Keldeo, The Colt Pokémon. It crosses the world, running over the surfaces of oceans and rivers. It appears at scenic waterfronts. By blasting water from its hooves, it can glide across water. It excels at using leg moves while battling. When it is resolute, its body fills with power and it becomes swifter. Its jumps are then too fast to follow.
Behold, the final (and smallest) Sword of Justice! While this pony may visually be the least intimidating of the Swords of Justice, its cute appearance belies its true power. Keldeo is arguably the most dangerous of the musketeers. With a potent offensive STAB combination, fantastic speed and special attack, and decent bulk to boot, Keldeo has a pretty ideal stat spread which you’d be hard pressed to find a weak spot in. However, although Keldeo has a lot of things going for it, it also has a few things holding it back. The most obvious issue is its movepool, which tends to be pretty shallow outside of its STAB attacks, leaving it with only weak options like Hidden Power and Icy Wind. In addition, having an ability that’s useless for it does it no favors as well. Gen 6 made its life a little harder as well, given the advent of Fairy types give it a new weakness, powerful flying and psychic types can check it more easily, and base 110 speed, which it just falls short of, has become a more important speed tier. Still, these issues are nominal at best, as Keldeo is still arguably one of the most dangerous Pokemon available in standard play. This pony may be small, but it has no problem reminding you of why it’s a Sword of Justice!
Justified: Attack is raised by one stage when the Pokémon is hit by a Dark-type move. - Justified is Keldeo’s only ability, so it goes without saying that you have to use it. Justified isn’t necessarily a bad ability. Getting an attack boost on a resisted hit isn’t a bad deal, especially with how common things like Knock Off are. However… Keldeo doesn’t really use its attack, ever, since base 72 attack is poor compared to its fantastic base 129 special attack. As a result, this ability does nothing for Keldeo.
WIth its high speed and special attack, it should come as no surprise that Keldeo is right at home with Choice items. Although it can utilize different choice items, the movepool remains largely the same. Scald is Keldeo’s most common Water STAB, as although its power is outclassed by other water type attacks, the 30% burn chance means that it can often screw up potential switch-ins even if they resist Water, as very few things appreciate getting a burn. Secret Sword makes up the other half of its STAB combo, and it possesses the ability to target the opponent’s defense stat, despite being a special attack. It’s worth noting that with Choice Specs and Stealth Rock being up, Keldeo is actually capable of 1HKO’ing Chansey about 81% of the time, something very few special attackers can claim to do. Next, Keldeo also runs Hydro Pump in the event that it needs a little extra power to secure a KO. For its final moveslot, Keldeo has a few options… although they’re literally all it has. It can opt for Icy Wind for the invaluable ice type coverage, and although its power is sorely lacking, it does have the benefit of lowering speed by one tier, meaning that even “safe” switch-ins can suffer detriment. Hidden Power Electric is Keldeo’s best option against water types, most notably Gyarados who otherwise resists both of Keldeo’s STAB attacks. It also works well against Slowbro, Starmie, and Azumarill. Hidden Power Bug is also an option, in that it mutilates Celebi, while also being decent against the aforementioned Slowbro and Starmie as well.
Which item you utilize depends on how you want to use your Keldeo. Choice Specs is arguably the more viable, given it makes Keldeo very difficult to switch into, turning it into a fearsome wallbreaker. However, Choice Scarf allows Keldeo to be a potent revenge killer, being able to outspeed the myriad of base 100’s at +1. Regardless of the item, the nature and EVs remain the same. Timid Nature and 252 Speed EVs ensure Keldeo reaches max speed, while 252 Special Attack ensures it hits as hard as possible. The remaining 4 EVs are put into defense.
If Choice sets don’t tickle your fancy, worry not! Keldeo’s got another set that’s just as nasty, albeit seen a little less. Although it still maintains Scald for a potent STAB attack with a dastardly burn rate, and Secret Sword for its ability to muscle past specially defensive foes, it also gets some new toys in the form of Substitute and Calm Mind. Substitute allows it to ward off status that would otherwise be detrimental to it, most notably Paralysis and Toxic. On the flipside, Calm Mind can allow it to set up against things it forces out, or more passive Pokemon that may be hindered by a Substitute. You may sacrifice a bit of coverage, but you gain more utility in the process.
Much like the previous set, Timid Nature and 252 Speed EVs maximize Keldeo’s speed, while 252 Special Attack EVs help to give it as much power as possible. The remaining 4 EVs are put into Defense. Leftovers are the item of choice as the passive recovery can help to offset the HP you lose to set up a Substitute.
-Focus Blast is substantially more powerful than Secret Sword, but its lackluster accuracy can let it down at times.
