Pokémon Face-Off: Lycanroc vs. Stoutland

To celebrate the arrival of the newest Pokémon form, I decided to take a closer look at the Alolan rock dog Lycanroc to see how well it stacked up to its predecessors. The initial results weren’t promising, as many of the Rock types were either much weaker or much stronger from a stat count perspective. Dog Pokémon from the past weren’t much better, but there was one whose stats were close enough to make for an intriguing fight: Stoutland, the G5 equivalent of the St. Bernard. How will our illustrious rock hound fare against its thick-furred opponent? It’s time for a face-off!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net. Also, since we don’t know the specific stats of Dusk Form Lycanroc, the comparison will have to focus on its Midday and Midnight forms.)

The Types

Lycanroc (Rock) Stoutland (Normal)
Strong Against… 4 Types 0 Types
Ineffective Against… 3 Types 2 Types
Can’t Hit Type? No Yes (Ghost)
Resists… 4 Types 1 Types
Weak To… 5 Types 1 Type
4x Weakness? No No
Immunities? No Yes (Ghost)

The theme of this face-off is set early: Stoutland serves as the solid, unspectacular choice that is viable in most any situation but doesn’t offer any major advantages, while Lycanroc is a riskier pick that is either much better or much worse than Stoutland depending on the matchup.

This category turns on Lycanroc’s specific strengths and weaknesses—specifically, the fact that Water- and Grass-types absolutely destroy Rock-type Pokémon. Water and Grass Pokémon are everywhere in the mainline Pokémon games, and nearly every trainer in the world has one of these types in their back pocket (this was especially true when Surf was an HM). The prevalence of these two types generally relegate Rock-type Pokémon to a niche role. Throw in the fact that Fighting-type Pokémon, who represent the only weakness of Normal types, are also strong against Rock types, and Stoutland walks away with the win here.

Advantage: Stoutland

The Stats

Statistic Midday Lycanroc Midnight Lycanroc Stoutland
HP 75 85 85
Attack 115 115 110
Defense 65 75 90
Spec. Attack 55 55 45
Spec. Defense 65 75 90
Speed 112 82 80
Total 487 487 500

Wait, this isn’t fair—Stoutland’s outnumbered two to one! However, we can pare this down pretty quickly: Midnight Lycanroc is the clear loser in this truel, as its stat distribution is almost identical to Stoutland aside from being a fair bit squishier (-15 in both Defense and Spec. Defense).

While Midday Lycanroc is even squishier than its Midnight form, it also boasts an incredible +42 Speed advantage over Stoutland, which lets it fill a “glass cannon” role and gives it a fighting chance to take advantage of its respectable Attack stat.

So exactly who wins out here? A defensive stat of 90 is solid but not spectacular, so I’m going with my old “speed kills” maxim and giving this category to (Midday) Lycanroc. I’d also point out that even Midnight Lycanroc can fill Stoutland’s more-defensive role, even if it can’t do it very well.

Advantage: Lycanroc

The Abilities

Lycanroc Decidueye
Keen Eye Intimidate
Sand Rush (Midday) Sand Rush
Steadfast (Midday) Scrappy
Vital Spirit (Midnight)
No Guard (Midnight)

Once again, both Stoutland and Midday Lycanroc feature abilities that mesh well with their stat pools:

  • Stoutland improves its defensive posture with Intimidate, covers its Speed with Sand Rush, and can use Scrappy to hit Ghost-type Pokémon.
  • Midday Lycanroc boots its Speed even further with Sand Rush and Steadfast.
  • Midnight Lycanroc can…stay awake? No Guard is a move-dependent ability, but you really don’t want to give people a free shot at you when you have mediocre defense stats.

Stoutland gets the edge here because its abilities shore up its weaknesses, while Midday Lycanroc may not need to pile onto its already-impressive Speed advantage.

Advantage: Stoutland

The Moves

Lycanroc Stoutland
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Stone Edge Rock 100 P Giga Impact Normal 150 P
Rock Slide Rock 75 P Last Resort Normal 140 P
Rock Tomb Rock 60 P Take Down Normal 90 P
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Rock Climb Normal 90 P Play Rough Fairy 90 P
Crunch Dark 80 P Crunch Dark 80 P
Bite Dark 60 P Ice Fang Ice 65 P
Other Notable Moves
Scary Face Blocks attacks, attacker takes damage Fire Fang Fire 65 P
Roar Raises Attack and Defense Work Up Raises Attack and Spec. Attack
Rock Throw Rock 50 P Thunder Fang Electric 65 P

Wait, which one of these two was supposed to be the solid, steady Pokémon? Lycanroc has basically every Rock attack you could ever want (although none of them are 100% accurate), along with some decent non-STAB options in Rock Climb and Crunch. Stoutland certainly brings the pain with its moveset, but it comes at a cost: Giga Impact forfeits the user’s next turn, Last Resort can only be used when every other move is depleted, and Take Down causes recoil damage.

Stoutland does have a huge type coverage advantage, mostly because of its trio of elemental fang attacks. While these attacks further its goal of being a Pokémon that can be leaned on it almost any situation, its STAB issues pigeonhole it into a “jack of all trades, master of none” role. If you want to bring the full power of your type to bear, Lycanroc has got you covered.

