Opinions and Stories

Examining the Sun and Moon Starters

Let’s consider which Starter could be great in battles, and what the final stages are based on!

With the official reveal of the final evolution forms of the Sun and Moon starter Pokémon yesterday, there’s a lot to take into consideration on which one we should choose! While we don’t know their stats, we have their designs and animations, typing, names, background information and even a unique move for each one.

Here we’ll go through each starter line and examine these features in detail, and offer some additional explanations too – for instance, why does the Rowlet line become a Grass/Ghost type?

Disclaimer: this article does not contain any leaked information. While we discuss potential battling abilities, this was written prior to datamining of the Starter Pokémon. See how we did with our guesswork in those sections!

Rowlet Line

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We begin with the Grass starter, the first to appear in the Pokédex. When announced a while back, Rowlet became the second starter ever (with Bulbasaur being the first) to be dual-typed in its first stage as a Grass/Flying Pokémon. It was said to be sneaky and powerful in melee combat with its claws, as well as being able to throw razor-sharp leaves from its wings.

It then evolves into Dartrix, who retains the Grass/Flying typing and continued to throw leaves from its wings and furthermore acts as an all-round ninja.

And then… Decidueye happened. Many Pokémon players expected it to keep its typing, but Decidueye lost its Flying typing (and immunity to Ground) and gained Ghost (and immunity to Fighting and Normal) instead. Being a Ghost-type, it is said to be able to sneak past opponents unnoticed, which seems utterly irrelevant when it is also said to be able to snipe enemies with its knife-arrow-wing-leaf-thing that has now been converted into a bow from half a mile (just over 800 meters) away or more. Physics issues with that aside, this is really cool.


We already determined that Rowlet was likely based on the Pueo Owl (Asio flammeus sandwichensis). It also seems to be, continuing from Gen 6’s starter themes, based on the Ranger archetype from many Role Playing Games (RPGs), with ranged attacks and powerful kicks. 

Dartrix certainly keeps the first theme, but loses a bit of the Ranger schema in favor of a more classy look, a lot like that of a stereotypical butler. If Dartrix is indeed based off of RPG classes (at least slightly), then we can get a better understanding of his appearance. Dartrix resembles a butler and shares traits with them, such as being tidy, and about appearance. Another element it shares is his sharp precision and senses when throwing quills. 

When it evolves into Decidueye, it goes back to being a full-on ranger, with a shiny new bow and a cool hood to boot. Robin Hood, a hooded archer from many fairy tales, has also been suggested as an inspiration. Spirit Shackle, a move that prevents the opponent from switching out while inflicting damage, could be a nod to the fact that rangers traditionally use arrows that inflict negative effects on victims.

Decidueye’s name may have an array of meanings. A combination of “deciduous” (describes trees/shrubs that achieve maturity and lose leaves during autumn) and “deadeye” (a chiefly North American term for an expert marksman) seems the best fit. The use of deciduous fits well, as Rowlet looks somewhat like a small shrub, while Decideueye is the final grown-up form – a very symbolic name. It also uses its (falling off) feathers as ammunition. 

The Stilt-owl, a possible inspiration for Decidueye given the long legs.
The Stilt-owl, a possible inspiration for Decidueye given the long legs.

The loss of leaves arguably fits with the Ghost typing, but it’s not the only basis available. Owls have a mythological basis in Hawaiian culture, and are said to rescue souls from the underworld and safely guide armies. This fits pretty well with the Ghost typing – a tire to spirits and souls matches.

But here’s the kicker. We originally established that Rowlet is based on the pueo owl. It is one of the physical forms assumed by ancestor spirits in Hawaiian culture, and also an endangered species. But what about Decidueye? It has rather long legs – a striking resemblance to the Stilt-owl (Grallistrix).

The Stilt-owl is also extinct. Furthermore, they may have stalked sleeping birds on foot, which also matches the loss of the Flying type. Now that’s spooky! This is admittedly speculation, and other Pokémon based on extinct animals aren’t Ghost type either. There’s also the Ornimegalonyx, another extinct species of owl of Cuba, so it’s not like the Stilt-owl is unique. Furthermore, in Indonesia the name for owl – burung hantu – is a combination of ‘ghost’ and ‘bird’. Nonetheless, the resemblance based on fossil records does pair well with the mythology behind owls in Hawaiian culture.

