Some people believe themselves to be luckier than others, and while there is no quantifiable way of proving that idea, if you believe yourself to be in that category, maybe you’d like to try your luck with a Pokemon that thrives on that very idea. This blog will cover strategies for using hax to your advantage and countering your opponent’s use of hax.
By hax, I mean the luck based elements of Pokemon battles. Examples include Scald burns, critical hits, flinches, etc. Hax-based Pokemon, or Hax abusers, can be very effective in poking holes in a well-built team and even swinging the tide of a match that you find yourself very behind in.
With that in mind let’s take a look at three popular Hax-based strategies, we’ll cover countering these tactics at the end.
Critical Hit Abuse
Usually there is no way to know if a critical hit is coming; however with gen VI (and assuming Gen VII if they stay the same) mechanics a couple of Pokemon are able to guarantee a critical hit with specific sets, items and abilities.
Critical hits are checked on a 0-3 point scale. Where a 0 boosted critical hit chance boosts equals a 6.25% chance of a crit. 1 boost gives 12.5%, 2 boosts is 50% and getting all 3 boosts guarantees a critical hit 100% if the move hits.
Table 1: Critical hit ratio based on number of boosts
You can boost your critical hit chance with moves that boost critical hit chance (Stone Edge, Cross Poison etc.) or holding an item like Scope Lens or Razor Claw. The ability Super Luck also boosts critical hit chance. Those will all give you +1 on the scale. The move Focus Energy will grant you 2 notches on the scale, so a combination of the first list and Focus Energy will guarantee a critical hit.
Moves with a high critical hit ratio are: Aeroblast, Attack Order, Air Cutter, Blaze Kick, Crabhammer, Cross Chop, Cross Poison, Drill Run, Karate Chop, Leaf Blade, Night Slash, Poison Tail, Psycho Cut, Razor Leaf, Razor Wind, Shadow Blast, Shadow Claw, Sky Attack, Slash, Spacial Rend, Stone Edge
+1: High critical hit ratio moves, Scope Lens, Razor Claw, Super Luck
+2: Focus Energy
Two Pokemon that are notorious for this strategy are Kingdra (UU) and non-mega Absol (RU).
What makes Kindgra so fantastic for this “crit abuse” strategy is the ability Sniper. Sniper makes critical hits do 1.5x more damage, on top of the already boosted damage output from the critical hit. Also, critical hits ignore your negative boosted stats and your opponent’s positive boosted stats relative to your attack. That means no lost power to Draco Meteor, and it doesn’t matter how many Calm Minds your opponent has set up if it hits, and it crits, it’s going to hurt.
In reality, any pokemon that can learn Focus Energy can employ this tactic to some degree, but the ability sniper and Kindgra’s fantastic defensive typing (only 2 weaknesses plus one 0.5x resistance and two 0.25x resistances) make it the best user of crit abuse currently. However, Kingdra struggles to sweep due to its mediocre bulk and speed.
Absol is a little more specific to make this strategy work. An Absol needs the ability Super Luck, a crit chance boosting item (like Razor Fang) and to use moves like Night Slash, Psycho Cut and Stone Edge that boost critical hit chance to get it to the +3 status for 100% critical hits. Because its item slot is used up, Mega Absol cannot run the 100% crit set.
Perhaps you have a pokemon that you want to have the Crit Abuse strategy but it doesn’t get access to focus energy or doesn’t have a lot of +1 critical hit chance moves. Enter in Scolipede.
Scolipede who is notorious for passing all kinds of stats to its teammates can pass a focus energy like boost with the help of a Lansat Berry. The set works by protecting and substituting to build up speed boosts, then when its health is below 25%, Lansat Berry activates giving a +2 boost on the Critical Hit scale (same as a focus energy’s effect). If you’re able to predict the move coming in or if your opponent switches and you get a safe switch into your Baton Pass (it will more than likely go first due to speed boosts) everything from Landorus to Bellossom can be scary with a crit boost plus all those speed boosts.
Serene Grace Shenanigans
Serene Grace doubles the chance of a moves secondary effect occurring. The most common use of this ability is for flinching, though stat boosting moves can also be considered under this strategy (Ancient Power and it’s +1 to all stats goes from 10 to 20 percent, for example). The chance to inflict a status (like freeze chance on ice beam) is also doubled with the Serene Grace ability.
