It’s time for the Community Pokémon Archive! We wanted to get the community involved in building the hype for the upcoming Pokémon Marathon as well as the release of Black and White in March. Several members of the community have written articles on a topic that they’ve chosen related to Pokémon.
This first article was written by Slowflake, who chose to take a look at the top 16 beasts of competitive Pokémon play back in Generation 1 (R/B/Y).
You can read this very in-dept and informational article after the jump.
THE 16 ORIGINAL POWERHOUSES OF POKÉMON
While nowadays, many Pokémon players are aware of the intricacies of competitive Pokémon play, it wasn’t always like that. When Pokémon first hit North America, it immediately became a gigantic fad, but very few players actually knew – or even cared, for that matter – about what really made a Pokémon great. The “casual” Pokémon crowd represented the largest chunk of the franchise’s fans, and it showed. The cliché of the player using a Charizard with four Fire moves had to come from somewhere, and for a time it was a reality. Other suboptimal favorites like Hyper Beam Gyarados and, well, any Blastoise, were common sights as well.
But in the shadow of elementary school students, the high-level competitive metagame began to prosper… This column is dedicated to the 16 Pokémon the people who played it favored above all else, many of which were neglected by the masses. So if you missed the action back in the late 90s and early 2000s, this is for you: a presentation of the fourteen overused and two uber Pokémon of Pokémon’s very beginnings.
#053 – PERSIAN
Mono-Normal, 65 HP, 70 Atk, 60 Def, 65 Spc, 115 Spd
Persian’s not a Pokémon anyone who doesn’t know a great deal about the game’s hidden mechanics would ever consider, and for good reason. Aside from its speed, there appears to be no real reason to use it… however, the critical hit formula was vastly different back in the RBY days. Dividing the Pokémon’s base speed by 512 would yield its critical rate, and then you multiply it by 8 for moves with a high crit chance… such as Persian’s Slash. 115 base speed meant Persian’s Slash would never fail to crit with room to spare, and 70 attack meant that’d be just strong enough to deal incredible damage to most Pokémon. And while Golem and Rhydon would be obvious problems, this is why every Persian kept Bubblebeam alongside Slash. Yes, it feels very odd now to say Bubblebeam was useful for something, but it really was that effective, even off 65 special.
#065 – ALAKAZAM
Mono-Psychic, 55 HP, 50 Atk, 45 Def, 135 Spc, 120 Spd
The concept of Alakazam being a mini-Mewtwo might be oversimplifying things, but it’s an accurate description nonetheless, at least as far as the original games go. And since no one sane would allow Mewtwo or Mew, Alakazam suddenly became the executioner of choice. Let’s recap, shall we? Its Psychic runs off 135 base special, has a critical rate of almost 25% thanks to 120 base speed, is only weak against other Psychics, and has a 30% chance of lowering the opponent’s special. Not just special attack or special defense, either – BOTH. That’s enough firepower to make even Chansey hesitate. Those special drops often force the opponent to switch, which is when you strike with Thunder Wave. Another boon of only having one special stat is that Alakazam also becomes remarkably sturdy against special hits (especially with Recover). Not quite as much as Chansey, but Chansey doesn’t offer the same kind of firepower. Oh, and I’d deserve lapidation if I forgot to mention that Psychic lacked any sort of exploitable weakness. Leech Life? Pin Missile? Lick? Strong neutral hits were always, ALWAYS more effective. So no, Beedrill didn’t work as a counter, especially when it went down in one hit long before getting anything in.
#076 – GOLEM
Rock/Ground, 80 HP, 110 Atk, 130 Def, 55 Spc, 45 Spd
Back in those days, movepools were nowhere near as large as today, and Golem exploited this to the fullest. Stat-wise, it was nothing but an inferior Rhydon. However, it could do something Rhydon has never been able to: blow up. And what the game never told you was that in the first four generations (as it was removed in the fifth), Explosion and Selfdestruct halved the opponent’s defense temporarily, effectively doubling their power. And even though Explosion only had 340 power compared to 500 in generations 2 through 4, it was still strong enough to deal fatal damage to a lot of Pokémon, to the notable exceptions of Gengar, Rhydon, and other Golems. In later generations, Rhydon’s movepool grew beyond Earthquake and Rock Slide, which was Golem’s death warrant, but at the beginning, its explosive character was enough to get a lot of use.
