Welcome to the thirthy-fourth issue of 6th Generation's Pokemon of the Week! This week we'll be discussing Gyarados.
Magikarp is virtually worthless in terms of power and speed. In the distant past, it was somewhat stronger than the horribly weak, pathetic descendants that exist today. Gyarados is rarely seen in the wild. Huge and vicious, it is capable of destroying entire cities with its rage. There exists an ancient record of a Gyarados that razed a warring village.
Base Stats: 95 HP / 125 Attack / 79 Defense / 60 Sp. Atack / 100 Sp. Defense / 81 Speed
Since generation 3, Gyarados has always been a good Pokemon, but this generation has had both positive and negative changes for it. Bold Rotom-Wash is something that hinders normal Gyarados' usefulness quite a lot, but it fears switching into Gyarados because Mega Gyarados can OHKO it with a +1 Earthquake, so bluffing a mega can be beneficial for Gyarados in giving it some time to setup or make whatever plays might set you in a better position. In the way of positive changes, the metagame around Gyarados has allowed for it to be useful in a number of roles without feeling like a burden on your team. Additionally, Mega Gyarados, while first laughed off as being inferior to Gyarados, has many advantages that I'll discuss in the Mega Evolution section. Gyarados has a lot of utility, allowing it to fit well on nearly any team if it is supported with the proper teammates, and it's something your team should always be prepared for.
|Gyarados@ Leftovers / Lum Berry|
Adamant nature (+Attack, -Sp. Attack)
EVs: 88 HP / 192 Attack / 4 Defense / 224 Speed
Substitute / Taunt
I'm going to preface this by saying that the given EVs are Smogon standard... and they're also kind of dumb. 224 Speed allows you to outspeed Timid Noivern after you've used Dragon Dance, but Noivern isn't anywhere near common for OU, and Noivern's base 123 Speed is unique, meaning you're only aiming to outspeed Noivern with the given spread. The spread I recommend is 88 HP / 212 Attack / 4 Defense / 204 Speed. This allows you to outspeed base 120 Pokemon after a Dragon Dance, which is an actual common Speed tier to shoot for, and gives your attacks more of a punch.
That out of the way, this is a bulky Dragon Dance set for Gyarados. The idea is to come in on a physical attacker and weaken it with Intimidate, and either force it out or setup a Substitute that it can't break, and begin boosting with Dragon Dance. Waterfall is your main STAB attack, having great coverage and power, as well as an occasionally handy chance at Flinching the opponent.
Bounce is because Gamefreak decided that it's the only Flying move Gyarados will ever get, but it does have some good utility. STAB Flying type allows it to threaten Mega Venusaur, Keldeo, and not be entirely walled by Ferrothorn, and also has a chance of Paralysis. It comes at a price however, and this is one you have to consider before even thinking about attempting a boosting sweep: Bold Rotom-Wash walls Gyarados. There is a workaround however, and it comes in the form of the last slot: Substitute. Rotom-Wash typically only carries Volt Switch as an Electric STAB, and using Substitute as it Volt Switches allows you to work around it, though it's not ideal, and will cause problems if they have a second answer to Gyarados. Substitute also protect Gyarados from status, as well as Leech Seed, which helps it work around Ferrothorn a bit better. Taunt is an option in this slot to shut defensive Pokemon down completely, and making the opponent unable to protect themselves from Bounce, through Protect or just through healing themselves on the turn you Bounce up.
The item choice is down to Leftovers or Lum Berry. Leftovers is more consistent and gives much-needed healing from the damage you'll take from Substitute, but Lum Berry allows you to both absorb a status attack if needed, and fake having Gyaradosite. The defensive EVs are a bit strange, but they allow Gyarados's Substitute to survive a Power Whip from a Burned Ferrothorn, which is not an uncommon scenario if your team runs something with Scald or Will-O-Wisp. Either way, the extra bulk is appreciated, aiding you in setting up. Good partners for this Gyarados are Pokemon that can bait Rotom-Wash out and remove it. Talonflame tends to draw Rotom-Wash out, so if you U-Turn out of it as it switches in, and bring in something like Mega Venusaur, it'll be forced right back out and the chip damage will add up, especially if you have Stealth Rock on the field. Having a Rapid Spin user is also helpful, especially if you're running Talonflame, and Excadrill fits well and has good synergy with those two. Wearing Rotom-Wash down is absolutely essential for the success of this set, so be smart with how you play, and don't attempt a setup until the time is right.
