leads, there are no Pokémon in OU that can prevent Focus Sash Garchomp from setting up Stealth Rock. Ferrothorn and Forretress hoping to set up on it will find themselves roasted as if they were burgers on a grill. Formula for using Garchomp: set up Stealth Rock → kill everything → profit! ;)
Landorus-T is just a total monster in this metagame. It has redeemed the generations of non-OU tigers by being able to take hits from pretty much everything. Dragon Claw from Garchomp? No big deal. Sucker Punch from Toxicroak? No big deal. Stone Edge from Terrakion? You get the idea. Because of Intimidate, pretty much no physical attacker in OU can break past Landorus-T. Terrakion, Mew, Azelf, or Garchomp, Landorus-T couldn't care less. It sits there, sets up Stealth Rock, and U-turns out. Simple. That right there, that is convenience at its finest. Oh yeah, and its really powerful, even with minimal investment. Meet Garchomp formula v2.
Aerodactyl is pretty much exactly like Garchomp except with a different typing and 28 more base Speed. It, like Azelf, is a mainstay from DPP, running a set that's tried and true. Now let's get back to that Speed. Aerodactyl outspeeds every single other lead in this metagame. Let me repeat that: every single one. Don't let its RU status fool you into thinking it isn't good. However, Aerodactyl did change a little bit with the generation shift; it now runs Fire Blast over Taunt. Ferrothorn and Forretress are just a pain. Skarmory is a pain. Fire Blast puts them in their place. EdgeQuake coverage allows Aerodactyl to hit Terrakion, Mew, and others very hard. Magic Bouncers and Rapid Spinners just die. It's a wonder this monster is stuck in RU.
All it takes is a gander over on the hell that is the Deoxys-D suspect ladder to find Crustle in action. Its stats are, well, laughable to say the least, but it has enough Defense and Attack to get the job done. Yes, Crustle isn't an amazing Pokémon, and anyone would tell you that. However, it does have two attacking moves in Earthquake and X-Scissor that have pretty good coverage. X-Scissor also does some nice super effective damage to Deoxys-D and Starmie. Earthquake gets Tentacruel and Terrakion for some pretty good damage. That's every spinner other than Forretress dealt with in one way or another. Usually, you'll want to run Custap Berry to get at least Stealth Rock and one layer of Spikes up. It's only decent, but getting both Stealth Rock and Spikes up is worth it most of the time.
If you hate facing this thing when it has hazards, you're in for it when it starts with screens. Deoxys-D is the quintessential Pokémon for teams with tons of setup sweepers, as it can set up screens multiple times per match, which other setters of them fail to do. Its main advantages are insane bulk and Taunt. Most dual screeners are easy setup fodder. Boosting to the point where screens are just a cushion is the most common way of dealing with them. Taunt makes that impossible. You might now be thinking you have to sacrifice Deoxys-D's hazard-laying potential for screens, but you don't! Deoxys-D can fill its one remaining moveslot with Stealth Rock. Setting up screens and Stealth Rock isn't even that hard, as screens make Deoxys-D pretty much impossible to break through. It even retains its item versatility. Deoxys-D is just so effective at what it does that other screeners are only worth it for their small niches.
Espeon is just an amazing lead, and it's not just for setting up screens. Because of its amazing ability, no hazard lead can go toe-to-toe with Espeon and get anything up, bar the occasional Skill Swap Deoxys-D. It suffers from lacking the supporting and defensive capabilities of Xatu, but its amazing Speed and actually fairly solid bulk with screens up are traits that set it apart. Espeon can even get Stealth Rock up for you with the right prediction via bouncing it back later on. Like Deoxys-D, Espeon has its uses later in the game, but it also shines in the lead position. There's another thing it can do that Deoxys-D can't: escape from Pursuit unscathed, thanks to Baton Pass. It also isn't setup fodder, which is vital for a screener; base 130 Special Attack, even without investment, still makes Espeon's Psychic STAB pack a punch.
