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POTW: Pokémon of the Week #20: Nincada, Ninjask, and Shedinja

Driving You Batty
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In the World of Pokémon, there lives a vast number and variety of amazing creatures to befriend and collect. Every week, we will be focusing on a single one of these Pokémon or evolutionary line and talking about what makes it special. This week's Pokémon of choice are the Nincada family!


The Nincada family are a group of very interesting Bug-type Pokémon with a unique twist that were introduced in Generation III. The life cycle of this family heavily takes after its basis the cicada insect with the nymph Nincada burrowing out of the ground after years of feeding in order to shed from its skin and emerge as the adult Ninjask. Once it becomes a Ninjask this Pokémon is one of the fastest of all with a Speed stat of 160! Just like some types of cicadas Ninjask uses its speed as a way to evade enemies and predators which it would have trouble with considering its very poor defenses. While an effective trait against predators this isn’t the one that cicadas are most known for which is instead emerging in vast numbers in atypical cycles so that predators are unprepared and can only eat so many before becoming satiated. These cycles are usually along prime numbers, most famously 13 and 17 years, which is a rare sight in the animal kingdom therefore giving predators a hard time keeping track of cicada emergences with their own biorhythms.

Of course there is much more to the story of the cicada with a notable subject being the perfectly intact almost alive looking visage that is the hollow husk. Here enters Shedinja, the spooky shell of its speedy counterpart that mysteriously appears in your party if there is a vacant spot during Nincada’s evolution! Shedinja is primarily a reference to the ninja art of deploying a replica to evade threats utsusemi, which also happens to take its namesake from cicada shedding. This image likely goes back farther than traditional ninja history as the concept is also seen in the Chinese essay “Thirty-Six Stratagems” with the passage “to shed the golden cicada skin” which means using a decoy to fool enemies. Shedinja has the one-of-a-kind Wonder Guard ability that makes it invulnerable to all attacks that aren’t “Super Effective”. Naturally an incredibly busted ability like this one meant that Shedinja must have a very low Hit Point count, 1 to be exact, in order to compensate. Its minimal defensive stats could be seen a reflection of the fragility of the leftover cicada husk. To many cultures such as ancient Greece and China the cicada is a symbol of rebirth, immortality, and spiritual resurrection which are elements definitely present in Shedinja. The birth of new life into a discarded shell, the ever-living undead bestowed with “mysterious protection”, and even the idea of a spirit returned inhabiting a new vessel are all fascinating aspects embodied by Shedinja!

In battle Ninjask and Shedinja are very much one trick ponies. Ninjask’s most notable use is that of a Baton Passer using its Speed Boost ability and the move Swords Dance to quickly accumulate stat boost that can turn a fellow physical attacker into an imposing threat. Its naturally high speed isn’t much of a needed requirement for this strategy but it can be useful in edge cases where it may be facing one of the other top speed tier Pokemon. Shedinja is more often seen in gimmick teams where the objective is to transfer its amazing ability onto another Pokémon that has fewer weaknesses and at least decent staying power. Of note Wonder Guard is a very popular ability hackers have had fun attaching to Pokémon like Sableye and Spiritomb that had no weaknesses before the arrival of the Fairy-type. Though generally quite underwhelming there are edge cases where Shedinja can prove to be a very useful Pokémon as there are some pretty strong Pokémon that usually don’t have the tools needed to take on Shedinja. Chief among them the incredibly powerful Kyogre! So the next time you find yourself trying to catch the creator of the seas how about you consider giving ol’ Shedinja a spin? It’ll be fun!

Here are some questions to consider to get conversation rolling. You don't have to answer all of them or any of them in your post as long as you're staying on topic and within global forum rules.
-Do you like or dislike this Pokémon? Why?
-How is this Pokémon in-game?
-How is this Pokémon in competitive play? Are there any interesting strategies you like to use for them?
-Do you like this Pokémon's representation in the anime? Are there any moments or qualities in particular you enjoy/dislike?
-How do you think this Pokémon would interact with our world?
-If given the power to, would you change anything about this Pokémon and if so, what would you change?
-Nincada and Shedinja, barring forms, currently have unique type combos not other Pokémon possess. Would you like to see these types on new Pokémon and what would you imagine these new Pokémon to be like?
-In the Pokedex it is stated that anyone who peers into Shedinja’s hollow body from its back will have their spirit stolen. Do you believe this is something that could actually happen in the Pokémon world or perhaps is it just tall tales?
-Wonder Guard is considering an incredibly powerful ability while Shedinja is considered somewhat of an underperforming Pokémon. Could you see Wonder Guard ever given to a new Pokémon and could that Pokémon be designed differently from Shedinja?

