Second Division Champions: Limited Cup All Stars Part 1
redspah with the help of GO Stadium Meta Team
6 months ago
Coming into GO PvP as a new (or even just experienced but previously uninterested in PvP) player can be daunting due to the sheer number of different PvP-specific Pokémon one has to build to feel comfortable playing around and experimenting in the meta. A Great League Sableye or Medicham is an even bigger investment than most of the top tier raid attackers, understandably giving many people cold feet at the thought of dumping hundreds of thousands of Stardust crumbs into a Pokémon that’s useless outside of this one limited aspect of the game.
And when it comes to getting your Pokémon loadout ready for participation in limited formats, all those worries are multiplied tenfold, with the fruit of your investment not just only useful for PvP, but in most regards too bad for open PvP leagues while at it.
And yet, many players still do it, because limited formats can be a lot of fun. And at a certain point, it’s not like there’s much else to do in the game or spend your dust on anyway.
This series of articles is intended to act as an overview of basically all Great League limited format relevant Pokémon, outlining their general categories and going over what makes them worth using in the first place. Needless to say, there’s a ton of ground to cover, enough to necessitate splitting this series into at least six parts for readability, lest you end up with an article the size of a novella.
So come along, strap in, and join me on the tour of all the limited format mainstays, from the ones good enough to nip at the heels of open Great League meta, to those niche even within an already niche playstyle, starting with perhaps the most recognizable name of them all.
Froslass, my beloved
The time comes, and after a couple of days of haggling over schedules, an internet outage and an hour wait because “something came up”, it’s time for your next Silph match. You go ingame, and seven sent invites and three app reloads later, the battle finally begins. You lose lead, but with good counting, a lucky debuff and by spending a shield, you end up winning switch, though your lead is left at low life.
In horror, you watch as the opponent's Froslass comes in and starts farming you down. You desperately scramble to get to a move and at least force a shield out, but it's fruitless. With one last frame rate hitch, your Pokémon goes down with a ready move. You scream, for you know there's nothing you can do but watch your team be effortlessly swept by a Froslass with a shield and energy advantage, the sight so gruesome it snaps you out of the nightmare you have found yourself in.
You sit up in your bed, drenched in cold sweat. You feebly attempt to catch your breath before bringing up your phone and pulling up PvPoke, opening a twenty second tab to figure out if you can squeeze in one more soft Froslass check on your team, bringing that number up to six.
There isn't a Pokémon to which the saying "give them an inch, and they'll take a mile" applies to more than Froslass, at least in the realm of Great League limited formats. With its ridiculously hard hitting Avalanches and Shadow Balls, it can force shields out of everything that doesn't resist both of her moves. And they’re not expensive moves in the first place, Powder Snow letting it build up to its heavy hitters much faster than some familiar Pokémon like Azumarill, Skarmory or even Galarian Stunfisk with its Mud Shot get to their big hitters.
And there are very few typings that resist both Ice and Ghost mind you, and all of them are themselves weak to Fighting. The most generally viable options from this limited pool are Litleo and Bibarel, a selection only a bit less unimpressive than it sounds like on the surface. While both of them have enough of a case for themselves to merit a spot in this series of articles, they’re also both very situational, and rarely even allowed in the same formats as Froslass in the first place. While Froslass' bulk is nothing to write home about, it's not bad either, about equal to that of Swampert, making wearing her down through neutral damage not always feasible.
As a result, most of the time even the hardest available Froslass checks only win on an even fighting ground, shield and energy-wise. An advantage as small as a couple extra Powder Snow’s worth of energy, something very likely if one even slightly hesitates on a counter-switch, can result in Froslass dominating the matchup over its supposed checks. Just as an example, in Silph Arena’s Architect Cup, Froslass goes 61-0 in a 1-0 shields matchup vs. all other available Pokémon. The 2-1 shields matchup is only a little bit better, with Froslass going 59-2, with its two losses being Shadow Banette and Normal Castform. The former can farm it down before the second Avalanche with Shadow-boosted Shadow Claw, like a generally unviable Shadowy Shade it is.
The latter can spam Weather Ball Rock faster than Froslass can spam Avalanche, showcasing one of the more consistent methods of dealing with her, Rock type damage. Rock types often end up being the dedicated Froslass counter in other formats, with Pokémon like Magcargo or Crustle committing shields to farm Froslass down with their high damage Fast attacks. Doing the same with Froslass' other two relevant weaknesses, Fire and Dark, can also work, though tends to be much less viable in practice, largely because Fire Fang and Bite are both god awful moves.
Why is it not good enough for open GL?
