Let’s do some more Galarian forms! Today I want to look at the two “warrior” regional variant Pokémon of Galar: Galarian Meowth and Farfetch’d, and their evolved forms Perrserker and Sirfetch’d. Like many of the Alolan forms we’ve already talked about, these forms are to some extent less about “adaptation” and more about regional culture, history and folklore. Let’s get into how they use those things…
Meowth and Perrserker
This is Meowth’s second regional alternate form, and where Alolan Meowth is refined, elegant, royal, accustomed to luxuries, Galarian Meowth is… not that. It and its evolved form, Perrserker, are shaggy and wild with prominent teeth, claws and horns. Kantonian and Alolan Meowth and Persian are associated with gold, coins, gems, wealth and good fortune in finance, because of their links to Japan’s lucky “beckoning cat” figurines, or maneki-neko. Galarian Meowth and Perserker are Steel-types, and their coins aren’t gold, but black iron – transformed by “living with a savage, seafaring people.” A savage, seafaring people, in a region based on England, can only be a reference to the Vikings – the Scandinavian raiders who plagued the coast of Great Britain throughout the 9th, 10th and 11th centuries, and even ruled most of northern and eastern England for a while under a regime known as the Danelaw. They’re particularly famed for their elite warriors known as berserkers (hence Perr-serker) – literally “bear-shirts,” perhaps because they wore bearskins into battle. It’s a little unclear exactly what these guys’ deal was; they may have had something to do with some ancient Germanic animal cult and channelled animal spirits in battle to fight more effectively, and also they may have used some kind of psychoactive mushroom or herb to “enhance” their abilities. Animalistic and more than a little crazy, is the general vibe.
Vikings in popular culture, and berserkers in particular, are known for their brutality, love of battle and uncivilised habits, and the Pokédex’s assessment of Perrserker backs that up – it “lives for the thrill of battle,” and shares a “mutual disdain” with the “elegant and refined” Kantonian Persian. Of course, you can debate ad nauseam whether pop culture presents a fair or accurate assessment of historical Vikings, or whether Viking raiders were representative of the ancient Norse people as a whole. That’s particularly true of the part about “uncivilised” or “savage” habits: Vikings famously bathed much more regularly than contemporary Christian Europeans and were fastidious about personal grooming. On the other hand, domestic cats aren’t usually fond of water either – maybe Persian lick themselves clean like real cats, while Perrserker see the value in a good spa day once in a while.
The substitution of iron for gold really ought to give us a great line somewhere about “paying the iron price” that I’m not sure I can write, because I’m pretty sure that exact phrasing and imagery are wholly unique to A Song of Ice and Fire, not related to any specific proverb or axiom about iron in historical Norse culture. On the other hand, the idea of gold and iron more generally being symbols of wealth and war, respectively, is something I can get behind. Galarian Meowth and Perrserker have black iron coins instead of gold because they “pay the iron price” for everything they loot. They do still learn Meowth’s signature move, Pay Day, and I can’t help but feel like this is a missed opportunity for a flavourful (though not necessarily powerful) signature move. On the other hand, we can always interpret the move as working differently for the different forms – maybe Galarian Meowth don’t gather lost coins like Kantonian Meowth do, but instead hoard treasure from their defeated enemies and use that as ammunition for Pay Day.
