Skarmory, The Armor Bird Pokémon. Its sturdy wings look heavy, but they are actually hollow and light, allowing it to fly freely in the sky. After nesting in bramble bushes, the wings of its chicks grow hard from scratches by thorns. The feathers that it sheds are very sharp. It is said that people once used the feathers as swords. Skarmory is entirely encased in hard, protective armor. This Pokémon flies at close to 190 mph. It slashes foes with its wings that possess swordlike cutting edges. Skarmory's steel wings become tattered and bashed in from repeated battles. Once a year, the battered wings grow back completely, restoring the cutting edges to their pristine state.
Skarmory is a Pokémon with plenty of competitive history behind it. It was the undoubted king of the physical walls in the third generation, and like Blissey, was rather central to the development of 3rd generation competitive battling. The threat of Skarmory alone was enough to force physical sweepers to consider using special attacks, and the infamous Skarm-Bliss combo led to the development of a lot of mixed sweepers.
Whilst Blissey continues to be the benchmark that special walls are measured against, the same hasn't remained true for Skarmory. Physical sweepers that Skarmory used to mock have seen some substantial improvements (such as Gyarados and Heracross), whilst there are many new additions that wipe the floor with it (such as Infernape and Electivire). Other strong physical walls have also become available (such as Bronzong and Gliscor), and new, harder hitting physical attacks (such as Close Combat and Stone Edge) mean Skarmory can't take boosted neutral hits with as much ease as it used to.
Despite all of the changes that have occurred around it, Skarmory still continues to be a great Pokémon. Whilst it isn't the benchmark it used to be, it still has plenty of assets. Two immunities and nine resistances contribute plenty to its team, and Base 140 Defence is a very healthy stat to have. It's also one of the few good Spikers in the game, and it provides useful pseudo-hazing support with Whirlwind. All of this combined has kept it comfortably in the Overused Tier, and it certainly won't be demoted anytime soon.
Sturdy: means OHKO moves (Sheer Cold, Guillotine, Horn Drill and Fissure) will fail. Since OHKO moves are usually banned from competitive play, this ability is rather worthless. If you end up battling without the 'No OHKO moves' clause active, then you might see some use for this ability. At the end of the day, its alternative doesn't exactly give it any competition.
Keen Eye: means Skarmory's accuracy cannot be lowered. This means Sand Attack and Kinesis will be useless, whilst moves like Muddy Water and Mud Slap will have useless side-effects. You only see accuracy lowering moves once in a blue moon, and the only 'useful' one is Muddy Water, so this ability is generally worthless. Of course, Sturdy is close to worthless too, but at least this ability prevents moves that aren't claused out of use.
Physical Wall / Support
This is the main Skarmory variant you'll see and is the undoubted standard. All of Skarmory's positive points, rolled into one simple and effective move-set.
Roost gives Skarmory a very welcomed consistent recovery move. In addition, if Skarmory is faster than its opponent, it can temporarily shed its Flying type, giving it Rock and Ice resistances, as well as removing its Electric weakness. Just keep an eye open for Fighting and Ground moves, which benefit from the temporary type change.
Skarmory can lay down two of the three entry hazards:
As noted in the overview, it's one of the few good Spikers (and with Forretress, one of only two OU Spikers). This alone makes Spikes favourable, since the alternative is rather widespread. One layer of Spikes does 12.5% damage, two layers do 18.75% and three layers do 25% damage. Unlike Stealth Rock, it doesn't account for weaknesses or resistances, although Flying and Levitating Pokémon are immune to it.
Stealth Rock is its other option. It does 12.5% damage at its base, but it accounts for weaknesses and resistances, meaning it can do as a much as 50% damage or as little as 3.125% damage. From Skarmory's personal perspective, Stealth Rock discourages Gyarados, Zapdos and Salamence from switching directly into play, which is a nice little benefit.
Whirlwind is Skarmory's pseudo-hazing move. It stops stat-boosters from running amok, sends away Pokémon Skarmory itself can't deal with and picks up passive damage off of entry hazards.
