Season of Wishes GBL Move Updates
10 months ago
As we enter the Holiday season I can’t help but think that each season's balance/move update is kind of like waiting for Christmas. The #battlers community is just anxiously counting down the days wondering what changes will come and what new presents we will have to play with next season. Will the update bring fun toys under the tree (like Scald Tentacruel) or itchy socks (like Psychic Fangs Swoobat) in our stockings? Well, wait no more; the move update is here! While there aren't that many move changes, the lack in quantity is more than made up for in sheer magnitude. There are a couple massive, I mean, massive changes, ready to shake up the PvP world. First…CHARM. Yes, the Charm nerf is here! This has been the subject of discussion and Twitter arguments for years. Charm will see a reduction in damage. Tap tappers in shambles? Second, the end of an era: The oppressive reign 1 2 3 4 5 FANG is over, as Poison Fang will now cost more energy. Third, Wing Attack will now generate more energy. What will this mean for our feathered friends and foes? Will this push along the rise of Noctowl? Between these adjustments and a litany of Pokemon receiving move pool additions we are surely in for a shakeup in the oncoming season. The Meta Analyst team is here to break down the changes, identify potential winners and losers, and help you prepare for the Season of Wishes PvP landscape.
Trainer Battles: Energy generation increased
"I hardly think a few birds are going to bring about the end of the world."
"These weren’t a few birds!”
Since the beginning of PvP, the stable of Flying-type Pokémon has had multiple strong species in the meta. Three bulky birds, Altaria, Skarmory, and Tropius, were blessed, respectively, with one of the best fast attacks, one of the best defensive typings, and one of the best charged attacks. Since then Mandibuzz was added to the game, Talonflame was added and buffed, and Noctowl has found recent anti-meta relevance against the popular Medicham, Lickitung, and Trevenant teams. Few other types have 11 different species in the top 100 of PvPoke's Great League rankings and 6 in the top 10. Well, the flock of birds at the top of the Great League rankings is about to get even larger.
Wing Attack becomes the third fast attack buffed to match Vine Whip parameters, following Powder Snow and Quick Attack. Among Flying fast attacks, Wing Attack was already the one generating the most energy per turn, but that generation was only slightly above average. The new change accentuates that role and will diversify Flying fast attacks a bit more. Gust is the damage focussed move, Air Slash is the evenly distributed, mediocre move, Peck is the bad move, and Wing Attack is the energy focussed move.
Noctowl’s recent surge in popularity, appearing on over a third of teams in recent Play! Pokémon tournaments, is almost certain to continue. The owl has a decent defensive typing that adds no weaknesses to the three already held by Flying type, while adding a Ghost resistance that is quite relevant in a meta of Lickitung, Trevenant, and Sableye. Offensively the coverage between its STAB Sky Attack and recently added Shadow Ball is very broad, with only rare Pokémon like Tyranitar resisting both moves. The increased energy generation of Wing Attack helps alternate between these coverage options faster, and boosts its neutral performance, letting it throw out Sky Attacks every 6, 6, and 5 Wing Attacks, instead of 7, 6, and 7 previously. The counts on its two charged attacks may be familiar to trainers used to facing Froslass. Noctowl also appears to have some legitimate Ultra League play now, despite only hitting a maximum CP of 2316 at Level 51.
Pidgeot has fallen a bit behind Noctowl as of late in terms of popularity in GO Battle League and especially Play! Pokémon tournaments. The buff to Wing Attack should theoretically widen Noctowl’s lead, but did you know Pidgeot also learns Wing Attack as a legacy fast attack? It might be time to bust out those Elite Fast TMs trainers! With Wing Attack, Pidgeot can now quickly threaten its chaotic Feather Dance + Brave Bird combo. The simulation results are eye-popping, but what remains to be seen is whether Pidgeot is an actual hero or if it is just a simulation hero.
