The incredible beast known as Moltres has waited its turn and now eagerly preys on the souls of many players, as its power cannot be matched. Its dominance over the metagame is felt by many, and most teams have burned at the hand of Moltres. While Moltres always had the mighty Fire Blast to pulverize opponents with, it now has a shiny new toy to play with: Hurricane. Hurricane is a welcome upgrade over Air Slash, allowing Moltres to break through what was once arguably its best counter in Slowking with two Life Orb-boosted Hurricanes being a guaranteed 2HKO after Stealth Rock damage. Moltres is one of the best wallbreakers in the metagame now, as it has very few defensive checks and can beat nearly all of the metagame's prominent defensive cores, including the Tangrowth + Slowking Regenerator core. However, this isn't as important as it once was because the core is dropping in popularity, due to new threats such as Durant, Escavalier, and of course our beloved Moltres. Moltres doesn't necessarily struggle against offensive teams either, as it boasts a base 90 Speed stat, which is pretty fast by RU standards.
If all of this is true, then why hasn't Moltres been banned? First and foremost, Moltres's most crippling flaw comes with its typing; being 4x weak to Stealth Rock does it no favors. This means that Moltres must always be used alongside a spinner, and the pickings of effective spinners are rather slim in the metagame. While Cryogonal and Kabutops boast the ability to beat nearly all of the prominent spinblockers in the metagame, Pokemon such as Hitmonchan and Hitmonlee are not nearly as reliable and can be responsible for Moltres's premature death. Moltres can also be revenge killed quite easily, since Hidden Power Rock is common among fast special attackers such as Sceptile, Accelgor, and Typhlosion, and priority moves such as Aqua Jet and Sucker Punch are prominent in the metagame as well. Moltres also suffers from Hurricane's extreme unreliability, since it's almost a coin flip to see if Moltres will hit two of them in a row. Nevertheless, Moltres is stupidly good at what it does, and it was almost singlehandedly responsible in Slowking's rise to fame as well as Lanturn's, and it is a top-tier threat that must be handled in some way before it's allowed to rampage through your team.
Through metagame shifts and BW2, Moltres's standard set has remained mostly the same. Moltres is most commonly seen using a Life Orb to take advantage of its awesome power and coverage, making it very difficult to directly counter. Fire Blast is the primary STAB move of the set, and is preferred over Hurricane most of the time because Fire-type attacks have better coverage in RU, hitting special walls such as Roselia and Cryogonal super effectively. However, Hurricane is still very useful, as most notably it grants Moltres a way to 2HKO Slowking after Stealth Rock. This allows Moltres to singlehandedly beat the Tangrowth + Slowking Regenerator core with a single move, although this was more important in a past metagame. Hurricane is also useful for Dragon-types such as Druddigon and Fraxure, as well as Fire-types such as Entei, Magmortar, and opposing Moltres. Don't count on it too much though, as it has been known to let you down with its poor accuracy.
While Moltres's two STAB moves are usually set in stone, its third move most certainly isn't. Hidden Power Grass and Substitute are both very good options, with the former being more threatening to stall, and the latter being more threatening to offense. Hidden Power Grass is useful for hitting the Pokemon that resist both Fire Blast and Hurricane, such as Lanturn, Kabutops, and Rhydon. Lanturn is typically a tough nut to crack, but can be beaten with multiple Hidden Power Grasses and the help of some entry hazards. On the other hand, Substitute allows Moltres to combat two of its biggest problems: status and revenge killers. While Moltres can set up a Substitute easily against most Fighting-types, Tangrowth, and Roselia as it forces them out, it is significantly worse against stall teams, since Lanturn becomes untouchable and Slowking has a lower chance to get 2HKOed by Hurricane due to the extra turn of Leftovers recovery. It is very rare to see a stall team without one of these two Pokemon. The reason that Moltres can feasibly run Substitute is the power of Hurricane; Kabutops and offensive Omastar are 2HKOed by it, and Rhydon that didn't invest heavily in Special Defense were already 2HKOed by Fire Blast. That being said, Hidden Power Grass will be sorely missed for its perfect accuracy.
