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Salamence is one of the most ridiculous offensive Pokémon you’ll come across in today's OU metagame. Salamence made its first appearance in the Ruby and Sapphire generation; it's been tearing teams apart ever since. In this article, we’ll take a look at how Salamence has evolved throughout the fourth generation, and what these changes mean to you as a competitive battler.
During RS, Salamence relied on its offensive prowess to dent any Pokémon standing in its way. The Choice Band and Dragon Dance sets were the most popular, with special attacking sets less common than they are today. The release of Diamond and Pearl would continue this success story. The new physical and special split finally gave Salamence some great physical Dragon moves to utilize its base 135 Attack, not to mention Draco Meteor to fire off on the special side. The fourth generation brought much more offense to the table, complementing the previously heavily used Choice Band with Choice Specs, Choice Scarf and Life Orb. Salamence became even more of a force to be reckoned with offensively, but of course it didn't end there. The addition of Roost to Salamence's movepool allowed it to capitalize on its above average defenses, especially when taking into account Intimidate.
As if Salamence didn't have enough going for it already, Platinum rocketed the already heavily used Dragon-type to stardom with the addition of Outrage to its movepool. Salamence now completely overshadows its counterparts in the Dragon Dancing department, something that had previously set Pokémon like Dragonite apart. Even Garchomp was gone, so why look any further than Salamence as your dragon of choice? Well, Platinum wasn't entirely great for Salamence. Latias was brought down from Uber to OU, providing a great check so long as Salamence didn't get in a Dragon Dance. Additionally, Scizor would become the single most overused Pokémon thanks to the great utility of Bullet Punch, and this will always be a thorn in Salamences' side. Despite this, Salamence is still one of the most heavily used Pokémon, and with good reason. Let's take a look at exactly why.
So, what makes Salamence such a menace? Salamence’s almost overpowered offensive abilities obviously stand out straight away - how could one forget its base 135 Attack and base 110 Special Attack with great moves to boot? This alone makes Salamence extremely dangerous - you never know which defensive stat it's going to prey on next. Salamence is not only brilliant at weakening the opponent's team to allow another Pokémon to sweep, but it is also very much capable of being the one to deliver the coup de grâce.
Let's not forget about Salamence's defenses either, which are pretty reasonable as well. For a Pokémon that can hit so hard, base 95 HP and base 80 defenses are nothing to scoff at. One must not overlook Roost, a very important move for the budding defensive Salamence. Couple this with Intimidate and some handy resistances and a great immunity, and you might just find a bulky Salamence getting a couple more Dragon Dances than you'd like.
The most dangerous aspect of Salamence by far is its sheer unpredictability, which we've already touched on. If the thought of Salamence having being able to fit Draco Meteor, Outrage, Fire Blast and Earthquake onto a single devastating set doesn't make your head spin, keep in mind that it can just as easily Dragon Dance and Roost off anything your physical attackers throw at it provided it has invested in a bit of bulk. You probably see players taking advantage of this all the time, so perhaps it's time that we took a look at how you can do the same.
Salamence is fantastic if you're looking to leave a gaping hole in your opponents' teams, and there is more than one way to accomplish this. We've already touched on one of Salamence's most popular sets to this end, being the dreaded mixed Salamence. Between Draco Meteor, Outrage and two of Fire Blast, Earthquake, Brick Break and Roost, you've got a Pokémon that can single-handedly decimate unprepared teams - perfect for softening the teams of more experienced players. In the wake of this set lies an underappreciated set which was an old favourite in advance. We are of course referring to the deadly Choice Band Salamence, which has only gotten better this generation. How you play it is up to you; you can get away with firing off a boosted Outrage early to mid game to soften even your opponents Steel-types, or you can play it safe with Dragon Claw, Earthquake and Fire Blast until you're sure it's safe to lock yourself in. Let's not forget that Salamence can also utilize Choice Specs and Choice Scarf offensively as well, and although these sets do not pack the same destructive power as the previous ones, they can be just as effective by taking your opponent by surprise.
Defensively, Salamence can utilize Roost and a bulky spread focusing on a defensive stat of your choice. It's not a good idea to try and split yourself up between Defense and Special Defense - specialization is the key here. Between Dragon Dance and Roost, you'll often find yourself able to set yourself up a powerhouse that is even harder to take down than usual. You'll of course need to watch out for status effects thrown at you by your opponent, but that's really a given with any Salamence set anyway. If you're feeling particularly adventurous, you might even like to try Wish to provide some team support. Throw in Toxic, a Fire move and a Dragon move, and you've got a pretty powerful supportive Pokémon should you need it, although this is usually performed better by Latias.
