Hello again, fellow travelers. Well, I think it goes without saying that between lackluster rewards, yet another month of a research breakthrough “reward” that nobody wanted (Chimecho), and of course the unconscionable decision of Niantic to press ahead with rolling back in-game COVID measures in the face of COVID cases spiking higher than they have since the start of 2021, the enthusiasm of the vast majority of players—including this writer—is at the lowest low we’ve seen for quite some time. Perhaps ever.

But this is still our game. It’s what brought us all together, it’s our escape from those still high stresses of life, and it’s why you’re here reading this now. Not even Niantic’s complete inability to read the room can take away from that.

So on we forge. Niantic may not be getting a dime of my money, but this is still my game, and by golly, I’m still going to enjoy what I can from it.

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And right now, that means looking on to the Ultra Unlock Part II: Space, which begins Friday, August 6th, at 10am wherever you play. So, what do we get during the 11ish days of that event?

  • In the wild, boosted spawns for Basculin (both Blue- and Red-Striped), Elgyem, Heatmor, Durant, and Munna. These will all be available worldwide, regardless of their normal region.

  • Between 7k Eggs and raids, we will also have worldwide access to East AND West Sea Shellos, Kangaskhan, and Heracross. And Palkia, of course, in 5-star raids.

There are a few more details than that, but that’s the gist of it. At least as far as PvP concerns go. I’ll keep this simple: I’m just going to do a quick pass through those normally-rare Pokémon to hopefully help inform you on how hard to go after them for PvP purposes. Cool? Cool. Then let’s do this!

HOT (HERA)CROSS BUNS

Uhhhh… that didn’t come out quite right. 😅 Oh well.

Heracross BugFighting

Based on “buzz” factor alone, Heracross is undoubtedly the thing players are looking forward to the most during Ultra Unlock: Part Deux. (No, not THAT Part Deux.) Normally available only in Central and South America, large portions of the world have never had a chance to acquire it. And it’s one of few regionals that has legit usage in the game, being a solid Fighting type blessed with fantastic fast move Counter and a trio of intriguing charge moves, all three of which have been buffed at some point in time for PvP. In other words, Heracross has only gotten better and better over time.

It is behind only the infamous Tropius and probably the underrated Pachirisu in terms of usefulness in PvP, and unlike both of them, which are truly only good in Great League, Heracross scales up alongside Machamp and actually has a higher maximum CP and a future Mega (with a currently projected 5443 max CP, higher than every other Mega/regular Fighter in the game but Mega Mewtwo X!).

Sticking with the Machamp comparison for the moment, here’s how they measure up against each other:

Fighter Attack Defense HP Max CP
Machamp 234 159 207 3455
Heracross 234 179 190 3506

You can see why I’m comparing them, as they are remarkably close. Attack is the same, so their Counters will typically deal the same damage throughout a battle. The difference is in how their bulk works. Machamp has higher HP, so it can withstand more damage, but it has a lower Defense than Heracross, so Machamp takes more damage per hit. Usually that won’t make a ton of difference… until it does.

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Consider just one example: versus Snorlax, both Machamp (with its standard moveset of Cross Chop/Rock Slide) and Heracross unsurprisingly win. Machamp looks clearly better overall, as it walks away with significantly more HP than Heracross in the end, but there are some troubling trends if you look deeper. Machamp takes 3 damage from each of Snorlax’s Licks, while Heracross takes only 2 per.

Note that Heracross wins that matchup (simmed above) by sticking to just Counter… no charge moves thrown. If Machamp attempts to do the same, it can’t… the cumulative Lick damage and the Body Slam that land are just too much for it.

That is just one “hidden” advantage that Heracross has over Machamp.

Another is in its typing. Machamp is a pure, mono-type Fighting Pokémon, thus resisting Dark, Bug, and Rock damage, while being vulnerable to Psychic, Fairy, and Flying damage. Heracross is a dual-type Bug/Fighting Pokémon, which comes with good (extra resistances to Grass, Ground, and Fighting in exchange for taking neutral now from Rock) and bad (picking up a weakness to Fire, and the vulnerability to Flying now being doubled). The takeaways:

  • Heracross is a sitting duck versus Flyers, taking huge damage and having all of its moves resisted, while Machamp can hit back and even turn the tide of battle thanks to Rock Slide.

  • Heracross is also in dire straits versus Fire types, taking super effective damage, while Machamp takes neutral and can again hit back hard with Rock Slide.

  • On the plus side—and they are BIG plusses—Heracross’ resistances to Ground, Grass, and opposing Fighting damage give it advantages Machamp can only dream of. Whiscash? Victreebel? Toxicroak and Sirfetch’d? Heracross beats them all, as well as Shadow Machamp itself in the head to head. Machamp loses all those match-ups.

