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Dragonite has had a long and somewhat troubled history. Debuting in RBY as the very first—and only—fully-evolved Dragon-type, it suffered from a major problem: there was literally exactly one Dragon-type attack, and it was Dragon Rage. This condemned it to a life of mediocrity as a merely decent sweeper, or a speedy Agility + Wrap abuser. That Ice-type attacks were ridiculously common, Blizzard was 90% accurate, and Ground-types were on every team didn't help either. GSC didn't bring many improvements—the fetish for sticking Blizzard onto every team went away, but Dragonite's relative slowness and lack of effective attacking options stayed.
Things seemed to perk up for Dragonite in ADV. It not only gained access to Earthquake, an attack that would have been a godsend in any other generation, but it also received the new and powerful set-up move, Dragon Dance. Unfortunately, it also got its first direct competition in the form of Salamence, which hit harder, had more Speed, and had an actually useful ability: Intimidate. Dragonite had Focus Punch to give it a little hope, but by and large Salamence pretty much dominated it. DPP brought even more goodies for Dragonite, in the form of the buff to Outrage and the physical / special split. In vanilla DP, Dragonite was the only Pokemon to pack the devastating combination of Dragon Dance + Outrage, giving it a fierce and frightening niche, until Platinum came along and gave Outrage to everything with a hint of an anger management problem... including Salamence. Once more, Dragonite found itself shunted to the shadows.
However, all this would change in BW. While Salamence acquired few new toys, Dragonite got the whole damn toybox. For starters, Dragonite received STAB Hurricane, allowing it to join forces with the new Drizzle Politoed to rock the fierce Thunder / Hurricane combination. Dragon Tail also enabled it to make use of its good bulk in a defensive role with Thunder Wave. The biggest buff, however, came from the Dream World, where Salamence found itself very much on the losing end of things. Salamence received Moxie, which would be neat... except that losing Intimidate hurt it a lot, and the Dragon Dance + Outrage combination is illegal with Moxie, making a snowball sweep much harder. Dragonite, on the other hand, got Multiscale, an ability that made it possibly the most durable non-Uber in the game at full HP, letting it shrug off even Ice Beams at will. While BW has brought Dragon-types such as Hydreigon, Haxorus, Salamence, Latios, and Latias to the forefront, Dragonite has at long last cemented itself as the top Dragon-type in the metagame.
Dragonite's stats serve to illustrate that it really has no flaws to exploit. Its lowest stat is its perfectly usable base 80 Speed, and with 134 / 100 attacking stats and excellent 91 / 95 / 100 defenses, Dragonite has the stat distribution to run pretty much whatever it wants. Which, of course, is great, because it's got the movepool to back it up too.
On the physical side, Dragonite possesses a solid movepool, which includes all the tools it needs to excel offensively. Outrage, Dragon Claw, Earthquake, Fire Punch, and Aqua Tail give it perfect coverage on the physical side, and it's even got ExtremeSpeed for, well, extremely powerful priority. On the special side, its movepool equally goes on for days. Draco Meteor is the ridiculous STAB that everyone loves, and Dragon Pulse gives it a reliable special Dragon-type move as well. It also picked up STAB Hurricane, allowing it to truly make use of its Flying typing offensively for the first time—though it requires Politoed support to do so. Dragonite packs Thunder too, which pairs well with Hurricane, and also has a nice 30% paralysis chance that makes it hard to switch into. Additionally, Dragonite has Surf, Fire Blast, Flamethrower, and even Focus Blast if that strikes your fancy, as well as a couple other moves that would be excellent on many other Pokemon but probably won't see much use on Dragonite, such as Thunderbolt, Ice Beam, and Blizzard. Finally, its support movepool is fantastic too: Roost grants it healing, Thunder Wave enables it to spread paralysis, and the new Dragon Tail allows it to chip away at teams while shuffling them around, or force out threatening attackers looking to set up and sweep.
However, Dragonite's greatest feature is Multiscale, an ability that reduces the damage it takes by 50% when it's at full HP. This means that as a lead, it's nearly impossible to OHKO, and if Stealth Rock isn't in play, Dragonite can pretty much get a free Dragon Dance whenever it wants. Roost complements it well, letting it easily heal itself back to full HP for more Multiscale fun. While there are a couple of notable moves that are illegal with Multiscale, such as Superpower, Heal Bell, and Focus Punch, these don't really impact how it plays—at worst, it just makes mixed sets (especially rain-abusing ones) a little more wary of Tyranitar and Blissey, as these Dragonite no longer have access to a strong Superpower. Heal Bell would also be pretty nice on a support set, but for now we'll just have to hope for it to be available as a tutor move later on.
Dragonite's excellent stats and movepool lend it to use in pretty much any playstyle. One of its most threatening set is no doubt the vicious bulky Dragon Dance variant that looks to rack up a couple of boosts and steamroll over teams. With Multiscale, Dragonite can come in at nearly any time and safely set up a Dragon Dance, and once it's gotten its first Speed boost, it can use Roost to reactivate Multiscale and keep things rolling. With great two-move coverage in Outrage and Fire Punch or Earthquake, it's tough to keep this behemoth from plowing through teams after a couple of boosts.
Dragonite also shines as a Choice Band user, as its powerful Outrages are incredibly fearsome, doubly so when Multiscale essentially guarantees that it'll get at least one off, and maybe more. Even Steel-types aren't safe, as Fire Punch and Earthquake make it tough for them to keep Dragonite down, and those without insane Defense, such as specially defensive Jirachi or Scizor, run the risk of being 2HKOed by Outrage anyway. It's also an amazing revenge killer, even with its low Speed, due to the sheer power of ExtremeSpeed coming off of 600+ Attack.
