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As somebody who has been playing RBY when it was still considered the current gen, I've witnessed dramatic changes in the way people play the lead matchup, which is an integral part of a game that's all about positioning.  I'm also going to eschew aligning with the narrative echoed by a few delusional people who believe that RBY is only played in two tournaments a year, which I believe will make this a useful guide.  

Chapter 1 - Establishing The Foundation - 2000-2005

In antiquity (which describes tour play on pre-Netbattle RBY), the lead game often revolved around landing sleep.  Even back when RBY was the current gen, people knew how broken this status ailment was and how inflicting it often played a vital role in securing victory.  Exeggutor, thus, ended up being one of the most common leads, as its opposition was almost always Starmie, Alakazam, and Gengar.  Starmie was viewed as ideal sleep bait due to its blistering Speed and decent bulk.  Moreover, it gave Exeggutor trouble because of Blizzzard and its high Critical Hit rate.  Gengar was somewhat common as well, but it wasn't particularly popular due to the shoddy accuracy of Hypnosis.  In fact, when I used Gengar back in 2003, it was usually in the reserves.  Besides that, Alakazam was a decent choice because it dealt with Gengar and was seen in the same vein as Starmie as sleep bait for similar reasons.

There were other leads, namely Jynx, Venusaur, and Hypno, but each were dismissed for their flaws--even Jynx, which I would later examine.  You would see Venusaur every now and then because its access to Sleep Powder and Swords Dance piqued the interest of some players, while Hypno's bulk and outspeeding Exeggutor gave it the occasional moment in the spotlight.  On that note, in one of my last tour games in 2003, I actually used a team that had a lead Hypno.

However, there were times where, instead of trying your luck in a Starmie or Alakazam ditto, you would switch into Chansey or Exeggutor on the first turn to absorb the Thunder Wave.  Chansey in particular already garnered a reputation as "the one thing you don't want to paralyze right away," as one person once told me about 19 years ago.  This play wasn't terribly common but certainly something to account for.

Let's take a look at some relics.

- - ub_communism_works took out STARMIE!
ub_communism_works sent out EXEGGUTOR!
Paragon_of_virtue_GGFan's STARMIE at 100% health.
Paragon_of_virtue_GGFan's STARMIE used THUNDER WAVE!
ub_communism_works's EXEGGUTOR was paralyzed!
ub_communism_works's EXEGGUTOR at 100% health.
- Paragon_of_virtue_GGFan's STARMIE used BLIZZARD!
It's super effective!
ub_communism_works's EXEGGUTOR at 60% health.
ub_communism_works's EXEGGUTOR used SLEEP POWDER!
Paragon_of_virtue_GGFan's STARMIE fell asleep!

In this tournament game from December 2003, we both lead Starmie, but he switches into Exeggutor to absorb the Thunder Wave.  Luckily, it doesn't backfire.

- - i_am_bout_to_get_pwnt's GENGAR used HYPNOSIS!
Nitro's KANGASKHAN fell asleep!
Nitro's KANGASKHAN at 100% health.
KANGASKHAN is asleep.
i_am_bout_to_get_pwnt's GENGAR at 100% health.
- Nitro took out KANGASKHAN!
Nitro sent out EXEGGUTOR!
i_am_bout_to_get_pwnt's GENGAR at 100% health.
i_am_bout_to_get_pwnt's GENGAR used PSYCHIC!
It's not very effective.
Nitro's EXEGGUTOR at 89% health.
i_am_bout_to_get_pwnt's GENGAR used EXPLOSION!
GENGAR fainted!

In the finals of the same tournament, player A leads with Gengar, while player B leads with Kangaskhan, which functions as his sleep bait.  

- - Y2GGF took out VENUSAUR!
Y2GGF sent out CHANSEY!
_Nitro_'s ALAKAZAM at 100% health.
_Nitro_'s ALAKAZAM used PSYCHIC!
Y2GGF's CHANSEY at 81% health.
Y2GGF's CHANSEY was paralyzed!
Y2GGF's CHANSEY at 81% health.

