Garchomp, The Mach Pokémon. When it folds up its body and extends its wings, it looks like a jet plane. It flies at sonic speed. It flies at speeds equal to a jet fighter plane. It never allows its prey to escape.
Garchomp is undoubtedly the most hyped new Pokémon among the competitive battling community. Nicknamed 'Land Shark', it's a fearsome beast that everyone needs to have their eyes out for.
The Ground and Dragon STAB combination is resisted by very few. Backed by Swords Dance and that huge Attack stat results in this being a formidable physical sweeper. It's by no means a slow slouch either, having a speed stat that sets it just above Salamence and Slaking. Alongside this, both of its defences are above average and backed by a very good HP stat.
Garchomp has a decent type combination. It has a fairly useful Rock resistance as well as a Fire and Poison resistance. It also has an Electric immunity (although this is difficult to take advantage of, as Electric attacks are frequently combined with Ice attacks). However, like Flygon and Salamence, it shares a 2x Dragon weakness and a large 4x ice weakness.
It's unlikely that Garchomp will live up to the hype it was given, but nonetheless, it's a deadly opponent who threatens the ability to sweep at any moment. A lot of Pokémon will be packing Hidden Power [Ice] to deal with this beast and just about every team will be required to have a reliable Garchomp counter.
Sand Veil: is Garchomp's only trait choice. It gives Garchomp a slight evasion boost during Sandstorms. Since Sandstorm received a boost in its effect, as well as its accessibility (through Sandstream), expect Sandstorm to be running rampant frequently. The trait is unreliable but it will be beneficial once in a while. The main way you'll see it take effect is by increasing the missing frequency of already inaccurate moves (such as Will-o-Wisp and Hypnosis).
The Swords Dancer is the set that threatens to sweep at any given opportunity. With that huge attack stat, a STAB combination that's resisted by few and a Swords Dance, very few opponents can viably stand in Garchomp's way.
Earthquake and Dragon Claw both get STAB and form the aforementioned STAB combination. Swords Dance understandably forms the core of this set, essentially doubling Garchomp's already massive attack stat. The final move mainly serves to support Garchomp.
Substitute gives Garchomp a protective barrier from which to sweep behind. It blocks statuses (such as Will-o-Wisp) and can be used to scout an opponent's move.
Stone Edge grants very good type coverage and hits a couple of important Pokémon.
Fire Fang serves the sole purpose of taking out the two Pokémon that resist Garchomp's STAB combination, Skarmory and Bronzong. Aside from that its purpose is somewhat limited, but eliminating those two may justify its use.
The item choice is somewhat split. Leftovers is always a good choice and on any set with Substitute, it would definitely be the preference. Life Orb aids sweeping however, and since Garchomp is immune to Sandstorm and resists Stealth Rock it can make very good use of the item, since the HP loss won't affect it as strongly as it would affect other Pokémon. Another thing of note is that Garchomp really only has two key resistances (Rock and Electric), reducing the number of times it'll be expected to switch in and wall an attack. With that in mind, Leftovers would appear much less necessary.
EVs and Nature:
The choice between Jolly and Adamant is a torn one. A max speed Garchomp with an Adamant Nature will outrun Salamence, Slaking, Zapdos and other Base Speed 100 friends, but it will be outran by those aforementioned Pokémon if they ran a speed boosting nature. A max speed Jolly Garchomp on the other hand, won't be outran by any of those Pokémon and will also outrun Base Speed 110 foes like Gengar and Tauros if they aren't running a speed boosting nature. Jolly lets Garchomp outrun a few key Pokémon whilst Adamant gives a large attack boost, either choice is viable.
Understandably, the 252/252 EV spread is employed. Regardless of nature, Garchomp will want Max Speed and Max Attack.
Choice Chomp is a perfectly viable route to go with Garchomp. Choice Band has its obvious advantages, a hard hit off the bat. Pablomeza and SePh258 of Smogon have helped make Choice Scarf fairly popular, the Speed boost eliminates a lot of Pokémon that would potentially threaten it.