Do you feel Decidueye is a ghostly assassin, an extinct owl species, a god, a maturing tree-owl, or all of the above? Whichever is the case, there is a lot of neat features put into Decideueye that make it really unique as a starter.

Battling Expectation

Let’s talk about typing. Ghost/Grass is a fabulous type combo that hasn’t been used to its potential in the previous instances (the Phantump and Pumpkaboo lines). Ghost doesn’t cover any of Grass’ weaknesses, but it also doesn’t overlap any of its strengths. It actually only takes neutral damage from seven out of the eighteen types! It has very useful resistances to Ground, Electric, and Water, and the Ghost type’s Fighting immunity is always nice to have, even if it is at the cost of all-too-common weaknesses such as Flying, Fire, Ice, and Dark.

Spirit Shackle is also a move version of Shadow Tag, an incredibly powerful Ability. Based on what we know so far (and can stereotype from other sources, e.g. descriptions on the official website), we anticipate Decidueye to be basically a physical Greninja stat-wise. This would mean high Speed and Attack at the cost of subpar defensive stats. Depending on those stats, its Hidden Ability (if one exists), and its movepool, Decidueye could be a very viable competitively. Speaking of which, here are some moves we may expect it to get (speculation alert):

  • Shadow Sneak: a reliable Priority attack, Shadow Sneak could reference its ability to literally sneak through shadows past its opponents.
  • Leaf Blade: If nothing else, Dartrix will get it because it literally throws blades made out of leaves. Also it is the only reliable Physical Grass attack in the game.
  • Phantom Force: Phantom Force is a pure ripoff of Giratina’s signature move, Shadow Force. It has the user vanish into shadows, only to attack the following turn. It wouldn’t be the first time a unique move for a Legendary become more common either.
  • Hone Claws/Swords Dance: Both of these moves boost Attack, although just Swords Dance gives a larger boost and Hone Claws instead also boosts Accuracy. Hone Claws seems more thematically logical (due to the fact that it has claws), but Game Freak knows better than to not give a Physical attacker access to Swords Dance.
  • Spirit Shackle: This move just screams viable. Specifically, it screams “GET OVER HERE!”. Decidueye’s signature attack attacks your opponent AND prevents them from switching out. A double win!
  • Shadow Claw: Shadow Claw doesn’t always get much use but it’s a decent attack to have on a Ghost type. If Decidueye is more physical based, this may be a useful Ghost move to have on it for dealing super effectiveness and STAB.
  • Shadow Ball: From the looks of it Decideueye may be able to be either a physical or special attacker. Which if it is able to be a special attacker, Shadow Ball would make a great Ghost move to have.
  • Air Slash: Decideueye may not be Grass and Flying anymore, but that doesn’t mean he can’t get access to some Flying moves in his pre-evolutions! Air Slash is a move used quite a lot competitively. With a decent Base Power and 30% chance to flinch the foe, it could become quite useful.
  • Synthesis: A benefit of being part Grass could be access to some very good Grass moves. Synthesis would be one of those very moves. With it healing a strong amount of health back, Decidueye could keep itself alive long enough to overpower and beat tough foes!

The remaining question about Decidueye is the Hidden Ability. With Sun and Moon, many new Abilities have been introduced. We feel the following make sense:

  • Stakeout: One that people may think could fit Decidueye is Stakeout, the signature Ability of Yungoos. However, as Decideueye is unlikely to get Pursuit, this wouldn’t be so beneficial for it.
  • Sniper: One likely ability is Sniper. This boosts the damage of critical hits, and while these are down to chance, there have been moves that always get critical hits in the past. Since sniping and arrows go together, we may see a new always-critical move be introduced. This would make Decidueye scary in battles. You would be locked into battle from Spirit Shackle, and if you can’t beat it, then you’ll get back to back critical hits and be knocked out.

When all is said and done, Decidueye has the potential to be very good if the stat gods look upon him well.

