Strategy Session – Pokemon Black/White, Part I

With the release of Pokemon Black and White in North America drawing closer and closer, I thought it might be a good idea to take a look at what this new generation will be bringing to the table, competitively speaking. Though the pace and structure of battle hasn’t changed all that much, Black and White brings a huge number of new ‘mons to the table, and with them, a wide variety of new competitive tactics.

Perhaps the most immediately striking thing about the new creatures of Black and White is how strongly offensive the focus seems. Where the most offensive monsters of previous generations sported Attack and Special Attack in the low to mid 130s, Black and White has widely available creatures that tickle 150. On top of this, every Pokemon now has a new ability available through the Dream World, and many of these abilities put old Pokemon in very new, very dangerous positions. Of course, all metagames start off far more offensive before later settling into a more balanced rhythm, but for now, the metagame seems very strongly offensive. To that end, we’ve cherry picked a few of the most dangerous ‘mons to take a look at.

The first Pokemon on our list is Excadrill, a critter that underscores the importance of weather in the 5th gen. On its own, Excadrill’s stats are solid, with very healthy HP and a massive Attack of 135, though its base Speed, which is only 88, is a bit disappointing. However, Excadrill sports a unique new ability known as Sand Rush, which doubles its Speed while a Sandstorm is active; essentially, a sand-based version of Swift Swim. With Sandstorm backing it up, Excadrill can outrun many of its counters, launch massively powerful Earthquakes, and in general, tear teams apart with little difficulty.

A major weakness of many of the offensive Pokemon introduced in the 5th gen is that they can be one-trick ponies. However, a one-trick pony can be exceptionally dangerous, depending on what that one trick is. For example, Conkeldurr is a slow, strong, and only somewhat sturdy Pokemon, but with a massively powerful priority attack backed up by Iron Fist. Conkeldurr is actually starting to rival Scizor for the position of primary priority offense, something no one would have suspected from its ridiculous appearance.

Interestingly, some Pokemon are causing waves in the metagame despite not actually being a part of it yet. For Chandelure, this is due to a combination of massive offensive statistics and a truly broken ability. Once it is released through the Dream World some time in the future, Chandelure will be one of only three fully evolved Pokemon with access to the ability known as Shadow Tag, and the only one of those three with a respectable offense. What makes Shadow Tag so dangerous is that it precludes the idea of counters; a Pokemon with this ability can pick and choose who it fights, trapping the foe in play until Shadow Tag says it can leave. Whether or not Shadow Tag Chandelure will be banned once the Dream World makes it a possibility is still unknown, but for the time being, the fact that a Pokemon with a base Special Attack of 145 has been given this massively dangerous ability is already causing some to think twice about how the fan-supported metagame is constructed and maintained.

On the flip side of the hype coin, we have Haxorus. Just after the release of Black and White, many fans wondered at Haxorus’s legendary-level Attack stat, which is a massive 147. Backed up by Dragon Dance, Swords Dance, and the wide movepool traditional to Dragons, Haxorus looked to be a potentially overpowering threat. However, in an example of how a rising tide lifts all ships, Haxorus’s comparatively moderate Speed and only decent defenses have not proven to be up to the task in a game full of other creatures with strong offensive statistics. In the end, Haxorus has ended up falling largely by the wayside against other, more specialized or flexible Pokemon.

Traditionally, Dragons have formed the backbone of most pure offensive teams, but one newcomer in the 5th generation is upsetting this a bit. Volcarona, a Fire/Bug-type frequently identified as this gen’s pseudo-legendary — a term usually thrown out to signify one powerful, hard to find Pokemon, usually only obtainable after completing the Elite Four — combines solid defenses, excellent Special Attack, and a more than adequate Speed with a wonderful new boosting move called Butterfly Dance. A rare move available to only a few Pokemon, Butterfly Dance boosts Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed by one stage each, essentially turning Volcarona from a solid but unimpressive offensive threat to an impressively bulky, speedy, and threatening sweeper. Combined with the new availability of Drought through Dream World Ninetales, Volcarona has the potential to flatten whatever opposition it comes across.

In the coming weeks, Strategy Session will be talking about what Black and White bring to the table, including new defensive Pokemon, the new prevalence of weather, and suggestions for altering old strategies for use in the new metagame. We’ll be talking about using Gravity and Trick Room in the 5th generation, as well as some of the new modes of combat, including triple battles, rotation battles, and the bizarre Miracle Shooter, a style of player vs player combat that gives the Pokemon Trainer a larger role in combat by allowing the use of items. See you next week!

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