The most unexpected Pokemon shine here
Hot on the heels of the 7-Star Charizard Tera Raid, Cinderace is the second 7-Star challenge introduced in Pokemon Scarlet & Violet. If you thought Charizard was hard, you’ve got another thing coming.
Just like before, you can only catch one Cinderace during this event. However, you can farm the encounter as much as you’d like for sky-high drop rates of Tera Shards and other rare items. Cinderace will always have the Fighting Tera-Type and the same movepool, so building a Pokemon to counter it specifically is essential.
Cinderace’s attack pattern
Unlike Charizard, Cinderace will exclusively use Physical Attacks. At the start of the fight, Cinderace will immediately use Bulk Up to raise its attack and defense stats. This immediately puts it in range to deal significant damage with its high attack stat, and it will continue to spam this move throughout the fight.
For offensive options, Cinderace will use Pyro Ball, Acrobatics, Iron Head, and High Jump Kick. This means it can deal Fire, Flying, Steel, and Fighting-Type damage, so you’ll want to resist as many of those attacks as possible. Pyro Ball will be especially deadly since Cinderace will get a STAB bonus from its innate Fire-Type. In my testing, High Jump Kick would typically be used at specific moments rather than as a regular attack. This might be influenced by what your Pokemon natively resists, so plan accordingly.
Like any Tera Raid Pokemon, Cinderace will eventually put up a shield to quell your incoming damage. During this time, it can nullify its own debuffs and clear your team of its buffs. Unlike the Charizard Tera Raid, the timing of these moves is not consistent. Factors like its remaining health and the turn count seem to influence it, but it’s hard to pin down its behavior conclusively.
How to counter Cinderace
I cannot stress this enough: do not attack or buff your strength on turn 1. Cinderace’s attack is way, way too high at the start of the encounter. If you use a move like Belly Drum, Cinderace will easily pick you off and potentially set your entire team up for defeat.
Everyone on the battlefield should buff their defense or debuff Cinderace’s attack, regardless of their party role. Charm and Feather Dance are both incredible here, as they reduce Cinderace’s attack by two stages. Reflect also provides invaluable mitigation of physical damage, and it will even stay up when Cinderace nullifies your party’s buffs. Finally, despite Cinderace’s native Fire-Typing, it is susceptible to Burn. While this does deal damage, Burn more importantly reduces Cinderace’s physical damage by half. This makes moves like Will-O-Wisp especially potent, though its 85% accuracy can make it a bit risky.
Once Cinderace’s shield goes up, you won’t be able to inflict it with status effects or debuffs anymore. That said, if it manages to Bulk Up and raise its attack stat, Clear Smog can still be used to bring its stats back to neutral. Clear Smog can also be used Turn 1 to immediately clear off Cinderace’s first Bulk Up, though make sure you don’t overwrite another party member who is already debuffing its stats.
In an ideal scenario, Cinderace’s buffs and your debuffs will be set up well enough that you can charge into its shields before it can neutralize any stats. Get as aggressive as possible if you’re taking the lead on damage, though a dedicated support Pokemon should keep moves like Reflect up to prevent the party from getting nuked once Cinderace undoes any stat gains or losses.
What Pokemon should I use?
Two Pokemon do a remarkable job countering Cinderace, and they might not be the ones you’d expect from the start.
MVP 1: Slowbro
Slowbro is a premier pick if you are trying to solo this encounter. Its typing is practically ideal since it resists Cinderace’s STAB attacks and will only take neutral damage from Acrobatics. The current meta moveset looks like this:
On turn 1, you can use Iron Defense to mitigate Cinderace’s incoming damage. Stack this once or twice more, and use Slack Off to heal as necessary. Nasty Plot will sharply raise Slowbro’s Special Attack, which will make Stored Power deal monstrous damage. After all, Stored Power gains power the more stat increases your Pokemon has active, meaning its effective base power will exceed 100 after Iron Defense and three Nasty Plots.
This set isn’t perfect, of course. If Cinderace nullifies your stats before you can get Stored Power off, you’ll have practically wasted all of those previous turns. This is also an innately selfish build, as Iron Defense won’t help your teammates survive. Annecdotally, while Stored Power is so ludicrously powerful that it can potentially one-shot Cinderace, pushing its HP so hard can cause it to use multiple moves in succession and wipe your team. You may prefer Psychic for stable offense or Chilling Water to debuff Cinderace’s attack.
