When two Trainers meet for a showdown on the field of battle, some powerful new Abilities can cause the battle to be determined by the field itself. Terrain manipulation was introduced in Pokémon X and Pokémon Y, but four amazing new Abilities in Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon have brought this tactic to the forefront. The four guardian deity Pokémon known collectively as the Tapu have Abilities that can trigger Terrain effects: Tapu Koko's Electric Surge Ability creates Electric Terrain when it enters battle; Tapu Bulu's Grassy Surge creates Grassy Terrain; Tapu Fini's Misty Surge creates Misty Terrain; and Tapu Lele's Psychic Surge Ability creates a brand-new Terrain, Psychic Terrain.
You may have noticed that many of the top-performing teams from the Video Game Championships feature these Abilities, and they're highly effective in Single Battles, too. Read on to find out more about how these Terrains work and how you can take advantage of them.
Terrain effects alter the battlefield, causing some moves and Abilities to temporarily change. Only one Terrain can be active at a time, so if Misty Terrain is active it will be immediately replaced by Electric Terrain if Tapu Koko enters the field. Each Terrain confers benefits only to Pokémon touching the ground—Flying-type Pokémon and Pokémon with the Levitate Ability are not affected by Terrains. However, Terrains that boost the damage of certain moves will still deal extra damage to Flying types or Pokémon with Levitate if the attacking Pokémon is grounded. We'll break down each of the different Terrain effects shortly.
The impact of the introduction of these marvelous Abilities evokes memories of when the Drizzle, Drought, Sand Stream, and Snow Warning Abilities were introduced. Even though the moves Rain Dance, Sunny Day, Sandstorm, and Hail are rarely used in competitive battles, many Trainers build weather-based strategies in almost any format where Pokémon with these Abilities are permitted. The Tapu's Surge Abilities have similarly elevated the value of Terrains. The gains provided by the Surge Abilities and the power of the Tapu have made Terrains a defining element of this generation of Pokémon battles.
If more than one Tapu is sent out on the first turn of a battle, or after Pokémon on both sides of the field have been knocked out, the Ability of the fastest Tapu will activate first. Let's imagine a situation where Tapu Bulu and Tapu Koko are sent out on the first turn of battle. The lighting-quick Tapu Koko's Electric Surge will normally activate first, creating Electric Terrain. But then Tapu Bulu's Grassy Surge will activate, leaving Grassy Terrain as the active Terrain.
Without Electric Terrain, Tapu Koko's team is left in a weaker position. Take care when you send out your Tapu if your Tapu is quicker than your opponent's. Sometimes it's beneficial to leave your Tapu in reserve until later in battle when it's trickier for your foe to swap the Terrain back in their favor. In some battles, it may be better to focus on controlling the Terrain; in others, it might be better to focus on maintaining advantageous type matchups. For example, even aided by Misty Terrain it wouldn't be easy for the Water-type Tapu Fini to take on the Electric-type Tapu Koko or the Grass-type Tapu Bulu.
Each Terrain also has an associated Seed. A Pokémon holding an Electric Seed will consume its item to raise its Defense stat when Electric Terrain is active. Grassy Seed increases Defense when Grassy Terrain is active, while Psychic Seed and Misty Seed increase Special Defense in their respective Terrains. The stat increase remains even if the matching Terrain fades, and Pokémon that aren't touching the ground can activate these items.
Tapu Koko's Electric Surge
Teams featuring Tapu Koko's Electric Surge are extremely popular in both Single and Double Battles. One reason is that Electric Terrain increases the power of Electric-type moves used by Pokémon on the ground by 50%, regardless of whether their target is touching the battlefield. Other reasons include Pokémon on the ground become unable to fall asleep, Pokémon with the Surge Surfer Ability have their Speed doubled when Electric Terrain is active, and if Nature Power is used while Electric Terrain is in effect, it becomes Thunderbolt. Don't forget that Rotom, Zapdos, Thundurus, and Vikavolt won't normally deal increased Electric-type damage in Electric Terrain because they do not touch the ground.
Tapu Koko's high Speed can be a disadvantage when you want to keep Electric Terrain active, but the guardian of Melemele Island can learn tricks to regain the advantage. Tapu Koko can exit the battle while dealing damage by using the moves Volt Switch or U-turn, allowing Tapu Koko to switch in and out of battle quickly to reactivate Electric Terrain without falling too far behind in the battle.
Tapu Koko's high Speed enables it to make better use of Nature Power than the other Tapu, though all four Tapu can learn the move. It normally can't learn Moonblast, Energy Ball, or Psychic, but it can use these moves by using Nature Power when the other Terrains are active. Pairing the speedy Tapu Koko with another Tapu can allow for some shocking plays even when Electric Terrain isn't active. We've seen some players give Tapu Koko Normalium Z to activate Z-Nature Power, allowing the Pokémon to use Gigavolt Havoc, Twinkle Tackle, Bloom Doom, or Shattered Psyche depending on the situation.
Raichu's Surge Surfer Ability doubles its Speed in Electric Terrain. Keep in mind that while Raichu's Speed stat will be increased as soon as Electric Terrain activates, the order Pokémon will move in is determined when the turn starts. If Tapu Koko switches in and activates Electric Terrain during a turn, Raichu's increased Speed stat won't be reflected in the turn order until the next round.
