There’s a fundamental problem with gambling: Sometimes you lose.
When last we left Ophilia, the Phili Five were on cruise control, rocking Rock Tunnel, schooling Cyrus, and dominating the Celadon Gym on the way to our fourth badge. With the Game Corner, Pokémon Tower, and Fuschia City quivering before me, there was nary an obstacle in sight.
So I decided to make an obstacle instead…and naturally, I got just what I deserved.
|Team at Journal Start||Team at Journal End|
|Lv. 34 Venusaur||Lv. 16 Growlithe|
|Lv. 34 Nidoking||Lv. 39 Nidoking|
|Lv. 34 Golbat||Lv. 16 Machop|
|Lv. 34 Dugtrio||Lv. 38 Dugtrio|
|Lv. 34 Hypno||Lv. 39 Hypno|
|Lv. 13 Oddish||Lv. 13 Ekans|
But let’s start with the good times, shall we?
The House Doesn’t Always Win
With Erika out of the way, I was free to explore the rest of Celadon City, which admittedly took all of about three minutes. I picked up a few trinkets at the Department Store, stared longingly at the Eevee I couldn’t have (thanks to the five different Eeveelutions I’ve used over the years), and eventually made my way over to the Game Corner, where Ophilia’s crew decided to copy Ocean’s Eleven and knock over the biggest casino in town.
Once we were inside, the crew performed an exhaustive breadth-first search looking for the elevator key that would give us access to the boss. I’d like to say that the Rocket lackeys wandering around offered some sort of challenge, but they didn’t. The only concerning moment was when Luna switched in to an Selfdestructing Koffing to cover for Will, but she was enough of a tank by this point that it didn’t even turn her health bar yellow. Eventually I found the key, rode the elevator and came face-to-face with Team Rocket’s infamous boss Giovanni.
Giovanni turned out to be a weaker, Ground-focused version of Erika, and Earl made short work of his Pokémon. The Silph Scope was mine, but after yawning my way through another disappointing dungeon, I was beginning to wonder if I’d sucked all of the challenge out of this Nuzlocke run.
Who You Gonna Call?
The next stop on The Phili Five’s tour was Pokémon Tower, where my shiny new Silph Scope meant the local ghosts were now visible and beatable. Sadly, the Tower turned out to just as underwhelming as the Game Corner, and with both Cubones and Gastly unavailable due to prior usage, there really wasn’t a lot to do here.
I quickly cleaned up the possessed Trainers and made my way to the top of the tower to tackle the ghostly Marowak and free Mr. Fuji. Even at Lv. 30, the mighty Marowak was efficiently dispatched back into the arms of the Sacred Flame, and the only concerning moment came when facing the trio of Rockets guarding Mr. Fuji, as Luna ate another Selfdestruct trying to cover for Will.
With yet another day saved, Ophilia returned with Mr. Fuji to his home and picked up the Poké Flute as a reward. The road ahead was clear: Unblock the way to Cycling Road, make my way south to Fuschia City, wipe out everything in my path with my OP monsters, and profit. There was just one problem with this plan:
Trinity was right: I’d been down that road before, and this time it would end with the most ho-hum Nuzlocke journal in the history of history. Things had gotten pretty stale in Kanto, and I was looking for a way to spice things up…and the hot tea I’d randomly picked up in Celadon was just the spice I needed.
Fuschia City didn’t hold much promise for me, but with a Psychic Gym to test Phili’s Poison Posse, Saffron City sure did. Technically Sabrina is the sixth Gym leader and my OCD usually prevents me from doing things-out-of-order like this, but this run was for the people, darn it, and the people want drama and suspense! I wasn’t sure exactly what I would be walking into, but with five monsters at Lv. 36 (plus whatever levels I could wring out of Silph Co. and the Fighting Dojo), I was confident that they could handle anything. (I was almost right, but we’ll get there…)
Skyscraper, Starring The Rock Ophilia
Using the same breadth-first technique as in the Game Corner, I methodically worked my way up the Silph Co. building, smiting any and all bad guys that dared cross my path. (The number of double-agent scientists I met surprised me, but hey, when you run out of grant funding, you do what you have to do.) The battles still weren’t terribly hard, but at least they were tough enough to make me start respecting type matchups again (no more tossing Will against Flying-types). Once again, despite canvasing every floor and opening every Card Key door, the only real moment of panic was when Luna ate a third Selfdestruct in the name of keeping Will alive. (I hope he sends her a thank-you card when all this is over…)
Amazingly, I actually remembered which tiles took me directly to the boss on the top floor, but I had one prior appointment before I re-introduced myself to Giovanni:
To his credit, Cyrus had actually done his homework this time, and his team was roughly at the same level as mine. Still, by working the one-on-one matchups in my favor, I quickly gained the upper hand: Luna knocked the Pidgeot out of the air, Bram Wing Attacked the Exeggcute into oblivion, Suzy shut down Gyarados with Sleep Powder and Leech Seed, and Will sent Alakazam packing with a single shot.
This battle is mine, I thought as I tossed out Earl to face…wait, WHAT?!
The Charizard Catastrophe
Much like LeBron James, Cyrus’s Lv. 40 Charizard was a superhuman (superPokémon?) mix of speed, strength, smarts, and skill, and he came out spitting fire like he was Kendrick Lamar. Worse still, his extra Flying typing meant Will was no longer viable against him, and apparently my assumption that Ground types resisted Fire attacks was not based on reality. Earl went from full HP to 4 HP in a single turn, and the race was on.
