Heracross, The Singlehorn Pokémon. This powerful Pokémon thrusts its prized horn under its enemies' bellies, then lifts and throws them. With its Herculean powers, it can easily throw around an object that is 100 times its own weight. Heracross 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.Heracross 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.
In the very first generation, Bug typing was a joke offensively. With moves like Leech Life, Pin Missile, and Twinneedle, Bug types really had no good STAB attacks to work with. As such, Bug types were often the butt of many jokes, being laughed at for failing to deal the damage to Psychic types that they were intended to. However, all that changed in Generation 2, when a certain bug type came along, brandishing the mighty Megahorn, which packed an astonishing base 120 power. This Pokemon was none other than Heracross, the first, last, and only Bug/Fighting type Pokemon. With a massive Attack stat at base 125, high-powered base 120 stab attacks, and plenty of sets it can run, Heracross made an immediate impact upon the game since its inception. But despite pounding entire teams into the dust in Gen 2 and 3, somewhere along the way, things started to go awry for Heracross. Its usage began to wane, despite the fact that it was still chocked full of raw power. Unfortunately, despite its power, Heracross had a few shortcomings. Its speed has always left a lot to be desired, and unlike things like Breloom and Scizor, it had no priority to help overcome this. A 4x weakness to Flying also tended to be rather glaring as well. Still, despite its faults, Heracross remained a solid Pokemon, albeit not the top tier threat that it used to be. Then Gen 6 came along, and made things interesting for Heracross. On one hand, the advent of Fairy types did Heracross no favors, as they resist both of Heracross’s STAB attacks, while also giving it a new weakness. Couple that with numerous Flying, Fire, and Psychic type threats to prey on Heracross’s other weaknesses, and it’s certainly a harsh new world. However, Heracross also got some interesting new toys to play with as well. A buffed Knock Off benefitted Heracross immensely, giving it a solid coverage move against Ghost types. It also got some interesting moves in Rock Blast, Bullet Seed, and Pin Missile, which might seem like odd additions… but they go perfectly with its brand new Mega Evolution! Fortunately for Heracross, although its Mega Evolution is mighty, Heracross’s base form can perform some different sets that its Mega Evolution cannot, so standard Heracross has remained relevant. It may have more competition than it did in the past, but if you underestimate Heracross, you will be in for a world of pain.
Swarm: When HP is below 1/3rd its maximum, power of Bug-type moves is increased by 50%. - Swarm is nothing special, and is easily Heracross’s worst ability. It’s not easy to get under 33% HP while still staying alive, and this ability only boosts the power of Bug type moves. Overall, a rather underwhelming ability, especially when Heracross has so many better options.
For some solid wall-breaking capabilities, look no further than Heracross’s Choice Band set. This set packs the immediate power necessary to force switches and break down defensive cores. Fortunately for this set, Heracross is packing not one, but two base 120 power STAB attacks. Close Combat is the one that you’ll arguably be spamming most often; with its high power, good coverage, and perfect accuracy, it can put serious dents in anything that doesn’t resist it. However, you do have to be mindful that the defense drops that come with Close Combat can make Heracross easier to revenge kill. Megahorn is the other half of Heracross’s STAB combo, hitting psychic types hard, and its accuracy is fair given its high power and lack of any other drawbacks. From there, Knock Off makes an excellent addition due to its great neutral coverage alongside fighting, especially since it hits Ghosts hard and can be a general nuisance to most switch-ins due to its item removing effect. For the final moveslot, Heracross has two viable coverage options. Stone Edge can hit flying types hard, but its accuracy can be a bit of an issue, and most flying types have to be caught on the switch due to their high speeds. Meanwhile, Earthquake is an option for certain poison types, such as Nidoking, Nidoqueen, Toxicroak, and Tentacruel. Which you choose depends on what you want to be able to cover, but both are viable.
Heracross pretty much always invests in max Attack and Speed EVs to maximize its offensive prowess, while the remaining 4 EVs are put into its lower defense. Adamant Nature can allow Heracross to hit harder, with its most notable benchmark previously being the ability to 2HKO your standard Florges about 84% of the time if Stealth Rock is up. However, with Florges having more competition from Sylveon this isn’t quite as significant as it was. Jolly Nature, however, ensures that Heracross outspeeds base speed-natured Base 80’s, and non-speed natured Base 90’s. Choice Band is the crux of this set, as it affords Heracross the power it needs without wasting a turn on setup. Guts is Heracross’s preferred ability on this set, as it allows it to absorb status, and not be crippled by Burns. Although Moxie might seem tempting due to this set’s power allowing it to nab KO’s, this set is more oriented towards hit-and-run tactics, so it is preferable to stick with Guts.
