Hidden Gems PvP Update Analysis

By @LazerBrianPogo & @redspah

With Thanks to @Tangent444 & @JibaNOWHERE

A Gem of an Update

Season 15 is underway and excitement is in the air. We know some people were worried about another season of minimal updates, or even having to go through an interlude season, but thankfully Niantic came through in a big way with the Hidden Gems update. An update that is both wide in reach and deep in impact. We got move changes, new moves, and a truckload of move distributions. There’s a lot to take in and try out. What new strategies and play styles will these changes unlock? How will these changes shake up the various open and limited metas? How will the Play! Pokemon landscape look in the Hidden Gems era as we head into Worlds? Let’s unpack and investigate this update to find out which Pokemon are diamonds in the rough and which ones are fool’s gold as we analyze the GBL Update: Season 15 Edition.





Coming in at 70 damage for 45 energy with a 30 percent chance to -1 the opponents defense, Liquidation is a Water type Crunch clone. And while it’s not game changing…that’s pretty darn good. It’s especially good news for a bunch of Water types currently saddled with moves like Aqua Jet and Water Pulse. It’s no Surf or Scald, but for a lot of the Pokémon getting it in the initial rollout it’s a case of anything being better than nothing and will be an amazing addition to their kits. It's not always about impacting the core meta and I expect the introduction of Liquidation to single-handedly raise a number of these Water types from the garbage can to limited cup viability. I like it.  



Coming in at 6 damage and 7 energy over 2 turns, Leafage is essentially a Grass type Bullet Punch. This move leaves me a little cold, mostly because of its competition. Vine Whip is an amazing move for strategies around energy generation and Razor Leaf is a classic hallmark for Fast Move pressure strategies. Leafage is just…fine. That’s the best way I can describe it. That being said, not every Grass type can learn Vine Whip and allowing these mons to potentially access a decent and more balanced fast move will still be a boon to Grass types overall. More flexibility and options is always a good thing.

The More Moves Change…the Less they Stay the Same


Spear! Spear! Spear!

Icicle Spear is being raised from 60 to 65 power. A little fine tuning from the dev team. Upon release, Icicle Spear and more specifically the combination of Powder Snow into Spear was way too strong. This led to Spear’s energy cost being increased. While this slashed its OGL usage overnight, the wicked Walrus maintained a strong presence in Ultra formats where the reduction in speed didn’t matter as much. 

While this is still worse than the original Spear, I think this added power will make a decent difference for Walrein. Icicle Spear was never *slow* and with this extra oomph I expect Walrein to make a decent comeback in OGL where its meta wins in the 1s jumps from to 16 to 21 (and 20 to 25 for the shadow). That being said I think the biggest impact will be felt in Ultra League. When an already used and viable Pokémon gets a strict upgrade the returns are often impressive. Look for Walrein to make a large jump in Open and limited Ultra formats.


A Fix for Fang?

We see another fine tuning attempt as Poison Fang’s power is increased from 40 to 45. I don’t think this will be as successful as the Spear adjustment. Though reasonable damage is nice, what made Poison Fang so powerful was the speed. “1 2 3 4 5 Fang!“ allowed Nidoqueen to overwhelm opposing mons and devalue shields. You weren’t shielding Fang because it hit hard, you were shielding it in an attempt to survive the ensuing Poison Jabs. This is to say that I don’t think this helps Queen that much and the numbers agree. Queen doesn’t see a huge upgrade in any OGL shield scenarios staying right around the 17 win mark in the 1s. A power increase is nice but 6 Jabs per Fang means Queen is either on schedule or outpaced by most of the meta. It’s a fair move, but fair is often not good enough in OGL. I would’ve liked to see a reduction in energy and a HUGE reduction in damage to see how that worked out, but with Worlds on the way…maybe it’s best to not mess with Pandora’s Nidoqueen for now. 

This buff will be a positive for other Fang users like Golbat. That being said, the sims pretty consistently suggest that increase in power won’t have nearly as big an impact as the loss in speed did.


Mud Stonks

Mud Bomb sees its power increased from 55 to 60. Not much else to say other than that this is a huge boon for Ground types. Just a straight up power increase to an already decent and cheap move = <3. This turns it from a chip and bait move, to an actual way to cycle out meaningful damage and take down neutral matchups more oftenI expect this to give more life to current Mud Bombers like Whishcash and UFisk, especially in limited formats.



