Ultra Beasts Arrive - to Great League?
10 months ago
Sunday, November 27th marks the Ultra Beast Arrival Global event from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM local time. There are many aspects of this event to be excited about for battlers — Nihilego and Buzzwole in raids for Master League players, Buzzwole and Guzzlord in raids for Ultra League players. But in a change from the usual for raid-focused events, Great League players get some new toys to be excited about.
Ultra Beast Arrival: Global offers trainers the first, but hopefully not the last, chance of getting a research encounter of every single currently released Ultra Beast. This either opens or widens their availability in Great League. But before you pounce on that occasion with your and your unborn daughter's accounts, let's first go over all the Ultra Beasts so far once more, both as a refresher on those that have already been available for Great League in the past, and an overview on those that will be available for the first time. In the order of importance, from highest to lowest:
Many a twitter thread have been filled with tears and gnashing of teeth about Great League Buzzwole being restricted to GO Fest 2022 ticket owners. And, as most online complaining is, they were all for naught, for a mighty great Buzzwole is in the cards of everyone reading this.
There are two reference points one can easily compare Buzzwole to- open Great League fighters as a whole, and Heracross specifically as the only other PVP-relevant Bug/Fighting type so far. In the former case, it struggles a lot, lagging behind the stars of Medicham, Scrafty and Obstagoon, while not offering almost anything of its own. IV dependent 1-1 Araquanid win is nice, as are a much more consistent matchups vs. Grass types, but they're hardly worth being unable to do anything at all about Fliers, Ghosts, or Poison types.
In the latter case however, it's a marked upgrade in many ways, and with how much usage the Single Horn Pokémon has already seen in limited formats like Silph Lunar and Firefly Cups, it seems inevitable that Buzzwole will get some solid use once Silph Season 5 gets rolling. The Swollen Pokémon's slightly higher bulk is appreciated of course, but the real difference is in the movesets, which can be summarized as a choice between reliable damage output and pop-off nuke power. Or at least it would be if Buzzwole didn't also get Superpower, giving it access to both.
Lunge is an immediate standout in Buzzwole's arsenal, letting it soften its losses significantly and prepare all but the most flying of opponents for getting farmed down once it goes down. In addition, it lets Buzzwole stretch its otherwise unimpressive bulk much further than it feels like it should be able to, further distancing itself from Heracross's oftentimes terminal fragility.
Aforementioned Superpower is a solid closer, cosing five less energy than Heracross' Close Combat at a cost of around 25% of its damage output, which in most circumstances is a worthwhile tradeoff. The final move in Buzzwole's arsenal is a choice between fist-to-the-face or bee-sting-to-the-behind flavors of Power-Up Punch, at least unless Fell Stinger gets a well-deserved buff. Either of these moves lets Buzzwole accumulate fast move pressure fast with shields up, while also acting as a premier bait move when paired with Superpower- or pretending to be paired with Superpower.
It's not all sunshine for Buzzwole though, sadly- what it gains in high quality STAB moves, it losses in any and all coverage, leaving it powerless versus opposing Poison, Flying and Ghost types. Granted, it's not like Heracross is able to do particularly much about those either. Earthquake hits like a truck but it's difficult to cram into its moveset with how glassy the Single Horn Pokémon is, and Rock Blast has the inverse problem of being an autoinclude much of the time but hitting softer than the author, most fliers not named Talonflame able to easily shrug one, or even two off. Buzzwole also lacks the beast of a move known as Megahorn, though with Superpower hitting for about 75% of Megahorn's damage in neutral matchups, it's not *that* bad of a loss.
All those differences combined translate into Buzzwole having a dominating lead in performance in 2-2 shields over Heracross, getting every single win vs open Great League meta that Heracross does and then 7-8 more without even having to use Power-Up Punch or Fell Stinger. In 1-1 shields, Heracross' only advantage is in Talonflame matchup, where its Rock Blasts can almost one shot despite being made out of styrofoam, contrasted with Buzzwole's win over Araquanid and Shadow Swampert, both with straight Lunge. In shields down Heracross has much more of an argument for itself, nabbing certain mons with the raw power of its Megahorn that Buzzwole just can't reach, such as Lanturn or Sableye.
