Second Division Champions: Limited Cup All Stars Part 5
redspah with the help of GO Stadium Meta Team
1 year 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 the girthy Normal types, Ghost types of various and unpredictable bulk, moderately survivable birds, more-often-bulky-than-not Water types, and the smörgåsbord that are the pseudo-Dragons.
And now, time to go outside, smell the flora and the associated Grass types, take a closer look at all the hardcore, metal Bugs, play in the dirty Ground, and... uh... read a book because you're a Psychic type galaxy brain?
And yes, I did it again, Gligar and long Gligar were moved to the next part- though with how unique they are, they are perhaps better served by being placed in the same chapter as the other oddballs among the magical creatures we call Pokémon.
Enough of the intro, let's get right into it and Enjoy!
Guns (full of Bullet Seeds) and Roses
No grass was touched in the writing of this section.
Considering how few Grass types are truly viable in open Great League, it will likely come as a surprise to see just how many of them are or have been relevant in assorted limited formats. And, for the most part, it's not even a Haunter / Gengar situation where multiple Pokémon are essentially identical in PvP context- every single Grass type mentioned in this section brings something unique to the table, even if it's a small thing like a unique move. That's not to say they're all equally important to discuss or equally likely to be spotted in the wild while battling- merely that there's a good reason to bring up all of them.
Why so, you might ask? Is Grass that good of a type in GO PvP either defensively or offensively? Are all Grass type Pokémon secret bulk beasts? Do they have no hard counters?
The answer, to all those questions, is "lol no". Grass is one of the worst types in the franchise, with five weaknesses and seven types that resist Grass type damage, worse than even Bug in that regard. Grass types are not particularly bulky as a whole either, though most of this section veers towards above average bulk thanks to survivorship bias. And thanks to their weaknesses, there is a wealth of Pokémon that absolutely eat all Grass types for breakfast- Poisons, Fliers, Steels, Fire-types, poor plants can't catch a break. Whether or not that constitutes veganism I will leave to someone deeper into the Pokémon lore than I am. Against all odds, how do Grasses do it? Why is Grass not at the same level of irrelevance as Bug with all those crippling issues!??
Simple- just buff their moves so much they can win through raw power even if they're not super effective against many of their opponents! Dragon Claw and Aqua Tail are 50 damage for 35 energy. Leaf Blade? 70 damage for 35 energy. Dark Pulse and Sludge Bomb are 80 damage for 50 energy. Power Whip and Grass Knot? 90 damage for 50 energy. Close Combat and Wild Charge are 100 damage for 45 energy and a crippling self debuff. Frenzy Plant is 100 damage for 45 energy, without a debuff.
Grass types have their issues, but Arceus almighty, Grass type Charged Attacks are something else entirely, making them very handy pieces of coverage for non-Grass Pokémon. In addition, despite type matchups sounding absolutely terrible for the poor plants, the practice is slightly less depressing. Many of the Tanks that would wall Grass types on the surface have secondary typings that leave them ultimately neutral to Grass, many of the Ice types that would threaten to freeze them have secondary Water typing that results in them being just as if not more likely to get Grass'd to death. Fire types are very uncommon, Poison types and Fliers... yeah you still get tromboned by those, but it's not something that can't be played around. And, to make up for that, Grass types wreck all sorts of Water and Ground types, and have typically good matchups against Normal types and especially brittle Fighters, many of which are likely to faint to a single overpowered Grass type move.
But wait, if there are so many limited format viable Grass types, why have none of them trickled up into the open Great League meta? Some of them have- long ago, open Great League used to be much more Grass dense than it currently is, with several of the Pokémon mentioned here having a seat at the table, but with time, the sheer competition wore most of them out, leaving just Venusaur and technically Trevenant. One large reason for that is typing- Poison typing is very useful defensively in open Great League especially, letting Venu resist Counters and Charm, give it a much better (i.e. not an autoloss) matchup vs Nidoqueen, and Sludge Bomb lets it at least tickle Talonflame, Altaria, and especially Trevenant on its way out, which is more than some of the Pokémon in this section can say.
But enough faffing around- let's spread our petals, spit our seeds, vibe with our vines, and take a proper gander at our contenders, starting with all the Grasses that are more than happy to spread their Bullet Seed around.
- If the sight of Bellossom doesn't bring immediate serotonin to your brain, then what are you doing with your life? It's adorable, and wonderful, and, as it turns out, all the leaves making up its little dress are Leaf Blades it's gonna throw at your face. All of them. With a slightly above average bulk, Bellossom can take a punch while it wears anything that stands in its way with Leaf Blade spam, only three Bullet Seeds apart each. But what about an opposing Fire, or Poison, or Steel type? In that case... Bellossom mostly cries- Dazzling Gleam is a bad move which doesn't take care of any of those three walls, and Return... does fare a bit better, yeah, though still leaves it flailing against Steel types. If Return is your best coverage, you know you have moveset issues.
- Roserade, thankfully, figured out just what to bring to be able to bop the opposing Steel types, and many Poison types even, their secondary typings leaving them weak to Weather Ball Fire. If only she had a reliable, cheap Grass type damage dealer to go along with it. But alas, she doesn't, having to rely on Grass Knot (or if you're cool, Leaf Storm), costing substantially more energy and taking many more Bullet Seeds to get to them. Not a massive problem in a vacuum- but when your bulk is one of the lowest out of any Pokémon mentioned in this series of articles, on par with Sirfetch'd, having to hold out for even a few more turns can be deadly. To make up for that, Roserade has another (and arguably more popular even) choice of Fast Attack in Poison Jab, letting her put on a ton of Fast Attack pressure that's then backed with only slightly slower to get to Weather Balls.
