In between "Pokémon" journeys, Jeremy enjoys working as a pharmaceutical chemist and campus manager.
What Are HM Slaves in Pokémon?
The Pokémon fandom developed the term "HM slave" for creatures you don't really intend to train, but who occupy a slot in your roster for their field-navigating HM (Hidden Machine) techniques. By carrying around an HM slave, you don't have to allocate any of your actual team's limited moves towards often-lackluster HM attacks.
Thankfully, Nintendo has eased up over the years, first boosting the power of several HM moves, then eliminating their need in future generations, but veterans still remember companions used as simple tools to push boulders and cross lakes. So, which poor saps did we most abuse? These are the ten best HM slaves in Pokémon! Note we're listing their evolved forms, but you'll often obtain them in their pre-evolution states.
Many players cross through Hoenn without finding a Corphish, but you can fish for them early on (be patient, as they're somewhat rare). However, they evolve at level 30 into Crawdaunt, who can learn most non-Fly HMs like Cut, Strength, Surf, Dive, and Waterfall.
Even if you're not actively training your Crawdaunt, his decent stats and immunity to Psychic moves can prove handy in battle, balancing teams with Fighting or Poison units.
Original beast Dragonite has an incredible HM moveset, being able to learn Cut, Fly, Strength, Surf, Dive, and Rock Smash in addition to a variety of regular elemental attacks.
He's also quite powerful, and can help in battle even with lackluster techniques. But like Braviary, he's not found until the later stages of the games, and even then, you have to train prior forms Dratini and Dragonair up to level 55 to nab him. Still, for the endgame, he's a useful punching bug to exploit as needed.
Admittedly, Farfetch'd doesn't learn as many HM moves as you'd probably want, but he covers the common Fly and Cut requirements. He's also obtained pretty soon in Kanto through a trade (for a Spearow) that was once the only way to nab him, and even if he was terrible in battle, we'd do it just to fill our Pokedex.
So, why not make good use of the birdbrain you just bartered for? As a bonus, Farfetch'd can learn the rare False Swipe attack, which isn't an HM, but is great for catching Pokémon, as it damages foes but never knocks them out, meaning he helps ensure you don't accidentally faint wild units you intend to catch.
Training a Magikarp isn't easy considering its weak stats and bad moveset, but they morph into their powerful Gyarados form at just level 20, and you can fish for them as soon as you obtain an Old Rod.
Not only are Gyarados helpful in battle, they learn a nice variety of HM techniques like Surf, Strength, Waterfall, Rock Smash, and Dive. Their only failing is an odd inability to learn Fly despite being part Flying. And if you don't feel like training a weak Magikarp, you can always use the shiny red Gyarados found in the second half of the Johto games.
6. Charizard (And Other Starters)
Starter Pokémon tend to be some of our strongest warriors, as they end up with impressive base stat totals, good moves, and sometimes mega forms. That said, we often allocate an HM attack or two for them, mixing them into a battler/slave hybrid.
Most starters can learn moves like Cut and Strength, but Charizard also nabs Fly and Rock Smash, letting him tackle nearly every non-Water HM necessity. Greninja and Feraligatr also make great HM fodder, and remember that many games offer Move Deleters who can remove HM attacks, meaning your partner isn't permanently stuck with stale moves.
True, Tropius isn't obtained until you've seen most of Hoenn, but his excellent offerings and lack of evolution mean you can access his full HM moveset as soon as you find him.
Tropius can handle Flash, Cut, Strength, Rock Smash, and Fly, offering basically all non-Water HMs, and his 460 stat total beats out several other of today's offerings even in their final evolution.
Like most early Normal-type mammals, Linoones aren't particularly strong in battle, but you'll evolve them from Zigzagoon (an easy find in Hoenn) at just level 20. Linoones can learn Cut, Strength, Rock Smash, and even Surf despite not being Water-type, making them surprisingly capable traversal units.
As if that weren't enough, many Zigzagoon and Linoone possess the Pickup ability, which isn't very helpful in battle, but lets them gradually obtain items as you travel—an excellent bonus for your non-combatant.
Like Zigzagoon, the Woopers of Johto evolve at just level 20, granting easy access to their evolved form. Quagsire's stats aren't the highest, but his dual typing only has one vulnerability to Grass (albeit a quadruple weakness) yet possesses one immunity and four resistances, making them fairly hearty.
More than that, Quagsire will learn Surf, Strength, Waterfall, Rock Smash, Whirlpool, and Dive, covering most needs except Cut and Fly, who you can easily attach to a Flying-type. This moveset is particularly useful in Johto, one of few regions that needs Rock Smash, Waterfall, and Whirlpool to fully navigate.
Smeargle isn't the easiest HM slave to employ, as he can't learn HMs from your inventory like other troops can, and he wields an atrocious stat total of 250, meaning he won't be helping much if ever needed in battle. However, patient players can use his Sketch attacks to permanently learn other moves, letting them nab whatever four HM options they need.
Whether you want mainstays like Fly and Surf or rare but appreciated techniques like Flash and Defog, Smeargle can (eventually) cover for whatever techniques your main roster lacks.
As silly as Bidoof looks, his Bibarel evolution distinguishes itself from starting mammals like Raticate and Furret with his dual Water type, granting him a unique elemental pairing.
More than that, he makes arguably the best HM slave yet, as Bidoof are available very early in Sinnoh, are easily caught, and (after turning into Bibarel) can eventually learn a plethora of HM attacks. These include Cut, Surf, Dive, Rock Smash, Waterfall, Strength, plus Secret Power for constructing your own Hoenn base. Throw in a helpful STAB (same-type attack bonus) with many of the Normal and Water-element HMs, and he makes better use of the attacks than most other monsters.
Sure, Bidoof may be one of the most mocked Pokémon yet, but that doesn't stop trainers from exploiting his evolution, if only for HMs.
Pokémon Regions and Field Moves
The availability of Pokémon, and the need for HMs, changes from region to region, so be sure to adapt to your surroundings as needed. Remember, several non-HM moves can be used in the field, like Teleport and Dig, and Pokémon abilities can impact things outside battle ranging from egg-hatching to wild encounter rates.
Game Freak finally realized that trainers don't enjoy "wasting" slots on HM slaves, so the days of neglecting team members may be past us. And I have to admit, their removal almost, almost makes me sad, though it's definitely worth the convenience. But for now, as we eagerly await Nintendo's next batch of forgotten creatures, vote for your favorite outcast and I'll see you at our next Pokémon countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill