A PvP Analysis on the January 2022 New Shadows

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Hello again, fellow travelers! It’s that PvP article guy again, back to take a look at the latest newly arrived Shadow Pokémon and what their impact may be on PvP. And after that I have two upcoming Cups to analyze as well, so let’s not waste any more time and just get right to it, shall we?

THE MEG 🍃

Meganium (Shadow) Grass

Mostly forgettable movie, but hard to forget Pokémon. MEGANIUM has sat and watched other Grasses get a Shadow release while awaiting its turn, and now that turn has finally arrived. Meg has been quite good in PvP for a long, long time, and has stayed relevant in very large part thanks to the unique coverage of Earthquake. As it does for the recently invigorated Walrein, Quake gives a Grass like Meganium reach against things that plague other Grasses, especially Steels and Fires… specifically things like Registeel and Alolan Marowak in Great League, and Melmetal, Registeel, Magnezone, and Ferrothorn in Ultra League. As I discussed in my recent PvP review of Venusaur, Venusaur is arguably the “best” and most consistent Frenzy Plant user, but Meganium is very close, especially in Ultra League where Meg and Venu are neck and neck. Meg has advantages not just against Steels and Fires, but also uses Quake to overcome Origin Giratina, Armored Mewtwo, and Gallade that Venusaur struggles with. (Venusaur’s standout wins are versus Fighters and Fairies, primarily, owing to its Poison subtyping and/or Sludge Bomb.)

Anyway, all that to set the stage for the potential of Shadow Meganium. I’ve got good news and not-so-good news. The good is that Shadow Meg looks like an overall upgrade to regular Meg in Great League. New wins include Dewgong, Bastiodon, Shadow Hypno, Scrafty, Obstagoon, Vigoroth, Wigglytuff, and Cofagrigus, but the slashed bulk means that Shadow Meg now loses some of its former standout wins, to include Alolan Marowak, Walrein, Umbreon, and Mew.

On the flipside, with shields down, it is Shadow Meg that gets wins over A-Wak and Umbreon, as well as Sableye, Cresselia, Sylveon, and Pelipper, while non-Shadow instead lasts long enough to take out Hypno, Medicham, Cofagrigus, and Drapion. More sidegreade than true upgrade in both 1v1 and 0v0 shielding, but Shadow Meg DOES again have a greater number of wins. Do note, however, that even that is not absolute, as in 2v2 shielding, non-Shadow Meg leaves Shadow Meg behind.

And that trend continues in Ultra League, where Shadow Meganium trails behind non-Shadow, uniquely overcoming Defense Deoxys and Bronzong, but losing to Origin Giratina, Armored Mewtwo, Ferrothorn, Registeel, Obstagoon, Shadow Machamp, and Sylveon in 1v1 shielding. The story is better with shields down, where Shadow and non-Shadow are on pretty equal ground, as well as Shadow vs non-Shadow in 2v2 shielding, but overall the gap in the important 1v1 shielding shows that Meg really misses having its bulk advantage in Ultra when run out there as a Shadow.

So what’s the verdict?

Shadow Meganium looks like mostly an upgrade in Great League, though not perfectly so. I think it’s worth trying to get a good one under 1500 CP while it’s available. However, in Ultra League it’s a sidegrade at best, and it’s probably more accurate to call it a slight downgrade overall. I’m not saying it’s NOT worth building, but in my mind, it’s a much lower priority, especially considering the exorbitant cost (most good UL Megs are in the mid-to-upper 40s, so you’re talking a LOT of dust and XL candy). Up to you if that’s worth it or not, my friend.

Bayleef (Shadow) Grass

Oh, and before we move on entirely, yes, Shadow BAYLEEF becomes a somewhat interesting Razor Leaf option… if XL Candy isn’t a concern, at least. I ran it there without any charge moves, as that tends to give the most “ideal” performance for Razor Leafers, but it comes with Grass Knot and Ancient Power for intriguing coverage and potential boosts, a la Togekiss. I don’t know that I’d do it, but it’s a legit tanky Leafer and one could argue that it’s a better Grotle now, at least.

Chikorita (Shadow) Grass

And yes, even Shadow CHIKORITA itself is worth consideration. It looks slightly better than normal Chikorita in Little League, and you KNOW Chika was all over the place last time we visited Little League.

“THE DARK FIRE SHALL (NOT?) AVAIL YOU… 🔥

“…Flame of Udûn. Go back to the Shadow!”

Typhlosion (Shadow) Fire

Sorrynotsorry, my closet Lord Of The Rings fan coming out there. 🧙 ANYway, while TYPHLOSION isn’t our first Shadow Incinerate Pokemon in the game (that distinction belongs to Ho-Oh), it is a heck of a lot easier (and potentially cheaper) to build. I didn’t mention it with Meganium, but keep in mind that with Johto Tour coming in late February, we can TM away Frustration from any Shadow Cyndaquil (or Chikorita or Totodile) during this current Shadow event and then evolve them during Johto Tour to ger their exclusive Community Day moves without needing to dip into Elite TMs! (Unlike Ho-Oh, for which we need to burn one to get it Earthquake.)

