Sandstorm, sandstorm, sandstorm. It is as if that were the only weather effect in all of OU. I'll tell you one thing: it is not. This guide is to help gather some thoughts into developing a hail team, sandstorm's forgotten little brother. There are many misconceptions and ideas that are associated with hail teams, the first of which is the confusion between mono-Ice and hail.
You'll see this reminder time and time again: do not mistake a hail team to be mono-Ice. Hail teams can take advantage of hail even if half or even more of the team is not immune to hail.
Finally, this guide will give you suggestions for tried and tested Pokémon that work well on a hail team. Note however, that these are merely suggestions. The only Pokémon that is necessary on an OU hail team is Abomasnow, who is the only fully-evolved Pokémon that can set up a permanent hailstorm.
To use this guide most effectively, see it as a collection of ideas to think about before you make a hail team.
Well, we've got to start somewhere. There are two primary advantages to a hail team. First is the sandstorm-like residual damage effect. Like sandstorm, hail takes away 6.25% of both Pokémon's health each turn. This means that if the opponent's Pokémon is not an Ice-type, it takes only 16 to 17 turns for them to die due to hail and hail alone. From this fact comes the first primary strategy of hail teams: stalling. It should be noted that while Leftovers cancels out hail in the long run, it is applied after hail damage, meaning that even if the opponent carries it, you essentially only have to deal 93.75% damage to them to KO.
The second advantage is a 100% accurate Blizzard. Blizzard is a flexible attack with no immunities and few 4x resists. Over the standard Ice Beam, you will be doing about 26% extra damage. The disadvantage of Blizzard is, of course, its inaccuracy if and when hail goes away and the little PP it has. Beware of Pressure Pokémon.
Hail can be started in two different ways: by the attack 'Hail,' or by Abomasnow's 'Snow Warning' ability. The difference is that Abomasnow's hail lasts nearly forever - the only way to stop it is to bring in another weather effect. Therefore it is required to carry Abomasnow in a hail team.
Finally: hail immunities are nice, but it is not necessary to get pure hail immunity. Ice is not a good defensive type, resistant only to one type and weak to four. To get a decent amount of resistances on a team, it is necessary to shed the idea that you must have a mono-Ice team. The most successful hail teams have a mixed balance of types that effectively cover each other's weaknesses well.
While a hail immunity appears to be necessary on a hail team, remember that your team does not have to be mono-Ice to accomplish the task. Even walls don't have to be immune to hail; Leftovers does cancel out the loss more or less. Nonetheless, it is important to know some key Pokémon that can gain health inside of a hailstorm.
Always look at the standard Pokémon first. EG: Skarmory, Blissey, Swampert, and other standard walls work more or less the same inside a hailstorm, except with their Leftovers canceled out. They are standards for a reason, because they do an excellent job at walling opponents. Cresselia's Moonlight is weakened to 25% recovery in hail, but RestTalk Cresselia is still a viable strategy. However, hail-immune Pokémon do have their advantages, and some are worth noting. Skarmory is forced to run Leftovers over Shed Shell, making it more vulnerable to Magnezone.
All Ice-type Pokémon are immune to the damage caused by hail. Looking at raw stats, Regice, Lapras, Walrein, Mamoswine, Cloyster, and Articuno all have the stats to pull off a decent wall. However, I can only recommend Regice, Walrein, and Lapras as walls. Regice is the third best statistical special wall in the game, behind only Blissey and Chansey. Walrein has its "Ice Body" ability and the stats to pull off a stall successfully. Lapras has its "Water Absorb" ability along with a massive unpredictable movepool. The other potential walls I haven't been able to use successfully for various reasons. Feel free to experiment with the others however. Mamoswine is interesting for its immunity to hail and sandstorm, and has Curse to beef up its Defense.
There are three non-Ice Pokémon who are immune to hail: Clefable, Rayquaza, and Golduck. Golduck is more of an UU Pokémon and doesn't get the benefit of Blizzard, but Magic Guard Clefable can hold itself in an OU environment with its immunity to status damage, Spikes, Stealth Rock, sandstorm, and hail. Slap a Toxic Orb on and it will be completely immune to status after the first switch in.
