And now we get to the weird stuff.  The last two Pokémon in generation VI – Hoopa and Volcanion – have never been officially revealed by Nintendo or Game Freak, and their existence has been kept a closely-guarded secret.  Obviously, we’ve all known about both of them for months.  There’s simply no way Game Freak can compete with the collective time, energy and resources of all the computer-literate Pokémon fans on the planet, so Hoopa and Volcanion’s names, Pokédex data, powers and sprites, along with the dialogue of the characters involved with their events, were all quite promptly extracted from the games and made public on the internet, just as happened for Genesect, Meloetta and Keldeo before them, and Darkrai, Shaymin and Arceus before that.  I’m coming to seriously wonder why they even bother to keep up the charade anymore; they must know that they can’t keep these things secret.  Then again, I suppose if the publicity blitz surrounding each big reveal helps them drum up customers for the inevitable movies, I’m not going to deny them their little bit of theatre.  Anyway, let’s get on with our penultimate sixth-generation Pokémon, whose secrets are much better kept than Game Freak’s – the mischievous psychic spirit Hoopa.

Most of what we know about Hoopa comes from a dialogue with a backpacker in the library of the Parfum Palace, which will apparently be activated if you speak to him while she is in your active party.  A vaguely humanoid Pokémon with two large bull-like horns and a wispy lower body, Hoopa appears to get her name from the three golden rings – hoops, if you will – that she wears, one on each of her horns, and one about her waist.  These things have the power to distort space and create wormholes that Hoopa can use to move objects (and people!) from place to place.  Hoopa herself can also travel through the rings, and uses them to make surprise attacks against her opponents from all directions with her signature Hyperspace Hole technique.  The rings can even distort their own sizes, allowing Hoopa to fit larger things through them… supposedly, up to and including entire islands when she achieves her “full power” (more on that later).  Hoopa is a mischievous Pokémon, and primarily uses her space-warping abilities to screw with people – she likes to steal things and send them to distant places.  She supposedly has a lair in the middle of a desert somewhere, filled with all the gold and other precious treasures she’s stolen from powerful rulers and aristocrats over the years.  No-one has ever been able to find this place, possibly because it’s not really a place at all, according to conventional human understanding.  If Hoopa’s power lets her warp space – not merely teleport as other Psychic Pokémon do but actually alter the physical distance between two points – perhaps Hoopa’s oasis and treasure pile have never been found because she has hidden them, folded them into a sort of pocket of space that doesn’t obey normal geography and can’t be seen or accessed from the outside.  I have no idea whether this is really within her power or not, but it seems like a logical extension of the way her wormhole abilities are said to work, and it certainly fits with her crafty, mischievous personality to have a clever way of concealing all her loot.

To illustrate the way Hoopa tends to work, a story is told about an unnamed organisation that tried to “manipulate Hoopa’s power for their own benefit.”  Who these people are is left vague, though I think it’s probably reasonable to infer that their group’s name began with the word “Team.”  Moreover, I’m inclined to suspect that their motives were less than noble – Hoopa uses her powers to steal, and it seems likely that anyone attempting to “manipulate” her had motives equally nefarious or more so (rather than, say, seeking to reverse-engineer Hoopa’s space-warping abilities into new forms of travel or storage).  Unfortunately for them, Hoopa apparently had no need of a plucky young Pokémon trainer to join forces with her at the eleventh hour and defeat the bad guys against all odds.  The moment she got wind of what our mystery antagonists were up to, their money and equipment started to disappear mysteriously.  Eventually, confused and frightened by these events, they boarded themselves up in their headquarters to wait it out… only to find, when they emerged, that the entire building had been moved to the middle of a huge desert!  The fact that Hoopa chose to put them in the desert is interesting, since her own lair is supposed to be in a desert.  Could it be the same place?  If so, was this not merely an act of self-defence but also Hoopa’s greatest heist ever – not just to steal from a group of thieves but to steal the thieves themselves?  Regardless of Hoopa’s exact motivation, it seems to be implied in the story that her enemies did manage to make it out of the desert and return home, where their group disbanded and was never heard from again.

 Eh... maybe not...

