Remembering Our Roots Redux: Where Are They Now (Part 3: DPP)

By Syberia. Art by MiniArchitect.
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Hello Smogonites and welcome back to another edition of Remembering Our Roots. Our journey today starts back in 2007. I was well into my first year of college and had finally met the girl of my dreams, but both of those took a backseat temporarily with the release of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl—don't worry, I graduated eventually and she somehow became my wife! The fourth generation of Pokémon games brought with it two major, and very welcome, changes. First, battles could finally be played online without the use of a simulator thanks to the DS's Wi-Fi connectivity. More importantly, though, moves could now either be physical or special independently of their type, opening the doors to many new and threatening Pokémon and movesets. Here are those that have stood above the rest:


Much ink has been spilled over the years about everyone's favorite land shark, yet I feel any article written about DPP would be incomplete without giving it its fair mention. It was hyped up as soon as its data was discovered within the Japanese release of Diamond and Pearl, and as more and more players acquired the ability to battle over Wi-Fi, and eventual simulator support for the new games was added, it was quickly determined that Garchomp lived up to, and even exceeded, the hype. With the perfect mix of typing, stats, movepool, and the ultimate troll of an ability, Garchomp came to dominate the metagame in a way not seen since Curselax in GSC, with no sign of letting up. Complaints were voiced, arguments ensued, and ultimately the land shark almost single-handedly (or is that clawedly?) brought about a massive shift in Smogon policy and philosophy. Just how does one Pokémon get the power to do all of that?

It starts, simply enough, with a Berry, of the type that grows on trees and grants a resistance to Ice-type attacks. Add one overpowered land shark, stir lightly, and you have the recipe for the first non-legendary Pokémon to be banned from standard play. Perhaps I should back up a bit, though, and start with Garchomp itself. The Pokémon has an Attack stat just shy of 400, along with an offensive STAB combination that was resisted by only two Pokémon at the time, both of which were weak to its Fire-type moves. Its defenses are, on the whole, higher than those of Swampert, and it effectively had only a single weakness to Ice-type attacks (while Garchomp was also weak to Dragon-type moves, the only Dragon-type capable of outspeeding it without a Choice Scarf was another Garchomp). Finally, its base 102 Speed allowed it to get the jump on the vast majority of the metagame.

The only surefire way to knock out Garchomp was with a fast Ice-type attack: Ice Beam from Starmie, Hidden Power Ice from Azelf, Gengar, or Infernape, Ice Punch from Weavile, or Ice Shard from Mamoswine were all common. Defensive Ground-types such as Hippowdon or Gliscor carrying Ice Fang were another option, though less reliable as neither could OHKO and both would lose one-on-one if they switched in as Garchomp used Swords Dance. Thus, the Yache Berry became Garchomp's item of choice. With it, the land shark could survive just about any Ice-type attack aimed at it, knock out the opponent's Garchomp check, and proceed to rip through their team. This meant that a well-prepared team would now have to carry at least two ways of dealing with Garchomp, and even then, as long as Sandstorm was up (and it usually was), Garchomp had slightly more than a one-in-three chance of dodging at least one of the two attacks aimed at it thanks to Sand Veil. In its heyday, it was not uncommon to see teams consisting of Garchomp, a Sandstream user, and four Garchomp counters or checks. The metagame remained centralized around Garchomp until Smogon, in its first-ever public suspect test, gave it the boot from OU.

Garchomp was no stranger to controversy in BW, and experienced an identity crisis that did not end until after the release of the second set of games in the generation. It began its stint in Generation V free from its Uber prison, but that would not last. The landscape from which it came had changed; Bronzong was nowhere to be seen in OU and Skarmory usage was on the decline, which meant running a Fire-type attack in addition to Outrage (or Dragon Claw) and Earthquake was no longer a necessity. This gave Garchomp room in its moveset for Substitute, and allowed it to abuse Sand Veil to the fullest. With Leftovers and the proper EVs, it could make five Substitutes without running out of HP—enough, statistically, for at least one of an opponent's attacks to miss due to Sand Veil. This allowed Garchomp a free Swords Dance, and from there things could quickly get out of hand.

Largely thanks to this strategy, which people perceived as luck-based and uncompetitive, Garchomp was once again banned from OU. This ban would last for more than a year, during which time its hidden ability, Rough Skin, was released. When the ban was revisited, Garchomp was allowed back into OU, but Sand Veil as a whole was banned as part of the Evasion Clause. Its standard Swords Dance set remained powerful, though it was not quite the terrifying monster it once was, since it was easier to outspeed and KO Garchomp this time around, and Yache Berry was no longer the be-all end-all item for Swords Dance sets since the land shark was just as likely to be defeated by a Draco Meteor from Latios and Latias or a rain-boosted Hydro Pump from Keldeo as it was to go down to an Ice-type attack. Of course, Garchomp could benefit from the rain as well, and Aqua Tail made a great addition to its moveset in place of Fire Fang on rain teams to deal with bulky Pokémon such as Gliscor, Hippowdon, and Landorus-T, as well as Air Balloon users like Heatran and Terrakion. When it was not sweeping with Swords Dance, Garchomp could come out of the gates swinging with a Choice Band, revenge kill and potentially sweep late-game with a Choice Scarf, or even get off a surprise Stealth Rock during one of the many switches it was likely to cause.

Garchomp did not change a whole lot between BW and XY, with one notable exception—it has not, and is not likely to ever be, banned this time around! That's not to say it's not still a top-tier threat (it is), just that the overall power level of OU has increased to a point where what was once overwhelmingly considered broken is now considered normal. It was given a Mega Evolution in XY, not that it needed one, and Mega Garchomp may as well be superfluous game data since less than 10% of Garchomp found in competitive play at this time carry the Mega Stone. That is for good reason, though, as Mega Evolution takes away one of Garchomp's greatest assets, its Speed, in exchange for a useless buff to Special Attack, and small increases to its already phenomenal other stats. Most Garchomp these days are content to remain in their normal form, lay Stealth Rock at the beginning of the battle, and remain on call to go on a rampage at a moment's notice with Swords Dance and its two STAB moves, but there is no reason the land shark can't don a Choice Scarf or Choice Band and wreck things for old time's sake. Garchomp was a major threat in the metagame from the day it was released, and though its existence has been riddled with controversy from the get-go, it will likely be a top-tier threat for generations to come, as being voted Uber twice already can attest to.

