Gyarados in GBL After Community Day
With the upcoming Community Day, GO Stadium Meta Analysts have got your breakdown of Gyarados for each facet for GO Battle League, including which matchups the Shadow variant picks up or drops!
Note: Terms such as 0S, 1S and 2S refer to even-shield scenarios, e.g. 1S refers to the matchup when both Pokémon use one shield.
— GREAT LEAGUE —
Open Meta and GO Battle League Performance
So the funny thing with Gyarados getting Aqua Tail is that it will likely run Dragon Breath / Aqua Tail + Crunch. And that Dragon Breath / Aqua Tail combo is already the standard set for a Pokémon in Great League. That Pokémon being Dragonair.
So let’s compare the two, the most obvious difference is in typing.
Dragonair is Dragon-type so while it gets STAB on Dragon Breath, it does not get STAB on Aqua Tail.
As a Dragon-type it resists Electric, Fire, Grass, and Water and takes super effective damage from Dragon, Fairy, and Ice.
Gyarados is Water/Flying-type so it does not get STAB on Dragon Breath, it gains STAB on Aqua Tail.
As a Water/Flying-type it resists Bug, Fighting, Fire, Steel, Water, and double resists Ground. It takes super effective damage from Rock and double super effective damage from Electric.
So how does this all play out? Against the Great League core meta, there are some similarities and differences in the commonly seen in the even 1S scenario.
Both are able to beat Altaria in what is an IV-dependent matchup. Gyarados needs Dragon Breath for this matchup.
Both lose to Azumarill, although Gyarados does better and does much better if it is on Waterfall.
Similarly both lose to any Fairy, to Dewgong, Ferrothorn, Melmetal, and Skarmory (although Waterfall Gyarados comes close).
Both win against Alolan Marowak and both win against Registeel (unless you’re using an extremely attack-IV-weighted Dragonair).
Where they differ:
Gyarados can beat Abomasnow in an IV-dependent matchup, Dragonair cannot.
Gyarados can beat Cresselia if it can land Crunch. Dragonair cannot.
Dragonair beats Bastiodon. Gyarados cannot.
Haunter beats Gyarados with only Shadow Punch, Dragonair can win that matchup depending on IVs.
A very high stat-produce (SP) Dragonair can beat Deoxys Defense, depending on its moveset.
Both Dragonair and Gyarados can beat Drifblim but they are IV-dependent matchups and Gyarados needs to land a Crunch.
Both have IV-dependent matchups against Froslass. Gyarados does not need Crunch for this as it can just Aqua Tail twice because of Froslass’ frailty.
For Gyarados you need as high as a Stat Product as possible to have a shot at beating Abomasnow, Altaria, and Shiftry in the 1S scenario (Rank 1 is 0/14/15). There are several excellent tools to check your PvP IVs including one featured on the GO Stadium site, so be sure to check those IVs for all leagues before transferring!
Shadow Gyarados has been sold a bit short by early analysis:
It picks up a chance at beating Haunter, Sableye, and Venusaur as well as the ability to beat Drifblim without using Crunch. If you use the Waterfall variant, you can win the Skarmory matchup as well (in 1S).
In exchange, you can lose the Vigoroth and Whiscash matchups, and you have no chance at winning the Abomasnow matchup in even shields.
Given how hard it is to IV-hunt Shadows and the fact that you need to have used a TM during a previous event, I’ll just say - check the one you have and what matchups it can and can’t win.
In short - it’s not a superstar but it’s not objectively worse than non-Shadow. Basically a different Pokémon in certain ways.
Cores that can be formed
So Gyarados has a big weakness to Electric-types and Rock-types & Dragon Breath is resisted by Fairy-types and Steel-types, because of this, it pairs very well with Galarian Stunfisk.
Galarian Stunfisk’s reputation precedes it. It beats every single Great League Electric-type, all but 3 Rock-types (and only when they aren’t on Rock fast moves - which causes Gyarados to beat 2 of them), all but 5 Steel-types (2 of which Gyarados beat), and all but 1 single bubbly bouncy bunny Fairy-type.
Yes, Azumarill does give this team a rough time of it. Additionally Ferrothorn does rather well. And there are multiple others - tanky Grass-types, some Fighting-types with coverage moves, Galarian Stunfisk itself.
