Rising From the Steam: Volcanion's Competitive Prospects

By Recreant and Snowy.. Art by Bummer.
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Volcanion by Bummer

Introduction

Volcanion has been a Pokémon shrouded in mystery since its discovery in the game via hacking. Out of the three unrevealed legendary Pokémon, it seemed to be the most neglected. Diancie received a Mega forme, Hoopa received its Unbound forme, while Volcanion received... nothing. Fans have been curious and utterly confused about this fire cat for quite a long time. In a surprise reveal from CoroCoro, in which Pokémon fans were expecting heavy news about the upcoming Sun and Moon games, Volcanion was revealed to have a movie being developed around it, and thus it would be released to the public. At first, negative thoughts surrounded the Pokémon due to it not being Sun and Moon news, but the hype quickly caught on as people realized it had the capability to be a devastating threat in the OU metagame. Volcanion was recently released on Pokémon Showdown!, and there is no doubt that it is going to be a top-tier threat.

Volcanion's Qualities

Right off the bat, Volcanion's typing is incredibly unique and serves it well in the heat of battle. Fire / Water is a fantastic offensive typing, and, in combination with its ability, Water Absorb, has a handful of strong resistances and an immunity. On top of this, Volcanion's superb natural bulk allows it to check or counter the likes of Mega Scizor, Talonflame, Keldeo, Mega Charizard Y, Clefable, Azumarill, Mew, and Mega Sableye. The immense team support that it provides from checking all of those Pokémon immediately makes it worth a slot. Volcanion notably stands as one of the most reliable Scald switch-ins in the tier, as it is immune to Water-type attacks. Steam Eruption, Volcanion's signature move, is practically a stronger Scald. With the absurd power and good burn chance, opposing switch-ins are beaten down quite quickly. Volcanion also has decent coverage all-around and is very adaptable to a team's particular needs. Most switch-ins, such as Gastrodon, Chansey, and Jellicent, can be easily defeated with a coverage move.

Sadly, Volcanion's typing grants it a terrible entry hazard weakness, limiting the number of times it is capable of switching into attacks. Its Speed, while good against balance and stall teams, falls short against offense, leaving it to be outsped by most threats on said teams. Its main STAB attack, Steam Eruption, also only has 8 PP, allowing it to be stalled fairly quickly, especially against the likes of Suicune, Jellicent, and Goodra. However, its high burn chance and power can still wear down offensive checks such as Latias and Latios quite easily.

Testing Out Volcanion

Volcanion
Volcanion @ Choice Specs
Ability: Water Absorb
EVs: 4 Def / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest / Timid Nature
- Steam Eruption
- Fire Blast
- Sludge Bomb / Earth Power
- Hidden Power Electric / Hidden Power Grass / Sleep Talk

Choice Specs Volcanion is backed up with devastating firepower, making it one of the most powerful special attackers in the tier. Combine this with a fantastic offensive typing and an obnoxious chance to burn from Steam Eruption, Volcanion can become a nightmare to switch into. Steam Eruption is Volcanion's signature move, and it's certainly not a pushover. With high Base Power, good accuracy, and a chance to burn, it can easily leave foes crippled. Fire Blast provides solid offensive coverage with Steam Eruption, eliminating Grass-type Pokémon such as Serperior, Tangrowth, Amoonguss, and Ferrothorn. Sludge Bomb heavily damages Azumarill, Mega Altaria, and Clefable. It also dents the likes of opposing Volcanion, Slowbro, and Manaphy, and the solid poison chance helps in wearing them down. Earth Power mainly targets opposing Volcanion, which is, ironically, one of Volcanion's best checks. Hidden Power Electric targets Gyarados, Keldeo, Azumarill, Tentacruel, and Jellicent. Hidden Power Grass OHKOes Gastrodon and Seismitoad, which are immune to Steam Eruption and take minimal damage from Fire Blast. Sleep Talk allows Volcanion to better check the likes of Amoonguss, Breloom, and Tangrowth, as it enables Volcanion to attack while sleeping.

