PvE/Raid Analysis – Johto Tour: Apex Shadow Lugia & Ho-Oh, Magical Leaf Celebi

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Hello, world! I’m Teban54. Most of you probably haven’t seen me before, but I have been publishing articles on r/TheSilphRoad subreddit on PvE, or in other words, analysis of raid counters that you can use to achieve the best performance in raids. I’m proud to announce that I’m officially a writer for Pokemon GO Hub now, and I look forward to sharing more of my analyses with all of you!

TL;DR

Ultimate TL;DR: Great if you have them, nor worth stressing out if you don’t, not worth buying a ticket for the Pokemon and moves alone.

  • DO NOT PURIFY unless you know what you’re doing! Apex Shadow with + moves is better than Apex Purified with ++ moves. The ++ move is not enough to offset the loss of shadow boost.
  • Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (SF+) is now tied with Shadow Moltres as the top non-mega Fire attacker, edging out Reshiram (though it has lower DPS and becomes relatively worse if you dodge).
    • This is assuming 15/15/15. But even a 10/10/10 Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (the worst you’ll get) is still better than Reshiram without dodging.
  • Apex Shadow Lugia (A+) is generally the 3rd best non-mega Flying attacker, behind Shadow Moltres and Shadow Ho-Oh. But it does a lot worse in situations where flying types shine the most against – the 4 bosses that are double weak to flying (Virizion, Mega Heracross, two Ultra Beasts).
  • Magical Leaf Celebi is now a solid Grass attacker, being similar to Tangrowth and several other non-legendary grasses, though still behind shadows, Zarude and Roserade.
    • IF Shaymin Sky Forme gets Magical Leaf, on the other hand… It can even edge out Mega Venusaur.

Edit: Fixed a typo about Apex Purified Ho-Oh vs Chandelure/Darmanitan.

Introduction & Event Details

Pokemon Go Tour: Johto is taking place this Saturday, on February 26, 2022. (Here is a guide for the event if you haven’t read it!)

Not only is Ho-Oh finally getting its signature move Sacred Fire in raids (Aeroblast Lugia will also be available), but anyone who buys the event ticket can have access to the event-exclusive Special Research, which rewards a Celebi with exclusive move Magical Leaf.

Additionally, they will also get the Masterwork Research, which will give Apex Shadow Lugia and Ho-Oh with stronger versions of Aeroblast and Sacred Fire.

Before we dive into details, I’ll first clarify the different forms and how they can be obtained:

  • Regular Lugia with Aeroblast, Regular Ho-Oh with Sacred Fire (no +): Available in Tier 5 raids during Johto Tour, for both ticket holders and non-ticket holders.
    • You can also use an Elite Charged TM to get the moves.
  • Shadow Lugia with Aeroblast, Shadow Ho-Oh with Sacred Fire (no +): Not related to Johto Tour. Both Pokemon were given as encounter rewards for beating Giovanni, and Shadow Lugia is still available right now if you have a Special Rocket Radar.
    • You will need an Elite Charged TM to get the moves, after removing Frustration during an event.
  • Apex Shadow Lugia with Aeroblast+, Apex Shadow Ho-Oh with Sacred Fire+: Rewards from the Masterwork Research, exclusive to ticket holders. They come with the + moves, no ETMs needed, no need to remove Frustration.
    • The Masterwork Research is unlocked after first completing the event Special Research, and is intended for the long term. It might take a while before you complete them.
    • You get both Lugia and Ho-Oh regardless of the version you choose.
    • There’s no information on whether they will be available to non-ticket holders at all on a later date.
    • Seems like you can’t ETM the + moves on your old Shadow Lugia and Ho-Oh.
  • Apex Purified Lugia with Aeroblast++, Apex Purified Ho-Oh with Sacred Fire++: Obtained by purifying your Apex Shadow Lugia and Ho-Oh, exclusive to ticket holders. They come with the ++ moves, not Return.
    • Seems like you can’t ETM the ++ moves on your old Lugia and Ho-Oh of any form.
  • Magical Leaf Celebi: Reward from the Johto Tour Special Research (intended to be completed during the event), exclusive to ticket holders.
    • You can also use an Elite Fast TM to get Magical Leaf on your old Celebi.
    • If you have an old Celebi special research and have not started the encounter yet, based on precedents, opening the encounter during Johto Tour will give you Magical Leaf too. But this has not been confirmed.

It should be noted that the +/++ moves are a pure PvE mechanic – they have the exact same stats and effects in PvP, but stronger stats in PvE. For PvP, the best strategy is probably to grind raids for a Lugia or Ho-Oh with no + moves but the best IVs possible.

(Here are our PvP analyses on Sacred Fire Ho-Oh, Aeroblast Lugia and Magical Leaf Celebi.)

