Season 10 of GBL is right around the corner, and with it, a few new cups and a few new changes. You can read all about it here. Let’s run through all of the move and moveset changes, and see what we might be able to expect from this new season!
Pound’s damage has been reduced from 5 to 4. Fundamentally, this is just a nerf to Chansey, who was just a little too good during Kanto Cup. Other than that, it’s just a really frustrating Pokémon to play against due to its titanic bulk and tendency to result in time-out games. While I do certainly feel bad for the people who spent all that time farming up the requisite 296 XL to Lv50 their hundo Chansey, this change is probably for the best. Chansey’s the type of mon that’s best left as a meme anyway. Interestingly, in a lot of cases this nerf doesn’t do anything, as it doesn’t result in Chansey dropping any breakpoints. But (for example) your fast move damage to Deoxys-Defense drops from 2 to 1, and from 3 to 2 vs things like Vigoroth, Pidgeot, and Lapras. Chansey may honestly just end up switching from Pound to Zen Headbutt and keep going as before. It may be less effective at dealing damage, but it's not like it's any less effective at being incredibly annoying.
Bug Buzz has been changed from a 90 Power/60 Energy move to a 100 Power/60 Energy move. (It also has a 30% chance to reduce the opponent’s defense by 1 stage, but that’s not new). Bug moves have historically been in a kinda disappointing place, as Bug just has really mediocre offensive coverage. In Great League, it’s especially relevant that it’s resisted by both Fairy (Azumarill), Steel (Galarian Stunfisk), Flying (any number of things), and more recently Poison. While it can hit for SE damage vs Dark, Grass, and Poison, that hasn’t really balanced it out. At the moment, the only Bug-type move you ever really see is Lunge. So, what does the Bug Buzz change do?
At the moment, Bug Buzz is only “relevant” on a few Pokémon, with Relevant potentially being a stretch. According to Niantic, the buff is intended “to boost Wormadam’s, Vespiquen’s, and Yanmega’s Bug-type Charged Attack options.” So, will it?
Let’s start with the only one of these that actually sees any play, and uses Bug Buzz: Wormadam-Trash. As a bulky Bug/Steel-type (only weak to Fire), it’s seen quite a bit of play in limited formats. Typically, it runs Confusion + Iron Head and Bug Buzz. Just briefly, the extra 10 Power allows it to pick up 1shield wins vs Obstagoon, Deoxys-Defense, non-Fire Punch Hypno, and Air Slash Tropius. In most cases, the 10 power doesn’t really assist with “sim wins,” per se, as the 1shield process of baiting an Iron Head and then landing a Bug Buzz (with all the Confusion damage building up), 90 Power Bug Buzz killed anyway. However, 10 Power is a meaningful boost, and Wormadam will perform better in any situation where it can land one! As a note: if you made your Wormadam before XLs were a thing (when rank 1 was 7/14/15), it hasn’t really picked up that much with the extra levels. It’s a 1km buddy, so it’s not too hard to walk, but there’s no need to rush to prioritize it.
Vespiquen sees occasional play, but like...mostly in Silph formats. It’s got an impressive spread of fast moves, including Fury Cutter, Bug Bite, Air Slash, and Poison Sting depending on what it needs. The Bug Buzz buff does sort of fall apart in relevance when you look at its charged moves, though. It has two cheap Bug-type moves in X-Scissor and Fell Stinger, and then it has Signal Beam, Bug Buzz, and Power Gem. If Vespiquen wants to benefit from Bug Buzz, you’re either giving up a significant amount of speed, or dedicating yourself to a purely Bug-type moveset, which…nah. I dunno. Ignore this one. #BuffPowerGem maybe?
Yanmega we’re just going to ignore in a PvP context. It’s glassy, and it’s just really underwhelming. In a PvE context, though, it’s very slightly more interesting! It’s now the highest Bug-type DPS of all non-Shadow, non-Mega currently released Pokémon, beating out Genesect. It’s still not quite competitive with other Anti-Psychic options (though it does match Giratina-Origin in the Rain), though, so don’t start rushing to max a team of these. Especially since Volcarona (when it eventually releases) will be a much stronger Bug-type attacker.
