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With each new generation comes large changes to the metagame. New mechanics, Pokemon, moves, abilities, and items appear that push some past threats out of the limelight and bring new life to previously underrated Pokemon. Last issue, I looked at some of the former stars of RBY and where they are today. This issue, I'll be looking at Pokemon that failed to find their place in RBY OU, but have since carved out notable niches for themselves in BW.
Dugtrio's shoddy bulk and mediocre Attack really prevented it from making a big impact in RBY. The one thing it did have going for it was Speed; base 120 Speed allowed Dugtrio to tie with Alakazam and outspeed all other common threats. It also gave Dugtrio a 23.4% chance to land a critical hit with most moves, as well as a 99.6% (even 100% accurate moves missed 1/256 of the time in RBY) chance to get a crit with Slash. It worked best as a lead, where it could use Sand Attack to lower the accuracy of sleep moves even further before setting up a Substitute (which sadly did not block sleep in RBY) and firing off high critical hit attacks. It could also function as a late-game cleaner, though its Attack was underwhelming and its poor defenses didn't allow it to switch into many threats.
Dugtrio didn't find real success until ADV, where it gained Arena Trap, which allowed it to trap and revenge kill a variety of threats. By late DPP, it had fallen to UU, however. Things changed with BW, though. Weather wars became the name of the game and Dugtrio's ability to trap key threats made it a star once more. Dugtrio can function well on rain teams, as it removes Tyranitar and Ninetales to allow Politoed's auto-weather to go unchallenged. It finds even more use on sun teams, as threats like Tyranitar, Heatran, and Terrakion can normally man-handle these teams, but all are quickly dispatched by Dugtrio. Although it won't be sweeping to tanking teams any day soon, Dugtrio's ability to trap and revenge key threats gives it a solid niche in BW OU.
Gyarados was actually pretty good in RBY. Base 125 Attack for Body Slam and Hyper Beam, combined with base 100 Special for Blizzard, Thunderbolt, and STAB Surf allowed Gyarados to function as a mixed sweeper. Decent bulk and speed, while not enough to make it a top-tier threat, did let it fit comfortably in the metagame. Unfortunately, common threats like Starmie, Gengar, and Zapdos also carried Thunderbolt, which spelled instant doom for Gyarados. Furthermore, it was somewhat outclassed by the likes of Tauros and Snorlax, which had more Speed and bulk respectively, as well as STAB on Hyper Beam and Body Slam. Gyarados's glaring Electric weakness made it inferior option over these other physical attackers in most cases, though it was certainly not "bad" overall.
Gyarados finally got workable STAB in Hidden Power Flying in ADV, along with Intimidate, Dragon Dance, and Choice Band. It only got better in DPP, where it gained physical Waterfall. BW continued this upward trend by giving Gyarados Moxie from the Dream World and auto-rain support from Politoed. Gyarados can run a variety of Dragon Dance sets, from the purely offensive to the more defensive SubDD and bulky Dragon Dance sets. Its useful defensive typing, bulk, Intimidate, and access to Taunt, Roar, Dragon Tail, and Thunder Wave allows it to run a variety of support sets as well. With Moxie, it can even pull off a sweep with just Choice Scarf, and its Choice Band set is especially destructive in the rain. Gyarados's fantastic versatility allows it to thrive in the current metagame.
Ninetales's niche in RBY was very small. It essentially functioned as an anti-sleep lead, as Fire Blast could OHKO Exeggutor and Jynx with a critical hit. It also worked as an annoyer, as Body Slam's high paralysis chance combined with Confuse Ray created the infamously bothersome parafusion combination. On top of parafusion, Ninetales had the inaccurate Fire Spin to further bother its foes. While its uses were limited to essentially just that, it still found its way onto teams that needed a method to deal with common sleep leads.
Ninetales remained mediocre for the next few generations, but its luck changed with BW. Dream World gave it Drought, and Ninetales suddenly found itself at the cornerstone of all OU sun teams. Defensively, it has moves like Will-O-Wisp, Roar, and Hypnosis to toy around with. Offensively, its sun-boosted Fire Blasts and SolarBeams allow it to dish out surprising damage from its low base 81 Special Attack. Because Tyranitar and Politoed love to switch into Ninetales, it almost always carries Sunny Day to regain the weather momentum for its team. While it's certainly not an offensive or defensive powerhouse by any means, its ability gives it a key role in BW OU.
