Recently coming out of the 2012 VGCS Winter Battle tournament hosted by Nintendo, I can say that my passion for the competitive battling scene has been re-ignited once again. Being able to create a team in-game and battle with it on a professional level against others, as well as having fun and friendly battles in the same tournament was an idea that I enjoyed. It was exciting when my friend and I managed to actually find each other and have a battle for not only once, but twice!
Having battled competitively both in-game and on simulators (Pok√©mon Online and Pok√©mon Showdown!), and due to the lack of articles on PE2K covering the competitive battling scene, I had the idea to introduce my own coverage on competitive battling with my thoughts and opinions on the regular “metagame”. What I am going to cover include the most successful teams, the Pok√©mon you will always see, and common strategies. I am covering these for a reason: they work.
In the past, the OU (Over Used) tier has been dominated by not only those who are fast and powerful, but those who can take hits, stall, or support their team as well. However, with the introduction of gradually more powerful Pok√©mon as time went by, the competitive scene has become gradually more aggressive, peaking at where we are today, with the introduction of not only Generation V, but the introduction of B2W2, which brought its own extra power to the game. Pok√©mon such as Swampert, popular in Gen IV for its combination of power and bulkiness, has been rendered¬†obsolete in OU due to the lack of power, while not being bulky enough to withstand the power of today’s top threats.
Today, powerful Pokemon such as Scizor, Breloom, Dragonite, Salamence, Gengar, and Infernape are very commonplace, and Pok√©mon that are highly specialized walls are used, although they aren’t anywhere near as common. Pokemon with enough bulk to set up a Dragon Dance such as Dragonite and Salamence, Pok√©mon that offer powerful priority moves such as Scizor and Breloom, or those that just offer huge speed, versatility, and power, found in Gengar and Infernape dominate the OU scene today, because speed is the deciding factor to if a Pok√©mon KOs, or is KOed in return in this super-powered tier. It really goes to show how power dominated the OU tier is when Chandelure, the Pokemon boasting the highest Special Attack in the game, is dropped to UU because it doesn’t have enough speed to match the rest of the tier, and Drizzle + Swift Swim on the same team was banned due to the¬†enormous¬†speed and power it gave to key threats, resulting in an unfair advantage.
Weather teams are very popular now too, with each kind of weather having a permanent weather inducer in Ninetales, Politoed, Abomasnow, Tyranitar, and Hippowdon. Rain teams seem to be the Flavour of the Month right now, as rain just works so well with many of the speedy and powerful Pok√©mon in the OU tier. It aids Ferrothorn’s defensiveness incredibly, boosts the accuracy of moves like Thunder and Hurricane, and the power of water moves coming from heavy-hitters like Starmie and Rotom-W. Sun teams have great new Chlorophyll sweepers like Venusaur, whose Speed is doubled under the sun, while also being able to sharply raise both its Attack and Special Attack after just one use of Growth. Sand and Hail have new tools to utilising that extra damage every turn, as well as abilities like Magic Guard, which prevents all forms of passive damage, and let’s the likes of Alakazam and Reuniclus have some fun in the sand or hail without taking the extra damage. Weather teams tend to have a lot of versatility, as they can boost the stalling powers of Pokemon like Heatran, and provide a lot of extra uses to their team. Of course, there’s always the fun that comes from pitting your own weather team against someone else’s, and the constant weather war that you will be fighting.
Of course, there are, and always will be, great defensive Pok√©mon that can complement a team; Ferrothorn, Skarmory, and Heatran being some of the main ones. However, most of they time, the only do just that, complement the team. These three Pok√©mon all have great defensive typings, as well as a few different defensive sets that can not only take the hits aimed at their frail team-mates, but support the team with entry hazards and status. They could heal their allies, heal themselves, rack up extra damage, tank hits, and just aid the powerful, but often frail Pok√©mon of this tier, and they can do it so easily. It’s no longer a hassle to try and set up hazards, since Spikes and Stealth Rock are such common moves to many staple Pok√©mon right now. Even great offensive team members like Landorus-T can set up Stealth Rock without being negatively affected by having it.
If you tried to make a purely defensive team, or a stall based team, you’d find yourself having a harder time. You’ll find that these kinds of teams are so much rarer in ladders on Pok√©mon Online. There’s probably a few reasons behind this; the main reason being the dominance of fast, powerful Pok√©mon in OU. A team full of super offensive Pok√©mon is easy to make and are usually very reliable. They offer fast, quick battles, so that many people can move on to their next battle. Many people dislike longer battles in general, and I can understand why; drawn out battles tend to be boring. The other reason is that purely defensive teams often don’t have a lot more to offer. It’s very easy for offensive or defensive Jirachi to run Wish to heal your team, it’s easy to get hazards up thanks to Ferrothorn and Skarmory, and it’s incredibly easy to throw status around thanks to half of the tier being able to use status moves well. Defensive teams no longer have that advantage of reliably setting all of that up, considering how it’s done easily by powerful Pok√©mon that can do it all, or by those that already are running a heavy hitting, offensive set.
I’ve had fun developing a stall team in the past, but I found it to be a lot more difficult than making a normal team. There were a lot of powerful threats I had to account for, and only had a very limited amount of defensive Pok√©mon that were able to handle most of them. In the end, the tried and true strategy of Toxic Stalling that existed in previous generations just wasn’t enough to do the damage I needed it to before I got destroyed by speedy, hard-hitting teams. Thankfully, while Generation V has brought along some extra tools I could use in my team to help inflict damage quicker and help keep my team alive. Entry hazards are a wonderful tool to use, and many teams have been using them. The opportunity to damage a sizable chunk of the opponent’s health every time they switch in provides so much extra damage, and inflicting Toxic for free helps me get my team set up easier. The Rocky Helmet can rack up additional damage to physical attackers, and pure tanking allows me to rack up Life Orb recoil damage on the opponents with little repercussion to myself, thanks to the abundance of them. The addition of Dream World abilities has indeed aided defensive and stall teams greatly as well. Sableye, with Prankster, can aid teams with priority Taunt and status, and Vaporeon’s Hydration let’s it ignore all forms of status under rain, and also be able to use Rest as a form of instant recovery, since it will be cured of sleep straight away. I can support my team better than ever before with the improved Wish mechanics, where high HP Pok√©mon like Blissey and Vaporeon can heal team members entirely. There are great new defensive Pokemon like Ferrothorn which can aid the team with hazards, status, and their resilience, and there are the old defensive favourites like Blissey, who are still able to keep up with their utility despite the addition of moves like Psyshock, a powerful special attack that hits the opponent’s Defense instead of Special Defense.
Unfortunately though, due to the long and drawn out nature of stall teams, many people think that the ever common rain teams and the hyper offensive teams around are significantly more “fun”. The abundance of Pok√©mon that are overpowered and the ones that support them well with such ease makes building a team based on stall and defense a lot more difficult, since many dedicated defensive Pok√©mon can’t offer much more than you can get on a mixed team, and they have a lot of trouble keeping up with the strength of hyper-offensive teams, or the versatility of rain teams.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still options for great defensive and stall teams, and I love them dearly, but today’s metagame is a lot more focused on the powerful Pok√©mon, and who can keep up with them, and Speed is one of the most important factors when deciding a Pok√©mon for your team, as even an extra 1 point in Speed, or that cleverly used Choice Scarf, could make the difference between KOing, and being KOd, and in the end, that’s what matters.