The Starters of Kalos!

By Goddess Briyella. Art by chameleonskyes.
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With each new generation comes a new adventure, which begins with you choosing the partner that you will take on the entire region with. The starter Pokémon of each generation in the series have all been unique, with their vastly different appearances and capabilities, and XY is no different in that respect. People have always had different preferences about which starter to choose, and maybe even which ones to grace the battlefield with against other players. As we move closer to a more definitive and established tiering system at Smogon, let's have a look at the starters that the new games brought, their positives and negatives, and what significance they have, both in-game and in competitive play.


Type: Grass / Fighting
Abilities: Overgrow, Bulletproof
Base stats: 88 HP / 107 Atk / 122 Def / 74 SpA / 75 SpD / 64 Spe

Generation VI brings with it a cute new rodent Pokémon whose final stage happens to be a physical juggernaut. Enter the first Grass-type starter to become a Grass / Fighting-type. Its raw power in STAB moves such as Wood Hammer and Hammer Arm allows Chesnaught to deal massive damage to enemies—STAB Fighting coverage is a coveted thing in Pokémon, as it threatens a wide variety of types, and STAB Grass attacks let it pose a considerable threat to Water- and Ground-types, an edge most other Fighting-types cannot lay claim to. However, the fact that the newly introduced Fairy-types have an offensive and defensive advantage against Fighting-types hurts Chesnaught, in addition to the many weaknesses its typing already would have saddled it with had they not been introduced. Despite these defensive shortcomings, it has useful resistances to Ground, Rock, Water, Electric, and Dark, while also being immune to Spore and other powder-based moves, and can function somewhat well as a bulky utility Pokémon with its support options.

Players who choose Chespin in the X and Y games have much more of a challenge in general against most of the important opponents in the game. Going by typing, it's the weakest starter by far against the first gym (though Rollout helps it a lot) and the other two starters fare better against just about every gym following that. By the time Chespin reaches its final stage and gains its Fighting typing, it will have to deal with the Psychic- and Fairy-type gyms, and both of those have a blatant advantage against it, so it will likely have to sit out of those; it also is weak to both STABs of the region champion's star Pokémon: Mega Gardevoir. In addition, as its name might suggest, Team Flare primarily uses Fire-types, and our Grass starter won't have the easiest time handling this criminal organization because of it. However, it catches a huge break in the final battle against Team Flare's boss, as his Mega Gyarados is incredibly weak to Chesnaught type-wise, with both of its types having an offensive and defensive disadvantage against both of Chesnaught's types.

Chesnaught is likely to be RU this generation, or perhaps UU at the highest. Reasons for this include that it has 6 weaknesses, including a 4x weakness to Flying, as well as less-than-desirable special bulk and sub-par Speed—the same issue that Pokémon like Golem have always had. One thing it does have over Breloom, its Grass / Fighting-type comrade, is that it has the physical bulk to tank a few hits, and this can be used in conjunction with Leech Seed and Substitute to allow it to serve as a SubSeeding wall. It can also make use of Curse and STAB Hammer Arm to give it high offensive power while lowering its Speed to power up its Gyro Ball attack. Chesnaught has access to two important moves that Breloom lacks, Earthquake and Spikes. It also gets the exclusive move Spiky Shield, which not only acts like the move Protect, but also causes a little damage to any Pokémon that makes contact during the turn the move is used; it can be easily played around, though, especially since mostly special attacks will be aimed at it to hit its weaker defensive stat, and very few of those make contact. It gets the exclusive Bulletproof ability, which grants it an immunity to certain bomb- and ball-based attacks, including Sludge Bomb, which it would otherwise hate to take, as well as other important attacks such as Aura Sphere, Focus Blast, and Shadow Ball. Interestingly, this ability allows it to totally wall the standard King's Shield / Shadow Ball / Sacred Sword / Shadow Sneak Aegislash, against which it can set up Spikes or sow misery with Leech Seed. Chesnaught's numerous weaknesses combined with its sub-par Speed do hurt its chances of maintaining relevance, but with its unique resistances, utility options, and solid physical presence, it will likely be found in the intermediate tiers, though its true place in competitive battling is yet to be determined.



Type: Fire / Psychic
Abilities: Blaze, Magician
Base stats: 75 HP / 69 Atk / 72 Def / 114 SpA / 100 SpD / 104 Spe

A Fire-type fox isn't exactly a new concept (we've had Vulpix and Ninetales since RBY), but the design and unique capabilities of the final form of this starter more than warrant it a title of its own. A welcome change from the string of Fire / Fighting-type starters we've seen since RSE, the fire starter of this generation becomes a Fire/Psychic-type, a typing shared only by the hidden legend Victini from last generation. With impressive special stats and Speed, as well as a resistance to the new Fairy-type, this thing is bound to burn holes into the competition under the right conditions. However, while Delphox appears to have a decent specially offensive presence and has a total of seven resistances, it has disappointingly lackluster physical bulk, no means of recovery or longevity, an annoying weakness to Stealth Rock, and painful weaknesses to Earthquake and Pursuit. It can be expected to put in at least some work for a team, but it will likely always be viewed as inferior to Victini.

