Charizard, The Flame Pokémon. It spits fire that is hot enough to melt boulders. Known to cause forest fires unintentionally. When expelling a blast of super hot fire, the red flame at the tip of its tail burns more intensely. If Charizard becomes furious, the flame at the tip of its tail flares up in a whitish-blue color. Breathing intense, hot flames, it can melt almost anything. Its breath inflicts terrible pain on enemies. A Charizard flies about in search of strong opponents. It breathes intense flames that can melt any material. However, it will never torch a weaker foe. Its wings can carry this Pokémon close to an altitude of 4,600 feet. It blows out fire at very high temperatures.
A familiar friend from the first generation, Charizard makes yet another appearance in the competitive battling scene. Despite achieving extensive popularity among Pokémon fans, Charizard has difficult retaining any kind of sustainable popularity among competitive battlers.
The Fire-Flying typing is Charizard's main curse. Weaknesses to Water, Electric and Rock moves leaves it exposed to a lot of opponents, but the biggest issue is the 4x Stealth Rock weakness. Much like other Pokémon with the same 4x weakness, Rapid Spin support is a must.
Looking passed its crippling problems, Charizard does have a fair amount to boast about. Most notably, it fills in a unique niche with Belly Drum. The synergy between Belly Drum, Blaze and Salac Berry makes 'Bellyzard' a noteworthy threat, and in the right hands, it's quite capable of clean sweeps. Outside of its niche, both its physical and special move-pools are respectable, and both of its offensive stats are strong enough to support a physical, special or mixed move-set. However, non-niche sets suffer from comparisons to its other Fire brethren (particularly Infernape, whose diverse move-pool, Speed and lack of Stealth Rock weakness tends to make it a stronger choice).
Blaze: gives a 1.5x boost to Charizard's Fire attacks when its HP drops below 1/3rd. With Fire moves being Charizard's core attacks, the boost is obviously useful. In particular, the ability benefits a great deal from synergy with Belly Drum, and Bellyzards will see a lot of use from it.
- Fire Punch
There are two main variants of Bellyzard. Those with Substitute and those without it. Either way, the aim is to successfully use Belly Drum and activate Blaze and the Salac Berry boost.
The 'with Substitute' variants have a rather straightforward strategy. Their first goal is to switch into an opponent they can frighten into switching out. As they switch, Charizard can use the free turn to throw up a Substitute. Behind the safety of the Sub, it can use Belly Drum, bringing its HP down to 25%, activating both Blaze and the Salac Berry. From that point on, it's straightforward sweeping.
Without Substitute, the strategy is less forward, since Charizard needs to shed 25% of its HP through other means. There are two main methods to shed this HP. The first is to switch into a weak attack, taking advantage of resistances or the poor offensive power of its opponent. After that, it can either switch out to return at a later stage, or chance that Charizard poses enough of a threat to frighten them off and head straight into using Belly Drum. Either way, much like the Substitute variant, after Belly Drum it's straightforward sweeping.
The main flaw of the move-set is it's very 'all or nothing'. Once Charizard has used Belly Drum (or has dropped below 50% HP), it doesn't get a second chance (barring strategic use of Wish, Healing Wish or Lunar Dance). This means that everything needs to be lined out perfectly for Charizard to sweep. Any opponents who can survive Bellyzard's Drum-boosted moves needs to be sufficiently weakened or eliminated, and any Pokémon who could achieve a 'revenge kill' (be it by priority move, Focus Sash or Choice Scarf) also needs to be eliminated.
Fire Punch does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to sweeping. Earthquake serves as its main 'back-up' move, dealing with Rock types and Fire types (particularly Flash Fire Pokémon), and providing some neutral type coverage against Water and Dragon types.
Without Substitute, it has room for a third offensive move. Double-Edge is usually the first-choice move to fill the gap. As well as providing recoil, it gets near-KOs on Pokémon who can survive against its boosted moves (such as Swampert, Gyarados and Milotic), and gets a stronger hit than Earthquake on Fire-resistant Pokémon (barring those weak to Earthquake, of course).
