GO Battle League Season 9 Update
10 months ago
Graphic by G47IX
Article by NHoff, Nesabethan, and Tangent
Analysis help from PolymersUp, SmecherDev, and Twastell
Rules for limited format Cups in S9:
Great League Remix:
Under 1500CP with bans on the 20 Pokémon most used by Trainers Ace rank and up in the Great League.
These are: Venusaur, Alolan Ninetales, Alolan Marowak, Azumarill, Politoed, Umbreon, Skarmory, Swampert, Pelipper, Vigoroth, Sableye, Medicham, Altaria, Defense Forme Deoxys, Bastiodon, Scrafty, Jellicent, Galvantula, Galarian Stunfisk, and Talonflame
Ultra League Remix:
Under 2500CP with bans on the 10 Pokémon most used by Trainers Ace rank and up in the Ultra League.
These are: Clefable, Alolan Muk, Swampert, Empoleon, Togekiss, Altered Forme Giratina, Cresselia, Talonflame, Melmetal, and Obstagoon
Little Jungle Cup
Pokémon must be at or below 500 CP to enter.
Pokémon do not need to be able to evolve to enter.
Only Normal, Grass, Electric, Poison, Ground, Flying, Bug, and Dark-type Pokémon are permitted.
Shuckle and Smeargle are not permitted.
Pokémon must be at or below 1,500 CP to enter.
Only Poison, Bug, Ghost, Dark, and Fairy-type Pokémon are permitted.
Special Cup: Players’ choice
A prior special cup chosen by the community to return this season! Stay tuned for a poll from @PokemonGoApp on Twitter later in the season to determine which cup will be held.
Weather Ball: Damage Nerf (60 -> 55 Base Damage)
Well there it is.
Weather Ball, originally exclusive to the Castform forms, quickly took a foothold in both Great and Ultra Leagues once it was added to Pokémon beyond Castform. From Sunny Cherrim to Pelipper, Abomasnow to Politoed, with even Primeape trying to take the move for a spin - the spread of this move with its speed and power got out of hand.
While Castform and some of the other more balanced Weather Ball users will be hurt by this nerf, it should keep Politoed, Alolan Ninetales, and Abomasnow from out-spamming teams in Great and Ultra League. The affected Pokémon are all four Castform, Politoed, Pelipper, Hippowdon, Abomasnow, both Ninetales, both Vulpix, Sunny Cherrim, and Roserade.
Some notable Great League matchup changes:
Shadow Abomasnow drops 2S Galvantula, 1S Galarian Stunfisk and 1S Toxicroak
Powder Snow Alolan Ninetales drops 1S Shadow Machamp
Charm Alolan Ninetales drops 0S Hypno (TP) and 0S Mew (SC+Surf)
Politoed drops 1S Umbreon, 1S Stunfisk (TS), 0S Whiscash, 0S Scrafty and 0S Obstagoon
Pelipper drops 1S Registeel and 0S Galarian Stunfisk and 1S Shadow Nidoqueen is likely IV-dependent
Ninetales (only WBF) drops 0S Mandibuzz and 0S Scrafty
Shadow Ninetales (only WBF) drops 0S Meganium and 0S Skarmory
Sunny Castform drops 1S Galarian Stunfisk (bait-dependent loss) and 0S Scrafty
Some notable Ultra League matchup changes:
Powder Snow Alolan Ninetales drops 1S Cresselia, 1S Deoxys Defense, 0S Greedent and 0S Skarmory
Politoed drops 1S Skarmory
Abomasnow drops 0S Ferrothorn, 0S Galvantula and 0S Lugia
While Great League Shadow Abomasnow didn’t take too many hits, they were high impact in 2S Galvantula, critical for the double Water lines, and 1S Galarian Stunfisk—two key matchups that enabled the Shadow version to better counter the meta. Unfortunately, some of the notable winners here are top meta, such as Galarian Stunfisk (which also picks up 0S Pelipper) and bulky Dark-types that are now able to edge out their glassier, yet spammier, opponents in neutral matchups. Politoed drops the most matchups in the Great League, although Shadow Abomasnow and Pelipper have arguably the most significant drops. In the Ultra League, Alolan Ninetales appears to have taken the biggest hit, but it remains to be seen if the nerf is enough to curtail the dominance of the Jellicent+Alolan Ninetales duo.
