Clauncher and Clawitzer

Clauncher.

I’m not sure what to think of these two.  Clawitzer, beyond a doubt, is an extraordinarily badass name (he has a howitzer claw; what more could you even want?) for an extraordinarily badass creature.  He has a metre-long cannon shaped like a dragon head for an arm, for heaven’s sake, and I suppose for many purposes that should really be more than enough.  The question I’m left asking of Clauncher and Clawitzer, though, is this: what do we do when a Pokémon is based on a real animal so astonishingly badass that even awesome elemental powers fail to make a comparable impact on my jaded psyche?  “Real animal?” you cry.  “What is this sorcery?”  Well, I’m glad I pretended that you asked…

There exists an animal known as the pistol shrimp.  Well, several animals, really; there are apparently hundreds of species of the things, which collectively make up the Alpheid family, but pistol shrimp or snapping shrimp will do for our purposes.  The pistol shrimp is so called because of its astonishing ability to create ‘cavitation bubbles’ by snapping its oversized asymmetric claw – I’m a little hazy on the physics myself, but essentially the claw moves through the water so quickly as it snaps shut that the water can’t keep up, leaving behind a tiny bubble of extremely low pressure water vapour.  When the bubble inevitably collapses a fraction of a second later, the pressure gradient is so high and the inward rush of water so powerful that it creates a tiny burst of intense heat, a brief flash of light and – this is the important part – a shockwave (which reaches our ears as a loud crack – apparently colonies of these things sound like bacon frying, and they are among the noisiest things in the ocean) that can stun or kill the shrimp’s hapless victim.  Mantis shrimp can do something similar, although theirs works by more of a hyper-death-punch action, wherein the cavitation blast is actually secondary to the brutal dismemberment, mostly acting as insurance in case the shrimp misses (maybe that would have made an interesting split evolution for Clauncher?).  In short, pistol shrimp can clap so hard that it breaks physics.  They’re practically Pokémon already!  And therein, in fact, lies the one real worry I have about Clauncher and Clawitzer: I think it’s hard for them to live up to their real-world counterparts.

 One of the many species of Alpheid pistol shrimp.  Note the oversized left claw.

It’s rather difficult to explain succinctly to young children what exactly a pistol shrimp does (heck, it’s not that easy to explain succinctly to anyone what exactly a pistol shrimp does), so Clauncher just winds up firing ‘bullets’ of pressurised water… which is very similar to what all other Water Pokémon do already; that’s basically what a Water Gun or Hydro Pump attack does.  What can be done?  Answer: talk up the scale of it, hence the aforementioned metre-long dragon-head arm-cannon of doom, which can blow through the hull of a supertanker (similar capabilities are attributed to Dragalge, Sharpedo and Carracosta – trying to make international trade work is a bitch in the Pokémon world), and even doubles as a propulsion organ by jetting water out the back.  It also helps a lot that Clawitzer can use a wide range of other energy-based attacks very effectively, and enjoys unique advantages in doing so thanks to the Mega Launcher trait (more on which later).  Still, it bugs me that such an animal with such a bizarre and incredible ability should translate to a Pokémon whose corresponding powers are simply not that remarkable within the context of the Pokémon world.  Maybe a signature move would fix that, but I have a bad habit of wanting to put signature moves on practically everything.  Incidentally, I’m sort of surprised he doesn’t get Sonic Boom – bit of a useless move, of course, but very flavour-appropriate – or, hell, even Boom Burst, though I can understand wanting to keep that very exclusive.  Personally, I want Clawitzer to be able to push some really absurd stuff through that cannon claw of his, like gravitational shockwaves, time-warping energy blasts, plasma flares, or miniature black holes (and if any of that sounds ridiculous, remember that Gardevoir can supposedly create black holes, though it’s unclear which, if any, of her in-game powers is meant to represent this) – in short, I want him to push the limits of a mortal Pokémon’s energy manipulation capabilities, by sheer badassery alone.  Then again, perhaps I’m being unreasonable; does Clawitzer convey that vision well enough anyway?  He’s already a very much larger-than-life pistol shrimp with a pretty menacing appearance and some damn powerful energy attacks.  Does the mere fact of a pistol shrimp Pokémon’s existence justify itself, by fulfilling the part of Pokémon’s mission that is exposing new generations to the variety and wonder of living things?

Dunno.  Moving on.

