Today we’re talking about Fomantis and Lurantis, the “Sickle Grass Pokémon” and “Bloom Sickle Pokémon,” a pair of deceptive Grass-types that take on the appearance of insects, their names evoking the words “faux” and “lure.” According to the Pokédex, Lurantis is often called “the most glamorous Grass Pokémon,” which… well, I think Roserade, Lilligant, Virizion and fellow Alolan Grass-type Tsareena are all going to want a word with you about that one, Lurantis, but for now we’ll agree that you’re top 5 material. Let’s take a closer look.
At a glance, we can see that Fomantis’ and Lurantis’ names and appearance are references to the praying mantis, the loveable cannibalistic predatory insect that also inspired Scyther. More specifically, though, these two are the spiritual offspring of the orchid mantis, Hymenopus coronatus – a Southeast Asian mantis species that uses its pink, opalescent colouring and flat, petal-like legs to imitate a blooming orchid, not unlike the way a stick insect or katydid will adopt a plantlike appearance to evade predators. However, while the stick insect’s disguise is primarily a defensive adaptation, the orchid mantis is a murderous ambush hunter. Almost all mantises bear camouflage colouring to allow them to lie in wait for prey and avoid the notice of larger predators like birds, but this one takes it a little bit further and uses its disguise to actively draw prey near. Flies and other insects that feed on nectar or pollen will happily approach within striking distance of the supposedly harmless orchid, hoping for a sweet meal. As soon as they do, the mantis will lash out with its claws, which are made of fishhooks and pain, to impale one. While the orchid mantis is an insect that makes itself look like a plant, Fomantis and Lurantis, in a slightly bizarre inversion, are plants that make themselves look like insects – mantis orchids, if you like.
The Ultra Sun Pokédex entry for Lurantis puts this down to a need to deter predators, a survival strategy that occasionally crops up in the real world – why look like a tasty, plump caterpillar, when you can look like a dangerous snake? The Sun and Moon website, normally a source of much useful clarification and interesting details, confuses matters by describing Lurantis more like a real orchid mantis, luring opponents close by looking and smelling like a flower, and then revealing that she actually… is a flower. But with swords. This would put her more in the tradition of carnivorous plants like the Venus flytrap and pitcher plant (or their Pokémon incarnations, Carnivine and Victreebel). I’m inclined to take the Pokédex’s side on this one, for three reasons: first, it’s the in-game source; second, the website’s version doesn’t really explain why Lurantis looks like an insect (remember, she’s not a Bug-type); and third, the concept of inverting the strategy of the real orchid mantis strikes me as a cleverer design than playing it straight while actually being a plant all along. Then again, that seems at odds with the fact that Fomantis – the juvenile, the more vulnerable form, who would have a greater need to intimidate predators – is the more obviously plantlike of the two, with more green areas on her body and a leafy, vegetable-like head. It might even be best to think of the disguise as having a dual function – real praying mantises, after all, have both predators and prey to fool, though it’s not clear what exactly the prey are in this case. The innocent, naïve Pokédex mentions that Cutiefly “often gather near the tall grass where Fomantis are hiding” on account of their “sweet and refreshing scent” – maybe this line is more sinister than it first appears, since scent is a time-honoured method used by carnivorous plants to draw prey.
