Second Division Champions: Limited Cup All Stars Part 3
redspah with the help of GO Stadium Meta Team
1 week ago
In the previous part of this series focusing on going over all the Great League limited format relevant Pokémon, we took a look at the precious Mew, and every single variety of fighter one could ever want or need.
That doesn't sound all that nice. Why not relax with something more cuddly, like Rock and Steel types? No wait, that's not cute at all. What about Poisons then? Oh shoot, uh, Dragons, how's Dragons then? Dammit...
Since you paid attention to the end of the previous part (I know you did, I'm so proud of you), you know that this listing is a bit different than what was originally advertised, with Steels coming over to get bundled with Rocks and Normal/Flyers flying off somewhere in the meantime. The reason for the former is simple- Steels and Rocks are ultimately very similar in their function in PvP, and having them in separate sections would result in a lot of repetition. The reason for the latter is also simple; even without fliers, this part is already the longest so far. So as to not bloat it any further, they were moved to the next part.
But that's then, and now, enjoy!
Rock and Pokeballs of Steel Torture
There are many ways to categorize the available Pokémon in any given limited format. Some are type-based, much like this series of articles, but others focus more so on what a group of Pokémon do, and less so on what they are. One such classification system divides Pokémon into the categories of "Tank", "Fighter", and "Flier". Fighters are self explanatory and the subject of much of the previous installment in this series. Fliers are all the Pokémon that beat Fighters, with actually being Flying-type more of a suggestion than a strict requirement. Alolan Marowak is one famous example of a Pokémon that was occasionally classified into the Flier role while deeply hating birds with its entire existence, thanks to it also checking Grass types and losing to Rocks. Tanks complete that rock-paper-scissors triangle the whole Pokémon franchise is (in)famous for- they beat Fliers while being the primary target of Fighters.
That system isn't perfect, nowhere near, with many Pokémon refusing to fit into one neatly defined role and several able to occupy multiple roles depending on the moveset (eg. Counter vs. Rock Throw Sudowoodo). That doesn't mean it is not without its uses either, such as acting as a segue into this section focusing on two of the main types that traditionally comprise the "Tank" category—Rock and Steel.
If you've played open Great League for any amount of time, then especially the latter type will make you think of three Pokémon in particular, Bastiodon, Registeel, and Stunfisk of the bri'ish Galarian variety. That experience should prove helpful here, as most of the Pokémon we'll take a look at here can be thought of as inferior versions of the aforementioned trio with some Pokémon even being able to act as worse versions of two of them simultaneously, depending on their moveset. Inferior, but still aiming to do many of the same things on the battlefield- be tanky in neutral matchups, make opposing bird Pokémon and Ice-types regret having hatched, and generally spread misery. Let’s start with the discount versions of the most miserable open Great League Pokémon, Bastiodon.
Crustle set out on a mission to prove to the world that you can have such a thing as a useful Bug type, and by Arceus, did it fail, though that's mostly due to weakness of Bug as a type and X-Scissor as a Charged Attack. Instead, what we got is a Rock-type Smack Down user that also happens to be Bug-type, think of a cockroach sticky taped to the side of a boulder rather than an arthropod strong enough to carry half a mountain. As far as Rock types go though, Crustle has proved to be one of the more useful ones, finding success in many limited formats despite looking somewhat underwhelming on the surface. Bug subtyping helps it in patching up some of Rock's most pressing weaknesses in Grass, Fighting and Ground, letting it not faint instantly despite combining two of the worst types in the franchise together with mediocre bulk. Cheap Charged Attack selection lets it put on some shield pressure despite Smack Down's pitiful energy generation, and depending on the format it can even put on Fury Cutter as its Fast Attack to act more like a buggy Galarian Stunfisk, dishing out reliable Rock-type Charged Attack damage.
Probopass really, really wants to be Bastiodon, but it's just not, it's a reduced price, store brand version of wallface- though just like real store brand products, it's still good enough for many things. Everything Bastiodon hard walls, so does Probopass, everything Bastiodon gets shredded by, so does Probopass, but the neutral matchups is where Probopass' lower bulk really makes itself known. It's not low bulk by any stretch of imagination- Probopass is oftentimes the tankiest thing in any format it finds play in, but when it comes to stoning something back to its pokeball, you want all the bulk you can get, otherwise you may find yourself failing to get to that last crucial Charged Attack.
As far as those are concerned, Probopass has a slightly different selection from its full price variant, but suffers from the same moveset hole of having absolutely nothing to even slightly pressure opposing Ground types. Rock Slide is a good move, Thunderbolt is a good move, Magnet Bomb is a very good, very low availability move, and all three are either resisted or otherwise shrugged off by most Ground, Fighting, and especially Steel types, and it's that last point that really kicks Probopass while its down. Losing to Fighters is expected, but losing against most other Tanks and anti-Fliers due to inability to seriously damage them is the real nail in Probopass' coffin. This prevents it from shining even if it chooses Spark as its Fast Attack to get the most out of that Charged Attack selection.
