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winstein's Dark-type Reviews - Generation 5 (Part 2)

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This is it: the final batch of Dark-types that will be reviewed. In this part, we shall be looking at the remaining Dark-types before it’s all over. It sure felt like not too long ago from the last time I covered the first Dark-type article, but well, we’re here now, so let’s finish this one! If you are ready, let’s get on with this.

(Note: In this blog, Rosa and Nate’s height are treated as 1.45 metres and 1.55 metres respectively.)

Zorua & Zoroark

“Zoroark and Zorua are two of my favorite Pokémon, and why? They have such
great Sp. Attack. If you want to get past any specially orientated Psychic-type,
like Reuniclus, these two are always a great help. Only problem is they are near
impossible to obtain without a GTS.”
~ @Shiny Staraptor

During February of 2010, there was a silhouette of a new Pokémon on Pokémon Sunday (a weekly show in Japan showing all things Pokémon-related) we never saw before at that time. It resembled some kind of werewolf, which is a sign that Generation 5 was imminent. It didn’t take long for people to create their own interpretation of this silhouette, and their imagination included a Mightyena evolution, a Lucario-esque Pokémon and even a Pokémon with original design. A week later, this silhouette turned out to be Zoroark. Together with Zorua, they were the first Generation 5 Pokémon we knew. It took a while for fans to warm up to these Pokémon after warming up to fan renditions of the silhouette (this happened on a regular basis when silhouettes were revealed, such as the starters). The reason we saw these Pokémon is that they will be promoted in the upcoming movie. Just like how Lucario was one of the first Generation 4 Pokémon to be announced for a movie, Zoroark is on the same boat. It was then that we found out who “Phantom Ruler Z” was when it was announced sometime early 2010.

Because they are early Pokémon to be revealed in their respective Generations, Zorua and Zoroark have a few similarities with Riolu and Lucario. Both of them have high male ratios, a trait that encourages a lot of breeding with Ditto if one were to get a female version of the Pokémon. Both of them are also offensive Pokémon with a frail defensive side, so they are more suited as attackers. They are also in a movie which featured them as main characters, except in Lucario’s case, it was only Lucario. Speaking of this, it should be noted that while Riolu is a baby Pokémon, Zorua is not one, not surprisingly. Ironically, you cannot obtain Zorua or Zoroark in Pokémon Black and White unlike Lucario, whom can be obtain by hatching a Riolu egg and evolving it, a trait shared with Togepi. Fortunately, its sequels gave us a free Zorua in the game (belonging to N), since that event was over and there is no way to get them normally in the originals at this point.

Zorua and Zoroark possess the special ability to take the form of others, thanks to their inherent illusion abilities. By hiding their true identities, they are able to avoid being detected, and this is quite useful when avoiding danger or just fooling around with people or, in Zoroark’s case, help one another within the pack with their trickery, as the bonds between them are quite strong. Zoroark’s illusory powers even expand to hiding their lair with illusory scenery, which is cool, I suppose. While they can disguise perfectly with an illusory veil, they are still essentially the same Pokémon, so when they speak, it’s a dead giveaway because Pokémon usually have signature cries, unless the Pokémon have the ability of speech. There is a reason Zorua’s preferred illusion is a silent child, you know. Their resemblance to a fox, in addition to illusion abilities, is definitely influenced by the fox spirits that comes in a few different names in the Eastern culture, like gumiho in Korea and kitsune in Japan. Unlike Vulpix and Ninetales, the inspiration is less tails and more illusion powers. It’s interesting to note that Zoroark could learn Flamethrower, which is another inspiration to the mythical fox, as the original breathe fire too. First hearing about the gumiho and finding more about it, I am surprised to find out that there is a Korean drama based on the main character having a girlfriend who is one to return her favour for freeing her from a picture.

