Whether or not Gastrodon is "good" is the subject of much debate. I'm on the side that believes Gastrodon is good, but I can understand the other viewpoints as well. If you take a look at my team analysis for Nationals, it's pretty easy to see that Gastrodon is one of my favorite Pokémon to use in VGC, so I feel like I should share my thoughts on this unique Pokémon.
Why Gastrodon is a Good Pokémon
If you looked only at Gastrodon's stats, you wouldn't be able to see why this Pokémon is good enough to make it in Doubles. After all, it's defenses and attacking stats are only decent, not to mention it's slower than most of the Pokémon used in the current metagame; the only stat Gastrodon has going for it is its base 111 HP, but no one would use a Pokémon based solely on their HP stat, right? If they did, Wailord would be on every team. So what is it that puts Gastrodon above other Pokémon with better stats? Gastrodon's typing and ability hold the answer. Gastrodon's Water / Ground typing gives Gastrodon only one weakness: Grass. At the same time, its ability Storm Drain makes it immune to Water-type attacks and gives it a Special Attack boost when hit by Water-type attacks. Gastrodon's immunity to Electric- and Water-type attacks thanks to its Ground-typing and ability is huge in a metagame where Electric-types and Rain teams are common. Without these two factors, Gastrodon wouldn't see itself used as often, and even then it requires substantial team support to do its job correctly. Overall, I feel like Gastrodon is good enough to be used, it's just used more often than it should be.
The reason people could see Gastrodon as a "good" Pokemon is most likely because people see it as a Pokémon that can work with any team or they feel like it's a hard counter to threats like Metagross or Rain teams, which it isn't. Gastrodon has a number of issues: its Defense stat is pretty bad, it has problems with Grass-type attacks, and it's almost always going last in battle, so it needs substantial team support to cover these weaknesses. In these kinds of situations, it's important to do things to keep Gastrodon safe: switching, Protecting, or using partners to effectively deal with threats. Metagross is seen on almost all serious VGC teams, so the idea that Gastrodon "counters" Metagross has probably played a huge part in its usage rise. The truth is that the most Gastrodon can do against Metagross is check it. With Earth Gem, Gastrodon can OHKO Metagross depending on the EV spreads, while Gastrodon resists Meteor Mash. Still, not a good idea to switch Gastrodon into Metagross thanks to that weak Defense stat, and depending on how the trainers play, Metagross can come out on top, making Gastrodon only a check and not a counter. Another reason for Gastrodon's usage is the fact that Rain teams are the most common type of Weather team. Some players mistakenly believe that it "counters" Rain teams, but well-built Rain teams will have a way of dealing with threats like Gastrodon, most commonly Ludicolo. Gastrodon can only take so many hits, so working around the fact that it's usually last is important in keeping it on the field.
There are so many possible sets Gastrodon can use. Jio and I have made two that should work a lot better than the usual 252/252 spreads, and may be a good starting point if you want to make your own Gastrodon set.
Gastrodon-Ea (Gastrodon-East) (M) @ Earth Gem
Trait: Storm Drain
EVs: 252 HP / 20 Def / 100 SAtk / 136 SDef
Modest Nature (+SAtk, -Atk)
- Scald / Muddy Water
- Ice Beam
- Earth Power
- Protect / Recover
First up is the offensive set. The most obvious part of this set is that it's made to be able to OHKO 252 HP / 4 SpD Metagross. That would be the reason behind the Special Attack boosting nature, the 100 Special Attack EVs, and Earth Gem. Of course, not all Metagross use this spread, so it's important to be aware of the fact that it might survive. The defensives allow Gastrodon to survive both a Fighting Gem Close Combat from Adamant Hitmontop or a Dragon Gem Draco Meteor from Timid Latios (therefore handling any Dragon Gem Draco Meteor besides Modest Latios and Hydreigon in VGC 2012) with barely any HP left.
