Aerial Combat: An Overview of Sky Battles

By Qwilphish. Art by chameleonskyes.
« Previous Article Home Next Article »

Care for a Sky Battle with a Sky Trainer?

Take to the skies to have a battle in this new metagame created this generation. In Sky Battles, only certain Flying-type Pokémon and Pokémon with Levitate are permitted to battle. No longer is Terrakion allowed to spam Stone Edges to cut down your precious bird Pokémon, nor is Jolteon able to clip their wings with jolts of electricity. The limited pool of Pokémon allows for unused Pokémon to suddenly become some of the most threatening Pokémon in the metagame. In addition, some moves aren't permitted due to their ground-based nature. Unlike Inverse Battles, which mess with the fundamental mechanics of Pokémon, Sky Battles are simple with an easy-to-remember banlist. With that said, prepare for liftoff as we go in-depth about Sky Battles.


The mechanics of Sky Battles is relatively simple compared to other Nintendo formats that have been created, such as Triples and Inverse Battles. The most obvious mechanic of Sky Battles is that only Pokémon that have either Flying typing or the ability Levitate (or even both in the case of Rotom-S!) are allowed. However, even though Mega Pinsir is part Flying-type, Pinsir itself is neither Flying-type nor has Levitate, meaning that Mega Pinsir is (thankfully) ineligible. Despite the fact that they fulfill the requirements of Sky Battles, Farfetch'd, Dodrio, Gengar, Murkrow, Delibird, Chatot, and Hawlucha are ineligible from participating in Sky Battles. Perhaps this is another of Nintendo's not-so-subtle ploys to absolutely shaft Farfetch'd in every way that they can, or revenge against Chatot for the mounds of strongly-worded letters from the mothers around the world who have complained that their children learned offensive language through the Battle Spot. Okay, maybe not. The real reason why they're ineligible is because their models show the Pokémon as standing on the ground, thus it wouldn't make sense for them to be able to participate in a Sky Battle. Why Game Freak didn't just animate them in a flying position (levitating in Gengar's case) in the first place is beyond me (though Dodrio flying... I'll leave that for another day). Even Pokémon such as Mantine and Gligar are eligible despite that they have only been shown to glide.

Alongside Pokémon, certain moves are also ineligible. The following moves are banned from use in Sky Battles: Body Slam, Bulldoze, Dig, Dive, Earth Power, Earthquake, Electric Terrain, Fissure, Fire Pledge, Flying Press, Frenzy Plant, Geomancy, Grass Knot, Grass Pledge, Grassy Terrain, Gravity, Heat Crash, Heavy Slam, Ingrain, Land's Wrath, Magnitude, Mat Block, Misty Terrain, Mud Sport, Muddy Water, Rototiller, Seismic Toss, Slam, Smack Down, Spikes, Stomp, Substitute, Surf, Toxic Spikes, Water Pledge, and Water Sport.

Phew. Anyways, most of the moves banned, such as Spikes and Toxic Spikes, are inconsequential due to their ineffectiveness against 99% of the tier. However, the ban on moves such as Surf and Substitute is significant, and will be discussed in greater detail in the next section.

Battling Strategy

Sky Battles are extremely offensive because of the limited number of defensive Pokémon available. However, don't let this description make you imagine that Sky Battles are filled to the brim with FlySpam teams because this is far from the truth. It is ironic that Sky Battles are called what they are, because even though Flying is the most abundant type in the tier, it is not uncommon for a team to have very few Pokémon who even run Flying-type moves, opting for coverage moves or other STABs.

It is difficult to understate the significance of Stealth Rock in Sky Battles. While Stealth Rock is the only entry hazard in Sky Battles, when it takes away 25% or more HP from some of the best Pokémon in the tier, such as Charizard, Gyarados, and Talonflame, some games are decided by who can keep up Stealth Rock and apply the most offensive pressure. Pokémon such as Landorus-T and Skarmory are among the best Stealth Rock users due to their defensive capabilities, meaning that they can reset the hazard should they be removed. Defoggers and Rapid Spinners are highly coveted in the tier because of the significant impact that Stealth Rock has on the metagame. Pokémon such as Cryogonal, Claydol, Skarmory, and Latios are all used primarily for their hazard-clearing abilities as well as for their unique niches whether offensive or defensive.


Mega Charizard-X

Perhaps the biggest threat in the metagame is Mega Charizard-X. Mega Charizard-X has the distinction of being one of two Pokémon in the metagame that is neither part Flying-type nor has Levitate, because its base form is part Flying. Charizard-X is already a threatening force in standard OU, and all Sky Battles did was get rid of many checks such as Earthquake, Fairy-types (specifically Azumarill), and Heatran. After a single Dragon Dance, Charizard-X is able to smash through the tier with its unresisted STAB coverage and great bulk compared to the rest of the metagame. After two, it is basically GG unless the opponent has a Talonflame in the wings or can play around Flare Blitz recoil, which can be risky as Charizard has multiple options it can use in its filler spot.

Charizard @ Charizardite X
Ability: Blaze
EVs: 252 Atk / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Nature: Adamant / Jolly
-Dragon Dance
-Flare Blitz / Fire Punch
-Dragon Claw
-Roost / Fire Punch


With the prevalence of Stealth Rock in Sky Battles, it is easy to see why Latios would be hailed as the best offensive Defogger in the tier. With its sky-high (pun intended) Special Attack and Speed stats, Latios is able to easily take massive chunks out of the opponent's team with its Life Orb-boosted Draco Meteors. Thanks to its great offensive movepool, Latios can get around its usual counters, with Shadow Ball for Bronzong and Thunderbolt for Togekiss. As previously mentioned, Latios is highly prized for being possibly the best offensive Defogger in the metagame, a trait not easily earned when 75% of the metagame can learn Defog (hyperbole may have been used for effect). While Defog is the most commonly seen set, Choice Scarf Latios is also viable as it is one of the few Pokémon that can outspeed Charizard-X after a Dragon Dance.

Latios @ Life Orb
Ability: Levitate
EVs: 252 SpA / 4 SpD / 252 Spe
Nature: Timid
-Draco Meteor
-Thunderbolt / Shadow Ball / Roost

Obviously there are many, many other threats, but this is not a spotlight article and they can be gone over in another article.


Sky Battles is an incredibly fast-paced metagame where a single misplay can cost you the entire game. Despite the limited selection of Pokémon, Sky Battles are surprisingly diverse as there are few Pokémon that are completely outclassed. If you want to read more about Sky Battles, check out and contribute to the the Sky Battles thread in the Other Metagames subforum. So with that, I'll repeat my question again: care for a Sky Battle with a Sky Trainer?

« Previous Article Home Next Article »