I've primarily been running defensive teams to try to find counters to the above threats, and as someone who's had his ass whooped by readytolose's alts many times, I can attest to the fact that the biggest problems are Steelix and Dracovish. So far I have found nothing that can reliably switch into them more than once or twice throughout the match.I've been playing a lot of Flipped lately (my alts are "how does win" and any variants of that), and I think I've come to get a good understanding of what some of the more unbalanced aspects of this meta are. So I think it's about time to voice my concerns, there is definitely an elephant in the room that I think needs to be addressed....
The "Ban Steelix" Post
Yup. Steelix is probably the most problematic Pokemon to deal with in the tier. When talking about Steelix, the first thing to establish is that it basically doesn't have any switch-ins. To add to that, the handful of things that can be considered defensive "checks" to Steelix have some combination of an inability to adequately pressure Steelix back, a lack of recovery, or are bopped by some less common coverage move Steelix can use, or some combination of these three factors. Steelix also has a degree of unpredictability, largely in the form of its Scarf set, making it harder to deal with until you know what set it is precisely.
Steelix @ Life Orb
Ability: Sheer Force
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Modest / Timid Nature
IVs: 0 Atk
- Earth Power
- Flash Cannon
- Dark Pulse
- Autotomize / Ancient Power / Stealth Rock
This is the main, most threatening Steelix set. STAB moves plus Dark Pulse are generally the best coverage options, and they are all boosted by Sheer Force. To give you a reference of how powerful Steelix is, its Life Orb Sheer Force Earth Power has about the same raw power as Primal Kyogre's Origin Pulse, and its Flash Cannon is not far behind. Being a breaker that's fairly resistant to hazards means that hazard stacking is not as effective of a means to handle Steelix as it could be. While it is slow, it's still fast enough to beat the defensive mons it needs to, and if Sticky Web is up, its effective speed lets it beat out most non-scarfed Pokemon. Here's some calcs against some of the meta's most specially defensive mons best suited to try and handle Steelix, to give you an idea of how they fare:
I could go on with calcs for a while but I think you get the picture; answering defensively to Steelix is nigh-impossible. This isn't quite the full picture of what Steelix is capable of, however.252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Dark Pulse vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Charizard: 165-195 (40.8 - 48.2%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
252+ SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Dark Pulse vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Charizard: 182-214 (45 - 52.9%) -- 30.5% chance to 2HKO
Specially defensive Charizard is something that narrowly avoids being 2HKO'd by Steelix's STABs or Dark Pulse from the Timid Life Orb set. However, with a Modest nature, Charizard runs the chance of losing to Steelix's Dark Pulse anyways. Of course, if Steelix is running Ancient Power, Charizard stands no chance. It's also worth noting that Charizard's uninvested Flamethrower is not a guaranteed OHKO against Steelix either, meaning that it needs to run a move that is otherwise less optimal if it wants to guarantee that OHKO.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Dark Pulse vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Cramorant: 164-194 (43.8 - 51.8%) -- 10.9% chance to 2HKO
Cramorant is very bad, but I did use it on one team as a check to Steelix. It can't even guarantee avoiding the 2HKO from Dark Pulse and is handily 2HKO'd by Ancient Power too. So not a good check.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Dark Pulse vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Dragapult: 263-309 (53.8 - 63.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO after Leftovers recovery
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Earth Power vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Dragapult: 220-259 (45 - 53%) -- 0.4% chance to 2HKO after Leftovers recovery
Specially defensive Dragapult, who has perhaps the highest raw bulk in the tier, is not a safe answer to Steelix either. It may be weak to Dark Pulse, but even if you ignore that it's still taking way too much from Steelix's STAB moves to adequately answer to it. Add to it that Dragapult lacks recovery and can't pressure Steelix back (Fire moves are 2HKOs at best. Non-statused Hex isn't even a guaranteed 3HKO) and Dragapult's ability to check Steelix looks pretty grim.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Dark Pulse vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Rotom-Heat: 192-227 (51 - 60.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
The Rotoms can only pivot in on a STAB move at best. Dark Pulse is a 2HKO against all variants of Rotom. Being reliant on Pain Split for recovery is a big limiting factor too.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Flash Cannon vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Hawlucha: 234-277 (53.1 - 62.9%) -- guaranteed 2HKO after Leftovers recovery
Hawlucha can pivot in on Steelix and is actually capable of OHKOing it, even if it has Sturdy for some reason, thanks to Mold Breaker. But as you can see, Hawlucha is still not a counter.
