Hello again, fellow PvPers! Sorry for the delay… I wanted to have this article out a couple days ago, but writer’s block (and perhaps some old-fashioned burnout) has bitten me BAD over the last week or so. This was a struggle, I won’t lie! But Community Day is still a day or two off depending on where you are in the world, so there’s still time to take a close look at this month’s Community Day spotlight Pokémon (both of them!) and examine their merits in PvP, both with AND without their new exlusive moves. So let’s get straight to it and put both SANDSLASHES… under the lights!
First, as I’ve been doing of late, let’s start with our TL;DR — our Bottom Line Up Front — FIRST!
- Alolan Sandslash is already a standout in Cup metas, and Shadow Claw isn’t a drastic improvement, but it IS generally a tad better, or a very viable sidegrade at worst, trading some Flyers and Normals and a couple other wins for wins against notable Ghosts, Psychics, and things that resist Powder Snow (like Steels, Waters, and opposing Ice types) instead. Worth grinding for a good one for Great League and potentially Ultra League as well!
- In many ways, Night Slash is everything we could have wished for with Kanto Sandslash, but while it does improve its performance, I think it remains more of a spice option than anything. Might be worth it for certain GL Cups, unlikely to be worth it for UL. (Existing move Rock Tomb actually looks slightly better in UL anyway.)
- Don’t forget Little League! Sub-500 Alolan Sandslash is pretty good there too, and little Alolan Sandshrew is a true star in Little League, and better than mere spice in Great League also! If you land a 15-15-15 A-Shrew, I’d keep it as a Shrew and seriously considering throwing your XL Candy at it instead of either Slash, TBH!
Alright, now that we’ve set the stage, let’s dance!
ALOLAN SANDSLASH STATS & MOVESSandslash (Alola) IceSteel
Great League Stats
|117 (115 High Stat Product)||133 (135 High Stat Product)||124 (126 High Stat Product)|
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-14-14, 1498 CP, Level 23.5)
Little League Stats
|68 (66 High Stat Product)||75 (79 High Stat Product)||72 (72 High Stat Product)|
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-15-11, 500 CP, Level 8)
Ultra League Stats
|150 (148 High Stat Product)||174 (175 High Stat Product)||158 (163 High Stat Product)|
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-14-15, 2499 CP, Level 49)
We’ve been rather blessed in Pokemon GO to have Alolan Sandslash/Sandshrew as long as we have, as they didn’t arrive in the core games until Generation 7 and there have been no other Ice/Steel types before or since. Yes, it’s a combination that famously has big double vulnerabilities to Fighting and Fire (as well as a single weakness to Ground), but it also has a ton of resistances: Dragon, Fairy, Flying, Psychic, Grass, Normal, Bug, and double resistances to Poison and Ice. While those unfortunate weaknesses mostly keep it out of Open GBL play, A-Slash has been a staple in several Cup metas and its truly unique role is sure to keep it coming back for more in the future.
It has passable bulk too, with overall Attack and bulk similar to Nidoqueen, the Muks, Clefable/Sylveon, and fellow funky Ice type Abomasnow, to name a few. (And spoiler alert: it tends to beat all of those in Great and Ultra League, by the way.) Not tanky, but can stand up to a few punches and keep hitting back (as long as those punches aren’t actual Fighting-type punches, at least! 🥊).
Anyway, you’re here for the moves, so let’s get to it!
ᴱ – Exclusive (Community Day) Move
- Powder Snow – Ice type, 2.5 DPT, 4.0 EPT, 1.0 CoolDown
- Metal Claw – Steel type, 2.5 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 1.0 CD
- Shadow Clawᴱ – Ghost type, 3.0 DPT, 4.0 EPT, 1.0 CD
A-Slash has run quite well for a while now with Powder Snow, especially in combination with its complementary charge moves. (More on those in a moment.) The big story here is the addition of the exclusive move Shadow Claw, which generates just as much energy as Powder Snow. On paper it deals more damage as well, but when you factor in STAB (Same Type Attack Bonus) that Powder Snow enjoys, in reality they usually deal the same amount of damage versus targets neutral to both Ghost and Ice damage. But pulling that thread a little further… there’s actually not much that IS neutral to both!
- Ice is super effective versus Grass, Ground, Dragon, and of course Flying, and resisted by Fire, Water, Steel, and opposing Ice.
- Ghost is super effective versus only Psychic and Ghost types, resisted by Dark, and double resisted by Normal types.