Volcanion @ Leftovers
Ability: Water Absorb
EVs: 248 HP / 184 Def / 32 SpD / 44 Spe
Bold Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Scald
- Flamethrower / Will-O-Wisp / Protect
- Toxic / Will-O-Wisp
- Haze / Roar

Defensive Volcanion is mainly seen on balance and stall teams and serves as a fantastic switch-in to Water-type attacks and Pokémon such as Talonflame, Mega Scizor, Azumarill, Jirachi, and Mega Altaria. On this set, Scald is used over Steam Eruption, as the higher PP is much more useful than the immediate damage output from Steam Eruption. Flamethrower targets Steel- and Grass-type Pokémon such as Jirachi, Ferrothorn, Tangrowth, Celebi, Amoonguss, and Mega Scizor. Will-O-Wisp cripples physical attackers such as Mega Lopunny, Gyarados, and Dragonite. Protect allows Volcanion to scout the foe's next turn while giving it a turn of Leftovers recovery, potentially taking it out of KO range from another attack. Toxic wears down bulky Water-types, especially the likes of Slowbro, Rotom-W, Slowking, and Jellicent. Haze removes the foe's stat boosts, allowing Volcanion to defeat Calm Mind Slowbro, Clefable, and Belly Drum Azumarill one-on-one. Roar serves a similar purpose, shuffling the foe out of the field; however, it is cursed with a negative priority bracket. Protect allows Volcanion to stall for more Toxic damage, scout the foe's move, and gain Leftovers recovery. Using 96 Speed EVs rather than 44 allows Volcanion to outspeed max Speed Adamant Azumarill.

Volcanion @ Life Orb / Expert Belt
Ability: Water Absorb
EVs: 4 Def / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
Modest / Timid Nature
- Steam Eruption
- Fire Blast
- Sludge Wave / Sludge Bomb
- Earth Power / Superpower / Hidden Power Grass / Flame Charge

Life Orb Volcanion provides fantastic firepower, although not as much as Choice Specs, in addition to the freedom to switch moves. Expert Belt also works and can let Volcanion bluff Choice sets; however, it only boosts attacks that are super effective against the target. Steam Eruption is a powerful Water-type attack that has a high chance to cripple the foe with a burn. Fire Blast provides fantastic type coverage with Steam Eruption, obliterating most Grass-type switch-ins. Sludge Bomb does massive damage to Clefable and has a nifty chance to poison the foe. This comes in handy against the likes of Slowbro and Suicune. Earth Power OHKOes opposing Volcanion after any damage, such as a switch in with Stealth Rock on the field. Superpower, in conjunction with an EV spread of 156 Atk / 252 SpA / 100 Spe and a Naughty nature, 2HKOes Chansey, even with the stat drops, which is one of the few defensive checks to Volcanion. Hidden Power Grass OHKOes Gastrodon and Seismitoad, which are immune to Steam Eruption and take little from Fire Blast. Finally, Flame Charge provides Volcanion with a way to perform well against offense and finish off weakened targets; however, the move is fairly weak and Volcanion can still struggle against Choice Scarf foes. Using a Power Herb with Solar Beam gives Volcanion a Grass-type attack with more power than the weak Hidden Power Grass.

Volcanion @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Water Absorb
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Timid Nature
- Steam Eruption
- Fire Blast
- Sludge Bomb
- Earth Power / Hidden Power Ice / Hidden Power Grass

Choice Scarf patches up Volcanion's mediocre Speed tier and gives it a fighting chance against offensive teams. It provides a solid check to Weavile, Mega Diancie, Serperior, and Heatran, Pokémon that can give offensive teams headaches. Steam Eruption is a hard-hitting Water-type attack that acts similarly to Scald, wearing down foes early-game with burn damage. Fire Blast obliterates Grass-type switch-ins while providing all-around solid coverage with Steam Eruption. Sludge Bomb does massive damage to Fairy-types, such as Clefable and Mega Gardevoir, and between the poison chance and the burn chance from Steam Eruption, Volcanion can become a nuisance to switch into. Earth Power targets and OHKOes opposing Volcanion after Stealth Rock damage. Hidden Power Ice defeats Dragon-types, particularly Dragonite and Latios, while Hidden Power Grass does massive damage to Gastrodon, Seismitoad, Slowbro, and other Water-type Pokémon.

