Toxicroak, The Toxic Mouth Pokémon. Its knuckle claws secrete a toxin so vile that even a scratch could prove fatal. The toxin made in its poison sacs is pumped to the knuckle claws through tubes down its arms.
Toxicroak is an interesting addition to the competitive battling scene. Whilst it seldom makes a venture into the Standard environment, it's quite the threat in the Underused tier.
Toxicroak primarily presents a physical threat, benefiting from a strong move-pool and Swords Dance. However, decent Special Attack and Nasty Plot open up special attacking possibilities. Despite having rather average Speed, Sucker Punch can compensate for this, scoring KOs on sweepers who are quick to rush into offence.
From a defensive perspective, Toxicroak benefits from a good type-combination. Fighting-Poison gives it useful resistances to Rock, Fighting, Dark, Bug, Grass and Poison moves, and a further Water immunity can be added to the collection with Dry Skin. Healing bonuses can also be granted from that same ability, so whilst Toxicroak lacks raw defensive stats, it isn't as fragile as its stats would imply.
The Underused environment packs several strong Fighting types, but it comfortably stands apart from the pack with its move-pool and Dry Skin. In addition, as a Poison type, it can clear Toxic Spikes off the field simply by switching in, providing a useful utility for its team.
Dry Skin: is usually the preferred ability. Firstly, it works like Water Absorb, giving Toxicroak a Water immunity and recovering 25% HP if Toxicroak is hit with a Water attack. Secondly, if Rain is in effect, Toxicroak will recovery 12.5% HP each turn.
This ability does come with downsides however. Firstly, a Dry Skin Pokémon takes an extra 25% damage from Fire attacks. Secondly, if Sun is in effect, Toxicroak will lose 12.5% HP each turn.
Obviously, if you have Rain support, this is a no-brainer. In most cases, you'll want this ability simply for the Water immunity, and the Rain healing is just a bonus. Of course, if you have a team-mate who'll be setting up Sunlight, you would probably want to avoid this ability, since it'll be detrimental to Toxicroak's health.
Anticipation: doesn't present much competition against Dry Skin, but it's somewhat useful. If the opponent has a super-effective attack, Toxicroak will 'shudder'. It doesn't specify what the move is, and it also won't kick into effect in the case of super-effective Hidden Powers or Natural Gifts. It will also alert the Toxicroak user to the presence of Explosion, Selfdestruct or OHKO moves (such as Sheer Cold).
Toxicroak has three weaknesses: Ground, Flying and Psychic. All three are quite common in the Underused environment. In practice, it probably won't reveal too much about the opponent. However, some useful examples include scouting for Earthquakes on Fighting types and Psychics on Ghost types. A reverse of this includes finding abnormalities in the opponent's move-set. If Toxicroak doesn't shudder against a Ground type, then you can face up to it with a bit more confidence.
Scouting Explosion, Selfdestruct and OHKO moves can vary in usefulness. On the plus side, it does specify about the move, rather than just 'shuddering'. Pokémon like Weezing and Probopass function well with or without Explosion, so it's nice to find out for sure. OHKO moves are uncommon (and usually banned), but if they do show up, at least you'll know.
- Swords Dance
Swords Dance move-sets command the majority of Toxicroak's popularity. With an Attack stat that's quite respectable by UU standards, a single boost can make Toxicroak a powerful threat. In addition, it has access to the strongest priority move in Sucker Punch. The threat of Sucker Punch should keep any faster, fragile sweepers from considering a match-up with Toxicroak and will cause some notable worries for Ghost and Psychic types. Of course, intelligent prediction needs to be exercised when using this move, since a failed attempt allows an opponent to throw a status Toxicroak's way, or set-up a Substitute to block a future Sucker Punch attempt.
In addition to Swords Dance and Sucker Punch, Toxicroak will want a two-move combination to attack with:
Fighting and Rock from Cross Chop and Stone Edge is popular, and provides a lot of type coverage, power and a nifty critical-hit bonus. Low PP and inconsistent accuracy are the main drawbacks, The accuracy can be compensated for with a Wide Lens (sending the pair from 80% accuracy to 88%), but that comes at the cost of an item slot.
Poison and Ground is the other popular combination. Earthquake provides a lot of type coverage, although Poison Jab is mostly there for its STAB. You have a less powerful STAB move, but the combination has reliable accuracy and plenty of PP.
Life Orb and Expert Belt are the obvious item choices. Life Orb provides the biggest (30%) boost, and if you have some Rain Dance support, the recoil can be counteracted by Dry Skin. Expert Belt provides a tamer (20%) boost, and only boosts on super-effective hits, but in exchange, it doesn't come with recoil. Life Orb is usually preferred, since the consistent power boost helps to ensure KOs.
- Sucker Punch
As with all physical sweepers, Choice Band saves Toxicroak the trouble of stat-boosting but leaves it locked into one attack only. Sucker Punch provides the ever-present threat of KOing faster opponents who are too quick to launch an attack, whilst Cross Chop and Stone Edge provide the attacking might. Earthquake or Poison Jab can be added to those two moves for three hard-hitting attacks, or Pursuit can be used for the final move-slot. Since Sucker Punch can frighten opponents into switching, Pursuit can hunt them down, and adds another layer to the prediction mind-games Toxicroak can play on its opponents.
A straightforward all-out-attacker can be put together by simply changing the item, with the obvious candidates being Life Orb and Expert Belt.
