Welcome to the second edition of “How to battle with [Pokémon]”, where I shall explain how you can use an underused – yet cool – Pokémon in a competitive setting, and when and where not to use them.
I may or may not have implied that I would do Quagsire now, but I decided to go with a more… festive option instead.
Today I shall ramble about a Pokémon introduced in the 3rd generation to cap off the Lotad evolution line, bearing the utterly epic typing of Grass and Water. Upon hearing an upbeat and cheerful rhythm, the cells in this Pokémon’s body become very energetic and active, increasing their power and forcing them to dance. Also, Miror B. used at least four of them. I am, of course, referencing Ludicolo. I will now proceed to explain where, when, why, and how to use it in the official Video Game Championship (VGC) format for 2016 while using as few terrible .gifs as possible. Let the music play!
Obligatory Term/Abbreviation Dump
For those new to the scene, here are a couple terms and abbreviations I throw around in this post:
SpAtk/SpDef – Special Attack/Defense
PDon, The Don – Primal Groudon
POgre – Primal Kyogre
M-[Pokémon] – Mega [Pokémon]
T(#) – Turn #, i.e. the #th turn of the game
Type: Grass, Water
Abilities: Rain Dish, Swift Swim, Own Tempo (Hidden)
Weaknesses: Flying, Poison, Bug
Evolves from: Lombre (Water Stone)
Height: 1.5 m
Weight: 55 kg
Tier: NU (Usage, Singles)
Battle Spot Season 14 (VGC) Usage: 0.594% (174th) [Data taken from the Pokemon Global Link website]
Base Stats (range @ Lv50)
HP: 80 (140-187)
Attack: 70 (67-134)
Defense: 70 (67-134)
SpAtk: 90 (85-165)
SpDef: 100 (94-167)
Speed: 70 (67-134)
Ludicolo’s niche in VGC, a meta that, this year, is filled to the brim with Primals, Xerneas, and Fake Out spamming, comes from its great defensive typing and situational access to the fastest Fake Out in the game due to its ability. Its typing leaves it with weaknesses to the very rare Poison- and Bug-types, and the all too common Flying-type. However, it is neutral to Fire, Ground, Ice, and Fairy, and doubly resists Water and Steel. Given that those six and Flying are the only types of attacks that you really see in this tier, this is a good thing.
It has a passable movepool with access to Fake Out, Icy Wind, Focus Blast, both Water and Grass STABs, and that one move that almost every non-Magikarp Water-type in the game gets (Ice Beam). It has relatively low stats; the 100 in SpDef being the only useful one and 70 in Speed being the low point of a sweeper. However, the ability Swift Swim corrects this by doubling its Speed in Rain, and perma-weather exists in VGC thanks to both Primals. I wonder where I could be going with this?
Kyogre’s New Best Friend!
Ludicolo @ Assault Vest
Ability: Swift Swim
EVs: 252 HP / 116 SpA / 24 SpD / 116 Spe
– Fake Out
– Scald/Surf/Hydro Pump
– Grass Knot/Focus Blast/Ice Beam
– Icy Wind
Fuhohoho! Assault Vest is the grooviest item in the entire freaking game. It gives an instant +1 to SpDef with the only downside being the inability to use status moves. But let’s be honest, why would one use status when one could simply knock their opponents over with Ludicolo’s elegant steps?
This set is an adaptation of one I found on Nugget Bridge by user Arch11Heretic. With an Assault Vest and this being VGC, Ludicolo can tank a lot of stuff. With the stated investment, you are guaranteed to survive a +2 Fairy Aura Xerneas’ Moonblast or a max power sun-boosted Eruption from The Don. Sure, you can’t switch into them, but if Ludicolo is switching into a +2 Xerneas you lost the beat somewhere (probably where you let the Deer God get a Geomancy off).
The 116 Speed EVs put you at 105, which becomes 210 in rain. This is important because some annoying Smeargle like to run Choice Scarf, which caps out at 209 after the adjustment and is just about the fastest thing in this tier (bar rare Scarf users, Post-Geomancy Xerneas, and Timid M-Mewtwo Y).
Fake Out is the second most important attack in this tier (Protect is the 1st). It can only be used on the first turn after the user has switched into battle. It has a low base power, but +3 Priority (faster than Extreme Speed, slower than Protect) and a 100% chance to Flinch your opponent. With so many Pokémon using Fake Out, the priority boost is neutralized and who actually gets to use Fake Out comes down to speed. Swift Swim Ludicolo is faster than any other Fake Out user (bar Scarf Liepard or Weavile). This can blow up your opponent’s momentum, giving Ludicolo’s partner, which is almost always Primal Kyogre, a free attack. Having Ludicolo out without Kyogre is not usually advised.
Icy Wind hits both enemies and has a 100% chance to slow them by 1 stage if it hits (95% accuracy). It provides something known as Speed Control. This is important for making things that are annoying to your friendly neighborhood oversized whale (POgre) slower than said friendly neighborhood oversized whale. For our current purpose, this consists of The Don, M-Salamence, and M-Rayquaza. More on this later.
