Spice Pick of the Week: Alolan Sandslash

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In this edition of “Spice Pick off the Week” we have Alolan Sandslash the Ice and Steel type Pokemon. Alolan Sandslash hard walls one of Go Battle Leagues staple Pokemon, Altaria, and has play against some Steel type favorites such as Skarmory and Bastiodon.

For those who had the opportunity to experience the Safari Zone event, or hatched some 7k eggs from back in the days, chances are you have a Alolan Sandshrew waiting to see the battlefield.

Sandslash (Alola)

Stat Distribution

Alolan Sandslash has a max CP of 2432 and a stat spread of:

  • Attack: 177
  • Defense: 195
  • Stamina: 181

Alolan Sandslash has a relatively even stat distribution with a respectable amount of bulk. It’s fast move Powder Snow generates energy very quickly and allows it to spam a barrage of Ice Punches.

Alolan Sandslash has a great amount of resistances thanks to it’s Steel sub-typing which includes: Dragon, Psychic, Normal, Grass, Bug, Flying, Fairy, Poison. The Ice typing makes it double resistant to Ice, which can come in handy.

It’s important to watch out for Fire and Fighting type Pokemon since it has the 4x weakness to both. Some Great League staples to watch out for includes Toxicroak, Deoxys-Defense, Vigoroth, and Alolan Marowak. Be sure to bring that switch screen up quick against these hard counters.

Big threats:

Toxicroak Deoxys (Defense)
Marowak (Alola) Vigoroth

Moveset Analysis

Fast Move Damage EPS
Energy Per Second
Damage Per Second
Powder Snow 6 15 7.2
Metal Claw 8 10 13.7
Charge Move Damage EPS DPS
Blizzard 130 -32.3 50.3
Ice Punch 50 -17.4 31.6
Gyro Ball 80 -15.2 29.1
Bulldoze 80 -14.3 22.9

Powder Snow is hands down the recommended fast move, since it has STAB (same type attack bonus) and generates energy quicker than Metal Claw.

When choosing a charge move Ice Punch is a must, due to its low energy requirement spam-ability.

When choosing a second charge move, Gyro Ball seems tempting for coverage and STAB and Blizzard might sound like the answer for that devastating nuke, but for open Great League Bulldoze is the way to go for better coverage.

Blizzard is an amazing charge move (we’ve all seen what Whiscash can do) but Ice Punch charges much quicker and having two of the same type charge move is not ideal if a coverage move is available.

Gyro Ball actually gives it some extra spice by catching unsuspecting Fairy types like Alolan Ninetales and Wigglytuff with a nuke, but considering the current state of Open Great League, Alolan Sandslash will benefit most from Bulldoze.

I’ll go into details in a bit.

In GBL, Alolan Sandslash serves as a strong lead to catch that popular Altaria lead. Depending on your play style and team comp you can keep them in the back to force your opponent to switch into a flier or grass type (I’m thinking of the double grass line made popular by Caleb Peng) and give it a relentless farm down.

The damage comes from it’s fast move and Ice Punch spammy-ness. Alolan Sandslash pressures shields and fast move farms its proper match ups, something to keep in mind when choosing them as your Spice Pick.

Tips & Tricks

Farming down a Flying or Grass type while saving energy to throw at the incoming Pokemon is what Alolan Sandslash does best. As mentioned before there is no better feeling than catching an Altaria lead with Alolan Sandslash. It resists everything and anything Altaria throws. Throw anIce Punch after you get Altaria to about half health and you’ll end up with lots of energy to throw at the next Pokemon.

Another favorable lead is Tropius, same situation with Altaria, be sure to throw one Ice Punch and don’t forget to farm energy. Since Go Battle League is a blind match up there are some repercussions to leading with Alolan Sandslash.

In a situation where you’re caught with a Registeel or Azumarill lead you’ll want a Pokemon as safe swap and another Pokemon that can deal with Azu. Alolan Sandslash with energy or shield advantage can give Regi some trouble but not against Azu. Having a safe swap and a Pokemon that can handle both is crucial. A safe swap alongside a Meganium or Stunfisk will give you some wiggle room in those scenarios.

Alolan Sandslash has a surprisingly decent match up against a Skarmory and Bastiodon lead since it resists everything Skarmory throws and Bastiodon gets outpaced. This is where Bulldoze comes into play. It takes 2 Bulldozes to take out Bastiodon so if the first one lands you can anticipate your opponent to switch. Same with Skarmory, if you properly shield a Flash Cannon Alolan Sandslash wins, but more often than not your opponent wouldn’t want to waste their Skarmory or shields against an Alolan Sandslash.

The key here is if your opponent decides to shield it’s worth investing a shield as well. Things gets a little tricky with Registeel. It takes 2 Bulldozes to wipe Regi out but unfortunately Regi out paces Alolan Sandslash to Bulldoze. With an energy or shield advantage it’s possible to land those 2 Bulldozes but Alolan Sandslash is by no means a Regi counter.

