Hey there Hat Lovers,
Today will be a follow-up to my “On developing Speed tiers throughout a metagame” article. This time around, I’ll be looking at examples of Pokemon that don’t set the speed bar first, and instead are interested in surviving important attacks. Specifically, I’ll talk about how players recognize what attacks are important, how that relates to the purpose of a Pokemon, and common themes amongst Pokemon that invest in bulk over maximizing their attack stat. My goal is to help players cue in on what they’ll need to prepare for in a developing metagame, and how they can go about doing that!
Table of contents
- What’s the real threat?
- What does your Pokemon do (and how can you help it fill that role)?
- What kinds of Pokemon use complicated spreads?
- In Conclusion
So with that, let’s dive right in!
1. What’s the real threat?
Mark’s note: This section looks really long and daunting, but it’s mostly because of pictures. Don’t be discouraged!
The most basic way to EV a Pokemon in bulk is to first figure out what Pokemon/attacks are major threats of the metagame. Players use a damage calculator like this one, to check the damage outputs of attacks on certain Pokemon and their spreads. For my example, I’ll look at the VGC 2014 year of play, and give some examples of offensive threats Players should expect to deal with. A great way to get an idea for this is to test on Showdown, and look through tournament reports or statistics that sites like Nuggetbridge.com put up. Hopefully the Pokemon on this list don’t come as a surprise:
In a somewhat selective order to aid my point…
Notably, the first four Pokemon have (had) been a strong metagame presence throughout the year. Kangaskhan’s popularity has dropped, but one cannot discuss VGC 2014 without discussing Mega Kangaskhan.
What players do to recognize threats is they first recognize threatening Pokemon. Garchomp, for instance, is ever-present. As such, it is beneficial to be able to survive attacks that Garchomp can dish out. Garchomp often tries to pick up OHKOs through super effective hits, and not through sheer power. This is reflected by most Garchomp using a Lum Berry this year, over a more aggressive item like Choice Band or Life Orb; though the latter have become popular as the year closes. Garchomp is also a great example Pokemon as throughout the whole year, almost every Garchomp ran this exact set:
Garchomp @ Lum Berry
Ability: Rough Skin
EVs: 4 HP / 252 Atk / 252 Spe
– Dragon Claw
– Rock Slide
As such, players knew what Garchomp was likely to dish out, and could try to prepare their team to deal with this. I’ll talk about one major bulky EV spread modification this year that was made with Garchomp in mind. Charizard-Y, a very common Pokemon at the start of the year, often invested quite plainly with 252 Speed and 252 Special Attack, Timid nature. This left it vulnerable to Garchomp’s Rock Slide, which just barely OHKO’d Charizard-Y 100% of the time:
252 Atk Garchomp Rock Slide vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Charizard Y: 156-188 (101.2 – 122%) — guaranteed OHKO
Charizard-Y players felt an increasing unease with the speed-ties that a Timid 252 Speed Charizard faced on a regular basis. Moreover, Garchomp would always outspeed Charizard-Y and it would always OHKO with Rock Slide. Charizard-Y players realized how pointless 252 Speed Timid was when the major threats either tied or outsped Charizard, and thus dropped Speed for bulk. How much bulk? Well… as the calculation above suggests, Charizard-Y is only barely being OHKO’d by Garchomp, so how much investment would it take to prevent a Rock Slide OHKO? The first step is often to just look at how 252 HP does:
252 Atk Garchomp Rock Slide vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Mega Charizard Y: 156-188 (84.3 – 101.6%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
And as you can see, 252 HP actually comes pretty close! What if we threw 4 Defence on?
252 Atk Garchomp Rock Slide vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Mega Charizard Y: 156-184 (84.3 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Bam, we have our defensive investment requirements for Charizard-Y to survive a Garchomp Rock Slide! The next question, as a Charizard player, is to ask “what other Pokemon are major problems for Charizard-Y?” One example many people had in mind was Mega Manectric. Not as popular as Garchomp, but a bit of a pain in the rear for Charizard/Venusaur teams. So, 4HP Charizard can be OHKO’d by a Mega Manectric Thunderbolt (which players know from having had it happen to them). How does 252 HP Charizard fair?