As mentioned before, there is a move centred around the new Pokémon, so the movie “Zoroark: Master of Illusions” should be about Zoroark. As such, they’re the only Unova Pokémon both Dawn and Brock had witnessed so far (until Dawn went to Unova, that is). I haven’t watched this movie before, but I think it’s about a Zorua who lost its mother Zoroark, and Ash and friends went to help it, and it involves the legendary beasts of Generation 2 and Celebi, because the villain Kodai wants to get exposed to Celebi’s time-based powers. Anyway, in the actual anime with Ash’s journey through Unova, he met Zorua in a town where Luke was, and this Pokémon suits Luke’s movie-making hobby well, as Zorua’s Illusion abilities allow it to take on the form of any role, although this one prefers female ones because it’s a female. Later on it will be involved in the running gag in which Bianca is in constant pursuit for Zorua, but often got tangled with Georgia. When she did get it, she put Zorua in some accessories, but I am a bit lazy to find that picture, so if you can link to this picture, you may provide it in the comments section.

In competitive battling, their signature ability allows them to thrive because the opponent may not know when you have a Zoroark out. The way this ability works is that your Pokémon will take the illusion of the last Pokémon in your party, so you could arrange your Pokémon in a way that Zoroark looks like another Pokémon. The extra turn of bluffing could be the difference between losing and winning, so if it works for you, it is especially rewarding, because it complements Zoroark’s offensive presence well. Zoroark’s Special Attack is quite high, and thankfully, it has the moves to be a threat, thanks to Dark Pulse, Focus Blast, Extrasensory, Flamethrower and Hidden Power, and of course, Nasty Plot. While this Pokémon gets the signature Night Daze, which is slightly stronger and less accurate than Dark Pulse, it gives the disguise away for that very reason. Zoroark could also be a Physical attacker, even if it won’t be as successful with its lower Attack, but knowing Swords Dance and Sucker Punch helps. You could even include U-turn in the mix if you are in need of scouting.

Because Illusion relies on your teammates to be successful, you need to choose the right teammates. Ideally, you want a teammate to be neutral to Rock so that Stealth Rock won’t be a giveaway. They must also be grounded, and especially not Poison or Steel-type, so that entry hazards won’t similarly give the illusion away. Abilities that give messages like Pressure and Mould Breaker would not be ideal for similar reasons, even though I felt that Illusion should be changed so that the message can be given even if Zoroark won’t have the ability’s effect, because an illusion is supposed to give that false impression. If the target of disguise has the same moves Zoroark can learn, that’s even better, like Infernape.

Zorua and Zoroark are a curious case where having a signature move and ability is not quite a good thing, whereas for most Pokémon having something exclusive to them makes them unique and worthy of consideration because of that. This is because Illusion works a lot well if there are more than one different Pokémon family with this ability, so that in the case of two or more Pokémon in the party, it’s harder to tell who the one under the Illusion is. Night Daze works the same way: if more Pokémon learns this move, it might not be possible to tell if the Pokémon is Zoroark or not when that move is used.

There was a rumour during Black and White’s pre-release that Zorua would be found in Castelia’s trash cans, but this had been proven false. However, when one looks at the PokéDex, one would notice that Trubbish and Garbodor’s entries are beneath Zorua and Zoroark’s! Perhaps this rumour makes some sense, although not in a direct matter.

For those who experienced Generation 5’s history, these Pokémon are special because they are the first to be revealed. Zoroark’s werewolf-like design should be quite attractive to fans who love canines and werewolves, so there’s some sort of appeal to it. Fortunately for them, they are exceptional Dark-types, because their illusory powers suits their trickster nature well, and like many Dark-type families, are Pokémon that fights in packs. I would say that the decision to put these Pokémon at the forefront of Generation 5 is generally a great choice.