While I’m not really fond of trying to pick out specific mythical inspirations for legendary Pokémon, since I believe that they more often aim to channel general archetypes than individual characters from specific mythologies, I would not be the first person to have seen shades of Arabian djinn (singular djinni, whence the English ‘genie’) in Hoopa.  The wispy lower body and gold jewellery fit reasonably well with depictions of djinn, particularly modern imaginings, and the horns wouldn’t be terribly out of place either.  Certainly Hoopa’s penchant for theft and mischief accords well with djinn, who are sometimes equated with demons, although there is no shortage of supernatural creatures from mythologies around the world who enjoy playing tricks on humans.  Also, for me at least, the tales of her hoard of loot hidden in the middle of the desert are reminiscent of nothing so much as the story of Ali Baba and the treasure-stuffed cave of the Forty Thieves, from the Thousand and One Nights, the standard ‘big book of Arabian mythology.’  I think there’s enough in there to suggest that the designers may have had one eye on that part of the world, at least when putting together Hoopa’s appearance.  Data extracted from the recently-released demo of Alpha Sapphire and Omega Ruby indicates that Hoopa will have some manner of powered-up form as well, a frighteningly powerful Psychic/Dark attacker, and in terms of her physical appearance, the change is quite dramatic – Hoopa is surrounded by six disembodied arms, each apparently reaching out of a hyperspace ring, and another ring sits in her belly, opening into a void.  The six arms make this Hoopa more evocative of a Hindu deity – but then again, since she retains her horns and wicked talons, and gains an arrowhead tail, contributing overall to something of a ‘demonic’ appearance, perhaps it would be more appropriate to look to the Hindu gods’ perennial rivals, the demon asuras.  This form is presumably the “full power” described by the backpacker studying Hoopa who features in her event.  It seems like it’s probably not a mega evolution, because it has slightly different level-up moves to Hoopa’s regular form, including a new signature move called Hyperspace Fury, which seems to be similar to Hoopa’s existing Hyperspace Hole technique but is a Dark-type attack rather than a Psychic-type one and is significantly more powerful.  I don’t think there’s actually anything in the game mechanics that makes it impossible for a Mega Pokémon to have a different level-up set – just much more annoying, in all likelihood.  This form also gets a slightly smaller stat bonus than other Mega Pokémon do (although, so does Mega Alakazam – probably as a result of Alakazam’s normal form also getting a slight increase to special defence over his generation V stats).  What exactly is involved in attaining this ‘full power,’ assuming it’s not mega evolution, is currently unknown, as is the case for Zygarde.

The best-quality image anyone seems to have so far of the in-game model for Hoopa's alternate form.

Any conversation on the subject of using Hoopa is of course entirely theoretical at this stage, since Game Freak hasn’t yet admitted that she exists and we have no idea how that alternate form works.  However, we can certainly pick out several points from what we already know.  Ghost/Psychic, first of all, is something of an unfortunate type combination to be stuck with in the world of X and Y.  Ghost and Dark attacks are both far more popular now than in the past, in the wake of the elimination of Steel’s resistances to them, and Hoopa’s unique type combination saddles her with double-weaknesses to both.  Poor speed and defence – even by non-legendary standards – also make her a sitting duck for attacks like Pursuit, and her high attack stat isn’t much use to her, as her physical movepool is nearly nonexistent.  It’s not all bad, though – Hoopa enjoys fantastic special attack and special defence scores, and has a decent array of special attacks to choose from, including Shadow Ball, Psychic, Psyshock, Thunderbolt, Charge Beam, Energy Ball and Focus Blast, as well as the aforementioned signature move, Hyperspace Hole, which is weaker than Psychic but never misses, and ignores Protect and Detect.  Calm Mind is in her movepool, but seems inadvisable on Pokémon with poor physical defence and no efficient means of healing.  She gets Trick Room, but unfortunately isn’t that slow and can’t make the most effective use of it.  Overall, she seems to be a little on the weak side for a legendary Pokémon, partly because of an unhelpful stat distribution that emphasises a skill (attack) that she can’t really use very well anyway.  The alternate form only continues that trend, with most of her bonus points from the transformation going into attack, to further improve all those devastating physical attacks she has like Phantom Force, Return, Brick Break and… uh… Thief, and stuff.  The change to Psychic/Dark is, on the whole, probably a positive – losing Ghost-type immunities is painful, but they probably wouldn’t have been worth the hassle of those Ghost and Dark weaknesses anyway.  It also adds Dark Pulse to her movepool, although to be honest you’re probably just going to be using Hyperspace Fury for her Dark attack anyway; as far as I can tell the only other new thing in there of any consequence is Knock Off, which… well, it’s a physical attack, and Hoopa’s physical attack stat is going through the roof no matter what you do, so hey, may as well roll with it.  She’s certainly not going to be bad, though – I mean, her special attack goes up as well, and at that point she’ll be tied for sixth-highest in the game, behind Mega Mewtwo Y, Attack-form Deoxys, Mega Rayquaza, Primal Kyogre, and Mega Alakazam, so… yeah.  She’s gonna be nuking stuff.