- Using Bellossom and Roserade, I Fusion summon Sunny Cherrim from my Extra Deck onto the field in an [Attack Incoming!] position. Mono-grass like Bellossom, Weather Ball Fire like Roserade, bulk somewhere in between but much closer to the former than the latter. So, what's the catch? You know how Roserade had no cheap Grass type move and had to resort to Grass Knot? Sunny Cherrim wishes it had Grass Knot, because it has to rely on Solar Beam* for its Grass type damage output, a sight so pitiful one can't help but feel sorry for it. And then throw it in the garbage immediately afterwards.
- But enough about Pokémon with only one good cheap move- let's move onto Pokémon with zero good cheap moves! Fortunately, Jumpluff has something to make up for that deficiency, namely all the bulk it could ever want. It's hilariously bulky considering how frail it looks, able to tank neutral damage like there's no tomorrow, but unfortunately it suffers from the same issue as Lugia, where its weaknesses are far from uncommon offensive typings. It also has issues actually pressuring its opponents- Energy Ball and especially its community day move in Acrobatics are both strong, but with Jumpluff's puny attack, neither of them come close to threatening a KO against anything they're not super effective against, which with their high energy cost and Bullet Seed's nonexistent Fast Attack pressure results in the puffball having issues finishing off its opponents.
- Following in that general vibe, Cradily! It's got pretty similar issues to Jumpluff, just instead of a strong STAB Flying type Charged Attack in Acrobatics, it gets a strong STAB Rock type Charged Attack in Stone Edge, letting it both bop Jumpluff in a straight matchup and have a lot more utility in general with how good of an offensive type Rock is. Doubly so on a Grass type, giving Cradily surprisingly good matchups against many Flyers and Fire types. Defensively it's less than ideal though, resulting in Cradily being much worse against Ground, Water and fellow Grass types than most other Pokémon featured in this section, not to mention ending up being weak to Counter.
- What if Cradily, but shining and better? Ferrothorn is blessed with Steel subtyping combined with solid bulk, leaving it as the only Grass type with generally positive matchups vs Poisons and the only Steel type with positive matchups vs. Grounds. Quite a few of its wins are dependent on its second Charged Attack, the first one always being the ol' reliable Power Whip. Thunder lets it be one of the very few corebreakers to the famous Skarmory / Swampert core, Flash Cannon gives it a reliable STAB option, especially useful against fellow Grass types, and Mirror Shot... is incredibly annoying if the spikeball procs the attack debuff but that's about it. Weakness to Counter is just as annoying here as it is with Cradily, and accompanying it is a double weakness to Fire, leaving Ferrothorn shaking in its seat against anything that even theoretically could carry Fire type coverage despite its defensive prowess otherwise.
- What if Bellossom / Roserade / Sunny Cherrim, but with two good cheap moves? Heresy, unthinkable, what's the catch? Low bulk, weakness to everything, and having Shiftry's ugly mug. Also it technically uses Snarl most of the time over Bullet Seed, but it has access to both (one through an Elite TM), and they have an identical statline with almost zero damage, so it's a distinction without a difference as far as I'm concerned. As far as its Charged Attacks go, it pairs aforementioned very good Leaf Blade with also quite solid Foul Play, letting it triple both as an anti-Water, anti-Psychic and anti-Ghost. With its paper bulk it's not the best option for that role though, leaving it liable to being ground down, especially since that offensive coverage combo leaves it walled by Dark/Poisons it's likely to share a format with. It also eats several kinds of dirt from Charmers and Fighters, the most popular Dragon of them all in Zweilous, the future most popular Dragon of them all in Kommo-o... yeah, Shiftry has issues. If anything that makes it even more surprising that it used to be good enough for open Great League meta, though that was during the time of non-zero Psychic type presence in open Great League, especially in a form of Alolan Raichu which Shiftry walls.
Phew, that was a lot of assorted greenery. I'm so glad I'm finally done with this section- what do you mean there's more? How many more!? Someone bring out the weedkiller...
Dumb jokes aside, let us now focus on the users of the other good Grass type Fast Attack in Vine Whip. Vine Whip's damage isn't exceptional by any metric, but as anyone who has ever gotten farmed down by a Venusaur knows, more than sufficient for it to dish out some Fast Attack pressure.
- Speaking of Venusaur, why not start by taking a look at its pitiful, inferior copy, namely its own offspring. Ivysaur ends up very similar to its parent in practice, with basically identical bulk, with only two differences between them. One, Power Whip is very good in a vacuum, but not when compared to the most balanced move in the game with Frenzy Plant, and two- Ivysaur can get Return its parent is much too old for. I'd be lying if I said there aren't any uses for Return, but it's a very niche consideration at best of times.
- Oh Meganium, what happened to you darling? You used to rule the world, and now are down in the trenches of this ill conceived series of articles. Sadly, poor Meg is yet another victim of the shifting open Great League meta- pairing of Frenzy Plant with Earthquake might have been the bee's knees in Season 1 when it let her break the Azumarill / Registeel core, but it wasn't enough for her to keep her head above the water, even with some of the later meta additions being also weak to Ground. Ultimately it's just hard to compare to Venusaur without the resistances Poison gives it, with Nidoqueen, Medicham and many charmers ending up trouncing Meganium around, and its Ground type coverage not giving it anything to fight back against Trevenant or Talonflame with. One would be mistaken to think it's bad as a result, it's really not- Frenzy Plant spam is as strong here as it is in open Great League coming from Venusaur, and basically everything has to respect it, with Earthquake giving it play against some of the less overpowered Poison and Fire types.
