Salamence, The Dragon Pokémon. Salamence came about as a result of a strong, long-held dream of growing wings. It is said that this powerful desire triggered a sudden mutation in this Pokémon's cells, causing it to sprout its magnificent wings. By evolving into Salamence, this Pokémon finally realizes its long-held dream of growing wings. To express its joy, it flies and wheels all over the sky while spouting flames from its mouth. It's uncontrollable if enraged. It flies around spouting flames and scorching fields and mountains.It destroys everything with shredding claws and fire.
Salamence has always been one of the most popular Dragon-types since its introduction in Gen 3. As the first Dragon-type that actually looked like a menacing dragon, Salamence has had a great impression and its battle abilities reflect that. Its stats and movepool are often compared to Rayquaza, often dubbed as a “poor man's Rayquaza” due to being far more reasonable to fight in standard play. However, being considered an inferior Rayquaza isn't so much an insult as it is a descriptor of its great power. A terrifying sweeper with great movepool to complement seems like the perfect combination for any offensive Pokémon, but unfortunately for Salamence, it had to compete with Dragonite who got the better end of the deal in Gen 5 as a Dragon Dance sweeper with Multiscale. Salamence didn't get too shortchanged itself though, as Moxie made it a very dangerous late-game cleaner with Outrage. The introduction of Fairy-types is really what hurt Salamence, causing it to fall out of the spotlight completely until ORAS came around and gave it an immensely powerful new Mega Evolution. Leaving the Mega Evolution aside though, Salamence is still a powerful threat in its own right, capable of running a variety of offensive sets due to its great mixed offenses, as well as a bulkier Defog set thanks to its solid defensive typing. Being mostly outclassed by Dragonite and having an immensely superior Mega Evolution doesn't mean for a second that Salamence isn't a powerful threat, just be very mindful of what rules you're playing by before you decide to use Salamence over either of them.
Intimidate: Upon entering battle, the opponent’s Attack lowers one stage. In a Double Battle, both opponents' Attack are lowered. Pokémon with the Clear Body, Hyper Cutter, or White Smoke ability are unaffected. In a link battle, if both sides switch on the same turn, and first player sends out a Pokémon with Intimidate, the opponent’s Attack will be lowered before the opponent’s Pokémon switches. This is an amazing ability both in Singles and Doubles, reducing the Attack of a foe makes it easier for both Salamence and its teammates to deal with opposing physical attackers. This is the better ability in most cases, and always the ability of choice in Doubles.
- Outrage / Dragon Claw
Salamence has all of the tools it needs to function as a Dragon Dance sweeper, as well as the stats to back it up. Outrage or Dragon Claw are the ideal STAB move for Salamence, with the former offering greater power at the cost of being locked into it for two or three turns. Dragon Claw is preferred if you want a STAB move to use that doesn't force you to remove Steel-types and Fairy-types before bringing Salamence in. Earthquake allows Salamence to deal with these Steel-types itself, preventing many of them from being able to simply come in and stop Salamence from sweeping. Fire Blast is an alternative that hits Ferrothorn and Forretress harder though, which is very useful even if it isn't boosted by Dragon Dance. Despite its shaky accuracy, Iron Tail prevents Salamence from being completely walled by Fairy-types, allowing it to threaten them late-game if Salamence's teammates were unable to remove them beforehand. If its teammates can adequately handle Fairy-types though, running both Earthquake and Fire Blast is a viable alternative if Iron Tail's accuracy is too unappealing for you.
Maximums Attack and Speed investment allows Salamence to hit as hard and fast as possible, with the leftover EVs being placed in Special Defense to prevent Download Porygon2 from getting a Special Attack boost. A Jolly nature should be used (or Naive if using Fire Blast) to take advantage of Salamence's great Speed tier, as there are many threats just below base 100 Speed that Salamence wants to outspeed. However, an Adamant nature is a viable option if outspeeding threats such as Hydreigon isn't a concern. Lum Berry is the preferred item to let Salamence shrug off status once, though Life Orb can boost Salamence's damage output to very dangerous levels if the buffer against status isn't necessary. Intimidate is the preferred ability to help Salamence set up more easily against physical attackers, though Moxie's Attack boosts can help Salamence sweep more efficiently.
