While it's not quite as fast as some of the more prominent threats in NU, such as Swellow and Electrode, nor quite as powerful as its Fire-type rival, Charizard, Rapidash is a good compromise between the two and has considerable utility within the NU metagame. With its great base 105 Speed, Rapidash is certainly the fastest of the Fire-type breed, getting the jump on sweepers such as Haunter and Zangoose and easily OHKOing them with its high-powered STAB Flare Blitz. Furthermore, with its wide array of coverage moves, Rapidash has the opportunity to sweep weakened teams once bulky obstacles are removed, a feat not so easily achieved by its slower competitors. However, above all else, the main reason to use Rapidash on your team is its near exclusive ability, Flash Fire, which allows it to switch into even the most powerful Fire-type attacks without flinching, such as Choice Specs Charizard's Fire Blast in sunlight, a feat which almost no other Pokemon in the tier can achieve. Furthermore, it boosts its STAB attacks when switching into Will-O-Wisp, letting it deal with physically defensive users of the move, such as Misdreavus and Weezing, with much more efficiency than its competition, a huge asset for physically-oriented teams. Overall, if you're looking for a good contributor to an offensive Fire / Water / Grass core, a physical heavy offense team, or a Sunny Day team, or if your team needs to be about 20% cooler, Rapidash won't disappoint.
This is Rapidash's flagship set and the one you should probably use if you're trying to fit it onto a conventional balanced or offensive team. It makes the most of Rapidash's excellently distributed (if modest) offensive stats, its excellent coverage options, and its coup de grace, Flash Fire, to make it a potent offensive threat with more than a few tricks up its sleeve.
Flare Blitz is Rapidash's STAB attack of choice and hits neutral targets very hard, especially when Flash Fire has been activated. Wild Charge and Low Kick are present as coverage moves, letting Rapidash deal significant damage to Water- and Rock-type Pokemon such as Samurott and Probopass and allowing it to revenge kill a wide range of targets. However, bulkier targets such as Alomomola and Regirock need to be worn down significantly before a 2HKO can be achieved. Rapidash can use a Life Orb or a Choice Band equally well, but the moves in the last moveslot are tailored to their respective use. Morning Sun is a rare recovery option that allows Rapidash to heal off the heavy residual damage it takes during battle, due to its weakness to Stealth Rock, its fondness for recoil attacks, and Life Orb damage, giving it more longevity overall. However, Drill Run is also available as an extra coverage move, most notably hitting other Fire-type Pokemon such as Torkoal for super-effective damage, letting Rapidash check them more easily, especially when using a Choice Band.
Both item choices are useful, but each has specific advantages and disadvantages. When using a Life Orb, Rapidash becomes more susceptible to residual damage, but also has the option to use its coverage moves after an opponent switches into its Flare Blitz, preventing it from being walled as easily. Life Orb also uses Flash Fire more effectively, as it isn't pressured to immediately fire off a Flare Blitz after switching in, thus making it harder for opponents to play around. On the other hand, a Choice Band boasts the advantage of more power and less recoil when attacking and thus still has considerable merit. Overall, Rapidash is a potent offensive threat with either item and can wreak havoc with its Flash Fire boosted Flare Blitz in the late-game, once faster Pokemon and bulky resists have been removed.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While plenty of Pokemon have access to Sunny Day, Rapidash is certainly one of the best users in the NU metagame, because of both its ability to set it up and take advantage of its effects, giving it a solid niche over more passive setup Pokemon such as Probopass and Volbeat. With Rapidash's blazing base 105 Speed, in conjunction with its ability to force switches with its offensive presence, Rapidash finds plenty of opportunities to use Sunny Day throughout the match despite its lack of bulk, either after the loss of a teammate or through the utility of Flash Fire. Once the sun comes out, Rapidash can take massive chunks out of its opponents with a boosted Flare Blitz, which borders on ridiculous levels of power if Flash Fire is also activated, destroying even resistant targets. For reference, Altaria is OHKOed 100% of the time after Stealth Rock damage, while even physically defensive Thick Fat Miltank is easily 2HKOed. Meanwhile, SolarBeam provides Rapidash with a way to exploit the terrible Special Defense of checks such as Alomomola, Carracosta, and Golem, the former being 2HKOed reliably and the latter two being OHKOed after any residual damage. Furthermore, Morning Sun receives a buff in sunlight, helping to compensate for the heavy recoil Flare Blitz will cause as it tears through opponents and bringing Rapidash back from the brink of death when given the opportunity. With the ludicrous power that Sunlight provides and the excellent offensive coverage of its two attacking moves within the tier, few opponents will be able to stand up to Rapidash's presence once it secures momentum for its team.