Tentacruel had trouble making a name for itself among Water-types as its dual Poison typing added distressing Ground and Psychic weaknesses. Despite that, access to Swords Dance and Wrap gave it a small niche in RBY. With Hyper Beam and STAB Water attacks, Tentacruel could clean up enemies that it weakened with Wrap. Dragonite was the preferred Wrap user, however, as it could boost its Speed with Agility. Tentacruel, on the other hand, desperately needed paralysis support if it wanted to stand a chance against the likes of Starmie and Alakazam.
It wasn't until DPP and the advent of Toxic Spikes that Tentacruel started to make a name for itself; it could absorb and set Toxic Spikes, and could use Rapid Spin to remove any other hazards. BW gave it further buffs with Rain Dish from the Dream World, Scald, and Politoed's automatic rain. With Rain Dish and Black Sludge, Tentacruel regains 12.5% of its health each turn under rain. This allows it to run its classic Toxic Spikes + Rapid Spin set, with Protect giving it a free turn to heal further. Scald lets it better take on physical attackers thanks to its 30% chance to burn. Tentacruel can also use Substitute much more easily in the rain, as it can fully make up for the damage after just 2 turns. With its respectable base 100 Speed and decent base 80 Special Attack, Tentacruel can also take on a more offensive spinner role, and its rain-boosted STAB Hydro Pumps hit surprisingly hard. Solid niches with just enough variety allows Tentacruel to makes its home comfortably in BW OU.
With base 48 stats across the board, Ditto couldn't really accomplish anything. Even if it could take a hit the turn it used Transform, its low HP remained unchanged, its critical hit ratio relied on its original Speed, and critical hits from or against it were based off of its original stats. Completely ineffective, there was really no reason to use Ditto outside of gimmicks. That applies to GSC, ADV, and DPP, too.
While the other Pokemon on this list made the bump to OU, Ditto here is still found all the way down in NU. Don't let that tier placement fool you, however; Ditto is fully capable of working effectively in NU, RU, UU, OU, and even Ubers. Thanks to Imposter, Ditto now transforms as he switches in, and copies all stat boosts the opponent has while doing so. With a Choice Scarf, it will then outspeed, allowing it to revenge kill a wide variety of threats in any tier and even pull off sweeps. Unfortunately, it'll be locked into a move just like any other Choice Scarf user, so it's quite ineffective against stall teams. Imposter also fails to activate against Pokemon behind Substitutes, which reduces its utility quite a bit. Despite these drawbacks, Ditto is still a useful revenge killer in any tier and has finally carved out a unique, viable niche in BW.
Venusaur wasn't bad in RBY OU. It was a viable sleep lead, and had decent offensive presence as well. Razor Leaf was also a solid move, as it always scored a critical hit. After a Swords Dance, Body Slam could also do some damage. It faced some stiff competition from Exeggutor, however, which had greater bulk, Special, and STAB Psychic, as well as no weakness to Psychic. Victreebel also gave it a run for its money; it traded Speed and Defense for better Attack and access to Wrap. As I said, Venusaur wasn't bad in RBY OU; it just failed to differentiate itself enough.
Venusaur maintained its decent-but-nothing-special status for the next 3 generations. However, BW finally gave it exactly what it needed to succeed: Chlorophyll, a Growth buff, and consistent sunlight from Ninetales. Chlorophyll doubles Venusaur's Speed in the sun, and Growth in the sun acts as a simultaneous Nasty Plot and Swords Dance boost. Under sun, it can easily sweep after a single Growth, making it extremely threatening. It can also opt to run Sunny Day to maintain team support should an opposing weather summoner switch in. It also makes a great user of the SubSeed strategy under sun, as its high Speed and access to Sleep Powder allows it to set up Substitutes with ease. Although sun is less common than rain and sand, Venusaur shines as one of the most effective sweepers in the weather.
As generations come and go, previously forgettable Pokemon can transform into legitimate threats in the metagame. With XY just around the corner, who knows what currently lesser seen Pokemon will finally get their chance to dominate? Personally, I'm hoping Clefable finally becomes the superstar it has always deserved to be. Until then, go try out some UU Pokemon in RBY OU. You might be pleasantly surprised.
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