Lurantis is still clearly floral in appearance, but her orchid mantis-like features are much better defined: the petal-like appendages, green patches at the junctions between her head, thorax and abdomen, and three spots on her head that presumably represent the mantis’ three extra eyes. It’s difficult for Pokémon’s particular art style to imitate the pearly, opalescent sheen of the orchid mantis’ body, so Lurantis has to make do with white highlights and lighter pink pinstripes. The highlights work, for me. The pinstripes… eh… well, they’re a bit last season, put it that way. In taking on an insect-like appearance, Lurantis is presumably hoping to be mistaken for Scyther, who is also endemic to Alola, though not to the same islands (wild Scyther appear only on Poni Island, while Fomantis and Lurantis live only on Akala Island). Her shiny colouring – lime green – does a much better job, but we’ll give points for trying. If we want to get into more speculative territory, we could possibly infer from this that the predators they’re particularly interested in deterring are bird Pokémon capable of flying between the islands – probably Trumbeak, which are found throughout Alola. Try to conjecture any more detail than this, and the logic starts to break down a little bit: first of all, because Lurantis is actually fairly dangerous in her own right and it’s not clear why she needs to pretend to be a bug to appear scarier; second, because Grass and Bug share several weaknesses and resistances on the type chart, so most of what works against the Bug-type Lurantis is pretending to be will work just as well against the Grass-type she really is (unless the change in colour from mostly green to almost entirely pink is related to Lurantis imitating not Scyther but Scizor… but that’s pushing it, even for me). Pokémon ecology tends to stop making much sense when you try to bring the dynamics of type advantage into it. Of course, the relatively less dangerous Fomantis might stand to gain something by appearing to be a sort of miniature chibi Scyther. The Pokédex describes her as actually quite aggressive towards anything that disrupts her daily routine of photosynthetic basking, but maybe having a more combat-ready appearance than most small or unevolved Grass Pokémon helps to forestall actual fighting.
Although Lurantis may do her best to look like a Scyther, she doesn’t really fight like one. Scyther, while physically quite powerful, is really best known for speed. Lurantis, by contrast, is a very Alolan-style bruiser: low speed, high attack power, defences good but nothing to write home about – the sort of Pokémon you would expect to do well with a Choice Scarf, or speed-boosting moves. Lurantis doesn’t actually get any speed techniques (sort of true to her roots as an orchid mantis, an ambush predator), but, y’know, you try. Lurantis’ signature move is Solar Blade, a physical counterpart to Solarbeam that is used to devastating effect by the Totem Lurantis of Lush Jungle, in combination with a Power Herb (a consumable item that instantly fires a charge-up move) and support from Pokémon with Sunny Day (which, among its other effects, eliminates the set-up time of both Solarbeam and Solar Blade). Solarbeam, historically, has never really been a great move, because it’s very easy to block with a switch, and you could do more damage by using, say, Energy Ball or Giga Drain twice. Even if you have sun support, passive abilities that generate other weather conditions (Drizzle, Sand Stream and Snow Warning) can still wreck you with an opportune switch, forcing you to sit there for a turn, charging up a Solarbeam that will only hit at half strength. Solar Blade, although it is admittedly slightly more powerful than Solarbeam, suffers from all the same drawbacks.
Assuming you aren’t going to try to cheat your way around the limitations of Solar Blade, Lurantis’ actual primary attacks are Leaf Blade and Petal Blizzard – in singles, go with Leaf Blade for its high critical hit rate; in multiple battles, consider Petal Blizzard for its area-of-effect damage (but bear in mind that it will hit Lurantis’ partner too). And… to be honest, past that it’s pretty grim. Bug attacks don’t combo well with Grass, but Leech Life is just about the strongest secondary attack she gets (having been buffed into actual usefulness by Sun and Moon after years of languishing in the dark with Zubat) and comes with minor healing. Poison Jab is there, but once you have a Bug attack for hitting other Grass-types, you basically just want it for Fairy Pokémon. And then you start getting into stuff that’s just kind of gimmicky, like Night Slash and Dual Chop. Lurantis has Swords Dance, of course, but although that extra power can compensate to an extent for her iffy type coverage, she’s still slow.
