NU Spikes and Toxic Spikes
When looking at the NU tier, a question that is often asked is "what do I use for Spikes and Toxic Spikes?" Most Spikes and Toxic Spikes users reside in the upper tiers, but there are still NU teams that want and benefit from them, especially stall teams. The setters of Spikes and Toxic Spikes are just that, as they have little use outside of setting them up. However, the reality is that Spikes, and to a lesser extent Toxic Spikes, are amazing in NU, thanks to a general lack of Rapid Spin users outside of Armaldo and most Pokemon being grounded, with the only common grounded Poison-types being Roselia, Garbodor, and Skuntank. Roselia and Garbodor, the premier users of Spikes in NU, are viable almost completely because of this. The use of either form of Spikes might seem impractical with their relative lack of users, but in actuality, they are probably among the most useful pieces of hardware to have in NU.
Spikes is perhaps one of the most useful moves for any team, weakening the checks of offensive Pokemon and providing some much-needed residual damage for stall. Fortunately, Spikes is blessed with a few users that, while not screaming "amazing Pokemon, must use," are certainly decent Pokemon. Unlike Toxic Spikes, your options aren't Garbodor and... nothing; rather, there's three solid setters and a decent niche one. Additionally, Spikes don't have to worry about Garbodor, Skuntank, and Roselia clearing it from the field.
The best setter of Spikes in NU is arguably Roselia. It does have its downfalls, with an unfortunate Flying-type weakness and physical frailty, but overall, there is no questioning its dominance. Roselia's main selling points as a Spiker are its offensive proficiency and great special bulk; for example, it can take every attack from Ludicolo other than Ice Beam. The standard Roselia usually has Giga Drain, some Hidden Power, Spikes, and a filler move, which can be pretty much whatever you want. One particularly good option is Rest, since with Natural Cure, Roselia can simply use Rest and get back to full health, switch out, and come back in with a vengeance. Backtracking a bit, Roselia's offensive ability allows it to power through most Pokemon that do not invest heavily in their Special Defense. This gives it favorable match-ups versus numerous foes. It can set up Spikes reliably against much of the metagame, but against teams that contain Pokemon it cannot set up Spikes against, it is strapped for options. While Roselia isn't quite as reliable as Garbodor, it still has an offensive presence and high special bulk, which give it an edge.
Your other best option is Garbodor, who boasts many assets to secure this position. Its Poison typing and decent bulk allows it to check Fighting-types and other physical attacking foes of resisted attacking types, such as Choice-locked Sawk, Pinsir that lack Earthquake, Cacturne, and Gurdurr. Many walls are vulnerable to being set up on by Garbodor as well, including Alomomola, Miltank, Lickilicky, Bastiodon, Probopass, Weezing, opposing Garbodor, Tangela, Cradily, and Roselia. Aftermath, while not the most useful or coveted of abilities, when paired with a Rocky Helmet, enables Garbodor to deal significant damage to most physical attackers. Toxic can be layered on top of this damage to create a destructive cycle that leaves most enemies picking at their wounds. To put the icing on the cake, Garbodor learns Pain Split, which provides beloved recovery. Although this will not be sufficient against every team and every powerhouse, bulkier teams and teams that lack a clear hard hitter will crumple before Garbodor as it sets up three layers of Spikes, in addition to giving Garbodor a tool to stick around even until late-game and set Spikes up more than once if necessary. Garbodor is by far one of the best Spikers sitting in the trenches of NU, so if Spikes are what you want, trash is the type of Pokemon you should get.