Outrage is one of the major reasons to use Choice Chomp and it gains a great deal of precedent over Dragon Claw. The immediately obvious advantage is the significant 40 Base Power difference (prior to STAB). Outrage is also a move fairly well catered to a Choice item. After 2 or 3 turns it'll cause confusion, at which point you would want to switch anyway, so the move may as well be backed by a Choice item. Nonetheless, Dragon Claw is an option for its reliability.
Earthquake and Stone Edge serve obvious purposes. Fire Fang and Crunch handle a handful of noteworthy Pokémon, but both are pretty much 'filler' options.
EVs and Nature:
The Jolly or Adamant argument continues on this Garchomp set when a Choice Band is in use, although Adamant is unanimously superior for a Choice Scarf move set. The 252/252 spread is ideal on the Choice Band variant, but with Choice Scarf some of those Speed EVs can be shifted to Garchomp's HP or Defences.
Draco Meteor, Dragon Pulse, Flamethrower, Fire Blast, Surf, Roar, Stealth Rock, Shadow Claw, Rock Slide.
Draco Meteor, Dragon Pulse, Flamethrower, Fire Blast and Surf is the full extent of Garchomp's viable Special attacking move-pool. It's enough to throw together a Choice Specs set but with a mediocre Special Attack stat, there's little reason to bother. Unlike Tyranitar or Metagross, it doesn't have access to any moves that will hugely surprise its normal counters (barring Draco Meteor) and there are very few situations where its physical attacks wouldn't have sufficed.
Fire Blast and Flamethrower are worth second looks for potential use in place of Fire Fang, since those two will handle Skarmory and Bronzong very nicely, but aside from those, its Special Attacking move pool isn't particularly viable.
Roar and Stealth Rock represent Garchomp's supportive move pool. It's nothing too impressive and a lot of other Pokémon have access to those moves. Generally, supporting should be left to Garchomp's team-mates.
Shadow Claw is pretty much the only viable physical move that hasn't been mentioned on the main move sets. It's a viable option over Crunch for its high critical hit ratio.
Rock Slide is worth a glance or two as a possible replacement for Stone Edge. It has a high Flinch rate and improved accuracy but sacrifices a lot of power and a high critical hit ratio. This is somewhat mitigated by the fact that, after a Swords Dance, very little will stand up to Garchomp anyway, but whether the sacrifice is worth it is questionable.
Despite being a formidable threat, it's fairly predictable. Unlike Salamence, it can't use both Physical and Special attacks effectively, and unlike Metagross or Tyranitar, the amount of attacks it can freely switch into are somewhat limited (due to its limited cross-section of resistances).
Obviously, the main target for taking out Garchomp is its huge Ice weakness. After Garchomp has used Swords Dance the only reason for it to switch out is if the opponent threatens to OHKO it. After a Swords Dance, most opponents get 1KOed by Garchomp's attacks and those that don't get 2KOed.
With that in mind, assuming the Garchomp has no HP or Special Defence EVs but perfect IVs, in order to 1KO it, you would need:
At least 245 Special Attack to OHKO Garchomp with an un-STABed Ice Beam on average. 265 Special Attack would guarantee the OHKO.
At least 340 Attack to OHKO Garchomp with an un-STABed Ice Punch on average. 367 Attack would guarantee the OHKO.
At least 390 Attack to OHKO Garchomp with an un-STABed Ice Fang on average. 425 Attack would guarantee the OHKO.
At least 330 Special Attack to OHKO Garchomp with an un-STABed (max power) Hidden Power [Ice] on average. 358 Special Attack would guarantee the OHKO.
Of course, this is vastly variable due to the potential EV spreads Garchomp may carry (although most won't have any defensive EVs barring the four 'spare' EVs in HP). This is further varied by the fact that not every Garchomp will have perfect IVs, lowering the offensive stats required to OHKO, and Garchomp won't necessarily be 100% healthy either (especially if Spikes are in effect).
Assuming there's STAB backing the aforementioned attacks, much lower offensive stats will be capable of KOing (although Garchomp would be crazy to stay in against any Ice type that it couldn't KO).
