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When it comes to Pokémon sets, there are obvious standards—sets that are extremely common and predictable yet effective: the Choice Band Scizor and Dragon Dance Salamence of OU, the Swords Dance Venusaur and Life Orb Moltres of UU. On the other end of the spectrum are gimmicks, sets that derive the bulk of their utility from surprise value and are usually customized to fit the specific team they are on, such as mixed Metagross, Substitute Destiny Bond Mismagius, and Passho Berry Steelix. There are even Pokémon (not just individual sets) who are relatively uncommon but can be extremely dangerous, like Breloom and Magmortar.
Unsurprisingly, lots of the top Pokémon of UU have one or two movesets that dominate the usage statistics, with the rest of the Pokémon's sets being rare sights on the ladder and in tournaments. These underrated movesets will often fulfill a completely different niche from the Pokémon's most common set. The difference in playstyles can be really interesting to analyze, so that's what this article will attempt to do!
Milotic @ Life Orb
4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
- Surf / Hydro Pump
- Ice Beam
- Hidden Power Grass
In March, according to stats collected on the Smogon Shoddy Battle server, 85.5% of Milotic used Leftovers as their item of choice. By far the most common Milotic set is a defensive build that takes advantage of its pure Water-typing. While Milotic's support movepool is by no means expansive, between Toxic, Haze, and Recover, defensive variants definitely have the tools necessary to wall a large portion of the metagame.
However, since Milotic are so commonly EVed defensively, it is easy to forget the fact that its base Defense stat is only 79—definitely enough to get the job done considering Milotic's other attributes, but nothing special. Similarly, it's easy to overlook Milotic's solid base 100 Special Attack and base 81 Speed. When equipped with a Life Orb and given a sweeper's EV spread, Milotic is more than capable of punching huge holes in many UU teams. Water + Ice + Grass attacks provide excellent coverage in tandem with each other, while Milotic's natural bulk (it isn't particularly physically bulky for a defensive Pokémon, but it is certainly bulky for a sweeper) means even without any defensive investment, it isn't easily KOed. Of note is Milotic's unique base Speed of 81, which places it just ahead of such Pokémon as Kabutops, Blaziken, and Venusaur. Its surprisingly high Speed combined with substantial bulk makes Life Orb Milotic quite a dangerous threat against offensive teams, and it can even sweep stall teams once the opposing Chansey or Umbreon is eliminated.
It's hard to isolate a single explanation for why this set isn't used very much. The reason is probably a combination of the effectiveness of the bulky Water set and the presence of a multitude of UU special sweepers. Since defensive Milotic beats a wide range of Pokémon, from mixed Life Orb sweepers to bulky stat-up Pokémon, it performs well on the vast majority of UU teams. As it is so popular, the chance that players will want to use an offensive version is reduced. In addition, UU has quite a few other special sweepers, including Raikou, Moltres, Alakazam, Houndoom, and Toxicroak; these give Milotic stiff competition for a team slot, and its inability to boost its Special Attack probably makes it a less attractive choice for many players.
Mismagius @ Leftovers
252 HP / 196 SpD / 60 Spe
- Shadow Ball
- Pain Split
Mismagius is commonly seen as a special attacker, which isn't surprising given its base 105 Speed and Special Attack and access to Calm Mind and Nasty Plot. Oftentimes, Nasty Plot or Calm Mind Mismagius can serve as spinblockers for offensive teams. While offensive sets can ward off Donphan and Blastoise easily once they switch in (with Shadow Ball and Thunderbolt respectively), they have difficulty switching repeatedly into Assurance or Surf and cannot beat Foresight Hitmontop reliably either way. This moveset converts Mismagius into a dedicated spinblocker, and also provides quite a dangerous weapon against stall teams.
While there aren't many spinblockers in UU, each of them have specific advantages and disadvantages. Froslass has Taunt and can set up Spikes, but has a Stealth Rock weakness and is susceptible to Spikes. Spiritomb has no weaknesses and can use Will-O-Wisp, which makes it much harder to pick off, but is very slow and takes normal damage from all entry hazards. Rotom appreciates Levitate, Will-O-Wisp, and an Electric STAB, but doesn't have very high base stats and cannot Taunt. Bulky Mismagius definitely shares attributes with each of these Pokémon, but it puts them all together in a single package.
