A PvP Analysis on the Rocket Takeover New Shadows

Hello again, Pokéfriends! It’s that time again already… time for a new batch of Shadow Pokémon in PvP! Obviously Regice leads the way, but there are some other very interesting and, in some cases, LONG-awaited monsters riding in Regice’s chilly wake.

How do they all shake out in PvP? Well as way of quick summary, u/thepokegohunter_ and I have once again teamed up to bring you this spiffy infographic to highlight what is most improved, what your highest priority targets should be, and IVs to most ideally hunt down for PvP purposes. Enjoy!

But for all the details about WHY these Shadows are good or… uh… not so good, what they can and cannot do as compared to their non-Shadow selves, read on! Here comes your customary comprehensive analysis on this new batch of Shadow Pokémon!


Regice (Shadow) Ice

May as well answer the big question first: do you want Shadow REGICE in PvP, or not?

Regice has always been the least of the three OG Regis in PvP, and there are a couple reasons for that:

  • It has the worst defensive typing of the three. Registeel famously resists eleven typings, with just three even more famous vulnerabilities. Regirock has a roughly equal number of resistances and vulnerabilities. But poor Regice has literally the worst defensive typing in the game. As a mono-Ice, it is weak to the same Fire and Fighting as Registeel, the same Steel as Regirock, and also weak to Rock damage… while resisting ONLY other Ice damage. Yuck.
  • It’s not nearly as bulky as Registeel. Regice trails Registeel by about 10 Defense and 15 HP (and 200 Total Stat Product) in Great League, and about 5 Defense and 25 HP (and 450 stat product) in Ultra League. In fairness, so does Regirock (which has the same stats as Regice in GO), but again, Regice has the much worse defensive typing, so it really shows in its case.

Overall, while Registeel is obviously fantastic in PvP, and Regirock is criminally underrated, Regice brings up the rear in multiple Leagues.

However, for what it’s worth, unlike Registeel, Shadow Regice is more of a sidegrade than a straight downgrade, at least in the league where it makes the impact today: in Ultra League. Shadow Regice (with the generally-preferred-these-days Earthquake alongside the default Blizzard) does drop CharmTales, Tapu Fini, Cofagrigus, Alolan Muk, Galarian Stunfisk, and Dragon Breath Altered Giratina, but it gains Swampert, Walrein, Gyarados, and Cresselia to almost-kinda-sorta make up for it.

However, similar to Registeel, the fall is much harder in Great League, where Shadow Regice (as compared to non-Shadow fails to beat Bastiodon, Cofagrigus, Cresselia, Lanturn (one of the big reasons to use Earthquake these days), Alolan Marowak, Pelipper, Toxapex, Trevenant, Venusaur, Victreebel, or Walrein, and gains only Azumarill, Diggersby, and Sableye to make up for it. In the end, it loses about a third of its former win total. Not good.

In fairness, things are a bit closer with Blizzard/Thunder Regice. In Great League, Shadow B/T Regice stays much closer to the ceiling for non-Shadow, losing now to Cress, Toxapex, Treveant, Venusaur, and Victreebel, and gaining Diggersby, Sableye, and Talonflame, a much comparable swap. And up in Ultra League, Blizzard/Thunder Shadow remains neck and neck with non-Shadow, Shadow adding Cresselia, Shadow Swampert, and Virizion and giving up only Alolan Muk, Empoleon, Pidgeot, and Dragon Breath A-Giratina again to do it.

But again, Thunder is less preferred these days, so take that for what it’s worth.

So what’s it all mean, JRE? Similar to Shadow Registeel, Shadow Regice is, at best, a shaky sidegrade to non-Shadow, and often a bit worse overall. I do not strongly recommend pursuing it, but if you do, Thunder works better on it in Great League, where you may want to keep it and leave non-Shadow Regice for Ultra League. And while I did not mention it above… no, you don’t want Return… it always wants Blizzard, and then either Thunder or, more preferably, Earthquake to handle Steels and Rocks that can wail on Ice. I won’t say to skip this completely, but I certainly wouldn’t bother acquiring more than one Shadow Regice.


