Having met the 3 billion captured mark during the World Catching Competition, on 11/27/17 Ho-oh was released as the secret grand prize for the event. One of the last legendaries waiting to be added, its arrival has been highly anticipated. Naturally trainers have been asking many questions about how to counter the bird and its use as an attacker. Using our best mathematical understanding of gym AI, simulated matchup data, and real world analysis, we here at GamePress believe we have the answers players are looking for!
Optimal Moveset: Extrasensory + Brave Bird
Great Movesets: Steel Wing or Extrasensory + Fire Blast or Solar Beam
Extrasensory is slightly better than Steel Wing due to having more relative coverage in raids. Both are about even in more neutral match ups.
Brave Bird is the preferred charge move due to its meta relevancy in Machamp raids, but pales in comparison to Fire Blast and Solar Beam for neutral damage.
Fire Blast has a distinct advantage over Brave Bird against Grass and Bug-type Pokemon.
- Solar Beam is the charge move of choice against Water, Ground, and Rock-type Pokemon, including those with a secondary Ice-typing.
It’s not mandatory to hit these breakpoints, but they are levels where your attackers will have a noticeable improvement in their performance. If you are unfamiliar with what a breakpoint is, we suggest checking out our Guide on Breakpoints. If you’re curious about the breakpoints of other Pokemon or fast moves:
- Rock Throw Golem: Level 39.5, 29, 23.5
- Thunder Shock Raikou: 30-35.5*
- Charge Beam Zapdos: 35, 32
- Dragon Tail Dragonite: 30
- Bite Tyranitar: 35+*
- Confusion Mewtwo: 29+*
- Water Gun Vaporeon: 32
- Extrasensory Lugia: 35.5
*Asterisked levels represent “Bulkpoints” or the relative level where they can survive Solar Beam. If it has a + next to it, then that suggests that the precise “Bulkpoint” isn’t certain, due to the variability of Ho-Oh’s fast move damage.
Compared to the Legendary Beast raids we have faced in the last three months, Ho-Oh is not an easy target. Similar to the Lugia raids active in the summer, trainers will have a mildly difficult time with Ho-Oh’s STAB movesets and will be downright devastated by its Rock-wrecking counter coverage charge move. Despite the threat that Ho-Oh’s Solar Beam packs, Golem is by far Ho-Oh’s greatest, most easily obtained counter in terms of DPS, at the widest range of levels. If you don’t already have a crew of Golem ready to deploy, it would be wise to visit a Geodude nest and/or keep an eye out for any high level ones. Golem’s Rock Throw hits an excellent breakpoint at level 29 with either a 14 or 15 attack IV, so you can even get away with an 11 attack IV Golem as so long as it’s at least level 30, saving you from spending your newly earned stardust before Gen 3.
Looking at the graph, you may be wondering why Raikou wasn’t chosen over Golem. This is because Raikou suffers from the unfortunate dodge/death-loop glitch that has been plaguing Pokemon GO for nearly a year now. Due to how this glitch works Raikou (along with many other Pokemon that do not resist Solar Beam) can’t dodge and survive the attack as reliably as the simulations suggest. In fact, Raikou can’t be trusted to handle Ho-Oh’s Solar Beam until roughly level 35.5 where it finally becomes bulky enough to tank a single Solar Beam undodged. Due to how the glitch functions, Raikou will then be able to dodge and have it register properly.
Outside of Solar Beam Raikou has a much easier time with the Brave Bird set, but lower level Raikou may have trouble having their dodges count against Fire Blast, especially if Ho-Oh’s packing Extrasensory. This doesn’t mean Raikou is a bad option against Ho-Oh, but you should be aware of the risks involved until your Raikou is brought to a high enough level. Once it reaches an acceptable level of bulkiness, Raikou is much more able to survive Fire Blast reliably with consideration of the dodge glitch.
Other good Ho-Oh counters include Omastar (especially the legacy Rock Throw set), Tyranitar, Zapdos, Vaporeon, Dragonite, Sudowoodo (yep), and Mewtwo. While less ideal, Gyarados, Jolteon, Kabutops, Feraligatr, Kingdra, Hidden Power Rock Suicune, and that bad boy Wild Charge Arcanine all function as sub-optimal Ho-Oh counters.
As it has been nearly 6 months since the Lugia raids, you may have forgotten how difficult it was for lower level and less optimized players to clear the Hydro Pump set. Comparing simulation data between Hydro Pump Lugia and Solar Beam Ho-Oh, raid parties may run into this same issue again. For this reason, you should avoid using Lugia, Ho-Oh, Blissey, and Snorlax as your primary raid counters despite their appeal as anchors. Since your damage bonus is not penalized for fainting out and loading in with a second team, you have nothing to lose by rushing headlong into battle with a suicide squad of Golems aside from some potions. This will serve the raid better than using a Blissey or Lugia, especially if your group is timing out. If you doubt Golem's power, see it in action.