Feather Dance: Energy Nerf (increase to energy cost)
#FreePidgeot comes at a cost.
Feather Dance was added to Pidgeot at the start of Season 8 and quickly got the bird removed from GO Battle League - for app-related issues that would crash the game. During those initial few days, and since in non-GBL trainer battles, the power of Feather Dance has been shown. Feather Dance will keep its incredible 2-stage debuff to Attack but it will cost more energy to use - possibly making the decision between it and the underwhelming Aerial Ace harder and additionally making some of the 2-shield Feather Dance wins Pidgeot formerly flaunted harder to achieve.
This change will only affect Pidgeot.
Crunch: Debuff Chance Addition (Chance to Debuff Opponent Defense)
Crunch and Foul Play used to be identical moves! Now Crunch has made a slight gain on Foul Play, as it will be getting a chance to debuff the opponent’s Defense. If your Houndoom is currently running Foul Play, be sure to TM it to the now superior Crunch (unless using a Mega Houndoom for raids, where Foul Play still performs better). This shouldn’t be a massive change to the move’s strength, but we’re sure none of the Pokémon that learn it are complaining!
The affected “meta” Pokémon are Gyarados, Skuntank, Drapion, Granbull, Greedent, Zamazenta, and Bidoof. Many other Pokémon learn Crunch and could benefit from the change, so be sure to check out your collection on what might be worth trying!
Scald: Energy Buff and Debuff Chance Addition (Lower Energy Cost and Chance to Debuff Opponent Attack)
Scald exists on two Pokémon - Poliwhirl and Vaporeon - and both require an Elite Charge TM if you do not currently have one with the move in your inventory. Now we can get scalded by a third Pokémon: Poliwhirl’s evolved form, Poliwrath.
How beneficial the move will be is unclear. Currently the move has 80 base damage and 60 energy cost, giving it a low base damage per energy (DPE) of 1.33. The energy cost is due to drop, but there is only so low it can go: a 40 energy Scald would be a Hydro Cannon clone with a debuff chance, which seems very unlikely. A 45 energy Scald would be similar to Shadow Bone on release (before it was nerfed), with the debuff applying to Attack instead of Defense. This looks like the best we can hope for, though a 50 energy cost might be more likely.
50 energy Scald might not even be good enough for Vaporeon to run, given it currently learns the much faster Water move Aqua Tail, and Last Resort gives it coverage against other Water-types. Poliwhirl’s strongest set up to this point is arguably Mud Bomb + Return, combining its fastest move with a powerful nuke that can hurt Grass-types. This has left it in the shadows of its evolution, Politoed, whose Weather Ball is faster and more powerful than Mud Bomb. Whether Scald can replace either of Poliwhirl’s moves will depend on its parameters. A 45 energy Scald will likely be powerful enough to replace Mud Bomb, but a slower Scald might make Poliwhirl too slow. Poliwhirl’s more punchy evolution could benefit from the move, but Poliwrath faces difficult tradeoffs with its existing moves, which will be discussed more in a later section.
Megahorn: Damage Buff (100 -> 110 Base Damage)
Megahorn is now the best non-debuffing non-signature 55 energy charged move! Even better parameters than Shadow Ball, as the kids say!
As some of you will remember, Megahorn was buffed in the past to bring it in-line with Shadow Ball as a powerful higher-energy charged move. But as some of its users like Escavalier and Heracross are opting for other moves, and others like Ariados are struggling to find a place in the meta, it seems that Niantic wanted to give these bugs some more love. This shouldn’t be seen as a meta-breaking buff but it should help out some (struggle) bugs.
The affected Pokémon are Heracross, Escavalier, Ariados, Scolipede, Falinks, Nidoking, Galarian Rapidash, Absol, Rhydon, Bouffalant, Samurott, Sawsbuck, Seaking, Stantler, and Xerneas.
