A PvP Analysis on the Johto Tour Exclusive Legendary Moves

Hello again, fellow PvPers! Quite a while ago, I started reviewing the new moves coming to Johto’s Legendary Birds and Celebi during this coming weekend’s Johto Tour, and then other news and events kept pouring in and I kept having to put this analysis on the back burner. But now, finally, Pokémon Go Tour: Johto is upon us, and so are the new moves, so here we go!

Hold onto your butts, because after what initially looked like horribly boring moves, even Niantic decided they were bad enough that they pushed out a welcome update that make these something worth chatting about!

So let’s do just that! How do these moves look now? Settle in for a long read, and come with me as we find out….

Ho-Oh with Sacred Fire 🔥


Ho-Oh FireFlying

So first up, we have HO-OH, finally receiving its signature move SACRED FIRE after over four years. (Ho-Oh arrived in GO in November 2017, folks. Yeah, it’s really been that long.) Meanwhile, Kyogre and Groudon give it the stink eye as they STILL await their own signature moves (already coded into the game years ago!)… but that’s a story for another day.

Alright, Sacred Fire. As noted above, our first hints about its stats were a dreadful 70 energy for only 120 damage. That’s… really bad. Like, bad enough that I think everyone that had a choice would have kept on using Earthquake, which deals the same 120 damage (albeit without STAB bonuses) for 5 less energy (65). Not because Earthquake is necessarily better in a vacuum, but because of that cost. I try not to drag my Twitter presence into these analyses very often, but in this case I talked about this in a long-ish topic there. To repeat the highlights:

The reason this thing is so bad is because of the cost. Earthquake (65 energy) + Brave Bird (55 energy) takes exactly 6 Incinerates to charge. It’s not great, but it works.

Sacred Fire, costing 70 energy, means we now need one extra Incinerate (20 energy) but only need 5 energy from it. That stinks.

How bad does it stink? Observe the Master League meta win/loss record.

So yeah, 70 energy would have been awful. I practically begged for the cost to drop to 65 energy. Didn’t even have to touch the damage, which was not all that impressive for a big flashy signature move, but workable. Thankfully, not only did Niantic drop the cost as I hoped, but they even buffed the damage too! Let’s see what we have ended up with.

Sacred Fire

Fire Charge Move

  • Damage: 130
  • Energy Req’d: 65
  • Damage Per Energy (DPE): 2.00
  • Additional Effects: 50% Chance to Decrease Opponent Attack -1 Stage

NOW we’re talking. 2.00 DPE is a sign of an excellent PvP move, and while the debuff is not guaranteed, it’s going to go off a LOT and turn the tide of battle even further when it does. I’ll tease out how much it could swing things in a moment.

But first, let’s take a look at what this move does for Ho-Oh, debuff or no debuff.

In Great League, I’m going to focus on Shadow Ho-Oh. While non-Shadow CAN be done, it requires a Level 15 (research level) Ho-Oh with low IVs, and I mean CRAZY low… even a 3-3-3 barely works, hitting 1499 CP, and good luck getting THAT low in a successful trade. That all said, yeah, if you HAVE managed to land one like that, then yes, Sacred Fire is a fine addition (as compared to Earthquake).

But again, let’s focus on the much more realistic Shadow Ho-Oh. I took the liberty of using my own local version of PvPoke and re-creating the old, 70-energy-for-120-damage move, and gave it an appropriate name (“Unconsecrated Fire” 😏) just so you can see HOW huge the difference is between the two. No contest! While the awful former version of “Sacred” Fire falls off a cliff, the new and MUCH improved version we’re getting of Sacred Fire is a comparable sidegrade to existing Earthquake, the only difference being that Earthquake shows a win against Galvantula and Sacred Fire does not, but that’s a simulation flub… it only needs Incinerate to beat Galv, so they both work fine. In short: both Earthquake and Sacred Fire beat the same stuff. BUT, what if Sacred Fire’s debuff goes off? Surely that pushes the potential of Sacred Fire higher, right? Why yes it does, and I can actually show you what that looks like too! Again utilizing my home version of PvPoke, I created a THIRD version of Sacred Fire that forces that debuff to trigger. And that ends up looking like this, with Galv now showing up as a win, and Greedent and new big bad Walrein sliding over to the win column. Now to reiterate, this only works when that debuff triggers, but you have literally a 50/50 shot, so all in all this is far from unrealistic, and gives Sacred Fire the potential, at least, to mostly leave Earthquake behind.

