MOTW: Sandstorm

In the face in thefaceintheFACEINTHEFACE!!! Welcome to Move of the Week! This week we’re going over Sandstorm and how it can be utilized in a Singles team. A little bit of an older strategy, but still a great one. This is a condensed version of an article I found made by a lot smarter people than I, but original content will be coming next week. Beware it’s going to be a long one... You can find the jump for the full article later down the line, but first, let’s nerd it up in here with some indepth PokeTalk!

Sandstorm has been a field effect since the 2nd generation of Pokémon. It produces several effects that last for the duration of the sandstorm itself. In 2nd gen, sandstorm was seldom used because it would only last five turns, and there was little immediate benefit to the user besides doing 1/16 damage each turn to all Pokémon that weren't part Rock, Ground, or Steel. However, sandstorm has become wildly popular in the 3rd and 4th generations, due to the advent of Sand Stream. With this ability, trainers can now utilize permanent sandstorm. There are two Pokémon that have the ability Sand Stream. These are Hippowdon and Tyranitar, two very useful and powerful Pokémon.

In this guide we will generally focus on permanent sandstorm, as it is easier to reap the rewards of Sand Stream than it is through use of the move Sandstorm.

As with most other weather variations, sandstorm can be brought to the field via two methods. The first way is through use of the move Sandstorm, which will summon a sandstorm for five turns, unless the user holds a Smooth Rock, which extends the duration up to eight turns. The other way is through the ability Sand Stream, which summons a sandstorm permanently unless the weather is changed again through a move or an ability.

The following effects occur in a sandstorm:

Rock-type Pokémon's Special Defense is boosted by 50%

All non-Rock-, Steel-, and Ground-type Pokémon and Pokémon without the ability Magic Guard or Sand Veil take 1/16 damage at the end of every turn.

The evasion of a Pokémon with the Sand Veil ability is increased by 20%.

SolarBeam's Base Power is reduced from 120 to 60.

Synthesis, Moonlight, and Morning Sun only recover 25% of the user's HP, as opposed to 50%.

Weather Ball's Base Power is doubled to 100, and becomes a Rock-type move.

Players have a lot of freedom when using a sandstorm team. They function well as offensive, stall, or balanced teams, with the only real restriction being the necessity for the team to have Tyranitar and/or Hippowdon.

Defensive sandstorm teams use the Special Defense boosting effect of sandstorm to its fullest extent with Pokémon such as Cradily. They often use entry hazards, Toxic, and the damaging effects of sandstorm to slowly break down the opponent's team.

Offensive sandstorm teams use the sandstorm to nullify the opponent's Focus Sashes and to allow the offensive Pokémon to sweep more easily, courtesy of the additional damage. Typically, offensive sandstorm teams use powerful Rock-, Steel-, and Ground-type Pokémon such as Tyranitar, Rhyperior, Lucario, and Heatran, who are not damaged by the sandstorm. These teams almost never use "Substitute and Sweep" Pokémon either (eg. BellyZard), unless they resist the sandstorm. This is because the weather will otherwise put a quick stop to their sweep. This will also work in your favor, as it can stop the opponent from trying such a sweep.

All good sandstorm teams require a Pokémon with Sand Stream, and you only have two options: Tyranitar and Hippowdon. These Pokémon are more than good enough to warrant a spot on your team though, so don't fret.

Hippowdon being generally used less than Tyranitar does not mean that it's bad by any means! Hippowdon has gargantuan HP and Defense stats, and a threatening base 112 Attack. With a powerful STAB Earthquake, a reliable 50% recovery move in Slack Off, and Stealth Rock, Yawn, Toxic, and Roar for support, Hippowdon can fit right in any stall team. Hippowdon can also threaten opponents with its offensive options; it gets the aforementioned Earthquake, along with Stone Edge, Superpower, and Crunch, on top of having the elemental fangs. Hippowdon can also threaten opponents with Curse, or strengthen its already high Defense, along with its mediocre Special Defense, through Stockpile.