As with all Pokémon, some form of offensive attack is wanted, and Skarmory has a couple of choices. Drill Peck is the reliable and consistent STAB move. Brave Bird is much stronger, but comes with some recoil. To an extent, the recoil can be mitigated with Roost, but as a defensive Pokémon, losing HP is never favourable, and one has to consider the value of the added base power.
For the sake of comparison, a 210 Attack Skarmory against a Gengar with 156 Defence and 262 HP will do: 42-50% damage with Drill Peck and 62-74% damage with Brave Bird. There are other examples, but the gist of it is, that extra base damage can be the difference between a 3KO and a 2KO.
Skarmory's item choice is an important one, and generally comes down to the question: “How much do you fear Magnezone?” The sole reason for using Shed Shell is to escape from Magnet Pull, primarily from Magnezone but also from Probopass (should it make a rare venture out of the UU environment). You can try to predict when they switch in and either use Whirlwind (to automatically send them out just as soon as they've come in) or switch out, but should prediction fail you, Shed Shell is a reliable failsafe. If you feel you don't require this failsafe, then Leftovers is your best item choice.
- Drill Peck
Skarmory has gained Swords Dance in the generation shift, allowing it become an offensive, defensive wall (much like Gliscor). Whilst far from its strongest option, it is workable. With Roost, it maintains similar bulkiness to the physical wall, but as opposed to providing supporting moves, it provides an offensive threat.
Drill Peck is its straightforward STAB. In addition to Drill Peck, you can pick up Steel Wing, providing more STAB and very useful Rock coverage (and less useful Ice coverage), or Rock Slide, which is quite useful for Flying types (such as Gyarados, Zapdos and Salamence).
Swords Dance-Agility Sweeper
- Drill Peck
It's pretty much the same move-set as above, with Roost dropped in favour of Agility. Agility makes up for Skarmory's awful Speed stat, making sweeping a possibility.
This move-set borders on novelty. It'll take Skarmory two turns of set-up in order to perform as a mediocre sweeper, and without Roost, Skarmory's wonderful walling capabilities are almost completely sacrificed. Its secondary attack can be dropped in favour of Roost, but then it'll suffer from limited type coverage, becoming even easier to wall.
EVs and Nature:
Physical Wall / Support
Skarmory favours an Attack stat around the 210-220 area, so you'll be aiming between 56 and 96 Attack EVs.
Since Skarmory shares its Base 70 Speed stat with a lot of other Pokémon (Metagross and Breloom being the most notable OUs), a token EV investment is worthwhile, just to edge it ahead of other Pokémon in its Speed group who have no Speed EVs (as well as Pokémon who EV their Speed with the intention of outrunning Skarmory). What would constitute a token investment would be between 4-20 Speed EVs.
Although Skarmory doesn't eat up special attacks, it can handle some special attacks (e.g. Ice Beams from Swampert and Blissey, Psychics from Celebi and Cresselia, etc.). A large investment of Special Defence EVs is unnecessary, but dumping excess EVs there isn't futile.
In regards to its Speed, the minimum would be 222 (requiring 184 Speed EVs), outrunning Adamant Tyranitar and others who linger just below it. Further on, it can shoot for 244 (requiring a Jolly nature and 184 Speed EVs), this time for Jolly Tyranitar, as well as the occasional Pokémon who linger below that number (slow variants of Celebi and Gallade for example).
The remaining EVs can go straight to its Attack. If you don't need the Jolly nature, Adamant is the way to go.
Swords Dance-Agility Sweeper
Less Speed is needed in comparison to the aforementioned move-set. 202 (104 EVs) is enough to give it the edge over Scarf-Cross after an Agility, as well as most non-Scarf threats. 228 (208 EVs) will give it enough Speed to outrun Scarf-Chomp after an Agility, as well a few more Scarfers.
The leftover EVs can be dedicated to its Attack, as can its nature.
Taunt, Toxic, Curse, Counter, Rest, Sleep Talk, Pursuit, Natural Gift.
Skarmory can make good use of Taunt. Skarmory isn't seen as a large threat, so most Pokémon have no reservations about using supportive and healing moves in its presence (especially if they have a Spinner to get rid of its entry hazards), so Taunt will end their attempts. As far as stopping counters is concerned, it'll block incoming Will-o-Wisps from Dusknoir and Weezing and can block opposing Taunts from Gyarados.
