Pokémon X Nuzlocke Episode #7: Fear The Deer

The TL;DR version of this post is that we had a pretty rough week:

So why am I not that worried about the run right now? For one thing, not everyone who’s dead is actually dead (more on this later). The biggest reason, however, is that I pulled off a free agent acquisition that would make even the Brooklyn Nets jealous, and when you’ve got the biggest and baddest Pokémon on the planet wearing your team colors, you don’t lose a ton of sleep over rough patches like this.

When we last left Ollie, the world was coming apart at the seams: Lysandre had revealed himself as the leader of the evil Team Flare, and he had activated a doomsday weapon designed to blast Kalos back into the Stone Age. However, with as solid a top line as Ollie had, we all knew that nothing would come of this catastrophe – we just needed to prove it.

Dousing The Flames

Having taught neither Birdo nor Amelia to Fly, I had to take the long way back to Geosenge Town, cutting through Shalour City and Reflection Cave (no Wobbuffets this time, thankfully). While I’m sure the residents of Geosenge would have overthrown Lysandre eventually once they realized what the ultimate weapon would do to their property values, I didn’t have time to wait for them to organize. Serena met me at the secret entrance to Team Flare’s hideout, and we entered to pay Lysandre a visit.

We found Lysandre to be surprsingly conflicted about his decision, as he had concluded that all Pokémon had to be destroyed in the process of re-creating the world to ensure that they were never used as tools for evil. For all his eloquence, however, the Toby Keith rule (“a little less talk and a lot more action”) prevailed in the end, and he and Ollie squared off to determine the fate of the universe.

This isn’t even his final form.

Predictably, this battle went off the rails for our red-haired antagonist ever more quickly than the last one: Birdo crushed Mienshao with a single Acrobatics, and instead of the Hoskins/Amelia setup that wiped out Gyarados the first time, Hoskins showed so much resilience against Outrage that I left him to take the Gyarados down himself. The smart move next would have been to let Patty face Pyroar, but…

…it was time to see who was the better Pyroar.

I had the level advantage and the louder Hyper Voice, so naturally Nala prevailed over her estranged cousin. Thumper worked over the Honchkrow, and Judd once again declared us the victor.

No, just the power to smite. 🙂

Ghostbusted

Unfortunately, the weapon could not be stopped without pulling the batteries out, which meant descending deeper into the facility to disconnect the region’s legendary Pokémon from the device. Ollie and Serena (and eventually Shauna as well) made a mad dash for the basement, but had to fight through a number of Double Battles along the way.

This is where I made my first of many mistakes this run: After Nala handled the first two encounters with aplomb, I switched to Amelia just in time to face a double Dark-type matchup (Houndoom/Scrafty). The wise thing to do would have been to swap to, say, Birdo, but Amelia was at full health and I thought, “Come on, even if they tag-team me, how much damage could they possibly do?”

That’s how much they could do.

The pair did tag-team me, and Houndoom’s STAB Foul Play nearly wiped Amelia out by itself (Scrafty’s Crunch finished her off, although her Aftermath turned it into a trade). Suddenly, I was a 5-‘Mon team in the middle of Team Flare’s hideout, all because I got cocky at the wrong moment. Still, this wasn’t the end of the road: Birdo meant I still had Flying-type coverage, and there was something special waiting at the end of the road that would fit into Amelia’s old slot…

X Marks The Spot

A horde of Flare admins was waiting in the basement when Ollie arrived, but even without Amelia the team had little trouble dispatching the crisp-suited flunkies. Once they were gone, the clouds parted, the cut-scene started, and a legend emerged from its slumber.

Does this look like the face of mercy to you? ‘Cause it isn’t.

The only thing I knew about Xerneas was that it was a Fairy-type, so I sent Hoskins out to try and weaken it for a conventional catch. (If all else failed, I had the Master Ball ready to go, because hey, what else was I going to use it on?)  In the end, the catch was surprisingly easy: Some accidental poison from Effect Spore, a Giga Drain or two, a few Ultra Balls, and a fair-market contract (thankfully Xerneas was not yet eligible for a supermax extension), and I had an official replacement for Amelia ready to go!

So THIS is the mighty Lysandre’s final form?! I’d say that certain mecha-fly-wearing people that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Lysandre was not impressed with the whole situation when he arrived, and he and his mechanical flies decide to take it out on Ollie’s crew. Unfortunately, his team had one major disadvantage: It was very weak to Fairty-types, and I had just added the ultimate Fairy-type to my team. “Bambi” sliced through Honchkrow and Mienshao lot a hot knife through butter, took a brief break to let Birdo handle Pyroar, and then filled Amelia’s role by backing up Hoskins to KO Gyarados (which Bambi could have done by themselves). Lysandre, Team Flare, and the apocalypse were finally put on ice for good.

