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There was an era when Tauros was totally the king, a Pokémon that is now sitting in the deepest recesses of NU. There was an era when Chansey, whose evolution was yet to be created, also dominated, and the funny thing is that its evolution was never half as good as Chansey used to be. There was an era when Snorlax didn't need a base 110 Special Defense stat to muscle through. There was an era when a three-headed eggplant used to dominate over the most fearsome Dragons. That era may not be the Pleistocene, but a lot of time has certainly passed since the RBY games first saw the light of life. A lot of things have changed in Pokémon since then. Movepools got much wider as lots of powerful moves of a variety of types were introduced. Items, abilities, and natures were also introduced as the new generations appeared, in addition to all the changes in mechanics such as the Special stat—which got split into Special Attack and Special Defense in GSC—and the calculation of the critical hit ratio.
All these additions and changes have certainly caused a lot of shifts in the metagames over the generations, and as a consequence, a lot of Pokémon have been affected. There used to be many Pokémon that weren't gifted with a good movepool in RBY and thus automatically fell to the underplayed tiers. Note that, in most cases, it didn't really depend on the Pokémon's movepool, but rather on the fact that RBY didn't have enough good moves to suit every kind and type of Pokémon. Likewise, some Pokémon that shaped RBY didn't gain much from the new generations, got hindered by variations in the mechanics, and hence were eventually overshadowed by the more useful and stronger Pokémon that appeared.
While we can easily come up with examples of Pokémon whose usefulness drastically changed past the first generation by just comparing the RBY metagame with whichever metagame we want to, it could be interesting to have a look at those post-RBY Pokémon that, while being outclassed in the new generations, certainly meet the requirements to be at the top in the RBY OU metagame. From the first two paragraphs, we can come to the conclusion that there are a lot of non-RBY Pokémon whose only chance to shine could have in fact been the first generation, so in this issue we are going to look only at GSC and ADV Pokémon. The second part of the article, which will take on DPP and BW Pokémon, will be released in the next issue.
Before we move on, however, there are some important points to take into account in order to make as accurate speculations as possible. Firstly, the Special Attack and Special Defense stats didn't exist as such in RBY, since they used to be merged into only one stat called Special. Many Pokémon got different Special Attack and Special Defense stats when the split happened in GSC, so we'll have to use common sense or follow RBY trends in order to attempt to figure out whether the Special stat of a Pokémon in RBY would have been equal to its Special Attack or its Special Defense. In addition, we have to keep in mind that Steel and Dark are two types that appeared in GSC but did not exist in RBY. For this reason, to make things easier, Dark- or Steel-type Pokémon will be left out from the article. Lastly, we also have to handle the differences in movepools between RBY and the future generations; not only do moves that didn't exist in RBY and or are learned by breeding have to be removed, but movesets also have to be remodeled following the TM and HM availability back then. Following these guidelines, these are the most remarkable examples:
Note: Stats will be ordered the following way: HP / Attack / Defense / Speed / Special.
Ah, Slowking! You probably saw it coming, but what better Pokémon to start with than Slowbro's cousin? The only difference between these two is that they have the Defense and Special stats swapped. You may think that for a Pokémon that sets up on the special side, Slowbro's stat spread is better suited, but this is not completely true. While Slowbro would still be the preferred choice due to its ability to deal with physical attackers and exploders significantly better, Slowking does come with advantages. Firstly, a higher Special makes setting up against the likes of Seismic Toss-less Alakazam and Jynx even better, significantly reducing the damage they would be able to rack up. In addition, the higher bulk reduces the damage taken from critical hit Thunderbolts after setting up to around 70% and, in general, lets Slowking deal with unSTABed Thunderbolt users better. On the offensive side, note that Slowking is able to reach almost its maximum potential after using Amnesia only twice, not requiring the third Amnesia boost to, for example, 2HKO Starmie. Slowking would certainly be the superior choice for alternative options such as Reflect or a faster set with Blizzard.
It totally looks as if Ursaring had been made for RBY. Not only is Ursaring able to learn and get STAB on three of the most dangerous moves in RBY—Body Slam, Hyper Beam, and Slash—but it is also able to back them up with a more-than-impressive base 130 Attack stat. While Ursaring's Speed is certainly its main drawback, it is still fast enough to outspeed Chansey and provide Slash with a ~6/7 chance of scoring a critical hit. To put Ursaring's sheer power into perspective, two critical hit Slashes are capable of 2HKOing most of the RBY metagame, while Golem, Rhydon, and Gengar would get smacked hard by Earthquake. If Slash isn't your type of thing, there is always the possibility of setting up a Swords Dance and KOing Pokémon after Pokémon with Hyper Beam. Add Ursaring's decent defenses and lack of real weaknesses into the mix, and the result is a Pokémon that would certainly rival Tauros for the throne of RBY OU.
