Using Poliwrath As a Competitive Pokémon in Pokémon X and Y
The Tadpole Pokémon
Special Attack: 70
Special Defense: 90
Poliwrath is a great example of a Pokémon that has been biding its time and sitting in the depths of competitive play for a long time. Before 5th gen. it was the only Water/Fighting type Pokémon in the game, giving it some unique offensive and defensive opportunities. Keldeo is generally a better option when choosing a Water/Fighting type Pokémon, but Keldeo is a Special Attacker, so that still leaves Poliwrath with its own niche. Something you'll notice about Poliwrath is that none of its stats are above 100, or even at 100. Unfortunately for Poliwrath, even with good 90/95/90 defenses, its 95 base attack (previously only 85 in other generations) isn't nearly enough to make a dent in some of the bulkier Pokémon in competitive play. The thing that hurts Poliwrath the most is the lack of a good fighting type move; besides Focus Punch (which is unreliable at best) is the strongest fighting move it has access to besides Brick Break, which is disappointing to say the least.
Not all is bad for Poliwrath however, as it has received a much needed 10 point boost in its Attack stat. In addition Poliwrath still has a semi-unique typing and two great abilities, Swift Swim and Water Absorb, which make it great on rain teams and a great for countering opposing Water types. Poliwrath also has a Stealth Rock resistance which gives it lots of opportunities to switch in an out of battle as it pleases. All in all, while Poliwrath may not have the stellar stats that other sweepers but it's a very balanced Pokémon with lots of potential.
Movesets to Consider
Ability: Water Absorb
Item: Leftovers/Life Orb
252 HP/252 Atk/4 Sp Def
Ice Punch/Rock Slide/Poison Jab
Bulk Up is pretty much Poliwrath's only means of boosting its stats outside of Work Up or Belly Drum, which aren't as immediately useful as Bulk Up. With this set Poliwrath can be surprisingly bulky and takes some very powerful physical attacks from Pokémon like Dragonite, Garchomp or Terrakion with impunity. Bulk Up also lets Poliwrath boost its decent Attack stat and lets it punch some pretty big holes in the opponent's team thanks to Poliwrath's decent coverage moves. The choice between Ice Punch, Rock Slide, and Poison Jab comes down to which Pokémon give you trouble and/orwalls Poliwrath. If Dragon types like Dragonite or Salamence give you problems, Ice Punch is a great option as it also hits Gliscor and Landorus very hard. Rock Slide hits Gyarados fairly hard, but if your opponent is using a Mega-Gyarados, then your Fighting STAB is your best option. Poison Jab is really only for Azumarill,as it resists your Water and Fighting moves, as well as Ice Punch. The best way to play this set is late in the game, when you've worn down your opponent's walls, or when you can get Poliwrath to switch in on a Water type move to get some free health and even a turn of set up if you can switch in on a Choice locked Pokémon such as Keldeo or Latios.
Fast Psychic and Electric types such as Alakazam and Rotom-W can really give Poliwrath problems, especially since Poliwrath can't hit them super effectively unless you run moves like Payback or Hidden Power Grass, which aren't exactly great options. You should usually stay away from Psychic or Electric types in most cases however, as you have very little chance of beating them with Poliwrath, as it lacks the strength or priority moves to deal with them. Something to keep in mind is that above all else, Poliwrath is a team player rather than a sweeper, and works well with teammates, rather than on its own. That being said, having counters to Psychic and Electric types is very important for your team as well as Poliwrath.
Ability: Water Absorb
Item: Leftovers/Liechi Berry
252 Atk/252 Speed/4 Def
This moveset has gotten arguably better thanks to Steel no longer resisting Dark type attacks. However, the prevalence or Ghost type Pokémon can make it harder to reliably use Focus Punch, and this is where having a Drak type attack comes in handy. Having a Liechi berry lets you boost your attack once you've used up enough HPP with Substitute, and with the Attack boost and lack of Item, Thief can be a great asset to Poliwrath. Pokémon that hold leftovers,such as bulky walls or set up Pokémon, can have that item stolen and take a decent chunk of damage, getting Poliwrath a decent means of passive recovery in the process. Stealing any item but a Mega stone is great in just about any situation, as it can neuter opposing threats and give Poliwrath an edge in battle, especially if it grabs something like a Choice Band or Scarf.