In general GBL play I don’t think it’s an overly competitive duo - there are better pairs for Galarian Stunfisk than Gyarados. But in specific formats - or if you’re looking to change things up a bit - this duo does a good job of covering each other’s weaknesses and tearing through most Pokémon on one side or the other.
Speaking of specific formats...
In GO Stadium’s own Cliffhanger format, Gyarados does exist as a budget pick. Because of the strength of the budget core that it can form alongside Galarian Stunfisk, as well as the fact that it costs no points (which can be allocated to cover the holes in this duo), it could have potential as an interesting pick to give coverage and which performs not at a top-tier level, but plenty sufficient for what you need from it.
As a reminder, there is a ‘Flying Cup’ coming in GO Battle League. From Niantic’s announcement:
“...we’re introducing the Flying Cup, where only Flying-type Pokémon will be allowed! The Flying Cup will be available during an upcoming event—more details to come!”
Please note that anything I write about Flying Cup is speculative.
So… there are a couple assumptions I have to make here - first being that this takes place in Great League (which would lead to the most diversity) and second being that there are no spot bans, which is a generous assumption given what a mono-Flying type meta would look like.
In case you have not yet looked at it, it is basically (with those assumptions in place) an Aerodactyl meta with Steel Wing Skarmory existing as the main Aerodactyl counter. Zapdos then exists as a counter to Skarmory, and those three form a trio at the top of the standings. Beyond that trio, things start to drop off with mainly Pokémon that beat one of the trio but lose to the other two.
Gyarados is a bit of an exception.
Waterfall Gyarados is able to beat both Aerodactyl and Steel Wing Skarmory in the 1S scenario. Actually against Aerodactyl there is a chance that you don’t have to use a charge move OR a shield, as Waterfall knocks out the fossil around the time it would get to a Rock Slide.
As expected, Gyarados does very poorly vs Zapdos although the matchup can come close in the 2S matchup on the merit of Waterfall damage alone.
Again, this is all speculative on Flying Cup and is based on less than 2 sentences from Niantic. But if it performs within these assumptions, it might be a good to have a Great League Gyarados ready.
— ULTRA LEAGUE AND PREMIER CUP —
Gyarados has proved itself as a powerful pick for the Ultra League in past GO Battle League seasons, and it's not hard to see why: with favourable matchups against Giratina-Altered, Registeel and Swampert, the Atrocious Pokémon filled a niche as a solid anti-meta pick. But just like every other anti-meta pick, Gyarados wasn't as impressive when battling the rest of the field, struggling against Pokémon like Togekiss, Obstagoon and Alolan-Muk. It's also worth mentioning that Gyarados often relied on successful shield baits in order to actually shine.
What does Aqua Tail change?
With Aqua Tail now at its disposal, Gyarados improves its performance as a generalist, while also maintaining its positive position against the Ultra League's most dominating trio. To be fair, Gyarados only needed the combination of Dragon Breath and Crunch to achieve that. While these moves don't benefit from STAB, they hit Giratina for super effective damage, which is enough to do the job – and regarding Registeel and Swampert, the key of Gyarados' success was its convenient ability to resist everything they could throw at it, thanks to the multiple resistances coming from its unusual Water/Flying typing. Aqua Tail doesn't make a huge difference in any of the mentioned matchups: as a bait against Giratina it's just not worth the risk, and the fights against Registeel and Swampert leave Gyarados with nearly the same amount of HP as of when using Crunch (Gyarados almost has an Aqua Tail ready to go after fainting Swampert now, though). But things start to get interesting when we dive into the rest of the meta.
Gyarados used to fall short against Pokémon that resist Dark type moves since it doesn't have the bulk nor the energy generation needed to reach more than one Hydro Pump before going down. Fortunately Aqua Tail changes that, giving Gyarados its fastest charge move while also keeping the crucial Water type damage output. This gives Gyarados a more consistent performance, since shield baits are not required anymore.
