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With the advent of the Nintendo DS console came a new raft of Pokémon games, beginning with the Diamond and Pearl. These games saw the return of features like the real time clock (last seen in Gold and Silver) as well as new features like the Pokétch, an in-game device that allowed you to keep an eye on pokémon left in day-care, view your team without opening the in-game menu, and much more. There were an additional 107 new Pokémon available to catch as well as a post-game National Pokédex, which made Diamond and Pearl compatible with the Game Boy Advance games.
Diamond and Pearl are some of my favourite games in terms of the teams you can create and Pokémon you can obtain. I'd go so far as to say that this generation of games is one of the few where there isn't a bad starter to choose. That being said, you'll have to choose one, so let's get into my pick for the best team to take on the Sinnoh League in Diamond and Pearl.
Now, while I firmly believe that there really isn't a "bad" starter in this generation, I would just put Chimchar ahead of Piplup and Turtwig (I admit I have had great success with all three). Chimchar and its evolutions—Monferno and Infernape—are the second iteration of Fire/Fighting dual-types as starter Pokémon and, if I'm really honest, I've always preferred it to Blaziken...yes, I did just say that.
Chimchar's evolutionary line is set up really well in this game. It hits the secondary evolution nice and early at level 14 (which you could get before you take on the first gym), it has a nice spread of moves it can learn, and the final evolution—Infernape—has some really nice stats with 100+ in Attack, Special Attack, and Speed, making it a real pain to deal with.
Provided you get to Monferno before you take on the Oreburgh Gym Leader, the key battles this little fire monkey is strong in are against Gym Leaders Roark, Gardenia, Maylene's Lucario, Byron, Candice, Volkner's Ambipom, Elite Four Aaron, Bertha's Golem and Sudowoodo, Flint's Steelix and Lopunny, Champion Cynthia's Roserade and Lucario, your Rival's Heracross, Roserade and Snorlax, Galactic Commander Mars, and Cyrus's Weavile.
As for the moveset, my favourite ones to play are these:
- Close Combat. One of the strongest Fighting-type moves in the game. STAB, 100 percent accuracy and a ridiculous 120 power. The drop in defences isn't ideal but Infernape's speed makes up for it.
- Flare Blitz. Infernape's second STAB move. Same stats as Close Combat but with a downside of recoil damage which isn't too much of an issue unless you are already low on HP. Flare Blitz isn't available until level 57 so you can run Flamethrower in its place.
- U-Turn. One my favourite moves to play on fast, physically offensive Pokémon. Gives coverage against Psychic types and acts as a "Get out of jail free" for when you're low on HP.
- Rock Slide. Another great coverage move for Flying and other Fire types. Alternatively, you could run Earthquake, Shadow Claw, Aerial Ace or Iron Tail.
So once you have your starter and have access to Poké Balls, you'll want to go hunting for this little bird because, as opposed to a lot of the other early bird Pokémon, the Starly line is incredibly powerful and can carry your team through the game if necessary. With the exception of Talonflame in Pokémon X and Y, Starly's fully evolved form, Staraptor, is the strongest early game bird available.
Not only does it have early evolution levels, being 14 to get Staravia and 34 to get Staraptor, it has a Speed stat of 100 and an Attack stat of 120. To put that in perspective, that puts Staraptor in the same damage ball park as Lucario, Entei, Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina. It also has two fantastic abilities in Intimidate and Reckless. Intimidate (which is more likely) lowers your opponent's Attack by one stage when Staraptor enters the battle. Reckless (the hidden ability) increases the power of moves that have recoil damage which, while it is high risk, can have a huge pay off. Plus, Staraptor can also learn U-Turn, so you can forgo it on Infernape in favour of the high risk build on Staraptor.
In terms of key battles, Staraptor excels against Gym Leaders Gardenia, Maylene, Byron, Candice's Medicham, Elite Four Aaron, Flint's Infernape, Lucian's Medicham, Champion Cynthia's Roserade and Lucario, your Rival's Roserade, Heracross and Snorlax and Commander Saturn's Toxicroak.
As for its moveset, this is what I would run:
- Close Combat. Another Close Combat user and provides coverage against Rock, Ice, and Steel types.
- Brave Bird. One of my favourite Flying type moves. It's STAB and gets a damage boost if your Staraptor has the Reckless ability. Even without it, Brave Bird is still the best option other than Fly which just offers utility outside of battle.
- Steel Wing. Another useful coverage move for Rock and Ice types. Alternatively you could run U-Turn to really wreak havoc with your opponents.
