A=X+Y+Z Y: Hard Work
Zapdos is one of the most dominant and defining Pokemon in GSC OU. It has a tremendous base 125 Special Attack with STAB on Electric moves, which grants it near perfect coverage alongside Hidden Power Ice and makes it a force to be reckoned with. It is particularly deadly when used with Spikes support, as no Pokemon immune to Spikes can stomach hits from Zapdos for long, and even grounded foes that can withstand a beating from it, such as Raikou and Snorlax, are at risk of being taken down if Zapdos's Thunder inflicts paralysis on them. Not only is Zapdos a monster offensively, but it also has defensive traits that its main competition, Raikou, can only look to the sky enviously at. Its Flying typing grants it immunity to Earthquake from the tier's many Ground-types as well as useful resistances to Fighting and Bug—and all of this without the usual accompanying weakness to Electric-type attacks. Its phenomenal typing and formidable defensive stats make it one of the best candidates for a RestTalk user, which gives Zapdos excellent longevity and makes it one of the best Pokemon at taking Toxic from foes such as Skarmory, Cloyster, Suicune, and Blissey, although it should be more wary of taking paralysis when it doesn't need to. Thanks to its spectacular damage output, even the few Pokemon that can hit it hard enough to 2HKO, such as Jynx, Tyranitar, and Marowak, can struggle to find an opportunity that results in an advantageous trade of hits, especially since Zapdos can often find opportunities to recover lost health with Rest. This excellent balance between offense and defense makes Zapdos an easy fit on many teams. However, Zapdos will often find itself having to trade hits with Snorlax, which is one of the very few Pokemon that can trade hits favorably with it. Furthermore, while it generally has the upper hand in most matchups, many common offensive Pokemon such as Cloyster, Exeggutor, and Steelix will often try to trade for Zapdos with Explosion, which almost always OHKOes Zapdos.
move 1: Thunder / Thunderbolt
move 2: Hidden Power Ice / Hidden Power Water
move 3: Rest
move 4: Sleep Talk
Great Special Attack combined with the ability to continuously get rid of status and restore health with virtually no drawbacks turns Zapdos into a powerful tank. The choice between Thunder and Thunderbolt depends on what your team needs more: power or consistency. Offensive teams will typically favor Thunder's higher Base Power, which will allow Zapdos to possibly 4HKO Snorlax and 2HKO Miltank. The damage roll on Snorlax is particularly notable for situations where a non-Sleep Talk Snorlax is facing off against Zapdos, as Zapdos without Thunder will require multiple critical hits within a few turns to KO Snorlax whereas Thunder Zapdos can potentially KO it if a single Thunder lands a critical hit within three attacks. Thunder's 30% chance of inflicting paralysis also makes Electric-types such as Raikou shakier at checking Zapdos, as they depend on their Speed to reliably deal with other foes, such as Vaporeon and Cloyster. This high chance of paralysis on such a powerful move is an important contributing factor to how difficult Zapdos can be to deal with—aside from Raikou, Pokemon such as Exeggutor, Tyranitar, Porygon2, and Gengar all lose considerable effectiveness when they become paralyzed by Thunder, and they will all need to risk this occasionally. Despite Thunder's power and high chance to cripple foes, some teams may prefer the high PP and accuracy of Thunderbolt, which gives it more consistency against foes such as Vaporeon, Cloyster, Starmie, and Tentacruel. Zapdos's coverage attack is primarily used to threaten opposing Ground-types, such as Nidoking and Marowak. Hidden Power Ice has the benefit of hitting Grass-types such as Exeggutor super effectively, as well as crucially increasing Zapdos's odds at beating an opposing RestTalk Zapdos with Sleep Talk rolls. Hidden Power Water is an alternative option to hit Ground-types such as Golem, Steelix, and Rhydon harder, but using it requires Zapdos to sacrifice some of its HP due to DV requirements and it makes it substantially less likely that it will come out on top against an opposing RestTalk Zapdos with Hidden Power Ice. The last two slots are devoted to Rest and Sleep Talk. With these two moves, Zapdos makes a great status absorber as well as a more consistent check to Vaporeon, Exeggutor, and Nidoking. Its defensive stats and typing pair together so well that with the right Sleep Talk rolls, it can at times beat almost an entire weakened team by itself, especially if the team lacks Explosion or attacks that 2HKO it.
