Adventures Abound PvP Update Analysis

By @LazerBrianPoGo @GoTangent444 & @JibaNowhere


With thanks to @GoddessNHoff @redspah @Nesabethan & PvPoke


What Adventures May Come


When Michael recently gave an interview teasing big changes that would shake up PvP, most of us in the community were cautiously optimistic. The last balance update was a step in the right direction, but the road up to that point had been rocky to say the least. We love this game and so badly want to see Niantic capitalize on Worlds hype and take this game to even greater heights. 

So did they deliver? Let’s start by saying that if nothing else, it’s clear that effort and care were put into this update. It’s a WIDE update with three new moves and a wide swath of move distribution. There’s a very clear attempt to tackle and fine-tune overused Open Great League mons while still providing new opportunities to previously under or never used mons across open and limited GBL metas.


Last season’s update provided us with hidden gems like buffed Quagsire and Drill Run Dewgong, but what about this season? What diamonds in the rough will we discover this season? What novel strategies will be pioneered unlocking the potential of new Pokémon? Enough of the buildup: let’s explore the changes and what adventures are in store for the community of #battlers as we embark on GBL Season 16: Adventures Abound. 


The Path Never Traveled


New moves are probably the most hyped up content of each balance update and for good reason. One of the most fun things to do in any strategy game is to try and build a new team or deck that everyone else missed. It’s so exciting to get these new toys and see if you can’t cook up the next iconic GBL line that Yasser can put in a video next season. Let's check out the new moves shall we?




This new Grass-type Charged Attack deals 65 damage, and appears to be a clone of Flame Charge. It is being distributed to a wide array of new Pokémon, most of which are Electric, Ground, Poison, Rock, and Steel types. It appears the focus of this move is to provide common targets of Water/Ground ‘Mudbois’ a way of fighting back. The most relevant recipients of this new move are Ampharos and Skuntank, both of which have been dreaming of a way to deal with their nemesis Swampert for years. For Skuntank, this does come at the cost of running Flamethrower, which provided an interesting niche against Steel-types and fellow Dark/Poison types. Scizor, Kleavor, Perrserker, Lycanroc, Sudowoodo, Donphan, and Ursaluna are other notable recipients.


Scorching Sands


Scorching Sands is a Ground-type clone of Scald, complete with the 30% chance to lower opposing attack. It will be learned by a variety of Ground and Fire-types. We need to start by acknowledging a historic moment: Claydol finally has a Charged Attack under 55 energy! It is also Claydol’s 8th Charged Attack, so this one is not for those who are short on precious Charged TMs. The most relevant recipients are Kanto Ninetales, Flygon, Diggersby, and Palossand. Ninetales can finally do damage to most other Fire-types and gains valuable Lanturn coverage, although it will notably still be left without much of an answer for threats such as Altaria. Flygon might occasionally appreciate the speed of Scorching Sands over Earth Power, although some will struggle with the choice of TMing away a legacy move. The loss in power compared to Earth Power results in some lost matchups that could make Earth Power preferred, so we would suggest holding off on removing Earth Power. This will be a nice gain for Flygons that happen to not have the legacy move at the current time, saving an Elite TM. Diggersby will certainly appreciate the speed of Scorching Sands, especially after Earthquake was nerfed. It could run a Fire Punch + Scorching Sands combination, but it is more likely to prefer a slower but powerful Scorching Sands + Hyper Beam combination that is no longer walled by the likes of Altaria and Charizard. The latter does add Trevenant and Skarmory issues, but both of these have been nerfed hard in recent updates. Quick Attack Diggersby also appreciates the added reliability of this move, allowing it to counterswitch into the likes of Galarian Stunfisk and Registeel and still outpace them. Palossand is an overtly thematic choice that will appreciate the speed of Scorching Sands, allowing it to see the field as a solid check to the Medicham + Lanturn core combination. Other notable recipients include Kanto Sandslash, Arcanine, Rapidash, Entei, Hippowdon, and Magmortar.


