Twas the week before Christmas, when all throughout PUCL

The writers wrote Christmas articles, ‘til they tired their knuckles.

For Double Trouble the topic of Ice

Has now been done not once, not twice, but thrice.

 

Prepare for Trouble, and make it TRIPLE, PUCLonians! It astounds me that this is my third annual Winter Holidays article within a week of Christmas. Mostly because I realize I’ve been doing this for longer than I imagine. Time flies, y’all. Apply for that promotion, go back to grad school, and try out that suspicious new restaurant after all, because you never know when those doors will close.

Two years ago, Hail and Abomasnow were examined. The next year, successful Ice types throughout the history of the VGC were the topic. This year, with a new generation of Pokémon just out, Hail has garnered enough changes to justify a reassessment.

Ice is… still a terrible defensive typing, only resisting itself. Some things never change. But Gen VII did bring with it a number of positive changes for various Ice Type Pokémon, the Hail weather condition, a new ability, and new formes for old faces!

“What exactly are all these changes?” you may ask yourself. Here’s a quick run-down:

-Ninetales got an Alolan form with an Ice/Fairy typing. Compared to regular Ninetales, Alolan Ninetales’s Attack stat is reduced by 9 in exchange for its Speed stat being increased by 9.

-Sandslash got an Alolan form with an Ice/Steel typing. Compared to regular Sandslash, Alolan Sandslash’s Special Attack stat is reduced by 20 in exchange for higher Defense and Special Defense stats, both increased by 10.

-Alolan Ninetales and Vanilluxe both have access to the Snow Warning ability, doubling the number of available Hail setters

-A new ability, Slush Rush, was introduced which doubles a Pokémon’s speed in Hail. Alolan Sandslash and Beartic received it.

-Speaking of Beartic, it’s Attack stat went up from 110 to 130.

-Most importantly, a new move, Aurora Veil, was introduced. Aurora Veil HALVES the damage your Pokémon receive for 5 turns, but can only be used during Hail.

Altogether, nice improvements for Ice types and the Hail weather condition. For the VGC, this makes a lot of new combos and strategies possible. With Slush Rush, Hail FINALLY received its counterpart to Swift Swim and Chlorophyll, and you can have one Pokémon set up the Hail with its ability and have another Pokémon immediately doubling its Speed. This is nothing new, but considering all the other weather conditions have been able to do that for years now, it is nice to see Hail receive the option as well. Although, given the lack of Slush Rush users to choose from, just because you can do something does not mean you should do it. Slush Rush is NOT the reason to consider using Hail at this time.

Aurora Veil is.

FINALLY, Hail has something to offer to teams that can benefit all of your Pokémon instead of just Ice-types and a few others that can spam Blizzard or prevent Hail damage. And it’s an extremely strong benefit to provide to a team.

There are a lot of things about Aurora Veil that make it even better than it may initially appear (and it appears to be really good even at first glance). To begin with, it halves the damage your Pokémon receive from physical and special attacks even in a double battle, rather than reducing damage by a third depending on your battle format. People immediately compare Aurora Veil to Reflect and Light Screen, but the screens are less effective in a doubles environment in exchange for affecting both of your Pokémon, and so they only reduce damage by a third instead of by half. Aurora Veil does not make this compromise. Additionally, while Aurora Veil requires Hail be active in order to set up, once used, the effect remains even if the Hail ends or the weather changes. The fact that you don’t have to worry about weather wars erasing your Aurora Veil is huge. An even more delicious morsel of knowledge: its duration is increased from 5 to 8 turns by the Light Clay item, just like with screens. Oh, and speaking of screens, it would be remiss not to mention the fact that Aurora Veil can be STACKED with Reflect and Light Screen.

Are you sold on Aurora Veil yet? If so, you may be wondering what Pokémon learn this amazing move. Since it is a TM, one would think it has really good distribution. But, alas, exceedingly few Pokémon can learn the move. Alolan Ninetales stands out as the move’s savior, however, being the only Pokémon that learns Aurora Veil and also has the Snow Warning ability, allowing it to set up Hail automatically and then immediately set up Aurora Veil. And this combination unique to Alolan Ninetales is what makes it really solid this VGC format. Given its high speed tier in a format that is, on the whole, slower than normal, this is also quite easy to accomplish as long as the opponent doesn’t change the weather first.

And while Aurora Veil is the main reason to use Alolan Ninetales as well as Hail at all – and if you use Alolan Ninetales without Aurora Veil, you’re probably doing it wrong – it has a lot of other things to offer as well, to the point it struggles with what moves to run. Thanks to setting up Hail, it can spam perfectly accurate Blizzards with a hax-licious 19% chance of Freezing something if you hit both opponents. It also has access to the rare Ice type moves of Icy Wind for Speed control and Freeze Dry which is 4x effective against prominent Pokémon such as Pelipper, Gastrodon, and Gyarados. Other attacking options of its own type include Ice Beam, Dazzling Gleam, and Moonblast. And on top of all that, it gets access to Encore and Disable for support options. Between all of these moves and Protect, the difficulty of deciding what moves to run on Alolan Ninetales is clear, but the fact that it has so many good options illustrates that the fox with a new coat has a lot to offer in exchange for a slot on a team.

And the team doesn’t have to revolve around Alolan Ninetales! In previous years, teams that featured Hail often had to provide a lot of support and accommodations for it. The available Hail Setters often required teams to be built around them. But with Aurora Veil, Alolan Ninetales accommodates the rest of your team, turning your frail Pokémon bulky, and your bulky Pokémon into walls.

Alolan Ninetales cannot do everything on its own, however. The frigid fox is the fastest weather setter in the game, meaning any other weather setter, bar Choice Scarf users, will see their own weather set the first turn instead of Hail, preventing the use of Aurora Veil. Additionally, between its weaknesses and average-at-best bulk, getting it in to bring Hail back to set up its Veil can prove to be a challenge. It doesn’t hit especially hard, either, and Aurora Veil is susceptible to Taunt. But no Pokémon is perfect, and if these flaws can be worked around, Alolan Ninetales can pull its weight for your team.

It’s a renaissance for Hail seeing use, even if it isn’t about the Hail itself, but the Aurora that requires it. There have been exceedingly few VGC 17 events thus far, but at the first large one that has transpired, the European Internation Championships, a tournament that attracted many of the world’s best, Alolan Ninetales and its Aurora Veil made the top 4 on Ben Kyriakou’s team.

Expect to see it impact the format the entire year. There’s something I never thought I’d say about Hail. Who’d have thought tropical Alola would be the region be the region to make it happen? Hail to the Veil, and happy holidays to you and yours. Until next time, it looks like I’m blasting off again!