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When you think of steel, what immediately comes to mind? "Tough as nails." "The Iron Curtain." All sorts of sturdy metaphors come to mind, and in Pokemon, Steel is no different. Boasting an impressive 11 resistances and 1 immunity, it takes a lot to break through the Steel type. On top of that, most Steel-types are incredible defensive behemoths, just adding to their reputation as impenetrable fortresses, capable of shrugging off most attacks and standing in the way of many a sweep.
When it comes to Steel-types in OU, there are a couple of key Pokemon to consider. However, the most notable one? Jirachi. This little pixie is a veritable smorgasbord of offensive and defensive utility, able to run pretty much any set it wants—Choice Scarf, Choice Specs, defensive, boosting, physical attacker, special attacker, status inducing, support, etc. On top of that, it's got the moves to pull off every single one equally effectively. However, right now the two most significant sets are of course the specially defensive set and the Calm Mind set. With enough investment in its Special Defense, Jirachi can shrug off damn near every special attack in OU, and with Drizzle support, it loses its only significant weakness to special moves, Fire, making it easily one of the most effective special walls in OU. It can also spread paralysis, as well as heal itself up with Wish, increasing its longevity by leaps and bounds. On the other hand, rain-based SubCM sets have come back into style, with the Thunder / Water Pulse combination taking the forefront. Not only does rain-boosted Water Pulse provide good secondary coverage, but it even allows Jirachi to abuse paralysis + confusion to take down some troublesome foes.
The other big Steel-type is Ferrothorn, Generation 5's biggest contribution to the type. Its unique Grass / Steel typing gives it an excellent roster of resistances and immunities, 10 in all, while sporting only 2 weaknesses—Fighting and Fire. Its 74 / 131 / 116 defenses are not to be trifled with as well, and it's even got a usable 94 base Attack with which to pose a threat. Support-wise, it's got the right tools for the job too: not only can it lay down both Stealth Rock and Spikes, but it can also heal itself and wear opponents down with Leech Seed or spread paralysis with Thunder Wave. Offensively it's no slouch either, with a powerful STAB combination of Power Whip and Gyro Ball. It can also go for a sweeping set by abusing Curse along with its excellent defenses, the healing of Leech Seed, and the power of its two main STABs. And to top it all off, it doesn't even need to attack to wear opponents down—between its hazards, Leech Seed, and its ability, Iron Barbs, it's likely to do tons of damage and even get a couple kills without even using a single offensive move.
On the defensive side of things, Skarmory and Forretress are still the punks they always were. Skarmory didn't really pick up any new tricks, but the changes to Sturdy do allow it to phaze out literally anything in a pinch, letting it serve as an impromptu check to the aforementioned SubCM Jirachi. It's also still the same old hazard machine and stallbot, with its ability to lay down Spikes with impunity and Roost off any damage it takes in the meantime. Forretress is largely in the same boat as well. While it largely lives in Ferrothorn's shadow, it still boasts a number of advantages. Rapid Spin is a great move even in Generation 5, especially with the introduction of Pokemon like Volcarona and the newly Multiscale-imbued Dragonite, whose lives depend on the removal of Stealth Rock. It's a great hazard layer as well, especially with Sturdy. And while it lost the boon of Payback doubling in power on switches, it gained Volt Switch, which allows it to scout for spinblockers and also escape from Magnezone, something that it couldn't do before.
However, Steel isn't all about defensive prowess. There are also some devastating offensive Pokemon that use their Steel typing to accentuate their ability to drop a beatdown on the opposing team. Magnezone is one significant example, as it not only has a devastating 130 base Special Attack, but packs Magnet Pull as well, an ability designed specifically to allow it to dispatch the aforementioned defensive Steel-types with ease. With Politoed support, it can even use Thunder for even more power, and it now has access to Volt Switch, which allows it to act as a scout once its job as a Steel-type killer is done. And while 60 base Speed isn't exactly stellar, it's enough to function with a Choice Scarf set, especially since the metagame as a whole is fairly slow, and it still outspeeds Tornadus and Landorus (and before its banning, Thundurus).
There's also Heatran, which packs an excellent 130 base Special Attack, along with its powerful Fire Blast, Earth Power, and Dragon Pulse. It's also more than an offensive threat, as it packs impressive 90 / 106 / 106 defenses, enough to shrug off most neutral hits. It can spread burn with Lava Plume, lay down Stealth Rock, and chase off attackers with Roar. In fact, with rain's prevalence, Heatran's usefulness as an attacker has waned somewhat, but it's still more than capable of acting as a top-notch check to some scary offensive threats.
There are also physical attackers, which are largely all the same as they were in DPP. Scizor's still a top-notch scout, Choice Band user, and all around heavy hitter which is more than capable of dishing out its own brand of punishment, and it's also excellent at sweeping with a Swords Dance set as well. Metagross is still an excellent tank in the metagame, and it can also utterly cripple some notable Pokemon, such as Skarmory, Rotom, and Gyarados, by Tricking an Iron Ball onto them. Finally, Lucario's still the same old boosting hard-hitter. Agility lets it sweep well against offensive teams reliant on Speed, and it's still devastating with Swords Dance-boosted ExtremeSpeed and Close Combat.
