The TENTH season of GO Battle League is now upon us, and that means the customary move shakeup that comes with each new season. This particular update seems to be one of the smaller scale rebalances yet, but there’s still stuff to extrapolate, so let’s get to it!

Before we dive in, a quick disclaimer: as per usual, I am examining these strictly from a PvP usability standpoint. I have my own separate opinions on these Pokémon as raid pieces or gym attackers or such, but I’m leaving that all aside. (In summary: they’re not really good in PvE, heh.) I am a PvP analyst, so that’s what I’ll be focusing on here.

But now, without further ado, let’s goooooooo!

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Magcargo

ROASTED ESCARGOT

Magcargo FireRock

Ah, the Christmas season is upon us. A chill in the air, the hustle and bustle of holiday shoppers, the jingle of the Salvation Army bells, the roasting of snails on the open fire…

…wait, what?

I already wrote a whole spotlight analysis on it, but to go back over the basics:

I will dare say that nothing in this update got more of a boost than MAGCARGO, and I, for one, love to see it. Mags has been a long time favorite of mine as a nifty (unique typing and flavor, and good bulk) and thrifty (only 10k dust second move unlock!) little guy. It’s had a few shining moments in the sun over the years (this past February’s Love Cup comes to mind), but has mostly been sadly relegated to spicy fringe option, at best.

Partly it’s been that unique typing — Fire/Rock has a lot of good going for it, but does suffer from having two double weaknesses to common typings, Water and Ground — but it’s also partly been the fast move options. Ember and Rock Throw are both serviceable, but unexciting, and neither offer pressuring energy generation to get to Magcargo’s very nice charge moves.

That all changes now that Magcargo will be able to learn Incinerate. For the record, that’s a dozen new wins versus the Great League core meta, and a suddenly very respectable win record, right up there with other Fire types and with that unique anti-Flying coverage (that also happens to destroy its fellow Fire types, too). It still carries those worrisome double vulnerabilities to Water and Ground, and considering that Great League is the only place it will play, a league dominating by several good Waters AND Grounds, that’s a real problem. But short of that, it’s suddenly looking pretty interesting! Again, see my full analysis from a few days ago for more.

So what’s the verdict?

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To repeat yet one more time: Magcargo is THE biggest winner in this update, and will definitely be popping up in limited formats more often now, and don’t be shocked to see it dotted throughout open Great League this season too.

But now, for something new, I want to discuss the other really, really exciting budget hero that also just got a big shot in the arm. Or should I say “wing”….

Noctowl

MR. OWL

Noctowl NormalFlying

NOCTOWL has always been a threat in Great League. Not quite to the same extent as Mandibuzz, but there’s no denying it is a flying tank. And with Wing Attack and Sky Attack, combined with that bulk, it can throw out a lot of charge moves and a lot of damage alarmingly quickly.

Noctowl has been a potent pick in numerous Silph Arena metas, and it’s probably better than you think in even open Great League play. But if it has a problem that somewhat holds it back, it’s that it has always lacked a solid second charge move. It has Psychic (the move) which is okay these days, but rather unexciting.

Its only other choice to this point has been Night Shade, which has some interesting coverage as a Ghost move but is just NOT a good move (55 energy for only 60 damage, so you don’t have to look it up yourself).

But now comes an addition with that nice Ghost coverage but plenty of knockout power: as of Season 10, Noctowl can now learn Shadow Ball. Typing aside, it’s a better, more impactful move than Psychic, dealing 10 additional damage for the same 55 energy. The only advantage Psychic really has is the 10% chance to debuff the opposing Pokemon, but usually you’ll take 10 extra damage gladly and not think twice about it.

And yes, that extra damage makes a pretty big difference for Mr. (or Mrs.!) Owl, particularly in the most common 1v1 shielding scenario. With NO new losses, it’s all good news, adding Psychic-type (and Ghost-weak) Cresselia and Shadow Hypno to the win column.

