Hey there Hat Lovers,
Today I’ll be talking a bit about some of the new kids on the block. VGC 2016 has a very different dynamic from previous formats in how important it is to control weather, and how important it is to prevent setup sweeps. This article will go over these Pokemon in detail and talk about a few gems that may be hiding in the rough (or are just bad… I dunno). Not all of these Pokemon actually have the Prankster ability, but they’re Pranksters in spirit. I’ll also talk a bit about how Pokemon like Thundurus can adapt to the new heavy-hitting format.
While I never played seriously until about 2014-on, I’ve been paying attention to the game since 2011, and so I’ve seen Pranksters succeed in every format since their introduction. Hopefully that experience will be good for something (like an article)! I’ll also include their usage stats from the Generation Showdown on 3ds.pokemon-gl.com.
Currently hyped Pokemon
I’ve seen a lot of these Pokemon on teams, and so I’ll talk a bit about what partners they’re commonly seen with, and what moves they tend to run.
Liepard’s bread and butter is having a fast Fake Out, Prankster Encore, all whilst offering Prankster Taunt. Liepard’s 4th moveslot is more versatile, and Liepard’s versatility has allowed it to be competitive in the past. BazAnderson’s Liepard/Breloom combination has won Regional-level events for him in both VGC 2013 and VGC 2015; not to mention a 9th-place Worlds finish in 2013. His Liepard ran Swagger instead of Taunt, and used Foul Play to give Liepard a good damage output. Liepard also has neat moves like Fake Tears, Role Play, Thunder Wave, Snarl, Charm, and if you’re really feeling spooky, Growl is a way to effectively get off an Intimidate before Liepard goes down; I don’t think anyone will actually use Growl, but Articuno64 inspires me to try weird things. Liepard has also been used as part of the infamous “DiveCats” and “VoidCats” strategies, which abuses Prankster Assist.
Liepard can also benefit from this format thanks to the increased utility of Foul Play. Yveltal is the first thing that comes to mind, as it effectively gives a Life Orb boost to all Dark moves on the field, but Foul Play is much stronger than that. This format is full of crazy-powerful Legendaries with ridiculous stats. Primal-Kyogre has a completely unused base 150 Attack stat, P-Groudon has a beastly base 180 Attack stat, and M-Rayquaza similarly obtains base 180 Attack. As a result, these three gods of the format are all chunked quite well by Liepard’s Foul play. Below are sample calcs to demonstrate this:
0 Atk Liepard Foul Play vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Primal Kyogre: 76-90 (36.7 – 43.4%) — guaranteed 3HKO
0 Atk Liepard Foul Play vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Primal Groudon: 76-91 (36.7 – 43.9%) — guaranteed 3HKO (252 Atk P-Groudon)
0 Atk Liepard Foul Play vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Mega Rayquaza: 90-106 (49.7 – 58.5%) — 99.6% chance to 2HKO
As such, Liepard can support its partner in picking up KOs by taking out about 40% of their HP. Liepard also responds to a variety of threats in the form of Encore and Taunt, preventing setup strategies and also providing outs to potential jank strategies like Dark Void Smeargle and Soak Shedinja. Liepard’s fast Fake Out can also help teammates (e.g. Xerneas) set up, and out-speeds most Fake Out users in the format. While I already gave a preview of Liepard’s movepool, here is its Top 10 most used moves from the Generation Showdown:
- Fake Out
- Foul Play
- Fake Tears
- Thunder Wave
- Role Play
And because no Top 10 list can go unblemished
- Sucker Punch (bad)
While Fake Out is near-guaranteed, and Foul Play and Encore are on almost every Liepard, past that it becomes a lot more grey. It’s guaranteed to be max Speed with a Focus Sash, and anyone who says otherwise is high (edit: except when there’s another Sash user like Liepard/Breloom). The one thing I’m not sure about is Liepard’s staying power in this format. While Prankster Encore is great, and is a powerful tool for teams, Liepard reminds me a lot of Bisharp in terms of how it’s used. Liepard is a very direct counter to problems in the format, and it’s not difficult to play around that directness if you’re expecting it.