Other Bug Buzz users include Venomoth (lol), Dustox (XL lol) and, like, Ledian I guess? Galvantula learns it, but should absolutely continue to run Lunge instead. Despite the state of the rest of the game, this is not the Season of the Bug.
As part of an extremely long trend of giving Donphan new moves, Donphan now has access to Body Slam! It’s a 60 Power/35 Energy Normal-type move, and it’s very strong. So, is Donphan finally good now, or is it still...irrelephant?
Donphan has a helluva spread of fast moves, including Counter, Charm, and Mud Slap. While only Mud Slap has STAB, Counter and Charm are both insanely powerful in their own right. As for charged moves, it can learn Earthquake, Play Rough, and Heavy Slam. You’ll notice a trend there: all pretty expensive. Body Slam helps provide some much-needed speed to allow Donphan to actually threaten its Earthquakes or Play Roughs. So is it good now?
Gonna save you some time: in Open Great League? Not really. The format is filled with Water-types, Grass-types, and, honestly, better Counter users, all of which make it pretty tough to be Donphan. Its low bulk doesn’t even allow it a 1shield win against Galarian Stunfisk. However, at the end of Season 10 we’ve got Johto Cup, a format where it looks a little better! While PvPoke doesn’t have formal meta predictions up yet, there are a few Pokémon that are likely to be pretty strong that Donphan performs well against! Most notably, running Counter/Body Slam/Earthquake, Donphan functions as an effective counter to Ampharos, Steelix and Umbreon, while also checking Water Gun Lanturn (and countering Spark versions). It even has a fairly positive matchup against Skarmory and Piloswine! Do note that Azumarill and Politoed are fairly likely to see play, though, and there’s a fair chance of Meganium and Qwilfish ending up powerful, all of which are pretty effective answers to Donphan. Still, decidedly an interesting choice, and hopefully it’ll finally see play!
Once again, can’t really recommend Donphan for Open Format. A poor matchup against Giratina (even with Play Rough), Cresselia, Swampert, and Talonflame means you’re probably better off running Obstagoon if you really need a Counter user.
In Premier, you’ve got a pretty positive matchup against Snorlax, Galarian Stunfisk, Scrafty, Nidoqueen, and Umbreon, which is cool! However, the format has a lot of Pokémon Donphan would rather avoid. Trevenant, Empoleon, Swampert, Venusaur, and Lapras all show up very regularly. Frankly, it doesn’t seem like a great choice in Remix either.
You may be shouting at your screen “You literally said it had 3 good fast moves, why are you only talking about Counter?” and honestly, fair. But to this point, in the history of Pokémon GO PvP, no Pokémon that can learn Counter has run any move but. At 4 DPT/3.5 EPT, it’s got everything you need. Overlapping anti-Steel/Rock coverage with Mud Slap makes that less appealing, and if you need a Charm user, you’ll always be able to do better with a Fairy-type.
All this said, though, we’ve seen the power of Counter + Body Slam on Vigoroth. While it seems like Donphan is still no Vigoroth, it’s certainly better than it ever has been in the past, and has a fair shot at seeing play in limited metagames. Just sucks that there are so many strong Water-types in every format.
Donphan loses to Dialga in the 0shield and 2shield, and has to successfully bait with a Body Slam to barely win in the 1shield. If your Counter-using Ground-type can’t beat Dialga, you probably shouldn’t bring it out. Try Groudon instead. In Premier, it loses to Metagross in the 0 and 1shield, requiring an insane amount of energy to flip it. Probably don’t.
