Greninja, The Ninja Pokémon. It creates throwing stars out of compressed water. When it spins them and throws them at high speed, these stars can split metal in two. It appears and vanishes with a ninja's grace. It toys with its enemies using swift movements, while slicing them with throwing stars of sharpest water.
Here we have a Pokemon that needs no introduction; it’s none other than the fully evolved Water starter of Kalos, Greninja! In the last generation, Greninja’s popularity absolutely soared, making it the most popular starter of the sixth generation. Now only did it get fame for being included as a playable character in Super Smash Bros., but in the main games themselves, it got an absolutely fantastic fantastic hidden ability that, in conjunction with a great speed tier and a thorough movepool, made it a competitive superstar. Protean’s ability to change Greninja’s type to the type of the move it is using is fantastic, meaning that it gets STAB on literally everything, and its weaknesses can be difficult to prey on unless you predict well. Greninja did have some shortcomings, namely abysmal bulk, but that wasn’t enough to hold it back. And, well… Greninja is still pretty amazing this generation! Greninja’s changes are few and far between, and the most notable of which is that it got a new form; the previously anime-exclusive Ash-Greninja! It’s worth noting however, that Ash-Greninja is an entirely separate form, rather than a new ability. As a result, standard Greninja is treated as a separate Pokemon, but this is not in and of itself a bad thing since standard Greninja is still amazing. The only downside right now, which is only a temporary one, is that standard Greninja is not available for use in Gen 7 prior to Pokemon Bank’s update. As such, it may still be a great Pokemon, but it’s just out of reach for standard play… for the time being.
Torrent: When HP is below 1/3rd its maximum, power of Water-type moves is increased by 50%. - Torrent is your standard water-type starter abilities. When your HP drops below 33%, your water type STAB attacks increase in power. While not a bad ability per se, it’s somewhat underwhelming, since it only works at very low HP, and only for one type of attacks. Usually, there’s no point in using this ability if you’ve got a better option… and as it so happens, Greninja most definitely does have a better option!
Back in the days of OR/AS, this set shook the very metagame, due to the combination of speed, power, and unpredictability. The premise is very simple; KO anything put before you with your amazing coverage. Dark Pulse allows Greninja to check the myriad of Psychic and Ghost types, such as Mega Metagross and Alola Marowak. Ice Beam mutilates things like Garchomp, Flygon, and most grass types. Gunk Shot is arguably Greninja’s most important attack, as it destroys one of its best would-be counters, Azumarill, in addition to hitting all of the Tapu hard. From there, the game basically becomes to pick your final moveslot based on what you want to cover. Hydro Pump has good coverage in general, along with high power, and can deal with the myriad of fire and rock types. Extrasensory allows Greninja to get past Keldeo, Toxapex, and Mega Venusaur. Low Kick deals well with Empoleon, Tyranitar, and Ferrothorn. Hidden Power can be used to cover specific threats, such as Scizor and Ferrothorn with Fire, or Gyarados with Electric. Which attack you choose depends on which threats you want to cover, or be walled by.
Max speed is mandatory for Greninja, so Naive Nature and 252 Speed EVs are preferred. Naive is chosen to allow Greninja to go mixed, as Gunk Shot is physical. 252 EVs are put into special attack, while the remaining 4 EVs are put into attack. Life Orb allows Greninja to stretch its power even further, while still maintaining the freedom to attack. The recoil is largely inconsequential as Greninja would rather take a little recoil damage to secure a KO than have to eat an attack itself. Finally, Protean should always be your ability. Zero exceptions.
For a somewhat different approach, Greninja can opt to lead with hazards. It has access to both Spikes and Toxic Spikes, meaning it can set up the type of hazard that your team needs most; plus, it can also shift its would-be weaknesses, since Spikes makes it immune to the Electric type attacks it is weak to, while Toxic Spikes makes it a Poison type, thus resisting the Grass, Bug, and Fighting types it’s normally weak to. From there, Greninja is also capable of asserting dominance over hazard control. Access to Taunt means it can stop things from using Defog, while Shadow Sneak will turn it into a Ghost type, meaning that things won’t be able to use Rapid Spin against it. It also gives you a little bit of damage to deal, although not much.
