A PvP Analysis on all FOUR Swords Of Justice

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The “Under The Lights” article series provides some deeper dives on Pokémon of particular interest in PvP. Today, that means a look at all FOUR members of the Swords Of Justice, those we have in Pokémon GO today (Cobalion, Virizion, and Terrakion) and one that we’re getting at least through research very shortly (Keldeo). I actually already wrote about the OG trio over a year ago, when they got Sacred Sword, and much of the early part of this analysis will simply be building on that. (Indeed, the early parts of this article will be almost a straight copy-paste job. Plagiarizing is okay as long as the target is yourself, right? 🙃)

But enough intro! Let’s put them all… under the lights.

First, our Bottom Line Up Front:

B.L.U.F.

  • Virizion is the best of the original three Swords Of Justice overall, having excellent utility in Ultra League and being more than viable in Master League as well. If you still have opportunity, grind that candy and XL candy while you can!
  • Cobalion fits in well enough in Ultra League, but up in Master League it has a less favorable typing and falls a bit behind the meta. Less priority for XLs here, but absolutely find a good UL candidate if possible.
  • Terrakion was arguably the best of the three before they all got Double Kick, as it filled a niche role with Smack Down and a synergistic Sacred Sword. But now it finds itself trailing the others as Double Kick raised the stocks of Cobalion and especially Virizion (who can also run with the buffed Quick Attack!) more significantly.
  • And finally, we have the honorary fourth Sword Of Justice: Keldeo. It’s alright in Ultra League, but in Master League… giddyup! Read on to see why it might be the best of them all at that level… if you can ever gather the resources necessary to actually build one up, that is.

All for one: A Swords of Justice Pokémon Comparison | Pokémon GO Hub

Alright, on to the analysis. Let’s start by looking at the stats of the Swords Of Justice and do some quick analysis on what differences there are between the three:

ULTRA LEAGUE STATS

Pokémon Attack (H.S.P.) Defense (H.S.P.) HP (H.S.P.)
Cobalion 146 (144) 179 (182) 163 (165)
Virizion 146 (144) 179 (182) 163 (165)
Terrakion 176 (174) 136 (138) 147 (148)
Keldeo 176 (177) 136 (135) 147 (146)

(Cobalion/Virizion Highest Stat Product IVs: 1-15-12, 2499 CP, Level 32.5)

(Terrakion Highest Stat Product IVs: 1-15-13, 2496 CP, Level 25)

(Keldeo Highest Stat Product IVs: 11-15-15, 2499 CP, Level 24)

MASTER LEAGUE STATS

Pokémon Attack (Lv50) Defense (Lv50) HP (Lv50)
Cobalion 165 (174) 193 (205) 177 (188)
Virizion 165 (174) 193 (205) 177 (188)
Terrakion 217 (231) 164 (174) 177 (188)
Keldeo 217 (231) 164 (174) 177 (188)

(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs; Cobalion/Virizion CP 3022 at Level 40; CP 3417 at Level 50)

(Assuming 15-15-15 IVs; Terrakion/Keldeo CP 3698 at Level 40; CP 4181 at Level 50)

  • VIRIZION and COBALION have identical stats. Both have, on average, about 145 Attack, 180 Defense, and 163-165 HP in Ultra League, and 164 Attack, 193 Defense, and 177 HP in Master League (at Level 40, which is what I’ll primarily focus on in this analysis since the XL grind is so daunting for most players… but also because Level 40s perform versus a Level 40 field about the same as Level 50s versus a field of other 50s. But back on topic….). AKA, both are very bulky, in the same ballpark as Snorlax and Altered Giratina (though not quite that much). They have good overall PvP stats… though that alone doesn’t necessarily translate to good performance.
  • TERRAKION (and Keldeo, as I’ll cover on its own later) is more Attack-heavy, with about 30 more Attack, but also 40+ less Defense and 15-17 less HP (on average) as compared to the other two OGs in Ultra League. In Master League, the HP evens out (they all have 177 when maxed at Level 40), but the Attack gap widens (50+ difference now, with Level 40 hundo Terrakion/Keldeo having 217) and the Defenses remain far apart (Terrakion/Keldeo have only 163, while the others have 193).