Moves in a Vacuum

[If you don’t care about theory crafting and just want to know how good Lugia and Ho-Oh are, skip to the next section.]

While PvE moves typically should not be discussed without association to its users, since we’re getting +/++ moves for the first time, there are a few interesting points to take note when we compare their stats.

Name Power # Bars Time DPS*DPE Registeel DPS
Aeroblast 180 1 3.40s 95.29 9.62
Aeroblast (Shadow) 216 1 3.40s 137.22
Aeroblast+ 200 1 3.40s 117.64 10.49
Aeroblast+ (Shadow) 240 1 3.40s 169.41
Aeroblast++ 225 1 3.40s 148.91 11.42
Sacred Fire 120 1 2.60s 55.38 7.91
Sacred Fire (Shadow) 144 1 2.60s 79.75
Sacred Fire+ 135 1 2.60s 70.09 8.45
Sacred Fire+ (Shadow) 162 1 2.60s 100.94
Sacred Fire++ 155 1 2.60s 92.41 9.68
(Brave Bird) 130 1 2.00s 84.50 8.96
(Overheat) 160 1 4.00s 64.00 8.33
(Psystrike) 90 2 2.70s 70.43 8.69
(Earthquake) 140 1 3.60s 54.45 7.77

Technical details:

  • DPS*DPE is an estimate of how good a move is. It’s great for comparing of moves with the same number of bars, but generally overestimates 1-bar moves.
  • “Registeel DPS” shows the results of a “Registeel benchmark test” – calculating the DPS of a Registeel using Lock-On and the charged move. This is to compare the performance of different moves, especially those with different number of bars. Registeel is chosen primarily because of Lock-On, whose only purpose is to generate energy.

So what do we get from this?

  • The + moves as shadows are still stronger than ++ moves when purified. Even when considering shadows have 20% less defense, they’re still better due to the difference in power of both fast and charged moves. If Niantic wanted to encourage purification by creating the ++ moves, that certainly didn’t work well, as the ++ moves are not OP enough.
  • Aeroblast++ is now the strongest move in the game, period. It vastly outclasses the previous record owner, Flying Press. This should not be surprising, since the vanilla Aeroblast was already one of the strongest moves. It also makes sense, because Lugia is the only user of Aeroblast and it has low base attack stats.
  • On the other hand… Vanilla Sacred Fire is very mediocre at best, and extremely disappointing as a signature move. It’s literally just slightly better than Earthquake, and we all know how bad that is.
    • It’s also worse than many regular moves like Thunderbolt and Surf, as well as Overheat of the same type, and miles behind other signature moves like Psystrike, Meteor Mash, Rock Wrecker and the starter CD moves.
  • Sacred Fire+/++ salvage that to some extent, but ironically even Sacred Fire+ is still worse than Brave Bird, a regular move, albeit a great one. (Keep that in mind… We’ll come back to it later.) Sacred Fire++ is more like what you would expect from a signature move, being better than Psystrike.

FWIW, I also looked at Magical Leaf’s raw stats. It’s a great move and typically the best grass-type fast move now, narrowly eclipsing Vine Whip and being holistically better than Razor Leaf and Bullet Seed. Most RL or BS users like Roserade will want Magical Leaf if given the chance, though the improvement would be minor.


Apex Shadow / Purified Ho-Oh

Now let’s look at how these new moves actually perform in battle. Starting with Ho-Oh:

Ho-Oh (Apex Shadow)
Attacker ASE Rank ASE Dodge Rank DPS DPS3*TDO
Mega Charizard Y* 1.000 1 1.000 1
Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (SF+) 1.144 2 1.189 (↓) 6 16.43 4291.48
Shadow Moltres 1.146 3 1.135 2 18.04 4561.78
Shadow Entei 1.161 4 1.149 3 17.24 4326.2
Mega Charizard X* 1.171 5 1.162 4
Reshiram 1.184 6 1.186 5 17.05 4163.47
Shadow Ho-Oh (SF)* 1.206 7 1.253 (↓) 9 15.68 3559.27
Mega Houndoom 1.223 8 1.213 8
Shadow Charizard* 1.251 9 1.204 (↑) 7 17.11 3203.57
Shadow Typhlosion* 1.261 10 1.267 10 16.53 2790.35
Apex Purified Ho-Oh (SF++) 1.264 11 1.320 (↓) 15 14.93 2919.14
Shadow Arcanine 1.277 12 1.270 12 15.38 2223.02
Shadow Magmortar 1.289 13 1.280 14 15.41 2046.94
Chandelure 1.293 14 1.269 (↑) 11 15.50 1913.04
Darmanitan 1.295 15 1.272 (↑) 13 14.50 1396.95
Moltres 1.330 16 1.330 16 14.92 2133.49
Entei 1.354 17 1.355 20 14.80 2352.27
Heatran 1.356 18 1.378 (↓) 21 14.00 1944.14
Shadow Houndoom 1.392 19 1.331 (↑) 17 15.07 1587.51
Blaziken* 1.395 20 1.350 (↑) 19 14.28 1315.45
Shadow Mewtwo 1.403 21 1.418 (↓) 24 17.01 3745.15
Shadow Salamence 1.407 22 1.341 (↑) 18 15.26 2268.68
Emboar 1.409 23 1.404 22 14.26 1494.24
Victini 1.419 24 1.471 (↓) 27 15.19 2850.12
Ho-Oh (SF) 1.424 25 1.485 (↓) 28 13.18 1777.50
Charizard* 1.431 26 1.422 25 14.66 1727.41
Flareon 1.446 27 1.408 (↑) 23 13.87 1264.12
Typhlosion* 1.474 28 1.491 (↓) 29 13.86 1378.88
Infernape* 1.493 29 1.450 (↑) 26 13.64 1123.94
Arcanine 1.508 30 1.503 30 13.38 1273.47
* denotes Pokemon that require legacy moves to achieve performance above (not including the Ho-Oh forms you can get from Johto Tour).