Hoopa’s no mysterious primal guardian or embodiment of an eternal force – she’s legendary because she built herself a legend, a legend of increasingly daring and ridiculous thefts that spans entire centuries and has never been pinned down to fact or fiction, and that legend isn’t over yet.  For once, I’m actually kind of intrigued to see what will happen when Hoopa inevitably stars in one of those godawful movies.  Will she be a hero, or a villain?  It’s going to be a lot of fun finding out.

Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist


So, this may come as a bit of a shock to the Americans in the audience, but Halloween is not really a big deal in New Zealand, and certainly not for young adults; it’s normally just primary school children who get in on it.  We also don’t really do jack’o’lanterns, maybe because the whole principle of a jack’o’lantern is based on the fact that pumpkins are in season in autumn and for us October is in spring (then again, we use all the traditional winter imagery for our summer Christmases, so meh).  We actually don’t normally use the right sort of pumpkins anyway – ours have thin, grey skin – so, in my formative experiences, the orange ones that you use to make jack’o’lanterns are, like, the cartoon version of what a pumpkin looks like.  Of course, now that I actually live in America I just have to deal with it, along with everything else about this silly backwards little country, but it’s okay because seeing great big stacks of these bright orange things piled up all over supermarkets in October is absolutely hilarious to me and none of my friends here understand why.

Yes, this is NECESSARY BACKGROUND to understanding Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist.

 See, when you say 'pumpkin' I think of this.

Even to me, the cultural link between pumpkins and ghosts or spirits, via Halloween and the jack’o’lantern, is obvious enough.  Halloween is basically the Christian holy day All Hallows’ Eve – the last night on earth for the souls of all the people who died during the previous year, who might seize this last chance to cause havoc in the mortal world.  Traditionally, All Hallows’ Eve is a time to pray for these wandering souls, and to be especially wary of supernatural disturbances.  Like a lot of Christian festivals, elements of the tradition are also built on older pagan festivals at the same time of the year – in particular, the Gaelic harvest festival Samhain (which is not pronounced “Samhain,” because it is Gaelic), another time when spirits and fey supposedly had greater freedom to act in this world.  Exactly where jack’o’lanterns come from, whether they have anything to do with Samhain, and how they became part of the Christian tradition is not entirely clear because there are so many different explanations floating around.  The term “jack’o’lantern” was once another name for the will-o’-the-wisp, the mysterious floating lights seen by travellers in swampy areas and given a wide variety of mythological interpretations all around the world.  They’re commonly thought to be ghosts or spirits, and are often credited with leading travellers astray; probably the most likely scientific explanation for the phenomenon is the spontaneous combustion (or possibly phosphorescence) of gasses given off by decaying organic matter.  Hard to say how this eventually translated into the hollowed pumpkins you see at Halloween, though they’re probably something to do with warding off those marauding spirits – or else with leading the way for souls leaving the world on All Hallows’ Eve.  The Halloween jack’o’lantern has its own neat little origin story as well, which describes a character called ‘Stingy Jack.’  In life, Jack was a drunken blacksmith whose debauched lifestyle attracted the attention of the Devil himself, who came to claim Jack’s soul.  Jack was able to trick the Devil somehow (accounts vary, some kind of bet may have been involved), using a crucifix to trap him, and made a deal to release him in exchange for being spared condemnation to Hell.  Unfortunately, Jack’s plethora of sins ensured that he would never be allowed into Heaven either, and so his spirit was doomed to wander the mortal world for eternity, warmed only by a piece of the fires of Hell thrown at him by the Devil, which he keeps in a hollowed out turnip or pumpkin to make sure it doesn’t go out.