Rotom Appliances

When Rotom made its first appearance in Diamond and Pearl, attacking unsuspecting passersby from out of the TV in that creepy little shack, it was nothing terribly special. However, when Platinum arrived on the scene, the electrifying ghost gained the ability to take solid form by way of possessing certain appliances: a washing machine, an oven, a lawnmower, a fridge, and a fan. Each forme of Rotom had the same stats—increased defenses and Special Attack over its base forme, at the expense of a small amount of Speed—and carried the same Electric / Ghost typing, but each gained the ability to use one new move specific to the particular appliance it inhabited: Hydro Pump, Overheat, Leaf Storm, Blizzard, and Air Slash, respectively. Of course, many Rotom were used defensively thanks to its unique typing, lack of weaknesses, and solid defensive stats, with a moveset of Thunderbolt, Shadow Ball, Will-O-Wisp, and Pain Split, making the forme chosen nothing more than a matter of aesthetics (I was always partial to the lawnmower, for what it's worth). Not many Pokémon could take Rotom down in two or even three hits without boosting, and the threat of a burn was usually enough to keep them from trying to do so. Rotom's poor HP turned Pain Split into a decent and semi-reliable method of recovery, although the option to run RestTalk was certainly viable as well, giving up either Shadow Ball or Will-O-Wisp in order to do so.

The new attacks, though not particularly useful to defensive Rotom sets, gave it just a big enough movepool to make an offensive set viable. Rotom-W, with its access to Hydro Pump, became the appliance of choice for this role, as it had the ability to power through Pokémon like Hippowdon and Tyranitar that did not take significant damage from its STAB attacks. A Choice Scarf was often used on offensive Rotom, as it made up for its mediocre Speed (one lousy point shy of tying neutral-natured base 100s, even when running a Timid nature) as well as giving it a way to cripple pesky walls such as Blissey by Tricking them. With the excellent neutral coverage provided by all three of its commonly used attacks, Rotom-Wash did not mind being locked into a single attack nearly as much as some other Pokémon, and resistances to Scizor's Bullet Punch and Choice Scarf Jirachi's Iron Head, as well as immunities to Extreme Speed and Mach Punch, meant it was very hard to revenge kill a Scarf Rotom if you had nothing left to wall it.

In BW, the Rotom Formes underwent a significant change, in that their Ghost typing was replaced with a type representative of the appliance Rotom inhabited: Wash, Heat, Mow, Frost, and Fan formes became Electric / Water, Electric / Fire, Electric / Grass, Electric / Ice, and Electric / Flying, respectively. Now that each forme had its own typing, Rotom-Wash quickly surpassed the others as the appliance of choice due to its single weakness to an uncommon type, Grass. In addition to its bulk, Rotom also learned the new move Volt Switch, allowing it to function as an excellent pivot, especially when its combination of Electric- and Water-type attacks was immediately threatening to a large number of Pokémon found on both rain and sandstorm teams. Speaking of weather, Rotom-Wash was a natural fit on rain teams, as it could take advantage of the downpour to fire off 100% accurate Thunders and boosted Hydro Pumps, which now received STAB as well thanks to the type change.

Rotom in XY performs almost exactly the same as it did in BW, except for the fact that rain is much less common now. Its most popular set, a defensive pivot with Volt Switch, Hydro Pump, Will-O-Wisp, and Pain Split, never needed the weather anyway to function well, and serves as an excellent check to powerful threats like Greninja and Azumarill.


Like Garchomp, there was much said about Heatran in the early days of DPP, before competitive play had the chance to take off. Unfortunately, unlike Garchomp, most of it was not good. Heatran was criticized for its typing, which gave it weaknesses to Ground, Fighting, and Water, all of which were common attacking types. It was thought that these crippling weaknesses, along with its relatively low Speed, would make Heatran unviable in competitive play. Oh, how wrong these early critics were!

Despite giving it a few nasty weaknesses, Heatran's Fire / Steel typing meant that it resisted just about everything else. In fact, Rock and Electric were the only types to hit for neutral damage, leaving it with an amazing 12 resistances or immunities. This meant that even with no defensive investment whatsoever, Heatran had a relatively easy time switching in on a wide variety of common Pokémon, and once it was in, it didn't mess around. With a commonly seen Choice Scarf, Heatran had just enough Speed to edge out everything in the OU metagame without a Scarf of their own, and Fire Blasts off of base 130 Special Attack packed quite a punch. Earth Power and Hidden Power Ice were staples on offensive Heatran sets to deal with the few Pokémon not hit hard by Fire Blast, and the latter even allowed Heatran to function as a last-ditch stop to Outraging Dragon-types, which were everywhere in DPP. Explosion in the last slot allowed Heatran to take down Pokémon like Blissey and Vaporeon that it otherwise could not damage significantly, and a Choice Scarf all but guaranteed it would be able to get the move off at some point in the battle.

When Heatran was not kicking ass and taking names, its excellent bulk and typing made defensive and support sets viable as well. Stealth Rock and Will-O-Wisp had a place even on offensive sets if room could be made, as Heatran's typing and threat of immediate, massive damage afforded it plenty of opportunities to set up the former, while the latter allowed it to cripple the few switch-ins it otherwise could not handle, such as Tyranitar, Gyarados, and Snorlax. Lava Plume was a staple on defensive sets instead of Fire Blast, especially when not running Will-O-Wisp, as it dealt reliable damage and made physical attackers think twice about switching in, lest they risk a 30% chance of a burn. Heatran could make use of Roar, particularly on stall teams, to shuffle an opponent's team around and rack up entry hazard damage, but it did not make a reliable phazer in the traditional sense, as most boosting sweepers carried a move capable of OHKOing after, or often even before, a boost. Taunt had situational use, particularly to stop Blissey from coming in and using Wish, Soft-Boiled, Heal Bell, and the like, while a combination of Torment and Protect, particularly when used with Substitute, made a battle against Heatran positively annoying, as most Pokémon only carried one move capable of damaging it significantly, allowing Heatran to force switches and dish out burns from Lava Plume while remaining relatively unscathed in the process.

