Back in its debut generation, Talonflame was an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Its signature ability, Gale Wings, was perhaps a bit too broken for competitive play, and Talonflame became one of the most infamous Pokemon to come out of Pokemon X and Y.
But then, Generation Seven came along, and Talonflame’s overpowered flight was nerfed. This once great titan of the competitive Pokemon metagame became close to irrelevant as its many glaring weaknesses began to show. The phoenix that had risen out of the ashes (the ashes being early-game bird Pokemon’s lacking viability, in this metaphor) had seemed to return to mediocrity. Until VGC 2019…
In the previous competitive format that allowed restricted Pokemon, Talonflame (in its prime) was a member of the infamous “Big 6” archetype along with metagame staples like Primal Groudon and Xerneas. In 2019, Talonflame is making a comeback, and ever-so-slightly creeping back into top placings at major tournaments.
Turns out this bird isn’t done yet, and there’s a good reason for that. Talonflame is still a great Pokemon in the VGC format, and we’re here to make a case for its redemption.
Gale Wings Isn’t a Bad Ability
Generation Six Gale Wings was a legendary ability. Priority to all Flying-type moves both offensive and supportive made Talonflame an all-around monster. Nowadays, this priority effect only applies when Talonflame is at full health, but that’s not a bad thing at all. Priority Brave Bird remains insanely scary as one of the strongest priority attacks in the game, but with the Flynium Z, that already powerful Brave Bird becomes an insanely powerful Supersonic Skystrike.
Oh, and let’s not forget about Tailwind. Speed control is one of the biggest assets for a team in competitive Pokemon, and Talonflame can grant you the speed advantage on turn one. Combined with Talonflame’s already amazing Speed stat, your team is almost guaranteed its Tailwind.
A Glass Cannon (That You Might Want to Break)
Talonflame’s bread and butter offense is the combination of Flare Blitz and Brave Bird, two very powerful moves, but they carry the cost of high recoil. At a base 81, Talonflame’s Attack stat isn’t that high, but with a boosting item like Life Orb or the Flynium Z, most Pokemon don’t shrug off these hits. Fire/Flying is an amazing offensive combination that hits many prominent threats in the VGC 2019 metagame such as Venusaur, Toxicroak, and Kartana to name a few. Plus, you get priority for that first Brave Bird which can give you a huge edge in the early game.
So why would you want the glass cannon to break? Well, Talonflame isn’t going to exactly win in the late game, so it’s better that it goes down earlier. The reason for this is that Talonflame can give an early game advantage, and it fainting gives you a free switch into your heavier hitters so that you can sweep whilst abusing those sweet Tailwind turns.
Yep. Talonflame’s amazing speed (aside from Gale Wings) exceeds many of the awkward speed tiers in the current metagame, making this bird great for support. We’ve already gushed over Tailwind, so what else can Talonflame potentially have up its sleeve?
First, you have a fast Taunt which can help stop opposing Xerneas from setting up and potentially stop opposing speed control set-up. There’s Quick Guard which acts as a temporary block against opposing priority moves like Fake Out. And then we have Will-o-Wisp which allows Talonflame to cripple opposing physical attackers and apply some residual damage too.
That’s also what’s so great about Talonflame. It has options.
It Even Has Results to Back it Up
Talonflame has now reached the Top Cut at multiple regional championships, including the most recent one in Dallas, and it looks to be trending upwards in usage. It currently has over 1400 Championship points to its name, and that number will only go up.
Maybe its something about the Moon Series and Z Moves, but 2019 looks to be Talonflame’s comeback year. This phoenix is ready to rise once again from the ashes of irrelevance, as Talonflame looks to making its long-awaited return to competitive Pokemon success.
Images from Pokemon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, Ken Sugimori and The Pokemon Company International