Leo M.R. asks:

I think the execution of Solar Power is bizarre. It’s understandably given to various Pokémon who are supposed to draw power from the sun (e.g. Sunflora or Heliolisk) but the HP loss means that these Pokémon would actually be *harmed* from being in intense sunlight. Sure, they get that Sp. Atk boost but is it worth the drawback? The current mechanics of Solar Power would actually incentivize them to not be in the sun, unless they’re feeling particularly suicidal and want to go out in a solar blaze of glory. I wonder two things:

1) Must there even *be* a drawback to Solar Power? Other weather-dependent Abilities don’t have drawbacks (compare Chlorophyll, which just freely doubles your Speed); I feel like Solar Power giving Pokémon a free Sp. Atk boost wouldn’t break the game; 2) If there *must* be a drawback, why not have it so that it increases your Sp. Atk in sunlight but decreases it in rain/any other weather condition? Making a Solar Power Pokémon wholly dependent on the weather – their own preferred weather – makes more sense to me than the current ‘they lose an eighth of their health every turn even though it’s their preferred weather’ thing.

I dunno if I’m with you on this.  There’s not no precedent to the way Solar Power works – it’s unlike the other weather abilities, sure, but its drawback is pretty similar to the way a Life Orb functions.  You get more power, you lose health every turn.  Solar Power seems worse: it takes more of your HP (1/8 per turn rather than 1/10), only benefits special attacks and doesn’t work without the weather support, but its bonus is larger (50% rather than 30%).  I think the trade-off is more interesting than a pure buff, although there’s certainly an argument that Solar Power isn’t strong enough to make up for the damage it does to you.  I would also suggest that thematically it makes sense for the Pokémon that get it; Charizard is all about burning up in a blaze of glory and Mega Houndoom has a certain self-destructive cast to it, while for Grass Pokémon like Sunflora and Tropius, their weakness to Fire attacks has always made fighting under the sun a bit of a double-edged sword.  Actually, it really reminds me of the energy-burning effects that Charizard and other Fire Pokémon tend to have in the TCG, where you have ridiculous power on tap, but you have to win quickly and efficiently because you’re destroying so much of your own resources. It’s like the sheer CELESTIAL POWER of the BLAZING SUN is too great for your mortal body to contain and it will BURN YOU FROM THE INSIDE if you try to channel it for too long.

Chlorophyll and Solar Power aren’t really comparable, in my opinion, because speed works differently to all the other stats; once you’re 1 point faster than the competition, you already have everything you’re going to get out of extra speed.  Extra special attack only stops being useful when you’re already powerful enough to one-shot everything that matters, which is a much higher threshold.  The other consideration is that most Pokémon with Chlorophyll are pretty slow to begin with (the major exceptions being Jumpluff, who can’t actually do anything, and Whimsicott, who gets more out of Prankster anyway); the ability bumps them up to merely “acceptable.”  Apart from Tropius, all the Pokémon that get Solar Power have quite high special attack stats already.  They still aren’t very good, but it’s not specifically a lack of power that lets them down, so I’m not convinced that buffs to Solar Power would change their fortunes.  Sunflora and Tropius are bad because they’re slow and have garbage movepools; Heliolisk’s problems are that it’s ludicrously fragile and it can’t figure out which weather condition it wants to synergise with; Charizard historically has mostly been fµ¢£ed over by its double weakness to Stealth Rock, but hey, at least we have Heavy Duty Boots now.  Dynamax that $#!t, you can really easily set up your own weather support with Max Flare and go to town.

