Tapu Lele, The Land Spirit Pokémon. This guardian deity of Akala is guilelessly cruel. The fragrant aroma of flowers is the source of its energy. As it flutters about, it scatters its strangely glowing scales. Touching them is said to restore good health on the spot.
Tapu Lele is one of the first Pokémon that comes to mind when talking about powerful Fairy-types that dominate the competitive field. In most cases this is because of how insane the Fairy typing is as a whole but Tapu Lele sets itself apart by capitalizing further on its Psychic typing, and instead uses its Fairy typing as a secondary bonus that keeps Dark-types at bay. As the only Island Guardian to get an entirely new terrain for its ability, Tapu Lele definitely makes excellent use of it, making a deadly Choice Scarf user or a wallbreaker even Steel-types should fear. Between its fantastic Special Attack and protection from priority moves, Tapu Lele doesn't need a lot in order to threaten teams. Average Speed and mediocre physical bulk make Tapu Lele reasonable to deal with but unless you've got some sturdy Steel-types, taking boosted Psychic- and Fairy-type moves is certainly not an easy task. Its great movepool and versatility can also make it difficult to deal with until you've already lost a Pokémon to Tapu Lele's destructive potential. It should go without saying that you should always exercise caution when dealing with any of the Island Guardians of Alola, but if you ever find yourself without a solid answer to Tapu Lele you won't be having a good time.
Psychic Surge: Activates Psychic Terrain for 5 turns when the Pokémon enters a battle. This ability is the reason Tapu Lele is so strong, protecting it from the priority moves it would otherwise struggle against while giving it a powerful boost to its Psychic-type moves.
Choice Scarf Tapu Lele is an incredibly dangerous Choice Scarf user since Psychic Terrain gives it the power to punch holes in teams while being fast enough to revenge kill many threats. Psychic is Tapu Lele's strongest STAB option, hitting even resists for decent damage under Psychic Terrain. Moonblast is Tapu Lele's strongest Fairy-type STAB, which allows it to take care of Dark-types that could otherwise switch into Psychic fairly easily. Shadow Ball is the best coverage option in formats where Aegislash and Mega Metagross are relevant, since they tend to be the most dangerous of Steel-types to Tapu Lele. Hidden Power Fire is a strong option as well for hitting Ferrothorn and Scizor hard, though it doesn't do enough to most other Steel-types. Psyshock is an excellent option despite doubling on Psychic-type STAB moves since this allows it to threaten specially bulky foes as well, and Tapu Lele doesn't always need much from its coverage moves anyway. Focus Blast is a risky option but gives it a strong general coverage option against Steel-types such as Heatran, though its accuracy can be an issue.
The EV spread is fairly straightforward, Tapu Lele needs to be as fast and powerful as possible in order to function as an effective revenge killer. A Modest nature gives Tapu Lele extra power to more reliably KO threats, though Timid is also valuable due to the crowded base 90-100 Speed range. Choice Scarf is a given, allowing it to function as an effective revenge killer with its powerful Psychic STAB moves. Psychic Surge is also necessary for Tapu Lele to work, but it's also the only available ability at this time anyway.
Choice Specs Tapu Lele takes a more direct approach at OHKOing foes than the Choice Scarf variant does. With Psychic Terrain and the Choice Specs boost, even Steel-types need to be careful switching into Psychic especially if they aren't heavily invested in Special Defense. Both Psychic and Psyshock are important STAB options since while Psychic is the generally superior option, Psyshock is vital for allowing Tapu Lele to beat special walls such as Chansey, going as far as getting a 2HKO against the pink blob. Moonblast provides a secondary STAB option that allows Tapu Lele to deal with Dark-types, though in most other cases Tapu Lele will be using Psychic-type moves anyway. Shadow Ball allows Tapu Lele to threaten both Aegislash and Mega Metagross, 2HKOing both and allowing it to beat Aegislash on the switch-in. In formats where these aren't relevant, Hidden Power Fire is a better option for dealing with Ferrothorn and Scizor. If you're confident in the team's matchup against Chansey, Psyshock can also be dropped to run two coverage moves, though in most cases having both Psychic-type STAB moves is the superior option.
