Swirlix and Slurpuff

Swirlix.

Swirlix and Slurpuff are weird Pokémon, that’s for sure.  They are the inheritors of the tradition of Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe, the ice cream Pokémon of Black and White, who earned my ire so long ago.  I wasn’t upset with them for being ice cream Pokémon, you understand.  I was upset with them because the fact that they looked like ice cream cones was easily the most interesting thing about them.  Their powers were, for Ice-types, utterly standard and generic.  Nothing in their abilities, their behaviour, or the way they interact with humans relates in any way to the fact that they’re ice cream Pokémon, and I’m pretty sure their bodies are actually made of snow and only bear a visual resemblance to vanilla ice cream anyway.  This is why Swirlix and Slurpuff, fortunately, win that comparison easily; they’re just much less boring.  Unfortunately, this means I have no excuse to dismiss them and actually need to think about whether I’m okay with ‘food Pokémon’ as a thing.

Swirlix’s appearance and species designation make it pretty clear that he’s based on candyfloss, while Slurpuff, again based on species designation, seems to be a meringue – a confection made primarily of egg whites beaten with sugar – with a cherry and some kind of cream topping.  Their various names in other languages mostly seem to have a common theme of light, airy desserts.  Slurpuff was, to me, a bit of a disappointing evolution for Swirlix. If you’re going to make a candy Pokémon whose body is literally composed of sugar, why stick with boring pastel pinks?  There’s plenty of latitude here for a Pokémon in all kinds of zany rainbow colours that would probably look more than a little ridiculous but at least be striking and memorable – I’ve seen people work wonders with multi-coloured candyfloss.  Instead we just get continued characterisation of Fairy as “the pink type.”  Anyway.  Since Swirlix and Slurpuff apparently subsist entirely on cakes, lollies and other foods high in processed sugar, it’s not immediately obvious how they were able to survive before humans became civilised.  According to the Pokédex, the sweets they eat make their bodies sweet and sticky as well, exactly like the candyfloss they resemble, which seems like it could mean that they store a lot of their energy in the form of sucrose and structural polysaccharides based on sucrose – that is, chains of alternating glucose and fructose units.  In the wild, they would have to eat a lot of high-fructose foods – so, loads and loads of fruit, basically – and synthesise sucrose from that.  When they live with humans, they can just metabolise sucrose directly from our processed sweets.  This probably means that farming them for sugar would be prohibitively expensive; who wants livestock that have to be fed on a diet of fresh fruit and delicious cake when you can just grow sugar cane?  Then again, maybe if you can just fleece them like sheep for their candyfloss fur it could be more viable.  They almost certainly would have been hunted extensively in days of old, though – I mean, why would you not?  That brings us to the Food Pokémon thing, something I’ve babbled at length about in the past.

 ...nah, let's just make it squat, pink and vacant-looking.

Out here in the real world, Swirlix and Slurpuff are based on sweets created by humans, but within the Pokémon world, because of the relative timescales involved in evolution and human invention, the implication has to be that candyfloss and meringues are based on Swirlix and Slurpuff.  Also candyfloss probably gets called by some really bizarre and nonsensical name in the Pokémon world, like ‘Swirlix sticks’ or ‘cotton candy’ or some $#!t like that.  I suppose people found these Pokémon so delicious that they actually created desserts in imitation of their bodies.  That’s… slightly morbid, but okay.  Then Slurpuff are recruited to use their amazing sense of smell – “100 million times better than a human’s,” however that’s supposed to be quantified – to help pastry chefs construct effigies of themselves for people to eat.  That… actually sounds pretty bad when I put it that way.  I mean, we make gingerbread men, and that’s generally understood to be totally fine, but gingerbread men aren’t literally inspired by the taste and texture of human flesh.  I think.  It’s also pertinent that Slurpuff are still in the position of ‘subordinate species’ in that relationship – there’s no question of a Swirlix or Slurpuff actually becoming a pastry chef with human assistants.  On the other hand, when you look at this from Slurpuff’s perspective, being treated as a skilled assistant in a demanding craft with unique and valuable abilities probably beats being treated as a food source.  Besides, France is the country that leads the world in foie gras production, so in terms of sacrificing the health and dignity of animals for the sake of fantastically expensive gourmet food, Kalos probably still has a long way to go before it lives up to its real world counterpart’s reputation.  I think food Pokémon still make me uncomfortable, but at least they make me uncomfortable in a way that allows me to make needlessly complicated digressions on the ethics and social implications of human-Pokémon relations, and really, isn’t that what this blog is all about?  (That was a real question; sometimes I don’t know anymore.)

As for actually using this thing… well, what would you say if I told you that this ridiculous, waddling sentient meringue is actually a surprise physical sweeper?

No, I’m dead serious.

 Slurpuff.