I’m also… honestly not even sure Solar Power is a bad ability? Like, a 50% buff to special attack, on top of any bonuses your moves already get from bright sunlight, really is quite a lot! It’s a bigger bonus than Sand Force, which is the only other ability that gives you extra damage from weather. I think the only reason we don’t see more of it is because most of the Pokémon that get it are so terrible. I mean… Sunflora? I’m not even sure Wonder Guard would make Sunflora good. Tropius is less awful but still pretty ineffectual; Heliolisk has pretty nice stats for a weather-based sweeper but also has basically no Fire attacks and is better under rain with Dry Skin (despite being a Pokémon with a solar energy theme and the Greek word for “sun” in its name). The only Pokémon you’d ever really expect to see succeeding with Solar Power is Charizard, and that genuinely kinda works, even with Charizard’s iffy special movepool and the Stealth Rock weakness that makes it nearly impossible to take a Life Orb (or really any item other than Heavy Duty Boots).

what was the question?

yeah, no, I think Solar Power is actually fine

5 thoughts on “Leo M.R. asks:

  1. Mmm, I see your points, and I’m kind of half-and-half on them. One of the parts I disagree with is:

    “I would also suggest that thematically it makes sense for the Pokémon that get it; Charizard is all about burning up in a blaze of glory and Mega Houndoom has a certain self-destructive cast to it, while for Grass Pokémon like Sunflora and Tropius, their weakness to Fire attacks has always made fighting under the sun a bit of a double-edged sword.”

    Okay, here you’re arguing that it makes sense for Charizard and Mega Houndoom (I don’t know if I completely agree, but fair enough) but for Sunflora and Tropius you’re not arguing that at all. What you’re saying is, implicitly, “I agree Solar Power doesn’t benefit these Pokémon but they were already screwed in the sun by virtue of their type anyway” which is… not a defense of giving them Solar Power? Also, it really doesn’t explain Heliolisk; why would a desert frilled lizard be self-destructive?

    On that note actually, I realize I may not have emphasized that I was largely thinking of thematicity (thematicness?) when I asked the question. Fair enough with the comparison to the TCG’s energy-burning, but lore-wise for Pokémon like Sunflora or Heliolisk it makes no sense that they would be harmed by the weather that is supposedly their ideal condition to live in! Like, how do we reconcile that with how Solar Power works?

    Also, the reason I brought up Chlorophyll is that it’s identical in principle: draw power from sun, get a stat boost. I understand that speed and special attack aren’t fully comparable, but that’s game mechanics. Thinking thematically, why would the thing Sunflora take in to speed itself up be killing it if instead Sunflora takes it in to power itself up? It’s the same thing, it’s the damn sun, so why would half of all Sunflora be fine when they draw from the sun but the other half start dying? I fail to see why drawing sunlight to increase your special attack (only by 50%!) would slowly kill you but not if you draw it to increase your speed (by 100%!), especially when – as you noted yourself – speed is the all-or-nothing stat anyway.

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    1. I think that way lies madness. Trying to justify what it means in practical, biological terms for one Pokémon of one species to have one ability, and another to have a different ability… like, you’re going to run into $#!t like half of all Bronzong being able to fly and the other half just sitting inert on the ground for their entire lives because they have no obvious means of locomotion, or the vast majority of Barraskewda apparently *not having* the propeller tail that is their most distinctive feature, or only some Vivillon having compound eyes and the rest (I guess???) having single eyes.

      As for continuously taking damage in the weather conditions that they ostensibly prefer… well, I’d assume they “turn it off” outside of battle. We don’t see wild Pokémon turning up at the start of battles already damaged, after all.

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      1. I agree, trying to actually use abilities to fully reflect lore is… it just doesn’t work? Like signature abilities are a cool way to reflect lore, but the fact of the matter is most Pokemon can have one of 2 or 3 abilities for the sake of build options because abilities are game mechanics primarily and lore reflections secondarily. And it can even be reasonably argued that a Sunflora using Solar Power isn’t using sunlight in the way that they normally use sunlight to, like, live. They’re absorbing sunlight to build up power, and that can be similar to Mega evolution energy – more power than they can really contain and that hurts them. Does it make perfect sense? Maybe not but the ability is for game mechanics and, as you noted, increasing special attack by 50% is huge if there’s no trade off. I mean, it *would* be huge if the Pokemon was built to benefit from it, but I’ve noticed that, outside of signature abilities, their balancing is unrelated to what they’re currently on, presumably in case they give it to a later Pokemon. Like sure, nothing really can take advantage of it now, but maybe next gen they’ll give it to a Pokemon that’s a pretty good special sweeper, and without the self damaging it could really break them (especially since it could be stacked with a life orb with little repercussions).

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