Leo M. R. [Patreon cultist] asks:

You know how you can’t freeze a Pokémon during intense sunlight? What if we did the reverse and have it so that you can’t burn a Pokémon when it’s hailing (which I think makes quite a bit of sense); do you reckon that’ll make hail a more competitively-viable weather condition, considering many Pokémon rely on either burning others or being burned themselves? Happy holidays, btdubs!

Hmm.  I like it as a subtle buff to hail. I am wary because Sun and Moon already nerfed burn significantly by reducing its damage from 1/8 per turn to 1/16, to balance it with poison (which does 1/8 per turn but doesn’t reduce the victim’s stats), but hail is probably still niche enough that this is fine.  More importantly to me, it feels weird for hail to have this effect without rain also getting it, since it’s usually rain that weakens Fire attacks and thematically it makes just as much sense (if not more) for rain to soothe burns.  I think the issues with hail hint at a broader problem of the Ice type struggling to find an identity distinct from Water, which kinda goes back to generation I.  In a way, it’s actually of a piece with my old complaint that “Grass-types Don’t Get Nice Things” – the type’s identity has always been defined in such a rigid way that flavour considerations rule out a lot of good mechanical possibilities for rebalancing it, particularly in the case of buffing the hail weather condition.

Also, happy thing and stuff to you too, and to everyone else reading!

Ty asks:

Can you share your thoughts on Ice-Types and how they work a little? I’ve always had a pet peeve with the way the games treat Ice’s strengths and weaknesses as if the Pokemon themselves are all actually just made of ice, when that doesn’t seem to be true. All Ice-Types also seem completely fine and safe in warm weather, which shouldn’t make sense if heat and fire actually harm them. The way their moves and abilities work also seem to imply that Ice-Types are capable of removing extremely large amounts of heat from the environment, but that heat has to go somewhere right? Wouldn’t it make the most sense for Ice-Types to be absorbing heat in order to make everything else cold? If so, wouldn’t Ice-Types be extremely threatening to Fire-Types?

Continue reading “Ty asks:”

Crabrawler and Crabominable

Crabrawler.
Crabrawler

Today I would like to talk to you about crabs: specifically, Crabrawler and the delightfully named Crabominable (seriously, can we just take a minute to appreciate the wonderful tumbling rhythm of that name?).  In the process of writing this piece, I have learned (because learning obscure and not particularly useful zoological trivia is just part of what I do here) that evolution just really likes crabs for some reason, and consequently keeps trying to turn other random animals into crabs with mixed results, a process known as carcinisation.  Crabs have apparently evolved at least five separate times, from a variety of starting points (giving rise, surprisingly, to only two Pokémon before now: Kingler and Crustle, Crawdaunt being a lobster).  On the basis of this vague half-substantiated piece of pseudo-knowledge, I have decided that crabs are the ultimate form of life, to which all other species aspire.  Of course, Crabrawler and Crabominable have the advantage of already being there – so let’s see what the apex of all biological life has to offer the Alola region. Continue reading “Crabrawler and Crabominable”

vikingboybilly asks:

I think the problem with hail is that it gives benefits ONLY to ice types, whereas the other weathers splash around benefits to electric, grass, ground and steel types. Any ideas to give other types advantages in hail?

It doesn’t even benefit Ice-types, really, so much as not disadvantage them… that is, unless they have Blizzard, Ice Body or Snow Cloak.  I sort of think it would make sense to add something analogous to Sandstorm’s bonus for Rock-types and say that Hail gives Ice-types +50% physical defence.  It’s hard to think of anything that makes thematic sense with Hail as a benefit for types other than Ice, though, which is probably why Game Freak has never done it.  You might be able to come up with something that makes sense for Water-types, I suppose, but they already have bonuses from rain, so screw them.  You could, however, make the penalties more severe for some types in particular – defence penalties for Rock and Steel, for instance, on the grounds that rapid cooling makes materials more brittle, which would add more to Hail’s ability to wear opponents down.  Or perhaps Hail could do more damage to Pokémon that are weak to Ice attacks, which gives a bit more variance to how teams with different compositions are affected by it.  At the moment the only real way to build a Hail team is to put several Ice-types on it, but if there are some Pokémon who are weakened significantly more than most by Hail, there will be others who are in a position to take advantage of that.

