Pokemon GO’s Season 9 of GO Battle League has brought some interesting move rebalances and move pool expansions to the meta-game. GBL Season 9 features slight buffs to Zap Cannon, Crunch, and Megahorn, and slight nerfs to Feather Dance and all Weather Ball variants. Scald has been completely reworked too. For move pool expansions, we’re getting Sand Tomb Nidoking, Scald Poliwrath, Rock Blast Heracross, Thunder Fang and Overheat Manectric, Weather Ball Normal Castform, and the highly anticipated Shadow Claw Cofagrigus.
To help you navigate what this means for the Pokemon GO PvP meta, this article highlights the Winners and Losers of the GBL Season 9 update.
The Winners and Losers
Best Moveset: Shadow Claw + Shadow Ball + Dark Pulse
Dark Pulse may seem redundant with Shadow Ball, but it has a 5 lower energy cost. This difference can matter in a handful of matchup situations including but not limited to: Bastiodon, Shadow Victreebel, Vigoroth, Politoed, Talonflame, Alolan Marowak, and Registeel. Additionally, a super effective Psychic hits roughly as hard as a neutral Shadow Ball. This same scenario occurs in the Ultra League too.
Shadow Claw has taken Cofagrigus from a total zero to a meta hero in both the Great and Ultra Leagues. Paired with Shadow Ball and a decent Stat Product, the only thing keeping Cofagrigus from being one of the best Pokemon in PvP is its lack of type coverage. Psychic and Dark Pulse offer Cofagrigus nothing against Dark-type Pokemon, and these attacks don’t help Cofagrigus’s speed issues in the Great League. Even with these setbacks, Cofagrigus is still now a meta threat and is worth building.
In the Great League, Cofagrigus faces competition from Sableye. Sableye’s Dark sub-type makes Dark and Ghost-type attacks neutral and Psychic-type attacks doubly resisted, while giving Sableye an increased vulnerability to Charm. To add, Sableye’s Foul Play charges quicker than Shadow Ball, and both Power Gem and Return give Sableye the neutral coverage on Dark-types that Cofagrigus lacks. Despite these setbacks, Cofagrigus’s increased bulk and Shadow Ball can give it matchup advantages over top meta threats such as Azumarill, Altaria, Bastiodon, Venusaur, and Skarmory. All of this is to say, Cofagrigus isn’t taking the Ghost-type throne, but it is most definitely a top meta threat now.
In the Ultra League, Cofagrigus is now one of the best picks. To give an example of its power, Jellicent only has similar matchups when near-perfectly baiting with Bubble Beam. Jellicent isn’t completely out of the picture as it still has advantages over Registeel and Lapras, and it still has a debuffing role, but Cofagrigus is definitely the Goku to its Vegeta. Is Cofagrigus better than Giratina Altered Forme? Given that Giratina has a Dragon sub-type and is public enemy number one in the Ultra League, the comparison is apples to oranges. If nothing else, it can beat Giratina-A in the 1-1 and 2-2 shield scenarios.
Given Cofagrigus’s new found power, we are working on a Cofagrigus PvP IV Deep Dive. Not only will the guide help you pick the best “right now” Cofagrigus for the Great League, but it will also help you find the superior IV spreads in Great League and Ultra League when it’s back for Halloween.
Best Moveset: Counter + Rock Blast + Megahorn (Close Combat)
Rock Blast is a big deal for Heracross because it gives perfect coverage when paired with Counter. Rock Blast also gives Heracross a proper bait move. With the addition of Rock Blast alone, Heracross now has the dynamic and consistent performance that you’ve come to expect from other Counter users such as Medicham, Toxicroak, Scrafty, and Deoxys Defense Forme. The Megahorn buff is just the icing on the cake.
The choice between Megahorn and Close Combat comes down to: do you want better coverage and more distinction from other Counter users, or do you want to knock Steel-type Pokemon into next week. It’s a similar debate to using Power-Up Punch on Medicham, where PuP is useful, but non-PuP is the standard.
In the Great League, when compared to other Counter users, Heracross sports advantages over Deoxys Defense Forme, Medicham, Venusaur, Cresselia, and Froslass, but is held back heavily with its double weakness to Flying-type attacks. Compared to Toxicroak specifically (similar role, similar stat product), Heracross generally has the better performance across the board, but has issues against Flying, Fairy, and Poison-type Pokemon. Heracross may be a better option for teams that can draw in and counter such opponents, and could be a better partner than, or at least a sidegrade to, Toxicroak in a double Counter user core.