Once again, this Poliwrath fears the likes of Psychic and electric types, and without Ice Punch, it even fears some Grass types such as Venusaur and Whimsicott. Poliwrath can deal with a surprising amount of Pokémon when behind a sub, but having teammates that support Poliwrath and vice versa is still the best option. WithThief or Payback Poliwrath can deal with most Psychic types when behind a substitute, especially if it has received the Attack boost from a Liechi berry. Since this set needs a turn of set up you need accurate prediction and having powerful teammates that can weaken an opponent's team in order to give Poliwrath some breathing room is very important. This set is higher risk overall, but it also has a higher reward.
As mentioned above, Poliwrath is better as a team player than it is as a main component of a team or as the team's main sweeper or physical attacker. One thing to remember is that with Poliwrath's ability Water Absorb giving it an immunity to Water type moves, pairing it with other Pokémon with immunities and useful resistances is key to succeeding with Poliwrath on a balanced or more defensively focused team. One thing to keep in mind as well is that Poliwrath might not have the huge offensive stats that other physical attackers do, but it can still do lots of damage against Pokémon that it can hit super effectively or even with neutral hits.
Jolteon has fallen out of favor in the last couple of generations,but to Pokémon like Rotom-W and Magnezone giving better options for an Electric type on a team. Jolteon still has lots of uses however, and its convenient ability Volt Absorb lets it freely switch in on any Electric move that Poliwrath can't handle. Besides being a great partner offensively, Jolteon can also pass Substitutes to Poliwrath, and while they might not have as much HP as one would expect, this makes setting up with Poliwrath that much easier, and having two type immunities on a team is always good. Just remember that with team preview your strategy can become obvious to your opponent, but that doesn't mean it's any less effective with good prediction.
Rotom-H is the less used but arguably just as useful rising star of the Rotom family. Its unique Electric/Fire typing gives it two great STAB types and it still counters Talonflame just as well as its Water/Electric counterpart. Overheat is a great nuking option when facing Grass types or Steel types, and makes Poliwrath's job of setting up much easier in the late game with bulky Steel types or Grass types out of the way. Rotom-H does have a weakness to Stealth Rock which is unfortunate, but nothing a Rapid Spinner or Defogger can't handle. Poliwrath is also immune to the Water type moves that force Rotom-H out, and it resists the Rock type moves that it fears as well, making them great partners both offensively and defensively.
Venusaur has quickly become this generation's premier wall/stall Pokémon. with fantastic 80/120/123 defenses and a convenient Grass/Poison typing coupled with Thick Fat, Venusaur can be an incredibly hard Pokémon to take down. Not only does it have great bulk and only two weaknesses, but it has both Leech Seed and Synthesis for recovery, and an immunity to Toxic, giving it that much more staying power. Venusaur's great defensive abilities makes it a great partner for Poliwrath, as it resists the Grass moves that Poliwrath hates, but both Flying and Psychic moves hit both of these Pokémon very hard, which is unfortunate, but it can be easily dealt with by packing a Pokémon like Bisharp or Rotom-W on your team to round out the core defensively. Other than that Venusaur makes a great counter to most Fairy types, which Poliwrath definitely has a hard time with, and can whittle the opposition down for Poliwrath later in the match.
Which Pokemon Should I Cover Next?
Overall, Poliwrath is a great Pokémon that hits much harder than you would expect for a Pokémon with base 95 Attack. It's also got some great bulk and a great ability as well as decent defensive typing. Poliwrath is definitely a Pokémon that you should consider if you've never tried using it. It has more options than what I've listed here, such as an Assault Vest variant or a Choice Band rain sweeper with Swift Swim.
As always there will be a reader poll to determine which Pokémon I cover next, so be sure to vote for your favorite! If I missed anything of if you have suggestions for other movesets leave them in the comments below!
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