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Water has always been an outstanding type, from Starmie in Generation 1 to Jellicent in Generation 5. Its resistances to popular attacking types such as Water, Ice, and Fire are indispensable, and with only two weaknesses (one of which isn't especially common), Water is in a class of its own. It also helps that it's got some of the best attacking moves, such as Surf, Hydro Pump, Waterfall, and the new rage-inducing Scald. On top of that, pretty much every tier is inundated with excellent Water-types due to the sheer mass of available Water-types in the games.
You can't really mention Water-types without mentioning Politoed, who underwent a massive transformation from zero to hero in Generation 5. With Drizzle's permanent rain-inducing ability, and Politoed being the only OU-legal carrier of the ability, it's clear why it has quickly shot up the ranks to become the most popular Water-type in OU. However, outside of Drizzle, it's not completely awful. 70 base Speed is enough for a Scarf set, and while its 90 base Special Attack is fairly lacking, it can (and definitely does) fall back on the fact that its rain-boosted STABs are incredibly powerful. A Choice Specs set highlights this even more, as it's capable of busting up all but the most defensive walls that resist Politoed's STAB attacks, making it incredibly hard to switch into. It can also go the longevity route, leveraging its solid 90 / 75 / 100 defenses and decent support movepool. With a STAB rain-boosted Scald, Perish Song, Hypnosis, Encore, and Haze, it can not only drown the opponent, but annoy the hell out of them too!
Jellicent is the only notable Gen 5 Water-type to join the OU crew as of yet (still waiting on you, Keldeo!), but it definitely does not disappoint. Its unique Water / Ghost typing makes it an excellent defensive Pokemon, especially when you factor in its 100 / 70 / 105 defenses, Recover, and Water Absorb. It's also one of the few Pokemon able to legitimately spinblock, as other than Starmie it really doesn't worry about any of the major Rapid Spin users. If Scald isn't reliable enough for you, it has even got Will-O-Wisp for guaranteed burn. Jellicent can also mount an offense with its decent base 85 Special Attack and a wide offensive movepool including Shadow Ball, Hex, Scald, Surf, Water Spout, Ice Beam, and Energy Ball. It's even got Taunt, making it one of the premier stallbreakers (at least for a while) in the metagame.
While not technically new, Rotom-W has left its ghastly ways behind and rejoined the land of the living... as a Water-type! With a rare and awesome typing of Water / Electric (with Levitate), Rotom-W is even more capable of performing its duties on teams now. While it lost the ability to spinblock, as well as its resistances to Fighting-, Electric-, Bug-, and Poison-type attacks (who cares), it's gained a lot of important traits to make up for the loss. Hydro Pump getting STAB is one of the big ones, as Rotom-W is now more than capable of busting up walls with a rain-boosted Hydro Pump. This is especially supported by the ability to reliably use Thunder, or use Volt Switch to race around all over the place. Furthermore, it's still got Will-O-Wisp, making it one of the few non-Ghost or Fire-type Pokemon to learn it. It's still got those great 50 / 107 / 107 defenses as well, and it's definitely found its place in pretty much every team style there is.
Offensively, Cloyster is a real fiend, as Shell Smash only takes one turn to turn it into an unstoppable killing machine. It has even got a reliable form of physical Water-type STAB in the form of Shell Blade, a Water-type Crush Claw, but who cares about that when it's rocking a guaranteed 125 Base Power on the new and improved Icicle Spear. Its monstrous base 180 Defense is enough to make it easy to switch in and set up, and base 70 Speed is just enough to make it work. Just keep it away from Thunderbolts.
Gastrodon is another major Pokemon that went from NU to OU in a flash. The big draw is that Storm Drain, which was previously a godawful ability that served no purpose in singles, became pretty much one of the most useful things to have in OU. Its ability to single-handedly shut down many rain abusers through its immunities to Water- and Electric-type attacks makes it a great staple on defensive or balanced teams, and while it still doesn't have Stealth Rock or Roar like its cousin Swampert, it also hardly needs them. Recover is excellent, especially with its 111 / 68 / 82 defenses and awesome typing (hooray for only one uncommon weakness), and with base 92 Special Attack, it can dent stuff with Scald, Earth Power, and Ice Beam. It can also spread Toxic if one wishes, or even take a swing at offense with a Curse or Choice Specs set. All in all, an immunity to one of the scariest attacking types in the game has made Gastrodon a prime contender among top-tier Water-types.
There are a couple of Pokemon that still make a living in OU, but haven't really gotten anything special. Swampert's still around, but with harsh competition from Gastrodon as well as the general power creep of the generation, it's not nearly the star it was at times before. Still, it has got a great dual STAB, and with rain support, it's still an excellent Choice Band user. Starmie's still a top Water-type, and it finds itself in an opportune Speed tier, outspeeding Latias and Latios, Gengar, and Tornadus just to name a few. It can also abuse rain for Hydro Pump and Thunder, giving it a little more teeth. Gyarados is as scary as ever, though Dragon Tail makes its defensive sets even more annoying. Offensively, it hasn't changed much. While Moxie seems somewhat interesting, it is unreliable compared to the proven power of Intimidate, and once Gyarados gets that first kill, sometimes it's a foregone conclusion anyway. Rain does make it a hell of a lot scarier for teams without a hard counter, though. Tentacruel picked up Rain Dish, making it a much better Pokemon with Politoed support, and Toxic Spikes can really cause hell for teams that don't pack a Rapid Spin user or a Poison-type. Sharpedo is still frail and annoying, but now it's also blindingly fast with Speed Boost. Finally, Vaporeon's rocking with its cool new ability, Hydration. While this makes it much more weather-reliant, it provides it with reliable one-turn recovery, and can also combine with Life Orb on an offensive set to create a destructive force that gives just as good as it gets. Considering how hard STAB Hydro Pump from 110 base Special Attack in the rain hits, that's one hell of a feat.
