Cacturne is one of the most annoying Pokémon to face, specifically when it's in the sand. One missed attack can be game over, as all Cacturne needs is one turn of Swords Dance set up to sweep most teams. It's one of the most threatening Swords Dance sweepers in UU, as it boasts the strongest (tied with ExtremeSpeed) priority move in the game, Sucker Punch. It also has a solid movepool to back it up, and an excellent Attack stat. Cacturne's attacking stats are equal, so it can even run a special or mixed set.
Even though Cacturne is an extremely powerful sweeper, it has its downsides. Cacturne's paper-thin defenses and low Speed really hinder its effectiveness to sweep, and it is therefore very reliant on both its ability, Sand Veil, and perfect prediction to gain opportunities to set up. One misprediction can cost Cacturne its life. To activate Sand Veil, it is commonly paired with Hippopotas, who can set up a permanent sandstorm.
Evasive Dancer is Cacturne's most threatening offensive set, capable of sweeping entire teams with relative ease. Boasting one of the strongest priority moves in the game, a high base 115 Attack stat, and one of the most annoying abilities, Cacturne needs only a couple of Swords Dance boosts before it can OHKO a large portion of the UU metagame.
Swords Dance is obviously the most important move for this set's success, boosting Cacturne's Attack to a sky-high 722. Sucker Punch is Cacturne's primary STAB option; its priority gives it insurance against a number of faster foes. For the last two slots, use Substitute with Focus Punch and Seed Bomb with Encore. An intact Substitute will prevent the opponent from interrupting Cacturne's Focus Punch, and Cacturne can easily set one up if the opponent attempts to avoid Sucker Punch by using non-attacking moves. Encore does not provide the same amount of security that Substitute does, so Seed Bomb is recommended if you opt for Encore. Swords Dance, Encore, and Sucker Punch is an outstanding combination. If your opponent even thinks about stalling Sucker Punch's PP by using indirect attacks, you can use Encore and gain a free turn to Swords Dance as they switch out. If the opponent attempts to avoid Encore by attacking, then you can hit them with Sucker Punch.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Unlike the Evasive Dancer set, Cacturne attempts to utilize Swords Dance to its fullest potential by using it in an all-out offensive set, rather than taking up a moveslot to abuse Substitute or Encore.
Swords Dance makes Cacturne twice as threatening, boosting its already-high Attack stat to even higher levels. Sucker Punch obliterates a huge portion of the UU metagame, and it's strong enough to OHKO some Pokémon who even resist it, such as Primeape and Toxicroak. Seed Bomb hurts Pokémon such as Slowbro and Spiritomb who can avoid Sucker Punch through indirect moves. Finally, Brick Break can dispose of bulky Steel- and Dark-types, mainly Registeel and Houndoom, and can break any screens the opponent has set up.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Cacturne is often seen as an extremely dangerous Swords Dance sweeper; however, this set attempts to utilize two of Cacturne's generally overlooked moves: Spikes and Encore. Both of those moves, combined with Sucker Punch, allow Cacturne to spill out multiple layers of Spikes and lock the opponent into a non-damaging move with Encore if they try to avoid a hard-hitting Sucker Punch. It's also one of the very few Pokémon who can set up Spikes but still retain some offensive prowess, meaning Cacturne can easily fit into an offensive team in need of some extra hazards support.
Spikes and Encore are the two important moves on this set. Encore in particular is what makes Cacturne much more effective, since it's capable of trapping opposing leads into repeating an indirect move, such as Stealth Rock, which buys Cacturne time to throw out more Spikes. Also, Sucker Punch, as mentioned before, works extremely well in tandem with Encore. The last moveslot is open to Seed Bomb or Protect. Seed Bomb is an excellent secondary STAB move and gives Cacturne a surefire way to hit the opposing Pokémon, while Protect allows Cacturne to scout the opponent's moves and also helps immensely against Fake Out leads, such as Ambipom and Persian.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While Cacturne is usually seen in an offensive role, it also functions fantastically as a defensive Spiker. Cacturne holds several advantages over fellow UU Spikes users; it's the only one with access to Encore, one of only two with instant recovery, and can be utilized under sandstorm to abuse Sand Veil. Its fantastic Special Attack stat also allows Cacturne to threaten most common Rapid Spinners with super effective Grass-type attacks. This set excels at laying down Spikes against many common Pokemon, such as Registeel, Spiritomb, Rotom, Milotic, and other bulky Water-types.
