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As you've read over the past few issues of The Smog, the ADV generation was absolutely fundamental to the modern Ubers metagame. It brought us Kyogre, harbinger of floods and reigning monarch now and forever, as well as Groudon, Earth incarnate and Kyogre's sparring buddy, two monsters who would take turns shaping the metagame and various playing styles therein. However, it also brought us another great friend: Rayquaza. Bringer of the mysterious "no weather" weather with its ability Air Lock, it completes the weather trio of the third generation.
While its ability, Air Lock, is less tantalizing than those of its kin, Rayquaza is no less ferocious a beast. On the other hand, Rayquaza is possibly the most offensively devious Pokémon in the game, other than Deoxys-A or Deoxys-N. While its Speed sits at a rather lackluster base 95, just lower than many important Ubers threats, one can only marvel at its twin cannons. You see, Rayquaza is a classic case of having your cake and eating it too. It can blow past the competition with its absurd physical attacking stats and movepool; the fun doesn't stop there though. Ever started a really sweet sweep, only to be met with one of the resident killjoys, Giratina or Skarmory? Rayquaza fears neither, as it can blast through them like Tiger Woods through women by unleashing potshots from its equally engorged Special Attack. Likewise, it can send Blissey into the stratosphere if she decides to throw her bulk around.
There has never been a metagame where Rayquaza has not been one of the single most dominating offensive forces to watch out for. In fact, Rayquaza has been—and always will be—the number one reason why a Steel-type Pokémon is absolutely 100% mandatory for all Ubers teams. Get ready to read about one of the greatest sweepers in the history of Pokémon; it'll make Salamence and Dragonite look like Altaria (my sources tell me that it sucks, even in NU).
Rayquaza's stats are actually kind of hilarious. Well, at least I think they are, although I admit that that may make me a bit of a sadist. With twin base 150 attacking stats, Rayquaza can do whatever the hell it wants, and it always does it well. There are no walls that do not have to think twice before switching into Rayquaza because it can easily just channel its green cousin and SMASH anything that switches in with the right move. Physical walls and special walls alike fear Rayquaza like single men fear marriage, and for the same reason too: they know that, some day, it will bring about their demise. Rayquaza's defensive stats aren't even that bad—although, if I ever catch you using a defensive Rayquaza, I will personally see that you are publicly humiliated. With 105 / 90 / 90 defenses, Rayquaza can take a hit or two while it unleashes its fury before going down. Don't expect it to take many hits though, and it will surely crumble to virtually any Dragon- or Ice-type attack.
Rayquaza's typing is old hat, unfortunately. The Dragon / Flying typing seems to be Game Freak's go-to typing for any dragon ("Dragons have wings, right????"). This makes Rayquaza initially seem pretty similar to its winged brethren, Salamence, Dragonite, and Altaria… well, maybe not Altaria. This isn't a bad typing by any means, as it gives it a very useful immunity to Ground-type moves as well as that coveted Dragon-type STAB, but it definitely doesn't have that innate, bloodcurdling terror of "STABs give perfect coverage" (Reshiram) or that fanboy favorite "best offensive typing with best defensive typing" (Dialga); alas, while it may not be perfect, it gets the job done, and quite well at that. One unique thing about Rayquaza, though, is its nifty ability Air Lock. While it does not have quite as large an effect as Drizzle or Drought, it does give Rayquaza some perks, including being able to switch into Kyogre's Water Spout (…once) and not get completely hammered; dodge a Thunder here and there; and revenge kill weather sweepers with Speed boosts, such as Kingdra. The most important point about Air Lock, though, is it lets Rayquaza totally punish Steel-types, even when the Steel-types think they're free to go singin' in the rain.
