Shadow Bone Alolan Marowak in the PvP meta

...including Shadow A-Marowak!

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Time for a musical intro, one of my personal faves from the version of this article from October 2020 (fully updated to get with the modern times below). Here we go!

🎼 When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter

♫ Grass, Bugs, Steels peel, the Ices shatter

🎶 But watch the raaaaaiiiin ’cause that remains the saaaaaame

♪ ‘Wak can make a crack in team foundations

♭ Brew a fire storm, fast racin’

🎵 Won’t just blow over so don’t stay put

♬ Wak’ll make you fall when the bones are good….

See, I don’t JUST do oldies! 😂 I’m hip and relevant! Or was that, “my hip is inapposite”? 🍖 Well, ONE of those, anyway….

Okay, back on point. We’re here to discuss some bones (not necessarily hip bones… more like a femur, by the looks of it), specifically Alolan Marowak’s exclusive move Shadow Bone, coming back (during the Alola To Alola Event) for the first time in a long while. Good news for those that lack it and haven’t wanted to invest an Elite TM.

But before we just dive into the move itself, I want to take this opportunity to talk about Alolan Marowak itself for a little bit. Over the years, I have received many questions on A-Wak and whether it is really worth investing in, not just for things like Halloween Cup, but in general. Spoiler alert: that’s a solid YES, but I want you to understand the WHY.

So, let’s put A-Wak and Shadow Bone… under the lights.

…after our Bottom Line Up Front.

B.L.U.F.

  • Alolan Marowak remains a truly unique Pokémon in PvP, and though only truly viable in Great League, it remains a staple that is unlikely to ever truly leave the meta. It is especially impactful in certain limited metas, including (but hardly limited to) Halloween Cup, Kanto Cup, Retro Cup, and more.
  • A reminder: this is the first (and perhaps only) time we’ll be able to evolve a Kanto Cubone into an Alolan Marowak! Great way to get ourselves an A-Wak with top notch PvP IVs and/or, of course, another way to try and land a good shiny!
  • Shadow Ball is more than good enough to work on Alolan Marowak (alongside bait move Bone Club), but Shadow Bone is arguably the better move in 1v1 shielding (by far the most common shielding scenario in PvP play) and a healthy sidegrade in other shielding scenarios. Also… debuff potential that Shadow Ball doesn’t have, which can flip some silly matchups, even Azumarill!
  • Perhaps the biggest story is the potential to now have Shadow A-Wak by evolving a Shadow Cubone. Hopefully you cleared away Frustration from one or two, as I think it’s one you will definitely be wanting moving forward. 😈 Details at the end of the article!

Now, for the rest of the story….

ALOLAN MAROWAK – Stats and Moves

Marowak (Alola) FireGhost

Great League Stats

Attack Defense HP
111 (108 High Stat Product) 145 (151 High Stat Product) 126 (127 High Stat Product)

(Highest Stat Product IVs: 0-14-14, 1500 CP, Level 33.5)

Yes, looking at just Great League. Even at Level 50, A-Wak barely crests 2000 CP and even its top performance just doesn’t cut it in Ultra League formats.

First thing we need to do is discuss that typing combination. As I’ve discussed here and there in the past, Fire is actually a pretty good defensive typing, with six resistances (Bug, Grass, Fairy, Ice, Steel, and as with the other “elemental” typings, itself).

Ghost also resists Bug, as well as Poison (can’t poison what’s already dead, right?) and a double resistance to Fighting and Normal damage.

On the flipside, Fire is (rather famously) weak to Water, Rock, and Ground, and Ghost is vulnerable to Dark and other Ghosts. Notice something in all that? Right, hardly any overlap.

So Alolan Marowak is left with all the good — and bad ⁠— of each of those typings. This leaves it with an impressive nine resistances, with three of them (Fighting, Normal, Bug) doubled up, but also five vulnerabilities… though at least none of them are a double vulnerability, as many dual-typed Pokémon end up with.

