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In the olden days of Pokémon, when the powers of Darkness had just been made available to trainers everywhere, one fell beast made its presence known in grand style, declaring an end to RBY's Psychic-type dominance—Tyranitar. As one of the most notable additions to the 600 BST club, Tyranitar quickly gained fame as a Pokémon that was definitely not to be trifled with. Its impressive defenses made it a primary candidate for Curse, and its offenses made it extremely effective at simply blitzing through walls with dual STABs and the powerful if unreliable DynamicPunch. To top things off, you couldn't even run from it—STAB Pursuit made even switching out of it a risky proposition!
Generation 3 definitely didn't slow it down one bit, as it got access to some of the generation's most devastating tricks. Sand Stream made it the first OU weather starter, and sandstorm was crucial in wearing down opponents in a Leftovers-dominated metagame. Additionally, it got some important new options in Dragon Dance, which allowed it to put even its middling speed to good use as a sweeper; and Focus Punch, which, when combined with Substitute, made Tyranitar an even more devastating wallbreaker than before. Last, but certainly not least, Generation 3 added Choice Band, which, when given to Tyranitar, sent its Attack skyrocketing into the heretofore unexplored 600 region, without any setup required!
The trend of "make Tyranitar better and better" definitely didn't stop in Generation 4, where Tyranitar picked up two of its most metagame-defining changes yet. First, sandstorm was buffed to increase the Special Defense of Rock-types by 50%, giving Tyranitar an effective base 159 Special Defense. Second, the physical / special split granted Tyranitar a physical Crunch and Pursuit, letting it put its Dark typing to much better use and making it an inescapable terror for special walls. And while it's metagame-defining in a different way, the "worst move in the game", Stone Edge, added a new facet to Tyranitar's game, allowing it to completely annihilate almost anything even thinking about switching into Choice Band Tyranitar... 80% of the time.
Generation 5 was a mixed bag to start, as the addition of Drizzletoed and Droughtales threatened to unseat Tyranitar as the top dog in the weather game. Garchomp and Excadrill kept it in the game for a while, but as pressure mounted, both found themselves making quick exits from the metagame. Add to that an increased focus on Water-type attacks, especially the ever-infuriating Scald, as well as the de-Ghosting of Rotom-A, and it seemed that things were grim for Tyranitar. Of course, you can't keep a good monster down for long. While rain and sun are good, Politoed and Ninetales are, well... not. However, Tyranitar remained a real terror, making it more than just a regular old weather inducer for most teams. Combine that with Sand Force giving Landorus unparalleled power, Terrakion using the Special Defense boost to set up its devastating Double Dance set, and Poison Heal Gliscor using sandstorm to wear down opponents, and Tyranitar has once again found itself king of the hill in the OU metagame.
First off, let's take a look at those stats. Those beautiful, beautiful stats. Of all the Pokémon in the OU metagame, I'm pretty sure that there's not a single Pokémon more capable of putting all its stats perfectly to use. Its base 134 Attack, combined with devastating STAB Stone Edge, Rock Slide, Crunch, and Pursuit, as well as coverage moves such as Earthquake, Fire Punch, Ice Punch, and Aqua Tail, lets Tyranitar rip pretty much anything in half. For those troublesome physical walls, Tyranitar's got a solid base 95 Special Attack, which it can use to fuel Ice Beam, Fire Blast, Thunderbolt, or a Hidden Power of choice.
Defensively, its 100 / 110 / 100 stats make it an incredible defensive behemoth. Even without any investment, it's looking at 351 / 256 / 236 defenses, which is better than even some fully invested defensive Pokémon. However, this is compounded by Sand Stream, which boosts its Special Defense by 50%, to an uninvested 354 Special Defense! Doing the math, that's the equivalent of a base 159 Special Defense... and that's without any investment at all. With 252 EVs and a +SpD nature, that gets jacked up to 492, the equivalent of a fully-invested base 174 Special Defense.
Finally, there's its Speed, its weakest stat... or so it may seem. Base 61 Speed doesn't win any awards on its own, but it doesn't need a whole lot of speed to outpace some slower defensive Pokémon, such as Skarmory and Jellicent. However, that's not where its modest Speed shines most. It turns out that 61 base Speed is exactly the amount needed to make Tyranitar an excellent Speed-boosting Pokémon. With maximum investment and a +Speed nature, Tyranitar hits 364 Speed with either +1 Speed or a Choice Scarf... just enough to outpace Starmie and other Timid base 115 Pokémon, as well as Gengar, Latios, Latias, and the faster genies (including the once OU Thundurus). Were it to be 1 base Speed slower, like Magnezone, it'd find itself outpaced by Starmie (and Raikou, which doesn't see nearly the use it should in OU, though that's for another article), and when it comes to a Pokémon with a fierce STAB Hydro Pump, being faster is a matter of life or death.
