A spectre is haunting competitive Pokémon—the spectre of Zacian. For all the overpowered monstrosities The Pokémon Company has brewed in the past, it has outdone itself with this Frankenstein. Zacian defies the game’s natural law. Balance means nothing to it. It deals unprecedented damage while out-speeding 98.8% of all Pokémon, though its defensive potential is somehow on par with that of bonafide tanks. The worst part of all? The damn thing’s future-proofed.
Can’t Have Everything (?)
There are six different stats in Pokémon: HP, Attack, Special Attack, Defense, Special Defense, and Speed.
The idea is that no Pokémon should have all six. Tyranitar, with a whopping 600 base stats, is hindered by its middling Speed, Salamence lacks Defense, and even when legendaries like Mewtwo or Rayquaza show solid numbers across the board, their worst stat is low enough to be exploited. Balanced, as all things should be.
But Zacian, our lovely Zacian, has 720 base stats all to itself with the crippling caveat of 80 Special Attack which isn’t really a caveat because… oh, that’s right… it doesn’t use Special Attack.
With an almost entirely Physical move pool, it wouldn’t matter if Zacian’s Special Attack outright ceased to exist. It’d be like reducing a slug’s ability to fly. It wouldn’t mean squat. It was never going to fly in the first place. And I wish the same could be said about the rest of its stats, but that’s not possible because they’re so painfully relevant to just how overpowered this thing is.
Consider its Speed, which clocks in at a blistering 148. This makes Zacian the 10th fastest Pokémon in existence. But this in and of itself isn’t the problem. Fast, hard-hitting Pokémon have been around since the original Game Boy. They’re called glass cannons, and they can be perfectly balanced.
The problem is that Zacian isn’t anything close to a glass cannon. Its survivability is remarkably, almost comically sound. Zacian’s HP sits at a hefty 92, while its Defense and Special Defense weigh in at a hulking 115. For context, Incineroar—a Pokémon known for its bulk—is afforded 95 in HP and 90 in both Defenses. And as if its stats weren’t stupid enough, Zacian also happens to wield the best Type combination there is.
The Best Typing in the History of Typings
Pokémon battles boil down to the Type chart. Water beats Fire, Fire beats Grass, and so on. It’s roshambo with 18 different hands, but some hands are objectively better than others. This begs the question: Which Type is the best?
While there’s no straightforward answer, the common consensus falls on Steel and Fairy. Steel effectively walls over half the Type chart and hits 14 out of the 18 types for neutral damage or more, while Fairy nullifies the all-powerful Dragon Type with little to no drawbacks.
And wouldn’t you know it—Zacian is both. Blessed with the most busted Type combination there is, Zacian is resistant to nine Types, impervious to two, and hampered by only two weaknesses, neither of which are a double weakness, meaning that it can’t be threatened with quadruple damage.
Factor in its stats, and you have an abomination that can be hit for super-effective damage with only Ground and Fire, but somehow able to resist a 130 base-power Ground-type move from a max-Attack Calyrex. And if you didn’t know, Calyrex has the 8th highest Attack stat in the game. So yeah. Make of that what you will.
The Horror of the Intrepid Sword
I mentioned that Calyrex has the 8th highest Attack stat in the game. You might be surprised to learn that Zacian ranks only two spots higher, by only five stats at that. The Pokémon above Zacian hold their ranks by a similar margin, including Mewtwo-X at the very top with 190 Attack. It’s a game of inches. Or rather, it would be if it wasn’t for Zacian’s Ability, Intrepid Sword, which raises its Attack by one stage upon entry.
Let me elaborate. A Pokémon, with the 6th highest Attack stat in the game, is guaranteed an automatic 50% Attack boost each time it joins the battle. This sends Zacian skyrocketing past its competition into the cosmos where it trots amongst the stars with 255 Attack. (I feel sick just writing this.)
There are some who argue that this doesn’t actually make Zacian’s Attack the highest there is because its Ability doesn’t alter its base stat. But let’s get real. Is a base stat not the stat a Pokémon enters the field with? For all intents and purposes, 255 Attack is Zacian’s base Attack.
To this, another might point out that if Zacian’s Attack were to be raised by the maximum of six stages, it would be less than, say, Mewtwo-X’s Attack when also raised by six stages. While they wouldn’t be wrong, they’d be ignoring the fact that if a Pokémon’s stat is ever boosted to the max, the player is either throwing the game or playing with their food. There’s no real reason for a Pokémon’s stat to hit +6.
The only time Zacian’s base stat can be legitimately “exposed” is if there’s a Koffing or a Weezing with Neutralizing Gas, which would cancel the Ability of every Pokémon on the field, leaving Zacian without its usual Attack boost. But neither Koffing nor Weezing are common threats by any stretch of the imagination, so this is also a moot point. Let’s just accept that Zacian is the hardest-hitting Pokémon of all time. The whole world is beneath its sword.
A Move Pool to Match
Whoever was sick enough to design Zacian considered everything it already had going for it and said, “You know what else this needs? A banging move pool.” So a banging move pool it has.
Not that it ever needed one, of course. Zacian can cleave through entire teams with its signature move alone; Behemoth Blade is a 100 base-power, 100% accurate Steel-type move most don’t survive.
But if Behemoth Blade doesn’t cut it for whatever reason, Zacian needn’t fret. Play Rough, Sacred Sword, Close Combat, and Wild Charge are just some of the powerful attacks it can safely fall back on.
On top of sheer offense, its move pool offers surprisingly reliable utility. The move Substitute, for instance, sets up Zacian with what is essentially an extra life, and Swords Dance ramps up its Attack by two whole stages. (If a Zacian ever pulls off a Swords Dance, you might as well forfeit.)
It’s Future-Proofed… So What?
Pokémon as a game is especially prone to power creep. Every new generation of Pokémon seems to usher the old away from competitive viability. This is especially true with Generation VIII, to which Zacian belongs. The likes of Urshifu, Calyrex, and Regieleki make us wonder just how much more powerful Pokémon can get. Much of the community—myself included—think that we’ve just about reached the limit. Anything that can make Zacian look balanced will be the end of competitive Pokémon, which is what makes Zacian future-proofed. Whatever happens from here on out, whatever overpowered monstrosity is thought up by designers sick in the head, Zacian’s rampage will continue.
But we’ll live with it. For as painfully unbalanced as Zacian may be, players have found and will continue to find a way to adapt. Zacian is far from the first broken Pokémon we’ve had to deal with. The competitive scene has overcome Mega Kangaskhan, Mega Rayquaza, the Primals, and Xerneas, just to name a few. The reason nothing has managed to ruin the game is because, within the Pokémon ecosystem, niches flourish and strategies develop—we make do. Zacian isn’t the first to try and break the game, and it might not be the last. But it won’t stop us from having fun.