And in 2v2 shielding, there is again basically no real difference between Sacred Fire and Earthquake because they’re usually both being shielded and then Brave Bird is coming out to play… though of course, now you’re looking at often TWO chances for Sacred Fire’s debuff to trigger, giving it a higher ceiling than Earthquake in most cases.

Now with shields down, it’s hard to compare Earthquake and Sacred Fire without Brave Bird interfering (as BB is often the best way to finish many things off), so I had to remove it from the equation and compare JUST Sacred Fire and Earthquake, and NOW you can see the overall superiority of Sacred Fire, which beats Diggersby, Noctowl, Lickitung, Pidgeot, and Tropius that Earthquake cannot, with Quake’s only standout win being over Alolan Marowak. Advantage: Sacred Fire, with or without debuff.

Now, moving up to Ultra League, I’m going to mostly assume we’re talking NON-Shadow for the purposes of this comparison. Once again, a quick peek at how bad things were with 70-energy “Sacred” Fire as compared to the here and now. But more pertinent, stacking up Earthquake versus Sacred Fire shows that the latter finally begins to separate itself a little, with new wins over Greedent and Skarmory. (It also shows a “new” win over Nidoqueen, but in reality that’s another glitch in the matrix simulation… Ho-Oh can win that one with Brave Bird after a “bait” with either of the other moves.) Not a BIG difference, but those are both legitimately Sacred Fire outperforming Earthquake a bit. And that’s even without the debuff triggering… if it does, the gap grows into a chasm with additional wins over things like Umbreon, Trevenant, Gengar, Cofagrigus, Melmetal, Gallade, Dragonite, and potentially even (Dragon Breath) Gyarados! Obviously Brave Bird is clutching several of those Fire-resistant wins, but make no mistake: they are ALL wins thanks in very large part to Sacred Fire and its debuff too. If that goes off… gadzooks!

On paper, 2v2 shielding with either Sacred Fire or Earthquake look the same, but in reality, Sacred Fire is showing losses to Umbreon (with either of its exclusive moves) that are actually wins just as they are with Earthquake, and Sacred Fire adds on two legit new wins: Registeel and Cresselia. And with shields down, the gap between Earthquake and Sacred Fire is again notable, with Earthquake beating out Altered Giratina with Shadow Claw (Ground is neutral, but Fire is resisted), but the rest is all Fire: wins over Registeel, Shadow Snorlax, Armored Mewtwo, Sylveon, and Greedent that Earthquake doesn’t get. Here, again, it’s advantage Sacred Fire… and that advantage is growing the higher we go. Does that also ring true in Master League?

In Master, let’s first look again at old versus new Sacred Fire, count our blessings that Niantic changed their minds, and then dive into Sacred Fire versus Earthquake. You’ll notice that it is now Earthquake that pulls slightly ahead, but that’s just because of the meta at this level. They actually perform basically the same across the board except for Rhyperior, where Earthquake deals super effective damage while Sacred Fire is resisted. (The same is true of Master League Classic, by the way.) That’s really the only discernable difference. (I mean, there ARE other differences in HP Ho-Oh has left over, but none that truly stand out.) But again, remember that Fire’s debuff triggering could change all that, with new potential wins versus Lugia, Magnezone, Therian Landorus, and of course in the mirror match. And having STAB, Sacred Fire also has more punch against neutral targets (or targets weak to both Fire and Ground, like Melmetal), enabling you to rely on it more and the self-nerfing Brave Bird less. So… I slightly lean towards Sacred Fire, while noting that Earthquake still very much has its place on the right team too.

