Written by Reddit user u/Samurott1
Charmander has a distinct disadvantage in the Kanto region, a region that is not nice to Fire-type Pokémon. The early stages of the game are brutal to the little fire salamander, and there is only one important battle in the entire game where Charmander can wreak havoc. There is also a large amount of Water-type Pokémon to deal with, so Charmander will often find itself sitting on the bench while its team members do the bulk of the work. It is particularly difficult to use in a Nuzlocke due to its frailty and Charizard’s weakness to Rock-type moves. Choosing Charmander is usually labeled as the hard mode for these reasons, so you know you’re in for a challenge by picking it over Bulbasaur or Squirtle. Despite its disadvantages, Charmander can grow into one of the strongest special attackers in the game and can abuse its powerful STAB Flamethrower.
Charmander’s Match-ups in Important Battles
Charmander versus Rival in Oak’s Lab: This battle is as straightforward as always, and Charmander has the upper hand due to its Scratch being stronger than Squirtle’s Tackle. Barring critical hits, Scratch spam should be enough to win, but keep that Potion handy. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 5; Scratch, Growl.
Charmander versus Rival in Route 22: Charmander does pretty well in this battle and can solo it barring untimely critical hits. Pidgey is a non-issue, but Squirtle may pose a problem. Squirtle’s Bubble is super-effective on Charmander, but it is very weak. However, Squirtle’s good defenses make Scratch spam a risky endeavor if Squirtle’s Bubble manages to lower Charmander’s speed. Have your Pidgey or Rattata ready to roll in case things go south. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 7; Growl, Scratch, Ember.
Charmeleon versus Brock in Pewter City Gym: Using Charmander here is a death sentence. If you don’t have Sleep Powder Butterfree or a Mankey, then Charmeleon is your best bet in this gym due to its access to Metal Claw. Charmander gets Metal Claw at level 13, but it’ll need to be evolved into Charmeleon if you want it to stand a fighting chance. Thankfully, the Bug-types in Viridian Forest will be very easy for Charmander to take down due to Ember, so grinding is a cinch. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 16; Growl, Scratch, Ember, Metal Claw.
Charmeleon versus Rival on Nugget Bridge: Charmeleon does very well here; it can solo your rival’s team except for Squirtle. Rattata does have STAB Hyper Fang, and you have to watch out for Ember’s burn chance (due to Rattata’s Guts). Squirtle should only be handled by Charmeleon if the rest of your team is too underleveled/consists of only Geodude. Squirtle’s Water Gun hits very hard. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 17; Growl, Scratch, Ember, Metal Claw.
Charmeleon versus Misty in Cerulean City Gym: Charmeleon should never be involved in this battle. Oddish/Bellsprout are much better options, or perhaps you got lucky in Viridian Forest and landed a Pikachu. Starmie’s Water Pulse shouldn’t OHKO, but Charmeleon can only take one and can’t do anything in return outside of Smokescreen. The only Pokémon with a worse match-up at this point is Geodude. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 20; Scratch, Ember, Metal Claw, Smokescreen.
Charmeleon versus Rival on S.S. Anne: Charmeleon can handle Pidgeotto and Kadabra (although a strong physical attacker is preferred). Raticate is not recommended due to Guts since Ember is just a 4HKO most of the time. Guts-boosted Hyper Fang is a 2HKO (OHKO with a critical hit), so Ember is very risky. Wartortle is a no-go. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 21; Scratch, Ember, Metal Claw, Smokescreen.
Charmeleon versus Lt. Surge in Vermilion City Gym: Charmeleon can do well here with Dig (although there is some opportunity cost in teaching it Dig), but Nidoking/queen or Diglett are much better for this gym since any Pokémon that doesn’t resist (or, better yet, is immune to) Shock Wave is going to have trouble. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 23; Scratch/Dig, Ember, Metal Claw, Smokescreen.
Charmeleon versus Rival in Pokémon Tower: Charmeleon can defeat Pidgeotto, Exeggcute, and Kadabra. Wartortle is a definite no-go, and Growlithe is difficult to deal with due to its resistance to Fire-type moves and its ability, Intimidate. Kadabra may cause some issues, but Charmeleon will be okay as long as you’re wary of critical hits. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 25; Scratch/Dig, Ember, Metal Claw, Smokescreen.
