Darmanitan, The Blazing Pokémon. When one is injured in a fierce battle, it hardens into a stone-like form. Then it meditates and sharpens its mind. Its internal fire burns at 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, making enough power that it can destroy a dump truck with one punch.
It’s big, it’s red, and it’s angry! Gen 5’s Darmanitan certainly isn’t a flashy Pokemon. Rather, it is a one-dimensional, finely tuned combat machine with a single purpose; hit things as hard as possible! With a fantastic base 140 attack, a great ability in Sheer Force, and a high-powered STAB in Flare Blitz, Darmanitan certainly has no trouble achieving this purpose. With decent HP, Speed, and coverage moves, things certainly seem to be going pretty well for Darmanitan. However, Darmanitan does have quite a few significant flaws that hold it back and prevent it from being a dominant force. Although its HP stat may be good, its defenses are not, which means it struggles to take hits and is hard to switch in, especially with a Stealth Rock Weakness. In addition, its dependence on Flare Blitz to secure KOs further limits its longevity, as the recoil will wear Darmanitan down. As a result, while Darmanitan may be able to deal high damage, it also takes high damage as well, making it a bit of a glass cannon. While its tendency to be KO’ed quickly prevents it from being a top tier threat, its raw power cannot be denied.
Sheer Force: Moves with a secondary effect are increased in power by 33% but lose their secondary effect. - If you want to hit ridiculously hard, then Sheer Force is your best friend. Darmanitan loves Sheer Force for its ability to power up Flare Blitz, Fire Punch, and Rock Slide, giving them a noticeable boost in power in exchange for omitting their low-occurring secondary effects. Not only that, but Life Orb recoil is also negated for moves powered up by Sheer Force! That said, to be clear, it does not negate Flare Blitz’s recoil damage, and if a move doesn’t get a Sheer Force boost, you’ll still take Life Orb recoil. Regardless though, Sheer Force is a fantastic ability, and the only one you’ll ever want to use on Darmanitan.
Blaze of Glory
When it comes to movepools, Darmanitan very rarely has any real variation. Pretty much all of its sets utilize similar movepools, but they can fill different roles. Regardless, Flare Blitz is the crux of pretty much every set worth using. With Sheer Force and base 140 attack backing it up, it is an absolute nuke that can deal heavy damage even to things that resist it. From there, Rock Slide is a solid coverage move that can deal well with opposing Fire types, in addition to most flying types, and as a bonus it also gets a Sheer Force boost as well! U-Turn allows Darmanitan to pivot out and scout, which is useful since the power of its Flare Blitz can often force switches against the things that obviously will be obliterated by them. Finally, for the last moveslot Darmanitan has a few choices. Earthquake is the most reliable, hitting things like Infernape, Tentacruel, and the Nido’s for super effective damage, while Superpower can 1HKO Mega Sharpedo and Hydreigon. Either one is a viable option.
252 Speed EVs and a Jolly Nature are mandatory to ensure Darmanitan is as fast as possible, since being outsped usually spells disaster for it with its all around poor bulk. Naturally, 252 Attack EVs are also invested to ensure you’re hitting as hard as possible as well. The remaining 4 EVs are put into Special Defense. Sheer Force is always the ability of choice because it’s Darmanitan’s only useful ability. In terms of items however, Darmanitan has a few options despite the movepool remaining the same. Choice Scarf is the most popular and useful item choice, allowing Darmanitan to effectively revenge kill, Scout with U-Turn, and clean up a weakened team. However, if it wants to adopt more of a wall-breaking role, it can go for either Choice Band or Life Orb. Choice Band’s power cannot be denied, but it does lock Darmanitan into its attack so you’ll spend most of the time firing off Banded Flare Blitzes. Life Orb hits a little less hard, but does allow the freedom to switch attacks, and thanks to Sheer Force, it doesn’t suffer Life Orb damage on Flare Blitz or Rock Slide. However, the recoil can add up if you’re pivoting out with U-Turn.
-Fire Punch is substantially less powerful than Flare Blitz, but it has no recoil damage. It does still get a Sheer Force boost, but the drop in power is often too costly for Darmanitan due to its frailty necessitating securing those KOs.
VGC, Double, & Triple Battle Options
Unfortunately Darmanitan really struggles in VGC 2016. Between Primal Kyogre's ability shutting down its fire moves, its weakness to both of the Primals' STAB moves, and the popularity of both Intimidate and Trick Room, Darmanitan has a very difficult time making an impact. In formats where the restricted legendaries are banned, however, Darmanitan can do what it does best in singles: hit like a truck. Despite its mediocre defenses, it may be able to take down an opponent or two before it goes down.