- Roost. To add some longevity in battle, running Roost can be really useful as it can heal up to 50% of your maximum HP. If you want more damage options, you could run a move like Thief, Giga Impact, Return or Pluck.
Once you have Starly, you will head to Sandgem down and head North out of the town onto Route 202 where you can find this blue and black Electric beast. Shinx is one of my favourite Electric type Pokémon and I always make sure to get one on my team when I play through my copy of Diamond. While Shinx itself can be a bit of a pain to level up, both Luxio and Luxray are worth the effort.
As a recurring theme with this team, the evolution levels are pretty low, with level 15 to get Luxio and level 30 to get Luxray. Also, just like Staraptor, Shinx can have the ability Intimidate. This makes it a useful switch in for a member of your team with U-Turn, especially into a strong Flying or Water type like Gyarados.
In terms of key battles, the Shinx line proves its worth mainly against Gym Leader Crasher Wake, Fantina, Elite Four Aaron and Galactic Boss Cyrus. That is pretty sparse but it has a lot good match-ups with individual pokémon you confront such as Elite Four Flint's Drifblim, Champion Cynthia's Milotic and your Rival's Staraptor.
As for its moveset, this is what I favour on it:
- Spark. Luxray is a strong physical attacker so Spark is technically the best STAB move available, with a 30% chance to paralyze. You can just as easily run something like Thunderbolt in its place.
- Crunch. One of my favourite moves. Provides coverage for Ghost and Psychic types plus it has a chance to lower your opponents Defense.
- Thunder Wave. A great status move that is guaranteed to paralyze an opponent.
- Giga Impact. This last slot is kind of hard to fill but I choose Giga Impact just to try and OHKO any opponents with a low Defense stat.
Once you get to Jubilife City, head just north and you will be able to find this adorable little seedling. Budew, along with Roserade, was added in Diamond and Pearl to give Roselia an evolutionary line, and in the process, created one of my favourite Pokémon to use in these games. While it is a little bit irritating trying to get from Budew to Roserade, it is completely worth it. Budew itself is a friendship evolution, so you will have to overly cautious whilst training it. Roselia is somewhat easier as it only requires a Shiny Stone in order to evolve it into a Roserade, but in order to get one, you need to aid Riley through Iron Island, north of Canalave City (you'll need to use the boat in the city in order to reach Iron Island).
However, once you have gone through all of that, you will have a hard-hitting, Special Attack user with a nice and varied move pool. Roserade's base Special Attack stat sits at a healthy 125, which is the same as Pokémon like Exeggutor, Gardevoir, and Magmortar as well as some Legendary Pokémon like Azelf, Moltres, and Zapdos. Its advantage is that its Speed stat of 90 ties it Moltres, only being slower than Azelf and Zapdos. When your downside is that you aren't as fast as two legendaries, then that is a powerful Pokémon. Its Grass/Poison typing may have a few weaknesses but has just as many resistance and since most of the types, Roserade is weak to are Special Attack heavy, its Special Defense stat of 105 means it won't necessarily go down that easily.
As for the key battles, the Budew line comes in handy against Gym Leaders Roark, Crasher Wake, Byron (mainly his Bronzor),Candice's Snover and Abomasnow, Volkner's Octillery, Elite Four Bertha, Lucian (though it is risky), Champion Cynthia's Gastrodon, your Rival's Empoleon and Team Galactic Commanders Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn's Bronzors.
When it comes to the moveset, try something like this:
- Energy Ball. A great STAB move for any Special Attack Grass type. 90 power means this will hit like a truck. Alternatively, you could run Giga Drain for some longevity in battle.
- Shadow Ball. The best coverage against Psychic types for Roserade. 80 power with a chance to drop your opponent's Special Defence.
- Sludge Bomb. Another powerful STAB move that also has a chance to poison your opponent, which can prove invaluable.
- Hidden Power. Its an odd choice I admit but it can give your moveset a real nice surprise to throw out. The only issue is working out what type it will have but it makes Roserade a much more versatile Pokémon.
A little later in the game, you'll arrive at Floaroma Town. Head west towards the Valley Windworks and in the grass, you can find this smiling sea slug; Shellos. I feel like I'm saying this a lot, but Shellos' evolved form—Gastrodon—is one of my favourite Pokémon. It may be slow, but it is bulky so it can take a lot of hits. Also, its Water and Ground typing means it only has one weakness in Grass.