A wetter bird with a more porcelain appearance was briefly more popular than it currently is, in the period between receiving Weather Ball and seeing the move nerfed. This buff to Wing Attack has Pelipper ready to bounce back stronger than ever! While Weather Ball took an ~8% damage nerf, Pelipper will soon be able to throw two in 10% less time, while dealing the same amount of fast attack damage as it always did. Hurricane, now Pelipper’s slightly higher DPE move, also comes one fast attack sooner, especially useful against things that resist Water. Pelipper is a relatively safe Pokémon, with only two weaknesses, and a rarely resisted combination of Water and Flying damage. Empoleon and Lanturn are the only notable Pokémon in Great League to resist both types. If the Pelipper safe switch becomes a popular strategy in Great League, the recently buffed Lanturn may assert itself in response. Another likely response will be Bastiodon, which despite taking super-effective damage from Weather Ball Water, is able to hold and win against Pelipper even when faced with an 0-2 shield disadvantage!
Mantine has recently fallen behind Pelipper in terms of relevance, due to Pelipper’s higher explosiveness. With both standing to benefit from the Wing Attack buff, that is unlikely to change, but on its own right Mantine is set to become a better version of itself. Mantine is slower and methodical thanks to its high bulk and access to debuffing Bubblebeam. It has some nice niches with Ice Beam that allow it to check Dragon-types better than Pelipper, which tends to have value in certain themed cup formats.
We can all agree that if any Pokémon in the Little Element Cup meta needed a buff…it was Ducklett. The rich get richer. This will especially help Ducklett in the zero shield scenarios and in bait dependent one shield matchups as it reaches the initial Brave Bird energy one Wing Attack sooner.
Gligar and Gliscor have traditionally faced a dilemma: Do they run Wing Attack in order to play with some Flying-type offense, or do they run Fury Cutter in order to access faster energy gains? With the Wing Attack buff, they can now achieve both at the same time! This helps both carve out a greater niche. Gliscor’s access to Earthquake is likely to make it a preferred choice in Open Great League over Gligar, which is saddled with Dig. Gliscor has a useful anti-meta role, able to do super effective damage to Galarian Stunfisk, Trevenant, and Medicham, while only having two weaknesses to worry about. One of them, Water, often comes from Swampert, which Gliscor can even win in some situations, able to tank a Hydro Cannon, while often finishing Swampert with the Earthquake damage. The improvement to its neutral matchups, such as Sableye, will definitely help Gliscor to carve out a space in the Great League meta. In metas where Ground-type damage is not as necessary, Gligar sports superior bulk, and can run the non-STAB nuke Return to offset some of the damage loss. Expect to see both of these flying scorpions jump into the scene!
Since the addition of Dragon Breath as an exclusive move in October 2020, Charizard has had a full four sidegrade fast moves, each with different advantages. Dragon Breath usually outshines Fire Spin, Wing Attack, or Ember on most Pokémon, but Charizard doesn’t benefit from STAB on it, and the ridiculously high DPE of Blast Burn means a small increment in energy generation from Fire Spin or Wing Attack gets converted into a large amount of damage. Now however, Wing Attack might start to edge out the other fast moves in most cases. Previously its higher energy generation per turn didn’t actually make it the fastest move to the first Blast Burn, because 7 Wing Attacks goes to 49 energy, 1 energy short, meaning the first Blast Burn comes 1 turn slower than from Fire Spin. With the Wing Attack buff, this move will always deliver the fastest Blast Burn. Previously, these four fast moves had fairly similar win rates and rankings on PvPoke, but now Wing Attack consistently outshines the other fast moves on those metrics. In addition to its neutral performance, Wing Attack continues to offer the mixed type coverage of Flying + Fire + Dragon between Charizard’s three moves, an advantage it always had over Fire Spin and Ember. Dragon Breath will still offer niches when you want a Pseudo-Dragon, potentially in Ultra League, but for the most part it looks like Wing Attack will be the new standard.