Steelix, on the other hand, is perfectly content not being a Bastiodon, thank you very much. Not fraught by insecurities like its magnety third cousin once removed, the Iron Snake Pokémon is instead free to take on a different, but no less effective role- a certified Dragon killer fainter. With Dragon Tail as its Fast Attack of choice, Steelix can farm down most opposing Dragon types and generally put on a ton of Fast Attack pressure elsewhere with much better coverage than what Smack Down or Rock Throw can offer. The only two types that resist Dragon, Steel and Fairy, are a noteworthy obstacle, but neither appreciate Steelix's Charged Attack selection in Crunch and Earthquake, the latter in particular giving it very good coverage together with Dragon Tail. Very good, but not perfect, giving Steelix the extremely dubious honor of being the only PvP viable Steel type not named Dialga or Lucario that can just end up getting Charmed down in a neutral, even matchup by a Togekiss. Unusually for Steels poor matchup against Fairies aside, Steelix's dominion over its niche is absolute- sure, it loses to the same things most other Tanks do, but can Dragon Tail them hard enough on its way out that it's guaranteed to have a seat at the table in any format it’s allowed in.
Fast Attack pressure is not your cup of tea you say? Well then, what about something more shield-pressure-y but without the unpleasant sourness of a failed bait, something more... Regi flavored? Well, have I got a treat for you then!
And when it comes to being Regi flavored, it's hard to beat a literal member of the Regi trio! Regirock may be relegated to playing second fiddle to its famous sibling, but it's got two facts to help it in keeping its chin up. One- it's not Regice, and two- it's especially not Regigigas. But enough seeking validation by comparing oneself to others, how does Regirock stack on its own? It's... a Registeel, with more moveset options, lower neutral bulk, and a typing that is as bad as Registeel's is good. The extra moveset options are especially welcome, augmenting Registeel's usual combo of Zap Cannon and Focus Blast with not just EdgeQuake coverage combo, but literally Stone Edge and Earthquake themselves, the latter cursed by having come from the same event that also unleashed Zap Cannon Registeel upon the world. Even with those options though, the vastly reduced survivability as a result of bulk and typing difference makes Regirock a risky pick in Great League- risky and hard to obtain, as raid Regirock has too high CP to be eligible for Great League, and the last time research Regirock has been available was in... 2019. Man I Love Niantic.
Melmetal isn't a Regi, but it kinda looks like one, and as everyone who has ever used a 1469 CP Shiny Pokémon in PvP knows, fashion is everything in Pokémon GO. It helps then that looks aren't all that deceiving in this instance- Melmetal does kinda play like a Regi, but a much leaner, faster one, stepping down from 15 and 16 turn moves of Registeel to 10 and 10 with an asterisk turn Superpower and Rock Slide, with an accompanying and roughly equivalent drop in bulk. As opposed to Regirock though, its bulk is better than what its raw stat product would suggest as opposed to worse, since it gets to keep the wonder of late nineties' video game balancing known as the Steel type.
Melmetal's offensive coverage combo of Rock and Fighting is walled by relatively few Pokémon, and most of them are brittle enough to the point that even if they resist said moves, they can't tank more than two or in some cases even one with ease. Only most through- the two very notable exceptions to that, Nidoqueen and Medicham, completely negate Melmetal's existence in open Great League, especially when combined with it having to resort to self-debuffing Superpower to put any pressure on opposing Steels. The lack of STAB on its moves doesn't help either, most Great League Steel types being able to tank multiple Superpowers as a result, especially when thrown consecutively.
Believe it or not, Excadrill exists outside of Master League! That doesn't mean it's really *good* outside of Master League, but it has nonetheless managed to find itself a niche here and there. In many ways it's a slightly different, much more glassy, much more cannony version of Melmetal. It trades Superpower for Drill Run, ending up with EdgeQuake coverage, with both its Charged Attacks costing 45 energy or exactly 5 Mud Shots. Its higher attack stat combined with STAB on Drill Run lets it dish out a surprising amount of neutral damage, but is also its downfall, as Excadrill is really, *really* glassy, and even despite Galarian Stunfisk typing, it's liable to faint to a single decently powered neutral move. As long as it holds onto its healthbar though, it can do some real work, even if it's rarely chosen due to bulk problems.
Oh, so you say that you don't mind playing with baits after all and consider Galarian Stunfisk mirrors your daily entertainment of choice? I hope then that the following selection proves enticing~!
Just like Vulpix is a cute, videogame fox, Barbaracle is a cute, videogame crime against god. Its mishmash of a move pool if nothing if not appropriate then, and one moveset with which it has managed to shine in particular fits squarely in this section, taking Galarian Stunfisk's combo of Rock + anti Steel and swapping it around. The result is Melmetal-ish Cross Chop and Stone Edge, the latter in particular able to dish some intense damage with STAB. Fury Cutter is no Mud Shot, but is almost as effective at generating energy for Barbaracle's charged moves and piling on substantially more chip damage than the latter move does most of the time. It can even replace one of the two with Grass Knot depending on the format, but that same Grass Knot can very easily become its undoing, as its miserable defensive typing leaves it going extinct to any Grass type opponent- or Electric, Ground, Fighting...
