Meta Trends October 2022
7 months ago
What an incredible start to the Play! Pokémon Championship Series. In September, we saw a diversity of teams across three events that spanned the globe from Bilbao, Spain to Porto Alegre, Brazil to Baltimore, Maryland (USA). This past weekend, we saw that enthusiasm continue in Peoria, Illinois (USA) with one of the most exciting Grand Finals to date. As we look ahead to mid-October and upcoming Regionals in Salt Lake City, Utah (October 14-16) and Lille, France (October 22-23), let’s explore the major takeaways and meta trends from what we witnessed over the last month in a new article series for this season—Meta Trends.
Following the Season of Light move update, we highlighted our five meta takeaways in a First Look article. If you have a few minutes, it’s a short and relevant read where we define our expectations for the season after the major move update, and we will likely reference it frequently as we continue the conversation throughout the season. We’re also excited that you can now find respective usage data for each tournament on event-specific pages, such as our most recent page for Peoria.
The largest tournament from the opening weekend (Sept 16-18) was the Baltimore Regionals (111 participants), which ran in parallel with Bilbao (29 participants) and Porto Alegre (25 participants), followed by the Peoria Regionals (67 participants) from this past weekend (Oct 1-2). Here in the first edition of Meta Trends, we will dive into the Baltimore Regionals meta and break down Pokémon usage and performance from the largest event of the season. Next, we will compare Peoria usage to opening weekend and discuss notable trends including how the arrival of Toxapex impacts the meta. Finally, we will summarize our expectations heading into the mid-October slate, including commentary from notable casters and players such as SpeediestChief2, 2OButters, NHoff, Holesome, and Housestark93. Similar to a popular meme, get ready to see numbers and data flash across your mental dashboard for the next few minutes as we explore these meta trends!
There’s so much to take in here, and we’ll get to it all. But let’s not bury the lead. Obstagoon > Scrafty. That’s the first comparison that jumped out to me and remained one of the most salient takeaways at the end of the Baltimore analysis. Obstagoon notably has better matchups against Trevenant, Sableye, and Flying-types in comparison to Scrafty, which could be enough to tip the scales. Normal-types as a whole, in fact, performed quite well with Obstagoon, Noctowl, Diggersby and Lickitung all posting above-average performance marks at Baltimore. Heck, we even saw Dubwool make an impressive run. The high usage of Trevenant and Sableye provide obvious targets for many of these Normal-types, but the biggest target might arguably be within the group itself—Lickitung, which has seen its usage continue to climb throughout last season and into this season.
With the rise in Altaria and continued presence of Dark-types such as Obstagoon, Umbreon and Mandibuzz and Fighting-types such as Medicham, Fairy-types in Azumarill and Alolan Ninetales performed well and understandably so. Notably, Azumarill and Alolan Ninetales also have more play against Galarian Stunfisk in comparison to Registeel, so these two versatile Fairy-types don’t appear to be going anywhere.
The resurgence of Skarmory likely went understated on opening weekend as many people highlighted the expected but still noteworthy surge in Altaria or the changing of the guard from Registeel to Galarian Stunfisk (we explored in-depth the reasons for this change in our First Look article). However, this Steel/Flying-type took full advantage of the low prevalence of Registeel, Lanturn, and Fire-types in the new meta, appearing on four of the top-16 teams—most notably two former Senior Division players, wdage and HotPoket777 who both finished in the top-8. Let’s just say, I don’t expect this to be the last mention of the Armor Bird Pokémon this season (or even in this article).
Lastly, where’s Lanturn? We saw Lanturn reach nearly 20% usage prior to the start of the Play! Pokémon season in one remote open Great League tournament (126 participants; see First Look article for analysis) yet it barely eclipsed 9% usage in Baltimore and had an uninspiring performance rating at that. Perhaps Lanturn usage was directly impacted by the undeniable rise in Altaria and Ground-types mentioned in our five initial meta takeaways earlier this month. With Water Gun being a near requirement for Ground-type matchups, Trevenant and Altaria may have ultimately dissuaded trainers to bring Lanturn this time around. However, given the alternative Fliers that appear to be on the rise, maybe Lanturn will find better days ahead.
When looking at the season trends, it’s difficult to ignore the precipitous decline of a few Pokémon. Registeel and Walrein are in dire straits, and we’re not just referencing usage either. Although we certainly don’t want to overstate their performance too early on, we also should not quickly dismiss the dreadful performance of these two headliners from seasons past. It’s not that people weren’t bringing them in Baltimore, people were and just not consistently winning with them, which led their usage to plummet even further in Peoria. I’m not entirely down on Walrein, but if I only had one tournament opportunity, it’s hard to feel good about Walrein after its showing thus far. That being said, the Porto Alegre Regional champion (LNDsRargef) ran Walrein and the two finalists in Bilbao (Bassiix and vaNNiii) both had Registeel, so don’t give up on these two former titans just yet.
