Infernape, The Flame Pokémon. Just like the flame burning on its head, this Pokémon has a fiery personality. It will not lose to anyone when it comes to speed. It uses a special kind of martial arts involving all its limbs. Its fire never goes out.
Infernape is arguably one of the most threatening new additions that has come from Diamond and Pearl. It has Swords Dance, Nasty Plot, great speed, two good STABs, a versatile move pool at both ends of the spectrum and stats to back them up. It's an example of a Pokémon who has the potential to change the direction of a battle provided that it's used wisely. Its below average defensive stats are unlikely to successfully stand up to any form of solid offence and in turn it is heavily reliant on its team-mates to do the heavy lifting for it. Successful use of this Pokémon relies heavily upon keeping it safe from any damage, and in exchange Infernape offers massive offensive power and unmatched versatility.
Blaze: is Infernape's sole choice of trait and it can use it quite effectively. Life Orb damage combined with other passive damage sources (Sandstorm, Spikes, Stealth Rock) can sap Infernape's HP pretty quickly, allowing Infernape to activate Blaze somewhat easily for a last ditch boost to its Fire attacks. The downside is that once Infernape is in the range to take advantage of the boost it risks KOing itself with the damage from Life Orb (or in the case of physical sets, the recoil damage from Flare Blitz). However, even if Blaze won't see as much action as one would hope it is still a reasonable trait.
Swords Dance Sweeper
- Flare Blitz
307 Attack backed by Swords Dance and three strong moves has scary possibilities, especially when Infernape can outrun a large majority of Pokémon with its potential 346 Speed stat. This Pokémon is an ideal late-game sweeper, weaken the opponent's defensive Pokémon, paralyse or eliminate any faster Pokémon, set-up a Swords Dance and sweep.
Flare Blitz and Close Combat cover the fair majority of Pokémon, and the ones they don't cover can be hit particularly hard by Stone Edge (such as Salamence and Gyarados). Only a few Pokémon resist both Flare Blitz and Close Combat without taking Super-Effective damage from Stone Edge so very little variation in the set is worth consideration. However, as far as the item is concerned some variation may come into play.
With a very prominent 1.3x boost to offensive power, Life Orb is obviously the number one candidate on this set. However, it comes with a significant downside in the fact that it chips off 10% of Infernape's HP with each use of an offensive attack. When combined with Flare Blitz the recoil has the potential to be suicidal, which may lead the other two items to fall into favour.
Expert Belt grants a helpful 1.2x boost to super-effective attacks whilst Muscle Band grants a 1.1x boost to all physical attacks. Whilst their boosts aren't as impressive as Life Orb's they come with the obvious bonus of not taking away from Infernape's HP.
EVs and Nature:
Things should be relatively straight-forward in this department. A Jolly nature is far superior to Adamant, bordering on being a necessity. Without a Jolly nature Infernape's speed caps at a respectable 315, and whilst 315 is enough to outrun many opponents the extra speed boost will set it above: Jolly/Timid Salamences, Garchomps, Slakings (etc.) as well a Modest/Adamant Gengars, Tauroses, Starmies, Alakazams, Dugtrios (etc.). Adamant is worth consideration, but in most cases Jolly will shine as superior.
Nasty Plot Sweeper
The special attacking equivalent of the Swords Dance set. Once again, with a 307 Special Attack stat, backed by strong attacks and Nasty Plot this Pokémon has tremendous potential. The only downside with the special attacking Infernape is it can't cover everything it needs to cover with its four move slots.
Flamethrower and Nasty Plot are obvious givens. Flamethrower is Infernape's most reliable special attack and will form the core of a large majority of its sweeps. The last two move slots are left with the task of covering what Flamethrower can't.
- Grass Knot is primarily for hitting Water and Rock types, a job it can do very effectively.
Its mostly a matter of a mixing and matching to suit your current team. If Blissey is bound to give you problems then a Fighting Move is a necessity and likewise, if Dragons are going to cause problems then Hidden Power [Ice] is needed and obviously, if Water types are going to shut you down then Grass Rope is a necessity.
Once again, Life Orb can be ditched in favour of an item that doesn't take away from Infernape's HP. Wisdom Glasses is the special equivalent of Muscle Band, giving a 1.1x boost to special attacks.
EVs and Nature:
Everything is fairly straight forward here. The main thing to consider changing is the nature if Infernape is going to be using Close Combat. Although Attack EVs are unnecessary there is little point in using a nature that will lower its damage output. Hasty (+Spd, -Def) or Naive (+Spd, -SDef) would be the ideal natures to use in place of Timid.
- Close Combat
A pure mixed sweeper set-up. Close Combat is its most reliable Fighting Attack whilst Flamethrower competes with Flare Blitz for the position of 'best' Fire Attack. Pick two of three in regards to Grass Knot, Stone Edge and Hidden Power [Ice] and you're good to go.
Unlike the Swords Dancer and Nasty Plotter this set doesn't clean up the leftovers of an already beaten down team, rather it capitalises on its good type coverage and ability to hit the majority of Pokémon for a lot of damage, functioning in a similar way to a Choice Band/Specs Pokémon.