For instance, Bisharp was one of the most common Pokemon on teams throughout VGC 2015, but its success waned as the format went on. Liepard’s bread-and-butter is in its Prankster Encore. But once people know how to play around Encore, it becomes a double-edged sword. If you try to Encore a Pokemon and they just switch out in response, the momentum shifts heavily as Liepard rarely carries Protect, can’t Fake Out again, and can’t Encore the newly-switched Pokemon. I expect Liepard usage/success to drop off massively as the year goes on, but in the hands of a true poker shark, I think Liepard can remain a powerful asset throughout the year *cough Baz cough*.
Tornadus hasn’t seen much success since 2011, but back then (with a very restricted pokedex), Tornadus was one of the most popular Pokemon of the format. In 2011, Tornadus thrived on having Prankster Taunt, coupled with Leftovers and Substitute. Tornadus also offered Tailwind support, Rain Dance, and had an offensive presence with Flying Gem Acrobatics. Acrobatics was extremely useful coverage for teams to have in order to deal with Amoonguss. Since then, it’s been difficult for Tornadus to succeed in recent formats due to a lack of Flying Gem and ever-present Rock Slides / Thunderbolts from the popularized Landorus-T and Thundurus-I combination.
Tornadus has a very different role in VGC 2016. The aforementioned weather control is a big reason for that. Tornadus is most commonly (almost exclusively) seen on teams with Kyogre. This gives Tornadus a 100% accurate Hurricane, returning to it some offensive presence (and an annoying 30% confuse rate). However, Tornadus’ other major role is to use Prankster Role Play to reset Primordial Sea as a checkmate type of play. It still offers Tailwind support, and can thus put Kyogre at +2 speed. If Kyogre can guarantee its Water Spouts/Origin Pulses go off, then things should go well for you, and Role Play gives the team that chance.
Tornadus also has the potential to Taunt, which helps prevent opposing Pokemon from setting up. As such, Tornadus responds quite well to both the newly introduced Weather Wars, and the threatening potential of Pokemon like Geomancy Xerneas. Lastly, it’s in a good speed tier both for Prankster Taunt, and for getting a Hurricane off before opposing Pokemon. The only faster Prankster is Whimsicott.
The following are Tornadus-I’s Top 10 most commonly used moves. Keep in mind Defiant Tornadus was available for the Generation Showdown, though the numbers don’t quite add up for some of those more questionable moves… :
- Air Slash
- Role Play
and the less relevant:
- Knock Off
Tornadus is most likely to run a speed-boosting nature (e.g. Timid), which seems like the way this kind of Pokemon should be run. Tornadus’ item slot is a mess, but the two most common items are Focus Sash and Sitrus Berry. I find that especially amusing, as Focus Sash and Sitrus Berry are polar opposite items. I’d say Sitrus Berry is more justified on a M-Rayquaza team that removes Tornadus’ weaknesses.
Of the lesser-used items, Leftovers would be good with Substitute, but it’s hard to find a good moveset to go with it. As a move not listed above, Sky Drop is a solid disruptive move for Tornadus. I don’t like Air Slash in the above list, but I suppose some people just wanted to have an accurate STAB regardless of weather, and any move that offers a 30% flinch chance can be annoying. If the team had paralysis, Air Slash would be far more justified to me.
I don’t see Tornadus being worth it on a team unless it’s using Role Play, so I’m surprised to see its usage so low on 3ds.pokemon-gl.com; but then again the data include random scrubs and comes from the proving ground for these Pokemon, so the idea for Role Play wasn’t established. I’d say Tornadus is only the optimal Pokemon for a team if it’s giving the team a Pokemon that has both Prankster Tailwind and Role Play; Prankster Taunt is also nice coverage. If not, I’m sure you could find another Pokemon (or combination of Pokemon) that does the job you want better. I guess if you just really needed Flying coverage and Tailwind in the same slot you could forego Role Play? I dunno… sounds like Talonflame but worse.
