Meta Implications of the April 2020 Trainer Battle Rebalance

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Out of nowhere, in the middle of the season, in the middle of Ultra League, we’ve got a new Trainer Battle rebalance! To celebrate Grass Month (did anyone else forget that was happening?) they’ve given a few Grass-type moves and Grass-type Pokémon buffs! Additionally, they’ve nerfed a couple of moves. All of these changes will likely have wide-reaching meta implications on all 3 Leagues! 

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Move Changes

Bullet Seed

Going from 3.66 EPT -> 4.33 EPT, this move is now on par with Snarl in terms of both energy and damage. It keeps its mediocre 1.66 DPT. However, the increased energy gain makes it stand out as the new highest EPT Grass move, above Vine Whip, giving all of its users a significant buff! Notably, Ferrothorn, Sceptile, Jumpluff, Bellossom, Cradily, and Weepinbell gain a lot from this!

Energy Ball

Going from a 90 Power/60 Energy move to a 90 Power/55 Energy move with a 10% chance to lower your opponent’s Defense by 1 stage, Energy Ball is now an Earth Power clone. This is a massive buff, and makes the move actually usable. That said, the distribution on strong Pokémon is fairly limited, leaving this change overall minor. The biggest winners are Jumpluff, Ludicolo, Galvantula, and Abomasnow.

Leaf Tornado

Leaf Tornado (a 45 Power/40 Energy move) was never….great. Its damage was far too low for its energy cost, and a 50% chance of reducing your opponent’s Attack by 1 wasn’t enough. Now, its 50% chance attack debuff has been increased to 2 stages instead, making it function more like a cheaper Octazooka. That said, given that the only Pokémon that can learn it are Servine, Serperior, Shiftry, and Victreebel, there’s a real chance that it remains unused. For Serperior and Shiftry, you’d be giving up too much (either Grass Knot/Leaf Blade or Aerial Ace/Foul Play for damage or coverage), and Victreebel may prefer to keep Acid Spray or Sludge Bomb as their secondary moves.

Ancient Power, Silver Wind, Ominous Wind

All 3 of these moves have had their stats changed to 45 Power/45 Energy. Ancient Power and Silver Wind were previously 70/45s, and Ominous Wind was 50/40. In no uncertain terms, this is a huge hit to all of them. 

Silver Wind

For Dustox and Venomoth, this was their primary source of charged move damage. They still have Confusion, but Venomoth with Poison Fang + Silver Wind is unlikely to make any headway in terms of damage.

Ominous Wind

A move with already limited distribution, this is a blow to Pokémon like Spiritomb, Drifblim, and Giratina-Origin. Ominous Wind was a weird move. While it was pretty weak in terms of damage, it was occasionally good enough to just use for damage. In most cases, though, it was used to bait before landing better moves. With reduced damage and increased energy, it’s worse in both roles. Overall, this does hurt Giratina-Origin a fair bit, and it may reduce its role as a top threat in both Master and Ultra League. Time will tell how much it matters, though.

Ancient Power

A move with incredibly wide distribution, and equally wide usage, this is likely to be the most meta-defining of the move changes. Even ignoring the boost chance, it was a perfectly solid move with great offensive coverage. Now...not so much. The Pokémon hurt most by this are Exeggcute, Bayleef, Relicanth, Giratina-Altered, Articuno, and Togekiss. Much like with Ominous Wind, the wider meta impacts of this nerf are yet unknown, but they certainly are meaningful. That’s a huge loss in damage.

Some of these were mentioned above, but they do deserve their own section

Bellossom: Bullet Seed

With the newly buffed Bullet Seed, Bellossom ties Shiftry for the fastest Leaf Blade in the game. Giving up Shiftry’s Dark-typing and exchanging Foul Play for Dazzling Gleam isn’t...great, exactly. However, you do pick up a ton of bulk. Those two things combined, especially in a metagame where all that matters is your Leaf Blade spam (or one where Fighting-types are particularly relevant), Bell could make waves

Jumpluff: Aerial Ace

Combined with the buff to Bullet Seed and Energy Ball, this change makes Jumpluff potentially incredibly relevant. Jumpluff is bulky. Really bulky. As-bulky-as-Registeel bulky. This, with having actually usable moves (Sorry, Solar Beam/Dazzling Gleam) mean it’s likely to be a top contender as far as Grass-types go.

