UU Spotlight: Salamence

By ChrystalFalchion. Art by Litra.
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UU Spotlight: Salamence

Salamence's history

Salamence was introduced in Generation 3, and it really was a case of being born too soon: back then, whether moves were physical or special depended on which type they were, and all Dragon-type moves were special. The strongest physical STAB move Salamence could use was Hidden Power Flying. Despite this issue, it was still regarded as a good Pokémon to use in OU: according to its RSE analysis it was "one of the best sweepers in the current metagame".

If Salamence was threatening in RSE, it was downright terrifying when DP came along. This generation introduced the physical / special split, meaning Salamence could now use that mighty Attack stat much more effectively. The creation of Draco Meteor also gave Salamence an insanely powerful special STAB move. When Pokémon Platinum came out, the arrival of the Outrage tutor meant Salamence now had a STAB move with 120 Base Power that at the time nothing was immune to. This turned it into a nigh-unstoppable sweeper. As a result, it was banished to Ubers.

Salamence was freed in BW, and while it still remained a threatening Pokémon in OU, it now faced major competition from the buffed Dragonite and the newly arrived Haxorus. It gained a powerful new ability in Moxie, which made Dragon Dance Salamence very difficult to stop after it got a KO or two, and it still had superior Speed to Dragonite as well as more consistent abilities, so it remained a viable threat. However, Dragonite often became the players' choice due to its greater bulk (buffed to huge levels by its new ability Multiscale), access to Extreme Speed, and superior movepool.

In XY OU, Salamence really had it rough. The arrival of the Fairy type meant it couldn't just spam Outrage and Draco Meteor anymore, and to make matters worse, Mega Charizard X completely eclipsed Salamence: it was just as fast and had better physical bulk and a better typing. Between Dragonite and Mega Charizard X, Salamence just couldn't compete, and it found itself falling out of OU. However, it got a Mega Evolution in ORAS, and when its ability and base stats were revealed, players were soon crying "broken".

And they were right—its speed, power, and bulk were too much for OU to handle. So, that left regular Salamence back in UU. And there it's one of the most dangerous Pokémon to face. Its great movepool and solid overall base stats allow it to run a wide variety of sets, ranging from physical sweeper to mixed wallbreaker and even a physically defensive set. This means it can fit on teams of almost any style and has very few guaranteed counters. Fairy-types are less common in UU as well, and apart from Diancie, none of them have good physical bulk. Salamence is one of the most threatening Pokémon in the tier—don't expect your team to be successful if you don't prepare for it.

Salamence's qualities

Looking at Salamence, there honestly isn't a lot to criticize. Base 135 / 110 attacking stats mean Salamence can dish out a lot of damage with both physical and special attacks. It has the movepool to use them as well: Outrage and Draco Meteor are immensely powerful STAB moves that 2HKO most things that don't resist them. For the Pokémon that do, it has coverage moves in Fire Blast, Earthquake, and Iron Tail, and even some nice utility moves in Dragon Dance, Roost, Defog, and Dragon Tail.

Base 100 Speed makes Salamence the fastest user of Dragon Dance in UU. Intimidate and Moxie are both brilliant abilities: the former makes up for Salamence's average bulk and helps it force switches that it can use to set up a Dragon Dance, fire off some powerful attacks, recover health, or even clear entry hazards with Defog. Moxie makes Salamence more powerful with each KO, making the Dragon Dance and Choice Scarf sets (more on that soon) an absolute nightmare to face after they've netted a KO or two.

Salamence's only problem is its bulk. While 95 / 80 / 80 defenses are quite good for an offensive Pokémon, they often leave it wanting to use Intimidate to set up safely. Its typing is a double-edged sword, on the one hand giving it useful resistances to Fire, Fighting, Water, and Grass along with a Ground immunity, but on the other hand also giving it a Stealth Rock weakness and a 4x Ice weakness.