The 2 STAB moves are there because we had a couple free moveslots. Scald KOes most standard PDon if you manage to be able to fight it outside of Desolate Land, as well as a hypothetical 30% chance to burn any target that isn’t Fire type, which ends up being more like 56% in practice (based on my battle logs from October-December of last year). Grass Knot has a chance to 2HKO uninvested PDon and 252 HP POgre. There are also plenty of moves that can be run in place of either STAB. Hydro Pump can be used to 2HKO uninvested Yveltal and Xerneas (before Geomancy) in rain, but it can miss. Ice Beam kills Dragons and Bats and Genies. Surf hits both enemies, but it also hits your allies, is less powerful due to the power splitting to attack both enemies, and can’t burn.
Other options for Ludicolo include a Choice Specs set, which can surprise your foes with its damage output, but falls just short of many important KOes. Giga Drain helps restore HP, but it isn’t powerful enough to restore all that much. Leech Seed and Rain Dish seem like a tempting combo, but that just can’t match the tempo of the fast-paced VGC meta.
Team and Strategy
Primal Kyogre is a must-have partner, as its Primordial Sea ability quite literally makes it rain and gives Ludicolo something to dance to. As such, many Pokémon that go well with Kyogre go well with Ludicolo. This includes Ferrothorn, M-Rayquaza, Xerneas, and the like. I recommend at least 132 Speed EVs on Modest POgre to outspeed max Speed base 120s and below (M-Rayquaza, M-Salamence) who have been hit with an Icy Wind.
Ludicolo should almost always be used as a lead, and usually in combination with POgre (there are situational exceptions). Fake Out helps in many Turn 1 situations. Just avoid Xerneas if it is partnered with something that can stop POgre’s rhythm from KOing it on Turn 2 (like a Fake Out user or PDon switch in).
Remember that you can only Fake Out ONE enemy. Ideally, either the one you don’t Fake Out will Protect and Kyogre can either beat up whoever Ludicolo hit, or just nuke them both with Water Spout or Origin Pulse. I run Calm Mind on my POgre to give it something to do T1 if a PDon switch-in is obvious.
Also, you NEED to know the priority tiers off the top of your head at a tournament. The whole list can be found HERE, but these are the ones you really need to know, grouped relative to Fake Out:
Faster than Fake Out (+4 – +8) – Switching, Mega Evolving, Helping Hand, most variations of Protect
Equal Priority to Fake Out (+3) – Endure, Quick/Wide Guard, Crafty Shield
Has Priority, but slower than Fake Out (+1 – +2) – Follow Me and variations, Extreme Speed, Feint, all variations of Quick Attack, Sucker Punch
Here is a replay to show Ludicolo in action. This is a great example of the utility Ludicolo brings to the table, even if there was a meaningful critical hit. The best examples are Turn 4, where a Fake Out allows Crobat to KO the enemy Togekiss without The Don interfering, and the use of Icy Wind on Turn 7 (should have been Turn 6, but I’m bad) to ensure that my M-Salamence was faster than the enemy M-Mewtwo Y.
To Use or Not to Use…
- Fastest Fake Out in the game under rain
- Can tank a +2 Fairy Aura Xerneas Moonblast and a ton of other things (as outlined above)
- Icy Wind is pretty good Speed control
- Rain is incredibly popular in VGC anyway, so extra support is often already there
- Grass neutralizes every last one of Water’s weaknesses
- Doesn’t require too much support (basically just POgre)
- That dance
- Can’t shut down both enemies simultaneously
- Is a Grass-type, and therefore weak to almost everything Flying
- Can avoid getting murdered by Talonflame once with Fake Out, but beyond that…
- Ferrothorn really messes up its rhythm.
- Low-end attacking stats and Def
- Heavily prediction-based (but isn’t everything?)
- Requires you to win the weather war (i.e. have rain up), so doesn’t like PDon or M-Rayquaza
- Cannot function at ALL without proper team support (basically just POgre)
- Too much groove for the average mortal
Points of Comparison
Here, I’ll throw out some common Pokémon that are hypothetically better at doing some of the things Ludicolo does.
· Fake Out Users: M-Kangaskhan, Weavile, Raichu, Smeargle. Weavile and M-Kanga hit incredibly hard, Raichu also has access to Feint to piss off Quick Guard users, and Smeargle is… Smeargle. All of them are slower than Ludicolo in rain though.
· Swift Swimmers: Kabutops is physical, Kingdra is weak to Fairy; both are frail as heck.
· Speed Controllers: Tailwind users such as Talonflame and Crobat feature heavily. Togekiss and Suicune also use the move. Gengar somehow gets Icy Wind, so he also warrants a mention.
· Dancers: Ludicolo has the best animation in game; 11/10 would watch again.
TL;DR: If you happen to be running POgre anyway and want to bring some funky freshness and/or a Special wall with Fake Out to your local VGC event, Ludicolo might be the sombrero wearing pineapple duck for you. If you aren’t sure Rain is your groove, make like Miror B. and “ESCAPE!”
So that’s it for this segment of “How to battle with [Pokémon]”. Check back later for more shenanigans and me coming through on my promise from last article and actually doing Quagsire. Until then, discussion in the comments below is accepted, encouraged, and requested. Direct questions or suggestions for this column as a whole, including suggesting new Pokémon to rant about, go to the discussion thread for this column. Until next time, you stay classy, PokéCommunity.
Edited by Aurora, bobandbill, gimmepie and wolf.
Cover image by Fairy.
Other images courtesy of The Pokémon Company.