How RBY has changed

By Disaster Area. Art by Bummer.
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Only a few months ago, Crystal_ made some startling revelations about the mechanics of the first generation. These previously unnoticed mechanics are incredibly significant, changing the way the game has been played since the beginning of competitive Pokémon! This article, written a few months after these initial discoveries, tries to understand how the metagame has changed. The most important mechanical change is that Body Slam cannot paralyze Normal-types. This is part of a general rule that a move's added effect does not affect Pokémon of the same type. For example, Blizzard can't freeze Ice-types. This goes for every status except poison. There are two other slightly less major discoveries; one is too complex for me to explain here, but it's detailed in the link at the bottom** — all you need to know in the context of this article is that it is effectively a buff to Slowbro. The other discovery is that we now fully understand Counter's mechanics. The way it works is that it deals back double the amount of damage currently stored on the damage address, as long as the foe's last move was a Normal- or Fighting-type attack other than Counter. Note that when your foe spends turns asleep, switching, frozen, or fully paralyzed, the damage address does not reset. It will reset successfully when any move that is not a Normal- or Fighting-type attack is used.

The extent of the change in the metagame varies by metatope (*see definition at bottom), so if you ask two different experienced players about how great the change is, their opinions will differ (often greatly!). This article will be written fairly objectively, but also somewhat in accordance to my own metatope.

The Rock-types

RBY Golem RBY Rhydon

The reduced access to paralysis support hinders them a lot, but perhaps a greater hindrance is their even poorer matchup versus Tauros. When either of them absorbs a Hyper Beam, they cannot do much back. Before the mechanical discovery, they could use Body Slam to aim for that 30% chance to paralyze it. Now, Golem may have to use Explosion, as otherwise the most damage they can do to Tauros is about 40% with Earthquake (disregarding the fairly low chance that they score a critical hit), leaving Tauros free to attack again, a little weakened but still massively threatening.

Secondly, a very standard play amongst top players was to use Body Slam once they have momentum with Rhydon or Golem (for example, against a paralyzed Chansey without a Reflect up) in order to catch the incoming Exeggutor (or occasionally Starmie). Now, they are in somewhat of a quandary, as Exeggutor and Starmie are preferred partners for Tauros; Body Slam is by far the best option against these two, but Tauros takes a measly 20% from it, meaning it can still sometimes take an opposing Tauros's Body Slam + Hyper Beam. Rhydon is in a worse position because it does not learn Explosion (which, of course, isn't necessary to be an answer to Jolteon or Zapdos). Your opponent has now successfully switched in a fairly threatening Pokémon in. Tauros may use Blizzard, but it could alternatively use Body Slam if your opponent predicts you to switch. If Rhydon or Golem instead goes for Earthquake, Exeggutor takes the damage easily, Starmie takes less than 50% and can Recover or OHKO back, and Tauros is still out of the KO range of an opposing Tauros's Hyper Beam after taking the Earthquake. Rock Slide has a greater chance of missing and is much weaker versus every target other than Exeggutor (which you would rather try to paralyze with the Rock-types). The end result is that the Rock-types' damage output is pretty low for how often they can get in, and they often risk letting in the most threatening Pokémon in the metagame in for a low cost, while sacrificing momentum in general to other threatening Pokémon, like Exeggutor and Starmie, putting your team in a bad situation.

This fairly complex scenario explains, at least in part, why the Rock-types have gotten worse in the "new meta." Combined with much more limited and less effective paralysis support, Rock-types have fewer opportunities in general to come in and are less effective at hurting the opposing team when they are in. Even if the Rock-types come in against a team with one, or even two (which is less seen as a gimmick now), Electric-types, the opportunities for them to come in are still scarce. The damage they can deal in return is clearly very limited and inconsistent, whilst the Electric-types have a greater opportunity to wear them down. If Jolteon (the more commonly seen Electric-type early-game) uses Double Kick and lands a critical hit as a Rock-type switches in, it deals around about 30% damage, wearing them down more effectively. Still, greater damage is done by bringing in Tauros to wreak havoc.