While Hippowdon's defensive ability is outstanding, its Special Defense is somewhat mediocre. Hippowdon's weaknesses to Grass, Water, and Ice-type moves does not help it either, as these types are commonly used via special attackers. Hippowdon does have pitiful Speed too, which is somewhat of a let-down, especially if one wants to use Hippowdon's big Attack stat.

Tyranitar has fantastic stats in everything except Speed, and that isn't even horrible. On top of this, Tyranitar benefits more from Sand Stream than Hippowdon, as its Special Defense is automatically boosted by 50% due to it being part Rock-type. Tyranitar has a plethora of offensive options, from setting up with Dragon Dance to hitting hard outright with Choice Band, to even running a mixed set.

Tyranitar's main and most immediately threatening moveset is one paired with Choice Band. With one of the highest Attack stats in the game, Tyranitar's Attack can reach more than 600 with Choice Band. The Rock-type monster also has two very potent STABs in Crunch and Stone Edge. Its physical movepool is also very wide; it can use Pursuit to trap Pokémon like Gengar and Starmie, any of the elemental punches, Aqua Tail, or even Earthquake. Choice Band Tyranitar can run EVs to be on the quicker side, or sway towards the bulky side. Another threatening physical version of Tyranitar uses Dragon Dance to boost its already monstrous Attack and Speed to higher levels. On the flip side of Dragon Dance, Curse is also an option. CurseTar works nicely because you don't have to invest any EVs into Speed; instead, you can plan your EVs to make Tyranitar extremely difficult to take down. CurseTars usually use Payback over Crunch because they will be moving last unless your opponent uses a move with negative priority, which allows for 150 Base Power after STAB provided Tyranitar moves last, instead of the 120 which Crunch has.

When choosing Pokémon for your sandstorm team, picking Pokémon that resist the sandstorm is always a safe bet. However, using all Ground-, Rock-, and Steel-types will leave you with gaping weaknesses, so you'll need to choose some other Pokémon to cover your bases. Sandstorm doesn't make a giant difference in battling compared to extreme field effects like Trick Room, so building your team isn't too difficult. Here are just some choices that might be a good fit for your team:

Lucario is very proficient at physical or special sweeping, generally using either Swords Dance or Choice Specs. It has a wide variety of powerful attacks, including Close Combat, Aura Sphere, Crunch, Ice Punch, and Dark Pulse, among others. It also has access to various priority moves in Vacuum Wave, ExtremeSpeed, and Bullet Punch. Using Lucario isn't all that difficult, as it has several resistances, and can often switch in after one of your Pokémon faints. After that, setting up Swords Dance is usually simple, as Lucario often causes switches, or you can immediately hammer into your opponent with a strong Close Combat or Aura Sphere.

With an awesome ability in Solid Rock paired with tremendous Attack, Rhyperior does well on any sandstorm team (especially with the Special Defense boost!) To show off Rhyperior's strength best, the most common moveset used is Substitute, Swords Dance or Megahorn, Stone Edge, and Earthquake. While sitting safely behind a Substitute, Rhyperior can boost its Attack and proceed to rip through your opponent's team with its powerful STAB moves. This set, like other Rhyperior sets, is countered by Pokémon with high Defense, such as Skarmory.

Some other good choices for sweepers include Magnezone, Mamoswine, Jirachi, Heatran, Empoleon, Scizor, Metagross, Flygon, Dugtrio, Aerodactyl, and possibly Torterra. If you want to see this full list with descriptions on each Pokemon, check out the full article here. Now those are your sweeper supporters. Here are a couple of overall supporters you may want to consider:

Everyone knows about the defensive terror that is Skamory. Walling physical attacks and setting up entry hazards make Skarmory an amazing Pokémon to use on a sandstorm stall team. Skarmory also has its own recovery in Roost, and can pseudo-haze with Whirlwind. Skarmory hates taking special attacks, especially Electric-type ones. Because of this, Jolteon, Raikou, and especially Magnezone (because of Magnet Pull) make great Skarmory counters. Infernape and Heatran also make great counters, though Infernape needs to watch out for Brave Bird or Drill Peck on the switch.

