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At the beginning of January, when the new tier lists were constructed, two Pokémon were dropped from OU into UU due to their low usage on the OU ladder. They were Cresselia, who was once thought to be Uber due to her sky-high defensive stats, and Porygon-Z, who is commonly seen as a joke in OU due to its frailty, low speed, and subpar coverage. As per standard UU tiering policy, they were placed into the tier for a six week long testing period.
Even before the official tiers were announced, speculation started to run rampant. Most of it was focused on Cresselia—how could a Pokémon once thought to be high OU—at least—possibly fit in UU? With defenses rivaling those of Lugia, would the arrival of Cresselia mean the UU tier could be facing its first BL suspect based on the Defensive Characteristic of an Uber? On paper, Cresselia seemed unbeatable; even an attack like Absol's Life Orbed Night Slash barely knocks off half of her HP, while Cresselia's numerous support options in Thunder Wave, Reflect, Light Screen, and Moonlight were touted as answers to any and every offensive threat. On the other hand, Porygon-Z was seen by some as the Pokémon who would end the threat of defensive teams in UU with its massive Special Attack stat, great abilities, and access to Nasty Plot. How did the mass theorymon compare to these Pokémon's performance on the battlefield? Read on to find out!
Base Stats: 120 HP / 70 Atk / 120 Def / 75 SpA / 130 SpD / 85 Spe
Cresselia @ Leftovers Timid / Modest - Substitute - Calm Mind - Psychic / Shadow Ball - Signal Beam / Hidden Power Fighting
Due to Cresselia's massive natural bulk and this set's high investment in HP, she can easily create Substitutes that are unbreakable by a large host of defensive Pokémon and start building up Calm Minds without fear of status. Against offensive teams, this set doesn't do too poorly either; it is able to set up on support Pokémon like Uxie or Registeel or even check a Blaziken or Venusaur in a pinch (with a Timid nature).
Cresselia @ Leftovers Modest / Bold - Calm Mind - Moonlight - Psychic - Signal Beam
While the previous set attempts to take advantage of teams without phazers or extremely strong hitters, this set attempts to capitalize on Cresselia's walling ability, while simultaneously posing a bulky sweeping threat. However, she gains the ability to recover HP with Moonlight at the cost of not being to protect herself against status inflictions like Chansey and Milotic's Toxic; as such, this set plays like a combination of the defensive and offensive Cresselia.
Cresselia @ Leftovers Bold / Calm - Psychic - Thunder Wave - Moonlight - Reflect
All-purpose walling Cresselia, the set that many believed would stall out the entire tier. Indeed, with all of its EVs poured into the defenses, this set is the best mixed wall in UU—she has next to nothing to fear from Pokémon like Blaziken and Azumarill, is never 2HKOed by even a Modest Life Orb Moltres's Fire Blast, and can comfortably survive hits from Pokémon like Absol and Scyther in a pinch. Thunder Wave allows Cresselia to instantly slow down opposing sweepers for her teammates, while Reflect makes her nigh-impregnable to physical attacks.
Cresselia @ Light Clay Bold / Timid - Psychic - Reflect - Light Screen - Lunar Dance
With so many powerful but frail setup Pokémon like Mismagius and Porygon-Z in UU, a dual screen set helps offensive teams set up their sweepers while making the most of Cresselia's signature move, Lunar Dance. Lunar Dance is especially effective on teams that utilize dual screens; although it causes Cresselia to faint, it fully revitalizes the next Pokémon who is sent in, which usually means a weakened sweeper has a second shot to sweep the opponent with screen support.
Cresselia @ Leftovers Bold - Thunder Wave - Moonlight - Charge Beam - Ice Beam
Because Cresselia walls so many threats, opponents are frequently forced to switch against her, particularly to Pokémon such as Absol, Drapion, Mismagius or Scyther, all of whom hate paralysis. Once Cresselia has paralyzed these Pokémon, she can easily switch out to a Pokémon capable of finishing these crippled Pokémon off. Cresselia is also able to set up with Charge Beam on any Pokémon she walls and potentially sweep with excellent neutral coverage. Like the Moonlight Calm Mind set, this Cresselia seeks to combine elements of defensive and offensive sets into one.