The Electric-types

RBY Jolteon RBY Zapdos

Having just read that somewhat in-depth discussion of why Rock-types are poorer than they were previously, the discussion of how it has impacted the Pokémon whose main answer has been the now less-effective Rock-types should have at least a small element of predictability to it. The Rock-types are much less effective, even when given an additional free turn or two by Jolteon and Zapdos, and thus the effect of the Rock-types hardly hinders their ability to function whatsoever. Whilst this opinion is shared by some, but not all, of the current "best" RBY players (obviously a subjective description), Jolteon has seen a rise to fame. The reduction in paralysis support has massively increased favor of naturally fast Pokémon.

As a lead, Jolteon matches up better against Jynx than Alakazam does, as well as the now-unseen Exeggutor lead. Jolteon forces out Starmie, and Gengar hates both Jolteon and Alakazam. Jolteon's only matchup where it is worse off than Alakazam (out of the conventional leads) is against Alakazam, where it can still achieve the first paralysis. On the other hand, switching to Chansey, Exeggutor, or Alakazam (depending on what's on the team, but at least one, if not more of these, will be a partner) allows it to exchange Alakazam's paralysis for either sleep or paralysis in return, although Jolteon is at a disadvantage through its lack of recovery. Nevertheless, it's a fairly small disadvantage, and greater ones are won or lost throughout the course of a match. Gengar's position as a lead is more fully evaluated further on.

Zapdos's overall improvement is mostly as a direct result of it requiring minimal paralysis support, reduced usage of Rock-types, and its capacity to paralyze and incapacitate opposing Tauros. Both Zapdos's Drill Peck and Jolteon's Double Kick pressure Chansey sufficiently that if it gets even a little unlucky it can no longer prevent these threats from overwhelming it.

As an addendum, Raichu has gotten worse because Jolteon outclasses it in nearly every way and outspeeds Tauros and Starmie. Its ability to not be walled by Rock-types is suddenly a lot less valuable, even though it has a positive matchup against Zapdos.


RBY Gengar

Gengar is somewhat inconsistent. It only has about 78% chance to put opposing Jynx to sleep, neglecting the chance of Jynx waking up as soon as it's put to sleep (zero turn sleep) or successfully putting Jynx to sleep (the lead it's supposed to beat) if Jynx uses Psychic. This reduces to about a 63% chance if Jynx goes for Lovely Kiss. Jolteon and Alakazam at least achieve more consistent and reliable outcomes. Another strategy employable with a Gengar lead is using Explode on the first turn and then following up with your own Jynx. However, Gengar's Explosion is not even guaranteed to OHKO Jynx, while you're using two frail and fairly useless Pokémon as a part of your team, which is fairly restrictive and not the plan most of the time when using Gengar. Any lead other than Jynx foils the plan, leaving you with two frail and fairly mediocre Pokémon on your team instead of a 5-4 advantage.

Overall, the increased presence of Jolteon leads, the fact that Gengar still has quite high odds to lose its best lead matchup, as well as its exploitable weaknesses and dreadful Speed tie with Tauros, mean that it's just a poorer choice in the metagame. At least Jynx leads are still good (I'll discuss more on that later), so Gengar has a decent shot of getting a winnable matchup. The only other draw to Gengar is its capacity to be a pivot, baiting Psychic- and, more importantly, Ground-type attacks for partners to come in on with Explosion, so it's still a worthwhile option. More consistent players may choose to run it less frequently, however.

Snorlax and Tauros

RBY Snorlax RBY Tauros

Snorlax has gotten more versatile, but on the most aggressive teams (particularly those with a heavy focus on Electric-types and maybe the absence of Chansey), a traditional Snorlax with Body Slam, Earthquake, Selfdestruct, and Hyper Beam or Counter is highly effective. This allows it to, at least, trade with an opposing Snorlax, pressure Chansey, and provide an emergency check to rarer foes such as Slowbro. Tauros vs. Tauros situations are still important, but getting Tauros in earlier to pressure the foe and to revenge kill often leads to these situations being played out earlier, with a fast Pokémon such as Starmie or Jolteon remaining in the back able to take on Tauros should you lose the matchup.

