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Is Sawsbuck Good in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet?

When Smoliv was one of the first new Pokemon revealed for Scarlet and Violet, one monster that came up for comparison often was Sawsbuck, the only other dual Normal/Grass type in the entire Pokemon franchise. While even by late October we knew little about Smoliv, we already knew plenty about Sawsbuck, who has been with us since Pokemon Black and White.

The Season Pokemon, like its first form in Deerling, has four different forms depending on the seasons. It has a flowery Spring Form, a leafy Summer Form, a particularly neat looking Autumn Form, and a very classy Winter Form. The Winter Form is my personal favorite, but the Forms have no effect on base stats or anything else for that matter besides appearance. In any case, it’s a beautifully drawn Pokemon in any season, and one of my personal favorites of the generation; I’m far from alone in that judgment, either.

Sawsbuck’s name has a couple of potential inspirations. The word sawbuck is a framework for holding wood to be sawn, and it contains the word buck, which refers to a male deer. But, SAWS could also be an acronym for the four seasons, Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. Either way, it’s one of the more creative localization efforts.

As a Grass/Normal type, Sawsbuck is immune to Ghost-type attacks, but has many defensive weaknesses. As a Normal type, it’s only weak to Fighting-type moves, a weakness that’s easily mitigated. But, as a Grass-type, it’s 2x weak to Flying, Poison, Bug, Fire, and Ice-type moves. So, with so many weaknesses, was Sawsbuck ever a good Pokemon?

Actually, yes. Sawsbuck has decent base stats, a solid 100 physical Attack and a very good 95 base Speed. Defensively, however, Sawsbuck is mediocre, with an OK 80 HP stat, but only 70 base Defense and Special Defense. Its 60 base Special Attack isn’t really that important, as you’re focusing on physical damage with Sawsbuck anyway. 

Also, Sawsbuck has three very good abilities, one of them a Hidden Ability. The first ability Sawsbuck can have is Chlorophyll, which doubles the Pokemon’s speed in Intense Sun. So, naturally, it could fit on Sun teams, doubling its already solid speed stat. But, the more common ability, especially in competitive play, is Sap Sipper. Not only does Sap Sipper make Sawsbuck immune to other Grass-type attacks, it also raises its Attack by one stage if it’s hit by one. That’s darn good!

Sawsbuck also has the hidden ability of Serene Grace. While it’s a great ability, doubling the chance for moves’ secondary effects to activate, Sawsbuck doesn’t really have the move pool to take full advantage of this ability.

How Good Was Sawsbuck in Gen 5?

In Black and White, Sawsbuck was a mid-tier competitive Pokemon in singles. But, in VGC doubles, Sawsbuck saw some play in VGC 2011. Interestingly, its main use in VGC was actually split between a Sunny Day sweeper (which ran Chlorophyll as its ability) and as a Sap Counter (with Sap Sipper). As a Sunny Day sweeper, the best moveset for Sawsbuck was Horn Leech, Return or Double-Edge, Jump Kick, and Protect. Megahorn was sometimes run in place of Jump Kick. These Sawsbuck ran a Life Orb for an additional 30 percent damage boost, offsetting the loss of HP with the HP recovering move of Horn Leech.

The Sap Counter variant of Sawsbuck ran a moveset of Horn Leech, Return, and Protect, with Jump Kick or Nature Power in its last move slot. It also equipped a Focus Sash to survive a super-effective hit from an opponent. It was mostly meant as a hard counter to Amoonguss, one of the most popular competitive Pokemon at the time, and which is honestly still good in modern Pokemon, too. 

In singles, Sawsbuck was similar to its Sap Counter VGC build, although it would often run Substitute instead of Protect. Some singles players decided to give Sawsbuck a Choice Scarf for extra damage in exchange to locking it into a single move while it’s out. Other players even ran Baton Pass, using Sawsbuck as a defensive pivot that could eat a Grass-type move and pass that boost on to another offensive threat.

How Good Was Sawsbuck in Gen 6?

So, Sawsbuck was a solid and useful Pokemon in Generation 5 and carved out three niches for itself across the competitive scene. Unfortunately, come X and Y, Sawsbuck started to decline in usage, although it still had a chance as a low-tier Swords Dance Sweeper at the beginning of Gen 6. Sawsbuck would run Swords Dance, Horn Leech, Double-Edge, and Jump Kick, with Substitute occasionally run instead of Jump Kick. 

