RU Suspect Coverage: Stage 6

By galbia. Art by brightobject.
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With ORAS introducing several new and potent additions to the game, ranging from Pokémon moves to threatening Mega Evolutions, many tiers were forced to adapt promptly to maintain a level of balance. Needless to say, lower tiers were perhaps the most significantly impacted by these changes, as numerous Pokémon that were previously mediocre, or even unusable in certain cases, now rose as hugely threatening powerhouses. Many of these Pokémon were quickly banished, especially as SPL was approaching, and Altaria, Gallade, and Lopunny, perhaps the most egregiously threatening of the newly available Megas, were quick banned from RarelyUsed (either by the RU council itself or by extension of a UU ban) while Beedrill, Houndoomite, and Sharpedo were evicted through a combination of quick ban and high usage in UU. After these threats were removed from the tier, RU approached some level of stability to the point that the community was able to steadily respond to the "lesser evils" of the tier, beginning with the stage 6 suspect test.

The Suspects



Before ORAS, Dragalge had limited usage, sporting reasonable bulk and a rather useful defensive typing that allowed it to check Moltres, one of the strongest Pokémon in the tier, but was held back somewhat by its lack of reliable recovery and mediocre power. This issue was remedied with the ORAS release, which provided access to its hidden ability Adaptability. This ability greatly improved Dragalge by doubling the power of its STAB attacks and giving new life to its offensive sets, as Dragalge could take advantage of its newfound power with the number of switch-in opportunities its typing provided. A Choice Specs and Adaptability-boosted Draco Meteor is not the type of attack a Pokémon without very significant defensive investment and a resistance (or immunity) can shrug off, and access to secondary Poison-type STAB and coverage from either Focus Blast or Hidden Power Fire allowed Dragalge to threaten almost anything upon switching in. Even its defensive sets were improved, as they could more adequately pressure Defog users from attempting to remove its Toxic Spikes, which were becoming a very dangerous hazard that was kept in check largely by opposing Dragalge. Despite Dragalge's lack of reliable recovery, its synergy with almost all of the prominent Wish users in the tier, including Alomomola, Aromatisse, and Audino, allowed it to effectively play a long-term role in a game either as an offensive or defensive threat.



Another Pokémon whose hidden ability pushed it over the top was Serperior, which received its hidden ability, Contrary, shortly after the ORAS release. This, alongside an already fairly powerful STAB Leaf Storm, gave Serperior dangerous wallbreaking and sweeping capabilities, allowing it to accumulate Special Attack boosts by throwing around its most powerful attack at next to no cost. While it was much more straightforward as a Pokémon when compared with the other two suspects, Serperior had all of the tools it needed to succeed, including relevant coverage in Dragon Pulse and Hidden Power, as well as utility options to break through many of its checks and counters. Knock Off Serperior could push through not only defensive checks such as Bronzong and specially defensive Golbat on its second go-around, but also offensive checks such as Choice Scarf Moltres, while SubSeed variants could bear down hard on more defensive checks while increasing Serperior's longevity in turn. Serperior's naturally high base Speed also set it above the majority of the unboosted metagame, making it that much more threatening to offensive teams once they had lost their Choice Scarf users. Reasonable 75 / 95 / 95 bulk further allowed Serperior to match up well against most offensive teams, making it resilient enough to stomach most relevant priority as well as the occasional attack from certain faster Pokémon, such as Dugtrio and Mega Sceptile.



Mega Pidgeot's potential was rather unexplored in the earliest stages of ORAS RU due to the relative usefulness of other Megas, but with these Pokémon removed from the tier, Mega Pidgeot's full worth began to be realized. While Pidgeot's Mega Evolution didn't introduce anything of relevance to its movepool, it provided Pidgeot with significant boosts to its ability and base stats. No Guard is a very effective ability, especially on a Pokémon sporting STAB Hurricane, which a very powerful and spammable attack with a high confusion rate to boot. Furthermore, this ability heightened the reliability of Heat Wave as a coverage move, which allowed Pidgeot to 3HKO specially defensive Steel-types such as Registeel and Bronzong (outside of the weird Heatproof variants), letting it get around standard Flying-type resistances just like fellow RU bird Moltres. This shift to special attacks (as Pidgeot was, in spite of its limited competitive application prior to receiving a Mega Evolution, a more physically inclined Pokémon) is highlighted by Mega Pidgeot's base stats; in addition to a significant boost in Speed from base 101 to base 121, its base Special Attack skyrockets from a paltry base 70 all the way to base 135, marking it as one of the hardest-hitting special attackers in the tier, especially considering the high Base Power of its moves. Mega Pidgeot's Speed stat was also remarkably high and allowed it to outspeed many relevant Pokémon, including Cobalion, Virizion, Durant, Serperior, Whimsicott, and Sceptile (prior to Mega Evolution), making Pidgeot that much more difficult to handle without a strong Choice Scarf user, such as Jolteon, or even an Ice Shard user such as Mega Abomasnow or Mega Glalie. Generally, players capitalized on Pidgeot's newfound potential in one of two ways: either an all-out attacker set consisting of Hurricane, Heat Wave, Roost, and U-turn or Hidden Power Grass, or a more specialized mono-attacking set with Work Up. In practice, the all-out attacker set was the one more commonly observed on the ladder due to its broader application and relative ease of use. However, as many veteran players noted at the time, the mono-attacking variant was also very threatening and arguably more devastating of a presence than the all-out attacker set, as its ability to power through almost any specially defensive Pokémon, including Alomomola, Cresselia, and Aromatisse, hindered defensive teams lacking either Rhyperior, Assault Vest Eelektross, or a more niche answer, such as Probopass or Stunfisk, and greatly hampered the viability of stall.