Technical details:

  • This table is primarily 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 gets 1.0. The closer to 1.0, the better. For more details, refer to my Venusaur analysis on Reddit and the comments.
  • “ASE Dodge” uses simulations with the “Dodge Specials” + “Realistic Dodging” options on Pokebattler. Due to technical limitations, ASE with dodging and ASE without dodging are scaled separately, so they can’t be used to see how much improvement dodging makes for a single Pokemon.
  • (↑) and (↓) indicate Pokemon that are relatively better or worse with dodging, either in terms of absolute ASE changes or relative rankings.
  • This table uses all Level 40 attackers.
  • The DPS and DPS3*TDO data excludes megas, as the Go Hub database applies the 30% mega boost to the mega evolutions themselves and thus make them unrealistically OP.

Somewhat surprisingly, Apex Shadow Ho-Oh with SF+ is now tied with Shadow Moltres as the best non-mega Fire attacker, based on simulation results. They both show a small but consistent difference ahead of Reshiram, and this is true against pretty much every raid boss I can find (even Shock Genesect).

One drawback is that if you dodge (which more closely reflects DPS), Apex Shadow Ho-Oh no longer looks that impressive and falls back to “only” Reshiram levels, with Shadow Moltres and Shadow Entei rising on top. Therefore, Shadow Moltres is still a slightly better investment. But given their limited quantities, for those who don’t mind using shadows, Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is still definitely worth powering up and deserves a spot on most PvE fire teams if you can afford it.

  • I definitely did not expect this while just looking at the DPS/TDO charts, since SF+ S-Ho-Oh has virtually identical figures as Reshiram. A possible explanation is that fire/flying is a better typing for fire attackers than fire/dragon: both double resist grass, but fire/flying also double resists bug, and helps with the fighting or ground coverage moves that bosses often pack (e.g. Regice).

As a side note: Remember when I said Sacred Fire+ is worse than Brave Bird? Indeed, against grass and bug types, Apex Shadow Ho-Oh will often want to use Brave Bird instead of Sacred Fire+. For my analysis, I restricted charged moves to fire type for a fair comparison. But if you do build an Apex Shadow Ho-Oh, unlocking a second move for Brave Bird is a legitimate option, making it a top-tier Flying attacker only behind Shadow Moltres. It allows A-S-Ho-Oh to shine against things like Virizion and Mega Heracross (detailed in the Lugia sections below).

Regarding the other forms:

  • DO NOT PURIFY unless you know what you’re doing! Despite the ++ move being a bit stronger, losing the 20% shadow boost means Apex Purified Ho-Oh is dragged down closer to Chandelure and Darmanitan levels, where A-P-Ho-Oh is slightly better without dodging and slightly worse with dodging.
    • I can see purification being useful for two types of players: 1) those who can’t stand shadows while also preferring variety; 2) those who want a Ho-Oh for PvP Master League to serve double duty for PvE.
    • But if these don’t describe you, chances are Apex Purified Ho-Oh is not worth the rare candy investment, despite lower cost. Even powering up another Reshiram will serve you much better.
  • Regular Ho-Oh with vanilla Sacred Fire is just bad for a legendary, even though it’s obtainable in raids for everyone during Johto Tour. It’s a Charizard clone, being completely outclassed by fellow (non-shadow) legendaries like Moltres, Entei and Heatran, as well as non-legendaries like Chandelure, Darmanitan, and Blaziken and Emboar with CD moves. Even Victini is better.
  • I would not recommend spending an Elite TM on an old Shadow Ho-Oh for vanilla Sacred Fire, even if you can afford it. It’s still closely behind Reshiram and better than Purified ++, but now the stiff price of a Shadow legendary – with an unavoidable ETM – really doesn’t do it any favor. If you do want to pull the trigger, though, it will serve you well unless you have 6 Reshiram already.