|Gyarados@ Life Orb / Lum Berry|
Moxie / Intimidate
Adamant nature (+Attack, -Sp. Attack)
EVs: 252 Attack / 4 Defense / 252 Speed
While this set may look similar to the last set, it forgoes the bulk for all-out offensive power and Speed. Dragon Dance is your setup move, providing Gyarados with a method of sweeping, though it shouldn't be attempted before Gyarados's counters have been removed, especially the ever-present Rotom-Wash. Waterfall is chosen as the main STAB attack due to the perfect accuracy and good power. Aqua Tail really should not be chosen because it does not gain any notable KOs, and the miss is not worth the slight boost in power. Bounce is your secondary STAB, keeping Grass types at bay, though be careful when using it, as the opponent switching to something with an Electric attack while you bounce up will leave Gyarados helpless to their retalitation once it comes down. Stone Edge is chosen for the great coverage it adds, allowing it to remove Kyurem-Black, opposing Gyarados, and Zapdos after a Dragon Dance boost, as well as dealing the most damage to Rotom-Wash if absolutely necessary.
The EVs and nature are straightforward: maximize Attack and Speed to deal out as much damage as possible, and outspeed everything you can. Life Orb is the preferred item for an extra 1.3x boost to all your damaging attacks at the cost of 10% of your health per attack, but Lum Berry can allow you to remove a crippling status once and keep your sweep intact, while also being able to bluff holding a Mega Stone. Moxie is the ability of choice on this set to turn Gyarados's sweep into an unstoppable train, racking up more power with each kill. Intimidate is still a really good option to consider, providing a bit of extra bulk as it switches in and giving it time to setup, but Moxie is more conducive to a full-on sweep, which is the aim of this set.
Careful nature (+Sp. Defense, -Sp. Attack)
EVs: 248 HP / 252 Sp. Defense / 8 Speed
Dragon Tail / Thunder Wave / Roar
A specially defensive Gyarados set may seem odd at first, but it can actually be very difficult to bring down, and makes for an effective shuffler, especially given how many switches it forces. Waterfall is Gyarados's best STAB attack, allowing it to deal consistent damage. Rest and Sleep Talk allow Gyarados to keep itself healthy while still putting pressure on the opponent.
The last slot has a few options to consider. Dragon Tail allows Gyarados to phaze opponents while dealing damage, which also means that it cannot be setup on by most opponents while it sleeps. This is stopped by Fairy types, however, and Belly Drum Azumarill will have no problems with switching in on you and getting a free boost. Thunder Wave pairs well with this kind of set, allowing you to cripple many opponents and then aim for some ParaFlinch hax with Waterfall. The main drawback here is that Rotom-Wash is already the most common switch-in and is immune to Paralysis and takes pathetic amounts of damage from Waterfall. Roar can be used for a more straightforward phazing, which is especially effective with entry hazards stacked on the opponent's side of the field.
This kind of Gyarados is built for defensive or stall teams, and as such, it needs entry hazard support to maximize its usefulness, which these types of teams tend to carry anyway. Stealth Rock support is the biggest one, though Spikes are also appreciated. Excadrill makes a good partner once again, able to Rapid Spin hazards off your side of the field, while proving Stealth Rock if necessary, as well as a handy Electric immunity. Heal Bell or Aromatherapy support is nice too, to remove Sleep early if necessary, but isn't mandatory.
Base Stats: 95 HP / 155 Attack / 109 Defense / 70 Sp. Attack / 130 Sp. Defense / 81 Speed
Mega Gyarados was overlooked for a long time when it was introduced. Changing to Water/Dark typing is, offensively, a bit worse for Gyarados objectively, losing Bounce as a STAB option and only having Bite as a Dark STAB option, and it's not even one worth considering. However, there are many things that were overlooked at first. Mold Breaker tops the list, allowing Gyarados to use Earthquake on Rotom-Wash, eliminating normal Gyarados's biggest counter, as well as allowing Gyarados to bypass Mega Venusaur's Thick Fat with Ice Fang. The changed typing also helps Gyarados a lot defensively, for the most part, removing the quad Electric weakness, as well as the Rock weakness, and taking very little damage from Knock Off, which won't even remove his item. Gyarados also gains some pretty significant defensive buffs, getting +30 Defense and +30 Sp. Defense. Possibly most importantly, Mega Gyarados can choose when to Mega Evolve, completely changing many of its weaknesses and resistances, and bluffing being non-Mega. It's mutually beneficial for both normal Gyarados and Mega Gyarados that the Mega exists, in that it plays mind games with the opponent until they know if you're going to Mega Evolve. For this reason, if it isn't a hindrance to do so, pairing Gyarados with another Pokemon that can potentially Mega Evolve can really give you a mental advantage in some match-ups.
