New Shadow Pokémon in Season of Light Rocket Takeover event
redspah, Tangent444, LazerBrian, G47IX
10 months ago
This November, there are a lot of reasons for the the #battlers community to be thankful for the upcoming Rocket event: the ability to TM Frustration off that amazing Shadow Pokémon you’ve been waiting on, a dense cornucopia of grunts to grind at stops, the debut of a new shiny in Pawniard, and of course a batch of new Shadow Pokémon. It's all very exciting. Well, spoiler alert: this season's squad of new Shadows is mostly low meta impact.
That being said, there are still a couple Shadows here that look to have play in limited metas and one that will likely be strong in limited metas with Open league potential. Without further ado, let’s examine the new Shadows for the Season of Light.
Let’s cut to the chase: despite the relatively much higher profile of Shadow Onix and Shadow Steelix compared to low-impact Shadows described in the rest of this article, their performance is unlikely to blow anyone’s socks off. Steelix will remain relegated to limited formats where it will remain consistently good, and while Shadow induced damage boost helps with both evolutions’ fast move centric playstyle, it also results in the sore spots of their defensive typings becoming much more exploitable.
Shadow Onix has a lot of potential. While it’s always going to struggle against titans of the format like Bronzor, Wynaut, and Seel, the Shadow looks like an improvement in limited Little Cup formats like Little Jungle. It’s mostly a sidegrade in the 1 shield scenarios, but the difference is really going to be felt in the 2 shield scenarios, where the extra damage from Shadow Rock Throw has time to accumulate and some Zero shield scenarios where a harder hitting Rock Slide can turn the tides.
In the 2s Shadow Onix picks up Wigglytuff, Nidoqueen, VIGOROTH, and Obstagoon at the cost of an already close Cottonee matchup. Also of note is that the matchup against Chinchou goes from a close win to a blowout win. That’s a very Jungle-centric list, but the ability to beat the Counter wielding Vigoroth shows Shadow Onix’s potential in other future limited Little Cup metas.
In the Great League, Steelix is typically overshadowed by Galarian Stunfisk, and the addition of the Shadow Form is unlikely to help Steelix much in this regard. Steelix with a very high stat product is able to just barely take an Earthquake and associated Mud Shot damage from Galarian Stunfisk in the 1v1 shield scenario, which allows it the opportunity for a bait-dependent win. This is a very unreliable win, particularly as GFisk wins convincingly if it calls the Charged Attacks correctly, and also could have the option of using both shields to secure the win.
Unfortunately, Shadow Steelix can’t reach even that very tenuous win condition, turning it into a surefire loss that makes it even less alluring for Open Great League compared to its regular version. On the upside, Shadow Steelix is able to pick up 1-1 wins with the likes of Deoxys Defense, Cofagrigus, Alolan Marowak, Shadow Walrein, and Lickitung. Outside of this, the two forms have the typical trade-offs you might expect with a Shadow form with a nuke-less moveset, losing some 0-0 wins but having a more reliable performance with shields up. If you are brave or foolish enough to run Steelix in Open Great League, you will probably want to run the non-Shadow due to the Galarian Stunfisk matchup alone.
In Themed Cups, the choice of the flavor of your Steelix will require more research for that specific format. Generally it feels like the non-Shadow could be preferred when running Psychic Fangs with Earthquake due to its increased bulk allowing it to tank hits and reach that devastating Earthquake more reliably. The Shadow could be preferred when running Psychic Fangs and Crunch in metas with increased Psychic and Ghost-type presence, trading losing the mirror for a generally more consistent performance against almost everything else.
In Ultra League, we see a similar story that the GFisk matchup is one to keep an eye on. Non-Shadow Steelix is much more comfortably able to tank an Earthquake than the Shadow variant does, making it far more consistent in this common matchup. However, the extra power of Shadow Steelix’s Earthquake gives it a bait-dependent 1-1 shield win that non-Shadow Steel can only match if GFisk falls for a Psychic Fangs bait. Most of its other matchups don’t change much one way or the other- the newfound 2-2 wins over Toxicroak and Talonflame do sound alluring, but don’t be fooled, they’re just a result of sim weirdness, and disappear with correct move timing and shielding.
