I'm hoping to critique Pokémon in terms of their suitability for competitive battling at random blog posts. I've made a rod for my own back by having a blog, and I don't want to feel compelled to post every week if i did a “Pokémon of the Week” series. So I thought that random entries into my misadventures of losing way more than I win in Battle Spot with Pokémon I like would perhaps be interesting, if not informative…
The other day I was at Impact Hub in Kings Cross to focus on some project work that had been nagging away at me for the past few months.. It was a welcome break from doing client work: to actually sit down with no distractions and work solidly on some ideas for 8 hours meant I made some decent headway into my projects. And that, when I next sit down to focus on these projects I'll have a point which to come back to.
As always I took my 3DS with me to play on the train (one of the benefits of a long commute is that I can get a seat and a solid 40 minutes of Pokémon.) However, come to find out that when I got on the train to get home, I couldn't find my 3DS in my bag. Despite keeping a cool exterior, inside I was sweating and panicking. I thought of the hundreds of hours of game play lost, and the hundreds of Pokémon lost. Oddly, the Pokémon I first thought of when I thought I'd lost my 3DS (turns out it was at the bottom of my bag) was Drapion. And why Drapion? I mean, I've never played through the game with Drapion, it's not one that particularly harks back to a nostalgic time like a few of the Gen 1 Pokémon. it's not even one that most people remember as being stand-out. It's just there, making up the numbers in Pokémon Diamond/Pearl.
It's not that odd come to think of it, because Drapion was the first Pokémon I trained up to maximize it's IV's and EV's. And why Drapion? I thought that Drapion was seriously overlooked. I mean, it's got so much going for it, why on earth had it never become a popular Pokémon to do battle with? I always felt that Drapion was a Pokémon who was good, and I wanted to train one up and build a team around Drapion to prove that it was overlooked. However, whilst Drapion is indeed a good Pokémon, it just falls short of being great. let's dig into Drapion a bit more and we'll figure out why this is the case.
This here is a link to veekun's data on Drapion.
Look, in real life most Pokémon would be seriously terrifying to encounter in the wild, and Drapion is no exception. It's over four feet tall, weighs 135lbs and is bright purple with claws, fangs and a prehensile tail, which given that it is based on a scorpion means that it's probably poisonous. Trust me when I say that if this thing came out of the grass my initial reaction would not be to catch it so much as run in the opposite direction as far and as fast as I could. Arachnids terrify me. Why doesn't Drapion have Intimidate as an ability???
On the other hand, this look is pretty awesome. It looks like it wants to fight, and in the day and age of ever more convoluted looking Pokémon, it's refreshing to see one that keeps it simple, stupid.
It's also used by Elite Four member Aaron, and I remember it being a serious PITA to get rid of.
Drapion has the very uncommon typing combination of Poison/Dark. I think it only shares this with the Skuntank evolutionary line and the Alolan forms of Grimer/Muk. This typing gives it a solitary weakness against Ground type. That's fantastic going. Whilst Ground typing has one of the most powerful and effective moves with 100% accuracy (Earthquake for those of you not ITK), and also is a common coverage move, it's just the nature of the game for Pokémon to have a weakness, and one weakness is by no means a negative.
Drapion benefits form having an awesome movepool. It can learn Aqua Tail, a base 90/100% accuracy move, which means that it has a decent chance of taking out Ground types, providing it's fast enough. It has access to Knock Off which, thanks to it's Power Boost in Gen 6, means it's a viable move. You add .5 thanks to STAB, and 5. again if the item the opponent is holding can be removed and you've got a powerful move (130). Factor in Rock Slide and Earthquake and you've got near-perfect coverage. Of course, Swords Dance could also be used to boost it's attack to very decent levels.
However, Drapion's abilities leave a little to be desired. Drapion has three abilities:
Battle Armor (prevents critical hits) Sniper (Critical Hits do 2.25* damage instead of 1.5*) Keen Eye (prevents accuracy being lowered)
OK, so none of these are bad per se, but they're hardly a boost to Drapion.
Battle Armor means that opponents have to rely less on luck when it comes to knocking out Drapion. I don't really know anyone who relies on luck to win battles. Plus Earthquake is legitimately going to 2HKO Drapion, critical hit or not. And as with Battle Armor, Sniper means that Drapion relies on luck to do mega damage. And whilst you could use Cross Poison and Night Slash with the Scope Lens to increase the chances of this happening (from form 1/16 to 1/4), it's still relying on luck. And Keen Eye is useful in Battle Spot I suppose, but in most 3 on 3 matches it's rare to see accuracy being lowered.
So it lacks a killer Ability to build upon it's typing and move pool.
Look, 500 base stat points is by no means lousy. Mega Beedrill has 5 less, but is an incredible glass cannon. And that is where Drapion ultimately fails: it's attack (90) defence (110) and speed (95) are all good, but it has nothing to build on. There's no one stand-out stat. It's just that there are better Pokémon to do the roles that Drapion could fill.
It could benefit from a Choice Scarf to boost it's speed, but then the attack is so middling it needs Swords Dance to boost it to decent levels, which is obviously impossible. So go for Choice Band, but it's still too darn slow to do enough damage. And there's better Life Orb users out there.
Of course, it's defensive stat is no slouch, so it would be good to see an item similar to Assault Vest but for the Defence stat be released.
But herein lies the problem with the defence stat: if you went Impish nature Nature and maxed out the IV/EV's then some Pokémon (not all mind) with Earthquake as a coverage move who do not benefit from STAB will rely on a 3HKO. But pretty much every Ground type or apex physical attacker (think Salamence Dragon Dance set) will still finish off Drapion easily.
Ultimately I'd love nothing more than to use Drapion regularly: it looks great, it has great moves and typing. But it's ability and stats prevent it form being areal top tier Pokémon. Which is a shame because I think it has the potential to be one, with just a change to it's ability (Moxie? Intimidate? Even Weak Armour over Battle Armour would make it more interesting ) and just adding 5 or even 10 base points to it's attack and speed would make it that much more appealing.