For many generations, Sandslash was a Ground-type Pokemon. Despite being generally useful with its good Attack and physical Defense stats, it was slow and overpowered by special attacks. Gaining hidden ability in Sand Rush that doubled its speed on sandstorms gave it some hope starting in Generation 5, but there other Pokemon could serve the same utility roles in battle with better base 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. This means investing a rare evolution stone in the Alolan version versus leveling up the original Sandshrew to level 22. Is Alolan Sandslash good enough in competitive play to be worth your time building?
Unfortunately, due to Alolan Sandslash gaining these new types, it gains weakness to Fighting, Fire, and (ironically) Ground type moves. Unfortunately, Fire, Fighting, and Ground type moves happen to be three of the most common in competitive Pokemon.
Fortunately, becoming an Ice/Steel type gains Alolan Sandslash 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 with its ability Sand Rush, the Alolan form has a Slush Rush ability that doubles its speed, except in hail rather than sand. If it can hit first, Alolan Sandslash can be superior to its original form 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.
So, does a greatly expanded move set and slightly better defensive stats offset the glaring new type disadvantages for Alolan Sandslash? Well, 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 good competitive Pokemon, more so than its Ground-type predecessor. The only issue is that it really needs Hail in play 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. It’s also unfortunate that as of this writing, neither form of Sandslash has appeared in Scarlet and Violet.
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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