Perhaps the most important change from the previous metagame to this one is the shift from a Fire / Water / Grass dominated metagame to a Psychic / Ghost / Dark dominated metagame. Although there were many factors that contributed to this shift, including Porygon-Z (who hits the entire Fire / Water / Grass core extremely hard with Adaptability Tri Attack) and Umbreon dropping down from OU, the "Cresselia effect" was probably the largest. Despite the fact that Arcanine, Blaziken, and Venusaur can hit Cresselia neutrally with powerful STAB attacks, they all detest paralysis and cannot successfully KO Cresselia who run Moonlight (not to mention Blaziken's and Venusaur's weaknesses to Psychic). Cresselia's impact has been so large that one of the most dominant sweepers of the previous metagame, Swords Dance Venusaur, now finds itself occupying a support role more often than not.
In addition, as a direct consequence of her dominance over this stage of UU, the Pokémon with types that match up well against Cresselia have increased in usage, while those with poor matchups have plummeted in usage. Hitmonlee and Blaziken, two Pokémon with normally pretty consistent usage, haven't been seen as much this round due to their tendency to get completely walled by Cresselia. In their shadows, Hariyama has emerged as an extremely popular Fighting-type most likely because it can use Payback to hit Cresselia super effectively. While Hitmontop is walled by Cresselia just as much as Hitmonlee is, its superiority as a Foresight Rapid Spinner on stall-oriented teams means it is still a common sight in UU.
On the other hand, Cresselia's arrival has popularized many Dark-types that were previously not commonly seen, including Absol, Spiritomb, Drapion, and Houndoom. Absol usage decreased significantly since Honchkrow's return to UU, but after it was rebanned in a unanimous vote, Absol has become the hard-hitting physical Dark sweeper of choice for many teams, with access to Swords Dance as well as Sucker Punch. Its ability to OHKO Cresselia after a Swords Dance is also invaluable, as many sweepers unable to claim this feat can be paralyzed then beaten by another member of Cresselia's team.
Calm Mind RestTalk Spiritomb, a set that had faded into obscurity in recent metagames due to its inability to take boosted physical hits while setting up, re-emerged as the best counter to Calm Mind Cresselia; the physical Spiritomb that were previously used to eliminate Mismagius and Rotom don't actually hit defensive stat-up Cresselia hard enough to kill her if she has Moonlight. Drapion, who progressively grew less viable in the last two metagames as two counters in Donphan and Rhyperior were introduced, experienced a resurgence for two reasons: first, its access to both Swords Dance and Taunt meant it could set up on Cresselia without fear of Thunder Wave; second, it could easily patch up its Ground weakness with an allied Cresselia for switching into Donphan and Rhyperior. Houndoom also regained some of the popularity it held in the Yanmega metagame due to its ability to both Nasty Plot and Taunt; additionally, it is more viable in the current Cresselia-dominated metagame than in the last Fire / Water / Grass metagame (which commonly included ExtremeSpeed Arcanine and Earthquake Venusaur, both of which give Houndoom problems).
The two other types that hit Psychic super effectively, Ghost and Bug, have also seen a slight spike in usage. Mismagius is as solid as ever; it is able to come in on Calm Mind Cresselia and stat up with Calm Mind or Nasty Plot, or try to sneak in against support Cresselia and set up a Substitute as it tries to use Thunder Wave. Swords Dance Scyther is somewhat like Absol, since it can almost always OHKO Cresselia at +2, which means it doesn't risk Thunder Wave. However, Cresselia's effect on individual Pokémon usage isn't the entire story.
The final (and certainly not least) effect is that Cresselia has bolstered the effectiveness of defensive teams in UU. With the ability to be tailored to beat essentially any threat that would otherwise threaten a stall team, she is the perfect glue to fill in holes that teams would otherwise have. Although the removal of Honchkrow and Gallade was definitely a factor that has led to the resurgence of stall, the "Cresselia factor" was probably an important driving force that made many battlers reconsider stall as an accessible team style.