When you first look at Slurpuff’s movepool, it’s hard not to compare him to Aromatisse; he can attempt a similar support role using his decent defences and a variety of useful moves like Wish, Aromatherapy and Light Screen.  He’s not great at it, because his HP is quite poor next to Aromatisse’s, making his Wishes less potent and his overall survivability only average.  He’s still a Fairy-type, though, which means he has only two weaknesses, both to relatively uncommon attack types.  He can force switches with Yawn too, which is a neat enough trick.  Aside from the unfortunate absence of Moonblast, Slurpuff also has a surprisingly good special movepool that could form the basis of a Calm Mind set; Dazzling Gleam is almost compulsory, and either Flamethrower or Psychic to catch Steel- and Poison-types, respectively, will be important.  You might want Wish to keep him healthy, but alternatively you can rely on Leftovers and choose from Thunderbolt, Surf, or Energy Ball to pad out his coverage.  Another way to keep him healthy is by replacing Dazzling Gleam with Draining Kiss; this is an alarmingly weak move to be using as your primary attack, but it heals the user by 75% of the damage is causes, in contrast to the 50% that is normal for draining techniques, allowing it to match the healing offered by more powerful moves like Giga Drain.  His base special attack is not terribly impressive, and he’s too slow to make it as a sweeper, but he’s far from the worst Calm Mind tank you’ll ever see.  Like Aromatisse, Slurpuff has a unique protective ability that’s most useful in double or triple battles: Sweet Veil, which grants sleep immunity, presumably by acting as a sort of sugar-high aura.  It’s strictly better than other sleep immunity powers like Vital Spirit, in that it helps allies too, but Vital Spirit is not exactly a great benchmark for usefulness.  At least it makes Slurpuff a good answer to Breloom.  In short, this thing looks like a support Pokémon, and not a great one at that.

The bright spot in all this is his hidden ability: Unburden.  When a Pokémon with Unburden uses or is otherwise stripped of its item, if it has one, its speed doubles – basically a free Agility.  The cool thing about Slurpuff is that Slurpuff is the only Pokémon with Unburden who can learn Belly Drum, which makes possible the following course of action:
1) Use Belly Drum, drop to 50% health and quadruple your attack stat.
2) Eat a Sitrus Berry, heal back to 75% and activate Unburden to double your speed.
3) ???
4) Profit!
Even Slurpuff’s poor speed and lacklustre attack become pretty damn frightening after successfully pulling that off, and Dragon immunity is a good source of potential opportunities to do that.  There’s just one tiny problem: Slurpuff’s physical movepool sucks.  There’s the lone physical Fairy attack, Play Rough, plus Normal attacks like Return, and… I guess Thief, but Thief will give Slurpuff another item and make him lose the Unburden boost, which is basically a death sentence, so… just no.  I would say we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, but Slurpuff’s barrel is so shallow you almost can’t call it that.  More of a trough structure, really.  Or a saucer.  I mean, Belly Drum and a free speed boost could make a sweeper out of Magikarp, and Fairy attacks are pretty strong, so it’d be very dangerous to discount him entirely, but the best Slurpuff can do against Steel-types is an unboosted Flamethrower from a really quite disappointing special attack score (if your Fire attack can’t one-shot Scizor, it’s time to consider not using Fire attacks – especially if you’re weak to Bullet Punch).  Even that is assuming you get a chance to set Slurpuff up in the first place, which is hardly a given, and if he takes damage before using Belly Drum he may have very little health left.  The list of things that will revenge-kill Slurpuff is not short, especially once Choice Scarves and priority attacks come into the equation.  However, the list of things that can safely switch into both Play Rough and Return, even Steel-types, is significantly shorter.  Unburden could also be used with some manner of Calm Mind set; you lose the massive power that comes with Belly Drum, but you gain… well, an actual movepool.  Ultimately you’re probably better off with physical attacks, but a lot of the things that can reliably stop a Belly Drum Slurpuff will deal very poorly with a Flamethrower that actually has some effort points and a Calm Mind boost behind it, so psyching your opponents out is an option.  Slurpuff’s arrival in a battle is not an immediate cue to wet your pants, but this is a Pokémon to tread very carefully around.  Because, seriously, who wants to have to admit to letting a f%cking meringue sweep them?

I am okay with these Pokémon, I think.  To compare them to Vanilluxe again, they’re not only more interesting, they also have actually useful skills, while Vanilluxe is among the most spectacular examples of the principle that good stats alone are not enough.  It’s a shame their signature ability is so much less effective than their other option, it’s a shame Slurpuff doesn’t have more tools to make use of his most devastating possible combo, and I still think that physically he’s kind of bland and extremely derpy, but I had more fun than I expected thinking about how the hell a meringue Pokémon is supposed to work.  This Pokémon rates at least a solid “meh,” maybe even a “meh +” or “hmm…”

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