Implications of the Official End of PvP GBL Classic Formats

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Howdy, folks. Today we have something very different from the standard JRE article. Because today, January 5th of 2023, marks the beginning of the very last week we’ll ever see of a Classic, XL-free format in GO Battle League. So sayeth Niantic:

Trainers, as Candy XL has continued to become more accessible thanks to Candy XL becoming available at level 31 (rather than level 40) and Rare Candy XL being a potential reward for completing in-person raids, we will be retiring the Classic Cup format after this Season. We will be running Premier Cups more frequently in future Seasons instead.

Last June, I wrote up an article pondering the end of Classic formats, as we had our first season in quite some time that lacked Classic formats entirely. Niantic DID bring them back again after that, but then came the above announcement, and the end of speculation. This is not a drill, folks. It’s happening now.

So I wanted to update that now-dated analysis with current figures, and a lot of community feedback as well, in the hopes that Niantic themselves see this and, if it’s too late to walk that change back, at least understand how we feel about that decision. There’s been a lot of discussion about it all throughout the community, but my hope is that having some of it consolidated in one place along with some number crunching and analysis will prove enlightening and helpful.

Now let’s get into the heart of the matter. For this analysis, I am going to focus on Master League, and specifically on Legendaries/Mythicals/Ultra Beasts. Yes, you can build a fully functional Open Master League team without any Legendaries, Mythicals (or at least, any beyond the rare easy-to-grind Melmetal), or Ultra Beasts. But as we’ll review below, the vast majority of the most competitive Pokémon in Master are some manner of Legendary/Mythical/Ultra Beast. In fact, there are only twelve NON-Legendary/Mythical/Ultra Beast Pokémon ranked in the Top 50 in Open Master League, and most of them (Dragonite, Garchomp, Florges, Snorlax, Kommo-o, etc.) are very rare spawns themselves, and/or have a cost only slightly less than a Legendary to build. They CAN be caught in the wild during certain events and such, but otherwise are their own level of difficultly to grind.

HOW TO GET LEGENDARY XLs

But to grind Legendaries, we’ll need to raid if you actually want to fully max them anytime soon. Because as far as I can tell (correct me if I’m wrong), these are the only methods through which we can get the XL Candy to level up any particular Legendary/Ultra Beast:

  • Raid
    • 3 XL Candy Per Legendary Catch
    • Possible Rare XL Candy as rewards (0-3)
  • Transfer (Possible 1 XL Candy per transfer)
  • Trade (Possible 1 XL Candy per trade; requires Special Trade)
  • Walk (Possible 1 XL Candy per 20km walked)
  • Convert 100 regular candy for 1 XL Candy

So while there are non-raid methods to acquire Legendary XL Candy, it’s a very slow trickle at best, and none of those methods are even guaranteed.

With that in mind — that you have to raid, and raid A LOT, to realistically accrue enough XL Candy for Legendaries — I decided to go back and look at how much opportunity we’ve had to do that. So here is an updated table with the total number of days each of the primary relevant Master League Legendaries (and Mythicals and Ultra Beasts) have been available to us since XL Candy went live on November 30th of 2020. Some of them may surprise you!

In order of rank according to PvPoke:

