Strategy Session – Competitive Pokemon VIII

I must confess to a fondness for the common hippopotamus. They’re huge, slightly ridiculous, and are quite capable of crushing someone simply by mistaking them for a chair. This week, we’ll be paying tribute to the noble hippo by looking at one of my personal favorite Pokemon; Hippowdon, the giant sand hippo. 

HP: 108 Atk: 112 Def: 118 Sp Atk: 68 Sp Def: 72 Spd: 47
Ability: Sand Stream: When this Pokemon enters play, the weather changes to Sandstorm. This weather has no turn limit.

One of the best physical tanks of this generation, Hippowdon is capable of taking the same level of abuse as Skarmory, and yet it doesn’t instantly die to any special attack you’d care to name. It doesn’t pack quite the same quality of resistances as Skarmory, but its base stats are enough that it can take a hit and keep on truckin’. Sand Stream is a particularly nice bonus as well, as it allows the hippo a quick and easy source of residual damage. This ability not only helps Hippowdon stall, it can also help in breaking other stall teams, particularly if paired with Toxic. Hippowdon’s broad defensive movepool helps it a great deal here as well, giving it access to instant recovery in Slack Off, entry hazards with Stealth Rock, and the ability to force foes out with Roar or Yawn.

The hippo’s biggest problem, besides its relatively unimpressive special defense, is its predictability. Next to no one uses Hippowdon’s offensive capabilities, mainly because of its speed, which is about what you’d expect from a hippo. A secondary problem, and one that affects its ability to tank far more than its predictability, is its lack of resistances. Ground is a great offensive type, but a poor defensive one, leaving it open to some nasty hits if you mispredict.

In short, Hippowdon makes a great tank, but can be tough to use any other way. It’s definitely good at what it does, though, so don’t underestimate it.

Wall of Hippos
Hippowdon @Leftovers
Impish (+Def, – Sp Atk) nature
Sand Stream ability
252 HP, 252 Def. 6 Atk
-Stealth Rock
-Roar / Yawn
-Slack Off
Hippowdon’s ability to take physical hits is actually a little scary. It can switch into some of the most dangerous physical attacks in the game and expect to come out with nary a scratch; a full-strength Crunch from a Choice Banded Tyranitar, for example, will deal less than 50% to Hippowdon, to say nothing of Stone Edge. The hippo’s resistance to special attacks is less impressive, but it actually takes them a lot better than Skarmory, thanks in large part to Hippowdon’s huge HP.

Hippowdon is one of those Pokemon that wishes it had five or six moveslots instead of just four. Earthquake in slot #1 is a gimme, as it’s a powerful physical attack that the hippo gets STAB on. But after that, it becomes a little complicated. Stealth Rock is the best choice for slot #2, since Hippowdon’s huge bulk allows it to set up without much issue, but a number of attacks are also viable in this slot. For example, Ice Fang will be able to handle most Salamences and Flygons, forcing them out with the threat of a one or two hit KO. Thunder Fang will take out Gyarados, but it will leave you vulnerable to Flygon as well as a number of physical walls, most notably Gliscor. Stone Edge is something of a happy medium, hitting both Salamence and Gyarados, but it’s resisted by Flygon and only hits Gliscor and Forretress neutrally. In the end, Stealth Rock might be the best choice simply because it allows you to set up entry hazards while your foe switches in their Hippowdon counter.

The last two slots are your obvious tanking choices. Yawn is a solid move for forcing switches, while Roar is a bit more reliable but lacks the ability to put Pokemon to sleep. Slack Off is the main reason Hippowdon beats out Donphan in the physical walling category; instant recovery lets it switch in on threats over and over again, something Donphan can’t do. On another note, Toxic is a viable choice in either of the last two slots. However, without Yawn or Roar, you’ll have trouble forcing out Pokemon using stat increasing moves to get around your defense, and dropping Slack Off will significantly curtail your tanking abilities.

Hippo Band
Hippowdon @Choice Band
Adamant (+Atk, -Sp Atk) nature.
Sand Stream ability
252 HP, 252 Atk, 6 Def
-Crunch / Stone Edge
-Thunder Fang
-Ice Fang
Hippowdon’s offensive movepool isn’t very big, but it’s enough to get some good coverage, and it’s likely to be completely unexpected. Earthquake fills some nasty holes in the Electric/Ice type combo, allowing it to hit Magnezone and Lanturn for super effective damage. Crunch or Stone Edge help to shore up Hippowdon’s coverage, and gives it the ability to score some crucial extra damage against Celebi, who is a big threat to this set.

In the end, the hippo has some great defensive options, but a lack of offensive ones makes it easy to predict. An unfortunate side effect of this is that Hippowdon is forced to rely on less than impressive attacks like Thunder Fang and Ice Fang. Platinum’s move tutors did give it Superpower, which isn’t a terrible choice on a Choice Band set, but about the only Pokemon it’s really useful against is Blissey, who still has a good chance of surviving it.

One Comment

  1. Matt "Wonderslime" Demers:

    Joe, I absolutely love reading your suggestions here in this column. Keep up the fantastic work!!

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