Metagame Trends

The main influence these Pokémon had in the metagame was promoting balanced teams, which could have consistent matchups against all of these threats. Offensive playstyles were restricted by the fact that a Pokémon such as Dragalge was so hard to take down, even after sacrificing a team member due to its outstanding typing and bulk that let it match up well against a myriad of offensive Pokémon; likewise, Pidgeot and Serperior were very hard to revenge kill without using niche or subpar Pokémon. Purely defensive or stall teams also struggled due to the huge number of heavy hitters present in the tier, which, coupled with the presence of Work Up Pidgeot, Choice Specs Dragalge, and other Pokémon, such as Pangoro, were too much for the metagame to handle.

A Pokémon that was especially effective in the RU metagame at this stage, aside from the suspects at hand, was Bronzong. Although it was certainly not a Pokémon that saw much usage prior to this point, Bronzong's unique set of traits gave it substantial value on teams of almost any playstyle, despite being regarded as "too passive" by many. As a specially bulky Steel-type with a Fighting (i.e. Focus Blast) neutrality, Bronzong checked not only all of the suspects to some extent (it could also choose to use Heatproof to handle Pidgeot better, although it was an inferior option in most instances), but also other relevant Pokémon, such as Mega Sceptile, making it a useful option on almost any team. Its ability to avoid both Spikes damage and trapping attempts from Dugtrio (which is effective against other Steel-types in the tier, such as Registeel) and Swords Dance Sceptile furthered its resilience; the only thing Bronzong was susceptible to was Pursuit trapping from the likes of Spiritomb and Escavalier, which, while definitely less common at the time compared with now, had a place in some offensive cores.

However, Bronzong, just like the other specially defensive Steel-types in the tier, suffered from a lack of reliable recovery; as a result, offensive teams that centered on multiple Pokémon walled by a specially defensive Steel-type became quite common. Pokémon such as Meloetta, Exploud, Mega Pidgeot, Serperior, and Dragalge were the main offenders, as they could significantly trouble their checks through the use of coverage moves or moves with crippling side effects, such as Trick and Knock Off, though Pokémon such as Mega Glalie and Durant also had their place. The pressure they put on their traditional checks forced defensive teams to diversify their answers to said threats, leading to an increase in the usage of Pokémon such as Assault Vest Eelektross, specially defensive Golbat, and specially defensive Alomomola, which had synergy with specially defensive Steel-types and could provide Wish support. This stage of the metagame was also important in popularizing Swords Dance Abomasnow as the main Abomasnow set, as players recognized its revenge killing capabilities as well as the number of setup opportunities it could create thanks to its bulk. It is noteworthy that all of the suspected Pokémon were particularly vulnerable to Abomasnow because of their weakness to Ice Shard.


On February 2nd, the verdict was out, and all three of the suspected Pokémon were banned with a supermajority of over 75 percent. This was generally considered appropriate by most veteran and tournament players who had shown their aversion to all of the suspected Pokémon and chose to not use them in their SPL games even before the ban.

With the removal of all three threats, the RU metagame finally balanced itself a bit, which benefited both offensive teams, which were no longer concerned with dealing with such fast powerhouses, and defensive teams, which didn't have to carefully play around these incredibly strong wallbreakers that were so easy to bring in, especially in Dragalge's case. The end of the suspect test also coincided with February's tier shift, which drastically changed the face of the tier, with Pokémon such as Gligar and Sceptile rising to UU and Medicham re-entering the tier after being forcibly dropped down. Sheer Force Feraligatr had also been released by Nintendo and started to shape the ORAS RU metagame going into stage 7.

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