Pokémon Open ML Rank Total Days Available Dates Available
Lugia 3, 5 (Shadow) 16 18 July ’21, 1-14 Sept ’21, 26 Feb ’22 + Giovanni
Giratina 4 (Altered), 13 (Origin) 18 18 July ’21, 12-22 Oct ’21, 20-27 Oct ’22
Solgaleo 6 1 One-Time Encounter (so far…?)
Kyurem 7 33 18 July ’21, 16 Dec ’21 – 7 Jan ’22, 23 Dec ’22 – 1 Jan ’23
Zacian 8 21 20-26 Aug ’21, 18 Aug – 1 Sep ’22
Meloetta 9 (Aria) 1 One-Time Encounter
Mewtwo 10 (Shadow), 12 30 20 Feb – 1 Mar ’21, 16-23 July ’21, 16 Jun – 1 Jul ’22
Groudon 11 18 19-26 Jan ’21, 18 July ’21, 4 June ’22, 7-16 June ’22
Yveltal 14 26 18 May – 1 June ’21, 18 July ’21, 27 Sep – 8 Oct ’22
Zekrom 15 17 18 July ’21, 1-16 Dec ’21
Xerneas 16 27 4-18 May ’21, 18 July ’21, 8-20 Oct ’22
Reshiram 18 27 18 July ’21, 1-16 Dec ’21, 1-10 Jan ’23
Ho-Oh 22, 25 (Shadow) 7 1-5 Jan ’21, 18 July ’21, 26 Feb ’22 + Giovanni
Palkia 23 25 18 July ’21, 6-20 Aug ’21, 31 Jul – 10 Aug ’22
Dialga 24 24 18 July ’21, 23 July – 6 Aug ’21, 22-31 Jul ’22
Zarude 26 1 One-Time Encounter
Landorus 27 (Therian), 33 (Incarnate) 20 1-6 Mar ’21, 27 Apr – 4 May ’21, 18 July ’21, 26 Apr – 3 May ’22
Kyogre 34 15 19-26 Jan ’21, 18 July ’21, 1-7 June ’22

Additional NON-Legendary Pokémon that are quite rare in the wild (and therefore also difficult to grind XL Candy for) include Dragonite at Rank 1, Snorlax at Rank 30 (Shadow), Metagross at Rank 32, Kommo-O at Rank 49, and Mew at Rank 47 (Special Research Encounter only).

Pokémon GO Fest 2021: Raid Day will feature every Legendary Pokémon discovered in Pokémon GO so far!

Last time I did this sort of analysis, the average number of days each Legendary had been available in raids was about 15 and a half days. That has risen this time around, as many of these Legendaries returned to raids sometime in 2022, making Niantic’s claims at least partly true. The average is now about 21 and a half days, give or take. Note that that’s the average number of days these Legendaries have been in raids, in total, since XL Candy was introduced in the last month of 2020, so roughly two years ago now. Obviously none of these have been available for a continuous 21 days straight, nor have they always been available since we began getting a guaranteed 3 XL Candy per Legendary catch, so your mileage may vary on actual success of grinding each of these. But for the purposes of simplication, we’ll just say you could get those 3 XLs for all 21 of those (average) days. On top of that, you can get 0-3 extra XLs per catch, as you theoretically can for ANY Pokémon catch in the game. So let’s be generous and say that, between that and the guaranteed 3, you’re getting 4 XL Candy on average per successful Legendary raid and catch. I know this is fuzzy math, but I’m trying to be generous and realistic at the same time, so just… just go with me here.

Assuming 4 XLs per successful Legendary catch, and roughed out over 21 days of average availability (for those who have been at Level 40 since XLs arrived in the game… more on that in a second), that puts you at 3.5 to 4 Legendary catches per day over those 21 days to hit 296 XL Candy for that particular Legendary. That’s a bit better than the 5 I estimated last time I did this analysis — again, seven months ago, before many of these returned in the latter half of 2022 — but still quite the grind. Especially considering that Raid Passes are much more difficult to come by than in the past. In May of 2022, Niantic stopped including them in the weekly 1-coin offers, and while the Season of Light (September – November 2022) began offering an extra free Raid Pass per day by spinning a gym photo disc, that was done away with for the Season of Mythical Tickets Wishes beginning last December. And I don’t think you need me to point out how much more expensive in-game boxes are than in the past, making purchasing Raid Passes more expensive than ever before. The best offer I can find dating back many, many months is the Silver Box available for the closing weeks of 2022, with 16 Raid Passes in a box costing 1350 coins, or basically 85 cents per pass. So being REALLY generous and saying you “only” need 3.5 Legendary raids (with successful catches) per day, that’s 2.5 Premium (purchased) Passes each day (since you get one free Pass each day) for 21 days, which comes to $44.63 in purchased Passes. And again, that is, of course, the very BEST case. Going to perhaps a more realistic four raids per day (or even the majority of days) pushes that figure beyond $50 pretty easily. And again, this is with Passes at the best discounted price we’ve had for a while. If you’re paying full price (one dollar per Pass), that’s $74 for 3.5 raids each day over a 21 day period, and as much as $84 if you do 4 raids per day. And to reiterate, this is for just ONE Legendary, so if you want a team of three, you’d have to do this at least three times, for a grand total of about $150 at the low end, and over $250 in the high end. Now maybe that’s not a big deal to all players, but it absolutely IS a big dent in many other players’ overall budget.

