Donphan, The Armor Pokémon. It attacks by curling up, then rolling into its foe. It can blow apart a house in one hit. It has sharp, hard tusks and a rugged hide. The longer and bigger its tusks, the higher its rank in its herd. The tusks take long to grow. Donphan's favorite attack is curling its body into a ball, then charging at its foe while rolling at high speed. Once it starts rolling, this Pokémon can't stop very easily. Using its massive strength, the Pokémon helps clear rock and mud slides that block mountain trails. A Donphan is so strong it can easily haul a dump truck. Its hide has toughened to a rock-hard state. An ordinary sort of attack won't even leave a scratch.
Donphan, whilst not an overwhelmingly popular or powerful Pokémon, is quite useful. It got a couple of upgrades in the generation shift. Knock Off increases its utility options whilst Stone Edge is a huge offensive improvement when compared to Rock Slide. Also, like a lot of Ground types, it got access to Stealth Rock as well. Ironically, the addition of Stealth Rock is probably one of the better changes for Donphan in the generation shift, not because it can use it, but because so many other Pokémon can. Rapid Spin is the only way to get the ever popular entry hazard off the field, and Donphan is one of few Pokémon with access to this move, and one of fewer who's quite viable in the Standard environment.
Other changes around it have been a mixture of kind and unkind. With pretty much every popular sweeper hitting harder this generation, Donphan doesn't quite cut it as a top-notch physical wall. Its sparse collection of resistances leave a lot to be desired when measured against Bronzong and Skarmory, and unlike Hippowdon and Gliscor, it lacks a reliable recovery move. Nevertheless, it has a lot of raw bulk to fall back on. It also packs very respectable offensive capabilities as well, and the popularity of Stealth Rocks make its spinning abilities a very attractive addition to any team.
Sturdy: is a fitting adjective to describe Donphan, but it's sadly a rather poor ability. In most competitive play, OHKO moves are either banned or scarcely used, so being immune to them means little. Unfortunately, on the off occasion that you'll see OHKO moves being used, it'll probably be Sheer Cold, which tends to come from Ice types. Obviously, Donphan has a healthy fear of Ice types, so even if you are immune to their OHKO move, you won't be able to capitalise on that immunity too much when they can follow it up with a STAB Ice Beam.
- Rapid Spin
Spinning is Donphan's biggest attraction. Compared against Starmie and Tentacruel, it's physically-inclined, whilst measured against Claydol and Forretress, it poses a significantly larger physical threat. For those unfamiliar with the move, Rapid Spin is favoured for its ability to clear the field of entry hazards (Spikes, Stealth Rock and Toxic Spikes). Being central to the move-set, it's the first move to be selected, quickly followed by Earthquake, which packs plenty of power and type coverage.
Aside from those two, you have a fair few strong options to fill the final two move-slots.
Ice Shard is a very useful tool against the 4x weak Dragons. Whilst it won't be an OHKO, without any EV investment, it does around 50-59% to Salamence and 40-48% damage to Garchomp (and higher numbers can be achieved with EV investment).
Stone Edge is significantly stronger than Ice Shard against fliers (the super-effective hit on Gyarados is especially important). It also gets a very strong hit on Gengar as well, who avoids Earthquake with Levitate.
Knock Off causes problems for almost every Pokémon, but popular switch-ins against Donphan are Bulky Waters, defensive levitators and defensive Ghosts, all of which hate to lose their Leftovers. In addition, if you're packing a Magnezone and get matched up against Skarmory, you can make it lose its Shed Shell and expose it to Magnet Pull.
Donphan can set-up Stealth Rock as well, filling a double-role, ridding its team-mates of the entry hazard and placing some up of its own.
The main alternative to a utility move-set is for Donphan to barge through teams with raw power alone. STAB Earthquakes backed by a Choice Band is more than enough to punish Ghosts who switch in expecting a Rapid Spin, as well as any other counters (who aren't immune) expecting to take an un-boosted hit. Stone Edge is there once again for fliers (and some levitators), and where Ice Shard would only grab 2KOs on the 4x Dragons before, it can now look towards an OHKO on Salamence and 80-95% damage to Garchomp (ignoring variables like Intimidate, Yache Berry or abnormal EV spreads).
In the final move-slot, you have some options. Fire Fang is mostly there for Bronzong and Skarmory. Seed Bomb is a little stronger than STAB Earthquake against Water types, but its best use is an easy OHKO on Swampert. Finally, Rapid Spinning is still an option, and in the early stages of a battle, it'll keep the opponent guessing.
EVs and Nature:
Obviously, you can go the max Defence route, but that leaves you a little lacking in the offensive department (notably, you'll only do around 30% damage to Dusknoir and Spiritomb with Earthquake). If you're going heavy on support moves, this isn't too big a deal (especially if you carry Knock Off, which'll frighten the two Ghosts and generally any other counter).
Max Attack is the other extreme. Comparatively, this ups the damage to around 40% on the aforementioned Ghost duo. You're looking at around 70% damage on Gengar as well, and if Ice Shard's a factor, Salamence will take around 70-80% damage (disregarding Intimidate) and 55-65% damage to Garchomp. If you're going heavy on offensive moves, then this might be worth the defensive trade-off.
