Pokemon Scarlet and Violet are set to kick off Generation 9. With these games come our ninth trio of starter Pokemon. As always, they are Grass, Water, and Fire type. Our choices this time around in the Paldea region are the Grass-type Sprigatito, the Water-type Quaxly, and the Fire-type Fuecoco. Over time, this article will be updated with more concrete information about which of the three Scarlet and Violet starters is the best for grinding through the open world adventure and which one is the best competitive option.
For now, I’ll give my thoughts about the general designs, and how they relate with the new Paldea region, based on the Iberian peninsula and Spain. Which is the best starter Pokemon in Scarlet and Violet, and which is my favorite going into this landmark adventure on the Nintendo Switch?
Sprigatito is probably my favorite design of the three starters. A grass cat is definitely a fresh concept in the Pokemon universe. Early rumors suggested that the final form would be a Grass/Fairy type. In any case, it would be my choice for my first Violet starter. I would be quite pleasantly surprised by its final form, Meowscarada, which may be the best of the final starter evolutions in competitive Pokemon. Here’s why Meowscarada is so good.
Sprigatito evolves into Floragato, the Grass Cat Pokemon, which looks like a feline version of Sneasel. The final form, Meowscarada is a Magician Pokemon, and while it was rumored to be Grass/Fairy, it instead would be Grass/Dark. I was a huge fan of Meowstic in X and Y, and I think I like this design even better. Being Grass/Dark, it’s going to be far more useful on offense than the pure Psychic-type Meowstic, who was more of a utility/support type.
Sprigatito has the Overgrow ability, common among Grass-type starters. This ability powers up Grass-type moves by 50 percent when the user is at or below one-third of its HP. The grass kitten’s personality is noted as being “capricious” and “attention-seeking.” It also tends to sulk if ignored by people. Sounds like your typical kitten to me.
Where design is concerned, Sprigatito doesn’t have much of a direct tie to Spain as such. Bulbapedia reasons that its localized English name is a combination of sprig and gatito (which is Spanish for kitten). Besides that, it’s just based on a long-haired kitten. That doesn’t mean its design is bad; it’s just not particularly regional in origin.
Quaxly and its punny name is based on its seemingly waxed tuft on its head. Really, its design appears to be based on a crested duck. However, Quaxly and its evolutions into Quaxwell and Quaquaval appear to be a great improvement over the designs of the last attempt at a duck-like Pokemon in Ducklett. The final evolution, which was long been rumored to be a Water/Dark type, is a design clearly inspired by Don Quixote. It would eventually be that Quaquaval is a Water/Fighting type, who has some potential in competitive Pokemon despite its underwhelming base stat spread.
Naturally, as a Water-type starter, Quaxly will start out with the Torrent ability, powering up its Water-type moves in a pinch by 50 percent. Game Freak notes that Quaxly’s personality is “earnest and tidy.” I do greatly prefer the design of this Pokemon over Ducklett, for sure. While it’s probably never going to be the icon that first-generation Psyduck is – and Psyduck and Golduck are in Scarlet and Violet – I can see the popularity for this little blue duck growing quickly on a lot of people, myself included.
Fuecoco is actually my least favorite design of the three, despite my preference for the fire type starters in most Pokemon generations. It evolves into a croc with a sombrero called Crocalor, which is rather silly, and like many middle stage evolutions, is quite awkward. But, the rumors were true, and its final evolution is a Fire/Ghost type. While I certainly still prefer Hisuian Typhlosion as an offensive threat once it comes to Scarlet and Violet through HOME (not until Spring 2023), Fuecoco has things going for it. After all, its final form, Skeledrige, known as the Singer Pokemon, does look cool at for the very least, and has a strong signature move and good distribution of base stats. Here’s why Skeledirge may be a dark horse in competitive Pokemon.
One thing I do like about Fuecoco is the concept of its design, even if I think it looks extremely dorky. It’s actually shaped like a pepper, and the little Fire Crocodile is said to be “laid back.” At the very least, it’s a chill little dude (or dudette) and I respect that. Also, despite no native species of crocodiles remaining in Europe, a Nile crocodile was sighted in Spain in 2020, and there are fossil records that suggest that similar creatures did once live on the Iberian peninsula. Of course, Fuecoco probably is inspired just as much by therapod dinosaurs as crocs, and of the three designs, it seems the most thought went into this starter.
