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For the third and final time, sandshrewz and I are back, putting the spotlight on the last starter Pokémon: the Water-types. In the two latest issues, we have gone through the past and the present of the Grass- and Fire-type starters, and determined which Pokémon is the most prominent amongst their respective type. The two past winners were clear as the sky and controversial, respectively, as the competition varied a lot. If you for whatever reason missed any of the past articles, I suggest you read them first before you continue reading this part. For the first article covering the quiet Grass-type starters, click here, and to check out the article covering the blazing Fire-type starters, click here. Now let's get into this issues Pokémon: Blastoise, Feraligatr, Swampert, Empoleon, and Samurott. By uncovering their hidden past and looking into their current roles in the BW metagames, sandshrewz and I are going to try and determine which one of these magnificent Pokémon is the most majestic and outstanding amongst the Water-type starters. Will it be Swampert—as we know everyone likes Mudkip—who claims the spot, or will the regal Empoleon win this bout? Let's get this finale on the road!
Blastoise never once managed to poke its head out of its shell and into OU. It has always retreated into the UU territory, just as it always retreats into its shell and never seems to be able to get out of it—Blastoise doesn't even get Shell Smash! In RBY UU, it was often outclassed by other Water-types. On the defensive side Vaporeon had better bulk, whilst Golduck, Poliwrath, and Kingler surpassed Blastoise in the way of offenses, Kingler being blessed with the power of Swords Dance. In GSC UU, Blastoise gained some utility with the introduction of Spikes. It served as a general bulky Water-type that could also use Rapid Spin and tank hits thanks to its acceptable bulk. It had sufficient support moves to perform the role of a utility Pokemon. In ADV, Blastoise maintained a similar role. It worked as a check to several of ADV UU's common threats, such as Gligar and Sandslash, though it can sometimes be weakened sufficiently to be KOed by them. It gained Water Spout and Choice Specs in DPP, which allowed Blastoise to achieve moderate success with an offensive set. However, other defensive Water-types still remain to compete with Blastoise, such as Slowbro and Milotic, both of which are more commonly seen. Blastoise remains as a Pokémon mainly relegated for Rapid Spinning purposes.
Things turned slightly in the favor of Blastoise in BW. The new generation brought along a move considered a blessing to all defensive Water-types in Scald, whilst also providing another phazing option in Dragon Tail. Dream World gave Blastoise Rain Dish, but rain isn't that common in BW UU and Tentacruel is much preferred over Blastoise in OU as the Rain Dish Rapid Spinner. There's not much that could be left for Blastoise, and new toys to push it into OU are looking more and more unlikely. Unless it gets Shell Smash or something revolutionizing, Blastoise will pretty much remain the same as it did in the past few generations. Even with Shell Smash though, it's still somewhat doubtful how far up Blastoise can go. Nonetheless, the same old Blastoise will live to a ripe old age and has remained highly unchanged since its debut.
Personally, Feraligatr's evolution line were my first favorite Pokémon, as Red and Blue didn't have any Pokémon that appealed to me in that way. I mean, Charizard was always cool and all, I just never really loved it. But I digress. Feraligatr's start in the competitive scene was somewhat rough. While it had a great Attack stat, Feraligatr's typing gave it no physical STAB; in GSC, Water was specially based, which meant it couldn't hit nearly as hard as other Pokémon due to its subordinate Special Attack stat. Feraligatr's most common set in the GSC metagame consisted of Hydro Pump, Earthquake, a choice of Rock Slide or AncientPower—more power and PP vs. more accuracy—and either Curse to boost its Attack stat or DynamicPunch to hit Blissey and Snorlax hard. Despite Feraligatr having such disappointing Special Attack, Hydro Pump was still used for a STAB option, and was the superior option over Surf due to its power. It also had the option to run a fully special set with Ice Beam, Crunch, and Hidden Power Grass together with Hydro Pump, but it could only be effective in UU and not in OU play. Feraligatr's shortcomings meant that it was cemented in the UU tier, only to be an "OK" Pokémon in OU; this was all because its best offensive stat didn't match with its typing. In ADV, Feraligatr didn't change much, but it got some small buffs here and there. Feraligatr was still stuck in UU, as there were better Water-type Pokémon, such as Swampert, to choose from. However, Feraligatr was a great physical sweeper in UU. Feraligatr got access to Swords Dance, which meant it could hit a lot harder than it could before. It wasn't hard for Feraligatr to set up either, as its stats gave it some staying power. It utilized a set consisting of Swords Dance, Earthquake, and Hidden Power Flying to hit Electric- and Grass-types, Feraligatr's only two weaknesses, along with Hydro Pump for a powerful STAB move that could eliminate physically defensive Pokémon such as Sandslash and Golem. Rock Slide was also an option on this set, while SubPunch was usable in both UU and OU.
