With the start of Season 3 comes a number of changes to moves, and to movesets. Let’s go through move by move, and then pick up anything left afterwards!
(you can read Niantic’s full original post here)
Infestation changed from a 2 DPT/3.66 EPT move to a 2 DPT/4 EPT move! While this isn’t a massive change, it’s really nice! It kinda makes Infestation a real move, rather than just a mediocre one. The thing is….not much really gets Infestation? Beedrill, Drapion, and maybe Garbodor and Weezing will all appreciate this if they want to go for a more energy-centric build. I wouldn’t expect too much out of this change, though.
Hex, like Infestation, went from 2 DPT/3.66 EPT to 2 DPT /4 EPT. This is actually bigger than it seems. Drifblim, for example, goes from reaching Icy Wind (45 energy) in 5 Hexes to reaching it in 4. Given that it’s really important to land those Icy Winds early, this should help Drif see a lot more play in both Great and Ultra League. In Great, it can handle Galarian Stunfisk in the 1 and 2 shields (though the 1 is super IV-dependent), as well as things like Swampert, Hypno, Deo-D, Registeel, all Grass-types except Shiftry and Abomasnow, and even Altaria and Azumarill! In Ultra, while it needs to be maxed, it has a few relevant wins as well, including Cresselia, Venusaur, Registeel, and Giratina-Altered!
The only other relevant Pokémon that really benefits from the Hex change is Alolan Marowak, if it decides to pass on Fire Spin’s damage for Hex’s energy generation to more effectively spam Shadow Ball. Froslass may use it if it needs that Ghost-type damage, though.
Powder Snow is going from 2 DPT/4 EPT to 2.5 DPT/4 EPT. It’s a small change, and probably not life-changing for anything that learns it, but it’s certainly nice? It helps out Froslass, Abomasnow (who we’ll be coming back to later), Sealeo, and Alolan Sandslash in Great, and gives Mamoswine a bit more play in Master. That said, it’s not a lot of damage, so not too much is gonna change. You may notice yourself finding it a bit easier to farm down with Powder Snow users, though!
Drill Peck has changed from a 60 Power/40 Energy move to 65 Power/40 Energy. However, other than Empoleon now learning it (again, more on that later), the only real mon that learns it is Zapdos. And Shadow Zapdos, if you wanna consider that different. It’s nice, I guess? Solid lil Zapdos buff. That said, it doesn’t really help Zapdos handle the massive rise in Gunfisk in the Great League meta, so it might just be a bit more chip in Ultra. It’s nice, but it’s not game-changing.
Brave Bird went from 90 Power/55 Energy to 130 Power/55 Energy with a 100% chance to lower your Defense by 3 Stages. That 130/55 statline is shared by Overheat, and if you’ve ever tried to facetank one of those, you know it hits hard. Not many things really learn (or want to use) Brave Bird, though. Blaziken might use it, Honchkrow could use it, Pidgeot definitely wants it as a secondary move (but Pidgeot’s bad so it doesn’t matter). Ho-Oh’s still not good enough…but there’s one big one here: Skarmory. Skarmory historically ran Sky Attack + Flash Cannon, but you’d rarely ever find yourself using Flash Cannon. It was basically just Sky Attack and “Oh I’d like to deal slightly more chip to that Bastiodon before dying.” Now, though, it’s worth switching your Skarm to Sky Attack + Brave Bird. While you’ll still mostly just be using Sky Attack, having that Brave Bird around for a really powerful nuke out of nowhere can help a lot in disadvantageous situations! Just remember to switch out after using it so you don’t get farmed down.
Blizzard’s damage has increased, taking it from a 130 Power/75 Energy move to a 140 Power/75 Energy move. It’s nice! It’s good! Blizzard’s strictly better now. But also, it doesn’t change too many matchups. Blizzard was already powerful enough that if you land it, you’re generally good. That said, you may notice some cleaner matchups when using Pokémon like Whiscash, Empoleon, Kyogre, and...uh…Regice, I guess? Kyogre now has a slightly easier time against Giratina-Altered in Master, for example, as Waterfall chip + Blizzard now actually kills Giratina in the 0shield. You still won before, but you take a lot less damage. For Great League, Whiscash can now beat Drifblim, as well as Abomasnow if it doesn’t bait, and it can even take the 1-0 against Meganium! Sadly, though, it still can’t oneshot Noctowl.
