Meet the bird of honor, Empoleon. It possesses the typing, stats, and movepool it needs to succeed as a special wall. For a bulky Water-type, Scald is standard fare; however, Empoleon also has access to Stealth Rock, giving it a niche among bulky Water-types. Its typing goes a long way offensively as well, making it an excellent pivot and setup sweeper. An above average Special Attack stat and powerful attacks, such as Hydro Pump and Ice Beam, give Empoleon the tools it needs to succeed on an offensive front. Unfortunately, it is slow and is outsped by common Choice Scarf users, such as Terrakion and Landorus, even after an Agility boost. Weaknesses to common Ground-, Fighting-, and Electric-type attacks do it no favors, and unlike most bulky Water-types, it takes neutral damage from Fire-type attacks. Despite these setbacks, Empoleon has many positive attributes, which it can abuse to become one of the great kings of the deep sea.
As previously mentioned, Empoleon has a sizable Special Attack stat that it can put to good use with a Choice Specs set. This set takes advantage of everything that Empoleon can do, and is not outclassed by other Water-type special attackers, such as Keldeo, thanks to its Steel typing and stellar defenses. On the topic of its Steel typing, it grants Empoleon numerous opportunities to switch in thanks to its many resistances. This makes Empoleon one of the best pivots around, as one can simply switch it in on any resisted attack and launch a powerful Hydro Pump. Fear not if Empoleon gets worn down, as Torrent will make it even more of a threat, boosting the power of Empoleon's STAB Water-type attacks when it is low on health. Its immunity to Toxic prevents the Gastrodon and Vaporeon of the world from stalling it out, which is a huge advantage over other Water-type attackers. Additionally, Empoleon obtains lots of momentum by forcing its opposition out, which can be a deciding factor in many battles.
The attacks on this set are very straightforward; Hydro Pump is the powerful STAB move of choice, powering through all but the bulkiest of resists and the pink blobs, Chansey and Blissey. Its damage output is low when compared to the monstrous Keldeo, but it is still extraordinarily powerful and makes almost all Pokemon pay the price if they switch in to it. Ice Beam occupies the second moveslot and provides much-needed coverage on Dragon- and Grass-type Pokemon, especially important for the former because Empoleon makes an excellent switch-in to their primary STAB attacks. A choice of Grass-type move is then presented so that Empoleon can get past its Water-type brethren; Grass Knot hits Jellicent and Politoed harder, but Hidden Power Grass hits Rotom-W, Gastrodon, and Vaporeon harder. The choice is yours, though it should be noted that if anything besides a Water-type switches in, in most cases Grass Knot will do more damage, making it the preferred choice. Lastly, Surf is there mainly as filler, but is quite useful if you want to hit hard with a STAB move but at the same time have perfect accuracy for when it is undesirable to miss.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Nostalgia fans, meet DPP Empoleon, BW style. It's barely changed since last generation, with the same playstyle and the same potential devastation that it can cause if played correctly. History aside, this set has a very straightforward setup process: switch in on one of Empoleon's numerous resistances, set up three Substitutes and obtain a +1 boost courtesy of its Petaya Berry, set up an Agility at some point during this time, and proceed to smash apart its opposition. By the end of this process, it hits like a nuke and outspeeds +1 Dragonite. In short, over the course of a relatively simple 4 to 5 turns, Empoleon is ready to go.
The attacks on this set are relatively simple—Surf is powerful enough after a Petaya Berry boost and rain, and one Hydro Pump miss could doom Empoleon because of the low amount of health required to activate its item. Additionally, it will be Torrent-boosted as well in Petaya Berry range, so rest assured Surf hits more than hard enough. The choice of coverage move mainly depends on what Empoleon's teammates can KO; Ice Beam hits Dragon- and Grass-types super effectively, such as Dragonite, Celebi, Latios, Latias, and Venusaur, and hits Toxicroak for neutral damage. Alternatively, Grass Knot can be used to hit Jellicent, Gyarados, Kingdra, Politoed, and Gastrodon hard, but outside of those immune to Surf, Surf does more than enough damage in rain, rendering Grass Knot an inferior option. For an exact Base Power, resisted Surf in rain with a Torrent boost has 160 Base Power, which is more than adequate to hit these Pokemon.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While Empoleon's other sets are based on showcasing its offensive capabilities, this set takes advantage of its excellent defensive typing to make a solid special wall. Empoleon's unique Steel typing among bulky Water-types gives it the capacity to switch into powerful special attacks such as Draco Meteor, Hydro Pump, Hurricane, and Blizzard. Its typing also gives it resistances to both of Scizor's STAB moves, making it an excellent check to the infernal metal bug. Unlike its bulky Water-type brethren, it is immune to Toxic, the bane of Gastrodon and Jellicent.