Advantage: Lycanroc

The TMs

Lycanroc Stoutland
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Brick Break Fighting 75 P Wild Charge Electric 90 P
Swords Dance Sharply raises Attack Return Normal Happiness P
Return Normal Happiness P Surf Water 90 S
Double Team Raises evasiveness Shadow Ball Ghost 80 S

Surprisingly, neither Pokémon gets a huge boost from their TM pool. Stoutland gets a sorely-needed no-side-effect Normal move in Return, and Lycanroc gains some improved type coverage with Return and Brick Break, but that’s about it. Surf, Thunderbolt, and Shadow Ball may look impressive for Stoutland, but they’re reliant on its laughable Spec. Attack, and Wild Charge is yet another recoil damage move. Stoutland gets the edge here on Return alone, but neither Pokémon gets a lot of help.

Advantage: Stoutland

 The Results

“Tweeners” might be a prized commodity in the NBA, but they’re not nearly as useful in Pokémon, and unfortunately for Stoutland, that’s exactly what it is. It’s not bulky enough to be defensive, it’s not fast enough or have enough reliable damage to be a sweeper, and it’s outclassed as a physical attacker by its face-off opponent. It’s a decent matchup for Midnight Lycanroc stat-wise, but it can’t keep up with the formidable Attack/Speed combo that Midday Lycanroc offers, and both forms are hard rockers that could carve out niche roles on a Pokémon team.

Winner: Lycanroc (especially Midday Lycanroc)

Of course, the caveats I mentioned at the beginning of this post still apply, and there are much better Rock- and Normal-type choices than these two if you’re looking for someone to fill out your roster. (As a cat person, I’d take a Delcatty over both of these two anyway.) Still, given the abysmal win rate of G7 Pokémon in these face-offs, it’s nice to see an Alolan Pokémon come home victorious for a change.

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Pokémon Face-Off: Xatu vs. Oricorio

It’s been a while since our last face-off, but with Pokémon hype back on the rise with the announcement of Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon (as well as the eventual Switch title), I think it’s time to revisit the series and continue comparing the 7th generation Pokémon to the pocket monsters of yore.

Since Pokémon Gold and Silver have been announced as upcoming Virtual Console titles, I decided to investigate one of my favorite Pokémon from this generation, the future-seeing psychic bird Xatu. It’s never been much of a player on the Pokémon competitive circuit (Smogon has it in the NU tier), but it’s got a really cool design and has some built-in defenses against the pesky bugs that are forever tossed against Psychic types.

As it turns out, Alola has its own Xatu: Oricorio, the type-shifting dancing bird that can take on the Psychic type by sipping the Pink Nectar of Akala Island. Can it temporary psychic bird hold its own against a permanent one? The answer lies in…a face-off!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Types

Since we’ll be focusing on the Psychic/Flying version of Oricorio for this battle, the two combatants have the same type and thus have the same type strengths and weaknesses. (For what it’s worth, Oricorio’s overall type flexibility might give it an advantage if you know you’re opponent’s teams ahead of time, but switching its type is not a terribly convenient process.)

Advantage: Draw

The Stats

Statistic Xatu Oricorio
HP 65 75
Attack 75 70
Defense 70 70
Spec. Attack 95 98
Spec. Defense 70 70
Speed 95 93
Total 470 476

Wow, these two are basically the same bird, huh? Oricorio has a slight advantage in its overall stat count, but it’s the Pokémon’s stat distribution that really gives it the edge:

  • With matching mediocre 70/70 defense spreads, both birds need all the help they can get to stay alive, so Oricorio’s +10 HP advantage is much appreciated.
  • Xatu’s +5 attack advantage is essentially useless, since both birds will be leaning on their higher Spec. Attack for damage.
  • The Spec. Attack and Speed differences are basically a wash: Xatu is barely faster, while Oricorio deals a smidge more damage.

While I usually say that Speed is the most important thing for “squishier” Pokémon, the difference here is so small that the HP gap takes precedence.

Advantage: Oricorio (slightly)

The Abilities

Xatu Oricorio
Synchronize Dancer
Early Bird
Magic Bounce

Dancer is an interesting ability, but it’s hamstrung by the limited number of moves that affect it, as well as by Oricorio’s inability to use these moves effectively. (For example, Oricorio’s middling Attack isn’t going to scare a Dragonite out of using Dragon Dance and setting up a sweep.) Xatu, on the other hand, has several abilities that discourage attackers from using status-affecting moves or setting up entry hazards, as Synchronize will pass any burn/poison/paralysis Xatu receives onto its opponent, and Magic Bounce will reflect a ton of moves (moves that lower stats, moves that induce a status, entry hazards, even junk like Taunt) back onto their use. It’s best to go after Xatu’s meager HP, because its abilities mean that you go after anything else at your own peril.

