AOTW: Iron Barbs and Rough Skin

Well guys, it’s that time again! Settle in, and let’s talk about some piercingly potent passive pokémon powers! If hindsight is 20/20, then I have Superman’s super vision right now. When Pokémon Black and White Versions dropped earlier this year, our illustrious editor-in-chief, SBJ, encouraged the editors (and by that I mean he shouted down the stairs one day into the dungeon where he keeps us chained to our laptops when he threw down our daily ration of stale bread and stagnant water) that upon the release of the new games, we should try to relate our individual columns to them. For me, that meant articles about Moxie, Regenerator, Sand Force, and so on. But had I known that a certain steel-plated pinecone and its big brother evolution would be as popular as they are, I would have known a lot earlier to say that this is Ability of the Week: Iron Barbs AND Rough Skin!

Man, how I have I put off talking about these Abilities for so long? Especially Iron Barbs! I couldn’t make it to VGC earlier this year, but word around the campfire is that Ferrothorns were reasonably plentiful. And with good reason! Apart from having wicked defensive stats and the capacity to perform a powerful STAB’d Gyro Ball, he’s your greatest deterrent to physical attacking monsters thanks to his Ability. Introduced in generation five, Iron Barbs is the exclusive and only Ability for the Ferroseed line, and it makes them impossible to be hit with a direct-contact attack without the attacking pokémon losing one eighth of their overall health. The same holds true for Rough Skin, which was upgraded from a 1/16th loss of HP in generation four, after its inception in gen three. The Sharpedo line and Druddigon can have this Ability naturally, and Garchomp and its pre-evolutions via Dream World.

It’s not quite as simple as “use a physical attack, sustain damage” when discussing attacks that make contact, but it almost is. Nearly all the physical attacks in the game make direct contact between the two pokémon, but physical attacks that describe causing an effect to the environment, like Earthquake, or attacking with a projectile or weapon, like Bonemerang do not. In addition to the vast majority of physical attacks, four special attacks do make contact, and they are Grass Knot, Petal Dance, Wring Out, and Trump Card. There’s a sizeable list of exceptions to the “physical attacks make contact” rule, but it’s still a ton of possibilities for revenge damage, folks!

Sort of like talking about Guts without mentioning Façade, you can’t discuss Iron Barbs without bringing up the Rocky Helmet. I haven’t been able to confirm if it stacks with Rough Skin (I haven’t found anything stating that it doesn’t, either), but it most certainly does stack with Iron Barbs! Holding the Rocky Helmet normally removes one sixth of the opponent’s HP upon contact, but when combined with Iron Barbs (and presumably Rough Skin), it sucks away 7/24ths (a little over ¼)! …Odd fraction, but there you are! What can make these Abilities particularly devastating to your opponent is if they happen to be using Swipe Moves, because every connection will result in recoil damage. In other works, if you have Iron Barbs and a Rocky Helmet, and your opponent has Skill Link and tries Fury Swipes, they’ll knock themselves out automatically!

They say that the best defense is a good offense, and Iron Barbs and Rough Skin encapsulate both. See what you can make of them, and I’ll see you next time!