Kartana as Grass-type raid attacker (Analysis): Redefining anti-Water/Rock/Ground counters

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From Tuesday, September 13 to Tuesday, September 27 (at 10am), Kartana will be in raids in the Northern Hemisphere, and Celesteela will be in raids in the Southern Hemisphere. You can get both via remote raids.

While Celesteela may find some niche uses in PvP, it can’t function as a raid counter due to mediocre stats and non-STAB movesets. That’s obviously not what we’re talking about today…

Everyone who still cares to power up raid counters has probably told you this, but yes, Kartana is good. Really good. The best Grass type. But exactly how good is it? Can it change the common belief that Grass types are “subpar” raid counters? Let’s find out.

TL;DR

Best Grass attacker by far, even better than Electric and Water types, and will be the future of Grass types.

  • Kartana is now the best Grass, period. No “non-mega”, “non-shadow”, etc.
  • Level 30 Kartana ≈ Level 40 Mega Venusaur ≈ Level 45-50 Shadows and Zarude >> Level 50 everything else. The difference is huge.
  • Against Water-type raid bosses, Kartana is better than Xurkitree and Shadow Raikou (top Electric).
  • Against Rock and Ground-type raid bosses, Kartana is only behind Mega Blastoise and Shadow Metagross. It outperforms Shadow Swampert and makes Kyogre look like trash.
  • Realistically, only Mega Sceptile can outclass it as a Grass attacker.
    • The only other possible Grass types: Shadow Rillaboom with Frenzy Plant (in many many years), and Shaymin Sky with Magical Leaf and a significantly buffed Seed Flare to Blast Burn levels (who knows if it’ll happen or not).
  • Yes, this is worth going wild for. It might even be advisable to level up multiple Kartana equally, e.g. to level 30-35.

Keep reading for:

  • Other Grass attackers now (Power Whip Xurkitree, Shaymin Sky with HP Grass) and in future (Tsareena, more Frenzy Plant starters, Shadows)
  • How Grass types compare to Water and Electric types
  • All possible ways Kartana or others get a better move – and why they’re unrealistic
  • List of my previous analyses (in Appendix 2)

Grass: The Charts

Grass attackers ranked by their average in-raid performance from Pokebattler sims, aka Average Scaled Estimator (ASE). Without and with dodging respectively.
Grass attackers ranked by DPS^3*TDO and DPS respectively.

See Appendix 1 (at the end of this article) for technical details and how to read the charts.

Kartana – Biggest Shakeup within A Single Type?

Kartana GrassSteel We always knew Kartana has insane potential in raids, with its monstrous 323 base attack, higher than Mewtwo and only below Xurkitree, two Deoxys forms and several Megas. Even though Kartana’s bulk is below average, it’s still slightly bulkier than Rampardos, Gengar and Alakazam, all of which are still useful. Kartana being a Grass/Steel type also adds several useful resistances. The last piece needed was a good moveset, and thankfully, Kartana got that in Razor Leaf/Leaf Blade, the best Grass-type moves it can learn currently!

Putting all the pieces together, and Kartana achieves its fullest potential, as seen above. It’s currently the best Grass attacker, period.

No “non-mega” “non-shadow” shenanigans: Kartana outclasses Mega Venusaur and every single shadow in raw power! In terms of my Average Scaled Estimator (ASE) metric, it’s roughly a 10% improvement over Mega Venusaur, 12% over Shadow Tangrowth (best shadow) and Zarude, 26% over Tapu Bulu, and 29% over Roserade (best non-shadow non-mega non-legendary).

  • For reference, a shadow is typically 15-17% better than its non-shadow in ASE. (Shadows do 20% more damage, but the reduced defense hurts them a bit.)

Not only that, but…

  • Level 40 Kartana performs better than everything else at Level 50.
  • Level 35 Kartana is similar to Level 45 Mega Venusaur, as well as Level 50 Shadow Tangrowth, Zarude and Xurkitree (with Power Whip). It’s better than everything else at Level 50.
  • Level 30 Kartana is similar to most top-tier shadows at Level 45-50. It’s still better than every L50 non-shadow non-mega except Zarude and Xurkitree. If you don’t use XLs, L30 Kartana is better than almost everything else at Level 40.
  • Level 30 Kartana also has higher DPS than everything else at Level 50.

