Lurking in the shadows and waiting for the opportune moment to strike, Dark-type Pokemon are a metagame defining class of creatures. Broadly speaking, their purpose in the metagame is to disturb opposing strategies. This diverse bunch comes with a variety of tools that do this trick, from offensively oriented moves like Knock Off and Sucker Punch to defensive ones like Taunt and Parting Shot. If you are not careful, Dark-type Pokemon will take your carefully crafted strategy and break it apart bit by bit.
The Dark type was introduced in Generation II to offset the strength of Psychic types in Generation I. At its time of introduction, there were five fully evolved Dark-type Pokemon: Sneasel, Murkrow, Houndoom, Umbreon, and Tyranitar.
Over time, Dark-type Pokemon proved popular, and so more Pokemon bearing this type were introduced in Generations III, IV, and V. Generation V in particular saw an influx of powerful dark types like Bisharp, Hydreigon, and Krookodile which quickly rose to prominence.
In Generation VI, Dark-type Pokemon lost a lot with the introduction of Fairy-type Pokemon. Being weak to Fairy-type attacks and with their STAB moves resisted by Fairy-type Pokemon, Dark-type Pokemon became somewhat less attractive. This was offset somewhat by nerfing Steel’s resistance to Dark to a neutrality.
In Generation VII, very little changed for Dark. The increasing prominence of Fairy-type Pokemon, especially the Guardian Dieties, has continued to hurt the type. However, Dark-type Pokemon now have a beneficial immunity to status moves used by a Pokemon with the ability Prankster, which does have situational utility.
The primary goal of almost all Dark-type Pokemon is to disrupt opposing strategy in some way. A variety of offensive and status moves help accomplish this goal. Knock Off is ubiquitous and incredibly spammable, since almost all Pokemon carry an item. You will be able to get the boost plus rid a foe of their item about 1/2 the time you use this move, given the prevalence of Z Crystals and Mega Stones in the SM metagame. Pursuit catches Pokemon as they switch, another common feature of the meta, and can allow you to take out threatening Ghost and Psychic-type Pokemon. Meanwhile Sucker Punch is an emergency check to otherwise faster Pokemon that punishes foes as they try to attack.
On the status side, Dark types don’t have as much, but Z-Parting Shot and Z-Memento allow you a chance to lower opponent stats while bringing in a teammate to heal. Taunt helps prevent status and can be an important momentum grabber.
By the Numbers
# of Pokemon with this type: 54
# of Fully Evolved Pokemon: 33 (8 Alternate Forms)
2x super effective against: Ghost, Psychic
Effective against: Normal, Fire, Water, Flying, Grass, Poison, Electric, Ground, Rock, Ice, Bug, Dragon, Steel
2x resisted by: Dark, Fairy, Fighting
2x weak against: Bug, Fairy, Fighting
Damaged normally by: Normal, Fire, Water, Flying, Grass, Poison, Electric, Ground, Rock, Ice, Bug, Dragon, Steel
2x resistant to: Dark, Ghost
Immune to: Psychic
- Mega Sableye
- Mega Gyarados
- Mega Houndoom
- Mega Absol
- Mega Sharpedo
Physical- Knock Off, Sucker Punch, Pursuit, Crunch, Foul Play
Special- Dark Pulse
Status- Dark Void, Parting Shot, Memento
Z Moves- Black Hole Eclipse, Z Parting Shot, Z Memento, Z Snatch
Type in OU
Once upon a time, Dark types were a fearsome force in the metagame. Particularly in Generation V, there were a plethora of strong Dark-type Pokemon from which to choose. However, the introduction of Fairy-type Pokemon in Generation VI has shifted the momentum, and while Dark is still a strong offensive type, it is much less useful defensively than it was before.