Suicune's pretty much the same as it ever was, except now it's even more infuriating due to Scald. You thought Suicune was hard to kill after a couple of Calm Minds before? Try now, when your physical attackers get burned on the way in by an opportune Scald. Slowbro's a real champ now, as Regenerator allows it to switch in, do its business, and switch out without really having to worry about healing up, since its new ability does the job for it automatically. Milotic's still solid, and now it's got a phazing option in Dragon Tail, which makes it even more harder to take down. Plus, it can switch into Scalds without real worry, since all burn does is weaken an already weak unSTABed attack and activate Marvel Scale. Quagsire's stats still aren't all that hot, but now it's got Unaware, making it the ultimate counter to setup sweepers looking to plow through stall teams. It's also got Recover and Curse, meaning that Curse variants can sweep straight through unassuming teams if they happen to lack a strong effective special attacker.
Offensively, there are a couple of wonders. Azumarill is still fun, with its 438 Attack and STAB Aqua Jet, but there's just too many Pokemon that have their way with it around. It's mighty hard for it to break through anything packing a Water-type resistance, and doubly so for Pokemon like Slowbro who don't have to deal with Superpower either. Still, it can be terrifying for offensive teams, especially those relying on fast Pokemon weak to Water-type attacks for sweeping.
Kingdra's still extremely lethal, with its potent combination of bulk and offense letting it thrive in the metagame. Capable of threatening both physically and specially, and doing so with plenty of concrete durability, it's tough to take down a bulky Kingdra after it has gotten a couple of Dragon Dances. It can even run a defensive set, with STAB Scald and RestTalk. However, it'll always be most potent as a crushing attacker, ready to exploit any team not ready for its powerful Water / Dragon STAB combination.
There are a few other niche stars, like Poliwrath. Unlike its brother, Politoed, Poliwrath got Swift Swim from Dream World, making it a sad panda indeed. That said, it also picked up some other fun benefits, not the least of which is Circle Throw. Having a STAB phazing move that does damage while it exercises utility is great for it, and it can use it for supporting sets with Scald and Encore as well as offensive sets with Bulk Up. Water Absorb is also pretty neat, as anything that stops Scald shenanigans is automatically great.
Waterfall – 80 Base Power – 100% Accuracy – 20% chance to cause the opponent to flinch
Reliable power and a 20% chance to muscle past annoying counters makes Waterfall the go-to move of choice for physical attackers such as Gyarados, Kingdra, Azumarill, and Feraligatr. While it may not boast the offensive power of Outrage, Waterfall has excellent coverage, and is easy to support.
Aqua Tail – 90 Base Power – 90% Accuracy – No secondary effect
The physical "Power for Accuracy" move, Aqua Tail comes in handy any time that a "little boost" is required. While the extra power can come in handy, the lack of flinch chance and imperfect accuracy can cause issues, and as such, is rarely suggested as a primary attack.
Aqua Jet – 40 Base Power – 100% Accuracy – +1 Priority
The only Water-type priority move, and a very solid one at that, Aqua Jet singlehandedly made Azumarill a star in OU for a while, and is still fairly useful at times. Unfortunately, most physical Water-types are too busy Dragon Dancing to care too much about Aqua Jet and its low Base Power.
Scald - 80 Base Power - 100% Accuracy - 30% chance to Burn
"Hey guys, let's make Lava Plume, except with a type that Fire-types can't switch into at all! Let's also give it to every Pokemon of that type ever!" While whoever made Scald a reality must truly be a sadist, it's undeniable that Scald has had a lasting effect on the metagame. It's become a staple move for every defensive Water-type in the game, and is probably the biggest cause of hax rage after it burns 5 out of 6 Pokemon on a team.
Surf – 95 Base Power – 100% Accuracy – No secondary effect
The special "reliable power" attack, Surf has always been a standby for nearly every Water-type. Its combination of power and accuracy makes it hard to argue against, and pretty much every single Water-type gets it. Rain's boost makes it much more appealing for Pokemon without STAB on it, such as Dragonite, Latias, and Hydreigon, as it's a pretty useful neutral coverage move.
Hydro Pump – 120 Base Power – 80% Accuracy – No secondary effect
While the whole "20% chance to completely screw the user" thing doesn't say much for it, the raw power of Hydro Pump is undeniable. It provides Pokemon such as Politoed and Rotom-W with the force needed to muscle through opponents, and is by far the scariest aspect of Starmie.
Water Spout – 150 Base Power – 100% Accuracy – Base Power is User's HP% x 1.5
As the signature attack of Kyogre (and Wailord!), Water Spout is absolutely brutal when the user is at full HP. While its uses outside of full HP are limited at best, and its distribution kind of sucks, its pure potential damage is devastating, and switching into a rain-boosted STAB Specs Water Spout from Kyogre without an immunity is one of the most frightening and nigh-impossible things to do in the entirety of Pokemon. Unfortunately, not a lot of Pokemon can really make use of it outside of OU, so Ubers is the only real place you'll see it.
Rain Dance – --% Accuracy – Starts a rainstorm for 5 turns
What used to be an invaluable support skill for rain teams now exists mostly as a relic for people that want to have a go at Swift Swim abuse. It still sees some use on Tornadus in OU though, as priority Rain Dance is nice for when Politoed unexpectedly bites the dust.
With pretty much every metagame ever flooded with awesome Water-type Pokemon, it is clear that Water has had an incredible impact on the game as a whole. There's a reason that "bulky Water" has become such a recognizable phrase in Pokemon, and it's not uncommon to see two or three Water-types on a team (especially with Politoed supporting so many). They're just that good.
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