Featured NU Pokémon: Sawk

By DTC. Art by Yilx.
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Sawk has held the same position of dominance throughout the course of BW NU. It has always been a fantastic Pokémon, making almost every team suffer Sawk syndrome* since October 2011. The sets it has been using for the past year have also been the same, with Choice Band and Choice Scarf undergoing numerous trends. When BW2 came around, it seemed as if Sawk would finally fall out of favor with Regenerator Amoonguss and Regenerator Alomomola released, but it got access to the invaluable Ice Punch, which allowed Sawk to smash previously unbreakable Pokémon such as Amoonguss and Golurk.

There were two recent additions to the NU metagame that improved Sawk's viability: Mold Breaker and hail. Mold Breaker has been long anticipated by many avid NU players because it allows Sawk to break past Sturdy Pokémon and subsequently prevent Stealth Rock from being set up. Sawk can outspeed and OHKO most relevant Pokémon that set up Stealth Rock in the tier, which is quite an impressive feat. Sawk has also taken advantage of the re-introduction of hail by establishing itself as part of one of the core pieces of a hail offense team. Sawk has fantastic offensive synergy with the Ice-type Pokémon that are always on hail teams, and it also helps prevent one of the biggest concerns for hail teams being set up: Stealth Rock. In addition, hail prevents Musharna—Sawk's most reliable counter before hail—from healing sufficient damage with Moonlight, allowing Sawk to break through it with ease.

* Sawk syndrome: A team which is otherwise fantastic that gets shredded to pieces by Sawk. The most common treatment for this syndrome is "use a Musharna." Ironically, it shares many similarities with Musharna syndrome.

Sawk's Qualities

Sawk's 125 base Attack and Fighting typing establish it as one of the best wallbreakers in NU. Prominent walls such as Regirock and Lickilicky are easily disposed of by Sawk. Contrary to wallbreakers like Emboar and Rampardos, Sawk also has above-average Speed to complement its massive Attack. 85 base Speed is a fantastic benchmark for NU because it allows Sawk to outspeed Samurott and Ludicolo with an Adamant nature. Most teams will only have one or two Pokémon that outspeed Sawk, allowing it to come in numerous times throughout a match when something dies or through a U-turn. One thing to note is that Sawk should avoid switching into attacks because it is quite frail.

Sawk is also a bit more than just a wallbreaker. Choice Scarf is a viable item option to use over Choice Band if your team needs a little extra speed. While Sawk unfortunately does not get the jump on the notorious Shell Smash Gorebyss, Choice Scarf gives it enough Speed to outspeed most of what it needs to. Some people have been using Life Orb Mold Breaker Sawk to take advantage of its Stealth Rock-ridding capabilities to the fullest. While forgoing Choice Band makes Sawk a much less effective wallbreaker, it allows Sawk to retain momentum. This Sawk variant is typically seen on hyper offense teams that cannot afford to lose momentum.

Playing with Sawk

It is best to use Sawk on either a balanced or offensive team. Gurdurr typically takes Sawk's place as a Fighting-type on balanced teams, so offensive teams are Sawk's most common domain. Sawk requires quite a bit of prediction to use correctly early- to mid-game, but late-game you may be able to just click Close Combat and watch Pokémon faint. Sawk has an integral role on some teams to prevent Stealth Rock from being set up, but it also may need to prevent momentum from being lost, occasionally forcing you into prediction wars. This is the reason why some people use Life Orb Sawk over Choice Band. Just note that with Life Orb, Sawk will not perform its wallbreaking duties nearly as well. An important aspect of using Sawk is concealing what item you are using. In high-level play, like the upcoming SPL tournament, a Choice Scarf Sawk may just be what you need to destroy your opponent. Choice Scarf Sawk is generally regarded as a set seen exclusively on the ladder, but it is not unseen in matches between the top players and can be the difference between winning or losing the match if executed well. Considering the fact that the "standard" Sawk set of Close Combat / Earthquake / Stone Edge / Ice Punch is so ingrained into the NU players' brains, you can easily catch people off-guard with options such as Knock Off, Reversal, and Toxic.

Playing Against Sawk

Sawk is very troublesome if you do not properly prepare for it. Against many unprepared teams, it may simply use Close Combat and watch Pokémon crumble. Every team should have a good (read: doesn't get 2HKOed by Close Combat despite resisting the move) Fighting-type resist, or have many Pokémon that can outspeed and KO Sawk. Good Fighting-type resists include Musharna, Duosion, Golurk, Amoonguss, and Haunter. Just by having a suitable Fighting-type resist, you are already somewhat prepared for Sawk. Even if it is not a hard counter such as Musharna and Duosion, it can at least switch into Sawk's attacks and then switch out if Sawk happened to use its coverage move rather than its main STAB. Unfortunately, even this is generally not sufficient, because once that Pokémon is gone or weakened enough, Sawk can simply go back to its routine of spamming Close Combat. Having multiple good resists and/or fast Pokémon is prudent if one wants to have success against Sawk. Priority is also a helpful tool against Sawk; even though Sawk is not necessarily frail, after multiple uses of Close Combat, it will be easy chipping from even the weakest of priority. If all else fails, there is always Musharna and Duosion to fall back on (good luck against teams with a Skuntank or Absol partner!). Hopefully this prevents you from suffering another case of Sawk Syndrome.

Fitting Sawk onto Your Team

Sawk is an exceptionally good partner to many Pokémon. For example, Sawk and Ludicolo pair together amazingly. Ludicolo is a fantastic sweeper, but it struggles with bulky Normal-types as well as Regice. Sawk can easily get rid of both of those with one click of a button. Another great combination is Sawk and Absol. Absol gets rid of the troublesome Psychic-types for Sawk while Sawk removes Regirock and other annoying Pokémon for Absol.

Sawk is also arguably one of the best Pokémon to keep hazards away from the field, even if it is not the most reliable Pokémon out there at doing that job. Pokémon 4x weak to Stealth Rock, particularly Charizard and Articuno, appreciate Sawk's presence to scare away hazard setting Pokémon. Sawk also has fantastic offensive synergy with these Stealth Rock-weak Pokémon, because it can get rid of the Rock- and Steel-types that they tend to be weak to. There are countless different effective offensive combinations you can utilize with Sawk.

Get Out There!

Sawk is no doubt one of the most influential threats in all of NU that has been a defining threat since the tier's BW inception. It performs exceedingly well when used right, and has a pretty small learning curve unless you are trying to use it early-game.

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