Dusknoir, The Gripper Pokémon. The antenna on its head captures radio waves from the world of spirits that command it to take people there.
In the 3rd generation, Dusclops was a fairly common choice for Standard teams. Being a Ghost type, it was immune to Rapid Spin and with bulky defences added on, it became a popular choice on Defensive teams. Skip forward a generation and its new evolution is hardly any different. The only significant change between Dusknoir and Dusclops is an increase in Attack, from a rather forgettable Base 70 to a fairly impressive Base 100. The special-physical split has been both kind and unkind to Dusclops's new evolution. Fire Punch, Ice Punch and Thunderpunch have all become viable choices but it's left without a strong STAB choice now that Shadow Ball has become a Special Attack.
Dusknoir will pretty much be picking up where Dusclops left off. Its number one job is to make sure the opponent doesn't Spin away Spikes and Stealth Rock. Alongside that it'll shutdown physical sweepers with Will-o-Wisp and sponge up its opponent's attacks with its impressive defences.
Pressure: is a pretty good ability and Dusknoir is capable of using it effectively. All moves used against Dusknoir lose two PP instead of one. Low PP moves really suffer against this ability, and the longer a battle lasts the more favourable this ability becomes.
- Shadow Sneak / Shadow Punch
This has become the standard of the new generation, and its not changed too much from the old one. Will-o-Wisp keeps (most) physical attackers away, and picks up some damage at the same time. Pain Split fills in as both a recovery move and an offensive move (although obviously, recovery is its primary reason for being chosen). For those who don't know, it splits the combined HP of Dusknoir and its opponent between them. Since Dusknoir's HP is fairly pitiful, it'll usually be the one benefiting from the exchange. It's a move that's well worth breeding for.
As far as offences are concerned, Shadow Sneak does its best to fill in for Shadow Ball. It's quite weak but it strikes first, which is quite helpful considering Dusknoir's abysmal Speed. Shadow Punch is a slightly more powerful alternative, but even then it isn't all that strong for a STAB move. One of either Fire Punch or Thunderpunch is usually favoured to work alongside its Ghost STAB.
Fire Punch is super-effective against Heracross, who has a habit of switching-in to suck up Will-o-Wisp. The coverage against Steel types isn't too bad either, since it hurts the few who don't fear Will-o-Wisp.
Thunderpunch is primarily there for hitting Gyarados. Coverage against fliers and waters isn't too bad, but it's the Gyarados factor that draws most people towards it.
- Shadow Punch
Trick Room can turn Dusknoir's abysmal Speed into an asset. With survivability in its favour, Dusknoir can set-up Trick Room pretty reliably. Aside from that, it's pretty much the standard move-set with one less move-slot. Shadow Punch is obviously preferred over Shadow Sneak, since Shadow Sneak's strike-first ability becomes much less useful, but Shadow Punch could always be dropped in favour of one of its other physical moves.
- Shadow Ball
It's a waste of its good Attack stat, but Dusknoir can use Calm Mind to reasonable effect. The defensive aspect of Calm Mind is obviously the attraction, but over a couple of boosts, the offensive aspect can become quite useful.
Shadow Ball, being the best STAB move it has, is obviously the top choice. It's perfectly possible to run a Calm Mind move-set without Shadow Ball though, and if Shadow Ball is the lone attack, Dusknoir will be completely walled by opposing Normal types.
Will-o-Wisp, used with Calm Mind, gives it the ability to defend effectively against both physical and special attackers. Ice Beam has some great type coverage, but its power is fairly average when it isn't hitting for super-effective damage. Focus Blast works with Shadow Ball to hit every Pokémon in the game for at least neutral damage, but low PP and poor accuracy make it quite unfavourable for such a defensive move-set.
EVs and Nature:
First and foremost, the number one EV priority is maxing out its HP. Don't be fooled into thinking that it should be kept low to increase the effect of Pain Split, without max HP its defensive capabilities are severely decreased.
With HP maxed, the next choice of EV placement really comes down to what Dusknoir's defensive job is. Dusknoir can balance both of its stats fairly evenly by using an Impish nature and 52 Def EVs and 204 SDef EVs (or a Careful nature and 204 Def, 52 SDef). That EV spread would give it about 350 in each of its defensive stats.
