Hello. I believe most people here don't know me and still won't after reading this article, so I'm keeping the introduction short: I'm called Fatum, I'm way too old for Pokémon and I'm a native of Germany -- home country of people like Albert Einstein, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche and Ludwig van Beethoven, but also of the first Pokémon World Championship runner-up Edwin Krause (2000 in Sydney, Australia). As the title might have one guess, I'm writing a team analysis related to the Global Battle Union, i.e. the 2012 Autumn Friendly. I have finished that with 102 recorded wins, 17 inofficial ones, 11 losses and 1934 points as my best and final score. I achieved that using a Rain Dance team which in team preview looks like this (in a less obvious order though):
Motivation and Team Building Process
disconnect marathons GBU tournaments without Japanese involvement tend to get very exhausting in the long run, especially with me almost never meeting people I know. Instead, I would be fighting in-game teams half of the time and the better part would still be mostly barely "good" people, so I saw no point in running some boring cliché Cresselia/Metagross/Thundurus/X/Y/Z standard good stuff team in another Friendly. In fact, I've already used a fun heavy-offense team of Whimsicott/Hydreigon/Garchomp/Rotom-H/Abomasnow/Hitmontop in the 2012 Spring Friendly, which had Whimsicott disrupting people with Encore and setting up surprise knockouts with Fake Tears, and the rest, well, destroying stuff. I had a good time then, I did even manage to beat 2 out of the top 3 of the final ranking in the process. While I do not reject bringing the usual stuff against the Japanese to put it to a real test, opting for something out of the picture against the rest of the world again should be the best way to jolly oneself along and progress in team building at the same time.
The starting point for this team project lies somewhere around this year's Spring Friendly. I was certain that Rain teams could do very well in our metagame, where most people are "countering" them just by tacking on an "anti-weather" Pokémon that didn't really fit their team. So I figured, I might build one with a lone Fire type in it to punish them (yes, only few threaten Tyranitar, but Tyranitar alone should be no real problem -- it hates Water, Steel and much else) and also to address especially hard counters like Ferrothorn, Virizion etc. My first idea was Infernape, which beats both Tyranitar and Abomasnow and is also a pretty neat supporter (Fake Out, Feint, Encore, STAB priority and whatever else it learns, four moveslots are obviously a disgrace to it). I just didn't get around to it and then, at the Spring Friendly, I became aware of R Inanimate's Surf-oriented Rain team (it can be found here).
Well, when I theorymonned with Infernape before, I wasn't even taking Surf into account because I hated how it is both rather weak and an obstacle for fellow team members at the same time. (Fun fact: Even in Japan, where I also get a good share of my inspiration from, Surf is pretty unpopular with less than 10% of their Politoed using it, according to the Japan Cup statistics on Global Link.) Even hitting double-resistances like Ludicolo or Kingdra with it wasn't inviting, as I would still eventually critical hit my own resources to death instead of the opponents'. For actual Water immunity, I would need obstructive mons like Musharna or something, which wasn't appealing either. Of course, this was all before I became aware of Gastrodon's greatness. (Gastrodon's actually a story on its own... I have never touched it until this March, but used it in more than half of the teams I've built since then.) So, R Inanimate's success was basically fuel I needed to give Surf a chance, and of course Gastrodon would play a role in this project as well. I also liked his Scarf Politoed, probably because I always like to have one Scarf mon in my team and it's somewhat similar to the Scarf Tyranitar that I kinda fell in love with at the time. You see, personal preferences do matter.
So, I basically picked up the Politoed/Ludicolo/Gastrodon trio then -- there would be no point in diverting from that too much. The next step was to include a Steel Pokémon as insurance against Dragons. Metagross, Scizor and Ferrothorn are the popular options for that, with Metagross being the overall most solid of them, Scizor being a qualitatively similar attacker with better support options, and Ferrothorn being... completely useless against itself. I went with Scizor out of personal preference. It would also make a good combination with Gastrodon and support the speediness of the concept with the best Bullet Punch of the game.
Now for the weird stuff; I still wanted to test a Fire Pokémon in a Rain environment. My inspiration probably had a similar idea, as he used Arcanine in his team. It sure does lack the great supporting movepool Infernape has, but on the other hand it's more bulky, has access to Intimidate and can actually Flare Blitz without committing suicide. In the end, I kind of copied that instead of sticking with Infernape because Infernape really doesn't work well with Surf at all.
