Pikachu, The Mouse Pokémon. When several of these Pokémon gather, their electricity could build and cause lightning storms. It has small electric sacs on both its cheeks. If threatened, it looses electric charges from the sacs. This intelligent Pokémon roasts hard berries with electricity to make them tender enough to eat. It raises its tail to check its surroundings. The tail is sometimes struck by lightning in this pose. This Pokémon has electricity-storing pouches on its cheeks. These appear to become electrically charged during the night while Pikachu sleeps. It occasionally discharges electricity when it is dozy after waking up. Whenever Pikachu comes across something new, it blasts it with a jolt of electricity. If you come across a blackened berry, it's evidence that this Pokémon mistook the intensity of its charge. When it releases pent-up energy in a burst, the electric power is equal to a lightning bolt. If it looses crackling power from the electrical pouches on its cheeks, it is being wary.
It's Pokémon's American tenth anniversary, and in honour of it, we take a look at Pokémon's mascot, Pikachu. When Pikachu isn't busy promoting Pokémon, adventuring in the anime or fighting in Smash Bros., it enjoys status as one of the few 'not fully evolved' Pokémon to have competitive value. All of its stats are inferior to its next-stage, Raichu, but Pikachu benefits greatly from its very own item, Light Ball.
Light Ball has seen a major upgrade this generation. Whereas before, Light Ball only doubled Pikachu's Special Attack stat, it now doubles both Pikachu's Attack and Special Attack, making both ends of its offensive spectrum viable.
With Light Ball granting Pikachu very good offensive stats, the fact that it also has a respectable Base 90 Speed to work with allows for sweeping possibilities. It's still fragile however, possessing defensive stats becoming of an un-evolved Pokémon. 'Glass cannon' is the recurring phrase used to describe a Pokémon of Pikachu's nature. Whilst it's capable of bringing down the opponent's team, Pikachu itself is very susceptible to being brought down itself. As a result, Pikachu isn't an easy Pokémon to use, but it can be quite an asset in the right hands.
Despite its signature item granting it usability, Pikachu is still relegated to the Underused tier. Having potential 400+ stats in both offences is all well and good, but between the 'average-ness' of its Speed stat and the lack of any defensive qualities, it's simply crowded out of popular use in the Standard environment. Nevertheless, it's a usable option in the Standard environment, but really shines as a powerful threat in Underused play.
Static: has a 30% chance to paralyse the opponent when Pikachu is hit with an attack that's defined as requiring 'physical contact' (such as Ice Punch or Return). Pikachu's poor defensive stats make this ability rather useless. At best, it'll be a consolation prize when Pikachu gets KOed, leaving an annoying status on the opponent who finished it off.
- Thunderbolt / Volt Tackle
The fact that Light Ball now doubles both offensive stats makes a mixed sweeper very viable and very deadly. Thunderbolt represents its most 'reliable' STAB move. It's got good accuracy and power, but if you want a move that works off of Pikachu's Attack stat, then Volt Tackle is your choice. Volt Tackle is a bit on the risky side though, since it comes with a 1/3rd recoil. Considering the standard Pikachu has a meagre 211 HP, it doesn't have much HP to spare to recoil.
Brick Break is a move oriented more for the Standard environment than for the Underused environment. It hits super-effective on Blissey and Snorlax, comfortably grabbing 2KOs on the pair. The additional super-effective hit on Regice is nice too, although it isn't a guaranteed 2KO depending on Regice's chosen EV spread. In the Underused environment, the 4x hits on Probopass and Bastiodon are fairly valuable, and you're still picking up some additional coverage on Clefable, Cradily and anything else weak to Fighting moves.
As for your final three options:
Grass Knot varies depending on the opponent, but on the majority of frequently used Ground types, you'll be working off at least an 80 base (which doubles up to 160 or quadruples to 320, depending on how big the opponent's Grass weakness is).
Hidden Power [Ice] is your other Ground hitting option. It's usually weaker than Grass Knot power-wise, but it comes with the additional bonus of super-effective coverage on Grass types (who also resist Electric moves), and 4x hits in the Standard environment (Salamence, Garchomp, Gliscor, etc.).