With a movepool like Salamence's, it's not surprising that it's capable of being the Pokémon to end the game rather than setting up another teammate to do it. Between Life Orb and Salamence's movepool, it can really be accomplished with a single Dragon Dance so long as you've removed faster Choice Scarf Pokémon and preferably Scizor, which is a pain no matter what with Bullet Punch. When Dragon Dancing, you can choose to utilize a Lum Berry or Yache Berry instead to ensure that second Dragon Dance - you'll have to take into consideration the rest of your team when making this decision.
As touched upon earlier, you can never be one hundred percent sure which move Salamence will throw at you as soon as you see it. Is it physical? Special? Mixed? Is it choiced? Will it Dragon Dance? You're not alone in thinking this - every player is faced with these questions as soon as the dragon rears its head. Once you have an idea what you're up against, you can take necessary measures against it, but what is going to be that initial switch? How do you find out without losing a Pokémon straight up?
Having a Steel-type waiting in the wings is usually the first method of defense, as you’re able to resist those powerful Dragon-type attacks. Pokémon like Bronzong have less to fear when facing physical Salamence, and you’ll often get the opportunity to set up Stealth Rock. Stealth Rock will remove a quarter of Salamence’s health every time it switches in, so if you can limited the number of times Salamence can enter the field of play, you can further limit how much damage it can do to you. Choice Scarf Heatran can come in on any move not named Earthquake, Brick Break or the rare Hydro Pump and threaten to Dragon Pulse in return. Obviously you're going to be in a bit of trouble if Salamence Dragon Dances instead, however. Not many Pokémon can switch in on Salamence and defeat it on the next turn, so revenge killing is often the way go to.
Choice Band Scizor is one of the primary candidates thanks to Bullet Punch, which will do upwards of 60% damage to your average Salamence. Mamoswine and Weavile have access to Ice Shard, so will obviously take down Salamence no matter how many Dragon Dances it can get in. In Scizor's case, you can actually switch it in once or even twice if you're a bulkier variant. Being able to take the odd Outrage might save you in a pinch. Choice Scarf Jirachi, Flygon, and Heatran are great revenge killers to eliminate Salamence with provided it doesn't boost its Speed. Blissey stops the rare Choice Specs version in its tracks. Generally, you’ll just want to figure out which set you’re facing without losing crucial team members, and use your most suitable counter, and/or revenge killer to deal with it; Stealth Rock is pretty widespread these days anyway and will significantly lower Salamence’s opportunites to threaten your team.
At this point, you're probably thinking about how awesome this all sounds, and how you want to use Salamence right away! As much as you'd probably like to, you can't just pop Salamence onto any given team and be an instant success story; the best Salamence users will always put it in an environment where it can do its job to its fullest potential. Let's take a look at what you can do to ensure your Salamence makes heads roll for as long as possible.
Salamence is a Pokémon that both loves and hates Stealth Rock. Offensively, it can turn many potential 2HKOs into OHKOs and generally weaken the opponent. Defensively, however, Salamence is losing a quarter of its HP each time it switches in, significantly reducing its ability to get in there and do its job. So, while setting up Stealth Rock should be a priority for you, you might additionally like to take some precautions against it. Particular leads such as Aerodactyl and Azelf can provide a speedy Taunt to prevent your opponent setting up those annoying floating rocks, but this doesn't guarantee anything of course. You can also try a Rapid Spinner - good candidates being Starmie and Forretress in the OU metagame.
If you can get your opponent's Steel-type Pokémon out of the way nice and early, you'll often find that Salamence can sweep unhindered. To this end, Magnezone makes a great offensive partner with its ability to trap Steel Pokémon in play. Then, provided the opponent isn't carrying Shed Shell, you'll be just a couple of Thunderbolts or Hidden Power Fires away from beating your opponent down with insanely powered Dragon-type attacks. Pairing Salamence with any Steel-type Pokémon (Jirachi and Metagross being great candidates) provides for a type combination - the Ice and Rock attacks that plague Salamence can be taken care of by your little Steel friend, while in return Salamence can use its ability to take Fighting, Ground and Fire-type attacks fairly well.
You might find pairing Salamence with another Dragon Pokémon to be highly advantageous as well - one of them can bait the opponent's counters and weaken them for the other to sweep. Flygon is great at this, especially with U-Turn at its disposal to reveal vital information about the opponent's team. Latias does a pretty impressive job as well, and does a better job at taking the special attacks that Salamence can't take as well. You might even find yourself being able to capitalize on Latias' weakness to Pursuit; if you can lock your opponent in, you've just won yourself a free turn to Dragon Dance or continue your heavy assault.
This concludes our analysis of one of OU's greatest menaces - Salamence. Where do you go from here? Well, we know how great Salamence is. You know how great Salamence is. So ... why aren't you already out there making your opponent's cower in fear again?
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