252 SpA Mega Manectric Volt Switch vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 110-132 (59.4 – 71.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252 SpA Mega Manectric Thunderbolt vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 140-168 (75.6 – 90.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Pretty solid! It’s good to note that even a Timid Mega Manectric’s Thunderbolt is well under a OHKO on 252HP Charizard-Y. That means we could maybe invest more on the physical side of things and less in HP, and still survive Mega Manectric while perhaps using less EVs to survive Garchomp’s Rock Slide. But before I bother with all that, what about just generally strong attacks of the metagame? One that comes to mind is an Adamant Mega Kangaskhan’s Return:
252+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Return vs. 252 HP / 4 Def Mega Charizard Y: 168-199 (90.8 – 107.5%) — 43.8% chance to OHKO
Dang, we have a problem. We need more physical bulk in Charizard-Y to guarantee surviving a M-Kang’s Return. So… playing around with the Showdown Damage calculator:
252+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Return vs. 252 HP / 76 Def Mega Charizard Y: 154-184 (83.2 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Alright! We’re still looking good. Charizard-Y can survive all of this stuff, and it can keep a respectable amount of Special Attack to boot. What about a Choice Band Talonflame’s Brave Bird?
252+ Atk Choice Band Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 252 HP / 76 Def Mega Charizard Y: 138-163 (74.5 – 88.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Oh man, no big deal. From doing that, I also know for the future that CB Talonflame’s Brave Bird is much weaker than an Adamant Mega Kangaskhan’s Return (which makes sense). So next time, I know that as long as it’s neutral-damage, if it survives Kangakshan it survives Talonflame. So I won’t need to bother checking Talonflame again.
Alright… I think that covers the physical side of things. What about the Special side? I took a brief look at Mega Manectric because it hits for weakness… but what about some strong Special attacks of the metagame? Modest Choice Specs Hydreigon is probably the strongest Special Attack I can think of… How does our Charizard-Y hold up?
252+ SpA Choice Specs Hydreigon Draco Meteor vs. 252 HP / 4 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 157-186 (84.8 – 100.5%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
Agh! So close. But that’s an easy fix. An extra 8 EVs in Special Defence solves my problem:
252+ SpA Choice Specs Hydreigon Draco Meteor vs. 252 HP / 12 SpD Mega Charizard Y: 156-184 (84.3 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Great! Hydreigon’s base Special Attack is 125, and Draco Meteor is a base power 130 move, and that’s Choice Specs boosted. In the future, I can forego checking any neutral damaged attack weaker than this combo of stats. If I survive Hydreigon, I survive anything.
So! So far our potential Charizard-Y EV spread looks like this:
Charizard @ Charizardite-Y
EVs: 252 HP / 76 Def / 12 SDef
The last thing to do is figure out what I want my speed benchmark to be, and what my Special Attack benchmark should be. As I mentioned in my last article, a developing Speed tier seemed to be to outspeed Smeargle. This requires 140 Speed at level 50. Modest Charizard (a sensible nature), has 120 Speed without any EVs. To outspeed Smeargle, I would need 156 EVs in Speed, reaching 140 Speed. What does this leave me with?
508 – 252 + 76 + 12 + 156 = 12
EVs: 252 HP / 76 Def / 12 SpA / 12 SDef / 156 Spe
Al…right then. 12 EVs left over for Special Attack. That’s… pretty underwhelming. I mean… Charizard-Y does have a base 159 Special Attack, so it’ll still hit really hard with only 12 SpA EVs, but… only 12 eh?
Here’s where you as a trainer have to make a decision. Is it worth surviving all of the above, including Mega Kangaskhan’s Return, if I reduce Charizard-Y’s damage output so much? To help out with this decision, you can do some damage calculations you think are relevant for Charizard-Y. For the most part, I think you’ll find that Charizard-Y’s base 159 Special Attack, combined with high base power moves like Heat Wave, Solarbeam and Overheat, patch up the need to invest in Special Attack. But what may bug you is that Charizard-Y’s current speed only barely outspeeds Smeargle, and thus will lose in speed to a lot of Pokemon trying to outspeed Smeargle (and each other) as well. See my article “On developing Speed tiers throughout a metagame” for an explanation. As such, while we began looking at bulk, even so it comes down to speed in the end. Positive base 80 speed Pokemon in that range hit a maximum of 145 Speed (e.g. Mamoswine).