Muk (Alola Shadow) PoisonDark

With Regice out of the way, let’s get right to it… Shadow Alolan Muk is the big winner in this round of Shadows.

So first off, what do you want run on Shadow A-Muk? The two most popular variants continue to be Snarl/Sludge Wave or Poison Jab/Acid Spray, both alongside Dark Pulse. I will go ahead and make this simple: in the case of Shadow A-Muk, it is the latter that you want most. The enormous pressure that comes from the combination of Poison Jab and opponent debuffs from Acid Spray is immense, and right in line with what you want a Shadow to do for you: apply as much damage as you can as quickly as possible, before your own slashed bulk catches up to you. Add to that the fact that A-Muk is naturally bulky — roughly the same as Vigoroth, Pidgeot, Clefable, Minun, Aggron, and most apporpriate comparison Nidoqueen — and it can handle the Defense nerf that comes with being a Shadow much better than most Pokémon. Remember how good Shadow Nidoqueen in particular was as a Shadow before the Poison Fang nerf? Shadow A-Muk with Poison Jab and Acid Spray will be looking to fill that same role, albeit with some differences, of course, that come with a Dark subtyping rather than Ground, and Dark Pulse rather than Earth Power. But still… same basic role.

And how does it work out? I’m going to set aside my long-winded paragraphs of breakdown and instead just go straight to the numbers.

(Note that for these charts, for Pokémon with multiple viable fast moves (such as Lanturn with Spark or Water Gun, and Mandibuzz with Snarl or Air Slash), if I don’t note a specific move, then it means BOTH fast moves are included.)

Shadow Alolan Muk, GL Notable Gains Notable Losses
1v1 Shielding Altaria, Drapion, Dunsparce, Lanturn, Lickitung, Mandibuzz, Noctowl, Obstagoon, Toxapex Froslass, Talonflame, Umbreon
0v0 Shielding Cresselia, DDeoxys, Drapion, Mandibuzz (Snarl), Alolan Marowak, Pelipper, Toxapex, Shadow Walrein Lickitung
2v2 Shielding Drapion, Mandibuzz Altaria, Lanturn (Spark), Alolan Marowak, Noctowl, Obstagoon, Toxapex, Umbreon

Yes, the 2v2 shielding scenarios are unfortunate, with a net loss of four wins, but that’s not entirely unexpected with the reduction in bulk that comes with being a Shadow… it catches up more over protracted battles that 2v2 shielding represent. But MAN, 0v0 and 1v1 are dang impressive… +7 and +8 overall, respectively. Obviously this is not a straight upgrade, but I think it’s very fair to call this an upgrade nonetheless overall, no? Savvy opponents may learn to just burn both shields and wait you out, but even if A-Muk then goes down, it’s done a TON of damage in the process, leaving the opponent bloodied and severely hobbled with likely multiple Acid Spray debuffs, and of course out of shields. I still like those odds as long as you have the right teammates for A-Muk to then take advantage of that.

I will note here that Snarl/Dark Pulse/Sludge Wave A-Muk is also a bit better as a Shadow, but the difference is usually just 1-2 wins, 2v2 shielding is still overall a small step backwards, and its overall win total remains below 50%. If you happen to find multiple good Shadow Alolan Grimers to turn into Alolan Muks, sure, go ahead and build both. But I think you’ll find you basically always want to use the high pressure Poison Jab version instead… it just runs so much more smoothly with what a good Shadow Pokémon wants to do!

Anyway, I digress. Let’s look at the PJ/DP/AS numbers in Ultra League!

