The Biggest Loser: A Battler's Perspective
It’s the end of another generation, and the time leading up to the next set of games is a time where every player reflects on his or her experience with the previous ones. Diamond and Pearl were significant in that whether attacks were physical or special were no longer governed by type. Platinum and HG/SS expanded the movepools of many Pokémon and many previously underrepresented types finally got their time in the spotlight. But what Pokémon have been left in the dust? Which ones have been unable to adjust to all the changes? Who is the Biggest Loser, and what does it say about the metagame? In this article, I will attempt to pick out the top 5 Pokémon, both old and new, most deserving of the title “The Biggest Loser”. For the old, the question is who was most adversely affected by the generation gap; for the new, the question is which have been unable to keep up with the constantly shifting metagame. And unlike the reality show, being called that isn’t a good thing.
1. Alakazam: Of any other Pokémon, there is no sadder case than Alakazam’s. Besides having to contend with physical Pursuit, Sucker Punch, and the wider distribution of physical priority moves like Extremespeed, its elemental punches are now physical, forcing it to rely on Hidden Power for coverage. Platinum and HG/SS have introduced more Pokemon capable of learning Trick and Encore, robbing Zam of some of its more unique niches (though it remains the fastest user of Encore in the game). Oh, and it failed to get Vacuum Wave or Aura Sphere, instead relying on the 70% accurate Focus Blast, which makes it otherwise walled by many popular Dark types (unless you want to use the weaker Signal Beam), not to mention Tyranitar gaining a 50% Special Defense boost in the sand. And for the final nail in the coffin, Azelf outclasses it in nearly every way. Sure, it retains good usage in UU, but Alakazam’s golden age has long been over.
2. Everything weak to Rock: Stealth Rock is undoubtedly the most important move in 4th generation competitive play. As a result, everything weak to Rock has been adversely affected with no exceptions. It can be anywhere from a check to Salamence and Gyarados, despite both receiving otherwise incredible gains this generation, or the deal breaker for Pokemon like Articuno and Regice. At one point, a number of people even called for the unbanning of Ho-oh. Granted, Stealth Rock isn’t the sole reason certain Pokémon aren’t used, but there is no doubt that starting with a minimum of 75% health before getting to do anything is crippling to say the least.
3. Sceptile: The fastest starter lost not only its signature move to the physical side, but was then cheated by it being more widely distributed to Pokemon who could use it better. More than anything else though, Venusaur’s gains this generation has supplanted it as the best Grass type starter in competitive play. About the only thing Sceptile can indisputably do better is spam a blistering fast Choice Specs Leaf Storm, which is...walled by Venusaur, not to mention easy to outpredict. In standard play, Celebi outclasses Sceptile in every way, with new toys like Nasty Plot, Earth Power, and tons of support moves. In short, while enjoying good usage in UU, Sceptile has not acclimated to this generation well and lost the versatility that made it a fast, deadly killer in ADV.
4. Heracross: Poor Heracross; it had everything going for it when this generation started out, gaining Close Combat in addition to monstrous Megahorn, Choice Scarf to rectify its dismal speed, and a few other minor movepool additions. Besides the whole “ONG GLISCOR IS COUNTER” craze, Heracross is easier to switch in to than other commonly used Fighting types, lacking the coverage or annoying perks that make Lucario, Machamp, Breloom, and even Gallade so widely feared. It doesn’t even get U-turn, which it could potentially abuse much better than Scizor can. While Heracross can take advantage of Guts quite well, it’s simply harder to use and harder to fit in on a team. In short, there is little space for Heracross in this brave, new metagame.
5. Walls: In general, Pokémon with the specific purpose of taking hits from either side of the spectrum have been on the decline, owing to choice items, Life Orb, easier access to boosting moves and better STAB, the physical/special split, the increase of mixed attackers...I could go on and on. Passive damage like Sandstorm and Stealth Rock doesn’t help matters. Pokémon are simply taking too much damage to consider pure walling an option anymore, and had to reinvent themselves for some other purpose, usually support. Chief among these are the former SkarmBliss combo (Skarmory barely qualifies as a wall of any kind anymore), Weezing, and Donphan and even some newcomers like Gliscor, Cresselia, and Hippowdon. All in all, there is much more offensive play this generation compared to previous ones.
