Pokemon of the Week: Smeargle

FA-BU-LOUS

Hey there Hat Lovers!

Today, I’m going to paint you a picture of one of the less-appreciated Pokemon in the metagame.

Smeargle is a Pokemon that a lot of players hate to face in VGC 2014. This has very little to do with Smeargle’s paltry BST (250), and more with the allowance of Dark Void in the metagame, and Smeargle as the only Pokemon who can learn it. As such, teams must be prepared to face a turn 1 Fake Out + Dark Void, or suffer the consequences.

Base Stats:
 55 / 20 / 35 / 20 / 45 / 75

Smeargle (or SmearTANK as I like to call it) is an incredibly bulky Pokemon capable of withstanding anything in VGC 2014 barring perhaps Kangaskhan’s Return Frustration and Skill Link… anything. This is all thanks to Smeargle’s wonderful ability… to hold a Focus Sash. Man… this thing is terrible. The only stat Smeargle has worth mentioning is its base 75 speed, which puts +252 Speed Smeargle at 139. Because of Smeargle, 140 speed is a benchmark in the VGC metagame, which should emphasize just how much Pokemon don’t want to be put to sleep.

Ability:

Smeargle has 3 Abilities to choose from: Own Tempo, Technician and Moody. First, unless you’re trying some ridiculous strategy involving Skill Swap and Technician, then Technician is out of the picture. This leaves Own Tempo and Moody. Own Tempo is tempting only as an alternative to using the unpredictable Moody, however I think most Smeargle players will tell you that Moody is the way to go. There are ways to build Smeargle that allow it to deal with a bad set of Moody boosts, and take advantage of a good set of Moody boosts, which I’ll go into later.

Moves:

It seems silly to write a “Moves” section for a Pokemon with access to everything in the game, but here I’ll highlight Smeargle’s usual bag of tricks and also prompt some creativity with alternative support moves that Smeargle can drop on an opponent.

I run “Sketch” Smeargle, so I can be adaptable in battle

Your standard Smeargle is going to use: Dark Void, King’s Shield, Spiky Shield, Fake Out, Transform, Tailwind and/or Follow Me. What many players may not know is that Spiky Shield functions exactly like Protect, but has the bonus of damaging physical contact moves. This is vastly superior to King’s Shield, which fails to block status moves and most importantly, Taunt. It’s taken the whole year for players to finally transition over to Spiky Shield, but if you haven’t yet, you really ought to.

To encourage independent thought, I’m going to throw out some ideas for Smeargle’s 4th moveslot here. When Smeargle is so versatile, I’d be doing it a disservice to only mention what moves Smeargle commonly use. Outside of these core moves, depending on the team, you may see Smeargle running surprise support moves such as: Encore, Feint, Quick Guard, Wide Guard or Perish Song. If you don’t value your 4th moveslot much you could even run something as ridiculous as Baton Pass to make the most out of good Moody boosts when they happen. There’s no limit to what Smeargle can do (Soak anyone? Trick-or-Treat?), so though I recommend the sets below, if you’re exploring Smeargle, be inventive!

This Smeargle transformed into
Furret… for some reason

Sets:

Smeargle (F) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Moody
Level: 50
EVs: 68 HP / 100 Def / 84 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
Jolly Nature
– Dark Void
– Follow Me
– Encore
– Spiky Shield

This Smeargle is my personal favourite. Due to Smeargle’s abhorrent defensive stats, it becomes more effective to invest in its defences than its HP. The EVs are from Randy’s Smeargle, which make it a bit bulkier than just a 252/252 spread. With this spread, you have an awkward 4 EV’s left over that can’t add anything except 1 Atk, which only increases confusion damage so it’s better to just not include them. This Smeargle is up to its usual tricks with Dark Void, but has the option of using Follow Me to protect its partner. Follow Me functions quite well as a move to use when you get poor Moody boosts, as its efficacy is just as potent with Smeargle at -6 in all its stats, as it is with Smeargle at +6 in all its stats. Encore is primarily to trap Aegislash into King’s Shield or Substitute, but can be quite useful against slower Pokemon that Protect against potential Dark Voids. Not to mention how awesome it is when Smeargle receives a +2 Speed boost.

Yeah… that… .gif provided by Scott of NB!