Typings

Next are the typings. All are half-Fighting, which comes with weaknesses to Fairy, Psychic, and Flying, and resistances to Dark, Rock, and Bug.

That’s what’s the same, but what’s different?

  • Cobalion has easily the best defensive typing, with Steel negating all three of Fighting’s vulnerabilities and instead leaving the resulting Steel/Fighting weak to the Fire, Ground, and Fighting damage that most all Steels have to be wary of. And Cobalion has a whopping nine resistances: Dark, Dragon, Grass, Ice, Normal, Steel, and 2x resistances to Bug, Poison, and Rock damage.
  • Virizion’s Grass/Fighting combo is a mixed bag. It has a bunch of resistances too — Dark, Electric, Grass, Ground, Rock, and Water — but exactly as many vulnerabilities: Fairy, Fire, Ice, Poison, Psychic, and 2x to Flying. Those are worrisome.
  • Terrakion is, on paper, perhaps even more worrisome. It has six resistances just like Virizion (Bug, Dark, Fire, Normal, Poison, and Rock), but one extra vulnerability for a total of seven (Fairy, Fighting, Grass, Ground, Psychic, Steel, and Water). At least none are double vulnerabilities? 🤷‍♂️

So by stats and typings alone, you would probably expect Cobalion to be best overall (best bulk and great defensive typing), then perhaps Virizion (also best bulk but so-so typing), and then Terrakion, right? Well let’s see how that shakes out….

First, though, a word on their rather unique moves. Sacred Sword is so far exclusive to only them, and it’s an exact clone (other than typing, of course) of great PvP moves Body Slam and pre-nerf Weather Ball: 35 energy for 60 damage. (The Weather Balls were nerfed down to 55 damage a while back, of course.) That’s actually really good, and strictly superior to acceptable PvP Fighting moves Brick Break (35 energy for 40 damage) and Cross Chop (35 energy for 50 damage). To reiterate: Sacred Sword is a GREAT PvP move!

Now the all-new since my last analysis a year ago: last season, the Swords Of Justice all finally got a viable fast move, Fighting-type Double Kick. It’s a one-of-a-kind move, with the same 4.0 Energy Per Turn (EPT) as great moves like Quick Attack, Vine Whip, fellow Fighting move Karate Chop, and just-buffed Wing Attack, all of which generate the same 4.0 EPT and 2.5 Damage Per Turn (DPT). Well Double Kick is slightly more awkward as a three-turn move (all those others are 2-turn, AKA 1 second of real time) moves, but Double Kick deals a slightly higher 2.66 DPT. That’s right… it is arguably ever better than the Quick Attack and Wing Attack everyone is raving about now. Double Kick has turned things like Dubwool into overnight sensations in PvP, and it’s already doing the same for the Swords Of Justice. I’m just slow to analyze it. 😅

Now let’s put that all together with some new sims!

 

COBALION

Cobalion SteelFighting

Cobb has the most resistances of the OG Swords, that’s true, but consider what it’s weak to. Fire and especially Ground and Fighting are omnipresent throughout all leagues… the vast majority of teams have one or often more than one. The other big problem is Cobb’s moves. It has Stone Edge and Close Combat as the others do, and while Iron Head is kinda lousy, between SS and the other options, the charge moves are overall fine… but the fast moves were always another story. Before Double Kick came along, all three of the Swords Of Justice were stuck with Zen Headbutt, an absolutely atrocious PvP move with below average damage (2.67 Damage Per Turn) AND energy generation (only 2.0 Energy Per Turn); 3.0 is considered “average” for both measures. Thankfully, they all had a second fast move option… but Cobalion’s only other option for the longest time was Metal Claw, which is better than Headbutt but still below average (3.0 EPT now, but only 2.5 DPT… blech). That really drug it down. Despite all that, Cobalion was actually NOT terrible in Ultra League if you ran it with double Fighting charge moves or even Stone Edge for coverage, but that was never a performance that was going to work on most successful teams.

