MOTW: Baton Pass

This is a move that I’ve been wanting to do for Move of the Week for quite some time now but almost seemed too daunting to take on. I stumbled upon a great article written by Smogon University about it however and read through it about 3 or 4 times. I’m going to try and take their book of a guide on Baton Passing, and shorten it to a bite sized article here for you guys all to read. Without further to do... Baton Pass...

First of all, what exactly is Baton Pass? Well, Baton Pass is a move that allows the user to switch out of battle, but the user also passes any stat boosts or other conditions to the Pokemon being switched in. Baton Pass also allows the user to escape from the effects of Shadow Tag, Magnet Pull, Arena Trap, and Pursuit's effect of hitting before the user switches out. There are a number of Pokemon that can learn Baton Pass, and a bunch that are recommended that we’ll be going over in this article, but you can find the full list here.

So how do you build a team around Baton Passing? Well, this is the part where things get a bit tricky. Team design, right down to your EV training, is crucial for the success of a Baton Pass chain. Overall, your team should consist of around five Baton Passers and one receiver (which we’ll cover in a bit) to finish off the opponent. A good Baton Pass team should be able to beat common phazers, such as Swampert and Skarmory, and deal with Haze, Taunt, Encore, sleep-inducing moves, Perish Song, and even Trick Room. For those of you how may not know some of the Smogon or more in-depth battle terminology, A Phazer is a Pokemon who uses Roar/Whirlwind basically get rid of stat buffs. So if your opponent has a phazer out it can end your baton pass chain fairly quickly with something as simple as Roar or Whirlwind.

Your lead Pokemon should be able to scare away or outpace most users of Taunt. The best leads of choice for Baton Pass chains are usually the ones who can pass Agility or Rock Polish boosts, since moving before your opponent is almost mandatory when passing boosts, setting up Substitutes, and using Taunt. Ninjask, Gliscor, and Zapdos are probably the most common examples of Speed passers. Ninjask is the most common due to its ability, Speed Boost, which allows it to forgo using a Speed boosting move and focus on boosting other stats with moves like Swords Dance. Other commonly-used leads are ones who can trap-pass, most notably Smeargle. This gives your team the opportunity to trap a Pokemon who may be relatively weak, Baton Pass out, and completely wall the Pokemon by using the proper defense boost. Also, most leads who are slower than Smeargle (Hippowdon, Swampert, Bronzong) will try to absorb Spore, which basically means that it can use Spider Web first turn instead of Spore, and then proceed with Spore, Ingrain, and then Baton Pass.

Following along still?

Sleep-inducing leads like Roserade and Bronzong are a huge problem for many Baton Pass chain leads, since being prevented from setting up Agility or Rock Polish means that your Baton Pass chain will be slower than usual, which leads to Pokemon stopping your chain by using Taunt or just firing off powerful attacks before your Pokemon have a chance to Baton Pass. With that being said, Lum Berry is one of the most commonly held items in Baton Pass teams, since your lead can use Agility or Rock Polish on the first turn, absorb the sleep, and use Substitute on the next turn to gain immunity to the sleep-inducing move, allowing it to Baton Pass safely to your next Pokemon in the chain.

Suicide leads are also a major problem for Baton Pass teams; they use a combination of Focus Sash and Taunt to stop their opponent from setting up Stealth Rock and then set it up themselves. These leads will also use Taunt to stop your lead from using Agility or Rock Polish, which makes it harder for your team to complete a chain. However, there are certain ways that a Baton Pass team can get around a fast Taunter. One idea is to use a Fake Out user who learns Baton Pass, such as Ambipom, to eliminate Focus Sash immediately. Overall, the best way to beat leads is to pretend that you are using a standard team and worry about beating the lead before you start Baton Passing.

As for the rest of the team, two Pokemon are almost required in the chain: Smeargle and Mr. Mime. These Pokemon prevent phazers from stopping you from completing your strategy. Smeargle is the only Pokemon who can Baton Pass Ingrain (which recovers 1/16 hp every turn), whereas Mr. Mime has access to Soundproof to block Roar and Perish Song. Having these Pokemon supports your team greatly, and with smart prediction, they can prevent your chain from being destroyed. Mr. Mime is not as necessary as Smeargle; however, it's strongly recommended.