All this is enhanced by the most metagame-defining ability in every generation with abilities—Sand Stream. This ability summons an unending sandstorm, stripping the HP off of enemies every turn while rendering Tyranitar incredibly difficult to take down on the special side. While Sand Stream has been an excellent ability in previous generations, it's found new life in Generation 5 for a number of reasons. First, the introduction of the Sand Force ability, especially on a Pokémon like Landorus, gives Tyranitar a whole new way to support a team's offensive capabilities. On top of that, the introduction of rival weather starters Politoed and Ninetales makes a strong, reliable weather starter a premium on many teams; Tyranitar is thus a great asset on teams that would otherwise have no answer to opposing weather.
Movepool-wise, Tyranitar has one of the most diverse movepools of any Pokémon in the OU metagame, giving it the tools that it needs to perform any role needed. Offensively, it's got all the moves it needs to put the hurt on anything that crosses its path. STAB Stone Edge is absolutely devastating, especially if backed by a Choice Band. Crunch is a top-notch STAB as well, shattering even the most defensive of Psychic- and Ghost-types. However, the real star of Tyranitar's physical STABs is Pursuit, a move that can be used to chase down fleeing opponents with an 80 Base Power attack. This allows Tyranitar to trap weaker opponents and put even stronger ones in a checkmate position where they have to flip a coin or die instantly. Scarf Tyranitar can come in on Pokémon like Starmie, Gengar, and Latios / Latias, knowing that even if they elect to stay in, they'll still take massive damage from a 367 Attack STAB Pursuit, despite its meager 40 Base Power, due to their Dark weakness. Pursuit can even let Tyranitar chase down special walls like Blissey, or eliminate troublesome opponents looking to get out of dodge, like Tornadus or Scarf Landorus locked into Hidden Power Ice. It caps off these fearsome STABs with coverage moves for every occasion, such as Earthquake for Steel-types like Magnezone and Terrakion; Ice Punch for Gliscor; Fire Punch for Ferrothorn and friends; Superpower and Focus Punch for Heatran, opposing Tyranitar, Lucario, and Terrakion (among others); and Aqua Tail for Gliscor, Hippowdon, and Donphan.
On the special side, it's no less diverse and no less fearsome. Fire Blast roasts Skarmory, Forretress, Jirachi, Ferrothorn, and other Steel-types, especially with Sand Stream stripping them of Rain's vital protection. Ice Beam puts an end to Gliscor, and does massive (and accurate!) damage to Salamence, Dragonite, and other Dragon-types. It also does excellent damage to other defensive Ground-types, such as Hippowdon and Donphan. Thunderbolt gives Tyranitar an option against troublesome Water-types, including Politoed looking to replace Tyranitar's sandstorm with its own rain. It can also use Dark Pulse for STAB, though it's usually better off just Crunching everything to death.
Tyranitar's got more than just brute force, though. Roar plays off of its impressive bulk to shuffle opponents and scare off stat boosters. Curse does the same, taking advantage of Tyranitar's incredible Special Defense to build up and make it an unkillable wall of rock and death, capable of shutting down teams without a strong Fighting-type to break through it. Dragon Dance can be used to boost up its Speed and Attack and sweep through teams, though the ubiquity of Scizor's devastating Bullet Punch and Conkeldurr's Mach Punch, as well as the popularity of Scarf Landorus, has somewhat put a damper on that. Instead of boosting its Speed, it can just cripple the opponent's with Thunder Wave, letting Tyranitar spread paralysis and support the rest of its team. It can also throw up Substitutes to take advantage of the switches it causes and break down walls. Last, but certainly not least, it can slap down some Stealth Rock, spreading its Rock-type hurt throughout the entire opposing team all match long.
Most of the time, when you put Tyranitar on a team, it's for its ability—Tyranitar's versatility makes it easy to tailor it to a specific needed role on a team. It all depends on what the rest of the team is capable of, and what's missing.
For offensive teams, Tyranitar has a couple different effective sets. Choice Tyranitar is always popular, as both Choice Band and Choice Scarf work well with Tyranitar's stat spread and excellent dual STABs. With Choice Band, Tyranitar's sitting on 604 Attack, meaning that anything without a 4x resistance to Stone Edge is going to take massive damage. However, with a Choice Scarf, it reaches 364 Speed, letting it eliminate crucial opponents such as Latios, Latias, and Starmie with Pursuit, while revenging troublesome opponents like Swords Dance Lucario and most variants of Hydreigon. It also works well as a cleaner for slower teams, as its powerful Stone Edge can blast through weakened teams that may not have an answer.
If sweeping's your game, Tyranitar has two solid choices. Curse takes advantage of Tyranitar's massive defensive stats, especially its sand-boosted Special Defense, and can help it chew through opponents with Curse-boosted Payback or Crunch. If the opponent doesn't have a beefy Fighting-type that can break through its boosted defenses, it can be tough to take down Tyranitar after a couple of Curses. It's also got Dragon Dance, which boosts its Speed to acceptable sweeping levels while giving it the power it needs to bust through troublesome walls. It's still not fast enough to outspeed some nasty scarfers after a single boost, but if the opponent brings in the wrong answer to Tyranitar and lets it set up multiple Dragon Dances, that can be rendered completely moot.
