Zweilous Raids and the Death of Classic

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Over the course of GO Battle League’s lifespan, there have been many different formats. While the core of  “Great League, Ultra League, Master League” has always existed, each format has branched off into smaller, more limited formats. Premier, Remix, or even things like the recent Fossil Cup. With the advent of XL Candy, some formats (Ultra and Master) got “Classic” variants, in which you weren’t allowed to use any Pokémon powered up using XLs. However, in Season 11, every Classic format has been removed. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move.

Classic vs XL

Ultra League’s Premier Cup has always been pretty meaningfully different from its Classic variant. The addition of XL Pokémon didn’t just add a few new pieces to the meta, the power of these new threats completely warped the format. I don’t think I need to fully break down how difficult it can be to farm up the XLs for some of the Pokémon in this format. Galarian Stunfisk, Mandibuzz, and Jellicent are three incredibly strong Pokémon in Premier that I imagine many of you reading aren’t even close to 296 XL for. While you can of course still compete in Ultra Premier without running XL Pokémon, not having them puts you at an inherent disadvantage because you have fewer options when trying to construct a powerful team. Premier Classic is interesting on its own, though. Not only is it cheaper and more accessible, you also get to use things like Gallade or Kingdra, which just don’t cut it in a format with XLs. In short, Premier and Premier Classic are both unique and fun formats which play out differently. And that’s cool! Anyway, totally unrelated, let’s talk about Master League.

Master League is a really cool format. Pokémon like Zacian, Lugia, Giratina-Altered, and Ho-Oh go from middling/bad raid attackers to legitimate high tier threats. A number of already powerful raid Pokémon like Mewtwo, Kyogre, and Giratina-Origin get to see a lot of play too! While I don’t think anyone would pretend Master League has ever been an “accessible” format, it’s certainly a format that dedicated players have had reasonable access to.

If you didn’t have Legendary Raid money, though, there was always Master Premier Classic. Master and Master Premier are about as different as Ultra and Ultra Premier, if not more so. Without Pokémon like Zacian, Mewtwo, and Dialga, the format developed in a very unique direction. While there’s still overlap in things like Togekiss and Excadrill, Premier also brings out Gyarados, Milotic, and Haxorus. That’s Open and Premier, though. How do Master and Master Classic differ?

…well, one’s more expensive. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a complete 1:1. Level 50 Pokémon have more bulk than their Level 40 counterparts, so matchups can play out somewhat differently, but…it’s really about the same format. It’s just that if you want to actually stay competitive, it’ll take 296 XL per Pokémon you want to run. And that 296 XL isn’t cheap. RyanSwag did a really nice breakdown on how much money it’ll cost to 50 a Legendary.

It’s short, and worth watching, but the tl;dw is that with real concerted effort, a single Lv50 Legendary Pokémon can cost as little as $40. So, for a team of three Legendaries, that’s $120. For three Pokémon. Even worse, you have to have that money ready to spend during the limited window when the mon you need is in raids. While getting 3ish XL per raid isn’t great, it’s certainly better than “A chance at 1 Rare Candy XL from an in person raid.” This means that if you weren’t out there grinding raids when Zacian was around, your odds of actually getting a Lv50 Zacian to use…aren’t great.

This issue moves past affordability and into pure accessibility when you take a look at Mythicals. Zarude and Meloetta have both seen some amount of play in Master Classic, but so far they have been accessible a grand total of Once. As in, each account gets one. If you were a high enough level when you caught it, you’ll have 3 XL. If not, 0. Since they require walking 20km (10 when excited) to get a chance at 1 XL, and Rare XLs are so inaccessible, this means they might as well not even exist in Lv50 Master League. This last thing takes Open Master go from “Master Classic, but more expensive” to “Master Classic, but actually just worse.”

And at the moment, it’s our only option.

RIP Classic

As mentioned before, the Interlude Season didn’t have Master Classic. “That’s alright,” some people thought. “That’s weird, but it’ll be back next season.” It is now next season. It’s not back. At the moment, Niantic has released no official communications implying that it will ever come back. And man? That sucks.

Just speaking personally, Master League was always my favorite format. I enjoyed getting to use all those legendaries in PvP. I loved being able to use bulky but low-attack Legendaries, Pokémon that otherwise have absolutely no relevance. I maxed my Lugia, my Giratina, and my Zacian not just because I like them, but because I enjoyed using them, and expected to continue to be able to do so. For a while, that was fine, I always had Master League Classic. But that’s gone now.

Lv50 Master League is expensive, and honestly, it’s just not an expense I can justify. I raided enough for a maxed Deoxys-Defense, and that’s the only Legendary (Mythical, but either way) I’ve taken past 40. I just can’t reasonably justify spending that much on a Pokémon with any kind of regularity. So here I am. Gated from my favorite format, a format that has been usurped by “itself, but it costs way more to play.” Stuck with a collection of maxed, 3moved Pokémon that just don’t have any use. I know I’m not the only one in this situation. There have, of course, been rumors going around that Classic’ll be back next season (but for real this time you guys!), but nothing official.