(And of course, also bear in mind that until June 1st of 2022, trainers below Level 40 were unable to even begin acquiring XL Candy, so several things on that list are even MORE out of reach for those poor folks.)

Pokemon Go best Master League team | Go Battle League Season 13 - Dexerto

TIME AIN’T ON OUR SIDE

While my math is already rather fuzzy (don’t tell Mrs. JRE, please… she’s a math teacher!), it’s about to get fuzzier still as I have to guesstimate a bit. Because while others have calculated the (very high, especially in this time of crazy inflation) costs of all that raiding, I’m trying to calculate TIME. About how long does each raid take?

Ideally, if you’re in a raid train or such, you can zip to three or four raids in relatively short order. But let’s assume that you’re taking close to all 300 seconds of the Legendary raid timer, and of course the two minutes of waiting to begin the raid in the first place (since Niantic refuses to give us a “Ready!” button even for private lobbies). Heck, I’ll even be generous and say we’ll only take four of the allowed five minutes of raid timer on average. That’s a total then of six minutes per actual raid time. Then let’s guess two minutes to catch (and that might be generous for some of these bad boys), so there’s eight total. Even a well oiled raid train probably takes, what, five minutes to zip from raid to raid, on average, and get everybody set up and ready to go? So that’s a very realistic (I think) thirteen minutes to get from the start of one raid to the next. I know, I know… “JRE, our raid group is MUCH faster than that!” Okay, tell you what, I’ll knock off a minute and take it to 12, how’s that? In my own experience, that’s probably about right if you’re on foot (which we’re all supposed to be, right? Surely people aren’t driving from raid to raid… that’s not how the game is supposed to be played! /s) in a relatively compacted area of town with several gyms.

So assuming 12 minutes per raid, that means that yes, you could do exactly five raids during a one hour period (Raid Hour, perhaps?). Not bad, really. But can you do that every day… for two weeks? Or take a Saturday and grind for hours on end to get a week’s worth of raids (30-40 or more) done in a day? You better, because if not, you’re gonna fall short of your goal of maxing out that Legendary and have to resort to the other, mostly-1-XL-Candy-at-a-time methods to fill the gap, or wait for who knows how long until that Legendary returns to raids. As you can see above, sometimes that’s just a few short weeks. But usually, we’re talking months, sometimes 6+ months or more. You could be waiting multiple GBL Seasons before that Legendary returns, and when it does… how much will the meta have shifted? Will that Legendary you’ve been grinding for still be at the top of its game, or will the ever-shifting meta have left it behind by then, forcing you to start over from scratch with a different Legendary entirely?

If you’re like me… the very prospect of this sounds exhausting. I work a 40-hour week, have kids, and a wife, and their own needs and interests and activities to consider. I COULD squeeze in 4+ raids a night, after work, and skip out on dinner with my family and getting a little respite before gearing up for the next full day of work and life, but honestly, that’s not fun. That’s a chore, a second job. Maybe that’s just me? But I strongly suspect it’s not.

And there’s another logistical problem, of course… raiding Legendaries requires other players. Maybe some can solve this problem by going out as a family of raiders, getting family time AND raiding all at once. If so, big win! But uh… your family gonna do that every night for three weeks? Prooooooobably not. You’re going to need other groups for at least SOME of those. In some communities that may not be a problem, but even there, who’s still raiding for some of these Legendaries after the first couple days of them coming back to raids? After a week? You know what I mean. Realistically, in MOST communities, even the really active ones, you better turn out in force those first few days, or you’re going to have a lot of trouble even getting enough to take down the Legendary in the first place. There are markedly diminishing returns the longer you wait. Better clear your calendar early on! Just take off work, right? Niantic sure seems to think it’s that easy for us.