On less offensive teams (compared to the most hyper offensive the metagame has to currently offer), Snorlax's set varies somewhat more. Amnesia, Ice Beam / Blizzard, Reflect, and Rest all make appearances. Reflect on Snorlax often allows it to avoid being merely a trade for the opposing Snorlax, as well as allowing it to match up fairly nicely against opposing Tauros. However, this is incredibly difficult to set up in a way that's worthwhile. Ice Beam or Blizzard hit Rock-types hard, can possibly freeze Chansey, and also do significant damage to Gengar. Reflect is a popular option, making it so challenging to take down in Snorlax vs. Snorlax situations and lets it function well against Tauros should they match up. However, generally, Rest has gotten worse on Snorlax. There's less paralysis going around, so there are fewer wake-up opportunities. Chansey, if not paralyzed, comes in even more freely against Rest Snorlax lacking Selfdestruct. If it were paralyzed, there's less incentive to run Ice Beam or Blizzard. Snorlax is slower than Tauros, so setting up a Reflect against it is incredibly difficult, especially considering that Tauros is rarely paralyzed and Snorlax cannot paralyze Tauros. Psychic on Starmie is a huge issue for RestLax which, as we will see, is quite a good option for it to run. Maybe RestLax can still fit on a team with Tauros and Zapdos well covered, but covering both threats is pretty hard when you're trying to put a RestLax on the team as well.


RBY Chansey

Chansey is still fantastic, but it's a lot easier to create a successful team without it than it was previously. Teams that lack Chansey primarily rely on Alakazam often alongside Pokémon such as Starmie and Jolteon to handle special attacks, and deal damage in return. Alakazam and Snorlax are used to pressure Chansey and force it out while at a lower HP, allowing the team's attackers to go by unhindered by Chansey, making it incapable of spreading status. The reason that a team might choose not to run Chansey is, of course, to fit in a more offensive Pokémon but also, very importantly, because your own Chansey is a free switch in for the opponent's Chansey, except when their Chansey is already at very low health.

Chansey's main role in most matches is still acting as a status sponge while dealing meaningful damage to various targets, but the role of it as a status platform is somewhat accentuated more than before. The "new" metagame allows unstatused Chansey to beat Snorlax one-on-one (outside of Selfdestruct or a critical hit from Hyper Beam), so giving Chansey a status ailment should be an important part of the early-game plan. You can try to put it to sleep (such as with Sing Lapras), but generally you ought to aim for the (somewhat unreliable) freeze early-game if you're carrying a Lapras or Jynx, or paralyze it so that it becomes easier to pressure. Once Lapras or Jynx have fished for a freeze versus Chansey, and should they have been unsuccessful, the player ought to try and paralyze Chansey upon the next opportunity. This is actually somewhat of a change in the way in which players can play with and against Chansey. In the previous metagame, the end-game was generally slower (Tauros was almost always paralyzed). This meant that it was more common that Chansey versus Chansey and a handful of extra remaining Pokémon on either side, but this is now no longer the case. This means that players would sometimes actively AVOID paralyzing Chansey and try to get their own Chansey paralyzed so as to have an advantage in the end-game, as a paralyzed Chansey beats an unparalyzed one, due to the power of freeze; there's about an 80% chance of freezing with the full PP of Ice Beam.


