It’s no secret that Pokémon has issues with balance. That’s why fans needed to create Smogon tiers—unlike in most other major franchises, where balancing issues are managed by the developers themselves. This issue goes all the way back to Gen 1 with the madness of Mewtwo and Psychic-type Pokémon.
When I thought things couldn’t get worse after the Mega Gengar and Aegislash antics in Pokémon X & Y, Game Freak proved me wrong: they gave us Mega Rayquaza. M-Rayquaza was so ridiculous it got banned from the Uber tier (where Mewtwo and Arceus hang out), and then proceeded to create a new tier aptly named “Anything Goes”. A typical match in this tier mainly consists of players trying to take down their opponent’s M-Rayquaza. The player who manages that feat wins.
But there’s always a silver lining—Game Freak released a trailer on the 16th of August for Pokémon Sword & Shield. This trailer showcased some new items that seem specifically designed for competitive, which could be taken as a sign that GF is trying to manage competitive Pokémon. Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I am hereby presenting the idea that…
The type chart needs to change
While the balancing issues in Pokémon go far beyond just the type chart, type chart is what I will focus on today.
“Characters having powers over different elements” is a common trope in video games. From a game design perspective, the elemental powers trope is very useful: e.g., it rationalizes why certain character types are strong against certain other types – imagine how hard it would be to memorize the type chart, if what you need to recite is “Type A is strong against Type B” instead of “water is strong against fire”.
This trope helps enhance the game’s fantasy appeals as well. With the elemental powers tropes in play, players can imagine themselves being in control of various natural elements. What inevitably follows, however, is that some players prefer certain elemental powers, maybe just for purely aesthetic reasons. If a type is particularly weak, players who like that type for aesthetic reasons will be unhappy. Unhappy players mean less money for GF (though some argue they don’t care, considering how much of a cash Miltank the franchise is).
The Ice-type problem
I’m sure I’m not the first person to talk about Ice type. In fact, it’s something fans have been complaining about for generations and yet, nothing has been done about it. Ice type is grossly underpowered on the defensive side, with 4 weaknesses and merely 1 resistance. Nearly all bulky Ice-types (which constitute the majority of Ice-types) are at the lowest Smogon tier, and the only one that isn’t (Cloyster) made it because it has a way to shed its defensive build (Shell Smash). To top it off, the only cover legendary under Uber is an Ice-type (Kyurem). So, what can GF do, in order to make Pokémon-slash-Frozen fans happy?
On one hand, if GF really loves the current type chart:
- They can start making Ice-types that are offensive and quit making slow, bulky Ice-types which they’ve been fixated on. Indeed, history has shown fast and/or offensive Ice-types are viable, e.g., Weavile and Froslass. That however won’t change the fact that Ice-types from the first 7 generations are mostly horrible.
- Alternatively, GF could change the stats of extant Ice-types, but I doubt this will make players happy – well, unless players are ready to see Lapras, Walrein, and Beartic having higher speed stats than Pidgeot (whom the Pokédex says can fly at Mach 2 speed).
So, I think the only real solution here is to change the type chart, and make the Ice type more viable on the defensive side. That means giving Ice more resistances to work with and maybe remove one of its weaknesses. Here are my suggestions:
- Giving Ice a resistance to Water: Water has always been a bit OP; It’s one of the few types with more resistances than weaknesses, with multiple of its resistances being powerful offensive types; It’s not even close to being under-powered on the offensive side, strong against 3 types and resisted by neither Poison nor Steel (both are defensive powerhouses). What if Ice resists Water? That’ll give defensive Ice-types a nice niche. It makes sense, too: Ice is less dense than water, so I’d assume that Ice-types (many of whom do have ice and snow on their bodies) are better able to stay afloat and not drown when hit with, say, a Surf.
- Giving Ice a resistance to Ground: Ground is an extremely potent offensive type, being strong against both Poison and Steel and also the sole type able to hit Electric-types super-effectively. Anyone who’s dabbled in competitive knows Earthquake is a staple move. Whilst I can’t think of a strong rationale for Ice being able to resist Ground, Ice can already hit Ground for super-effective, so why not give Ice a Ground resistance?
- Removing one of Ice’s weaknesses: I’m not sure which weaknesses could/should be removed, though I’d definitely recommend keeping Ice’s weakness to Fire, because that one makes way too much sense to abandon.
Ice is, of course, not the only type that can use a little nudge upward. There are other types who’re also slightly under-powered, including:
- Bug: Bug has never been a strong offensive type to start with, but for some reason, when they introduced Fairy, GF decides that Bug needs to be nerfed and resisted by Fairy. Or maybe they just really hate Ninjask. I personally can see Fairy lose that Bug resistance, perhaps even gain a weakness to Bug.
- Psychic: Psychic-types have gone downhill since their golden days in Gen 1. It’s one of the few types with more weaknesses than resistances, and slow defensive Psychic-types tend to range from “sub-optimal” to “absolutely horrible”. Yes, even with Trick Room, because psychics are weak to Sucker Punch. I could see Psychic get a defensive buff. What do you think if Psychic resists Fairy? Mentally focused wizards being better able to ward off fairy magic?
- Grass and Rock: I won’t say these two are severely under-powered. There’re enough viable slow and/or bulky Grass-types (Venusaur) and Rock-types (Tyranitar), but still, Grass and Rock have a whooping 5 weaknesses each and are the only ones with more weaknesses than resistances-slash-immunities (bar Ice and Psychic). So, if you’re allow to give Grass and Rock defensive buffs, what would you do?
Please share your thoughts. I couldn’t wait to hear from you guys and see what Gen 8 brings to competitive Pokémon!