Another surprising match up is a against Fairy types. If the opponent is looking to catch an Altaria lead with a Charm user like Wigglytuff, Clefable, or Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Sandslash makes a great counter. The beautiful Steel sub-typing resists Fairy so Alolan Sandslash can spam away it’s Ice punch while pressuring shields or a switch.

Keeping Alolan Sandslash in the back comes with a high risk and high reward. If for some reason you can’t get aligned with a flier, charmer, or grass type Alolan Sandslash is basically a third shield. If you lead with a Grass type or a mudboy like Swampert or Whiscash, depending on your opponents lead, you can bait out a potential flier like Altaria or Skarmory, and put Alolan Sandslash to work.

Knowing match ups and switching quickly is crucial when running Alolan Sandslash. Switching out of a bad match up or anticipating the opponents switch is key to victory. It’s not as complicated as running a Haunter, but utilizing Alolan Sandslash to its fullest potential requires knowing it’s role.

Tournament Play

Ferocious Cup

It’s been a while since Alolan Sandslash has had play in the Silph Arena but when it was allowed in a certain cup it definitely made an appearance on many teams. Alolan Sandslash was a late season sleeper pick for the Ferocious Cup.

This format was a little complicated since it was not a cup based on specific typings. The cup called for “beastly” looking Pokemon with a tail. The key meta Pokemon included: Umbreon, Alolan Ninetales, Nidoqueen, Bibarel, and Suicune. Alolan Sandslash had play against three out of five key players in this cup. This was the cup where trainers had to decide if they went with Gyro Ball or Bulldoze for their Alolan Sandslash. The charge move mind game made Alolan Sandslash something to fear.

Other Spice Picks like Heatmor, Camerupt, and Donphan, gave Alolan Sandslash some trouble, and common picks like Bibarel and Suicune walled ’em. This is where team comp and knowing your match ups came into play. All in all, Alolan Sandslash played a specific and important role.

Rating 7/10

Fusion Cup

This was the cup Alolan Sandslash got to shine. Fusion Cup permitted dual type Pokemon with key meta Pokemon such as: Altaria, Whishcash, Bronzong, Noctowl and Alolan Marowak. Once again, Alolan Sandslash has play against three out of five top picks.

Just like Open Great League, Alolan Sandslash’s main role was to farm down Flying and Grass type Pokemon and throw it’s energy at the opponents incoming Pokemon. Grass types like Shiftry and Venusaur were fairly common picks too so if the opponent slept on Alolan Sandslash and brought in a flier and a grass type Alolan Sandslash can bring out the broom for a sweep. The match up against Bronzong was a shootout, as in, whoever landed the Bulldoze first wins. This requires a lot of shield baiting, proper shielding and praying to a higher power. When it worked it worked, definitely not a Bronzong counter but there’s some play.

Fusion Cup was fairly open in regards to type restrictions, so Fire, Ground, or Fighting types were something to look out for. Some popular picks included, Charizard, Blaziken, Toxicroak, Poliwrath and Whiscash. With so many good match ups in the Fusion Cup, it’s hard not to bring an Alolan Sandslash. The key, as always, came down to the line-of-three composition and synergy among your team of six.

Rating 9/10

Voyager Cup

Poor Alolan Sandslash, this cup was essentially Open Great League but with a caveat. The cup was generation specific which meant the trainer must select 1 Pokemon from every region with 1 slot open for a wildcard pick. Without getting too into details, popular meta picks included: Registeel, Azumaril, Hypno, Altaria, and Toxicroak.

Right off the bat, Alolan Sandslash only hard counters one out of five popular picks. This cup had a Open Great League feel but the rules for team building essentially made Alolan Sandslash a liability as a wildcard pick. The aforementioned five popular picks were accompanied by other Steel types, a Fighting types, or a mudboy (Water / Ground), giving Alolan Sandslash very little play.

A Silph Cup that looks like open great league on paper does not mean it’s open great league. There is always a chance that the meta shifts. This is when an anti-meta Pokemon becomes popular, which forces the anti-meta counters to become necessary. Unfortunately in this cup Alolan Sandslash did not quite fit any particular category.

Rating 0.5/10 (Because it pains me to give ’em a 0)

Parting Words

Alolan Sandslash is the perfect example of high-risk high-reward Pokemon in Go Battle League, and the reason why it had it’s fair share of acknowledgement in certain Silph Cups. The pure dominance during key match ups alone makes this hedgehog worth the investment.

It’s balanced stats and two 4x weaknesses seems more like a liability at first, but that just means you have yet to experience the satisfying farm down of Altaria. Keep Alolan Sandslash safe by knowing your match ups and cover it’s weakness in your team comp to experience its true potential.

Special thanks to Adam ‘Avrip’ for kick starting the “Spice Pick” series, keep an eye out next week for more spice!


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