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In the past couple of months, the NU tier has experienced some very dramatic changes, with some key Pokémon entering the tier, and some formerly popular ones leaving. The most exciting (and perhaps controversial) of those changes have been the arrival of the incredibly physically bulky Miltank and the specially-offensive Espeon. NU has also seen the introduction of Electrode and Typhlosion, the re-introduction of Gardevoir and Magneton, and the departure of Cloyster, Leafeon, Nidoqueen, Poliwrath, and Qwilfish. We shall take a deeper look at each of these changes in due course.
The NU metagame has also seen a recent spike in popularity, largely thanks to the Whole NU World Tournament run by Sceats, which you can keep up with in Smogon's Tournaments section. If you would like to get involved in the fun, drop by Doug's CAP server to participate in the NU ladder, although players newer to the metagame may also want to take a look at previous NU articles in Smog #4 and Smog #6.
Without further ado, let's move on to take a look at recent developments in the NU tier.
With the recent tiering change, NU Rain Dance teams lost one of their best sweepers, but they gained what is arguably the best Rain Dance lead in the game.
Electrode functions best as a suicide lead, where its high base Speed allows it to Taunt your opponent and set up a near guaranteed Rain Dance for your team during the first few turns. There are few leads that can outspeed and KO Electrode, and even then there's a high chance that Electrode will have a Focus Sash to protect itself. In addition, Static presents a reasonable chance of paralyzing a contact move using enemy.
Offensively, 80 Special Attack is average at best. It's Electrode's base 140 Speed that draws it to an offensive roll. Sadly, Electrode's movepool doesn't have many options. On Life Orb or Choice sets, you'll almost always see Signal Beam and a Hidden Power used alongside Thunderbolt to try to give it maximum coverage. Electrode commonly carries Explosion as well, giving it the chance to go out with a blast if it's getting low on health. Defensively, Electrode isn’t well off. as 60/70/80 defenses and its Electric-type resistances don't do much to help it stick around, which lends to Electrode's common suicide lead and revenge killer roles. If you're going to be switching Electrode in, it's best to capitalize on Soundproof's ability to switch in on sound-based moves such as Roar.
Although Electrode's support movepool is rather shallow, there are a few moves that should be mentioned. Substitute as always is a wonderful move to have on such a frail Pokémon, giving Electrode what is essentially an extra life. Taunt can prevent your opponent from setting up, Light Screen can patch up your team's Special Defense, Toxic and Thunder Wave can spread status, and if you're daring, Magnet Rise can provide a way around Electrode's Ground-type weakness.
Most Pokémon can kill Electrode; the trick is to do it without getting crippled or letting Electrode set up, which is harder than it sounds. Priority users or Choice Scarf Pokémon are good choices, as they can capitalize on Electrode's low defenses. NU's special walls (such as Regice) do a good job of handling Electrode, but they must be wary of Explosion or any status it might be carrying. NU's physical walls (Rock- and Ground-types in particular) can also handle Electrode, but must be cautious of super effective Hidden Powers.
Espeon is fast becoming one of the most dangerous Pokémon in the tier. Only here because of the slightly faster and more powerful Alakazam, Espeon can rip holes in any unprepared team, and even many prepared ones. It may not have the greatest defenses, but its Special Attack stat is rivalled only by Glaceon, which unfortunately lacks the same blistering Speed—enough to outrun or tie with all but four unboosted Pokémon in the tier. STAB Psychic is a strong move that lays waste to the majority of the metagame, while it has good coverage moves in Signal Beam, Grass Knot, and Hidden Power (usually Ground, to hit Skuntank and Steel-types).
There are quite a few sets that are viable on Espeon. Calm Mind + Life Orb has become quite popular, with Substitute making appearances on many sets—it beats Sucker Punchers, dodges Pursuit KOs, mocks Skuntank switches, and allows multiple Calm Minds to be set up. Espeon's 95 base Special Defense can make it incredibly hard to take down, unless you have something fast and physical. Choice Specs variants are also a definite threat—it sports Trick, and, while you don't want to get locked into Psychic against a Dark-type, it allows Espeon to come in, break things in the early game, and still potentially sweep if its counters can be eliminated.
Skuntank, already one of the most common and potent threats in the game, is featuring on more and more teams because it is one of the few things that can switch in on Psychic, limiting the damage Espeon can do. Beware, however, because Hidden Power Ground is used on most sets and a +1 Life Orbed hit from it OHKOs Skuntank—if they're using Substitute, you're probably going to have to outpredict with Sucker Punch/Pursuit. Other "good" checks include Slowking, which can wall pretty much everything Espeon can throw at it (though it's set-up bait for Calm Minders) and fast, physical Scarfers like Primeape that can comfortably revenge kill.
Gardevoir's movepool and stats, particularly its great Special Attack and Special Defense, allow it to be very flexible. Offensively, Gardevoir is largely overshadowed by Espeon; there are still some differences, however. On Calm Mind sets, Gardevoir can patch up its weak Defense with Will-O-Wisp. Then, on Choice sets, Gardevoir's Speed is compensated for by a much stronger movepool: Thunderbolt versus Espeon's Shadow Ball, and Focus Blast versus Espeon's Hidden Power Fighting. The ability Trace should also be noted; while in NU there are few good abilities to Trace, it is still useful to fire Intimidate back at Tauros, outspeed Gorebyss in the rain, or heal oneself by coming in on a Quagsire's Waterfall.
