Second Division Champions: Limited Cup All Stars Part 4
redspah with the help of GO Stadium Meta Team
3 months ago
In the previous part of this series focusing on going over all the Great League limited format relevant Pokémon, we took a look at all the tanky Rocks and Steels, nasty Poisons, and radi-cool Dragons.
And if you thought this part was gonna be more mellow... then you were right, good job! Normal types are about as XXXtreme as mayonnaise, much the same with Normal/Flying birds, Ghosts are a little bit spoopier but play nice if you Lick them, Water is about as cool of a typing as it gets, and pseudo-Dragons... uh...
You're not here for silly intros anyway, so now read on and Enjoy!
As much (deserved) flak as the Pokémon franchise as a whole gets because of the rock-paper-scissors nature of its matchups, it's not all bad. Sure, there isn't an absence of contenders that hard win vs. 50% of the available Pokémon and hard lose vs the other 50%, but on the other end of the spectrum, you can also find quite a few 'mons that do decently well against almost everything. They may not necessarily win too many matchups, but even when they do lose it's a narrow loss, and they make their opponents work for it, oftentimes making them commit shields to come out on top.
Safe switches, as they're called, are an important part of any format's metagame, and there's a balance to how many of them you'd ideally have in a format. Too few, and the whole format devolves into an actual game of rock paper scissors (cough cough Commander Cup), too many and the matches come down to better energy management and perfectly timed switches, which while not terrible in itself, isn't everyone's cup of tea. One surefire way to ensure a format isn't lacking in safe switches is to just sprinkle in some Normal types, just not too many and definitely not Lickitung.
As established with Vigoroth earlier, Normal is a very good defensive typing in GO, only losing to Fighting, and depending on the format there might not even be any good fighters in the first place, said Vigoroth aside (though that tends to result in Normal types overcentralizing the meta). In addition, many Normal types have a great neutral bulk, letting them take quite a few blows before fainting even from actual fighters, and strike back with their most common move of choice- Body Slam. While almost no other Normal types have access to the same level of spammability with their Body Slam as Vigoroth does, they're not too far off either, letting them pile on damage almost as reliably as their primate cousin.
And one good way to pile on a lot of largely neutral damage is Counter. Obviously. But falling that, you've got Shadow Claw too. That's not quite it either? Lemme think... well, Lick is good enough too I suppose. As underwhelming as Lick is on the surface of it, quite a few Normal types end up putting it to good use. Even without STAB, Lick puts out very respectable amounts of damage, in no small part thanks to the damage formula GO uses rounding all damage up. Against certain opponents, that rounding makes up for the bulk of some Normal types' damage output- 1.1 damage per Lick ending up being rounded up to 2 damage is an 82% damage increase for free, for example. In that same vein, a piece of trivia- if not for that said damage rounding, Registeel's Lock-Ons would deal something like 0.07 damage to Bastiodon.
But enough distractions, let's take a look at our first few contenders, who, as it would just so happen, use Lick for their Fast Move and have access to Body Slam!
- Snorlax needs no introduction. It's big, it's round, it's the obnoxious obstacle main series games has been treating us to since 1995. And while it's nowhere near as dominating in GO as it was in Generation 2 singles, it definitely pulls its weight here too, though Great League isn't a format often associated with it. Ultra, even Master League and being annoying in gyms, sure, but not necessarily the main competitive format. That is mostly a result of the GO Beyond update which let Lickitung spread its CP all the way up to 1500, taking over the uncommon up until that point Normal type tank niche, and propelling it into the spotlight. Compared to Lickitung, Snorlax is less bulky- still firmly above average, but ways off from the sheer girth of Licki's stat product, resulting in notably worse matchups vs Fighters. As far as second Charged Attack slot goes, Snorlax has many options, some of them even good like Earthquake and Superpower, giving it a better Registeel and Bastiodon matchup, but not enough to make up for notably worse bulk than the Lick Pokémon.
- Munchlax is in many ways like its big brother, but... leaner. Smaller size, much smaller movepool, but thankfully, bigger stat product, potentially above even such mons as Skarmory! In theory, at least. Being limited to eggs makes obtaining a high ranking Munchlax reliant on getting lucky with trading, and as a result is much harder than getting a high ranking Snorlax who has had a dozen events during which it was spawning in the wild. And with that difference in rank, Munchlax's higher bulk virtually disappears completely, leaving the choice between it and its evolution dependent on which has a better moveset, and... Snorlax wins there, by a mile. Bulldoze is so much worse than either Earthquake or Superpower, but with how much of an obstacle Steel and Rock types are for Munchlax without it, mandatory alongside Body Slam.
- Lickilicky... exists too, forever overshadowed by its pre-evolution. And it's not even that it's bad or anything- its bulk is right in between Snorlax and Munchlax, and similarly to the former it can use Earthquake for its second Charged Attack slot, but with the price of admission of one Elite Charged TM, it's not really worth it. With one small, but still present exception- the other potential move for its second Charged Attack slot is Shadow Ball, which might give it an edge in formats with many Psychic or Ghost types compared to the aforementioned duo. However, considering most Normal types win vs. the former and smash the latter in even matchups anyway, it's a very niche case.
But enough Licking the phone screen- while Lick-reliant Normal types are by far the most prominent subcategory of their type, they're far from the only ones. Some others opt for more energy generation instead of Fast Attack pressure, letting them unleash their inner Vig and Body Spam just as fast, if not faster than that most underrated of monkeys.
