Chronos asks:

So, do you have any thoughts on some of the more “loose” interpretations of moves in the new Pokemon Unite? For example Defense Curl, Hex and the three different Surfs?

I haven’t actually looked at Unite.  I don’t really enjoy MOBAs as a genre; I kinda find the design of character abilities interesting from an abstract perspective and I can see why people like them, but the fast-paced team combat just doesn’t play to the things I enjoy about games or have any aptitude with.  So, yeah, I haven’t looked at it.  I was thinking maybe I should, specifically so I can talk about this kind of thing with reference to the portrayals of specific Pokémon across different media, but I doubt I’m going to get really into it.

The other thing on my mind at the moment is that I’m hearing Pokémon Unite is extremely microtransaction-heavy, even more so than Pokémon Go or anything else in the franchise.  Which… well, given that Pokémon (even though it now has a lot of adult fans) has always consciously marketed itself as being for preteen children and still makes a lot of major decisions from that perspective… seems a little bit on the evil side, and maybe represents something that I shouldn’t be giving oxygen to?  I dunno; I am willing to be guided by my readers on this.

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

Name asks:

Lore-wise, how is aura sphere a fighting type move if other pokemon besides Lucario (Togekiss, Clawitzer, Zeraora to name a few) can also learn it? And why is aura wheel electric?

Well, Aura Wheel is a different thing from Aura Sphere, because if you go back to the original Japanese, the “Aura” of Aura Wheel is オーラ, ōra – just the English word “aura” written in katakana. This is, I have to assume, a reference to the new-age/pseudoscience concept of auras, visible, colourful energy fields that represent your personality or mood (which is why Aura Wheel changes type according to Morpeko’s mood).  The “Aura” of Aura Sphere, also mentioned in Lucario’s flavour text, is はどう/波動, hadou, which means something like “wave energy” (see also the classic Street Fighter move Hadouken, or “Wave Motion Fist”).  Despite the English translations, the two are completely unrelated.

As for the other Pokémon that learn Aura Sphere – the move is supposed to represent, basically, weaponised spiritual energy (it’s… well, it’s a Dragonball Z ki blast; there’s no other way to put it).  Lucario gets it because of the mastery of spirit produced by intense martial arts training.  Other than Fighting-types, it’s primarily learned by Pokémon with what you might think of as “strong souls”; Togekiss, Mewtwo, the Sinnoh space-time trio, Magearna.  Clawitzer and Blastoise, on the other hand, get it because of their Mega Launcher ability, which powers up things with hadou in their Japanese names (the “Pulse” moves).

Osprey asks:

The most important Pokemon move, in terms of its centralizing impact on the competitive metagame (at least in singles), is probably Stealth Rock. Having a Stealth Rock setter on your team is essentially mandatory in serious competitive singles play, and Pokemon like Volcarona and Charizard are singlehandedly dropped several tiers of competitive viability by their 4x weakness to Stealth Rock.

On the one hand, it does seem useful to have some way to check endless switching. But on the other hand, this one single move being Rock type has a really unfortunate impact on the competitive metagame for those of us who favor types that happen to be weak to Rock. The changes to Defog in Gen VI seem to have been intended at least partly as a SR nerf, so Game Freak seems at least somewhat inclined to agree, but several generations later, the impact of Stealth Rock is still enormous.

In your view, is this something that needs fixing? If so, how would you fix it? Remove type advantage/disadvantage from Stealth Rock damage? Add other mutually-exclusive entry hazards of other types (“Stealth Ice???”), forcing teams to decide which they’ll run in a way similar to Terrain? Other ideas?

