As we’ve progressed through over a quarter-century of Pokemon, there have been many version exclusives which inevitably end up being compared to one another. But none have quite the history of Electabuzz and Magmar. The Electric-type Electabuzz exclusive to Pokemon Red Version and the Fire-type Magmar exclusive to Blue Version are a bit too similar to not have been designed that way intentionally. The question still remains to this day: is Electabuzz or Magmar the better of the two Pokemon?
Before we dive into search trends, base stats, move sets, and competitive history, I must share that there are quite a few interesting theories about Electabuzz and Magmar. One of the most interesting theories is that Electabuzz, Magmar, and Jynx were initially supposed to be the legendary trio of the first Pokemon games. Those familiar with Red and Blue would know that the legendary birds Articuno, Moltres, and Zapdos are the legendary trio of those games. But, a Reddit thread I found on the subject of Electabuzz, Magmar, and Jynx originally being designed to be legendary themselves actually sounds like a plausible myth.
The evidence is compelling: Electabuzz, Magmar, and Jynx create the same trio of types, Electric, Fire, and Ice. They all had a lot of extra attention to their designs and later would all have baby forms. Electabuzz and Magmar would later get evolutions, with Jynx likely only getting passed over due to issues taken with Jynx’s human-shape and unfortunate connotations to racism.
While there’s no actual evidence that ever went public about the potential legendary trio of Electabuzz, Magmar, and Jynx ever being a thing, the development process would seem to have intentionally made them a trio of sorts anyway. After all, you only find Magmar in the burned Pokemon Mansion, Electabuzz in the Power Plant, and Jynx in the Seafoam Island caves. My take is that they weren’t supposed to be “legendary” per se, but rare and special, and likely intentionally mirroring the Legendary Birds.
Also, you find Zapdos at the Power Plant and Articuno in the Seafoam Islands. You would think Moltres would be the reason for the burned Mansion on Cinnabar Island, but you actually find Moltres in Victory Road. The story behind the burned up mansion that we get in the games was Team Rocket’s inability to contain Mewtwo.
Whatever the origins of Electabuzz and Magmar, they continue to enjoy one of the best version exclusive rivalries in the Pokemon franchise. One opinion piece from The Gamer sees Magmar VS Electabuzz as one of Pokémon’s best storylines. But, what do players actually think when it comes to power level?
A quick look at Pokemon community forums shows very quickly that the community is actually pretty split on which Pokemon is actually better. One Serebii forum thread shows that this Electabuzz VS Magmar battle comes down to personal preference. Yet, a very unscientific poll on a PokeCommunity forum thread overwhelmingly had Electabuzz winning by a landslide.
Since Generation 4, Magmar and Electabuzz have had final stage evolutions, Magmortar and Electivire respectively. Understandably, many competitive minded players have left their original Gen 1 final forms behind. But, among the more casual crowd, especially those who still have a deep nostalgic connection to the OG Red, Blue, and Yellow Game Boy trilogy, this debate still rages on today.
Electabuzz VS Magmar in Google Search Trends
Despite the community seeming to call Electabuzz the winner of the Electabuzz VS Magmar battle, it seems that the Google Trends data would disagree. Going back to 2004, there is a very clear winner.
The massive search trend spike in July 2016 has to do with the release of Pokemon GO. Naturally, since Magmar and Electabuzz are Generation 1 Pokemon, which was all GO featured on release, they were among the Pokemon most searched at the time. But for Magmar to win by an 8 to 5 margin, and the trends are remarkably consistent, means that Magmar is clearly the more popular of the two.
There are a few reasons why you might think Electabuzz is more popular. First off, Red Version is the more popular version between Red and Blue. I’ve already discussed Pokemon Red VS Blue previously. Naturally, if Red is the more sought after version of the game, you’d assume therefore that Electabuzz is the more popular Pokemon. However, the Fire type is and has long been more popular than the electric type: a quick Google Trends query will show an 18 to 11 split very similar to the split we saw with Electabuzz and Magmar. So, just on type alone, Magmar is going to be the more popular overall.
However, in the competitive scene, Electabuzz would enjoy far more success than Magmar. After all, Electric types enjoy the benefit of having only one defensive weakness (Ground-type moves) where as Fire-types have Rock, Water, and Ground weaknesses. Electabuzz was never a top-tier competitive Pokemon, but Smogon University had it as a strong underused option (in that it was played less than 5 percent of the time overall) in Gen 1, Gen 2, and Gen 3. Meanwhile, Magmar really only began to see competitive success in Ruby and Sapphire before being kicked to the curb as soon as Magmortar was released.