#080 – SLOWBRO
Water/Psychic, 95 HP, 75 Atk, 110 Def, 80 Spc, 30 Spd
Slowbro’s biggest weakness has always been, without a doubt, sharing the same typing as Starmie. And while it’s a very fun Pokémon to play with in modern games with its wide array of options, it was back at the beginning that it was actually able to compete with the starfish. It was one of four (three without Mewtwo) users of the very broken Amnesia, which boosted special by two levels back then. Again, both attack and defense, making this the equivalent of two Calm Minds. Despite its sturdiness, it was difficult to switch in, because you had to send it into something it could set up against – because a Slowbro without stat boosts wasn’t that difficult to bring down. Nonetheless, the threat it represented when it DID set up was more than enough to force its opponents into playing very carefully, or risk losing right then and there.
#094 – GENGAR
Ghost/Poison, 60 HP, 65 Atk, 60 Def, 130 Spc, 110 Spd
In RBY, the rule goes like this: if you’re weak to Psychic, you’re automatically a failure. Gengar would be the exception that confirms the rule. Its unique Ghost type gives it free switches against any Normal attack, be it Slash, Hyper Beam, Body Slam, or especially detonations. And just so you know, Normal was one of those top tier types once you ruled out Psychic, so being totally impervious to it was entirely worth the Psychic weakness. 110 speed made it the fastest sleeper in the game, Thunderbolt provided good offense and type coverage, and it could pull off a detonation of its own. And hilariously enough, many Gengars packed Mega Drain for dealing with Golem and Rhydon. That’s not something one would ever consider today!
#103 – EXEGGUTOR
Grass/Psychic, 95 HP, 95 Atk, 85 Def, 125 Spc, 55 Spd
Other than its low speed, and its Grass type providing weaknesses to Fire and Ice, Exeggutor didn’t have a whole lot of flaws. It had a very reliable sleep move, the usual Psychic cannon (though with a bit less power and a lot less crits than Alakazam), it could explode if needed, exploit weaknesses with Mega Drain (again!), run a double powder set with Stun Spore… As for its typing, Grass/Psychic is known nowadays for sporting a ton of resistances and a ton of weaknesses, but in generation 1 Dark moves didn’t exist, and its other weaknesses weren’t exploitable (except for Fire and Ice). Even in this list of overpowered Pokémon, it makes several of them look bad.
#112 – RHYDON
Rock/Ground, 105 HP, 130 Atk, 120 Def, 45 Spc, 40 Spd
One of the most menacing physical sweepers at the time, and one of the rare ones who didn’t primarily rely on Normal moves. Everyone’s aware of the excellent type coverage Ground and Rock provide, and with STAB on both types and an immense attack stat it was easy for it to dish out lots of ouchies. Its sturdiness against physical offense was outstanding, especially with the only physical move that could theaten it being an opposing Earthquake. On the other hand, its slow speed and Water bullseye have always proved to be a problem, as demonstrated by its dramatic fall from grace over the last few years. The quirks of generation 1 made those flaws less noticeable, however, and at the time it and Golem were the only Pokémon that could effectively counter the incredibly threatening Zapdos, and they forced other Pokémon to take unorthodox measures to bring them down, such as Bubblebeam Persian and Mega Drain Gengar. The choice between the two depended on what you were looking for: Golem for ka-blammo, Rhydon for better stats.
#113 – CHANSEY
Mono-Normal, 250 HP, 5 Atk, 5 Def, 105 Spc, 50 Spd
Does this thing REALLY need an introduction anymore? Even unevolved, it was quite the terror. Maybe even moreso than Blissey, in fact, because having only one special stat meant Chansey could clobber its opponents with Ice Beam or Thunderbolt off a special stat that was more than respectable. Likewise, another one of generation 1’s quirks (this one shared with generation 2) was that you could max out every stat, meaning Chansey always had just enough defense to survive physical attacks, and since the Fighting type was downright horrid, with both a weakness to Psychic and a lack of any good moves (Submission, Double Kick and 85-power Hi Jump Kick were as good as it got for Arceus’ sake!), there weren’t many super-effective attacks to deal with around, making Chansey a surprisingly all-around great package. Sure, most Chanseys and Blisseys still max out defense to this day, but the EV system introduced in generation 3 means it comes at the cost of other stats. But back then, you didn’t have to make that decision. And this incredible walling ability made it one of the very rare Pokémon that could make Mewtwo think twice, though its Amnesia still won out rather often.
