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When Diamond and Pearl came out, Infernape quickly settled into the metagame as hands down the most vicious special sweeper in the metagame. A boosting special sweeper that couldn't be walled by Blissey? Yes, please! You couldn't even discuss a team without the words "Weak to Mixape" popping up. Infernape's very existence made Tentacruel a staple on nearly every stall team as the only counter to a boosted Mixape available.
However, the suspect tests brought grim days for Infernape. The drop of Latias meant that Infernape now had its first 100% counter in the OU metagame in a long time, and as its popularity rose, Infernape just couldn't keep up, and it began to fade into the background as a premier sweeper.
While Infernape's glory days may have passed, it hasn't fallen out of the limelight entirely. An incredibly effective lead set has cropped up, and the merits of Focus Blast on Nasty Plot Infernape have breathed new life into an old set, Simple mixed Life Orb sets are popping up as well, and Vacuum Wave / Mach Punch lets Infernape repel the newly minted Scarf Tyranitar, making it tough to repel on a number of standard teams.
Infernape's stats make it a veritable powerhouse both physically and specially. 104 Attack and Special Attack, combined with access to both Swords Dance AND Nasty Plot, give it all the tools it needs to bust through teams. Meanwhile, 108 base Speed is excellent, outspeeding many potent threats in OU, including Salamence, Flygon, and Jirachi.
On top of these excellent offensive stats, Infernape also boasts an absolutely incredible offensive movepool. On the physical side, it has STAB Close Combat, Flare Blitz, and Fire Punch, as well as Stone Edge, ThunderPunch, Mach Punch, and U-Turn. Meanwhile, on the special side, Infernape boasts STAB Flamethrower, Fire Blast, Focus Blast, and Vacuum Wave, and can augment this by using Close Combat to become one of the few special attackers capable of destroying Blissey, the premier special wall in the metagame.
However, Infernape isn't exactly anything special defensively. 76/71/71 defenses are passable at best, and expecting Infernape to survive non-resisted attacks from offensive Pokemon is shaky at best. Fire/Fighting typing does provide a number of interesting resistances, including Fire, Steel, Grass, Ice, Dark, and a notable 4x resistance to Bug. Still, Infernape's ability to leverage these resistances is limited at best.
There's pretty much no "one right way" to play Infernape. With his massive movepool, Infernape is kind of like a "swiss army knife" of Pokemon- it can hit hard in pretty much any way possible, both physically and specially, and it can do it with or without setup as well. This makes Infernape one of the most immediately dangerous Pokemon in the entire metagame.
On the Special side, Infernape has access to dual 120 BP special STABs in the form of Focus Blast and Fire Blast. While their accuracy leaves something to be desired, there's no question that a 120 Base Power STAB coming off of 614 Special Attack (307 with +2) is brutal against most any foe. If 70% accuracy isn't your style, Close Combat requires little investment to OHKO Blissey, the bane of all special sweepers. Infernape also has the advantage of being a special sweeper not weak to Scarfed Tyranitar, as Vacuum Wave always OHKOs Tyranitar after a Nasty Plot boost.
Infernape is also extremely threatening on the Physical side. Again, Infernape backs dual 120 Base Power STABs in the form of Close Combat and Flare Blitz, and unlike its Special moves, both have 100% accuracy as well. However, massive recoil can be hazardous to its health, so Infernape can also use Fire Punch for its Fire-type STAB. It also has an excellent set of coverage moves, including Stone Edge, ThunderPunch, and the always-useful Mach Punch for taking out the increasingly common ScarfTar. Swords Dance gives Infernape all the power it needs to bust through even the toughest opponents, and the threat of a powerful Fire Blast is often enough to force a switch.
Infernape doesn't have to resort to its boosting moves for power. Choice Scarf Infernape can use its fantastic movepool to revenge kill even the fastest opponents, such as Starmie and a Dragon Dance boosted Salamence. It also has U-turn, which lets it act as an extremely effective scout. Infernape can also run a devastating 4-attack mixed set capable of breaking down even the toughest of walls with ease.