Amaura and Aurorus

Amaura.
Amaura

DINOSAURS

YES

I think everyone has a dinosaur phase, right?  Mine was… longer and more educationally rigorous than most, put it that way (my parents claim to this day that my first words as a baby were not the traditional ‘mama’ and ‘papa’ but the often tongue-twisting names of dinosaur species).  There actually aren’t all that many Pokémon who seem to be based primarily on dinosaurs, funnily enough, although several of the big superstar ones are represented: we have ceratopids (Shieldon and Bastiodon), pachycephalosaurs (Cranidos and Rampardos), sauropods (Bayleef and Meganium, Tropius), and of course the famous birdlike theropod Archaeopteryx (Archen and Archeops).  There are also a bunch of Pokémon that are probably influenced by dinosaurs, like Tyranitar, who seems to be a tyrannosaur via Godzilla, Charmeleon, who has shades of a small theropod, Torterra, who owes as much to ankylosaurs as to tortoises, and Bulbasaur, who… well, to be honest I don’t think even Game Freak really know exactly what Bulbasaur is but the –saur suffix definitely strikes a particular note.  X and Y give us two more fossils: the brutal tyrannosaurs Tyrunt and Tyrantrum, and these two loveable goofs.  I probably wouldn’t have chosen another sauropod, myself – I kind of want to see a hadrosaur – but I’m not about to complain about more dinosaurs, so here we go.

Continue reading “Amaura and Aurorus”

Glaceon

Official art of Glaceon, by Ken Sugimori; all glory to Nintendo.So, if you read my entry on Leafeon all the way to the end, you may have gleaned that I don’t particularly think much of Glaceon either.  It’s nothing personal.  I actually have a certain affection for Glaceon; she’s pretty cute, as Ice-types go, and she’s not exactly a terrible Pokémon either.  On sober reflection, though, I think she’s rather bland, and, much like Leafeon, struggles to develop an aesthetic or competitive niche within her large family.

With an elegant, lithe exterior concealing incredible powers over ice and snow, Glaceon is certainly an adorable yet dangerous Pokémon… but there’s not really a lot to her.  She has a sort of diamond motif that I guess creates a pleasing allusion to snow crystals, and she’s… blue.  Which is good, because ice is sometimes blue.  As an Ice Pokémon, she is capable of causing her body temperature to plummet, draining heat from the air around her to create chilling gales.  This also freezes her fur into needle-like spines, which she can fire at her ene-

Wait.  Go go gadget Pokédex.

“It lowers its body heat to freeze its fur.  The hairs then become like needles it can fire.”

Game Freak, are you seriously telling me you got so lazy that you stole Jolteon’s flavour text?

 Glaceon trecking through a snowstorm, by Viperidaemon (http://viperidaemon.deviantart.com/).

Yes, that is exactly what they are telling me.  What’s more, because it worked so well for Jolteon, they chose to represent this power in game with a silly little move that no-one will ever use (I don’t care how badly you need a priority attack) because Glaceon’s physical attack stat is appalling – Ice Shard.  Unlike Jolteon, Glaceon doesn’t really look like she has any business using an attack like this, probably because it’s something that was pasted on at the last minute and not an actual part of the design.  I’m sorry, but if this doesn’t say “we ran out of ideas” then I don’t know what does.  Glaceon’s elegant and beautiful like Vaporeon, sure, but Vaporeon is a creative hybrid of terrestrial and aquatic features, whereas Glaceon is just a nice shade of cyan.  She has magical freezing abilities, but so do most other Ice Pokémon.  I don’t think I would be upset with this design if I thought there were an evolution on the way; it feels incomplete, as though it’s waiting for elaboration, and detail… but no; Glaceon is the evolution.  I find myself without any reason to care about her.