RBY Exeggutor

Exeggutor is the final member of the "big four," the Pokémon that, in the previous RBY metagame, were nearly impossible to drop. Almost every good team had three, if not all four of these members, with the other three being Tauros, Snorlax, and Chansey, variously ordered by whoever you're asking at the time***. While it's still probably the most consistent sleep inducer outside of the lead slot, as well as having access to Explosion, even now its merits are feeling lesser and its weaknesses more exploitable. Its weakness to Ice is the most obvious and potent, but its weaknesses to Bug and Flying are exploited by Jolteon and Zapdos, respectively as well as Fire, with the previously unused type starting to make an appearance with Moltres. Also, two Body Slams, or a critical hit Body Slam followed by a Hyper Beam from Tauros will KO it, making it a poorer choice to switch into Tauros.

The biggest issue for Exeggutor is perhaps the lapse in power of late-game sleep. It's very effective and powerful at the moment to spread paralysis as much as possible, and Exeggutor's near-mono-attacking style (costing an important moveslot if it opts for Hyper Beam, Mega Drain, or some other option on its moveset, as Stun Spore is incredibly valuable). It has inaccurate status moves, in addition to the reduced necessity of a Ground resist. Teams can definitely work nowadays if they opt not to run Exeggutor and focus more on heavily paralyzing the opposing team without worrying about conflicting status. Lapras can act as a replacement for Exeggutor, sporting a more threatening movepool as well as greater bulk. However, its status-inducing move, Sing, is less reliable.

The Aquatics

RBY Starmie RBY Lapras RBY Slowbro RBY Cloyster RBY Kingler

The Aquatics, which are popular Water-types, have generally had a mixture of positive and negative effects from the reduced presence of the Rock-types and the increased presence of Electric-types, but it's not as bad as might at first sound. Starmie is, if anything, as incredible as ever, if not moreso than before. It has the ability to outspeed and really hurt Tauros, even being a high-quality emergency switch-in to it if you let it get in for free such as on a sleeping Pokémon. Perhaps the best set is Psychic, Thunderbolt, Thunder Wave, and Recover, which misses out mainly on having Blizzard, but that move has only a small handful of real targets in Exeggutor, the Rock-types, and Zapdos. Psychic's merits are its consistency, power, and its ability to hit the Normal-types. It is the best move to pressure Chansey, with its ability to cause Special drops alongside Starmie's impressive critical hit rate. Nevertheless, Blizzard is still a valid option. Outspeeding Zapdos is important, too, meaning that the upsurgence of Electric-types doesn't bother it as much. However, lead Starmie is on a notable decline with the increased presence of Jolteon leads and its sheer utility when not taking sleep.

Lapras probably suffers most; spreading paralysis is so important early-game and it can't paralyze Chansey with Body Slam, and Blizzard's ability to freeze is much less important. Sing, however, has become much more valuable on it, arguably replacing Confuse Ray as the standard choice. It also lacks recovery, with Rest leaving Lapras vulnerable to Electric-types while it's asleep. It still finds itself holding a relevant place in the metagame, but it is less prevalent.

Slowbro has improved in part due to the more complex mechanic discovery (described in ** at the bottom), but the metagame has been somewhat harsh to it otherwise. With Electric-types being common, Starmie's tendency to run Thunderbolt, and its inability to outspeed Tauros all contribute somewhat negatively to it, while the Rock-types becoming worse only hurts it. It was never run as an answer to the Rock-types, but it often acted as a supporter, spreading paralysis for them. Overall, I feel it's a little worse, as the metagame is a little meaner to it, but overall it's still quite a worthwhile Pokémon.

Cloyster generally hates the metagame being faster-paced, as it thrives on slower foes, so the extra presence of Electric-types throughout the game hurts it somewhat. The increased popularity of Starmie helps its case though. In spite of Starmie winning one-on-one, Cloyster's ability to Explode on it the most consistently adds to its value. Kingler very much suffers due to its prime set-up bait being much rarer, but on the flipside, its greater Speed means that it requires less paralysis support and makes it more threatening, even if it's outsped by a lot of common Pokémon. Overall, though, both are generally worse off with the way the metagame has changed, even if some aspects of it give players positive reasons to choose them.