Flash Cannon and Focus Blast
Flash Cannon costs 5 more energy, going from 110 Power/65 Energy to 110 Power/70 Energy. Focus Blast has 10 reduced Power, from 150 Power/75 Energy to 140 Power/75 Energy. You can probably guess why these are being grouped, though. Because only a few Pokémon learn these moves, and even fewer actually use them, this is a very targeted nerf against Registeel. Little bit less speed, little bit less power. But that speed can matter. While, to be totally clear, this change isn’t huge, it can be meaningful. Notably, you no longer win the 0-1 shield scenario against Altaria without incredibly good IVs, and that’s rough. That said, keep in mind that if you see a lot less Registeel, it’s probably not gonna be because of these nerfs. It just doesn’t like the Galarian Stunfisk meta, and it may find itself happier staying in Ultra League.
Other than that, Focus Blast Mewtwo in Master League isn’t happy to see this, but you still oneshot Dialga and Melmetal, so it’s not the most meaningful change in the world.
Moonblast’s debuff odds are dropping from 30% to a 10% chance of reducing your opponent’s Attack by 1 stage. This is pretty targeted against Cresselia. While it doesn’t reduce Cresselia’s power level, technically, it does make the mon less frustrating to face. 30% was massively high, and that made it far too easy to fish for debuffs, especially given Cress’s high bulk and fantastic energy generation. Cresselia’s still really strong, it’s just less annoying.
Braviary now learns Close Combat. This gives it some play against the Rock- and Steel-types that otherwise severely threaten Flyings. Well…in theory, anyway. In reality, Braviary’s middling bulk and slow energy generation with Air Slash prevent it from applying meaningful pressure to any of them, leaving it with consistently losing matchups to Bastiodon, Probopass, Registeel, and Galarian Stunfisk. If it were somewhat bulkier, or somewhat faster, it might have some reasonable play, but this change takes Braviary from “Bad, don’t use it” to “Bad, don’t use it.”
Abomasnow learns Weather Ball Ice. Weather Ball’s a fantastic move, and this does a lot for Abomasnow. Pairing it with the buffed Powder Snow and Energy Ball allows it to fill a really interesting antimeta role. Just as a sampler, in Great League it can beat all meta Grasses (Venusaur, Meganium, Tropius, Shiftry, and even Cherrim), as well as Altaria, Galarian Stunfisk, and Azumarill! The Shadow version is interesting as well if you’ve got one, trading in some bulk to pick up the Skarmory 1-1 shield scenario. Do note that the Shadow isn’t necessarily better, just different, and could be fun to play with! The yeti holds up well in Ultra, too! Despite only maxing out at 2,362 CP, it beats Swampert, Gengar, Giratina (Altered AND Origin), Togekiss, Venusaur, and Clefable. This is very possibly the single most important buff of all the Season 3 changes, and Abomasnow has already seen a massive surge in play in Great League GBL!
Pelipper picks up Weather Ball Water. Previously only having super expensive moves (Blizzard, Hurricane, and Hydro Pump), gaining the 35 energy Weather Ball lets it function as a real Pokémon! And not just a real Pokémon, a good one too! With Wing Attack + Weather Ball and Hurricane, you can beat Swampert, Registeel, Toxicroak, Azumarill, and even Galarian Stunfisk, which you wouldn’t expect from a Flying-type. Pelipper’s a mon that’s 100% worth looking into.
Empoleon can now learn Drill Peck. As a mon handicapped by expensive charged moves (it’s hard to reach Flash Cannon and Blizzard off Waterfall), it gained a lot from Hydro Cannon. And now it’s picking up even more with Drill Peck! While Blizzard’s still a perfectly viable choice (especially in Ultra League, where having that big hit on Giratina matters a lot), Drill Peck also gives you a nice hit against Fighting-types and Grass-types which you’d otherwise struggle a lot against! In Great League, it’s nice to have a somewhat cheaper hit against Altaria, too. While this doesn’t exactly change where Empoleon lies in the meta (it’s still Solid Enough™), it’s a neat new toy for the penguin to play with!
Season 3 may not look massively different from Season 2. A lot of the Registeels you see will be replaced by Galarian Stunfisks, and you'll likely see more Abomasnow and Drifblim. Other than that though, Azumarill and Altaria are still ubiquitous, so it's business as usual.