About the Starters: The Fire-type

By SuperJOCKE and sandshrewz. Art by RitterCat and sandshrewz.
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Introduction

We're back again with the second part of our series where we talk about our beloved starter Pokémon. We go through what these Pokémon excel at and are lacking, type by type, and try to determine which one actually is the best in this ever-lasting argument. In the last issue, sandshrewz and I looked into the history and present of the quiet Grass-type Pokémon Venusaur, Meganium, Sceptile, Torterra, and Serperior. The winner was very clear and it really showed what you need to succeed. I would go into more details, but I don't want to spoil your fun of actually reading the article (I would actually advise you to read it first if you haven't yet). In this issue, we are going to uncover every little secret of the starter Pokémon that emphasize raw power: the Fire-types. Going all the way through Charizard to Emboar, sandshrewz and I are going to determine which one of these red, fire-breathing powerhouses actually takes the place as the best Fire-type starter. Will it be the fan-favorite, Charizard, or will one of the other four blazing Pokémon surpass it and take first place? Let's find out!

Charizard

Charizard is the top favorite of many fanboys, not even Mewtwo has a hope of usurping that glorious throne. It is, after all, perhaps the most chosen starter in RBY, not including the Pokémon mascot Pikachu. A fire-breathing dragon-like Pokémon can never fail to capture the hearts of many young trainers. Despite no longer being the starter Pokémon for many years after the release of FRLG, Charizard still holds the reputation of a Pokémon that represents the fanboys. Sadly for them, Charizard was never a Pokémon that made it into OU. In fact, at the sight of Charizard, most people will probably be thinking, "Ugh, this guy must be new." To start off, Charizard was UU in RBY. It had low 84 / 85 / 100 offenses. Sure it had Fire Spin, but without Agility like Dragonite or Stun Spore like Victreebel, it definitely couldn't pull off a niche trying to trap opponents. Not to mention that Starmie was also faster than Charizard. Charizard, and pretty much all other Fire-types, didn't make a huge splash in OU play. Charizard, however, had Swords Dance to work with to deem itself viable in OU, though rarely used. Swords Dance enabled Charizard to break through Golem and Rhydon with Earthquake. +2 Hyper Beam can often pick off a slower foe too, or use Body Slam for another reliable attack to use if you hadn't defeated the Rock-types yet. It is a different case in RBY UU, however. Charizard stands out against Arcanine and Ninetales as it has Earthquake to deal with Graveler and also Slash to hit Water-types harder than what Arcanine and Ninetales can do. All this make Charizard the most threatening Fire-type in UU. Still, Fire-types aren't the best of RBY UU.

In GSC, Charizard benefited from the Special split and gained a higher base 109 Special Attack and also something that Snorlax is often related to: Belly Drum. Of course, Snorlax overshadowed Charizard as a Belly Drum user with better bulk and Attack. Charizard isn't even utilizing its higher base 109 Special Attack with Belly Drum. But Fire Blast is still a move found on Charizard as a STAB move and to deal with SkarmBliss in GSC. Belly Drum is a great boosting move in GSC, provided that you can set it up and pull off a sweep. With many faster Pokémon that can quickly KO a Belly Drummed Charizard, it's not as easy to pull off a sweep. ADV Charizard wasn't much different from GSC. It is well, still in BL, and Belly Drum remains as the main boosting move to use. Except that there are now more varied options for Charizard to choose from. The introduction of Salac Berry patched up Charizard's acceptable base 100 Speed so that Pokémon like Starmie can no longer check it after it activates. Furthermore, Blaze also happens to be usable when the HP is low enough to use Salac Berry. Thus, you end up facing a Pokémon with +6 Attack and +1 Speed with Blaze-boosted Fire-type attacks given the right conditions. Other variants of Charizard included Substitute and non-Belly Drum Charizard that are special or physical attackers. The latter can also set up with Dragon Dance or Swords Dance, though its base 84 Attack isn't exactly scary. DPP heralded doom to Charizard. Having a Flying typing once meant a good thing as it could avoid Spikes. But as everyone knows, Stealth Rock was the nail in the coffin for many Fire- and Flying-types. What more for one that wielded both typings. Moltres also out-shined Charizard despite sharing the same crippling typing and managed to boot Charizard into the depths of NU. Charizard had a higher base Speed over Moltres and also boosting options in Dragon Dance, Belly Drum, and Swords Dance. Still, it found little use in UU. Dream World then gave Charizard a double-edged sword in Solar Power. Charizard initially found itself in RU in early BW. But with competition from other fellow Fire-types such as Moltres, Entei, and even Magmortar which rose from NU, Charizard eventually got the kick and fell back into NU. Keeping Stealth Rock away might be hard enough, and managing HP is really important with Solar Power quickly depleting its health under the sun. Initially, Choice Specs Charizard was a huge monster and some people even resorted to using Flareon to counter Charizard. Charizard stands now as a sun sweeper that can set up Sunny Day itself and heal with Roost. Rarer and sometimes more gimmicky sets such as Swords Dance and Dragon Dance can sometimes be found. The future of Charizard looks bleak no matter how bright its flames may burn or whatever fanboys tell you.