Honorable mention: Fragile Medicham always took a lot of skill to use, but was shafted by failing to get Close Combat. It gained the elemental punches, though. Deoxys-A is even more fragile and easier to deal with in ubers though it remains a deadly force. Dugtrio also took a lot of skill to use but its main flaw was its lack of power which was always a problem. All were adversely affected by an increase in priority moves.
Note that there is a difference between a “Biggest Loser” and an overhyped pre-D/P Pokémon that never amounted to much. Therefore, only Pokémon that enjoyed significant popularity at one point are included.
1. Weavile: Unlike the other Pokémon overhyped in pre-D/P, Weavile took a bit of time to take a fall. At the beginning of D/P, it was one of the foremost of revenge killers with perfect dual STAB to carry out said task and blistering speed. Everyone considered one for their team because it was the “ultimate Dragon killer”. Rocks were a detriment, but not the deal breaker. What brought Weavile down was first and foremost a sparse movepool with pitiful STAB that barely outdamages Return (112.5 BP for STAB Ice Punch vs 102 BP for Return). There were plenty of better alternatives for revenge killing, especially when Platinum came out. Now, it had to contend with Choice Scarf Jirachi, Scizor, and others; Gengar and Starmie started to Scarf themselves more often so it was unable to outspeed them. While Weavile continues to have a revenging niche, it is relegated to the bottom of the OU tier.
2. Spiritomb: Spiritomb had some time in the spotlight early D/P, notably part of Obi’s legendary stall team and as the infamous Holy Grail of hackerdom, Wondertomb. The main selling point of Spiritomb was its typing, but resistances as well as lack of weaknesses are important and here Spiritomb faltered. Most people realized that Dark/Ghost isn’t all it’s cut up to be and the fact that it fell to repeated beatings to powerful STAB attacks. Its decline was gradual, but solidified by the Rotom formes’ ascension in Platinum and inferior defenses to Dusknoir when the Rotom formes are not available (such as on Wi-Fi). While Spiritomb enjoys high usage in UU, this is solely because the use of Mismagius and Alakazam are also high. Spiritomb’s glory days are over.
3. Bronzong: Bronzong was the top lead in early D/P but the rise of fast Taunt-using suicide leads have hurt it tremendously. Defensively, it was one of the better checks to the dreaded Garchomp, but then Garchomp was banned and people did not require it to check the next big dragon, Salamence. The story isn’t all bad, however, as its many support options have made it a popular choice for the official Nintendo video game championship (VGC) doubles teams, especially since Trick Room is extremely common. In singles where Trick Room has not had the same amount of popularity, Bronzong’s bell tolls little more.
4. Cresselia: People more or less expected Cresselia’s downfall and thus she is lower on the list. People damn well knew that Sandstorm cut into Moonlight’s effectiveness and that Pursuit further cut into her durability. She could take hits, but as a supporter faced stiff competition from Azelf, Jirachi, Celebi, and others. While Cresselia has had what is probably the quickest ban in the history of the UU suspect test, her usage is very low otherwise. All in all, Cresselia is analogous to a retired, forgotten old woman in a nursing home.
5. Giratina (another forme): Rounding off this list is the second least popular uber, after Deoxys-D (third if you count regular Deoxys). Giratina is a rather interesting case, because it is one of the few Pokémon whose fall can be attributed to itself. Or, more accurately, its Origin forme that was introduced in Platinum. The original Giratina was once prized because of its gigantic HP and defenses which meant that it would be very difficult to kill, despite the fact that it is weak to Ice, Dragon and Dark like many other ubers. It was the sole counter to the feared “Extremekiller” Swords Dance Arceus whenever Arceus was allowed. Its popularity actually lasted until well after Platinum was released because the Origin forme seemed underwhelming when it was first released. This was until a few innovative players discovered that the Origin forme’s Levitate made it an asset because it was immune to the relatively common Spikes and the Griseous Orb was discovered to have more benefit than handicap. Not only did it boost the power of Origin Giratina’s fantastic STAB, but it also rendered it immune to Trick. As more people discovered the many perks of using Origin Giratina, the use of the other form gradually slipped. While it does have some merits with its better defenses, Origin Giratina is generally the better choice for an uber team.
Honorable mentions: The vast majority of the overhyped Pokémon from pre-D/P, like Rampardos and Electivire, never amounted to much, though a few like Mismagius enjoy high usage in the lower tiers. Hippowdon was an early D/P favorite but never significantly impacted the metagame.
Thanks for reading, and remember that as far as B/W go, anything can happen. Today’s star could be the next game’s Biggest Loser!