Charmeleon versus Giovanni in the Celadon Game Corner: Despite Giovanni’s use of Onix and Rhyhorn, Charmeleon can put in some work here if you teach it Brick Break. Rhyhorn doesn’t have STAB moves and Onix has only Rock Throw (coming off of its pitiful base attack stat). Brick Break nets the 3HKO on Rhyhorn and has a 50-50 chance to 3HKO Onix. However, the chip damage could be problematic, so be wary of critical hits. Fighting Kangaskhan is not recommended if Charmeleon is weak from battling Giovanni’s other Pokémon; A STAB Mega Punch nets the 2HKO on Charmeleon and Brick Break won’t do nearly enough, so Kangaskhan should be handled by a stronger, bulkier Pokémon. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 28; Ember, Smokescreen, Scary Face, Brick Break.
Charmeleon versus Erika in Celadon City Gym: The Celadon City Gym is where Charmeleon shines. It doesn’t take much from Grass-type attacks, and grinding to level 34 for Flamethrower breaks the gym. Ember can still be useful; it nets the 2HKO on Tangela while netting the 3HKO on Victreebel. It only has a small chance to 3HKO Vileplume. Status moves and chip damage will be very annoying in the battle when using Ember, so stock up on items. Alternatively, you could get Flamethrower and avoid level grinding by getting TM 35 from the Game Corner, but it isn’t worth it. Ember should do the job well enough if you want to avoid grinding. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 29/34; Ember/Flamethrower, Smokescreen, Scary Face, Brick Break.
Charizard versus Koga in Fuchsia City Gym: Charizard is a solid choice for fighting Koga despite its lack of an advantage. Flamethrower becomes a nuke as soon as Charmeleon evolves. Grinding to level 38 guarantees an OHKO on the Koffing. Muk can very easily pose a problem and should be handled by a strong Ground- or Psychic-type Pokémon. Flamethrower only guarantees a 4HKO on Muk. Weezing will go down to two or three Flamethrowers, and Explosion/Selfdestruct isn’t a threat. Be wary of Toxic and Smokescreen, though. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 38; Scary Face, Brick Break, Flamethrower, Wing Attack.
Charizard versus Rival in Silph Co.: First of all, Charizard should never be matched up against Blastoise in any other scenario. However, your Rival’s Blastoise only has Water Gun, so it can be beaten with Wing Attack in a pinch. I wouldn’t recommend it, though. Pidgeot, Exeggutor, and Alakazam (whose only attacking move is Future Sight) can also be handled by Charizard. Growlithe is probably Charizard’s biggest problem in this battle. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 39; Scary Face, Brick Break, Flamethrower, Wing Attack.
Charizard versus Giovanni in Silph Co.: Any Rock-type moves will mow down your fire dragon; therefore, do not use Charizard against Rhyhorn. Charizard can handle Nidorino, Nidoqueen, and Kangaskhan pretty well. Nidorino will be the only easy kill though; Nidoqueen and Kangaskhan have the bulk to tank some Flamethrowers. Brick Break does less damage to Kangaskhan than Flamethrower, so don’t use it. You can replace Brick Break will something like Rock Slide if you wish. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 39; Scary Face, Brick Break/Rock Slide, Flamethrower, Wing Attack.
Charizard versus Sabrina in Saffron City Gym: Charizard is an okay choice for this battle considering it can obliterate Venomoth. You should be able to net the 2HKO on Mr. Mime. Flamethrower will always 2HKO Kadabra. Alakazam is very fast and powerful, and Psychic 2HKOs even without a Calm Mind boost. This is compounded by the fact that Flamethrower won’t always 2HKO and will become weaker with each Calm Mind boost. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 40; Scary Face, Brick Break/Rock Slide, Flamethrower, Wing Attack.
