Monday, August 20, 2012

Competitive Battling Spotlight #39: Old Pokemon Eleven

One of our oldest friends, Sandslash makes its debut as a good Pokemon in the current metagame!
Tier: RU (as of August 2012)
                                               Usable in: OU and RU                                                                               

H.P.: 75
Attk: 100
Def.: 110
Sp.A: 45
Sp.D: 55
Spe:  65


Sand Veil:  Raises this Pokemon’s Evasiveness by one level in a Sandstorm. This is a quite questionable ability for Sandslash to have. As an ability alone, it is quite good (only in Sandstorm obviously), but seeing as the only place to effectively run Sand is in OU, Sandslash becomes easily outclassed by things like Gliscor or Donphan who, despite both having better abilities to utilize, can take advantage of Sand Veil’s Evasion boost with higher stats and better movepools. With that being said, in RU, where Sandslash is usable, there are no truly efficient ways of utilizing Sandstorm other than employing a support Pokemon to set it up. For these reasons, Sand Veil becomes a very situational ability that will most often times be ignored when choosing Sandslash for your team.

Sand Rush:  Doubles this Pokemon’s Speed in a Sandstorm. This is definitely Sandslash’s best ability, though it comes with the same exact problem as the last; Sandstorm and its usability in each tier. While again for this ability to be made use of in the lower tiers you’ll need a manual Sandstormer, this actually does allow Slash to be reasonably threatening in the OU metagame, believe it or not. With Excadrill’s recent ban to Ubers and the fact that Sandslash has a similar typing and the same exact movepool in terms of coverage, Sandslash is indeed capable of taking over where Drill left off all those months ago.

This does not, however, come without its share of problems. First of all, while Sandslash is comparable to Excadrill in several ways, it is significantly weaker, and significantly slower to boot. Surely Sand Rush does erase the latter problem, but Slash might still find itself being outsped by faster Scarfed or boosted threats that can take advantage of its very low Special Defense and list of common weaknesses. Overall, however, Sand Rush is the best ability for Sandslash to run if you plan on using it in OU. It’s actually more viable than you might think.


            Sandslash has never really been an outstanding Pokemon by any means. As an offensive Ground type it is both slower and much weaker than most common threats like Krookodile, Flygon, and Golurk. Likewise, as a support Pokemon it has less bulk and moves in its arsenal than the likes of Claydol and Donphan. This then raises the question of: Why use Sandslash?

            Sandslash is a very unique Pokemon in regards to its usability in the competitive metagame. With its given stats, abilities, and its movepool, it is really at its best in either OU or RU, two completely different tiers with completely different threats and playstyles. Likewise, Slash itself fills different roles in each tier that both take advantage of its rather bland movepool.

            In OU, Sandslash acts as an effective Sand sweeper, boasting Swords Dance to boost its decent base 100 Attack, EdgeQuake for coverage, and other moves like Rapid Spin or X-Scissor to round off the set nicely. With these assets, Sandslash really does an exceptional job of picking off weaker threats, and with the given coverage it serves as a nice check to the new and powerful Tornadus and Thundurus Therian forms, among many other threats like Volcarona, Terrakion and Latios (if you carry X-Scissor).

            In RU, however, it’s a very different story. This metagame is where Slash gets to take advantage of its good Defensive bulk and access to Rapid Spin. With Claydol and Blastoise now long-gone from RU, Sandslash has taken over to become one of the best spinners in the tier. It can even utilize Swords Dance on a Rapid Spin set to beat out bulky Ghost types such as Cofagrigus and Dusknoir, or set up Stealth Rock on its own. If your RU team needs a Rapid Spinner, a good Physical Wall or a decent Ground type, Sandslash is the perfect option.

Potential Sets:

1. Offensive Rapid Spinner (Ghost Killer) –RU or UU
   252 HP/252 Atk/6 SpDef
    Adamant @ Life Orb/Leftovers/Lum Berry
    -Swords Dance
    -Rapid Spin  
    -Night Slash/Stone Edge

            This set makes use of Sandslash’s unique ability to plow through essentially all Spin blockers in the lower tiers after a Swords Dance. Because of its low Speed, max HP should be used to take advantage of Slash’s nice base 110 Defense, and to make its low Special Defense a little more bearable. Otherwise the ideology of this set is simple; set up a Swords Dance on a predicted switch and proceed to demolish anything that comes in, preferably Ghost types expecting to stop you from Rapid Spinning. With Night Slash, no Ghost is safe from Sandslash’s wrath, though if you’d prefer better coverage overall, you may forego it for Stone Edge.

