NU Beta Recap

By erisia.
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LifeisDANK's Steelix & Slowbro

Art by LifeisDANK.


NeverUsed is one of the most popular usage-based tiers that allows players to use Pokémon not commonly seen in OverUsed, UnderUsed, or RarelyUsed, and it is currently being explored in the new Sun and Moon generation. Meanwhile, older generation metagames such as ADV NU and DPP NU are simultaneously becoming more firmly established. Although the Sun and Moon metagame is finally starting to stabilize, it differs from the previous ORAS and older metagames in many different ways, both in the Pokémon available and in the playstyles that see common use. The only thing that can really been said to be iconic of NU throughout the ages is a lack of unexploitable Steel-types, since these almost always remain in the higher tiers due to their unique sets of resistances. As a result, NU remains a fresh and diverse metagame across all of the generations you can play it on, with plenty of room for innovation, flexibility, and unique battles. NeverUsed, but never boring! This article will analyze what we expected SM NU to be like before we were able to form an Alpha tier, as well as key characteristics of the Alpha and Beta metagames, and predictions will also be made on where the tier will progress as the months go by.

Before Alpha: What did we expect to be big?

Palossand Shiinotic Toucannon Vikavolt

Speculation on the SM NU metagame started long before the official Alpha, with excitement building whenever new Pokémon were announced that had the potential to drop down to NeverUsed. The focus of this pre-Alpha speculation was squarely on these new Pokémon, with most people assuming that the new tier would be similar to the ORAS metagame with just some new additions. Quite a lot of hype was placed in Palossand, which people believed would be a premier bulky Ghost-type due to its good bulk, interesting set of immunities, and access to reliable recovery in Shore Up. However, it has mostly proven to be underwhelming due to its lack of key moves such as Will-O-Wisp and Hex, its inability to capitalize on Water Compaction effectively, and its only minor offensive presence. Shiinotic also received some attention due to its interesting typing and access to two very strong moves in Spore and Strength Sap, but ultimately its stats have proved too low for it to really shine in comparison to Vileplume. Many expected Toucannon to be a useful wallbreaker in the new metagame due to a combination of strong physical moves and access to Overheat to pick off Steelix, but it eventually remained overshadowed by other faster and stronger wallbreakers. Finally, Vikavolt was identified from the start as a strong contender in the tier, with its offensive sets being extremely powerful and its bulky sets offering good defensive utility due to a good set of resistances alongslide Roost and a slow Volt Switch. This prediction has proved to be quite accurate in the end.

Alolan Muk Bruxish Tsareena Comfey

Alolan Muk, Bruxish, and Tsareena were also predicted to be big contenders in the new metagame, with many people seeing Alolan Muk and Bruxish as merely upgraded versions of Skuntank and Samurott. However, they proved to be far more dangerous than expected, with Alolan Muk's Poison Touch Knock Off being extremely difficult to switch into and Bruxish's Strong Jaw Psychic Fangs being far too difficult to wall. Tsareena meanwhile ended up settling in UU due to it filling a niche as a good defensive Rapid Spin user that could simultaneously pivot with U-turn, heal with Synthesis, and debuff foes with Trop Kick. Comfey was also speculated to be a strong threat due to its access to a pure Fairy typing and priority Leech Seed, but it eventually stayed in RU where a Calm Mind + Draining Kiss set proved to be more dangerous than anticipated.