Now of course it’s not quite THAT simple. While regular Machamp and Heracross track very closely to each other when matched up against the Great League core meta (the differences being that Machamp can overcome Flyers like Talonflame and Mandibuzz and Ices like Lapras and Froslass thanks to Rock Slide, while Heracross instead beats Whiscash, Shadow Victreebel, Shadow Machamp, Toxicroak, and regular Stunfisk), Shadow Machamp is clearly still king, picking up things like Whiscash, Tropius, Skarmory, Venusaur, Sableye, and even Altaria that one or often both of the other two Fighters mentioned cannot handle.

But there are other advantages for Heracross. That was all with shields in play, where Machamp has a built-in advantage by running with the spammy Cross Chop to burn shields away before landing the killing blow. Cross Chop/Rock Slide spam is its blessing… but also its curse, in that it lacks true knockout power.

Heracross has the opposite: great killing power with Close Combat and Megahorn (and even Earthquake, if the right meta calls for it), but no real spam potential. So yes, it is at a disadvantage when shields can be brought to bear, but you can probably already see where I’m going with this: if shields are down, the performance of Heracross blows the Champ out of the water.

Machamp still has obvious advantages against Flyers (Mandi, Talon, Pelipper), but that’s it. Heracross overcomes DDeoxys, Hypno (regular and Shadow), Meganium, Sableye, Politoed, Swampert, Stunfisk, Whiscash, Wigglytuff, Venusaur, Chesnaught, and others, and MUCH more reliably beats Diggersby too. Yes, it’s hard to rely on stripping away shields to find success, but there are certainly teams that are very good at that, and Heracross could be a much better fit that those players may not have considered before.

Things are even closer in Ultra League, where suddenly Heracross is very close to even Shadow Champ in performance, even in 1v1 shielding. Part of this is the higher CPs, allowing for Heracross to reliably squeeze off its more expensive charge moves more often, and another part is its inherent resistances again allowing it to beat out things like Swampert, Venusaur, Meganium, Sirfetch’d, and Machamp itself, which Shadow Champ cannot handle. By contrast, Champ usually beats Flyers—Talonflame, Skarmory, Gyarados, Charizard, and Articuno—that Heracross cannot. So what we see is actually the same thing as in Great League, just magnified: Heracross excels against Grasses, Grounds, and other Fighters, while Machamp continues to shine versus the myriad of Flying types.

For Master League comparisons, I’m going to stick with Classic, as grinding for the XL Candy necessary to build up Heracross to Level 50 is not something most of us are going to be able (or willing, in these current times) to do. And the comparison is once again a positive one. Machamp comes in a couple different flavors here, from the standby Rock Slide/Cross Chop to the all-Fighting Cross Chop/Close Combat. Both have their pros and cons: Rock Slide brings in potential wins versus Dragonite, Gyarados, and Ho-Oh, while Close Combat can knock out Kyogre, Garchomp, Swampert, and even Metagross. But either way, Heracross is right up there, also handling Kyogre, Metagross, and Swampert while yet again beating Machamp head to head, plus uniquely taking out Landorus-T and Groudon. I know people that don’t run Machamp tend to turn to Conkeldurr, but I gotta say… if I was looking for a Master League alternative to The Champ, I really think it would be Heracross. Even PvPoke has Heracross ranked higher than Conk AND regular Machamp. How about that?

So what’re you really saying, JRE? I’m saying that Heracross is an underrated, solid Fighting option in PvP, particularly in Ultra League and perhaps even more so in Master League, where it stands tall alongside Machamp as a top option with a similar (or even better) number of wins. It’s fine in Great League too, but falls a little further behind unless you can strip away enemy shields, in which case it surges WAY up the ranks. I highly recommend snatching up any good Heracross you can during Ultra Unlock Part 2, and specifically recommend it for Master, Ultra, and then Great League, in that order. It is my belief that it is even worth rare candy, especially if you have a stockpile, to build up a big one for Master League play especially.

…with the caveat that I have made the personal decision not to shell out to Niantic for tons of raid passes in light of recent company decisions, but to each their own. I’m really not trying to be political here… I’m just here for Pokémon and PvP!

CAPTAIN KANGASKHAN

Dang, I’m sitting here realizing I’m having a case of the olds… many of you may not even know who or what “Captain Kangaroo” was, but I’m leaving the reference anyway, ya whippersnappers.

Kangaskhan Normal

Kangaskhan has been available worldwide before, as one of the Generation 1 regionals available in 7k eggs back in late 2018. And unlike Heracross, which is of course getting its sparkly pink shiny form during this event, Kanga’s shiny is already available, and has been since 2018. That’s the good news.