Anyway, Incinerate can be scary enough, but how about Shadow Incincerate? The raw power picks up some impressive names, like Defense Deoxys, Dewgong, Lapras, Noctowl, Mandibuzz, Umbreon, Galvantula, Greedent, and Talonflame. But there are some troubling signs as well, with wins against Obstagoon, Toxicroak, Drapion, Ice Beam Azumarill, Galarian Stunfisk, and even Venusaur. Yes, Shadow Typhlosion is undoubtedly scary with those big fat Incincerates, but Typh is already on the flimsier side, and being a Shadow just exacerbates that problem.

This shows up more glaringly when you take shields away. Shadow Typh can outrace Walrein and Hypno, but unlike non-Shadow, cannot live long enough to beat Drapion, Froslass, Jellicent, Lickitung, Mew, Sableye, Whicash, or Galarian Stunfisk.

And the lack of bulk is also an issue in Ultra League, where Shadow Typhlosion succumbs to Empoleon, Galvantula, Jellicent, Lapras, Shadow Nidoqueen, Poliwrath, and Sirfetch’d (yes, non-Shadow Typh can beat all of those!). And while Shadow does uniquely top Cofagrigus, Greedent, Armored Mewtwo, Poison Jab Alolan Muk, Shadow Snorlax, and Walrein, it’s still an overall step down.

So what’s the verdict?

I believe it’s worth building a Shadow Typhlosion for Great League… Shadow-boosted Incinerate is just lunacy. But Shadow Typh is left with a worryingly frail form, and that leaves it exposed with shields down and/or in Ultra League. TM as many good ones as you can, but I wouldn’t actually build beyond GL for now.

SWITCH OUT THE LIGHTS ⚡

Electrode (Shadow) Electric

So while ELECTRODE has yet to really break out in Open league play, chances are you’ve run across many of them in the past anyway, as it’s been a staple of each Kanto Cup iteration (the first Kanto Cup in late 2020 is where it really broke out for the first time) and last year’s Love Cup. It has the awesome Volt Switch, which is good enough that while Foul Play/Hyper Beam was almost laughable to think about at first, somehow it just works and is usually the preferred moveset for it now (forgoing both of its Electric charge moves and relying on Switch alone to deal Electric damage).

Now, I have good news and bad news on Shadow Trode. The good is that it looks like a very viable sidegrade as compared to non-Shadow in Open Great League. Shadow makes good use of boosted Foul Play to beat out Sableye, Froslass, Shadow Hypno, Cofagrigus, and Cresselia, and has JUST enough punch to take out even tanky Umbreon. On the downside, Shadow cannot hang in there long enough to overcome DDeoxys, Dewgong, Galvantula, Jellicent, Obstagoon, Registeel, or Talonflame like non-Shadow Trode can. But the truly BAD news is that Shadow Electrode looks like an overall downgrade in this year’s upcoming Love Cup, gaining a couple wins like Ariados and Kingler, but losing far more that non-Shadow can win, including Talonflame, Scolipede, Scizor, Sunny Castform, and Magmar and Magmortar. It does look like a perfectly acceptable sidegrade for any future Kanto Cups, though.

And while Electrode is, if I’m being honest, merely a spice pick in Ultra League, Shadow Electrode doesn’t do much to help there either.

So what’s the verdict?

I think we’ll just call Shadow Electrode an intriguing sidegrade in Great League, utilizing its buffed Attack to actually beat things you’d hope to eliminate with Foul Play (several prominent Psychics and Ghosts), though not without giving up an equal number of new losses. Worth trying to get one good one for Great League use.

HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPO 🦛

Hippowdon (Shadow) Ground

So even in a meta like Sinnoh Cup where it’s projected to do decently well, HIPPOWDON just doesn’t see play in Great League, and Shadow Hippo doesn’t do much to help. It is similarly fringe, at best in Ultra League, and Shadow is… less than helpful.

No, it’s really only in Master League that Hippowdon makes any kind of meaningful impact… and I am pleased to say that here, Shadow actually is an improvement, mostly by virtue of now beating down Zacian with any combination of its charge moves. It also adds on Zekrom, Ho-Oh (thanks, Rock-type Weather Ball!), and Altered Giratina… though as usually happens with Shadows, there are compensating losses, in this case to Origin Giratina and Lugia. (That last one is still no sure thing for Lugia, but it does usually finish off Shadow Hippo before it reaches a third, KO Weather Ball, whereas non-Shadow Hippo has enough bulk to get there pretty reliably.) Still though… that is a clear upgrade overall, and anything that beats Zacian is bound to raise some eyebrows. That’s all for Master League Classic, though… note that in Open ML at Level 50, while Shadow Hippowdon does still uniquely take out Ho-Oh and Zekrom, Zacian does now get away, as do both Giratinas. If you’re gonna build a Shadow Hippo for ML, best to stop at Level 40 and save it for Classic, IMO.

So what’s the verdict?

Hippowdon has very limited viability in Great and Ultra Leagues, but Shadow is generally a downgrade anyway. If you’re going to build a Shadow Hippowdon at all, Master League Classic is its best niche. Don’t bother with XLs… both regular and Shadow Hippowdon fall off in performance above Level 40.

