Skeledirge is the final stage evolution of Fuecoco, with Crocalor in between. It is a Fire/Ghost type in the vein of Hisuian Typhlosion. Known as the Singer Pokemon, Skeledirge has an interesting base stat distribution that may take good advantage of its typing. With Hisuian Typhlosion not entering Generation 9 competitive play until HOME connectivity in Spring 2023, Skeledirge poised itself to have a strong chance to compete.
First off, Fire/Ghost is the same type as Chandelure, one of the more popular Pokemon ever. Just as I noted in my review of Hisuian Typhlosion, gaining the Ghost type for its final stage evolution gains both a Ghost-type and Dark-type weakness, but also an immunity against Normal and Fighting moves. But, Skeledirge also has some advantages over Hisuian Typhlosion, which has a similar stat spread to Charizard (except with 119 Special Attack and 95 Speed). Skeledirge has below-average speed with only 66 Speed. Fortunately, Skeledirge doesn’t need to be fast to do its job. In fact, you may want Skeledirge to be slower.
Skeledirge has several defensive tools going for it, including a high 104 HP stat. This is relevant, thanks to being able to play Substitute and put down a thick substitute that often tank two hits before fading. While Skeledirge’s physical Attack is mid at 75, its Special Attack is a strong 110 base stat. Also, Skeledirge has 100 physical Defense, although just 75 Special Defense. However, depending on whether you run its regular ability (Blaze) or its Hidden Ability (Unaware), you’ll play things quite differently.
Blaze is the same ability many Fire-type starter Pokemon have enjoyed since the days of Ruby and Sapphire. When a Pokemon with Blaze is under 33 percent HP, its Fire-type moves are boosted by 50 percent. Technically, after Generation 5, this ability was revised to increase the Pokemon’s Attack or Special Attack by 50 percent if a Fire-type move is used, which is basically the same thing. In general, Blaze is fine on Skeledirge, but it would seem to me, that because Skeledirge is rarely going to outspeed its counters, its Hidden Ability gives it more competitive viability.
Unaware is an ability that is well known among the competitive Pokemon community. Essentially, Unaware blanks the stat changes of the Pokemon attacking. Of course, this is a downside for the Pokemon with Unaware, who can’t enjoy the benefits of stat buffing moves. But, this isn’t always a bad thing, especially if you’re using that Pokemon defensively. For example, Quagsire is well-known for running the ability as a defensive wall, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Clodsire run that back, too.
What you want to do with a Pokemon with Unaware is to switch it in after an opponent has buffed its Attack. Notably, this works both ways, as any defensive boosts are ignored when a Pokemon with Unaware attacks. This is good for a few reasons. Because Skeledirge can be run either as a Special Attacking tank or an Unaware physically defensive wall, opponents may not know what they’re dealing with when it comes out.
Also, it’s very likely Trick Room teams will be popular at least in early Generation 9, thanks to great setters like Bronzong, Firagarif, Hatterene, and Mimikyu around. This means suddenly the slower Pokemon moves first, making an offensive Skeledirge variation actually viable.
Most competitive players will likely lean into that Unaware ability, though, especially in order to blank powerful Normal and Fighting type attacks, as well as other resisted physical attacks; Bug, Fire, Grass, Ice, Steel, and Fairy types are all ineffective against the Fire/Ghost dual typing. Skeledirge is not only a likely good pivot for a great many competitive teams in Battle Stadium singles and doubles, but it may prove effective enough to be a permanent team member throughout the Paldean adventure.
Of course, in game you’re going to have Blaze as your ability until you can otherwise change it with an item like Ability Patch, which most likely isn’t available until the post game. Also, if you want to go offensive with Skeledirge, though, Blaze is not only perfectly fine, it’s necessary to take full advantage of stat boosting moves of your own.
Far as its move pool is concerned, likely you’ll want to teach Substitute by TM as at least one of its moves to take advantage of Skeledirge’s high HP. Skeledirge also learns some decent special attacking moves by level up. Shadow Ball is probably a must play as a Ghost-type move that receives the same-type Attack bonus (STAB), but for a Fire move, Skeledirge has a really strong signature move. Torch Song is a bit weaker than Flamethrower with 80 base power rather than 90, but it also boosts Special Attack.
