Galarian Birds and New Hisuian Pokemon in PvP

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Alright folks, after weeks of radio silence, Niantic is now bombarding us with new info. All at once, we suddenly have nine new Pokémon regional forms hitting the game, three from Galar and the rest from Hisui, representing one of the biggest shakeups in PvP we’ve had in quite some time. But do they actually shake things up? At least in some cases, they absolutely do! Read on to find out which ones, but first, let’s summarize the article below with our Bottom Line Up Front.

B.L.U.F.

In order….

  • The new Galarian versions of the OG Legendary Birds are out right now as potential encounters with Daily Adventure Incense, but honestly, only Galarian Zapdos is truly worth pursuing for PvP purposes. G-Moltres has to contend with multiple, established, better Dark Flyers, and G-Articuno has this little thing called Lugia ahead of it. G-Zapdos fills a much better niche and has the moves to make it work.
  • Fellow Flyer Hisuian Braviary is frankly, just sad. Pokédex entry only and move on, I think. It lacks even the things that make the lackluster original Braviary special. You can hold onto any passes but your free ones.
  • There’s some potential with Hisuian Arcanine, but it’s probably no better than spice. It may break out in a future limited meta, but it DOES have Magcargo now to get around if it wants to vie for a spot. It may get there, and I absolutely recommend trying to land a good one when able, but you don’t need to go crazy for this one.
  • Hisuian Qwilfish and later evolution Overqwil look much for promising as arguably the new top dogs among the Dark/Poisons. Keeping Aqua Tail is a big part of why. Having a flexible and rather unpredictable moveset is a big part of it. This isn’t one you look at on paper and immediately think “this is a new superstar!”, but I do think both have that potential. They enter the game in the meta discussion in their respective leagues, no doubt.
  • And same for the new Hisuian Sneasel and its evolution Sneasler. Sporting Toxicroak’s infamous typing but with overall better moves, they don’t push Toxi out of the picture, but they ARE mostly upgrades. And Sneasler in particular brings the fight to Ultra League much cheaper, and even into Master League with true viability in a meta that’s been dying for a good Poison Jab user.

Okay, now let’s dive in on the rest of the story!

THEM’S FIGHTIN’ WORDS BIRDS

Yep, I’m starting off a Hisuian-centric article with…a trio of Galarians. Just stay with me here….

The new Hisuians have already arrived in parts of the world at the time of this writing, but in the right here and now, we have the Galarian versions of the original Legendary Birds: ARTICUNOZAPDOS, and MOLTRESable to be encountered from the new Daily Adventure Incense item, albeit with a super low catch rate. (Only about 0.3%, and with a 90% flee rate!) Still, player HAVE caught them, and despite being Legendaries, because they’re not encountered as raid rewards or from hatching or research through this method, they can come at any IV combination and any level, meaning Great League versions (or heck, even Little League versions) are possible! Somebody‘s got them.

And so, in order of viability from worst to best:

