Due to a close friend of mine having done a playthrough of Pokémon Heart Gold, I decided to pick up my old copy of Pokémon Diamond to do my revisit of the fourth generation of these games… and then I did a playthrough of Soul Silver anyway, partially to see if any of the complaints I had lodged towards it actually stood up. (That’s a topic for another time)
When planning out my teams for both games, I decided to carry an Electric-type to deal with both Water- and Flying-types, especially as in both games I was using a starter Pokémon that is vulnerable to those (Cyndaquil and Turtwig respectively). Thankfully, both games have an Electric-type found in the wild very early on.
Shinx, which evolves into Luxio and then Luxray, for Diamond. Mareep, which evolves into Flaaffy and Ampharos, for Soul Silver. How do these two evolutionary lines compare?
A note before I start: I’ll be basing my comparison off their Generation IV movesets and stats, with a section at the end to talk about how they developed as the games go on.
Stats and Abilities
Fig 1. The base stat totals of each Pokémon
Right away we can see that the offensive capabilities of these Pokémon are complete opposites. Luxray is designed be a physical attacker that can still hold it’s own with special attacks whereas Ampharos is more geared towards special attacks with less of a focus on physical attacks.
An interesting point to note is the surprisingly low speed stats on both Pokémon. Electric-types are traditionally faster to reflect the speed at which lightning moves in real life. Jolteon, accessible in HeartGold/SoulSilver (HG/SS) and Platinum, has a whopping 130 base speed stat with offensive capabilities to boot. Raichu (the next best option in Diamond and Pearl) has 100 base speed with offensive capabilities balanced between physical and special attack.
About abilities, Ampharos only comes with one, “Static”. Static confers a 30% chance for an attacker to be afflicted with the status effect of “Paralysis”, provided the attack is physical in nature. Paralysis reduces the speed of the afflicted Pokémon and gives a chance for their turn to be skipped. During gameplay I noticed a fairly good proc rate on Static triggering, and Paralysis can be a boon in fights that will be drawn out over multiple turns (such as Whitney’s Miltank).
Luxray has the potential for two abilities: Rivalry and Intimidate. In my experience, you’re going to want the latter.
Rivalry increases offensive stats by 25% if the opposing Pokémon is of the same gender and reduces them by the same margin for the opposite gender (no modifier on genderless Pokémon). This can turn battles into a problem because, unless you use an external guide, you aren’t able to know the gender of your opponent’s Pokémon until you’re in the battle.
Intimidate has more utility behind it. Upon entering battle the opposing Pokémon will have their Attack stat lowered by one level, with both Pokémon in a Double Battle being affected. This is incredibly potent on Luxray, as being a pure Electric-type means it’s only weakness is Ground-type moves, the majority of which are physical moves dependant on the Attack stat.
It also has an outside of battle effect. When in the first slot of the party; a Pokémon with Intimidate gives a pseudo-Repel effect of preventing wild encounters if the encounter would be at a lower level, making back-tracking through earlier areas smoother.
Luxray has a natural disadvantage when discussing moves, Electric-type moves tend to come as special attackers and out of the four physical moves available, Luxray only learns two.
And it doesn’t even matter because Spark and Thunder Fang are mechanically identical moves with Thunder Fang being strictly worse than Spark. Both have 65 power and a chance at Paralysis, but whilst Thunder Fang has 95% accuracy and a 10% chance to induce Paralysis; Spark has 100% accuracy and a 30% chance to induce Paralysis. Thunder Fang does have the slight benefit of also giving a chance to make a Pokémon flinch (making it miss it’s turn if the attacker moves before it) but, due to it’s usefulness, I’d prefer the higher chance of paralysis.
The only other physical move of note learned on level up is Crunch, a Dark-type move with great power and a 20% chance to lower the defence of the opposing Pokémon. Dark-type is surprisingly useful on a physical attacker; it’s super-effective against Physic- and Ghost-type which tend to favour Special Defence, leaving them more vulnerable to this move.
Technical Machines (TMs) and Hidden Machines (HMs) go some way to alleviating the poor level up moveset. Iron Tail is a high power, medium accuracy Steel-type move that helps round out type coverage. Strength is essentially a super-powered version of Tackle, but still goes some way to round out offensive capabilities (and provides some usage outside of battle). And Thunder Wave is a highly accurate move that is non-damaging, but is guaranteed to inflict Paralysis.
