So we’ve had a lot of moveset shake ups in this game, some (actually most) big, and a few small. This particular shakeup is definitely on the smaller side, with just one new move and one other move being distributed to some new recipients. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the impact is necessarily small.
Before we dive in, a disclaimer: my analysis, as you all probably know by now, is strictly from a PvP usability standpoint. I’m not here to discuss the viability of these Pokémon in raids or gym battles. There are plenty of folks out there that can do THAT already! I’m just a PvP guy, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on here. So without further ado, let’s see what we’ve got….
TIME FOR SOME PAYBACK (again)
The first move is one that is not new, but has so far been available only as a short-time exclusive move: Payback. The only Pokémon that has it at all so far is Machamp, and I wrote about all that two months ago when Champ had its Community Day. But to summarize: as a Dark move with some good closing power, it’s a nice move on Machamp, offering handy anti-Psychic/anti-Ghost coverage, which is just what the doctor ordered for a Fighting type like that. It’s okay in Great League, and really nice (at least in spots) in Ultra League in particular.
Payback is actually the closest thing Dark has to a closing move. Let’s look at the stats real quick:
- Dark-type Charge Move
- Damage: 110
- Eenergy Req’d: 60
- Damage Per Energy (DPE): 1.83
For reference, here are Dark’s other current charge moves:
- Dark Pulse: 80 damage, 50 energy, 1.6 DPE
- Foul Play/Crunch: 70 damage, 45 energy, 1.56 DPE
- Night Slash: 50 damage, 35 energy, 1.43 DPE, 12.5% Chance Increase User Attack +2 Stages
And that’s it. With Foul Play and Crunch being literal clones of each other (I wait for the day Niantic catches on to that and tweaks one of them), that means that Dark has only three widespread charge moves right now, and none that hit for more than 80 damage… except for Payback. Like I said, it’s the closest thing to a closing move Dark has had yet. And it has a very fair cost to damage ratio, with higher DPE than any of the rest. Its stats are identical to Moonblast and Outrage, and better than other solid moves like Hurricane and Sludge Wave (which deal the same 110 damage for 65 energy rather than 60) and Thunder and Play Rough and Bug Buzz (which deal 100, 90, and 90 damage respectively for the same 60 energy).
So TL;DR of the above: Payback is the hardest hitting and most energy efficient move among all Dark charge moves. And to date, it’s only been available to one Pokémon as a Community Day move.
But that’s about to change. From here on out, the following Pokémon can now learn Payback naturally through evolution or regular old Charge TMs:
Unfortunately, that list is mostly a who’s who of bad PvP Pokémon that Payback cannot save… and in fact, they’re often worse with Payback.
- PERSIAN requires a Legacy move (Night Slash) and purified move Return to be even halfway decent… Payback is a downgrade. (And for ALOLAN PERSIAN, Payback is no better than existing moves.)
- LIEPARD wants to be a Charmer anyway, and Payback is just far too slow for that.
- ABSOL is already stuck with moves costing 50 (Dark Pulse), 55 (Megahorn), and 60 energy (Thunder) already… it really has no need for another 60 energy move. Absol wants coverage, not a second, more expensive Dark move.
- And as for the cactus boys, CACTURNE is best with a mix of moves (did you know it has Grass Knot and Dynamic Punch?)… Payback is okay, but really not any better. And CACNEA just doesn’t work in, say, Little Cup, with or without Payback.
Now in fairness, most of those are not really Payback’s fault. With the exception of the Persians, all of those Pokémon I just mentioned have atrocious (lack of) bulk… well under 100 Defense for Absol, Cacturne, and Cacnea, and all under even 90! That’s Haunter kind of levels of glassy. And as for the Persians, they’re better but still Attack-weighted in stats, and stuck with the lackluster Feint Attack as their only viable fast move, which drags them both down.
But there are two more entries on that list where Payback makes a good argument:
BRONZONG and pre-evolution BRONZOR, the scourge of Little Cup. And let’s start with little “Zoro”, since most are probably actually more familiar with it because of Little Cup. The biggest complaint (well, ONE of them, at least!) about Bronzor was not just how it dominated the meta, but how painfully slow the mirror match (Bronzor vs Bronzor) was.
And it’s a valid complaint. I mean, just look at this abomination of a sim: over 200 seconds! For comparison, even the ultimate snoozefest, Chansey vs Chansey, is nearly 50 seconds shorter! The only way to break the monotony in the original Little Cup was actually counterintuitively running Tackle as Bronzor’s fast move. Despite being resisted, it’s better than being DOUBLE resisted like Confusion is…
Tackle deals just 1 damage per use to Bronzor, but is a truly fast move: you can connect four Tackles in the same time it takes to fire off just one Confusion. Confusion, being double resisted, deals only 2 damage in that battle, so Tackle literally deals double that in that same amount of time and wins the mirror match while also shortening the battle time to “only” 136 and a half seconds. So… yeah, still extremely painful to endure and very unfun.
