Welcome back to Tactical Tuesdays, where we take a Pokemon every week and attempt to provide an in-depth competitive analysis of it. This week, we’re going to be getting everyone ready for Hoenn, as we begin to take a look at all three final forms of the Hoenn starters! First up is Sceptile, and if you have any comments, questions, or requests, please leave them below.
HP: 70 – Okay
Attack: 85 – Disappointingly low
Defense: 65 – Pretty bad
Special Attack: 105 – Great
Special Defense: 85 – Okay
Speed: 120 – Outstanding
Dragon Claw (TM)
Solar Beam (TM)
Brick Break (TM)
Focus Blast (TM)
Energy Ball (TM)
Swords Dance (TM)
Rock Slide (TM)
Grass Knot (TM)
Power-Up Punch (TM)
Bullet Seed (Egg move from Tropius, Abomasnow line)
Crunch (Egg move from mult.)
Endeavor (Egg move from Marowak, Swampert, Rampardos line)
Leech Seed (Egg move from Venusaur, Torterra line)
Synthesis (Egg move from Venusaur, Meganium, Tropius, Torterra line)
Giga Drain (Tutor)
Drain Punch (Tutor)
Iron Tail (Tutor)
Dragon Pulse (Tutor)
Thunder Punch (Tutor)
Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are right around the corner, so what better Pokemon are there to go in-depth with for the next few weeks? Every single trainer will have their pick of one of the three Hoenn starter Pokemon, and Sceptile is the main-stay grass-type of the trio. Debuting, obviously, in Generation III RSE, Sceptile was the fastest starter Pokemon we had ever got to that point. Featuring a blazing base 120 speed that wouldn’t be matched by any other starter until Greninja three generations later, Sceptile’s most defining feature is most definitely its speed. Even before the modern-day meta-game as we know it began to take form (Generation IV is the blue-print for modern-day competitive battling), Sceptile was still a hot item due to the absolute lack of fast, offensive-oriented grass-types just in the game in general. “Offensive-based” is probably an appropriate term to use when talking about vanilla Sceptile, although that kind of over-states its actual offensive ability. Its amazing speed comes at a cost of lack-luster attacking stats, the highest being an average base 105 special attack and a rather useless base 85 attack stat. Its defenses are also less than stellar, and because grass-types are weak to the incredibly common fire, bug, and ice attacking types, it just makes Sceptiles defensive woes that much worse.
But that doesn’t mean that Sceptile is bad in today’s meta-game; sure, it’s outclassed by a multitude of other quick, sweeper-like Pokemon in higher tiers (Greninja does the pure special-sweeper role better in the OU tier, with Infernape pulling off mixed attacking stats more effectively in the UU tier), but that doesn’t mean that Sceptile can’t have fun in the likes of RU, where its natural abilities are far more useful.
Perhaps the number one thing that makes Sceptile so appealing outside of its awesome design and blazing speed is the pure amount of usable moves that the Pokemon has gotten over the past few generations. After the special-physical split in Gen IV, Sceptile’s role became much more clearly defined when it came to which move it could properly utilize, along with just getting a sheer number of good attacking types as more and more games were released. Being a mono-grass type might not be the best thing defensively, but it lets Sceptile get good STAB on useful moves such as Giga Drain, Leaf Storm, Leaf Blade, Energy Ball, and even the quirky Grass Knot. Sceptile’s coverage isn’t anything to sneeze at either, being able to cover its fire and ice type weaknesses incredibly well with the likes of Earthquake, Rock Slide, Focus Blast, or even a Hidden Power of choice. But looking at Sceptile’s notable moves, you start to see the problem here – most of his best options outside of grass-type STAB are physical.
Indeed, Sceptile is a prime example of a Pokemon whose move-pool is probably one of its biggest detractors. It gets SO many good physical options that it isn’t even funny – Thunder Punch, Iron Tail, Crunch, X-Scissor, Drain Punch, and others. Most physical Pokemon would kill to have that type of choice, which makes Sceptile’s base stat skew towards the special side incredibly bizarre. Regardless of this, Sceptile still pulls off good mixed sets in lower tiers with its plethora of coverage moves, making it difficult to predict and play around if you don’t know its set. With vast options comes vast potential for EV spreads, and that’s certainly the case for Sceptile as well, being able to afford to not invest in speed to better improve its ability to hit from both a physical and special standpoint. For that reason, it’s usually seen with the likes of a Life Orb or Choice Specs, two good moves that work well with its middling defenses and excellent speed.