While Earth Power is the highlight of this set, the other moves are decided by preference. The choice to use either Muddy Water or Scald depends on the support you feel you need. If you don't care much about Physical attackers and feel you need to hit two Pokémon, Muddy Water is usually better than Scald and vice versa. Ice Beam is mostly for coverage so you can hit threats like Latios and Garchomp hard. Protect and Recover are both usable on Gastrodon, but Protect is generally preferred. Of course, Recover can work in these situations too. Gastrodon could really use the HP when taking hits from Gems, and it can work really well depending on how you play Gastrodon. For example, if you can make your opponent believe you're going to Protect, a smart opponent will avoid targeting your Protecting Gastrodon so you can use this turn to Recover instead. Modest can always become a Quiet nature for Trick Room conditions, where Recover may work better.
Gastrodon-Ea (Gastrodon-East) (M) @ Sitrus Berry
Trait: Storm Drain
EVs: 252 HP / 108 Def / 28 SAtk / 120 SDef
Bold Nature (+Def, -Atk)
- Icy Wind
- Earth Power
This Gastrodon set is on the bulkier side, though it isn't lacking in the offensive department. Gastrodon's Defense stat is pretty average, so a Bold nature is preferred if you're looking for a mixed defensive Gastrodon. Defensively, this Gastrodon can do a ton. It survives a Fighting Gem Close Combat from Terrakion and is only 3HKOed by Zen Headbutt from Metagross, Crunch from Tyranitar, and Bug Bite from Scizor. Draco Meteor Dragon Gem from Timid Latios doesn't even KO while Sitrus Berry keeps Gastrodon from being easily picked off afterwards.
Scald is preferred here to make Gastrodon even more of a Physical tank if it scores a Burn, while Icy Wind allows Gastrodon to continue taking hits and lower the opponent's Speed, possibly making Gastrodon not the slowest Pokémon on the field. Like before, the moves depend on what matches your team and your playstyle, so make sure to customize Gastrodon to your own needs.
What to Do with Gastrodon
If you're building a team and you want to use Gastrodon, there are a ton of factors you need to look at to decide what set you will be using. I won't be able to explain how to choose your Gastrodon set specifically, but I will be explaining the thought process behind choices I’ve made.
Before going too far into detail, you first need to answer the question: Why Gastrodon? Gastrodon isn't a Pokémon that needs to be built around so long as it has some kind of support in the rest of the team. Usually Gastrodon is put on teams as a second check for Metagross or a switch in to Electric- or Water-type attacks that the team would otherwise have problems with. Even though it can be EV'd to take big hits like Dragon Gem Draco Meteor once, you'll still need to have partners that can switch into these attacks regularly and barely take anything. Generally, Gastrodon's greatest strength is its ability Storm Drain. Storm Drain draws in every single target Water-type attack to Gastrodon and gives it a Special Attack boost in the process. Because of this, teams with a few Water-type weaknesses welcome Gastrodon with open arms, though they still need to beware Water-type attacks that hit more than one target -- Gastrodon will still get the Special Attack boost, but the Pokémon it is ostensibly protecting will also still get hit.
Finding Partners with Synergy
Now that you've decided to use Gastrodon, you need to surround it with Pokémon who both support Gastrodon and are supported by it, a concept known as synergy. It's important for Gastrodon to have positive synergy with the Pokémon on the field with it. For example, you don't want to use Hydro Pump with Gastrodon on the field, unless you're intentionally boosting it, as Storm Drain will redirect even your own single target Water attacks to Gastrodon, and you don't want to be walled by other Pokémon. Having a Pokémon out with an attack like Hydro Pump and is walled by the same Pokémon as Gastrodon would be a prime example of a combination that has no synergy. To avoid being trapped in this situation, you need to know what threatens Gastrodon. Rotom-W is the most common Pokémon that walls Gastrodon since Rotom-W resists all of Gastrodon's attacking options short of Hidden Power. On the other hand, Rotom-W cannot really touch Gastrodon with its STAB attacks either, but Hidden Power [Grass] is becoming more and more popular an option on Rotom just to threaten Gastrodon. It's important that one of Gastrodon's partners is able to handle Rotom, as well as other threats to Gastrodon like Virizion or Ludicolo. Gastrodon also needs partners that it can be switched in for or switched out to as well.