So how does all that relate to Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist?  Well, surprisingly closely, as it happens.  Much like Stingy Jack, Pumpkaboo is said to be a lost soul unable to leave the mortal world – and, although she can’t find her own way, she can lead other spirits to where they belong, like the prayers of worshippers on All Hallows’ Eve and some interpretations of the jack’o’lantern.  Their restless wandering on dark nights also recalls the belief that Halloween marks a time of unusual supernatural activity – and, of course, the related modern activity of trick-or-treating.  Pumpkaboo has little vampire fangs and a sort of mantle that you could liken to either bat wings or a dark cloak, maybe alluding again to the concept of dressing up as something menacing (common enough in the animal kingdom, after a fashion).  Gourgeist mixes it up with the full carved jack’o’lantern face on her belly and… “hairlike arms” that sprout from her head?  I’m… not totally sure I get that one; maybe they’re supposed to look like flickering flames or something?  Apparently, though, Gourgeist wraps up her prey in these arms and “sings joyfully” as it suffers, presumably from some sort of life-draining attack like Pain Split, or just from the general ethereal chill of her spectral touch.  Either way… bit of a sadist, I guess.  Her song, we also know, curses anyone who hears it, so being sung a creepily happy song by the Gourgeist who’s sapping your life away is probably not going to make you feel any better (odd that she can’t learn Sing or Perish Song; those seem like they should have been no-brainers).  I’m not sure where the singing comes from, although Gourgeist’s French name, Banshitrouye, contains a reference to the banshee, the wailing death spirit of Irish folklore, so maybe she’s one of the influences in there (would also go some way towards explaining the long hair).  The final thing that deserves mentioning here is that Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist have a weird little gimmick.  Like real pumpkins, they come in many different sizes (this isn’t immediately obvious in the game, although the largest ones do have a much deeper cry)… and, again like real pumpkins, the biggest ones are huge.  Has anyone ever looked at the actual size measurements given for these things?  The small, average and large sizes for Gourgeist range from 9.5 to 14 kilograms – and then there’s the super size Gourgeist, who is more than twice as heavy at 39 kilograms and is almost as tall as I am (like most Pokémon, she’s ludicrously light for her size, but in Gourgeist’s case that might actually make sense since her body is probably hollow).  That’s a hell of a jack’o’lantern!  Suddenly I’m not sure I feel safe wandering around Kalos’ route 16 at night…



As long as we’re talking about sizes, I may as well take the opportunity to make a graceful transition into how Gourgeist works mechanically, because her size does impact that: smaller Gourgeist are much faster, but larger ones are tougher and stronger.  A super-sized Gourgeist has pretty solid-looking stats for a physical tank, while a small-sized one seems more support-oriented, with her reasonably good speed and passable defences; you can also pick one of the two intermediate sizes if you feel like striking a balance between those extremes.  Gourgeist unfortunately lacks the more powerful Grass-type physical moves like Wood Hammer and Power Whip, meaning that Seed Bomb is the way to go; she also doesn’t have a wide selection of coverage moves (…Rock Slide.  She has Rock Slide), and there are no strong Ghost-type physical attacks, so in general it’s just very difficult for her to leverage her decent-to-good attack stat.  Because her special attack is rubbish and she doesn’t get Shadow Claw, her choices for Ghost attacks are Shadow Sneak and Phantom Force.  Even super-Gourgeist doesn’t have the power to do a lot of damage with Shadow Sneak, particularly as you’re likely to be investing the most effort in her defences, although I suppose the priority is nice on such a slow Pokémon.  Phantom Force, as I mentioned last time with Trevenant, is really not a good move to be stuck with, but as we’ve already established, Gourgeist really has to scrape the barrel for physical attacks.  Besides, thanks to Ghost’s excellent neutral coverage, it’s arguably not as bad as being stuck with, say, Fly or… *shudder* Skull Bash, and you can use it to stall for time with Leech Seed and Will’o’Wisp.  I mean… you could also do that with Protect and not be locked into your next move… but whatevs.  Those moves – Leech Seed and Will’o’Wisp – are staples for pretty much any size of Gourgeist, in lieu of more concrete offensive options… which brings us to the rather unfortunate point that most of what Gourgeist can do is very similar to what Trevenant can do – good physical defences, Leech Seed and Will’o’Wisp are some of her main selling points, and her abilities aren’t as useful for that role as Trevenant’s, who can get more efficient healing than what Leech Seed and Pain Split can provide (although Gourgeist is admittedly much tougher, physically).  Insomnia for sleep immunity: woo.  Frisk to snoop on enemies’ item choices: useful information, but not a huge help to Gourgeist herself.  Pickup to recycle items used by other Pokémon: kinda useful in doubles with appropriate planning but otherwise just silly.  So, what does Gourgeist have that Trevenant doesn’t?

