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February 11

Competitive Guide to Pokemon Leads

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Generating leads in competitive battles is a fundamental all  trainers must learn. This Guide will cover the different types of lead Pokemon and teach you what makes leads easier to achieve!


As competitive players, the start of a battle is crucial. Your first turn of the match usually decides whether you’ll be applying pressure or going on the defense- it’s an indicator for the momentum for the rest of the match. Back in the days of Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum, competitive play terms were coined for certain Pokemon sets that could be used as leads: Lead, Anti-Lead, and Attacking Lead. For this article, I will break down certain Pokemon that can run each of these sets to fulfill the role of a lead on your team.

PokémonTrainer

Lead Pokemon

Excadrill is a prime example of a common lead Pokemon or “suicide lead”. It’s job as a lead is simple: Get entry hazards up, clear out your opponent’s hazards using Rapid Spin, and possibly bust some skulls before biting the dust. Your first turn should be setting up entry hazards; However, if you can ruin your opponent’s tempo by just being aggressive and attacking first, do it (especially if Excadrill’s Focus Sash isn’t broken).

Excadrill

Effort Values

  • 252 Speed
  • 252 Attack
  • 4 HP 

(Jolly nature)

Stealth Rock

Sets up a hazard on the opposing side of the field, damaging each opposing Pokemon that switches in.

Earthquake

Damage doubles if the target is using Dig.

Iron Head

Has a 30% chance to make the target flinch.

Rapid Spin

If this move is successful and the user has not fainted, the effects of Leech Seed and binding moves end for the user, and all hazards are removed from the user's side of the field. Has a 100% chance to raise the user's Speed by 1 stage.

Focussash

Focus Sash 

If holder's HP is full, will survive an attack that would KO it with 1 HP. Single use.


Anti-Lead Pokemon

Grimmsnarl, while being able to pull off multiple sets, is a remarkable anti-lead (arguably one of the best in the game). Its ability, Prankster, gives non-attacking moves a priority increase. This Pokemon’s function as an anti-lead is to use Taunt to ruin the opponent’s tempo and prevent them from setting up entry hazards or setting up their entire team with moves like Trick Room and Tail Wind. Reflect and Light Screen will provide shields for your team and Thunder Wave will spread paralysis to the opponent, slowing down potential enemy sweepers, treating it as set up fodder. It should be noted that this isn’t a “suicide lead” like Excadrill and is a very useful late game tech build. Once Grimmsnarl’s job is done, switch out and save it for later. If you want an offensive move to work with, Spirit Break is probably the way to go here.

Grimmsnarl

Effort Values

  • 252 HP
  • 252 Special Defense      
     
  • 4 Defense 

(Careful Nature)

Taunt

Prevents the target from using non-damaging moves for its next three turns. Pokemon with the Oblivious Ability or protected by the Aroma Veil Ability are immune.

Reflect

For 5 turns, the user and its party members take 0.5x damage from physical attacks, or 0.66x damage if in a Double Battle. Damage is not reduced further with Aurora Veil. Critical hits ignore this effect. It is removed from the user's side if the user or an ally is successfully hit by Brick Break, Psychic Fangs, or Defog. Lasts for 8 turns if the user is holding Light Clay. Fails if the effect is already active on the user's side.

Light Screen

For 5 turns, the user and its party members take 0.5x damage from special attacks, or 0.66x damage if in a Double Battle. Damage is not reduced further with Aurora Veil. Critical hits ignore this effect. It is removed from the user's side if the user or an ally is successfully hit by Brick Break, Psychic Fangs, or Defog. Lasts for 8 turns if the user is holding Light Clay. Fails if the effect is already active on the user's side.

Thunder Wave

Paralyzes the target. This move does not ignore type immunity.

Lightclay

Light Clay

Holder's use of Aurora Veil, Light Screen, or Reflect lasts 8 turns instead of 5.


Attack Lead Pokemon

Weavile is a prime example of an attacking lead Pokemon. Although not a conventional sweeper, its job is strictly to come out of its pokeball swinging. Fake Out breaks the focus sash of the opponent’s lead and gives a free turn with a flinch (be cautious of leads with Shield Dust or Inner Focus ability). Taunt will prevent entry hazard setters from setting up and Counter will deliver the final blow. This set can also be played around with when it comes to moves. Knock Off is another option if you don’t want to go with the Taunt route. Low Kick is another solid choice over Counter since this build is already very heavily relying on proper prediction.

Weavile

Effort Values

  • 252 Attack
  • 252 Speed
  • 4 HP 

(Jolly Nature)

Fake Out

Has a 100% chance to make the target flinch. Fails unless it is the user's first turn on the field.

Counter

Deals damage to the last opposing Pokemon to hit the user with a physical attack this turn equal to twice the HP lost by the user from that attack. If the user did not lose HP from the attack, this move deals 1 HP of damage instead. If that opposing Pokemon's position is no longer in use and there is another opposing Pokemon on the field, the damage is done to it instead. Only the last hit of a multi-hit attack is counted. Fails if the user was not hit by an opposing Pokemon's physical attack this turn.

Taunt

Prevents the target from using non-damaging moves for its next three turns. Pokemon with the Oblivious Ability or protected by the Aroma Veil Ability are immune. 

Ice Shard

Priority one move.


Other Lead Options

Galvantula or any Sticky Web user is a solid lead for a team. Incineroar is a solid attacking lead to go with, since it has a solid move library and access to Fake Out. Gengar is worth mentioning as an anti-lead because it can abuse Taunt and also has Destiny Bond in its move library. If you have any solid ideas for lead Pokemon, please engage in the comment section below!


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Spartan Alphazulu

About the author

Hello my fellow readers! I am Spartan Alphazulu and I am a 32 year old Air Force veteran that loves to nerd out over Pokemon, World of Warcraft, and Magic: the Gathering. I have always enjoyed competitive play in gaming since I was a child and am hoping to assist my readers with strategies and ideas that they can apply to their hobbies like many have done for me. I am married with five children who, like me, are showing interests in the many hobbies of gaming and nerd culture that I enjoy and am looking to set the example for everyone that doing what you love is not always a “waste of time” like many have told me growing up. Sometimes fate extends a hand and it is up to you to recognize and take the risk.

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