Given all this, I've found a few really good partners for Gastrodon, but I'm sure there are a ton more. My favorite pair would be Gastrodon and Heatran because they can sit on the field and support each other, while also being able to switch into weaknesses. For example, Heatran loves having Gastrodon on the field to redirect Water-type attacks away from it, while Gastrodon enjoys having Heatran in the back to switch in to Grass-type attacks aimed at Gastrodon (Gastrodon and Chandelure, another good partner, work in a similar manner but with less defensive synergy). For a while I used Drifblim / Gastrodon which was made to support Drifblim's Electric-type weakness. If you look at both these pairs they seem like they're walled by Rotom-W, but that's why there are 6 Pokémon! Even though this is more of a Singles term, I've always used Gastrodon on teams with a FWG (Fire / Water / Grass) core because they allow Gastrodon to switch out from threats easier. So when deciding on partners for Gastrodon you should be asking yourself the following questions: Can Gastrodon and "x" work together on the field, and does Gastrodon have partners that it can switch into or out to when needed?
Deciding on a Set
Now that you've decided on Gastrodon and some partners, it's time to build a set. It’s impossible to explain how other people should choose sets, as every set should be tailored to the team, so I’ll be explaining my choices for the Gastrodon I used at the United States Video Game National Championships. For a more detailed analysis of the entire team, in which this Gastrodon featured prominently, check out my US Nationals Tournament Report: HeraBoss and Friends.
Gastrodon-Ea (Gastrodon-East) (M) @ Earth Gem
Trait: Storm Drain
EVs: 240 HP / 20 Def / 120 SAtk / 128 SDef
Quiet Nature (+SAtk, -Speed)
- Muddy Water
- Earth Power
Although my spread could have been better if I had added in the Hail damage, it worked really well in the end. I knew I wanted to be able to use Earth Gem because of how common Metagross is and how disruptive it can be to teams that utilize Hail. Gastrodon also played an important role supporting Chandelure, drawing away Water-type attacks that would otherwise wreck it and potentially ruin my Trick Room set up. Muddy Water was preference. As I was already running Will-o-Wisp on Sableye, I was unconcerned with Burning Physical attackers with Gastrodon and much preferred the ability to hit both of my opponent's Pokémon and potential Accuracy drops. I didn’t care if I had Hail up or not, I loved spamming Blizzard so I used that over Ice Beam. Running Abomasnow on the same team was just the icing on the cake for Blizzard. I ended up using Protect over Recover since I wouldn't always have Trick Room up, causing Gastrodon to lose much of its survivability.
Offensive vs Defensive
I’ve always felt that a Pokémon should have a mix of offense and defense, and my own Gastrodon reflects this. Gastrodon’s base 92 Special Attack stat shouldn’t go unused if you’re using attacks on your Gastrodon, so it’s usually a good idea to put at least a few EVs into Special Attack. Gastrodon is one of those Pokémon that is middling in offense and defense, so I feel like using both is best. There are some cases where you might want an all out offensive Gastrodon if you have problems against Fire or Ground types, but you could go defensive here as well. Deciding which way to go with Gastrodon is really debatable, and will usually go by preference and team needs. It's a good idea to assess what the rest of the team's members need and how the team is built and then decide what Gastrodon will do.
Earth Gem vs Rindo Berry vs Sitrus Berry
I’ve never used anything other than Earth Gem on Gastrodon. Earth Gem is great when playing against Metagross and the like where it can net a surprise KO, while Sitrus is a great item for the bulkier Gastrodon, especially if it’s always going last on the field. It turns some key 2HKOs on Gastrodon into 3hkos, which can be crucial in some cases, while also giving it some health recovery if you aren't using Recover. Rindo Berry, on the other hand, I find hard to justify. You’re not using it every game -- it’s there “just in case,” which I don’t really understand. Some Grass moves KO even through Rindo, and I feel like if the Berry isn’t going to save you anyway, why use it? Besides, with proper teambuilding, it’s pretty easy to play around Grass-types in the first place. Of the three most common item choices for Gastrodon, Rindo Berry is probably the worst in my opinion.