Shaymin Venomoth Aerodactyl Hawlucha Sharpedo Espeon Cresselia Snorlax Salazzle

Once the new year had arrived and Sun and Moon had been out for a while, we finally had some usage stats from RU Alpha to speculate on, and a preliminary metagame became playable as a result. This led to everyone quickly panicking and going back to playing ORAS. Jokes aside, several extremely threatening older Pokémon seemed likely to dip out of SM RU due to lack of usage. Shaymin and Venomoth were incredibly overbearing wallbreakers due to the lack of solid defensive checks that could handle the likes of Seed Flare and Tinted Lens Savage Spin-Out. Aerodactyl quickly became notable as the premier offensive lead with its immense Speed and access to Stealth Rock and Taunt, while fellow Flying-type Hawlucha and Sharpedo were immediately identified as cleaners that could destroy offense teams single-handedly via their Speed boosting options and excellent offensive presence. Espeon became a dominant force due to its access to Magic Bounce, vastly outclassing Xatu and being usable on a wider range of teams, with both offensive and defensive sets being viable. Rival Psychic-type Cresselia proved to be overwhelming in a different way; it was simply too bulky to KO, sometimes even with super effective STAB attacks, meaning it could single-handedly sweep teams that lacked specific countermeasures from preview. Snorlax similarly posed a threat to any teams that lacked Fighting-types while also boasting good offensive presence with Choice Band and Belly Drum sets. While Zoroark flew under the radar to an extent, its extreme wallbreaking potential combined with excellent synergy with Espeon and Hawlucha made it very difficult to handle. Salazzle was in a similar position, making good use of a ludicrously fast Choice Scarf set and later a more potent Nasty Plot set. Ultimately, these Pokémon and more eventually climbed back up to upper tiers as people realized their potential, with none of these candidates even making it to the Alpha. Thank goodness.

NU Alpha

Dragalge Pangoro

With the arrival of the first set of usage stats, the SM NU tier started to see some legitimacy as more than a fun speculation meta. While all of the aforementioned threats ended up rising to the tiers above, some new (or should I say old) Pokémon also ended up dropping down. Those familiar with the XY NU metagame might remember a time where Dragalge was a prominent defensive threat, before it received Adaptability and was promptly booted from the tier. Dragalge managed to reclaim its place in the Alpha metagame with this excellent ability, with Choice Specs sets being incredibly difficult to wall, and defensive sets using Assault Vest or Black Sludge still making excellent special tanks that could still hit hard even without boosting items. A new option for Dragalge was its Devastating Drake set, which allowed it to fire off two incredibly powerful Dragon-type attacks while not being as exploitable as the Choice Specs set. Pangoro made a similar exit from ORAS NU after acquiring several key move tutor moves such as Knock Off, Drain Punch, and Gunk Shot, but it also returned briefly to SM NU Alpha with these buffs intact. Choice Band and Swords Dance sets were able to single-handedly dismantle stall teams; the combination of Dragalge and Pangoro made the archetype almost impossible to play during this period. While Pangoro didn't see a huge amount of usage due to a large number of other new Fighting-types being available, it was definitely the best dedicated wallbreaker out of all of them. An interesting artifact of the Alpha metagame was the presence and viability of Trick Room; many key setters such as Uxie, Cofagrigus, and Porygon2 were available, complemented by extremely powerful wallbreakers such as the aforementioned pair, as well as the likes of Vikavolt, Crabominable, and Drampa making excellent dedicated Trick Room sweepers. Overall, the Alpha period allowed a semi-stable metagame to develop, where the remaining key threats could easily be identified in the Beta that followed shortly after.

NU Beta: Stage 0: Bring the Noize

Yanmega Slurpuff

With the arrival of Beta, formal suspect tests could now be conducted, and the tier could start to be molded into a more suitable and balanced permanent metagame. Pangoro and Dragalge ended up rising back to RU by usage, removing the need to make any suspect decisions concerning them. Meanwhile, Yanmega and Slurpuff were two key cornerstones of Alpha offense with extremely limited counterplay. Yanmega could either outright eliminate slower teams from Team Preview with its ludicrous Choice Specs Tinted Lens set or use a potent Life Orb Speed Boost set to more or less invalidate offense teams that lacked super-strong priority attacks or other unusual countermeasures. Slurpuff was not as versatile, only really being able to make use of a Belly Drum set, but this set was similarly capable of taking teams down from Team Preview, being bulky enough to find a surprising number of setup opportunities and not immediately die to priority attacks, while the combination of Play Rough and Drain Punch was almost impossible to wall after a boost. These two threats were quickbanned by the council right from the start; their detrimental influence on the metagame was already known well from the Alpha experience.