The real power in this Pokémon comes from one of its abilities; Storm Drain. This ability means Shellos and Gastrodon absorb an opponent's Water type moves and get boosted Special Attack. That alone makes this Pokémon a perfect partner to relay with your starter. For example, you're in a rival battle. He sends out his Empoleon. You leave Infernape in, switch into Gastrodon, absorb the Water type attack, and can then fire back with a Mud Bomb or an Earthquake. Shellos also learns Mud Bomb and Hidden Power by level up, at levels 11 and 16 respectively, meaning that it already has a decent move that gains STAB when it evolves into Gastrodon.
In terms of key battles, Gastrodon will be most helpful against Gym Leaders Byron, Volkner, Elite Four Aaron's Beautifly, Vespiquen and Drapion, Bertha, Flint, Champion Cynthia's Lucario and Garchomp, your Rival's Empoleon and Rapidash, Galactic Boss Cyrus' Gyarados, Commander Saturn's Toxicroak, and Commander Jupiter's Skuntank. This will also be your Surf Pokémon, so it has plenty of use outside of battle too.
Speaking of moves, here's what I think is best to run:
- Surf. Your bread-and-butter STAB move. The 100 percent accuracy places this move ahead of Muddy Water
- Mud Bomb. Your second STAB. It's not the greatest move, but the Ground type pool is quite limited in these games. If you find this isn't getting it done, Earthquake works just as well.
- Ice Beam. A great coverage move for Grass-types, which are Gastrodon's only weakness and very useful against Cynthia and her Garchomp.
- Toxic. Gastrodon's bulk makes it one of the best Pokémon to run this on as it can take a hit then set up the poison. Alternatively, you could run Hidden Power.
This last slot was tough to fill, as there are so many good Pokémon around the Sinnoh region that could round out this team—Weavile, Froslass, and Bronzong, to name just a few. In the end, I chose to include Skorupi, which later becomes the Ogre Scorpion pokémon; Drapion. Now, getting this Pokémon is a little bit of a pain, but it will pay off in spades.
So, the issue with getting this Pokémon is that it is only found in the Great Marsh, which is essentially like the Safari Park in other games. That may not sound like a hardship but the issue is that Skorupi will only appear on certain days. The best way to find out whether there are any lurking around is to use the Binoculars on the viewing deck of the Great Marsh entrance. That way you can see each area of the Great Marsh and consequently, whether you can go and catch one.
As annoying as that may be, it is completely worth doing getting. Skorupi is actually a halfway decent Pokémon to use on its own, but when it evolves into Drapion, it gets even better. Not only is its Defence stat really good, sitting at 110, but it's got pretty good Speed and Attack to boot. It also is capable of getting the elemental fang moves via the move tutor in Pastoria City, who requires a Heart Scale. Its typing of Poison and Dark also means its immune to Psychic types while it resists Poison, Ghost, Dark, and Grass. This means its only weakness is to Ground types, which are primarily physical attackers, so that high Defence comes in very useful.
When it comes to the key battles, Skorupi and Drapion are most useful against Gym Leaders Fantina, Candice, Elite Four Aaron, Flint's Drifblim, Lucian, Champion Cynthia's Spiritomb and Roserade, your Rival's Heracross, Roserade and Snorlax, Galactic Boss Cyrus' Weavile, Commander Saturn, Commander Mars, and Commander Jupiter's Bronzor.
As for its moveset, try something like this:
- Cross Poison. One of my favourite Poison type moves and one of the best STAB moves for Drapion. You could also run Poison Jab, which has a higher chance to poison an opponent where Cross Poison has a higher chance to critical hit.
- Brick Break. Since most Ground type Pokémon you'll encounter are part Rock or part Steel, this move gives Drapion great coverage. You could also choose to run Earthquake or, if you want to double down on the Psychic types instead, you could run X-Scissor.
- Fire Fang. Lucian's Bronzong is possibly the most annoying thing in the Elite Four and this is best way to deal with it. Drapion resists anything Bronzong can throw at it and then you use this to hit back.
- Crunch. Your second STAB move and your primary coverage for Psychic and Ghost types.
As always, there are plenty of Pokémon that didn't make it onto this team but are still great to use when you are playing through the Sinnoh games:
- Garchomp. Possibly my favourite Dragon type Pokémon ever created. Incredibly powerful and definitely worth use one if you happen across a Gible.
- Bronzong. It may not hit as hard as some others, but its bulky defences and the fact it resists eight types, with up to two immunities, make it so valuable in a tight spot.
- Lucario. Another great, hard-hitting Pokémon you can obtain the pre-evolution for on Iron Island.
- Floatzel. Another great Water type that's wicked fast and hits like a truck.
Just remember: However you choose to build your team, if you are having fun, then you are doing it right.
Do you disagree with my team? Feel free to let me know what members you would replace or what your ideal team of six would be.
Keep striving to be the very best.