- Serperior is... uh... weird, it's weird alright. Basically identical bulk to Meganium, the same bread and butter combo of Vine Whip + Frenzy Plant, with a choice of second Charged Attack between two very, very bad options. Aerial Ace is, as has been mentioned several times, godawful, dealing so little damage that the opponent must both resist Grass and be weak to Flying for it to actually deal more damage than Frenzy Plant, but it is technically coverage. That can't be said about Leaf Tornado, a move whose only purpose is trolling by rolling the 50% chance to drop the opposing Pokémon's attack by two stages. If you proc that debuff, good news, you're effectively much bulkier now, if you don't, you just spent 40 energy to do nothing.
- Tangrowth is here, too. What does it get for its- Rock Slide. Tangrowth gets non-STAB Rock Slide to accompany its average bulk, mono-Grass typing, and Power Whip. That's it. Moving on.
Alright, this has to be it now, right? No way there are even more Grass types worth mentioning, right? Right? RIGHT?
Tropius says "lol. lmao" at that. It, and the rest of the Pokémon in this section, don't fit into either the Bullet Seed or Vine Whip boxes, and tend to be unique enough to deserve a little bit more elaboration. Tropius' elaboration is straightforward- it's Jumpluff but not bad, the true sigma male of Grass/Flyers. Air Slash lets it put on actual Fast Attack pressure, Leaf Blade is cheap enough that Air Slash's lower energy generation doesn't result in Tropius losing its Grass type pressure, and bulk wise Tropius is only a bit behind Jumpluff, and still way ahead of everything else mentioned in this section. So, what's the hitch? Aerial Ace, as usual, being as bad here as everywhere else, but at least it has STAB on it, which is something I suppose.
Lurantis is a recent arrival, but it has already managed to make one hell of a name for itself, mostly in Silph Arena's Forged Cup, thanks to its unique combination of traits. Not typing, no- pure Grass if anything but unique, and its bulk is on the underwhelming side of average, but it makes up for it in other ways. Fury Cutter doesn't generate as much energy as Bullet Seed on the surface of it, but piles on a ton more chip damage, especially against its fellow Grass types, which backed by Leaf Blade lets it put in as much work against opponents weak to Grass as any of its brethren. The real sticking point comes in Lurantis' second Charged Attack, and it is called Superpower. That's right- a Grass type capable of muscling past Steel types, and denting opposing Fire types, Alolan Marowak not withstanding, if they decide to switch in on it before it itself dips out. And that's not even all, with Fury Cutter giving Lurantis much better maneuverability due to only lasting one turn, as well as a notably better Psychic matchup than every other Grass type in this section not named Shiftry.
Victreebel goes tap tap tap. It will never stop going tap tap tap. Despite its nerfs, Razor Leaf is still a move that is as obscene as it is one dimensional, either dominating a matchup or getting dominated with very little room for maneuvering or skill expression. Victreebel isn't really included here because of its significant competitive relevance- cheesy strategies like Razor Leaf are much less effective in show-six pick-three formats, but because I'd be remiss to write a Grass type section without as much as touching on this most polarizing of Grass types. Still glad it got nerfed out of open Great League relevance though- the only thing less engaging than being Razor Leafed in GBL is getting Charmed down, which... Charm nerfs pls niantic? This paragraph isn't meant to represent Victreebel as much as Razor Leaf as a whole though- there are many other grass types liable to pick up the TAPTAPTAP mantle, many of them mentioned in this section even (Bellossom, Shiftry, Tropius, Ivysaur), but as far as dedicated Razor Leafers go, good ol' Vic is the best one with its cheap, debuffing Charged Attacks.
Why isn't it good enough for open Great League?
(also Venusaur is just better)
Role: Generalist, Anti-Water, Anti-Ground
Relevance: High for Lurantis, Tropius, Meganium, Cradily, Roserade, Ferrothorn, and Victreebel, Medium for everything else
- Bellossom: Bullet Seed / Leaf Blade / Return* OR Dazzling Gleam
- Roserade: Bullet Seed* OR Poison Jab / Weather Ball Fire* / Leaf Storm OR Grass Knot OR Sludge Bomb
- Sunny Cherrim: Bullet Seed / Weather Ball Fire / Solar Beam OR Dazzling Gleam
- Jumpluff: Bullet Seed / Energy Ball / Acrobatics*
- Cradily: Bullet Seed / Grass Knot / Stone Edge
- Ferrothorn: Bullet Seed / Power Whip / Thunder OR Flash Cannon OR Mirror Shot
- Shiftry: Snarl / Leaf Blade / Foul Play OR Hurricane
- Ivysaur: Vine Whip / Power Whip / Sludge Bomb OR Return*
- Meganium: Vine Whip / Frenzy Plant* / Earthquake
- Serperior: Vine Whip / Frenzy Plant* / Aerial Ace OR Leaf Tornado
- Tangrowth: Vine Whip / Power Whip / Rock Slide
- Tropius: Air Slash / Leaf Blade / Aerial Ace
- Lurantis: Fury Cutter / Leaf Blade / Superpower
- Victreebel: Razor Leaf / Acid Spray / Leaf Blade OR Leaf Tornado / TAPTAPTAPTAPTAPTAP-
Shadow / Return Viability:
Victreebel always wants to be a Shadow because TAPTAPTAPTAPTAP. Shiftry likely wants to be a Shadow because of the extra juice it brings to its already high powered moves. Jumpluff often considers being Shadow because it helps make its underpowered moves less underpowered. Meganium and Tangrowth situationally consider the Shadow boost, the former in particular able to put it to some good use. Bellossom almost always wants Return, and considering it's one of the very few reasons you'd use Ivysaur over Venusaur in the first place, effectively so does Ivysaur.
You're telling me an Iron clad these Bugs?
After having to type and read the word "Grass" 49 times in the previous section, it's probably only the best for everyone's collective sanity that the section immediately following it focuses on those extra fancy Bugs that give plants hell. And if there's anything two out of three Pokémon featured in this section can do, is to make Grass types miserable.