So if I want Charizard to outspeed all the Base 80 Pokemon with Speed-boosting natures, I need it to hit 146 Speed. That requires 204 Speed EVs. Alas! Charizard doesn’t have enough EVs to go around! My decision seems to be: Do I outspeed all the Base 80 Pokemon, or do I take a Return from Mega Kangaskhan? After all, Charizard could survive Garchomp’s Rock Slide with only 252 HP and 4 Defence. The extra 72 Defence EVs were put on to survive Mega Kangaskhan and nothing else. Personally, I would outspeed the Base 80 Pokemon. But depending on your answer, you may end up with either of these two spreads:
Charizard @ Charizardite Y
EVs: 252 HP / 76 Def / 12 SpA / 12 SpD / 156 Spe
Survives Mega Kangaskhan’s Return and Choice Specs Hydreigon’s Draco Meteor
Charizard @ Charizardite Y
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 36 SpA / 12 SpD / 204 Spe
Survives Garchomp’s Rock Slide (multiple targets) and Choice Specs Hydreigon’s Draco Meteor
And there we have it! We’ve generated a “complicated” EV spread for Charizard-Y! The above paragraphs are quite complex-looking, but from doing all of those calculations I know for the future that Adamant Mega Kangaskhan is probably the strongest Physical threat I will ever have to check, and Modest Choice Specs Hydreigon is probably the strongest Special threat. In the future, I can save time by just checking my EVs against those two, and thinking of some Pokemon that hit my team for Super Effective damage.
2. What does your Pokemon do (and how can you help it fill that role)?
This next question is a bit trickier. The purpose of a Pokemon varies wildly from team to team. But, certainly, there are common themes to a Pokemon’s usage. For instance, looking at the most-used Pokemon above, something like Ludicolo is often on a team to beat Rain teams. Its Ice Beam is also used to OHKO Garchomp. But most often, Ludicolo’s base 90 Special Attack doesn’t pick up OHKO’s. As such, trainers often only invest as much in Ludicolo as is necessary to KO what it wants to, and invest in bulk to survive as many hits as possible. This is especially relevant for Ludicolo, as it has access to healing in the form of Giga Drain, and often uses an Assault Vest as it is a Fake Out Pokemon, and thus rarely runs Protect. So what we know is Ludicolo wants to be as bulky as possible, but again… we want to deal with Garchomp (it’s always Garchomp, isn’t it? and by extension Salamence).
So… let’s see. What is the minimum Special attack stat that Ludicolo needs to OHKO a 4HP Garchomp?:
148+ SpA Ludicolo Ice Beam vs. 4 HP / 0 SpD Garchomp: 184-220 (100 – 119.5%) — guaranteed OHKO
This translates into 141 Special Attack on Ludicolo.
Considering we’re investing so much into Special Attack, A Modest nature seems best. Try this out for yourself though and confirm what Nature is optimal to hit this number. It’s going to be the nature that gives you the most relevant stats for your 508 EV total investment.
So, we set Ludicolo’s Special Attack to 148 EVs with a Modest Nature, and dump the rest into bulk right? Well… let’s see what Assault Vest Ludicolo can survive. We just confirmed that Kangaskhan and Hydreigon were probably the most important threats to check. So… Adamant Mega Kangaskhan’s Return deals what to a 252 HP Ludicolo?:
252+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Return vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Ludicolo: 186-220 (99.4 – 117.6%) — 93.8% chance to OHKO
Fwoo! Dang that’s pretty rough. We’ve already invested 252 HP and we’re still being OHKO’d most of the time. We have a total of 108 EVs left to invest… if we dump them all into Defence can we survive?
252+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Return vs. 252 HP / 108 Def Ludicolo: 162-190 (86.6 – 101.6%) — 12.5% chance to OHKO
Close… That’s pretty interesting… But that means with any small amount of chip damage, Ludicolo is going down. And beyond that, I don’t have a guarantee to work with, and that puts me off. I think I’ll just have to accept that it’s not worth investing to survive Adamant Mega Kangaskhan’s return. What about a Jolly Mega Kangaskhan though?