Synthesis provides recovery, allowing Cacturne to stick around longer and set up as many layers of Spikes as possible. Substitute should replace Synthesis if Cacturne is being used under sandstorm, since under those conditions Synthesis would recover only 25% health, while Substitute works well with Sand Veil. Encore is useful to lock opponents into a non-threatening move for more opportunities to lay down Spikes and prevents Cacturne from becoming set-up fodder. Leech Seed serves a similar purpose, allowing Cacturne to force switches and regain additional health. Energy Ball occupies the final slot as the best general attacking option, dealing heavy damage to all Rapid Spinners.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Cacturne really takes the SubSeed combination to the next level. With sandstorm support, Cacturne becomes an extremely threatening SubSeeder, as the opponent has a good chance for their attacks to miss. This gives Cacturne many opportunities to set up Substitute without taking any damage and proceed to cripple the opponent with Leech Seed. Not only that, but it also boasts the strongest priority move in the game (tying with ExtremeSpeed), Sucker Punch, as well as a powerful Focus Punch, all of which are backed up by a high base 115 Attack stat. There aren't many Pokémon who possess all of these traits, which makes Cacturne a primary choice when it comes to selecting an effective Leech Seeder.
Leech Seed is obviously the crux of this set's success, sapping 12% of the opposing Pokémon's HP every turn. Substitute is an excellent move to take advantage of Leech Seed and also blocks status, preventing them from draining Cacturne's effectiveness. Since Substitute generally encourages the opponent to attack, Sucker Punch becomes extremely helpful in those situations. Focus Punch rounds off the set nicely, and since Substitute gives Cacturne protection against attacks, Focus Punch is almost guaranteed to work.
Toxicroak, Hitmontop, and Arcanine are massive problems to Cacturne. Toxicroak resists both of Cacturne's STAB attacks and can use Vacuum Wave to outpace Cacturne's Sucker Punch and KO Cacturne; Hitmontop's Intimidate, resistance to Sucker Punch, and access to Mach Punch will easily end Cacturne's sweep; and Arcanine has Intimidate, a resistance to Seed Bomb, and ExtremeSpeed to make Cacturne's Sucker Punch fail. It's recommended to carry Pokémon who can defeat some, if not all, of these threats, or else Cacturne will have a hard time sweeping. Milotic is capable of handling all three to a reasonable extent, restoring any damage taken with Recover and retaliating with Ice Beam against Toxicroak[still, Milotic is not a very good Toxicroak counter] and Surf or Hydro Pump against Hitmontop and Arcanine. Slowbro is another great Pokémon to handle these threats, as it packs high defensive bulk, an instant recovery move in Slack Off, Psychic to destroy Toxicroak and Hitmontop, and Surf to bring down Arcanine. Also, Slowbro and Milotic are great at taking various priority moves, such as Vacuum Wave, Mach Punch, and ExtremeSpeed, that threaten Cacturne.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Hippopotas is the greatest teammate Cacturne can hope for. Its permanent sandstorm gives Cacturne many more opportunities to set up without taking any damage, which it really enjoys due to its poor defenses. Hippopotas can also set up Stealth Rock, which turns many of Cacturne's OHKOs into solid OHKOs. Spikes support is also recommended due to this factor. Qwilfish is a reasonable option for setting up multiple layers of Spikes. It boasts a relatively high Speed stat, keeps the offensive momentum going, and has the typing to absorb Toxic Spikes, which can greatly cripple Cacturne's effectiveness.