  • Kanto Moltres is okay in raids, but mostly a dud in PvP. It just can’t carve out a role ahead of Charizard or Talonflame in Great and Ultra Leagues, and cannot hold a candle to Ho-Oh in Master League. Unfortunately, the same can be said for the new Dark/Flying Galarian Moltres, which has Mandibuzz ahead of it in Great and Ultra, and Yveltal in Master. Moltres doesn’t have awful moves, but it doesn’t have great ones either, with Wing Attack and Sucker Punch (okay, how does this thing punch anything?! But I digress….) for fast moves, and Ancient Power to bait out either Brave Bird or Payback for closing power. But it’s kind of a one-trick pony, with Ancient Power dealing pathetic damage if left unblocked, disaster if Brave Bird is blocked, and Payback just costing too much (60 energy) to often matter. In the end, be it it GreatUltraor Master League, it just doesn’t quite cut it. Perhaps one day it, like the Kanto version, will one day get an exclusive move that may make it more interesting. But for now… just not much to get excited about.
  • Slightly more interesting with Hisuian Articuno. The icy Kanto version has Icy Wind and does good things in Ultra League, but this version lacks that, instead having the same Ancient Power and Brave Bird as Moltres, with Future Sight as the alternate closer. More interesting are the fast moves, with Psycho Cut for very speedy energy gains, or Confusion for average energy but high damage output. In Great and Ultra it runs best with Psycho Cut to race to Brave Bird (after an assumed Ancient bait, of course). But in Master League, Confusion has just as much merit as Psycho Cut, the former being good for beating down things like Swampert, Garchomp, and even Mewtwo, and the latter better for outracing Fairies. But uh… neither are great… heck, the underrated Kanto Artie is still worlds better if you’re gonna blow a bunch of dust and (XL) candy.
  • Thankfully, our last entry looks legit in PvP. Galarian Zapdos gets blessed with not only Counter, but also by far the cheapest closing move of the new Bird trio, with Close Combat (45 energy as opposed to the 60-energy Payback and 65-energy Future Sight) alongside the now-customary Ancient Power and Brave Bird. In Master League it does still prefer the pure power of Brave Bird (though Close Combat is certainly viable, being better versus Metagross, Zekrom, and Kyogre, while Brave is superior versus Landorus, Gyarados, and Zacian). However, in Ultra and Great Leagues, Close Combat is neck and neck with Brave Bird. Admittedly, it gets a bit worse the lower you go (as is the case with most Legendaries… they’re usually built for Master League), but don’t forget that Galarian Zapdos will have some very unique utility in Great League limited (Cup) formats moving forward, if you have one. Like, say, the eventual Fighting Cup, where it resists Fighting damage and can beat all but a dozen other Fighters? Just a thought!

So what’s the verdict?

Zapdos is the one to seek, rather ironic considering that Kanto Zapdos is also the one probably seen the most in PvP. (Though I still say Kanto Articuno deserves more use too.) Obviously if you get any of the three from Daily Adventure Incense (or whatever other means may come along), hold onto them… I find it hard to believe Niantic won’t be spicing them up with additional moves at some point, just as they did for the original Birds. But for now, the only one I MIGHT invest in would be Fightin’ Bird Zapdos.

Now let’s get into some actual Hisuian Pokémon!

BRAVE… OR FOOLHARDY?

Usually when a new Pokémon is released through raids, it makes sense to get hyped and go out and get as many as you can while they’re around.

…and then there’s stuff like HISUIAN BRAVIARYSigh.

Braviary (Hisuian) PsychicFlying

With some trading, yes, it CAN fit in Great League. But you don’t want to. Nor do you really want it in Ultra League, and certainly not worth building up for Master League.

See, like Hisuian Braviary, original Braviary is also stuck with Air Slash as its only viable — but extremely dull and uninspiring — fast move. Unlike its Hisuian counterpart, original Braviary actually has some exciting charge move options that make you want to at least try to make it work, with Rock Slide and Close Combat having great at least theoretical utility. Hisuian has none of that, being stuck with also uninspiring and overpriced (for Air Slash, anyway) Psychic (the move) and Dazzling Gleam, with only Ominous Wind (a move that deals the same damage {45} as the energy it costs to use {also 45}) to try to “bait” with, if you can call a 45-energy move a bait move at all. This is just… bad. It’s bad. It also could have had Rock Slide, or Shadow Claw, or heck, even Quick Attack, all which would make it at least a bit more interesting, and all of which it learns in Pokémon Legends Arceus. Instead, we get this.

Again… sigh.

So what’s the verdict?

In my humble opinion… save your raid passes. Use your freebies, of course, and at least get the ‘dex entry. But Hisuian Braviary is really not worth anything beyond that, and there’s an above average chance it never will be. I mean, even fellow Psychic Bird Xatu performs at about the same level of competitiveness. This is just not a good PvP Pokémon, folks.