If you have any suggestions for Pokémon you'd like to discuss in the future just leave your ideas at the bottom of your post. Make sure you give your thoughts about the current Pokémon first!

Thanks to @Rick and @Gengarzilla for suggesting this Pokémon of the Week!

Previous Pokémon of the Week:
 
Fire Chicken
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-Do you like or dislike this Pokémon? Why?
Yes because they are quite unique, be it in typing, usage, or the way you get Shedinja.
-How is this Pokémon in-game?
They are actually good if you know how to use them. Ninjask is very fast and hits fine enough although you're better off Baton Passing to another Pokemon most of the time. You need to be careful because it can get beaten extremely easily. Shedinja can be great but it is like the only Pokemon that can only be used well enough if you have a guide detailing the moves important opponents' Pokemon have open all the time.
-How is this Pokémon in competitive play? Are there any interesting strategies you like to use for them?
Ninjask is a great Baton Passer, Swords Dance + Speed Boost then Pass. Shedinja is extremely situational, it can single-handedly win you the battle or be a dead slot in your team. You are better off only using it against opponents you've battled before, whose Pokemon's moves you know and actions can predict to an extent.
-Do you like this Pokémon's representation in the anime? Are there any moments or qualities in particular you enjoy/dislike?
The only appearance I remember is one of the villains in the Togepi Kingdom 2-parter using both of them. I wish they would appear more, especially Shedinja.
-How do you think this Pokémon would interact with our world?
Everyone would consider Shedinja very unique. They might also be very afraid of its Pokedex entry and start all sorts of theories about it.
-If given the power to, would you change anything about this Pokémon and if so, what would you change?
Better stats, I guess; for Ninjask I'd like some more Attack (I don't think the other stats need boosting, it should not be a special attacker, it doesn't really need more Speed, it should be frail because that's its thing). For Shedinja... here's the interesting part; I believe it should have the exact same base stat total as Ninjask, as is the case for all branched evolutions. But here comes the tricky part... of course it should have a base HP of 1, but it should also have Def and Sp. Def of 1. It really doesn't need any more than 1. Which would leave it with looooooots of stat points to be distributed in the 3 offensive stats. I would definitely give it less Speed than Ninjask and a 50-50 for Attack and Sp. Attack. This Pokemon deserved to be offensively stronger.
-Nincada and Shedinja, barring forms, currently have unique type combos not other Pokémon possess. Would you like to see these types on new Pokémon and what would you imagine these new Pokémon to be like?
I'd rather not, to be honest; I like it when type combinations are unique to a fully evolved Pokemon. Which means I wouldn't like another Bug/Ghost type. I would like a fully evolved Bug/Ground-type back in Gen III (just like I still want a Bug/Water one)... but Wormadam said hello the next gen and I'm fine with it. I know the question said "barring forms" for this exact reason, but the very fact that the typing exists on a fully evolved Pokemon, even if it is just one of its forms, makes me feel satisfied as it is there.
That said, I believe there are reasonable chances we will get more Pokemon of these two typings even though I wouldn't like it; Bug/Ground could be any sort of insect that might also live underground. Bug/Ghost would be an insect that has since become a ghost.
-In the Pokedex it is stated that anyone who peers into Shedinja’s hollow body from its back will have their spirit stolen. Do you believe this is something that could actually happen in the Pokémon world or perhaps is it just tall tales?
Tall tales. I can't take the Pokedex entries as canon. They are the very same entries that state that humans, Kadabra, Yamask and Phantump are all related (and should be the same evolutionary line). And Magcargo could've melt the world as if it was the Sun. I'd rather not consider the implications of it all.
-Wonder Guard is considering an incredibly powerful ability while Shedinja is considered somewhat of an underperforming Pokémon. Could you see Wonder Guard ever given to a new Pokémon and could that Pokémon be designed differently from Shedinja?
I can see it but I'm afraid it may be overpowered if not done well. I'd actually like to see a Ghost/Dark Pokemon with Wonder Guard and 1 HP before Gen VI, where you would have to try tricks such as weather/status to defeat it. But with the Fairy type around now it's no longer that interesting of an idea.
 