I go with a lead Venusaur in this game, which ends up having to retreat due to facing off against Alakazam.  I make the right move and switch into Chansey to absorb the Thunder Wave.

EXEGGUTOR fainted!
Lesm46's EXEGGUTOR at 24% health.
Critical hit!
It's not very effective.
GGFan's EXEGGUTOR's special fell!
EXEGGUTOR fainted!

Another game from '03, this time with an Exeggutor ditto.  For whatever reason, my opponent clicked on Psychic, whereas I had an aversion to gambling on that day and decided to explode.

- - GGFan_is_god's STARMIE used BLIZZARD!
It's super effective!
ShuveitX's TANGELA at 39% health.
GGFan_is_god's STARMIE fell asleep!

An ancient contest from 2002, my Starmie runs into the lead sleeper.  Had he led with Exeggutor, my gameplan would have been the same.

Chapter 2 - Sleep Wars - 2005-2011

"Jynx is shit." - moron, 2005

"Jynx is the shit." - GGFan, 2005

Starmie and Exeggutor were, by far, the two most common leads, which made me begin to ponder the efficacy of Jynx, who was undermined by a certain elitist idiot and his autistic clique.  Upon discovering that my most popular team had Jynx in it, one actually wrote, "lol, Jynx is shit" (even though I won the game).  Although I was subject to ridicule, it didn't matter to me because I knew I was onto something.  Thus, "GGFan's Jynx team" was born, which I used regularly in tournament play from 2005 all the way into 2011.

Begin Turn #1

Jynx used Lovely Kiss! Lidor fell asleep!

Lidor is fast asleep.


End of turn #1

GGFanXYZ's Jynx: 333 HP

Billtog's Lidor: 100% HP (Slp)

Begin Turn #2 Billtog withdrew Lidor!

Billtog sent out Titanus (Lv.100 Snorlax)!

Jynx used Blizzard! (32% damage)

Jynx prays on a lead Exeggutor and nails the incoming Snorlax with Blizzard in this tournament bout from 2006.

I realized how undervalued Jynx was in a metagame dominated by leads that either didn't threaten it or by one that it effortlessly scared away.  Sure, it wasn't fond of Surf Starmie, but when Starmie was in the lead position it packed Blizzard instead at least half the time.  Alakazam couldn't do much, obviously, leaving Gengar as Jynx's only undesired matchup, but Hypnosis didn't exactly have stellar accuracy.  Why, then, was Jynx not utilized enough?  Back then, Jynx had a bad reputation of being dead weight after landing sleep; however, I had been playing enough by this point to realize that simply inflicting such a broken status ailment was enough of a contribution.  Add Body Slam in a different game into the mix and you had a dangerous Pokemon capable of inflicting multiple status effects in the first 3-5 turns.

Begin Turn #1

BlackShadow used Hypnosis!

Jynx fell asleep!

Jynx is fast asleep.

End of turn #1

IRBYT2006's Jynx: 333 HP (Slp)

Buster's BlackShadow: 100% HP

Begin Turn #2 IRBYT2006 withdrew Jynx!

IRBYT2006 sent out Exeggutor (Lv.100 Exeggutor)! 

BlackShadow used Thunderbolt! (75 damage) A critical hit! It's not very effective...

End of turn #2

IRBYT2006's Exeggutor: 318 HP

Buster's BlackShadow: 100% HP

Begin Turn #3

IRBYT2006 withdrew Exeggutor!

IRBYT2006 sent out Jynx (Lv.100 Jynx)!

BlackShadow used Explosion! (333 damage)

Jynx fainted!

BlackShadow fainted!

Playing around the bad Gengar matchup in the first IRBYT.

The premise was simple: put the lead to sleep, then use either Blizzard or Body Slam.  I had games where I would put something to sleep, then freeze the incoming Chansey, and then paralyze the incoming Snorlax.  Jynx was certainly a force to be reckoned with, especially during an era where people weren't entirely sure how to play around it.  Some would switch into Snorlax instead of Chansey after having their lead put to sleep, which often left it in a crippled and/or paralyzed state.  Also, there were times where I would paralyze the Chansey, which made life easier for my reserves.  