Noctowl now learns Shadow Ball (Ghost-type, 100 Power/55 Energy). If you don’t participate in Silph or PvP Draft, you probably haven’t thought too much about this mon, but it’s actually pretty impressive! In Great League, it’s bulkier than Snorlax, Jellicent, or Cofagrigus! Wing Attack + Sky Attack is a very powerful moveset, but it’s always had the issue of mediocre secondary coverage options. Night Shade is just horrible (60 Power/55 Energy), and while Psychic (90 Power/55 Energy) is solid, it has a lot of overlapping coverage with Sky Attack. In either case, it never had a great way of dealing with Steel-types. Well, Shadow Ball helps! You’ll still be sticking to Sky Attack spam most of the time, so it won’t seem like it’s changing that much, but picking up some really strong Ghost coverage is always a huge boon, especially against common Pokémon like Hypno, Deoxys-Defense, or Jellicent. Notably, it has breakpoints against Azumarill and Galarian Stunfisk. The Azu breakpoint allows it to more consistently win the 1shield vs high rank XL Azu (you beat non-XL Azu pretty consistently still), and the Gunfisk breakpoint allows you to potentially win if you’re at a shield advantage (that is to say, if you use more shields than they do).
One key comparison for Noctowl has to be with Pidgeot, the other relevant Normal/Flying-type. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. Noctowl has the benefit of being significantly bulkier, as well as faster (by 0.5 EPT), and it has more consistent charged move pressure with Sky Attack. Pidgeot, on the other hand, has much higher fast move damage with Gust, the ability to debuff with Feather Dance, and insane nuke potential with Brave Bird. As a result, neither of the two comes across as immediately better than the other, and there’s probably a case to be made for using either. Just keep in mind that, as a part-Normal-type, Pidgeot takes neutral damage from Counter, making it overall a less consistent anti-Fighting option than something like Altaria. If nothing else, it’s a very hard wall to Trevenant, resisting the Grass moves and double resisting the Ghost ones.
Is this change enough to make Noctowl Open Great League playable? I’m honestly not sure. Shadow Ball is a strong move, but we’re sorta asking a lot from it, trying to take Noctowl from entirely unplayed to Meta Relevant. If nothing else, though, this should make it more interesting in the Johto Cup later this season.
Octillery will now be able to learn Lock On (1 DPT/5 EPT). Octillery’s always been a bit of a meme. Not in the Chansey “Holy hell, why are you doing this to other people” sense, more like “Why are you doing this to yourself.” Octillery is a mono-Water Pokémon with bulk relatively comparable to Qwilfish, Charizard, or Escavalier (that is to say, kinda low.) It’s got a...strange set of charged moves, typically running Octazooka, and then it has to choose between Aurora Beam, Water Pulse, Acid Spray, and Gunk Shot. For fast moves, it’s been between Mud Shot and Water Gun, generally choosing Mud Shot for the energy generation. Lock On gives up 0.5 DPT from Mud Shot to pick up 0.5 EPT. Aurora Beam and Water Pulse are god-awful, Acid Spray is redundant to Octazooka, so you’re probably running Gunk Shot. Unlike the other Octazooka user, Kingdra, Octillery lacks the offensive pressure of Dragon Breath, so you’re just doing your best to rush to Gunk Shots. This setup, then, leaves you as a weird pseudo-Poison-type. We have better Poison-types. We have better Water-types. If you want to run Octillery, I can’t stop you, but it’s not your best path to pulling wins.
Note that this mon isn’t necessarily done. In the main series, it has the potential to learn moves like Ice Beam, Icy Wind, Flamethrower, Hydro Pump, and Energy Ball (among others). Lock On is really strong, Octillery may just need a better move to farm toward.
Niantic’s “biggest” change this season is probably to Rock Tomb. It’s a 70 Power/60 Energy Rock-type charged move, and it’s picking up a 100% chance to reduce your opponent’s Attack by 1 stage. 5 Pokémon are learning this move for the first time: Sudowoodo, Lairon, Aggron, Claydol, and Magcargo.
I don’t want to waste your time with this: Rock Tomb is still a bad move. 70 Power for 60 Energy is a terrible rate. Let’s compare it to Rock Slide (75P/45E), where you get 5 more Power for 15 less energy. Stone Edge (100P/55E) gives you a whopping 30 more Power for 5 less energy. In any case where you could use one of these moves over Rock Tomb, you should. With the above Pokémon, Sudowoodo and Lairon learn Rock Slide, and Aggron and Magcargo learn Stone Edge. Claydol and its 70 different charged moves have better options as well. I don’t want to have to just write off the move, since there’s nominally so much there, but none of it stands up to scrutiny. Sandslash and some Forretress movesets are a little better now, I guess?