Litten Line

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Litten is the first stage of the Fire starter line in Sun and Moon. It is a feisty cat Pokémon with red stripes and a black body. Like most Fire Type starters, it starts out on four legs and stays that way till evolution.  We see that its first evolution builds upon this design.

Litten’s evolution is Torracat.  Torracat like Litten is still based on a kitten, except it’s a little older. We see it change slightly from Litten, by getting bigger and gain a bell collar. This collar is a flame sac which controls all its power. Like actual cats, it might get mischievous but also look to play from time to time. It is said to have powerful kicks to when fighting.

Torracat evolves into Incineroar. Incineroar is the Heel Pokémon and is Fire and Dark. This was surprising to some, but also a relief that we avoided another Fire/Fighting Starter. Many wanted a fire and dark panther like design for Litten’s final form, but were still happy with this result.


Litten’s name most likely comes from kitten and lit, to form a “fire kitten”. It’s design is very clearly meant to look and be like a kitten, but with tiger-like coloring. The tiger-like appearance fits with the Chinese zodiac theme every Fire Starter has followed (in order of generation: lizard, rat, chicken, monkey, pig, fox and now tiger). It may also be based on the Japanese Iriomote cat, a critically endangered animal. The same applies for Torracat, except it’s an older cat and since it got bigger, it finally gets what is like a natural collar for himself.

Come at me, bro!
Come at me, bro!

Incineroar may look like a fighter, and is, but with a twist. He is based on a heel fighter. If you don’t know what this is, a heel fighter is a wrestler that plays dirty. They are usually made to be the villains for wrestling on TV and don’t follow rules. They used as many dirty tactics as they can to win, and show off in doing so. We see that Incineroar loves to show off as well both in the trailer and its website description. The website even mentions how it loves seeing children admire it. It’s know for its powerful fighting skills and could be pretty powerful.

The tiger design behind him could have been chosen due to the perceived strength of tigers and how well it worked in humanoid format. In fact, the basis for the tiger could even come from the popular Japanese heel Wrestler, Tiger Mask. Tiger Mask is very similar to Incineroar due to the tiger persona and the fact that both fight dirty. Tiger Mask is very popular as Incineroar seems to be with the people of Alola as well. This makes for a really fun and unique background to this Pokémon.

This fits perfectly with that Dark types it has. Contrary to popular belief, Dark types are all about fighting dirty (look at moves like Bite, Sucker Punch, Feint Attack, Beat Up and so forth). As heel fighters also fight by cheating, this typing fits Incineroar quite well.

Battling Expectation

As we can see Incineroar is still a fighter ( just a heel one). So in addition to Dark type moves, we can certainly expect some Fighting type moves to be thrown onto its move pool as well. We could see a very good addition to the meta with this. Due to Incineroar’s typing and background, here’s some solid moves we will likely see it use. Keep in mind these are not all confirmed – just speculation.

  • Sucker Punch: A great Priority move, and not something many Starters get. He can really fight Ghost or Psychic types with this! That said, the introduction of moves and Abilities that stop Priority moves may hamper it here.
  • Beat Up: A very uncommon move. However with its dirty play style this move is perfect for Incineroar! He can call in back up and deal a lot of damage with six hits. It would be a missed opportunity to not have this available. This is not something you’d see often in the meta outside of a partner with Justified, but it would fit it well.
  • Pursuit: Think you can run from Incineroar’s wrath? Think again! Incineroar also pursues foes! This would be another that we’d be surprised to not see. With the potential stab boost, this could be a powerful move for Incineroar to have.
  • Fire Punch and Thunder Punch: Due to its powerful claws, these two moves would give Incineroar great coverage on multiple other types.
  • Hone Claws: A great move to have for boosting attack and accuracy. Time it right, and you can make this a very powerful move to use. It certainly has the claws in its design to warrant the move.
  • Earthquake: Incineroar will shake up the competition with this powerful move! Has good coverage all around.
  • Arm Thrust: Just because Incineroar is a Dark type doesn’t mean he can’t pack some fighting moves! If given access to Arm Thrust, it would have another great multi-hit attack.
  • Cross Chop: Combined with that Hone Claws from earlier, Incineroar can really lay the hurt on foes!
  • Darkest Lariat: This is the signature move for Incineroar. It ignores stat changes, so if give enough power,this move will really do some damage and break down opponents who boosted their Defense.
  • Blaze Kick: Blaze Kick is another move that isn’t given out to many Pokémon, so it would be nice to see another user. Considering the website brings up how Torracat has powerful kicks, and we see powerful looking legs with Incineroar, it is quite likely it will get this move.
  • Low Kick: While not the strongest move, Low Kick could see be pretty useful. While Incineroar is big, and may be a heavy Pokemon, it certainly won’t be the heaviest. Incineroar would be able to do quite some damage to bigger foes with Low Kick.
  • Bulk Up: While this move isn’t used to often in competitive play, there are some sets that make use of it. Giving an Attack and Defense boost would be pretty good for Incineroar and could make him really hit hard!
  • Low Sweep: A fairly powerful attack. The bigger plus side to this would be the side-effect of lowering the opponent’s Speed. This would be very helpful to have in a match or movepool.