Defensively, Gardevoir is one of the best Psychic-types available for Wish passing, because it can burn and/or set up Reflect to neuter what destroys other Psychic-types: Skuntank. Gardevoir's support movepool, though, is quite possibly its strongest aspect. Great supporting moves include Wish, Reflect, Light Screen, Healing Wish, Encore, Taunt, Heal Bell, and Memento. Encore is a very handy move picked up in HGSS; meanwhile, Gardevoir returns as one of the best dual screeners in NU, the ultimate support Pokemon for an offensive sweep.
The bane of all Psychic- and Ghost-types in the tier, Skuntank, is easily the best counter, but must be wary of Will-O-Wisp and Reflect, as previously stated. Users of Skuntank may want to consider Crunch and/or an investment of Speed to deal with Gardevoir more efficiently. Slowking makes a good counter as even Thunderbolts can be healed off; however, be careful of Gardevoir with Calm Mind or Encore. Because Gardevoir only has a modest 80 base Speed, many faster Pokémon such as Charizard and Tauros can wear it down, especially on the physical side, where Gardevoir is not fast enough to Will-O-Wisp. A defensive Gardevoir may last a long time, but a Toxic generally does the trick, because Heal Bell is very rare and most Gardevoir do not run Synchronize. The pure Support Gardevoir is ruined by faster Taunters, such as Persian.
Magneton is one of the few viable Steel-types in NU, and it is a very unique one at that. Magneton has one of the highest Special Attack stats in NU, and its powerful Thunderbolt leaves serious dents in anything that does not resist it. Because of this, it is often equipped with a Choice item. Unfortunately, Magneton's offensive movepool is lacking, but it makes do with Hidden Power to help its coverage and Flash Cannon as a secondary STAB attack. Explosion is common on Choice sets to eliminate a threat that Magneton may not be able to handle. When Magneton does not use a Choice item, Substitute is a common choice to help ease prediction. Substitute becomes even more attractive when considering Magneton's typing and above average Defense. Because of its ability, Magnet Pull, it can trap opposing Steel-types such as enemy Magneton, Probopass, and Bastiodon, and use Magnet Rise to make itself immune to Ground-type attacks. This tactic is often used on a Magneton assisting a Linoone sweep, but Magneton carrying Magnet Rise is still fairly common throughout today's NU metagame.
Camerupt is a sure-fire counter to Magneton, as it does not need to worry about Magnet Rise to hit it super effectively. Gligar can handle non-Hidden Power Ice variants but takes a hefty amount of damage from Flash Cannon, whilst Quagsire resists or is immune to both of Magneton's STAB moves but is hit hard by Hidden Power Grass. Regice can wall Magneton decently, but it can't take repeated hits from a boosted Flash Cannon. Ironically, Probopass can trap and defeat any Choiced or Magnet Rise-less Magnezone. All of these counters except Probopass still need to be wary of Explosion, but aside from that, just hit it with Ground- or Fire-type moves.
Upon her arrival in the tier, Miltank immediately became one of the most popular and indeed threatening physical tanks. Able to shrug off an enormous amount of hits aimed at her Defense stat, and only weak to Fighting-type attacks, Miltank also has a great set of stats and moves for NU, and her recent high usage is testament to her effectiveness and sturdiness. In fact, she is so bulky that the standard Miltank (with EVs in HP and Defense) is not OHKOed by a STAB Close Combat from an Adamant Scarf Primeape, or a Brick Break from the common Life Orb Medicham. It is also worth noting that the very popular Slowking has fantastic defensive synergy with Miltank, making for a formidable combination in a team's core.
Miltank has two main sets, each containing a STAB move in Body Slam, instant recovery in Milk Drink, and the team-supporting status remover Heal Bell. The fourth move is the key that can change Miltank from being a team player in a balanced strategy to being an all-out game ender. For her balanced role, the player has the option of taking Stealth Rock, Thunder Wave, or Toxic to further support the team, backed up with the ability Thick Fat to tank Fire- and Ice-type hits more efficiently. However, paired with Scrappy (allowing her to hit Ghost-types), Curse Miltank is one of the most threatening sweepers in the NU tier.
The metagame has had to adapt in order to combat such a behemoth, and indeed players have been striving for ways in which to take her down. Aiming powerful attacks at her weaker Special Defense is the most obvious strategy (a good example is that Life Orb Magmortar OHKOs with Focus Blast), but such is the popularity of mono-attacking Miltank that good switch-ins include Magneton, Dusclops, and Bastiodon with Roar. In spite of this, Miltank has the surprise option of running a more specially defensive EV spread, or carrying the move Earthquake, to eliminate some of these would-be checks. Thus, even a well-prepared team needs to be very wary of the omnipresent threat posed by Miltank!