Some notable Ultra League matchup changes:
Escavalier picks up 1S Gyarados (DB), 0S Gallade and 0S Shadow Politoed
We didn’t see a huge number of changes after simulating this move, but Escavalier’s 0s pickups over Gallade and Shadow Politoed can more easily force shields or kill them, and the matchup against Gyarados becomes less favourable for the Atrocious Pokémon. Escavalier doesn't even need to bait against Gyarados: two Megahorn is enough to win this scenario.
Zap Cannon: Debuff Addition (Will lower opponent’s Attack)
An 80 energy charged move getting a guaranteed debuff to an opponent’s Attack is a strange change to say the least. While it is undoubtedly a benefit to any Pokémon that uses the move, it isn’t a particularly synergistic change. Unfortunately many of the users are either too frail or too slow (or both) to reach Zap Cannon for this to really affect the drawn-out matchups that are required to reach this high-energy move. The most likely users to actually benefit from this are Regirock and Porygon2, due to their relative bulk and possession of Lock-On. Porygon2 already often runs the move, for coverage against the three types that resist Normal: Steel, Rock, and Ghost. It should experience a small upgrade. However, Porygon2 has struggled for relevance so far, and it’s unclear whether this change will be enough to help it. Regirock currently prefers to run Focus Blast because of the broader type coverage, especially against Ground Pokémon. It might be unlikely to use Zap Cannon unless in a restricted meta without Ground Pokémon, but in such a meta, the powerful debuff effect might make it the preferred move.
The affected Pokémon are Regirock, Porygon2, Ampharos, Zapdos, Jolteon, Magneton, Magnezone, Porygon, Porygon-Z, Klink, Klang, Klinklang, and Attack Deoxys.
Cofagrigus: Shadow Claw
The coffin Pokémon currently lies six feet under the other Ghosts in PvP; it’s listed by PvPoke as the lowest ranked fully evolved Ghost in the Great League. And yet, it's one of the bulkier Ghosts in GL, slightly behind Alolan Marowak in bulk, and not much further behind Jellicent and Dusclops. On top of that, it learns Ghost's highest damage per energy (DPE) charged move currently implemented in Pokémon Go (Shadow Ball). The reason it has been so bad is the awful fast moves it has to work with - Astonish and Zen Headbutt. The addition of Shadow Claw hands Cofagrigus one of the best fast moves in the game, and we can expect it to quickly rise from the dead.
Cofagrigus's win rates on PvPoke explode, gaining almost 400 wins in 1s and taking it from losing to the vast majority of Pokémon in the game to beating them. It appears to have higher win rates than both Alolan Marowak and Jellicent, and, unlike Jellicent, it doesn't rely on Bubble Beam bait luck for many of its wins. It also enjoys higher safety than those two Pokémon, with weaknesses to only two types (Ghost and Dark, the first of which tends to be close mirror matches), and a higher win rate at a 1-0 shield advantage. Compared with Sableye, the most popular Ghost among high ranked GBL players, Cofagrigus has similar win rates overall, offering higher bulk and a higher DPE charged move than Sableye, in exchange for worse type coverage and an extra weakness. The inferior coverage of Cofagrigus is an important limitation that stops it becoming too overpowered and helps most of the Dark-types put it into an early grave.
The sarcophagus looks similarly strong in Ultra League, a league haunted by a different bulky Ghost. Although Giratina Altered has bulk almost as high as Dusclops does in Great League, and learns better fast moves and charged moves than that Pokémon, it doesn’t learn a charged move as powerful as Cofagrigus’s Shadow Ball, and has additional weaknesses to contend with: Ice, Fairy, and Dragon. Cofagrigus isn’t really better than Giratina, but it could be thought of as a slower, harder-hitting counterpart, with fewer weaknesses to worry about. Perhaps the two Pokémon could appear together in double Ghost lines, and Cofagrigus can appear in the Premier Cup, where the Legendary Giratina is ineligible. Cofagrigus can even win the head-to-head against Giratina: two Shadow Balls is enough to win the one-shield scenario and send Giratina home crying “Mummy!”
