Written by Reddit user u/Samurott1
As a Legendary Pokémon, Articuno comes very late in the game, will boast a very high base stat total, and is incredibly difficult to catch. If you’re attempting to use Articuno in a Nuzlocke, bring a bulky Water-type Pokémon and a plethora of Ultra Balls (or just use the Master Ball). Due to its immediate access to Ice Beam and great Special Attack, Articuno will decimate most of the important battles it is available for. However, it has a pretty shallow movepool outside of Ice Beam, limiting moveset options. Fortunately, Ice Beam is pretty much all Articuno needs to make an impact on your team.
Articuno: Seafoam Islands (static)
Articuno’s Match-ups in Important Battles
Note: Articuno can technically be caught before fighting Lt. Surge, Silph Co., the Fighting Dojo, and Sabrina. However, Articuno will be so overleveled for these fights that it isn’t worth mentioning.
Articuno versus Blaine in Cinnabar Island Gym: As an Ice-type, Articuno doesn’t do well against Blaine. Articuno can’t fight Arcanine, and Growlithe’s Intimidate is annoying. Fortunately, Articuno has three levels on Blaine’s ace, so it can stand up to the other Pokémon with Ice Beam/Fly (Fly is only better if Articuno hasn’t been Intimidated). A Water-type Pokémon would be infinitely better, though. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 50; Ice Beam, Fly, Reflect, Steel Wing.
Articuno versus Giovanni in Viridian City Gym: Articuno can sweep this gym easily despite its crippling weakness to Rock-type moves. Note that Articuno cannot switch into Rhyhorn due to the threat of Rock Blast. You can also set up Reflect against any Pokémon not named Rhyhorn to make this even easier, but Ice Beam spam will get the job done. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 50; Ice Beam, Fly, Reflect, Steel Wing.
Articuno versus Rival in Route 22: Besides Charizard, Articuno’s only real threat is running out of PP for Ice Beam (assuming you don’t try to switch into Rhyhorn, which could be fatal). Growlithe’s Intimidate can be problematic, making the resisted Ice Beam Articuno’s best move against it, but Articuno’s massive Special Defense stat allows it to tank at least three (non-critical hit) Flame Wheels with ease. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 51; Ice Beam, Fly, Reflect, Steel Wing.
Articuno versus the Elite 4: Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 59; Ice Beam, Fly, Reflect, Steel Wing.
Articuno versus Lorelei: Articuno is immune to Hail and takes little from Surf, allowing it to beat Dewgong with Fly. Jynx will be beaten easily with Steel Wing. However, Lapras, Cloyster, and Slowbro can all cause a problem for Articuno. They are all bulky, but Fly will do the trick eventually if you stock up on healing items. Articuno can theoretically solo this battle, but it’s not recommended.
Articuno versus Bruno: Both of Bruno’s Onix fall easily to Ice Beam, and only the first one has a Rock-type move. It is recommended to set up Reflect on Hitmonchan or Hitmonlee since they are jokes to Articuno. Hitmonlee is beat by Fly, but Hitmonchan has Counter. Stick to Ice Beam to combat Hitmonchan. Hitmonchan also has Rock Tomb, but it’s a joke with Reflect up. Stick to Ice Beam against Machamp, too; Fly gives Machamp a possible free turn to set up. You’ll want Articuno’s Reflect up against Machamp since it carries Rock Tomb.
Articuno versus Agatha: All of Agatha’s Pokémon are annoying to Articuno, but they pose no real threat. Articuno sweeps with Ice Beam as long as you heal when necessary. Reflect isn’t even necessary despite Arbok’s access to Iron Tail; it doesn’t do much to Articuno.
Articuno versus Lance: The only Pokémon that Articuno can’t handle (if Reflect isn’t up) is Aerodactyl. The Dragon-types are all jokes and Gyarados can’t hit hard enough. Aerodactyl will outspeed Articuno and land an Ancient Power, but it can only OHKO with a critical hit if Reflect is up. Still, it is risky to use Articuno against it since it won’t always OHKO with Ice Beam. Ancient Power may also boost Aerodactyl’s stats, which may be problematic.
Articuno versus the Champion: Barring Charizard, Arcanine, and Blastoise, Articuno decimates your Rival’s team. Blastoise, in particular, is manageable with Fly, but keep your Full Restores handy. Charizard and Arcanine hit very hard with their Fire-type STAB, so keep Articuno away from them. Your Rival’s Grass-type and Rhydon fall to Ice Beam with ease. Gyarados will also fall to Ice Beam, but it’s a slightly more risky match-up. The best that your Rival’s Pidgeot can do is lower your accuracy or Attack stat. Again, Rhydon falls easily, but don’t let Articuno switch in on it. However, the only reason Articuno shouldn’t already be in battle is if you switched out o avoid your Rival’s Fire-type, so it likely won’t be an issue.
Everything in Between
Late-game: Articuno only has to watch out for Rock- and Fire-types, the former of which can be OHKOed by Ice Beam anyway. Articuno can decimate Victory Road, but it must watch out for its counters. There isn’t much to say here; Articuno comes so late and the only thing that can pose a threat are Rock-types that Articuno is switching in on.
Checks and Counters
Bulky Water-types: Bulky Water-type Pokémon don’t usually pose a threat to Articuno, so they are annoying more than anything. It’s good to keep a Grass- or Electric-type around. In return, Articuno can decimate any of that Pokémon’s counter (aside from Fire-types).
Strong Fire-types: Only the strongest of Fire-type Pokémon can pose a threat to Articuno, but it’s good to keep a counter around regardless. A Water-type Pokémon does this role well. In return, Articuno can OHKO Grass-types.
Pokémon with Rock-type coverage: Unless Articuno’s Reflect is active, Rock-type moves will do a number on this Legendary bird. Fortunately, most of these Pokémon can be defeated with Ice Beam, but Bruno’s Hitmonchan and Machamp may cause some problems. It’s good to keep a Psychic-type around to deal with these two; the best Psychic types are those with a secondary type whose STAB will bust real Rock-types. Slowbro, Starmie, and Exeggutor come to mind.
Overall Grade: A
While Articuno is capable of handling everything past Blaine with ease, its lateness is a factor in its overall grade. It shows up just shortly before the mighty Dragonite evolves, and it isn’t available to provide Thunder Wave support (or do some damage with Dragon Rage) like Dragonair. Articuno’s great power and stats does allow it to make a significant impact on the game despite this.
Resources to Utilize:
Articuno’s learnset: https://pokemondb.net/pokedex/articuno/moves/3
Written by Reddit user u/Samurott1. For questions about this guide or for specific advice for your playthrough, send them a message on Reddit.