One would be forgiven for thinking, at least at first, that a Pokémon with huge weaknesses to Water- and Ground-type attacks might have seen little use in BW, in a metagame absolutely dominated by both types thanks to permanent rain and sand. However, just like it did in DPP before, Heatran managed to rise above these obstacles once again to prosper nonetheless. It was a natural fit on sun teams, being a Fire-type that was not weak to Stealth Rock, and when the skies were clear, a STAB Fire Blast or Overheat was all Heatran needed to ruin something's day, even if that something happened to resist Fire. With either a Choice Specs or a well-placed Taunt to prevent it from healing, Heatran in the sun could demolish even Blissey and keep right on rolling. That's not to say Heatran was anything close to dead weight on other types of teams, though. Using it in the rain wasn't the brightest idea, for obvious reasons, but it played well in the sand and enjoyed an immunity from the weather's passive damage.

The new item Air Balloon granted Heatran a temporary immunity from Ground-type attacks until it was hit, allowing it to put a stop to Dragon-types like Garchomp, Salamence, and Dragonite which usually relied on Earthquake to get past it, surviving a resisted Outrage or Dragon Claw and KOing back with Hidden Power Ice. Some Pokémon, like Hippowdon and Gliscor, that carried Earthquake as their only attack went from being able to defeat Heatran handily to being completely walled by it with this one simple item. Of course, Air Balloon was far from the only item Heatran could use effectively. Choice Scarf, and to a lesser degree Choice Specs, were completely viable, though sadly purely offensive Heatran sets lost out on a massive source of damage due to Explosion's power being effectively cut in half starting in BW. While this left it with no way to get past Blissey, Heatran could adapt by carrying Dragon Pulse over Hidden Power Ice for Dragon-types, and using Hidden Power Grass or Electric in its final move slot for Water-types, or by keeping Hidden Power Ice and running Stealth Rock in the last slot, since it was sure to force plenty of switches in order to give itself the free turn necessary to set them up.

With no more permanent weather to potentially hinder it, Heatran emerged onto the scene of OU once more in XY. Its Fire / Steel typing gave it a huge advantage against Fairy-types, particularly Mega Mawile, when it was allowed, and Clefable, as a powerful Flash Cannon was now a viable part of its movepool for the aforementioned Pokémon as well as Azumarill and Tyranitar. Although Heatran lost two of its resistances, to Dark and Ghost, that does not seem to have phazed it much; it remains a powerful threat in the metagame, whether offensive or defensive.


Tyranitar was a good Pokémon in GSC. It was a better Pokémon in RSE. However, DPP was by far its "breakout" generation, thanks to two significant changes in mechanics that were beneficial to it. Most importantly, sandstorm now granted it an instant +1 boost to its Special Defense, and since Tyranitar set up the weather condition automatically whenever it came into battle, that meant its uninvested Special Defense was effectively 354. To put this in perspective, a STAB super effective Surf from Suicune failed to 2HKO Dragon Dance Tyranitar (the least defensive variant), and even has a chance to miss out on a 3HKO if the dinosaur is running Leftovers. A more offensively oriented Pokémon, Starmie, fares better in that it can barely 2HKO, but by that time, Tyranitar had a Dragon Dance under its belt and can dispatch Starmie along with potentially the rest of an opponent's team. If Tyranitar was invested in HP and Special Defense, which was not uncommon, it could even shrug off Surfs and Draco Meteors from Latias.

Besides the boost to its Special Defense, Tyranitar also benefited tremendously from the physical/special split in DPP. It has always been primarily a physical attacker, but one of its STABs, Dark, was purely a specially based type for the previous two generations. It now found itself with a physical Crunch and Pursuit to use with its base 134 Attack. Rock Slide was replaced with Stone Edge, and Tyranitar was just fast enough to make use of the new Choice Scarf. Choice Scarf Tyranitar was an excellent revenge killer, particularly of fast but frail Pokémon like Gengar, Azelf, Starmie, and Latias while it was allowed in OU. It could outspeed all of these Pokémon with a Scarf, and with a bit of prior damage, could KO them with Pursuit whether they switched out or not. By virtue of being a Ghost-type in DPP, Rotom-A could also fall victim to this strategy, although defensive variants required significantly more prior damage to fall into Pursuit's kill range, particularly if they did not switch, and could burn Tyranitar with Will-O-Wisp if it fell short of the KO.

If you consider scarves to be a fashion faux pas, Tyranitar could make use of a Choice Band as well, which made it incredibly difficult to switch into due to the sheer power and excellent coverage of its STAB moves. Beyond Stone Edge and Crunch, though, Tyranitar possessed a huge offensive movepool, both on the physical and special sides. Earthquake and Ice Punch were common on physical sets, particularly in combination with Dragon Dance, as they allowed Tyranitar to power through Steel- and Fighting-types that resisted its STAB moves, as well as bulky Ground-types such as Gliscor, Hippowdon, and defensive Garchomp after a couple of boosts. On the special side, Ice Beam and Fire Blast provided more immediate power than their physical punch counterparts, thanks to their higher Base Power and the generally lower Special Defense of the targets they were designed to hit, allowing Tyranitar to function as an excellent lure. It could bait in troublesome walls such as Skarmory, Forretress, Gliscor, and Hippowdon, especially if it bluffed a Choice item by running Expert Belt, and then dispatch them with the appropriate special attack. This cleared the way for another physical sweeper to clean house once its main counter was gone.