Maximum Special Attack and Speed investment is necessary so that it can function as an effective wallbreaker. A bulky spread that forgoes Speed is a viable alternative if the Speed isn't important, though this is primarily a consideration in the Battle Spot format. A Modest nature gives Tapu Lele as much power as possible, though a Timid nature allows it to outspeed threats in its crowded Speed tier, such as Landorus-T. Choice Specs gives Tapu Lele an insane power boost when combined with Psychic Terrain, allowing it to punch holes into anything that isn't a specially defensive Steel-type.
- Shadow Ball / Hidden Power Fire / Focus Blast
While Choice items are an obvious choice to make Tapu Lele a dangerous threat, a set with the flexibility to change moves can be equally as dangerous. Psychic is the primary STAB move of choice due to its higher base power than Psyshock, and it makes for a notably stronger Shattered Psyche. Moonblast is Tapu Lele's strongest Fairy-type STAB, allowing it to cover Dark-types that are immune to Psychic while also boasting an annoying chance to lower the foe's Special Attack. Taunt allows Tapu Lele to shut down defensive threats more effectively, preventing them from setting hazards, using status moves or healing. Shadow Ball allows Tapu Lele to hit Aegislash and Mega Metagross, though this isn't strong enough to KO them by itself. Hidden Power Fire is an alternative that lets Tapu Lele threaten Ferrothorn and Scizor, though if the latter isn't a huge concern than Focus Blast can be used instead to cover Steel-types better in general.
Maximum Special Attack and Speed investment allows Tapu Lele to hit as hard and fast as possible, while also letting it make effective use of Taunt. A Modest nature gives Tapu Lele a useful Special Attack boost, though a Timid nature ensures it's outspeeding as many threats as possible. Psychium Z allows Tapu Lele to nuke a single threat with a terrain-boosted Z-Move, though Fightinium Z can be used with Focus Blast in order to give Tapu Lele a reliable one-time nuke to eliminate a dangerous Steel-type without fear of missing. However, Focus Sash is a viable alternative in Battle Spot to function as a more reliable revenge killer for the likes of Mega Salamence if another Z-Move isn't necessary.
- Thunderbolt or Thunder with Electrium Z can be used over another coverage slot if hitting Celesteela is more important, though this depends entirely on the overall team structure.
VGC, Double, & Triple Battle Options
Much like automatic weather setters long before them, the Tapus and their auto-terrain abilities have added another dimension to doubles teams and how partner Pokemon work together. Tapu Lele’s Psychic Surge sets up a terrain to boost its psychic moves and its teammate’s, and blocks priority moves against Pokemon on the ground. In a format where Fake Out, Prankster moves, Gale Wings-powered Brave Bird, and Sucker Punch have all had profound success the past few years, Psychic Terrain can change battles dramatically. Tapu Lele’s terrain-boosted Psychics and Shattered Psyches have turned it into a powerhouse in VGC 2017, and part of a strong core with Drifblim that every team needs to be prepared for.
Guardian of Akala
Tapu Lele’s good speed and incredible special attack, especially backed by its terrain, make it one of the premier offensive threats in VGC 2017. Maximum speed with a Timid nature allows it to attack before as many Pokemon as possible, including most Arcanine and slower Garchomp. Psychic Surge sets up Psychic Terrain to boost its Psychic-type moves, especially when backed with maximum special attack investment. The item choice come down to a preference of whether you want a big one-time attack in Shattered Psyche, or a Life Orb to boost consistently boost Lele’s attacks every turn.
Psychic, when boosted by its terrain, is Tapu Lele’s most powerful attack, and only a few Pokemon like Celesteela or Alolan Muk can really manage to switch-in safely. Moonblast is the strongest fairy attack, and can OHKO most Garchomp. Dazzling Gleam, though another fairy attack, provides strong spread coverage, while Thunderbolt hits Celesteela fairly hard. Protect is necessary to keep Tapu Lele safe from threats while a partner deals with them, or to stall out turns of your opponent’s Trick Room.