Alakazam and Jynx

RBY Alakazam RBY Jynx

Alakazam is still a perfectly consistent lead, although Jolteon can be somewhat wily. It's a great asset to the most offensive teams as a Pokémon besides Starmie that can paralyze Chansey and pressure it, even if Chansey uses Reflect. Alakazam's lack of physical bulk without its own Reflect up means that Starmie generally edges it out as the better Pokémon, leaving Alakazam to take paralysis or sleep early game. Not much has changed for Alakazam. Its great Speed, Special, and movepool allow it a great position on offense as a means to apply pressure and spread paralysis early-game, even on the fastest and most offensive of teams.

Jynx is the fastest consistent sleep inducer. No Pokémon outspeeds and annihilates it (apart from the rare Ninetales, which is very easy to play around), and it still has over 20% chance to beat its arguably worst matchup, Gengar, the only Pokémon with a sleep move that outspeeds it. It also has a fantastic capacity to wall Exeggutor (and block its Sleep Powder if an opposing lead paralyzes it), terrorize any Pokémon and make them risk freezes from its powerful Blizzard, and punish passive play. Generally, its popularity has been fairly increasing, but due to the constantly shifting dynamic of the lead matchups, it's hard to suggest whether or not this will continue to be the case. Other attractive qualities are its capability of getting a freeze without having a real downside to fishing for one or two in the first few turns of the match (before it is ideal to spread paralysis) whilst not really having a major downside if it fails to freeze, other than the risk of imperfect accuracy.


RBY Dragonite RBY Victreebel RBY Moltres RBY Articuno

Dragonite dislikes that the Rock-types are rarer, as its ability to use them as fairly consistent setup bait for its Agility hurts it. Exeggutor mostly carrying Stun Spore these days also hurts it massively, as those lacking it are prime setup bait. Overall, the metagame is just somewhat cruel to it. The reduced commonality of not only the Rock-types but also Slowbro to some degree means that Victreebel's main targets are rarer, but overall it's still a viable choice. With clever play it can make great use of paralyzed Chansey. Moltres was originally noticed by myself and Raish in late February as a Pokémon with increased viability in the "new" metagame. Rock-types are less common, and there is less paralysis, making its burns harder to block. The increased utility of Electric-types makes Starmie a little less worrisome. Still, Electric-types really hurt Moltres one-on-one, and although it's a little inconsistent at times, it merits about as much usage as other niche threats, perhaps even moreso. Articuno's not exactly a terrible Pokémon in the current metagame, but Starmie frequently sticks around into the late-game, and Lapras is still very present, so it's not especially good in the current metagame.


In conclusion, this discovery of the accurate mechanics has had a subtle but significant effect on the game, making it more important to focus on spreading paralysis as soon in the game as you can (although if you are carrying Jynx or Lapras, then only once they have spent time in play). Teams that rely on offensive pressure are much more successful. The Electric-types have notably increased in viability, and similarly, the Rock-types' viability has decreased which, in turn, has affected the rest of the metagame. Clever play in pressuring Chansey in the early- and mid-game, or simply not permitting it to come in until the end, has become a focal point of how RBY OU is often played.

Overall, Tauros has gotten much better, especially because it does not get paralyzed in Tauros vs. Tauros situations, and as the offensive king of the tier, Pokémon that handle it well one-on-one (Jolteon, Alakazam, Starmie, and Zapdos) are generally improved. Pokémon that handle it badly, such as the Rock-types, are worse off. Defensive teams relying upon Rest users like Exeggutor and Lapras are generally worse now, as Tauros being more difficult to cripple means that these teams are much less consistent. This, combined with the fact that these teams tend to struggle even more than most teams when a Pokémon is put to sleep, means that the metagame becomes generally more offensive (especially considering that the fast Pokémon that handle Tauros to some degree are all great offensive Pokémon and are generally less valuable for their defensive qualities).

*Metatope Definition (by Lutra) – the metagame of a tier experienced by players on a particular platform/simulator, in a particular tournament (series) or on the ladder.


***If someone tells you that Alakazam was amongst the top four, they are incorrect!

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