Whimsicott isn’t seeing as much use as Liepard or Tornadus, but it’s the last newly popularized Prankster I’ll talk about today. Like Liepard, Whimsicott gets access to Prankster Encore. Whimsicott is also the fastest Prankster Pokemon in the format, with base 116 Speed. Outside of Prankster Encore, Whimsicott gets Tailwind like Tornadus, and Fake Tears like Liepard. Whimsy similarly gets access to Taunt, and can use
a STAB Grass Knot Endeavour to deal decent damage to P-Kyogre and P-Groudon. Whimsicott also gets access to classic Prankster shenanigans like Swagger, but usually foregoes the cancerous accuracy of Stun Spore as it gets access to Tailwind. Its other niche moves include Safeguard, Worry Seed and Beat Up.
I won’t spend as much time discussing Whimsicott as its merits have been mentioned in the Liepard/Tornadus sections. It’s practically guaranteed to use Focus Sash, and have max speed. The following are Whimsicott’s Top 10 most used moves in order:
- Moonblast (should’ve been Endeavour)
- Worry Seed
- Fake Tears
- Beat Up
- Helping Hand
For once, a list of nothing but great moves, albeit some with very niche uses. I never realized how versatile Whimsy’s moveset was until I looked at this list and realized it excluded some of my fun ideas for a Whimsicott moveset.
In addition to these many solid move choices, Whimsicott is also the only Prankster Pokemon with access to Tickle. Alternately, Whimsicott gets access to Charm, and has the neat option of Endeavour. Couple that with a Focus Sash and base 116 speed, and you have a seriously good Endeavour. I’m not even being bad here. Consider this:
0 HP IV Endeavour Whimsicott does 42% to 252 HP Groudon/Kyogre, and 41% to Xerneas. That’s when Whimsicott is at FULL HP. So Endeavour really isn’t just a niche move for when your sash is activated. Whimsicott’s Endeavour has real damage output against bulky Restricted Pokemon. Not to mention, a timely endeavour can take any restricted legendary from full HP to 1 HP, so do keep it in mind in your teambuilding 😉
Like Liepard, Whimsicott nonetheless finds it niche primarily in Prankster Encore. And as was the case with Liepard, it’s tough to use effectively after the metagame is reminded of how to play against it. But again, as was the case with Liepard, Whimsy is versatile and I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone make it work this season. I don’t expect it’ll remain a highly relevant metagame Pokemon for long though.
Crobat is probably the Pokemon whose total usage rose most dramatically between 2015 and the start of 2016. Crobat’s base 130 Speed lets it pretend like it’s got Prankster, and pull off moves like Taunt and Tailwind before it gets KOd. Crobat’s other neat niche is Quick Guard, which out-speeds even Weavile’s Fake Out. Lastly, Crobat gets access to Super Fang, which is guaranteed to contribute to a KO as 50% is always going to be relevant damage if it hits a full HP target.
Why Crobat now? Primarily because of its access to Taunt, Tailwind, and the newly-gained Quick Guard (as of ORAS). Quick Guard is invaluable given the newfound presence of other Pranksters. Crobat also gets the ability Inner Focus, which lets it do its job in the face of Fake Out. This combination of moves is potent as it allows a Kangaskhan/Crobat lead to shut down opposing set ups, or Tailwind/Power-up Punch in the face of double Protect. Quick Guard also protects Crobat’s partners from crippling status moves like (Prankster) Thunder Wave, or from getting shut down by Prankster Encore.
As a glimpse of what else Crobat does, the Top 10 moves from the Generation Showdown:
- Super Fang
- Quick Guard
Everything past here receives less than 20% usage
- Brave Bird
- Cross Poison
Most Crobat hold a Lum Berry with a Jolly nature (or Timid if they’re only running Super Fang for damage), and I’m incredibly disappointed by Sitrus Berry being the next most common item. C’mon guys… it’s Crobat. What’s even more disappointing is that Choice Band and Life Orb don’t even make the Top 10 list of most-used items (the bottom of which, Rocky Helmet, saw 1.0% usage); who’s using Brave Bird, U-Turn and Cross Poison without Choice Band!?