All in all, Buzzwole won't rock the open Great League leaderboards- if it would, it would have already done so- but it might just shake up the meta of the next Bug themed limited format in your local area, and it's worth getting a good one for that alone.
Guzzlord has had a whole event dedicated to its girth recently, and with how incomparably easier it is to obtain one in comparison to Buzzwole, a research Guzzlord is less of a gracious gift from the heavens and more so a consolation prize if one hasn't been lucky with trade IVs so far. It's a solid consolation prize though!
Guzzlord is to Zweilous what Tapu Fini is to Azumarill- a much harder to obtain sidegrade whose performance is very comparable to the 'original' most of the time, but which will also have its dedicated fans insisting that they're actually better than the originals. And in Guzzlord's case, there's for sure plenty of fuel for those insistences.
Guzzlord's bulk isn't exceptional by any means, but it's just a notch above average where as Zweilous' is very much still 'just' average- with the caveat that it's incomparably easier to get a high rank Zweilous than a high rank Guzzlord, lessening the difference a bit. Guzzlord's absurd stat distribution is worth highlighting here- while Zweilous' bulk might be a bit skewed towards HP, Guzzlord is all HP and almost no defense, which is what you want most of the time, especially when compared to the inverse. This results in the Junkivore Pokémon being much more durable against very tiny chip damage such as Mud Shots and especially Lock-Ons, further deepening its bulk advantage.
One field where Zweilous has an unquestionable advantage is the Fast Attack. Despite what the DPT figure on the PvPoke moves page might say, Dragon Breath can, and often does deal more damage per turn than Dragon Tail thanks to rounding, which combining with its 1 turn duration giving it much more flexibility than the sluggish 3 turn Dragon Tail, makes it the clear favourite. Of course that doesn't mean Dragon Tail is bad- merely that Dragon Breath is slightly better, both can dish out obscene amounts of neutral damage against anything that doesn't resist them and put many opponents in a precarious situation in shields up scenarios while only being resisted by Steel and Fairy.
When it comes to Charged Attacks, the two edgy dragons are comparable, with Guzzlord getting the edge most of the time. Non-STAB Body Slam hits exactly as hard as STAB Dragon Claw, so type coverage aside there's no difference there. Either one of Brutal Swing or Crunch are much faster to get to than Dark Pulse at a cost of being less energy efficient, though with Dragon Claw's better coverage, Guzzlord doesn't need them nearly as much as Zweilous needs Dark Pulse. The choice between the Dark type moves is largely down to preference- is ~15% less damage of Brutal Swing and no debuff chance worth having a 5/4/5/4 Fast Attack cadence as opposed to Crunch's 5/5/5/5? Only the end user can tell, and the author is still undecided, though veering towards Crunch.
What is that I hear? "You forgot Sludge Bomb"? "What about Snarl"? Ah yes~ Guzzlord has yet another advantage of its side, namely moveset flexibility. Now, let's just be frank for a moment- in regular tournaments nobody is ever using either of Snarl or Sludge Bomb. Dragon Tail's raw damage output is just way too valuable to give up for faster Charged Attacks in absence of any truly overpowered ones, and Sludge Bomb on its own doesn't even swing Charmer matchups in 0-0 shields because Guzzlord either faints before getting to it, or it falls short of one shotting.
The only place where these moves can shine is in formats where TMing is allowed such as Silph Factions, where you can catch opponent's quad-weak-to-Poison team off guard with Snarl / Sludge Bomb Guzzlord, and nowhere else. Guzzlord's flexibility when compared to Zweilous whose moveset is essentially set in stone is an upside, but not as massive one as some early hype might've suggested.
