Highlights of the Early 2019 Updates
On January 31st, Niantic released an update that introduced new Pokemon from the Sinnoh region, added moves to existing Pokemon, and adjusted some move stats in PvP. On February 15th, they also added a new mechanic, stat boosts. Which Pokemon have risen and fallen? I’ll cover the highlights below and comment on some noteworthy rankings and matchups.
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The update’s most standout change belongs to the move Razor Leaf, which had its power raised from 8 to 11. It hit hard already, but turning things up to 11 makes it far and away the most damaging Fast Move in PvP.
Tropius, Grotle, Torterra, Gloom, and a forest of other Grass Pokemon have all grown on the back of Razor Leaf. Tropius and Grotle especially benefit from low-energy Charged Moves like Leaf Blade and Body Slam to help offset Razor Leaf’s slow energy gain. These Pokemon are great at churning out constant damage regardless of shields, but they benefit from shield support to keep the damage going. Razor Leaf is so strong that you can win some matchups using your Fast Move alone, letting you build up energy for the next one.
Venusaur and Meganium also have access to Razor Leaf, and at the time of writing, they have fallen considerably in the rankings. Make no mistake, they’re still premiere Grass Pokemon. They come packing Frenzy Plant, one of the best Charged Moves in the game with low energy cost and high damage, so consider using Vine Whip for the faster energy gain. They’re functional with Razor Leaf, but Frenzy Plant is their main draw and you should look to use it as often as possible.
So how do you stop this leafy barrage? Razor Leafers rely on it for their main source of damage, but if you take that away, they’ll be left with weak energy gain. Fire, Flying, Poison, Dragon, and Steel types all resist Razor Leaf, and some like Altaria (Dragon/Flying), Skarmory (Flying/Steel), Golbat (Poison/Flying), and Charizard (Fire/Flying) even double-resist it thanks to their dual typings.
Most Razor Leaf users lack effective coverage moves, so a favorable matchup against one can force a switch, make your opponent burn shields, or allow you to build up energy without fear of retaliation.
Confusion & Psyshock
The Psychic-type moves Confusion and Psyshock also received a power increase. Like Razor Leaf, Confusion hits hard but has slower energy gain. It makes the biggest splash in the Twilight Cup, where Pokemon like Venomoth, Dustox, and Gardevoir can make Poison-type opponents fold in just a few hits!
Speaking of the Twilight Cup, Alolan Ninetales just got a lot more flexible with the addition of Psyshock to its Charged Moves. This low-cost move pairs well with Powder Snow’s fast energy gain and lets Alolan Ninetales pivot against Poison-type opponents and burn through shields.
Outside the Twilight Cup, Hypno and Bronzong are both notably affected by these Psychic moves changes. If you’re lucky enough to have a legacy Hypno with Psyshock, it can perform as a hard-hitting and well-rounded Pokemon in the Great League. However, there’s one Psychic Pokemon to rule them all....
Cresselia has eluded many Trainers (myself included). Previously, Psycho Cut was Cresselia’s best Fast Move because of its fast energy gain. Now, the buff to Confusion makes that choice a lot tougher. Confusion allows Cresselia to win more battles across the board, but Psycho Cut Cresselia wins more convincingly. Confusion does make Cresselia more viable when shields are up because Confusion’s high damage can’t be blocked. That said, Cresselia is still at its best in no-shield situations or with a shield advantage. In addition, Confusion Cresselia will be a sitting, moon-shaped duck against its typical Dark and Steel counters because it won’t be able to generate energy fast enough for its powerful coverage moves.
For general play against opponents who might not be prepared for your Cresselia, I’d go with Confusion. Against more experienced players who probably have a Cresselia counter at the ready, I’d stick with Psycho Cut so you can use Moonblast or Aurora Beam to their full potential.
Check out the charts below showing Cresselia’s overall matchups with Confusion and Psycho Cut. You can make these yourself with the Multi Battle feature!
The Mythical Pokemon Mew deserves its own shout-out apart from Psychic crowd. It has Psyshock, too, but its main weapon is now the newly buffed Shadow Claw, which generates 8 energy per hit instead of 7. Where Mew had a murky sea of Fast Move options before, Shadow Claw now stands above the rest to fuel its many Charged Moves.
Mew’s fast energy gain and unsurpassed coverage help overcome its middling stats and make it one of the best closers in the game, in every league. The question is, though, which Charged Moves should Mew have?
Against the Great League as a whole, Stone Edge + Focus Blast gives Mew super effective coverage against 10 of 18 types, a neutral damage option against every type, and a 71% win rate. Not bad! However, this Mew has poor matchups against lots of top Pokemon like Skarmory, Umbreon, and Tropius, and some might find Stone Edge and Focus Blast together to be too cumbersome. Rock Slide and Ancient Power are faster alternatives to Stone Edge but Stone Edge’s higher power helps Mew deliver that final punch. If you’re using Ancient Power, you may even get lucky with a stat boost (more on those later)!
Psyshock + Focus Blast gives Mew much-needed flexibility at the cost of coverage. Focus Blast can hit Dark or Steel types that try to counter it. Psyshock tears down shields quickly, but generally time dealing with shields isn’t time Mew can afford. Try and position it in no-shield situations where it’ll shine most.