If you want to invest in more sturdy options against Solar Beam Ho-Oh, Zapdos and Dragonite are great choices for a lower amount of investment than Raikou. Not only will they serve you well, they may also help flesh out your squad against Brave Bird and Fire Blast movesets respectively.
While Golem doesn’t have nearly the same performance that very high level Raikou, Zapdos, and Tyranitar have, even Golem’s 23.5 damage breakpoint allows it to put out as much damage per second as they do. You may be surprised to see a level 23.5 Golem outperforming a level 29 one here. This isn’t an error on our part, but a result of the lower level Golem avoiding a defensive breakpoint at level 28, giving it just enough extra energy to more consistently deploy Stone Edge before fainting. A high level Golem with a low defense IV may also be able to achieve this effect. Please refer to our breakpoint calculator to find your precise breakpoints. Note that this advantage is only present against Extrasensory Solar Beam Ho-Oh raids.
Similar to Mewtwo, Ho-Oh suffers from a 9% blanket nerf to all of its base stats in relation to how they should be translated from the console games. While this nerf was mindful in the case of Mewtwo since it prevented it from being an absolute meta destroying monster, Ho-Oh appeared to have very few uses pre-nerf. This is because Ho-oh lives in Moltres and Entei’s shadow as a Fire-type Pokemon even with its unadulterated base stats; the nerf just made it even worse. That being said, despite being cheated out of a decent moveset and 9% of its base stats, Ho-Oh does make a name for itself as a Heavy Slam Machamp raid counter and as a circumstantially tanky Blissey counter.
Machamp is arguably the most meta relevant tier 3 raid but many trainers may find their solo attempts cut short due to Heavy Slam. This is where Ho-Oh comes in. While investing in Lugia helps remedy this problem (as well as any problem with soloing Machamp in general), many players missed out on the first round of legendary events. Fortunately for them, Ho-Oh has now entered the scene as a more specialized Heavy Slam Machamp raid counter, nearly matching and even surpassing Lugia’s performance breakpoint per breakpoint with its Extrasensory Brave Bird moveset.
Unfortunately, Ho-Oh’s advantage over Lugia in Machamp raids ends at Heavy Slam. Against Dynamic Punch, its TDO will be slightly ahead of Dragonite’s at level 30 and slightly ahead of Psychic Mewtwo’s at max. For that reason if you don’t have access to Lugia and need that extra amount of tankiness to solo Machamp, Ho-Oh may be more worthwhile for you than the other two.
Another niche Ho-Oh finds itself operating in is as a uniquely tanky Blissey counter. A near maxed out Ho-Oh can solo a level 35 Zen Headbutt Dazzling Gleam Blissey without dodging, a feat that no current Pokemon can reliably achieve. Not only that, but Ho-Oh is also be able to body tank Psychics from Blissey up to level 40. While this doesn’t sound like much, this does suggest that Ho-Oh may be the most item efficient no-dodge Blissey counter in all of Pokemon GO. The moveset best used for this is Steel Wing with either Solar Beam or Fire Blast. That is correct: the exact opposite moveset of the one used to aid Heavy Slam Machamp solos. If you’re using Extrasensory and Brave Bird, you will only be able to reliably handle level 32 Blissey’s and lower, something that Entei can already achieve with a faster clear time.
After months of being teased as a raid boss, Ho-Oh has finally found its way into Pokemon GO! Like its Gen 2 co-mascot Lugia, it brings a degree of challenge that is currently missed in the other tier 5 raids. While there are likely trainers out there bringing several of their Raikou to level 35.5+ in an attempt to gain an advantage over the Solar Beam moveset, most players may be better served by evolving several Golem and rushing to the finish. Even though Solar Beam is one of the most easily dodged charge moves in the game, because dodges don’t register reliably against attacks that could KO if un-dodged, dodging is only an option for a limited few Pokemon. Given that this threat could inspire trainers to use extremely low DPS high survivability options, we here at GamePress feel it is important to promote Trainers embracing their Pokemon’s inevitable demise for the sake of actually clearing the raid.
As for Ho-Oh’s place in the meta, it already wasn’t in a favorable position even before Niantic nerfed all of its stats by 9%. That said, despite its many flaws and oddities Ho-Oh does have a decent niche as a Machamp counter, allowing players to more easily achieve solos on Heavy Slam Machamp raids should they not have a Lugia. Ho-Oh also breaks the record for the highest level Dazzling Gleam Blissey soloer without dodging, for what it’s worth.