 Clawitzer.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Clawitzer is a little bit of a one-dimensional Pokémon when you use him.  If you look at his stats, the goal is clear: blow up all of the things.  Clawitzer’s special attack is excellent and his defences are average, though his speed is worryingly poor.  He’s very much a Pokémon from the Camerupt school of thought: hope like hell that you survive the attack, then retaliate with maximum firepower.  Historically this has not been a terribly effective way of fighting without Trick Room support – if you can’t kill something in two shots, maximum, you’re probably in quite a bit of trouble – but for what it’s worth Clawitzer is pretty good at it.  He shares with Mega Blastoise the delightful Mega Launcher ability, which gives a fantastic 50% power bonus to “aura and pulse moves” – a very narrow set of attacks, most of which are fortunately quite useful.  It makes the rarely-used Water Pulse a strong choice for Clawitzer’s primary attack, matching Surf in power and packing a 20% chance to cause confusion into the bargain – not something you ever want to rely on, but nice if it happens.  More interesting are Dark Pulse, Dragon Pulse and Aura Sphere, which are all nice attacks and all made that much sweeter by Mega Launcher.  Dark and Fighting make a solid combination in terms of type coverage, too.  Dragon Pulse is… well, it’s sort of cool for having an entire Mega Launcher moveset, but all you really get out of it is the ability to hit Dragon-types super-effectively, which Ice Beam can do as well, hitting Grass and Flying Pokémon into the bargain.  Against Dragon-types who don’t have a double Ice weakness like Haxorus, Dragon Pulse will hit significantly harder than Clawitzer’s other usual attacks, but for the most part Ice Beam has a wider range of uses.  Dragon Pulse also does nothing to overcome Fairy Pokémon, who are the only type that resists both Dark Pulse and Aura Sphere – Sludge Bomb, which will also beat Grass Pokémon, is worth considering for those (in particular, it’s his only good option against Azumarill, who resists everything else).  All of this, of course, assumes that Clawitzer can actually survive long enough to get a couple of hits in, which will be much easier if you’re using Trick Room to flip everyone’s speed around.  Clawitzer is sort of at an awkward speed stat where he’s too slow to outrun much properly but still quite a bit faster than many of the real snail-pacers who get the most out of Trick Room, like Rhyperior and Conkeldurr.  Still, he’s one Pokémon who really gets a chance to shine under those conditions.

Curiously enough, the last of the five moves enhanced by Mega Launcher is actually not a damaging attack at all: Heal Pulse (which is, after all, a ‘pulse’ move).  This gives Clawitzer the odd distinction of being the only Pokémon who can heal 75% of an ally’s health in one go (well, barring especially potent Wishes), a useful trick for double battles, which are also a much easier environment for Trick Room teams to deploy their full power.  Clawitzer doesn’t really learn any other good support moves… like, at all… and I feel like attacking is probably a better use of his time and stat spread, but I don’t want to dismiss Heal Pulse out of hand, just because it’s such a unique thing to be able to do, and a godsend for anything bulky enough to survive focus-fire from both opponents.  Let’s see… what else can this thing arguably pull off…?  Clawitzer can do a Swords Dance set, though more for the surprise value than anything else, because his attack stat is uninspiring, especially without anything that gets a Mega Launcher bonus.  Waterfall or Crabhammer works for the primary attack, then the main coverage option is Return, which doesn’t sound promising, but Water and Normal are actually pretty solid together.  The movepool sort of dries up after that, with the final slot being open for either Rock Slide for more super-effective hits, Aqua Jet for punishing things that think they’re faster than Clawitzer, Flail for absurd shenanigans, and U-Turn for shuffling him out of dangerous situations.  U-Turn, for that matter, can probably squeeze onto the special sets too if you’re of such a mind; special Clawitzer isn’t exactly starved for type coverage and really U-Turn is worth at least a glance on practically anything that can learn it, for its ability to let you react to switches.  It’s also one of the only advantages Clawitzer has over Mega Blastoise, aside from the ability to use an item other than Blastoisinite, which is something important to bear in mind.

Being overshadowed by Mega Blastoise is something of a theme for Clawitzer, since Mega Blastoise not only does the whole Mega Launcher ‘thing’ better, but also reminds us that Blastoise did “Water Pokémon mixed with super-heavy artillery” much earlier and more literally than Clawitzer did.  Of course, no one ever heard of a literal cannon turtle in the real world, while Clawitzer is based on something that is very much real.  Does that make it an inherently less original design, or a compelling illustration of the fantastical elements of our own world?  I think that depends, ultimately, on what you want Pokémon to be doing.  And of course, no one can deny that Clawitzer looks awesome.

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