While a Choice Band might make Heracross a solid wallbreaker, a Choice Scarf turns it into a potent revenge killer and late game cleaner. That said, just because its item has changed, does not mean its movepool has. Pretty much all of the tools that made the Choice Band set great also work well for the Choice Scarf set. Close Combat and Megahorn remain Heracross's best STAB attacks, packing the high base power needed to secure KOs. Knock Off also remains its best coverage move, having fantastic neutral coverage and also being an annoying attack to switch into in general due to most non-Mega Pokemon hating to have their items knocked off. The final slot remains a choice between Stone Edge for checking flying types, or Earthquake for coverage against Poison types.
However, this set starts to differ a little more as you get into Heracross's innate characteristics. Although 252 Attack and Speed EVs, and 4 Defense EVs remain standard, Jolly becomes the preferred nature on this set, and should always be picked over Adamant Nature. Likewise, the obvious addition of a Choice Scarf as the item mixes things up a little bit in terms of its ability. Guts is still very much viable since it prevents status from being an easy answer (although Paralysis is a bit more damning on this set so you may want to avoid that still), but Moxie becomes a viable option as well. While you can obviously use Choice Scarf to revenge kill a weakened opponent, it can also go hand in hand with Moxie to turn Heracross into a fearsome late game cleaner when everything is sufficiently weakened, as with every KO its attack will rise a stage, making it harder and harder to stop.
The Fist is Mightier than the Sword
Although less often seen than its Choice sets, Heracross can sacrifice coverage to emphasize power by running a Swords Dance set. Swords Dance allows Heracross to ramp its damage up to much higher levels, doubling its attack in one fell swoop. From there, using your already powerful STAB attacks in Close Combat and Megahorn will be all the more threatening. Likewise, Knock Off and its great nuisance of ridding things of items becomes more dangerous at +2. However, do note that although you’ll pack more power, the loss of Stone Edge or Earthquake means that certain Pokemon will be more easily able to switch in.
By now, 252 Attack and 252 Speed EVs with 4 defense EVs should seem pretty standard. Both Jolly and Adamant are viable on Swords Dance sets. Jolly is generally preferred as being outsped by things like Chandelure can ruin your day, but Adamant gives you the force needed to break through defensive Pokemon more easily. The choice of item comes down to preference for this set. Leftovers can extend Heracross’s longevity slightly, and prevent it from being worn down as easily. However, the combination of Toxic Orb and Guts can greatly increase Heracross’s damage output, but it effectively puts Heracross on a timer, as the poison damage will slowly kill it.
-Substitute is great for preventing revenge killing, as many of Heracross’s checks that outspeed it will lose to its if it has a Substitute up, and it protects it against status as well. Do note that a few solid answers to checking Heracross, such as Crobat and Noivern, pack Infiltrator to bypass substitutes.
Heracross may be powerful, but there are still a few things that can deal with it. Choice Band sets are arguably the hardest to switch into, but are more easily checked due to Heracross’s modest speed. That said, Granbull makes a fantastic counter to Heracross, as thanks to Intimidate and its physical bulk, there’s only a low chance for it to be 4HKO’ed by Choice Band sets, and even Toxic Orb Facade, its best bet against Fairy types, only 3HKOs. Meanwhile, an uninvested Play Rough has about a 68% chance to 1HKO Heracross. Chesnaught is capable of handling Choice Scarf sets, as it’s only 4HKO’ed and the combination of Spiky Shield and Leech Seed can whittle Heracross down, but it has to be wary of Choice Band sets being able to 2HKO. Likewise, Toxicroak can handle a Scarf Heracross lacking Earthquake, as Close Combat only has 14% chance to 2HKO while Gunk Shot will 1HKO. However, Choice Band Close Combat can reliably 2HKO, and given Toxicroak and Heracross speed tie, this can sometimes be a problem. Sylveon make an excellent counter to Heracross, only being 3HKO’ed by Choice Band sets, and being able to 1HKO about 68% of the time with an uninvested Pixilate Hyper Voice. Toxic Orb Facade can 2HKO it however, but even then Sylveon is still a check. Defensive Aromatisse is largely in the same boat, being 3HKO’ed at best by Choice Band sets, although it can only 2HKO Heracross in return. Florges can be a similar option, although with Stealth Rock up there is a chance Choice Band Heracross can 2HKO Florges, and Moonblast only 2HKOs; still, it can deal with a Scarf set pretty handily. Defensive Arcanine can take on Scarf sets thanks to Intimidate, as even Earthquake and Stone Edge will only 4HKO while Flare Blitz will 