Tapu Bulu's Grassy Surge
Grassy Terrain is perhaps the trickiest Terrain to triumph with. Grassy Terrain increases the power of Grass-type moves used by Pokémon on the ground by 50%—regardless of whether the target is touching the battlefield—and all Pokémon on the ground have some of their HP restored at the end of each turn. Also, the moves Bulldoze, Earthquake, and Magnitude deal reduced damage when Grassy Terrain is in effect. Pokémon with the Grass Pelt Ability have their Defense increased while Grassy Terrain is active. And finally, if Nature Power is used while Grassy Terrain is in effect, it becomes Energy Ball.
Grassy Terrain's healing effect can be potent for Tapu Bulu's team as well as for its opponents. The key is remembering that the extra HP makes a difference only when it allows a Pokémon to survive more attacks before fainting than it otherwise would. Tapu Bulu thus meshes best with more defensive Pokémon that can normally take a few hits before going down. It's usually much easier for a Pokémon like Muk to heal enough to survive five smaller hits instead of four than it is for, say, Raichu to survive two massive hits instead of one. And if your opponent has a bunch of stout Pokémon that could benefit from Grassy Terrain, it might be better to leave Tapu Bulu on the bench.
The other enticing element of Grassy Terrain is that Earthquake's damage is greatly reduced. Earthquake is one of the most popular attacks in both Single and Double Battles, so reducing its damage puts a crack in many popular strategies. Pokémon with a weakness to Ground-type attacks can greatly benefit from a friendly Tapu Bulu.
We haven't seen many Trainers combining Gogoat's Grass Pelt Ability and Tapu Bulu's Grassy Surge, but don't forget about this combination if you're a fan of Gogoat. Having two different Grass-type Pokémon on your team may not make for the best balance, but the incredible damage of Tapu Bulu and Gogoat's Grass-type attacks while Grassy Terrain is active may be all the synergy your team needs.
Tapu Fini's Misty Surge
Misty Terrain is unique in that it does not increase the damage of any attacks. Instead, it prevents Pokémon on the ground from being afflicted with status conditions or confusion. It also halves the damage received from Dragon-type moves to Pokémon touching the battlefield, regardless of whether the Pokémon using the Dragon-type attack is touching the ground itself. If Nature Power is used while Misty Terrain is in effect, it becomes Moonblast.
Misty Terrain is the only Terrain without a damage-increasing effect, so few Pokémon glean a great benefit from it. It is most advantageous to Pokémon vulnerable to status effects. For example, Muk and Snorlax have greatly diminished performance after being burned, making Tapu Fini a great partner for either of them. Porygon2's Recover also pairs well with Misty Terrain. Aided by the defensive boost from the Eviolite held item, Porygon2 is often able to shrug off attacks using Recover. Repeatedly being hit by attacks like Ice Beam or Thunderbolt that sometimes have added effects often leads to Porygon2 being afflicted with a status ailment when it's caught on the defensive for too long. But Tapu Fini keeps the odds from catching up to Porygon2. Misty Terrain has even helped Toxic nearly vanish from the Video Game Championships.
Tapu Lele's Psychic Surge
The final Terrain is notable in part for its ability to block moves boosted by the infamous Prankster Ability, as Pokémon on the ground won't be affected by moves that have increased priority when Psychic Terrain is active. It also increases the power of Psychic-type moves used by Pokémon on the ground by 50%, regardless of whether the target is touching the battlefield. If Nature Power is used while Psychic Terrain is in effect, it becomes Psychic.
Few Trainers put more than one Psychic-type Pokémon on their teams, and the move Psychic isn't usually taught to Pokémon that aren't Psychic-type because it isn't super effective against many Pokémon. So, Tapu Lele is normally the main beneficiary of its own Psychic Surge—its amazing Special Attack coupled with Psychic's reliability and power is a devastating combination. Tapu Lele is probably the Tapu most reliant on its own Terrain (opponents should battle it with extreme care when on Psychic Terrain) and is otherwise a more manageable opponent.
Psychic Surge pairs well with the Choice Scarf item and moves that increase Speed. Advantages in Speed become almost impossible to circumvent due to Psychic Terrain blocking moves with increased priority. In Single Battles, Tapu Lele is often given the Choice Scarf to hold, while in Double Battles Choice Scarf is normally given to a teammate so Tapu Lele can be switched in to activate Psychic Terrain on a turn when its Trainer anticipates an incoming attack with increased priority.
Tapu Lele is fantastic against Trick Room teams and other strategies that rely on Fake Out. Many teams use Fake Out to give their support Pokémon time to power up with moves that don't deal damage. Tapu Lele helps you to avoid most of the tricks your opponent may try to start the battle with by blocking priority attacks with Psychic Terrain and dealing amazing individual damage.
The recently discovered Mewnium Z allows Mew to use the Genesis Supernova Z-Move. In addition to doing damage that might even exceed Tapu Lele's, Genesis Supernova creates Psychic Terrain after it successfully deals damage. Note that damage from Genesis Supernova is not increased from the Psychic Terrain it creates.
Now that you've learned about Terrains, plan your own team that takes advantage of their power. If you don't have a Tapu Koko, Tapu Bulu, Tapu Fini, or Tapu Lele of your own, you can try out these strategies by searching for a QR Rental Team featuring these Pokémon on the Pokémon Global Link. And remember to check out more Pokémon TCG and video game articles and tournament analysis at Pokemon.com/Strategy.