Gliscor can fulfill many roles on a sandstorm team; it can set up Swords Dance or Agility to Baton Pass, sweep with Swords Dance, or be a general physical wall. These objectives are especially easy to pull off under sandstorm because of Sand Veil. Gliscor is also one of DPP's best Heracross counters, while it also beats non-Ice Punch Lucario. Countering Gliscor largely depends on the set; the Baton Passer is beaten by quick Taunt users, as is the case with most Baton Passers. Other Gliscor sets are easily beaten by Ice-type moves. Pokémon like Starmie outspeed and OHKO Gliscor with Ice Beam.

Forretress is one of the best Rapid Spinners and Toxic Spikers. Forretress is capable of setting up every type of entry hazard, as well as spinning them away. Forretress can also threaten opposing Pokémon with Earthquake, STAB Gyro Ball, Zap Cannon, or Payback. One of Forretress' best counters is Rotom-h, as it blocks Forretress' Rapid Spins and can OHKO it with Overheat. Magnezone also counters Forretress nicely, as Thunderbolt does a hefty amount of damage, and Hidden Power Fire will OHKO it.

Some other possibilities would include Bronzong, Cradily, Swampert, Registeel, Regirock, Claydol, and also Donphan.

A major problem for sandstorm teams is stall teams. Most Pokémon that do well in sandstorm aren't proficient at running mixed sets, and as such, breaking the walls of stall teams is difficult. Including a Pokémon like Mixed Jirachi is a good idea; even though they will be taking damage from Life Orb, they'll often be able to break down a few walls so you'll be able to sweep with something else. Toxic Spikes is another large problem, as it hits many common sandstorm Pokémon. Using Forretress or Donphan is a good counter to this, as they can spin away the Toxic Spikes and any other entry hazard that may plague you. If neither of those Pokémon appeal to you, then use Starmie as a Rapid Spinner, or a Poison-type like Roserade to absorb the Toxic Spikes. Nidoqueen and Nidoking get a special mention, as they can both absorb Toxic Spikes while they are not hurt by sandstorm. Specifically, Suicune tends to be a large problem for sandstorm teams. With its STAB Water-type moves and strong Defense and HP, Suicune can easily take the attacks of Rhyperior, Mamoswine, and sometimes, Tyranitar and defeat them quickly. To defeat Suicune, include something with strong Electric- or Grass-type moves, like Magnezone, Celebi, or Roserade.

Opposing weather teams also make playing with sandstorm difficult, especially if your weather-inducer faints before your opponent's does. Not only will they likely be ready with powerful sweepers ready to benefit from the opposing weather, but your Rock-type Pokémon will lose their Special Defense boosts. Rain Dance teams can smash through Tyranitar and Hippowdon with high powered Water-type moves, and can then set up Rain Dance without fear to attempt a sweep. Sunny Day teams are less of a threat as one can bring in Tyranitar or Hippowdon to cause SolarBeam to take another turn as it charges. When playing against these teams, you may often have to make smart sacrifices to keep control of the battle. In these situations, it is highly advised to keep your weather-Pokémon alive so you can change the weather when desperately needed.

Sandstorm is the most used weather effect, and for good reason. Sandstorm has several game-changing effects that can be fully utilized to your advantage. Again, if you want to see the article in it’s entirety you can check it out here. I wish I could take credit for writing such an indepth coverage of a move, but alas, I’m not as smart as some other people out there, believe it or not, lol. Next week! We’re going to be looking at Tailwind and it’s main strategy. Tailwind was a strong move in the recent VGC tournaments, so that’s how we’ll be looking at it, from a competitive Black and White doubles point of view.

See you next week!

-It’s Super Effective