You understand how IVs, EVs, and Natures work. You know that picking a pokemon for your team isn’t just about stats. You know how to catch and breed pokemon and how to train them quickly and powerfully. Did you know about the power of a Rain Dance team? Do you know what a mixed sweeper is or how to get through a Blissey that’s soaking up your best attacks? What about the utility of a choice band or a focus sash?

Our final session is on strategy and tactics, or how to think and battle with the best of the best. Back in Red and Blue it was enough to just build a team with a little variety and hope your buddy didn’t have six Mewtwos or something stupid (or, if he did, to kick his ass anyway. I’m lookin at you, Denihan). In Generation IV, strategy has evolved to a whole new level, bringing with it tiers, a myriad of new moves, and more type combinations than you can shake a very large stick at. Imagine chess with hundreds of pieces, all of them different.

First we’ll go over some basic moves that become very important in endgame battles. Then we’ll cover the different roles that you’ll want to fill in your team. After that, we’ll cover a few of the important endgame items that you might not have seen before. Finally, we’ll go over a few theoretical team compositions in an attempt to put a capstone on this project. Let’s begin.

All the Right Moves…

 

One of the first moves that becomes important in endgame is a move that no pokemon learns and that you only get one TM for, Stealth Rock. Stealth Rock is a move that places an entry hazard around the enemy’s team for the duration of the match, resulting in a base damage of 12.5% off each pokemon’s life that switches in or enters the battle for any reason, modified by that pokemon’s vulnerability to rock (meaning a 4x weakness results in 50% damage and 4x resistance is 3.125% damage). Why is this important? Well, getting Stealth Rock set up and assuming that the enemy’s team is, on average, neutral to rock, results in a free 62.5% damage even if all your opponent does is bring in new pokemon as they faint. If they switch at all for any reason, that number starts to grow pretty quickly. On top of the free damage, Stealth Rock can also mean the difference between a one-hit knock out (OHKO) and your opponent’s pokemon living with a sliver of life left and getting a powerful attack in on you. Therefore, it’s important to have Stealth Rock on at least one of your pokemon, ideally your lead, and equally important to get it up as soon as possible. Examples of good lead pokemon to use Stealth Rock are Aerodactly, Hippowdon, Metagross, and Tyranitar.

Due to its rarity, it’s advisable to use the Stealth Rock TM on something that can’t be bred, such as Metagross, teach it to a Smeargle, and then pass it on by breeding it to anything else that you might want it on.

The next two moves you may not have noticed are Spikes and Toxic Spikes, both of which function similarly to Stealth Rock. Spikes layers up and deals 12.5%, 18.75%, or 25% maximum health in damage regardless of resistances and depending on how many layers you can set up. Toxic Spikes inflicts poison with one layer (1/8th maximum life off the poisoned opponent at the end of every turn) and toxic poison (1/16th maximum life at the end of each turn, doubling every turn) with two layers. Flying pokemon are immune to both types of spikes unless Gravity is in play and Steel and Poison pokemon are immune to Toxic Spikes.

It is theoretically possible to set up Stealth Rock, three layers of Spikes, and two layers of Toxic Spikes with all of the effects being cumulative, but the time it takes to do that would probably result in many fainted pokemon on your team. Attempt at your own risk.

There is a counter to entry hazards, of course, and it comes in the form of Rapid Spin. Rapid Spin isn’t exactly a common ability and it isn’t proactive, either, but what it does is completely clear your side of the field of all entry hazards as well as break your pokemon out of trapping moves like Bind, Whirlpool, and Sand Tomb. The problem is that Rapid Spin doesn’t really do anything (it’s a 20 power move, aka weaker than Tackle), therefore wasting a move spot if you don’t really need it. If Stealth Rock isn’t a problem for your team, if your opponent isn’t using either set of Spikes, or if you can successfully obliterate spikes users before they become a threat, Rapid Spin is literally useless for you. On top of that, there are about 5 viable users for it that you wouldn’t be embarrassed to have on your team. Essentially, keep it in mind if entry hazards are really giving you a hard time, but you’re probably going to pass up Rapid Spin more often than not.