The previously almost nonexistent Flying role is back—and in a big way. In the inaugural season of the Pokémon GO Championship Series, it was quite common for Flying-types to be left at home due to the dominance of Walrein and Registeel. Mandibuzz and Talonflame saw occasional play, but few others could break through into the meta. Now turn to this season, Altaria is solidly top-five in usage and a force that has trainers turning to viable Fairy-types with play against Galarian Stunfisk, such as Azumarill, Powder Snow Alolan Ninetales, and Tapu Fini—all featured in Peoria’s Top Cut. The top-two at Porto Alegre (LNDsRargef and LNDsAureo), the Baltimore Regionals champion (Housestark93) and the Peoria Regionals champion (HotPoket777) all ran Noctowl, our familiar, Route-2 denizen of the night. Within the top-four at Porto Alegre, we also saw two Skarmory and two shadow Jumpluff alongside the two aforementioned Noctowl. Taken all together with the positive performance of Skarmory, Noctowl and even Mandibuzz in Baltimore, I think we can expect to see greater Flying-type diversity at future tournaments. Altaria is formidable without question; however, I think the utility of other Flying-types has been largely undervalued. The precipitous decline in Walrein and Registeel elevates the stock of Flying-types as a whole. Perhaps Altaria was viewed as the best among these options due to a mostly unrealized expectation that Lanturn would quickly fill the anti-Flier niche. This may have led to the early dominance of Altaria. However, with Electric coverage currently lacking, Noctowl boasts strong matchups against meta heavyweights Trevenant and Lickitung. The pivot from Altaria to Noctowl is even more enticing when you consider the increased competition Swampert now has within the Water role as players consider Water/Fairy-types to counter high Altaria prevalence. Arguably the most significant meta role shifts this season, I fully expect Flying-type diversity and anti-Flying alternatives to be common themes throughout the season.
It’s hard to estimate how true this holds in the long run, but at least currently, there seems to be a definitive top eight Pokémon. Galarian Stunfisk, Medicham, Swampert, Trevenant, Altaria, Lickitung, Nidoqueen, and Sableye all had over 28.9% usage with the next highest being Alolan Ninetales at 22.4%—a clear usage tier dropoff. We’ve already mentioned how Altaria and Swampert could face more competition in similar roles. Coming out of a major move update, we expect multiple shifts over the course of the season as players explore unique strategies to challenge the current paradigm. As the metagame equilibrates, new Pokémon releases might unsettle the developing meta, and one such Pokémon had everyone’s attention this past weekend in Peoria.
With its first Regional eligibility in Peoria, Toxapex was already a widely discussed Pokémon entering the weekend, both before and after a move change prior to release. Make no mistake, Toxapex is still a strong Pokémon, but many, myself included, didn’t think it would burst onto the scene in Peoria. Toxapex performs average or poorly against the aforementioned top-eight, depending on which shield scenarios you’re examining, although it would be unlikely to encounter all three of its worst matchups (Galarian Stunfisk, Swampert, Nidoqueen) on the same team. Regardless, the Brutal Star Pokémon will influence the metagame if nothing else but by the threat of its presence alone. Before the start of the season, we had already discussed the notable rise in Ground-types, and the arrival of Toxapex cements it.
With the expected shift from Registeel to Galarian Stunfisk solidified on opening weekend, we can likely expect other roles to continue to adjust to the reversal at the top of the Steel hierarchy as well. For example, Ninetales’ placement among the top-five downward trending Pokémon for the season is indicative of a larger role shift. There were no Fire-types in the top-16 at Baltimore or the top-8 at Porto Alegre and only one, a solitary Talonflame, in the top-8 at Bilbao. With two of the better meta matchups in Walrein and Registeel fading fast and Dragons such as Altaria coming into the foreground, Fire’s previous anti-meta role looks less viable than ever. Now with the Altaria + Galarian Stunfisk core taking center stage, we could see Pokémon such as the Water/Fairy-types, shadow Abomasnow, shadow Lapras, or Walrein (yes, I just said Walrein) make a return.
