With its monstrously high Special Defense combined with the excellent Sacred Fire and Brave Bird STAB combination and that impressive Attack stat, switching into Ho-Oh is a daunting prospect. Ho-Oh's amazing bulk and lack of weaknesses to common attack types in Ubers make it a defensive behemoth. Thanks to Ho-Oh's new toy in Brave Bird, most of its old counters no longer work as well, meaning that Ho-Oh is now a top-tier threat that can literally devastate teams. However, Stealth Rock is a large pain in Ho-Oh's side, as it is set up by many common Pokemon in Ubers such as Groudon, Forretress, and Deoxys-S, and Ho-Oh will hate losing 50% of its health every time it switches in. Nevertheless, the rainbow phoenix is still an enormous threat, and is something that every team needs to have a plan for.
By using Life Orb, Ho-Oh can ramp up its Attack, but can also make use of the versatility that comes with it. Sacred Fire, Ho-Oh's main STAB option, should be used primarily. Its 8 PP is the only flaw, one made even worse with Pressure being the most common ability in Ubers.
Ho-Oh's high Attack and excellent type coverage allow it to be a very intimidating threat, even when in the face of its potential counters. Sacred Fire, as said before, is Ho-Oh's main attack, and deals massive damage to anything that does not resist it. Groudon's sun boosts its power even further. Furthermore, Sacred Fire's whopping 50% chance of burning can also cripple any physical attacker that is daring enough to switch into it. Brave Bird is also an amazingly powerful attack to use if the weather is not in Ho-Oh's favor. It gets surprisingly good neutral coverage with this set, as Dialga is the only Uber that resists Flying-type attacks in Ubers, and only Aerodactyl, Solrock, and Lunatone resist the combination of Fire-, Flying-, and Ground-type attacks, and none of them are ever used in Ubers. The recoil damage can also be mitigated with Roost. Furthermore, Brave Bird will always OHKO Palkia, Latias, Latios, Rayquaza, and minimum HP / minimum Defense Kyogre after Stealth Rock damage with a Life Orb boost. Maximum HP Kyogre is also OHKOed after Stealth Rock and one layer of Spikes has been laid down, while the standard defensive Calm Mind Kyogre is always outsped and 2HKOed. Giratina is also 3HKOed by Brave Bird, meaning that Ho-Oh will KO Giratina before it will awake from Rest's forced two-turn sleep. (However, Ho-Oh will take a lot of damage in the process from recoil, and if Giratina's Sleep Talk move selects an attacking move, then Ho-Oh will probably die alongside Giratina, so attempting this can be risky.) Therefore, all of Ho-Oh's previous counters can now be dealt with, making this set all the more deadly. Earthquake rounds out the coverage, allowing Ho-Oh to hit Tyranitar, Heatran, and Dialga in the rain for super effective damage, who would otherwise resist Ho-Oh's STAB combination.