An efficient way to abuse Serene Grace chances is to stack these effects to your advantage like paralysis and flinching, or paraflinching as it is commonly known. The practice of paralyzing a pokemon so it has a 25% chance to not move plus diminishing speed so that your move that has a chance to flinch can go first can be devastating to any pokemon regardless of matchup. Just take note that Serene Grace does not actually effect the chance of your opponent being able to move while paralyzed. Iron Head is very common move used in this strategy with a 30% chance to flinch times two with serene grace, makes a 60% flinch chance.
That makes an estimated chance of moving in a paraflinch scenario 30% (75% chance to clear paralysis multiplied by the 40% chance to clear flinch as well). It’s easy to see that when you can limit your opponent to, mathematically speaking, three moves when you get 10 that paraflinching can be a prominent, and annoying, strategy.
It’s important to be aware of pokemon that can have Serene Grace since there seems to be at least one regardless of tier (if playing Smogon/Showdown) or banlist (if at a tournament).
Pokemon with Serene Grace listed by Smogon Tiers (effective 9/2016)
OU/BL: Chansey, Jirachi, Togekiss
RU/BL3: Meloetta, Togetic
PU: Dunsparce, Sawsbuck.
Two of my favorite pokemon can utilize this strategy: Togekiss and Jirachi. Here are some sample sets for each!
Ability: Serene Grace
Moves: Iron Head/Zen Headbutt, Thunder Wave/Body Slam, Wish, Protect
Thunder Wave is used on cartridge, but Body Slam (Gen III move tutor) can be used on Showdown if you wish, with a 60% chance of paralyze plus doing damage as opposed to just paralyzing, though at a 100% rate.
This set gives you a STAB move with a 60% chance flinch chance boosted through Serene Grace and a way to heal while also adding protect for scouting/passive damage purposes. Steel as a type is only resisted by four types making it borderline sweep territory if resistances are removed by other teammates. Jirachi has base 100 stats all around and can be as bulky, fast, or strong as you could want. I recommend doing some calculations on Showdown’s calculator to determine relevant moves that you want Jirachi to be able to survive or opponents you want it to outspeed.
Ability: Serene Grace
Moves: Iron Head, Zen Headbutt, U-Turn, Healing Wish
Item: Choice Scarf
This Jirachi is more suited to offensive teams and has become a staple in the XY/ORAS metagame. A Choice Scarf allows Jirachi to outspeed most relevant Pokemon and inflict a flinch chance with either Iron Head or Zen Headbutt. However, be mindful of the lower accuracy of Zen Headbutt. U-Turn lets Jirachi pivot out of undesirable situations. Healing Wish can be used late game to give a teammate a second lease. A Jolly or Adamant nature can be run depending on whether the speed or power matters to you; again, I recommend doing calculations. Regardless, the ideal EV spread is 252 Attack/252 Speed/4 Defense or Special Defense
Ability: Serene Grace
Moves: Air Slash, Thunder Wave, Roost, Dazzling Gleam/Coverage Move
This Togekiss set employs the same strategy, paralyze the opponent and flinch opponents to death with a way to heal itself. Air Slash (75 BP, 95% accuracy) is a little worse than Iron Head (80 BP, 100% accuracy) but is still just as effective with Togekiss’ 120 Special Attack stat vs Jirachi’s 100 Attack stat in terms of damage output. The coverage spot is flexible depending on your team’s needs. If resistances worry you, Nasty Plot can turn this Togekiss into a deadly wallbreaker. Toxic can be used if you need to put a bulky type Pokemon on a timer. Heal Bell or Wish provide team support, while Ancient Power takes advantage of Serene Grace if you want to boost all stats can be options too, depending on your needs for team composition. There are also traditional options, like Flamethrower/Fire Blast which benefit from the boosted burn chance. Aura Sphere that helps give coverage against the likes of Tyranitar and Bisharp.
Perhaps one of the most well-known “hax based” strategies features Skill Link in combination with the held item King’s Rock (or another flinch inducing item). Skill Link makes multi-hit moves hit to their full potential (usually 5 times).
Mega Heracross, with its access to Pin Missile and Rock Blast, has risen to become a top threat in the late ORAS metagame. However, due to the need to hold a Heracronite, it is unable to make use of the King’s Rock strategy. Still, the fact that Skill Link lets it fire off extremely powerful attacks that break Focus Sash and Sturdy warrant its mention.
Two main Pokemon are known for the Skill Flinch strategy.Cloyster is the better of the two main users with access to Shell Smash for boosted power, Ice Shard for priority and even Hydro Pump for a mixed attacking variant in conjunction with the multi hit moves Icicle Spear and Rock Blast.