- Draco Meteor
This set takes advantage of Salamence's mixed offenses and places greater focus on its Special Attack. Draco Meteor is Salamence's strongest STAB move, effectively surprising physical walls expecting a Dragon Dance set. Fire Blast hits Steel-types such as Ferrothorn and Skarmory hard, though since this set often forces the opponent to bait Draco Meteor drops to force Salamence out, so knowing when the opponent might switch in a Steel-type is important. Outrage is a physical STAB option that lets Salamence hit special walls hard despite lack of Attack investment. Earthquake provides extra coverage against Steel-types without worrying about Draco Meteor drops as much, and provides more general coverage so that it doesn't need to use Draco Meteor as frequently. Defog allows Salamence to function as an offensive support, removing hazards from the field for its team at the cost of giving up coverage. Roost can be used in the final slot to give Salamence some longevity amidst Life Orb recoil and any other damage it takes throughout the battle, though this gives up even more coverage so be careful using this alongside Defog. Otherwise, Salamence can use another coverage move or Defog in the final slot if running Outrage.
Maximum Special Attack and Speed investment allows Salamence to hit as hard and fast as possible from the special side, while the leftovers are placed in Special Defense to prevent Porygon2 from getting a Special Attack boost from Download. A Naive nature should be used if running physical coverage moves, though if Salamence isn't running any physical attacks then a Timid nature is preferred. Life Orb is the preferred item choice to boost Salamence's overall damage output even further. Intimidate is preferred over Moxie here since Salamence doesn't make much use of physical attacks for Moxie to be worth it.
- Salamence has many other options, making effective use of a Choice Scarf set with Moxie to function both as a revenge killer and late-game cleaner. However, this set is even more dependent on removing Fairy-types and Steel-types to be effective.
Despite being compared to Rayquaza, Salamence is thankfully nowhere near as difficult to take down. As you may have caught on, Fairy-types are very effective answers to Salamence, especially if it lacks Iron Tail. Sylveon, Azumarill, Florges, Clefable, Mega Altaria, and Mega Gardevoir are all among effective answers to Mega Salamence, as they stop Salamence from just carelessly using Outrage just with their presence. However, most of these Fairy-types are physically frail without investment, so unless you're using Azumarill which doesn't mind Iron Tail, or Clefable which is often physically defensive, be careful around Iron Tail variants. Ice-types are also an effective way to stop Salamence, so Weavile, Cloyster, Mega Abomasnow, and Mamoswine can both give Salamence a difficult time. Common users of Ice-type moves such as Porygon2, Cresselia and bulky Water-types such as Suicune, Empoleon, Mega Blastoise, and Slowbo also stop Salamence since they're often bulky enough to handle anything it throws at them. Salamence also hates status, so common users of Thunder Wave and Will-O-Wisp give Salamence a tough time even if it has a Lum Berry. Thundurus, Rotom-W and most of the aforementioned threats are also capable of stopping Salamence with status moves. Life Orb recoil and Stealth Rock damage can also add up fast on Salamence due to its Rock-type weakness, so wearing it down with Stealth Rock is another effective way to deal with Salamence. If you're feeling brave, Steel-types such as Aegislash, Doublade, Forretress, Ferrothorn, and Skarmory can also give Salamence a tough time, though Fire Blast and Earthquake messes with most of them so be careful of what Salamence might be carrying before sending in a Steel-type. Salamence might be have a terrifying Mega Evolution, but if that's not something you have to worry about Salamence doing, slaying this dragon isn't an unrealistic task.
If Gen 4 Salamence wasn't scary enough for you, Mega Salamence is a truly terrifying monster that makes most other Dragon-types look tame in comparison. A huge boost to its Defense and notable boost to its Attack and Speed turn an already solid Pokémon into one of the strongest Mega Evolutions in the game, and Aerilate fixes its lack of Flying-type STAB completely, allowing it to break through even bulky Fairy-types with ease after a bit of setup. While Mega Salamence is still inferior to Mega Rayquaza in almost any instance, this doesn't stop Mega Salamence from being more than capable from viciously tearing your team apart. That and, being second to the most powerful Pokémon in the game is not a weakness of Mega Salamence by any means. If anything, our croissant-shaped friend is glad that Mega Rayquaza is so strong that some formats disallow it completely, since Mega Salamence would have a tough time fitting in any Singles format otherwise. Mega Salamence is the kind of Pokémon that many people look at and wonder what in the world Game Freak was thinking when designing this supposedly hyper-broken Mega Evolution, though that stands as more of a consequence of 6v6 formats making it so much easier for Mega Salamence to come in and start setting up. In comparison, 3v3 formats find it very reasonable to take down this beast and sometimes even prefer other Megas in place of Mega Salamence. That's not to downplay how much of a monster Mega Salamence is; this thing will tear you apart if you're even the least bit unprepared, but depending on which format you play, this might not be the uncounterable beast you think it is.