Scald is an incredibly useful tool for Empoleon, giving it the ability to take on strong physical attackers due to its high burn chance. Thanks to STAB, it prevents frail sweepers, such as Gengar and Alakazam, from taking their sweet time to set up on Empoleon. Protect enables Empoleon to scout for super effective attacks, such as Rotom-W's Volt Switch, as well as providing an extra turn of Leftovers recovery, which helps compensate for its lack of reliable recovery, and racking up Toxic damage. Speaking of Toxic, it allows Empoleon to beat opposing bulky Water-types and wears down Life Orb sweepers, especially when combined with sandstorm damage, very quickly. It is also a huge help against Substitute + Calm Mind Latias. Alternatively, Roar can be used to prevent Calm Mind Reuniclus and Latias from using Empoleon as setup fodder, while also spreading entry hazard damage. Ice Beam is a viable option over Protect to aid in the defeat of Dragonite and Salamence, both having their primary STAB resisted by Empoleon. Last up is the ace in the hole, Stealth Rock. Give me one bulky Water-type that has Stealth Rock. If you can name one, I can guarantee that it has no place on that Pokemon's moveset. With Empoleon, this is not the case, as it is not cramped for moveslots and has numerous opportunities to set up Stealth Rock.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
When wielding a Choice Scarf, Empoleon outspeeds all of unboosted OU below Starmie, but it is straight up outclassed by Keldeo and is pretty weak as well. A Swords Dance set is possible, with attacks such as Earthquake, Aqua Jet, Waterfall, Drill Peck, Return, and Avalanche being viable offensive options; however, base 86 Attack is disappointing and Empoleon cannot break through physical walls without rain and heavy entry hazard support. Gyarados and Feraligatr outclass it, making it even less desirable. Rain Dance could see use to support a rain team and to become a more self-sufficient sweeper, but the loss of valuable coverage or a setup move makes it difficult to find room for. Blizzard should be used over Ice Beam if you have hail support. Defiant, Empoleon's Dream World ability, might seem viable, but in reality Empoleon's inability to use its mediocre Attack stat well makes it inferior to Torrent, which provides a more useful boost to Empoleon's primary STAB. Flash Cannon should be mentioned in passing, as while it is a STAB move it lacks any additional coverage. Wrapping up, an Agility + 3 attacks set is very viable for the extra coverage move, and although it lacks protection from priority and a power boost, this is made up for by the ability to handle a wider variety of threats.
Checks and Counters
While it is very threatening, Empoleon does have its hard counters. Ferrothorn is the best one, as although boosted Ice Beams do a decent amount, even SubPetaya will not win, as Leech Seed can catch it off guard while it sets up Agility and Power Whip breaks its Substitutes. Blissey and Chansey, have extraordinary special bulk that allows them to check offensive sets, but their vulnerability to Toxic makes them unreliable against defensive variants and SubPetaya with Toxic Spikes support. Rotom-W is a decent answer to Empoleon, resisting its STAB, Ice Beam, and taking little damage from Grass Knot due to its low weight, but it must be wary of Hidden Power Grass or Choice Specs boosted Hydro Pump. It can retaliate with STAB Volt Switch or Thunderbolt. Bulky Water-types in general do well against offensive variants of Empoleon, though Empoleon's immunity to Toxic means that only those running super effective attacks, such as Hidden Power Electric Vaporeon, can actually kill it; otherwise they must rely on the slow, painful process of wearing it down with burns from Scald. However, depending on Empoleon's choice of Grass-type move, they might be taken down as well.
Moving on from the more reliable responses to Empoleon, there are quite a few ways to check it. Trappers, more specifically Dugtrio and Magnezone, outspeed, make Empoleon unable to switch out, and have super effective STAB moves which they can utilize to KO it. However, they cannot switch into Empoleon's STAB and are non-issues with an Agility boost. Thundurus-T can only switch in on Grass Knot or Hidden Power Grass, but its powerful STAB Thunder in rain fries Empoleon so completely that it turns back into a Piplup, with Modest Empoleon being unable to outspeed Choice Scarf variants at +2. Lastly, Technician Breloom's Mach Punch is an excellent check, as Breloom resists Empoleon's STAB and can use Bullet Seed on a predicted Substitute, as well as completely walling SubPetaya variants lacking Ice Beam. Generally, the best way to beat Empoleon is to exploit its low Speed stat and rather unfortunate set of weaknesses; stopping its momentum will condemn it to the sea, unable to rise ever again.