Honestly, the designs of all three Scarlet and Violet starters are cute in their own ways. We’ll see how much their designs evolve, both literally and figuratively, in their second and third forms. Polygon went as far to call them “all perfect” in their reveal of the three starters. While I’m actually a huge fan of Scorbunny and Cinderace – Raboot not so much – I get why people outside of competitive play aren’t all that fond of Grookey and Sobble as they evolve. I think Inteleon is vastly underappreciated, except in the Trading Card Game where it can be nuts. Rillaboom is solid in competitive play, but you don’t see people rushing out to buy Rillaboom plush toys.
My take is that the Generation 7 starters from Sun and Moon were the pinnacle of starter Pokemon design. Litten, Popplio, and Rowlet all hit home for me, and apparently with the majority of fans. Heck, Litten’s final form Incineroar became one of the top competitive doubles Pokemon ever, despite it actually being my least favorite of the three final forms. Both Primarina and Dedicueye are awesome Pokemon designs, even if their competitive viability was dwarfed by the Fire/Dark type tank that is Incineroar.
But, from a marketing perspective, these Scarlet and Violet starters were a smash hit. They seem to strike just the right balance of being cute and being a clear starting point to transform into something formidable. Will they be as special as Generation 7’s bunch? That remains to be seen. As far as actual popularity in the early running goes, Google Trends seems to show that Sprigatito was in the lead for search volume, in the US and worldwide, as of early October 2022. However, after release, Fuecoco actually rose to the top, although Sprigatito is still close behind in search volume.
As gameplay is concerned, inevitably what will make one starter line significantly superior to the others is how the Terastallizing gimmick plays out. Each Pokemon in the Paldea region has one of eighteen Tera types. In battle, they gain these additional types, allowing them to use a Hidden Power like Tera Blast. It also boosts the power of that type’s moves, much like same type attack bonus does with the Pokemon’s original types. Then, if the Tera type matches its original type, further boosting its same-type attack bonus (STAB) moves.
We’ve seen with Mega Evolution in Generation 6 and Generation 7 how in-battle type changes can be extremely important. We saw further power creep with Pokemon with the Protean and Libero mechanics can change their types in battle, giving them both new offensive and defensive utility. Adding these Tera types to the mix as an exclusive Gen 9 mechanic is going to change up how certain Pokemon play, and add a new layer of strategy to both the open world adventure and competitive play. Indeed, we know the starter Pokemon will be greatly enhanced by this gimmick, so it will be fascinating to see how things play out.
Speaking of the Protean ability, it turns out one of these starter Pokemon actually get it as a Hidden Ability. That Pokemon happens to be Sprigatito. Unfortunately, Protean (and by extension Libero on Cinderace) were nerfed a bit. Before, your Pokemon’s type would keep changing to the type of the move it chose. Now, that Protean ability only activates once per switch. It’s still really damn good, mind you, but Sprigatito and its evolution line won’t be the massive headache that Greninja was.
But, don’t worry, the other two starters get solid abilities, too. Fuecoco gets Unaware, which means it ignores stat boosts of any Pokemon it battles with; this is a bit ironic because Skeledirge’s signature move is literally a Special Attack boosting move, but I digress. Quaquaval gets Moxie, which means when it faints a Pokemon, its attack is boosted by one stage. So, while Quaxly is a bit underpowered compared to the other two starters, that’s a pretty busted ability to have on a starter Pokemon.
If I had to choose my favorite of the three starters without the context of stats, moves, and abilities, it’s easily Sprigatito. Now that we know the Gym Challenge can be in any order, which is the best Scarlet and Violet Pokemon will only for sure be decided by its overall stats and optimal moveset. It turns out now that Sprigatito is still the best of the three Scarlet and Violet starter Pokemon simply because it ends up being the one that hits the hardest and the quickest. That being said, all three starters are perfectly good for your playthrough, but the order of difficulty you make for yourself definitely scales up from Sprigatito, to Fuecoco, to Quaxly. Fortunately, unlike past generations, where one starter Pokemon typically lagged far behind one or both of the others, all three have a chance to be really strong end game Pokemon, not to mention all three have their competitive viability, too.
Which is your favorite Scarlet and Violet starter Pokemon?
If you’re still unsure which starter you want to commit to in your first (or next) Scarlet and Violet playthrough, check out my articles on their final evolutions below.
Photo credits: The Pokemon Company
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