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StriderHoang avatar 10:19 PM on 12.02.2013  (server time)
A simplified history of Pokemon's metagame part 5: Black and White

Previously, on parts 123, and 4, Pokémon's metagame was slowly gaining speed as it sped towards a hyper offensive strategy. No time for defense or stall! just set up a boosting move like Swords Dance and attempt a sweep! But we move into what was quite possibly the most broken generation of Pokémon with Black and White with the dominance of weather effects.

We are now in the 5th generation of Pokémon with Black and White, shortened as the BW generation. Discussion on the metagame started much earlier then the U.S. release in March as hardcore fans imported the Japanese copy and got an early look at what new things Gamefreak had introduced in the BW generation.

The 5th generation: A Whole New Dream World
Just about the only thing we can take for face value is the introduction of triple battles. But like double battles before it, only a small minority of trainers will take to it, even if it's the official set up for Nintendo's tournaments now. Three-on-three battles can be very hectic and difficult to predict but it can be fun for those who are less inclined to complete strategy as throwing out three Pokémon at once makes battles more about luck than prediction.

If there's one word that can aptly describe the BW generation, it's broken and in every sense of the word. Commonly held norms are broken by radically new choices. Certain Pokémon break out of their current status and become something else entirely. And certain strategies are even deemed broken and banned from organized, competitive play. The BW generation is probably the edgy rebel of the Pokémon family. Everything the previous four have done to create an invisible sense of balance has been completely blown out of the water by BW's approach to throwing caution to the wind and just doing it.

First there are new abilities that challenge the status quo. Prankster challenges the old knowledge of priority such as Quick Attack going first and Roar going last. Any attack that doesn't directly damage the target, like Thunder Wave or Sleep Powder, gains a +1 on priority. This ability lets annoying moves like Leech Seed and Substitute go first unless the opponent has their own priority moves. And Whimsicott not only had Prankster but also a plethora of support moves including Leech Seed and even Encore! Not only are there other ground breaking abilities like Prankster (Regenerator is a personal favorite of mine, recovering 33% health upon switching out), old abilities that were deemed useless also gained new functions in BW.

In previous generations, Sturdy protected the user from 1-hit kill moves like Horn Drill or Sheer Cold. It was fairly useless because most trainers don't rely on gimmicky, inaccurate moves. In BW however, Sturdy gained the property similar to the hold item Focus Sash. Both Sturdy and Focus Sash allow the Pokémon to survive an attack by one HP if the attack would've KO'ed in one move. Even better, if the Pokémon can recover to full health, Sturdy is reusable. Now many rock/ground-types with a quad weakness to water and grass were guaranteed to survive at least one round! Sturdy gives them the best chance to guarantee Stealth Rocks.

Secondly there are new attacks, especially boosting moves. Most trainers know about using Swords Dance to double attack on the first turn then doing as much damage as possible. Normally, Pokémon that use Swords Dance have naturally high speed to compliment the boost in attack. But how about a move that doubles attack, special attack, and speed and cuts both defenses in half in return? Shell Break is a blessing every Pokémon would give their left Pokéball to have, but the move is limited to very few Pokémon with a shell design. Shell Break is the reason to have an Omastar from RBY again. Just imagine using Rain Dance, together with Omastar's Swift Swim ability, then using Shell Break. Everything in front of Omastar gets washed away by its Surf or Hydro Pump.

Other moves like Quiver Dance and Coil work in the same way, boosting more then one stat in one turn but being limited to a select few Pokémon. Even straight forward damaging attacks challenged some common sense. Psyshock is a new psychic attack which uses the attacker's special attack but calculates damage with the defenders physical defense rather than special defense. An incredible boon to special attackers who absolutely hate the existence of everyone's favorite special wall, Blissey.

But of course the biggest thing many long time trainers were excited about was the Dream World. Many trainers like myself were salivating at the potential the Dream World would give to some of our favorite Pokémon. Probably the first Pokémon that was announced with unique abilities from Dream World were the Eevee evolutions. Forms like Vaporeon would have access to an ability like Hydration, which heals all status ailments so long as it's raining. Not only is it a great defensive ability but it's also a very exclusive ability, only belonging to Manaphy in the previous generation (which was a great legendary) and Dewgong (which is pretty bad by competitive standards). And Vaporeon has been a great Pokémon since the first generation. But the Dream World also gave older, outclassed Pokémon a new chance to shine.

Even God dreams about farming sometimes

Charizard had always been outclassed by other fire-types, especially since Infernape was introduced in the DP generation. But it gained Solar Power from the Dream World, which multiplies special attack by 1.5 in strong sunlight in return for sacrificing health every turn (let it hold a Choice Scarf and that's 1.5x speed and 1.5x special attack with no need to set up). Sharpedo for a long time had great offensive prowess and decent speed but terrible defense. It was problematic for it to spend a turn setting up with Agility or something similar when it could easily be KO'd very early. But it gained the ability Speed Boost from Dream World and this ability was exclusive to Ninjask up until now. After every turn, its speed increases, allowing it to attack immediately without risking a turn setting up.

Probably the two biggest stars of the Dream World were Vulpix and Politoed, as each got Drought and Drizzle respectively. In essence, the weather changing power of Kyogre and Groudon from the RSE generation in the ubers tier had come down to the standard overused tier. These two are the reason weather teams have become much more prevalent in the OU tiers, which was normally confined to the underused tiers. Some people even consider banning teams that use Politoed's Drizzle ability together with Pokémon with the Swift Swim ability. That's how much of an impact Drizzle Politoed has had.

There are many, many different powerful new moves and abilities that only become more powerful when you find ways to mix and match them. One small subtle change that many don't consider the effect it has is the inclusion of team preview in the majority of battle rule sets.

