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Born from the ashes of Mt. Vesuvius, Moltres arose to terrorize unsuspecting trainers in the maze of Victory Road. With excellent typing and a deadly base 125 Special stat, Moltres has been a powerful force throughout its history. Utilizing the deadly combination of Agility and Fire Spin Moltres lured unsuspecting teams to their doom early in its career. Despite its limited movepool, it was able to place a stranglehold upon teams in the RBY era. Its movepool became a greater hindrance in GSC, however, with the change in Wrap mechanics. Moltres was left with two-move coverage in the form of Fire Blast + Hidden Power. Little changed for Moltres with the release of ADV, however, although Moltres gained use for its ability to switch into Heracross, among others. However, the omnipresence of Rock Slide meant that the sheer force of its sun-boosted Fire Blast rarely saw full effectiveness.
DPP was both a blessing and a curse for Moltres, who was finally able to find itself a constant presence, albeit in the UU tier. Moltres's useful resistances granted it many switch-in opportunities against the common Grass- and Fighting-type members of the tier. Its ability to switch in was heavily compromised, however, by the introduction of Stealth Rock to Pokémon, which started to extinguish Moltres's flame. The fire bird got a new toy in Roost to play with, which allowed it to heal off the Stealth Rock damage and ensured Moltres's continued threat against the denizens of UU.
It is in Black and White where Moltres truly gets to shine, thanks to the creation of the RU tier. Despite not receiving any new material to use, Moltres's solid bulk and excellent Special Attack allowed it to 2HKO or better the vast majority of the tier. Whether altering the weather with SunnyBeam, stalling opponents with SubRoost, or just beating down the opponent with its powerful attacks, Moltres is always a threatening opponent. The release of BW2, however, unleashed the true terror behind the phoenix thanks to a new, devastating move, Hurricane. With this tumultuous force behind it, not even Slowking, the famed special wall of RU, can stand up to Moltres's attacks. With its devastating power, Moltres lives up to its reputation as the fiery soul of RU.
Moltres's defining feature has always been its excellent base 125 Special Attack stat. With an overall base stat total of 580 and its lowest stat being its base 85 Special Defense, Moltres lacks any particular weak point statistically. Moltres can make great use of its huge Special Attack with its twin terrors, Fire Blast and Hurricane. These devastating 120 Base Power STAB options have nearly unresisted coverage and will take out most anything that Moltres flies over. Alongside an appropriate Hidden Power, nothing in RU can safely switch into Moltres. Defensive Moltres boasts impressive 90 / 90 / 85 defenses, as well as a terrific set of resistances. Crucial resistances to Grass- and Fighting-type attacks, as well as a Ground immunity, grant Moltres plenty of opportunities to switch into an opponent. As the icing on the cake, Moltres even has the ability Pressure, which doubles an opponent's PP usage each time they attack.
Moltres is typically seen as a powerful special attacker that uses either three attacks or Substitute, along with Roost. With the former, no Pokémon in the game—bar Munchlax, which sucks—can safely switch into Moltres, as Slowking is 2HKOed by Hurricane, whereas Lanturn is 2HKOed by Hidden Power Grass. When using Substitute, Moltres becomes nigh-impregnable, as it gains an immunity to not only status moves, but also priority attacks and Choice Scarf users. From this vantage point, Moltres gains a buffer from which it can either fire off its powerful STABs or stall out attacks with limited PP, including Stone Edge. Moltres also happens to be particularly skilled at forcing switches, due to its power, which grants it many opportunities to not only set up a Substitute, but also to Roost off any damage it might have accrued, either over the course of battle or through Stealth Rock damage.
As the biggest limiting factor to Moltres's abilities, removing or preventing Stealth Rock should always be the top priority when playing with Moltres. Rapid Spin support is mandatory on any team with Moltres, and fast Taunt support is also appreciated. With Stealth Rock removed, Moltres gains several opportunities to enter battle against the common Earthquake, as well as Fighting- and Grass-type attacks. Pokémon such as Sandslash, Hitmonchan, and Tangrowth often provide chances for Moltres to enter battle and begin to dominate. Although Stealth Rock does cripple Moltres, it is possible—difficulty notwithstanding—to use Moltres without a spinner by saving it for a late-game sweep, when Moltres can power through a weakened opponent.
