Rayquaza's excellent mixed offensive stats make it a very difficult Pokemon to switch into. Its decent Speed tier and access to Dragon Dance make it a formidable physical sweeper that has the benefit of being able to defeat Marshadow. Rayquaza can also act as a mixed wallbreaker that can threaten bulkier teams, being able to heavily pressure defensive threats such as Zygarde-C, Clefable, Chansey, Mega Sableye, Blissey, and most Steel-types. Access to Extreme Speed ensures Rayquaza can stand up to offensive teams, allowing it to function well against multiple playstyles. Rayquaza can also function as a soft check to both Primal Groudon and Primal Kyogre, as well as an emergency stop to Sand Rush Excadrill, due to its ability, Air Lock, negating weather, which can be situationally useful. However, Rayquaza's average bulk, vulnerability to burn and paralysis, and common weaknesses to Rock-, Ice-, and Fairy-type attacks make bringing it into play difficult. Rayquaza is also hindered by the rise of support Arceus formes that invest heavily in Speed to defeat Mega Lucario; Arceus-Ground, Arceus-Water, and Arceus-Fairy can all switch into Rayquaza and OHKO it without having to take two hits, as they outrun it. This has the effect of decreasing the usefulness of Rayquaza as a mixed wallbreaker, as it is more easily checked by the defensive teams it is supposed to beat. While Rayquaza's Speed tier is otherwise quite reasonable, as it allows Rayquaza to outpace Ho-Oh, Primal Groudon, and Zygarde-C, it also leaves Rayquaza vulnerable to variants of Xerneas, Lunala, and Yveltal, which can make setting up or attacking more difficult.
name: Dragon Dance
move 1: Dragon Dance
move 2: Dragon Ascent
move 3: Earthquake
move 4: Extreme Speed
item: Flyinium Z / Life Orb / Focus Sash
ability: Air Lock
nature: Adamant / Jolly
evs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Dragon Dance boosts Rayquaza's Attack and Speed, making it much more difficult to revenge kill and giving it the power needed to sweep late-game. Dragon Ascent is Rayquaza's best STAB move and hits a large amount of the Ubers tier neutrally. Earthquake prevents most Rock- and Steel-types from ending a Rayquaza sweep; for example, Arceus-Rock is OHKOed by a boosted Earthquake after Stealth Rock if Rayquaza is holding a Life Orb. Extreme Speed allows Rayquaza to revenge kill weakened Pokemon and ensure it is not deadweight against offensive teams, especially before it has boosted with Dragon Dance. Aqua Tail can be considered as a stop to Primal Groudon but does not hit anything else in particular; a neutral Dragon Ascent hits for the same amount of damage as a super effective Aqua Tail in all other cases. V-create breaks through Steel-types immune to Ground, such as Celesteela, Skarmory, and Bronzong; however, the Speed drop induced is somewhat counterproductive to the function of a Dragon Dance set. Draco Meteor can lure in and deal heavy damage to Zygarde-C, but it is difficult to fit and requires a Life Orb to guarantee a 2HKO at full health.
Maximum investment in Attack with an Adamant nature takes full advantage of Rayquaza's great offenses. Maximum investment in Speed allows Rayquaza to outspeed everything up to neutral-natured maximum Speed Pokemon with base 90 Speed. A Jolly nature can be considered to Speed tie with Tapu Lele and outspeed Pokemon such as Naive Deoxys-A at +1, but this detracts from Rayquaza's power. Flyinium Z gives Rayquaza access to an extremely powerful Supersonic Skystrike, cleanly OHKOing support Arceus formes at +1 and OHKOing Lugia, support variants of Primal Groudon, and Z-Geomancy Xerneas after Stealth Rock. Life Orb gives all of Rayquaza's moves a power boost, letting Rayquaza hit benchmarks such as the OHKO on Arceus-Rock, Arceus-Electric, and Tyranitar with Earthquake and on Power Herb Geomancy Xerneas with Dragon Ascent at +1 without any prior damage; however, using Life Orb makes setting up more difficult and deprives Rayquaza of the ability to blow through its checks with Supersonic Skystrike. Focus Sash eases setup but forces Rayquaza to run an Adamant nature to ensure minimal loss of power and necessitates a greater degree of hazard removal support from Rayquaza's teammates to function properly.
