Hidden Potential Vol.5: Unown (April Fools 2021)

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One of the rarest Pokemon in all of Pokemon Go. The lore of the game places its importance on a par with the Legendary and Mythical Pokemon that shape the very fabric of reality. In fact, it's said to act as the as the hand of the very master and creator of this universe that has captivated fans for so very long. First introduced in Generation 2 in the aptly names Ruins of Alph comes one of the most variable and unique Pokemon from the whole of the series: none other than Unown.

If you've ever found one in the wild outside of an event, then you know the sheer thrill of seeing this uniquely powerful Pokemon. Everyone knows just what it's capable of, and many intrepid trainers have taken up the task of collecting every variant of this hieroglyphic Pokemon. But can we unlock greater power within this fabled being? Do we dare set our hands to change the divine? 

To start with, let's set some ground rules for how we're going to go about theorycrafting our target Pokemon:

  1. We cannot change a Pokemon's typing or stats
  2. We cannot imagine an entirely new feature to the game that would fix them. For example: no unofficial Mega Evolutions or regional variants, and no unreleased features like Dynamax or Z-Moves.
  3. We cannot add new moves to their existing moveset that they cannot learn in the main series or make moves that don't exist in the main series 
  4. We can theorycraft new moves based on currently unused moves that are in their main series movesets
  5. We can add new effects that exist, such as theorycrafting them as Shadow Pokemon
  6. We can change the effects of existing moves, though we will also need to look at the meta implications of this change if we do so
  7. The cardinal rule: we can't do anything that Niantic can't do given current game precedent

With that out of the way, let's get to it!

PvP Performance

What Is Unown?

Unown is a Pokémon that has yet to be thoroughly explored by most players, and it’s not hard to see why. Its rarity combined with the fact that it previously maxed out at only 1185 CP made it immediately underwhelming in PvP. However, the GO Beyond update allows it to go up to 1339 CP, 1355 if you Best Buddy it! Let’s take a brief look at Unown’s moves:

Fast Moves Fast Move Stats Charged Move Charged Move Stats
Hidden Power (Fire) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn Struggle 35 Power/100 Energy
Hidden Power (Water) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Grass) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Electric) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Flying) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Poison) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Rock) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Ground) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Fighting) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Psychic) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Dark) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Ghost) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Steel) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Dragon) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Ice) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn
Hidden Power (Bug) 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn

Again, at first glance, not that exciting, but don’t forget: Hidden Power is not one move, but 16 Different Moves. They may all be 3 Damage Per Turn/2.66 Energy Per Turn, but there’s a Hidden Power for every type except for Normal and Fairy, and that gives Unown impressive coverage! When you bring out Unown, your opponent has no way of telling what type of Hidden Power you have. In fact, there isn’t even a visual tell outside of a potential “Super Effective”/”Not Very Effective” popup over their Pokémon! As for its charged move, Struggle, it has the second best Damage Per Energy rating in the entire game (as long as you’re reading the DPE chart upside down).

What’s Wrong

Honestly, very little. One might argue that Unown’s only flaw is that it’s too cool, and too powerful. Its primary flaw is that it’s currently underhyped by the PvP community, which is a problem that will hopefully be righted with the release of this piece.

How Do We Fix It?

While it’s obviously entirely unnecessary to improve Unown, let’s at least go through the motions. Just keep in mind that this comes at the risk of making it incredibly broken.

In the main series, Unown can learn moves by two methods: Level Up, and Technical Machine. At Level 1, it will automatically learn Hidden Power. Then, if you use TM10 on it, you can teach Unown the move Hidden Power!

As you can see, Unown has plenty of hidden power that’s as of yet untapped. So let’s talk about the two paths we could go to make Unown stronger: buffing Hidden Power, and buffing Struggle.

Let’s start out with Hidden Power. Again, we’re starting at 3 DPT/2.66 EPT.

Everything in moderation of course. We don’t want to make the move unreasonably powerful, so let’s make Hidden Power 10 DPT/4 EPT. This ends up making Unown slightly stronger, with Hidden Power Ice Unown having an 83% winrate in Great League.

Now, let’s try buffing Struggle. As we know, Niantic messed up slightly by making it a 35 Power/100 Energy move when it was clearly intended to be a 100/35 instead. Let’s just fix that real quick. keeping the entirely fair Hidden Power buff, and then pairing it with Correct Struggle, we’re now up to an 89.6% winrate in Great League across the 1shield. This is probably sufficient to show that Unown is basically borderline broken, and we can’t really afford to make it any better. If you’re not running Unown after this, there’s not much more I can tell you.

Hidden Potential Rating:

PvE Performance

What’s Unown?

Often overlooked yet highly sought-after, Unown is the poster-child Pokemon for collectors the world over. We all want it, we all look forward to the events that feature it, and we all dream of the day that we can find one with IVs worthy of its glory.

What’s wrong?

Objectively speaking, Unown has a few issues that plague it to this very day.

  1. It's far too rare, only the most elite and privileged of players have it
  2. For maximum efficiency, you need to raise a total of sixteen individuals! Though the investment is well worth it.

The real shame of Unown is the fact that it flies under the radar for so many players due to just how rare it is. Seeing a raid partner bring in an Unown is a potential source of awe and jealousy, especially for the few of us who believe ourselves capable of collecting every single variant of this elusive Pokemon. If we can get past these issues, then we can see the real diamond of a Pokemon that spells out doom for all that would stand before it.... literally, in some cases.

How do we fix it?

If you've played Pokemon Go for any length of time, then it's easy to read your mind at this very moment. You already know about Unown's virtually perfect coverage and power. In fact, Sableye and Spiritomb are literally the only two Pokemon that it can't hit for Super Effective damage when counting literally every Pokemon currently existence. For that reason, we're not going to touch on the power of Unown's type-based power. In fact, there is literally no point in even demonstrating its current position in the PvE meta. Instead, the goal here will be to simply bring the power of its Charged Move, Struggle. Sadly, this move is the reverse of Unown's well-known coverage profile, as it literally can't hit for Super Effective damage at all. Admittedly, this is a bit of a thorn in Unown's side, but we can fix this using standing precedent in terms of gameplay in order to produce a balanced update that reflects existing moves exactly.

We're mixing the base stats of Weather Ball and the power output of Giga Impact.

This small rearrangement of moves to reflect two existing moves, one of which is not even considered extremely powerful in practice, was all that it took to bring full balance to Unown. While it's not the absolute strongest Pokemon within its class, this update brings it to the point of being worth using for most raids. It's this balance of power vs. utility that's the apex goal of anyone involved in theorycrafting, and a simplistic change is all that it took to bring Unown into this perfect sweet-spot within the raid meta. Take notes, Niantic, this is how you properly balance your game.

Hidden Potential Rating:


Unown is, without question, one of the strongest Pokémon in the entire game. While it may be difficult to obtain outside of events, it's very clearly worth striving for. With so much untapped hidden power, it should be a core part of every dedicated player's raid team, and even the most casual of battlers should have a full 16 of them at Level 51. Frankly, if I don't see a lot more Unown in GBL in the coming few days, I'll be very disappointed in each and every one of you.

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About the Author(s)

Tyler is a contributing writer for GamePress, primarily focusing on Trainer Battle content. Fan of dogs and fighting games.

Gamepress writer with a focus on theorycrafting and gameplay optimization with a background in business management and freelance writing.  A bit of a hermit, but also an outdoors enthusiast who loves cycling and hiking. Long-time Gamepress fan who is very proud to be a part of the team.