Stats-wise, A-Wak is extremely close to Meganium in Great League, with virtually identical Attack strength and bulk, and you know how bulky Meg is considered to be! For some more comparisons, it is just behind stuff like Jellicent and Whiscash in overall bulk, and slightly ahead of things like Obstagoon, Cofagrigus, Vigoroth, all the major Charmers, and Walrein. Alolan Marowak is quietly — almost deceptively — bulky.

Fast Moves

  • Fire SpinFire type, 3.0 DPT, 3.33 EPT, 1.5 CD
  • Hex Ghost type, 2.0 DPT, 4.0 EPT, 1.5 CD
  • Rock Smash Fighting type, 3.0 DPT, 2.0 EPT, 1.5 CD

If you’re considering Rock Smash… don’t. As we’ll see soon, A-Wak can beat nearly everything on that short list with other moves, and much more on top of that. Not only is it not a typing that A-Wak wants, but it’s just a BAD move in general, with the poor energy generation of Razor Leaf/Charm but only the damage output of things like Lick, Bug Bite, and other moves that merely chip away.

For further comparison, Rock Smash is an exact clone (aside from typing) of Tackle, the move NO Pokémon wants in PvP. The ONLY good things going for Rock Smash are that, as a Fighting move, it can beat stuff like Obstagoon (triple weak to Fighting) and sneak away with an easier and more consistent win against Lapras.

But let’s talk about fast moves that do a lot more for you. It may be hard to remember now, but it used to be, in the very early days of PvP, that Hex was the only other move A-Wak had to work with.

And as I have talked about in certain “Nifty Or Thrifty” meta review articles (Halloween Cup, most prominently), Hex does do good work, to the point that it may even be the preferred fast move in those particular metas.

But being honest, Alolan Marowak’s bread and butter (since having it added to its movepool) is Fire Spin. It provides nice, steady damage in a typing that burns a wide swath through the many Grasses and Ices and Steels and Bugs that fill up the Great League meta. Combined with its charge moves, Fire Spin provides very nice coverage.

What charge moves, you ask? Well let’s have a look….

– Exclusive (Event Only) Move

Charge Moves

  • Bone ClubGround type, 40 damage, 35 energy
  • Shadow Bone Ghost type, 75 damage, 45 energy, 20% Chance to Decrease Opponent Defense -1 Stage
  • Shadow Ball Ghost type, 100 damage, 55 energy
  • Flame Wheel Fire type, 60 damage, 55 energy
  • Fire Blast Fire type, 140 damage, 80 energy

So first off, while some people clearly smarter than me have made them work out alright, I am going to push the Fire moves right off the raft. They may have some applications in the right limited meta (again, Halloween Cup comes most immediately to mind), but they don’t have much place in general. Flame Wheel is affordable, but a BAD move (dealing 40 less damage than Shadow Ball for the same energy cost), and Fire Blast could be hugely impactful but is also crazy expensive. The fire moves are just inferior to the alternatives in even the best of circumstances.

A-WAK WITH SHADOW BALL 🔮

So what IS the standard alternative? At least prior to the addition of Shadow Bone — and for many players, even continuing today — the moveset of choice is the the other two moves: Bone Club and Shadow Ball.

Combined with Fire Spin, there are more Pokémon types that A-Wak can hit for super effective damage (10: Grass, Ice, Bug, Steel, Fire, Electric, Poison, Rock, Psychic, Ghost) than not (8: Normal, Dark, Dragon, Fairy, Fighting, Flying, Ground, Water).

Conveniently, every typing that resists Bone Club and Shadow Ball is hit for at least neutral by Fire Spin, and there is little that resists BOTH charge moves, so you can wail away on nearly everything in the game with at least neutral damage by sticking with the right moves.

That may not sound like much, but that kind of neutral coverage is pretty rare among Pokémon in GO. There are very few “hard walls” against A-Wak… it can strike back and hurt pretty much everything even in losing battles with the FS/BC/SB combo.