Now aside from some funky dual-typed Pokemon (like Ground/Psychic Claydol, Ground/Ghost Golurk, Ghost/Grass Trevenant and Gourgeist, Ghost/Dragon Giratinas, and others I am surely forgetting), there isn’t much that takes super effective damage from both Ice and Ghost damage. Similarly, there is little that resists both (only a handful of things like Normal/Water Bibarel, Fire/Normal Litleo, Fire/Dark Incineroar and Houndoom come immediately to mind). And few things that are even neutral to both; many big-name Flyers have a secondary typing that makes Ice damage neutral (Skarmory, Pelipper, Talonflame, etc.) or makes Shadow Claw just as effective (Drifblim, Lugia). I could go on and on, but in short: I made the observation as I was analyzing that there were surprisingly few things to compare Powder Snow and Shadow Claw against where both dealt the same effectiveness of damage. I found that interesting and thought you might too! And that will come out in further analysis… after we bring in the charge moves.
- Ice Punch – Ice type, 55 damage, 40 energy
- Gyro Ball – Steel type, 80 damage, 60 energy
- Bulldoze – Ground type, 80 damage, 60 energy
- Blizzard – Ice type, 140 damage, 75 energy
ALOLAN SANDSLASH IN GREAT LEAGUE
A-Slash’s success starts (and often ends) with Ice Punch, one of surprisingly few PvP-relevant Pokemon that actually applies STAB. (It’s usually a coverage move for things like Medicham, Poliwrath, Primeape, Hypno, Dusclops, Hitmonchan, etc.) A-Slash does the bulk of its work with only Ice Punch spam, which comprises most all Grasses (Ferrothorn and half-Fighting Grasses being the only exceptions), Flyers (Fires and a few Waters being the only exceptions), Dragons (only Haxorus and sometimes Flygon escaping), and Charmers, plus bonuses like Nidoqueen, Drapion, Cresselia, Hypno, Lickitung, Greedent and others. With new exclusive move Shadow Claw and Ice Punch, what initially looks like a downgrade is really more of a sidegrade, IMO. Again, everything that Ice and Ghost are neutral against don’t change at all, as the damage and energy gains are identical. So the main differences are primarily driven by the differing effectiveness of Powder Snow and Shadow Claw:
- Powder Snow is super effective versus Pidgeot and Meganium and beats both. Shadow Claw is neutral versus Meganium, and thus Meg lives long enough to win via Earthquake. Claw is resisted by Pidgeot, making that a swing from super effective with Powder all the way to resisted with Claw, and is now a loss. (Even with A-Slash resisting Flying damage.)
- Greedent and Lickitung resist Shadow Claw and both are losses for SC A-Slash. Powder Snow A-Slash outraces both.
- Shadow Claw is super effective versus Froslass and Mew (running the standard Shadow Claw/Surf/Wild Charge) and tends to beat both. Powder Snow is neutral versus Mew and resisted by Lass, and usually loses to each.
Now adding in the standard second move: Bulldoze. As I’ve discussed with it (and other 60-energy-for-80-damage moves like Power Gem, Aurora Beam, and another A-Slash option, Gyro Ball) before, Bulldoze is NOT a good PvP move, being too expensive for too little damage. But as it does for others like Mamo/Piloswine, Bronzong, Vigoroth, and Munchlax, what it DOES do is provide important coverage. In the specific case of Alolan Sandslash, it is its best (and really only) weapon against Fire and Steel types that prey on it otherwise, while also providing a handy way to level the playing field against other things that can be problematic like Rock and Electric types that can deal heavy unresisted damage to A-Slash.
More specifically, here are some of the wins that Bulldoze adds on:
- With Powder Snow, Bulldoze tacks on new wins against Alolan Ninetales (with Charm), Ferrothorn, and now Froslass, formerly something only Shadow Claw could take down.
- The jump is more drastic with Shadow Claw: six new wins are within A-Slash’s grasp. Two of them are the same as Powder Snow: Ferrothorn and CharmTales, but the others are all unique. Shadow Claw and Ice Punch alone deal greivous damage to Shadow Hypno and Cofagrigus but lack the closing power necessary to finish either off… Bulldoze flips them both. And the neutral damage from Claw and Bulldoze is enough to take down Lapras and even Azumarill (provided it doesn’t smack A-Slash with a Hydro Pump), two matchups that have been very dead draws for A-Slash to this point.
And while Shadow Claw still has obvious failings as compared to Powder Snow versus Normals and certain things like Meganium, note that its overall record now exceeds that of Powder Snow. In “the business” 😎, we call that a “sidegrade”, folks.
