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When you're about to start a new adventure, a decision must be made between three different Pokémon. One Grass-type Pokémon, one Fire-type Pokémon, and one Water-type Pokémon. When players set off on their journey in the Kanto region, many chose Charmander as their faithful partner to someday wield the almighty Charizard, while others picked Bulbasaur and Squirtle for an easier playthrough. In the Johto region, many either preferred the cute, bite-happy Totodile or the fire spouting little rodent named Cyndaquil, mainly because of their awesome powers. That left Chikorita in the shadows, as it just wasn't as good. Both Hoenn and Sinnoh brought relatively balanced starters in Treecko, Torchic, and Mudkip, and Turtwig, Chimchar, and Piplup, respectively, each sporting great and unique abilities of their own. Then came the Unova starters and, to many, utter disappointment, as none stood out as massive team-ripping monsters. Many even decided to leave their Snivy, Tepig, or Oshawott behind, forever kept in a box in the PC.
This article, however, is not about the in-game history of these starter Pokémon. No, this article is here to try to settle the everlasting argument between players: which starter is actually the best? Which stands out as the most powerful and successful starter of all time? Many will say Charizard; some might argue for Swampert, as I've heard they like Mudkip. Hopefully, my good friend sandshrewz and I are going to settle this argument by comparing their effectiveness in competitive gaming throughout the years. First out are the green, aroma-wafting, colorful Pokémon known as the Grass-type starters: Venusaur, Meganium, Sceptile, Torterra, and Serperior.
Venusaur, the first-ever starter of all the Pokémon games, is often overlooked as many new Pokémon players tend to choose the Fire-type Charmander over it as it is known to evolve into the great Charizard. Introduced in RBY, Venusaur didn't manage to make a huge splash in the competitive metagame as Exeggutor—the most common Grass-type in RBY OU—outshone it in many ways, such as being a more reliable check to the common Rhydon and Golem. Venusaur does have access to the high critical hit Razor Leaf to get past Tobybro—which is Amnesia Slowbro for you new schoolers—and also Swords Dance. Venusaur was still UU in GSC; the introduction of Steel-types meant that it had even more coverage issues as its main attacks were Giga Drain / Razor Leaf and Body Slam. It does, however, have Sleep Powder, Leech Seed, and Synthesis to use for a defensive set. Swords Dance was a plausible option with a STAB move and Hidden Power Ground as well. Venusaur then rose only slightly into BL in ADV. It didn't gain much in ADV either and is still stuck with a movepool similar to the one it had in the previous generations, unable to grow and expand like the flower on its back. Venusaur had to settle with the daily chore of Pokémon Jump in Two Island and Lilycove City. With the same Leech Seed, Sleep Powder, and Synthesis, it continued to disable foes with its former two moves and heal up with the last. It can also opt for a slightly more offensive approach with Hidden Power Fire in place of Synthesis or use boosting options such as Curse and Swords Dance. Venusaur started gaining recognition in DPP UU as it could run several sets and became one of the most prominent threats in the tier. The introduction of Life Orb added extra punch to its moves and Leaf Storm gave it a strong STAB move to work with. In the nearly weatherless UU, Synthesis was a reliable recovery move. It had the option of going offensive with its higher Special Attack or a physical sweeper with Swords Dance, or go on the defensive with physically or specially defensive sets that are supported by the same moves that were repeated in this paragraph. Other less common options such as going mixed were possible for it to play with too. Venusaur has been a rather docile Pokémon much like how it would be in the Pokémon world; it wasn't a top tier threat in OU. However, that's all in the past and Venusaur can finally show off its flower in OU.