Finally, one final move that might’ve slipped under the radar is a little beauty called Substitute. Using Substitute takes off ¼ of the user’s maximum life and puts up a punching bag with that amount of HP that soaks up status and damage, protecting your pokemon. This is advantageous because 1) it protects your pokemon from a plethora of status effects, 2) it turns anything that might’ve been a one-shot into something that just breaks a substitute instead and 3) it’s useful to lower your own life safely in order to activate abilities like Torrent. Also, you can use it for the somewhat gimmicky but super powerful SubPunch combination by setting up a substitute, then using Focus Punch on the next turn once your opponent is going to be wailing on that substitute instead of doing damage to your pokemon. All in all, Substitute is a nifty move that almost always escapes trainers new to endgame battling.

Know Your Role

Unlike Red and Blue, where might always wins battles, battling in Generation IV has evolved over time to include several diverse roles, all of which are often necessary to achieve victory. The roles are as follows:

Lead: Exactly what it sounds like, your lead is designed to be the first pokemon that enters the field. A good lead should either be capable of taking a hit or blindingly fast, capable of dishing out some damage, and should probably be carrying Stealth Rock (or Spikes/Toxic Spikes if you prefer). Depending on some team compositions, a good lead might also have weather-inducing moves or abilities (Sunny Day, Rain Dance, Sandstorm/Sand Stream), screen support (Light Screen, Reflect), or any other moves that enable the rest of your team to do their job. Some examples of good leads include Aerodactyl, Tyranitar, Hippowdon, Azelf, and Metagross.

Sweeper: These are the pokemon that are designed to be both powerful and fast or to build up to that point through the use of moves like Swords Dance and Agility. Sweepers are either physical, special, or mixed and typically have base offensive stats of 100 or higher, base speeds of 80+, and a move pool capable of covering most, if not all, threats. It is not necessary for a sweeper to be all that durable most of the time, but being capable of taking at least one hit is always a plus. Powerful sweepers are common, but some good examples include Scizor, Salamence, Gyarados, Jolteon, Gengar, Heatran, Infernape, Starmie, Heracross, Tyranitar and Lucario.

Wall: As the name implies, a wall is a pokemon designed to interrupt or halt a powerful sweeper. Like sweepers, walls come in three flavors: physical, special, or mixed. A wall is capable of taking a hit, resistant to a multitude of types, possibly completely immune to one or more types, and usually able to recover life or heal status changes somehow (via Roost, Recover, Wish, etc.). Many walls are also able to cripple their opponent with stalling tactics such as Will O’ Wisp, Toxic, and Thunder Wave, and often capable of placing additional entry hazards, such as layers of Spikes and Toxic Spikes. Examples of effective walls include Forretress, Skarmory, Bronzong, Hippowdon, Umbreon, Empoleon and Blissey.

There are more complicated and specific roles, such as Screen Support, Anti-Lead, Baton Passer, and so on, but none of these are absolutely necessary to the most basic endgame teams.

Tools of the Trade

There are a number of items used in the endgame that are important in battles and may not have been seen prior to endgame fights. In official Nintendo tournaments, you can only use one of any given item on your team, much like the species rule where you can only use one of any given pokemon, so it’s important to have diversity in your equipment inventory. Some important items are as follows:

Choice Band/Choice Specs: The single most potent endgame item,  in my opinion, the Choice Band boosts a pokemon’s attack by a whopping 50%, but only allows the use of the first move chosen upon entering the field or switching in. You can use a different move only by switching out and switching back in. Beware Choice Band sweepers, but use the fact that they get locked into their Choice move to switch to your wall of preference. Choice Specs are identical except that they boost Special Attack instead. Choice Bands and Specs are the main reason why including adequate walls is critically important to creating a successful team.

Choice Scarf: Like the other choice items, the Choice Scarf boosts a stat by 50%. This time, that stat is speed and, like the band/specs, the price is that your pokemon is locked into the first move that it uses. Choice Scarves are very good at turning powerful but somewhat slow pokemon into faster, potent sweepers. Choice Scarves are commonly found on pokemon like Gyarados, Tyranitar, and Heatran whose offense is mighty but whose speed needs a bit of assistance.

