BW Heroes: XY Zeroes

By TRC and alexwolf. Art by Sephirona.
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The OU metagame is continually fluctuating. With each new generation, new Pokémon come to steal the spotlight from former superstars. These once-defining Pokémon have been lost in many different ways, whether it's because of a new Pokémon outclassing them entirely, a shift in metagame trends which exacerbates once uncommon weaknesses, or the uncontrollable mechanic changes inflicted by the game's creators. Yes, many of BW's stars have fallen from their pinnacles of excellence to forgettable existences, but it's interesting to note why. What combination of factors could've been potent enough to affect a Pokémon's viability so drastically?


Jirachi in BW

A definite top-tier threat in BW, Jirachi was a staple for many playstyles, being used common on rain teams in particular, the most defining archetype of the BW era. It boasted an S-Rank on the OU Viability Ranking thread near the end of BW, and for good reason: its insane versatility allowed it to carry out almost any role. It could be a Substitute + Calm Mind set, which used Jirachi's impressive array of resistances to set up on many common Pokémon, such as Ferrothorn, and then eventually sweep teams. It was also commonly seen utilizing a specially defensive spread, which made it a perfect counter to some popular threats, including Latios and Kyurem-B. While these were the most widely-seen sets, Jirachi's typing, movepool, and stat spread often lent themselves to a miscellany of other sets, including Choice Scarf, offensive Calm Mind, mixed, Wish, and SubToxic. It was difficult to check until you knew exactly which set it was running, which could often be too late, especially if the set used Substitute, which made it even more annoying to take down. Jirachi also made great use of Serene Grace to annoy foes with consistent Iron Head flinching. It was defining, it was common, and it was a great Pokémon in BW, arguably one of the best Pokémon in the tier.

Jirachi in XY

Jirachi's viability in XY suffered a ton, to the point of making it a worthless option on most teams. What changed? First and most importantly, Steel-types lost their Ghost and Dark resistances in XY, making Jirachi weak to both of those types and therefore prone to getting Pursuit trapped and weak to prominent threats such as Aegislash, Greninja, Bisharp, and Tyranitar. Furthermore, Knock Off's Base Power was increased from 20 to 65 (97.5 when the opponent is holding an item), making it a very common move in OU; consequently, Jirachi can't check some Pokémon anymore, such as Deoxys-S, Tornadus-T, and Ferrothorn. Finally, with Electric-types being immune to paralysis in XY, Jirachi lost one of its biggest uses on a team: spreading and taking advantage of paralysis with Body Slam and Iron Head. Electric-types such as Rotom-W and Thundurus can now hard check Jirachi and often make it a liability.


Ninetales in BW

If you had played BW OU, chances are you know what Ninetales did. While its middling stat spread and lacking movepool give the impression of a mediocre Pokémon, Ninetales single-handedly supported one of the most powerful playstyles, sun offense. As it was the only Pokémon with access to Drought, Ninetales was mandatory on any sun team. It was often paired with speedy Chlorophyll sweepers such as Venusaur, Victreebel, and Lilligant, as well as powerful Fire-type Pokémon that immensely enjoyed having their Fire-type STAB moves boosted. Victini, Darmanitan, and Chandelure were often seen here, as their powerful moves and high offensive stats allowed them to wallbreak easily. Sun was definitely a popular archetype, being used often in high-level play. Of course, to many, Ninetales was regarded as dead weight—it never really did too much. Defensive sets were the most common, as they enabled Ninetales to support itself and stay alive much easier, which was essential to win the weather war. It had a few supportive moves that it could toy around with too, such as Will-O-Wisp, Toxic, Roar, and Hypnosis. Overall, Ninetales never really stood out on its own, but the support it provided was invaluable; it literally was the centerpiece of viable sun teams.

Ninetales in XY

The decrease in Ninetales's viability was almost entirely due to a mechanic change, rather than a metagame change. When XY came out, we learned that weather-inducing abilities lasted for only five turns, or eight with the respectable weather rock, instead of being permanent. How did this affect the sun playstyle as a whole? First, it means that you can't any longer have sun up for the whole game just by sending Ninetales out against weatherless teams; you had to actually make an effort to preserve Ninetales. Furthermore, against rain and sand teams, trapping their weather inducer with Dugtrio, Wobbuffet, or Gothitelle didn't result in an almost guaranteed win anymore, because you still had to keep Ninetales alive to refresh the weather after eight turns. Moving on, a lot of new threats became major players in XY OU, threats that sun teams just couldn't deal with, namely Talonflame, Mega Charizard X, and a whole bunch of threatening priority users such as Bisharp, Mega Pinsir, Thundurus, and Mega Mawile, which could put a halt to the sun sweepers and threaten the rest of the team significantly with their astounding power. So ultimately, not only did Ninetales's ability to support its team get worse, but the sweeping abilities of the Pokémon that could take advantage of sun also got much worse, to the point where spending one teamslot for Ninetales is not worth it anymore. You could argue that using Mega Charizard Y is acceptable, but because it can not use Heat Rock, the Sun it provides is limited to 5 turns only, which means that Growth sweepers and other Sun Pokémon can't effectively make use of the Sun in the given amount of time. It also meant that another Mega Pokémon, such as Mega Houndoom, couldn't be used.


