Competitive Pokemon Guides: Aegislash
Aegislash: An Overview
Type: Steel / Ghost
- Weak to: Fire, Ground, Ghost, Dark
- Resists: Grass, Ice, Flying, Psychic, Bug (0.25x), Rock, Dragon, Steel, Fairy
- Immune to: Normal, Fighting, Poison
- HP: 60
- Atk: 50 (150 in Blade Forme)
- Def: 150 (50 in Blade Forme)
- SpA: 50 (150 in Blade Forme)
- SpD: 150 (50 in Blade Forme)
- Spd: 60
Ability: Stance Change - switches Aegislash's base Atk/SpA stats with its base Def/SpD stats when attacking, and back again whenever the move "King's Shield" is used.
- Swords Dance
- Shadow Sneak
- Sacred Sword
- Iron Head
- King's Shield
- Shadow Ball
- Shadow Claw
Strengths and Weaknesses
Before we start looking at some sets Aegislash can run effectively, It's important that we understand the individual strengths and weaknesses it has.
Looking at what Aegislash does well, there are a couple things that immediately spring to mind. The first is it's typing. Steel/Ghost is a solid defensive combination, sporting three immunities (one against Steel's common Fighting-type weakness) and nine resistances against four weaknesses. Only two types - Water and Electric - hit it for neutral damage. With so many resistances, few Pokemon can reliably deal high amounts of damage to it.
Aegislash's base stats further solidify it's defensive prowess, with a whopping base 150 defense and special defense in Shield Forme. While it's HP stat of 60 is mediocre at best, it can still take a number of hits in Shield Forme between high defensive stats and great typing.
What truly makes Aegislash interesting, however, is its ability. Stance Change switches Aegislash's base attacking stats with its base defensive stats whenever it attacks, and switches them back whenever the move King's Shield is used. This means that, in its attacking form, Aegislash has a massive 150 base attack and special attack. While it's base 60 speed might seem bad for an attacker at first glance, it's low speed is actually a boon as Stance Change doesn't activate until Aegislash attacks. This means that Aegislash can take a hit in Shield Forme for minimal damage, then unleash a devastating counterattack in Blade Forme.
Stance Change is not all positives, though. While in Blade Form, Aegislash becomes a glass cannon with paper-thin defenses. While it's great typing keeps most Pokemon from dealing massive damage to it, they don't NEED to deal massive damage when they're attacking a Pokemon with 60 base HP and 50/50 defenses. Thankfully, King's Shield allows it to switch back into Shield Forme, and, as it's a priority move, almost guarantees that Aegislash will switch back before taking a hit again. On top of that, King's Shield also lowers the opponent's attack by -2 if they try to use a physical attack. Sounds great, right? The problem, though, is that an intellegent opponent KNOWS King's Shield is coming. Aegislash cannot risk taking a hit in Blade Forme - it must either KO the opponent's Pokemon with a priority Shadow Sneak, switch out, or King's Shield. This gives the opponent a turn to switch out or or use a boosting move. In other words, Aegislash can be very predictable - and when it's predictable, you're letting your opponent dictate the tempo of the game.
Further complicating things is the fact that King's Shield, to put it bluntly, is a poor-man's Protect. Unlike other defensive moves such as Protect, King's Shield does NOT block status moves. If the opponent knows a King's Shield is coming, they have the opportunity to burn Aegislash through King's Shield, crippling it with the attack drop that burn causes. The -2 drop against physical attacks also does not affect Earthquake, one of the most common physical attacking moves in the game. As Aegislash is weak to Earthquake, this means that King's Shield isn't terribly effective against many of its counters that commonly run this move.
Despite these weaknesses, though, Aegislash can be absolutely deadly in the hands of a smart player with its phenomenal stats and solid movepool. Now, lets take a look at how we can put Aegislash's strengths to good use.