Players who choose Fennekin as their starter are in luck; it makes the gym leader challenge in Kalos a breeze. It has a clear offensive advantage against most of the first few gym leaders (though the Rock-type gym will probably give it trouble); its Fire typing and STAB moves allow it to burn its way through the Bug- and the Grass-type gyms, and Braixen's Psybeam crushes the Fighting-type gym; by the time it develops into Delphox, it has a comfortable victory against the later Psychic- and Fairy-type gyms, and can completely topple the final gym alone with literally no problems at all. Delphox also has a defensive edge against the champion's Mega Gardevoir, as it resists both of its STABs. This Fire starter typically does well against Team Flare throughout the game, having no real offensive advantage but also having security defensively, as Delphox and their Fire-types wall each other's STAB moves; that said, Delphox will have to watch out for the Team Flare members that have Scrafty and Houndoom, as it will be considerably disadvantaged against those. Toward the end of the game, Delphox pays for its mostly easy run of the game when the player faces the Team Flare boss's Mega Gyarados, as it has a double type advantage against Delphox and so our foxy sorcerer absolutely has to sit out and let a better suited teammate handle the situation or it will be totally annihilated.

While Delphox does indeed have higher Special Attack and Speed than Victini, it absolutely cannot compare, due to Victini's obscenely powerful options both specially and physically, such as Blue Flare and V-create, as well as its superior all-around bulk. Delphox gets the exclusive move Mystical Fire, which not only deals special STAB Fire-type damage, but also lowers the Special Attack of its target, thereby damaging the enemy as well as lowering their offensive capabilities in one attack, but the low Base Power of this attack makes it somewhat unappealing. Its Fire / Psychic typing has the advantage this generation of not only being resistant to the new Fairy-type, but it also has an offensive advantage against the only two types that threaten Fairy-types, Poison and Steel. The exclusive ability Magician allows Delphox to steal an opponent's item during an attack after having consumed or lost its own, but this can only be good in situational circumstances and only if Delphox opts to carry a one-time-use item (Gems do not exist in XY) or no item at all, which is less than desirable. It certainly has its shortcomings on the physical side, and it's weak to quite a few attacking types that are common this generation. It will be interesting to see if its pitiful physical bulk, lack of any apparent niche, and plethora of common weaknesses will render it NU material, or if its above-average Speed and Special Attack are enough to keep it afloat in higher levels of play despite living in Victini's shadow.



Type: Water / Dark
Abilities: Torrent, Protean
Base stats: 72 HP / 95 Atk / 67 Def / 103 SpA / 71 SpD / 122 Spe

Pokémon has had a lot of frogs introduced in its games, but nothing quite like what Froakie becomes upon developing into its final form. The first Water-type starter to also have Dark typing, Greninja is an incredible creature that possesses a few traits that tons of other Pokémon wish they had, and that goes far beyond just other Water-type starters. Greninja is able to wash away foes with its impressive offensive prowess combined with its versatility, and is a very unique addition to competitive play, particularly because of an amazing new exclusive ability that is only available to its evolutionary line and Kecleon. It will certainly be guaranteeing itself a position of considerable might in the metagame.

Choosing Froakie provides an intermediate experience in the X and Y games as far as the starter itself goes. From the beginning, Froakie and its evolution don't have what you could call an advantage against any of Kalos's gyms except the Rock-type gym, it finds itself at an obvious disadvantage versus the Grass- and Electric-type gyms, and after it acquires Dark typing upon becoming Greninja, it has an annoying disadvantage against the Fairy-type gym, but then also receives a welcome break when facing the Psychic-type gym. Greninja has an obvious edge against the slew of Fire-types that Team Flare carries, but when facing their leader, it does not do well at all against most of his team; his Mienshao completely overwhelms Greninja offensively and it cannot compete with the power and bulk of Mega Gyarados despite having the same typing. While it's true that it has an immunity to one of the champion's Mega Gardevoir's STABs, its other type grants it a neutrality to Dark-type attacks and also an offensive advantage against our ninja frog, so Greninja cannot be expected to face the champion's star Pokémon without being defeated.

Greninja is probably going to stay in OU. If there were any Pokémon who could be whatever it wants, whenever it wants, while retaining its preferred moveset, this would be that Pokémon. Its Protean ability allows Greninja to literally alter its typing to match any move it selects, hence allowing Greninja to change its resistances to have an advantage in almost any situation; and it changes typing BEFORE it moves, which not only lets it actively switch between types for a defensive advantage, but it also grants Greninja STAB on every single attack. Any super effective hit it scores on anything is going to sting like hell, since STAB will be applied in addition to double damage every time. With its high special offense and blistering Speed, it is sure to rain on any opponent's parade. Greninja isn't all brute force either, as it can also run a Spiker set to help soften up opposing teams in addition to what it can do offensively. It doesn't take hits very well, but it's not designed to, and with access to U-turn, it can flee to safety after hitting hard with a STAB Bug-type attack. It should be noted that with the pseudo-STAB granted by Protean, Greninja is able to use Hidden Power Fire to get around the top OU threats Scizor and Ferrothorn, despite Hidden Power's nerf to 60 Base Power this generation. With its ability to maintain momentum for its team as well as pose one of a variety of potent offensive threats that can change with every turn, Greninja is almost certain to see high usage and competitive acclaim in this new generation.


While there are uncertainties (and even debates on some levels) regarding many aspects of these new starters in a competitive sense at this time, one objective thing remains true: Chesnaught, Delphox, and Greninja all bring something new to Pokémon. All three of them have a secondary typing that forms a type triangle (Fighting / Psychic / Dark) in addition to the one each set of starters typically already has (Grass / Fire / Water), and they are also modeled after the RPG-based motifs for the Warrior, Mage, and Rogue classes. Though all three of them have typings that have been seen before on previously released Pokémon, they all have unique qualities that set them apart, and the true extent of their abilities has yet to fully surface. It is quite possible that these will all end up in different tiers in the near future, which will then help to further define their worth in the metagames they make their home. No matter what tier you prefer playing, you're sure to find one. Which one will you choose?

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