With a huge base 130 Attack and powerful STAB options in Sacred Fire (which carries an impressive 50% burn rate) and Brave Bird, Ho-Oh can easily put serious hurt on anything that dares to stand up to it. Regenerator increases Ho-Oh's durability, allowing Ho-Oh to function as a bulky pivot. Ho-Oh can even amp up its middling Speed with Flame Charge, potentially sweeping an entire weakened team with its immensely powerful STABs. Ho-Oh is one of the most dangerous sun based Pokemon in the game; even in rain, Ho-Oh still has a powerful Brave Bird to throw around, a move not even Kyogre will enjoy taking. Ho-Oh is not restricted to a specific weather archetype because it counters certain threats such as Fighting Arceus, Ghost Arceus, and sun teams, which often find themselves completely walled by Ho-Oh. 154 base Special Defense with 106 base HP gives Ho-Oh great special bulk and, when combined with Ho-Oh's good offenses and Sacred Fire's great burn chance, makes it an amazing offensive tank that has equal special bulk to Great Wall Lugia! Even with a crippling weakness to the common Stealth Rock, Ho-Oh's amazing qualities allow it to thrive in the hostile Uber metagame due to its combination of power and bulk. Unfortunately, Stealth Rock will continue to be Ho-Oh's biggest weakness even with access to Regenerator, as the rainbow bird despises losing 50% of its HP on every switch.
This Ho-Oh set shrugs off most non-super effective hits while replying with powerful attacks of its own. Unlike most walls, Ho-Oh packs a lot of power, so it can KO the opponent outright instead of relying on status or phazing moves. Thanks to Ho-Oh's great stat layout, it can wall most special attackers with just 248 HP EVs; most Calm Mind Arceus that lack a super effective attack to hit Ho-Oh with have little hope of breaking past it. This set also checks many other notable threats, such as Darkrai, Shaymin-S, Palkia, Reshiram, Latias, Genesect, Dialga, and Tornadus-T.
Sacred Fire and Brave Bird are the main attacks. Sacred Fire's solid burn rate deters switch-ins from the likes of Rayquaza and other powerful physical attackers hoping to take out Ho-Oh. Brave Bird is a powerful STAB move that can be easily thrown around in a tier where few common Pokemon resist Flying-type attacks, easily annihilating Kyogre, Palkia, and Reshiram. Roost lets Ho-Oh stall out defensive Groudon's Stone Edge, which becomes even easier when Groudon is burned with Sacred Fire. Although Roost makes Ho-Oh vulnerable to Earthquake, most users of the move are faster than Ho-Oh anyway, and Stone Edge from Groudon will still do more damage to a non-Roosting Ho-Oh than Earthquake to a Roosting one. Substitute gives Ho-Oh status protection and eases prediction; it can be set up easily because Ho-Oh frequently finds free turns due to the many Pokemon that can't touch it, such as Ferrothorn and Blissey.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Ho-Oh's greatest weakness has historically been Stealth Rock, which has dissuaded the use of Choice items on it. However, with Regenerator, Ho-Oh is able to switch in and out more freely, allowing it to wield the fearsome power of a Choice Band with far less risk. With a Choice Band, Ho-Oh becomes incredibly difficult to switch into; while a Life Orb also grants a comparable level of power, Choice Band's lack of recoil is appealing—even with Regenerator, Ho-Oh does not want to deal with additional passive damage when Stealth Rock is up. Choice Band-boosted Sacred Fire has amazing power in the sun, doing things such as OHKOing Arceus and Dialga after Stealth Rock and providing a comfortable 2HKO on physically defensive Groudon. It also ensures that Ho-Oh can take lead Deoxys-S down to its Focus Sash and—due to the chance of burn—limit Deoxys-S to one layer of hazards 47.5% of the time. Brave Bird is also incredibly powerful, OHKOing Kyogre and Palkia with no prior damage. It also 2HKOes Giratina-O, Forretress, and most physically defensive Arceus formes as well as a 2HKO on physically defensive Giratina with Stealth Rock and a layer of Spikes. Earthquake covers Tyranitar, Rock Arceus, Kabutops, Omastar, Heatran, and Dialga in rain. Sleep Talk allows Ho-Oh to be a relatively safe switch-in to Darkrai's dreaded Dark Void, while Punishment can be used to smash Calm Mind users weak to it, such as Ghost Arceus, Giratina-O, and Latias.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
One of Ho-Oh's biggest problems is usually its middling base 90 Speed, but this can be mitigated by using Flame Charge or Tailwind to boost its Speed to more acceptable levels. Sun support from Groudon is highly recommended to power up Ho-Oh's STAB Sacred Fire and Flame Charge and to remove Ho-Oh's weakness to Water-type attacks. Sun also reduces Thunder's accuracy to an unreliable 50%, which can be helpful because some threats rely on Thunder to take out Ho-Oh.