Begin Turn #1

Alakazam used Thunder Wave! Jynx is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

Jynx is paralyzed! It can't move!

End of turn #1

SamG's Alakazam: 100% HP

CrissCrossRBY's Jynx: 333 HP (Par)

Begin Turn #2

Alakazam used Seismic Toss! (100 damage)

Jynx used Lovely Kiss!

Alakazam fell asleep! 

GGFanRBYthe2nd sent out Jynx (Lv.100 Jynx)!

buddenbrooks sent out Alakazam (Lv.100 Alakazam)!

Begin Turn #1

Alakazam used Thunder Wave! Jynx is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

Jynx is paralyzed! It can't move!

End of turn #1

GGFanRBYthe2nd's Jynx: 333 HP (Par)

buddenbrooks's Alakazam: 100% HP

Begin Turn #2

Alakazam used Seismic Toss! (100 damage)

Jynx used Lovely Kiss! Alakazam fell asleep! 

Picollo(RBY] vs GGFan. Begin!

Picollo(RBY] sent out Alakazam (Lv.100 Alakazam)!

GGFan sent out Jynx (Lv.100 Jynx)!

Begin Turn #1 Alakazam used Thunder Wave! Jynx is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

Jynx is paralyzed! It can't move!

End of turn #1

Picollo(RBY]'s Alakazam: 100% HP GGFan's Jynx: 333 HP (Par)

Begin Turn #2

Alakazam used Seismic Toss! (100 damage)

Jynx used Lovely Kiss! Alakazam fell asleep! 

GGFanTheMan sent out Jynx (Lv.100 Jynx)!

spies sent out Quovis (Lv.100 Alakazam)!

christianchick (uu) has started watching.

Begin Turn #1

Quovis used Thunder Wave! Jynx is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

Jynx used Lovely Kiss! Quovis fell asleep! 

One of Jynx's desired matchups.

I don't bring up my tournament record out of hubris but rather to highlight just how potent this revelation was.  From 2005 to 2011, I won a combined amount of about 225 tournament games (primarily in the bo1 era) on THE Alternative, Pokemonexperte, Pokefans, RBY2K10, and on a couple of smaller organizations and lost about 60, ending up with a winning percentage of around 80%.  This was not without any contention, however, as I had many opponents who knew what to expect and would try to one-up me by leading with Gengar, so I responded by preparing other teams, such as one with a lead Alakazam to deal with the threat.  

GGFan vs Raffael [RBY]. Begin!

GGFan sent out Jynx (Lv.100 Jynx)! Raffael [RBY] sent out Exeggutor (Lv.100 Exeggutor)!

Raffael [RBY]: gl&hf

GGFan: Viel Gleck

Begin Turn #1

Raffael [RBY] withdrew Exeggutor!

Raffael [RBY] sent out Alakazam (Lv.100 Alakazam)!

Jynx used Lovely Kiss! Alakazam fell asleep! 

My opponent plays around Jynx well.

And so the dominant leads shifted from Starmie and Exeggutor to Jynx and Gengar.  Whereas you had to consider the possibility of paralyzing the Chansey or Exeggutor instead of the lead Alakazam or Starmie, your typical tournament game now began with Jynx putting something to sleep, Gengar countering it, or Jynx and Gengar flailing about until one managed to connect.  I have to say that I started to lose more from 2009 to 2011 because the playerbase, as a whole, was becoming determined to scout me and anticipate what I would bring.  The sample size from this time is relatively small (I played in less RBY tours) compared to 2005-2008, but I nonetheless noticed something was off.  In 2010, Gengar's popularity really began to rise partially due to some people on RBY2K10 promoting it as the overall best lead in the game, which did not bode well for my Jynx team.  