Smeargle (F) @ Focus Sash
Ability: Moody
Level: 50
Happiness: 0
EVs: 252 HP / 4 SDef / 252 Spe
IV’s: 0 Atk / 30 Def
Jolly Nature
– Dark Void
– Transform
– Tailwind
– Spiky Shield

This Smeargle has a completely different game-plan behind it. Rather than stick to simply supporting the team, You can become one of them! This Smeargle is often paired alongside Kangaskhan for Fake Out support with two first turn options. One, Dark Void, Tailwind, Transform into Mega-Kangaskhan and win. Two, Tailwind while they double protect, then Dark Void, then Transform into Mega-Kangaskhan and win. Generally, if you have no good plan to stop this, it’s going to destroy you. Alternatively, you can always Transform into an opposing Pokemon if the situations calls for it.

252 HP is better for a Transform set as this is the only stat that isn’t copied. The 30 Defence is for Transforming into Pokemon that run Hidden Power, be they yours or your opponent’s. If running Frustration Kangaskhan, you will want to have 0 happiness, as the damage from Frustration/Return is based off Smeargle’s happiness and not copied by transforming (thank Andy aka Amarillo @Nuggetbridge.com for this useful tidbit of info)!

Other Options:

Without re-listing the alternate fourth moveslots above, Smeargle doesn’t have many other options available to it. I think a lot of people are terrified of running into someone running a Scarfed Smeargle that just ruins a best-of-1 swiss game with harsh sleep turns. But I wouldn’t be near as worried about this Smeargle in a Best-of-3 as most teams carry either a faster scarfed mon, Lum Berry, or priority moves that can take Smeargle out in comfort knowing it doesn’t have a Focus Sash (cough Bird cough).

Teammates:

Smeargle’s most common teammate is Kangaskhan. As mentioned earlier, Kangaskhan provides Fake Out support and an ideal transform target (complete with a +2 boost from a turn 2 Power up Punch). After the success that Randy’s team has seen you may see Smeargle + Blastoise leads, which threaten to Follow Me + Water Spout, or just Dark Void and hit hard with Mega Launcher.

Staple alternate Smeargle partners are few and far between, but do you really need more to be afraid of? This thing threatens to have two +2 Mega Kangaskhans staring you down at the end of turn 3.

Counters and Checks:

Phew, that Emolga was about to… Tailwind?

Lum Berry Garchomp with a Taunt Gyarados do a great job of countering both Smeargle and its favourite partner Kangaskhan. Gyarados with 140 speed can outspeed and Taunt, while Garchomp deals good damage to the -1 Kangaskhan. This is true of any Taunt user, but Gyarados gets special mention for bringing Intimidate while doing so. But as far as counters go, this is a bit weaker as it can be played around to some extent with good prediction.

Possibly the hardest actual counter to Smeargle itself is Safeguard, but leaving Kangaskhan alone for the first turn can be risky unless supported by a partner that threatens Kangaskhan (like your own Kangaskhan, or Lucario).
Setting up a Substitute before Smeargle can Dark Void will also protect you from status, and leave you in a good position presumably. This is a good option for fast bulky Pokemon like non-Choiced Hydreigon or Zapdos. 
Lastly a Kangaskhan does a great job of threatening Smeargle. Parental Bond smacks Smeargle upside the head, breaking its sash and then finishing it off in one attack. Anything that can hit Smeargle and its partner with a spread move will also be able to break the sash and/or finish Smeargle off.

Conclusion:

As I mentioned in the counters and checks, most Taunt users can threaten to Taunt Smeargle, but if Smeargle managed to attract attention to itself and let Kangaskhan set up, then it’s put in work. That’s kind of why I like the Follow Me set, where you just get to force attention towards Smeargle and let the partner do whatever they want.

All said and done, discussing only two sets that Smeargle can run really doesn’t do its potential justice. But, these more popular options are what you’re likely to see on opposing Smeargle. Smeargle also sits in an interesting position in the metagame, where most top players don’t want to rely on the 80% accurate Dark Void, and as such they don’t run it. Because of this, some people may relax their teambuilding with minor checks to Smeargle rather than having a solid plan. Smeargle preys upon slow teams, so just don’t forget to bring something faster than 139!

Cheers,
Crawdaunt out

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