Item: Life Orb / Spooky Plate (former is generally preferable)
Nature: Quiet (Alternatively, Brave if you don't wish to run Shadow Ball)
Effort Values: 4/252/0/252/0/0
- Shadow Sneak
- Shadow Ball (Shadow Claw is an option here if you'd rather reinvest the SpA EVs in bulk)
- Iron Head
- Sacred Sword
This is one of my personal favorite builds for Aegislash. While many, many people love running King's Shield, I've always found it to be too predictable to be consistently effective, as I've already covered. An Aegislash running this build has one purpose and one purpose only: switch in on a move it resists, take a hit for minimal damage, hit whatever the opponent switches in with a STAB-Shadow Ball, and then either finish it with a priority Shadow Sneak or switch out. As Aegislash is always in Shield Forme when being sent out, you can then repeat the process several times throughout the match. King's Shield is completely forgone in favor of more coverage, as this build is more focused on a hit-and-run type strategy. However, unless you predict a certain switch-in, Shadow Ball is generally going to be the go-to attack here.
There are a couple of alternative options on this set to consider. While Life Orb is generally the superior option since Aegislash isn't going to be staying out for very long before switching back out, Spooky Plate is a viable alternative if you wish to avoid taking damage per turn. Shadow Claw can be used in place of Shadow Ball to allow Aegislash to focus completely on Attack investment, which would let you reinvest the SpA EVs into more bulk. However, you really don't need much investment in bulk on this set you're not going to be staying out very long anyway. The additional base power of Shadow Ball is generally much better suited to this set's purpose.
To be as effective as possible, Aegislash appreciates a teammate that can provide some means of recovery, such as a Wish Passer, so that it can continue to switch in and out and wreak havoc on the opponent. It also appreciates Stealth Rock or similar entry hazard support, as it lets it guarantee many OHKOs and 2HKOs against common threats in competitive play. As Aegislash is constantly switching in and out, having a Rapid Spinner to get rid of hazards on your side of the field is helpful as well, although since Aegislash has a resistance to Stealth Rock and immunity to Toxic Spikes, having a Spinner isn't always necessary.
Here are some damage calculations showing the raw power this set has:
- 252 Sacred Sword vs. 252 HP/252 Def+ Tyranitar 95.3% - 113.4% (~74% chance to OHKO)
- 252+ Shadow Ball vs. 252 HP/0 SpD Latias: 90.7% - 108% (~46% chance to OHKO)
- 252 Sacred Sword vs 4 HP/0 Def Terrakion: 95.4% - 113.3% (~69% chance to OHKO)
- 252 Sacred Sword vs 4 HP/0 Def Mamoswine: 94.2% - 111.3% (~66% chance to OHKO, Iron Head is a guaranteed OHKO)
- 252 Iron Head vs 252 HP/252+ Def Sylveon: 89.9% - 106.9% (~40% chance to OHKO)
Credit for these calculationss go to UltiMario over on the Smogon Forums.
Basically, lots of offensive Pokemon crumble to this set, as do bulky Pokemon at a type disadvantage. Even you don't OHKO the above Pokemon, a priority Shadow Sneak will easily finish them off. A Shadow Ball + Shadow Sneak can also get KOs against a number of common threats in competitive play. With Stealth Rock up, A SB+SS combo will usually KO threats such as Garchomp, Gyarados, Landorus-T, Keldeo, and Salamence, among others.
This set, when played correctly, can even flat-out kill some of Aegislash's counters. Tyranitar is wrecked by Sacred Sword when switching in, as mentioned in the above calculations. Hippopowdon is usually outsped by this set and is usually 2HKO'd by Shadow Ball assuming hazards are up. If Hiippopowdon is hit on the switch-in, Aegislash can outspeed and finish it with a second Shadow Ball. Ferrothorn, while not a counter, can be taken down in a similar manner.
There are very few competitively-used Pokemon that can handle the raw damage potential of Aegislash. The key with this set is to know when Aegislash can stay in and when it needs to retreat. You will not be able to take a hit in Blade Forme, so if you're going to go for a Shadow Sneak KO (or a KO with a different move against the few Pokemon Aegislash outspeeds), you want to be sure you'll get the KO, as chances are whatever they switched in will KO you if you fail to get the KO. This is very much a set that requires good prediction skills and smart play, but when played correctly, it can be absolutely devastating.
