By Seven Deadly Sins. Art by TheMutant.
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Ever since RBY, Ground has always been a dominant typing. Earthquake's dominant offensive power has made it a staple on nearly every notable physically offensive Pokémon, and its ubiquity has been the bane of many a Ground-weak Pokémon. It's one of the few types that has an ability dedicated specifically to mitigating its power, and it's a type with a massive and undeniable effect on the metagame. There's plenty of viable Ground-type Pokémon, both OU and UU, and while there may not be many viable Ground-type moves, those moves are reliable and effective.
Ground on the Offensive: OU
Now that Garchomp has been officially banned from OU, Flygon has returned to its position as the only Dragon/Ground Pokémon in the metagame. Flygon's dual STAB boasts excellent coverage, resisted only by Levitate Bronzong and Skarmory, which are both weak to Flygon's Fire Punch or Fire Blast. Its base 100 Attack and Speed stats make Flygon an effective Choice Scarf or Choice Band user, or it can go mixed with Life Orb for more versatility. It also has access to Roost, and its 80 / 80 / 80 defenses combined with a solid set of resistances allows it to tank hits and check many boosted Pokémon.
Mamoswine is notable for being one of only two Ice-type Pokémon to make it into OU, and it's easy to see why it's earned that distinction. Mamoswine's massive base 130 Attack backed up by a STAB Earthquake makes it easy to punch huge holes in opposing teams, and the prevalence of Dragon-types in the metagame makes its STAB Ice Shard indispensable as a method of dispatching Salamence, one of the most powerful Pokémon in OU. 80 base Speed outspeeds a significant portion of the metagame, including most walls as well as Pokémon such as Heatran and Metagross. While Mamoswine is lacking in the resistances department, its 110 / 80 / 60 defenses make it more than capable of taking hits, and its Ground sub-typing removes its Stealth Rock weakness. It can run Choice Band, Choice Scarf, Curse, Life Orb, or mixed Life Orb (with Abomasnow support, as Blizzard 2HKOes Skarmory) sets, and any one of these sets is liable to utterly wreck a team.
Gliscor premiered as one of the best Fighting-type counters in the game, dealing with the Heracross and Lucario that ran rampant in early DP, but many forget about Gliscor's fantastic offensive capabilities. 95 Attack and Speed is more than enough to sweep, especially with STAB Earthquake and access to Swords Dance. It's easy for Gliscor to run a bulky Swords Dance set that can give many teams trouble simply by being nearly impossible to kill as well as hitting hard. If Gliscor doesn't feel like attacking directly, it can also use Baton Pass to send Attack or Speed boosts to one of a number of threatening Pokémon in the metagame, such as Metagross or Tyranitar. Taunt lets it stop pseudo-Hazers, which makes it one of the hardest Baton Pass users to stop.
While Swampert is normally used as a defensive Pokémon, its 110 base Attack and 85 base Special Attack must not be forgotten. MixPert is more than capable of hitting offensive teams hard with its top-notch coverage, and offensive variants of Swampert such as Choice Band and Curse can catch people off-guard and spell the death of an unprepared team.
Ground on the Defensive: OU
Swampert's 100 / 90 / 90 defenses and fantastic dual Water/Ground typing allow it to wall many top threats. A resistance to Rock makes it one of the best Tyranitar counters in the game, and it is capable of surviving a Salamence's Life Orb boosted Draco Meteor and returning fire with an Ice Beam off of base 85 Special Attack. It can lay Stealth Rock, Roar, lead teams, or Curse up and become an impenetrable wall against anything other than special Grass-type attacks.
Hippowdon may have fallen from favor recently, but it's still a fantastic physical wall. 108 / 118 / 72 defenses are top-notch, especially considering that it has access to Slack Off. Sand Stream deals damage to every non-Ground-, Rock-, or Steel-type every turn, making it easy for Hippowdon to stall out opponents. Access to Roar and Yawn allows it to phaze effectively, or it can Stockpile and raise its already above-average defenses even further. Curse gives it a chance to go on the offensive, or it can also function as a bulky Choice Bander in a pinch.