As with Leafeon, Glaceon’s method of evolution makes it obvious what kind of environment she’s meant for (if her icy powers weren’t already enough of a clue) – set off by the Ice Rocks found near Snowpoint City in Sinnoh and beneath Twist Mountain in Unova, Glaceon is a cold-adapted Eevee, at home in alpine and boreal forest terrain.  It’s strange that she doesn’t seem to have any of the features normally associated with cold-adapted species, like large size (to reduce your surface area to volume ratio) and thick fur (for insulation), but I suppose many of the normal rules for living in cold climates go out the window anyway for Glaceon and for several other Ice Pokémon, who are actually colder than their surrounding environments.  Glaceon fights by chilling the air around her, so for her a high surface area, and hence small size, makes sense to maximise her ability to drain heat from the atmosphere.  Glaceon and Leafeon are the first Eeveelutions to really embrace the idea that Eevee’s unusual properties are a result of her adaptability, which is great, because it’s a fun idea that gives Eevee and her weird split evolution a great deal of significance and some interesting implications.  However, they also neglect to do much of anything with the idea.  Forest Eevee is a Grass-type, alpine Eevee is an Ice-type; they take on the characteristics of the environment that they live in… but this leads to Leafeon competing with tall trees for light to photosynthesise, and Glaceon using cold attacks to defend herself from other cold-adapted species.  This is a slight problem that hides beneath a lot of Pokémon, but we tend to ignore it because there’s a certain intuitive rightness about it.  When you set up a species as ‘the adapter,’ though, it draws attention to the fact that it doesn’t actually make a lot of ecological sense for Pokémon to adapt in this way and develop these powers… more on that next time, though.

 Glaceon playing with a snowflake, by Lovelyfantasy (http://lovelyfantasy.deviantart.com/).

As far as battles go, Glaceon has one big, important selling point: she commands the most powerful Ice attack in the game (barring legendary Pokémon), a devastating Blizzard which, backed up with Hail to boost its accuracy, will level just about anything that doesn’t resist it.  Realistically, Ice Beam is a lot more reliable, and will still hammer the opposition pretty severely.  This, sadly, is where the good news ends.  Ice is a great offensive type, hitting four other elements for super-effective damage, including Dragon.  However, it is also hands-down the worst defensive type in the game, sporting only a single resistance (to itself).  This would not be such a problem if Glaceon were set up as a sweeper, but she isn’t – she’s actually quite slow.  Her greatest assets, after her monstrous special attack, are her defence and special defence, which, in combination with her poor HP, are good but not amazing (to be fair, she can boost her physical defence with Barrier and retaliate against special attacks with Mirror Coat, but that takes time and moveslots).  Glaceon will face a lot of hits from faster Pokémon as she attempts to freeze-dry her way to glory, and although she’s pretty bulky for an attacker, the lack of resistances makes it very difficult for her to handle repeated assaults.  It also reduces her suitability for using all the neat little support moves that her family has access to, like Wish, Baton Pass, Heal Bell and Yawn.  The other major problem for Glaceon is that, like all her brothers and sisters before her, her offensive movepool is quite small.  After Ice Beam, she’s got Shadow Ball and Signal Beam, which are helpful but don’t have a lot of power and are from fairly weak elements – and the truly damning thing is that, if she wants to manage neutral damage against most Steel-types, she has to resort to the decidedly lacklustre Water Pulse (available from a 4th-generation TM).  Basically, she has the wrong stats and movepool for a sweeper, the wrong type for a tank, and no other viable choices.

As far as I can tell, Black and White didn’t do much for Glaceon… if anything.  The new move tutors in Black 2 and White 2 seem to have added Hyper Voice to her movepool, along with those of all the other Eevee evolutions; I haven’t mentioned it in any of their entries because Normal attacks are generally less than stellar choices, but Glaceon is so desperate for weapons that it might be worth a shot.  Frost Breath, a weak Ice attack that always scores critical hits, is amusing against anything that favours Calm Mind or Amnesia but substantially weaker than Ice Beam otherwise.  Her abilities aren’t much help either; both improve her staying power in Hail, but weather strategies can be tricky to pull off at the best of times, Hail is easily the hardest to build a team around, and as we’ve already seen Glaceon has problems trying to act as a tank anyway.  Snow Cloak grants a helpful but unreliable 20% evasion chance (potentially good for use with Double Team, but Double Team is often frowned upon for its emphasis on luck); you’re probably better off with Ice Body, which lets Glaceon slowly regenerate in Hail, but that does invite rather unfortunate comparisons to Walrein, who does the same thing about a million times better.