As usual, max speed is essential, so Jolly Nature and 252 Speed EVs accomplish this. Jolly is chosen due to Greninja’s only attack in this set being physical, and in that same vein, 252 Attack EVs gives a little more oomph on your Shadow Sneak. The remaining 4 EVs are just dumped into Defense. Focus Sash is chosen as the item as this set typically functions as a lead, ensuring that Greninja can get at least one layer of hazards up. Protean is Protean is continues to be the very reason to use Greninja at all.
-U-Turn can allow Greninja to function as a pivot, although it does cut into its wallbreaking coverage.
Trying to find a single counter to every Greninja set is rather difficult. With its multitude of coverage options, it can surprise many of its would be counters, which was a contributing factor to its banishment in Gen 6. However, it does have a few hard counters, and many more that are set dependent. Rotom-W makes a semi-reliable answer to most sets as it’s only 3HKO’s by Dark Pulse, but lack of reliable recovery can cause it to be worn down. Defensive Porygon2 also makes a solid answer as well, as it’s typically only 4HKO’ed, while it can 2HKO Greninja with Tri-Attack, or cripple its speed with Thunder Wave. Chansey runs the risk of a 3HKO from Gunk Shot or Low Kick but still tanks hits better than most. The rest, however, are contingent on what moves it runs. Without Extrasensory, Greninja finds itself walled by Mega Venusaur, Toxapex, and Keldeo. Without Hydro Pump or Low Kick, Tyranitar becomes an issue. Ferrothorn can wall a Greninja who lacks Hidden Power Fire or Low Kick. Gyarados and Mega Gyarados can prove problematic for sets lacking Hidden Power Electric. It can still be checked however, as many things can outspeed and destroy it. Pheromosa, Mega Alakazam, Weavile, Mega Beedrill, Mega Sceptile, Mega Lopunny, and several others naturally outspeed Greninja and can prey on its frailty to 1HKO it. In addition, any Choice Scarf user of base 66 speed or higher is capable of outspeeding Greninja, and most of them can 1HKO Greninja due to its frailty. Anything that Greninja fails to 1HKO (or 2HKO on a switch) tends to heavily punish it, as although it can deal high damage thanks to Protean, it can’t really take damage in return, and Life Orb recoil can cause its HP to fall into KO ranges more easily.
It’s not unusual for Pokemon to get new forms, or Mega Evolutions. We’ve seen things like Giratina, Kyurem, and Rotom get new forms, while the Gen 1 and Gen 3 starters got Mega Evolutions. However, we’ve never seen a starter get a non-Mega Evolution new form… until now. Enter Ash-Greninja, who blazed new trails by not only being the first non-Mega form for a starter, but also being the first anime-origin aspect to be included in a Pokemon game since Pokemon Yellow version. However, Ash-Greninja functions as a separate Pokemon from your standard Greninja; it cannot breed, and it only has one ability. Ash-Greninja gets a slight increase in speed and a massive increase power upon transforming, which can make it a devastating force that is hard to stop. However, although Ash-Greninja is very good, it does have a few things holding it back; prior to transforming, it’s effectively a weaker Greninja since it doesn’t have Protean, and many of the Egg and Move Tutor moves that Greninja loves are not available to it. It’s also not a toggled transformation; you have to KO something for it to activate. This means it’s far harder to transform than many other Pokemon, such as Mega Evolutions. This results in it playing a little differently than standard Greninja, but don’t let that fool you; Ash-Greninja is still a powerful force in its own right, and once it transforms it hits ridiculously hard, so underestimate it at your own peril! .
Battle Bond: Defeating an opposing Pokémon strengthens the Pokémon's bond with its Trainer, and it becomes Ash-Greninja. Water Shuriken gets more powerful. - This is Ash-Greninja’s one and only ability, and what allows it to undergo its transformation. On the negative side, until you get that KO, you’re stuck with a standard, non-Protean Greninja. However, once you secure that KO, the boost in power and speed cannot be denied.
And The World Will Turn to Ash
Here we have it; Ash-Greninja’s standard set. Of course, Ash-Greninja has to start out as regular Greninja until it can KO something so how does it go about ensuring it gets the opportunity to KO something? The answer is simple; raw power. And nothing brings raw power like a Choice Set! The premise is simple; hit hard to nab that KO, and then after transforming, hit even harder. Thanks to the raw power that Ash-Greninja wields, after transforming, it no longer cares as much about losing the freedom to switch attacks the same way that Protean Greninja does.