Aside from Garbodor, there are few viable Spikers. Cacturne is the most notable one, boasting a high base 115 Attack stat and STAB priority in Sucker Punch, allowing it to take on both offensive and supporting roles. On the other hand, Cacturne is quite frail, meaning it must rely on its offenses to force its opponents out and seize every opportunity it gets to set up Spikes. Cacturne also has Water Absorb, giving it an immunity to Water-type attacks; however, this does not afford Cacturne many extra opportunities to set up, as most Pokemon that have a Water-type attack as their STAB can threaten Cacturne with their coverage moves. Swords Dance complements Sucker Punch quite nicely, giving Cacturne free turns to set up Spikes on the switches it inevitably forces with the threat of boosted attacks. Cacturne sets up Spikes primarily by taking advantage of the switches it forces, and because of Water Absorb, can set up Spikes on Alomomola without having to fear a burn. Really though, this is all great, but this information is immaterial when compared to the importance of item choice. There are two items that Cacturne can use well—Focus Sash and Dark Gem. Focus Sash is the accepted standard, giving Cacturne an easy button that guarantees one layer of Spikes if not more in the lead position, or with some Rapid Spin support or skillful offensive pressure at any time during a match. Destiny Bond can be used alongside Focus Sash to make the most out of Cacturne's low Speed stat, as it will force out all opponents after they have broken Cacturne's Focus Sash and allow Cacturne to curse them with another layer of Spikes. This set is especially good because it buys Cacturne the free turns it needs to sweep. Dark Gem provides a power boost to Sucker Punch, which makes it a menace for offensive teams to face, as Ludicolo, among others, will always be OHKOed by Sucker Punch after Stealth Rock and/or Spikes damage. Be sure to select Cacturne for its merits outside of setting up Spikes; Roselia and Garbodor are the better "throw it on a team and go to town" Spikers, but Cacturne is a stellar Pokemon even without Spikes taken into account. In a nutshell, Cacturne is an offensive Pokemon first and a Spiker next, so be sure that Roselia or Garbodor couldn't better fill its position before using it. For some teams, this combination is invaluable, so you shouldn't have too much trouble doing so.
Glalie is decent on paper; base 80 in all stats isn't particularly great, but it can set up Spikes and learns Taunt to prevent opposing entry hazards. It even has Explosion to keep up offensive momentum and is the only Spiker that isn't set up on by Altaria. However, Glalie is a piece of rubbish (and not the good Garbodor kind) beyond setting up one or two layers of Spikes, so really don't use it unless you have an obsession with icy life forms. Maractus is a similar situation, bringing even less to the table than its literally "spiky" compatriot. Although it can set up both Spikes and Sunny Day (with Chlorophyll doubling its Speed I might add), which makes it a seemingly perfect candidate for sun teams, it lies in the shadow of Cacturne. Its inability to take a hit and a barren movepool are other red lights saying "don't use me, I suck." On the flip side, there is Omanyte. Omanyte has access to all three entry hazards, which gives it a solid niche, and has great bulk with Eviolite. It's not deadweight either, making a solid check to Braviary, Swellow, Skuntank, physical Drifblim, Dragon Dance Lapras, Carracosta, and Rapidash lacking SolarBeam. It can even go on the offensive with its decent Special Attack stat and lay waste to many Pokemon while setting up Spikes. Abysmal Speed isn't helpful, but its ability to lay Spikes repeatedly is invaluable on teams reliant on Spikes for success.
For the slow ones, use Roselia, Garbodor, or Cacturne in almost every case, usually the former. Other Spikers are trash and shouldn't be used, ever (besides Omanyte, who is niche). It is imperative that you not take the stupid route if you wish to succeed period, end of conversation, whatever phrase you prefer that represents closure.
Many people believe that you need some special reason to use Spikes; don't listen to them, Spikes are good on pretty much every team that can find room for them. Without Spikes in play, Tangela and Alomomola can waltz in and out of play freely, living forever to be horrendous nuisances due to being able to fall back on Regenerator whenever they lose health and come back in unscathed. Not with Spikes, however, since in conjunction with Stealth Rock they will give these popular walls a net loss of HP! Offensive Pokemon love to tear apart every Pokemon in their path, but without the extra damage from Spikes it is more difficult to do so, not to mention the plethora of OHKOs and 2HKOs they secure for multiple Pokemon. Pokemon attempting to Toxic stall or to pull off some other strategy of the like have a much easier time with more residual damage aiding their efforts. There are even some gimmicks, such as Riolu's Copycat + Roar strategy, that you can use and are aided by Spikes. If you can fit Spikes on your team, do it; they're useful for pretty much every strategy imaginable.