2v2 shielding basically looks the same as 1v1 shielding, but shieldless matchups looks like perhaps advantage Sacred Fire over Earthquake again. Quake DOES overcome Draco Meteor Dialga (dealing super effective damage, while Fire is merely neutral) and Altered Giratina, but Sacred Fire overpowers Lugia and Yveltal, so it’s kind of a matter of which side of that equation you are more fearful of. (In Master League Classic, it’s pretty much the same, with Earthquake handling Dialga and A-Giratina, while Sacred Fire overcomes Yveltal and Groudon.)

And last bit: what if you leave your Ho-Oh as a Shadow? The only real difference between Sacred Fire and Earthquake in that case is, again, the weakness that opens up against Rocks with Sacred Fire, represented again by a loss to Rhyperior for Sacred Fire and win for Earthquake. But while the extra damage from the Shadow boost can reach for new targets like Garchomp and Thunder Dialga in 1v1 shielding, the loss in bulk means that new losses (as compared to non-Shadow) pile up too: Wild Charge Zacian, Melmetal, Altered Giratina, Excadrill, Landorus-I, and Gyarados. (Yes, non-Shadow CAN win that with Brave Bird.) And while things look much brighter for Shadow Ho-Oh with shields down (as compared to non-Shadow, it’s a BIG jump) — with new wins over things like Dragonite, DT Groudon, Yveltal, Togekiss, and even Swampert and Palkia, plus things it loses to in 1v1 shielding like Gyarados and WC Zacian (Ho-Oh, even Shadow, can tank one Wild Charge) — the dropoff in performance with shields in play leaves me concerned. Shadow or not is up to you, but know what you’re getting in to if you make the particularly steep investment in Shadow Ho-Oh. There’s a lot of good, but some definite downside to be aware of as well!

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of Shadow, I didn’t really cover that for Ultra League, so jumping back down there briefly… Shadow Ho-Oh, be it with Earthquake or Sacred Fire, is a clear sidegrade, netting the same win/loss record, just getting there different ways. Shadow with Earthquake picks up Registeel, Skarmory, Armored Mewtwo, Greedent, Drifblim, and sometimes Lugia as compared to non-Shadow with Earthquake, but loses Cresselia, DB Charizard, PJ Alolan Muk, Shadow Snorlax, Swampert, and Nidoqueen. Shadow with Sacred Fire also gains Registeel, A-Mewtwo, Drifblim, and a close one versus Lugia, while non-Shadow with Fire instead wins Shadow Lax, Swampert, DB Zard, and Nidoqueen.

WHEW. Got all that? I know it’s a lot, sorry. Just trying to be comprehensive, but that is MORE than enough on Sacred Fire for now, I think. Let’s summarize all that and then move on!

So what’s the verdict?

While the original mined stats for Sacred Fire would have been incredibly disappointing, the corrected stats of 65 energy (same cost as Earthquake) for 130 damage keep it humming along well with Incinerate and Brave Bird, and the damage and ever-looming threat of debuffing the opponent make it a truly good move on Ho-Oh. While I think it’s fair to call it basically a straight upgrade in Ultra League (for non-Shadow Ho-Oh, at least), in Great League and even Master League is has the looks of more of a solid sidegrade, keeping your Earthquake Ho-Ohs relevant… you don’t have to feel too bad about burning THOSE Elite TMs already, friends. Keep your Earthquake Ho-Oh(s)! That said, the high percentage chance of Sacred Buff’s debuff triggering gives it a steadily higher ceiling than Earthquake in the vast majority of cases, and it will likely be the preferred charge move to pair with Brave Bird moving forward, sacrificing a little coverage for generally more damage (and potentially more longevity) potential.

Celebi with Magical Leaf 🍃


Celebi PsychicGrass

If you ever watched Marvel’s Agents of Shield then you probably grinned at that title. If not… well, let’s just get to the analysis, shall we?

