Zapdos, The Electric Pokémon. This legendary bird Pokémon is said to appear when the sky turns dark and lightning showers down. Zapdos is a legendary bird Pokémon that has the ability to control electricity. It usually lives in thunderclouds. The Pokémon gains power if it is stricken by lightning bolts.
Zapdos is one of the most prominent Pokemon in competitive play thanks to its great Electric / Flying typing which grants it plenty of useful resistances to Fighting, Bug, Flying and Steel-type attacks which makes it an annoying defensive threat for offensive teams to break through, a great stat distribution without any notable flaws, two great abilities in Static & Pressure, and a fantastic offensive and support movepool. While Stealth Rock does hamper Zapdos's presence throughout the match, it can keep itself healthy thanks to Roost and its incredibly high base 125 SpA prevents it from being completely passive. However, Zapdos is vulnerable to strong special attackers such as Magearna and Pursuit users like Tyranitar & Weavile, especially if Stealth Rock is on the field. Despite its few flaws though, Zapdos is a very solid Pokemon you should always prepare for.
Thanks to Zapdos's great stats and defensive typing, it sets itself apart as one of the most consistent checks for dangerous Pokemon such as Tapu Bulu, Landorus-T, Excadrill and Mega Pinsir. Roost is mandatory as it allows Zapdos to maintain itself healthy throughout the match, which is important for a defensive Pokemon. Discharge hits decently hard from Zapdos's high Special Attack, even uninvested, but it also comes with the bonus of inflicting paralysis by a 30%. This makes Pokemon like Volcarona and Mega Charizard X think twice before setting up on Zapdos. Heat Wave is Zapdos's best coverage move as it allows it to burn Pokemon like Mega Scizor and Ferrothorn to a crisp. Finally, depending on what your team needs: Defog is an excellent option to remove hazards thanks to Zapdos's great matchup against common hazard setters like Skarmory, Ferrothorn and Landorus-T. If Defog is not necessary, Hidden Power Ice can be used which prevents Zapdos from being used as set up fodder by Zygarde. Toxic is another option that allows Zapdos to heavily cripple Zygarde, Tangrowth and Gastrodon preventing it from being walled to death by these Pokemon. Whirlwind is a niche option that allows Zapdos to force out a dangerous switch-in or sweeper attempting to set up on it (Take into account that Whirlwind is only legal with HA since it is a Gen 1 TM).
248 HP gives Zapdos an indivisible HP number by 2, which grants it an extra turn to switch into Stealth Rock. +240 Def maximizes Zapdos's defensive ability preventing it from being 2HKO’d by Mega Swampert's +252 Atk Ice Punch with a Bold nature. Finally, Zapdos only needs 20 Spe EVs to outspeed neutral 252 Spe Bisharp and +252 Spe Magnezone.
The ability of choice depends on what you wan to achieve with Zapdos: Static allows Zapdos to heavily cripple dangerous physical threats such as Mega Lucario, Mega Medicham and Mega Charizard X with paralysis making it easier for the rest of your team to handle them. On the other hand, Pressure allows Zapdos to stall low PP moves such as Stone Edge in combination with Roost, as long as Zapdos is faster than the opponent.
Leftovers should always be item to be taken into consideration as Zapdos will need all the recovery it can get in order to survive. Rocky Helmet is an option, but you shouldn't consider it when you take into account how easily Zapdos can be overwhelmed with Stealth Rock on the field.
Zapdos's offensive sets have been mostly overlooked in the past due to Thundurus's higher Speed, access to Nasty Plot and a better movepool. However, with the Prankster nerfs, offensive Zapdos is ready to make a comeback. Using its excellent defensive typing and decent defenses, Zapdos can pose a huge surprise value against your opponent. Agility allows Zapdos's Speed to double outspeeding virtually anything on the game. Thunderbolt is your main STAB and with full investment, it is powerful enough to even 2HKO Heatran after Stealth Rock damage while obliterating Water and Flying types like Tapu Fini, Gyarados and Tornadus-Therian. When powered by a Z-move, Gigavolt Havoc becomes an insanely strong nuke capable of muscling through Heatran and Clefable. Heat Wave allows Zapdos to toast Ferrothorn, Tapu Bulu and Mega Scizor. Finally, Hidden Power Ice hits the Dragon types and Ground types that would otherwise wall it such as Zygarde, Landorus-Therian and Garchomp.
216 Speed EVs is what Zapdos needs to outspeed 252 neutral Zygarde and outspeed Scarfed Pokemon such as Latios and Gengar after an Agility boost. Max Special Attack is necessary to make the most out of Zapdos's fantastic special attack while the rest is dumped on HP to grant a little bit of bulk. Modest is preferred for the extra power and its ability to OHKO max HP Heatran after SR and one layer of Spikes with Gigavolt Havoc.
Static is the preferred ability as Zapdos has no business using Pressure with the lack of Roost and once weakened, it can paralyze an opponent if used as death fodder against a contact move. An Electrium Z becomes the item of choice for its ability to nuke Pokemon like Heatran and Clefable although Life Orb is an option for more consistent power at the expense of crippling Zapdos's durability on the match.