Chapter 3 - FriendlyMie - 2011-2013

Gengar's new reputation as the quintessential answer to Jynx resulted in its popularity skyrocketing.  During this period, it was one of the most common leads alongside Alakazam, who was Gengar's foil.  Instead of relying on the same team, I wanted to concoct something novel by using the state of the metagame against it.  Thus, I conceptualized a lead Starmie with Blizzard/Psychic/Thunder Wave/Recover in 2011.  Back in antiquity, the debate with Starmie was to pair Thunderbolt with either Surf or Blizzard; its other option, Psychic, was never considered.  In almost 10 years of playing RBY I had never faced a Starmie with Psychic in a tournament game, as Exeggutor was a common lead and Surf was your way of hitting everything else harder.  There was no better time to introduce Psychic into the spotlight than now.

Psychic, backed by Starmie's obscene Critical Hit rate, gave it over a 1/5 chance of outright killing Gengar.  In addition, Gengar's typical response was to hope for Hypnosis not to miss or for a lucky crit of its own, meaning I would face adversaries who would switch out to Chansey.  That was fine, as I could either let Starmie take paralysis and thus be able to block sleep while firing off a Blizzard or switch to Exeggutor.  Yes, Alakazam also scares off Gengar; however, it also does not have the same firepower that Starmie does against the aforementioned coconut tree and can't score lucky freezes.  Moreover, Exeggutor was seen every now and then during this time period as a lead (ostensibly to counter Alakazam, but probably because it was the "noob lead;" that is, inexperienced players tended to lead with it because they didn't know much better).

Hector vs Crystal_ [RBY]. Begin!

Hector sent out Starmie (Lv.100 Starmie)!

Crystal_ [RBY] sent out Exeggutor (Lv.100 Exeggutor)!

0-1 has started watching.

Begin Turn #1

Starmie used Thunder Wave! Exeggutor is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

Exeggutor used Sleep Powder! Starmie fell asleep!

End of turn #1

Hector's Starmie: 323 HP (Slp)

Crystal_ [RBY]'s Exeggutor: 100% HP (Par)

Crystal_ [RBY]: hectrod25?

Crystal_ [RBY]: or*

Crystal_ [RBY]: are you

Hector: who that

Crystal_ [RBY]: ?

Hector: i am hector

Crystal_ [RBY]: kk

Begin Turn #2

Starmie woke up!

Exeggutor used Stun Spore! Starmie is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

End of turn #2

Hector's Starmie: 323 HP (Par)

Crystal_ [RBY]'s Exeggutor: 100% HP (Par)

Begin Turn #3

Crystal_ [RBY] withdrew Exeggutor!

Crystal_ [RBY] sent out Lapras (Lv.100 Lapras)!

Starmie is paralyzed! It can't move!

End of turn #3

Hector's Starmie: 323 HP (Par)

Crystal_ [RBY]'s Lapras: 100% HP

Begin Turn #4

Crystal_ [RBY] withdrew Lapras!

Crystal_ [RBY] sent out Snorlax (Lv.100 Snorlax)!

Starmie used Thunder Wave! Snorlax is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

End of turn #4

Hector's Starmie: 323 HP (Par)

Crystal_ [RBY]'s Snorlax: 100% HP (Par)

Begin Turn #5

Starmie used Psychic! (27% damage) 

One of the very first games in which I used my lead Starmie.  Not firing off Blizzard on Exeggutor was not the optimal play, most would argue.

Begin Turn #10

Starmie used Thunder Wave! Exeggutor is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

Exeggutor used Stun Spore! Starmie is paralyzed! It may be unable to move!

End of turn #10

GGFan's Starmie: 323 HP (Par)

spies's Exeggutor: 100% HP (Par)

Begin Turn #11

spies withdrew Exeggutor!

spies sent out Snorlax (Lv.100 Snorlax)!

Starmie used Blizzard! (43% damage) A critical hit! Snorlax was frozen solid!

End of turn #11

GGFan's Starmie: 323 HP (Par)

spies's Snorlax: 57% HP (Frz)

GGFan: come at me bro

In this game, while I lead with Starmie my team was designed to be more offensive overall, so paralyzing the Exeggutor was fine here.