252 Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Return vs. 252 HP / 52 Def Ludicolo: 157-186 (83.9 – 99.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
That… I can do. Alright, alright… Well… considering I can only just survive Kangaskhan while still OHKO’ing Garchomps… I’m gonna say that Talonflame eats me alive no matter what. So that’s not really worth checking… Maybe I’ll just check Specs Draco Meteor from Hydreigon. And while I’m at it, I’ll look at Sludge Bomb from Mega Gengar, since that’s a Super Effective attack that might be relevant.
252+ SpA Choice Specs Hydreigon Draco Meteor vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Assault Vest Ludicolo: 118-141 (63.1 – 75.4%) — guaranteed 2HKO
That Assault Vest puts in work. Cool… I don’t think I have to worry about attacks from the Special end OHKO’ing me. Lastly, Ludicolo isn’t a very fast Pokemon, but of course it has Swift Swim, which means at +2, I want to be sure I’m out-speeding some important threats. So… off to Scott’s Speed tiers article I go! So far I have 252 HP / 52 Def / 148 SpA.
That means I have 56 EVs left; four of which will go into Special Defence because 56 Speed and 52 Speed both reach the same speed stat. This means at least 4 will also go into Speed. A general rule is: you either invest in 3 stats or 5 stats, but never 4. This is because if you invest in 4, you’ll have left over EVs unused. This is not true for Pokemon with Hidden Power spreads.
So, 4 Spe Modest Ludicolo has 91 speed with up to 48 more EVs to invest. That means I’m looking for a speed stat between 91 and 97. There’s nothing much important in the range of 91-97, but what about in the range of 182-194? Apparently I can out-speed anything from Positive Mega Lucario (base 112, 180 Speed) to Noivern (base 123, 192 Speed). Also in that range is +1 Smeargle and +1 Tyranitar.
If I felt like Noivern was a threat, I might just dump the rest of my EVs into Speed and be done with it. For most people, Noivern is not a major consideration (though it can use Hurricane in the rain!), so you might instead settle for Scarfed Tyranitar (+1 Speed Tyranitar, 186 Speed) or Scarfed Smeargle (+1 Speed, 190 Speed). I’d personally go with out-speeding Scarfed TTar, but Nuggetbridge did just publish a Scarfed Smeargle article, so maybe that’d be more wise now! For now, I’ll go with Scarfed TTar. That means I want to reach 188 Speed, which divided by 2 is 94. So it looks like My Ludicolo needs 28 Speed to out-speed Scarfed TTar in the rain!
So, here’s what I’ve got at the moment. I have 24 EVs left to give:
Ludicolo @ Assault Vest
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 252 HP / 52 Def / 148 SpA / 4 SpD / 28 Spe
Stats: 187 HP / 97 Def / 141 SpA / 121 SpD / 94 Spe
As it turns out, Ludicolo was just 8 EVs off of something called an 11n number in Special Attack. The boost from 8 EVs in SpA from 140 EVs to 148 yields one SpA stat at level 50. But the boost from 8 EVs in SpA from 148 EVs to 156 yields an additional TWO SpA stats at level 50! Getting two stats for my 8 EVs seems worthwhile, so I’ll put 8 EVs there
Next, I could just dump the last 16 in anything. Defence to take physical hits better, as Ludicolo is known to run Assault Vest. Special Attack because extra damage is always good. Speed to out-speed other Ludicolos. But since we’re using a boosting Item (Assault Vest), investing in Special Defence will actually yield more stats than the others if I make sure it’s an even number; which it is not currently. So 8 EVs can go there to bring it to a 122 SpD stat.
That leaves me with only 8 EVs remaining. And when you have almost no EVs remaining, your best bet is probably just to invest in Speed. One stat in Defence may or may not play into damage rolls, but if you’re 1 Speed faster than an opposing Ludicolo, you’ll go first 100% of the time. That seems worthwhile to me. So our finished Ludicolo looks something like this:
Ludicolo @ Assault Vest
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 252 HP / 52 Def / 156 SpA / 12 SpD / 36 Spe
Stats: 187 HP / 97 Def / 143 SpA / 122 SpD / 95 Spe
So as a reminder, this section started out with the question: “What does your Pokemon do? How can you help it fulfill that role?” Ludicolo tanks hits well, and OHKO’s Garchomp (and Salamence). We made sure it does this by first ensuring it had enough Special Attack to OHKO Garchomp. Next, we invested enough Defence to survive Mega Kangaskhan. And last, we gave it enough Speed to out-speed relevant Pokemon in the rain. From there, we just took advantage of a boosting Nature and boosting Item, and finished off by speed creeping just a bit. The result? A very bulky Ludicolo that OHKO’s Garchomp and might even out-speed other Ludicolo.