Generation V was a metagame defined by weather, and as one of the primary weather starters in OU, Tyranitar was virtually guaranteed a top spot in the tier. Especially before the release of Politoed and Ninetales's hidden abilities, sand was the dominant weather in OU, with Excadrill sweeping teams left and right and Tyranitar providing the obligatory permanent sandstorm that fueled it. Even after the release of Drizzle Politoed and Drought Ninetales, sand teams remained popular, and Tyranitar had a major advantage over the other Sand Stream user, Hippowdon—it could trap and KO both rival weather starters with Pursuit as they switched out to preserve their ability to change the weather later in the match, ensuring sand would remain in play for the duration of the match. Defensively, it shrugged off anything but Will-O-Wisp from Ninetales, and had the bulk, especially with EVs in HP and/or Special Defense, to take a Surf or Scald from Politoed, especially the defensive variants that became popular in later BW, if it became necessary.

Although Sand Stream, one of Tyranitar's main selling points since RSE, is no longer permanent in XY, that has not been enough to knock Tyranitar off its pedestal as a major threat in the OU metagame. In exchange for losing permanent sand, Tyranitar gained a buff to its Dark-type attacks in that they are no longer resisted by Steel-types, making its Crunch an incredibly hard move to tank effectively. It also received a Mega Evolution, which provided significant boosts to its Attack and both defenses, as well as just enough of a Speed increase so that Mega Tyranitar outpaces the vast majority of the OU tier after a single Dragon Dance. Unfortunately, Mega Tyranitar is also weak to almost all forms of priority—Azumarill's Aqua Jet, Scizor's Bullet Punch, and Conkeldurr and Breloom's Mach Punch—and will rarely pull off a sweep because most teams carry at least one of these moves, and it is not terribly hard to hit Tyranitar hard enough to put it into kill range as it sets up. Like Garchomp, only a small percentage of Tyranitar actually carry the Mega Stone, but again like Garchomp, that is because regular Tyranitar is still an excellent Pokémon in its own right, and there are better options with which to fill a single Mega slot. It can still Dragon Dance effectively without Mega Evolving, can still Pursuit trap and revenge kill a variety of Pokémon (perhaps most importantly, it can take out Latios and Latias before they can Defog), can spam Crunch indiscriminately while holding a Choice Band since so few Pokémon now resist it, can find plenty of opportunities to set up Stealth Rock, and can even still propel Excadrill to a late-game sweep, albeit limited to 5 or 8 turns, just like old times.


If there was ever a Pokémon that deserved the title of "most improved within a single generation," it would be Scizor. With the release of Platinum, a single move—Bullet Punch—propelled the metal bug from relative obscurity to the number one spot on the OU usage stats for the remainder of the generation. Combined with Technician and STAB, Bullet Punch reached 90 Base Power, outdamaging Extreme Speed as the strongest priority move in the game outside of a STAB Sucker Punch. In addition to firing off powerful priority attacks, Scizor took advantage of a STAB U-turn to complete its powerful one-two punch that brought it to greatness. The threat of getting picked off by Bullet Punch caused many foes to switch out in fear, and Scizor could capitalize by U-turning to an appropriate counter, dealing at least a small amount of damage in the process. This was especially important in DPP, where there was no Team Preview, and a surprise Magnezone could end its day at a moment's notice if it switched in on Bullet Punch. In those few situations where U-turning would not produce a desirable outcome, Scizor could catch a fleeing Pokémon with Pursuit, or outright KO an incoming Heatran or Magnezone with Superpower, though both of these options left it more vulnerable to being set up on after it had done its job.

By virtue of its Bug / Steel typing which afforded it only a single weakness, and the natural bulk that seems to go hand in hand with being a Steel-type, getting Scizor into play was a fairly easy proposition. Once it was in, knocking it out became a difficult task for the opponent, since it could simply U-turn out of its counters so easily. Much like Rotom-W once it got Volt Switch, Scizor was an excellent pivot Pokémon that could be used effectively on any type of team, offensive or defensive. It did not mind a Choice Band in the slightest, as it could usually either be found switching out immediately, or cleaning up with Bullet Punch late-game. However, thanks to its powerful priority attack and a defensive typing that forced lots of switches, Scizor could attempt a sweep the old fashioned way with Swords Dance, although it was slow and neither of its STAB attacks had great type coverage.

Like many other Pokémon in this article, Scizor did not change significantly between DPP and BW, but that does not mean it did not remain an excellent Pokémon. Though it had to be wary of boosted Water-type attacks in the rain, it did not have to be as afraid of Hidden Power Fire and non-STAB Flamethrowers during a downpour, and Scizor still remained an excellent revenge killer, especially with Latios and Latias now planted firmly in OU. It could still switch in on any number of Pokémon that could not threaten it significantly and establish momentum with U-turn (which could now even hit an incoming Rotom-W for neutral damage), and its Swords Dance set even gained a small boost in the form of Acrobatics, which was strong enough with a Flying Gem and Technician to allow Scizor to get past Pokémon that would have walled it a generation ago, such as Gyarados, Tentacruel, and Jellicent. Once the Gem was consumed, the move was boosted to 110 Base Power on its own and remained a powerful offensive option for Scizor against foes that resisted its Bug- and Steel-type attacks.

While Scizor remained largely the same between DPP and BW, the same could not be said of the transition between BW and XY. Scizor received several buffs this generation, the most important of which is its Mega Evolution. Mega Scizor enjoys boosted Attack, both defenses, and even a small boost to its Speed which allows it to outspeed Pokémon such as Skarmory with no EV investment, and most defensive variants of Celebi, Jirachi, and Rotom-W if it is running an offensive set with Speed EVs. Scizor also gained a reliable way to damage and severely cripple most would-be counters in the form of Knock Off, dealing damage and removing their Leftovers so they cannot heal and will continue to be worn down. With the boost to Knock Off's power and the fact that it is no longer resisted by Steel-types, Scizor can effectively damage a large portion of the metagame with just it and Bullet Punch, which it struggled to do previously, especially in DPP. Scizor, particularly in its Mega forme, can easily use its bulk to gain a free Swords Dance or two, Roost when necessary on most unboosted attacks, and sweep when the time is right.