Unfortunately I cannot link to simulations on the Little Cup core meta anymore (limited to the stuff like Deino and Seel and Cottonee and Wooper and Stunky and such), because PvPoke understandably took it down a little while after Little Cup ended. But I DO still have a list of the core meta saved off in my own files, and running again, I am pleased to say that Bronzor has the exact same wins and losses you remember with Payback in place of old preferred second move Heavy Slam… with the one exception being that it can now win the mirror match.
The long and short of it: there is no reason NOT to TM your Bronzor to Payback when it becomes available, as it is just flat out better. And you KNOW Little Cup 2.0 is coming at some point, so be prepared!
But the more exciting change is Payback Bronzong. It has rung loudly in a few Silph Arena Cup formats in the past but has yet to really ring out in GBL or Niantic Cups in any meaningful way. I mean, it’s not a world beater in Great League or anything, but it performs well enough, handling most of the big name Charmers, Fighters, Ices, and Flyers (including Pelipper and Altaria), as well as fellow Psychics like Cresselia and Hypno. But it just doesn’t do quite enough to justify using most of the time.
So does Payback help? Oooooooh yeah. Those four new wins are:
- Melmetal (though admittedly, Zong can beat that with Bulldoze too),
- Defense Deoxys,
- and Hypno (Flash Cannon Zong, as simmed in the last paragraph, beats Shadow Hypno but can normally only force a tie with regular Hypno).
Even better… with only Payback (no baiting with Psyshock), Bronzong still beats everything on that list except Melmetal, Galvantula, and Pelipper. It can double Payback even things like Altaria, Hypno (even absorbing a Shadow Ball along the way!), Medicham, Cresselia, Skarmory, Deoxys… it reaches two Paybacks for the win versus all of them and more.
With bulk in the same ballpark as things like Medicham and Jellicent (and virtually identical to Alolan Marowak) and a typing combination that has eight resistances (Dragon, Fairy, Flying, Grass, Ice, Normal, Rock, and Steel) and double resists Poison and Psychic damage (balanced against vulnerabilities to Fire, Ground, Dark, and Ghost), Zong is a tanky boi. Not to the same extent as Bronzor in Little Cup, but definitely thicc… enough so that reaching two 60 energy moves for the sooner-or-later KO is not usually a problem.
That is far less true of the underpowered Bulldoze or overpriced Flash Cannon. And this remains true with shields down too; 0S Payback is notably better than Bulldoze or Flash Cannon again, beating things they can’t like Skarmory and regular and Shadow Hypno.
And yes, it’s a big improvement in Great League Remix too, even more so than Open GL, as Payback leads to FOUR new wins: Defense Deoxys, Hypno, Melmetal, and Regirock. And in The Silph Arena’s ongoing Prismatic Cup, new wins versus Hypno and opposing Bronzongs are very relevant gains.
There ARE some cases for the other two with shields down – Cannon uniquely squeaks by with wins over Meganium and Altaria, and Bulldoze matches wins Payback gets over Melmetal and Alolan Raichu–but in the overall picture, Payback seems like the best second move now for Bronzong in Great League, and may even take it from fringe to true competitor.
But there’s also play for Bronzong in Ultra League. The difference is clear when comparing existing Bronzong to Payback Bronzong… the wins and losses literally flip, with new wins over Ferrothorn, Armored Mewtwo, and yes, one of the Giratinas (Altered, at least with Dragon Breath).
It also has a much more effective win against Cresselia, left with nearly three times more HP than its much closer win with Flash Cannon. I think it’s fair to call Payback a clear upgrade here, with one caveat: Flash Cannon is obviously a tremendous weapon against Fairies, and Flash Cannon is slightly better than Payback with shields down, as it beats Togekiss and Granbull and Payback cannot.
In Ultra Premier Cup, the gap is smaller, but Payback is again best, beating Lapras and Skarmory XL while Flash Cannon cannot. It’s also slight advantage Payback with shields down, as it beats XL Skarm, as noted, plus Galvantula XL, while Flash Cannon loses both, its advantage being Togekiss, as mentioned before.