I think Crobat is probably at its best when being disruptive, which means its best items are really Lum Berry (good), Mental Herb (weird), or Focus Sash (Wynaut). If you’re not using any of those, I’d hope you’re trying to take people by surprise with a Helping Hand Choice Band Cross Poison into a Xerneas (OHKOs). Wesley (dreadpirateroberts) was using Helping Hand Choice Band Crobat to OHKO Kangaskhan with Brave Bird at the end of 2015, so I’ve learned to respect the option.
Overall, Crobat has certainly seen a surge in popularity the likes of which it’s never had before. Its core moveset is simple but effective, and I don’t think it’s as easy to play around as Liepard or Whimsicott. What really allows Crobat to shine in this format is how overpowered the legendaries are. This has spawned Pranksters, and that has called upon Pokemon that can both Quick Guard and set up Tailwind. Also, Crobat’s mediocre bulk isn’t as much of an issue. I’m sure the hype will die down as the metagame develops, but I actually really like Crobat as a support Pokemon now that it has Quick Guard. It’ll be niche, but I think it’ll remain at a low level of success throughout the year (kind of like Gothitelle in 2015).
Other relevant Pokemon seeing a shift in usage
Talonflame is back to its old tricks from 2014. Life Orb Brave Bird is a simple but effective method to pick off weakened legendaries. Talonflame’s poor bulk is no longer as relatively pitiful, as many things that were previously viewed as “bulkier than Talonflame” still get OHKOd. Talonflame functions very similarly to Crobat, as it offers a move capable of dealing good damage to opposing legendaries, Tailwind, Quick Guard, and Taunt. Talonflame however relies on its Life Orb to put out good damage, while Crobat can opt for versatile item choices like Lum Berry or Mental Herb. In return, Talonflame offers additional coverage in the form of Flare Blitz (or Overheat), which can help deal with problem Pokemon like Ferrothorn and other Steel-types. Top 10 moves:
- Brave Bird
- Flare Blitz
- Quick Guard
For niche/bad moves, see below
Talonflame hasn’t really changed from its previous movesets, it’s just that the format fits it a bit better. I can definitely see Talonflame maintaining steady success year-round, because priority Brave Bird isn’t going to start being bad all of a sudden. I mean, look at these damage outputs:
252+ Atk Life Orb Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Primal Kyogre: 118-140 (57 – 67.6%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Life Orb Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Primal Groudon: 71-86 (34.2 – 41.5%) — guaranteed 3HKO
252+ Atk Life Orb Talonflame Brave Bird vs. 4 HP / 0 Def Xerneas: 113-134 (55.9 – 66.3%) — guaranteed 2HKO
252+ Atk Life Orb Talonflame Flare Blitz vs. 252 HP / 0 Def Dialga: 94-110 (45.4 – 53.1%) — 31.3% chance to 2HKO
Any non-restricted Pokemon that can deal close to 50% of a legendary’s HP bar with a priority move is going to remain relevant year-round. I’ll be surprised if Talonflame doesn’t remain relevant and Top Cutting Regionals throughout the year. There’s also Choice Band Talonflame, which can either Brave Bird harder, or run Tailwind to sack itself and allow something else to come in.
