Slowpoke Community Day PVP Analysis
redspah & G47IX
3 weeks ago
The Slowpoke line, much like approximately half of all species hailing from Generation I, are iconic at this point. Around as many braincells as yours truly, harmlessly pink, punchline of many a joke, involved in a side plot in Generation II games, featuring an alternate evolution, a regional variant *and* an alternate evolution of that regional variant, making Galarian Slowking the Waluigi Pokemon deserves... and forever not quite good enough in the context of PvP.
All these, combined with the community shaped burning outcry and mass malding following the extremely whelming patchnotes for the Rising Heroes season, call for something to be done- and a community day for both Slowpokes does technically count as something, with the extremely fitting Surf chosen as the featured move of choice to help quench untold flaming filling many a Twitter and R*ddit thread.
The biggest weakness of the entire Slow- family in context of GO PvP has always been the lack of a cheaper, more spammable move, and Surf addresses that need perfectly, acting simultaneously as handy reliable damage output for the original duo and as helpful coverage for the couple of Galarians. Is that enough to actually make them worth using outside Love Cup? Let's find out!
Kanto Slowbro goes from being unusable outside of Love Cup to being very likely to be a regular occurrence in Great League limited formats. In Ultra League, it would be almost good enough to be an occasional consideration for the Open Ultra League format, if Tapu Fini didn't exist at least, and is likely to be a part of UL Premier meta once more.
Galarian Slowbro goes from already being usable in limited formats to being better in them, but still unlikely to break out into open formats- its typing is unique alright, but it's not really *good*.
Galarian Slowking goes from being worthless to being possibly usable in limited formats, though there it's almost certain to continue to be overshadowed by its dumber sibling because of a worse fast move selection.
The ever-brilliant KANTO SLOWBRO and that other one
With the TL;DR above, it is likely little surprise that a singular move addition didn't singlehandedly turn one of the more underwhelming fully evolved pokemon around into a sudden meta staple. Kanto Slowbro's improvements are sizable, don't get me wrong, but even with those it's a very far cry away from true open Great League usability. Looking at both of its potential fast moves is a good idea to see why, and in what ways it falls short of already existing pokemon:
With Confusion, Hypno immediately comes to mind as a decent point of comparison, though obviously far from a perfect one on account of him not having any Water type coverage, forcing us to substitute it with Ice Punch and account for coverage difference. Hypno is sadly nowhere near as good as he used to be, more and more viable Dark types getting added gradually pushing him out of the realm of consideration, and Trevenant's arrival pretty much sealed the deal completely. The current meta is very hostile to most Psychic types- multiple viable dark types in Sableye, Scrafty, Umbreon, maybe even Mandibuzz or Drapion if you're feeling frisky, Froslass springing up into prominence lately, Noctowl defying god and beating Galarian Stunfisk, Trevenant being everywhere, and the (not quite as relevant right now thanks to Noctowl's ascent into the realm of utter nonsense) Lickitung and Cofagrigus still lurking in the shadows.
These are all bad enough, and using Confusion as the fast move of choice makes it all even worse- it's an extremely inflexible move, hitting hard at the cost of generating comparatively little energy, and requiring cheap, reliable charged moves to accompany it; moves that both Hypno and now the Slow- family do have. Even then, it's not enough, nowhere near- with how much of Confusion users' damage output is stored in their fast move, having it all be harmlessly absorbed by an Umbreon, Galarian Stunfisk or Sableye is just too much of a risk. Even when more than half of their damage output isn't being negated, being weak to Ghost in particular makes Trevenant and Noctowl an autoloss as well.
Even with its loss of bulk, Slowbro's Water typing does afford it a couple of wins that Hypno doesn't get, or which require running a specific punch for the yellow fuzzball to grab. Talonflame, non-shadow Swampert, and shadow Walrein, Froslass in 2s, either Swampert and non-shadow Walrein in 0s- this isn't particularly large, and is offset by many more losses that it's just not worth it to mention, including ones that stem directly from its Water type, such as Lanturn, Grass types, Cresslia, Thunderbolt Deoxys Defense, as well as plenty more from its substantially lower stat product.
Now, with Water Gun, there's another, much less wishy washy point of comparison we can make- Tapu Fini. Both Slowbro and Tapu Fini have similar stat products, and an almost identical moveset, pairing Water Gun / Surf with a 55+ energy move of their other type. Almost all of their matchup differences come down to Fairy being so much more cracked of a typing than Psychic is, including most Dark types, the handful of usable Ghosts, Noctowl, and Altaria. The handful of wins Slowbro does have over Fini come mostly from its bulk being much more HP-weighed as opposed to being Defense-weighed, since in many matchups, even with her notably higher defense stat, Fini will take as much fast move damage as Slowbro, and with so much less health than the pink lug, her effective survivability is much lower as a result.
