Poliwrath, The Tadpole Pokémon. A swimmer adept at both the front crawl and breaststroke. Easily overtakes the best human swimmers. It can go far and fast with minimal breathing. This strong and skilled swimmer is even capable of crossing the Pacific Ocean just by kicking. Although an energetic, skilled swimmer that uses all of its muscles, it lives on dry land. It can use its well-developed arms and legs to run on the surface of the water for a split second. Its highly developed muscles never grow fatigued, however much it exercises.
Poliwrath makes another appearance in the competitive scene, but with a new generation came little change. Much like in the 3rd gen, Poliwrath continues to be a good Underused Pokémon without enough at its disposal to take it up a tier.
Its base stats are fairly well-rounded. Good HP, Defence and Special Defence gives it pretty decent defensive capabilities, whilst Base 85 Attack allows for decent offences. Base 70 Speed leaves it a little lacking as far as sweeping is concerned, but is still enough to work with.
Aside from the basics, Poliwrath has a couple of moves of note. Belly Drum can be a game-changing move, and whilst it isn't as defining for Poliwrath as it is for other users (such as Charizard and Linoone), Poliwrath is very capable with it. The other main move of note is Hypnosis, benefiting from improved accuracy in the generation shift. Almost every Poliwrath move-set can make use of it, as it shuts down counters and provides some useful support.
As noted at the beginning of this overview, Poliwrath is a good Underused Pokémon, but lacks that little bit extra to move up a tier.
Water Absorb: is a wonderful ability to have. The water immunity makes it an even more guaranteed counter to generic water types, but the big benefit is the 25% HP recovery. Well-timed switches can give it a much-needed source of HP, as it's a Pokémon who lacks a non-Rest recovery move.
Damp: blocks Selfdestruct and Explosion. In one-on-one battles, this isn't a hugely useful ability. Whilst it's useful to block those moves, the moves aren't common enough to see much use from this ability. Double battles are where this ability will shine. In this environment, there are a lot of strategies based around Explosion and Selfdestruct, making those moves much more commonplace and giving this ability a lot more value.
- Bulk Up
Somewhere in between offensive and defensive, Poliwrath and its well-rounded stats can make good use of Bulk Up. The offensive boost helps to make up for its somewhat average Attack stat, whilst the defensive boost helps to stabilise its defences.
Its type combination is rather well-suited to defensive duties. Along with its Water immunity, it has 2x resistances to Dark, Rock, Ice, Bug, Fire and Steel moves. Electric, Grass, Flying and Psychic weaknesses, whilst troublesome, aren't hugely crippling either.
Its two-move offensive combination will generally consist of Brick Break and another move:
Waterfall has a fair amount of neutral type coverage, and also packs STAB.
Ice Punch (from Emerald move tutors) catches plenty of super-effective hits, most notably on Grass and Flying types.
Rock Slide catches super-effective hits on two Fighting-resistant types, Bug and Flying.
In its final move-slot, it has a couple of non-offensive options:
Hypnosis provides status support, and gives it the opportunity to shutdown a counter.
Substitute carries its usual credentials, easing prediction and blocking status attacks. Additionally, it can be paired with Bulk Up in a similar way to the Calm Mind-Substitute combination. As with the CM-Sub strategy, the idea is to Bulk Up to the point that the opponent's physical attacks won't be able to break its Substitutes in one hit, and then hide comfortably behind them.
- Focus Punch
Poliwrath is a strong Focus Puncher. Between being an all-round counter for most Water types, as well as having plenty of useful resistances, it can free up plenty of time to launch Focus Punch.
Poliwrath can use Hypnosis to force a Focus Punching opportunity, utilising it much like Breloom and its Spore-Punch strategy.
It can also use Substitute, making use of the Sub-Punching strategy. With well-timed use, Substitute can be set-up 'freely', such as throwing one up just before a status attack. It can also simply be used as a blocker, sucking up hits that won't do over 25% damage. This can stop the odd Pokémon from preventing its Focus Punches whilst using weak attacks (such as Ice Beam, which will rarely reach over 25% damage). As always, Substitute can also be used as an opponent switches, sparing Poliwrath users the unreliability of prediction.
The two of these can be paired together on the same move-set, or one can be sacrificed in favour of Waterfall, providing Poliwrath with a consistent STAB move.
In addition to Focus Punch (and possibility Waterfall), Poliwrath will want a move to hit Flying types. Ice Punch and Rock Slide are the moves to choose from, with their differing type-coverage generally being the deciding factor.