Gliscor's claim to fame has always been as a full stop to Fighting-type offense, and that hasn't changed since early DP. Its Ground/Flying typing gives it crucial resistances to Bug and Fighting, as well as immunities to Ground and Electric. These resistances are backed up by 75 / 125 / 75 defenses and access to Roost for reliable healing and an extra resistance to Rock. However, its most crucial defensive stat is its Speed. 95 Speed allows it to outpace Lucario, which gained the ability to threaten Gliscor with Ice Punch, and KO it with a STAB Earthquake. Taunt can prevent opponents from setting up on it, and it can also Knock Off some opponents' boosting items, allowing Gliscor and its allies to take their hits more effectively.
Ground on the Offensive: UU
While Rhydon was already relatively popular in UU, Rhyperior's advantages quickly became apparent after it dropped from OU. Its massive Base Stats, including 115 HP, 140 Attack, and 130 Defense, allow it to be an absolute beast in all things physical, and Solid Rock mitigates the impact of its many weaknesses. Access to STAB on both Earthquake and Stone Edge, as well as Megahorn for Uxie and Torterra, allows Rhyperior to pack excellent coverage with only three attacks. Swords Dance and Rock Polish augment its already adequate offense, giving it either the power it needs to bust through powerful defenders or the Speed it needs to overwhelm faster teams.
Nidoking has always been one of the most crippling wall breakers in any metagame, and UU is one place where it absolutely shines. It has a move for almost any situation, and the stats to use them. Its physical movepool includes a STAB Earthquake, Stone Edge, the elemental punches, Aqua Tail, Megahorn, Superpower, and Sucker Punch, allowing it to use Choice Band or Expert Belt to punch through teams. It also packs a diverse special movepool, with STAB Earth Power, Flamethrower/Fire Blast, BoltBeam, and Shadow Ball. However, its true potential appears when using mixed sets, as it can easily bust up many stall teams through the use of coverage moves. Specially based sets can utilize Superpower to eliminate Chansey, while more divided sets can use Earthquake as a main attack and support it with special moves that can hit its resistances, such as Ice Beam for Grass-types and Altaria.
Torterra is similar to Rhyperior in that its main strength is exceptional physical power and superb three-move coverage with its powerful STAB Wood Hammer and Earthquake, in addition to Stone Edge. While Torterra may not have the overkill stats that Rhyperior has, it makes up for it with significantly higher special stats and a more effective defensive typing. Torterra can function well with a Choice Band, as well as use Swords Dance or Rock Polish to boost its offensive capabilities.
Dugtrio is an interesting case, in that while it is statistically extremely weak, it makes up for it through use of its ability, Arena Trap. By coming in on specific threats, such as Raikou, or on the revenge kill, Dugtrio can make a targeted assault on opposing Pokémon by using its ability to prevent them from switching out. Its 80 base Attack isn't especially high, but Earthquake's high Base Power helps it overcome this issue.
Ground on the Defensive: UU
Donphan's 90 / 120 / 60 defenses allow it to take most physical hits with ease, and 120 Attack combined with STAB Earthquake allows it to return fire without the need to invest overly in its Attack. Ice Shard can also be useful to pick off weakened enemies that could threaten a sweep. However, Donpahn's most notable quality is its ability to Rapid Spin, as its powerful STAB Earthquake tends to ward off Spiritomb, the most effective Spin-blocker in UU. Assurance can be used to eliminate Mismagius on the switch, eliminating yet another impediment to Rapid Spinning away entry hazards. Donphan also has access to Roar for phazing purposes, or can Knock Off items to remove Leftovers recovery or to weaken Choice Band and Life Orb users.