Advantage: Xatu

The Moves

Xatu Oricorio
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Future Sight Psychic 120 S Hurricane Flying 110 S
Psychic Psychic 90 S Revelation Dance Psychic* 90 S
Air Slash Flying 75 S Air Slash Flying 75 S
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Ominous Wind Ghost 60 S Pound Normal 40 P
Night Shade Ghost Level S Double Slap Normal 15 P
Other Notable Moves
Wish Heals 1/2 HP after next turn Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP
Me First Uses opponent’s move if used before opponent Mirror Move Copies opponent’s last move
Confuse Ray Confuses opponent Teeter Dance Confuses nearby Pokémon

*Revelation Dance takes its type from the primary type of its user. For Psychic/Flying Oricorio, it becomes a Psychic move.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to shallow end of the move pool.

While both Pokémon take advantage of their respectable Spec. Attack stats, they don’t do it very effectively. Hurricane is annoyingly inaccurate, Future Sight takes two turns to kick in, and Air Slash is not terribly strong. Neither Pokémon has any much coverage to speak of, but Xatu’s mediocre Ghost-type moves are better than Oricorio’s laughable Normal-type ones. On the flip side, Oricorio’s “other” moves are a bit stronger, as Roost heals it immediately and Mirror Move is not dependent on outrunning its opponent.

To be honest, I can’t see much of an advantage either way in this category. In fact, the sheer similarity between the movesets of these Pokémon is a little eerie. Are we absolutely sure Oricorio isn’t just Xatu’s Alolan form?

Advantage: Draw

The TMs

Xatu Oricorio
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP Calm Mind Raises Spec. Attack and Spec. Defense
Shadow Ball Ghost 80 S U-Turn Bug 70 P
U-Turn Bug 70 P Steel Wing Steel 70 P
Dazzling Gleam Fairy 80 S Round Normal 60 S

Okay, this category has a clear winner. While both Pokémon share a lot of important TM moves (Calm Mind, Roost, Return, Fly) Xatu gains a lot of useful type coverage (on top of the moves above, it gets Grass Knot and Steel Wing) while Oricorio is left with mostly non-STAB, non-special moves. The G2 bird wins this round in a blowout.

Advantage: Xatu

 The Results

If there’s one conclusion we keep circling back to, it’s that these two are exactly the same bird: Same type, same stat distribution, same types of moves, etc. There can only be one winner in a face-off, however, and when push comes to shove, Oricorio’s ever-so-slight stat advantage can’t compete with Xatu’s superior abilities and TM pool, and the G2 bird flies away with the victory.

Winner: Xatu

Of course, Xatu’s well-deserved victory only comes over 1/4 of Oricorio: While the Alolan bird’s stats and moveset cannot change, its type certainly can, and the ability to transform into Fire, Electric, and Ghost versions of itself can be very useful when you’re taking on the variety of Pokémon you see in the main game. Additionally, every trainer and their mother runs Ice Beam on the competitive circuit to deal with dragons, and being able to, say, switch to a Fire-type and counter that weakness might be more important than being able to learn Dazzling Gleam. In short, your success running either bird will likely come down to individual matchups rather than raw strength and move availability.

Some Quick Tips For Online Pokémon Battles (or “Why Do I Keep Losing?!”)

Nintendo and The Pokémon Company like to maintain a veneer of fairness around their monsters, and push the idea that players can win with whatever Pokémon they want to use. Sure, they might encourage players to have a wide variety of types on their team, and they might hint that raising Pokémon from a low level is better than just catching them a higher one, but the main campaign is structured so that any old monster can be raised to a high enough level that they’re practically guaranteed to be viable.

The kid gloves come off when you venture into online play, however, and many a player has found that their super-awesome team, one that can rip through the Elite Four without breaking in sweat, consistently getting their collective head handed to them by the Internet. It’s a frustrating experience, and often leaves the player at a loss as to what they can do to improve.

Truly competitive Pokémon play has a high barrier to entry, one that involves tens to hundreds of hours finding, breeding, and training an optimal team of monsters that can handle any possible threat. Most of us just don’t have the time or desire to raise a perfect-IV, optimal-EV monster (much less a whole team of them)—we just want a solid team that gives us a decent chance to win on the online circuit. Luckily, there are some quick & easy steps we can take to help improve our odds.

For this discussion, I’ll use my own poorly-constructed team from Pokémon Moon as a starting point, and see how it can be improved to be a bit more successful online.

Pokémon Type
Incineroar Fire/Dark
Toucannon Normal/Flying
Vikavolt Electric/Bug
Alolan Persian Dark
Lilligant Grass
Starmie Water/Psychic

Step 1: Add a “higher-tier” Pokémon or two to your roster.

The competitive Pokémon-battling community has been around a long time, and its metagame is fairly stable and mature despite the inevitable churn that comes with every successive Pokémon generation. As such, all of the current Pokémon have been organized into several different battle tiers based on their strength, moveset, and general viability. Smogon ranks these tiers as follows:

  • Uber (strongest)
  • OverUsed (OU)
  • UnderUsed (UU)
  • RarelyUsed (RU)
  • NeverUsed (NU)
  • PU (weakest)

There’s no enforcement of these tiers in Pokémon’s online modes, so if you find your Pokémon are constantly getting crushed, it may be because they’re facing off against Pokémon from a higher tier, and are thus at a disadvantage because they’re not as strong. Switching out lower-tiered Pokémon in favor of higher-tiered ones isn’t a guarantee of success, but it helps ensure you and your opponent on at least on equal footing.