Of course, we aren’t here to answer the question how good Magmar or Electabuzz has been in competitive Pokemon. False Swipe Gaming has you covered on Magmar & Magmortar and Electabuzz & Electivire at their competitive best. Rather we’re looking to answer which Pokemon is best on its own merits, regardless of competitive pedigree.
Magmar Base Stats VS Electabuzz Base Stats
As version exclusive counterparts, it’s not at all shocking that their total base stats are quite similar. Electabuzz is much faster with 105 base speed VS Magmar’s 93. In Red and Blue, both Pokemon had a Special stat of 85, because Special Attack and Special Defense were once a combined stat. Both have 65 base HP and 57 physical Defense, which aren’t great, but most of the time, they’ll be able to hit first thanks to their above-average speed stats.
When the Special stat was split into Special Defense and Special Attack, though, Magmar actually came out slightly ahead with a boost to 100 Special Attack, with Electabuzz getting a boost to 95 Special Attack. Both Pokemon kept a solid Special Defense stat of 85. This meant Magmar ended up with a base stat total of 495 with Electabuzz right behind at 490.
What’s most interesting about Magmar and Electabuzz is just how similar their move pools really are. Both can learn Fire Punch and Thunder Punch as egg moves, which before Generation 4, were considered Special attacking moves. Electabuzz additionally can learn Ice Punch as an egg move. They both learn Psychic, another potential connection they have with Jynx. Starting in Generation 4, they both learned the Special attacking Fighting type move Focus Blast, a move that many competitive Magmar and Electabuzz were more than happy to use, despite the horrid 70 percent accuracy.
Electabuzz and Magmar are so strangely similar, why are they so divergent both in popularity and competitive viability? On the popularity side, Magmar being a Fire-type is a major plus. But, in the competitive scene, Electabuzz having a much higher speed stat makes a huge difference. Five points in Special Attack are nothing when compared to 12 points in Speed. After all, in competitive Pokemon, you only need a single point in Speed to hit first, and a higher base Speed makes a huge difference.
To put in perspective just how important 105 base Speed is, consider that popular Legendary Pokemon such as Thundurus and Landorus have 101 speed. Charizard, Ninetales, Salamence, and Mew each have 100 base speed. Electabuzz outspeeds all of them, and that’s just a handful of popular competitive Pokemon. (Interestingly enough, Electivire only has 95 base speed, the price it pays for more offensive power.)
While 93 speed doesn’t make minced meat out of Magmar, as it still outspeeds common competitive favorites such as Krookodile and Rotom, many common competitive Pokemon are 95 base Speed and above for a reason. Once you involve Effort Values and Natures, which started in Generation 3, it makes it even harder for Magmar to compete. Pokemon who have a lower base Speed can have a Nature that boosts their overall Speed stat by 10 percent and invest all 252 possible Effort Values into their Speed stat.
So, yes, while they are very similar, and Electabuzz seems to be at a disadvantage, the Speed stat means everything. If you go first, and hit hard enough, you’re going to be successful; that’s just common sense.
Final Verdict: Electabuzz VS Magmar?
As a fan of both Pokemon, although not so much their seemingly tacked-on evolutions, it’s a difficult choice for me to decide. However, as I played much more Pokemon Red as a youth than Blue (which is odd considering that blue is my favorite color) I have to go with Electabuzz over Magmar. While the Speed isn’t nearly as important in Gen 1 or Gen 2, it began to truly matter in Gen 3. Trainers who were all too happy to min-max to make the most of a tremendous Speed stat finally had a chance to do so.
Still, I can’t ignore that I’m surprised that Magmar is significantly more popular in terms of search volume than Electabuzz. Of course Google Trends isn’t an accurate measure of who’s a stronger Pokemon or even which is actually more popular. But, it does give us insight into what matters to most Pokemon fans; fire type Pokemon are always going to be more popular than electric types, and Charizard should be enough of a sign of that!
Sadly, neither Electabuzz nor Magmar initially appeared in Scarlet and Violet. Hopefully, they do make a comeback in future DLC or past generation remakes. I had a ton of fun playing with an Alpha Electivire in Legends Arceus; notably I played with Magmortar much less in that game, too, only doing so for Pokedex completion sake.
While I give Electabuzz only a slight edge over Magmar, I’d love to hear what you think. As far as Electivire VS Magmortar, that’s a topic rich enough for another article.