Let’s Talk Tapu!

Four of the most exciting new Pokémon in Sun and Moon are the “Tapu” family. Tapu Koko, Tapu Lele, Tapu Bulu and Tapu Fini are the ‘guardian deities’ of their respective island homes in Alola. Boasting a Base Stat Total of 570, the Tapus are amongst the strongest Pokémon in the Alolan Pokédex, bested by only the pseudo-dragon Kommo-o and Wishiwashi’s school form. The Tapus also share a common signature move, ‘Nature’s Madness’, as well as unique abilities triggering the different terrains. These will all be discussed in their individually. So, without further ado, let’s talk Tapu!

Tapu Koko (70/115/85/95/75/130)
Tapu Koko

Tapu Koko was the first Tapu released, and generated a lot of initial hype around the quartet and their ability to summon the different terrains. Tapu Koko has an electric/fairy typing, and summons electric terrain upon entering the battlefield. Electric Terrain boosts the power of electric type moves 1.5x times, and prevents Pokémon from falling asleep as long as they are grounded. Each of the terrains influence moves such as Nature Power and Secret Power, however I will not be discussing these (I do encourage you all to look these up though, so you don’t get caught out). Electric terrain also doubles the speed of Pokémon with the ability ‘Surge Surfer’, notably Alolan Raichu.

Tapu Koko’s base stat distribution has unfortunately not favoured its typing, nor interaction with electric terrain as we had initially hoped for. The base stats of all the Tapus are distributed such that there is a 75, 85, 95, 115, and 130 base stat. Koko has inherited a 130 speed stat, and 115 physical attack. Its 70/85/75 defences are mediocre, however its favourable typing means that Koko is weak to only ground and poison type moves, while resisting electric, fighting, flying, bug and dark moves.
Koko’s 95 special attack is…underwhelming, given its physical attack is an impressive 115 – obviously swapping these would go a long way to make Koko stronger. All that being said, Tapu Koko should be able to fit the role of an extremely fast, all-out attacker.

Tapu Koko’s movepool is suited to this role, possessing moves such as Thunderbolt, Volt Switch, Thunder, Dazzling Gleam, Hidden Power [Ice, and Fire are standouts], and Grass Knot in the special spectrum, as well as Brave Bird, Steel Wing, and U-turn to utilise its high attack. Koko can act as a pseudo-Thundurus with access to Swagger, Thunder Wave, Taunt and the dual screens (Refelct and Light Screen). As a Tapu, Koko can use Nature’s Madness, a fairy type move that reduces the targets HP by 50%. This move is essentially a glorified Super Fang, and doesn’t suit the use of Tapu Koko. The move and its usefulness regarding the other Tapus will be discussed at the end of the article.

Whilst Koko’s movepool is large, it isn’t particularly deep. Past the obvious electric and fairy moves, Koko lacks coverage moves such as energy ball, and flamethrower. Koko is definitely stuck in the middle between the physical and special realms, a problem that the successful electric types of the past such as Thundurus and Zapdos didn’t see. The nerfs to Thunder Wave and paralysis this generation have also impacted upon Tapu Koko’s usefulness. Factoring this all in, I think Koko will be at its best at the beginning of the season, where the metagame has normally been quite unstable, and susceptible to fast, hard hitting Pokémon seeking to pick up quick KOs.

A set such as the one below can accomplish this goal.
tapu kokoTapu Koko @ Choice Specs
Ability: Electric Surge
EVs: 4 HP / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
– Thunderbolt
– Dazzling Gleam
– Volt Switch
– Hidden Power [Ice]

Tapu Lele (70/85/75/130/115/95)

Tapu LeleTapu Lele has widely been acknowledged as one of, if not the most promising Tapu on paper. This is primarily due to Lele’s ability: Psychic Surge. This ability summons Psychic Terrain as Tapu Lele enters the battlefield. Psychic Terrain is new to generation 7 and prevents priority moves from working as well as boosting the power of psychic moves. The boost to psychic moves is pleasant, however by no means exceptional. There are no spread psychic moves as well as no ‘nuke’ moves to capitalise on the multiplier. This being said, Lele’s ablilty to prevent all priority moves is unheard of. Fake out, Feint, Talonflame’s Brave Bird, Prankster, Extremespeed, and all moves of +1 priority will fail if psychic terrain is active. To put this in perspective, a primarily priority Pokémon has featured in the World Final every year since 2011 (See Fake Out in Hitmontop and Raichu, Prankster Thundurus, and Gale Wings Talonflame.)  This year’s biggest fake out threats include Salazzle, Weavile, Hariyama and Incineroar.

As a psychic/fairy Pokémon, Tapu Lele boasts a 4x resistance to fighting moves as well as a 2x resistance to psychic moves, and an inherent immunity to dragon moves. It is weak to poison, ghost and steel moves. Lele has base 70/75/115 defences. These are spread well, such that intimidate support from Arcanine, Gyarados etc. will cover the comparatively weaker physical defence stat. Lele is relatively fast with a base speed of 95, putting it in the same speed tier as Arcanine and Silvally, while out-speeding the new pseudo-legendary dragon, Kommo-o. Tapu Lele is special in that it can act as both a defensive pivot and an offensive threat. Over the course of the season, I believe we will see many different Lele EV spreads that will hopefully bring out the best in this Pokémon.