However, DPP is the generation that really changed things for Feraligatr. Feraligatr is one of those Pokémon that really benefited from the split in physical and special moves, as it finally gave Feraligatr a physical STAB move. This made Feraligatr a dangerous offensive threat. On top of that, Feraligatr also obtained some new moves to play around with. Dragon Dance and Aqua Jet were the biggest additions, while Ice Punch, a move it previously had access to, became a physical move in DPP. With Dragon Dance, Feraligatr was able to boost both its Attack and only decent Speed to greater levels, allowing it to actually sweep opponents faster than it, most notably Sceptile and Alakazam. Aqua Jet was a welcomed addition to Feraligatr's Swords Dance set, as it gave Feraligatr a priority move to hit faster Pokémon such as Swellow with, while retaining a higher amount of power over the Dragon Dance set. However, Feraligatr was still stuck in UU. Why was that you ask? The answer is simple, and is but one name: Gyarados. Gyarados also benefited by the split, and had overall better stats and access to Dragon Dance as well. This gave Feraligatr the nickname "The Gyarados of UU." Despite this, Feraligatr had something Gyarados didn't, namely Swords Dance and Aqua Jet, which gave it a reason to be used in OU. However, UU was the tier where Feraligatr shone, and it was one of most prominent sweepers around.
Today, much like how Sceptile was a huge threat in DPP UU, Feraligatr resides in the RU tier as well. The changes BW brought to the OU metagame made many OU veterans drop down to UU, such as Zapdos, Suicune, and Raikou, making things hard for Feraligatr. The new Speed Boost Sharpedo also gave Feraligatr heavy competition, as it doesn't have to do much to sweep an opposing team, unlike Feraligatr. While Feraligatr is still useful in UU and even OU with its Dragon Dance and Swords Dance sets, it doesn't really handle those metagames well enough to reside in a higher tier. However, in the RU metagame, Feraligatr is a force to be reckoned with. Feraligatr's key sets, Swords Dance and Dragon Dance, make a return to wreak havoc, and its competition is slim. The main Water-type competition as a Swords Dance user comes from Kabutops, while as a Dragon Dance user, Crawdaunt is the only other Pokémon who can perform that role well in the RU tier. While the competition from Kabutops is a bit harsher due to different reasons, it trades in that massive power Crawdaunt has for more Speed. However, Feraligatr is not unstoppable. Many physically defensive behemoths, such as Poliwrath and Tangrowth, give Feraligatr huge problems, as it has trouble breaking through with just one hit due to the low Base Power of its moves and their high Defense. Its Speed is also quite mediocre nowadays, and it gets outsped by several Pokémon before a Dragon Dance boost, while some Choice Scarf users outspeed it even after a boost. However, as stated before, Feraligatr is a huge offensive threat, despite these disadvantages. The question is, will it be enough for Feraligatr to claim the number one spot, or will its mediocrity in the higher tiers since the very beginning bring it down?
Swampert has been a rather dominant and outright useful Pokemon in ADV, where it was introduced, as well as in DPP. It had a great defensive typing in Water / Ground which allowed it to check many common threats while having only a sole weakness to Grass. In ADV, it checked many prominent threats such as Choice Band Aerodactyl and Dragon Dance Tyranitar; a plus of Swampert was that it was a bulky Water-type and wasn't worn down by Tyranitar's sandstorm. It was a go-to defensive pivot that fit onto many teams easily. Swampert became a staple on many ADV OU teams and worked well as a utility Pokémon, acting as a reliable check to many common threats in ADV. A more offensive variant of Swampert which once saw great popularity was Curse. Although Swampert had only a physical Earthquake to work with, it was nonetheless effective, although it had to forgo the initial ability to check the offensive ADV juggernauts that defensive Swampert could. In DPP, Swampert received all that it could ask for. Stealth Rock was a given on defensive standard Swampert and it still holds its ability to check many physical threats. Despite having Ice Punch and Avalanche as physical Ice-type attacks, it often went with Ice Beam to hit Pokemon such as Gliscor harder. Swampert remains as one of the best Pokemon in DPP OU and its versatility lets it fit on many teams easily. With the physical-special split in DPP, Swampert also gained a physical Waterfall which it could better use with a Curse or Choice Band set. While most Swampert are defensive, a surprise Choice Band-boosted Waterfall can seriously dent even the likes of specially defensive Skarmory. With the combination of good stats, great defensive typing, and a precise but useful movepool, Swampert is a solid Pokemon in both ADV and DPP OU. Additionally, it's a very straightforward Pokemon and can be slotted onto many teams without any difficulty.
