Heracross, The Singlehorn Pokémon. It charges in a straight line at its foe, slips beneath the foe's grasp, and then scoops up and hurls the opponent with its mighty horn. This Pokémon even has enough power to topple a massive tree. It has sharp claws on its feet. These are planted firmly into the ground or the bark of a tree, giving the Pokémon a secure and solid footing to forcefully fling away foes with its proud horn. They gather in forests seeking the sweet sap of trees. It is completely clad in a steel-hard shell. It is proud of its horn, which it uses to fling foes. Usually docile, but if disturbed while sipping honey, it chases off the intruder with its horn.
Heracross is a prime example of a Pokémon who can rip teams to shreds if they aren't prepared to deal with it. It has a powerful Base 125 Attack Stat, two STAB attacks with Base 120 Power and a rather diverse selection of physical moves to use alongside them. In the right hands Heracross is a force to be reckoned with and certainly a Pokémon that every team should be prepared to deal with.
In the 3rd generation Heracross was rather well off. It had been blessed with a very good Trait (Guts), good stats and a fairly good move pool to back it up. In the generation shift, Heracross received a fair few positive changes to add to these. Notably, an increase to its physical move pool (Close Combat, Stone Edge and Pursuit in particular) and the addition of Choice Scarf.
The negative changes for Heracross are few. Stealth Rock does it no favours, nor does the improvements Tyranitar got and the additional Sandstream option from Hippowdon (as well as the Hail equivalent from Abomasnow). However, these changes will probably prove to simply be minor hindrances and certainly won't prevent Heracross from successfully functioning as a formidable physical sweeper.
Guts: is the one to use. It can be activated by any status and grants a 1.5x boost to Heracross's offensive power. For those who are unaware, it also grants Heracross an immunity to the attack drop from Burn whilst retaining the 1.5x boost, meaning Heracross can happily switch into Weezing and Dusknoir Will-o-Wisps without the slightest worry. The fact that Will-o-Wisp has been spread to more Pokémon via TM, as well as the addition of Poison Spikes, grants Heracross an increased number of opportunities to activate Guts as well.
Swarm: on the other hand, is good, but not better. Heracross can be drained of HP fairly easily and a 1.5x boost to its Megahorn is certainly welcome, however its other moves will remain un-boosted (unlike with Guts) and a Swarm Heracross will be forced to fear Burns, reducing the number of opponents it can switch into.
The only thing that truly lets Heracross down as a physical sweeper is its somewhat mediocre speed stat. With Choice Scarf, that is no longer a worry. .
It has two very good STAB options with Megahorn and Close Combat, both of which possessing a very impressive Base 120. Stone Edge covers Heracross against Flying types, and the added critical hit chance is a big help against Gyarados and Salamence (since the critical will hit through their Intimidates). Pursuit on the other hand is a move used for catching Pokémon intending to escape Heracross's wrath, and as an added bonus, if Pursuit hits an escaping Pokémon Heracross will not be locked into using it again (rather unusually bypassing the normal effect of a Choice Item).
With a potential 383 Attack stat, hard hitting attacks and what is essentially a 403 Speed stat, Choice Scarf Heracross is definitely something to look out for. Scarf-Cross will generally be the reason why Agility/Swift Swim/Chlorophyll Pokémon should be running 202 Speed and why Salac Berry/Dragon Dance/Choice Scarf Pokémon should be running 270 Speed, outrunning this beast is certainly worth the extra effort.
EVs and Nature:
252/252 is the reliable way to go. The only change to give serious consideration is running a Jolly nature. Although Adamant gives a significant 34 point Attack boost the extra boost from Jolly can also be significant, especially since many Pokémon will try to set their EVs to allow them to outrun Adamant variations of Choice-Cross. Being the first to strike, especially by surprise, is a significant advantage, and could be considered worth the loss of attack.
The old standard and likely to continue to remain a standard. 383 Attack backed up by two strong STABs and a Choice Band has frightening prospects, only made more frightening by the possibility of Guts. .