She borderline is, but runs into several issues that prevent her from reaching the same highs that she does in limited formats. Because bulk levels tend to be much higher in open Great League as opposed to limited formats, it's much harder to pressure shields in order to gain an advantage to capitalize on. Several of the open Great League mainstays can eat whatever she throws and only barely flinch, such as Registeel, Azumarill, Araquanid, Umbreon, and Galarian Stunfisk. In addition, Walrein is one of her harder matchups in the open Great League meta. It can comfortably tank a Shadow Ball and respond with its own Earthquake while taking much, much less chip damage due to double resisting Ice and being bulkier overall. Froslass doesn't appreciate Charm either.
Though, a perhaps even bigger reason for her unviability is that two of the biggest Great League Ghost-types, Trevenant and Sableye, already perform similar roles, with better typings and more meta relevant resistance profiles. As good as STAB Avalanche is, it can't on its own make up for the fact of Ice being a god-awful defensive typing, even if Ghost takes care of its most cripping weakness.
The aforementioned Walrein also tends to steal Froslass' lunch when it comes for being considered for a slot on one's team. Icicle Spear is no Avalanche power-wise, but comes out much faster, letting the walrus get to four Icicle Spears in the time it takes Froslass to get to three Avalanches. This may not sound like much, but especially with a Shadow boost, most open Great League meta Pokémon that are weak to Ice will get knocked out by either move all the same, while letting Walrein bait more effectively. Froslass has her advantages too, notably being a reliable Medicham check, but the aforementioned issues, combining with Earthquake being generally more useful for coverage than Shadow Ball, result in her playing a distant second fiddle to Walrein in open Great League.
Role: Sleep Paralysis Demon Absurdly hard hitting Ice type that resists Fighting
Relevance: Froslass has never seen a format she was allowed in that she didn't have significant amounts of play in
Recommended Moveset: Powder Snow / Avalanche / Shadow Ball
Shadow / Return viability: N/A
I am afraid of some Mud
As anyone who had even briefly entertained the idea of using Aurorus in PvP knows, not all typings are created equal in the world of Pokémon. Some typings are terrible defensively (Ice + anything, Rock + most types, Grass/Ground), others are exceptional (Steel + most types, Fairy + most types, Water/Ground, Normal), and Dark/Poison falls much closer to the latter end of the spectrum than it does the former. With five resistances and only one weakness to Ground, a type with very limited access to reliable and consistent damage output, Dark/Poison ends up as one of the best defensive typings in the game with shields up.
Offensively, the typing also looks really solid, at least at a glance. Dark/Poisons themselves aside, only a small handful of Pokémon resist both of these types, and most of them are otherwise terrible (sorry not sorry Lucario fans). The only usable Great League hard counter left is Toxicroak, itself a rather brittle Pokémon by GO standards. Sounds like a recipe for a meta defining Pokémon, right? A typing that's excellent both defensively and offensively, with basically no relevant hard counters to be seen anywhere, what more would one want?
A decent bit as it turns out. While it's true that Dark/Poison is very good defensively and has very good offensive coverage, it struggles to hit a ton of Great League meta Pokémon super effectively. It absolutely hard counters Trevenant and gives Sableye a bad time, true. Especially with a Poison type Fast Attack, however, it struggles with Steel and Ground, which considering Galarian Stunfisk and Nidoqueen are on six out of every five open Great League teams becomes something of an issue. Even those matchups aside, Dark/Poison will end up being neutral against most of its opponents, which merits a closer look at just how good each Dark/Poison is in a vacuum.
There are currently four Dark/Poison Pokémon with the stats to compete in the Great League, Alolan Grimer, Skuntank, Alolan Muk, and Drapion. The former two are most easily compared to each other, as in many ways they're basically the same Pokémon. Their stat products are almost identical, and they have the same STAB moveset of Poison Jab / Crunch / Sludge Bomb, and of course, they have the same typing, even in the same order, but the latter is of course cuter. Skuntank ends up having a few more aces up its tail though, enough to make it the clearly superior option. It can ditch one of its STAB moves for Flamethrower to handle Steel types, it can become even Dark-er and is available as a Shadow, and, if you're lucky enough to get an extremely low IV Shadow Stunky, can be purified to stay under 1500 CP after purifying, giving it access to Return (Sableye moveset anyone?). Alolan Grimer's only advantage in turn is being eligible for Kanto Cup (where it is very good, no doubts about that), and only costing one point in Silph Arena's 2021 Continentals format.