You should absolutely hunt Shadow Onix in order to have a good IV version of Shadow Steelix in your Pokébag, but don’t expect it to be a smash hit that will forever eclipse its regular variant. As with almost all Pokémon, you are best waiting for the right meta where its skillset and increased fast move pressure shine before putting the dust and candy in to make the investment official.
They might have fancy wigs, but just like their Kanto cousins, you can only polish Alolan Dugtrio so much, and it's just as futile here as it is in Kanto Drugtrio's case. Especially when all becoming a Shadow does is take Alolan Dugtrio's already borderline unsalvageable bulk and make it even worse. The current state of both regional variants of the Mole Pokemon is so atrocious that the right question to be asking isn't "is it worth grinding", because the answer is obviously not.
The better question would be "is it even theoretically possible for Alolan Dugtrio to be sufficiently buffed so that they become worth considering for anything, ever", and the answer is a solid 'maybe'. It would require multiple buffs, both to existing moves (Mud Slap is a tragicomedy, Mud Bomb is vaguely usable and that's the best thing you can say about it), and to Dugtrio's movepool(s).
The most realistic avenue of Dugtrio ever finding relevance, and one where being a Shadow would be a boon, would be through them becoming Ground-type tap tap tap machines, leveraging Mud Slap's high damage output to steamroll through the opposing pokemon with some saved up shields. Shadow Alolan Dugtrio almost gets there already- the Shadow damage boost lets it chew through Galarian Stunfisk in 0s and 1s, even if the toothy pancake successfully baits, though at the cost of 70% of its healthbar from Mud Shots alone in the latter case. A no small feat by any metric, but one dulled by it losing to basically everything else that isn't either Steel or Poison type.
Plus, as opposed to the next contender, it's not legal in Halloween Cup, which is one of the few formats where Ground type tap tap tap is even worth considering. Oops.
In most relevant ways, Golurk is a straight upgrade over Alolan Dugtrio for the purposes of PvP. Better bulk, typing that offers a larger niche, nominally better coverage, though if anything that is more of an indictment of Alolan Dugtrio than something to congratulate Golurk for. As anyone who has ever tried to use Golurk, be it in Halloween or in Silph formats like Lunar Cup, knows full well, Golurk is just miserable in its current state, owing largely to the pitiful state of both Mud Slap and Shadow Punch, more often than not falling just short of Slapping the opposing Dark/Poisons down when deployed when behind on energy.
Is Shadow Golurk the upgrade Golurk always wanted that lets it advance from confines of meme tier hell and become a core part of Halloween meta? The answer is... it kinda is!
Compared to its regular counterpart, Shadow Golurk can swing certain matchups that the regular version ends up losing, but the lower bulk ends up hurting it significantly. This results in quite a few of its newfound wins being decided by a single turn due to it not being able to take a move that the regular version could just barely stomach, leaving it completely relegated to the lead role.
In lead 1-1 shield scenarios, its new potential wins include Shadow Scizor (just farm down, don't throw), Shadow Beedrill (farm down, IV dependent), and by far most importantly, both variants of Drapion, though it requires some tinkering with IVs. The important breakpoints to hit are 17 damage vs. normal Drapion and 20 damage vs. Shadow Drapion, this lets Golurk Mud Slap the scorpions down before they get to two Crunches or Crunch + Aqua Tail respectively. They're not always possible- normal Drapion with a defense-weighed IV spread in particular can require such high Attack from Shadow Golurk that it results in worse performance elsewhere.
The exact Attack breakpoints are:
17 Mud Slap damage vs most Drapion: 132.54 (almost all spreads get it with the exception of several very high ranks such as rank 1, but rank 2 does get it)
17 Mud Slap damage vs Rank 1 Drapion: 135.02 (best IV spread that gets it is 2/2/10, rank 217)
17 Mud Slap damage vs max Defense Drapion: 137.93 (best IV spread that gets it is 12/10/2, rank 1301)
20 Mud Slap damage vs most Shadow Drapion: all Shadow Golurk IV spreads hit this breakpoint
20 Mud Slap damage vs Rank 1 Shadow Drapion: 133.62 (best IV spread that gets it is 2/13/6, rank 28)
20 Mud Slap damage vs max Defense Shadow Drapion: 136.49 (best IV spread that gets it is 1/1/3, rank 636)
The author's advice would be to aim for 135.02 Attack just to be safe, though with how uncommon non-Shadow Drapion tends to be compared to its often more popular Shadow counterpart, 133.62 will most likely be sufficient in most situations.