In the Ultra League, Heracross functions as a combination of Toxicroak and Escavalier. Overall, Heracross fully synergizes their strengths, and sports unique advantages over Articuno, Deoxys Defense Forme, Galar Stunfisk, Politoed, Poliwrath, Swampert, and Escavalier itself. That said, Toxicroak and Escavalier handle Charm and Poison-type matchups better. In summary, Heracross isn’t the outright superior option, but now has a solid place in the Ultra League meta. Given that Toxicroak comes with an XL Cost, Heracross may become the preferred Fighting-type resistant Counter user.
Best Moveset: Snarl + Wild Charge + Overheat
Manectric receiving Thunder Fang doesn’t have much impact on PvP. However, it does skyrocket Mega Manectric from being a “great” Electric-type Raid Attacker to arguably the best. The only real competition Mega Manectric has for the crown is Shadow Electivire, who sports a higher average DPS (damage per second). At the end of the day, you always want to use a Mega Pokemon if you can. Megas provide a Team Bonus, so Mega Manectric always has a place on the team for optimized gameplay. If you’re curious about Manectric and Shadow Manectric for Raids, both are still relatively sub-par options.
Manectric getting Overheat is quite notable for PvP. This change is particularly beneficial for Shadow Manectric in the Great League. With Snarl, Wild Charge, and Overheat, Shadow Manectric’s presence in the meta has gone from “non-existent” to “threatening meme.” With this explosive Charge Move combination, very few Pokemon can survive Shadow Manectric when it has a Shield and/or Energy Advantage. That said, Shadow Manectric can barely handle anything when at a Shield and/or Energy Disadvantage. Given Shadow Manectric’s inability to do much without a resource advantage, this king sits squarely in Meme Town.
If you’re curious about Manectric or Shadow Manectric in the Ultra League, the answer is “No.” Both are better than they were before, but are still very poor overall and require XL Candy to boot.
Scald / Poliwrath
Best Moveset (Great League): Mud Shot + Scald + Ice Punch (Dynamic Punch)
Best Moveset (Ultra League): Mud Shot + Ice Punch + Dynamic Punch (Scald/Hydro Pump)
Scald got transformed from an awful move into a Sludge Bomb clone that has a 30% chance to reduce your opponents’ Atk by one stage. While this move is now good, it’s not making huge waves in the meta just yet. The best benefactor of Scald is Poliwrath and even it doesn’t want to use it 100% of the time. Other Pokemon may appreciate Scald more in the future.
In the Great League, with Scald buffed and Weather Ball nerfed, Poliwrath is now a competitive alternative to its cousin Politoed. Compared to Politoed, Poliwrath sports advantages over Last Resort Umbreon, Toxicroak, Swampert, Sableye, Powder Snow Alolan Ninetales, Mew, and most notably, Altaria. However, this is at the cost of most Fairy, Psychic, and Flying-type matchups, and it is still lacking a nuke move like Blizzard or Earthquake. In general, Poliwrath is “good” now, but still feels like a slightly worse Politoed with a more consistent Altaria matchup.
In the Ultra League, Poliwrath is as good as ever, but probably won’t use Scald outside of limited formats. Ice Punch is too important for Giratina, Venusaur, the Dragonites, and baiting in general. Dynamic Punch feels more necessary with each season bringing in more Normal and Dark-type XL meta threats to the League. Hydro Pump is arguably more useful as it provides nuke damage to make up for the lack of Dynamic Punch, while providing Water-type coverage. Scald is not a poor auxiliary move for Water-type Pokemon, Poliwrath just has its hands full and only two Charge Move slots. It’s worth considering, but shouldn’t be your first pick.
If you’re curious about Great League XL Poliwhirl, don’t bother. The few advantages it has over Poliwrath doesn’t really compare to Politoed. If you’re a true frog enthusiast, it’s not “bad” but considering Politoed and Poliwrath are both top XL threats in the Ultra League, your XL Candy is probably best spent elsewhere. And if you’re curious about Scald Vaporeon? Sadly, Vaporeon’s still not that great.
Author’s note: given that GBL is beginning to feature “Classic” non-XL formats for Ultra League, if you haven’t built a Poliwrath yet, it may be a better investment to build one to level 40 rather than building one with XL Candy. The difference between level 40 and level 44 Poliwrath isn’t that large.
