So Let's Talk About Charizard...
by, 12th September 2012 at 01:07 PM (12889 Views)
Behold, the cause of so much controversy:
I know I promised to make more lists (and I'll get around to them, I promise...some day) but I felt I needed to give my two cents on what is apparently a hot button topic (no pun intended.) Charizard and the competitive metagame.
So, why is there such a controversy about Charizard as a Pokemon lately?
1. Charizard=the high school jock:
Don't let the Charizard polls in The Contest Hall fool you, Charizard is one popular guy. Bmgf may very well be the largest online Pokemon community, but it still represents a small fraction of the overall fanbase. The fact is that people like Charizard. A lot. He was by far the most popular Starter in Generation I, and to this day he is still one of the most recognizable Pokemon of all time. Talk to a random stranger on the street and ask them about Charizard, chances are they'll at least have some vague idea what you're talking about. Now ask them about Infernape. More people will ask you what the hell is that than the ones that will ask the same about 'Zard.
In fact, it's popularity is the reason why there is such controversy over it. I don't see anyone asking themselves why everyone 'hates' Sunflora or why Sunflora doesn't do well in the current metagame.
Why is Charizard so popular?: A while ago, I started a thread asking people why they considered the Fire type to be so popular. A lot of the answers basically boiled down to the fact that fire represents offense and power. Furthermore, Charizard is based on a dragon, and we all know that instant awesome, just add dragons.
Let's face it, dragons are cool. Everybody loves a dragon. Actually, as an avid player of DnD, I find myself attracted more to the draconic lore of that game than to anything else. And I don't particularly have a thing for dragons. Dragons are just that cool.
Charizard's design resembles a quintessential European dragon. Just about the only thing separating him from the creature that inspired him is the flaming tail and perhaps the bipedalism (is bipedalism even a word? Bah, whatever. It is now.)
Of course, this is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the one hand, having an out and out dragon in Pokemon will draw people in because, as we've already discussed, Dragons are cool. On the other, Pokemon are supposed to look different and fresh from the animals that inspired them, making Charizard feel a bit bland as a result. Of course, this is something Game Freak had a tendency to do in the earlier generations as a whole (Pidgey? Tauros? Zubat?) so Charizard can't really bear all the blame.
tl;dr: The combination of the offensive and destructive Fire type and the fact that he's based on a ridiculously cool concept such as the European dragon is what makes Charizard so damn cool.
2. Alright Charizard, let's battle!:
With such a popular Pokemon available to choose from, one automatically expects Charizard to be awesome in battle (after all, it's a dragon, and dragons are awesome.) Charizard has a pretty sweet movepool. Access to Dragon moves like Dragon Pulse/Claw/Breath/Rage, Flying type attacks like Air Slash, Wing Attack and Fly, not to mention the standard Fire type kit (Fire Blast, Flamethrower, Fire Punch) and Earthquake, to name just a few moves. It also has great 109 Special Attack and 100 Speed. It's typing gives it a complete inmunity to Ground type moves, and it's other stats are overall pretty decent. Also, it's inmune to Spikes and Toxic Spikes.
On paper, Charizard works great, and in-game, his tools work wonders for him.
Now let's take a look at his pitfalls. First, it's the lack of bulk. 78/78/85 isn't actually all that bad, but it's certainly not good. In fact, it's the least bulky of all the Kanto Starters (bar Pikachu.) Secondly, the Flying type that affords him an inmunity to Ground moves also provides him with an added weakness to Electric moves and it worsens his weakness to Rock type moves (we'll get back to this later.)
Then there's his Ability. Blaze is outright forgettable, so I'm talking about Solar Power. A mixed bag if I've ever seen one. On the one hand, it provides 'Zard with an incredible power boost (as if he really needed it.) On the other, it cuts out his longevity every turn. A relatively frail Pokemon like Charizard shouldn't want it's HP being cut down every single turn. This one's usefulness is kind of a toss up.
In-game, I can imagine Solar Power getting a bit annoying because you'll have to constantly be healing your Charizard even if it doesn't actually take any damage from Pokemon attacks (that is, of course, assuming you bother to set up the sun in every battle. Otherwise, the ability doesn't activate and it's just a waste of space.)
3. We are the champions, my friend, and we will keep on fighting till the end:
So right at this point, you're probably thinking that Charizard sounds like a really great Pokemon. Why would there be a controversy about him being one of the 'worst' Pokemon ever? Well this is where things get bleak for Charizard. It's time to talk about the competitive metagame, or how Charizard got stabbed in the face by flying rocks.
First thing you need to understand about the competitive Pokemon metagame is that they care little for 'popularity.' Famous, recognizable Pokemon like Pikachu, Absol and even Charizard himself won't get a free pass from the competitive community. No, we don't care about how awesome a Pokemon looks, we care about how well it performs in battle. To this end, Legendary Pokemon that would otherwise be considered 'gamebreaking' are tested and evaluated just the same as any other Pokemon. That's why the competitive metagame is littered with the likes of Celebi, Heatran, Genesect, Terrakion and the like. They were found to not be overpowered from a technical standpoint.