The sixth slot was the most difficult one. I could either do more Surf abusing just as my source did or I could try to include another counter to this concept's worst enemies. I decided to do the latter to avoid getting too similar to the original, but I also thought another offensive Water Pokémon would be overkill and thus worsen some of my matchups while not adding much new to the mix. So I somehow remembered that Tornadus actually exists und customized his pranks in order to meet a Rain team's needs.
So, now for the sets. IVs are always 31/31/31/31/31/31 or 31/0/31/31/31/31; the RNG made it easily possible for everyone except Tornadus (that would be a 22 in the unused attack stat).
A Look through the Magnifying Glass
Politoed / Quaxo / Edenspring
Modest, Drizzle, ♂
4 HP, 252 SpAtk, 252 Spe
@ Choice Scarf
~ Ice Beam
~ Hydro Pump
~ Perish Song
Surf is, just as the title suggests, the move I used the most as it is accurate, hits both foes and powers up two team mates. Hydro Pump is used when Surf is not an option because of Politoed's partner or when I don't want to be Choice-locked into Surf. (Random fact: I didn't miss a single Hydro Pump in the Friendly. I used it only on two days if I'm not mistaken, but multiple times each.) Ice Beam is the rather generic coverage move that helps in dealing with Dragons and occasional Grass Pokémon not named Abomasnow or Ludicolo. Perish Song is nothing too surprising again, as Politoed's movepool doesn't have much to offer. Because I just didn't get around to using it until a late match on day 4, I was toying with using a suitable Hidden Power over it, but those now just have to be thoughts of the past -- Perish Song saved me once and has thus justified its place on the set. On another note, I seem to have a special relationship with weather-summoning Scarfers for some reason... While they do have a clear disadvantage in weather wars, they tend to be comfortable as super-fast attackers.
Politoed's nature is the one thing I'm really not sure about. I thought I would be fine with Modest for the extra power, and I do believe it has won me some matches indeed. On the other hand, I've met way more Jolteons and the likes than I ever expected, which was quite annoying since I had only Ludicolo to outspeed them and a bunch of Pokémon that (except for Gastrodon) get 1-2HKOed by STAB Thunderbolts.
Ludicolo / Kappalores / Kokolores
Modest, Swift Swim, ♂
4 Def, 252 SpAtk, 252 Spe
@ Absorb Bulb
~ Fake Out
~ Giga Drain
~ Ice Beam
Just ripped that off my inspiration, pretty standard offensive Ludicolo otherwise though. Absorb Bulb is a one-time-use item that yields +1 special attack when hit by Water (i.e. Politoed's Surf), Fake Out buys me time and disrupts opposing Fake Out setups, and the three attacks give Ludicolo good coverage: Surf and Ice Beam are just as obvious as for Politoed and pretty much any special-attacking Water Pokémon, while Giga Drain gets STAB and beats most other Water Pokémon, which resist the Water/Ice combination in one way or another. Additionally, it can be very annoying if it hits something for good damage, as the healing effect can save a damaged Ludicolo from impending knockouts. Of course I would have liked Protect against Trick Room teams, but the offensive coverage is way more important to be actually able to sweep. If there were an item that does nothing but give a fifth moveslot (here's something you might do for Gen VI, Game Freak), I would use it without hesitation.
Nevertheless, I'm in fact one step away from changing the item to a straightforward Gem (might even go for the unusual Ice one to hit those Dragon pests harder...) or a Lum Berry, because Thundurus is nothing short of a major nuisance, or even a Life Orb to go all-in from scratch. If I were to keep Absorb Bulb, I would need to add more Surfs to the team for better means of activation. Using Politoed alone for that turned out to be a little clunky against people who are not easily beaten anyway.
