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Being A Pokemon Gym Leader Is Hell

Before playing Pokemon Scarlet & Violet, I outlined my plan to play as a gym leader. Though I usually build an all-native team to better understand each region on my first adventure through it, my plans were changed. After being kept apart from my wife Tsareena in New Pokemon Snap and Legends: Arceus, I needed to reunite with my mangosteen queen. Combined with the fact I wanted Sprigatito as my starter, it made sense to finally try out a gym leader run. In doing so, I have discovered a newfound sympathy for gym leaders everywhere.

Thankfully, Grass-types are fairly abundant. By the time I reached the academy to end the vaguely tutorial part of the game, I was all Grassed up. Some were Pokemon I was never going to keep, but it was a legitimate all-Grass team. I next set out looking for Bounsweet to turn into Tsareena, and by the time I could find one, I had a decent enough team. Sprigatito has become Floragato, and I also had Shroomish, Toedscool, Sunkern, and Skiploom. Over time, Sunkern has been switched for Capsakid (and evolved into Scovillain), while Skiploom has been ditched for Bramblin (yet to evolve), and Shroomish has become Breloom. And, of course, Bounsweet is now Tsareena at last.

I have currently cleared four gyms, one base, and three Titans, and I’m at a bit of a brick wall. Being a gym leader means there’s no real plan B. Toedscool has a Dragon Tera type, which it can’t take advantage of for STAB but which can at least take away its Grass disadvantages that others have. But until it evolves, it’s one of my weaker offerings so can get wiped by sheer force. While the team has balance (Fire, Fighting, Ghost, Ground, and soon Dark are all there as dual types), they also share common weaknesses. Though brute force, luck, and over-levelling got me past the Flying Titan, I’m currently stuck.

The next two Team Star bases are Fire and Poison – both types with a massive advantage to Grass. Next for the gyms is Normal, but as Larry sweeps me with Flying-type move Aerial Ace, I can’t move on from there either. I struggled enough with the Flying Titan, but now I’m out of places to level up. This is after over-levelling to take out the Bug gym and somehow struggle past my own reflection in the Grass gym. The Steel Titan was made easier by some RNG favours and a team that knows Fighting and Ground moves, but no such luck elsewhere.

You’d expect this to balance out both ways, but it hasn’t really. I could take on the Water gym a little sooner, maybe, but Flying moves are so common that I’ve developed an over reliance on using Toedscool’s Tera to offset my Grass vulnerabilities. Grass resists Electric moves too, but I didn’t feel as if I had much of the upper hand at that gym either. The Ground Titan is next, and I’m underlevelled but have a six-strong type advantage, so it could balance out, right? Nope. Come back when you’re stronger, except you can’t get stronger because the next few obstacles are designed to beat you even when you’re grossly overlevelled for them.

I wrote about Toedscool being the first new Pokemon that has captured the ‘oh yeah, I love those games’ feeling, but even that has soured. Thanks to Flying moves being everywhere, I’m forced to Tera it constantly despite it being far weaker than a lot of my team. Paldea gym leaders tend to run one Pokemon away from their regular type as their final ‘mon, then Tera them in line, so I’m considering diversifying with a Grass Tera of a type I need to bulk out the team.

I’m going to keep on trucking, completing Tera raids for XP Candy, taking on trainers in the world, and seeing if I can keep the Grass gang together while still looking for improvements, but I was looking for a challenge and I got it. Being a gym leader is hard work, and to all the gyms I cockily strode up to with a shit team and just one strong move ready to spam, I apologise. Being a gym leader is hell. I hope the rewards at the end are worth it.

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