Crunch now having a 30% chance to debuff your opponent’s Def by one stage is pretty massive. For PvP veterans, a 30% chance calls back memories of pre-nerf Moonblast Cresselia. Fortunately, Crunch isn’t in a position to be abused as much as Moonblast was. For example, Greedent shouldn’t go out of its way to use Crunch instead of Body Slam, and Drapion shouldn’t give up Aqua Tail or Sludge Bomb coverage just to have a debuff chance. That said, the increased debuff chance helps.
Zekrom, on the other hand, stands out as a Pokemon that has a lot to gain with Crunch. Given that the Master League is seeing more Flying-type threats and more targets for Kyogre, Zekrom stocks have steadily been going up over the Seasons. When you consider how tight and repetitive the Master League can be at times, Crunch giving you a 30% chance to win difficult matchups makes Zekrom all the better. Once again, the Crunch buff isn’t so good that you ought to go out of your way to use Zekrom, but rather Zekrom is already good, and the debuff chance just makes it that much better.
Our favorite bird is finally allowed back into GBL, which is technically a buff. However, Feather Dance had its energy cost increased from 45 to 50 which is a significant change. With the 5 energy nerf, Pidgeot now reaches its second Feather Dance or bait into Brave Bird one Fast Move later. Considering Gust is as slow as Confusion, one Fast Move is a significant amount of time, which has major implications on Pidgeot’s consistency.
In general, Pidgeot is still a solid, mono-type attacking Pokemon in the Great and Ultra Leagues, but now it can’t pull off hard matches like two shield Galar Stunfisk. The drop in Charge Move frequency may be enough to keep it as a general meta threat instead of top meta threat.
Weather Ball having its damage nerfed by 5 hurts all Weather Ball users, some definitely more than others. Statistically, the Pelipper and Politoed were hit the hardest, whereas most other Weather Ball users aren’t feeling it as much (aside from the ones that are barely meta to begin with).
In the Great League, Politoed sees a drop in consistency against notable threats like Umbreon, Swampert, Shadow Nidoqueen, Sableye, and Skarmory in even shield situations. Worst of all, it has lost its ability to overcome Bastiodon and Galar Stunfisk when at a shield disadvantage. In the Ultra League, Politoed now suffers losses to Skarmory, Swampert, Shadow Machamp, Cofagrigus, both Alolan Ninetales, and potentially Sirfetch’d and Shadow Snorlax.
Pelipper on the other hand lost its potential to get Weather Ball only KOs on Medicham, Deoxys Defense Forme, Shadow Nidoqueen, Abomasnow, Scrafty, Froslass, Obstagoon, and Galar Stunfisk in even shield scenarios. To add, it can no longer overcome Politoed, Scrafty, Whiscash, or Swampert as easily when at a shield disadvantage, and can’t flip Tropius, Mandibuzz, and Bastiodon with Weather Ball alone when at a shield advantage.
In general, this nerf isn’t enough to make these “good” Weather Ballers “bad” but...
With the slight nerf to Weather Ball Water Fire and Ice, Galar Stunfisk has a significantly improved performance in the Great and Ultra League metas. When fighting a Weather Ball user, the slightest inch of advantage given to them could be a mile. Galar Stunfisk is very, very pleased that the rogue Weather Ball is now significantly less likely to kill its vibe. Pidgeot no longer being able to survive the two shield matchup is just the icing on the cake.
If you want an arbitrary metric showing this improvement, on PvPoke.com GFisk went from 0.5 points behind the Rank 1 Great League Pokemon (Medicham), to just 0.1. Mere inches from the crown.
Nidoking / Megahorn / Zap Cannon
Finally, as we wrap the new meta changes up, Nidoking is still bad even with the Megahorn buff and addition of Sand Tomb to its movepool. The Megahorn buff in general is appreciated by all who have it, but doesn’t significantly impact their performance. Similarly, Zap Cannon is pretty good now, but even Regirock (arguably its “best” user) will prefer to stick with Stone Edge and Focus Blast. Interestingly, should Triple Electric Ampharos become meta again in Ultra League, Zap Cannon may be better than Thunder now.
Overall, Season 9 of GO Battle League has brought some interesting and well deserved changes to the meta. Weather Ball feels more reasonable, Heracross is no longer a spice pick, and Cofagrigus is finally getting the love it deserves. The only questions that remain are if the 30% chance to debuff on Crunch is too much, and if 5 energy increase for Feather Dance is enough.