Lele’s moveset is deep enough to allow for the use of multiple sets. If we were to compare it to some current Pokémon, Cresselia and Gardevoir share similar moves. Psychic/Psyshock, Moonblast, Dazzling Gleam, Nature’s Madness, Shadow Ball, Energy Ball, Hidden Power and Focus Blast are all special moves Lele can use to fill out an offensive set. This could act similarly to Expert Belt or Choice Specs Cresselia which saw usage in 2012-2013. This would harness Lele’s higher special attack and speed. On the defensive side, Lele has access to Skill Swap (this could be used to reset psychic terrain after it has either ran out, or when another terrain has overridden Psychic Terrain), Sunny day, and the dual screens. It should be noted that Lele does not have access to Trick Room.

This sample set utilises Lele’s high special attack and deep movepool.
The speed EVs ensure Lele always outspeeds base 75s, namely Tapu Bulu as well as max speed Politoed and Metagross.
tapu leleTapu Lele @ Expert Belt
Ability: Psychic Surge
EVs: 244 HP / 4 Def / 60 SpA / 4 SpD / 196 Spe
Modest Nature
– Psyshock
– Moonblast
– Energy Ball
– Hidden Power [Fire]

Tapu Bulu (70/130/115/85/95/75)

Tapu BuluTapu Bulu has already started to gain a cult following due to its interesting grass/fairy typing and physical movepool. Many rumours were spread as to Bulu’s type and ability prior to the confirmation of Grassy Surge, and hence Grassy Terrain! Our first returning terrain, Grassy Terrain is close to the hearts of many staff members here at Trainer Tower. Let’s break it down, and have a look at what exactly it does. The HP of all grounded Pokémon will be restored by 1/16 of their maximum HP at the end of the turn. This should work in Bulu’s favour for a number of reasons. Bulu boasts a sizeable 130 base attack, so in theory, it should be capitalising on this by securing big KOs and healing at the end of the turn, rather than trying to chip opponents down, only for them to recover. A respectable 70/115/95 defence spread also ensures that Bulu will be able to last on the battlefield and make use of the healing terrain.

Grassy Terrain also reduces the damage taken by Earthquake, Bulldoze and Magnitude by 50%. This affects Garchomp the most, as Bulu will take negligible damage from Rock Slide, Earthquake and zero damage from Dragon Claw. Reducing the power of Earthquake will also provide support for ground-weak partners such as Gengar and Arcanine. Finally, Grassy Terrain boosts the power of grass type moves by 50%. This means that Bulu will be able to use boosted Wood Hammers to deal huge damage, while alleviating some of the recoil thanks to the terrain’s healing properties. Alternatively, other grass moves like Horn Leech can be used to great effect.

Unfortunately, Bulu’s grass/fairy typing naturally comes with many common weaknesses. These include fire, ice, flying, steel and a 4x weakness to poison. However, Bulu also resists 6 types in water, electric, grass, fighting, dark and ground as well as having an immunity to dragon. The large number of resistances complement Bulu’s aforementioned 70/115/95 defences as well as Grassy Terrain’s natural recovery. Its defensive capabilities, coupled with a substantial 130 base attack, should enable Bulu to utilise a several variations of similar sets. For example, some people may opt to abuse Bulu’s healing aspect, by using Horn Leech and EVing Bulu to survive super effective attacks, whilst others may opt to invest into Bulu’s ability to use boosted Wood Hammers to quickly end opposing Pokémon. Bulu is the slowest of the 4 Tapus, sitting at 75 base speed. This is shared with our dear old friend, Smeargle and sits somewhat awkwardly at too slow, and yet too fast for Trick Room. This being said, Bulu should be able to use its natural bulk and resistances to play into the battlefield nicely.

As previously discussed, Bulu’s movepool favours its 130 base attack. Moves that take advantage of this include Wood Hammer, Horn Leech, Megahorn, Superpower, Zen Headbutt, Smart Strike, Stone Edge, and Rock Slide. Unfortunately, Bulu does not have access to Play Rough, and no other physical fairy moves. Losing a STAB is never good, however through the sheer power of Wood Hammer, Bulu should be able to take this loss in its stride. Bulu has access to a few support moves such as Rock Tomb to manage speed, as well as Brick Break to remove Aurora Veils affects. Overall, despite the loss of Play Rough, Bulu has a very promising movepool, making it a strong physical attacker that can still supports its teammates. Picking an item for Bulu is tough, anything from lum berry to assault vest and even choice band are all viable options. In the set outlined below, I have opted to abuse Wood Hammer as a means to remove threats to the rest of the team. In future, I would like to explore bulkier sets of Bulu however this is difficult in the early meta as we discover what to EV against.

