Budget Busters: A PvP Analysis of Mega Master League

Hey there, fellow PvPers!

So usually when a new meta comes out, I try to cover it with a big “Nifty Or Thrifty” meta and budget review analysis, trying to cover all the major players and some inexpensive alternatives that can spice things up.

But today, we’re looking at new ground, and the most expensive format possible: not just Open Master League, but Master League with Mega Pokémon! That means tons of candy and dust and 296 XL Candy for everything you use, AND Mega Energy on top of it for a one-day rental of no more than one Mega Pokémon. With the revamped Mega system, this is, for the first time, somewhat possible to actually pull off, but there is really NO thriftiness to be had here.

That said, there certainly IS plenty to unpack. For the most part, I’m not going to go over what makes up Open Master League, as that’s pretty much known and established at this point, I think. Instead, I’m going to focus on what effect Megas have on this new meta.

The Mega Master League meta.

Let’s dive in!


Gyarados (Mega) WaterDark

Dragon Breath/Waterfall | Aqua Tailᴸ (or Outrage) & Crunch

Feast your eyes. Or better still, look at the entire spread of what’s in Master League. Yes, that’s a crazy 85% winrate against the current Mega Master League core meta, and an astounding 95% rate versus the entire format. Before we move on, here is the entire list of what can beat Gyarados — with its standard, recommended moveset of Dragon Breath/Aqua Tail/Crunch — in 1v1 shielding in Level 50 Master League:

Genesect (with Shock Drive), Shadow Magnezone (non-Shadow loses), Zarude, Shadow Tangrowth, Mega Venusaur, Tapu Bulu, Tapu Fini, Tapu Koko, Florges, Zacian, Xerneas (yes, even as bad as it is… Dragon Breath vs Fairy is BAD news), Charmers (Gardevoir, Togekiss, Primarina, Sylveon specifically), Shadow Machamp, Primeape, Sirfetch’d, Yveltal, Shadow Pinsir, Shadow Magmortar (with Karate Chop and Legacy Thunderbolt), and then big Electric types Shadow Zapdos, Shadow Electivire, Raikou, and Luxray.

I know that’s a decently long list (25 total), so just to pick out the highlights:

  • Remember that Mega Gyarados loses its Flying subtype and gains Dark instead. So while normal Gary is known as at least a soft counter to Fighters and Bugs thanks to resisting many of their moves, Mega Gyarados is actually weak to Fighting and Bug damage and loses to several big Fighters and Bugs.
  • Being weak to Fairy is obviously bad news for Darks as well, and Gary’s typical Dragon Breath and Crunch (and even Outrage for spicy Gary) being resisted is further bad news. So yes, even against non-Charmers, Mega Gyarados stumbles badly against most Fairies, even some really bad ones like Xerneas.
  • Mega Gyarados keeps its Water typing and is therefore still vulnerable to Electrics, but the loss of Flying is actually a help here, with the famous double vulnerability dropping down to just a single one. For this reason, it manages to actually overpower most Electrics, with only Shadow Magnezone (notable that non-Shadow LOSES), Shadow Zapdos, Shadow Electivire, and Luxray emerging victorious among Electrics you may actually see at this level. But that’s it. Gone are the days of THIS Gyarados being deathly afraid of Electrics!
  • Slightly more troublesome is Grasses. Regular Gyarados takes only neutral damage from Grass, but Mega Gyarados takes super effective. Thankfully there aren’t a ton of them to worry about here, but Mega Gyarados does lose to Shadow Tangrowth, Tapu Bulu, Zarude, and of course Mega Venusaur (the last of which conveniently also handles ALL the Fairies at this level… you know, the Fairies that are likely to rise up as a counter to Mega Gyarados and Dragons and Fighters and others).
  • Beyond them, a smattering of other relevant Pokémon including Yveltal (though MAN, that one is super close) and a crazy configuration of Magmortar, of all things, but that’s really about it.