The bad news is… well, everything else, honestly. I LOVE Kanga as a Pokémon design, and have actually forced myself to build one for PvP, but I knew going in what using it further confirmed… it’s just not a very good PvP Pokémon. And it comes down mostly to the fast moves, being stuck with the truly awful Low Kick and the lackluster Mud Slap. Neither have STAB, and while Mud Slap is okay-ish anyway, the real killer is that both moves have subpar energy generation. And while Kanga has an intriguing array of charge moves—CrunchEarthquakePower-Up PunchOutrage, and Legacy Stomp—Mud Slap is just too slow to make them as impactful as they could be.

Therefore, this is about the best it can muster, and that’s with heavy Power-Up Punch baiting and the Legacy Stomp. (Without Stomp, it’s even worse.) And while it can get away with not having to PuP bait in Ultra League, it doesn’t get any prettier, and Kanga can’t even break into Master League, as its CP tops out below 3000 CP… even at Level 50. I mean, it too has a Mega we’ll likely get eventually, but without a reworking of its mishmash moveset, I’m not sure it will matter, sadly.

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So what’re you really saying, JRE? I’m a Kanga fan, so it pains me to say it, but Kangaskhan is mostly a disappointing mess in PvP. It has some good moves and decent stats (above average bulk and a workable Attack stat), but it’s a little TOO varied and just doesn’t all mesh well together. Mostly its lack of any fast moves with decent energy generation torpedo its potential in PvP.

HEROES IN A HALFSHELL(OS)?

So we’re actually not getting anything new with the worldwide release of whatever color Shellos you don’t normally see where you are. West Sea, East Sea, they and their evolution Gastrodon both have the same typing, stats, and moves.

Gastrodon WaterGround

What may be new to you is considering Gastrodon in PvP. If you played Element Cup at all, you likely ran into a Shellos or two along the way. Shellos is a pure Water type, but Gastrodon is one of the infamous “Mud Boys”, a Pokémon that is dual type Water/Ground and therefore left with but a single vulnerability (albeit a double one), to Grass.

Water/Ground Pokémon take no worse than neutral damage from every other type of damage in the game, and resist Fire, Poison, Rock, Steel, and perhaps most famously, Electric damage.

But of course, there are more famous members of this club already, especially Whiscash (in Great League) and Swampert (also in Great League, but notably in Ultra and Master as well). Gastrodon can reach the right size for Ultra (as an XL), but it doesn’t do too well. Where it may have a case—and already has in a couple of Silph Arena limited metas—is in Great League.

At first, its record looks pretty lackluster… but it’s actually identical to the record of Whiscash. Surprised? There are differences, of course. Whiscash is famously spammy with Mud Shot and Mud Bomb, carrying the big stick of Blizzard to give it the potential for big wins over things like Diggersby, Drifblim, Froslass, and Altaria. Gastrodon is spammy in a different way: it has Body Slam for steady neutral damage, powered out by the same Mud Slap that hamstrings Kangaskhan… but here it works because it gets extra STAB damage AND Body Slam is more than cheap enough to mask the energy generation deficiencies of Slap.

Even the closing move of Earth Power is cheap enough that it can be brought to bear after Body Slam softens the opponent up and perhaps snags a shield along the way. Gastro matches many of the wins Whiscash is best known for, including both Stunfisks, Registeel, Bastiodon, Nidoqueen, Toxicroak, Haunter, DDeoxys, Melmetal, Shadow Hypno and others.

But unlike Whiscash, it beats out Galvantula, Lapras, and the more famous Mud Boys, Swampert and Whiscash itself. Not a great performance strictly by the numbers, but I would argue it makes a very intriguing alternative to Whiscash for those who have that kind of hole on their team, and one that is far less predictable by the majority of the playerbase right now.

Maybe use that to your advantage next time Great League comes around!

So what’re you really saying, JRE? Gastrodon isn’t going to send massive shockwaves through Great League or anything… I mean, it’s had chances to already. But Gastrodon can capably fill the Whiscash role in Great League with an alternative that does most of what Whiscash wants to do, but better in some ways, and beats Whiscash/Swampert in the process. If you’re looking to shake things up, but still need a solid anti-Steel, anti-Poison, anti-Electric to rely on, Gastro may be your guy… and now in technicolor!

BIG MOUTH BILLY BASCULIN

Basculin Water

Okay, I can keep this one REALLY short. Yes, it’s nice that we’ll finally be able to get Basculin with either stripe. As for me, I’ve been stuck with only the Blue-Striped variety and I gotta say that Red-Stripe LOOKS a lot cooler. But unfortunately, they’re just no good in PvP. Like, at all.

