Hey there Hat Lovers,
With the advent of VGC 2016 and Xerneas’ Geomancy shenanigans, both Crobat and Talonflame have risen in popularity to the point that they are now metagame mainstays. The two serve very similar purposes, often running both Tailwind and Quick Guard, and also potentially running Taunt (more common on Crobat than on Talonflame). However, each has a unique and useful ability, and also unique and useful tech moves to run. Today will be a quick summary and discussion of the merits of both, and what teams might find them more effective (spoiler alert, they’re both good).
I’ve played a lot more with Talonflame than with Crobat this generation, so just recognize my perspective might be a bit biased. Here is your cookie-cutter Talonflame set for clarity (taken from 3ds.pokemon-gl.com):
Some minor variations do see play. For instance, about one third of Talonflame are Jolly on Battlespot, as Jolly can outspeed Base 110-125 Pokemon with Flare Blitz or Taunt, not to mention opposing Adamant Talonflame. If you’re running Taunt, Jolly is totally fair, but I feel like the extra damage output by going Adamant is much appreciated on a standard Life Orb set. On the teams I’ve played, I rely on Adamant’s damage output to combo for KOs with my team members.
Talonflame can also run Choice Band sets to good effect. Choice Band sets take advantage of U-Turn to reset Primal weathers, and can hit really hard with Flare Blitz or Brave Bird. For some reason lots of Talonflames on Battle Spot also run Lum Berry, presumably so they can be awake after getting Dark Voided? I don’t like the idea of Lum on Talonflame… it’s got better jobs to do.
Talonflame’s bread and butter is in its Prankster-like ability Gale Wings. With this, Talonflame can set up a Tailwind with priority, letting it match an opposing team’s Tailwind even if you’re a turn behind. Indeed, the only thing that effectively stops your Talonflame is an opposing Talonflame’s Brave Bird already in Tailwind, or a faster prankster Taunt. This also gives Talonflame’s Brave Bird the amazing bonus of being a priority move, which lets Talonflame threaten opposing Pokemon despite their speed control (e.g. Trick Room, Tailwind). Finally, Talonflame offers a Fire-type attack in Flare Blitz (or Overheat technically), which can be appreciated for clearing Ferrothorn from the field, or can simply be boosted by P-Groudon’s Desolate Land.
Crobat has surged in popularity thanks to the VGC 2016 metagame, largely due to its Ability Inner Focus. Inner Focus allows Crobat to set up Tailwind in the face of opposing Fake Out. Crobat is even more cookie cutter than Talonflame currently, with the standard set being:
The EVs are not totally standard, but people should absolutely be running this spread or something very similar. These EVs allow Crobat to survive a Jolly M-Kangaskhan Double-Edge 96.1% of the time, while maximizing HP for general bulk on the special side. If you go all-in and run 4 HP / 252 Def, Jolly Kangaskhan still has a 1.6% chance to OHKO, so I don’t like the idea of losing 72 potential HP EVs for an extra 2.3% chance to survive M-Kangaskhan’s Double-Edge, especially when there are two chances to crit per attack which nullifies the calculation anyways.
Crobat’s item choice is a bit more variable, as while ~61% hold Lum Berry, ~21% hold Mental Herb and ~12% hold Sitrus Berry. Other items see exceedingly low total usage. Lum Berry is the default as it allows Crobat to set up a Tailwind in front of a Smeargle without worrying about either Fake Out or Dark Void. Mental Herb is a solid choice, since Crobat can be a common target of prankster Taunt, but your team probably has a Lum Berry user already if Crobat isn’t holding one. I don’t like Sitrus, as Crobat can be EV’d to survive even M-Kangaskhan’s Double-Edge most of the time, so Sitrus doesn’t really do much to increase Crobat’s time on the field.
The main deviation folks make from this set is to run Haze > Taunt on Crobat, which is a solid consideration. One thing I’ve noticed is that a good Xerneas/Smeargle player can play around opposing Taunt, and so Haze is more effective at neutering Xerneas guaranteed. However Taunt’s utility in other situations is the reason Taunt is the preferred move choice. One neat way to make better use of Haze on your team is to include moves like Draco Meteor, Overheat, Dragon Ascent etc… that lower your own stats. Haze resets all stat changes, so Crobat can support its teammates by allowing them to fire off nuke after nuke at full power and without losing bulk.
The other move consideration I take most seriously is surprisingly Hypnosis. With Gravity in effect, Hypnosis becomes a 100% accurate Sleep move. On a team with Gravity (especially Prankster Gravity), Crobat can usually get a Hypnosis off before the opponent can respond. With something like Sableye, this combo can let them Super Fang and then Foul Play, which deals a lot of damage and can control the pace of the game. The Gravity partner can also switch out to something like a Primal, while Crobat puts the second Pokemon to sleep.
Finally, Crobat doesn’t run Choice Band much in this generation, but it’s not a bad consideration. Choice Band Crobat can take OHKOs with Helping Hand boosts, which can catch an opponent seriously off guard. Helping Hand Brave Bird can OHKO M-Kangaskhan/M-Rayquaza, and Cross Poison can OHKO Xerneas. It also gives your team U-Turn for weather control. It’s gimmicky, sure. But it’s a strong gimmick, and one that can leave you reeling in a Best-of-1 format.
Partners and Team Strategies
Both Talonflame and Crobat fit onto the standard Groudon/Xerneas/(Kang/Mence)/Smeargle archetype. Looking at various team reports Crobat or Talonflame swap into this team archetype regardless of potential partners in terms of overall usage. However, in terms of teams/players that have made an impression on me, I feel like Crobat is more successful on this archetype when Cresselia is present, while Talonflame is more successful when the team has no Trick Room mode. It’s funny, because I just talked about how Talonflame is great even in Trick Room thanks to its priority, but nonetheless this is the trend I’ve noticed.
If I were to try and explain why this happens, I think it’s in how the teams deal with threats. With Talonflame, I think the team tends to go with both P-Groudon and Xerneas in almost every game, accompanied by a Mega of choice. You bring Talonflame if you intend to leave Smeargle behind. But when Crobat and Cresselia are on the team, Crobat and Cresselia tend to come to support P-Groudon in Trick Room and out of it, and Xerneas gets left behind in favour of M-Salamence (or M-Kangaskhan).
This dual mode makes the team more flexible, as you can lead say… Crobat/Salamence and get an Intimidate off and set up Tailwind. But mid-game, or if Tailwind seems like a poor strategy, you can switch around to get Cresselia on the field while Crobat chunks things with Super Fang. Once Cresselia sets up Trick Room, Crobat can switch out for P-Groudon and Cresselia can even Skill Swap the switch-in to assure the weather and protect P-Groudon from potential Ground moves. Once you’ve got Cresselia and P-Groudon on the field in Trick Room, the team can sweep with Helping Hand Precipice Blades (possibly under Gravity).
Which version of the team is better? That’s a whole other question. While Crobat/Cresselia is perhaps more flexible, Talonflame and your choice of Kangaskhan or Salamence gives the alternate version flexibility in their Mega Pokemon, and Talonflame applies pressure to a different variety of Pokemon.
Looking over teams from various reports, I don’t really see very well established archetypes that opt to use either Talonflame or Crobat. I think Talonflame has a generally higher prevalence overall, so you’re more likely to see Talonflame on a dual primal team, or randomly on a Kyogre/Rayquaza team. But I’d again say that teams like dual primals running Cresselia have felt stronger to me if they’ve run Crobat. On other team archetypes, Crobat maybe tends to show up more when Trick Room is present, but it’s a mess of reports and the centralized metagame makes it difficult to discuss a diversity of archetypes as if I haven’t already covered everything by saying “Crobat seems better to me when on teams with Cresselia.”
Rayquaza/Kyogre teams generally don’t run either Talonflame or Crobat. But Talonflame is more likely to show up.
Overall… my personal take is that Crobat fits better onto teams that want a dual mode; teams that can either Tailwind or Trick Room. Because Crobat doesn’t have to invest in its Attack stat to deal damage, it can be bulkier, and this playstyle fits Trick Room teams a bit better. Talonflame goes all in on the Attack EVs, and as a result it is easily KO’d as it sets up Tailwind or protects a partner with Quick Guard. i.e. Crobat’s bulk fits better onto teams that opt for bulky spreads like Trick Room teams, while Talonflame’s hyper-offensive style fits better onto teams looking to take KOs as quickly as possible.
That all said, there’s a lot of overlap in their utility. Hopefully this article has given you something to think about regarding which of the two you want on your team. It’s still very early in the metagame, and archetypes may develop that more definitively want Crobat or Talonflame, but for now they’re pretty even in terms of utility and usage. Talonflame’s “win button” like tactics have made it a bit friendlier to explore though.