Zapdos possesses several qualities that make it fantastic at taking advantage of Spikes: its attacking moves hit all Spikes-immune Pokemon extremely hard, its immunity to Spikes makes it excellent when double switching to rack up Spikes damage, and very few of the Pokemon that can withstand its powerful attacks pose an immediate KO threat in return. Cloyster not only provides these Spikes, but it also switches into many of the Pokemon that can switch into Zapdos, with the notable exception of Raikou. Offensive partners such as Gengar and Exeggutor are a great help to Zapdos as well, because they lure in the three major walls that trouble Zapdos—Raikou, Blissey, and Snorlax—and can use a strong Explosion to KO or severely weaken them. Gengar also acts as an effective lure to Quagsire, which, while uncommon, walls Zapdos effectively. Exeggutor, on the other hand, can check it with ease. Zapdos also enjoys support from Snorlax, which can take on problematic foes such as Raikou, Blissey, and Jolteon, while Raikou of your own will take on opposing Electric-types. Snorlax can also bait-kill opposing Snorlax via Self-Destruct to give room for Zapdos to wreak havoc. Pokemon such as Vaporeon appreciate paralysis support from Thunder, and teams that have Raikou will almost certainly switch them into Zapdos, giving it plenty of chances to inflict this paralysis. Zapdos also enjoys support from Snorlax checks such as Steelix, Rhydon, and Machamp on offensive teams and Skarmory, Misdreavus, Umbreon, and Miltank on defensive teams; Tyranitar and Golem can also be commonly found on either kind of team. Skarmory can also block Explosion from Steelix and deal with Quagsire. Machamp, Vaporeon, and Ground-types such as Nidoking can help Zapdos against Tyranitar. Ground-types also help against Electric-types, especially Raikou, which Zapdos appreciates.
name: Offensive Phazer
move 1: Thunderbolt / Thunder
move 2: Hidden Power Water / Hidden Power Ice
move 3: Whirlwind
move 4: Thunder Wave / Protect / Rest
While Zapdos has highly respectable offensive power with merely a STAB move and a coverage move, it can take its offensive presence to another level by using Whirlwind in tandem with Spikes support. This set works due to Zapdos's huge threat level against a vast majority of the metagame. Few Pokemon can afford to stay in to trade hits with Zapdos, with many risking being OHKOed if they stay in. Most teams rely on Snorlax and Raikou or a Ground-type to combat Zapdos's onslaught, but taking Spikes damage and being phazed out by Whirlwind repeatedly can bring even the sturdiest checks into range of its attacks. There is no reliable answer to such a strategy other than to anticipate the Whirlwind and attack Zapdos or hope that Whirlwind drags in a healthy Pokemon that has a favorable matchup. Whirlwind on Zapdos also bestows the advantage of being able to punish Snorlax for setting up Curse against it, as Whirlwind can force it out as it uses Rest, preventing it from burning through any of its sleep turns and leaving it a sitting duck, unless it is RestTalk Curse Snorlax. Thunder Wave can cripple most healthy Pokemon, making the target easier for Zapdos and its team to deal with. It is particularly useful when dealing with opposing RestTalk Zapdos, which is one of the only Pokemon that can give this Zapdos significant trouble due to its immunity to Spikes and ability to avoid being 2HKOed by Zapdos. Protect can block Explosion from the likes of Exeggutor, Steelix, and Gengar and allow Zapdos to recover health with Leftovers despite lacking Rest, potentially turning 3HKOs into 4HKOs against foes such as Nidoking and Gengar. Finally, while this Zapdos is typically considered an offensive variant, Whirlwind also allows it to play defensive roles such as phazing Mean Look variants of Misdreavus and Umbreon, Curse or Belly Drum Snorlax that have used Rest, and other foes with boosting moves. On more defensive lineups, it may elect to use Rest and be used alongside a Heal Bell user such as Blissey.
