Heracross can be seen as the herald of a dying age, as his basic game style has not changed drastically from when he was first introduced. He has always been offensively-oriented with his base 125 Attack stat, excellent ability in Guts that takes advantage of the burns that terrify most physical sweepers, and high-powered STAB moves. Although his main role has not changed much, he has been blessed with new tools for the job with every generation, such as Close Combat in DPP, and can now fill more roles than ever before.
Despite this, Heracross usage has been constantly spiraling downward as fewer and fewer people use him. Heracross's base 85 Speed is simply not high enough in such a fast-paced metagame, and he is not able to stand up to super effective attacks from omnipresent, faster foes. More and more battlers are choosing faster or more versatile sweepers such as Infernape and Lucario, who both have access to strong priority and higher Speed stats. However, regardless of these shortcomings, Heracross remains one of the very best physical sweepers in the game and should under no circumstances be underestimated. He wasn't banned in Japan during the ADV generation for no reason!
Heracross's mediocre Speed is a letdown as a sweeper, especially because so much of the metagame can revenge kill him. With a Choice Scarf, Heracross can switch in with his numerous resistances and immediately threaten the opposing Pokemon. However, Heracross's power is relatively limited without either Swords Dance or Choice Band, so predicting appropriately and switching into Toxic or Will-O-Wisp is advisable. With a Guts boost, Choice Scarf Heracross can rip through much of DPP OU like a chainsaw through a loaf of bread.
Close Combat and Megahorn are the high-power STAB attacks for which Heracross is famous. Stone Edge is essential on Heracross, as Heracross's STAB attacks mainly draw in Flying-types such as Zapdos, Dragonite, and Gyarados, all of whom are weak to Rock. Heracross has a lot of interesting options available to him for his final attack. Because Heracross is not as powerful when holding a Choice Scarf, bulky Pokemon have no trouble switching into him and forcing him out; Toxic is a nasty surprise for these Pokemon, especially on a Choice set. Night Slash is an option because Rotom-A is one of Heracross's most common switch-ins due to its immunity to Close Combat and resistance to Megahorn. Though Sleep Talk may seem unreliable because it only works if your opponent has a sleep-inducing Pokemon, Heracross can be a dangerous threat with his Guts-boosted attacks when asleep. However, like with Toxic, being locked into Sleep Talk opens up opportunities for the opponent to set up, so use it with caution. Note that Sleep Talk only works once per switch-in with a Choice item.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Once Heracross's flagship set, Choice Band Heracross has since lost much of his popularity in favor of variants running Choice Scarf in order to keep up with a faster-than-ever metagame. Unlike Choice Scarf Heracross, however, Choice Band Heracross functions as a wallbreaker that can hopefully open up holes with his massively powerful attacks so that other Pokemon can sweep. Unlike other Choice Band attackers, such as Tyranitar, Heracross actually enjoys being burned by Pokemon like Rotom-A. After a Guts boost, Heracross's Attack stat hits a massive 861 with Adamant or 784 with Jolly.
Close Combat and Megahorn return to form the core of Heracross's attacking options. Stone Edge is mandatory for the Flying-type Pokemon that will inevitably switch into Heracross. Unlike the Choice Scarf set, Pursuit sits comfortably in the last slot, maiming Psychic-types as they flee from Megahorn or Rotom-A after it accidentally burns you. Sleep Talk returns with this set so that Heracross can make a decent switch-in to sleep-inducing moves and subsequently take advantage of the status with Guts-boosted attacks.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Using this set on your team is akin to making a pact with the devil. With a one turn setup that involves tripling Heracross's Attack stat from 349 to 1047 and two 120 Base Power attacks, even things that used to switch into Heracross with impunity can be brutally massacred. Not simply hoping that Guts will activate, and instead activating it yourself, means that this Heracross has considerably more raw power, thus exchanging survivability for the potential to crush his standard counters.
Swords Dance, Close Combat, and Megahorn are all standard fare for Heracross. As this set is guaranteed a status affliction, though, Heracross can use a deadly new weapon: Facade. After a Swords Dance, it OHKOes Weezing, Gliscor, and even bulky Gyarados after Intimidate with Stealth Rock damage. Night Slash is an option for the last slot because it is necessary to beat Rotom-A; Facade is the superior option against basically everything else, though.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Heracross has another stat-boosting move available to it in the form of Bulk Up. While this set is not as immediately threatening as the Swords Dance or Choice Band varieties, it can still become a dangerous sweeping force that is very difficult to stop when played correctly.