In spite of Perrserker’s impressive horns, the idea that Viking warriors all wore horned helmets is, I think quite famously these days, a myth. Horns on a helmet that’s meant for use in real combat are a pretty bad idea, because an enemy can grab them to drag you off balance. There’s no archaeological or literary evidence that Viking warriors ever actually used horned helmets in battle. The first productions in the 1870s of Richard Wagner’s Norse mythology-inspired opera Ring of the Nibelung are usually credited(/blamed) with popularising the image of horned Vikings. According to the website of the National Museum of Denmark, there’s only one complete surviving helmet from the Viking Age; it comes from a burial in southeast Norway and is disappointingly un-horned. However, it’s fair to say that we don’t really have any impression of the range of helmet types that existed in Mediaeval Scandinavia, and they may have had ceremonial horned helmets, which are perfectly cromulent. There are a couple of surviving ceremonial helmets from the Nordic Bronze Age (c. 18th-5th centuries BC) that have horns, and the Oseberg Tapestry of the early Viking Age depicts a procession or ritual of some kind, led by a figure (possibly a deity) wearing what looks like a horned helmet. So… like, yeah, Vikings with horned helmets absolutely is bull$#!t, but it’s actually slightly less bull$#!t than I had previously realised, and “slightly less bull$#!t” is really what we strive for here at Pokémaniacal.
Perrserker handles completely differently to both forms of Persian; instead of Persian’s speed and grace, Perrserker relies on sheer physical strength. That’s not a great plan, because Perrserker is really slow and pretty vulnerable to special attacks, but it has Steel-type resistances, good abilities and a decent movepool, so it’s not a total lost cause. Iron Head is its default primary attack (gotta put those helmet horns to use somehow), which it can back up with Close Combat. Fighting/Steel isn’t the best type coverage combination out there, but it’s respectable. Also on Perrserker’s list are Crunch, Seed Bomb, Gunk Shot and Play Rough, of which Seed Bomb is arguably the best fit since Water-types resist Perrserker’s Iron Head, although of course you should consider what blind spots the rest of your team might have when you make your pick. U-Turn is there for utility and makes Perrserker a solid candidate for a Choice Band moveset. Body Slam is generally not a great move, but its paralysis effect can help to mitigate Perrserker’s biggest weakness. Perrserker gets both Curse and Swords Dance, and because of its poor speed I’m less than enthusiastic about either of those, but I’m not going to tell you how to live your life. We’ve seen Pokémon of this general shape before, and although they can work it usually helps if they’re tougher or their attacks have some kind of X-factor. Perrserker… well, Perrserker has some abilities.
Perrserker’s normal abilities are Battle Armour, which grants a fairly boring immunity to critical hits, and Tough Claws, a 30% power boost to attacks that make physical contact. Tough Claws is a powerful ability, and one of the best features of all the other Pokémon that get it (Barbaracle, Mega Charizard X, Mega Metagross and Dusk Lycanroc). Perrserker, though, has a unique hidden ability up its sleeve that’s just as interesting: Steely Spirit. This ability goes all-in on Steel attacks, with a 50% power boost to those moves – and not just for Perrserker itself, but for its doubles partner as well, which can make Perrserker an enabler for some pretty brutal Steel-type assaults, with both physical and special attacks (try partnering it with something like Magnezone or Duraludon, but watch out for Earthquakes). Sticking with Tough Claws makes Perrserker a lot more flexible, because its physical movepool is actually solid and includes several moves that Tough Claws will apply to (not Seed Bomb, though), but even in singles there’s an argument for Steely Spirit just because of the sheer ludicrous power of a boosted Iron Head. If you can outrun Perrserker and blast it with a super-effective special attack, you’re golden, but if not, you’d better have solid physical defences and resistance to Steel attacks, because you’ll need both to absorb an Iron Head from this feline Viking.
Farfetch’d and Sirfetch’d
…okay before I write anything else we have to decide where the apostrophe goes in the possessive forms of these names.
Bulbapedia writes it Farfetch’d’s and, I have to level with you, I don’t like that notion one bit, but I’m willing to accept it, if it means I don’t have to contort all my sentences around phrases like “the movepool of Farfetch’d.”