If not going for all-out power, Scizor can now function effectively in a support role as well (who would have ever said that when it first broke into OU in DPP?). With the change to Defog, it can clear entry hazards while taking only neutral damage from Stealth Rock, being immune to Toxic Spikes, and having the bulk to find a time to Roost off the damage later. Once it has done that job, it can still fulfill its offensive duties by revenge killing threats with Bullet Punch, spreading general annoyance and crippling Pokémon with Knock Off, or building momentum with U-turn. Much like the other two Mega Evolutions I have discussed so far, Scizor can perform all of its roles in its normal form as well, although it can make much more effective use of the stat boosts given to it, particularly to both of its defenses, than either Tyranitar or Garchomp.


The tale of Azelf, the most powerful of DPP's legendary pixie trio, begins in a cavern rising from the shimmering waters of Lake Valor, where my dear wife struggled in vain to keep it inside her Poké Ball. Break out it did, and repeatedly, while she could do nothing in return, for one more hit would mean its demise, and with it all hope of capturing the legendary Pokémon. She had the Master Ball in her possession, but for reasons unknown, perhaps thoughts of putting it to a grander use, she did not use it. Instead, it defeated her entire team of cute, cuddly (but, sadly, not particularly powerful) Pokémon time after time, but still she persisted. As her confidence began to waver, she reset her game one last time, approached the legendary Pokémon, and pressed A. The screen went black, the battle music began to play, and wait - what's this!? Not a normal Azelf sprite, but one of marvelous, alternate colors. Could it be? It is! A cause worthy of using her Master Ball! She threw it at once, it clicked shut, and much celebration and rejoicing ensued. So ends the story of the coolest shiny Pokémon either of us has ever caught, and before RNG manipulation no less.

Ok, maybe it didn't happen quite so dramatically, but nonetheless, a random shiny Azelf is pretty cool, even if its stats weren't the best.

In the early days of DPP, Azelf quickly became known as a powerful special sweeper, though it would later become so much more. It had fantastic Speed, a large offensive movepool (Psychic, Flamethrower, Thunderbolt, Grass Knot, and Hidden Power, either Ice or Fighting, were all viable options), and Nasty Plot to boost its already high Special Attack even higher. U-turn, much as it did on Scizor, allowed it to scout potential counters while keeping momentum, and Explosion off of its surprisingly high Attack stat would pretty much kill anything that did not resist it, even with no EV investment and a negative nature. These attributes by themselves made Azelf a very good Pokémon, and it's quite possible it would have still made this list even if its journey ended there, but it most certainly did not.

Platinum and its move tutors completely blew the doors off of what was thought Azelf was capable of. The pixie always had an interesting stat distribution, being the proud owner of an amazing (for the time) base 125 Attack stat, and a completely barren physical movepool to make use of it outside of Explosion and U-turn. Platinum's move tutors were an absolute jackpot in this regard. Virtually overnight, Azelf found itself with an actual physical movepool; the elemental punches, along with a STAB Zen Headbutt, were exactly what it needed to become a competent physical, as well as special attacker. The unpredictability of being able to hit effectively with both types of attacks made walling Azelf a very difficult task, and the prevalence of Choice items—Azelf could make great use of all three—along with another new tutor move, Trick, meant that even a perfect counter for whatever variant of Azelf someone happened to be running could find itself with a new fashion accessory at a moment's notice, severely crippling it for the rest of the match. Speaking of Choice items, a Choice Band Azelf's Explosion would OHKO max HP Tyranitar 100% of the time after Stealth Rock, and had a chance to OHKO even without the entry hazards. Now that's power!

You've probably gotten the idea by now that Azelf was great at doing damage, and lots of it. That much is completely true. However, even that does not fully capture what this Pokémon was capable of. During the middle of the DPP era, around the time Garchomp was given the boot, Scizor made its rise to dominance, and Rotom experienced its identity crisis, a playstyle termed "hyper offense" began to emerge. These teams focused around keeping constant offensive pressure on an opponent, overwhelming them with sheer power. It was especially critical for these types of players to take hold of the momentum of a battle from turn one and never relinquish that control. Enter the suicide lead, a type of Pokémon tailored around getting up Stealth Rock, preventing an opponent from doing the same, and causing as much damage as possible before going down. Azelf had just the right attributes to perform this role perfectly: it was faster than all other suicide leads except Aerodactyl, it had access to Taunt and Stealth Rock, and it had a very powerful Explosion to take something down with it once it had done its job. That's not to say Azelf didn't have just as much use on the same type of team as an actual attacker if something else filled the role; it was just that versatile.

Sadly, unlike most of the other Pokémon featured in this article, Azelf's tenure in OU was limited to a single generation. With the Team Preview mechanic that BW introduced, dedicated leads were a thing of the past. As a sweeper, Azelf was passed over in favor of other more powerful or faster Pokémon such as Excadrill, Thundurus, and Tornadus-T (until each of their eventual bans), or Pokémon that benefited from the weather (and were not as prone to being revenge killed by Bullet Punch) such as Starmie or Keldeo. The one asset that would have served to set Azelf apart from the crowd, Explosion, had its damage output cut in half during the generational change, and now failed to OHKO even Pokémon that did not resist it. Azelf remained a competent physical and special attacker in both BW and XY, fulfilling the same roles it did in DPP with the exception of the suicide lead (it could still fulfill this function, but such a set is mostly useless outside of the lead role and running a dedicated lead in BW onward involves a significant opportunity cost over leading with whatever matches up best against a particular opponent), albeit in the UU tier instead of OU as it once did.