If we check the tiers of our example team from above, we see that we’ve got a lot of work to do:

Pokémon Tier
Incineroar NU
Toucannon NU
Vikavolt NU
Alolan Persian NU
Lilligant NU
Starmie UU

If you’re banking on five NU-ranked Pokémon to bring you online battle glory, you’re probably going to be disappointed. Thankfully, this particular team has some options available:

Alternate Tier
Primarina UU
Decidueye UU
Alolan Ninetales UU
Mudsdale NU

Thus, we can improve our team through a few individual switches without  any additional effort. The next question: Who goes and who stays?

Step 2: Look for glaring holes in your team’s type coverage.

Hidden among Ray Rizzo’s competitive team-building tips is this gem of a line: “I recommend having no more than two Pokémon on the same team that share a common weakness.”

While having multiple Pokémon that are weak to the same type isn’t a death knell, it leaves an easy hole for an opponent to exploit and limits the number of viable three-Pokémon teams you can build from your top six. If you don’t have a solid counter to any Pokémon that can exploit this problem, you’re just asking for trouble.

Luckily, PsyPoke has a handy type analysis tool that will quickly show you where your type weaknesses reside. If we feed our example team into the tool, we receive the following output:

Type 4x Resist 2x Resist Immune 2x Weak 4x Weak
Bug 0 1 0 3 0
Dark 0 2 0 1 0
Electric 0 2 0 2 0
Fairy 0 0 0 1 0
Fighting 0 2 0 2 0
Fire 0 2 0 2 0
Flying 0 0 0 1 0
Ghost 0 2 1 1 0
Grass 0 4 0 1 0
Ground 0 1 1 1 0
Ice 0 2 0 2 0
Poison 0 0 0 1 0
Psychic 0 1 2 0 0
Rock 0 0 0 3 0
Steel 0 3 0 0 0
Water 0 2 0 1 0

Upon examining the chart, there’s actually a lot to like about this team: They have no 4x weaknesses, they mostly stick to Rizzo’s “two or less” rule, and they’re so devastating against Grass-type Pokémon that I’m hereby christening them “The Lawn Mowers.” (While they also crush Steel types, “The Steeldrivers” was already taken.) Unfortunately, there are also lot of trouble spots here, the biggest being Rock, Bug, and Fairy types (Flying and Poison types are also minor concerns).

So what sort of switches does this analysis suggest?

  • Bringing in Decidueye for Lilligant seems like a good move, as it negates some of the Bug and Poison disadvantages while not exacerbating any major problem areas (Ghost and Dark types are already well defended against).
  • Despite its NU status, swapping Mudsdale in for our Alolan Persian seems to be a net positive, as it strengthens our position against Poison, Fairy, Bug, and even Rock types! The major cost here is an increase in our Ice vulnerability, but we still have Fire and Ice types to keep them in check. (And honestly, Incineroar can do most anything better than Alolan Persian can, so there’s no point in doubling down on Dark types.)

Just like that, we’ve come up with two potential switches that will our improve our team! But there more we can do, because the above chart has one major omission that needs to be discussed…

Step 3: Identify a Dragon-type counter, and if you can’t, find one to add to your team immediately.

Dragons are annoyingly common in online Free Battles, even when legendaries are removed from the equation. It feels like everyone and their mother has a Salamence or Dragonite in their pocket, just waiting to unleash it on their unsuspecting foes.

Here is where things get tricky: Both of our remaining alternates (Alolan Ninetales and Primarina) are Fairy-types, making them immune to Dragon-type attacks while dealing super-effective STAB damage in return. (Furthermore, the Ice/Fairy-type Alolan Ninetales is about as scary to Dragons as a non-Dragon type can be.) However, Fairy-types also open the team up to Poison-type Pokémon, especially if one of them replaces our Starmie.

After playing around with the type tool, it seems that our best bet is to leave the Starmie alone, and instead target our Toucannon for replacement. Primarina holds a slight advantage over Alolan Ninetales for this spot, as it cuts down on our Rock weakness, keeps our potential Fire weakness in check, and the one major weakness it opens up (Grass) is covered by Incineroar and Vikavolt (and kinda-sorta blocked by Decidueye). In one swoop, we’ve added a Dragon-type counter and reduced our attack surface, further improving our chances for victory.

Step 4: Take your game online, and repeat the above steps as needed.

The previous three steps improved out team in theory, but there’s only one way to see how things play out in practice: Jump to the Battle Spot and take on the world! You should get a sense of whether or not your has improved pretty quickly, and be sure to ask yourselves some questions as you go along:

  • Which team members are dominating, and which are getting owned?
  • Are there certain Pokémon that keep popping up on your opponent’s side and giving you heartburn? (For example, Aegislashes are the one non-Dragon-type that consistently gives me trouble, so countering them should be a priority.)
  • Do you find yourself saying “Gosh, a ___ would be really handy right now” a lot? If so, see if you can get your hands on a ___, whatever that may be.