The buff to Wing Attack adds a bit of a surprise to the scene in Moltres, a Pokémon you’ve thought so little about in PvP you may not have realized it knew Wing Attack. Moltres received Wing Attack back in July 2019, and now will reap the rewards on that addition more than three years later. Moltres can now gain quicker access to its powerful combination of Sky Attack and Overheat, helping it overcome its lack of bulk. It will still generally be outclassed by fellow Wing Attack buff beneficiary Charizard, along with Incinerate using Talonflame (in GL/UL) and Ho-oh (in ML), but at least now Moltres can join the conversation for usage. The Galarian form of Moltres also benefits, although suffers similar issues of being generally worse than Mandibuzz (in GL/UL) and Yveltal (in ML).
The original blood sucking bat hasn’t experienced the same benefits from this Wing Attack change as the other things that learn the move. This is because of the simultaneous nerf to Poison Fang. Assuming Poison Fang has its energy cost raised by 5, Golbat is not nerfed overall. It already took 5 Wing Attacks to reach Poison Fang, and those Wing Attacks will likely generate 1 more energy each, meaning the two changes combine to have no effect on Golbat. The one difference it will see is how quickly its other moves charge. Golbat usually combines Poison Fang with Shadow Ball, and Shadow Ball will charge one Wing Attack faster with the likely change. Overall the changes combine to buff Golbat, but it is a minor buff that is unlikely to raise its prominence in Great League as much as some of these other Pokémon. Golbat may actually have been one of Niantic’s motivations for nerfing Poison Fang, to stop it becoming too powerful with a Wing Attack buff.
Trainer Battles: Energy cost increased
If you’ve played Great League or Ultra League in the last two years, you’ve faced your share of Nidoqueen or Shadow Nidoqueen. You have probably also been faced with a situation where a Shadow Nidoqueen was able to Poison Fang through and beat you in a matchup that it had no business winning. This change will impact Nidoqueen’s ability to counter Fairies and will leave it as a strong check to Fighters and Electric types, but it will hurt the Queen of Fang in neutral matchups and impact her ability to just two shield power through bad matchups. This change should reduce the incredible (and often annoying) consistency, safety, and strength of Poison Fang only strategies. Generating PvPoke’s rankings with the nerf applied seems to have quite a dramatic effect on Nidoqueen’s position, tanking it about 100 places in Great League. Raising the energy cost like this has a larger effect than it does on a Pokémon like Walrein, because it doesn’t just affect the DPE and how quickly the damage can be delivered, it also reduces how rapidly the stat debuffs get added. Although a small nerf may have been valuable, this nerf may prove to be too much for Nidoqueen to remain a substantial presence in the meta, and lead trainers to turn to other Poison types like Toxapex or the slightly buffed Golbat.
The math for Air Slash (9 energy) into Poison Fang (35 energy) has always been really nice and clean for Crobat. The new Poison Fang means that Crobat will instead hit Poison Fangs on a pace of 5 4 5 4. That might not seem like much but the extra 3 turns here and there are sure to affect Crobat in neutral matchups with shields up. This also makes bait dependent one shield matchups much worse for Crobat. Before the math worked out that Crobat could do 7 Air Slashes, bait with Poison Fang and then get to Shadow Ball exactly after 3 more Air Slashes. Now getting to the Shadow Ball post bait will take 4 Air Slashes. This leads to its winrate in the 1s in Ultra Prem dropping from 20-15-1 to 17-18-1. Tough times for the biggest bat. In order to maintain that lost speed, Crobat might start running Cross Poison, a 35 Energy Charged Attack that was added to Crobat at the same time Poison Fang was but never saw play. However, the lost ability to drop an opponent’s defense should cause a reduction in Crobat’s meta presence (outside of the random 12.5% chance that Crobat sharply raises its attack).
Sorry Zzweilous, our heart goes out to your Shadow Sharpedo :(. On the bright side, it will still take the same amount of Waterfalls to activate the first Poison Fang, and does Shadow Sharpedo ever make it to a second Charged Attack anyways?
