Zapdos is one of the Pokemon that didn't change much, if at all, in the new generation. With the transformation of the OU metagame into a much harsher environment, Zapdos is simply unable to adapt and keep up. A much more offensive metagame means that Zapdos's bulk is now often unable to withstand continual assaults from highly offensive Pokemon. Offensively, it is outclassed by many other special attackers meaning that Zapdos will continue to struggle to find a niche in that regard. Zapdos doesn't see much usage in OU nowadays due to the influx of much more powerful special attackers in the tier, many of whom can actually touch Chansey and Blissey, the two premier special walls.
However, there are a few niches available for Zapdos that it can fill rather well, given the correct team support. Its typing, shared only with only a select few, along with its passable bulk, still allow it to tank quite a few hits when used correctly. In reality, it actually has quite a few advantages over other sweepers such as Hydreigon and Gengar. Access to Roost is a godsend for Zapdos, extending its longevity by leaps and bounds. Zapdos also has the ability to beat most popular Steel-types reliably thanks to a 90% accurate Heat Wave. Interestingly, it even has access to Baton Pass, which allows a teammate to receive a fairly bulky Substitute and possibly an Agility boost. In short, capitalize on what Zapdos has over more prominent special attackers, as it can be an excellent addition to your team.
When played correctly, Zapdos has the potential to be very annoying for your opponent thanks to a fast Substitute and Roost, as well as its decent offensive capabilities even without any investment. Zapdos can stall for PP against offensive teams with Pressure, while stalling out opposing walls when Toxic Spikes are on the field. For attacking options, Thunderbolt is a staple for any Zapdos set, doing solid damage to many of the Pokemon not affected by Toxic Spikes, such as Skarmory. The final moveslot depends mostly on your team; Toxic is the preferred option to badly poison the opponent in case Toxic Spikes are not present, while also allowing Zapdos to beat those bulky Water-types who can work around Thunderbolt. Heat Wave is another excellent option to hit Steel-types, who are immune to Toxic super effectively, such as Ferrothorn. Hidden Power Ice allows Zapdos to hit Gliscor very hard, as well as any Landorus switching in.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
With Thundurus finally out of OU, Zapdos remains an interesting option for an offensive Electric-type thanks to its access to Heat Wave and Roost, which allow it dish out hits as long as possible. Thunderbolt, with full investment and a Life Orb boost, allows Zapdos to plow through many physical walls and just about anything weak to it. Heat Wave allows Zapdos to beat Steel-types easily and reliably, Heatran notwithstanding, thanks to its solid power and accuracy. Heat Wave allows Zapdos to beat a whole set of threats that other special attackers can only beat with Focus Blast if at all, namely Mamoswine and Forretress. Hidden Power Ice gives Zapdos BoltBeam coverage in tandem with Thunderbolt, letting it smack Gliscor and Landorus, and it allows Zapdos to hit Dragon-types for super effective damage, 2HKOing most of them. Hidden Power Grass is also a decent option in order to take care of Water-types who are immune to Thunderbolt, such as Swampert, Quagsire, and Gastrodon. Roost is what really separates this set from frailer special attackers; it gives Zapdos a reliable healing option which allows it to get rid of any damage which it may have racked up, be it from attacks or field effects. With Roost, Zapdos increases its longevity on the battlefield by leaps and bounds.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
The flagship Zapdos set in the DPP era can still function excellently in today's metagame thanks to its all around decent bulk, great defensive typing, and access to an instant recovery move in Roost. With heavy investment, Zapdos is now able to tank many physical hits while still hitting hard without investment, thanks to 125 Special Attack. Thunderbolt is Zapdos's STAB move of choice, always reliable both in accuracy and damage output. Roost provides Zapdos with reliable healing, and is a godsend for a defensively oriented set like this. Heat Wave should be used in conjunction with Thunder Wave in order to cripple physical sweepers and Steel-types. Hidden Power Ice and Roar are another pair of moves which can take the last two moveslots; Hidden Power Ice and Thunderbolt form the classic BoltBeam combo of coverage, while Roar can be used to phaze out any Pokemon that Zapdos cannot hit or stall out. Roar also racks up damage from any entry hazards you may have laid down on the opponent's side of the field, a plus for both Zapdos and its teammates.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
If you're running Zapdos on a Drizzle team, Thunder can be used instead of Thunderbolt, as Thunder is much more powerful and carries a chance of paralysis. However, if the weather changes, Zapdos will have to use a 70% accuracy move for its primary STAB, so keep that in mind when using it. That said, you can also run Rain Dance on Zapdos, providing your team with a bulky rain supporter which can take advantage of the weather it sets up. Discharge is another STAB move Zapdos can use, trading power for a higher paralysis chance, which may prove useful in some situations; however, the stable power of Thunderbolt is preferable. Metal Sound is interesting on paper but Zapdos is, more often than not, better off attacking straight off the bat.
Zapdos is certainly bulky enough to try a RestTalk set, though it's often not quite up to snuff in terms of its defenses. Combine this with the new sleep mechanics, and RestTalk seems a little less appealing. Zapdos can run a set utilizing Choice Scarf or Choice Specs, but Raikou and Jolteon greatly outclass it in those respective roles. A weakness to Stealth Rock is also unappealing in this regard. Zapdos has Baton Pass, allowing Zapdos to give a teammate an Agility boost or a bulky Substitute.
Max HP investment is a possibility on any defensive set if you feel you need that extra point in HP to increase your bulk; however, the ability to switch into Stealth Rock outweighs the possible benefits of more HP. 176 Speed EVs can be used on the defensive set to take care of Lucario before it uses any move besides ExtremeSpeed, though this takes away from Zapdos's bulk. 32 EVs in Speed outspeeds any Tyranitar without Speed boosts, which can be a lifesaver in some situations. These respective spreads can be run if your team is having trouble with these Pokemon, although it does reduce Zapdos's sorely needed bulk.
Checks and Counters
When looking to tame any offensive Zapdos, there are two Pokemon you can always trust to do the job: Chansey and her big sister Blissey, who can take any attack Zapdos throws at them with ease, healing when necessary while being able to set up Stealth Rock or poison Zapdos with Toxic. Snorlax also counters Zapdos but relies less on its defenses thanks to its base 110 Attack. However, Blissey and Chansey must be cautious of SubRoost Zapdos, as it counters these two effectively. Snorlax can still take on SubRoost Zapdos if it uses Immunity as its ability, being immune to the effects of Toxic. The type of Hidden Power Zapdos uses also determines the opponents Zapdos can and cannot defend against. Hidden Power Grass variants have a hard time against Dragon-types and, to a lesser extent, Gliscor which doesn't take too much from it; Hidden Power Ice variants have to worry about Gastrodon and Swampert, though Gastrodon and Swampert must be on the look out for Toxic from the SubRoost set.
Tyranitar has and always will be Zapdos's biggest nemesis, thanks to its monstrous Attack stat and the ability to shrug off just about any special attack from Zapdos thanks to the Special Defense boost it receives in sandstorm. Tyranitar can hit Zapdos very hard with Stone Edge, usually 2HKOing it, while also being able to set up Stealth Rock in its face to discourage it from coming back in.
Zapdos is set to receive Lightningrod from the Dream World, an amazing ability to have. Zapdos can now switch into any Electric-type attack from the opponent and receive a boost to its Special Attack, allowing Zapdos to boast a Special Attack stat as if it were equipped with Choice Specs.