Roost is really the only option in the last slot, although Moltres hardly needs a fourth move to wreak havoc. Nevertheless, Roost is useful for healing damage taken from Stealth Rock, allowing you to brace for another switch-in if your spinner is dead, or if Moltres happens to be brought in via a phazing move. It also comes in handy against the likes of Absol and Spiritomb, as they must use Sucker Punch to KO Moltres or else they die to Fire Blast. If running Substitute, Roost is even more important, because while Hidden Power Grass variants tend to come in and smash things, Substitute variants use Substitute first and then smash things, and Roost is needed a lot earlier.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While Moltres already carries immense power, it can obliterate everything in sight when equipped with Choice Specs. Choice Specs Moltres is one of the best wallbreakers in the tier, and is even better than it was before because of Hurricane. Defensive threats that used to be able to check Moltres, such as Lanturn and Clefable, don't stand a chance against this set. It's an effective lure as well, luring in the aforementioned special walls as well as Slowking, and 2HKOing all of them with the appropriate move. This set has very few safe switch-ins, but it is significantly easier to play around because of its lack of Roost. To demonstrate the destruction that Moltres is capable of causing, here are some damage calculations:
Fire Blast is the move that will see the most use, if only for its superior accuracy compared to Hurricane. It gets better neutral coverage overall as well, hitting the many Grass-types in RU as well as Cryogonal especially hard. Hurricane is another wildly powerful STAB move that hits a lot of the Pokemon that resist Fire Blast, with the most notable examples being Slowking, Entei, and Feraligatr. It is also useful to eliminate the need for prediction in certain instances such as when facing a Tangrowth + Slowking Regenerator core. While your opponent will most likely switch out of Tangrowth into Slowking, you don't have to make a choice of which move to use since Hurricane does as much damage to Tangrowth as Fire Blast does, but Slowking is hit much harder by Hurricane. Hidden Power Grass rounds out Moltres's coverage, hitting the Rock-types and Lanturn that resist both of its STABs. Hidden Power Grass can 2HKO Lanturn with Stealth Rock support, and is a guaranteed OHKO on most variants of Rhydon, as well as Kabutops. While the last slot is mostly filler as Moltres can accomplish its goal with three moves, U-turn is the best option, since it can keep momentum against stall or balanced teams and can take advantage of hazards.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Moltres can also use a more defensive set effectively. This set takes advantage of Moltres's handy resistances as well as Pressure to be an effective Toxic staller. With Pressure, Moltres can stall out low-PP moves such as Stone Edge, as well as Electric-type moves such as Thunderbolt. Moltres is fast for a defensive Pokemon, so it is easily able to stall out the likes of Entei and Magmortar, even though they carry threatening moves. Only Poison-types, such as Qwilfish and Drapion, can switch in freely without fear of Toxic, since bulky Water-types that would switch in to resist Moltres's Fire-type attack would be crippled by Toxic, while Steel-types that hope to avoid Toxic are wrecked by Flamethrower. Not only can Moltres spread Toxic around your opponent's team, it is also very capable of stalling out the damage using the combination of Substitute and Roost. What makes Moltres so effective as a Toxic staller is its Fire typing that can be used to obliterate Steel-types such as Escavalier and Steelix. This set is especially effective against balanced teams, since walls are stalled out, and offensive Pokemon don't want to switch in for fear of Toxic.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Moltres has a few other options that it can use, but none of them are as effective as the sets listed above. Atop the list is a Sunny Day set, with Fire Blast and SolarBeam both taking advantage of the sun's effects and Roost being used to ensure longevity. While this is a decent set that can be used to lure in and beat Slowking and Lanturn, Typhlosion usually does this better due to its higher Speed, allowing it to beat more offensive threats. While it might seem appealing to give Moltres a Choice Scarf to allow it to outspeed the entire unboosted tier, this is a really bad idea, because Choice Scarf users tend to switch in and out a lot, which isn't the greatest idea when your revenge killer is 4x weak to Stealth Rock. Overheat is Moltres's most powerful STAB move, but is generally inferior to Fire Blast since Moltres gets pretty much all the KOs it needs, and two Fire Blasts will do more damage than two Overheats. Both Flame Charge and Agility can be used to boost Moltres's Speed, with the latter being superior for its ability to outspeed every common Choice Scarf user after a single boost. Morning Sun is another healing move that Moltres has access to, and can be good if you don't want Moltres to lose its Flying typing while healing. Roar can also be used on more defensive sets, although it isn't as useful as some of Moltres's other moves and can't really find a place on any set. Moltres also has a decent Attack stat that it can make use out of, but lacks any good STAB moves. Its only option to use its Attack would likely be a Choice Band set using Double-Edge, U-turn, and other less useful moves.