I've touched on the wonder of the Bug/Steel typing much earlier in this series when bringing up Escavalier, but it's more than prudent to go over it in detail once more. Similar to other exceptional typings like Water/Ground or Dark/Poison, Bug/Steel ends up with only a single weakness- as opposed to those two however, that weakness isn't common Grass or semi-common Ground, but rare and underpowered Fire, more often than not resulting in Bug/Steels fearing almost nothing in practice. Even better, that typing brings with itself nine resistances- some more useful than others, sure, but there's enough in there to make the ironclad Bugs even bulkier than their typically high neutral bulk would indicate.
All that combined, most Bug/Steels make for good safe switches with very few hard losses, able to put on decent amounts of damage even against most Pokémon that ultimately win against them- and with a shield investment or two, possibly even able to flip these matchups. Except versus Fire-types, nothing you can do there except scream in agony at watching your precious Bugs be roasted alive.
With that pleasant mental image under our belts and eyelids, let's dive into the actual selection of Bug/Steels at hand, the two good ones and the third that's here, too. Why am I being so mean to that third one and have been singling it out every single time so far?
Because it happens to be Scizor. It's the ugly bugling of this section, and worth mentioning first just to get it out of the way. Scizor's neutral bulk is abysmal, some of the lowest there is in the pool of open Great League contenders, but fortunately, it has a couple things up its pincers to make up for that fact. Bullet Punch is a woefully underutilized, but rather decent Fast Attack, generating enough energy for Scizor to get to a Night Slash every five Bullet Punches, letting it put on decent neutral pressure, especially against Ghosts and Psychics. Iron Head as its big nuke of choice doesn't have amazing coverage, in that it barely has any coverage, but Scizor's raw attack stat is oftentimes more than enough to force shields out with it. And despite its pitiful bulk, its typing more often than not lets it survive until said Iron Head- and not much longer afterwards, true, but still, that's more than some of the other bulk-impaired Pokémon featured so far could say for themselves. Despite all that through, Scizor doesn't see much use outside of Halloween Cup, where its access to Night Slash gives it an edge in busting all the omnipresent Ghosts, largely because in almost any format it is allowed in, the other two Pokémon in this section will also be there, and they're just... so much less scuffed.
Unshackled from all of Bug's terrible weaknesses, and with a hefty amount of neutral bulk backing it up, Forretress does what every bug wishes it was capable of- nibbling its way through everything in its path. Bug Bite has the same statline as Water Gun, letting Forretress put on a decent amount of Fast Attack pressure, while also having an... interesting selection of Charged Attacks backing it up. There's only one standard nuke in there in the form of Earthquake, helping Forretress in breaking past many opponents that resist Bug, and everything else has a much more curious purpose. Sand Tomb is a horribly statted move which lowers opponent defense, like a Nidoking to Poison Fang's Nidoqueen. Even with its horrid statline though, its low energy cost makes it useful for Forretress' Fast Attack centric playstyle, not to mention making for an excellent bait move. Rock Tomb is much more expensive, almost as pricy as a full blown Earthquake, but has the dual purpose of letting Forretress deal some damage to opposing Fliers before it gets farmed down, and lowering its opponent's damage output, further enhancing its effective bulk. With a hefty 60 energy cost though, it's not as good at that as Pokémon with access to Lunge or Icy Wind. The final consideration is Mirror Shot- it's just as terrible here as it is with Ferrothorn or Magnezone, but it is technically Forretress' cheapest Charged Attack, and as such worth a mention as a bait move most often paired with Earthquake.
Fast Attack centric playstyle backed by a stellar defensive typing and good bulk... not a bad idea at all. Though, Bug isn't really all that good of an offensive typing, what about something else, something more... brainy~?
Wormadam Trash, enter stage left. Even higher bulk than Forretress? Check. Also has access to Bug Bite just for funsies? Check! Bug Bite is a very rare consideration for Trashdam though, as it has access to something better- namely, Confusion, giving it a very unique, very prominent role in any format it's allowed in. While not having STAB on Confusion is regrettable, that doesn't stop Trashdam from using it to grind all the opposing Poison and Fighting types into dust, on top of heavily pressuring everything but Dark and Steel types- and even the former have to fear its Bug Buzzes, likely to put them in an early grave. Dark types aren't the only ones that fear Bug Buzz though- it's a very solid nuke, and while Trashdam takes its sweet bloody time getting to it, it puts on enough Fast Attack pressure in the meantime that the resulting Bug Buzz threatens a KO against many opponents. And against Fighting and Flying types that resist Bug? Iron Head, with a similar damage output! And against Steels that resist both Bug Buzz and Iron Head? Well you... cry, mostly. But Steels aside, Trashdam will be sure to force a shield out of anything- and that's assuming it isn't farming it down, like many puny Grass types that are basically completely unable to deal any significant damage to it. Unless they have Weather Ball Fire of course. Because then Wormadam Trash also cries.
Why isn't it good enough for open Great League?
As viable as Fast Attack pressure of STAB Bug Bite or STAB-less Confusion can be, neither really cut it in the context of open Great League, especially with hard matchups against many of the top meta Pokémon such as Trevenant or Azumarill.
Role: Safe Switch, Anti-Grass
Relevance: High for Wormadam Trash, Medium for Forretress, Low for Scizor
- Scizor: Bullet Punch / Night Slash / Iron Head
- Forretress: Bug Bite / (two of Mirror Shot, Sand Tomb, Rock Tomb and Earthquake)
- Wormadam Trash: Confusion / Iron Head / Bug Buzz
Shadow / Return Viability:
Scizor already has such a short lifespan that slapping a Shadow boost on it doesn't change much in that regard, and lets it hit even harder neutrally. Forretress considers being a Shadow too, but suffers from availability issues (Shadow Pineco hasn't been available since 2020), and it's heavily dependent on the extra damage letting it gain Bug Bite breakpoints in multiple meta matchups, otherwise the loss in bulk isn't worth it. Neither really consider Return as they either can't have it in Great League, or it just doesn't help them out with coverage.