- If I had to choose the best Pokémon in this section, Greedent would be it, more or less tied with Snorlax. Only in battle effectiveness of course- looks wise it's firmly in the weird uncanny area of looking just a bit too cartoony for comfort. If you can get past its dead eyes though, it'll serve you very well with its Fast Attack of choice in Bullet Seed. Mudboys aside, it doesn't deal anywhere near as much damage as Lick, but that doesn't matter when you can throw out a Body Slam every three Bullet Seeds, or a Crunch every four. And coverage wise, Normal/Dark, especially with both moves being so cheap, is really good, only walled by a few uncommon type combinations, and as it just so happens, almost all Pokémon of said type combinations are garbage anyway. Lucario slander will continue until morale improves. Bulk wise, Greedent isn't anything to write home about compared to everyone else here, sitting only a smidge above Snorlax, but still enough above average to be able to take almost everything coming its way and respond with more Body Slams than the opponent knows what to do with.
- Castform is a weird, odd creature, and I'm not even talking about its unfortunate appearance. Alright fine, not just about its unfortunate appearance- it's the only Pokémon in this section with Normal type Weather Ball instead of Body Slam, a move which no other Pokémon has and which after the domination of other flavored Weather Balls in Great League was nerfed alongside them. It's only a slight nerf sure, but in combination with other ways in which Castform is slightly worse than its peers, it adds up. The worst bulk on this list so far, check, having no ways of doing anything to opposing Steel types, check- its three claims to fame are access to Weather Ball Rock to help it in dealing with flyers (and Froslass), having actual Grass type damage with Energy Ball to complete the cosplay of Tesco value-brand Lickitung with, and being only one point in 2021's Venture Cup, a large reason why anyone has it built in the first place. At least it has a decent fast move in Hex, sitting in between Bullet Seed and Lick in terms of damage output and energy generation.
- Galarian Linoone... exists. It exists a lot even, but its PvP utility is still somewhat unproven, though with Galarian Zigzagoon community day around the corner its inclusion here seemed prudent. In most ways it's most similar to a bootleg Greedent- Snarl and Bullet Seed have the same statline, they both have Body Slam, G-Linoone's typing helps it make up for the lack of Crunch and... that's mostly it as far as the good things for the skunk-colored mammal go. It has the Munchlax problem with its second Charged Attack selection, stuck between Gunk Shot and a bad Ground-type move, but as opposed to Bulldoze which was bad but usable, Dig is just... completely, utterly atrocious, and for not real reason while at that, leaving G-Linoone with a very unenviable choice, and its users with a dilemma of why even bother with it.
- As opposed to its goth relative, Hoenn Linoone has an actual answer for the question of why would one bother with it. It's not an excellent answer, but it's an answer nonetheless- in certain formats, Grass / Electric is very good coverage (such as Architect cup), and it even has the real, Gengar-brand Shadow Claw to back that coverage up while at it. Being able to break Swampert / Skarmory aside though, Grass / Electric isn't a very good offensive type combination, especially not in Dragon or Grass heavy formats, making the Hoenn Linoone a niche option at the best of times, but not one that should be wholly discounted either.
- While its Normal type brethren were busy getting fat and bulky on berries and possibly other pokemon, Zangoose studied the blade. Or perhaps more accurately it studied the Claw- Shadow Claw to be exact. As opposed to the rest of its family, it doesn't use that power to slam its atrocious bulk around however, opting for an appropriately edgy mix of Night Slash and Close Combat, the former making it even more skilled than other Normal types at dispatching Ghosts, and the latter letting it wreck the rest of this section in a head to head matchup. With its abysmal bulk however, that's basically all it’s good for.
Why isn't it good enough for open GL?
Lickitung is just better. Not universally of course, Snorlax and Greedent are situational picks even in open Great League because of their better performance in certain matchups, but on the whole, Schlurp is just more consistent thanks to its sheer girth and being able to threaten Swampert, Walrein and Azumarill with Power Whip.
Role: Safe Switch
Relevance: High for Snorlax and Greedent, Low for everything else
- Snorlax: Lick / Body Slam / Superpower OR Earthquake
- Munchlax: Lick / Body Slam / Bulldoze
- Lickilicky: Lick / Body Slam* / Earthquake OR Shadow Ball
- Greedent: Bullet Seed / Body Slam / Crunch
- Castform: Hex / (two of Weather Ball Normal, Weather Ball Rock, Energy Ball, Hurricane)
- Galarian Linoone: Snarl / Body Slam / Gunk Shot OR Dig (?)
- Hoenn Linoone: Shadow Claw / Grass Knot / Thunder
- Zangoose: Shadow Claw / Night Slash / Close Combat
Shadow / Return Viability:
Of the Pokémon in this section, only Snorlax is Shadow enabled, and depending on the format, Shadow Snorlax is a consideration over its vanilla version. Even harder hitting Body Slams are hard to ignore or tank past a certain point, and hitting that additional Lick breakpoint might very well turn soft losses into soft wins against many opponents. It's not guaranteed though, and in formats where the Shadow boost doesn't result in many new breakpoints, regular Snorlax tends to be better.
'Specially Spooked Specters
What does the opposite of a Normal type look like?
Uncannily similar as it turns out.
As good of a typing as Normal is, Ghost isn't too far behind either, only weak to itself and Dark, which has resulted in a few ghosts finding decent PvP use as safe switches, Sableye famously most of all, Dark subtyping leaving it with only a single weakness. In general though, Ghosts haven't been able to shine quite as much as their Normal type inversions, owing mostly to pure Ghost types having almost universally terrible bulk, oftentimes paired with awful, expensive movesets. As good as Shadow Claw, especially STAB Shadow Claw is, if your cheapest move is Shadow Ball and you get exorcised by one neutral nuke you're not gonna get a lot of traction.
The situation is a bit better with dual typed Ghosts on the bulk front at least, though at that point you also have to contend with the added weaknesses of the secondary typing, lowering the utility as a safe switch. And that's not even mentioning the elephant in the room- namely Ghosts getting essentially hard countered by the entirety of the previous section, in large part thanks to not having any Fighting type coverage to fight back with- they might win against fighters, sure, but if they get countered by the usual choice for safe switches, their utility suffers greatly as a result.
