Smeargle Photobomb Candidates
Optimal moveset: Flying Press + Lock On or Counter
Easy to obtain moveset: Flying Press + Thunder Shock
Given Smeargle's CP doesn't go high enough for Great League relevance, people have occasionally tried to have fun with it in a Smeargle only cup. In this format, Fighting-type moves are especially valuable. As it happens, the charged move with arguably the best parameters in the game, Flying Press, is Fighting type.
Flying Press is already one of Smeargle's best charged moves in a neutral matchup. Flying Press has higher damage per energy (DPE) than any charged move without a self-debuff, and is faster to charge than everything except 35 energy cost moves. It doesn't get Same Type Attack Bonus (STAB) on Smeargle, but most of the moves that do, such as Body Slam and Hyper Beam, still have lower DPE even with STAB. Techno Blast (Normal) is the only STAB move with higher DPE on Smeargle. This move will be more relevant in a later section, but because Normal damage isn't super effective against Smeargle, Flying Press is still the better move in the mirror. Flying Press is so strong here that having it is generally more important than having an optimal fast move. For example, Thunder Shock and Flying Press Smeargle beats Counter and Cross Chop Smeargle in all even-shield scenarios.
Fast moves worth pairing with Flying Press can behave in unexpected ways on Smeargle. Smeargle is an unusually bulky Pokémon, with a more defensive stat distribution than Bastiodon. Smeargle's Defense stat is roughly double its Attack stat, which causes damage in the mirror to be scaled down, and has some unusual effects on its fast moves. This is how the damage per turn (DPT) and energy per turn (EPT) of a few of the stronger fast moves behave in the mirror:
1 DPT, 5 EPT (1 damage per move, 5 energy per move, 1 turn duration)
2.5 DPT, 3.5 EPT (5 damage per move, 7 energy per move, 2 turn duration)
Thunder Shock/Mud Shot/Psycho Cut
1 DPT, 4.5 EPT (2 damage per move, 9 energy per move, 2 turn duration)
1.5 DPT, 4 EPT (3 damage per move, 8 energy per move, 2 turn duration)
1.25 DPT, 4 EPT (5 damage per move, 16 energy per move, 4 turn duration)
1.2 DPT, 4 EPT (6 damage per move, 20 energy per move, 5 turn duration)
Vine Whip/Powder Snow
1 DPT, 4 EPT (2 damage per move, 8 energy per move, 2 turn duration)
2 DPT, 3 EPT (2 damage per move, 3 energy per move, 1 turn duration)
Water Gun/Bug Bite
2 DPT, 3 EPT (2 damage per move, 3 energy per move, 1 turn duration)
One notable effect is Lock On cannot do less than 1 damage per turn, despite the bulky matchup, making this move abnormally good on Smeargle. It performs similarly to Counter in the mirror match, trading off 1.5 DPT for 1.5 EPT. Even though charged move damage is also scaled down, super effective Flying Press has sufficiently high DPE for this to be an acceptable tradeoff. Lock On Smeargle often beat Counter Smeargle as a result. Other fast moves are generally inferior, though Thunder Shock has a notable win over Counter in the one-shield scenario between level 51 Smeargle, because Counter ends up wasting energy in this scenario.
Thunder Shock has the advantage of being easy to obtain. Pikachu Libre can learn Thunder Shock and Flying Press via regular TMs, so this moveset can be guaranteed on Smeargle. Even players who never got a Pikachu Libre can photobomb the moveset from a traded Smeargle that has the Libre’s set. Combining Flying Press with other fast moves requires finding a Pokémon with the desired fast move, with Return or Frustration as the charged move, and then praying for luck that the game rolls Flying Press out of over 150 charged moves. Pikachu Libre's set isn't quite optimal in Smeargle mirrors, but it's very good while being easy to obtain. Of course if a friend of yours has landed on the coveted Lock On and Flying Press set, they could photobomb it onto another Smeargle and trade that to you for you to photobomb.