Ludicolo: Energy Ball

Solar Beam’s still not a real move. Energy Ball, on the other hand, now is, and it puts Ludicolo in a very interesting position. Bubble and Razor Leaf have historically both been useful as fast moves. For Charged moves, it generally ran Ice Beam and Hydro Pump. Now, it’s even more versatile. Energy Ball notably gives it a really solid hit on Azumarill. Definitely a mon to keep an eye on.

Cradily: Bullet Seed

Cradily has historically been more or less on the edge of relevance. Despite its underwhelming defensive typing (only resisting Normal and Electric), it had impressive offensive coverage, with Grass Knot + Stone Edge hitting everything except Steel-types (and Virizion) for at least neutral. With the buff to Bullet Seed increasing its access to those moves, it should see a bit more play in type-relevant Silph cups, though it’s not likely to see too much play in Open Great League or GBL

Tangrowth: Rock Slide

With the nerf to Ancient Power, Tangrowth lost its access to consistent Rock-type damage. Rock Slide then gives it back. With the similarity of those two moves, you’re likely to see about as much Tangrowth in Master League as you did before (that is to say, not much).

Cherrim-Sunny Form: Fire-type Weather Ball

Weather Ball is good. That’s a known quantity. Bullet Seed allows it to spam Weather Ball very quickly. Combined with Solar Beam, Sunny Cherrim can actually beat both Azumarill and Registeel fairly consistently. It can beat Azu straight Solar Beam in the 1 and 0shield, though it needs to bait to win the 2. Do note that Overcast Cherrim does not get Weather Ball. This move was only given to the Sunny form.

Biggest Winners

Jumpluff, Ferrothorn, and Cherrim gain the most from this. A mix of having a usable fast move and strong charged moves allow them to shine in ways where they were previously held back. Ludicolo, Cradily, Bellossom, and Sceptile are also pretty happy about all of the changes. That said, if it learns Bullet Seed, it's in a better place than before, which is very exciting. While the buffs aren’t likely to warp the meta into anything unrecognizable, there will definitely be a bunch of new and interesting Grass-types running around, which can be even more relevant in restricted (Silph) formats

Biggest Losers

Pretty much anything that actually relied on Ancient Power/Silver Wind for damage. Exeggcute, Bayleef, Yanma, and Relicanth were rendered pretty much worthless by the AP nerf. Venomoth and Dustox are likely dead as well. Masquerain can no longer deal any damage whatsoever. Spiritomb, Xatu, and Giratina-Origin are all hurt by the Ominous Wind buff, but are likely still fairly comparable to where they were before. Giratina-Altered will likely just pivot to Dragon Claw/Shadow Sneak, and be totally fine (with Shadow Claw/Shadow Sneak it can beat Registeel in the 1-1 and 2-2 shield scenarios!) 

Wider Implications

Admittedly, the changes to Ancient Power and the like aren't exactly what most players were hoping for. They still provide a 10% chance to turn the user into an unstoppable force which can more or less win the game on its own. However, with reduced incentive to run these moves in the first place (notably for Giratina in Ultra League), and reduced benefit to just spamming them, the frustrating from going up against a boosted Pokémon will come up less often.

As far as meta implications go, it'll be hard to tell just yet. With Giratina likely shifting to Shadow Sneak, it has less counterplay against things like Togekiss and Articuno which it previously threatened pretty heavily with Ancient Power. This may make them somewhat more prevalent. Giratina also gains a lot of power against Registeel. This then alters the triangle to make "Giratina <- Giratina Counters <- Registeel <- Giratina" more defined. This change is live now, so be prepared to keep an eye on the meta shakeups as Ultra League GBL continues.

Cherrim is now potentially a very strong pick in Voyager Cup. Previously, Meganium seemed to be coming out as one of the most popular corebreakers to beat Registeel/Azumarill. However, being Gen 2, and if you're already running Azumarill, it took up your Flex slot. Cherrim, on the other hand, takes up Gen 4 instead, freeing up your Flex for something else.

Master League is an interesting one, and the degree to which it's affected is heavily reliant on how hard Giratina-Origin is hurt by the nerf. Previously an incredibly strong Pokémon, and definitely a meta-defining one, it remains to be seen how much weaker it actually becomes. Togekiss, primarily just there for using Charm, is weaker after the Ancient Power nerf, but likely not meaningfully so.

It's definitely exciting to see how the meta is going to shape up over the coming weeks. It's always appreciated when Niantic shakes things up, especially when they make weaker moves more usable.

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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.