In terms of attacks, this variant of Zapdos is much more dependent on Spikes support and therefore prefers to have the most powerful and accurate moves against Rapid Spin users. Thunderbolt is slightly preferred over Thunder, as it allows Zapdos to consistently eliminate Starmie and Cloyster and deal reliable heavy damage to Forretress, and Hidden Power Water is preferred over Hidden Power Ice so that Zapdos can nail Golem, Rhydon, and Steelix, which are more likely to stay in and fight against a phazing Zapdos that lacks RestTalk and more heavily threatens the typical checks to Electric-types when Spikes are up. In addition, Whirlwind somewhat compensates for the worsened Exeggutor matchup, and there are no Sleep Talk rolls to worry about against opposing Zapdos that would warrant use of Hidden Power Ice.
Cloyster is the preferred teammate for Spikes support, as it provides a significant offensive threat alongside its Spikes that can allow it to blow a hole in the opponent's defenses against Zapdos. It also provides a decent temporary answer to Curse Snorlax thanks to its high Defense and its ability to fit Toxic in its standard moveset. Forretress is also a valid alternative, although its offensive capabilities are lacking. It is most effective when opponents are stacking their teams with anti-Cloyster measures such as Thunder Snorlax and Toxic Skarmory, which are less effective against Forretress and can grant it easy opportunities to set Spikes. Without RestTalk, Zapdos and its team would be in a dire situation against status moves. RestTalk Snorlax is therefore a crucial teammate, especially on more offensive teams that lack other good candidates for RestTalk user. Zapdos generally appreciates having offensive teammates that will not allow the opposing team opportunities to recover. Some of these include Nidoking, Gengar, Exeggutor, and Jynx. In particular, it is important that Zapdos's teammates do not allow paralyzed opposing Zapdos opportunities to switch in and use Rest without threatening a 3HKO in return or a trade with Explosion. However, if Zapdos is instead found on a defensive lineup, this is much less important and its teammates can instead be focused on gaining and maintaining a Spikes advantage while walling the enemy team. Skarmory is a commonly chosen teammate that can take on Curse Earthquake Snorlax reliably, as well as checking Marowak and Machamp, which are two Pokemon that Zapdos does not want to be the lone check against. Blissey is a great choice for checking opposing special attackers and offering Heal Bell support to Zapdos. When paired with other formidable mixed tanks such as Snorlax, Zapdos can also help against foes such as Nidoking, Machamp, Vaporeon, and Tentacruel, despite lacking RestTalk.
Running Drill Peck with an Electric-type move and Hidden Power Water will give Zapdos a better matchup against threats such as Heracross, Machamp, and Exeggutor, and its high PP and solid damage output can put pressure on Blissey's Soft-Boiled PP, but it will still have problems with Raikou, Snorlax, and Quagsire and is therefore not recommended. When used alongside a phazing move, Reflect is helpful when dealing with opposing Tyranitar, Machamp, and Snorlax, and it makes it more difficult for them to bring an end to Zapdos's shenanigans; Light Screen is similarly useful when fighting Nidoking, Jynx, and opposing Zapdos. Light Screen in particular also tends to be valuable in helping setup sweepers find opportunities to boost without losing too much health in the process. Toxic is a possibility to force opposing Snorlax and Raikou into a predictable Rest, which can grant momentum. In addition, if Snorlax is unable to safely absorb Toxic, it can put Blissey in a difficult position due to its insufficient Heal Bell PP. Zapdos can also consider running Hidden Power Grass to deal a lot of damage to Quagsire, but this will severely impact Zapdos's HP stat due to DV requirements and is therefore almost never recommended. With Magnet, Zapdos can possibly 3HKO Snorlax with Thunder, though the loss of passive recovery from Leftovers reduces Zapdos's longevity by such a huge amount that Zapdos loses much of its usual defensive effectiveness. Zapdos's high Speed and access to Substitute mean that it can use Swagger somewhat effectively with prior paralysis spreading and Spikes support. This can give it a better chance at getting through some of its bulkier checks, such as Snorlax and Quagsire. However, this strategy can easily fall apart against opposing RestTalk Zapdos and Raikou if they are able to use Rest, and the set suffers from the inability to fit Thunder Wave.
