Diamonds in the Rough: the Elemental Gems in Singles

By Cherub Agent. Art by Bummer.
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Black and White didn't only bring new Pokémon to the competitive scene; they also brought new items. And among these are the Elemental Gems. There are seventeen different Elemental Gems, one for each Pokémon type. What do they do? The sparkly stones grant the user a one-time 50% power boost to a move that corresponds with the type of the Elemental Gem. The same as what STAB or Choice items give Pokémon. Initially, the Gems didn't see much use in singles, only in VGC. After all, what was the point in an item that only granted a power boost once during a match and then left the user itemless? The initial answer was: "not much." This mentality however did not affect the VGC players, due to a far more fast-paced metagame and the restrictions that Item Clause inflicted on a team.

However, as time passed on, singles players started to realize that the Gems weren't just nice to look at, but had a rather unique niche that no other item possessed: the one-time power boost allows certain Pokémon to push past counters or checks that they previously couldn't, and with that obstacle gone, they were free to sweep unhindered with their other moves. Another interesting concept behind the use of Elemental Gems is that they can be used to reliably trigger abilities such as Unburden or Moxie. Another important fact to consider is that the Gems are particularly useful for bluffing a Choice item. Say your opponent brings in their Speedy Spiker Deoxys-D on your Politoed as it uses Ice Beam. This does 19.4 - 23.02% damage, assuming a Modest nature and 252 SpA EVs, which is only a possible 5HKO. In other words, the opponent knows it's safe to throw down a few layers of entry hazards. They assume that you're Choiced as they see no Leftovers recovery. As they set down a layer of Spikes, BAM! They're instantly obliterated by Politoed's +1 Rain Hydro Pump, as it's in fact holding a Water Gem. This deals 81.9 - 96.71% to the Deoxys-D, which means that even if you roll the lowest damage roll on both Ice Beam and Hydro Pump, Deoxys-D's still a goner.

Of course, to effectively use an Elemental Gem, you need to be able to predict fairly well. There's no point in wasting your precious Flying Gem Acrobatics on something like a Magneton now, is there? Don't just blindly fire off your Gem-boosted attacks. You want to perfect the art of the lure, which means that I'd only recommend going for your Gem-boosted move if the opponent directly switches into you. Start off by throwing out one of your weaker moves, and only use the Gem-boosted move when the Pokémon you're trying to lure out actually switches into you. For example, let's take a Fighting Gem Haxorus. Throw out a Dragon Claw first, which will almost always lure in a Ferrothorn. The durian will take 15.34 - 18.18% from the standard Adamant Haxorus, and think that it is able to set up Spikes (exactly like the Deoxys-D example I used previously). In this case, you can then straight up go for the OHKO with a Fighting Gem-boosted Superpower, which deals 89.77 - 106.25% to the standard Ferrothorn. I'll now provide some more examples of the best Pokémon to use Elemental Gems on, in both standard OU and other singles tiers.

The Destructive Dragons

With OU's massive playerbase, it's little wonder that so many sets involving Elemental Gems have been discovered. I'm going to give you what is more or less a list of which sets are, in my humble opinion, the most effective. OU is a tier largely dominated by the legendary Dragon-types, of which a grand total of four have made it onto this article. I'm just going to start off with the first pseudo-legendary, Normal Gem Dragonite. Now, Dragonite is widely recognized as the face of a "bulky boosting sweeper." After a Dragon Dance, it can outspeed all unboosted threats in the OU metagame save the rare Jolteon. But this is the slight problem: unboosted threats. Due to its average base Speed, Dragonite will be outpaced by the vast majority of Choice Scarf users, not to mention sniped by Ice Shards coming from Mamoswine and Weavile. Enter Normal Gem-boosted ExtremeSpeed. After a Dragon Dance, ExtremeSpeed will OHKO Choice Scarf Latios after Stealth Rock, Mamoswine after Stealth Rock or Spikes and a round of LO recoil, and Weavile without any previous damage whatsoever. Furthermore, Normal Gem preserves Multiscale, unlike Life Orb, so Dragonite can use its amazing ability to its fullest.

