Skarmory takes flight once more to block almost every physical hit thrown at it. Steel / Flying is an awesome type combination that only has two crippling weaknesses, while Sturdy has received a nice buff that allows Skarmory to take an otherwise fatal hit if it's at full health. Finally, no other wall packs a recovery move, access to Spikes and Stealth Rock, a phazing move, and a unique typing like Skarmory. The metagame may have slowly geared itself towards special attackers, such as Reuniclus, and some physical attackers have acquired new ways to get around Skarmory, but Skarmory still gets the job done.
Tried and true, this still stands as Skarmory's best set. After Skarmory makes its presence known on the battlefield, the opponent will likely run away in fear of the metal bird's superb Defense. Skarmory should first lay Spikes to force the opponent to make a rather painful decision when switching in and out of the battlefield. Roost can wear out Life Orb users, such as Metagross and Gyarados, while keeping Skarmory in shape for the next assault. Whirlwind is great for either phazing Pokemon such as Bulk Up Conkeldurr or merely shuffling for extra entry hazard damage. Brave Bird ties it all together by giving Skarmory a high Base Power STAB move that handles threats nicely, especially Fighting-types such as Breloom and Toxicroak. If you're deathly afraid of being set up on by Wobbuffet or want to prevent other Pokemon from setting up, Taunt may be a superior choice over Brave Bird.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
The banning of Deoxys-D brought a dearth of effective leads that can set Stealth Rock and Spikes quickly and reliably. Enter Custap Lead Skarmory: the second-fastest Pokemon allowed in OU that gets access to both Stealth Rock and Spikes, bested only by Smeargle. With a maximum Speed of 262, Skarmory can outrun many common leads, and even without much investment in Defense Skarmory still has respectable physical bulk, allowing it to comfortably tank physical blows as it sets entry hazards up. Even if the opponent should happen to lead with a specially-based Pokemon, the combination of Sturdy and Custap Berry nearly guarantees that Skarmory will get Stealth Rock and at least one layer of Spikes up. This combination of traits are also its main draw for use as an entry hazard-setting lead over the slightly faster Smeargle, which has to rely on Focus Sash to take a hit, robbing it of the benefits brought about by Custap Berry.
This Skarmory works similarly to Deoxys-D and other suicide leads: it aims to set up Stealth Rock and as many layers of Spikes as possible before fainting. The other two moves help Skarmory's situation versus opposing leads. Brave Bird prevents Skarmory from being complete Taunt bait while acting as a means by which Skarmory can KO itself from 1 HP so an opposing spinner can't spin away Skarmory's entry hazards. Taunt stops slower leads from setting up entry hazards while giving Skarmory a 50% chance of preventing any opposing Breloom from using Spore on it due to a Speed tie.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Since Skarmory's base Defense is naturally quite high, this EV spread buffers its weaker Special Defense. Physical sweepers can still be checked despite the loss of physical bulk, but 2HKOs are a bit more prevalent. The set is meant to work around bulky Water-types, but it works well against Choice users that are locked into a resisted attack as well. Simply come in like usual, set up Spikes or Roost to recover lost health, and use Skarmory's other moves whenever necessary. Be careful when using Brave Bird on this set, as bulky Water-types sometimes use Scald to induce a burn on the opponent. Taunt variants won't mind it much aside from the health loss, but a weakened Brave Bird makes it harder to kill some physical sweepers.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Stealth Rock can replace Spikes on the defensive sets if you want Skarmory to set up as quickly as possible. Drill Peck can replace Brave Bird if the recoil turns you off. Toxic helps Skarmory eliminate threats and works well against certain Pokemon, such as Wobbuffet, Politoed, and Jellicent switch-ins. Rocky Helmet deserves a special mention because it can easily punish Pokemon like Scizor using U-turn or Outrage users. Don't bother with any stat-up moves; Skarmory is already vulnerable to Taunt and lacks the movepool to use them effectively anyway.
Checks and Counters
Magnezone is the textbook definition of a counter to Skarmory. It traps Skarmory with Magnet Pull, uses STAB Electric-type attacks to OHKO Skarmory, and resists every usable attack in Skarmory's movepool. Outside of Shed Shell, the only chance Skarmory has against Magnezone is Whirlwinding if Sturdy is active. Wobbuffet traps Skarmory too but isn't a big fan of Taunt, although it can Encore Spikes and Tickle Skarmory to death. After 6 Tickles, Skarmory takes 75.4% – 88.9% if it tries switching out from Choice Band Tyranitar's Pursuit. Specially defensive variants of Skarmory might as well kiss their tin asses goodbye.
Zapdos is immune to Spikes, packs STAB Thunderbolt, can heal itself with Roost, and can even counter-phaze if necessary with Roar. All of the Rotom formes have Will-O-Wisp and STAB Thunderbolt going against Skarmory and avoid passive damage from Spikes thanks to Levitate. Politoed changes the weather and attacks with powerful neutral Water-type attacks. Fire-types hate entry hazards in general but counter Skarmory very well. Heatran hates Spikes, but it can shut down the process with Taunt and singe the metal birdie with STAB Fire Blast. Ninetales doesn't get Taunt but, it will scare it away just as quickly and can spread burns with Will-O-Wisp.
Another way to deal with Skarmory is to just get rid of its entry hazards. Starmie can use Rapid Spin to blow away Skarmory's entry hazards, use Recover to shrug off Brave Birds, and threaten Skarmory with Thunderbolt or its Water-type move of choice. Forretress can exploit Skarmory to lay hazards of its own, and it can also use Rapid Spin. Tentacruel does the same thing. Espeon and Xatu might not like taking Brave Birds, but they can reflect Spikes back with their Magic Bounce ability.
Since Skarmory is a defensive Pokemon, it's hard to directly counter it because it will only come out of the nest when it knows it's safe. This makes the concept of luring vital to getting through Skarmory. For example, a stat-booster like Gyarados or Gliscor can use Taunt to beat Skarmory when they would otherwise be walled. Scizor can use Swords Dance and Superpower on an unsuspecting Skarmory. Jirachi can use Thunderbolt in a similar fashion. Pokemon like Tyranitar, Dragonite, and Salamence can use Fire Blast to surprise it. Generally, you want to attack its weaker Special Defense with an Electric- or Fire-type move.