Is Salamence Good? – A Scarlet and Violet Pokemon Review

Salamence Pokemon 373

Of all the Pokemon I’ve analyzed in my “Is X good in Pokemon” series, Salamence is easily the most popular and most competitive of them all. Unlike many other Pokemon I’ve written about returning in Scarlet and Violet, Salamence has never been absent from any Generation since its creation during the Generation 3 games Ruby and Sapphire. It’s continued to be a high tier Pokemon since it released in Japan in November 2002, and only in Sword and Shield did it slip just a bit to being underused in the competitive scene.

Lore wise, Salamence is also one of the more epic evolution chains, starting as a tiny Bagon with a dream of flying. Its dreams of flight were so powerful that its very cellular structure began to change, and after an awkward middle stage of Shelgon, transforms into the majestic and powerful Salamence. It has strong mixed attacking prowess (135 physical Attack and 110 Special Attack), decent defensives (95 HP, 80 Defense, and 80 Special Defense), and an above-average Speed tier (100 base Speed).

But, with each new Generation of Pokemon comes a brand new set of challenges for older monsters to overcome to stay relevant. As a Dragon-type, Salamence does have that pesky weakness to Fairy-type moves, a type that’s become much more prevalent since its introduction in Generation 6 with the X and Y games. One could argue that Salamence was a major reason that the Fairy type was even created, with how dominant Dragon-type Pokemon were for much of the franchise’s history. Of course, Salamence also got a ridiculous Mega evolution in that same generation, which negated a lot of the issues with the Fairy-type it may have otherwise had.

Yet even with its Fairy-type weakness, the best Salamence counters are still actually any Pokemon that can pack Ice-type moves, thanks to Salamence also having the secondary Flying type. In Generation 8, this made already extremely popular Pokemon like Weavile a perfect foil to Salamence. With Weavile particularly popular in Sword and Shield, as well as the new Ice-type Galarian form of Darmanitan (Uber AF), and the return of Mamoswine in DLC, Salamence slipped from the top tiers of competition, although is still very much in the minds of many competition minded trainers. It also didn’t help that Sword and Shield nixed Mega evolutions, probably for the better.

The musings of Smogon University and the machinations of high-tier VGC doubles play aside, let’s just consider Salamence for what it is, a richly-designed Dragon monster who was once an Uber-level threat in the days of Diamond, Pearl, and Platinum.

That’s right, Salamence was once so powerful during Generation 4 that Smogon banned him from regular singles to the realm of over-powered legendaries in the Ubers tier. In VGC, he was an absolute house, and a favorite offensive force that trainers had to pack Ice and Rock type moves to deal with effectively. Sure, even Salamence has that same-type weakness to Dragon-type moves, but it all depended on which Salamence could strike first, based on natures and other in-battle boosts.

But, let’s set aside Salamence and its obviously uber-like base stats, versatile movepool, and ridiculous Hidden Ability in Moxie, and consider is Salamence is a good Pokemon for your Scarlet and Violet adventure? The answer is a resounding yes, of course, but let’s actually consider just how much more powerful Salamence becomes thanks to one weird trick. That trick is the Generation 9 gimmick of Terastallizing.

With Salamence able to have one of any eighteen Tera types, it remains to be seen which is actually the best. While its more of a physical threat, especially when paired with its Moxie hidden ability, it has the ability to go all-in with Special attacking moves, too. The best moveset for Salamence actually depends on how you’re trying to use it for your team. Both physical and special movesets were used during Generation 8, although in VGC, a physical attacker build of Salamence was prevalent according to Pikalytics and was still ranked #72 in usage for Series 13 VGC as of early October 2022.

This Sword and Shield Salamence typically packed four physical moves in Dragon Claw, Dual Wingbeat, Fire Fang, and Brick Break, with an Adamant nature going all in on Salamence’s massive 135 base physical Attack stat. But, Salamence went with its original ability, Intimidate, more often than not. While Moxie, an ability that powers up Attack each time the Pokemon KO’s an opponent, is powerful, cutting opponents’ Attack has proven to be the better option in Sword and Shield’s VGC meta. Salamence also preferred to hold a White Herb, in order to negate any stat drops, especially those suffered by an opponent’s monster with Intimidate.

Salamence’s best partners in Gen 8 VGC are Eternatus and Dialga as restricted Pokemon, and Whimscott, Water-type Rapid Strike Urshifu, and Umbreon. Clearly, Salamence offers both defensive utility, as well as offensive type coverage for this bunch. But, the Scarlet and Violet meta will likely be incredibly different, with many of these five Pokemon likely not even available for competitive play in the early running. This gives an already formidable Pokemon like Salamence a lot more room to run.