We know that like every starter, Incineroar has the standard ability for Fire Type starters, which is Blaze. What about Hidden Abilities though? We believe there could be three possible abilities for Incineroar.

  • Tough Claws: A fitting ability for the design of Incineroar. This provides a 30% boost to physical contact moves and could really add some power to Incineroar’s kicks and punches!
  • Iron Fist: With its punches, Iron Fist would make a great Hidden Ability for Incineroar. With it most likely gaining access to some good punch moves, this ability could really add to their usefulness in battle.
  • Justified:  While this may not seem good right away, Justified could be useful. Giving the user a 1.5 boost in Attack when hit by a Dark-type move, Incineroar could come into the battle with a boost right off the bat. By switching in when you know the opponent is likely to use a Dark move, you can use that to your advantage and surprise them! This would be pretty fitting to as we see Incineroar acts more like a heel when admired.

Popplio Line

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Popplio is the Water type starter for Sun and Moon. It is a blue seal lion with a clown’s nose and light blue frill. Being a sea lion makes it move around on its four legs ,but it is shown to stand up and be proud of who it is!

Brionne is the first evolution of Popplio. It gets slightly bigger and goes into a more swimming like pose. Its frill moves down and becomes a dress on its body. Brionne also develops pigtail-like extensions on its head. It’s known as a performer and loves to sing and can sing perfectly with people it trusts, even if they just met!

The evolution of Brionne and final stage in the Popplio line is Primarina. Primarina gets much bigger and becomes a siren. It gains big and long blue hair, as well as pearls holding it together. Its tail also grew and turned dark-blue with small spikes on it, and ends with a white flipper on the end. In addition to those changes, its body is now white and the dress similar to that of a performer. It is known to dance and each colony has a different song they sing!


Like Litten, Popplio takes a simple appearance from the animal it’s based on, a sea lion. It takes on the clownish personality that sea lions have by incorporating the type of neck dress that clowns wear as well as a clown nose.

Brionne expands upon this by adding pigtails to it’s head as well as getting bigger. It also gets a dress added as well, capturing its performer personality.

Killing me softly with this song...
Killing me softly with this song…

As brought up above, Primarina has many different changes. What ties all these themes together? Primarina seems to heavily based on the siren, a mythological creature. These were creatures said to appear on rocks at night on the ocean. Using their songs and charm, they would lure sailors ships to the doom by causing them to crash. They also lived in colonies, and as we see on the site, each Primarina colony has a different song for their colony. So be careful if you sail at night!

Such mythical creatures explains the acquisition of the Fairy type. While some are based on cute designs, others are based off creatures of such fairy tales or myths – faries or faeries included. Mawile for instance has a basis on a Japanese tale. Primarina’s basis and ability to use the power of music to overcome foes therefore justifies its Typing.