A combination of STAB Earthquake and STAB Blizzard is nothing short of scary in RBY. Piloswine's Ice / Ground typing is also good defensively, making it the only Pokémon immune to Thunder Wave that isn't weak to BoltBeam. This is is perfect when facing Chansey, which would eventually go down to a combination of Body Slam paralysis and Earthquakes or +6 Blizzards. While Piloswine is weak to Water-type attacks, Surf is only common on Slowbro. The standard Starmie would need a critical hit Blizzard to deal relevant damage to a boosted Piloswine, but by that time, Starmie would probably be dead or paralyzed due to Body Slam. Unfortunately, Piloswine is pretty slow and susceptible to being revenge killed or worn down if it is aiming to set up. In addition, its Special is also below average before setting up, which means that stuff like Alakazam and Lapras would give Piloswine some trouble. If there is one sure thing though, it is that a lot of Starmie would be running Surf if Piloswine had existed.
You know, it's not easy to consider Miltank without Milk Drink. It is Miltank's signature move, much like Chansey's Softboiled. It's not hard to imagine that if Miltank had existed in RBY, Nintendo would've bothered to gift Miltank with Milk Drink, just like they did in GSC. Having said that, Miltank is a total monster in RBY. For Miltank, the older the generation, the better it fares, and RBY is no exception. Thanks to Milk Drink, Miltank becomes the one-turn recovery move user with by far the highest physical bulk, which allows it to take hits from the most fearsome physical threats in OU, such as Tauros, Snorlax, Golem, and Rhydon. In addtion, its special bulk is also decent, as it seems reasonable to think that Miltank's stat spread would've followed that of its counterpart, Tauros. Unlike the other Recover or Softboiled users, Miltank's attacks are physically based; while its Attack stat may be far from outstanding, don't expect stuff like Chansey to be able to take STAB Body Slams lightly, especially when they can be combined anytime with a STAB Hyper Beam and a 19.5% critical hit rate. All in all, while we all know Tauros is able to get past anything with some luck, it's no secret that Miltank would be a total pain to take down in RBY, boasting an impressive balance between offense and defense. Whitney's Miltank 2.0, if you will.
Well, we all know what has been holding Slaking back in the generations it exists: Truant. However, in RBY there were no abilities, so Slaking becomes a total monster. A Normal-type behemoth in a metagame dominated by Normal-types, that is. Essentially, give Tauros 75 more base HP, 60 more base Attack, and Slash, and it becomes Slaking. It's not hard to realize that Slaking totally belongs to Ubers, a tier that it totally shapes as well. Slash is a guaranteed 2HKO on Mewtwo and Mew, while Mewtwo fails to 2HKO back without a critical hit. Slaking's physical bulk is also so impressive that a +2 Mew only manages a 4HKO on Slaking unless the third move is Hyper Beam. Slaking is so devastating that Counter would clearly be the preferred fourth move over Hyper Beam or Body Slam to better deal with other Slaking. RBY Mewtwo's title of "single most powerful Pokémon in any generation" would definitely be called into question if the giant sloth had existed.
The great whale may not be so great in the competitive scene, hindered by a not-very-versatile movepool in the generations it exists. However, its movepool is more than good enough for RBY, by virtue of mainly one move: Amnesia. You may think Wailord is still totally inferior to Slowbro, as the latter boasts a Psychic-type resistance, access to Thunder Wave, and a better physical bulk. However, when Wailord's titanic HP stat is combined with Amnesia and Reflect boosts, it truly becomes a monster tank. With an special bulk that is only beaten by Chansey and Mewtwo in RBY, Wailord can even afford to take a couple of unSTABed Thunderbolts while setting up—the fact that Wailord outspeeds Chansey also helps. The improved special bulk is the key advantage Wailord boasts over Slowbro, as even critical hit Thunderbolts from the likes of Chansey, Starmie, and Lapras will rarely manage over 60% damage. Reflect, meanwhile, turns Wailord's physical bulk from average to excellent. Both boosting moves make Wailord almost impossible to knock out outside of timely critical hits. While Snorlax can perform a similar set and isn't weak to Thunderbolt or Razor Leaf, it doesn't have the option to run a STAB move that is boosted by Amnesia. Furthermore, Wailord also has the option to run Blizzard and even a decently powered Selfdestruct, but the moveset shown above is definitely what would've made Wailord a real pain to battle against in RBY OU. Tanklax? More like Tanklord!