1HKO. It can even check the Choice Band set, as although Heracross outspeeds the defensive sets, they’re only 2HKO’ed by Earthquake and Stone Edge while Flare Blitz still 1HKOs. Nidoqueen has enough bulk to take most of Heracross’s attacks and destroy it with powerful special attacks, but it faces issues with eating an Earthquake and doesn’t appreciate Knock Off. The rest of Heracross’s checks and counters largely depend on the moves it runs. Crobat has no problem outspeeding and destroying Heracross, but it doesn’t like eating a Stone Edge, which for an offensive Crobat can soundly 1HKO on the Choice Band set, and deal upwards of 97% on the Scarf Set, meaning Stealth Rock damage or even a bit of prior damage can push it into 1HKO Range. Although Choice Scarf can flip the speed tiers on their head, Crobat naturally outspeeds Heracross and Brave Bird can soundly 1HKO it, even behind a Substitute thanks to Infiltrator. Powerful Fire types such as offensive Arcanine, Infernape, Darmanitan, and Entei all naturally outspeed Heracross and 1HKO it with a Fire STAB, but hate switching into Earthquake, and have to be wary of Choice Scarf (although some like Darmanitan and Infernape often run their own Choice Scarf to make this a non-issue). Espeon and Alakazam hate Megahorn, which 1HKOs, but they naturally outspeed non-Scarf variants and 1HKO it with their Psychic STAB. Mega Aerodactyl hates eating Close Combat or Stone Edge, but has no problem outspeeding and 1HKOing Heracross.
In more inclusive formats, Heracross finds itself under more pressure. Heracross can only 5HKO Defensive Landorus Therian Forme even with a Choice Band, while Stone Edge can 3HKO Heracross. Unaware Clefable can only be 3HKO’ed by Choice Band Heracross while generally not caring about Scarf or Swords Dance sets, and can 2HKO with Moonblast and keep itself healthy with Softboiled. Skarmory has trouble eating two consecutive Choice Band Close Combats but can shut down the Scarf set and 1HKO with Brave Bird. Talonflame has no trouble annihilating Heracross in a heartbeat with priority Brave Bird, but can’t switch into Stone Edge. Mega Pinsir’s Aerilate Quick Attack functions largely the same way; switching in can be hard, but thanks to the priority, Scarf becomes a non-issue when checking it. Likewise, a myriad of powerful Pokemon can outspeed and 1HKO Heracross, but have difficulty switching in; this includes the Mega Charizards, Mega Alakazam, Starmie, Volcarona, Staraptor, Mega Pidgeot, Mega Gallade, Mega Medicham, Tornadus Therian Forme, Latios, Latias, and more. Scarf Sets may make checking it a little harder due to turning speed tiers upside down, but in the end, Heracross’s speed tier is quite lacking in standard play, so it’s not too hard to outspeed. Overall while it’d be unwise to discount Heracross as a threat in more inclusive formats, it’s not the hardest Pokemon to deal with, as its physical bulk is an obvious weak spot in its bulk and its weaknesses are all pretty commonly found on teams.
Back in the day, base 125 attack was pretty much top notch. If you were sporting a base 125 Attack, you were the cream of the crop. But unfortunately, in the game of Pokemon, time tends to bring with it a power creep, as newer and more powerful Pokemon are introduced. Things started to reach base 140 attack or higher, meaning Heracross’s attack stat, while still good for sure, started to have more competition. But the good folks at Game Freak said no! We can’t have good ol’ Heracross fall behind! And so, when the Mega Evolutions came to town, Heracross found its base 125 Attack being ramped up even higher. But how high did they increase it? Well, they decided that Mega Heracross would have a higher attack that than Slaking. A higher attack stat than Rampardos. A higher attack stat than Attack Forme Deoxys, Primal Groudon, and Mega Rayquaza! Mega Heracross sports an absurd base 185 Attack stat, which is the second highest attack stat in the game, behind only Mega Mewtwo X. Not only that, but it got a boost to its defenses as well, so it now sports solid 80/115/105 defenses. And as the final cherry on the cake, Mega Heracross also got Skill Link, allowing it to abuse Bullet Seed, Rock Blast, and Pin Missile in order to break Sturdy and Focus Sashes, in addition to getting past Substitute. With all these boons, it would seem like it’s a great day for Mega Heracross… but there are a few things holding it back. It may have gained Attack and Bulk, but it had to trade a bit of speed for it. Now its average-but-underwhelming base 85 speed has fallen to a base 75, meaning that things like Gyarados and Dragonite can now outspeed it. In addition, although Skill Link is nice, it comes at the cost of the ever-valuable Guts, so status is altogether more threatening, most notably burns. Still, despite having a few flaws that prevent it from being a top tier threat, this Hercules beetle can pound you into oblivion if you let it. Be wary of Mega Heracross, as almost nothing can switch into it safely.