Feeling lucky? I sure hope so, or else you're taking a Stone Edge to the face. Say hello to Alolan Rock trio, a battle team that bucks the societal nuclear family norms and instead connects across three evolutionary stages to achieve one thing, and one thing only- eliminate your opponents by the means of increasing their heart attack risk in 30 to 40 years from now by putting them under the constant stress of guessing if you're baiting or not. Guess wrong, and you're taking a STAB Stone Edge or Wild Charge to the face, predict correctly and the resulting Rock Blast will just bounce off of you. To a certain extend, it's an oversimplification to bundle all three Alolan Rocks together like this as there are notable moveset differences, so to just go over them quickly:
- Alolan Geodude is the odd one out, as it doesn't have a big nuke move, instead opting for a Probopass-like moveset of Volt Switch / Rock Slide / Thunderbolt. With worse typing than Probopass. And worse bulk. And much worse availability, needing to be a hundo powered up to level 50. You're not gonna be seeing this one often.
- Alolan Graveler is the real deal though, *the* Alolan Rock with an extremely Alolan Rocky moveset of Volt Switch / Stone Edge / Rock Blast, liable to inflict immeasurable mental damage due to constant baiting involved.
- Alolan Golem is just a slightly less bulky Alolan Graveler, or rather was up until recently, with its community day giving it a small, but noteworthy niche in doing the Alolan Rock gamble but even faster. The tradeoff isn't always worth it however, as Rollout has basically zero Fast Attack pressure while Volt Switch has plenty, which combined with Stone Edge not being a clean one hit KO on almost anything leaves the funky Golem struggling to finish off its prey even after successfully landing a Stone Edge.
All three are so scared of Ground that their sheer revulsion results in them being permanently suspended in the air in fear, all three have very polarized matchups in general, rendering them unusable in open Great League, and all three have their fans in limited formats where they can avoid getting grounded for long enough to let their rocks loose. Phrasing.
Why is it not good enough for open GL?
Role: Tank - anti-Flier, anti-Charm, anti-Dragon
Relevance: High for Steelix and Alolan Graveler, Medium for everything else
- Crustle: Smack Down OR Fury Cutter / Rock Slide / X-Scissor
- Probopass: Rock Throw OR Spark / Thunderbolt / Rock Slide OR Magnet Bomb
- Steelix: Dragon Tail / Crunch / Earthquake
- Regirock: Lock-On / (two of Stone Edge, Earthquake*, Zap Cannon and Focus Blast)
- Melmetal: Thunder Shock / Superpower / Rock Slide
- Excadrill: Mud Shot / Drill Run / Rock Slide
- Barbaracle: Fury Cutter / Stone Edge / Cross Chop OR Grass Knot
- Alolan Geodude: Volt Switch / Rock Slide / Thunderbolt
- Alolan Graveler: Volt Switch / Stone Edge / Rock Blast
- Alolan Golem: Volt Switch OR Rollout* / Stone Edge / Rock Blast OR Wild Charge
Shadow / Return Viability:
Of all the aforementioned Pokémon, only Probopass is Shadow eligible, and I give you three guesses as to whether a Pokémon whose main problem was that it wasn't as bulky as Bastiodon wants to cut its bulk down even further. Return has some possible utility as a way to hit opposing Water/Ground types, but with how weak Probopass is to both these types, it's hard to understate just how niche of an application this is.
The Mons from T.O.X.I.C.
Well gee, we just covered a good bunch of Pokémon that absolutely loathe being anywhere near the vicinity of a fighter. Why not switch gears a bit to something entirely different then, and take a look at Tanks' complementary team members of choice, able to absolutely feast on any beefcake unwise enough to switch into a Steel type thinking it can just Counter it down.
Poison isn't generally considered a particularly good typing, associated more so with route 1 Bug and Grass types rather than box art legendaries or anything cool enough to end up on Ash Ketchum's team. And in main series games, that perception is basically accurate- coverage, especially Ground type coverage is a plenty, there is a dearth of high statted Poison types, and offensively the typing isn't anything to write home about either, only dealing super effective damage to Grass and Fairy opponents.
Pokémon GO PvP is a whole other beast though, and there Poison's oftentimes overlooked resistances end up mattering a ton more. Fighting, Fairy, and Grass are all very prominent types in Great and Ultra Leagues, and being able to wall both fighters and charmers deployed to hunt down said fighters is a big point in Poison's favor, as anyone who has ever used Nidoqueen (or have gotten Nidoqueen'd) can attest to. And with only two weaknesses, to Charged Attack reliant Ground and somewhat uncommon Psychic, a Poison typing is more often than not a benefit rather than a hindrance.