Toxic Spikes are much worse than Spikes, mainly due to the omnipresence of Roselia, Garbodor and Skuntank. Regardless, they're still useful, being extraordinarily helpful for stall and beneficial for most sweepers. There aren't exactly a ton of Toxic Spikes users, but hey, there's still Roselia and Garbodor and that's all that matters. For a time, Amoonguss dominated the NU tier, but its rise to RU catapulted the viability of Toxic Spikes—or so one might think. NU is filled to the brim with powerful attackers that can muscle through almost all of their so-called "counters." This means Toxic Spikes just aren't needed most of the time. This simple fact combined with the constant increase in Roselia and Garbodor usage keeps Toxic Spikes down in the abyss of those not loved. Oftentimes, setting them up is a simple waste of turns that could be used doing more important things. They're still great as a tool for residual damage, but they're not what they used to be and not what they are in other tiers.
The second reason for the obscurity of Toxic Spikes is the lack of users. If you're not using Garbodor or Roselia (who are prioritizing setting up Spikes because they are so much more useful), you're kind of stuck. I mean, they're amazing Pokemon, but if you can't fit them in/don't want to use them, again, you're kind of stuck. Omanyte is great too but struggles to fit Toxic Spikes into its moveset because it then has to forfeit another, usually more important, move. There are 3 other usable (not saying viable) Toxic Spikes users. Beedrill boasts access to U-turn to bring a teammate in free, Knock Off to neuter Eviolite users, and Pursuit to trap spinblockers, which is particularly useful if Beedrill is paired with a spinner. It's okay, but it's really not a Pokemon you want to use. Ariados is another; even two priority options in Sucker Punch and Shadow Sneak with a decent Attack stat fail to make up for its horrid defenses and Speed. Whirlipede holds the title of MWB (Most Worthless Bug), having no use outside of setting up Toxic Spikes. That's it for Toxic Spikes users; hopefully you can see now why they're rare.
Remember when I said with Spikes that you have no need to have a specific way to take advantage of them? Throw that out of the window for Toxic Spikes; they're not good enough to just be thrown on a team without a great need for them (or Garbodor). Bulk Up Braviary and similar physical sweepers with Substitute are excellent utilizers, as Toxic Spikes allow them to break through their arch-nemesis, Alomomola. Stall enjoys Toxic Spikes to add to its pile of residual damage. In all actuality, you might even have Toxic Spikes on your team quite often, just not see it get used much, as Garbodor often carries it but in many cases doesn't get around to setting them up.
Fitting Spikes and Toxic Spikes Onto Teams
I'm going to take this opportunity to explain team types that are centered around Spikes. First and foremost is Spikes-stacking offense, which revolves around getting Spikes up quickly and capitalizing on them with veritable offensive nukes. It is best to have a Pokemon that can get up Spikes reliably and maintain momentum, so Roselia or Cacturne is recommended. Choice Band Braviary is one of the top Pokemon to take advantage of Spikes, utilizing them to do such a nefarious deed as breaking through Alomomola. It can force many switches and even use U-turn in order to bring out a Pokemon that might force out a check or counter, thus spreading Spikes damage. Stall is another team type that makes good use of Spikes, and in fact requires them to succeed because of the invaluable residual damage that they provide. It is wise to use a Spiker with the ability to survive for a long period of time; defensive Garbodor is the best choice for this reason. Additionally, stall teams often carry phazers, such as Altaria, Bastiodon, Lairon, and Lapras, that shuffle around the opposing team, spreading Spikes damage. When running Spikes on stall, it is imperative to use a spinblocker to keep them up as long as possible. This role is best filled by Golurk or Misdreavus, the only spinblockers available in NU that have much in the way of bulk. At this point, you might be wondering—where do the other Spikers fit in? Well, Glalie is poor and Maractus is 99% trash, leaving Omanyte, which would be used for type synergy purposes where it fits better than Roselia, Garbodor, or Cacturne. If you're looking to make use of Spikes, these two team types are a good base to build from.