Volcanion has a number of other options it can run. By equipping an Assault Vest, Volcanion's Special Defense stat soars, allowing it to better check special attackers such as Tornadus-T, Clefable, Manaphy, Mega Charizard Y, and Mega Gardevoir. Shuca Berry gives Volcanion a one-time neutrality to Ground-type attacks. This allows it to check Excadrill and Landorus-T, which often feel comfortable clicking Earthquake against Volcanion. Mystic Water works in a similar fashion to Expert Belt, as enables Volcanion to bluff a Choice set while boosting the power of Steam Eruption.


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Volcanion's Potential Checks and Counters

Volcanion's checks and counters are certainly limited, as the majority of them are easily defeated with a coverage move or worn down through repeated switches in and burns. One of Volcanion's biggest issues stems from its mediocre Speed stat, which is, without a doubt, lacking against offensive teams. Although none of them can switch in, Pokémon such as Mega Manectric, Raikou, Mega Diancie, Excadrill, and Choice Scarf Landorus-T have no issue revenge killing Volcanion or forcing a switch, causing the Volcanion user to lose momentum. Combine this with a hazard weakness and no reliable recovery, Volcanion is not a difficult Pokémon to wear down throughout the battle. A lack of reliable recovery also prevents its defensive set from being able to truly shine.

If it is locked into a move, Choice Specs or Choice Scarf Volcanion can be easily taken advantage of. For example, if it is locked into Steam Eruption, Grass-, Dragon-, and Water-types such as Tangrowth, Amoonguss, Keldeo, Jellicent, Gastrodon, Latios, and Kyurem-B can defeat it; if Volcanion is locked into Fire Blast, then Dragon- and Water-types generally have no issue tanking attacks. Generally, Volcanion has to catch its checks on the switch with the correct coverage move, so prediction is key. Chansey can defeat every set no matter what unless it is running Superpower, not caring about burns thanks to Natural Cure.

Volcanion's Potential Teammates

Volcanion fits on a variety of teams depending on what set it's running. When running an offensive spread, it partners up well with Excadrill and sand teams in general, as it is able to naturally break down the majority of Excadrill's checks, such as Rotom-W, Tangrowth, Celebi, and Skarmory. In return, Excadrill blows through Mega Diancie, Chansey, Latias, and Dragalge. Grass-types, such as Serperior, Breloom, and Mega Sceptile, appreciate Volcanion's wallbreaking pressure, and they can easily defeat Water-types for it. Thundurus provides Speed control thanks to Thunder Wave and does a fantastic job breaking down Water-types such as Manaphy and Slowking. It can also defeat Chansey with Knock Off or Superpower if need be. Tyranitar checks the likes of Mega Manectric and Thundurus while Pursuit trapping Latios and Latias, two fantastic offensive checks to Volcanion.

For Volcanion's defensive set, Mega Sableye is a prime partner. Volcanion checks Fairy-types such as Clefable and Azumarill and can defeat other offensive Water-types, especially Keldeo, while Mega Sableye prevents hazards thanks to Magic Bounce. Grass-types, such as Celebi and Tangrowth, share good type synergy, as they complete a Fire / Water / Grass core and can defeat Water-type foes.

A Future for Volcanion

Although, in the beginning, the masses were skeptical about its viability, Volcanion certainly has a solid place in the OU metagame. With limited switch-ins, absurd power, and the coverage moves to back it up, Volcanion's looming presence will threaten a majority of the tier. Its powerful Steam Eruptions are prepared to melt down any competition, and it's certainly going to be an interesting time for OverUsed!

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