Porygon2 Noivern Moltres Ninetales Ribombee Kingdra

After a brief resettlement period, the first set of council votes was conducted to evaluate what other threats need immediate addressing. Porygon2 was given the boot under the seldom-used defensive characteristic; its mixed bulk with Eviolite and Recover was simply too difficult to break through and made running Knock Off mandatory on most teams. Furthermore, while Porygon2 could run an effective Toxic stalling defensive set, it was also an excellent user of Trick Room, giving it significant anti-offense value even outside of dedicated stall teams. Porygon2 was still bulky enough to take on many threats with a fully invested Special Attack stat, which combined with a potential Download or Analytic boost, a STAB Tri Attack with good neutral coverage, and a number of useful coverage options, also made it an anti-meta offensive threat. While it was hard to argue that Porygon2 was overpowered in isolation, it was so easy to address its flaws with good teambuilding that it was almost unanimously voted as a banworthy metagame presence.

Noivern and Ribombee (the latter of which was quickbanned from the pre-Alpha speculative metagame) were also banned due to their excellent offensive power combined with frankly unreasonable Speed tiers. These two Pokémon had enough power behind their STAB attacks to OHKO many offensive threats while simultaneously being able to outspeed most unboosted Pokémon. Both of these threats made excellent use of Choice Specs and spammable STAB attacks in Hurricane and Moonblast, respectively. Meanwhile, Noivern could also run a superb stallbreaker set with Super Fang, Taunt, and Roost, while Ribombee could lure in potential checks and take them out with an extremely dangerous Quiver Dance + Psychium Z set. Moltres and Kingdra proved to be similarly overwhelming offensive threats, trading immediate Speed with huge wallbreaking potential, excellent defensive typings, and the ability to make their respective weather archetypes completely busted. Z-Sunny Day and Grassium Z sets made Moltres almost impossible to wall, while its defensive sets were also able to check signficant chunks of the metagame due to access to Pressure and an excellent set of resistances. While Stealth Rock clipped its wings to an extent, Moltres could easily threaten most entry hazard setters and synergized well with entry hazard removers such as Hitmonlee and Hitmontop. Meanwhile, Kingdra was absurdly strong and fast under rain, with its dual STAB attacks being more or less unwallable without resorting to one or two specific Pokémon, and its above-average bulk and lack of exploitable weaknesses made it very difficult to check with priority attacks. Furthermore, its Focus Energy + Sniper set allowed it to be extremely dangerous even outside of weather with a completely spammable Draco Meteor.

Drought was also banned, as the council quickly decided that the ability to set eight turns of sun with no real opportunity cost (outside of running the mediocre Ninetales) was too much for the NU tier to handle. Even with Moltres being banned, typical ORAS NU sun sweepers such as Shiftry, Victreebel, Exeggutor, and Sawsbuck proved to be overwhelming with this support, especially with addition of Z-Moves to their arsenals. The only other auto-setting weather available, hail, made a fairly poor check to this archetype due to the inherent weakness of Ice-types against most sweepers and wallbreakers seen on sun teams. For posterity's sake, tests were also conducted with Vulpix in place of Ninetales, and it became quickly apparent that banning Ninetales was not enough to keep Drought from being overpowered.

Necrozma Tyrantrum

While the last few quick bans were enough to more or less stabilize the metagame and remove the most severe offenders, this allowed several existing threats to become more prominent, and the full extent of Necrozma's and Tyrantrum's capabilities was revealed over time. Necrozma in NU Beta behaved similarly to the likes of Mesprit and Musharna in ORAS NU, but overall the addition of Z-Moves and Necrozma's combination of their best traits made it a harmful presence. Firstly, it was one of the best defensive Stealth Rock users due to its good set of resistances that allowed it to synergize with Rock- and Ground-types that would normally stack type weaknesses with most setters, as well as its access to reliable recovery in Moonlight. However, it was Necrozma's plethora of different offensive sets that overall made it too difficult to check consistently. A defensive Calm Mind set using Iron Defense and Stored Power, an offensive set with Life Orb and many special coverage options, and even a physical set with Swords Dance and key moves such as Earthquake and X-Scissor, were all completely viable and had completely different checks and counters, making dealing with Necrozma a fairly luck-based endeavor. Meanwhile, Tyrantrum's Rock Head Head Smash was able to OHKO most offensive Pokémon without any boosts, making Choice Scarf sets extremely effective against offense teams. However, it was ultimately Tyrantrum's access to equally threatening Dragon Dance and Choice Band sets that made it overwhelming; Z-Moves in particular made the Dragon Dance set almost impossible to consistently check defensively, since Dragonium Z, Fightinium Z, and even Groundium Z all broke through different responses.


