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January 26th, 2013 (6:14 PM).
It is common knowledge that Gen IV was a far more offensive metagame than Gen III, but the question is, why? You might give credit to a new physical-special split that allowed more Pokemon to enjoy STAB and coverage. You might point to new high-power moves like Close Combat, Outrage, Focus Blast, Stone Edge, and Draco Meteor becoming the norm. It would be reasonable to bring up Choice Specs (and Scarf) and Nasty Plot, finally allowing special attackers to attack like their physical cousins. But for the most part, these were extensions of what we had already seen. We already knew what STAB and coverage was, how to use base 120 attacks, and the potential of Swords Dance and Choice Band.
However, one addition to the 4th gen metagame was completely unprecedented. Nothing like it had been seen before that wasn't exclusive to a single Pokemon. This new item that would have fit like a glove on Team Rocket fell into our hands, and with it came the push that drove Pokemon as we know it to Offense lane.
When this item is held by a Pokémon, the damage from the moves used by the holder is increased by 30%. The holder loses 10% of their maximum HP each turn.
Back when 4th gen was starting out, this was unheard of. Here we had the perfect item for sweepers, an item that significantly (1.3x, not that 1.1x nonsense) boosted ALL moves its holder used, with a cost that didn't completely change the style of the holder like Choice did. Instead the price was paid in HP, a tenth at a time. As this replaced Leftovers on physical, special, and mixed attackers who liked switching moves, stall had a hard time catching up to the boosts, and so, the metagame as a whole became more offensive.
When using the Life Orb, however, one cannot forget that you can no longer expect your pokemon to have any bulk what so ever. The cost in HP drove the metagame even more offensive, as bulky attackers who liked leftovers either missed out on the boost or sacrificed their selling point. If you take a hit, suddenly that seemingly arbitrary recoil will catch up with your precious sweeper. Plus, with Sandstorm, hazards, and priority around to stack with Life Orb, you may die before you even get to do much.
Unless, of course, you have Sheer Force or Magic Guard, in which case you can abuse Life Orb for free. If you have Sheer Force and you use a move affected by it, you don't take Life Orb recoil. Magic Guard makes you immune to passive damage, and this includes Life Orb recoil.
Life Orb is an incredibly influential item that represents the offensive shift in the transition from Gen III to Gen IV, and now in Gen V it's as strong as ever, with even more ways to abuse it for all it's got.
Do you tend to use pokemon that can utilize Life Orb? What pokemon do you think are best with Life Orb? What has Life Orb done for the 5th generation metagame? How is it influenced the way we play the game currently, and how so?
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