But the extra punch of Ball means that Noctowl can now outrace Swampert (preventing it from reaching an extra charge move that it lives to fire off versus Psychic Owl) and Pelipper (getting just enough damage from Ball to finish it off)… oh, and a little thing you may have heard of called Azumarill, taking one Ice Beam like a champ and knocking Azu out just before it can reach another.

I mean, a Flyer that deals no super effective damage to Azumarill outright beating it is pretty crazy, right? Though it IS worth pointing out that #1 Rank Azu can manage to just hang in there long enough to turn the tables, but a decent Attack Owl flips it back, so… your mileage may vary! (To further pull on that thread, that high-ish Attack Owl loses only to Pelipper and otherwise replicates the core meta performance above, so perhaps you actually WANT some Attack on Owl?

Things are much closer with shields down, and on the surface, Shadow Ball looks like no improvement over the existing Psychic, but the devil is in the details. Psychic does uniquely beat Nidoqueen with shields down (both it and Ball beat Queen in 1v1 shielding and lose in 2v2 shield), but the other unique win it shows is actually NOT unique: Ferrothorn, which Noctowl actually beats with just Sky Attack, so Psychic or Shadow Ball makes no difference. And Ball picks up two wins that only it can achieve: versus Psychics Cresselia and Mew. Noctowl actually tanks a Mew Wild Charge and then slams the door on it with a big fat Shadow Ball. So the gap is small, but it’s still advantage Shadow Ball overall.

That gap grows again a bit in 2v2 shielding, with Shadow Ball strictly outdoing Psychic this time, with two new wins. No Psychic types this time, though… this time, the wins are against Flying and Psychic (the type) resistant Steels: Registeel and Ferrothorn. (Well, Ferrothorn takes neutral from Flying, but Flying alone doesn’t do the trick here, so the point kinda still stands.)

So while 0v0 and 2v2 shielding don’t impress all that much, Shadow Ball is still better, and the results in 1v1 shielding kind of speak for themselves. This may not be enough to launch Noctowl into open league stardom like, say, Pidgeot, but I do think this will open some eyes to another Normal/Flying alternative that really strikes fear into the hearts of Ghosts and Psychics alike. And in limited formats, look out!

And one more thing: Ultra League. Yes, Noctowl tops out below even 2300 CP at Level 50, but it’s viable-ish with Shadow Ball anyway, gaining wins over Armored Mewtwo, Cresselia, Drifblim, and Altered Giratina (with Dragon Breath… it already beat Shadow Claw, but does beat it MUCH more efficiently now too). And while Psychic Owl does uniquely beat Shadow Nidoqueen, Shadow Ball is overall clearly an upgrade that you probably want to have despite that one black mark. I’m not saying I WOULD invest in a Level Noctowl, but if you plan to (or already have!), hey, there are crazier ideas. It’s a comparable winrate to XL Altaria, and you KNOW people have already built those.

So what’s the verdict?

The one knock on Noct has been the lack of a really solid closer/coverage move. Shadow Ball definitely takes care of that, giving it big wins versus Psychics, Steels, Azumarill and others that it couldn’t finish off before. Noctowl is legit good enough to use in open GL, but expect to see it in limited formats at the very least. It was already a bit underrated, and it’s flat out better now.

Bug Buzz

  • Bug Buzz will gain a slight increase in damage to boost Wormadam’s, Vespiquen’s, and Yanmega’s Bug-type Charged Attack options.
  • Trainer Battles: 90 → 100 damage
  • Gyms and raids: 90 → 100 damage

ALL ABUZZ

Honestly, beyond Magcargo and Noctowl, there’s actually not a ton of positives to talk about here. But Bug Buzz at least gets a straight upgrade, going from 90 to 100 damage while still costing “only” 60 energy. That’s a clear improvement, having the same stats now as the underrated Thunder. But do keep in mind that moves like Stone Edge and the Shadow Ball we just discussed deal 100 damage for only 55 energy, and the busted Meteor Mash and Frenzy Plant cost even less.