Hoopa-Unbound is truly one of the most threatening wallbreakers in the OU metagame. A good Dark/Psychic typing, 170/160 offensive stats, and wide coverage means that this thing is both versatile and powerful. This deadly combination earned it the ban hammer last generation when it was sent to Ubers. Hoopa-Unbound’s most effective sets are usually choice sets: Choice Scarf patches up its mediocre speed and lets it sweep late game, while Choice Band or Choice Specs turn it into a threatening wallbreaker. Hoopa-Unbound also can effectively run a mixed attacking Life Orb set. A less common set is Darkium-Z: Hoopa can either utilize Snatch to gain a +2 speed boost plus steal any boosts the opponent is planning, or it can unleash a powerful Black Hole Eclipse. Hyperspace Fury is its signature move, able to hit behind protect and packing a huge punch. Good coverage in moves like Drain Punch and Gunk Shot allow Hoopa-Unbound to handle most things that come its way. Just be sure to keep it away from physical attacks, especially Bug-type moves like U-Turn.
Also returning from Ubers and making its mark on the present metagame is Greninja. As if Protean and ridiculous coverage did not offer Greninja enough to be a nuisance before, it now has a new ability that grants it a powerful form. Both Protean and Battle Bond grant Greninja a strong presence in the metagame, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. Protean Greninja has access to wide coverage in moves like Gunk Shot and Low Kick, and can play around opponents by shifting its typing to suit defensive needs. Ash-Greninja must enter the field initially as regular Greninja, and since it lacks the wide coverage of its counterpart it is more limited. However, once it nabs a KO, the form chance grants it big buffs in attack, special attack, and speed, as well as an increase in power to Water Shuriken. Specs-boosted Shurikens are enough to take out most weakened foes, and Hydro Pump plus Dark Pulse coverage means that this thing can hurt.
Mega Sableye is another defining force that is returning for exile in Ubers. This was one of the more contentious bans during the ORAS metagame, as it occurred very late, just before the release of Sun and Moon. Mega Sableye is notable for the incredible support it brings to stall teams. The change to Mega Evolution’s speed mechanics nerfs it slightly, as it can no longer reap the benefits of Prankster Will-O-Wisp and additional bulk on the same turn. Magic Bounce is a great ability that allows it to prevent status, especially entry hazards. This generation, Mega Sableye fits more effectively on balanced teams, which are increasingly popular in the offensive metagame. A single weakness in Fairy-type attacks and immunities to Psychic, Fighting, and Normal give it plenty of opportunities to switch in. Just be mindful of its low base 50 HP.
When Sun and Moon were first released, there were very few Mega Pokemon to choose from. As Gamefreak has moved towards releasing some of the Mega Stones via events, this has shifted, but one early consequence was that Pokemon like Mega Gyarados had the opportunity to regain prominence. Mega Gyarados is a fearsome sweeper: just one Dragon Dance is enough to allow it to run through most things, and heaven forbid it manages to fire off a second. STAB Waterfall and Crunch combined with coverage in Earthquake and Ice Fang. Good 95/109/130 bulk means it can usually take a hit or two, as well.
Life hasn’t been all bad for the Dark-type with regards to fairies, however. SM introduced an Alolan form for Muk, which has basically all of the same tools as regular Muk plus a secondary typing. That addition of a Dark typing helps Muk a lot by giving it a key Psychic immunity and buffing Knock Off and Pursuit. Alolan Muk has spectacular 105/100 special bulk, and good 105 attack means it can run an Assault Vest set to serve as an effective pivot. Its ability, Poison Touch, also means that any contact move has a chance to poison, and that chance is boosted for moves that already have a chance. For instance, Poison Jab has a 51% chance to poison the foe. Regular poison may not seem as beneficial as Toxic, but it actually does more damage as long as the opponent is out for 1-2 turns (and the damage output is equal if they remain out for 3), meaning that regular poison is preferential for an offensively inclined metagame. Muk’s combination of typing and bulk allow it to Pursuit trap Pokemon like Latios and Mega Alakazam, counter threats such as Volcarona and Tapu Lele, or just wreak general havoc with the combination of Poison Jab and Knock Off. The only real downside to Alolan Muk versus its Kantoan counterpart is that Alolan Muk, as of yet, lacks the ubiquity of punch coverage. Notably, lacking Ice Punch means that Alolan Muk is trapped and defeated by Dugtrio; no Thunder Punch leaves it walled by Toxapex; a lack of Fire Punch means it is forced to run Fire Blast to deal with Ferrothorn and Scizor; and Sucker Punch’s absence leaves it forced to run the weaker Shadow Sneak for priority.