Smeargle Cup, no Fighting moves
Optimal charged move: Techno Blast (Normal)
Strong charged moves: Frenzy Plant, Body Slam, Icy Wind, Lunge, Flame Charge, Skull Bash
Optimal fast move: Lock On
Strong fast moves: Thunder Shock, Mud Shot, Psycho Cut, Dragon Breath, Volt Switch, Incinerate, Vine Whip, Powder Snow
Easy to obtain combinations:
Lock On and Tri Attack (Porygon2)
Dragon Breath and Body Slam (Zweilous)
Mud Shot and Body Slam (Poliwag or Gible, with Thunder Shock variant from Mareep, and Psycho Cut from Galarian Rapidash)
Thunder Shock or Volt Switch, and Skull Bash or Wild Charge (Raichu)
Psycho Cut and Icy Wind (Spinda)
Volt Switch and Lunge (Galvantula)
Incinerate and Flame Charge (Talonflame)
Powder Snow and Body Slam (Sealeo)
Vine Whip and Frenzy Plant (Venusaur, Meganium, Serperior)
Lock On and Stone Edge (Regirock)
Mud Shot and Hydro Cannon (Swampert)
Water Gun and Hydro Cannon (Swampert or Blastoise)
The underground Smeargle cult can be surprisingly diverse, and a common cup variant is to ban Fighting moves to diversify the move types being used. In this format, Smeargle is looking for moves that generally perform well in neutral matchups. Flying Press did qualify as one of these, but is obviously banned. The highest DPE move Smeargle can learn is Techno Blast (Normal), with STAB taking its already exceptional DPE well beyond any other move.
Techno Blast (Normal) has the small downside of being slower to charge than many other moves, but it still usually performs strongest in the mirror, especially between higher level Smeargle. It also has the larger downside that no Pokémon currently learns it, so it can only be obtained by photobombing a Pokémon with a desirable fast move and Return or Frustration as the charged move, while praying for Techno Blast. If you’re unable to obtain one, you might consider some of the move options below, and even if you do get lucky enough, a tournament banning duplicate moves might force you to consider these anyway.
The following charged moves perform similarly in Smeargle mirrors, with advantages shifting depending on shield scenario and fast move:
Frenzy Plant (exceptional DPE)
Body Slam (high DPE, fast speed)
Tri Attack (moderate DPE, chance of double debuff)
Icy Wind/Lunge (low DPE, guaranteed debuff)
Flame Charge (low DPE, guaranteed buff)
Skull Bash (slow speed, high DPE, guaranteed buff)
Flame Charge performs a bit worse than Icy Wind/Lunge in default sims because the stat changes accumulate slightly slower, but it has the advantage that the opponent can't switch to clear the stat changes. You, on the other hand, can generally stay in to maintain your Attack boosts because the worst they can do is switch to another Smeargle. Tri Attack has higher DPE than these three moves due to STAB, and debuffs two stats rather than one, but only has a 50% chance of a debuff each move. Skull Bash is an interesting option. It has low consistency due to its high energy cost, but is extremely effective when charged due to its high STAB DPE and its bonus Defense boost. The performance of Skull Bash can vary depending on the levels of the Smeargle and the user’s fast move, because it wants to take off an efficient proportion of the opponent’s health with each charged move and not to die with wasted energy. Leaf Blade is a similar option to Body Slam, but does marginally less damage due to not getting STAB. Same applies to Hydro Cannon, which is also slightly slower to charge. Wild Charge attaches a detrimental debuff to Frenzy Plant’s parameters, but is easy to pair with Thunder Shock.
Pairing these charged moves with an ideal fast move is easier in some cases than others. As seen in the previous section, Lock On is an excellent fast move. Counter is no longer eligible with Fighting moves banned, so Lock On is the strongest option in most situations. Porygon2's Tri Attack is the obvious move to pair with Lock On because other moves are much harder to obtain. Tri Attack performs better if the opponent can’t switch out.
Dragon Breath also performs well. With Fighting moves no longer eligible, charged moves generally do less than 1 DPE to the bulky Smeargle, making one unit of fast move damage slightly more valuable than one unit of energy generation. Furthermore, Dragon Breath’s one turn duration benefits the amount of damage it does, performing noticeably better than Confusion or Gust. Water Gun and Bug Bite generally perform the same as Dragon Breath, dealing the same 2 damage per move. Smeargle users have to watch out with these two moves because there is a bulkpoint against them that can be relevant under lower CP caps. If both Smeargle have defensive IVs, the damage dealt per fast move can drop from 2 to 1, which causes a big drop in the performance of these moves. This will also occur after a Lunge or Icy Wind debuff. Dragon Breath doesn't have to worry about this bulkpoint. Thunder Shock, Psycho Cut, and Mud Shot continue to have good performance, though they have to worry about a similar bulkpoint. Their damage can also drop from 2 to 1, which lowers their DPT as low as 0.5 given their 2 turn duration. Vine Whip and Powder Snow are inferior to the Thunder Shock clones unless the opponent meets the TS bulkpoint. Then Vine Whip and Powder Snow are generally better. Shadow Claw, another renowned fast move, doesn’t perform well against Smeargle due to the resistance.
If the Smeargle cup in which you are participating has rules on unique movesets, you might want to collect a variety of these moves. For example, Psycho Cut and Icy Wind is easily obtainable from Spinda, Dragon Breath and Body Slam from Zweilous, Incinerate and Flame Charge from Talonflame, and Thunder Shock or Volt Switch and Skull Bash or Wild Charge from Raichu. These are easy ways to field three Smeargle with unique moves in a battle.