10 Joroas out of 10!
10 Zoroarks out of 10!

+ First Pokémon to be revealed in Generation 5
+ Illusion gives them unique capabilities
+ A great example of a Dark-type Pokémon
+ Have a movie starring them
+ Another take of a Pokémon based on a kumiho/kitsune
- A rare case where not having a signature ability and move makes them more effective

Vullaby & Mandibuzz

“Mandibuzz is a pretty good Pokemon to use competitively. Sporting exceptional Defense stats,
and passable Speed as well as a decent ability in Overcoat. This Pokemon is a great addition
to any team, that needs a stall member.” ~

Our next exhibits are vulture-based Pokémon. They also share the same type combination with Murkrow and Honchkrow, whom were reviewed before separately. Vultures are scavengers, a type of animal who would normally only eat animal carcasses. They are also counterparts to Rufflet and Braviary, who are also Flying-types that are based on birds of prey, which are a group of birds that hunt for food, but unlike the ordinary birds, they especially take other vertebrates, such as snakes and rabbits.

Rufflet and Braviary are male-only Pokémon, whereas Vullaby and Mandibuzz are female-only Pokémon. The former family is also offensive-based, with a high Attack and some powerful attacks such as Brave Bird and Superpower. The latter, however, is very defensive, possessing a lot of bulk. This is appropriate for them, because they want to be able to withstand certain hits from a weakened foe, and besides, those skeletons work great as armour and decoration. Mandibuzz is thus a proud learner of the rarely-distributed Bone Rush. It’s not the most reliable attack, but it does provide Mandibuzz a way to hit Electric, Rock and Steel-types, which counts as something.

This is another thing that these Pokémon are known to do: using skeletons as part of decoration. It’s interesting to note that as soon as Vullaby is about to evolve, it will discard its bones it was wearing, for two possible reasons: to lessen the burden for flight (it can’t fly well, like Archen) and to make sure the bones won’t get too tight when its size increased. Mandibuzz’s Black PokéDex entry also states that “It grabs weakened prey in its talons and hauls it to its nest of bones”, which partly gives me the impression that its prey will become part of the bone nest, which would have been crueller.

Vultures have a significant trait, which is their bald heads. This is very important to them, because their diet of carrion requires that they have less bacteria growth from the carcass’ remnants, so that it will be easier to keep clean, since the fluids contained in carrion would be hard to remove if they have feathers or down on their heads. It’s not just their heads that are protected from bacteria. Their diet of carrion basically also means that they will need to stand on their food, so they need to have some way to prevent bacterial growth on their feet. One way is to have their acidic urine cover the legs so that those bacteria won’t be a problem. It also helps that it will cool down the legs too.

Vultures don’t usually kill off the prey for the food. Instead, they wait for their prey to die off before eating it. This is because they are not very strong attackers with their weak talons, and besides, they don’t need to use that much energy if they wait. After all, good thing happen to those who wait. If possible, or they can’t wait for the meal to die off, they would take their chances at slaying the weakened foe, which is what these Pokémon are known to do. However, the White PokéDex entry states that they swoop and strike weakened Pokémon from the sky, which is not how I imagine a vulture to act, even though it’s something other birds of prey would do.

Due to their very defensive nature, they work well as a wall in competitive battling. Apart from their stats, they have the appropriate moves to function well as a defensive Pokémon. Roost is prime amongst them, because a defensive Pokémon requires recovery to perform well. There’s also Whirlwind, a very useful tool in repelling a boosted Pokémon. One odd thing about Mandibuzz is that its Speed is good for a defensive Pokémon, so don’t underestimate this. You can then add in other useful support moves such as Toxic, Knock Off, Taunt and U-turn. If you are in need of an offensive move, you could always add Brave Bird or Dark Pulse, which they can learn through level-up. There is Bone Rush too, if you think you have space for it. While you could provide Nasty Plot for these Pokémon, it’s not the best move because their Special Attack is low unlike Honchkrow, who is the better user.