Rollout has been messed with a number of times since its release on Alolan Geodude Community Day. First, it had its energy generation reduced before mass distribution to ward off the threat of insane bovine Body Slam spam. And now we are seeing its power increased to 5.

This won’t shift the meta but I do think this is really nice for Rollout users. You still don’t represent any real fast move pressure, but it’ll help alleviate awkwardness in some low health situations. The ability to at least farm down *sometimes* and not getting stuck dumping energy into almost downed opponents will be a nice QoL upgrade for Dunsparce and friends.


A Sad Day for Seedy B

Seed Bomb gets two changes this season: its energy cost is being increased and its power is being increased. While it wouldn’t be fair to call becoming stronger but slower a straight up nerf, it’s hard not to think that this makes the move worse. The speed in which a Seed Bomb user could deliver chip damage and how cheap of a bait move it was are what made Seed Bomb really powerful for Pokémon like Trevenant.

This is almost certainly the move change that will have the biggest impact on the Play! Pokemon meta, as Trev will go from being one of the most used Pokemon to being an anti meta tech choice or comfort pick. How will this change affect the mix of Medicham, Lanturn, Noctowl 

and Sableye we see at Worlds? Only time will tell.


Old Dogs Learning New Tricks


Alolan Sandslash gets Drill Run 

We in the PvP community like to throw around the term “strictly better” a little loosely but Alolan Sandslash receiving Drill Run is actually strictly better. Drill Run does the same amount of damage as Bulldoze for 15 less energy. There’s no debating that having access to the same power for less cost will make it a better Pokémon. The sims don’t illustrate this with a HUGE win rate jump but going through them you can see the difference. If nothing else a lot of your losses become closer losses or you can pressure shields better for shield advantage. Notably, this helps the non-shadow beat Lanturn more reliably as you can now get to two Drill Runs for the KO before you go down. The early returns suggest that this helps ASlash be more of a generalist and less of a pure tech option. A strict upgrade on a Pokémon that was already seeing some use in Play! Pokémon tournaments…What’s not to like?


The upgrade is much more noticeable in the bulkier Ultra League. The faster pacing of Drill Run allows you to pick up wins over mons like Jellicent, Fini, Empoleon and Lapras depending on the shield scenarios. Should make an already interesting Ultra choice even more viable.


Dewgong gets Liquidation and Drill Run 

This is a monumental update for Dewgong and cements this Gen 1 favorite as one of the biggest winners of this update. One of Dewgongs biggest problems was its second charge move. Ice Shard and Icy Wind are great, but Water Pulse wasn't cutting it. Dewgong gets both Liquidation AND Drill Run this season.


Liquidation is a neat option but you will almost always want to go with Icy Wind and Drill Run as your moves. The ability to play the war of attrition and do so with almost perfect coverage in Ice+Ground is fearsome. Having a way to hit other Water/Ice types for neutral and Steels for super effective does a lot for Dewgong in practice. It only sports a 19-24 record against the OGL meta in the 1s but I dont think this tells the whole story. The ability to debuff and save shields or debuff and dip all while having the threat of Drill Run will be pretty powerful in a resource battle.  I don't think this pushes it into the core meta but I think it will leave it as a viable anti-flier, a great tech option against certain metas, and a pretty decent generalist. If nothing else this will help Dewgong be a star in cups like Kanto Cup where it was already pretty good.


Quagsire Gets the newly buffed Mud Bomb 

The lovable Swagsire has a new toy to play with, and that toy itself has been upgraded. Quagsire now has access to the new and improved Mud Bomb as an alternative to the classic and strong, but slow, Earthquake. Will this change be the foundation of a new meta contender or a sinkhole? Only time will tell. My personal take is that non-shadow Quagsire will end up back on its old moveset. Mud Bomb helps you in the 2s but makes you weaker most other times. Earthquake is a good move and giving up this source of STAB damage doesn’t seem to work out. SHADOW Quag on the other hand LOOOOVES Mud Bomb. Sim aren’t everything but Shadow Quag with Mud Bomb sports a 28-15! record in the 1s vs the OGL meta. Mud Bomb alleviates the math problem shadow Quag had before where one EQ wouldn’t KO but you still couldn’t farm down. Needing to throw an entire extra Stone Edge into an almost downed Pokémon is bad for business. Now, Shadow Quagsire can operate around a more energy efficient game plan of landing two Mud Bombs or a Mud Bomb and a Stone Edge. Flexibility and options are always a good thing and I think this will, if nothing else, help Shadow Quagsire be more than a spicy meme.