- Belly Drum
Poliwrath can throw all of its eggs in one basket and go the Belly Drum route. As is the case with all Drummers, Poliwrath will need to time the use of Belly Drum well, and will require its team-mates to eliminate anything that threatens its ability to barge through the opponent's team, which basically consists of Scarf-users and users of priority moves (like Quick Attack).
As with all Sub-Drum-Salac strategies, success relies heavily on getting Poliwrath down to 25% HP. It's also just as straightforward as it is for other Drum users. Switch-in against an opponent who'll probably flee, set-up a Substitute as they switch and then use Belly Drum as they break your Sub, activating the Salac Berry and putting things in place for a clean sweep.
Without Substitute, Poliwrath can get down to 25% HP through less reliable means. The obvious one is to take a hit that'll chip off enough HP to allow it to use Belly Drum safely. Double-Edge isn't particularly worthwhile, but the recoil from that is another option (and once again, like Ice Punch, it's an Emerald tutor move). Alternatives for Substitute's move-slot include Hypnosis or an additional attack.
You have two main options for its offensive combination:
Waterfall and Return is a combination resisted only by Shedinja, Empoleon and two Ubers, Dialga and Giratina. In addition, the combination carries a lot more neutral power than its main alternative.
Brick Break and Ice Punch is a combination that's also resisted by Shedinja, as well as Water-Psychic types (Slowking, Slowbro and Starmie), Froslass and Thick Fat Grumpig. As mentioned, the combination has weaker neutral power than the Waterfall-Return combination, but benefits from getting a lot more super-effective hits.
Unsurprisingly, Poliwrath, like most of its Fighting brethren, is a rather effective Choice user. With a plentiful supply of useful resistances and decent defences, Poliwrath adapts to the quick-switching in-and-out nature of a Choice set quite well.
Waterfall supplies consistent STAB for it to work with. In addition, it could use Brick Break for some more consistent STAB, although Focus Punch may be favourable to give it a 'power move' to work with.
Once again, Ice Punch and Rock Slide fight for places on its move-set, boasting good type coverage and very useful super-effective hits against Flying types. Earthquake also has useful enough credentials to get it some notice. Poliwrath appreciates super-effective hits on Electric and Poison types, since Electrics pose a big threat to Poliwrath's survival and Poison types resist its Fighting moves.
EVs and Nature:
Poliwrath poses some trickiness when it comes to EV distribution. It obviously needs Attack EVs on most of its move-sets, but it also needs to give a lot of consideration to its defensive stats and its Speed.
196 Speed (84 Speed EVs): gives it the edge over Pokémon in the Base Speed categories up to Base 80. Assuming the opposing Pokémon lack Speed EVs, it'll outrun: Nidoqueen, Claydol, Altaria, Meganium and Grumpig.
222 Speed (184 Speed EVs): is a Speed stat better suited to the OU environment, rather than UU. 222 is specifically tailored for Tyranitar, who'll cap at 221 Speed when equipped with an Adamant nature. Additional Pokémon it'll outrun include: Cresselia, Mamoswine, Suicune, Milotic and unusually slow Togekiss and Dragonite variants.
Poliwrath can also shoot for max Speed. Again, it shares the Base 70 Speed tier with a lot of other UU Pokémon, so when maxed, it can at least expect to tie, if not outrun, its Base 70 brethren.
Keeping things simple, max HP and max Attack or Defence works fine. Getting the 84 Speed EVs for 196 Speed isn't too much of a strain either, simply divert a few EVs away from its Attack or Defence. More complex EV spreads can be created, but there is no noteworthy 'standard' for a complex EV spread.
After a Salac boost, a Jolly Poliwrath has 393 Speed. Aside from some Scarfers, it'll only trail behind the upper tier of speed-freaks: Jolteon, Aerodactyl, Crobat, Deoxys, Mewtwo, Ninjask and Electrode (and of course, the only one of those that's UU is Electrode).
Comparatively, an Adamant Poliwrath has a 358 Speed stat after a Salac boost. It'll fall behind Persian and Swellow in UU. Additionally, Pokémon from higher tiers that it'll fall behind include: Azelf, Starmie, Ambipom, Sceptile, Floatzel and Alakazam (and this isn't an exhaustive list). You're also more likely to run into Scarfers with 359+ Speed than you are to run into 394+ Speed Scarfers, but an exhaustive list of those could go on for quite a while.
The Jolly vs. Adamant debate is up to personal preference. Ask yourself how valuable those 35 Speed points are, and decide for yourself.