In neutral scenarios, Aqua Tail is more efficient than Crunch (it charges faster and has better DPE, although Crunch deals more damage), so it's not surprising to see that some losses have turned into wins. For example Shiftry and Zangoose (1S and 2S), close matchups where the faster Aqua Tail makes a decisive difference. Something similar happens against Obstagoon and Scizor (1S), which are forced to use two shields or lose the fight (as long as they don't get an early Attack boost from Night Slash). Abomasnow, Drifblim and Steelix (2S), which could rely on using two shields to win, can't keep doing the same. Gyarados now dominates against Toxicroak in all even shield scenarios, whereas before it had to be wary of letting a lethal Sludge Bomb go through.
There are some trade-offs of course. Without Hydro Pump, Gyarados no longer packs a heavy hit, so its performance when shields are down gets worse. The big nuke will be missed in certain matchups like Melmetal and Clefable (it didn't achieve a win against those, but at least it forced a shield).
In PvPoke's Ultra League rankings, Dragon Breath + Aqua Tail + Crunch is listed as the standard moveset for Gyarados. It's the most effective combination of moves for the current meta. But is there any merit to running other moves?
While Waterfall may sound good on paper, it barely improves some scenarios when Dragon Breath already scored a close win (to put things in perspective, it leaves Gyarados with 5 more HP in the Registeel fight), at the cost of dropping a ton of highly relevant matchups (Giratina becomes a nightmare now). It does turn the tables in very specific battles like Obstagoon and Perrserker, but still fails to flip the losses against Clefable or Togekiss. Stick to the good ol' Dragon Breath.
Bite doesn't even score wins against Giratina or Cresselia. It's really bad. Seriously.
The legacy move Dragon Tail is Gyarados' best shot at having above average energy generation, but, just like Waterfall and Bite, in the end it only brings an incredible amount of losses with it.
Outrage is redundant when you're already dealing a ton of Dragon type damage with Dragon Breath as your fast move but, as seen in other formats, can form a sweet combo with Waterfall as your fast move. Unfortunately, that set is not doing any favours to Gyarados in the Ultra League. You're better off running Aqua Tail + Crunch anyways, even with Waterfall.
Gyarados as a Safe Switch
Gyarados has some serious value as a safe switch in the Ultra League, thanks to its capability of forcing switches even if the team doesn't have a true counter in the back. There's a few scenarios that flip from losses into wins with a small energy advantage, further enhancing Gyarados' role as a switch. A notable few examples are Empoleon, Gengar, Granbull (the Snarl variant), Perrserker and Regirock. But there's also the fact that a wounded Gyarados has a harder time scoring KOs, so switching it to absorb charge moves, even resisted ones, is not recommended.
Gyarados greatly benefits from higher stat product. Dragon Breath breakpoints do exist, but they don't flip any important matchup. On the other hand higher bulk means Gyarados reaches the finishing charge move, or survives long enough in order to faint its foe with fast moves. This usually involves the IVs of the opposing Pokémon too so it's hard to show on sims, but the Snorlax matchup is an example of this. During Community Day, aim to evolve your highest ranked Magikarp for the Ultra League.
Season 3 introduces an Ultra League version of the Premier Cup. Even when the ban on legendary and mythical Pokémon means no more Giratina and Registeel on virtually every corner, that doesn't mean Gyarados is lacking targets. For starters Gyarados beats the Swampert + Charizard core, a likely very prominent duo. In fact Aqua Tail Gyarados has strong matchups against most of Swampert's bodyguards (Bug, Fire and Flying type Pokémon that cover its Grass double weakness): it beats Escavalier and has favourable performance against Scizor, dominates against Typhlosion and Dragonite, and has very close fights against Drifblim and Skarmory. Gyarados also counters all relevant Fighting types bar Machamp, and has the edge against all other Water types except Lapras (which is a very close loss in most scenarios).
The Premier Cup provides a gentler meta for Gyarados' counters though. Gyarados absolutely hates facing Grass type Pokémon like Venusaur, Tangrowth and Meganium. Be prepared to see those, because they enjoy Giratina's absence. Fairy type Pokémon like Clefable and Togekiss are still a problem for Gyarados, you may also encounter an odd Electric type Pokémon like Magnezone every now and then. All these facts will hinder Gyarados' performance as a safe switch.