Although the Choice Scarf and Choice Band sets are rather similar, they have a difference in style of use. The Choice Band set is more reliant on getting one big hit and then getting out, whilst the Choice Scarf set has the potential to sweep as well as clean up anything that's weakened. .
The Choice Band set doesn't have the Speed to make clean up sweeping a possibility, and because of this, Close Combat can possibly be dropped for Focus Punch. There's a significant power boost from Close Combat to Focus Punch, allowing Heracross to get a rather strong hit as an opponent switches in. The downside of course is that Heracross will be locked into a move that can be flinched easily.
A variant of this same set could be attempted with Life Orb. The set will have slightly less offensive prowess and less durability but it will benefit from the ability to switch between moves.
EVs and Nature:
Once again, the simple 252/252 with an Adamant nature is the way to go. .
Jolly isn't as much of an option on this set as it is on the Choice Scarf set. Very few things of note can be outran with a Jolly Nature that wouldn't be with an Adamant Nature. Jolly Medicham, Modest Houndoom and Modest Porygon-Z are a few notable ones, but in most cases Heracross shouldn't come face to face with any of those three. None of those three have any business switching into Heracross and likewise, Heracross has no business switching into any of those three. Several slower variants of Zapdos, Salamence and Slaking (as well as other Base Speed 100 Pokémon) can also be outran, but it's a big risk to test the possibility that Heracross will outrun them (and a risk that probably shouldn't be taken).
Once in a while this set was used in the third generation. Rest forcibly activates Guts and allows Heracross to attack with Sleep Talk. As a side effect this variation of Heracross has a lot more survivability than most sets and can be used to absorb Sleep Status attacks for its team. However, it's nowhere near as fearsome as its Choice Item counterparts. .
Megahorn is pretty much the core move of the set for obvious reasons. Close Combat is a much less attractive option on a set like this since the Defence and Special Defence lowering side-effect doesn't gel well with the long-term survivability that this set is built around. Focus Punch is an attractive option in its place since it can't be activated by Sleep Talk (allowing Megahorn to have a 50/50 chance of being selected), as well as being of great use when combined with prediction. Stone Edge on the other hand helps deal with other types that resist Megahorn, Flying and Fire notably. .
Life Orb is a viable option since this Heracross set can recover HP with Rest, but without Leftovers (and with Life Orb recoil) Heracross will be forced to Rest far more frequently than it should.
EVs and Nature:
Rest-Talk variants of Heracross have a much larger focus on their survivability and less on the offences. Max HP increases Leftovers recovery as well as the overall bulkiness of the set. The most Speed a Rest-Talk Heracross will need is in the 240-244 range. At 240 it outruns Max Speed (Adamant) Metagross, 241 outruns Max Speed (Timid) Magnezone and 244 outruns Max Speed (Jolly) Tyranitar. The rest of the EVs can be placed to Heracross's Attack stat, which combined with an Adamant Nature and the Guts boost will be fairly respectable. .
The EV spread can be tinkered with a fair bit, the Speed EVs are entirely expendable and can be shifted elsewhere. Since this set is defensive, and EV focus to its Defence or Special Defence could also be made.
A more 'sweeper-orientated' move set for Heracross. Because of its mediocre Speed stat, Heracross has a hard time pulling off a set like this, but with adequate paralysis support and intelligent use the set can be overwhelmingly powerful.
Several variants of this set exist but the main ones are: Swords Dance + 3 Attacks and Swords Dance + 2 Attacks + Sub-Salac. With 3 Attacks the move set has an incredible amount of type coverage whilst Sub-Salac can allow Heracross to overcome its Speed problem. Both methods are viable options.
When using Sub-Salac, Swarm may be preferred, since Heracross is less likely to be statused (because of the Substitute protection). On the all out offensive variation, Guts will usually be the better choice.