But let’s get to the raw numbers. In Great League, that move combo shakes out like this. As compared to the above link where Hex/Club/Fire Blast was utilized, this one shares all those same wins except Lapras (and a couple things just outside the primary core meta, like Alolan Raichu, though even that one is often a win for A-Wak anyway).

But more notably, Shadow Ball A-Wak has several gains as compared to Fire Blast A-Wak: Talonflame, Meganium, Cofagrigus, the new Araquanid, and typically Shadow Bone A-Wak itself. (More on the mirror match later.)

Those pickups highlight what the rest of the wins show: Fire Spin leads the way in burning through Grasses like Meganium (and every other Grass but Cradily, sometimes Shiftry, and Ghostly Grasses Trevenant and Gourgeist) and every Bug out there except Crustle and Beedrill, as well as most all Ice types (the only Ices that usually win are Lapras, Weavile, Walrein, and sometimes Froslass), Shadow Ball finishes off all Psychics with the sole exceptions of Mew with its Shadow Clawing and Oranguru with its Foul Playing.

With Fire Spin and Bone Club combined with its built-in resistances, A-Wak is also a notoriously good slayer of Steels, with only Galarian Stunfisk, Bastiodon, and Excadrill (with their super effective Rock and Ground moves) and Bisharp and its full Dark moveset able to flip the script.

SO effective is A-Wak in this role that it can do crazy things like outrace Dewgong (absorbing a super effective Water Pulse along the way) and potentially beat a Registeel that burns both shields (it was far easier pre-Zap Cannon, where A-Wak resisted ALL of Regi’s moves and didn’t even need to throw a shield to still win… stupid Zap Cannon!)

And as a side note, it can do the same thing (winning with a two shield disadvantage) against other things commonly seen in Great League, to include AbomasnowEscavalierCresseliaFerrothorn (shrugging off Thunder, so basically worst case scenario for A-Wak), Mawile, and yes, even the biggest, baddest of Grassholes.

Back to more realistic 1v1 shielding though, aside from all those Grasses and Steels and Bugs and Psychics and Ices, A-Wak also takes out Charmers (even those that beat other Ghosts) and Fighters like Medicham and Toxicroak (and quasi-Fighters like Vigoroth and Defense Deoxys), and heck, potentially even Scrafty.

With shields down on both sides, Alolan Marowak beats everything it does in 1v1 shielding besides Cofagrigus, Scrafty, and Zap Cannon Registeel, and gains victories against Mew and Shadow Machamp.

And with BOTH shields being burned, A-Wak still remains remarkably consistent, losing that close win it gets against Dewgong in 1v1 and 0v0 shielding, as well as Talonflame and the mirror match versus Shadow Bone A-Wak, but picking up Lapras, Froslass, Drapion, and Shadow Nidoqueen… all HUGE names in the current meta.

Now again, that’s just what Alolan Marowak can do without its exclusive move, and why it’s such a strong option in limited formats and even open GBL. There are fewer safer long term investments. Alolan Marowak has been solid in every Silph Arena Cup it has appeared in over nearly three years of PvP play, and if anything has only gotten better over time. A-Wak is one you will have ample opportunity to use in multiple metas, I guarantee it.

But now, the main event.

A-WAK WITH SHADOW BONE 🦴

First let’s consider, again, the entirety of the Great League core meta opponents. As a reminder, here is Shadow Ball A-Wak.

Shadow Bone makes the most sense as a straight Shadow Ball replacement, since Bone Club is important for Ground type damage and for baits, so let’s replace Ball with Bone and see what happens. In 1v1 shielding, the difference is relatively minor, but IS in Bone’s favor, with some big names now appearing in the win column: Shadow Machamp, Froslass, and Nidoqueen, all of which Shadow Ball could only overcome by burning both shields.