Thankfully, while they’re not all superstars, the other new Hisuians are all MUCH better.

POP ROCKS

Arcanine (Hisuian) FireRock

I personally have been excitedly waiting for HISUIAN ARCANINE (and, by extension, GROWLITHE) since the moment it was revealed. Long-time readers will know I have always had a soft spot for Magcargo, LONG before it got Incinerate and the Rock Tomb buff that allowed for one to use it without getting laughed out of the room. To this point, Mags has been the only Fire/Rock type in GO, and it has used that unique niche to do a lot of good in formats that don’t hate it right out of the meta.

Magcargo is a little less unique now, but that’s okay! Hisuian Arcanine picks up that same Rock subtyping, which is sadly weak to Fighting and Rock and DOUBLE weak to Water and Ground, making it tough to run in Open formats. BUT it also resists Ice, Flying, Fairy, Poison, Normal, Bug, and Fire (2x), and that’s been pretty awesome in several formats too. (See: Love Cup.)

Anyway, probably the bigger news about H-Arcanine as compared to the OG Kanto version is the addition of Rock Slide to its varied arsenal (which is otherwise VERY similar to Kanto Arcanine, with stuff like Fire FangSnarlFlamethrowerCrunchWild Charge). Slide gives Arcanine a very handy and affordable coverage move… as cheap as Crunch but dealing more raw damage, as cheap as Wild Charge but without any drawbacks to using it (handy especially against Flyers as a way to hit hard without self-debuffing), and much cheaper than Flamethrower. Rock Slide is likely going to be H-Arc’s bread and butter move in PvP, paired with one of the other three depending on need.

Take, for example, Great League, where Rock Slide alone does most of the heavy lifting (utilizing Snarl to power it out), and then you have options like Flamethrower to add on flammable Venusaur and Meganium, or Wild Charge to instead shoot down Electric-weak Walrein and Drifblim, and also overpower Cresselia. (Do note, however, that Great League H-Arcanine shouldn’t be possible as long as it’s a hatch exclusive, as even a 0-0-0 IV one is still over 1500 CP at Level 20.)

In Ultra League, there’s a clearer “winner”, and it’s Snarl/Rock Slide/Flamethrower, with unique wins over Trevenant and Venusaur, and wins Snarl/Wild Charge cannot match like Shadow Abomasnow, Escavalier, Ferrothorn, Melmetal, and Scizor… none of those probably too surprising. Plugging in Wild Charge in Flamethrower’s place instead nets wins over Gyarados, Jellicent, and (Snarl) Alolan Muk. Interestingly, Fire Fang (with Slide and Charge) now looks viable too as a mix of the other two, with the Shadowbama, Escav, Ferro, Scizor and Melmetal of Snarl/Flamethrower, the Jellicent and A-Muk of Snarl/Wild Charge, and now Greedent that neither of the others could reliably beat. Note that it does NOT show wins versus Venusaur or Trevenant, though it CAN limp away with a super close win over Venusaur by committing completely to the Fire Fang farmdown (though this does NOT work on Trevor… that thing is just disgusting in Ultra, isn’t it?!).

The same Snarl/Rock Slide/Flamethrower that’s best in Ultra is also best in Master League… though that’s not saying much. Fire types just don’t have a ton of use in Open Masters, and such is the case even with a really cool specimen like Hisuian Arcanine. Sadly not that much better in Master League Premier Classic either, should that EVER return. Sorry!

Growlithe (Hisuian) FireRock

As for pre-evolution HISUIAN GROWLITHE… well, while it has much more exciting charge moves (Rock Slide, Crunch, Flamethrower) on paper than Kanto Growlithe does (Body Slam, Flame Wheel, Flamethrower), it’s the lack of Body Slam that holds it back as compared to K-Growlie. I’ll check again when Element Cup returns, and sure, if you find a good one for Little League, hold onto it. But for now, just hold it and don’t invest, IMO.