I kinda wish they had just done a worldwide release of Relicanth instead, which has the same Water Gun/Aqua Tail as Basculin, but at least has significantly better PvP stats (Basculin is heavily Attack-weighted) and a halfway decent second charge move in Ancient Power. Basculin has only Muddy Water to… uh… bait out Aqua Tail? Yeah, it’s BAD, folks. Get this one for the ‘dex, but that’s the extent of it.

So what’re you really saying, JRE? In case it wasn’t clear enough already, Basculin looks scary, but has no bite in PvP. You’re significantly better off with Vaporeon or even Relicanth, if that tells you anything.

ANTS IN MY PANTS ON FIRE

Again, Heatmor and Durant are not new to the game, and you’ve had a chance at some point in GO’s lifetime to catch them both. But just a reminder that both are at least somewhat interesting in PvP:

Heatmor Fire
  • Heatmor in Great League does most everything you’d want your Fire type to do (roast Grasses, Ices, Charmers, though it’s less reliable against Steels), plus gets surprise wins over things like Drifblim and Mandibuzz thanks to Thunder Punch, especially once boosted with Power-Up Punch. Plus PuP’d Fire Spin is chef’s kiss. If you’re feeling really spicy and are somehow swimming in Heatmor XL candy, it even has spice potential in Ultra League.

Durant BugSteel
  • Durant has a glut of other Steely Bugs to compete with, but it more than holds its own in Great League. Stone Edge is obviously a VERY nice weapon, even without STAB, taking out things Bugs have no right to, like Altaria, Mandibuzz, and Pidgeot (#FreePidgeot!), as well as smashing Ices like Dewgong, Lapras, and Alolan Ninetales.

  • All that while still chewing through Grasses and Psychics thanks to dealing super effective Bug damage and resisting Grass and Psychic damage in return, plus making full use of its Steely side in outlasting Charmers too. It’s not quite as good as, say, Forretress, but it’s right behind it along with Trash Wormadam and others, and handles Flyers in particular much more easily. Durant also requires no XL Candy to operate in Ultra League, where it carves out a decent niche.

So what’re you really saying, JRE? Heatmor and Durant are already decent in PvP, the latter especially. This event is a good chance to snatch up a good IV spread for them, so don’t ignore them as you venture out (or stay in!) and check the spawns around you.

KAIJU ATTACK!

The soggy Dragon Palkia returns to five star raids, and while I implore people not to go out and spend a ton of money on raid passes in light of current events (sorry, not trying to preach at ya), yes, it remains quite good in PvP. Not so much in Ultra League, but the Master League meta is MUCH more favorable to its Dragon and Water damage.

Remember that with its very complementary pairing of Water and Dragon typings, Palkia takes only neutral damage from Electric and Grass (Water is famously weak to both, but Dragon resists both), and also from Ice (Dragon is famously weak, but Water resists) and is in fact weak only to Fairy damage and other Dragons (while resisting Steel, and double resisting Water and Fire damage).

So beyond the other Dragons and Togekiss, there’s not much in Master League that truly scares Palkia. It even still manages to beat most Dragons head to head (Altered Giratina, Dialga of course, and sometimes Garchomp are the most problematic that it tends to lose to), and Palkia obviously loses hard to Togekiss and Sylveon, but beyond that only Lugia, Yveltal, Dragon Breath Gyarados, and Metagross tend to walk/fly away winners.

My friend and colleague MeteorAsh here at GO Hub has already written up a deeper analysis on Palkia which will be going up soon, and I recommend checking it out when it hits the site, but suffice to say: Palkia is an excellent Master League Pokémon, and if you lack one, now’s the time to try and land yourself a good specimen.

So what’re you really saying, JRE? Well I kind of JUST said it, but in short, Palkia is one of the better Master League Pokémon out there, with its unique combination of heavy Dragon damage and spammy Water damage with Aqua Tail doing very good things for it in the ML meta. Get a good one if you don’t have one already.

Parting words

Alright, that’s it for now. I know I’ve been rather quiet in terms of new PvP analysis articles lately (my last one published was well over a week ago!), but I’ve not been sitting idle. Expect an analysis on all the “Eevolutions” ahead of Eevee Community Day and an analysis on Ultra Unlock Part III in the coming days, as well as perhaps some more surprises.

I hope THIS analysis was useful to you in better understanding the good (Heracross), the bad (Kangaskhan), and the uuuuuuugly (looking at you and your stripes, Basculin) for the coming event.

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

Good luck on your hunt, Pokéfriends. And since Niantic refuses to consider the current real-world environment and your well-being, know that I do: please be SAFE out there.

Catch you next time.

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