Charizard versus Blaine in Cinnabar Island Gym: Charizard certainly shouldn’t be your main counter, but it can put in some work against Blaine. Fly will be more useful than Wing Attack in this battle, so it’s recommended that you replace Wing Attack with Fly if you haven’t already. Charizard can stall out Fire Blast’s PP, so it can be very useful if you’re packing a Water/Ice-type Pokémon like Lapras. Slash can also be utilized if you’re feeling lucky, but a Water-type Pokémon is generally preferred due to Charizard’s less-than-stellar physical attack. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 45; Brick Break/Rock Slide/Scary Face, Flamethrower, Fly, Slash.
Charizard versus Giovanni in Viridian City Gym: Charizard can put in some work due to its immunity to Earthquake, but should never be put up against a Rhyhorn. Nidoking/queen and Dugtrio can be dealt with via Fire Blast or Flamethrower. Fire Blast has a chance to OHKO Dugtrio, which Flamethrower likely can’t accomplish, and nets a more reliable 2HKO chance on Nidoking/queen. Fire Blast should be your main STAB attack; however, it’s good to keep Flamethrower around in the event accuracy is more valued or if Fire Blast runs out of PP. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 48; Flamethrower, Fly, Slash/Rock Slide, Fire Blast.
Charizard versus Rival in Route 22: Pidgeot, Exeggutor, and Growlithe all fall to Charizard’s STAB (although Growlithe may be annoying). Blastoise only has Water Gun, but can utilize Rain Dance to great effect. Therefore, Charizard should not be used against Blastoise. Both Fire Blast and Flamethrower should net the 2HKO on Alakazam provided you’re at a high enough level. However, Alakazam can now utilize Calm Mind, making it difficult to deal with. Fly is not recommended since it gives Alakazam a free turn to use Calm Mind. Rhyhorn should not be approached in any scenario; it has Rock Blast. Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 50; Flamethrower, Fly, Slash/Rock Slide, Fire Blast.
Charizard versus the Elite 4: Recommended Level and Moveset: Level 60; Flamethrower, Rock Slide, Fire Blast, Sunny Day (Note: Return, Dragon Claw, and Earthquake are also viable options to use in place of Sunny Day since Sunny Day is best when used in conjunction with a sun sweeper like Exeggutor).
Charizard versus Lorelei: Charizard can only fight Cloyster and Jynx reliably. Dewgong, Slowbro, and Lapras are all too bulky and are carrying Surf. Dewgong also has Thick Fat. Rock Slide may 2HKO Dewgong, but Surf, Hail, and Safeguard will all cause problems for you. Flamethrower is always an OHKO on Cloyster and Jynx.
Charizard versus Bruno: Charizard cannot fight Bruno’s leading Onix since it can’t land the OHKO reliably. Bruno’s second Onix lacks a Rock-type move, so Charizard can be used in a pinch with Fire Blast or Earthquake. Both will net the 2HKO. Hitmonchan can’t be fought due to its access to both Rock Tomb and Counter. Fly may not net the OHKO on Hitmonchan, so it’s a risky move. Machamp can’t be fought for similar reasons. Hitmonlee is a joke and Flamethrower lands the 2HKO. Overheat and Fire Blast are not recommended here since they don’t do anything that Flamethrower can’t. Alternatively, you could use Blast Burn, but this is only recommended on Shift Mode or if Hitmonlee is Bruno’s final Pokémon.
Charizard versus Agatha: Charizard can rip through Agatha with Flamethrower/Fire Blast. Rock Slide is your best option against Golbat due to the flinch chance, but Fire Blast is the recommended move for the rest of Agatha’s team. Fire Blast will likely get the OHKO on her first Gengar. Haunter is better dealt with via Flamethrower, though. Both Arbok and her last Gengar will be beaten by a pair of Fire Blasts. However, both Gengars have annoying status moves and will be faster than Charizard, so keep some items handy. The Poké Flute will be your friend in this battle; Charizard must be woken up immediately if it falls asleep or it’ll get Nightmares.
Charizard versus Lance: Do not fight Aerodactyl with Charizard. Ancient Power hurts. Rock Slide is a guaranteed 4HKO on Gyarados (after Intimidate), and Gyarados can only hit you hard with Hyper Beam. However, it’s best to fight Gyarados with an Electric-type; Hyper Beam is likely a 2HKO on Charizard. Dragon Claw can be used on either Dragonair, but probably won’t OHKO. An Ice-type move is better for dealing with these two. The same goes for Dragonite.