Ice Beam + Grass Knot/Wild Charge turns Mew into an anti-meta weapon. Ice Beam annihilates the likes of Altaria and Tropius, while either Grass Knot or Wild Charge give it a fighting chance against bulky Water types like Azumarill, Lapras, and Blastoise. Mew really needs shield or energy advantage to consistently come out on top, though. Grass Knot and Wild Charge are identical except for typing; Grass Knot devastates Water/Ground Pokemon like Whiscash and Marshtomp while Wild Charge specifically hits Skarmory. This set makes Mew dangerous against many top Pokemon, but leaves it vulnerable to Dark and Steel counters. On that note...
Mew depends on stumbling into super effective matchups and doesn’t have the raw stats to carry it in bad or even neutral ones. It also struggles against shields, which neutralize its otherwise great coverage and force Mew to lean on its deficiencies. Try to catch Mew while you have a shield advantage.
One challenge with facing Mew is you’ll never know which moves it’s packing. Still, there are a number of Pokemon that can handle Mew no matter the moveset. Dark-type Pokemon like Umbreon, Drapion, Sableye, and Spiritomb all withstand Mew’s best attacks. Forretress is another excellent option that challenges most flavors of Mew (except the fiery ones).
One of the newly-released Pokemon, this Rock/Steel fossil storms out of the gate with Smack Down, which also received a power increase (from 10 to 12). Bastiodon’s typing and amazing Defense let it challenge many of the Great League’s top picks, including Altaria, Skarmory, Cresselia, Azumarill, Umbreon, and Tropius. No, really. It’s quite the resumé! Its unexpected move Flamethrower gives it great coverage against Grass or Steel types that try to wrangle it.
Bastiodon needs to have high IV’s and be near level 40 to reach 1500 CP, so try to snag a Lucky one through trades!
Bastiodon sports double weaknesses to Fighting and Ground attacks. Ground/Water Pokemon like Swampert, Quagsire, and especially the “Mud Bombers” Whiscash and Marshtomp, can resist Bastiodon’s attacks and capitalize on its double Ground weakness. Fighting types like Medicham, Machamp, Hariyama, and Toxicroak can also wrestle with this Cretaceous colossus.
While some Pokemon have earned new victories in the recent changes, someone’s got to be on the losing end. Those someones are the Water-type Pokemon that have to face the new Razor Leaf menace. Azumarill, Blastoise, Lapras, Lanturn, and Mantine will remain strong picks, but Pokemon with a double weakness to Grass will struggle even more. These include Whiscash, Marshtomp, Swampert, Quagsire, and Relicanth. Even though some of them sport coverage moves like Blizzard or Sludge, Razor Leaf will slice and dice them faster than they can react. Kingdra will feel the hurt, too. Just like the other Pokemon above, its coverage options are too slow to stop Razor Leafers effectively.
Waterfall did receive a power increase from 10 to 12, but that mostly ends up being pity points. Most premiere Water Pokemon don’t have Waterfall, and the ones that do perform better with the faster energy gain from Water Gun or Dragon Breath. The biggest beneficiary is Kyogre. If the legendary whale’s Fast Attack used to hit like a 10-ton truck, it now hits like a 12-ton truck. So, pretty hard!
The moves Ancient Power, Silver Wind, and Ominous Wind now have a 10% chance to boost the user’s Attack and Defense stats by 2 “stages”, or 50%. If this boost activates twice, a Pokemon can increase its Attack and Defense by up to 4 “stages”, or 100%! For all the number crunchers out there, a 2-stage boost effectively increases how much damage a Pokemon can put out (total damage output, “TDO”) by a factor of 2.25! This boosts almost any Pokemon to insane levels.
The table below shows the overall stat products of some top Great League Pokemon compared to other Pokemon before and after a 2-stage stat boost.
As for Giratina (Altered Form), you don’t want to know. But if you did, a Giratina boosted by 2 stages in the Ultra League has an overall stat product of 10,314, which is almost two Blissey put together (5,841). Yikes!
Check out the charts below for Mamoswine’s performance with no stat boost and a +2 stat boost. It’s quite the difference!
The bottom line? This stat boost is powerful, but how can it really be used? Most Pokemon will only get to use their stat-boosting move 2-3 times per battle (more if you invest shields). Below are the chances of the boost activating at least once for the given number of uses.
(1 - .9n)
So even in the unprecedented scenario where you’re able to squeeze off a stat-boosting move 5 times, it still won’t activate the majority of the time, and you’ll likely have committed valuable shields in the process.
The conclusion? Don’t use stat-boosting moves explicitly for the boost, especially when they aren’t optimal for that Pokemon or matchup, but consider the boost as a nice bonus for Pokemon who make good use of the move already. Silver Wind Venomoth is a great candidate. Be careful, though, and don’t use Pokemon out of position! Mamoswine is a fantastic closer in the Tempest Cup, for example, so avoid the temptation to lead with it and try for an early stat boost against shielded opponents.
On the other end, be prepared for a boosted Venomoth or Mamoswine in your battles! Left unchecked, they can demolish your team. Hard counters like Tyranitar, Lapras, and Alolan Sandslash can stop these monsters in their tracks.
This marks the first balance update that Niantic has released for Pokemon GO PvP, and it’s great to see PvP continuing to receive support and new features. The changes are safe enough that all the Pokemon you’ve invested in are probably still great picks, but significant enough to freshen up the game.
Previously, significant focus was placed on energy, Charged Moves, and charging those moves the quickest. These are still valuable, but with the updates to moves like Razor Leaf, Waterfall, and Smack Down, I expect high-damage Fast Moves to gain recognition alongside high-energy ones as valuable parts of play.
Overall, the changes are exciting, and it’ll be exciting to see where Pokemon GO Trainer Battles go from here!