A Confusing Bunch
Back in my day, Psychics used to rule the Pokémon world, Mewtwo was so powerful that literally nothing could even think about coming close, and the typing as a whole had literally no counters. A perfect world as far as I'm concerned, Psychic being my favourite typing not affecting my bias even slightly I reckon. Alas- that state of things had to end eventually, with Ghost getting fixed to actually inflict super effective damage to Psychics, with Steel and especially Dark types getting introduced to the franchise, and with Bug actually receiving usable moves, letting arthropods overcome Mind's superiority over Matter.
The path that Psychic types took in Great League is different, but similarly troubled, and arguably ending in an even worse way. And yes, I know- Medicham is Psychic type, Deoxys is Psychic type, fakes, phonies all of them! They merely pretend to be the masters of the mind, winning accolades through the usage of barbaric, brute force! They must be dethroned, one and all. What happened to Psychic types, actual Psychic types then? Where did all the Confusion users go? They went to screw themselves, mostly.
Galarian Stunfisk made their lives much worse, shrugging off their Fast Attack pressure and abusing the fact that many of them lacked a super effective move against Steel as it pelted them with Earthquakes. Sableye going from good to peak meta didn't help either, walling the poor brainiacs as it effortlessly farmed them down, with Trevenant joining in on the fun later on even without a resistance vs Psychic. And that's not even mentioning most of the actual Dark types- Umbreon and Mandibuzz have always completely dunked on Confusion users, Scrafty and Obstagoon are fighters that can take Psychic type Fast Attack damage basically forever, even the occasional Dark/Poison clowns on Psychics even with just a single resistance.
So... that's not ideal, obviously. Some stragglers managed to hold out for a while- Hypno + double Dark was a popular line even into 2021, Cresselia still occasionally runs Confusion nowadays (though Psycho Cut enabling a Charged Attack centric playstyle tends to be much better), and some Psychics do come out to play in Great League Remix to this day- but in open Great League, their days are sadly over, and that includes even the best of them.
And there are a lot of Psychic types out there, but unfortunately, most of them are terrible. And I don't even mean that in an open Great League context- even when comparing purely amongst Psychic types, there is a clear distinction between the few good ones and the many, many terrible ones, the latter all but direct downgrades from the former, in very clear cut ways that don’t happen as starkly in other types. Straight downgrades moveset wise, straight downgrades bulk-wise, absence of usable coverage, many Psychics have it all!
This has been a rather depressing sounding section so far, so let's switch gears for a moment. Why would one use Psychic types in the first place? Fast Attack pressure, and a lot of it. Three types that resist Psychic aside, Confusion can dish out significant damage on its own, even coming from the bulkiest Psychics, in particular wrecking both (most) fighters, and the non-Dark Poison types that wall said fighters. Think Dragons but with actual super effective targets, better bulk on average, and useful Charged Attacks to go along with them.
And if we're discussing Psychics, then there's no point in beating around the bush and avoiding talking about the best one, Hypno. Poor guy might be marred by a terrible reputation, but don't believe their lies, he's actually adorable, and, even more importantly, a beast in limited formats, a monster even. Some might even call him a pocket monster. Hypno got so much meta use in Season 3 of Silph Arena that by the end of it, many players were somewhat fed up with the yellow fuzzball, which if nothing else is a testament to how good it is. Why is it so good? Much better bulk than it looks like it ought to be capable of, better than that of Skarmory even, aforementioned Fast Attack pressure with Confusion, and all the Charged Attacks it could ever want, much to its delight and its users' despair when trying to TM it to the right Charged Attacks. Coverage? All three flavors of elemental punches, coming up. Reliable STAB damage? Here's your Psyshock, price one Elite Charged TM. Strong, neutral nuke, especially to help with the mirror? Shadow Ball is this way. Something to clown on the opposing Dark and Steel types with? Focus Blast will cost you for sure, but if you manage to land it, there are very few things that can match it in satisfaction. Return? Uh, I guess it's an option too?
The wealth of its movepool makes Hypno particularly alluring in formats where TMing is allowed, but even the necessity of sticking to one moveset doesn't stop it from rocking the common show-six pick-three formats. In those, the most common Charged Attack combo tends to be an elemental punch, typically Thunder Punch, paired with a nuke move, either Shadow Ball or rarely Focus Blast. That's far from the only combo worth considering though- Fire Punch + Psyshock results in an unusually good coverage, with only scant few 'mons resisting both Fire and Psychic, especially if you limit yourself to Pokémon good enough to show up on teams of experienced players. Double punch is also a definite consideration if you want more coverage, and it's the most usual choice for Shadow Hypno. That's right, Shadow Hypno, in case you want to pile on even more Fast Attack pressure- and of course you do, it's just too fun to watch whole chunks of opponent's healthbar evaporate with every tap.
All those reasons combined make Hypno an absolute competitive mainstay, and a high water mark that all other Psychics compare themselves to. How do they fare?
Terribly, for the most part. Cresselia aside, Hypno is the best Confusion-using Psychic type out there, and relatively few Pokémon even come close- and those are what the rest of this section consists of. Lacking Hypno's raw bulk and extensive moveset, its fellow Psychics had to try to make up for those deficiencies in one way or another, and the most reliable way to accomplish that is through a powerful move that Hypno does not have access to, a meaningfully different typing, or both.