Battling Expectation

Primarina’s typing could make it a decent threat in the meta. There is only one other Pokemon line sharing its typing, the Azurill line. The final stage of this line, Azumarill, is one of the most used Pokemon to date. Sitting at OU (OverUsed) in the tiers, it is a strong threat. With the ability Huge Power and its typing, it’s a bulky Pokemon that can be hard to stop without proper coverage.

While we don’t see Primarina getting Huge Power for its Hidden Ability, its typing will certainly be useful. It should be as bulky as Azumarill based on its design and typing, but most likely will not be a physical attacker. This would give us a special attacking Water and Fairy type over a physical. Here are some moves that Primarina will most likely have:

  • Aqua Jet: This move is already known to be in Popplio’s move-pool, thanks to recent trailers. Aqua Jet is a heavily used move by Water types in competitive play. It always attacks first and can save you in a tough spot. If you are slower then your opponent, then you can use this and land a potentially finishing blow, allowing you to live another turn. With Primarina most likely being a slow Water type, this could be very useful, even if it seems to be a Special Attacker.
  • Scald: Scald is another useful move for Special Attackers in competitive play. With a 30% chance to Burn, it can really weaken physical attackers while still doing good damage overtime. Primarina is definitely going to have this at its disposal, and will have to be fought carefully to avoid the Burns it causes!
  • Moonblast: The most-used Special Attacking Fairy move currently. With no better options, this move sees fair use. However, it isn’t weak. With a Base Power of 90, it is a very powerful Fairy move. With Primarina most likely being a Special Attacker, this would make for a great move to have! It can even lower the opponents Special Attack stat as well!
  • Sing: Sing is a move not usually used competitively due to its low accuracy. However, if you could pull it off (perhaps by using a Scope Lens), your opponent would be unable to move for a few turns, allowing you to set-up different strategies. Hypnosis may be possible as well due to mermaids and sirens “hypnotizing” sailors in old lore.
  • Calm Mind: Another move that gets decent use in competitive play. This move would boost Primarina’s Special Attack and Special Defense by one stage each time it is used. This could lead to Primarina becoming even bulkier! With the aforementioned possibility of Sing or Hypnosis, Primarina could mange to pull off several Calm Minds and becoming very powerful very fast!
  • Wish: Wish is a popular move for Fairy types to have and use. Restoring quite a lot of health back to the user next turn, you could make great use of this. Using some of the other moves mentioned above could prevent you from being attacked and thus give you the ability to set up Wish and keep yourself from fainting.  Wish would make Primarina even bulkier and a force to be reckoned with!
  • Perish Song: Since Primarina is based on the siren/mermaid, it is very likely that it will be one of the few Pokemon to have Perish Song. This is a risky move but could work as a potential last resort if you need to use it. The opponent will most likely switch, but you could also switch into something new if Primarina doesn’t seem like it could win the current battle. Thus you get a free switch in.
  • Hyper Voice: A very popular move in competitive play. It is mainly used on Slyveon due to it getting a boost from Pixelate. With a Base Power of 90, it is a relatively useful move. It could be a good neutral effective move to have. It’s biggest benefit though, would come in that it hits through substitutes, making it very useful for dealing with them.
  • Sparkling Aria: Boy we always wanted to heal our opponents of burns while damaging them! Even if it was like Wake-up Slap (double damage) which we don’t have any mention of… And even if it’s a strong attack, Scald may end up being the preferred option regardless. The weakest in theory of the unique moves.

Those are just some of the moves we could see being very useful on Primarina. What about its Hidden Ability though? Unlike Decidueye and Inceneroar, there are no clear indications of current Hidden Abilities that could fit Primarina beyond say Cute Charm (which wouldn’t be the most useful Ability). Perhaps we could see a new one? If that is the case, then one possible Ability focused on singing would make sense. What if Primarina were able to be given 100% accuracy on its song-based moves? This would be a pretty useful move and make Sing much more viable on it. It would also require a lot of thinking when fighting Primarina due to how many possibilities it could have! Such

Overall this new generation of Starters seems to be really unique! With interesting designs and concepts behind them, and plenty of battling potential, they all look to be a lot of fun!

So – which Starter will you choose?

Written by bobandbill, ddrox13, and Z25.
Edited by Dragon and Rivvon.