Is Alolan Sandslash Good in Competitive Pokemon?

For many generations. Sandslash was a Ground-type Pokemon. Despite being a generally useful utility Pokemon with good Attack and physical Defense stats, it was slow and overpowered by special attacks. A hidden ability that doubled its speed on sandstorms gave it some hope, but there are Pokemon that can serve the same utility roles in battle with better stats.

Sun and Moon offered an alternate Alolan Sandshrew for Pokemon trainers to encounter in the snow, which replaced its traditional Ground type with dual types in Ice and Steel. One interesting change is that to evolve the alternate Sandshrew you find in Alola into Sandslash, you need an Ice Stone. So, is needing to invest a rare evolution stone versus leveling up the original version worth it? Is Alolan Sandslash good enough in competitive play to be worth your time building?

Unfortunately, due to Alolan Sandslash gaining these new types, it’s extremely weak to Fire and Fighting type moves. Ironically, it’s also weak to Ground-type moves. Fire, Fighting, and Ground type moves happen to be three of the most common in competitive Pokemon. So, does the greatly expanded move set and slightly better defensive stats offset these glaring new type disadvantages?

Alolan Sandslash does gain two strong STAB (Same-Type Attack Bonus) moves in Icicle Crash and Iron Head. It can still also learn Earthquake, but losing the STAB bonus from not being a Ground-type hurts the effectiveness of using that move with this Pokemon. Also, like regular Sandslash, the Alolan form has an ability that doubles its speed, except in hail rather than sand. If it can hit first, Alolan Sandslash can be a superior Pokemon against the right foes. The additional physical Defense can also be relevant, although it doesn’t make up for being four times weak to Fire and Fighting.

All that being said, on a Hail team, Alolan Sandslash can still be an effective sweeper as long as it can dodge its weaknesses. It really needs to use Swords Dance at least once to maximize its damage output. While some trainers will use Choice Scarf to help it outspeed other Choice Scarf users, Alolan Sandslash works best as a revenge killer. Also, since it can learn Rapid Spin and Knock Off, it can serve a utility role to remove hazards and key items on opposing Pokemon. 

Alolan Sandslash is certainly a competitive Pokemon, more so than its Ground-type predecessor. The only issue is that it really needs the Hail set to compete, so you need to pick your spots in unleashing this Sandslash. Building it just right to fit your team, an Alolan Sandslash can certainly be a good option if you need the type coverage its Ice/Steel combo offers.

So, Alolan Sandslash certainly has uses in the competitive video game scene. But, is Alolan Sandslash good in the Pokemon Trading Card Game? As it turns out, yes. There’s a Gigantamax version of Alolan Sandslash that can serve as a powerful sweeper with its GX attack. Spiky Storm GX does 100 damage to each of your opponent’s Pokemon with any damage counters on it. This attack even ignores Resistance (and Weakness) for any Benched Pokemon. While you can only use one GX attack per game, this one is going to usually put a game away if timed correctly. Notably, this card has a 2x weakness to Steel Pokemon, which it doesn’t in the video games. There are no actual dual-type Pokemon in the Trading Card Game, however.

What do you think of Alolan Sandslash? Do you prefer the dual-type, even with its new weaknesses, or the traditional Ground-type Sandslash?

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