Since Pokémon was first created way back in the sands of time (read: twenty years ago), the gameplay has centered around the elements. As with so many RPGs, manipulation of this system is the key to success. You see a big ol’ hulking Ice Giant with arms like the Chrysler Building and what are you going to want to do? KILL IT WITH FIRE, that’s what. It’s instinctive, and it’s logical.
The Pokémon series may be simplistic as far as RPGs go, but it’s got the elemental thing down pat. Every ‘mon —and there are almost a thousand of the damn things now—has a typing. Most of them are dual-type now, and this factor can make for creatures with a curious combination of resistances and weaknesses. But not all types are created equal.
Today, we’re looking at the Fire-type. This classic type is one of the first introduced to players, and part of that iconic Fire-Grass-Water trinity. But what of its members? As of Sun and Moon, there are 67 Fire-types in total, making it the seventh-most popular. Let’s take a look at some.
15 Best: Arcanine
Of course, Arcanine’s right up there with the best Fire types. The OG doggo of the Pokémon universe, Growlithe, and its evolved form have been doing the rounds since the very first generation of Pokémon. It’s just a vanilla pure Fire type, and has the cajones to be the only non-legendary to be described in the Pokédex as the Legendary Pokémon.
Prized for its beauty, grace, and speed, Arcanine is also prized by players for being freaking awesome. In VGC battles, the official Nintendo tournament format, it’s a super solid choice. Not only does its well-rounded stats allows players to customize its offensive/defensive roles to suit their needs, but it also comes equipped with Intimidate, one of the best doubles abilities in the game. The very rare Extreme Speed rounds out its many perks.
14 Worst: Victini
Now, it’s with a heavy heart and much regret that I lump Victini in with the worst Fire types. I do love the little guy, there’s no denying. It has the most adorable cry in the game, a kind of grandpa whistle, and that’s a huge boon in my book. It was also one of the first event Pokémon that I actually had access to, what with Nintendo adding the ability to download them online rather than cruise on over to obscure stores.
Mechanically, though, Victini really is the worst. It has one positive going for it, the massive destructive look-ma-no-solar-system power of V-Create. It’s completely outclassed in anything else it tries to do, and is hampered by a pretty darn questionable dual typing in Fire/Psychic. I don’t care if you do whistle like Proto Man, buddy boy, you just don’t cut it.
13 Best: Volcarona
If you’ve been getting your Pokémon on since 1998’s Red and Blue like I have, you’ll remember those darn Bug Catchers in Viridian Forest. You’ll remember effortlessly stomping their sorry-ass Caterpies and Weedles into the muddy, muddy ground and thinking, damn, Bug-types are awful.
Well, I do, at any rate. Bug-type was in a sorry situation in gen 1, that’s for darn sure, without even a moderately powerful STAB move to call its own. Since then, we’ve seen powerhouses like Heracross, Scizor, and Genesect bringing a little honour back to Bug. When it comes to power, though, I hold Volcarona in the highest regard. The only Fire/Bug type, this little Atlas Moth is a huge force to be reckoned with. Let it get a Quiver Dance or two and watch the destruction.
12 Worst: Entei
Goddamn it, Entei. Why don’t you learn Earthquake? So many ridiculous Pokémon do, but you don’t. It’d be so damn good for you.
Once again, I feel some kind of way for adding Entei to the worst list. It’s just… this thing’s like a crappier Arcanine with a weird hat on. I don’t know about you, but that just doesn’t tickle my fancy.
You’ll rarely see this guy chosen for a team slot over Poké-Doggo #1, and for good reason. Firstly, its ability does precious little for it, being the usual legendary filler Pressure. It also completely lacks the versatile move pool that Arcanine is known for (Close Combat? Wild Charge? Calm the hell down dude). Granted, Entei did receive a bit of a buff in the form of Sacred Fire, which was previously exclusive to Ho-Oh, but you’ll need a nature-locked event exclusive to do anything more than that.
