Gen 1 A guide on RBY openings

Since the paraslam changes the metagame has evolved a lot; specifically the way to handle status (and sleep in particular) has seen a very significant shift. This guide attempts to present a full picture of where we are today, highlighting successful team structures and opening strategies throughout post-paraslam history.

This guide is aimed at intermediate players, but I believe that even the top players should be able to take something away from it. A lot of what is discussed here is probably a slight bit beyond the capabilities of a completely new player, because it assumes that readers have a certain baseline amount of knowledge about what each pokemon can and can't do.

2016-2018: Trading Thunder Waves Turn 1, and the 'big 4' meta
When paraslam was found, the first solid team structure that was found to dominate everything featured a lead (Alakazam or Starmie), the 'big 4' (Snorlax, Tauros, Chansey, and Exeggutor), and a flexible last slot. Paralyzing the enemy lead was great to enable pretty much all your pokemon to blow through them at a later stage, but people were also perfectly content to take paralysis on their lead because it allowed them to block Sleep Powders coming from Exeggutor, which was widely considered to be the best sleeper due to his ability to put heavy pressure on Reflect+Rest Snorlax, a pokemon that would otherwise dominate many early games. People also hesitated to drop Exeggutor because of his unique ability to switch in on Rhydon without suffering much, something that no pokemon in the tier can do as well as him.

Alternative structures and opening strategies did exist, but none were particularly successful. Jynx was present but vastly unsuccessful; it would get Sleep first, which was great, but it was such a terrible sleep block against Double-Edge or Hyper Beam Exeggutor. The Eggy teams would frequently manage to claim both the Jynx via normal moves, and a second pokemon via the Sleep Powder once the Jynx sleep block had gone, leaving Jynx users at a large disadvantage. When this didn't happen the Jynx users were mostly fine, but the winrates over a couple years showed that overall the match up was in Eggy's favor.

For a fairly long time, no one really found answers to this metagame. All the sleepers that weren't called Exeggutor were simply outperformed by Exeggutor. A lot of people tried to innovate in a lot of ways, but nothing stuck... then everything changed when the Wrap nation attacked.

2018-2019: Victreebel makes everyone regret the day they were born
At some point players started realizing that Victreebel was very capable of taking over games against the typical 'big 4' structures. Since everyone just went along with allowing their lead eat paralysis and Chansey/Snorlax/Exeggutor are outsped by the demon plant, most teams did not have a lot of options against the fast Wrap and Sleep Powder. The last two slots would be Tauros, a pokemon that can deal with Victreebel but really hates being crippled by it, and a last slot that would determine the match up - while other Victreebel beaters such as Zapdos and Alakazam did exist, it was just as common (if not more common) to run Rhydon, Lapras, or Starmie, three options that fared much worse.

I want to specifically shoutout FOMG for spamming the fuck out of Victreebel at a high level and consolidating its viability at every stage of play; he ironed out the specifics of the Victreebel archetype, very often featuring Rhydon in the back for its ability to cover the Zapdos match up, and is overall unarguably the man who elevated Victreebel from 'a neat thing you can bring sometimes' to 'something I'm just going to bring almost every game and it's up to others to figure out how to beat this, because at the moment nothing does'.

With Victreebel storming into the scene we finally had found a sleeper that could perform on equal footing with Exeggutor; Eggy users were suffering and tired of getting 6-0'd in the builder whenever they loaded Starmie+big4+Rhydon into a Victreebel. Cursing the degeneracy of modern RBYers they started to look for countermeasures, and they were very successful.

2019-2020: Sing Chansey to absorb the Turn 1 TWave
Switching Chansey on Thunder Wave turn 1 was always a fringe line that had existed since 2016 and people were aware of; keeping the lead unparalyzed was powerful, and Chansey is even less susceptible to Exeggutor's breaking attempts than the typical Psychic-type leads. However often times the paralyzed Chansey would struggle to deal with an unending barrage of STAB Psychics between the crit rate and the drop rate, especially since the enemy lead wasn't paralyzed in this line, which made her chances even lower.

However, when looking for ways to deal with Victreebel, the idea of having an unparalyzed fast Psychic to switch into it looked particularly appealing, and so people started looking into this fringe line some more. Eventually it was figured out that if the Chansey carried Sing it would, in a large majority of cases, manage to sleep the Psychic-type before being forced out. This line was winning against BOTH Exeggutor and Victreebel, since Chansey would get an early sleep 'guaranteed' (bar rng tragedies) while Exeggutor would be unable to break through the paralyzed Chansey and Victreebel would be unable to break through the unparalyzed Psychic lead.

This line gained popularity and caused a long list of side effects due to how it alters traditional structures. All teams before this point had four slots pretty much forced: one for the sleeper (regardless of your choice of sleeper), and three for the Normals - which left only two slots for fillers. However, with the sleeper slot being compressed into the Normals, you now had three available slots, something that facilitated new cores a lot. Mons that did less role compression and more specific duties significantly improved in viability, because there were more slots to take up the duties which they failed to perform; picks like Gengar, Cloyster and Jolteon became much more popular as a result of this. Meanwhile picks that greatly enjoyed outspeeding the fast psychic leads due to paralysis had to deal with the reality of the fast psychic leads not being paralyzed nearly as often; Lapras and Victreebel in particular fell off a cliff, but mons such as Rhydon and Zapdos also suffered.

