Sableye has been wreaking havoc on Pokemon Unite since its introduction last November. Its kit of abilities make it a sneaky, slippery invader that is impossible to deal with. Unite streamer Spragels explained the problem with Sableye in depth in a recent video. Its passive Prankster ability allows it to invade the enemy jungle faster than any other Pokemon, and its high burst potential gives it the power to steal farm, objectives, and even secure kills quickly, before disappearing again and escaping without consequence.
There are other sneaky/bursty Pokemon in Unite, like Gengar, but none of them have as much utility as Sableye thanks to its speed, stealth, and ability to fear enemies with basic attacks. Sableye simply has too much free reign to terrorize the enemy team, and having to deal with its antics is making the game more frustrating to play.
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Sableye has a long history of ruining Pokemon games. At the end of the Diamond & Pearl generation, a Sableye card was introduced to the Pokemon TCG that caused a lot of problems for the game. This card had a unique ability called Overeager that allowed players to override the coin flip that normally determined turn order. As long as Sableye was your active Pokemon at the start of the game, you automatically went first. Back then, the Pokemon TCG rules allowed players to attack on the first turn, so you can imagine how this rule-breaking Pokemon could cause some major mischief.
YouTuber Celio’s Network went into the history of Sableye’s reign of terror over the TCG, which began somewhat inconspicuously, but became game-breaking once certain combo pieces were introduced. The worst thing that can happen in a card game is someone winning before their opponent gets a chance to take a turn, which is exactly what Sableye allowed. In Summer 2011, just weeks before the National Championships, the Play Pokemon organization took the unprecedented action of rotating out all of the Diamond & Pearl era cards that were currently in Standard, just to deal with Sableye.
There was even a time when Sableye dominated in the competitive video game circuit. False Swipe Gaming breaks down the history of Sableye in its video How Good Was Sableye Actually? and explains that, though Sableye didn’t make much of an impact when it was first introduced, it eventually created some seriously unbalanced matchups later on.
Starting in Gen 3, Sableye didn’t have particularly strong stats or a niche that made it viable in competitive, even with its weakness-free Ghost/Dark typing. It got more use starting in Gen 5 thanks to its Prankster ability, but it wasn’t until Gen 6’s Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire when Sableye got its Mega Evolution that it finally became a real threat in competitive. The ability Magic Bounce allowed it to reflect status moves back at the attacker, meaning it countered hazards – something that was and still is a powerful tool in competitive Pokemon. Sableye became the star of highly defensive stall-focused teams, and was so difficult to deal with that it was eventually banned from the standard format, OU, on the popular Pokemon battling site Smogon.
No matter the game, Sableye has always been a menace. While competitive Unite players will be able to deal with Sableye the way it had to be dealt with in other games – by banning it – non-competitive players don’t have that same luxury. Until a pick/ban phase is introduced to the ranked ladder, Unite players are going to have to deal with pesky Sableye’s invading their jungles and being a nuisance. Hopefully, Unite’s developers can find a way to balance the Pokemon before it scares everyone away.