Trainer Battles: 16 power → 15 power
One of the most controversial moves in PvP, a section of the player base has consistently complained about this move for a long time. The unusually damage focussed parameters of the move can be frustrating to players saving their shields and energy for their last Pokémon, only to find it melted down by fast moves they can do nothing to block. Its divergence from other fast moves can make this move hard to manage if a trainer expects to encounter a more conventional Pokémon. In addition, the slow energy generation of Charm makes Charm users more reliant on Fairy damage than the damage from their charged attacks, which can lead to Rock Paper Scissor matchups that are hard to overcome. Overall, the move has remained a significant part of the meta in all three leagues, with strong enough parameters to do well in neutral matchups, especially when the user has two shields to block the opponent’s charged move damage while the opponent can’t block the fast move damage. This slight reduction in Charm’s damage output will slightly reduce the move’s potency in those matchups, such as in Master League where Togekiss no longer wins the two shield scenario over Kyogre. This change may lead to many Fairies becoming less common in the meta, and a slight shift back towards Azumarill, perhaps alongside the recently released Tapu Fini, and the newly buffed Galarian Weezing.
With this round of Attack availability updates, there is a clear focus from Niantic to distribute some of the moves added to the game for recent Community Days. We saw something similar in Season 12 when Rollout and Psychic Fangs saw an increased distribution. For Season 13, we are seeing an increased distribution of Meteor Beam, Poltergeist, and High Horsepower, which were the three charged attacks featured for Community Day during the Season of Light. Additionally, we are also seeing an increased distribution for Brutal Swing, which featured on Deino Community Day back in June.
This indicates that some Community Day moves are being introduced not only for the featured Pokémon on Community Day itself, but with potential to be added to more Pokémon between the seasons. Previous Community Day attacks, such as Icicle Spear and Acrobatics, have potential to receive a similar fate in future updates.
Let’s now analyze these new additions and what impact they could have on Trainer Battles!
Litleo and Pyroar
These fiery lions are ready to rumble with Incinerate, causing Froslass around the globe to tremble in an ice cold sweat. Litleo has better bulk, which should make it the standard choice for Great League. However, Pyroar has access to Overheat which may have some value, and can find play in Ultra League where Litleo can only dream of being a part of. In the League, the GO Battle League, the lions no longer sleep tonight!
The flamboyant dino Aurorus was given a decent moveset on release. It has similar bulk and the same fast move as Walrein, and Weather Ball is a better Ice charged attack than the nerfed Icicle Spear, in terms of speed and DPE. Aurorus doesn't offer coverage with as good a super effective profile as Walrein's Ice + Ground combo, but Thunderbolt is still good coverage, replicating the BoltBeam combination famous in the main series games. The buffed Ancient Power has also seen play, especially in Ice-heavy metas, but was never the most threatening Rock move for Aurorus to use.
That changes with the incredible Meteor Beam. A similar concept to Registeel's Zap Cannon, before that move got nerfed, Meteor Beam is a high DPE nuke with a guaranteed stat change and good offensive typing. But it is even more scary than Zap Cannon, with higher base DPE and an easier-to-reach energy cost. Aurorus can wield this fearsome nuke alongside a 35 energy charged move and a higher DPT fast move than Lock On, giving Aurorus much more consistency in damage output than Registeel, and the ability to bait shields if it can't reach two Meteor Beams fast enough. This new tool significantly improves Aurorus's win rates in PvPoke's multi-sims, raising them as high as some of the strongest picks in Great League. Those wins include a particularly impressive 1s win over Cresselia. If Cresselia lets an unboosted Meteor Beam land, it loses the one shield scenario, despite having super effective Grass Knots.
Does anything stop this new Aurorus from overwhelming Great League? Yes, it has a pretty detrimental defensive typing. Ice + Rock is one of the worst defensive combinations in Pokémon, with six weaknesses, two of which are doubled, against only four resistances. Despite Aurorus’s overpowered moveset, it faces type disadvantage in a lot of matchups, and will still get farmed down fast by even the weakest Counter users. Compared with Abomasnow– another Powder Snow and Weather Ball user with an awful defensive typing–Aurorus is more likely to encounter that double weakness: Counter users are currently more popular in the Great League meta than Fire users. However, Meteor Beam is so much more exceptional than any of Abomasnow's nukes that Aurorus is well placed to surpass Abomasnow in popularity. If nothing else, it’ll provide another answer to the flock of birds poised to descend on Great League after the Wing Attack buff.