Triple Axel


Triple Axel will be similar to Icy Wind, with the same damage and energy and the only difference is that Axel will improve your own Attack, as opposed to dropping the opponent’s. The most relevant new recipients are Hitmontop, Gardevoir, and Lopunny. Hitmontop has long been awkward to run thanks to its lower energy Charged Attack debuffing its defenses. This changes with Triple Axel, providing valuable Flying-type coverage and the ability to makes its Counters hit harder at the same time. Gardevoir loves the opportunity to power-up Charm to the next level, and at 45 energy it provides Gardevoirs cheapest move. Lopunny has similar stats to Dubwool and Triple Axel gives it another option to pair with Double Kick. Unfortunately, lacking Body Slam still likely leaves Lopunny a step behind Dubwool for playtime. Other notable recipients include Galairna Mr. Mime, Sneasel, Weavile, Mr. Rime, and Tsareena. 

Map to a Better Meta


While there are plenty of total changes, this season’s most noteworthy adjustments have a very clear goal in mind. The top of the OGL meta has become very dense and centralized. We just saw a World Championships with one Pokémon at an 80%+ usage rate! This update seems designed to break up this locked in core and allow other good and interesting Pokémon to have a greater impact, not just relegated to roles of either hunting or protecting a handful of Pokémon that actually matter. It’s also clear Niantic is going with a scalpel and not a buzzsaw here. They obviously still want these Pokémon to be playable, meta even, just maybe not SO dominant and meta warping. Will it be enough to make a difference? If nothing else, Pittsburgh will make for a wild testing ground.


Sky Attack energy increased


Sky Attack has been an iconic Charge move since day 1, wielded by classic Great League titans like Skarmory, Altaria and Noctowl. It seems that Niantic has decided that its time to lower Sky Attack’s cruising altitude and see if that helps properly tune the Flying types that have defined the Open Great League for years. As seen with Walrein, Nidoqueen, and Trevenant, a 5 energy nerf can be much more costly than the 5 damage nerf dealt to Weather Ball. Especially on Noctowl, whose 6th Wing Attack would fall 2 energy short of Sky Attack, forcing it to generate another 8 energy just to use it. It's worth noting Noctowl will still be a bit better than it was before Wing Attack was buffed. It would charge the first and second Sky Attacks at the same speed as it did back then, and the moves do the same damage, but Shadow Ball will continue to charge faster than it used to. A Sky Attack with 1.5 base DPE isn't awful, but this may be enough to see a shift from usage dominated by these two fliers towards some emerging fliers such as Pelipper, Mantine, or even Gligar. Of course with any nerf, there is some collateral damage. The collateral damage in this case is the Master League staple Lugia. While this won't make Lugia unviable, it will potentially really mess up Lugia's pacing and lower its damage output.


Earthquake power decreased


Earthquake is another hallmark of PvP and has often been a part of insanely strong Rock/Ground and Ice/Ground Charge move pairings. What made Earthquake slightly problematic was how well it allowed its users, especially the powerful and flexible Galarian Stunfisk, to fare in neutral and negative matchups. It's hard not to see this change as, at least in part, a targeted nerf of the notorious bear trap. As far as the simulations go, the only matchups that flip to losses in the one shield scenario are Cresselia, Water Gun Lanturn, and Lickitung BUT GFisk’s average battle rating against the OGL meta takes a sizable 20 point hit. This dip (and common sense) would suggest a general loss in power and decent potential to loosen the Galarian Pancake’s iron grip on the meta. Another Meta mon caught up in this change is Swampert. Though the Community Day move Hydro Cannon is the star of the show, Earthquake represented excellent coverage and nuke potential for the mud boi’s kit. This change will affect Swampert’s closing power and ability to overcome negative matchups, especially in Ultra League. Other notable meta relevant Pokemon hit by Earthquake's nerf include Walrein, Metagross and the future Zygarde-Complete; the last of which is poised to take metagames by storm and can be obtained by the most dedicated players by around late October.