#121 – STARMIE
Water/Psychic, 60 HP, 75 Atk, 85 Def, 100 Spc, 115 Spd
Of all the original Pokémon, Starmie is without a doubt the most consistently good throughout the series’ history. No matter the generation, no matter the situation, Starmie has always thrived and excelled. And the most amazing part is that other than Rapid Spin, which it picked up as soon as entry hazards started existing, all its favorite tools are moves it has had from day one. Surf, Hydro Pump, Thunderbolt, Blizzard, Ice Beam, Recover… optimal movesets may have changed throughout the years, but Starmie always managed to adapt with the tools it already had. It never begged Gamefreak employees for new moves, better stats, anything… which is amazing. For that reason, Starmie has always been the poster boy for what came to be called “moveslot syndrome” – it was the first one for whom the limited amount of moveslots was a real problem, even in generation 1. You were always forced to pass up on some awesome moves – and yet it managed to work so well without those moves anyway. Had Pokémon had more moveslots from the start, RBY Starmie may have become been the equivalent of GSC Curselax, 2008 Garchomp, Dream World Shanderaa, you name it. And even with just four, it could just screw you over in every way possible.
#124 – JYNX
Ice/Psychic, 65 HP, 50 Atk, 35 Def, 95 Spc, 95 Spd
Some of you who aren’t familiar with the finer points of the original metagame may be scratching their heads right now. Especially after looking at by far the lowest BST of the Pokémon I’m covering today, and realizing it’s the only one without a triple digit stat. And indeed, I will readily admit it’s a low-end OU, and one that takes a lot more skill to use than the rest. For the most useful job Jynx can do is that of a lead. Its main selling point is access to Lovely Kiss, which has the edge of reliability Hypnosis doesn’t have. Combined with 95 speed, you have a decent chance of putting something to sleep. Yes, back then 95 speed qualified as fast, whereas nowadays you need triple digits to have “satisfying” speed. And what after putting the opponent to sleep? Look at Jynx’s typing, and you’ll see two fearsome offensive types. I’ve already mentioned Psychic, but Ice was also a big deal, because before GSC’s nerf hammer struck, Blizzard had a glorious accuracy of 90%, so the only reason to use Ice Beam was the PP. And STAB on Psychic and Blizzard was more than enough to compensate for having “only” 95 special. It’s never been my favorite, but the particular aspect of the RBY metagame really played in its favor. No wonder it’s dropped off the face of the earth afterwards.
#128 – TAUROS
Mono-Normal, 75 HP, 100 Atk, 95 Def, 70 Spc, 110 Spd
Whereas Persian relied on insta-crit Slash to deal lots of damage, Tauros turned to its vastly superior stats, and the Normal one-two punch of Body Slam, with its 30% paralysis rate, and Hyper Beam, the ultimate finishing move when STABBed. That’s right, back then Hyper Beam was actually useful, since you didn’t need to recharge if you killed your target! Naturally, it was only good with STAB, since most STABbed attacks approach non-STABbed Hyper Beam in terms of damage output, and never needed to recharge. But in the hands of Tauros, it was powerful enough to be worth the potential drawbacks. Earthquake was obvious as a coverage move, and since it could actually use special moves back then Blizzard completed the quintessential Tauros set. Simple, but amazingly effective. It lacks Snorlax’s incredible bulk, but it outsped over 90% of the game (and much of the remaining 10% is made up of Pokémon no one would ever consider), which was just as effective for avoiding the need to take hits in the first place.
#131 – LAPRAS
Water/Ice, 130 HP, 85 Atk, 80 Def, 95 Spc, 60 Spd
The original bulky water, it would pave the way for other metagame staples such as Suicune, Swampert and Burunkeru. Seriously, 130/80/95 was one of the best and most well-rounded defense stat sets in the game. And while Ice is a shoddy defensive typing now, back in the day Fighting was garbage, Fire wasn’t very common (and Lapras’ other type cancels out that weakness anyway), and Lapras outsped and OHKOed Golem and Rhydon, the two primary Rock Slide users. This meant Lapras had a lot of breathing room against faster threats and could take a hit or five, then fire away with one of its many offensive options. Just like Starmie, it was able to learn Thunderbolt, which gave it fantastic type coverage in combination with Blizzard. This is why Surf was rarely used, despite it being its signature move – Golem and Rhydon fell to Blizzard just as easily, and its other super-effectives (notably Exeggutor) were far more useful than Surf’s power against the rare Fire-types.
#143 – SNORLAX
Mono-Normal, 160 HP, 110 Atk, 65 Def, 65 Spc, 30 Spd
Although it wasn’t quite the super-godly force it was in generation 2, it could still get the job done very well. As the bulkier, slower counterpart to Tauros, it played in a very similar way, with Body Slam, Hyper Beam and Earthquake. However, its Selfdestruct, the strongest move in the game, distinguished it from Tauros further, as did the exalted presence of Amnesia. Long before Curse was an idea in the game designers’ minds, Snorlax could abuse the most broken stat-up move in history to increase its special bulkiness even further, to the point where it could rival Blissey, and gain the ability to deal insane damage on the special end of the spectrum. And yes, Snorlax had a very nice special movepool. Of course, nobody’s used it ever since Amnesia stopped boosting special attack, but at the time it actually was a good idea.