All that to say… yeah, Mega Gyarados is really, REALLY good in this meta. Bring a Fairy or one of a small number of other potential counters, or it could run over your whole team. To put it one more way, for anyone who has followed my “Core Meltdown” series throughout the year, you know that putting together a core/team that scores well in a particular meta is highly encouraged. Check out how Mega Gyarados scores against the current Mega Master League core meta… by itself. Insanity.

And of course, at least as far as Master League, fully maxed Pokémon go, Gyarados is comparatively cheap. It costs only 10,000 dust to add a second move, and has relatively easy-to-acquire XL Candy and Mega Energy. In short, it’s one of the easier Pokémon to have on hand, get the XL candy required to max it to Level 50, and get the Mega Energy to Mega Evolve.

That all said, folks have asked me about alternate movesets, either because they can’t get Legacy move Aqua Tail, or because they want to mix things up with Waterfall. So let’s take a brief look at that as well:

  • If you’re unable to get Aqua Tail, your best replacement option is probably Outrage. But that leaves Gyarados in a much different role, as losing the 35-energy Tail makes Crunch its cheapest move now, at 45 energy, and Outrage becomes a slow closer, as it costs 60 energy. Such a Gyarados has a LOT less shield pressure, so it’s probably not shocking to see its winrate against the core meta drop from about 85% down to a (still respectable) 72%, with eight additional losses: Mega Latios, Mega Steelix, Mega Ampharos, Mewtwo, Zacian (with Play Rough), Magnezone, Machamp, and Therian Landorus. On the plus side, it does gain (close) wins over Yveltal and DB/C/AT Mega Gyarados itself thanks to the big neutral damage of Outrage. But overall, while I think I CAN say that Mega Gary without Aqua Tail is still very much viable, it’s a clear step backwards.
  • What about if we DO have the ideal charge moves, but want to get spicy with Waterfall instead of Breath? Overall that’s even a further step backwards, BUT not as bad as it may look. EIGHT of those losses are to Dragons — Dragonite (normal and Shadow), Dialga (with Draco Meteor or Thunder), Altered Giratina, Mega Latios, Zekrom, and Palkia — which is not to be unexpected. (Oh, and Mega Ampharos, as that picks up a Dragon subtyping too.) Waterfall Mega Gyarados also now loses to other things that resist Waterfall, like Kyogre (specifically with Thunder) and the mirror match. And it loses the ability to outslug Lugia too. But there IS good to be found as well: it beats Landorus-T, Machamp, Mewtwo, Magnezone, and Play RoughZacian (as DB/C/AT could but DB/C/O could not), beats Yveltal like Outrage Mega Gary can, and somehow manages to usually beat down even Wild Charge Zacian too, which is pretty sweet. So yes, Waterfall is “worse”, but its losses are as you would expect (Dragons and Waters, mostly), and its gains do give it some surprising niche use, turning the tables on things the opponent may not expect like Yveltal and WC Zacian. And a hidden benefit is also less reliance on charge moves, as Waterfall damage itself adds up pretty quickly if not resisted.


Latios (Mega) DragonPsychic

Dragon Breath | Dragon Claw & Luster Purgeᴸ

If it weren’t for Mega Gyarados, everyone would instead be talking about Mega Latios. It actually has an even higher win percentage than Mega Gary against the entire format, though it does have slightly less success versus the core meta. As with Mega Gary, it tends to lose to Fairies (the same main ones as Gyarados, but even low CP-capped things like Clefable and Alolan Ninetales), but the similarities mostly end there. Mega Latios has no issue with Grasses (aside from half-Fairy Tapu Bulu) or Electrics, but it does struggle more versus Steels (losing to Mega Steelix, regular and Shadow Metagross, all versions of Genesect, and even Alolan Sandslash). Also problematic are Mamoswine (preying, as A-Slash and A-Tails do, on Mega Latios being an Ice-weak Dragon, as opposed to Mega Gyarados which resists Ice damage) and Mega Gengar, preying on Maga Latios’ Psychic typing. While other Ghosts and Darks are certainly scary matchups for any Psychic type, Mega Latios with its big Dragon-type damage manages to outslug all other Ghost and Dark types except Mega Gengar, even things like Mega Houndoom (nope, doesn’t usually beat Mega Latios, sorry) and Yveltal and Zarude and all the rest.

