Poliwag (Poké Monday 10/17/16)

 rng-poliwag

Tier: LC
Type: Water
Base Stats: 40 HP, 50 Atk, 40 Def, 40 Sp.Atk, 40 Sp.Def, 90 Speed
Abilities: Water Absorb, Damp, Swift Swim (hidden)

Usable moves: Blizzard, Body Slam, Double-Edge, Encore, Façade, Frustration, Haze, Hidden Power (Electric, Fighting, Fire, Grass), Hydro Pump, Ice Beam, Protect, Psychic, Rest, Return, Scald, Sleep Talk, Substitute, Surf, Toxic, Waterfall

Somewhat usable moves: Belly Drum, Hypnosis

Overview

As a Water-type, Poliwag is by no means the biggest fish in the sea. It may have the highest base Speed of any Water-type, but in terms of Speed values it ties at 19 with Buizel, Staryu, and Wingull, the former two of which are stronger and have better coverage on the physical and special side respectively. However, Poliwag takes pride in being one of the two fastest Pokémon with Belly Drum (the other being Magby, which shares the same Speed value but has an edge over Poliwag thanks to priority in Mach Punch) and also possessing a sleep-inducing move (albeit a rather unreliable one) in Hypnosis. Moreover, although Poliwag’s movepool is relatively lacking, even in comparison to those of fellow Water-types, Water+Normal coverage is usually enough to get by. (In fact, the only Pokémon in the tier that resist the combination are Ferroseed, Frillish, and Lileep.)

When all is said and done, however, Poliwag is a gimmick. Aside from the unreliability of Hypnosis in terms of hit rate, there is also the 1/3 chance of the opposing Pokémon waking up instantly, which makes for a meager overall chance of 40% to get Hypnosis and Belly Drum off without a hitch (given the opponent stays in the whole time). Moreover, although Poliwag is not weak to any form of priority, its below average 40/40/40 bulk means that it risks being worn down by various forms of priority in the tier. To cite a few examples:

  • 196+ Atk Fletchling Acrobatics (110 BP) vs. 116 HP / 0 Def Poliwag: 18-22 (81.8 – 100%) — 6.3% chance to OHKO
  • 156 Atk Pawniard Sucker Punch vs. 116 HP / 0 Def Poliwag: 15-18 (68.1 – 81.8%) — guaranteed 2HKO
  • 196+ Atk Zigzagoon Extreme Speed vs. 116 HP / 0 Def Poliwag: 12-15 (54.5 – 68.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO

Priority aside, Elekid outspeeds Poliwag and destroys it with STAB, and the same can be said about Electric- and Grass-type Choice Scarf users. Abra, meanwhile, speed-ties with Poliwag, and Sash variants carrying Energy Ball don’t have to worry about winning or losing the tie (given the Abra in question has full HP). If hazards are not up, Sturdy users (especially those with Berry Juice) can throw a wrench into Poliwag’s potential sweep. As for Pokémon that can weather the assault: Ferroseed, Lileep, and Pumpkaboo-Super can easily take on the standard Water+Normal coverage (especially Lileep with its Storm Drain) and retaliate with their Grass STAB.

+6 196 Atk Poliwag Waterfall vs. 84 HP / 188 Def Eviolite Ferroseed: 9-11 (40.9 – 50%) — 0.4% chance to 2HKO
36 Atk Ferroseed Bullet Seed (3 hits) vs. 116 HP / 0 Def Poliwag: 24-36 (109 – 163.6%) — guaranteed OHKO

+6 196 Atk Poliwag Return vs. 228 HP / 140 Def Eviolite Lileep: 8-10 (30.7 – 38.4%) — 99.2% chance to 3HKO
0 SpA Lileep Giga Drain vs. 116 HP / 0 SpD Poliwag: 20-26 (90.9 – 118.1%) — 75% chance to OHKO

+6 196 Atk Poliwag Waterfall vs. 204 HP / 36 Def Eviolite Pumpkaboo-Super: 12-14 (48 – 56%) — 60.9% chance to 2HKO
0 Atk Pumpkaboo-Super Bullet Seed (3 hits) vs. 116 HP / 0 Def Poliwag: 24-36 (109 – 163.6%) — guaranteed OHKO

Water Absorb Frillish hard-walls the aforementioned Water+Normal coverage, but Cursed Body variants are more common. Such variants do take +6 Waterfall relatively well, but they can’t do as much back as the Grass-types mentioned above.

