Gimmicks: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Alchemator.
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According to, a 'gimmick' is "an ingenious or novel device, scheme, or stratagem, especially one designed to attract attention or increase appeal." Pokémon, however, looks at gimmicks differently. A gimmick in Pokémon is "any set that uses sub-optimal moves or items to gain a surprise advantage over opposing teams or standard counters". While gimmicks are often looked upon badly by the community, since their surprise factor is only useful once, making them generally a bad idea on the ladder, they can however be very effective in tournaments where, barring Best of 3, you only play an opponent once.

Of course, there are some gimmicks that are obviously not going to work and should not be used in any situation. There are many of these said gimmicks that come to mind, some are immediately laughable, such as Choice Band Shuckle, but for the most part it can be surprisingly difficult to distinguish whether a moveset is a gimmick or not. To do this one must balance the limitations of a certain set against the benefits.

The Good

Metagross @ Life Orb
Ability: Clear Body
EVs: 252 Atk / 124 SpA / 132 Spe
Naughty nature (+Atk, -SpD)
- Meteor Mash
- Earthquake
- Hidden Power Fire / Shadow Ball
- Grass Knot / Shadow Ball

With a monstrous base Attack stat of 135, a decent base 95 Special Attack, and a viable special movepool that is often overlooked, Metagross can pull a surprise 2HKO on two of its main counters: Skarmory and Swampert. Shadow Ball, on the other hand, allows Metagross to 2HKO Max HP Rotom-A, another one of its major counters. With these problem Pokémon eliminated, Metagross—or another Pokémon—is relatively free to sweep on the physical side of things. However, using a mixed set considerably dilutes Metagross' attacking power and as such it should be used as more of a lure than as a sweeper (its Speed is also still lacking). There are many sets like this with the same purpose of luring and then annihilating; old timers will remember the days of ChainChomp, who has been replaced by specially based Mixgon in today's metagame. Use these gimmicks sparingly, however, as once your opponent wises up to them, your weaker Pokémon will be stopped relatively easily. Other examples of good gimmicks include:

Mixed Flygon, who uses Fire Blast to destroy Skarmory and Bronzong, who are among its most effective counters, and Babiri Berry Tyranitar, who gives up the healing of Leftovers, or the power of Choice Band / Life Orb to become one of the ultimate Scizor lures. Various Pokémon can also make use of somewhat unconventional items to great effect—the best example is Shuca Berry Heatran, once a gimmick and now an exceptionally good lead due to one item, and can even be used as a great Blissey lure when not in the lead position. Choice Scarf Tyranitar has also seen a jump in popularity, being among the best ways of taking out Latias as well as Azelf leads, and its Expert Belt variant has also seen a jump in popularity—similar to Expert Belt Jirachi who is able to bluff a Choice item, then let its counters in for a nasty surprise!

The Bad

Unfortunately, bad gimmicks are quite possibly the most common form of gimmicks—little thought has been put into them, and as such little reward will be yielded. An example of a bad gimmick is the infamous (or at least to those patrolling the analysis submission forums) 'Scarfzor' (Choice Scarf Scizor).

Scizor (M) @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Swarm
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
Jolly nature (+Spe, -SpA)
- Iron Head
- U-turn
- Superpower
- Night Slash

You may ask, what’s not to love about this set? Scizor's base 130 Attack stat combined with a decent enough base 65 Speed, boosted by a Choice Scarf should make this set a potent and surprising revenge killer! In practice, however, this set just doesn’t hit hard enough compared to the Choice Band alternative. Bullet Punch's 90 Base Power, taking Technician and STAB into account, combined with the 50% Attack boost from Choice Band makes a Choice Band Bullet Punch stronger than a Choice Scarf Iron Head, and the loss of power on U-turn makes Scizor much less effective in the long run. While Choice Scarf Scizor isn't completely useless, it's definitely not one of the better gimmicks. Other examples of bad gimmicks include:

Choice Scarf Machamp, who, in the past, was effective as a 100% counter to Garchomp, but it's still iffy compared to many of its stronger sets. Choice Specs Vaporeon hits hard with a base 110 Special Attack, but gives up the main use of Vaporeon, which is as a Wishing wall / tank.

The Ugly

Ugly gimmicks are the lowest of the low (well, maybe not quite SubPunch Blissey but still…). Those who are new to the game usually conjure up these gimmicks, but some slightly more experienced players still use them occasionally. As a general rule, these gimmicks should be avoided! Many examples of ugly gimmicks spring to mind, but let’s take a look at one the borderline bad gimmicks (flattering isn’t it): Special Gyarados!

Gyarados (M) @ Choice Specs
Ability: Intimidate
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest nature (+SpA, -Atk)
- Hydro Pump
- Ice Beam
- Fire Blast
- Thunderbolt

Gyarados is one of those saddening examples of a Pokémon who receives a stellar special movepool, but lacks the offensive power to abuse it. The intimidating fish receives all three of the elemental beams (and their more powerful counterparts) and a STAB Hydro Pump that, on a more specially-inclined Pokémon, would decimate teams! However, as has already been hinted upon previously, a base 60 Special Attack just doesn't do this movepool justice, even with Choice Specs equipped. Yes, you may well 2HKO some of Gyarados' more physically-defensive counters, but with access to Taunt, many of these counters would just become set up fodder for Dragon Dance Gyarados. Yes, it's a tragedy unfolding before your very eyes is it not? Other examples of ugly gimmicks include:

Choice Band Gengar, who may kill the Blissey, but everything else is completely fine. Mixed Machamp may sound appealing with a 100% accuracy Fire Blast, but not when you can just DynamicPunch everything to death.


Gimmicks can be effective when used properly, but only if their surprise value is actually worth something. Otherwise, you'll just end up getting laughed at when your Choice Band Giga Impact Blissey fails to kill anything.

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