Substitute is an additional option here. You can use it to scout a bit, especially if you expect the opponent to switch but aren't sure what to (it gives you a defensive buffer to hide behind when your new opponent shows up). If you trust your prediction skills, you can also throw one up in the way of a status move or a stat-dropping move (although most Pokémon will shoot to direct offence when matched with a Pikachu).
This move-set is oriented to all-out special sweeping. You won't want to send this variant into the Standard environment, since it'll be eaten alive by a dedicated special wall (like Blissey), but in the Underused environment, Pikachu packs so much power that it can simply barge through the toughest special walls.
Thunderbolt, Grass Knot and Hidden Power [Ice] is your type-coverage holy trinity. In addition to those three, you can add on Substitute, for the same scouting and buffering reasons as noted above. Alternatively, you can carry (the very unreliable) Focus Blast, doing 70%+ damage on the most defensive Bastiodon and Probopass variants (and OHKOing most variants). A good 40-50% damage on Clefable and Cradily (minus a Sandstream boost) are also valuable additions, and of course, Fighting does come with a lot of type coverage. The main downfall is the aforementioned unreliability. At 70%, Focus Blast's accuracy leaves a lot to be desired.
Encore - Nasty Plot
Through Pichu, Pikachu gets access to Nasty Plot. You've already got the 2x boost from Light Ball in your favour, but an additional boost from Nasty Plot makes Pikachu a frightening offensive force. Of course, being incredibly fragile, and also being unable to pack Focus Sash, Pikachu has some difficulty getting a Nasty Plot boost off. The easiest way to buy a free turn to Nasty Plot is to abuse Encore. It takes some brave prediction to pull off however. The general idea would be to Encore a non-offensive move from a slower Pokémon (such as Clefable's Softboiled), leaving you free to use Nasty Plot, knowing that they'll either switch or be left helplessly repeating their non-offensive move (and if they don't switch, you've pretty much won, since once Encore wears off you can just start another round of it).
EVs and Nature:
Max Speed is always the number one priority, taking up 252 EVs and the nature boost. Pikachu's biggest fear isn't a lack of power, it's being outrun by its opposition. After-all, with abysmal defences, Pikachu can't afford to let its opponent land a hit on it.
If you want to use the mixed sweeper in the Standard environment, you'll want to heap at least 140 EVs into its Attack stat to ensure a 2KO against the standard Blissey. The remainder can go into its Special Attack.
In regards to HP, if you're using Substitute, you want your HP to NOT be divisible by 4. This way, you can make four Substitutes and be left with 1-3 HP, as opposed to being limited to three and being left with 25% HP. If Pikachu has a 31 HP IV, then tagging the excess 'spare 4 EVs' to its HP will make its HP divisible by 4, so you'll want to avoid doing that. If your IV leaves you with HP divisible by 4, then tag those spare EVs onto HP to balance things out.
Surf, Thunderpunch, Focus Punch, Signal Beam, Magnet Rise, Knock Off.
Surf is worth the first piece of note. The biggest problem with Surf-chu is that every D/P Surf-chu comes from PBR with a Hardy nature. That means Pikachu won't get that much needed nature-boost ahead of neutral-natured Pokémon like Salamence, Garchomp, Dodrio, Fearow, Jynx and so forth. It also means getting a good set of IVs will be a bit of a pain, since you can't breed for it. On the positive side, Surf gets a good super-effective hit on Ground types, particularly Steelix, Nidoking/queen and other Ground types who manage to avoid a Grass weakness with their secondary type.
Thunderpunch is a physical alternative to Volt Tackle if you don't want to be suffering recoil. Weak base power and the lack of any dedicated physical move-set makes it an unattractive choice though, especially since Thunderbolt will usually get the job done.
Focus Punch is a powerful alternative to Brick Break, and benefits a lot from Substitute if you ever manage to get it set-up. Even without Substitute, you can time Focus Punch for use as the opponent switches in for what'll usually be an OHKO, or at least a very significant amount of damage (usually enough that you can finish whatever HP is left on the next turn with a Thunderbolt).
Pikachu gets some new toys from the Platinum move tutors:
Signal Beam I'm giving a mention simply for its super-effective hit on Grass types. This is mostly for those too lazy to breed for a good Hidden Power [Ice], but if you're going to use Surf-chu, you might not have the choice anyway.