So what’s the verdict?

With a cool typing and a new weapon in Rock Slide (with STAB!) that regular Arcanine would LOVE to have at its disposal, Hisuian Arcanine should at least make for fun spice in Great and Ultra League formats, though it just doesn’t have quite enough bulk to make full use of its better qualities. Even Hisuian Growlithe looks unlikely to make big inroads in Little League, being outclassed by the OG Growlie with its Body Slams. Boooo.

NEEDLE POINT QWILTING

Qwilfish (Hisuian) DarkPoison Overqwil DarkPoison

I’m really bummed that The Pokémon Company already stole the name OVERQWIL. I had some qwiller jokes to make with that. Oh well.

Thankfully you all won’t have to be subjected to my poor attempts at humor and qwilt away under a barrage of bad jokes. I’ll just have to muster the qwilpower to forge on with this analysis!

See, sometimes those jokes just fall into my lap. Even more rarely, sometimes a Pokémon analysis is SO easy that I merely have to throw up the numbers — as I can do there with HISUIAN QWILFISH, or to a slightly lesser extent with Overqwil — and I can almost call it a day right there. Such occasions make me qwilver with joy!

The newest entries in the exclusive Dark/Poison club — formerly occupied only by Drapion, Skuntank, and Alolan Muk, and famous for having just one vulnerability (Ground) stacked up against five resistances (Ghost, Dark, Poison, Psychic, and Grass) — Hisuian Qwilfish and Overqwil are the only new Pokémon in this article that require no fancy new Incense or hatching to bring home. The event begins, and BOOM, H-Qwilfish is right there in the wild, coming in at any potential level or IV spread, ripe for the PvP farming. The ONLY downside is that Overqwil comes with a catch: you have to win — not just participate in, but actually win — ten raids before you can evolve it from a Hisuian Qwilfish. Thankfully, in their most immediate use case, Hisui Cup, Qwilfish is all you need, doing literally everything Overqwil can, and even a hair better thanks to better Great League stats. (Higher Defense = better bulk.) You could say that building up an Overqwil for Great League is… well, overqwil indeed. ahem

In the case of Hisui Cup, it seems H-Qwil most wants Aqua Tail (which will likely be standard on both it and Overqwil moving forward for spam and the awesome anti-Ground coverage it provides) and Ice Beam to slam the door on enemy Qwils and things like Hippowdon too. That said, in other metas, Dark Pulse or Shadow Ball will likely enter the picture. Shadow Ball deals more neutral damage overall despite lacking STAB, but costs 5 additional energy, so both will likely jockey for position. There’s also Sludge Bomb, but with Poison Jab usually being the preferred fast move (yes, even over the Poison Sting that powers up original Qwilfish), Bomb is a little superfluous.

ANYway, Hisuian Qwilfish, as noted, will make a splash right away in Hisui Cup as the one new Hisuian everyone has access to as long as they can reach a spawn point or two. It’s also looking good in Open play, and heck, even in Little League. And while it can do some good work even in Ultra League, now we’re really better off bringing in Overqwil, doing everything H-Qwil can while adding on Drifblim, Gyarados, Lugia, and fellow Dark/Poison Drapion. No need to invest XL candy… just raid enough for Overqwil instead.

…or apply XL candy to Master League Overqwil if you wish, but I don’t really recommend it. There’s a more impressive Master League Poison Jabber coming up shortly.

So what’s the verdict?

While these two don’t make much of a dent in Master League, Hisuian Qwilfish and the all-new Overqwil man their respective Leagues (Great and Little for Qwilfish, and Ultra League for Overqwil) capably as respectable new members of the Dark/Poison gang. Move over, Drapion? That may be a little premature, but clearly there’s some very real competition in the house now. Scoop up as many Hisuian Qwils as you’re able, and then sort out which one is best for Ultra League Overqwil and get raiding as you’re able. Thankfully remotes still work for now if you need to go that route!