But that was about the typing, what about the actual Pokémon with that typing? There's quite a few to choose from, and some like Venusaur and Nidoqueen even break through the glass ceiling into actual open Great League relevancy, but for the most part they're limited to more niche, limited formats, in no small part thanks to the big trio mentioned in the previous section. Poisons' ability to put any pressure on the opposing Steel and Rock types ranges from unreliable to nonexistent, which combined with Great League's most prominent fighter able to one hit KO most of them with Psychic puts something of a damper on their potential usability. Sableye's popularity doesn't help either- while Trevenant might be neutral to Poison, Sableye resists it, making a mockery of all Poison Jab users despite its otherwise uninspiring bulk.
And if there's one Pokémon that epitomizes all of Poison type's advantages and woes, it would be the classic, OG Kanto Muk, the Poison type in many people's minds. Its neutral bulk is on the good side of average, its typical Charged Attack selection in Thunder Punch combined with Dark Pulse gives it decent coverage options combined with good Fast Attack pressure of Poison Jab- it should do well enough as long as the opponent doesn't resist Poison, right? And indeed, it does! It takes on all Fairies including Azumarill with ease, all Grass types not named Trevenant, all Fighters not named Medicham or Obstagoon, and gets trounced by every Ground type, every Steel type, every Ghost, and many neutral matchups vs. bulky opponents like Altaria or Lickitung. You could definitely do worse than this, which is where the central dilemma of most Poison types featured in this section manifests. You could use Kanto Muk, or you could just use Nidoqueen- she doesn't get every win that Kanto Muk does, but she gets the important ones, and adds much better neutral matchups plus the ability to actually bonk opposing Steel types not named Skarmory.
Golbat on the other hand, is Poison distilled to its essence despite dealing most of its damage with Wing Attack. Flying isn't the best compliment for Poison in a vacuum- it takes care of its Ground weakness, sure, but aside from that it only adds more weaknesses while turning Poison's preexisting resistances into double resistances. However, in GO especially, these double resistances can come in very handy in acting as an absolute hard wall to opposing Fighting, Grass, and Bug types and putting on tremendous bench pressure. Are you really gonna risk bringing out that Grass type, knowing that if your opponent manages to line up Golbat against it they basically won on the spot, being able to farm your Grass type down and leave with enough energy to Poison Fang and Shadow Ball whatever comes in afterwards?
Poison Fang is a very strong tool in Golbat's arsenal, letting it apply pressure even against its hardest counters like Dewgong or Walrein- the greedier they attempt to be with farming it down, the more they get debuffed, and even without Golbat resorting to its Ghost type closer, eventually all the defense drops will add up, likely forcing the farmed-up Pokémon to give up switch just to clean the defense debuff, lest it gets farmed itself. Despite all these praises though, Golbat still has some issues that prevent it from taking over the open Great League- Steel types can shrug off Poison Fang pressure and be almost as greedy with it as they want to be, knowing Golbat can't really hurt them, and in general a big chunk of its damage output and wins in the default 1-1 sims vs open Great League come from successfully landing a Shadow Ball, something much easier simmed than done.
Read all that slab of text on Golbat? Good, because much of it applies to Beedrill as well. While Golbat relied on gradually wearing down opposing Pokémon by evaporating their defense with Poison Fang after Poison Fang, Beedrill focuses on the offensive instead, putting on heavy fast move pressure with Poison Jab, preferably of the Shadow boosted variety. Its X-Scissor is as whelming here as it is elsewhere sadly, but its other Charged Move is where the magic happens, with Drill Run giving it an actual weapon to get back at Steel types with. It's no Nidoqueen Earth Power, but it's really good in its own right, especially with a Shadow boost, letting the archetypical Bug/Poison do things it has no business doing, such as winning vs Talonflame in 1-1 shields. At times it doesn't even need that, being able to take on Altaria in 1-1 shields going straight X-Scissor depending on the IVs. Shadow Poison Jab is no joke and Nidoqueen aside, Beedrill is by far its most proficient (ab)user. As much as it lets Beedrill wall fighters though, Beedrill's Bug subtyping comes with even more drawbacks than Golbat's Flying subtyping, leaving the bee that could weak to Fire and especially Flying, which oftentimes prove to be its biggest obstacles in limited formats.
Ariados may share a typing with Beedrill, but playstyle wise they're basically complete opposites, with the Long Leg (lol) Pokémon opting to focus entirely on Charged Attacks as far as its damage output goes. Which, combined with the extremely good Poison Sting, is not an inherently bad idea, nowhere near- it really, really wishes it had Drill Run to go along with it though. Gen 1 favouritism, smh. In lieu of Drill Run, Ariados has to rely on basically all-STAB Charged Attack moveset (Shadow Sneak is not a move), and as mentioned earlier, Poison is not a good offensive typing. To nobody's surprise, Bug is not a good offensive typing either, leaving the end result walled by Steel, Ghost, and Poison itself, though Ghost matchup is made a bit better with both Sableye and Trevenant having secondary typings that leave them neutral vs. Bug.