Ghost-types, such as Mismagius and Rotom, can prove to be troublesome for Cacturne, as they can use Will-O-Wisp or set up Substitutes as Cacturne attempts to obliterate them with Sucker Punch. Spiritomb deserves to be considered because of this problem; it is resistant to Shadow Ball and neutral to Hidden Power Fighting, can Rest off any status taken, and finish them off with its STAB Dark Pulse.
Toxicroak, Hitmontop, and Arcanine are massive problems to Cacturne, as they can all come out on top of it with ease. Toxicroak is resistant to both of Cacturne's STAB attacks and can use Vacuum Wave to outpace Cacturne's Sucker Punch and KO Cacturne; Hitmontop's Intimidate, resistance to Sucker Punch, and access to Mach Punch will easily end Cacturne's sweep; and Arcanine has Intimidate, a resistance to Seed Bomb, and has ExtremeSpeed to make Cacturne's Sucker Punch fail. It's recommended to carry Pokémon who can defeat some, if not all, of these threats, or else Cacturne will have a hard time sweeping. Milotic is capable of handling all three to a reasonable extent, restoring any damage taken with Recover and retaliating with Ice Beam against Toxicroak and Surf or Hydro Pump against Hitmontop and Arcanine. Slowbro is another great Pokémon to handle these threats, as it packs high defensive bulk, an instant recovery move in Slack Off, Psychic to destroy Toxicroak and Hitmontop, and Surf to bring down Arcanine. Also, Slowbro and Milotic are great at taking various priority moves, such as Vacuum Wave, Mach Punch, and ExtremeSpeed, that threaten Cacturne.
Cacturne can effectively make use of Destiny Bond to bring down the opposing Pokémon along with it. Endure, Focus Punch, and a Salac Berry are excellent options in conjunction with Destiny Bond, guaranteeing that Cacturne brings down at least one or two of the opponent's Pokémon. The execution of the set is rather simple: once Cacturne is about to be hit by an attack that will KO it, use Endure to activate its Salac Berry. Once that has been accomplished, proceed to use Destiny Bond to attempt to bring down the opposing Pokémon or fire off powerful Focus Punches if they try to avoid Destiny Bond's effect.
Choice Band and Choice Specs are decent items that Cacturne can abuse. With Choice Band, Cacturne can use a set consisting of Sucker Punch, Seed Bomb, Superpower, and Payback to great effectiveness. The only drawbacks to using Choice Band Cacturne are its pitiful Speed and defenses and the fact that being locked into Sucker Punch opens up many opportunities for the opponent to set up, not to mention its lackluster physical movepool. Choice Specs Cacturne with a set of Dark Pulse, Energy Ball, Focus Blast, and Hidden Power Fire is also quite effective. However, it experiences nearly the same problem as Choice Band Cacturne. Its below average Speed and terrible defensive stats makes it difficult for Cacturne to do its job at sweeping. Choice Scarf Cacturne is not very viable, because its Speed only reaches a maximum of 343 with a positive Speed nature, which is still low for a Scarfer. Its offensive stats will also be lower than usual, which means Cacturne will not be as threatening.
Nasty Plot Cacturne is probably Cacturne's most threatening special set, boosting its Special Attack to absurd levels. It can also abuse powerful STAB Dark Pulse and Energy Ball attacks, along with Focus Blast to achieve excellent type coverage. This is where the praise is cut short, however, as Cacturne's middling Speed, lack of special priority moves, and horrible defensive stats won't give it many opportunities to set up and sweep. Swords Dance Cacturne is almost always better than Nasty Plot Cacturne, since it has access to a powerful priority move, Sucker Punch, and strong physical moves, such as Focus Punch. Also, Houndoom can pull off a much better Nasty Plot set than Cacturne ever will, as it has higher Speed and excellent offensive typing. A mixed Nasty Plot set can be proven useful because Cacturne can then use Sucker Punch to deal with faster foes; however, it is still usually an inferior Swords Dance Cacturne and mixed Nasty Plot Houndoom.