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  • -Do you like or dislike this Pokémon? Why?
I like Ninjask and Shedinja, due to their cool designs.
  • -How is this Pokémon in-game?
Wonder Guard can be the ultimate ability if used correctly.
  • -How is this Pokémon in competitive play? Are there any interesting strategies you like to use for them?
.....
  • -Do you like this Pokémon's representation in the anime? Are there any moments or qualities in particular you enjoy/dislike?
I don't recall any anime moments...
  • -How do you think this Pokémon would interact with our world?
Similarly to how they handle the Pokémon world - listen to trainer's commands (or something).
  • -If given the power to, would you change anything about this Pokémon and if so, what would you change?
Probably just make them a bit stronger or something.
  • -Nincada and Shedinja, barring forms, currently have unique type combos not other Pokémon possess. Would you like to see these types on new Pokémon and what would you imagine these new Pokémon to be like?
There are a few type combinations I'd like to see on new Pokémon, so this is one.
  • -In the Pokedex it is stated that anyone who peers into Shedinja’s hollow body from its back will have their spirit stolen. Do you believe this is something that could actually happen in the Pokémon world or perhaps is it just tall tales?
Nah, it's just an old tale. Nothing happens when you look into its back in-game.
  • -Wonder Guard is considering an incredibly powerful ability while Shedinja is considered somewhat of an underperforming Pokémon. Could you see Wonder Guard ever given to a new Pokémon and could that Pokémon be designed differently from Shedinja?
I'm not sure that'd ever happen, honestly. If it did, it would probably be a Legendary or Mythical Pokémon.

As usual, I suggest the Mareep line.
 
Glorious Goo
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I do like their designs. I think the idea of the discarded skin coming to life pretty creative considering real discarded cicada shells are often left intact and can be confused for the real thing.

If this line were real I'd imagine it would be a headache if they're anything like real cicadas with all the noise. Of course real cicadas don't create haunted skins when they grow up so it could be worse. Then again you could probably drive off a Shedinja pretty easily by throwing stones at it.

Wonder Guard should honestly stay with Shedinja. It's kind of its thing and it already has enough problems being used without something out there that can possibly do its job better.

If Bug/Ground were to have another pokemon I'd imagine any number of burrowing insects, scorpions or and earthworm to be a design basis. For Bug/Ghost I can imagine a moth since they're nocturnal and can be seen as darker or spookier than other bugs. I think there is a species of assassin bug out there that sticks the bodies of its prey on to itself that could make for one scary pokemon.

I'd like to suggest Joltik and Galvantula as the next entries.
 
Laid to Wake
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-Do you like or dislike this Pokémon? Why?

Oh, I absolutely love it. It's been one of my favorite lines since I first learned about it, back in oh, 2008, I think (I don't think I ever noticed Nincada when playing Ruby in 2003, and I withdrew from the franchise for a while until 2008, when my friend gave me his copy of Sapphire). It's such a quirky evolution method, which I am a huge fan of in general. Shedinja in particular is just such an in-your-face gimmick that I can't help but love it. Another cool thing about the line as a whole is how it's a single evolutionary family of all dual-types, but none of them have the same combination. It's Bug/Ground, Bug/Flying, and Bug/Ghost.

But irl I really love the sound of cicadas. Plus, when I was younger, we used to always find locust shells left behind on the outside walls of my grandparents' house, and I always thought they were neat. So it's only natural, I suppose, that that interest would carry over.

-How is this Pokémon in-game?

Not especially great, but fun to use.