Skarmory can use Toxic, working neatly with its entry hazards for additional residual damage.
Skarmory has Curse, but it doesn't need the Defence boost, and Swords Dance gives a better offensive boost.
Counter comes from the third generation move tutors. Physical moves that can OHKO Skarmory are few and far between, so Skarmory can bounce back just about any physical move for twice the damage it takes. Being able to heal off lost HP with Roost, as well as being able to use Taunt to ease prediction, are other bonuses it has. Low HP and high Defence isn't the best combination for getting lots of damage out of Counter, but it can still serve Skarmory satisfactorily.
Skarmory can use the Rest-Talk combination for a different source of healing, and for a different move-set in general. It's worth noting that, when Whirlwind is selected by Sleep Talk, it doesn't conform to its usual 'go last' priority, meaning that it can shuffle opponents before they attack (which can be used to pick up additional passive damage).
Pursuit is a nifty move, but it isn't particularly useful on Skarmory. The Pokémon it hurts the most, defensively weak Ghosts and Psychics, can usually beat Skarmory one-on-one. As a result, if anyone should be fleeing, it should be Skarmory.
Natural Gift is worth noting simply for the fact that it can give Skarmory a Ground move, albeit one that it can only use as a one-off. The Ground move is of course, favoured for hitting Magnezone. A Hondew Berry gives it a Base 70 Ground attack, whilst a Apicot Berry gives it a Base 80 Ground attack. The disadvantage of the Apicot is that it may be activated unintentionally if Skarmory's HP drops below 25%.
Of course, just to deal with a single Pokémon, it's a lot to ask to give up both a move-slot and an item slot (especially when Shed Shell provides a much less costly alternative for dealing with the Magnezone threat). Also, neither version of Natural Gift is a guaranteed OHKO against a Magnezone (min Def/HP), and the only way that it can get a OHKO involves an Adamant Skarmory (with max Attack) using an Apicot-Natural Gift.
First and foremost, if Skarmory doesn't have a Shed Shell, it's completely countered by Magnet Pull Magnezone and Probopass. Magnezone obviously decimates it with its STAB Thunderbolts, whilst Probopass has to turn to a Specs-boosted Thunder, or use a combination of Taunt (to block Whirlwind) and Thunder/bolt.
Heatran and Zapdos beat it outright with their resistances and super-effective STAB moves, and of course, most Electric and Fire types beat it because of their super-effective STABs (Blaziken and Infernape are the only exceptions, since their Flying weaknesses limit their ability to switch-in against Skarmory).
There's also plenty of physical sweepers who can outmatch Skarmory. Gyarados beats it comfortably, using Skarmory as an opportunity to use Taunt and then Dragon Dance. Brave Bird might hurt a little, but between Intimidate and Leftovers recovery, it should take Skarmory's offence with little bother. Tyranitar manages with the same ease, unless Skarmory is carrying Steel Wing. Rhyperior simply pummels it with STAB Stone Edges (and deals with Steel Wing better than Tyranitar would because of Solid Rock). Electivire has super-effective Thunder Punches and Lucario has STAB Close Combats.
Since it could produce a limitless list, there are other ways to counter Skarmory via special attacks. Pretty much any good special attacker with either an un-resisted STAB or a super-effective attack is capable of 2KOing Skarmory (if not OHKOing it). Examples include Starmie, Kingdra and Jirachi.
Physical sweepers with Fire Blast or Thunder can also 2KO it, taking advantage of its low Special Defence and two weaknesses. A rather miniscule Special Attack stat of 180, combined with one of those two moves, is enough to 2KO Skarmory (although it should be noted, Roost can complicate things when using Thunder).
The biggest threat Skarmory provides is indirect, in the form of Spikes and Stealth Rock. As a result, Rapid Spinners are popular choices, not so much as Skarmory counters, rather as Pokémon who simply nullify its threat. There are four OU Rapid Spinners: Donphan, Forretress, Starmie and Tentacruel. Of those four, Starmie and Tentacruel are the only ones that actually present Skarmory with an offensive threat, but other threatening Spinners from the lower tiers include Cloyster, Torkoal and Blastoise.
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