Flame Charge and Tailwind both have their own advantages. Flame Charge's Speed boost lasts until Ho-Oh switches out and allows Ho-Oh to soften up the foe with a light smack before going on the full offensive. It can also break Focus Sashes and Sturdy so that one of Ho-Oh's other attacks can KO on the next turn. Flame Charge is the more consistent option, as the boost stays until Ho-Oh switches out, and Ho-Oh can continue boosting its Speed till +6 with enough free turns. However, Tailwind offers a significantly higher initial Speed boost. For example, Ho-Oh requires a Jolly Nature and 252 Speed EVs just to Speed tie with positive natured base 90 Speed Pokemon that have a Choice Scarf. However, Ho-Oh can outrun max Speed base 108 Pokemon equipped with Choice Scarf while itself running a neutral nature and only 176 Speed EVs after a single use of Tailwind. Tailwind also benefits the entire team; if Ho-Oh needs to switch out, a counter to your opponent's Ho-Oh check can step in and perform a mini-sweep of its own using the boosted Speed granted by Tailwind. However, Tailwind only lasts three turns after being used, which means Ho-Oh cannot sweep for long when more than three faster threats are still around.
Sacred Fire is always the main attack Ho-Oh will be using, and when backed by STAB and sunlight, outright OHKOes many Pokemon in the Uber tier, such as Mewtwo, as well as at least 2HKOing anything that does not resist it. Brave Bird, Ho-Oh's other incredibly potent STAB move of choice, nails Kyogre, Reshiram, and Palkia for assured OHKOs after just Stealth Rock damage. Brave Bird also provides Ho-Oh with a very strong sweeping attack in case the weather is not in its favor, but the recoil can be huge depending on how much damage it does. Roost rounds out the set brilliantly, helping Ho-Oh recover damage incurred from Stealth Rock and Life Orb, as well possibly allowing it to gain multiple Flame Charge boosts or to set up Tailwind repeatedly. While this Ho-Oh is an excellent offensive Pokemon, the loss of bulk is pretty significant, so it can no longer wall more powerful threats such as Calm Mind Arceus and Reshiram as reliably because both +1 Judgment and Draco Meteor OHKO Ho-Oh after Stealth Rock damage. Weaker threats, such as Shaymin-S and Darkrai, can still be checked, though. Although Fire- and Flying-type STABs are a good combination, they leave Ho-Oh walled by Zekrom, Heatran (it needs Toxic or Hidden Power Rock to beat Ho-Oh one on one, however), and Rock-type Pokemon. Earthquake solves this problem by OHKOing Zekrom after it takes damage from Stealth Rock and one layer of Spikes, always OHKOing Heatran, and 2HKOing at worst all common Rock-type Pokemon. However, without Roost, Ho-Oh is extremely vulnerable to Stealth Rock, so solid Rapid Spin support is necessary with Earthquake.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While Tailwind and Flame Charge can boost Ho-Oh's Speed, those require a turn of setup. With a Choice Scarf, Ho-Oh becomes a great revenge killer and late-game cleaner with its powerful attacks and solid bulk. Although Ho-Oh does not outrun most opposing Choice Scarf users, it is still fast enough to outrun all Pokemon up to Mewtwo and positive-natured Deoxys-A if you choose to go with a Jolly nature.