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Rapidash's movepool isn't huge, but there are a few other options worth considering. Substitute provides Rapidash with a defense against revenge killers and priority attackers, and it makes good use of the move thanks to its high Speed and ability to force switches. However, it only exacerbates Rapidash's vulnerability to residual damage to the point where it may only have one good chance to sweep in a match, unless it runs Morning Sun and finds the chance to use it. Quick Attack also lets Rapidash bypass Sucker Punch users, but lacks the power to deal with them reliably, not even 4HKOing Cacturne with a Life Orb. Baton Pass is also an option, but while it can be used alongside Substitute quite well, Rapidash can't really pass any noteworthy boosts, making it inferior as a pure Baton Pass user when compared to Sawsbuck and Emolga. Toxic can be used to cripple walls that would otherwise put up with Rapidash, but due to its frailty and offensive power, Rapidash is usually better off either attacking any opponent or just switching out to a better match up. Hidden Power sees use in specific situations, with Hidden Power Grass dealing with Golem and Carracosta outside of sunny conditions and Hidden Power Ice providing a stronger hit on Altaria, but they lack the power to have more general utility. Finally, Flame Body should not be used, as Rapidash should ideally not be taking any contact attacks in the first place with its pitiful Defense stat, and Flash Fire provides much more defensive utility by giving it an immunity to switch into as well as a way to boost the power of its STAB attacks.
Checks and Counters
If Rapidash lacks Drill Run and Return, then other Pokemon with Flash Fire are excellent responses, taking nothing from Rapidash's STAB attacks even with Flash Fire and Sunny Day activated. Lampent is a fantastic choice, as it can set up Trick Room for its teammates or simply hit back hard with a STAB Shadow Ball. Flareon can also be used, as although it can't take Rapidash's coverage moves as well as Lampent, it can provide its teammates with Wish support instead, which is more useful for balanced teams. Against the standard physical attacker set, physically defensive Alomomola does a good job at stopping Rapidash in its tracks, taking relatively little even from Choice Band Wild Charge and using Regenerator to fully replenish the health it loses from switching into Rapidash's attacks. However, it takes heavy damage from the Sunny Day set's SolarBeam, so it's not a foolproof counter. Likewise, Regirock can take a Low Kick from Rapidash if necessary and either OHKO in return with a super effective Stone Edge, attempt to paralyze a switch in with Thunder Wave, or simply set up Stealth Rock. It can also avoid the 2HKO from SolarBeam with some Special Defense investment, making it a more reliable check to Rapidash than the likes of Golem and Carracosta.
So long as Rapidash hasn't gotten a Flash Fire boost and sunny conditions aren't on the field, there are plenty of other Pokemon that can check it fairly well. Altaria takes little damage from any of Rapidash's common attacks, can shrug off the occasional status move via Natural Cure, and can either fire off powerful Draco Meteors or set up Dragon Dances as Rapidash inevitably switches out. Other Dragon-type Pokemon, such as Fraxure and Dragonair, can also switch into Rapidash and set up on it with little hassle, especially if they use Eviolite. Rain Dance Seismitoad excels against Rapidash so long as it can't use SolarBeam, and will win against Sunny Day Rapidash in a lead matchup due to its lower base Speed allowing it to set up Rain Dance after Rapidash uses Sunny Day. Samurott can switch into a resisted Flare Blitz and force Rapidash out with the threat of a powerful Aqua Jet, while Skuntank and Cacturne can all threaten it with STAB Sucker Punch, should they find opportunities to switch in. Finally, while not many Pokemon in the tier outspeed Rapidash naturally, those that do, such as Swellow, Electrode, and various Choice Scarf users, can all revenge kill Rapidash easily due to its low defenses, although the majority of them can't switch directly into Flare Blitz.