Anyway, that’s enough comparing to other moves. Let’s compare Bug Buzz to… itself. While I unfortunately can’t really show you the sims with both 90- and 100-damage Buzz at the same time, I DO have a way to compare the old and new to each other, and here’s some of the highlights of what I found. Note that until PvPoke is updated with the new Bug Buzz stats, the results in the links below may not show the new wins I mention, but it’ll catch up eventually! For the time being, I used a downloaded copy of PvPoke I run on a local Apache server with modified stats to determine the below:

Wormadam (Trash) BugSteel

Probably the biggest straight beneficiary from this buff — because it has the bulk and makeup to make real use of a 60-energy move like Buzz — is Wormadam (Trask Cloak). It typically runs with Buzz alongside Iron Head, all charged up with Confusion. It manages to gain four new wins, and all pretty impactful ones: Defense Deoxys, Hypno, Obstagoon, and the popular Air Slash Tropius. As you can probably guess, the extra power of Bug Buzz and its super effective damage versus all four of them makes the difference… no muss, no fuss.

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Galvantula BugElectric

You don’t see it used often (if ever), but Galvantula has Bug Buzz in its movepool as well. However, Lunge/Buzz is a viable alternative to the more standard Discharge/Lunge now, with new wins over Medicham, Tropius, Umbreon, and Munchlax giving it the same win percentage as that Discharge/Lunge set.

The big differences between the two are that Buzz uniquely beats those I mentioned (Medi, Umbry, Trop), plus Greedent, Serperior, Hypno, and the mirror, while Discharge instead beats Waters (Jellicent, Azumarill), Flyers (Skarmory, Talonflame) and others like Toxicroak, Froslass, Registeel, Sableye, and Scrafty more readily thanks to its relative speed. It’s one to perhaps consider now if you’re looking to spice things up.

Venomoth (Shadow) BugPoison

Venomoth doesn’t show much change, but Shadow Venomoth with Infestation sure does. In 1v1 shielding, it shows new wins versus Lapras, Munchlax, and even Shadow Nidoqueen with the buffed Bug Buzz, and with shields down, it can now punch out Umbreon, Scrafty, and Hypno, a HUGE trifecta of names to beat. I’m not saying this is suddenly going to make Venomoth an open league meta Pokemon, but… well, it’s at least worth talking about now.

There actually aren’t a ton of viable PvP Pokemon that have Bug Buzz, but I did look over the others that have at least SOME fringe potential (Ledian, Kricketune, and the Vespiquen that Niantic seems to have an odd love affair with) and they aren’t really helped by this update. So… that’s really about the gist of it.

So what’s the verdict?

A straight damage buff makes Bug Buzz more interesting, and there ARE a handful of interesting Pokemon that benefit in PvP. Shadow Venomoth and Trash Wormadam used Buzz already and are now better off, while Galvantula typically has NOT used Bug Buzz but it becomes a very interesting and potent alternative now. It’s a relatively small ripple in a big ocean, but we’ll take it nonetheless.

Rock Tomb

  • This attack will now have an additional effect when it’s used in Trainer Battles.
  • Trainer Battles: Guaranteed to lower the opposing Pokémon’s Attack.

S(T)INKING LIKE A STONE

Boy, Niantic seems to have a gross misunderstanding of how to make certain expensive moves viable. They tack an Attack debuff (to the opponent) onto the super expensive Zap Cannon and say “alright, that’s fixed now!”, and now they want us to think that a similar Attack debuffer added on to Rock Tomb is similarly fixing what ails it.

Sorry, but no, Niantic… what’s wrong with Rock Tomb is that it’s just a BAD move. Nobody wants to build all the way up to 60 energy just to achieve a mere 70 damage, even if it is a coverage move.