On the other hand, Ampharos has a much more diverse moveset both through level up and TMs.
For a start, Thunder Wave is learnt by level up rather than needing a TM and is learnt by the first stage of the line (Mareep) early on, meaning it gets to see usage throughout the game at crucial points such as the aforementioned Miltank and for capturing the cover legendary Pokémon.
Both Discharge and Thunder are learnt on level up, but the TM for Thunder comes early in the game so it’s probably easier to teach it then, it’s inaccurate but can deal massive damage. Discharge on the other hand is learnt at level 34 which should come near the end of the mid-game and will be your go-to Electric-type move for the foreseeable future.
In terms of type coverage, the Bug-type move Signal Beam comes at level 42 and the Rock-type move Power Gem comes at level 59. Neither of these moves help to fight against Ground-type Pokémon but do provide more utility beyond Electric-type moves.
Finally, Ampharos has a lot of options presented when looking at TMs. Thunderbolt is less powerful than Thunder, but carries a much higher accuracy percentage. Focus Blast is a high power Fighting-type move with the same accuracy as Thunder, but can provide some utility against Ground-type Pokémon who often carry a type weak to Fighting. If you want to field Ampharos as a disruption strategy; Toxic lets it induce the “Badly Poisoned” status effect on other Pokémon, a slowly increasing damage-over-time effect.
Generation V onwards
Nothing much changes for Luxray, it’s moveset improves somewhat through the addition of Wild Charge and Volt Switch in Generation V, the former being a level up move and the latter being a TM move. Wild Charge is a high power physical move that inflicts recoil damage onto the attacker in proportion to the damage dealt and Volt Switch is a special move with decent power which allows the attacker to switch out from battle, potentially in anticipation of a super-effective move.
Hidden abilities being introduced as a mechanic gives Luxray access to the Guts ability. Guts increases the Attack stat by 50% whenever the Pokémon is inflicted with a status effect. Whilst this does give utility against users of such moves; the moveset remains a pressing issue here and I maintain that Intimidate is the best ability.
Meanwhile, Ampharos has unlocked the power of Super Saiyan 3.
Mega Ampharos is introduced in Generation VI, along with the mechanic of Mega Evolution itself. Like all Mega Evolutions, the stats are changed:
- Attack goes up to 95
- Defence goes up to 105
- Sp. Attack goes all the way up to 165
- Sp. Defence goes up to 110
- Speed goes down to 45
And the ability is changed to “Mold Breaker”, which allows moves to hit, even if an ability on the field would prevent it doing so. Ampharos was slow before Mega Evolution, so a slight reduction in speed in exchange for vastly increased offensive capabilities and slightly improved bulk is a fair trade-off. Dragon-type is also gained in the process, which does open up weaknesses towards Ice, Dragon, and Fairy-types, but grants resistance towards Fire- and Water-types.
Ampharos’s moveset also gains more diversity as Generations go on. Like Luxray it gains access to Wild Charge and Volt Switch, the special nature of Volt Switch makes it a good utility move but due to the slowness of Ampharos it’s less likely to be an evasion tactic.
The addition of Dragon-type for Mega Ampharos gives access to Dragon Pulse in it’s level up moves; this move has decent power and provides type coverage against the popular endgame Dragon-type. With the usage of a Heart Scale from Generation VI onwards, Ampharos can relearn Zap Cannon, a move with the same power as Thunder with lower accuracy, however, a successful Zap Cannon is guaranteed to induce Paralysis.
Despite railing against Luxray a fair bit in this article, Sparkplug (my Luxray) was an incredibly valuable member of my team. It having physical Electric-type moves proved invaluable against Cynthia’s Milotic.
However, Wilhem (my Ampharos) proved to be way more versatile, having access to Thunder Wave made potentially difficult gym leader encounters more manageable, with Focus Blast learned from a TM making battles against Steel, Ice, and Rock-types end quickly (if it connected).
Both Pokémon have upsides and downsides, but in my opinion Ampharos comes out on top. It has a better moveset and utility in the gane I was focusing on and it obviously gets a massive buff when Mega Evolution comes around, with decent new moves being added to round it all off.
At the end of it all, everyone has their own preference towards what Pokémon they want to use on their team. Some prefer pure power, some will take what comes along first, and some will make their decision way in advance. Whatever you choose, your Pokémon grow along with you on your journey and not only become valued team members, they can become like friends.