Unlike previous generations, where all the good Steel-types ended up in OU and UU was left with nothing, this generation's UU pool is nowhere near as short on Steel-types, both defensively and offensively. Registeel still finds itself at home in UU, where its exceptional 80 / 150 / 150 defenses serve it well, and it still spreads paralysis, lays down Stealth Rock, and just generally annoys the hell out of people. However, it now sees some competition with Bronzong, a fairly recent entrant into the UU pool. While its defenses are objectively worse than Registeel's, its secondary Psychic typing and Levitate access give it a mere singular weakness to Fire, and it's also got access to STAB Psychic and Gyro Ball to give it a bit more offensive punch. It can also spread sleep with Hypnosis, and it's still the same great check to Ground-types, especially Flygon. Empoleon also finds itself at home in UU, as it lacks its all-important Petaya Berry. However, it's still a potent force with 84 / 88 / 101 defenses, a great unique typing combining the two best defensive typings in the game, and a solid 111 base Special Attack. It makes a great tank, and its Water typing and access to Scald tends to scare off most Fighting- and Ground-types that would attempt to take advantage of its weaknesses.
The other three Steel-types in UU are new to Generation 5, and each brings its own impressive benefits to the metagame. Bisharp is essentially Absol with a layer of body armor, as it's got all of the great benefits Absol presents—huge Attack, Dark typing, STAB Sucker Punch, etc.—but it also has a couple of great advantages that set it apart. Defiant means that Intimidate is no longer a valid counter or check to it, and actually makes it even stronger. It's also got Thunder Wave and STAB Iron Head, which can let it slow things down and then attempt to flinch them to death, and Brick Break gives Bisharp powerful Fighting-type offense without lowering its stats.
Escavalier is also excellent in UU, as its 135 base Attack combined with a vicious STAB Megahorn can put one hell of a dent in anything that switches in. Factor in a STAB Iron Head, as well as Pursuit to wreck Ghost-types and Psychics fleeing from its powerful Megahorn, and Escavalier makes for quite the threat in UU. Its 70 / 105 / 105 defenses also let it tank quite well, and its lone weakness to Fire means it's easy to take attacks with it and retaliate with deadly force. Just watch out for Fire attacks, Will-O-Wisp, and burns from Scald, as those can limit Escavalier's coverage significantly.
Last, but certainly not least, there's Cobalion, the Steel-type musketeer. Packing the same great offensive typing as Lucario, it sacrifices power and coverage for Defense and Speed. However, it's no joke offensively. 108 base Speed makes it great at speeding past many opponents, and allows it to make the most of its great boosting moves. It's easy to set up a Swords Dance with those 91 / 129 / 72 defenses, and after said Swords Dance, it can crush teams with its combination of Close Combat, Iron Head, and X-Scissor; Taunt can be used in the last slot too to allow Cobalion to set up on support Pokemon as well. If physical attacking isn't your thing, Cobalion can also shore up its mediocre Special Defense with Calm Mind, making it an extremely durable attacker that's hard to break through after a couple Calm Minds.
Bullet Punch - 40 Base Power - 100% Accuracy - +1 Priority
This move is still the big selling point for Scizor in Generation 5, as a Technician-boosted priority attack off of 591 Attack is nothing to scoff at. It also sees some rare usage on a couple of other Pokemon, such as Hitmontop, Metagross, and Lucario, but in general, this move is all Scizor.
Iron Head - 80 Base Power - 100% Accuracy - 30% chance to flinch target
Still the ragemaster, Iron Head is what gives Jirachi its incredible notoriety as the most annoying Pokemon in the game. With the ability to flinch 30% of the time (60% for Jirachi), this move gives any fairly speedy Steel-type the ability to flinch its way through its counters and turn around any questionable match-up. 80 Base Power isn't that bad either, though it's obviously not the greatest.
Meteor Mash - 100 Base Power - 85% Accuracy - 20% chance to increase Attack by one stage
One of those moves that would be way better if it wasn't so badly distributed, this move is one of the things that makes Metagross such a devastating offensive threat. 100 Base Power is enough to make it scary, but a 20% chance to raise the user's Attack by 1 stage gives it a potential snowball effect that can turn many counters into shaky propositions. That said, there's a reason it's also known as "Meteor Miss"—that 85% accuracy is the kind of thing that will bite you in the ass more than once, so be careful.
Gyro Ball - Variable Base Power - 100% Accuracy - Power based on target Speed / user Speed, capped at 150
This attack is key to the offensive success of a number of Steel-type Pokemon, especially Ferrothorn and Bronzong. While it's not that great on most Pokemon, its power skyrockets when it's used by a Steel-type with a Speed stat in the low double digits, going up to a potential 150 Base Power, or 225 with STAB. This makes it tough to switch in most faster Pokemon, as it doesn't take much Speed to turn a Ferrothorn's Gyro Ball into a crushing, destructive force.
Flash Cannon - 80 Base Power - 100% Accuracy - 10% chance to lower Special Defense by one stage
With most Steel-types packing a relatively low Special Attack stat, this move sees very little use. However, it provides decent enough neutral coverage for Pokemon like Magnezone, and it's also the STAB move of choice for Calm Mind Cobalion in UU. 80 Base Power isn't too hot, but like Iron Head, it works, and it's the best that Steel has to offer on the special side.
Metal Sound - --% Accuracy - Lowers target's Special Defense 2 stages
A move that has potential applications for special attackers like Heatran and Magnezone, but unfortunately those two tend to have better things to do. Still, it can serve as an impromptu shuffling move, as few Pokemon really want to take a Thunderbolt from Magnezone or a Fire Blast from Heatran at -2 Special Defense. Even Blissey gets a little scared of Fire Blast off of 394 Special Attack when its Special Defense has been halved.
With Dragon-types having such a huge impact on the metagame, you'd have to be a fool to venture into OU without a sturdy Steel-type on your team to stave them off. And even if Dragon-types aren't your primary concern, Steel's impressive roster of resistances makes it invaluable for basically every team type. There's no doubt that Steel-types have a massive impact on every metagame, and are arguably more significant than any other type.
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