When BW came and introduced Dream World abilities, Venusaur finally planted its roots firmly into OU for the first time. It received Chlorophyll as its much-needed Dream World ability and the fact that Ninetales received Drought made Chlorophyll Venusaur usable. A boost to Growth also bolstered Venusaur's sweeping potential greatly, not to mention that Giga Drain also got a power buff that made it a reliable STAB move that negates some Life Orb damage. Venusaur is an annoying sun sweeper thanks to its access to Sleep Powder, threatening to put its checks and counters to sleep. While it suffers from some coverage problems, it can use an appropriate Hidden Power of choice to nail some checks; Hidden Power Ice is often used to deal with Dragon-types while Hidden Power Fire, which is boosted by sun, roasts Steel-types bar Heatran. Venusaur now finds itself as a staple for many sun teams. Although sun teams are relatively rare compared to rain and sandstorm teams, Venusaur does not face a lot of competition as a Chlorophyll sweeper on those teams. This secures Venusaur's spot for this role and gives it a comfortable place in OU. The future looks as bright as the sun for Venusaur, at least for the whole of BW.
Oh, Meganium, you are indeed the most overshadowed starter Pokémon of all time. Most players just went straight to the more powerful Cyndaquil or Totodile, as Chikorita was very mediocre offensively. On the competitive side, this carries over, sadly; Meganium is just so damn cute. In the dawn of Meganium's time in competitive battling, it found itself with a solid BL placement. It could perform two roles to moderate success: a support set and a bulky Swords Dance set. The support set looked much like it does today, utilizing Leech Seed and dual screens to support the team, while Meganium used Synthesis to heal itself. When it comes to the Swords Dance set, Meganium was rather unique. It didn't have any physical STAB moves, but had the natural bulk many other Swords Dance users lacked, making it easier for it to set up. As more Pokémon were introduced and mechanics were changed, Meganium went downhill from there on out. In ADV, Meganium fell down to a mediocre UU Pokémon, facing stiff competition from other Grass-types with slightly better moves. The Swords Dance set wasn't as good anymore, and Meganium only saw time as a supporter, setting up dual screens and using Leech Seed yet again. Things looked about the same in DP, but with rise of Pokémon such as Torterra, Meganium fell to the bottom: the NU tier. While Meganium's movepool grew slightly, and it was still quite unique when it comes to its stats, Meganium rarely saw use. The most common set was still the support and dual screens sets, with the addition of Aromatherapy to its arsenal, but the Swords Dance set saw a return as Meganium gained a physical STAB move in Seed Bomb. However, these small things didn't matter much, as Meganium was still overlooked in favor for the much better Venusaur.
In today's metagame, Meganium is rarely used, even in NU. With more new Pokémon than ever before, Meganium just doesn't get the time to shine. In the NU tier, there are plenty of other Grass-types that compete for a spot on the team, and they have traits that often overshadow Meganium. For example, Tangela sports much better defenses thanks to the newly introduced Eviolite, while it has Regenerator to restores 33% of its HP each time it switches out. This makes Tangela the best physically defensive Grass-type in NU. Amoonguss is similar to Tangela, but differentiates itself with Spore instead, as well as better Special Defense. Torterra also gives Meganium competition in NU, also boasting much greater physical defense, better offensive pressure through STAB Earthquake and a great Attack stat, as well as the great ability to set up Stealth Rock. The BW Grass starter Serperior also sees more use over Meganium. Although slightly less bulky than Meganium, Serperior boasts a ridiculous Speed stat for such a defensive Pokémon, as well as access to Taunt. This makes it slightly more effective as a dual screen supporter; the only option Meganium has that it lacks is Aromatherapy. The Swords Dance set has seen its days yet again, as more superior offensive Grass-types are available. Ludicolo, Exeggutor, Sawsbuck, Shiftry, and even Serperior are all better suited as offensive Grass-types. Meganium isn't the worst Grass-type in NU, but it is highly overshadowed by the others who possess some combination of better moves, stats, and abilities; this green, happy dinosaur just doesn't stand out.