Sacred Fire, even without a Life Orb boost, is still a ridiculously powerful attack in the sunlight that maims anything that does not resist it. Brave Bird also stands as a very powerful secondary STAB that 2HKOes almost all Kyogre and Palkia. Only Bold Kyogre has a chance of avoiding the 2HKO after Stealth Rock damage and Scald does not even OHKO Ho-Oh in return. Earthquake is there to cover Pokemon such as Zekrom, Terrakion, Heatran, Tyranitar, and Reshiram, as well as getting a harder hit on Dialga outside of sun. However, getting locked into Earthquake is risky due to the sheer number of Flying-types and Levitate Pokemon in the Uber environment, so exercise caution before going ahead with the attack. Punishment is chosen as the last move to KO set-up sweepers such as Calm Mind Mewtwo, Giratina-O, and Ghost Arceus. As Punishment increases in power as these Pokemon gain Calm Mind boosts, Ho-Oh can easily use Punishment to save your team from utter ruin if the enemy Calm Mind user has acquired multiple boosts. Sleep Talk lets Ho-Oh switch in on Darkrai; Brave Bird and Sacred Fire can KO it after Stealth Rock damage.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Ho-Oh's Defense might not seem like much, but when fully invested and with the assistance of Sacred Fire burns, the rainbow phoenix can take its fair share of physical abuse. This Ho-Oh aims to spread burns through Sacred Fire and act as an excellent pivot through Regenerator. Full investment in Defense allows Ho-Oh to take a myriad of physical attacks much more comfortably; Extreme Killer Arceus's +2 ExtremeSpeed, Rayquaza's +1 Outrage, Mewtwo's +1 Psystrike, and support Groudon's Stone Edge all fail to OHKO.
Sacred Fire is needed to spread burns; Brave Bird is the other obligatory STAB attack, dealing respectable damage, even with minimal Attack investment. Substitute is the primary option to ease prediction and protect Ho-Oh from status. Earthquake can also be used to hit Heatran and the Rock-types that plague Ho-Oh. Whirlwind is another option to rack up hazard damage and scout switches; it is especially effective because Ho-Oh forces out a lot of Pokemon. Roost gives Ho-Oh some much needed longevity outside of switching out repeatedly. Roost can be used with a faster spread to absorb Ice-, Rock-, and Electric-type attacks.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Recover is an option over Roost if you desperately need to keep Ho-Oh's immunity to Ground-type attacks at all times. Hippowdon is the only notable Earthquake user that is always slower than Ho-Oh, but it can easily be burned and walled anyway. Ho-Oh can utilize any of Reflect, Light Screen, and Toxic to become a very good wall with Pressure, but that role is better left to Lugia, which has greater Defense and Speed. Ho-Oh is also a good spreader of paralysis with Thunder Wave, so the move can be used on defensive sets, but Ho-Oh is better off killing things directly. Ground-type Pokemon, such as Groudon and Garchomp, rarely switch into Ho-Oh due to the risk of getting burned by Sacred Fire. Safeguard can also be used to give Ho-Oh status protection, but Substitute is usually the better option, as it also stops Leech Seed. Finally, Ho-Oh can use Calm Mind or Choice Specs and run a decent special attacking set with its good base 110 Special Attack, but it's generally outclassed by Reshiram in that respect due to Reshiram's much higher Special Attack and access to STAB Dragon-type attacks. Thunder seems like a great move to KO Kyogre, but Brave Bird actually does more damage to most Kyogre due to Kyogre's Defense being much lower than its Special Defense and Ho-Oh's high Attack.
Checks and Counters
Ho-Oh is extremely hard to counter due to its high bulk, powerful attacks, and the threat of a burn. The best way to keep Ho-Oh in check isn't a Pokemon at all; it is Stealth Rock. Stealth Rock limits Ho-Oh's longevity by stripping off 50% of its health every time it switches in. Even with Regenerator, Ho-Oh fears Stealth Rock more than anything else. Keeping a sturdy Ghost-type such as Giratina-O or Ghost Arceus is recommended to ensure Stealth Rock isn't spun away.
