Okay, you remember how I said last time that I thought I was just about done with all the genuinely bad Pokémon?
I was lying.
I’m doing Heatmor and Durant together because, although they aren’t part of a single evolutionary family, they do in a sense ‘go together.’ Heatmor is a bloody great anteater that some delightfully mad person has decided to splice together with a blast furnace or something, and Durant is an angry giant ant plated from head to abdomen in steel, and Heatmor’s favourite food. Durant, the Pokédex insists, covers itself in steel plating specifically to protect itself from Heatmor, which makes absolutely no sense in a world of elemental ‘types’ with distinct strengths and weaknesses relative to one another. Why does this make no sense? Because Heatmor is a Fire Pokémon, and relying on metal armour to protect yourself from a Fire-type is tantamount to suicide according to everything we have ever seen about the way this world works. Now, evolution (in the real-world biological sense, not the Poké-world pseudozoological whacko sense) is an insanely complicated phenomenon, this I will grant you, but no-one and nothing is going to convince me that natural selection would actually push a species to become more vulnerable to its own major natural predator. Just to be clear here, I agree that it makes perfect sense for an anteater to be really good at eating ants. For example, it would make a degree of sense to be told that Heatmor evolved their fire abilities as an adaptation for preying on Durant, since Durant were protected by this steel plating that they had evolved to keep themselves safe from the other crazy wildlife of Unova’s Victory Road. It would make less sense, but still some, to be told that the Heatmor had come from elsewhere originally and had simply done what was natural by exploiting a local prey animal that was vulnerable to their powers. All of this, of course, is assuming that Durant’s armour is a biological trait that it’s evolved, but the language of the Pokédex is surprisingly vague: “covering themselves in steel armour to protect themselves from Heatmor” could well mean that they dig up the metal and somehow beat it into shape. This wouldn’t require turning natural selection completely on its head; it would just require that Durant really are that stupid.
I guess I can live with that.
Anyway, putting all of that firmly aside… Durant are basically big metal ants that dig their nests in rock rather than in soil. They are utterly nightmarish and I hate them. I was a little surprised, honestly, to realise that there was no ant Pokémon already, and I suppose it’s good that we have one now. Nothing about Durant makes me think ‘wow, this is an awesome Pokémon; I am so glad they came up with this one,’ but I guess it’s okay… ish… if you like huge creepy bugs with massive iron jaws. Now, Heatmor, on the other hand, is such a bizarre idea that I almost can’t help but like him. You can see with a bit of effort that he’s based on an anteater, but he breathes through his tail, which is shaped like some kind of exhaust pipe, and has body parts that seem distinctly inorganic, like the curling tendrils of iron creeping up his back and torso (maybe that’s a side-effect of his diet?). “Burning with an internal fire” is not something new to Fire-types; many of them are described that way and I assume most or all of them could be, but taking the idea and actually making a Pokémon with traits of a furnace is a pretty fun idea. I have trouble understanding why Heatmor isn’t a Steel-type (then again if he were, he’d be doomed to a life spent comparing himself to the other Fire/Steel Pokémon, the legendary Heatran) but he is, again, so wonderfully mad that I have to like him just for that.
Heatmor has problems, though; big ones. Time for another history lesson. Back in Red and Blue, Fire Pokémon were terrible. Being a Fire-type pretty much disqualified you from learning any attacks other than Fire or Normal ones (unless your name was Charizard, in which case you got Earthquake, or Magmar, in which case you got Psychic, but that was about it), and the lack of versatility left most of them struggling to contribute against anything that wasn’t bothered by Fire attacks. Nowadays, those original Fire Pokémon have been given all sorts of new toys like Rapidash’s Megahorn, Arcanine’s Dragon Pulse, and Magmortar’s… just about everything (Flareon, however, is still terrible because Game Freak decided long ago that Flareon Is Not Allowed To Have Nice Things). Now along comes poor Heatmor who is right back where we started. Heatmor has Fire attacks, Solarbeam (which Game Freak started giving to all Fire-types in Diamond and Pearl), and Sucker Punch. There are other moves on his list but they are maddeningly unhelpful. He’s also slow and has poor defences. Sucker Punch helps to compensate for his awful speed by hitting first, and will do reasonable damage because Heatmor, if nothing else, is quite capable with both physical and special attacks, but it only works against opponents about to attack Heatmor directly (it fails against a target about to use something like Swords Dance). Heatmor can also spread burns with Will’o’Wisp, but most Fire- or Ghost-types can do that, and most Water-types as well now that they get Scald. I guess he can… use his long tongue to Tickle the opposition and weaken their physical attacks and defences? Yeah, I’m… I’m grasping at straws now; Heatmor really is terrible and I am honestly at a loss as to what you could possibly do with him that wouldn’t be done better by every Fire-type ever (except maybe Flareon).
Durant is terrible as well but at least it has the decency to be terrible in a unique and imaginative fashion. It’s even more brittle than Heatmor; its armour affords it… fairly solid protection from physical attacks but it is appallingly vulnerable to energy attacks. The good news for Durant is that it has only one weakness (Fire), it’s extremely fast, is capable of very heavy damage, has the Hustle trait, which swaps accuracy for even more damage, and can learn Hone Claws, which improves both accuracy and damage. Basically I’m saying Durant likes to damage things. Unfortunately this is when the pendulum swings right back to bad news for Durant because its movepool is… well, I don’t want to say terrible because it blows Heatmor’s movepool right out of the water but it’s grim. Durant’s primary attacks are X-Scissor and Iron Head, but neither Bug nor Steel is a particularly inspiring type offensively and they don’t cover each other very well. Thunder Fang is very weak but gets a couple of useful super-effective hits, Rock attacks are very useful and strong against a lot of elements, but also inaccurate to start with, which doesn’t combine well with Hustle, and that’s about it. Bug/Rock/Steel isn’t bad, but it’s hardly stellar – and you need Hone Claws in that fourth slot to compensate for the accuracy drop associated with Hustle, so you can actually rely on its attacks. This highlights Durant’s big weakness (besides Fire): most Pokémon that use boosting attacks like Swords Dance or Calm Mind can at least try something and be reasonably effective if they don’t have time to set up properly. Without Hone Claws, all of Durant’s attacks have a significant chance of missing completely, and it just isn’t tough enough to cope with the consequences. If you’re using a Durant with Swarm (which powers up Bug attacks when his health is low) instead of Hustle, you need to ask yourself “why am I not using Scizor?” If you’re using a Durant with Truant instead of Hustle you need to get your head checked. A Truant Pokémon only even moves once every two turns (by the way, I have no idea why an ant, a stereotypically industrious creature, would get this, even as a Dreamworld ability) – Durant, notably, can use the Entrainment technique to copy this awful, awful ability onto an opponent instead, but the crippling effect lasts only until the target switches out and gets its old ability back, and in order to do even that much, you’ve had to a) give your Durant Truant and b) use Durant in the first place. Don’t.
I really am spoiled for choice here. Heatmor is pretty cool, but unambiguously awful for reasons that the designers should be familiar with from Red and Blue, while Durant fights in a unique and amusing style but is still pretty bad, and has flavour that isn’t nearly so amusing. Well… at least I can take comfort in having seen worse.
I hereby deny this Pokémon’s right to exist! Let them be tossed back through time to the Galapagos to become part of Darwin’s collection; that’ll fox the smug bastard!