This sample set was suggested by Ty as a means to utilise Bulu’s exceptional attack, defences and Grassy Terrain by ensuring its longevity with leftovers.
The speed invest guarantees Bulu outspeeds neutral, max speed base 60s such as Magnezone and Incineroar; both of which could be considered threats.
tapu buluTapu Bulu @ Leftovers
Ability: Grassy Surge
EVs: 244 HP / 116 Atk / 4 Def / 4 SpD / 140 Spe
Adamant Nature
– Wood Hammer
– Horn Leech
– Superpower
– Protect

Tapu Fini (70/75/115/95/130/85)

Tapu FiniTapu Fini, the final Tapu! Tapu Fini, a crustacean-like Pokémon, possesses a water/fairy typing, and summons Misty Terrain with its Misty Surge ability. Misty Terrain is most definitely on the weaker side compared to the other terrains available, as it offers only a reduction to dragon type attacks and an invulnerability to status effects such as burn and sleep. As of generation 7, misty terrain also blocks confusion. On the surface this still appears to be relatively useful, however as one delves into the context of Fini and its ability’s interactions, they lose a lot of value. For example, Misty Terrain will block Scald burns from Fini as well as the opportunity to run a “resto-chesto” set it may have otherwise suited. Misty Terrain, unlike electric, grassy and psychic, does not offer any attack buffs. Fini will be pushed to remove threats.

Tapu Fini has the best defences of all the of the Tapus with a 70/115/130 spread. This, coupled with intimidate support, should make for a very long-lasting defensive pivot. Fini is weak to only electric, grass and poison whilst resisting six types: fire, water, ice, fighting, bug and dark. As previously stated, Fini will struggle in some instances to acquire knock outs due to its base 95 special attack. This is by no means poor, however it is very enticing to invest in the exceptional defences of Fini and base various sets around these elements rather than seek to play it as a “sweeper” for lack of a better term. Fini’s final base stat is an 85 in speed, which is 4 points higher than Milotic and Gyarados, and on par with Kommo-o. In fact, Fini shares many similarities with Milotic in terms of base stats and can be played quite similarly, fulfilling the role of the typical bulky water type.

Tapu Fini’s special moveset includes Hydro Pump, Scald, Ice Beam, Blizzard, Moonblast, Dazzling Gleam, and Shadow Ball. Accounting for Fini’s bulky nature, and the fact that Misty Terrain blocks scald burns, one might be led to use Hydro Pump, as Rotom-Wash has done for years. A 100% accurate stab in Moonblast or Dazzling Gleam could round out a simple set. Fini has access to Heal Pulse and Nautre’s Madness as support moves. Another option is to run a similar set to the old Resto-Chesto, Calm Mind Suicune. This is limited again by Misty Terrain blocking status moves, and hence forcing rest to fail. The Alolan PokeDex isn’t short in bulky water types; Fini will see competition from Tentracruel, Gyarados, Lapras, and possibly Primarina. Overall, Fini definitely has a place in VGC17, and can partner well with certain Pokémon, however time will need to be spent on discovering these combinations as well as EV spreads and sets to maximise its natural stats.

The set below tries to play Fini as a support Pokemon helping its teammates by weakening the foe with Nature’s Madness, healing teammates with Heal Pulse, and cleaning up the scraps with Dazzling Gleam. Hydro Pump fills in as the mandatory water move. This EV spread is a little bit more special than the others. This Fini can survive a 252 wild charge or a 252 Thunderbolt from Tapu Koko in Electric Terrain. It can outspeed neautral max speed base 60s including Magnezone and Sylveon.

tapu finiTapu Fini @ Sitrus Berry
Ability: Misty Surge
EVs: 252 HP / 156 Def /  4 SpA / 36 SpD / 60 Spe
Bold Nature
– Hydro Pump
– Dazzling Gleam
– Nature’s Madness
– Heal Pulse

A quick note on Nature’s Madness. This is essentially a Fairy typed super fang. Given the Attack, and Special Attack of the Tapus, it is hard to justify spending a move slot on Nature’s Madness. Koko’s Thunderbolt, Lele’s Psychic, Bulu’s Woodhammer and Fini’s Hydro Pump should do more than half to many neutral Pokémon switching in to these attacks. The most viable sets that include Nature’s Madness will be defensively orientated Fini sets or support Koko sets looking to set up KOs for their partners.

The Tapu’s are a very exciting, unique new group of Pokémon that should challenge, and help mould the 2017 metagame. Any Tapu could succeed at the London International, which in turn will set the metagame for the first month or so. Koko, Lele, Bulu, and Fini all have the potential, at least on paper, to be excellent additions to most teams, as well as shape the metagame for periods of time.

Authors Note: As you may have realised, there has been no mention of Z-moves. At the time of writing, not enough was known, and no one had used them in a competitive setting. For these reasons I felt it was better to exclude them. Over the course of the season, a new Tapu article may be written, in which Z-moves will be explored.

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