This set's goal is to just hit as hard and as fast as possible. Max attack and speed maximize what Darmanitan does best, and Sheer Force takes this even further when using moves with secondary effects like Flare Blitz or Rock Slide. Jolly with a Life Orb can increase the damage even further (especially with speed control to allow it to still attack first), but a Choice Scarf can allow Darmanitan to hit big without the need for support like Tailwind or Icy Wind. If using the Choice Scarf, Darmanitan can have an Adamant nature since it will still outspeed the most common Choice Scarf user in Adamant Landorus-T.
Flare Blitz is scary strong and Darmanitan's best move. With its high base power, STAB bonus, Sheer Force boost, and potential Life Orb damage increase, Darmanitan' Flare Blitz can put massive dents in your opponent's team. Give it Drought or Sunny Day support and there really isn't much that appreciates taking a neutral Flare Blitz from Darmanitan! Rock Slide also gets a Sheer Force boost, and while it can no longer flinch opponents, it does do big spread damage to the opposing team with Darmanitan's high base attack. Superpower is for coverage, especially against rock or steel types. Protect is a necessary 4th move if Darmanitan carries the Life Orb since its bulk is not great, but U-turn (for switch initiative) and Earthquake (another strong spread move for coverage) can fill the final slot if using the Scarf.
-Oh Zen Mode...while it's potentially a little more viable in doubles since Darmanitan's teammate can set up Trick Room for it, it's still very unreliable since Darmanitan has to lose half its health for Zen Mode to activate. If you're brave enough to use it, special moves like Heat Wave, Psychic, or Flamethrower best utilize the huge special attack stat it gains upon switching forms. Sheer Force is just so much better and vastly more consistent.
Darmanitan hits hard, but it is not unstoppable. Standing tall on the list of Pokemon who don’t care what Darmanitan throws at them is none other than Suicune, whose bulk allows it to usually only be 4HKO’ed even by Choice Band sets (which is a 5HKO on Choice Scarf sets), while 2HKOing with Scald in return, and with Stealth Rock up this has a high chance of 1HKOing. Vaporeon works similarly although takes the hits a little worse; Choice Band sets can 3HKO Vaporeon, while Scarf sets 5HKO. Meanwhile Scald can 2HKO with a very low chance of 1HKOing, which turns into a guaranteed 1HKO with Stealth Rock... or even Flare Blitz’s own recoil! Milotic takes hits a little worse than Vaporeon, with Band sets still 3HKOing while Scarf sets 4HKO, but is Scald can still 2HKO, which turns into a 1HKO if Stealth Rock is up. Defensive Swampert is 3HKO’ed at best by Choice Band sets and usually only 5HKO’ed by Choice Scarf sets, while being able to soundly 1HKO Darmanitan with Earthquake. Defensive Blastoise functions much the same, only being 3HKO’ed by Banded sets, and only 5HKO’ed about 70% of the time by Scarf Sets. Blastoise’s Scald can 2HKO Darmanitan, while with some help from Stealth Rock it turns into a 1HKO a little over half the time. Rhyperior can only be 3HKO’ed by Choice Band Earthquake, while its own Earthquake can 1HKO Darmanitan even without investment. Darmanitan also have some situational counters as well. If it’s lacking Superpower, Hydreigon can be a problem for Darmanitan, as it is immune to Earthquake and resists Flare Blitz. Although Choice Band U-Turn can 1HKO if Stealth Rock is up, Hydreigon naturally outspeeds Darmanitan (and often carries its own Scarf to outspeed Scarf Darmanitan), and can soundly 1HKO Darmanitan with Draco Meteor or Earth Power (although the latter needs Stealth Rock to do so reliably). Defensive Tentacruel can stifle Scarf sets lacking Earthquake, although Choice Band Flare Blitz can threaten to 2HKO it, so it does need to be wary depending on the set. However, Scarf Sets only 3HKO if they lack Earthquake, while Scald can 2HKO or manage to sneak in a 1HKO if Stealth Rocks are up. Many Pokemon can be 2HKO’ed by Darmanitan’s Life Orb or Choice Band sets but will never be 1HKO’ed and can 1HKO in return. This includes Haxorus, Mega Blastoise, Mega Swampert, Feraligatr, Crawdaunt, and more. The raw power of an item-powered Flare Blitz can be tough to switch into, but when switching in is taken out of the equation, a lot of things can check Darmanitan. There’s also Pokemon who naturally outspeed Darmanitan to consider; although they don’t want to switch in, things like Mienshao, Mega Aerodactyl, Sharpedo, and more can all outspeed and 1HKO Darmanitan, and many utilize Scarf or other means to outspeed Darmanitan’s own Scarf sets. You also might’ve noticed Stealth Rock coming up a lot; putting up Stealth Rock early greatly limits Darmanitan’s longevity, as it’ll lose a quarter of its HP every time that it switches in, and combined with Flare Blitz recoil, this can greatly add up. Darmanitan also utilizes Choice items, so preying on it being locked into attacks can shift the momentum in your favor; for instance, Chandelure loves coming in on a Darmanitan locked into Flare Blitz, since its Flash Fire will allow it to force Darmanitan out. Likewise, if Darmanitan is locked into Earthquake, the obvious flying types and Levitate users can force it out.