When you have a Pokemon with a weak attacking stat, it’s often best to just settle at a Special Attack stat that OHKOs things that are hit for weakness, and just dump the rest into bulk. But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself… After all, the last section is:
3. What kinds of Pokemon use complicated EV spreads?
What do Ludicolo and Charizard have in common? Why do both of these Pokemon invest so specifically into bulk, and what motivates trainers to think so hard about their EVs when using these Pokemon? I think the answer to this question is even less obvious than before, because admittedly, Charizard and Ludicolo invested in bulk for different reasons! But that’s really the key to the puzzle; there are different reasons to invest in bulk.
In Charizard’s case, it is a base 100 Speed Pokemon, which means it often suffers speed-ties with other base 100 Speed Pokemon (of which there are many):
As a response, not wanting to speed-tie all day, Charizard was happy to drop its Speed in favour of trying to survive a relevant metagame Attack. As a result, it also ended up dropping its Special Attack just to survive this assault, but could make peace with that loss as its Special Attack stat is already off the charts.
In Ludicolo’s case, its purpose was to sponge hits and KO dragons. It was never in competition at a relevant Speed tier, and so it had little motivation to invest in Speed. That leaves the choice to invest in Special Attack and bulk. This meant it was always going to approach things from a “can I survive this?” perspective.
Most of the time, you’ll find Pokemon meet one of these two conditions. Either it wants to survive a specific attack from a major metagame threat, or it is already pretty bulky and just wants to ensure a OHKO before dumping the rest into bulk. Exceptions are few and far between, but Max has a great one in his Hidden Power Ice Raichu. His Raichu uses 4 HP and 16 Def EVs:
Raichu @ Focus Sash
EVs: 4 HP / 16 Def / 236 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 30 Atk / 30 Def
– Hidden Power [Ice]
– Fake Out
Why? Well Raichu is special in two ways. One, it is a Hidden Power user, which means its most efficient investment of EVs is in 4 stats and not in 5. Two, despite being a Focus Sash user, Max recognized one relevant attack that Raichu really wanted to deal with:
252+ Atk Parental Bond Mega Kangaskhan Sucker Punch vs. 4 HP / 16 Def Raichu: 114-135 (83.8 – 99.2%) — guaranteed 2HKO
Again, we come back to those big threats of the metagame. Yes, with just 16 EVs in Defence, Raichu can survive an Adamant Mega Kangaskhan Sucker Punch 100% of the time. Since Raichu’s Special Attack isn’t trying to hit any specific KO, it makes a lot of sense to drop 16 SpA for the assurance that Raichu can take a Sucker Punch if need be. Raichu fits into a different spectrum from Ludicolo and Charizard as it had a very relevant Speed stat, but a non-relevant Special Attack stat. This makes it a Pokemon where Speed is of the essence, but damage is not that important.
4. In Conclusion
So if you’re curious about whether or not to EV your Pokemon in bulk, you should try and recognize any of the following conditions:
- It is just barely OHKO’d by a major metagame threat
- Its Speed stat is not going to out-speed (or under-speed) anything relevant
- Its attack stat(s) are not hitting any important benchmarks
If your Pokemon fits into any of these 3 categories, it is likely a prime target for a more complicated EV spread designed with bulk in mind. Just keep in mind major metagame threats and what attacks are relevant to your Pokemon! And of course, for condition #3, if you can’t think of anything specific, you can always use the logic of the “On developing Speed tiers throughout a metagame” article and just invest as much as necessary in Speed and then dump the rest into bulk!
I’ve left out spreads where a bulky Pokemon doesn’t invest a full 252 HP, but they are far less common. Perhaps in another article! But for now…