Pokemon who sport the Spider Web / Mean Look (which prevents your opponent from switching out) and Baton Pass combination are extremely useful to have on a Baton Pass team, but are by no means required. If you manage to trap a wall like Blissey with them, your chain will be nearly unbreakable. You will also find that if you can trap just the right Pokemon, setting up and sweeping becomes a lot easier. Umbreon, Smeargle, Absol, and Ariados are the only Pokemon who have access to this combination, so you will have to choose between these four for your team if you decide to add one.

The rest of your team should be used to counter the threats who could destroy your chain, while also contributing to the chain themselves. Defense boosts help keep your Pokemon alive and beef up their Substitutes, allowing for a much easier time setting up. Attack boosts should correspond to the type of sweeper you are trying to set up; use Nasty Plot for a special sweeper, and Swords Dance or Belly Drum for a physical sweeper. If your finisher is mixed, use Swords Dance and Calm Mind for predominantly physical sets, and Nasty Plot and Bulk Up for more special-based attackers. However, you might find it easier to just rely on one stat to increase the overall Speed of your Baton Pass chain.

A commonly asked question is: should the Pokemon on your team be geared towards being extremely bulky, or should they focus on being speedy? Fast Pokemon were preferred because there was nothing faster than Aerodactyl or Jolteon, except for a Pokemon who just used Agility or Dragon Dance. Faster Pokemon could put up a Substitute to prevent it from being effected by status infliction, stop most damage, and would force your opponent to limit their switches. However, the introduction of Choice Scarf a couple gens ago has made this benchmark close to useless. Bulky Baton Passers are generally much more valuable than they were back then, and most likely should make up a good majority of your team.

One Pokemon on your team should be your receiver, the Pokemon who is passed the boosts your Baton Pass chain has gathered. When this Pokemon gets +6 in the attack stat chosen to use (or some mixed sweeper equivalent), it should be able to OHKO every single Pokemon on the opponent's team with 100% accurate moves, since just one miss can mean big trouble. Your receiver should also not be 4x weak to any priority move, and it might be helpful for your receiver to also have Baton Pass, but fitting it onto your receiver's moveset can be difficult while simultaneously trying to OHKO every single Pokemon on your opponent's team. Immunity to Toxic Spikes is a great thing to look into, and if your receiver needs to use a Life Orb to get certain KOs, it should be immune to sandstorm as well, or else it can be stalled by good prediction on your opponent's side.

In order to make sense of the explanations above, an example team should help put everything in context and give you ideas for your own Baton Pass team. Along with the team, are short descriptions for each team member about what role they play in the team.

Zapdos @ Lum Berry
Ability: Pressure
EVs: 252 HP / 152 SpD / 104 Spe
Calm nature (+SpD, -Atk)
- Agility
- Baton Pass
- Thunderbolt
- Substitute

Zapdos is the lead and Speed passer of the team. The way to use this Zapdos is to use Agility on turn one, allowing Lum Berry to save it from unnecessary status, especially sleep. On the next turn, set up Substitute as a barrier to more status moves. Finally, Baton Pass out when you feel ready; Thunderbolt is used to beat Skarmory and Gyarados, two big threats to a Baton Pass chain. 104 Speed EVs allow Zapdos to outrun pretty much everything after an Agility.

Smeargle @ Shed Shell
Ability: Own Tempo
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly nature (+Spe, -SpA)
- Ingrain
- Spore
- Substitute
- Baton Pass

Smeargle is necessary for every Baton Pass chain: it is the only Pokemon who can pass Ingrain, which will prevent Roar and Whirlwind from working and also helps heal your team every turn. Get Smeargle in with a bulky Substitute from one of the other members of the team and proceed to use Spore. Substitute will prevent Smeargle from being hit by a Sleep Talker or another switch-in, so use Ingrain and Baton Pass out. Smeargle needs all of the bulk it can get while being as fast as possible, and the EV spread accomplishes this. Shed Shell is there because this Pokemon is the most vulnerable to Taunt, so it might need Shed Shell's help to switch out without using Baton Pass.

