Cacturne, The Scarecrow Pokémon. During the daytime, Cacturne remains unmoving so that it does not lose any moisture to the harsh desert sun. This Pokémon becomes active at night when the temperature drops. If a traveler is going through a desert in the thick of night, Cacturne will follow in a ragtag group. The Pokémon are biding their time, waiting for the traveler to tire and become incapable of moving.
Cacturne’s a pretty odd Pokemon. It’s a cactus that’s meant to resemble a scarecrow, and well… it’s about as sturdy as one too. Cacturne is what you’d call a flawed niche Pokemon. It’s got a few positive points that look good on paper, such as solid base 115 attack and special attack stats, some useful moves including a powerful STAB Sucker Punch, and a helpful ability in Water Absorb to give it an immunity to water type attacks (and heal itself from them!). However, that’s where the good news ends. Cacturne is unfortunately cursed with being both slow and frail, making it very easy to KO, and ruling out the potential for it to sweep. It’s also got to deal with some shaky defensive typing, as it’s got numerous weaknesses to very common types, including a 4x weakness to Bug which makes all the U-Turn users happy to smack it down on the way out. Gen 6 didn’t make its life any easier, either, as the power creep that Mega Evolutions brought make its main selling point, its offenses, less impressive, and it has to deal with the new fairy types giving it an additional weakness as well now. In more inclusive formats, Cacturne is barely worth using due to its numerous flaws outweighing its positive points. However, in more restrictive formats such as low-tier play, its positive points can shine. Just be aware of its faults, because lacking both speed and bulk is a very unfortunate fault.
Sand Veil: Raises the Pokémon’s evasion during a sandstorm by one level. - Sand Veil’s a pretty annoying ability. A lot of people really hate evasion because it places increased emphasis on luck. That said, you need Sandstorm support to make it work, so it’s pretty situational. Better to stick with its HA, which is more universally useful.
It’s the Quenchiest!
Here we have Cacturne’s standard set, and arguably its most dangerous. With base 115 in both attacking stats, it goes without saying that Cacturne can pull off a mixed set. On the physical side, its best bet is of course Sucker Punch. STAB Sucker Punch packs a solid amount of power, and is Cacturne’s main means of dealing with faster threat given its priority. From there, Cacturne tends to load up on the special attacks. Giga Drain is a reliable grass type STAB with decent power, perfect accuracy, and no drawbacks… plus, the healing can help Cacturne stay healthy, even in the face of Life Orb’s recoil. Dark Pulse utilizes Cacturne’s other STAB, and it’s useful for when you need Dark Type coverage but don’t want to be trolled by Sucker Punch’s downside. From there, it has a few choices for its final moveslot. Spikes allows Cacturne to offer some supportive prowess, and also gives it something to do on turns when it obviously forces something out. Substitute has more defensive value, in that it can prevent revenge killing and protect Cacturne from Status. In addition, it synergizes quite well with Sucker Punch, given your opponent is almost guaranteed to attack Cacturne to break that Substitute, easing the prediction involved. Finally, if you feel like trolling your opponent, Destiny Bond can be an option for your final attack slot. It can be tricky to time appropriately with Cacturne being slow and frail, but in the off chance that you know Cacturne is going to be KO’ed, a well-timed Destiny Bond can take down something with it.
The nature and EVs maximize Cacturne’s special attack, given it will be using them most often. Rash is chosen because Cacturne’s low special defense makes it so the decrease in bulk is insignificant, although a Mild nature can work as well. 252 Speed EVs are granted to allow Cacturne to speed creep some of the slower threats that it might get outsped by without investment, while the remaining 4 EVs are put into attack to slightly bolster the power Cacturne’s Sucker Punch. Life Orb is the preferred item to maximize Cacturne’s power, and the recoil is largely insignificant given Cacturne doesn’t survive long anyway, and Giga Drain can offset it a bit. Water Absorb is the ability of choice, always and forever. There’s just so much value to being able to freely switch into Water type attacks, most notably Scald, and heal from it.
