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Azelf

by Ninjomewtwo

Azelf

Sets

Suicide Lead

Item Held
Focus Sash
Nature
Naive (+Speed, -Special Defense)
Effort Points
252 Special Attack – 252 Speed – 6 Attack

Azelf has proven itself as a great suicide lead in the past year or so, and there must be a good reason for it. It’s one of the few Pokémon that can mess up so easily with all those common leads, while almost always setting Stealth Rock without failing due to Focus Sash. Setting those rocks is obviously your first priority, however, should a troublesome leading Pokémon appear, you can act accordingly. Gengar is OHKOed by Psychic, same goes for Roserade. Bronzong will fall to Fire Blast as will Yanmega and Abomasnow. Non-offensive leads (such as Bronzong, Hippowdon and maybe even Gliscor) can be met with a fast Taunt, making them lose the first turn as well as the second since they’ll have to either switch or get locked in an attack that won’t knock Azelf out, giving you all the necessary time to set Stealth Rock. Finally, Explosion is Azelf’s only way of badly hurting leads like Gyarados and Zapdos after Stealth Rock has been set.

Choice Scarf Lead

Item Held
Choice Scarf
Nature
Naive (+Speed, -Attack)
Effort Points
252 Special Attack – 216 Speed – 42 Attack

A Choice Scarf Azelf as a lead is no joke. With Choice Scarf Jirachi’s advent, probably the most common lead in the metagame today, the classic Suicide Lead set needs some tweaking. Choice Scarf is by far the best option Azelf has for dealing with Jirachi, now it can 2HKO with its Fire-type move of choice before Jirachi can with Iron Head. Furthermore, Azelf is now faster and doesn’t care about Iron Head’s 60% chance of making the foe flinch. Of course, Jirachi isn’t the only Pokémon that falls to this set. Choice Scarf Gengar and Roserade leads that are meant to put something to sleep before it gets the chance to move are easily outrun and taken care by Psychic. In the second moveslot, the choice of a Fire-type attack is up to you. Both Fire Blast and Flamethrower are a guaranteed 2HKO on Jirachi. Bronzong is only 2HKOed by Fire Blast, but if you Trick your Choice Scarf, it is rendered useless. The other common Steel-type lead, Metagross, almost always runs Occa Berry and sports Bullet Punch, so Azelf should probably switch out. Platinum’s gift to Azelf in the form of Trick can be used in this set as defensive-minded leads like Hippowdon, or usual Azelf counters like Blissey and Cresselia won’t like a Choice Scarf.

This Azelf, should it survive the first turns of the battle, can make a great revenge killer later on. If you avoid revealing your Choice Scarf, the element of surprise can help you net an unexpected KO on something faster like a +1 Speed Gyarados or Salamence.

As mentioned before, a leading Metagross can cause Azelf quite some problems so pairing it with a fast, Magnet Rise using Magnezone is a good idea.

Nasty Plot

Item Held
Life Orb / Expert Belt
Nature
Timid (+Speed, -Attack)
Effort Points
252 Special Attack – 252 Speed – 6 HP

Azelf’s sweeping skills are certainly undeniable, to begin with. Coming from a Special Attack stat of 349 (assuming max IVs), any hit this little creature throws will deal some good amounts of damage to Pokémon that don’t resist it. Add the fantastic move that D/P brought, Nasty Plot, and you’ve got a real killer. Nasty Plot, Life Orb, a base stat of 125 and STABed Psychic can take down many Pokémon. Flamethrower covers Steel-type Pokémon as well as Celebi. Hidden Power Fighting is a great move as it covers Dark-type Pokémon, immune to Psychic, especially Houndoom which is immune to Flamethrower too. It also hits Tyranitar and Heatran which can take both Psychic and Flamethrower resisting or being immune to them. Grass Knot is an alternative if Hidden Power Fighting isn’t accessible but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad move as it covers Slowbro and Slowking, something that Hidden Power Fighting fails to do, plus, it prevents Tyranitar from walling you.

Since boosting your hits as much as possible is a must, the best item choice is definitely Life Orb. Expert Belt is just a replacement if you hate the recoil damage, but its boost applies only to super-effective moves.

Regarding Azelf’s EP spread, the one listed above is just the generic, straightforward one. The Speed stat you must hit is 352 (requiring 216 EPs with a Speed IV of 31) so that Gengar and other +Speed, base 110 Speed Pokémon cannot outrun you. Of course, maxing Speed is suggested so that you can outrun some other base 115 Speed Pokémon who just stop at 352, like Starmie or Raikou.