So, mutually exclusive entry hazards of different types have been my go-to solution for this in the past, but I think there’s several things you could do – some of which Game Freak has done.  You mentioned Defog, which I kind of like, since it’s a much more widely available counter to entry hazards, but comes at a cost that Rapid Spin doesn’t have (clearing your own hazards as well), and there’s also the new Heavy-Duty Boots item in Sword and Shield that just makes a Pokémon straight-up immune.  Those are both a little blunt for my liking, though; they hit all entry hazards, when we really just want to hit Stealth Rock.  I remember Smogon’s very first Create-A-Pokémon, Syclant, was a Bug/Ice-type with an ability that made it immune to Rock-type damage on the turn it switched in, which is an interesting response, but more a cool toy for that Pokémon in particular than a real nerf to Stealth Rock.  You could just reduce Stealth Rock’s damage directly, but honestly its neutral damage output is probably fine; you could take away its ability to do more or less damage based on the target’s weakness or resistance to Rock, but that’s the most interesting thing about the move.  That’s why I like the idea of having several competing options for that slot, with different type properties; it actually introduces an additional interesting decision (which one is most helpful for your team composition?), while also reducing the victimisation of Pokémon who are weak to Rock attacks in particular.  On the other hand, it’s clunky – why are these moves mutually exclusive, when Spikes and Toxic Spikes aren’t?  And what’s the best way of communicating that to a new player?  My latest idea is to have Stealth Rock actually wear out over time; it can do a total of eight (or twelve, or some other number) “ticks” of damage, each of which is equal to 1/8 of the target’s health (Stealth Rock’s standard neutral damage).  Pokémon with a Rock weakness still take a lot more damage, but they also wear the rocks out faster, which turns an unfair-feeling punishment into an additional strategic calculation.  It’s another thing players then have to keep track of during battles, but you could probably add a counter or something to the battle UI (which has already been picking up some useful extra functions over the last few generations).

The Dag asks:

Who would win in a dance-off? Ludicolo, Oricorio, Bellossom, Sudowoodo, Maractus, Jynx, or you?

Okay, so, the easy part first: I cannot dance, and I come dead last.  I will, however, sabotage all the other contestants by spiking their drinks.  I’m not trying to tip the competition towards anyone in particular; I just think it would be hilarious.

Now, what are the dance skills of all these Pokémon like?

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Jumping Joltik asks:

In battle, Pokémon are basically indestructible. No matter what kind of attack they endure, the worst that can happen to them is they’ll faint. A slash from a Scyther won’t sever your Caterpie in two. A punch from a Machamp won’t shatter your Rattata’s bones. If this wasn’t the case, then it would be impossible to ethically justify battles.

However, there are also many circumstances where Pokemon are depicted as being susceptible to injury. For example, I recently watched The Power of Us. In the movie, we learn that the old woman’s Snubble died as a result of a fiery explosion…but why? If every Pokémon can endure a Blast Burn from a Charizard without being reduced to a pile of ash, then why would this explosion kill Snubble?

The obvious explanation is that Pokémon are only capable of being harmed when it’s convenient to the plot, but that’s boring and terrible. If you had to come up with an in-universe explanation, what would it be? Why are Pokemon indestructible in some circumstances but not others?

I kind of suspect that this is actually part of Pokémon training – learning to use your attacks accurately, under pressure, in a wide range of situations, and non-lethally.  I mean, that’s part of martial arts in the real world; you have to be proficient in not just inflicting maximum damage, but also in inflicting exactly the amount of damage you intend to and no more.  In real combat sports, if you’re in a match and you kill your opponent by mistake, you generally have to flee Los Angeles with your petite French girlfriend and your father’s precious gold wristwatch, and I don’t think most Pokémon can even drive a stolen motorbike, much less rescue a mobster from a sex dungeon.  The point is, there is a certain amount of control and holding back that is probably exercised in all but the blackest of underground cage matches.

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Leo M.R. [Patreon Cultist] asks:

What do you think of getting rid of weather altogether, but in replacement give ALL of the types terrain effects instead? The same rules still apply (only affect grounded Pokémon, only one can be active at any given time, etc.), of course. I always did find it kind of unfair how certain types are so advantaged in specific weather over other types, but those other types have no equivalent for themselves (e.g. Poison, Dark, Bug). Now that we’ve got type-specific terrains, what do you think? I figure the effects of intense sunlight can be taken over by Fiery Terrain, rain by Watery Terrain, hail by Icy Terrain, and sandstorm by Sandy Terrain. I have some fun ideas about the other types but I wanna hear your thoughts about the idea first. Cheers!