Toxic Orb Breloom is not immune to hail, but it does gain health inside a hailstorm due to its ability Poison Heal (giving it 12.5% recovery normally, which cut down to 6.25% in a hailstorm, effectively being Leftovers).
As you can see, there aren't many walls in the game that resist hail. Because of this, I cannot stress enough that you can and probably must use standard walls on your hail team. Further, you must build key resistances to Rock, Fire, and Fighting attacks which cannot be done with Pokémon who share an Ice typing.
Sandstorm teams are one of the most fun teams to play against when you're running a hail team. Sandstorm is set up by either Hippowdon or Tyranitar, and when it's in effect, Rock Pokémon boast a 50% boost in Special Defense. This makes Blizzard significantly weaker for your team, as well as reducing its perfect accuracy to a meager 70%.
However, if you instead capture the advantage of a hailstorm, a sandstorm team will fear just about every attack combo you carry. All Rock-, Steel-, and Ground-types are going to be hit hard with the Fighting / Ice and Ground / Ice combos. Further, Rock and Ground Pokémon are hit hard with Water / Ice. Bronzong is an exception, but can be dealt with decently powered Surfs or simply Magnezone if you fear him that much.
You are not the only team with an offensive advantage however. The opponent's Sand Stream team will most likely take advantage of common Rock and Ground attacks. EdgeQuake (Ground / Rock) beats most Ice Pokémon, as does Fighting / Rock. Heatran can switch in on any Blizzard with impunity and then scare away your Ice Pokémon with a high-powered Fire attack. So overall, be careful of what the opponent has.
Now note, while it is not necessary to start with Abomasnow, many people like to do so for various reasons. It is a fine way to start up a hail advantage right away, but depending on how many Ice Pokémon are on your team, you can wait until later to start up hail. Either way, the Tyranitar / Hippowdon vs Abomasnow leads are very important and here are some tips to get off on a good start.
It should be noted that the slower Pokémon keeps the weather. This is a mixed bag for both sides. If Abomasnow is faster than Tyranitar / Hippowdon, then it can Wood Hammer Tyranitar, or Blizzard Hippowdon. Granted, Blizzard doesn't have 100% accuracy, but you still have a 70% chance of OHKOing the hippo. After that, the sandstorm will remain until you switch Abomasnow back in.
If Abomasnow is slower than Hippowdon / Tyranitar, you get the weather advantage. You can always try and predict the early Stealth Rock from the Hippowdon and go for Blizzard anyway, which can OHKO... but you're always risking a Stone Edge. Against Tyranitar, you switch to your designated Tyranitar counter. Therefore, it is recommended that you make Abomasnow slower than Tyranitar to get the lasting hail up, but remain faster than Hippowdon to beat it down with Blizzard. This can easily be achieved by running a hindering Speed nature on Abomasnow, which also allows it to make the most out of its mixed attacking stats.
A good team has the correct resistances in the right places. A good hail team is no exception. There are four attacks that are super effective on Ice Pokémon, and these are Rock, Fire, Fighting, and Steel.
It is important to note some Ice Pokémon that are the exception to this rule. Froslass is immune to Fighting. Walrein and Dewgong can run Thick Fat and therefore resist Fire, while their Water typing and low Speed stats saves them from Gyro Ball. Mamoswine's Ground typing is about as close as you can get to resisting Rock. However, this is usually not enough, and if you plan to stop revenge switch-ins, you should get a more reliable general wall.
You cannot carry a single Pokémon who happens to resist Rock, Fire, and Fighting and call it quits (Heatproof Bronzong, Flygon, and Slowbro come to mind as Pokémon who resist many of these types). Offensive Pokémon have common attack combos you must prepare for. I find it far more useful to have a single Pokémon who resists the common attack combos and is weak to say... Fire... than a single Pokémon intended to resist everything. There is no point switching in your Slowbro to receive a Close Combat when the next turn a Grass Knot eats it up.
Here are some of the most common threats to hail teams, as well as some checks (meant to help keep the problem Pokémon at bay):
Tyranitar - Hail team's biggest nemesis. Tyranitar alone has the potential to take out an entire hail team by itself, with an extremely strong STAB Stone Edge to put a dent in almost all Ice Pokémon. It can also bring sandstorm into play with its Sand Stream ability at annoying moments to ruin your strategy, e.g. in the middle of a successful stall with Walrein. This is one threat that you must take into account when building a hail team, and it warrants the use of a Rock resist by itself.