Sceptile is the most unique of all the Grass starters. It's blazingly fast and hits hard with its good offensive stats (it actually has the highest Special Attack and Speed stat of all five), but it is also frail unlike the other four. Despite its frailty, Sceptile actually started out as one of the best stall Pokémon in ADV. The SubSeed combination came to being, and Sceptile was one of the most effective users of it, mainly because of its amazing Speed and great Special Attack; even answers such as Skarmory and Salamence were taken care of by a Hidden Power of the right type. In fact, Sceptile was the fastest user of the combination in ADV. But that's not all it did. Sceptile could also destroy its opponents with different kinds of offensive sets: an all-out attacker set, a Swords Dance set, and a SubPetaya set were all common sights. When DP came to being, Sceptile's frail structure couldn't keep up in the OU tier, cementing it in UU. In the UU tier, Sceptile was a great offensive threat, as new items and moves were introduced, such as Choice Specs, Life Orb, and Leaf Storm. Sceptile wasn't exactly fazed by the physical / special split, but its coveted Leaf Blade became a physical move; Energy Ball, although weaker, took its place instead though. Sceptile wasn't limited to offense only, either. While it lost its title as the fastest SubSeeder in the game to Shaymin-S, it was still the fastest in both the OU and UU environment, and performed the role equally well as in the past.
In present time, Sceptile took a tumble again. The many powerful threats introduced with BW made Sceptile too frail even for the UU environment, and it was sent to the RU tier. While still usable in the higher tiers, RU is the tier where it shines. Sceptile is regarded as a top tier Pokémon and is a huge threat to most teams. Just like in DP, Sceptile dons either Choice Specs or Life Orb as a special attacker, utilizing Leaf Storm, Hidden Power, Focus Blast, and the buffed Giga Drain, plowing through weakened and frail teams. Sceptile's Swords Dance set is equally devastating, as with the new tools Secptile gained in BW, Unburden and Acrobatics, Sceptile can hit the whole tier fast and hard. Sceptile's Speed is a huge factor to its great offensive potential, and it's only outsped by three major threats in the tier—Accelgor, Aerodactyl, and Swellow—and the rare Ninjask. Although the role as a SubSeed user usually goes to Whimsicott thanks to its Prankster ability, Sceptile is still a great user of this combination, and is still the second fastest not counting Prankster. All in all, Sceptile has always been solid at what it does and is definitely a top contender for that number one spot.
Torterra looks nothing like the cute Turtwig it used to be when it was introduced in DPP. Despite its fierce appearance, it's a rather calm and docile Pokémon. Perhaps this was why Torterra never managed to shine in OU, as it was neither ferocious nor strong enough to stand a chance against the OU Pokémon. Its unique typing only lends it two resistances and one immunity, lesser than the four glaring weaknesses it gets. Thus, Torterra found itself dwelling in the realms of DPP UU, often finding the tree that grows on its back overshadowed by Venusaur's huge flower. Torterra held its niche as being a Grass-type capable of setting up Stealth Rock or sweeping with Rock Polish thanks to its decent base 109 Attack and good physical bulk. It's also a Grass-type that could deal with Flying- and Steel-types thanks to Stone Edge and Earthquake. It also sports several defensive sets such as specially defensive, dual screens, and SubSeed. During its stay in DPP UU, it often got outshone by other Grass-types, such as the previously mentioned Venusaur, and Ground-types such as Steelix had better defensive typing and bulk.
Now in BW, it's stuck in the NU tier and still isn't a very prominent Pokémon. It essentially had the same tools that it started with in the previous generation, receiving not a single boost to it. While it isn't exactly bad like the notorious Metang, it faces great competition from other bulky Grass-types and also offensively. Leech Seed, Stealth Rock, and a strong Earthquake are all great for Torterra. Torterra is outclassed by Tangela and Amoonguss defensively, having only Stealth Rock and Roar as moves that set it apart from them. Both Tangela and Amoonguss have Regenerator while the former can even boost its bulk with Eviolite, which made it one of the best physical walls in NU before Regenerator Amoonguss was released. The annoying mushroom also has Spore while Tangela has access to Sleep Powder; Torterra loses the valuable ability to put foes to sleep and trades for Stealth Rock and Roar. Its strong Earthquake and Roar helps deter setup, however. Offensively, powerhouses such as Exeggutor and Victreebel are often chosen over Torterra without consideration due to their greater stats and ability to sweep under sun. Its base 109 Attack pales in comparison to their Choice Specs- or Growth-boosted attacks. Still, Torterra does well as a sweeper with Rock Polish, getting past bird offense—Braviary and Swellow. Ice Shard being non-existent in NU also means that it can shrug off most priority attacks used to revenge kill it thanks to its great Defense. It also works decently as a tank, setting up Stealth Rock consistently thanks to reliable recovery in Synthesis, something Golem and friends envy. However, being a Grass-type that's not resistant to Water-type moves is rather detrimental for Torterra, making it somewhat harder to check Water-types, and fear Ice Beam even more. The future of Torterra doesn't look too well; it's most likely going to remain in NU for the entire of BW. It's probably held back by its "old age" compared to youngsters that have their shiny new and useful Dream World ability.