GATORS AND DRAGONS AND “BEARS”… OH MY?

Feraligatr (Shadow) Water
  • I was hopeful. I wanted to see FERALIGATR, hero of Ultra League in early seasons, recapture some of its former spicy glory as a Shadow, but sadly it is not to be. As with Typhlosion, Gatr is already on the glassy side, and the additional loss of bulk as a Shadow is just too much for it. There was a time when Ice Fang Gatr was actually feared in Ultra, but Shadow goes in the wrong direction. Such is the case with the slightly more viable Waterfall Gatr, where Shadow is again a downgrade. And while Shadow is a sidegrade as compared to regular Gatr in Great League, let’s be honest: nobody is using Feraligatr in Great League. Sure, look for a decent UL candidate, but this is one I highly doubt you’ll miss if you can’t find one. Such a shame, as I LOVE Gatr’s design and cool factor.
Exploud (Shadow) Normal
  • I’ll make this one quick: EXPLOUD, Shadow or not, has no current place in PvP. It’s not the charge moves, which are actually very interesting with Crunch and Disarming Voice (a little-seen Fairy clone of Foul Play)… it’s the dreadful fast moves. Blah move Bite and still-completely-unviable Astonish are all it’s got. (Seriously, Niantic… please buff Astonish!) Exploud is going nowhere until that’s addressed. Grab and TM a Shadow Whismer while you can, sure, because with a half-decent fast move, it could suddenly go places. But until then, it’s just gonna gather dust in your storage.
Bagon (Shadow) Dragon Shelgon (Shadow) Dragon Salamence (Shadow) DragonFlying
  • Shadow BAGON is not technically new, but it was available only for a short time in the past, appearing only with Arlo for less than two months and ending about a year ago. Very good chance you never had a shot at a good one back then… I know I didn’t. That said, this is more of a PvE concern. SHELGON has looked borderline interesting in Great League in certain limited metas, but Shadow is a step backwards anyway. And SALAMENCE… well, nono, and even though better as a Shadow, still no. You can do much better with your Dragon in Master League. But Shadow Salamence is likely to make the raiding crowd happy, at least!

NO RETURNING BACK

So usually I finish off Shadow releases like this with a review of what from the new crop wants to potentially be purified and run with Return as a mini-Hyper Beam. It’s actually worked out well with several Shadows of the past… but not this batch. Meganium still wants Earthquake, Typhlosion still wants Solar Beam (or sometimes Overheat), Feraligatr and Hippowdon need their existing moves.

It is entirely possible that Exploud with STAB Hyper Beam could be interesting down the line, but again, only if it gets a decent fast move… and probably not even then, honestly.

Even Electrode doesn’t really want Return more than Hyper Beam because of how Volt Switch works; each VS generates 16 energy, so by the time you have enough of them banked to have Return charged, you have exactly the 80 energy required for Hyper Beam anyway. Even if you lead off with a 45-energy Foul Play (and have 3 energy left over) and THEN race to a big fat closer, it again takes five Volt Switches afterwards to reach Hyper Beam OR Return… four Volt Switches plus the 3 leftover energy from Foul Play comes to only 67 energy, 3 short of Return’s cost of 70, and one more Volt Switch puts you again above the 80 required for Hyper Beam anyway, so just stick with Hyper Beam!

Alright, quick wrapup before we bring this one home!

TL;DR

  • Out of this current crop of new Shadow Pokemon, I recommend grinding for Great League versions of Shadow Meganium, Typhlosion, and Electrode, in that order of priority. All three are overall upgrades or at least intriguing, fully viable sidegrades in Great League play.
  • After that, I’d actually recommend looking for extra Chikorita before other things. Chika is still good in Little League (and Shadow looks a bit better) and even Shadow Bayleef is an underrated (though quite expensive) Razor Leafer in Great League.
  • The rest are worth perhaps a “casual grind”. Shadow Hippowdon DOES appear to be an upgrade for Master League Classic, but remains more of a fringe option than true meta. A slight move shakeup could make Exploud and/or Feraligatr more interesting, but as of now Gatr is just too squishy and Exploud has quite literally no usable fast move.
  • Oh, and one final tip: don’t forget to TM Frustration away from any Shadow members of the Hoppip/Skiploom/Jumpluff line while this event is going! It will be your last chance to do so before Hoppip Community Day on Feburary 12th gives us Jumpluff with new move Acrobatics, and Frustration would block that, so strike while the iron is hot!
  • Speaking of which, remember that Johto Tour means you can evolve Meganium, Typhlosion, and Feraligatr with their Community Day moves, so if you can hold off until then, you can save your Elite TMs. Get rid of Frustration, but don’t evolve all the way up just yet!

So there we go! My goal is to help inform your decision making on which of the new Shadows to pursue for PvP, so hopefully this accomplishes that. Good luck, and may your GO Rocket balloons be plentiful!

Until next time, you can find me on Twitter for regular PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon. And please, as always, feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll try to get back to you!

Hopefully you can find what you want, but as you search, please be safe out there, Pokéfriends. Thanks again for reading, and catch you next time!

(Original article can be found here.)

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