Upon transforming, Water Shuriken becomes a potent priority move, having an effective 60 base power, with 3-hits allowing you to get around things like Substitute and Focus Sash. This can allow it to revenge kill faster threats such as Pheromosa and Mega Aerodactyl with ease. Hydro Pump is Ash-Greninja’s strongest STAB attack, and it tends to be your best bet for getting that KO before transforming due to its high power. Dark Pulse is your other obligatory STAB attack, and with Ash-Greninja’s high speed, it does have some potential to take advantage of the flinch effect. Finally, if there’s an obvious switch-in that you won’t be able to beat, Ash-Greninja can take advantage of U-Turn to pivot out, and get a little chip damage in as well. However, you can also opt for Ice Beam in order to have added coverage against Grass types and Dragon types, as well.
252 Speed EVs and Timid Nature ensures Ash-Greninja hits maximum speed, enough to outspeed the myriad of base 130’s. Although Ash-Greninja does sometimes utilize U-Turn, the damage is inconsequential in the long run where it doesn’t really mind the attack drop from Timid. 252 Special Attack EVs ensure that it hits as hard as possible, and of course, the item choice of Choice Specs helps further that end as well. Battle Bond is the only ability you can utilize as Ash-Greninja, so that sort of goes without saying.
-Grass Knot can be used to help combat opposing water types, but its coverage is ultimately inferior otherwise.
Wanna beat Ash-Greninja? Just use Mega Charizard X.
In all seriousness, though, unlike standard Greninja, Ash-Greninja lacks the insane coverage, but this is offset by higher power that threatens even the bulkiest of walls. However, it’s not unbeatable, although it is somewhat set dependent, still. Tapu FIni is arguably the best counter, as at best Ash-Greninja can only 3HKO it regardless of set, while an uninvested Moonblast can 1HKO it a little under half the time. Specially Defensive Mega Venusaur is only 3HKO’ed by Choice Specs Dark Pulse and 4HKO’ed by Hydro Pump, while being able to 2HKO with Giga Drain and heal back a considerable portion of its HP back; however, it’s worth noting that Extrasensory can 2HKO even a fully invested Mega Venusaur. Tapu Bulu can tank hits decently well with HP investment, as between Leftovers and Grassy Terrain it recovers enough to turn Hydro Pump into a 3HKO, although it does take heavy damage due to comparatively low special defense. However, if it survives it will soundly 1HKO with Horn Leech, healing back most if not all of the damage it takes. It does have to be wary of Ice Beam, though. Specially bulky Ferrothorn is only 3HKO’ed by Dark Pulse, and can stall out Ash-Greninja with a combination of Leech Seed and Protect, if not just 1HKO it outright with Power Whip. Thunder Wave is also threatening to Ash-Greninja as well, as losing half its speed makes it far less dangerous. As is expected with most special attackers, Chansey walls Ash-Greninja all day long and can stall it out without much duress, as Hydro Pump only 4HKOs as best. Specially defensive Toxapex is only 3HKO’ed by Dark Pulse, and can attempt to Toxic Stall with Recover, although a timely flinch can throw a wrench in that strategy. Assault Vest Tangrowth is only 3HKO’ed by Dark Pulse and can 1HKO with either Giga Drain or Leaf Storm, but Ice Beam will ruin its day. Thanks to not having the threat of Gunk Shot, Greninja’s old nemesis, Azumarill, can be an effective stop to Ash-Greninja. Assault Vest Azumarill is only 3HKO’ed less than 20% of the time by Hydro Pump, although the rare Grass Knot has a very low chance to 2HKO. Meanwhile, Play Rough will 1HKO Ash-Greninja with ease. There are a handful of Pokemon as well who, although they face a 2HKO from Ash-Greninja, will never be 1HKO’ed from full health, and then can 1HKO in return. This includes things like Keldeo, Magearna (with HP Investment), and specially defensive Zapdos. It is possible to take advantage of the fact that it can be locked into its attacks due to Choice Specs; things like Tapu Lele and Tsareena enjoy it being locked into Water Shuriken, for instance, as their abilities can shut it down. Any Choice Scarf user at base 72 speed or higher with full speed investment can outspeed Ash-Greninja as well, meaning things like Buzzwole, Garchomp, etc. can manage to revenge kill Ash-Greninja.
...Of course, all of this is contingent upon Ash-Greninja having transformed. If you can prevent Ash-Greninja from transforming in the first place, it is far less threatening, and more things are able to wall it. So the best way to keep Ash-Greninja at bay is to prevent it from transforming in the first place; do not let it get an easy KO!
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