Abilities: Download / Adaptability
Base Stats: 85 HP / 80 Atk / 70 Def / 135 SpA / 75 SpD / 90 Spe
Porygon-Z @ Choice Scarf Modest Ability: Download - Tri Attack - Dark Pulse - Thunderbolt / Hidden Power Ground - Trick
While Porygon-Z has a sky-high base 135 Special Attack stat, its base 90 Speed means it is outsped by quite a few offensive Pokémon. However, when given a Choice Scarf, it becomes quite a terror for offensive teams to face, especially if it gets a Special Attack boost from Download. Porygon-Z can even use Trick to cripple bulkier Pokémon like Umbreon, Registeel, and Chansey.
Porygon-Z @ Lum Berry / Life Orb Timid - Nasty Plot - Tri Attack - Dark Pulse - Hidden Power Ground / Recover
Nasty Plot Porygon-Z can break apart unprepared defensive teams extremely easily; at worst, it 2HKOes nearly every Pokémon in the tier after a boost. Dark Pulse and Hidden Power Ground hit the Ghost-, Rock-, and Steel-types that resist Normal attacks, while Recover allows it to be even more terrifying to the stall teams that can only hope to chip away at its HP.
Porygon-Z @ Salac Berry / Leftovers Modest / Timid - Nasty Plot - Tri Attack - Dark Pulse - Substitute
This set aims to combine the power of Nasty Plot with the high speed of the Scarf set by sacrificing one of Porygon-Z's coverage moves. Dark Pulse is generally preferred over an alternate Hidden Power (such as Hidden Power Water), because Ghost Pokémon are usually more immediately threatening than Pokémon like Steelix or Registeel.
Porygon-Z @ Choice Specs Timid - Tri Attack - Dark Pulse - Hidden Power Ground / Thunderbolt - Trick
While the Nasty Plot set rarely has an opportunity to set up against offensive teams, equipping Porygon-Z with Choice Specs allows it to hit extremely hard off the bat. Adaptability Tri Attack OHKOes even relatively bulky Pokémon like Swords Dance Venusaur after Stealth Rock damage. While some preferred using Download for the chance of an absurd 830 Special Attack stat (even with Timid), Adaptability provides more reliable power.
While Cresselia changed the metagame in an extremely noticeable manner, Porygon-Z's effects have been both more subtle and more limited. Many changes that are partly attributed to Porygon-Z also have other factors that influenced them, such as the arrival of other Pokémon (Cresselia and Umbreon) or the departure of the two banned suspects (Gallade and Honchkrow).
Since the backbone of the vast majority of Porygon-Z's sets is Tri Attack, its arrival raised the demand for specially defensive Pokémon, especially those who resist or are immune to Normal attacks. Most notably, while Registeel usage was only moderately high in the previous metagame due to the large amount of Swords Dance Venusaur (with Earthquake), Honchkrow (who 2HKOed it with a combination of Brave Bird and Superpower), and Gallade, it is now a great counter to Choiced Porygon-Z as well as Raikou. Spiritomb also benefited from Porygon-Z's arrival, since it is the only UU Ghost-type who is not also weak to Dark Pulse (which is Porygon-Z's coverage attack of choice). Some Spiritomb, especially on the stall teams that can't afford to invest too many EVs into its offenses, have taken to using Hidden Power Fighting to weaken Porygon-Z enough so that it can be easily revenge killed.
Defensive teams have been forced to adapt to the presence of Nasty Plot Porygon-Z, who can 2HKO Chansey after two boosts even without an item boost. One answer is specially defensive Milotic (its standard set maximizes physical Defense), who can easily survive boosted attacks to Haze away Nasty Plot boosts and wear down Porygon-Z with Surf. The aforementioned Spiritomb, who has historically been a UU stall staple, can use a slightly modified movepool including a combination of Hidden Power Fighting and Sucker Punch, while some defensive Arcanine run ExtremeSpeed to revenge kill low-HP sweepers.
Now that the testing period is over, we await the verdict of voters to determine the future tiering of Cresselia and Porygon-Z. Joining them on the suspect list are Moltres (a first-time suspect), Raikou (who was voted UU in the last test but accrued enough nominations this time around for another vote), and Damp Rock (the first item to be placed on the UU chopping block). Whatever the results of the vote, the UU process will go forth as it always has—an ever-evolving metagame molded by the thoughts and opinions of avid players. Even if Cresselia and Porygon-Z end up relegated to the BL tier, the UU ducks have certainly made this stage one of the most memorable in recent history.
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