AKA: Why Iron Bundle and Chien-Pao are scary
The Ice-Type is the ultimate glass cannon in the Pokemon franchise.
Offensively, the Ice-Type is one of most powerful in the game. It hits Dragon, Ground, Grass, and Flying-Type Pokemon for Super Effective damage. Considering the prominence of these Pokemon Types in the competitive scene, this single-handedly makes Ice-Type attacks a liability that any team has to account for. Having said that, Ice-Type Pokemon have nothing going on for them defensively. They only resist themselves, which pales in comparison to the four Types that can deal Super Effective damage to Ice Pokemon. This may make Ice-Type Pokemon seem weak, but it can’t be understated just how potent that offensive spread is. Even a powerhouse like Garchomp can absolutely collapse if it’s caught off guard by a priority Ice-Type attack.
In other words, trainers with Ice-Type Pokemon will typically employ strategies you won’t see with other Pokemon Types. Yet before we get into that, let’s dive into the basics of how to counter Ice-Type Pokemon.
The best counters for Ice-Type Pokemon
When fighting a pure Ice-Type Pokemon, two types reign supreme: Fire and Steel.
Both of these Types are capable of dealing Super Effective damage to Ice-Type Pokemon while resisting their attacks in return. These are already two of the best defensive Types in the game, so they counter other Types as well. If you’re progressing the main storyline in Scarlet & Violet, you’ll easily sweep Ice-Type encounters with any applicable Pokemon of these types.
Additionally, Fighting and Rock-Type Pokemon deal Super Effective damage to Ice-Type enemies. The Fighting-Type already has the sole honor of dealing Super Effective damage to Normal-Type Pokemon, so there’s a strong likelihood you’ll want one fighter in your team by default. Additionally, the Water-Type also resists Ice-Type Pokemon, which opens the floor for nontraditional Ice-Type counters. For example, Quaquavel and Aqua Form Tauros are both Fighting/Water hybrids that handily counter Ice-Types. Similarly, Drednaw’s Rock/Water combination can also shut down Ice-Type Pokemon quickly.
Finally, there’s one particularly quirky option that’s effective against Ice-Type Pokemon: Cloyster. As a Water/Ice hybrid, Cloyster has double resistance to Ice-Type attacks and can shrug off hits with its powerful defense. Additionally, thanks to its ability Skill Link, it can deal powerful damage in return with Rock Blast. Cloyster isn’t necessarily better than the above counters, but if you really don’t want to use the above Types, this monster could be a fun change of pace for your next playthrough.
A word about the weather
While the above counters are effective in a vacuum, there’s one key element that can change things: Snow.
The Snow weather effect replaces Hail in Generation 9. While Snow does not deal chip damage, it does increase the Defense of all Ice-Type Pokemon on the field. Abomasnow’s ability Snow Warning automatically turns the weather to Snow when it enters the field, so you can’t burn it down before its defenses are buffed. Additionally, Glaseado Mountain in Scarlet & Violet forces snow on the battlefield. Considering this is where most Ice-Type Pokemon appear, you can count on their defense being boosted in every encounter.
This can make physical attackers a bit awkward to use if you’re trying to breeze through the main campaign. Steel, Fighting, and Rock-Types all generally fall into this category, though Pokemon like Lucario are exceptions to this rule. It’s easier to find Fire-Type special attackers who can ignore this buff, especially if you picked a Fire-Type starter. That said, you can overpower wild Pokemon encounters easily, so this only becomes an issue if you’re speed running or trying to visit Glaseado early. In the competitive scene, we haven’t seen any Snow strategies gain dominance, so as of writing it’s not as essential to plan a counterplay for it. In fact, this brings us to our next point.
What Ice-Types will you see on the battlefield?
Like we said at the top, the Ice-Type is the ultimate glass cannon. In competitive Pokemon, slower Ice-Type Pokemon tend to see less use unless they’re part of extremely specific and niche strategies. That said, the Ice-Types you will see are not to be trifled with.
As of writing, Iron Bundle is absolutely tearing up VGC Series 2 in Scarlet & Violet. Its mix of insane speed and monstrous Special Attack play incredibly well to the Ice-Type’s strengths, especially with moves like Freeze Dry that deal Super Effective damage to Water-Type Pokemon. Its secondary Water-Typing also covers some defensive bases while giving it further coverage to take out Iron Bundle’s weaknesses. Top-tier Ice-Type Pokemon like this need specific strategies to counter, such as using Pokemon with high special defense or coordinating both your monsters’ attacks on it in 4v4 double battles.
Meanwhile, the legendary Chien-Pao is a dominant force in the unofficial Smogon 6v6 singles format. Like Iron Bundle, this is a fast monster with an enormous attack stat that can deal Super Effective damage to a multitude of Types. Though Chien-Pao is a physical attacker, similar kinds of strategies can prevail here. It’s combination of Ice and Dark-Typing makes it especially vulnerable to priority Fighting-Type attacks that can deal X4 Super Effective damage to it.
In other words, an overall Ice-Type counter strategy doesn’t really work in the competitive scene. You’ll want to focus specifically on these fast and powerful threats that appear exponentially more often than other Ice-Types. That said, the meta for competitive Pokemon is always changing. Pokemon like Weavile were once dominate in Smogon formats until Chien-Pao came along, so always research the most used Pokemon as you develop your counterplay.
Non-Ice Ice Attackers
In addition to all of the above, it’s worth reiterating that the Ice-Type’s offenses are incredible. For this reason, many trainers will opt to run Ice-Type attacks on Pokemon who don’t sport the Type like Tatsugiri and Dragonite. This makes Pokemon weak to ice a liability even if you don’t expect it, so look out for any Pokemon that can learn Ice-Type attacks!
That said, remember that much of this will only appear in the upper echelons of competitive Pokemon. If you’re just blasting through the main campaign of a Pokemon game or casually battling with friends, you don’t need to have this much trepidation of the Type. Just make sure to exploit its weaknesses when possible while avoiding getting struck hard in return. Happy battling!