Featured Ubers Pokémon: Ho-Oh

By Furai. Art by Danmire.
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When Ho-Oh was introduced back in the days of GSC, we didn't imagine it would become as remarkable as it is today. It had, and still has, amazing stats, but, man, you couldn't play a single Ho-Oh set in GSC without being walled by Skarmory, Tyranitar, or Blissey; there was no workaround back then. Then RSE arrived, and made Ho-Oh slightly better; it introduced new toys for Ho-Oh to play with, such as Calm Mind and Choice Band. Time went by, and DPP was released. Those days were Ho-Oh's dark days; it was forced to run Return or Thunder to actually sport some coverage against Kyogre, Rayquaza, and Palkia. Then, three years ago, HGSS made Ho-Oh the beast we know today—it gave it the beloved Flying STAB move that it had been waiting for: Brave Bird. Finally, Ho-Oh had a physical STAB to hit the Ubers that resist its signature move, Sacred Fire. Recently, Ho-Oh got a huge buff from BW2—one of the most remarkable abilities in the game, Regenerator, which helps Ho-Oh with its prominent Stealth Rock weakness. And so, the first legendary from the second generation to appear in the first episode in the anime, earned the name that goes before it nowadays.

Ho-Oh's Qualities

Where do I begin...? Let's take a look at the phoenix's stats, shall we? 106 HP / 130 Atk / 90 Def / 110 SpA / 154 SpD / 90 Spe. Yes, you heard me right. The first thing that jumps into sight is that gigantic base 154 Special Defense and amazing 106 HP. Yeah, I'm shocked over and over again when I see it, just like you are right now. Ho-Oh holds the 4th place in highest base Special Defense, coming after Shuckle, Regice, and Deoxys-D, and tying with Lugia. Damn right, more than Blissey's Special Defense stat! With this sky-high special bulk, Ho-Oh can freely tank Draco Meteors, Fire Blasts, and sometimes even Thunders from the titans of the Ubers metagame. Fun fact #1: 252/252+ Ho-Oh can tank a Surf from 252+ Kyogre, in rain! But enough with the defense; let's talk offense. 130 base Attack may not be the highest in the tier—170 Kyurem-B, 150 Groudon, Rayquaza, and Zekrom—but it's nothing to laugh at. Even the almighty king of Ubers, Kyogre, falls to Ho-Oh, even 252/252+ Kyogre can't tank two Life Orb Brave Birds. 90 Speed is also a respectable Speed tier to be at; it's just a little bit below average, and allows Ho-Oh to tie with common threats, namely Groudon and Kyogre. Fun fact #2: Ho-Oh holds the 4th position for having the highest Base Stat Total, a 10-way tie of 680 BST. Quite impressive for a gigantic turkey, eh?

It doesn't stop there, however. Sporting a phenomenal movepool, the only thing preventing Ho-Oh from completely tearing the tier into pieces is the four moveslot limit. With a movepool containing Sacred Fire, Roost, Substitute, Brave Bird, Whirlwind, Earthquake, Flame Charge, Reflect, Light Screen, and Toxic, Ho-Oh can fulfill pretty much any role, from a staller, to a bulky attacker, to an all-out sweeper.

But wait, I still didn't get to talk about the abilities Ho-Oh can use! Lowering the foe's PP by two is great and all, and Pressure's long history with Ho-Oh shall not be forgotten, but when compared to Regenerator, Pressure is nowhere as good. Regenerator patches up Ho-Oh's biggest flaw: its Stealth Rock weakness. Even though Ho-Oh still takes 50% damage every time it switches in, it recovers a third of its total HP upon switching back out, softening the blow considerably.

When looking at Ho-Oh as a defensive Pokémon, the first thing you want to see is how many threats it can counter. Well, with 106 / 90 / 154 defenses, you can counter many. I'll name a few: Calm Mind Arceus, Dialga, Darkrai, Genesect, Shaymin-S—and if you decide to go with a physically defensive spread—Extreme Killer Arceus, Blaziken, and Mewtwo. But Ho-Oh is not Blissey—pfft, that weak blob. No, Ho-Oh doesn't sit there and Roost off the damage like a wimp, trying to stall out the foe. Ho-Oh can actually hit back with its huge base 130 Attack and STABs, making it an amazing offensive wall against a variety of threats.

Combine fantastic stats, amazing movepool, extraordinary abilities, and the power to check a wide array of threats, and you've got yourself what you guys call "Uber," and that's exactly what Ho-Oh is.

Playing with Ho-Oh

When you play with Ho-Oh, you must understand one thing: its typing. Fire / Flying typing is not the best defensive combination; it is an amazing offensive one, however. This leads to one conclusion: "I gotta keep Stealth Rock off my side of the field at any costs." That's right, despite Roost and Regenerator, Stealth Rock is a real mess for Ho-Oh's lifespan. As bulky as Ho-Oh may be, Stealth Rock can immediately turn all 2HKOs into OHKOs; for example, 252 / 84 Ho-Oh takes 49.15% - 57.83% from 252+ Choice Specs Kyurem-W, meaning that if Stealth Rock is present, Ho-Oh will not be able to come into Kyurem-W at all, even after a kill.