Kyogre is by far the most common way to check Ho-Oh because of Drizzle canceling out Ho-Oh's beloved sunlight and Kyogre's immense power. A full power Water Spout from Kyogre can easily drown Ho-Oh regardless of its EVs. While surprising, specially defensive Ho-Oh actually stands a chance of surviving one Surf from non-Choice Specs Kyogre. Additionally, offensive Kyogre is 2HKOed by Brave Bird. Bold Kyogre avoids the 2HKO from Brave Bird, but Scald does not OHKO in return, making it a shaky check. The reason Kyogre is so widely used to counter Ho-Oh is because it can counteract Ho-Oh's most common partner, Groudon. Most of Ho-Oh's checks are defeated by Groudon, but Kyogre easily OHKOes both with its high-powered Water-type attacks, making it the most consistent check.
Rock Arceus is probably the closest thing Ho-Oh has to a true counter. It resists both Sacred Fire and Brave Bird, has the bulk to take multiple hits, and can OHKO Ho-Oh with a swift Judgment. However, Rock Arceus really hates switching in on Earthquake repeatedly, as it 2HKOes, especially in conjunction with burn damage. Zekrom also resists both of Ho-Oh's STABs, has high Defense, and can easily fell it with Bolt Strike. However, Zekrom loathes a possible burn, and a Life Orb Earthquake almost OHKOes it. Heatran is immune to Sacred Fire and a burn and resists Brave Bird but is OHKOed by Earthquake and cannot do much to Ho-Oh in return besides Toxic. Palkia quadruple resists Sacred Fire and can take one Brave Bird from full health, but even though it possesses STAB Water-type attacks, Ho-Oh actually walls Palkia in the sunlight unless it carries Stone Edge. Outside of sun, Palkia can easily 2HKO Ho-Oh with Surf, and Stone Edge is a must if you rely on Palkia to check Ho-Oh. Power Gem does not even come close to OHKOing Ho-Oh. Giratina is one of the few walls capable of soaking up Ho-Oh's attacks somewhat comfortably, but it cannot do much in return besides phaze, as Ho-Oh can avoid Toxic with Substitute. Physically defensive Giratina-O is not 2HKOed by Brave Bird and can 2HKO Ho-Oh back with Outrage, but an untimely burn messes it up. Rayquaza also outspeeds Ho-Oh and can Outrage it into oblivion, but Rayquaza can only really come in on Earthquake, as it cannot risk eating a burn or Brave Bird. Lugia can cripple Ho-Oh with a faster Toxic, can soften hits with Reflect, and stall Ho-Oh out with Roost and Pressure. However, Lugia does not enjoy taking repeated Sacred Fires in the sun, especially because Lugia is likely to be burned as well. Lugia is also capable of forcing out Ho-Oh with Whirlwind but cannot deal real damage outside of Toxic. A fast Choice Band Groudon can survive at least one attack and OHKO Ho-Oh with Stone Edge, even after a burn. Tyranitar resists both of Ho-Oh's STABs and has a powerful Stone Edge to OHKO back, but it risks getting stalled out by Substitute if Stone Edge misses and is extremely vulnerable to being burned. Kyurem-B does not resist any of Ho-Oh's common attacks but is faster than it and bulky enough to take one hit and OHKO back with Fusion Bolt. Hippowdon can take repeated hits thanks to Slack Off, set up Stealth Rock, and Whirlwind Ho-Oh out, but it fails to do any real damage.
Mewtwo can OHKO Ho-Oh with Psystrike after Stealth Rock damage, but it cannot switch in safely on any move besides Roost. While it is a rather strange proposition, a defensive Fire Arceus with Stone Edge is immune to burn and can KO Ho-Oh in one hit, making it one of the best albeit niche counters to Ho-Oh. Kabutops quadruple resists Sacred Fire and is only 3HKOed by Brave Bird, so it can switch in on one hit and OHKO slower Ho-Oh sets with Stone Edge, but Earthquake can smash it to pieces, so it must be wary of switching in. Reshiram with Stone Edge can turn the tables on Ho-Oh, as it does not fear burn or Sacred Fire while Stone Edge OHKOes. Almost anything faster than Ho-Oh that has a Rock-type attack, such as Choice Scarf Garchomp or Terrakion, can easily revenge kill it with Stone Edge.