Alternatively, a great deal of focus could be given to one specific stat, rather than trying to split it evenly. 405 is the potential number each defensive stat could reach. Piling all its EVs into Special Defence is viable, since Will-o-Wisp is a fairly reliable way to make up for the lack of Defence EVs. Likewise, the Calm Mind set could pile a lot of EVs to its Defence, since Calm Mind can make up for the lack of Special Defence EVs.
Investing in Attack EVs isn't a priority, but its worth a glance. A fair few fragile Pokémon are weak to Shadow Sneak, and some EVs can boost it from a 2KO to 1KO (or from a 3KO to a 2KO).
Ice Punch, Earthquake, Brick Break, Focus Punch, Pursuit, Psychic, Gravity, Imprison, Taunt, Rest, Sleep Talk, Counter, Choice Band.
Ice Punch is another Punch option Dusknoir has. Ice has fantastic type coverage, but most of what it does cover already fears Will-o-Wisp.
Earthquake gets a nice chunky hit on Heatran, as well as getting good hits on Metagross and Tyranitar (although the pair of them shouldn't be switching in anyway, the threat of Will-o-Wisp should be enough to scare them off).
Brick Break is super-effective against most of the opponents who get STAB on Pursuit, although most of them should be afraid of Will-o-Wisp anyway. Like Earthquake, it also gets a nice hit on Heatran. Focus Punch serves the same purpose as Brick Break, only it requires good prediction in exchange for the huge power boost.
Pursuit can catch fleeing opponents, Psychic types in particular, who should be fleeing in fear of STAB Ghost attacks.
Psychic is an option on the Calm Mind set if Dusknoir's team is deathly afraid of Heracross. Its type coverage is passable, but nothing to rave about.
Gravity can expose fliers and levitators to Spikes and Ground attacks. Pair this up with a Choice Garchomp or something similar and you can make it well worth the move-slot.
Imprison can be of some situational use, but Dusknoir doesn't really carry all that manner moves that its counters would be likely to use.
Taunt got a boost in the generation shift, but Dusknoir is usually too slow to use it as effectively as some other Pokémon can.
Rest and Sleep Talk provide a healing alternative to Pain Split.
Counter can be an effective way to get rid of physical attackers who think they can 2KO Dusknoir, but most physical attackers should be worried about Will-o-Wisp (Heracross and other Guts users are of course exceptions). It's worth noting that Counter requires a 3rd Gen Dusclops.
Dusknoir has a good Attack stat, so it can use Choice Band to some effect, but there are so many better Choice Band candidates out there.
Dusknoir relies on stalling tactics and Will-o-Wisp to cause its opponents problems. Unless a Pokémon is weak to one of its moves, Dusknoir really shouldn't be KOing it.
Being so reliant on Will-o-Wisp makes Guts users great counters for Dusknoir. Even when they don't destroy it, they can gain a decent boost from it. Heracross is the most obvious and popular one, and can 2KO Dusknoir after the Guts boost. Aside from Heracross there's also Ursaring, Raticate and Swellow (who are all immune to Ghost attacks), and Hariyama and Machamp. Milotic likes Will-o-Wisp for activating its Marvel Scale and a vast array of Flash Fire Pokémon can get their STAB moves boosted by it.
Heatran completely beats Dusknoir (unless it's carrying Earthquake or a Fighting move). It resists its Ghost moves, is immune to Will-o-Wisp and will generally cream any Dusknoir with STAB Fire moves.
Pursuit users can really damage Dusknoir, but most of them need to be concerned about Will-o-Wisp. Houndoom is the only one with STAB that can boast a Will-o-Wisp immunity, whilst the aforementioned Heracross fires off a strong Pursuit and gets a Guts boost from Will-o-Wisp. Tyranitar and Weavile can both devastate if they can get in and avoid Will-o-Wisp. Metagross, Tauros and Slaking are all powerful Pursuit users, but they also need to avoid Will-o-Wisp.
Taunt causes Dusknoir a lot of problems. Taunt Gyarados in particular will slay it if Thunderpunch is absent. Substitute blocks Will-o-Wisp and Pain Split, so a great deal of Pokémon can beat Dusknoir one-on-one if they have Subs capable of taking a hit from Dusknoir. Both of these cases require avoiding Will-o-Wisp as the Pokémon comes in, of course.
The fact that Dusknoir relies on Pain Split for the bulk of its healing can weaken its defensive capabilities. Just make sure to keep high HP Pokémon away from Dusknoir and it'll struggle to maintain its health (especially if its Leftovers can be negated by Knock Off or Sandstorm).
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