Now for a more conventional approach to Cacturne, and one that focuses on pure physical offense. Base 115 attack is pretty good on its own, but when you throw Swords Dance into the mix, you’ll find Cacturne able to put some dents in things. Mind you, it’s too slow to sweep entire teams, but it can certainly be a solid wallbreaker. However, faster threats can and will come in trying to prey on Cacturne. That’s where Sucker Punch comes in, as it allows you to troll faster Pokemon that may try to revenge kill Cacturne or force it out, and STAB Sucker Punch is pretty powerful priority to boot, especially at +2. However, faster Pokemon with status, most notably Will-o-Wisp, will still troll it. Seed Bomb is its other STAB, and one that allows it to bust through Bulky Water types like nobody’s business, especially when Water Absorb removes the threat of Scald. From there, Drain Punch is its best option for its fourth slot, as fighting type coverage allows it to threaten Steel types and opposing Dark types pretty handily, and the healing effect is always useful as well.
The Attack EVs and Adamant Nature maximize Cacturne’s attack stat so that it hits as hard as possible. 252 Speed EVs are granted to allow Cacturne to speed creep some of the slower threats that it might get outsped by without investment, while the remaining 4 EVs are put into defense. Life Orb remains Cacturne’s item of choice to maximize its damage, especially since its longevity isn’t great so the recoil is largely inconsequential if it can get the KOs it needs. That said, it still has Water Absorb to help heal back some of that recoil damage, along with Drain Punch as well.
Finally, Cacturne can function as a lead with its ability to stack spikes. However, it should be noted that Cacturne has very little defense against anti-leads, such as users of Fake Out and Taunt. Regardless, setting down Spikes is Cacturne’s primary function as a lead. However, it can also try to take down your opponent’s Pokemon with it, such as by utilizing Counter to punish physical attackers, or Destiny Bond to take out its attacker, if not force a switch and give itself another chance to set up Spikes. From there, Cacturne necessitates some sort of offensive value so it’s not a sitting duck, especially if it gets Taunted. As such, its standard physical fare of Sucker Punch and Seed Bomb act as solid STAB attacks so that it can still threaten opponents, albeit just a little bit, as well.
EVs and Nature maximize speed to ensure that Cacturne can deal with slower leads and anti-leads, while also investing 252 EVs into attack so it can continue to threaten things. For a lead set, Focus Sash makes the ideal item so that it can survive at least one turn. As always, Water Absorb is your preferable ability for the ever-useful water immunity.
-Encore has value in that it can troll things that may try to set up on you, especially against the predicted Sucker Punch. However, it unfortunately has the downside of being incompatible with Water Absorb due to being native to a Gen 3 PokePark Cacnea, so you have to give up your best ability to use it.
Double & Triple Battle Options
Cacturne isn't seen very much on team preview. One of two things will happen when you're choosing your four Pokemon but staring down Cacturne.
No Cactus, No Problem
Cacturne has awesome moves, but terrible defensive typing and stats, including speed that let it down. It has a surprisingly high base 115 Attack and Special Attack, but is given STAB Foul Play as if to disregard the high attack. Sucker Punch is available, but Intimidate is too common to rely heavily on the Physical side of things for consistent damage. Luckily Cacturne gets Energy Ball for a STAB which will hit a number of odds and ends for Super Effective Damage... assuming Cacturne can fire the attack off. Opposing Hyper Voices, Aerialate, Pixilate or even Refrigerate will hit Cacturne for Super Effective damage. Spiky Shield is a nice replacement for Protect, as it damages Pokemon who use contact moves into it. Disable is a move that shouldn't be ignored on any Pokemon, but Cacturne is just so awkwardly top heavy stats wise, it's difficult to find a move going off besides Sucker Punch and that has a tendency to fail too after a mis predict.
Cacturne may partner well with Pokemon who have troubles with Rotom-W or Electric types in general. Mega Salamence has such problems and helps soften physical attacks before going Mega. But beware of the ice weakness that comes with that combo.
Cacturne has a lot going for it, in dodging Rage Powders and Spores, and having STAB Foul Plays, but Cacturne is in desperate need of some reworking in it's stats or abilities to be competitively sound. Prankster would flip this Pokemon upside down. Prankster Destiny Bond, Prankster Cotton Spore, Prankster Disable... one can dream.