Charizard versus the Champion: Blastoise and Rhydon will destroy Charizard easily; don’t use Charizard against these two. Your Rival’s lead, Pidgeot, can be handled easily with Flamethrower. Arcanine can only be beaten with Earthquake, but beware of Extreme Speed if Charizard’s health is low. However, Earthquake is only a 3HKO after Intimidate (2HKO without Intimidate). It’s recommended that you fight Arcanine with something else. Alakazam will likely outspeed Charizard and set up Reflect, but Fire Blast is a 2HKO. Exeggutor falls to Flamethrower as per usual.
Everything in Between
Pre-Boulder Badge: Charmander does amazingly in the first stage of the game, despite the existence of Brock. Charmander burns Viridian Forest to a crisp, so you likely won’t need to worry about losing it to poison from Weedle’s Poison Sting unless you’re switch training a Metapod.
Caves and Mountains: Charmander can be helpful in caves due to its ability to destroy Paras and Zubat. It can even take down Geodudes in Mt. Moon, but a Water- or Grass-type Pokémon should be handling these later in the game (due to Selfdestruct).
Vermilion City Area: Keep Charmeleon away from the trainers below deck on the S.S. Anne; they exclusively use Water-types. The S.S. Anne is just a bad idea for Charmeleon in general sans the Rival fight. Charmeleon can be useful for taking down the Magnemite and Magneton on the route east of Vermilion, though. Diglett’s Cave is a big no-no if that wasn’t obvious.
Mid- to Late-Game: Charmeleon is an okay choice for Pokémon Tower sans Marowak. Stay away from Water-types, Snorlax, and trainers with Koffing (this one only applies before you get Flamethrower). Bird trainers can be dispatched very easily. Just watch out for the two Dodrio trainers near Fuchsia. Cycling Road should be okay bar Weezing and Muk (assuming you have Flamethrower to OHKO Koffing). The sea routes around Cinnabar are a terrible idea; put Charizard on the bench. Charmeleon would be good for the Power Plant, but it’ll likely be a Charizard by that point, making it weak to Electric-type attacks. It can fight Magnemite and Magneton, but it can’t switch into them. It’s pretty solid for the Pokémon Mansion due to Flamethrower.
Checks and Counters
Water- and Rock- types: Charmander can’t hit Water-type Pokémon very hard with anything in its arsenal. Those Water-types also have super-effective STAB that’ll wreck the frail fire salamander. A Grass- or Electric-type Pokémon is recommended. Rock-types are only a problem to Charizard, who probably won’t have Metal Claw and gets hit hard by Rock-type moves. Again, a Grass-type would be helpful. However, Parasect wouldn’t be very helpful due to its weakness to Rock-type attacks.
Electric-types (Charizard only): Electric types pose a problem to Charizard, but they are fortunately rather rare. Always be vigilant, though.
Anything that can tank some Flamethrowers: This usually only applies to Water-types, which have already been covered, but anything with a lot of special bulk can cause a problem for Charizard. This includes Pokémon like Muk and Hypno.
Status abusers: Confuse Ray, Thunder Wave, Toxic, and Sleep Powder are all examples of moves that’ll rain on Charizard’s Flamethrower parade. Most of these are Grass-types that fall to Charizard anyway, but make sure to stock up on items just in case. Something that can absorb status moves, like Own Tempo Slowbro and Insomnia Hypno, may be useful to have around. Again, this will likely be a non-issue that can be solved by items, so don’t pay it too much attention.
Overall Grade: A
Charmander struggles in some key early-game moments, but is a very useful Pokémon to have. It doesn’t have too many strong counters; however, the counters that it does have are prevalent in the Kanto region. Even so, Flamethrower is a nuke and makes Charizard very useful in several important battles (even if it lacks a type advantage, which it likely will). Charizard doesn’t do too well on paper; however, it can be a huge boon in practice if used correctly.
Resources to Utilize:
Charizard’s learnset: https://pokemondb.net/pokedex/charizard/moves/
Written by Reddit user u/Samurott1. For questions about this guide or for specific advice for your playthrough, send them a message on Reddit.