Pokemon GO Raid Pass Guide - Types, How to Get & More

But I digress… back to numbers to close this out. Because there IS one more way to get Legendary encounters outside of raiding: feeding the cyclical machine of PvP itself. Hit Level 20, and then win enough games in a set and you get a Pokémon encounter, and it might be the current Legendary! No raid group needed, no particular time of day needed, just free encounters you can get to all on your own. Only problem is that, seemingly just like other recent seasons (where rates were calculated to be somewhere between 5% and 11%, at best), Legendary encounter rates of late look to be… uh, how do I put this nicely…? suppressed. It’s pretty clear that getting Legendaries in GBL has become harder and harder as time has marched on… another way to get us to “get out and GO” to raids? Nah, surely nothing that insidious.

Another huge issue I haven’t even touched on yet… what about Mythicals? Sure, we get a little pile of regular candy along the way to catching our Zarude or Mew or Meloetta or the like, but after that? You’re on your own, kid. You want XLs? No raids, no GBL encounters, no trades. You have to walk it out or somehow build up a huge pile of Rare Candy XL. Unless you put in more miles walking than most marathon runners, that’s not happening anytime soon. And of course, while you’re walking your Mythical, you’re not able to walk anything else, so hope you’re not relying on that method for any of your other Pokémon in waiting.

Mythical Pokémon - Bulbapedia, the community-driven Pokémon encyclopedia

COMMUNITY FEEDBACK, aka HEAR US NIANTIC

If this all just sounds like that JRE guy griping again, well, I did something different this time around. Earlier this week, I posted a poll about maxing Legendaries. Specifically, I asked:

How many days, on average, does it take you to grind the XL Candy required to fully max out a Legendary/Mythical/Ultra Beast in Pokémon GO? Includes raiding/trading/walking/whatever method(s).

With the following four options:

  • No more than one week
  • Between 1 week & 1 month
  • 2-4 months
  • 5+ months

From the very beginning, “5+ months” led handily, and ended up with just under 70% of the total vote. “2-4 months” ended with about 14% of the vote, and combined with 5+ months, the end results show that a whopping 83% of votes say it takes at least two months to max one Legendary, and again, 70% require 5 or more months. That’s an astounding majority overall.

But I know what you’re thinking. “JRE, Twitter polls are about as accurate as a Magic 8 Ball!” Thankfully I have more than that, as I got a TON of comments on the poll as well. So as I’ve done in some past articles, I want to show some of those comments, raw and unedited, from your fellow players with their own thoughts. Here we go!