The next Gem-wielding Dragon is none other than Salamence. Like Dragonite, it can use a Gem in conjunction with its ability in order to pull off a Dragon Dance sweep. In this case, however, Salamence normally opts to use a Dragon or Fire Gem. After a Dragon Dance, a Gem-boosted attack will tend to OHKO whatever threat is most detrimental to your team. A +1 Dragon Gem Outrage will massacre standard physically defensive Pokémon such as Jellicent without hazard support, and mixed wall Hippowdon with a layer of Spikes. A Fire Gem-boosted Fire Blast will bring down max HP Scizor in the rain, and is a guaranteed OHKO on standard Ferrothorn outside of it. It also has a chance of bringing down specially defensive Skarmory, but will need Stealth Rock and a little previous damage in order to guarantee the KO.

The next 600 BST Dragon, Latios, is a little more complex. The idea of this set is to use a Water Gem in tandem with Rain Dance to lure out and destroy its greatest nemesis, Tyranitar. Rain Dance should be used on the predicted Tyranitar switch-in, and will always OHKO BandTar, as well as having a good chance to OHKO the support version with Stealth Rock. The set is very specialized though, so it's probably not for everyone, unless you absolutely require Tyranitar gone. The set is also highly effective at bringing down specially defensive Heatran, which can allow another Pokémon such as Volcarona to sweep. Other than that, it has other purposes such as acting as a general weather neutralizer on weatherless teams, or as backup on rain teams should you lose your Politoed.

Our last dragon may not be a pseudo-legendary, but is still one of the most fearsome Pokémon in the tier: Haxorus. Haxorus is generally regarded as being as close to uncounterable as they come, and this Gem set takes that term to a whole new level. This set is the ultimate wallbreaker and Steel-type lure. The idea is to use Swords Dance as the opponent switches in their Skarmory, and then nuke it with a Fighting Gem-boosted Superpower, which deals 81.13 - 95.5% to the physically defensive bird, a good chance to OHKO after Stealth Rock. And even if it doesn't, you've crippled Skarmory beyond repair, which will allow another Pokémon such as SD Scizor to sweep unhindered. If you wish, you can also opt to use a Water Gem-boosted Aqua Tail in conjunction with Politoed, which will guarantee the OHKO on Skarmory after Stealth Rock, but be warned, as you'll no longer be able to KO Ferrothorn at +0 with Superpower, which is a big deal.

The Fearsome Fighters

Moving on from the Dragons, OU's other primary offensive type, Fighting, also has two common and lethal users: Terrakion and Breloom. Terrakion often uses Rock Gem in tandem with Swords Dance to push through incredibly potent physical walls such as Skarmory, Gliscor, and Slowbro, all of which can be OHKOed after Stealth Rock. Stone Edge misses can be very costly, and as Terrakion really only needs its STAB moves to sweep, it can give itself a safety buffer in the form of Substitute. Once these defensive behemoths have been eliminated, Terrakion can spam +2 Close Combats to clean up the rest of the opponent's team.

Breloom is another monster when equipped with a Gem, specifically a Fighting Gem. If Breloom comes in on something slower than itself (an ideal scenario would be coming in on Ferrothorn after your Rotom-W Volt Switches on it) it can fire off a free Spore. Breloom can then proceed to use the massively powerful Fighting Gem-boosted Focus Punch, which can destroy even Pokémon that resist it, such as Latios. Should the opposing Pokémon manage to survive Focus Punch by the skin of its teeth, Breloom can proceed to snipe it down with Mach Punch. If played correctly, Fighting Gem Breloom is nigh-guaranteed to incapacitate an opponent with Spore and kill another with Focus Punch, thus eliminating a third of the opponent's team. And of course, it always has Bullet Seed for striking down bulky Water-types such as Jellicent and Slowbro, against which Focus Punch is ineffective.