Gastrodon / Tritonus
Calm, Storm Drain, ♂
252 HP, 108 Def, 4 SpAtk, 140 SpDef, 4 Spe
@ Rindo Berry
~ Earth Power
~ Ice Beam
"So, who is that Hitmontop guy everyone talks about anyway?" While I do like Hitmontop for his utility, Gastrodon is without any doubt the most impressive old-gen discovery of the metagame, in my opinion. If there are still people who seriously don't know about it, Cassie's article should be a good starting point. Well, Storm Drain (just as Lightningrod) has become an insanely cool ability in Gen V, as it not only redirects Water attacks but also grants immunity to it while even boosting the Pokémon's Special Attack by +1. Surf abuses this fact because as a field move it both hits everything out and at the same time pumps up Gastrodon. So basically, while Gastrodon is also a valuable Pokémon in standard good stuff, Trick Room and whatever, Surf-oriented rain teams like this one are actually using Gastrodon to its full natural potential.
As for the set, it's again pretty standard and straightforward, but a fully defensive variant. The team in total is pretty frail after all, so I figured I'd want at least my Gastrodon to eat hits for breakfast rather than death. With this EV spread, it's nearly impossible to 2HKO Gastrodon without Grass, very powerful attacks or the occasional critical hit. Speaking of the offensive side, I don't care about investing into special attack at all, since I would be boosting it with Surfs most of the time anyway. In addition, I'm not even using a Water-type move, so this Gastrodon is definitely not the born Rain sweeper. (Actually, it would never really have a shot at sweeping without proper speed control.) So, Recover and Protect are both in the set to maximize Gastrodon's longevity, while Earth Power is the one compulsory STAB and Ice Beam is, again, the best coverage move out there.
Arcanine / Arkani / Hasso
Adamant, Intimidate, ♂
188 HP, 252 Atk, 4 Def, 4 SpDef, 60 Spe
@ Fire Gem
~ Flare Blitz
~ Close Combat
That's pretty much what one would/should come up with initially after viewing Arcanine's data on their Pokédex site of choice, I guess. Flare Blitz hits anything without resistance like a truck™ outside of rain (especially with the Fire Gem still available) and checks the team archetype's arch nemesis Ferrothorn inside of Rain. ExtremeSpeed hits for the rare +2 priority, outspeeding Bullet Punch, Ice Shard, Sucker Punch etc. Close Combat is what I believe to be Arcanine's best coverage move, as it hits most Rock Types super-effectively (especially Tyranitar), threatens Heatran, also hits Hydreigon hard and is the best last-ditch effort against most things that are slower but resistant to Fire. Of course, this set can't do a single point of damage to Flash Fire Chandelure, but really, who would even want to pick that against any Water-heavy team? The EVs are again focused on attacking, but also provide some bulk to be able to use Intimidate well and Flare Blitz more than once. Outside of Rain, this Arcanine outspeeds Ludicolo by one point, though I actually might add some more, because I've just found out that the rare Jolly Tyranitar is still one point faster.
There's another story about Arcanine that might be interesting: Back in 2009 when VGC was introduced to Europe, many German top players enjoyed using Arcanine as a solid anti-metagame Pokémon in their good stuff teams, with three of them playing in the national semifinals. Then, when the generation transition occured, I noticed that Arcanine received Close Combat as a new egg move (we used Will-o-Wisp, Iron Head, Charm or other situational stuff for this filler slot before), which made me breed Arcanine as my first old-gen Pokémon on White. It has been a prime choice on many different teams in different modes for me since then.
Scizor / Scherox / Eisenfaust
Adamant, Technician, ♀
252 HP, 4 Atk, 36 Def, 204 SpDef, 12 Spe
@ Steel Gem
~ Bug Bite
~ Bullet Punch
~ Swords Dance
This was obviously inspired by the American National champions, though I chose a more defensive route, as I lack the Thunder Wave / Icy Wind support that lets this lil' bug do the awesome things we've seen in the first place. The purpose of it in this team is rather to check threats like Dragons or opposing Ludicolo and give me, together with Gastrodon, a defensive backbone to work from when the aggressive way isn't working out at the time. Besides, Swords Dance is also nice to put pressure on Ferrothorn users, since Ferrothorn itself has absolutely no way except insane "parahax" to stop it. The low attack isn't hurting too much (it does sometimes annoy me, but the additional bulk has fully paid off), Bug Bite still OHKOs most Ludicolos, 2HKOs most Cresselias and Bullet Punch never really OHKOs anything anyway. Apart from that, Intimidate disrupts all variants the same as long as they have no attack boosts.