Skeledirge also learns Snarl, which while not a powerful Dark-type damaging move, also cripples the Special Attack of opposing Pokemon. This is a move that will most likely be most often used in doubles. Skeledirge also learns Round, which can be a lot of fun to build around in doubles, as well.
While Skeledirge is perfectly fine as an offensive Special tank, you won’t be able to take full advantage of the Unaware ability, which also ignores your own boosts when damage is dealt either to you or your opponent. Fortunately, Unaware Skeledirge can effectively play defensively with moves like Roar, Will-O-Wisp, and Scary Face in its repertoire. It also learns Hex, so Will-o-Wisp burning a target then using a 2x powered Hex is definitely an option. Being able to Roar and phase out a random Pokemon is also really neat. Talk about spreading burn around. A more defensive set could run Fire Blast or Overheat instead, although the former is highly inaccurate and Overheat sharply lowers your Special Attack.
There’s one other very important move that it learns, and that’s Hyper Voice, a particularly potent Normal-type special attacking move. It’s important to note that it hits through Substitutes, as of Generation 6, and with the ability to Terastalize into a Normal type, this is yet another variant of offensive Skeledirge.
By TM, Skeledirge can additionally learn Sunny Day as an additional Sun setter, other Special attacking Fire moves in Blast Burn, Heat Wave, and Fire Pledge. It also can learn the Fairy type Disarming Voice (which can hit both foes in doubles), which is very useful for chip damage that typically can’t miss outside of corner cases of semi-invulnerability such as Dig, Fly, Phantom Force, or protection moves. It’s also useful Dark, Dragon, and Fighting-type coverage on offense, so it’s definitely a real consideration.
Notably, if you run both Hyper Voice and Disarming Voice, it could be advantageous to give Throat Spray as a held item. The Spray is consumed whenever you use a Voice move, raising the Pokemon’s Special Attack by one stage, or about 50 percent from normal. It’s not a bad moveset option to run Substitute, Torch Song, Hyper Voice, and Disarming Voice, although probably not optimal outside of doubles to take full advantage of the potential double targets of Disarming Voice.
Skeledirge can also be taught the Grass-type Solar Beam (assisted by Sun being up) and the Ground-type Earth Power. For strong physical moves it can run the Dark-type Crunch and even the Dragon-type Outrage, but its physical Attack stat isn’t really high enough for these moves to be very effective unless you desperately need coverage for that type on your given team.
While my own play style leans towards investing heavily in glass cannons like Meowscarda, no one can really go wrong playing with Skeledirge on their team, playing it either offensively or defensively. In fact, Fuecoco is my first Scarlet starter; Sprigatito is my first Violet starter. Undoubtedly, I’ll acquire a few Quaxly in Wonder Trade as people breed them or do Wonder Trade challenges. I don’t actually dislike Quaxly or its evolutions; it’s just that they take the most set-up to succeed or be any sort of competitive.
My gut is to lean into the strong defenses of Skeledirge and run only one offensive move in either the Hex / Will-o-Wisp combo or lean entirely into Torch Song. Meanwhile, set up a Substitute and Roar in new Pokemon as they attempt to set up on you or wall you. Then, spread burns around. This set would focus on physical Defense at the cost of physical Attack with a Bold nature, investing EV’s primarily in Special Attack and Defense. This is a set that takes full advantage of Unaware as an ability.
But, a set that goes all in on attacking with Torch Song, Shadow Ball, Hyper Voice, and either Snarl, Substitute, or Roar seems strong, too. This you would want to be Modest nature, boosting Special attack at the cost of the physical attack you don’t use anyway on this Pokemon. You’ll also need to have Blaze as your ability, as again Unaware would negate the effects of your own boosts.
Skeledirge is an absolutely good Pokemon. It’s balanced, gives you at least one half of a good defensive core, and does enough damage to be a threat to those Pokemon weak or neutral to its attacks. You can’t ask much more from a final starter evolution than this Pokemon.
What do you think of Skeledirge? I personally think I will be running a Battle Stadium team with both Meowscarda and Skeledirge together, so clearly you can tell how much I think of both! I’d love to hear which starter Pokemon you chose for Scarlet and Violet and which final evolution you prefer.