On paper, the improvement looks small, but the improvement is there with Double Kick. Going with a full Fighting moveset (DK/CC/SS) adds on new wins versus Galarian Stunfisk and Scrafty, as well as winning the mirror match (even versus DK/SS Cobalion without Close Combat). However, it now loses to Fairies like Sylveon and Granbull. To help with that, replacing Close Combat with Iron Head brings those Fairies back into the win column, and while it also gives up Scrafty, it still manages to outrace G-Fisk and tacks on a new win versus on-the-rise Pidgeot with Wing Attack. Or heck, Stone Edge drops Shadow Bull (and somehow even Pidgeot!), but adds on Talonflame instead, a pretty surprising result that no fast move it’s had before could dream on. Regardless of which charge move combo you settle on (heck, even double closers works!), Double Kick makes them ALL work much better and more consistently, even if the final numbers don’t look drastically different.

The improvement over Metal Claw Cobalion is pretty obvious: Double Kick in undeniably better at this level, with more consistant wins versus Dialga (Thunder caused issues for Clawbalion, and Cobalion now beats Dialga consistently and with literally 4 times the HP it had when barely beating it pre-Kick) and new wins versus Snorlax, Excadrill, Dragon Tail Garchomp, and even Gyarados, and then either Sylveon and Togekiss with Iron Head (as summed above), or Palkia and Zekrom with Close Combat. It’s not quite to the same level as, say, Shadow Machamp, but it at least claws its way into the Fighting picture in Master. It’s held back by its lower overall bulk and the presense of many strong Ground and Fire types more than anything.

Now the new stuff….

VIRIZION

Virizion GrassFighting

Funny enough, Virizion is arguably slightly worse in Ultra League with Sacred Sword than it is with Close Combat, losing the mirror match but also coming out with noticeably less HP against things like Umbreon, Walrein, Machamp, Cobalion, Dubwool, Guzzlord and others. Of course, Close Combat leaves Viz hobbled in other ways (lowered Defense), so I think we can call that a wash and matter of preferred playstyle. Thankfully, Virizion does plenty of work with just Double Kick and Leaf Blade, so that helps. And there’s also Quick Attack to consider now that it’s been rather recently buffed as it’s able to overcome Venusaur and even CharmTales… though it does drop several notable Steels (Cobalion, Escavalier, Empoleon) and even Cofagrigus (slightly more chip damage from STAB Kick as opposed to non-STAB Quick Attack makes the difference) in the process. As with Cobalion, there are several options now, which is great!

We have our first true breakout alert with Double Kick Virizion in Master League. Yes, Quick Attack worked well too, but the major knock against it is that it couldn’t beat Dialga, which obviously resists Leaf Blade AND Quick Attack. Double Kick… well, kicks that issue to the curb and Dialga is now a solid win across all even shield scenarios, and sometimes even when Viz is a shield behind! Add to that beating everything else that Quick Attack could — obviously all the things weak to Fighting damage, but ALSO all the big name Waters and Grounds across the core meta — and the only real knock against it is not having an “out” versus Charmers like Cobalion does. Still, I think Verizon Virizion clearly has much better overall coverage (get it? Verizon… coverage? 📱😏) in Master.

TERRAKION

Terrakion RockFighting

Terra is a bit different from the other two OGs. It has a punishing fast move with Smack Down (only 2.67 EPT, but a great 4.0 DPT), which is how it has actually gotten the majority of its wins for most of its PvP existence (and how it still gets a couple unique wins like Jellicent and Pidgeot in Ultra League). But these days, it too is generally best with Double Kick and Kick’s own unique wins like Snorlax, Guzzlord, Obstagoon, Escavalier, Registeel, and somehow even Gyarados and Galarian Stunfisk, despite their obvious advantages with super effective damage of their own. But between a less favorable typing and lower bulk than the others, it just can’t really hold a candle to Cobalion or Virizion.

There’s more disappointment in store in Master League, unfortunately. Double Kick is not even a clear improvement over Smack Down, with Kick racing to victory over Metagross, Excadrill, Zarude, and Zekrom, but Smack Down holding its own by instead beating Ho-Oh, Gyarados, Yveltal, and Xerneas. But yet again, Virizion and even Cobalion make for a better showing overall.