This lead Starmie was introduced in 2011 but didn't begin to impact the metagame until Pokemon Online finally implemented RBY OU on its ladder at the end of 2012.  As much as I'd love to talk about PO's ladder, I don't want to digress too much from the topic at hand, so I'll just say that my lead Starmie became known as "FriendlyMie" because I reached #1 on the ladder under my alias "Mr. Friendly."  It was a run in which I played hundreds of games with this one team, utilizing its strengths as best as I could and learning to play around its weaknesses.  My FriendlyMie team made the transition into tournament play in the spring of 2013 and achieved as much as success for the entire year, as it helped me win the 4Chords Cup, RBY2K10 Revival Tournament, and a Master Tournament.  I continued to use it in 2014 and even as late as 2015, but, as with my Jynx team, the metagame had adapted.  Gone were the Gengars and Jynx made a comeback as the premiere FriendlyMie counter.  Of course, opposing Starmies with Thunderbolt started popping up more, and Alakazam remained ever so ubiquitous as the consistent lead.

Conflict leads Jynx, so I paralyze with FriendlyMie.  Another reason why FriendlyMie was such a good lead was because of its teammates, namely Hyper Beam Exeggutor, which is now known as "BeamGore."  Hyper Beam was unheard of at the time; people usually ran Stun Spore or Mega Drain.  Hyper Beam made it a lot easier to deal with Jynx, which FriendlyMie despises.

Not much you can do to lead Jynx except paralyze it and hope to punch a couple of holes in it to make life easier for Exeggutor.

Going up against the occasional ladder Exeggutor.  I decide to spread paralysis instead, which wasn't optimal but oh well.

Chapter 4 - The Three Psychiteers - 2013-2017

The tournament scene for the next few years was dominated by Starmie, Alakazam, and Jynx--with good reason.  FriendlyMie in conjunction with BeamGore was at least a somewhat dependable way of disposing of Alakazam and Jynx, Jynx could take whatever Alakazam and Starmie dished at it, and Alakazam was the king of reliability.  While you did get the occasional Gengar and even Jolteon leads, they were few and far in between in an era that was all about the Three Psychiteers.

At the end of 2014, Crystal made a discovery that changed the game dramatically: Body Slam could not paralyze Normal types.  Also, if a Pokemon was inflicted with paralysis, its Speed would drop again if its opponent used a move that raised its own stats, such as Agility or Swords Dance.  Similarly, if a paralyzed Pokemon's stats were lowered by a move such as Psychic, the speed drop from paralysis would be reapplied.  These changes made the metagame shift towards stall at the hands of Snorlax and Chansey, both of whom had access to Reflect.  It behooved players even more, therefore, to get the early sleep or paralysis to facilitate the Reflect stall.

Gengar did not fare well against FriendlyMie, and this replay illustrates that.  You'll get chances to land a freeze as well as safely switch into Exeggutor.

Blizzard/Thunderbolt lead Starmie rose in usage as another good answer to FriendlyMie.  It was particularly effective because you could deceive the adversary into thinking you have Psychic instead.

Starmie against Alakazam was a common face off.  I liked to fish for a freeze in the first 1 or 2 turns.

Reflect Snorlax was quite the behemoth indeed.

Chapter 5 - Exeggutor's Comeback - 2017

The middle of 2017 was a huge turning point in the lead matchup.  I had a revelation and hypothesized that Exeggutor, which had not been used as a lead in tour play by somebody who genuinely knew the game well for well over a decade and a half, was actually a reasonable choice due to how common Alakazam was.  Not only did it allow you to land sleep off the getgo, but it also protected your fast psychic from paralysis, which was a trend that would later come into prominence.  While it certainly wasn't on the level of the Three Psychiteers, I thought it was fine to use it every so often. I put my theory to test by leading with it in the finals of Master Tournament #34, which marked Exeggutor's comeback.

In an era saturated by the same old, lead Exeggutor symbolized a gradual shift towards more creative solutions of dealing with the problems presented by the Three Psychiteers.  The way players conceptualized the early game was beginning to change.