Substitute and Roost make fantastic additions to this set. Although you may feel that Life Orb recoil plus Substitute damage and recoil damage from Brave Bird will add up to too much passive damage, Roost can keep Ho-Oh healthy for a very long time, thanks to its great defenses. Substitute works very well with Ho-Oh, as its large base 154 Special Defense allows the Substitutes to stand up to many of the powerful special attacks in Ubers. Furthermore, the high chance of burning associated with Sacred Fire cuts many physical sweepers' attacks, making it even harder to break Ho-Oh's Substitutes. By using Substitutes, it eases prediction, and Ho-Oh can do severe damage to opponents who threaten it before switching out, such as Kyogre, which will help weaken the power of moves such as Water Spout. Whirlwind works very well on this set too if Ho-Oh has a lot of entry hazard support. Ho-Oh is bulky enough to shuffle the opponent's team effectively, thus spreading tons of entry hazard damage. Ho-Oh can also actually counter Giratina with Whirlwind, provided you have a lot of entry hazards up, as it will not be able to withstand so much passive damage.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While the Physical Attacker set is more versatile, the Choice Band set hits very hard right off the bat. Sacred Fire is an excellent attack, and with its 50% burn rate and Ho-Oh's high Attack stat, you can expect to cause some serious problems for your opponent. Brave Bird will always OHKO Kyogre (provided it has no HP or Defense EVs), Palkia, Latias, Latios, and Rayquaza without any prior damage, although the recoil damage is a bit more detrimental since this set lacks recovery. Earthquake does more damage to Dialga than Sacred Fire if the weather isn't on your side, in addition to hitting any Tyranitar or Heatran that may come your way. It also 2HKOes Kyogre and Palkia, should Brave Bird's recoil be undesirable to you. Punishment is quite an interesting attack and is well suited for use against the stat boosting Psychic-types that are common in Uber battles. Although it starts at a paltry 60 Base Power, it gains an extra 20 for each stat boost the opponent has. For example, against an opponent with one Calm Mind, Punishment will have 100 Base Power. Punishment is good for hitting Latios (who will often fall to a single hit), Latias, and Giratina. However, Brave Bird will do more damage unless they have Calm Mind boosts.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
At first glance, this may seem identical to the Choice Band set, but this Ho-Oh plays more as a revenge killer and a fast sweeper. With Choice Scarf making up for Ho-Oh's below average Speed, it can surprise many opponents to become an unexpected speedy threat.
Sacred Fire is your main attack as it is on the previous sets. Brave Bird allows Ho-Oh to 2HKO most Kyogre, Latios, Latias, Palkia, and Rayquaza, although one must be wary of the recoil damage. Punishment is a unique move that allows you to take down some threats that your team may have allowed to set up. Calm Mind Mewtwo and Calm Mind Latias are completely destroyed by this move. After just one Calm Mind, Punishment is up to 100 Base Power. After one more, it reaches a deadly 140 Base Power. Earthquake is your strongest attack against Tyranitar and Dialga and can be used against any Heatran who enter expecting you to use Sacred Fire.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Ho-Oh can attempt to stall out opponents with Toxic and its massive Special Defense. You will still want Light Screen to take Surfs from Palkia and Kyogre and other hits from the many special based monsters that inhabit the Uber metagame. Toxic your foes and use Light Screen, Recover or Roost, and Pressure to stall out your opponent. Any physical threats can be handled with the burn from Sacred Fire, which had the added advantage of destroying any Metagross who is foolhardy enough to switch in. Make sure to hit the likes of Kyogre, Palkia, Mewtwo, Latias, and Latios on the switch with Toxic. The latter two may use Taunt or Safeguard to shut down your strategy.
Using either Recover or Roost depends on what you want Ho-Oh to do. Roost removes Ho-Oh's weakness to Electric, gives it an Ice-type resistance, and makes Rock-type attacks only do double damage against Ho-Oh instead of quadruple damage. However, using Roost can make trying to beat non-Stone Edge Groudon difficult, due to Ho-Oh gaining an unfortunate Ground-type weakness on the turn it Roosts, meaning that if said Groudon uses Earthquake on the turn you Roost, Ho-Oh will likely not survive. If you feel that this is a concern, you can use Recover over Roost so Ho-Oh will keep its immunity to Ground-type attacks at all times.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
When configuring Ho-Oh's EVs, first make sure that Ho-Oh's HP is always an odd number. This lets it switch into Stealth Rock twice and survive, whereas an even numbered HP stat would mean two hits of Stealth Rock will kill it off. 192 HP and 76 Special Defense EVs will allow Ho-Oh to always survive a Life Orbed Dark Pulse from Timid Darkrai after it has used Nasty Plot twice at full HP, making Ho-Oh one of the best Darkrai checks around.