As good as Zweilous historically has been in limited formats and as much of an upgrade as Guzzlord is on top of it, not even the Junkivore Pokémon has much chance of hacking it in the open Great League. The bulk of its damage output is Dragon-type, making it lose to the very plentiful Steel types, it faints near-instantly to Charm, it can't do a whole lot against opposing fighters, and in general Altaria just exists. Much the same deal as with Buzzwole here- Guzzlord will make a large impact on limited formats, but open Great League will remain off limits for a long time.
The gates of heaven have opened and we have been graced with a new Great League Pokémon, the bane of all raid app users, the almighty rocket girlf- I mean Celesteela. Should the playerbase get to dropping on their collective knees in front of her and praying to the deities above for a good IV roll? As fun and engaging as that sounds, no, probably not.
Similarly to the previous two contenders, Celesteela is a variation on a theme of another successful Great League star, in this case Skarmory, sharing its Fast Attack and typing. Unlike the two previous contenders, Celesteela doesn't even come close to matching Skarmory's performance, let alone exceeding it. The reason is a combination of several factors which combined together relegate Celesteela to the bin of "maybe a fun limited format spice pick", sad as that is to say.
First off, bulk. Skarmory isn't the bulkiest thing around, but it's very much on the girthy side, especially with its stellar typing leaving it only weak to two uncommon types. Celesteela has the same two weaknesses, but noticeably less bulk, falling all the way down to the 'average' water mark where it hangs out next to Zweilous. And as good as Steel/Flying is in terms of having few weaknesses, it doesn't resist many of the more common offensive PvP types such as Rock, Ice, or especially Fighting.
When it comes to Charged Attacks, Celesteela is one good hit and three big fat misses, pairing Body Slam with a god awful selection of Iron Head, Iron Head (1), and Bulldoze. Iron Head is a mediocre statted move with a very bad offensive type, even if it has STAB, and Bulldoze is an awfully statted move of a very good offensive type, sadly nowhere near enough to meaningfully help it with opposing Steel types.
The end result is Celesteela being essentially a straight downgrade from Skarmory in almost every way. Not unusably bad, but scuffed to the point where it will be forever confined to limited formats, and likely to struggle even there outside of situations where it autowins because of its typing. Worth grabbing a decent one, just not expect to have an opportunity to use it anytime soon unless it receives a moveset update.
Does Shadow Victreebel feel much too tanky for you? Then do I have an offer for you, trainer!. Yes, research Kartana can go under 1500 CP when traded, and it even has rather solid odds of that happening, upwards of 60% when trading with a Good Friend.
To call Kartana's bulk Gengar-level is to insult Gengar. It faints to absolutely everything and is, much the same as all the other Pokémon going forward, completely unusable for any serious competition. Its Leaf Blade does very much go brrrrr though.
Does the prospect of fainting instantly to a single Flying type Fast Attack fill your heart with glee? If so, Pheromosa will more than likely be up your alley, but I'd recommend therapy and/or exorcism instead.
Out of 3375 possible combinations of IVs when trading Research Xurkitree with a Good Friend, exactly 4 of them result in a <1500 CP Glowing Pokémon. If you do successfully manage to hit these 0.11% odds trainer, then you'll be in possession of one of the greatest PvP gems known to man, woman or beast- a Minun, but with sub-Haunter level bulk. One tears up at the thought.
Even with a Good Friend trade, Nihilego can't possibly squeeze under 1500 CP, making it today's sore loser.
The Ultra Beast Arrival Global event has a lot to love for players of all types. PVE enthusiasts will chase Kartana raids, Master League players will chase Buzzwole and Nihilego, and Ultra League players can join them for Buzz and enjoy in Guzzlord galore. For our Great League readers you can look forward to strong picks in Buzzwole and Guzzlord below 1500CP, and a fun new pick in Celesteela. The spiciest among us will go after Kartana or Xurkitree, but regardless of what you're after you are sure to have a good time with these research level Ultra Beasts!