…Except that every villain has one-last self-destruct sequence up their sleeve, and Lysandre used his final act to destroy the ultimate weapon and (presumably) everyone in Team Flare HQ. (The protagonists manage to escape in the nick of time, but the game never tells us how many Team Flare employees were trapped below when things went boom.) The entire team reunited outside the HQ ruins, where it’s revealed that Tierno, Trevor, and the masked heroes were saving Pokémon over on Route 10 (sure they were). With the threat removed, Shauna recommended that we all restart our journey from where we left off in Anistar City. It seemed like a good idea at the time…

In Soviet Kalos, The Deer Hunt You

First, however, there was the matter of the level discrepancy between Bambi and the rest of the squad. This meant a return trip to Cafe Le Yeah and Frost Cavern for a fair bit of grinding (legendary Pokémon take a lot of EXP to level up). The deer more than made up for this annoyance in pure power: Its high Spec. Attack and Fairy Aura ability made its Moonblast viable is nearyl every situation, even if the opponent resisted it! It also boasted a deep moveset with impressive type coverage (Night Slash, Megahorn, Leech Horn) and enough defensive starch to shrug off powerful attacks. Forget anchoring a Pokémon squad; this deer could serve as a capable stretch five on an NBA playoff team (even with hooves instead of hands, you just know it could hit the corner three consistenly). I hadn’t held this kind of power in my hands since I was running with Moltres in Pokémon FireRed, and you know how that turned out…

With that sort of arrow in my quiver, I strode confidently onto Route 18 looking to make my way over to Snowbelle City and complete my Kalos badge collection.

That’s when all heck broke loose.

The Inverse Of Success

Things started innocently enough, as I literally caught a lucky break for this route’s catch:

What would you rather have: The Durants, or the monster that eats the Durants? (On a side note, Nintendo needs to comes to some sort of trademark agreement with Kevin Durant and create a Durant evolution called the Durantula. It makes too much sense!)

I had enough Fire-types on the squad already, so I stuck Heatmor on the bench and figured he might get a callup if disaster struck.

Otherwise, there was really nothing of note on the route…except for this one little house sitting in the middle of the thing. Inside was a man who spoke of “inverse battling” and challenged me to a battle in which the type chart was flipped on its head, with super-effective moves becoming not very effective and vice versa.

I was intrigued by this challenge, but I also knew darn well that not knowing your type matchups in battle is a sure way to get clobbered in a Nuzlocke run. After mulling the invitation over for a minute or so, I made my decision: I would accept the challenge to satisfy my curiosity, but I would waive the Nuzlocke rules for this battle because the chances of getting my hand handed to me were a lot higher than I was willing to risk. With the rules established, Ollie dove in headfirst.

“Having my head handed to me” turned out to be a gross understatement of what transpired in battle. I was completely lost without my trusty mental type chart, and was forever switching into the wrong matchup and using the wrong moves. Throw in the fact that my opponent’s Pokémon had equivalent levels to my own, and…yeah, things went downhill fast and stayed there.

I got so flummoxed by the whole ordeal that I forgot to take any pictures of the aftermath, but the result was a nasty Pyrrhic victory: I won, but both Patty and Nala went down in the process (and both Bambi and Thumper had one foot in the grave as well). This, in short, was embarrassing, and while I’d specifically suspended the rules because I had a bad feeling something like this would happen, it also didn’t feel right that I would walk away from the fight without some form of punishment. After several minutes of deliberation, I decided to adopt an idea from an “NFLocke” concept I’d been kicking around for some time:

  • If a Pokémon faints, they must enter the “concussion protocol” and are ineligible to used until after the next Gym/Totem leader battle.
  • I decided to take the idea one step farther for this scenario, and declared that Pokémon KO’d here could not be replaced between now and the next Gym.

Now, not only was Amelia out permanently, but two of my top Pokémon were stuck on the bench and I was going to have to face the Snowbelle Gym leader as a four-stack instead of a six-stack. At the time, I didn’t know how much would hurt, but if I managed to survive and obtain my eighth badge, I would have at least suffered some penance for this battle.

Blood In The Water

There’s an old cliché about when you’re the fastest gun in the west, every two-bit shooter in town comes looking for you and tries to take you down. Something similar happened the moment I set foot in Couriway Town: Darn near every character I’d ever encountered over the course of my journey showed up looking for a fight, as if they sensed my weakness after the Inverse battle. First up was Prof. Sycamore, who approached me under the guise of apologizing for Lysandre’s actions:

Luckily, he was using the same three Kanto starters from before, and I had a system ready for them: Birdo to take out Venusaur, Hoskins to wash away Blastoise, and Thumper to beat up Charizard with one paw tied behind his back (since Charizard’s Flying-type meant Thumper had to use Strength instead of Earthquake).

And you’re…not.

Next, after striking out onto Route 19, Shaunaran up and sprang a surprise battle on me:

This quickly turned into the Thumper show, with Bambi only stepping in between the Delcatty and Delphox to squash Shauna’s Goodra.

