Kingdra, The Dragon Pokémon. It is said that it usually hides in underwater caves. It can create whirlpools by yawning. It sleeps deep on the ocean floor to build its energy. It is said to cause tornadoes as it wakes. It stores energy by sleeping at underwater depths at which no other life forms can survive. It lives at extreme ocean depths that are otherwise uninhabited. It has long been believed that the yawning of this Pokémon creates spiraling ocean currents. It sleeps on the seafloor where it is otherwise devoid of life. When a storm arrives, the Pokémon is said to awaken and wander about in search of prey. It sleeps quietly, deep on the seafloor. When it comes up to the surface, it creates a huge whirlpool that can swallow even ships. It lives in caves on the seafloor and creates giant whirlpools every time it moves. ť
Pokémon of the Week number one hundred. You'd think we'd do something special in honour of this landmark, but we're not ones for sentimentality…plus we've already done Farfetch'd (my favourite) and Celebi (the site mascot), so there's nothing special left to select anyway. Instead, we let the random number generator do its job and this week's spotlight shines on Kingdra.
Its name is a portmanteau of King and Dragon, giving it quite a title to live up to. Its Pokédex entries say that it's capable of causing maelstroms just by yawning; an impressive feat, worthy of the King of Dragons; but this is no doubt from the same people who say that Ampharos can be seen from space, Garchomp can fly and William Wallace can shoot lightning bolts from his arse (which would probably slay a Rhydon too, so long as he aimed for the horn).
Putting aside my cynicism at the Pokédex, my needless analysis of Kingdra's name and irrelevant references to Braveheart and the Pokémon anime, let's instead measure Kingdra on the merits of its competitive value:
Stats: Across the board, all of Kingdra's numbers look good. 95 Base Stats for its defensive and offensive stats, a respectable Base 75 for HP and 85 Speed adding up to a rather tasty total of 540; but we all know it isn't just about the stats, but whether a Pokémon can back them up.
Kingdra's an all-round solid package. Not flimsy on the defensive or weak on the offensive; and whilst it certainly isn't a champion of versatility, it has some options to work with. The last time I reviewed Kingdra (back in the third generation) I belittled it, calling it “over-rated”, “sub-par” and “a waste of space”. It's amazing what a difference a move-pool can make, because what was once a “sub-par” Pokémon has been transformed into quite the respectable threat thanks to a handful of changes. Kingdra may not be the king, but it's earned its place in the Standard tier.
Swift Swim: is the classic ability. During Rain, Kingdra's Speed doubles, giving it great synergy with Rain Dance and STAB Water moves.
Sniper: is a new addition. When a move scores a critical-hit, it'll score triple damage, as opposed to the usual double. It's a formidable prospect to face a move with a three-fold boost, and whilst Kingdra lacks a collection of high CH moves to create an effective synergy with the ability, it is still useful for the occasions when it does kick in. Critical-hits have a 6.25% chance of occurring with Kingdra's standard arsenal. Those aren't great odds, but if you don't need Swift Swim, there's no harm in putting a little faith in Sniper.
- Dragon Dance
Dragon Dance is a Dragon classic. Salamence does it, Dragonite does it and Kingdra can do it too. Unlike its brethren, it doesn't have to worry about a huge Ice weakness either. Outrage is a gift from Platinum that makes this move-set really shine. It'll send you into Confusion after two or three turns, and you're locked into repeating it for two or three turns too, but that's a fair price to pay in exchange for a STAB move with 120 Base Power that's only resisted by one type (Steel). Use it wisely and Kingdra can go on a stampeding sweep. Waterfall provides reliable back-up, hitting strongly and consistently.
Since Water and Dragon is an offensive combination only resisted by Empoleon and Shedinja, you don't need a third attacking move. Substitute provides a great defence from status attacks, since a Thunder Wave or Will-o-Wisp could cut your sweeping dreams short. Hydro Pump is your third attacking option if you do choose to go with one. Waterfall may get a neutral hit on Skarmory, but getting the desired 2HKO - even with Dragon Dance - isn't easy. Hydro Pump on the other hand gets a 2HKO easily. Draco Meteor is another 'third attacking option' available as well. It gets a strong one-off hit, which is nice when you aren't going straight for a sweep.