Alolan Muk can also engage in a Poison Jab / double STAB tango, but it's notably worse at it, despite its slightly better, above average stat product for the simple reason of having more expensive Charged Attacks. Dark Pulse requires one more Poison Jab over Crunch, and Sludge Wave requires two more Poison Jabs over Sludge Bomb, which doesn't sound like a lot but most definitely adds up, especially in a more protracted matchup where shields come into play. Replacing Sludge Wave with Defense-debuffing Acid Spray is often the preferred option, albeit a risky one that works best with shields still in play. Where Alolan Muk can distinguish itself from its Dark/Poison brethren is when it ditches Poison Jab for Snarl, letting its stronger and more expensive Charged Attacks come out and start wrecking house. However, it doesn’t come without a drawback as Alolan Muk becomes left with essentially zero Fast Attack pressure and struggles significantly more with shields still up.
Some consider Drapion to be by far the best out of the bunch and those people would be correct as it is the best of both worlds. It combines Alolan Muk's slightly higher bulk, a Fast Attack with even higher energy generation than Snarl in Poison Sting, and the Crunch / Sludge Bomb STAB combo that characterizes the other two Dark/Poisons. It's easy to see why Drapion is usually considered the best of the bunch, and that's not even including its coverage move in Aqua Tail, letting it muscle past both its typing brethren and get back at the Ground types that would typically threaten it.
As anyone venerable enough to remember the first couple seasons of Silph Arena knows though, Dark/Poison but extra wet isn't even the only role Drapion can perform. With access to Ice Fang, STAB Bite, and even Fell Stinger (Bug-type clone of Power-Up Punch), Drapion can also put on a lot of Fast Attack pressure. Alhough with both Bite and Ice Fang being underwhelming, this side of the Ogre Scorpion Pokémon has seen much less use as the Crunch spammin', Aqua Tailin' aspect rose to dominance.
Thanks to the nearly non-existent weaknesses and almost un-resisted STAB combo, Dark/Poisons as a whole make for excellent safe switches, doubly so if the format doesn't have Toxicroak to come ruin their day. Even against Toxicroak though, Shadow Drapion with Aqua Tail can pull out a win in 1-1 with just two Poison Stings of advantage, making a switch-in and comfortable farmdown against Drapion in particular an extremely risky idea.
Oh boy, new Pokémon to play around with! Not too long after this article was released, Hisuian Qwilfish and Overqwil were added to Pokemon GO, and as much potential as they had, they ultimately end up being mostly just worse Drapions. Not wholly so of course, they have the unique combo of Poison Jab + Aqua Tail going for them, but in absence of either Poison Fang or Crunch, the rest of their movepool is on the slower side, something that their disagreeable bulk has a hard time accommodating. Of course, they can go with Poison Sting instead, but at that point they're back on Drapion's turf, with the only unique option in their arsenal being Ice Beam. Shadow Ball is a consideration too- an unimpressive consideration, hitting basically just as strong as STAB Dark Pulse while being five energy more expensive. There's something to be said for Ghost's better neutral coverage compared to Dark, but at that point you're basically just scrambling for an excuse not to use Drapion.
Why is it not good enough for open GL?
Alolan Grimer, Alolan Muk and Skuntank end up coming up short against many open Great League meta Pokémon because of relying on neutral matchups and just not having the raw stats to compete with the best of them. In addition, they absolutely eat dirt from every Steel and Ground type, and even some Pokémon that are neither of these types with the increased popularity of Earthquake as Walrein's coverage move of choice. Skuntank can opt into Flamethrower to make its Steel matchup a bit less bad, but Flamethrower isn’t a cheap move, taking 16 turns for Skuntank to build up energy for it with Poison Jab. Which is the same number of turns as Galarian Stunfisk takes to get to an Earthquake or Registeel to get to Zap Cannon, and both of those hurt Skuntank far more than its STAB-less Flamethrower hurts back, even if it opts into being a Shadow. Alas, even Flamethrower isn’t nearly enough to make that malodorous mephit matter in the meta.
Drapion has no such weaknesses. Of the four Dark/Poisons, it is by far the most viable. Aqua Tail gives it a tool to fight back against Galarian Stunfisk and Nidoqueen and the Charged Attack centric playstyle results in Crunch being its primary damage source, mitigating the impact of resistances to its Poison type Fast Attack.
That's not to say it doesn't have other weaknesses though. It has a bad case of Two Charged Attack Slot Syndrome, really, really wishing it had access to Aqua Tail, Crunch, and Sludge Bomb simultaneously since dropping any of those results in it losing some vital matchups. Without Aqua Tail, it's just as ineffectual against Galarian Stunfisk as its siblings, and even with it, Drapion doesn't exactly win. Without Sludge Bomb, it gets walled by Azumarill (and Poliwrath, as anyone who played Nemesis or Architect can attest to), and without Crunch, it loses its most reliable STAB damage output, losing even to Sableye.