Shadow Alolan Muk, UL Notable Gains Notable Losses
1v1 Shielding DDeoxys, Dubwool, Jellicent, Mandibuzz (Snarl), Talonflame, Shadow Machamp (tie) Charizard, Altered Giratina (DB), Greedent
0v0 Shielding Charizard, Dubwool, Gyarados, Talonflame, Shadow Machamp (tie) Altered Giratina (DB), Shadow Snorlax
2v2 Shielding Buzzwole, Altered Giratina (SC), Gyarados, Shadow Machamp, Snorlax, Umbreon, Charizard (tie) Dubwool, Scizor, Scrafty

A little bit more muted here, but still a net gain across the board… +3 for 0v0 and 1v1 shielding, and not only does 2v2 shielding not slip backwards as it did in Great League, but it’s actually the biggest gainer, at +4 overall. The biggest movers and shakers of note are Altered Giratina (an unfortunate new loss in 0s and 1s with Dragon Breath, though a nifty pickup in 2s with Shadow Claw), Shadow Machamp (moves from a loss to a tie in 0s and 1s, and an outright win in 2s), Dubwool (gain in 0s/1s, loss now in 2s), Charizard (moves from a loss to a tie in 0s, and a win in 1s), Talonflame (outright win now in 0s and 1s), Gyarados (new win in 1s and 2s), and Umbreon (a BIG pickup now in 2v2 shielding). Other than Altered Giratina, perhaps, I think the quality of the new wins far outshines the quality of the new losses. (How much impact do things like Greedent and Scizor have in Open UL play as compared to those new names in the win column?!) The numbers are not as eye-popping as they were in Great League, but they’re steadily on the upswing overall at this level, and I think A-Muk may end up being an even bigger winner here than it was in Great League at the end of the day.

The changes for Snarl A-Muk are once again much more muted, swinging just 1-2 wins at the most. As expensive as Shadow Alolan Muk can be to build up to Ultra League size, I think you can stop with just one Poison Jab/Dark Pulse/Acid Spray version and call it a day. And besides, if for some reason you DO end up really wanting Snarl instead, it’s just a TM away. There are no Legacy moves to have to dance around here.

One more thing to point out: don’t forget about the potential of purified Alolan Muk, adding Return into the mix. Alongside Acid Spray or especially Dark Pulse, it adds a fine new wrinkle to consider as well! It does similiar things to what Last Resort does for Umbreon, allowing A-Muk to have a very realistic shot at beating fellow Dark types Guzzlord, Mandibuzz, Drapion, and enemy A-Muks, plus bonuses like Dubwool and Poliwrath. There are still things that Shadow A-Muk can beat that even Return cannot touch, like DDeoxys, Jellicent, and Talonflame, but Return A-Muk does some unique things too (all those anti-Dakr wins remain uniquely special) and looks VERY legit!

So what’s it all mean, JRE? If you do nothing else during this Shadow event, get good Shadow Alolan Muks for both Great and Ultra Leagues. I firmly believe it is the biggest winner from this rotation. And again, it’s the Poison Jab/Dark Pulse/Acid Spray version you want most, operating akin to pre-nerf Shadow Nidoqueen with incredible pressure from Poison Jabs made more and more effective with each passing Acid Spray. Oh, and also consider Purified Alolan Muk for Ultra, as Return looks like a Last Resort type of weapon for it and adds on some very nice wins too!


Blaziken (Shadow) FireFighting

Blaziken is an odd one in PvP. Many times it can get blown out so quickly in certain metas and formats that the notion of even bringing it to battle seems ludicrous. Other times it steps up and sits in the upper echelons and can sweep entire teams… GOOD teams. Counter and Fire damage are able to pick off some of the biggest names in PvP, and with things like Stone Edge and Brave Bird potentially in the mix too, each shielding decision against Blaziken is a nailbiter. There are few worse feelings in PvP than knowing Blaze has the energy for any of them and deciding whether or not to pull the trigger… and then shielding a mere Blaze Kick and knowing you’re doomed to make the same agonizing decision mere moments later. Blaziken already plays like a Shadow because of the big pressure it brings… and its already-shaky bulk.

