Just Deserts: A Taste of Sand in Little Cup

By Elevator Music. Art by elcheeso.
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In Little Cup, one of the most prevalent and infamous team archetypes is sand, and it garners a lot of hate. Sand is indeed a great archetype, and somewhat centralizing as well, which is why it is so hated. At its most basic level, sand teams are comprised of Hippopotas and Drilbur, but a number of Pokemon benefit from either the Special Defense boost Sandstorm gives Rock-types, or the passive damage it inflicts on most Pokemon every turn. When people refer to sand being good however, they're almost always talking about how potent Drilbur is when sandstorm is up. In sandstorm, Drilbur's Sand Rush ability activates, and combined with its high Attack stat, strong STAB move, good coverage, and access to Swords Dance, it can be a huge menace. Drilbur easily outspeeds everything, even the fastest Choice Scarf Pokemon, and will wreck teams that aren't prepared. A good sand team will support Drilbur by trying to wear down and remove the few obstacles it can't overcome.

Common Sand Abusers

As just mentioned, Drilbur is without a doubt the most threatening Pokemon sand teams run. Drilbur hits 19 Attack, which it can further boost with Swords Dance, and will outspeed every Pokemon due to its Sand Rush ability, even if they use a Choice Scarf. It gets just the right coverage to go with Earthquake in the form of Rock Slide and X-Scissor and can also run Protect to stop Fake Out from wearing it down. Drilbur can also support its team while still being a threat with a Life Orb set that has Rapid Spin, allowing it to effortlessly revenge kill and keep the field clear of entry hazards. There are very few ways to take out Drilbur in sand once set up, and it is by far the best weapon in a sand team's arsenal.

Aside from Hippopotas, which is necessary for sandstorm, and Drilbur, which almost every sand team is built around, there are a number of Pokemon that function especially well on sand teams. One of the most common Pokemon is Lileep, which sees use on a large portion of sand teams. Lileep is very bulky and useful even on non-sand teams, but with sandstorm up its walling ability skyrockets due to the Special Defense boost it gains. Lileep's biggest draw outside of its general bulk lies in Storm Drain, which allows it to effortless switch in on the Water-types that would otherwise threaten sand. Additionally, it has access to Recover, giving it incredible longevity. There are only a handful of special attackers that can take out Lileep in sandstorm.

If Lileep isn't your cup of tea however, Ferroseed can be used instead. Its Grass typing lets it perform a similar role to Lileep, and it can also set up Spikes and use Leech Seed to further wear down Pokemon for Drilbur. Ferroseed gets neither the reliable recovery nor the Special Defense boost from sandstorm that Lileep does, but its slightly different set of resistances and Iron Barbs can be more useful to some teams. It also appreciates the passive damage from sandstorm, which, in tandem with the Ferroseed's entry hazards and other passive damage from Leech Seed and Iron Barbs, can quickly wear down the opposition.

Tirtouga is an interesting Pokemon, as it runs two very distinct sets. Its offensive Shell Smash set can provide sand teams with another powerful offensive Pokemon, while its defensive set can wall several big threats and provide support in the form of Knock Off and Toxic, which can be a huge help for Drilbur. The offensive set can use the Special Defense boost sand provides to help it set up and also use the passive damage to nab KOes. On the other hand the defensive set can be very tricky to take down due to the Special Defense boost, possible burns from Scald, and Solid Rock, and can use the passive damage to stall out foes in conjunction with Protect and Toxic or Scald burns.

"Double Rush" is a style of offensive sand that involves using not only Drilbur, but also Sand Rush Sandshrew. With both Drilbur and Sandshrew, one Pokemon can be used to lure out and weaken the checks to the other so that the second Sand Rush Pokemon can sweep. This can be a very difficult tactic to stop if it isn't adequately prepared for, and is a major reason that people dislike sand. The downside of using Sandshrew is that your team is then comprised of three mono Ground-type Pokemon, which is a huge disadvantage in a metagame where type synergy is so important. The other three Pokemon need to be able to cover the threats that Hippopotas, Drilbur, and Sandshrew can't, and should also try to provide setup opportunities for Drilbur and Sandshrew. This can be extremely difficult to do, but also extremely effective if done right.

There are plenty of other Pokemon that can take advantage of the passive damage sandstorm provides. Defensive Pokemon with an immunity to sandstorm, such as Overcoat Vullaby and Shelmet, can use it to help stall; these Pokemon can also provide resistances that aren't commonly found on sand teams, which is helpful, as well as Knock Off, Toxic, or Spikes support. Alternatively, running offensive Pokemon that can use the passive damage to nab KOes is also effective. SubRoost Murkrow, for example, can use the damage to wear down some of its checks before finishing them off with Sucker Punch or Brave Bird. Likewise, Mienfoo can recover off the damage it receives from sandstorm with Regenerator, but whatever Pokemon comes in to wall it will have to continually eat damage from sandstorm (and possibly U-turn).

Methods of Dealing With Sand

Snover is the biggest threat to sand, as, with its Snow Warning ability it can remove sandstorm. Additionally, its Grass/Ice typing allows it to hit many of the key players on sand teams for super effective damage. The Grass typing also makes Snover a great switch-in to Hippopotas, meaning it is consistently capable of removing sandstorm immediately after it is summoned. Many sand teams will run a Pokemon or two dedicated to stopping Snover. Common examples of this are Munchlax, Pawniard, and Houndour, all of which can nail Snover with a super effective move or Pursuit it. Other Pokemon that run weather changing moves can also be used as a way of dealing with sand. Sunny Day Ponyta may not be able to switch in on Hippopotas or Drilbur, but it can remove sandstorm in well timed situations to ease the pressure. Similarly, Rain Dance Wingull can't stop Drilbur once it is already in, but will make sandstorm no longer a problem once Hippopotas is gone.

Bulky Pokemon that are able to take a hit from Drilbur can also be used as checks against sand teams. A Lileep of your own can tank even a +2 Earthquake from Drilbur and retaliate with Giga Drain. Many other Grass-types, such as Shroomish or Turtwig, can perform similar feats. Foongus is unable to survive a boosted hit, but with Regenerator it will be able to stick around for a long time and remain healthy, allowing it to check Drilbur. Bulky Water-types can also work well. Slowpoke and Frillish are the most notable examples, as many other Water-types have a secondary typing that makes them weak to Earthquake.

There are also niche options such as Choice Scarf Porygon, which will outspeed Drilbur and Sandshrew by copying their Sand Rush ability, allowing it to check them. Bronzor and Koffing can also work, as they can avoid Earthquake with Levitate and aren't weak to any of Drilbur's coverage moves. However, both of these Pokemon lack reliable recovery, so they can be worn down somewhat easily, and also aren't able to dish out damage all that well.

If all else fails, a last resort to dealing with sand is to continually whine about it. As we all know, if something is bitched about enough on Smogon, it does eventually get banned...


I hope this article encouraged you to try out sand teams in Little Cup. Sand is one of the more straightforward yet effective strategies in Little Cup, which makes it great for new players and veterans alike. If you ever need help building a sand team, or any kind of team for that matter, just hop on our IRC channel, #littlecup, or ask for help in the forums!

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