Cranidos must have inherited some of the power from the meteor that rendered other dinosaurs extinct, because he certainly hits like one. Cranidos's insane base 125 Attack is the highest in Little Cup, and with powerful moves like Earthquake, Stone Edge, and Head Smash backing it up, he is one of the hardest hitters in Little Cup. Cranidos's main problem is that he's weak to three of the most common priority moves in Little Cup: Vacuum Wave, Aqua Jet, and Bullet Punch. Those average defenses won't protect him from an onslaught of super effective priority moves, which is why it is best to either keep Cranidos hidden until your opponent has revealed their team, or to use a hit-and-run strategy instead.
Choice Scarf Cranidos is one of the most powerful revenge killers and hit-and-run attackers in the metagame thanks to his excellent ability, Mold Breaker.
Head Smash is one of the most powerful physical attacks in Little Cup, capable of OHKOing defensive juggernauts such as maximum HP Gligar 74% of the time when Stealth Rock is in play. Head Smash's sheer power makes it your main STAB move, at least for a while—Cranidos will be racking up a lot of recoil damage from Head Smash. Stone Edge does not suffer from recoil and is generally the safer move to use for Cranidos when his health starts to drop. Earthquake provides great coverage alongside Cranidos's Rock-type STAB, and due to Mold Breaker, common Levitate users such as Bronzor and Gastly will find themselves unable to take advantage of Cranidos being locked into it. This allows Cranidos to abuse Earthquake near endlessly, only fearing a Flying-type switch-in, which is an unlikely situation given the threat of switching into Cranidos's STAB Rock-type attacks. Zen Headbutt rounds off the set, hitting Fighting-types such as Machop harder than the other moves.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
While Choice Scarf is good for hit-and-run attacking and revenge killing, Rock Polish Cranidos is great late-game when Pokemon like Croagunk and Carvanha have been removed from play. With 15 Speed, Cranidos outspeeds every Choice Scarf user except for three - Elekid, Diglett, and Voltorb - all of whom Cranidos ties with after a Rock Polish.
Rock Polish boosts Cranidos's Speed to the point where he can be can be an effective sweeper. Stone Edge is Cranidos's main STAB move, which does a large chunk of damage factoring in Cranidos's 24 Attack stat. Earthquake provides good coverage with Cranidos's Rock-type STAB moves, and with Mold Breaker, it can be used to OHKO Gastly, Koffing, and Bronzor. The last option is a toss-up. Zen Headbutt is great for hitting Machop super effectively. Ice Beam can be used for more reliable damage on Gligar, especially in sandstorm, where Sand Veil and unreliable accuracy make Stone Edge a poor choice. Crunch is used to hit Duskull for an OHKO, although a weakened Duskull can be KOed easily by Stone Edge.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Cranidos isn't exactly "slow", but he reaches a low enough Speed to function well in Trick Room. Priority moves still go first in Trick Room, so Cranidos still has to worry about moves like Vacuum Wave and Bullet Punch.
Stone Edge is your main STAB move. While it may not be as strong as Head Smash, Life Orb and Head Smash recoil add up very quickly, which makes it an inferior option. Earthquake gets the famous EdgeQuake coverage, and is the perfect choice for Cranidos's second moveslot. Zen Headbutt scores an OHKO on Machop, who can threaten Cranidos with Bullet Punch and DynamicPunch. Many options can be used in the last moveslot. Ice Beam can be used to OHKO Gligar with Stealth Rock up. Head Smash can also OHKO defensive Gligar, and is a great move to use when Trick Room is ending so Cranidos can go kamikaze and KO himself and the opponent; with a double KO, you can switch to your next Pokemon to set up Trick Room without switching into an attack. Swords Dance is kind of a gamble, but the payoff is huge; every Pokemon in Little Cup is OHKOed by one of Cranidos's moves after a boost. However, Trick Room means you only have about 3 turns to attack with that boost before it wears off. Crunch OHKOes Duskull, who could otherwise threaten Cranidos with Will-O-Wisp.Team Options & Additional Comments >>>
Rock Slide can be used as Cranidos's main STAB move if you are worried about Stone Edge and Head Smash's accuracy. A normal Swords Dance or Swords Dance + Rock Polish set could have potential, but Swords Dance Cranidos is rather slow and it is tough finding time to set up both Swords Dance and Rock Polish. Fire Punch and ThunderPunch may look appealing, but STAB Stone Edge is as strong as a super effective ThunderPunch or Fire Punch. Pursuit has the merit of catching fleeing Pokemon, which is quite common since frail Pokemon will rarely want to stay in on Cranidos, especially Choice Scarf variants. Choice Band Cranidos is ridiculously strong, but its poor Speed makes it tough to use. The best way to use it would be to pay homage to RBY and try to paralyze the opponent's team. Due to Cranidos's frailty, Focus Sash is a great item to use if you can keep entry hazards and Hail away.
Cranidos also has an excellent special movepool, but if you are using any special attack other than Ice Beam on Cranidos, you are using it incorrectly. Swagger could be used for an interesting Swaggersaurus set, but Swagger is a poor move in Little Cup. Lastly, Cranidos does get Stealth Rock, but there are better Rock-types for setting up Stealth Rock.
Checks and Counters
Trying to counter Cranidos comes with the immediate problem of switching into someone with the same base Attack stat as Gyarados. Against Choice Scarf Cranidos, Bronzor can switch into Zen Headbutt or Stone Edge without taking much damage and threaten Cranidos with Flash Cannon or Earthquake. Gligar and other Flying-types can switch in on Earthquake without taking any damage and force Cranidos to switch. There are very few Pokemon, however, who can safely switch into Head Smash. Phanpy and Hippopotas are on the top of that short list, and can threaten Cranidos with Earthquake. Rock Polish Cranidos is pretty much only countered by bulky Ground-types, but even they have to watch out for Ice Beam. Machop can work if Cranidos isn't running Zen Headbutt. Trick Room Cranidos can be countered by Hippopotas and Phanpy, although they need to watch out for Ice Beam and Swords Dance-boosted Earthquakes.
Revenge killing Cranidos is much easier than switching into him. Croagunk's Vacuum Wave does a number to Cranidos. Be careful if sandstorm is brewing, since Cranidos can survive and OHKO with Earthquake or Zen Headbutt. Magby can KO Cranidos with Mach Punch, and Machop can use Bullet Punch. Buizel, Totodile, Carvanha, and Kabuto can all OHKO Cranidos with Aqua Jet after Stealth Rock damage. Faster Choice Scarf users, like Mankey, can revenge kill the Choice Scarf set.