Yes, until Worlds I've definitely preferred Scizor over Metagross in general, but with everyone and their mother being like "I'm throwing random Fire moves on any mon jajaja," my love has since faded. Plus, no matter what EVs I use, Scizor never ever reaches Metagross in terms of bulk. Another problematic thing is the quirky coverage: as I've already mentioned somewhere, I'm having a hard time versus Electric mons, and especially the Flying ones of them laugh at Scizor's attacks. I really might have enjoyed a nice, hard-hitting Zen Headbutt there, but who knows.
Tornadus / Boreos / Random Orc
Jolly, Prankster, ♂
4 HP, 252 Atk, 252 Spe
@ Flying Gem
~ Rain Dance
Yeah, you've read right, I'm using physical Tornadus in a Rain team. I actually did want to use a special one with Hurricane, but can't be bothered to restart my Black, and I'm not too fond of trading my teams together, so physical it is. Turned out, this "choice" was not naïve but prudent: I can't always assume I'll have Rain available, and 70% accuracy is something I prefer to completely refrain from relying on. So, it's just less power for more reliability, of course, and usually still does enough damage. The "Rain vs. no Rain" issue leads me to the next choice, which is manual Rain Dance as backup weather. As I have pointed out, Politoed loses at weather wars, and because of its frailty, it really isn't a weather summoner that would guarantee my field effects. So, once Politoed is absent or is in fact still on the field, Tornadus can easily fix the weather because of Prankster, and five turns are usually enough mid-game. As for the negative side of things, his lack of bulk is probably what I like the least about him -- I actually had no choice there, since I wanted something that outspeeds Latios and hits him hard at the same time.
Taunt was supposed to prevent Trick Room, but this was indeed a naïve assumption. Especially if they're offensive summoners like Reuniclus or something, they would just attack for free and still get the setup later somehow. Mental Herb is another issue, because it just renders the first Taunt useless (and most importantly, it is in fact used by people!), which is enough to force me onto the defensive. Thus, I should just do it like I do it most of the time with random good stuff teams: let them have their Trick Room and then disrupt their game under it. It's tempting to just use Amoonguss or something... whatever. If I were to still use this exact team in B2W2 (which I won't), I would try Superpower over Taunt to make Tornadus more valuable to pick against Sand teams and improve coverage in general.
Politoed + Ludicolo + Gastrodon
These three are obviously the core of the team -- I might call it "WWW", to parody the magical buzzword that FWG (Fire - Water - Grass) is. Out of the 132 matches I have played during the Autumn Friendly, there have been only 15 where I didn't pick all of them, and of those only 2 where I picked only one of them, which was Gastrodon. They have been surfing GBU, after all! What exactly they are doing together should be intuitive after reading the movesets, but for the record once more and at a single place: Politoed's Drizzle summons the rain to activate Ludicolo's Swift Swim and boost the power of their Water-type moves. Politoed is also the one to eventually trigger Ludicolo's Absorb Bulb by using Surf on it. Independently from that, both Politoed and Ludicolo can use Surf on Gastrodon any time to activate Storm Drain. If I were to average the number of boosts Gastrodon got per battle, I'm pretty sure it would be at least +2.
While it isn't much, they also have a minimum of defensive synergy: Gastrodon's Ground typing helps to absorb Electric moves of any form, be it the Thunder(bolt) threatening a Politoed knockout, the Thunder Wave attempting to cripple Ludicolo or even the Volt Switch, effectively denying the opponent a switch without the use of Mean Look. To a lesser extent, Gastrodon also helps Ludicolo avoid random Poison attacks. The other way around though, there is nothing of value. Politoed and Ludicolo just don't want to take hits -- they just want to flood everything and Gastrodon's their sponge in both offensively and defensively.
As for the actual foursome construction, Politoed and Ludicolo have also turned out to be my favorite lead. Gastrodon, on the other hand, was in the back or not used 100% of the time -- I did see other people opening with the sea slug somehow, but I don't know. I don't like such a slow and unable-to-do-much-on-its-own starter, and I need it to switch into stuff I don't want other mons to suffer. Well, back to Politoed and Ludicolo, or just Policolo in short. While this duo looks rather straightforward and simple in theorymon, it does have versatility. First, I just would not be doing Fake Out / Surf mindlessly just for the setup if I know the time has not come yet. (Random fact: The second-place girl of the German Junior Division National Championship 2012 used this as an autopilot setup, but with Toxicroak and Kingdra in the back, and all four in their ugly shiny versions to top that off. It's a sad thing that German juniors appear to have no real understanding about the game at all. Well, at least we finally have some talented seniors...) ...But, I digress.