While Azelf is a great attacking Stealth Rock lead, it's also a good screening lead. Unlike the other two screeners mentioned above, it is, pretty much, a suicide lead. It actually runs a similar set to Deoxys-D with dual screens and Taunt, but it boasts insane Speed, making it impossible for opposing leads to get up their hazards. You even still get Stealth Rock, like Deoxys-D! Dual screen hyper offense is a cool playstyle in this metagame, and if you don't have Deoxys-D, Azelf is your next best, or arguably best either way, choice. You can also forgo Taunt and go boom, which ensures something is going to die or be heavily crippled. ;)
Weather inducers are, for the most part, good leads, but Politoed is by far the best. The reason you lead with your inducer is to get your preferred weather up right off the bat. Bulky Choice Specs is one of Politoed's best sets for the lead position, allowing it to do tons of damage to opposing weather inducers. The recently discovered Water Gem set also excels because of the massively powerful Hydro Pump it can fire off, OHKOing every opposing weather inducer no matter what set they run. This infuriatingly happy little toad even has the audacity to learn Encore, which is quite possibly the best move for a lead other than Stealth Rock. Politoed just loves getting set up on. What's up Latias? Trying to Calm Mind, are you? Politoed uses Encore, and then switches out to Scizor. Latias is forced out, as otherwise Scizor will OHKO it with U-turn, but suddenly it's stuck between a rock and a hard place. If it switches, one of two things happens: it dies to Pursuit, or the incoming Pokémon is faced with Keldeo or Thundurus-T after a U-turn. If it stays in, it dies. Politoed is a goddamn tank, and an amazing lead.
Tyranitar is another really cool lead. It is slower than Politoed and Ninetales, which is always great. It's also a powerhouse heavy hitter with Choice Band. However, let's put all of that to the side for a minute. Choice Band Crunch OHKOes Deoxys-D. It OHKOes Deoxys-D! That right there is power; holding Deoxys-D to one hazard is a feat envied by many Pokémon. If a Choice Band set is not to your liking, you can also run a Focus Sash one, which is a slightly unconventional option. Tyranitar will always get Stealth Rock up with Focus Sash, and with Stealth Rock being the best move in the game, that isn't a worthless ability. You will have a lot less power to work with, and it won't be any good against rain and sun teams, but opposing sand and weatherless teams will find themselves at an immediate disadvantage. These are the kinds of teams you don't really need Tyranitar for other than maybe killing Celebi, Latios, or Latias. No matter which set you run, Tyranitar will not disappoint.
Hippowdon's biggest advantage over any other leading weather inducer is that it is slower than all of them. Hippowdon is guaranteed to get its sand up. When Terrakion Taunts it, Hippowdon can just Earthquake it for the 2HKO, leaving it a non-factor after it sets up Stealth Rock. It can also take Explosions from leads such as Mew and Azelf. Against Pokémon that aren't dedicated leads, Hippowdon is almost guaranteed to get Stealth Rock up due to it being insanely hard to break on the physical side. Leads attempting to set up can easily be phazed out. If you need Hippowdon for the weather war, it can even heal up after doing its job. Hippowdon is just a solid Pokémon in this metagame overall, and this extends to the lead position.
Ninetales isn't really the best lead in the world at all, as it is destroyed by all other weather inducers and is setup fodder for most hazard leads, but it makes do. Simply the threat of a ready-to-go sun team on the first turn is enough to make Ninetales a decent lead. It can burn Hippowdon, Ferrothorn, and other opponents, which is made even easier if it chooses to run Substitute. It can even Sunny Day on those unsuspecting defensive Politoed like the sitting ducks they are. Heck, it can go for a surprise sleep (though the accuracy is shaky) with Hypnosis, potentially crippling an opposing Pokémon for the entirety of the match. That leaves you playing 6-5. There isn't a whole lot of good to say about Ninetales, as it's a poor Pokémon in the first place, but the few unique things it can do and the threat of sun allow it to get by.