Finally, after a considerable break, Cofagrigus was the last Pokémon to be given the boot by a council vote. Although Cofagrigus was always a decently strong choice throughout the Beta metagame, its true strength didn't become apparent until the more pressing threats described above were removed. At this point, its Trick Room + Nasty Plot + Ghostium Z set was popularized due to its ability to switch into and countersweep offensive teams with little opposition. Many players resorted to running Lv 99 Cofagrigus of their own to ensure that they could move first under Trick Room and prevent a Lv 100 Cofagrigus from sweeping outright; I'm sure some people ended up running Lv 98 Cofagrigus and so-on but neglected to tell anyone about it. Overall, Ghostium Z made Cofagrigus significantly more threatening than anyone expected due to it both providing an extremely powerful Ghost-type attack and mitigating damage from Knock Off , which is the main tool that most teams had available to hit Cofagrigus hard with.

After Beta: Where are we now?

Meloetta Mow Rotom Emboar Sceptile Slowbro Virizion Alolan Sandslash

With Cofagrigus being removed and the new stats being revealed, the NU metagame proper had now begun! Meloetta was announced as the first public suspect test, and it was voted by a large majority to be banned due to its plethora of powerful offensive sets that proved difficult to respond to. The Choice Scarf set made an excellent revenge killer that could either hit hard with a STAB attack or pivot out of checks such as Spiritomb with U-turn, while the Choice Specs set was a similarly effective wallbreaker. Meanwhile, Calm Mind sets proved to be very effective against defensive teams, and Meloetta found many opportunities to switch into attacks in general due to its titanic special bulk. While Meloetta was somewhat vulnerable to Pursuit trapping and faster physical attackers, this was not determined to be a significant enough weakness to keep it balanced within the tier.

At present, the metagame has now settled down with both offensive and balanced playstyles being effective. Similarly to ORAS NU, the tier is characterized by a lack of consistent defensive Steel-types outside of Steelix. However, the tier differs significantly in many other ways. Offensive Grass-types such as Sceptile, Rotom-C, and Virizion are highly prominent due to their excellent Speed and coverage options, while Emboar secures its place as best Fire-type due to its excellent power and coverage, neutrality to Stealth Rock, and ability to run an effective Choice Scarf set that can keep offensive teams on their toes without being unreasonable to revenge kill with faster Choice Scarf users. Slowbro has established itself as the premier defensive Water-type due to its access to extremely reliable recovery in Regenerator and Slack Off, as well as key support moves such as Calm Mind and Trick Room and an excellent coverage movepool supplemented by decent Special Attack. Xatu and Garbodor remain as prevalent as they were in ORAS, due to their ability to direct the entry hazard metagame and their good defensive attributes. Aurora Veil offense in particular proved to be a highly effective playstyle, with the likes of Alolan Sandslash, Cryogonal, and the recent addition Froslass being able to set up the move reliably and making setup sweepers such as Barbaracle and Turtonator significantly more difficult to KO. In the end, Aurora Veil was banned via council vote, as it lacked sufficient counterplay in most cases without resorting to extremely niche options like Brick Break, heavily stacking a fight in the user's favor with very little cost. Regardless of the status of Aurora Veil, Vanilluxe has shot up from meme status into being one of the tier's premier offensive Pokémon, due to the sheer power of its Snow Warning Blizzards (and lack of sturdy defensive Ice-resistant Pokémon), its decent Speed tier and bulk, and access to key moves such as Freeze-Dry, Ice Shard, and Explosion that can provide extra utility. Finally, out of all of the initial predictions about Sun and Moon Pokémon that would be NU mainstays, it seems like Vikavolt was the best guess we got, with Incineroar and Guzzlord being close runners-up.

Overall, the current SM NU metagame is an exciting place where many different playstyles and team archetypes are all viable, and there is plenty of room for further innovation yet. If you're looking for a new tier to try out that has lots of exciting threats but lacks some of the more overcentralizing elements of the higher tiers, then NU is the tier for you! Come join us; just make sure to bring a Steelix check!

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