 Cottondragon's (http://cottondragon.deviantart.com/) Glaceon against a sparkling night sky.

The really sad thing is that Glaceon isn’t even the only member of her family with powerful Ice attacks, because the rule that Water-types can use Ice moves seems to override the rule that Eevee’s evolutions aren’t allowed diverse offensive movepools.  Vaporeon’s Ice Beam is a lot weaker than Glaceon’s, naturally, but it’s also not the only thing she’s good at.   That, for me, sums up Glaceon’s problems; she simply doesn’t do anything special.  The designers seem to have decided that they needed a seventh evolved form for Eevee, but neglected to develop any sort of conceptual basis for what they were creating.  The end result is “Eevee, only blue and chilly,” which is a real pity because Ice is a fun type to work with and think about, and there’s nothing wrong with the idea of an Ice-type Eevee… it’s just not enough on its own.  Glaceon is just another of those Pokémon who needed a little more thought, never got it… and probably never will.

Kyurem

All right!  One hundred and fifty-five down, one to go!  I can do this!  Yeah!  Go me!  I’m awesome!  Now, let’s wrap this up, with Unova’s last remaining legendary Pokémon: the glacial Dragon-type Kyurem!

296c8-kyuremKyurem is a mysterious and powerful Dragon Pokémon who lives hidden in a crater known as the Giant Chasm, near Lacunosa Town in north-eastern Unova.  The people of Lacunosa Town don’t know what lives in the Chasm, but they regard it as a place of ill omen and are afraid to go near it.  The town is surrounded by a wall to keep out whatever lives there, and the people of the town normally stay inside their homes at night, since old legends warn of a monster that fell from the sky long ago and takes away people and Pokémon at night to eat them.  Their fear is understandable; Kyurem’s hard, almost skeletal visage is not a welcoming sight.  As far as I can make out, though, he just wants to lurk in his dark cave at the back of his meteor crater and be left alone.  The information we have on Kyurem from the Pokédex seems to suggest that he’s unwell – maybe sick, injured, or just plain old – and can’t control his own ice powers properly anymore.  His own body has long since been frozen by his own chilling aura, leaving him a shadow of his former self.  So, what was his former self like?  The air is thick with speculation.  Continue reading “Kyurem”

Cryogonal

0636a-cryogonalIce is one of the more underrepresented elements in Pokémon: the original games had only five Ice-types (Articuno, Jynx, Dewgong, Lapras and Cloyster), single-typed Ice Pokémon didn’t exist until Snorunt, Glalie and Regice in Ruby and Sapphire, and even now, with more than six hundred Pokémon in the game, fewer than thirty of them are Ice-types.  Black and White have made two valiant efforts already to expand the number of pure Ice-types but have failed to impress me, producing Beartic and Vanilluxe.  Well, third time’s the charm, so they say, so let’s have a look at Cryogonal, the crystallising Pokémon. Continue reading “Cryogonal”

Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe

Today’s Pokémon is…

…look, Game Freak, I can’t do this.  It’s food; you can’t make me review a food Pokémon.  From here it’s a hop, skip and a jump to “oh my god, Soylent Green is PIKACHU; what have you done!?”  Don’t you have another Pokémon I could look at today?  Like, a better one?

…no, Klingklang does not count.

Fine.  Have it your way.

3ccc0-vanilliteToday’s Pokémon is Vanillite, the… the vanilla ice cream Pokémon.  No, for the last time, I am not making this up.  It’s not actually made of vanilla ice cream, of course, which would be too far even for Game Freak.  You’d have kids slurping up their Pokémon left, right and centre chasing after sugar highs and before you knew it the poor things would be extinct in the wild and bred as a new form of livestock on special farms.  In fact, other than being Ice-types, I’m not sure that any aspects of Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe’s behaviour or powers have anything to do with the ice cream thing.  Their schtick is that they create snowstorms.  Continue reading “Vanillite, Vanillish and Vanilluxe”