As we all know, Farfetch’d wields a leek as its weapon and cannot survive without it. However, calling it a “leek” in English is kind of a mistranslation for the vegetable stalk held by Kantonian Farfetch’d – it’s really a spring onion (or scallion), a smaller and more delicate plant. Both are members of the genus Allium, along with the common onion, garlic, chives and shallots, but spring onions are much more common than leeks in East Asian cuisine and more recognisable to a Japanese audience. Galarian Farfetch’d, on the other hand, wields the thicc, chonky European leek, and accordingly it’s slightly slower but more powerful than a Kantonian Farfetch’d. The Pokédex says that Galarian Farfetch’d are different from Kantonian Farfetch’d specifically because they’ve adapted to these tough, heavy Galarian leeks. Something I particularly love about Sirfetch’d is the way it splits its leek in two – the stem becomes a lance with a pointed tip, the weapon of a mounted European knight, while the bushy leaves become a shield (Galarian Farfetch’d, on the other hand, wielding its massive whole leek with slow, powerful overhead strikes, makes me think of a Scottish claymore). You couldn’t really do this with the comparatively flimsy scallions wielded by Kantonian Farfetch’d.
Leeks show up in regional cuisines all over Europe and the Middle East, but they’re particularly appropriate here in Galar because leeks are one of the emblems of Wales, and a star ingredient in a number of traditional Welsh dishes like cawl Cymreig, a chunky stew of lamb or beef with seasonal vegetables. Supposedly, the leek’s exalted status comes from a popular legend in which St. David, the patron saint of Wales (or, in some versions, the 7th century Welsh king Cadwaladr), once led a Welsh army to victory over Saxon invaders by having the soldiers wear leeks on their helmets so they could recognise each other in the chaos of battle. Or… something like that, anyway. The earliest source I’ve managed to find for the story is The Leek: A Poem on St. David’s Day, by the early 18th century Welsh poet Nehemiah Griffith, and he has the victorious Welsh army claim the leeks as a trophy after the battle is over (“Eager Pursuit all day the Britons made/’Till coming Night the bloody Labour stay’d;/Sounds the Retreat; when all their colours seek/And each his Helmet grac’d with Saxon Leek”). This is obviously bull$#!t, but it’s also extremely charming in a very Farfetch’d sort of way, and far too lovely to hold against the Welsh, who honestly put up with a lot.
Farfetch’d’s design and Japanese name (Kamonegi) are originally derived from a Japanese expression kamo negi, “a duck with an onion” which can refer to either an unexpected and far-fetched stroke of good luck, or a naïve person stumbling straight into a con (like a duck carrying its own garnish). That’s Farfetch’d’s “essence” – it’s a rare Pokémon that you’d be lucky to find, but it’s also… well… a duck that carries its own garnish (kamo negi is also a popular noodle dish). However, in Wales, someone carrying a leek isn’t an easy mark, but a patriotic hero, divinely inspired to defend the homeland against impossible odds, which in my opinion is an extremely cool way of taking a core element of Farfetch’d’s design and twisting it into something new and different. The evolution method for Sirfetch’d also plays into this: scoring three critical hits in a single battle probably means you’ve taken time to set it up and use moves and items that maximise your crit rates – it’s not luck anymore, but skill. A Welsh Farfetch’d isn’t a happy-go-lucky moron; it’s a brave warrior, and the leek is a symbol of valour, glory, victory and defence of the homeland from foreign invaders like the “barbaric” Perrserker. What better weapon could a noble knight possibly ask for?
Much like Perrserker, Sirfetch’d is in a bit of an awkward spot with its raw stats, although it has bigger numbers to work with all around – for physical attacks, it compares favourably to Machamp, but it’s somewhat faster without being quite fast enough to matter, and significantly less resilient. It does have a strong priority move, First Impression, so it’s not completely helpless against faster Pokémon, but of course First Impression only works on your first turn in play, and Sirfetch’d doesn’t have fists so of course it can’t learn Mach Punch. It does have Quick Attack as an egg move, and that helps, but Quick Attack is… not strong. Now for the good news: with Close Combat and Brave Bird, Sirfetch’d can land some terrifyingly strong attacks on Pokémon of almost any type. Give it a Life Orb or a Choice Band, and even kickass physical walls like Hippowdon and Skarmory have to tread carefully around Sirfetch’d’s Close Combat. It even gets Swords Dance, if for some reason it isn’t doing enough damage and has a turn to spare. Its movepool is a bit thin other than that – Knock Off or Throat Chop are theoretically nice for hitting Ghost-types, but Sirfetch’d doesn’t actually need help with that (see below), and Poison Jab works well against Fairy-types, although there aren’t a lot of those who stick out as strong counters to Sirfetch’d anyway. Sirfetch’d learns quite a few Grass moves, courtesy of its leek lance, of which the most obviously useful is Leaf Blade. Solar Blade is dependent on Sunny Day support and Grassy Glide on Grassy Terrain support, but if you want to put Sirfetch’d on either of those teams, they’re available (and Grassy Glide is another strong priority move).