In the early- to mid-game, Rayquaza should be used in a similar fashion to the mixed wallbreaker set; not only does this help soften up Rayquaza's checks, but it can allow Rayquaza to bluff and surprise the opponent later on with Dragon Dance, especially if it is holding a Life Orb. It is often best to bring Rayquaza into play through U-turn support, after a teammate has fainted, or by double switching Rayquaza into an opponent it forces out, such as Alolan Muk or a weakened Ho-Oh; this maximizes its chances of getting a Dragon Dance boost. Teams that this Rayquaza fits on will often carry other sweepers, such as Rock Polish Primal Groudon and Xerneas. Depending on Rayquaza's matchup against the opposing team, this can determine whether or not Rayquaza should be used as a wallbreaker for its other teammates or as a sweeper itself. Dragon Dance should not be used until Rayquaza's checks, such as support Arceus formes carrying Ice Beam, Mega Salamence, Celesteela, and Zygarde-C, are weakened, as these Pokemon are bulky enough to take +1 Dragon Ascent from full health and OHKO or cripple Rayquaza. The obscene power of +1 Supersonic Skystrike makes this less of a concern for Flyinium Z Rayquaza, however.
Entry hazard support is useful for Rayquaza to more easily muscle through the opposing team after a Dragon Dance; Excadrill can set up Stealth Rock, Cloyster can set up Spikes or Toxic Spikes, and both can provide Rayquaza with a means of offensive hazard removal, which is especially important for Focus Sash variants. Dialga is another worthwhile option as a Stealth Rock setter due to its ability to offensively check Mega Salamence. Primal Groudon that carry a Fire-type move can break through Steel-types immune to Ground, such as Celesteela and Bronzong, allowing Rayquaza to sweep more easily. Mega Salamence is a great partner to Rayquaza, as it can sweep teams after Rayquaza has broken through them. Fairy-types, such as Arceus-Fairy and Xerneas, can defeat Zygarde-C and Arceus-Dark for Rayquaza. Xerneas in particular can capitalize on Rayquaza's sweeping ability to clean with Geomancy late-game. Marshadow can break through Arceus-Rock and Tyranitar while eliminating Lunala and Mega Gengar with Shadow Sneak and checking Swords Dance Arceus formes that may be able to revenge kill Rayquaza. U-turn users, such as Tapu Koko and Yveltal, can bring Rayquaza into play safely; Tapu Koko has the added benefit of being able to force switches that benefit Rayquaza with Nature's Madness and Taunt. Arceus-Grass can potentially be useful to Rayquaza; it can defeat support Arceus formes, such as Arceus-Water, Arceus-Grass, and Arceus-Rock, that are most problematic to Rayquaza's ability to pull off a sweep and check offensive EdgeQuake Primal Groudon. Lunala and Arceus-Dark can help break through Lugia, which is especially important if Rayquaza is running Life Orb or Focus Sash.
name: Mixed Wallbreaker
move 1: Dragon Ascent
move 2: Draco Meteor
move 3: Extreme Speed
move 4: V-create / Earthquake
item: Life Orb / Focus Sash
ability: Air Lock
evs: 252 Atk / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Dragon Ascent hits a large amount of the tier neutrally, 2HKOing Ho-Oh, Primal Kyogre, Primal Groudon, Chansey, Xerneas, and support Arceus formes neutral to the move after Stealth Rock if Rayquaza is holding a Life Orb. Draco Meteor specifically targets certain Dragon-types that would otherwise wall Rayquaza; Mega Salamence and Giratina-O are OHKOed, and Zygarde-C is crippled. Extreme Speed improves Rayquaza's matchup against offensive teams and lets Rayquaza pick off Pokemon that are at low health, such as Xerneas. V-create OHKOes every viable Steel-type save for Dialga and, importantly, lets Rayquaza hit Steel-types that would wall it if it opted for Earthquake, such as Celesteela. Earthquake 2HKOes Primal Groudon without the undesirable effects of Dragon Ascent or Draco Meteor and lets Rayquaza hit Tyranitar and Arceus-Rock super effectively, but it is generally inferior to V-create.
Maximum investment in Attack makes Dragon Ascent very powerful and augments the power of Rayquaza's other physical moves, especially Extreme Speed. Maximum investment in Speed and a Naive nature lets Rayquaza Speed tie at worst with Terrain Extender Tapu Lele and other Rayquaza and outspeed neutral-natured 252 Speed Xerneas. Running a Naive nature over Jolly preserves Draco Meteor's power and is superior to a Hasty nature, as it ensures that Rayquaza is not as easily removed by physical priority moves. Life Orb ensures Rayquaza can secure several damage benchmarks, such as the KO on Geomancy Xerneas with Dragon Ascent and Extreme Speed. Focus Sash makes Rayquaza an effective revenge killer and allows it to anti-lead Dialga if needed but leaves Rayquaza somewhat weak.
