XY Little Cup: The Rise And Fall Of Sneasel

By Goddess Briyella and Electrolyte. Art by andrew3391.
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Sneasel was previously one of the few Pokémon to have been banished permanently from the Little Cup tier; indeed, it and its partner in crime, Scyther, had been banned from Little Cup ever since the tier first made its official appearance on Smogon. This was due to the fact that its stats were simply too high to be balanced in the Little Cup metagame—it was the fastest and one of the most powerful Pokémon of its time and could pose a huge threat to almost any opponent it faced. However, for the start of XY, Little Cup tier leader blarajan had decided to allow Sneasel, along with every other previously banned Pokémon bar Scyther, back into LC. It was unbanned to see how it would fit in the new environment, against newer Pokémon with higher stats and the return of Berry Juice, as well as the ever-present Eviolite. After about a month of having Sneasel legal, the Little Cup tier leader decided to once again ban Sneasel from LC. This article will cover why it was banned once again, as well as the effects of its short presence on the previous and future condition of the metagame.

Sneasel's Revenge

With its pent-up hatred from being locked away for so long, Sneasel immediately became a top-tier Pokémon in the Little Cup metagame and began destroying everything in its path in a chaotic fit of rage. Capable of outspeeding the entire unboosted and most of the Choice Scarf-boosted metagame, Sneasel was a huge force to be reckoned with. A base 95 Attack stat didn't make things any better, as it allowed Sneasel to 2HKO or OHKO most of the viable Pokémon in the tier. However, that wasn't the limit of what Sneasel had in its terrifying arsenal—Knock Off became Sneasel's deadliest weapon, with its improved mechanics this generation giving it 65 Base Power (only 5 behind Night Slash) with a 1.5x boost if its target was holding an item. Hence, opponents could look forward to a 146.25 Base Power move factoring in the boost and STAB, which also removed its opponents' items, allowing Sneasel to support its team and making it even easier to muscle past walls. Knock Off's ability to remove Eviolite, Berry Juice, Life Orb, Choice items, and every other item carried by an opponent made it a lot scarier than its actual power, as those crippling effects would last for the whole match, even after Sneasel was taken down. This made it borderline impossible to wall or defeat Sneasel without suffering lasting damage.

Sneasel's movepool was slightly lacking, but it still had everything it needed. A priority STAB Ice Shard was terrific in a metagame full of Flying-types and Ground-types that were used to counter Fighting-types. Ice Punch, Brick Break, and Poison Jab all rounded off the coverage, letting Sneasel hit Steel-types and Fairy-types for super effective damage. However, Sneasel never really even needed to use anything other than Knock Off, purely because it was so powerful and crippling at the same time. Few opponents could take Life Orb-boosted STAB Ice Punches once their Eviolites were removed, making Sneasel a fast, powerful, and efficient revenge killer, cleaner, and wallbreaker all in one.

Sneasel was also very popular because of its ability to handle a lot of the top threats in the metagame. Many other high-powered threats such as Gligar, Yanma, Murkrow, Drilbur, and Tangela were weak to Sneasel's powerful Ice-type STAB attacks, and Knock Off's sheer power easily took down Misdreavus and Meditite. Sneasel was a powerful Pokémon not only because it had a lot of power and versatility, but also because its typing gave it a lot of advantages against the rest of the powerhouses of the tier. Because of Sneasel's presence, major threats from previous generations such as Murkrow and Misdreavus were used much less frequently for most of the Sneasel era, as they simply were not safe to use with Sneasel on the loose.

Sneasel's existence also benefited some other Pokémon in the tier. Fighting- and Fairy-types became very popular because they resisted Knock Off and could KO Sneasel swiftly and relatively painlessly (though often things were not that simple). Powerful Fighting-types such as Timburr, Mienfoo, and Croagunk rose in usage because they didn't really mind Knock Off and either had powerful priority attacks or enough bulk to sponge an Ice Punch. Fairy-types quickly became popular as well, as they didn't care about Knock Off and had the bulk to take Ice Punches while threatening Sneasel with super effective STAB attacks. Swirlix in particular was a solid check, as it could switch into Knock Off, double its Speed with Unburden, and OHKO Sneasel with Dazzling Gleam. Fire-types rose in usage as well, primarily Growlithe, whose Intimidate subdued Sneasel, making it easier to handle. Larvesta and Ponyta were also great because their shared ability, Flame Body, could burn Sneasel, forever crippling it and making it easy to take down afterwards. It was impossible to try to overpower Sneasel, as it was simply too fast and powerful; instead, people were forced to use bulkier Pokémon and priority to counter Sneasel, pulling a lot of defensive Pokémon into higher usage in the primarily offensive LC metagame.