Lead Exeggutor returns into the spotlight and accomplishes its job of putting Alakazam to sleep.

If you can stomach mindgames, lead Exeggutor can be very dangerous when up against an Alakazam.

Lead Exeggutor isn't without its drawbacks, particularly bad luck and leads other than Alakazam.

Chapter 6 - Resisting The Wrap and Reflect Movements - 2018-2019

The RBY Reflect era was all about gaining early momentum with the Three Psychiteers accompanied by bulkier, slower teams designed to break through Snorlax and Chansey, such as Starmie/Rhydon and Alakazam/Lapras.  Some of the game's more cognitively astute players took notice of this and started building teams with Victreebel, which was a logical response and became a quite popular choice in 2018.  After all, it tore the slow aquatics and Rhydon to pieces as well as (almost) reliably chipped away at everything else.  It wasn't hard to paralyze Starmie back then, either, making it even more appealing.  Paralyze Chansey as well and you were good to go--as long as Wrap didn't miss, of course.  Teams with a lead Exeggutor usually didn't stray from the standard, keeping Alakazam or Starmie in the back, so the strategy still applied.  

With Wrap and Reflect serving as such (at times) insurmountable obstacles, players began to figure out how they could respond to these threats more efficiently and effectively, leading to the rise of Sing Chansey, which we had not seen since chapter 1 of this history.  Instead of letting the lead take paralysis, by 2019 it was starting to become common to switch Chansey into Starmie/Alakazam to absorb the Thunder Wave and subsequently put it to sleep.  With the blistering psychics' protected, it became harder for Victreebel to threaten the opposition.

Victreebel feasted on slower teams, as we witness here.

Chapter 7 - Ever Evolving Strategies - 2019-today

Protecting the lead from paralysis wasn't the only major transformation, however.  As Reflect Snorlax and Chansey still pervaded the tier, Jolteon emerged as another weapon alongside lead Starmie to pressure Chansey with both Double Kick and Rest, as its 25% Critical Hit rate gave it a golden opportunity to break through it, and Rest was feasible because it could tank its attacks fairly well.  Its partner in crime in destroying barriers was Cloyster, who could switch into Snorlax thanks to its gargantuan Defense as well handle Jolteon's Rhydon problem.  Where does that leave Exeggutor, though?   Unfortunately, this boom of creativity did not bode well for our beloved tree, as more players are now abandoning it in order to bolster another of the team's element.  Replacing Exeggutor for Gengar, for example, gave players more speed and invulnerability against Mono Snorlax. Going with Rhydon gave it defense against Jolteon and more overall offensive firepower.


Today, we're in the middle of a highly diverse metagame in which Exeggutor, Gengar, the Three Psychiteers, and even Chansey all have their merits in the lead position.  Exeggutor still functions well against Alakazam; however, Chansey's position in the lead spot does make Exeggutor redundant in the eyes of some, as Chansey doesn't mind paralysis anyway and takes little damage from any of the opposition's attacks.  Starmie and Alakazam can be switched out to put Chansey into a position to land sleep.  Jynx excels against its fellow Psychiteers and, of course, Exeggutor.  Gengar outpaces Jynx and can retreat against anything else.  

What began as a simple game of trading paralysis or being the first to land sleep has become a bit more sophisticated.

Closing Remarks - Don't Think TOO Deeply

Sure, while things have changed considerably over the last few years, don't undermine the tried and tested classics--they're standards for a reason.  Starmie/Rhydon is still a reasonable choice against newer team archetypes such as Jolteon/Cloyster.  Lapras, while not used quite as much as before, still remains a decent choice as a bulky backup sleeper that can punish Tauros and Snorlax.  Starmie/Alakazam or vice versa is still a solid defensive team.  Exeggutor is still OU, and with good reason.  What you SHOULD be doing is getting a feel for the lead game so that you can learn how to use each archetype to its fullest.  It will also help you how to learn to properly position yourself across a myraid of situations.  Good luck.

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