Outside of hitting fast and semi-hard, Sceptile doesn’t have much more to offer. It lacks any type of support moves outside of Leech Seed, which, to its credit, could work very well with a Substitute set. Swords Dance is also a clever strategy that can help to patch up Sceptile’s disappointing base 80 attack, making mixed sets even more attractive. But, all in all, I believe that you’re not using Sceptile to its full ability unless you’re exploiting its ability to be unpredictable and fast, which seems to be what the gecko was designed to be from the start.
1.) “Green Geico”
[email protected] Specs
EVs: 252 Special Attack, 252 Speed, 4 HP
– Giga Drain
– Focus Blast
– Dragon Pulse
– Leaf Storm/Hidden Power Ice
– The first thing that comes to mind when it comes to a super-fast Pokemon with average special attack is a Choice Specs set. Having a modest nature with maximum investment in special attack milks Sceptile’s offensive ability for all its worth, and with proper speed investment, makes it to where only the quickest of Choice Scarf users will be able to catch up to it.
– Giga Drain is an excellent STAB move that also simultaneously helps alleviate Sceptile’s less-than-stellar defenses. I would say that Giga Drain is a must-have for any special-oriented Sceptile, as it fits the bill of good STAB and semi-reliable recovery at the same time. It also hits defensive stalwarts such as Swampert and Seismitoad for x4 damage, with grass-type moves sometimes being the only way to take them down.
– Sceptile’s special move-pool is incredibly lacking, but there’s just enough there to salvage it; Focus Blast hits annoy steel types that resist Giga Drain, and also takes out ice types that try to tank Sceptile’s hits and smack it with an Ice Beam. Its accuracy is well documented to be terrible, but without much else to work with, it’s a necessity.
– Dragon Pulse truly is scraping the bottom of the barrel, but it actually does have a good use – it hits everything neutrally except for steel and fairy types, the former of which is hit very hard by Focus Blast, and the latter which has other good checks your team can run. Being able to hit a majority of types neutrally is incredibly important on any Choice set, and Dragon Pulse does that well with the bonus of being able to pop any other unsuspecting dragon types.
– For the last move, it’s really up to you; I’ve avoided Hidden Power a lot during this column because I’ve assumed most of my audience doesn’t like to breed for HPs, but it should be noted that Hidden Power Ice does a good job hitting those annoying flying types that like to switch in. Alternatively, Leaf Storm is great on a Choice Specs set because it offers great hit-and-run power due to its self-inflicted special attack drops.
2.) “Leaf Dancer”
[email protected] Orb
EVs: 252 Attack, 252 Speed, 4 HP
– Swords Dance
– Leaf Blade
– Thunder Punch
– If you want to be unique, a purely physical Sceptile is among the best ways to do that. Although base 80 isn’t fit to do damage on its own, Sceptile has plenty of switch opportunities in lower tiers that allow it to get off even more than just one Swords Dance. On top of the sheer amount of options that Sceptile has to offer from a physical standpoint, a Swords Dance Life Orb set with maximum speed investment can quickly become decent sweeper material.
– Swords Dance is the crux of the set, as Sceptile’s attack is functionally useless without it. In fact, I can’t recommend any type of effective Sceptile set, mixed or otherwise, that is both physical and lacks Swords Dance. Even in the lower tiers, base 85 just isn’t that scary.
– The coverage moves are where Sceptile has always truly shined, and this set attempts to hit the most amount of types possible. Leaf Blade is mandatory STAB that deals good damage, with Earthquake hitting almost everything that resists it, namely fire and steel types. Earthquake is also an excellent coverage move in general, hitting things very hard with perfect accuracy.
– The two things that Leaf Blade and Earthquake don’t hit at least neutrally are flying and bug types. Thunder Punch is an excellent way to hit the multiple “lesser birds” of the lower tiers that would normally completely wall a Sceptile with just grass and ground moves. Although Thunder Punch doesn’t hit the bug type super effectively, it at least deals good neutral damage to lower-tier bugs that usually lack any type of good defenses.
- Although it isn’t the best Pokemon competitively, Sceptile is still an awesome Pokemon in its own right due to its unique ability just to literally run circles around most of the competition. It’s also perfect for an in-game cartridge team, being able to out-speed just about everything, and it’s for that reason that I’ll be choosing Treeko as my starter for my first run through Alpha Sapphire.
– Mega Sceptile? That’s a different beast entirely. Maybe I’ll get around to it some day. Being a Grass/Dragon sure is interesting…..