Those unfortunate matchups aside though, Ariados can put in a surprising amount of work thanks to its actual selection of moves, getting truly the best of these unfortunate types in Cross Poison, Lunge and Megahorn. Cross Poison is a reliable damage dealer that takes only 4 Poison Stings to get to, Lunge is an exceptional move combining a decent damage output with an attack debuff at just one more Poison Sting than Cross Poison, and Megahorn is an incredibly potent nuke coming off of Ariados' high attack stat. It can't have all three at once though, forcing its users to make a difficult choice. Skipping Megahorn leaves it occasionally struggling to finish off its opponents, skipping Lunge hurts its effective survivability, and skipping Cross Poison leaves it without something to pressure opposing Fire and Flying Pokémon even slightly, not to mention hurting its baiting potential.
And as an aside since I've mentioned Lunge- if anyone is still genuinely upset it got removed from Araquanid's Game Master moveset, you are 100% justified in completely ignoring everything else they say because they have no idea what they're talking about when it comes to GO PvP. There I said it.
Qwilfish is Ariados' second cousin once removed, fed up with the stressful life of trying to survive in the forest, and instead deciding to hit the beach and trading its tired, blase Bug subtyping for the wired, inspired Water. Its new diet also resulted in it dropping a good hundred thousand in stat product, with disastrous consequences, leaving it really struggling in many matchups where Ariados succeeded, despite trading Cross Poison for a move with a much better coverage in Aqua Tail. Despite Qwilfish's many Charged Attack options on the face of it, it finds itself often pressured into what is basically the Ariados moveset without Lunge in Poison Sting / Aqua Tail / Sludge Wave. And just like there, having no Lunge to soften up enemy attacks ends up really hurting it, resulting in Qwilfish taking Ls from Pokémon it should have no problem with on the face of it, like Scrafty and Shadow Machamp. With an abundance of shields it can really spread its poisonous spines wide, going 44-7 vs. open Great League meta in a 2-1 shield scenario, same as Nidoqueen, but it is a harsh requirement to have to play around.
Tentacruel is almost very good. Almost very, very good. It's the only Pokémon in this section with some actual bulk to it, it gets Poison Jab, it even has Acid Spray to put on some more Fast Attack pressure with, all that's missing is a second Charged Attack. And sadly, that's where Tentacruel falters- all its remaining Charged Attack options are prohibitively expensive, and while it might be bulkier than most Pokémon, it doesn't have the Azu level bulk needed to be able to rely on Hydro Pump as your Charged Attack damage dealer of choice. Because of that limitation Tentacruel has been more niche in limited formats than other Pokémon mentioned here, but don't let that fool you- Niantic might not be able to buff base stats, but they can buff movesets, and Tentacruel is one solid moveset buff from potentially being a common sight even in open Great League. At least until Toxapex shows up that is.
Why is it not good enough for open GL?
Nidoqueen exists and does what most of these Poison types can but while also being able to bop opposing Steel types. Its Ground / Poison coverage is almost as good as fabled EdgeQuake, and it's got some actual neutral bulk to it, something that most aforementioned Pokémon can't really say.
Tentacruel is one Surf or Scald away from giving her a run for her money though, so, fingers crossed for Season 12?
Role: Anti-Fighter, anti-Grass, anti-Charm
Relevance: High for Beedrill and Golbat, Medium for everything else
- Kanto Muk: Poison Jab / Thunder Punch / Dark Pulse
- Golbat: Wing Attack / Poison Fang / Shadow Ball
- Beedrill: Poison Jab / Drill Run* / X-Scissor OR Fell Stinger
- Ariados: Poison Sting / (two of Cross Poison, Lunge, Megahorn)
- Qwilfish: Poison Sting / Aqua Tail / Sludge Wave OR Ice Beam
- Tentacruel: Poison Jab / Acid Spray / Hydro Pump
Shadow / Return Viability:
Beedrill always wants to be a Shadow, always, and it doesn't give a single fr*ck about Return. With Kanto Muk and Golbat, the other two Shadow eligible Pokémon in this section, it's a bit messier, and comes down to specific matchups in a given format more often than not. From personal experience, Kanto Muk tends to veer towards not being a Shadow, while Golbat veers towards being a Shadow. As far as Return goes, it's a real, if situational consideration on Golbat, but not as much on Kanto Muk, which relies on Dark Pulse to not be walled by opposing Ghosts.
Here be Dragons
Now we're talking.
