creamCloud asks:

Something that i’ve noticed recently is that despite pikachu being technically weaker than all the other pika-clones in later generations [BST 320 as opposed to the others floating somewhere around 400-430, raichu 485 for reference] functionally it’s better due to having more toys to play with: a larger base movepool and various event moves, light orb and other unique items, eviolite, ect… and while some do have their own unique traits still get overshadowed by the original, So my question is this: what would you give the other pika-clones that would allow each to stand out in it’s own way? such as an evolution, signature move or item, higher stats, new ability?

Well… I’m not gonna design evolutions for half a dozen Pokémon right here, but maybe there are some things we can sketch out here.

I actually did put together rough ideas for evolutions for Plusle, Minun and Pachirisu as part of the “top 10 worst Pokémon ever” series I did way back in 2012; you can find that here: https://pokemaniacal.com/2012/02/06/the-top-ten-worst-pokemon-ever-6-plusle-minun/.  I’m pretty lukewarm on the actual details of these now, but I think the basic ideas (other than just “evolve them to justify much higher stats”) were sound: buff the Plus and Minus abilities to emphasise Plusle and Minun’s teamwork ideal, and give Pachirisu a lot more trickery- and theft-themed moves to go with its cleverness and collection themes.  I was also grudgingly convinced to do the same thing for Dedenne when I reviewed the Kalos generation: https://pokemaniacal.com/2014/07/28/dedenne-2/.  Here, the main thing I wanted was for Dedenne to have a powerful signature move to make up for its lack of any decent Fairy attacks (this obviated to some extent in Sword and Shield with the addition of Dazzling Gleam to its movepool, but… well, Dedenne could still use a bit more oomph).  I think the important thing is to emphasise what makes each Pokémon interesting (to the extent that there, uh… is anything interesting about them).

Plusle and Minun: The problem with Plus and Minus is you’re clearly supposed to use the abilities together in doubles, but that entails using two doubles partners who are both weak to Earthquake.  The other problem is you can’t dramatically buff the abilities themselves because you might create something that’s broken on Klinklang or Ampharos.  But generations VI and VII introduced moves that buff all active Pokémon with Plus or Minus: Magnetic Flux raises both defence stats by one level and Gear Up raises both attack stats.  Maybe Minun and Plusle – respectively – could get moves that raise those stats by two levels, or have an extra effect like healing or setting up Electric Terrain.  Maybe you even raise all your stats, like Ancientpower does.  That’d be crazy strong, but hey, you’re using Plusle or Minun; you need all the help you can get.

Pachirisu: Look, Pachirisu’s won a world championship now; it’s still garbage in singles and probably always will be, but if it wants my help with that, it’s gonna have to beg for it.

Emolga: Emolga’s got some strengths, like high speed and a really strong type combination; I think its main problem is a really messy mixed movepool that doesn’t allow it to specialise in anything it might be good at, and poor defences that make it an iffy supporter.  It already has Acrobatics; I think there’d be some justification in giving it the Unburden ability (heck, look at the Shield Pokédex entry; Emolga “absolutely loves sweet berries…” but sometimes “stuffs its cheeks full of so much food that it can’t fly properly”; Unburden is absolutely written into that) and some kind of bespoke physical Electric attack that gets a bonus when the user doesn’t have an item.  Maybe it’s a multi-hit move that always hits 5 times, à la Skill Link, if you aren’t holding an item?

Togedemaru: Togedemaru’s type combination is maybe even better than Emolga’s because of all the Steel resistances, and Zing Zap isn’t bad.  It’s got a 30% flinch chance that combos well with Togedamaru’s good speed, reliable paralysing attacks and Iron Head, it’s just not really enough on its own to be a reason to use this Pokémon.  Togedemaru also has three strong abilities already.  I just don’t know if there’s an interesting fix to this one.  Honestly it’s probably the least bad Pikachu clone already, so maybe just leave it?