A Fire-type Pokémon in RBY OU may seem weird, but Camerupt has some key advantages over the pool of underused Fire-types. As far as movepools are concerned, Camerupt becomes the only Fire-type Pokémon able to learn Amnesia, which can boost Fire Blast's power to incredible levels; after a single boost, Fire Blast has a good chance of OHKOing Tauros, and, at +4, will OHKO Snorlax, and 2HKOes Chansey. In addition, Camerupt also learns a decently powered Explosion to put a quick stop to the likes of Starmie and Chansey, OHKOing the latter. Type-wise, an additional Ground typing grants Camerupt with a strong STAB Earthquake able to 2HKO Golem, Rhydon, and Alakazam, as well as immunities to Thunder Wave and Thunderbolt, making Camerupt a very good check to Gengar and Jolteon. Unfortunately, Camerupt also becomes 4x weak to Surf and 2x weak to the very common Earthquake, Blizzard, and Ice Beam, which, coupled with an awful Speed stat that only lets Camerupt outspeed Snorlax and Slowbro, severely limits its staying power and reliability when setting up. Nonetheless, Camerupt does have the possibility of getting past Chansey and even Surf-less Starmie on its own provided they switch in as it uses Amnesia, although some paralysis support wouldn't hurt at all...
Zangoose is a frail but powerful Normal-type Pokémon that does have the tools required to be a potent threat in RBY OU. STAB Slash coming from base 115 Attack does ridiculous damage to everything that doesn't resist it, 2HKOing Tauros and frailer Pokémon. In addition, Zangoose can run a Swords Dance set along with Hyper Beam or opt for Thunder Wave, but unfortunately, there is no room to run both moves without dropping Slash, which would make no sense due to its instant raw power. Thunder Wave makes Zangoose the only physically-based Normal-type able to spread paralysis with a 100% paralyzing move. Thunder Wave is great to cripple faster Pokémon such as Tauros and Starmie, as well as outspeed slower Pokémon if Zangoose gets paralyzed back. Bubblebeam—a RBY TM move learned by every mono-Normal-type Pokémon except Eevee, Ditto, and Porygon—or Blizzard allow Zangoose to 2HKO Golem and Rhydon, but Hyper Beam is an option outside the Swords Dance set as well due to the extra power and chance of doubling the damage with a critical hit.
Before I start, note that Quagsire and Whiscash are extremely similar Pokémon, so there is no point on expanding on both. The only relevant difference between them are their base stats; Quagsire has 8 higher Attack and 15 higher Defense, but 15 lower HP, 25 lower Speed, and 11 lower Special, so Whiscash edges it out. When you look at Whiscash, you see a lot of similarities with the aforementioned Piloswine, both being Amnesia-using Ground-types that are not weak to Ice-type moves and thus perfectly suited to deal with Chansey. While Whiscash isn't weak to Water-type attacks unlike Piloswine—and thus can deal with Starmie and Slowbro much better—it takes quadruple damage from Grass-type attacks. Moreover, a secondary Water typing isn't as useful offensively as Ice, as Surf is slightly weaker than Blizzard and Whiscash has to rely on its unSTABed Blizzard to deal with Exeggutor. Whiscash enjoys a pretty good stat distribution, however, highlighted by a great HP stat. In addition, Whiscash's Speed stat is high enough to outspeed every Pokémon ranging from Snorlax to Lapras, which is more than half the metagame.
Armaldo is a unique Rock-type Pokémon. Thanks to its secondary Bug typing, it isn't weak to Earthquake or BoltBeam, allowing it to take hits from Tauros, standard Snorlax, and Chansey much better than Golem and Rhydon—it takes 25% or less damage from Snorlax's Earthquake. While its strongest STAB attack only has 75 Base Power, Armaldo boasts an impressive base 125 Attack stat and has access to the fearsome Swords Dance. After a single Swords Dance boost, Armaldo is capable of 2HKOing the entire metagame with a combination of STAB Rock Slide, Earthquake, and Hyper Beam. In addition, frailer Pokémon such as Chansey and Alakazam would fall to a +2 Hyper Beam. Unfortunately, Armaldo is very slow, so it would need a good deal of paralysis support to sweep effectively, although it can certainly be a potent threat during the late game— it could also utilize Body Slam to spread paralysis by itself. Much like Piloswine and Camerupt, Armaldo would probably make Surf more common in RBY, not only from Starmie, but also from Tauros—over Blizzard—and from Snorlax. All in all, Armaldo could be a nice alternative to Golem and Rhydon if countering Electric-types isn't your priority.
