A Farewell To Classic? Implications of GBL Master League being Open-only.

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Howdy, folks. Today we have something very different from the standard JRE article. Because we’re just now coming off our first of six total weeks of Open Ultra League this GBL season, and entering our first of four weeks of Open Master League.

And for the first time since XL Candy was introduced on November 30th, 2020, Master League will be running as Open only… since Season 6, it has always been available alongside Master League Classic (or sometimes at the end of the season alongside Open UL and GL). Also for the first time since Season 6, Ultra League is Open-only with no Remix and/or Premier and/or Classic being offered.

To repeat and reiterate: this is the first time since we have been able to push Pokémon past Level 40 that we have NOT had the opportunity to play in a Level 40-capped Master League (during meaningful, ranked GBL play) and had only Open Master League available.

I’m hardly the first to point this out… many others have pondered this already, including an extensive breakdown on the real world costs of taking Legendaries up to Level 50.

I won’t insult those authors by stealing or repeating their findings and discussions, except to agree that to get all the XL Candy you need to push any given Legendary Pokémon to Level 50, you’re looking at 70ish raids…and likely more, especially if you are unable to keep a corresponding Mega Pokémon and its candy bonus going for all those raids.

And yes, you WILL need to raid if you actually want a fully maxed Legendary anytime soon. Because as far as I can tell (correct me if I’m wrong), these are the only methods through which we can get the XL Candy to level up any particular Legendary:

  • Raid
    • 3 XL Candy Per Catch
    • Possible Rare XL Candy as rewards
  • Trade (1 XL Candy per trade during Season Of Go)
  • Transfer (Possible 1 XL Candy per transfer)
  • Walk (Possible 1 XL Candy per 20km walked)
  • Convert 100 regular candy for 1 XL Candy

So while there are non-raid methods to acquire Legendary XL Candy, it’s a very slow trickle at best, and most methods are not even guaranteed.

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

In order of rank according to PvPoke:

Pokémon Open ML Rank Total Days Available Dates Available
Giratina 1 (Altered), 4 (Origin) 11 18 July ’21, 12-22 Oct ’21
Lugia 2, 6 (Shadow) 16 18 July ’21, 1-14 Sept ’21, 26 Feb ’22 + Giovanni
Zekrom 3 17 18 July ’21, 1-16 Dec ’21
Groudon 5 18 19-26 Jan ’21, 18 July ’21, 4 June ’22, 7-16 June ’22
Yveltal 7 15 18 May – 1 June ’21, 18 July ’21
Mewtwo 8 (Shadow), 15 16 20 Feb – 1 Mar ’21, 16-23 July ’21 (returning 16 June ’22
Dialga 9 15 18 July ’21, 23 July – 6 Aug ’21
Reshiram 10 17 18 July ’21, 1-16 Dec ’21
Palkia 13 15 18 July ’21, 6-20 Aug ’21
Zarude 16 1 One-Time Encounter
Landorus 20 (Therian), 24 (Incarnate) 20 1-6 Mar ’21, 27 Apr – 4 May ’21, 18 July ’21, 26 Apr – 3 May ’22
Ho-Oh 22, 23 (Shadow) 7 1-5 Jan ’21, 18 July ’21, 26 Feb ’22 + Giovanni
Zacian 25 7 20-26 Aug ’21
Kyogre 34 15 19-26 Jan ’21, 18 July ’21, 1-7 June ’22
Meloetta 35 (Aria) 1 One-Time Encounter
Zapdos 38, 44 (Shadow) 10 20 Feb – 1 Mar ’21, 18 July ’21 + Giovanni x2

Additional NON-Legendary Pokémon that are quite rare in the wild (and therefore also difficult to grind XL Candy for) include Dragonite at Rank 11, Snorlax at Rank 14 (Shadow), Metagross at Rank 28, Kommo-O at Rank 32, and Mew at Rank 50 (Special Research Encounter only).

Some of the above Legendaries have been available for multiple weeks, but only one (Lando) has been available for as much as 20 days. The average of the Top 10 is fifteen and a half days… just over two weeks TOTAL for each over the last 18 and a half months. The average of everything on that list (excluding Zarude and Meloetta, which I’ll get to separately in a second) is even less: just 14.2 days.

(And of course, also bear in mind that until June 1st of this year, trainers below Level 40 were unable to even begin acquiring XL Candy, so most things on that list? They’re just now starting from scratch in their XL grind. You want Lugia or Giratina or Zacian? Ooooof, sorry, better luck next time.)

Anyway, remember that as others have helpfully already calculated, we’re talking 70+ raids to have a realistic shot at all the XL Candy we need to max out a Legendary. (And that’s not even counting the dust and regular candy!) Assuming an average of two weeks per Legendary that we’ve had to grind for XL Candy, that means you would have to cram 70 raids into that two week period, and that means you’d have to average 5 raids for that one Legendary a day, every day for two weeks solid, to maybe hopefully get enough XL Candy to Level 50 that ONE Legendary.

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress… back to numbers to close this out. Because there IS one more way to get Legendary encounters outside of raiding: feeding the cyclical machine of PvP itself. Hit Level 20, and then win enough games in a set and you get a Pokémon encounter, and it might be the current Legendary! No raid group needed, no particular time of day needed, just free encounters you can get to all on your own. Only problem is that, seemingly just like last season (where rates were calculated to be somewhere between 8% and 11%, at best), Legendary encounter rates this season look to be… uh, how do I put this nicely…? suppressed. It’s pretty clear that getting Legendaries in GBL has become harder and harder as time has marched on… another way to get us to “get out and GO” to raids? Nah, surely nothing that insidious.

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

So yeah, here’s the gist:

  • Raid raid raid! That’s the only reliable way to get enough candy to max Legendaries. You need roughly 70ish, and that means roughly 5 a day, each day, for the two weeks we see most of these Legendaries over a year and a half period of time. Good luck!
  • Can’t raid? #getrekd lolz. Better do a lot of trading and a whole lotta walking. Maybe you can get yourself a dozen extra Candy XL that way every couple weeks. Or actually find a Legendary in GBL… once a week or so.

Okay, my inner cynic is coming out in force now, so probably time to wrap this up. But here’s the whole point I wanted to make with all of this:

Not having Classic as an option STINKS.

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

And one final FINAL point to mention: what if Classic comes back in future seasons? I mean, the whole point of this is that I hope Niantic does just that! The grind for Open Master League is simply untenable for I dary say the majority of players, even those that really WANT to keep up. Yes, Level 40 Legendaries are expensive, but it’s easier to get a pile of regular candy (and rare candy) to make that a reality. XLs are a whole different ballgame… that’s exactly the point. But… if I get my wish and Classic does return in future seasons, and I’ve begun building my Pokémon up above Level 40 to try and keep up with Open Master League… what do I then have left for Classic? As soon as you invest XL Candy into your favorite Legendaries, they’re disqualified from Classic. Now you’d need TWO teams, TWO big grindfests, TWO hundos of each Pokémon you want to use in both Open and Classic. And potentially this same problem in TWO leagues too, with Ultra League also rapidly becoming dominated by high XL Pokemon.

Do YOU want to build a Level 40 AND Level 50 specimen of your favorite PvP Pokémon? And potentially have to build new ones every couple months to accomodate meta and move shifts? I know MY answer to that. Do you, trainer?

Thanks for reading. I know this isn’t my typical heavy analysis style, but this is a topic that’s been on my heart since seeing the complete lack of Classic formats this GBL season, and with Master League now upon us… I had to get it all out. I hope this helps you feel a little less alone if you’re struggling to adapt, and perhaps gave you a chuckle or two along the way. And I sincerely hope, as I know they do with many of my PvP analysis articles, that Niantic themselves see this, and take it to heart. We want Classic back, Niantic. Badly. Some players will adjust, but even most of them are not doing so willingly. This will break the backs of many players. Yes, it’s good that you have parallel formats running alongside Master League throughout this season, so we have options, but many of us WANT to play Master League. We MISS Master League. We just cannot do it the way you want us to. We just CAN’T.

Please bring Classic back in future seasons. And even better, please communicate with us and tell us you DO plan to do so and allow us to prep for it… and not sadly push our favorite Level 40 Legendaries out of Classic range before it’s too late. Please once again #HearUsNiantic.

Okay, back to more regular analysis type writing next time. Until then, dear readers, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon.

Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and good luck in whatever format you forge into this week. (Don’t forget that I did push out a full overview of Fossil Cup for those not ready/willing to venture into Open Master League!) Good luck!

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