Effort Values: 252/252/0/0/4/0
- Shadow Sneak
- Sacred Sword / Iron Head
- King's Shield
- Swords Dance
Before I go into this set, full disclaimer: I don't like King's Shield. While it can serve a purpose in allowing an Aegislash with boosts to stay out longer, as a whole I think it's a gimmicky move that's simply too predictable to be effective on most sets. If the move had less holes (actually blocked status, affected Earthquake users with the -2 attack drop, etc.) I'd probably feel different about it, but as it is I feel like it's only real purpose is to reliably switch Aegislash back into Shield Forme. Since switching out accomplishes the same thing, the only time I find King's Shield useful is when you run a boosting set on Aegislash. In combination with a move such as Swords Dance, King's Shield lets a boost Aegislash to stay out and act as a sweeper rather than a pivot.
The key feature about Stance Change worth noting for this set is that Aegislash only changes forms when using an ATTACKING move. Boosting moves such as Sword Dance do not force Aegislash to switch to Blade Forme - the only time he does so is when doing damage to an opponent. This is extremely helpful, as it lets Aegislash take a couple of hits as it boosts, then enter Blade Forme to hit something hard, and King's Shield back into it's defensive form.
The -Speed nature here is important to keep Aegislash slower than most competitive Pokemon. As Stance Change only activates when Aegislash attacks, it's preferable to be slower so that you take a hit in Shield Forme, then strike. If Aegislash outspeeds its opponent, it'll be taking a hit in Blade Forme if the opponent survives, which usually isn't something we want to happen.
The EVs and Natures on this set can be switched around to a more defensive spread if you so wish, allowing this set to focus more on bulk rather than immediate offensive power. With more bulk, Aegislash survive in battle longer and get in an extra Swords Dance or two to make up for the lost attack.
Shadow Sneak is virtually a requirement for any Aegislash set to allow it to pick off opponents at low health. We have a choice between Sacred Sword and Iron Head for Aegislash's primary attacking move. STAB Iron Head has more raw power, deals more neutral damage, and gives Aegislash a reliable option against Fairy-types, but Sacred Sword offers better type coverage, hitting many common threats for super-effective damage.
In order to be successful running this set Aegislash needs teammates who are able to take out its counters (primarily Earthquake users). Since this set needs a turn or two of setup, it's paramount that Pokemon that can deal significant damage to Aegislash in Shield Forme are taken out before Aegislash can prepare for a sweep. Salamence and Gyarados are both great partners for this purpose, as they are immune to Ground-type attacks and resist Fire-type attacks, Aegislash's most common weaknesses. Cleric support is also appreciated for more staying power when running sets with less bulk, as Aegislash will be slowly worn down from taking hits in Shield form.
One thing to note about this set (and any other set running King's Shield) is that King's Shield is very predictable. Opposing setup sweepers that can take a hit from Aegislash can take advantage of the turns Aegislash uses King's Shield to get in free boosts. King's Shield also doesn't protect against status, so it's usually a good idea to remove any of the opponent's Pokemon that spread status other than Poison (which Aegislash is immune to) before trying a sweep.
Item: Spooky Plate / Life Orb / Leftovers
Effort Values: 88 / 252 / 0 / 0 / 0/ 168
- Swords Dance
- Sacred Sword / Iron Head
- Shadow Claw
The Autotomize set takes some of the best qualities from the Offensive Pivot and King's Shield sets to allow Aegislash to act as a pivot as in the former set while having late-game sweeping potential as in the latter set. At first glance, Autotomize seems like an odd move on Aegislash since, in the King's Shield set, we WANT to be outspeeded so that we take hits in Shield Forme. If that's the case, then why do we want a move that boosts Speed, and why do we give Aegislash considerable Speed EVs? The answer to that, as you've probably noticed, is that we aren't using King's Shield. This set is designed to boost up upon first coming out, then switch to Blade Forme and start sweeping. With 168 Speed EVs and the +2 boost from Autotomize, Aegislash can outspeed just about every non-scarfed Pokemon in the OU tier. With a couple of Swords Dance boosts under its belt, Aegislash becomes a dangerous, albeit frail, sweeper.