As a result of all that, Ghosts, previously mentioned Froslass, Alolan Marowak and grievously overpowered Sableye aside, are one of the more underrepresented typings even in limited formats, ending up functioning more as anti-Fighter specialists as opposed to safe switches a lot of the time. That's if they get play to begin with- without any reliable options to get back at Normal and Dark types with, pure Ghosts especially end up rarely being the meta centerpieces.
Heck, Architect Cup consisted of 39 Pokémon you almost never see in open Great League, many of them Water and fellow Ghost types, and Trevenant, and even there Trevenant saw basically zero play because almost every team had multiple Normal and Dark types that completely invalidated Trevenant's existence. Ghosts really have it rough out there, and the only reason Trevenant is as popular as it is is because it perfectly fits in open Great League meta, with its hard counters being relatively few and far between, Sableye aside.
With that depressing overview aside, let us then have a closer look at the few Ghosts that do manage to spook their way into relevance occasionally, and figure out how they manage against all odds.
Have you ever wanted to make an opposing Counter user so miserable they just topleft in frustration? With Drifblim, now you can! With a casual triple resistance to Fighting, Drifblim is not fainting to any opposing fighters unless they just so happen to carry a super effective move, which... turns out to not be that Farfetch'd of an idea. While Ghost might be a good defensive typing, Flying most definitely isn't, the resulting host of weaknesses resulting in Drifblim fitting neatly into the "Flier" archetype established in the previous part. The ability to take Counters forever aside, Drifblim's neutral bulk is very middle of the road, which combined with a relatively slow moveset ends up really hurting it- and sure, Icy Wind may help a lot with effective bulk, but without STAB and with only Hex as your Fast Attack, Drifblim takes its sweet time in actually getting to the point where it can threaten a shield out of its opponents. Of course, you can just throw out a Shadow Ball right away- and still likely not KO your opponent, and then have to scramble to Hex it down while they pummel the blimp with commonly available super effective coverage.
What actually counts as bad bulk, really? Is there even such a thing as "average" bulk? Not really- but having a reference is handy, and in the case of this series, it is ol' reliable Swampert that functions as the yardstick that everything else is compared bulk wise to. What about the first question then- what counts as bad bulk? It's a philosophical question at heart, and the answer is gonna heavily depend on the context, most of the time at least. No matter the context though, the following dynamic duo are inarguably below terrible when it comes to bulk, ending as the glassiest Pokémon you're likely to ever see in any Great League PvP.
The fact that there isn't a picture of Haunter and Gengar next to the dictionary definition for a "Glass Cannon" is a travesty, because good Arceus, these two embody that term with their whole spectral selves. So brittle they die to almost every unresisted move, so powerful their Shadow Balls force shields out of everything that doesn't resist them, so spammable they can do a lot even with just straight Shadow Punch. A lot, but... just not enough, much of the time. And that's really the crux of the issue for the ghostly duo- as powerful as their STAB moves can be, against many opponents they struggle to do much even with shield investment because of how weak Shadow Punch is as a move, somehow even weaker than X-Scissor. And with Shadow Punch being weak, they have to try to bait to then land a Shadow Ball- which takes so long, even with Shadow Claw, that their opponents are likely to get to a second Charged Attack in the meantime.
Golurk isn't as glassy as the Kanto duo, but with a Ground type secondary typing to weigh it down, it might as well be. I'm mostly mentioning it here as a novelty more than anything else- it hasn't been outstanding in any unofficial limited format yet, but it has found a use in Halloween Cup and Lunar Cup as a Mud Slapper, bopping many of the Poison and Rock types thinking they own the place. That one niche aside? Don't bother with it- Mud Slap hits hard, but generates very little energy, and as good as Earth Power and Dynamic Punch are, they're both expensive moves, too expensive for Mud Slap especially when taking Golurk's terrible bulk into account, forcing it to run terrible Shadow Punch as a bait move. Why is Shadow Punch so bad-
Dusclops is asking much the same question. Why is Shadow Punch so bad? Just to make it suffer, I guess. It's a real shame, since on the surface of it, Dusclops has the potential to be really good- it's really neutrally bulky, more so than even the open GL staple of Skarmory, it's a mono-Ghost, it has Hex, it even has some handy coverage in a choice of Fire or Ice Punch. It just has no good reliable damage dealer with how terrible Shadow Punch is, to the point where most Dusclops have to resort to using 70 energy Return just to be able to deal any real damage- which can work at times, but isn't ideal to put it in very diplomatic terms. Which is a shame, since paired with a usable Shadow Punch, Return wouldn't actually be half bad of a move to complement it- that thing slaps even against the bulkiest Pokémon like Umbreon or Lickitung, and almost nothing walls the Normal / Ghost coverage combo, possibly letting Dusclops fulfill its dream of being THE tanky Ghost safe switch it merely aspires to be.
Gourgeist exists! It might have spent its whole GO life in Trevenant's shadow since they got released simultaneously, but it very much does exist! It's actually really similar to Trevenant, having an identical Charged Attack combo, except actually above average bulk wise as opposed to below average, prompting the obvious question of why isn't it the one that's being used on every open Great League team. The answer to that is so simple you can fit it in three letters- Hex. As it turns out, Hex isn't Shadow Claw, dealing less damage and being a longer move while generating identical amounts of energy. While that doesn't sound too bad on the face of it, noticeably worse Fast Attack pressure is enough to make Gourgeist lose quite a few matchups Trevenant manages to claw (haHAA) out. Running the dumbest, most bare bones Matrix battle vs. open Great League meta in 1-1 shields, Trevenant goes 30-1-20 as opposed to Gourgeist's 23-28. Of course, these are dumb sims, assuming that all baits will always work out- but that holds true for both Grassy Ghosts, and even that artificial advantage isn't enough for Gourgeist to come out on top much of the time. All the comparisons aside though- Gourgeist can hold its own much of the time in certain formats (it was a popular pick in Guardian Cup for example), but only if Trevenant is banned, since otherwise it ends up completely eclipsed.