You've got a few choices for your item. Life Orb provides that consistent 1.3x power boost in exchange for 10% of your HP for each hit you land. It makes sweeping easier but you become a little more fragile defensively. Leftovers gives you some consistent HP recovery, which is particularly nice if you're using Substitute. Lum Berry gives you a lifeline against status attacks, and if it doesn't get absorbed clearing a status, it can be used to cure your post-Outrage confusion.
- Rain Dance
Kingdra gets plenty of Rain Dance synergy. Swift Swim doubles your Speeds to unreachable levels, whilst Rain Dance gives a 1.5x boost to your Water STABs. Waterfall provides your physical STAB whilst Surf provides your special STAB, meaning you'll be getting boosted hits on both ends of the attacking spectrum. You can tag on Draco Meteor for leaving a large dent on Water-resistant opponents, or Dragon Pulse for a consistent STAB to use against them.
Again, you have some item options. Life Orb is there for its power boost, whilst Leftovers provides a little bit of recovery. Wet Rock extends the duration of the Rain, which is nice if you have some team-mates who would want to benefit off of it (although not hugely necessary if it's only Kingdra benefiting from it). Lum Berry gives you a little bit of insurance against status attacks, much like with the aforementioned move-set. Mystic Water acts like a 'mini-Life Orb' for Water moves, giving a 1.2x boost, which becomes quite sizable after the Rain and STAB boosts.
EVs and Nature:
Yawn, Ice Beam, Hidden Power [Electric], Rest, Sleep Talk.
On the merits of Kingdra's Pokédex entry, Yawn is undoubtedly its signature move. Sadly, it won't suck the opponent into a maelstrom. On the turn it's used, it'll make the opponent 'drowsy'. At the end of the following turn, the opponent will fall asleep. This isn't quite as cool as a maelstrom but it will do one of two things: either put your opponent to sleep or cause them to switch. There are a few occasions where Yawn is ineffective however. Yawn won't hit through a Substitute, it won't effect a Pokémon who is already under the effects of a status and won't effect Pokémon with abilities that cause a Sleep immunity.
Ice Beam is a staple of Water move-sets for nailing Dragons at their 4x weakness, but with STAB on Kingdra's Dragon moves, Ice Beam gets pushed aside most of the time. You can still use it for its super-effective hit on Grass types, but a neutral STAB hit off of Dragon moves is pretty capable as it is.
Hidden Power [Electric] gets a heavy 4x hit on Gyarados, which is quite a step up from Dragon Pulse but still not notable enough to squeeze its way onto the main move-sets when Draco Meteor is always available to leave a large dent.
Rest and Sleep Talk provide a healing combination for Kingdra's adequate defences to work with. One added bonus of Sleep Talk is its synergy with Outrage. When Outrage is selected by Sleep Talk, it doesn't lock you into repeating it or leave you with the confusion at the end, which is neat.
Kingdra's able to lay a notable assault on most opponents in the Standard tier, and with Dragon Dance or Rain Dance, it isn't lacking for Speed or power. Empoleon is the only Pokémon with resistances to both of its STABs, with Shedinja getting immunities from Wonder Guard. Since Kingdra is primarily running Water moves, Bulky Waters can make a solid stand against one half of its STAB offence. Still, its other STAB isn't too shabby, with both Draco Meteor and Outrage packing huge base powers.
Unlike most Dragons, it doesn't have a giant exploitable weakness. Dragon moves are its only weakness, and the best users of Dragon moves are…well…Dragons…so that goes a bit back-and-forth. The main weapons you have against Kingdra are status moves. Paralysis cuts its Speed to shreds whilst Will-o-Wisp makes life much less comfortable for the Dragon Dancer.
Kingdra isn't really a Pokémon that I can easily name counters for, certainly not in the category of “no matter what, this Pokémon will handle it.” Between Rain Dance and Dragon Dance, it can pile on some pretty formidable offence, particularly when accounting for a Life Orb. The main thing you'll need to take advantage of is that Kingdra usually spends a turn or two on setting itself up before aiming for a sweep. Also, whilst both of its core Dragon moves (Draco Meteor and Outrage) pack a lot of power, both come with negative side-effects; which can be exploited. It's little things like that that you'll need to take advantage of against Kingdra, and of course, watch out for maelstroms.
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