I gotta admit, these things are pretty creepy when they're lit up at night...


Light Screen for covering her weaker special defence is worth note, particularly in combination with the protection from physical attacks offered by Will’o’Wisp and her naturally tough body.  Trick is normally a dangerous choice for tankish or support-oriented Pokémon because Tricking yourself into bagging a Choice item will do you more harm than good and it’s more difficult for you to carry items that will screw up your opponent in the first place – however, I mention it anyway because Gourgeist’s best ability is probably Frisk and knowing in advance what your target’s item is makes Trick a bit more interesting, if nothing else.  Explosion kinda stopped being worth it when Black and White cut its damage in half, but it’s there, and the idea of blowing yourself up and taking the enemy with you does have a certain je ne sais quoi.  Because Gourgeist is a jack’o’lantern, she has access to a small number of Fire attacks; unfortunately, most of them are special ones, but Flame Charge might be worth consideration on one of the larger, more powerful sizes to compensate for her poor speed, if you’re going to defy all logic and try to build some kind of godawful physical sweeper Gourgeist for some reason.  Small Gourgeist is one of the faster Pokémon in the game with the ability to use Destiny Bond, a move which really only makes sense on a fast Pokémon – she’s no Mega Gengar, that’s for sure, but I guess Gourgeist might catch an enemy off guard with a bit of luck.  Finally, there’s her fun little signature move, Trick or Treat, which makes more sense than Trevenant’s Forest’s Curse because the type it adds to the target (Ghost) is one that Gourgeist can deal super-effective damage to (though not, it must be said, very well), but is probably still more useful for helping a doubles partner score an unexpected knockout than for anything Gourgeist herself can do with it.  Trick or Treat also does bizarre and painful things to physical tanks who like to use Curse, since Curse is just a radically different move when used by a Ghost Pokémon.  This is much too specific an application to be useful.  However, it is hilarious.

Maybe judging them in comparison to Phantump and Trevenant is uncharitable to Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist – they can’t help but seem like very light, silly designs alongside them, and despite Gourgeist actually having superior stats to Trevenant she has surprisingly little else to recommend her, with their shared Ghost/Grass type combination making the comparison all too obvious (if she had been set up as a special attacker, I think it might have worked much better… ah, well, c’est la vie).  The designs are pretty fun though, I guess, and Gourgeist’s creepy songs and grasping hands are disturbing in a very different way to the more obvious bowel-evacuating terror that is Trevenant.  I don’t know if I think they’re bad, they’re just… very obviously not as good as the other ones – an unfortunate position for a Pokémon to be in.

Phantump and Trevenant


Ghost/Grass – another of those never-before-seen combinations that always make me so excited.  What’s more, we get not one but two interpretations of it – Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist, whom we’ll probably be looking at next time, and today’s Pokémon, Phantump and Trevenant.  These two Pokémon go for ‘sinister,’ and boy, do they nail it (I… immediately regret using the expression ‘nail it’ to describe a vengeful Pokémon made of wood).  Ghost Pokémon get to play with some of the most evocative ideas in the book, balancing between life and death, on the edge of the great unknown – let’s see where Phantump and Trevenant can take that.

