It seems like an absurd question to ask if the fan-favorite Charizard is a good Pokemon, as there is plenty of history to back up Charizard’s viability as a competitive Pokemon. Also, as one of Ash Ketchum’s ace monsters, there’s a lot of fans out there who probably don’t realize that Charizard isn’t quite as good as the anime would lead you to believe. Gaining the Flying-type after evolving from the much-maligned Charmeleon is often more of a weakness than a strength, although it’s possible to turn those weaknesses into a strength with good team-building. So, we instead ask the question is Charizard actually good competitively in Pokemon?
While I’m certainly not that big of a fan of the Sword and Shield games, I was thrilled to see the champion Leon’s ace monster be a Charizard; although in our skirmishes in the Battle Tower, it seems Leon tends to get my Gigantamax Water-type Urshifu or Huge Power Azumarill in his face more often than not, which never ends well for Charizard. I continue to collect shiny Charmanders for the privilege of owning one of the best shiny Pokemon in the game with black Charizard. Strangely enough, Charizard is not my favorite Pokemon, as to this day, I simply cannot choose a favorite, but he is among my favorites. Yet, when it comes to Red and Blue, Charmander is still my favorite starter. Therefore, I’ve always made it a point to fully train a Charizard, whether I choose to use it for serious battling or not.
Is Charizard Good Competitively?
To those who didn’t play competitively in the first generation, myself included, it may shock you that Charizard was actually a third-tier competitive choice. That’s not to say players didn’t make him work; certainly, there were champions of Charizard, but since Blizzard was a 90 percent accurate move in the first generation (later 70 percent), gaining the Flying type actually made him not viable unless those Pokemon packing Ice Beam were first dealt with. Sure, in the lower tiers of competitive play, Charizard was a staple, but gaining Flying meant that not only did he get got by Blizzard, but also Thunderbolt from Zapdos. Rock Slide could also ruin Charizard’s day, although it wasn’t nearly as prevalent in early Pokemon as it would later become.
Those who did make Charizard work early on used him as a Pivot mon, using Fire Spin to trap an opponent or Toxic to help soften a problem opposing Pokemon for your main sweeper. Also, Charizard hit more than hard enough with Fire Blast, Earthquake, and Slash to clean up anyone who didn’t pose a threat with their Water, Ice, or Electric attacks.
Fortunately for Charizard, the Special stat being split into Special Attack and Special Defense was an immense boon. His modest 85 Special turned to 85 Special Defense, but his Special Attack boosted from 85 to 109, the same base stat that Charizard retains to this day. That’s right folks, Dragonite could pull off a similar Fire Blast with a base 100 Special, as could Chansey with a higher special stat with 105. Even Flareon’s Fire Blast hit harder with his 110 Special stat and same-type Attack Bonus. Thank you, Game Freak, for realizing the error of your ways making Special a single stat.
In Gold and Silver, Charizard took full advantage of his massive 24 point boost in Special Attack, making his Fire Blast’s among the deadliest in the game thanks to his same-type Attack Bonus. Interestingly, though, Charizard’s main move set in competitive play actually played Belly Drum, which cut HP in half to boost physical Attack to max, leaning on Earthquake and Rock Slide to do damage. Even newcomers like Steelix and Skarmory, though, stood no chance against Charizard’s mighty Fire Blasts, if they connected, that is.
This is where good team-building comes into play. Anything that threatened Charizard could be taken out by teammates first, then allowing the big bad dragon to wreck whoever was left. It’s important to note that while entry hazards did exist in Gold and Silver, they were limited to Spikes, and Charizard’s true nemesis hadn’t yet arrived in the form of Stealth Rock – which would be a Diamond and Pearl addition.
Ruby and Sapphire gave Charizard additional tools to succeed, including Berries and an ability in Blaze. While Blaze wasn’t much good on Charmander or Charmeleon in competitive play, it was excellent for the fully-evolved Charizard, who often still relied on Belly Drum to hit hard. Blaze powers up Fire-type moves of the user if they are at 1/3 health or below, something that happened quite often with a Bellyzard. These Charizards began to pack Double-Edge, taking advantage of the recoil not only for Blaze, but also the held Salac Berry, boosting Speed as soon as Charizard passed below ¼ HP.