Comparison across different Pokemon levels

This section aims to answer questions like “Does a level <X> Apex Shadow Ho-Oh outclass a level <Y> Reshiram”. I won’t give a full table here, but some results:

  • L50 Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is slightly worse than L35 Mega Charizard Y.
  • L45 Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is similar to L50 Reshiram and L30 Mega Charizard Y.
  • L40 Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is similar to L45 Reshiram and L50 Shadow Charizard.
  • L35 Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is similar to L50 Darmanitan and Chandelure, and slightly worse than L40 Reshiram and L45 Shadow Charizard.
  • L30 Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is similar to L35 Reshiram and L40 Shadow Charizard, and slightly trails behind L45 Chandelure/Darmanitan and L50 Blaziken/Entei. It’s also virtually identical to L40 Apex Purified Ho-Oh.

Shadow Moltres and Shadow Entei are excluded from this list, as they’re similar to Apex Shadow Ho-Oh at the same level. Note that Shadow Moltres benefits more from the L30-L40-L50 power-ups than Apex Shadow Ho-Oh: L30 S-Moltres is quite a bit behind A-S-Ho-Oh, while L50 S-Moltres edges out L50 A-S-Ho-Oh by a bit.

Apex Shadow Ho-Oh: IV Considerations

One issue with the chart above is that it assumes 15/15/15 attackers, which is hard to get on shadow legendaries, Apex Ho-Oh included.

The good news is since Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is a research reward, it will likely come with a 10/10/10 IV floor. I simulated its performance with a few different IVs (at L40):

Attacker IV ASE
Mega Charizard Y* 15/15/15 1.000
Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (SF+) 15/15/15 1.144
Shadow Moltres 15/15/15 1.146
Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (SF+) 15/10/15 1.147
Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (SF+) 15/10/10 1.150
Shadow Entei 15/15/15 1.161
Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (SF+) 10/15/15 1.166
Mega Charizard X* 15/15/15 1.171
Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (SF+) 10/10/10 1.172
Reshiram 15/15/15 1.184
Shadow Ho-Oh (SF)* 15/15/15 1.206
Mega Houndoom 15/15/15 1.223
Shadow Charizard* 15/15/15 1.251
Shadow Typhlosion* 15/15/15 1.261
Apex Purified Ho-Oh (SF++) 15/15/15 1.264

This table supports the common belief that “Attack IV matters the most”. A 15/15/15 and 15/10/10 have very minimal difference when used against a spectrum of raid bosses, while 15/15/15 vs 10/15/15 is more significant. I wouldn’t take this too literally and invest in a 15/0/0 of anything, but it’s a good rule of thumb when deciding between similar IVs.

Regardless, even a 10/10/10 Apex Shadow Ho-Oh (the worst you can get) is still better than a 100% Reshiram on average, though their difference is smaller.

While it appears that IVs matter in comparison to Shadow Moltres, this is also assuming S-Moltres also has 15/15/15 IVs, which is again impossible to guarantee. On the other hand, with dodging, the gap between Shadow Moltres and Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is large enough that I assume a bad IV Shadow Moltres is still better. If you want to make a choice, IVs would be more of a personal preference, and I myself would lean towards Moltres regardless of IVs.

Apex Shadow Ho-Oh: Utility

It seems that people often think Fire types are not very useful in raids, at least in the past. But that’s actually not true IMO, especially when thinking about the future.

I did a detailed breakdown of fire types’ utility in my Reshiram analysis on Reddit, which concluded that Reshiram likely has great future value. Here are some key points:

  • Fire types are usable against 11/89 potential T5 raids: 4/40 released raids (Regice, Registeel, Cobalion, Genesect), 4/25 Gen 7-8 legendaries (Solgaleo, Necrozma Dusk Mane, Glastrier, Calyrex Ice Rider), 2/11 mythicals in case they’re in raids (Shaymin, Magearna), 2/11 Ultra Beasts (Celesteela, Kartana).
  • Fire types are usable against 10/50 mega raids total, including 6/32unreleasedmegas (Scizor, Mawile, Aggron, Glalie, Metagross, Lucario).
  • There are plenty of high-quality options here, too. From a PvE-only standpoint, there’s Mega Metagross, Mega Lucario, and Kartana (likely best future Grass type). Add in PvP and you have a lot of strong options for several leagues, such as Solgaleo/Necrozma Dusk Mane, Calyrex Ice Rider, Magearna, and of course Registeel.
  • A lot of them can’t be countered by the “fire replacements” that people typically think of, especially Fighting. Bosses like Mega Metagross and Solgaleo aren’t weak to fighting, while Kartana is double weak to fire. This makes fire types even more necessary for these raids.

