With the Generation 9 entries of the Pokémon franchise, Scarlet and Violet for the Nintendo Switch, many pocket monsters absent from Generation 8’s Sword and Shield games are being reintroduced. While some of these Pokemon made appearances in Brilliant Diamond, Shining Pearl, and Legends Arceus, for some, this will be their first appearance since Generation 7’s Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon in mainline competitive play. One of these Pokemon ready to sneak in and wreak some havoc is Seviper.
Seviper is a Pokemon that’s been around since the Ruby and Sapphire games of Generation 3, way back on the Game Boy Advance. So, the Fang Snake Pokemon is one with a long history to unpack. Its primary lore revolves around its ancient feud with Zangoose. However, while Zangoose’s Pokedex entries are pretty much all about its foreleg claws, great agility, and feud with Seviper, the Snake has a bit more depth to its lore.
According to the Pokedex entries for Seviper, we can explain the scars on its body as “evidence of vicious battles.” Seviper attacks primarily with its sword-edged tail, which it sharpens on rocks and keeps constantly polished; it also secretes a deadly venom from its tail. Alternatively, Seviper will hide in tall grass and “strike unwary prey with venomous fangs.”
In the anime, Seviper is a key Pokemon used by Jessie of Team Rocket for quite a while. So, it’s probably more familiar to many anime fans than its arguably much more competitive rival in Zangoose. That’s not to say Seviper is bad, though. Its Attack and Special Attack stats are far above average at 100 each. Unfortunately, its other base stats are pretty lackluster: 73 base HP, 60 base Defense, 60 base Special Defense, and 65 base Speed.
As we can derive from the lore, Seviper is an all-or-nothing attacker, and its ability to be equally deadly from a Physical and Special aspect is certainly a plus. Unfortunately, its just not going to stand up to much of anything. Seviper is pure Poison-type, meaning its weak to just Ground and Psychic moves, but its barely average defensive base stats don’t do it favors against much of anything.
Do its abilities do Seviper any favors? Seviper does typically have the Shed Skin ability, which gives the owner a one-in-three chance of “shedding” a status condition such as burn, freeze, paralysis, poison, or sleep. This is a good ability, but not game-changing. On the other hand, the Black and White Dream World in Generation 5 bestowed a new Hidden Ability, Infiltrator, onto Seviper.
Now, Infiltrator is actually a really neat ability, seen competitively on the likes of Crobat and more recently Dragapult. Infiltrator means that the attacker with this ability bypasses the effects of defensive screens such as Reflect, Light Screen, Aurora Veil, Safeguard, and Mist. In addition, Infiltrator also bypasses Substitutes. Not only does this ability make a lot of sense on Seviper from a ludonarrative perspective, it makes Seviper a lot better as a competitive option.
But, according to Smogon University, competitive Seviper actually rarely ran a build with Infiltrator as its ability, opting for the primary ability of Shed Skin. The good news is that Seviper has actually enjoyed some competitive success, at least in the realm of non-official competitive singles. Hilariously, Seviper has enjoyed some niche success in the Trading Card Game, but that’s out of the purview of this particular article!
Anyway, in its debut generation, Seviper was a useful mid-tier pivot and wallbreaker Pokemon, thanks to its strong mixed attacking stats. Shed Skin could also absorb some status moves. But, being slow and frail, it had to pick its spots. That being said, it could run a varied moveset with options like Sludge Bomb, Earthquake, Flamethrower, and a Hidden Power Grass or Ghost. This made Seviper a pain to switch into, and a perfectly useful Pokemon in regular gameplay, as well.
In Diamond and Pearl, Seviper took the new Life Orb held item and ran with it as an all-out physical attacker, complete with an Adamant nature to boost its physical offensive prowess even further. It could run a moveset with wide move coverage: Poison Jab, Earthquake, Sucker Punch, and Aqua Tail was a common set. Another new option was the Choice Scarf set, with the option to use Switcheroo to swap its Choice Scarf with an opponent to lock it into what could become an undesirable move choice. It actually moved up rather than down. In Gen 4, it was actually better in competitive play than Zangoose!
Sadly in Generation 5, even with the addition of the Infiltrator Hidden Ability, Seviper began a quick downward slide. It hung around the mid-tier NU (Never Used) of Smogon competitive singles for a bit, but its lackluster speed and defensive stats finally caught up with it thanks to the huge power creep of Black and White. Zangoose held its own thanks to gaining Toxic Boost, but Seviper’s Infiltrator wasn’t enough to save it. By the end of Generation 5, Seviper dropped all the way to the new lowest tier, PU. There it would hold its own thanks to its type coverage, even running Giga Drain at times to nail Ground-types.
With the release of X and Y and further power creep, however, Seviper would end Generation 6 as untiered, an ignominy that would continue through Generation 7’s Sun and Moon. Seviper would hang around in PU for a bit in both generations but never gain a foothold.
Of course, Seviper would return in the Brilliant Diamond and Shining Pearl Generation 4 remakes. But, unlike its rival Zangoose, Seviper doesn’t appear in the Pikalytics stats for BDSP competitive singles. So, we don’t have any recent in-print information on what to expect for Seviper’s competitive future, although a quick search of YouTube will show BDSP 6-on-6 singles players trying to make it work.
Interestingly, there’s a lot of debate that Arbok is strictly better than Seviper due to having the move Coil to boost its Attack and Defense, plus Accuracy. Having written in depth about Arbok as a good Pokemon, I can tell you that it seems that trainers have entirely overlooked the fact that Seviper does learn Coil. The real advantage that Arbok has is better Speed (80 vs 65) and its significantly better Special Defense (79 vs 60). Arbok also has Intimidate as an ability, which is far more relevant to making up for lackluster physical Defense.
I’d argue that Seviper actually has the better movepool to Arbok. But, having to learn Coil then takes out one of Seviper’s move slots, meaning it will lose some type coverage. So, I unfortunately have to conclude that Seviper is yet another victim of “four slot syndrome,” meaning that Pokemon’s classic limitation to move-sets is actually a downside to Seviper. It’ll take something significant to ever make Seviper a competitive option ever again, and even its arch-rival Zangoose is looking to be a low-tier contender at the very best.
That being said, Seviper has a great design, a deep movepool, and great, though not excellent, mixed attacking capabilities. Considering that Arbok is nowhere to be seen among the Pokemon confirmed to be in Scarlet and Violet, Seviper may have a moment to shine at least in the open world adventure of Generation 9, until Pokemon Home allows you to bring your Arbok over from Let’s Go Pikachu/Eevee or Brilliant Diamond/Shining Pearl. While I greatly prefer Zangoose as a competitive hopeful, Seviper is a good Pokemon that deserves another shot to be an in-game option for what should prove to be the most in-depth Pokemon adventure yet.
Will you be playing with Seviper in Scarlet and Violet?