Nidoking: Sand Tomb
Staying on the graveyard theme, next we have Nidoking with Sand Tomb. Nidoqueen was arguably the biggest star of the Season 8 moveset with the addition of Poison Fang, so will Season 9 be the Return of the King? Nidoking currently has only 55 energy and up charged moves, so adding the 40 energy Sand Tomb with its guaranteed defense debuff will be an improvement. However, Nidoqueen still reigns supreme in the Great and Ultra Leagues. Sand Tomb is a significantly worse move than Poison Fang is, doing less damage and requiring more energy. Add in the fact that Nidoqueen has better bulk, and it becomes clear that Nidoking will be more of a peasant than a monarch.
If Poliwrath had previously wanted to use Water damage from its charged moves, it needed to run the 75 energy Hydro Pump. Now with a newly buffed Scald (the details of which are currently unknown), Poliwrath has another option at its disposal from which to choose. The biggest challenge for Wrath will be deciding between Ice Punch, Dynamic Punch, Scald, Return (if purified), and Hydro Pump to pair with either Mud Shot or Bubble.
Currently, Poliwrath is most commonly seen getting both fists out with Ice Punch and Dynamic Punch. This set is arguably its strongest set in a neutral matchup, because it combines its highest damage per energy move (DPE) with one of its fastest moves. It also provides decent type coverage, with only certain dual types (such as Azumarill) resisting both moves. The problem is Ice Punch is a weak move that doesn't benefit from STAB (same type attack bonus); so weak that a resisted STAB Dynamic Punch has roughly the same DPE as an unresisted Ice Punch. If Poliwrath wants to hit harder against targets that resist Dynamic Punch, it currently has to turn to Hydro Pump, which is slow and provides worse type coverage (the common Grass-Poison, Water-Flying, and Dragon-Flying Pokémon resist both moves).
Will Scald solve this problem? Maybe. As mentioned in a previous section, it looks unlikely to go below 45 energy cost, and 50 might be more likely, in which case it wouldn't be any faster than Dynamic Punch. It pairs badly with Ice Punch for coverage, given both moves are resisted by Water. Perhaps a Scald + Return Poliwrath could be a good combination, but this isn't eligible for the Great League unless low-level account shenanigans are used, and the Ultra League is infested with the few dual types that resist both moves: Giratina, Empoleon, Ferrothorn, and Jellicent. Scald appears to come with tradeoffs, and we are yet to see how substantial the buff will be, so the waters look murky for our favourite punchy tadpole.
One final move to choose is Power-Up Punch, a way to improve upon its abysmal fast move damage output and boost it into the territory of pitiful fast move damage. It is not a great option, but it is an option!
Heracross: Rock Blast
Heracross was recently released worldwide during Ultra Unlock Part 2, and is now receiving a new moveset addition. This is a very interesting development as it might indicate how Niantic plans to work with other regionals in the future; there is a chance they want to wait for increased accessibility before considering giving a Pokémon moveset improvements.
Heracross has traditionally struggled with its lack of coverage. Its powerful STAB (same type attack bonus) Bug and Fighting combination leaves it unable to hit many Ghost, Fairy, Poison, Bug, and Flying-type Pokémon. Even if it runs the less common Earthquake, it is still unable to do unresisted damage to Flying-types, a type whose double super effective damage against Heracross turns it into a kamikaze machine. In addition, Heracross’s charged move with the lowest energy cost debuffs its defense, putting it in an awkward position when trying to spend minimal energy to chip things or bait shields.
The addition of a Rock-type move is a blast for the brawling beetle, providing a low energy charged move that doesn’t debuff, and diversifying the bug’s coverage. Against the arch-nemesis Flying-types, Rock Blast will allow Heracross to rock their world! OK, its base damage is only 50, for 40 energy, and Heracross doesn’t apply STAB to it, significantly limiting the benefit it gets from this move. Against Altaria, for example, Rock Blast barely does a third. However, Rock Blast forces Fire/Flying Talonflame to shield, lest it get turned into rubble, a significant improvement in that matchup.