A valid question is whether Apex Shadow Ho-Oh will still have relevance by the time we get these raids. It looks like A-S-Ho-Oh’s main threats are other future shadows, such as Shadow Chandelure, Shadow Darmanitan and ultimately Shadow Reshiram. (S-Blaziken doesn’t make the cut.) Shadow Entei with Sacred Fire+ may also be a threat, but that’s a bit too speculative at this point.

Ultimately, I would say those shadows will likely take too long to be released, especially for bosses that might be released soon-ish like Solgaleo and a few megas. So TL;DR: while Apex Shadow Ho-Oh will eventually be outclassed, that will probably take a while, and you will still get somegreatuse out of it as a current top-tier Fire attacker. But it’s not a groundbreaking upgrade from existing options such as Shadow Moltres and Reshiram, so not getting the ticket won’t put you at a huge disadvantage.


Apex Shadow / Purified Lugia

Alright, time to move on to Niantic’s favorite legendary.

Lugia (Apex Shadow)

While Lugia with Aeroblast had been available for almost 1.5 years now, and even Shadow Lugia with Aeroblast has been obtainable with an ETM, now they’re both completely outclassed by the Apex Shadow and Apex Purified versions for PvE.

Traditionally, nobody thinks of Lugia as PvE-viable, for two good reasons: low base attack stats (worse than Abra and Raichu), and having no flying flying fast move. But now, Aeroblast/+/++ and the Shadow boost aim to challenge the former, while the lack of a fast move can be addressed by running Extrasensory – Lugia’s preferred fast move in PvE almost 100% of the time, which also deals Super Effective damage to fighting types and can sometimes help with grass/poisons.

(Note that as of Gen 8, Gust and Air Slash are both eligible moves for Lugia in the MSG, so they can possibly be added to PoGo later. Surprised they haven’t done it already.)

Attacker ASE Rank ASE Dodge Rank DPS DPS3*TDO
Shadow Moltres (WA or FS)* 1.004 1 1.000 1 18.37 4903.9
Shadow Moltres (WA only)* 1.014 2 1.011 2 18.37 4903.9
Mega Pidgeot* 1.094 3 1.092 3
Shadow Ho-Oh (HP Flying) 1.098 4 1.110 5
Shadow Ho-Oh (non-HP) 1.127 5 1.155 (↓) 7 16.61 4480.86
Apex Shadow Lugia (A+) 1.159 6 1.175 (↓) 8 16.31 5711.02
Shadow Honchkrow 1.162 7 1.107 (↑) 4 19.7 4209.87
Shadow Zapdos* 1.174 8 1.182 9 17.42 4045.69
Moltres (WA or FS)* 1.178 9 1.184 10 14.81 2075.11
Moltres (WA only)* 1.195 10 1.201 11 14.81 2075.11
Shadow Staraptor 1.211 11 1.143 (↑) 6 18.27 3637.89
Shadow Lugia (A)* 1.247 12 1.265 12 14.6 3668.51
Apex Purified Lugia (A++) 1.249 13 1.279 (↓) 14 14.09 3183.12
Rayquaza* 1.265 14 1.269 13 14.66 1929.91
Yveltal 1.295 15 1.329 (↓) 18 12.81 1391.14
Ho-Oh (HP Flying) 1.299 16 1.318 16
Ho-Oh (non-HP) 1.333 17 1.367 (↓) 20 14.98 2964.9
Honchkrow 1.346 18 1.300 (↑) 15 15.36 1554.98
Braviary 1.376 19 1.365 19 14.79 1899.85
Staraptor 1.378 20 1.326 (↑) 17 15.21 1749.4
Zapdos* 1.384 21 1.403 (↓) 24 13.96 1671.51
Shadow Dragonite 1.387 22 1.396 22 17.61 4548.41
Tornadus 1.390 23 1.378 (↑) 21 11.73 680.87
Tornadus (Therian) 1.421 24 1.438 25 12.25 923.98
Unfezant 1.430 25 1.401 (↑) 23 13.49 1079.9
Lugia (A) 1.461 26 1.493 (↓) 26 12.16 1763.65

* denotes Pokemon that require legacy moves to achieve performance above (not including the Lugia forms you can get from Johto Tour).

Note: I’m not restricting the list to only Pokemon with flying fast and charged moves, since Lugia itself doesn’t have that. This gives Moltres power to choose between Fire Spin and Wing Attack (FS is better sometimes), and non-Hidden-Power-Flying Ho-Oh to choose between Incinerate and Extrasensory. For a fair comparison, I also listed Wing-Attack-only Moltres.