A tournament with these very restrictions, with an additional 300 CP cap, is being run on May 5th by Alfindeol and NHoff, to follow up the game's Smeargle snapshot event. If you're interested in making use of your new Smeargle collection, make sure to check it out here.
500 CP Cup
Similar movesets to Smeargle Cup, because Smeargle is possibly the most dangerous thing
Anti-Wobbuffet/Wynaut set: Lock On or Shadow Claw, and Shadow Ball (easy to obtain from Haunter/Gengar/Giratina-Origin)
Other options: Techno Blast (Normal), Payback
Easier to obtain ways of beating Bronzor: Incinerate and Flame Charge (from Talonflame), Shadow Claw and Flame Charge (from Mew), Counter and Blast Burn (from Blaziken)
For Smeargle to be eligible, a 500 CP cup can't be restricted to only the first Pokémon in an evolutionary line, like the Little Cup was. This sort of 500 CP cup would also permit Shuckle and Wobbuffet. Smeargle has the potential to be even more broken than Bronzor in this format. Smeargle’s maximum CP at level 51 is almost made for the format, reaching 493. It’s not quite as bulky as Shuckle, Wobbuffet, or Bronzor, but is able to learn better moves than any of them.
Bronzor remains a top threat, but Smeargle’s exceptional moves let it overpower Bronzor in a neutral matchup: Lock On and Flying Press are enough to win without needing super effective moves. As mentioned in the first section, Lock On performs unusually well in bulky matchups, and that continues to be the case here. This set also beats Shuckle, and, as previously mentioned, is ideal against other Smeargle. However it fails to beat Wobbuffet and Wynaut. Their exceptional bulk and super effective Counter is hard for Smeargle to overcome even with super effective moves. Shadow Ball (still with Lock On, or Shadow Claw as another option) gives Smeargle the best chance, though doesn’t win the matchups very reliably. Shadow Ball still performs well against Bronzor and Shuckle, though it performs terribly in Smeargle mirrors. Techno Blast (Normal) and Payback are other moves that can sometimes flip Wobbuffet or Wynaut. Both perform less badly than Shadow Ball against Smeargle (though still lose to Flying Press). Techno Blast moreso than Payback, however Techno Blast does worse against Bronzor and Shuckle.
It should be noted Smeargle with slightly suboptimal moves can struggle more against Bronzor. Thunder Shock and Flying Press doesn’t match Lock On’s win. If playing in this format without access to Lock On and Flying Press, you might consider moves more specialized against Bronzor. Especially strong performing charged moves are Weather Ball (Fire), Flame Charge, and Blast Burn. Among fast moves, Shadow Claw and Incinerate are some of the stronger options. Of course, combining some of these is just as hard as getting Lock On with Flying Press, so using Talonflame to combine Flame Charge and Incinerate is an easy to obtain way to beat Bronzor. Flame Charge and Shadow Claw from Mew (if you have one prepared), and Counter and Blast Burn from Blaziken are other options. Counter performs worse against Wobbuffet in exchange for better performance against other Smeargle. In this format, Counter could be easily paired with other strong moves such as Body Slam or Leaf Blade, but these are resisted by Bronzor while not doing super effective damage to any of Smeargle, Wobbuffet/Wynaut, or Shuckle.
Useful moveset: Lock On + a 35 energy cost charged move
One final use case for Smeargle is against NPCs such as Rockets. NPCs pause after switches and charged moves, which can be exploited to reduce the damage you receive. Smeargle is the only Pokémon that can combine the fast move with the highest energy generation, Lock On, with charged moves with the lowest energy costs. NPCs pause for 4 turns after a charged move is used. In addition, their fast move damage registers on its last turn, and this damage doesn't apply if interrupted by a charged move (unlike in PvP battles). An NPC using a fast move four turns long, such as Confusion or Volt Switch, allows the Smeargle to get in 7 turns of fast move before throwing a charged move, without taking any damage. Seven Lock Ons is enough to fully charge a 35 energy charged move. This means an NPC with the right fast moves can be made completely immobile against Smeargle and do no damage to it. It can make Smeargle extremely useful in low CP Rocket challenges. Any 35 energy move is suitable, though one that does super effective damage to the target is especially useful, such as Night Slash against Psychic Pokémon that can learn Confusion. Night Slash also comes with the chance of an Attack boost to make beating the rocket easier.
If you’re enough of a Smeargle fanatic to make it this far, hopefully the article has helped sift through your move options. For a graphical summary of move targets, make sure to check out PvPoke’s graphic too. Good luck finding that shiny Lock On and Flying Press Smeargle, and remember to make copies of it to trade to your friends!