There are three main item options to choose here. Because of the type coverage, Expert Belt can be put to great use, whilst Life Orb comes with its impressive 1.3x boost. On Sub-Salac variants, obviously Salac Berry will be the item of choice.
EVs and Nature:
Once again, a simple 252/252 is the main way to go. Jolly is worth some consideration.
The good old Reversal-Cross. One of those Pokémon that can turn around the game for its user, however the days of Reversal-Cross are probably over. In the 3rd Gen pulling off Endure-Reversal was hard, but now it's much harder. Sandstream has been spread to two very good Pokémon, the Hail equivalent (Snow Warning) has been spread to one, several new Quick Attack variants have been added and a lot of Pokémon can out-speed it now because of Choice Scarf. In all honesty if you want to use Reversal you should stick to Lucario, who at the very least is immune to Sandstorm.
The gist of the set is mixing and matching the moves you want. Some people prefer Sub over Endure since it allows time to Swords Dance or Attack with Substitute acting as a safety barrier, whilst some people like Endure for the surprise factor.
The two moves that support Reversal are again, up to preference:
- Megahorn with a Swarm boost does a lot of damage, more than enough to hurt opponents who resist it.
Successful use of this set focuses heavily on eliminating its counters. Controlling the weather to prevent Sandstorm, eliminating any opponents that may be using Quick Attack moves and slowing any Pokémon who have a Choice Scarf.
EVs and Nature:
Like the Swords Dance set, the only change to give legitimate consideration is Jolly. When using Substitute it's important to set up Heracross's HP in a way that it's divisible by 4 +1 (or 2 or 3), so some EV tweaking may be in order depending on the Heracross's HP IV.
Night Slash, Shadow Claw, Earthquake, Façade, Counter, Bulk Up, Rock Slide, Brick Break, Aerial Ace.
Night Slash and Shadow Claw present two good options to use for hitting Ghosts (Dusknoir in particular). Both are essentially the same move with a high critical hit ratio, the difference is that Night Slash is resisted by Fighting types whilst Shadow Claw can't hit Normal types.
Earthquake is a move that works well on any physical sweeper, but Heracross is one of the few Pokémon that has very little use for it. Earthquake hits three types stronger that its Fighting and Bug moves would: Fire, Electric and Poison.
- Fire is handled just fine by Stone Edge and Close Combat.
Generally speaking, due to the unpopularity of most Poison types, there is little justification for spending a move-slot on Earthquake.
Façade can be used to reasonable effect since Heracross will frequently absorb status attacks. Its main use will be to hit the Pokémon that resists Megahorn and Close Combat without taking super-effective damage from Stone Edge (such as Gliscor and Weezing). A Base 140 power move is nothing to turn your nose up to.
Counter is just generally a fun surprise move, however Heracross isn't particularly durable and most opponents will switch out of Heracross if they can't KO it.
Bulk Up boosts Attack and Defence but Heracross generally prefers to use Swords Dance when it has an opportunity to stat boost. Short of maybe a novelty Bulk Up-Counter-Salac set there is very little potential use for Bulk Up.
Rock Slide has a more reliable accuracy than Stone Edge but in turn, by using Rock Slide you sacrifice a high critical hit chance and 25 Base Power.
Brick Break is a weaker equivalent of Close Combat that doesn't lower Heracross's stats, however the 45 Base Power difference is huge, especially when STAB and hitting super-effective is factored in. The only real justification for using Brick Break is if Reflect and Light Screen begin to become highly popular.
Aerial Ace's main use will be take out opposing Heracross's. Aside from that its use is fairly limited because of its low Base Power.
Generally speaking, most teams are weak to a well-played Heracross. Only a handful of Pokémon can brag the ability to shrug off all of Heracross's core attacks, and even then Heracross can still Pursuit opponents as they switch to those counters.
The Pokémon you can look to as 'guaranteed' counters to most Heracross sets are the following:
Gliscor who resists both of its STAB attacks and takes neutral damage from Stone Edge and can Roost off any damage it receives quite comfortably. STAB Aerial Ace is more than enough to take out any Heracross's confident enough to stay in play against it.