GESUNDHEIT!

Sorry, sounded like you… sneezed. You even have a sneasler dangling out of your nose there.

Sneasel (Hisuian) FightingPoison Sneasler FightingPoison

Okay, okay, put down the rotten fruit, I’ll move on. 🤪 HISUIAN SNEASEL is one of the more interesting regional forms we’ve ever had, because it is completely different than the original. Hisuian Arcanine/Growlithe are at least still part Fire. Hisuian Qwilfish is still half-Poison, and even keeps remnants of its Kanto version with Aqua Tail and Ice Beam. Even some of the crazier Alolans like A-Marowak retain at least a move or two that hint at their previous forms. Hisuian Sneasel keeps NONE of its Johto counterpart’s typings OR moves… it is a new and different Pokémon entirely. Fighting/Poison is currently shared by only one other competitive Pokémon: the highly competitive Toxicroak. And while Toxicroak has the amazing Counter and H-Sneasel and its evolution SNEASLER do not, I dare say the new Hisuians have a much more intriguing moveset overall… and a better record to match!

That’s right… both H-Sneasel and Sneasler have a better record in Great League than Toxicroak. What are the big differences? Glad you asked! Here’s a table with all notable wins against the Great League meta. Of course, many are shared, but several very notable ones are not. I’ll highlight any unique wins just one of the three gets in bold. It’s kind of a long table, but it seems the best way to show this important side-by-side comparison. Here we go!

Pokémon Toxicroak H-Sneasel Sneasler
Abomasnow Win Win Win
Araquanid Win Win Win
Azumarill Loss Win Loss
Bastiodon Win Win Win
Cofagrigus Loss Loss Win
DDeoxys Loss Win Win
Dewgong Win Win Win
Drapion Win Win Win
Froslass Loss Loss Win
Galvantula Loss Loss Win
Lickitung Win Win Loss
S-Machamp Win Win Win
Medicham Loss Loss Win
Meganium Win Win Win
Mew Loss Win Win
S-Nidoqueen Win Loss Win
A-Ninetales (PS) Win Win Win
A-Ninetales (Charm) Win Win Loss
S-Ninetales (FS) Loss Loss Win
Obstagoon Win Win Win
Politoed Loss Win Win
Registeel Win Loss Win
Scrafty Win Win Win
Skarmory Loss Loss Win
G-Stunfisk Win Loss Win
Talonflame Loss Win Loss
Toxicroak Tie Loss Win
Trevenant Loss Loss Close Win
Umbreon Win Win Win
Venusaur Win Win Loss
Vigoroth Win Win Win
Walrein Win Win Win

If some of these seem odd, let me explain a little bit.

  • Toxicroak, of course, is running its standard Counter/Mud Bomb/Sludge Bomb moveset. Counter gives it some standout wins like Registeel, G-Fisk, and Lickitung, while even lowly Mud Bomb helps with those Steels and also other Poisons like Nidoqueen. While it has no one-of-a-kind wins among these three, it has the most effective wins against Regi and Queen.
  • Hisuian Sneasel runs Poison Jab as its fast move, with X-Scissor mainly for baiting (though it has some good use versus Darks, Grasses, and even Psychics) and Close Combat for closing power. Primarily thanks to Poison Jab, it has unique wins among the three versus Talonflame and Azumarill with ANY combination of Azu’s three charge moves. That seems pretty big!
  • Sneasler runs the same charge moves as H-Sneasel, and while it also has Poison Jab, its unique niche is also having Shadow Claw. So even though it has worse PvP stats in Great League than Sneasel (being notably less bulky), it has the best overall performance here, not able to beat Azu or Talonflame, but beating everything else Toxi and Sneasel can, PLUS Cofagrigus, Froslass, Galvantula, Medicham, Skarmory, Trevenant, and Toxicroak itself. I don’t think you need me to tell you how ALL of those are traditional Fighting-type slayers, but here we have a Fighting type overcoming them all. This is a truly awe-inspiring performance, folks, at least on paper. Will it hold up in actual practice? Only time will tell, but dang, the potential is HUGE. The only thing holding it back right now? As with Hisuian Arcanine, technically it’s too big for Great League until there’s a way to get it outside of egg hatching.