That said, there’s another alternative to Bulldoze. No, not Gyro Ball, but big closing move Blizzard. Both Powder Snow and Shadow Claw generate enough energy to make it a truly viable option. And you can see right away by looking at the numbers that there’s major potential here. Bulldoze alone still beats things like Froslass and CharmTales, bt Blizzard brings in Umbreon, Stunfisk, Pelipper, Whiscash, and things only Shadow Claw could beat before: Mew and (Pump-less) Azumarill. The improvement with Shadow Claw is more subtle but still there: the same Whiscash, Stunfisk, and Pelipper as Powder Snow, and now a win over Pidgeot, which is a very nice pickup. But there’s downside as well, as Blizzard is a bit too slow to beat Shadow Hypno and Cofagrigus anymore, and Lapras not surprisingly slips away too.
This is already running a bit long, but I will also point out that, probably not surprisingly, Blizzard is also the best move to have at your disposal with shields down, whether with Powder Snow or with Shadow Claw. With either, wins show up like Stunfisk, Ferrothorn, Cresselia, and Shadow Hypno that Bulldoze cannot achieve, and combined with Shadow Claw, Azumarill only wins if it fires off a Hydro Pump and an Ice Beam… it can’t really win any other way. (Resisted Powder Snow obviously falls far short of success there.) The case for Bulldoze is still strong though when combined with Shadow Claw, as the combination of the two gets truly unique 0-shield wins against Dewgong, Lapras, and Jellicent. (Note, though, that Powder Snow is still superior against obvious targets like Nidoqueen, Lickitung, and Greedent.)
And I’ve thrown a ton of sims at you already, so I’ll just note that in 2v2 shielding, Blizzard remains slightly better, but without leaving Bulldoze completely behind… there are still some familiar names among the differences.
But I want to move on to another league entirely. Because yes, A-Slash has use in Ultra League as well.
ALOLAN SANDSLASH IN ULTRA LEAGUE
First off, note that I’m going to push Bulldoze off the raft here. It actually does play out alright in general, and it actually shares the vast majority of wins with Blizzard. But when you dig into the numbers and A-Slash’s remaining HP and all, Blizzard generally outperforms Bulldoze at this level. Not 100%, but enough that I’ll spare you more sims than necessary and just focus in on Blizzard.
And once we do… hey, not bad. And even a little bit better with Shadow Claw. While Powder Snow does better versus Normals and Darks (beating Snarl Alolan Muk specifically), Shadow Claw instead outraces Armored Mewtwo and Scizor and turns a super close Powder Snow win (1 HP!) over Gengar into a comfortable win (nearly 70 HP left over). Probably no big shockers among those wins, but it’s nice to see that Claw works well at this level too!
And with shields down, Shadow Claw looks like a straight upgrade over Powder Snow, gaining Scizor, Cofagrigus, and Bronzong, with no notable new losses. (In 2v2 shielding, Claw beats Bronzong, Scizor, and Jellicent, while Powder instead bests Shadow Nidoqueen and Greedent.)
Alright, that was a LOT of info dumping, so just another quick summary before we move on:
ALOLAN SANDSLASH‘s new move, Shadow Claw, is a very viable sidegrade or even upgrade to Powder Snow. Most tradeoffs are rather obvious and depend on the effectiveness of either move, but Shadow Claw brings in several wins (Jellicent, Lapras, Azumarill, etc.) that Ice and/or Steel types simply shouldn’t be beating.
Alright, now that I think we’ve thoroughly beaten on Alolan Sandslash, let’s take a look at the original Sandslash and see how it’s looking coming out of Community Day.
KANTONIAN SANDSLASH STATS & MOVESSandslash Ground
Great League Stats
|120 (119 High Stat Product)||121 (124 High Stat Product)||126 (128 High Stat Product)|
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-14-15, 1500 CP, Level 24)
Little League Stats
|70 (69 High Stat Product)||69 (71 High Stat Product)||73 (73 High Stat Product)|
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 3-14-14, 500 CP, Level 8)
Ultra League Stats
|156 (155 High Stat Product)||156 (159 High Stat Product)||164 (164 High Stat Product)|
(Highest Stat Product IVs: 2-14-15, 2500 CP, Level 50)
So things are a bit simpler here. Pure Ground-type, which means weak to Grass, Water, and Ice, resists Poison and Rock and double resists Electric. You’ll also notice K-Slash is slightly less bulky than A-Slash… and slightly less bulky than Nidoqueen and slightly more bulky than Swampert, to compare to a couple other Grounds.