Typhlosion is another of the hotly debated drop-downs. Its high Speed for the tier and access to Eruption has made it a pretty common and very potent threat. It can't take too many hits, but neither is it going down quietly, and it can make for a strong aggressive lead, a powerful wall breaker, and a good revenge killer.
By far the most common variant, and probably the most effective, is the Choice Scarfer. Employed as a lead, it no longer has to worry so much about the Stealth Rock that threaten its Eruptions so much, and matches up very well against most leads—particularly Stealth Rock users. Miltank does not enjoy a Focus Blast aimed at its weaker defensive stat and neither does Relicanth (with the additional threat of Hidden Power Grass). The typical Gligar is OHKOed by a max SpA Modest Eruption. The ability to keep Stealth Rock off the field, at least for a significant portion of the game, is invaluable in a metagame where there are so few viable spinners. Later, or when employed outside of the lead slot (not as bad a choice as it looks, because it can still switch in safely on their setting up of Stealth Rock and do some damage) Typhlosion can safely revenge kill other common Scarfers, such as Primeape and Medicham, as well as other frail or weakened threats.
Typically, the remaining moves on Typhlosion consist of Hidden Power and a Fire-type move to be used when its health is low—generally Hidden Power Grass, to hit bulky Water-types and particularly the Ground / Water-types of NU (Quagsire, Gastrodon, Whiscash) and Fire Blast or Overheat.
Specially bulky pokemon that resist Fire-type attacks are the best switch-ins to Typhlosion, and the aforementioned Slowking and Mantine are perfect examples of this. Both also resist Focus Blast, and neither is overly dented by Hidden Power Grass. Quagsire and Gastrodon are also decent switch-ins, and can recover off any damage from a resisted Eruption, but both must beware of taking a 4x Hidden Power Grass on the switch. Miltank takes Eruption decently, provided it has Thick Fat and not Scrappy, but beware of Focus Blast on the switch. If Typhlosion is Modest and not Timid, it can also be taken out by Jolly Scarf Primeape, and it fears quick Swift Swimmers such as Floatzel.
The Pokemon to leave the NU tier in the recent tiering update were Cloyster, Leafeon, Nidoqueen, Poliwrath, and Qwilfish. A very obvious and resounding feature of each of the leavers is their value to bulky balance or stall teams in the NU metagame. Not only are Cloyster, Leafeon, Nidoqueen, and Poliwrath strong from a defensive perspective, but the loss of three Toxic Spikers and two Spikers has left the tier with a relative deficiency in terms of viable entry hazard users. Furthermore, we can see from the typing of these leavers that many teams relying on Leafeon or bulky Water-types in their balanced core are now left with an awkward void.
As implied by the loss of bulky Pokemon and entry hazard users amongst the tier's leavers, stall in NU has been weakened significantly and become much less popular. This in turn has led to a very offensive phase within the NU metagame, with fast sweepers, bulky offense, and momentum often being key. Surprisingly, Rain Dance teams have not seen an enormous increase in usage despite the Electrode's entry into the ranks, perhaps staying only as popular as they were before due to the departure of Qwilfish. It has been contested that the one remaining possible form of stall in NU is in fact hail stall, taking advantage of Snover and Walrein's abilities to create and survive in a snowstorm.
With Gardevoir and Espeon taking to the battlefield, NU teams seem to have once again commonly reverted to a Psychic / Fighting / Dark core, in place of the metagame's previous incarnation bearing a core of Fire / Water / Grass. Skuntank and Slowking are extremely useful to help deal with the threat of Espeon, whilst as a consequence, Primeape, Magneton, and Haunter have also seen a revival. Primeape in particular has enjoyed a renaissance in its standard role of a Scarfed revenge killer. Its ability to beat most leads lends him to that slot nicely, and he serves as a strong check to a number of NU's most potent threats, such as Espeon and Slowking by means of U-turn, as well as having Close Combat to kill off Miltank. Its Dark-type resist makes him ideal for bringing down Skuntank too.
Slowking's great defensive synergy with Miltank has forced the usage of certain wall breakers to remain strong, such as Life Orb and Expert Belt variants of Pokemon commonly seen with a Choice Scarf in previous months. Life Orb Medicham and Magmortar are are good examples, as they can both 2HKO Miltank, Slowking, and numerous other common switch-ins. Sandslash and Quagsire have equally maintained a consistent level of popularity in more balanced strategies, whilst in the midst of the frantic furore, Shedinja and Regigigas have carved out some recent preference amongst NU battlers; seemingly their niche roles have been identified as having previously unrecognised potential.
Overall, the most popular strategy in the current NU metagame would appear to be offensively-leaning balance; stall teams were heavily disadvantaged by the latest updates, while Heavy Offense has not yet found itself an overwhelming presence in NU.
So there we have it. NU has once again proven itself to be one of the most exciting and challenging metagames through its constant revolution and fresh, vibrant nature. What will happen next for NU? Will stall be able to make a strong comeback? Will the burst in activity lead to a demand for a banlist? Is there a possibility of Miltank and Espeon being deemed too overpowering for the tier? NU battlers will have to keep their skills and adaptability sharp as we find out what will happen in the next chapter of the NU tier!
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