11 Best: Blaziken
We all know that Blaziken’s a beast. The flaming chicken has the distinction of being one of few starter Pokémon to ever be banished to the ‘uber’ tier by competitive authority Smogon, and that’s a pretty darn big deal as far as I’m concerned. Let’s take a look at why.
There have been more than enough darn Fire/Fighting starters, but Blaziken stands head and shoulders above them all. The release of its hidden ability, Speed Boost, as well as the high base power STABs it has access to, make for a super hard hitter that can be impossible to keep up with. As an opponent, it can be a little predictable with its Protects, but if you don’t take care fighting against this thing you’re in for a world of pain.
10 Worst: Simisear
I wanted to like these things when they were added to the roster in generation five. I really, really did. A curious little starter trio of Fire, Grass, and Water monkeys? Who evolve via the charmingly retro Fire Grass and Water stones? What’s not to like?
Their complete and thorough craptacularness, that’s what. Their ability, Gluttony, is totally gimmicky, particularly on something as frail as these guys. They don’t have a move pool worth putting together beyond their main STABs, and they don’t even really have the power to use those. I wouldn’t say that Simisear is the worst of the three, but that’s only because they’re all about equally bad. Like a lot of Pokémon, the elemental monkeys are interesting to run through the main story with, and that’s about as far as it goes.
9 Best: Talonflame
I know. I totally hear you. I accept the fact that, as of Pokémon Sun and Moon, Talonflame’s wings have been definitively clipped by the nerf to Gale Wings (an ability that gave it priority on all Flying moves, and thus the strongest priority in the entire game in Brave Bird). This effect now only kicks in when it’s at full health. Even so, back when X and Y were new, this thing was a true terror.
Talonflame’s mere presence on a team prevented opposing Grass or Fighting Types from doing their thing. Has Blaziken got itself several speed boosts and maybe a Swords Dance? Talonflame doesn’t care; it’s knocking that chicken on its sorry ass regardless. Sure, Talonflame is super frail, but it’s a monstrous revenge killer if you can keep Stealth Rock at bay.
8 Worst: Emboar
Speaking of Fire/Fighting starters, did you forget this guy? Most of us tend to. He’s the shame of the family, the skeleton in the closet. The uncle nobody talks about because the police caught him in the pet shop doing that thing with the rabbits that time. I picked Tepig at the start of the game favouring its cutesy design, but then it evolved to its final form, and I didn’t know what in the hell my eyes were being subjected to. What is going on with Emboar’s design?
While Infernape and Blaziken are known for their speed, this guy’s got strange stats out the wazzoo. Terrible defences, high HP, the kind of awkward speed that’s too fast for Trick Room but too damn slow without it… it does get some neat recoil moves (Head Smash, Wild Charge) and the Reckless ability to boost them, so that’s a thing.
7 Best: Ninetales
Ninetales is another of those OG Fire types I just can’t help but adore. Statistically, it’s pretty darn lacklustre, offensive-based but just lacking the firepower to sweep without a boost and healthy slice of luck on its side. For the first couple of generations of its life, Ninetales was just totally outclassed and rarely used.
Generation four threw it a lifeline, however, in the form of the hidden ability Drought. With this, Ninetales became a super valuable weather setter, throwing up the sun whenever it hit the battlefield. Like Politoed and its rain, this alone was enough to catapult it to stardom. Competitively, it was hugely popular, and the backbone of many teams. Its Alolan form is also a popular choice, an Ice/Fairy type that sets insta-hail with Snow Warning.
6 Worst: Magmortar
Now, I was a huge fan of Magmar and Electabuzz. In the early generations when they were standalone Pokémon, I thought that they were all kinds of cool, just a little lacking in stats. I found all kinds of funky ways to make these two work, because I’m stubborn like that.
Finally, it was announced that they’d both be getting evolved forms. Electivire and Magmortar were revealed, and… well, look at them. Someone’s having a laugh here. Oh, my disappointment.