In the settings where it is most used, Cacturne is very fortunate that it has two potent offensive stats, because its counters can be somewhat different depending on which set it runs. The mixed set is arguably the hardest to deal with, but Hitmonchan’s Assault Vest set has next to no problems with it. Life Orb Giga Drain can only 3HKO Hitmonchan, while Drain Punch cleanly 1HKO’s Cacturne while healing HP back. Muk can be 2HKO’ed by Sucker Punch, but its Assault Vest sets shrug off Dark Pulse (only being 4HKO’ed), while it can 1HKO Cacturne with Gunk Shot, and switches into Giga Drain without duress. Eviolite Scyther is only 3HKO’ed by Dark Pulse, and the combination of Dark Pulse and Sucker Punch is not enough to KO Scyther, while Scyther can 1HKO it back with U-Turn or Bug Bite. Skuntank resists both of Cacturne’s STAB attacks and as a result, is only generally 5HKO’ed, while it can 1HKO back with Poison Jab. Most variants of Kangaskhan beat mixed Cacturne, with Assault Vest sets shrugging off Dark Pulses and healing back HP with Drain Punch, while all-out offensive sets can just nuke Cacturne with Return or Double Edge, and has enough HP to survive the Sucker Punch. Mega Audino stands tall in Cacturne’s way, only being 3HKO’ed at best by Life Orb Giga Drain, yet being able to 1HKO with Dazzling Gleam and being able to keep itself healthy with Wish + Protect. Specially defensive Cradily can stall out mixed Cacturne with the combination of Toxic and Recover, but it struggles against the Swords Dance set. For the Swords Dance set, Mega Audino and Skuntank continue to be solid answers, as they can take Cacturne even it if’s at +2. Scyther can do likewise, but it has to watch out for the fact that a +2 Sucker Punch can deal heavy damage to it, enough to 1HKO with a little prior damage. Thanks to Intimidate, physically defensive Granbull makes a solid answer to Swords Dance Cacturne, as +1 Seed Bomb (after Intimidate) is still only a 2HKO. It has to be wary switching into a boosted Seed Bomb though due to its low speed, but it can 1HKO Cacturne with Play Rough and has no trouble switching into coverage moves or Swords Dance. Mawile’s fantastic typing and Intimidate allow defensive variants to only be 3HKO’ed by +1 Drain Punch, while Play Rough will always 1HKO with Life Orb’s recoil factored in. Weezing makes an excellent answer to physical Cacturne, as it shrugs off all but a +2 Sucker Punch, which only 2HKO’s. Of course, Weezing has no problem trolling the Sucker Punch with Will-o-Wisp, if it doesn’t decide to just 1HKO Cacturne outright with Sludge Bomb. Defensive Vileplume only fears a +2 Sucker Punch, but even then it’s a 2HKO, and Vileplume can troll it with Synthesis to heal on a predicted Sucker Punch, while it can 1HKO Cacturne with Sludge Bomb. Although each set has different hard counters, there are a number of Pokemon who check all sets. Sawk outspeeds Cacturne and resists Sucker Punch, and can blow through Cacturne effortlessly. Hariyama is bulky enough to survive anything but a +2 Seed Bomb, but it can 1HKO with Close Combat. Eviolite Gurdurr can survive even a +2 Seed Bomb (although it 2HKOs), and 1HKO with Drain Punch to heal itself back. Magmortar has to be wary of +2 Sucker Punch, but it can easily 1HKO with Fire Blast. Fast U-Turn users such as Liepard can 1HKO Cacturne on the way to pivoting out, but Liepard hates switching in. Pinsir doesn’t want to eat a +2 Sucker Punch but it can 1HKO with X-Scissor. Many fast, frail Pokemon like Pyroar and Primeape also hate +2 Sucker Punch but have no problem 1HKOing Cacturne outright. In the end though, if anything is bulky enough to survive a Sucker Punch, they can usually 1HKO or 2HKO Cacturne due to its poor defensive typing and frailty. Substitute and Will-o-Wisp are also effective ways to get around Sucker Punch, and really rob Cacturne of some momentum as well if the Sucker Punch fails.