Scizor @ Leftovers
Ability: Technician
EVs: 252 HP / 104 Def / 152 Spe
Impish nature (+Def, -SpA)
- Swords Dance
- Baton Pass
- Iron Defense
- Bullet Punch

Scizor passes the Defense and Attack boosts to the rest of the members. 152 Speed EVs allow Scizor to reach 406 Speed at +2, enough to outpace most potential threats. Scizor is also the team's Tyranitar counter, setting up in its face and defeating it with Bullet Punch. Besides Bullet Punch, some find it viable to use Brick Break to kill off Magnezone, another big threat.

Vaporeon @ Leftovers
Ability: Water Absorb
EVs: 192 HP / 252 Def / 60 Spe
Calm nature (+SpD, -Atk)
- Baton Pass
- Substitute
- Wish
- Ice Beam

With some defensive boosts passed to it, Vaporeon becomes very difficult to take down. It supports the team with Wish and passes very bulky Substitutes to the rest of the teammates. With 60 Speed EVs, it outruns Starmie, Azelf, and others in the base 115 group after receiving an Agility boost. A Calm nature grants it more bulk on the special side; ideally, it should have Defense boosts from Scizor to boost its ability to handle other physical attacks.

Mr. Mime @ Leftovers
Ability: Soundproof
EVs: 252 HP / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Calm nature (+SpD, -Atk)
- Baton Pass
- Taunt
- Light Screen
- Reflect

Mr. Mime is another essential element of a Baton Pass team. Soundproof prevents Roar and Perish Song from breaking the Baton Pass chain when there's no time pass to Smeargle. Mr. Mime is used as a dual screener, giving your team extra bulk, and extra turns to set up. Using 252 HP is quite obvious, and the 252 Speed EVs allow it to tie in priority with base 90 Pokemon before a boost. The rest of the EVs go in Special Defense to make it marginally easier to stand up to other powerful special threats, like Heatran.

Lucario @ Life Orb
Ability: Inner Focus
EVs: 252 Atk / 60 SpA / 196 Spe
Adamant nature (+Atk, -SpA)
- Close Combat
- Crunch
- Hidden Power Ice
- Bullet Punch

Once the team amasses enough boosts, Lucario can come in to wreck the opponent. As far as recipients go, Lucario is one of the best, sporting immunity to Sandstorm and Toxic Spikes, resistances to most priority attacks, and a movepool that will OHKO nearly every Pokemon. 

Playing a Baton Pass team is all about knowledge and planning. You should have a good idea about how you are going to switch when specific threats come out. For example, if a Tyranitar came out, what would your initial switch be? On the example team, bring out Scizor and use Iron Defense, and then switch to Vaporeon to take the possible, but rare, Flamethrower or Fire Blast. As stated in the opening, you have to be able to counter certain threats this generation or your entire team could fall apart. If a powerful special sweeper such as Azelf came out, who would you pass to? How would you stop it? These are pretty important questions you need be able to answer, especially if you don't have a Substitute up when those threats switch in.

Speaking of Substitute, it is recommended that your chain keeps a Substitute up as often as possible while setting up Ingrain. Substitute will protect your team from critical hits that can cut through its defense boosts. They also stop status and the move Trick, which is crucial. When the team doesn’t have Ingrain up yet, you should be more careful, since your Pokemon aren't going to be healing a lot of health each turn. Here's a scenario that you may encounter: say your opponent brings in Tyranitar, and you Baton Pass to Scizor. Scizor uses Substitute, and they bring in Skarmory. Skarmory then proceeds to Whirlwind Scizor, making your chain lose all of its boosts and its Substitute, assuming Smeargle hasn't set up Ingrain yet. Instead of using Substitute, it might have been smarter to Baton Pass and predict the switch. That way, if they actually go to Skarmory, you can bring in Smeargle. From there, just use Spore, Substitute, and then Ingrain. If they keep Tyranitar in, then proceed to play accordingly. This kind of "prediction" is something that comes from experience, and it should be practiced and mastered in order to gain the upper-hand in your battle.