Once you get a sense of how your team is performing, you can revisit the step above to see if there are further improvements.

Unfortunately, sometimes the “quick and easy” steps to building a stronger Pokémon team still aren’t enough to get the job done. Luckily, there’s no shortage of ways to improve your Pokémon team and achieve success—your only limits are your curiosity and desire. You may find yourself raising several special Pokémon to fill all the holes on your team, or even digging into the details of breeding, EV training, item usage, and so on. Ultimately, the goal is to have fun battling with Pokémon, and the only things you have to do are the things you want to do.

How Nintendo Can Improve the Pokémon GTS

Back when the Pokémon Global Trading System (GTS) was introduced, it was hailed as a watershed moment in the game’s history. No longer were a player’s trading options restricted to their local counterparts and gated by whoever had a Link Cable handy—now, an ambitious Trainer could conveniently collect pocket monsters from all over the world. In theory, it was a brilliant move (and probably a necessary one).

In practice…well, it was still a brilliant move, but it came with a cost:

“Although being a well-meaning trade function, the GTS has come under criticism. Many traders ask for a legendary Pokémon, such as Mewtwo, in exchange for a common Pokémon, and some players request Pokémon at levels it is impossible to legally obtain that Pokémon at, such as a “Level 9 and under” Charizard.” —Bulbapedia, “Global Trade System”

Instead of being the liberating experience it should be, interacting with the GTS is more frustrating than anything else, as players find themselves  using a clunky interface to find Pokémon they can’t obtain because of unreasonable or impossible demands. It’s enough to drive people to take a chance on a random Wonder Trade rather than suffer through using the GTS.

So what can Nintendo and The Pokémon Company do to improve players’ experience with the GTS? After all, they can’t force players to stop asking for Enteis and Palkias in return for their precious Caterpies and Magikarps. They can fix some of the more-broken pieces of their interface, however, starting with the following suggestions:

(Note: While I made this list myself, I make no claim that these ideas are original. In fact, the idea in my first bullet point below is at least two years old.)

  • Allow players to query the system with the Pokémon they have, not just the Pokémon they’re looking for.

Pokémon Moon gifted me my first ever female stater Pokémon (a Litten), so I figured this would give me an advantage on the GTS—after all, everyone wants a starter Pokémon, right? Unfortunately, after breeding an army of Littens, it turned out that no one seemed to want a starter Pokémon in exchange for the specific monsters I was looking for. By my tenth fruitless query, I was shouting at my 3DS “Good grief, what can I get for a freaking Litten around here?!”

Having an option to search trade requests by the Pokémon you’re planning to offer gives players an accurate sense of the market they’re participating in, and may lead to unexpected-but-totally-welcome surprises that the player hadn’t considered (“Oh hey, I can get a Scyther for this thing? I’ll take it!”). It increases the odds of finding a successful trading partner, and thus increases the chances of a satisfying GTS experience.

  • Allow players to search for any Pokémon right from the start, instead of forcing them to type in the names of monsters that aren’t in their Pokédex.

The GTS’s “type to search” system has never made any sense to me. Anybody can look up a list of Pokémon on the Internet, so it’s not like you’re blocking people from obtaining certain Pokémon. All it does is slow me down, test my spelling abilities, and annoy me.

Instead, every Pokémon should be incorporated into the alphabetical search system currently reserved for Pokédex entries. Sure, it may take a little while to scroll through all the Pokémon that start with the same letter, but it’s a heck of a lot nicer than having to tap out K-a-n-g-a-s-k-h-a-n on the 3DS touchscreen every time.

  • Have a “secret” trade option that restricts access to specified trade offers.

One theory I’ve heard floating around is that part of the prevalence of unreasonable GTS offers is that players use the technique to transfer Pokémon between games, or set up a trade with a specific person. Since anyone can trade for a Pokémon offered on the GTS, demanding a king’s ransom for your Pokémon ensures that no one else will step in and steal a Pokémon you only intended to pass between your copies of Pokémon Sun and Moon. (While the Pokémon Bank takes care of this case in theory, a lot of players are either unable or unwilling to pay a monthly fee for that service.)

Instead, players should have the option to protect their trades by marking them as “secret,” keeping them from being included in public queries. Instead, searching for secret trades would require knowing a) the name of the Pokémon you’re looking for, and b) perhaps a four-digit passcode set by the trade offerer.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s no less secure than the current method of demanding legendaries for common Pokémon, and it reduces the number of crazy trade demands that clog the screens of normal users.

Of course, none of the above options keep people from posting unreasonable trade demands or guarantee that you’ll find the Pokémon trade of your dreams. They’d be a small step in the right direction, however, and perhaps help change the GTS experience of many players from frustrating to fruitful.

My Reaction To The Pokémon Direct

(Note: The actual Direct footage starts just after the 30-minute mark of the above video.)

