Meta Implications: Leaf Storm and Payback

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Article by Tyler


On March 29th, we got an announcement that move changes would be coming to Pokémon GO. Rolled out on April 12th, the changes are:

  • Leaf Storm will be added to the game, as a powerful Grass-type attack that lowers the user’s Attack stat.
  • Payback, a move first seen as a Community Day exclusive move on Machamp, will be given to more Pokémon.

Before you get too excited about either of these things, just know that neither of them are likely to be super impactful. Either way, though, let’s run through them!

Leaf Storm

Leaf Storm is a 130 Power/55 Energy Grass-type charged move that reduces your attack by 2 stages on use. For reference, this is identical to Overheat, other than the typing. In PvE, it's pretty comparable to Solar Beam. It’s initially available to Sunflora, Celebi, Ludicolo, Roserade, and Leavanny. 

Leaf Storm is a powerful move. It hits like a truck, and it’s fairly cheap. However, the debuff makes it inconsistent as a damage option. You can only really land one before you’ve nerfed your own attack stat into the ground, and if it gets shielded you’re in a terrible position. That said, we can still run through its recipients one by one.


Sunflora’s an interesting mon, and Leaf Storm’s definitely an upgrade for it. Previously burdened with Petal Blizzard and Solar Beam (to pair with Sludge Bomb), it didn’t really have any good Grass-type options for charged moves. Now, with Bullet Seed/Razor Leaf + Leaf Storm and Sludge Bomb, the mon is better, but arguably still not good. It just doesn’t stand out in a field of incredibly powerful Grass-types, either as a Razor Leaf user or as a spammy mon with Bullet Seed.


Celebi is an often overlooked mon. You probably have two of them right now, and you’ve likely never used either. Its current go-to set is Confusion + Seed Bomb and Psychic, letting it fill the same niche as Exeggutor. It’s hard to look at Leaf Storm as anything but a downgrade for the lil time onion, though. Either you swap out Psychic and run Confusion + Seed Bomb and Leaf Storm (which gives up a significant amount of coverage) or you swap out Seed Bomb and suddenly your cheapest move is 55 energy. Confusion simply doesn’t generate energy quickly enough to support that. Celebi is no more notable now than it was before, and it shouldn’t run Leaf Storm.


Probably the most notable of the Leaf Storm users here! Ludicolo has historically seen use with both of its fast moves (Bubble and Razor Leaf), though you’ll definitely want to stick with Bubble here. Its other move options include Ice Beam, Energy Ball, and Hydro Pump. Most current Ludicolo (the few that actually exist) run Bubble + Ice Beam and Energy Ball, maximizing your coverage. Ice Beam and Energy Ball are both 90 Power/55 Energy moves, so swapping out Energy Ball for Leaf Storm doesn’t slow you down at all. Theoretically, though, in the 1shield, Leaf Storm picks up the following wins: Clefable, Shadow Hypno, Lapras, Mantine, Alolan Marowak, Medicham, Obstagoon, Pelipper, Scrafty, Umbreon, Vigoroth, and Wigglytuff. That said, these wins are not consistent. They’re reliant on your opponent shielding an Ice Beam, and then not shielding the Leaf Storm. This means maybe relying on Bubble chip damage, since the instant Leaf Storm might not kill. That said, there absolutely is potential for this dancing pineapple to pick up some power here, and it could be worth experimenting with!


Roserade sims well, but its performance likely won’t match up in practice. While it appears to pick up a significant number of wins with Leaf Storm, there are a few things that hold it back from that. Roserade, having super low bulk, relies on shields being up. Leaf Storm, on the other hand, relies on shields being down. Given that Roserade is already a high-risk mon, Leaf Storm just adds another layer of riskiness. Grass Knot enables Roserade to have much more consistent damage output. All things considered, I wouldn’t necessarily expect to see much more Roserade than you currently do, but you could certainly give it a shot to catch people by surprise. Brief PvE Note: As stated above, Leaf Storm is comparable in performance to Solar Beam. As a consequence, it's worse than Grass Knot, so....skip out on that here, too!