Cofagrigus also exists! It might have spent all but the first two weeks of its relevant GO life in Trevenant's shadow since it was buffed into existence so soon before Trevenant’s release, but it very much does exist! And as opposed to Gourgeist, it does much more than just be a worse Trevenant, as its one of the very few Pokémon that actually succeeds at fulfilling the idea of Ghost type safe switch. No secondary typing to drag it down, quite a decent neutral bulk, Shadow Claw + Shadow Ball to let it dish out very respectable amounts of neutral damage, it's got everything except a way of dealing any damage to opposing Dark types, that wall its entire moveset. A notably slow moveset at that- when a 50 energy Dark Pulse is used as the "bait" move, you know you're dealing with one sluggish moveset, though Coffin manages to make it work remarkably well. Well enough for it to have occasional stints in open Great League even, which is more than what can be said for almost every other Pokémon in this section.
Almost, because Jellicent is here too. How the mighty have fallen, going from immediate meta mainstay the moment it was released, to a niche and underused pick with Trevenant's arrival and especially with Registeel gaining Zap Cannon, the spectral jellyfish going from bopping to being bopped by the Iron Pokémon. That unfortunate meta shift aside, Jellicent is still quite a solid pick- as with Gourgeist, Hex is no Shadow Claw, but Water is a much better defensive typing to have on your side than Grass, letting Jelli act as a check to quite a few meta staples, such as Azumarill and Walrein, on top of being a wall to fighters. Unfortunately, running Bubble Beam as its secondary Charged Attack of choice results in an extra terrible matchup against opposing Normal and Dark types- though it's not like it’s much better even with Ice Beam in Bubble Beam's stead.
Why isn't it good enough for open Great League?
Some of the aforementioned Pokémon, like Jellicent or Cofagrigus, are borderline viable in the open Great League, but in general it's hard to compete with something as close to perfection as Sableye or as specialized in handling much of the open Great League meta as Trevenant. Poor coverage and being walled by Normal and Dark types which, while not the most common of the typings around, aren't that rare either doesn't help Ghosts one bit.
Role: Anti-Psychic, Anti-Fighting Generalists
Relevance: High for Jellicent and Cofagrigus, Medium for Drifblim and Gourgeist, Low for everything else
- Drifblim: Hex / Icy Wind / Shadow Ball
- Haunter / Gengar: Shadow Claw / Shadow Punch* / Shadow Ball OR Sludge Bomb OR Focus Blast (Gengar only)
- Golurk: Mud Slap / Shadow Punch / Earth Power OR Dynamic Punch
- Dusclops: Hex / (two of Return*, Shadow Punch, Fire Punch, Ice Punch)
- Gourgeist: Hex / Seed Bomb / Shadow Ball
- Cofagrigus: Shadow Claw / Shadow Ball / Dark Pulse OR Psychic
- Jellicent: Hex OR Bubble / Shadow Ball / Bubble Beam OR Ice Beam
Shadow / Return Viability:
Out of all the aforementioned Pokémon, only Dusclops is Shadow enabled, and with Return being so important for it that it proudly occupies the first slot of its moveset in the paragraph above, you can probably imagine how irrelevant its Shadow version is. And you’d be wrong, but not by much- Shadow boost lets its elemental punches do non-zero amounts of damage, but it’s not enough to make it stand out much of the time.
Won't you fly high, free Bird, Pokémon
Boy the last few sections have been quite a mouthful each. Why not change tracks then towards a less cluttered category of Pokémon and look out the window, behold all the grass neither of us are touching and take in just how neat birds are. The common, the mundane, the Normal/Flying critters of the real world, filling up the skies, the lampposts, the bird feeders, and to a far less breathtaking degree, the sidewalks.
Wait a moment... Normal/Flying birds and "less cluttered" in the same paragraph? Aren't those one of the most common type combinations in all of Pokémon? Correct! There are indeed loads of them, and as it would happen, almost all of them are unusable garbage! And contrary to most of the information in these articles being inherently very GO specific, that statement also holds true even in MSG, though there the selection of the usable birds is different than in GO.
Out of eleven fully evolved Normal/Flying types available in GO, only two are good enough to warrant a spot in this section, with a third being very, and I mean very borderline. All the other ones are just terrible, and not even in a creative way, they tend to be terrible in the exact same ways:
- Low bulk
- Very limited coverage if any, oftentimes restricted to god awful Heat Wave
- Occasional lack of any good Fast Attacks either- Peck is terrible
Even putting those aside, there's the fact that Normal doesn't take care of any weaknesses Flying brings with itself defensively, and that the typing combination doesn't make for good offensive coverage either. Regardless, there are a couple birds that manage to overcome these drawbacks and achieve some usefulness in PvP, how do they do it?
Noctowl puts on its best Skarmory impression, basically. They have a basically identical, very solid neutral bulk, their bread and butter is consistently dishing out Sky Attacks backed by good Flying type Fast Attacks, and the second Charged Attack slot is where they differ. While Skarmory does a better job threatening shields out in neutral matchups with Brave Bird, Noctowl uses Shadow Ball for reliable neutral coverage against Steel, Rock, and Electric types that would resist it otherwise. It's not gonna be really *winning* any of its losing matchups with Shadow Ball, but it's always nice to have a slightly softer loss.
With all that said though, one could come to a conclusion that Noctowl is just a slightly worse version of Skarmory in most matchups with its worse typing... and that person would be right, because that's largely the gist of it. That's not to say Noctowl has absolutely nothing going for it compared to Skarmory. Normal might be a bad complement to Flying, but it results in very good matchups versus most Ghosts, and even more interestingly, versus most other Normal types, especially the ones relying on Ghost type Fast Moves outlined a couple sections ago. And while "Skarmory with much worse resistances and a better Sableye matchup" doesn't sound hot enough to make waves in open Great League, it's really good in most limited formats, since even if it's just a worse Skarmory, Skarmory is so good that even a slightly worse variant is leagues above most Pokémon that grace limited formats power level-wise.