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AceTrainerAlvaro asks:

The Pokémon brand remains sheepishly heteronormative (ie, Steven Stone & Wallace are just best guy friends *wink*). On that note, the move Attract should be low-key rejiggered to also affect targets of the same gender, with its overall accuracy reduced somewhat (say down to 85 or 90%) to reflect the slightly lower incidence of same-sex interactions among animals. Frankly, it’s 2019 & kids across the globe are well-aware that LGBTQ people & same-sex “infatuation” (to borrow an in-game term) exist, stop pretending otherwise, Game Freak. Thoughts?

I mean, honestly, I don’t think there’s really any compelling game balance reason you couldn’t just have Attract work on all gendered Pokémon (or even just all Pokémon) with 100% accuracy.  That’d still be strictly worse than Confuse Ray was in generations I through VI, because infatuation wears off if either the user or the target switches out, and an attack that fails due to confusion comes with some extra damage (in generation VII, the chance of a confused Pokémon hurting itself drops to 33%, so it’s a bit murkier now, but still; we can always nerf infatuation by a similar amount, just to keep “parattraction” from becoming a frustrating metagame force).  All Pokémon are bi now.  Really, why not?  This isn’t even all that out of step with nature; there are species where same-sex sexual interactions seem to be more common (for one or both sexes) than opposite-sex ones, like giraffes.  It doesn’t even have to signify homosexuality if people want to be prudish about it; you can just make it a joke, like “he’s so hot even the straight guys want him,” which is a joke the anime has made with Meowth and a wild Purrloin (also, like… straight guys… there’s one, right?  You might not say it out loud, but there’s always one.  We share this blessed earth with the corporeal incarnations of Hugh Jackman, Rock “the Dwayne” Johnson, Ryan Reynolds and Idris Elba, for goodness’ sake; you’re allowed one).  The fact is, we don’t know anything about Pokémon sexuality.  Nothing is canon and nothing is sacred; Game Freak have made sure of that.  We know it usually takes a male and a female to produce an egg, but the games keep insisting that no one knows how it happens, and also claim that eggs “aren’t really eggs,” and permit all kinds of… anatomically improbable pairings (ArcheOPS WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO THAT CLAWITZER).  I’m not sure it would make the system any more implausible even if you straight-up allowed Pokémon to breed and produce offspring regardless of gender (there are single-gender species already, and they must reproduce somehow).

Elchar asks:

How can the economy of the Pokémon world even keep itself stable when domestic cats can just produce money out of thin air? The coins that Pay Day creates have real value. You pick them up in the game and you use them as regular money. I can’t be the only one who would, upon manifesting myself in the Pokémon world, quickly set up a Meowth farm and made them use Pay Day all day. Preferably somewhere close to the Pokémon center for that delicious free PP refillment.

Simple answer: it can’t.  If any trainer with a Meowth can access an unlimited supply of money, then money can’t have a stable value.  It doesn’t make sense.

If it doesn’t make sense, then we have misunderstood something or made a bad assumption (…or the worldbuilding is just fragile enough that we’ve broken it, but let’s make that our explanation of last resort).  Either they can’t actually produce money out of thin air, or the coins don’t actually have value, or perhaps their capacity to produce money is not unlimited and has already been “priced into” the economic systems of regions where they are native.

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Ace Trainer Alvaro asks:

Although a relatively new ability introduced in Gen VI, Symbiosis has come up several times across your blog history (see https://pokemaniacal.com/?s=Symbiosis) and it sticks out as an ability that is oddly specific, to the point it’s arguably not useful except for passing on items to allies in double, triple, etc battles that have consumed their own consumable held-item. How would you rethink this ability or create a new ability that captures the concept of symbiosis (let’s just think about mutualism or the purposes of simplification)? My immediate inclination is that if a Pokémon with Symbiosis has a held item, it also copies the effects of that item (but not the item itself) onto an ally once said item is consumed. Extra credit: this ability could be retconned as a Hidden Ability for Slowbro and the Bulbasaur evolutionary line.

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