Because of the type combination, they work better as a Special wall because three types they resist (Grass, Ghost and Psychic) are mostly used by Special attackers. The ability is what makes them useful. Overcoat is a new ability this Generation, which suits their possible habitat of deserts (meaning regular Sandstorm) and their tendency to dress in bones. This ability allows them to function well in Sandstorm and Hail. The only reason they are not as good as they could be is their weakness to Rock, so Stealth Rock is an issue. Even without weather, they could possibly provide a stop to some offensive Pokémon.

There are two design-based trivia that are revealed about these Pokémon. The first is that unlike most of these Pokémon, an Englishman designed Vullaby. James Turner is the guy’s name. After designing this Pokémon, Sugimori went on to design Mandibuzz. Another thing about design about these Pokémon is that they are one of the relatively late Pokémon to be designed, according to an interview on the Nintendo Dream magazine. While there were already a lot of Pokémon based on birds to be chosen, it was ultimately the vultures that became a Generation 5 Pokémon to be the counterpart to Braviary. This is very appropriate contrast-wise, because Braviary is one of the earliest Pokémon to be designed.

Perhaps the scavenger archetype can be viewed as another form of Dark-type, somewhat like Poochyena and Mightyena (hyenas are usually viewed as scavengers). As they would rather wait for their food to die off (as mentioned, it’s energy efficient) or kill off only weakened things, it’s rather befitting for a Dark-type because such an act can be seen as a cheat in getting food, so they are appropriately viewed as such, rather than another type. Before I end this, I should bring up this photo taken by Kevin Carter with a vulture in it. It’s a very tragic picture, but instead of explaining it, I will just provide you the link to that picture. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words (and explaining it doesn’t do it justice).

9 Beolchais out of 10!
10 Mandibuzzes out of 10!

+ Good choice to give vultures a Dark-type
+ Useful defensive Pokémon
+ Creative way to associate female-only trait to this Pokémon
+ Characteristics as a counterpart to Rufflet and Braviary are brilliant
+ A foreigner designed Vullaby
- Female-only trait means all Egg Moves will stay on this species
- Vullaby doesn’t look too interesting

Deino, Zweilous & Hydreigon

“I think that Hydreigon is simply one of the coolest looking Pokémon design-wise, while Deino is
really cute and even Zweilous has its charm. One thing I also love is how their English names use
German, so whether or not someone understands a little German becomes blindingly obvious when
trying to pronounce the names ("Zwee-lus" and "Hy-dree-gon"? Yeah right xD). I also love how
Game Freak gave it one more speed point than Haxorus; although that was a problem for me
earlier this year as I was a Haxorus user in VGC11!”
~ @Joshawott

The last Dark-type family for now are Deino, Zweilous & Hydreigon. These Pokémon also happen to be the pseudo-legendary of this Generation, which means that like a typical legendary Pokémon, Hydreigon is quite a powerhouse, despite being hard to train for it, as I had explained in a previous “Tribulations of Great Pokémon” article. The last of this Pokémon is clearly not like the other two, as Hydreigon is noticeably different in terms of design and battling capacity compared to Deino and Zweilous. Still, I do have to admit that they are creatively named.

These Pokémon have an interesting design history. Initially, they were going to have an army tank motif, but the designers felt that it didn’t work, so development of these Pokémon was essentially put aside. See those marks that look like conveyor belts on Zweilous’ and Hydreigon’s tummy? That is the remains of the dragon tank design. So, moving on to the time when the designers were ordered to design a three-staged powerful Dragon-type, these Pokémon’s design was picked up again. The colour of choice for this Pokémon was then needed to be chosen, and the designers wanted a rarely-recurring colour, in which purple was the lucky candidate (don’t look at me; they look blue, but according to the interview, they said purple!). Finally, the basis of these Pokémon needed to be decided. The chosen basis is certainly the Yamata no Orochi, an eight-headed dragon in Japanese mythology. However, giving the Pokémon many heads were displeasing to the designers, so they settled for one head and two brainless heads that behave like hands, while the many wings of Hydreigon gives off the illusion of multiple heads when viewed as a silhouette. Some said new Pokémon’s designs are complicated, but it seemed to me that the designers know where the limits should be. To be honest, I felt kinda confounded when Hydreigon’s other two heads look like arms (because the necks are bent as such), because it’s harder to imagine how it looks like if they look like real heads.