VGC, Double, & Triple Battle Options
Once again, Keldeo is another Pokemon banned from VGC 2016 due to simply being a mythical event-only legendary. While it wouldn't be on the level of the Primals even if it were legal, Keldeo would still be a great Pokemon, as it more than holds its own in doubles formats where it is legal. Keldeo's typing gives it two of the best offensive STAB moves, though it is limited in terms of coverage options. Keldeo also receives a great stat distribution, with defenses that aren't bad, along with a very high special attack stat and speed that puts it above common threats like Mega Kangaskhan. Even with an ability that really has no use, Keldeo can put in a lot of work offensively.
This set for Keldeo is very simple, but very effective. Max special attack with a Life Orb puts out great damage, while max speed with a Timid nature allows Keldeo to outspeed many Pokemon, especially Mega Kangaskhan. Justified really doesn't have much use since Keldeo is always a special attacker, but is the only ability available.
Hydro Pump is Keldeo's strongest water STAB move, and hits incredibly hard with the Life Orb boost. It does not have perfect accuracy, however, which leaves the possibility of Scald to be chosen. Though weaker, the chance to burn can cripple opposing physical attackers. Secret Sword is Keldeo's most reliable fighting STAB, and acts as a pseudo-physical move since uses the target's defense stat to calculate the damage. Icy Wind is Keldeo's only ice move, unless you choose to use Hidden Power Ice. Icy Wind is weaker than HP Ice due to the lower power and spread damage, but it does hit both targets and will lower speed, which can be very useful in gaining the upper hand. Protect is arguably the best move in doubles, allowing you to stall out Trick Room and Tailwind turns, absorb double targets, and save yourself from Fake Out chip damage.
-Choice Scarf with a Modest nature outspeeds just about any unboosted threat, including Jolly Scarf Landorus-T.
This little pony may be powerful, but it’s not unstoppable. Arguably the best counter would be Mega Venusaur, whose bulk and ability cause it to take pittance from Keldeo. Choice Specs Keldeo can only 3HKO Offensive Variants of Mega Venusaur while taking no less than 87% from Giga Drain (with a small chance to 1HKO), and Giga Drain in turn heals back any damage Mega Venusaur has taken. Defensive Mega Venusaur is only 4HKO’ed by Choice Specs Keldeo at best, while 2HKOing with Giga Drain. Scald burns can be a nuisance, but by and large Mega Venusaur will force Keldeo out. Amoonguss functions similarly, although it struggles more with Choice Specs sets due to its lower special bulk; Keldeo’s Icy Wind can 3HKO Amoonguss with Specs, and it turns into a high chance to 2HKO if Stealth Rock is up. Meanwhile, Amoonguss can only 2HKO with Giga Drain. However, it deals pretty well with Scarf sets, and can utilize Regenerator to heal off damage taken. Keldeo is incapable of 1HKOing Latios, even on Specs sets, and Latios outspeeds Keldeo and 1HKOs it with either Psyshock or Draco Meteor. It’s also worth noting that Psyshock lets it obliterate Calm Mind Keldeo. However, it does have to be wary of Choice Specs Icy Wind, which, in conjunction with the Speed Drop, can allow Keldeo to 2HKO Latios. Latias functions pretty similarly, but with a few key differences. While Choice Specs Icy Wind can still 2HKO it, the chance is not a guarantee, unlike with Latios, as it only has a 29% chance on offensive sets. However, by extension, it can’t 1HKO with Draco Meteor, and instead has to utilize Psyshock, which has a 75% chance to 1HKO. Defensive Sets are only 3HKO’ed by Specs Icy Wind, while being able to 2HKO with Thunderbolt. The exact same holds true with Defensive Mega Latias, as well, whose Thunderbolt hits a little harder, but still only amounts to a 2HKO. Starmie is a bit frailer so it can be 2HKO’ed by Specs Hydro Pump, but it does resist both STAB attacks and outspeeds Keldeo, so it isn’t 1HKO’ed by anything but the rarer Choice Specs Hidden Power Electric or Bug. Meanwhile, it can 1HKO with Psychic or Psyshock, although the latter is needed if Keldeo has some Calm Minds set up. Likewise, Slowbro and Mega Slowbro sport the same typing but with a bit better bulk, meaning that they can’t be 1HKO’ed at all, even by Specs Hidden Power. However, given they’re slower than Keldeo, it can be 2HKO’ed by Specs Hidden Power. For sets lacking Hidden Power