A double-punching option for Toxicroak can work out well too. Sucker Punch is the recurring Toxicroak theme, and its associated mind-games can cause the opposition headaches.
Having a Substitute active provides a safety buffer, and in particular, it keeps the opponent from being able to resort to status attacks. The other thing it does is force the opponent to act, inciting offence from the opponent (since there's little else they can do). With that in mind, Sucker Punch can nail them for sure, or a Focus Punch can be launched with the safety of the Substitute keeping a flinch from happening. Even without the Substitute, you can put the opponent in an awkward position. If they attack, they'll take a Sucker Punch, and if they don't attack, they'll take a Focus Punch.
The additional move is mostly a filler, but it helps to have at least one reliable move at Toxicroak's disposal. Stone Edge, Earthquake and Poison Jab are the main candidates. Stone Edge isn't quite as 'reliable' as the other two, but it makes up for this with some useful type coverage on Fighting-resistant Bug and Flying types. Earthquake scores a good hit on Fighting-resistant Poison types, has some other nice type coverage and a good combination of power and accuracy. Poison Jab gets a lot of neutral type coverage, but its main attraction is the STAB, making it the strongest move of the three.
- Nasty Plot
With all the blabber about Toxicroak's physical possibilities, it's easy to forget that it has Nasty Plot and a STAB priority move on its Special side. Sludge Bomb is its best source of reliable STAB and Shadow Ball is there to deal with Ghosts and Psychics. Vacuum Wave has to fill the shoes of Sucker Punch. Whilst it's weaker, it has the benefit of STAB and being more reliable (in the sense that it won't fail if the opponent doesn't attack). With all the potential boosts accounted for, Vacuum Wave KOs are quite achievable against faster opposition.
Life Orb is a significantly better choice here than Expert Belt, since you'll need the boost to guarantee (or near-guarantee) KOs on the faster opponents who aren't weak to Vacuum Wave. Nevertheless, Expert Belt is the recoil-free alternative, but you'll have to take on faster opponents with a lot more caution.
EVs and Nature:
Nasty Plot Again, it's the 252/252 sweeper EV spread. If you're counting on KOing faster opposition whilst they're at near-full HP, you'll definitely want Modest (as well as Life Orb), since you need to squeeze out every Special Attack point possible to drag Vacuum Wave to the KO mark.
Rain Dance, Taunt, Brick Break, X-Scissor, Bullet Punch, Hidden Power [Ice], Wide Lens.
Setting up Rain Dance yourself isn't a bad choice. With a Life Orb attached, Toxicroak presents a respectable offensive threat, and Dry Skin healing will compensate for Life Orb recoil.
Taunt can guarantee the opponent will attack. This keeps the opposition from trying to avoid Sucker Punch by using status attacks or Substitutes, but at the cost of a move-slot, it means you either limit Toxicroak's type coverage or lose Swords Dance.
Brick Break is a more accurate but less powerful alternative to Cross Chop. In addition, you get better PP and the chance to shatter defensive screens.
X-Scissor can take down Psychic types more reliably than Sucker Punch. You lose coverage on Ghosts though, and of course, Sucker Punch's priority is one of Toxicroak's biggest selling points.
Bullet Punch is a priority alternative to Sucker Punch, but without STAB or particularly good type coverage, it isn't an effective alternative.
Hidden Power [Ice] can find a place on the Nasty Plot sweeper, catching super-effective hits on Vacuum Wave-resistant Flying types, as well as the Nido duo.
Wide Lens, as noted earlier, is relatively worthwhile when you're using both Stone Edge and Cross Chop.
Toxicroak causes problems for its opposition, being able to beat down faster opponents with Sucker Punch (or Vacuum Wave) whilst having enough raw power to bring down slower opposition. Nidoking and Nidoqueen have the right resistances to deal with the Fight-Rock combo, but both need to look out for Earthquake (and Hidden Power [Ice]). A Swords Dance and Life Orb boosted Sucker Punch can threaten to KO however, especially on Nido variants who lack defensive EVs.
Weezing can take quite a sting from Dance and Orb boosted Stone Edges, but it only needs to endure one and throw a Will-o-Wisp Toxicroak's way to ruin its party. In addition, if Toxicroak is using the Ground-Poison combination, it's hopeless against Weezing.
Ghosts with status moves or Substitute can manipulate Toxicroak's Sucker Punch reliance to gain an advantage. Rotom is troubled by double-boosted Stone Edges, but it's more likely to incite Sucker Punch and can take the opportunity to throw a Will-o-Wisp or Thunder Wave at Toxicroak. Froslass is also likely to incite a Sucker Punch despite Stone Edge issues, and it can throw a Thunder Wave at Toxicroak. Being slower (usually), Drifblim is less likely to incite Sucker Punch, but like Rotom, it has Will-o-Wisp and Thunder Wave to pick from.
Psychics can do the same kind of thing as Ghosts, taking advantage of Toxicroak's quickness to Sucker Punch. Most of them have a status option and all of them have Substitute as an option. They need to watch out for special sweeping variants however, who are likely to carry Shadow Ball.
Very defensive Ground types can survive double-boosted Cross Chops and hit back with STAB Earthquakes. Faster opponents who aren't weak to Sucker Punch (or Vacuum Wave in the case of the special sweeper) should be able to finish it off, since it has three exploitable weaknesses and below average defences.
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