Unfortunately, the metagame of BW OU proved to be too harsh for the standard Swampert that littered ADV and DPP OU. Special and physical attackers alike became even more powerful this generation and Swampert could not stand against being bombarded by their strong attacks, even with its good bulk and defensive typing. It simply didn't have high enough defensive stats to be an effective wall anymore and, without a recovery move that wasn't Rest, Swampert could be worn down easily by Spikes, which got an even wider distribution. Furthermore, Gastrodon, which shares the same typing but has access to Recover, gained a boost in Storm Drain. Gastrodon overtook Swampert as the premier Water / Ground wall with its better utility. Without being able to survive many of the strong onslaughts of BW OU, which had a drastically different metagame from ADV and DPP OU, Swampert lost its reign and got booted off into UU. While its best traits that kept it OU in ADV and DPP aren't enough this generation, that isn't to say that Swampert isn't viable in OU. Choice Band Swampert is usable in BW OU thanks to its base 110 Attack. It still has decent bulk without running a fully defensive EV spread and rain lets it run through foes with Waterfall. Swampert sits comfortably in UU, relatively unchanged from the previous generation. In BW UU, where the strength of Pokemon are comparable to those in DPP OU, Swampert retains its main use as a defensive Pokemon. It checks newer threats such as Darmanitan while still being able to take on the older ones such as Flygon. Unlike some Pokemon that have diminished their usefulness due to not changing much throughout the generations, Swampert managed to stay aloft with its main set, although it was no longer enough to keep in OU for another generation. Overall, Swampert is a really solid Pokemon and it has all that it needs. It's a mainstay in both ADV and DPP OU while still proving to be a good Pokemon in BW UU. There's probably not much room to change for Swampert in future. It has been a good metagame-fitting Pokemon in the past and unless the BW OU metagame is similar to those of the past generations, Swampert will happily hang around in BW UU.
Remember when I said Feraligatr was my first favorite Pokémon? Well, with the release of Diamond and Pearl, Empoleon dethroned it. Just look at this badass. But once again, I digress. In the DPP metagame, Empoleon was a great force. It has a great base 111 Special Attack to really put a hurting on the opponent, while a high Special Defense stat and good HP and Defense give it some pretty respectable bulk. Empoleon's typing was also a great boon to its success, as it gave it a whopping 11 resistances, with key ones being to types such as Dragon, Ice, and Water. This gave it many opportunities as an offensive and defensive Pokémon, despite the weaknesses to Ground, Electric, and Fighting—and those weaknesses were easily covered by teammates. The only real issue Empoleon had was its low Speed stat, but that was definitely fixable. Empoleon's flagship set was the well-known SubPetaya set. With this set, Empoleon utilized Substitute to lower its HP to activate its Petaya Berry for a Special Attack boost, while using Agility to boost its less stellar Speed. This set was used as a late-game sweeper due to Empoleon's great resistances, which not only made it easy to switch in but also easy to force the opposing Pokémon out to a proper check. This gave Empoleon ample time to use Agility to outspeed basically everything and activate Petaya Berry. Another huge point was Empoleon's resistances to Bullet Punch and ExtremeSpeed, which made it hard to revenge kill without a faster Choice Scarf user. Empoleon could also be used as a specially defensive Pokémon due to its great Special Defense, many resistances, and key support moves in Stealth Rock and Roar. These were just two of its usable sets, as Empoleon could be a good lead Pokémon and was formidable with Choice Specs as well. Empoleon wasn't used as much as more popular OU Pokémon, but it was definitely a threat that could tear you apart.
With the advent of BW, things certainly changed for Empoleon. As for many other Pokémon from the previous generation, the surge of Fighting-types that came with BW made Empoleon take a tumble. Many other factors played a part in this as well, but this was one of the major ones; Empoleon even lost its beloved SubPetaya set in the transition, as the Petaya Berry was unavailable in BW and you can't transfer items between the new and old games. This led to Empoleon dropping from OU to UU—although it was still usable in OU—and its roles got changed a bit. Empoleon's main set was now the specially defensive one, as its typing and great Special Defense stat allowed it to perform that role well. The set didn't change much at all, with Stealth Rock and Roar being the most important moves. Like most other Water-types, Empoleon also gained the new Scald, a great addition to any bulky Water-type, and it certainly helped Empoleon against physical threats. So, with the metagame changing, so did Empoleon, and it became mainly a defensive Pokémon instead of an offensive juggernaut. However, with the release of Black 2 and White 2, Petaya Berry was once again available for use, and with that the old Empoleon came back. The SubPetaya set is once again the better set for Empoleon and it's still the same offensive monster it once was, even in OU. Empoleon is a really solid Pokémon, and one can expect to see it in the top of this list.
