Starters Untamed: Hoenn

Hey Pokejunglers! Mr. Bojingles here. My sincerest apologies for not updating sooner – its finals time and of course my instructors are all swamping us with last minute assignments while prepping for exams. I guess it wouldn’t be college without all nighters and and test cramming [PJ’s Note: He sent this in early December, so I actually have to apologize for the lateness!].

[spoiler]Well, now it’s time to get down to business. This “Starters Untamed” article will be focusing on the Hoenn starters from R/S/E. To begin we have Sceptile, the forest Pokémon. First I must say that Sceptile is easily my most favorite starter out of all of the games thus far. His aesthetics are just so amazing; he starts off as a gecko type creature and then ends up being a fierce dinosaur with leaves spurting from his body. He just reeks of coolness (plus the fact that I’m biased towards grass types also has some sway on my opinion ). Upon further growth, Sceptile certainly proves himself worthy of a grass type.

The first mention regarding the amazingness of Sceptile is his stats. Clearly, he’s built for the offensive (FINALLY a solid offensive grass type). Now don’t get me wrong, pokes such as Venusaur and Victrebell are built for the offense. The main thing that separates Sceptile from the other offensive grass types is his speed. Aside from the newer Shaymin-S, Sceptile is the fastest grass type out there. Combined with a high special stat of 105 it can prove to be a fairly formidable opponent. In my personal opinion though, Sceptile has a far more diverse physical move pool that shies away from his special attack stat. His attack isn’t terrible; it scores a mediocre 85 points. The one thing that Sceptile learns to compliment this is Swords Dance, upping his attack by two stages. One particular move set that I enjoy combines Swords Dance with attacks such as Leaf Blade, X-Scissor, and Earthquake. This allows solid type coverage against Sceptile’s many counters. Because of his high speed Sceptile is capable of setting up a sweep. Make sure to include an offensively enhancing item such as the Life Orb to increase his attacking prowess. Choice sets can also be used for more power, but many Sceptile builds need an extra “oomph” if you will.
Something else Sceptile is excellent at is SubSeeding. Substitute, Leech Seed and the Leftovers item are a common threat when facing grass types, especially the speedy ones. What really makes Sceptile an interesting SubSeeder is, again, his physical abilities. Not only does he fit a great stalling role, but also a sweeping role. Sceptile’s overall diversity on the battle field is second to none.

There are some newer additions to Sceptile that I’m not really sure of. His new ability Unburden doubles his speed when his held item is consumed. His already excellent speed becomes just downright ridiculous, sporting at least 700 with EVs and a neutral nature. It’s just . . . he was already faster than most pokes to begin with, so what’s the need for a super high speed stat other than for show? Also, in competitive play there are numerous priority moves like Bullet Punch and Mach Punch removes this advantage. Played along with Sceptile’s relatively poor defenses doesn’t help him any. What I did with Unburden is equip Sceptile with the Focus Sash, keeping him at 1 HP upon a 1HKO. The use of this item works with his ability, but leaving him with 1 HP allows priority moves to come in for the kill. Also the abundance of Sand Storm and Hailstalls negates this effect. I haven’t tested this with any other items solely for the fact that Sceptile benefits more from combining offense increasing items with his initial ability Overgrow, which increases grass attacks by 50% when below 1/3 HP.[/spoiler]

[spoiler]Alrighty, next up is the blaze Pokémon Blaziken! Oh Torchic. . .you are just too cute for words. I don’t know what’s up with your second evolution; it just looks strange, but it’s forgivable. Blaziken is simply a sight to behold. He’s just so awesome it hurts (no really, it hurts). He proves to be one of the best mixed attackers out there, sporting an epic attack stat at 120 and a special attack stat not too far behind at 110. His fire/fighting typing only assists him at serving the role of a beastly sweeper.

As mentioned before, Blaziken’s offensive stats make him an excellent mixed sweeper. This allows him to deal with a variety of common walls such as the special wall Blissy and her physical counterpart Skarmory. Not only have that, but his high power moves also have plenty of typed variety allowing him to counter many of his common threats. Many Blaziken builds are 100% offense, thus equipping him with something like a Choice Band or a Choice Scarf is a prime choice. He does come with a couple of hefty recoil moves as well (i.e Brave Bird, Flare Blitz, and the occasionally unlucky Hi Jump Kick), so many builds also come equipped with Salec Berries to increase his speed when his HP is below 25%. This leads me to the one main gripe I have about this awesome Pokémon; his speed. Speed is a huge factor in offensive pokes. Sweepers need speed so they can dish out as much damage as possible before they eventually perish. While Blaziken’s speed isn’t horrible, it’s not amazing either; capping at a moderate 80. Even with maxed EVs and a positive nature, he is still outrun by common competitive threats such as Starmie and Dragon Danced Gyarados. The fire typing has also never been much of a defensive type, so using Blaziken with little or no support could ultimately end in a quick death. Infernape really did Blaziken in, scoring slightly less in the attack department but excelling in speed (this will be mentioned in the next article).