So that’s it… Fairies, a couple prominent Steels, and Mamoswine and Mega Gengar. Although, even Mamoswine is actually surmountable if you stick to straight Dragon Claw by winning CMP, firing off a second, KO Dragon Claw JUST before Mamo can fire its second Avalanche, just as it happens with Shadow Dragonite in regular old Master League.

And speaking of sticking with just Dragon Claw, Mega Latios does just fine without a second move, picking up eight new losses but ALL are to Fairies (Tapu Fini, Koko, and Lele, plus Florges and Charmers Granbull, Aromatisse, and Slurpuff). It beats everything else that it can beat with Legacy move Luster Purge without needing anything but its Dragon moves. So while Mega Latios is extremely expensive to build, you at least don’t need to worry about investing in a second move if you don’t want to… and no, you’re not really missing out if you don’t have the exclusive Luster Purge.

And those are the big two, which those that have them will probably want to use as their Mega wherever possible. But there ARE other viable Megas too….


Gengar (Mega) GhostPoison

Shadow Claw | Shadow Punchᴸ & Sludge Bomb/Shadow Ball/Focus Blast

While there is generally a significant dropoff from Mega Gyarados and Latios to other Megas, Mega Gengar has some good things going for it as a bit of a wild card. First off, it has a stellar record against the core meta (at least in 1v1 shielding), losing only to things with clear advantages: Dark types, Snorlax, Giratina-A, Excadrill and its super effective Ground damage, and Mega Gyarados. That winlist includes ALL Megas except Gyarados and (Dark type) Houndoom, in fact, including Latios.

But, it’s not all sunny. Mega Gary and Mega Latios maintain robust win percentages of 75% or better across all even shield (0v0, 1v1, and 2v2) scenarios versus the Mega Master League core meta. Gengar, however, shows that it needs shields. It’s still good with shields down, just no longer great. with things like Mewtwo, Garchomp, Groudon, and several Megas (Steelix, Blastoise, and unfortunately Latios). In 2v2 shielding there’s even a bit of a further slip, with many Dragons (including Dialga), Kyogre, and several others slipping away. It’s still fine, just no longer all that impressive. That all said, one of the main reasons to consider Gengar remains intant: it is a FANTASTIC counter to the Fairies that will be brought out to take on Mega Gyarados and Mega Latios, consistently beating Togekiss, Sylveon, and Zacian across all even shield scenarios (including with shields down).

And there are a few tricks Gengar can still hide up its non-corporeal sleeve. Forgoing Shadow Ball and instead sliding in Sludge Bomb is a notable step back in 1v1 shielding (new losses to things like Dialga, Origin Giratina, Magnezone, and a bunch of Ground types), but it’s an improvement in 2v2 shielding, getting back Dragonite, Kyogre, and even Dark types Zarude and Yveltal. (Shadow Ball does remain the best option with shields down, though.) Even Focus Blast is a potentially nasty surprise, though honestly I don’t know that I’d recommend it unless you REALLY value the random no-shield BOOM opportunity against Mega Gyarados.


Charizard (Mega Y) FireFlying

Dragon Breathᴸ | Dragon Claw & Blast Burnᴸ

As with Mega Gyarados, you’re best off here running as a non-Dragon with Dragon Breath, IMO. It handles all the non-Mega Dragons, still takes out the big Fairies thanks to Blast Burn, big Psychics and Grounds and much more besides. But yes, it does lose to both Mega Gyarados and Mega Latios, which gives me pause in recommending it as your one and only Mega. (I mean, at least Gengar can sometimes take out Mega Latios.) But if you HAVE to Mega evolve a Charizard, I like Y more than I do Mega Zard X… the Dragon typing there is more curse than blessing.