Of all the sets this is the one with the most to gain from Life Orb, since Life Orb boosts both of its offences, but Expert Belt is a suitable replacement to conserve HP.
EVs and Nature:
Probably the hardest set to create EVs for. Splitting EVs in such a balanced way is usually not a good idea but since this set uses both its probably the way to go. If you were to run a mostly physical version of this set then you would probably go for mostly physical attack EVs, and likewise if you were to run a mostly special set then you would go for mostly special attack EVs.
Naive nature is worth consideration, which lowers Special Defence instead of Defence, but there is little difference between them.
- Flare Blitz
Rather straight forward, taking great advantage of Infernape's Attack and Speed stats as well as its offensive diversity. Flare Blitz, Close Combat and Stone Edge will form the core of the Choice Band set's offence, the final physical attack is really a 'filler' move.
U-Turn is quite helpful since it allows Infernape to see what Pokémon is switching in (or if the opponent is switching at all) whilst getting some 'free' damage and the ability to immediately switch to an appropriate counter.
Thunderpunch catches a handful of Pokémon that Close Combat or Stone Edge wouldn't, notably Water/Flying types (like Gyarados), Water/Psychic types (like Starmie and Slowbro) and Water/Poison types (like Tentacruel). The coverage isn't overwhelmingly notable but it's notable enough to merit a mention.
Mach Punch gains STAB and has the priority to 'always strike first'. It can catch a few Pokémon who are faster and have weak defences, such as: Dugtrio, Weavile and Jolteon.
Fake Out is 'free' damage. It can only be used once and only just after Infernape has been switched in but it forces a flinch and does a little bit of damage. Probably not its best option but worth a mention.
EVs and Nature:
Everything is fairly straight-forward here. The boring but reliable 252/252 set-up.
Another straight forward set, this time capitalising on Infernape's Special Attacking capabilities. Focus Blast and Close Combat are the only two areas of indecision on this set. Focus Blast's unreliable accuracy can cause problems whilst Close Combat can efficiently handle most Pokémon weak to Fighting Attacks anyway, however Focus Blast gains the Specs boost and Close Combat doesn't.
EVs and Nature:
Another straight forward EV spread, although if you intend to use Close Combat it would be preferable to use a Hasty (+Spd, -Def) or Naive (+Spd, -SDef) nature.
Blaze Kick, Fire Blast, Overheat, Substitute, Taunt, Slack Off, Encore, Sunny Day, Helping Hand, Earthquake, Stealth Rock, Roar, Focus Sash, Counter.
Blaze Kick presents a physical Fire option that may be used over Flare Blitz. It possesses significantly lower damage than Flare Blitz but doesn't come with recoil. Blaze Kick also has a high critical hit ratio, which can help make up for some of the lost damage, but lower accuracy and damage in comparison to Flare Blitz does it no favours.
Fire Blast and Overheat present power options to use in place of Flamethrower. Fire Blast has a significant power advantage over Flamethrower but only possesses 85% accuracy (and may run into PP problems). Overheat on the other hand has more power and slightly more accuracy than Fire Blast but cuts Infernape's Special Attack sharply, it can be used nicely as a 'hit-and-run' move or it can be used on the physical sets.
Substitute is a nice move, it blocks statuses and spares Infernape the hassle of predicting what your opponent will send out. However, Infernape has little use for Leftovers and is likely to be losing a lot of damage passively (to: Recoil, Life Orb, Sandstorm, Spikes and Stealth Rock), so chopping off an extra 25% of its health is rarely a wise idea. It's worth consideration if you can mitigate passive damage but in comparison to its other moves it doesn't appear to be particularly impressive.
Taunt can stop the opponents non-offensive moves (such as Roar and Haze) but with such poor defensive stats most opponents wouldn't bother trying to counter Infernape with non-offensive moves.
Slack Off is a rather nice recovery move but if Infernape somehow obtains the luxury of a free turn it should be using the turn to prepare for a sweep rather than wasting it on recovery. Its generally not worth the move slot, especially since Infernape usually can't take a hit anyway, but it's worth a mention.
Encore is a fantastic move on this Pokémon. It can out-speed most opponents and Encore any non-offensive move they use, allowing Infernape the time to prepare for a sweep. The only problem is that Infernape usually needs all four of its move slots to sweep successfully, which unfortunately leaves no room for Encore.
Sunny Day can cancel out Sandstorm and boosts the power of Infernape's Fire Attacks, but aside from that it isn't all that useful. Even with a Sunny Day it's unlikely to survive a Water attack and so many other Pokémon can use it that it's better served on a Pokémon who has the move slots free to consider it.
Helping Hand is a decent move for 2v2 play but Infernape is too fragile to reliably support its partner.
Earthquake is another physical move it gets but there's no point in bothering since Fire and Fighting attacks covers the majority of what Earthquake would cover.
Stealth Rock and Roar are two supportive moves it has access to but can't use effectively. Roar is amusing sometimes when you expect a switch, it will force two switches from the opponent which can rack up a lot of passive damage from Stealth Rock and Spikes, but aside from that its uses are highly situational. Stealth Rock on the other hand is accessible to so many Pokémon who can use it more effectively that there's little point in wasting one of Infernape's move slots on it.