Yesterday, Nintendo announced a short Pokémon Direct presentation for this morning, sending Pokéfans like yours truly into a frenzy: What would they announce? Would they focus on mainline titles, spin-off games, or mobile apps? Perhaps most importantly, what consoles would these games be appearing on? With the Nintendo Switch’s portable mode, the long-held dream of a mainline Pokémon game appearing on a “home” console seemed imminent.

Then we saw the presentation, and…well, we didn’t get much information at all, much less what people were clamoring for.

The presentation included three big announcements:

  • Pokkén Tournament will be getting the Mario Kart 8 treatment, and will be released for the Switch this September as Pokkén Tournament DX. Like Mario Kart 8 DeluxePTDX will get five new playable characters (Darkrai, Scizor, Empoleon, Croagunk, and Decidueye), but otherwise it appears to be a straightforward port of the Wii U version. While this is great news for Pokkén Tournament fans, I care about this series even less than I care about ARMS, so I wasn’t all that excited personally.
  • Pokémon Sun and Moon will be getting the Pokémon Black/White treatment, with Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon announced for this November on the 3DS. Most of the negative response to this Direct stems from this announcement—more specifically, from what this announcement is not:
    • It’s not Pokémon Stars (although you could make the argument that it’s basically what Stars would have been).
    • It’s not a mainline Pokémon game for the Switch.
    • It’s not the rumored remake of Pokémon Diamond and Pearl that people were speculating about.

While I understand people’s disappointment at not getting to see their favorite monsters in glorious 720/1080p, I’m okay with what’s we’re getting here, especially since it’s essentially the 3rd game version that we used to get back in the early Pokémon days. I had thought that Pokémon Sun and Moon had gotten sacrificed by Nintendo as a way to bridge the Wii U/Switch gap, so it’s nice to see that the company is still sticking by the game. (My biggest concern is how well Ultra Sun and Moon work on older 3DSes, as my XL could just barely handle the original games.)

  • Finally, the original Pokémon Gold and Silver are being re-released for the 3DS Virtual Console this September, much like Pokémon Red and Blue were last year. As someone who has played Gold, HeartGold, SoulSilver, and even a bit of Crystal, I’ve had my fill of Johto for a while, so I don’t care about this at all.

In the end, there wasn’t a whole lot here to excite me: Either I’ve already experienced these games, or I didn’t have any interest in them to begin with. Still, Pokkén Tournament will help Switch owners bridge the gap between Splatoon 2 and Super Mario Odyssey, and Ultra Sun and Moon will keep the 3DS alive and well into 2018, so I suppose the presentation was a net positive for Nintendo fans. (With Sonic Mania and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle also set for release in late-summer/early-fall, I’ll probably have too many games on my plate anyway, so a lackluster Pokémon announcement doesn’t really bother me.)

One final thought: Pokémon would have been a guaranteed Switch-seller, so Nintendo leaving it on the 3DS means one of two things: A surge in confidence that the Switch can stand on its own two feet, or a fear of making the current console shortage any worse than it already is…

What Console Should Pokémon Stars Appear On?

Image from Geek.com

There are certain dreams in life that are universal, such as world peace, the eradication of cancer, and playing a full-fledged Pokémon game on a home console. We’re still working on the first two, but Nintendo fans have been frothing at the mouth over the possibility of the third finally becoming a reality.

Pokémon rumors have been swirling around the Switch since before the new system was announced, but with E3 right around the corner, the current speculation is that a new version of the game (likely the usual “third version” of Pokémon Sun/Moon) will be announced within the next month or so. One important piece of this puzzle, however, remains unclear: What system will the game actually be released for?

On the surface, the choice seems obvious: The Switch is a shiny new system that features both a portable way to play and a ton of momentum (both in terms of buzz and actual sales), while the 3DS is an aging platform with considerably weaker specs. Pokémon is an immensely-popular game that can drive hardware sales (a lot of people bought a 3DS just for the game), which is exactly the kind of game Nintendo need to keep the Switch hype train going. The question isn’t why Pokémon should come to the Switch, it’s why shouldn’t it come to the Switch?

The problem, however, is that despite its disadvantages, the 3DS can still make a strong case for keeping the Pokémon series:

  • The 3DS may be aging, but it’s aging gracefully. Its install base is 66 million+ strong,* it just got a new hardware refresh with the New 2DS XL, and a bunch of new games are coming to the system this year. Its long-term future is still a bit murky, but it isn’t going away anytime soon.
  • The Pokémon series has never been known for stunning visuals—rather, it’s the gameplay that draws people in, and Nintendo has shown time and time again that Pokémon can thrive without cutting-edge graphics. Outside of the visual upgrade (and it’s worth noting that the Switch’s graphics aren’t exactly cutting-edge themselves), what upgrades does the Switch’s horsepower offer? Unless Nintendo wanted to radically redesign the franchise’s core gameplay (and I have to admit, the idea of wandering around a Breath of the Wild-style world while catching and battling Pokémon in real-time battles sounds pretty awesome), they don’t really need what the Switch offers.
  • I speculated earlier that the 3DS was being positioned as a cheap entry-level system for younger gamers to contrast with the Switch’s more-mature target audience. While many of Nintendo’s franchises either favor one of these demographics or have a logical split between the two, Pokémon is a universally-beloved game across basically every demographic you can think of. It’s perfect for hooking youths on Nintendo hardware, while its competitive battle scene, complex set of battle mechanics, and strong nostalgic appeal keep older players coming back over and over.