Tyranitar has long been a fan favorite, but it, too, is feeling the pinch of a shifting Metagame. Dark/Rock typing is great offensively, but terrible defensively. This is rectified somewhat by 100/110/100 bulk; Sand Stream helps bolster its special bulk an additional 50%. Tyranitar is another Pokemon that benefits from a wide coverage movepool, notably access to the elemental punches and decent special attack to compliment access to moves like Fire Blast and Ice Beam. Tyranitar can effectively run such items as Leftovers, Choice Band, Choice Scarf, and Assault Vest. However, it continues to struggle to keep pace in a fast paced metagame with its paltry 61 speed.
Last generation, Weavile was a defining Pokemon that all OU players had to be wary of and carry an answer to. This generation, its role as a hard-hitting Ice-type has mostly been subverted by Mamoswine, who is stronger, bulkier, is not weak to Stealth Rock, and has a better offensive typing. However, since it was banned from UU and relegated to borderline, it is technically only eligible for use in OU, which is why it is mentioned here. Weavile’s speed and power allow it to still fill a useful niche as a late-game cleaner and revenge killer.
The recent release of Houndoominite adds yet another XY Mega Evolution to the mix. Mega Houndoom is a mixed bag as far as Mega Pokemon go. It has stellar base 140 special attack and a great speed tier at base 115, plus its defenses get boosted from quite frail to just above average. It also has a great movepool, with access to great offensive dual STAB moves like Dark Pulse, Fire Blast, and Flamethrower, not to mention coverage in Solarbeam and Sludge Bomb, as well as utility options like Taunt, Nasty Plot, and Will-o-Wisp. Unfortunately, Mega Houndoom’s ability, Solar Power, only works in sun; therefore a dedicated sun setter is required. Torkoal is the only sun setter who is viable, and unfortunately requires a lot of support. This often means that Mega Houndoom cannot be used to its full potential in standard play. While it is OU for now to allow the metagame to settle, it is doubtful that it will see much use in standard play.
Type in Mono
While the Dark-types of OU arguably represent the strongest of this unique class, one would be mistaken to think that this is all the type has to offer. When playing monotype in particular, Dark is forced to draw on some lower-tier Pokemon to cover key weaknesses or absences. Notably, Ash-Greninja and Hoopa-Unbound are both banned from monotype play, meaning that the strongest cleaner and wallbreaker respectively are off-limits. Luckily, Dark has more than a few tricks up its sleeve for dealing with these absences.
Mandibuzz is a staple on many Dark teams due to its ability to take Fighting-type hits well. 110/105/95 bulk lets it hold up well against many attacks. Access to Defog, Tailwind, and Toxic make it a great support Pokemon, while Foul Play, U-Turn, and Brave Bird give it offensive versatility.
Bisharp may have fallen from OU this generation, but it remains a key Pokemon on Dark-type teams due to its ability to beat fairies. It can utilize a Life Orb with STAB moves like Pursuit, Knock Off, Sucker Punch, and Iron Head depending on what your team needs. In terms of coverage, it is basically limited to Low Kick. Swords Dance and Defiant boosts let Bisharp heighten its offensive potential quickly. An Assault Vest set with four attacks is also situationally useful as a way to more reliably beat Fairy teams with Pokemon like Magearna, Tapu Lele, and Tapu Koko.
Hydreigon was once incredibly prevalent in OU… until Fairy-type Pokemon came along and ruined everything. 4x weakness to their attacks has caused Hydreigon to lose prominence. While it has the advantage of being the only really good special attacker Dark has to offer (at least until Houndoominite is released) Hydreigon also comes with the baggage of basically being unable to touch fairies, save for some chip damage with Flash Cannon. In spite of this, coverage with moves like Flamethrower, Fire Blast, Earth Power, Flash Cannon, and Surf make Hydreigon a versatile wallbreaker. A Choice Scarf can also be used should use desire a faster cleaner.