The Recoil abuse and Blaze even made Flamethrower a viable option over the incumbent Fire Blast; even though it was weaker ordinarily, it’s far more accurate and nearly as deadly as a Fire Blast with Blaze in effect. Generation 3 also introduced Overheat, a more powerful and accurate Fire Blast, but one that lowered Special Attack of the user by two stages. This wasn’t a huge deal if you were going to switch back to using Double-Edge, Earthquake, or Rock Slide, of course, which are physical attacking moves.
Other variants of Charizard instead worked with Substitute, using that damage-free turn to set up a Focus Punch. Hidden Power also could work wonders with type coverage, with Hidden Power Grass, Ice, and Flying all seeing play on various Charizards. Finally, there were also Dragon Dance Charizards, who used the extra Attack power and Speed to unleash deadly same-type Attack Bonus Aerial Ace attacks, strong Earthquakes, and still potent Fire Blasts.
As good as all of these generation 2 and 3 Charizard’s were, they required a bit extra setup to work effectively, thanks to all of Charizard’s various bad type match-ups. He was a bit too good for the second tier, known as UU or Underused by Smogon, but not quite good enough to be considered among the better options in top-tier play. Still, Charizard kept getting new tools in generations 2 and 3 to become a solid mixed attacker who had plenty of tricks up his sleeve.
Generation 4 actually gave Charizard a couple of huge move set buffs, especially with moves being separated into physical and special, not any longer determined by types. But, unfortunately, in came the ever-popular Stealth Rocks, which hit Charizard extremely hard with a 4x weakness, thanks to both Fire and Flying being two times weak. What Charizard did gain as a Flying type were Air Slash and Roost. Air Slash isn’t immensely powerful on its own, but it’s a special Flying attack that has a 30 percent chance to flinch. Charizard also gained Focus Blast, a much better version of Focus Punch that’s also special and could answer a lot of Pokemon who threatened Charizard.
The good news for Charizard is that teammates could pave the way for Charizard to be good yet again. Also, his move set was buffed even further to include Thunder Punch and Solar Beam, giving him even more options for competitive builds. Sun teams were happy to watch Charizard punish unsuspecting trainers with a sudden Solar Beam. Opposing Water-types didn’t see a Belly Drum boosted Thunder Punch coming more often than not either. So, for all the talk of Stealth Rocks, Charizard could still come in and do a lot of damage if you had a reliable Rapid Spinner to clear the way.
Speaking of Sun Teams, Black and White gave Charizard the Solar Power hidden ability that became so relevant for Charmander and Charmeleon. Interestingly enough, you didn’t really see Solar Power Charizards become common, instead relying on the Choice Specs or Choice Scarf to either push Charizard as a special attacker with Air Slash and Flamethrower, or a fast sweeper relying on those moves plus Focus Blast and Hidden Power Grass.
Perhaps the most creative Charizard set from Black and White was the Flying Gem-boosted Swords Dance set. What’s counter-intuitive about the set is that it runs Acrobatics rather than Air Slash, and Acrobatics hits harder from having no held item. Still, Acrobatics is a physical Attack and Swords Dance boosts physical Attack, so the Flying gem mitigates that drawback along with the same-type Attack Bonus. These Charizards sometimes ran Flare Blitz, but more often than not, didn’t use a Fire-type move at all, instead relying on Earthquake as the other physical move, and rounding out the move set with Roost to recover HP. This isn’t a Charizard I would run, but it’s not hard to see where such a mon could really confuse opponents.
Fortunately for Charizard, Mega Evolutions came into play with the release of Pokemon X and Y, leading us to ask the question…
Is Mega Charizard X or Mega Charizard Y Better?
More often than not, trainers will often point to Mega Charizard X being considered the superior of the two Mega Evolutions. Indeed, in competitive play, Mega Charizard X did see much more play, thanks to losing the Flying type and gaining the Dragon type. Both Mega Evolutions gained significant stat buffs and new abilities, and to be fair to both of them, they have to almost be considered different Pokemon entirely.
We’ll start with the more popular Mega Charizard X. He gains 46 base Attack (130 ATK), 33 base Defense (111 DEF), and 21 base Special Attack (130 SP ATK). These new base stats would seem to suggest he should make for a strong mixed attacker, but his newfound abilities, Tough Claws, boosts physical moves by 30 percent. This means you want to focus on Dragon Dance to boost attack and speed, then unleash massive Flare Blitzes and Dragon Claws. He also packs Roost to recover.