Shadow Gyarados is a particularly interesting topic. It reaches Dragon Breath breakpoints much easier, but as already stated before, this doesn't flip important matchups. Well, at least in open Ultra League matches. Shadow Gyarados achieves bait dependant wins against Abomasnow and Drifblim in the 1S scenario, and a bait dependant win against Empoleon in the 2S scenario -matchups that regular Gyarados loses-, all of which are expected to be quite popular during GO Battle League's Ultra League Premier Cup. This comes with some cons (for example Shadow Gyarados loses the 2S against Abomasnow, unlike regular Gyarados), so Shadow Gyarados doesn't really feel like an upgrade of its regular version, it's more about specific trade-offs and its easier time doing a great amount of damage with Dragon Breath alone.
— MASTER LEAGUE AND PREMIER CUP —
Gyarados has seen very little play in Master League so far, partially due to its uncompetitive stats. It can beat Groudon and Garchomp in all even shields, but struggles surprisingly against the many dragons, doesn't like Togekiss, and has a terrible Melmetal matchup. It's still likely to be a fringe pick, but Aqua Tail does improve some significant matchups. Alongside Dragon Breath and Crunch, Aqua Tail gives it bait-dependent wins in the 1S over Mewtwo and Giratina Origin, helps slightly against Zekrom and Palkia by letting Gyarados reach a second charge move in the 1S, and generally helps against the currently slightly less common Rhyperior, Snorlax, Heatran, Mamoswine, Machamp, Conkeldurr, and Lugia.
Premier Cup will be a much more common use of Aqua Tail Gyarados. Gyarados already sees considerable play in Premier Cup, being among the top five most used Pokémon in Silph tournament stats. Its usage was split between Dragon Breath and Waterfall variants, and Aqua Tail will start appearing on both.
Dragon Breath + Aqua Tail & Crunch
The Dragon Breath variant already tends to be run with Crunch and Hydro Pump as its charge moves. Crunch was its cheapest charge move; valuable for charge move races, baiting, and avoiding energy wastage. Crunch also provided Gyarados with super effective damage on Metagross, giving Gyarados the upper hand in that matchup, despite Gyarados' resisted Dragon Breaths. Hydro Pump is Gyarados' most powerful move and valuable coverage. Dark + Water isn't a very widely resisted type combination, and Hydro Pump is neutral against Togekiss unlike Gyarados' Dark and Dragon moves.
After Community Day, Dragon Breath Gyarados users will likely switch to Aqua Tail. It provides the same type coverage as Hydro Pump, but is much faster and more consistent. Although Hydro Pump has higher damage per energy than Aqua Tail (about 21% higher), a 35 energy charge move is more likely to convert energy into damage than a 75 energy move, which can be shielded or not get fully charge before death. This consistency of Aqua Tail improves a few common matchups in Premier.
Rhyperior gets easier with Aqua Tail. Hydro Pump is inefficient against Rhyperior, doing over 150% of its health in damage. Aqua Tail turns 1S to a win against Mud Slap and Smack Down (though needs 15 stamina IV to squeak the Smack Down win), and leaves Rhyperior on much lower health in 0S.
Machamp also gets easier. Aqua Tail turns a loss in 1S into a win if the Machamp doesn't bait, and a loss into a tie if it baits with Cross Chop. It is an IV dependent matchup, affected by the stamina IV on both ends. Aqua Tail also turns a 2S loss to a win if the Machamp doesn't bait with Cross Chop.
Against Metagross, Aqua Tail helps in a more subtle way. Dragon Breath Gyarados already won 2S and 1S using straight Crunch. However, straight Crunch would cost it 0S because Metagross would reach a second Meteor Mash before Gyarados reached a second Crunch. Gyarados could win 0S by using Hydro Pump (one Hydro Pump does more absolute damage to Metagross than one Crunch), but this strategy would lose 1S and 2S, and the Gyarados player has no way of knowing whether the Metagross will shield. If Gyarados goes straight Crunch, it may have to concede shield advantage to beat Metagross; if Gyarados goes for Hydro Pump, it may lose.
Aqua Tail solves this problem. Going straight Crunch until the Metagross is in Aqua Tail range means DB Gyarados wins all even shields with the same strategy. It's worth noting DB Gyarados remains a softer counter to Metagross than its Waterfall variant. Metagross can deny DB-Cr-AT Gyarados the 0S win with one Bullet Punch of energy from coming in first. It then reaches two Meteor Mashes before Gyarados reaches Crunch and Aqua Tail.