Outside of using Spikes, you should consider supporting the Spikes themselves. This is best done with a spinblocker. It's not very difficult to fit a spinblocker on a team with the many solid Ghost-types available in NU, and the opportunity cost of setting up Spikes becomes paramount when you have to set them up more than once. The star of the show is Golurk, who has decent bulk, a very high base 124 Attack stat, and a useful secondary Ground typing. It matches up well with the large majority of the NU tier that cannot hit it super effectively. Golurk also demolishes both Armaldo and Torkoal, the best Rapid Spin users in NU. Just don't switch Golurk directly into Torkoal, as Torkoal OHKOes Golurk after a Shell Smash boost. You should also scout for Aqua Tail if facing an Armaldo. Almost dead-even with Golurk is everyone's favorite spirit, Misdreavus. Misdreavus is Golurk's defensive equivalent, boasting an immunity to Ground-type attacks, solid bulk, and a movepool that contains a multitude of useful support moves such as Heal Bell. It is a 100% counter Armaldo, NU's premier Rapid Spin user, so long as it isn't a Swords Dance variant with Life Orb or Lum Berry. It also has Will-O-Wisp to burn Armaldo and is immune to the Toxic often carried by support variants. Additionally, it can take advantage of Torkoal's low Special Defense with its base 85 Special Attack Shadow Ball. Lastly, Frillish can be used if and only if it is put on a stall team, as it has zero offensive presence, but it walls Torkoal for ages and is able to use Recover to do so multiple times. Now, all of these Pokemon are great, but NU Rapid Spin users are better than the Ghost-types. They all have their own respective ways around spinblockers, so you're just going have to accept that sometimes your Spikes are going to be spun away. For this reason, it is imperative that you keep the pressure on opposing spinners, limiting their opportunities to switch in lest the Spikes you fought hard to set up be negated. Keep this in mind when going for a spinblocker and you'll be sure to succeed.
How to Deal with Spikes and Toxic Spikes
Enough about how great Spikes and how mediocre Toxic Spikes are; you need to know how to beat them. I've alluded to these threats throughout this letter. Rapid Spin users are the most surefire way to deal with Spikes; you take them away, and if your opponent wants them back they have to set them up again. SMASHKOAL, which is the popular name for Shell Smash Torkoal, is your best bet. While a weakness to Stealth Rock and vulnerability to both forms of Spikes might turn you off, realize that all the spinblockers I mentioned in the Spikes section can be beaten after a Shell Smash; every single one of them. It can just set up and spin really reliably between STAB Fire Blast and Earth Power or Hidden Power Grass. If it is unboosted against SubDisable Haunter, however, it will be unable to spin. Armaldo's the most common spinner, but it has trouble against pretty much all of the common spinblockers, even with Swords Dance, and is also weak to Stealth Rock and vulnerable to both forms of Spikes. However, it does demolish Garbodor and Cacturne with the right offensive moves and can take some pretty powerful attacks. Wartortle is a pretty cool spinner as well, boasting a decent amount of bulk and the coveted combination of Foresight and Rapid Spin.
Okay, maybe the relatively pitiful showing of spinners in NU dissuades you from using them. No one can blame you. SMASHKOAL is the best one and it's not the easiest Pokemon to fit on a team. The only other decent spinner is offensive Armaldo, who has the same issue. As such, you might want a Taunt user. Skuntank is the only one that's particularly good, and it fairs pretty well against Roselia, Garbodor, and Cacturne. Magic Bounce reflects entry hazards, and NU has a Pokemon with that ability in Natu. Natu is impossible to set up Spikes against, as it can just set up screens while Cacturne tries to Sucker Punch. Its only weakness in this role is against Garbodor that carry Rock Blast, as well as the fact that it really isn't the best Pokemon out there. Toxic Spikes has one big issue that you can easily take advantage of, and that's Poison-types absorbing them. Skuntank and Garbodor are fairly easy to fit on a team. If none of these options float your boat, you can always just keep up the offensive pressure, consistently making correct predictions (mainly double switches) that make it difficult for Spikers to get in freely and set up Spikes. If they do get set up and you are left without any of these countermeasures, the best thing you can do is to attempt to minimize their impact. This means getting in the Pokemon that you cannot afford to have badly poisoned when there is only one layer of Toxic Spikes up. This means minimizing switching into grounded Pokemon. If worst comes worst, smart play will usually be able to save you from any major issues with either form of Spikes.
Go out there and try Spikes and Toxic Spikes! There's enough viable users if you want them, so don't be scared away when told that NU has nothing to use them, for that is, simply put, not the case. Find the many uses of the entry hazards and put them on your offensive teams, your stall teams, and everything in between. Show the NU tier what Spikes and Toxic Spikes can do, surprise your opponents, screw over strategies, and even frustrate them with Riolu. It's easy; get some of these wonderful entry hazards and watch your games become much easier!