As I was playing through Pokémon Moon, a common piece of advice I received was “Keep Pikipek in your top six; you’ll be happy you did when it evolves.” So I did…and I was! Toucannon, Pikipek’s final evolution, became a core member of my Pokémon party, even rivaling Incineroar in its utility and usefulness. Dang, I thought, I haven’t had a bird this useful since…er…. Gosh, when WAS the last time I had a bird this good?
The answer ended up being way back in Pokémon Pearl, when a plucky Starly turned into a monstrous Staraptor that struck fear in the hearts of all Sinnoh villainy. Toucannon was good, I had to admit, but that Staraptor dominated in its prime. Which one was the better bird? It was time…for a face-off!
(Note: All data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)
The overall stat counts are dead even, but the distribution of these numbers give Staraptor a slight edge:
- The HP and Defense differences are basically a push: Staraptor has a little more HP, but Toucannon’s improved defenses mean it can retain its HP better.
- Toucannon has a noticeable advantage in Special Attack, but its outstanding Attack renders the advantage meaningless, as most players will favor Toucannon’s physical attacks over its special ones.
- Speed, on the other hand, is an important stat that matters regardless of the other stat values, and Staraptor holds a sizeable advantage in this category.
Here, we run into a bit of a dilemma, as three of these abilities (Reckless, Skill Link, and Sheer Force) are dependent on the moves these Pokémon can learn. You could argue that Intimidate gives Staraptor a slight advantage since it comes into play more often than Keen Eye, but it’s really a matter of personal preference. (I prefer Keen Eye mostly because I’ve been on the receiving end of Sand Attack and Mud Bomb far too many times.) We’re going to have to defer this one for a moment.
|Top 3 STAB Attacks|
|Brave Bird||Flying||120||P||Beak Blast||Flying||100||P|
|Take Down||Normal||90||P||Hyper Voice||Normal||90||S|
|Aerial Ace||Flying||60||P||Drill Peck||Flying||80||P|
|Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks|
|Close Combat||Fighting||120||P||Rock Smash||Fighting||40||P|
|Final Gambit||Fighting||HP||S||Bullet Seed||Grass||25||P|
|Other Notable Moves|
|Agility||Boosts Speed||Roost||Restores 50% of HP|
|Double Team||Boosts Evasion||Supersonic||Confuses Target|
|Whirlwind||Forces Opponent To Flee/Switch||Feather Dance||Lowers Opponent’s Attack|
The movesets are where everything starts to come together, and where Staraptor’s advantage really becomes clear:
Between the two Pokémon, Staraptor has the stronger Flying move (Brave Bird), the stronger Normal move (Take Down), and even the stronger Fighting move (Close Combat). Furthermore, Brave Bird and Take Down cause recoil damage to Staraptor, which means they become 20% more powerful when paired with Starptor’s Reckless ability.
Toucannon’s moveset is a bit more diverse than Staraptor’s, as it sports a wider variety of types (Grass, Rock) and includes status-inducing moves (Supersonic) and recovery moves (Roost). However, its moves do not sync with its strengths quite as well as Staraptor’s: Its strongest Normal attack (Hyper Voice) is a special move rather than a physical one, and the only move that can take advantage of its Sheer Force ability (which strengthens attacks that have secondary effects by 33%, at the cost of removing the secondary effects) is Rock Smash. Its moveset does a better job of utilizing Skill Link (attacks that hit 2-5 times will always hit 5 times) with its Fury Attack, Bullet Seed, and Rock Blast attacks, but only one of these (Fury Attack) receives a STAB boost.
The synergy between Staraptor’s stats, moves and abilities make it a classic “glass cannon:” Its sole purpose to do as much damage for as long as it can, and while it may only last for a few turns, the opposing team will know it was there. Toucannon, on the other hand, has the moveset of a more defensive Pokémon (good type coverage, recovery options, non-recoil attacks) and the statistical profile of a offensive attacker, making it an awkward fit for either role. In basketball terms, Staraptor is the soulless gunner who adds instant offense to any team, whereas Toucannon is the “tweener” who can partially cover a few different roles, but can’t perform any of them exceptionally well.
Advantage (for both abilities and moves): Staraptor
|Top 4 TM Moves|
|Roost||Restores 50% of HP||Aerial Ace||Flying||60||P|
When we examine the moves these can learn, we see that both birds double down on their respective roles. Staraptor sticks to powerful STAB moves like Fly, Return, and even Giga Impact, while U-Turn and Thief are the only non-STAB attacks it has at its disposal. Toucannon, on the other hand, broadens its type coverage even further with Overheat, Flame Charge, Steel Wing, Flash Cannon, and U-Turn in its potential arsenal. Staraptor remains an unapologetic DPS, while Toucannon vainly tries to be the do-it-all swiss army knife that its stats won’t allow it to be.
Make no mistake: Toucannon is one heck of a Pokémon, and bailed me out on numerous occasions (most notably, it was the only thing standing between me and a total team wipe at the hands of Elite Four Hala). From an online competitive standpoint, however, it’s a slightly-weaker version of Staraptor whose strengths aren’t quite enough to cover its weaknesses. The Sinnoh bird, in contrast, has one job, and it’s 100% optimized to do it. In a close battle of the birds, that’s enough to give it the edge.
Of course, these two aren’t the only birds in the sky. Talonflame, Unfezant, Swellow and some of the other “early birds” might have more to say about who truly rules the air. In this one-on-one match, though, it’s the old-school that triumphed over the new-school.