I burned one of my Hyper Potions on Luna, but it bought me a measly two rounds in which I could barely do any damage. Unlike the random AI of other battles, Charizard just kept spamming Flamethrower this time around, and he put the entire team on the ropes very quickly.
Eventually, I was forced to make a decision: No one could switch in a stand up to another Flamethrower, so someone had to be sacrificed to put the team back on equal footing with the rampaging fire beast. This was an easy decision: Oscar the HM Oddish saw his first and last battle action of the run, giving himself up to set a key block for…
…For who, exactly?
By this point, the only Pokémon I had with any HP at all was Suzy, and everyone knows what happens when Grass meets Fire in a Pokémon game. She had Sleep Powder and Leech Seed, though, and those were the kinds of moves that could make or break a close match like this one. I crossed my fingers, prayed to the Sacred Flame that Suzy still had a Speed advantage over Charizard, and sent her out.
We make our move.
Suzy is faster!
Sleep Powder connects!
…And that’s about where my brilliance ended. Razor Leaf wasn’t going to do squat against a Fire/Flying Pokémon, and Tackle is, well, Tackle. That left Leech Seed to do some stall damage while I thought of a better plan.
Charizard wakes up. So much for stalling.
Charizard uses Flamethrower.
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
the band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
and somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
but there is no joy in Saffron — mighty Suzy has struck out.
—Original words from Ernest Thayer’s “Casey At The Bat”
I was officially in panic mode now, and when you panic, you tend to make bad decisions. Mine was to send out the Pokémon with the most HP left (Bram) as Charizard’s next challenge. While this made sense from an HP perspective, Bram had been paralyzed by Exeggcute earlier in the match, and thus was a sitting duck for Charizard to outrun him and turn him into a pile of ashes.
I was beyond panic mode now: I had attempted to inject life into my Nuzlocke run, and now it was on the verge of collapsing around me. I looked down at the three remaining members of the Phili Five, none of which were in any shape to fight, and then stared up at the sky and posed a question to the Sacred Flame: What the @#$% do I do now?
At that moment, the clouds parted, and a booming voice (that sounded a lot like the God character on The Late Show) called down with an answer:
Charizard is fast, my child…but he is not Dugtrio fast.
Up to this point, I’d been complaining a lot about Will’s performance in relation to his peers. While Suzy, Earl, Bram, and Luna were generalists that could be tossed into nearly any situation, Will’s abysmal HP and Defense made him more of a specialist that needed to pick his spots carefully, and he often needed to be rescued when a situation turned against him (and after taking three Selfdestructs to the face, you know Luna was telling Suzy, “You bail him out next time. I am done.”). On the flip side, however, Dugtrio is officially the fifth-fastest Pokémon in G1 (and remains in the Top 40 even in G7!), so if he could get one solid attack off, it might be enough to escape with the win.
By sheer luck, Will had made it to Lv. 38 just before the fight, meaning that I could finally replace his mediocre Scratch with the much-more-potent Slash attack. I took a deep breath, gave the command, and…
Will channeled his inner Craig Kimbrel and slammed the door on Cyrus, sending him to his sixth defeat. He took it with his usual grace and humility:
I collected my money, flipped Cyrus the longest, stiffest middle finger I could muster, and made a mad dash back to the Pokémon Center to sort out my losses.
Well, I guess I accomplished my goal of putting the challenge back into my Nuzlocke run! The Phili Five is down to the Phili Three, I’ve lost my HM Oddish, and all the depth I thought I had (Growlithe, Machop, and Ekans) is suddenly being pressed into service. Just how big of a pickle am I in?
- Losing Suzy is not only a huge psychological blow (you never want to lose your starter), but hurts me in three major ways:
- Loss of Tank: I hope Luna isn’t too sore about her defensive duties, because she’s about to take on even more of them.
- Loss of Grass type: Losing Suzy and Oscar means I don’t have any Grass-type options at all, and the picking are slim going forward. Basically, if I don’t get something good out of the Safari Zone, I’m stuck hoping to get a Tangela on Route 21.
- Loss of Pokémon catcher: With Leech Seed and Sleep Powder, Suzy was my go-to Pokémon for capturing monsters (and I haven’t missed a catch yet!). Without her, capture battles could be a whole lot more tricky and dangerous.
- Losing Bram leaves several type holes in my roster (most notably Flying, but she also had my only Dark move). Given all my other Flying-type restrictions, I have two options: Catch a Doduo on my way to Fuschia City, or stock up on Max Repels and take a shot at Articuno or Moltres. (Scyther is also a possibility, but again the Safari Zone is far from a sure thing.)
There’s still a silver lining here: Luna is a real beast and the closest thing I have to a Suzy clone, Will is fragile but has a knack for coming through in the clutch, and above everything else, Earl is a survivor, and if he makes it past the Viridian Gym, he’ll be a survivor with Strength/Return and Earthquake. With plenty of both current options (Growlithe, Machop) and future ones (one of those Snorlaxes will be mine, dang it!) to fill my empty party slots, we may have to abandon our Saffron City plan and clear out Fuschia City first, but we’re not out of this thing just yet.
Tune in next week as we rebuild our roster and attempt to conquer Fuschia City!