Psychic power decreased


Speaking of changes that seem like thinly veiled targeted nerfs, a change designed to slow down the highest usage Pokemon at the Yokohama World Championship, Medicham. Medicham was overtuned and something had to give. Psychic is being reduced from 90 power to 85 and now sports a ~1.54 DPE, equally efficient as the slightly cheaper Foul Play and Magnet Bomb. While weaker than before, it’s certainly not a bad move now and this does nothing to take away from Medicham’s amazing stats, typing or Fast move Counter. It is interesting Niantic decided to take a softer approach to this nerf than to Sky Attack. The DPE only drops by 6%, compared with 10% for Sky Attack, and the speed of Psychic is unchanged, unlike Sky Attack. As a result, it may have a smaller impact on Medicham's viability, and the Pokémon appears to move less in PvPoke rankings.


Spark energy decreased and power increased


 You might be sensing a pattern here. This is yet another change that looks like an attempt to tune the core OGL meta. Spark is getting its power increased by 2, to 6, and its energy generation decreased. A corresponding drop by 2 for energy seems plausible, to stop this change accidentally turning into a buff. If the energy only drops by 1, it would become an Electric-type Bullet Punch/Leafage clone. If it drops by 2, it would become a Feint Attack clone. Either change would make it a little less efficient at charging Surf, no longer going exactly to 40 energy with 0 energy wastage. A 6 energy Spark would be somewhat less flexible than the current version, taking longer to land a Water coverage move on things like Galarian Stunfisk and Swampert. The change should rein in the strength of Lanturn slightly, while perhaps making it a little more RPS than before.


Of course, Lanturn’s other good Fast Attack option, Water Gun, is completely unchanged. Despite having the same nominal DPT and EPT as a 6 damage, 6 energy Spark, the 1-turn Water Gun is a bit less likely to have wasted energy, especially into Thunderbolt, and occasionally does more DPT in real matchups, thanks to the damage rounding in the damage formula (e.g. vs. Deoxys Defense). Some trainers were opting for Water Gun even before the Spark nerf. It seems safe to say the change to Spark won't eliminate Lanturn from contention.


Poltergeist power increased


Poltergeist was a welcome and exciting addition to the Ghost movepool. It had the potential to give ghosts another hard hitting Charge move besides Shadow Ball and more of a nuke option at that. The only problem was the distribution. As of right now, the only viable (and I'm being incredibly generous with the use of the word viable here) ghost that has Poltergeist is Dusclops. It made Dusclops a much stronger and more dynamic play in metas like Halloween and Evolution Cup. Assuming Poltergeist becomes a Focus Blast clone, going from 1.86 DPE to a flat 2, Dusclops conjures up even more of a threat in limited metas while we wait for the move to be added to more Pokemons’ movepools.


Aerial Ace energy decreased


Aerial Ace has been the butt of a certain word play joke for as long as I can remember. And to be fair, it earned that derision. A 1.22 DPE lagged far behind most other Charge moves in terms of efficiency. You were never happy to run Aerial Ace; it was usually out of necessity. While this bump up in power isn't going to make it the best move in the game, a hypothetical 1.38 DPE would put Aerial Ace in line with the elemental punches and Stomp. It is solid if unspectacular and will be a nice boost for the Fliers who have previously been sadly saddled with the awful move. Aerial Ace is one of the most widely learned Attacks in the game, so there is a lot to tease out from this change. Two birds sure to be happy with this change are Mandibuzz and Little Cup Ducklett. Their fellow fliers, Tropius and Mantine, may also appreciate the buff. Tropius formerly saw such a difference in power level between Aerial Ace and Leaf Blade that a resisted Leaf Blade had the same DPE as an unresisted Aerial Ace. Mantine typically turned to Bubble Beam, as its fastest move, and Ice Beam, as its highest DPE move. Now that Aerial Ace is at least as fast as Bubble Beam, Mantine will more commonly be seen dropping either of those moves. The flier looking most promising in PvPoke rankings is Gligar, which will be able to charge this move and Dig at a faster speed than before. Some Pokémon that used to run Aerial Ace more often, such as Escavalier, Jumpluff, Togekiss, and Emolga, may consider returning to it, for the slight speed boost over existing moves.




