Featured NU Pokémon: Skuntank

By NatGeo, with advice from DTC. Art by sandshrewz.
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Like its real life counterpart, the skunk, Skuntank has never really been something fascinating to the general populace. During the previous generation, Skuntank never really did much in OU; its performance in UU was only slightly better, thanks to the increase of Ghost- and Psychic-types that it could trap—a result of going down a tier. When Skuntank was introduced, however, its counterpart Drapion outshone it in the UU metagame thanks to a better stat spread, a wider movepool, and a larger amount of feasible roles. Thus, Skuntank tended to stay in the shadows of competitive Pokémon, otherwise known as the NU tier. Even with Drapion out of the way, Skuntank struggled quite a bit in this very overlooked metagame, as several walls such as Walrein and Cradily could use Skuntank as setup fodder. In addition, weather was a major pain for Skuntank; with both Snover and Hippopotas present, Skuntank had very little room for error, due to Life Orb recoil and passive weather damage adding up quickly. However, our brave little skunk did what it did best: serving as one of the most effective means to counter the reign of terror of the fiend known as Espeon. In essence, Skuntank found its original and arguably most important niche in DP, which was to kill off any and all Ghost- or Psychic-types.

With the transition to BW, Skuntank didn't really change all too much, with the possible exception of the nerf to Explosion. Instead, it became one of those rare Cinderella stories of a Pokémon becoming better due to gradual metagame changes. Skuntank didn't see too much use during the beginning of BW NU, as most teams were more preoccupied with taking out a boosted Gorebyss than putting Musharna to a full stop. As the metagame has evened itself out, however, an increasing number of Pokémon have come to light that Skuntank can trap. In fact, as of August, Skuntank can use over a third of the 20 most used Pokémon in NU to its advantage, whether by walling them or straight up beating them. The current Neverused tier is also absolutely littered with Psychic- and Ghost-types with several different roles, but they are all united under the fact that Skuntank can trap and put them in an effective checkmate position. In addition, this generation's NU tier allows Skuntank to act as a trapper, a wallbreaker, and a utility Pokémon—it can even do many of these roles at once! Access to Taunt, an interesting defensive typing that allows it to easily switch into Psychic and Ghost-types, and a usable Special Attack stat allow it to haphazardly counter several Pokémon. Many of these only counter one of Skuntank's sets, as is the case for Probopass, which can easily beat Skuntank, but only if it isn't running a mixed set with Hidden Power Ground. As such, Skuntank is easily one of the most powerful Pokémon in this metagame.

Skuntank's Qualities

Apart from its typing, nothing really stands out about Skuntank. It has a decent base 103 HP, which is great for soaking up Life Orb recoil and resisted hits, but it doesn't really have the bulk to back that up; 103 / 67 / 71 defenses a wall does not make. Base 93 Attack is decent and definitely usable, but there are other attackers which you should be looking at if you need a sweeper. Base 71 Special Attack is also usable, thanks to its high-powered moves like Sludge Bomb and Fire Blast. 84 Speed is also interesting, as it allows Skuntank to outspeed some key players in the current metagame, most notably Absol, Braviary, and Gardevoir. While these stats may seem to put Skuntank at a disadvantage individually, Skuntank can put them to excellent use, truly becoming greater than the sum of its parts. As luck would have it, Skuntank has just the movepool it needs to dispose of any Psychic-type in the current metagame; Sucker Punch, Pursuit, and Taunt are all incredibly useful tools that Skuntank puts to excellent use. Moreover, Poison Jab and Sludge Bomb use Skuntank's Poison typing well on the battlefield, as they can hit most of NU for at least neutral damage. In addition, access to Sucker Punch gives Skuntank the ability to revenge kill almost anything in the metagame with a little bit of prior damage. Said damage can come from the rare ability Aftermath, which forms a deadly revenge killing tactic in conjunction with Sucker Punch. Aftermath is also very useful if you want to weaken a certain Pokémon by dying while it's on the field. Stench, while not as useful as Aftermath is, can also be fun to use because of its 10% flinch rate. All of these rather interesting qualities come together to show what Skuntank really is: a highly useful utility Pokémon, capable of dealing with many of the biggest threats in today's metagame.

Playing with Skuntank

Just as the skunk scrounges around in the forest, thriving and spraying large predators, Skuntank thrives on several types of teams, though bulkier teams are really where Skuntank tends to work best. Many of the heavy hitters on bulky offense teams duly appreciate Skuntank's trapping abilities, while hyper offense teams generally don't, forcing Skuntank out in favor of more powerful Pokémon like Absol. Here's another big question you need to ask yourself if you want to use Skuntank: do I need to trap Psychic- and Ghost-types? If you said yes to that question, then Skuntank is probably going to do you a world of good; there is no Psychic-type in NU that Skuntank doesn't trap, even if they carry Hidden Power Ground to ward it off, like Musharna does. All of them are going down depending on what you use. Additionally, every single Ghost-type falls to Skuntank depending on the variation, but watch out for Will-O-Wisp on the switch or an Earthquake from Golurk. However, even if you answered no to the last question, there is still reason to use Skuntank! It runs a mighty mixed set, which has risen in popularity dramatically over the past several months. This is all due to Skuntank's decent Special Attack stat, which it puts to good use by eliminating common physical walls such as Tangela, Carracosta, and Probopass. This gives you all the more reason to use Skuntank on your team, especially if you have Pokémon that appreciate either Skuntank's trapping capabilities or its wallbreaker set.