Muddy Water vs Scald
The decision to use either Muddy Water or Scald is very controversial. Both have their benefits, but I would choose Muddy Water because I feel that the benefit of hitting both opponents and possibly lowering the Accuracy of the opposing Pokémon outweighs the fact that its accuracy is 85. Scald's merits include its higher base power by about 9 points when Muddy Water is hitting two opponents and its ability to Burn the opponent's Pokémon 30% of the time. Deciding one way or the other is difficult and, again, comes down to your own team construction. On my Nationals team, I didn't need Scald's chance to Burn the opposition because I already had Will-o-Wisp on another Pokémon so I used Muddy Water. If Physical attackers give your team trouble, however, Scald could be a more attractive option.
Stockpile and Recover vs Protect
Stockpile and Recover have proved to be a strong combo, just ask Fishy who won the Colorado Regionals with it! It works best in Trick Room environments, allowing Gastrodon to bulk up or Recover off damage before being hit, so if you want to use these moves that’s definitely the way to go. Protect is important if you know you won’t be playing with Gastrodon in a Trick Room environment all the time or if you are leading with Gastrodon so that you can increase its survivability. In most cases one of Protect or Recover will be used since there are only so many moveslots, but if you have the room and are willing to build a team to support it, Stockpile is definitely something to look at!
While you'll usually see Gastrodon with a moveset of Scald / Earth Power / Ice Beam / Protect, or something very similar, that's not all there is to use. I've mentioned them before, but skills like Recover and Stockpile are moves you should know. Although it won't always be able to pull it off often, Gastrodon can become a large threat if it manages to get a couple of defensive boosts. There are also moves like Blizzard or Surf that Gastrodon will take advantage of on specialized teams, usually Hail and Rain respectively. Icy Wind is also a great option for Gastrodon as it provides a healthy amount of support for the team by slowing down your opponent's Pokémon. Gastrodon, like every other Pokémon, can carry a Hidden Power -- almost always HP Grass or HP Fire for other Gastrodon and Scizor, respectively. If you're feeling bold, you could even try out Mirror Coat! Most other moves that Gastrodon has access to would probably be called a "gimmick", but that's no reason not to test them. There very well could be more surprises in Gastrodon's movepool that just haven't been unearthed yet!
Gastrodon and Team Archetypes
Gastrodon can find a role on almost any kind of team used in VGC 2012, but it should be handled differently for each kind. While the spreads above might not fit what you need for a specific team type, you can always make new ones to fit your specific needs.
Gastrodon has found its way onto a lot of Goodstuffs teams even though it may not be the best fit, which goes a long way in explaining why Gastrodon has become controversial. Some trainers will just slap a Gastrodon onto their team thinking it covers some weaknesses and are disappointed when it fails to hard counter them because it hasn't been tailored to the team. Gastrodon is usually the slowest on the field, but this can be used to your advantage. If it appears that Gastrodon will obviously be using Protect one turn, using that turn to Recover instead can be game deciding. Gastrodon on Goodstuffs teams are generally on the bulkier side because they're filling some kind of void the opponent felt the team had and because Gastrodon will have to take a hit before it can hit back. Using Gastrodon on Goodstuffs is probably the hardest kind of team to use it on out of all the team archetypes because unless you've packed your team with water weaknesses, Rotom-W will usually do many of the same things better.
Gastrodon has a really bad speed for Tailwind abuse, but it can work in a punch. These Gastrodon will generally be more offensive as Tailwind support will allow it to outspeed Pokémon like most Metagross and Pokémon with Base Speed stat of 80 that don't invest in Speed. Deciding whether or not you outspeed these Pokémon is usually a gamble. To avoid gambling you can invest some in Gastrodon's Speed, but investing more than the 4 EVs to outspeed other Gastrodon isn't usually a good idea because it takes away from Gastrodon's bulk. It's not common to see Gastrodon abusing Tailwind because there are better Pokémon to do this, but it is sometimes used in the back of some Tailwind teams.