Steelix (Mega) SteelGround

Dragon Tail | Crunch & Earthquake

Pretty consistently handles all the Dragons, including Mega Latios in all even shields. That’s the good. The bad is that this is a Steel that struggles versus Fairies, relying as it does on Dragon and Dark damage. It’s still enough to ultimately beat out Sylveon (thanks to Earthquake), but Togekiss and Zacian usually escape. Again, hard to justify this as your one and only Mega.


Venusaur (Mega) GrassPoison

Vine Whip | Frenzy Plantᴸ & Sludge Bomb

Now HERE is a Mega I might consider as an anti-meta star. With Mega Gyarados no longer being Flying, Mega Venusaur menaces it in all even shield scenarios. Heck, it can even beat Mega Gary down by a shield! It is similarly dominant versus the big Fairies Togekiss, Sylveon, and Zacian — remember that Venusaur resists ALL of Zacian’s typical trifecta of charge moves — beating them in all even shield scenarios and also down 0v1 shield (except for Togekiss) and 1v2 shield (all three Fairies). Venusaur handles Waters, Grounds, Fighters and a few others, but its main role in this particular meta is crystal clear: smacking down Mega Gyarados AND the Fairies that will be brought to bear against it. Just need a solid Mega Latios/Dragon/Psychic counter to back it up, obviously. But I really, REALLY like Mega Venusaur here. It’s probably my top recommendation if you don’t Mega evolve Gyarados or Latios instead. Heck, if I had all the XL candy I needed, I’d probably go for Venusaur myself as possibly the best anti-mech tech in the current “Mega meta”.


Altaria (Mega) DragonFairy

Dragon Breath | Sky Attack & Moonblastᴸ

A lot of people were bummed about not being able to use Mega Altaria in Ultra (or even Great) League during this GO Battle Day event. Well, good news: it’s not a bad idea to use it here in Mega Master League. Thanks to being part Fairy, it actually resists damage from Dragon moves, and thus manages to take down Mega Gyarados AND Mega Latios, as well as the vast majority of other Dragons, Darks, Fighters, Grounds, Waters and more. Fires and Steels and other Fairies give it major issues, sure, but there’s actually a surprising amount of good going on for Mega Altaria here. Especially if you can’t get a Mega Latios (AKA probably the vast majority of us), this could be a very, VERY good consolation prize for many.

As for the other Megas: in short, nah dawg. Mega Latias is quite literally just a worse Mega Latios…. Mega Abomasnow actually looks pretty good overall but fails where it counts, usually falling to Mega Gary and often to Mega Latios and being very shaky versus the Fairies. (I’d rather just roll with Mega Venusaur and worry about Dragons elsewhere on my team.)…. Mega Ampharos‘ Dragon typing is a curse, not a blessing, in this meta…. Same with Mega Houndoom, who is a Fire that is shaky at best against Fairies, a Dark that usually fails to overcome half-Psychic Mega Latios, and obviously gets doused into oblivion by Mega Gyarados…. Mega Blastoise looks better than I expected, but as with many others, flops against the Big Two or Mega Gary/Latios, though it does at least usually outbulk the Fairies…. Mega Aerodactyl is not AWFUL, but there’s just not nearly enough going for it to seriously consider unless you want to just meme it up. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!)

So beyond that, we’re really just left with the standard Open Master League meta, such as it is. DIALGA, for its part, does still manage to beat Mega Latios in even shields, loses to Mega Gyarados, and does the other things you’re probably used to in Master League by now (importantly, including beating the big Fairies in 1v1 shielding but losing to them in other shielding scenarios). ZEKROM shoots up the overall rankings, but as with many others, doesn’t have it where it counts, losing to Mega Latios consistently, and to Mega Gyarados and the Fairies if the opponent has any shields at all. LUGIA works well enough in a couple different configurations, slaying Mega Latios with Dragon Tail but generally doing better (including against Fairies) overall with Extrasensory. (And don’t forget anyone who has crazily maxed a Shadow Lugia!) Both Giratinas and Mewtwo take major hits in this particular meta, losing (often badly) to Mega Gyarados and Mega Latios, among others. MAGNEZONE is… meh, okay, at least in Shadow form which is able to take down Mega Gyarados, but nothing overly inspiring. ZARUDE is obviously a big issue for Mega Gyarados but disappointingly fails to bring down Mega Latios, falls very flat versus the Fairies, and is just very meh overall to my eyes. If you have a maxed one, it’s not a TERRIBLE idea to bring it as a Gary assassin, just don’t expect too much more from it. And beyond THAT… well, honestly, I’m running out of steam and have other research to get to… and it’s Master League. I think it’s a known commodity by now.

