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As one of the 4th Generation's 600 BST Legendaries, Heatran doesn't have the extensive metagame history that some other Featured Pokemon have had. However, what it lacks in quantity, it more than makes up in quality, as ever since the beginning of Diamond/Pearl, Heatran has been one of the defining forces in the metagame.
Back in July 2008, the first recorded month of statistics from the Smogon Shoddy Server, Heatran had already begun to make a huge impact in the metagame. Much like Scizor in today's metagame, many teams revolved around the ability to stick a Choice Scarf onto Heatran and immediately be able to take advantage of its impressive roster of resistances, solid speed, and incredible Base Power on its attacks, making Heatran a fantastic revenge killer for all purposes. Over half of all Heatran used during that period held a Choice Scarf, and it was pretty much the dominant Pokemon at the time, even without reaching #1 in usage.
While Platinum didn't provide anything new to our iron-clad flamethrower, it did bring a fairly large shift in the way Heatran was played. Everyone's new favorite toy was Choice Band Scizor and its Technician-boosted Bullet Punch, causing Scarf Heatran to fall out of popularity, especially given its inability to revenge the big new threat at the time: Outrage Salamence. However, instead of falling by the wayside, Heatran's usages evolved somewhat. Choice Specs started to see use as a lead, brutalizing unprepared teams with its powerful Overheat. Shuca Berry was also used, helping Heatran surprise foes and absorb Ground-type attacks. Life Orb made a splash as a brutal attacker that could 2HKO even Blissey after a Flash Fire boost, and specialty sets like SubRoar also came onto the scene.
When looking at Heatran's stats, you're immediately drawn to the massive 130 base Special Attack. Supported by a solid special movepool, including Fire Blast, Flamethrower, Overheat, Earth Power, Dragon Pulse, and a Hidden Power of your choosing, Heatran is more than capable of putting a massive dent in the opposing team. If that wasn't enough, it can utilize its decent 90 base Attack to plow through Blissey and friends with a fierce Explosion, making Heatran incredibly difficult to wall. 77 base Speed is also solid, outspeeding many key threats such as Gengar, Infernape, and Lucario with a Choice Scarf and effectively revenge killing them.
Defensively, it's no slouch either. 91 HP with 106 in both defensive stats lets Heatran take neutral or resisted attacks of all kinds with ease. Its Steel/Fire typing also grants it a number of key resistances: Ghost, Dark, Normal, Psychic, Flying, and Dragon are all resisted 2x, while Steel, Bug, Grass, and Ice are looking at a 4x resistance. Neutrality to Fire would be a problem, but Heatran's ability, Flash Fire, not only allows it to shrug off Fire attacks of any kind for free, but also gain a powerful boost to its STAB Fire Blast.
However, Heatran isn't just a vicious attacker. It's also got a fairly solid support movepool, consisting of Roar, Stealth Rock, Will-O-Wisp, Metal Sound, and Taunt. Furthermore, with a little luck, Heatran can use its signature move, Magma Storm, to trap its top counters, such as Blissey, Swampert, and Gyarados, and deal them a lethal blow while they are unable to retreat. With all these tools at its disposal, it's hard to find a team that Heatran can't fit into.
Before adding a Pokemon to your team, you usually have to ask, "Will this Pokemon fit into my team?" In the case of Heatran, as long as you aren't running multiple Ground weaknesses, the question is less "Will it fit?" and more "Which one should I use?" Heatran's got a moveset for pretty much every occasion, and all of them are incredibly destructive.
We'll start with the classic: Choice Scarf Heatran has always acted as a reliable revenge killer, with its solid Speed, excellent type coverage, and ability to Explode on Blissey and friends in a pinch. The moveset is fairly simple: Fire Blast, Earth Power, and Explosion are givens, and then it's just down to HP Electric, HP Grass, or Dragon Pulse for coverage moves. Bring Heatran in on stuff like Lucario, Scizor, non-Agility Metagross, Zapdos' Heat Wave, etc. and just let it rip. If Heatran can manage to pick up a Flash Fire boost from something like Fire Blast or Will-O-Wisp, it can even make an attempt at sweeping with its boosted Fire Blast.