Both? Both is good, says Jirachi. This most adorable of Mythicals opts to aid the normally underwhelming Psychic type with Steel, together with all the defensive boons that come with it. Boons and drawbacks, with Jirachi ending up with four weaknesses of varying severity, which are likely to be abused, especially with its otherwise mediocre neutral bulk. Four weaknesses aside, Jirachi resists ten out of fourteen remaining types, including a particularly notable double resistance to Psychic, giving it a very decent neutral matchup against many Pokémon- not Hypno though, Shadow Ball proving to be too hard for the little star to withstand, and that's despite its own strong signature move in Doom Desire. It is a very good move, almost as strong as Hydro Cannon, whose only fault is being Steel typed, something that proves to be a hindrance offensively more often than not, with a very limited super effectiveness profile. Either of its options for the second Charged Attack slot are equally unimpressive as well- Psychic hits hard but doesn't help with coverage at all, and Dazzling Gleam does provide something to scare away opposing Dark types, but leaves Jirachi just as powerless vs. its fellow Steel types, not to mention Fire types that are all too happy to melt it for breakfast.
Gallade has had enough with playing second fiddle to his prolifically fanarted sister, and is ready to throw down with... well, basically everyone at this point, thanks to Close Combat. A Confusion user with a Charged Attack letting him strike back at the Dark and Steel types that would otherwise wall him? What is the catch and why isn't he on every open Great League team??? The answer, as usual, is bulk, and Gallade's is abysmal. Fainting to most neutral nukes is bad enough, but with his Fighting subtyping negating the Psychic resistance to itself, Gallade is liable to get hard farmed down by basically every other Confusion user, and throwing Leaf Blades aside, he can't do a whole lot about it. Confusion, Leaf Blade, Close Combat... Arceus, if only he had any durability at all Gallade would be a monster in limited formats, but as is, he remains a situational pick, especially in formats where Leaf Blade can threaten one hit KO's from opposing Water and Ground types.
Victini follows in Jirachi's path to similar levels of success, trading a worse typing for a much better, much more threatening exclusive move. Fire isn't the best defensive typing out there, that much is certain, but lets it hit with its main showstopper, V-Create, even harder, so I guess it kinda works out in the end. And it really is V-Create, not Victini, that's the main feature here, dishing almost as much damage as Wild Charge, Close Combat or Frenzy Plant but at the cost of five less energy. And as small as that sounds, it is a very significant upgrade with Confusion's mediocre energy generation, letting the Victory Pokémon fire off a double tap after just seven Confusions, which with their chip damage is sure to knock out all but the tankiest, or wettest, opponents. Double tap V-Creates aside though? Yeah no, Victini doesn't really have anything else going for it, not with that typing, with second Charged Attack slot selection in Psychic and Focus Blast not providing it with anything to get back at opposing Water types with.
En taro Adun. Looking like a Protoss aside, Bronzong nabs Jirachi's typing, but importantly, keeps some of Hypno's bulk, letting it actually get some use out of its plethora of resistances. What does it use its resistances for? Pulling off some of Hypno's schtick, Payback letting it play similar role in bopping opposing Psychics, Psyshock letting it dish out consistent amounts of damage, and Bulldoze not leaving it completely powerless against opposing Steels, Fires and, perhaps most importantly, Dark/Poisons. Alas- it can't have all three at once, forcing Bronzong and its users to make a tricky decision of which two to keep, the answer most often turning out to be Psyshock + either of the other two. It still doesn't appreciate seeing opposing Ground types one bit though.
Oranguru, on the other hand, returns to monkey- an act no doubt made easier by literally being a monkey. It doesn't have the wonder of Steel typing, or Hypno's impressive girth- in fact it augments its Psychic typing with an unimpressive looking Normal subtyping, and what does it gain from that? A resistance to Ghost, which is a bigger deal than it sounds, elevating it to the best Psychic in formats without Dark types, as it can do all the good stuff Psychics already do, while also walling Ghost types, swatting both fellow brainiacs and pesky specters alike with Foul Play. Resistance to Ghost gives it an uncharacteristically good matchup against Lick-reliant Normal types as well, though Greedent still Crunches it to kingdom come. Unlikely to be anyone's first choice in many formats, but anything Retro Cup adjacent? He's guaranteed to be there, so you best prepare.
Kanto Slowbro isn't super impressive. In fact, the only reason for its inclusion here is that it can become a rare Confusion user in formats that neither allow Psychics as a whole, nor Wormadam Trash. That niche aside, Slowbro is extremely whelming- just like almost all the Pokémon in this section, it pairs Confusion with Psychic, but as opposed to any kind of cheaper coverage, or even just a bait move, it gets Ice Beam, a respectable move for sure, but not one that helps it deal with being very sluggish. Thematically fitting, yes, but not what you want in a Pokémon with only decent bulk and a neat, but not amazing defensive typing.
Why aren't they good enough for open Great League?
Role: Generalist, Anti-Fighting, Anti-Poison
Relevance: Very High for Hypno, Medium-High for most of the rest
- Hypno: Confusion / (two of Ice Punch, Thunder Punch, Fire Punch, Psyshock*, Shadow Ball, Focus Blast)
- Jirachi: Confusion / Doom Desire / Psychic OR Dazzling Gleam
- Gallade: Confusion / Leaf Blade / Close Combat
- Victini: Confusion / V-Create / Psychic OR Focus Blast
- Bronzong: Confusion / Psyshock / Bulldoze OR Payback
- Oranguru: Confusion / Foul Play / Psychic OR Future Sight
- Kanto Slowbro: Confusion / Ice Beam / Psychic
Shadow / Return Viability:
Hypno, Gallade, and Kanto Slowbro are all Shadow enabled, and the general choice of "Shadow or not" tends to veer towards "yes" for all three of them- though only Hypno can comfortably accommodate the resulting loss of bulk. Gallade goes from shielding almost everything to just flat out shielding everything, though the extra oomph can occasionally help him in finishing off his opponents.