With Aeroblast+, Apex Shadow Lugia now only sits behind Shadow Moltres (with Sky Attack), Mega Pidgeot and Shadow Ho-Oh (with Brave Bird) in no-dodging scenarios, and tied with Shadow Honchkrow. On average, it’s also ahead of all non-shadow options such as regular Sky Attack Moltres. While this might not be unexpected for most shadows, it is still impressive for something with the base attack stat of Abra, and it’s also an extremely tanky option so for people who hate glass cannons.

But there are several caveats:

  • It sits merely at the midpoint between Shadow Ho-Oh and regular Sky Attack Moltres, thus doesn’t distinguish itself from non-shadow options enough, while also being too far from other shadow legendaries to make itself worth it (not to mention the way-superior Shadow Moltres).
  • The advantage over regular Moltres is very inconsistent and typing-dependent.
    • Against fighting types, Apex Shadow Lugia is significantly ahead and even approaches Shadow Ho-Oh levels (thanks to Extrasensory dealing SE damage).
    • But against grass and bug types, regular Moltres comes on top, partly due to Fire Spin and better typing.
    • Importantly, whenever the raid boss is double weak to Flying (e.g. Virizion, Mega Heracross), regular Moltres is also better than Apex Shadow Lugia.
  • If you dodge, the glassy Shadow Honchkrow rises to the top by a huge amount and Apex Shadow Lugia does the opposite, but A-S-Lugia still narrowly eclipses regular Moltres.

I’ll give some more general advice in the next section, but let’s first look at the other forms of Lugia:

  • DO NOT PURIFY unless you know what you’re doing! Despite the ++ moves, Apex Purified Lugia gets down to the level of most other non-shadow flying types.
    • It’s considerably behind Sky Attack Moltres, slightly ahead of Hurricane Rayquaza, and have a bit more advantage over Yveltal, Ho-Oh and Honchkrow.
    • That’s not a bad profile by any means, and would be a perfectly fine flying attacker for anyone who hates shadows. But it limits Lugia’s potential and makes it no longer worth the rare candy investment.
  • Regular Lugia with vanilla Aeroblast (from raids) is worse than Unfezant. Enough said.
  • An old Shadow Lugia with an ETM’ed Aeroblast is virtually identical to an Apex Purified Lugia, but much more expensive. Unless you have already built it, just forget about it.

Also a brief word on IVs. A 10/10/10 Apex Shadow Lugia becomes almost identical to a WA/SA regular Moltres. This might be disappointing, but it also means almost all Apex Shadow Lugia will be better than regular Moltres on average (except against Virizion, Mega Heracross etc).

Apex Shadow Lugia (and Flying types in general): Utility

Even if you’re a pretty dedicated PvE player, chances are you don’t have a team of flying attackers. The only T5 raid we’ve had where Flying really shines is… well, Virizion. And maybe Zamazenta.

But what about future bosses?

  • Flying types are usable against 9/89 potential T5 raids: 2/40 released raids (Virizion, Zamazenta), 2/25 Gen 7-8 legendaries (Zamazenta-Crown, Urshifu-Rapid), 3/11 mythicals in case they’re in raids (Shaymin, Keldeo, Marshadow), 2/11 Ultra Beasts (Buzzwole, Pheromosa).
  • Flying types are usable against 8/50 mega raids total, including 5/32unreleasedmegas (Mewtwo X, Heracross, Blaziken, Medicham, Gallade).

Surprisingly, 9/89 T5s and 8/50 megas is not that far from Fire’s 11/89 and 10/50! Further note that:

  • 4 of these potential bosses are double weak to Flying – Virizion, Mega Heracross, Buzzwole and Pheromosa. 3 of them are Bug/Fighting while 1 is Grass/Fighting. You can already imagine how popular Mega Heracross raids will be, if last year’s T3 Heracross raids taught us anything.
  • 3 of them are only weak to Flying, Ghost and Fairy – Mega Mewtwo X, Mega Medicham and Mega Gallade.
  • In terms of quality, these bosses are also no joke particularly in PvE, with a bunch of top-tier options – Mega Mewtwo X, Mega Blaziken, Keldeo (potentially best Fighting if given the right moves), Urshifu (already looks like it might outclass Lucario with the Game Master moveset).

Of course, the problem is that Flying types often have to compete with Mewtwo and Shadow Mewtwo. But for anyone who doesn’t have 6 Psystrike Mewtwo or wants variety, a few solid flying types can be worth some spots on their team. And ironically, Flying actually faces more competition from Ghost types, due to the three Psychic/Fighting megas that are only weak to Flying, Ghost and Fairy.

Here are some detailed inter-type comparisons:

  • Compared with Psychic (against Fighting bosses):
    • Shadow Moltres is the best counter that’s not named Mewtwo, even though there’s still a big gap.
    • Both Apex Shadow Lugia and Shadow Ho-Oh are also top-tier options. They perform similarly, and the only things sitting between them and Shadow Moltres are Hoopa-Unbound and ZH/Psychic Shadow Metagross. They are both above the lesser shadow psychics (Alakazam, Gardevoir etc) and well above non-Mewtwo regular psychics.
    • Note that this is a good case for Lugia since Extrasensory actually deals super effective damage.
  • Compared with Ghost (against Mega Mewtwo X, Medicham, Gallade):
    • Shadow Moltres is the best non-mega counter.
    • Shadow Ho-Oh seems to be the 2nd best in general, though with a significant gap from Shadow Moltres.
    • Apex Shadow Lugia is generally behind Chandelure, but ahead of other ghost types, including Giratina-O and Gengar.
  • Compared with Fire (against Grass and Bug bosses):
    • Shadow Moltres is the best non-mega counter, far ahead of most others.
    • Shadow Ho-Oh (with Incinerate/Brave Bird) follows as the 2nd best, still having a comfortable margin ahead of others (e.g. Shadow Entei).
    • Apex Shadow Lugia performs similarly to Chandelure, and lags behind Reshiram, regular Moltres (FS/SA) and a few Shadow fires.

In summary, it’s a completely viable strategy to ignore Flying types for PvE, and use your existing Mewtwo, Ghost and Fire teams. I totally understand. But while Flying attackers are not urgently needed, theywillhave enough future value, especially with 4 bosses double weak to Flying (including Mega Heracross) making them the unambiguous best choice.

In terms of choosing what to invest in, I would still prioritize Shadow Moltres and Shadow Ho-Oh, since there’s little chance Apex Shadow Lugia will outshine them. Don’t forget you can unlock Brave Bird on Apex Shadow Ho-Oh too.

As of now, Apex Shadow Lugia is #3 among non-mega Flying types unless you dodge, which means any “best attackers I can get” teams and “unique 6” teams will want to have it. But it’s in a dangerous place that can be easily outclassed in future – Rayquaza and Yveltal both have unreleased flying-type signature moves and unreleased shadows, not to mention possible CDs for Starly and Murkrow. It also doesn’t do well against bosses double weak to flying, which is when flying as an attacking type shines the most against.

TL;DR: Apex Shadow Lugia is great if you love Lugia, want the momentarily best PvE flying team, or also want to use it for PvP. But it’s not worth buying the ticket specifically for it.

Magical Leaf: Celebi, and… Shaymin?

Celebi

Almost all the PvE-related conversations in the past week have neglected Celebi and Magical Leaf. While that’s understandable – Celebi never really stood out in PvE historically – a more careful analysis reveals a different picture now that Celebi can run Magical Leaf/Leaf Storm:

Attacker ASE Rank ASE Dodge Rank DPS DPS3*TDO
Shaymin (Sky) [SPECULATIVE] 0.982 1 0.992 1 16.71 3350.61
Mega Venusaur* 1.006 2 1.005 2 20.58 9512.55
Shadow Tangrowth 1.021 3 1.026 3 16.32 3355.74
Zarude 1.027 4 1.048 (↓) 6 16.55 4240.59
Shadow Venusaur* 1.057 5 1.030 (↑) 4 16.44 3025.17
Shadow Torterra* 1.067 6 1.045 (↑) 5 15.88 2953.03
Shadow Exeggutor 1.120 7 1.084 (↑) 7 14.9 1846.44
Shadow Victreebel 1.157 8 1.121 (↑) 8 14.43 1316.38
Roserade 1.171 9 1.140 (↑) 9 13.65 1166.27
Shadow Shiftry 1.172 10 1.145 (↑) 10 15.06 1536.04
Tangrowth 1.199 11 1.218 (↓) 17 13.67 1651.84
Celebi 1.209 12 1.223 (↓) 18 12.23 1198.07
Sceptile* 1.220 13 1.180 (↑) 11 14.12 1351.61
Shadow Tangela 1.224 14 1.199 (↑) 13 13.67 1130.24
Venusaur* 1.229 15 1.213 15 13.92 1555.33
Torterra* 1.238 16 1.238 19 12.31 1065.55
Breloom* 1.245 17 1.203 (↑) 14 12.29 609.2
Shadow Vileplume 1.250 18 1.182 (↑) 12 13.62 1215.55
Leafeon 1.261 19 1.260 20 12.97 1166.71

* denotes Pokemon that require legacy moves to achieve performance above (not including Celebi which you can get from Johto Tour).

Note:

  • Here, the baseline ASE of 1.0 is for the best currently released attacker (typically Mega Venusaur). Shaymin-Sky having values less than 1.0 means it’s better than the current best on average.
  • Shadow Meganium with Frenzy Plant is supposed to be on the list and similar to Tangrowth. It’s missing because Pokebattler didn’t add Frenzy Plant as an eligible move.

In short: Celebi with Magical Leaf/Leaf Storm is now similar to Tangrowth, and legitimately usable in PvE now!