Playing with Salamence


This is the set Salamence is most well known for in UU. It is meant to sweep late-game: come in on something it can force out, boost with Dragon Dance, and KO as much as you can. Outrage is the most powerful STAB move on this set, 2HKOing everything that doesn't resist it after a Dragon Dance. You could use Dragon Claw instead if you don't want to be locked in, but it is much weaker. Fire Blast hits the Steel-types that resist Dragon super effectively, always 2HKOing Doublade and Cobalion, as well as physically defensive Chesnaught. Earthquake also hits said Steel-types, getting stronger hits on specially bulky ones like Empoleon. Iron Tail on the other hand hits Fairy-types super effectively, OHKOing Gardevoir and 2HKOing Florges at +1. If you're not worried about Doublade, you could use both of Earthquake and Iron Tail—that also lets you use a Jolly nature so you don't have to sacrifice bulk. Use a Lum Berry if you're running Outrage to snap Salamence out of confusion—it can also heal an unwelcome burn. A Life Orb is the better option if you're running Dragon Claw to help make up for the loss in power.

As for abilities, both are equally viable: Intimidate can help you force switches, thus giving Salamence an easier time setting up. Moxie on the other hand can make Salamence ridiculously powerful after it's netted a KO or two.


This is Salamence's mixed set. Unlike the Dragon Dance set, this one doesn't sweep. Its role is to smash holes into your opponent's team for something else to clean up later. Draco Meteor is Salamence's most powerful STAB move and will be what you're using most of the time. Fire Blast hits the Steel-types that resist Draco Meteor hard, 2HKOing Mega Aggron and specially defensive Doublade and OHKOing Forretress. Outrage is used as a strong physical STAB move to hurt special walls like Blissey and Umbreon that can easily take a Draco Meteor. The last slot is a toss-up: Iron Tail OHKOes Diancie and 2HKOes Florges, while Earthquake can be used to 2HKO Empoleon and defensive Nidoqueen, and Roost restores Salamence's HP, letting it fire off strong attacks for longer. Intimidate's the best ability to use, as Salamence can use it to force switches and fire off powerful attacks.


While this set can do a lot of damage, that's actually not the main point of it. This set is supposed to be a Defogger that can still pull its weight offensively. Draco Meteor is this set's STAB move and 2HKOes most things that don't resist it or aren't dedicated special walls. Fire Blast roasts the Steel-types that resist Draco Meteor. Roost restores Salamence's health, letting it Defog continually throughout the match. Intimidate is the chosen ability to help Salamence force switches, which it can use to Defog, fire off powerful attacks, or restore its HP.


While this set may seem like a waste of Salamence's amazing offensive abilities, it actually makes for a surprisingly good wall. Roost gives Salamence reliable recovery. Flamethrower is used to hurt Heracross, Lucario, Doublade, Toxicroak, and Cobalion, the Pokémon this set is meant to check. Defog can be used to remove entry hazards, letting Salamence's teammates switch in and out more easily. Toxic can put opposing sweepers on a timer. Dragon Pulse can be used as a STAB move that has great neutral coverage with Flamethrower. The EVs maximize HP, thus increasing Salamence's overall bulk. 176 Speed EVs and a Timid nature let Salamence outrun Jolly Lucario. The rest is in Defense for some extra bulk in that area.


Most Choice Scarf users are meant to be revenge killers, but Choice Scarf Salamence is actually best utilized as a late-game cleaner. While the Dragon Dance set has more power and the freedom to switch moves, this set doesn't need to set up. Outrage is the most powerful attack on this set, 2HKOing most things that don't resist it. Dragon Claw is a much weaker but safer alternative; it's also a good move to throw out if you're not sure what your opponent will switch in. The final two slots are a toss-up. Fire Blast OHKOes Forretress and 2HKOes Doublade, Iron Tail hits the Fairy-types immune to Salamence's STAB moves, OHKOing Diancie and 2HKOing Florges, and Earthquake can be used to hit specially bulky Steel-types like Empoleon. Moxie boosts Salamence's Attack by one stage every time it nets a KO, letting this set sweep. A Naive nature is used to outrun +1 Feraligatr and Choice Scarf Hydreigon, but if you're not running Fire Blast, run a Jolly nature so you don't compromise Salamence's bulk.

