Arcanine, The Legendary Pokémon. A Pokémon that has been admired since the past for its beauty. It runs agilely as if on wings. A legendary Pokémon in China. Many people are charmed by its grace and beauty while running. Its magnificent bark conveys a sense of majesty. Anyone hearing it can't help but grovel before it. An ancient picture scroll shows that people were attracted to its movement as it ran through prairies. This fleet-footed Pokémon is said to run over 6,200 miles in a single day and night. The fire that blazes wildly within its body is its source of power. Its proud and regal appearance has captured the hearts of people since long ago.
In the last generation, Arcanine suffered from two significant problems limiting its capabilities in the standard environment. Firstly, it lacked a physical STAB, and secondly, it had a very shallow physical move-pool. The former of those two problems has been alleviated with the introduction of Flare Blitz and physical fire moves, much to Arcanine's delight. However, the latter continues to remain a significant problem, because outside of Flare Blitz, Arcanine is lacking any noteworthy power moves.
The generation shift brought Arcanine some benefits, most notably Flare Blitz, but with it came a new problem in the form of Stealth Rocks, something that remains a major problem for all Pokémon with a Rock weakness. An active layer of Stealth Rocks will take away 25% of Arcanine's HP each time it switches-in. Throw in the additional damage from Flare Blitz's recoil and any other forms of passive damage (such as Spikes or Sandstorm) and Arcanine begins to look a lot more fragile than it did before.
Unfortunately for Arcanine, it pretty much remains where it was in the last generation. It's certainly too powerful for the UU environment but lacks the necessary credentials to make it a standard, leaving it in the limbo of BL.
Flash Fire: gives Arcanine an immunity to fire moves. In addition to this immunity, when Arcanine is struck by a fire move, it'll activate a 1.5x boost to Arcanine's fire moves. It's not too shabby but tends to be overlooked in favour of Intimidate, since fire moves are not overwhelmingly commonplace and Arcanine will lose the boost if it switches.
Intimidate: drops the opponents Attack stat by one level (the equivalent of a Growl), which makes switching-in an easier task. This makes physical attacks a little easier to switch-in to, and cushions the blow a little. Considering how easy it is for Arcanine to lose its HP, minimising the damage it takes is a bonus.
Physical Sweeper / Choice Band
- Flare Blitz
Extreme Speed gives Arcanine a touch of uniqueness, considering how few Pokémon gain access to it. It's a Base 80 Normal move with the same priority modifier as Quick Attack (which means it usually strikes first). Whilst not slow, Arcanine isn't one of the quickest out there, so the ability to strike first can be very useful, especially against some of the more fragile 'Speed freaks'.
Thunder Fang is there to deal with water types, and little else. The small chance of a flinch or paralysis is just an added bonus.
In the final move-slot, Arcanine has two options. It has Iron Tail, which is useful for hitting Rock types, such as Tyranitar and Rhyperior. Although powerful, the move has rather poor accuracy and aside from Rock types, it covers little else of note. Alternatively, it can use a special fire move, for hitting Pokémon with significantly higher Defence than Special Defence (such as Hippowdon and Weezing). Overheat packs a lot of power and has okay accuracy, but it lowers Arcanine's Special Attack, making it useful for one-off uses but less useful for repeated use. Fire Blast packs a bit less power and has slightly weaker accuracy, but it doesn't lower Arcanine's Special Attack when it's used, making it viable for repeated use.
This Arcanine move-set can be viably used as a Choice Pokémon or simply a physical sweeper, so the item choice really defines how it's used. Understandably, Choice Band gives it a large 1.5x Attack boost but locks it into using one move at a time. Expert Belt and Leftovers are two good item choices for an Arcanine that wants to maintain the ability to switch between its moves. Life Orb would usually garner a mention, but the fact that Arcanine already has to worry about Flare Blitz recoil and Stealth Rocks makes additional damage worries unattractive.
Special Sweeper / Choice Specs
Arcanine has the ability to use either of its two potential offences, although its special move-pool is plagued by the same lack of versatility affecting its physical move-pool. Flamethrower is its staple special move, with perfect accuracy (barring accuracy modifiers) and strong power, although it could potentially be dropped in favour of a more powerful but less reliable alterative (such as Fire Blast). Dragon Pulse is there to deal with Dragons, who resist Flamethrower. The fact that it's a pretty strong move anyway, with only one type resisting it (Steel, which is wiped out by Fire usually), solidifies its place on the move-set.
Hidden Power is an obvious choice, filling in where its Special move-pool is lacking, but the one to choose can be a difficult choice. The main thing to remember is that Arcanine can't cover all of its potential counters with just one Hidden Power, so the ones that are considered more of a threat is usually the deciding factor. Grass is useful for Water and Rock types, Ground is useful for Rock types and other Fire types (especially Heatran) and Fight is useful for Rock types, but particularly favourable for the 4x hit on Tyranitar.
The last move-slot is something of a filler. Despite already having Flamethrower, Overheat can be used in the same manner that Salamence would use Dragon Pulse and Draco Meteor, one for quick bursts of power and one for a consistent source of damage. Of course, being resisted by more Pokémon, Overheat isn't quite as effective as Draco Meteor. There aren't too many alternatives however, short of a physical move for hitting Blissey (although trying to hit it with Flare Blitz will cause a ridiculous amount of recoil) or one of its “Other Option” moves.