About the only time I’ve ever seen Tomb in use was in the early days of Silph Arena Cups as a move to run on Forretress (back before it had all the options it does now). There are actually a decent number of viable-ish PvP Pokemon that have it, especially now that Niantic is adding to the movepools for Aggron, Lairon, Sudowoodo, Claydol, and Magcargo.

But uh… it’s still a really poor move, debuff or no, especially since everything getting it has better Rock alternatives (Stone Edge, which deals 30 more damage for 5 less energy, or Rock Slide, which deals 10 more damage for 15 less energy than Rock Tomb), or is named Claydol and remains mostly worthless, just as it was already.

Apparently somebody at Niantic has a burning, unrequited love for Claydol, as it seems to get a new move with every rebalance anymore. Take the hint, Niantic… it ain’t working.

Just give it Rock Slide or Psyshock or Drill Run, ya cowards. (But it still stinks even then… seriously, stop trying to make this happen, Hanke!)

So what’s the verdict?

A debuff alone does not a good move make. Not when it’s already a bad move, like Rock Tomb is. Other Rock moves like Stone Edge and Rock Slide blow it away. Heck, even the bad Power Gem deals 10 more damage than Tomb for the same energy cost! If it didn’t want it before, nothing wants Rock Tomb now, including the things now getting it. This “buff” is a big nothingburger, IMO. You want us to use Rock Tomb, Niantic? Give us a REAL reason to, like lowering the cost or driving up the damage… or both!

Pound

  • Trainer Battles: 5 → 4 damage

POUNDED INTO THE GROUND

The only notable nerf in this update is rather minor, as Pound drops from 2.5 Damage Per Turn (which was already below average) to just 2.0 DPT. There are a number of Pokemon that have it, but let’s be honest: this was implemented specifically to nerf the great evil known as Chansey. And I fully support that; as I often say, DO NOT RUN CHANSEY.

Chansey Normal

But how much does that really hurt it? It’s a minor change, and it’s not like Chansey was farming the heck out of stuff with Pound anyway, right?

Actually, you might be surprised. Again, I can’t show all this with comparison simulations because only one or the other (old or new Pound) will be active on PvPoke at any given time, but I’ll provide one link for each that will show you old, 2.5 DPT Pound for now and new, 2.0 DPT Pound once PvPoke’s datatbase updates for the new season. But these comparisons ARE directly based on a side by side comparison using a little background magic and are accurate… you’ll just have to trust me, sorry.

  • In the standard 1v1 shielding, Chansey loses as many as eight matchups it won previously: Defense Deoxys, Greedent, Lapras, Shadow Hypno, Venusaur, Swampert, Whiscash, and Clefable. Why? Because even though Pound has below average damage, it DOES still deal damage, and in these cases it now misses a breakpoint and deals 1 less damage per Pound. That may not seem like a lot, but consider that Pound is a 2-turn fast move, meaning you’re dealing 1 less damage every second in battle, and you KNOW how long battles with Chansey can drag on. We’re talking potentially 30, 40, even 50 or more less damage now being dealt over the course of battle, and that’s no small thing… hence all the new losses.
  • In 0v0 shielding, where Chansey in the past has been particularly oppressive, it’s actually even worse, with eleven new losses: Clefable, DDeoxys, Lapras, Shadow Machamp, Pidgeot, Swampert, Sylveon, Talonflame, Vigoroth, Whiscash, and Wigglytuff, and Venusaur drops from a comfortable win to a 1 HP, IV-dependent win and very potential loss.

Chansey is still going to show up at times in favorable Cup formats… it’ll likely return next time we pass through Kanto Cup still, for example. And it may not feel much less oppressive, but just know that you have a better chance of staying in and taking it down with things that couldn’t before. And that’s good for all of us.

Well, unless you, despite my years of begging you not to, run Chansey.

So what’s the verdict?

