Pokemon: The 10 Most Powerful Setup Moves

There are hundreds of moves you can teach your team in the Pokemon series, and while more or less every move has situations in which it will shine, some of the most powerful moves are those which raise the users' stats, allowing you to set up at the start of a fight and proceed to annihilate the enemy team.

These "setup moves" are staples of many a challenge run or competitive team, so if you're looking to take your Pokemon gameplay to the next level, it's a good idea to get familiar with them. Here are ten of the strongest that you can use to give yourself the upper hand in your next battle.

10 Amnesia – Makes Your 'Mon A Specially Defensive Tank

There are countless moves that raise or lower the stats of your own or enemy Pokemon by one stage, but where things get interesting are the moves that jump up two stages. Amnesia is one such move, raising the user's special defence by two stages.

This effectively doubles your special defence, and after using it just three times, the user's special defence will be at the maximum – four times the base value. A lot of strong psychic types get access to Amnesia, and given many of their biggest threats are special attackers, the move is a great way to ensure a sweep.

9 Acid Armor And Iron Defense – The Equivalent For Physical Defense

These moves do exactly what Amnesia does, but for physical defence (just called 'defence' in-game). While Amnesia is a Psychic-type move, Iron Defense is Steel-type and Acid Armor is Poison-type, meaning a lot of Poison-type Pokemon can get great utility from it by mitigating their ground weakness.

One particularly interesting Pokemon that has access to Acid Armor is Vaporeon. Unlike the majority of water types, Vaporeon is very specially defensive, so it's already somewhat covered against the majority of super-effective attacks. Acid Armor lets it become an all-around wall and cover itself against the likes of Volt Tackle or Solar Blade.

8 No Retreat – An Extremely Useful Buff

Unlike almost all the other moves on this list, No Retreat can only be used once, but that doesn't mean it's not incredibly worthwhile. It's the signature move of Falinks, and when used, it provides a one-stage boost to every stat, boosting every single one by half.

The tradeoff is that Falinks is then locked into battle, unable to switch out. Don't underestimate the usefulness of an omni-boost, though. With the right moveset, this alone is enough to allow Falinks to sweep, meaning it wouldn't need to switch out anyway.

7 Belly Drum – The Brave Option

Belly Drum is the other move that can only be used once, but you'll certainly only need to use it once. This move takes away half the user's makes HP, and in return, maxes its attack, going up a full six stages in a single turn.

The HP cut is risky, but instantly quadrupling your attack stat is ridiculously strong, so if you find yourself in a situation where you can set up a Belly Drum without being immediately KOed, you're almost guaranteed a strong sweep.

6 Cosmic Power – The Ultimate Walling Move

While the defensive moves mentioned above provide their users with immense walling potential, they're easily countered by opponents using the opposite kind of attack – even if you're at +6 from Iron Defense, you're still as vulnerable as you'd normally be to special attacks.

The solution is Cosmic Power, which, when used, raises the user's special and physical defence by one stage. Set up enough of these, and you'll be almost untouchable. So long as you don't fall victim to a stat-change-ignoring critical hit, that is…

5 Nasty Plot – The Special Sweeper's Choice

Defensive setup moves are definitely strong, but even the best ones leave you vulnerable to crits, and you still have to find a way to damage the opposing Pokemon. Offensive setups are generally favoured as if you can outspeed and one-hit-KO the enemy it doesn't matter how much damage you'd take.

Nasty Plot raises the user's special attack by two stages. This is just as good as it sounds – if you're using a special attacker who gets access to Nasty Plot, you should absolutely consider running it on them.

4 Swords Dance – The Physical Sweeper's Choice

Just as Iron Defense is the physical equivalent of Amnesia, Swords Dance is the physical equivalent of Nasty Plot, raising the attack stat of the Pokemon using it by two stages each time.

A surprising variety of Pokemon get access to Swords Dance (Chikorita gets it), making it viable in a vast number of situations on a vast number of Pokemon. Pair that up with the wide array of high-BP physical moves (Earthquake, anyone?), and you've got an easy sweep on your hands.

3 Calm Mind – The Premier Choice For A Special Attacker

While Nasty Plot is fantastic for raising the user's special attack by two stages, it isn't available to that many Pokemon, and since it does nothing for defensive stats or speed, there's still the risk of being outsped and taking huge damage.

Enter Calm Mind. While this move only raises special attack by one stage at a time, every time it's used, it also raises special defence by one stage. This means that once your special attack is set up to sweep, you still have some contingency in the event you're outsped, as any incomong special attacks won't do much damage.

2 Dragon Dance – The Classic Setup Move

Dragon Dance is notorious for how powerful it is, facilitating easy sweeps for almost any Pokemon that can use it. Like Nasty Plot, Swords Dance's biggest problem is the potential to be outsped and take large amounts of damage. However, instead of boosting a defensive stat like Calm Mind in addition to its one-stage physical attack boost, Dragon Dance boosts speed.

This means that once you've used the move a few times, the risk of being outsped is simply negated. Calm Mind is great but, leaves a vulnerability to physical attacks. With Dragon Dance, it doesn't matter – whatever your opponent would be trying to hit you with, you'll outspeed and one-shot them.

1 Quiver Dance – The Comprehensive Setup

Not a lot of Pokemon get Quiver dance – it's really just limited to bug types, and while there are some strong bug types that can take advantage of it, it's this smaller learnset that means the move sees less use than the likes of Dragon Dance or Calm Mind.

However, there is no question about the fact that Quiver Dance is the ultimate setup move. It boosts the user's special attack, special defence, and speed by one stage each, acting like a special equivalent of Dragon Dance that also boosts your defence in the meantime, giving you some mitigation in the event you're outsped before your speed is maxed.

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