Osprey asks:

The most important Pokemon move, in terms of its centralizing impact on the competitive metagame (at least in singles), is probably Stealth Rock. Having a Stealth Rock setter on your team is essentially mandatory in serious competitive singles play, and Pokemon like Volcarona and Charizard are singlehandedly dropped several tiers of competitive viability by their 4x weakness to Stealth Rock.

On the one hand, it does seem useful to have some way to check endless switching. But on the other hand, this one single move being Rock type has a really unfortunate impact on the competitive metagame for those of us who favor types that happen to be weak to Rock. The changes to Defog in Gen VI seem to have been intended at least partly as a SR nerf, so Game Freak seems at least somewhat inclined to agree, but several generations later, the impact of Stealth Rock is still enormous.

In your view, is this something that needs fixing? If so, how would you fix it? Remove type advantage/disadvantage from Stealth Rock damage? Add other mutually-exclusive entry hazards of other types (“Stealth Ice???”), forcing teams to decide which they’ll run in a way similar to Terrain? Other ideas?

So, mutually exclusive entry hazards of different types have been my go-to solution for this in the past, but I think there’s several things you could do – some of which Game Freak has done.  You mentioned Defog, which I kind of like, since it’s a much more widely available counter to entry hazards, but comes at a cost that Rapid Spin doesn’t have (clearing your own hazards as well), and there’s also the new Heavy-Duty Boots item in Sword and Shield that just makes a Pokémon straight-up immune.  Those are both a little blunt for my liking, though; they hit all entry hazards, when we really just want to hit Stealth Rock.  I remember Smogon’s very first Create-A-Pokémon, Syclant, was a Bug/Ice-type with an ability that made it immune to Rock-type damage on the turn it switched in, which is an interesting response, but more a cool toy for that Pokémon in particular than a real nerf to Stealth Rock.  You could just reduce Stealth Rock’s damage directly, but honestly its neutral damage output is probably fine; you could take away its ability to do more or less damage based on the target’s weakness or resistance to Rock, but that’s the most interesting thing about the move.  That’s why I like the idea of having several competing options for that slot, with different type properties; it actually introduces an additional interesting decision (which one is most helpful for your team composition?), while also reducing the victimisation of Pokémon who are weak to Rock attacks in particular.  On the other hand, it’s clunky – why are these moves mutually exclusive, when Spikes and Toxic Spikes aren’t?  And what’s the best way of communicating that to a new player?  My latest idea is to have Stealth Rock actually wear out over time; it can do a total of eight (or twelve, or some other number) “ticks” of damage, each of which is equal to 1/8 of the target’s health (Stealth Rock’s standard neutral damage).  Pokémon with a Rock weakness still take a lot more damage, but they also wear the rocks out faster, which turns an unfair-feeling punishment into an additional strategic calculation.  It’s another thing players then have to keep track of during battles, but you could probably add a counter or something to the battle UI (which has already been picking up some useful extra functions over the last few generations).

10 thoughts on “Osprey asks:

  1. Hm… What if we add two more stealth rocks of different types that form an rps trio, like you said in your original post in 2013, but we also have them ACTUALLY form an rps trio in and of themselves? Like, each of these three entry hazards removes one of the others and is prevented from being set by the third? If there’s a description of how the interaction happens that solves the “why this but not spikes” problem too. I’m thinking have it go in the opposite direction to type matchups, for funzies – the Flying-type entry hazard Razor Gale blows away the Rock-type Stealth Rock, which shreds the Grass-type Vine Trap, which disrupts the wind of Razor Gale. Or you could actually go the direction of the type matchup if going the opposite direction would be confusing – Stealth Rock crushes Bug Infestation which eats Vine Trap which erodes Stealth Rock. Does that make sense?

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    1. Yes! Give the grass types and the bug types nice things! And, although I hesitate to say this, if one were to make a grass-type stealth rock, would it need some buff? I’m no metagamer, but as far as I know rock is super effective against common attacking types, and not resisted by much. Bug has good super effectives, but a frankly kind of unfair amount of resists, and grass… well, grass is super effective against rock, ground and water, and resisted by half of everything else.

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  2. Frankly, entry hazards provide a strategic niche for less powerful offensive types so I hesitate to introduce more entry hazards to provide a boost to the Flying or Fire types.

    As such, here are several suggested edits:
    1 } reduce the PP of Stealth Rock to 5.
    2 } each instance of Stealth Rock now fades (“runs out”) after striking three targets, requiring another setup to strike further targets.
    3 } Why doesn’t Surf literally wash the battlefield each time it’s used? ie, when a(n opposing?) Pokémon uses Surf, it clears the field of Spikes, Toxic Spikes, Stealth Rock, & Sticky Web. This actually adds a compelling trade-off for using Surf (clear opposing entry hazards at the risk of striking an ally).
    3 } Why doesn’t Bulldoze literally clear the battlefield each time it’s used? ie, when a(n opposing?) Pokémon uses Bulldoze, it clears the field of Spikes, Toxic Spikes, Stealth Rock, & Sticky Web. (Granted, I hesitate extending this additional effect to the already much more powerful analogue, Earthquake.)
    4 } Sticky Web is an entry hazard in its own right but it covers the field to end the effects of Stealth Rock, Spikes, & Toxic Spikes. (tbd if this effect is permanent through the end of battle.)
    5 } Grassy Terrain covers the field to end the effects of Stealth Rock, Spikes, & Toxic Spikes for as along as this terrain remains in effect.
    6 } As an additional effect, Liquid Ooze also clears entry hazards after coming into contact with AND inflicting damage to a Pokémon with this Ability (ie, Liquid Ooze clears Stealth Rock, Spikes, & Toxic Spikes altogether but not Sticky Web).

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  3. The problem with multiple type options is that rock is the best offensive type, so it would still be most widely used. Maybe buff Rapid Spin? Years ago, I had an idea for rapid spin to literally make the entry hazards hit the opponent when it sheds them. So it would gain 20 base power for each layer of spikes, poison the foe when shedding toxic spikes, and become a rock type move (so it can’t be spinblocked) when shedding stealth rock.

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  4. I’m in favor of removing Stealth Rock altogether. Though many of the ideas here would probably improve the situation immensely!
    As an aside, Stealth Rock have to be among the least sense-making things in the game. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but pointed, floating rocks digging into the Pokémon switching in – that’s quite contrived… With Spikes you can kind of see how the mechanics follow organically from the base concept, with Stealth Rock it’s the other way around. But the move being explained as some kind of trap that makes rocks fall down on the victim would be a bit more intuitive, no? (/end rant)

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  5. I like the idea of Stealth Rock fading after a certain number of turns/uses. It reminds me of the weather nerf: after weather was limited to five turns only (before needing to be reset), it was still obviously useful enough to build a team around but didn’t have nearly the stranglehold on competitive play that it did in Gen 5. To me, that’s the ideal level of nerf: still viable enough to see play, but no longer choking out other strategies.

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  6. “The most important Pokemon move, in terms of its centralizing impact on the competitive metagame (at least in singles), is probably Stealth Rock.”

    Baton pass wants to know your location. (At least until it got banned basically everywhere forever, which itself illustrates my point)

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