Focus Sash: This one is a simple item that does one and only one thing; When a pokemon is wearing a Focus Sash and gets hit with an attack that would OHKO it, the Focus Sash will break instead and keep that pokemon alive with 1 HP. The most practical use of a Focus Sash is to ensure that your lead survives long enough to set up Stealth Rock, but they can also find gimmicky usage as a means to powerful Counters and Mirror Coats, for instance.

Petaya/Liechi Berry: These are berries that raise either special attack or attack, respectively, by one stage when the pokemon using them hits 25% hp or less. When used on pokemon that can deliberately use ability-boosting moves and Substitute to buy time and drop their own life, these berries can make for a potent combination (such as with Empoleon, who can use Agility and then Substitute to safely get to low life and subsequently end up with massive boosts from Torrent and a Petaya Berry).

Life Orb: Found in Stark Mountain (DPP) or the Ruins of Alph (HG/SS), the Life Orb is a potent weapon. What it does is boost the damage of all moves at the expense of 10% of your pokemon’s maximum life each time it uses a damage-dealing move. Life Orbs are commonly used on sweepers that are already powerful and either have a variety of moves they need to use or require the use of two moves in order to be successful (such as Scizor, who needs to use both Swords Dance and Bullet Punch).

…And All The Right Faces

There are several full-team concepts that work well that you might want to keep in mind or at least be prepared for when entering the endgame battlefield. They include but are not limited to:

Rain Dance: This is a team built around utilizing the rain weather effect to obliterate opposing teams with otherwise unsuspecting pokemon. Through Swift Swim, several sweepers gain massive boosts in speed, plus huge bonuses to the effectiveness of Water moves, and use the double speed and 50% boosted offense to tear through opposing teams. A Rain Dance team typically has a bulky wall with Rain Dance holding a Damp Rock to set up 8 turns of rain, then several mediocre sweepers like Kabutops that become godly in the rain. Counter a Rain Dance team with opposing weather or Sand Stream pokemon (Hippowdon, Tyranitar) or by packing powerful Grass and Electric moves to take down the predominately Water-type pokemon used in a Rain Dance team.

Sandstorm: A sandstorm team is a team that typically uses either one or both of Tyranitar and Hippowdon in order to induce a perpetual sandstorm that slowly whittles away at everything that isn’t rock, ground, or steel. Sandstorm teams tend to make use of the constant wearing away of the opponent’s team through a mostly or entirely rock/ground/steel team composition, abuse the 50% special defense boost to rock pokemon, or use the sandstorm as a stalling tactic in conjunction with entry hazards, poisons, and burns. Despite its restrictions, a good sandstorm team can still manage to include diverse sweepers and walls as well as utility roles. Include your own rock, ground, and steel pokemon such as Skarmory or Lucario, a plethora of Water, Ice, Fire, and Grass attacks, or countering weather abilities of your own in order to help defeat a sandstorm team.

Stall: A stall team is a team that isn’t built around powerful sweepers (yet still may include one or two for late game sweeping when the enemy team is thoroughly weakened), but instead around the notion of wearing down the opponent’s hit points and PP until they simply have nothing left to work with. A stall team makes relentless use of a combination Pressure, Sandstorms, burns, poison, entry hazards, Roar/Whirlwind, nigh-indestructible walls with recovery abilities, and a myriad of other tricks to cripple and whittle away at the opposing team with slow attrition. There are no reliable counters to a stall team; you simply have to have the right kind of pokemon to take on the specific stallers that are giving you problems (such as Jolteon for Skarmory, physical Lucario for Blissey, Heatran for Bronzong, and so on).

Well, it’s certainly not the end-all be-all of endgame pokemon guides, but through these past few lessons you should be armed with the knowledge necessary to understand endgame battling, catch and breed your own powerful pokemon, and quickly and easily train them for use on a comprehensive, intelligently constructed team. When in doubt, I’ve also referred you to several of the best databases and strategy websites, such as Bulbapedia, Smogon, and Serebii.

 

Welcome to the endgame. I’ll see you in the arena.

 

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