Samurott is the lowest tiered of all Water-type starters. Its stats aren't anywhere near good, and its highest is only its base 108 Special Attack. Its other stats are below par by OU standards, and its movepool isn't anything special either. Hence, dropping all the way down to NU isn't surprising for Samurott at all. However, like all NU starters, it isn't bad in NU. Samurott has a rather standard but still useful movepool; basically, it has all that it needs to be an offensive Water-type. Swords Dance allows it to boost its slightly lower Attack stat, while Waterfall and Megahorn provide sufficient coverage against the tier. Samurott also has Aqua Jet to pick off frailer, faster foes. Besides Swords Dance, Samurott has the option of a special all-out attacker set, making use of its slightly higher base 108 Special Attack and hitting hard right off the bat. It has little coverage issues with a STAB move, Ice Beam, and Hidden Power Grass or Electric. Specially offensive Samurott makes a great attacker; it has no need to set up and yet can still hit reasonably hard. A less commonly seen set which can function fairly well is SubSalac. Samurott has only a measly base 70 Speed, which is only just acceptable. The fourth move of the all-out attacker set would be replaced with Substitute, turning Samurott into a pinch Berry sweeper. Salac Berry patches up its low Speed while Substitute, if kept intact, can protect Samurott from priority attacks. What's more, Torrent activates with Salac Berry as well, allowing it to use powerful Hydro Pumps.
Samurott is rather standard in NU, and while it may not require special preparation to check it, you can hardly tell if it's a physical or special one at first glance. The two sets of Samurott have totally different counters, so sending in the wrong Pokémon could be disastrous. It could nab a free Swords Dance, or it could pulverize your physical wall. However, bulky Grass- and Water-types are still good answers to Samurott in general, and strong priority attacks or faster foes can down it, even through its somewhat decent bulk. Overall, Samurott is a great offensive threat in NU and is straightforward to use.
Now it's time to round things up. I hope you enjoyed reading about the restless Water-type Pokémon—Blastoise, Feraligatr, Swampert, Empoleon, and Samurott—and their uncovered past leading to what they do today. But which one of these Pokémon is the best Water-type starter?
It's not Blastoise in any case. Blastoise has never been threatening offensively, and its uses are limited. It has been a good utility Pokémon since GSC, but that's all it's good for. The main reason it is UU today is Rapid Spin. Although it is arguably the best spinner below OU, there are much better bulky Water-types than it, namely Slowbro, Milotic, Suicune, and Slowking. Without Rapid Spin, there is really no good reason to use Blastoise in UU, or even RU. Feraligatr and Samurott are both pretty similar; they are both great Swords Dance users with their own little quirks. However, despite Samurott's greater ability to be successful with mixed and fully special sets, Feraligatr still has a slight edge—Dragon Dance, for example—over Samurott, and that shows in their respective tier placements. It should be noted that if Feraligatr had access to its Dream World ability, Sheer Force, it would be a lot better than Samurott than it is today, as it would hit extremely hard with its boosted moves and immunity to Life Orb recoil. Now it comes down to the old OU veterans: Empoleon and Swampert. It was hard to distinguish which one that was actually better, as they both had equally good traits and have each been around the same tier placements since DPP; both of them were OU in DPP and both of them are UU in BW. However, sandshrewz and I came to the conclusion that Swampert is a bit more successful. Swampert has always been a top tier Pokémon wherever it was, starting with ADV OU. Swampert has great stats and typing with only one weakness, as well as great moves to utilize; it was even OU for quite a while in BW. Empoleon has some similar traits to these, but is plagued with a bit more weaknesses and isn't as big of a threat as Swampert is. This is not to say that Swampert is miles better than Empoleon, but the former has a slight edge over the latter.
After another close call, this series has come to a finish. In the end, the three who stood out as the three best starter Pokémon were Venusaur, Infernape, and Swampert. But how long will this last? We don't know, as anything can happen, but we do know it will come to change someday. About a month ago, the sixth generation and the Pokémon X and Y games were revealed, and with them the three new starter Pokémon: Chespin, Fennekin, and Froakie. Will these three scramble things up as a new metagame shapes up, or will the veterans still stand tall against the newcomers? Only time will tell.
On a final note, I want to thank sandshrewz for working with me on this, as well as RitterCat for the great art he has provided for this series of articles. Last but not least, we also want to thank you, the reader, for reading our series of articles and I hope you liked what you got to read.
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