Cradily gets Rock Slide 

Another example, like Quagsire, of what can happen when you give a good but slow Pokemon good cheaper Charge Moves to work with. Stone Edge is good, but the added speed of Rock Slide makes a bigger difference than you would think. The cheaper move helps Cradily reach more moves and generally be less clunky. Cradilly has to throw two moves to knock out most Pokemon anyways and spending 90 energy to do so instead of 100-110 energy will make matchups much easier to navigate. Cradilly also had this awkward problem where it just couldn’t get enough Stone Edges off against Fliers and Ice types before going down or spending two shields, and Rock Slide’s impact really shows in these matchups. Rock Slide Cradily picks up plenty of tasty matchups in various shield scenarios, most notably now beating Noctowl in the 1s and 2s. It also picks up new wins over Sable (0s and 1s), Venusaur (1s), Alolan Marowak (0s 1s and 2s) and (astoundingly) Altaria in the 2s! As a competent anti-flier that also does typical Grass things well, Cradilly is now a dark horse in the OGL meta.


Shadow Cradily also benefits a lot from this change, going from fodder to feasible. It has an amazing OGL meta record of 29-14 in the 0s but falls off a cliff with shields in play. The non-shadow probably remains the better and more consistent play overall.


The added speed wont have as big an impact on Ultra Cradily where it will stay on the fringe of the meta and see plays in formats like Summer Cup.


Abomasnow gets Leafage

Access to Leafage means Aboma will have a Grass move option that isn’t the one dimensional Razor Leaf. The problem is that Powder Snow is pretty good and you will likely prefer it to Leafage most of the time. Powder Snow generally sims better than Leafage although Leafage will be better if you are expecting to face a lot of Ice types. I could see Leafage being a meta-dependent call for something like Weather Cup, where it could be a good Grass alternative to Razor Leaf. 


Ice is a really valuable offensive typing for Ultra, and a meh Grass move won’t fill the holes Powder Snow leaves behind. Again, it's somewhat of a meta call and I could see Leafage being preferred in things like Weather Cup: Ultra or maybe even Ultra Prem.


Whimsicott gets Seed Bomb 

If only Whimsicott had been given Seed Bomb before the nerf. As is, Seed Bomb isn't a huge addition to the cotton ball’s kit, but it is the cheap Charge Move option it's currently lacking and is a nice thing to have. Seed Bomb over Grass Knot mostly helps out in longer battles like two shield scenarios or against bulkier mons like Cresselia. I think Grass Knot is preferable, but it could be a team or meta based decision.  


The Rowlet Family gets Leafage

Leafage finally gives this family something to work with that isn’t tap tap Razor Leaf. It's a nice pickup for Decidueye, but it's still pretty bad and sim hero-ey at that. It has a CHANCE to be decent in limited metas when it gets Frenzy Plant, but will probably still not be great. 


Datrix might be the family’s biggest beneficiary. It should be pretty good in future Evolution Cups, as it handily beats the fighters and beats the never ending bucket of health that is Chansey. 


Disarming Additions: Wigglytuff and Primarina get Disarming Voice 

I am grouping Wigglytuff and Primarina together because I think the addition of Disarming Voice to their movepools will accomplish basically the same thing. Giving Charmers access to any remotely cheap Charge Move is a huge boon. The power of the move isn’t that big a deal as it can still, in tandem with the accumulated Charm damage, threaten knockouts and pressure shields. Both of these mons were niche viable before, so this will only help push them closer to the meta.


If you think this makes Primarina annoying…I’ll just say wait until it gets Hydro Cannon.


Clefable gets Fairy Wind

The ascent of GFisk and Nidoqueen into great league staple status pushed all but a few fairies into meta irrelevance and even a Poison Fang nerf couldn’t fix that. The reason, simple: Charm users are mostly interchangeable, so trainers opt for ones that bring something else to the table like A9, Wigglytuff, or Shadow Granbull. This combined with the Charm nerf pushed all but a handful of fairies into irrelevance. 


Clefable getting Fairy Wind is another step  in Niantics *slow* process towards making Fairies something other than just interchangeable tap tappers. How impactful will this change be though?