Shadow Torchic has actually been in the game for a LONG time, originally being added last April! (Maybe Niantic forgot about it during their periods of turnover last year? 🤷‍♂️) But now it’s finally time to double down on Blaziken’s high Attack and low bulk, upping its Attack prowess and slashing its bulk even further as a Shadow. How does that work out?

In Great League, I’ll keep things simple and say that it’s basically a textbook sidegrade, gaining a number of juicy wins like Noctowl, DDeoxys, Sableye, and Vigoroth, but also giving up stuff like Galarian Stunfisk, Skarmory, Trevenant, Talonflame, and even Victreebel. That’s with Blast Burn, which is generally its preferred closer in GL… the dropoff as a Shadow is more pronounced with Stone Edge (losing, for example, the Altaria win that makes Stone Edge Blaze particularly special) and Brave Bird. I’d say if you find one with good PvP IVs and have extra candy laying around… sure, go for it.

But the REAL target is Ultra League, where Blaze already makes some noise today. It’s not the same drastic swings you see with, say, Alolan Muk, but it’s all good news:

Shadow Blaziken, UL Notable Gains Notable Losses
1v1 Shielding Gliscor, Guzzlord, Mandibuzz (Snarl), Pidgeot, Talonflame, Toxicroak, Trevenant Granbull, Alolan Ninetales, Poliwrath, Sylveon
0v0 Shielding Drapion, Empoleon, Shadow Machamp, Sylveon Shadow Snorlax
2v2 Shielding Cofagrigus, Drapion, Shadow Swampert none!

First off, can I point out how ridiculous it is that Shadow Blaziken can overcome Shadow Swampert at all? But it’s true… though you have to shield two Hydro Cannons, Blaze runs through it with straight Counters, and comes out with still a third of its HP and a full 100 energy to throw at whatever follows. You may be at a shield disadvantage initially, but you won’t be for long after that!

Anyway, the rest is a good body of work also, with net gains across the board. (+3 in 0s and 2s, +2 in 1s) 2v2 shielding is a straight upgrade, with no additional losses, but the other even shield scenarios are a bit more nuanced, particuarly 1v1 shielding, where there are nearly as many losses that pile up as there are new wins. Still, I think gains like Toxicroak, Pidgeot, Talonflame (with nothing but resisted damage!), and Trevenant especially outweigh a trio of Charmers and Poliwrath, in my mind. It’s not perfect, but this is without doubt an improvement in Blaziken’s Ultra League stock overall, perhaps moving it from spicy option to something at least a bit closer to full-on meta. THIS is the size I’d build a good Shadow Blaziken to.

So what’s it all mean, JRE? Keeping it very simple, I think that Shadow Blaziken is the biggest target (for Ultra League specifically) not named “Alolan Muk”. You can trick it out with the closing move of you preference, though its overall best (especially as a Shadow) remains Blast Burn, which does require an Elite TM, so keep that in mind. Good luck!


Alright, I ran out of catchy titles. Even I have my limits, folks!

Anyway, the rest of these are… less notable, and less exciting. That doesn’t mean they’re all BAD — in fact, I consider all of these no worse than sidegrades — it’s just that they are not set up to have nearly as much impact on the meta as things already covered.

Sceptile (Shadow) Grass
  • SCEPTILE was once a true PvP competitor, with speedy Leaf Blade for general menacing and Earthquake to shock and awe Fire and Steel types. But that was a while ago now, in a different era. These days, it can still be neat, but is no better than a spicy Limited format option. So while it IS notably better as a Shadow — picking up stuff like Registeel, Toxapex, Venusaur, and Jellicent which far outweigh the Alolan Marowak and Toxicroak it now loses to — it remains what it was before: a spice pick. More enticing and potent now, certainly, but still just something to save for certain Cups. Grab one if you can for that purpose, just don’t go too crazy thinking this is a new curveball for Open formats.
Drifblim (Shadow) GhostFlying
  • DRIFBLIM too has seen its usefulness degrade a bit over time. Where it was once a terrifying sight, especially in Ultra League, now it somewhat struggles to make an impact, even in things like Premier. Unfortunately, being a Shadow is NOT the new lease on life it was probably hoping for. Shadow Drifblim is not entirely without benefits… it does pick up CharmTales, Swampert, and even Shadow Claw A-Giratina in Ultra League, which are all great. It’s just that it gives up far more: Jellicent, Gyarados, Scrafty, Sylveon, Dubwool, and Cofagrigus. It IS more of a pure sidegrade in Great League, with Shadow Blim uniquely beating Scrafty, Skarmory, and Altaria, and non-Shadow instead getting CharmTales, Pelipper, and Alolan Marowak. But neither are very good. Just like Sceptile, even in the best of circumstances, this does not raise Drifblim back to its former lofty heights. If anything, at least in Ultra League, this balloon may be springing another leak. I WILL say that, for whatever it’s worth, Return Drifblim has a little intrigue in Ultra League.
Donphan (Shadow) Ground
  • DONPHAN, unlike Sceptile and Drifblim, has not had much of a chance to shine to this point. On paper, you figure it SHOULD with both Counter AND Charm as options, and charge moves that include Body SlamPlay Rough, and STAB Earthquake, AND a mono Ground typing that allows it to use most of these moves without taking super effective damage back that other Fighters and Fairies would. (In fact, it RESISTS Poison types that usually give Counter and Charm users big trouble.) But that theoretical success has just never fully materialized. I AM happy to report that being a Shadow is at least sometimes a rather clear upgrade, such as in Great League, where Shadow Donnie with Counter adds on stuff like Scrafty, Toxicroak, Walrein, Mandibuzz, Charizard, and Defense Deoxys and finally stands out a little bit. (And where Play Rough is a sidegrade, too… nice to have options!) But that success does NOT hold true where Donphan arguably has its best success today: in Ultra League, with Shadow being a downgrade to non-Shadow. And despite getting to a competitive-ish CP for Master League, it continues to just not do enough, though hey, it DOES beat Dialga, at least. As it’s a bit better in Great League, I WOULD grab one there if you’re able, but that’s about it. As in Hunter’s infographic, I’m calling this one just a sidegrade in the big picture, and a lesser priority. Donnie needs a special kind of Cup format to stand out, Shadow or not.
Grimer (Alola Shadow) PoisonDark
  • And finally, SHADOW ALOLAN GRIMER. I can see people’s head veins bulging thinking I forgot about it, but here we go. And yes, it IS a little better as a Shadow than not, to answer your burning question, with new wins versus Altaria, Jellicent, Spark Lanturn, Lickitung, Sableye, and Toxapex, though with new losses to Umbreon, Drapion, Air Slash Mandibuzz, Vigoroth, and Shadow Walrein. The thing is, though, that it basically has to be fully maxed out, which is a stupid high investment for a Shadow Pokémon. Especially when you have Skuntank already, who only needs to be built into the low 20s and comes with the same moves and basically the same Attack, bulk, and stat product. (A-Grimer’s stat product is 1819, and Stank’s is 1820.) Not surprisingly, they have a nearly identical list of wins and losses, with just a couple changes like A-Grime’s win over Lanturn, and Stank’s win over Scrafty (as a non-Shadow, at least). Alolan Grimer is more fun, even I will admit that, but is it really worth that kind of investment when Skuntank is already right there? I can only answer for me (“no way”), but by that same token, only you can answer for you.

Alrighty, that’s it for today! Hope this was helpful, folks.

Until next time, you can always find me on Twitter with near-daily PvP analysis nuggets or Patreon .

Continued thanks to my PvP friends, local and around the world, who have lent their own ideas and suggestions over the last 4+ years of PvP play, and helped teach me to be a better player and student of the game. And thank you for reading… I appreciate your attention and encouragement.

Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends, and good hunting!

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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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