Claydol's Ground/Psychic typing combined with its Levitate ability gives it an extremely useful roster of resistances, including Rock, Fighting, Ground, and Electric. In addition to that, Claydol has access to Rapid Spin with Shadow Ball to ward off opposing Ghost-types, allowing it to remove entry hazards easily against many teams. Explosion combined with Rain Dance, Sunny Day, Trick Room, or Light Screen/Reflect allows Claydol to be an effective environment setup Pokémon, easily preparing the rest of the team for a sweep.
Rhyperior is most lauded for its incredible offensive potential, but its defenses are no joke either. With extremely high HP and Defense, as well as Solid Rock to mitigate super effective attacks, a defensively oriented Rhyperior can be extremely effective. Rhyperior's Rock typing also gives it the ability to use sandstorm to boost its low Special Defense, allowing Rhyperior to easily shrug off damage even on the special side. A spread of 252 HP / 16 Atk / 12 Def / 230 SpD with an Adamant nature gives Rhyperior total stat defenses of 434 HP / 300 Defense / 303 Special Defense, as well as 352 Attack, allowing it to absorb damage just as well as it dishes it out.
Steelix is notable for being one of the few viable Steel-types present in the UU metagame, and it is definitely not lacking in any way. Its gargantuan base 200 Defense is so high that it barely needs any investment other than a beneficial nature, allowing it to invest in its HP and Attack exclusively. STAB Earthquake and Gyro Ball lets Steelix hit hard if need be, or it can use Curse to become nigh immune to physical attacks while boosting its mediocre Attack as well as the power of Gyro Ball.
While Torterra is known particularly for its physical offense, its defenses aren't lacking in the slightest either. 95 / 105 / 85 defenses can be tough to crack, and Torterra can make excellent use of them with a bulky SubSeed set. By producing Substitutes that are extremely difficult to break and using Leech Seed to replenish its life, Torterra can stall out opponents lacking powerful Ice attacks with ease.
Notable Ground-Type Moves
Earthquake – 100 Base Power – 100% Accuracy – Hits opponents using Dig for 2x power
Earthquake is essentially the gold standard for physically damaging moves. With its massive 100 Base Power, excellent coverage, wide distribution, and complete lack of drawback, Earthquake is an easy candidate for "best offensive move in the game". Almost every physical Pokémon that has it as an option uses it, outside of Fighting-types, and there's even an entire ability dedicated just to negating its effect. It's a move that shapes the metagame, and it has been influential since the very first generation.
Earth Power – 90 Base Power – 100% Accuracy – 10% chance to lower opponent's Special Defense by one stage
While Earth Power is significantly less useful than Earthquake, it still makes a top-notch offensive move for the many Pokémon that get it. It allows Pokémon such as Celebi, Heatran, and Omastar to hit opponents that they normally wouldn't be able to defeat, such as Heatran, Tyranitar, and Toxicroak respectively. While its distribution and power aren't as stellar as Earthquake, it's still an excellent move in its own right.
Spikes – --% Accuracy – Enemies not immune to Ground lose 12.5/18.75/25% of their max HP in damage upon switching in.
Entry hazards are crucial to the success of many different teams, as they not only allow stall teams to damage opposing Pokémon through the use of Roar/Whirlwind and forcing switches, but they also make it easier for many sweepers to score crucial OHKOs needed to bust through opposing teams. Prior to Diamond/Pearl, Spikes were the only form of entry hazard, and while they are now largely overshadowed by Stealth Rock, they still have plenty of use on standard teams. In OU, the most common users of Spikes are Skarmory, Forretress, and Roserade, while in UU Spikes are normally provided by Froslass, Omastar, or Cloyster.
As far as metagame-ruling types go, Earthquake has guaranteed Ground's dominance since RBY, and it's easy to see that it's not falling out of favor any time soon. As long as Earthquake represents the gold standard of physical attacks, anything with a STAB Earthquake will automatically have a place as one of the top offensive threats of its metagame.
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