Typhlosion

Not only does Typhlosion have the exact same stats as Charizard, it also has a similar story to share as to how it passed the generations. Like Charizard, it was never outstanding in any generation. Typhlosion also had the similar trend in its tiering throughout the generations. It starts off in GSC BL, being rather insignificant in OU. It has no viable boosting options, sadly, but it has good coverage with Earthquake, ThunderPunch, a Fire-type STAB move, and Hidden Power. Typhlosion was never really good in GSC OU, but banished from UU. In ADV, it once again remains as BL. Typhlosion can run a set that's associated with Empoleon and known to many DPP OU players. SubPetaya makes its appearance on Typhlosion as an option to set up and boost its Special Attack. Without a sandstorm immunity, SubPetaya might not be a good strategy, but Sunny Day helps in that cause and also bolsters its Fire-type attacks. While ADV Typhlosion doesn't have the SunnyBeam combination yet, it can still use Hidden Power Grass and sometimes ThunderPunch for coverage. However, with competition from a more useful Fire-type that is Houndoom, which has the useful Pursuit, Typhlosion is often forgotten in the realms of ADV OU as well. Similar to Charizard, Typhlosion finds itself stricken by the introduction of Stealth Rock in DPP. However, DPP also brought Typhlosion SolarBeam, Eruption, and Focus Blast, though Eruption is sometimes hard to use with Stealth Rock being very common. It too fell into NU along with Charizard, relying on Sunny Day and Choice items to make a name for itself in DPP UU. It never really did, however, as Moltres can also pull off a Sunny Day set though it has a harder time using a Choice item. Now in BW, it manged to pull itself into RU. It now commonly sports a Choice set, with Eruption being a nice incentive if you can keep Stealth Rock at bay. Choice Specs Eruption wrecks as well, and partnering Typhlosion with a reliable Rapid Spin user like Cryogonal works too. Its base 100 Speed helps somewhat in its cause against the slightly slower Moltres. SunnyBeam is also usable in RU, though it doesn't have an ability to further utilize the sun.

Typhlosion can comfortably hold its position in RU, despite there being other Fire-types such as Magmortar, Entei, and Moltres in the tier that are all great in their own rights. Typhlosion is no slouch either and has no plans of dropping into NU. Typhlosion's unreleased Dream World ability, Flash Fire, will be of use to Typhlosion once it's released. Flash Fire and sun- or Choice Specs-boosted Fire-type attacks will definitely hurt, and it allows Typhlosion to risk a limb and try switching in on other Fire-types. For example, Moltres will have to worry about Typhlosion switching in on Fire Blast and getting obliterated by the latter's Hidden Power Rock. Flash Fire isn't going to make as much of a huge impact to Typhlosion, but it's definitely something that Typhlosion appreciates.