What sets Rayquaza apart even more so, though, is its dynamite movepool. I have to imagine that the initial prototype name given to Rayquaza was "Death in Pokémon Form" (only nixed because a name that length would not fit in the battle window), since it has literally the perfect movepool along with the perfect stats. With attacking moves like Draco Meteor, Outrage, Overheat, Fire Blast, Earthquake, ExtremeSpeed, and Brick Break, and supporting moves like Dragon Dance and Swords Dance (seriously, what else do you need?), Rayquaza has more tricks than Batman does on his garish belt. It's very hard to concoct a moveset out of those moves that, combined with those stats, is not apocalyptic in power.
When you accept Rayquaza as your personal lord and savior and assign it to a spot on your team, you have a pretty easy choice to make: should you play offense, offense, or offense? Seriously though, Rayquaza is an offensive monster and will be able to do some pretty obscene things, but it falls on you to decide exactly how you want to exploit its stats. There are three optimal routes to take: boosting Attack, boosting both Attack and Speed, or just killing things straight off the bat.
Swords Dance Rayquaza is all about raw power and causing your opponent to retract all limbs as far into their torso as humanly possible. After one Swords Dance, Rayquaza's Attack jumps to an obscene 798 with a Jolly nature. There is very little in the game of Pokémon that can stand up to the slaughter that is multiple STAB Dragon Claws coming off 798 Attack. It boils down to: Steel-types, Lugia, end list. Even "The Great Wall" Giratina will be brutalized beyond repair if it tries to take one of Rayquaza's hits; Rayquaza keeps its pimp hand strong. For those pesky Steel-types, Rayquaza can unleash a very powerful Overheat, or use its new toy, V-create (because everybody loves a 180 Base Power move—equal to that of a STAB Outrage—coming off 798 Attack), to annihilate any Steel-type in its way, like that ass Ferrothorn. What makes this even more special is that, because of Air Lock, Rayquaza doesn't even have to worry about rain decreasing the power of its Fire-type moves. It's always a beautiful day with Rayquaza on the field… for you at least. Now, it isn't all peaches and cream for SD Rayquaza, since nothing has been done to patch up that rather middling base 95 Speed. Rayquaza has a little trick to mitigate that though, and its called ExtremeSpeed. Yes, Rayquaza has access to that wonderful +2 priority, 80 Base Power move that lets say a massive "screw you" to the Speed Tiers. This lets it vault ahead of and OHKO such threats as Darkrai, Palkia, and Mewtwo, all of whom would really love to lay down some hurt on Rayquaza. The other interesting thing about ExtremeSpeed on SD Rayquaza is that, contrary to popular belief, it does have some important advantages over the popular Swords Dance Extreme Killer Arceus, one of the most fearsome sets in Ubers. While Arceus has more bulk and Speed, Rayquaza's Dragon Claw allows it to blast Giratina and Giratina-O right off the map, something that Arceus will never be able to do without resorting to something goofy like Power Herb Shadow Force (warning: do not try this at home).
But say you want to have a sweeping Rayquaza that does not rely so much on ExtremeSpeed. By switching only one word, you have a new and equally powerful sweeper, Dragon Dance Rayquaza. By eschewing just a bit of attacking power, you gain a much-needed boost to Rayquaza's Speed, allowing it to reach a very healthy 462 Speed, blazing past any unboosted Pokémon except Deoxys-S. Dragon Dance Rayquaza plays in very similar ways to Swords Dance Rayquaza, using Outrage as its main wrecking ball with Overheat and Earthquake to complement its STAB. Once you unleash an Outrage, there will not be much that can stand in Rayquaza's way, as anything that isn't Steel-type or Lugia will be taking a brutal amount of damage. However, be careful when you click that button, since Rayquaza then becomes fairly easy to revenge kill, since common Choice Scarf users, such as Kyogre, Zekrom, and Palkia, will be able to outspeed and OHKO it, ending your sweep. Take care to eliminate them first or scout a bit, or else you might find yourself a bit disappointed with Rayquaza's abilities, when you really should be basking in its glory. There honestly isn't too much to say about Dragon Dance Rayquaza, as outside of the Speed caveat, Dragon Dance Rayquaza is a stockbroker's dream: minimal risk, massive payoff. If you want to be truly devious though, it is not unheard of to switch out Overheat for Draco Meteor, which allows Rayquaza to dominate even the physical walls, such as Groudon and Lugia, who might otherwise have been able to switch in. This has a large, obvious reward, but you must time your Draco Meteor well, or else both the element of surprise and its effectiveness (Lugia will laugh at a -2 Draco Meteor) will be lost if you misuse it.