As much as some people adore Poison types, it's not a big stretch to say that on the whole, they kinda pale in comparison with Dragons popularity wise- which is probably true for all Pokémon except for starters, franchise mascots, and "fan-art" stars. But- that's just the Pokémon franchise as a whole, you know, the icky casuals, who cares about what they think, we're the cool kids, immune to dumb peer pressure like that, above blindly following the crowd. Now gimme a sec, a youtuber made a new clickbaity video in which he went 13-12 with a triple dragon team in 1300 ELO, I think I found my ticket to Ace babyyyyyy-
Dragons might be cool, but they're definitely not a very commonly seen typing in most GO PvP formats. The higher you go power wise the less true that statement is, to the point where Master League is more Dragons than it is non-Dragons, but down in Sableye's realm they're a rare and curious sight, Altaria aside. The big question is then, why would that be the case? Dragon is a famously busted defensive typing, and even offensively only two types resist it, making for very good generalists, especially when combined with Dragon type Fast Attacks being incredibly strong numerically. Sounds like a recipe for success to me!
Oh, what do you say? Two of its resistances are basically useless because Electric and Fire are so rare in open Great League? Two of its weaknesses are some of the more common types used in Great League?? The two types that resist it are themselves incredibly common!? Dragons themselves stack no paper and get no stat product!?!!?
Unfortunately, it's all true, trainers. And has been for basically the entirety of Great League's existence- Ice, Steel and Fairies have always been large parts of the meta, even back at its very beginning we had Registeel, we had Azumarill, we had Froslass, we had the extremely lucky people with double legacy Dewgong. And then it only got worse as the time went on- Charm was added, bringing a whole host of Fairies into PvP relevance, Galarian Stunfisk was added, Weather Ball Ice was given out to Abomasnow and Alolan Ninetales, Walrein ascended to its current form...
The fact that Altaria managed to keep herself relevant up until Walrein's release is a testament of just how insane a good Dragon can be, staying in the conversation for the longest time despite basically every team carrying at least one Altaria counter past a certain point. But if not even she could endure every team packing a walrus, what hope have the rest of dragonkin? The answer will probably not surprise you.
Kicking off our selection of extremely unfortunate magical lizards, we have Dragonair, who makes for a good average yardstick to compare the rest of Dragons to. Dragonair has but one goal in life- have its owner tap their phone's screen as hard and fast as physically possible to keep the Dragon Breaths coming and keep piling on the damage that is sure to wear down everything that doesn't resist it sooner or later. And with Dragon Breath's raw statline, especially with STAB, especially with Shadow boost, that time is gonna be 'sooner' much more often than not, especially in limited formats where open Great League bulk beasts are rare.
As a fortunate side effect, Dragon Breath even generates some energy on the side, letting Dragonair throw out a Charged Attack every once in a while, and there its selection is a bit sketchy. Aqua Tail is a must, being both a solid move and the cheapest one the blue noodle has an access to, oftentimes even dealing super effective damage to opposing Steels thanks to their secondary typing. The other Charged Attack slot is a tossup between three equally underwhelming options. No matter which choice Dragonair ends up going with though, the same problems continue to haunt it as they do the rest of its brethren- its neutral bulk is firmly below average, which combined with its defensive typing being deceptively not as good as it feels like it ought to be, leaves it fainting fast in most matchups unless shields are invested into it. Shields that it itself has a hard time pressuring out at that.
What if Dragonair, but bigger? Well, duh- that's what a Dragonite is. Deciding that being single weak to Ice wasn't enough for it, Dragonite takes on a secondary typing that leaves it so weak to anything cold that you could probably hunt one down in-universe by throwing a popsicle in its general direction. In the game of Pokémon GO, that manifests as being prime farmdown fodder for basically every Ice type in the game, oftentimes not even able to deal any real damage back before fainting. And Dragonite does hit hard! Even more offensively statted (read: less bulky) than its pre-evolution, and packing something that actually does help it force shields out with STAB Dragon Claw, assuming it survives that long of course. It's even a little bit better in the second Charged Attack slot department, again with the asterisk that it first needs to survive long enough to actually get to its expensive moves. Hurricane hits extremely hard coming off of its sky high attack, and is technically coverage, but guess what- Draco Meteor hits even harder! Bigger number betterer, on top of just being a genuinely better option against everything but Fairy types, which Hurricane wouldn't even one hit KO and they'd shield it anyway.
Kingdra is a menace and I hate it. Not because it's all that good, it's not. From a base stats perspective it's much better than the aforementioned duo, no doubt about that, its Water subtyping letting it stay neutral to Ice, which combined with its average neutral bulk lets it actually take a hit more often than not. Moveset is where its bad and worse parts come to light though; it lacks any cheap moves, forcing it go with Octazooka, a 50 energy move as its bait move and god damn I HATE Octazooka. It deals a pittance of damage, but has a 50% chance to drop the opposing Pokémon's attack by two stages, leaving them scrambling to do any damage at all as they try to finish Kingdra off. From the opponent's perspective you first have to flip the coin as to whether the Kingdra is baiting or not, and then flip another coin to see whether you still have any damage left afterwards. The sheer inconsistency involved makes it a terrible competitive strategy, but it does nothing to diminish the sheer negation of fun that is playing against a Kingdra. If you use Kingdra, just know that Giratina has a spot saved just for you in the Distortion World.