If Noctowl occupies the "Skarmory at home" niche, what does Pidgeot do instead? Simple- be evil. The most classic of all the birds doesn't really look particularly nefarious at a glance, or have devilishly high amounts of bulk either, but wait until you hear about its moveset. The combo of Feather Dance and Brave Bird is taken straight from the pits of hell, because one wrong guess results in your poor Pokémon either taking an equivalent of a thermonuclear warhead to the face, or wasting a shield just to get attack debuffed afterwards, resulting in incredibly high stakes shielding decisions. But wait- even if you do successfully call the Feather Dance bait you're not safe either! Gust might not be the best move at energy generation, having the same statline as Confusion, but it sure does hurt! It hurts so much that Pidgeot has no trouble farming down its opponents in most neutral matchups, especially after debuffing them with Feather Dance, building up enough energy to either Brave Bird whatever comes in next, bait a shield with Feather Dance, or even do both just for funsies! Short of a hard Flier counter, there isn't anything Pidgeot can't try to either finesse or brute force its way through, and when one of opponent's Pokémon is already down, Pidgeot has all the incentive in the world to go for a farm down, followed by two Feather Dances, followed by its opponent crying itself to sleep. Pidgeot also gets Wing Attack, but with its energy generation being only slightly higher than Gust's and damage output being significantly worse, it's a niche consideration at best, especially with both Gust and Wing Attack already requiring an Elite Fast TM.
Why isn't it good enough for open Great League?
Discounted Skarmory is a fine role in a limited format, but there is little reason to use it in open Great League with actual Skarmory around, slightly better Ghost matchup aside. Pidgeot's game plan is infuriating when it works out, but it relies in no small part on its opponents being brittle enough to be potentially farmed down, something not really attainable with open Great League, especially with Fliers in general having so many hard counters in the core open GL meta roster.
Role: Flier- anti-Fighting, anti-Grass, with a side of anti-Normal and anti-Ghost
- Noctowl: Wing Attack / Sky Attack / Shadow Ball OR Psychic
- Pidgeot: Gust* / Brave Bird / Feather Dance
- Staraptor: Gust* / Who cares you're not getting to a move anyway
Shadow / Return Viability: N/A
Wet and (once in the) Wild
If Swampert has taught us all anything, it's that if you just Hydro Cannon something enough times, everything eventually buckles, even 'mons that have no business ever fainting to Water type moves. But alas, this isn't Swampert's section, not yet- nonetheless, the same principle applies here. Water is an uncannily good typing in GO for how widespread it is- only a couple weaknesses to Grass and Zap Cannon Electric, a handful of useful resistances in Ice and Water, and, Water itself aside, every type that resists Water folds to Ice, which tends to accompany Water very often.
But this isn't a section about Walrein-esque Water/Ice types either! Yes, there are so many Water types it gets almost three whole sections for itself, it's the most common typing after all. And as opposed to something like Electric which is also decently common but is weighed down by almost all Electric type Pokémon having terrible bulk, there is an abundance of different stat distributions under the sea, from Sharpedo on the low end to Azumarill on the high end. Neither of these are the subjects of this section though- the former is a meme and the latter is way, way too good for a spot here, which leaves a pretty wide window of viability, with many Pokémon that, while eclipsed in the open Great League by Azu and Swampert, are nonetheless very good in limited formats, especially ones with a significant Ice type presence (eg. Glacial Cup).
So, let's take a look at them!
In general, the Water types in this section can be split up into three subsections, depending on, funnily enough, the amount of water in their Water-type Fast Attacks, starting at no water, then amping up to a trickle, and then finally opening the faucet all the way and beholding the resulting geyser. None of that makes sense? Don't worry- it never will.
How do you have a Water-type with no water in its Fast Attack? Dunno, ask Pelipper. Its Fast Attack of choice in Wing Attack is in fact so devoid of water that it actively hurts the one type that is supposed to wall Water the hardest, which combined with its Flying subtyping, results in Pelipper having one of the better Grass matchups of Water-types that aren’t also part Ice. Be not afraid however, because Pelipper is a Water type in more than just typing, following in Vigoroth's way of five good Fast Attacks to a Charged Attack, with Weather Ball Water being an excellent, and very spammable move. And just like with Body Slams, its Weather Balls add up fast, Water's useful super effectiveness profile letting the trashcan bird threaten quite a few anti-Flier tanks thanks to their Rock or Ground subtypings leaving them weak to Water.
And that includes even the most popular anti-Flier of them all in Galarian Stunfisk. Pelipper is one of very few fliers that can actually take Gunfisk on in a neutral matchup, giving it an open Great League niche even today. As much as it can accomplish with just Weather ball though, that's not even the only trick in its massive beak, as Pelipper also carries Hurricane in its other Charged Attack slot. Hurricane isn't an amazing move, nowhere close- but it's high powered enough that with Pelipper's decent attack it *will* shred anything that doesn't resist it, letting Pelipper both force shields out of almost any opponent with a threat of a Hurricane, do a hefty amount of damage by throwing two Weather Balls instead, and then actually close the match out once shields are down.
Even if birds are not your forte, worry not, because we also have amphibians! Though Politoed's is a bit of a sad case with how far it has fallen. Going from an undisputed part of the core meta to a pick so niche it's almost completely unseen anymore, thanks to a insignificant looking but nonetheless impactful nerf to Weather Ball, paired with the meta shifting to be more hostile to it, most notably with Trevenant's arrival, Zap Cannon Registeel being invoked from hell and Walrein strutting in to occupy what basically was Politoed's niche. But enough about the bad news- why was Politoed popular in the first place?