Bulky Tapu Lele has been very successful, especially next to Psychic Seed Unburden Drifblim who can support with Tailwind. A variety of spreads have been used, but this is among the bulkiest there is, allowing Tapu Lele to feel safe to take almost any one attack. Just 4 EVs in speed let Lele outspeed almost anything with Tailwind up, including Adamant Choice Scarf Garchomp. The defensive investment lets it survive a Smart Strike from Jolly Kartana, a Flare Blitz from Adamant Choice Band Arcanine, a Sludge Bomb from non-Life Orb Nihilego, and a Tectonic Rage from a Jolly Garchomp only has a 6.3% chance to OHKO. Despite all of the defensive investment, Tapu Lele is still capable of significant damage thanks to its terrain and boosting item. For example, a Life Orb Psychic in Psychic Terrain will still OHKO Arcanine with minimal defensive investment. Choice Specs will do a bit more than Life Orb, but of course Protect should only be used with the Life Orb set.
Psychic and Moonblast are again the most powerful STABs. Dazzling Gleam and Thunderbolt are the most common moves in the last slots for a Choice Specs set. On a Life Orb set, Protect is always found, and Taunt is very common to try to stop Trick Room, which is a counter to try to stop Drifblim from speeding up your team.
Spirit of Maui
One of the scariest Pokemon in the format is a Choice Scarf Tapu Lele who can come in late and easily finish off the opponents with its powerful attacks. A Choice Scarf makes Tapu Lele one of the fastest Pokemon around, and thanks to its terrain blocking priority, it is almost guaranteed to attack first. Maximum special attack with a Modest nature maximizes its power. Maximum speed lets it be as fast as possible still, and some trainers choose to run a Timid nature to outspeed opposing Adamant Choice Scarf Garchomp. Perhaps the most interesting speed investment some trainers ran this year is so that their Tapu Lele is slower than Tapu Koko, but still faster than Kartana. Being slower than Tapu Koko guarantees your terrain stays up and you hide your item choice for a turn. The Choice Scarf can allow you to still surprise the opponent and attack before their Kartana, Nihilego, or Garchomp.
Like its other sets, Tapu Lele'e Psychic is incredibly strong in its terrain. Moonblast provides strong fairy STAB, while Dazzling Gleam is weaker but provides spread coverage. Thunderbolt is great for damaging Celesteela mainly, but can also ensure an OHKO on Gyarados.
Other Options & Team Ideas
-50% “Pinch” Berries have seen good use on bulky sets, allowing Tapu Lele to survive multiple attacks while getting off multiple of its own.
Countering Tapu Lele
Switching into Tapu Lele is much easier said than done. The quick and simple answer to Tapu Lele is Steel-types since they resist its STAB combination. However, even Steel-types must be careful of switching into it if they aren't specially defensive since Choice Specs variants are dangerous enough to 2HKO the likes of physically defensive Celesteela. Aegislash and Mega Metagross are typically safe answers regardless of Tapu Lele's item though switching into Shadow Ball is a very realistic concern. Other Steel-types such as Magearna, Ferrothorn, Heatran and Celesteela have similar issues with Tapu Lele, though if you can scout out Tapu Lele's set quickly then it becomes much easier to determine if your Steel-type is a safe answer to Tapu Lele. Faster Poison-types such as Nihilego and Gengar can also threaten Tapu Lele though they can't afford to switch into it unless you're certain Tapu Lele is using Moonblast. Nihilego in particular can avoid the risk of Choice Scarf Tapu Lele with a Focus Sash or even a Choice Scarf of its own, though it's still a risky matchup for both sides. While it's generally difficult to survive Tapu Lele's Psychic-type moves, physical attackers that can afford to take a hit are often a significant threat to Tapu Lele due to its physical frailty. On a similar note, If you can change the active terrain with an Island Guardian of your own you can also make Tapu Lele more susceptible to priority moves, which is useful since it suffers from weaknesses to both Shadow Sneak and Bullet Punch. Keeping Tapu Lele in check is definitely not an easy task, though that should come as no surprise given that it's a essentially a weaker Psychic-type Kyogre. While it may be overwhelming for some teams, careful teambuilding and smart playing goes a long way in keeping this butterfly spirit from terrorizing your team.
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