“Nerve-wracking” would be my word. Now, if you’ll excuse me…

Next, Tierno challenged me before I even had a chance to rearrange my team, forcing Thumper to take on his Talonflame:

Dude, not a good time right now…

A quick switch to Bambi knocked the bird out of the sky, however, and I was able to play the type matchup game the rest of the way (rock beats scissors, Birdo beats Roserade, and Hoskins beats Crawdaunt).

Whatever. Can I go now?

If that wasn’t enough, Trevor then appeared to take a swing at the king!

His Raichu, however, was a poor matchup against Thumper, and when Hoskins faltered a bit against Aerodactyl, Bambi stepped in to defeat it and the Florges that followed, squashing them extra flat as a warning to anyone else who wanted to step up and try their luck.

By this point, I was channeling my old Unreal Tournament persona: Anyone else want some?

Serena got the message (they said she was off training with the Mega Evolution Guru, but TMZ caught her running screaming from Route 19 after seeing Bambi chase the others up a tree). Everyone else hiding in the grass was too scared to step forward, so the rest of the trip to Snowbelle City was was relatively quiet.

That’s Just Cold, Bro

Sadly, Snowbelle City had earned its name, and the Gym within its borders was an Ice-type establishment. This meant that Hoskins was be completely usesless for this fight, and while Thumper had an effective move against Ice in Hammer Arm, his Ground typing made him a risky play at best. This meant that the fight against Wulfric the Gym leader would be the Bambi & Birdo show, and while I had confidence in my available warriors, I also knew that Nala and Patty would have been very handy to have around…

The first order of business, however, would be locating Wulfric, who had temporarily closed the Gym and wandered off into the Winding Woods. Following the vague directions of two creepy little girls in the Pokémon center, Ollie actually made his way through the forest quite quickly, and was soon standing upon the threshold of the Pokémon Village.

…Except that the place is clearly marked on the Town Map. It’ll be a tourist trap in five years, trust me.

Wulfric and Ollie exchanged pleasantries before the Gym leader left to return to the Gym, and after wandering around the grass for a while (completely forgetting that there was a potential capture battle in play until about five battles after it happened, which I blame on the fact that I was concurrently trying to plot out my initial level for Super Mario Maker 2), I returned to the Gym to face my fate head-on.

The undercard bouts in the Gym were not too terrible, as both Birdo and Bambi were dominant against all challengers (heck, even Hoskins won a battle or two). Since I assumed that Wulfric’s initial fighter would find a way to take Fire out of the equation, I stuck Bambi at the head of the line, crossed my fingers, and stepped into the ring one more time.

Beartic barely made it out of its Poké Ball before it was Moonblasted to the great beyond, and when Cryogonal took a similar hit and countered with Confuse Ray, I went to the bullpen and melted it down with Birdo’s Flame Charge. That brought in Avalugg, and I made the fateful decision to stick with Birdo, figuring that any Ice-related move would only be neutral against a Fire/Flying bird. Critical hits, however, are another matter entirely, and one powerful Avalanche was enough to put out Birdo’s flame for good.

I was so irritated by this development that I reached for Bambi instead of my camera, and one last Moonblast gave the victory to the visiting team. The impact of the Inverse battle, however, was unmistakable: In that moment, Nala comes off the bench ten times out of ten if she was available, and Flamethrower would have finished the job that Flame Charge couldn’t.

Yeah, but I’ve been smashed pretty badly myself…

Conclusions

So where exactly does Ollie stand now? On one hand, he has all eight badges, he beat Wulfric with only four monsters, he’s got Patty and Nala coming off the diasbled list, and he has the frightening force of nature that is Xerneas in his corner. What he doesn’t have, however, is momentum: Of the starting six he had two weeks ago, five (Symmetra, Amelia, Birdo, Patty, Nala) have now been KO’d temporarily or permanently, and while five of his top slots are still filled, this sort of attrition rate is not going to cut in against the Elite Four. (I hope Thumper’s been looking into life insurance plans, because at this rate he’s living on borrowed time.)

The immediate question is this: Who fills the #6 slot now? Aside from the Heatmor mentioned earlier, we actually gained a couple of decent options during this episode:

Couriway Town: I stumbled into Floatzel while Surfing around trying to discover what Prof. Sycamore claimed he had hidden for me in town. With some decent Speed and decent moves, it’s a decent backup for Patty at the very least.
Route 19: Drapion has always intrigued me, and both its typing and moveset (X-Scissor, Night Slash, Cross Poison eventually) would fit well on the team (even if it overlaps a bit with Patty and Hoskins – hey, that never stopped Birdo or Amelia from standing out!).
Winding Woods: Oh man, I’ve wanted to try out a Phantump/Trevenant for a long time, and with Amelia gone, I could really use someone to fill that Ghost-type hole. Yes, it overlaps with Hoskins a bit, but still…

I think Trevenant is the early leader for the spot, but this decision’s going to take some time. I’m not sure whether we take a week to bulk up before challenging the Elite Four or whether we go right at them next week, but either way, it’s going to be exciting!