If there was ever a situation in which one word perfectly described one Pokémon, that Pokémon would be Breloom, and the word would be "annoying." Much of this annoyance can be attributed to Spore, which allowed Breloom to be a giant pain last generation as well, but its new ability Poison Heal but the icing on the cake. With a Toxic Orb to poison itself, Breloom not only became immune to status, but also healed itself at a rate of 12.5% of its max HP every turn. That is twice the recovery afforded by Leftovers, meaning that it would restore the health lost from making a Substitute in just two turns, and still received the equivalent of Leftovers recovery in a sandstorm. With a 100% accurate sleep move and the threat of an insanely powerful Focus Punch capable of 2HKOing Skarmory, Breloom forced many switches and had plenty of opportunities to create a Substitute, after which it was incredibly hard to take down and induced much grumbling and muttering.

Breloom's ability to raise an opponent's blood pressure was compounded by Leech Seed, which virtually guaranteed that Breloom would heal back everything it lost from making a Substitute in a single turn thanks to its low HP, allowing it to repeat the process indefinitely until its opponent was worn down or switched out. Combined with Stealth Rock and perhaps even Spikes, a SubSeed Breloom could deal significant damage to an opponent's team without even directly attacking, although it could still wreck something with Focus Punch at a moment's notice if given the opportunity.

One might look at Breloom's quite frankly abysmal defensive stats and relatively poor Speed and think that getting such a strategy set up without the mushroom meeting its maker would be a difficult task, but they would be wrong. What it lacked in bulk, it made up for with its excellent typing, affording it resistances to Water, Ground, Rock, Electric, Grass, and Dark, many of which were common offensive types. For instance, it could potentially resist a Choice Band Tyranitar's entire moveset, something no other Pokémon could claim to do. Breloom could also come in on any number of slow walls that could not threaten it back, especially since it could not be hit with status once its Toxic Orb activated. From there, a single use of Spore gave it the free turn necessary to set up Substitute, and from there it was free to simply do its thing.

By "do its thing," I don't just mean SubSeed. Although that is the primary strategy used by Breloom in DPP, because it was just so good at it, Breloom had offensive options as well, thanks to changes in its movepool since RSE. It could now make use of a physical Grass-type STAB move in Seed Bomb, a Rock-type attack not named Hidden Power (for some inexplicable reason, Breloom gets Stone Edge but not Rock Slide), a Superpower that came close to Focus Punch in terms of damage output, and a boosted 140 Base Power Facade thanks to the fact that Breloom would almost always find itself poisoned. Breloom could make effective use of a set with Spore and 3 attacks for more immediate damage than the SubSeeder provided, could make use of a Choice Scarf for a speedy sleep, particularly against an opposing lead Pokémon, or could even attempt to set up with Swords Dance, although its poor Speed meant that more often than not, it would be relying on Mach Punch, which was too weak to attempt a sweep.

That issue would be remedied in generation V, as Breloom received an unexpected gift in the form of its hidden ability, Technician. As Breloom and Scizor share the same base Attack stat, its Mach Punch now equaled the metal bug's Bullet Punch in terms of power, and we all know how strong that is. Sweeping with Breloom was now a viable proposition, as it could virtually guarantee itself a free Swords Dance after using Spore, and could then go to town with Mach Punch so long as an opponent's Fighting resists were weakened or out of the way. With its resistances to Ground-, Rock-, and Water-type attacks, Breloom could still find plenty of opportunities to switch in and set up against rain and sand teams, and with the very frustrating change to sleep mechanics in BW—a Pokémon's sleep counter would reset upon switching out, making "burning" turns of sleep all but impossible—a Pokémon hit by Spore was all but disabled for the remainder of the match unless the opponent carried Heal Bell or Aromatherapy.

Mach Punch was not the only move in Breloom's arsenal that benefited from Technician's power boost. Bullet Seed, by virtue of each individual hit receiving the boost, went from a bad move to Breloom's Grass-type attack of choice, with a minimum of 75 Base Power (only five less than Seed Bomb) with two hits to an astounding 187.5 Base Power (before STAB!) if it hit five times, with the ability to break Substitutes and Focus Sashes as well. Another relatively unknown move, Low Sweep, received a Technician boost to 90 Base Power, as well as lowering an opponent's Speed 100% of the time. With it, Breloom could Spore a Pokémon, use Low Sweep as the opponent switched out, and be guaranteed another hit against all but the fastest Pokémon without having to take a single hit. In the lead role, particularly with a Focus Sash, this meant Breloom could disable one Pokémon with Spore, and usually severely cripple if not KO another while remaining alive (albeit often with 1 HP) to revenge kill something else with Mach Punch later in the match. Poison Heal sets could take advantage of Drain Punch, which had its power boosted to 75 this generation, to keep Breloom alive even longer; ironically, it would have been stronger on Technician sets if its power had remained at 60 as it was in DPP.

Breloom experienced a few small changes in XY, but is largely the same Pokémon it was a generation ago. Thankfully, the sleep mechanics have been changed back to the way they were in DPP, and the counter no longer resets upon switching. Unfortunately for our shroom on steroids, Grass-types and Pokémon with the ability Overcoat are no longer affected by Spore, so Breloom cannot spam its bread-and-butter attack quite as willy-nilly as it used to, and Mega Venusaur and Celebi now counter it completely. Fortunately for the Breloom user, the switch to a Grass-type is so obvious, and the risk to the opponent for getting fancy and not doing it is so high, that an intelligent double switch can usually regain the upper hand.

The other change worth noting in XY is that Low Sweep's power was increased to 65, which unfortunately for a Technician user means that it was actually nerfed. Another move, Rock Tomb, which has the exact same side effect of lowering an opponent's Speed, had its power boosted to 60 and its accuracy increased to 95, making it an exact replacement for Low Sweep on Breloom sets that used it. In fact, it actually works out better, since it gives Breloom a coverage move to hit common switch-ins such as Charizard, Dragonite, Zapdos, Thundurus, Gengar, Latios, and Latias while at the same time allowing Breloom to move first against them next turn.