Morpeko: Morpeko’s actually pretty fun.  Aura Wheel’s gimmick is a disadvantage because you can’t reliably choose for it to be an Electric or Dark attack, but the move is so powerful (same base power as Thunder, but with good accuracy and a free speed boost) that it’s a solid win for Morpeko anyway.  I think the obvious gap with Morpeko is that its Hunger Switch ability doesn’t actually do anything outside of its interaction with Aura Wheel – Morpeko’s two forms are mechanically identical.  If you want to buff Morpeko, I think you should do it by adding an extra effect to Hunger Switch; maybe Hangry Morpeko has a bonus to its crit rate, but switching to Full Belly Morpeko heals you each time?

6 thoughts on “creamCloud asks:

  1. 1) One of my own favorite fakemon designs is a dual Electric/Ice-type evolution for Pachirisu with large feet inspired by the snowshoe hare. Perhaps Pachirisu evolves into my ‘Krylechu’ ( kryo (from Cryo or κρύος / krúos) + le (from Lepus) + ‘chu’ ) when it levels up outdoors in a snowy area, like Sinnoh Routes 216-217 or Acuity Lakefront.

    2) I feel like Emolga needs an evolution. I like to imagine a larger, longer-legged, & more acrobatic flying squirrel; imagine a Flying Ace Pokémon inspired by early war planes.

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    1. Electric/Ice is a famously powerful offensive combination because you can count the number of Pokemon lines that resist it on one hand and have fingers left over, so keeping its offensive stats bad in order to focus on the defensive/support role that it won a World Championship with would be wise.

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  2. I agree with giving the abilities Plus/Minus a buff, but there are layers:
    1) Having any two Pokémon in battle – on either side of the field – with the abilities Plus AND Minus should immediately activate Electric Terrain while both Pokémon remain in battle*…

    2) But also, Electric Terrain should confer the effects of Magnet Rise to all Pokémon on the field while this terrain remains in effect

    Granted, both of these (potentially coding-intensive) buffs stack into a niche strategy but I feel like relying on Plus/Minus already appeals to niche users & could be a fun surprise for the rest of us.

    *this means the effects are not immediately lost if abilities are swapped among Pokémon in battle by moves like Skill Swap for instance

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  3. Thanks for taking the time to answer this, especially as you’ve already touched on some of these pokemon in those posts you linked, every time i play a pkmn game i want to use one of these mons but they’re all so painfully mediocre, Emolga is the only one i’ve actually used and kept around, GameFreak needs to give these pika-clones their respective ‘Raichus’ to make their strengths shine.

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  4. Look, PChitisu didn’t win because it’s good. I think it was mostly the element of surprise. Nobody expected a freaking Pachirusu. One of my friends used to be doing random online battles with a fteaking Furret and actually was pretty successful. If you can find a Pokémon that not many people use and find a fun or interesting strategy around it, it can carry you pretty well. Mind games are impirtant for competitive.

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    1. I’m late, but this is actually completely wrong (and kind of reductive)!
      Pachirisu was actually chosen for Sejun Park’s team because it had a very specific niche no other Pokémon could, and he wasn’t even the only one using it in the Championships, just (obviously) the one who got the furthest and (understandably) the one who got the most attention for it.

      Pachirisu was a valuable asset in the format for a few reasons.
      For one thing, having Nuzzle (a paralyzing move that’s more reliable than Thunder Wave because it bypasses Taunt, in exchange for making contact) and Super Fang (a reliable way to do damage without needing to invest offensively at all, which is especially useful in doubles because Pachirisu’s ally can pick off the weakened opponent after its HP is halved) is a good combination of support moves in itself.
      On another note, Pachirisu comes with the valuable combination of Follow Me and Volt Absorb, deterring opponents from even attempting Electric-type moves with the threat of nullifying them and adding to its longevity. This was important because Park’s team included more than one Electric-weak Pokémon, and he noted that he would have been particularly weak to Zapdos if he had had chosen a more conventional user of redirection like Amoonguss.
      It was used because it was the only Pokémon that compressed all of these tools into the same team slot and because it could accomplish its purpose efficiently without switching out, which matters a ton in VGC where every turn counts and battles don’t last very long.