As stated in the overview, any Charizard set that doesn't utilise Belly Drum will face inevitable comparisons to Infernape (and other offensive Fire types). The main advantage Charizard has is that its opponents will usually expect a Bellyzard, giving Charizard an element of surprise.
Flamethrower is its core offensive attack. With that in mind, Focus Punch nails Blissey, Tyranitar and Snorlax. Dragon Pulse catches a neutral hit on all Water types, as well as getting a useful super-effective hit on Dragon types. Finally, it can pick a Hidden Power to catch Water types, with Grass being preferable for Swampert and Electric being preferable for Gyarados.
Its item choices are the default ones for mixed sweepers. Life Orb stings a bit with its recoil but provides a larger and more solid source of damage boosting, whilst Expert Belt is free of recoil but only gets a boost with super-effective attacks.
- Fire Blast / Flamethrower
It's not quite the same as the Bellyzard, but it works on a similar basis. Boosting up, activating Blaze and then sweeping with overwhelming power in its favour.
Sunny Day has the three-fold advantage of boosting Fire moves, providing one-turn Solarbeams and reducing the damage taken from Water moves. With Sunny Day up, Charizard can survive STABed Surfs, so it can take advantage of them and let them knock down some of its HP.
Solarbeam comfortably disposes of most Water types, benefiting from synergy with Sunny Day. The alternatives are Hidden Power [Ice] for Dragons, and Hidden Power [Ground] for Heatran and other Fire types.
Substitute is useful as a HP controlling method. Charizard can't rely on taking hits to bring its HP down to a preferable percentage, so Substitute can help shed enough HP to activate Blaze and the Petaya Berry. Obviously, Substitute isn't a complete necessity, and can be forgone in favour of using Hidden Power and Solarbeam, but it provides Charizard with more control and reliability.
Charizard can pick from Fire Blast or Flamethrower for its core attack. The obvious advantage of Flamethrower is its higher PP and consistent accuracy, whilst Fire Blast benefits from some added power. Usually, this added power isn't a huge amount, but when adding up all the boosts, the power difference between Fire Blast and Flamethrower can become quite significant. With STAB, Blaze and Sunny Day, Fire Blast adds up to a base power of 405. In comparison, with the same boosts, Flamethrower's base power will add up to 320. As usual, it's the 'power vs. accuracy' argument, but in this case, there's a lot more power to account for.
- Flamethrower / Fire Blast / Overheat
Once again, the element of surprise is the driving force behind this move-set's viability. Specs-boosted moves leave a notable sting, and whilst the move-set is self-explanatory, the only area of indecision lies in which STAB move Charizard chooses to use.
Flamethrower and Fire Blast are the two staples. Flamethrower has good power, reliable accuracy and plentiful PP. Fire Blast has better power, slightly less-than-reliable accuracy and much smaller PP. Overheat is a completely different threat. It possesses better power than both of its alternatives, but loses its charm after its first use due to its side-effect. This makes it a strong choice for in-and-out switching but less attractive for straightforward sweeping.
- Flare Blitz
Much like the aforementioned Specs set, you're working off the element of surprise. In this case, it's Band-boosted moves leaving a sting. In particular, Flare Blitz will be its core move, dealing out plentiful damage off of reliable accuracy. The only disadvantage is the recoil, which can be hugely limiting if Charizard starts to pick up damage. Aside from that, Earthquakes and well-timed Focus Punches supplement the Flare Blitz attacks. Rock Slide provides some very useful type coverage against Pokémon who resist the three aforementioned moves, Salamence and Gyarados being the most notable ones.
EVs and Nature:
For pretty much every move-set, you'll be using the 'sweeper' EV spread. The only move-set that has reason to deviate from the standard 252/252 is the mixed sweeper, which has reason to consider sacrificing some of its Special Attack in favour of its Attack. However, the fact that the standard mixed sweeper only takes advantage of one physical move, Focus Punch, for the expressed purpose of catching super-effective hits, makes EV investment far from necessary.