Each of Skuntank's sets is defined by the choices that you, the player, make for its set. In fact, there are quite a few different variations of Skuntank's sets that work. On the trapper set, Leftovers sees use to take advantage of Skuntank's usable bulk, while Dread Plate is a very interesting option to increase the power of Skuntank's Dark-type moves without causing recoil. It works very well on variations of the trapper set that don't run Poison Jab, but instead use only Crunch, Sucker Punch, Pursuit, and Taunt. Life Orb and Lum Berry are also viable alternatives. Life Orb gives Skuntank's weak attacks an extra punch while Lum Berry allows Skuntank to switch into Will-O-Wisp from the likes of Misdreavus without being crippled. Use whichever item that fits your needs best. On either the trapper or wallbreaker sets, Skuntank isn't usually investing in Speed; this is because it can usually outspeed all the targets it needs to with only about 36 EVs and a neutral nature. Incidentally, this allows you to either increase Skuntank's bulk like on the trapper set, or, if you're using the wallbreaker set, go ahead and heavily invest in both attacking stats. Both sets still work phenomenally with some Speed investment, however,as Skuntank sits at a really interesting Speed tier that allows it to outspeed many dangerous threats, such as Calm Mind Gardevoir, Ludicolo before Swift Swim activates, and Choice Band Braviary. All of these can be taken out by a well-timed Crunch or Poison Jab along with a little bit of hazards damage.

Playing against Skuntank

Honestly, the best way to beat Skuntank is to hit it. Hard. Hit Skuntank with something really strong and it will die, simple as that. This is simply because there are very few defensive counters to Skuntank, and those few Pokémon that Skuntank can't really touch are all put in a checkmate position by something else that's relatively common. As an example, the Probopass I mentioned earlier can take on Skuntank without Hidden Power Ground, but if Sawk or Gurdurr are in the wings it can't do much of anything. Ground-types and Ground-type attacks are your best bet against most Skuntank, as most of them can at least take a Hidden Power Grass to the face and KO with either Earthquake or Earth Power. Piloswine is a cool option, as Eviolite variants can force Skuntank out with Earthquake while easily tanking a Hidden Power Grass. Arbok is another really cool example; it absolutely loves to come in on a Poison Jab and stop Skuntank with Intimidate. From there, Skuntank has only three options: eat an Earthquake to the face, Taunt the incoming Coil and still possibly eat an Earthquake to the face, or switch out and let a teammate take an Earthquake or a boosted Arbok. These two are just offensive examples. Defensively speaking, Steel-types are some of the few counters to most Skuntank sets, as they resist one of Skuntank's STABs and are immune to the other. Skuntank can't even touch them unless it carries Hidden Power Ground, which it can rarely afford to carry. Thus, offensive Steel-types are good checks to Skuntank. Offensive Air Balloon Probopass is a cool set that almost completely counters Skuntank, and absolutely demolishes it with Earth Power. However, a word of caution: all of the aforementioned Pokémon should at least be relatively healthy, because if they aren't, there is the very real possibility of Sucker Punch damage combining with Aftermath to make them faint. That said, Skuntank has several move variations from which to choose from, so if you lack a solid counter to Skuntank, scouting out its set can be very helpful. This can be done by bringing in one Pokémon which Skuntank beats with one set but not the other, then switching out to a Pokémon with the opposite situation at hand. Once you know Skuntank's set, you can work from there to take it down.

Fitting Skuntank onto your team

First and foremost, Skuntank works best on teams that are weak to Psychic- and/or Ghost-types before Skuntank's introduction on the team, due to the fact that it checks both of them very effectively. Heck, even if you need just a general user of Pursuit or Sucker Punch, look no further; Skuntank's got your back. Speaking of utility, Skuntank is one of the few offensive Poison-types in the NU metagame, meaning that it is one of the few Pokémon that can absorb Toxic Spikes, but also fit on offensive teams. Skuntank also makes a great component in one of the popular Psychic / Fighting / Dark cores. For example, the combination of Musharna, Gurdurr, and Skuntank is an incredibly effective core; its components can take care of the problems facing the other parts of it, allowing one of the three Pokémon to clean up the rest of the opponent's team. Aside from what has been said already, Skuntank really isn't too difficult to place on any sort of bulky offense team. It's one of those rare Pokémon that you can put as an afterthought in the 6th slot and have it pull its weight every match. Skuntank doesn't even need that much support; it is the support! It functions well on its own, though if anything, it appreciates entry hazards on the opponent's side of the field. But doesn't every offensive Pokémon like that?

Get out there!

Skuntank is a really interesting Pokémon and it's very fun to use against all types of teams. Its effect on the NU metagame can easily be seen by the number of Psychic- and Ghost-types using Hidden Power Ground just to nail it. It's one of the best Pokémon in NU, and it will almost always do something important in a match. If you can get over the smell, of course.

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