I don’t quite understand the whole clown look that Magmortar’s got going on here. Looks don’t matter too much, of course, and I could forgive all of that if the guy wasn’t so statistically lacklustre. Heartbreakingly average, it can do some nice damage, but I always get the feeling that something else could be doing its job much better.
5 Best: Heatran
What can I really say about Heatan? Two things, really. First, it’s got a teeny little spaceship on its forehead, and once you’ve seen that you’ll never be able to unsee it. Second, it’s really damn good.
Since we first met this guy in Diamond and Pearl, it’s made a huge impact on the competitive scene. A combination of traits make Heatran an excellent choice for just about any team. Its great mixed stats allow it to go the defensive or offensive route, and its unique Fire/Steel typing gives it resistances out the wazzoo. Keep your Heatran away from Ground moves (that 4x weakness is its only major flaw), and it’s sure to serve you well. You’ll always get a solid performance out of old spaceship-face, I promise you.
4 Worst: Heatmor
There’s just something about Heatmor. I’m not entirely sure what it is. It’s totally inoffensive, its design isn’t too bad (compared to certain other ‘mon I could mention), it hasn’t slighted me or a member of my family. Heatmor, I have no real beef with you.
You are kind of crappy, though, let’s be frank here. A little nondescript and forgettable. Is there anyone out there who feels that the world would be a worse place without Heatmor in it? Would you really notice its absence? As it is, this thing’s just another of many low-tier interchangeable Pokémon that never really sees the light of day. A Fire-type Grumpig, if you will.
Come at me if you will, Heatmor Appreciation Society, I stand by my words.
3 Best: Ho-Oh
Now, I’m not letting my intense fanboyism for Phoenixes become any kind of a factor here. In Ho-Oh’s case, I hardly have to. It’s freaking Ho-Oh we’re talking about here.
Introduced in Pokémon Gold and Silver, the Rainbow Pokémon was the box mascot of the former. Another Fire/Flying type, it was quickly banished to Smogon’s uber tier for its great power and versatility. Able to run a very powerful Choice set, a super tanky specially defensive set (and this guy can shrug off bullets like the Terminator on the special side), you can never quite deal with this thing until you know what it’s trying to do.
As with Heatran, it’s got a glaring 4x weakness (this time to rock), but if you can play around that, Ho-Oh can get the job done.
2 Worst: Darmanitan (Zen Mode)
Now, I like to think of myself as a pretty darn experienced Pokémon player. I’m not great at the game by any means, but I maxed out the in-game timer back on Pearl learning the ins-and-outs of competitive play. I’ve got a fair amount of experience, is what I’m really getting at here.
In all my hundreds of hours of battling, I’ve never seen a Darmanitan manage to pull off Zen Mode’s potential properly. For the uninitiated, Darmanitan’s hidden ability sees it change form, into a Fire/Psychic type that looks… even stupider than regular Darmanitan. In this form, it’s a Fire/Psychic special attacker. This is a pretty neat mechanic, but the problem is that it only transforms after losing 50% of its HP. The transformation also makes it as slow as a one-legged kitten with a limp, making this whole thing a logistical impossibility.
1 Best: Charizard
Fan favourite Charizard has had an interesting journey through the generations of the series. Its classic form has fairly average offenses, and has used sets like the famous Belly Drum Charizard (good old Bellyzard) to great effect. For years, though, its use has been at rock bottom thanks to Stealth Rock, which tears half the HP from a Fire/Flying type just for the crime of switching in. It just didn’t perform well enough to offset that.
Pokémon X and Y changed all of that, though. Charizard was granted not just one but separate Mega forms, the only Pokémon besides Mewtwo to be given that honour. Suddenly, Charizard was a monstrously powerful Sun sweeper (Mega Charizard Y) and a formidable Fire/Dragon attacker (Mega Charizard X) both in one.