Magcargo, though, also picked up Incinerate, a 3 DPT/4 EPT Fire-type fast move. It currently sees heavy play on Talonflame and Ho-Oh (among a few other less meta-relevant things). As a 5-turn move, it’s pretty unwieldy, but you can get more value out of it than numbers would suggest if your opponent isn’t capable of fast move denial. Magcargo’s historically been a niche pick at best. Overheat + Stone Edge is a powerful moveset, but neither Ember nor Rock Throw provided the energy generation to really leverage them. This has left Magcargo pigeonholed as basically just a uniquely-typed Rock Throw user whenever it’s seen play. So now that it has Incinerate, what can we expect from the magma slug?
Magcargo’s in an interesting place with its typing. As a Fire/Rock-type Pokémon, it’s doubly weak to Ground and Water, and single weak to Fighting and Rock. It has a double resistance to Fire, and a single resist to Bug, Fairy, Flying, Ice, Normal, and Poison. While it’s got more resistances than weaknesses, the weaknesses that it does have can be pretty crippling. Azumarill can beat it without shielding and only using Bubble!
One of its most interesting matchups is against Galarian Stunfisk in the Great League. Gunfisk has a very consistent win in the 2shield, even going straight Rock Slide. The 1 and 0, though, are incredibly reliant on the game working right. Let’s start with the 1shield.
If Magcargo goes straight Overheat, and Gunfisk goes straight Rock Slide, then Magcargo wins, with Gunfisk needing 5 free turns to flip the matchup. However, if Gunfisk performs effective fast move timing, making sure to minimize Magcargo’s free turns, then Magcargo’s win disappears with only 1 turn of difference. The same thing occurs if Gunfisk goes straight Earthquake. If Gunfisk manages to bait a shield with Rock Slide, then it can win the 1shield, but it takes effective fast move denial to do so. Notably, With 1 Mud Shot of energy advantage (so, starting with 9 energy), Gunfisk wins all even shields straight Earthquake no problem, even without fast move denial.
In the 0shield, it’s just a race to reach the charged move. This one also flips to even 1 turn of lag, allowing Gunfisk to land the Earthquake before Magcargo reaches its Overheat.
On the whole, it’s a weird matchup, and it’s a little hard to say who it favors. Magcargo’s capable of taking shields, but so is Gunfisk, and they both basically only need to land one charged move to end the battle. It’s also somewhat IV dependent. If your Magcargo’s defense is low enough, Gunfisk will deal 1 extra damage per Mud Shot, and allow it to win the 1shield straight Rock Slide very easily. Sim it before you make it! If there’s any one thing to take away from this, it’s this: learn to time your fast moves. Wallower has a fantastic video on it that you can watch here!
So, that’s two Pokémon, how about the rest? Magcargo unsurprisingly has a great matchup against Charm users, Skarmory, and most Flying-types. That said, it does have some surprising losses. Because Magcargo is Fire/Rock dual-type, it takes neutral damage from Grass-types. This results in a move denial-dependent/IV dependent loss to Meganium and Venusaur. It also manages to lose to Altaria in all even shields, and has a weirdly inconsistent matchup against Trevenant. It’s a little hard to recommend Magcargo in the Open Great League as a result of all this. That said, depending on how the format shapes up, it may have a real shot in Johto Cup, since it can beat Steelix in all even shields straight Overheat, even with effective charged move timing.
The two biggest winners this season are probably Noctowl and Magcargo. While they may not necessarily be set up for top Great League relevance, they do seem meaningfully better, and the new moves certainly solved an issue they each had. While this is a season that probably won’t result in any huge open format changes to any of the leagues, it seems like Trevenant has done enough to buy us some time before the game risks feeling samey again. And who knows, maybe we’ll see more interesting new Pokémon once the Season of Mischief ends!