This was, of course, before the Dream World came in and just threw everybody off with its surprises. While the English version is on the horizon, it’s still difficult to tell what the new competitive play will be like. Upon testing the new and improved Blaziken, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s so amazing he’s dang near broken. His new DW ability is by far the best that has been introduced to the starters in my opinion. It’s the infamous Speed Boost, which raises his speed by a score of one after every turn. Prior to Blaziken only two pokes came with Speed Boost; Ninjask and Yanmega. Unlike those two, Blaziken is capable of obliterating entire teams single handedly if caught off guard. What is happening quite a bit in competitive play is Blaziken using Protect every other turn for about two or three turns, keeping him safe from harm’s way and allowing him to get a head start with continuously increasing speed. After a couple of speed boosts, he’s capable of outrunning most Choice Scarf pokes. This, along with his diverse move pool, allows him to 1HKO most of his threats and, because of his mentioned attack prowess, many pokes who take neutral damage. With a Protect build, you would obviously want to stay away from any of the Choice Sets as this will limit his attacks, so it’s not uncommon to see him equipped with a Life Orb or even an enhancing attack/special attack berry (whichever set you prefer).

While this set is extremely powerful and reliable, it’s not unstoppable. What hurts Blaziken are priority moves such as Aqua Jet that deal significant damage. Also, many opponents foresee the Protect/attack build and often Protect when they predict a move such as Hi Jump Kick, giving Blaziken significant recoil damage. Overall Blaziken has become pretty difficult to counter do to his speed enhancing ability and his high attack stat, so you need to be extra careful when going against him.[/spoiler]

[spoiler]Lastly we have the Mud Fish Pokémon Swampert. Let me just throw it out there – I absolutely despise him. His design is aesthetically displeasing, I’m not a fan of the water/ground dual type, nor do I enjoy using the “bulky water” pokes. He’s by far my least favorite water type and overall my least favorite starter ever. *puts on flame shield* don’t kill me Swampert fans! I already see the pitch forks and torches up ahead. . .

But I digress, as much as despise this fugly beast, he’s an extremely well rounded and commonly used Pokémon in the competitive field. While not a fan of his typing, it only comes with one weakness: Grass. Given it’s a 4x weakness, it’s still not that bad considering he also comes with four common resistances and electric being totally negated. His stats fit the bulky water roll well, boasting respectable 90/90 defensive stats as well as a 100 HP stat. Swampert comes with a little twist that his bulky water counterparts sometimes lack; offense. Not only can Swampert take a hit, but he can also dish out some damage as well. His 110/85 attacking stats leave him considerable ground to defend himself. His move pool, while not too amazing, is still fairly decent. He packs support moves like Curse to enhance his offensive/defensive capabilities while reducing his speed, which is just fine because he’s sluggish anyway . He also comes with Roar, which is a great tool to use when going up against irritating Baton Passers and Shell Smashers. Common builds include the Rest/Sleep Talk combo, allowing him to recover and still dent the opponent with attacks. Offensive attacks that work well with Swampert include the common Waterfall and Earthquake, both high damaging moves that also take advantage of his dual STABs. Common builds also include Ice Punch to take care of those nasty grass types (assuming he survives a grass attack, which is extremely rare) and also Stone Edge just for good measure. Because of his versatile stats, giving Swampert items such as a Choice Band or Leftovers works well with whatever build you’re going for. Essentially you can use Swampert as an all out offensive beast, a meat shield, or a little bit of both.
Unfortunately the Dream World hasn’t been so kind to Swampert as it has to the other starters. His new ability is Damp, which prevents moves such as Explosion and Self Destruct from being used as long as he’s in play. While this is useful, it’s only helpful in specific situations. Torrent is a by far more useful ability all around simply because it increases his damaging effectiveness when becoming low on health. In most cases this is the better choice, but common leads such as Bronzong, Metagross, and Nattorei come with those irritating seppuku skills, so having a Damp Swampert lead could prove useful in those niche situations.

Swampert is overall a very good poke. Great typing and stats really allow him to shine in the battle field. Just be wary of those grass types, because Swampert fears them most. Not only are many of them faster, but a STAB grass attack will 1HKO him almost every time.[/spoiler]

PJ’s Closing note: THANK YOU MR. BOJINGLES.  If you didn’t know, he’s off to Germany now so let’s all wish him a safe time in Europe <3  I think this site also wins for having the most international staff with me living in Japan, Ozy spending parts of his life in Singapore, Kriff from the UK, and Daigo, Jonny & NL keeping our American pride alive.