Role: Safe Switch, anti-Ghost
Relevance: Very high, Dark/Poisons make for meta centerpieces in every format that allows them
- Alolan Grimer: Poison Jab / Crunch / Sludge Bomb
- Skuntank: Poison Jab / Crunch / Sludge Bomb OR Flamethrower
- Alolan Muk: Poison Jab OR Snarl / Dark Pulse / Acid Spray OR Sludge Wave
- Drapion: Poison Sting / Crunch / Aqua Tail OR Sludge Bomb
- Hisuian Qwilfish / Overqwil: Poison Jab OR Poison Sting / Aqua Tail / Dark Pulse OR Sludge Bomb OR Ice Beam OR Shadow Ball
Shadow / Return viability:
Of the four, only Skuntank and Drapion can be obtained as Shadows, and only Skuntank stays under 1500 CP after purifying (if you're lucky enough to end up with a very low IV Stunky). Return gives it access to Sableye-like moveset, making it a very useful pick to have in your back pocket if you fancy a Dark/Poison with a hand over other Dark/Poisons, while Shadow Stuntank ends up with a menacingly powerful Poison Jabs, letting it farm down most opponents that don't resist Poison with relative ease.
Drapion marks a rare case where Shadow boost is preferable on a Charged Attack reliant Pokémon, in no small part due to its Charged Attacks costing very little energy, enabling it to toss them out left and right. With a Shadow boost, Crunch goes from three hit KO to a two hit KO in many, many matchups, letting Shadow Drapion force out shields like it's nobody's business. Shadow Skorupi might be hard to obtain and very expensive to power up, but if one enjoys limited formats at all, it's an investment that will pay itself back extremely quickly, if in clout and dopamine rather than stardust.
As anyone who's been playing GO Battle League for a while can attest to, if there's one nominally common Pokémon type that you don't end up seeing all that much of in PvP, it's the Bug type. However, this entry isn't about those, largely because they're garbage as a general principle, but instead about another type to which that aforementioned observation sometimes applies as well: the Fire type (which contrary to some entities' perception, consists of more than just Charizard).
There are several reasons for that, but two come to mind the most. First is most Fire type Pokémon having a bad, offense-skewed main series games base stat distribution, rendering them unusably glassy in GO PvP. Second is Water's dominance in the meta. Azumarill isn't as meta warping as it's once been but it's still a stellar open Great League pick, Swampert can go from zero to one shotting almost any Fire type in five Mud Shots, Tapu Fini has joined in on the ride recently as well, and even though Walrein's main damage dealer in Icicle Spear is resisted by Fire types, Earthquake is very good at putting them in their place.
But that's open Great League, and what about limited formats where most of those meta defining Pokémon are banned? It's a little bit better there, but still far from stellar. In many formats the few good Fire-types end up being specialists that contribute perhaps even more through bench pressure than they do on the actual battlefield, especially in Grass, Bug, or Steel heavy formats, but not always. That state is in no small part caused by the first aforementioned reason—there are just no truly tanky Fire types in GO. Alolan Marowak and Magcargo are only above average in that regard, and that's the best it gets outside of future Carkol / Coalossal. Without either good bulk or good defensive typing, Fire-types have to rely on having good enough movesets to be worthwhile, which fortunately some of them do get.
It can be tempting to attempt to make subcategories for the Fire types based on aspects like Fast Attack similarities, but with the unique niches most of them occupy it's best to go through them one by one.
Following hsineerg's win at Vancouver regionals, Kanto Ninetales, especially the Shadow variety with the Ember Fast Attack, was catapulted into the spotlight from the much more niche position it used to occupy, and not without a reason. Regardless of the Fast Attack, Weather Ball Fire gives it a good source of sustained damage in a neutral matchup, Overheat lets it force out shields extremely well, and its decent bulk ensures it can't get chipped by neutral damage anywhere as easily as most of its brethren. The choice of Fire Spin versus Elite Fast TM-requiring Ember mostly comes down to personal preference as both of the Fast Attacks have a very similar statline, but the one area where Ember gets an edge is duration. Lasting only two turns instead of three, Ember has a noticeable maneuverability advantage. Coverage immediately arises as an issue for the firefox. Solar Beam is much too expensive to be worth using, and Psyshock, as nice as Fire + Psychic coverage combo is, doesn't do enough to soften its losses, especially as that additionally means losing out on Overheat. Especially with a Shadow boost, Overheat can put a massive dent into even most Water types, dealing over half their lifebar to everything not named Azumarill.