Sirfetch’d’s main ability is Steadfast. This is theoretically a great ability since it increases your speed, which Sirfetch’d desperately needs; the trouble is that you have to flinch to activate it and using moves that make you flinch is entirely down to your opponent. In theory you could have a partner hit you with Fake Out in doubles, but Sirfetch’d does still lose its turn, and so would the partner, which frankly doesn’t seem worth it. Its hidden ability, Scrappy, strips Ghost-types of their immunity to Fighting attacks, which is extremely useful even if you plan to take Knock Off anyway for its utility value, since it stops Ghost Pokémon from switching in to block a Close Combat. Finally, Sirfetch’d’s signature move is Meteor Assault, a devastating Fighting-type attack that leaves the user staggered and forces it to spend its next turn resting. Aside from its superior 100% accuracy rating, Meteor Assault is basically equivalent to moves like Giga Impact and Rock Wrecker, and those attacks have really never been good (well, except in generation I, where you can skip the recharge turn if you score a knock-out), because your Pokémon is – I apologise in advance – a sitting duck while it recovers. It’s got a cool name and a badass animation, but if you know what’s good for you, you’ll stay away from Meteor Assault in anything even vaguely resembling a competitive setting.
What I like about Perrserker and Sirfetch’d is that these are both Pokémon inspired not just by real warrior traditions, but by the history of early Mediaeval Britain, and so together they provide an interesting contrast between the “native” and the “foreign” in Galarian culture. Perrserker’s flavour text implies that there actually are historical Vikings in the Pokémon world – a “savage, seafaring people” who, one assumes, raided ancient Galar’s coastline for riches and captives just as the real Vikings raided England and other coastal European regions. “Galarian” Meowth and Perrserker aren’t originally from Galar at all, but are now part of its history and have become part of its culture after living there for so long, while retaining their own distinctive appearance and mannerisms. Farfetch’d, on the other hand, developed into their present form in Galar, adapting to the region’s different vegetation and building a fighting style around it. All Farfetch’d need their leeks to survive, so these Farfetch’d wouldn’t be able to live anywhere else but Galar – and, like the Welsh army in the story, they’ll defend their homeland with their lives. If you were attacked by a party of Viking raiders with berserk Norwegian forest cats, this is the leek-wielding duck you’d want at your side. Forget the image in the Pokédex, which describes a famous painting of a joust between a Sirfetch’d and an Escavalier; no one cares about Escavalier. Instead, picture some version of that old story about the Welsh fighting off the Saxons with leeks actually happening in the Pokémon world: there conceivably could have been Perrserker and Sirfetch’d on opposite sides, fighting over Galar’s destiny!
They’re also both independently interesting Pokémon. I’ve kind of dreaded a Farfetch’d evolution for as long as I’ve wanted one, because Farfetch’d is such a neat and clever design that an evolution could easily just ruin it, but the Welsh leek thing really works when you get into the folklore behind it. As for Meowth, this is its second regional variant, and you can certainly argue about whether it “needs” or “deserves” to be the only Pokémon with two, but in my mind there’s little doubt that the Galarian form is the more creative and interesting one. And… well, frankly you can stuff some history or archaeology into practically any Pokémon and make me like it; that should be no secret by now.
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