Cinccino in lesser tiers can be used to some success but middling stats (75/60/65 defenses) really limit its use in higher tiers. A 115 speed tier gives it a niche as a late game cleaner when everything is in one hit (or 5 hit KO range). With access to Tail Slap, Rock Blast and Bullet Seed it presents a lot of coverage to fill that role.
The item slot makes the flinch hax strategy work. With five hits per move and a 10% flinch chance given by King’s Rock for moves not normally with a flinch chance it makes a 41% chance that the opponent will not move if your multi strike attack went first. This makes Skill Link pokemon serviceable stallbreakers against walls of any variety, and again in the case of Cinccino and its natural speed, late game cleaners as well.
While this strategy is banned in Smogon competitions, however it’s worth mentioning that the ultimate example of using Hax to win seems to originate here with SwagPlay.
Swagger to boost your opponents attack by 2, then the opponent flips a coin (50% chance) on whether they hit themselves due to confusion with that boosted attack stat. If they’ve already boosted via Swords Dance for example, that’s a +4 physical hit on themselves. Foul Play attacks your opponent with their attack stat. Which means the more that stat is boosted through Swagger, Swords Dance or others, the more damage that is done.
Common users of this strategy are Klefki (Prankster ability for priority Swaggers and amazing defensive typing and decent 51/91/87 bulk) and Liepard (Prankster ability and STAB Foul Play use). The strategy may be gimmicky but it obviously works to a frustrating effect if Smogon has banned it.
In terms of those pokemon, while Klefki can serve multiple roles and has held it’s OU tiering despite Swagger being a banned move in Smogon, Liepard resides all the way down in NU, meaning SwagPlay was about all it had going for it. If you are playing in a non-Smogon match or event this obviously means nothing to you.
Countering Hax -Based Strategies
Most of these strategies rely on limiting the opponent’s turns, reducing speed, or turning attacks around on the foe. Because of this, powerful priority Pokemon can be key to wearing down and scoring kills on fully set up Pokemon who dabble in Hax. Sets with double priority, like Fake Out and Bullet Punch for example, can really put a dent into a special defensive Togekiss running paraflinch. Priority is just a generally good thing to have on a team, but if it’s scarce on your team, be very wary if paraflinch comes out against you.
For Pokemon that use the crit abuse strategy the key is to bring out a wall breaker and attempt to hit hard right away assuming you outspeed. Kingdra might only have 2 weaknesses but it is kind of frail, especially if no EVs are invested with 75/95/95 defense. Absol is even frailer with 65/60/60 defenses in non-mega form.
If you can’t outspeed a crit abuser you will need a very defensive pokemon that can probably resist the attack type coming at you. For example, if Critdra brings Draco Meteor, Surf and Ice Beam a specially defensive Ferrothorn can do great work with 116 SpD stat and resistances to all three attack types. However, with Ferrothorn’s 131 defense stat it may be unlikely you will run a Ferrothorn with full special defense by default.
Mega Slowbro also forces Critdra out and can use the opportunity to set up with Calm Mind.
SwagPlay countering is pretty much a combination of the two recipes above. Hit with priority and hit it hard before it gets the chance to swagger you. However if you are a physically attacking Pokemon, you could just simply flip the coin and hope you’re on the right side of it, because after all a Hax-based strategy is always just that, luck.
If an item is crucial to the strategy (King’s Rock, Lansat Berry, Scope Lens etc.) knock off users can help to deal with the Hax based pokemon if it gets rolling and looks to finish you off.
The ability Inner Focus prevents flinches from occurring. Although this ability is generally seen as useless, there are several Pokemon that are forced to run it, like Mega Gallade, and others that have a niche use for it.
Obviously the best strategy is a proactive thought that certain Pokemon are Hax-Based and not let them get “set up” by inflicting paralysis, punishing a Focus Energy user etc. The biggest weakness of hax strategies is that they still rely a great deal on luck and are therefore easy to counter with advance planning.
It might not always feell good or safe but Hax can be a huge part of Pokemon when used right and when used advantageously.
We hope you’ve learned something with our two part series on dealing with Hax as a player and utilizing (or countering) Hax in the actual moment of battle. As much as all players may moan and groan about Hax affecting the outcome of the battle the fact is, Pokemon would not be the way it is without Hax. Luck will almost always play some role in competition and as we’ve stated before Pokemon is no exception.