insert stupid moleman joke
several years ago, I used to be very outspoken in how much I thought BW was terrible, even as a player of it. Then, when trying for another Smogon Tour win, I decided to get over myself and just roll with it, and found that when not overly worrying about all the broken stuff, it was actually a very fun and balanced tier. My results since then hopefully speak for themselves and give me some credibility in this thread. They show that I'm no stranger to getting over myself and dealing with busted Pokes--Latios, Garchomp, Keldeo, Alakazam, Breloom, all kinds of rain, Kyurem-B, you name it. However, the reason for this thread is because there is one busted Pokemon whose power is so great that I believe it throws the tier out of whack. Those other Pokemon make BW what it is; there is a balance in their strength. This Pokemon, howver, does not contribute to balance. This Pokemon is Excadrill.
I believe Excadrill contributes to a volatility of BW that I don't think was there when people didn't realize what it was capable of rather than helping (this balance could be seen throughout the entire year of 2016). Tyranitar is so necessary in BW to keep threats like Latios, Alakazam and rain as well as a few of its threats in line. These threats did not need to be bolstered by being partnered with an arguably broken Pokemon.
Against a rain offense team, the sand user must either contend with letting rain's various boosts go uncontested--hardly a desirable prospect--or face what is basically an uber. Yes this applies for Kingdra against rain too; however, Kingdra is much more manageable with rain's tactics (Ferrothorn + Water immunes + hell, Keldeo) and is a much worse Pokemon than Excadrill. There's a reason Excadrill is being used by the best players in tournament games and Kingdra almost never makes appearances.
It is nearly impossible to counter Excadrill safely, and to make matters worse its Rapid Spin often resets or nullifies any pressure the sand team is able to exert on the rain team. This was one of the reasons for its ban. Speaking of, it's still ridiculous to face for the same reasons it was banned to begin with; you must go entirely defensive to defeat it. Plus, with Iron Head, even this becomes an enormous task; look at the calculations against Landorus-T and Gliscor, then remember it runs Air Balloon so that must be broken first. Even Superpower variants of Landorus-T (as if this would be an argument against even if they weren't rarer, but still) lose 30% of the time, and we all know how powerful 30% is in Pokemon. Even Tangrowth gets 2HKOed and it can hardly do anything back (hitting Sleep Powder through Iron flinch, good luck with that, and it doesn't exactly damage it very much). Slowbro seems like a pretty decent counter but Scald does 68-80. Even Surf doesn't KO with SR up. Look at these counters and how they pair with SubToxic Toxicroak btw so the sand team tends to be really fucked. I haven't mentioned Rotom yet and it's alright but it gets worn down uncomfortably fast with Sand + SR and doesn't have great recovery. Also, Rapid Spin, there goes a major source of your pressure. SR shouldn't be free but it is a crucial part of dealing with ridiculously brutal threats and Exca makes it too easy to wipe out your work in getting it.
I think matchup claims in BW are overblown (and no longer commonplace, thankfully) but Excadrill's effects on the metagame cannot be seen any other way. By not running Tyranitar in order to not be throttled by Excadrill, I am leaving myself ridiculously open to a massive amount of threats that are probably overpowered otherwise. BW needs the option of Tyranitar and its permanent sand to be viable and not one Excadrill away from being at a massive disadvantage. A rain team with Excadrill + Scarf Keldeo threatens to clean you up no matter the weather.
I'm not speaking solely as a "I want to spam sand balance mindlessly in peace" kind of guy. I love being able to use different kinds of Pokemon and playstyles, but I also prioritize being able to handle the biggest threats in the tier. Tyranitar is an enormous part of handling those threats and Excadrill makes those huge threats even stronger to a ridiculous degree. Whenever I bring a non-sand team to a battle it's nice not having a slow Fighting/Ground weak Poke but it's largely outweighed by the fact that Latios is going to run circles around me, Zam is going to get a lot harder to beat, rain is going to have its free water boost (which means Scald for example turns into a 100% 24 PP 30% burning Hydro Pump, and SpecsToed Hydro outdamages Specs Latios' Draco Meteor) and fire resistance and Dry Skin and Rain Dish and 100% Hurricane and what have you. It's alright to bring these kinds of teams some of the time of course but I do not think the rock-papers-scissors factor of how Excadrill makes having a way to deal with the scariest aspects of the tier into a liability is good for the metagame. It actually increases the matchup element; nothing else has the "pick what you'd rather counter, and whatever you miss out on is nearly uber-level of power so have fun with that" factor that Exca does. It enables too much and if you pack a counter to the Pokemon it makes scary, then it will beat you itself.
That's not the only thing Excadrill can do, though. A sand team can abuse Sand Force Drill which, with a Scarf set, absolutely tears anything non-bulky to shreds, and is no slouch against defense because even though it being Scarf means it won't be a one-mon-army, it has Rapid Spin and still threatens an absurd amount of Pokemon.