(These are without dodging. If you dodge, or in large lobbies where you don’t need to relobby, Kartana does even better.)

So yes, with just 66 candies and 75k stardust (even less if caught weather boosted), you can power up your Kartana to level 30, and it’s already a top tier Grass attacker! It does as well as those L45-50 shadows that other players spend months pouring XL candies and half a million stardust into. Even without the best IVs.

Honorable Mentions

A few interesting contenders that I didn’t get to mention in earlier articles. Xurkitree Electric

Yes, Xurkitree with Power Whip can work as a top-tier Grass attacker in theory, functioning similarly as Shadow Ball Mewtwo. On average, it seems to be as good as Zarude and shadows. Its practical use is not as fancy as it looks, however – it struggles against Ground bosses, and against Water you’re better off using it as an Electric attacker (unless it’s sunny). Shaymin (Sky) GrassFlying

If you rolled Hidden Power Grass on your Shaymin, congrats! It can function as a top Grass attacker just below shadows and Zarude. However, that doesn’t sound so impressive now after Kartana, so you’re not missing out much if you didn’t hit the 1 in 17 jackpot.

  • As for other Hidden Powers, from the sims, it looks like Flying (STAB) and Electric (anti-water) are the best. However, they end up being much worse, falling to the level of Roserade and Tangrowth on average.
Tapu Bulu GrassFairy Tapu Bulu had 4 months of fame. At release, it was the best non-mega non-shadow Grass that we can obtain multiples of. It was still somewhat notable, especially to those who hate shadows or don’t have good shadows with CD moves. Sadly, today Tapu Bulu has been obliterated by Kartana – even L50 Bulu is ~5% worse than L30 Kartana.

Can Kartana Tear Through Attackers of Other Types?

“But why do I even need a Grass type in the first place?” I know, this is probably what a lot of you are thinking.

Grass attackers deal Super Effective damage to Rock, Ground and Water. This means they often have to compete against Water attackers (against Rock and Ground), and Electric attackers (against Water).

Traditionally, Grass types are a bit lacking in power compared to these two types – not by a lot, but enough for some players to abandon them in favor of 6 Electric or Water types.

I’ve always been a huge advocate for Grass types, for three reasons: Sunny weather boost, Solar Beam Groudon, and role compression against big names like Kyogre and Groudon raids. Yet most people’s reactions to them are lukewarm at best.

With Kartana, however, looks like I don’t need these arguments anymore…

Grass vs Electric (Anti-Water)

Grass and electric attackers against water-type bosses that are weak to both, ranked by Average Scaled Estimator (ASE).

This chart shows how the notable Grass and Electric types perform against bosses weak to both (mostly Water types). On average, Kartana is a better counter than all Electric types against Water-type raid bosses. It edges out even Shadow Raikou and Xurkitree, and has a significant advantage over Zekrom.

  • If you prefer DPS only, Kartana has higher DPS than every single Electric type as well, including Shadow Electivire.
  • “But what about Blizzard Kyogre?” Remember, Kartana is a Grass/Steel type, so it only takes neutral damage from Blizzard unlike most other Grass types. At level 27.5 and above, a 100% Kartana can already tank a Blizzard; a level 40.5 Kartana can take 3 additional Waterfalls. This means it survives Blizzard even better than Xurkitree! As such, Pokebattler shows Kartana is the best counter against Kyogre by a good margin, even when against Blizzard.

If you care to look below Kartana: Yes, all other Grass types are indeed below similarly ranked Electric types, in neutral weather.

  • Both non-Xurkitree Electric attackers and non-Kartana Grass attackers can be clearly divided into tiers: Megas & shadows, top legendaries (Tapu Bulu takes this spot for Grass as we only get one Zarude), and non-legendaries.
  • Grass attackers in each category is about one tier below Electric in the same category. That is, top shadow Grass are worse than top shadow Electric and similar to Electric legendaries (Zekrom, Thundurus-T), etc.
  • Sunny weather is a wild card, though. With the 20% weather boost, Grass attackers generally move up by 2 tiers. Now Tapu Bulu is similar to shadow Electric, and Roserade is just above Zekrom.