Waterfall + Aqua Tail & Outrage
Waterfall Gyarados has been a common alternative to Dragon Breath Gyarados in Premier. It does better against Metagross and Rhyperior, and less badly against Togekiss and Magnezone; at the expense of worse matchups against Dragonite, Garchomp, and the mirror. While Aqua Tail doesn't diversify Waterfall Gyarados' coverage as much as it does with Dragon Breath, the faster charge move is still valuable, especially given the slow energy generation of Waterfall.
Against Metagross, Crunch is still Gyarados' more powerful charge move, but Waterfall Gyarados does win all three even shield scenarios with just Aqua Tail. What’s more, the speed of Aqua Tail actually gives Waterfall Gyarados the win when Gyarados has a 1-2 shield disadvantage, making it one of the few Pokémon to beat Metagross in this situation.
Waterfall + Aqua Tail is the only move combination able to keep up with Togekiss. It achieves a tie in 1S, and Shadow Gyarados actually wins 1S. Togekiss also used to have an easier time wasting the energy Gyarados farmed with Waterfall: Waterfall Gyarados tended to run Crunch and Outrage, causing energy wastage against a Fairy Pokémon. Aqua Tail and Outrage is a less widely resisted pair of charge moves, which is important in this matchup. It's worth noting Gyarados has a Charm bulkpoint in this matchup, and needs at least 13 Defense IV to attain it.
Crunch could be run alongside Waterfall + Aqua Tail, but Outrage is the higher DPE move for closing situations, and provides valuable coverage against Dragonite, which resists Gyarados' water moves. Waterfall + Outrage Gyarados can win Dragonite 0S with one Waterfall energy advantage, such as when Gyarados switches in first.
VS Snorlax (A Key IV Consideration)
The Gyarados-Snorlax matchup contains one of the most important breakpoints in Premier Cup. Lick, as a one-turn fast move, is disproportionately affected by the integer rounding behind breakpoints. Lick normally does 2 damage per move to Gyarados (assuming Gyarados has a 14+ Defense IV), but a small increase in Snorlax's attack increases this to 3, a 50% damage increase. This increase can be achieved by best buddying or by Shadow status, so each Snorlax variant has to be considered separately.
Against normal Snorlax, Dragon Breath Gyarados had a loss in 2S, a bait dependent win in 1S, and a win in 0S. The wins required landing a Hydro Pump. Aqua Tail improves this matchup to a win in all three scenarios using straight Aqua Tail. However, Gyarados and Snorlax reach their 35 energy moves at the same time, and the 2S and 0S wins are driven by Gyarados winning charge move priority. They can be inverted if Snorlax has one Lick of energy from coming in first. Waterfall's higher damage output but lower energy generation gave it a different set of results, winning 2S with straight Crunch, 1S with straight Outrage, and 0S with straight Crunch. With Aqua Tail, WF Gyarados can still win all even shield scenarios, but still can't do that with one charge move strategy, needing to throw a Crunch or Outrage in 0S.
Best buddy Snorlax is the most dangerous Snorlax to Gyarados, because it achieves the Lick breakpoint without sacrificing any defense. BB Lax won all three even shield scenarios against Gyarados before, and still does, regardless of Gyarados' moveset. However, Gyarados can deny these wins if it is best buddy itself, in which case the matchup behaves like normal.
Shadow Snorlax attains the +50% Lick breakpoint, while giving Gyarados +25% Dragon Breath and +~23% Waterfall breakpoints in return. Aqua Tail has mixed results here. With Dragon Breath, it turns 1S to a win and 2S to a tie, but not having the power of Hydro Pump turns 0S to a loss. Waterfall Gyarados benefits more from Aqua Tail against Shadow Lax. It used to lose all three even shield scenarios. Now it has a win in 2S and a bait dependent win in 1S. One final nuance is Gyarados' own Shadow status is beneficial against Shadow Snorlax because Snorlax remains at 3 Lick damage while Gyarados gains breakpoints of its own. Shadow Gyarados with Dragon Breath and Aqua Tail reliably wins all three even shield scenarios against Shadow Snorlax.