Bring Rayquaza into play through double switches or U-turn; taking advantage of its immunity to Ground and various resistances to directly switch it in is possible with careful prediction, but Rayquaza's common weaknesses make this difficult. In particular, think twice about switching Rayquaza into a predicted Sacred Fire from Ho-Oh or a Zygarde that has not yet activated Power Construct; the former can burn it with Sacred Fire, while the latter can potentially paralyze it with Glare, rendering Rayquaza useless. Rayquaza can be played very aggressively against bulkier teams due to how difficult it is to switch into; the detrimental side effects of Dragon Ascent, Draco Meteor, and V-create mean that Rayquaza will often not stay in play for more than a few turns anyway. Pokemon that are likely to attempt to switch into Rayquaza, such as support Arceus formes, Lugia, Zygarde-C, and Tyranitar, can be determined from the opposing team's composition; take these into account when determining whether to attack with or switch out Rayquaza. Extreme Speed gives Rayquaza valuable utility as a revenge killer of weakened Pokemon common on offensive teams, such as Xerneas and Mega Salamence; it also allows Rayquaza to anti-lead Deoxys-S and can severely limit Cloyster's usefulness by limiting it to one layer of Spikes if Rayquaza is deemed dispensible after examining the team matchup. Never stay in on Pokemon that might be faster than Rayquaza, such as Arceus-Ground, Lugia, Arceus-Water, and Lunala, as they can easily remove it with Ice Beam. Similarly, do not stay in after having used V-Create, as the Speed drop makes Rayquaza very easy to revenge kill. Focus Sash Rayquaza should be used as a revenge killer against offense and kept at maximum health if possible against bulkier teams so it can commit itself to removing a problematic Pokemon if necessary.
Stealth Rock users, such as Excadrill and Swords Dance + Stealth Rock Primal Groudon, are excellent teammates, as the entry hazard support they provide wears down switch-ins to Rayquaza and increases the number of 2HKOs Rayquaza can achieve. Shuckle and Smeargle can provide Sticky Web support, which makes it nigh impossible for support Arceus formes to switch into Rayquaza, as they will not be able to revenge kill it; in fact, they risk being 2HKOed after some prior damage should they attempt to switch in. Primal Groudon and Swords Dance Arceus-Ground can remove Rock-types for Rayquaza, which is especially important if Rayquaza is not running Earthquake. Primal Groudon can also offensively check Fairy-types. Xerneas appreciates Rayquaza's ability to cripple Steel-types and other checks such as Primal Groudon with Earthquake and V-create, as this makes a Geomancy sweep late-game much more feasible. Mega Gengar can trap and remove problematic defensive Pokemon such as support Arceus formes and Lugia with Destiny Bond or super effective STAB moves, respectively. Marshadow can remove faster Pokemon that may attempt to revenge kill Rayquaza, such as Mega Gengar and Mega Mewtwo Y, with priority Shadow Sneak. Mega Salamence has redundant defensive synergy with Rayquaza but heavily appreciates Rayquaza's ability to soften up Steel-types, as this allows Mega Salamence to run Facade over Earthquake. Extreme Killer Arceus benefits from Rayquaza's ability to remove checks such as Zygarde-C, Giratina-O, and Celesteela. Mega Blaziken can use Rayquaza's ability to remove some of the Pokemon that wall it, such as Zygarde-C and Giratina-O, to more easily clean late-game. Mega Lucario can pressure Arceus-Fairy, which is highly problematic for Rayquaza. Offensive pivots such as Yveltal can bring Rayquaza into play safely with U-turn. Lunala can remove Lugia for Rayquaza, spinblock to ensure Stealth Rock is kept up, and wear down Rayquaza's checks, such as Arceus-Ground, with Ice Beam.
Choice Band offers Rayquaza maximum immediate power but prevents it from breaking through Zygarde-C and can leave it easy to play around once it is obvious to the opponent that Rayquaza must lock into a move. Swords Dance Rayquaza suffers from the same issue as Choice Band Rayquaza. It still cannot beat Zygarde-C and forfeits its ability to threaten physically bulky Pokemon with powerful Draco Meteors. Opting for Swords Dance over Dragon Dance also leaves Rayquaza very vulnerable to Marshadow's Spectral Thief. An array of Water-type moves, such as Surf and Aqua Tail, are available to Rayquaza and can be used to hit Primal Groudon through its Desolate Land due to Air Lock. However, they serve little other purpose. Charti Berry can ease setup for Dragon Dance against Pokemon such as Arceus-Rock and Tyranitar but leaves Rayquaza very weak when unboosted and carries none of the same utility as Flyinium Z, Life Orb, or Focus Sash. Charti Berry also does little to help Rayquaza check Dragon Dance Mega Tyranitar, which often runs Ice Punch, Mega Diancie, which carries Moonblast, and mixed Rock Polish Primal Groudon, which runs Hidden Power Ice, making it a shaky option at best.