It certainly doesn’t help that Niantic benefits from that ambiguity. If Master Classic is gone, you might as well start leveling up your Legendaries past 40. If you can get your Dialga to Lv43, why not, right? But if Classic then returns, you’re stuck in a position where you can’t really use it in either format and you have to make an entirely new one. Or, alternatively, you feel forced into a position where you’ve gotta 50 your legendaries, so you spend passes on doing that.

Frankly, it’s not even just the people who can’t afford Master who are hurt by the whole situation. The pool of people who can play it is so small that they regularly struggle to find matches, causing each set to take an unreasonably long time. Nobody is benefitting from this from a game experience perspective.

Premier Classic filled an important niche as well. While 50ing a non-Legendary/Mythical isn’t quite so financially expensive, it absolutely takes an incredible amount of time. I think it’s safe to say that the average player, even the average invested player, lacks the XLs for format staples such as Snorlax, Haxorus, and Togekiss. That means most players are effectively gated from participating on an even footing. Getting Pokémon to 40 isn’t cheap by any means, but it’s at least relatively accessible.

Okay, so...

If Niantic is going to go through with killing off Master Classic, the players really should get some better way to keep up. Remember, it takes more XL to 50 something than it does normal candy to get something to 40, and it’s significantly less accessible. “You have a small chance at receiving a Rare XL if you do a raid in person” absolutely does not do enough to help your average player out. At the moment, there is currently no reasonable path for someone to get an out-of-rotation Legendary from Lv40 to Lv50, even over an extended period of time. There isn’t really any sense of “Okay, I can gradually build up my resources until I can reach this goal.”

Rare XLs need to become a regular drop in raids, and a common one too. We need 3-6 Rare Candy XL per raid, leaving it at least on par with normal Rare Candy.

Niantic has, in their own way, ameliorated the loss of Master and Master Premier Classic by only ever running them while another, non-Master format is in rotation. And that’s cool, somewhat. They’ve made sure people aren’t completely blocked out from playing GBL during those weeks. It just doesn’t solve the issue of “Hey, those formats were pretty fun.”

You said something about Zweilous?

For the last few years, we’ve had 6 hour long Community Day events. These allowed those with enough free time to grind out a ton of catches. More importantly, it doubled the window for people who might be busy, allowing more people to actually play the event. In April, though, we lost that. Stufful’s CDay was only 3 hours long. There were certainly some changes made to ameliorate the loss, like double Catch Candy and double XL Candy chance. But fundamentally, we lost something that did tangibly help people play.

This month’s Deino Community Day ran from 11 AM to 2 PM. The new normal 3-hour run. There was a twist. Between 2 and 7 PM, Zweilous (Deino’s evolved form) was in Tier 4 raids, only doable with in-person raid passes (no remote). When these raids are cleared, Deino will spawn around that gym for 30 minutes, with the same boosted shiny rate CDay Pokémon normally get. As far as I can figure, the idea is that you gather with your locals at a gym, and then you can hang out for half an hour to play together and catch Deino, for Community Togetherness. Honestly, I respect the concept (if I’m reading it right). Some of the best moments I’ve had in Pokémon GO involved grouping up with strangers during raid trains. I just don’t like the execution.

The issue is, this is just letting you spend money to unlock a crappy version of something we got for free just a few months ago. Instead of 6 hour Community Days, you get 3. If you want more, you can drop a raid pass to buy another 30 minutes (if you play in a limited area around that gym). Want 6 hour cdays? It’ll cost you (and at least one other friend) 6 raid passes that you probably would rather spend on a Mewtwo or Moltres. And this trend is continuing on! In the announcement for July’s community day, Niantic announced their plans to do the same thing with 4* Staravia Raids. Seems safe to assume this isn’t going away any time soon. 

This is all part of a trend of the game getting more expensive to play, a trend that includes the removal of PvP’s classic formats. You can still play Master. You’ve just gotta spend enough to Lv50 your team. You can still buy your 3 Remote Passes, but it’ll cost you 50 extra coins. Niantic is just making a whole chain of decisions that disadvantage the playerbase, but make them more money. And I would like them to stop, please.

“Niantic needs to make money, though”

Don’t get me wrong. I fully recognize that Niantic is a company, and their goal is to make money, and thus they will make decisions that make them more money. But, like, geez. They’re already making a lot of money. And they made a lot of that money while Master Classic was around, with 6 hour community days, with 250 coin remote pass bundles. In a free to play game, there will always be a hard balance between “making money” and “maintaining player experience,” and I just can’t help but feel like we’re leaning too hard on the wrong side. Like, I get the “company make money” thing, I’d just rather they not do it to the detriment of the actual game.


Honestly, I don’t really expect anything to change for the better, certainly not as a result of this article. But at the very least, I think it’s worth talking about. I know that, honestly, the majority of players aren’t significantly impacted by the loss of Master Classic. There’s just a whole trend of decisions going on, and they’re not going to stop if people aren’t talking about them and pushing back.

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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.