Back in the old days of Pokémon, I was a dedicated hydrophile who always picked the Water-type starter (the one exception being Turtwig in Pokémon Pearl, but how could I say no to a Grass Blastoise?). In recent years, however, I’ve found myself drifting towards the Fire-type starters like Fennekin, Torchic, and most recently Litten. I rarely carried Fire types in my top six before, and I’ve really come to appreciate what they bring to the table (wow, I can actually beat Steel types now!).
I’ve been especially impressed with my Incineroar, and seeing the way it tore through the main game (it didn’t faint until I reached the Elite Four!) made me wonder: Have I been missing out on something? Have Fire types always been this powerful? There was only one way to answer this question: a face-off!
For Incineroar’s opponent, I selected Blaziken, partly because Torchic was my most recent starting choice before Litten, and partly because Blaziken and Incineroar seemed to hit similar statistical profiles. With the competitors decided, LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLLLLLLLLLLE!
(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)
|Blaziken (Fire/Fighting)||Incineroar (Fire/Dark)|
|Strong Against…||6 Types||6 Types|
|Ineffective Against…||0 Types||0 Types|
|Can’t Hit Type?||No||No|
|Resists…||6 Types||6 Types|
|Weak To…||4 Types||4 Types|
Talk about an even split! Blaziken and Incineroar have such similar type-based attributes that it makes me wonder if the developers did this on purpose in an attempt to make starters evenly matched across all generations. Incineroar wins this by a razor-thin margin due to its Psychic immunity.
Advantage: Incineroar (just barely)
First, a fun fact: The majority of Fire-type starters (4 out of 7) have 534 total stat points, but Blaziken and Incineroar are a little behind at 530. (Emboar brings up the rear at 528.) The distribution of these 530 points, however, is very interesting:
- Incineroar is the better defensive Pokémon, with higher HP, Defense, and Spec. Defense stats.
- Blaziken is the better and more versatile attacker, with a slight edge in Attack and a sizable lead in Spec. Attack. It also has a decent speed advantage as well.
Incineroar gets the advantage here, however, as it offers a much better defensive profile while giving up very little on the Attack side. Blaziken’s Spec. Attack makes it the more flexible of the two Pokémon, but that’s a luxury that few will take advantage of, and its Speed score, while better than Incineroar’s, is still nothing to write home about.
Advantage: Incineroar (slightly)
Every Fire-type starter comes with Blaze as its main ability, so it’s up to the hidden abilities to decide this round. Intimidate does mesh well with Incineroar’s better defenses, but it’s a one-shot ability that’s easily countered with Swords Dance, Bulk Up, Dragon Dance, and other Attack-boosting moves. Speed Boost, on the other hand, activates every turn, making Blaziken faster and faster as the battle progresses. Speed Boost, and by extension Blaziken, carries the day here.
|Top 3 STAB Attacks|
|High Jump Kick||Fighting||130||P||Flare Blitz||Fire||120||P|
|Blaze Kick||Fire||85||P||Darkest Lariat||Dark||85||P|
|Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks|
|Quick Attack||Normal||40||P||Cross Chop||Fighting||100||P|
|Other Notable Moves|
|Blaze Kick||Fire||85||P||Throat Chop||Dark||80||P|
|Bulk Up||Raises Attack and Defense||Bulk Up||Raises Attack and Defense|
|Fire Punch||Fire||75||P||Swagger||Confuses opponent but maxes their Attack|
It’s isn’t too hard to see what role these two Pokémon play: They are all about dealing damage, regardless of the consequences. Flare Blitz, Brave Bird, Outrage, Thrash, and High Jump Kick can all inflict some serious pain, but they all have potentially-nasty side effects that can chip away at the user’s health.
Outside of Bulk Up, neither Pokémon learns any especially useful non-attack moves, so it all comes down to how all of their attacks mesh with their play style. Between the two, Incineroar learns the best no-side-effect Fire move (Flamethrower, albeit using its weaker Spec. Attack) and Fighting move (Cross Chop), and Darkest Lariat makes up for Incineroar’s inexplicable lack of Crunch. Beyond that, Incineroar’s access to high-damage Dragon-, Normal-, and Fighting-type moves give it much better type coverage than Blaziken, and the moves pair with its superior Defense and Spec. Defense to make it a more-flexible play against potential opponents. On the flip side, Blaziken doesn’t learn the moves to take advantage of its Spec. Attack (no Flamethrower?!), forcing players to pick and choose its spots more carefully.
|Top 4 TM Moves|
Now we’re really talking! Both Pokémon learn an array of hard-hitting moves that improve their type coverage immensely. Blaziken adds Ground, Rock, Ghost, Grass, and even Dark moves to its arsenal, while Incineroar counters with Ground, Ghost, Bug, and Flying moves. A lot of TM moves are common between the two brawlers and thus cancel each other out, but exclusive access to powerful moves like Stone Edge and Solarbeam give Blaziken a leg up here.
This face-off is the closest one we’ve seen so far, and I’m tempted to call it a draw…but ties are for hockey games, not face-offs, so let’s break things down one last time:
- The movesets are pretty much a wash as this point, with Incineroar possessing a better learned moveset and Blaziken making up the difference in the TM department.
- The types and stats are also pretty close, with Incineroar eking out a small victory in both categories. Blaziken counters with a decisive win in the ability matchup.
It’s a tough call, but I’m going to go with Blaziken here based on the potential of Speed Boost: The longer it sticks around, the faster it gets, and with the power that it packs and potential type coverage it boasts, it’s going to do a ton of damage to darn near anything that stands in its way.
Winner: Blaziken (by a nose)
Of course, Blaziken is the only starter Pokémon to ever crack the Uber tier in competitive battling, so Incineroar’s showing here was pretty impressive in its own right. Blaziken may have claimed victory here, but the real winners are the players who are lucky enough to have one of these monsters among their top six.