Masquerain hasn’t been a competitive Pokemon since Black and White, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good Pokemon. In its debut generation of Ruby and Sapphire, what seemed like a frail under-powered Bug/Flying type had one important distinction: it had the Intimidate ability. After all, that’s what the false eyes on its wings are for, right?
Sadly, Masquerain has lousy base stats. Butterfree is leagues better, and so is even Ledian. About all you could do even in Generation 3 was run Substitute, Stun Spore, a couple of coverage moves, and pray. Its Special Attack was just enough to shatter some glass cannons with a surprise Giga Drain, Ice Beam, or even Hydro Pump. It’s just not a good Pokemon outside of its Intimidate ability.
Or is it?
Actually, Masquerain got better in Diamond and Pearl. Despite its nasty 4x weakness to Stealth Rock, which invalidates many Pokemon in competitive play to this day, it found an interesting niche even in UU, the tier below the most popular OU format. While Masquerain previously had Agility, Diamond and Pearl gifted the poor little bug Baton Pass. This meant it could get to a Speed tier where it could actually use its respectable Special Attack to do some damage against mid-tier Pokemon.
Diamond and Pearl gave Masquerain another gift: Life Orb. Thanks to having its damaging attacks boosted by 30 percent, albeit at the cost of 1/10th HP per attack, Masquerain could actually hope to sweep some teams. Masquerain typically ran Air Slash, a move further benefiting from same-type attack bonus or STAB, or Bug Buzz, another STAB move. It could also run Hydro Pump instead of one of these two, which surprised a lot of people coming from a Bug/Flying type. Then if it ran into something it couldn’t deal with, it could Baton Pass its Speed boost into another potential sweeper.
According to Smogon University’s Diamond and Pearl era write-up, teams with slower potential sweepers like Aggron, Rhyperior, and Torterra appreciate what’s essentially a free Tailwind speed boost. The main foil to Masquerain was Rotom, which is funny considering Rotom is still very much still a threat even in Generation 9. Timid nature was often run to boost Masquerain’s speed at the cost of its physical attack stat which it would never use. But, some people got away with running Modest to boost Special Attack at the cost of physical attack instead to deal with threats like Arcanine after it had already taken substantial damage from active Stealth Rocks.
All in all, Gen 4 was a good time for Masquerain. While it was still very frail, its Intimidate allowed it to survive many physical hits to get up an Agility in order to outspeed. You had to play it very carefully, but Masquerain could be a surprise competitive option.
Black and White did gift Masquerain with a Hidden Ability in Unnerve. Yes, it’s a great ability to prevent opponents from using Berries, probably even more so in Gen 9 than ever with the amazing variety of berries there are now. But, Masquerain needed its Intimidate to survive at all. With over 150 new Pokemon entering the franchise in Gen 5, the power creep really pummeled the poor bug. It dropped all the way to the very lowest tier, PU, which stands exactly for what it sounds like. PU is the bottom feeders of competitive Pokemon, enough that they are still useful at the lower tier, but on the edge of complete irrelevance.
Masquerain even got an amazing move in Gen 5, too, in Quiver Dance. But, because of its frailty, it would usually instead Baton Pass the Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed boosts to a teammate like Ludicolo or Seismitoad who can take full advantage of these inherited boosts. It would still occassionally hit some things hard with Bug Buzz or Air Slash, but by this point, there were just so many checks and counters to this frail Pokemon that its usage almost entirely evaporated.
By the time X and Y released, Masquerain faded from competitive play, as Leavanny and Butterfree basically took its place in the lower tiers. Some people stuck with Masquerain out of loyalty, but it was soon even not used in PU. It fell to untiered, where it remained through Sun and Moon, although occassionally making a cameo as a Sticky Web setting lead that could also surprise people with a Quiver Dance boosted Bug Buzz, Hydro Pump, or Air Slash. Slapping a Z-Crystal on it for an added surprise factor couldn’t hurt. But, all it took was one Taunt or Encore and Masquerain fell flat, leaving the opponent to smack it down and put your team down 6-to-5 immediately.
Masquerain was a victim of Sword and Shield’s limited Pokedex, and honestly, that might have been good to give it a break. With Scarlet and Violet also featuring a limited Pokedex, Masquerain has reentered the fray. Will it ever be anything more than a low-tier curiosity ever again, though? Sure, a Tera Type could really help this little guy, especially if it leans into Flying or even a third type like Water. A Tera Type boosted Hydro Pump may only be 1.5x normal, but that could be enough to make Masquerain actually usable.
While I can’t ever see Masquerain being a competitive Pokemon ever again, it at least is going to be playable in the open world adventure. You could do a lot worse than this as a lead with a competitively minded in game team built around Sticky Web or as a surprise Quiver Dance sweeper. Thing is, you have Vivillon already, who’s already a better version of Butterfree, but Masquerain does have that nifty Intimidate ability and coverage moves like Ice Beam and Hydro Pump. Maybe Terastalizing does save this frail little guy, because it has neat tools that could give it a brand new niche in lower tier Generation 9 Pokemon Showdown competition.
What do you think of Masquerain? Do you think that Tera Typing will save what’s otherwise an underwhelming, but intriguing Pokemon?