#145 – ZAPDOS
Electric/Flying, 90 HP, 90 Atk, 85 Def, 125 Spc, 100 Spd
Back in the first two generations, legendary trio Pokémon tended to be plagued with godawful movepools, hence why Articuno and Moltres aren’t appearing here. Zapdos, on the other hand, had just barely enough to exploit its incredible stats to the fullest. As I mentioned earlier, back in those days you could max out every stat, meaning you didn’t have to choose between Thunderbolt and Drill Peck, you could use both at full power. This STAB combo could deal great damage to, and often OHKO, anything not named Golem or Rhydon. And it was powerful enough that every team would often pack one of these two for the sole purpose of dealing with Zapdos, especially since it also liked throwing Thunder Wave around a lot. It took a while until legendary Pokémon in general proved worthy of their title, but it was Zapdos who opened the way for its brethren.
#150 – MEWTWO
Mono-Psychic, 106 HP, 110 Atk, 90 Def, 154 Spc, 130 Spd
Another one who needs no introduction, RBY Mewtwo makes every single iteration of every single Pokémon, including generation 5 Arceus, look like an absolute joke. Look in horror at by far the best stats in the game, and see what they imply. Best special in the game, second best speed behind the pathetic Electrode, and tied with the questionable Jolteon and the sad Aerodactyl. And its other stats are far, FAR from canceling those assets out. What’s worse, its movepool was equally perfect. Recover made it that much harder to take down, the presence of the best two special moves, Psychic and Blizzard, along with the less useful Fire Blast and Thunderbolt, made that special score all the more brutal… And as if that wasn’t enough, there was also Amnesia, which was farcically easy to get in because of Mewtwo’s excellent natural bulk and lack of exploitable weaknesses. Words can’t highlight this point enough – you couldn’t win against Mewtwo without extreme luck. You could stand a chance by paralyzing it or putting it to sleep, but otherwise, you were doomed – and even a statused Mewtwo could tear an opposing team to shreds. Even Chansey could be pierced with help from Amnesia. If you ever wondered why the uber metagame was nonexistent back then, the fact that there were only two ubers and that one of them was this unstoppable monster would be the answer. It’s just no fun playing in those circumstances.
#151 – MEW
Mono-Psychic, 100 HP, 100 Atk, 100 Def, 100 Spc, 100 Spd
Stat-wise, Mew is inferior to Mewtwo in every single aspect, to the exception of having 4% more physical survivability. But that’s not worth the massive drop everywhere else… Nonetheless, Mew should be used whenever allowed, because it still remains far better than any of the first 149 Pokémon, hence the uber status it only lost in recent months. Its main draw is its ability to learn every single TM, which makes it extremely hard to counter, as you don’t know what Mew will use. However, there is one set that stands above the rest: Swords Dance paired with physical offense. Swords Dance is Mew’s only set-up move, excluding the banned Double Team, and furthermore it’s probably the only viable Mew set Mewtwo can’t pull off, especially if you decide to run Explosion. Otherwise, the lack of Amnesia makes Mewtwo just plain better at special sweeping (heck, it would be even without Amnesia). Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean you can’t use a special Mew, since every uber team should have a Mewtwo and a Mew regardless.
Now you may be wondering where the likes of Gyarados and Dragonite are. After all, back in those days Gyarados actually had a solid special stat to fire off all those special moves it had. Unfortunately, both of them were cursed by a complete lack of physical movepool, other than non-STABbed Body Slam and Hyper Beam, to use with their exceptional attack stats. It was only when they actually started learning good physical moves (namely, generation 3) that they became top-tier contenders. That, and their 4x weaknesses to some of the best offensive types in the game held them back as well, what with their lack of great redeeming features. And finally, other than Gyarados’ Surf, their STAB was laughable.
Nowadays, when people complain they always see the same stuff over and over again, you can laugh and remind them that it used to be worse, much worse. When nearly every high-level team was composed of the same 14 Pokémon (plus Mewtwo and Mew in the rare cases where they were allowed), it really got samey fast. So next time you have to face yet another freaking Nattorei or Doryuuzu, just think it could’ve been much worse…
Interested in writing an article for the the Community Pokémon Archive? Check out this forum thread!