Jellicent in BW

Jellicent was a premier defensive Pokémon in BW. While at first it seemed to be yet another addition to the arbitrary list of "bulky Water-types," it boasted key advantages over many of the others. Its unique secondary Ghost typing was a huge boon to Jellicent, allowing it to be an excellent spinblocker and check to the supremely common Fighting-types in the tier, most notably Keldeo, which could not even touch Jellicent with its STAB moves and instead had to run a specialized Hidden Power just to muscle past it. Its ability Water Absorb was incredible in a metagame where rain was so prevalent, as the commonly spammed Scalds and Hydro Pumps only benefited it. Its defensive potential was furthered by its expansive supportive movepool, containing gems many Pokémon would die for, such as Recover, Taunt, Will-O-Wisp, and though technically not supportive, the very helpful Scald. Jellicent was also a very effective spinblocker, taking on most common Rapid Spin users with ease. While somewhat niche, Jellicent's access to the rare Water Spout and the prevalence of rain allowed it to pull off a surprisingly effective Choice Specs set, an example of its power being the ability to 2HKO Calm Blissey after Stealth Rock (admittedly ignoring potential recovery from Protect + Leftovers, but the point is to show off its impressive power). Of course, this set was much more inconsistent than the more supportive variants, but at least you couldn't have described Jellicent as a one-trick pony!

Jellicent in XY

As we can see, Jellicent had three main roles in BW OU: spinblocker, stallbreaker, and utility check to a ton of dangerous Pokémon. However, in XY OU, Jellicent lost two of those qualities. With Defog now being an alternative way to get rid of entry hazards and rain teams being way less prominent, Jellicent's viability suffered a lot. Pokémon such as Politoed, Starmie, Jirachi, Lucario, and Toxicroak are not nearly as important as they used to be in BW, so the ability to check them doesn't mean a lot. Furthermore, a lot of the new dominant offensive Pokémon can beat Jellicent, such as Aegislash, Thundurus, Bisharp, Greninja, and Mega Venusaur. Jellicent's role of a bulky Water-type has been largely replaced by Pokémon with other advantages, such as Unaware Quagsire. If this wasn't enough, Knock Off's buff and omnipresence in OU made Jellicent unable to deal with Pokémon it could before, such as Scizor, Landorus, and Conkeldurr. For all of those reasons, Jellicent is almost impossible to justify using in OU.


Celebi in BW

One of the pixies with base 100 stats all around, Celebi was a versatile, proficient threat in BW OU. Boasting resistances to common Fighting- and Ground-type moves, a movepool that stretched across the horizon, and a great ability that made status a non-issue, Celebi definitely had a lot of potential to do a lot of things. One of those things was a specially defensive set that took advantage of Celebi's typing and natural bulk to wall a large number of prominent metagame threats, such as Keldeo, Starmie, and Politoed. It was benefited in this role by its unique supportive movepool, which contained a variety of handy moves including Recover, Thunder Wave, Perish Song, Stealth Rock, and even Baton Pass to evade potential Pursuit users such as Scizor and Tyranitar. Defensive Celebi sets were also commonly paired with defensive Heatran sets, as they had almost flawless defensive synergy with each other. However, Celebi also had the option of taking a more offensive route instead, with a Life Orb to boost its power. Celebi would commonly use Leaf Storm on its offensive sets as a powerful STAB move for the likes of Keldeo, Jellicent, and Politoed. However, offensive sets would still run Recover for more longevity. For even more power, it could opt for a full offensive Nasty Plot set that used coverage options such as Earth Power and Hidden Power Fire alongside a STAB move of choice. It could even Baton Pass the boosts to a teammate! Celebi's versatility and immense utility could not be overlooked, as it had a very important role on BW teams.

Celebi in XY

The two biggest reasons for Celebi's downfall in XY were the introduction of Mega Venusaur and the buff of Knock Off. Mega Venusaur outclasses Celebi for the most part, having similar bulk, five less weaknesses (very few defensive Pokémon with Dark and Ghost weaknesses can survive in OU), superior resistances (basically a very important resistance to Fairy-types), and more firepower on defensive sets. Knock Off prevents Celebi from checking important Pokémon that it could before, such as Deoxys-S, Thundurus, Landorus, and Azumarill. Lastly, the introduction or newfound viability of some Pokémon made the metagame more hostile against Celebi, with some of those being Aegislash, Talonflame, Bisharp, Mega Charizard X, and Mega Charizard Y. Very similarly to Jirachi, there were several typing-related factors that made Celebi not the solid pick it used to be.