It should be noted that strictly speaking, Kartana’s dominance against Electric types is not exactly future-proof. If Xurkitree gets Wild Charge or Thunderbolt one day, it can outperform Kartana again. Same goes for Zekrom and Thundurus-T with signature moves and/or shadows, though these two have a harder time outclassing Kartana than Xurkitree can.

Grass vs Water (Anti-Rock/Ground)

Grass and water attackers against rock and/or ground-type bosses that are weak to both, ranked by Average Scaled Estimator (ASE).

This chart is likely a bit less reliable and more boss-dependent, simply because there aren’t that many applicable raid bosses. Here, ASE is only computed against Groudon, Regirock, Terrakion, two Arceus forms, and a bunch of T3 raid bosses.

But I think the conclusion still holds: The only Water attacker better than Kartana is Mega Blastoise, and even that is just so slightly. Kartana outperforms Shadow Swampert, and puts Kyogre in absolute shambles (L30 Kartana > L40 Kyogre).

  • This is even more true in DPS. In fact, the only things that will for sure out-DPS Kartana are… Ash Greninja and Shadow Kingler. Even Shadow Kyogre and Primal Kyogre (with Surf) can’t do it.
  • This time, stay away from Fire Blast Groudon. Kartana is double weak to fire.

Even if there are more options (against Rock types that are weak to Steel, or Ground types that are weak to Ice), Kartana is still only behind Shadow Metagross – it generally outperforms regular Metagross and Shadow Mamoswine.

Below Kartana, it’s the exact same situation as the previous section: All other Grass types are below similarly ranked waters in neutral weather.

  • The same tiers still apply for Water and non-Kartana Grass attackers: Megas & shadows, top legendaries (Kyogre & Tapu Bulu), and non-legendaries.
  • Grass attackers in each category is about one tier below Water in the same category. That is, top shadow Grass are worse than Shadow Swampert/Feraligatr and similar to Kyogre, etc.
  • With the 20% weather boost, Grass attackers again move up by 2 tiers, if not more. Now shadow Grass rise above Mega Blastoise, Tapu Bulu sits just below Shadow Swampert, and all non-legendaries outperform Kyogre.

There might be more future Water attackers that outclass Kartana again, but it’s a matter of when.

  • The most realistic chances come from Mega Swampert, Shadow Kyogre and Primal Kyogre – they all have a tiny bit less DPS but much better bulk. They’re all limited copies, though.
  • Origin Pulse Kyogre might make things interesting again, if Origin Pulse is OP. But after Sacred Fire and Luster Purge, I don’t know what to think…
  • Otherwise, we need things like Shadow Greninja and Shadow Primarina with their CD moves. Ash Greninja works too, if we ever get it.

Future Considerations (Grass types only)

But can future Grass types themselves dethrone Kartana? I’ll show you…

Future grass attackers ranked by their average in-raid performance from Pokebattler sims, aka Average Scaled Estimator (ASE). Without and with dodging respectively.
Future grass attackers ranked by DPS^3*TDO and DPS respectively.

Note: Shadow Rillaboom only appears in the DPS/TDO charts but not ASE charts, because it’s not on Pokebattler yet.

With existing moves, only Mega Sceptile and Shadow Rillaboom (with Frenzy Plant) can outclass Kartana.

  • I don’t think this should affect anyone’s decision on powering up a Kartana now. Mega Sceptile is very strong, but limited to one per battle party. We don’t even have the Gen 8 starters yet, much less a Community Day, much less shadows…

I’ll still mention other future grass types, even though they live in the shadows of Kartana.

Roserade (Shadow) GrassPoison

Shadow Roserade is the highlight here, and it looks poised to become the best non-Kartana non-Mega-Sceptile grass attacker. Its performance seems similar to Mega Venusaur (current best below Kartana) in small lobbies without dodging, and even better in large lobbies and/or with dodging. Of course, it edges out all other shadows, just like regular Roserade does to other non-legendaries today.