Since Infernape can't take a hit: Focus Sash is pretty well suited for it, saving it from being KOed by one move. But even when Focus Sash activates (taking the hit for Infernape) it's still exposed to Sandstorm, which can pick it off after Focus Sash saves it. Stealth Rock and Spikes can also lower its HP a little bit, preventing Focus Sash from activating. Counter can be mixed with Focus Sash for some novelty KOs but Infernape has enough viable options to make 'novelty' combinations a waste of time.
The Fire Monkey is an incredibly versatile offensive threat. One of the biggest problems when countering Infernape is that you can never be sure of what set its using. There isn't a single Pokémon who can safely counter both physical and special sets but several come close:
Starmie and Slowbro (and other Water/Psychic Pokémon) resist both Fighting and Fire Attacks, take neutral damage from Stone Edge and resist Hidden Power [Ice]. They won't enjoy taking Thunderpunches or Grass Knots but aside from that they can handle Infernape fine. Both also have a recovery move and both have a STAB Surf to KO Infernape with.
Salamence, Dragonite and Altaria (and the other Dragon/Flying Pokémon) resist both Fighting and Fire Attacks and resist Grass Knot, but they don't take Stone Edge or Hidden Power [Ice] well at all. Between their Flying Attacks, Special Attacks and Earthquake they each have many ways to take it down.
Gyarados (and other Water/Flying Pokémon) resists both Fighting and Fire Attacks and can handle Hidden Power [Ice] and Grass Knot reasonably well, but Thunderpunch and Stone Edge will severely dent it (or KO it). With Earthquake and Waterfall at its disposal KOing Infernape isn't particularly difficult.
Moltres and Charizard (and other Fire/Flying Pokémon) resist both Fighting and Fire Attacks, resist Grass Knot and can handle Hidden Power [Ice]. Stone Edge KOs them easily however and Thunderpunch hurts a lot. Both have STAB Flying Attacks to deal with Infernape and Charizard has Earthquake.
Cresselia can handle most attacks and resists Fighting Attacks. STAB Fire Attacks will hurt it but it can survive them and can KO Infernape with Psychic (or paralyse it with Thunder Wave).
Bulky Water types (Swampert, Milotic, Suicune, Slowbro, Manaphy, Vaporeon and others) all resist Fire attacks and can survive its Fighting attacks but some of them (Swampert especially) have problems standing up to Grass Knot. Some of them also lack reliable recovery moves outside of Rest, which means they can be beaten down over time fairly effectively.
There are several Pokémon who can KO Infernape easily provided they don't get hurt in the process of getting into play. Jolly Dugtrio is the most notable since it prevents it from switching with Arena Trap. Pokémon like Starmie, Azelf, Crobat, Swellow and Aerodactyl all have super-effective STABS and can outrun Infernape easily. Jolteon, Gengar, Tauros and Raikou can all easily outrun it and hit it for a lot of damage (most of the time getting a KO, or close to it). Countless Pokémon with Choice Scarf can outrun and KO Infernape. Aqua Jet, the water typed Quick Attack, also hurts Infernape pretty badly.
Up against specific sets the list of counters doesn't change much, it's mainly a matter of finding a Pokémon who isn't weak to one of its attacks (or can handle that weakness).
Up against Physical Sweepers, Rhyperior can handle the Fighting Attacks (because of Hard Rock), but it'll still take a lot of damage. Bulky Ground Pokémon (like Donphan, Hippowdon and Claydol) can handle its STAB attacks but will still take a fair amount of damage, but can threaten with STAB Earthquakes.
If for some reason Infernape lacks a Fighting Attack, Blissey and Snorlax can counter Special Sweeping Infernapes. Vaporeon and Manaphy counter it nicely if Thunderpunch is absent since Grass Knot does very little damage to them. The occasionally seen Thick Fat Grumpig resists both its Fire and Fighting attacks and has the Special Defence and HP to mitigate them fairly well. Tentacruel resists both Fire and Fighting as well and has a good Special Defence stat. There is also a handful of other Pokémon can also join the list of counters since they have the Special Defence and HP to effectively handle special attacking variations (such as Ludicolo and Togekiss).
KOing Infernape isn't too hard. The Fire/Fighting typing gives it four weaknesses: Flying, Ground, Psychic and Water, and most self-respecting sweepers have access to at least one move of that type. Aside from that it doesn't have the most impressive resistances: Fire, Grass, Bug, Steel and Dark. Whilst several of those are somewhat frequently used they aren't as common as its weaknesses and with such poor defences it'll still have trouble handling those as well.
If Infernape is using: Close Combat, Flare Blitz or Life Orb it becomes even easier to KO. On top of that it doesn't resist Stealth Rock, Sandstorm or Spikes, so all three of those can pick up some additional passive damage. Thunder Wave shuts it down completely as well, without its speed Infernape is pretty much a goner. Poison doesn't bother it that much but when you stack it with the other possible ways it can have its HP drained passively it doesn't help at all. It really is the one consolation when facing Infernape that it's so easy to KO.
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