Always max Attack on the Choice Band set. Like many other Ubers in the same base 90 Speed group as Ho-Oh, setting Speed is a tricky decision. Max Speed with an Adamant nature doesn't really guarantee it will outspeed anything of note; it just allows for a tie with Kyogre, Groudon, Dialga, and other Ho-Oh. If you don't want to take your chances in the coin toss against those four, you can focus more on Ho-Oh's HP, to allow it to take more hits. Allocate 24 EVs to Speed to beat Adamant Tyranitar, and then place the remaining EVs in HP. 84 Speed EVs can also allow Ho-Oh to outpace most Jirachi, allowing you to roast it before Jirachi can Paralyze Ho-Oh. 140 Speed EVs allows Ho-Oh to outrun most Rock Polish Groudon before a boost, should you want to (hopefully) Burn it with Sacred Fire before it hits you with Stone Edge. Jolly nature will outrun most Rayquaza, so that's certainly a worthy consideration. You only need 290 to achieve this, but max is again an option if you fancy your chances in a tie against the other base 90s.
Ho-Oh also has several other moves it can employ. Thunder Wave can cripple a counter with paralysis; thankfully, the only Uber immune to it is Groudon, who is unlikely to risk switching into Ho-Oh, as Ho-Oh's Sacred Fire can severely cripple it. Reflect is available for support purposes, although Sacred Fire burns are enough to ward off physical attackers. Whirlwind allows Ho-Oh to function as a phazer, which it does reasonably well against special attackers if they lack an Electric attack. Safeguard gives Ho-Oh and its teammates some protection against status. Due to Ho-Oh's massive base 154 Special Defense, 106 base HP, and some fairly useful resistances, Rest + Sleep Talk are viable options for a team that lacks a status absorber. Ho-Oh can also use Choice Specs or Calm Mind to take advantage of its base 110 Special Attack stat and its good special movepool, but generally there are a lot more Pokemon who are better special sweepers, such as Kyogre, Mewtwo, Latias, Latios, and Palkia. Also, Ho-Oh's physical sets are generally more threatening.
Checks and Counters
Ho-Oh does not have a true counter as nothing in Ubers can really stand up to its monstrously powerful attacks. However, as was mentioned several times in the analysis, Kyogre can be a massive pain in the tail feathers for Ho-Oh. Kyogre resists Ho-Oh's Fire-type moves, gets rid of the sunlight thanks to Drizzle, and will OHKO Ho-Oh with Surf. However, even the bulkiest of Kyogre are 2HKOed at worst by Ho-Oh's Life Orb Brave Bird after Stealth Rock, with more offensive variants being OHKOed, so Kyogre must be careful about switching in. Palkia has a higher base Speed stat than Ho-Oh and can destroy it with Water-type moves of its own. However, special attacking Palkia risk actually being walled by Ho-Oh in the sunlight if they lack a Rock-type move such as Power Gem, while physical variants risk being crippled by a burn from Sacred Fire. Rayquaza is also faster than Ho-Oh and can easily obliterate Ho-Oh with Outrage, but Rayquaza can only come in on Earthquake. Giratina can wall most of Ho-Oh's attacks, but it is 3HKOed by Brave Bird, meaning that if Giratina lacks Toxic or Stone Edge, Ho-Oh will beat Giratina due to Rest's two-turn sleep side effect. (Brave Bird will KO Giratina before it wakes up.) Latios and Latias can outspeed Ho-Oh and destroy it with Thunder, but the sunlight will cripple the move's accuracy and neither of them can take a Brave Bird, making them very risky options.
Using something faster than Ho-Oh with a Rock-type attack will make a good check for it. Choice Scarf Tyranitar is probably the best choice since it resists both of Ho-Oh's STAB attacks, will always outspeed non-Choice Scarf sets, and will always OHKO with Stone Edge. Garchomp and fast variants of Groudon and Giratina-O can also work provided they are equipped with Stone Edge. It should be noted, however, that all of these Pokemon need to be wary of switching into Ho-Oh's Sacred Fire, lest they be crippled for the rest of the match with a burn.