NU Spotlight: Incineroar

By allstarapology and Nuked. Released: 2018/10/30.
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Article Art by DatHeatmor

Art by DatHeatmor.


Despite it being ranked S on the Viability Rankings and considered the greatest Pokémon in NU, Incineroar didn't get off to an amazing start. Towards the beginning of SM NU, it made a name for itself as a decent Assault Vest user because it could soft check threats such as Delphox, Houndoom, and Mismagius, but its popularity didn't last very long. Certain Pokémon that it checked like Mismagius slightly dropped in usage, Fighting-types such as Emboar, Virizion, and Toxicroak rose in usage, and its vulnerability to entry hazards and lack of recovery only became more apparent when special wallbreakers like Vikavolt and Whimsicott became more common. Furthermore, players realized that Assault Vest Incineroar didn't do all that good of a job of checking Pokémon because of its previously mentioned weaknesses to entry hazards and lack of recovery, which led to it declining in usage. Incineroar ended up being ranked at C before Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon came out, but things began to change for it afterwards, leading to its gradual rise to stardom.

Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon's move tutors gave Incineroar access to Knock Off, and it also gained access to Intimidate in March, both of which led to its Swords Dance set becoming very popular. The set was exceptional at tearing apart commonplace balance cores like Slowbro + Steelix, and these same changes also eventually paved the way for Incineroar's Iapapa Berry set, which quickly became a player favorite because of its insane supportive capabilities and its ability to easily fit onto multiple teams. Emboar being banned and Virizion rising to RU were also massive boons to Incineroar, as it meant two good offensive checks and competition as a physical Fire-type in the case of the former were removed. After going up the ranks throughout USM NU, Incineroar was finally bumped up to S on the Viability Rankings before the Gigalith suspect test as a result of its Swords Dance sets being majorly threatening, its ability to easily fit onto multiple teams, its offensive and defensive utility, and its ability to provide multiple forms of support. This article will cover Incineroar's main sets, some of its flaws, and good Pokémon to pair it with.

Main sets

Swords Dance + Z-Move

Swords Dance Incineroar is one of the tier's deadliest setup sweepers and was only rivaled by the Assault Vest set in usage until its defensive pivot set came about. Malicious Moonsault is an incredibly powerful move, especially after Incineroar uses Swords Dance, capable of dealing massive damage to otherwise solid checks like Rhydon and Assault Vest Hariyama after a boost. This, combined with Incineroar's amazing STAB combination, ability to outspeed and force out numerous defensive Pokémon as well as take hits from a couple of them, and perfect coverage with Earthquake makes it a difficult Pokémon for most balance teams to reliably wall. Certain Swords Dance variants even opt to use Taunt over Earthquake, which stops Pyukumuku and allows Incineroar to plow through stall teams, though this typically isn't the case nowadays. Firium Z sets aren't as popular, but they are threatening in their own right, as they can reliably OHKO Passimian on the switch and make better use of Knock Off. Completely niche Pokémon like Poliwrath occasionally showed up on defensive teams for a bit, which shows how threatening Incineroar can be for them to deal with. Although Incineroar can be easily forced out by Pokémon like Passimian and Medicham, this doesn't reduce the set's effectiveness or hamper Incineroar's viability all that much.

Despite Swords Dance sets becoming less common than Incineroar's Iapapa Berry set for awhile, they've been making a resurgence as of late, and Groundium Z has been a fairly common choice for them. Although Incinium Z and Firium Z are more consistently powerful, Tectonic Rage is useful for enabling Incineroar to more easily deal with otherwise good defensive checks, notably opposing defensive Incineroar, Rhydon, Shuca Berry Diancie, and Hariyama.


Defensive Incineroar took off during Smogon Premier League, showed up throughout NUPL, and actually ended up trumping Swords Dance Incineroar in terms of usage on ladder. Similarly to the Assault Vest set, defensive Incineroar aims to take advantage of its defensive characteristics and serves as a pivot that can take on Pokémon like Vanilluxe, Sneasel, and opposing non-Groundium Z Incineroar more reliably than offensive sets while also sporting handy utility and support options. However, Iapapa Berry mitigates Incineroar's lack of recovery and vulnerability to entry hazards as well as other forms of residual damage, meaning that defensive Incineroar tends to have greater staying power than Assault Vest Incineroar and isn't as easily exploited. This set doesn't place as much offensive pressure on teams and can't break through Pokémon like Vaporeon, defensive Slowbro, and Druddigon like Swords Dance sets can, but its ability to support its teammates in multiple ways, keep dangerous threats in check, and fit onto multiple teams with ease is what makes the set as great as it is.

Other sets

Weakness Policy

This set saw a bit of usage on hyper offense teams during NUPL VI, though the playstyle isn't as common as it was then, leading to this set dropping in usage. Regardless, Weakness Policy Incineroar can still be a deadly setup sweeper under the right circumstances. Not only can it be rather difficult to take down as a result of its already good bulk being bolstered by Intimidate, Bulk Up, Substitute, and potentially dual screens support, but it also can become rather hard to answer both defensively and offensively with enough Attack boosts from Bulk Up and Speed boosts from Flame Charge. Power Trip becomes incredibly annoying for most teams to deal with should Incineroar attain enough stat boosts, and attempting to revenge kill Incineroar with Pokémon like Passimian isn't as easy as it normally is and only triggers Incineroar's Weakness Policy, which boosts its Attack even further and allows Power Trip to hit even harder. One of the set's bigger problems is that it's completely reliant on setting up to break through much of anything, though setting up isn't terribly difficult for Incineroar as long as dual screens are present.