Checks and Counters
**Electric-types**: Raikou is the best counter to Zapdos, as it can take any of Zapdos's moves, while either phazing or hammering Zapdos with a powerful STAB Thunder of its own. Jolteon can use Zapdos as setup bait unless Zapdos has Whirlwind. After it grabs an Agility or Growth, it can Baton Pass a deadly Speed or offensive boost to a teammate to sweep Zapdos's team. Jolteon can also easily dispose of Zapdos itself after it boosts to +1 Special Attack with Growth. Other less common Electric-types such as Ampharos also have a good matchup against Zapdos. However, none of them appreciate being paralyzed by Zapdos's Thunder or Thunder Wave, and none of them can immediately threaten a 2HKO on Zapdos, which can give Zapdos a chance to fish for paralysis against them.
**Special Walls**: Blissey will wall Zapdos all day long; however, it is largely unable to do anything significant to Zapdos other than use Light Screen to support its team or fish for a freeze with Ice Beam while Zapdos is awake. With RestTalk or Heal Bell support, Snorlax will easily take on even Zapdos that pack Thunder; nonetheless, pairing Snorlax with a Ground-type Pokemon to lure Hidden Power can be useful in limiting the damage Snorlax takes switching in.
**Ground-types**: Steelix works as an effective pivot for teams looking to bring in a check to Zapdos against a relatively weak Hidden Power Ice. Steelix can also use Explosion to trade itself for Zapdos, phaze, or paralyze Zapdos with Body Slam or Dragon Breath. Piloswine and Quagsire can also check Hidden Power Ice Zapdos reliably and potentially threaten it in return with Ice Beam or Hidden Power Rock. Quagsire also has the advantage of taking neutral damage from Hidden Power Water, unlike the other Ground-types that take neutral damage from Hidden Power Ice. Marowak can 2HKO Zapdos with Rock Slide and survives two super effective Hidden Powers from Zapdos from full HP. Marowak with intentionally reduced Special Defense can also threaten an OHKO with Counter if Zapdos hits it with Hidden Power. Nidoking usually 3HKOes with Ice Beam and also has the threat of Counter up its sleeve, although unlike Marowak it must weaken Zapdos before attempting to pull this off. Rhydon 2HKOes Zapdos with Rock Slide and narrowly evades being 2HKOed by Hidden Power Ice, however the slim margins in this matchup, as well as the potential Hidden Power Water OHKO, make fighting Zapdos head on a risky proposition.
**Tyranitar**: Tyranitar has access to STAB Rock Slide, which achieves the rare feat of 2HKOing Zapdos. Furthermore, it has Pursuit to chip away at Zapdos as it switches out. However, Tyranitar cannot afford to switch in on Zapdos's Thunder, which 3HKOes it.
**Jynx**: Jynx cannot afford to switch into a STAB Electric-type move from Zapdos, but usually survives two hits from Thunder from full health and threatens a 2HKO in return with Ice Beam, making it a good option to switch in as Zapdos uses Rest.
**Explosion**: Zapdos makes a great target for Explosion users such as Exeggutor, Cloyster, Golem, Steelix, and Gengar. With the exception of Gengar, which can use Ice Punch to bring it into range beforehand, most Explosion users in OU can OHKO a full health Zapdos, and this is often an excellent trade to make. Once Zapdos is removed from the picture, the way is often paved for attackers such as Vaporeon, Nidoking, and Machamp to wreak havoc.
**Sunny Day**: Pokemon with Sunny Day can turn a winning matchup for Zapdos into a potential losing one due to many Zapdos variants relying on Thunder. Entei, Typhlosion, and Houndoom can also 2HKO Zapdos with STAB Fire Blast after Sunny Day has been used, and Moltres often survives one hit from Thunder to land a 2HKO. However, if Zapdos manages to land Thunder, it has good odds to 2HKO Typhlosion and Houndoom from full health.
- Written by: [[wyc2333, 336830], [Lockeness, 39891], [Earthworm, 15210]]
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