Flygon... is a friend! Just look at it, it's so cute. It's also far worse than it feels like it ought to be sadly, in no small part thanks to its unfortunate typing and low bulk. Ground manages to take the two actually useful resistances that Dragon has and throws them in the garbage, on top of amplifying its Ice weakness, leaving the Mystic Pokémon with essentially zero useful resistances. Combine that with bulk just a shy less than that of Dragonair and you have a recipe for something very unfortunate- doubly so with how good its moveset is! Flygon has a choice of focusing both on Fast Attack pressure with Dragon Tail, and on Charged Attacks with Mud Shot, it gets Dragon Claw which is only four of either of its fast move (they both generate 9 energy), it gets a very powerful Earth Power to get back at Steels that think that can wall it just because its a Dragon, and it even gets Stone Edge to catch opposing Fliers off guard. It has everything it could ever want except for bulk, and while in skilled hands (and with a surplus of shields) it can still shine, it'll never get anywhere close to matching the adoration many fans have for it. Just... don't read its Sun dex entry. MonkaS
Goodra... is also a friend! A very soft friend with a somewhat unfortunate moveset. It's actually got the highest bulk of any Pokémon mentioned in this section so far, and doesn't have a subtyping to ruin the couple of resistances Dragon does actually offer. It even has a very good selection of moves for its second Charged Attack slot- Power Whip is a solid neutral move (though it doesn't help with Steels), and it's much more capable of getting off a Draco Meteor than Dragonite, with similarly devastating effects here. The first Charged Attack slot... is Muddy Water. Yes, that move you run into three times while TMing a Swampert and then forget it exists for the rest of your playtime. Debuff chance is annoying when it works, but it basically never does, and when it doesn't it deals an absolute pittance of damage, leaving it only useful as easily called bait. Hisuian Goodra is worth mentioning too- it's not out yet, there's absolutely zero idea when it will be out, but I'll tell you this. Dragon might be an overhyped typing in Great League, but Steel/Dragon absolutely is not. It is insane, and if the sad goomy goober ends up with an even decent moveset, Dragon as a type just may end up making a triumphant return into open Great League.
Druddigon... is not a friend. It's ugly, get it out of my screen now that I got my shiny. What it loses in looks it makes up with a very solid and reliable moveset, the most out of any Pokémon mentioned in this section. Four Dragon Tails to a Dragon Claw, four Dragon Tails to a Night Slash. Simple as. You don't need a nuke when you're hitting as hard with your Fast Attacks as Druddigon is, letting it focus entirely on dealing consistent amounts of damage while also having something to annoy any bulky Ghosts or Psychics that might switch in with. It also takes consistent amounts of damage- consistently large amounts of damage, only pulling ahead of Dragonite as far as bulk goes, while not having the flexibility of Dragon Breath to make up for it. By which I mean, the ability to switch at any moment instead of being stuck in a Fast Move, which while not as bad as for a Confusion user or a Talonflame, still leaves Druddigon vulnerable to its opponent switching in and throwing a Charged Attack before it can switch out in response.
Hakamo-o and Kommo-o are the two most recent additions to this section, arriving with the Season of Alola, and you'd be forgiven for thinking they're as useless for Great League PvP as their equivalents from Hoenn or Sinnoh- after all, who even has seen one in action, be it in GBL or in limited formats? As understandable as that idea is, it's very much not true, and those two are positively itching for an opportunity to prove their worth. They haven't been allowed in any Silph Cup since they were added, which combined with their vanishingly low availability, even during their initial event, made them a much rarer sight than they deserve to be.
Their bulk is solid- Kommo-o is just shy of average while Hakamo-o is very comfortably above average, they both have the very powerful and reliable Dragon Tail / Dragon Claw combo, and most importantly, they have Fighting type coverage to break past Steels and, for the first time in this section, threaten Ice types. It's not the best possible coverage mind- Kommo-o's Close Combat is a self debuff move that takes a while to build to with Dragon Tail's underwhelming energy generation, and Hakamo-o's Brick Break is a joke that is only slightly saved by it having STAB, but it's coverage nonetheless. Dragon and Fighting don't really synergize defensively, leaving the two dragons with both a ton of resistances and weaknesses, including a double weakness to Fairy- not a dealbreaker in itself as Scrafty proves every time it sweeps a backline, but important to keep in mind nonetheless.
Speaking of things that get evaporated by Fairies- Zweilous! It and the next, final Pokémon in this section were originally considered for their own separate subsections, before ultimately that idea was thrown away- they're both good, very good, but they're not uniquely good compared to the rest of the Pokémon in their section like Vigoroth was to STAB-less Counter users or Froslass is to Ice types. But that's all beside the point- Zweilous! If you've played any amount of Silph Cups at all you probably have seen this one, and not without a reason, as its basically Dragonair if it got everything it wanted to get for christmas.