-Nincada and Shedinja, barring forms, currently have unique type combos not other Pokémon possess. Would you like to see these types on new Pokémon and what would you imagine these new Pokémon to be like?

Sure. I think there is still potential in those combinations, and the combinations themselves are hardly the most remarkable things about Nincada and Shedinja, so I don't think that more Bug/Ground- or Bug/Ghost-types would take away from what makes this line special.

-In the Pokedex it is stated that anyone who peers into Shedinja’s hollow body from its back will have their spirit stolen. Do you believe this is something that could actually happen in the Pokémon world or perhaps is it just tall tales?

Tall tales. If not, then anyone who has used a Shedinja is in quite a bit of trouble. :p

-Wonder Guard is considering an incredibly powerful ability while Shedinja is considered somewhat of an underperforming Pokémon. Could you see Wonder Guard ever given to a new Pokémon and could that Pokémon be designed differently from Shedinja?

I suppose I could see it happening, but I feel like that actually would take away from Shedinja's uniqueness somewhat, unlike just having another Bug/Ghost-type. So I wouldn't automatically be in favor of it.
 
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Okay, one thing we all know about the Nincada line is that the method of obtaining Shedinja is the only time this one "evolution method" has happened. One thing I've always wondered is why Shesinja automatically joins your party. I mean, I'm assuming that our character notices it and takes it with them, but I can't help but wonder how confusing this situation must be for both the trainer and the Pokémon.

Just image your Nincada evolving, but instead of a single Ninjask, you also end up simultaneously making it a Shedinja. I mean, it has got be just as weird of a feeling for the Ninjask and the Shedinja to become two separate entities. You'd probably go "What is this thing?!" if you didn't already know about this evolution beforehand. What would make you take this thing into you party in-universe?
 
Driving You Batty
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Okay, one thing we all know about the Nincada line is that the method of obtaining Shedinja is the only time this one "evolution method" has happened. One thing I've always wondered is why Shesinja automatically joins your party. I mean, I'm assuming that our character notices it and takes it with them, but I can't help but wonder how confusing this situation must be for both the trainer and the Pokémon.

Just image your Nincada evolving, but instead of a single Ninjask, you also end up simultaneously making it a Shedinja. I mean, it has got be just as weird of a feeling for the Ninjask and the Shedinja to become two separate entities. You'd probably go "What is this thing?!" if you didn't already know about this evolution beforehand. What would make you take this thing into you party in-universe?
One big reason why I love Shedinja's type combo. The whole scene is so spooky!
 
The Wizard
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I remember first trying to obtain a Shedinja in Ruby and not understanding that it wasn't exactly a branched evolution but it literally turned into both. I kept resetting my game trying to fulfill the requirements (having an extra Pokéball, having an extra slot on your team, etc) and being disappointed when my Nincada only evolved into a Ninjask. On maybe like 10th try I finally noticed the Shedinja was being added to my team.
 
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-Do you like or dislike this Pokémon? Why?
At first I generally ignored it, way back in the RSE days, as I didn't quite understand it. But I was also just getting back into Pokemon at that time, due to, let's just say RL events causing me to take a temporary hiatus from it. However, during my ORAS runs, I decided to use one for the heck of it (plus I need the data on both Ninjask and Shedinja), and I started to like it. Now it's one of my favorite Bug-types, as it's just such a unique little concept, with each form possessing something different.

-How is this Pokémon in-game?
Depends on how you use it. Shedinja can be a double-edged sword at times but can troll the AI more often than not. I've had a bit better luck with Ninjask due to being more offensively potent, but they've both done well for me.

-How is this Pokémon in competitive play? Are there any interesting strategies you like to use for them?
............You're asking the wrong guy on this one.

-Do you like this Pokémon's representation in the anime? Are there any moments or qualities in particular you enjoy/dislike?
Shedinja, sadly, got very little screentime, only during the Togepi Kingdom plot, where any strengths it had, such as Wonder Guard, were not well defined. Ninjask got a bit better treatment, as it didn't appear in just the Togepi Kingdom bit, but thanks to Brandon and Paul, who both used one with pretty effective results. However, Ninjask was still very frail in battle, as it lost to one Mach Punch from Infernape despite literally flying circles around it (though I do admit that the Dig-Flare Blitz thing did probably do some damage to Ninjask other than just slowing it down). So it didn't really get a good chance to shine.