Trick Room is probably my personal favorite environment for Gastrodon. Outside of Trick Room, most opponents don’t think much of Gastrodon if they know they have something that can get rid of it, but in Trick Room, Gastrodon can become a huge threat. Its base 39 speed stat is only threatened in Trick Room by opposing Amoonguss or Ferrothorn, which you should be able to play around. The kind of Gastrodon on Trick Room teams varies a lot, but I’ve always used an offensive one with bulk, since I’m not so worried about living a ton of hits now that I'm going first. Trick Room is also the perfect environment for Gastrodon to abuse stat boosting moves like Stockpile and Recover. Fishy’s regionals team is a testament to that. Gastrodon is probably one of the best Water-types to use in a Trick Room environment, and some people think they can put it on their team as a “Trick Room counter” because the rest of the team can’t do much against it. If it’s a well constructed Trick Room team, however, Gastrodon definitely won’t be “countering” it. At most, Gastrodon will only keep you from getting decimated by Trick Room teams. You'll still need other ways to combat Trick Room. If you plan on using an offensive Gastrodon, Trick Room is usually the way to go.
Gastrodon usually doesn’t fit on Rain teams well unless the team will be abusing Surf, which means they’re going to be boosting Gastrodon for easy KOs. You’ll probably see Gastrodon the least on Rain teams because abusing Surf can be hard to pull off, since it’s easily detected by good players and Black and White added some new toys like Wide Guard to counter these strategies. Rain teams will usually use Pokémon with Swift Swim instead of Gastrodon, but spying a Gastrodon on one is a sure sign of what you're in for.
Sandstorm teams have Gastrodon on them pretty often. This is because many Sand abusers are weak to Water, which Gastrodon helps cover. Gastrodon is immune to Sandstorm damage because of its Ground typing, but outside of absorbing Water-type attacks, Gastrodon doesn’t do much of anything that the rest of the team doesn’t already do. The most common thing for Gastrodon to do on Sandstorm teams is to switch into Water-type attacks for the boost. It definitely does work for Sand teams, but generally I find Cradily to be a stronger Storm Drain Pokémon to use on these teams. Gastrodon will usually be built defensively for greater longevity so that it can protect the Ground- and Rock-types from Water-type attacks as long as possible.
Hail can be abused by almost any Pokémon with Blizzard. Gastrodon has access to it, and it fits pretty well on Hail teams. In the past I’ve used Gastrodon and Heatran together on a Hail team, and it worked fantastically. The two Pokémon can switch in for each other the majority of the time, and they support the Hail starter, Abomasnow. Though not immune to Hail's passive damage, Gastrodon has enough HP that it doesn't particularly mind it. Hail teams with Gastrodon will usually have Trick Room as well, since they will be using Blizzard over Icy Wind. It also means that Gastrodon will probably be offensive, just like in normal Trick Room teams.
Sun teams aren’t seen much these days, but they can definitely find a use for Gastrodon. It won’t be using Water-type moves in this environment (although it might be smart to carry one if the weather changes), but Gastrodon is great support for these teams. With Gastrodon, Sun teams can fair pretty well against Rain teams because of their Chlorophyll abusers and the extra protection Gastrodon offers from Rain's strongest attacks. The kinds of Gastrodon you’ll see on Sun teams will vary a lot depending on what kind of support it needs, but of all the Storm Drain users, Gastrodon fits the best here.
So is Gastrodon “Good”?
Well that's your decision to make. If I were to answer this, I’d have to say yes, but you’ll have to play with it to see for yourself. I feel like Gastrodon is one of those Pokémon that uses Doubles to its full potential because of how much it supports and needs support from partners. Gastrodon has its own niche that few other Pokémon can hope to fill in Doubles, so, yes, I think Gastrodon is "good" in the VGC 2012 metagame.