The Aerial Aces

Now, when one thinks of the Elemental Gems in singles, the one that most often comes to mind is the Flying Gem. It's used in tandem with the move Acrobatics, which allows for a one-time 165 Base Power STAB attack, and 110 Base Power attack after that. Considering Flying's excellent neutral coverage in OU, you won't find many Pokémon that can stomach a boosted Acrobatics. The first Pokémon that comes to mind when using this strategy is Gliscor. Its glory days with Sand Veil may now be over after the ban, but the damage output of its Acrobatics remains the same. Gliscor often forces switches, so it has many opportunities to set up a Swords Dance. And it's after this where the fun starts. After a boost, Gliscor's Acrobatics is capable of pulling of some truly jaw-dropping achievements, such as likely OHKOs on 112/0 Rotom-W and 252/184+ opposing Gliscor after Stealth Rock. The fact that Sand Veil is no longer allowed is not as bad as one may think; although Gliscor can no longer fish for misses with Substitute, it can act as a very effective wallbreaker with Taunt, which means that Hippowdon that lack Ice Fang can no longer touch it. It also benefits from its great natural bulk and typing with Roost, which can allow it to come in multiple times and still check imposing physical threats such as Terrakion. Poison Heal is still a great ability without a Toxic Orb, as the immunity to the common Toxic is always welcome on a tank like Gliscor.

Another Acrobatics user that is the very definition of a lure is Acrobatics Swords Dance Scizor. The lack of Leftovers healing or Life Orb recoil almost always makes opponents think that the Scizor is Choiced. Not so! If you spam Bullet Punch a little early-game, you will often lure out Pokémon such as Calm Mind Keldeo or Quiver Dance Volcarona which think that they're safe to set up on Scizor. Well, they can think again, as an unboosted Acrobatics from max Attack Scizor will OHKO any Keldeo and even the most physically bulky of Volcarona without the need of entry hazards. Infernape is another offensive Pokémon that can afford to switch into Scizor, but must be nailed by Acrobatics on the switch in, as most Infernape don't set up and will go straight for the Fire-type move. Acrobatics Scizor also does a good job of luring in and disposing of walls such as Tentacruel and Jellicent which resist its STAB combination. Physically defensive Tentacruel is always OHKOed without Stealth Rock after a Swords Dance, while Jellicent is always taken down after Stealth Rock, and has a good chance of getting crushed even without the hazard.

The Legendary Leaders

To round off this article, we're going to come back in a full cycle to the 600 BST legendaries: the Psychic-types Deoxys-D and Mew! Deoxys-D is famous for being able to run a Fire or Electric Gem in order to lure out and OHKO Pokémon that give it trouble, such as Scizor, Forretress, Starmie, and Tentacruel. Generally however, Fire Gem is the superior option, as Deoxys-D can run an offensive set with max HP and Special Attack together with Stealth Rock, Spikes, Hidden Power Fire, and Thunder (which is perfectly accurate under rain, i.e. where Starmie and Tentacruel are most common. But the greatest thing about Deoxys-D is its incredible versatility, so its moveset really can be customized to suit your team's needs. If not using an Electric-type move, then Taunt or Thunder Wave are generally the best options when using a Fire Gem. Thunderbolt is a better option than Thunder if an Electric Gem is chosen, to guarantee the OHKO on Starmie.

Well, we started out with a Normal Gem-wielding Pokémon, and we'll finish with one. Mew is an incredibly potent lead for hyper offensive teams, due to its unending movepool and solid stats. With max Speed, Attack, and a Jolly nature, Mew can often guarantee the setting up of Stealth Rock and the death of another Pokémon via a Normal Gem-boosted Explosion. Taunt is another essential move to stop setup from the likes of Deoxys-D, Ferrothorn, and Forretress. The last slot is often a tossup between Zen Headbutt, Tailwind, and Magic Coat. Zen Headbutt can prevent the likes of Gengar or Terrakion from coming in to absorb your Explosion. Tailwind is a very interesting move for offensive teams, as it allows terrifying wallbreakers such as Choice Band Haxorus to get an early sweep going straight from the get-go. Magic Coat is very useful if you're up against a lead Terrakion or Azelf, who both have higher base Speed to prevent Mew from doing much of anything.

In the continuation of this article next issue, we'll examine Elemental Gem Pokémon in Ubers, Underused, Rarelyused, and Neverused! In the meantime, experiment with the listed Pokémon, or even better, come up with your own set and share it with the community!

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