OU Spotlight: Greninja

By Holiday.
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Art by Tikitik.


Since its release in XY, Greninja has stood out as a premier offensive threat due to its blistering base 122 Speed, decent base 103 Special Attack, and amazing ability in Protean, which gives it STAB on every move it uses. With an impressive movepool including Hydro Pump, Ice Beam, Dark Pulse, Extrasensory, Spikes, and a Hidden Power of choice, Greninja was a juggernaut on offense teams and could very easily plow through weakened teams. However, special walls such as Chansey, Blissey, Empoleon, and Clefable, as well as Assault Vest Azumarill, a popular set at the time, were a hard stop to the frog, as Greninja simply did not have the power to break through these Pokémon.

With the advent of tutor moves in ORAS, however, Greninja was blessed with Gunk Shot and Low Kick. These two moves allowed Greninja to muscle past traditional checks. Gunk Shot maimed specially defensive Clefable and Assault Vest Azumarill, while Low Kick shut down Empoleon and made Chansey and Blissey unreliable switch-ins. This, combined with Protean and its Speed, made Greninja a complete nuisance to offensive playstyles and borderline invalidated balance playstyles. Ultimately, this proved to be too much for the OU tier to handle, and Greninja was eventually banned to Ubers.

Following the release of SM, Greninja finds itself as the premier offensive Spikes setter of the tier. Despite the wave of new Pokémon and Z-Move users that run rampant in the tier, as well a case of severe four-moveslot syndrome, Greninja has solidified its place at the top of the metagame by proving to be just as difficult to switch into as it was before. Please note that this Spotlight will only be covering the base forme of Greninja and not Ash-Greninja.

Hot Sets


Greninja's staple set is its Spikes set. Incredible in the current metagame, Spikes provide residual damage that is key to allowing Pokémon such as Choice Scarf Tapu Lele, as well as Greninja itself, to run through teams. This set takes advantage of Greninja's ability to force switches to avoid its high-powered attacks and set up Spikes. Ice Beam is a solid move for Greninja that hits Defog users such as Zapdos, Latios, and Mandibuzz, as well as having the best neutral coverage. Gunk Shot puts pressure on Mantine to Defog and obliterates Tapu Fini while also hitting other Fairy-types and providing good neutral coverage. The last moveslot can be any number of moves, but the three listed above are what you will generally see. Hydro Pump is Greninja's strongest special move against neutral targets and scores a 2HKO on Mega Sableye and Mega Scizor, both of which are commonly seen to control entry hazards with Magic Bounce and Defog, respectively. Low Kick can catch Ferrothorn, Celesteela, Assault Vest Magearna, and Chansey by surprise, while Hidden Power Fire hits Steel-types hard but lacks overall power. Should Low Kick be used, full Attack investment is important to maximize the power of it and Gunk Shot, as Ice Beam can typically 2HKO or OHKO the Pokémon that it needs to hit, such as Landorus-T.


The other common set for Greninja is an all-out attacking set, which replaces Spikes with another coverage move. This gives Greninja the ability to punch holes through teams with its fantastic coverage as well as clean up weakened teams late-game. Ice Beam and Gunk Shot return as the staple attacking moves of the set, with the former having excellent neutral coverage in the tier and the latter maiming Fairy-types like Tapu Fini while also often being the best move to hit opposing Water-types like Manaphy and Rotom-W. Hydro Pump is a solid choice on this set, as it is Greninja's strongest special move and deals great neutral damage to opposing Pokémon. Low Kick provides Greninja a way to hit opposing Steel-types for physical damage and is great for taking on specially defensive Celesteela. Extrasensory covers Toxapex and Mega Venusaur, two Pokémon that can switch into the rest of Greninja's moves with impunity, while also nabbing Keldeo and Buzzwole for super effective damage. Hidden Power Fire allows Greninja to lure in and eliminate Ferrothorn as well as become a Mega Scizor check while dealing a solid amount of damage to Celesteela. This set can also run Dark Pulse, Grass Knot, or Hidden Power Electric to deal with various threats if your team needs the support, but those are generally less consistent options than the moveset listed above.

Not Sets


Psychium Z Greninja is a niche option if you really want to surprise Toxapex, as Shattered Psyche backed with Protean is enough to net an OHKO on it; however, it does take up your Z-Crystal slot which could be occupied by a more practical user such as Landorus-T. This set also loses out on the power boost from Life Orb, and it should only be used if your team is in dire need of something to beat Toxapex. The moveset is otherwise standard.

Choice Specs and Choice Scarf might seem like tempting options due to Greninja's stats, but these items greatly hinder the frog by preventing it from switching moves, which is the primary benefit of Greninja's ability, Protean.

Good Cores

Greninja excels primarily at two things: setting Spikes by forcing switch-ins and breaking holes in teams with its excellent firepower and coverage. Despite its great Speed and attacking stats, Greninja is very frail and can't switch into a large majority of moves regardless of resistances. This is where VoltTurn cores come in. Pokémon that generate momentum with these moves and can get Greninja in without taking a hit greatly aid the Ninja Pokémon, while the Spikes it can lay down create residual damage that the VoltTurn core appreciates.

Greninja + Tapu Koko + Landorus-T

Greninja Tapu Koko Lando-T

Greninja's Spikes set complements Tapu Koko and Landorus-T. With a powerful Thunderbolt and Earthquake, respectively, these two can very easily force switches into checks that Greninja can take out. Landorus-T also provides Stealth Rock support and a slower U-turn, as well as a bulky pivot that can take a hit. Once Greninja is in, it can either attack and soften up the opposing team or set Spikes down. Every time that either Tapu Koko or Landorus-T enters the battlefield, the cycle repeats itself until any of these three Pokémon can sweep through the weakened team.

Metagame Trends

Greninja has been a metagame-defining Pokémon when it's been in OU due to its ability to break through a majority of its checks with the appropriate coverage move as well as hit hard in general. Greninja finds a way to impact a match against any team, but it shines versus balanced and offensive builds, as the former is hard pressed to find multiple switch-ins to its coverage moves while the latter is often swept late-game due to the frog's speed and strength.


Although it's only been around since Generation 6, Greninja has made quite a splash since its debut. Between Protean, its stat distribution, and a wonderful movepool, Greninja will be a star in whatever tier it's in for generations to come.

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