That said, I worry about Sneasler if it finds a way into Fighting Cup, as it can beat ALL ELIGIBLE FIGHTERS in 1v1 shielding. 👀 Look it up if you don’t believe me (use ‘fighting&!psychic’ as your search parameter), but not even stuff like Heracross and Buzzwole and Galarian Zapdos would be able to overcome it. While it would suffer SOME losses in other shielding scenarios (G-Zap, Buzz, Heracross, Toxi, Hakamo-O, H-Sneasel in 0v0 shielding, and several others in 2v2 shielding), this thing would be quite terrifying come Fighting Cup time. Hisuian Sneasel will be quite good in that format too — losing only to Toxicroak, Primeape, Galarian Farfetch’d, and Sneasler in 1v1 shielding — but nothing like THIS potential dominance. For once, I pray that Niantic does NOT release Hisuian Sneasel in the wild… not until after Fighting Cup clears out.

Sneasler will, of course, be fine right away for Ultra League and beyond. I mean, heck, even an undersized (barely cresting 2300 CP) Hisuian Sneasel is viable in Ultra, so as you can probably guess, Sneasler is quite good in Ultra as well. Interestingly it seems to favor Poison Jab at this level rather than Shadow Claw, partly because of all the Fairies it then beats (all the major Charmers plus Tapu Fini), as well as Snorlax, Poliwrath, Gyarados, Charizard (with either Fire Spin or Dragon Breath), Dragonite, and Meganium. By contrast, Shadow Claw instead beats Gengar, Galarian Stunfisk, Registeel, Swampert, and Escavalier… in other words, all things that resist Poison Jab. There’s room for either, depending on team composition, but generally the edge that Jab has is pretty clear.

That’s even more true in Master League where, yes, Sneasler actually looks viable. Shadow Claw again disappoints… though it does manage unique wins versus Excadrill and Metagross, the advantage of instead using Poison Jab is immediately clear. And if not just by the nunbers, then perhaps by the names that are added to the winlist: Snorlax, Kyogre, Yveltal, Zekrom, and of course Fairies Togekiss, Sylveon, and yes, Zacian, regardless of what charge moves it tries to throw at you. We’ve been waiting for a viable Poison Jab user (that actually WANTS to be using Jab) in Master League, and it has finally arrived, folks. And conveniently, it happens to be also be able to still slay Dialga and Melmetal and other Fighting targets in the process as well!

So what’s the verdict?

While I will hardly stand here and recommend you burn a ton of incubators (and presumably your real life funds) chasing down a new release when we all KNOW it won’t be in eggs forever… in a vacuum, yes, Hisuian Sneasel and especially Sneasler do indeed seem to be “worth it”. Certainly more so than Hisuian Arcanine, anyway. Sneasel could see use very soon in Fighting Cup, immediately in Hisui Cup, and likely even in Open formats too. And Sneasler instantly becomes meta in Ultra and Master Leagues, if those are more your cup of tea. These two arrive instantly as legit PvP options, my friends, and may only get better with potential new moves in the future. IF you’re going to get hatching during this event, this is what you want you want to see pop out most. Good luck.

Already did our TL;DR up front, so that’s it… we’re done! Hopefully this helps put these new Pokémon in perspective and gives you some guidance on which ones to try and chase down for PvP… and which ones you can probably not bother much with. Good hunting, Pokéfriends!

Until next time (my meta/budget review of Hisui Cup), you can always 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. Catch you next time, and stay safe out there!

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