As far as I know, these Pokémon aren’t based on any specific folkloric creatures (though Trevenant’s body shape and English name do seem to reference the treants of modern fantasy), just on more general ideas, fears and superstitions about old, dark forests.  How many fairy tales centre around dark and dangerous creatures that lurk in the deepest part of the woods?  The theme is a particular fixture of northern and eastern European tradition – Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, Baba Yaga, to name a few – but is far from unique to that region.  Phantump aren’t really dangerous as far as we know, but their origins are pretty sinister and sound a lot like the bad ending we’re supposed to be scared of in some of those dark forest fairy tales.  Like Yamask, these Pokémon are explicitly believed to have once been human (raising all kinds of questions even more thorny than usual about the ethical position their trainers are in) – Phantump are said to be born from rotten tree stumps possessed by the spirits of children who died lost in the forest.  In fact, Phantump’s spiritual form, a thin black wisp, does look a lot like poor, haunted Yamask, as well as giving it a somewhat childlike appearance, helped by those wide, staring eyes.  As with all Ghost Pokémon, it may be worth questioning how seriously we’re supposed to take the ideas in the Pokédex – which is not above reporting myth and folklore as fact – but whichever way you slice it, Phantump is pretty creepy.  I see it quoted everywhere that Phantump can imitate the sound of a child’s voice, although I can’t figure out where that information is supposed to come from (no, internet, “[Source: Bulbapedia]” is not helpful); it’s not in the Pokédex, and Phantump hasn’t appeared in the anime yet.  It certainly sounds plausible, though, and it would explain how, rightly or wrongly, people came to believe that they were the spirits of lost children – if a mysterious creature with spiritual powers lives in the forest where your kid got lost and never came home, and sounds exactly like him or her, a grieving parent isn’t going to have a lot of time for scepticism.  The more worrying question is why Phantump have this ability.  Are they really just lost souls calling out for help, are they malicious spirits luring others to their deaths in the dark heart of the forest, or are they just pranksters looking to have a little fun?  None of these options, on the surface, strikes me as particularly implausible.

 There is one tree in this picture.

When they mature, Trevenant take on the role of protectors and avengers of the forest, and fill that role with a much more frightening tone than Phantump.  Where Phantump is maybe a little cute if you look at it in a certain light – or at the very worst, pitiable – Trevenant is like something out of a nightmare; crawling spider-legs, long, grasping claws, a single glaring red eye, and darkness obscuring the inside of its rotting wooden body.  They can curse people who harm the forest and cause them to become trapped there forever… which, as a reader pointed out to me a while ago, could potentially mesh with Phantump’s origins in a slightly horrifying way: this is how they reproduce.  Phantump are the spiritual remains of children who did something to attract the ire of powerful Trevenant.  Well, okay, they are a gendered species, so we know they can also produce eggs, but there’s no reason both couldn’t be possible, and this way is much cooler; besides, it’s not like anyone has ever claimed that the basic concept of Pokémon breeding makes a whole lot of sense.  If it’s true, it lends a lot of weight to a more malicious interpretation of Phantump.  There’s a lighter side to these Pokémon, though.  Trevenant also possess the ability to control the trees in its forest by connecting to them with its roots.  At a glance, this is just a really cool power that explains how it can trap people in the forest; by controlling trees, it can rearrange and obscure pathways at will, weaving branches together to block safe routes while creating appealing trails that just lead you spiralling into a thicket.  Perhaps even cooler though, it also sounds like it could be a reference to colony-trees like Pando in southern Utah – things that look like huge forests made up of hundreds or thousands of trees, but are actually single organisms, genetically identical and connected by enormous interlinked root systems.  These colonies are among the largest and oldest living things on the planet, and a potent symbol of the interconnectedness of all life.  Like Torterra, Trevenant is also said to provide homes to smaller Pokémon that live in its leaves, branches and hollows, and is supposedly very kind to them despite its fearsome exterior.  Trevenant are deadly when called upon to protect their homes, but as always in Pokémon, we shouldn’t necessarily take their actions towards humans as the whole picture.  Powerful Grass Pokémon are often portrayed as mediators of the balance of nature, and even rot is just another form of life.