The silver lining, perhaps, is that Terrakion IS by far the best in PvE. Not only is it the best non-Mega, non-Shadow Rock attacker behind only Rhyperior, but it’s also the third best available Fighting attacker, trailing only Shadow Machamp and the brand new Mega Blaziken. And among ALL current and projected Fighting types in GO, there are only two more Pokemon to come that will surpass it, and they’re both Megas (Heracross and Lucario). That makes Terrakion THE top non-Mega, non-Shadow Fighting type in PvE, which is reason enough to grind for one even if you don’t PvP much.

But, while much of the above is new analysis for me, Double Kick Swords Of Justice have already been around for a whole season, so none of this is truly new information. What IS new is the newest member of the Swords, the d’Artagnan to their Three Musketeers: Keldeo.

KELDEO

Keldeo WaterFighting

Pokémon GO Mythic Blade Event - Terrakion & Virizion Return and Keldeo Debut - Pro Game Guides

Keldeo has the same stats as Terrakion, which is to say that it’s more Attack-centric than bulk-centric. As a quick comparison, its Attack and overall bulk are roughly the same as Machamp, and slightly less Attack and slightly more bulk than Scizor. Fellow Water/Fighting type Poliwrath has nearly 25 less Attack, but that allows for it to also have over 20 more Defense and 30 more HP than Keldeo at Ultra League level.

And yes, as a Water/Fighting type, Keldeo comes with a lot of baggage. Water and Fighting are two of those rare typings that have NO interaction with each other, meaning no typings they resist or are vulnerable to that are shared. So Keldeo comes with all the good (resistances to Fire, Ice, Steel, and Water from its Water side, and to Bug, Dark, and Rock on its Fighting side) AND the bad (weak to Grass and Electric from its Water side, and to Fairy, Flying, and Psychic on its Fighting side) that come with each typing. With none of these “stacking” due to none being shared resistances or weaknesses, each of those is just a single level (so no awful double weaknesses, like Virizion to Flying damage, or double resistances, like Cobalion to Rock damage).

But I know what you’re thinking: “that’s all fine and good, JRE, but how does it actually perform?!” And my answer to that is: “meh, alright”.

Keldeo comes agonizingly close to fitting in Great League. We will presumably be getting it at research level (Level 15), and if you could trade it, getting one with GL-eligble IVs would be relatively easy… it fits under 1500 CP with something like 8-9-8 IVs, very realistic in a trade. Problem is that, as a Mythical, trading will almost certainly be off the table, and the 10-10-10 minimum we can get without trading puts it at 1520 CP. So close! It would be interesting enough to make some noise were that possible, but alas.

So instead, we’re left starting with Ultra League. Noting that these moves have been in place for multiple years in the Gamemaster (per PokeMiners), long before things like Sacred Sword or Double Kick ever existed in the game, its current moveset consists of fast moves Low Kick (completely useless Fighting move at only 2.0 DPT and 2.5 EPT) and Poison Jab (no STAB, but a fanatastic Poison move with 3.5 DPT and 3.5 EPT) and the following charge moves:

  • Aqua Jet (Water type, 45 damage, 45 energy… basically useless)
  • X-Scissor (Bug type, 45 damage, 35 energy… not much better but at least provides a little coverage)
  • Close Combat (Fighting type, 100 damage, 45 energy, drops Keldeo’s Defense 2 Stages… risky but very effective closer)
  • Hydro Pump (Water type, 130 damage, 75 energy… slow but effective closer)

Considering Keldeo naturally learns Aqua Tail and Bubble Beam in MSG, the choice of Aqua Jet is especially disappointing. (It can learn Scald and Surf via TM in MSG… but instead they choose Aqua Jet. Gee, thanks!) But is what it is, and leaves Keldeo as basically just a Fighter with a Water subtyping most of the time. Kind of the opposite of Poliwrath, actually, who is a Water first (especially these days with Scald) and Fighter second.