Magical Leaf

Grass Fast Move

  • Damage Per Turn: 3.33
  • Energy Per Turn: 3.33
  • Cooldown: 1.5

Despite my own hopes and dreams that Hisuian Electrode would drop with MAGICAL LEAF as one of its fast moves, looks like Niantic is making us wait for CELEBI to get it first (and last, for the time being, as nothing else in GO currently has the move assigned to it). Notably, it arrives in the game as one of only three fast moves that exceeds the average 3.0 for Damage Per Turn AND Energy Per Turn. (The others are Counter, with 4.0 DPT/3.5 EPT, and Poison Jab, with 3.5 DPT and EPT.) This gives it a truly unique place not just among Grass fast moves, but fast moves on the whole. Just to stack it up against other Grass moves, here’s a handy chart:

Move Damage Per Turn Energy Per Turn Cooldown
Magical Leaf 3.33 3.33 1.5
Vine Whip 2.5 4.0 1.0
Bullet Seed 1.67 4.33 1.5
Razor Leaf 5.0 2.0 1.0

Quite an array of good moves, yes? Bullet Seed’s energy generation is a whole point higher (4.33 vs 3.33), but Magical Leaf deals literally TWICE as much damage, and has a less awkward cooldown period. The comparison is a bit closer with Vine Whip is much closer, with Leaf dealing about 0.8 more damage, but Vine Whip generating about 0.8 more energy. In short, Magical Leaf is a fine addition to GO that doesn’t clearly outclass other existing moves, but fits in nicely as a new alternative among them.

And for a Pokémon like Celebi, it opens new doors, as it becomes the first Grass fast move it has access to. Its current best is Confusion, which deals an impressive 4.0 Damage Per Turn while generating the average 3.0 Energy Per Turn. Magical Leaf obviously trails in damage output, but it has a much more user friendly cooldown time (less time waiting for a sloooooow “fast” move to complete its cycle and allow you to take the next action in the heat of battle), and generates energy a little bit faster.

And that’s a lot better than it looked at first. The originally mined stats were 3.0 DPT and 3.0 EPT, which would make it a clone (other than typing, of course) of things like Water Gun and Bug Bite. Decent enough, sure, but pretty disappointing for a special move like it’s been hyped up to be for Celebi. I don’t have fancy comparison charts to show you like I did for pre-buff Sacred Fire, but I DID create a move called “Muggle Leaf” 😏 in my home version of PvPoke with the 3.0 DPT/EPT stats, and suffice to say, it was pretty disappointing.

But that was then, and this is now. Let’s stack up Magical Leaf versus Confusion and see which looks better, shall we?

First, a note on the charge moves. Celebi used to run with Seed Bomb (40 energy, 55 damage) and Psychic (55 energy, 90 damage), the former for baiting and its only Grass damage output at the time, and Psychic because it was relatively affordable compared to other charge moves it had then (Hyper Beam and Dazzling Gleam). Eventually Niantic gifted Celebi with Leaf Storm, which deals a whopping 130 damage for the same 55 energy that Psychic (the move) costs, though it decreases the user’s Attack by 2 stages in the process. Even still, Celebi is far more threatening with it than without, and it has generally eclipsed Psychic (the move) now at the minor cost of dealing less Psychic (the type) damage.

To this point, running with Confusion, Celebi hasn’t missed having no Psychic (the typing) charge moves anymore. But does that still ring true if Magical Leaf slots in and leaves Celebi with NO Psychic damage output at all?

Well, yes and no. In Great League, obviously with Confusion Celebi hammers Fighters (Machamp, Toxicroak), has an inherent advantage versus other Grasses (beating Meganium and even Ferrothorn), and outslugs things like Sylveon and Lickitung with the raw power of Confusion damage. Magical Leaf cannot normally win those matchups, but it does do plenty of its own good, unsurprisingly beating Mud Boys Swampert and Whiscash, and outracing Greedent and Hypno (regular AND Shadow). So… sidegrade?

Hmmm, maybe. With very good PvP IVs, Confusion pulls away a bit more, muscling in on Magical Leaf’s territory by now beating Shadow Hypno and potentially Greedent, and gaining a new win over Wigglytuff as well. Magical Leaf also improves with good IVs, with new wins over Obstagoon and Charm Alolan Ninetales, which are GREAT wins for a Psychic/Grass to sneak away with. But clearly, it’s not overtaking Confusion, and if anything it brings up the rear.