Anti-lead Dragonite is a somewhat recent discovery and has been gaining in popularity as of late, utilizing a simple Life Orb mixed set. While Dragonite's disappointing Speed might seem to be a detriment, you would be forgetting the solid priority move that is ExtremeSpeed if you thought that. An attack followed by ExtremeSpeed is almost guaranteed to KO at least one opposing Pokémon. The other moves are double Dragon STAB—Draco Meteor and Outrage—and Superpower, which allow Dragonite to hit a variety of threats hard, including every weather starter and hazard lead. Dragonite can use brute force to smash apart everything, which is just plain fun. Who doesn't enjoy coming out and smashing things to pieces? It's so easy to use Dragonite that it's not even funny; slap it on one of your teams and be prepared for an exhilarating experience.
While Mienshao is best-known for being one of the last mediocre stragglers of BW2 OU, it's actually a pretty good lead. Fake Out, U-turn, and Regenerator is just an awesome combination; you're guaranteed to get at least some damage off with Fake Out, and with Mienshao's awesome Speed, you're likely to get off a Hi Jump Kick or U-turn. Take this into perspective: you can break Focus Sashes. This is a huge help against hazard leads, preventing any shenanigans that might result in Mienshao being killed. Mienshao is a powerhouse and can stay healthy for pretty much the entire match, so long as you play well with it. It's pretty much an anti-lead, similar to Dragonite. This Fighting-type bird is guaranteed to leave kacaw-induced terror in its wake, and even if it doesn't, you still get coolness points. Think about it: it's a win / win situation.
Smeargle is one of those Pokémon that takes absolutely no skill to use. All you need is a Pokémon that likes Shell Smash as a teammate and Smeargle will not disappoint. If you don't know, this means mixed Jirachi, Garchomp, and Kyurem-B, among others. You click moves and win. If the opponent's lead is slower, use Spore, set up Stealth Rock on the switch, Shell Smash as Smeargle gets brought down to its Sash, and pass to one of the aforementioned Pokémon. If it's faster, you set up Shell Smash, Spore when Smeargle gets brought down to its Sash, Stealth Rock on the switch, and pass. If that's not skill-less, then nothing is. You will never lose a game with SmashPass Smeargle unless your opponent has Espeon or something. If your opponent has Espeon, switch to Scizor and Pursuit it as it switches. Of course, this strategy is frowned upon, but it wins games.
Trick is a ubiquitous commodity in this metagame, and users of the move make amazing leads. These sets are Trick + Choice Specs Latios and Trick + Choice Scarf Jirachi, respectively, the most common Trick users in OU. Leading with Jirachi or Latios catches opponents off-guard, usually culminating in them switching to their Ferrothorn or other wall. This wall will then be crippled for the entire game with a Choice item. This strategy helps sweepers immensely; while Ferrothorn is wasting its time Choice-locked into Spikes, you can set up on it. You can wear it down so your sweeper that is walled by it can finish it off. While Blissey is locked into Toxic, you can set up hazards with your own Ferrothorn. You could also bring in SubCM Jirachi and 6-0 your opponent right then and there. It also messes up the game for setup sweepers, such as Terrakion, rendering them unable to fire off boosted attacks. Use Trick, and your opponent might just be tricked into falling for it.
Zoroark is just the ultimate lead Pokémon in many ways. First off, Illusion allows it to disguise itself as another Pokémon, which affects how your opponent plays. It leaves them unsure of what to expect, causing a paranoia of sorts. However, there's more to Zoroark than mindgames. It can set up a Nasty Plot and OHKO Deoxys-D with +2 Dark Pulse. It can OHKO Deoxys-D. That in itself makes Zoroark a Pokemon worth using in the lead position. Forcing the opponent out unwittingly or making them think they can set up something is one of the best feelings you can experience playing a game of Pokémon. Outsmarting the opponent is something a well-played Zoroark can easily do, and it makes for a very cool lead because of it.
Well, as you can see, leads certainly aren't a dead concept in BW. The game is becoming more about who can get their hazards up first than it is about weather. The focus gradually shifting away from weather has led to the very hazard-centric metagame we have at the moment. Having a dedicated lead makes you not have to worry about picking a good lead every match; you always have one. Dedicated leads are designed to put you at an immediate advantage, providing momentum. Pokemon is, at its core, a game based around who can seize momentum at various points to win the game. Holding the momentum right away is a tool you can utilize to win games. To conclude, go out there and slap a dedicated lead on your team; it will not disappoint.
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