This is what I mean: the purpose of Policolo against more competitive players is not to set up but to pressure them by the mere appearance of the infamous Rain duo. They have to fear a Fake Out combined with any powerful Water attack, they have to fear even two powerful Water attacks, they need to apply some countermeasures (i.e. anti-weather or status infliction) instantly or they might just get overrun etc. Sometimes I'm activating the Absorb Bulb, sometimes I'm not. If I am activating the Absorb Bulb, there is also a possibility to attack with Ludicolo the first turn instead of using Fake Out. Because Politoed is Scarfed, both mons are usually moving before the opposing ones, so I might put a severe dent into their teams before they can even hit back. This aggressive approach is even more interesting when they are using Tyranitar: Usually, they will not be opening with it but instead with something that plainly loses to Policolo on their own. That's why they need to bring Tyranitar to steal the weather before they get too far behind -- this is when Tyranitar is in for some super-effective damage which will definitely matter in the future. On the one hand, it's simply adding up with Tyranitar having no means of recovery, and on the other hand, it's setting up the usual bulky Tyranitar for a Bullet Punch knockout or threat thereof. Switching one part of Policolo to Gastrodon while Surfing with the other also boosts the slug which doesn't care about the weather but is a completely new threat on the field.
Well, in general, as long as they don't find a way to knockout or disable Policolo or a decisive part thereof, they always have to live in fear of the fatal downpour. Gastrodon's defensive role makes conserving them for later easily possible. Dedicated counter Pokémon like Ferrothorn, Amoonguss, another Ludicolo etc. though should be handled by the team's supporting Pokémon in a suitable way. One implementation is...
Arcanine + Ludicolo
Not a duo with particularly noteworthy synergy but another useful lead. As Arcanine doesn't like Rain in general, having it open without Politoed is a way to get at least one full-force Flare Blitz off. Ludicolo's Fake Out helps with that -- the idea is not much different than the common Latios/Hitmontop or stuff like that. Usually, this lead is chosen if the opponent has some Grass Pokémon but doesn't seem to have much to keep Arcanine at bay. So, if he then is also starting with the Grass mon, I have just created myself a favorable field situation. If he is not, well, most times there would still be another nice target for the strong hit. Nevertheless, especially because of Intimidate, this lead can also be used in an entirely different way: switch to Politoed while using Fake Out, so Ludicolo will have its Rain. This approach appears to be particularly useful against dedicated Sand teams, as they tend to be heavily leaned toward physical attackers, while there is still a good chance that Arcanine will have favorable weather mid-game.
Tornadus + Ludicolo
This is another lead combination which I happened to use often, but I actually don't like it -- maybe because I don't really like Tornadus at all... Nevertheless, the purposes are simple: 1) Again, they can be used just as aggressively as the other duo (except that Acrobatics is a good chunk weaker). 2) Because Tornadus packs Taunt, they can prevent setups that are played a bit too carelessly. I do hate this tactic, as it's way too easy to punish and therefore rather ineffective. 3) Tornadus can set up surprise rain, of course. This is best done when the opponent's weather changer is right on the field, so he needs to switch it out and back in to stop Ludicolo from raging. A big problem with that though is Tornadus's frailty -- sometimes he winds up as mere cannon fodder; summoning rain with Politoed is much easier and better, in general.
Gastrodon + Scizor
Or short Gastrozor. Actually, they are a combination that I have discovered in a good stuff environment this spring. I was always somewhat paranoid about playing against rain, and once I got around to use Gastrodon, I quickly found that it basically walls rain stuff except for Ludicolo. This can be handled by Scizor then, which also appreciates Hydro Pumps and Scalds being redirected. This way, they also happen to counter Calm Mind Suicune, which can be pretty annoying on its own. Well, back to the Rain counter thing: If they use Electric Pokémon like Rotom, this block can still be broken easily, so actually Gastrozor need a helpful third or even fourth team member to really beat Rain -- an element that was greatly missed during the Autumn Friendly, as I have learned... Anyway, Rain paranoia of course isn't their only selling point. First, they cover each other's weaknesses in general. Second, while Gastrodon does have some bulk, it still greatly prefers not to be double-targeted -- that's where Scizor's unmatched Bullet Punch comes into play. Third, because of they overall bulk, they don't care too much about field conditions. Be it Trick Room, weather other than my Rain, Icy Wind or whatever, they are hardly incapacitated by that. It's no wonder that they are working well with good stuff, too.