Darmanitan also has issues if you use it in more inclusive formats, as well. Slowbro can only be 3HKO’ed at best by Choice Band Flare Blitz (and U-Turn deals up to 49% damage), while 2HKOing with Scald (1HKO with Stealth Rock, and can heal off damage taken thanks to Regenerator. Mega Slowbro takes hits even better, as it is only 4HKO’ed by any of Choice Band Darmanitan’s attacks, and Scald can 1HKO 87% of the time from full health. Defensive Rotom-W is only 3HKO’ed the majority of the time by Choice Band Flare Blitz, while it can 1HKO with an uninvested Hydro Pump. Tank Garchomp can only be 3HKO’ed by Choice Band Flare Blitz, and the recoil from Rough Skin and possibly Rocky Helmet can greatly punish Darmanitan, if it doesn’t just 1HKO it outright with Earthquake. Defensive Landorus-T can be 2HKO’ed by Choice Band Flare Blitz, but it soundly 1HKOs Darmanitan with Earthquake and can freely switch into other coverage moves. Latios and Latias can be 2HKO’ed by Choice Band sets, but they naturally outspeed Darmanitan and can soundly 1HKO it with Draco Meteor. Azumarill can be 2HKO’ed by Choice Band Darmanitan, but it is never 1HKO’ed and Waterfall can 1HKO on any set, while Choice Band Aqua Jet also 1HKOs and circumvents the speed difference. Dragonite can avoid the 1HKO on Choice Banded Rock Slide thanks to Multiscale, and in turn 1HKO with Earthquake or set up a Dragon Dance and sweep. Manaphy outspeeds Choice Band Darmanitan and 1HKOs with Surf, while Choice Band sets can 2HKO it in return. Choice Scarf Darmanitan can only 3HKO Manaphy, and of course still finds itself 1HKO’ed. Although Heatran hates both Earthquake and Superpower, it can switch into a choice-locked Flare Blitz thanks to Flash Fire, and 2HKO with an uninvested Earth Power, or hit Darmanitan with Toxic to further wear it down. The list of things that outspeeds Darmanitan becomes higher as well; Tornadus-T, Talonflame, Thundurus, Mega Manectric, Mega Lopunny and more can all naturally outspeed and threaten Darmanitan. Thundurus deserves a special mention as its Prankster Thunder Wave can cripple Darmanitan in an emergency, which is especially bad on Choice Scarf sets. In the end, Darmanitan may hit hard, but it’s prone to being worn down, and anything that can survive a hit, such as Hippowdon for example, can usually 1HKO it back. So while using Darmanitan in standard play might not be the best idea due to its lack of bulk and meager speed by more inclusive standards, it can still be useful in lower tiered play.
Like its evolution, Darumaka has a singular purpose in the Little Cup, and that purpose is to hit as hard as possible. Also like its evolution, this is aided by its high-powered STAB attack, Flare Blitz. The recoil can certainly put a limit of Darumaka’s longevity, but the raw power cannot be denied. U-Turn on the other hand, while not necessarily intended for heavy hitting, allows Darumaka to pivot out, especially against predicted switches. Rock Slide works well against fire and flying types, most notably Archen and Fletchinder, the latter of whom is a huge threat in the Little Cup. Superpower, on the other hand, rounds off Darumaka’s coverage, allowing it to hit things like Porygon and Omanyte for super effective damage.
196 Attack and 196 Speed with a Jolly Nature allows Darumaka to hit 18 Attack and 15 speed, maximizing its offensive output. The rest of its EVs are put into HP. Hustle is the preferred ability for Darumaka, affording it a 50% increase in damage! ...However, you will lose 20% accuracy in the exchange, so the threat of being screwed by a random miss is always a possibility. In terms of items, Darumaka is capable of utilizing both a Choice Scarf or a Choice Band. Due to the power afforded by Hustle, Choice Scarf is the more common item, allowing it to outspeed fast threats like Abra and Gastly, allowing for easy revenge killing and late game cleaning. However, Choice Band’s power is absolutely significant, as it can allow Darumaka to 1HKO a bulky Mienfoo with Flare Blitz. Either one is viable, although Choice Scarf is arguably the more viable of the two.
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