Similarities & Differences: Mantine & Skarmory

By Parallel. Art by Blue Frog.
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Welcome to Similarities and Differences, where we look to compare Pokémon that are similar, yet different. Don't you love self-explanatory titles? Shakespeare was good at self-explanatory titles: Romeo and Juliet, The Tempest, all those plays about Kings… let's give it a shot.

Two walls, both alike in BST
In fair Johto, where we lay our scene
From AncientPower breaks...

Yeah, no. Stopping that now. Right now. Right this instant.

Anyway, we begin our examination into what extent similar things are different from each other with two titans of defense: Skarmory and Mantine.

Due to the hefty tier difference between these well-mirrored counterparts, this first of hopefully many articles will explore the virtues and the failings of these two brothers in wings.

While one soared to the heights of OU and has never lost its crown as a defensive behemoth, the other has barely graced the heights of UU over the last four generations. What caused the rift between these two counterparts?

Point One: Stat distribution

The concept behind both these walls was very simple. Take 465 BST; grant one with a sky-high base 140 Defense, and the other with an equal Special Defense; give them an almost acceptable 80 in the related offensive stat; then make the rest of the stats utterly middling. Because, you know, the kids love playing with low-powered walls!

This is of course where things went wrong for poor Mantine. Skarmory could make up for its disappointing base 65 HP by having an immense base 140 Defense, which is enough to put it in competition with the other physical walls in the game. Well, the relevant ones anyway.

But Mantine's competition was a lot tougher. Even in its Generation 2 debut, its defenses were just way below what was standard. Vaporeon, Snorlax, Blissey, Suicune, Umbreon—Mantine faced way too much competition even in the old days from special walls that not only had the bulk, but also a variety of other tools in their arsenal (such as instant recovery, or more rounded defenses), that left it dwelling in the depths of the lower tiers while Skarmory soared high.

"But!" I hear you cry out to your computer screen. "Stats are not the only things that matter in Pokémon!"

And of course dear reader, you are right. Except for the fact that you're shouting at your computer screen. There's no way I can hear you right now. I wrote this long before you began reading it.


To fully appreciate why the two brothers in defense started to diverge, let's have a look at their typing!

Point Two: Typing

As with their stat distribution, the typings of both Skarmory and Mantine have a relatively simple idea behind them, which ended up just falling in Skarmory's favor and sealing Mantine's competitive demise.

The basic gist of this was:

A similar approach was later taken with the Creation trio. But it turned out Dragon was a waaaay better typing. Seriously, sometimes I think Skarmory ended up good by sheer dumb luck. It just so happens Steel / Flying is a great typing, and Water / Flying just isn't. To attempt to figure out why this happens to be, let's take a quick look at how the addition of the Flying-type changes the type matchups for the two Pokémon.

Resistances: 11, Weaknesses: 3, Immunities: 1

Resistances: 3, Weaknesses: 3, Immunities: 1

So Skarmory ends up with:
Resistances: 9, Weaknesses: 2, Immunities: 2

As you can see, not a bad outcome at all. Losing two resistances and gaining one less weakness and one less immunity, in comparison to the pure Steel typing. All in all, I'd say that's a notable improvement in defensive capabilities.

Now, let's try this with Mantine...

Weaknesses: 2, Resistances: 4, Immunities: 0

Not a bad defensive typing. Not quite on par with Steel, but it manages to have very few weaknesses, and leaves itself a nice handful of resists to switch in on.

Now, let's see what happens when we add Flying into the mix.

Weaknesses: 2, Resistances: 5, Immunities: 1

It doesn't do too bad, right? Right? It looks like it gained a free resistance and immunity, while gaining no additional weaknesses.

Well, it sure looks like an improvement, until you consider that one of those weaknesses is in fact a double weakness to the terrifyingly common Electric. And no amount of tankiness saves you from a double weakness.

Plus, the types it resists are hardly common attacking types. Bug, Fighting, Steel, and Fire were practically unseen offensively in its debut generation, and even worse, three of those were physical types.

Did we mention Stealth Rock yet? It's weak to that too.


Point Three: Movepool

If you've picked up the running theme for this article, it's that it seems to be that Mantine keeps shooting right towards something promising, and then falling as flat as its strange seaworthy body.

Mantine was introduced with quite a few enviable defensive options, such as Rest, Confuse Ray, Curse, Sleep Talk, Whirlpool, and Toxic. Not too shabby. Whereas Skarmory's initial movepool seems very meager; all it really seems to get is Rest, Curse, Sleep Talk, and Whirlwind.


There it is, that's what set Skarmory apart as an amazing tank from day one. The ability to phaze. To halt setup and to cause the opponent to involuntarily switch into Spikes and Toxic Spikes over and over and over again. Plus, it got what was at the time the best Flying-type move in the game: Drill Peck. So that's always a bonus.

Since the GSC era, Skarmory got access to moves such as Spikes, Stealth Rock, Taunt, and the innermost desire of any tank—a healing move in the form of Roost. This kept it up to speed with any new defensive threat that dared to challenge its OU crown.

Mantine tried to carve out a niche for itself by getting itself access to a vast, esoteric, and somewhat enviable set of coverage moves, with new tools like Psybeam, Signal Beam and Bullet Seed. Sadly, it faced stiff competition in that area from the more offensively oriented Octillery, who'd be a much better option in-game, and never did that well for itself competitively either.

Other Factors

With the introduction of abilities, Skarmory got Sturdy and Keen Eye. Keen Eye could save in-game players a lot of stress and frustration, and at the dawn of Generation V, Sturdy become a true competitive asset to it.

Mantine got the abilities Swift Swim and Water Absorb. Both extremely respectable abilities on a rain team, but not of much use otherwise.

Mantine's name seems to be a portmanteau of both manta ray and marine, indicating its design origin.

Skarmory's appears to be a combination of sky and armory. So I guess Skarmory even wins in the name department.

Finally, no discussion about Skarmory's competitive prowess is complete without a shout out to the infamous SkarmBliss combo, in reference to the excellent synergy between Skarmory and Blissey, especially in the pre-physical / special split days. Anything Skarmory was ill-suited to deal with, Blissey could, and vice versa.

A true defensive match made in heaven, this was undoubtedly one of the biggest factors that landed Skarmory a slot in many teams over a lot of its other Steel-type competitors.

In Conclusion

Skarmory undoubtedly outshines its salt-encrusted counterpart in the competitive arena. The stars aligned and everything just worked out in the metal bird's favor. Skarmory hit the mark so hard it's been in the OU tier since its debut, while Mantine has yet to swim above the murky depths of the UU tier, and currently lies pitying itself in the abyss of NU.

It just goes to show how little separates an amazing Pokémon from a pretty unusable one. How easily any Pokémon in any tier could have had all perceptions of it shifted if for some seemingly innocuous decisions on the Game Freak design floor.

But I'd never want to play through the game with either of them, geez. Who wants to play with something with no attack power? Save 'em both for Wi-Fi, I'm off to go train some more glass cannons.

Next time: Some different, yet similar Pokémon are compared!

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