A quirk to this set is that Mismagius's high Speed is really helpful when using Will-O-Wisp, because there are many dangerous physical attackers in the base 80-90 Speed range in UU, and can be easily walled once burned. While this particular spread only outpaces neutral natured base 80 Pokémon, adding Speed to suit particular team needs is quite a common practice. It's also worth noting that the combination of Taunt + Will-O-Wisp + Pain Split makes it extremely difficult for stall teams without a super effective Dark-type attack to deal with Mismagius, since it can stall everything out with burn damage and Pain Split while blocking recovery with Taunt.
Finally, let's see how this set performs against specific spinners. Will-O-Wisp lets it incapacitate Donphan and Hitmontop, while Taunt blocks setup attempts and ensures Pokémon with Rest + Sleep Talk cannot heal themselves. This set's high investment in Special Defense means it can easily take Blastoise's Surfs and wear it down with Will-O-Wisp, Shadow Ball, and Pain Split. Additionally, Levitate means Mismagius is immune to Toxic Spikes and Spikes, and it only takes normal damage from Stealth Rock, which makes it harder for opposing stall teams to wear it down. The main downside is that this set's relatively low physical bulk means it will take heavy damage from Donphan's Assurance if it is hit on the switch while Stealth Rock is up. However, that situation is quite conditional, and Mismagius's great performance against other spinners means it's one of the top spinblockers of UU.
Moltres @ Leftovers
248 HP / 84 Def / 176 Spe
By far the most common Moltres set is a special sweeper with Fire Blast, Air Slash, Hidden Power Grass, and Roost equipped with a Life Orb. There are few Pokémon in the tier who are a safe switch into offensive Moltres, so many players appreciate its ability to determine the pace of the battle. However, since its massive Special Attack is often in the spotlight, players can overlook its bulk and ability, Pressure. Despite the dominance of the Life Orb set, there are many teams that benefit more by using a bulkier Moltres that capitalizes on its staying power.
Moltres has a few advantages over fellow Toxic stallers. The most significant is its STAB Flamethrower, which wrecks Pokémon like Registeel and Venusaur, who are immune to Toxic. Additionally, Pressure, alongside Substitute and Roost, makes it possible for Moltres to stall out attacks with low PP like Stone Edge. This set's modest defensive investment lets Moltres capitalize fully on its defensive typing; since it completely walls many Pokémon that it likes switching in on (Swords Dance Venusaur, Hitmontop, Blaziken, Donphan, etc), it can set up a Substitute quite often.
If you've used the Life Orb set, it's hard to see why someone would sacrifice that power in order to use a Moltres that tries to stall out the opponent. But, as it turns out, it's a lot easier to stop Moltres from sweeping you than it is to actually defeat it. Many of its common checks, such as Milotic, Slowking, Chansey, and Umbreon, are reactionary—they can switch into Moltres's offensive onslaughts relatively easily, but have difficulty doing anything with the free turn. Using this set changes the game—because it can use Toxic, Moltres is perfectly content flying around all day while using Substitute and Roost until your Pokémon faint from the increasing poison damage. Once your Moltres counter is Toxiced and possibly fainted, it becomes surprisingly hard to find other Pokémon who can take Fire attacks, aren't bothered by Toxic, and also can break Moltres's Substitutes. Although the Life Orb and Stall sets are quite different, they are both extremely effective at setting the pace of a match (albeit in different ways).
"So should I go out and use these Pokémon or what? Aren't they worse than the standard sets?"
The most general guideline for competitive battlers is to use the Pokémon that maximize their chances of winning. But just because a set is uncommon, it does not mean it is less viable competitively than another. There are many factors that influence usage, including trends in team archetypes, ease of use, and reputation. While the first guideline is to use Pokémon that win, having fun while doing it follows close behind; go out and try these sets out if you haven't! If these feel these are a bit too well-known, don't be afraid to explore the tier—UU is full of Pokémon with niches that are being constantly discovered and redefined, and the variety that the metagame can bring is one of its most attractive qualities.
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