MVP 2: Espathra
While Espathra isn’t quite as reliable as Slowbro, it’s a much better team player. The first thing you’ll notice is that Espathra’s ability Opportunist is ridiculous for this fight. Every time Cinderace uses Bulk Up, Espathra will recieve buffs in equal measure. What’s more, it can use Feather Dance turn one to sharply decrease Cinderace’s offense to help your team. Play support until the incoming damage is sustainable, and equip it with a Shell Bell to give it some HP recovery when it attacks.
Like Slowbro, you’re building up to insane uses of Stored Power. Calm Mind will give you a needless Special Defense boost on top of a Special Attack boost, but the goal is to pump Espathra so high with stat boosts that Stored Power will do ludicrous damage. It’s signature move Lumina Crash is also valuable here, since it gives Espathra an option to regen HP with Shell Bell out the gate while deflating Cinderace’s Special Defense by two stages. Substitute can be used here to taste, so find what works well for you in random groups.
Support MVP: Armarouge
Armarouge and Ceruledge both function well here, but Armarouge’s stat distribution makes it a bit better for Cinderace in particular. Armarouge can also be a mixed support and attacker, as it deals super effective damage with moves like Expanding Force.
I personally prefer Armarouge as a pure support build since it offers so many options. Access to Reflect and Will-O-Wisp provide invaluable party mitigation, and both can single-handedly make Cinderace hit like a wet noodle. Clear Smog is a life saver in the shield phase especially, and Helping Hand can be used to power up a partnering Slowbro or Espathra. It can even use Acid Spray to sharply lower Cinderace’s Special Defense. And that’s just its support options.
For offense options, Armarouge can theoretically be another Stored Power user like the previous two Pokemon. That said, you may prefer to use Psychic Terrain to buff Expanding Force and use that as an offensive option. Armarouge’s biggest problem is that its movepool is so vast that it’s hard to tell what a fellow Armarouge is running. I personally prefer the previous two as pure attackers with a support Armarouge focusing on keeping Reflect and Burn up as much as possible. If you can coordinate with your team, multiple Armarouges can work well together.
An Azumarill you built for Charizard can be deadly if used correctly here. Open the fight by using Charm and consider bringing Rain Dance depending on your team composition. Time Belly Drum carefully and do huge damage with Play Rough. Unlike other Fairy-Types, Azumarill is not weak to Iron Head. This makes it viable for the fight, even if players who use Belly Drum early tarnish its reputation.
Though not a popular pick in practice, Pelipper is surprisingly great as a support Pokemon. The Drizzle ability starts the battle with rain active, which immediately cuts Cinderace’s damage potential with Pyro Ball. Roost gives it HP recovery, and Helping Hand boosts the power of your teammates. The rain also synergizes with Hurricane, which gives it a 100% accuracy rating and can potentially confuse Cinderace.
There unfortunately is no good healer option for this fight, but Hatterene is the closest you’ll get to one. It can start the fight with Reflect or Charm, though even with a full HP and Defense EV build it will struggle if your teammates don’t also contribute with debuffs. If they do, Hatterene can provide invaluable HP Recover with Life Dew or Healing Pulse, which especially helps Belly Drum Azumarill. You can then use Helping Hand to help nuke Cinderace, though when all’s said and done, you might prefer a support Armarouge for more consistent clears in multiplayer.
Find what works for you
The biggest issue with this fight is how easy it is to step on a teammate’s toes. If everyone can coordinate a slew of barriers and debuffs, Cinderace can be surprisingly easy. Yet even one cast of Reflect that overlaps one already on the field can be enough to kill your early momentum. I’ve made a habit of putting my Pokemon’s key moves in its nickname to signal to other players what I’ll do first. Yet this is incredibly inconsistent, especially when dealing with international teammates.
If you can coordinate with teammates, off-meta picks like Charizard and Mimikyu can shine here. Otherwise, I recommend building at least two or three different Pokemon to serve different roles depending on what your team needs. Regardless of the strategies you use or the Pokemon you raise, best of luck farming. You’ll need it to soak up that sweet loot while you can.