Play! Pokémon 2022-2023 Season First Look: Top five meta takeaways
8 months ago
This weekend, September 17-18, marks the start of the Play! Pokémon 2022-2023 season with events in Porto Alegre (Brazil), Bilbao (Spain), and Baltimore, Maryland (USA). After an incredible journey throughout the inaugural season of Pokémon GO gracing the Play! Pokémon stage, battlers around the world are dialed in and ready to choose their Pokémon as they embark on the journey once more with an expanded slate of events. Find the full Play! Pokémon schedule in list and graphic form at stadiumgaming.gg and follow future updates at Pokemon.com.
Earlier this month, Pokémon GO received one of the largest move updates in recent memory at the start of the Season of Light. Top meta Pokémon from the previous were reduced in strength and new moves and Pokémon broke onto the scene as trainers explored these changes in the GO Battle League and remote community-organized tournaments in preparation for the start of the Play! Pokémon season. We compiled Pokémon usage data from streamed events during the inaugural season and a large, remote community-organized tournament following the move update to see what major differences we can expect ahead in the competitive season. Here’s our top five takeaways from this first look at the early metagame.
Walrein, the Ice Break Pokémon that burst onto the scene following its Community Day, plummeted precipitously from the second most used Pokémon overall last season (57%) to a paltry 2%. It’s unclear whether the initial downturn is an overreaction and better days are ahead for our blubbery friend, who was a defining feature of the previous season. Not up for debate, however, is that the 5 energy-cost increase to Icicle Spear, its most frequently used Charged Attack, was a sizable nerf. Walrein was incredibly potent with its barrage of Icicle Spears and ability to draw a shield before landing a punishing Earthquake against would-be Steel-type and Fire-type counters. The full impact of slowing down Walrein will play out over the course of the season, and we cannot wait to watch the new meta unfold in the wake of this change. Will Walrein go gentle into that good night or mount a return during the Season of Light? Only time will tell.
Through the break of billowing clouds, we can make out a familiar face, Altaria, finding its footing once again with the decrease in Ice-type threats. Altaria is arguably the best Dragon-type and Flying-type Pokémon in the Great League metagame; however, the Humming Pokémon was previously pushed out by the imposing presence of Walrein, in addition to Steel-types and Fairy-types, such as Alolan Ninetales. With significantly less threatening Water-types than Walrein rising to the forefront, Altaria’s resurgence should come as no surprise. Can other Dragon-types follow suit and carve out a niche in the absence of a dominant Ice threat? Other Flying-type candidates, such as Skarmory, Mandibuzz, and Talonflame, face a greater challenge with the newest anti-Flying Pokémon to enter the fray, although perhaps Jumpluff can offer an alternative for the Flying role.
A common point of discussion on the official Play! Pokémon World Championship stream from Caleb Peng and 2OButters was the notable absence of Electric-type Pokémon. Lanturn could very well supplant Walrein as the newest anti-Flying Water-type, albeit with different type coverage. The Light Pokémon had Surf, a low energy-cost, Water-type Charged Attack, added to its move pool during the Season of Light update. This change bolsters Lanturn’s ability to keep pace in neutral matchups and hit back against Ground-type counters, leaving it primarily walled by Dragon-types and Grass-types. Given that Lanturn often runs Water Gun as its Fast Attack to assist against the numerous Ground-types in the meta, Altaria along with Trevenant both remain strong answers to Lanturn among common picks. Interestingly, the rise of Lanturn may have also inadvertently contributed, in part, to the demise of the only previous meta-relevant “Electric”-type—Registeel.
Following its release in June of 2020, Galarian Stunfisk immediately found a prominent role in the meta due to the exceptional coverage provided by Rock Slide and Earthquake and its bulk and strong defensive typing. The Trap Pokémon became the most prevalent Steel-type, surpassing Registeel, and added another formidable Ground-type to the meta alongside Swampert, bringing about the slow and eventual decline of Electric-types. After the introduction of Zap Cannon to Registeel’s move pool in February of 2022, we witnessed a changing of the guard. Registeel could now truly threaten Flying-types and, importantly, compete in more neutral matchups due to Zap Cannon’s guaranteed ability to lower the Attack of opposing Pokémon. The Iron Pokémon had reclaimed its throne as top Steel-type—or at least momentarily. In the Season of Light, Registeel received a small nerf as Zap Cannon’s Attack debuff went from a 100% chance to a 66% chance. This change was relatively small compared to Walrein’s nerf, and yet we saw Registeel’s usage suffer a similar, albeit less dramatic, fate dropping from 52% to 25%. The reason for this shift is likely multi-faceted. In addition to the nerf, the overarching implications of the move update were an increase in Trevenant and Nidoqueen, two Pokémon against which Galarian Stunfisk performs much better than Registeel especially in light of the Zap Cannon change. The emergence of Lanturn as a viable true Electric-type also arguably eroded away at Registeel’s niche. However, this reversal might be far from settled. While the arguments for Galarian Stunfisk over Registeel are convincing, the differences between these two imposing Steel-types are marginal, and it will be interesting to track these shifts over the course of the season, especially if Trevenant or Nidoqueen fall out of favor.
Everywhere you look, Ground-types are on the rise. Galarian Stunfisk, Nidoqueen, and Swampert all saw increased use following the Season of Light move update. Considering the resulting metagame, the observed uptick in Ground-types was also potentially influenced by the decline of Walrein and ascent of Lanturn. One new Ground-type, in particular, might also be lurking in the shadows, waiting for its opportunity to take a Play! Pokémon Regionals by storm—Runerigus. The Grudge Pokémon was a major beneficiary of the update with the addition of the Fast Attack Shadow Claw, allowing it to perform on par with other top Ghosts while offering unique Ground resistances. Although its initial usage is quite low, the looming threat of Runerigus, the hardest wall to Registeel, might also be a factor in the Iron Pokémon’s low frequency. To briefly pivot to another Ghost-type, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the intriguing decline in Sableye, last season’s most used Pokémon. Perhaps the threat of the newly introduced Fast Attack Fairy Wind, the increase in Normal-types to dissuade double Ghost teams, or the arrival of new options such as Runerigus have all played a role. With all that in mind, we’re interested to see how Sableye’s usage tracks throughout the season and, more importantly, how far Runerigus can go in upcoming tournaments. We cannot wait for this weekend and for our Play! Pokémon journey to become the very best to begin!