Checks: Machamp, Gliscor, Swampert
Lucario - Another Pokémon that can potentially demolish a hail team. Excellent resistances allow it to switch in without too much trouble, and hit very hard with STAB Fighting attacks. It also possesses strong priority moves in ExtremeSpeed, as well as STAB Vacuum Wave and Bullet Punch. Very dangerous to hail teams not only because of its threatening STAB, but also because of its ability to hit hard with both attacking stats, making it very unpredictable.
Checks: Gliscor, Gyarados, Scarfed Rotom-H
Infernape - With STAB Fire and Fighting attacks, blistering Speed, and good mixed sweeping stats, Infernape can hit most Pokémon on hail teams very hard. Add Grass Knot to its moveset and you have something that not even bulky Water-types can safely switch in on. Luckily, it is hard for it to switch in, and most sets will not last long when you factor in Life Orb recoil, entry hazards, and hail damage. Still, a very threatening Pokémon.
Checks: Tentacruel, Vaporeon, Starmie
Breloom - Although perhaps not as frightening as the aforementioned Fighting-types because of its mediocre Speed, Breloom boasts something that sets it apart from its brethren - the 100% accurate Spore. After coming in on something slower, Breloom is almost guaranteed to take one of your Pokémon out of the game with its infuriating Spore/Substitute/Focus Punch strategy. A hard Pokémon to deal with, but is made easier to deal with with a status absorber. Although Breloom's Grass typing makes it weak to Ice moves, it also gives it a very strong STAB attack in the form of Seed Bomb to deal with bulky Water-types. All in all this Pokémon can set up very easily on hail teams and commence to beat them into the ground.
Checks: Gyarados, Rotom-F, Tentacruel
Scizor - Possibly one of the most threatening Pokémon to hail teams, Scizor can beat all but the best built teams with its powerful Technician-boosted Bullet Punch. It also has access to strong Fighting-type attacks such as Superpower and Brick Break, which hurt a lot coming off of its base 130 Attack. Good typing, resistance to Ice, a reliable healing move in Roost, and above average defenses make it very difficult to take down as well.
Checks: Gyarados, Zapdos, Rotom-H
Heatran - Excellent resistances and base defenses, a 4x resistance to Ice, and a very powerful Fire STAB make Heatran a threat to most hail teams. Usually packing a Choice Scarf, it can outspeed and OHKO almost all Ice-types. However, it lacks a reliable way of dealing with bulky Water-types, although there is always the threat of it Exploding on one of your key Pokémon.
Checks: Swampert, Gyarados, Tentacruel
Zapdos - With a STAB Thunderbolt and a powerful Heat Wave, Zapdos can be a nightmare to fight, hitting most Pokémon on hail teams for super effective damage. Great defenses make it a rather challenging task to take down with neutral attacks, although it does have an exploitable weakness to Ice. Once its movepool has been discovered, however, it becomes a lot easier to deal with. Zapdos with Hidden Power Ice are easily walled by Swampert, while those who choose to run Hidden Power Grass can be taken on with Gliscor.
Checks: Gliscor, Swampert, Flygon
Overall, there are too many offensive threats to counter them perfectly, but one should strive to at least have checks on the most threatening ones. While this is by no means an exhaustive list, it does highlight some of the most dangerous Pokémon to hail teams, and all hail teams should ensure they have ways of dealing with all the aforementioned Pokémon.
There are very many Pokémon that work well on hail teams, and very many more that can be adapted to be effective for specific roles. This section contains some tried and tested suggestions for Pokémon that can be used to great effect in hail.
Take note, however, that these are nothing but examples of Pokémon that have been known to work from experience. This is by no means a list of the only Pokémon that can be used, as some of the very best hail teams are made by using a Pokémon in a previously unthought-of way. The key here is to be creative, and choose a Pokémon that fits your own specific team.
