A three legged dog walks into a bar and says, "I wanna know the guy who shot my paw."
Ok, bad joke. And a terrible thing to lead with for this article. Speaking of leads...
In Pokémon it is imperative to get off on the right foot. A slow start can be debilitating and cost you the match. That's what a good lead Pokémon should prevent. Leads come in many varieties, and this week I'll highlight a few.
Chapter 1: Hazard Leads, Or: Wait, How Can Rocks Be Stealthy?
The hazard lead, alternatively called the spiker lead, is a tried and true method that essentially serves to survive as many hits as possible while setting up entry hazards. I'm sure you are all familiar with these leads. Ferrothorn, Forretress are two examples. Skarmory can work wonders in this niche as well. All you need to do is set up hazards and then fight until you drop, then come in with something else to revenge kill.
Unfortunately, things don't always go according to plan. Even the bulkiest of leads can be taken out before it is able to set up a substantial amount of hazards. One flamethrower from a decently powerful Pokémon can take out Ferrothorn in one shot. A thunderbolt with a little kick behind it can take out your Skarmory.
Chapter 2: Sacrificial Leads, Or: Kamikaze Kricketot
If the aforementioned faults of straightforward hazard leads leave you wary, consider sacrificial leads, sometimes referred to as suicide leads, are an interesting alternative. These Pokémon, generally fast entry hazard users with a focus sash and taunt, are designed to set up hazards while preventing the opponent from doing the same. Aerodactyl is arguably the best non-legendary to utilize this strategy (Deoxys-S is probably the best sacrificial lead in OU.) Here's Aerodactyl's usual set:
Aerodactyl @ Focus Sash
This way, Aerodactyl can taunt the first turn to prevent hazards from the opponent, set up rocks on turn two and survive with Focus Sash, ending its life span by attacking on turn three with whichever attack will do the most damage. Other Pokémon to consider for this category are Accelgor (who is crazy fast, but the only hazard he has access to is spikes, and doesn't have taunt), Frosslass (who also only has access to spikes, but has taunt, destiny bond, and ghost typing, which can block rapid spin), and Deoxys-S.
Chapter 3: Weather Leads, Or: Hallelujah, It's Raining...Rain.
This guys are pretty self explanitory. Autoweather leads are leads that set up weather effects for your team to take advantage of, usually executed through an autoweather ability but occasionally from activating moves like Rain Dance or Sunny Day. Weather leads can be extremely effective in giving your team the upperhand, which is really all you can ask for out of a lead.
The main negative to weather leads is that you don't have many options. If you are going for autoweather and not using legendaries, the only Pokémon you can use are Tyranitar, Hippowdon, Politoed, Abomasnow, or Ninetales. Sure, none of these Pokémon are "bad" per se, but you are definitely limited in your selection. This is especially true for hail, where your only autoweather option Abomasnow (or Snover), who has a four times weakness to fire, and six other two times weaknesses. Yikes!
Chapter 4: Offensive Leads, Or: A Good Offense is a Good Defense
Offensive leads are pretty simple. The idea is to be able to counter common threats, especially ones that people tend use as leads. Generally that means that you have a mixed sweeper with a moveset that covers a wide variety of types. Here is an example using Dragonite:
Dragonite @ Life Orb
There are a ton of lead options I didn't mention here. Feel free to comment if you thought of a strategy I didn't cover!