+6 196 Atk Poliwag Waterfall vs. 236 HP / 116+ Def Eviolite Frillish: 12-14 (48 – 56%) — 60.9% chance to 2HKO
76 SpA Frillish Shadow Ball vs. 116 HP / 0 SpD Poliwag: 12-15 (54.5 – 68.1%) — guaranteed 2HKO

At any rate, if you do decide to use Poliwag, be wary of the risks involved, and build the rest of the team around as many of said risks as possible.

Set

Poliwag @ Berry Juice
Ability: Water Absorb
Level: 5
EVs: 116 HP / 196 Atk / 196 Spe
Jolly Nature
– Hypnosis
– Belly Drum
– Waterfall
– Return

Belly Drum is the crux of this set, allowing Poliwag’s Attack stat to go up from a decent 14 to a whopping 56. You have to play it carefully, though, as using the move consumes half HP; even though Berry Juice grants a one-time restoration to full HP (or near-full if at 1 HP), that is no excuse to be negligent as far as setting up too soon or underestimating your opponent for whatever reason. Waterfall is STAB, and Return provides great coverage in conjunction with the move. Hypnosis may have shaky accuracy, but when it lands, it has a 2/3 chance of providing more ample opportunity to set up and wreak havoc.

EVs are obvious in that they are focused on physical offense, especially Speed to take advantage of its respectable base 90. Berry Juice is the item of choice to make Belly Drum easier to set up. Water Absorb is the ability of choice because the others are too situational. (If used on a rain team, however, Swift Swim could be considerable in preventing Elekid and various Scarf users from being problematic to Poliwag’s sweep.)

Other Options

Four-moveslot syndrome (4MSS) is a problem for Poliwag, and bear in mind that any non-Normal coverage move will leave it walled by Croagunk and Foongus (and other coverage options are weaker in general than Return/Frustration). Wake-Up Slap always OHKOs standard Ferroseed and has a high chance of OHKOing standard Lileep at +6, but it grants Poliwag less coverage with its STAB and leaves it walled by the likes of Mantyke and Frillish. (It also has the odd utility of dealing double damage to targets put to sleep by Hypnosis, but at the cost of awakening said targets.) Thief can be used to hit certain pesky Ghost-types (namely Frillish and Pumpkaboo) and grants the utility of stealing the opponent’s item after Berry Juice has been consumed, but it’s a weak move in general and does not grant much else in terms of coverage (especially considering a neutral Thief usually does no more than a resisted STAB Waterfall).

In terms of utility moves, Encore is a situational alternative to Hypnosis that can potentially lock a foe into a harmless utility move (such as a setup move, hazard, or hazard-clearing move) and 100% guarantee a setup opportunity against such a foe (as opposed to Hypnosis’s icky 60% chance in every situation). Substitute follows the same sort of principle of granting a setup opportunity against a harmless move, except it costs 25% HP to use (as if the 50% HP cost of Belly Drum isn’t enough) and does not have the ability to catch the user of the harmless move on the switch in.

Sample Team

http://pastebin.com/C4H54TmY – Tested and tweaked a few times… That’s about all that I have to say.

This team contains:

  • Poliwag (set above)
  • Mienfoo as an answer to Lileep and perhaps Ferroseed? (I had Ponyta (along with Archen) initially but decided to drop it because I needed priority while maintaining the ability to set up Stealth Rock.)
  • Fletchling for priority
  • Staryu for hazard control
  • Diglett for trapping and Stealth Rock
  • Foongus as a general wall
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