But again, “we know all this already, JRE! Get to the good stuff!” Let’s!
- Mud Shot – Ground type, 1.5 DPT, 4.5 EPT, 1.0 CoolDown
- Metal Claw – Steel type, 2.5 DPT, 3.0 EPT, 1.0 CD
Nothing new here, but this is a good chance to remind folks that unlike many Ground types stuck with Mud Slap (or worse), Sandslash is actually blessed with the very good Mud Shot, and always has been. Really no need for any new fast move to boost its performance. Instead, Niantic rightly gave it a new charge move instead…
ᴱ – Exclusive (Community Day) Move
ᴾ – Purified-exclusive Move
- Night Slashᴱ – Dark type, 50 damage, 35 energy, 12.5% Chance To Increase User Attack +2 Stages
- Rock Tomb – Rock type, 70 damage, 60 energy, Decreases Opponent Attack -1 Stage
- Bulldoze – Ground type, 80 damage, 60 energy
- Earthquake – Ground type, 120 damage, 65 energy
- Returnᴾ – Normal type, 130 damage, 70 energy
For anyone who has considered Sandslash in PvP before, the biggest gripe has always been that it needed a cheaper, “bait”-type move to help it land Earthquake more consistently, a la Galarian Stunfisk with Rock Slide/Earthquake, Steelix with Crunch/Earthquake, and of course Swampert with Hydro Cannon/Earthquake, among others.
So here we go: Sandslash got everything we could have wanted. Night Slash meets all the criteria we could have asked for:
- Cheap move for baiting: ✅. At 35 energy, Night Slash is tied for cheapest charge move in the game.
- Coverage: partial ✔️. While Night Slash does not directly hit Waters, Grasses, or Ice types for super effective damage, it does hit them all neutrally and often, and of course gives Sandslash potential utility it didn’t before versus Psychics and Ghosts that DO take super effective damage.
- Bonus: boosts! ✅ Night Slash obviously doesn’t always go off in battle, but anyone that has spammed it with, say, Obstagoon knows that it goes off often enough for some crazy results.
So that means Sandslash’s performance should finally spike, right? Right? “C’mon JRE, you’re not about to dash our hopes, are you?” Weeeeeeeeeeell…
KANTO SANDSLASH IN GREAT LEAGUE
I’ll start with the good news. Night Slash does indeed bring in some HUGE names to the win column. Defense Deoxys and Jellicent obviously don’t like a steady dose of Night Slashes, so they both fall… Jellicent, being a notable Water type, is particularly impressive, though it’s unsurprisingly close, and Jelli flips it back if it has Ice Beam, which is also no surprise. Other new wins include Shadow Nidoqueen and Obstagoon… assuming they burn a shield against Night Slash and then eat the following Earthquake that Sandslash has never been able to reach without a true bait move in the past.
…and now, the other news. All in all, Night Slash is not the appreciable upgrade we all wanted over moves it already has. Rock Tomb, its best second move option to this point, is expensive but DOES come with its own nifty coverage and guaranteed debuff to the opponent, and so it gets the same number of unique wins as Night Slash does, this time versus Flyers Noctowl and Talonflame, and via the Rock Tomb debuff against Vigoroth and Swampert. (Yes, that’s right: Sandslash can beat Swampert straight up via Rock Tomb debuff.) What does that scream, boys and girls? Sidegrade!
Now it’s not QUITE that simple. With shields down (Slash vs Tomb) and especially in 2v2 shielding (Slash vs Tomb), Night Slash is a clear upgrade overall. Shieldless pickups include Jellicent again, plus Hypno (regular and Shadow), Mew, and even Trevenant, which is very nice to see. (Do note that Talonflame flips from a win with Rock Tomb to a loss with Night Slash, though.) And the gains in 2v2 shielding are huge, with TEN new wins against not only obvious, Dark-weak stuff like Cresselia, Shadow Hypno, and even Froslass, but also stuff like Shadow Nidoqueen, Vigoroth, Toxicroak, Sableye, and even things you’d never expect to beat like Politoed, Azumarill (without Ice Beam, at least), and Venusaur! (Yep… two shielded Night Slashes followed up by a KO Earthquake before Venusaur can reach a third Frenzy Plant. Nifty!)
So yes, upon further review, Night Slash IS an overall upgrade for Sandslash, as expected… you just have to dig a bit beyond the initial numbers to see it. Even still, in certain metas — primarily those filled with Flyers — Rock Tomb does still have a place, but I think it’s safe to say that generally, you want to give your very best IV Sandslashes Night Slash this weekend while it’s available. It will generally be the best, most useable version of Kantonian Sandslash moving forward. That said, even the very best of those performances (2v2 shielding) still leaves it far underwater in terms of win/loss ratio (a win rate of merely 38%). I don’t see this elevating Sandslash to Open GBL viability. This change is more likely to bring it into at least spice discussion for limited, Cup metas though, particularly those filled with Ghosts and/or Psychics to bring new terror to. Maybe it’ll show up in Kanto Cup next time around? 🤔
One final note: yes, Shadow Sandshrew is a thing. It’s really not better OR worse, just different, losing some things non-Shadow beats (Umbreon, Sylveon, Sableye, Jellicent, Mew) to gain some others (stuff like Hypno, Cofagrigus, Ferrothorn, Whiscash, and potentially even Scrafty and Politoed). If you happen to have a good one AND thought to TM Frustration away while you could, plug your IVs into that sim I just posted and see how it looks in comparison. Shadow and non-Shadow’s records remain very close in all shielding scenarios… pretty much a pure sidegrade, but one worth evolving up if you have some waiting around for a day like this!
KANTO SANDSLASH IN ULTRA LEAGUE
And yes, technically K-Slash gets big enough for Ultra League as well, but… not sure it’s worth it. Just too many beefy Water, Ice, and/or Grass types there for it to overcome, IMO. I mean, if you want it in UL anyway, it’s probably with Rock Tomb anyway. Night Slash does bring in a handful of nifty wins, like Jellicent and Empoleon, but it’s with Rock Tomb and its debuffing that Sandslash can beat the likes of Umbreon, Obstagoon, Charizard, Skarmory, Togekiss, and even things you’d expect Night Slash to do better against like Armored Mewtwo and DDeoxys. Night Slash is similarly inferior with shields down, and while it pulls very slightly ahead in 2v2 shielding, again, doesn’t really seem worth it to me. You’re still looking at only about a 35% win rate even then, mostly just versus Poisons and Steels that other established Grounds can already handle better anyway. That’s a LOT of XL Candy and dust investment that, frankly, is better saved for Alolan Sandslash.
…Or another potential project. While it doesn’t get any special moves during Community Day, it’s well worth looking at ALOLAN SANDSHREW for a moment too.
ALOLAN SANDSHREW IN PvPSandshrew (Alola) IceSteel
In some ways, it combines the best of both post-CD Sandslashes, having the same great typing as Alolan Sandslash, along with Powder Snow and Blizzard as a closer. And it gets Kantonian Sandshrew’s new Night Slash already!
Put them together, and it’s no surprise that little A-Shrew is really solid in Little League, handling the many potent Grasses, Charmers, Flyers (yes, even evil Ducklett), Grounds, and Dragons that make up the meta, plus bonuses like Seel, Skorupi, Umbreon, and Chansey. And while it doesn’t normally beat things like Galarian Stunfisk or Bronzor, it does give them a real scare, especially if it happens to get a Night Slash boost. (Heck, getting an early enough boost versus Bronzor means it CAN actually win that!) It’s definitely one you’re going to want in your arsenal if you play any future Little League formats, so use this opportunity to grind for one of those too! Alolan Sandslash is okay as well, but you’ll probably find yourself happier with A-Shrew overall.
But not everyone realizes how good Alolan Sandshrew is in Great League. Yes, despite not even reaching 1500 CP (Level 50 tops out at 1462), this is no mere spice pick, folks! Remember some of those agonizing “do I want to beat this or that?” decisions between Powder Snow or Shadow Claw on A-Slash? Well A-Shrew makes that a bit easier by beating Lickitung AND Hypno, Meganium AND Cofagrigus, plus others that A-Slash is inconsistent against like Swampert, Greedent, Sableye, and Galvantula. There ARE some wins that Alolan Sandslash alone can net, like Shadow Nidoqueen, Drifblim, and — specifically with Shadow Claw — Azumarill. But overall, Alolan Sandshrew is a bit better than Alolan Sandslash in Great League overall. (They’re comparable in 0v0 and 2v2 shielding as well… I did check!) Obviously the investment is significant, but if you’re going to grind for XLs this weekend, and especially if you have a hundo A-Shrew, THIS might be how I would first spend that XL Candy. Little A-Shrew lies somewhere between spice and potential meta… and I’m thinking closer to the meta end, at least for Cup metas.
Alright, that’s it for now. Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon.
Continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last nearly three years now of PvP play, and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game. And thank you for reading… I appreciate your attention and encouragement.
Catch you next time. Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends!