A Field Guide to the Ultra Beast Arrival Event (PvP and PvE Analysis)

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In case you somehow missed the insane overhyping (by Niantic) of the events going on live on the 26th and worldwide on the 27th, we’re being invaded! 

The Ultra Beast Arrival is upon us, with all the Beasts we’ve encountered in GO before coming back for one more push for our wallets world domination before they maybe disappear for a while.

While at least one more new Beast would have perhaps been a bit more exciting, this is still a great opportunity to grind for candy (and XL candy!) for our favorites, and according to reports, catch the Beasts in Research tasks, meaning some of these will be available at Level 15 (and potentially Great League eligible) for the very first (and maybe last?) time!

So even though I’ve reviewed all of these Beasties before, I think this certainly calls for a recap of each, with their potential in PvP and PvE, including those with new Great League implications. (Those available for the very first time in Great League now that they can be caught at Level 15 will be marked with a 💥.)

In no particular order, let’s look at all seven of them, the goal being to help you prioritize which one(s) to grind for this weekend based on what YOU do most in Pokémon GO.

Here we go!

Celesteela

Celesteela SteelFlying
  • Great League Priority: HIGH 💥
  • Ultra League Priority: HIGH
  • Master League Priority: LOW
  • PvE/Raid Priority: NEGLIGIBLE

Not able to squeeze into Great League at raid level, but DOES fit in easily at Research level, hitting 1500 CP around Level 18. Despite an intriguing move list that includes Smack Down (best in Great League), Air Slash (better in higher Leagues), Body SlamBulldoze, and identical (maybe something to correct next season, Niantic?) Steel moves Heavy Slam and Iron Head, Celesteela does not put up eye-popping numbers overall in Great League, but it DOES perform well in general, and even that shorter core meta list includes many big names, including things like Shadow Walrein, Talonflame, Azumarill, Umbreon, and Air Slash Mandibuzz that Skarmory normally fails to overcome, as well as beating (Air Slash) Skarmory in the head-to-head.

(As an aside… that may have been the longest run-on sentence EVER. 😮‍💨) Celesteela will be an absolute monster if Flying Cup returns yet again, able to beat down everything in the entire format but Galarian Zapdos, Snarl Mandibuzz, Emolga, and sometimes Steel Wing Skarmory.

Yes, that winlist very much includes Aerodactyl. It may not become a regular, frontline option for you, but Celesteela very much has a place in Great League, and this may be your only opportunity to ever get one. So do so!

Celesteela

As for Ultra League, I already broke that down when Celesteela was initially released, but to recap: Ultra League remains Celesteela’s best niche, it is again a slightly worse Skarmory, missing out on a win versus Shadow Snorlax and very close (less than 5 HP remaining) wins Skarmory can scratch out versus Machamp and Snarl Mandibuzz, with Celesteela holding on to Skarm’s other wins and adding on non-Shadow Snorlax.

But even beyond the numbers… Skarmory must be fully maxed out to compete in Ultra League, as even a close-but-not-quite-50 Skarm starts dropping wins (Machamp and Mandibuzz, in this case). Celesteela is significantly more affordable than Skarmory, and viable in its own right for sure. It could be a fun, affordable stopgap while we wait for the eventual release of our new Steely Bird overlord, Corviknight.

Don’t worry about Master League though, or even raids. Celesteela’s funky moveset leaves it an extremly poor Steel raider and a completely unviable Flying one… its ONLY Flying move at all is fast move Air Slash.

Kartana

Kartana GrassSteel
  • Great League Priority: MODERATE 💥
  • Ultra League Priority: MODERATE
  • Master League Priority: LOW-MODERATE
  • PvE/Raid Priority: VERY HIGH

Requires a trade (as even a 10-10-10 Kartana still barely exceeds 1500 CP at Level 15…something like a 9-9-10 or 8-10-10 fits), but is it even worth the trouble? Meh, that’s debatable

Razor Leafers are a dime a dozen in Great League already, and while the Steel side offers exciting new potential on paper (lots of handy resistances), and Kartana has THREE charge moves that only cost 35 energy (Leaf BladeX-Scissor, and Night Slash). Again, on paper, that should amount to a fantastic Razor Leafer performance. But it doesn’t work out as well as one might hope.

Now in fairness, that’s not that far off the best of the best, with Kartana missing out on a few things like Diggersby (and its Fire Punching), Registeel, and Obstagoon and Vigoroth and their Counter damage. But on the flipside, it turns Cresselia into a win, and is much more effective and efficient than things like Victreebel in beating stuff like Nidoqueen, Froslass, and Bastiodon, thanks to the resistances that come with Kartana’s Steel typing.

But overall, if I’m being honest, it’s kind of a middling Leafer overall, being VERY fragile at Great League level. (It has less overall bulk than Gengar and Haunter!) Get the research one if you can, and sure, try to acquire one under 1500 CP in a trade if you can. (It’s rather easy to do so, actually.) Just don’t see it as anything more than a sometimes-Limited-format performer, if even then.

Xurkitree

And to be blunt, it doesn’t get too much better in the other Leagues either. Ultra League has it as a comparatively cheap but unimpressive Leafer (trailing several other options), and even in Master League, where Razor Leaf is extremely rare, it DOES fill and anti-Water niche while also handling Charmers and stuff like Mamoswine, but… that’s the extent of it. You can do better.

But now comes PvE. Hold onto your butts, because Kartana is currently the BEST Grass attacker in GO, as described at great length by my friend and colleague u/Teban54 in his comprehensive Kartana PvE analysis. There are some still-unreleased Megas and Shadows that may creep past it, but who knows when that will happen. If you want to have the best Grass attacker at your disposal for raids, this is it.

Guzzlord

Guzzlord DarkDragon
  • Great League Priority: VERY HIGH
  • Ultra League Priority: HIGH
  • Master League Priority: LOW
  • PvE/Raid Priority: LOW

Not necessarily new to Great League, as it IS possible to sneak Guzzie under 1500 CP at Level 20 via a lucky-ish trade. (According to the awesome PvPIVs.com, there are 36 different IV combinations for a Best Friend trade, 297 combinations for an Ultra Friend trade, and 555 different combinations for a Great Friend trade.) But for those who have not yet successfully done that, here’s your chance to get one EASILY within Great League via Research.

And yes, you absolutely want at least one Great League Guzzlord. I already wrote a spotlight article on Guzzie, but to recap: it’s basically a better Zweilous. Zweil better handles (Air Slash) Mandibuzz, but beyond that, Guzz is just better, able to additionally overcome Swampert, Lickitung, Froslass, and Defense Deoxys. And hey, you can even run it with Sludge Bomb if you really want to and give up Froslass to now take down Mandi too. (Generally, though, I think it’s best with Crunch and Dragon Claw.)

Being double weak to Fairy damage leaves it with a big, glaring fatal flaw, and it doesn’t care for Fighters, Ices, Bugs or a number of other big names in the GL meta. But it does too much good to NOT be a consideration moving forward, not just in Limited metas, but even on the right teams in Open as well. You’re gonna want one, however you go about getting it.

Guzzlord

Guzzlord could also be a factor in Ultra League, where Zweilous completely falls away and even brutal swinging Hydreigon just doesn’t do enough… Guzzie does much, much better.

It checks a lot of the boxes you’d look for, beating Ghosts like Trevenant, Cofagrigus, Runerigus, Jellicent and both variants of Altered Giratina, Darks like Umbreon, Mandibuzz, Drapion and A-Muk, and then things like Snorlax, Greedent, Swampert, Empoleon, Gyarados, Venusaur, and Talonflame, aided by resisting at least some of their scary moves, and even things you might expect to lose to like Dubwool and Scizor. Yep… Guzzlord is one you want here too if you can afford to.

But it finally flops in Master League, where its low lower Attack and overall CP catches up to it and holds it back from making a major impact. Not much need to max one out for PvP play… or for raids either, as its low-power moves and just… uh… low power in general keep it far behind a myriad of other Dragon and even Dark attackers. It’s not useless in raids, just not very useful.

Nihilego

Nihilego RockPoison
  • Great League Priority: n/a
  • Ultra League Priority: MODERATE
  • Master League Priority: MODERATE-HIGH
  • PvE/Raid Priority: HIGH?

So starting at the top this time with Master League, because Nihilego is the best Poison type in Master. At least, it is NOW since it got Poison Jab in September (after being launched initially with lousy Acid and Pound as its only fast moves). But what is that really worth? Obviously it annihilates the format’s Fairy types, from the Charmers to tricky Zacian and Xerneas.

Being a Rock type also allows it to handle Flyers like Ho-Oh, Lugia, Yveltal, Dragonite, and even Gyarados. It also handles Zarude and Origin Giratina, which is nice. But it’s on the wrong side of a winning record… most Waters, Steels, Dragons, and especially Grounds step on Nihilego without feeling much pain. (Get it? Stepping on a Lego? …I’ll show myself out.) Do you want it? Yeah, that hard countering of Fairies alone means it has a place. I’m just not sure how high a priority that is.

Nihilego

I suppose it helps that Nihilego is THE best Poison type for PvE, with only the potentially future Shadow Roserade on the (maybe?) horizon to surpass it. The problem with THAT is similar to the issue in Master League… Poison types aren’t something you’ll actually want to be using in raids all that often, aside from things double weak to Poison like… uh… Tapu Bulu? Whimsicott? Yeah, like I said, not something you’ll actually be wanting too often, I don’t think. But still… it’s the best! So at least maxing one out for PvP has some extra use in PvE too.

Back to PvP, Nihilego again has limited use in Ultra League, shutting the door on Fairies, Fires, and a smattering of others (some of which ARE admittedly big names), but frankly just not doing enough to be all that useful in Open formats (and of course, it cannot be used in Premier formats, unlike other Poisons). And even at Research level, Nihilego still doesn’t fit in Great League… only an impossible-to-get 0-0-1 or 0-1-0 IV specimen squeezes under 1500 CP at Level 15. (But as with the other Leagues, you’re still not missing out on much.)

Buzzwole

Buzzwole BugFighting
  • Great League Priority: HIGH
  • Ultra League Priority: MODERATE-HIGH
  • Master League Priority: HIGH
  • PvE/Raid Priority: LOW

Even with raid-level IVs, Buzzwole fits in Great League at Research level, and performs well. It was the highlight of my GO Fest Ultra Beast analysis earlier this year, definitely the best of the three Beasts released during this past summer’s GO Fests for the purposes of Great League (and PvP in general).

It’s already been a star of multiple Limited formats, and Buzzwole is viable even in Open Great League as a better Heracross (sorry, Heracross… still first in my heart, buddy), combining the better qualities of Fighters and Bugs, and being a Fighter that keeps even Psychics much more on their toes than they normally have to be versus Fighters. It’s particularly lethal against Galarian Stunfisk, taking only neutral from Rock and resisting Ground damage, which is quite nice.

But Buzz can fly (😏) in the other Leagues too. In fact, its best is yet to come, as Buzzwole is particularly scary in Ultra League. Fairies, Ghosts, Fires, and a few others like Nidoqueen, Gyarados, and Cresselia give it trouble… but not much else. Its combination of steady Counter damage, debuffing opponents with Lunge, and hitting them hard in the jaw with Superpower terrorize a very wide swath of the meta, and there’s really not much that resists Bug AND Fighting damage. Of course, ol’ Heracross is underrated too, so perhaps Buzzwole’s success shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Buzzwole

And yes, Buzzwole holds up well even in Master League. None of the big Steels want anything to do with it. Grounds flop due to Bug resisting Ground damage, even Groudon with its scary Fire Punches and Flying (thus resisting Fighting AND Bug damage) Landorus. Anything Dark or Normal obviously curls up and dies.

And then there’s wins over Mamoswine, Palkia, and even Kyogre. It is easily the best Fighter in Master League, and the only truly viable Bug besides (arguably) Genesect. In PvP, Buzzwole is the most complete and consistent Ultra Beast of all, having good viability in every League.

And that’s good because it unfortunately struggles a bit in PvE compared to other options. It lacks a Bug fast move, so it’s really only worth considering as a Fighter, and Superpower isn’t the best in raids. Buzzwole not only slots behind things like Machamp, Blaziken, and Conkeldurr, but even stuff like Breloom and Hariyama. Ew.

Pheromosa

Pheromosa BugFighting
  • Great League Priority: NEGLIGIBLE
  • Ultra League Priority: YEAH, STILL NEGLIGIBLE
  • Master League Priority: NOPE, DON’T WANT IT EVEN HERE
  • PvE/Raid Priority: HIGH? EXTREME? OVERRATED? READ ON….

At the opposite end of the spectrum from Buzzwole, we have fellow Fightin’ Bug Pheromosa. No sense sugar coating it… this things has no real use in PvP at all. Yes, you can now sneak it into Great League much more easily (required a decent trade until this point), but there’s no reason to try, and no reason to build it up for Ultra or even Master League either.

It’s not the moveset — with the same Lunge and Close Combat as Buzzwole, and Bug Bite is no Counter but is still just fine — it’s the complete lack of bulk. This thing makes Haunter and Gengar and Alakazam and all look downright thicc in comparison. Pheromosa very likely just won’t ever be good in PvP no matter what moves Niantic gives it…. it’d as simple as that.

Pheromosa

PvE is a different story… kind of. Pheromosa’s insane frailty holds it back even here. Not surprisingly, it has insane Damage Per Second (DPS) with Bug Bite and Bug Buzz, far higher than any other Bug. But that is counterbalanced by terrible Total Damage Output (TDO), lower than such PvE “superstars” as Scolipede, Leavanny, Crustle, and Scyther.

In the right hands, with perfect dodging, it could be a huge contributor in raids where Bugs are desired. But one missed dodge, one wrong move, and it will fall alarmingly quickly and leave you wishing you’d run with something that doesn’t fall over to a stiff breeze.

Xurkitree

Xurkitree Electric
  • Great League Priority: n/a
  • Ultra League Priority: LOW
  • Master League Priority: LOW-MODERATE
  • PvE/Raid Priority: HIGH

So Xurk remains unavailable in Great League, even at Research level, so that leaves us with Ultra League and Master League for PvP. Unfortunately, Xurkitree falls flat on its face in both Ultra and Master, underperforming other established Electrics like Magnezone and Zapdos. It DOES have the neat trick of Dazzling Gleam going for it in Master, with Thunder Shock generating plenty of energy for it, and allowing Xurk to beat things like Zarude. But while not as flimsy as Pheromosa, Xurkitree IS frail (with less bulk than things like Mewtwo and even Excadrill), and it just doesn’t do enough for me to recommend it highly in PvP.

However, having high Attack and shaky bulk CAN work in PvE, and as with Pheromosa, Xurkitree arrives as a top Electric attacker — arguably THE top Electric attacker — in PvE. Admittedly NOT being the best PvE expert out there (not even close compared to several others!), I’ll leave it to my buddy u/Teban54 again to lay out the great case for Xurk in PvE. Go read that and you should come out knowing everything you need to know about Xurkitree’s good potential in raids.

Xurkitree

Whew, that ended up a lot longer than I anticipated! (How does that ALWAYS happen to me? 😅) But hopefully this accomplished the goal of helping you rack and stack the Ultra Beasts based on YOUR personal priorities. Is it Great League? Ultra League? Master League? Just PvE? Whatever you enjoy most in this game, at least one of these Beasties is for you, and my hope is that you now know better which Beast that is. Happy raiding (and researching)!

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!

Thank you for reading! I sincerely hope this helps you know what to go after hardest this weekend. Good hunting, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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