Fairy Wind / Meteor Mash / Moonblast is the only truly open format viable moveset that she can muster for herself and this reveals the new Clefable’s first and major roadblock on the road to OGL relevance: She’s slow. Six Fairy Winds to a Meteor Mash isn't *bad*, but every single pokemon not named Alolan Ninetales can comfortably take a non-STAB Meteor Mash to the face. Steel isn’t a great offensive typing in OGL. It’s resisted by Water Electric Steel and Fire,4 very common types in OGL. You’re going to see teams with 3 or more of these types on most Play! tournaments top cut teams. This all adds up to Clefables cheaper move not being particularly useful or threatening in many situations. 


Thankfully Moonblast is much better, but that’s still not enough to carry the stellar fairy. While one shotting Sableye and Medicham is nice, and it does two-shot almost every other mon in the format that doesn't resist Fairy- the lack of real fast move pressure means you will *always* rely on that two-shot. It’s a lot like Swampert in that way to give you an idea of how matchups will play out. 


A 6/6/5 fast move cadence is just so, so much slower than a 5/4/5/4 cadence, resulting in Clefable losing in many matchups versus mons that can count to five (Vigoroth, Walrein, Swampert). On top of that, being unable to hit so much of the meta for even neutral damage with its cheaper move gives opponents a ton of extra time to farm, knowing it will be a while before they need to actually shield anything


None of this is to say that Clefable is unviable. Not at all. She still core breaks Medicham / Sableye, beats Dark types, and as long as she is even a couple Fairy Winds ahead, holds her own against every non-Steel, non-Fire type opponent in the format. A couple Fairy Winds doesn't sound like much, but it's still more than most other top-tier viable Pokemon need, making her appearance in a top cut team at a Play! tournament rather unlikely.


If only there was a format where needing to two shot everything wasn’t that bad or unusual? Oh wait, Ultra League! Clefable can get to two Moonblasts faster than most other mons can get to their respective two-shots, which gives her a noticeable leg up in the format. Noticeable enough to send her straight into OUL Meta territory? Quite likely, yeah. A Fairy that can do what all the other fairies already do but also wins versus other fairies, can consistently pressure shields, take a good few neutral wins (Cofagrigus, Dubwool, Snorlax, Greedent, Walrein), explode Aurorus with this one weird trick, and can potentially get you far ahead in a match if you manage to farm down a low health opponent? Good stuff, as one might say. S tier good? No, but at the very least "tied for second best Fairy in the format" good with Alolan Ninetales and behind Tapu Fini which is a Mt. Moon higher on the tier list than she's been up to this point. 


Just give her Meteor Beam to fully complete the space theming and REALLY send her into stupid territory pls Niantic please-


Emolga gets Acrobatics

This humble Electric Flier might be the biggest winner of the update. It’s hard to describe how big of a deal it is to go from the meme that is the underpowered Aerial Ace to the hard hitting Acrobatics. This upgrade is enough to push Emolga’s record against the OGL meta in the 1s from 16-27 to 24-19! Some of these new wins include meta titans like Medicham, Sableye, and Shadow Swampert. What great wins to pick up. This is a massive glow up. A Princess Dairies level glow up (I appreciate all 15 of you that got that reference). Sadly, there I do smell a stench of sim hero here to be sure; as any wins predicated on landing a 60 energy move will lose consistency in translation from sim to practice, but let’s not rain on this flying squirrel’s parade. 


I don't think Emolga will all of a sudden be an OGL meta contender, but I think this pushes it to spice rack or fringe viable status and be a dark horse contender for limited cup stardom. Going from joke Flying Cup-only status to these new heights is a big deal, even if it doesn't show up in the Play! Pokemon results.


Drifblim gets Mystical Fire 

A recipient of the new move Mystical Fire, Drifblim is looking to burn down the OGL this season. Mystical Fire is 60 power for 45 energy with a 100 percent chance to -1 the opponents attack. It’s a Fire-type Icy Wind. This is really nice for Drif as it gives it more ways to combat Steel. Mystical Fire Dirf can actually beat Galarian Stunfisk and Registeel with some regularity now; huge meta pickups for a flier. It doesn’t change much for the shadow but helps with the Steels and adds a win against A9. I don’t think this makes Drifblim meta in OGL, but I think it will make it an interesting Flying or Ghost substitute while making an already strong limited meta option even stronger.


While Great League Drif will almost always prefer Shadow Ball + Mystical Fire over any combo involving Icy Wind, the Ultra League balloon will likely stay stuck in its ways. Ice is just too nice for Ultra League.


