Pokemon Has A Great Meta Except For The Fact That Ice Is Completely Useless
It’s rare to see a game with a truly balanced meta, and yet here Pokemon is, dangling its 900-strong roster of creatures that can only say their own name right in front of us. It’s impressive, isn’t it? How all 20 Pokemon types are viable to use in competitive battling, each one having its own range of unique benefits that can make it immensely powerful in a pinch?
Except for Ice. Ice is bullshit, and that needs to change.
As it stands, there are zero pure Ice types in the meta for Gen 8 OU (overused, the most played category) on Pokemon Showdown, a popular online battle simulator. There is one half-Ice type, Kyurem Black, whose Ice half nets it checks notes three weaknesses and zero resistances, rendering it almost defensively inept — especially when you consider the three resistances its Dragon half grants it. At least Ice… resists itself?
Now let’s not get too hasty here — Bug also only has one Pokemon in the current OU meta (Pheromosa), as do Poison (Toxapex) and Rock (Tyranitar). I’m not trying to say that only having a single Pokemon in the meta makes a type inherently bad. What I will say is that Tyranitar uses its Rock typing to its advantage, given its monstrous defense stat and access to Sand Stream, while Pheromosa’s Beast Boost with Bug Buzz and Focus Blast make it a veritable Psychic, Dark, and Grass killer, which adds quite a lot of utility to its already absurd 310 Special Attack.
It’s also worth noting that Kyurem genuinely makes use of its Ice typing. Ice is super-effective against four other types, making it one of the most offensively powerful bases in the entire game. These types — Dragon, Flying, Grass, and Ground — are all prominent in the current meta, to the extent that Ice is super-effective against a whopping 11 meta Pokemon.
So why on earth are there so few Ice types worth using?
Ice’s offensive viability is completely offset by its defensive vulnerability. It’s got four weaknesses — Fighting, Fire, Rock, and Steel — which seems like a relatively fair trade-off for its immense attacking potential. The issue here is that it only has one resistance: itself. It would make sense for Ice to resist water (unless it was Scald), or Grass, or even Ground. Usually types resist some of what they are super-effective against. But Ice is just redundant at this stage — Ice ‘mons are the literal definition of glass cannons.
Let’s dig a little deeper: Cloyster, Lapras, Articuno, Walrein, Regice, Weavile, Glaceon, Mamoswine, Vanilluxe, Kyurem, Aurorus, Avalugg, Mr. Rime, Galarian Darmanitan (Zen Mode), Arctozolt, Arctovish, Glastrier, and Ice Rider Calyrex all have base stats of over 500. They also have access to STAB (same-type-attack-bonus) moves that are super-effective against a massive 11 different meta Pokemon — and yet only one of these Pokemon is in the meta themselves.
There’s a good stat spread in that list, too. Weavile is fast and has a mean physical attack stat, while ‘mons like Walrein, Lapras, and Mamoswine rock some pretty solid HP figures. It’s not as if Ice is inherently weak in terms of design — Rock Pokemon have high physical defense stats and Electric Pokemon tend to be fast, but Ice is pretty varied. The issue is firmly tied to Ice’s lack of resistances. When you take neutral or higher damage from every single type except your own, you’re running a huge risk with every speed check, prediction, and beyond.
The clearest way to fix this is to patch in more Ice resistances. That would probably have a tangible effect on how Ice Pokemon fare in the competitive scene almost immediately. In the long run, however, Nintendo needs to do even more. I would go as far as to say that a 21st type that is super-effective against Dragon or Fairy needs to be patched in and made weak to Ice and Poison — perhaps something reptilian, which would fit the type effectiveness chart above perfectly in terms of context. By introducing a new type that serves as a foil to two of the biggest players in the current meta, Nintendo can simultaneously buff the viability of underused types by drawing them into the dynamic, too. Just look at Fairy — it’s a Dragon-killer first and foremost, but it also made Steel and Poison viable offensive types. Dragon/Fairy/Steel is a much more prominent typing triad now than Psychic/Dark/Fighting, and introducing a new dimension to it could have a huge impact on the entire type effectiveness structure.
It is worth tempering the above by remembering that Ice is already super-effective against four types. Gaining a fifth type might even be considered overpowered — however, I would personally prefer to see a few Ice ‘mons get knocked up to Uber than see absolutely none of them in OU.
Ice needs resistances. Ice needs to be super-effective against something that is super-effective against Fairy. Ice needs to actually matter instead of lingering on the outskirts of a 19-type meta. Hopefully one or all of these things are introduced with Gen 9 and I can actually use my favourite Ice buds instead of leaving them in PC boxes where they can’t get OHKO’d by… everything.
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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.
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