  • Kitty Pokémons A Lot (@kittyrambles), Writer/Editor for GO Hub: “I have never managed to level 50 max a legendary/mythical and I doubt I will tbh. Don’t want to spend the raid money and other ways of earning xl candy are long winded and impractical.”
  • Kratos TL50 (@KratosPogo), Writer for GO Hub: “Usually 2 or 3 rotations unless the legendary is extremely relevant and I can use the coins I get from gyms. Never going to spend 60$+ in a week to get a slightly more powerful legendary.”
  • ArtimusDragon #HearUsNiantic (@aceTHEface954): “A 5th option, I don’t, LOL. It would take me about 80 raids to make this happen. I saw a @brandontan91 video on this where he wanted to see how long it would take to grind 296 XLs. It took him 7hrs.”
  • 0senteyutn0 (@0senteyutn0): “Lvl 47 here, 24000 total games on GBL (very dedicated player). Still don’t have enough XL for any legendary/mythical/UB (except Melmetal but I assume that one doesn’t count). The closest I am is Dialga (142 XL candy).”
  • Nekhrist218 (@nekhrist218): “@PokemonGoApp implicitly said it should be easier to max mons due to xl candy “improved” availability, but with a mediocre xl rare candy drop rate and each raid only rewarding from 3 to 5 xl candies, the goal is still quite unreachable for the majority of the playerbase.”
  • Jack 🏳️‍🌈 (@ThatHollowGuy): “As a free to play player, who gets 50 coins every single day, I only have ONE SINGLE legendary maxed, and it’s actually just Kartana because of all the XL buffs during the bug out event, trading and a little bit of fake walking, if you will…”
  • HigherFructose (@hionfructose): “I have zero level 50 legendaries/mythicals aside from Melmetal. Cause to hell with that noise. Raiding is boring and overly complicated. And in the time it would take me to get the needed XLs for 1 legend by walking, I could max out 2 or 3 non-legends.”
  • Luck Fire ☠🇧🇷 (@Luck_Fire): “The only Legendary/Mythical that i was able to Max out was melmetal( for obvious reason), as f2p i dont have the passes to do enough raids to max out, even if i had most of time dont have enough people interested to raid it, i have no one to trade, and its 20km for 1 XL candy.”
  • ✨Qshinys✨ (@Qshinys): “It depends on which legendary I want to max to level 50. Usually 5-6 months depending on how often it comes to raids.”
  • Allaflutter (@allaflutter_): “I don’t have a level 50 legendary.”
  • Ellwyn Male (@Arlunydd): “I never have. The only thing I’ve given any effort to is a Lapras, walked it a lot and I was hoping to grind some XL over Christmas but I could barely find the raids. I’m still nowhere close.”
  • Bruno Fulgêncio (@FulgencioBruno): “I voted 5+ months, but, in reality I’m not maxing out any legendaries above 40. Legendary XL candies mean spending too much on raid passes, I prefer to keep my few hundos waiting at 40 until we get better drops os rare XL.”
  • Benji (@bclem2): “Thats crazy commitment to do it f2p in 4 months. Thats doing the free raid everyday. grinding gym coins everyday to have premium passes for the raid boss you want. getting a Rare candy XL nearly everyday and still needing to walk it several hundred km.”
  • Elite4Stephan 50×3 (@Elite4Stephan): “Most people don’t have $100 of dollars to waste raiding 1 pokemon…..”
  • David Hernandez (@The1stHamtaro): “I picked 5+. This is honestly part of the reason why I haven’t tried to get any of my Pokémon to Level 50. The time it takes atm to get XL candy for these Pokemon is too step with little reward. Eventually I will, but hopefully by then there is a more feasible way to get XL candy.”
  • Laoab (@LaboaLaoab): “Uh… I don’t have a single pokemon at level 50. I don’t do master league, all I do is great league! I had enough pain getting a toxapex to great league level.”
  • Arceus’ Dad TL47 🏴‍☠️ (@PkmnMstr_R3): “I’ve been playing since XL candy came out and I’ve never once gotten enough (read: spent enough money) to max out a legendary mon.”
  • OOM-6 (@WKradel): “Never would attempt to farm that much XL candy on a legendary. (Outside of Melmetal) I’ll just stick with my Dragonite/Metagross/X team tyvm. Just too expensive.”
  • hanzsolos (@dudenahaf): “I don’t have any. My highest Legendary is my Registeel for Ultra League. Seeing the 20 k walk for the “chance” of an XL is a pretty High commitment.”
  • Tai, Business Cat 🐈‍⬛ (@GilleDubh): “I picked “5+ months” because I’ve been working on getting the xl candies for zarude since he came out. I’m about 90 short currently, and that’s with all the xl rare candies I’ve gotten from level up, raids, and wherever else.”
  • Bread Goblin (@BriocheGenie): “I’ve been trying to get enough xls to get an ultra league registeel for literally 7 months. I’m 4 away, it’s a broken system.”
  • EonX (@TheEonX): “None. My closest is Mewtwo at a little over 200 XLs, but unless you’re a diehard Open ML player (trust me, they’re out there and more power to y’all.) I don’t see the point when there’s plenty of strong enough budget picks and Mega options for raids.”
  • Arjun Patel (@ArjunPatel20): “I have yet to max out a Legendary. Machamp is the only Pokémon I have maxed out, but I still need to turn the key on the 2nd CM, for it to be ready for OML.”
  • Dead Pull Hitter 🇨🇦 (@deadpull_hitter): “No idea because I’ve never tried and have no real desire to play ML at the whale level. (I’m level 47)”
  • Tyler (@roshambo74): “Replied 1 week, but started with a good chunk of XL on a few mons from when they were frequent GBL rewards. Selectively raided a couple hard to have enough MLO mons, but won’t bother with most legendaries and not touching any mythicals. If your f2p which I’m back to, it’s months.”
  • Joshua Hurt (@JoshuaHurt9): “I said 5+ months, but this time last year I would’ve said 1 week to 1 month. Game is getting stale for me.”
  • Lucky Omen (@DariusLingLing): “They really need to start making XL Rare Candy drop rate the same as normal Rare Candy. From there, I would’ve stopped complaining about it already.”
  • Ignacio Loyola (@IgnacioLoyola3): “It is a task of months if you are F2P. If you are a whale it is a 2-3 week task. For me Dialga took me months to bring it to level 50 playing F2P. For Giratina and Kyurem it only took me 2 weeks. The moral of it all is that to compete in MLO you have to spend money to win.”
  • John de Jong (@momomoto): “Like many, I voted for 5+, but truth be told I’ve never tried to max out a Legendary/Mythical/Ultra Beast. Great League on its own is enough of a challenge, to say nothing of the associated Great and Little-level cups!”
  • Jesus Garcia (@JGarcia_1984): “5+ months depending because the average player just can’t afford to raid until you get them… It’s very hard to this day. This is why at least Master League Classic should stay.”
  • Denn0 (@Denn019): “As Candy XL and especially Rare Candy XL became so accessable, I just need about 3-4 months to max out ONE Legendary. I would need about 8 months for a Mythical. Note, that I’m a f2p player, raiding every day with free passes. Just daily activity without paying money means one has to run ones ass off to be able to fight with the Legis/Mythicals, that one wants to use (the drop rates for Rare Candy XL are a joke!) And when one finally achieved the goal, the meta could have changed easily.”