Forretress in BW

Forretress was a premier utility Pokémon in BW OU. It was one of few Rapid Spinners in the tier, and it was arguably the best defensive one. However, unlike other Rapid Spinners such as Starmie and Tentacruel, Forretress had access to all three entry hazards: Stealth Rock, Spikes, and Toxic Spikes, allowing it to support its teammates by inflicting passive damage upon their foes. The combination of Rapid Spin and the entry hazards it had access to made Forretress a valuable asset to most balance teams. Forretress's impressive base 140 Defense allowed it to tank most physical hits with ease, and to make it better, its great typing gave it only one weakness and resistances to some of the most common attacking types, most notably Dragon. While it didn't really have a way of stopping spinblockers, it could pivot out of them with a Volt Switch into a Pokémon that directly threatened them, and Forretress could even use Gyro Ball to ward off Pokémon trying to set up on it, which meant its low Speed wasn't as bad as it seemed. Sometimes, Forretress was even used as a lead for offensive teams, as it could use Custap Berry with Sturdy to to almost always set up two layers of entry hazards.

Forretress in XY

Forretress used to be a great utility Pokémon that could compress many roles in one set, allowing for more teambuilding flexibility. Unfortunately, Forretress can't take all those roles at once in XY OU, and at the roles it can fulfill, it is outclassed. With Defog now removing entry hazards and Aegislash being one of the best OU Pokémon, Forretress not only commonly fails to get rid of entry hazards, but faces competition with Pokémon that more often than not do manage to get rid of them, making it outclassed in the anti-hazard support role. Also, Custap Berry has not yet been released in XY, which means that Forretress can't even use its lead set on offensive teams, which basically leaves it only one role to take: dual entry hazards setter for balanced or stall teams. However, Spikes and Toxic Spikes have taken a huge hit in viability because of Defog, resulting to most balanced and defensive teams not using them anymore, as they are usually too much trouble for their worth, leaving Forretress entirely and completely outclassed in OU.


Toxicroak in BW

The third Keldeo check on this list, Toxicroak was a great Pokémon to use on rain teams thanks to Dry Skin, which granted it passive recovery in the rain and a complete immunity to Water-type attacks. However, this wasn't the only reason Toxicroak was commonly seen on rain teams. It also just happened to check or counter many of the Pokémon that other common Pokémon on rain teams struggled with, specifically Ferrothorn and Chansey. Its most common sets were ones that used one of its two (viable) boosting moves to pull off a sweep. The more offensively minded boosting move, Swords Dance, was used on sets with three attacking moves so that Toxicroak would be very threatening almost immediately, with great coverage between Drain Punch, Ice Punch, and the priority Sucker Punch. However, a slower and more defensive approach to sweeping could be pulled off as well with the aid of Bulk Up, which was typically seen on sets with Substitute as protection from status, a bulkier EV spread, and Black Sludge for even more passive recovery. There were a couple of other sets as well, such as a Toxic stalling set quite similar to Tentacruel, and a SubPunch set which hit incredibly hard and took advantage of Dry Skin to heal the health lost from the creation of a Substitute. In fact, Toxicroak was actually quite difficult to wall in the BW OU metagame.

Toxicroak in XY

Without constant rain, Toxicroak has quickly become a thing of the past in XY. Toxicroak can't Toxic stall its checks and counters effectively anymore, and it can't slowly boost with Bulk Up while staying healthy with Dry Skin. Toxicroak is one of those Pokémon that absolutely needs rain to be effective, and with rain being much harder to provide, Toxicroak's viability plummeted, not to mention that getting hard walled by one of the most influential Pokémon in OU, Aegislash, is a recipe for disaster. A lot of Pokémon that relied on weather to succeed in OU have lost their uses, and Toxicroak is one of them.


Thundurus-T in BW

Thundurus-T was BW OU's Electric-type powerhouse, boasting a massive base 145 Special Attack, one of the highest in the game. With rain being the prevalent weather that it was, Thundurus-T had no problem spamming powerful Thunders, sure to dent even Pokémon that resisted it. It was most often seen using a devastating double booster set that had the potential to tear through offensive and stall teams alike. Nasty Plot gave Thundurus-T insane wallbreaking power, while Agility allowed Thundurus-T to outspeed even most users of Choice Scarf. However, running just one of the two boosting moves freed up a moveslot for some extra coverage, which was handy if Thundurus-T's teammates could handle either offensive or stall teams capably. Another role Thundurus-T could play was that of a revenge killer; with a Choice Scarf, it outsped a number of other Choice Scarf users, such as Salamence, and dangerous boosting threats, such as Dragon Dance Dragonite after one boost. Something often overlooked on Thundurus-T was its ability Volt Absorb, which often gave it free switch-ins and a chance to heal off passive damage, which helped mitigate its unfortunate Stealth Rock weakness. Thundurus-T was undeniably a an incredibly powerful choice which really took the metagame by storm.

