Using Infernape as a Competitive Pokémon in Pokémon X and Y
The Flame Pokémon
Special Attack: 104
Special Defense: 71
Looking at Infernape's stats, it's no wonder it's such a popular Pokémon both on and off of the competitive field. More than anything, Infernape's versatility is what keeps it relevant. In its heyday during 4th gen Infernape was among the most popular leads given its access to Fake Out, Stealth Rock, and Mach Punch. It was fantastic at getting rid of opposing leads and setting up entry hazards. When 5th gen introduced team preview, Infernape's usefulness as a lead all but disappeared. Instead Infernape found its home on sun teams as a powerful sun-boosted sweeper with great dual STABs and fantastic coverage moves.
The changes to weather in X and Y are what hurt Infernape the most. Weather abilities only summon weather for five turns (eight if the corresponding stone is held), making weather teams much less dominant than in the 5th generation. This leaves Infernape out of two jobs; it can no longer be the dedicated lead from 4th gen thanks to team preview, and it can't be the reliable Sun sweeper from 5th gen. Its biggest problem still plagues it regardless of any changes to game mechanics, its frailty. This isn't a deal breaker though, as any experienced Infernape player knows when to bring in Infernape and when to preserve their glass cannon. This doesn't mean that Infernape is out of options however, as some of its more niche or underutilized sets are now more viable and fit in perfectly with this new bulky/balanced metagame.
Movesets to Consider
Classic Lead Infernape
Ability: Iron Fist
Item: Focus Sash/Life Orb
252 Atk/252 Speed/4 Sp Atk
Fake Out/Mach Punch
This is the basic lead set for Infernape, and even though dedicated leads are a thing of the past, this set is still effective at disrupting other Focus Sash Pokémon, as well as reliably setting up Stealth Rock and can still be useful later on during the match thanks to its priority and strong STAB moves. Even though 104/104/108 offensive stats may not seem very threatening, Infernape's very strong STAB moves more than make up for it. 108 Speed is fast enough to out-speed most Stealth rock leads and other support/set-up Pokémon. If you have problems with ground or Water types, you can substitute Fake Out with grass Knot, but Thunder Punch is overall better against water types.
Most Pokémon that have a strong Priority move such as Aqua Jet or Extremespeed can be a real pain for Infernape, even with a Focus Sash. Pokémon like Crawdaunt and Lucario can easily be OHKOed by Close Combat or Fire Blast, respectively, after surviving the first priority move with a Focus Sash. Fast Choice Scarf Pokémon such as Terrakion and Landorus-T are also very problematic. A Life Orb can help ensure some KOs on bulkier Pokémon, but faster Pokémon can revenge kill Infernape or at the very least, scare it out. Other than that, there are a few Bulky Pokémon such as Rotom-W and Hippowdon that aren't OHKO'ed by any of Infernape's attacks and can easily OHKO back with their super effective STAB moves. If you want Infernape to simply disrupt the opponent's lead and set up Stealth Rock, you'll be just fine, but if you want it to help you out later in the match, you'll have play more conservatively and watch out for common threats.
Goku, The Monkey King
Ability: Iron Fist
Item: Choice Band/Life Orb
252 Atk/252 Speed/4 Def
This is one of Infernape's most effective offensive sets thanks to Infernape's powerful STAB moves and Iron Fist boosting both Thunder Punch and Mach Punch's power. A Choice Band adds considerable power and in the late game can easily grab you some very important KOs once you've weakened your opponent's slower bulky Pokémon. This set's main drawback is being locked in to one move early in the game, especially since some of Infernape's moves are either resisted by some important Pokémon, or Pokémon that are immune to Infernape's attacks, such as Ground and Ghost Types, can freely switch in and force you out. In those cases it's important to carry U-Turn in order to escape those Pokémon and bring in a counter to gain or keep momentum.