Down and Dirty
Run from them, hide from them, Ground types arrive all the same.
As you might have gathered from the assorted entries up to now, Steel types are something of a big deal in GO PvP, and that statement holds just as true in open Great League meta as it does in limited formats. Or open Ultra League. Or open Master League. Or-
One large consequence of that is all the Pokémon that can easily deal with Steel types being similarly propelled into the stratosphere of competitive importance- that means Fighters, that means Fire types, that means Ground types. Okay maybe not the Fires, these have so many issues that even with the ability to wreck Steel types under their belt they still struggle heavily. One of said issues is their generally pitiful matchup versus the subjects of this section, and the premier anti-Steels of choice, Ground types, even those without the Water type subtyping.
Ground isn't generally considered a good defensive typing in Pokémon as a whole- and that's because it isn't, but what it is, is a very good offensive typing- dealing with Steel types was already mentioned, but countering Poison, Fire, Rock and Electric can't be discounted either. With a right complement, the resulting type combo is unstoppable, and as it happens, Rock is that right complement, making up for Ground's almost total inability to damage Flying types, and swatting Bug types that resist Ground, ending up at the famous EdgeQuake (Stone Edge - Earthquake) coverage, named after the pair of the most popular MSG moves used to obtain that coverage.
That's far from the only possible coverage combo involving Ground, though it is generally considered the best one, with most others running into issues with this or that group of Pokémon. Ground/Ice (hello Walrein) matches, or even arguably exceedes EdgeQuake in performance, but Ground/Electric can't deal with Grass types, Ground/Fire gets screwed by Fliers that resist Fire such as Pelipper or Altaria, Ground/Dark gets bonked on by Mandibuzz or Togekiss, and Ground/Water, once again, is thrashed by Grass types. And yes, all those coverage combos were taken from the Pokémon featured in this section.
From going through those coverage combos, it probably will not surprise you that Grass types are a thorn (haHAA) in Ground types' side, and that's just as true for Water/Ground mudbois that are so weak to Grass you can occasionally farm them down with Bullet Seed, as it is for the rest of the typing. And if you know your type matchup tables, then the following two tricky matchups aren't too hard to predict either- Water, Ice, and Water/Ice Pokémon tend to wreck most Ground types, even the Water/Ground mudbois that are neutral against both these types. That fact has just as much to do with Ground types' typical playstyle as it does with their resistances, as almost all Pokémon featured in this section rely completely on their Charged Attacks to do any real damage, backing them with Mud Shot that generates as much energy as little it does damage.
In many neutral matchups, one move, even a very strong STAB neutral move like Earthquake won't be enough to KO the opponent unless they're naturally glassy, which puts the Ground types into a predicament. If their opponent is left at too high HP to farm down with Mud Shots, they are left to try to scramble to another move, likely having to get through a shield first, they'll more often than not get trounced with a constant flow of damage. And while many of them are decently neutrally bulky, all of them have their breaking points- some of those just a Mud Shot or two off of the final, finishing move.
And if there's any Pokémon in this section the aforementioned scenario is particularly likely to happen to, it's the icon of everything good in the world, Quagsire. A mudboi with decent bulk and packing the iconic EdgeQuake combo itself, Quagsire fears nothing but Grass types, and is more than comfortable taking on the rest of the planet, preferably in the 1v1 irl format. While Stone Edge might seem like the solution to the pesky Fliers though, that's far from the case. Without STAB, Quagsire's Stone Edge isn't KOing anything that's not already double weak to Rock, especially with its followup Mud Shots being resisted so hard they only do singular points of damage, making for an even more exaggerated version of the aforementioned unfortunate scenario. To grasp at an upside to that arrangement though- even if Quag struggles to finish off its opponents, being able to consistently bring them low and possibly force another shield out afterwards is a very useful trait to have in a safe switch.
If only it could do something to opposing Grass types... don't worry, Whiscash has its fellow mudboi's back! That's not to say it ever wants to be put in a position where it has to deal with an opposing Grass type either, merely that if push comes to shove, Blizzard is gonna oneshot any plant unfortunate enough to be on the wrong side of the battlefield. If it doesn't get shielded that is- which turns out to be a significant issue for the poor ol' Cash Cash. As anyone who ever played with or against a Galarian Stunfisk knows, having to call a bait every Charged Attack is hell F U N, and in any matchup where Blizzard is a more effective Charged Attack to use, that's basically the Whiscash experience as well. Fortunately, the bait-reliant matchups aren't as common for Whiscash as they are for Gunfisk, largely due to its cheaper move in STAB Mud Bomb being its reliable damage dealer, but when the opponent counter switches in a Flier, you better feel lucky.
If Fliers are a thorn in your side, why not try out Stunfisk? No- not that Stunfisk, the other one, the Unova Stunfisk. Yes, it exists too. And yes, it's quite decent, though it can't compare to its Galarian cousin. It has the same very impressive amount of neutral bulk, but a notably worse typing, weak to the entire tetrafecta of Grass, Ice, Water and Ground, while resisting Poison, Flying, Rock, and triple resisting Electric, which are nice and give it a prominent anti-Electric Electric-type niche, but can’t wholly make up for its weaknesses. Resistance wise Ufisk really has it rough, though it makes up for that downside with its moveset, doing what no other Ground type is capable of- dishing out consistent amounts of damage. Five of either Thunder Shock or Mud Shot to Discharge, alternating amounts of five and four to a Mud Bomb- no fuss, no baits, no mither. Sure it can't do anything to opposing Grass types but scream mutely in terror, but almost every other typing should watch out- you might be able to hit it super effectively, but there's a decent chance it can do the same to you, and its bulk is likely bigger than yours.