Thundurus (and discussion of Zapdos)
I’ll go over Thundurus briefly, as it hasn’t changed much. The real adjustment Thundurus needs to make this format is to accept its losses and realize its bulk is now insufficient. A lot of people will cling onto Sitrus Berry Thundurus, and while I don’t think it’s bad (especially not in strong winds), Thundurus will need to accept a new niche in Focus Sash variants. Sitrus Berry no longer reliably turns 2HKOs into 3HKOs. For instance, check out these damage calcs using a ridiculous 252 HP / 252 SpDef Calm Thundurus spread:
252+ SpA Primal Kyogre Origin Pulse vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Thundurus in Heavy Rain: 123-145 (66.1 – 77.9%) — guaranteed 2HKO after Sitrus Berry recovery
+2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Dazzling Gleam vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Thundurus: 114-135 (61.2 – 72.5%) — 97.7% chance to 2HKO after Sitrus Berry recovery
+2 252 SpA Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Thundurus: 181-214 (97.3 – 115%) — 87.5% chance to OHKO
252 SpA Life Orb Turboblaze Kyurem-W Ice Beam vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Thundurus: 203-242 (109.1 – 130.1%) — guaranteed OHKO
252 SpA Life Orb Mewtwo Ice Beam vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Thundurus: 127-151 (68.2 – 81.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO after Sitrus Berry recovery (not to mention Psystrike)
(and giving Thundurus some Defence)
0- Atk Life Orb Dark Aura Yveltal Foul Play vs. 252 HP / 60 Def Thundurus: 114-136 (61.2 – 73.1%) — 98% chance to 2HKO after Sitrus Berry recovery
The bulky Thundurus variant of the past is arguably better performed by Zapdos now. Not only does Zapdos gain 36 base defensive stats, but its base 100 Speed is adequate to outspeed most of the restricted Pokemon. This lets Zapdos set up Tailwind or use Thunder Wave just fine, and Zapdos additionally can use Roost for HP recovery while playing Thunder Wave / Swagger shenanigans. Zapdos also gets access to Light Screen which can prevent would-be OHKOs from +2 Xerneas, while also benefitting teammates. Zapdos in strong winds gets even better.
All around, I just wouldn’t tie myself down to the traditional Sitrus Berry Thundurus’ of previous formats. I think players that move on to Focus Sash or Life Orb variants will see greater success. I also rather like Focus Sash Thundurus as you can invest max Speed and max Special Attack to give Thundurus a potent Thunder(bolt) or Grass Knot (coverage). For instance:
252 SpA Thundurus Thunderbolt vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Kyogre: 102-120 (49.2 – 57.9%) — 91.8% chance to 2HKO
252 SpA Thundurus Grass Knot (120 BP) vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Primal Groudon: 73-86 (35.2 – 41.5%) — guaranteed 3HKO (not great, but better than being completely walled)
Finally, Thundurus (just like Tornadus), gets access to Role Play. As a Prankster that can reset Primal weathers, Thundurus picks up a new niche others are unable to fill.
Crawdaunt’s picks that deserve a mention
To clarify, I haven’t seen that much Raichu, and I don’t think Raichu is as good as the Pokemon listed above. But this format has Pokemon like P-Kyogre and Geomancy Xerneas, and Raichu can protect both from Electric attacks such as Thunderbolt or Thunder Wave. Raichu also offers a non-Prankster Encore, and a faster Fake Out than Liepard. Non-Prankster Encore is a neat niche, as it lets Raichu use predictive Encores to stop opponents rather than relying on the Prankster ability. This also means Raichu isn’t blocked by Quick Guard. Sure, predictive Encores are harder to pull off, but they’re also far harder to play around.
Rounding out Raichu’s moveset, it can use Nuzzle, Feint, and Helping Hand to offer some more utility to its team. I doubt anyone would use Swagger on Raichu, but Nuzzle + Swagger should work about as well as something like Liepard using Thunder Wave and Swagger, so I don’t think it’s that ridiculous. I mean… maybe I believe in ParaSwag too much considering I gave it to Rotom-W at one point. Then again, I did win that Premier Challenge so I think that also proves my point.
I’ve already mentioned Raichu’s relevant moves, and I don’t think it saw tons of usage during the Generational Showdown, so I won’t bother with listing its usage stats. Just know that Raichu should probably be holding a Focus Sash, and if that item is taken an Air Balloon can suffice (apparently). As I mentioned for Whimsicott, Raichu also gets Endeavour. Again, I’m going to convince you this isn’t a situational move.