As I have mentioned, Deino and Zweilous are different from Hydreigon. The first thing that you will notice is how Deino and Zweilous have bangs that obscure their eyesight, which means they can’t look where they’re going. As a result, Deino have regular accidents that wounded it, but since it has no other choice, it can only tackle and bite anything to learn about its surroundings. Hydreigon, on the other hand, is capable of flight, unlike its grounded pre-evolutions, in addition to being able to see. Both Deino and Zweilous are also voracious eaters, so they can be quite the glutton, even if, in Zweilous’ case, it might end up eating too much because both heads attempt to out-eat the other head as a competition. Both Deino and Zweilous are also Physically offensive, as they have higher Attack as well as Hustle, which boosts Attack but lowers Physical accuracy. As such, Zweilous has a powerful Outrage even if its Attack is average. Hydreigon, on the other hand, is more Specially offensive, and is now able to learn more Special attacks, particularly Flamethrower, Surf, Focus Blast and Charge Beam. However, if there’s one thing all three shares, it’s their unruly behaviour. In fact, Deino is known as an “Irate Pokémon”, Zweilous is a “Hostile Pokémon”, while Hydreigon is a “Brutal Pokémon”. Hydreigon’s brutal behaviour extends to mercilessly eliminating anything that resembles a foe to it, doing improper damage with its three heads of doom to sometimes even destroying everything. Perhaps this is the reason they are Dark-types.

One thing that you may notice about these Pokémon is their evolution levels. Of all the Pokémon, they evolve very late compared to other Pokémon (even Dragonite!), and that’s saying something because we haven’t got a Pokémon who evolve beyond Level 50 for quite some time already. Evolving at Level 50 and 64 respectively, it takes a lot of grinding to get a strong Hydreigon, but if you think about it, this is appropriate because such a strong Pokémon deserves a lot of effort to raise. However, observant players will notice that Ghetsis has an under-levelled Hydreigon.

Hydreigon makes a special kind of appearance in the pair of movies White – Victini and Zekrom & Black – Victini and Reshiram. I said special because in both movies, there is a difference in the way Hydreigon appeared. In the former, Hydreigon is a shiny, while in the latter, it is not. The reverse is true for Golurk, as both movies have some contrasts that make them slightly different. Anyway, Hydreigon is under the ownership of Carlita, who is the sister of the villain of those movies Damon. There is also an even to promote the shiny Hydreigon, and it is Level 70. In the regular anime episode featuring Iris and Deino, however, there are three Deino who are in the day care centre, and while Iris had some bonding moments with one of the Deino (the shy one), she had to let it go when its owner had came to reclaim that Pokémon. There was some disappointment that Iris didn’t catch another Pokémon, though, because as a Dragon Master, it should be appropriate that she got another Dragon.

In competitive battling, Deino and Zweilous are mainly used as powerful Physical attackers, because of how powerful Outrage is. Besides Outrage, you could include Crunch and the elemental Fang attacks for coverage, or if you are feeling lucky, Head Smash. It’s important to remember that Hustle makes those moves less accurate, so Head Smash will have a net accuracy of 64%. Of course, also remember that both of them are grounded unlike Hydreigon, because it means they will take Spikes damage.

Hydreigon, on the other hand, is mainly used as a Special attacker, because it has a higher Special Attack, although it is possible for it to use some Physical attacks if you want, because it has strong attacks on both sides. Hydreigon’s claim to fame is the ability to effectively have perfect coverage with Fire and Dragon attacks, so you could opt for Fire Blast, Dragon Pulse, and Draco Meteor. Add Superpower (for Heatran and Tyranitar, usually) or Dark Pulse (STAB attack), and you are all set! If you want, you can opt for U-turn for the advantage of matchup. Hydreigon’s good defences allow it to come in on a resisted hit, so take this into consideration. If there’s something it needs to watch out for, it’s the Speed. While a base Speed of 98 is by no means bad, there are certain faster threats that could use this to their advantage, especially those who have a super-effective move on it, like Genesect, the musketeer Pokémon, Volcarona and so on. Still, Draco Meteor is quite painful if launched by a Pokémon as powerful as Hydreigon.