The newest Grass-type starter, Serperior, had a humble beginning and started off in BW NU, which also happens to hold two other Grass-type starters. It has rather average stats all around, and only its Speed stands out at a weird base 113, which is rather fast. It has base 95 defenses and only base 75 offenses. Its acceptable defenses are backed by an average base 75 HP as well. Of all its stats, only its Speed is respectable. Although it's held back by middling stats, it has good boosting moves in Calm Mind and Coil to bolster its stats. Both setup moves make good use of Serperior's workable defenses, which makes it sometimes hard to take down after a few boosts. Its high Speed also allows it to boost before the opponent has a chance to launch attacks, therefore softening their blows, or use Substitute to block status moves such as Toxic. Its HP stat also benefits from the use of Leech Seed, allowing it to regain more percentage HP against foes such as Audino. The lack of Steel-types in NU also alleviates Serperior's coverage problem as it often only has two attacking moves. Serperior is definitely not a dedicated defensive Grass-type for checking threats, unlike Amoonguss. It uses its setup moves, which includes the aforementioned two moves and dual screens. It's not exactly a threatening Pokémon right off the bat, as it requires time to set up before it can start a sweep. Coil and Calm Mind are rather modest boosting options for a majestic Grass-type like itself, but that's to change in the future as everyone knows.
I'm sure everyone has asked when will its devastating Dream World ability, Contrary, be released. You can even speculate its impact on its home tier, NU, in this thread. Contrary is an amazing ability, and Serperior is the only good user of it (hi Spinda!), with blazing Speed and access to Leaf Storm to activate Contrary. Contrary Leaf Storm is practically a pseudo-Growth, doubling as a powerful move too. Despite its obvious coverage issues, a Hidden Power of choice and Dragon Pulse are all it needs after a single boost or two. One thing's for sure: it will wave (or slither?) NU goodbye once its Dream World ability is released, freeing itself from the imprisonment of NU. Its remarkable Speed and great boosting option will catapult Serperior to the upper tiers, probably straight past RU like Dugtrio did, and into either OU or UU. While Serperior will not be a perfect sweeper with Contrary boosts, it'll definitely become a threatening Pokémon that came out of the blue to look out for. Serperior will likely cause quite some hype when/if its Dream World ability gets released, perhaps surpassing the commotion created by Ditto and Amoonguss. Serperior has stayed NU for long enough, and hopefully Game Freak will recognize its majestic power waiting to be unleashed soon.
Now we've gone through the quiet Grass-type Pokémon—Venusaur, Meganium, Sceptile, Torterra, and Serperior—and seen what they go for. Now, who stands out as the most solid Grass-type starter of all time? It should be clear.
Meganium just doesn't cut through, being a pretty mediocre Pokémon due to its stats, typing, and movepool. Serperior is similar to Meganium in its stats, but has a great Speed stat to get ahead of the competition, as well better moves to take advantage of; however, if Contrary Serperior were a reality at the moment, it would be fighting for a spot at the top. Torterra stands out for its pure power and versatility, sporting a great movepool; a really solid Pokémon throughout its few years on the field. Sceptile is a close second in this bout, as its great offensive power puts it ahead of the other three, but its frailty has been pushing it down the tiers throughout the years. This makes Venusaur the most solid Grass-type starter so far. Its constant positioning in UU as one of the best, and its current OU status, just shows how blessed this Pokémon is. Walk tall Venusaur; you really show what you need to succeed.
Next time, sandshrewz and I are going to take a look at the Pokémon that emphasizes raw power: the Fire-type starters!
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