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Zapdos, hands down the best of the original legendary trio, has been one of the top OU Pokémon throughout each of the previous four generations. BW was not kind to Zapdos, however, as the shiny new Thundurus usurped its role as the premier Electric-type special attacker; even though it has since been voted Uber, Zapdos's fall to UU is yet to be reversed. This is probably due to the fact that many common OU Dragon-types, such as the Lati twins and Hydreigon, have little trouble dealing with it due to its lower Speed and lack of access to Focus Blast, respectively. If not that, perhaps it's simply because OU players have failed to recognize its excellence. Either way, the fact that Zapdos is now one of the most dangerous Pokémon in UU remains true, and you should always keep this in mind when building your team.
Zapdos is one of those Pokémon that you simply won't find many flaws with, no matter how hard you look. Defensively, its Electric / Flying typing is a blessing that grants it only two weaknesses, a multitude of useful resistances, and an immunity to the ubiquitous Earthquake. Its ability, Pressure, lets it stall out low-PP moves such as Heracross's Stone Edge, while its decent 90 / 85 / 90 defensive stats give it plenty of opportunities to switch in and wreck havoc. Offensively speaking, it gets even better, as Zapdos has access to a ridiculously strong STAB Thunderbolt and excellent coverage moves in Heat Wave and Hidden Power, all of which hit extremely hard off its incredible base 125 Special Attack and base 100 Speed stats. In case you haven't already figured it out, this means Zapdos is more than capable of using both defensive and offensive sets, making it hard to play around when it first hits the field. All in all, the god of thunder is a true terror to face in battle.
When playing with offensive Zapdos sets, your main priority should be to make sure it switches in safely. You can then proceed to blow up the opposing team with its awesome power and coverage, using Roost whenever it gets a chance and needs to heal up. Defensive sets play differently, as they check or counter specific threats, and either spread status or use Roar to shuffle opponents around and take advantage of hazards laid down by teammates. The physically defensive set is a great check to physical threats such as Heracross, Honchkrow, and Machamp, especially since it can take advantage of Pressure to stall out their low-PP moves, such as Stone Edge and Sucker Punch. The specially defensive set makes for an excellent check to Pokémon such as Shaymin and Yanmega and has a much easier time switching into and phazing out Water-types and Calm Mind users; it can also check many other threats by virtue of its typing alone.
Unless you carry Snorlax, Toxic Umbreon, or Raikou, trying to counter Zapdos is probably going to be an uphill battle. In the likely scenario that you lack one of these, the first thing you should to is try to figure out which Hidden Power it carries; Grass and Ice are the most common, but Flying and Water are also seen occasionally. A good way to do this is to switch a Pokémon weak to a certain Hidden Power type into a Thunderbolt, then immediately switch to another Pokémon that resists the specific type as it uses Hidden Power in an attempt to kill off the first switch-in. Once you know its exact moveset, you can proceed to make more calculated switches in order to prevent it from tearing your team apart. If Zapdos carries Hidden Power Grass, then Flygon and Toxic Gligar can take it on pretty easily; on the other hand, if it's a Hidden Power Ice variant, then Swampert and specially defensive Rhyperior can take it on pretty handily. Keep in mind, however, that some of these checks, namely Gligar and Swampert, will get stalled out by defensive sets with Toxic, so it's always a good idea to carry other means of dealing with those.
As long as your team isn't already stacked with Pokémon weak to Rock or Ice, getting Zapdos to do work for you should not be a problem at all. Nevertheless, like any Pokémon, providing it with the appropriate support and teammates will ensure Zapdos maximizes its utility every game.
The biggest, and possibly only, negative thing about Zapdos is its weakness to Stealth Rock. The best way to remedy this, of course, is to pair it with a Rapid Spin user. Blastoise and Hitmontop both have a decent amount of defensive synergy with Zapdos, as the former is able to switch into Ice-type moves aimed at it, while the latter can switch into Rock-type ones. Both of them also have access to Foresight, which makes the removal of the floating stones almost guaranteed. Another issue that plagues primarily offensive variants of Zapdos is Sand Stream. While 6.25% might not seem like much at first, after a while you'll realize that this added residual damage forces Zapdos to Roost more often, which, in turn, costs it quite a few turns where it could be attacking. Unfortunately, unless you also happen to be running something like Rain Dance Kingdra or Sunny Day Arcanine, there's not much you can do about this. Finally, as previously mentioned, any variant of Zapdos can make very good use of entry hazards set up by its teammates. Offensive Zapdos appreciates the residual damage on opponents so that they crumble to its attacks even more quickly; defensive variants, on the other hand, can very easily take advantage of Roar to spread said hazards damage for another teammate to sweep.
Offensively speaking, pairing Zapdos with Raikou forms what is probably one of the most brutal offensive cores in the entire metagame. Keeping up with either one of them individually is already hard enough as it is, but stopping both of them is virtually impossible, especially when you consider they weaken the other's checks. Shaymin is another excellent offensive partner, but for a different reason—it's one of the few Pokémon with the ability to threaten almost every single one of Zapdos's checks or counters in one way or another. Swampert, Rhyperior, and Gligar are all straight-up demolished by Shaymin, while dedicated special walls such as Snorlax and Umbreon will be forced to switch into it to take its hits and risk a potential 2HKO, thanks to the 40% Special Defense drop rate that Shaymin's Seed Flare is so famous for.
Whether it's spreading status and entry hazard damage with a defensive set or relentlessly sweeping teams with its amazing offensive set, Zapdos is definitely one of the top Pokémon in the current UU metagame. As said before, the only time you shouldn't consider Zapdos for a spot on your team is when you're already loaded with Ice and Rock weaknesses, but even then, you may want to consider Zapdos over one of those other Pokemon—it's really that good. So, what are you waiting for? Go and see for yourself just how devastating the god of thunder can really be!
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