Traditionally, Pokémon batting was done in a blind fashion. Pick your six Pokémon, wait for your opponent to pick his six, then throw out your leads and start from there. Now in the BW generation, you get a preview of the enemy's team, removing the element of surprise though at the same time, taking the pressure of countering powerful strategies off of trainers. On one hand, team preview ruins many surprise tactics such as employing Zoroark, which can disguise itself as another Pokémon on your team. The surprise still remains as to which Pokémon he's disguised as but now your opponent will be expecting him. On the other hand, you now know that your opponent has both a Politoed (which can only be carrying Drizzle as an ability) and an Omastar. If it weren't for team preview, it would have probably taken too long to figure this out and stop a sweep. While team preview ruins surprise tactics, it reduces the difficulty of trying to counter the hundreds of possible strategies you can't forsee.

And now for the threat list, which has now swelled with over 600 possible choices! A lot of old Pokémon return unexpectedly thanks to Dream World so let's start off with some classics.

Alakazam, who had been on a downward spiral since the GSC generation, finally got good news thanks to Dream World with the ability Magic Guard, which prevents all forms of damage unless it was a direct result of an enemy attack. In other words, it won't receive residual damage from sources like poison, sandstorm, entry hazards, and most importantly, Life Orb recoil while still reaping the damage boost from holding it. As Gyrados has always been a potent threat, it gained Moxie to truly scare off balance opponents. With Moxie raising its attack every time it can score a KO, Gyrados can become a snowballing threat that becomes impossible to stop unless shut down early. Another notable classic is Espeon, which has long fought for a suitable position with Alakazam, which was essentially a better version of it. Espeon gained Magic Bounce, which reflects all indirect attacks back at the attacker. The easiest example to demonstrate this power is as an anti-lead, reflecting your opponent's attempts to hit your team with Spikes or Stealth Rock. It's a nasty ability that can throw off any trainer's rhythm as they can't throw down effective entry hazards.

The new generation has introduced a a plethora of incredible Pokémon that are easy to recall due to their immediate displays of power. Haxorus and Chandelure have the highest offensive stats in the game outside of legendaries. A STAB Outage from Haxorus or Fire Blast from Chandelure is something not even the most powerful walls want to switch into. Excadrill made a splash as being an immediate threat many Pokémon had to measure up to as either a team mate or an effective counter. Excadrill's claim to fame was access to the new sandstorm equivalent of Swift Swim, Sand Rush. With Tyranitar as a team mate setting up sandstorm, Excadrill only needs to use Swords Dance as it arrives and will be able to smash through teams helpless to its sweep with an extremely powerful STAB Earthquake boosted by Swords Dance and outspeeding many threats thanks to Sand Rush. Last but certainly not least, a Pokémon I myself have grown to love, Ferrothorn, the game's newest mixed wall. Not only does it have incredible mixed defenses, but its grass/steel typing gives it a load of resistances. Not only does it resist common types like water and electric and remain neutral to ground and ice, but it has access to Leech Seed, Stealth Rocks, and Spikes, plus has an ability that inflicts residual damage back at physical attackers! Did I mention it has very usable attack as well? And while it's extremely slow, it learns Gyro Ball, which inflicts more damage the slower it is. Ferrothorn is an annoyingly powerful wall that you definitely want to protect from fire and fighting attacks, because once those threats are gone, nothing else has a chance to do any significant damage to Ferrothorn.

While the upgrades to the previous Pokémon are easier to spot than what has fallen in this metagame, there are are a few notable exceptions to point out, though it's still somewhat unclear if anything has fallen.

Pokémon that used Explode took a bad hit as Explode was weakened this generation. Its base power of 250 remains but it no longer calculates damage by halving the defender's defense. This means Explode no longer KO's reliably as it once did, so Pokémon like Electrode and Forretress have less of an impact after doing their job doing things like setting down Spikes or setting up with Rain Dance. The various Rotom forms also lost some strength as they're no longer part ghost. For example, Rotom-H is now fire/electric as opposed to staying ghost/electric before. While the Rotom forms gain STAB with their signature moves, they lose the ability to spin block Rapid Spin users, which means they can no longer block their opponent from spinning away the entry hazards you've laid down. Also, while not weakened, Pokémon like Scizor or Duskinoir gained absolutely nothing from the new BW generation, making it tougher for them to compete with newcomers and old champs with upgrades.

So there you have it. For those of you just now coming in on Pokémon in the BW generation, I hope you've learned a thing or two. Perhaps you've never even heard of the move Shell Break, but hopefully you know how utterly powerful that move is (my friend still cringes at me sending out Omastar with rain). Maybe you've completely ignored Dream World up until now but will now give it a try when you realize you can catch a Magikarp that will evolve into a Moxie Gyrados. At any rate, in it's 5th generation, there are just so many variables to consider in a battle, it's impossible to construct a team that can definitively answer every possible strategy. This is perhaps why team preview is forced upon the majority of battle rule sets. To allow trainers a chance to adapt their team what they think the enemy team may be doing out of the hundreds of different strategies they have chosen with their own team. Do they have a Scizor? Do they have Tyranitar to set up sandstorm? Do they have Snorlax last? Do they have the Skarmbliss combo? What kind of lead do they have? Do any of their Pokémon look like they can Baton Pass boosts? At this point, it's impossible to counter every thing, even if you decide to fight someone within established tiers. There are just too many possibilities!

Hopefully you've enjoyed this small series I've run. Hopefully I can think up of more stories that probe the competitive underbelly of Pokémon you may not know, such as the unknown metagame of the unreleased Dream World Pokémon or the little known bastard strategies you may never come across, like FEAR. But until then, thanks for reading!

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