Given the massive stat product gap between Aggron and Bastiodon, the addition of Meteor Beam is unlikely to have much impact in open Great League. One place where this addition might have more impact is a Master League format where some Megas are allowed, such as Silph's Factions. There, Aggron's stat product is so huge–mega, even–that it can stand out compared to other Steel types. And losing STAB on Smack Down after evolving from normal Aggron means Mega Aggron is happy to run one of its other non-STAB fast moves, Dragon Tail, which charges Meteor Beam slightly faster. Thunder is Aggron's only neutral move against Steels such as Melmetal and the mirror, but the high base DPE of Meteor Beam combined with the guaranteed stat buff might mean that Aggron is happy to drop Thunder and throw resisted Meteor Beam at Steels instead.
Sudowoodo already has a good pair of nukes, with Stone Edge and Earthquake, and a guaranteed stat change move with Rock Tomb. But it almost always pairs them with Rock Slide, its only move below 55 energy cost. Earthquake has traditionally been favored, giving Sudo broad Rock + Ground type coverage that, combined with the Fighting fast move, lets it do neutral damage to every Pokémon in existence. However, Meteor Beam is such an exceptional move, Sudo may find itself dropping Earthquake more often. A STAB Meteor Beam is over 1.3× the DPE of non-STAB Earthquake, partially mitigating a 1.6× type effectiveness difference, such as versus Fighting-types. Combine this with the guaranteed stat change to boost Sudo’s fast attack damage, and Sudo might be content just to throw a resisted Meteor Beam. It does help that Fighting + Rock is pretty broad type coverage by itself, and Counter is a high damage per turn fast attack, so Sudo can get by without the type coverage on its charged attacks. This Counter + Rock Slide + Meteor Beam Sudowoodo does seem to have better multi-sims than the previous standard set, picking up a small number of neutral matchups.
Tyrantrum does not have the bulk or low energy charged attacks needed to pull off Meteor Beam in a meaningful way. It will still be outclassed by its pre-evolution Tyrunt in Great League, due to Tyrunt’s access to Dragon Claw, and isn’t likely to make many waves in Ultra nor Master League. It is a slight improvement over Stone Edge, getting more power and an attack buff with little to no drawback. Dragon Tail generates energy in multiples of 9, requiring 7 Dragon Tails for either of the Rock-type charged attacks. On the bright side, adding Meteor Beam to Tyrantrum will help it stand out much better in Raid Battles.
Poltergeist is a clone of Blizzard, an Ice-type charged attack that has seen solid usage in Trainer Battles. The issue for Poltergeist, however, is that it needs to compete with Shadow Ball on Gourgeist. Shadow Ball is a Ghost-type charged attack so good that it tends to be run by nearly everything that has access to it. This is clear when you check simulation results with Gourgeist running Shadow Ball compared to Poltergeist. Despite the extra closing power that Poltergeist could provide, the consistent damage and lower energy cost of Shadow Ball tends to win out. This is unfortunate, because Poltergeist Gourgeist is such a joyous combination of words and it would be nice if this move would have helped close the gap it currently faces with the far superior Trevenant.
Dusknoir is a similar story to Gourgeist. It already has access to Shadow Ball thanks to its October 2021 Community Day, and as such doesn’t have much need for a higher energy Ghost charged attack. On Duskull Community Day, many players were left wondering why Dusknoir was getting Shadow Ball instead of the far more relevant Dusclops. A similar train of thought could be looked at here, where Dusclops would benefit far more from this addition than Dusknoir would.
The third recipient of Poltergeist is Golurk, but with its patented combination of poor energy generation and poor bulk, good luck even getting to this 75 energy charged attack! This addition’s impact will be felt with your charge TMs when trying to get the moves you actually want on Golurk.
