Strategy Session – Pokemon Black/White, Part III

Perhaps the most significant change that Pokemon Black and White have introduced to the metagame is the availability of automatic weather starters for Sun and Rain. Where only Sandstorm and Hail had access to infinite weather generators in the 4th gen, Sun and Rain now have them in Ninetales and Politoed with Dream World-available Drizzle and Drought abilities. What this means for the metagame is that weather is now not just another viable strategy, it is the black hole at the center of the game.

Of course, that’s not to say there haven’t been attempts to back off of this idea. Smogon’s recent banning of Swift Swim and Drizzle on the same team means that offensive Rain teams aren’t quite as dangerous as they could be, and that a number of unusual variations on the typical Rain team have started to show up. For example, defensive Rain teams have begun to appear, which combines Drizzle with regenerative and defensive abilities that improve in the rain. For example, Dry Skin Parasect, which uses Toxic to drain the opponent’s HP while using Dry Skin’s regeneration to set up Substitute after Substitute. Of course, offensive teams are still around, they’ve just gone back to using Rain Dance in place of Drizzle, and given the impressive bonus given to Water attacks in the rain, it’s still quite possible to make a slow-but-powerful offensive team without Swift Swim.

One major advantage Rain has always had over sun is that most of the Pokemon with abilities linked to Rain are also Water-type. So when it starts pouring, not only do these Pokemon get an activated ability, but they also get a bonus to their STAB attack. Though Sun still lags behind rain in this area, the introduction of Solar Power Charizard and a number of more powerful Grass-type Pokemon with Sun-activated abilities means that Fire-based weather now has a number of new tactics to try. Sun also got some unexpected bonuses in abilities that, at first glance, don’t seem to have much to do with weather. For example, Harvest, an ability exclusive to Exeggutor and Tropius specimens obtained through the Dream World, has a chance to regenerate any berry attached to the user at the end of the turn. However, if the sun is active, Harvest will activate with 100% certainty. This opens up a huge number of options for Exeggutor and Tropius, from resistance berries to remove or reduce a weakness, to Lum or Chesto Berries to grant infinite access to a one-turn Rest, to a line of truly bizarre tricks with the priority-improving Custap Berry. In any case, it’s probable that the true strength of sun-based teams has yet to be discovered.

Along similar lines, sandstorm has gotten a handful of new abilities that make it a bit more offensively effective. Sand Rush and Sand Force, which boost the user’s Speed and Attack respectively, means that sandstorm teams can now move past the primarily stall-based style they were previously confined to. With access to already powerful attackers like Gigalith, Excadrill, and Landorus, sandstorm has the potential to replace rain as the primary offensive weather type of the metagame.

Hail, however, has somehow managed to retain its position as the red-headed stepchild of the weather family. Where Rain and Sun got new infinite weather generators, Hail is still stuck with the weakness-loaded Abomasnow. Where Sandstorm got new offensive abilities, Hail managed to squeak by with nothing but the bare-minimum improvement; about the only Pokemon of note in this category is Regice, who now gets Ice Body through the Dream World, allowing it to fill pretty much the same place in a Hail team as Ice Body Walrein. Of course, Hail also has access to Kyurem, the new Ice/Dragon legendary, who has the sheer force, if not the movepool, to make for a powerful offensive force. In the end, Hail has lagged behind rather badly, and only time will tell if it can still play an effective part in the metagame.

One side effect of the fact that teams based around Drizzle and Swift Swim underscored such a large part of the metagame is that other forms of weather remain largely undeveloped. With a ban on the combination now in effect, the floodgates are now effectively open for a turnover in the metagame, and the resulting chaos is certain to be very interesting. In any case, with only a week left until the release of Pokemon Black and White, we’ll be taking the opportunity next week to talk about one of the more unusual moves, Trick Room. A personal favorite of mine, Black and White has given teams based around Trick Room a number of new toys to play with, and we’ll take a closer look at how well these teams can perform in the 5th gen.

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