You think a Charged Attack every 10 turns ala. Pelipper or Vigoroth is bad? How about a Charged Attack every 8 turns. Four Mud Shots to a Weather Ball- again, again, again, and again, the nonstop downpour of Charged Attacks sure to grind everything down eventually, even if they're not as individually potent as Swampert's Hydro Cannons. And while we're talking about Swampert, Charged Attack spam isn't the only thing Politoed has lifted from it, most commonly opting for the same secondary Charged Attack as well in Earthquake. Water / Ground isn't exceptional coverage, being walled by all Grasses most notably- though, back when the most popular Grass type had a secondary typing that left it neutral against Ground it didn't matter as much, leaving Altaria and the odd Tropius as Politoed's hardest counters. Unless, that is, it decided to pack Blizzard as its secondary Charged Attack just to be able to absolutely clown on these two, at a cost of being left powerless in a mirror match, or versus Azumarill. It's comfortably above average bulk also lets it take enough of a beating that it's basically guaranteed that it can get to its expensive coverage in the first place. As good as it is though, it's not Walrein, whose Ice / Ground coverage handily beats either Water / Ground or Water / Ice, letting it take on Azumarill, Fliers, Trevenant and the mirror all at once, something Politoed wished it was capable of.
Changing tracks from Walrein but worse- Swampert but worse! Uh, oops, Samurott, Samurott I mean. Yeah, it's gonna be that kind of section. Be happy you got spared "Azumarill but worse", though if I were to actually use that wording in the final article the person responsible for Tapu Fini not being included in this article would probably hunt me down in my sleep.
Anyway- Samurott. What can it offer? Ten turns to a Hydro Cannon, slightly worse than Swampert (technically alternating 10 and 8 turns in Swampy's case but it averages out to 9), with a hard hitting coverage move and minimal Fast Attack pressure. Sounds... familiar, all in all, so the follow up question is obvious- why Swampert and not Samurott?
- As good of a typing as Water is, Water/Ground is better- Electric isn't a very relevant type in open Great League aside from Registeel's Zap Cannon, but that one instance is important enough to where it matters, even if it comes with losing a couple resistances. In addition, the Ground subtyping also lets Swampert resist Poison and Rock, two very relevant open Great League offensive typings with all the Nidoqueen and Bastiodon running around.
- Slightly lower neutral bulk- not massively so, but noticeably regardless, which leaves Samurott's resistances to Ice and Water relative to Swampert not as pronounced as they would be otherwise.
- Megahorn, its expensive coverage move, is much less relevant in the open Great League meta than either Sludge Wave or Earthquake. That's not to say it doesn't have any uses, being able to wreck Grasses, Cresselias and Umbreons is nice, particularly with Fury Cutter helping wear them down even faster, but STAB Earthquake for Registeels or Sludge Wave for Azumarills just comes in handy more often.
These aren't massive downsides individually, and Samurott is still very good on the whole- with how good Swampert is, even a pretend Swampert is gonna be very good, especially in limited formats with a lower power level on the whole. Just don't expect the same miracles Swampert can pull off.
Alright, time to open the tap and take a look at more watery Water types, putting their typing to good use though dishing out hefty amounts of largely neutral damage- not quite as much as Dragons, but with the upside of not having to fret about opposing Steels, Fairies, and more often than not having some actual bulk to back them up.
And when talking about bulk, it'd be a disgrace not to bring out the bulkiest of Water type starters- Blastoise! None of the mons featured up to now were too glassy, but Blastoise is positively girthy, taking neutral hits like a champ as it wears its opponents down with the unstoppable trickle of Water Gun. And, fittingly for its cannons, puny water gun is paired with massive HYDRO CANNONS, hitting as hard as ever, even if Blastoise takes much longer to get to them than either Swampert or Samurott. Complementing Hydro Cannon is one of two options- relatively expensive Ice Beam for that anti-Dragon, anti-Grass coverage, and stupidly expensive Skull Bash to help it not be a sitting turtle aginst its fellow Water-types. Neither of those are all that ideal with Water Gun's mediocre energy generation, but the real kicker is Blastoise's Fast Attack damage output, which oftentimes doesn't quite end up reaching the highs it has to to justify its position on the team. That's not to say Blastoise is terrible or anything, it can still do a lot- but it can be a bit of a sitting duck at times, and with limited threat especially against its fellow Water types, it's difficult to justify going with it at times.
Especially when Rainy Castform is there too, waiting for you, trainer! Featuring a 100% less unfortunate shape than its Normal type version, a faster moveset with Weather Ball Water over Hydro Cannon, and its secret weapon that pushes it to relevance time and time again- Thunder. Yes, Rainform can't even pretend it can do anything to opposing Grass types but curl up and die, but it doesn't have to, that's what teambuilding is for after all. And from a teambuilding perspective, having a very good neutral attacker and an anti-Flier rolled up into one is an allure that can't be ignored. Well, "anti-Flier" is a bit of a strong term- Water Gun's energy generation is just as pitiful here as it was with Blastoise, and Thunder is quite pricey as far as Charged Attacks go at 60 energy, but it nonetheless is the mono-Water type with a strongest matchup vs. other Water-types, pushing it to the front of the pack when the teambuilding time comes.
If Rainform is at the front of the pack, what's in the back? Bibarel. Bibarel is in the back. Its inclusion here is for two reasons- the Litleo clause where its secondary typing lets it sneak into some formats where it's one of few usable Water-types, and its singularly good matchup vs. Froslass. And no, it's not even like it's a dominating victory for Bibarel either- it might resist Froslass' every move, but depending on IVs she's actually capable of flipping the 0 shield matchup on 1 HP just to rub it in. Mediocrity aside though, what can Bibarel actually offer? A Blastoise with notably worse neutral bulk, inferior Surf rather than Hydro Cannon, cheaper Normal type STAB """coverage""" in Hyper Fang, resistance to Ghosts, and a weakness to Fighters. And that's it- if that pitch package isn't exactly what your team needs, then I'd advise opting for literally anything else instead.