            Life Orb makes each attack hit much harder, though if you’d like to play it safer Leftovers and Lum are viable options as well. This set works best in RU, though SD does give Sandslash a slight edge over some of UU’s best Rapid Spinners, making it potentially useful there as well. Just keep in mind that UU has threats that are tons more powerful than RU’s, so the risk is yours to take.


2. Bulky Support --RU
    252 HP/6 Atk/252 Def
    Impish @ Leftovers
    -Stealth Rock/Toxic
    - Rapid Spin
    -Stone Edge/Rock Slide

          All that physical bulk in addition to the ability to Spin away entry hazards from your side of the field make Sandslash a premium candidate for a defensive support Pokemon in RU. Its typing also helps it, giving it a usable Electric type immunity as well as resistances to Rock and Poison type moves. With Stealth Rock and good offensive coverage, this set is likely to help your team out in dealing gradual damage to weaken their threats. However, if you already have a different Stealth Rock user, Toxic is another great move to have.


Sand Sweeper (OU):    
 Due to the amount of differing variations, I will list a few effective versions of the Sandslash sweeper set here. Each of these will have the same moveset of: 
    -Swords Dance
    -Stone Edge   
    - X-Scissor/Rapid Spin

            EdgeQuake is the obligatory coverage duo here, hitting many things for at least neutral damage while Earthquake does so with STAB. X-Scissor is the best option for a third coverage move, as it gets Super Effective damage on things that normally wouldn’t take much from Stone Edge, such as Celebi and Latios, while it also allows you to hit Breloom, who resists both of the aforementioned moves. Rapid Spin, however, may be used in the last slot to get rid of those annoying entry hazards while still threatening a good portion of the metagame with mere powerful presence.

Also, each can use the items Life Orb, Leftovers, or Lum Berry, depending on how you’d like the set to function. The EVs are not listed above because I’ve come up with a few different spreads that each allow you to hit certain Speed numbers and bulk levels, depending on what exactly you’d like your Sandslash to outspeed. Here they are:

1. Speedy Sweeper
   12 HP/ 252 Atk/244 Spe

With the given EVs, Sandslash hits its most effective Speed tier, outspeeding as many of OUs fastest threats as possible. There really is no reason to invest 100% in Speed since the extra Speed points won’t allow it to outpace anything it couldn’t before. For this reason, the remaining 12 EVs can go in HP just to give Sandslash some slightly better potential to take some hits and live.

The nature of this set (either Adamant or Jolly) is very important here as it determines exactly what Sandslash can beat out. The main enemies here are base 101 Pokemon and below; with an Adamant nature and the given EVs, Sandslash becomes faster than everything up to Modest Choice Scarfed Tornadus-T, meaning that it can essentially revenge kill notable threats such as the former, in addition to Adamant Choice Scarf Salamence, Adamant Salamence after a Dragon Dance, any Dragon Dance Dragonite variant, any Terrakion variant that doesn’t have a Choice Scarf or Rock Polish, and anything slower than these threats. This is important because all of these listed are very potent Pokemon in the OU metagame, and the fact that Sandslash can attack before them and likely KO with a boosted move makes this set very relevant in the current metagame.
            If you'd like to forego a little bit of that power for more Speed, Jolly may be used, as a great deal more Pokemon are outsped with this nature. Firstly, the given EVs and a Jolly nature allow Sandslash to outspeed up to Timid Scarf Thundurus-T (or Jolly Scarf Landorus-I) and everything below. This is very important as one of the Pokemon Sandslash does get the edge on here is Adamant Choice Scarfed Terrakion, who is otherwise checked by very few things in OU.  

            This set functions best as a late-game sweeper, as it will be at its most effective once hugely defensive threats like Ferrothorn and Skarmory are out of the way. Also, while Sandslash does have a decent HP stat backed by good Defense, it suffers heavily from repeated assaults, especially with Life Orb as its prime weapon of choice. Furthermore, it will not enjoy taking priority moves from really anything; a Bullet Punch from Scizor and an Extremespeed from Dragonite (both Adamant with Choice Band) both 2HKO Slash, while Life Orb Lucario’s ExSpeed deals up to 40%. Sandslash also cannot stand being statused by anything, as Burn hinders its power and longevity, while Toxic does just the latter. Sleep is also a huge detriment.