Aerilate: Increases the power of Normal-type moves by 30%. It then changes those moves to Flying-type. This ability is a life-saver for basically anything that gets it, this gives Mega Salamence an incredibly powerful STAB option that it didn't have before, which lets it beat down Fairy-types that otherwise held it back.
- Return / Double-Edge
This is the definitive Mega Salamence set, a fearsome Dragon Dance sweeper that's incredibly difficult to take down once it sets up. Return is Mega Salamence's safest STAB move thanks to Aerilate, though Frustration achieves the same power at minimum happiness if you're paranoid about Ditto. Double-Edge is a more powerful alternative that makes it easier for Mega Salamence to break bulkier foes, though the recoil adds up fast and can end its sweep sooner than you'd want. Roost helps keep Mega Salamence healthy and ensure that it can stick around longer, which pairs well with Double-Edge to mitigate the recoil. Earthquake offers great coverage that allows Mega Salamence to break through Steel-types Rock-types such as Dialga and Tyranitar, though it typically needs a Dragon Dance boost to actually break through them. Substitute takes advantage of Mega Salamence's ability to easily force switches, while also shielding it from status. Meanwhile, Refresh can be used to immediately cure Mega Salamence from status, which is particularly useful if running a bulkier spread.
The listed spread is designed to maximize Mega Salamence's damage output while making it as fast as possible; an Adamant nature is preferred to boost its damage output further though Jolly is also viable to avoid being outsped by base 110 Pokémon such as Latios and Latias. Intimidate is the preferred ability prior to Mega Evolving to make setting up easier, and naturally Salamencite is necessary for Mega Evolving. However, Mega Salamence is incredibly flexible with EV spreads and the above is ideal if using Mega Salamence in standard play, typically under Battle Spot rules. If playing in formats where other legendaries are allowed, a spread of 80 HP / 252 Atk / 176 Spe with an Adamant still ensures Salamence outspeeds fully invested neutral-natured base 90 Pokémon before Mega Evolving. A bulkier spread of 248 HP / 136 Def / 124 Spe with an Impish nature is also viable if a bulkier Mega Salamence is desired, which still outspeeds uninvested base 90 Pokémon.
- Draco Meteor
This is a set that will more typically be used in standard Battle Spot play, since Mega Salamence's Special Attack is not very impressive when compared to legendaries. Draco Meteor is a powerful Dragon-type STAB that surprises common Electric-types such as Rotom-W, Zapdos, and Thunduurs, and also takes care of opposing Dragon-types. Double-Edge still does huge damage without investment, and allows Mega Salamence to break through specially bulky foes, and notably hits Fairy-types such as Mega Gardevoir and Azumarill. Fire Blast allows Mega Salamence to hit Steel-types such as Ferrothorn, Skarmory, and Scizor, which otherwise can threaten Mega Salamence to varying degrees. Earthquake can be used to cover Steel-types that aren't hit by Fire Blast, namely Heatran which resists all of Mega Salamence's other moves. Roost can be used if you don't fear Heatran, in order to keep Mega Salamence healthy, while Hyper Voice gives Mega Salamence a powerful secondary STAB move that doesn't force it to rely on its physical attacks or switch out.
Maximum Special Attack and Speed investment ensures that Mega Salamence hits as hard and fast as possible from the special side, as this set is meant to surprise physical walls that normally can handle Mega Salamence just fine. A Rash nature is preferred to boost Special Attack further since this set doesn't have a boosting move to increase power that way, and this still outspeeds Jolly Garchomp. However, a Naive nature prevents it being outsped by threats in the dangerous base 110 range, such as Latios. Intimidate is also the preferred ability prior to Mega Evolving to give Mega Salamence a buffer to its already amazing Defense, and Salamencite is required to make use of this amazing Mega Evolution.
- Mega Salamence has no shortage of options it can utilize. In formats with legendaries, a defensive Defog set with Body Slam can be utilized, as the paralysis chance can disrupt many offensive threats.
VGC, Double, & Triple Battle Options
Mega Salamence has been one of the best mega evolutions in VGC since its arrival in the 2015 format. While non-mega Salamence has not seen much usage in high-level play, the mega has risen to the top, especially in this year's format. Before mega-evolving, Intimidate is one of the best support abilities to hinder the opposing team's physical attacks. After mega-evolving, Salamence's high defense, especially combined with Intimidate, and great speed tier already make it very strong. Factor in its high attack and special attack, along with its amazing ability Aerilate, and Salamence has a strong case for being one of the best all around Pokemon in VGC.