A-Wak does now suffer defeats to Talonflame (assuming it lands the killer Brave Bird) and Shadow Ball A-Wak (even when Shadow Bone A-Wak wins CMP), but overall I call that an improvement. Also consider that with the relative speed of Bone (10 less energy than Ball), there’s some extra potential you didn’t have before, such as beating Trevenant without needing to even bait (as long as you shield its Shadow Ball and don’t get suckered into shielding Seed Bomb).

And just in general, forgoing Bone Club baiting entirely and just going straight for the jugular with straight Shadow Bone is far more successful than trying the same with straight Shadow Ball.

And of course, on top of all THAT, Bone comes with a potential Defensive debuff on the opponent that will trigger approximately 1 out of every 5 times you use it, and when THAT happens, you can do nutso things like potentially beating Pelipper and even Azumarill. 👀 I mean, a chance is still better than nothing, right?

Anyway, all that to say that I think it is generally okay to say that Shadow Bone looks to be an upgrade on Shadow Ball for Alolan Marowak. Ball is in many cases overkill by the time A-Wak reaches it, with its advantages being against tankier opponents (Tropius, Hypno, Clefable, etc.) where Ball is less overkill-y. Aside from those, Shadow Bone is often able to still land killing blows, and/or fast enough to allow squeezing in an extra charge move that cannot be reached with Ball in the equation.

Does that hold up in other shielding situations? With shields down, Shadow Bone is a slight step back as compared to Shadow Ball, but it’s really not too bad. Bone still has enough KO power to match Ball versus everything in the current meta besides new-fangled Registeel and beefy Defense Deoxys (though both are WELL within the margin of error) and, of course, the mirror match. Very, VERY close overall though… I hardly call wins where the other guy walks away with literally 1 HP (as DD and Regi do) safe wins.

And in 2v2 shielding, the advantage again looks to be with the closing power of Shadow Ball, with extra wins as compared to Shadow Bone over Lapras and Drapion (in the latter case, Shadow Bone actually deals less damage than Bone Club!), as well as the mirror match again. It’s also well worth noting that Shadow Bone leads to a more consistent win versus Galarian Stunfisk (see Shadow Ball for comparison here) a matchup that should be heavily in G-Fisk’s favor, but… well, the Bones are good, so the rest don’t matter. 😉

As for condensed metas, unfortunately I can’t show the sims right now (as PvPoke understandably has to rotate some out as new ones comes along), but I’ve examined A-Wak previously and found that Bone can often be the better play. A-Wak in Halloween Cup, for example, you generally wanted Shadow Bone rather than Shadow Ball, picking up things like Tentacruel, Golurk, and Drifblim thanks to the speed of the Bones, while Shadow Ball is just a bit too slow. The only meta I CAN really show off at this particular point in time is The Silph Arena’s Firefly Cup (Normal, Bug, Electric, Poison, and Ice types, with Grounds and a couple specific Pokémon banned). Using that as a barometer, you can see how Shadow Bone overtakes Shadow Ball with new wins against Froslass, Beedrill, and both Raichus. Stuff like that WILL matter in future metas.

So in short, as I said at the beginning in our BLUF, Shadow Ball remains very relevant in PvP, and is more clearly a sidegrade in today’s meta than it was when Shadow Bone first hit the game. But yes, Shadow Bone Alolan Marowak is absolutely worth having on hand. It’s not clearly better, but it is at least a good sidegrade that you’ll find yourself wanting down the line if you don’t get it now. If you’ve got a good Cubone to evolve, now’s the time!

…but wait a second. Evolving Cubone… oh! Does that mean we can evolve SHADOW Cubone too?! I think it does, right? Ooooooh baby!

SHADOW A-WAK!!

Marowak (Alola Shadow) FireGhost

So yes, we could evolve a Shadow Cubone and TM Shadow Bone away, but I think it’s best we at least start Shadow A-Wak analysis with the assumption we’re talking double Bones (Shadow Bone and Bone Club).

Let’s do a direct comparison in the various shielding scenarios, shall we?