X Scissor energy and power increased


X Scissor has never been an exciting charge move to use. It’s like plain tofu: you’re not thrilled about it, but it gives you what you need. When you needed a decentish cheap bait/chip move, it got the job done. That all changes today. While it gets a small cost increase, it receives a large increase in damage, going from 45 to 65! This likely puts it in line with solid Charge moves like Surf and Brutal Swing. This will alleviate the bait dependency of current X Scissor users and give Pokémon like Golisopod, Beedrill and Genesect access to more consistent and efficient Bug type damage. 


Dig energy and power decreased


Dig used to be largely irrelevant because Pokémon with Dig either didn't matter for other reasons (like Gabite) or already have access to simply better Ground type Charge Attacks (like Diggersby). There are some Pokémon that will enjoy this change though. Little Cup Galarian Zigzagoon jumps to mind. It was already an incredible Little Cup pick, and access to a better/cheaper Dig to fight back against enemy #1 Bronzor is a huge deal. Older sibling Galarian Linoone also seems interesting. Snarl/Lick into Body Slam is already decent and adding in a Ground coverage option could help the mon a lot. 50 energy seems like a plausible cost for a 80 damage move. 55 energy or higher would be quite low DPE, and 45 energy would be a Drill Run clone, which would be quite strong for Pokémon as bulky as Diggersby and Gligar. Gligar have often been running Return as their second/hard hitting Charge move, but a good STAB Dig (maybe paired with the newly buffed Aerial Ace?) gives it super effective damage it was often having to forgo before. This bulky scorpion looks especially promising with the right parameters on Dig, and may prove to be one of the big winners of the move update. I can dig it.




This move has always been astonishingly bad. It felt like a move they tacked on to Ghosts as a way to quietly nerf them. Ghosts like Klefki and (originally) Cofagrigus were haunted by this as their best Fast move option, relegating them to spice pick status. While most Astonish users have other viable options at this point, a high energy generation move has the potential to change these mons playstyles and fortunes. Imagine a spammy Golurk, churning out some combination of Poltergeists, Earth Powers, and Dynamic Punches at breakneck speed! A Pokemon previously relegated to fringe or meme status could suddenly become a force to be reckoned with in limited metas like Halloween Cup. Regardless of the overall impact, more viability and optionally for currently never used Pokemon is a change for the better.


Boomburst energy decreased

Some jokes write themselves. 

In all seriousness, it depends on how bold and low they are willing to go with the energy cost, but I doubt Boomburst will have any serious meta implications. 

New Tricks for Old Dogs


Though a lot of move distributions amount to little more than spicy fluff (I don’t foresee Blaze Kick Hitmonlee leaving a large footprint in Pittsburgh) you really have to pay attention and sift through the changes for potential game changers. You don’t want to miss the next Poison Fang Nidoqueen or Drill Run ASlash and be left in the competitions dust as they adapt to and take advantage of the new movepools. Let’s quickly go over the moves being doled out and see what, if any, big waves might crash the OGL beach come Season 16. 


Blaze Kick


After being introduced on Torchic Community Day, Blaze Kick is finally getting an increased distribution all these years later. Hitmonlee is appreciative of receiving such a thematic move, although it will still remain largely irrelevant. Mienshao appreciates a low energy Charged Attack that is not Brick Break, but will still be held back by bad stats and having Poison Jab as a Fast Attack. Incineroar won’t be relevant until its future Community Day and Blaze Kick won’t synergize well with Blast Burn. The biggest winner here is Lucario, although It likely still prefers Power-Up Punch and Shadow Ball. Blaze Kick could situationally be used instead of the other two Attacks to cover threats such as Froslass.


Razor Shell


It's nice to see Razor Shell get distributed more after being introduced way back during Oshawott Community Day. Unfortunately, the Charged Attack remains underpowered and is likely just going to cause you to use more Charge TMs to get the moves you actually want. 