In Gen 6, Sawsbuck also kept running its Sap Sipper ability. Most competitive trainers found the best nature for Sawsbuck was a Jolly nature, in order to boost Speed at the cost of the Special Attack stat it never used anyway. By the Ruby and Sapphire remakes and the influx of even more Mega Pokemon, Sawsbuck eventually found itself untiered from competitive singles with no notable appearances in VGC, either.

How Good Was Sawsbuck in Gen 7?

Sun and Moon brought with it massive power creep, and Sawsbuck only had a very small glimpse of PU, the lowest Pokemon Showdown competitive singles tier. It would occasionally slot into Sun teams as a partner for Shiftry, running a moveset including Swords Dance, Double-Edge, Horn Leech, and Jump Kick. There is one major difference, though, that gave Sawsbuck at least this tiny niche, and that was the addition of Z-moves to Generation 7. 

Equipped with Normalium-Z, Sawsbuck’s Double-Edge would transform into a 190 base power Breakneck Blitz. Because of its secondary Normal-typing, Sawsbuck would then gain a Same Type Attack Bonus (STAB) of 50 percent. That means that one shot of Breakneck Blitz would hit with 285 base power. Normal type moves are only resisted by Rock-types and don’t affect Ghost types at all. This means it could hit just about anything extremely hard.

With no more Z-moves in Sword and Shield, it seemed that Sawsbuck would be a no-show in competitive play. But, Sawsbuck didn’t appear in the games at all. Generation 8 was a complete no-show for the Season Pokemon, which is a shame considering its one of the franchise’s better designs from the Gen 5 era. 

How Good is Sawsbuck in Scarlet and Violet?

Fortunately, Game Freak recognized Sawsbuck’s potential when it comes to the gimmick for Generation 9, Tera Types! With Tera Types, most Pokemon you catch in Paldea will have a Tera Type that matches one of that Pokemon’s original types. You can also find Pokemon in Tera Raids which have different types. But, in Sawsbuck’s case, you actually want to find a Normal Tera Type Deerling or Sawsbuck! Not only will Sawsbuck have a powerful Tera Blast thanks to its good Attack stat, but since its Tera Type matches one of its original types, Normal-type moves will do 2x damage instead of the typical 1.5x offered by Same-Type Attack Bonus.

The other reason you want a Normal Tera Type is that Sawsbuck suddenly has only a Fighting-type weakness. It drops all of its other weaknesses. So, the best moveset for Sawsbuck in Scarlet and Violet is likely Horn Leech, Tera Blast, Megahorn, and either Protect, Substitute, or another coverage move such as Wild Charge. Tera Blast means that Double-Edge is no longer necessary. Jump Kick was removed in Generation 8, and wouldn’t return for Generation 9. You could, of course, go all in with a Grass Tera Type, too, but that still leaves you with all of the weaknesses of the Grass-type. It’s likely that either Chlorophyll or Sap Sipper is just as good of an ability depending on the makeup of your battle team.

All this being said, a Normal Tera Type Sawsbuck looks like it could be a low-tier contender in competitive singles. Indeed, in June 2023, a Serene Grace build of Sawsbuck started kicking around in Scarlet and Violet PU tier on Pokemon Showdown. Unfortunately, with the release of the DLC, Sawsbuck was pushed out of that tier into the new lowest tier of ZU, aka Zero Used. While the ZU viability rankings on Smogon University haven’t been updated since May 2023, it’s easy to see that Sawsbuck already has tons of competition for Grass types. It seems that whatever little niche Sawsbuck may have had, it seems all but gone now in 2024.

Still, in the open world adventure, Sawsbuck can be a highly valuable team member. While those who choose Sprigatito probably won’t need the Grass-type coverage, those who choose either Quaxly or Fuecoco would be happy to have one of these graceful deer in their party at one point or another.

How would you play Sawsbuck in Pokemon Scarlet and Violet?

Pokémon and All Respective Names are Trademark & © of Nintendo 1996-2024

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Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy. Personal Website: https://www.thephoenixdesertsong.com

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