step up, snap ya back
Magcargo really is a mixed bag of pros and cons. It sports a very bad array of weaknesses to Fighting-, Rock-, Ground-, and Water-type attacks, but a Rock weakness is a nice trade for a Grass neutrality overall compared to the other Rock-types in the tier. On top of that, Magcargo also has a resistance to Ice, which, combined with a decent Special Defense stat, really sets it apart from the other Rock-types in the tier. Unfortunately, its Attack stat is abysmal, meaning it can't really make use of its Rock STAB or access to Self-Destruct to the fullest. That said, its Special Attack is above average, and its STAB Fire Blast will hurt a lot of the tier. It's also extremely slow, even being outsped by the other Rock-types in the tier, therefore making it easy to revenge kill. Magcargo shines on teams that can make use of its mixed defenses and ability Flame Body to wall special attackers like Flareon and physical Normal-types like Pidgeot and Raticate; just be mindful of its snail's pace when using it.
name: Specially Defensive
move 1: Flamethrower / Fire Blast
move 2: Toxic / Yawn
move 3: Rest
move 4: Sleep Talk
ability: Flame Body
evs: 252 HP / 4 SpA / 252 SpD
Even with max Defense EV investment Magcargo still crumbles to any Fighting- and Ground-type attack, and without any Defense investment Magcargo still walls most Normal- and Flying-type attacks, meaning the logical choice is to focus on its average Special Defense to allow it to wall special attackers like Flareon and tank attacks from Chimecho much better. Flamethrower and Fire Blast are both decent STAB moves that separate it from the other Rock-types in the tier, targeting the foes that it normally walls on their generally lower Special Defense. Toxic spreads status and is Magcargo's best way of crippling the bulky Water-types that are sure to switch into it. RestTalk is recommended on this set to give Magcargo as much longevity as possible and allow it to absorb Sleep Powders and other status from the Grass-types it easily walls. When taking this route, pairing Magcargo with a Heal Bell user like Chimecho would be wise to wake it quickly. Toxic can be replaced with Yawn and pairs well with Magcargo's defensive nature by forcing a switch and giving Magcargo's team some momentum.
Sassy is the chosen nature to not lower the power of Self-Destruct or Flamethrower, and the slightly lower Speed stat is not an issue due to Magcargo's already snail's pace. A mixed defensive EV spread is doable; a spread of 252 HP / 200 Def / 56 SpD with a Sassy nature can be used, with the Defense investment preventing the 2HKO from a +2 Adamant Mawile's Hidden Power Steel while still allowing Magcargo to avoid the 2HKO from 252 SpA Modest Chimecho's Psychic. Generally, however, the additional Special Defense is preferred to allow Magcargo to beat Plusle one-on-one, and Magcargo OHKOes Mawile with Fire Blast anyway (though not with Flamethrower).
Magcargo surprisingly has a number of viable move options not listed above that can be tailored to meet the needs of your team. If running RestTalk doesn't suit your taste, Protect pairs best with Toxic to allow for residual damage buildup and additional Leftovers recovery, as well as allowing Magcargo to scout Choice Band attackers' attacks. That said, Protect's utility can be forgone in favor of additional coverage from Hidden Power Grass, which gives Magcargo some modicum of defense against the other Rock-types in the tier beyond status and will deal a ton of damage to the likes of Whiscash. Self-Destruct is pretty weak compared to the other boom attacks in the tier due to Magcargo's paltry Attack stat, but it's still a good way of crippling opposing Pokemon and allowing Magcargo to keep momentum for its team and prevent Pokemon like Huntail from freely setting up on it; obviously, this should only be run when not using RestTalk. Light Screen and Reflect are both available, with Reflect notably allowing Magcargo to avoid the OHKO from Choice Band Hitmonchan's Earthquake 75% of the time. Light Screen may be more handy overall, though, as with max Special Defense investment and behind a Light Screen, Magcargo is only 3HKOed by defensive Dewgong's Surf. Hidden Power Water can be used over Hidden Power Grass, which trades the ability to batter Whiscash and Relicanth for the ability to threaten other offensive Fire-types like Charmeleon. Both Toxic and Yawn can be used on the set at the same time, allowing Magcargo to literally pick its poison for the enemy between those two moves and its ability, Flame Body; however, doing so can leave Magcargo completely helpless against Substitute users.
Spikes support is very effective with this set due to the status and switches it forces, and Roselia has fantastic type synergy with Magcargo, though using both will create a large Ground-type weakness that can be hard to fill. Still, a switch-in to Ground-, Fighting-, and Rock-type attacks is needed when using Magcargo, making physically defensive Swalot, Pelipper, and Whiscash good teammates. Water-types are particularly dangerous to the success of this set, making defensive Bellossom and Kecleon good teammates as well. Finally, offensive Pokemon that appreciate Magcargo's ability to wall both Fire- and Flying-types should be used with it, examples including Tangela, Piloswine, and Venomoth.
Focusing on Magcargo's Special Attack and making it into a tank is an option, but Torkoal and Flareon are typically better suited for this role, due to the former's higher overall bulk and the latter's higher Speed. Hidden Power Electric is another move option on the above set, as it keeps the super effective hit on Water-types and trades the ability to thrash Whiscash for the ability to smack around Pelipper. Overheat can be used as a STAB move, as Magcargo will be switching in and out often enough anyway. Magcargo also has access to both Acid Armor and Amnesia, though Reflect and Light Screen will typically be better in the long run. Finally, Magcargo's Rock STAB can be used through Rock Slide or Hidden Power Rock, but without heavy Attack EV investment, it won't be very useful except for a better hit on Kecleon.
[Checks and Counters]
Bulky Water-types, particularly RestTalk users like Relicanth, Whiscash, and Dewgong, are the absolute best switch-ins to Magcargo, as they resist its STAB attacks and can shrug off status easily, and Relicanth even resists Self-Destruct. Offensive Water-types such as Seadra and Huntail will easily outspeed and OHKO Magcargo with Surf, but they need to be mindful of status and Self-Destruct. Other Rock-types, such as Sudowoodo and Graveler, resist Fire Blast and Self-Destruct and will easily OHKO Magcargo with Earthquake, but they will be whittled down by Toxic over time if they're not careful. Piloswine can't switch into Fire Blast or Flamethrower safely, but it will also easily OHKO with Earthquake.
Hitmonchan will do a ton of damage with either its STAB moves or Earthquake, but it will not enjoy taking anything Magcargo throws at it in return and definitely will not like being burned by Flame Body. Guts users, namely Machoke and Raticate, will enjoy being hit with status to give a boost to their attacks, but they will take a lot of damage from Fire Blast. Finally, anything else with Earthquake or Hidden Power Ground, such as Vigoroth or Pidgeot, will be able to check Magcargo and threaten a OHKO or near-OHKO.
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