Thundurus-T in XY

Thundurus-T seems like something that should always be successful, I mean, it is powerful and has a decent Speed tier, while having no immediately noticeable crippling flaws. What changed in XY OU? Thundurus was unbanned. Thundurus completely outclasses Thundurus-T for all intents and purposes, and it is the single biggest reason for Thundurus-T's drop in viability. Thundurus's extra 10 base Speed allows it to outspeed Pokémon such as Garchomp, Latios, Latias, Mega Pinsir, Landorus, Keldeo, and Terrakion, and Thundurus has the huge advantage of being able to cripple most faster Pokémon with its priority Thunder Wave. This makes it an invaluable asset to offensive teams, as it can always sacrifice itself to stop a rampaging sweeper, an amazing feat for teams troubled by, well, anything. Furthermore, Thundurus has access to Defiant, which allows it to be used as a Defog punisher on offensive teams that use dual entry hazards (e.g., Deoxys-D offense), something that Thundurus-T can't do. All in all, nearly anything that Thundurus-T does, Thundurus can do it better.


Tentacruel in BW

Similarly to Forretress, Tentacruel was also a defensive Rapid Spinner in BW, but it performed a vastly different role. For one, for one, superb special bulk (as opposed to physical) allowed it to spin on a different miscellany of Pokémon. Tentacruel also has the ability Rain Dish, and with the added recovery of Black Sludge, it was very hard to wear down, and was the premier Rapid Spinner for rain stall teams. Its typing was also quite beneficial to it, as Tentacruel couldn't be worn down by Toxic and could also remove Toxic Spikes by entering the field. Incidentally, it could also set Toxic Spikes itself, which was very helpful on the aforementioned rain stall teams that Tentacruel fit on so well. It typically used a set of Rapid Spin, Toxic or Toxic Spikes, Scald, and Protect, making it an effective Toxic staller, although it could also burn Pokémon such as Scizor, which is immune to Toxic, with Scald. Sometimes, Tentacruel ran a secondary attack such as Ice Beam or Hidden Power Fire to annoy common switch-ins such as Dragonite and Ferrothorn. Overall, Tentacruel played an important part on rain teams as a defensive Rapid Spinner and Toxic staller, and it was definitely important to have an answer to it.

Tentacruel in XY

Tentacruel's reputation for being impossible to KO thanks to Rain Dish and Protect—and for being a great spinner and staller thanks to the combination of Scald, Substitute, and Toxic—certainly didn't carry on into XY OU. It absolutely needed to take its time to do whatever it wanted to do, be it get rid of entry hazards, check opposing Pokémon, or stall the opponent to death. With that said, it's not hard to understand why Tentacruel is not half as viable as it was before. Rain is no longer permanent, which means that Tentacruel just can't function effectively anymore. On top of this, Tentacruel faces huge competition from Excadrill and Defog users for hazard control, competition that gives it almost zero room to fit on a serious XY OU team.

Honorary Mentions

There are many other Pokémon that are significantly worse in XY OU than they were in BW OU, but not all of them made the cut above, as they either are still viable in the current metagame, or they weren't that good to begin with. Reuniclus was a devastatingly powerful Pokémon in early BW1, but the prevalence of Knock Off and the buff to Ghost- and Dark-types makes it depressingly difficult for it to do its job. Salamence's Dragon Dance sets are outclassed by Mega Charizard X, and its Choice Scarf set isn't good at all thanks to the introduction of Fairy-types. Tornadus-T is a nice utility scout now, especially on rain teams, but it is nowhere near as overpowering as it was in BW. Volcarona suffers from an abundance of Flying-type priority. Dugtrio has no niche as sun teams are non-existent and thus don't need Heatran or Tyranitar trapped. Gastrodon has no permanent rain to counter. Magnezone is less common as DragMag isn't very viable, again thanks to Fairy-types. Niche weather sweepers such as Sawsbuck and Victreebel now have no niche to cling onto.


It's common knowledge that some Pokémon will get better over time and others will inevitably get worse, and while this may be upsetting for some (sentimentally) it is something that is guaranteed to happen. Nevertheless, it is good reflecting back to see why these Pokémon just aren't what they once were.

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