Gyarados has always been a bit of an enigma. It starts off as what is literally the weakest Pokémon in the game, and turns into one of the strongest in the span of only 20 levels. However, Gyarados has always been missing something to make it truly great. Its stats have always been that of a physical attacker, but its typing and movepool have left it without a physical STAB move outside of Hidden Power Flying. In RBY, since its Special Attack and Special Defense were the same at base 100, it could at least make use of attacks like Blizzard, Surf, and Thunderbolt to allow it to do something offensively, however the split of Special Attack and Special Defense in GSC reduced its damage output with those moves significantly, and it did not gain anything except a weak Hidden Power to make up for it physically. Dragon Dance, introduced in RSE, actually made Hidden Power Flying usable on Gyarados, alongside Earthquake for coverage. Unfortunately, Salamence could usually pull off the same strategy more effectively due to its higher Speed and better coverage moves, namely Rock Slide and Fire Blast.

With the physical/special split of DPP, Gyarados finally had everything it needed to differentiate itself as a physical attacker. It lost Hidden Power, as the move went fully special regardless of type, but gained a powerful STAB Waterfall as well as new coverage moves in Stone Edge, Ice Fang, and Bounce to more than make up for it. Its two main counters from a generation ago, Skarmory and Zapdos, were now beaten handily (the former still required Taunt to prevent phazing and Roosting). Not only did Gyarados now have an actual offensive movepool to sweep with, but its natural bulk, Intimidate, and a type combination with only two weaknesses afforded it ample opportunities to set up Dragon Dances. Taunt even allowed it to set up on defensive Pokémon that would otherwise phaze it away or cripple it with status, and the sea serpent could certainly afford room in its movepool for it since it achieved good coverage with only Waterfall and another offensive move of choice.

Gyarados's typing and stats also gave it defensive utility as well. A bulky set could defeat Garchomp one-on-one, even if the land shark held a Yache Berry, which instantly made it popular in the early metagame. It could switch in on Lucario without fear regardless of which coverage move it was running, and could take on any variant of Infernape without Thunder Punch. While most "defensive" Gyarados sets were still bulky Dragon Dancers, since it lacked reliable recovery, Rest and Sleep Talk could be used with either Roar to rack up entry hazard damage, or Dragon Dance to function much like Suicune did a generation ago, using its bulk to shrug off both physical and special attacks while nabbing boosts as it slept.

Gyarados should have had it made in generation V. It had everything it needed to dominate a metagame defined by weather. It was a boosting Water-type sweeper, and resisted the STAB attacks from all three weather types. Why, then, was its performance simply "meh"—still good enough for OU, but not the dominating force it should have been on paper? Much of that can be attributed to two Pokémon, Rotom-W and Ferrothorn. The former received a type change while the latter was completely new in BW, and both walled Gyarados completely. Its best way to hit each was a neutral 100 Base Power attack without STAB, and one, if not both, of these Pokémon showed up on the vast majority of teams from the era, preventing Gyarados from being able to shine in the way it perhaps otherwise could have, and the way it did in DPP.

As seems to be the trend with Pokémon in this article, Gyarados also received a Mega Evolution in XY. Its already high Attack stat was pushed to base 155, and it received a 30 point boost to both of its defenses. Its typing changed to Water / Dark, a STAB combination resisted by little in OU. Its ability became Mold Breaker, which ensures that Rotom-W is now dealt with by a swift Earthquake. Ferrothorn remains, unfortunately, a quite literal thorn in Gyarados's side, although it at least now takes neutral damage from Crunch thanks to Steel-types losing their resistance to Dark. Now that Mega Salamence has been banned, Mega Gyarados has the ability to shine in OU with its full potential, and it has the distinct advantage of all other Dragon Dancers in that it does not care about Slowbro, be it Mega or regular, thanks to a STAB Crunch and a resistance or immunity to virtually any move it could carry.


Much like Azelf, Infernape was an offensive powerhouse with the ability to hit very hard with both physical and special attacks. Not only that, but as one of a unique few Pokémon with access to both Swords Dance and Nasty Plot, it could boost either of its offensive stats at will and hit hard with a variety of attacks. Aside from its Fire- and Fighting-type STAB moves, which hit the vast majority of the OU tier for neutral damage by themselves, Infernape had just the right moves to dispose of most would-be counters: Grass Knot or Thunder Punch for bulky Water-types, Stone Edge for Salamence, Gyarados, and Dragonite, and even Hidden Power Ice for Dragon-types, all of which could be boosted with the appropriate set up move on the switch. With a Speed stat higher than that of Garchomp and a resistance to Bullet Punch, an Infernape with +2 in either stat proved very difficult to manage despite the primate's frail defenses.

From the beginning of DPP, a mixed Infernape was considered to be a stall team's worst nightmare, and one of the best wallbreakers in the game. With a Nasty Plot under its belt, Infernape could run through almost any defensive core with a combination of Fire Blast, Close Combat, and Grass Knot, and since such teams often lacked a Pokémon to try and stall it out through Life Orb recoil, entry hazards, and residual damage. Infernape could also run a purely physical set, which would never have to rely on an unboosted coverage move to try and kill something, but which was (slightly) more easily walled by Pokémon like Hippowdon and Gliscor. Purely special attacking Infernape sets were rarely seen, due to the fact that it had to rely on an inaccurate Focus Blast as one of its main STAB moves.

Like Azelf, Infernape's stats and movepool allowed it to function well with either a Choice Band or Choice Scarf. If not running a Choice set, a Life Orb and four attacks ensured that Infernape would be walled by almost nothing and allowed it to function as an excellent cleaner once an opponent's team was damaged. Just like Azelf and Scizor, Infernape could also use U-turn to scout for a potential counter and preserve momentum.

Also like Azelf, Infernape also made an excellent lead Pokémon when it was not being used to sweep. With Fake Out, it could break the Focus Sash of an opposing lead while preventing them from moving at the same time. A faster Pokémon was then forced to choose between setting up Stealth Rock or breaking Infernape's Sash with an offensive move, while anything slower could often be finished off with another attack. If given the opportunity, Infernape could also set up Stealth Rock of its own.