Raichu and Whimsicott have the same base HP. Thus a 0 HP IV Raichu does 42% damage from FULL HP to 252 HP Groudon/Kyogre, 41% to 4 HP Xerneas. That means Raichu, from full HP, does consistently MORE damage to a full HP Groudon than Talonflame’s LO Brave Bird.
Seriously guys, consider Endeavour. Its damage output ranges from ~40%-99% against bulky legendaries.
Jumpluff gets a special mention and nod for its unique movepool. As was mentioned for previous Pranksters, the lack of bulk is no longer as relevant. Jumpluff is another fast Pokemon like Raichu, and gets a non-Prankster Encore. Unlike any of the pranksters on this list, Jumpluff also gets Rage Powder, letting your Prankster-like slot also function as redirection. It can use Worry Seed just like Whimsicott, and has access to Chlorophyll Sleep Powder, pairing nicely with P-Groudon. As a neat niche move, Jumpluff also gets Memento, which can be used to sack Jumpluff and harshly lower the target’s Attack AND Special Attack. If you’re as inspired by Articuno64 as I am, you’ll also consider Tail Whip before writing it off as bad. It also gets an array of good moves like Swagger, Helping Hand, and Aromatherapy. Its Grass typing also lets it ignore opposing Rage Powder, and thus Encore, Worry Seed, or Sleep Powder in the face of Amoonguss.
Jumpluff is more abstract, so here’s a list of its most common moves from the Generation Showdown (though I get the impression only 14 teams used Jumpluff):
- Sleep Powder (100% usage)
- Rage Powder
- Helping Hand
only one Jumpluff used each of the following moves
- Grass Knot (yeah!)
- Energy Ball (*induce vomiting*)
- Worry Seed
- Other (clearly Tail Whip)
- Aromatherapy (0% usage)
Finally, we’re down to Meowstic. Meowstic isn’t likely to make waves this year, but it does have a niche that other Pranksters lack. Meowstic offers a Pokemon that can set up Swagguard, while also having Role Play. Alternatively, Meowstic can pretend to be Liepard and just serve as a fast Fake Out, or it can do standard Prankster things like Thunder Wave / Swagger. Meowstic’s movepool runs deep, including Quick Guard, Charm, Helping Hand, Screens, Leer (<3) and Gravity (</3).
I feel like Meowstic should have a niche in the format, but like other Pranksters, will have to settle for Focus Sash or maybe Mental Herb if Sash is already used. Meowstic’s niche is that it’s probably the best Prankster to try and set up a Swagguard strategy with (the others include Whimsicott and Klefki). Klefki’s Steel/Fairy typing may work better this format though, with all the Dragon and Fairy attacks flying about. Still… I think if you’re doing anything other than Swagguard with Meowstic, you could probably be using another Pokemon on this list to greater effect. I mean… a unique moveset only Meowstic gets is Fake Out / Role Play / Thunder Wave / Quick Guard… But I’m sort of just throwing a hodge-podge of moves together, and I really dislike how Meowstic’s Fake Out is slower than Liepard’s, and how Meowstic is Taunt-bait.
We’re done here
That’s all for now! Hopefully this look into some of these newly relevant Pokemon (and niche choices) has inspired your teambuilding and made you better prepared for their tricks. The start of this format is certainly Prankster-friendly. In previous years, formats started out extremely aggressive with max speed/attack Pokemon. I think this format is plenty aggressive (a lot of games are pretty much over by Turn 4), but that’s the fault of Restricted Pokemon. Most non-Mega Pokemon can’t keep up in damage output with the Restricted Pokemon, but they can be disruptive. I think this is probably the biggest reason Pranksters and other disruptive Pokemon have seen such an increase in usage. The big guns of the format are undoubtedly the legendaries. But at the end of Regionals, it’ll be what team can support those legendaries best that rises to the top.