There are no real changes in 2-2 shield matchups, and in 0-0 matchups, the only notable differences are losing non-Shadow Drapion and Shadow Beedrill due to inability to just barely tank their respective moves like non-Shadow Golurk can, and dunking on all Shadow Nidoqueen before they can get to an Earth Power.
Of course, thanks to Niantic's heavenly intervention, Great League Halloween is no longer the only Halloween Cup around, which forces us to take a look at how Shadow Golurk performs in the Ultra League flavor of Halloween Cup. Short version? Don't bother, but that also goes for regular Golurk.
A better Tentacruel and Skuntank matchup is nice, but it comes at the price of losing a bait reliant win over Scrafty and a narrow win over Dragalge. Ultra League is much less friendly to fast move pressure Pokémon as a general principle, and the addition of Giratina Altered coupled with removal of Toxapex and Beedrill most definitely doesn't help poor Golurk's odds.
Outside of the Halloween Cup, Golurk sadly needs something more to make it worth considering for other limited formats. A Shadow variant helps, it's more than likely not sufficient without Mud Slap, Shadow Punch, or preferably both getting buffed.
You no doubt have had a whale of a time reading the previous section, so I'll spare you the excess details here- Wailord is terrible, and Wailord with extra Poké-rabies is also terrible. Return over Hyper Beam is the most nominal of upgrades, but if that's enough to make you consider running it, then all I can hope for is that I queue into you. Fortunately, there is a way out of this pit of terribleness, and even if it wouldn't lead to any sort of meta territory, it would at least put Wailord's name on the map. Don't tell Ahab.
Simply borrowing Body Slam from its pre-evolution would give Wailord an interesting niche of letting it perform well in matchups vs. other Water types ala Sealeo, while preserving its ability to hit with a Water type move when needed. It wouldn't necessarily be meta, not by a long shot, mono-Water alone has Politoed, Blastoise, Samurott, Alomomola, and Milotic for it to compete with, but it would go from being the butt of the jokes to being the One Weird Thing™ some Silph Legend player goes 7-0 with in some Water-heavy cup down the line.
In that vaguely plausible case, the choice of Wailord vs. Shadow Wailord would heavily depend on the specific cup in question. From a brief glance over at its matchups vs. other relevant mono-Waters however, Shadow Wailord appears to be a downgrade, losing non-Shadow Politoed, Shadow Blastoise, Milotic (that Rank 1 Wailord just barely squeaks out), and Alomomola (ditto).
However, all that is just a very Farfetch'd theoretical, and in the here and now? Don't bother unless your name starts with N and ends with Hoff, or unless you have more Pokémon storage space you need to fill than sense.
To call Xatu pitiful is harsh, but to call it anything other than pitiful is to distort the truth. It is the manifestation of everything terrible when it comes to ways of comparing Pokémon to each other.
Typing? Very exploitable and cursed by being composed almost entirely of terrible Pokémon aside from Lugia. Bulk? Bad, bordering on terrible, the kind of attack-weighed mediocrity that requires everything else to be perfect to see any use. Moveset? Atrocious, composed almost entirely of filler moves that most other Pokémon never use even when they do have access to them.
Combine all of those and you get a Pokémon that isn't just bad, it’s virtually doomed to forever remain bad- the one stint it ever saw was in Nightmare Cup, and that was when the list of PvP usable Dark types consisted of Umbreon and Sableye, the latter being banned in that format.
Short of getting an entirely new, top tier moveset, Xatu will have a hard time tasting anything even adjacent to relevancy again. For the foreseeable future, the best thing to do with Shadow Xatu's remarkably spherical pre-evolution will be to Kobe it in the direction of the nearest trash can, for the rush of a successful throw is all the joy anyone will be getting out of this species.
There you have it, the Season of Light’s debutante Shadows! Onix/Steelix is the big prize of this class, but Golurk will have solid play in limited formats like Halloween Cup. The other Shadows are mostly just collectibles (Shadow Xatu would’ve been a fun pick in Silph S1’s Nightmare Cup) but sit a moveset tweak away from playability. New Shadows won’t always be bangers, but between Onix, Golett, and the amazing existing roster of Shadows, there will be plenty to grind for in this event. We here at the meta analyst team hope you have a successful Rocket event and an amazing rest of your season.