Swords Dance + Iapapa Berry

Iapapa Berry Swords Dance Incineroar aims to combine the defensive presence of its Iapapa Berry set with the offensive presence that its Swords Dance sets possess. Thanks to Iapapa Berry, this set has greater staying power than the more standard Swords Dance sets, which allows Incineroar to repeatedly switch into Pokémon like Delphox, Vanilluxe, and Xatu while still applying massive amounts of pressure to defensive cores. Although this set doesn't see as much as usage as the Z-Move variants, it's a slightly different take on them that still manages to be effective and definitely deserves a chance.

Incineroar's flaws

One of Incineroar's biggest issues is its extreme vulnerability to every type of entry hazard, especially Stealth Rock. This can inhibit its ability to set up, act as a defensive pivot, and wallbreak consistently, especially since it lacks recovery outside of Iapapa Berry, which can inhibit its ability to switch into threats like Sneasel over the course of a match. Additionally, Incineroar's typing gives it weaknesses to common types such as Fighting, Rock, and Ground, meaning it must watch out for common Pokémon like Hariyama, Passimian, Diancie, and Rhydon. This also makes it vulnerable to coverage moves such as Decidueye's Low Sweep, Dhelmise's Earthquake, and Sceptile's Focus Blast, with all of these examples being Pokémon that Incineroar would check otherwise. Additionally, its Speed tier is subpar, as it's outsped by most offensive Pokémon in the metagame; however, it's good enough to outspeed slower Pokémon such as Dhelmise, Garbodor, and Piloswine.

Good cores

Incineroar + Xatu
Incineroar + Passimian
Incineroar + Heliolisk
Xatu Rocky Helmet
  • Xatu @ Rocky Helmet
  • Ability: Magic Bounce
  • EVs: 248 HP / 200 Def / 60 Spe
  • Impish Nature
  • - U-turn
  • - Night Shade
  • - Roost
  • - Toxic

Xatu is an excellent teammate for Incineroar for a number of reasons. First and foremost is Xatu's access to Magic Bounce, which allows it to bounce back entry hazards. This is a massive boon to Incineroar, particularly defensive variants, as its vulnerability to hazards and lack of recovery make it easy to wear down and can give it a harder time consistently checking Pokémon like Vanilluxe. Xatu also completes a momentum core with Incineroar, possesses a useful resistance to Fighting-type moves and immunity to Ground-type ones, and can put a lot of its defensive switch-ins like Miltank, Seismitoad, and non-Heal Bell Vaporeon on a timer with Toxic. In return, Incineroar can switch into a lot of Pokémon that Xatu tends to bait in, such as Vanilluxe, Sneasel, Decidueye, and Houndoom.

Passimian Choice Scarf
  • Passimian @ Choice Scarf
  • Ability: Receiver
  • EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
  • Jolly Nature
  • - Close Combat
  • - U-turn
  • - Knock Off
  • - Gunk Shot / Earthquake

Passimian tends to bait in foes such as Xatu, Slowbro, Palossand, and Vileplume and can exploit all of them by generating momentum with U-turn, which allows Incineroar to freely switch in and take advantage of these Pokémon. Additionally, Passimian can check fast offensive threats that threaten Incineroar such as Heliolisk, Sceptile, and Aerodactyl, which are all big threats to Incineroar, as well as threatening opposing Incineroar with the prospect of Close Combat. In return, Incineroar acts as a solid check to most Psychic- and Ghost-type Pokémon and can pave the way for Passimian to clean late-game by dismantling defensive cores.

Heliolisk Choice Specs
  • Heliolisk @ Choice Specs
  • Ability: Dry Skin
  • EVs: 4 Def / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
  • Timid Nature
  • - Volt Switch
  • - Hyper Voice
  • - Thunderbolt
  • - Surf / Grass Knot

Although they stack weaknesses to Fighting and Ground, Incineroar and Heliolisk make for a formidable offensive core. The both of them are great at wearing each another's checks down, with notable examples being Incineroar dealing with Vileplume and Torterra while Heliolisk checks Pokémon like Blastoise. Similarly to Passimian, Heliolisk is also capable of forcing in Pokémon that Incineroar exploits, such as Torterra and Mega Audino, and either generating momentum for it or double switching in the case of Torterra. Heliolisk is also immune to Water-type moves thanks to Dry Skin, and it appreciates having Incineroar to fall back on against Sneasel.

Closing thoughts

Incineroar has been through quite the journey since the beginning of NU, going from an average Pokémon to one so amazing and metagame-defining that certain people even view as broken. There's rarely going to be a case where this fearsome and fiery feline won't do anything for your team, so get out there and use it!

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