To be clear, Celebi still can’t reach the levels of Mega Venusaur, Shadow Tangrowth/Venusaur/Torterra, Zarude, or even Roserade. But now it’s very comparable to the large pool of Grass types just below Roserade, namely: Tangrowth, Sceptile, Venusaur and Tortetta (the last three require CD moves). All of them are solid grass options. Without dodging, Celebi sits roughly at the top of this pool together with Tangrowth thanks to its bulk; with dodging, its performance drops closer to the bottom, as glassier CD starters like Sceptile and Venusaur benefit more from it.

Note these are still intra-type comparisons, and Celebi’s current DPS still isn’t enough to threaten any water or electric types (that usually compete with grass). But if you don’t mind making it ineligible for Great League, your Magical Leaf Celebi can quite possibly be on a “unique 6” grass team now, especially if you don’t use shadows.

(Magical Leaf is the only exclusive move. Leaf Storm is now in Celebi’s regular TM movepool.)

Shaymin Sky comparison

Shaymin (Sky)

The more exciting news – or speculation – comes from Shaymin Sky Forme. But first, I have to clarify:

  • The current Game Master data doesn’t list Magical Leaf as part of Shaymin’s movepool yet. Its current moves are: Hidden Power, Zen Headbutt; Energy Ball, Grass Knot, Solar Beam. This is subject to change before release.
  • We have no confirmation of when Shaymin will be released, how we can obtain its Sky Forme, or whether it will get a grass-type fast move like Magical Leaf when released.
  • Why do people think it might get Magical Leaf? Because when Shaymin was added to Pokemon GO’s Game Master with the rest of Gen 4, its learnset in the Main Series Games at that time (Gen 7) didn’t include any move that would have been a grass-type fast move in PoGo, so it was given Hidden Power instead. But now, based on Gen 8’s learnset, Shaymin can potentially learn Magical Leaf and/or Bullet Seed.
  • It should be emphasized that its entire moveset could change before release, including charged moves. This means it’s also possible to lose Grass Knot, which is Shaymin’s best grass charged move.

With that said, IF Shaymin Sky Forme does get Magical Leaf and keep Grass Knot, it’s going places. That moveset will make it the best grass attacker on average, having just enough raw power to narrowly surpass all other options – even Shadows and Mega Venusaur.

That might not be as groundbreaking as you might expect, but it’s very impressive for a non-shadow non-mega. And it might even make grass truly competitive even when compared to other types: its DPS surpasses Kyogre and threatens Zekrom!

Note that Shaymin’s #1 status will likely not last forever, since Mega Sceptile, Shadow Roserade and Kartana are still yet to be released.

Conclusion – Should I buy the ticket for PvE?

Let’s first recap what we have:

  • Apex Shadow Ho-Oh is now the best non-mega fire attacker, being similar to Shadow Moltres and slightly edging out Reshiram.
  • Shadow Ho-Oh with Brave Bird (Apex or not) is also the 2nd best non-mega flying attacker, again behind Shadow Moltres.
  • Apex Shadow Lugia is the 3rd best non-mega flying type behind Shadow Ho-Oh, but its advantage over the next in line is inconsistent, and it does worse against the main targets for flying attackers: Bosses that are double weak to flying.
  • Magical Leaf Celebi is now a solid grass attacker, similar to lots of non-legendaries, but not the best.
  • Regular Lugia and Ho-Oh from raids are not worth using.

When we piece everything together, a general pattern emerges: All the Johto Tour ticket-exclusive contents are useful additions in PvE, which are similar to existing options – but not way ahead of them. If you have them, they’ll likely find a way into your raid squad if powered up, maybe even in the first few slots. But if you don’t, you can still make a top-tier raid team with non-ticket-exclusive Pokemon, such as Shadow Moltres and Reshiram (and Mewtwo for what flying types do).

Overall, I would lean towards a no – I don’t think anyone should be buying the tickets for these Pokemon themselves. But ultimately, it’s your own choice.

Some factors that may encourage you to pay for these Apex Pokemon:

  • If you are already getting the ticket for other purposes
  • If you like to use a variety of attackers, and don’t mind using shadows
  • If you’re interested in getting the absolute best PvE attackers or teams (Apex Shadow Ho-Oh will definitely be on the team)
  • If you love Lugia, Ho-Oh and/or Celebi, and want to see them becoming useful in PvE

Some factors that may push you away:

  • If you’re against locking stronger moves behind paywalls on principle
  • If you hate shadows, or can’t afford to power them up
  • If you are already happy with your current team and don’t want to invest further
  • If you see future value as more important (both will be outclassed in the future eventually)
  • If you already powered up good Shadow Moltres and don’t want to build a clone of it
  • If you don’t care about PvE (in which case, thanks for still reading till the end haha)

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