The final Rayquaza set at your disposal is also my favorite, because you know what? Stall blows. Yes, MixQuaza, the ultimate mixed sweeper, is here and it loves to party. While reading about the other two sets, you may have been thinking, "Overheat is all well and good, but I don't think we're abusing Rayquaza's Special Attack enough!" This is the set for you. MixQuaza uses the holy quadrinity (definitely a word) of Draco Meteor, Fire Blast, ExtremeSpeed, and Outrage to give any and every wall pitiless nightmares. Both Groudon and Lugia will fold to Rayquaza's Draco Meteors and Steel-type walls, such as Forretress, will be remixed into that old classic Christmas song, "Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire." That fat bitch Blissey will also be blown to smithereens by Outrage. As a nice bonus, ExtremeSpeed will allow Rayquaza to pick off any weakened Pokemon who might have had enough of Rayquaza's shenanigans. While MixQuaza has some serious damage output, it's important to note that, although it may seem tempting, this set is not actually meant to sweep, but rather create craters in your opponent's team, weakening them enough so another Pokemon can sweep. For example, a tremendous amount of physical sweepers, such as Zekrom or even Salamence, will have a much easier time sweeping if your opponent's Groudon or Lugia is met with a Draco Meteor to the face.
Playing against Rayquaza is a terrifying experience. It is not a question of figuring out which set Rayquaza is running, as it will make itself known fairly quickly by setting up immediately or just launching attacks, but rather just dealing with it. Most Pokémon players are trained that, when they see a Dragon, they should switch to a Steel-type immediately. However, Rayquaza turns this idea on its head because of its immensely powerful Fire- and Ground-type moves. There are few Steel-types in Ubers that can stand up to even one V-create or Overheat from base 150 Attack or Special Attack, much less repeated ones. Therefore, prediction is the name of the game with Rayquaza. For example, one of my teams had this game plan for Rayquaza: bring Skarmory in on a predicted Dragon-type attack, then switch to Choice Scarf Palkia on the Fire-type move and kill with Spacial Rend. This is obviously a very risky and somewhat flimsy strategy though. If my opponent predicts either of those moves, I'm left essentially a sitting duck. Furthermore, unless his or her Rayquaza had sustained a great deal of damage, my opponent can switch out of my Palkia and repeat the process over again, but that time I probably won't be as lucky.
Against a Swords Dance version, your best bet is likely Lugia. Lugia is faster than Rayquaza and can throw up a Reflect to "undo" Rayquaza's Swords Dance to tank its hits. Lugia also has access to Roost to heal itself of the beating, but be careful not to telegraph a Roost, or else your opponent will be able to get another Swords Dance on Rayquaza, and then all bets are off. Lugia can also destroy Rayquaza with Ice Beam, or phaze it away with either Dragon Tail or Whirlwind. Note that phazing, however, means that Rayquaza can possibly come back in later for Round 2. Dragon Dance versions are slightly trickier, because then Lugia cannot outspeed Rayquaza and will die before they can actually make use of Reflect, assuming Stealth Rock is up (it can, however survive that first Outrage, so Ice Beam will do the trick). Groudon can do fairly well if it carries Stone Edge and is running a very bulky spread, but it must be careful not to switch in on a boosted Outrage or the rare Draco Meteor, or else it will be blasted into rubble. The quintessential Steel-type also poses some pretty big problems. Forretress can tank an Outrage or two, but what can it do back? Ferrothorn fares similarly but gets trucked by any Fire-type move, as does Skarmory. So where does that leave us? Fast Pokémon. Yes, it is a scary state of affairs when your only option for dealing with Rayquaza is to bring in a revenge killer, such as Choice Scarf Palkia (there's a reason why this is such a popular set). Back in DPP, one of the first orders of business for a team was to establish a Swords Dance and Dragon Dance Rayquaza check (the two don't always overlap), and not much has changed since then.
