Ever since 4th Generation, there has been a stiff rivalry between the two automatic sandstorm inducers: Tyranitar and Hippowdon. Tyranitar, of course, is best used on offensive sand teams. Hippowdon, however, is the centerpiece of any potential sand-based stall team and also functions as one of the greatest physical tanks in the game.
With access to recovery in Slack Off, and to phasing in Whirlwind, this red-eyed hippo can give anyone a headache. Not only does this behemoth passively do damage to any type that is not Rock, Steel, or Ground; it can also deal reasonable damage with a STAB Earthquake without any attack investment.
When using Hippowdon, the most important choice you will have to make is what item to bestow upon it. Leftovers will greatly increase this tank’s longevity, but Smooth Rock can increase the duration of Sandstorm to your team’s great benefit. If you are running a sand team with Pokemon like Mandibuzz and Excadrill, a Smooth Rock is the preferred option. Hippowdon can function well on a team that is not sand based, and will ideally use Leftovers in these scenarios.
The first move on Hippowdon will undoubtedly be Earthquake. This is the hippo’s primary STAB and can hit grounded Pokemon with reasonable force. The second move-slot should be filled by Slack Off. This is a great form of Recovery for Hippowdon which, when coupled with Leftovers, allows Hippowdon to regain 9/16 of its health every turn while letting the sand fight for it. Whirlwind is the preferred phasing move for the third slot. Whirlwind is a great way to remove well-known sweepers like Dragonite and Scizor from the spotlight. The fourth move is really the only one up for debate and depends on your team’s composition. If you aren’t running a sand team that needs coverage and you like to troll your opponents with entry hazards, Stealth Rock is probably the way to go. Rock Slide is also an extremely viable option, as it allows this sand hippo to counter Talonflame, Thundurus, and Salamence effectively. Hippowdon also has access to all three elemental fang moves and Yawn, but these are generally inferior choices to Stealth Rock or Rock Slide. Depending on what kind of hits you need it to take, Hippowdon can run the following spreads with the same moves:
248 HP/ 252 Def/ 8 Sp. Def
248 HP/ 252 Sp. Def/ 8 Def
Hippowdon’s effectiveness is wildly determined by your team composition. Excadrill is a great partner since it can have the ability Sand Rush and has access to Rapid Spin. Mandibuzz is tanky in both stats and takes no Sandstorm damage with the ability Overcoat. Alakazam, Reuniclus, and Clefable also do not take damage in Sandstorm and serve as reliable team mates. Sylveon nicely complements Hippowdon’s lack of Special Bulk and possesses a nice support movepool. Cradily receives a 50% boost to Special Defense in Sandstorm and can neutralize Hippowdon’s water weakness entirely with Storm Drain. Talonflame can serve as a beautiful counter to Skarmory and Greninja with Flare Blitz and Brave Bird respectively. Gliscor will appreciate the extra hazard damage from Sandstorm provided by Hippowdon. Counters to Rotom-W are imperative when running Hippowdon. Grass types like Mega-Venusaur fit the bill for this job. If not running a special set with Ice Beam, Tyranitar stands no chance against the mighty Hippowdon and will cower in fear.
Even without the ability Sand Stream, Hippowdon would still be one of the best physical walls in Pokemon. With generally well-rounded bulk and a great movepool, Hippowdon is certainly something to be feared. Tyranitar had better watch out, because the Heavyweight Pokemon is in the ring. Blast some sand, take a nap, and charge headfirst at your opponents with Hippowdon. Remember to do this Puclonians, and your Hippowdon will be the very best.