Featured RU Pokémon: Honchkrow

By Omicron. Art by sandshrewz.
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When Honchkrow was introduced in DPP, it never managed to fulfill a specific niche in any metagame, but was deemed too powerful for UU and was banished to the BL tier along with other Pokémon such as Gallade and Crobat. Thanks to the multitude of sweepers in OU that proved to be much more useful than Honchkrow, it never had a chance to become one with the DPP OU tier. Honchkrow's relative frailty and low Speed made it reliant on Sucker Punch to hit faster opponents, which doomed it to a miserable life in the neglected land of BL. However, with the introduction of BW, Honchkrow received two very endearing gifts: the creation of the RU tier and a new Dream World ability, Moxie. Honchkrow thrives in the RU tier as one of the most threatening sweepers, thanks to its powerful STAB moves and high offensive stats. Its base 105 Special Attack meant that it could feasibly run a mixed set, which spelled doom for many of its usual counters, such as Steelix. Moxie is a great addition for the smug bird, raising its Attack stat every time it KOes something, and despite losing Superpower in order to use it, a Honchkrow with multiple Attack boosts is a very scary thought indeed. In fact, Honchkrow has been such a menace in the RU tier to the point where it has been a suspect twice! Alas, in the end, after much clamor and intense debate, Honchkrow was announced RU, where it rightfully belongs, as "King Krow" of the tier.

Honchkrow's Qualities

The first thing that immediately stands out when looking at Honchkrow is its fantastic base 125 Attack stat. With potent dual STAB moves in Brave Bird and Sucker Punch, Honchkrow can easily take out anything that doesn't resist the combo. Its somewhat unique typing, only shared with the Mandibuzz evolution line, gives it several advantages and disadvantages. Honchkrow's Dark typing is definitely its more useful one, granting it an immunity to Psychic-type attacks as well as a resistance to Ghost-type attacks, meaning that it can switch in with impunity on most of those attacks. Honchkrow also has access to a powerful STAB Pursuit, allowing it to easily trap and KO fleeing Ghost- and Psychic-types. In addition, Honchkrow packs another potent typing, which is Flying. Although this gives it a weakness to Stealth Rock, Honchkrow is immune to Spikes and Toxic Spikes, which greatly extends its lifespan on the battlefield. Roost further adds to Honchkrow's survivability, despite its relatively low defenses.

Honchkrow's new Dream World ability, Moxie, may seem like a gift from heaven at first, but upon closer examination, it turns out that Honchkrow is unable to use its DPP tutor moves, such as Superpower and Heat Wave, both of which were instrumental in taking down Steel-types—some of Honchkrow's biggest nemeses. Of course, Honchkrow can opt to use Moxie with Hidden Power Ground, which takes care of the common Steel-types in RU, such as Magneton and Aggron. Insomnia, while not as useful as Moxie, still allows Honchkrow to switch into sleep-inducing moves such as Sleep Powder. Unfortunately, nothing can really remedy Honchkrow's miserable base 71 Speed stat, which is slow even by RU standards; Honchkrow fails to outspeed almost everything that can immediately kill it, tying even with Magneton. Relying on Sucker Punch in order to hit faster opponents is not always the best of ideas, as foes that utilize Substitute can easily work around Sucker Punch and play mind games with you. That being said, should Honchkrow manage to get a powerful STAB Brave Bird on a non-resisted target, be rest assured that said target will be decimated instantly, especially with a Life Orb boost. Because of the massive amount of recoil that is the result of using a Life Orb-backed Brave Bird, Roost can help Honchkrow to live to fight another day, not to mention negating any Stealth Rock damage it might have taken. The only real noticeable flaws that Honchkrow has are its low Speed, terrible defenses, and inability to use good coverage moves with Moxie. Other than that, Honchkrow is a prime example of an RU sweeper, and shouldn't be considered as anything less.

Playing with Honchkrow

As Honchkrow is a very impressive sweeper in its own right, it doesn't necessarily need a whole lot of support in order to be successful. However, when provided with the right team support, Honchkrow can soar above and beyond any expectations you might have previously had. Honchkrow is a very simple Pokémon to use. It has no setup moves bar the rare Nasty Plot, and has two powerful STAB moves that it can abuse. Brave Bird is immensely powerful, and destroys anything that doesn't resist it, while Sucker Punch provides Honchkrow with a means of hitting faster Pokémon that don't utilize priority. Although Honchkrow doesn't really have any useful support moves, it has absolutely no need for them—its purpose is to destroy as many things as possible before fainting, hopefully punching large enough holes in your opponent's team such that the rest can be cleaned up by a teammate or two. The Moxie set is incredibly dangerous, and can set up Honchkrow for a sweep after just a single boost. Once Honchkrow has managed to get an Attack boost from Moxie, there is almost no stopping it with the exception of faster priority users and sleep-inducing moves. Moxie makes it difficult to stop without a Steel-type—and even then, they can be taken care of with a swift Hidden Power Ground. The old method of sacrificing a Pokémon in order to bring in a revenge killer safely is no longer an option, as Honchkrow will have gained an Attack boost as a result of that sacrifice. However, because Moxie severely limits the attacks that Honchkrow can use, many will opt to go for the Insomnia ability; if that is so, Honchkrow can use moves such as Superpower and Heat Wave.