On the face of it, Trevenant looks like it should be a fairly lacklustre Pokémon to use, because it seems to be basically a slow, fairly tough physical attacker.  Its Ghost/Grass typing comes with some nasty common weaknesses, but useful resistances and immunities too (including the new Grass-type immunities to things like Sleep Powder), so it’s not terrible.  The problem with being a Ghost-type is that physical Ghost attacks remain few and relatively poor – their new attack, Phantom Force, which is effectively a powered-down version of Giratina’s Shadow Force, has decent power behind it and is perfectly fine for fighting AI opponents, but because it takes two turns to use (even if you are invulnerable on the first turn), it means giving a human opponent a turn when they know exactly what you are going to do, without question, and that is rarely a good idea in this game.  Unfortunately, the next alternative, Shadow Claw, is almost unacceptably weak; pick your poison.  Wood Hammer, its strongest Grass attack, is much more powerful, but on the other hand it’s, y’know, a Grass attack.  Trevenant’s physical coverage options aren’t great either – Earthquake is always nice to have, but beyond that… well, Rock Slide is relatively weak, X-Scissor has quite a bit of redundancy with Grass attacks, and Poison Jab is Poison Jab.  It’s not really good at being a physical attacker – Grass-types usually aren’t.  This brings us to Trevenant’s real niche, though: again like many Grass-types, it can actually put together very nice support-oriented sets.  Will’o’Wisp makes Trevenant much more difficult and dangerous for physical attackers to take down by threatening to burn and cripple them.  Leech Seed is a Grass-type staple that needs no introduction.  Horn Leech isn’t a powerful attack, but it adds nicely to Trevenant’s survivability.  Reflect is an option, though Will’o’Wisp will usually be a better choice for dampening physical attackers since you don’t have to keep setting it up again and again.  Trevenant is also capable of using Trick Room, which is unusual enough to be worth consideration, and benefits from it quite a bit too since it’s quite slow.  It’s not an incredibly tough Pokémon, though Will’o’Wisp helps a lot and allows you to focus on its special defence.  Its poor speed is also detrimental.  It’s not an amazing Pokémon, but it’s certainly not bad either, if you stick to what it’s good at.

The real draw to Trevenant is that it has two fairly rare and rather lovely defensive abilities, both of which can make it a lot harder to kill.  Natural Cure heals a Pokémon’s status problems when it switches out, which is just generally useful since it means you don’t care about Will’o’Wisp, Thunder Wave, Toxic and the like, and also adds Rest to Trevenant’s list of usable healing options.  The other one is Harvest, which is Trevenant’s hidden ability and worth mentioning mainly because so few Pokémon get it – it’s shared only by Tropius and Exeggutor.  What it does is give Trevenant a 50% chance every turn (100% under Sunny Day) to regenerate a berry that it has previously used during the battle – the most obvious applications are self-replacing Sitrus Berries for extra healing or self-replacing Lum Berries for instant Rests and status recovery.  There are probably weirder options out there to explore, involving things like resistance berries and stat boost berries, but for the most part you probably want to go with something that increases your survivability, since Trevenant is giving up Natural Cure for this.  The fact that Knock Off got a huge damage buff in Generation VI (with an extra bonus for hitting an item!), and is also strong against Ghost-types like Trevenant, also makes Harvest a little more iffy since you can swat Trevenant’s berry and deal horrible damage in one move, but it’s still not like everything uses that.  Phantump and Trevenant, like many of X and Y’s Pokémon, also come with one more thing worth talking about: a nifty little signature move called Forest’s Curse.  Like Pumpkaboo and Gourgeist’s signature move, Trick or Treat, this thing works by adding an extra type to its target, namely Grass, until that Pokémon switches out.  The target keeps its original type, and in fact will be treated as having three types at once if it was a dual-type already.  Unfortunately, while it’s fairly easy to see how Trick or Treat can be useful – Ghost-types are weak to Ghost attacks, which of course Gourgeist uses – the only things Trevenant has that can take advantage of giving a Pokémon Grass-type traits are X-Scissor and Poison Jab.  Turning something into a Grass-type also confers Leech Seed immunity (it won’t remove an existing seed, though).  This is another one of those moves that has its greatest potential in doubles, where you can easily set up a partner to take advantage of its effects; in a single battle I’d stay away from it.

I love these two.  They hit all the right notes and are some of the creepiest Pokémon we’ve seen yet, with stunningly eerie design, chilling backstory, and potential for a complex portrayal with strong positive and negative aspects.  Their battling abilities are kind of niche, but they have an interesting combination of skills, and I’m curious to see whether anyone’s been able to make anything clever out of Forest’s Curse.  All in all, they’re definitely among my favourites from X and Y (and no, I’m not just saying that because they’re Grass-types.  Well… okay, maybe a little bit).