If you're looking for something more defensive or supportive, there's also options there. A utility set featuring Stealth Rock can not only lay down hazards, but also sponge hits from tough special attackers. The most notable set in Generation 5 is a utility set that combines special defense, Stealth Rock, and Tyranitar's impressive movepool to create an all-in-one utility wallbreaker. It can lay down Stealth Rock, Crunch nasty foes like Jellicent and Reuniclus, Fire Blast Skarmory and Ferrothorn, and then take out Landorus, Gliscor, and Dragonite with Ice Beam. It's a great addition to offensive teams that need an anchor to scare off or bust through some defensive Pokémon.
The easiest way to deal with Tyranitar's monstrous power is to use a bulky Fighting-type like Terrakion, Conkeldurr, or Machamp. Fighting-types resist both of Tyranitar's STAB moves, so they're the ideal candidates to deal with something with STABs as powerful as Tyranitar's. Terrakion is especially potent, as it takes a pittance from Crunch and can use it to steal an easy +1 Attack boost from its ability, Justified. That said, it's always got to be wary of Superpower and Earthquake, which often find their way onto Tyranitar's sets. Conkeldurr may be slower than Tyranitar, but it can heal off any damage it takes with Drain Punch or set up on Tyranitar with Bulk Up. Machamp can do the same, except instead of healing up it can spread confusion with its 100% accuracy DynamicPunch. Lucario is especially set, as it's packing a double resistance to both STABs, and only has to worry about Fire Blast, Earthquake, and Superpower.
Beyond that, the counter really depends on the set. Weaker sets can be dealt with by Jirachi, which doesn't take that much from an uninvested Crunch, and can dispatch Tyranitar with Iron Head. Gliscor isn't especially worried by an uninvested Stone Edge, though it has to watch out for stray Ice Beams. Metagross packs the always devastating Meteor Mash and has the defense to take neutral Crunches with ease, but has to avoid getting singed by Fire Blast. There's also Donphan, which has found its way into popularity on sun teams, and has the power to bust up Tyranitar with its STAB Earthquake. Faster sets can require some more drastic measures at times, especially on offensive teams. Scarf Landorus can outspeed +1 Tyranitar, and takes advantage of Tyranitar's own Sand Stream to activate Sand Force for an easy KO.
As for Sand Stream, packing a weather changer like Politoed, Ninetales, or Abomasnow can help turn the tables on teams looking to abuse Sand Stream. Politoed is especially notable, as it has enough bulk to switch into any of the moves on the standard bulky utility Tyranitar. However, it's important to take care and make sure that you don't switch your weather starters into unexpected stuff—a stray Choice Band Stone Edge can spell the end for Politoed, dooming the rest of its team to a harsh life under Sand Stream. Dugtrio is also excellent, as it can outspeed even Choice Scarf Tyranitar and hit it with a devastating Earthquake. Furthermore, Arena Trap prevents Tyranitar from switching out, guaranteeing its demise.
Most of the time, the amount of support devoted to Tyranitar depends on the kind of team it's on. If the team is just depending on Tyranitar for sand support, then it's as simple as picking a set that works with the team's style and playing from there. However, if it's a team built around Tyranitar, it's going to take a little more support and protection.
One important thing to note about Tyranitar is that as a Pokémon that wants to switch in and out a lot, it's especially susceptible to entry hazards. Teams relying on Tyranitar for weather dominance are going to want to pair it with a spinner, as once Tyranitar is at low enough HP to get KOed by entry hazards, it's no longer going to be able to change the weather. Starmie is a good choice to fill the role, as it resists two of Tyranitar's weaknesses, and also contributes its prowess as a fast special attacker to the team.
Tyranitar also has extreme trouble with bulky Fighting-types, which can often switch in without any fear of reprisal from Tyranitar due to their Dark and Rock resistances. As a result, packing a bulky Psychic-type that can deal with these troublesome opponents is helpful. Reuniclus works especially well for this role, as it is extremely bulky, and also shrugs off Sand Stream with its own ability, Magic Guard. Sweeping sets, especially Dragon Dance, benefit greatly from the removal of opposing Steel-types. As a result, Magnezone is an especially good partner, as it can eliminate four of the most notable counters to sweeping Tyranitar—Scizor, Skarmory, Jirachi, and Ferrothorn.
With the ubiquity of weather in Generation 5, and Tyranitar's incredible spread of abilities, it's easy to see why this monster has repeatedly seized a top 5 spot in the ranks of OU. It's got it all—a metagame-defining ability, amazing stats, and a movepool that goes on for days. Not many Pokémon can claim to have consistently defined the metagame like Tyranitar has, and if any newcomers want to step up to the plate, they'll have to go through this beast first.
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