Krookodile is another hard hitter who remains useful. Moxie plus a Choice Scarf turns Krookodile into a threatening revenge killer capable of running through teams once its checks and counters are gone. If the speed is not needed, Life Orb allows it to switch freely, while a Choice Band makes it a moderately fast wallbreaker. Intimidate can alternatively be run to simulate decent bulk, allowing Krookodile to serve as a pivot and Stealth Rock setter. All in all, it is a versatile Pokemon that fits onto multiple teams well due to its stellar offensive typing.
Crawdaunt is a rather niche option, but the combination of its base 125 attack and Adaptability mean that its STAB moves do large damage against even foes that resist them. Crawdaunt is notable for being the best Volcarona check Dark has: a Choice Banded Aqua Jet from Jolly natured Crawdaunt will always OHKO unless Volcarona runs significant HP investment (which is uncommon). The ability to keep Volcarona in check is a must for all Dark-type teams, and nobody does that better than Crawdaunt. Sadly, Crawdaunt is held back by a rather paltry coverage movepool. Aside from Crabhammer, Aqua Jet, Crunch, and Knock Off, it doesn’t get much that is helpful. Superpower is its only other coverage move, which has situational use, especially for beating opposing Dark. Swords Dance and Dragon Dance sets are not as viable, as Crawdaunt is usually too frail to take a hit, and it is too slow to outrun much even after one speed boost.
Honchkrow is a useful, if one-dimensional, option. Choice Scarf and Life Orb sets are still popular as ways of inflicting damage quickly. However, this generation Honchkrow gained a cool new tool with Z-Mirror Move. This allows Honchkrow to immediately boost its attack stat to +2, then fires off a Z-version of the last move your foe used. This plus Moxie lets Honchkrow finish off teams with just Sucker Punch if it gets an opening. The downside is that Honchkrow is still slow, frail, and thus reliant on Sucker Punch.
Fur Coat lets Persian simulate good physical bulk. This combined with its high speed make it a rather unique utility Pokemon. Z-Parting Shot is the main attractor, as it allows Alolan Persian to drop its foes attack and special attack and bring in a foe with full healing. Taunt and Foul Play are excellent options on Alolan Persian, too, as it is fast enough to outrun many hazard setters and can use its good physical bulk to check setup sweepers with Foul Play.
Zoroark should not be overlooked as an option for Dark monotype teams. While it is limited by its frailty and speed tier, it is notable as a good mixed attacker with access to a wide coverage movepool. Moves like Dark Pulse, Sucker Punch, Extrasensory, Sludge Bomb, Flamethrower, Grass Knot, Focus Blast, and U-Turn make it very versatile. Its ability Illusion allows it to masquerade temporarily as the last Pokemon in your party. This can be used in tandem with almost any move imaginable to throw off your opponent’s groove. Illusion does however break when Zoroark is damaged by a direct attack or uses a Z-move.
Type in Other Metas
In the Ubers metagame, there are three additional forces to consider: Darkrai, Yveltal, and Arceus-Dark.
Once upon a time, Darkrai was one of the most threatening ubers due to its potential to put foes to sleep with 80% accurate Dark Voids and slowly suck away their health with its signature ability Bad Dreams. But now, Dark Void has been nerfed to 50% accuracy, leaving Darkrai further behind than ever before. Z-Hypnosis gives Darkrai some potential, as it can put foes to sleep while boosting its speed in preparation for a sweep. But the downside to this is that it leaves many of Darkrai’s coverage moves weaker than one would have if running a Life Orb.
Like many Dark-type Pokemon, Yveltal is able to run mixed physical/special sets effectively. Dark Pulse is by far its strongest option, with an additional 33% thanks to Dark Aura. Sucker Punch mitigates its average speed, while Oblivion Wing provides Flying STAB plus recovery.
While holding a Dread Plate, Arceus gains a Dark typing, which is one of the most useful typings it can access. This means it can bypass common Psychic and Ghost types in the tier and beat them, while having the utility movepool it needs to boost and/or keep itself healthy.
Hydreigon, Mandibuzz, Krookodile, and Bisharp all fit into this category and exert important pulls on the UU metagame.