Abomasnow - Abomasnow is a misunderstood Pokémon most of the time. Having a whopping 7 weaknesses, it is often cast aside without much thought. However, more skilled battlers know the true purpose of Abomasnow: to wall the ever-common Water / Ice or Electric / Ice combinations used by the likes of Suicune, Starmie, Magnezone, Raikou, and a counter to the metagame's many walls. Abomasnow is an essential Pokémon for all serious hail teams, as its Snow Warning starts the wintery fun.
Weaknesses: Fire, Fighting, Flying, Poison, Rock, Bug, Steel
Resistances: Grass, Ground, Water, Electric
Useful Moves: Blizzard, Wood Hammer, Leech Seed, Substitute, Focus Punch
Walrein - A staple of any hail team worthy of the name. Everyone fears the mighty Stallrein and its virtually infinite Substitute + Protect combo (virtually as it lasts 32 turns maximum, which adds up exactly 200% of hail damage, meaning that any all-out offensive team will lose two team members to it when played correctly). It has great HP and good Defense, taking about 42% tops from an Adamant 252 Attack Life Orb-boosted Dragon Claw from Dragonite and OHKOing back with Blizzard (even if it has Yache Berry) with hail damage, making it an incredible counter. Here is a detailed guide showing why Walrein is a staple of so many hail teams.
Weaknesses: Fighting, Rock, Grass, Electric
Resistances: Water, Ice
Useful Moves: Substitute, Protect, Blizzard, Surf, Roar, Toxic, Encore
Tentacruel - Tentacruel provides the swift switch into the Toxic Spikes these teams hate so much. In addition, it provides very helpful Rapid Spin support to rid your field of Stealth Rock, as well as the ability to set up Toxic Spikes of your own. Tentacruel provides a great Fire, Steel, and Fighting resistance to hail teams and can make full use of a 100% accurate Blizzard alongside its STAB Surfs. It is also one of the best Infernape counters there is.
Weaknesses: Ground, Electric, Psychic
Resistances: Fighting, Poison, Bug, Steel, Fire, Water, Ice
Useful Moves: Toxic Spikes, Rapid Spin, Knock Off, Blizzard, Surf
Mamoswine - Mamoswine is a great offensive powerhouse on hail teams. STAB Earthquake from base 130 Attack is nothing to scoff at, and Mamoswine also has access to the invaluable Ice Shard for picking off threatening Dragon-types. The hail also provides Mamoswine a way of dealing with its usual counters, allowing it to 2HKO opponents such as Weezing and Skarmory with a powerful Blizzard. Mamoswine has an excellent base 110 HP stat and decent defenses, as well as access to a variety of support moves, allowing it to go the defensive route if it so wishes.
Weaknesses: Fighting, Steel, Grass, Fire, Water
Resistances: Poison, Electric (immunity)
Useful Moves: Earthquake, Ice Shard, Blizzard, Stone Edge, Stealth Rock, Reflect, Light Screen, Curse
Rotom-F - Rotom-F has great defensive stats, an excellent typing, and a powerful array of moves it can abuse with its decent Special Attack and Speed. Most notable of these is its Blizzard / Thunderbolt combination, which allows it to hit almost all Pokémon for neutral damage. Rotom makes a great status absorber with Rest and Sleep Talk in addition to its BoltBeam attacks, allowing it to continue to tank hits as well as absorb status for the entire team. With access to many support moves such as Will-O-Wisp, Light Screen, and Reflect, the fun doesn't stop there, making Rotom-F an excellent addition to hail teams.
Weaknesses: Ghost, Dark
Resistances: Flying, Poison, Bug, Steel, Electric, Normal (immunity), Fighting (immunity), Ground (immunity)
Useful Moves: Thunderbolt, Blizzard, Shadow Ball, Light Screen, Reflect, Light Screen, Will-O-Wisp, Rest, Sleep Talk
Swampert - Provides great Fire and Rock resistances to the team, and its good defensive stats on both sides allow it to be an efficient Tyranitar and Heatran counter. It is also one of the more reliable users of Stealth Rock, and can phaze effectively with Roar. Finally, it also makes a good status absorber with Rest and Sleep Talk.