Checks and Counters
**Support Arceus Formes**: Arceus-Ground and Arceus-Water can take any one of Rayquaza's STAB moves up to a +1 Dragon Ascent from Jolly Life Orb Rayquaza and can OHKO it with Ice Beam. Support Arceus formes commonly run more than enough Speed investment to outspeed even Naive Rayquaza, allowing them to easily check mixed Rayquaza. However, a Dragon Dance-boosted Supersonic Skystrike, while uncommon, will cleanly OHKO these Arceus formes from full health.
**Arceus-Electric**: While niche, Arceus-Electric can take any of mixed Rayquaza's moves and do severe damage in response with Ice Beam. Though Life Orb Dragon Dance Rayquaza after a boost will OHKO Arceus-Electric after Stealth Rock, all other Dragon Dance variants will either lose to or be heavily crippled by Arceus-Electric, as +1 Adamant Earthquake without a boost will fail to OHKO Arceus-Electric most of the time, even after one round of Stealth Rock damage.
**Fairy-types**: Arceus-Fairy outspeeds unboosted Rayquaza, can take any one hit, and OHKO in response with Judgment. Z-Geomancy Xerneas can switch into and OHKO Rayquaza on the turn it boosts or if Rayquaza has mispredicted and selected a coverage move, but it cannot safely switch into Dragon Ascent.
**Rock-types**: Arceus-Rock, Mega Diancie, and both Tyranitar and Mega Tyranitar are very threatening to Rayquaza's mixed wallbreaker set if it opts for V-Create over Earthquake, as they will then either resist or shrug off Rayquaza's entire moveset. Arceus-Rock easily OHKOes Rayquaza with Judgment, Mega Diancie can OHKO Rayquaza with Moonblast, and Tyranitar will 2HKO Rayquaza at worst with a Rock-type STAB move. None of these Pokemon can switch into Earthquake, however.
**Lugia**: At full health, Lugia can easily switch into anything mixed Rayquaza carries and either stall it out of Dragon Ascent PP with Substitute and Roost or force it out with the threat of Ice Beam. Stealth Rock worsens Lugia's capacity to check Rayquaza, however, and Dragon Dance variants have a superior matchup against Lugia.
**Zygarde-C**: Zygarde-C walls Dragon Dance Rayquaza and can either cripple it with Glare or phaze it with Dragon Tail. However, it cannot stand up to Draco Meteor from mixed Rayquaza.
**Revenge Killers**: Many Pokemon, such as Mega Mewtwo Y, Mega Salamence, Mega Gengar, Yveltal, Mega Lucario, Marshadow running Hidden Power Ice, Deoxys-A under Psychic Terrain, Timid Lunala, Landorus, Arceus-Ice, and Extreme Killer Arceus, are faster than Rayquaza and can revenge kill it if it has sustained enough damage. This pool of Pokemon deepens after Rayquaza has used V-create due to the Speed drop it causes. However, none of these Pokemon can switch into Rayquaza at all. Most of these Pokemon also cannot outspeed Rayquaza after it has used Dragon Dance.
**Steel-types Immune to Ground**: Celesteela, Bronzong, and Skarmory wall all Rayquaza that forgo V-create, as they are immune to Earthquake and resist all other moves commonly seen on Rayquaza. Celesteela can stall out Rayquaza with a combination of Leech Seed and Toxic. Bronzong and Skarmory use Rayquaza as setup fodder for Stealth Rock and Spikes, respectively.
**Bulky Pokemon**: Some Pokemon, such as Giratina-O, Mega Metagross, Primal Groudon, Dialga, and Magearna, can take certain attacks from Rayquaza and OHKO it in return. None of these Pokemon can safely switch into Rayquaza until its set is revealed, however, and their usefulness is reliant on successful prediction. This makes them generally unreliable answers. For example, against Rayquaza's mixed set, Magearna must rely on switching into a predicted Draco Meteor and hoping Rayquaza is carrying Earthquake before it can OHKO Rayquaza with Fleur Cannon.