Golisopod gets Liquidation  

More like GolisoPOG. Upgrading from Aqua Jet to Liquidation is an insane come up. It’s still bad in open Great League, but bad in a “oh it's too bad I can't make Golisopod work” kind of way instead of a “why is this thing on my screen” kind of way. Still, walling things like Swampert and Walrein is a never bad thing for a Great League mon.


It looks far more interesting in Ultra League. Its winrate isn't crazy high, but the QUALITY of its wins is insane. It sports positive matchups over Ultra staples like Charizard, Walrein, Cressie, and Cobalion. I would be shocked if you didn't see at least Golisopod targets per game. Ultra Golisopod’s big problem is that Giratina and Registeel exist and dominate it, a fatal flaw in Open Ultra. I think it will really shine in limited formats like Prem where those classic Ultra stalwarts aren't there to derail the hype train. 


Speaking of Liquidation, here are some quick hits on other new Liquidation enjoyers:

Cloyster: The worst Water/Ice Pokemon in the game... remains the worst Water/Ice Pokemon in the game.

Golduck: Having a STAB move is nice, doesn't broaden its horizons beyond the very few formats it ever saw any use in.

Armaldo: Liquidation offers a *miniscule* niche in rock-heavy formats, but isn't enough to make it even come close to being considered instead of Crustle.

Eelektross: *Someone* will figure out a format in which being a mono-Electric with Dragon and Water coverage will make sense one day, right?

Carracosta: Already had Surf, and with its slow energy generation and exploitable typing it has no incentive to run anything but the cheapest moves it can.

Beartic: Already had Surf, and with its slow decent energy generation terrible bulk and exploitable typing it has no incentive to run anything but the cheapest moves it can.

Floatzel: No matter how bad your day or rough your life situation- at least you can have the relief, deep down, that you're doing better than Floatzel is.

* Vaporeon:

Ursaluna gets Ice Punch 

I remember when Ursaluna was announced we were very curious as to what moves it would get and then we were…less than impressed at what we got. I still think Shadow Claw would have been a bit much, but Ice Punch would have been totally reasonable and thankful that's now the timeline we’re living in.  


Ground+Electric is decent coverage, but Ground+Ice coverage is even better, especially in Master League where the bear is seen most. I wouldn’t call this a massive upgrade (and I think it's possible you will still want Thunder Punch sometimes) but I would call this a nice buff overall and gives Ursaluna players more options and flexibility while battling and team building.

Other Pokemon with changes:
Lurantis family gets Leafage - Fast move wasn’t what held this family back as Fury Cutter is pretty good, but Leafage can be a more balanced Grass type option

Probopass gets Zap Cannon - I think Registeel makes people forget how gosh darn expensive Zap Cannon is. A nuke option is nice but it will be a disaster for the mustachioed one when it gets shielded. I think Probo will end up sticking with its decent slate of consistent charge moves like Rock Slide and Magnet Bomb.

Litwick gets Mystical Fire  - Almost no one was using Litwick in Little Formats and when they were it was because of its typing and Fast Move damage. Mystical Fire seems like less of a reason to play Litwick and more of a bonus if you were going to do so anyways.

Tyranitar gets Brutal Swing- Not a huge deal in PvP as TTar is seldom seen. Will be nice to have an even slightly cheaper move to throw when using Shadow Smackdown TTar in formats like Halloween Cup. Will have far more of an impact in PvE content.

Heatran gets Earth Power - Anyone who has played the main series competitively knows Earth Power and Heatran go hand in hand, but is it the same here? Well it’s a slight buff for sure, but nothing too impactful. In the Master League, Earth Power provides a considerably heavier hit on Dialga and Zekrom at the cost of some neutral damage. Sadly, one of Heatran’s glaring weaknesses is the slowness of its Charged Attacks, and Earth Power doesn’t fix this. Until that gets addressed, Heatran will remain a spice pick at best in the Master League.


All in all, I think we can all agree that this update rocks. New moves to play around with, previously non-viable mons being usable, a shakeup to the premier tournament format, and changes that will be felt across all leagues. I’m not sure what else you could ask for from a depth and breadth perspective. Niantic tried really hard on this update and it shows. They’re never going to be able to please everyone with every change, that's just not how humans or the internet work, but if this update is at all indicative of what’s to come, it's safe to say that Pokemon GO PvP is on a good path to a good place balance wise.