Blaziken

Blaziken, although a chicken, won't chicken out of a fight; no, this guy ain't no chicken, it will smash you into pieces in battle. Bad puns aside, Blaziken is, and has always been, a powerful Pokémon. 120 Attack and 110 Special Attack is nothing to scoff at, and they make Blaziken a great wallbreaker and sweeper; however, its base 80 Speed has become less stellar each generation. When it all began for Blaziken, in the ADV era, it was a huge threat due to the diverse ways it could sweep. It could either go mixed with Swords Dance, fully special with Sky Uppercut for Blissey, or even go with sets such as Reversal + Salac Berry, Choice Band, and SubPunch; one would need to be really prepared for what it could offer. Blaziken's typing is also great offensively, heavily aiding in its sweeping, while Blaziken was one of the few special attackers with physical STAB; basically, its Fire-type moves were great for handling physical walls, such as Skarmory, while Sky Uppercut was a great move to deal with special walls such as Blissey and Snorlax. However, Blaziken's typing didn't help it much defensively. While 4x resistance to Bug was a great thing, being weak to common and powerful moves, such as Surf, Earthquake, Psychic, and Hidden Power Flying, meant Blaziken wasn't particularly hard to take down. This was most certainly what kept Blaziken from settling down in OU, as it was still a great threat due to its versatility and power, leaving it with a solid placement in BL. Things didn't change much for Blaziken with the transition to DPP. Blaziken's roles remained basically unchanged, as its great mixed offenses made it arguably the best wallbreaker in the UU tier. Its sweeping potential remained intact as well, if not heavily improved. The split between physical and special moves gave Blaziken some new and powerful moves to play around with, such as Flare Blitz and Focus Blast, as well as the more powerful Superpower from the Platinum move tutors. Agility also became a part of Blaziken's new movepool, which made Blaziken able to either boost its Attack stat to great levels or just bolster its middling Speed to new heights, outspeeding and smashing the opposition with its powerful moves. However, the same old weaknesses still plagued Blaziken, and its Speed stat made it much more transparent than before. Nonetheless, Blaziken was still a great Pokémon in the UU tier.

Today, Blaziken is locked away. The crimes it committed in the OU tier were too gruesome, so it eventually got banned and moved to the Uber tier. This marks Blaziken as the first starter Pokémon to ever be banned from standard play, and one of two—the other being Excadrill—"regular" Pokémon currently in the Uber tier with Garchomp's unbanning. Why was it banned you ask? The answer is simple. The Dream World blessed Blaziken with one simple ability that pushed it over the line: Speed Boost. After one single turn, Speed Boost turns Blaziken into a sweeping machine. Imagine when you send Blaziken in on something it can force out with ease, such as Blissey, which will also allow it to set up with Swords Dance, effectively giving it +2 Attack and +1 Speed in one turn; basically, only Choice Scarf Pokémon can outspeed it, while barely any Pokémon can take one hit from it. With two powerful STAB moves in Hi Jump Kick (which is another buff to Blaziken) and Flare Blitz, Blaziken will hit incredibly hard. Add sun to this formula, and even some of the bulkiest Pokémon will fall in one hit. To give you some perspective, here's what a Jolly Blaziken's Life Orb- and sun-boosted Flare Blitz does to 252 / 252+ Groudon in the sun after one Swords Dance: 101.73 - 120.04%, a guranteed OHKO. You should understand why it was banned now, no? But how does Blaziken fare in the Ubers metagame, with Pokémon such as Mewtwo and Rayquaza running around? It's still a really dangerous Pokémon. Speed Boost allows Blaziken to outspeed Pokémon such as Mewtwo and Shaymin-S after one turn, while the high Base Power of its STAB moves combined with Swords Dance and the omnipresent sun makes it an incredible force to be reckoned with, as seen with the previous calculation. However, Blaziken isn't without its flaws. While its STAB moves are powerful, they have crippling side effects. If Hi Jump Kick misses, Blaziken loses half of its health, while Flare Blitz gives Blaziken horrible recoil when it hits. This makes Blaziken more or less a glass cannon, especially so due to its already frail stature and the same common weaknesses that held it back in the past. And to even become as threatening as it can be, Blaziken needs to come in safe and actually set up with Swords Dance, which is no easy task; the sun needs to be shining down on it as well. Blaziken can still hit many Pokémon hard without a boost from Swords Dance, but it won't hurt nearly as much. Also, there are some Pokémon that can tank Blaziken's hits, but mostly outside of sun; Giratina is basically the only surefire counter to it in the sun. On top of that, ExtremeSpeed users such as Rayquaza and Extreme Killer Arceus will easily KO Blaziken, ignoring its Speed Boost entirely. However, Blaziken is a great threat and a great Pokémon in Ubers, despite its flaws, and will definitely fight for a spot as the best Fire-type starter.

