When Black and White arrived, the pinch berries were no longer available. This was bad news for Empoleon, as its signature Agility SubPetaya set was now unusable, and it had to do with a simple Life Orb set. However, in the Dream World metagame, the pinch berries can be used, leaving Empoleon free to use its signature set. With Drizzle support, this set can sweep any unprepared team, and when building a rain offense team Empoleon should always be considered.
Empoleon's signature set aims to sweep late-game with a combination of boosts from Petaya Berry, Torrent, and Drizzle. This makes Empoleon's STAB move incredibly powerful, with Hydro Pump being almost twice as powerful as Latios's legendary Choice Specs Draco Meteor. Agility, meanwhile, doubles Empoleon's Speed, making it very hard to outspeed other than with fast Choice Scarf users. When setting up, Empoleon should use Agility first. Then, Empoleon can use Substitute continuously until Petaya Berry and Torrent activate, at which point Empoleon is ready to sweep.
The choice between Surf and Hydro Pump depends on the classic power versus accuracy argument. Surf provides more reliability, but Hydro Pump scores some useful KOs, such as on Keldeo without any prior damage and Blissey after Stealth Rock and two layers of Spikes. Grass Knot is usually the best option in the last slot, as it hits otherwise troublesome Pokemon such as Jellicent and Gastrodon. Ice Beam is an alternate option over Grass Knot, as it hits Dragonite hard even with Multiscale intact, as well as Latias and defensive Celebi.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Instead of being a threatening sweeper, this set aims to soak special hits. Base 84 HP and 101 Special Defense is quite respectable, but what makes this set is so good are Empoleon's twelve resistances and immunity to Toxic and Toxic Spikes. Some of the most threatening special attackers don't have an attack that really harms Empoleon, namely Latios, Politoed, Celebi, and Genesect, though be wary of Thunderbolt for the last one.
Scald is Empoleon's best STAB attack for this set, being a reliable attack but also providing a 30% burn chance, meaning physical attackers such as Ferrothorn and Breloom won't be able to switch in freely. The choice between Ice Beam and Grass Knot depends on what your team has the most trouble with: Ice Beam hits Dragon-types and Grass-types such as Latios and Celebi and also prevents Toxicroak from walling Empoleon, so it's usually the better choice, but Grass Knot can also be useful if your team has problems with Water-types such as Politoed and Starmie. Roar is the best option in the third slot, capitalizing on Empoleon's ability to force out several Pokemon, forcing your opponent to take more entry hazard damage. It also lets Empoleon phaze setup sweepers such as Calm Mind Latias, removing all their boosts. In the last slot, Stealth Rock makes for an excellent support option, damaging every Pokemon switching in. However, if another Pokemon on your team already knows Stealth Rock, Protect makes for a good option, as it can scout the move of Choice-locked Pokemon, and also provides Empoleon with a somewhat decent recovery option.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
This set forgoes power for more coverage. The loss of Petaya Berry and the Torrent boost in exchange for a Life Orb means a lot of power is lost, but the coverage provided by using both Ice Beam and Grass Knot can sometimes be worth it. However, there are only a couple of teams this set works better on than the standard set. Rain teams are almost always better off with the SubPetaya set, as in rain, it has the power to plow through even Water resists, making the coverage unneeded. However, on sand or weatherless teams, this set is a good option, as Pokemon such as Keldeo or Latios will otherwise be able to take it on depending on Empoleon's coverage option. This set can also attempt to set up multiple times in a match, unlike the standard SubPetaya set, which can only set up once.
Agility is the main move of this set, letting Empoleon outspeed everything up to Choice Scarf Gyarados. Hydro Pump is Empoleon's best STAB move, as the loss in power is best made up for by using a powerful STAB move. Surf is also an option for more accuracy, but it misses out on KOing several important Pokemon, such as Choice Scarf Tyranitar. Ice Beam and Grass Knot provide Empoleon with perfect coverage, with the former hitting Grass- and Dragon-types and the latter hitting Water-types.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Empoleon can run a Choice Specs rather effectively with Hidden Power Fire or Flash Cannon in the last slot, but it has little use over the Agility + 3 Attacks set, which can change moves and has Agility to attempt a sweep. Keldeo also usually does a better job as a Choice Specs user, as it is more powerful, faster, and has STAB Secret Sword to take down Blissey and Ferrothorn. Empoleon can also attempt to sweep with a Swords Dance set and STAB priority Aqua Jet, but base 86 Attack isn't exactly impressive, and it is easily walled by common Pokemon such as Dragonite, Rotom-W, and Skarmory.
Checks and Counters
Due to its sheer power, Empoleon can be hard to counter. Chansey is one of the best options, as due to its great special bulk and Eviolite it won't take much from even rain-boosted Hydro Pump and can take down Empoleon with Seismic Toss. Vaporeon is another Pokemon that can take Empoleon's attacks rather easily, as it is immune to Surf thanks to Water Absorb, and due to its low weight Grass Knot only has a paltry 60 Base Power and fails to 2HKO. Vaporeon can then take down Empoleon at 25% with a rain-boosted Surf.
Other than those two Pokemon, few Pokemon you'll commonly encounter can take all of Empoleon's attacks. However, Empoleon has to choose between Grass Knot and Ice Beam and depending on its pick, there will always be something that can wall it. Gastrodon and Jellicent are both immune to Surf thanks to their ability, and take poor damage from Ice Beam, so any Empoleon lacking Grass Knot won't be able to get past them. On the other hand, any Empoleon lacking Ice Beam will find itself walled by bulky Grass-types such as Celebi, as well as Dragonite that has been able to keep its Multiscale intact. Toxicroak is also immune to Surf and Hydro Pump thanks to its Dry Skin ability, resists Grass Knot, and can KO Empoleon with STAB Cross Chop or Drain Punch in return.
If you lack a Pokemon that can take Empoleon's attacks, there's always the option of revenge killing it. While Agility boosts its Speed by two stages, there are still several Choice Scarf users that can outspeed Empoleon and take it down. Landorus, Terrakion, Genesect with Thunderbolt, and Rotom-W are the most prominent ones. Empoleon is also weak to Mach Punch, and as such, Pokemon with that move can take it down before it can make a move. Breloom, Conkeldurr, and Infernape are the three best options for the job. However, every other priority move bar Vacuum Wave is resisted by Empoleon and won't be able to take it down even at 25%, so don't think you can get away with Scizor or Lucario.