Eventually Exeggutor players adapted by simply not clicking Thunder Wave turn 1 anymore. Tossing out Psychics or even Blizzards to start the game off ensured that the opponent wouldn't get a sleep block, and even if sometimes they'd fall behind in tempo to a Sing Chansey that came in and got to sleep first, at least they didn't fall behind a full mon - they could just go to their sleeper at a later stage and pull the game back to an effective 5v5. Sing Chansey was still a winning match up into these sorts of ideas due to the fact it could get the Sleep quicker, also allowing the Sing Chansey user to start spreading paralysis quicker, but it is definitely a lot more playable if you are not a full mon down.

However, there was one mon that had been waiting for a time where the meta stopped being so unfavorable to it. It was finally their time to shine.

2019-2020: Jynx's resurgence
The issue with Sing Chansey is that it forces the user to give up some very valuable moves on a Chansey. If it doesn't run Thunder Wave it struggles to shut down fast Psychics, Zapdos, and Tauros; if it doesn't run Counter it's heavily pressured by Snorlax. It also needs an attacking move to avoid being a complete sitting duck: Ice Beam is multipurpose, protecting against the many Ice-weak pokemon of the meta (Rhydon above all) while also pressuring Chansey with the freeze threat, but it leaves Chansey vulnerable to Psychic Starmie and absolutely toothless against Ice-types; Seismic Toss fares much better against these threats, but it gives serious Rhydon issues amongst other things. Eventually players settled on Sing + Ice Beam + Counter + the undroppable Soft-Boiled as the most common configuration, and well I can't think of a much better set to allow Jynx to shine.

Jynx was FINALLY able to sleep block successfully, after years of being poor. Jynx can simply click Lovely Kiss turn 1 to claim the sleep first, and she gets a few chances to fish for a Blizzard freeze before being sent to bed herself - something that ultimately tips the odds in her favor in the match up. Her match up against Exeggutor was always a bit crappy but not completely unplayable, so when you add her favorable match ups against Sing Chansey to that fact, she becomes a very legitimate pick overall.

Although Jynx structures don't allow the full three mons of freedom that Sing Chansey can give, they can at least guarantee two unparalyzed mons in the back - something that couldn't happen in the Exeggutor era. This further enables picks like Jolteon, while also meaning that the role compressor gods of old such as Rhydon still have a place here.

Summing up: A complete overview of today's most popular openings
Attentive readers and expert RBYers will have figured out that these structures have a soft rock-paper-scissors type of mechanism going between them, revolving around the tempo that the different sleepers guarantee depending on the opening. None of the match ups are overwhelming, but traditional Eggy is slightly favored against Jynx, Jynx is slightly favored against Sing Chansey, and Sing Chansey is slightly favored against traditional Eggy. (Victreebel has all but disappeared due to its crushing negative match ups against both Jynx and Sing Chansey). Here are some guidelines about how to play all of these structures and openings; do note that planning anything accurately past the first handful of turns is incredibly difficult due to a few factors: the filler mons influence how you should play things, the RNG variance early on can influence how you should play things, and the number of possible scenarios to cover starts getting out of hand. I can only cover the first few turns, but having a good understanding of these turns can be a large upper hand against someone who does not go quite as deep.

Eggy teams will want to Thunder Wave your Jynx and break her down with Eggy's normal moves to then Sleep Powder a pokemon once Jynx is down; you want to prevent this by either denying Exeggutor chances to switch in, or by securing a second sleep block before Jynx drops.
Sing Chansey teams will just want to sleep sack something and mirror the sleep ASAP; you have a small advantage from the odds of Blizzard freezing them before they can Sing, and a further advantage from the ability to wake Jynx on their Chansey later on, but that's some Grandmaster shit that's too deep even for this guide.

The non-Jynx players have the advantage of knowing the match up from turn 1 while you have to figure out if you are playing against Exeggutor or Sing Chansey; a preliminary guess can be hazarded by noticing if they Thunder Wave Jynx turn 1 or not. A Sing + IB Chansey player is the only player who wouldn't TWave the Jynx in most circumstances, since they want to avoid giving a powerful sleep block, however a turn 1 TWave isn't as conclusive of a result because it's a reasonable play for both Eggy and a Sing + SToss Chansey user; given the rarity of the set it is reasonable to assume that it's just an Eggy, but not certain.

If you don't get TWaved turn 1 you should assume Sing Chansey is about to switch in and try to match the sleep; you should most likely try to Blizz it on the switch in for maximum Freeze chances. However if you do get TWaved this both lowers the odds of a freeze landing and increases the odds of a second sleep block being desirable, which means going Tauros is very potent: if the sleeping pokemon stays in you get a free Body Slam, and if it switches out to Chansey you can lure the second Thunder Wave immediately. These early Tauros turns going well can be great equalizers in the slightly unfavorable Eggy match up, it's fairly important that you try to find them.