There is a TCG card about Hydreigon that garnered some interest in the TCG community (PokéBeach) at one time, which is from the Noble Victories set. Its ability is to treat every energy it has as Darkness energy, and its attack is as deadly, because it does damage to up to three Pokémon. While this attack requires four Darkness energy (which is a lot for an attack), being about to use a Double Colourless Energy card for its attack doesn’t sound like a bad deal.

Admittedly, these Pokémon are great for good reason, even though I am not that attracted to these Pokémon, since dragons are not my type of Pokémon. I suppose Deino and Zweilous are cute, while Hydreigon is admirable for its power due to its monstrous look. I also feel that these Pokémon should have been the Dragon/Dark type because they are more Dragon-type than Dark-type, but that’s just me. Still, it’s great that we have a pseudo-legendary who is not primarily a dragon for once.

10 Monozu out of 10!
9 Diamat out of 10!
10 三头龙
(Sāntóulóng) out of 10!

+ A powerful, brutal Pokémon
+ Cute in its younger stage; monstrous in its older stage; in between for the middle
+ Design history is interesting, especially its initial tank motif
+ Creatively named
- Hard to raise; Zweilous and Hydreigon have different offensive styles

Our journey through all the Dark-type Pokémon is over, but don’t think the Dark-type reviews are over yet! We still got some more features to cover, including “Beings and Things” and “Dark-type Celebrities”. With only three articles left, this series is going to finish. I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I have writing it.

Thanks for reading.

Drawn Pictures:

Fan art:

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Updated 15th December 2012 at 10:21 AM by winstein

Ghost and Dark Entries , Reviews


  1. Karamazov's Avatar
    You should rally draw more, because your art's great
  2. Tsutarja's Avatar
    Here is the picture of Zorua dressed by Bianca, haha.

    Great article like always. ^^ And Zoroark really is one of my favorite dark type Pokémon. Its design is simply amazing and it looks incredibly stunning. The fact that it's based on a kitsune just makes it even cooler. :D

    And speaking of Deino, I've always wanted to train one (since it appears that Hydreigon is powerful), but it's just hard to raise. I mean, first evolution at level 50? C'mon! :I
  3. winstein's Avatar
    @Karamazov; Thanks for the compliment! However, it usually takes me long to draw pictures on the computer since I only use a mouse to do it.

    @Tsutarja; Yeah, this is one of the main problems with Deino. It is certainly powerful (it's got Hustle), but I felt it's not a good choice in-game unless there's time for grinding.

    By the way, I see your picture and raise you an animated gif of that picture:

    Thanks for reading.
  4. Lord Clowncrete's Avatar
    Nice article!
  5. Winterdaze's Avatar
    I find that Night Daze isn't all that much of a liability, since Dark Pulse gives away Zoroark's identity in most cases anyway.

    A great read, as usual :)
  6. Shiny Staraptor's Avatar
    I only read it because you quoted me

    Nah, I enjoyed reading. I like how you analyze even the most forgettable Pokémon quite deeply. I'd never really thought much of Vullaby/Mandibuzz before reading this.
  7. Owain's Avatar
    I actually keep Night Daze, but only use it after the cover is already blown all to nonsense anyway. I love Zoroark, and I have one named Loki, after the Norse trickster god.

    Also have a Mandibuzz, was tempted to name her Mandy but I settled for Eris, roman goddess of discord

    Aaand My Hydreigon's named Lilith after Adam's first wife, and theorised to be the first vampire.


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