One last group I definitely want to emphasize before I wrap this up, though. I’ve spoken about them quite a lot already, but let’s break down…


That quote is from the wonderful film Hook, by the way, which most of you that hover around my age probably remember with a smile from your childhood, and the rest of you need to go find and watch RIGHT NOW. It’s an experience you won’t forget, and by far one of Robin Williams’ (and Dustin Hoffman’s for that matter) best, with a number of other familiar faces that only further enhance the experience. Seriously, it’s a movie I think EVERYONE should see at least once.

Anyway, I very much believe in Fairies in the current Mega Master League meta. As noted several times earlier, they are consistent counters to many of the very top meta options, including top Megas like Gyarados and Latios. So let’s look at a couple of them to bring this all home, because while they’re obviously already players in Open Master League, they, more than any other non-Mega Pokémon, get a big shot in the arm here.


Togekiss FairyFlying

Charm | Ancient Power & Flamethrower

I mean, yes, you want Ancient Power and probably Flamethrower for coverage, but really, this all comes down to Charm. Not only does Togekiss dominate Mega Gyarados and Mega Latios (which alone would put it in contention), but it takes down all the other Dragons and Darks and Fighters (as any good Fairy should), AND makes the most of its Flying side to also snipe a number of popular Ground types. It is especially dominant with both shields to hide behind. Togekiss is THE Fairy to run here if you have one to use.


Sylveon Fairy

Sylveon is also good, but trails a bit behind, unable to overcome several Ground types, Lugia, or Mega Charizard X as Togekiss can. But perhaps most importantly, Togekiss beats Sylveon head to head. And in a meta where the majority of players will be wanting to run a big Fairy, that loss is critical.


Primarina WaterFairy

Charm | Moonblast & Hydro Pump/Psychic

More interesting but under the radar is Primarina. It will be more interesting still when it one day gets its own Community Day (and presumably Hydro Cannon), but I’ve written before about how Prima has emerged as one of the best Alolan Pokémon we’ve gotten this season, and it’s because of those handy resistances that come from being part Water. It struggles against some things Togekiss can handle like Zarude, Groudon, Snorlax, Origin Giratina, and Mega Steelix, but consider the gains: Draco Meteor Dialga, and Blizzard Kyogre, and Mamoswine, and Charizard Mega X, and Mega Blastoise, and more. And it wholly wrecks Mega Gyarados, resisting its Dragon, Dark, AND Water damage. It’s very close behind Togekiss, perhaps even better depending on your team composition. Give it a long, hard look.


Zacian Fairy

Snarl | Close Combat & Play Rough/Wild Charge

The big bully of Master League. (Well, one of them, anyway.) And yes, while its star is diminished a little bit in this type of meta, Zacian is still big news in this format. It does all the normal stuff you’re used to, and manages to beat Mega Gyarados and Mega Latios… with Play Rough, at least. That move is my personal recommendation rather than Wild Charge, which does beat Mega Gary more efficiently (and is ideal in the mirror match) but fails to take down Mega Latios (and several other Dragons). I generally think old-fashioned Charm is more consistent and safer here, but if you’ve been tearing it up with Zacian in Master League, yes, you can absolutely still beat face with it in Mega Master League.

Hope this was a help. Remember, this is a one-day, try-it-out, still-unranked deal, so don’t stress about it too much if this is all still overwhelming. There really is NO pressure here. But if you’re interested in giving it a go, my goal was getting your feet under you. Good luck!

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

Thank you for reading, and catch you next time, Pokéfriends!

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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