*Random fun fact: Worldwide 3DS sales (66.12 million) exceed the 2016 popular vote counts of both Hillary Clinton (65.84 million) and Donald Trump (62.98 million).

So which system should the next Pokémon appear on, the Switch or 3DS? I offer the following Socratic answer: Why does this have to be an either/or question?

If Pokémon is a good game for casual and hardcore gamers alike, then it should appear on both systems. Pokémon 3DS would be the classic Pokémon adventure we all know and love, along with some additions that would benefit new players (showing which attacks are super or not effective against an opponent the first time they see them, for example). Pokémon Switch, in contrast, could include some competitive-specific tweaks, such as the ability to view IV and EV counts directly (none of that poor/decent/above-average/best/etc. obfuscation) and perhaps a way to assess a wild Pokémon’s potential the moment you encounter it. Sure, Pokémon 3DS wouldn’t have the visual polish of its Switch cousin, but it would still be Pokémon, and that’s all that matters. (If Nintendo wanted to take this even farther, they could split their 8th-gen Pokémon games across the two consoles, give both versions some exclusive Pokémon, and let players on one console trade and battle with players on the other.)

In short, Nintendo’s strategy should be to get Pokémon in front of as many gamers as possible, and if they ask “Should the game be on the 3DS, or the Switch?”, my answer would just be “Yes.”

Pokémon Face-Off: Kommo-o vs. Dragonite

Cool battle picture coming soon…

Dragon Pokémon. They’re hard to find, hard to catch, and a royal pain to raise, but once you’ve got a fully-evolved dragon on your team, having its power at your disposal is a pretty awesome payoff. While the type isn’t at OP as it once was (Fairy types just laugh at dragons, and everyone and their mother carries Ice Beam these days), they’re still potent Pokémon that you’d better have a game plan for.

Nearly every Pokémon generation has a new Dragon-type line for you to lose sleep over, and Pokémon Sun and Moon’s addition to the family is Kommo-o, a giant scaly monster that pushes you to the limit in the Vast Poni Canyon trial late in the game. The sudden-but-deadly encounter reminded me a bit of when Lance sprung his Dragon-type monsters on me in Pokémon Red, closing the fight with his nasty-tough Dragonite. Both encounters were close battles of attrition, but which of these dragons is the tougher out? This could only be settled with…a face-off!

(As always, the data in the following analysis comes from the good folks at Serebii.net.)

The Types

Kommo-o (Dragon/Fighting) Dragonite (Dragon/Flying)
Strong Against… 6 Types 4 Types
Ineffective Against… 1 Type 1 Type
Can’t Hit Type? No No
Resists… 7 Types 5 Types
Weak To… 5 Types 4 Types
4x Weakness? Yes (Fairy) Yes (Ice)
Immunities? No Yes (Ground)

The numbers advantage belongs to Kommo-o here, as it both stronger against and resistant to more attack types than Dragonite. It’s worth noting, however, the Fairy types are a huge blind spot for Kommo-o, as it takes quadruple damage from their attacks while only having ineffective fighting moves to counterpunch. (In contrast, Dragonite can at least hit Ice-types for neutral damage with Dragon-type moves.) The raw numbers are enough to tilt this category in Kommo-o’s favor, but only by a nose.

Advantage: Kommo-o (slightly)

The Stats

Statistic Kommo-o Dragonite
HP 75 91
Attack 110 134
Defense 125 95
Spec. Attack 100 100
Spec. Defense 105 100
Speed 85 80
Total 600 600

With total stat counts at 600, it’s clear that these two aren’t playing around. The special stats are mostly a push, so it’s the other four stats on the board that will settle this category:

  • Both Pokémon will be leaning on their Attack stats for damage, but Dragonite’s eye-popping +24 advantage means it will hitting significantly harder.
  • Kommo-o, however, has an even-more-eye-popping +30 Defense advantage, which becomes even more imposing when paired with its type resistances. Even if attacker focus on its Spec. Defense, it still has a +10 advantage on Dragonite’s relatively-low 95 Defense.
  • Dragonite’s +16 HP advantage helps mitigate its defensive deficiencies, however, while Kommo-o’s mediocre 75 HP means it’s going to need every last point of its Defense.
  • The dragons’ Speed stats are pretty close, but being both the slowest and the squishiest of the pair is a significant strike against Dragonite.

Here again, I think the numbers give Kommo-o the advantage, but only by the slightest of margins.

