Leads in RBY

By Piexplode. Art by Bummer.
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For those unfamiliar with the metagame, RBY OU has a very defined lead metagame. Like in every generation up to BW, there's no Team Preview, so you have to choose a lead without knowing anything about your opponent's team. Of all the other generations, DPP places the most importance on leads due to the huge advantage gained by, for example, setting up Stealth Rock as early as possible. RBY not only doesn't have Stealth Rock but also has no hazards whatsoever! So, you might be wondering, why do I say that its lead metagame is so defined?

This is because the sleep mechanics in RBY are somewhat different. Firstly, there's no Sleep Talk, so whatever that's put to sleep is useless until it wakes up. Secondly, Pokémon cannot move on the turn they wake up. And thirdly, sleep lasts from 0 to 6 turns, and since it is generally more likely that a sleeping Pokémon will wake up later on, it is rare for a Pokémon to wake up in any reasonable timeframe, and it will usually be KOed before it can do so. Furthermore, because much of the early-game involves spreading status through Thunder Waves, Body Slams, and Stun Spores, it's often best to put something to sleep before you start to spread paralysis becaus paralyzed Pokémon cannot be put to sleep. All in all, this means that if your lead can put the opposing one to sleep, you'll be a Pokémon up over your opponent. Now that we've looked at why your choice of lead matters, let's look at what the best options are!

The Leads



- Lovely Kiss
- Psychic
- Blizzard
- Body Slam / Rest / Counter / Mimic

Jynx is one of RBY's premier leads, as it has a lot of great traits that make it consistently threatening to any team. It has the 75% accurate Lovely Kiss, and only Gengar outspeeds it and carries a sleep move, making it a very reliable lead. Jynx can KO Gengar leads with Psychic if Gengar's Hypnosis misses and Jynx scores a critical hit, which happens roughly 10% of the time. This percentage is so high because in RBY, critical hits are based on Speed, so Jynx has a critical hit rate of roughly one in five. Blizzard is chosen over Ice Beam because it has 90% accuracy in this generation. Not only is Jynx a great sleep user, but it's also a fantastic absorber of sleep. Its resistances to Psychic and Ice, very common attacking types, combined with its high Special let it have a better chance than most Pokémon to survive until it wakes up.

The final things that make Jynx a great lead are its high Special and critical hit rate, which mean that once it has put an opposing Pokémon to sleep, no Pokémon can come in completely comfortably (apart from other Jynx, but it's very rare to see it used outside of the lead position). While Chansey, Starmie, and Slowbro all have high Special and aren't too worried by Jynx's onslaught, the threat of freezes from Blizzard or critical hits forcing them to recover more makes them less than a safe switch-in every time. The other common Ice-types, Lapras, Articuno, and Cloyster, all dislike taking its powerful Psychic attack, but at least they cannot be frozen.

Jynx's last moveslot is a filler move, not doing anything particularly important. I've listed a few of the options here, but the rest are unimportant.



- Hypnosis
- Explosion
- Night Shade / Mega Drain
- Thunderbolt

Gengar is an interesting lead in RBY: it's inconsistent and risky to use, but it can potentially be very rewarding. It is the fastest Pokémon with a sleep move, but Hypnosis's 60% accuracy is notoriously unreliable. Furthermore, it has access to the powerful move Explosion, which has an effective Base Power of 340, making it a strong attack even on a Pokémon with low Attack such as Gengar. Gengar can also absorb Explosion, as it has a handy Normal-type immunity. The frequency of Normal-type attacks in the tier makes Gengar one of the more useful Pokémon to absorb sleep too. Thunderbolt allows it to threaten Starmie leads: a critical hit Psychic from Starmie can KO it, but a critical hit Thunderbolt can KO Starmie. Though Gengar won't often stay in versus Starmie, it puts Starmie in a risky position at the start of the match.

However, not all is peachy for RBY's only fully evolved Ghost-type, as its secondary Poison typing leaves it with horrible Ground and Psychic weaknesses, and it lacks any good special STAB moves to make use of its good Special stat, so it has to rely on Night Shade to damage its best answer, Exeggutor.



- Psychic
- Recover
- Thunder Wave
- Seismic Toss

Alakazam is often touted as the best absorber of sleep in the game due to its high Special and great typing, and it's the best lead for safely spreading paralysis. Furthermore, it has the safest matchup versus Gengar of any Pokémon, as Gengar must switch out most of the time for fear of being KOed by a critical hit Psychic. Though Alakazam is powerless to stop Exeggutor (leading or after a Gengar switch) from putting it to sleep, Exeggutor getting paralyzed early on can be costly. Seismic Toss gives Alakazam an advantage when it's facing other Psychic-types.