Sneasel Banished Yet Again

The combination of Sneasel's Speed, obscene power, access to a much-improved Knock Off, and great offensive typing and movepool made it a very powerful and centralizing Pokémon that stunted the usage of many other strong competitors in the tier. Its ability to wreak permanent havoc with Knock Off combined with its severely limited list of checks and counters only made things worse. In late November, after a fair bit of discussion, Sneasel was quickbanned from the metagame. From this point onward, the tier changed its name from Sneasel's Stomping Grounds to XY Little Cup.

The numbers of the Pokémon that Sneasel had forced into hiding changed astronomically. They were quite relieved to have the big bully sent packing, and so they all slowly made their way back to decent usage following Sneasel's banishment. While some of the Pokémon who went into hiding were old veterans of the game, the ban of Sneasel also opened up opportunities for some newly released little tykes from Generation VI to bring new tactics to the table. With peace restored in the tier, and in addition to the other previously banned Pokémon that Sneasel threatened (notably Yanma, Gligar, and Meditite), let's have a look at some of the things that players welcome back, as well as things that players might look forward to using now that the threat of Sneasel is no more.

Returning Contenders (Post-Sneasel Era)


While they were undeniably two of the most threatening sweepers from last generation, Murkrow and Misdreavus stood no chance against Sneasel's Speed and high-powered attacks, particularly since they were each weak to one of Sneasel's STAB types, and were both outsped and easily picked off in one hit by Ice Punch and Knock Off. With Sneasel out of the picture once more, these two have returned to continue their usual antics, and should not be taken lightly. The addition of Fairy-types don't slow down Murkrow one bit, despite its type disadvantage, as no Fairy-types in LC resist Brave Bird, and the fact that Steel-types no longer resist Dark-type attacks lets Sucker Punch hit things like Honedge and Bronzor for super effective damage now, assuring it a place among the top threats in Little Cup once again. Misdreavus is set back a bit by Defog's buff, which considerably lessens the need for a spinblocker, and the prevalence of the newly buffed Knock Off keeps it at bay; that said, Misdreavus is still definitely a threat to be feared for its ability to overwhelm the enemy with force, as well as its disruptive capablities with moves such as Trick and Will-O-Wisp.


The renowned super-wall Slowpoke and the bulky Foongus are now able to function again as a resilient core. Both of them have access to the Regenerator ability, notable resistances to cover the other's weaknesses, and a slew of status moves to throw around, and as such the longevity of the core formed by these two is undeniable. In addition to switching in and walling important Pokémon, both of them can use status moves as the disadvantaged foe switches out and cripple whatever comes in, making this particular core tough to deal with. In addition, if Slowpoke or Foongus has to switch out, they regain lost health in the process, maintaining their health while working to cripple, wall, and wear down the opponent. Yanma can give these two trouble, but it hates getting hit with sleep or paralysis and won't be knocking out either of these in one hit, so it can definitely be played around. Slowpoke and Foongus no longer have to hide from the strong STAB Dark + Ice coverage that Sneasel once bullied them with, and so they are back for good, and as ready as ever.