            With all of these given problems, a couple effective partners come to  mind for this set. First, Magnezone is able to switch in on the likes of Ferrothorn, Skarmory and Scizor, OHKOing each of these with the appropriate move. Also, Blissey makes a great partner for its ability to pass Wishes and heal status with Aromatherapy. Lastly, anything else with high Speed and power will aid Sandslash greatly if it can remove anything else that threatens its sweep. Entry hazards are great too, as they demand less of Sandslash once it is in a one-on-one situation.

2. Sand Sweeper 2 (OU)   
    168 HP/252 Atk/88 Spe
    Adamant @ Life Orb  
            If you’d like to take advantage of Sandslash’s decent physical bulk while still attempting to outspeed and plow through your opponent’s team, this set provides an alternate variation with a more bulky twist. With 88 Speed EVs and an Adamant nature, Sandslash is faster than everything up to Tornadus-T in the sand. This will allow you to properly KO the big green bird with a powerful Stone Edge before it can wreak any more havoc on your team. What that means is that with this set, Sandslash becomes faster than every non-scarfed, non-boosted Pokemon in OU! That is, everything but one… Jolteon holds the title of the current fastest Pokemon in the tier, with a huge base 130 Speed stat. But while Jolteon is really not very common at all, if you fear being demolished by a powerful Hidden Power Ice (which Jolteon always carries), you may switch the EVs to 128 HP/252 Atk/128 Spe with an Adamant nature. Either way this set allows Slash to take a few more hits while still being the fastest thing in OU (without a Scarf, of course).

Other Options:

            As far as moveset goes, this analysis pretty much has it covered for the most part. You’ll always want to use Swords Dance, Stone Edge and Earthquake in OU, while the RU variation depends on the set you’re running. In OU you may also try Night Slash to beat out Ghost types, namely Gengar, but usually EdgeQuake +X-Scissor provides you with all the coverage you’ll need. Sandslash also has Hone Claws, which might be usable for its ability to make Stone Edge 100% accurate, but as it doesn’t reach the levels of power that Swords Dance does, it’s not much of a huge buff.

            There is also a good list of items for Slash to hold. Life Orb, Leftovers, and Lum Berry are the standard trio, each providing one benefit over the others. In OU, Slash may hold a Choice Band to remove boosting time altogether and begin hitting things hard from the moment it comes into battle. The downside with this is obviously being locked into one move, so either your prediction skills will have to be primed or you’ll have to make sure to eliminate anything that walls Sandslash beforehand.


            Sandslash has never been a really outstanding Pokemon in any generation, but Black and White has definitely been nice to it. With its great bulk, good typing and well-rounded movepool on the offensive and defensive spectrums, it’s become quite a force in the RU metagame for its ability to Rapid Spin effectively.

            Conversely, the aforementioned traits have allowed it to perform quite well in OU too, along with its new ability Sand Rush. Sandslash won’t be moving permanently into the tier any time soon, but it’s definitely a viable option if you’re beginning to find the current roster of Sand sweepers a bit bland.

Competitive Usability: 

  • Rapid Spin
  • Sand Rush makes it usable in OU.
  • Decent Attack stat and access to Swords Dance.
  • Reasonable physical bulk.
  • Enough coverage to effectively run an offensive set.
  • Low Special Defense.
  • Low natural Speed, making it useless without Sand in OU and even still slower than some threats in the Sand.
Verdict:  8 out of 10 (OU)
                8 out of 10 (RU)

            Sandslash is one of the oldest Pokemon in existence and, given that you can catch it rather early in Red and Blue, is one of the first Pokemon anyone has ever seen. For that reason its looks are by no means novel. Yet while it does carry the burden of being one of the originals, it’s still not as cool looking as beasts like Arcanine, Blastoise, or Dragonite. For those reasons Sandslash has never really appealed to me in terms of design. It’s unique, which is good, as there has yet to be another quilled shrew like it to date, but it’s nothing extravagant, to be honest.
Aesthetic Design:  6 out of 10

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