All in all, Alakazam is a consistent lead that allows you to spread paralysis early on. Its main issues are that you may not want to spread paralysis before putting something to sleep, and that you risk paralyzing Chansey if your opponent predicts correctly. It is sometimes undesirable to paralyze Chansey because then it is invulnerable to being frozen by another Pokemon. Paralyzing Chansey can be advantageous, but it forces you to play more aggressively.



- Psychic
- Recover
- Thunder Wave
- Blizzard

Starmie is a very similar lead to Alakazam, but there are subtle reasons to use it instead. Its secondary Water typing is the most obvious difference; it means a weakness to Thunderbolt (from Gengar in the lead spot and Chansey at other points in the game) and Mega Drain (from Exeggutor; it's a weak attack, doing around 30-40%, but this matters if Starmie's asleep or paralyzed), but it also gives Starmie a key resistance to Ice. However, the real reason to run it over Alakazam is its movepool. Blizzard is a fantastic tool that gives it a much better matchup versus Exeggutor and a reasonable matchup versus Alakazam. Ice / Psychic is a great coverage combination in RBY. Thunder Wave, while useful for spreading paralysis early-game, is also very useful for allowing Starmie to guarantee crippling Tauros if it's unparalyzed late-game. Starmie's other options include Thunderbolt, which is primarily for Slowbro and other Starmie, only the latter of which is relevant if you're using this set as a lead, as well as hitting Jynx neutrally; meanwhile, Surf, Hydro Pump, and Hyper Beam, all very rare moves to see on Starmie, allow it to hit Jynx and Alakazam much harder.

Basically, Starmie offers versatility and a greater amount of unpredictability in the lead position, having the ability to absorb sleep fairly well, a more expansive movepool, and an Ice resistance to give reasons to use it over Alakazam. Starmie is currently the most popular lead in the metagame, so while its advantages might seem small, it is clear that they're key in the metagame.



- Sleep Powder
- Psychic
- Stun Spore / Mega Drain
- Explosion

This is the most common variant of Exeggutor, which rarely finds its way into the lead spot because of its horrible matchups with every lead not named Alakazam. Jynx is its worst matchup, as Jynx has a pretty high chance to OHKO it with a critical hit Blizzard, and Exeggutor is less useful at walling Gengar when it's asleep, especially as they tend to run Night Shade. Opposing Starmie leads guarantee Exeggutor will take a large chunk of damage or be paralyzed before it can put Starmie to sleep, but Alakazam can do little more than paralyze it. Stun Spore means that Exeggutor can paralyze whatever switches in if it can put the opposing lead to sleep, while Mega Drain helps with Rhydon, Golem, and most importantly Starmie, particularly after it's been put to sleep. Rest is also an option in order to heal damage and paralysis, but it's quite a rare set. Exeggutor is definitely a worse lead than the other four, with a lot of costs to it, but it should still be considered for use and prepared for.

Honorable Mentions

There are other options for leads, although the ones listed above are the only ones you should expect to see in serious games. Jolteon is probably the best alternative lead, as it is very threatening to standard Starmie and can run Pin Missile for Exeggutor, so it can guarantee getting damage off against most leads. Versus Alakazam leads or any lead that then switches into Rhydon or Golem, you can switch in Exeggutor for little cost and induce sleep early on in the game. The main issues with Jolteon are its poor matchups with Jynx and Gengar and its poor bulk, which makes it a terrible Pokémon to absorb sleep or even paralysis; however, with Starmie recently being the most popular lead Pokémon, it's not a terrible choice.

Dodrio and Dugtrio get mentions for being threatening leads, but both have few good matchups with the above leads; Dodrio can threaten Jynx with an OHKO from Hyper Beam over half the time and can always 2HKO Exeggutor with Drill Peck, but it is easily stopped by Golem and Rhydon and has poor matchups with other leads. Meanwhile, Dugtrio is very threatening to Gengar and outspeeds all other common leads (bar Jolteon, which it doesn't mind whatsoever), even threatening a 2HKO versus Alakazam. However, Dugtrio is threatened by Blizzard from Jynx and Starmie, both of which Earthquake can only 2HKO, and completely walled by Exeggutor. Hypno is a poor man's Alakazam that also has access to Hypnosis; its main selling points over Jynx, Starmie, and Alakazam are its superior physical bulk and access to Counter. Although it handily outspeeds Exeggutor, Hypno is generally an inferior Pokémon due to its lack of Recover and mediocre HP and Speed, the predictability of Counter, and the inaccuracy of Hypnosis, but it doesn't merit being totally discounted either. Fun gimmicks such as Sing Chansey could be used too, but I'd use one of the Pokémon from the first section when battling seriously.

I hope you've enjoyed learning about lead Pokémon in RBY OU; it's a part of the metagame where you can really see how players differ and how your choices affect the way the game plays out.

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