At least, that’s all true in 1v1 shielding, but the extra energy of Magical Leaf could give it some advantages in other shielding scenarios, right? For example, with shields down, Magical Leaf pulls ahead of Confusion, the latter still beating Toxicroak and now Greedent, but Magical Leaf now outracing Machamp (and beating it MORE efficiently than Confusion), still beating the Mud Boys, plus Obstagoon and CharmTales (even without the top ranked IVs now), plus Pelipper, Scrafty, and Defense Deoxys. That’s looking pretty nice, right?

And while neither are all that great should things go to 2v2 shielding, Magical Leaf again has the upper hand over Confusion. Confusion does manage to overcome Shadow Nidoqueen, Venusaur, Machamp, Galvantula, and even Froslass, but Magical Leaf whomps on the Mud Boys, outraces Cresselia and Hypno and Scrafty, and shreds a number of things that don’t appreciate heavy Grass damage, like Dewgong, Lapras, Jellicent, Diggersby, and even Galarian Stunfisk.

Overall, I think it’s still best to call Magical Leaf a sidegrade in Great League, for anyone that keeps their breakthrough Celebi under 1500 CP. But it’s a good one that only gets better the further you drill down.

I won’t spend a ton of time in Ultra League, partly because there are very few truly surprising results. Confusion continues to beat Venusaur, Meganium, Toxicroak, and Greedent, other things weak to Psychic damage like Gengar, and things that resist Grass but do NOT resist Confusion like Dragonite and Togekiss. Meanwhile, Magical Leaf still shreds most Waters (Jellicent, Walrein, Gyarados) and now gets Galarian Stunfisk in 1v1 shielding, which is very nice. Leaf also outraces Cresselia, DD, and also Obstagoon and Scrafty as it generally did in Great League. Perhaps the most surprising — heck, even flabbergasting — win is over Melmetal, of all things. At Ultra League level, it’s just too squishy to stand up to even a resisted Leaf Storm after taking some chip damage leading up to it.

Interestingly, though, Confusion tracks much closer to Magical Leaf in 0v0 ([Confusion]() vs Leaf) and 2v2 (Confusion vs Leaf) shielding. In general, Leaf continues to beat what you would expect a Grass to (plus stuff like DD, Goon, and Scrafty), while Confusion does better versus Poisons, Charmers, Grasses, and things that resist Grass (like Dragonite and Dragon Breath Charizard). Magical Leaf is still working as intended, but the meta just has a few more targets for big neutral Confusion damage, it would seem.

Which brings us at least to Master League. Celebi struggles in Open, Level 50 Master League and likely isn’t worth that kind of investment (with either Confusion OR Magical Leaf), not to mention the crazy grind all those XLs would necessitate. However, it’s probably better than you think in Master League Classic, where existing Confusion Celebi already looks pretty decent, with nice wins over not just weak-to-Grass Grounds and Waters, but also Fighters, Charmers (and Florges), Mewtwo (Psystrike’s not scary!), Magnezone, and big bully Zacian, helpfully resisting Wild Charge AND Close Combat. So I’m pleased to say that, while Magical Leaf doesn’t surge ahead, it has the looks of a very viable sidegrade, trading in wins Confusion gets over Magnezone and Togekiss to beat scary Ices Mamoswine and Walrein instead.

Full disclosure, though: the overall numbers are a bit less impressive outside of 1v1 shielding. 2v2 shielding has the same basic differences between Magical Leaf (Walrein, Mamoswine) and Confusion (Magnezone, though Togekiss is out of reach now), but previous wins like Gyarados, Mewtwo, Palkia, Garchomp, and Sylveon start to slip away.

There’s slippage in 0v0 shielding as well, though Confusion fares a bit better than Magical Leaf overall, but neither can usually beat Garchomp anymore, nor Zacian with Play Rough. That one hurts.

Okay, now let’s sum ALL that up!

So what’s the verdict?