Don't get me wrong- even if Slowbro isn't quite open Great League good, it'll still be very much usable in limited formats- bootleg Tapu Fini doesn't quite cut it versus Noctowl and friends, but in a meta with a lower power level, or one with much less of a Dark and Ghost presence, Slowbro will almost certainly be a commanding force that battlers will have to respect.
In the one format that Slowbro has already managed to make a name for itself in, Love Cup, the improvements across the board are immense. Not all of them are as straightforward as some would want- quite a few of its new wins do come as a result of now actually being able to bait as opposed to just being a consequence of straight Surf. These new wins include basically all charmers in 1s, Seaking, Talonflame, Charizard, a bait reliant Ariados win on non-shadow Slowbro, Rock Throw Magcargo in 2s, and Medicham in 2s, including the Water Gun variant, and Milotic in 2s. Even in other matchups that don't get swung, it sees substantial improvements in results, making it much harder to just outright wall. If only it didn't get released almost immediately after this year's Love Cup rotation...
All these issues that make Slowbro a worse version of Tapu Fini? All of them are just as true in Ultra League, with the caveat that even as a Terrible Fini, Slowbro is now much more solid than it was in Great League, to the point that I'm almost willing to say that if Fini didn't exist, some brave trainers would be running Surf Slowbro to fill most of its niche. And that's where this digression would end... if not for UL Premier.
Now- true, UL Premier won't be in rotation during the Rising Heroes season, we'll all have to wait patiently to get to play with the new Ultra League toy. But once we do, the improvements will be a sight to behold. With Surf and Psychic, Slowbro performs remarkably well, especially considering its vulnerable typing. And yes, it does basically autolose to all Grass, Ghost, and Dark types, together with mons using these as coverage, but aside from those, in most neutral matchups, it gets away with wins much more often than not. Confusion vs. Water Gun is a real consideration and I can definitely see both being used- Confusion has a much easier time grabbing fellow Water types, including those that one would think Slowbro has no business ever winning against such as Jellicent or Gyarados- both of which are very narrow and bait reliant wins, though that's true on both ends. Water Gun, in contrast, can get Escavalier, Steelix, and has a much more reliable win over Galarian Stunfisk, though Confusion can also take the flat fish on, even if very barely. Confusion Slowbro can even take on Dragonite without having to bait, outside of 2s at least.
All in all, Kanto Slowbro isn't necessarily a priority, especially not in Great League, but is very likely to pop up in limited formats, and it's a good idea to grab one just for these. In Ultra League the situation is better, and it's hard to imagine this buffed dumb creature not getting its fair share of use, be it in UL Premier or in whichever limited UL Factions format succeeds Justicar.
Justicar, Justicar... put a pin in that.
Foreshadowing is a literary device in which-
GALARIAN SLOWBRO, the Deathbed Companion
Put on your grungiest shirts, it's time to talk about the cool kid of the Slow- family and his Mega Man-esque arm cannon. Galarian Slowbro has always come off to the author as a pokemon that has every reason to be fairly solid in limited formats, but whose format to shine in hasn't really come yet, Love Cup aside. And if there's anything that will help it improve there, it's a cheap, relatively spammable move slash coverage for the Ground types that would otherwise be giving it trouble. Love Cup doesn't have any of those, of course, but considering it's the only Great League format in which it's legal in and which is still on people's minds, it's perhaps best to start a closer look at the Grunge Bro there.
Galarian Slowbro's outlook improves *drastically* with Surf. Crustle, Magcargo, Talonflame, Shadow Slowbro (w/ Surf), Ariados when running Psychic as your non-Surf move of choice, and much more solid scores elsewhere. Many of those gains persist even when switching over to the ordinarily inferior Confusion, making it not *quite* as much of an objective downgrade as it would otherwise be. 2 shield matchups in particular see a wealth of new wins, including regular Slowbro, Crustle, Milotic, Alomomola, Talonflame, Slowpoke, Seaking and Magcargo. It's hard to deny that Galarian Slowbro was already good in Love Cup beforehand, but with this upgrade it goes from just good to arguably as central as Medicham or Lickitung.
Will all of its newfound fortune, some of it ought to rub off on its performance in open formats, right? Ehhhh. Upgrading from Focus Blast to Surf only nets the G-Bro a couple new wins, and I can't remember the last time I've seen either of Shadow Walrein or Talonflame on the big stage of the regionals. The simple fact of the matter is that, being part Psychic, funky Bro is dealing with all the same crippling weaknesses as regular Bro, but without the boon that is Water typing to compensate for it. Of its four resistances, in Fighting, Poison, Grass and Fairy only one is even a remotely relevant force right now, where as all three of its weaknesses, Ground, Ghost, and Dark, are all the rage, and attacks that singlehandedly annihilate the Nirvana reject are thrown around left and right. With no relevant resistances, only average bulk, and a neat but not particularly anti-meta moveset, Galarian Slowbro just doesn't have what it takes to take the open Great League on, and it likely never will.