And that just leaves one final comparison: Bronzong in its own XL version. Up at this level, XL Payback is more or less a sidegrade, again getting a unique win over DB A-Giratina, but losing out on Melmetal which Bulldoze can defeat. (Flash Cannon whiffs on both.) Another win shows up in XL Payback’s favor in Premier Cup: Skarmory. This time, Zong XL with Flash Cannon can amazingly replicate that win too, but it’s really close (Payback allows Zong to emerge with nearly 40 HP, while with FC it barely escapes with only 10 HP), and Bulldoze has no shot. Advantage Payback, yet again.
So ALL of that detail to say this: in Great AND Ultra Leagues, Payback is at worst a sidegrade for Bronzong, and often a clear upgrade. It has obvious applications against opposing Psychics and gives Bronzong teeth against Ghosts and represents a great neutral damage move, allowing it to match and typically outperform Zong’s current coverage move Bulldoze. I would recommend nearly every Bronzong moving forward have Psyshock/Payback for its charge moves, and Bronzong becomes an intriguing play even in Open Leagues thanks to its bulk, typing, and those moves.
A STORM IS BREWING
Well they waited until the day it’s being released, but Niantic finally let slip the stats for the new Leaf Storm today, and it’s a whopper….
- Grass-type Charge Move
- Damage: 130
- Eenergy Req’d: 55
- Damage Per Energy (DPE): 2.36
- Effect: User Attack -2 Stages (100% Chance)
That makes it an exact clone (other than typing, of course) of Overheat. It also has the same cost and damage as Brave Bird, though that moves severely nerfs the user’s Defense rather than Attack. Yes, the penalty is severe, but there’s no denying the sheer, match-altering effects of one of those bad boys going through unshielded.
So what receives this brusing new move? Here’s the list:
All Grass types, and all ones that are fluttering about on the outer edges of viability in PvP today (and that’s being kind to a couple of them). I will start by saying up front: on paper, Leaf Storm is an immediate upgrade to all five of these Pokémon in PvP. BUT there are some caveats. As with the new recipients of Payback, not all of these will sudden rocket into PvP metas. And even for those who do, the drawback of the self-nerf means that their existing moves don’t drop completely off the map… each often has a less powerful but much safer alternative, which we’ll see as we go through.
So let’s start from the bottom of viability and work our way up.
SUNFLORA is a mediocre Grass type, either running with Bullet Seed and so-so charge moves (Sludge Bomb and Petal Blizzard), or as a Razor Leafer. It has a little bit more bulk than Victreebel, but without the charge moves Vic uses to apply real pressure. Leaf Storm is still too slow to even see play in meaningful situations with Razor Leaf, but Bullet Seed Sunflora stands to benefit. As you can see, though, still not nearly enough to make it anywhere close to a top Grass option.
While Mew and Jirachi and other Mythicals see play in PvP, poor CELEBI just hasn’t been able to find any traction. I took an in-depth look at Celebi back when its shiny was released, if you want some “light” reading on the topic. 😅 Leaf Storm gives it a very nice closing move option and slots nicely in place of Psychic (the move), which is rather superfluous with Confusion dealing plenty of Psychic (the type) damage already. So yes, Leaf Storm Celebi is better too, picking up nice wins like Hypno, Obstagoon, Mantine, and most encouragingly, Galarian Stunfisk. But it still dances around just at the edge of viability overall… in Great League, at least. Interestingly, it looks more competitive in Ultra League, with new wins over Empoleon, Lapras, and Snorlax. Not bad! Celebi may even have a place in Master League, if you’re looking to break the monotony. At least it’s worth discussing now, which is a better place than it was until now.
LEAVANNY is a Pokémon that has been craving a closing move. It’s a rare Grass/Bug type with very spammy moves (Leaf Blade and X-Scissor), but nothing with KO power. This is nice with Razor Leaf (though Vanny is still just so-so overall), but Bug Bite Leavanny is left wanting a little bit more. While trading in Leaf Storm in place of X-Scissor abandons a win over Sableye, it does bring in new wins against Lapras, Galarian Stunfisk, and often Mew as well. Is that enough to raise Leavanny’s stock in Great League to the point of being a legit option? Honestly, I’m not sure, but it looks like it’s at least worthy of considering now!