though, Slowbro is only 3HKO’ed at best, while Psyshock 2HKOs and ignores Calm Mind boosts. Without Psyshock though, it can run into problems, although Thunder Wave can be used to cripple non-Substitute variants. Defensive Celebi is only 3HKO’ed by Choice Specs Icy Wind, resists both of Keldeo’s STAB attacks, and can 2HKO with Giga Drain while healing back the damage taken. However, the rare Hidden Power Bug can spell doom for Celebi, as Choice Specs Hidden Power Bug can 1HKO it. Serperior cannot be 1HKO’ed by any attack from Keldeo, even on the Specs set, and thanks to Contrary, Icy Wind can even give it a speed boost. Serperior then 1HKOs with an unboosted Leaf Storm, and it outspeeds Keldeo naturally as well. However, Choice Scarf variants can 2HKO with Secret Sword, and flip the speed tiers on their head as well. Assault Vest Tornadus-T cannot be 1HKO’ed by any of Keldeo’s attacks, although Choice Specs Hydro Pump can 2HKO, while it is still able to outspeed Keldeo, 1HKO it with Hurricane, and heal off any damage taken thanks to Regenerator. Specially Defensive Zapdos can beat Scarf sets and Calm Mind sets, but it runs the risk of being 2HKO’ed by Choice Specs Hydro Pump, while its own uninvested Thunderbolt can only 2HKO Keldeo as well. Dragonite resists both of Keldeo’s STAB attacks and can set up Dragon Dance on a choice locked Keldeo, while its frequent use of Lum Berry can be a buffer against Scald burns as well. This allows Dragonite to set up and sweep, although it does have to be wary of Icy Wind, which can 2HKO it, or 1HKO it if Multiscale is broken. Sylveon is able to counter Scarf and Calm Mind sets, but it does have to be wary of the fact that Choice Specs Hydro Pump can 2HKO it. However, Pixilate Hyper Voice can still 1HKO Keldeo about half the time, and it bypasses Substitute as well. Mega Gardvoir can check Keldeo but can’t switch in, as Choice Specs Scald or Hydro Pump can each 2HKO, and it outspeeds Mega Gardevoir. However, Mega Gardevoir’s Pixilate Hyper Voice can soundly 1HKO Keldeo, again bypassing Substitute, and having enough power to 1HKO even after a single Calm Mind. Assault Vest Azumarill is only 3HKO’ed by Choice Specs Hidden Power Electric, and 4HKO’ed by anything else, while 1HKO’ing with Play Rough. However, a burn from Scald will cripple it, so it will usually make sure Keldeo is locked into something else first. Gyarados can switch into most of Keldeo’s attacks without much duress, as Choice Specs Hydro Pump only 3HKO’s, although the rarer Hidden Power Electric can fry it in a hurry. Meanwhile, Bounce can 1HKO, or it can set up a Substitute or Dragon Dance. Keldeo also has a decent amount of checks. Alakazam and Mega Alakazam can both outspeed Keldeo and 1HKO it with their Psychic STAB, although they can’t switch at all, as Choice Scarf sets 2HKO and outspeed, while Choice Specs sets 1HKO with Hydro Pump. Mega Metagross and Mega Gallade can both 1HKO Keldeo with Zen Headbutt, but both have to be Mega Evolved already to outspeed Keldeo, and Scald burns can ruin both. Raikou can outspeed and 1HKO Keldeo with Thunderbolt, but it takes heavy damage from both Choice Specs Hydro Pump and Secret Sword (the latter of which prevents Assault Vest from being a good answer), and Choice Scarf sets can 2HKO. Mega Lopunny can 2HKO with the combination of Fake Out and High Jump Kick, and it will outspeed Keldeo as well, but it can’t switch in and Choice Scarf sets can give it a rude awakening. Mega Manectric can’t switch in at all as it is 1HKO’ed by Choice Specs sets and 2HKO’ed by Choice Scarf sets, but it outspeeds Keldeo naturally (as long as it’s already Mega Evolved) and 1HKOs with Thunderbolt. Thundurus can’t switch into Hydro Pump, but it does outspeed Keldeo and 1HKO it with Thunderbolt, and it can cripple Choice Scarf variants with Prankster Thunder Wave. Talonflame can obliterate Keldeo in a heartbeat with its priority Brave Bird, but any Water STAB will 1HKO it. Mega Pinsir hated Choice Specs Hydro Pump and Scald, but it 4x resist Secret Sword, and can 1HKO with Return if Keldeo is locked into Secret Sword. Quick Attack can’t 1HKO unboosted, but it can do at least 65%, allowing it to pick of a weakened Keldeo. Likewise, Gengar can’t 1HKO Keldeo, while it’s 1HKO’ed by Choice Specs Hydro Pump or Scald, but it naturally outspeeds Keldeo and can deal a minimum of 68% with Life Orb Sludge Wave, allowing it to pick off a weakened Keldeo.
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