Sableye’s swift fall from its heights as the most used Pokémon last season isn’t as easily explained away as Walrein and Registeel, which both received targeted nerfs. Fairy Wind hasn’t entered the fray in a significant way, and Sableye still plays well enough into Galarian Stunfisk and Altaria to maintain viability. Unlike Registeel and Walrein, Sableye’s performance is on par with other top meta picks as well. One likely contributing factor might be the increased safety and strong performance of several Normal-types thus far making the previous double Ghost roster archetype less appealing. The reversal at the top of the Steel role inherently makes Pokémon such as Lickitung safer and arguably even Noctowl and Obstagoon, which situationally can find Registeel more threatening than Galarian Stunfisk. Speaking of Lickitung, don’t make too much of the drop in usage for Peoria. Lickitung has been steadily increasing in usage throughout the latter half of last season continuing into this season. Nidoqueen, however, might be notable. Nidoqueen doesn’t satisfy the Ground role as well with Galarian Stunfisk as the preeminent Steel-type and doesn’t fulfill the Poison role well either with Fairy types searching for more play against Galarian Stunfisk as well. With Toxapex placing greater emphasis on true Poison counters, Nidoqueen’s recent decline might not be an aberration.
In this last section, I wanted to bring other voices into the conversation and see what some other notable names in the community thought about the September meta and where we could be headed in October.
Where do you see the meta shifting and/or what Pokémon could you see taking off in October (e.g. a dark-horse anti-meta pick or an underused Pokémon we've seen deserving of more play)?
I think with the absence of Walrein, the meta has become increasingly polarizing, but to consistently win at the highest level, you have to lean into versatility. I believe the meta will shift to more Azumarill and Tapu Fini, which will cause a natural shift back to Registeel. Two dark-horse picks that can handle the top meta and still be versatile is shadow Lapras and Froslass. Shadow Lapras has promising potential against not only the Galarian Stunfisk-Altaria core, but the Azumarill-Noctowl core as well, and Froslass might have the best closing potential up shields against the current meta.
I think as the meta shifts there will be an opening for new Pokémon to enter the fold. I believe a Pokémon like Runerigus could really shine in October, as it’s not only a Ghost-type to match the spooky season, but also keeps itself grounded. With positive matchups against Medicham, Nidoqueen, Galarian Stunfisk, Toxapex, Alolan Ninetales, Skarmory, Registeel, and even some win conditions against Swampert, Altaria, and Trevenant, it has a ton of potential. Obviously, it needs to watch out for Normal-, Dark-, and Water-types like Noctowl, Obstagoon, Azumarill, Sableye, and Umbreon. But with a properly built team, I believe it has a real shot to enter the Play! Pokémon meta and show its worth.
Shadow Lapras is my favorite sleeper pick for October. It has great matchups against the common flyers like Altaria and Noctowl that we see on every Top 8 team, and it can two-shield its way through "counters" like Trevenant and Galarian Stunfisk. Shadow Lapras also has positive matchups against the common water Pokémon like Swampert and Azumarill. It will mainly need to watch out for Medicham, Lickitung, Alolan Ninetales, and Sableye, though Shadow Lapras does win the one-shield vs Sableye.
I think the meta is still poised for a further shift towards Pokémon with Altaria-Galarian Stunfisk coverage. While Primeape wasn't my play every game, my whole team save for Altaria had solid play against that core. I think Cofagrigus, in particular, is a Pokémon to watch out for as a pick with play against Altaria, Galarian Stunfisk, Swampert, and Azumarill, so long as you can cover your bases against Lickitung and Noctowl. The safety in some of these Ghost- and Normal-types cannot be overstated and I expect them to continue to rise in popularity given the meta developing.
Many Pokémon that were meta staples in 2022 have mysteriously vanished in the 2023 season. Walrein and Registeel are the obvious ones, but the lack of Sableye, Mandibuzz and Nidoqueen is truly mind-boggling to me. Whereas almost everyone played Walrein out of necessity last season, its absence has created a vacuum that is being filled by a revolving door of atypical Pokémon (Noctowl, Tapu Fini, etc.). Has the meta finally opened up? Have spicy and anti-meta Pokémon finally become the standard?
I’ll close it out with my final thoughts. If I had to bet my beard (shoutout to SpeediestChief2 and the BattleCatz podcast) on one Pokémon taking flight in October, it would be Skarmory. As Noctowl value also rises, the Armor Bird Pokémon seems poised to take on the top of the current meta and soar to new heights, and with Electric-types not filling the niche left by Registeel and Fire-types currently extinguished, who’s there to stop it? Imagine doing all of this with Air Slash as your fast move, too. Incredible. Massive thank you to all the friends above that shared their October meta insights. That’s it for Meta Trends this month, and I hope everyone enjoys Salt Lake and Lille. Until next time, thanks for the support and good luck, trainers.