In more inclusive settings, Cacturne has huge problems. Virizion and Cobalion can both shred Cacturne, as they resist its STABs and Drain Punch can only 2HKO at best, although neither likes switching into a +2 Drain Punch. Hitmontop fears only Giga Drain, which can 2HKO with Life Orb, but absolutely wrecks the Swords Dance sets thanks to Intimidate. Hitmonlee doesn’t like switching into Seed Bomb, but Adamant Life Orb Mach Punch picks off Cacturne before it knows what hit it. Fletchinder doesn’t like switching into Dark Pulse but can be picked off by priority Brave Bird or Acrobatics. Escavalier’s Assault Vest set doesn’t mind anything from the mixed set, and can take everything but a +2 Sucker Punch from the SD set, while 1HKOing with Megahorn. Emboar is only 3HKO’ed by Drain Punch but either of its STAB attacks obliterate Cacturne. Mega Aggron’s supreme physical bulk shuts down physical sets and 1HKOs them with Heavy Slam, but Life Orb Dark Pulse can 2HKO it. Mandibuzz can tank anything Cacturne throws at it, regardless of the set, and wear Cacturne down. Goodra shuts down the mixed set, but +2 Sucker Punch can be a problem for it. Heracross shuts down both sets thanks to its useful resistances and high powered STAB attacks. Chesnaught also acts as a hard counter to all sets, sponging attacks thanks to its resistances and bulk, while having the power to 1HKO Cacturne. Arcanine doesn’t like Dark Pulse, but thanks to Intimidate it shuts down physical sets, and soundly 1HKOs with Flare Blitz. Honchkrow is also able to take out Cacturne, resisting Sucker Punch and only being 2HKO’ed at best by Drain Punch. It does, however, have to watch out for +2 Drain Punch due to its low defenses. Hawlucha resists basically everything Cacturne typically carries, only being 3HKO’ed at best, while easily 1HKO Cacturne with its STAB. Mega Venusaur is a nigh insurmountable obstacle for Cacturne, because even Life Orb Dark Pulse only 3HKOs at best, while Sludge Bomb can 1HKO Cacturne and Sucker Punch can be trolled with Synthesis. Cacturne finds itself very much at the mercy of “Birdspam”, as both Talonflame and Mega Pinsir can 1HKO it with their flying type STAB attacks. The list of standard things that deal well with Cacturne goes on, mostly because of how frail it is, and due to the fact that many standard things are used to handling high powered attacks. Many things with U-Turn, such as Landorus-T, Scizor, etc. all have no problem pivoting and 1HKOing Cacturne at the same time, while any moderately powerful STAB attack, especially if it’s super-effective, can 1HKO Cacturne through sheer power vs. its low defenses. In the end, anything that can survive a Sucker Punch and retaliate back, or troll the Sucker Punch with Substitute or status, often finds itself able to handle Cacturne without much duress. It may have decent offenses, but o does a majority of the metagame, and with its short life expectancy due to poor defenses and speed, Sucker Punch is often the only thing that it can do to stop offensive threats from walking all over it.
Look familiar? As it turns out, Cacnea functions pretty similarly in the Little Cup to how its evolution functions; high offenses, low defenses and speed, and overall low viability. However, it runs the same Swords Dance set as its evolution, and one that certainly packs a punch. Swords Dance is the crux of the set which allows Cacnea to bolster its already potent offenses. Sucker Punch is powerful priority as always, and can help it deal with faster threats. Seed Bomb complements Sucker Punch as a potent STAB attack, while Drain Punch offers the best coverage that Cacnea can get. Unfortunately, its low speed and poor bulk often leave it outclassed by either faster or bulkier offensive threats.
The given attack EVs and Adamant nature maximize Cacnea’s attack stat to an impressive 19, while the remainder of the EVs are split between its defense and special defense for a little more bulk. Eviolite helps grant Cacnea the bulk it needs to survive a hit or two without crumbling. Finally, Water Absorb remains the ability of choice, and lets it deal with things like Chinchou a bit more easily.
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