Basically, a competitive player wants to win as many battles as possible. To do this, they will use the best Pokemon they can find to fit into their teams. Of course, this is a broad generalization of the overall sentiments. In practice, each individual is unique and might use Pokemon for reasons other than their competitive value.
We will, we will, ROCK YOU, ROCK YOU!!!: And here we get to the crux of the situation. Stealth Rocks. Stealth Rocks (and passive damage in general) is a widely popular strategy among comptitive players because the ability to remove up to 50% of a given Pokemon's HP without having to do anything is just too good to pass up. What sets Stealth Rock apart from the likes of Spikes and Toxic Spikes is that it calculates damage based on type matchup, which means that a Pokemon weak to Rock moves will take 'super effective' damage from Stealth Rock (25%) and a Pokemon with a 4x weakness to Rock type moves willl lose half its HP! And that's just for switching in. Imagine how easy it is to KO your opponent's Pokemon when they come in already at half health. Even Pokemon that resist Rock type moves still take a bit of damage from it, making things marginally easier for the player, at least. It's such a popular strategy that it's almost ubiquitous in the metagame.
So how does this affect Charizard? Well, as we learned earlier, Charizard's Flying type worsens its weakness to Rock type moves. That's right, Charizard is one of the few Pokemon unlucky enough to have a 4x weakness to a move that is almost always gonna be used in the game. How can 'Zard be expected to compete with, not just other Fire types, but other sweepers in general when it already starts off half a mile behind?
For all its power and speed, Charizard's lack of longevity due to Stealth Rocks and Solar Power make him a really difficult Pokemon to use. With that said, the aforementioned power and speed are not to be overlooked. Imagine, if you will, a Fire Blast fired by a Charizard with a Peteya Berry boost while under the effects of direct sunlight backed up by Solar Power and, say, Choice Specs. Few things are getting past that. You know what they say, there's no kill like overkill.
The problem here is the "Over" part of overkill. Other Pokemon may not be as strong as Charizard but they can get the job done just the same. Furthermore, other Fire Pokemon that don't have a weakness to Stealth Rock don't need nearly as much babying, which means you don't have to dedicate at least two team slots to Charizard (one for 'Zard and one for the spinner that has to come attached if you ever want to get rid of Stealth Rocks.) Take for example Infernape (or Darmanitan, or Chandelure, or Heatran, or Houndoom, or Victini.)
Infernape may not have the insane power Charizard has, but it still has solid 104 offenses, a way to boost each of them (Swords Dance and Nasty Plot,) a better speed than 'Zard and no SR weakness. This means that Infernape can come in many more times than Zard and brush off Stealth Rocks better than the Fire Dragon (that's not to say it can switch on SR with impunity, but hey, it's better than 'Zard's two-chances-and-I'm-done.)
So all in all, Charizard is regarded as a 'bad' Pokemon because of Stealth Rocks and because it's outclassed by other Fire types. That said, it still has raw power and speed to it's advantage, it just needs a lot more babying than others.
Compare, if you will, Sunflora, Wormadam and Luvdisc. Now these are all bad Pokemon and nobody would ever dare to seriously argue otherwise.
People need to understand the difference between 'bad' and 'outclassed.'
Bad Pokemon: Sunflora, Delibird, Wormadam, Luvdisc, Mawile, Plusle, Minun, Pachirisu.
Outclassed Pokemon: Snorlax (by Chansey/Blissey,) Feraligatr (by Gyarados,) Raikou (by Thundurus,) Entei (by Arcanine,) Pinsir (by Heracross.)
Notice the difference?
Now undestanding that Charizard severely underperforms in the metagame whilst still being one of the most popular Pokemon of all time, we can see where the dissonance that leads to the Charizard controversy started. If we had been talking about Illumise, you can bet people wouldn't have gotten so riled up about it.
4. Personal opinion time:
Charizard is not my favorite Pokemon. In fact, I kind of hate it. Why? Is it because of it's metagame performance? Hell no!!!! Meganium is arguably the worst Starter of all (worse than Charizard and Emboar) and she's one of my all time favorite Pokemon. I just enjoy the fact that Charizard is in the lowest tier of the metagame, but I don't dislike him because of it.
Honestly? I dislike Charizard because of its popularity, and because I like Bulbasaur and Squirtle. I'm an old-timer when it comes to Pokemon. I started with the first generation and way back then, everyone and their mother was talking about how amazing Charizard was while I was left in a corner with my little Bulbasaur. It embittered me towards the Pokemon. Nowadays, I can recognize its pros and its cons and frankly, my intense dislike has actually mellowed out some. Speaking from a purely objective point of view, I think Charizard is actually pretty cool. But I have bad memories of annoying Charizard fans that kept telling me he was the greatest thing since sliced bread by the simple virtue of being him that I just cannot stand to look at the thing.
Let me make one thing clear though: Whether Charizard is at the bottom of NU or at the top of Uber, I will always feel this way about him. I can recognize his assets, but I will not like him. His combat performance has nothing to do with my distaste for Charizard at all.
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