Checks and Counters
Lanturn is the best all-purpose counter to Moltres, as it can easily take multiple Fire Blasts and Hurricanes before retaliating with Thunderbolt, Thunder Wave, or Scald. However, with hazards on the field Moltres can power through it with consecutive Hidden Power Grasses. Even the defensive set is beaten by RestTalk Lanturn, which is probably the most well-equipped Lanturn set to handle Moltres throughout the match. While Slowking can no longer be classified as a counter, it is Moltres's best common check, only fearing two Hurricanes after Stealth Rock. Slowking can still force it out, or else Moltres will be crippled by Thunder Wave or Toxic, and be slowly worn down by Scald.
While Hurricane has made Moltres a bit harder to directly counter, it can still be checked easily by a number of things. One of the best checks to Moltres is the ever-present Stealth Rock, costing Moltres half its health upon switching in. Steelix, Uxie, Rhydon, and Aerodactyl are all common users of Stealth Rock. There are many fast specially attacking Electric-types in the RU metagame; Galvantula, Manectric, Rotom, and Choice Scarf Rotom-C are all adept at revenge killing Moltres. However, Manectric and Rotom-C need to use Thunderbolt to ensure the KO without a boosting item, and Rotom needs a Life Orb to KO Moltres with Thunderbolt. Other fast special attackers, such as Accelgor, Sceptile, and Typhlosion, can all use Hidden Power Rock effectively, KOing Moltres without a second thought. Primeape and Hitmonlee can run Stone Edge to deal with Moltres; while Primeape naturally outspeeds Moltres, Hitmonlee can utilize a Normal Gem-boosted Fake Out to activate Unburden, giving Hitmonlee the Speed it needs to outrun Moltres. Entei and Magmortar are also decent checks despite being slower than Moltres, since Entei has no chance to get KOed by a Life Orb Hurricane at full health, while Magmortar only has a small chance. They can both KO back with Stone Edge and Thunderbolt, respectively. Aerodactyl and Archeops both outspeed Moltres and happen to resist its STAB moves, and they can swiftly end it with Stone Edge. Moltres is also vulnerable to common priority, with Aqua Jet users, such as Feraligatr and Kabutops, and Sucker Punch users, such as Absol and Spiritomb, threatening it. However, Moltres will only be KOed after Stealth Rock, and can avoid Sucker Punch through the use of Roost.
Moltres also has some shakier defensive checks, too. Clefable and Mandibuzz are the first ones that come to mind, and both can hit Moltres with a timely Toxic to keep it from sweeping the rest of their team. However, Clefable can be 2HKOed by Life Orb Fire Blast, and needs to be in tiptop shape to take on Moltres. Mandibuzz can take its hits well, but not well enough that Moltres can't easily 2HKO it after Stealth Rock. There are also some less common defensive checks to Moltres, including Flareon, Altaria, Lickilicky, and specially defensive Regirock. Flareon and Altaria suffer from the same fate as Mandibuzz, since while they are bulky and resist Fire Blast, they are hit equally hard by Hurricane and aren't bulky enough to avoid the 2HKO after Stealth Rock. Lickilicky and Regirock are both solid, but as always repeated powerful attacks will bring them down. Lickilicky has semi-reliable recovery in Wish, and can hit Moltres with Toxic or Thunder Wave, and Regirock can destroy Moltres with its STAB moves.
Moltres receives Flame Body from the Dream World, and it's a pretty good ability. It will be the ability of choice on all offensive sets, as being able to burn Medicham or Escavalier can be handy. However, Pressure will still be the preferred ability on the defensive SubRoost set, as stalling out Stone Edge or Thunderbolt is an integral part of the set.