Zapdos is a great candidate for a Baton Pass user thanks to its greatly balanced stats and defensive typing. Agility allows Zapdos to increase its Speed to extraordinary levels outpacing the whole metagame. Substitute protects Zapdos from status ailments and protects the recipient from direct damage. Baton Pass is the main point of this set as it allows Zapdos to pass a +2 Speed or/with a Substitute to another sweeper. Pokemon like Mega Medicham, Landorus-Therian and Bisharp will greatly appreciate the Speed boost making them even harder to revenge kill. Finally, Thunderbolt is there to prevent Zapdos from being walled by Taunt while providing a reasonably strong STAB to do damage when required.
76 Speed EVs with a Timid nature is the min required to outspeed +252 Spe Hetran and preventing it from blocking Baton Pass with Taunt. 68 SpA EVs are needed to guarantee the OHKO on Mega Pinsir from full HP with Thunderbolt. 36 SpD EVs prevents Lele from 2HKO-ing Zapdos outside Psychic Terrain at full HP while the rest is dumped on Defense to bolster its physical defense.
Pressure is the only ability compatible with Baton Pass since the move is a unique purification move exclusive from Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness. Leftovers are the best item to be used on Zapdos for this set, however, a Wiki Berry is another valid option as it allows Zapdos to recover a 50% of its HP at a lower health allowing it to set up again on a pinch.
Reflect and Light Screen are valid options to use on Zapdos, however, Zapdos is outclassed on this role by the likes of Cresselia and Azelf due to the former's raw bulk and the latter's higher Speed.
VGC & Double Battle Options
While Zapdos won't be winning any awards for its prowess in the current VGC format, it certainly isn't a Pokemon you should overlook in a normal Doubles format. The new toys in Gen 7 really helped Zapdos on several fronts, allowing it to become more effective both in offensive and defensive roles. The prominence of the terrains make Psychic Seed or Misty Seed strong options to boost Zapdos's bulk, while the introduction of Z-Moves allow it to nuke something and otherwise avoid being too passive. The very balanced stat spread ends up being both a blessing and a curse for Zapdos as it makes it a very flexible and reliable Tailwind setter, but also prevents it from excelling in any particular stat which can be easy to take advantage of if you aren't careful. All that being said, Zapdos is still an excellent pick in most Doubles formats due to its flexibility, and if you're looking for a good Tailwind setter you'd do well to consider the thunder bird for that role.
Zapdos plays very differently depending on the item, though Electrium Z is usually the popular pick which tends to be more focused on offense. Thunderbolt is the primary STAB move which hits for respectable damage even without heavy investment, and makes for a powerful Z-Move. Heat Wave is the preferred coverage move simply because Fire-type coverage offers more utility for the likes of Ferrothorn. However, Hidden Power Ice can be just as effective if the team is struggling against Landorus-T which is otherwise a stalemate matchup that often ends up favor of Landorus-T. Roost is less necessary on an offensive Zapdos but is mandatory if taking a more defensive approach with dedication towards Tailwind support. Speaking of which, Tailwind is mandatory no matter what since Zapdos's typing makes it a reliable setter that can find itself setting Tailwind multiple times in a game with proper support.
Maximium Special Attack and Speed investment give Zapdos the most offensive presence, while a Modest nature is chosen for the biggest boost for its Special Attack. However, a Timid nature can allow Zapdos to speed tie with base 100 Pokemon such as Mega Kangaskhan. Zapdos will typically give up varying degrees of power and speed for bulkier spreads. Running 60 HP / 108 Def for example allows Zapdos to live Mega Metagross Zen Headbutt under Psychic Terrain, which is a very relevant threat in the normal Doubles format. As previously noted, Electrium Z is the best general use item as it provides a powerful nuke and makes for a decent Knock Off switch-in. However, a pinch berry becomes very appealing for more defensive spreads. Likewise Misty Seed or Psychic Seed can prove valuable on teams running Tapu Fini or Tapu Lele respectively to give Zapdos some extra special bulk, though this is easier to recommend in a 6v6 Doubles format where you're bringing your whole team anyway.
- Tapu Fini stands out as Zapdos's partner in crime. The two form a very sturdy and reliable backbone for a team and makes setting Tailwind for the rest of the team more reliable. However, these two tend to be passive together so you should make sure the rest of the team isn't lacking in offensive presence.
Zapdos is a very annoying Pokemon to take down due to its great defenses, access to Roost and excellent typing. However, Zapdos is far from invincible. Stealth Rock is Zapdos's biggest threat as it cuts 25% of its HP every time it switches in, which is huge for offensive Pokemon like Mega Medicham and Mega Mawile which allows them to overwhelm Zapdos with sheer offensive pressure. Special walls like Gastrodon, Clefable and Chansey don't care what Zapdos can throw at them (Gastrodon must watch out for the rare HP Grass) and they are able to wall it to death. Zapdos absolutely despises being poisoned as it cripples its durability throughout the match making it unable to wall the Pokemon it is supposed to check. Mega Charizard X can use Zapdos as set up offer although it must be careful of a Discharge or Static paralysis.
Mamoswine, Weavile and Tyranitar deserve a special mention as they are Rock and Ice STAB users who don't care about Static since Icicle Crash and Stone Edge are non-contact physical moves and they can break Zapdos into pieces. Mamoswine also possesses a part Ground type and with Thick Fat halving the damage from Heat Wave, it makes it a strong Zapdos check capable of obliterating the thunder bird. Tyranitar and Weavile also have access to Pursuit which is something that they can use at their advantage in combination with Stealth Rock to trap and severely cripple Zapdos. Take into account that Weavile does care about paralysis though since it halves its great Speed tier leaving it unable to beat Zapdos if used unwisely.
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