Gastrodon + Arcanine
Well, this is actually quite similar to Gastrozor but a tad more intuitive. As long as the opposing Pokémon don't know Surf or Muddy Water, Arcanine loses one of its three weaknesses just by Gastrodon's presence, while Arcanine is an even bigger threat to Grass Pokémon. Besides, Intimidate increases Gastrodon's longevity. If we put both Gastrozor and Gastrodon/Arcanine together, the result is somewhat resembling the common Gastrodon/Salamence/Metagross core. Sadly, Gastrodon and Arcanine didn't have much fun together during the Friendly, because I was heavily focusing on my Rain mode.
Problems and Future Work
The team as I've introduced it is what one might call version 1.0 (apart from that, it's my first time playing Rain seriously since Gen III) -- I have played not more than 15 matches with it before the Friendly, so it is only natural that there are some flaws. Most notably, it has some consistency issues in multiple regards. For example, if I'm choosing Politoed for battle (which I do most of the time), I'm required to also choose at the very least one of Arcanine, Scizor and Tornadus, who all obviously do not enjoy Surf. Usually, I can avoid them being hit by it by releasing the Scarf lock with a timely switch, or if not, at least Scizor isn't 2HKOed by it and all three carry Protect. Though, this mere fact has led me into lose-lose situations sometimes, where I had to either switch Politoed out to give my opponent a free turn to attack or just let it stay in, in both cases have the partner faint by an attack to then replace it by my last Pokémon -- the one who hates Politoed's ultimate bond with Surf.
Another problem is the fact that 4/6 Pokémon have rather weak offensive coverage on their own: Politoed is useless against Water -- ok, we can't be perfect. Scizor is useless against Fire, pure Steel and some popular mixed Flying-type mons -- fine, even Big Boss Metagross doesn't hit everything. Arcanine is useless against Fire, Dragon and Water -- now it's getting rough, as there are already a good number of other team members that are experiencing difficulties with certain Water Pokémon. Tornadus, for the last one, is useless against Rock, Steel and Electric -- this is obviously what a pure Flying attacker gets, but we do know that there are not few teams of Tyranitar/Rotom-W/Metagross/X/Y/Z or even worse roaming about. It might not be too big of a matter for each of them on their own, but because too many are sharing this predicate, it does add up in the end. By mentioning Wash Rotom, I have already painted the devil on the wall: I have no reliable way but Ludicolo to beat it. As for "adding up" in general, sometimes I have felt as early as team preview that "I do not want to use this Pokémon in battle, but I'm forced to bring it." Ironically, other Rain teams are the matchup where this has happened most often, though there it wasn't even only because of bad attacking options... Anyway, all of this could very well be mitigated by adding more Pokémon with better overall coverage to the team (it's an offensive team after all), and while I'm at it, I should also deal with the slight Electric weakness.
So, in a nutshell, this team has some issues, and I advise no one to copy it only to make the same discoveries. The core and each single mon on its own are working fine but the synergy could be better. Therefore, I will most likely keep the core while trying out a few different supporters. This experience has brought me many ideas for them, some even by my opponents in the tournament.
Although the Autumn Friendly still consisted of steamrolling casual players for a big part, I have learned much about both my team and also Rain concepts overall. With Politoed, Ludicolo and Kingdra dominating the picture, one cannot be blamed for thinking of Rain as being rather limited, but in fact I have found it to be about just as versatile as "Master Good Stuff" himself, and I'm amazed by that. It starts with questions like "do you intend to run full Rain or keep it just an option?", "Which Water-type moves do you want to employ?" or "Do you want to include Trick Room and if yes, to what extent?", and the result will always be an individually customized team -- sometimes resorting to standard Pokémon which have been proven to work and sometimes doing things the rogue way.
Thus, I did my best, I have no regrets and I'm looking forward to when I'll be Surfing GBU again!