In most aspects, Sunny Castform is just a discount version of Kanto Ninetales. Fortunately though, it's only a 15% discount. The literal ball of sunshine is just as good at reliably dishing out Fire-type damage as its foxy equivalent with access to both Ember and Weather Ball Fire as well. The two even have basically identical bulk, but the second Charged Attack slot is where the key difference comes, and where Sunny Castform burns much dimmer than Ninetales. Fire Blast doesn’t hold a candle to Overheat with its extra energy cost, forcing Sunny Castform to go with its only other remaining option Solar Beam. And yes, it's just as bad here as with Kanto Ninetales. You'll be lucky to get good use out of it in even one out of a hundred games, but it's technically better than not having a second Charged Attack so might as well. Because it’s inferior to Kanto Ninetales, Sunny Castform only sees use in formats where Kanto Ninetales is unavailable (e.g. Generation-based formats), or point-based formats where Kanto Ninetales is in a higher price tier (e.g. Venture Cup).
Compared to these two, Litleo has much less going for it on paper. It doesn't learn Weather Ball, forcing it to rely on Flame Charge for its Fire type Charged Attack damage output, and it’s just enough less bulky than them for it to be noticeable. So, what does Litleo actually have going for it? Its typing. Normal is generally not considered a particularly interesting typing, but because limited formats occasionally allow Normal types without extending that invitation to Fire types as a whole, Litleo can find itself in a position of being the only viable Fire type in the format. Furthermore, that very same Normal typing lets it be a good check to other Normal-type Pokémon reliant on the Fast Attack Lick with Crunch giving it a handy piece of coverage against ghosts, such as the next entry in this section. And before you ask, Pyroar is just a straight downgrade from Litleo in basically every regard, please don't use it.
Alolan Marowak is a tricky one to classify, as it very feasibly fits both in the Fire type section, and in the Ghost type section coming further down the line. Because of the extremely unfortunate Fire-type Charged Attack selection it was cursed with, the most common Alolan Marowaks movesets feature Fire Spin as its only source of Fire type damage, which while sufficient to get wins over most opponents weak to Fire might come as a surprise. This arrangement has several upsides to it, however, enough to make Alolan Marowak by far the most open Great League viable Pokémon in this entire section, especially with its respectable bulk. Regardless of whether you prefer Shadow Ball or Alolan Marowak's exclusive Elite TM move Shadow Bone, either one of them is a must have in any serious player's moveset, letting the fiery spinner dish out surprising amounts of neutral damage, especially with a Shadow boost. Bone Club, the other half of the most common moveset, is far less impressive with its pitiful statline, but its utility both as a bait move and a threat to opposing Bastiodon make it basically a must-have as long as one is using Fire Spin. However, this isn't necessarily the only correct way of playing Alolan Marowak- movesets featuring the more energy generation oriented Fast Attack Hex have also popped up on occasion, generally featuring Shadow Bone accompanied by the still-unwieldy-but-more-manageable-here Fire Blast, or even Return on occasion. As fun and interesting as Alolan Marowak typing is though, it ends up being its biggest pain point as far as open Great League use goes, leaving it both weak to the very common Water types and to almost equally common Dark types, resulting in an almost certain counter switch-in of an actual counter if Alolan Marowak is not played in the lead.
Magcargo is living proof positive that you can have one of the worst defensive typings possible and still be somewhat viable- at least sometimes. The Lava Pokémon is by far the most situationally viable out of all the Fire-types listed here, with a double weakness to both Water and Ground leaving it too risky to use in many formats. If it ever manages to line itself up into a neutral matchup though, it can do a ton of work despite its expensive Charged Attacks, thanks to its Fast Attack Incinerate. With Incinerate's very good energy generation, Magcargo is never more than three of them away from threatening a powerful Overheat while more than likely delivering the Attack-debuffing Rock Tomb instead. Stone Edge is also an option to capitalize on opponents calling the bait and still delivering solid damage. Just keep it away from mud for its own sake, please.
Charizard and Typhlosion exist, too. I've already written about them at length recently in another article of mine, but the rough gist is as follows:
- Charizard is a Fire Spin-based glass cannon, threatening Blast Burns that are almost as strong as Overheats but without the self-debuff, wielding Dragon Claw as its bait sidearm, and coming with an unusually wide selection of viable Fast Attacks.