252+ SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Earth Power vs. 252 HP / 252+ SpD Assault Vest Goodra: 183-216 (50.2 - 59.3%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
Assault Vest Goodra is something I've seen on the ladder for its great mixed bulk and respectable power, but as you can see, even with maximum investment in bulk, Modest Earth Power is still a guaranteed 2HKO.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Flash Cannon vs. 252 HP / 0 SpD Assault Vest Hitmontop: 214-253 (62.2 - 73.5%) -- guaranteed 2HKO
Hitmontop is a decent offensive check to Steelix that is capable of revenging it even if it gets a speed boost. Defensively, it is far from a safe answer though, as it needs bulk investment and an Assault Vest to even switch in safely once.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Earth Power vs. 0 HP / 0 SpD Mew: 344-407 (100.8 - 119.3%) -- guaranteed OHKO
Just for reference, Steelix OHKOs anything with roughly 100/100 uninvested special bulk or less. This includes Dracovish, Goodra, Shuca Cobalion (much to my dismay), Virizion, Keldeo, among other things.
This is a move that Steelix can easily slot as the last move on its Life Orb set. If it sets up on a predicted sack and it is outside of the range of the opposing Sylveon, Steelix can easily clean up games. It can also set up on passive mons like Espeon, Xatu, more passive variants of Hydreigon, and other things, but most of its setup opportunities will come from predicted switches. The main answer to this set is to keep your Steelix check pristine and maintain pressure on Steelix to prevent it from setting up, but that leads to lame 50/50 situations where you leave something in to prevent it from setting up and it just kills you. Revenge killing a +2 speed Steelix takes either a priority mon that can OHKO it (Hitmontop, Primarina, or Keldeo), Scarf Ditto, or Scarf Snorlax.... that's about it. +2 Timid Steelix just barely outspeeds Scarf Timid Rhyperior, limiting the amount of scarfers that can be used to safely answer to this beast. Too often I have pivoted out of an opposing Steelix, only to see it Rock Polish and sweep my team.
Steelix @ Choice Scarf
Ability: Sheer Force
EVs: 4 Def / 252 SpA / 252 Spe
IVs: 0 Atk
- Earth Power
- Flash Cannon
- Dark Pulse
- Stealth Rock / Ancient Power / Dragon Pulse / Steel Beam
The other really good Steelix set uses Choice Scarf. This set still boasts enough power to OHKO or severely damage most offensive threats and can surprise a lot of things that would normally be faster. When you add in the fact that Life Orb Steelix can bluff being Scarf Steelix in certain situations (since it doesn't take Life Orb recoil) and you get an annoying guessing game when dealing with Steelix, especially early in the match. Say for instance that you have Specs Rhyperior out against Steelix. If it's Scarf and you stay in you get OHKO'd, if it's Life Orb and you switch out whatever you bring in will get 2HKO'd, or it Autotomizes and sweeps your team. These guessing games are far more punishing than they typically would be with Pokemon that have multiple good sets, since Steelix is more than powerful enough to act as a breaker even if running Choice Scarf, so long as you can predict correctly. For reference, Timid Sheer Force Earth Power still OHKOs uninvested offensive mons like Dracovish and Keldeo most of the time, and Steelix can still 2HKO or OHKO most everything except some of the "checks" listed above.
Really the cherry on top, Sturdy is one of those things that's way less consistent, but you'll lose to occasionally and it will make you feel like an idiot. Since you can't run Life Orb with Sturdy, you'll lose out on a lot of power if running this set but it will allow for janky setups like HDB to always survive a hit while hazards are up, or Weakness Policy + Autotomize to get sweeps going that way. These options are all far less consistent and don't play as much into Steelix's strengths, but they're all options to consider and add to Steelix's surprising versatility and make it more of a headache to deal with.
-Steelix is absurdly powerful and has virtually no defensive checks
-It can use its other options like Scarf, Autotomize, or Sturdy to punish some of its usual counterplay
-Even without Life Orb, Steelix is very strong and capable of breaking through teams
Let's look at Gyarados, who is on the VR mainly for its supposed niche to be able to check Steelix. On paper it looks amazing. It has great 81/125 special bulk (comparable to Roserade's 90/125 physical bulk), is immune or resistant to both of its STABs, only takes neutral damage from Dark Pulse, and can OHKO Steelix with Waterfall.