Counter can be used in tandem with a Focus Sash to eliminate strong physical attackers. Drain Punch can be very helpful on Swords Dance Cacturne, restoring large amounts of its HP that it might've lost. Faint Attack and Payback are alternative Dark-type moves Cacturne can use alongside Sucker Punch, but it's usually not recommended. Low Kick has its uses against heavy Pokémon, such as Steelix and Aggron. Needle Arm can always be used instead of Seed Bomb, despite its 20 less Base Power, as it has a 30% flinch rate; however, Cacturne needs all the power it can get, so Seed Bomb is generally the better way to go. Revenge can be useful because of Cacturne's low Speed, but since it has pathetic defenses, it may not be able to survive the opposing Pokémon's attack. Giga Drain and Grass Knot are viable options for a special-based Cacturne, the former restoring health and the latter having the ability to hit for 120 Base Power against heavy foes. Lastly, ThunderPunch is capable of hurting Flying-types like Honchkrow and Moltres that cause Cacturne trouble.
Cacturne has several supportive moves it can use to its advantage as well. Cotton Spore can lower the opposing Pokémon's Speed by two stages so Cacturne has a chance to outpace them. GrassWhistle, despite its poor accuracy, can be used to put Cacturne's counters and checks to sleep. Ingrain can be used on the SubSeeder set, giving Cacturne even more HP recovery per turn. Magic Coat helps block status, especially Will-O-Wisp and Toxic, from the likes of Weezing and Dusclops. Finally, Spite can reduce the opponent's PP and can be especially helpful on Cacturne with sandstorm support, and Swagger can power up the opponent's Attack and make them hit themselves in confusion for bigger damage.
Any Pokémon who is faster than Cacturne and has access to Encore can easily shut it down. Jumpluff and Alakazam are excellent examples of Pokémon who can switch into Cacturne as it uses Substitute, Swords Dance, or Sucker Punch and use Encore to force Cacturne out. Fast Encore users are one of the most valuable counters to Cacturne, since Cacturne is full of setting up and firing off Sucker Punches. Pokémon who can use Substitute to avoid Sucker Punch are also excellent options, especially if they resist or are immune to Seed Bomb and Focus Punch, as they can set up Substitute once Cacturne uses Sucker Punch and proceed to finish it off with their respective moves. Espeon, Raikou, and Feraligatr are perfect examples of this, the former two being able to boost their stats via Calm Mind, while the latter can use Dragon Dance or Swords Dance; or, they can go straight for the kill once they've successfully set up a Substitute.
Mismagius and Rotom may seem like bad choices to use against Cacturne, but they are actually quite effective. Each of them are capable of burning Cacturne with Will-O-Wisp or setting up a Substitute as Cacturne uses Sucker Punch; however, prediction is required at this point, since if the opponent can win the match-up by playing Cacturne smartly, such as by using Seed Bomb on Substitute. Drifblim deserves a special mention due to its resistance to Seed Bomb, making it a viable Ghost-type to use against Cacturne as well. Weezing works nearly the same way. With its high Defense, access to Will-O-Wisp and Pain Split, a super effective Flamethrower, in conjunction with its resistance to Seed Bomb and Focus Punch, it can threaten Cacturne instantly.
Toxicroak is one of the best counters to Cacturne, as it is resistant to the common moves Cacturne uses, such as Sucker Punch, Seed Bomb, and Focus Punch. It also has access to Vacuum Wave, which it can use to avoid Sucker Punch, since a Swords Dance boosted Sucker Punch from Cacturne will still do heavy damage to Toxicroak. Hitmontop and Arcanine are also excellent switch-ins to Cacturne. They both have Intimidate to lower Cacturne's Attack, decent defensive stats to take neutral hits, and priority moves to make Cacturne's Sucker Punch fail.