Advantage: Kommo-o (slightly)

The Abilities

Kommo-o Dragonite
Bulletproof Inner Focus
Soundproof Multiscale
Overcoat

Unlike the prior two categories, this one isn’t close at all. Flinch-preventing abilities like Inner Focus have limited usefulness, and Multiscale requires some sort of healing-backed strategy to make it useful more than once a battle. Bulletproof and Soundproof block entire classes of attacks (which include some fairly powerful ones), while Overcoat prevents hail and sandstorm damage and nullifies powder-based attacks (and as someone who makes heavy use of Sleep Powder, this scares the heck out of me). Kommo-o wins this one going away

Advantage: Kommo-o

The Moves

Kommo-o Dragonite
Top 3 STAB Attacks
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Outrage Dragon 120 P Outrage Dragon 120 P
Clanging Scales Dragon 110 S Hurricane Flying 110 S
Sky Uppercut Fighting 85 P Dragon Rush Dragon 100 P
Top 3 Non-STAB Attacks
Headbutt Normal 70 P Hyper Beam Normal 150 S
Tackle Normal 40 P Aqua Tail Water 90 P
Bide Normal Damage Taken x2 P Slam Normal 80 P
Other Notable Moves
Dragon Dance Raises Attack and Speed Fire Punch Fire 75 P
Iron Defense Sharply raises Defense Dragon Dance Raises Attack and Speed
Dragon Claw Dragon 80 P Roost Heals up to 1/2 HP

This might look like an impressive table on the surface, but in reality both Pokémon pay a huge price for their power:

Attack Power But…
Outrage 120 Confuses user after 2-3 turns
Clanging Scales 110 Lowers user’s Defense, uses Spec. Attack
Hurricane 110 Poor accuracy (70%), uses Spec. Attack
Hyper Beam 150 User loses a turn, uses Spec. Attack
Dragon Rush 100 Poor accuracy (75%)
Slam 80 Poor accuracy (75%)

Basically, if you’re looking for phenomenal cosmic power out of these two, you can get it, but it may not be as OP as you might think.

So what can you get out of these two Pokémon reliably? It depends on what you’re looking for:

  • For raw STAB power, Kommo-o is your dragon. Dragon Claw and Sky Uppercut are two of the best physical, no-side-effect moves for Dragon and Fighting types respectively, and it has a ton of stat-boosting moves (Dragon Dance, Iron Defense, Work Up, Autotomize, and even Belly Drum) to boost it from ‘tough, powerful Pokémon’ into ‘potential team-sweeper’ territory.
  • If you want a Swiss army knife with some decent type coverage, Dragonite is the better fit. With moves like Fire Punch, Thunder Punch, Aqua Tail, and even Hyper Beam at its disposal, Dragonite has a few options for taking on a wide variety of foes. (Compare this to Kommo-o, whose non-STAB options—Tackle? Bide?—are just pitiful.)

The winner of this category, therefore, depends on the answer to the question “What do you want in a Dragon, anyway?” For me, a Dragon-type Pokémon is a safety blanket, a Pokémon I can toss against foes that I have no other viable counter for. Type coverage isn’t quite as important as just being able to do some credible damage to my opponent, so I’m looking for safe, solid STAB attacks, with the option to unleash Outrage-esque fury in an emergency. For my tastes, Kommo-o is the way to go.

Advantage: Kommo-o

The TMs

Kommo-o Dragonite
Top 4 TM Moves
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Name Type Power Phys./
Spec.
Earthquake Ground 100 P Earthquake Ground 100 P
Poison Jab Poison 80 P Stone Edge Rock 100 P
X-Scissor Bug 80 P Fly Flying 90 P
Shadow Claw Ghost 70 P Dragon Claw Dragon 80 P
Aerial Ace Flying 60 P Steel Wing Steel 70 P
Brutal Swing Dark 60 P Thunder Electric 110 S
Flamethrower Fire 90 S Fire Blast Fire 120 S

 

As usual, TMs ride to the rescue to fill in the gaps in both Pokémon’s natural movesets:

  • With Ground-, Bug-, Ghost-, Flying-, Dark-, Fire-, Steel-, and especially Poison-type moves (Fairy types beware!) at its disposal, Kommo-o finds itself with more than enough type coverage to go around.
  • Dragonite not only gains access to less-risky STAB moves like Dragon Claw, Aerial Ace, and Fly, but it also sees its type coverage broaden with powerful moves like Earthquake and Stone Edge. Some of these gains, however, are watered down by their reliance of Spec. Attack (Fire Blast, Surf, Thunder, etc.).

Dragonite gains a bit more in terms of power and flexibility, so it wins the battle here. Kommo-o, however, fills in its one major weakness and positions itself to win the war.

Advantage: Dragonite

 The Results

What is a Dragon-type Pokémon? André Malraux would call it a miserable little pile of power, and I would agree with him wholeheartedly. Dragons are less about working type matches and exploiting weaknesses, and more about drawing a line in the sand and daring your opponent to cross it. Dragonite may have more raw power, but Kommo-o’s defensive stinginess, its steady, to-the-point moveset, and its superior type and abilities give it the edge to emerge victorious from most any battle, just as it does here.

Winner: Kommo-o

 

However, Dragonite is only deficient in a relative sense: With its impressive stat count and raw power, there aren’t a lot of Pokémon that will stand in its way either. Dragons have been a stalwart of strength ever since the days of Pokémon Red and Blue, and will likely be a staple of strong Pokémon teams for many generations to come.