Mudkip, Marshtomp and Swampert

Mudkip.  Artwork by Ken Sugimori; auctoritas picturae huius Nintendoni est.So i herd u liek Mudkipz?

…eheh.  Sorry.  I couldn’t resist.

caelicolae immortales, I hate that meme…

Today’s cute little bundle of utter nonsense is Mudkip, the… swampy… fishy… thing.  Now, as for me personally, I’m sorry to say that, no, I don’t liek Mudkipz.  His evolutions, Marshtomp and Swampert, belong to an archetype that I’m simply not very fond of.  However, that doesn’t mean this is a bad design.  Maybe Game Freak realised on their own how boring Feraligatr was, or maybe someone pointed out to them, or maybe (far more likely) Mudkip just happened to get lucky, because he is anything but a simple cartoon of an ordinary animal.  He’s probably based on something like an axolotl – a curious species of salamander that, although it does have an ‘adult’ form, never actually metamorphoses under natural conditions, and retains the gills of a larval salamander for its whole life (you can force an axolotl to metamorphose and become a land animal, but the stress will either drastically shorten the poor thing’s lifespan or kill it outright – I’m sure there’s a metaphor in that somewhere…).  Axolotls are fully aquatic, but Mudkip is more an amphibious creature; he has fins to help him move through the water, but his legs can support him on land, and while he still has functioning gills, he seems to have air-breathing lungs as well.  He retains this mixture of traits as he evolves into a veritable ‘creature from the black lagoon.’  Well, eventually.  I’ve always thought Marshtomp looked a little bit gormless, and to be honest Swampert does too, in Sugimori’s art, but most of his sprites are much better, and it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination anyway to picture this froglike behemoth as a pretty terrifying opponent.  As I said, I don’t liek Mudkipz – in general, I’m simply not a fan of brutish, physically imposing Pokémon, which is what he eventually becomes (Mudkip himself, I admit, is pretty cute).  As brutish, physically imposing Pokémon go, however, Swampert is a keeper.  Pure boulder-crushing power isn’t all there is to him; the whole line also has impressive sensory abilities.  Mudkip, Marshtomp and Swampert can use their fins to detect pressure differences and ‘feel’ objects and Pokémon moving around them – most effectively in water, but in air as well – and have extremely good vision, allowing them to see through murky water with ease.  Swampert can even predict storms well in advance by sensing air currents, and will pile up boulders to protect his coastal territory.  I find it odd that they apparently live on beaches, since they seem to be based on a freshwater animal and are linked with swamps and marshes; in particular they like to dig burrows in mud and damp soil, not sand.  I think they must live in estuaries, mangroves and salt marshes, intersections of terrain types, which implies a fair degree of hardiness and adaptability – and, to look at these Pokémon, I can certainly believe that.

 Marshtomp.  Artwork by Ken Sugimori.

Swampert is a great big bulky physical attacker, and in that respect he does a pretty good job of stealing what little of importance Feraligatr ever had to his name.  Like Sceptile, he shows that Game Freak did, in fact, learn from their mistakes with Feraligatr, but unlike Sceptile he takes every possible opportunity to rub Feraligatr’s face in it by being better at everything ever.  Both of them were mainly reliant on Earthquake in Ruby and Sapphire, but Swampert was by choice and Feraligatr by necessity; since Swampert is a Water/Ground dual-type his Earthquakes are significantly stronger than Feraligatr’s and actually make a good primary attack.  Swampert got just about every important attack Feraligatr did except for Swords Dance, and was better at all of them.  In fact, his stat distribution makes him better than Feraligatr at pretty much everything.  He’s slower, but Feraligatr isn’t fast enough for speed to matter a whole lot anyway; all his attacks are more powerful, he’s significantly better at taking special attacks, and thanks to his higher HP they’re actually pretty similar in terms of physical bulk.  To cap it all off, Swampert’s type combination doesn’t just make his Earthquakes stronger; it also grants immunity to Electric attacks, leaving him with only one weakness (Grass – a type not exactly known for its powerful attacks or formidable sweepers).  He also steps on Wooper and Quagsire’s toes a great deal; they have very different design aims, since Quagsire is clearly supposed to be cute, but they’re both big amphibious swamp-dwelling Water/Ground Pokémon that act as physical tanks, which Swampert is much better at doing than poor Quagsire.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s good that Swampert is effective; it just hammers home how much of a lottery Pokémon’s ‘game balance,’ if you really want to call it that, can be.  The differences between Feraligatr and Swampert appear to suggest that Game Freak knew, by this point, that a Water-type couldn’t be a top-notch physical attacker under the rules of Ruby and Sapphire without some kind of extra sparkle, and the combination of Quagsire’s excellent typing with Feraligatr’s high stats provide Swampert with just that.  Kind of a shame about his predecessors, though.  In general, my stance is that making a new Pokémon that totally supersedes an old one, when you could just make the old one good, is Bad Design.  They did eventually start being nice to the older Pokémon; Feraligatr’s a sweeper now, and Quagsire is potentially useful if oddly specific, though at the time of Swampert’s introduction, Quagsire could practically have evolved into Swampert.  In the end, I want to forgive Game Freak this time – in Feraligatr’s case, anyway – because I think Feraligatr is an unimaginative gob of mindless sputum hocked up by a dying frog, and that Swampert is a far superior design anyway.