However, the key word to note here is "frail." Once Aegislash has switched into Blade Forme, it cannot switch back except by switching out (and losing all of its boosts in the process). With 50/50 defenses and 60 base HP, it really isn't capable of taking a hit, even with the 88 HP EVs. Once in Blade Forme, Aegislash is really relying on it's ability to outspeed its opponents to be successful. Because of this, Choice Scarf Pokemon that can outspeed it and Pokemon with priority are this set's main threats. In order to be successful, Aegislash needs these Pokemon to be taken out before it can boost in an attempt to sweep.
You have a couple of options when running this set. For the item, I personally prefer Spooky Plate to boost the damage of Aegislash's primary STAB (Shadow Claw). Life Orb is also an option but I find it counterproductive since you'll be taking damage as you rack up your Swords Dance/Autotomize boosts. Leftovers is also a possibility to give Aegislash a bit more bulk as it gets its boosts, but since Aegislash isn't going to be taking a hit anytime soon after switching to Blade Forme, you'll usually get more use out of an item that boosts its offensive capabilities.
As far as moveset goes, Autotomize and Swords Dance are pretty much mandatory to ensure Aegislash has the offensive power it needs. It might be possible to swap out Swords Dance with a third attacking move, but the loss of the attack boosts really hurts, especially considering that Aegislash can't afford to take many hits in Blade Forme. Shadow Claw is taken instead of the typical Shadow Sneak for a more powerful primary STAB, since Shadow Sneak's priority isn't needed with a +2 Speed boost under its belt. As with the King's Shield set, either Sacred Sword or Iron Head is a viable second attacking move, depending on whether you want the better coverage Sacred Sword provides or the raw power of a second STAB.
It's also possible to run a special attacking version of this set by running 252 EVs on Special Attack, moving the 88 HP EVs to Atk, and running a Rash or Mild nature. This allows you to run Shadow Ball over Shadow Claw for a higher base-power STAB and switch out Swords Dance with another coverage move (I've seen some people use HP Ice here to OHKO most Dragons, but there are certainly other options). The added power Shadow Ball gives can be pretty significant at times, allowing Aegislash to get some additional OHKOs it wouldn't usually get with Shadow Claw (Latias, for example). In running a special attacking set, though, you're also giving up the added power gotten from Swords Dance, and reducing the effectiveness of Sacred Sword/Iron Head.
So far as teammates go, this set generally needs the same support as the King's Shield set - anything that can deal considerable damage to Aegislash in Shield Forme needs to be taken out of play. In addition, anything with priority or fast choice scarfed Pokemon also need to be removed before Aegislash can safely sweep. It also appreciates entry hazard support to help guarantee KOs, since it's crucial that this set lands quick KOs while sweeping to avoid being taken out due to Blade Forme's weak defenses.
Although this set does require much more support than the King's Shield set, the biggest advantage Autotomize has is no longer risking giving up control of the game's tempo due to predictable use of King's Shield. It's a much less predictable set than the King's Shield set. This set also has more immediate power than the King's Shield set due to a stronger primary STAB in Shadow Claw, which lets it function somewhat like the Offensive Pivot set early game, although it does have to be more careful doing so as it is a bit faster than the Pivot set with the additional Speed EVs. The loss of Shadow Sneak also keeps it from being as effective in this role as the Offensive Pivot set.
Which Do You Use?
What Aegislash set do you prefer?
All in all, Aegislash is one of the more interesting additions brought by Kalos to the competitive scene. With the ability to switch between great bulk and great offenses almost at will, it can serve a number of unique roles for a team. With a variety of options it can run, opponents have to be able to figure out what set Aegislash is running to effectively stop it from doing its job. With the right team support, Aegislash has the potential to be a top-tier threat in competitive play, and is definitely worth consideration on most teams.