Infernape

Infernape is the second Pokémon in a line of Fire/Fighting-type starters—a disappointing line in terms of creativity and originality, but I digress. In DPP, this monkey—much like its feathery friend from the past—was an offensive monster. With 104 / 104 offenses, Infernape was a bit weaker than Blaziken, but it was made up for by one simple thing: it's much, much faster. A base 108 Speed stat made Infernape more of a sweeper rather than a wallbreaker, unlike Blaziken, and made it a much greater force to be reckoned with overall, despite the weaker offensive stats. Infernape also had an even bigger movepool. When it comes to boosting its stats, Infernape had access to both Nasty Plot and Swords Dance to boost its offense to incredible levels. Combine this with powerful moves such as Fire Blast, Focus Blast, Close Combat, and Flare Blitz, and you have something to really fear. Infernape could also go mixed in different ways, utilize lead sets with Stealth Rock and Endeavor, and successfully use Choice Scarf and Choice Band. But much like Blaziken, Infernape had its weaknesses. The shared typing gave Infernape the same weaknesses to common offensive types, such as Water and Ground, while it was even frailer than Blaziken. Despite this, the many different roles Infernape could take on, as well as its great offensive presence, made it a top tier Pokémon in DPP OU.

Infernape didn't change much from DPP, but the metagame around it certainly did. BW introduced all auto-weather abilities into OU, which was both positive and negative for Infernape. On one hand, Ninetales and Drought powered up Infernape's Fire-type moves, whereas Politoed and Drizzle hampered it. However, Infernape never retained its former OU glory. Many new threats appeared and re-appeared, making it less of a threat. BW brought along Jellicent, who resists both of its STABs, many other huge threats that could easily dispose of it, and Latias and Latios were once again in OU along with the usual Pokémon who stopped Infernape in DPP. Infernape remained the same Pokémon with the same duties as before when BW2 were released; however, that is not a good thing. BW2 brought along many changes, including Pokémon such as Keldeo and Tornadus-T, which gave rain teams a huge buff. What role Infernape takes on in today's metagame is more of a pivot. To use it successfully, Infernape should go mixed, playing a more hit-and-run style with the use of Life Orb, U-turn, and its powerful moves. The moves Infernape commonly uses when going on such a route are Overheat (or another Fire-type STAB move), Close Combat, and U-turn combined with either Stone Edge, ThunderPunch, or Mach Punch. These moves give Infernape good mixed offense with powerful moves, with Overheat functioning well with the hit-and-run style of U-turn as it removes the stat drop on the switch. Close Combat gives Infernape a way to hit Pokémon that can take Overheat with ease, such as Blissey and Heatran, while the three coverage moves cover Pokémon such as Gyarados, Jellicent, and faster and weakened foes in general, respectively. Infernape can also use Choice items over Life Orb to some success. Infernape didn't gain much from the Dream World when it comes to its Hidden Ability, as Iron Fist only powers up some of its moves. When players come to describe Infernape today, it's not the same praise as the previous generation. While it hits hard, especially in the sun, many Pokémon resist its moves and can easily KO it. Also, many faster threats were introduced who can easily OHKO it; rain also plays a big part in its downfall. It's a decent Pokémon, but it gets too much usage in correlation with its capabilities. All in all, Infernape has been a great Pokémon over the years, and can definitely end up as number one in this bout.