Common themes: takes far too long, far too much monetary investment, and many long ago deemed it not even worth it to try. Or perhaps worse, some DID grind hard in the past and now just don’t bother, as the game and the grind have become “stale”. Does THAT perhaps get your attention, Niantic?

IN CONCLUSION

So yeah, here’s the gist:

  • Raid raid raid! That’s the only reliable way to get enough candy to max Legendaries. You need roughly 70ish, and that means roughly 3.5 to 4 a day, each day, for the three weeks or so that we see most of these Legendaries over a year and a half period of time. Good luck!
  • Can’t raid? #getrekd lolz. Better do a lot of trading and a whole lotta walking. Maybe you can get yourself a dozen extra Candy XL that way every couple weeks. Or actually find a Legendary in GBL… once a week (or lately, more like once a month!).

Alright, time to wrap this up. Here’s the whole point I wanted to make with all of this:

Not having Classic as an option anymore is going to make Master League less realistic for many players, and I think those players are more inclined to just stop playing Master altogether rather than spend more time and resources trying to keep up. And all those other community member inputs above only solidify that.

Open Master League requires a massive investment of time, patience, and real-life resources for each Legendary we want to build up (and even many of the top non-Legendary options, as they’re rarer spawns that often aren’t even IN the wild for much of the year!). And of course, a Master League team of three means we have to do all this THREE TIMES, at least. Better hope those three have staying power too… if the meta shifts and one or more of them fall, now you’re back to square one again to try and keep up. Hope you don’t mind a second, unpaid job! (While paying $200+ for the honor of being able to even DO those raids in the first place.)

Thanks for reading. I know this isn’t my typical heavy analysis style, but this is a topic that’s been on my heart for months, and was rekindled when seeing we are entering our final EVER week of Master League Classic… I had to get it all out. (Again.) I hope this helps you feel a little less alone if you’re struggling to adapt, and perhaps gave you a chuckle or two along the way. And I sincerely hope, as I know they do with many of my PvP analysis articles, that Niantic themselves see this, and take it to heart. We will miss Classic, Niantic. BADLY. Some players will adjust, but even most of them are not doing so willingly. Many players gave up even trying to build a fully XL team long ago, and this will not motivate us to suddenly change that… this will instead break the backs of many players. Yes, it’s good that you have parallel formats running alongside Master League throughout this season, and more Premier will mean less reliance on Legendaries, maybe, but many of us WANT to play Master League. We MISS Master League. We just cannot do it the way you want us to. We just CAN’T.

Okay, back to more regular analysis type writing next time. (Chesnaught Community Day analysis is on deck!) Until then, dear readers, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon.

Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and good luck in whatever format you forge into this week and in Master League rotations to come. Good luck!

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