As Honchkrow also possesses a very respectable base 105 Special Attack, it can simply choose to go mixed, should certain opponents give you trouble. Honchkrow has the option of using Nasty Plot, though it generally isn't as effective as the standard mixed set. Heat Wave is arguably Honchkrow's best option against nasty Steel-types coming in to wall it, and also provides fairly decent coverage along with all of its other moves. Superpower is an amazing tutor move that allows Honchkrow to break through the Rock-types that resist Brave Bird and Heat Wave. Although Sucker Punch is a very powerful move, it should be used sparingly and with caution, as many opponents that pack Substitute or status moves such as Will-O-Wisp can easily play around or cripple Honchkrow. Sucker Punch also has a very sparse 8 PP maximum, meaning that it can easily be outstalled—especially by Pokémon with the Pressure ability. Other than that, however, it is fairly easy to play with Honchkrow, especially on offensively-oriented teams, which are what mostly populate the RU ladder these days.

Playing Against Honchkrow

In general, regardless of its great offenses, Honchkrow can usually be walled one way or another. The trouble stems from the fact that it is difficult to figure out what variant of Honchkrow the opponent is running. Moxie variants are probably the most easily taken care of, as they can be stopped by playing around Sucker Punch and by simply using a Steel-type. However, Honchkrow can still feasibly run Hidden Power Ground in order to take care of these Steel-type behemoths, so beware, unless you want your only Honchkrow check to be completely destroyed. Magneton is a great counter to Honchkrow not running Heat Wave or Hidden Power Ground, as it has a 4x resistance to Brave Bird and also resists Sucker Punch. If Magneton is holding a Choice Scarf, Honchkrow might as well give up. Eviolite variants usually aren't OHKOed by Heat Wave or Hidden Power Ground either, meaning that Honchkrow must hit it on the switch to avoid being fried by Thunderbolt. Moxie variants can also be put to sleep by fast sleep-inducers, such as Lilligant. This is very risky, however, as Insomnia variants are perfectly viable, and may be even more popular than the Moxie variants. One wrong move, and your entire team could be in jeopardy.

The mixed variants of Honchkrow are actually much more difficult to deal with, as the list of checks and counters grows much smaller. If this is the case, your best bet is to use a faster Choice Scarf Pokémon, or just a faster Pokémon in general, that isn't weak to Sucker Punch, and proceed to knock this bird out of the sky. Almost nothing can switch into Honchkrow safely though, so try to keep that in mind when thinking about how to counter it. Other variants of Honchkrow that aren't very common but still pose a significant threat include Choice Scarf Honchkrow, Choice Band Honchkrow, and Nasty Plot Honchkrow. Of these, Choice Scarf is probably the most dangerous. With a Choice Scarf equipped, Honchkrow can now outspeed its usual checks, such as Rotom, and OHKO them with the appropriate move. If Honchkrow gains an Attack boost courtesy of Moxie, it will be even harder to stop without a sturdy Steel-type on your side, such as Steelix. Choice Band variants of Honchkrow aren't as threatening due to the relative lack of Speed, but can still rip through slower, stall-oriented teams. Nasty Plot variants are virtually non-existent, but when they do pop up, they can be quite hard to deal with by using the regular counters. Nasty Plot sets usually carry Heat Wave, Dark Pulse, and some other coverage move, usually in the form of Hidden Power. It usually isn't as effective as the other sets, especially as Honchkrow now lacks a priority move in order to hit faster opponents, and its Special Attack, while still good, is considerably lower than its Attack stat. Once you manage to figure out the type of Honchkrow your opponent is using, it is relatively easy pickings from there; just attack with the appropriate counter, proceed with caution, and Honchkrow will be gone in no time.

Fitting Honchkrow onto your Team

Although Honchkrow isn't particularly difficult to fit onto most teams, it does require some team support in order to get 'er done. First and foremost, when using a Moxie variant of Honchkrow, the most important thing is to have teammates that can obliterate opposing Steel-types that threaten to wall Honchkrow. Magneton is a great candidate to kill enemy Steel-types, as it has the ability Magnet Pull, effectively trapping any Steel-type foolish enough to try to take on Magneton. In addition, Magneton is one of the fastest Steel-types in RU, boasting a decent base 70 Speed, and has access to Magnet Rise in order to avoid the imminent Earthquakes coming from its intended targets. Once Magneton has trapped a Steel-type, it can melt and reforge it with a super effective Hidden Power Fire, or simply 2HKO with its powerful STAB Thunderbolt. Magneton and Honchkrow also complement each other well offensively, as Honchkrow breaks through all the special walls that Magneton has trouble with, while Magneton can easily take care of any physical walls looking to prevent a Honchkrow sweep, including Steel-types. The only Pokémon that this combination has trouble with is Lanturn, which walls Magneton thanks to Volt Absorb, and also resists Honchkrow's Brave Bird.

Similar to most sweepers, Honchkrow really appreciates some good entry hazard support. If you are running a SubRoost set, Toxic Spikes are definitely the way to go, as Honchkrow can attack, heal itself, set up Substitutes, and rinse and repeat, all while the opponent struggles to break through before succumbing to the deadly effect of Toxic Spikes. Other entry hazards, such as Spikes and Stealth Rock, are also useful to allow Honchkrow to more easily Brave Bird everything right where it hurts. On that note, Honchkrow also appreciates Rapid Spin support, as it is weak to Stealth Rock, and with the recoil from both Brave Bird and Life Orb, it will be losing health fairly quickly, even with Roost available as an instant recovery option. Sandslash is a great teammate to Honchkrow, as it resists Rock-type attacks and is able to both set up Stealth Rock and use Rapid Spin. It also has a nice STAB Earthquake with which it can take out those pesky Steel-types that usually wall most Moxie variants of Honchkrow. As previously mentioned, a strong special attacker, such as Moltres or Rotom, functions extremely well when used in conjunction with the physically based Honchkrow.

Get Out There!

Honchkrow is THE face of RU, and if you can manage to look past its few flaws and focus on its excellent sweeping capabilities, I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed. Don't hesitate to try Honchkrow out, as others are certain to use and abuse it to the fullest extent.

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