The tough choice for Heracross will be which move to drop. Close Combat is possibly the move of choice to pair with Rock Blast, as it provides strong damage output at a reasonable energy cost, and obliterates Steel and Fighting-types that resist Rock and Bug. However, the now beefier Megahorn can provide alternative closing power that hits more types for super effective than Heracross can with just Counter and Rock Blast. Psychic-types have to watch out. The slower Earthquake is another option, to give you a big surprise factor and the broadest type coverage between Rock and Ground. You could also run classic Close Combat and Megahorn together, with the idea of Rock Blast making you less predictable than you were before, potentially leading to an opponent making mistakes. For example, maybe they don’t shield their Hypno and pay the price with a big Megahorn. Overall, this change looks like an upgrade to Heracross, but the weakness of Rock Blast makes it a small upgrade.
Manectric: Thunder Fang and Overheat
Here is a fun fact: Manectric is the first Pokémon in this game that will have STAB (Same Type Attack Bonus) on Thunder Fang! Considering all other Electric-type fast moves in the game generate less damage and more energy, this positions Manectric as the heaviest source of Electric fast move damage out there. Does this mean Manectric is any good? Not particularly. It can chomp down on many of the Water and Flying-types, impossible squawks of fear from all those Pelipper floating around the Great League meta. For many of the bulkier Water-types, such as Azumarill, Manectric will need to invest both shields to Thunder Fang down. Manectric might be more interesting with its new toy Overheat paired with Snarl and Wild Charge to create enormous charged move pressure. The debuffing nature means that Manectric will need to play a hit-and-run form of gameplay. Another Pokémon unlikely to make a major impact, at a minimum this makes Manectric, the Discharge Pokémon that does not actually learn Discharge, slightly more usable.
Normal Castform: Normal Weather Ball
Normal Castform should have a lot of fun with the addition of the brand new Normal-type Weather Ball….. wait a minute, this doesn’t feel that new at all! Castform used to have Normal-type Weather Ball before it got converted into Rock-type Weather Ball, and this is simply Niantic giving it back the move it once had.
Which moves Castform prefers will likely depend on the meta. All four charged moves are resisted by Steel, though Energy Ball can deliver neutral damage to popular Steel-types Galarian Stunfisk and Bastiodon. Weather Ball Normal is Castform's highest damage per energy (DPE) move in a neutral matchup, due to STAB (same type attack bonus), though it doesn't offer super effective damage against anything. Castform’s slowest move, Hurricane, can deal super effective to Fighting-types, which is the only type to which Castform is weak. Weather Ball Rock has a good attacking type: it is only resisted by three types, and is super effective against four. In the Silph Arena's recent Venture Cup, double Weather Ball likely would have been preferred, because Steel-types were ineligible, and Ice-types were popular.
Castform unfortunately faces comparison with Body Slam users. Weather Ball Normal no longer matches the damage of Body Slam, and Castform becomes the weaker Normal-type as a generalist. Its higher energy generation than Lick users, and different super effective profile with its Rock, Flying, and Grass moves, may give Castform a niche, but its already rare appearances in PvP may be about to become even rarer.
Expected Meta Shifts
Overall this moveset update is unlikely to cause a large number of shifts in the meta, but there are a few that stand out. The nerfs to Weather Ball and Feather Dance are the most impactful move parameter adjustments, while the addition of Shadow Claw to Cofagrigus is the most impactful moveset addition. While Cofagrigus is an exciting addition to the meta, it comes with an accessibility cost in the Ultra League, where Cofragrigus is yet another Pokémon that requires a large gathering of Candy XL to build. Considering Yamask is typically available for only 1-2 weeks a year, this has the recipe to create the ultimate FOMO experience. Buckle up!
TL;DR on Balance Changes
-Weather Ball not as good, things that spam it are more affected, some might drop off meta
-Oh and Weather Ball Normal is back for Normal Castform, that's neat
-Pidgeot's back but not exactly how you remember - Feather Dance nerfed
-Crunch users got a little love with a debuff chance buff
-Scald buff on energy and debuff chance, Poliwrath gets it now, maybe will have more play on the merit of a cheap Water move alone
-Cofagrigus now can impose fear in both lower leagues because it gets Shadow Claw
Thank you so much for reading and best of luck to all battlers in Season 9 of GO Battle League!