Mamoswine is already a viable pick in the Master League due to the abundance of Ice weak targets that it can prey on, but its poor secondary move choices can leave it struggling to properly punish those who resist its Avalanche. High Horsepower is a welcome addition to its movepool, granting Mamoswine with a strong secondary STAB option that forces the likes of Metagross and Melmetal to respect it. For example, Mamoswine can now defeat Metagross in the 1s with either a successful bait or a Powder Snow energy lead. Since High Horsepower deals more damage than Avalanche, it can also situationally be used as a nuke option if reaching two Avalanches is unfeasible. Mamoswine’s frailty, lack of relevant resistances, and vulnerability to common weaknesses will still hold it back from being a top tier pick, but it nonetheless highly appreciates this buff. As a bonus side note, the addition of High Horsepower turns Mamoswine into a monstrous Ground attacker in raids, with Shadow Mamoswine far surpassing any currently existing choices.
High Horsepower on Piloswine is a similar story to Mamoswine, only this time at the Great League Level. Piloswine often ran Stone Edge instead of Bulldoze due to the underwhelming nature of Bulldoze. Now with access to High Horsepower, it could more often run the coveted Ice + Ground coverage that made Walrein such a safe and popular pick during its relatively brief reign of terror. Stone Edge will still have its uses, particularly against other Ice-types in themed cup formats involving Ice-types, but High Horsepower will help shore up its ability to fight back against many Steel-type picks that resist Ice + Rock move combinations.
Galarian Rapidash has started to see some play in themed cup formats, such as Season 12’s Psychic Cup, due to its recent addition of Fairy Wind. High Horsepower gives GDash access to something that no Fairies currently can muster in a Ground-type charged attack, covering all three Fairy-resistant types (Fire, Poison, and Steel). It isn’t perfect coverage, as any of the aforementioned three types can still resist High Horsepower if paired with a Flying-typing, such as Talonflame (Fire/Flying), Golbat (Poison/Flying), and Skarmory (Steel/Flying), but it is something unique and yet-to-be-seen in Pokémon GO. Unfortunately, High Horsepower is a little bit underpowered relative to its energy cost, and Galarian Rapidash still suffers from bulk issues that hold it back. That being said, it will now make Steel-types think twice about whether to use a protective shield.
Galarian Weezing was finally given a good fast move when Fairy Wind was added to the game, but its only cheap charged attack, Sludge, doesn’t wheeze out much damage, and Weezing would sometimes end up resorting to the slow and clumsy Play Rough plus Overheat set. Brutal Swing isn’t a huge power increase (without STAB it only does ~8% more damage than STAB Sludge) but it is better than nothing, and the Dark typing also allows Weezing to function in roles it didn’t before, brutally swinging its top hat at Ghost and Psychic Pokémon for more consistent damage than before. Dark + Fire and especially Dark + Fairy are good offensive type combinations, less frequently resisted than Poison + Fire or Poison + Fairy, and Weezing will most likely be seen running Brutal Swing with one of Overheat or Play Rough as its nuke. Both sets seem to improve its win rates slightly over the current movesets.
Electrode is an existing Volt Switch user with a Dark coverage move, but the Brutal Swing addition to Ampharos might leave Electrode looking a bit sheepish. Brutal Swing is pretty efficient with Volt Switch: five Volt Switches charges 80 energy, the exact cost of two Brutal Swings. This small speed advantage over Electrode’s Foul Play is quite significant, and Ampharos can pair Brutal Swing with a more interesting range of nukes than Electrode. In addition to Electrode’s Normal nuke, Return, Ampharos can also run Focus Blast for Fighting coverage against things like Galarian Stunfisk, Dragon Pulse for covering Electric-resistant Dragons, Thunder for some added Electric power at a solid energy price, or Zap Cannon for the STAB firepower and chance of an Attack debuff. With any of these sets, Ampharos displays notably higher multi-sim win rates than Electrode. Ampharos can also forgo the nuke plus Brutal Swing movesets to run the move it always used to run, Thunder Punch. Thunder Punch is less necessary in neutral now that Brutal Swing charges equally fast, and Brutal Swing even does almost the same amount of damage in neutral matchups as STAB Thunder Punch. But the double 40 energy attack set is an option for Ampharos if it wants to forgo firepower in favor of consistency.