Dragonite excels in the rain as well, where it gains access to its powerful new STAB move, Hurricane. Its Water- and Grass-type resistances make it an excellent teammate for rain abusers, and the sheer number of Water-types on a rain team make Ice-type attacks much less of a problem. A set of Hurricane / Thunder / filler (Brick Break, Surf, Dragon Pulse, or Focus Blast) / Roost can be incredibly threatening, especially since many teams find themselves lacking in Flying-type resistances.
Last, but certainly not least, are the defensive sets. With Thunder Wave, Dragon Tail, and Multiscale, Dragonite poses a defensive challenge that many unprepared teams are simply unable to deal with. It can spread paralysis, force out set-up sweepers, and just generally make itself a nuisance for the opposing team, particularly if it's paired with entry hazards. SubRoost is a tried and true strategy as well, and Dragonite turns this up a notch, as Roosting to 100% HP makes its Substitutes incredibly durable and hard to break in one hit.
If there's one reason to fit Stealth Rock onto your team, it's Dragonite. Stealth Rock negates Multiscale, which makes it much harder for the Dragon Dance set to set up, or for the Choice Band set to switch in and wreak havoc on your team. While Roost can negate Stealth Rock damage, that still means that Dragonite has to spend a turn Roosting instead of setting up, spreading paralysis, or simply dealing damage.
Beyond that, there are some other checks that are notable. Choice Scarf Haxorus is probably the #1 check to Dragonite, as it can survive an ExtremeSpeed, outspeed Dragonite at +1, and OHKO with its STAB Dragon-type moves. It's especially good because of Mold Breaker, which negates Multiscale and allows it to deal with Dragonite without the latter's ability interfering. However, it's hard to switch Haxorus in directly, and if Dragonite gets multiple Dragon Dance boosts, it's curtains for Haxorus.
Beyond that, it's time to get a little creative. Paralysis can completely cripple Dragonite, preventing it from sweeping through teams due to the Speed cut; this also prevents Dragonite from Roosting before an incoming attack and buffering the damage it takes with Multiscale. There are also some attackers capable of simply muscling through Dragonite's Multiscale, similar to how YacheChomp in DPP would fall to multiple strong attacks. Cloyster's colossal base 180 Defense lets it take an Outrage, and Icicle Spear is guaranteed to OHKO, since Multiscale breaks after the first hit. Mamoswine can also snipe it with Ice Shard, though Multiscale if active will prevent the KO. Choice Scarf Mamoswine can OHKO Dragonite with Icicle Drop or Icicle Spear, but is not guaranteed to outspeed it. Dragonite can also be phazed out by Skarmory, though that just postpones the inevitable. Finally, Sableye can burn it with priority Will-O-Wisp. Burn is especially crippling for Dragonite, since it not only cuts its Attack by half, but also permanently prevents Multiscale from activating. However, Sableye is hard to switch in, due to its relatively poor defenses. As with most other Dragon-types, forcing Dragonite to Outrage and then revenge killing it also works, since it can no longer heal up to reactivate Multiscale, and is trapped in with whatever would take it out. Unfortunately, the list of things that can both take a hit and deal good damage isn't very long, being basically limited to the likes of Hidden Power Ice Bronzong or Choice Scarf users packing Ice-type moves.
Finally, the special sets are much easier to stop than the physical ones. There's pretty much no way that a rain-abusing Dragonite can get around Jirachi, as even a rain-boosted Surf does pitiful damage, and Jirachi can paralyze it, making it much easier for Jirachi's teammates to handle it. Tyranitar is also effective against Dragonite, though Focus Blast and Brick Break can put a dent in it. Unsurprisingly, Blissey is not fazed by anything Dragonite can muster, and will typically come out on top especially if she packs Toxic or Thunder Wave.
Dragonite's a tough cookie, but depending on the set it'll need plenty of support to get going. The defensive sets and the Choice Band set are pretty self-sufficient, but the rain set and the sweepers need a little more love.
Stealth Rock. Dragonite needs it gone. Period. This means Dragonite really wants a Rapid Spin user on its team. Forretress and Starmie fit the bill, especially since they thrive on rain teams, and Dragonite can take Fire- and Electric-type attacks fairly well. Sandstorm can also be problematic for non-Leftovers sets, but Leftovers's negation of sandstorm damage makes hostile weather much less of an issue.
While Jirachi can be one of Dragonite's worst enemies, it can also be one of Dragonite's best friends. Dragonite doesn't care about Earthquake or Fire-type attacks at all, and Jirachi can take the Ice-, Rock-, and Dragon-type attacks that threaten Dragonite with relative ease. Wish is great as well, especially for Choice Band variants, as it enables Dragonite to heal off Stealth Rock damage, or simply keep Dragonite's HP up in general. Magnezone also works well with Dragonite, sharing the same mutually beneficial resistances as Jirachi, with Dragonite lending an additional Fighting-type resistance. At the same time, Magnezone can eliminate Steel-types, or at least weaken them, allowing Dragonite to spam Outrage with impunity.
It's been a long time coming, but I can finally say this: Dragonite is, bar none, the absolute best Dragon-type in the metagame. Between Dragon Dance, Outrage, Hurricane, Multiscale, and the many other tools Dragonite has at its disposal, Dragonite's incredible versatility has finally pushed it to the forefront. Here's hoping that the third game in BW doesn't pull the same cruel trick Platinum did to Dragonite, but with how much Dragonite's improved, it doesn't seem likely that it'll be outclassed by anything for a long time to come.
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