One of the most difficult Pokemon to get out onto the battlefield happens to be the most important to the success of your Baton Pass chain. Smeargle is extremely fragile, and if it faints you might be out of luck. Predicting to get Smeargle in against, say, a Choice Specs Shadow Ball is too risky to be effective. The best way get Smeargle out is to either bring it out against a wall like Skarmory or Blissey, or pass it a bulky Substitute that won't break on the switch. An early Ingrain is ideal, but it is often not worth the risk. The best way to ensure Smeargle gets the Ingrain off is after you have a few Defense boosts and a Substitute to pass to Smeargle. Smeargle is also the most Taunt-vulnerable Pokemon in a Baton Pass chain. If Smeargle isn't carrying a Shed Shell and has Ingrain up, a well-timed Taunt can leave it trapped and force it to Struggle, since Ingrain stops it from switching out. Don't take any unnecessary risks to get an early Ingrain or Spore; most of the time, it isn't worth it.

Baton Pass isn't only a move that must be used in a Baton Pass chain, since there are other ways that you can use Baton Pass to your advantage. A strategy that's been gaining attention is the "dry Passing" strategy. What this means is that the Baton Passer is not necessarily passing any boosts to its teammates, but it is scouting the opponent’s switch-ins. This strategy is commonly used by Jolteon, since it can force many switches with its powerful Thunderbolt. When you predict that your opponent will switch out from Thunderbolt, using Baton Pass means that you can scout what the opponent will be switching in, meaning you can then switch in a Pokemon to counter whatever the opponent brought in. This strategy is mostly used in trap-related teams, since scouting your opponent's switch-in can give your team an opportunity to trap the switched in Pokemon. For example, Jolteon can try to use Thunderbolt, but you then realize that your opponent can switch in Rotom-A to take the hit. With that said, you can use Baton Pass instead, switch in Tyranitar, and proceed to dispose of Rotom-A with a STAB Pursuit. This also works with Dugtrio, who is able to trap a Pokemon like Tyranitar (a common Jolteon switch-in) with its ability, Arena Trap, and attempt to finish it off with a powerful Earthquake.

Like mentioned earlier in this guide, Baton Pass can escape the grips of Pursuit, Arena Trap, and Shadow Tag. This can be very useful since Pursuit won't be hitting with 80 Base Power and will hit the switch-in, not the user. Also, your Pokemon will no longer have to worry about being trapped from Dugtrio or Magnezone, since they can now Baton Pass away from them.

The most popular Baton Pass strategy is known as "screen boost Passing". This strategy involves Dual Screen Azelf, Pure Baton Pass Gliscor, and a receiver of choice, most commonly Metagross. This is by far one of the most effective strategies Baton Pass can be used for and is extremely successful. The procedure to accomplishing this strategy is simple. Bring out Azelf when you feel the time is right, set up Stealth Rock and both of the screens, and then use Explosion to bring in Gliscor safely while trying to bring down the opposing Pokemon with Azelf. Once that has been done, Gliscor can then try to boost its Speed and Attack by using Rock Polish and Swords Dance whenever it can, using Taunt when it's about to be phazed. Once Gliscor has gathered several boosts, complete the strategy by bringing in Metagross (or your receiver of choice) and attempt to wreak havoc and destroy the opponent. This strategy is very devastating once you have pulled it off, since it's very difficult to stop it when it's rolling.

To sum up, don't overlook Baton Pass chains because they can really cause some serious damage if they are used by a skilled player. A Baton Pass team can be a nice change of pace from a standard team, and if designed and played well, they might even achieve more victories. Most importantly, who doesn't like sweeping a team with a Pokemon who has +6 in all of its stats?

I give a big thanks to Smogon for this article, which you can find here. The full article is a great read, but fairly long, so I tried to cut it down as much as I possibly could. There are some pretty high level concepts in this sort of setup, so I hope this doesn’t bore too many people, but I feel like Baton Pass is one of those things that really needs to be explained in full. I am usually not the biggest proponent of Smogon because I think you should use Pokemon that you like, but if you’re looking for a super amount of power, you can definitely find that. A good example of Baton Pass working is in the Weedle sweep video I posted a couple of weeks ago. Maybe not the best setup of Pokemon but it works. Like I said check out the full article on Smogon’s site and read up on Baton Pass. It can be a lot of fun to use, or a pain in the butt to battle against, but either way you should know how it works, whether it be for, or against you.

-It’s Super Effective