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.

Sandro asks:

Can you put together any reasoning for why Pokémon can learn only four moves? I mean, I can understand from game perspective but from in-universe perspective? I suppose complicated magical moves would make sense but some moves like Tackle or Peck are really just simple basic body movements. How does learning how to breathe fire or squirt water make you forget how to ram your face into stuff?

Obviously there are compelling gameplay reasons for it, and early seasons of the anime (which doesn’t need to care about that) actually do play fast and loose with this rule occasionally – Drake’s Dragonite uses no fewer than ten different attacks in Ash’s Orange League championship battle.  But cases like that are the exception, not the rule, and often seem meant to illustrate that a particular Pokémon is unusually powerful and skilled – most Pokémon can’t do it.  Why?  I think we need to compare how athletic skills and martial arts techniques work in the real world (because that’s basically what Pokémon attacks are).  Continue reading “Sandro asks:”

VikingBoyBilly asks:

What if Ability capsules were expanded to be more like TMs? E.g., there’s ACs for Static, Guts, Chlorophyll, etc. and any pokémon that’s compatible with that ability will learn it. There might need to be some “base” or “blank” capsule to get their original ability back in that system, ‘cuz we can’t be giving out Wonder Guard, Water Bubble, or Levitate ACs… maybe those pokémon will just be unable to use ACs.

I’m a little iffy on this, purely because abilities are able to define how Pokémon work much more completely than moves (usually) can.  Like, you raise Pokémon with abilities that are too overpowered to give out indiscriminately, but what about the Pokémon that originally had those abilities?  There’s no point in a Furfrou without Fur Coat, or a Darmanitan without Zen Mode, let alone some of the really mad stuff like a Wishiwashi without Schooling or a Shedinja without Wonder Guard.  A bunch of Pokémon have abilities that don’t particularly matter or aren’t very interesting, but I’m not convinced the implementation of a TM-like system that would be basically unusable by a pretty large fraction of all Pokémon is the way to fix that.