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 with better stats.

Sun and Moon offered a brand new Sandslash for Pokemon trainers to encounter and build with a new Ice/Steel type combo. One interesting change is that to evolve it from Sandshrew to Sandslash in Alola you need an Ice Stone. So, is the trade from leveling it up to evolve rather than investing a rare stone worth it?

Unfortunately, due to Alolan Sandslash being retyped, it’s extremely weak to Fire and Fighting type moves. Ironically, it’s also weak to Ground-type moves. These happen to be three of the most common types of moves 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 same type moves in Icicle Crash (Ice) and Iron Head (Steel). It can also learn Earthquake of course, but losing the same type attack bonus hurts the effectiveness of using that move with this mon. 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.

Also, in the Pokemon Trading Card Game, 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, which it certainly doesn’t in the video games.

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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