Sceptile (Shadow) Grass

Shadow Sceptile honestly looks like a disappointment. Regular Sceptile’s bulk is already low, and the shadow is even glassier. Combine that with Bullet Seed (too much reliance on firing off charged moves, unlike Roserade and Kartana), and you get the results shown on the charts – very similar to Shadow Venusaur, regardless of dodging. That’s a very different outcome from their regular forms, but alas.

Tsareena Grass

PokeMiners discovered Tsareena‘s moveset in Game Master in June, so maybe it will come soon…? Surprisingly, it got the best possible moves, Magical Leaf/Grass Knot. This immediately allows it to hang out with other top-tier non-legendaries like Roserade and Tangrowth. Not much in a post-Kartana world, but still very useful and (hopefully) cheap.

As for Frenzy Plant starters, Gen 8’s Rillaboom will be OP. Even without Frenzy Plant, it already outclasses all non-Kartana non-shadow non-megas, including Tapu Bulu, Roserade, Tangrowth and Tsareena. And when it inevitably gets Frenzy Plant, non-shadow Rillaboom will be as good as other shadow Frenzy Plant users. The question is when.

The more realistic Gen 6/7 starters are unfortunately “just another CD starter”. But notably, Chesnaught will become the best FP user before Rillaboom: it gets close to Roserade and Tsareena (though with lower DPS), thanks to good bulk and access to Vine Whip. Even though Decidueye has higher base attack, its worse fast move Razor Leaf makes it closer to a Venusaur clone in performance.

Speaking of fast moves…

Speculation Zone: Magical Leaf Users

Potential future grass attackers with speculative moves, ranked by their average in-raid performance from Pokebattler sims, aka Average Scaled Estimator (ASE). Without and with dodging respectively.

Pokemon and moves with “†” are speculative. While these Pokemon can potentially learn them in PoGo, and some might even be likely to learn them in the future, there are no indications that they ever will.

TL;DR: Nothing can threaten Kartana even with improved moves.

Magical Leaf was added to PoGo in February ahead of Johto Tour, and it’s the best grass-type fast move in PvE. Yet, the only Pokemon that learns it is Celebi, and Tsareena is also assigned this move in the Game Master. It has a fairly wide distribution in the main series games, so what if more Pokemon get it?

As it turns out, any grass type appreciates the Magical Leaf upgrade, regardless of what fast moves they currently run. Vine Whippers (Venusaur, Tangrowth, Zarude) only see a small improvement, so I excluded them from the chart. More significant impacts come from Razor Leaf, Bullet Seed and even Hidden Power users:

Shaymin (Sky) GrassFlying

Shaymin Sky would be the biggest winner, as its only “grass-type” fast move is Hidden Power. If given Magical Leaf, not only does it not rely on RNG to function as a grass attacker at all, but it becomes a really good one at that! It immediately eclipses Mega Venusaur, becoming the best grass below Mega Sceptile and Kartana. This is what should have been done before Go Fest… But of course, now it has to face the impossible task of competing against Kartana (still a significant gap).

Abomasnow (Mega) GrassIce

Mega Abomasnow is currently a joke of a grass mega (even though it excels in ice). But its best possible moveset is Magical Leaf/Grass Knot, and if it somehow gets both moves, it will become very usable too! ML/GK Mega Abomasnow sits in the gap between shadows and non-Kartana non-shadows. Still way below other megas, but now with enough power to be a legitimate option.

Sceptile Grass

Sceptile appreciates Magical Leaf in all its forms (Bullet Seed generates energy quickly but has lackluster damage). With Magical Leaf, regular Sceptile can narrowly beat Tapu Bulu; Shadow Sceptile finally realizes its true potential, becoming the clear-cut best shadow and above Mega Venusaur; Mega Sceptile gets even more OP.

Decidueye GrassGhost

Frenzy Plant Decidueye with Magical Leaf can potentially become the best pre-Rillaboom Frenzy Plant starter, now threading the needle between Tapu Bulu and Roserade (assuming nothing else gets Magical Leaf).

  • While Decidueye can’t legally learn Magical Leaf in Gen 8 MSGs, Rowlet and Dartrix can already do so in Legends Arceus. The moment they’re transferred to a future MSG, it will become legal for regular Decidueye too.
  • I forgot Hisuian Decidueye when making the chart. It has slightly better stats for PvE than its Alolan form, but not significantly so. While getting Magical Leaf should be slam dunk move, the real challenge is in having Frenzy Plant become a legal move, aka having Hisuian Decidueye enter any future MSGs.
Roserade GrassPoison

Roserade can also get a small upgrade with the better fast move. Not significant, but enough to flip some rankings, particularly regular Roserade vs Tapu Bulu, and Shadow Roserade vs Mega Venusaur.

I won’t be surprised to see Magical Leaf getting a wider distribution soon via a GBL update, similar to Psychic Fangs and Rollout.

Possible New Moves? (For Kartana itself and others)

I know some people will still be concerned about future-proofness of Kartana (Shadow Rillaboom notwithstanding), so here we are, in the wild speculation category just in case.

Feel free to skip this section.

Can Kartana get better grass moves?

As of now, nope. Razor Leaf and Leaf Blade are the only moves Kartana can learn that have already been implemented in PoGo.

There are three other possible grass moves that can be implemented: Solar Blade, Giga Drain, and Synthesis (status move).

  • Solar Blade used to be a signature move for Lurantis, so it might have a higher than average chance of being added. The question is how good it will be.
  • Giga Drain has an HP draining effect in the MSG similar to Drain Punch, and they usually don’t translate to good moves in PoGo PvE, though you never know.
  • Even if any of them becomes a raid-exclusive move for Kartana, it will likely be many, many years later. There are way too many legendaries in Gen 3-6 without exclusive moves yet.

Can other grass types get an OP move and beat Kartana?

The only remotely close example I can find is Shaymin Sky. Its signature move Seed Flare is available in PoGo, but currently terrible. If it were to be buffed, and if Shaymin gets Magical Leaf, then anything better than a Blast Burn clone can make it surpass Kartana in DPS3*TDO, and an Aura Sphere clone is better in just DPS.

All other Gen 1-8 Pokemon can’t beat Kartana without shadows, unless there’s a new charged move that’s a couple times more OP than Aura Sphere. Tapu Bulu has the 4th highest base attack among grass types behind Mega Sceptile, Kartana and Shaymin Sky; yet, with a grass-type Aura Sphere clone, it still falls behind Kartana.

The most likely new grass-type move to be implemented is Tsareena with its signature move, Trop Kick – which would be a perfect future Community Day move. However, there’s practically no way for it to even catch up with Frenzy Plant Rillaboom, much less Kartana. Alternatively, Tangrowth may be a good Community Day candidate, but it’s again virtually impossible to catch up with Kartana.

Can Kartana get any other non-grass moves as a raid-exclusive move?

Surprisingly, yes! Although their utility may be questionable.

Kartana can learn Sacred Sword in the main series, and it’s a broken move in Go. Problem is, Kartana isn’t a fighting type and has no fighting fast moves. Against ice types, Razor Leaf/Sacred Sword Kartana is on par with Hariyama, and against steel types it’s way, way behind.

As for a steel-type STAB move, there are only two candidates, neither of which are in PoGo: Smart Strike, and Iron Defense (status). Smart Strike may be an option, but even if it’s a Meteor Mash clone, Kartana with Razor Leaf is still behind Meteor Mash Metagross and closer to Dialga as a steel attacker.

I don’t think any of these scenarios are worth waiting for, ultimately.

Final Verdict

Kartana is exactly the respectable grass type we’ve been waiting for. It outclasses all existing grass attackers by a huge margin, and tops counter lists even when attackers of other types (electric and water) are available.

Kartana is also very future-proof in any realistic time frame. Aside from Mega Sceptile, anything else with potential to outclass it are either extremely far away (Frenzy Plant Shadow Rillaboom), or require OP moves (Shaymin Sky with a Seed Flare buff to Blast Burn levels, Kartana itself with a brand new move).