Yes.  That entire paragraph was only in there so I could bash Feraligatr some more.

Let us move on.

 Swampert.  Artwork by Ken Sugimori.

So, like I was saying, Swampert is tough.  Unlike Feraligatr, who by this point had Swords Dance and was pretending to be fast enough to be a sweeper, Swampert’s buff of choice was Curse, which acts to turn him into a slow but powerful behemoth of a Pokémon capable of taking, and dishing out, physical attacks ‘til the Miltank come home.  To back up his terrifying Earthquake attack, Swampert picked up Rock Slide with the release of Leaf Green and Fire Red – not a powerful attack, but good for punishing Flying-types.  Surf and Ice Beam worked off his weaker special attack stat, but he was still better at them than Feraligatr, and didn’t actually have to rely on them, thanks to Earthquake.  If you like paralysis, Body Slam was an option, and he could turn his bulk and lack of weaknesses into formidable weapons with Counter or Mirror Coat.  Roar, finally, is a handy toy for a tough Pokémon to have; Swampert can often afford to wait for his opponent to attack first if it means throwing a spanner in the works by forcing a switch.  In short, Swampert was a highly effective physical tank from the moment of his release, and Diamond and Pearl only made things better – the introduction of physical Water attacks, obviously, being the main benefit.  With them came Hammer Arm, a strong and reliable Fighting attack, and eventually Ice Punch.  His support options also expanded to include the time-delayed sleep attack, Yawn, but for all practical purposes Yawn is mostly for forcing switches, since switching out a drowsy Pokémon will keep it from falling asleep, and Swampert can already force switches very effectively with Roar.  Finally, of course, Diamond and Pearl gave Swampert the oh-so-delightful Stealth Rock, so now he can damage whichever Pokémon comes in to replace one he Roars away.  And that… well, that is pretty much the end of Swampert’s development.  Black and White didn’t really change him at all.  His Dream World ability, Damp, prevents Pokémon from using Explosion or Selfdestruct – amusing, but ultimately very situational, especially since Black and White drastically reduced the effectiveness of both attacks.  Like most Water Pokémon, he can now burn opponents with Scald to weaken their physical attacks, but Scald is a special attack, and Swampert isn’t exactly bad at taking physical attacks anyway, so sticking with Waterfall is fine too.Just a Mudkip sittin' by a pond, bein' adorable, by Frogmastr1 (

Although Black and White seem to have largely forgotten about him, Swampert is still a perfectly solid Pokémon with a small but useful support movepool and wonderful all-around endurance.  Be careful of Black and White’s sleep mechanics if you want to use him – switching a Pokémon out now resets the number of turns it will take to wake up, which means that Rest is no longer a reliable form of healing, and Swampert doesn’t have anything else.  Don’t expect him to take too many hits… and, as always, avoid Grass attacks like the plague.  If you can find it in your heart to love a monstrous swamp-thing, though, you could do far worse than Swampert.

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