Tirtouga and Carracosta are in there too, somewhere, though closer towards the back rather than the front of the pack. They both have an identical Charged Attack couplet in Body Slam and Surf, outdoing Bibarel at its own game, though their typing is arguably even rougher. Resisting Flying and Poison are nice, but are decidedly not worth the plethora of weaknesses that Rock brings with itself- especially to Water, leaving the duo losing against their fellow Water types. Against other Rock types though~? Yeah, these two are definitely gonna see play, even if it's more Tirtouga rather than Carracosta thanks to its noticeably higher bulk, even if at a higher stardust cost- at least in theory, the turtles’ vanishing availability resulting in many sticking to Carracosta due to simply not having the resources to build a whole Tirtouga. The only thing that Carracosta has for itself in comparison is Rock Throw, which lets it occupy a few more niches than its pre-evolution, but when sticking to Water Gun, the baby turtle wins handily.
That was a bit of a downer to end that subsection on. Don't worry trainers, because the next subsection is sure to get a Waterfall of excitement out of you! End me
If this article series covered Ultra League, Empoleon would not be here. Because Ultra League Empoleon is actually really good, something that unfortunately can't be said for its Great League incarnation. And why is that, you might ask- it's not like it gets a new move for Ultra League or anything, everything it can do in Ultra League it can do in Great League too. Everything- except taking a punch. Even with its stellar defensive typing, Empoleon finds itself just not surviving long enough to make a splash, thanks to the blessing and a curse that is Waterfall. Waterfall does a ton of Fast Attack damage, letting the Emperor Pokémon farm its opponents down like a champ, at a steep price of having terrible energy generation, taking whole 15 turns just to get to a Charged Attack, and when it comes to those its selection isn't ideal either.
Hydro Cannon good, we already established that, and Drill Peck also good- but not without STAB, leaving it really pitiful when it comes to trying to do something, anything to opposing Water types. It double resists Ice for crying out loud, and its Walrein matchup is so bad that it loses to it unless it has a two shield advantage. And that's not even all, it resists Azumarill's every move and still loses to it with how brittle it is! And that stellar typing? It is, once more, a blessing and a curse. Leaving it better than it would otherwise be in neutral matchups, but at a steep, steep price of being pummeled by every Fighter and buried by every Mudboi- and it doesn't have much to show for itself to make up for that except a better Poison and Flier matchups, which with how much more common the former two groups are, really isn't worth it a lot of the time.
What if Bastiodon, but wet? Say hello to Alomomola, a Pokémon that looks as dumb as its name sounds, and which nonetheless manages to achieve a decent bit of PvP relevance. And it does so by just Waterfalling everything in its path, with stupid amounts of girth to back it up. Alomomola has one of the highest stat products in the whole format, on the same level as Araquanid or pre-XL Azumarill, letting it eat neutral damage like it's nothing as it continues to wail on its opponents, gradually grinding them down one Waterfall at a time. It takes its sweet time reaching any moves, but when it does, the resulting Psychic can help soften up opposing Fighters even coming from its tiny attack stat, and it can even threaten a Hydro Pump to really pressure opponents in bulk-offs. Yes, it takes half a decade for it to actually get to a Hydro Pump, but with a bulk like that, even that amount of time is merely a blink of an eye. As dependable as Alomomola is though, its Fast Attack centric playstyle leaves it completely powerless against its fellow Water types, leaving it losing to any Waters that can even just hit it for neutral damage. It also struggles against fast charging Charged Attack reliant opponents- sure, it can take a hit or two easily, but eventually it will buckle, and it will buckle much faster than it can get to two Psychics against many of its opponents to help it secure a win.
Why is it not good enough for open Great League?
Relevance: High for Politoed, Rainy Castform, and Pelipper, Medium for everything else
- Pelipper: Wing Attack / Weather Ball Water / Hurricane
- Politoed: Mud Shot / Weather Ball Water / Earthquake* OR Blizzard
- Samurott: Fury Cutter / Hydro Cannon* / Megahorn OR Blizzard
- Blastoise: Water Gun / Hydro Cannon* / Ice Beam OR Skull Bash
- Rainy Castform: Water Gun / Weather Ball Water / Thunder
- Bibarel: Waterfall / Surf / Strength / Cut
- Tirtouga / Carracosta: Water Gun OR Rock Throw (Carracosta only) / Body Slam / Surf
- Empoleon: Waterfall / Hydro Cannon* / Drill Peck
- Alomomola: Waterfall / Psychic / Hydro Pump OR Blizzard
Shadow / Return Viability:
Politoed might grow to too high CP to use Return, but it very much appreciates the Shadow boost in its absence, to the point where it's essentially required- without the Shadow boost, its Weather Balls just end up not doing enough a lot of the time, especially after their nerf. Blastoise and Bibarel are also Shadow enabled, but neither really care about either being a Shadow, or about Return, Skull Bash being just a straight out better move for Blastoise, and Bibarel isn't living long enough to make use of it.
Stop! Stop! They're already dead!
As if Dragons didn't have enough to worry about, there is yet another group of Pokémon ready to ruin their day, even on top of Steel and Fairy types. That's right trainers, another boot joining in to kick the drakes when they're down, the so called pseudo-Dragons are ready to not just bully your Dragonites and Zweilouses (Zweili?), but to do their job and do it better while at it. How would they do that, you might ask? The calculus is relatively straightforward: Dragon type Fast Attack + No STAB + No weakness to Dragon will in most cases win over Dragon type Fast Attack + STAB + Weakness to Dragon in a pure Fast Attack farmdown, and that's before including neutral bulk into the equation, something many Dragons have something of an issue with.