Support

Item Held
Light Clay
Nature
Jolly (+Speed, -Special Attack)
Effort Points
252 HP – 252 Speed – 6 Attack

Apart from setting Stealth Rock, Azelf can also utilize Reflect and Light Screen, making a team-mate’s life easier. Behind the two screens, Pokémon like Scizor, Gyarados, Salamence and Lucario won’t have much trouble setting up, ready to go on a killing spree. After the job of setting the defensive barriers is finished, Explosion is the obvious choice.

Choice Specs

Item Held
Choice Specs
Nature
Timid (+Speed, -Attack)
Effort Points
252 Special Attack – 252 Speed – 6 HP

If you think Azelf is too frail to pull off a Nasty Plot, a set with Choice Specs will do. Once again, the same moves are here for maximum type coverage. Trick can cripple a possible counter like Blissey. Explosion is always a option in Choice sets, but since special walls can be handled with Trick, it’s not necessary.

Choice Band

Item Held
Choice Band
Nature
Jolly (+Speed, -Special Attack)
Effort Points
252 Attack – 252 Speed – 6 HP

Azelf’s base Attack of 125 is often overlooked in favor of its equal Special Attack. However, Azelf is a perfectly viable Choice Band used. Zen Headbutt is the obvious STAB option and its 20% chance of flinching the opponent is welcome. U-Turn can hit Dark-types and lets you switch in a counter. Ice Punch is there for Salamence, Flygon, Gliscor and Zapdos. Regarding the last moveslot, the choice between Trick and Explosion depends on personal preference. While Trick still cripples common switch-ins, the sheer power of Explosion is just too amazing to pass.

This set has trouble dealing with Steel-type Pokémon so using Fire Punch seems good. However, Scizor with its Bullet Punch will still have no problem taking Azelf out. Metagross can also survive a Fire Punch, use Agility and hit back with Meteor Mash for the KO.

Other Possible Options

While most of Azelf’s options have been discussed in the movesets above, it still has some other useful moves. Thunderbolt and Shadow Ball can be used, the former hitting Gyarados and the latter hitting Dusknoir and Cresselia. Signal Beam gets a mention as it can take down Celebi. Azelf has access to Calm Mind, but Nasty Plot is just superior. Substitute can be used in the Nasty Plot set but giving up the type coverage provided by Hidden Power Fighting or Grass Knot allows Heatran, Tyranitar and Houndoom to wall you forever. Finally, Toxic and Thunder Wave are Azelf’s status-inducing moves, but the job is better left to Uxie with its high defenses.

Counters

Being a Psychic-type, it’s not hard to see that Azelf’s top counters are Dark-type Pokémon, especially Houndoom, Spiritomb and Tyranitar. Houndoom is immune to Psychic, gets its Fire-type moves boosted if hit by a Fire Blast/Flamethrower and resists Grass Knot while being able to hit back with Dark Pulse and Pursuit, provided it avoids Hidden Power Fighting and Explosion. Spiritomb is immune to both Psychic and Explosion and can hit back with any of its STAB boosted moves. Tyranitar, as long as it stays away from Hidden Power Fighting and Nasty Plot boosted Grass Knot, can punish Azelf with a deadly Pursuit.

Of course, Heatran is one of the best counters to any Azelf lacking Hidden Power Fighting. It resists all of its other moves and can easily take Azelf down with its STABed moves or the rare Dark Pulse. Latias is also resistant to all of Azelf’s moves, apart from the occasional U-Turn, and with Calm Mind and Recover, she can turn Azelf into a set-up fodder. Scizor, if it manages to switch in on a predicted Psychic/Grass Knot, can destroy Azelf with the most fearsome move in the game, its Bullet Punch. Choice Band boosted Pursuit can take it aback while switching out as well.

Since most of the time Azelf is a special sweeper, Blissey, Snorlax, Togekiss and Cresselia can take some hits with their enormous Special Defense stats and cripple it with Thunder Wave or, in Snorlax’s case, KO with Crunch. All of them though can be stopped by Trick.

Final Thoughts

This little fairy looking thing proves that, sometimes, looks can be deceiving. This innocent creature will rip through whole teams with its Nasty Plot, Life Orb boosted hits. Try to stop it with a Special Wall, and then you get an Explosion coming from its quite high Attack stat. And of course, we can’t ignore the fact that Azelf is one of the most consistent leading Pokémon out there. And then came Platinum, making the pixie even more unpredictable, adding moves like Trick and the Elemental Punches in its arsenal. It looks like Game Freak loves those powerful, Psychic-type legendary Pokémon. Of course, Azelf isn’t an unstoppable war machine. Its below average HP, Defense and Special Defense won’t help it switch in easily and combined with Sandstorm, Stealth Rock, Life Orb recoil damage and the abundance of Pursuit users, it won’t last long. However, in this short time of its reign in the field, it can easily take down a team, making it one of the most powerful sweepers that D/P introduced to competitive battling.

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