Drizzle had been long overdue to test the waters of a standard metagame, and it was a wise decision to release the ability in a generation where OU is more powerful than ever. The weather has a phenomenal effect on OU, with various offensive and defensive perks that any OU team can take advantage of. Rain's dominance is undeniable; the stormy weather single-handedly accounts for the viability of Pokemon such as Gastrodon, who is seemingly designed to defend against rain teams, and Tornadus, whose signature Hurricane saves it from obscurity. The potency of rain stall must also be recognized; rain turns previously annoying support Pokemon, such as Tentacruel, Ferrothorn, and Jirachi, into defensive stalwarts.
But who's the lucky winner in our Dream World lottery? None other than the Pokemon from GSC that everyone forgot about: Politoed. With such lackluster stats and a strictly average movepool, it's easy to see why our froggy friend has remained unused in every competitive metagame since it was introduced. However, with former greats such as Suicune and Empoleon bumming in the depths of UU while Politoed maintains higher usage than ever, Drizzle's influence says more than enough about Politoed's role in OU.
Being able to deal with this set is a requirement for OU teams. Politoed might not have the most dangerous stats or movepool, but the viability of this set is determined by its ability to summon rain upon entry, making its STAB attacks considerably more dangerous. The boost from Choice Specs and rain more than doubles the power of Hydro Pump, which allows it to 2HKO some of the most specially bulky Pokemon in OU, including Jirachi, Latios, and Mew. It is not easy to switch in a Pokemon that simply resists Water-type attacks due to its massive damage output. To illustrate the might of its Drizzle-enhanced power, here is a small list of common Politoed checks that should almost never switch into Hydro Pump:
Even without coverage, only the bulkiest of resists are capable of tangoing with the walking flood that is Politoed. One of the few things stopping Politoed from drowning everything in its path is Hydro Pump's imperfect accuracy, as a 20% deduction has a proven side effect of costing games. In case you want to play it on the safe side, Surf is a viable option in lieu of or alongside Hydro Pump to ensure that an untimely miss doesn't come into play during the simple act of revenge KOing a target.
Ice Beam, Hidden Power Grass, and Focus Blast all serve a similar function in tripping up Politoed's usual checks, provided you can predict their switch-in. Ice Beam prevents the likes of Latias and Dragonite from switching in and setting up freely, while also warding off Celebi and Virizion, who can take a Hydro Pump better than most. Hidden Power Grass is Politoed's best option against both Gastrodon and Jellicent, who make most of Politoed's offensive options useless. Focus Blast will probably see the least use of the three coverage options, as its only notable targets are Ferrothorn and the odd Abomasnow; however, Ferrothorn's omnipresence and Politoed's lack of convincing other options make it the optimal choice for the third slot. Do keep in mind that it's usually safest to open up with a STAB attack, as its coverage moves are much weaker and easy to punish.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Politoed is a competent special attacker thanks to Drizzle, but the only thing it needs to do in order to support its team is survive. To this end, a defensive Politoed can be a valuable asset, with access to some of the most infuriating support moves in the game. Scald is the worst of them all; someone at Game Freak apparently decided Water-types weren't good enough, so they were granted the ability to deal decent damage and burn opposing switch-ins with one move. The threat of a burn is enough to keep Ferrothorn at bay, as a burned Ferrothorn is easy prey for Substitute users such as Gyarados, Landorus, and Gliscor.
Protect further aids Politoed's stalling capabilities by scouting the opponent's moves while residual damage slowly withers away their HP. In addition, it garners free Leftovers recovery from its guaranteed safety, giving it further survivability despite of its lack of reliable recovery moves. Perish Song works brilliantly in tandem with Protect by discouraging the opponent from staying in and attacking as the count goes down. An alternative approach to warding off set up sweepers is the use of Encore and Ice Beam; Ice Beam is the one thing standing between Dragonite and several Dragon Dances, while other set up sweepers are thwarted by Encore, forcing them to boost futilely as a check switches in. Last but not least are Politoed's status attacks of choice, Toxic and Hypnosis. Toxic is preferred alongside Protect and Perish Song, allowing Politoed to force switches, spread poison, and wither away the HP of Pokemon it is normally helpless against, including enemy bulky Water-types such as Slowbro and Water Absorb Vaporeon. Hypnosis does not require a specific combination of moves in order to work, making it useful in nearly any situation. Its only real limitations are its low accuracy and Sleep clause, but it's a welcome balance for the ability to disable one Pokemon on the opposing team nigh permanently.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Politoed is a far cry from the best revenge killer, but a Choice Scarf gives it a chance to flex its power on much faster foes. With a Choice Scarf equipped, Politoed can outpace any Pokemon under 130 base Speed and assail it with the corresponding attack. Hydro Pump gives it just enough power to KO Tornadus reliably with as little as one round of Life Orb recoil, and 2HKO the likes of Starmie, Rotom-W, and Salamence with the help of Stealth Rock. Surf is a reliable secondary STAB attack whose reliability is crucial in the face of dangerous setup sweepers, such as Terrakion and Thundurus-T, that can use a missed opportunity to turn the game around. Ice Beam is also a vital move for this set, revenge KOing not only the likes of an unboosted Haxorus, Salamence, or Hydreigon, but even an Adamant Dragonite with a Dragon Dance under its belt (assuming Multiscale has been broken).