      In this case, Pachirisu wasn’t useful because Sejun Park picked it out of a hat and his opponents were thrown for a loop by the comedy of the situation – it was the perfect fit for his team and complemented his Pokémon well, and it could do that even if his opponents knew exactly what it was.
      “Surprise factor” for its own sake doesn’t really give you any advantage if the Pokémon you’re using doesn’t accomplish something – it can be advantageous to use something your opponents won’t be prepared for, but only if it can make the most of that. Being caught off guard by, say, a Minun doesn’t make it any more dangerous than it would be normally; there’s a reason no one bothers to build their teams with a Minun check in mind!
      Amusingly, there’s another Pokémon on Sejun Park’s team that Park himself has described as having been chosen with “surprise factor” in mind, but it wasn’t Pachirisu – it was his Mega Gyarados! “Surprise factor” matters a lot more with offensive threats than with supportive ones, because it’s more likely that they’ll demand attention in the teambuilder, and something that breaks past conventional defenses and requires more targeted counterplay can be valuable even if it’s weaker than standard picks if opponents aren’t used to bringing that counterplay.
      In practice, picking a Pokémon people aren’t used to seeing doesn’t automatically make a difference in itself – it’s when that Pokémon demands specific preparation (a team can have “a good Gyarados matchup” or “a bad Gyarados matchup”) that it matters if your opponent knew in advance to account for it, but Pachirisu was used because it supported Gyarados and made it that much harder to get an upper hand on Gyarados, and no one who lost to Park did so only because their team had “a bad Pachirisu matchup.”

      I totally agree that Pachirisu is one of the least interesting Pokémon there is design-wise, but honestly, I think this is a case of excellent mechanical design and a satisfying triumph for a well-chosen niche pick and smart teambuilding, and reducing it to “his opponents were surprised!” feels like it undermines the thought that went into the choice.
      I would actually like for more Pokémon to be useful for reasons like Pachirisu – not because they’re dominating threats with high stats, but because they do something specific that nothing else can and certain teams are just right for them – and I think it’s cool that a Pokémon like Pachirisu was able to show that high stats aren’t the only reason to bring a Pokémon into the competitive scene.
      I’m super interested in competitive Pokémon from a game design standpoint and study and practice it extensively, and I think optimizing a Pokémon properly to do what it needs and knowing when impressive stats do and don’t need to be a part of that is one of the most thought-provoking and engaging parts of Pokémon design, so I think a lot can be learned from Pachirisu gameplay-wise even if…
      well…
      … yeah, it’s *definitely* one of the least convincing Pokémon design-wise and flavor-wise and I think a lot more could’ve been done to make it interesting on that front.
      Pachirisu isn’t topping my favorites list any time soon no matter how much appreciation this gave me for it on a gameplay level – I think it’s way too important for a Pokémon to be… well… a good Pokémon, not just good as some mechanical abstraction, and I feel like there isn’t anything all that clever or unique about Pachirisu as a design and it doesn’t add much of value to the world. I would’ve loved to see a more deserving Pokémon in the limelight for something like this, and I don’t think this redeems it on anything *but* a competitive level.
      But tl;dr: don’t sell its competitive nuance short!!
      Park’s success is a highlight of the way its qualities were smartly designed to work in tandem for a specific purpose as a unique support Pokémon, especially with the addition of Nuzzle to the series in Generation VI and especially as a partner to Park’s other Pokémon of choice.
      There’s way more interesting stuff to take away from this than “you can get away with weak picks if your opponents don’t expect them” … unless either your opponent doesn’t know what they’re doing or you’re making a really smart and calculated choice, that’s nothing on this level – you can use Furret for fun all you want, but there’s no way “no one will expect it!” is a fair comparison to the way Pachirisu actually accomplished something no other Pokémon could.

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