Magnet Rise will make Pikachu immune to Ground moves. As fun as this would be, its effectiveness would last a turn. Pikachu would use Magnet Rise, the opponent's Earthquake would miss, and then the next turn, Pikachu would do whatever it intended to do whilst the opponent uses a different attack (and probably gets a KO with it anyway, since weakness or not, Pikachu isn't standing in the way of any respectable offensive move). There are a couple of occasions where this might not be the case. The most notable one is if the opponent is Choice equipped, and therefore, locked into using a Ground move. This gives Pikachu a Ground immunity and then gives it a free turn as the opponent switches. The other, less likely occasion is if the opponent only carries Ground moves as its offensive attacks, in which case it would be helpless against Pikachu, and probably switch anyway. It's too situational to be worth using, but I'm giving it a mention for the sake of those unlikely situations.
Knock Off is another new option, but if Pikachu has a turn to 'waste', it should be 'wasting it' on either a stat-boost, Substitute or an attack. As annoying as it is for opponents to lose their items, Knock Off just isn't for Pikachu. Raichu maybe, but not Pikachu.
With huge stats on both sides of the offensive spectrum, Light Ball Pikachu can deal a great deal of damage to almost every opponent in the game, but is also so fragile that almost every opponent in the game can KO it.
Due to the sheer magnitude of its offensive power, a definitive counter is hard to come by in the Underused environment. Cradily comes closest. Short of Focus Blast, all of Pikachu's special attacks do pitiful damage, whilst Brick Break does around 38-45% damage. Lanturn is on a similar level, benefiting from Volt Absorb, light weight against Grass Knot and a Hidden Power [Ice] resistance. Brick Break is its biggest fear, but that only hits at around 30-40% damage.
Probopass and Bastiodon can suck up most of Pikachu's special offence, but Focus Blast or Brick Break will either KO them or certainly put them in a lot of pain. Give Shuckle some Special Defence and it can pretty much wall all of Pikachu's offence with ease (barring Surf and Focus Blast). Unfortunately, it's one of the few Pokémon in the game who can't KO Pikachu, but it can Knock Off Pikachu's Light Ball, rendering its offences relatively harmless.
With a dedicated EV spread, Clefable can work as a special wall against it, but it loses out if Brick Break comes into play. A defensive Grumpig can stand up to its special attacks, and doesn't lose out to Brick Break. On the downside, both take around 40% damage from Thunderbolt, which is quite a sting, especially for Grumpig, who lacks a reliable recovery move.
Looking at Pokémon who can switch into Thunderbolt, take a hit and KO it back, you've got a few of options. Nidoking, Nidoqueen, Camerupt, Claydol and Steelix can all switch-in on Thunderbolt, have the defensive stats to survive at least one hit from Pikachu's best offensive move, and KO it with Earthquake. Hidden Power [Ice] does around 70-85% to the Nido duo, whilst Camerupt and Claydol receive around 65-77% from Grass Knot. Steelix is the least affected of the lot, taking around 49-57% damage from Grass Knot. All of the aforementioned run into problems with Surf however, but Surf-chus aren't too common.
In the Overused environment, you've got some extra options. Blissey sucks up any special attack it's got but obviously loses out to Brick Break. The same goes for Snorlax and Regice. Celebi doesn't find Hidden Power [Ice] to be an intimidating prospect provided it's got Recover and a relatively defensive EV spread whilst Electivire gets a free switch-in on Thunderbolt and isn't overly worried about Pikachu's other moves (Brick Break and Grass Knot will do around 40-50% damage to it). Dugtrio is worth a special note, since it can come in on Thunderbolt, trap Pikachu with Arena Trap and get a KO.
The alternative to dealing with Pikachu with defensive Pokémon is to destroy it offensively, the “kill or be killed” mentality. Priority moves like Sucker Punch, Quick Attack and Mach Punch are ideal when backed with the proper offensive stats (surprisingly, Pikachu can survive a Fearow's Quick Attack or a Hitmonlee's Mach Punch if they aren't backed by an item boost, so it's important to resist the temptation to be arrogant). Alternatively, Pokémon who are faster can simply do the job, since Pikachu's Speed caps at 306. Paralyse is helpful too, and a couple of the aforementioned counters rely on statuses to bring Pikachu to a halt.
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