Apart from the STAB Dark + Ice coverage that let Sneasel rip the tier to shreds, it also commonly ran Brick Break, and it was because of this that Scraggy and Pawniard also lost viability during its stay, as Pawniard is 4x weak to Fighting-type attacks and Scraggy cannot bear the hit after losing its Eviolite to Knock Off. In addition, Scraggy couldn't even outspeed Sneasel after a Dragon Dance boost, which made breaking Sneasel absurdly difficult. But now that Sneasel is gone, Scraggy can go back to being the bulky setup sweeper it once was, and it has access to Iron Head and Poison Jab to smash the new Fairy-types that threaten it. Pawniard is an old dog with a few new tricks, and without the immediate threat of Sneasel, it can make use of its Defiant ability to score +2 Attack boosts from the newly buffed Defog and the new entry hazard Sticky Web, while using STAB Sucker Punch to override its Speed drop and knock foes for a loop. The fact that Steel-types no longer resist Dark also helps in the cases of both Scraggy and Pawniard, and only contributes further to their return to the action.

Potent Newcomers (Post-Sneasel Era)


Generation VI brings with it a new fossil duo that not only presents never-before-seen dual typings, but also incredible new abilities that give them each a unique edge in competitive battling. Neither Tyrunt (Rock / Dragon) nor Amaura (Rock / Ice) could stand up to Sneasel, since Knock Off ruined their lives, Ice Punch easily ended Tyrunt, and Brick Break cleanly destroyed Amaura; however, now is their chance to shine. Tyrunt is not only an impressive Dragon Dance sweeper, but it also has the exclusive Strong Jaw ability, which grants a 1.5x boost to all of its bite-based attacks, all of which it has access to. Amaura is 4x weak to both Fighting and Steel, and has a ton of other weaknesses, but its power lies in its Rock / Ice STABs and its Refrigerate ability, which converts any Normal-type move into an Ice-type move that gets an automatic 1.3x power boost in addition to STAB. With a Choice Scarf, Amaura can deal serious damage to the opposition and even have a 20% status chance with Nature Power, which converts to a STAB-boosted Ice-type Tri Attack with practically an additional Life Orb boost. Amaura is also one of the few Little Cup-eligible Pokémon to get Hyper Beam, and it can use it in conjunction with Refrigerate in extreme circumstances to make what is easily one of the most powerful attacks Little Cup has ever seen, and can be used to get rid of an important threat late-game that might secure the opponent a victory if it isn't taken down quickly.


While these might appear at first glance to be generic scrub Pokémon, Bunnelby (Normal) and Fletchling (Normal/Flying) are two newly introduced Pokémon that are very powerful, and have found decent viability now that Sneasel is banned. Bunnelby's Huge Power ability doubles its mediocre Attack stat and makes our cute little bunny into an offensive nightmare. With its decent 16 Speed, it can hold a Choice Band (reaching 39 Attack!) and literally beat slower walls and support Pokémon to death. Alternatively, it can serve as a scout and an offensive pivot by equipping a Choice Scarf, giving it the Speed needed to revenge kill almost anything, while still maintaining a formidable offensive presence. Bunnelby has Earthquake and Thief (buffed to 60 Base Power this generation) to smash the Rock-, Steel-, and Ghost-types that usually have little to fear from Normal-types, and access to U-turn rounds out its movepool nicely. Fletchling has the exclusive new ability Gale Wings, which grants +1 priority to all Flying-type moves. This allows Fletchling to slam enemies with a powerful priority STAB Acrobatics after having lost or consumed its held item, as well as giving priority to Roost so that it can restore health while also nullifying its Rock-, Ice-, and Electric-type weaknesses on the turn it's used. Gale Wings also works with Tailwind, allowing Fletchling to give its team a huge Speed advantage right before it bites the dust. Oddly, unlike most other Flying-types, Fletchling also has access to Swords Dance, so that it can boost its Attack to terrifying levels to even further increase the threat of the priority provided by its ability. To top it all off, Fletchling gets Overheat to easily burn past Steel-types like Honedge and Ferroseed that can easily take its STAB attacks.


The XY Little Cup metagame is still in its early stages of development, and as such, Sneasel's ban is only the first of many significant milestones in the timeline. Many new strategies and tactics have yet to surface, and the tier still houses a huge yet hidden gold mine of untapped power and innovation. Whether you're new to Smogon, a community member looking to try something new, or an old community veteran looking to find a new groove in competitive, be sure to check out XY Little Cup. It is truly a different metagame now that Sneasel has been banned, and it has something for everyone!

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