Weezing resists both of its STAB attacks and takes neutral damage from Stone Edge. Hitting Heracross with Sludge Bomb is a bit risky, since Heracross will like the 30% chance of Poison, but two or three Sludge Bombs will be enough to finish off most Heracross's. Weezing has Pain Split to help recover off damage. Although it isn't as effective as Roost but it's enough.
Nidoking and Nidoqueen resist both of Heracross's STAB attacks as well as Stone Edge. These two prove to be slightly less reliable counters, since even with a resistance they'll take a fair chunk from Heracross's STAB attacks and have no means of recovery (barring rest). They'll need a fair few defensive EVs to do the job effectively.
Defensive Poison types like Swalot and Muk resist both of Heracross's STAB attacks and should be able to shrug off Stone Edge, but they lack recovery moves and are generally inferior to Weezing at the job. Much like the Nidos, they'll need a very defensive EV spread to do the job reliably.
Defensive Ghost Pokémon work very nicely as well, with an immunity to Heracross's Fighting attacks and a resistance to its Bug attacks, however Dusknoir is really the only reliable example.
Out of all those Pokémon, the only three that are really suited to the Standard Battling environment are Gliscor, Weezing and Dusknoir, so if you lack those Pokémon you'll need to rely on prediction to beat most Heracross's.
Gyarados and Salamence both have Intimidate and can come in on Heracross's STAB attacks, although they'll want to avoid Stone Edge, especially since Stone Edge has the potential to critical hit right through their Intimidates. Crobat has a 4x resists to both of Heracross's STAB attacks but much like Gyarados and Salamence, is fearful of Stone Edge. Charizard and Moltres resists Megahorn 4x and have a 2x resist against its Fighting attacks but are obliterated by Stone Edge. Defensive flying types work in general so long as they resist both of Heracross's STAB attacks, Zapdos is a good example.
Skarmory can work to an extent, up against Choice Band Heracross it takes a bit too much damage from Close Combat (or Focus Punch), but up against Choice Scarf Heracross it fairs pretty well. It has a STAB Drill Peck to take out Heracross with and can Roost off damage.
Generally speaking, Heracross will have one or two variants. Choice Scarf or Choice Band. A few more specialised 'counters' can work depending on which one they're up against.
Dugtrio can come into Choice Band Heracross after is KOed something and finish it off with Aerial Ace. Heracross won't be able to run because of Arena Trap. Since Dugtrio can't come into any of Heracross's attacks it's arguable as to whether it can be considered a counter, but at the very least it's a last ditch insurance policy.
Defensive Pokémon with Recovery moves can stand up to Choice Scarf Heracross, Slack Off Hippowdon is a good example. Although those Pokémon won't be able to handle the overwhelming power of a Choice Band Heracross, Choice Scarf Heracross won't hit them anywhere near as powerfully.
Making it difficult for Heracross to come into play is an effective way to limit the damage it can wreak. Heracross doesn't like Sandstorm damage or Spikes or Stealth Rock, especially since it won't be carrying Leftovers. Catching it with moves as it switches in will limit it further and it becomes a lot easier to KO if it uses Close Combat. Although Heracross isn't 'fragile' it certainly isn't sturdy, at most it can expect to take three 'normal' attacks and will probably be KOed by any good sweeper.
Although Heracross likes to take advantage of Guts it is a double-edged sword. Burn and Poison will sap away a lot of Heracross's already limited HP and Choice Scarf Heracross will hate to be paralysed. Although it isn't advisable to intentionally hit a Heracross with a status attack it won't be the end of the world if you do.
Up against lesser seen variants of Heracross most of the same counters apply. Reversal-Cross can be countered just like any other Reversaller and Rest-Talk Heracross is limited to only two attacks, making it easy to counter by some of the aforementioned Pokémon.
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