Skill Link: Moves that attack 2-5 times always hit 5 times. - Skill Link is a pretty useful ability for those who get it, and Mega Heracross...has mixed feelings about it. I mean, Mega Heracross probably would’ve been better off with Guts, but hey, Skill Link isn’t bad. It allows Heracross to a base 125 Bug type STAB attack in Pin Missile, which boasts considerably more accuracy than Megahorn, while also affording it useful base 125 coverage moves in Bullet Seed and Rock Blast. Plus, it comes with the added bonus of being a delightful way to break through Focus Sashes, Sturdy, and breaking Substitutes while still damaging the Pokemon behind them. That said, Mega Heracross really wishes it had a good fighting STAB to take advantage of Skill Link, as its only option, Arm Thrust, is pitifully weak, hitting for only a mere base 75 power total even with all five hits, making it majorly inferior to Close Combat. A shame, really.
Mega Heracross tends to be rather predictable; there’s not much variation in the sets it runs, to the point where it typically has one viable set. However, it’s one good set, that accomplishes exactly what it needs to do; hitting hard. Close Combat is Mega Heracross’s best STAB attack, boasting an insane base 120 power. Although the defense drops can be a problem at times, but it’s not an insurmountable issue. From there, Skill Link abuse becomes the name of the game. Thanks to Skill Link, Pin Missile becomes a base 125 power attack, being slightly stronger than Megahorn, but also boasting 100% accuracy, making it the preferable choice, no questions asked. Likewise, Rock Blast reaches 125 power, meaning it outdamages Stone Edge, but it also has 90% accuracy compared to Stone Edge’s 80%. A fair improvement, for sure. For its last moveslot, Mega Heracross finds itself with a few options. Swords Dance ramps up Mega Heracross’s already high attack to astronomical levels, meaning that even the sturdiest of walls aren’t going to want to take a hit. However, with Mega Heracross’s subpar speed, it can often be forced out, which’ll cost you those boosts. Substitute is also an option, as many of Mega Heracross’s checks, such as Talonflame for instance, will lose to it if Substitute is up, so it makes Mega Heracross harder to revenge kill. In addition, with the renewed threat of status, Substitute can be a nice buffer against it. Finally, it can opt for Bullet Seed in its final moveslot, which also takes advantage of Skill Link for a base 125 power grass type attack. However, the coverage is mainly for very specific threats, such as Quagsire, Azumarill, Rotom-W, and more. However, Mega Heracross tends to be able to 2HKO these Pokemon with the appropriate move, so Bullet Seed’s usefulness can be situational.
252 Attack EVs should go without saying; Mega Heracross wants to ensure it hits as hard as possible. Although 252 Speed EVs may seem somewhat questionable given Mega Heracross’s newfound speed tier causes it to be outsped by a myriad of offensive threats, it still finds itself wanting to be able to outspeed certain threats; with a Jolly Nature and 252 Speed EVs, it ensures that Mega Heracross speed ties with Zapdos, and outspeeds Breloom and Bisharp, both of which Heracross can 1HKO but can be a nuisance to Mega Heracross (in the form of Spore and Iron Head 2HKO’ing, respectively) if it is outsped. However, if these are not concerns for you, you can always opt for less speed, and instead put your remaining EVs into HP for added bulk. Regardless, it is recommended to still go with max speed. Jolly tends to be the preferable nature for being able to outspeed the aforementioned Pokemon, but Adamant also boasts being able to 2HKO almost the entire metagame; to put it in perspective, with Stealth Rock up Mega Heracross can 2HKO max defense Clefable 94% of the time, and guarantee a 2HKO on Skarmory. Prior to Mega Evolving, Mega Heracross’s best bet for an ability is Moxie, as Mega Heracross can theoretically net an attack boost by picking off a weakened target before Mega Evolving, although this is highly situational.
-Knock Off remains arguably the most annoying attack to switch into, and has decent coverage in general.