Resistances: Poison, Rock, Steel, Fire, Electric (immunity)
Useful Moves: Stealth Rock, Roar, Blizzard, Surf, Earthquake, Rest, Sleep Talk
Froslass - An excellent Pokémon for hail teams. Not only does it block Rapid Spin from opposing Pokémon, it can set up Spikes to further hinder the foe's team. With Snow Cloak, 100% accurate attacks will miss once on average of every five attacks, and Froslass can abuse this fact with the move Substitute. It has excellent Speed and a wide movepool, allowing it to revenge kill threatening Pokémon such as Gyarados and Dragonite.
Weaknesses: Rock, Ghost, Steel, Fire, Dark
Resistances: Poison, Bug, Ice, Normal (immunity), Fighting (immunity)
Useful Moves: Spikes, Blizzard, Thunderbolt, Shadow Ball, Destiny Bond, Taunt, Trick, Substitute, Thunder Wave
Spiritomb - Great for blocking Rapid Spin and makes a good counter for Fighting-types in general. No weaknesses gives it an edge over Rotom-A, who can be an invitation to Tyranitar to come and Pursuit it to death. Spiritomb makes a great sleep absorber as well, gaining perfect coverage with Shadow Ball and Hidden Power Fighting.
Resistances: Poison, Normal (immunity), Fighting (immunity), Psychic (immunity)
Useful Moves: Shadow Ball, Hidden Power Fighting, Rest, Sleep Talk, Will-O-Wisp, Trick, Calm Mind
Starmie - Great Speed and movepool makes it a really good revenge killer. Provides a hail team with very welcome resistances to Fighting and Fire. It can also make a very effective Rapid Spinner because it is the only one that has a reliable recovery move. Natural Cure means it can switch into Toxic Spikes with little fear and spin them away.
Weaknesses: Bug, Ghost, Dark, Electric, Grass
Resistances: Fighting, Steel, Fire, Water, Ice, Psychic
Useful Moves: Rapid Spin, Recover, Blizzard, Surf, Thunderbolt, Psychic, Trick
Bronzong - Bronzong is one of the most reliable Stealth Rock users around. Blessed with a great typing, excellent defenses and a wide support movepool, Bronzong is extremely hard to take down. It provides a very useful Rock resist and Ground immunity (with Levitate), and it makes a decent Tyranitar counter.
Resistances: Normal, Flying, Rock, Steel, Grass, Psychic, Ice, Dragon, Poison (immunity), Ground (immunity with Levitate)
Useful Moves: Stealth Rock, Hypnosis, Trick, Gyro Ball, Earthquake, Light Screen, Reflect, Explosion
Forretress - Much like Tentacruel, Forretress can both Rapid Spin away your opponent's entry hazards as well as set up its own. What it has over Tentacruel, however, is its ability to set up Spikes and Stealth Rock as well as Toxic Spikes. Although Forretress amplifies a hail team's Fire weakness, it provides plenty of other resistances to the team and can take many neutral physical hits with that excellent base 140 Defense.
Resistances: Normal, Bug, Ghost, Steel, Grass, Psychic, Ice, Dragon, Dark, Poison (immunity)
Useful Moves: Rapid Spin, Toxic Spikes, Spikes, Stealth Rock, Light Screen, Gyro Ball, Earthquake, Explosion
Hariyama - Excellent Tyranitar counter. There is no Tyranitar set that can beat this guy. Thick Fat gives a Fire resistance and its Fighting-type gives a resistance to Rock. It can Knock Off Leftovers from walls to make them susceptible to hail, in addition to being able to phaze with Whirlwind. Very helpful as it gets rid off annoying Blissey who can Aromatherapy the opponent's team free of poison.
Weaknesses: Flying, Psychic
Resistances: Rock, Bug, Dark, Fire (with Thick Fat), Ice (with Thick Fat)
Useful Moves: Knock Off, Whirlwind, Revenge, Rest, Sleep Talk
Moltres - Makes a good counter to Scizor and Mixed Infernape. It completely walls Heatran. Good defensive stats and resistances to Fighting, Fire, and Ground are helpful to the team. It can Will-O-Wisp or Toxic foes to get residual damage on them and to destroy their attack. Can stall with Substitute, and self-heal with Roost. However, it adds another Stealth Rock liability and is ineffective against Tyranitar.