The BW metagame was fine, competitive and interesting before it was realized how stupid Excadrill's offensive capabilities were. We are not going to lose anything enormous here by getting rid of the sand-abusing abilities on it, and we can have a viable spinner still around with Mold Breaker. I've used dice's SpDef set and it's a great Pokemon so I have confidence it'd be used plenty for those teams that want a spinner. Plus, MB ScarfDrill gets a very solid amount of use in ORAS, and there's plenty of Latios to threaten with Earthquake here as well.
The problems seen with the tier at the time of unbanning were Sun and the impossibility of spinning (which led to a lot of Reuniclus wars). The Reun problem largely solved itself not because of Excadrill's spinning abilities, but because people started using much better offensive teams (that don't feature Excadrill), whereas defensive teams evolved to counter it (you can look at Reun's usage/performances in the last few big tournaments to see this at work). Sand teams did not have some great need to be nerfed, they were and still are a pillar of the BW metagame. Without Tyranitar's sand, that's where BW really starts to become a clusterfuck, as opposed to the balanced metagame we've known for quite a while when Excadrill isn't pulling its sand abuse antics. It's been showing itself to be incredible for a while now. Feel free to tell me how I just need to get creative when handling this Pokemon but that's one of the biggest copouts ever in these matters. I can replace your "Excadrill" in "just be creative in finding ways to deal with Excadrill" with "Genesect" and everyone'd call me insane but that argument can be used for everything and it doesn't actually mean anything which is why it's so frustrating when discussions like these have it thrown around. It's basically a very polite "no fuck you" if you'd prefer to think of it that way. Oh sure, there can be good, interesting battles with Excadrill, it's not some Deoxys or Rayquaza that outruns and OHKOs everything. However, ubers do not need to do that in order to be uber. If that's the case, we have a Landorus-I to free.
As far as solutions go, I'm not sure, but I think I'd ban Sand Rush + Sand Force outright. Sandslash is no loss, Stoutland is already gone, Sand Force Hippowdon was cute on like 2 teams about 4 years ago but Hippo itself is barely used now and it wouldn't be a loss. I think MB Exca is a very good addition to the tier for its traits that can be seen on full display in ORAS, it's the sand-abusing nonsense that I believe has no place in BW. Going back to the pre-Excadrill metagame is also an option; Latios and Scarf Garchomp were not nearly as widely used then as they are now, and sun often got nearly singlehandedly destroyed by them. Venusaur in sun was horribly broken, but working around sun (as is done on occasion even now) is much better than Excadrill. It would not be my first choice, but I'd prefer it to Excadrill running rampant, as I believe the matchup issues he causes are much, much harder to work around than Sun (although I think getting rid of Venu antics was a great step for BW; again, not my first choice, getting rid of the Sand-abusing abilities'd be preferred by far if there's no more elegant solution).
PS if you say "be creative and stop trying to use safe sand balance for free wins" I will laugh in your face because 1) lol alright man whatever you say 2) you've either missed the point or 3) think that real rock-paper-scissors elements are good for metagames and prefer to win by trying to counterteam the hell out of people, which is a clearly Great and Consistent strategy. Excadrill throws shit outta wack. Also Skarmory is not a counter unless Rocky Helmet which cuts into its survivability and Rapid Spin will still clean the playing field for Exca's terrifying teammates when those hazards (mainly SR since Thund and Torn and Gyara don't give a fuck about Spikes) were a huge part of wearing away at them. You have to stack counters and Exca is still going to mess with one of them depending on how you respond (SD on switch against SR Land + Skarm with rocks up; if switch to Skarm, Spin and switch as its Spikes barely do anything, if switch to Lando, Iron Head for the 2HKO as it can only break Balloon and then you're free from there). Starmie could do this for rain but wasn't impossible to outspeed with anything short of Scarf Deo-S and Tentacruel was good too but not immovable if you cut off its rain. They were alright at it. Again, Exca'd be a fine tool if it didn't also (threaten to) utterly crush the sand team in the process, which is why I think strictly Mold Breaker should be allowed (or Sand Force + Sand Stream banned with a pure Sand Rush ban, that'd probably work too). The strain sand-abusing Exca sets put on sand teams (who have enough to contend with already) is enormous and not healthy for the metagame, in my opinion.
Last thing, if only Sand Rush were to be looked at, that'd be fine by me. Sand Force is still silly and I stand by it being too strong but Rush is the thing really straining the meta.
I have spoken to many BWers about this and they agree Excadrill's sand abuse is definitely a problem, or worth looking at at the very least, in case you were afraid this was just one guy's rambling.
Statistics, courtesy of Ciele: