Time to bring out the big guns. Dragon Pokémon have always had a reputation for being among the roughest, toughest, most ornery Pokémon around, and my subjects today are no exception. Axew, Fraxure and Haxorus are territorial Pokémon that fight with pairs of massive tusks shaped like the blades of a double-axe, which grow harder, sharper and more powerful as they evolve, chopping through first wood, then rock, then steel. Oddly enough, Axew’s tusks quickly regenerate when broken, but Fraxure’s will not (presumably Haxorus’ won’t either, but since the Pokédex is silent on that question it’s entirely possible that there’s never been a recorded instance of a Haxorus’ tusk breaking in the first place). I doubt that’s a mistake; even I give Game Freak more credit than that, but I’m not sure what, if anything, it’s supposed to imply; maybe Axew have greater vitality because of their youth? I like the physical aspects of Axew, Fraxure and Haxorus’ design because they’re far more naturalistic than most Dragon Pokémon; they bear more of a resemblance to dinosaurs than the standard European dragons whose influence we see in Dragonite, Flygon, and especially Salamence (Garchomp is somewhere in between, but he does still fly… and he’s also part shark). In keeping with this, they’re less ‘mythical’ in their presentation than many other Dragon-types; they’re not unique in that respect but I feel it’s emphasised with them, perhaps deliberately. Although the defining character trait of the axe jaw family is that they’re very territorial and quarrel constantly, Haxorus are actually gentle Pokémon as long as they aren’t threatened or challenged, not unlike many real animals. They’re ‘dragons,’ but you can see them as part of an ecosystem to an extent that’s difficult for most other Dragon-types. Still, I’m somewhat ambivalent about their flavour. What’s there is good, and their artwork is nicely done, and having an axe for a face is bizarre but creative, but the Pokédex for the most part spends too much time talking about how awesome their tusks are to tell us much else about them, and so they’re not filled out as much as I would like. Good, but not brilliant.
The other thing that’s different about Haxorus is her element. Haxorus is a Dragon Pokémon – just a Dragon Pokémon, which isn’t really unusual in itself, but the thing is, there’s never been a fully-evolved Dragon Pokémon before that didn’t have a second element as well: Dragonite, Altaria and Salamence are Flying-types, Kingdra’s a Water-type, and Garchomp and Flygon are Ground-types. That’s not really interesting but it’s a niche that needed to be filled, one way or another (there’s another straight Dragon-type in Black and White – Druddigon – but Druddigon is… well, I’ll get to Druddigon in another few weeks). On its own or in combination, Dragon is a wonderful type for both attack and defence. Dragon Pokémon resist Fire, Water, Grass and Electric moves and are weak only to Ice and Dragon moves – Dragon Pokémon are strongest against each other. Dragon attacks aren’t super-effective against any other types, which is far from inspiring, but there’s also only one element that resists Dragon attacks (Steel). What’s more, the strongest Dragon attacks are crazily powerful. In Diamond/Pearl, Salamence’s Draco Meteor was the Pokéverse’s equivalent to a tactical nuke and was known for reducing almost anything that doesn’t resist it to a smoking crater. Haxorus has a poor special attack stat, so Draco Meteor isn’t a realistic option for her, but her physical attack stat is nothing short of phenomenal. If Draco Meteor is like a tactical nuke, Haxorus’ Outrage is like waking up after a night of indulging in adult beverages and having South Carolina dropped on your head. What’s more, Haxorus can learn Swords Dance, and if she gets a free moment to use that, something is almost certainly going to be beaten to a thin red paste. Most things that actually resist Outrage take fairly severe damage from Earthquake; what’s more, Haxorus’ passive ability, Mold Breaker, allows her attacks to ignore the abilities of other Pokémon – most notably, Pokémon with Levitate aren’t immune to her Earthquakes, which bring Bronzong crashing to the ground. That still leaves a slot open for X-Scissor or something; what Haxorus really wants is a Fire attack to deal with Steel-types that aren’t weak to Earthquake, but what she’s got is perfectly acceptable.
Haxorus is obscenely powerful; only seven Pokémon are stronger, five of which are legendary. She’s hasn’t completely taken over the game, however, and isn’t going to. Not being able to learn Fire Punch or something is probably part of it (Skarmory in particular, whose immunity to Earthquake comes from his Flying element rather than an ability and thus isn’t denied by Mold Breaker, is pretty much a brick wall to Haxorus), but what’s more significant is her speed. Haxorus isn’t by any means slow, but she’s just a little bit slower than Garchomp, Salamence, Flygon, Latios, Latias and Hydreigon, six of the other eight major Dragon Pokémon, and since, as I mentioned, Dragon-types are weak to their own attacks, no Dragon Pokémon wants be outrun by another for fear of taking an Outrage or Draco Meteor to the face. Furthermore, she has the weakest defences of any fully-evolved Dragon-type aside from maybe Flygon, so she’s much more prone to being worn down than the others are. Her comparatively lower speed makes Dragon Dance an attractive technique because she’ll get faster as she gets stronger, but since she’ll also be gaining physical power at a slower rate than if she were using Swords Dance, she’s less likely to demolish her targets completely with a single hit and therefore more vulnerable to retribution. If you feel spending a turn dancing is a bit of a drag, getting Haxorus to hold a Choice Scarf will make her faster from the get-go, potentially letting her surprise and destroy the other Dragon Pokémon that would normally expect her to run from them (alternatively, a Choice Band will make her physical attacks stronger – because if you don’t want to destroy a small planetary body with every punch, why are you even using Haxorus?). Any Pokémon can use one of these things, but Haxorus’ stat distribution and reasonable offensive movepool make her more suited than most. Holding a Choice item, however, comes at a price: it locks a Pokémon into the first attack it uses until it next switches out, robbing you of your versatility. For all her power, Haxorus can’t succeed without a little finesse. Whatever you make of her, she’s going to be vulnerable to something, and significantly more so than her elders. If you can pull it off, though, the sheer absurdity of Haxorus’ Outrage is worth it.
I’m vague on Haxorus; she’s clearly strong enough to deserve being spared, but she’s not strong for particularly different reasons than the existing Dragon Pokémon: Dragon and Ground attacks go well together, Outrage and Dragon Dance are awesome, and Dragon-types are traditionally blessed with tremendous physical strength. If nothing else, though, her sheer strength and pure typing do distinguish her somewhat. Axew and Fraxure, while not especially deep in terms of concept, are at least cute and cool respectively, aesthetically different from most previous Dragon Pokémon. They’re not ideal Pokémon, but for the most part, I’m okay with them.
I hereby affirm this Pokémon’s right to exist!