Once you manage to keep Ho-Oh at good health, there's only one way to go: wreak havoc. Here are two sets Ho-Oh can run well:


Ho-Oh @ Life Orb
Ability: Regenerator
EVs: 248 HP / 252 Atk / 8 Spe
Adamant Nature
- Substitute
- Roost
- Brave Bird
- Sacred Fire

This set is by far the most deadly, and the most useful, Ho-Oh can run. When Ho-Oh is behind a Substitute, you will need to try really hard to break it, due to Ho-Oh's amazing bulk and the fact that Substitute almost completely eliminates the need for prediction. Brave Bird and Sacred Fire are ridiculously strong with Life Orb; physically defensive Kyogre is 2HKOed and Giratina is 3HKOed 100% of the time after Stealth Rock, meaning that they can no longer safely wall Ho-Oh. However, with Brave Bird's recoil, Life Orb recoil, and Substitute, you must have a way to get some health back, and that's why Roost is there.

You can use Earthquake over Substitute for coverage; you get to hit Heatran and Zekrom, which would otherwise resist both of your STABs and force you to switch out. Leftovers can be used to enhance Ho-Oh's bulk and allow it to make more Substitutes. An EV spread of 248 HP / 176 Atk / 84 SpD can be used to shrug off +1 Judgment from Ghost Arceus after Stealth Rock and evade the 2HKO from Choice Scarf Palkia's Thunder 96.87% of the time. While we do not encourage it, Speed creep is very important to Ho-Oh when it uses Substitute, so that it can outspeed Pokémon such as Groudon and Dialga to outstall Stone Edge and Thunder, respectively.

Flame Charge

Ho-Oh @ Life Orb
Ability: Regenerator
EVs: 252 Atk / 252 Spe / 4 Def
Jolly Nature
- Flame Charge / Tailwind
- Brave Bird
- Sacred Fire
- Earthquake / Roost

This set, as it is presented, is pretty much "kamikaze"—you're not supposed to care for bulk, but rather, doing as much damage as possible. Flame Charge and Tailwind are the crux of the set; they bump up Ho-Oh's Speed, allowing the rainbow bird to damage as many Pokémon as possible. Flame Charge eases prediction, such as against Ferrothorn, whereas Tailwind is more for team support. Brave Bird and Sacred Fire are Ho-Oh's remarkable STABs, and Earthquake is used against as many Pokémon as possible. Roost is an option over Earthquake if you want to keep it alive for longer, as usually Ho-Oh's STABs should be enough for the sweep. However, if you do wish to pack some bulk, a more defensive spread with Leftovers is perfectly viable with Tailwind. Just EV Ho-Oh to outspeed Choice Scarf Terrakion with Tailwind in effect, and adjust Ho-Oh's bulk to your preference.

What you must keep in mind is Sacred Fire's low PP. Ubers is loaded with Pressure Pokémon, and with only 8 PP for its signature move, you must be careful. Don't let a Giratina stall out your PP, but don't go too easy, as Sacred Fire is very powerful. Moreover, do not let Ho-Oh be poisoned! Stealth Rock chews too much off Ho-Oh's HP, and the last thing Ho-Oh needs to worry about is its health care; ain't no time to run off to the PokéCenter in the middle of a battle!

A common question that is asked is: "In which weather should I use Ho-Oh?", and the common answer is sun. Sun is definitely the best weather for Ho-Oh to play in, as it boosts its signature move by 50%, negates Ho-Oh's weakness to Water, and messes up Thunder's accuracy—but don't let these amazing benefits fool you, as frankly, Ho-Oh is a team player. You want to use it on sand teams? Go ahead—this beast completely demolishes Fighting Arceus, which would otherwise tear your team into pieces. Ho-Oh is also a phenomenal answer to sun teams and pressures them well in order to give you an advantage in weather wars. "Wait, how can Ho-Oh even work on rain teams?! It weakens its Fire STAB!!!!" You are perfectly correct, but don't you forget about that sexy Flying STAB Ho-Oh packs. Grass Arceus and Latias are probably the biggest menace to rain teams, and guess who can wreck both with Brave Bird? That's right, Ho-Oh! Another threat to rain teams is Ferrothorn, which is 2HKOed by Sacred Fire in rain. That's right, Ho-Oh is one crazy bird. Hail teams also greatly appreciate Ho-Oh's support, for the same reasons sand teams do. Just keep in mind that you're stacking up Stealth Rock weaknesses, so bring a very reliable anti-hazard Pokémon.