It's not all good news, though. The new typing leaves Gyarados vulnerable to Grass attacks, without the possibility of Flying type Bounce to threaten them. It also changes the Fighting resistance to a Fighting weakness, allowing it to be revenge-killed by Mach Punch users, such as Conkeldurr, which can deal up to 50% without Iron Fist. Overall, while it was not the Water/Dragon typing we'd all been anticipating, Mega Gyarados has proven itself to be a formidable fighter in OU, and it's something to keep in mind when building teams.
Intimidate [Mold Breaker]
Adamant nature (+Attack, -Sp. Attack)
EVs: 252 Attack / 4 Defense / 252 Speed
Ice Fang / Substitute / Taunt
Mega Gyarados makes an incredibly formidable Dragon Dancer. Waterfall returns as the STAB of choice, and this time, the only one it has to work with. Earthquake immediately punishes Rotom-Wash switch-ins by ignoring their Levitate, thanks to Mold Breaker, and OHKOing them after a Dragon Dance. For this reason, you may want to choose not to Mega Evolve right away, and allow them to switch into normal Gyarados as you Dragon Dance, only to Mega Evolve that turn and KO with the Earthquake.
The last slot has a few options. Ice Fang allows Gyarados to deal with most OU Dragons, such as Garchomp and Dragonite, even ignoring the latter's Multiscale. It also allows you to deal massive damage to Mega Venusaur, bypassing Thick Fat, though even after a boost, you won't OHKO even standard offensive Mega Venusaur, and only have around a 60% chance to 2HKO the defensive variant at full health, not factoring their Giga Drain retaliation, so be sure they're in kill range before considering this. Substitute is a good option for blocking status and damage, and shutting out defensive Pokemon that can't break the Sub in one hit, allowing you to boost even further with Dragon Dance or just dish out more attacks from behind the safety of a Sub. Taunt, on the other hand, stops defensive Pokemon from recovering and from using status attacks for 4 turns, putting a lot of pressure on defensive Pokemon that would ordinarily just try to cripple Gyarados with a status attack and heal off the damage later.
As said in the intro paragraph, pairing this with another Pokemon capable of Mega Evolving is beneficial, but the Pokemon should be one that isn't detrimental to your overall team. Good Pokemon in both Mega and non-Mega form include Scizor, Tyranitar, Heracross (Choice Scarf, usually), and Alakazam. Including one of those Pokemon can make it difficult for your opponent to know your plan, and potentially lose Pokemon from misprediction. If you don't reveal your hand early, that puts even more pressure on a smart player that will test the waters and play extra carefully.
Intimidate is chosen because it always has an effect before Mega Evolving, and can help you setup Dragon Dances with the extra bulk it provides Gyarados with, as well as being something that forces switches, giving it time to boost. Moxie is useful too, but it's only situationally useful, and you're usually better off by lowering the Attack of something threatening as you switch in.
Magikarp can be found by fishing with an Old Rod on Route 3 and Route 22, while Gyarados can be fished up with a Super Rod on Route 3, Route 22, and Parfum Palace. Raising a Magikarp is less annoying this generation than it has ever been, given how good Exp. Share has become in X/Y, but it's still slow going until level 20 when it evolves. It also has no Egg Moves, and Magikarp cannot learn TMs, so... evolve as soon as possible. Here's what I'd recommend:
Dragon Dance / Stone Edge
Gyarados operates nearly the same in-game as it does in competitive battling. Waterfall is your only STAB this time, though, because I just realized that Bounce is a tutor move from past generations, and wow is that stupid. Earthquake is for Electric types, and Ice Fang for Dragons, especially Flying Dragons. The last slot is either Dragon Dance to boost, or Stone Edge for some extra coverage, though it's pretty unnecessary in-game.
Or you can just make it into an HM slave with Surf, Waterfall, Strength, Rock Smash.
Wow, Game Freak hates Gyarados. It doesn't learn a Flying STAB outside of one single tutor move, and Mega Gyarados gets the exciting Dark STAB options of Bite and Dark Pulse. You see that Rattata over there? It learns Crunch. Pupitar that has no visable mouth? Crunch. Freaking Teddiursa, the most adorable thing ever learns Crunch. Gyarados, whose gaping maw is the first thing you'll notice right before it eats you? It has to take small bites, its jaw obviously can't crunch through you. That wouldn't be proper etiquette.
All that said, Gyarados is pretty cool. It's a sea serpent, what more do you even need to know about it? How about it being the most famous and common user of Hyper Beam, leveling cities with it and such. Gyarados is one of those Pokemon that Trainers raise to look tough, and damn it, you can't not be badass if you have a Gyarados. Gym Leaders use it, Champions use it, even Villains use it!
Just don't expect it to win any pie eating contests against the fearsome Rattata.
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