The mixed set is one of the hardest to deal with. Although it cannot boost its attacking stats, it already has a lot to work with and can devastate almost any wall that switches in. Smart prediction on switching is your best option, allowing Life Orb recoil to pile up, which will eventually end Rayquaza's reign of terror along with any Stealth Rock damage or quick attacks you've been able to sneak in. Offensive teams can deal with MixQuaza by outspeeding and overpowering (a weird term to use against Rayquaza) it, but stall teams have big troubles. In fact, if you're playing against a good battler with a MixQuaza and you're using a stall team, you've probably already lost.
If you've read through this section and felt like you've not absorbed much, it's because you haven't. Most of what's been covered is "predict well" and "revenge kill," neither of which are the most solid or reliable strategies. The best advice I can give you is this: don't screw up.
Rayquaza's main selling point is that its diverse movepool and exceptional offensive stats allow it to blast holes into every type of opposing team. A combination of Dragon-type STAB and a strong Fire attack that ignores rain makes it a premier stallbreaker, while ExtremeSpeed does hefty damage against most faster Pokémon; Rayquaza does perform best against stall teams, because these teams offer more opportunities for it to set up. It will probably not sweep an entire team, but it can usually take out or severely weaken a couple of Pokemon. As such, it is most valuable on an offensive team, where it can smash through some particularly intractable opponents to give the rest of the team an easier time.
There are some Pokémon on stall teams that can withstand Rayquaza's assault partially intact, but these are few and far between. Defensive Arceus generally survives an Outrage after a Dragon Dance and can respond with Ice Beam and can easily take an errant Draco Meteor; the best types for this purpose include Fighting and Ground, which are not weak to any of Rayquaza's attacks and resist Stealth Rock. Lugia works similarly against mixed and Dragon Dance sets, but fares worse against Swords Dance, since Ice Beam often fails to OHKO Rayquaza, which can OHKO in turn with V-create. Against offensive teams, Rayquaza is susceptible to revenge killing by Pokémon such as Terrakion, Zekrom, and Palkia, but more importantly, often cannot find a chance to set up, as it is quite frail by Uber standards. Further, Normal Arceus clips off much of Rayquaza's health with ExtremeSpeed, and Ghost Arceus with Judgment.
Given its difficulty with offensive teams, Swords Dance Rayquaza pairs particularly well with Extreme Killer Arceus. Arceus is bulky enough to set up effectively against offensive staples like Palkia and Zekrom, but might not be able to beat stall staples such as Giratina and Ferrothorn, Pokémon that Rayquaza easily disposes of. Wobbuffet is another good Rayquaza partner that can eliminate problematic Choice Scarf Pokémon and allow Rayquaza to set up safely. It is common to claim that Stealth Rock and Spikes are helpful for sweepers, but Swords Dance Rayquaza finds at least one layer absolutely essential, as it tends to do damage in the 85-100% range; targets in this range include Mewtwo, Palkia, and Kyogre with ExtremeSpeed, Dialga with Dragon Claw, and Groudon with V-create. Dialga sets up Stealth Rock reliably and helps deal with some opposing Dragon-types, and Deoxys-S sets up both types of hazards or can use dual screens to help Rayquaza set up.
Rayquaza is the perfect embodiment of the Ubers metagame. It's fast, it's powerful, and it can simultaneously be your best friend or your worst nightmare, depending on which team it's on. There is really no Pokémon with comparable moves or stats anywhere else, so go experience this monster for yourself. Plus, it's a sky serpent, and those things are pretty kickass.
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