Vivillon is the Generation 6 Pokemon answer to Butterfree from Generation 1. While the Scale Pokemon has a nice design, with twenty different wing patterns to collect from around the Kalos region, it also is a fairly good Pokemon during your X and Y adventures. Having considerably better speed than Butterfree, as well as a chance to enjoy the Compound Eyes ability, Vivillon seemed a strong choice to be a mid-tier contender in competitive Pokemon.
This lovely butterfly Pokemon only enjoys Pokedex entries during Generation 6 games, those being X, Y, Alpha Sapphire, and Omega Ruby. From these entries we can derive several important aspects of Vivillon lore. First, Vivillon’s wing patterns are affected by the climate and topography of their habitat. We also learn that Vivillon sheds colorful scales as they fly, and that they actually live all over the Pokemon world, although we only saw them in Generation 6 and only saw them in Alola when transferred to Sun and Moon / Ultra Sun and Moon through the Pokemon Bank app.
Vivillon enjoys one of the most situational and head-scratching exclusive moves in Pokemon called Powder. This attack really doesn’t do very much, except damage a Pokemon for attempting to use a Fire-type move. If a Pokemon affected by Powder attempts to use a Fire-type move, it instead loses 25 percent of its HP and can’t use the move, still consuming the PP in the process. Since Powder only lasts for one turn, you have to predict the move correctly for it to even be useful.
Fortunately for Vivillon, Sun and Moon Z-moves turned Powder into its own Z-move called Z-Powder. This move raises the user’s Special Defense by two stages. That’s a heck of a lot more useful. For some reason, during Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, you could now have Cutiefly learn Powder as an Egg move, for reasons I can’t possibly explain.
Now, when it comes to Butterfree VS Vivillon, as much as I love the OG butterfly Pokemon, it’s hard not to see Vivillon as the clear victor here. Butterfree’s base 70 Speed is pretty mediocre when compared to Vivillon’s 89 base speed. Heck, Butterfree’s Special Attack was boosted from 80 to 90 in X and Y simply to match Vivillon’s 90 base stat. The only place where Vivillon falls short is in its Special Defense: Vivillon only has 50 base points in either physical or special defense, while Butterfree has 80 Special Defense.
Fortunately, Vivillon has one trick that it shares with Butterfree, the Compound Eyes ability. This makes moves such as Sleep Powder which are typically only 75 percent accurate into 97 percent accurate moves. It also makes Vivillon’s best special attacking move in Hurricane 91 percent accurate rather than 70 percent. So far, it seems like a faster clone of Butterfree, and you’d be correct.
It’s also notable that Vivillon has two other abilities, Shield Dust and Friend Guard (its Hidden Ability). Pokemon with the Shield Dust ability aren’t affected secondary effects of damaging moves or held items. While this is a good ability, the accuracy boost of Compound Eyes is far more relevant to playing to Vivillon’s special attack strengths. Friend Guard is also neat, reducing the damage taken by allies by 25 percent. While this is a great ability in double battles, such as VGC, it’s much better utilized by Clefairy and Clefable. It’s also an entirely useless ability in single battles, which is mostly what you’re doing in Pokemon.
Like Butterfree, Vivillon also learns the buff move Quiver Dance, which raises Special Attack, Special Defense, and Speed by one stage. Naturally, with higher Speed already, Vivillon can use this boost more effectively than Butterfree. On top of Quiver Dance, Hurricane, and Sleep Powder, Vivillon will often run Energy Ball, whereas Butterfree typically ran Bug Buzz as its other attacking move. Smogon University says that Energy Ball was often the choice thanks to being the best coverage against Flying resistant threats such as Rhydon and Lanturn.
Mid-tier teams in X and Y competitive singles decided on a Timid nature as the best choice for Vivillon, which increases Speed and decreases physical attack. Many Vivillon also held a Focus Sash to prevent being one-hit KO’d. Some trainers decided to run a slightly different set with Leftovers and Substitute, leaving Hurricane as its only attacking move. Both this build and the more traditional Quiver Dance option saw play in the NU and RU tiers of competitive Smogon singles for years to come. This led Butterfree to become untiered from competitive play, now being clearly outclassed.
While Butterfree enjoys a powerful second ability in Tinted Lens, that wasn’t enough to save it competitively, even with the Gigantamax form it gained in Sword and Shield. Tinted Lens powers up moves that would otherwise not be very effective, something that Butterfree found useful against Pokemon it may ordinarily struggle against. It just wasn’t quite enough to see any relevance in competitive play, although more than a few would find their way onto Sword and Shield teams in game out of sheer nostalgia.
Meanwhile, Vivillon continued to find competitive success in Sun and Moon, with Flyinium Z powering up its already excellent ace move in Hurricane. It continued to run the same move set as in X and Y, holding its own even as power creep gave it Mega forms to deal with, too. For some reason, though, Game Freak decided after Generation 7 to send Vivillon into temporary retirement for Generation 8, opting to give Butterfree a GMAX form instead.
While I appreciate the love given to Butterfree, it’s fairly obvious at this point that Vivillon is a strictly better Pokemon, not just in competitive play, but just overall. Yes, Vivillon is a darn good Pokemon that got shafted in Sword and Shield, so I’m glad to see that the pretty bug will return for Scarlet and Violet. While I adore Butterfree and have lots of good memories with that Pokemon, Vivillon is a good Pokemon I won’t hesitate to use on my team.
There is one thing about Vivillon I must reveal however. Its National Pokedex number… is #666. Take that as you will…
Pokémon and All Respective Names are Trademark & © of Nintendo 1996-2022