Emboar

Emboar, the latest Fire-type starter as of date. It sports what some may call a cliché typing for the Fire-type starters which it shares with the previous two Fire-type starters. It starts off humbly in BW NU too. Despite its excellent base 123 Attack stat—which happens to be the highest of the Fire-type starters and surpassing even Blaziken's—and good base 110 HP, which is also the highest for them all, Emboar is held back by its fat... uh I mean abysmal and disappointing base 65 Speed. Though its stoutly appearance might make one expect it to have a reasonable amount of bulk, it only has base 65 defenses, though its base 110 HP makes up for that somewhat. Sadly, Emboar does not have access to Close Combat, something it probably has only itself to blame as its facade doesn't make it look like its agile enough to possess such a move. Even Blaziken doesn't have it but it's compensated with Hi Jump Kick now. Despite these noticeable flaws, Emboar is a threat to prepare for in NU. Its strongest and most common set is the Choice Band, with Flare Blitz and Superpower as STAB moves. Wild Charge and Head Smash are coverage moves that it uses to bring down Flying- and Water-types. Even Alomomola with its gigantic HP fears Choice Band-boosted Wild Charge. Choice Band Emboar is said to have no counters and requires good prediction and appropriate switches to play around it. Wearing Emboar down with its own Flare Blitz and other recoil moves work as well. Emboar can tear through slow defensive teams if they don't react well enough to check Emboar. Other less common sets for Emboar include mixed and Choice Scarf. Mixed Emboar can work around some of its checks that solely rely on Emboar locking itself into a move, therefore getting past them comfortably while reducing its power as a physical threat. Choice Scarf Emboar can sometimes surprise foes that respond as if Emboar was Choice Banded, nabbing KOes or acting as a check to some Pokémon. It also somewhat mitigates the problem of its low Speed in exchange for power.

Reckless is Emboar's unreleased Dream World ability. Emboar is a good user of recoil moves with its base 110 HP allowing it to tank some recoil before going down. Therefore, Reckless is a good asset to Emboar looking to just dent holes into teams and acting somewhat as a kamikaze that will definitely cause heavy damage. Emboar already packs a punch, and Reckless will just add onto that. What it misses from Blaze is the final boosted Flare Blitz to go down with a bang. Whichever the case, Reckless Emboar is a fearsome Emboar. Using Reckless Emboar is akin to using a bomb, a really strong one too that limits its already short list of checks and counters.

Conclusion

Now we have read about how powerful these Fire-types are, and maybe their flames warmed you up a bit in this cold winter's night. I hope you enjoyed reading about the backgrounds of the blazing Fire-type Pokémon—Charizard, Typhlosion, Blaziken, Infernape, and Emboar—and what they are all about today. Now you must be wondering which one stands out as the almighty one?

Charizard and Emboar are tightly wrapped together at the bottom. While both of them hit hard, they have notable weaknesses that can be exploited by the opponent. Charizard is plagued by its crippling Stealth Rock weakness, which makes it really frail, while Solar Power adds onto that. Emboar is one of the most threatening Pokémon in NU, and even RU, but is really slow and is weak to very common moves, such as Earthquake, Brave Bird, and Surf. Both of them are pretty close in usage in NU as well. Typhlosion is one step ahead of the previous two. This is mostly due to its great Speed and power, combined with a lesser Stealth Rock weakness. Eruption is the main contributor to its power, and with proper Rapid Spin support to keep Typhlosion healthy, it will hit incredibly hard with no drawbacks, unlike the other two; Emboar takes recoil damage from Flare Blitz, while Charizard is damaged by Solar Power each turn. However, Typhlosion is still pretty disappointing compared to the top two. After a long thought process, we came to the conclusion that Infernape should be crowned the best Fire-type starter thus far. This might come as a surprise for you, but hear us out. There is no doubt that Blaziken is much more threatening than Infernape right now. However, this is due to Speed Boost. If Speed Boost was unreleased at the time of writing, or not even available to Blaziken at all, everyone would most likely agree that Infernape is the better of the two. Without Speed Boost, Blaziken would never be banned from OU, and probably not even be OU at that. It would most likely be RU due to its great stats, almost akin to Emboar but faster, frailer, and a bit more powerful on the special side, and great mixed capabilities. Infernape's relative consistency throughout the years made it the number one Fire-type starter in our eyes.

Now, we hope you guys take this with a grain of salt, as we know many of you see Charizard or Blaziken as number one due to different reasons, but we think our reasoning is righteous. In any case, sandshrewz and I will be returning next issue with the final bout in this series which features the magnificent Pokémon we all call the Water-type starters!

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