As always, Pokémon with strong Priority are always dangerous to Infernape. Even more so without a Focus Sash to save it. Non Choice Band Azumarill can't OHKO infernape with an Aqua Jet however and after Stealth Rock damage has a chance to be OHKoed by Thunder Punch. Talonflame is also a huge threat to Infernape since it can easily OHKO Infernape with Brave Bird. If you can play around it, you can switch in or revenge kill Talonflame with Thunder Punch if it's Choice locked in to Flare Blitz. Otherwise Infernape is a frail Pokémon that has to choose its battles wisely, and support from other bulky or strong offensive Pokémon is always appreciated.
Infernape is a well-rounded albeit frail Pokémon that enjoys support form equally well-rounded Pokémon. Bulky Pokémon that not only resist what Infernape is weak to, but can counter the Pokémon that threaten Infernape and support the rest of the team are ideal for the offensive and balanced teams that Infernape works well on. Since Infernape can only cover so many things with four moves, its important to also use Pokémon that cover all of your bases offensively, and no other Pokémon can fill this role quite like some of the legendary Pokémon seen in the OU metagame. After all, it's only fair that a Pokémon based off of the legendary Monkey King has legendary support!
Celebi has been a great Pokémon since its introduction in 2nd gen, but it was outclassed by other Bulky Pokémon in 5th gen. Its Grass/Psychic typing was lackluster for most of its competitive career, but now that it is immune to Powder moves and with the prominence of Rotom-W and certain fighting types, it is seeing new life on the competitive scene. A Choice Scarf set, while uncommon, is great for supporting Infernape in terms of countering and scaring out Water types and even some fighting types. Unfortunately Celebi and Infernape share a fear of Talonflame, which means that having a dedicated Talonflame counter on your team is essential when pairing Infernape and Celebi together.
Zapdos is a Pokémon that has been OU for 5 out of the 6 generations of Pokémon games. That is a testament to just how reliable this Pokémon can be. Not only does Zapdos have great bulk and defensive typing, it can counter any talonflame that's Choice Locked into Brave Bird. Zapdos also has great support moves with Toxic, Defog, and Thunder Wave for disrupting you opponent's strategy and whittling down your opponent's Pokémon, making Infernape's job in the late game that much easier. Terrakion and Landorus are Pokémon that both Infernape and Zapdos should watch out for, but Zapdos can easily KO Landorus with Hidden Power Ice. It can also be great in an attacking role, with access to Heat Wave and Volt-Switch. a Volt-Turn core with Infernape isn't a bad idea either, as it keeps momentum early in the match.
Suicune can be one the of the most intimidating (or frustrating, depending on how you look at it) Pokémon in the OU tier. Most veterans of 4th Gen competitive battling know just how difficult it can be to take down Suicune. Suicune's fantastic bulk and decent supporting moves make it a great Pokémon to pair with Infernape. Its lack of instant recovery outside of rest is disappointing, but Scald helps it deal with all physical attackers except for Guts Pokémon. Suicune can also use Clam Mind to increase its Special Bulk and more easily deal with other bulky Pokémon as it can spam boosted Scalds and Ice beams. If you want to play more defensively, a Sleep Talk/Rest set that was very popular during 4th gen is your best bet. Watch out for other dedicated walls such as Mega-Venusaur and Ferrothorn can be thorns in Suicune's side, but Infernape can deal with these Pokémon if need be.
Infernape OU Battle
Infernape in Action
This battle shows the effectiveness of a lead Infernape both early in the game and later on when it can tear through multiple weakened Pokémon and even when hitting Pokémon that resist its attacks. This shows how useful Fake Out and U-Turn are in combination.
Which Pokemon Should I Cover Next!
Overall, Infernape has a lot more options than the two sets mentioned above. A mixed set with Fire Blast or Overheat and Grass Knot is also viable, and it has access to Vacuum Wave which is the only Special Attacking priority move in the game. You can also use Taunt to cripple Bulky walls that you wouldn't otherwise be able to deal with. One move that is often overlooked and mostly for good reason is Slack Off, which gives Infernape a bit more longevity when using a Life Orb, but its very poor bulk means that it would usually be a waste of a moveslot. The main point being that when using Infernape on a team, you must play carefully and be wary of your opponent's strategy and which Pokémon can easily KO Infernape.
As always there will be a reader poll to decide which Pokémon I write about next. If you have any suggestions for movesets or if I missed anything let me know in the comments below!
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