Mega Absol and Mega Sharpedo both also occupy UU. As two of the more lackluster Dark-type Mega Evolutions, these two are both situationally useful in OU but have significant flaws that hold them back. Mega Absol is a good offensive user of Magic Bounce, but it cannot reliably switch into much due to frailty. Mega Sharpedo has an average speed tier, and is forced to forego a move in favor of Protect so that it can gain a Speed Boost before Mega evolving. This means that it must choose from a plethora of good coverage moves, leaving it always walled by something. Strong Jaw makes its Crunch among the most powerful moves in the game and Waterfall provides excellent STAB coverage. Psychic Fang, Poison Fang, and Ice Fang both also benefit from its ability, while Aqua Jet and Earthquake provide utility in their own rights.
Tips and Tricks
Dark’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in Generation VI with the introduction of the Fairy-type. This compounds with the relative prevalence of strong fighting coverage and U-Turn, which also give Dark a hard time. Dark Pokemon are notoriously frail, and the nature of the present type chart means that many dual typings do not lose all of their weaknesses to Fairy, Bug, or Fighting.
The approach you should take to this depends on the metagame. In OU, UU, etc., it is advised to pair Dark-type Pokemon with Pokemon that can be good bulky switches. For example, if you are running Hoopa-U, a Pokemon like Ferrothorn or Garchomp can be used to punish U-Turners.
In monotype however, it is usually more efficient to go all out in hyper offense. The prevalence of strong wallbreakers like Magearna on Fairy and Steel teams makes it nearly impossible for Dark to gain the upper hand through defensive switches, so revenge kills and sweeping are necessary.
Here is a sample team that I run on the ladder. The team is based around the idea of 3 defensive pivots, 1 wallbreaker, and 2 possible wincons:
Tyranitar @ Leftovers
Ability: Sand Stream
EVs: 252 HP / 252 Def / 4 SpD
– Stone Edge
– Fire Punch
– Ice Punch
– Stealth Rock
Muk-Alola @ Assault Vest
Ability: Poison Touch
EVs: 248 HP / 16 Def / 244 SpD
– Knock Off
– Shadow Sneak
– Fire Blast
– Poison Jab
Mandibuzz (F) @ Rocky Helmet
EVs: 248 HP / 252 Def / 8 SpD
– Foul Play
Hydreigon @ Choice Specs
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
– Draco Meteor
– Fire Blast
– Flash Cannon
– Earth Power
Krookodile @ Choice Scarf
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
– Iron Tail
– Fire Fang
Sharpedo-Mega @ Sharpedonite
Ability: Speed Boost
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
– Psychic Fangs
– Ice Fang
Tyranitar serves as a great lead, putting immediate offensive pressure on the opponent with Sand Stream and Stealth Rock plus its naturally good attack and coverage. A bulky set means that it can take advantage of multiple switches. Alolan Muk is the special wall for the team and a great pivot who can beat common threats like Greninja and Volcarona. Fire Blast coverage is a dastardly surprise for common switches like Scizor and Ferrothorn. Mandibuzz is both a good physical wall and an unfortunately good fodder Pokemon: Rocky Helmet and stellar bulk punish Pokemon like physical Tapu Koko when they go in for a Wild Charge. Strategic switches into Hydreigon allow for wallbreaking opportunities. After their checks have been picked off, sweeping opportunities for Krookodile and Mega Sharpedo are usually easy to come by, and they can come in handy in a pinch due to their good coverage. I opt for Psychic and Ice Fang coverage on Mega Sharpedo instead of Crunch as a way of reliably beating Pokemon like Keldo and Tapu Bulu, which are otherwise hard for this team to beat. Iron Tail and Flash Cannon on Krookodile and Hydreigon might seem suboptimal, but considering the prevalence of Fairy teams in monotype right now, they are unfortunately necessary.
Dark is a fun, yet challenging, type that brings a lot of diversity to the metagame. It is capable of turning the tides in any match by being a potent anti-metagame force. While it is quite useful offensively, there are far better defensive typings available. Almost any team can benefit from the unique power, coverage, and utility that Dark-type Pokemon bring to the table.