Welcome to Pokemon of the Week, the fourth installment in a recurring series that looks at the impact of some of our favorite Pokemon on the anime, TCG and VGC. Taking a trip down memory lane to see the impact these Pokemon have had on the series and our lives is what makes Pokemon the magical thing it is.
Oh, Charizard. While I have never liked him as much as the world seems to it is impossible to deny the popularity of the original Flame Pokemon. While Pikachu is the face of Pokemon for children, Charizard is not far behind as one of the lead mascots of the series. Charizard was the first Pokemon to appear in the animated series in Japan in the opening song and has been at the forefront ever since.
Charizard is one of only two Pokemon with two Mega forms and one of only four Pokemon to have a Mega evolution and the ability to Gigantamax. Mega Charizard Y boasts the highest special attack of any Fire-type and the highest of any non-Legendary Flying-type.
Its popularity transcends the traditional Pokemon mediums. It was been featured in Super Smash Bros. This started as one of the Pokemon that could be summoned from a Pokeball before transitioning into a role as a playable character in Brawl as part of the trio of Pokemon used by the Pokemon Trainer. After a stint as a solo playable character in the 3DS/Wii U edition, it returned to the Pokemon Trainer for Ultimate. Charizard is also one of the core playable characters in the Pokken Tournament.
In the anime
Before going into the most famous Charizard there are a few others that appear in the anime that are worth mentioning. Charla the Charizard partners with Liza in the Charicific Valley and looks over Ash’s Charizard when he is left behind to develop his strength. Kiawe’s Charizard is his ride Pokemon who occasionally battles with him and has shown the ability to use the Z-Moves Supersonic Skystrike and Inferno Overdrive.
In the XY era there are two trainers who are able to Mega Evolve their Flarm Pokemon. First, Trevor’s Charizard Mega Evolved into Mega Charizard Y in the first round of the Lumiose Conference to take on Alain and his Charizard. Unfortunately for Trevor, Alain’s transformed into Mega Charizard X and was able to carry his trainer all the way to a league championship against Ash and Greninja. Charizard was one of Ash’s greatest rivals while in Kalos and watching it become Mega Charizard X made him that much more of a fitting rival.
All that being said, no Charizard is more iconic than Ash’s Charizard. Known for its attitude and arrogance, Charizard made Ash earn his respect for quite a while. It all began when it evolved from Charmeleon to save Ash and friends from a rogue Aerodactyl. Somehow Ash was able to battle alongside Charizard at the Cinnabar Gym where it begrudgingly helped Ash defeat Blaine and his Magmar. Charizard would ultimately cost Ash the Indigo League. In a battle against Ritchie Charizard was happy to defeat his Zippo the Charmeleon but refused to a battle Sparky the Pikachu, eliminating Ash from the tournament.
Their relationship would strengthen in the Orange Islands and he would ultimately be an essential member of Ash’s Hall of Fame Orange Islands team. The pair managed to also defeat Falkner and help Ash earn his first Johto badge before staying on as Charla’s bodyguard in the Charicific Valley. It would join Ash against Clair in Blackthorn City, helping his friend earn his eighth Johto League badge before returning to the valley for more training. Charizard joined Ash again in the Johto League, overcoming the odds to defeat Gary’s Scizor, Golem and Blastoise before falling the next round in a clash again Harrison and Blaziken.
Charizard would return intermittently to battle alongside his longtime friend. It joined Ash on the Battle Frontier and helped him defeat Articuno. It would also return in Unova where it was a powerful ally and a quick rival for Iris’ Dragonite.
While most known for its original card in the Pokemon Base set that drove collectors and kids alike wild, many may be surprised that Charizard did not have many successful cards until recently. Charizard EX would be the first real noted success, coming at the 2014 National Championships as a featured attacker in the Pyroar deck that would take four spots in the Top 16, including Michael Pramawat’s runner-up list. The card would make a return to the top tables as a type-specific attacker for the popular Aromatisse Toolbox strategy that would make Top 8 at the 2015 World Championships.
The single prize attacker from Team Up would see mild success in its own strategy (28th place at the 2019 Cannes Special Event and 73rd at the 2019 Latin America International Championship) and in a Chandelure deck (92nd at the 2019 World Championship) but both were considered rogue strategies at best.
The GX era is when the Flame Pokemon truly began to shine. Charizard GX from Hidden Fates was a popular inclusion in the Mewtwo & Mew GX deck, giving the strategy an option to knockout any Pokemon in one attack. It was simple yet effective. Charizard & Braxien GX has seen occasional usage in this strategy as well, giving the deck more of a controlling aspect that it sometimes lacked.
But the true star of the Charizard cards competitively is Reshiram & Charizard GX. Following its release it was the king of the format, taking first, second, ninth, 24th, and 42nd at the first tournament it was legal for (Santa Clara Regionals 2019) and never looking back. It would win the regionals in Sao Paolo and earn second place in Madison, Cape Town, Jonkoping, and Bangkok. After a disappointing showing at the North American International Championship, the strategy came back in full force at the World Championships, being a featured player in three of the top four finishers.
Since then the popularity of the fiery Tag Team GX has waned some, but Welder-enthusiasts (after the popular Supporter card) have still taken wins in Campinas, Cologne, Santiago, Sao Paulo (International Championship piloted by former World Champion Robin Schulz) and Melbourne (International Championship piloted by Nico Alabas). It has been an adaptable card, featuring in control-oriented Green’s Exploration strategies, aggressive turbo Fire decks, and the ever-present Mewtwo & Mew GX box deck.
Not to be outdone by its cardboard counterpart, Charizard has been quite successful in VGC at well. Used as a niche pick in the 2019 Ultra Series, regular Charizard was featured on an interesting team that finished 37th at the World Championships. The team featured common picks in Primal Groudon, Tapu Lele, and Smeargle alongside more rogue choices in Stakataka and Dusk Mane Necrozma.
This would continue into the Sword Shield era even before the Gigantamax form was legalized. In a more limited pool of Pokemon Charizard was able to be one of the anchors of the Dallas Regional Championship winning team of Aaron Traylor. The Gigantamax form has not been legal for sanctioned events due to the pandemic but it has been a fixture on the online ladder due to its impressive stats, its ability Solar Power, the prevalence of Sun teams and its exclusive move G-Max Wildfire. When competitive play returns in will not be without the Flame Pokemon.
Historically both Mega Charizards have seen their time in the competitive sun. Starting with X, the Dragon- and Fire-Type was part of regional winning teams in Malmo (2018) and Charlotte (2018) as well as multiple other top cut finishes. Former World Champion Wolfe Glick won that Charlotte Regional and also took Charizard to a 12th place finish at the 2015 World Championships.
The staple move set included Protect, Roost, Flare Blitz, and Thunder Punch making him tanky with healing and able to push out enormous damage. Its ability, Tough Claws, made it hit that much harder. The two most common partners for Charizard X were staples of the format in their own right, Tapu Koko and Landorus Therian Forme.
As successful as X was, Y was on a whole other level. X was able to secure eight regional top 8 placements, two wins, and two top cut placements at International and World Championships. Y saw success in 2014, 2015, 2018, and 2019 and earned 33 regional top 8s, five wins, and eight placements at International and World Championships.
Also commonly paired with Landorus Theiran and Tapu Koko, Charizard Y set itself apart from its brother because it could set the sun for itself with its Drought ability. Weather control is an essential part of VGC competitions and having such a strong weather setter takes the strategy to another level. Dominance over years, forms and games truly puts Charizard on a level above most other popular Pokemon.