Strategy Session – Competitive Pokemon I

With Pokemon Heart Gold and Soul Silver being announced this week, I — that is to say, the Pokemon nerd in me — thought it might be fun to take a look at the game’s signature Pokemon. We’ll start off by looking at the rainbow Pokemon, Ho-oh, one of the more overlooked Legendary Pokemon in competitive play. In order to provide a little more depth than our Pokemon Platinum entries, I’ll also be offering some move set and nature suggestions, as well as some recommended EV spreads for the more obsessive Pokemon players in our audience.

Flying / Fire
HP: 106 Atk: 130 Def: 90 Sp Atk: 110 Sp Def: 154 Spd: 90
Ability: Pressure: Attacks used by the opponent against this Pokemon use 2 PP instead of 1.

As you can see, Ho-oh has a powerful and unusual stat distribution, and that’s where most of its problems come from. Ho-oh’s stats point pretty strongly towards special defense, but its typing makes it very hard to take special attacks. After all, what are the moves you see the most coming from other high-order Legendary Pokemon? Thunder, Surf, and of course, Water Spout from our old friend Kyogre. Against Kyogre, Ho-oh is about as effective a wall as a paper bag is to a brick of C4. Add to this Ho-oh’s 4x weakness against Rock, which means Stealth Rock will be taking a whopping 50% of its health, and you’ve got a real threat to the bird’s walling potential.

Thankfully, the news isn’t all doom and gloom for Ho-oh. What does the big turkey have to offer? I have two words for you: Sacred. Fire. A Fire-type attack with a base power of 100, an accuracy of 95%, and a whopping 50% chance to inflict Burn status, Sacred Fire is a hugely powerful and dangerous attack, especially with the right support. A Ho-oh armed with Sacred Fire backed up by Groudon and his infinite sun ability, Drought, is a great way to rip through an unprepared team.

Ho-oh also got a bit of an unexpected boost in the form of Roost, a 50% recovery move introduced in Diamond and Pearl. Roost’s side effect, which removes the weaknesses and resistances of Flying for the turn on which it was used, is almost as important to Ho-oh as the recovery itself. Since Ho-oh’s Speed of 90 is actually a bit higher than a lot of the common special attacking Pokemon at his level, Ho-oh can use Roost to remove or reduce his biggest weaknesses, and become a much, much more effective tank. Combined with Ho-oh’s other support moves, this big yellow turkey can actually do reasonably well defensively if given the right setup.

And now, a few moveset recommendations:

Frying Chicken
Ho-oh @Leftovers
Careful nature (-Sp Atk, +Sp Def)
EVs: 252 HP, 252 Sp Def, 6 Spd
-Sacred Fire
-Light Screen
-Whirlwind / Substitute
This set is Ho-oh’s best bet for pure defense. By pumping up his HP and Special Defense, Ho-oh reaches near-Lugia levels of defensive ability, and with Light Screen to back him up, it can take even super effective hits without too much trouble. This Ho-oh should have no trouble taking on Steel Pokemon like Dialga or physically-based Pokemon like Groudon, assuming you can avoid Rock-type moves like Stone Edge.

In the last slot, you have a choice between Whirlwind or Substitute. Whirlwind works great if you can manage to get entry hazards lke Stealth Rock or Toxic Spikes down, and it helps a lot by getting rid of stat-boosting Pokemon.  Meanwhile, Substitute can help Ho-oh scout, and it works amazingly well with Sacred Fire’s Burn, since you can repeatedly Sub and Roost while Burn’s residual damage wears your foe down.

Roasting Chicken
Ho-oh @Leftovers
Calm nature (-Atk, +Sp Def)
EVs: 252 HP, 252 Sp Def, 6 Spd
-Calm Mind
Ho-oh’s great Special Defense combines amazingly well with Calm Mind, allowing the big bird to slowly build up into a huge offensive force. This set is best used towards the end of a battle, when you can be reasonably sure that your foe doesn’t have Kyogre waiting in the wings. Thunder is included on this set over the more accurate Thunderbolt specifically to hit Kyogre, since Ho-oh acts like a Kyogre magnet even under the best circumstances, but it also does a solid job of nailing Palkia, who is also a major threat.

Broiling Chicken
Ho-oh @Choice Band
Adamant (-Sp Atk, +Atk) or Jolly (-Sp Atk, +Spd) nature
EVs: 252 Atk, 252 Spd, 6 Sp Def
-Sacred Fire
This set may seem a little odd — a Pokemon who focuses on Specal Defense doing offense? And it is a little odd. But Ho-oh’s Attack is exceptional, and his Speed isn’t too shabby either, meaning it can be a potent physical threat, especially with access to Sacred Fire. There are two major problems that stand in the way of this strategy, and the first one leads nicely into the second.

The first problem is that Ho-oh’s physical movepool is… Well, let’s call it lackluster. Punishment and Return are included on this set primarily because Ho-oh’s only other credible options are Zen Headbutt and Iron Head, both of which are resisted by the vast majority of the Pokemon Ho-oh is going to be facing. What all of this means is that Ho-oh is going to be relying on Sacred Fire to an obscene degree, which leads us to our second problem; Sacred Fire has a maximum of eight PP. That’s eight times you can use this move, and with all the high-order Legendaries running around with Pressure, it’s really more like four PP. What it all adds up to is that although this Ho-oh can cause some serious damage, it lacks staying power, and players have to be exceptionally careful about where and how they use it.

And there we have it, three different ways to use the gigantic turkey that you can test out for yourself. As always, don’t forget to experiment with movesets and ideas for yourself — after all, surprise is often the best tactic you can have. Tune in again next week, when we’ll take a look at Ho-oh’s counterpart, the flying brainstorm Lugia!

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