There was a small time during the course of DPP when Latias was allowed in OU, and this was the only negative mark on Infernape's otherwise stellar career during the generation. By virtue of resisting both of its STAB moves and outspeeding the monkey, she was the closest thing Infernape had to a real counter, although she could still be played around with smart usage of the move U-turn, or trapped and KOed by Pursuit from Scizor or Tyranitar. Her presence in OU put the brakes on Infernape's usefulness somewhat; thankfully for our flaming primate friend, she did not last long in the tier and Infernape went right back to being its old self when she was gone.

With the transition to BW, Infernape found itself completely outclassed by its fellow Fire / Fighting type Blaziken, as its new ability Speed Boost, combined with higher offensive stats and a 130 Base Power High Jump Kick that easily outdamaged Close Combat, absolutely terrorized the metagame from the moment its hidden ability was released, proving that contrary to everything you probably ever learned in biology class, the chicken is indeed superior to the monkey. Blaziken's reign was short-lived, however, and it soon found itself going the way of Garchomp in DPP, given the boot from standard play. This allowed Infernape to regain some, but not all, of its former glory—it remained a solid anti-lead Pokémon and a very threatening attacker on sun teams, but aside from that, its greatest asset from a generation ago, its Speed, no longer seemed quite so special in a metagame filled with Latios, Latias, Thundurus, and Tornadus, as well as a plethora of Water-types around every corner. The same can be said of XY, where Infernape currently sits in UU, and Greninja and a horde of new Mega Evolutions can be added to the list of Pokémon that now outspeed it and can knock it out easily due to its frailty.


Last but not least, Lucario rounds out this list of the best of the best that DPP had to offer. While Infernape relied somewhat on Speed and coverage to sweep an opponent, Lucario was the embodiment of raw power. As a point of reference, after a Swords Dance (which was relatively easy to obtain, as despite Lucario's poor defenses, its typing gave it an amazing 10 resistances), a Life Orb Close Combat did a minimum of 81% to a physically defensive Hippowdon, and had a small chance to OHKO after Stealth Rock damage. Skarmory fared even worse, taking a minimum of 84%, and was almost guaranteed to be OHKOed after switching into rocks. Those are two of the most physically bulky Pokémon in OU, taken down by a single attack that they are not even weak to. Swampert faced an almost guaranteed OHKO, Vaporeon was straight-up destroyed, and even the mighty Suicune took a minimum of 80%. Lucario's secondary attack was usually either Crunch or Ice Punch; the former took care of Slowbro and Rotom-A, the latter dealt with Gliscor, Zapdos, and Salamence, and both hit for super effective damage against a most unfortunate Celebi.

While mowing through defensive cores was considered to be Lucario's specialty, it pulled its weight against speedy offensive teams as well. Its resistances to common attacks such as Scizor's Bullet Punch and Tyranitar's Crunch or Stone Edge, along with the threat of an unboosted Close Combat which was often enough to force a switch, gave it plenty of time to set up a Swords Dance, and from there it could pick off faster foes with Extreme Speed, although this was best accomplished in the late-game, when they had already accumulated damage. Lucario was also capable of running a special set with Nasty Plot and Aura Sphere, but while it had surprise value, there was little reason to actually run such a set, since Extreme Speed was more powerful than even a STAB Vacuum Wave as a sweeping move, and a +2 Close Combat already dealt significant damage to even physically defensive foes.

Lucario did not change at all between DPP and BW, although that did not matter in the slightest as its signature Swords Dance set remained quite the threat in OU, considering that what had once been one of its major stops, the various Rotom formes, were now destroyed by Close Combat, and the presence of Ferrothorn and weather starters that an opponent needed to keep alive in the face of a Close Combat provided setup opportunities.

Lucario did, however, undergo a major change in XY. It is the fifth and final Pokémon on this list to receive a Mega Evolution, and this one definitely did not disappoint. As if Lucario really needed any more power, its Attack and Special Attack stats were boosted to base 145 and 140, respectively, and its new ability Adaptability raised the power of its Fighting- and Steel-type attacks even higher. Mega Lucario could now viably run both special and physical sets, as the power loss from choosing Aura Sphere over Close Combat was not as significant when both moves were boosted by Adaptability, and Vacuum Wave and Extreme Speed now had the same Base Power after factoring in all boosts.

It was not only Lucario's power that increased during Mega Evolution, but its Speed received a huge increase as well, going from a middling base 90 to an impressive base 112, hitting a maximum stat of 355. This was enough to put it ahead of Gengar, Latios, Latias, Thundurus, and Garchomp, all of which could outspeed its base forme, take a +2 Extreme Speed, and KO Lucario with the appropriate move. In addition, Extreme Speed's priority was raised from +1 to +2, allowing Lucario to go before virtually any other priority move, including Talonflame's Brave Bird and Thundurus's Thunder Wave, and both of those Pokémon were OHKOed by it after Stealth Rock or a small amount of prior damage.

The results were frightening, and Mega Lucario found itself sweeping through large portions of the early XY metagame with little resistance. Evoking memories of DPP Salamence, it could run so many potential sets that the only way to defeat it often involved sacrificing at least one Pokémon to find out what it was carrying, and then hoping to have an appropriate check after that. Mega Venusaur and Unaware Clefable could beat variants without a Steel-type attack, Zapdos defeated sets without Ice Punch, Assault Vest Conkeldurr stood up to special attacking sets, and Aegislash and Slowbro could beat sets without Shadow Ball or Crunch, but there was no way to know what exactly Mega Lucario was running without potentially losing a Pokémon to the wrong choice. This is where the Salamence comparisons end, though, as Mega Lucario set itself apart by the fact that it took virtually no damage from Stealth Rock and could not be worn down that way, nor did it care about most forms of priority since it could smack the user first with Extreme Speed.

Just like Salamence in DPP, Mega Lucario was banned to Ubers. Lucario is currently UU, although it is a potent (and underrated) threat in OU as well, especially because it does not have to fear Brave Birds from Talonflame, Thunder Waves from Thundurus, and Fake Outs from Mega Lopunny.

This concludes part three of this series, and wraps up what was my second favorite generation behind XY. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and stay tuned for the conclusion in the coming issues of The Smog!

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