This is a straight nerf to Chansey, and hobbles it more than you might think. Turns out the cumulative fast move chip damage actually matters, and having each of those little Pounds deal a bit less damage makes a big difference in the end: eight losses with shields up, and up to a dozen losses in Chansey’s formerly dominant shieldness matchups. It’s never been truer than it is now: DO NOT RUN CHANSEY, folks. Even Niantic doesn’t want you to!

Donphan

DON-SLAM

Donphan Ground

And lastly, we have Donphan now learning the Body Slam folks have actually asked for it to get in the past. Unfortunately, much like how Claydol and Vespiquen just don’t get appreciably better no matter how many times Niantic messes around with their movesets, Donphan’s problem is NOT that it doesn’t have decent moves.

It already has CounterCharmMud SlapPlay RoughEarthquake, and Heavy Slam, so it’s certainly not lacking in viable — even top tier — moves. Its problem is more shaky bulk and a typing (Ground) that has a lot of hate in PvP (lotta potent Waters, Ices, and Grasses to pick on it) and has little synergy with its best moves… including the addition of Body Slam.

Season 10 is coming up FAST, so let’s keep this simple and just cut to the numbers. Here is Donphan’s best without Body Slam in Great League, and here is its best with Body Slam (or its best with Charm, if you prefer). Note the complete lack of STAB moves… and the continued sub-25% win rate versus the core meta. Yuck.

And yes, Donny gets big enough for Ultra League and even Master League, but you still don’t really want it.

So what’s the verdict?

Donphan is an inherently flawed Pokemon, unfortunately, and even having the likes of Counter or Charm along with the new Body Slam cannot save it. Donphan IS better with Slam, just still not good, I’m sorry to say. I love the design of it and wish it was better, but I’m just here to throw out the numbers, good, bad, or in this case, ugly.

Octillery

Octillery Water

And one final one along a similar vein: OCTILLERY now knows Lock-On. That sounds exciting on the surface, but uh… it already knows Mud Shot, which charges up energy nearly as quickly and comes with a handy Ground typing as well (as opposed to Normal like Lock-On, which isn’t super effective versus anything). But it doesn’t do much of anything with Mud Shot, and barely does anything more now. (And yes, that goes for Ultra League too.) Nothing to see here, so let’s move along to the conclusion….

TL;DR

  • Incinerate Magcargo and Shadow Ball Noctowl are the big winners here, each gaining several impactful wins in numerous shielding scenarios. They’ll be big in limited metas moving forward, and potentially even in open formats.
  • Bug Buzz is actually the next best news, helping out a handful of ‘mons that either run it already (Trash Wormadam, Venomoth) or may want to seriously consider using it now (Galvantula).
  • Body Slam Donphan and Lock-On Octillery are technically improved, but they’re still a long way from viable. Pass.
  • The “buff” to Rock Tomb really isn’t… don’t be fooled. Nothing that has it but doesn’t use it suddenly wants to use it now, and even the things that now learn it for the first time don’t want it either. Stay far away until and unless Niantic drops the cost or raises the damage output.
  • The one nerf looks small, but it’s actually a BIG deal for Chansey. It’s not going to disappear entirely, but it’s going to be easier to fend off now for sure.

Alright, that’s all we got for today. In the grand scheme, this is a surprisingly tepid update that likely won’t have any far-reaching impacts, and the metas are unlikely to shift nearly as much as they have with past rebalances. To some that may be a welcome break, and perhaps that’s the silver lining here. But there ARE some real gems that should get to shine brighter now, and hey, any update that drives Chansey further out of PvP is okay by me! 😈

I hope this was helpful to you in wrapping your arms around these new changes to the game we love. Good luck as we forge ahead into a new season of GO Battle League!

For more PvP tidbits, you can find me on Twitter for near-daily PvP analysis nuggets, or Patreon if you prefer. Or please feel free to comment here with your own thoughts or questions and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

Stay safe out there, Pokéfriends. Thanks again for reading, and catch you next time!

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