- Typhlosion is a Incinerate-based glass cannon, reliant on dishing out five Incinerates before dishing out two Blast Burns in a row and almost certain to either burn its opponents shields completely or leave at least one Pokémon fainted. Considering its own frailty, however, that Pokémon can just as likely be Typhlosion itself, even with a shield investment.
Yes, I know Blaziken is also nominally a Fire type, but because of its Counter-based playstyle, it'll be discussed in the section about fighters. Ditto for Victini and psychics.
Why is it not good enough for open GL?
I've already outlined the main reasons, but it won't hurt to reiterate them—a combination of Fire being a bad defensive typing (especially with Water being so dominant in open Great League), less than stellar if not downright abysmal bulk, and, often enough, problems with coverage. Despite all those, Kanto Ninetales and especially Alolan Marowak manage to be borderline viable in open Great League.
Role: Anti-Grass/Steel Specialists, rarely safe switches (especially Kanto Ninetales and Alolan Marowak)
Relevance: High for Kanto Ninetales and Alolan Marowak, Low-Medium for everything else
- Kanto Ninetales: Fire Spin OR Ember* / Weather Ball Fire / Overheat OR Psyshock OR Solar Beam
- Sunny Castform: Ember / Weather Ball Fire / Solar Beam
- Litleo: Ember / Flame Charge / Crunch
- Alolan Marowak: Fire Spin OR Hex / Shadow Ball OR Shadow Bone* / Bone Club OR Fire Blast OR Return*
- Magcargo: Incinerate OR Rock Throw / Overheat / Rock Tomb OR Stone Edge
- Charizard: Fire Spin OR Wing Attack* OR Dragon Breath* OR Ember* / Blast Burn* / Dragon Claw
- Typhlosion: Incinerate OR Shadow Claw / Blast Burn* / Solar Beam
Shadow / Return viability:
Over half of this section is Shadow eligible, and the preference for Shadow boost is split depending on the pre-existing bulk. Kanto Ninetales and especially Alolan Marowak appreciate being able to hit harder with their high powered STAB moves, the latter in particular able to flip several important open Great League matchups thanks to the Shadow boost. With how brittle Charizard and Typhlosion are to begin with, they generally don't want Shadow boost as it has a good chance to leave them too brittle to be able to dish out any meaningful damage at all before going down. Only Alolan Marowak ever considers Return for its moveset, and even then, only in tandem with Hex.
We Are Electric
As anyone who's been playing GO Battle League for a while can attest to, if there's one nominally common Pokémon type that you don't end up seeing all that much of in PvP, it's... yeah Electric fits that description too. It wasn’t always this way however, with many of the more seasoned players remembering, be it fondly or less so, several Electric types being decently common open Great League sights, such as Alolan Raichu, Lanturn, and Galvantula. Makes one wonder what happened to push them out of the spotlight like th- Galarian Stunfisk happened.
It's hard to disagree with the claim that Galarian Stunfisk has been by far the most meta warping Pokémon release up to date as far as Great League is concerned, and a big part of its aftermath included many of the Electric types becoming too risky to run due to being walled by the toothy pancake. There were still some stragglers afterwards, Galvantula being by far the most notable one, but even the spood itself had to tap out of the competition once Nidoqueen was buffed to its current form. In the wake of these changes, Electric types as a whole became Grounded out of existence and mostly relegated to limited formats.
And truth be told, they dealt with that transition more gracefully than Fire types that's for sure. Unfortunately for the subjects of this particular section, most of the best limited format Electric types don't actually play like Electric types and as such have been relegated to different sections down the line, leaving a largely spicy selection.
Most Electric types fulfill the fantasy of a glass cannon with oftentimes terrible bulk but immense damage output, and there isn't a single Charged Attack that accentuates that playstyle more than Wild Charge. For the price of debuffing their already abysmal defense even further upon use, a single Wild Charge dishes out enough damage to KO most of the glassier opponents while putting the bulkier ones into farmdown range. And if that's what one Wild Charge can do, just imagine what a double tap is capable of, and you get the basic premise of half the Pokémon featured in this section. You pair Wild Charge with a good energy generating Fast Attack (which is all Electric type Fast Attacks not named Charge Beam and Thunder Fang) and sacrifice shield(s) to gather enough energy for two Wild Charges. Once you’ve doubled up, you either fire them both off in a salvo or bait with a secondary, cheaper move and then fire off Wild Charge. Switching out can clear the debuff or you may opt to let the debuffed Electric type go down in the blaze of glory afterwards.