VGC, Double, & Triple Battle Options
The addition of the restricted legendaries (namely the Primals and Xerneas) did Heracross no favors in VGC 2016. While Mega Heracross was far from a top mega even in VGC 2015, its massive base attack and high base power attacks could threaten a majority of the Pokemon in the format. With the right speed control or proper support to keep it safe from threats like Salamence and Talonflame, Heracross can be absolutely terrifying once it starts firing off attacks.
You Cheeky Beetle
Either pre-mega ability is very situational, as you'll generally want to mega evolve right away since Skill Link is amazing with Heracross's moveset. Moxie is probably the preferred ability to occasionally get a free +1, but Guts could be considered if you know you'll get targeted by Will-O-Wisp and want to get a boost instead of having your attack halved. The EVs are pretty self-explanatory, as they allow Heracross to hit as hard and as fast as possible. Jolly nature is likely preferred to help outspeed as many things as possible, but Adamant can be chosen if the rest of the team has enough speed control. Protect is essential for doubles to absorb double targets or burn up turns of the opponent's speed control. Close Combat is his best Fighting STAB and does massive damage with his attack stat. While the defense drops are an unpleasant side effect, no other fighting move compares in power, and Heracross won't be tanking multiple hits anyway. Pin Missile combined with Skill Link is deadly, and can even help you threaten bulky Pokemon like Cresselia that normally feel safe sitting on the field for multiple turns. Rock Blast provides essential coverage against flying types like Salamence or Charizard, and can OHKO Mega Rayquaza through its potential Focus Sash if you can eliminate Strong Winds. Bullet Seed, however, is a nice alternative if your team has those threats covered, and can even OHKO some of the bulkiest Primal Kyogres. Pin Missile, Rock Blast, and Bullet Seed are also incredibly useful for OHKOing Focus Sash users, especially the incredibly annoying Smeargle.
-Knock Off gives solid coverage alongside Close Combat, and can help Heracross hit Aegislash hard, who otherwise walls Heracross.
Countering Mega Heracross
To try and find something that can switch into Mega Heracross is something of a tall order, as its gargantuan attack stat and good coverage make countering Mega Heracross a daunting task. Arguably the best answer would be bulky users of Intimidate, most notably Landorus Therian Forme and Granbull. Both are only 4HKO’ed at best, by an unboosted Rock Blast, while neither can be 1HKO’ed even if Heracross sets up a single Swords Dance. Although Landorus Therian Forme’s defensive sets won’t be KOing Mega Heracross on their own, it is able to utilize a slow U-turn to safely allow one of Heracross’s checks to switch in after taking the hit from Mega Heracross. Granbull is able to 2HKO Mega Heracross with Play Rough, or cripple its already lackluster speed with Thunder Wave. Physically defensive Clefable can manage to take on Mega Heracross with some degree of reliability, being able to only be 3HKO’ed while 2HKOing’ it with Moonblast. However, it is worth noting that Mega Heracross can 2HKO Clefable with an Adamant Nature and Stealth Rock up, so be wary. Gliscor is only 3HKO’ed by Mega Heracross’s Rock Blast, but can 2HKO with Acrobatics, even with an item held, or can attempt to stall with Roost and Toxic; however, be wary that Swords Dance and Substitute can complicate the Stall attempts. Not much else really wants to switch into Mega Heracross due to its insanely high attack, but it’s not all bad news. Due to the lower speed, inability to hold a Choice Scarf, and the lack of Guts, Mega Heracross is much easier to check than Standard Heracross. Things such as Rotom-W can now burn Mega Heracross with Will-o-Wisp, although Substitute can be a problem and Mega Heracross can 2HKO it as well. Likewise, Sableye can utilize Prankster Will-o-Wisp but can be mutilated by Pin Missile. Some Pokemon may not outspeed Mega Heracross but are bulky enough not to be 1HKO’ed, meaning they can check Mega Heracross but not necessarily counter it. This includes things such as Azumarill, Mega Altaria, and Skarmory, all of whom can be 2HKO’ed, but can 1HKO Mega Heracross. Likewise, many things can’t switch in at all, but can easily outspeed Mega Heracross and destroy it. Things like either Mega Charizard, Starmie, Alakazam, Tornadus Therian Forme, Staraptor, Talonflame, Latios, Mega Pinsir, and more can all force Mega Heracross out if not KO it. Mega Heracross is a double edged sword in that respect; it’s hard to counter due to its raw power, as very few things wanna switch into it, but it’s not very difficult to check, as most offensive Pokemon can outspeed it.
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