Magical Leaf


Magical Leaf has decent stats, being slightly better than Ice Shard and Fire Spin. Meganium will still prefer Vine Whip, but its pre-evolution Bayleaf will appreciate a more balanced option over Razor Leaf. Bellosom and Roserade may situationally prefer Magical Leaf to Bullet Seed and Razor Leaf, and it's nice for them to have options. Decidueye likely still prefers Leafage to Magical Leaf for when its Community Day arrives. Lilligant appreciates an upgrade to Charm, but continues to lack low energy options. Mr. Mime, Mismagius, Gardevoir, and Meowstic are mostly meme potential. Shaymin is the biggest winner, but not for Trainer Battles where it remains underwhelming but instead for Raid battles where it will now be a strong selection. Shaymin Sky should be only sitting behind Mega Sceptile, Kartana, and a variety of Shadow Pokémon in terms of raw power and provides decent staying power.


Water Shuriken


When Water Shuriken was introduced specifically for Greninja, we were left to wonder if the only other Pokémon that can learn the Fast Attack would receive it. Accelgor fans, your dreams have come true! Accelgor will remain nearly unusable, but this is a fun and welcome addition for it.


Breaking Swipe


One of the best Charged Attacks in the game at the current moment, Breaking Swipe can be a huge difference maker for any Pokémon fortunate enough to have the move. The absolute biggest winners here are Steelix, Rhyperior, Heliolisk, and Onix. Steelix will likely replace Psychic Fangs with Breaking Swipe to bolster its already insane bulk, which gives it switch timer stalling opportunities. There will be temptation to run both debuffing moves together, but this will leave major gaps in coverage against Steel-types, making Earthquake a near-must. Steelix’s win rates soar upwards with Breaking Swipe, around to where Galarian Stunfisk is. It will continue to be held back by weak matchups with other Steel-types such as the aforementioned Galarian Stunfisk and Registeel. Meanwhile, Rhyperior will appreciate Breaking Swipe’s power in Master League, offering a serious upgrade to its current cheap moves Surf and Superpower. It will continue to struggle with Kyogre, but can pick up some interesting wins such as 1v1 shield Giratina Altered, Gyarados, and Metagross. Heliolisk gains a new niche as an Electric with strong fight back against Dragons. Its anti-Ghost properties provide it with niches, and its win rates sky rocket to viability with Breaking Swipe. Onix improves at its Little Cup niche thanks to its impressive bulk. Regidrago and Sceptile are likely to remain mostly irrelevant, but it's nice for each to receive a new toy.


Mud Shot


Mud Shot, already known as being one of the best Fast Attacks in the game, is being added to Swalot, Greedent, Croagunk, and Toxicroak. Swalot gets a small boost to its speed, going from generally bad to somewhat viable. It is still likely not enough to crack it into the meta, this is a nice step in the right direction. If you thought Greedent was fast before, Niantic has decided to make it even faster. Mud Shot is not quite as thematic as Bullet Seed, and you do drop some Waters such as Swampert and Walrein from time-to-time, but Mud Shot’s speed shows enough improvement that you are probably always going to be running it. Toxicroak is unlikely to ever run Mud Shot over Counter, aside from cheekily trying to win the mirror.


Volt Switch


Volt Switch is being added to Magnemite, Magneton, Magnezone, and Regieleki. Magnezone is the core recipient, getting an upgrade to Spark after it was nerfed. Volt Switch adds a few wins the previous Spark version missed, such as Mewtwo and Rayquaza. However, it remains unlikely for Magnezone to see real play in the Open Master League. In the Master League Premier Cup, Volt Switch Magnezone wilI also have an easier time faring against Waterfall Gyarados compared to its pre-Spark change self, making it a stronger corebreaker to Water- and Fairy-type centric teams. Magnemite and Magneton are likely to remain overshadowed by their flying saucer relative, and Regieleki is still saddled with only high energy Charged Attacks and bad stats.

Conclusion and Update Winner/Losers


If nothing else, it's clear that a lot is being tried here. They are throwing the proverbial spaghetti at the wall and seeing what sticks. Niantic is poking at the core meta to try and break up that dense core without completely demolishing it, while giving us a lot of new toys in limited meta action. 