As with all move-sets based around the activation of a Berry, Poliwrath will want HP that's divisible by four. For a max IV Poliwrath, this means it'll need 12 HP EVs, to round off its HP at 324. People using battle simulators obviously have the benefit of IV control, and can simply lower the IV from 31 to 30, setting it at a healthy 320.
Hydro Pump, Counter, Endeavor, Haze, Rest, Sleep Talk.
Hydro Pump is the only Special Attack worth consideration. As with all physical attackers who use a strong special move, it's there to hit Pokémon who have lots of Defence but weak Special Defence (Weezing, Skarmory, Forretress, etc.).
Counter can cause physical attackers some problems, especially since it's highly unexpected. Poliwrath has strong enough defensive stats to take most physical attacks that won't score super-effective damage, and whilst it isn't as reliable as a proper recovery move, Water Absorb can help it recover some of its lost HP. Like Ice Punch, a trip to a 3rd gen move-tutor is in order for any Poliwrath that wants this move.
Endeavor is an oddball move. It usually isn't expected and it can be rather effective in the right hands. There's a reason for it being rarely seen on a Poliwrath though. Without a high Speed stat or a priority move, Poliwrath can't really take advantage of this move easily.
Poliwrath isn't a great hazer, but it does have Haze. It's all but immune to the offences of 'generic' water types, so of the few of those that stat-boost, Poliwrath can thwart their boosting attempts with Haze. Of course, the fact that there are very few of them means that a hazing Poliwrath isn't hugely useful.
Poliwrath is a pretty decent defensive Pokémon, but without a reliable recovery move, it doesn't fit the defensive job as effectively as other Pokémon would. As a remedy to this, Rest and Sleep Talk can fill the void, allowing for a more defensively-oriented Poliwrath move-set.
Most counters follow the same guidelines, resist Poliwrath's STAB moves and take neutral damage from Ice Punch and Rock Slide. Not too many Pokémon actually fill this criteria, but since Poliwrath usually won't carry all four of those moves, counters become available depending on what moves it chooses.
Psychic-Water types are the only representatives who really do fill the above criteria. Unfortunately, none of them are UU. Slowking and Slowbro sit precariously under the definition of BL, whilst Starmie is an unquestioned OU.
Pelipper packs resistances to both of Poliwrath's STAB moves, but super-effective hits from Rock Slide can cause some problems. Froslass is immune to Fighting moves and resists Ice moves, but super-effective Rock Slides and un-resisted Waterfalls hurt a fair amount.
Grass types have some problems with Ice Punch, but with enough defensive EVs, they can cope with this weakness. Vileplume is the main UU representative of this bunch, with the BL tier also providing Venusaur. The BL Exeggutor resists both of its STAB moves as well, as does Celebi (who, like Starmie, is also an unquestioned OU). Due to its Bug type, Parasect packs a Fighting resistance but gains a Rock weakness. On the upside, its ability allows it to regain HP off of Water moves, just like Water Absorb. Meganium, Leafeon and Ludicolo lack Fighting resistances, but warrant a look regardless.
Aside from the aforementioned Grass-Poison types, Poison also carries a few other representatives. Water-Poison types pack Ice, Water and Fighting resistances, but is a type combination represented by Pokémon with low Defence stats: Tentacruel and Qwilfish. Toxicroak gets Fighting and Rock resistances, and like Parasect, has an ability-related Water immunity. Once again, it's letdown a lot by naturally low defensive stats.
For the most part, OU Pokémon have been overlooked on this counters list, since Poliwrath will rarely make an appearance in that environment. A unique host of resistances means it may just show its face there on the odd occasion, and so noteworthy OU counters include: Cresselia, Gyarados, Skarmory, Dusknoir, Spiritomb and some of the aforementioned Pokémon.
As for the Belly Drummer move-set, it's less about resistances and more about brining it down before it steamrolls through your team. As with all Drummers, the main way to deal with it is to strike first. Priority moves and fast Scarfers are the main source of 'counters' (and term used rather loosely to describe them, since most cannot switch into it once it's used Belly Drum). There are also Pokémon who have Focus Sash, as well as Pokémon using Endure-Salac strategies.
Pretty much every one of these counters has problems with Hypnosis. Handle it the same way you would handle other sleep-inducing Pokémon. Send in a Sleep-Talker (or a sacrifice), switch it out after sucking up the status, and continue on as usual with the sleep clause safely activated.
Even in the absence of the aforementioned counters, Poliwrath isn't a huge threat. Its un-boosted offences aren't too impressive, and boosting its offences requires time (or the restriction of a Choice Band). It's also fairly slow, meaning fast sweepers with super-effective attacks can eliminate it.
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