Finally, Infernape is an extremely effective lead. By packing both Fake Out and Stealth Rock, Infernape can scout the actions of opposing leads and potentially break their Focus Sashes while getting rocks of its own up. It can beat many top leads effectively, and can sometimes return later in the game to threaten opponents with its STABs or pick them off with Fake Out.
Infernape is incredibly difficult to counter due to its ability to run numerous effective sets, each with its own separate roster of counters. However, there is one ironclad counter to Infernape: Latias. Resistance to both of its STABs, as well as 130 base Special Defense, allows it to shrug off anything that Infernape can throw at it, even a boosted HP Ice. In addition to that, Latias is also faster, meaning that Infernape doesn't even get the chance to throw out an attack. Choiced U-turn can hamper choiced Latias, but otherwise, Infernape has absolutely nothing on Latias whatsoever.
Aside from Latias, the best way to beat Infernape is to bring in something faster on a predicted resisted attack. Scarfed Heatran can absorb Infernape's powerful Fire Blast or Flare Blitz, and revenge with Earth Power. However, it must be wary of Infernape's Fighting attacks, especially its priority attacks. Rotom-A can come in on Infernape's Fighting-type attacks, and has the added bonus of immunity to Vacuum Wave and Mach Punch. Gengar can do the same, and also doesn't require a Choice Scarf to outspeed Infernape. Gyarados can counter physical variants without Stone Edge, but risks being OHKOed after Stealth Rock by +2 Fire Blast or Focus Blast, and is always OHKOed by +2 Grass Knot.
It is also possible to use more standard counters against non-boosting variants. Swampert and Vaporeon work extremely well due to their solid defense and resistance to Fire Blast, and Vaporeon takes little damage from Grass Knot due to its low weight. Hippowdon can absorb Close Combat easily and is not OHKOed by Fire Blast. Salamence is effective against variants without Hidden Power Ice or Stone Edge, and can use Intimidate to lessen the blow as it comes in.
When playing stall, entry hazards can reduce Infernape's impact. A single layer of Toxic Spikes increases the damage Life Orb Infernape takes per turn to 22.5%, and that number increases to 28.75% with Sandstorm damage. This reduces the number of turns that Infernape has to wreck stall to four or less, hampering its ability to set up or to come into play multiple times.
Infernape is an excellent sweeper, but it still needs a little help to reach its full offensive potential. Luckily, that support is relatively easy to come by.
Stealth Rock is crucial for letting Infernape live up to its full potential, as it allows a +2 Fire Blast to OHKO Gyarados and Salamence. Spikes can also be useful, as Infernape is capable of forcing switches often. Meanwhile, the environment can be extremely unfriendly to Infernape itself, as entry hazards can make it extremely difficult for Infernape to do its job. Toxic Spikes and Sandstorm are especially effective against Infernape due to their ability to sap Infernape's health rapidly over time and limit its sweeping time severely. Starmie can spin effectively, and can also sweep if Infernape can deal severe enough damage to Blissey. Forretress can also Spike for Infernape as well as Rapid Spin effectively.
Since Latias is the bane of Infernape's existence, a way to remove it from play is absolutely necessary for Infernape to effectively sweep. Scarfed Tyranitar can guarantee Latias' extermination, though Sandstorm affects Infernape negatively enough that it may be more of a hindrance than a help. Metagross and Scizor can also Pursuit Latias to death, and Infernape can switch into Rotom-A's Will-O-Wisp for free, making him an effective teammate. These Pokemon can also effectively eliminate Gengar, as well as deal massive damage to bulky Water-types that can cause issues for Infernape, especially Vaporeon. Starmie can also switch in on water-type attacks, and sweep after Blissey is heavily damaged by Focus Blast. It also provides much-needed Rapid Spin support, especially against painful Toxic Spikes.
If you're looking for the hands down most unpredictable sweeper in OU, look no further. With access to +2 moves for both attacking stats and a flat out MASSIVE movepool, Infernape can bring the heat any way you want. Pick any set you want, and you can't go wrong.
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