-How do you think this Pokémon would interact with our world?
Probably like how any other Pokemon in our would would interact: the same as nature intends it to.

-If given the power to, would you change anything about this Pokémon and if so, what would you change?
Well, for Shedinja, reducing its Defense and Special Defense to 1 would be first, as it doesn't actually need either stat. I mean, with 1 HP, both Defense and Special Defense are utterly useless. Instead, pump that power into Attack/Special Attack/Speed to give it more fighting ability. Or at least give Shedinja the same BST as Ninjask, just aligned differently. As for Ninjask, I'm not sure. It seems pretty good as is, but it could probably stand for more Attack and HP, just to give it more fighting options. But Gen VI was pretty kind to Ninjask, giving its moves a decent boost, so I don't think there's much to do on it.

-Nincada and Shedinja, barring forms, currently have unique type combos not other Pokémon possess. Would you like to see these types on new Pokémon and what would you imagine these new Pokémon to be like?
Hmm... interesting notion. It all depends. Like if they did say another burrowing or subterranean bug, I can see Bug/Ground being used again. As for Bug/Ghost, that's slightly harder. Maybe something along the lines of certain breeds of moths or nocturnal insects that hold a "spooky" element to them. But given how Shendinja came to be and its roots, that's hard to duplicate.

-In the Pokedex it is stated that anyone who peers into Shedinja’s hollow body from its back will have their spirit stolen. Do you believe this is something that could actually happen in the Pokémon world or perhaps is it just tall tales?

Tall tales at best. I don't take most, if not all, Pokedex entries seriously, especially Ghost-types. In some cases they can be taken a bit more seriously, but Ghost-types tend to get stronger "spooky" elements in there data. If that was true, than everyone would avoid Shedinja at all costs.

-Wonder Guard is considering an incredibly powerful ability while Shedinja is considered somewhat of an underperforming Pokémon. Could you see Wonder Guard ever given to a new Pokémon and could that Pokémon be designed differently from Shedinja?
I think that's how it's supposed to be. Everything needs some form of balance and counterbalance in order to live and survive. Due to the process of evolution in real life, most organisms are unbalanced in prehistoric times, either being strong or weak, with no limits on either side, but as they evolve into modern-day creatures, they gain and lose traits to balance themselves and become better able to survive. So, given Shedinja's nature and Wonder Guard as a whole, it's probably best that it remains as is, otherwise it could get out of hand too quickly. Plus I can't think of many Pokemon or ideas that could correspond with Wonder Guard's true power and nature, so maybe it's best to leave it alone and not mettle with such things. ...Sorry, this answer is probably very round-about and odd, but I can't think up of anything that would justify any sort of concrete answer.
 
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-How is this Pokémon in-game?
Never really used them.

-How is this Pokémon in competitive play? Are there any interesting strategies you like to use for them?
Ninjask makes a decent Baton Passer, but is outclassed as a Speed Boost user by Scolipede, Sharpedo, Blaziken and Yanmega.

-Do you like this Pokémon's representation in the anime? Are there any moments or qualities in particular you enjoy/dislike?
I don't recall them appearing, honestly.

-How do you think this Pokémon would interact with our world?
I think that they'd interact like real cicadas would - by being REALLY F**KING LOUD.
-If given the power to, would you change anything about this Pokémon and if so, what would you change?
Nah, they're cool.

-Nincada and Shedinja, barring forms, currently have unique type combos not other Pokémon possess. Would you like to see these types on new Pokémon and what would you imagine these new Pokémon to be like?
I could see a Bug/Ghost death's head hawkmoth.

-In the Pokedex it is stated that anyone who peers into Shedinja’s hollow body from its back will have their spirit stolen. Do you believe this is something that could actually happen in the Pokémon world or perhaps is it just tall tales?
Since the trainer is constantly looking at Shedinja's back in battle... It's definitely a myth.

