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The release of BW gave Qwilfish an ability that it could only dream of (pun somewhat intended), Intimidate. Qwilfish's newfound ability allowed it to rise into RU, but it was never quite good enough for UU due to its common weaknesses to Ground and Electric. This all changed with the release of BW2, which shook up the UU metagame with the release of powerful Fighting-types, such as Moxie Heracross and Mienshao, as well as an increased usage of physical Fire-types such as Darmanitan. These metagame shifts and the release of Pain Split + Intimidate on the same set allowed Qwilfish to not only become viable, but they also let it thrive as one of the best Spikers in the tier. Although it is still RU, its usage is quickly rising, currently sitting at 3.6% in 1850 stats.
At first glance, it is difficult to see why Qwilfish would be used. Its offenses are mediocre at best considering its low Base Power moves and its defenses are on par with some of the frailest Pokémon in the tier. However, looks can be deceiving because Qwilfish has a lot more tricks up its sleeves besides its base stats. Part of why Qwilfish is so effective is because of its ability, Intimidate. This transforms Qwilfish from one of the frailest Pokémon in the tier to one of the bulkiest on the physical side. This bulk is further emphasized by Qwilfish's useful typing. Water / Poison grants it resistances to Fire-, Fighting-, Steel-, Bug-, and Ice-type attacks, all of which are popular physical types in UU, which makes Qwilfish a check to most of the physically offensive Pokémon in the tier.
What separates Qwilfish from other bulky Water-types such as Slowbro is its great supporting movepool, most notably its access to the elusive Spikes. Spikes + Intimidate is an excellent combination because it allows Qwilfish to not only be a wall, but to support the team by laying down hazards as well. Qwilfish has access to Toxic Spikes, which can be useful on stall teams that want to wear down walls faster. Pain Split is almost a requirement on any bulky set, as it is Qwilfish's closest thing to reliable recovery and works well with Qwilfish's low HP while also wearing down walls. Qwilfish has a multitude of options to use in its last slot including Taunt, Thunder Wave, Haze, or Destiny Bond. Each move has its uses, so it is important to decide which one works best for your team.
Most of Qwilfish's roles center around supporting its team by setting up as many hazards as possible. The most common set takes a defensive route to achieve this goal. By investing heavily into its Defense, Qwilfish becomes quite sturdy and is able to tank even the some of strongest physical attacks in the UU tier, such as Choice Band Azumarill's Waterfall, Life Orb Mienshao's Reckless Hi Jump Kick, and Darmanitan's Flare Blitz after an Intimidate, and set up Spikes as they switch out. Even non-resisted hits become significantly weaker after Intimidate, even allowing Qwilfish to take weak super effective hits such as Earthquakes from Bronzong and Gligar. Even after setting up Spikes, Qwilfish is useful for Intimidate support to soften the blows of any physical attacker.
Instead of going a defensive route, Qwilfish can take advantage of its above-average Speed for a wall and its many support options to play a lead role. It is often easy to forget Qwilfish's base 85 Speed, which is one of the most important speed benchmarks in UU and allows for Qwilfish to outspeed many common leads and either set up Spikes or prevent their own hazards with Taunt. The main appeal of this set over the defensive one is its access to a fast Taunt and Destiny Bond something that only Froslass can also claim. Although this set might seem completely outclassed by Froslass, Qwilfish is bulkier than Froslass and can still set up Spikes among a larger array of threats, something that Froslass cannot boast.
The choice between attacking moves is up to personal preference. Waterfall is probably the most consistent option because of its perfect accuracy and because it runs off of Qwilfish's higher Attack stat. Hydro Pump is a more powerful option even though it runs off of Qwilfish's lower Special Attack stat. The main selling point of Hydro Pump is that it allows for Qwilfish to beat physically defensive Pokémon such as Rhyperior and Gligar, but it does come at the cost of being less accurate and lower PP. Poison Jab is like Waterfall, however, it has worse coverage. It does have a nice 30% chance of inflicting poison and the ability to hit Water-types such as Kingdra, so it does have its merit.
Qwilfish @ Black Sludge
EVs: 252 HP / 204 Def / 52 Spe
Impish Nature (+Def, -SpA) / Bold Nature (+Def, -Atk)
- Pain Split
- Waterfall / Hydro Pump / Poison Jab
- Thunder Wave / Taunt / Haze
Qwilfish @ Focus Sash
EVs: 252 HP / 4 Def / 252 Spe
Jolly Nature (+Spe, -SpA) / Timid Nature (+Spe, -Atk)
- Waterfall / Hydro Pump
- Destiny Bond
There are two ways to "beat" Qwilfish. The most obvious way is to kill it. Because its Defense is shielded by Intimidate, it is usually much easier to go about killing Qwilfish from the special side. Shaymin and Roserade are able to switch into most any Qwilfish set with little fear due to Natural Cure and hit Qwilfish with a powerful special attack. Other Pokémon such as Porygon2 or Slowbro can also threaten Qwilfish due to them not being harmed greatly by Thunder Wave, while hitting Qwilfish for super effective damage. Although Pokémon such as Nidoking, Raikou, and Azelf can't switch directly into Qwilfish due to the risk of either being hit with a super effective attack or being paralyzed, once they get in, they can make quick work of Qwilfish by hitting it super effectively.
The second way to beat Qwilfish is to get rid of its hazards. This can be done through either Rapid Spin or Taunt. Blastoise and Hitmontop are probably the best Rapid Spinners to go against Qwilfish due to their disregard for most of its moves. However, any Pokémon with Taunt that are either faster than Qwilfish or who have a priority Taunt work just as well as Rapid Spinners. Crobat, Sableye, and Froslass can all Taunt Qwilfish before it even gets a chance to set up its Spikes.
Depending on its set, Qwilfish can fit on almost every team that enjoys Spikes. The defensive Spiker set is best used on balanced or stall teams, as these types of teams enjoy the longevity that the set brings. Qwilfish's key resistances to Fire and Fighting, combined with its ability to set up Spikes, are huge for stall teams, as it frees up a teamslot that can be used to plug a hole in the team's defenses. The speedy Spiker can somewhat work on balanced teams, but it is overall inferior to the defensive set because even though the speedy set doesn't lose any momentum, balanced teams are usually able to quickly make up for whatever momentum is lost by the defensive set. The speedy Spiker set however, is the superior set on offensive teams. As said before, this set does not lose much momentum when it is used which makes it preferred due the fast-paced style that these teams require. This set has a lot of competition from Froslass, so it is important to note that Froslass may be a better fit for your team. However, Qwilfish is much bulkier than Froslass on the physical side and can set up Spikes on a different array of Pokémon, so both have their merits. You must evaluate accordingly which is more important for the team.
Don't let its RU status fool you into thinking that Qwilfish isn't viable in UU, because in reality, it is quite the opposite. As with most Pokémon, if you play to its strengths, Qwilfish will perform admirably in whatever role you decide to stick it in.
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