Back to the Lab: Live from the Underground
UU has always tried to strike a balance between its power level and the playability of the tier, and as such many of the restrictions of the formats try to adhere to that. What matters most, however, is what is actually in the tier. Previous OU mons’ who have now dropped to UU, namely Latias, Mega-Pidgeot, Raikou, and Scizor, have placed an increased importance on having speed control on a team, or preparing yourself to run a highly synergistic core of 6 bulky Pokemon As was seen in the early months of SMOU, the middle ground of balance is difficult to use, and currently variations of offense and stall see the most success. Before we look at how to play UU, I want to briefly talk about two threats that I feel define how Underused is played.
The greatest gift Conkeldurr got this generation was the nerf to burn damage, believe it or not. It was quickly realized that the flame orb set became the best fit for this fighting hulk, as it gave it access to an instant 50% boost in attack, and unlike choice band didn’t lock it into a move. Utilizing its excellent coverage of drain punch, facade, knock off and mach punch, this allows it to tear through the both stall and offense alike,easily absorbing status, possessing natural bulk + recovery , and having access to an incredibly strong priority move that threatens sweepers such as Mega-Sharpedo and Weavile.
Thanks to its subpar performance in OU, Xurkitree has slid its way into the underground tier, and currently tears up the format. Possessing a base 173 special attack, a stat that is on par with some of Uber’s heaviest hitters, and access to tail glow which can skyrocket it even further. Some of its more popular sets run Z-electric terrain and Z-hypnosis, which each give it a boost to its otherwise average speed and allows it to outpace the entire format, save for Mega-Aerodactyl. Like Conkeldurr, its sheer offensive capabilities are enough to muscle its way through the majority of stall teams, and present serious issues for offense as well. Bar the aforementioned Aerodactyl, Blissey, or a Scarf user, it’s plain to see that Xurkitree is another format-defining mon’. And here’s a replay in case you don’t believe me.
So where does this leave team-building? If you have any experience in OU, you’ll find UU builds in a similar manner. All of the threats I mentioned are offensive, and many of their best checks are offensive as well. This isn’t to discourage the use of defensive cores by any means, rather that the way the tier has shaped up people tend to gravitate more towards offensive answers as a way to quickly eliminate the threat. If the current shift towards balance in OU is any indication, with another round or two of suspect tests I’m sure we’ll see UU take the same trend. For now, let’s take a look at two teams that showcase UU best.
You can see the way both these teams are built capitalizes primarily on their offensive synergy, and the moves that offer pressure on their respective switch-ins. Scarf users like Infernape are able to hit a comfortable speed tier while revenge killing common threats, and are often complimented by powerful wall breakers, such as Specs Ribombee in this case. You’ll notice the teams few defensive members also have great offensive capabilities, namely Mega-Swampert and Calm Mind Suicune. Having this mix ensures that you never lose any momentum in a match up by playing too passively.
The team used by cookeees showcases bulky offense, a play style between offense and balance that looks for defensive synergy while also using the team’s offensive capabilities to muscle through checks. The combination of Chesnaught, Suicune, and Blissey are able to soak a variety of special and physical threats alike, with Blissey offering cleric support while Suicune and Chesnaught attempt to muscle through each other’s counters. Having something that can naturally absorb status and access to recovery often mitigates the damage output offense can dish out, and here Suciune performs its classic role as a calm minding rest-talker. The Gen 3 set hasn’t aged a bit!
Since this was just a brief take on how I think the metagame is shaping up, I’ll leave a link to a host of resources here. Frankly I think UU needs some work, as many of its most powerful wall breakers have limited answers in the current lineup. This has definitely been echoed by most of the UU Tiering Council, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a few more suspect tests, namely Xurkitree and Weavile, before UU really starts to settle down. At the end of the day though, I definitely won’t discourage you from trying Pokemon that aren’t necessarily on Smogon’s viability ranking. Viability doesn’t always imply usability, so pulling out a wild card could give you a leg up in some match-ups.