Interestingly, Moltres's good bulk and ability to force switches allows it to utilize a defensive SubRoost set effectively as well. With defensive investment and enough Speed to beat key threats, Moltres is able to Toxic opponents, before stalling them to death by alternating Substitute and Roost.
STEALTH ROCK! This cannot be emphasized enough; if you want to beat Moltres reliably you must have Stealth Rock up. With Stealth Rock up, Moltres goes from terrifying full-health behemoth to terrifying behemoth that can't take hits after losing half its health. There are several Pokémon in RU that are capable of taking one attack from Moltres before dying, including Pokémon such as Entei, who can switch into Fire Blast. At half health, Moltres is now able to be taken out by these Pokémon, whereas without Stealth Rock it could comfortably live to fight another day. Stealth Rock also enhances the ability for walls to force Moltres out. Lanturn is the best check to Moltres, able to switch into Fire Blast and Hurricane. With Stealth Rock up, Moltres can no longer switch in and out as it pleases, perhaps catching Lanturn with a Hidden Power Grass, if it carries it. Slowking is now capable of wearing Moltres down if it switches in on a Fire Blast, forcing Moltres to switch without risking a 2HKO from Hurricane. Regirock and Munchlax are capable of switching into Moltres's primary attacking options and forcing the firebird out as well, although they are typically inferior options in RU. Nidoqueen is also a decent check to Moltres, as it is able to take one of any attack from standard Moltres and OHKO back with Thunderbolt.
Beyond taking its attacks, Moltres is somewhat susceptible to being outsped and KOed by fast Pokémon or Choice Scarf users, assuming Moltres is not behind a Substitute. Aerodactyl and Archeops both easily outspeed and KO Moltres with their Rock STAB; the former can even switch into a Fire Blast or Hurricane in a pinch. Rotom, Manectric, and Galvantula are common Choice Scarf users that will threaten Moltres with their Electric-type STAB—the latter gets special mention for being able to OHKO full-health Moltres with Thunder. Fast special attackers Accelgor and Sceptile will also outspeed Moltres and KO with Hidden Power Rock. Finally, Cinccino is able to beat even Moltres behind a Substitute, thanks to Skill Link Rock Blast breaking first the Sub, and then Moltres's powerful body.
Once more, Stealth Rock is your best friend when playing against Moltres. Aside from the previously mentioned crippling effects Moltres suffers from them, it also opens Moltres to being revenge killed by priority attacks, including Feraligatr and Kabutops with Aqua Jet, Absol with Sucker Punch, and Zangoose with Quick Attack.
With Moltres's natural destructive power, its only true drawback is its vulnerability to Stealth Rock, and as such fitting a Rapid Spin user onto your team is necessary. Kabutops is an excellent partner for Moltres as it can not only Rapid Spin, but also has the option of setting up Stealth Rock itself to weaken Moltres's checks. Moltres is also able to switch into Fighting- and Ground-type attacks targeted at Kabutops, which provides good synergy between the two. However, the pair still is vulnerable to Water- and Electric-type attacks, which makes a Grass-type such as Sceptile, Tangrowth or Amoonguss, another good partner for Moltres. Kabutops isn't the only Rapid Spin user that pairs well with Moltres; Sandslash and Cryogonal also are effective partners. Sandslash resists Rock- and Electric-type attacks while also setting up its own Stealth Rock, whereas Cryogonal can come in on a special attack, especially an Electric- or a Water-type one, and cannot be easily spinblocked. Spikes support is also greatly appreciated by Moltres, as all of its checks and counters are vulnerable to the entry hazard. Ferroseed shares excellent defensive synergy with Moltres and is capable of setting up Spikes against many opponents. Other possible Spikes users include Qwilfish and Roselia.
The devastating power Moltres carries leaves little reason not to use the firebird, despite the required team support. Just remember to give Moltres appropriate team support and you'll be blasting holes in RU before you know it!
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