Megahorn is an excellent STAB attack and goes without saying, while Close Combat is not used on this set despite its power. Close Combat reduces Heracross's defenses, which is counterproductive to the goal of this set. Instead of Close Combat, Low Kick is recommended to hit most of DPP OU fairly hard. Brick Break is an option over Low Kick for hitting certain Pokemon like Blissey harder and breaking screens, but Low Kick is almost always superior. Stone Edge finishes off the set by beating those pesky Flying-types that always seem to like switching into Heracross. Rotom-A is hit fairly hard by a boosted Stone Edge as well.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
It is amusing that a clearly offensive Pokemon like Heracross can have such a successful defensive set. Heracross has respectable special bulk, and with Bulk Up, Rest, and Sleep Talk, can keep himself healthy and continue to set up or attack while asleep. This Heracross is surprisingly difficult to break without super effective attacks, and that can turn him into a deadly sweeper if he is allowed to gather multiple Bulk Up boosts.
Heracross's attack of choice for a set like this is Megahorn. Megahorn is a high Base Power, respectable PP attack that nothing is immune to, which goes a long way in explaining why it is chosen as Heracross's only attacking move. Bulk Up is the crux of what makes this set viable, as it compensates for Heracross's weak physical bulk and simultaneously boosts his attacking power. Rest and Sleep Talk combine to keep Heracross healthy as he continues to boost in his sleep. Serendipitously, Rest putting Heracross to sleep activates Guts and boosts his Attack further. After a couple of boosts, Guts can function as the equivalent of a +2 or even a +4 boost, making Megahorn absolutely eviscerate whatever it hits, even if it is resisted.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Heracross has a lot of trouble with prediction, especially considering that such a diverse array of Pokemon can reliably switch into and threaten him. Once Heracross sets up a Substitute as the opponent switches to a response, Heracross can pick his poison to beat whatever was sent out.
Substitute affords Heracross the buffer of a free turn to pick an appropriate attack against the opponent's switch-in. Close Combat and Megahorn form the crux of Heracross's offensive presence. The last move, one of either Stone Edge or Night Slash, allows Heracross to beat a specific subset of his common switch-ins. Stone Edge will hit Flying-types like Gyarados, Dragonite, and Zapdos for massive damage, while Night Slash will hit Rotom-A and Gengar hard.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Heracross lacks anything else impressive in his movepool besides what is listed in his sets. Earthquake is great move, but has mostly redundant coverage with STAB Fighting-type attacks. Shadow Claw is pretty much the same as Night Slash, but Night Slash is always better because a type is immune to Shadow Claw. Other than these two attacks, just use what the sets suggest for moves.
Swarm can be used over Guts on any of the listed sets, especially those that use Substitute. Swarm is almost always inferior to Guts, though, simply because one of Heracross's greatest assets is his benefiting from burn status. Leftovers can also be given to basically any set to increase Heracross's durability, but the loss of power allows many more Pokemon than usual to check Heracross, reducing his usability to almost unbearable levels.
Checks and Counters
Heracross is cursed with one of the largest checks and counters list in all of DPP OU, and this is reflected in his ever-dropping usage. Zapdos, Gliscor, Gyarados, Dragonite, Rotom-A, Tentacruel, and Gengar all resist both of Heracross's STAB moves. Beyond that, there exist many Pokemon that can switch into a predicted Close Combat or Megahorn with impunity and immediately threaten Heracross before he can change attacks. Choice Scarf Heatran and even Infernape can come in on Megahorn and end him harshly with Fire Blast. Skarmory can come in on Megahorn and either threaten to OHKO Heracross with Brave Bird or set up on him if he doesn't have Attack boosts. Faster Psychic-type Pokemon like Azelf can come in on Close Combat and threaten a Fire Blast or an Explosion. One of the most important things to know when facing a Heracross is that despite his low usage and his easily walled STABs, it is a fool's mistake to discredit him offensively. He is one of the strongest Pokemon around, and under no circumstances should you forget that.