Weaknesses: Rock, Water, Electric
Resistances: Fighting, Grass, Bug, Steel, Fire, Ground (immunity)
Useful Moves: Will-O-Wisp, Toxic, Roost, Flamethrower, Roar, Reflect
Dugtrio - Traps and kills Tyranitar and stops it messing up your hail repeatedly. Also KOes Infernape, Breloom, and Heatran. Takes out grounded Poison-types who come in to absorb your Toxic Spikes. It also has a resistance to Rock, but terrible defenses means that something neutral to Rock could even take these attacks better than the frail Dugtrio.
Weaknesses: Grass, Water, Ice
Resistances: Poison, Rock, Electric (immunity)
Useful Moves: Earthquake, Stone Edge, Sucker Punch, Aerial Ace
Gliscor - Great Fighting resist, and very useful Ground and Electric immunities. Deals with most Tyranitar and can set up Stealth Rock. Has excellent synergy with Tentacruel and can self-heal with Roost. Its weaknesses are covered by the rest of the team. It is one of the most reliable Fighting-type counters there is, but watch out for Ice Punch or Hidden Power Ice from the likes of Fighting-types such as Lucario.
Weaknesses: Water, Ice
Resistances: Fighting, Poison, Bug, Ground (immunity), Electric (immunity)
Useful Moves: Stealth Rock, Roost, Earthquake, Stone Edge, U-turn
Machamp - Same boat as Hariyama; makes a great Tyranitar counter. Shuffles an opponent's team with DynamicPunch, and has a strong never-miss Stone Edge to deal with Flying Pokémon who are immune to Toxic Spikes. Makes a great status absorber with RestTalk set.
Weaknesses: Psychic, Flying
Resistances: Rock, Dark, Bug
Useful Moves: DynamicPunch, Stone Edge, Rest, Sleep Talk, Toxic
Zapdos - Much like Moltres, provides a good way of dealing with Scizor. Although it doesn't resist Fire, it is not quite as vulnerable to Rock compared to Moltres. It can do the Toxic SubRoost bit much like Moltres, and has a STAB Thunderbolt to help with Flying-type foes who are immune to Toxic Spikes. Can phaze with Roar. Still loses to Tyranitar, however.
Weaknesses: Rock, Ice
Resistances: Fighting, Flying, Bug, Steel, Grass, Ground (immunity)
Useful Moves: Toxic, Substitute, Roost, Thunderbolt, Heat Wave, Roar, Light Screen
Flygon - Great resistances to Rock, Fire, Electric, and an immunity to Ground. Good at dealing with Tyranitar. Can even Toxic SubRoost stall very effectively.
Weaknesses: Ice, Dragon
Resistances: Poison, Rock, Fire, Ground (immunity), Electric (immunity)
Useful Moves: Earthquake, Roost, Toxic, U-turn, Stone Edge, Draco Meteor
Glaceon - The strongest Blizzard in the game. While holding Choice Specs, this thing is deadly. Although a limited movepool hinders it somewhat, a Blizzard from Glaceon is just plain scary. It has decent defenses, and can use Wish for support if needed.
Weaknesses: Fighting, Rock, Steel, Fire
Useful Moves: Blizzard, Shadow Ball, Hidden Power Fighting, Wish, Mirror Coat
Vaporeon - Vaporeon is one of the best Wish passers in the game, and its teammate healing capabilities are extremely useful in a hail team. It has excellent HP and Special Defense, and it can be EVed to take physical attacks very well. With a choice of Surf, Hidden Power Electric, and Blizzard, Vaporeon can take on some of the biggest threats in the game such as Infernape, Gyarados, and Dragonite and come out on top.
Weaknesses: Electric, Grass
Resistances: Steel, Fire, Ice, Water (immunity)
Useful Moves: Wish, Protect, Surf, Blizzard, Hidden Power Electric, Reflect
Well, that's it. Remember, the key to any battle is to gain momentum and to retain it. Keeping a weather advantage will help you dictate the battle your way, especially since most opponents are not prepared for hail.
I hope this guide helps you see that hail is not just sandstorm's forgotten little brother, but in actual fact, a very viable and effective strategy in itself.