Playing Against Ho-Oh

When you see Ho-Oh in the opponent's team roster, you understand that you have to achieve one simple, yet hard to accomplish, goal: get up Stealth Rock. Immediately. I can't stress this enough; even with Regenerator, Ho-Oh suffers greatly from Stealth Rock. Taking 50% each time is no joke, and it really hinders Ho-Oh's effectiveness. The next thing you ought to do is scout its set. The most terrifying set is definitely the SubRoost set, as it is bulky enough to tank hits behind a Substitute and still hits so hard; even the almighty behemoth Groudon falls to a sun-boosted Sacred Fire, which has a 64.45% chance to 2HKO assuming max Attack and Life Orb. Thinking of this makes me cringe so badly and laugh in dismay; this is ridiculous. You must apply extremely high pressure—never let Ho-Oh get the free Substitute. This is no easy feat, but you gotta do your best by trying to do so. If you have achieved this, give yourself a pat on the shoulder, and if you haven't, well, best of luck, amigo!

Another thing that Ho-Oh completely despises is status. A surprise Toxic can really make Ho-Oh's day a bummer. Not to mention surprise Stone Edge. Urgh, how much I hate those... I mean, Ho-Oh does. Therefore, Pokémon that Ho-Oh loves to switch into, such as Forretress, Steel Arceus, and Reshiram, can really take advantage of this surprise factor and smack the phoenix with whatever they can use. And by surprise factor, I mean that this is not used much at all; on October's stats, Stone Edge was used only 5.993% of the time on Reshiram, and on November it wasn't even registered as a move in the statistics. Yeah, I got a surprise for you, you giant turkey! Keep in mind that these are not the only uses luring Ho-Oh has. Pokémon such as Genesect really attract Ho-Oh—setup bait! But then Genesect uses U-turn and leaves Ho-Oh vulnerable to any counter you'd switch in. Interesting turn of events, isn't it? Just keep in mind that this strategy is not limited to Genesect only; Forretress can utilize Volt Switch just as well, whereas Jirachi and Scizor can do the same with their very own U-turn.

If everything else fails (and, often, even if not!) you must take away Ho-Oh's sun, assuming it has it. Doing so weakens Sacred Fire's power, making it much easier to tank. A sun-boosted Sacred Fire is Ho-Oh's strongest weapon, as it's extremely powerful and can burn the opponent—for this reason solely, pick your switch-in wisely and don't get anything important burnt! Lastly, if you manage to fit in a counter on your team, you should be alright. Pokémon such as Rock Arceus and Zekrom defeat Ho-Oh thanks to their typing (Earthquake will hurt though) and can OHKO Ho-Oh with their own STABs. A Speed-creeping Groudon (usually with at least 56 Speed EVs) can outspeed Ho-Oh and smack it with a super effective Stone Edge. If Ho-Oh lacks Earthquake, then Heatran is a perfect counter, as it resists both of Ho-Oh's STABs and can Roar it out to stack more and more Stealth Rock damage.

Fitting Ho-Oh on Your Team

Ho-Oh seems like it requires a lot of team support due to its shortcomings: weakness to Stealth Rock, weakness to common Water- and Electric-type moves (such as Thunder and Surf), and just a little bit under average Speed. However, this is completely false! Despite its flaws, Ho-Oh only needs four basic assets: an anti-hazard Pokémon, sun support, entry hazard support, and something to take care of Kyogre. That's all you need to make a successful team with Ho-Oh. Your choice for sun support, which also brings you Stealth Rock, is clearly Groudon. If you end up using Ninetales, I'll personally come to your house and show you how stupid your choice is. As for your anti-hazard Pokémon and hazard support, there are three options: Forretress, Xatu, and Tentacruel. Forretress has near-perfect synergy with Ho-Oh and can lay down Spikes, by far the most useful entry hazard for Ho-Oh; Tentacruel also has nice synergy with Ho-Oh, although they share an Electric weakness, and can spread those Toxic Spikes; finally, Xatu can bounce back any non-attacking move to the enemy, which includes Stealth Rock and status. Lastly, you need something to handle Kyogre, whose rain weakens Ho-Oh's signature move. There are many options for this role, including but not limited to Latias, Palkia, Water Arceus, and Gastrodon. If your team is more bulky offensive then the former two are recommended, as they pack some power and don't lose your momentum. However, if you use a more stallish team, go with the latter two, as they are much bulkier and can support the rest of the team better with moves such as Toxic, Thunder Wave, and Roar.

Get Out There!

Ho-Oh is one of the most iconic Ubers, and for a good reason. It's bulky, it's powerful, it's boss. It burns everything standing in its path (unless you're named Rock Arceus). The rainbow phoenix is probably one of the most trustworthy Pokémon out there in the tier; once you control the beast, your head will be in the clouds and your mind will be blown. BARN ALL.

...And don't even think of cooking this bird for Thanksgiving.

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