Toucannon asks:

You’ve often complained about the unoriginality of bird pokemon, and you did a great job of suggesting ways to increase the relevance of the two most original ones of the bunch, those being Farfetch’d and Delibird. 

So, suppose you had the freedom to redesign all of the flying/normal pokemon in the game (Pidgeot, Fearow, Noctowl, Swellow, Braviary, Unfeazant, Staraptor, Chatot) and possibly Svanna, Mandibuzz, Honchkrow and Dodrio (although the latter seems original enough to me, and the others have the benefit of their typing to make them stand out enough that they at least don’t look like mere copy-pasted concepts), how would you do it?

You’re free to do anything – suggest altered looks, change the stat-lineup and/or typing, create new moves or abilities, modify the amount of evolutionary stages – other than removing them; each species ought to remain as something that exists in the game.

And I know I’m leaving a handful of birds out (the legendary trio, Pelipper, Talonflame, Hawlucha, Dartrix), but I feel those are original enough, and/or sufficiently competitive, as not to need any redesign.

Really looking forward to how you’d do that – your series on “upgrading the worst 10 pokemon in the game” was a really interesting read.


So… cut me some slack here; I can’t do all of these, because… well that’s twelve Pokémon to review and redesign, and think of the precedent it sets if I signal that I’m willing to throw together a project like that every damn week. Game Freak has a whole team of people who design 60-odd Pokémon every two years, and I’m one disgruntled archaeologist with a termite-infested soapbox and no artistic skills.  So what we are going to try to do here is make it very clear that I don’t want to make a habit of this, and then address the question by prioritising: get some kind of ranking system in place to isolate the worst of the suck.  Who most needs a buff or redesign?

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jeffthelinguist asks:

So… armored evolution. I think it’s not gonna be a thing and I think it’s stupid but… what do you think about the rumor? How would you feel if that was implemented?

I wouldn’t rule it out, honestly.  For those not following, the place this rumour comes from is a 4chan post from a few days before the announcement of Sword and Shield, which correctly predicted the names of the new games, and that they would be set in a region based on Great Britain, so it’s not wildly improbable that this person had some actual insider information (of course, even if they did, they might have had real information on the names and region, but then just made up other stuff to troll everyone, because… like… it’s 4chan, guys, come on).  One of the other predictions made therein is that Sword and Shield will introduce “armoured” evolutions, of Pokémon including Zeraora, Charizard, Flygon and Mewtwo.  And, I mean, you know you’ve wanted armoured Mewtwo since 1999, and Nintendo has just filed for the Japanese trademark on “Armoured Mewtwo,” and oh hey, they’re remaking that movie in 3D this year for some goddamn reason, and my respect for the Pokémon Company is just tenuous enough to believe that they would do that solely to plug an “armoured evolution” of Mewtwo.  A further prediction from the 4chan post is that Meltan will somehow be involved with all this, which… I mean, honestly, yeah; Meltan should start pulling its fµ¢£ing weight already.

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Dosidicus Giygas asks:

There’s an interesting parallel in Gen I between Eevee’s three original evolutions and the three Legendary Birds in terms of typing. Fire, ice, and lightning are common elemental distinctions in RPGs with magic/energy/psionics/whathaveyou, so it makes sense that Pokemon would draw from this tradition for inspiration, though it’s a little odd that there is a discrepancy between Vaporeon (Water Type) and Articuno (Ice Type). Any thoughts on why that is? Furthermore, why didn’t Game Freak apply this logic to the starters, who are halfway there anyway? For something more varied/interesting? For a better justification of type balance?

Type balance isn’t exactly right, because I don’t think it’s about fairness, or at least not entirely, but it’s something like that.  Grass/Fire/Water has this nice rock/paper/scissors relationship that serves as an easy and intuitive introduction to one of Pokémon’s core mechanics, which is a pretty valuable thing for new players.  It doesn’t really work if you try to shoehorn Electric in there, because thematically there just isn’t an obvious relationship between Electric and Fire.  Other games that use Fire/Ice/Lightning don’t usually have “type advantages” in the same way as Pokémon does; several iterations of Final Fantasy, for example, have Fire and Ice being strong against each other, with Lightning doing its own thing (often being strong against mechanical enemies); Final Fantasy X adds Water as a fourth element to form another opposed pair with Lightning.  Pokémon just has different needs to those games.

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Claydol asks:

Steven stone’s mega Metagross hits like a truck doesn’t he?

He sure do.  No Earthquake, though, unlike in the original Ruby and Sapphire, which makes him substantially easier to outmanoeuvre in terms of type coverage.  Giga Impact also creates a lot of openings for your Pokémon to come in and hit him hard before he can recover.  I have memories of much greater difficulty with the old non-mega Metagross, but that’s partly because on my first playthrough of Sapphire I had no idea what type the damn thing was, and pre-generation VI Steel-types resist pretty much everything (also I had a Sableye in my party because I didn’t understand the game very well yet).