Playing against Salamence

Now, this is quite tricky. Really, the only two completely reliable answers to Salamence are Cresselia and Porygon2. Cresselia isn't OHKOed by anything Salamence has at its disposal, and it can survive a Draco Meteor followed by an Outrage and OHKO Salamence in turn with Ice Beam. Porygon2 can Trace Salamence's Intimidate to survive any attack and OHKO with Ice Beam.

Physically defensive Pokémon like Donphan and CroCune can check the Dragon Dance and Choice Scarf sets well, but neither can stand up to the mixed set. Fairy-types like Florges, Gardevoir, and Diancie can handle sets that lack Iron Tail without much trouble, although Diancie is still 2HKOed by a +1 Earthquake. Defensive Rhyperior and Mega Aggron can survive any +1 attack from the Dragon Dance set, but they are 2HKOed by Draco Meteor and Fire Blast from the mixed set, respectively.

Special walls like Blissey and Umbreon can easily take a Draco Meteor and cripple Salamence with status. They will fall to the physical sets, though.

Mamoswine and Mega Abomasnow can reliably revenge kill the offensive sets with their priority Ice Shards, but Mamoswine can only switch in on the defensive set, and Abomasnow can't switch in on any of them. Mega Aerodactyl outruns Salamence and OHKOes it with Stone Edge, but it can only switch in on the defensive set and loses if Salamence has a Dragon Dance under its belt. Whimsicott takes heavy damage from Fire Blast and Iron Tail but is immune to Salamence's Dragon STAB type and can lock it into an undesirable move with priority Encore, cripple it with priority Stun Spore, or just OHKO with Moonblast. Due to Salamence's popularity, some Pokémon that would ordinarily be setup fodder for it are now running coverage moves to hit it: a lot of Fighting-types are running Stone Edge, defensive Zapdos is running Hidden Power Ice, and Shaymin is running Dazzling Gleam. While none of those are reliable checks, they do make Salamence's life more difficult.

The defensive set is quite easy to counter due to its lack of offensive presence. Most walls that carry Toxic like Umbreon can put it on a timer without much trouble.

Fitting Salamence onto your team

That really comes down to what set you're running. If you're running the Dragon Dance or Choice Scarf sets, strong wallbreakers like Life Orb Mienshao, Life Orb Hydreigon, and Choice Specs Rotom-H are good options to soften up the opponent's team so Salamence can sweep.

If you're running the mixed set, fast cleaners like Swords Dance Cobalion and Dragon Dance Feraligatr are good teammates that appreciate Salamence's wallbreaking prowess. They both get decent synergy with Salamence, able to switch in on the Ice-type attacks (and, in Cobalion's case, Rock-type attacks) Salamence is weak to, while it can switch in on the Fire- and Ground-type attacks Cobalion is weak to and, while it has to watch out for Sleep Powder, the Grass-type moves Feraligatr is weak to.

The defensive set doesn't need much support to do its job, but due to its lack of offensive presence it is better utilized on stall teams. Blissey is a fantastic teammate, as Salamence can check the Fighting-types it fears, while Blissey can wall most of the special attackers that threaten Salamence. Blissey can also remove the dreaded Toxic poison with Heal Bell.

Due to its Stealth Rock weakness, hazard control is strongly recommended, especially for sets lacking Roost. Forretress can set up entry hazards and remove them and has good synergy with Salamence: it resists Ice-, Dragon-, and Fairy-type moves, while Salamence resists Fire-type moves. Empoleon can also do this; it also resists all of the types Salamence is weak to, while Salamence resists Fighting-type moves and is immune to Ground.

Get out there

While OU has given Salamence the cold shoulder, their loss is UU's gain. This fearsome pseudo-legendary is a metagame-defining Pokémon that you should always consider using on your team.

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