That playstyle describes Electivire, Luxray, both Raichus, Hisuian Electrode, and Magnezone. While the Fire types might have had enough differences between each other to make talking about them as a unit hard, there are no such issues with Electric types with their universally terrible bulk, oftentime mono-Electric typing and mostly low-impact secondary Charged Attacks. They all get a good energy generating Fast Attack, they all always run Wild Charge, for most intents and purposes they're the same Pokémon. Still, it's only most, and not all, and while the specific differences are unlikely to matter in most games, they can still occasionally come in handy:
- Electivire gets Ice Punch as its secondary Charged Move, letting it at least chip opposing Ground and Dragon types on its way out. Its Community Day move Flamethrower is generally too clunky to use.
- Luxray gets the choice of Crunch and its Community Day move, the defense-debuffing Psychic Fangs, with the latter being almost always preferred to amplify the damage of subsequent Wild Charges or set up other Pokémon. Having Spark instead of Thunder Shock leaves it a bit slower to its big hitters, however.
- Magnezone gets Mirror Shot, a profoundly mediocre move, but with the upside of its Steel subtyping leaving it marginally bulkier in practice compared to its brethren.
- Hisuian Electrode gets the curious Grass subtyping, letting it not get buried instantly by any Ground type move thrown its way, and has access to Energy Ball to get back at the Pokémon throwing said Ground type moves. As a result, it lacks a bait move, however, and its subtyping gives it some unwieldy weaknesses.
- Alolan Raichu resists Counter thanks to its Psychic subtyping and similarly to Hisuian Electrode has access to Grass type coverage in Grass Knot, though a mono-Electric moveset of Volt Switch / Wild Charge / Thunder Punch is also sometimes used. Volt Switch is generally preferred over Thunder Shock or Spark, having the energy generation of the latter combined with a higher damage output, enabling reliable farmdowns and dishing enough damage to turn almost KO's into actual KO's.
- Kanto Raichu doesn't resist Counter thanks to an absence of a subtyping. It too can run the all electric moveset of its surfer relative, or instead opt into Brick Break for its bait move, a really bad move which nonetheless manages to come in handy every now and then. Notably, it's also one of the few non-Fairy Pokémon with access to Charm, giving it a unique role in any meta with Dragons and/or Dark types but without actual Fairies being allowed (such as Obsidian Cup).
The rest of the Electric types opt for a more sustainable approach instead, throwing out consistent charge move damage without a self-debuffing element. With one notable exception however, they're just as glassy as their wildly charging brethren:
- Galvantula's move cadence is seared into the brain of everyone who'd ever fought with or against her- three Volt Switches to Lunge or Discharge. The latter move for the most part only ever has any use when Lunge is resisted because of its pitiful statline, but with Bug type being what it is, that's not exactly an uncommon scenario. With Galvantula's offense-oriented stat distribution, even the modestly statted Lunge hurts a lot, and the attack debuff leaves the spider a bit tankier than its stats alone would indicate. Despite its terrible numbers though, Discharge does deal marginally more damage in a neutral scenario, giving it the role of the world's most scuffed finisher move in rare circumstances where that extra bit of oomph matters. Its Bug subtyping is one of the rare cases of that type genuinely coming in handy, letting it be neutral vs Ground, resist Grass (making it one of the two Electric types with a generally positive matchup against Grass types), and even resist Counter. The resulting Fire and Rock weaknesses do sting a decent bit though. Even with only four legs as opposed to the customary eight, it has several possible tricks up its sleeves. Energy Ball can let it get back at mudbois (Water/Ground types) that normally wall it, and even Fury Cutter has been situationally viable with the same energy generation as Volt Switch but higher damage output against Pokémon weak to Bug.
- Kanto Electrode is basically just discount Galvantula. With no Lunge, Bug subtyping, and having to resort to Foul Play to be a nuisance for opposing Psychic types instead, it's just not quite the same even with slightly higher bulk.
- Zapdos, however, is notably not a discount Galvantula even if it's similarly squishy, especially with Shadow boost. That same Shadow boost lets it dish out some particularly nutty damage numbers, both with its extremely fast charging Drill Peck (meet the other Electric type that wins vs Grass) and appropriately menacing Thunderbolt. It's not allowed in many formats and expensive to power up, but if you ever wanted to know what Flying-type Hydro Cannon would feel like, it's your opportunity to find out. Spoiler: it feels quite good.
- Emolga is basically just discount Zapdos, which is a very shameful state of things with how adorable it looks. Alas, Aerial Ace isn't even on the same continent as Shadow boosted Drill Peck, even if it does learn Thunderbolt too.