If speed isn't your thing, Heatran can take advantage of its massive power with a Choice Specs or Life Orb set. Boasting nearly the most powerful special attacks in the metagame, Heatran equipped with a power-boosting item can prove incredibly difficult to wall. Life Orb boosted Explosion is capable of taking out a multitude of targets, and is guaranteed to incinerate any variant of Blissey it comes up against. Meanwhile, Choice Specs Heatran can even function efficiently as a lead, with its powerful Overheat threatening to destroy all but the bulkiest foes, even when resisted.
For those looking for a more supportive Heatran, Shuca Berry is always available. Heatran actually serves as quite an effective lure for opposing Heatran looking to pick up a Flash Fire boost, and Shuca Berry can allow it to survive an Earth Power and retaliate in kind. Passho Berry can be used for a more bait-oriented Heatran, luring out and exploding on Pokemon such as Gyarados, Suicune, Vaporeon, and Starmie. Leftovers can also be used in tandem with Substitute and Roar - when opponents see Heatran behind a Substitute, panic can ensue, and Roar makes it easy for Heatran to rack up damage from Spikes and Stealth Rock; it can even pull out an opponent unable to damage Heatran, allowing for more Substitutes and more havoc.
There's really no guaranteed way to dispatch Heatran, but it is possible to prepare for its various sets. Its biggest downfall is its low speed, and despite its solid defenses, its weaknesses to Ground, Water, and Fighting can be abused fairly easily.
There's the obvious counter of Blissey, which switches into Heatran's special attacks with ease, and can Protect to potentially neutralize a badly predicted Explosion. However, once again, Explosion will do a ton to Blissey, potentially crippling or killing it. Gyarados can perform extremely well against any Heatran not packing Hidden Power Electric. Bulky variants can set up on Heatran for free, as Explosion won't even come close to OHKOing after an Intimidate. Suicune plays the same way, except trading Intimidate for no SR weakness and an improved ability to tank its special attacks with Calm Mind.
Really, any Water-type can do well against Heatran. However, the important thing to keep in mind is that there's no true "counter" to Heatran, as smart play and specific options can be used to allow Heatran to muscle past pretty much all of its potential "counters" in the metagame. HP Electric beats Gyarados, HP Grass beats Swampert, predicted Explosion beats Blissey, Dragon Pulse or HP Ice beats Flygon and Dragonite, etc. Just remember to play smart, and try to mitigate Heatran's damage against your team. It's not perfect, but it's not impossible either.
It doesn't take much support to use Heatran effectively, but there are still some steps that can be taken to make sure that Heatran does its job well.
Heatran absolutely hates entry hazards, since it depends on being able to switch into neutral and resisted attacks with impunity as much as possible, and taking up to 37% just for switching in really cramps its style. Spinners such as Starmie and Tentacruel work well, since they resist Fighting and Water attacks, while Heatran can easily switch into the top Ghost-types looking to block Rapid Spin. Forretress also goes well with Heatran, as Heatran can take advantage of Forretress' 4x weakness to Fire with its Flash Fire ability.
Other than the Rapid Spinners outlined in the previous paragraph, there are a number of effective teammates for Heatran. The obvious one is Celebi, forming the other half of the legendary CeleTran combo. Heatran easily absorbs the Fire-, Ice-, Dark-, Ghost-, and Bug-type attacks commonly aimed at Celebi, while Celebi resists all of Heatran's weaknesses and can shrug them off with ease. There are also a number of "perfect" allies for Heatran. Gyarados and Dragonite both resist Heatran's weaknesses perfectly, and while Heatran may not do the same for Gyarados, it can still switch into Zapdos and Rotom-A fairly easily.
If you're looking to spice things up for your team, Heatran's a great choice to add a little heat to things. With its incredible movepool, excellent stats, and top-notch versatility, Heatran is easy to fit into any team. So why not reserve a slot for it on your next team?
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