Considering this moveset, as well as the counters to Salamence, it would seem a Fighting Tera type seems best. This helps mitigate weakness to Ice and Rock type moves, as well as powering up its Fighting-type move dramatically, providing a perfect counter to Ice-type and Rock-type Pokemon. Granted many of the monsters packing Rock-type moves aren’t even typically Rock-type in nature, but it still gives a bit of utility. A Fire Tera type also seems like a possibility, as it neutralizes Ice-type moves super-effectiveness, and powers up moves like Fire Fang and even Flamethrower on a special attacker variant of Salamence.

In Generation 9, Salamence is actually a Pokemon Violet exclusive, which is fine as that is the version I prefer, thanks in part to the presence of Ceruledge. However, I’ve always played both versions of each generation, with the exception of Generation 7 where I only ever played Ultra Sun. I will have both Scarlet and Violet in my possession, however, so I will not miss out on the Pokemon Scarlet exclusive of Tyranitar, who I will certainly provide a write-up for in due time. So, sorry those who prefer Scarlet version; you will have to trade for a Bagon in your game.

It’s possible you could go the same three ways with Salamence for your team that Pokemon Showdown players did in the Underused tier of Smogon competitive singles. These include the aforementioned physical attacker moveset, a special attacker moveset, and a defensive moveset. Thanks to the presence of Tera types, you may even be able to double down on certain builds, such as those which have movesets which don’t include either a Dragon-type or Flying-type move, in order to get an additional 50 percent damage boost for the Tera Type you choose.

With dual-type Pokemon, choosing a Tera type that is the same as one of its original types eliminates the other type, making Salamence then fully Dragon-type. However, thanks to information gleaned from early beta players, while the Pokemon loses its other types, it still retains the 1.5x same type attack bonus on its original types. This means if you choose a Tera Type other than its original types, you get the STAB on both its original type, plus the new Tera type.

The special attacker build of Salamence focuses on Draco Meteor, Hurricane, Flamethrower, and Roost. While Salamence has a significantly lower Special Attack base stat (110), and these builds focused on Speed with a Timid nature (which cuts physical Attack), it made up for these slight shortcomings with raw power and being able to outspeed many common threats (base 100 speed is still plenty good, especially when boosted by a beneficial nature!)

However, with Tera types, the move Tera Blast, an 80 base power move, actually is either physical or special based on which stat is higher. This means that even a Special Attacker Salamence would have a Tera Blast which goes off its physical Attack, meaning it will still hit slightly harder. As Roost actually takes away Salamence’s Flying type during the turn that it’s used, its Ice-type weakness is lessened and its Rock-type weakness eliminated. Therefore, it makes sense that a Special Attacker Salamence would likely enjoy a Dragon Tera Type to double down on its best STAB (same-type attack bonus) move in Draco Meteor. Then, it would still have the regular 1.5x bonus on its Flying-type moves, as well.

A defensive moveset for Salamence often eschews a Dragon-type move entirely, focusing on Dual Wingbeat and Flamethrower as its damage-dealing moves, with Roost and Defog for utility. Some defensive Salamence don’t even run Dual Wingbeat, opting for Toxic instead. Here, a Flying Tera Type could prove helpful for an additionally STAB boosted Tera Blast (2x damage instead of the typical 1.5x for STAB).

Another build of Salamence is a Dragon Dance set, which runs the attack and speed boosting move, along with Outrage, Dual Wingbeat, and either Earthquake or Fire Blast. For this set, a Ground type Tera type may be useful to power up Earthquake as a way to counter Ice and Rock type Pokemon that would otherwise be an issue. Meanwhile, Salamence still enjoys the 1.5X STAB boost on Outrage and Dual Wingbeat.

A Dragon Dance set was common to Salamence in BDSP (Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl) competitive singles, although it erred more towards the physical side, with Earthquake being its most common physical move, with Dragon Claw being its STAB move. BDSP players typically ran Iron Tail, Fire Blast, or Fire Fang in the final slot. Again, a Ground Tera Type would be most beneficial to those bringing their competitive BDSP Salamence move set forward to Scarlet and Violet through Pokemon HOME.

These ideal Tera Types aren’t set in stone, but rather my thoughts on how these types should interact positively with what would otherwise be weaknesses for that Pokemon, while also playing to their more niche strengths. It wouldn’t surprise me for there to be a wide range of beneficial Tera types for each Pokemon native to Generation 9. That’s the beauty of the mechanic. But, it is not yet confirmed if Tera Types are only native to Pokemon caught within Scarlet and Violet, of if they gain them on transfer. Either way, Tera Hunting for the right Bagon is going to be a lot of fun in Pokemon Violet!

Which Salamence moveset do you believe will be best for Generation 9? Personally, I’m leaning towards the VGC moveset with four type coverage physical damage moves, although that will likely change depending on the Tera type (imagine a Poison Tera Type to Tera Blast away Fairy-types!) Which Tera Type are you hunting for most for your eventual Salamence?

Writing words, spreading love, Amelia Desertsong primarily writes creative nonfiction articles, as well as dabbling in baseball, Pokemon, Magic the Gathering, and whatever else tickles her fancy.
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