-Wonder Guard is considering an incredibly powerful ability while Shedinja is considered somewhat of an underperforming Pokémon. Could you see Wonder Guard ever given to a new Pokémon and could that Pokémon be designed differently from Shedinja?
I'd rather keep Wonder Guard on Shedinja. A Pokemon with better typing and base stats could be pretty OP with it.
 
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This line, especially Shedinja, had a neat gimmick. I can't fault the line for doing something different. I've never used either Shedinja or Ninjask in-game but I have used Shedinja in online battles. It's hit or miss for me. Very predictable. Give it a Focus Sash and hope the opposing team doesn't have a counter. It has a ton of weaknesses and in two hits it goes down to some very common moves like Flamethrower or Rock Slide. If an opposing Pokemon has a status ailment it can inflect on Shedinja, then it goes down in one-hit. Ninjask can be a pain to deal with once it get's a speed boost along with a boost from something like Swords Dance. Still, being Bug/Flying, it's not guaranteed to last long without a Focus Sash. I'm not a big fan of using Pokemon that absolutely need a Focus Sash to survive, so I tend to overlook them for something more reliable.

In the real world, I think they would be a pain. Shedinja would be one creepy thing to come across in real life, and Ninjask is said to move so fast that it would give headaches if its cry was heard too long. No thanks to that! As for anything I would change about them, I don't see anything that would matter. They're pretty unique already.

I'd have to say the Pokedex entry on Shedinja is a myth. With how common Nincada and Ninjask are, I'm sure Shedinja are common on teams and if they haven't sucked the spirits of their trainers, I'm sure there's nothing more to it.

Wonder Guard, to me, will always be Shedinja's special ability. I guess another Pokemon could have the same ability, but it would have to have as many weaknesses as Shedinja otherwise you're going to have something pretty broken. *Shudders at memories of hacked Wondertombs and Wondereyes*
 
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I love the way the Pokédex likes to refer to spirits and life force and like as if it's obvious what all those things are. Shedinja immediately raises a huge philosophical question - what is the spirit? What is it for? What happens to someone without their spirit?

... and then I look at the wording of the 'dex entries, and, ah, look - "it is said", "it is believed" (Emphasis mine). So even the Pokédex doesn't state it as a fact
 

Zeb

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I can't believe I never noticed this one.

Shedinja is rad, one of my favourite Ghosts. Awesome design, concept and typing. The design is super simple but it's such a great idea. I just wish they didn't cripple its movepool so bad, in recent gens it can no longer get Swords Dance or Baton Pass from Ninjask, which makes it harder to use even with Wonder Guard being a thing. I've come to appreciate Ninjask a bit more recently, but I'm not crazy about it. I like that between it, Accelgor and Greninja we have a good selection of ninjas though. If I were to change anything it would probably be as mentioned earlier - give Shedinja access to moves like Swords Dance and Baton Pass again. Ninjask, I would like to see it learn Acrobatics. It fits it perfectly and gives it a good Flying move outside of Aerial Ace. Between Acrobatics, its high Speed (and Infiltrator if you wanted to use that) it could be a good way to make it a bit more relevant. A Swords Dance set might also be possible too, since it has the new and improved Leech Life.

I wouldn't mind seeing Bug/Ghost and Bug/Ground done again. Bug/Ghost I was really hoping for Alolan Venomoth to have, but it sadly didn't happen. In Hawaii they have a myth about moths being souls/spirits of the dead, which would have been a cool thing to do for Venomoth, another Bug which doesn't see that much attention. I think Shedinja's husk concept is a great way to do Bug/Ghost though and not sure how much more interesting it could get. Bug/Ground could go to an assortment of ideas, things like earthworms, dung/scarab beetles or even a non-aquatic version of a bobbit worm (maybe it could be a rival of Trapinch?) all seem pretty obvious ideas.

I don't think Wonder Guard should go to anything else. Maybe I'm being boring but I think it either runs the risk of being too good or too similar to Shedinja (slightly barren movepool, low HP etc). I think it's good to keep things unique in this case, but maybe I'm in the minority on that one and there is a way to make a Wonder Guard user more interesting without these problems and I could change my mind.
 
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