Another option was to focus on doubling down with Attack with Swords Dance, rather than Dragon Dance’s single stage Attack and Speed Boost. This meant Charizard could instead pack Outrage, which would hit for two or three turns before confusing the user, making for a solid late game clean-up mon. Other trainers preferred to maximize Charizard X’s Defense gains by investing in HP and Physical Defense, opting for Will-O-Wisp to burn opposing physical attackers, crippling their ability to fight back, and sometimes opting for Earthquake over the STAB Dragon Claw.
Mega Charizard Y takes a very different approach, retaining the Flying type, but gaining base stats in different areas. He gains no physical Defense buff, but instead, gains 20 base Attack (104 ATK), 50 base Special Attack (159 SP ATK), and 30 base Special Defense (115 SP DEF). He also gains the special ability Drought, which immediately casts Sunny Day. Considering that Vulpix and Ninetales were your typical Drought users – with the legendary Groudon still firmly cemented in Ubers – this was a huge boost to Sun teams.
Finally, Charizard Y could use Solar Beam effectively with its huge Special Attack buff and immediate Sunny Day proc. It then finished off its move set with Flamethrower, Focus Blast for type coverage, and Roost for recovery. Unlike traditional Charizard and Mega Charizard X, Charizard Y was used more as an early-game Sun setter and wall-breaker. It was very strong, but required a running a dedicated Sun team to maximize its potential. Plus, Stealth Rocks were still almost omnipresent, meaning that it really was at its best in the early turns before entry hazards were active. Both Mega Charizard X and Y saw top-tier play well into the Sun and Moon years, with Y often running Defog to mitigate entry hazards. It was truly the height of Charizard’s competitive heyday.
Would Gigantamax Charizard Be Competitive?
With the release of Sword and Shield, the Mega Evolutions left the game and were replaced by the controversial Dynamax mechanic. Personally, the Dynamax mechanic always has felt cheap to me, and should have been limited to just a few Pokemon, rather than most non-Legendary mons, to make it feel more special. Charizard is one of the Pokemon that seems to deserve a Gigantmax (G-Max) form the most, especially when you consider the loss of its two powerful Mega Evolutions.
Sadly, even with the addition of Heavy-Duty Boots as a held item to ignore entry hazards, Charizard eventually couldn’t work his way out of the lowest tiers of competitive play. However, before Sword and Shield unleashed the Crown Tundra DLC, you did still occasionally see a Choice Specs Charizard do some damage in top-level play, finally taking advantage of Solar Power as Charmander and Charmeleon long have. Of course, as a fully-evolved Pokemon who could also Dynamax, the Weather Ball hit much harder after sun was set with Max Flare, which sets Sun for five turns much like Drought or Sunny Day. G-Max Charizard also gained the unique G-Max Wildfire, which like Venusaur and Blastoise’s G-Max attack, hits for four additional turns.
The problem is as the Pokedex expanded, many of Charizard’s old weaknesses reemerged. Sun Teams found other hard hitters, such as Torkoal, and as Sword and Shield decided to bring Legendary Pokemon into the mix, Charizard’s good but not great base stats started to see it power crept out of the top tiers, falling all the way to PU (which stands for exactly what it sounds like.) But, Charizard did pick up one interesting new move in Scorching Sands, a Ground-type Special Attack move with a 30 percent chance to Burn the target. If Game Freak were not so insistent on pushing Legendary Pokemon on the ladder, we’d probably still see a lot more of Solar Power Charizard.
In the Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl remakes, Charizard still retains the Solar Power hidden ability, but without the Heavy-Duty Boots from Sword and Shield again falls victim to Stealth Rocks. He also loses the Scorching Sands move that makes him more relevant in Sword and Shield. There are many other Fire-types trainers seem to prefer using over Charizard that don’t have that same weakness, and it seems he’s on the outside looking in as the more competitive-minded players build a competitive scene for BDSP through wifi battles and on Pokemon Showdown.
Once we are away from the Dynamax scene and seeming worship of Legendary Pokemon and Ultra Beasts that has plagued Sword and Shield, Charizard once again should have his day in the sun (literally). While he may never gain the heights his Mega Evolutions afforded him, Charizard is still a perfectly good, if not great, Pokemon on his own. Here’s to hoping future games and perhaps even the next generation of games, gives Charizard yet another chance to be a relevant player in competitive Pokemon.