"Surely", you'd say, "it's gonna be better in Ultra League, right?". To which my response would be, "Don't call me Shirley", and a couple of context-less PvPoke histograms that convey the simple act that no, it's not all that much better there. In fact, it basically doesn't improve there at all with Surf, and the couple new wins it could possibly squeeze out require some heavy, unrealistic baiting. Every new win its new toy feels like it ought to let it get is a win the purple guy already had. What about UL Premier, no way it's not better there- it's really not better there. Focus Blast + Surf do offer it a couple potential new wins if you squint hard enough, but it's really not something you want to be team building around. It's not *terrible* there per se, it was already almost usable there even without Surf, but there are better picks to be running there, such as its Kanto cousin.
Now, onto the wacky format in the room.
Justicar is the upcoming format for UL Factions, and, as of writing this, Galarian Slowbro is rated #25 on its PvPoke rankings, which is decent enough. However, that is with Poison Jab / Sludge Bomb / Focus Blast, and the addition of Surf combined with a gear change into Confusion, is enough for it to shoot way ahead of the competition, and be able to take Ws left and right, from most of the meta. Tentacruel? Check. Talonflame? Check. Sneasler, Luxray (including when incorrectly shielding the first move), Gengar, Crustle, Charizard, Ampharos, K-Muk, all the fighters sans Scrafty, G-Weezing, the list is long and potentially quite unnerving. Switching back to Poison Jab and sticking with Psychic as a second move lets the goober keep most of these wins while also adding Scrafty and Victini. Teching into Focus Blast even gives it a potential bait reliant win vs Skuntank. Of course, being a Psychic type, it still eats Donkey Kong from Dark types, Walrein, Magnezone, and gets potentially baited and blown up by Kanto Ninetales, but even with these losses, it'll still absolutely be a force to be reckoned with- and that's if it doesn't get banned following the announcement.
The loathsome GALARIAN SLOWKING
The other Galarian member of the Slow- family has never seen any real competitive success, and the reason why comes down mostly to its fast moves. Poison Jab, as all the Khan Academy Basic Counting connoisseurs know, is a very cool and balanced move, and it is on its back that Galarian Slowbro has seen much of its success. Confusion and Hex... aren't. They're both just bad moves, and that doesn't sound right to say, especially in reference to the former- it deals so much damage, puts on so much pressure, how can Confusion be bad? I don't know either, but it just is. Having so much of your damage output be focused on fast moves that three different typings, two of which are extremely competitively good as is, can just completely shrug off feels terrible, and the fact that Confusion's numbers really don't lend themselves to the moves the Slow- family are using does not help in the slightest either. Three Confusions narrowly miss being able to afford Surf, four Confusions narrowly miss either Sludge Bomb, Psychic or Shadow Ball, and even if it doesn't sound that bad, it's just one move after all, it matters a lot when it comes to maintaining tempo and being able to pressure your opponent for shields faster than they can pressure you.
It's really not worth it to go in depth into Galarian Slowking's performance- it's either the same (Confusion), or much worse (Hex) than that of its sibling, save for the very rare circumstance where having Shadow Ball over Psychic or Sludge Bomb is game winning. This extends to every format- Galarian Slowbro with Surf is really good in Love Cup, Galarian Slowking with Surf is fine enough there, though noticeably worse. Galarian Slowbro doesn't cut it in either open Great League, open Ultra League, or UL Premier, and Galarian Slowking *really* doesn't cut it there either. Galarian Slowbro is busted in Justicar, Galarian Slowking is equally busted in Justicar since both have almost the same stats and almost the same moveset, though Slowking's Shadow Ball will be noticeably better for the mirror.
While the designated UL Factions players are quaking in their boots awaiting to see whether the hammer will come down on the Super Galarian Bros, the rest of the PvP playerbase is in for a neat upgrade, but ultimately not all that impactful or important. Which is fine enough on its own, don't get me wrong- but considering the polar vortex of salt and tears storming through the GO community following Niantic going through a 21-gun salute aimed at their collective feet with their recent decisions, it's perhaps not what most would've wanted to see, especially those that are really itching for a mixup in open Great League.
Will April's community day be any better? Magic 8 ball says "no", but... who knows. Hopefully, for the author's motivation to keep on playing this game if nothing else.