  • In standard 1v1 shielding, Shadow A-Wak is, yes, an upgrade! Remember that A-Wak is relatively tanky, so it can handle the slashed Defense that comes with being a Shadow ‘mon better than others. The loss of extra defense DOES hurt, as Shadow A-Wak suffers losses now to Dewgong and Scrafty, but look at all the gains: Walrein, Trevenant, Galarian Stunfisk, Talonflame (with Shadow Bone now!), Drifblim, and even Sableye! Wowzers… this is HUGE, folks.
  • The news is less sunny with shields down, with non-Shadow beating out Shadow A-Wak overall and using its extra bulk to beat Talonflame, Skarmory, and Wigglytuff, and Shadow A-Wak suffers particularly frustrating losses against things you’d really expect to overcome like Shadow Machamp, Vigoroth, and even Meganium. BUT there’s still a silver lining even here, as Shadow CAN uniquely overpower Defense Deoxys, Scrafty, and Registeel. It doesn’t fully make up for the losses, of course, but at least those ARE some very notable gains.
  • Thankfully, the good times seem to roll again in 2v2 shielding, where Shadow A-Wak picks up Trevenant again, along with several things that only Shadow Ball was able to achieve in the analysis earlier, like Lapras, Shadow Machamp, Drapion, and Talonflame. The only new losses suffered as compared to non-Shadow A-Wak are Scrafty and Wigglytuff, so overall this is definitely an upgrade, I would say.

As for Shadow Ball A-Wak, yes, Shadow A-Wak is still an upgrade, just perhaps not quite as significantly:

  • In 1v1 shielding, Shadow A-Wak with Ball gains Lapras, Froslass, Drapion, Shadow Machamp, and Trevenant as compared to non-Shadow A-Wak with Ball, but Shadow also now loses to Dewgong, Scrafty, and importantly, the mirror match versus Shadow Bone A-Wak (now unable to survive the damage from Shadow Bone). Also to point it out while we’re on the topic: Shadow A-Wak with Shadow Bone now flips the script even on non-Shadow A-Wak with Ball, winning outright now, another point in favor of keeping Shadow Bone after evolving Shadow Cubone.
  • Again we see an overall downgrade with shields removed, as Shadow A-Wak with Ball gains Registeel and Pelipper, but falls to Shadow Champ, Mew, Meganium, Talonflame, and Wigglytuff that non-Shadow A-Wak is able to overcome.
  • But perhaps more damningly is 2v2 shielding, where Shadow A-Wak with Ball is a mere sidegrade to non-Shadow A-Wak with Ball. Shadow uniquely punches out Trevenant and Shadow Machamp, but non-Shadow comes right back by instead beating Scrafty and Cofagrigus. Again, in the industry 😆, we call that just a sidegrade.

So overall, when it comes to SHADOW ALOLAN MAROWAK, I think you definitely want it if you have a Shadow Cubone (or multiple!) prepped and ready. I can’t imagine Shadow Kanto Marowak ever being the better option of the two without some SERIOUS modificiations, so feel free, IMO, to evolve all your Shadow Cubone during the Alola To Alola event. I don’t think you’ll regret it. And don’t despair too much if they’re still stuck with Frustration… evolve them NOW while you can and you can always un-Frustrate next time we have a Go Rocket event. The important thing is to evolve during this short window where we can! (And hopefully we’ll be able to hit up Team GO Rocket for more Shadow Cubone during the event, too!)

Alright, that’s all I got for today. I hope this was insightful, and makes what is admittedly a little bit of a let down of an event at least a LITTLE more exciting. Shadow Bone! Shadow A-Wak. Yay!

Until next time — which should be Community Day Alolan Golem if Niantic would just give us the final stats (grrrrrrr) — you can find me on Twitter for regular PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon.

As always — though I don’t always remember to give this disclaimer — the simulated battles above from my go-to simming resource at PvPoke.com are a good start to the story, but they are certainly not the whole story. Run some sims yourself, test with A-Wak yourself, and please discuss! I always love to hear your feedback and any discussions that come out of these deeper dives.

Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and catch you next time!

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