Close Yet Far: GO Battle League and Esports


GBL Season 8 has begun, this means jumping onto PvPoke and doing some homework based on the new moves and meta shifts. Poison-type buffs, Weather Ball Rock Hippowdon, and Feather Dance Pidgeot are welcomed additions. Nothing crazy but I’m always excited about move updates. Read more here: A PvP Analysis on the GBL Season 8 Move Rebalance

I simulated many battles in all three leagues until it dawned on me that the new move update only impacts Great League.

I was hoping the move update will impact Ultra League and Master League, the two leagues I struggle with the most.

As I typically do with any PvP related update, I reached out to my good friend to discuss the situation. We both agreed, Great League is king.

Based on our experience with The Silph Arena, a monthly themed cup held strictly in Great League, this is the league I’m most familiar with. I’m a mediocre GBL battler at best, my ELO stagnates or drops during the Ultra League cycle and depending on the themed Great League cup held alongside Master League, I struggle once again.

When I mentioned this to my friend, streamer/YouTuber Sassifrass, he explained to me that he conducted an experiment during Season 7.

Sassifrass achieved the Legend rank numerous times while playing every league. His recent video explains how and why he conducted the experiment. He highlights the path he took to reach Legend rank during Season 7.

Watch this video

As a fan of the franchise, he raises some interesting points. Why do Leagues rotate? Why are move pools so shallow? How can you prevent ELO drops? Go check out his video to find out his solution to these questions!

Let me clarify that as a fan of Pokémon GO PvP I’m not advocating anything, I have more questions than answers.

State of the PvP union

So let’s begin, I personally think GBL, The Silph Arena, and Pokémon GO PvP, in general, are the best thing to happen to Pokémon GO. As a fan of the franchise myself, I’ve been a long-time spectator of the main series Pokémon Video Game Championships (VGC) but lacked the knowledge or courage to compete in such high-level gameplay.

My favorite aspect of Pokémon is the battles. Participating in the Silph Arena was my first experience with a competitive Pokémon Game. Joining The Silph Arena community while meeting tournament organizers and battlers alike, has been an exciting journey. This is why I believe Pokémon GO PvP has the potential to become a legitimate Esport.

Let me be clear, Pokémon GO is different from the main series game in terms of mechanics, strategies, and predictions but still demands a high level of general Pokémon knowledge.

Pokémon VGC is a slow, calculated chess-style gameplay, reliant on predictions and preparation while Pokémon GO PvP is a fast-paced prediction game, reliant on instinct and reflex. The main series game has multiple battle formats: singles (1v1), doubles, (2v2), and triples (3v3 introduced in Generation V), similar to Pokémon GO with Great League, Ultra League and Master League. VGC has an established competitive format with doubles, so the question is, “what is Pokémon GO’s competitive format.”

It’s clear that I prefer Great League, not because I have the most experience with it, but Great League has the most diverse meta amongst all three leagues.

The argument can be made that Pokémon GO in its current state is not an Esport, to which I ask, “why not?”

A fundamental aspect of Pokémon is battling. It is clear to see a demand for competitive Pokémon GO PvP since Esports organizations such as Mazer Gaming and grass-root organizations such as Team Rocket Academy are legitimizing PvP on their respective platforms.

From watching top-ranked battlers on streams and Youtube holding their own tournaments (not GBL), I’ve noticed it’s always the Great League format.

Sure, I may sound bias since I find Ultra League and Master League difficult, but dropping ELO has never discouraged me. I play every league every season as they rotate. I want to get better at Ultra League and Master League. The question is how?

*Spoiler Alert*

GBL practice mode

This portion of the article will make sense after watching Sassifrass’ video.

To piggyback off of Sassifrass, a GBL practice mode would remedy the situation. In a perfect world, all three Leagues would run simultaneously with an option to play a casual or practice mode.

Just implementing one or the other would offer a chance for everyone to improve. The latest Pokémon main series game offers a multitude of opportunities for new battlers. There are items to adjust your team’s EVs, IVs, move set, and nature that allows anyone to concoct a perfect team.

There is also a “rental team” option for online battles. Anyone can practice with these rental teams before investing time and resources on a team that does not fit their play style.

Pokémon GO offers a pseudo practice mode with the Team Leader battles and Go Rocket battles, but neither option offers the same experience GBL offers. I bring this up to shed light on the significance of a practice mode. I’m all for Ultra League or Master League becoming the established competitive format but mastery requires practice.

Pokémon GO PvP is competitive and fun. It’s been on the precipice of becoming an Esport ever since the Invitational World Championship was held in 2019. I acknowledge the difference between the main series and Pokémon GO, but I enjoy both games for their similarities and differences. The bridge to connect them both will be Pokémon GO becoming a competitive Esport.

Pokémon GO has many great features, Community Days are fun, new raid bosses are exciting, and nothing beats catching Pokémon with friends, but PvP is my favorite feature.

GBL, The Silph Arena, and every grassroots organization have made the experience that much better. As someone who has reached 2990 ELO, I’ve been close yet far from reaching Legend rank. It would be great to have an opportunity to practice without compromising my ELO. If not, having a chance to play my preferred league all season will let me test if I have what it takes.

I’d love to see Pokémon GO on the same level as VGC. When the time comes, maybe I’ll have enough knowledge and courage to compete.

Anyone else feel this way? Let me know down below,


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