Ice Shard works nicely against Garchomp. Barring ridiculously high Attack stats (in the 540+ range), even STABed Ice Shards won't be able to OHKO, but most are capable of 2KOing and can pick off a weakened Garchomp. Choice Band Mamoswine is an example of one of the Pokémon capable of reaching the required offensive stats whilst maintaining the defensive stats to survive against Garchomp's un-boosted attacks.
Dragon attacks work fairly well. With STAB they have OHKO potential and without STAB they have the potential to 2KO.
With all of this in mind, the best counters are Pokémon that can take a Swords Danced hit and KO it back with Ice attacks.
A lot of bulky water types work well as counters, providing their Special Attack reaches the 245-271 range. Slowbro is probably the best of the bunch since it has Slack Off to recover lost HP, with the likes of Suicune and Swampert trailing slightly behind. Cresselia works well, it has levitate to avoid Earthquake and can set-up Reflect as well as attack with Ice Beam. A bulky EV spread for Gyarados has been proposed by Jumpman16 of Smogon that would allow it to survive any of Garchomp's attacks, set up a Dragon Dance and finish it off with Ice Fang.
Bronzong and Skarmory resist both of its STABs, but Garchomp may carry Fire attacks to deal with them. Bronzong doesn't have much to threaten Garchomp with outside of Hypnosis (although it can set-up Reflect) whilst Skarmory can't do anything except Whirlwind it away. Defensive Tangrowth can status Garchomp with Sleep Powder or Stun Spore whilst Weezing and Dusknoir can burn it with Will-o-Wisp. These counters are somewhat 'loose' since their status attacks won't get rid of Garchomp (only hinder it) and their status attacks are prone to missing, especially during a Sandstorm.
Gliscor can take a hit and U-Turn to a faster Pokémon (allowing a faster sweeper into play unscathed, who can then proceed to KO Garchomp). Although Gliscor as an individual can't counter Garchomp, this can lead to successful handling of Garchomp. Celebi can pull of the same strategy fairly well and so can Scizor to an extent. This same strategy can be used with bulky Baton Passers (such as Umbreon).
The next bunch of counters are Pokémon who are faster and can OHKO with Ice attacks. The main difference is that they can't take hits well, so if they take a hit switching into Garchomp they may be KOed, making them fairly unreliable. If they can be brought into play unscathed (either through a sacrifice, prediction or the aforementioned U-Turn strategy) then they can work successfully.
Weavile is simply number one. STAB Ice Punch, enough Speed to easily outrun Garchomp and a great attack stat all make Weavile ideal for the job. Starmie with Ice Beam, Gengar with Hidden Power [Ice] and generally any other Pokémon that has 332+ Speed and meets one of the Ice attack criteria. In particular, a lot of Choice item Pokémon fall into this list of counters since the Choice item allows them to meet the criteria. Ice Fang Aerodactyl with Choice Band, Ice Fang Rampardos with Choice Scarf, Hidden Power [Ice] Jolteon with Choice Specs and countless others.
The dragon weakness is exposable, but only the Pokémon with STAB Dragon attacks would prefer it over one of the aforementioned attacks. None of the non-Uber Dragons outrun Garchomp though and all of them carry a Dragon weaknesses, making them iffy counters when faced against Garchomp's own dragon attacks.
Assuming Garchomp is a Choice Scarf or Band variant, it's handled by adequate prediction. Earthquake, Outrage (or Dragon Claw) and Stone Edge are all pretty much givens and most good teams have defensive Pokémon to handle those moves. Once again, Skarmory and Bronzong are good options due to their varied resistances.
Generally, Garchomp is very much a 'kill or be killed' Pokémon, and that's why it received so much hype. That attack stat and speed combined with a potential Swords Dance threaten the opportunity to sweep at any moment. Unfortunately for Garchomp, Ice attacks are going to run rampant in the competitive battling scene, making safe switch-ins limited. A lot of teams would be packing at least one of the aforementioned counters anyway, regardless of whether Garchomp was a threat or not. Nonetheless, Garchomp should be taken into account when putting together a team, although if a team can't handle Garchomp then there's probably several other Pokémon it's unable to handle as well.
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