Lurantis’ primary ability, Leaf Guard, adds some extra incentive to use her on a sun team, granting her immunity to major status effects while the sun is out, but honestly, it mostly just makes her sad not to have Chlorophyll, which would give her the speed to have a shot at being really deadly. If you’re dead set on a solar Lurantis, you might throw in Weather Ball; it’s a special attack, but Fire is a much better combination with Grass than just about anything else she can learn. Now, her hidden ability, Contrary, is a bit more tempting. Contrary inverts all stat changes that affect a Pokémon – being hit by Intimidate raises attack strength instead of lowering it, for instance, but using a move like Swords Dance will actually cripple you. This is interesting to Lurantis because, through her egg move list, she can get hold of the devastating Contrary + Leaf Storm combo made famous by Serperior (Leaf Storm lowers the user’s own special attack every time it’s used, which for most Pokémon is a drawback, but gives Contrary Pokémon dangerous snowball potential). Lurantis’ special attack score is significantly lower than her physical, but actually still slightly higher than Serperior’s; the only problem is that while Serperior easily has the speed to sweep and only needs Contrary and Leaf Storm for the power, Lurantis has very poor speed and no means to buff it. Lurantis is lucky enough to get a second move that synergises with Contrary: Superpower, a strong Fighting-type attack that lowers the user’s attack and defence, and available through move tutors on Ultra Sun and Moon. Leaf Storm and Superpower is admittedly a really weird combination – Fighting does not offset Grass’ weaknesses very well, and the two moves’ Contrary buffs don’t reinforce each other. It does, however, let you build an extremely strange sort of mixed tank that can also heal with Synthesis. And that’s… something.
Of course, if there’s one thing Grass-types can do, even if their statlines don’t seem to support the notion at all, it’s support (though Lurantis’ support options are far from typical for a Grass-type – there’s no Sleep Powder or Stun Spore, for instance). She doesn’t look anything like a hybrid support tank, but if there’s anything Lurantis is supposed to teach us, it’s that looks can be deceiving, and there’s an argument this is actually what she’s best equipped to do. Aromatherapy allows her to heal allies’ status conditions in mid-battle; this is still a fairly exclusive thing to be able to do, even after a few generations with a Heal Bell move tutor available (and of course it is of critical importance that Aromatherapy will work on Pokémon with the Soundproof ability, like Electrode and… just kidding, Electrode is the only Pokémon who doesn’t have a better ability than Soundproof). For some reason, perhaps because of her solar connections, Lurantis gets Defog, and is one of perhaps two dozen non-Flying-types that do, which means she can act as a pseudo-Rapid Spin-user for teams that aren’t using entry hazard techniques (Stealth Rock, etc.) themselves (remember: Rapid Spin only clears hostile entry hazards; Defog will blow away everything). Finally, Knock Off is interesting; as of generation VI, it only deals slightly less damage than Night Slash, and gets a substantial bonus if it successfully disarms a target of their item. In a competitive setting, where almost all Pokémon will begin battle with items, it’s arguably one of the best coverage moves Lurantis has got (…and that’s depressing), and serves a dual role as a support move that makes a little use of her impressive attack stat. Just watch out for Mega Stones and Z Crystals, which can’t be disarmed.
I feel like Lurantis has been given the short end of the stick in having such a mediocre list of physical attacks to back up what is, by a fairly significant margin, her best stat. Serperior, I think, should really have been evidence enough that you can get away with giving a Grass Pokémon some pretty broken nonsense, simply because Grass is such a shat-upon type to begin with. I doubt it would have particularly hurt the game balance for Lurantis to be given the speed and movepool to act as a mixed attacker. And would Acrobatics have been too much, Game Freak? Really, honestly? It would even have made sense on a Power Herb set, so that someone, somewhere might have actually had a reason to use Solar Blade. As for the design… it’s clever, don’t get me wrong; the idea of a flower pretending to be a mantis the way real mantises pretend to be flowers is really cool and I love the idea. It’s just tricky to parse why Fomantis and Lurantis do it, and how the disguise serves that goal. In fairness, though, this is partly because Pokémon’s ecological worldbuilding isn’t really supposed to be particularly robust… which, in turn, gives me some ideas to explore for other ridiculous ways to try analysing these games. My quest to have any of this stuff make sense goes on…