The only other point of indecision is whether to use a Speed boosting nature or not. 299 is pretty much the benchmark Speed stat for sweepers, and after a boost from a Salac Berry, further investment is only necessary to deal with Scarf threats and the uncommon speed-freaks. When the Salac isn't accounted for, the extra nature boost can be enough to set it above some other notable threats (including its fellow Base Speed 100 Pokémon).
It's worth making an additional note that any Charizard set using Substitute needs to have a HP stat that is divisible by four. EV and IV tweaking may be necessary to reach that stat.
Air Slash, Aerial Ace, Return, Will-o-Wisp, Roost, Counter, Swords Dance, Dragon Dance, Choice Scarf.
Charizard's Flying moves tend to be overlooked. Despite possessing STAB, their type coverage isn't of any noteworthy use. The only call to use its Flying moves are as fillers, and in the case of Aerial Ace, better fillers are available. Air Slash has some mild use as a filler, being available as an alternative to Hidden Power when an ideal one is unavailable.
Return works much the same as a filler, being chosen for its reliable coverage against both Water and Dragon types.
Will-o-Wisp is worth a mention, being unexpected and effective. It'll seriously limit its physically-inclined counters, such as Gyarados, Garchomp, Salamence and Swampert, as well as other Pokémon who may become counters depending on Charizard's chosen move-set (such as Tyranitar and Snorlax).
Roost, Counter, Swords Dance and Dragon Dance represents the non-offensive moves it'll rarely be seen using. Roost provides healing, but in Charizard's case it's healing it'll find little use for. Counter can bounce a physical hit back at its opponent for a potential KO. Its HP is generally better served using Belly Drum than it is picking up a surprise KO, but there's use for it. Swords Dance and Dragon Dance are boosting alternatives to Belly Drum, but are generally seen as inferior. The moves also draw it comparisons to the likes of Garchomp and Salamence, who would be seen as superior choices in most cases.
Choice Scarf, as with all Pokémon, can be seen as a viable item using the same move-sets as its other Choice sets, turning into more of a 'revenge-killer' than an out-and-out powerhouse.
Water-types are the main Bellyzard counters, being among the few Pokémon capable of standing up to its Drum-boosted attacks. Swampert, Suicune, Milotic, Gyarados and other bulky waters are the ones to turn to. The worst scenario is a Drum-boosted Double-Edge, which all of these are capable of surviving, EV spreads and health permitting. In the case of Swampert and Suicune, they have an additional advantage over the Substitute variant, being capable of Roaring it away if it chooses to hide behind a Substitute as they switch in.
Accounting for Bellyzard having all of its ideal boosts active, and with those counters unavailable, the other main 'counter' is to strike it first or take advantage of a Focus Sash. Of course, being faster includes Scarf-users, priority moves and of course, the most speedy Speed-freaks (such as Ninjask). Focus Sash users are rather straightforward, sucking up a hit with their item and then picking off the last of Bellyzard's HP. The downside with all of these methods is they aren't really counters, since they can't afford to switch-in on it. Rather, they'll require a sacrifice from a team-mate to provide the opportunity to freely switch in.
Although Bellyzard represents the Charizard-standard, it is capable of other offensive routes as well. Hidden Power can be problematic, but again, the defensive Water types tend to do the job. Another Water type worth a mention is Starmie, who has the Speed advantage when Charizard doesn't have a Speed boost in its favour.
Other counters depend on the move-set it's using. Heatran stands up to everything but Ground and Fight moves, benefiting from a Fire immunity (granted by Flash Fire) and the many resistances provided by its typing. Blissey also stops any special sets lacking Focus Punch. Salamence has problems with Rock Slide and Dragon Pulse, but manages against its other moves. Garchomp also has problems with Dragon Pulse, and Focus Punch can also leave a mark, but like Salamence, it can manage.
Stealth Rock is an obvious problem, chipping away 50% of its HP if it switches in whilst it is active. Sandstream and Snow Warning also cause Charizard a lot of problems, especially Bellyzard, who has little HP to spare as it is.
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