Put very simply: Magical Leaf seems like a consistently viable sidegrade to Confusion in all three leagues. That’s good in that, yes, in any format where you would have already used Celebi, your new one with the Johto Tour exclusive move has play. The bad in that is that Celebi doesn’t often show up in PvP these days, and Magical Leaf does little to actually elevate its importance. Celebi may have some legit play in Master League Classic, or perhaps certain Great League Cup formats, but it’s not measurably better with Magical Leaf than it already was.

Lugia with Aeroblast 🌬️


Lugia PsychicFlying

And that just leaves one final move to check out again:


Flying Charge Move

  • Damage: 170
  • Energy Req’d: 75
  • Damage Per Energy (DPE): 2.27
  • Additional Effects: 12.5% Chance to Increase User Attack +2 Stages

So I already did a lengthy analysis on AEROBLAST LUGIA back when it first arrived in the game… a year and a half ago! (Wow, forgot it had been that long.) I do still strongly recommend combing through that (once you recover from THIS long-@$$ read! 🥴), but it was so long ago that it’s worth taking a fresh, mercifully brief look at what’s changed…or not.

  • Great League Lugia is still quite competitive… if you’re lucky enough to have one under 1500 CP. Unfortunately for those of us left with only Shadow Lugia as our Great League option, it lags behind. Shadow DOES overpower Azumarill and Defense Deoxys, which are great pickups, but it suffers losses to many things that non-Shadow can outlast: Whiscash, Obstagoon, Alolan Marowak, Skarmory (yes, really!), Abomasnow, Altaria, Greedent, Noctowl, and Wigglytuff, among others. Shadow Lugia isn’t unviable, but it feels bad using it when you know that if we could just run a non-Shadow one instead, we’d be that much better off.
  • Lugia is obviously much easier to get in Ultra League. It has perhaps slid a little backwards with some arrivals in the meta in the last year+ (losing to Walrein, Cofagrigus, and even Trevenant), but it’s still competitive in either normal or Shadow form. There is some variance between forms, but they’re both on pretty equal footing in the meta.
  • But the real story with Lugia in PvP usually starts and mostly ends with Master League. In short, it remains a monster in Classic and Open play. And while it doesn’t appreciate the recent rise of new Ice types, you may be surprised to learn that at least in 1v1 shielding, it actually manages to outlast Mamoswine AND Walrein, and with even a little wiggle room in Open ML (where it can ALSO overcome Avalugg too!). It also tends to beat the Fairies (including newer arrivals like Sylveon and Florges), Dragonite and Garchomp (at least as a non-Shadow), and of course most of the various Grounds, Fighters, Snorlax, and newer arrival Zarude. (Dark Pulse is scary but it’s generally advantage Lugia, even with resisted Extrasensory.) And of great importance: it usually overcomes Zacian, though note that Wild Charge CAN sneak the closest of close wins for Zacian in Open Master League. (Though the timing must be perfect, and even a very-slightly-less-than-hundo Zacian can have a much different ending, so I still generally give the advantage to Lugia.)

So what’s the verdict?

In short: the more things change, the more they stay the same? Lugia was already good in all three leagues, best in Masters, and that’s all still true despite meta shifts over the last 18 months or so since Aeroblast was introduced. The move and the Pokémon wielding it are still the same, and still right in the thick of it. Keep on keeping on, Lugia!

And we’re done… whew! I know that’s a lot to take in, and sorry for that AND how long this took to get out… like I said, it just kept getting put in the back burner as other things came along, and the deeper I dug, the more I found to talk about. (I started the analysis nearly two weeks ago!) Thankfully there’s still time to prep for Johto Tour — and read this in chunks between now and then if it’s understandably too much for one sitting! 😅 — and I’ll let you decide how hyped to be for these new moves after this analysis.

Until next time, you can find me on Twitter for regular PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon (with my own private server, if you’re interested in that). And please, 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 this marathon analysis, and catch you next time!

P.S. – If you’re looking for a PvE analysis, we now have a fantastic one by Teban that can be found here!

Author & tags

PoGO/PvP Investigative Journalist, GO Hub and Silph Arena/Road Contributor, amateur cook, author of 'Nifty Or Thrifty' and 'Under The Lights' article series and #PvPfacts!

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