Flareon asks:

Am I useful now that I finally can learn Flare Blitz?

Well, I’d say you’re arguably no longer the worst of your siblings, which is… something, right?  Your offensive movepool is still really bad, and that’s a problem that pretty much your entire family struggles with.  The best moves you all share are support techniques, so it’s your toughest siblings – Vaporeon, Umbreon and Sylveon – who are the most consistently useful.  Espeon gets a leg up from her ludicrous hidden ability, and Jolteon kinda gets by on his good offensive stat distribution and strong attack type.  Leafeon is pretty bad, but arguably still better than you because Swords Dance and Chlorophyll give him sweeping potential.  Now that you have Flare Blitz though, you can claim to be at least as good as Glaceon, who has a similar offensive power level but a very weak defensive type and generally poor abilities.  The problem with being you, Flareon, is you’ve got one hell of a Flare Blitz, but you’re lacklustre in both speed and defence, which makes you really easy to kill, and all of Fire’s weaknesses are to really common attack types (Water, Ground and Rock – including Stealth Rock).  In comparison with other physically-oriented single-type Fire Pokémon, well… Darmanitan is somehow faster, tougher and stronger, and has a better selection of physical attacks plus the ridiculousness that is Sheer Force; while Arcanine is faster, surprisingly tough, has Intimidate, is flexible enough for a physical/special mix, and can heal with Morning Sun.  Hell, even Rapidash is faster and has arguably a better physical movepool than you, but at least she has the decency to have bad abilities, average defences and a weaker attack stat.  You could go hang out with Rapidash, I guess?

Lizardman Lizardman asks:

Fun fact: one of the most feared Pokemon in Anything Goes is not Mega Rayquaza, or some Arceus forme… It’s Vivillon. Just thought you’d like to know.

Well “one of the most feared” is a bit of an exaggeration; she’s a bit niche and very high-risk/high-reward, but even that much is a hell of an achievement for a cookie-cutter early-game butterfly.  Honestly I think this says less about Vivillon than about how heinously overpowered sleep is in Pokémon, even after being nerfed in four out of six generations, and how completely we all tend to forget about that most of the time.  Smogon has a rule (and I think other communities use this as well) that you can only put one Pokémon to sleep at a time, and their influence on the competitive Pokémon community is so great that even in contexts where their rules don’t apply (like most official tournaments) people kind of act as if they did – partly, I think, because the strategies banned by rules like this are just incredibly dickish and make the game a lot less fun for everyone.  Of course, in Smogon’s “anything goes” tier… well, anything goes.  Vivillon is faster than Butterfree and gets Compoundeyes Hurricane, and Sun and Moon nerfed the cr@p out of Darkrai’s Dark Void, so if you want to spam a very high-accuracy sleep technique, she’s the one to do it with.  I mean, yes, Quiver Dance is part of it, because without it Vivillon would be outrun and one-shot by practically everything, but when you have all the legendary Pokémon in the game to work with, the offensive presence of a Quiver Dance Vivillon, while significant, isn’t that big a deal – which is why we would never have this conversation in the “uber” tier, where the sleep rules still apply.  Sleep really is just that good.  This is one of the reasons you shouldn’t automatically defer to the competitive zeitgeist when choosing Pokémon and movesets for single-player, not even in end-game battle facilities – it’s not actually the same game.

Ty asks:

How would you rate changing Cacturne’s Sand Veil into Sand Rush? Too much? Not enough? Just right?

It would certainly help, because Cacturne is powerful but slow, and heavily reliant on Sucker Punch. It’s exactly the type of Pokémon who would benefit from an ability like Sand Rush, although how much is “enough” is pretty subjective. My concern here isn’t that Sand Rush would be too strong on Cacturne, but rather that it doesn’t really fit. Cacturne is a stalker, a Pokémon who follows prey across the desert, unseen and out of range, until that prey collapses from exhaustion. Tricky moves like Sucker Punch that catch the target off-guard are a good fit; Sand Veil, a silly ability though it admittedly is, is a good fit; low speed and high power are a good fit; a conventional weather-based sweeper mentality isn’t, really. I think maybe some kind of Grass-type situational first strike move, analogous to Sucker Punch, would be interesting – maybe something that has speed priority against a target with less than 50% of its health, but fails against healthy Pokémon the way Sucker Punch fails against status moves?  You could even rework Needle Arm into this; the only other Pokémon that get it are Maractus and Chesnaught, and although Chesnaught is arguably decent already neither of them is in danger of breaking the game. That probably falls under “not enough,” but I like it better as an expression of what Cacturne is about.