The fourth moveslot is Politoed's last resort, useful in situations where simply attacking will not get the job done. A quick Perish Song can really ruin a Calm Mind Jirachi's or Reuniclus's day, and is Politoed's only chance at forcing either foe to switch. This is especially useful against pesky Substitute users, such as Gliscor, who are forced to forfeit their momentum before the timer runs down. A fast Hypnosis is also useful in allowing Politoed to disable a threatening sweeper or punish a switch. With precise prediction, Encore can lock a supporting Pokemon into a harmless attack, and give defensively lacking sweepers such as Lucario an easy chance to switch in and set up.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
A common criticism for Choice-item wielding Politoed sets is that being locked into any move other than its STABs leaves it vulnerable to opposing setup. This set has virtually no problem with setup sweepers, as it has just the right moves to foil their every attempt. The power of Hydro Pump is necessary for allowing Politoed to 3HKO specially defensive Tyranitar under sand and 2HKO Ninetales under sun. Ice Beam punishes any Dragonite or Hydreigon attempting to set up on Politoed and deals major damage to Breloom and Latios on the way in. The third move slot is a bit trickier, as both moves provide important coverage: Ferrothorn will not want to switch in on Focus Blast, and both Gastrodon and Rotom-W loathe Hidden Power Grass. Tyranitar also fears Focus Blast, suffering a 2HKO even with a specially defensive set in sand.
The final move slot allows Politoed to aggravate any Pokemon it cannot outright KO. Hypnosis can cripple any Pokemon that switches in, save for Natural Cure users such as Chansey, Blissey, and Celebi. Predictable setup sweepers such as Latias are foiled with Encore, which locks them into their boosting move while a threatening teammate comes in to finish the job. Finally, there's Perish Song. While this set lacks any real methods of stalling, the function of the move remains useful in forcing any defending Pokemon to switch before the third turn expires. Ferrothorn makes a good switch-in to most Pokemon under rain, and can use its own Protect to stall out the Perish Song turns in place of Politoed while setting up Spikes as the opponent switches.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Politoed has a physical movepool consisting of Waterfall, Earthquake, Ice Punch, and Payback; moves that can be used to hit the likes of Tyranitar and Latias harder than the rest of its options. Belly Drum increases its Attack stat to sky-high levels, which is surprising for a Pokemon with only 75 base Attack—all at the cost of 50% of its HP. Difficulty of setup aside, Politoed will almost never be able to pull off a sweep after a Belly Drum boost, even with a Salac Berry. Haze is a good move, but Politoed doesn't have the defenses to stop setup sweepers in their tracks. The best it can do is wipe away their boosts while taking a major blow, and then switch out to a better check. Rest and Sleep Talk are fairly useful options for a defensive Politoed, giving it some means of recovery outside of Leftovers to survive weather wars. It is recommended to carry a teammate with Heal Bell or Aromatherapy to relieve Politoed of its sleep status, as the new sleep mechanics of Black and White force the defending Pokemon to wait out its sleep turns all in one sitting in order to cure. Much to any rain player's chagrin, Politoed is unlikely to survive those turns under the heat of offensive pressure.
Checks and Counters
Politoed is powerless outside of rain, so it stands to reason that its mortal enemies are not only Pokemon that can switch in and KO it, but Pokemon that can change the weather. The mere presence of an enemy weather setter is enough to change any rain team's game plan in favor of keeping Politoed alive. Eternal sun is simply a nightmare for rain, lowering the accuracy of Thunder and Hurricane, while also weakening Water-type moves. The battle is all but won once the weather war is in a Drought team's favor. However, Ninetales is a Pokemon that requires a dedicated crew as well, even more so than Politoed due to its common weaknesses, so slapping it on one's team is usually not the best solution for combating rain. On a dedicated Sun team, Ninetales can use Sunny Day as Politoed switches in to reverse the rain team's momentum and threaten Politoed with SolarBeam, or eliminate Politoed with a +2 Energy Ball. Tyranitar can easily trap a Politoed locked into Ice Beam with Pursuit. Abomasnow laughs at all of Politoed's attacks, save for Focus Blast.
Even under ideal weather conditions, many OU Pokemon can exploit Politoed's mediocre stats. Defensively, Ferrothorn, Gastrodon, and Jellicent have little trouble switching into Politoed unless it predicts with a Specs Focus Blast or Hidden Power Grass, respectively. Ferrothorn uses its free turns to set up a minefield of hazards for its teammates, while Gastrodon can use the +1 boost from Storm Drain to threaten Politoed's teammates. Keldeo freely sets up Calm Minds on Politoed lacking Encore, as do Latios, Latias, and Virizion. Celebi has no trouble switching into a non-Specs Ice Beam and can recover the damage as Politoed switches, or even leech HP from Politoed with its STAB Giga Drain and Leech Seed. Rotom-W, Jolteon, Zapdos, and Raikou keep both Politoed and its teammates in check with STAB Electric-type attacks. They can Volt Switch away from incoming counters and Rotom-W can burn Ferrothorn with Will-O-Wisp, making Ferrothorn much easier to handle.
Most prominent offensive Pokemon in OU carrying a Choice Band or Choice Specs can simply KO Politoed without much prior damage. For example, a Choice Band Terrakion can KO a defensive Politoed with up to 77% of its health left. Specs Latios and Hydreigon both OHKO Politoed most of the time with Draco Meteor, requiring no prior damage whatsoever. Haxorus, Dragonite, and Lucario can also KO a relatively healthy Politoed using their STAB attacks and a Choice Band. A special mention goes to Gothitelle and Dugtrio for being able to trap and KO a weakened Politoed. With the help of Choice Specs, Gothitelle can KO even a healthy Politoed with Thunderbolt.