If you want to balance your Defence and Attack stats, then the EV spread listed will give you a little over 320 in both stats. Of course, going with one of the two extremes is perfectly viable, especially if your Donphan is tailored towards supporting or attacking.
As a final little note, when it comes to Donphan's Speed, it may be worth considering some minor Speed investment to outrun Swampert. The standard 'Mix-Pert' runs with a Relaxed nature and can be outran with 20 Speed EVs. Other Swampert variants that run without Speed EVs but without a Speed-hindering nature can be outran with 84 Speed EVs.
Roar, Counter, Rest, Assurance, Superpower, Poison Jab, Gunk Shot.
Roar is the main absentee of alternatives for the Rapid Spinner. Pseudo-hazing isn't always necessary, but it's a nice insurance to have against some stat-boosters (Baton Passers especially), and can also get rid of an irritating opponent who poses no threat but also can't be brought down easily (like Skarmory). Whilst Donphan probably won't be taking on any physically-inclined stat-boosters easily (due to a lack of resistances), Donphan can use Roar on them if they attempt to stat-boost against it.
Donphan has plenty of HP and is more than capable of taking physical hits, so Counter can be effective with proper prediction. The main drawback is a lack of any reliable recovery move means you'll be condemning Donphan to lose HP in order to take advantage of this move, and whilst this isn't a big deal against light hits, Donphan can't sit about taking hits of around 40%+ at will.
A lack of a reliable recovery move is Donphan's major downfall. Rest doesn't fill the boots of a reliable recovery move either, since two turns of sleep leaves Donphan heavily exposed (and move-slot restrictions make the addition of Sleep Talk unfavourable). Rest is only worth consideration if you have a Heal Beller or Aromatherapist on your team to cure the status at a later stage.
Assurance is an odd move. It does double damage if the opponent receives damage on the same turn prior to using this move. The most obvious case of this occurring is a switch-in taking Stealth Rock damage. If you have the necessary entry hazard support, Assurance can give Dusknoir and Cresselia a more uncomfortable time when they attempt to counter Donphan.
Superpower, like Seed Bomb, is another Platinum move-tutor addition. It lowers both Attack and Defence after use, so it's a move tailored to switching frequently, since you won't want to carry those stat-drops with you for too long. The main reason it isn't listed on the Choice Band set is a lack of worthwhile coverage. There aren't any Donphan counters that have a particularly great fear of it, and its associated side effect relegates it to the sidelines.
Poison Jab is worth a loose bit of consideration for its super-effective hits on Grass types. It'll keep Celebi from playing the Recover-stall game with you, and with a Choice Band equipped, you're looking at around 70% damage. Gunk Shot is the inaccurate but more powerful alternative (again, Platinum). With a Choice Band boost, you'll usually OHKO Celebi with it, assuming the hit lands.
Since Donphan's primary job is to provide Spinning services, Ghosts get the first mention as counters. For those unfamiliar with the scenario, if Rapid Spin is used against a Ghost, due to their Normal immunity, it fails to do damage and also fails to clear the field of entry hazards (in other words, Ghosts 'block' Spinning attempts). Dusknoir and Spiritomb are the obvious ones, being able to handle Earthquake with relative comfort provided they have a defensive EV spread. Gengar and Mismagius are a bit shaky when faced with Stone Edge but are otherwise ideal, both benefiting from Earthquake immunities.
When you aren't concerned with blocking Rapid Spin, the counters list expands a great deal. Cresselia faces Donphan almost fearlessly, enjoying Earthquake immunity and Ice Beam access. Bronzong is similarly fearless, but has difficulty bringing Donphan down if it lacks Grass Knot.
Bulky Waters like Suicune, Milotic and Swampert have their reservations about Band-boosted Earthquakes (and in Swampert's case, Seed Bomb too), but are otherwise fine counters. Ludicolo, whilst not normally classified as a 'Bulky Water', benefits from a Ground resistance and makes a fine counter as well.
Grass types are effective counters. Celebi is the obvious one, comfortably walling most of Donphan's offence and being able to shrug off any damage with Recover. Shaymin (Land Forme) always plays second-fiddle to Celebi, but it too is an effective counter. Tangrowth rounds off the list, having ideally placed base stats.
In the case of spinning Donphan, if it lacks Stone Edge, then pretty much anything immune to Earthquake without an Ice Shard weakness can join the counters list. Gyarados is one of the big names to be added here, but this list extends even to Azelf, who at most takes 20-25% damage from a Band-less Ice Shard.
Pretty much all of the listed counters, as well as any other potential counter, should watch out for Knock Off. Whilst it won't stop you from countering Donphan, it will hinder your Pokémon in some way.
From a tactical perspective, Toxic Spikes is major hindrance when it comes to Donphan's spinning duties. Unlike fellow spinners Starmie, Forretress, Tentacruel and Claydol, Donphan is exposed to its effects. Whilst it can still spin them away, it'll pick up a Poison status for its troubles. As a defensive Pokémon, wandering around with a Poison status makes life a lot more difficult, especially since it lacks a reliable recovery move.
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