- Dedenne isn't a discount Zapdos, but it kinda feels that way. As broken balanced as Fairy typing is defensively, giving Dedenne a functionally better bulk than most other Pokémon in this group, its charge move selection is much less impressive. Play Rough isn't particularly good, and Discharge is even worse, leaving Dedenne dishing less damage than it feels like it ought to be able to. Although generally being able to do well against Dragons is nice, it still manages to lose in 1-1 shields vs Altaria. As a wise man once said, "lol. lmao".
- While most other Electric types hit the treadmill to attempt to outrun danger, Lanturn spends its every day at the leg press, and the results are clear to all. It's bulky as hell, especially when compared to the rest of its brethren. Its bulk lets its sluggish by Electric type standards moveset work decently well, at least if it can avoid Grass types which completely ruin its day. The unique typing gives it a lot of play, both as an Electric type in Water-heavy formats, and as a Water Gunner in Electric heavy formats.
- Ampharos might not have Wild Charge, but it's just about as unreliable as any actual Wild Charge user. Thunder Punch is a really bad main damage dealer of a move, worse than Discharge even, and combined with a mediocre bulk befitting an Electric type, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of reason to even bother with the Kangaroo-Sheep-Lighthouse-creature. That's where its second Charged Attack comes into play however- Focus Blast lets it theoretically break past opposing Steels and Normals, something that many of its fellow Electric types struggle with, however in order to accomplish that fact, Ampharos needs to first land it, forcing it to bait, and bait possibly several times, writing a much taller check than its pitiful survivability can accommodate.
- Magneton might be in the same family as the most prolific Wild Charge user, but much to its credit, it opted for a wholly different approach in combat, a more sustainable one. Five Thunder Shocks to either Discharge or Magnet Bomb, repeat forever, and if Discharge wasn't such a terrible move, Magneton might possibly even have a claim to being better than Magnezone. That is not the case unfortunately, and as a result the most inspired looking of Gen 1 evolutions often comes short when it comes to finishing its opponents off, even with the rare Magnet Bomb being a really good Charged Attack. And considering its abysmal durability, most easily compared to a children's balloon wrapped in aluminum foil, it more often than not won't live long enough to eke out that final, decisive Charged Attack. Opting for harder hitting Zap Cannon helps in closing power for sure, but won't make up for its nonexistent durability.
Why is it not good enough for open GL?
Role: Specialist / Shield pressure / Anti-flyer
Relevance: High for Galvantula and Lanturn, Medium for everything else
- Electivire: Thunder Shock / Wild Charge / Ice Punch
- Luxray: Spark / Wild Charge / Psychic Fangs* OR Crunch
- Magnezone: Spark / Wild Charge / Mirror Shot
- Hisuian Electrode: Thunder Shock / Wild Charge / Energy Ball
- Alolan Raichu: Volt Switch / Wild Charge / Thunder Punch OR Grass Knot
- Kanto Raichu: Volt Switch OR Charm / Wild Charge / Thunder Punch OR Brick Break
- Galvantula: Volt Switch / Lunge / Discharge OR Energy Ball
- Kanto Electrode: Volt Switch / Discharge / Foul Play OR Hyper Beam
- Zapdos: Thunder Shock* / Drill Peck / Thunderbolt
- Emolga: Thunder Shock / Aerial Ace / Thunderbolt
- Dedenne: Thunder Shock / Discharge / Play Rough
- Lanturn: Spark OR Water Gun / Thunderbolt / Hydro Pump
- Ampharos: Volt Switch / Thunder Punch / Focus Blast
- Magneton: Thunder Shock / Magnet Bomb / Discharge OR Zap Cannon
Shadow / Return viability:
The Shadow eligible Electric types (Electivire, Luxray, Magnezone, Kanto Electrode, Zapdos) generally prefer it with the exception of Electrode and Ampharos, primarily to push their already nutty Wild Charge damage even higher. Depending on the format though, the extra damage might be something of an overkill, turning the already brittle Electric types into liabilities that faint before they can unload on some poor unsuspecting target. Zapdos just wants to hit even harder and it's already using up all your shields, Shadow or not, so why not, ditto for Magneton. None of them want Return on account of it either being too slow, or in Electrode's case, it already having Hyper Beam at basically the same energy cost but which also hits even harder.
In the next part, we’ll take a look at Mew and all the punchy, fighty Pokémon, and all their different subtypes. We’ll go over true (but underwhelming) fighters, pseudo fighters, and Counter-feit fighters with a special section given to Vig “I am going to Body Slam you seven times and there’s nothing you can do about it” O’ Roth.
See you then!