We’re here: the final battle of the Pokémon League. Champion Geeta stands before me, aloof and ready for battle. I’m nervous. I know that, unlike the more predictable gym leaders with their single-type setups, Geeta will be packing all sorts of different Pokémon. I need to be ready for anything. As the battle begins, the music swells, and we’re ready to go.
I send out Nigel, my trusty Skeledirge – the fully evolved form of my first Pokémon, Fuecoco. Geeta sends out a ludicrous psychic ostrich of some kind. A sinister Shadow Ball attack sees her Espathra off in a single hit. This establishes a pattern. Moments later, her ice type Avalugg, her steel type Kingambit, and her grass type Gogoat have all been literally and figuratively roasted by the judicious application of Skeledirge’s Torch Song attack.
The rate at which my crocodile dismantles Geeta’s squad takes me by surprise, if only because this has happened before. By sheer coincidence, Fuecoco and its subsequent evolutions have been just the right type combination to deal with most of the threats that Pokémon Violet had to throw at him. It turns out that Paldea is Fuecoco’s world, and we’re all just living in it.
Turning up the heat
While Quaxly and Sprigatito have their charms, of all the Scarlet and Violet starters it’s Fuecoco who pulls his weight the most in Game Freak’s latest Pokémon adventure. Simply by virtue of being fire types, Fuecoco and his evolutions spend most of the game being indispensable. In the early game, your adorable little croc can roast the bug and grass type gyms with little issue, helping you get through the precarious early game with relative ease.
Overall, of the eight main gyms in the game, three can be singularly dismantled by fire-type attacks alone, while two more are vulnerable to the ghost type attacks that become available once your Fuecoco becomes a Skeledirge. Five out of eight isn’t just good; it’s bloodbath territory.
The grass and dark type Meowscarada, Sprigatito’s final form, is only strong against three of the gyms, while poor Quaxly’s fighting and water type evolution, Quaquaval, is only especially effective against a single gym. This means that Skeledirge is more useful in Scarlet and Violet’s gym battles than Meowscarada and Quaquaval combined.
The best offense
The math also works out in Skeledirge’s favor, too. When playing a new Pokémon title, you won’t necessarily be aware of which new ‘mons correspond to which types. You will, occasionally, get caught short by a Super Effective hit here and there, especially if you go into the game blind. Skeledirge has an impressive defense stat, though, allowing it to shrug off blows that would cause a weaker pocket monster to faint.
Though its Special Defense isn’t anything to write home about, the base stat is still joint highest among the starters’ final evolutions. Plus, with a much larger pool of hit points than either Quaquaval or Meowscarada, Skeledirge is well-prepared to take more than the occasional nasty hit.
On top of that, this excellent reptile boasts an extremely efficient unique move: Torch Song. As well as being a powerful special attack in its own right, Torch Song also boosts the Special Attack stat of its user, meaning that the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Since Skeledirge is particularly sturdy, chances are you’ll be able to use the attack several times in a row, giving you increasing returns on damage. If you’re lucky, your opponent won’t be able to get a single attack off the ground before you roast them to a crisp.
Spooky, scary crocodile
Skeledirge’s secondary type, ghost, adds a huge amount of utility in battle, giving you a solid answer to tricky ghost and psychic types. Usually, this comes with a downside, since this also makes Skeledirge vulnerable to ghost and dark attacks, the latter of which are surprisingly common.
Fortunately, there’s an easy fix: Terastelization. This new mechanic allows your Pokémon to change type in the middle of fight and adds a welcome layer of additional complexity to Scarlet and Violet’s battles. Have your Skeledirge Terastelize, and it’ll become a pure fire type, meaning it loses the weaknesses to dark and ghost, while still being able to throw out ghost-type moves. This way, you can have your cake and eat it in battle, especially against matchups with other ghost-type monsters. This is especially useful when challenging Gym Leader Ryme and her ghost Pokémon.
Though I can’t stop you from choosing Sprigatito or Quaxly, it’s clear that Fuecoco is the beginner trainer’s choice. The humble, dorky-looking crocodile will help you blaze a path through the Pokémon League and beyond. Trust me: beneath Fuecoco’s cutesy, unassuming exterior beats the heart of a true champion.
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Cat Bussell is a Staff Writer at TechRadar Gaming. Hailing from the crooked spires of London, Cat is an experienced writer and journalist. As seen on Wargamer.com, TheGamer.com, and Superjumpmagazine.com, Cat is here to bring you coverage from all corners of the video game world. An inveterate RPG maven and strategy game enjoyer, Cat is known for her love of rich narratives; both story-driven and emergent.
Before migrating to the green pastures of games journalism, Cat worked as a political advisor and academic. She has three degrees and has studied and worked at Cambridge University, University College London, and Queen Mary University of London. She's also been an art gallery curator, an ice cream maker, and a cocktail mixologist. This crash course in NPC lifestyles uniquely qualifies her to pick apart only the juiciest video games for your reading pleasure.
Cat cut her teeth on MMOs in the heyday of World of Warcraft before giving in to her love of JRPGs and becoming embedded in Final Fantasy XIV. When she's not doing that, you might find her running a tabletop RPG or two, perhaps even voluntarily.