Once again, the item defines how it's used. Choice Specs gives it a large 1.5x boost to its Special Attack but locks it into using one move at a time, whilst Expert Belt and Leftovers are two good item choices for an Arcanine that wants to maintain the ability to switch between its moves.
- Flare Blitz
Something of a “best of both worlds” move-set, throwing in the more outstanding moves of its individual physical and special sets together. Flare Blitz is the undoubted main STAB choice, working off of the stronger offence and packing the right combination of power and accuracy (although at the expense of recoil). Hidden Power is something of a 'must', just to deal with the Pokémon who resists Arcanine's STAB moves. The final two move-slots are just a matter of picking the two most preferable of what is effectively three choices (since you wouldn't want to run Flamethrower and Overheat together on this move-set).
Flamethrower or Overheat provide Arcanine with a special STAB move, which gives Arcanine the versatility to hit its opponent's weaker defensive stat. One is useful for consistency, the other for power. Dragon Pulse is useful for catching Dragons, whilst Extreme Speed is useful for its priority modifier.
Expert Belt and Leftovers continue to be available as options, but Life Orb becomes somewhat more viable here, since Arcanine would be using both of its offences, but the extra 'recoil' damage is still highly unfavourable.
Howl - Physical Sweeper
- Flare Blitz
It's not quite as good as Swords Dance, but Arcanine can boost its Attack stat with Howl, which opens up another possible sweeping route. It's all relatively self-explanatory, using Howl boosts and then going for a sweep. The fact that Flare Blitz will cost it HP through recoil may make timing a sweep a bit more difficult, since you'll obviously want to begin sweeping with enough HP leftover to absorb the recoil, but it shouldn't be too hard. Extreme Speed is there for obvious priority reasons whilst the choice between Thunder Fang and Iron Tail depends on whether Water or Rock types are deemed more threatening.
EVs and Nature:
Whilst defensively acceptable, Arcanine isn't bulky enough to really justify any investment in its defensive stats. As a result, it's generally preferable to go for 252/252 EV spreads, or to split EVs between both of its offences (giving obvious priority to its primary choice of offence).
In regards to its Speed, at Base 95, Arcanine has the misfortune of being just behind the benchmark 299 Speed stat, at least when it isn't using a Speed boosting nature. 270 is the bare minimum to shoot for, to outrun Adamant variants of Heracross, although max doesn't go far wrong, since it'll at least tie with opposing Base 95 Pokémon (such as Houndoom and Electivire).
A Speed boosting nature is useful on Arcanine, since it'll give it the necessary boost to get ahead of Salamence, Garchomp and co.
Crunch, Solarbeam, Natural Gift, Will-o-Wisp, Toxic, Endure, Reversal, Choice Scarf.
Crunch is another strong physical attack it gets, although even when it's super-effective, it's weaker than Flare Blitz (although at least without recoil). Up against Slowbro, Slowking, Starmie, Lunatone and Solrock it'll out damage Flare Blitz (and against Giratina and the Lati twins, should that situation ever arise).
Solarbeam is another special option it has, but Sunny Day isn't particularly advisable on Arcanine, and in the Sandstorm heavy OU environment, it's hard to keep active Sunny Day support as well.
Natural Gift is worth a look, although it costs an item slot as well as a move-slot. You'd be looking for the same types as you would with Hidden Power, Grass, Fight and Ground primarily. A Liechi Berry will grant a Base 80 Grass attack, a Salac Berry will grant a Base 80 Fighting attack and a Apicot Berry will grant a Base 80 Ground attack. All three of those berries risk activating when Arcanine's HP drops below 25%, so alternatives that'll grant a Base 70 attack are Pinap (Grass), Kelpsy (Fight) and Hondew (Ground).
Will-o-Wisp is a nice little addition to Arcanine's move-pool. Rock types, such as Tyranitar and Rhyperior, really won't like it. Neither will physically inclined Water types (like Swampert). Toxic is mentioned for the same reason, since defensive Water types will especially dislike it. V Endure-Reversal can be given a shot, but Arcanine doesn't get STAB on it and it's difficult to pull off in the Sandstorm heavy OU environment.
Choice Scarf is a useful item choice that can be used for the physical, special and mixed sweeper move-sets. Its positives and negatives are obvious. It gives a 1.5x Speed boost but locks Arcanine into using only one move at a time.
A few Pokémon outright counter Arcanine, barring the interference of Hidden Power or Natural Gift. Heatran and Swampert stop it cold, the former in particular benefiting from a potential Flash Fire boost in the process.
Rock types are generally difficult to get around without Hidden Power or the unreliable Iron Tail. Rhyperior, Regirock and Tyranitar come to mind when thinking about bulky Rock types. Will-o-Wisp poses a potential problem though, and two of those three are 4x weak to a potential Hidden Power (or Natural Gift).
Dragons comfortably resist fire moves, although Dragon Pulse might pose some problems. Salamence particularly benefits from Intimidate. Defensive Water types won't appreciate Thunder Fang but they can manage. Amongst the obvious ones are Slowbro and Suicune.
As covered earlier, despite having decent numbers on its defensive stats, Arcanine is far from bulky. It's quite nastily exposed to the ever common Stealth Rocks, chipping off a potential 25% of its HP as it switches-in. In addition to this, Flare Blitz recoil will also chip off HP, as well as the other standard forms of passive damage (Sandstorm, Hail and Spikes). It's also not the quickest of opponents, although it does carry Extreme Speed, so faster opponents shouldn't take it lightly.
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