Still, all of this pales in comparison to the last two new Leaf Stormers. LUDICOLO has long been a fan favorite Pokémon that had actually popped up here and there in certain limited metas, but while it beats a few good names like Azumarill and G-Fisk and Altaria and Umbreon, overall it just doesn’t do enough in open play. Make note of that win total… because Leaf Storm has the potential to nearly double it. Not only is that 10 generic wins, but look at the names now on that win list: Medicham, Shadow Hypno, Lapras, Clefable, Pelipper, Melmetal, Obstagoon, Scrafty, Vigoroth, and even Alolan Marowak! (Even resisted and going up against A-Wak’s good bulk, Leaf Storm still deals over 50 damage.) Yes, even after all that, Ludicolo still has under a 50% win rate against the Great League core meta; it’s a Grass that can’t beat serveral notable Waters and loses to most Grasses, and a Water that loses to several notable Fires and Ices and Bastiodon and such. But now Ludi is looking much more likely to potentially make… well, a splash. 💦
But the Ludicolo dance party probably doesn’t extend beyond Great League. Even with Leaf Storm and at Level 50, Ludicolo struggles in Ultra League, operating as a funky Grass that doesn’t do anything particularly remarkable besides beating Dragonite (and that’s thanks to Ice Beam, not Leaf Storm). I mean, Ludi is unquestionably better than before, but probably still best sitting out on Ultra.
And now for the final candidate: ROSERADE. Rose just received a shot in the arm two months ago with its Community Day giving it Fire-type Weather Ball, the spam and coverage it desperately needed all in one. (And it was a big boon, as I wrote about in detail at the time in one of my better-received articles ever.) And while it has a perfectly fine Grass charge move to pair with it (Grass Knot), it lacks true closing power, relying on firing off multiple charge moves to get its wins. So with that in mind… why not go for full power with Leaf Storm?! Now it gains several wins reminicent of Ludicolo–Medicham, Toxicroak, Obstagoon, Scrafty, Vigoroth, Pelipper, and Mew among them–plus neat stuff like Dewgong, Munchlax, Wigglytuff, and Shiftry. Grass Knot is still safer, especially with a frail Pokémon like Roserade that appreciates cheap moves (and Grass Knot is cheaper) and really appreciates NOT nerfing itself.
As a couple examples, the win Roserade gets across Lapras is much closer with Leaf Storm (leaving Rose with single digit HP as opposed to the 20ish HP is had left when winning with Grass Knot), and only with Grass Knot does it outrace Haunter. But as I wrote about before, FWB/GK Rose is basically a slightly worse Cherrim in Great League. With Leaf Storm, it becomes something more. I think if you’re going to run Roserade (rather than Cherrim) at Great League level, Leaf Storm will be the way to go about it. It becomes even more boom or bust than before, but the boom is hard to ignore!
One way Rose already separates itself from Cherrim is by being able to compete up at Ultra League level. It works well enough with Grass Knot in open Ultra or in Premier Cup. But once again, the breakout potential with Leaf Storm is hard to ignore, perhaps especially so in Premier; new potential wins include Empoleon, Kingdra, Lapras, Gengar, Obstagoon, and Machamp. I say potential wins because I want emphasize one thing that’s important to understand: most of these wins (for all these new Leaf Stormers, but especially so with Roserade) require baiting a shield (with the super cheap Weather Ball, in Rose’s case) and then closing it out with an unblocked Leaf Storm. Obviously in actual gameplay, things are not always going to line up that nicely. And when it goes south, it can go WAY south… again, moreso with Roserade than with others. As I said Grass Knot is a bit safer, with a higher floor when baits fail. Just something to keep in mind.
So in summary:
- Payback is the best “closing move” Dark has, but many of its recipients don’t stand to benefit much. The biggest and clearest winners are Bronzong and Bronzor, both of whom will usually prefer Payback as their second move of choice (alongside Psyshock) moving forward, Zong for its anti-Psychic and anti-Ghost applications (and especially in Ultra League, high neutral damage output), and Zoro (Bronzor) if Little Cup ever returns to drastically reduce the slog of the mirror match.
- Leaf Storm improves the stock of anything it touches, but with its pretty significant drawback (dropping the user’s Attack by two stages), I think the only Pokémon it really thrusts into the competitive spotlight are Ludicolo (nearly doubling its win total in Great League) and Roserade, who gets a great closer to pair along with its Community Day moves of two months ago. I think Ludicolo definitely wants Leaf Storm, and there’s no denying the great potential it gives Roserade, but in Rose’s case there is now incredibly high bust potential if things don’t go according to plan.
Sorry for the lateness–this isn’t actually arriving until just AFTER the move shakeup has gone live–but with Niantic delaying Leaf Storm’s stats so long that I had to cram its analysis into an already busy day, it unfortunately couldn’t be helped. So just to reiterate: yes, I would use TMs to give Bronzong/zor Payback right away, and probably to give Leaf Storm to anything that can receieve it that you may actually use in PvP. They’re all better off for it. Good luck with your TM dice rolls!
As always, I hope this was helpful to you! For more PvP tidbits, you can find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon if you’re into that sort of thing. And please, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!
Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends. Thanks again for reading, and may the TMs be ever in your favor. Catch you next time!