Clearly, the biggest issue with the aforementioned Ground types is that they didn't look disgusting enough. Thank god we have Diggersby to take care of that crucial oversight. Shattering mirrors aside, what does the fat rabbit actually bring into the competitive scene with itself though? Simple- Groudon moveset and more bulk than most of its opponents know what to do with. Mud Shot + Earthquake is a surefire combo, that much is clear, but the addition of Fire Punch has the multi purpose of harassing any opposing Ice or Grass types that would try to capitalize on its mediocre defensive typing, piling on (feeble) pressure against opposing Fliers, and being a wonderful bait move with how cheap it is. Even without baiting, Diggersby's bulk is so immense it can do surprisingly well in many matchups just by going straight Earthquake- and with its Normal subtyping, it's by far the best Ground type at dealing with both opposing Normal type Lick users, and any spoopy Ghosts. It also has a different, much more hilarious niche that might come in handy sometimes- one of the very few viable Hyper Beam users, catching many an opposing Talonflame off guard as they're suddenly beamed out of existence thinking the fat rabbit can't hurt them.
Those four were the good Pokémon in this section, which leaves the remaining three in a more... questionable category. And when it comes to questionable, it's hard to beat Kanto Sandslash, a Pokémon that up until its community day in March of 2022 was (correctly) considered fully unviable. What changed? It got Night Slash, and the whole world suddenly felt that much lighter afterwards, as Night Slash was just the move it needed to dig out a niche of its own. Not a particularly amazing niche by any stretch of the imagination, but a niche nonetheless, as a better Psychic and Ghost matchup is rarely worth the much worse bulk compared to the rest of this section, especially if Diggersby is also allowed in a given format. That's not to say the sandy shrew's bulk is terrible- it's not, it's merely average, but when the rest of the playing field is (way) above average, Kanto Sandslash can't help but feel puny by comparison.
Speaking of puny and underdeveloped- Marshtomp. Not Swampert, Marshtomp. It's here too folks, and incredibly fittingly, it's a baby version of Swampert, in ways that leave it quite underwhelming a lot of the time sadly. Same typing, marginally better bulk, same Mud Shot, but a notably worse selection of Charged Attacks, backbreaking Hydro Cannon replaced with a puny Surf, and shield-busting Earthquake downgraded to a Mud Bomb. Which, yes, does come with an advantage of not needing to ever bait, but when your moves are underpowered enough that even if your opponents let them go they still end up barely phased, is it even worth it? Now, Marshtomp does have a couple other options, neither of them particularly good- Return actually lets it threaten its opponents with a potent move, and Sludge could feasibly give it very good Nidoqueen-like Ground/Poison coverage, but it doesn't quite have the longevity for the former, and the latter is a terribly underpowered move, making it, and Marshtomp in tow, almost useless.
Enough Mud Shots, time for the slaps. Fresh from the abyss of absence of joy that is Hisui Cup, Gastrodon, and its unconventional approach to performing mudboi duties with Mud Slap. Mud Slap is not a good move! Its energy generation is terrible, and the damage output isn't quite high enough to make up for that fact, but Gastrodon is too much of a chad to care, it just wants to keep mudding, and slapping, and grilling goddammit. And as long as its opponents are weak to Ground, it's a working strategy, but the moment that ceases to be the case, it runs into issues, many, many issues. Mud Slap is very underpowered, Body Slams are good but don't do enough, Earth Powers are very powerful but very hard to get to with its terrible energy generation, Water Pulse is absolutely terrible and you shouldn't use it ever unless you’re in Hisui cup and you spot a wild balloon ready to Hex you to death. If Mud Slap ever gets a buff it'll become a legitimate contender, bringing in a cool Fast Attack oriented spin on the Ground types as a whole, but until then Gastrodon will remain relegated to Hisui Cup, assuming it will ever come back, which hopefully it won't because that format sucks.
Why aren't they good enough for open Great League?
Swampert is better. Galarian Stunfisk is also better. Even despite the sheer domination at the... limbs of these two, Whiscash was also up there in viability for the longest time, but eventually even it had to falter. The reason was two fold- Mud Bomb is a generally underpowered move, leaving Whiscash lacking in many neutral matchups, and the rise of Walrein resulted in Altaria being nowhere near as centralizing as it once was, even if it had a brief stint in popularity during Worlds 2022, eliminating a key target for Whiscash's Blizzard.
Role: Safe Switch, Anti-Steel
- Quagsire: Mud Shot / Earthquake / Stone Edge OR Sludge Bomb
- Whiscash: Mud Shot / Mud Bomb / Blizzard
- Unova Stunfisk: Mud Shot OR Thunder Shock / Mud Bomb / Discharge
- Diggersby: Mud Shot / Fire Punch / Earthquake OR Hyper Beam
- Kanto Sandslash: Mud Shot / Night Slash* / Earthquake
- Marshtomp: Mud Shot / Surf / Mud Bomb OR Return*
- Gastrodon: Mud Slap / Body Slam / Earth Power OR Water Pulse
Shadow / Return Viability:
Neither of the three Shadow-eligible Ground types in this section, Quagsire, Kanto Sandslash, and Marshtomp, particularly care about being a Shadow, though especially in the case of Quagsire, it might just not have had the right meta to shine in yet.
And now that you got to see both the Grass and Ground sections, I can subject you to this image:
In the next and final part, we'll finally take a look at the Gligar duo, all the frosty Ice types and Walrein knockoffs, the three quintillion Charmers that comprise the Fairy type, and then we'll go over all the Pokémon that don't quite fit neatly in any other category. And there are quite a few of those, so if you're the type to break the mold and ignore the opponent's Sturdy, you might wanna check those out.
See you in the final part!