Gengar, The Gas Pokémon. It is said to emerge from darkness to steal the lives of those who become lost in mountains. On the night of a full moon, if shadows move on their own and laugh, it must be Gengar's doing. Sometimes, on a dark night, your shadow thrown by a streetlight will suddenly and startlingly overtake you. It is actually a Gengar running past you, pretending to be your shadow. It is said that if it is hiding, it cools the area by nearly 10 degrees F. Lurking in the shadowy corners of rooms, it awaits chances to steal its prey's life force.
For yet another generation, the original Ghost makes a great showing in competitive battling. Great Special Attack and Speed provide it with the perfect platform for sweeping, whilst it carries an additional threat from the wide variety of disruptive moves at its disposal. Despite its awful defensive stats, three great immunities and two 4x resistances gives Gengar plenty of opportunities to ply its trade; and all of this comes together to make it a firm staple of the Standard tier.
Levitate: gives Gengar a Ground immunity (which is doubly useful, since without it, Gengar would have a Ground weakness too).
- Shadow Ball
Gengar doesn't have an overly difficult time getting into play. Its three immunities and a bit of prediction makes life fairly blissful, and it's particularly good at exposing Choice Pokémon. Once it's in play, it can exploit its wonderful Special Attack and great Speed.
Central to this move-set is a three-pronged attack:
Shadow Ball provides STAB and some decent type coverage.
Focus Blast pairs up well with Shadow Ball for all-round neutral coverage. Focus Blast plays a particularly important role catching super-effective hits on Ghost-resistant/immune Normal, Dark and Steel types (such as Snorlax, Tyranitar and Heatran).
Thunderbolt has reliable accuracy and decent power, with some useful super-effective hits on Gyarados, Starmie and Suicune.
Gengar has room for one more move to go along with its usual trio. Explosion is popular for an OHKO (or near enough) on Blissey, Hidden Power [Fire] OHKOs Scizor and 2KOs Metagross and Hidden Power [Ice] OHKOs Salamence and other Pokémon 4x weak to Ice moves.
- Shadow Ball
It functions a lot like the previous move-set, except of course falling under the restrictions imposed by a Choice item; but with its three immunities and two 4x resistances, switching about isn't too much of a problem for Gengar. Trick is an obvious bonus for the viability of a Choice move-set, since a well-timed Trick can leave an opponent heavily crippled, and also frees up Gengar's attacking options.
Choice Specs makes an obvious fit for Gengar. It already has a lot of Speed, so Specs beefs up its already strong Special Attack. Choice Scarf is the less obvious option, but it lets Gengar function as a very effective “revenge-killer” for some of the fastest threats out there, and of course carries a large element of surprise for opponents who'd expect to outrun Gengar.
EVs and Nature:
252/252 with Timid is the obvious route to take. You'll definitely want to hit at least 347 Speed (which is essentially Max Speed) to outrun Infernape. One mild note to make on Speed is that a full powered Hidden Power [Fire] cannot be achieved with a 31 Speed IV, so any HP Fire Gengar won't be able to achieve Max Speed as well. When Gengar's carrying Explosion, Hasty or Naďve would be the preferred natures (to avoid hindering its Attack stat). You need a few Attack EVs to guarantee that a Life Orbed Explosion will KO on a Max Def/HP Blissey, but even without EVs, Life Orb and the raw power of Explosion can manage KOs most of the time (and a little bit of Stealth Rock support should adequately cover for any shortcomings).
Despite there being room for a plethora of viable Gengar move-sets (ranging from the viable to the gimmicks), most competitive Gengar sets end up as a variant of the first move-set with a new move added in.
Substitute, Hypnosis, Destiny Bond, Energy Ball, Focus Punch, Perish Song, Mean Look, Will-o-Wisp, Taunt.
Substitute acts as a buffer for Gengar. It keeps statuses away, it eases up prediction and, due to Gengar's fragility, having something to hide behind gives it a lot more confidence when taking on its potential counters. With Substitute, there's also room for Focus Punch, and the pair can be mixed together for an entirely different move-set.
Hypnosis puts an opponent to sleep. It was nerfed a bit since the start of 4th Gen battling, going from a pretty decent 70% accuracy in Diamond and Pearl to a less reliable 60% in Platinum, but it's still viable despite the accuracy drop. With Gengar's great Speed it can put opponents to sleep before they have a chance to attack, but it's always a bit risky when considering how fragile Gengar is and how costly missing can be.
Destiny Bond is an alternative to Explosion. It's a guaranteed way to KO an opponent (when it works) but it requires your opponent to land a KOing move, taking away some of the initiative from Gengar and placing a bit of reliance on your opponent.
Energy Ball is Gengar's best Grass option. It's available for a very strong hit on Swampert, and it's still a decent shot against Water, Ground and Rock types.
Focus Punch can get a 2KO on Blissey, Snorlax, Tyranitar and an assortment of others with a decent EV investment. As noted before, with Substitute, it's a very viable move, and Focus Blast's shaky accuracy makes the physical alternative look a lot more tempting.
Perish Song can KO an opponent after three turns. There are two ways to use it: as a move that'll force the opponent to switch and a move with the intent to KO the opponent (with which you'll need Mean Look for the “Perish-Trap” strategy). In the case of Perish-Trap, the entire move-set will most probably be taken up by non-attacking moves. Trapping the opponent is required, and either through the use of Substitute or Hypnosis, Gengar will need to keep the enemy from KOing it before the Perish Song is finished. It's a bit on the gimmicky side but it's mildly viable.
Will-o-Wisp is useful against Snorlax, Tyranitar, Scizor, Swampert and an assortment of other physically-inclined counters. Its accuracy is a little shaky but usable, but the main detriment is the move only disrupts the opponent, rather than directly KOing them.
Taunt stops a lot of Blissey's preferred options and can disrupt other Pokémon who rely on indirect methods, but it's a bit on the situational side and struggles to carve its way onto any move-sets.
Metagross and Scizor encounter some problems with Hidden Power [Fire], but a mixture of resistances and bulk allow them to take on Gengar in most other circumstances. Both can potentially pack Bullet Punch (allowing them to strike first) or Pursuit (which can hunt down a fleeing Gengar). Jirachi is another Steel type who can manages relatively comfortably, with Thunder Wave and STAB Psychic moves being its best threat sources.
Blissey can absorb most of what Gengar throws its way, barring Explosion. It can paralyse Gengar with Thunder Wave or take it on with a neutrally hitting move (e.g. Flamethrower).
They have some problems (of varying degrees) with Focus Blast, but Heatran, Tyranitar and Snorlax can all KO Gengar, and barring their problems with Focus Blast, comfortably absorb most other moves it'd choose to throw at them.
Sucker Punch and Pursuit are worth giving mentions to. Sucker Punch can strike first, and of course, scores a strong super-effective hit. Pursuit on the other hand can chase down a fleeing Gengar, and if it does it'll strike doubly effective too. Both take a bit of prediction (although sometimes Pursuit is strong enough to KO regardless of Gengar choosing to flee or not), but both can finish off Gengar quite comfortably.
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