If you still want or need better raid counters, this is probably one of the best options to spend raid passes and rare candies on, at least in the near future. Unless you’re waiting for its shiny release.

It’s also a good strategy to level up multiple Kartanas equally (e.g. several at levels 30-35), for those who can afford it. The difference from other grass counters is huge enough that “three L30 Kartanas” is likely better than “one L30 Kartana + two L45-50 something else”.


Appendix 1: Guide on how to read the charts & Technical details

Don’t know how to read the charts?

If you’re totally lost, just look at the first two plots, or just the first one if you don’t dodge in raids. These two plots are based on my Average Scaled Estimator (ASE) metric, which approximates in-raid performance using Pokebattler. (The DPS3*TDO and DPS plots are for experienced players who want to check these metrics.)

In all four plots, the higher, the better. Example: Kartana is generally better than Mega Venusaur, which is better than Tapu Bulu, if they’re all at the same Pokémon level. But everything listed is perfectly usable and will let you pull your weight in raids.

You can also compare different attackers at different levels: points on the same horizontal line mean they’re equally as good. Example: A Level 30 Kartana performs similarly to Level 40 Mega Venusaur and Level 45 Shadow Venusaur.

Reminder: All plots show average performance against many raid bosses. Against a specific raid boss, the rankings can be different.

Technical details:

  • The first two plots are based on my in-house Average Scaled Estimator (ASE) metric, which estimates in-raid performance by automatically computing the average Pokebattler estimators against a variety of T5, Mega and T3 raid bosses, scaled so that the best attacker at L40 gets 1.0. The smaller, the better. For more details, refer to my Venusaur analysis in January and the comments.
  • “ASE Dodge” uses simulations with the “Dodge Specials” + “Realistic Dodging” options on Pokebattler. You can compare it to ASE without dodging to see how much dodging helps an attacker.
    • For example, Shadow Venusaur’s ASE at Level 40 drops from 1.168 without dodging to 1.149 with dodging, so dodging generally helps Shadow Venusaur’s performance.
    • However, Zarude’s L40 ASE rises from 1.138 to 1.174 with dodging, so dodging may hurt Zarude more than it helps.

Appendix 2: Past analyses on other types

Bug: Bug Out

Dragon: Shadow Salamence (no charts yet)

Electric: Bug Out

Fighting: September update (most recent); Galarian birds, Ultra Beasts & Sneasler

Fire: CD starters (no future attackers yet)

Flying: Staraptor CD

Grass: (This article)

Psychic: September update/Psychic Spectacular

Water: CD starters (no future attackers yet)

Missing types: Dark/Ghost (there’s a chart in the Bug Out article), Fairy (planned), Ground, Ice, Poison (planned), Rock (soon with CD Gigalith), Steel (soon with Mega Aggron)

Brief Note on Community Day Gigalith

I may not have time to finish the Community Day Gigalith analysis before the event starts in New Zealand. I’ll still try to make it happen, but I’m already falling behind on work this week from writing this and other matters.

Here’s a summary of what I have so far. I got the sim results ready, just need to make the charts (which itself can take a long time).

  • Gigalith with Meteor Beam is better than Smack Down Tyranitar but worse than Terrakion. As a result, it’s also worse than the top-tier Shadow Tyranitar, Rampardos and Rock Wrecker Rhyperior.
  • Level 50 Gigalith ≈ Level 45 Terrakion ≈ Level 40 Rock Wrecker Rhyperior < Level 40 Rampardos.
  • The difference between Gigalith and Tyranitar is slightly less than 5 levels: e.g. L35 Gigalith is a bit worse than L40 SD Ttar, but L40 Gigalith is better than L40 SD Ttar.
  • The real potential with Meteor Beam (as good as Frenzy Plant) is if it’s given to other rock types. Aerodactyl (Mega), Rhyperior and Diancie (Mega) are the biggest potential winners. Shadow Kabutops, Shadow Omastar, Stonjourner and Tyrantrum may also become relevant with it, ranging from Rampardos level to Terrakion level in this order (the first two also need Rollout).
    • Don’t want to mention Archeops yet because I feel its moveset was intentionally nerfed.

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