At first glance, Gorebyss may look like just another generic Water-type Pokémon like Vaporeon or Seadra that would've gone unnoticed in RBY, but only until you realize it can learn a deadly combination of Amnesia, Agility, and STAB Clamp. No other Pokémon boasts the ability to back up a special partial-trapping move with a Special- or Speed-raising move. Unlike Dragonite, which is left almost weaponless after it gets paralyzed, Gorebyss still keeps the threat of Amnesia and thus the ability to get past special walls like Chansey, Starmie, and Lapras, while Agility prevents a boosted Gorebyss from being revenge killed by the likes of Tauros. On the flip side, Clamp's low accuracy and Gorebyss's average bulk hindered by an awful HP stat makes it vulnerable to being worn down while setting up and, obviously, to luck. As an Amnesia user, Slowbro outclasses Gorebyss due to its much better physical bulk and secondary Psychic typing. Thunder Wave is also better suited than Agility against Starmie due to the added possibility of full paralysis, and lack of Thunder Wave also means Gorebyss is even more vulnerable to Razor Leaf users and becomes setup bait for Dragonite— it has no room for Blizzard or Ice Beam due to Surf being necessary to deal with Recover users and Lapras. On the other hand, Gorebyss would definitely enjoy the advantage of being faster than Chansey, which, unlike Starmie, can't stall Surf out of PP with Softboiled by just hoping for full paralysis. All in all, it's the threat of the three aforementioned moves that, combined altogether, would have made Gorebyss one of the most dangerous Pokémon in RBY and easily the most annoying one.
In a metagame where the two viable Rock-types are also part Ground-type, Regirock would have found its niche in RBY OU as the Rock-type Pokémon that doesn't have an Ice-type weakness or take quadruple damage from Water- and Grass-type attacks. Unfortunately, as we saw with Armaldo, losing the secondary Ground typing doesn't come without negatives, namely losing Thunder Wave immunity, the ability to counter Zapdos and Jolteon, and STAB on Earthquake. Nonetheless, the Rock-type Regi boasts some key advantages that shouldn't be overlooked: an enormous physical bulk provided by its base 200 Defense stat, a fairly strong Explosion that works similarly to Golem's, and Thunder Wave. Thunder Wave is great for catching checks like Starmie and Exeggutor on the switch and deterring sweepers like Tauros; combined with Explosion, no Pokémon would be safe against Regirock. Unfortunately, Regirock shares the low Speed and Special stats that also define other Rock-type Pokémon, as Regirock would have had to keep a low 50 base Special stat in RBY to be consistent in terms of BST with the Regi trio and the existing bird trio in RBY. Regirock would have issues dealing with special attacks in RBY, but let's not forget Golem and Rhydon have been able to keep a high-tier RBY OU status with that same issue and even more special type weaknesses!
We've just seen how Regirock would have been a viable Pokémon in RBY, but Regice is just on a completely different level. Regirock's signature stat was its Defense, while Regice's is its Special Defe... oh wait! Special! An attacking Special stat of 498 makes Regice a total powerhouse, leaving Chansey as the only Pokémon able to shrug off BoltBeam coming off that impressive Special stat—even Alakazam and Snorlax are 2HKOed by Blizzard. You calm down thinking that at the very least Chansey would be able to handle Regice's assaults, just to realize a moment later that Amnesia totally destroys it. There is no doubt that Regice is broken material for OU, but the funny thing is that Regice is the Pokémon the RBY Ubers metagame has always been looking for to break Mewtwo's utter dominance. Regice may not learn Recover, but an Ice-type Amnesia user with a more-than-impressive Special stat is the perfect Pokémon to check Mewtwo; not only can Regice stand Mewtwo's hits, but it's also immune to its freeze, while being able to freeze Mewtwo back with its own Ice Beam—that's why Ice Beam is preferred over Blizzard. On the other hand, Regice has to rely on Rest to recover off damage, is very slow, and boasts a weakness to Rock Slide, thus giving more protagonism to physical attackers in a metagame totally dominated by Mewtwo otherwise. Regice could have certainly been the perfect Pokémon to balance the RBY Ubers metagame, go figure...
We all know that RBY is a very limited and unidimensional metagame. If you were not of a certain type or lacked access to a certain move, you'd likely remain unused in OU. As expected, the Pokémon detailed in this article are those that, while being overshadowed by stronger or more versatile Pokémon in the newer generations, are of that certain type or have access to that certain move that suits RBY perfectly. Most of the new generation underdogs mentioned are either Normal-, Rock-, or Ground-types, and guess what, those are the only physical types that had access to a good STAB move back in the days of RBY. Offensively, physical attacks dominated over special attacks due to the lack of good physical walls, while Alakazam and especially Chansey had the special side on-lock. For this reason, the special side of the article is mostly restriced to Amnesia users, as Amnesia used to be the best stat-boosting move before the Special stat split happened in GSC and the only way special attacks could pose a threat to the omnipresent Chansey.
So that's all for now, folks! Don't forget that this is a two-part article, however! If you enjoyed this part and would like to know where Regigigas, Beheeyem, and Torterra—that is, the DPP and BW underdogs—would be in RBY had they existed, don't miss the second part in the next Smog issue!
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