The basic outline of this set is pretty common, but it's very effective. Intimidate is always the preferred pre-mega ability, as it's much more valuable to lower the attack of things like Primal Groudon, Mega Kangaskhan, and Rayquaza than to get a Moxie boost once in while. Max speed with a Naive nature allows Salamence to be as fast as possible, outspeeding just about everything relevant that isn't Weavile, Crobat, Mega Gengar, and Mega Manectric. A Hasty nature may also be chosen over Naive, but it lessons the defensive boost from Intimidate, and every relevant priority move is physical. Max special attack allows Hyper Voice (which is the attack you'll use most of the time) to hit as hard as possible, but some of this investment can be moved to attack in order to hit things like Primal Kyogre harder with Double Edge and achieve certain OHKOs or 2HKOs.
Hyper Voice, due to the Aerilate and STAB boosts, hits both opponents very hard. Double-Edge, even with minimal investment, can still do a lot of damage due to those same boosts and Mega Salamence's highest base stat. Protect is necessary in doubles to stall out your opponent's turns of speed control, dodge Fake Out, and allow a teammate to take out a threat like Weavile for Salamence. The fourth move is where trainers will often differ in their sets, and can be up to what the team needs. Draco Meteor gets off huge damage, and can deal with many of the strong dragon types in the format. Tailwind helps speed up the team, especially the Primals to help them get off big, fast damage. Substitute's greatest value is helping Salamence dodge status moves, especially Smeargle's Dark Void, but can also help keep it safe from certain OHKOs. Fire Blast is mainly for things like Mega Mawile, Scizor, Ferrothorn, and Levitate Bronzong, but you just have to watch out for Primal Kyogre's rain protecting those Pokemon. Flamethrower can also be considered if you want perfect accuracy.
-Dragon Dance is tough to find a chance to use in VGC 2016, but still has a lot of value in Ranked Battles on Battle Spot Doubles. Ideally Salamence loves a redirector to help it set-up. Return (or Frustration if you fear being copied by a Ditto) is preferred over Double-Edge so you can sweep without KOing yourself. Salamence will typically want an Adamant or Jolly nature, and can afford to invest some speed in bulk since very little can outspeed it at +1.
Countering Mega Salamence
As a Mega that has the honor of being considered “almost as good as Mega Rayquaza,” one can imagine that taking down Mega Salamence is far from easy. Few Pokémon can outspeed Mega Salamence naturally, so most answers depend on their defensive typing to check Mega Salamence. Lugia is the most reliable answer to Mega Salamence, easily taking a few hits from it while either phasing it out with Whirlwind out or taking it down with Ice Beam, though it must be careful switching in directly if Stealth Rock is in play. In a similar vein Mega Salamence also hates Stealth Rock wearing it down. Primal Groudon can threaten more offensive variants with Stone Edge and Thunder Wave can harass some variants, though Mega Salamence can also threaten Primal Groudon back and lower its Attack with Intimidate. Support Arceus formes can also give Mega Salamence a tough time; notably Rock-, Water-, and even Electric-type Arceus can threaten Mega Salamence with Judgment or Ice Beam respectively, though they must be careful when dealing with boosted Mega Salamence, especially if it might be carrying Earthquake. Tyranitar and Dialga with Shuca Berry can also reliably stop Mega Salamence and threaten it with status or outright KO with their respective STAB moves. Similarly Klefki can harass Mega Salamence with Thunder Wave, though it must be careful with Earthquake.
In Battle Spot, most of these answers are no longer available, though many options that are not viable when legendaries are in play become far more viable answers. The nature of 3v3 makes it harder for Mega Salamence to set up to begin with, so common users of Ice-type moves such as Cresselia, Porygon2, Suicune, Zapdos, Mega Slowbro, and Thundurus are all effective answers to Mega Salamence. More offensive users of Ice-type moves such as Weavile, Greninja and Mamoswine also give Mega Salamence a tough time since they all commonly run Focus Sash, so even Dragon Dance boosts will not stop them from dealing with Mega Salamence. Meanwhile, with no Primal Groudon to ruin its day, Mega Mawile usually has little trouble dealing with Mega Salamence, especially with Intimidate before it Mega Evolves. Just note that a lot of these can't be considered reliable answers to Mega Salamence in 6v6 since staying healthy long enough to deal with Mega Salamence and its teammates is more difficult or even unreasonable, and many of these are unviable once legendaries are thrown into the mix. However, while Mega Salamence might be one of the most terrifying Pokémon in the entire game, it isn't impossible to deal with. Just be glad that the Mega Salamence you're facing isn't the king of the skies itself.
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