This is especially true of Keldeo that gets Sacred Sword during this event (and presumably other events in the future). Aqua Jet and and even X-Scissor become mere afterthoughts with Sacred Sword (60 Fighting damage for only 35 energy, remember) in the mix. Keldeo, with its current moves, looks best with Sword and that Close Combat closer in Ultra League, putting in a decent overall performance that improves in 2v2 shielding and especially with shields down. That said, the moveset is more awkward than you’d like it to be, as many of the things Fighting help against (Steels especially), Poison Jab does little against, and many of the areas where Poison Jab usually helps (versus Fairies and Grasses especially), you usually don’t want a Fighter and/or Water type thrown out there. With a full Fighting moveset and/or a better Water coverage move it would have a little more life, but as you can see, even then, it would be a little middling in Ultra.

So I am pleased to say that Keldeo’s particular set of skills translates FAR better to Master League. Even with Poison Jab being resisted, the Fighting charge moves effectively wipe away the format’s big Steels (including Dialga, yes) and Darks (Zarude doesn’t appreciate Fighting OR Poison damage) and any Ices that pop up (including Mamoswine). Meanwhile, Poison Jab does a lot of good work at this level, taking down Xerneas, Zacian (without Wild Charge, at least), and even Charming Sylveon! Very impressive.

But there’s a slightly less obvious advantage to Keldeo in Master League: stamping out other Waters. It resists their Water damage and hits back with consistently potent neutral damage, and thus can punch out Gyarados, Palkia, Swampert (despite it resisting Poison Jab), and Kyogre, outracing even dangerous Thunder. It’s not very often you can find something that represents a legit hard counter to Dialga AND Kyogre, but here we are. That’s a very nice and unique niche to occupy, especially considering all else it could do in addition.

So yes, even with current moves (and Sacred Sword), Keldeo could be quite impactful in Master League. That’s the good news. The problem, of course, is prepping one for Open Master League. Niantic made it very clear that this is the last GBL season we’ll see Classic (Level 40 cap) formats at all, and the only time we get to play Master League Classic this season, it’s also Premier, so Keldeo wouldn’t be able to be used anyway. That means that Keldeo will only ever be available in Level 50 Master League… and good luck getting the 268 regular and 296 XL Keldeo candy necessary to take Keldeo up to Level 50. Right now, it appears you get ONE and only one, so better hope for hundo IVs and the ability to walk 6000 miles (at least) to grind for the candy and XL candy needed in short order. Good luck! 😕 Yeah, I have a LOT to say about the elimination of Classic formats moving forward (more than I already wrote a long analysis about in the past based on, as Niantic put it, “Candy XL [continuing] to become more accessible thanks to Candy XL becoming available at level 31 (rather than level 40) and Rare Candy XL being a potential reward for completing in-person raids”. Yeah, how’s that working out so farSeems like not well. But like I said, that’ll be for another day. For now, let’s just say that Keldeo’s Master League viability will be only theoretical for 99.5% of us, and the other 0.5% proooooobably don’t exactly play by the rules Niantic wants us to. 🙃 cough

GETTING CRABBY?

How to evolve Crabrawler into Crabominable in Pokémon Scarlet & Violet - Pro Game Guides

Yeah, I guess that mini rant was a little crabby of me, but… oh, wait. You mean CRABRAWLER and CRABOMINABLE coming during Keldeo’s event? I was really looking forward to them, as I LOVE the design and all, but unfortunately, both Crabominable and even Crabrawler are both very underwhelming in PvP, at all levels. They COULD have come with Close Combat or Superpower or Body Slam or Rock Slide or Avalanche or Icy Wind or a wide array of moves that would all help… but honestly, with a rather unfavorable typing (six vulnerabilities and only three resistances) and sub-100 Defense, these two were reastically probably never bound for PvP superstardom. Fun for the collection, and of course get them while you can, because this year had an ugly habit of having things appear during their debut event and then never be seen again! But even at their very best with some of their best possible moves, they’ll likely always leave you wanting more.

And that’s it! I guess this still ended up being a bit long… sorry about that! 😅 Hopefully it was a good and informative read. Until next time (Toxicroak Cup Fighting Cup Remix analysis, more than likely), you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon. Or you can reach out in comments and replies here, of course!

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your attention and encouragement over the growing years. Catch you next time, Pokéfriends… stay safe out there!

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