Better bulk, placing it comfortably at the average level? Check, Zweilous can take a hit! Even better spammy Charged Attack it can deal reliable damage with? Check, Zweilous has Body Slam! An actually good second Charged Attack that it can use as a strong nuke? Check, Zweilous gets Dark Pulse! A more relevant typing? Check, Zweilous' Dark subtyping lets it act as a check to opposing Ghosts, Psychics and other Dark types on top of being a very good safe switch in general! Its typing doesn't come without any drawbacks of course, leaving it weak to Counter, which is not that bad since its Dragon Breaths melt the brittle Counter users- unless they happen to be Escavalier of course. It's also weak to Bug which is not quite as relevant, but as Beedrill and Ariados showed in previous section, can't be fully discounted either.
And if I may look towards the future once more, let us all behold Guzzlord. A fellow Dark / Dragon, with a very noticeably higher bulk than Zweilous, and which, as of Generation 7, learns all three moves needed to give it a Zweilous moveset but better, namely Dragon Tail, Body Slam, and Crunch, by levelup. And it'll be obtainable in Great League if you're lucky with trading a raid one. As a brilliant woman once said, Man I Love Fini Guzzlord.
Snap back to reality- there's the last Dragon to discuss after all! And what a unique Dragon Dragalge is, being capable of doing what no other Dragon is capable of doing, slaying a Fairy. Not consistently mind you- if it could do that consistently then it'd likely have a seat at the open Great League table, but merely being able to legitimately threaten a Fairy is impressive enough. Where Kommo-o brought Fighting and Zweilous brought Dark, Dragalge brings Poison, and as previously discussed, Poison is a very good defensive typing in GO PvP, letting Dragalge shrug off Counters and only take neutral damage from Charm, not to mention acting as a check to basically the entire previous section.
And Dragalge doesn't stop there, bringing decent bulk, higher than Zwei's or Goodra's, and a moveset that's one small addition from perfection. Dragonair might have invented Dragon Fast Attack + Aqua Tail, but Dragalge owns it, putting on hefty pressure on any Ground types keen on abusing its newfound weakness, with Outrage complimenting it as a powerful neutral nuke, forcing shields out of everything but the bulkiest opponents. Its other option for its second Charged Attack slot, Gunk Shot, is the one small imperfection- it's just much too expensive to consider using currently, even if it does one shot every Fairy that isn't Azumarill while bringing the fat rabbit down into red. If it had access to a cheaper Poison type Charged Attack, such as Sludge Bomb, it'd become a much more legitimate option for it, and possibly even embolden it into taking open Great League on, knowing that it wouldn't be walled by Fairies as much.
Why is it not good enough for open GL?
Role: Generalist- Fast move pressure, Safe switch
Relevance: High for Zweilous, Dragalge, and the two Alolan Dragons, Low for everything else
- Dragonair: Dragon Breath / Aqua Tail / Wrap OR Dragon Pulse OR Return*
- Dragonite: Dragon Breath / Dragon Claw / Hurricane OR Draco Meteor
- Kingdra: Dragon Breath / Octazooka / Outrage
- Flygon: Mud Shot OR Dragon Tail / Dragon Claw / Earth Power OR Stone Edge
- Goodra: Dragon Breath / Muddy Water / Power Whip OR Draco Meteor
- Druddigon: Dragon Tail / Dragon Claw / Night Slash
- Hakamo-o: Dragon Tail / Dragon Claw / Brick Break
- Kommo-o: Dragon Tail / Dragon Claw / Close Combat
- Zweilous: Dragon Breath / Body Slam / Dark Pulse
- Dragalge: Dragon Tail / Aqua Tail / Outrage OR Gunk Shot
Shadow / Return Viability:
The first four Pokémon featured in this section are all Shadow eligible, and Dragonair aside it's something of a tossup how much they want that extra oomph. The very long blue noodle appreciates the extra kick of power, but it equally appreciates having a genuinely good move to put on some more shield pressure with in Return, even if it takes forever to build up to. Dragonite and Kingdra don't want extra firepower any less than Dragonair do, but with their abysmal bulk and expensive charged moves respectively, it's much more likely here to bite them than with Dragonair, leaving them both potentially too brittle to get to their charged moves in time. Flygon just wants a break from being broken by Icicle Spea- [Attack Incoming!]
In the next part, we'll take a look at all the not-so finger lickin' good Lickitung pretenders, all the Ghost types that hate seeing any Lickitung pretenders, the couple usable Normal/Flying birds that also give the poor spooks a hard time (for real this time, pinky promise), as well as an assorted selection of Water types. Only some Water types though- there are quite a lot of them as you might imagine, enough to the point where they'll have two other sections later down the line, with a third also being half Water.
See you in the next part!