One of the biggest causes of debate when it comes to Pokémon is which starter to choose from. Usually, people will simply choose the one that they like the most, however, there are those who aim only for the most competitively viable. So when Pokémon Sun and Moon came out with Rowlet, Litten, and Popplio, there was bound to be controversy over which one was the best. Sometime later, we received the leaks of the starter final evolutions. While the masses shrugged this off as yet another fan concept, I personally found the art to be far too detailed to be entirely fake. Lo and behold, a month before the game’s official release, the demos were subject to datamining and we found that the leaks were actually valid. While I’m unsure how GameFreak let these be leaked so early on and failed to contain the leak before it spread like wildfire, they did still manage to keep some cards close to their chests, only recently being revealed through a trailer. Let’s see what our starters can offer us.
Starting us off with probably the biggest surprise yet, we have the final evolution of Rowlet, Decidueye. Immediately, I noticed that the name is based off of the words deciduous and eye, which is some clever wordplay on how Decidueye is a Grass type archer. However, the secondary typing is what threw us all for a loop. A myriad of fans assumed that it would stay a Grass/Flying type like Rowlet and Dartrix, a handful or so believed it would become a Grass/Ground type to represent a burrowing owl, but instead it’s a Grass/Ghost type. While this isn’t exactly original anymore, what with the Trevanant and Gourgeist lines being introduced last generation, it’s still a unique and interesting typing with plenty going for it offensively. While I probably would’ve preferred a secondary Flying type, I’m certainly not complaining.
Grass/Ghost is an interesting offensive typing, but we’ve only seen it on weaker and bulky Pokémon. The Ghost typing is great offensively, with only Dark resisting and Normal is immune to it. Meanwhile, the Grass typing is less great offensively, being resisted by Fire, Grass, Poison, Flying, Bug, Dragon, and Steel. However, they work together to hit Water, Rock, Ground, Ghost, and Psychic for super effective damage. It does have the most weaknesses out of all the starters, being weak to Fire, Ice, Dark, Ghost, and Flying, however, it can also hit all of these counters with some Fighting and Rock coverage added on to its STAB attacks.
Like all the other starters, Decidueye has a signature move, Spirit Shackle. According to the official Pokémon website, Spirit Shackle is a Ghost-type physical move. An opponent hit with this move will become unable to flee from battle or switch out for an ally. This is absolutely insane from a competitive standpoint. Switching is such a necessity in our metagame, a restriction placed on switching is essentially a death sentence. However, I’m unsure if this would be a permanent effect or if it would wear off upon Decidueye switching. If it does wear off upon switch, the move probably isn’t worth running unless it has a decent base power. Judging by this signature move and the choice of design, I imagine Decidueye will be a fast mixed attacker, although probably more physically oriented. I can assume it will be getting moves such as Shadow Sneak, Shadow Ball, Giga Drain, Wood Hammer, and possibly even some Flying type moves like Hurricane and Brave Bird due to it being an owl. There’s also a high possibility of it getting Swords Dance like the majority of Grass types do. It may even be a decent support, since Grass types learn Leech Seed and Ghost types usually can learn a plethora of status moves, Will-O-Wisp being the most prominent.
Since Sceptile, a fellow offensive Grass starter, and Chesnaught, the previous starter, both have a BST of 530, it’s safe to assume it’ll be the same for Decidueye. This gives it plenty of wiggle room for balancing out stats, but if I were to decide them, it would look something like 75/100/70/95/70/120. This gives it enough defense to take one or two weaker hits, the speed to outpace the majority of Pokémon it ought to in order to prosper in competitive, and the attack to actually do some damage with every hit. As for hidden abilities, there are countless possibilities with this. My list of ideas is based off of abilities that are somewhat likely, so with that said, here they are: Sniper, Levitate, Technician, Infiltrator. Sniper is an obvious choice, personally I wouldn’t like it, but I could imagine the benefits if it gets Focus Energy. Levitate is also fairly obvious, why would we have a bird that can’t fly? Empoleon makes this idea redundant, not to mention Grass resists Ground anyway, but never complain about immunities. There’s also how Ghosts can levitate, but this holds much less weight due to Pokémon like Golurk and Aegislash. Technician would actually be very intriguing, since Hidden Powers would be boosted and it could run Shadow Sneak with the boost, assuming it gets it. Lastly, Infiltrator would be interesting. While it may not be the best competitively, the ability to ignore Screens and Substitutes is awfully rare and would make Decidueye become even more unique.
With all of this in mind, where do I envision Decidueye in the meta? While I certainly can’t use Future Sight, I can use my imagination and place it as a strong UU for the Smogon tier. Grass types are incredibly valuable in UU due to their ability to beat bulky waters, however, the amount of weaknesses and checks that the type does have usually holds it back. However, the added Ghost typing and the potential of Fighting and Rock coverage allows it to be an extremely strong attacker with little to no counters on paper, not including dual typings. Of course, the amount of Dark types in UU and the threat of Weavile, Tyranitar, and Bisharp would keep it from going into OU. As for its place in the GBA draft format, I honestly can’t say anything definitive. Trevenant is in Tier 4 and Gourgeist is actually at Tier 5, which is a rant for an entirely different article, but they are meant to be walls, not attackers. At this point in time, I’d place it in Tier 3. However, if it gets coverage and acceptable stats, in addition to a decent competitive HA, it’s highly possible to hit Tier 2. In the end, this is mostly speculation. We surprisingly know little about Decidueye, despite learning about it months beforehand. The majority of my conclusions are based off of what I know from the other Pokémon with this typing and the Grass starters with similar, offensive looking designs. Anything is possible for the Green Arrow. Until then, all we can do is stay high-spirited.
[Oct 31, 2016]