“Oh, right, Leavanny’s in the game” - me, and probably also you. Leavanny will never use Leaf Storm. The short version is that it already has access to Leaf Blade, one of the most powerful moves in the entire game. It’s cheap, hard-hitting, and doesn’t debuff you. Since Leavanny’s running either Razor Leaf or Bug Bite, neither of which has particularly great energy generation, the fact that Leaf Storm costs 20 more energy than Leaf Blade is even more detrimental. Leavanny’s not great, and Leaf Storm makes it almost strictly worse.


Payback is a 110 Power/60 Energy Dark-type charged move. For reference, Moonblast and Outrage also share this 110/60 statline. It hasn’t really had much of a showing thus far on Machamp, but that’s mostly because it’s too expensive, and Machamp’s moveset is perfectly solid already. So, what’s new?

Moving forward, Persian, Alolan Persian, Cacnea, Cacturne, Absol, Bronzor, Bronzong, and Liepard will also be able to use Payback. I’ll go over the two that matter first, and then cover the rest more briefly.


Yes, the baby one. Remember Little Cup, where the Bronzor mirror took over 2 minutes to finish? That was unpleasant, for everyone. It basically nullified every instance of energy or shield advantage. That’s because Bronzor was only running moves that were resisted or double resisted. But now we’ve got Payback, which every Bronzor will want to run. Notably, the mirror is still deeply unpleasant to play, but it now lasts 89 seconds rather than 157 seconds. So...that’s a plus.


And now the big one. Bronzong is somewhat hampered by a lack of good secondary charged moves. While it has good bulk, great typing, and a solid primary setup of Confusion + Psyshock, that’s kinda where the positives end. Psychic? Redundant. Heavy Slam and Flash Cannon? Kinda mediocre, at best. Bulldoze? Well, it’s what’s left, but it’s an 80 Power/60 Energy move, and that’s really not very good, with a DPE of 1.33. Payback adds something new and interesting, in that it’s unique coverage (and a new way to hit Steels for non-resisted damage!) and that it’s a move that doesn’t suck! Notably, Super Effective Bulldoze is only ~16% more damage than neutral Payback. Not that that’s not significant, and in certain metagames where there’s something like Bastiodon that you need to target (since Bast takes double super effective damage from Ground), Bulldoze can still be useful. However, in a lot of cases, it may just be the better neutral move, especially since it gives you a super effective hit on Ghosts. It does make you worse against Dark-types, but...again. Bulldoze is really bad. You’ve got options now, though.

The Rest

The rest of these Pokémon suck for various reasons, and frankly, Payback doesn’t make them better.


Persian’s acceptable bulk fails to make up for a lack of noteworthy fast moves and absence of a notable niche. Scratch and Feint Attack are both just kinda underwhelming. Even more notably, though, Persian just has better moves than Payback. It prefers either legacy Night Slash or Foul Play as a go-to Dark move.

Alolan Persian

Alolan Persian’s got the same issue that Persian does. While it doesn’t have Night Slash, it’ll still want to run Foul Play over this. Also, it sucks.

Cacnea and Cacturne

Cacnea doesn’t matter, and it never has. Same with Cacturne. Cacnea failed to make an impact in Little Cup thanks to mediocre typing and terrible bulk, it failed to do anything. Even with Payback (its first Dark-type move), that’s not likely to change. It certainly doesn’t help that its mono-Grass typing doesn’t even provide it Dark’s resistances to Bronzor. Cacturne’s pitifully low bulk (think Blaziken, but worse) has no way to leverage a 60 energy move. Write both of these off.


Absol’s issue is similar to Cacturne’s. it just doesn’t have the bulk to compete in PvP. Don’t use Absol, but if you do, use Dark Pulse instead of Payback.


Liepard’s almost interesting. It’s a Dark-type that has access to Charm. That said, though, it also has no bulk, and it prefers Dark Pulse over Payback. running theme here, huh.


Frankly, most of these changes just won’t matter, which is a little disappointing. Leaf Storm’s biggest impact may just be that Niantic can now add Rotom-Mow to the game (since Leaf Storm’s its signature move). Payback likely just didn’t get the distribution it needs to see more play, which is extra sad due to the incredible number of Pokémon that can learn it in the main series. Hopefully the next PvP rebalance is more impactful! Until next time!

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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.