Here's the reality:
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Flash Cannon vs. 248 HP / 252+ SpD Gyarados: 94-112 (25.7 - 30.6%) -- guaranteed 4HKO
This is resisted hit yet it takes between a quarter and a third of its health. If Steelix switches out and the process repeats just once, you could already see yourself around 40% if you're running HDB. Remember that Steelix is faster than you so if it does stay in, you'll need to take a hit before you can smack it with Waterfall. This means that it only takes three Flash Cannon switch-ins before Steelix can finish you.
But it gets worse when you factor in the neutral coverage.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Dark Pulse vs. 248 HP / 252+ SpD Gyarados: 126-149 (34.5 - 40.8%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
You take more than a third, so you only get one switch-in to try to kill it. Ain't happening. Steelix will switch out and finish you next time you come in on it.
Let's say you put an Assault Vest on Gyara.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Flash Cannon vs. 248 HP / 252+ SpD Assault Vest Gyarados: 62-74 (16.9 - 20.2%) -- possible 5HKO
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Dark Pulse vs. 248 HP / 252+ SpD Assault Vest Gyarados: 84-100 (23 - 27.3%) -- 62.9% chance to 4HKO
In theory this could work okay, but the problem is that Gyarados is a bad AV user. The only thing of use it can do under AV is Dragon Tail, on which it is hopelessly outclassed by Dragapult, but the biggest issue is that it's weak to Stealth Rock. If your opponent has them up, you'll take 50% coming in on a Dark Pulse, and you're basically dead weight. This puts you under tremendous pressure to keep the field clear, which is easier said than done. Even if you succeed, switching into Dark Pulse is essentially the same as my first scenario, where all you get is 2 switch-ins before you're toast. If your opponent keeps up the pressure to deny you a chance to pass a Wish to Gyarados, then Steelix will eventually win out and sweep your team.
Gyarados, by the way, is a terrible answer to other special nukes, as it succumbs fairly easily to Avalugg Ice Beam and very easily to Rhyperior Thunderbolt.
My favorite AV user is Hitmonlee (who IMO is far superior to Hitmontop on stall and is being slept on), who is great at handling Rhyperior but falls short against Steelix.
252 SpA Life Orb Sheer Force Steelix Earth Power vs. 248 HP / 252+ SpD Assault Vest Hitmonlee: 146-173 (38.7 - 45.8%) -- guaranteed 3HKO
Roserade-level bulk just doesn't get you as far on the special side in this meta.
To my knowledge, the only other pokemon that share the traits I mentioned that theoretically make Gyara a good Steelix check are Rotom-W and Rotom-H, but they have terrible 86/65 special bulk, so you'll only get a more pathetic repeat of the Gyarados calcs.
readytolose already discussed Dragapult, the best mon with abnormal bulk, who I've also played extensively with an Assault Vest, and while it's the closest I've found so far, the fact that it can't OHKO makes it pretty easy for Steelix to break as well.
Steelix can be beaten fairly easily by hyper offense. The problem is that pure hyper offense is somewhat unviable with Quick Attack Sylveon running around. When Sylveon destroys HO and Steelix destroys stall, I think you get a situation where you can't have both, and of the two Sylveon is by far the easier one for opponents to deal with.
For these reasons, the council is currently discussing what to do about Steelix.
Dracovish is the other mon that I think may be broken. Roserade and Dragapult are the only checks to my knowledge but they can be worn down. Whimsicott can handle scarf variants alright but takes 50% from banded Vish and even sub-seed can't counter that. IMO Vish is the problem rather than Fishious Rend. Arctovish, by contrast, has the same speed and slightly higher attack, but this can't make up for the power from Strong Jaw, and with its Ice typing and base 55 HP, is much easier to wear down with SR and priority. I see Bolt Beak users quite rarely as they can be countered.
I agree that Espeon, Rhyperior, and and Sylveon are centralizing but not broken. Espeon will almost certainly be moving up on the VR, along with Salazzle. Will update soon.
As a side note, for those who detest Espeon, I strongly recommend trying out Tyranitar. It has one of the strongest Dark Pulses available and does over 75% to standard Esp, who can't touch it in return. The real beauty of Ttar over the other Dark types is that it is a Stealth Rocker who Espeon is afraid to switch in on, greatly improving your control of the match. On top of that it can be a special wall or even sweep with Dragon Dance. This is a mon that I expect will rise in abundance if Espeon starts to get out of hand.