Of course, there are some drawbacks with this approach too- Dragon type Fast Attacks might hit hard, but considering that they aren't gonna be super effective against anything but opposing Dragons and won't have STAB, their effectiveness in neutral matchups is gonna be lower than when coming from an actual Dragon. That's not to say that means that pseudo-Dragons will 100% perform worse- far from it, merely that they'll have to make up for the loss of STAB in some other ways. Can they do that, and if so, how?
Milotic's answer is: "just be a decently bulky Water type 4Head". And judging from its performance in past limited formats, it's definitely a winning formula, the combination of Milotic's Fast Attack in Dragon Tail and typing letting it function as not just a Dragon check, but also as a check to its fellow Water types, while maintaining a decent amount of Water type damage output with Surf. It's not a perfect hard counter to either of course, but especially in limited formats, doing two or three things decently well and the flexibility that comes with it can oftentimes be just as valuable, if not even more so, than doing one thing perfectly and sucking at everything else. And if only it had a second Charged Attack, it could potentially be even better- but alas. Blizzard is... serviceable, but with Dragon Tail's slow energy generation you're not gonna be getting to it particularly often. Hyper Beam is even worse in the energy cost department, but as one of my faction mates knows, hilarious when it does land.
(yes I know you can count the pixels shut up)
Feeling jealous about Milotic wielding the anti-Dragon, anti-Water crown, Gyarados floats in to angrily huff and puff with its Dragon Breaths. And to a decent extent, huffing and puffing is all of what its capable of doing- that is, unless one bites the bullet and invests some shields into it. Most players that have had any experience with using Gyarados have it from (old) Ultra League and (even older) Master League, where its far from the bulkiest thing around, but generally usable. Unfortunately for its continued structural integrity, Gyarados, especially its Shadow variant, is very glassy in Great League, forcing it to shield most Charged Attacks coming its way, even neutral ones. What can it offer to make up for that drawback? Dragon type Fast Attack DPS comparable with many of the actual Dragons, and two good, cheap Charged Attacks to back it up, STAB Aqua Tail and Crunch forcing shields out of many of its opponents thanks to its sky high attack while offering decent enough coverage. As bright as it can shine in the right matchup though, it's definitely far from anyone's first option for a pseudo-Dragon role due to being so brittle that it ends up as a prime farmdown fodder at anywhere below 50% HP for any opponent not using Fire Spin or Mud Shot.
Both Milotic and Gyarados can switch up their Fast Attacks for Waterfall and join the ranks of the previous section, and there's some merit to doing that particularly with Milotic, but in most cases they're both utilized as anti-Waters as opposed to Water types. That's not true of the upcoming contender- mostly because it doesn't learn Waterfall, despite being supposedly associated with oceans, hmm ?.
Lugia can go under 1500 CP! From research. If you're lucky when trading it. It hasn't been available in research for several years now. Fortunately for everyone's collective sanity, it hasn't had a centerpiece role in any limited formats, but that's mostly due to it being banned if it would threaten to be meta as opposed to it just not being good. Because Lugia is good, very good even- it's just as much of a wall as it is in Ultra and Master Leagues, and short of super effective damage it's really hard to bring down while it continues to pummel you with its Dragon Tails and Sky Attacks. Manageable if you're a Steel type- much less so otherwise. And if Sky Attacks aren't enough, Lugia also has its signature move in Aeroblast, packing enough power to smite Arceus itself and one hit KO basically everything that doesn't resist Flying, especially after Dragon Tail chip damage. Sounds unstoppable, a might truly befitting a Legendary Pokémon- there's just one hitch though. Earlier I said that short of super effective damage it's hard to bring Lugia down, which is true, but with a typing like that, not as tall of an order as it may sound like. Psychic is a bad defensive type, and Flying is even worse, the two combining to end up with five weaknesses, ranging from relevant to very relevant, significantly hurting Lugia's effectiveness in practice.
That's it for the actual contenders in this section, but there are two Pokémon featured earlier in this series that deserve a callback because of being relevant here- Charizard and Steelix. The former isn't the best choice for pseudo-Dragon because of its low bulk and extra exploitable typing, but can technically fulfill the role, and the latter is so good as a pseudo-Dragon that it arguably deserves to be in this section more than in its original section. But planning your series out in advance is for scrubs and babies and so here we are.
Why aren't they good enough for open GL?
You know what other Pokémon wins against all Dragons, and can beat all five of the aforementioned contenders in an even matchup? Walrein. And Registeel. And Alolan Ninetales. And Azumarill. And Galarian Stunfisk…
Besides, when was the last time you saw a Dragon in open GL anyway?
Role: Anti-Dragon / Generalist
Relevance: High for Milotic and Steelix, Medium for everything else
- Milotic: Dragon Tail OR Waterfall / Surf / Blizzard OR Hyper Beam
- Gyarados: Dragon Breath OR Waterfall / Aqua Tail* / Crunch
- Lugia: Dragon Tail / Sky Attack / Aeroblast*
- Charizard: Dragon Breath* OR Fire Spin OR Wing Attack* OR Ember* / Dragon Claw / Blast Burn*
- Steelix: Dragon Tail / Crunch / Earthquake
Shadow / Return Viability:
Gyarados wants to be a Shadow more often than not thanks to its Fast Attack reliant playstyle- which is much easier said than done thanks to the rarity of the Magikarp grunt. It purifies way, way too high for Return, and even if it didn't it wouldn't really want it. The only purpose of Shadow Lugia is to be a disappointment when you check and it goes up to 1455 CP and you don't want to spend another Super Rocket Radar for another roll.
In the next part, we'll take a look at all the Grass types. All of them. There are so, so many limited format relevant Grass types, my Arceus. We’ll also take a look at the Tacoma Narrows Bridge disaster. But that's not all, we'll also go through the (remaining) Bug/Steel types, an appropriate followup to Grasses if anything, as well as all the spoopy (and precious!) Psychic types, before capping it off with Ground types.
See you in the next part!