EDIT: Nails pointed out to me that a Tauros switch so early is often not terribly advantageous, as the full health Snorlax will still be available for your opponent. Though it is difficult for Snorlax to get crit on the switch-in, it is both unlikely and not as useful as you'd wish for. He suggests staying with Jynx regardless of match up and clicking Blizzard until your opponent forces you to stop in a more proactive manner, an idea which still has decent success rates even through paralysis.

Congratulations on choosing the least straightforward path to sleeping anything.

Against Jynx your ideas will be something like this: TWave the Jynx and don't twave anything else early on (yes Tauros is a bitch of a mon to deal with if you can't twave it, tough luck), force your opponent into recovery moves with their Chansey or Snorlax using your own Chansey or Snorlax, and then go Eggy on the recovery turns - win enough Sleep v Damage mindgames and you might just manage to bulldoze through their Jynx which will be a great advantage at that point. The match up is good because Jynx is pretty crappy against Normal moves but it's not straightforward at all because you will need to play very sharply to punish her.

Against non-Jynx, given how much you have to avoid paralyzing anything early on, Ice spamming is a powerful option to navigate the early game. Lead BlizzMie and click it on the (potential) incoming Chanseys, when in doubt go to your Chansey and hope for some Ice Beam magic, etc. It reads (and feels) like you're just fishing hard, but it is objectively a good idea with solid odds of working out when you're playing Eggy. You're waiting for a turn where their Chansey or Lax is forced into a recovery move and your Eggy can come in freely; where you can find it depends heavily on how the opponent plays, so it's hard to give specific plans, but your Snorlax tends to be very good at creating those sorts of turns. Your build NEEDS to be armed for an early game without Thunder Waves; bringing TBolt on your Chansey to make sure you can force Starmie out is probably the most important thing here, but there's also special attention that should be paid to making sure Lax and Tauros don't run you over. Twaving something early on is okay if 'something' isn't a Chansey, but even if you're just trying to twave a Lax they could easily call it and go Chansey, so it's rough.

A notable gamble you can play (would only recommend vs Alakazam leads though) is hard Eggy t1. If you catch a Sing Chansey coming in you flip the match up on its head and it's suddenly very good for you; switching into a Starmie Blizzard is losing the game on t1 though, so make sure you only do this when you're against the less dangerous Alakazam (twave into stosses is pretty bad especially if you get unlucky but it's rarer nowadays and switching into psychic is perfectly alright), or when you're absolutely certain that the enemy Mie isn't Blizzing on t1.

Probably the most straightforward one, just go Chansey t1 and click the sleep move. That's it against every team that leads a TWaver. You can actually delay the switch a bit by tossing out random attacks to scout for switchbacks, which probably isn't a bad idea at all given that people are starting to catch onto this T1 Chans trend, but then you're risking your lead getting TWaved which can suck big time, especially in certain match ups, so be careful. Most of the decisions in the opening lines with Sing Chansey are heavily reliant on prediction/guessing; it's not a bad idea to scout your opponent for specific trends in the first turns if you're choosing to play this structure.

Against Jynx remember that TWaving her is super awful if your Chansey isn't SToss (and it generally won't be) and you should be fine - it's a bit of a crappy match up but you have no better line than sleepsacking and immediately going Chansey to trade it back, just hope you don't get frozen. Staying in after the Lovely Kiss to fish for an early wake is not bad because it takes away the freeze chances, but you need to be a little careful with enemy Tauros - definitely a line you can play if you have something like a Cloyster ready though

Hey but what about <this slightly obscure structure/line>?
You're right, there's a lot of viable stuff that this guide doesn't touch on. Gengars, double sleeper builds (specifically the 'par something, boom it with eggy, send in the backup sleeper to sleep for real this time' variations), crack wrap HOs, etc. I don't mention them because they tend to be slight variations on one of the main themes that I already cover (and if they're not, they're so far out there that they'd deserve their own standalone guide). There's certainly a number of good openings and team structure ideas that I don't cover here, but this is already pretty long and I just wanted to talk about the core archetypes that are most common at the moment in an accurate but digestible format. They'll be included if I write a book on RBY openings lol, when it's just a smogon post I'm afraid they'll have to be cut.


I hope you learned something from this guide and can walk away with a more complete understanding of the tier, and specifically of the team structures built around sleep in the tier. If you have any questions or feedback I'm happy to hear them. I have my own meta takes (eg. eggy sucks, never play eggy) but I tried to keep the guide as objective and descriptive as possible, if you feel I've missed something or said something inaccurate please correct me and help me make this into as good of a resource as it can be. Also if this guide is well received I might do more (specifically on the 'filler' mons, something that I only briefly touch on in this guide), so if you found this helpful I'd appreciate it if you let me know with a reaction or a post.
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