Written by Reddit user u/Samurott1
Moltres is an interesting case. It is a Legendary Pokémon, so it has amazing stats. However, it comes later than Articuno and Zapdos, not to mention the fact that its status as a Fire/Flying-type does not give it many favorable match-ups in the Kanto region. Its movepool is also rather lacking compared to the other Legendary birds; its Steel Wing is redundant since its Flamethrower covers Ice-types already (the fact that it covers Rock-types is irrelevant since Moltres can’t stand up to them anyway) and it doesn’t get Reflect or Light Screen (covered by Articuno and Zapdos, respectively). However, it can still put in some work against the Elite 4 and Giovanni. You shouldn’t expect it to outperform the other legendary birds, though.
Moltres: Mt. Ember (static)
Moltres’ Match-ups in Important Battles
Moltres versus Giovanni in Viridian City Gym: This will likely be the first important battle where Moltres is available, and the Flame Pokémon can put in a lot of work in this battle. It can’t fight Rhyhorn, but Flamethrower is an OHKO on Dugtrio and a 2HKO on Nidoking and Nidoqueen. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 50; Flamethrower, Fly, Fire Blast/Overheat, Sunny Day.
Moltres versus Rival in Route 22: Moltres’ Flamethrower is a 2HKO on Pidgeot and both Exeggcute and Venusaur fall to Flamethrower and Fire Blast respectively. Avoid Rhyhorn, Gyarados, and Blastoise. The Water-types should be avoided since they can set up Rain Dance and replace Sunny Day (which would be required for Moltres to beat them). Alakazam may be OHKOed by Overheat, but Flamethrower is generally better. Using Fly on Alakazam is not recommended; it can use the free turn to set up with Calm Mind. Flamethrower should net the 2HKO on Growlithe. Flamethrower is preferable to Fly against Growlithe due to Intimidate. Moltres should avoid Charizard, who is faster and benefits from Sunny Day. Moltres can’t do much to Charizard without the Sunny Day boost, so just use a different Pokémon. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 51; Flamethrower, Fly, Fire Blast/Overheat, Sunny Day.
Moltres versus the Elite 4: Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 59; Flamethrower, Fly, Fire Blast/Overheat, Sunny Day.
Moltres versus Lorelei: Degong can theoretically be beaten in harsh sunlight, but it’s slower and will likely set up Hail. Get Degong out of the way before using Moltres; Surf hits too hard if it isn’t sunny. Cloyster also has hail, but lacks Surf and will be OHKOed by Moltres’ Flamethrower. Slowbro can only be fought in harsh sunlight. It also has Yawn, which could be annoying by burning precious sun turns. Jynx falls to Flamethrower. Lapras is 2HKOed by Flamethrower under harsh sunlight. Sunny Day is required to fight Lapras and Slowbro, who Moltres has no chance against otherwise.
Moltres versus Bruno: Do not lead with Moltres here; Bruno’s lead, Onix, is carrying Rock Tomb. All of Bruno’s other Pokémon can be fought. Fly will take care of Hitmonlee. Flamethrower, preferably under harsh sunlight, takes care of Hitmonchan (note: do not use Fly as Hitmonchan carries Counter). You could take advantage of Hitmonlee to set up Sunny Day, turning Fire Blast into an OHKO on Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan. This strategy is only recommended if you’re running Fire Blast; Flamethrower may not do enough to OHKO on either Pokémon. Bruno’s second Onix has no Rock-type moves and it 2HKOed by Flamethrower. Fire Blast can only OHKO Machamp under harsh sunlight; Flamethrower is a likely 2HKO with or without sunlight. However, unlike Hitmonchan’s Rock Tomb, Machamp’s Rock Tomb is an easy 2HKO. Tread lightly and bring healing items.
Moltres versus Agatha: Moltres’ Flamethrower is a 2HKO on all of Agatha’s Pokémon, but her Gengar is likely faster. Keep the Poké Flute handy; Moltres needs to wake up immediately if it falls asleep. It’ll be an easy sweep as long as you bring healing items.
Moltres versus Lance: Gyarados’ Hyper Beam is a 3HKO, but sun-boosted Fire Blast is also a 3HKO. Fortunately, Hyper Beam’s recharge turn will allow Moltres to safely set up Sunny Day. However, this is risky if you don’t allow healing items; Moltres will almost certainly need a heal. Hyper Beam or Outrage from Dragonair doesn’t do much damage, so they’re beaten with Fly or sun-boosted Flamethrower. Aerodactyl is a no-go; it’s faster and Ancient Power may OHKO Moltres from full health. Dragonite can 2HKO with Hyper Beam and 3HKO with Outrage, and Moltres does barely anything in return. Sun-boosted Overheat won’t even faze Dragonite.
Moltres versus the Champion: Pidgeot is beat by Flamethrower, as is Venusaur and Exeggutor. Flamethrower is also best for Alakazam, who can set up Reflect to weaken Moltres’ Fly. Rhydon and Blastoise must be avoided. Charizard and Arcanine can be handled with Fly, but it isn’t recommended. Sunny Day is required to beat Gyarados, but don’t use it if your Rival’s Fire-type has yet to come out.
Everything in Between
Late-Game: Just keep Moltres away from Rock-types and it’ll be fine. Water-types can be dealt with under harsh sunlight and Electric-types are rare at this point.
Checks and Counters
Rock-types: Moltres has a crippling weakness to Rock-type attacks, so it can rarely deal with Pokémon like Onix and Rhyhorn. A Water- or Grass-type can take care of these threats. In return, Moltres can torch most of their counters.
Opposing Weather Inducers: Anything with Hail, Rain Dance, or Sandstorm will cause a problem for Moltres. Sandstorm is completely non-existent, but there are Pokémon with Hail and Rain Dance in the Elite 4 that will cause an issue for the Flame Pokémon. All those carrying weather-inducing moves are of the Water-type, so an Electric-type is recommended.
Overall Grade: B
Moltres comes very late, and will therefore not be useful for that much of the game. It also sports an unfortunate typing that makes it difficult to use in the Kanto region, and its shallow movepool isn’t helpful either. However, it can put in a lot of work against every opponent from Viridian City Gym onward. While it certainly isn’t the best choice for a legendary bird, its raw power is enough to make it rather useful.
Resources to Utilize:
Moltres’ Leanrset: https://pokemondb.net/pokedex/moltres/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.