Some of the biggest winners in all this might be Pokemon not even mentioned in the article. Sometimes just holding while everyone around you falls is enough to take a lead. For instance, Registeel and Carbink are seeing no changes BUT nerfs to Earthquake, Lanturn and Medicham are boons for a lot of anti-Fliers. A stronger meta position for Steel or Rock tanks means more targets for alternative Ground users (maybe Runerigus or some new Scorching Sand mons 👀)


This might be controversial, but I am going to call Medicham a winner in this update. Medi was getting nerfed. There was literally no way around that. It was like when you’re a kid and your parents catch you doing something bad and you’re just anxiously waiting to see how bad the punishment is going to be. We were all hoping Medi would be grounded for 6 months but instead it got one weekend and a big hug. They didn’t touch Counter and gave Psychic the smallest nerf possible. They didn't even change or remove the debuff chance. All this while nerfing the main Fliers that counter Medi and strengthening the meta position of the Steel/Rock tanks Medi targets. I think if anything we might see MORE Medicham this season. I hope I’m wrong. 

A huge group of winners are the non Sky Attacking Fliers, especially those with good anti-Steel/Rock coverage moves. Aerial Ace will be an actual move now and the Sky Attack nerf means these mons will fare better in Flier wars against the likes of Noctowl and Altaria. In tandem with the recent Wing Attack buff, I could see Fliers like Charizard, Pelipper, Gliscor/Gligar (sorry DV) getting a huge bump up in rankings and usage this season maybe to the point of becoming the meta. Throw honorary Flier Flygon in there too with its new Claw Sands moveset. It won’t be as good as the mons listed before it but it should have more play. Also, I know Little Cup isn’t a main focus but the biggest winner this entire thing might be Ducklet. They made Aerial Ace better, potentially fixing the duck’s one move syndrome, and made Chinchou worse. IT CANT KEEP GETTING AWAY WITH THIS.

The biggest loser of this update is probably the Grass type. No wing attack nerf, the expanded distribution of Breaking Swipe and the introduction of Triple Axel don't help, but the biggest problem remains the moves and mons.  Most of the mons that got Magical Leaf and Leafage aren’t salvageable and for the ones that are, these moves are fair at best. Fair isn’t enough to make a bad mon meta. Right now, Grass is too reliant on Razor Leafers and Frenzy Planters and I hope a future update addresses this, because Grass types wilted this time around. 

I know a lot of people are going to rush to call Noctowl and Altaria huge losers of this update, and don’t get me wrong they will take a hit, but I don’t see it being all doom and gloom. Sky Attack is still decent and these birds have other things going for them. Owl is still bulky, blanks Ghosts, and has access to the unnerfed Wing Attack. Altaria still has its coveted Dragon typing, massive bulk, and oppressive Dragon Breath to fall back on. Yeah, taking longer to get to Sky Attack will make life a little tougher, but you weren’t running these birds just for Sky Attack. They will be fine and as long as Medi is around, Fliers will be around. As far as Great League goes, the only one really crushed by the nerf is Skarmory (this messes up its pacing so much) and that mon fell out of high usage ages ago. In the Master League, the metagame staple Lugia will reel from the nerf similarly to how Skarmory's pacing gets messed up, but the sheer power of Aeroblast ensures that it remains viable. At the very least, the initial use of Aeroblast into Sky Attack will keep the same counts.

One more big winner: the community! I really do think this signals a continued and concentrated effort by Niantic to at least TRY to balance and keep PvP fresh as best they can. We may not agree with all their decisions, but there will be no Boombursting of bubbles today. They’re trying. And that means that even if some changes/additions don’t pan out the way we hope (COUGH medi COUGH) we know that they give a darn and haven’t given up. This might sound like coping but even if these specific changes end up mostly affecting limited metas, it’s impossible not to feel better about the direction and long term health of PvP after the last two updates. 

And that's the update. We here at the GOStadium Meta Team hope you have a great season and we can’t wait to see you on the battlefield!